Crazier than Christmas: Gloom or glitter? – The Post

Crazier than Christmas: Gloom or glitter?

Join Vivienne and friends for ‘Oh Baby − It’s Cole’ at Krudttønden in May (photo: London Toast Theatre)
April 7th, 2019 6:00 am| by Vivienne McKee

Many of us love our theatre trips to London and, as it’s my profession, I indulge more than most.

No swift exits here
Last week I was there and I was amazed that although it was a rainy Tuesday in March, during the countdown to Brexit, the theatres were doing fantastic business.

I bought a last-minute ticket for one of the hit shows in the West End, not online but at the theatre’s box office (tip: you often get a better deal). Normally, the cheapest tickets at the back with a restricted view are 55 pounds and the most expensive are 150 pounds. I got my stalls ticket, unbelievably, for 25 pounds (see what I mean!).

The theatre was packed. There was neither a child nor, with the exception of a few face-lifts, a wrinkle-less face to be seen. Before the curtain rose we were told to turn off our mobile phones. Nobody moved. In the interval, there were no Harry Potter glasses or witch hats for sale. The conversations buzzed. This was something that people wanted to talk about.

High on emotional punch
So what was this extraordinary theatre experience? A rarity these days, it was a play comprising four actors and a simple set – a room cluttered with dusty old furniture of all shapes and sizes, reflecting, if one was to be unkind, the audience looking at it.

There were no spectacular scene changes, no flashing lights and sound effects, no toe-tapping music, and no eye-popping costumes. Just actors telling a story of such emotional punch, it kept the audience spellbound for two and a half hours.

It goes to prove that you don’t need to stage a musical to be a success, even though most producers choose this option. Right now musicals are the mainstay of the West End and, increasingly, theatre in Denmark.

As I write this, there are 36 musicals and only 10 plays in the West End – and similar numbers on Broadway. I suppose if you are going to pay an average of 100 pounds a ticket and go with friends to the theatre and enjoy drinks and dinner, then you want to see something that is ‘worth the money’, and for most people these days that means spectacle and escapism.

When the price is right
The play I saw was ‘The Price’ starring David Suchet (aka Hercule Poirot on TV) and written by the legendary Arthur Miller. When it was first produced in 1968, it was not a success.

How interesting that today its powerful themes of business, bankruptcy and the vulnerability of family ties is more pertinent than it was then. And how pleasing it is that my profession still provides a platform for actors to be appreciated for their acting skills and not for how many songs they can belt out or dance steps they can bounce to.

However, I must confess that the next evening I bought a ticket for a musical with glamorous sets and costumes! After all, I told myself, I need inspiration for my own musical cabaret show (‘Oh Baby – It’s Cole’ running from May 15-June 1; tickets via londontoast.dk), which is opening soon in Copenhagen.

Vive la difference!!

Vivienne mckee


Vivienne McKee, Denmark’s best-known English entertainer, is this country’s most beloved foreign import. Over the last 36 years, hundreds of thousands of Copenhageners have enjoyed her annual Crazy Christmas Cabaret show at Tivoli, marvelling at her unique, wry Anglo wit and charm.