December 12, 2011

0 London Break: Trafalgar Square, A Couple of Reviews, and a Missed Train

One of our main goals during our short stop in London was to see the National Gallery's temporary exhibit of some of Leonardo da Vinci's work from his time in Milan.   Despite having known about both the exhibit and our trip for months prior, I put off purchasing tickets to the exhibit until it was sold out.  After I got over my initial wave of disappointment I saw that 500 same-day tickets would be sold each day.  On Sunday we got to the Gallery just before 10AM, the opening time.  The line was already well-formed, and the attendant outside told us that we would most likely be issued tickets for 4:30PM.  This wasn't an option, as I'd already purchased 3:00PM matinee tickets to the West End production of The Wizard of Oz (review at the bottom of the post).  
So... Monday morning we got up early to get in line at the Gallery.  Paul had already purchased our home-journey train tickets for 1PM, so we needed to get tickets that would allow us to get to our train on time.   We arrived at the Gallery at 7:30AM and joined the already forming line.  
As we waited and tried not to notice the morning cold, I decided to walk over to a coffee shop and get some hot chocolate.  As I walked though Trafalgar Square I realized how rare it is to see the famous Square so empty, so I took a few pictures.  They're a bit redundant in subject matter, but there are only three, so after the Christmas window post it should be a relief!

The National Gallery and the 2012 Olympic countdown clock.

One of the lions watching the commuter traffic.

We did make it into the exhibit, with 11:30 tickets (and managed to get in about 10 minutes early).  While we waited for our timeslot we walked down to Chipotle, and Paul was very excited to eat some of his favorite American food.  The exhibit was wonderful, showing several of Leonardo's final pieces alongside sketches made as studies for the final images. The highlight of the exhibit featured his preparatory notes and sketches for The Lord's Supper.  While Leonardo's painting is still in place in Milan, the best-known copy done by one of his students a mere forty years after the original was on display at the National Gallery.  Many consider this copy to be more true to Leonardo's original work than the current state of the Milan fresco, as the original deteriorated severely and was damaged on multiple occasions before being repainted several times.

The last bit of story from this trip involves those pre-purchased 1PM train tickets.  We finished in the exhibit at about 12:15 (which seemed enough time, as the gallery was crowded enough to force movement through) and raced to the tube.  We stopped at the Tower station and Paul ran to pick up our bags (he's faster!) and when he returned we waited for the next tube.  It seemed to be taking a while, so Paul found another route option to King's Cross on the map- we ran to it, hopped on, and raced through the doors as soon as they opened at St. Pancras.  We then RAN to King's Cross and checked the boards for the platform number of our train.  The boards (and the woman Paul asked) said platform 0- so we ran over and got on that train.  We were immediately asked by crew what we were doing, as that train was being cleaned and had just arrived at the station.  We got off and asked another attendant- the Leeds-bound train had just pulled out of platform 2.  We then went over to the ticket desk and shelled out an additional £150 for the train to York leaving 1/2 an hour later.  
It sucks to miss a train, but, given the amount of public transportation we've dealt with since moving over, it was bound to happen sooner or later.
At least the exhibit was worth it!

Wizard of Oz review:
It was good, not great.  Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice's music was amazing, and the show wasn't as twee as the original movie (which I appreciated)- for instance, the munchkins were all of average height, and, while all dressed in blue, they weren't as cutesy/grating as the movie.  The children in the munchkin community were noticeably good- they were consistent in singing and dancing, and the children with individual lines were flawless and natural.  The sets were fantastic, and the way the stage production treated the movie's famous black-and-white Kansas and color Oz was well-crafted and delightful.
 Michael Crawford, while as talented and aurally pleasing as ever, seemed cast for his star-power, as his roles of the wizard/traveling salesman were stretched thin to allow him stage time.  Danielle Hope, who earned the role of Dorothy through a reality-show competition, had a pleasant singing voice and a convincing midwestern American accent, but acted in a way suggesting a few too many viewings of the Judy Garland film.
I'll be honest; I've never been a big fan of the movie, and the musical's lion, tin woodsman, and scarecrow were well acted and believable enough to make me prefer them over their movie counterparts.  Overall, though, the musical seemed more like a stage version of the movie rather than a stand-alone adaptation or interpretation of L. Frank Baum's classic story. 

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