If you want to get your children to enjoy the theatre, then the trick is to find a show that really appeals to them. Especially if you’re moving up from the pre-school age hour long shows, to proper full length musicals. We left it a couple of years before I thought N would cope with a full show, and I’m glad we did, because the timing with School of Rock still showing in London’s West End, was perfect for him.
Like earlier years, I’d tried to get Kids Week (kids go free in August) tickets for the show, but failed. So managed to get good tickets for a cheaper price than Kids Week ones would have been. Although N hasn’t seen the film, he loves rock music, and having children performing would make it more approachable for him.
We were heading up to London with friends. We’ve done kids week theatre trips a few times together, and the boys like similar attractions. This time we were hoping to get round a few places around Covent Garden and Leicester Square, but heading out to Greenwich for the cable cars first.
Unfortunately we didn’t manage to fit in an extra main attraction because being a Sunday, the trains into London are limited first thing. The 7.40 was just too early (and was an ultra-slow train so wasn’t even arriving til nearly 10am), so the only other option was arrival at just after 10. This worked fine.
I’ve never been into London on a Sunday – it frustrates me that lots of places open so late on Sundays), but it does mean London is much quieter than on Saturdays, until well after lunchtime. Going on the train means you’ve got the option of 2 for 1 vouchers, although nowhere we were going took those this time. Here’s our London Itinerary for the day.
Emirates Air Line and Experience
The Emirates Air Line (or London Cable Cars) go across the River Thames between North Greenwich just by the O2 and Royal Docks by Canning Town. You can just buy a single or return journey, or you can include the A380 experience in your ticket.
Top Tip: If you have an Oyster Card, show it to get a discount on all tickets.
The cable cars take up to 10 people but as they’re going round permanently, it’s fast to just catch the next one coming round and we just had the 4 of us in ours.
Typically, it was raining while we were on the cable cars, so my photos were pretty terrible and we couldn’t see as far as you can on a good clear day. We could still see Canary Wharf, the Shard, Walkie Talkie building and Gherkin, as well as spotting a wedding proposal from a 79 year old called Ralph, and the wake boarders and river swimmers going out next to the Royal Docks. N loved the journey.
We continued on for the return journey so we could go back to the experience. You can take group photos in a static cable car against international skylines although it was hard to get everyone in shot. A bit of fun afterwards.
The A380 experience is just as you exit. No-one checked our tickets as we entered which was a little strange. None of us are particularly plane fans, but the boys have a school friend who’s been on an A380 so they had lots of questions and were excited to find out more. For such a small place, this was a definite highlight of attractions we’ve visited.
You can watch real life planes in Dubai, find out about the Rolls Royce engine, see the airport from a suitcase, sit in a cockpit and play with all the controls, or sit in airline seats and find out more about air stewards.
The boys loved the cockpit, although to take part on a flight simulator you had to book in advance and pay extra.
They also spent some time playing the interactive games testing how long it would take for them to turn around the plane from arrival to the next departure.
The whole experience was really interesting and fun, and definitely worth the money we spent going.
MOD pizza, Irving Street
I’d been recommended MOD pizza for lunch the theatre district. It’s several floors of fast food restaurant, and you can make your own pizzas choosing whatever toppings for the same price of just under £8 for an 11 inch pizza. There’s a 6 inch option too but the kids were too big for that one.
My friend chose a salad which looked really good while the rest of us had pizzas.
I chose ham, pineapple, mozzarella and spinach on tomato sauce, and it was one of the nicest pizzas I’ve had in a long time. Lots of toppings. N chose pepperoni, salami and chicken which he said was good. And we added a cheesy garlic bread which came with a garlic sauce. You can never have too much garlic – good job the others had garlic too!
We didn’t choose them, but you can have refillable drinks. Great if you’re spending time in a restaurant, but given it’s quite a fast food place, you’re unlikely to linger for a long amount of time.
I really liked MOD. It’s pretty quick so handy for pre-theatre. Although it’s a bit confusing going in for the first time. The boys loved people watching from our table upstairs which overlooked the street and other restaurants as well.
I did hear afterwards how someone sitting downstairs had their phone stolen from their table the same day we were there, by a random people who just walked in. A reminder that anywhere busy in London can have pick pockets, so either keep belongings hidden away, or sit away from the doors so you’re out of reach.
Amorino gelato, Garrick Street
Before the theatre we decided to treat the boys to ice creams. Around Covent Garden there are lots of lovely ice cream parlours, but Amorino was nearby.
Again, it’s a confusing place to work out how service happens, but you queue round, pay for either the cone or tub size you want, then move down to the ice cream cabinets to choose your flavours. Amorino gelato is delicious, and they’re famous for shaping their ice creams into flowers with a macaron (extra cost) on top. I was the only one who had a cone (and made a mistake in chosing my colours to show it in photos), the others had a small tub which was plenty big enough.
