Pics at the end...again. (One of these days I'll take the time to figure out how to put them up with the text...but not today.)
On 22 December 2008, at 7:23 pm (GMT), I died and went to heaven. But let's start at the beginning of the day, shall we?
Not much sleep last night, but up and excited about the day anyway. First up...breakfast at Wetherspoons in Paradise Place...(aka Paradise Circus...aka Paradise Forum...haven't a clue...don't ask me why.) Then off to see a bit of city centre and finish up some Christmas shopping in the process. Looking every bit the tourists, with map in hand we walk toward The Mail Box shopping centre, but decide to bypass and continue on to the iconic Bullring instead. The entire city centre seems to be one big shopping mall, with added shops on every little side street. A little lost, we spotted the Pallasades car park, and knew we were on the right track, eventually ending up in a massive shopping area, streets closed to all but the occasional service or emergency vehicle, and literally teaming with holiday shoppers. Recession? What recession?
Seems all roads lead to the Bullring, so just a few more blocks and we're there. The first thing you notice is the spire of St. Martin's Church oddly jutting up between the two halves of this massive shopping complex. The contrast between the ultra modern and the ultra old is visually striking. The wall to wall people mixed with lack of sleep made us both a bit cranky, but we managed to plow through a few of the stores, and find a few gifts. HMV music and video store was particularly depressing, as we saw soooo many British TV show DVDs we would have bought, but all PAL, no NTSC. Damn! All this technology, and they still haven't found a way to combine formats so they play on all players, in all countries?!!! (End of rant...back to the dull travelogue...)
Feeling holiday malled and totally spent, we took an alternate route back to the hotel via the German market...again... then crashed for a couple of hours so we'd have the energy to enjoy Robin Hood without having to fight nodding off. NOT that the mere presence of John wouldn't have kept us awake, but both our body clocks were still waaaay out of whack. Awoke refreshed, then taxied over to the New Street train station to exchange our early morning train to London for one a bit later. Sleeping in the next day seemed a better alternative. As we stood in line, a gentleman, who freely admitted to having a few pints, and appearing to be in no pain, cheerfully chatted us up (the first, but not the last time this happened on this trip.)...
Seems he had to buy a ticket to visit his mother on Christmas day, and wasn't at all pleased with the length of the wait in line to do so. That was basically the conversation for about twenty minutes. Well...we did let him know that our next stop was the Hippodrome, so he gave us directions and told us it was about a five minute walk. Although wary of following the directions of someone decidedly snockered, we took his advice, and as predicted, found ourselves there in just about five minutes. Since it was dinner time we checked out their menu.
Turned out we weren't hungry enough for their full course Robin Hood feast, so we opted for ice cream and champagne instead. Have I mentioned that no one balks at a fifteen year old having a drink? In fact, Rach could have legally ordered a pint wherever she went...alas, she has champagne tastes. Oy. We spent a very pleasant half hour or so in the Hippodrome lobby bar sipping our champagne and people watching. John really does have quite a diverse fanbase...I can't think of a single demographic that wasn't in attendance.
Time to go to our seats (Stalls, Row H, DEAD (and I mean DEAD) center)...a couple of rows closer MAY have been better, but I wasn't quick enough on the trigger when I bought these seats last March. ;-)
Anyway...beautiful old theatre and comfy seats for my ride to heaven. Curtain up...John rising from the depths,
***Honestly, when John was on stage, (my guess...96.5% of the show,) I really don't know what all went on, unless it was occurring within a six foot radius of his RobinHoodiness. The eyes simply didn't wonder too far off.
This being my first ever panto, I have to wonder if they're all like this...or if this is John's particular brand...Glitz and sparkle to rival the Rockettes at Radio City Music Hall...or any over-the-top Broadway show. Obviously written (and I use that term VERY loosely,) with John's sense of fun in mind.
Highlights... (the whole show actually, but if I have to name a few)...Robin Hood and his Merry Men ebulliently SPAMALOT-ing...John's death defying illusion - evading the swords and ending up in one of the front boxes, offering his bum for gropage by two VERY lucky (or were they plants?) young ladies...Ice skating in Sherwood - not the professionals, but John, spinning and lifting, all after having run about stage sword (well, stick) fighting, singing and dancing for the previous hour. Holy Crap he works hard!
