The final two days of the first Playbill Preview Tour to Loncon were grab-bag days, the tour guests scattering to the four points of the West End compass to get in as much last-minute playgoing as they could.
With the days in London dwindling down to a precious few, Jolson, the guests obtained tickets to Passion,, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, A Little Night Music with Judi Dench, Sunset Boulevard with Petula Clark, Blood Brothers, The Lady in Black, Habeus Corpus, The Odd Couple with Tony Randall and Jack Klugman -- even the late-night Center Stage Cabaret, where actors from London musicals retire after their evening's performance to sing show tunes for an appreciative audience..
On the warm, clear final night, the loveliest of the whole trip, Playbill On-Line seeded the West End with American theatre lovers, whose diversity of tastes and opinions are reflected in those independent selections.
Those who chose A Little Night Music at the Royal National Theatre, had to cross back to the hotel via Waterloo Bridge. They got to take one last look at the brightly lit dome of St. Paul's Cathedral, the tower of Big Ben and other now-familiar landmarks whose lights were reflected in the Thames.
At our final breakfast, we summed up. We'd been impressed by the diversity and quality of what we'd seen, enhanced by the knowledge that we we'd been walking hallowed streets and sitting in legendary theatres. Here are the West End productions chosen as "best" by the Playbill guests. Not all stated an opinion. You may wish to use the picks in planning your own London trip:
Judy Robbins of Poughkeepsie, N.Y.:
Kenneth Robbins of Poughkeepsie, N.Y.:
Milton Demel of Studio City, CA:
A Little Night Music
Daniel Gister of Reistertown, MD:
Judith Gister of Reistertown, MD:
Frank Henderson of New York City:
Robert Hatem of New York City:
Gaye Collett of Alpharetta, GA:
Joyce Sundel of Brooklyn, N.Y.:
Arnold Sundel of Brooklyn, N.Y.:
Sam Reynolds of Houston, TX:
Debbie Reynolds of Houston, TX:
Annette Jacobs of East Lansing, MI:
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead
Sara Fox of New York City:
Rhoda Klein of New York City:
Frances Lamburini of Brooklyn, N.Y.:
Least-favorites were the Royal Shakespeare Company's Julius Caesar (paradoxically, chosen as "best" by others) and Andrew Lloyd Webber's By Jeeves, -- but they tended to be only the least-favorite of a good group. Sam Reynolds said that while he didn't care for Caesar, he thought the performances of two of the leads was the best acting of the trip.
And while Martin Guerre was criticized by nearly everyone on the first night, many said the memory had improved over the course of the week, as they began to separate the substandard performances from the attractive music. Likewise, though not everyone enjoyed By Jeeves they said they were glad to be able to say they were among the first audiences to see a new Andrew Lloyd Webber musical.
The group was unanimous on one point: it was a pleasure to spend so much time in the amiable company of fellow theatre-lovers -- not just casual theatregoers, but articulate people with a shared passion for the stage. There are master training programs for actors, directors and designers; we felt like we'd been in a master class for audiences. Good shows in good company.
The second Playbill Preview Tour to London, Nov. 17-24, is booking quickly. For details, jump London in November, or call Beverly Markman or Roberta Cohen at (800) 554-7513.