I popped over to England for a few days to see couple musicals. I feel enormously fortunate to have had this amazing experience with my son. The most incredible part turned out not to be the musicals, but the marvelous people I got to meet. The musicals were incredible though. I'll start there.
Jesus Christ Superstar was originally the impetus for this trip. It's not that I LOVED this musical or anything. I had seen a community theater production that was meh and the 1973 film version, which was pretty good. When I heard Tim Minchin would play Judas, I had an abstract longing to go (similar to how I feel about the production of "Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead" co-starring Tim in in Sydney next year). I thought it would be amazing, but didn't think it would be possible to go. It would be crazy to try. As Tim started talking about it though, doing interviews and telling how excited he was about this, his excitement was contagious. I decided I really wanted to go see him to this role of a lifetime which he had wanted to play for many many years.
This was an amazing production. Huge and over the top. One of the first rock operas, performed in an arena, as it was originally intended. The setting and choreography were unique and beautiful. It was a modern interpretation, set on the steps of St. Paul's Cathedral, during Occupy protests (or I've seen some reviews that say during the London riots?) complete with reality show voting and pole dancers. Just as most of the reviews have said, Tim Minchin absolutely stole he show. His Judas was so haunting and his voice more gorgeous than I have ever heard. His death scene was scary brilliant, and when he returned for "Superstar" I wanted to jump up and dance. It was just so much to take in. The whole show was completely over-the-top-brilliant.
Of course, if I was traveling all that way, I HAD TO see "Matilda the Musical". Words cannot describe how impressive it was. Everything about it was absolutely mind-blowing. The whole theater, even the lobby and the bar were Matdilda-esque. The set was elaborate and magnificent. The acting was incredible, especially the children. They were such professionals. The character of Miss Trunchbull was spectacularly hysterical. The choreography was intricate and intense. The plot was embellished. There were parts added to the original Matilda story. I wasn't sure how I would feel about that, but it worked perfectly and enhanced what was such an endearing story to begin with. And the songs. So brilliantly ingenious, tear jerkingly beautiful, and hysterically funny. I cried and laughed and sat stunned with amazement from start to finish. This was the best performance I have ever seen and heard. It completely exceeded my very high expectations, which were very very high to start with. I cannot wait to see it again (and again and again and again). I have friends who have seen this five, ten, even twenty times, and I can see why. I'm sure I won't be able to afford such a Matilda habit, but I do plan to see it on Broadway April 4th. Counting down the days starting now.
Speaking of friends, I got to meet the kindest people on my journey. The part of the trip I loved most, more than going to Jesus Christ Superstar, more than Matilda (yes, more than Matilda) was spending time with some people I met online. It sounds crazy, but I planned to meet Ori from Israel (whom I had met very briefly once before in Chicago) and a sweet couple who we had met online offered to let us stay with them on our trip. These people are Tim fans too, of course, and it sounded fun, so we decided we would stay with them for a night.They offered to let us stay as long a we wanted. We ended up spending the whole weekend with them and taking advantage of their kind offers to drive us everywhere. This was an extensive bit of driving they did too. They came into London to get us at the airport, served us a delicious brunch, drove us to a restaurant in Nottingham, drove us to see JCS, drove back to their house, drove us into London again the next day to hang out in a park, then drove us to the West End, then drove us around London after Matilda to see the clock tower, Westminster Abbey, and the London Bridge, drove us to a hotel, then drove us to the Natural History Museum and the Royal Albert Hall the next day, then drove me to the airport hotel I had stayed at the first night because I had left something there, then drove me to a completely different part of London to my hotel in Russell Square. This was so much driving, and they wouldn't hear of taking any money for 'petrol'. That was only the beginning of their generosity and there were so many kind gestures throughout the weekend. Not only were they generous, and helpful, making this trip economical and convenient, they were such pleasant and humorous company! I fell in love with them (and Ori). We had so much fun together, my son and I both thought it would have been worth the trip to London just to have lunch with these fine people.
We got to meet many other Tim fans as well. Both before JCS and before Matilda, we met up with groups of Tim fans we knew from the internet and finally got to meet them in person. That was so fun and Tim Minchin has the best fans in the world, I think. (Can I say that without sounding narcissistic? ) They are kind and witty and it felt so exciting and comfortable for me to be surrounded by people who like Tim Minchin as much (more maybe?) than I do! I felt at home, even though I was so far away from home.
This was the most amazing journey I have ever taken. I am so fortunate. I will never forget these experiences and these amazing people. I returned a week ago, and it now seems like a dream that was too good to be true, a blur of windy roads, silly car shenanigans, delicious treats, late night games, wonderful walks, meeting strangers who were instantly friends, friendly squirrels, amazing shows, precious time with my son, beers (with my son), hugs and hugs and hugs. And tonight, I get to go see the same production of "Jesus Christ Superstar", which was filmed live and is being shown in a movie theater here in Peoria. Life's a ball (so learn to throw it)!