Christmas Theatre Breaks

Christmas Theatre Breaks

Christmas Theatre Breaks

Christmas Theatre Breaks are a lovely idea, whether you take a break in the run up to the festival or actually over the Christmas and New Year period.  There are some great shows on that will  help you get into the holiday mood. London pulls out all the stops at this time of year too, so there is lots to see and do, whether you want to visit winter attractions, to do some serious shopping or just have a mooch round and window shop under the festive lights!

I’m going to suggest 3 great shows and then we will have a look at what else you might like to do in the capital this Christmas.

3 Shows for Christmas Theatre Breaks


Matilda the Musical is not just for kids! It is a good story, well told, with great songs. Perfect for the Christmas season.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Another Roald Dahl classic and this time, well yes, a bit more child orientated. However like all Dahl it is full of sly, grown-up humour to horrify and engage us what ever age we are! The show is spectacular, just the sort of thing to cheer you and get you in the festive mood.

War Horse

Another children’s book adaptation? Well, yes, because War Horse is so much more. The show is magical, with stunning puppetry. The horses are totally convincing, but more than that it is an epic story, with great songs and an emotional plot. You will cry but ultimately there is hope.

And a couple of wild cards – if it was me I’d be very tempted to avoid the obvious, child friendly options and go for either Les Miserables or maybe the truly scary Woman in Black. Les Mis is the ultimate classic, a guaranteed good night out. The Woman in Black has also stood the test of time and is a great choice if you’d rather see a play than a musical. There is nothing more Christmassy than a good, terrifying ghost story!

Christmas Theatre Breaks – See London at its best

London lights up for Christmas

London lights up for Christmas

I think London is really at its best in winter. You have crisp, chilly days that fade into dark evenings, bustling shops, Christmas lights and displays. The whole city feels like something out of Dickens and you really wouldn’t be surprised to see Mr Pickwick wandering down one of the side streets of the West End!

London puts on lots of special attractions for the season too, not just the decorations, everything from pop up ice rinks and a Winter Wonderland to special Christmas Markets.

What’s on for Christmas Theatre Breaks 2014?

Attractions and the things you mustn’t miss this year!

Hyde Park transforms into Winter Wonderland. It is easy to get to and really gets you into the Christmas spirit. This year it will have  Christmas rides and attractions, a Giant Observation Wheel, two circuses, and an ice rink. The market sells all manor of Christmas knicknacks, fancy sweets and traditional German crafts and lots of glühwein. My advice – use the tube to get there so you can enjoy the apple wine! (Nov 21st to Jan 4th)

Christmas lights  will appear mid November in Oxford Street, Covent Garden, Regent Street and most other London shopping areas.The London Christmas lights are great. They really change the way the city feels and as it gets dark quite early they are a very welcome addition to the city. With a different theme every year they transform the city into a magical space.

Window Shopping, and the other sort!

Carnaby St at Xmas

Carnaby St at Xmas

Shops you mustn’t miss at Christmas include:

Harrods – The. Best. Window displays. Harrods Christmas windows have to be seen to be believed! Of course while you are there you might as well have a mooch round, and maybe even some of the best tea and cake in London!

Hamleys – The ultimate toy shop. Even if you don’t have some special small person to buy for Hamleys Christmas set up is worth seeing. They always do something spectacular, sometimes including slightly mad things, like a whole herd of real, live reindeer!

Liberty – just one of the classiest shops in London and always does great window displays. Handy too for the Regent St Apple store and, of course Carnaby St. (Tatty but fun!)

Covent Garden Soprano Busker

Covent Garden Soprano Busker

Covent Garden and the Apple Market – great for proper Christmas shopping, lots of good shops both in Covent Garden and near by. The Apple Market has nice stalls with crafts and handmade soaps etc. The area is great for wandering round, lots of street entertainers, magicians, buskers, living statues. You can often hear impromptu opera buskers  in the square of the interior cafe. You can find lots of nice places for tea and cakes, or nip upstairs in the West Cornish Pasty company to find yourself in a Cornish pub, with good beer and lovely hot Cornish pasties. Just the thing on a chilly day!

Check our Readers Offer site for these and many other theatre breaks available over the Xmas period.


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Sunny Afternoon

Sunny Afternoon - Theatre Breaks

Sunny Afternoon – Theatre Breaks

Sunny Afternoon is the new musical based around the iconic 60s band the Kinks. It opens this month at the Harold Pinter Theatre. Written by the band’s front man Ray Davies this musical has been long awaited.

