A Musical Friday in London

Oh, what a fun day today was! Mostly, that was because of the great show we saw this evening – I’m still buzzing from it! As someone who admittedly hasn’t had a ton of experience with live stage shows, I don’t have as much to compare tonight’s show to, but I know what I like, and I REALLY liked tonight’s show! Keen-eyed readers will have already deduced the show from the cover photo, but look for more details shortly. πŸ™‚

Today started off much the same as yesterday did, though I didn’t wake up from 12 glorious hours of sleep this time. My sleep wasn’t quite as restful as it was the previous night, but not down to anything with the room or anything – I just didn’t feel as tired, I guess. But I didn’t get up properly until around 8:30 and then lounged around for a bit while working on my last blog post, so I still had a fine start to my day! It was certainly nice to already have a lot of that post written though, so that’s what I’m aiming for again – starting this post on Friday evening, but I’ll likely finish it on Saturday morning (spoiler alert – that’s exactly what happened). I realize that may make this blog seem like more work than it is, but it really is a labor of love. I so enjoy going back to read posts and it’s a useful tool to have as I try to remember places I’ve gone and things I’ve done. Hopefully you all enjoy it, too!

I once again started my morning with a walk around central London before Matt and I connected (he was busy watching the Eurovision semi-finals anyway). This time though, I did have a couple of specific stops in mind. First up was my annual stop at Forbidden Planet, a shop for all things geeky, nerdy, and cult (like, you know, Doctor Who). I honestly don’t usually buy anything there as there’s nothing I really need, but I enjoy perusing their selection of Doctor Who and horror-related stuff. Probably still feels like a novelty as I think about this show I’ve loved for decades (most of my life!) and how, for many years, it felt like no one else knew about it (and I certainly never saw any merchandise for it in stores). Even though those years are long gone and the show is much more well-known now, it still warms my heart to see the merch in stores!

It’s fun to walk by these two phone boxes every day as there are always people taking photos with them (I assume that’s why the city keeps them there). Big Ben is just behind me, so it really does make for a quintessentially London photo!
There was quite the crowd outside Downing Street. Then a small caravan of cars pulled in, escorted by police. Presumably a visiting dignitary or political leader?
This is a Life Guard on his horse at the Horse Guards building.
I hadn’t gotten a photo of St. Martin-in-the-Fields yet!
Heading in to check out Forbidden Planet.

My next stop, just a few minutes away, was Chinatown Bakery. Why there, you may ask? A friend of mine from many moons ago was recently in London and went there and really enjoyed it, so much so that she messaged me and said I should visit for a pastry because they’re just THAT good. Well, that was a recommendation if I ever heard one, so I decided to give it a go (the fact that it’s so conveniently located helped me decide, too). It’s not a huge space, but they do offer a huge variety of baked goods, both sweet and savory – everything from vanilla cake to red bean buns to their version of a sausage roll, plus many other options in between. I wanted to get one sweet and one savory item (I mean, I have to be well-rounded, don’t I?), so I ultimate chose two buns – a custard and a chicken curry. I didn’t eat them right away, but I’ve since tried the custard bun and found it very tasty! It’s not full of custard like a donut in the US is, but rather has more of a thin layer throughout the bun. Very soft, chewy, and flavorful though! I shall report back on the chicken curry bun tomorrow. πŸ™‚

A small Buddha statue I walked by in Chinatown.
Outside the bakery.
Check out those buns!

With buns in hand, I finished my walk by heading back to the hotel and meeting up with Matt to go for lunch at another London (well, UK) favorite for me – the ever-present Pizza Express! Who needs gourmet food when I can happily munch on a Sloppy Giuseppe pizza?! As always, it hit the spot and gave us a convenient location (on the Strand, right across from Charing Cross) to travel from…once we figured out where we were going next. I came up with one idea, which we didn’t think we’d have time to do because it’s a bit of a hike to reach, so we put a pin in it, hoping to revisit it tomorrow around the other plans we have. Instead, I came up with a backup idea – another pub! But not just any pub, oh no. Our destination was to be The Churchill Arms!

A photo to appreciate the deliciousness that is the Sloppy Giuseppe. Yum!

Okay, perhaps The Churchill Arms is a bit of an anti-climax, but it is quite a famous pub and was built way back in 1750 and was also frequented by Winston Churchill’s grandparents. Today, it’s known for its flowery exterior (see below) and, apparently, amazing Thai food! I did actually do a drive-by of this pub once before, but I didn’t have a drink or anything, so I can’t say I remember it being a destination for Thai food (if I had, I would have suggested we eat lunch there!), but after checking into it on Facebook, multiple friends commented on how great the food is! Duly noted for my next visit. πŸ™‚ This time around though, we enjoyed the old-school pub atmosphere inside, including all sorts of quirky dΓ©cor (much of it Churchill-themed, unsurprisingly), dark paneling, and lots of ales on offer (not that we drank any, mind you – coffee for Matt and vodka for me). It was perhaps a little out of the way (~20 minutes on the tube) just for a pub visit, but it really is worth a stop when you’re in London, even if it’s just to see the outside. And if you aren’t into pubs and/or drinking, it sounds like you have a good chance of loving the Thai food!

How memorable is THAT?!

Lots to look at inside, too.

As it was getting to be late afternoon by this point, we planned our next stop around our already-booked evening plans, which included both dinner and a show. That stop was, perhaps unsurprisingly, the always-fun Retro Bar! It just so happens that Retro Bar is very close to where we were going anyway, which in turn is pretty close to our hotel, so we made a stopover there to change and charge devices for a bit before making our way to Retro Bar for a pre-dinner drink. I know I always end up at this place on every London trip, which to some folks may seem dumb because I have been there so much over the years, but ultimately, I really enjoy having a local bar to have a drink at when I’m here. Again, it makes me feel like I’m more of a local and less of a tourist!

