The ultimate fan girls and boys arrived at 6:00 AM to queue for London West End Live 2015, a free weekend of acts from different West End shows. The spectators poured into Trafalgar Square when the event began at noon, but we didn’t join the free “plein aire” theatre-goers until a bit later.
Armed with show brochures, we scanned the massive London West End Live crowd for a smidgeon of space to stand. The event became measurably more enjoyable as we escaped the reach of event workers, who continually swept people off of the stairs and unsuccessfully tried to mush the crowd forward to create room for more attendees. Because views of the stage remained elusive despite standing on my tiptoes, I eventually closed my eyes and enjoyed basking in the sun, simply listening to the show tunes. Two screens on either side of the stage displayed live feed of the stage, but they were easily obscured by someone a few rows forward lifting their arm to shade their eyes or slightly shifting weight. After a few hours, though, we had sidled up close enough to view the performance, as well.
For me, Broadway is the epitome of musical theatre, and I felt proud to see shows set in the USA (“Hairspray,” “Memphis,” “Jersey Boys” and “American Idiot”) take the stage. However, the best part of the afternoon came from the “Let It Be” show, as The Beatles actors led the audience in singing “Hey Jude.” The sing-along was not as powerful as at the sold-out Paul McCartney concert in Milwaukee in 2013, but the mellow manner of the Brits and the Union Jack made the experience feel more historically authentic.
Sure, it was crowded, at times uncomfortable, and the filler emcee material was overall uninteresting, but London West End Live was a great free event, undiscriminating in granting theatre access to many people.