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Took the kids to see the Wallace & Gromit Musical Marvels show today and it was brilliant. Not too long (90 minutes with an intermission), funny, well-performed, genuinely family-friendly (fun for kids and grown-ups)… just great. A fantastic afternoon’s entertainment, though the show we caught was the last-but-one so you’ll have to wait to see if it comes out again if you missed it.

The first half was a mixture of original animation on a big screen with the orchestra and presenter interacting with it. A couple of covers of well-known songs (including some headbanging alpine horn players) and some comedy made for an enjoyable 50 minutes or so. After the break we were treated to The Wrong Trousers with all the music performed by the orchestra. The acoustics in the venue really worked and it was simply superb.

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Tickets: £50, Pepsi Max (2): £6, Sweeties: £3. Watching son laugh out loud and clap along to classic rock tracks: priceless.

We went to see Rock of Ages at the Kings Theatre in Glasgow tonight. The last time I was there was August 2014… when I took his big sister to see the same show. Same time in four years to repeat the tradition with his little sister? He loved it – laughed at all the inappropriate jokes, clapped along to the songs and barely stopped smiling. I wish I could have got a photo of him during the show but I wasn’t about to get my camera out while the performance was on!

Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy – Live!

Hitchhiker's Live!
Hitchhiker's Live! (Photo credit: Iain Purdie)

In honesty I wasn’t sure what this would be like. Expectations were high, from me at least, and it would be Gillian’s first experience of Douglas Adams‘ seminal work. Anyone who knows me knows that this is a piece of fiction that means a lot to me for various reasons…

Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy: The Radio Show – Live!

I began the evening stood outside the theatre where I managed to meet the lovely Susan Sheridan who signed my old copy of the original scripts. As time wore on, I realised that the rest of the cast must already have arrived so I settled in the bar with Gillian and “enjoyed” a Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster (JD, Archer’s, Blue Curacuao and fresh orange). At £8 I was hoping for something that at least tasted nice while it smashed my brains in and this didn’t. Sadly/luckily I didn’t have time for a Babel Fish or the other cocktail which I can’t remember the name of.

Our seats weren’t far from the front and we sat down to await the start. Certainly the set looked nice with a series of microphones at the front, a small desk to the left, orchestra/band to the rear and a comfy chair on a plinth for – I assumed – The Book (as read at the Glasgow performances by Billy Boyd). In addition, there was a nice “swoosh” motif across the back with a circular screen to the right. The entirety of this, it turned out, was an unusually-shaped projection screen which was used to good effect throughout the show.

I won’t spoil any of the events in the show, but suffice to say that it’s certainly not just a simple rendering of the original radio series. It has been adapted, tweaked and added to in the spirit of every version of the story so far (by Dirk Maggs). The basis of the story, many key events and a lot of the dialogue is as the original. However, there is a wealth of new material and some of the best lines have been moved about a bit mainly – I reckon – to reduce the show to a manageable length. The adaptation I saw a year or so ago by Strathclyde University drama group was superb but a little long at almost three hours.

The core of the original cast is present – Simon Jones as Arthur Dent, Geoffrey McGivern as Ford Prefect, Susan Sheridan as Trillian, Mark Wing-Davey as Zaphod and Phil Pope as “several random characters”. Stephen Moore is, I believe, touring with Oliver! so he has recorded all of Marvin’s dialogue which is used for the show.

The important thing is – is it any good? There have been stage version of the Guide before and they’ve, generally, failed dismally. This one is different for having so many of the original cast there. It’s not just an adaptation, it’s a bringing-together of so much of the creative talent who have been involved since the very beginning.

As a result… yes. Yes, it’s good. In fact, it’s very good.

I confess that some things jarred as I was expecting a straight stage performance of the scripts. However, once I’d got my head around the fact that this was a version in its own right I began to enjoy the new material and the changes that had been made to create more of an actual stage show.

There was a smidgen of audience participation, but not enough to make it silly. The cast were superb, even with the occasional slip which was taken in good spirit by their colleagues and the audience alike. The weak link in the chain, in my view, was Billy Boyd. He’s a wonderful guy, but his voice just didn’t carry enough gravitas to be The Book in my opinion. However, he made up for this in spades with his performance as the Dish of the Day later in the show. Along with Marvin, I think his lines raised the largest laughs of the night. I suppose now that his brief stint is over (a variety of actors will play this role in other venues), I can reveal that he played the part with a strong Glaswegian accent that went down very well with the crowd!

Incidentally, a full list of actors playing this part can be found on the official web site. Missing, sadly, are the non-main players. A shame as I would like to give credit to the chap who plays Slartibartfast magnificently well, and the young lady playing Random Dent. Maybe I should have forked out a fiver for the programmer after all.

After a rousing applause and a tribute to Douglas himself, the cast were kind enough to sign anything and everything thrust at them outside the stage door, pausing for photos and – in Billy’s case – hugging one girl who squealed with delight! These are people who really believe in what they’re doing (two of them are producers).

This was a great show. Not only did I enjoy it, I would consider forking out for a second visit. The way the show ends (again, trying to be pretty much spoiler-free), I wouldn’t be surprised if the script has major changes the next time it comes around. Certainly Dirk has built in a great excuse to get away with it if this is the case.

As ever, the biggest shame is that Douglas isn’t here to see how much everyone still enjoys his work – both watching and performing it. Here’s to the show’s continued success.

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Avenue Q

Avenue Q program- Front
Avenue Q program- Front (Photo credit: yumiang)

Just for something a little different, we decided on a trip to see the highly-recommended Avenue Q show at the King’s Theatre in Glasgow. I’d originally seen posters up for it in London some years ago and happened to catch an advert recently detailing the performances up here.

For those who’s not heard of it, Avenue Q is an adult version of Sesame Street. It comes complete with fuzzy characters, monsters and songs. Thing is, Sesame Street didn’t have songs about homosexuality, porn and one night stands. Or if it did, I missed them.

Subject matter aside, this is a great production. The cast are, simply, fantastic. Not a missed line of dialogue or bum note the entire performance, and all this while operating the puppets.

It is an unusual sight to see the puppeteers on-stage alongside their furry acting pals. Rather than hiding behind walls, the cast run around in dark grey jeans and shirts moving and voicing the puppets. Clever positioning often allows one cast member to play two on-stage characters at once – one they’re controlling and one that another cast member is manipulating.

I did notice that the puppeteers also acted out their puppets’ parts – that is, as well as the voices they made facial expressions and so forth that matched the character’s mood. I don’t know if this is something they’re “supposed” to do, or if it just makes it easier to control the puppet realistically but it’s something to watch!

There are some very humorous moments, and the sound in the King’s was spot on. Often at theatres the sound just doesn’t work for less traditional musicals and the words in songs can be lost. Not so here, which is ideal as I’d say 75%+ of the story and jokes are in the songs.

I’ll be honest – I didn’t think it was as good as I’d been led to believe. The humour certainly kept me amused for the 2 1/4-ish hours running time, but I’d not say my ribs were aching by the time I left. Maybe on another night. On the other hand, I certainly wasn’t disappointed and time didn’t drag.

I reckon there will still be a few tickets left for this week’s performances in Glasgow and if you have the time and cash (and a gutter-level sense of humour) then there are worse ways to spend an evening!

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