Cheers to Retro Bar!

What does one do after a pre-dinner drink? Why, go to dinner, of course! πŸ™‚ On the recommendation of a mutual friend, Matt booked us into a place called The Port House a few weeks ago. I looked at the menu at the time and thought “Ooh, that looks like a tasty tapas restaurant!” and that’s absolutely what it was. The atmosphere was great as soon as we walked in – dark and narrow, but very cozy and full of people enjoying drinks and tasty-looking food. The service wasn’t especially prompt, but the server was very nice, plus the fact that it took him a little while to come meant we were ready to order everything at once, which worked perfectly. Since tapas are smaller plates, we each opted to get two small plates, all of which we very tasty. Matt got the lomo iberico (seasoned, thin-sliced pork) and pan pernil (garlic bread with crushed tomatoes, olive oil, and Serrano ham), while I got ham croquettes and arroz portuguese (really yummy rice dish with onions, peppers, chorizo, and a fried egg on top). My food was honestly SO tasty – I already loved croquettes, but hadn’t eaten them in years, so they were a welcome treat. And that rice dish?! So tasty, especially the chorizo! And then we wrapped up with a little dessert (coffee for Matt and ice cream for me), which was also excellent. The salted caramel ice cream was perfect! The entire meal was really well-priced, too – I think it was ~Β£45 ($55 USD) for the entire thing (no boozy drinks at this meal, but a good amount of food, including dessert). I would definitely eat here again and would highly recommend it, especially if you’re going to a show at one of the nearby theatres.

Even the building The Port House is in is cool!
Matt’s seasoned pork (top) and my ham croquettes (bottom), plus the bread that came with Matt’s pork. Yum!
This rice dish was SO good!

With both drinks and dinner consumed, it was finally time for the day’s main feature – a trip to the Adelphi Theatre (two doors down from The Port House) to see Back to the Future: The Musical! Could there be anything more perfect for a sci-fi fan than to go to a live Doctor Who event one day and a live Back to the Future event the next day?! I think not!

I’ve loved all the Back to the Future films since I was really young. We had the first one on VHS, so I watched that one a LOT, but always liked the second and third films, too. When I realized I would be here while this musical was on, I knew I had to go! I ended up scoring two tickets for only Β£20 each, which were TOTALLY worth it. As you can see from the photo below, the seats were advertised as restricted-view, but honestly we didn’t have any issues seeing anything happening on the stage. With as fun as this show was, I would happily have paid more for even better seats though!

You may be wondering how well a film like Back to the Future translates a) to the stage and b) to a musical, but trust me when I tell you that it works BRILLIANTLY! The plot is obviously the same (it would be pretty difficult to change that without ruining it), but there are a number of tweaks here and there, such as where some of the action happens, how it progresses, etc., but it’s absolutely still the same, fun story. I was SO surprised at how well the DeLorean (which certainly looked like a full-sized car to me) action worked on a relatively small stage – it was amazing! A combination of physical effects and projections REALLY made the movement feel legit. The performances were solid across the board and all the actors had great singing voices, though I have to single out Cedric Neal (Goldie Wilson/Marvin Berry), Rosanna Hyland (Lorraine Baines), and Olly Dobson (Marty McFly). I was so impressed by their singing!

In terms of characters, they felt very true to the film overall, with a couple of exceptions, which I have to assume were deliberate. Both Roger Bart as Doc Brown and Hugh Coles as George McFly seemed to be playing their characters almost more as exaggerated caricatures. Like, think about all of the characteristics you know about those two characters and multiply them 1x or 2x – that’s how Bart and Coles played them. Again, I assume that was a deliberate decision, probably to help really project them in a theatre (vs. on a screen), but it wasn’t my favorite one. That said, they still did a great job in the roles and I still enjoyed their performances.

In addition to the performances, a few scenes stood out as extra-special, including (without spoiling anything):

  • The first time we see the DeLorean travel in time.
  • The entire opening scene of the second act (a tour de force for Roger Bart).
  • The big finale where Marty goes back to the future.
  • The Easter egg for Doctor Who fans! You’ll absolutely know it when you see it. πŸ™‚

I am SO glad I got the chance to go to this show! If you’re able to get to London and catch it, I highly recommend you do so. Feel free to just copy my entire itinerary to get yourself a drink at Retro Bar and dinner at The Port House before the show!

Heading into the Adelphi to see Back to the Future: The Musical.

The theatre of the lobby was done up to resemble the town square in Hill Valley. So fun!

Another favorite moment of the show was getting to see a couple of performances of Marty McFly and the Pin Heads!
Matt was excited to be there, too!
A picture of the stage before the show started (not from our seats though).
This was the view from our seats. As I said above, even though it looks restricted, we didn’t miss any of the on-stage action!

What a fun Friday! After the show, it was time to return to the hotel, where I proceeded to stay up too late (12:30 again) while I worked on this post and caught up with Scott via text. Now it’s time to shower and get my Saturday started! Some more fun stuff planned, starting in a couple of hours, so don’t forget to check back for my next post soon.

One thought on “A Musical Friday in London

  1. I have a long history of seeing musicals- was raised going to them

    August 2006 was when the true journey started- Wicked on Broadway
    March 2013- Les Mis would be the musical that turned me into a fanatic

    Those two were the musicals that I saw the most- Wicked (5x) and Les Mis (6x). Les Mis was seen in London.

    I mainly see musicals by US Tours- despite living in the same country as Broadway, don’t live close enough to NYC to catch many shows there. So US Tours are what I rely on

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About thejeffelston

Based in St. Paul, MN and love to blog about travel. Comment, follow, and join me on my journey!