Why Theatre is Such a Big Part of Me

I saw my first show back when I was about five. It was Chitty Chitty Bang Bang at the London Palladium. I don’t remember much but being right up at the top. I remember loving it.

The next few shows after that were The Lion King at the Lyceum, We Will Rock You at the Dominion and Wicked at the Apollo Victoria. And while I loved the first two, it was Wicked which changed my life (I have been changed for good..)

Following on, every birthday and Christmas I’d ask my family for theatre tickets and those would be my main presents. And this is where it really takes off. We were off to see Legally Blonde at the Savoy when I was told of something I’d never heard of before: “Stage Door”. This apparent regular door where you can meet the stars of the show. We were told to bring a sharpie, so we did.

On my first theatre trip to stage door I had the pleasure of meeting Lee Mead after his performance as Emmett, plus a few ensemble members. Of course, 12 year old me was beyond fascinated with being able to meet the cast and this made the theatre more than just a show for me, but an experience. Being able to meet the cast, thank them for their amazing performances as well as getting signatures and photos made it so special for me and here my true love for this whole industry was born.

Fast forward a bit more. Seen more shows, still couldn’t really afford to see them by myself nor did I have many friends who loved theatre. It’s 2010, the year of the Les Miserables 25th anniversary which mum took us to watch in the cinema. I’ll be honest, 13 year-old me didn’t understand the plot but I did love the music, the sort of story she could grasp and the acting. My favourite was Eponine (which I pronounced Ep-on-een-ee) at the time.

Over the years, I met some girls online who had a shared love for theatre and one particular theatre actress: Samantha Barks. These friends and I met in real life for the first time (after knowing each other online for about a year first) in the summer of 2013.

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Me and friends at Wicked, August 2013

Through January to March 2015 I saw 15 shows. I’m not sure then if it was a slight addiction or an escape from other things I struggled with, like communicating your trpical teenage girl problems; fitting in, boys and body image. Either way, the theatre was there for me when I felt like I lost a lot and was losing my feet. What I realised I love about theatre is that there isΒ alwaysΒ a song. Musical theatre is so vast, covers so many themes, topics and explores so many characters that there’s always someone you can identify with. Michelle Knudosn once saidΒ 

“Musical theatre can save you, even if only for two or three hours at a time”

I love that.

I also became very invested in the Les Mis London casts from 2013-2015. I would meet them at the stage door they were like my friends. Sometimes we’d bring gifts, always get pictures taken, and there is where I felt myself. A niche community quickly formed online with fans of the same cast and a new set of friends was made. I felt at home. Rather than going out at the weekends I would much rather sit on my laptop and spend time on social media talking to people the same as me about shows and casts and all things theatre.

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Me at Dreamgirls, June 2017

The amount of theatre we have is so vast and I’m so grateful for every show I’ve seen. I feel there are aspects of every character in me; some days I’m Elle trying to graduate from Harvard and some days I’m Connor dealing with depression and some days I’m Cinderella stuck on the steps of the palace not knowing what to do and some days I’m just Sophie.

OneWomanWestEndShow

2 comments

  1. I am a big fan of musicals. Well, I grew up going to the theatre to see my musicals. There was the Disney ones such as Lion King, Aladdin, and Beauty and the Beast. Also seeing Sound of Music and Annie was important as well.

    But seeing Wicked on Broadway with my mom at age 12 was crucial to my musical journey because it sparked my love for musicals. Wicked was the show where I actually started to understand the emotional side of musicals. I developed such a personal relationship with Elphaba. Literally all the musicals I grew up with were happy so I believed that will always be the case.

    Growing up was discovering what a musical is. This world of comedy, spectacle, dance, emotions of excitement, joy, love, and sad, and strong emotional connection. All of that is almost identical to the musical world of today.

    Starting in 2012, my parents took my sister and I to see the musical movie of Les Mis. Little did I know the impact that Les Mis would have on me. I realized while watching the show that Les Mis was in fact a tragedy and I was shocked and quite confused due to thinking musicals will never be heartbreaking. In the musical world growing up, I honestly did not know what it meant for a song from a musical to be heartbreaking. So Les Mis told me that tragic musicals exist and that heartbreak is one of the main emotions.

    But it was in 2013 when I gave Les Mis a second chance by watching the movie a second time. I was able to calm down and was able to realize there is something quite special about that musical. I honestly wanted to know why I felt uplifted at the end. So in 2013, I developed an obsession for it and Les Mis did turn my love of musicals into a passion. In 2013, I saw it live for the first time when my community college put on a production. In 2013, I believe it was, I watched the film of the 25th anniversary concert.

    However, the first time I saw the show with a professional company was in 2015. I went to England for a Bristol Pilgrimage and my family went up two days early. My mom bought the two of us tickets to see Les Mis on the West End. Just seeing the Queens Theatre, it still did not hit me that a dream was about to become reality. In that production, I had an understudy as Valjean and I always get nervous when I hear I have an understudy for a character I am already familiar with, but ended up being the best Valjean ever. Well, the entire cast from ensemble to lead was brilliant and the orchestra-well everything really. The first note of the show was how I knew it was going to be more than expected.

    Well, Les Mis had the biggest impact on my life in the most recent years. It challenged everything about the world of musicals. Now I love musicals such as Newsies, Phantom of the Opera, Music Man, South Pacific, Singing in the Rain, Pippin, etc. I have quite a wide range of musicals. So many themes, so many layers of emotions, the moments of spectacle and dance, the wide range of storylines and characters and the wide range of melodies and so on. Musicals are so unique in so many ways. I could go on and on about my love for musicals it seems

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    • Thanks so much for sharing, I love this! Seems for both of us that Wicked was really pivotal, and Les Mis being something really important too. I’m the same that I love and have seen a wide range, from Rent to Seven Brides. I love how varied theatre is and I totally agree with you that theatre can reflect the real world. Glad you connected with my post so strongly! x

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