Sunday 19th June saw another flying visit to London to go and see West End Live from Trafalgar Square. If you don’t know about this event it is held over two days every year in June. And the best thing?? It’s absolutely FREE!!!
Basically the square is transformed into a huge concert space and all the stars from all the West End shows turn up and there are over 13 hours of live musical performances.
Every type of musical and theatre performance is showcased, from The Lion King to Magicians. Opera to Kids groups. Gospel to Rock. You name it, there is something for everyone!
We had been in London 2 years ago and came across the event by chance, and it was fabulous. This time, we planned specifically to go on Sunday, and so Mum, my husband and I got ready early for the drive up.
Arriving in St John’s Wood around 11am, we hopped onto the tube and got to Charing Cross at 1130. Which is when the gates started opening. The queue was absolutely huge and it seemed like we would miss the event starting as I genuinely thought we would be queueing for hours.
I was pleasantly surprised to find we got into the square in only 20 minutes. It was packed and people had bought chairs and blankets and picnics, and all ages from babies to the elderly were there, it was a great family event with lots of activities to do also.
We took our place in the middle of the square and awaited the show starting at 1200. The first show would be The Lion King, one of my personal favourites! In fact, I have seen it 4 times already and would happily go another 40 times.
The cast were all draped in traditional African clothing, and the first few notes echoed across the square. The show is so very moving, and I am reduced to tears every time I have seen it. This time though, I was surrounded by thousands of people whilst in the middle of London, tears running down my face! Such a soppy person.
After The Lion King was Stomp. A total cacophony of sound and movement. It really was absolutely mesmerizing. Using wooden poles, empty bins and dustbin lids they managed to entrance me for the whole of their performance. I would definitely like to go and see the whole show, after seeing just a little snippet!
The next performance was a great one – “Luck be a Lady” from Guys and Dolls. The role of Sky Masterson is played so very well by Oliver Tompsett, who has actually hosted West End Live for the past few years. The costumes were amazing, and the performance spot on. I have to say I was so very impressed. Another one on the list to go and see.
After that it was time for Thriller. Now, don’t go all hating me, but I am not a massive Michael Jackson Fan. I appreciate he was a master at his trade, and had massive hits and was innovative. But I was in the Prince Camp!
Due to this, I left Mum and the husband watching the show whilst I had a wander. I wanted to visit the ENO opera stand, and I was also in search of the Fortnum and Mason area, as I had seen on Twitter that they had a range of hamperlings available.
Visiting the ENO tent first, I was blown away by the beautiful Japanese costumes that are used in the current performance of Madam Butterfly. Beautiful Kimono’s and even the set design for the stage. I was transfixed by it all.
I wandered around the Square, till I eventually found a massive wicker picnic basket which was the Fortnum and Mason dining experience.
Little robins egg blue chairs and tables were all places on fake grass, with a little picket fence. Fresh lemonade, their range of tea, hamperlings, strawberries and cream, and much more were all available to buy.
I ordered a fresh lemonade, which given the fact that it was 24 degress and very sunny, went down an absolute treat. I had gone over with the intention of buying us a hamperling each, however there was too much to choose from so I needed to others to decide what they fancied.
Well, after several unaswered phone calls, I decided to just chill out and enjoy my lemonade in the sun, whilst watching the performance on the big screen which was just to the side of me. I have to admit, even though I wasn’t a massive fan, the cast showcasing Thriller were absolute amazing! Dance routines that Michael himself would be proud of and vocals that were insanely good!
During the next performance, Matilda, my missing compatriots arrived. Looking at the delicious offerings for lunch, we all made our decisions on what to have. Now, we knew the food would be lovely, it was just there was so much to choose from!
We all decided to splurge out and have the Fortnum and Mason Hamperlings. Little Robin Egg blue hampers filled with the most amazing goodies. I went for the Afternoon Tea one – this contained a box with little rectangular finger sandwiches.
Each on was using different bread, brown, white, poppy seed etc and there were two sandwiches of each variety. Smoked Salmon, Cream cheese and cucumber, Ham, Coronation Chicken and Egg mayonnaise. All were absolutely lovely (apart from the smoked salmon as I gave those away due to not liking smoked salmon at all.Mine was finished off with a large bowl of strawberries and clotted cream and a tin of their new Iced Earl Grey tea. Delicious!
Mum had a smoked salmon platter, which came with an individual salad, a small bottle of salad dressing, rye bread and butter. For dessert there was a lemon posset, and three different flavoured Neopolitan chocolates. She absolutely loved it all, and not a crumb was left!
