“The definitive destination for performing arts in Dubai.” Dubai Opera
Regular readers of this blog will know that I’m a big fan of West End theatre especially musicals, it’s one of the things I miss about living in the UK, that is until now. The opening of the Dubai Opera and its programme of events has filled that gap practically perfectly. It may have taken me quite a while to actually get my butt down the E11 to Dubai to see a show but it was well worth the wait. The venue is incredible and my first visit there with a friend, seeing the acclaimed Cameron Mackintosh’s Mary Poppins, was amazing.
This architectural masterpiece, designed by architect Janus Rostock, has been created to resemble a traditional Arabian dhow (wooden sailing vessel) in homage to the UAE’s history of pearl diving and fishing. Located in The Opera District (which I didn’t even know was a thing until last week), the Dubai Opera is an unmissable striking building that stands proud in Downtown Dubai. It sits under the shadow of the famous Burj Khalifa and its close proximity to the Dubai Mall and Fountains make it easily accessible. In keeping with the Dhow theme the main stage, orchestra pit and seating are housed within the ‘bow‘ of the ship while the long ‘hull‘ contains the less glamorous waiting areas, taxi drop-off and parking.
The multi-purpose 2,000 seat venue can be converted into a theatre, concert and banquet halls as well as an exhibition space and an ice rink. The venue can hold a variety of events and performances including musicals, plays, opera, ballet, concerts and even sporting events. It opened with some flair at the end of August last year with a performance by the legendary Spanish tenor Plácido Domingo and so far had such delights as Les Miserables, West Side Story and Jurassic Park on its bill (all of which I’m bit miffed to have missed to be honest).
I was supercalifragilisticexpialidociously (sorry not sorry for all the MP references in this post) excited about seeing the show again after first seeing it in the West End many years ago. I’m not sure if it was the venue, the awe inspiring performances or the overall production but this show blew the London version (or rather my memory of it) out of the water. It was uplifting, colourful, well performed, funny and just damn right enjoyable even without an obligatory child in tow. The many scenery changes and special effects, including horizontal and upside down tap dancing and flying across the auditorium, were super impressive. Who doesn’t love a singalong filled with classics such as ‘Let’s go fly a kite’, ‘Chim Chim Cher-ee’ and a rousing rendition of ‘A Spoonful of Sugar’, those seated near me may beg to differ.
Originally a series of books written by P L Travers in the 1930’s it was adapted and made into a movie by Disney in 1964 and then adapted again for the stage, opening in the West End in 2004 (who could ever forget Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke in the lead roles) and then went on to Broadway in New York. In the Dubai version magical no nonsense nanny Mary was played by the extremely talented Zizi Strallen (coincidentally her sister Scarlett played Mary in the London production that I saw). Cheeky chimney sweep Bert was played by Australian Matt Lee but you would never know as his cockney accent was well perfected.
It’s hard to pick my favourite character from the show but it has to go to the comedic performance of Mrs Brill (Wendy Ferguson), the Bank’s family maid, who was not only hilarious but had an amazing voice too, other notable performances alongside the leads of course were formidable nanny Miss Andrew (Penelope Woodman) and enematic Mrs Corry (Wreh-asha Walton).
If I had to find fault it would obviously be with the high-end pricing but there are plenty of deals to be had, we were sat in the stalls three rows from the front in the most expensive seats that we purchased in a two-for-one deal from Du. Another criticism would be that the ushers need to be more on the ball as the annoying lady next to me was taking photos and videos throughout the performance (strictly forbidden) after also turning up late! Food and beverage wise there needs to be a greater choice of pre-show food and snacks (where were the bags of maltesers ?!?). I found the choices very limited but the bar service was ok although the interval pre-ordered drinks pick-up was a little sketchy.
Overall this was a great experience, I can thoroughly recommend visiting the Dubai Opera, it’s well worth the outing from Abu Dhabi. Future visits will be enhanced once the nearby restaurants are finished and operational for pre and post show dinner and drinks. We finished off our evening at Eataly in the Dubai Mall which serves some very affordable and tasty authentic Italian pizzas and pastas, also worth a visit if you are in the vicinity. I am now looking forward to seeing what’s on the Dubai Opera programme for the coming months and have already earmarked a visit in January to see Evita, how exciting!!!
Location: Downtown Dubai, Mohammed Bin Rashid Boulevard, Dubai
Telephone: 04 440 8888
The Box Office is located on the Opera Plaza and open daily from 10am – 9pm
All views are my own based on my experience. Unless otherwise stated all photos © Jo Brett 2017. All rights reserved. On stage photos used with courtesy of www.dubaiopera.com