This is a guest post by Adam Smith who used a gift experience voucher to take his girlfriend out to swanky restaurant before seeing The Lion King at the Lyceum Theatre in the West End of London.
When you suddenly get bought a west end theatre and dinner for two voucher for a birthday by your parents, it’s an interesting way of being told to take your girlfriend somewhere a little more up market than the local curry house.
Anyway, after looking to see what was on in the West End, I settled on The Lion King. I’d seen We Will Rock You and everything else looked a little too serious for my girlfriend’s short attention span. So an adaptation of a Disney classic seemed like the best choice.
Fast forward 3 weeks to a bustling Wednesday night in the West End, we got off the tube at Covent Garden before walking up the road and round the corner to see the Lyceum Theatre and the bold yellow Lion King billboard at the end of the street – right across from the French restaurant. I could have sworn they were further apart on the map, but oh well.
Pre Theatre Dinner
I can’t remember what the French restaurant was called, but it was one of five little places in a row, all offering pre theatre dinners. We were quickly greeted and ushered to the warm and welcoming upstairs room and sat at a little table for two tucked out of the way.
It was a lovely old place, full of character and while our voucher entitled us both to the two course pre theatre dinner, drinks were extra and not cheap – but this is London after all!
So we ended up ordering a £20 bottle of wine, which went down very nicely. Meanwhile our duck in plum sauce and sirloin steak were exceptional. We shared some garlic mushrooms to start and also shared an ice cream sundae to finish. Who says you can’t make the most of the two course meal when there are two of you?
While the meal was excellent, the service had been painfully slow to the point where we had to run across the road to the Lyceum Theatre to catch the start of the show in the nick of time.
And we were glad we got there when we did, because our seats were right down the front, on the left, by the aisle. We only got a brief few seconds to take in the grandeur of the massive 2000+ seater Lyceum Theatre before the lights dipped and the show started.
The Lion King
The Lion King started spectacularly with the costumed cast and a plethora of puppets walking down the aisles to “Circle of Life”. The kaleidoscope of colours and costumes were all in keeping with the Disney movie, but with a strong African art influence in the designs, which made every costume wonderfully detailed.
But while the revolving set pieces and costumers were visually stunning, the performances from the actors felt more like watching a pantomime than a leading West End musical. It was also frustrating (possibly due to knowing the film so well) when punch lines were delivered poorly.
That’s not to say that The Lion King wasn’t enjoyable. It was great fun and followed the movie that everyone knows and loves perfectly. But compared to other West End shows, and We Will Rock You spring to mind here, the performances just weren’t up to scratch. Although the performance of the woman playing Rafiki the Baboon was the highlight of the whole show. Such a powerful voice and incredible stage presence to match!
Two and a half hours later, Timone and Pumba had sung Hakuna Matata, Simba had grown up, defeated his uncle Scar and all the show the show was over. Smiling from the experience, we happily made our way into the busy streets around Covent Garden once more to sit out and watch the world go by over a glass of wine before hopping on the tube to begin the long train ride home to Hertfordshire.
I think that a west end theatre tip with dinner is just one of the many gift experience ideas for a couples that I’ve found online, although so much depends on the restaurant and the shows that are available to book during that time of year. And we had to wait 3 weeks before we could get to see the show we wanted.
The show was good, the restaurant was great and because we weren’t paying for it, we had a brilliant evening! Although in many ways, worrying about the cost for the experience we received is the only thing putting a bit of a dampener on the evening.
That said, if we’d had an amazing meal, followed by an amazing show, I wouldn’t have anything to criticise for the cost.
So next time I’ll be sure to choose a restaurant with great reviews, followed by a show with equally great reviews. Dinner followed by Phantom of the Opera around Halloween seems like a good plan!