My husband had gone for the most expensive hamperling, which came with very rare roast beef, horseradish cream, rye bread and butter. The individual side salad and dressing was in there too. His was finished off with a cheese and chutney board, with bread. Lemon Posset and chocolates ended the meal.
Absolutely everything we had was beautiful. Each came with its own reusable Hamperling, which is just too cute. We all said how full we were, and what fabulous quality the range was. At £52 for all three of us, it certainly wasn’t something we had to remortgage our house for (not yet anyway) and we were all pretty full by then end of it all.
Whilst eating our lunch, we were serenaded by Matt Cardle, Beverley Knight and Michael Xavier. All amazing performances. It certainly helped with the digestion too!
After that came Barbu. One of the strangest acts I have ever seen! Heavily bearded men wearing their pants. Performing acrobatics with two gorgeous scantily clad ladies. It was one of the most impressive things I have ever seen, and pretty funny too
We eventually left the F&M area, and wandered up into a less crowded section to enjoy more of the performances. We saw several fabulous performances by different youth groups including the all-inclusive Chickeshed. The youngsters really were giving the professionals a run for their money!
It was whilst watching West End Masterclass and their version of Legally Blonde, that a young man came up to us. He had on a Mastercard Polo shirt and started talking to us. He complimented me on my outfit and said how tropical I looked. He went on to say that Mastercard were giving out things during the day called “Mastercard Surprises” and he wanted to give us a surprise.
He went on to tell us that he was going to upgrade us into the VIP Mastercard area, where we would have a perfect view of the stage, water and even binoculars! Well…. that was a turn up for the books!
We went along to the Mastercard enclosure which was situated raised above the crowd, directly in line with the stage. We had a great view, and it was lovely to be sitting down. From this area we saw the amazing Barricade Boys, who sang various songs from different shows, and then a performance by Ferris and Milnes.
Now, I had not heard of them before, and wasn’t sure what to expect. However I was blown away. The duo, one playing piano and both singing had the most unique and entertaining musical comedy act.
Their performance consisted of them singing 55 different lines from 31 musicals. No mean feat, I can tell you!
I sat transfixed as show after show was sung from, laughing along at the hilariously funny bits, and Martin Milnes voice was unbelievable – Falsetto one moment, then as low as you can imagine. The way they had crafted the song was just genius. It was so very clever that I was carried along on a wonderful musical journey. For some reason, I could swear I even heard tinges of “Hinge and Bracket” in there!
I have to admit, with all of the amazing shows performing on stage that day, Ferris and Milnes were my favourites, an opinion that both Mum and Hubby agreed with! They really were out of this World.
After Ferris and Milnes came my second favourite performance of the day, The ENO’s Madame Butterfly. I love opera yet have never seen a live performance. Rena Harms delivery of “One Fine Day” as the character Cio-Cio San was simply moving. I literally sat with tears rolling down my face. It was just beautiful.
The ENO is only performing Madam Butterfly until the beginning of July, and unfortunately I don’t have any free time that I could go and see it, which is a real shame as it looks absolutely amazing.
Unfortunately at this point, time AND the weather was starting to turn on us. It had got a little overcast and subsequently chillier, but there was still a couple of performances we wanted to see; namely The West End Gospel Choir and Sam Barks.
The choir was just wonderful, so powerful and moving. They sang songs from In the Heights and also Hamilton, and whilst I am not too familiar with those shows, they really did sound amazing. I felt really positive and lifted after listening to them.
In between the two, we were treated to several songs from the Jersey Boys. This really got people excited and singing along and dancing in the square. I wish I could say that I enjoyed it, but I am not a Frankie Valli fan. I think the songs are well written pop classics, but I don’t like his voice (or that of the person who is playing Frankie in the show) Everyone else seemed to enjoy it though, and it looked like a very well put together and rehearsed show. The dance routines were great, and I could see why it was such a popular show.
The last performance we stayed for was Samantha Barks. Some of you may know her as Eponine from Les Mis (both stage and Hollywood film) or as one of the contestants on BBC1’s “I’d do anything” show. She is a wonderful singer and I was really excited to see her. She only had enough time to sing two songs, One from her new album and then that Les Mis classic “On my Own”
I have to say as much as I love Samantha Barks, I wasn’t as blown away by the performance as I hope to be. The backing track from “On my Own” seemed a little different to normal and I found it really distracting!
There was still several performances to come, before finishing at 6pm, however the weather had got progressively colder and we had a long journey back home, so decided to call it a day.
We made our way back to the tube and headed for St Johns Wood where the car was parked. Obviously we called into The Ordnance pub for a quick Shandy before starting for home.
All in all, it was an amazing day, and if you have never been to West End Live then keep an eye out for it next year! You really would find it hard to have a better day out, especially without paying any pennies for the privilege.