I owe an apology to anyone who I have curtly snapped back at whenever they have suggested that as I’ve seen quite a few live shows over the years that I’ve seen it all. But I must insist that I haven’t, and never will: there are always new productions, of old and new works. I recall one person who said to me, ‘You name it, I’ve seen it’. After I named a few obscure productions she suddenly decided I was ‘very rude’ and made it quite clear that she wanted nothing to do with me. Well, I can’t win ‘em all.
This weekend, I found myself witnessing two things I’d never bothered checking out before. The first was going to the stage door after a show on the last night before a cast change. As it goes, the cast change at Bat Out of Hell The Musical involved ‘only’ two people, but such was their contribution to the production from the very early stages of development that the departure of Patrick Sullivan and Andrew Polec was a special occasion for the show’s die-hard followers. The former is (as I understand it) to join a touring production of a musical adaptation of Dr Doolittle, and the latter is to lead the North America touring production of Bat.
If I was utterly bemused and amused by what I saw, the security personnel at the back of the Dominion Theatre were less so. Apparently, a typical crowd at stage door would comprise no more than around thirty people. On this night, there were at least a couple of hundred, and the designated barriered space set up was insufficient to contain the crowds who were clamouring for one last autograph / handshake / selfie. I’m afraid I just didn’t get the appeal of ‘stage dooring’ – it’s hardly a civilised activity: the lead actress, Christina Bennington, could be heard asking the crowds to step back. One eagle-eyed theatregoer shouted “Car!” whenever a vehicle would insist on inching past, and a mass of people would squeeze onto the pavements, only to fill the road up again instantly afterwards.
There really must be a better way of managing something like this. Charging for a meet-and-greet may be seen in some quarters as a rip-off (stage dooring is free) but it would certainly be a lot safer on popular nights. But a nominal amount for a post-show meet-and-greet only eligible for those with tickets for that evening’s performance would, if anything, stop those who weren’t in attendance that evening muscling in and crowding out those who were. I felt a little sorry for the stars of the show, hounded by the hordes in this way, and at the risk of sounding like the miserable health and safety police, someone at some point is bound to get hurt.
The second new experience was seeing a Jeremy Jordan concert. He has a fanbase in the UK, despite not having starred in a London show (as far as I could deduce, anyway), having had several television series, including Smash and Supergirl, the former being about a New York musical theatre community, the latter, as the title suggests, about a superhero. I was aware of two things about him prior to seeing his concert at Cadogan Hall. He’d done Disney’s Newsies, which I came to know about because it was filmed and then put on limited release in certain cinemas (it was a one day only event in the UK) before eventually being released for digital download. Then there was the motion picture version of the Jason Robert Brown musical The Last Five Years, which saw Jordan starring alongside Anna Kendrick.
Jordan’s style took a little getting used to. He doesn’t enunciate in the way in which the likes of the Royal Shakespeare Company do, but that didn’t stop me comprehending what was sung. And he’s very talented, with his own material presented alongside the likes of ‘She Used To Be Mine’ from Waitress – yep, a ‘guy’ version – and the perhaps inevitable ‘Moving Too Fast’ from The Last Five Years. There was no album amongst the merchandise available for sale (though Jordan had taken the time to sign every single programme) but there’s a recording coming soon, the audience was told, much to their delight.
Jordan has a wonderful singing voice, and accompanied by a five-piece band, led by musical director Ben Rauhala, the evening passed pleasantly enough. Jordan and Rauhala enjoyed some witty exchanges, and in the relaxed environment, Jordan stumbled on a lyric or two. But hey, it’s his own show, he can do as he pleases, and such matters only really added to the authenticity of the performance. Alternative arrangements of tunes such as ‘Under The Sea’ from The Little Mermaid and ‘Oh, What A Beautiful Mornin’’ from Oklahoma! put such numbers in a new light, and the concert rounded off with a playful rendering of ‘It’s All Coming Back To Me Now’, which, given my experience twenty-four hours prior over at Bat Out of Hell The Musical, meant my weekend had come full circle.