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Meet the superfans who’ve seen London’s West End shows hundreds of times

 

So, you’ve been to see ‘Matilda’ twice? Big deal. To celebrate the launch of Theatre Month, Natasha Wynarczyk meets three Londoners who are obsessed with West End shows. 

Emily, 27, from Paddington loves... ‘Kinky Boots’ (pictured above)

‘I’ve seen “Kinky Boots” at the Adelphi Theatre 199 times. It’s only been on for two years, so I’ve gone about twice a week since the first performance. I’m not sure how much money I’ve spent on it – it’s definitely a lot, but because I’ve been so often I know how to get discounts.

‘The first time I saw it was in New York, and I wasn’t blown away. But when I watched it in the West End I found it so inspiring and there was a feeling of elation at the end of the show that made me keep coming back. I’ve made so many friends from the show – my two housemates are girls I met through the show and there’s a group of us who meet up regularly to see it together. My mum goes to see gigs a couple of times a week, so we both think that’s where I get my love of music from.

‘In August 2016, six of us from the fan community camped overnight on The Strand to get the first tickets that were being released with the new cast. It’s probably the most extreme thing I’ve done for my fandom. I also own a lot of memorabilia, but my most precious item is a CD signed by Cyndi Lauper, who wrote the music.

‘I've gone twice a week since the first performance’

‘Watching it, I get tempted to sing or talk along but I try hard not to do it. I definitely do it in my head, though! I see me watching the show as just like listening to a favourite album, but instead I go and see it live and it’s different every time because it’s never the same people singing the songs – there’s always a cast member on holiday so you get to see various interpretations of the characters.

‘Even though I’ve seen it so often, I never get bored. Sometimes the cast will change a prop or a line as an in-joke, but they also do it for the regular fans who will notice it. It’s a nice acknowledgement. That’s the good thing about the show: there are chances for poetic licence.

‘“Kinky Boots” isn’t my whole life – I have a full-time job and other interests, but it is a big part of who I am.’ 

‘Kinky Boots’ is at the Adelphi Theatre. Until Mar 24 2018. Book tickets here.

Ed, 34, from Greenwich loves... ‘Wicked’

 

‘I didn’t grow up loving musicals or wanting to perform in them, but about ten years ago I started going to the theatre with work friends and got the bug . I just loved the escape of getting immersed in another world for a few hours.

‘In 2010 I got offered a spare ticket to see “Wicked”. I didn’t really know anything about it, and weirdly I didn’t love it straight away – I actually felt very confused for some of it as there was so much going on. However, I did want to go back and see it again as I felt I’d not fully appreciated what it was all about. I think that’s why I’ve ended up going back at least 40 times, because you discover something new each time and it has become a bit of an obsession. Now, if I have a spare Wednesday afternoon and find out there’s an understudy on I’ll go and see how a character is performed in a different way.

‘I’ve run my blog West End Wilma for the past five years, after a friend told me I go to the theatre so much I should write about it. When I first started it, I talked about “Wicked” a lot so a lot of my followers are fans of the show, and have the same passion for it as I do.  I think it’s so popular because the message of friendship and coming through hardship stronger resonates with people.

‘I don't steal the cast's used cups or anything like that...’

‘My blog is now my fulltime job, so my fandom has become more professional. It still makes my heart go a bit when I  go and interview cast members from the show, but I don’t steal their used cups or anything like that. I’m also lucky enough to see shows for free, too.

‘When I started the blog I used a stock image of an old lady to illustrate it. After a while, people asked where the old woman was, so I roped my mum Caroline into dressing up and pretending to be Wilma at events and even doing a bit of guest presenting. Although I’ve now “outed” myself as a man in a recent vlog, she goes to see them with me a lot, and I love how musicals have brought us closer together.’

‘Wicked’ is at the Apollo Victoria. Until May 26 2018. Book tickets here. Follow Ed’s blog at www.westendwilma.com.

Anthony, 47, from South Hampstead loves... ‘Les Misérables’

 

‘Part of the reason why I moved to London from Australia 12 years ago was because of the easy access to so many great shows, and I go to the theatre at least once or twice a fortnight. “Les Mis” is my obsession, though. I’ve seen it so many times I’ve actually lost count.

‘I first watched it in the West End as a tourist in 1994. Despite the fact I’d seen it in Sydney a lot, because of the different way the British cast performed, such as being more precise with their words, it was like seeing it for the first time all over again. When people ask me to recommend a show I’ll always say “Les Mis”,  and watching them enjoy it through new eyes is brilliant.

‘I own a lot of memorabilia – a three-disc cast recording I listen to all the time, vocal scores, a framed poster, books, DVDs and outfits too. When the film came out in 2012 I went to the Leicester Square premiere and shook Anne Hathaway’s hand. Then a few months later I went to a fan procession in St Pancras to celebrate the DVD release. We walked through the station in costume singing the song “One Day More”. People were stopping and filming us, I think because they recognised the songs: they’re so iconic now.

‘We walked through St Pancras station in costume singing’

‘There’s something for everyone in “Les Mis” – it has drama, comedy and you get to see a live battle on stage. For me, it far exceeds its main rival “The Phantom of the Opera”. I like it, but it’s quite hollow – the Phantom just disappears at the end and the story isn’t tied up, whereas with “Les Mis” there are so many great subplots and the characters are so well defined that you really feel for them.

‘Usually when I go to see it I go to the stage door and meet the cast afterwards. I am careful to put myself in their shoes, though, and not shove a camera in their faces. I just have so much respect for the performers – they do eight shows a week and have to make each one look like the first time. It’s such an emotional journey. It’s fantastic.’

‘Les Misérables’ is at the Queen’s Theatre. Until Mar 3 2018. Book tickets here. 

Portraits: Andy Parsons

In the mood for a show? Book tickets at www.timeout.com/tickets.

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