Chapel of the West End

Due to another class I’m taking in London, Musical Theatre, I have attended about 7 different theatre productions, most for the class and some on my own. It’s been a great opportunity to experience one of the greatest pieces of culture London has to offer.

39 Steps

Blood Brothers

Porgy and Bess

Chicago

Wicked

Billy Elliot

Les Miserables

Sweeney Todd

Considering all I had previously seen were traveling shows of STOMP and Cats before, this has certainly increased my collection. Everyone I have met has asked me if I have seen a show on the West End, and since I’m in London, I have too. They get really impressed when I tell them the number I have seen, but that’s beside the point.

Now, these shows are all so different from one another, from dramatic to lighthearted, short to long, and popular to operatic. Some of them have been playing in the same theatre since the 1980s, there was the traveling show only in town for 10 days, and the newer productions.

For instance, we went to Porgy and Bess, a traveling show from Cape Town, South Africa, on its opening night in the London Coliseum. And you could tell, the people in attendance were nearly theatre professionals, well-versed in it all. You knew, that if they were there opening night, they had to be. Nearly every newspaper in London, had a critic attending the show, that’s a lot of newspapers.

Not only were hundreds of people in attendance, but not only that, the next morning, hundreds of people could read the reviews.

(In the case of Musical Theatre) are the songs of these shows hymns, are the productions sacred scriptures teaching life lessons, are those in attendance religious followers of Theaterianism? (Okay, I made that up.) Is the West End just a series of elaborate Chapels dedicated to this prominent London religion? Could shows that have had over 20 year runs in these theatres be gurus, messengers, prophets from the great Theatre god?

If people can relate following Sports teams and even Pimm’s to being similar to religions, then it doesn’t seem like the biggest leap to feel as if theatre can be compared similarly. It is a very important aspect of London culture; if you are here then you must see a show on the West End! England is very well known to be nonsecular, but theatre is so prominent that it seems like a state sponsored religion too! So many things have pseudo-religious followings, especially the city of London, that you feel living here that you are a part of.

As this is also a concluding blog for my stay in London, I’d like to finish with this. Because this city is a multicultural Mecca, although it was never that I became less American, but I just became a piece of the mosaic of London. Even if it is scattered and seemingly mismatched, when you step back it is a mosaic that is uniquely one-of-a-kind, colorful, and beautiful. The theatre culture reflects this too. Its diverse, there are so many options, genres, and styles, but they all fit together to a larger piece and a larger following.

 

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One thought on “Chapel of the West End

  1. I was wondering whether any of you would write blogs about Porgy & Bess, since religion was such a strong theme throughout the musical (questions of authentic religion vs. folk religion/religion of the people; different perspectives on what religion had to offer and whether religion is relevant in people’s lives, etc.). I did not expect an argument for theaterism as a form of religion, but what an interesting claim it is! I think you can certainly make that argument.

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