Dom Joly: Over the rainbow – and over my hatred of musicals

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The Independent Online

If you could design the worst evening in the world for me, it would be a long car ride with kids into London to go to see a musical. So, a few nights ago, into the car we got, to drive up to London to see The Wizard of Oz. I've only ever seen one- and-a-half musicals before – Evita, and 20 minutes of Les Mis before I ran from the theatre screaming. I am off to Antarctica for a month, so fatherly duties had to be performed as penance for my long absence.

It didn't start well. An angry white-van man felt that I had disrespected his family by making a turn before him. He hopped out at the next lights, and his angry face was soon inside my car, shouting at me and at my frightened kids that "you're not in the jungle now". I presumed that he was referring to my appearance on I'm a Celeb, but thought it best not to check. I sped off, nearly bringing his tattooed arm with us.

I was delighted to see that the hourly rate to park in Berwick Street car park had gone up again. It would have been cheaper to book my car a room at the Savoy. A grinning attendant asked me whether I wanted my car washed while I was away? I informed him that, for the price he was charging, I wanted it to be a Ferrari when I returned. He made a mental note to let down my tyres later.

We had the last supper in Soho Pizzeria, and then trudged off down Carnaby Street towards the Palladium. I actually find the pre-performance part of theatre quite fun – men in red coats who look a little like town criers usher you into a bar for some "pre-drinks". You can sense the excited expectation of the audience, who have forked out a sizeable amount of money and are determined to enjoy themselves come what may. Everywhere I looked, little girls dressed as Dorothy scampered about. My kids looked decidedly under-dressed.

We were taken to our seats, three rows back from the stage. The kids were beside themselves. I was already looking at my watch. Then – showtime: the curtain went up and we were off.

The first 10 minutes felt like 10 tortuous hours. I thought that I might die of toe-curlingly bored revulsion. I loathe the way that "acting" in the theatre is always in that exaggerated, hammy style that makes Emmerdale look like Pulp Fiction. Just as I was searching my pockets for a couple of Xanax, the "twister" came to take Dorothy away from Kansas and things got a lot better. The effects were incredible and when the music got going I actually started to enjoy myself. The kids were transfixed, staring at the goings-on in wide-eyed wonder.

Now, I always knew that The Wizard was a popular show in the gay community, but I had no idea quite how many references came from it. I also began to see it as the template for almost every reality show I'd ever seen: take four completely different people and set them a mission in which they have to defeat their demons and "find themselves". It was a disappointment, therefore, when the Wizard himself turned out to be Michael Crawford and not Simon Cowell.

Things started to descend from the ceiling and terrify my kids and, fortified by some half-time champagne, I found myself clapping and even smiling. As the cast came on to take their applause I was up on my feet with the rest of them. Unbelievably, it seems that I have become a very good friend of Dorothy.