Let's see...So much more!...Every time John sang...The flying innuendo - gay, straight, size, it was all there... Drill sargent John...'er, Robin...whipping the Merry Men into fighting shape (it's all about the size of the "stick")...Friar Tuck in outrageously short-skirted drag, for nearly the entire show, and a very funny costume effect with movable boobs (you had to see it, but trust me, it was funny) ... an old guy with knobby knees wearing Victoria's Secret outfits...comedy gold!
Oh yeah...John showing Paul Zerdin how to romance a woman, by exuberantly romancing Paul Zerdin...and their NEAR kiss - PRICELESS! Paul Zerdin's hilarious running gag (pun intended) with an audience member in the front row, who he later all but gagged for his uproariously funny ventriloquisty finish. Never seen a human dummy look so convincing (unless you count Bush) *rimshot*...but seriously, Zerdin turning an audience member into a ventriloquist dummy was an amazingly simple concept done to wonderous effect, and absolutely one of the funniest things I've ever seen! Rach loved it so much she bought his DVD on the way out, even though it's in PAL and we have no way to play it...yet.
Much has been made in the press of Paul Zerdin's act in this show, and rightfully so! He is extremely clever. His puppet, Sam, sitting alone on stage, was a real "Awwww" moment in the show. Quite endearing.
There was a seven foot robot named Titan (a solid clue that plot was going to give way to fluff and fun,) chasing the Merry Men about the forest, adding another touch of farcical slapstick. All the pre-publicity made it seem that the robot would steal the show. Not the case. From my perspective, he was there to make the kiddies hide their heads in their mom's lap. Must have been a human inside, but a grand spectacle nevertheless.
Marion - eh (but hey...she gets to kiss John every performance, so...not bad work, if you can get it)....Cassandra the Witch - Nice voice and certainly got the glitziest costumes...The Sheriff - well played and a reason for the kids to "BOOOO"...all contributed to the overall fun.
Some of the very best moments were between John and Paul...when all they had to do was look at each other, both spending the next minute(s) bravely fighting the urge to totally collapse in laughter. I have to say, one of the most pleasing things about the whole show was one of the most obvious...the vision of John seemingly having SO much fun on stage. It was like watching the best sketch television...the funniest near blooper bits of Carol Burnett, mixed with grandios Broadway sparkle. The combination like nothing I'd ever seen before, and extraordinarily entertaining!
The show literally reeked of everything I adore about John. If I there is ANY way I can go to Cardiff next Christmas to see it again, I will. The biggest regret I have about the trip is that I didn't get tickets for two performances. Won't make that mistake if I ever get another chance to see a Barrowman panto. :-)))) *closes eyes, crosses fingers and wishes*...Please John, put it out on DVD...Please John, put it out on DVD... ;-)
After the curtain call, we hit the loo and by the time we got out to the stage door, John was already out and signing. Geez, the man has a freakin' TON of energy! The scene wasn't nearly as sedate as last evening...crowd larger and less organized. Handed John my tickets amongst a flurry of people reaching out for him to sign their stuff. Then it was picture time. I waited for the crowd to thin a bit before approaching and demurely asking if he'd mind taking a picture with...wait for it...my Gnome. (Yes, I hear you all screaming out there...WHY would she get a picture with her gnome, when she could have had a picture of John with herself???!) Well...I'm not the least bit photogenic, (the last really good picture taken of me ten years ago) and I came up with this whacky idea that since Gnome had been to Cardiff, he should become our TORCHWOOD Gnome. John was sweet to go for it, with the caveat that it not be used for any commercial purpose...hence the disclaimer ON the picture. Rach and I taxied back to the hotel, all grins and happiness. We'd seen an F-ing TERRIFIC show, and turned Gnome into...the beginnings...of a treasured keepsake. (More on that tomorrow) :-D
Of course, things are Never perfect...What was I thinking??? I should have had him sign the damn thing! Oh well...conventions ahead...I'll get another chance...hehehe.
Now to the pictures...or lack thereof. I can't BELIEVE I took so few pictures in Birmingham! (But that'll change with the next installments...London was a just a mad whirlwind of picture taking.) ;-)
Hyatt Regency lobby...just to prove we were there at Christmas...
And then the REAL reason we were in Birmingham...