Monday, 21 March 2016

My Stagey Weekend in London | LittleEllieMae

Over the past year my blog has progressed from solely fashion content to an archive for all happenings in my life. I treat it a bit like a diary so I can look back on it in the future.

I had a super lovely weekend away with my best friends a few weeks ago and I want to cherish it forever- so what better than writing it all down?

So you know how obsessed with theatre I am... well, my friends are the same. Which is why they are the absolute best. We've been planning a theatre getaway for a while so it was very exciting for it to finally happen!

As amazing the theatre in Plymouth is, there is so much more theatre out there that we don't get experience at the other end of the country. Obviously, the West End is one of the biggest hubs for musical theatre in the world and its one of my favourite places ever. I'm at my happiest just bumbling around Shaftesbury Avenue, Haymarket and the Strand, taking in the sights of the different theatres.

I told you- I'm such a theatre geek.

After a very long coach journey, we arrived in London and went out for a meal together before making our way to the beautiful Her Majesty's Theatre. We were very lucky and extremely grateful that my family-friend treated us to a VIP experience at Phantom Of The Opera. Anyone who knows me, knows that Phantom is one of my favourite shows (despite not seeing it on stage prior to this trip... but countless rewatches of the 25th anniversary is enough to make me obsessed) so I was super excited for this. We stayed in 'The Royal Room' which was originally catered for Princess Diana (whaaat?!) and pranced about, the most excited we've quite possibly ever been (also after a bottle of wine). I'll never forget how amazingly happy and exhilarated we were at this point: quite possibly one of my favourite memories ever :) 

Despite looking forward to seeing two of my favourite lead actors in the roles, both understudies for Phantom and Christine were on that night however it didn't phase me as they were phenomenal. The show is beyond amazing- it made me laugh, cry (SOB!) and want to sing along with every word. The score for this show is one of the best of all time, it gives me shivers just thinking about it. Praise the lord for Andrew Lloyd Webber. Everything from the dances, special effects, shadows, costumes... gosh, I could gush about it all day. Absolutely phenomenal. 

After the show we were getting ready to leave when we were surprised with the opportunity to go on a backstage tour. I still can't really believe it happened, it seemed kind of dreamy as Her Majesty's is such a famous, special theatre. Its a very gothic, old theatre (perfect for Phantom) and still has all its original features like the lift. Standing on the Her Majesty's Theatre stage and looking out into the auditorium was without a doubt one of the best moments ever. It sounds silly, but for someone like me who idolises the people who have performed on that stage for 30 years, it was a big deal to be standing where they have stood. Me and my friend definitely teared up (geeeeeks). We also got to see all the iconic props like the music box, the boat and the corpse dolls. Everything about the experience was so magical and I wish I could relive it over and over again. 

To carry on the theme of our stagey weekend, on Saturday we visited the beautiful Victoria And Albert Museum to check out the new 'Curtain Up' exhibition, celebrating 40 years of the Olivier Awards. For any theatre geek, this is the most perfect exhibition ever. 

The exhibition was set out as the iconic West End theatreland, with W1 signs and funky vintage theatre maps. Basically, everything was theatre related and it was awesome. 

Still fangirling from the night before, we saw the original costume designs for Sarah Brightman as Christine from Phantom Of The Opera, as well as the legendary Michael Crawford's masquerade outfit and Phantom mask... amazing.

The exhibition consisted of props, costumes, original scripts, private letters between theatre legends like Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice. It was all super interesting.

A real life Tony Award and Olivier Award... one day... haha...

This wasn't part of the 'Curtain Up' exhibition but I always love to visit it when I am at the V&A- its Fred Astaire and Ginger Rodgers costumes. They are my favourite performers of all time, seriously, my obsession with them is slightly alarming for an eighteen year old who doesn't even dance. Anyway, I adore them and its so special to be so close to them via their gorgeous outfits. 

The 'Curtain Up' exhibition is absolutely lovely and I'd definitely recommend any theatre fan to visit it. And in terms of the V&A museum, I'd always recommend visiting there. Its one of my favourite venues in the world (I always say I want to get married there... is that possible..?!) 

On the Saturday night we made our way to the Prince Edward Theatre to watch the last performance of Miss Saigon on West End.
I know right?!?! 
I still get goosebumps and teary eyed just thinking about it. 

Miss Saigon is my joint favourite musical (with Les Mis, obviously) so to be able to see its last performance on West End was unbelievably special for me. It may sound silly, but I have such a special connection with this show: with the cast, the songs, the theatre... its hugely sad to see it leave the West End but they've had the most fantastic run and are set for a UK tour next year and also a Broadway revival which is very exciting. 

From the very first note of the overture, I bawled my eyes out. I've never witnessed a show performed with complete and utter 110% effort. It was the company's last show together and you could see how much it meant to them- they put their everything into every move and note and that was so special to see. 
The theatre was full to the brim of hardcore Saigon fans and the auditorium just beamed with love. It was phenomenal, and something I doubt I will ever experience again and for that I'm eternally grateful. 

I had heard rumours about some special appearances at the end of the show but I didn't want to get my hopes up. So when the legendary Cameron Mackintosh (producer), Claude Michel Schonberg and Alan Boubil (musicians and writers) stepped out on stage at the curtain call I kind of sobbed. In the musical theatre world. they are the Kings so it was very surreal. I've watched countless documentaries and read about these guys and they inspire me, I hope one day to be as successful in the industry as they are. It was a remarkable thing to hear them speak in real time, not via YouTube video for once.

The most incredible evening ever.  

Before heading home on Sunday we bumbled around the West End for a bit, soaking up all the last bits of stagey-ness. 
Last time I was in London I stopped off at the Theatre Cafe for literally two minutes so this time I wanted to spend some leisurely time there. 

The Theatre Cafe is an adorable haven for theatre lovers, located on Shaftesbury Avenue across the road from the Queens Theatre (Les Mis). Its literally the perfect place for me and my friends: showtunes repeatedly played from the jukebox, stagey drinks names ('Chai Can Show You The World'. 'Defying Gravi-tea'...), and ALL the theatre memorabilia and posters you could ever wish for. 

We had so much fun chilling in the cafe when it was quiet on Sunday morning. You know its the perfect place for us when we can sing show tunes together without being judged, haha! I could honestly spend my whole day there, looking around at the gorgeous decor and listening to the music. It really is one of my favourite places in the world and I can't wait to go back soon!

The Theatre Cafe have different stagey exhibitions and when we visited they showcased the fantastic '3 Minute Doodles' which were drawings of lots of West End performers! They are such beautiful and very clever drawings, we were mesmerised! The new exhibition is Darren Bell's wonderful photography which I hope I can catch on my next visit. 
Oh and the toilets are THE BEST I have ever seen...

So after all of that, as you can imagine, we were all pretty tired. It took another 7 hours home on the coach then we all had to get up for school the next morning.. great. 

Anyway, it was the most fantastic weekend and one I will cherish forever and ever. 
Seeing as my friends and I will be moving away from each other to go to Uni this year, we are trying to spend as many special moments together as possible and this was definitely one of them. 
I can't wait for our next theatre trip!

Hope you enjoyed this rather long and chatty post!

Let me know what your favourite theatre show is by commenting below or tweeting me @LittleEllieMae :)

Have a great day!

Ellie Mae x

Disclaimer: This was a personal, leisure trip- All thoughts and opinions are my own!

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