London Theatre Tour Blog 2014
Follow the adventures of our intrepid travelers with blogger Gloria Gorton, Goodspeed's Director of Major Gifts
LONDON BLOG POST #1
Under sunny skies we left the Norma Terris parking lot last Sunday. Michael Price stopped by to wish us a fond farewell and we were off to Newark Airport for an overnight flight on United Airlines to London Heathrow. United is the official airline of Goodspeed Musicals, so they arranged for us to use the United Club Room while we waited to board our flight. We arrived at Heathrow’s brand new Queen’s Terminal on Monday morning, where we were greeted by Jane Tizard, our London tour operator.
Jane escorted us to the Bloomsbury Hotel, which would be our home for the next week. After unpacking, those who were still awake took a short walk to Fitzroy House, which served as L. Ron Hubbard’s London office for many years and was once the home of George Bernard Shaw and his mother. Afternoon tea with scones and clotted cream was served before we were given a tour of the house. Yum!
Our Welcome Dinner was held that evening at our hotel. While everyone on the trip knew that Bert Fink from the Rodgers and Hammerstein Organization was to be our speaker they were pleasantly surprised to find that he brought along Emily Fletcher, granddaughter of Irving Berlin. Bert and Emily spoke about the current state of theatre in London, the shows we would be seeing and the projects that the Rodgers and Hammerstein Organization oversee throughout Europe and beyond.
Tuesday morning we boarded our coach for a half-day sightseeing tour of central London. Our Blue Badge Guide, David, was very informative and as a special treat took us to see the Changing of the Guard at Horse Guards Parade off Whitehall. We also drove by the Tower of London where we saw the special exhibition of red poppies marking the centennial of World War I, which fill the moat surrounding the building. It is a moving sight.
That evening we saw our first show, King Charles III. This show transferred from the Almeida after receiving rave reviews. Imagine that Queen Elizabeth has died, Charles is now king and he decides to have a voice in the political process. How do the Prime Minister, Camilla, William, Kate, Harry and the ghost of Princess Diana view his actions? Following the performance we had a talk-back with Nick Bromley, the company and stage manager.
One of the oldest theatres in London is the Theatre Royal Drury Lane, owned by Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber. On Wednesday morning we took the backstage tour, led by professional actors who portray some of the famous people who have been associated with the theatre, such as Nell Gwyn, actress and mistress of King Charles II. Following the tour we explored and shopped in Covent Garden.
Made in Dagenham, a new musical in previews, was our Wednesday night destination. Starring Gemma Atherton, this show is based on a movie of the same title. It was interesting to be Americans watching a show that dealt with the manufacture of Ford automobiles in England. We are sure that this show will transfer to Broadway.
After a free morning on Thursday, we saw a matinee performance of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. This show, based upon a book of the same name, is a West End transfer developed by the National Theatre. Coincidentally, the show just opened in New York last week. Immediately following the performance, the company manager and lighting operator spoke with the group and answered questions about the technical side of the show. We even found out that the puppy, who makes an appearance in the second act, only works for 6-8 weeks before he outgrows his role. Our travelers advise you not to miss this show in New York.
Thursday evening was a special treat because we saw Memphis, which is produced by Goodspeed’s former Associate Producer Sue Frost. The 2010 Tony Award winner for Best Musical, is in previews in the West End. Goodspeed has many connections with members of the creative team on this project. The book writer Joe DiPietro, Director Christopher Ashley, Orchestrator Chris Jahnke, and Choreographer Sergio Trujillo all worked at Goodspeed on the main stage or at the Norma Terris Theatre. Remember this season’s Damn Yankees, the Red Sox Version? Joe DiPietro did the adaptation. As the show is in previews they were all in town and stopped by to talk to our group.
|Producer Sue Frost met with us after Memphis.|
Tomorrow we were scheduled to take a tour of Blenheim Palace, but late in the day we received word that the Duke of Marlborough had died this morning and the palace would be closed out of respect on Friday. Check our next blog post to see who our “understudy” will be.
LONDON BLOG POST #2
Friday morning was a bright and sunny day. We boarded our coach at 8 am for a trip to Oxford and the Costwolds. We had intended to visit Blenheim Palace for tea and the “Lights, Camera, Action” theme talk and tour, but Blenheim was closed in observance of the death of the Duke of Marlborough. So Jane Tizard, our London tour operator, and David Kershaw, our Blue Badge Guide, put their heads together and came up with an alternate plan to take the group to Oxford. A standing ovation to Jane and David for saving the day!
Oxford is a college town. The university is made up of 38 colleges and we toured Christ Church, one of the largest university colleges. Christ Church looked familiar to some in our group because several locations were used for scenes in the film Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. The university and the town are filled with gorgeous architecture and beautiful gardens. While we are putting our gardens to bed for the winter in Connecticut, the gardens in Oxford are still in full bloom. Thanks to David for a great tour.
|Jane Tizard and the Macdonald Bear Hotel mascot|
After visiting Oxford we boarded the coach for the short trip to the village of Woodstock and lunch at the Macdonald Bear Hotel - just down the road from Blenheim. This 13th century coaching inn is one of the oldest in England, but it has an interesting modern history too because it was a favorite getaway for Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor. With its hand-hewn beams and fireplaces that are big enough to stand up in, it’s the quintessential English country inn. Our group enjoyed a delicious lunch in the award-winning restaurant as well as a wonderful day in the English countryside.
Friday night was a free night and some in our group spent a quiet night at the hotel. Others attended a concert at St. Martin in the Fields or had dinner with friends. About 20 of us participated in “Friday Night Fringe,” which has become a tradition on our London trips. This optional activity includes dinner and a show at a fringe theatre. This year we visited the St. James Theatre, which is the newest theatre in London. It’s a beautiful complex with a café bar, restaurant, TV studio and two theatres. We had another delicious meal and saw a production of Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya that had been reimagined in a more modern setting by the award-winning writer Anya Reiss.
Saturday was our last full day in London and it was a free day. Everyone went their own way, shopping, visiting museums, trekking out to Windsor Castle, or just walking the streets of London and enjoying their last few hours in this world class city. Our Farewell Dinner that evening was held in The Drawing Room at Fortnum and Mason. Some might think it a bit strange to have an elegant dinner at a department store, but they haven’t seen the private rooms at Fortnum and Mason. The blue, silver and gold Chinese wallpaper, tables set with glistening silver, crystal and gorgeous blue Fortnum and Mason’s china, impeccable service and incredible food made this an evening to remember. Each guest received a gift bag with Fortnum and Mason Christening Blend tea, biscuits and preserves to take home. The group was more than impressed and everyone thought it was the best meal on our trip.
Sunday was our last day in London and we left the hotel bright and early to catch our noon flight back to the States. It was a long day, but everything went off without a hitch and we found ourselves back in Newark by late afternoon. We boarded our coach back to the Norma Terris Theatre in Chester where we had left our cars the week before. It’s hard to believe our week in London was over. It was a busy one. We had seen 4 - 5 shows, had numerous tours and dinners, and hiked all over London. We were all pretty tired by the time we reached Chester, but there were a lot of smiles. It had been another great Goodspeed London Tour!
P.S. The Old Globe, a regional theatre in San Diego, was also on their London trip. Mary Miko jumped on their coach after seeing Made in Dangeham to express a big Goodspeed hello. We seemed to cover the same hot spots.
Click the images below to view more photos from our trip!