Column: London’s West End

Tyler Wailes

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This column is part of a series written by Tyler Wailes. Wailes is on a study abroad trip and each week she shares her experience with Spinnaker readers. This column gets published every Friday.

London’s theater district, also known at the West End, is spread throughout the city, located in Leicester Square, Covent Garden, and Victoria. It is home to countless amounts of straight plays and musicals, including Les Miserables, The Phantom of the Opera, All About Eve, The Curious Incident of the Dog Night-Time, The Lion King, Aladdin, Waitress, Come From Away, Wicked, Hamilton, and many more. In my seven weeks in the small town twenty minutes outside of London, I have had the opportunity to see three incredible shows and intend on seeing many more.

Before Jan. 29, 2019, I had never been to a theater that indefinitely housed a production. It was on this night that I saw Aladdin at The Prince Edward Theater and was truly struck by Disney magic. Growing up only an hour from Orlando, Florida, I am very familiar with Disney’s ability to make dreams come true. This was different though. From the moment the orchestra began to play the overture, a medley of classic songs from the film, I was immediately transported to a “whole new world.” The audience was dazzled by a huge production number performed by Trevor Dion Nicholas, who plays the Genie, ending with streamers falling from the sky. Shortly after, the light dimmed, the music softened, and we watched as a magic carpet take flight right before our eyes. Before I knew it, the show was over and the actors were on the stage taking their bows. The audience stood and clapped. Leaving the theater that night, I walked onto the bright London street surrounded by the nightlife I had only heard of before then. It was like something you would see in a movie.

It was in early February my friend and fellow UNF student, Kristina Huston, came to visit. While sightseeing on rainy Friday afternoon, we passed the Gielgud Theater. It’s marquee advertised a show called, Company, A Stephen Sondheim classic that I am very familiar with. I then saw the poster for the show next to the entrance to the theater. On it was the face of the great Patti Lupone. It was in that moment we decided we had to go. So, on Feb. 9, 2019, I saw my first professional production of a Sondheim show and was completely blown away. Not only did I get to experience Patti Lupone performing “Ladies Who Lunch”, something in my in my life I could never imagine really happening, I had the chance to experience this piece theater completely reinvented. The show typically revolves around Bobby, a thirty five year old man who is unwed but feels the pressure of the social norms of getting married by a certain age. However, in this production, the storyline instead focuses on Bobbi, a thirty five year old woman going through the same experiences. Thus, the show addresses the same themes from different points of views. It is a thought provoking and moving piece of art.  

It had been nine years since I had seen the North American Tour of the show that truly made me fall in love with theater. Walking into the Apollo Victoria Theater, it was like I had become a child again. Both the floor and walls were the color green, really encompassing the feeling of the Emerald City. At 7:30 p.m. the lights dimmed and the stage came to life. It was everything I remembered and so much more. Spoken with a British accent, the dialogue was both beautiful and humorous. The score was performed both fiercely and delicately, leaving me all together inspired.

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