There was a false start a few years ago when Davies penned the rather wonderful, semi-autobiographical, Come Dancing. That was staged at the Theatre Royal Stratford East and I loved it so much I went twice! The show toured but without Davies fronting it as the narrator it just couldn’t earn its place in the West End.

Sunny Afternoon is quite a different proposition. Unlike the previous show this features the Kinks own music and tells the story of their rise from the early 1960s to the height of their fame in 1968. It follows as brothers Dave and Ray Davies come together to write their very first songs, find a name and a sound of their own.  It is an interesting and emotional story as the brothers sometimes difficult and tempestuous relationship is tested through the highs and lows of a 1960s pop career.

There are set pieces too where Kinks performances, like their famous Top of the Pops debut, are re-created. Few bands were ever as vibrant and electrifying live as the Kinks and the show’s young cast do a great job re-inventing that energy.

The list of hits in the show goes on and on and includes: Waterloo Sunset, You Really Got Me, Dedicated Follower Of Fashion, This Time Tomorrow, Dead End Street, All Day and All of the Night, Days, Lola and of course, the iconic Sunny Afternoon. These are some of the best pop songs ever written and lend themselves really well to the musical format.

On a personal note:

I have to admit a certain amount of bias here. I love the Kinks! Their early music is full of power, drive and energy. I last saw them live in 1984. I was heavily pregnant at the time and I had expected them to play their more recent stuff, which I was very fond of, gentle, thoughtful songs like Muswell Hill Billy Boy and Everybody’s in Show Biz. The Kinks however, unexpectedly, decided to make that the night they re-created their earliest hits and rocked the Nottingham Playhouse to its core.  What a night! I gave birth less than a week later and I’ve always suspected my daughter’s love of pretty basic rock riffs was formed that night! B-)

Check our Readers Site for Sunny Afternoon Theatre Breaks

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Made in Dagenham The Musical

Made in Dagenham was a great film but can it really make a West End musical?

Made in Dagenham - Theatre Breaks

Made in Dagenham – Theatre Breaks

Made in Dagenham comes to the West End as a new musical comedy this month, (See earlier post New Musicals for Theatre Breaks October 2014).

Directed by  Rupert Goold (Artistic Director of the Almeida Theatre, American Psycho, Oliver!, Enron). Inspired by a true story and based on the hit movie, with themes of friendship, love and the importance of fighting for equal rights, the show is quite unlike anything else in the West End right now. It is a true story and an important part of the equal rights struggle of the 1960s

Made in Dagenham The Story.

The story (book) is by Richard Bean (One Man, Two Guvnors, The Heretic, England People Very Nice)

Made in Dagenham - Theatre Breaks

Made in Dagenham – Theatre Breaks

It is starts in Essex 1968 as Rita O´Grady (Gemma Arterton) is  trying to get her husband out of bed, the kids off to school and get herself out to work at the factory on time.

When she gets there she hears that the ‘girls’ in the sewing room of Ford´s Dagenham car plant are to have their pay grade dropped to ´unskilled´.  Rita’s is infuriated and leads her friends in a battle against the might of Ford and the corruption of the Union supposed to protect them.

The women’s battle grows bigger than anyone could have imagined. Some crack under the pressure but  Rita is made of stronger stuff. She drives on to keep up the fight but starts to worry just how high a price she may have to pay.

Made in Dagenham – the Music

The music is by  David Arnold (James Bond series, Hot Fuzz, and Sherlock) with lyrics  by Richard Thomas (Jerry Springer The Opera, The Royal Opera´s Anna Nicole and Shoes at Sadler´s Wells).. It has a very sixties feel with lots of ensemble pieces. You can get a good idea of it from this extract on Sunday Night at the London Palladium:

Is it really a good candidate for a musical?

Well, it seems that the idea first came up when the film was being made and certain scenes seemed to lend themselves to a musical. I think that, like the film, the show does its best to respect the historic events it portrays. I also think it is a cracking story for a musical and we’ll all love it as much as we did the film!

Check our Readers Offer site for Made in Dagenham theatre breaks.

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Memphis the Musical

Memphis The Musical - Theatre Breaks

Memphis The Musical – Theatre Breaks

Memphis the Musical starts previews at the Shaftsbury Theatre in the West End this month (October 2014). I suggested it might be one of the best new musicals for theatre breaks coming up this month, a few days ago. Today I’m going to look at it in a bit more depth.

Memphis the Musical – where does it come from?