You can choose whatever flavours, and as many as you want. They can do each petal in a different flavour if you want a rainbow flower!
N just wanted strawberry while we opted for different flavours. The mint choc chip was more spearminty flavoured which was a unexpected, but my hazelnut and pistachio were really good. Definitely worth trying for a treat.
Covent Garden Infinity Chamber
I do love pop up things, and anything for a photo opportunity. We knew we didn’t have lots of time before the theatre, but I wanted to check out the infinity chamber. Neither of the boys were that impressed and we had expected it to be longer, but hey, it’s light and mirrors and rainbow colours.
We managed to get some photos before it started getting really busy after us. Then 2 cleaners came along as we were leaving so other people weren’t going to get great photos. It was a little bit of fun, even if 8 year old boys aren’t excited by it.
Disney in the West End, Long Acre
In my previous research in planning the trip I’d noticed Disney were doing a pop up backstage theatre space – Disney in the West End. N had said no to going there (he’s not a Disney fan, and I’m not sure he’d sit through most of those theatre productions), but it was almost next door to the infinity chamber down Long Acre, and we just kind of ambled inside to see what was going on.
They had different slots through the day, with ‘workshops’ being led by theatre pros. While we were there, they were doing singing and chanting, presumably Lion King music. The boys weren’t interested in joining in, but we got to see costumes and masks from The Lion King, Mary Poppins, and Aladdin’s lamp. You could take photos with the genie’s lamp or have a go at spelling Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. There was also a Frozen area where you could have photos taken with ‘Frozen’ signs, and the boys had a go at an Aladdin arcade game.
We only stopped there for around 15-20 minutes, but it was interesting to get that snapshot and see the props. And have the opportunity to take part in theatre themed sessions. All was free.
I think more towns and cities should do things like this as it’s a great way to get children more involved whether they’re fans or not.
School of Rock, Gillian Lynne Theatre, Drury Lane
Then it was time for the main event. School of Rock. Neither boy has been to a full length musical before but it was a great choice.
The Gillian Lynne theatre isn’t too big, and unless you’re in the first couple of rows behind the bar barriers, the views are great all over the theatre. We sat in the stalls diagonally from the stage, but we didn’t miss any of the action. We were also pleased to have a back row with a wall behind us so it didn’t matter if the boys were shuffling around. They both had boosters for their seats, but didn’t really need them as the sloping seats in that set of the stalls was quite steep. Thankfully, because a lady came in and sat in front of me using a booster seat. A bit ridiculous as a) she’s not a child and doesn’t need one, and b) she wasn’t even a short lady and she had a totally clear view of the stage in front of her.
The day we saw the show it was Jake Sharp playing Dewey Finn and the set of children (they rotate round 3 groups of children) were Team Acoustic. It was special seeing them because it was their last performance together with most of them finishing their contracts. Jake was excellent as Dewey, all the characters felt just right.
As for the children, it’s always amazing to think these children are singing and playing instruments, and dancing around like they’ve been performing for years, but are only 10-13 years old. Each one was brilliant. When you see them performing, you just know they’re loving it and having a brilliant time up on stage.
There was one part in the staff room where Dewey spits out his water in surprise, where the whole cast then couldn’t stop laughing for a while when it hit the cast member next to him right in the face. And Laura Tebbutt’s voice as Miss Mullins was amazing in the opera moments. I couldn’t stop singing Mozart’s Queen of the Night as we left.
If you’ve never been to see the show, then do. It’s family friendly, the rock music and the performers’ enthusiasm makes you want to get up and rock with them. I’ve never been to a musical where each song/scene is applauded, and they had a well-deserved standing ovation.
One brilliant idea was announcing in one final scene at the Battle of the Bands, that we could all get camera/phones out at that point to record or take photos. It’s brilliant to be able to get memories taken while we were there, where most shows you can’t even take photos of the curtain calls at the end of the show.
We left the theatre on a high, and I’m hoping N is now excited and more open to thinking about seeing other musicals.
It was a long day in London, but N’s already asking to return so we can visit the couple of places he had on his list that we didn’t have time for. Hopefully we’ll have a weekend or maybe a trip in half term to visit more places.
- North Greenwich – Emirates Air Line and experience
- Leicester Square – MOD Pizza and Amorino
- Covent Garden, Conduit Court/off Long Acre – Infinity Chamber
- Long Acre – Disney backstage pop up
- Gillian Lynne theatre – School of Rock
Have you experienced any of these? What musicals would you recommend for primary school aged children?