London in the Summer Time Part 2 – Phantom, Les Mis and Rock of Ages

So here we go – as my epic London trip continues!

Having had such an epic musical week already, you would think I would be ready for some more relaxing time! But NO! I still had 3 shows to see – and what spectacular shows they were!

First up was my joint all time favourite – and anyone who knows me knows that I need NO EXCUSE for a visit to Her Majesty’s!

(Picture taken by O.Edmonds)
 
This was my first visit to Her Majesty’s Theatre since April (although I had seen the Phantom UK Tour 3 times in the interim!) What made this visit particularly exciting and sad in the same way was that this would be the last time I would see many of the cast perform prior to their Cast Change on 1st September – so I was determined to make the most of it!
 
As always, the show was PHENOMENAL in every single aspect and it reminded me of why I loved it so much!
 
Having seen Peter Joback take on the role of the Phantom back in April, when he was new to the character, it was so amazing to see how much improvement he had made in just a small amount of time – a fact that pleased him greatly when I mentionned it at Stage Door. I was also able to witness the beautiful Katy Treharne in the role of Christine (for the first and last time!). Katy has such a beautiful voice, and she showed a strong yet fragile side to Christine that I had not seen before – amazing!
 
Killian Donnelly’s Raoul was always something special to see and he did not disappoint this time as he commanded the stage with power and poise, with a spectacular voice to match. His portrayal of Raoul is one of my favourite of all time – and one that I will certainly miss when he leaves.
 
I can’t leave out the true Queen of Her Majesty’s – the phenomenal Wendy Ferguson. For me, now and always, Wendy will be the TRUE Carlotta! She brings such fierceness and strength to the role – with just enough added comedy to make Carlotta one of the greatest characters on stage! She is also one of the nicest people I have ever met at a Stage Door!
 
Whoever her replacement maybe certainly has alot to live up to – but I certainly wish Wendy, and all the outgoing cast of The Brilliant Original all the best in whatever the future holds for them.
 
From top: Peter Joback (Phantom), Killian Donnelly (Raoul), Wendy Ferguson (Carlotta) (Picture taken by O.Edmonds)
 

The following night and it would be wrong not to visit my other joint favourite musical of all time, wouldn’t it? Oh, go on then!
 
(Picture taken by O.Edmonds)
 
This was a special visit to Les Miserables for me – as on my previous visit back in June, I had said goodbye to the cast who had introduced me to this spectacular show. This meant, a whole new cast – could they live up to the high bar set by their predecessors?
 
Two words will answer that – HELL YEAH!
 
I loved every second of the show (as always!) but the best thing was seeing so many new faces taking over the characters that I knew so well – and doing such a phenomenal job!
 
Danielle Hope – who had found fame through TV reality show Over The Rainbow – was simply stunning as Eponine. As soon as she appears on stage, you totally fall in love with her and feel like she is your closest friend, especially through her trials and tribulations with Marius. Her performance of “On My Own” was one of the best I have ever heard  – and what a sweetheart she was at Stage Door too!
 
I had only ever heard the divine Sierra Boggess perform on TV, particularly as part of the Phantom 25th Anniversary cast, so it was beyond an honour to see her perform live on stage as Fantine. She brings such a strength to Fantine when we first meet her, and, for me, this makes her slow descent to death even more heartbreaking. Her performance of Fantine’s Death scene had me in floods of tears! A privilege to see this phenomenal talent and beautiful human being perform live.
 
Now, I must give special shout-outs to Geronimo Rauch (Jean Valjean) and Tam Mutu (Javert) – and the reason this shout out is so special goes back to the first time I ever saw Les Mis back in January 2012.
 
I was so blessed on that first visit to the Barricades to see the phenomenal pairing of Ramin Karimloo and Hadley Fraser take on these two lead roles. (I also saw Hadley wield the truncheon on two other occasions) The fire that these two had when they performed together, both in their joint scenes – especially The Confrontation – and their indivdual ones is one of the reasons that I fell in love with the show – as Ramin and Hadley bought you into the story and made you invest in it physically and emotionally.
 
I can honestly say that, for me, Geronimo and Tam have this same spark, as I felt like I was totally part of their story from start to finish – and every time they were together on stage, their energy lit up Queens Theatre. To see the spark that made me fall in love with this show be replicated in such an outstanding fashion made this visit beyond amazing for me.
 
