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Mark Shenton: Sometimes a night watching TV edges out a trip to the theatre

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Last Friday I had my evening all lined up: I was going to go to the annual National Theatre quiz at 6pm (Peter Pan vs The Red Barn), then revisit La Soiree in its Christmas home in Leicester Square. In both cases, I was going for pleasure, not work.

But then, the unthinkable happened. I ended up staying in. As I tweeted at the time:

One friend – a fellow theatre critic – posted on Facebook in reply: “Never, ever cancel the theatre. Except for The Good Wife!”

Another friend – a fellow theatre addict I first met some years ago, posted:

I can empathise with that because, at 81, there have been times when, even though I have bought a ticket and not been a guest of the management, I feel just too tired to deal with going out in the dark to sit in a room (often with very uncomfortable seats) with strangers and watching something I may or may not enjoy (too many of the latter lately) when I’d much rather stay in the comfort of my own home, drink in hand and watch reruns of The Big Bang Theory.

In my travels, both in the stalls and on Twitter, I have regularly met fellow addicts like him, and we are both kind and kindred spirits: we know we’re not alone in our passion. But it sometimes comes at a high price – and not just the cost of the tickets. Sometimes the cost is sacrificing any other kind of life.

Even with that night off, I still managed to see eight shows last week, including a double dose of Mary Stuart, where I saw the same production twice over on the same day last Saturday to see Lia Williams and Juliet Stevenson alternate in each of the lead roles. I even managed to get out of London to make a trip to Sheffield for the first night of Annie Get Your Gun. I’ve often freely admitted to a theatrical addiction here, and it’s one I actively embrace: theatre nourishes me and fulfils me as nothing else, and I’ve put it at the centre of my personal and professional lives.

But I also strongly recommend an occasional break from theatre. Last Friday, my night off was unscheduled. But I also book in some time off in advance. Right now, I’m filing this column from Las Vegas, where I’m having a 10-day break over Christmas.

I’ve visited Sin City quite a few times in my life – invariably for shows (it is one of the showbusiness capitals of the world). But this time I’ve come mostly to escape them. I’m not saying I won’t go near the Strip, but I’ve seen all the big shows playing there already. A new show called Baz – Star Crossed Love has caught my eye – it turns out that it isn’t a bio-musical devoted to Baz Bamigboye, but a tribute to the movies of Baz Luhrmann – so I may just have to catch it.

Instead of being drawn to the bright lights, we’ve booked into a spa resort called Green Valley Ranch in Henderson, a few miles out of town, and plan to spend the days in the saunas, jacuzzis and steam rooms – or driving out of town – and in the evenings perhaps seeing a movie or two.

Last night I saw La La Land, the most stylish (and stylised) movie musical since the aforementioned Luhrmann’s Moulin Rouge. It plays like a distillation of all the best movie musicals of yesteryear thrown into one, yet full of contemporary references, not least in the lyrics of Pasek and Paul – the team behind Dogfight and the new Broadway hit Dear Evan Hansen. It is also produced by Marc Platt, co-producer of Wicked – so it might yet be a natural to make a transfer from screen to stage, just as Wicked is heading in the other direction from stage to film.

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