We are waiting to be invited into the auditorium at The Crazy Coqs in Piccadilly Circus. I decide to visit the facilities. As you do.
There is a sign indicating “Toilettes” and my O Level French is sufficient to enable me to translate. I leave the Youngest of the Darling Daughters and her fella to keep my place in the queue as well as their own and walk through the opening
- there are two doors ahead and neither appears to be labelled “Messieurs” or “Madames” but I take a chance and cautiously enter the left hand door - only to find myself in a lift.
A grinning gentleman outside notices my predicament and points me in the correct direction. I excuse myself by wondering aloud how many other people have made the same mistake. Unfortunately the answer appears to be absolutely
You are doubtless wondering what I was doing there. No, not in the lift, don’t be silly, that was obviously a momentary lapse in concentration. Why
am I at The Crazy Coqs, which describes itself on its website as “a striking Art Deco space for intimate jazz and cabaret performances, serving cocktails and snacks?” I am here at the invitation of granddaughter Hazel Bagel to enjoy the final performance
of the Foundation Class of 2017/2018 at Arts Ed School of Musical Theatre. It is going to be an emotional afternoon all round.
I have left Mr B home alone, though
my lovely friend Penny is going to call in to make him lunch and keep him company for a while. I have also promised him that I will buy him KFC for his dinner when I arrive home. I have always found that a bit of Blatant Bribery works where Mr B is concerned,
especially if it happens to be KFC-Related.
The Youngest of the Darling Daughters knows exactly where we should sit within the “striking Art Deco space”
as one of Hazel’s friends attended the previous day’s dress rehearsal and sent my daughter a video recording, showing the way the fifteen cabaret participants - or “Foundies” as they call themselves - strutted their stuff along the
aisles between the round tables where the audience sat. We order some drinks and settle down for a real treat.
The programme is called “Just the Beginning”
and each song in turn takes us through the experiences of the students, making their way through this Foundation Year. Arriving in a new place; making friends; feeling insecure; facing anxiety; gaining confidence; overcoming fears and facing the world. I knew
all this in advance because my pen-pal granddaughter (how many teenagers write letters these days, especially to an aged grandparent?) wrote to tell me all about it - but being there is obviously so much more powerful.
Here is Our Hazel looking truly fantastic in a stunning black dress - which she tells me proudly later cost the princely sum of £1 in Primark. “I’m such a classy girl!” she
trills. Now that’s what you call style, don’t you agree? She sings two duets with her friend Maddie - “Somebody’s Eyes” from Footloose (all about feeling insecure with people’s eyes on you, summing you up) and “When
you believe” from The Prince of Egypt (all about overcoming your fears.)
I am, predictably, welling up through many of the performances, finding myself
completely able to put myself in the students’ shoes. Apart from the fact that I can’t sing, dance or sashay about on high-heeled shoes anymore, you understand but this is not a time to be pedantic. This is about hopes and dreams - and I’m
as capable of both as anybody, don’t you know? Despite my Great Age. One of the lads sings “Proud of your boy” from Aladdin, looking straight across at his mother, who is sitting just along the row from me. She cries. So do I.
At the end, all the Foundies receive their certificates from a former student now starring in the Book of Mormon. Just look, it can be done! he seems to be saying by his
very presence. For all of the students at the end of their Foundation year, different roads beckon. Some know for sure what they want to do and where they will be heading next. For some, like our Hazel, there’s more than one road potentially beckoning
her towards her dream of being on “that” stage. There are important decisions ahead.
Dear Hazel Bagel, always my Golden Girl, standing there in your
classy little black number from Primark, with your million dollar smile that lights up every stage and a voice that transports your listeners right to the very heart of every song you sing. I remember your very first starring role, playing Dorothy in the Junior
School production of the Wizard of Oz. You were singing and dreaming - then as now, but in different words - about that land over the rainbow.
The one where
Where dreams really DO come true.