Geronimo and Tam both excel in their individual scenes as well. I must mention Tam’s performance of “Stars” –  I had heard Hadley Fraser perform this song on so many occasions that I was worried that I wouldn’t like Tam’s version. I can honestly say that Tam’s version  of “Stars” was out of this world – and just as good as his predecessors! If you don’t believe me, take a listen:
 
 
Geronimo‘s version of “Bring Him Home” was also beyond brilliant – and made me cry my eyes out! Who could believe such a beautiful sound could be made – and by such a talented human being?
 
From top: Danielle Hope (Eponine), Sierra Boggess (Fantine), Tam Mutu (Javert), Geronimo Rauch (Jean Valjean) (Picture taken by O.Edmonds)
 
I can’t say how much you should try and see this cast if you are in London – I guarantee you will NOT regret it!!!
 
Would you believe, I still had one show to go? But what a way to finish!
 

 
I wanted to finish off my week with a bang – and I thought that a second visit to the Sunset Strip was just the way to go – and once again, it did not disappoint!
 
If you want to see a show that combines great comedy, phenomenal acting, amazing music, and just a little bit of naughtiness – then Rock of Ages is a MUST-SEE! I know I have used this term alot but this is such a feel good show! I have not laughed as much as I did at Rock of Ages in a very long time!
 
Oliver Tompsett and Natalie Andreou are superb leads in the characters of Drew and Sherry and you love every second of their “Will They? Won’t They?” relationship as the show progresses. Helped along by Justin Lee Collins, who is beyond brilliant as Dennis, as well as a host of other characters including a money-grubbing mayor, a feminist protestor, a ruthless German developer (and his son who is very in touch with his feminine side!!), to rock star Stacee Jaxx (on this occasion played by the very talented and very sexy Dylan Turner)
 
But for me, the star of the show was Simon Lipkin as Lonny. To say this man is a comic genius would be doing him a dis-service. In his role as narrator of the show, Simon is able to take the audience along on such a spectacular and hilarious ride, with a few lunges along the way! His ad-libbing was spot on – and he has a hell of a voice too!
 
This cast is just spectacular all round!
 
From top: Jodie Jacobs (Regina), Sandy Moffatt (Franz), Oliver Tompsett (Drew), Simon Lipkin (Lonny) (Picture taken by O.Edmonds)
 
I am so pleased that I could bring such a sensational week to a close in such a rocking way – and I can’t wait to go back and see Rock of Ages again very soon!
 
So that’s the end of my London journey for this holiday – and what a journey it was! Never before have I looked forward to going back to the West End so much!
 
But before I leave – I must give you a parting wish!
 

You haven’t lived until you have had some ROA sparkle in your lives! (And if you have seen the show – you will know what I mean!)

Thanks again for reading – all comments and feedback is appreciated.

This is the Blue-Eyed Girl signing off . . . 

 

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London in the Summer Time Part 1 – Ghost, Ragtime, Wizard of Oz and more!

Yet another school holiday and time to indulge my musical theatre love to the max!

As the Olympics ended, I headed to the capital for 7 days of pure, unadulterated musical pleasure! This trip was particularly exciting as it was the longest amount of time I had ever been in London for a holiday – and it also signalled 8 shows in 7 days!

I was very privileged this holiday to return to some old favourites, to say hello to productions I had never seen before as well as goodbye to some productions that were about to close.

I started the week at GHOST.

Now I had seen this production not long after it opened when the cast was lead by Richard Fleeshman and Cassie Levy. On my return, about a year later, the cast was now lead by the equally talented Mark Evans and Siobhan Dillion (although Mark was on holiday so I was treated to a performance by understudy Sam Edwards)

The whole cast, including the superbly talented Sharon D Clarke and Andrew Langtree, continue to be unbelievably impressive in this stunning show.

Andrew Langtree plays Carl in such a sleazy yet devious style, it was quite unreal to see what a nice guy he was when we met at the Stage Door. Sam Edwards, on as the understudy for Mark Evans also gave an impressive performance in the lead role, showing what strength in depth this company has. Siobhan Dillion’s stunning beauty is backed up by a beautiful voice and Sharon D Clarke steals every scene she is in as the vivacious Oda Mae Brown.

I know there has been much uprorar about GHOST‘s imminent closure to be replaced by Viva Forever – however, I can only hope that such a stunning show will find a new home sooner rather than later – maybe even on tour – so that the heartbreaking story of Sam and Molly can live on!

