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19 September 2018
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10:11
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London

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Musicals

London vies with Broadway as the home of the musical and there is much interbreeding between the two. Andrew Lloyd Webber's star seems finally to be falling with the advent of the Elton John/Tim Rice team, but his shows linger on, like the Queen Mother did, just as colourful, just as doddery, but still much loved. Most of the top musicals are 'Sold Out' but you can queue for day tickets - get there early and be prepared for a long line of Monika Lewinsky lookalikes.

Many critics have now echoed the line that 'Cats' should be taken to the vets and be put down (and it was) - this is idiopathic of the long running musicals such as Les Mis and also the long running plays (like The Mousetrap.) They were innovative/good with the first cast but now the actors who created the roles have long gone and we're down to the twentieth cast. The rave reviews on the boards outside, unless they name names, refer to the original production....which may have been decades ago. Sadly there''s no real way to find out whether the current cast of a show is good other than by asking around at the Half Price Ticket Office in Leicester Square, or outside another theatre.

If we had to recommend one musical it would be 'Blood Brothers' at the Phoenix on Charing Cross Road, largely because the story is very lifelike (we know Liverpool and it's really like that) but also because it avoids the trumped-up theatricality of 'Miss Saigon' and has had to be good, with competition from the Lloyd Webbers. However we've heard reports that many Americans can't understand it and that it''s not escapist enough for those reared on Disney.

One recent trend we do not approve of is the Musical Starter Kit - take a handful of already known songs and try to fit a plot around them - where this can work (eg in Mamma Mia) it's often no better than a concert and often worse. Another trend we do approve of is smaller theatres' with musical bent such as The Bridewell, The Donmar Warehouse or The Jermyn St Theatre (see the Listings Guides for what's on) who have promoted new writing as well as mining a rich seam of Sondheimesque masterpieces.

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