04 August 2020 (released)
04 August 2020
Theatreland is depressingly dark with the ghosts of shows that closed months ago still papering the walls and no re-opening night in site. Unless you’ve been enjoying live theatre online, which let’s face it will never bring the same buzz as actual live theatre, there may be a hole in your soul which needs… the West End Musical, Silent Disco walking tour! It sounds ridiculous, it is ridiculous but if you’re a musical theatre fan, even if you never usually go on ‘tours’ I can honestly say it will be the most fun you’ve had in months. Sure, there’s not a lot of competition in the post Lockdown world but this was a genuinely uplifting experience.
Being a tourist in your own country is the thing to do/the only thing you can do at the moment and assuming you speak English fluently, it is even more crucial that your guide is brilliant. Enter Shaun – a loveable, sequin waist-coasted diva and his laid back assistants, totally brilliant at dealing with the inevitable challenges of herding a large group of masked, ear-phoned idiots across the centre of our capital without being run over, humiliated or verbally abused by passers-by. Luckily, wearing our silent disco earphones, we couldn’t hear the latter and following his infectious laughter and natural silliness, ‘We are now going to spread joy through Soho!’ we belted out show-tunes while parading from closed theatre to closed theatre.
Rather than being an impediment to singing or having fun generally, wearing a mask is actually the key to liberation – no doubt we sounded horrendous but we didn’t care as we pranced down Old Compton street singing ‘A spoonful of sugar’ (Mary Poppins) at the top of our voices, whilst trying to keep up with Shaun’s ridiculous dance moves. We whirled in circles in front of the Palace Theatre to the tune of ‘Circle of Life’ (The Lion King) flew like birds across Piccadilly Circus and jumped up and down to Bon Jovi’s ‘It’s my life!’ which is in the relatively new show ‘& Juliet’ which just opened before lockdown at the Shaftesbury Theatre. Two hours of walking, flying, strutting and jigging means there is the added bonus of having completed a serious work-out which you would never get sat in the theatre. Yes, this show is actually good for your health.
In case you are beginning to think that this reviewer is not to be trusted, I can also reveal that my straight male, usually very self-conscious companion found himself cat-walking in front of the Adelphi Theatre to a song from ‘Kinky Boots’. Re preparation, I would advise a couple of drinks before but really no more if you want to avoid a deep sense of shame when you emerge from the spell cast by the West End Musical Silent Disco tour. Although with mask, ear-phones and sunglasses you’re pretty much in disguise anyway. If I were to criticise, the tour is possibly a little light on history (note - read a book if you want to know more about London theatres) but it’s high on joy so all is forgiven.
I can confidently say that each of the fifteen strangers who set out on our tour had a great time - perhaps all the more emotional to be singing great hits around the West End during such a devastating time for theatre…here’s hoping the doors of Theatreland will open soon!