From top: Sam Edwards (Sam), Siobhan Dillion (Molly), Sharon D Clarke (Oda Mae), Andrew Langtree (Carl)
** All photos copyright to O.Edmonds
 
Next up was a new production – and a new venue.
 
I really didn’t know what to expect from RAGTIME when I booked the ticket – apart from that one of its stars was the very talented Rosalie Craig – who I had met at Off Duty Thursday in June (see previous post).
 
It was also the first time I would ever see a production at an outdoor venue – Regents Park Open Air Theatre. And typically – this was the day it had decided to rain!!!
 
Picture taken by O.Edmonds
 
The whole setting of this beautiful theatre in the centre of Regents Park – despite the weather – made for an absolutely magical afternoon. When entering the main auditorium, you were hit by the unusual staging ahead of you – that included everything from scattered McDonalds and Starbucks signs, to a burnt out picture of Barack Obama in the background.
 

Picture taken by O.Edmonds
 
I can’t say how sensational the ENTIRE cast of this show was! Not only did they have to put up with such changeable weather conditions, every song was perfect, every dance step was on point and the interaction and bond they built with the audience was second to none! I particularly loved the set up of the story at the start, and the change from modern, to ragtime and back to modern for the finale. Rosalie Craig, in the role of Mother, was one of many shining stars in the show. I was so pleased I managed to see this show before the end of its run at the start of September
 
That evening bought another new show for me – and sadly, another show that will end in September. And when I start mentioning Yellow Brick Roads, Munchkins, Witches and Ruby slippers – I bet you will work out what it was!
 
Picture taken by O.Edmonds
 

In the historic London Palladium, I witnessed one of the most feel good shows I have ever seen in the theatre. I knew the story and the songs when I walked in – but no one could have prepared me for what I was about to see!
 
Seeing the Wicked Witch of the West fly down from the ceiling and hover above the audience, as she was booed panto-style was brilliant, but I have to say that sitting in the Palladium as it started to snow was one of the most magical things I have ever seen.
 
See? SNOW! (Picture taken by O.Edmonds)
 
Sophie Evans was a fantastic Dorothy and commanded the stage throughout. The entire company was superb – with a special shout out to the very cute Toto (who I wanted to steal and adopt!) I must also mention the LEGEND that is Des O’Connor (as the Wizard) who showed no sign of his age as he bounded around the stage with ease!
 
Me with Des O’Connor (Picture taken by O.Edmonds)
 
Day 4 brought another two new productions – both of which were phenomenal in very different ways!
 
The first production of the day was a truly special experience for me (particularly being an English teacher!) as I paid my first ever visit to the Globe Theatre to see Richard III.
 
(Picture taken by O.Edmonds)
 
Now, I won’t lie – I was apprehensive when I walked in – Richard III was hardly the uplifting, funny comedy that I usually go for! I knew some of the plot, but this was definitley a Shakespeare play that I was less familiar with. But as soon as Mark Rylance, playing Richard, stepped on stage, my worries soon disappeared!
 
He played Richard in such a funny, yet devious way that he had the audience in the palm of his hand from the word GO! I had heard good things about him from friends who had seen Rylance in other productions – but seeing his performance in person was nothing short of sensational!
 
This production was also made special by the all male cast – and I particualrly enjoyed Rylance’s on stage run-ins with Roger Lloyd Pack as the Duke of Gloucester (or, as I knew him before I saw this show – Trigger from Only Fools and Horses!)
 
That evening also brought a new production – and another new venue – as I headed to Kensington Palace Gardens to the 360 Theatre to see The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe.
 
From top: Show Sign; The 360 Performance Arena, In the 360 Auditorium (Picture taken by O.Edmonds)
 
This was another very unique show – not only being performed in the round, but using alot of aerial acrobatics, and puppetry in the style of War Horse to create the magical world of Narnia. After my visit to Oz, this was also the second night in a row that I got snowed on!
 
This was another family friendly, feel good production that made you smile from start to finish! The four young leads did an amazing job of bringing the story to life – and I especially liked how the great Aslan was created – as did the many children that were in attendance. Sadly, another fantastic show that will be closing soon – but, once again, it was an honour for me to be there!
 
You would think I was near the end of my week – but NO! Still 3 shows to go (and what an amazing 3 they were)
 
BUT! You will have to read my next post to see what happened when I went to the Paris Opera House, climbed the Barricades and went rocking down LA’s Sunset Strip!
 
Hope to see you in Part 2!
 
For now, this is the Blue-Eyed Girl signing off . . .