Apollo Theatre, Shaftesbury Avenue
2 September 2012, 10.30am
It is hard enough to get a toddler out of the house in the morning on an ordinary day, but when they are beyond excited about seeing one of their favourite TV characters, it becomes a test of strength and endurance worthy of the Olympics. Jessica Ennis – wait until you have a two-year-old!
It was therefore by some small miracle that we managed to get out of the house by 8am in order to get to the 10.30am performance of Dora the Explorer Live.
To be honest, we were all pretty excited. V, because she not only enjoys Dora but because she knew she was going to a live show, and Mr A and me because this was her first West End trip!
She has been to a lot of shows now, but never in the heart of London’s theatreland so we were introducing her to our theatregoing routine, parking by the National, walking across the river to Charing Cross and then going onto whichever theatre we had booked.
I tried to explain that we were going to the capital city but, to V we were going to “Dora land”, and although I did my best to point out to her some of my favourite landmarks in the iconic view down the Thames from Waterloo Bridge, it was only when she saw the pictures of Dora at the Apollo Theatre in Shaftesbury Avenue that her face truly lit up! Who cares about St Paul’s Cathedral when you’ve got Boots and Swiper?!
Dora the Explorer LIVE! Search for the City of Lost Toys, is a stage adaptation of Nickelodeon’s TV show and is on at the Apollo for just three weeks until 16 September 2012. But fear not if you can’t get to it, because next year, an extensive national tour is promised.
And the opinion from our family is that is well worth spending the money and making the effort to go along.
In the show, Dora has lost her teddy bear Osito, and goes on a journey to the City of Lost Toys to retrieve him – a journey which turns into a song and dance spectacular.
Along the way, we meet all the characters from the TV show, Map, Backpack, Boots, Diego and their courageous friends, Tico, Benny, Isa, and Azul, although I don’t think it matters whether you are familiar with them or not as the adventure stands up as a story in its own right.
Dora then uses her map-reading, counting and language skills to successfully pass through the number pyramid and the mixed-up jungle to find her toy. She also dodges sneaky fox Swiper along the way.
It is fast moving and packed with music and dance. The songs include all those that TV viewers will be familiar with and the dancing is slick and energetic. And hats off to the performers who threw themselves into it with gusto, dressed in very hot and probably heavy suits. Fair play to them – they must lose pounds!
The audience, of course, are encouraged to help, not only by shouting out answers, but also by waving the paper stars they are given as they take their seats. The reward is hundreds of bubbles falling from the ceiling during the finale – always a winner!
From an adult point of view, both Mr A and I thought that it was very good value for money. The sets are colourful and exciting, the dancing excellent and the whole energy of the show was impressive. It has clearly had some money spent on it and is probably the closest to recreating a familiar animation on the stage that I have seen so far.
And, just like the TV programme, the little ones are encouraged to join in with solving the puzzles, shout out and join in with singing and dancing. It’s kind of panto with a purpose.
The response from my little one was “That was very funny, mummy!” That’s good enough for me to declare it another successful 90 minutes – PLUS she sat STILL, joined in and was generally enthralled!
The show is in two acts and lasts about 90 minutes with a 20 minute interval. There are three daytime performances – 10.30am, 1.00pm and 3.30pm – seven days a week, so there are plenty of opportunities to go along.
Victorian theatres were not designed with children in mind but taking to that into consideration, the Apollo accommodates them very well.
A section of the stalls bar is given over to a buggy park. It’s down the stairs but this can’t be helped, there is nowhere on ground level where you could put them!
If your little one is still in nappies the toilet cubicles in the stalls are surprisingly spacious if you need to change them – but take a mat for the floor. I’d suggest a change beforehand at Costa across the road or McD’s practically next door so you only have to use the theatre loos for a change in an emergency!
We paid £4 for an activity programme which opens out into a nice poster and bought some stickers for £3. These were the cheapest items! There was a fair bit of other merchandise on sale from pencil cases to T-shirts which at £15 were the most expensive – and only cash was accepted.
If you want to splash out more – quite a bit more – you could get photos of your children against a green screen which when printed had all the characters with them. These packages were pricy and STARTED at £20 for TWO photos, with various add ons including meeting the actual characters – it would be easy to not see the best part of £100 again if you are not careful!!