Following the controversy about attendees singing along to musicals at the theatre (culminating in an incident requiring police attendance to “The Bodyguard” in Manchester earlier this year), the monkey wanted to explore the better alternative.
This is it. Authorised joining in with the songs from a favourite show, with all members of the cast and audience primed to share one very special evening together. And we did.
To be expected, the vast majority of the audience that night were dedicated fans of the show, having seen it multiple times. More than a few, of all ages, dressed up as their favourite Queen. Anne Boleyn seemed the most popular, but Anna of Cleaves ruffs and green glasses (if you know the show, you’ll know) were also much in evidence – wearers swapping tips about how best to create them and keep them in shape.
In shape himself, Henry VIII could be seen the foyer and later in the stalls, bravery on an epic scale.
The only pre-show instruction was to sing along with the songs, but leave the dialogue to the wives – oh, and stay seated until the finale so that everybody can see the stage.
Wonderfully, this elicited full compliance. Better still, there were apparently no rowdy drunks (the line in the upstairs bar for souvenirs was five times that of the line for drinks) proving that a classy show attracts a classy crowd and that real fans will do anything to protect their experience for both themselves and everybody else.
Sadly, there were no surtitles for those a little unsure of the words to follow. The reason is simple... everybody, but everybody, knew the entire show – including the delightful 6-year-old Boleyn (the real one, the one on stage is the obvious imposter) seated right behind the monkey.
In its era, at that age we all knew the words to “Joseph;” that today’s youngsters have learned this arguably more sophisticated lyric by heart has to say something about education today, perhaps.
Of the show itself, the six and their “ladies in waiting” really did “just want to have some fun.” Performances became broader as the show went on, the stops for acknowledging enthusiastic but never unruly applause getting longer after every number. Some songs were joined in with more loudly than others, but it was always possible to hear the cast over other voices and a joy to see many fans simply mouthing along when they needed a vocal rest.
No such relaxation for those on the stage.
Monique Ashe-Palmer’s Catherine of Aragon drew first sympathy from fans as she wondered what she had done wrong.
Singing was lustiest as Danielle Rose’s hyper Anne Boleyn refused to apologise for what she’d done and wriggled in sparkly heels with the fun of it.
The button of “rude” hit with gusto by everybody in the theatre did not deter Claudia Kariuki from being the only one he ever truly loved as Jane Seymour.
Taking the lead in the pair of numbers right in the middle of the show, Dionne Ward-Anderson drew laughs of sympathy and recognition as Anna of Cleves delivered the best puns and niftiest revenge song in the show.
Fewer pink-haired people in the audience but Koko Basingara raised the roof with her sad tale “All You Wanna Do” masking a whole world of pain under the bravado.
Survivor Catherine Parr likewise had Roxanne Couch finding a little iron in “I Don’t Need Your Love.”
A glorious final group number ended with mass choreography as all participated in the countdown waves before the cameras came out to film the end – the monkey’s (annoyingly truncated by battery) efforts available on its Youtube channel.
Possibly not the best way to encounter the show for the very first time (a little of the nuance is lost to crowd-pleasing delivery), the good news is that the show is in fine shape – odd moments from the Broadway production now making it over to keep things fresh.
This is the way to satisfy fans and make new ones. The next singalong performance is on 21st January 2024 and already selling well. There’s a reason. If you are a fan, you won’t want to miss it. If you are not a fan already, book twice to ensure that you are before you do.
Photographs: Copyright Theatremonkey.com. Unauthorised reproduction is prohibited.