What do you think of when someone says “London's West End”? Do you think of the shopping? The night life? The museums?
Or, do those three words conquer up images of bright lights, grease paint and old theatres?
The West End plays host to nearly fifty theatres, with names like the Adelphi, the Vaudeville, and the Lyceum to pique the imagination. Tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of people have walked the boards of some of these historic buildings and it would take several lifetimes to work through all the different productions.
There's a magic to this part of London, one that I've never experienced in any other theatre district. The draw of the lights and the sound of the music coupled with elegant old buildings and beautiful costumes have left a mark on the city. And while the shows may have changed from Vaudeville to musicals there are some things that have stayed the same.
One of those is the musical side of the shows and it's something that London does well. Recent years have seen a rise in musicals about... musicians. From Queen's “We Will Rock You” to Carole King's “Beautiful” to the Beatles “Let It Be”. They're shows that we revel in, lapping them up, singing along and, ultimately, lining up for repeat shows. “We Will Rock You” opened in London in 2002 and ran up until 2014. It's played in nearly twenty countries, including a year long run at the Paris Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas and a current tour on board the Royal Caribbean cruise ship, Anthem of the Seas.
So why have we fallen in love with musicals about musicians? For me, it's a mix of nostalgia and the love of music. I wasn't born when Beatlemania swept the world. I was too young to remember when Queen took over the Live Aid stage. Carole King, thankfully, has a much more prominent place in my memories thanks to my parents love of her “Tapestries” album (as do both the Beatles and Queen. Both bands were played to us extensively when we were young and my brothers and myself have a love for them.).
For people of my generation, and younger, the shows are a chance to see the bands our parents grew up to. It's a moment when we can see the songs performed by a live band (albeit not the band) and sing along. Normally in the company of our parents. It's a chance for us to bond and talk and find a common thread in a life that can be so fractured and lonely. The music brings us together and helps us find a language that we all speak.
There needs to be more of these musicals about musicians. We love them. We love the artistry and the performances. We love the stories they tell and we love to sing along with songs that we thought had been forgotten. It's good for the heart, it's good for the soul, and it's good for the world.