The show has a good pedigree, it was  a Broadway hit and ran there for three years. In 2010 it won 4 Tony Awards, including Best Musical.  It was originally written and had workshop performances back in 2003/4.

Memphis The Musical had some glowing notices during its Broadway run including this from The Associated Press:

“The exhilarating new musical shaking the Shubert Theatre is the very essence of what a Broadway musical should be.”

It was written by David Bryan (music and lyrics) and Joe DiPietro (lyrics and book). If David Bryan’s name seems familiar, he is the keyboard player of none other than rock legends, Bon Jovi. He’s written another musical as well (The Toxic Avenger), and is currently working on yet another one about life in the Brill Building, New York’s  early 60s song factory.

Memphis the Musical – The Cast

Leading lady Beverley Knight was last seen in the West End last year in lead role of Rachel Marron  in The Bodyguard. She got a great soul voice and a good track record.

Leading man will be played by Killian Donnelly, who until recently was playing Deco in The Commitments. Donnelly has also played Tony in Billy Elliot and several roles in Les Miserables.

The rest of the cast look strong too, and well able to give the show the power it will need.

Memphis the Musical – what’s the music like?

A high energy score

As you can see from the following video the musical has a really high energy score. Although all the music is original it has a strong 1950s flavour.

Memphis the Musical – What’s The Story?

Two second plot summary – White DJ meets and falls for black music, and a black girl singer, in the deep south of the 1950s. But it is nowhere near that simple!

Set in Tennessee, in the American south of the 1950s Memphis is the story of Huey Calhoun, a white, radio DJ who starts to listen to and play ‘black’ music on his radio show. (Huey’s story is loosely based in part on the true story of Dewey Phillips)

Huey champions the music, plays it on his ‘white’ radio station and his audience begins to appreciate the quality of this ignored music. The trouble really starts though, when Huey falls in love with  Felicia, a  beautiful black singer whose musical career he has been instrumental in promoting.

The plot twists and turns, with lots of emotions, laughter and tears. It is not at all as simple as ‘boy meets girl’, and all the better for that!

Memphis the Musical will be a good choice for a theatre break, I think. The West End theatre break audience took The Bodyguard to its heart and may well do the same with Memphis the Musical. Like all the best Broadway musicals the the show takes you on a big emotion filled journey.

Check our Readers Offers site for details of Memphis the Musical Theatre Breaks.

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Self Drive Theatre Breaks

Self Drive Theatre Breaks -why bother?

 Self Drive - Theatre Breaks

Self Drive – Theatre Breaks

Often when we think of theatre breaks we assume that you have to go by coach or rail. It seems odd that you can get a theatre break where you make your own travel arrangements. I mean, why would you bother with self drive theatre breaks?

Well, it turns out there are some very good reasons:

  1. The cost. Put simply the travel agencies, (like the one we work with, Omega) have such buying power that they can get a much cheaper deal on both the hotel rooms and the theatre tickets that you can on your own. Prices vary with dates but you can often get it down to as little as £99 each, sometimes less.
  2. Availability. Again, because of their size and their ability to block book the agencies have access to tickets for shows that appear to be ‘sold out’. If you want to be sure of getting Friday or Saturday night tickets for one of the ‘hot’ new shows this might be the best way.
  3. Central hotels. Often coach based theatre breaks mean you stay well outside the city centre. If you want the buzz of being right in the heart of the city then the self-drive option will usually provide that. Don’t turn your nose up at docklands hotels though. Some of them are lovely and travel into the centre of London is painless on the DLR.
  4. Freedom. Watching the clock and having to be somewhere at a specific time can really put a damper on your break. With self drive theatre breaks you can come and go as you please. Spend as much or as little time exploring the city as you like. So long as you are at your theatre 30 minutes before the show the rest of your weekend is up to you.
  5. Your Location! If you live somewhere a bit more remote that just isn’t convenient for coach or rail travel then self drive theatre breaks can be the best solution. If, like me, you live well away from the madding crowd then a theatre break might have to form part of a longer trip. If I’m going all the way to London I prefer to break my journey and fit in a night or two on route.
Tower Guoman Hotel, self drive theatre breaks

Tower Guoman Hotel, self drive theatre breaks

Top Tip

Park the car

When you arrive at your hotel, park the car in the hotel parking and leave it there. Some hotels do charge as much as £20 a day for this but it is worth it. No, really. There is no joy or pleasure to be had driving in  central London on a Friday or a Saturday. Use the tube or walk to your theatre.

Have a look at what’s available on our Readers Offer site where you will find fabulous Friday and Saturday  self drive theatre breaks.


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