not a book

Not a Book: Wicked!

This is a not a Book post because I have never managed to get to the end of Gregory Maguire’s book that Wicked is based on. And it’s not through lack of effort – I’ve tried several times, over a period of years!

Anyway, last weekend we went to see Wicked, which was my third trip to the show. I remain convinced that it’s one of the best of the family musicals for older children, and the reaction of my nieces confirmed that. While Matilda works for anyone old enough to sit through a musical, Wicked works for nines and up who have seen the Wizard of Oz, especially if they’re girls. And there’s always something special about sharing a show that means a lot to you with other people. The nerves while you’re hoping that they’ll like it. The relief when they do – and the excitement that you have someone to talk to about a thing you like – it’s like lending a book except that you get to experience it again at the same time. Bonus.

My earliest internet community was based around musicals and so back in the day I was waiting for this to arrive from the US – and went in a group to one of the previews – complete with Idina Menzell (way before everyone knew her from Frozen, I was in there ahead of the crowd). I already knew a lot of the music but I hadn’t read any spoilers and it really blew me away. I remember saying at the time that the level of spectacle was the mid 2000s equivalent of Phantom of the Opera. And 15 years on it still works on me. I always forget bits of the detail – despite the fact that the CD still lives in my car glove box*, and when I did car commuting I sang along to it all the time and I still now all the words. Him Indoors is not a musicals person generally, so it’s always a risk taking him to stuff, but even he conceeded that Wicked is clever – even if he said it didn’t need the songs!

Anyway, as I’ve said before, having to stop doing everything in the pandemic really crystalised what is important to me and what I missed (and what I didn’t ) and so now things are opened up more and the theatre companies are putting stuff on again, it’s a delight to be able to go back and do things again. In fact, this trip should actually have happened before Christmas, but was postponed because of a positive covid test in part of the family. I’m working on refilling my theatre ticket box – so undoubtedly you’ll be hearing more about my outings.

Have a good Sunday and please try not to doomscroll.

* current car glove box CDs: Rufus Wainwright Vibrate, Wicked Original Broadway Cast, Martha Wainwright’s Piaf Record, Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings Give People What They Want, Caravan Palace Caravan Palace. It’s a small glovebox.

children's books, not a book

Not a Book: Matilda the Musical

Another post from my trip to London the other week. As well as the Elizabeth and Mary exhibition and a wander around the national gallery, we went to see Matilda, the musical based on Roald Dahl’s children’s book of the same name.

So I want to say that this isn’t the first time that I’d seen Matilda – I actually saw it in its original incarnation at the RSC in Stratford a decade ago, but it was the first time I’ve seen it in the West End. I was worried that it wouldn’t live up to my memories of it – especially as I’ve got the CD (yes I know, it’s that long ago) and have sung along to it in the car a lot, but actually it really did. There are a few bits of staging that have definitely changed since that Christmas run, but that’s probably not a surprise given that the stage at Stratford was much more of a thrust stage than the Cambridge theatre is. We bought our tickets on the day (from the theatre) and were sat in the middle of the Dress Circle, which was really good value and a really good view. There is some running around in the aisles in the stalls that you can’t see, but for me it wasn’t worth paying an extra £50+ for.

In terms of the book vs the show, Matilda’s own story is fairly similar, but there’s a secondary plot strand added to tie in (that really works, don’t worry!) and you see less of the telekinises than you get in the book – but given that you have to try and make that work on stage, it’s not a surprise. I’ve always thought that picking Tim Minchen to do the music was inspired – he’s funny and clever and a little bit dark and sly. And like the book it’s funny but funny and suitable for children – there aren’t any jokes here that parents are going to get awkward questions about. And I know it’s a children’s show so you’d think that there wouldn’t be, but actually you’d be surprised!

Anyway, we had a blast, five out of five, would recommend, just maybe don’t go on a Saturday (or in the school holidays) if chatting children during the show are going to annoy you!