This marks the last time for a little while that I’ll be using East Midlands Trains to get to Sheffield. I have yet to experience a bad service from them, and their services have got me to and from both the Sheffield theatres (the Lyceum and the Crucible) and the Leicester Curve on time, every time. But, like most people, I must watch the pennies. I return to Sheffield in October to see the touring production of The Band, but will be using the National Express coach service. Cheaper, y’see: £5 per ticket each way as opposed to £8 on Megabus, and £27 each way on EMT (or £23.50 to sit in standard class, so it’s a no-brainer to just cough up a tad more to sit in first class). And for the date I’ll be trekking up to Sheffield, EMT were quoting £44 each way!
To effectively bump myself up to ‘first class’ on the coach I’ve taken the liberty of buying two tickets, both for me. I am grateful to the coach regulars on which ever travel discussion forum it was for advising me to do this. As Blanche Dubois would say, “I have always depended on the kindness of strangers.” All in (National Express charge booking fees), that’s still £22 in total instead of £88. The extra travel time is fine with me. I have heard some nightmare stories about coaches not turning up and rowdy / obnoxious people on board but at least I don’t have any transfers to worry about, which seems to be the major bugbear for people in terms of missing connections and then being forced to buy another ticket at the full day rate. If it’s truly terrible, naturally, I’ll have to bite the bullet and switch back to EMT. I’ve already booked to see Titanic in Sheffield in 2018. I will report back either way in October 2017.
As for the show I saw this time, I don’t recall seeing very many of the films whose trailers were being played as the audience files in for The Wedding Singer, set in 1980s America, though not nearly as political as Angels in America, focusing instead on the feel-good factor that the glitzy Broadway musicals are renowned for. I saw ET one Christmas back when there was some decent programming on television during the holiday season, but practically all of the others left me nonplussed. I haven’t even seen The Wedding Singer movie. No matter: there was much enjoyment to be had in observing the signage and advertisements periodically on display as the show progressed, particularly in the ‘new’ cellular phone, which apparently had a talk time of 30 minutes, a charge time of 10 hours, and was available to purchase for $2,999.
I wondered why Glen Gulia (Ray Quinn) got the loudest cheer at curtain call. He did very well (his ‘All About The Green’ was impressive), but Quinn wasn’t the leading man, and while he performed perfectly competently, it was Jon Robyns’ Robbie Hart that was the most compelling for me. But then I don’t watch those Saturday night glorified karaoke competitions on television very often (and even then, not for very long), so the whole ‘As Seen on Dancing On Ice’ thing that still remains the pinnacle thus far of Quinn’s career (he won the 2009 series of that show) rather went over my head.
Expecting anything too dark or too philosophical would have been an exercise in futility. Dramaturgically, the show is too predictable. Robbie gets the girl, Julia Sullivan (Cassie Compton), after a whole load of twists and turns to the story. From a feminist perspective: oh dear. But there were plenty of women in the audience who lapped up the entertainment on offer, and though much of the humour lacks subtlety, it allowed this cast, clearly enjoying themselves on stage, to perform with joy and pizzazz.
Robyns’ Robbie is a tour de force, probably Robyns’ best role to date, and that’s including that amazing, if slightly crude, lead role of Princeton in Avenue Q. ‘Somebody Kill Me’ is one of the few times I’ve sat in a theatre watching a character express a death-wish, in a hilarious manner, chortling away at it, and not feel even a smidge of guilt. It’s not that I’m a heartless bastard (though there is that), but that Robbie’s moods swing so dramatically, he’s down in the dumpster in more ways than one before he’s bouncing around because love always, always wins. And love, as the audience is repeatedly told, is what he does.
Also worthy of mention is a duet with Rosie (Ruth Madoc) and George (Samuel J Holmes), called ‘Move That Thang’. Madoc is gifted one of the show’s most glorious lines: “I’d already slept with eight men. That was a lot back then. It would be like two hundred today.” I personally found Holmes’ American accent rather questionable, particularly against best buddy and bandmate Sammy (Ashley Emerson). The choreography isn’t the best, but I came away with both upbeat tunes like ‘Single’ and the ballad ‘If I Told You’ humming away in my head, always a good sign that this musical has truly connected.