Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Never Mind the First Foot, My Year Got off on the Wrong Foot; Columnist

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Never Mind the First Foot, My Year Got off on the Wrong Foot; Columnist

Article excerpt

Byline: Tom Gutteridge

WELL, that wasn't a very good start to the New Year. "How was it for you?" people ask politely.

"Lovely, thanks, and for you?" I'm supposed to reply. But that would be a lie. So far it's been a miserable 2013.

It started on the train back from London on New Year's Eve. We'd had a jolly seasonal family outing to Shrek The Musical. Don't laugh, I actually enjoyed it.

I thought it was going to be awful, so we had a boozy family lunch beforehand - 16 of us, from Granny to Izzy - and I thought: after three glasses of Chianti, what could Shrek do to me other than send me to sleep? In the theatre I gave everyone instructions to wake me if I snored or dribbled and waited to nod off. I normally hate musical theatre: the posturing and the stagey singing, the chorus smiling maniacally, just as they were taught in stage school.

But Shrek was so - how can I describe it? It certainly wasn't moving, or imaginative, or dramatic or inspiring; the cast wasn't particularly talented, the narrative was predictable (Izzy has made me see the movie at least 50 times), neither the tunes nor the performances were show-stopping. So why didn't I hate it? It was the sheer professionalism of the thing: it was like the best pantomime you've ever seen, but without the terrible jokes. It was a thoroughly well made piece of theatre, with a fantastic dragon that needed five grownups to operate, and which flew down from the ceiling and made us all jump. And a big, live band that made us tap our feet and clap along.

Izzy sat through the entire two hours and loved every second, particularly when Princess Fiona went green. It was funny, and the Chianti lasted right through to the end. It was, as a critic might say, Shrektacular. The day before, we had sat down with a video of the new Les Miserables film, which opens in cinemas later this week. Now that was another musical experience I was dreading. The stage show of Les Mis is everything that Shrek isn't: it has great tunes, a well-constructed story, social relevance. …

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