9 to 5 The Musical – 28th December 2012

For my final theatre visit of 2012 – wow, it seems weird to say that – I headed down to the Alexandra Theatre here in Birmingham, for an afternoon of camp cheesy fun at 9 to 5 The Musical, which if you hadn’t guessed from the picture, is based on the music of Dolly Parton and the film of the same name.

This show was definitely what I call a “recommendation visit” as several of my Twitter and non twitter friends (including the divine Ali Broomfield and Rich Callegari) had seen this show earlier in the year and told me how good it was. Hey, I need no excuse to go to the theatre, so my ticket was booked and off I went!

The first thing that struck me when I sat down in the theatre was the sight that I was greeted with . . .

This stage curtain definitely transports you back to the 1980s, and it is very much a case of guess the famous face while you wait for the show to start! This was one of the most unique stage curtains I have seen throughout all my theatre visits during 2012, and it set the mood for the show perfectly.

The show certainly opens with a bang – well, more the very loud ring of a telephone, and you are straight into the title song, with a little help from Ms Parton herself, who appears on a screen “live from her desk in Dollywood” to act as a narrator throughout the story –  a very nice touch!

It is during this song we are introduced to our three main characters – Violet, Doralee and Judy (Jackie Clune, Amy Lennox and Natalie Casey) – three very different women who are struggling to maintain three very different lives all while still “working 9 to 5” We follow them as they struggle to put up with the sleazy antics of their boss Franklyn J Hart (Ben Richards) while trying to hide from the prying eyes of his personal secretary Roz Keith (Bonnie Langford). In a male dominated world, Violet, Doralee and Judy struggle to make an impact – especially Violet who, after working for Hart for a number of years, is passed over for a promotion in favour of a younger man who she had actually trained!

The story takes a swift turn when Violet “accidentally” puts rat poison in her bosses coffee! Despite making a full recovery, Hart continues to push his luck until one day – well, let’s say these are 3 ladies that I would NOT want to get on the wrong side of – but if you want to know what they do – you will have to go and see the show for yourself!

The cast is so multi-talented across the board, it is hard to know where to begin! Jackie Clune (Violet) is a strong feisty leading lady who many in the audience could certainly relate to. She brings you into the story and makes you want to see her succeed right until the climax of the show. Her on-stage relationship with both Amy and Natalie is one of the strong points of the show and makes you believe that 3 women – even in those days – could achieve anything they wanted to!

Amy Lennox (Doralee) was a performer that I first saw back in the early days of “Legally Blonde” at the Savoy Theatre – but she has now matured into a stunning leading lady. She brings so much joy and emotion to Doralee – the typical Texan blonde who is more than her looks – and for me, she is the character I could relate most to. The beautiful “Backwoods Barbie” was so touching and so moving and was performed with such effortless grace. Here’s to many more leading roles for Amy in the future!

Natalie Casey – also a Legally Blonde alumni – is an absolute sensation as Judy! The rollercoaster journey that her character goes on is followed by the audience every step of the way. Natalie brings comedy, joy, despair and anger to a role that she brings to life in the most sensational way. Her shining moment for me was her performance of “Get Out and Stay Out” where you can tell she means every word. Absolutely brilliant on every level – this girl is worth the price of the ticket alone!

A special mention must also go out to the brilliant Ben Richards (Hart) and the amazing Bonnie Langford (Roz). Ben plays the sleazy Hart perfectly (at times he is almost too good!), and he has the audience completely in the palm of his hand in wanting us to despise his character – although I will say, he does look good in pink hotpants and a grass skirt (but if you want to see more, go and see the show!)

Bonnie Langford is just phenomenal as the secretary who loves her boss from afar Roz. She brings a comic genius to the whole show that no one else does and in every scene she was in, she drew your attention immeadiately. Her shining moment had to be “Heart to Hart” – her proclamation of love for her sleazy boss – and I must say, she looks sensational in her outfit – or lack of it – in this number!

Believe me when I say, you don’t need to be a Dolly Parton fan to enjoy this show (although a surprise in the encore may persuade you!) This is a fun filled, joyous night out that will leave you smiling from ear to ear!

Take a look at this sneak peek: – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SIcknnZXfA0&list=UUmds-1JtnjHUdvVaVueLFRQ&index=1

The tour is in Birmingham until 5th January 2013, before heading to Glasgow, Liverpool and Dublin. See http://www.9to5themusical.co.uk/ for details.

This is my last post of 2012 – thank you for making this year so special for me. I can’t thank you all enough for your support with everything I have written – it means the world! All I can ask is that you continue to show your support for this Blog into 2013 and beyond – who knows what we can achieve?

Happy New Year to you all!

Signing off for now,

Blue Eyed Girl Xxx


Supporting New Music – Taylor-Rowan and Hughes

I am so honoured in this, my 30th post, to show my support for some very Christmasy new music.

I was contacted by new writing partnership Taylor-Rowan and Hughes about reviewing their new Christmas single “Your Presence“, which is performed by Shona Lindsay.

I was so proud to attract attention from such talented writers, and it was dually special as it gave me the chance to share with all of you some beautiful new music and some very talented new composers.

Taylor-Rowan and Hughes are fast becoming a favourite on the UK’s new musical theatre writing scene.They have just put on a showcase of their stunning new musical “Kandy Kottage” which was critically acclaimed among some of the West Ends most respected producers, directors and theatre goers.

Your Presence” is your quintessential Christmas song. The mesmerising opening takes you into a beautiful festive world, where you can picture everything you expect from Christmas-Time. A roaring log fire, snowflakes sticking, presents everywhere, but this time with a lonely soul reflecting on one simple wish – to have the one she loves the most with her to celebrate the holiday season.

The stunning song continues on it’s magical ride all the way to its enchanting crescendo and you can feel the Christmas spirit flowing out of every part of you by the time the track ends.

A special shout-out must go to the absolutely phenomenal Shona Lindsay, who puts her breath-taking vocals to this beautiful track. With so much West End experience under her belt, Taylor-Rowan and Hughes couldn’t have picked a more talented and captivating star to have as a part of this track.

If you would like to listen to a preview of the track (and why not buy it while you are there?), check out this link: https://itunes.apple.com/gb/album/your-presence/id585626568?i=585626761&uo=4 

Check out more about the amazing Taylor Rowan and Hughes at www.taylorrowanhughes.com, the beautiful Shona Lindsay at www.shonalindsay.co.uk and the superb MD for the track Colin Biling at www.colinbilling.co.uk

Thanks so much to Gary in particular for setiing up this review – here’s to more in 2013!

Signing off for now

Blue-Eyed Girl X x x 

NEW ALBUM REVIEW – Simon Bailey’s "Looking Up"

It seemed only fitting after Simon Bailey gave me an exclusive interview about his debut solo album that I followed it up with a review of the CD itself. “Looking Up“, released by SimGProductions gets its official release today – and right from the outset, you can see the personal touches that Simon has added to this album – and that’s before you even listen to one song.

The album cover grabs your attention straight away. It has such a unique style – and when you realise that it is entirely made up of the designs of Simon’s actual tattoos, you can tell how special this album will be! Massive shout-out to the phenomenal talent that is Rachel Hunter – who I am honoured to say is a very good friend of this Blue Eyed Girl – for producing such an amazing cover!!!

Simon has not hidden the fact that this album, and several songs on it, are in tribute to his late father. He writes so eloquently in a very touching Foreword that “Many of the chosen songs on this album are almost love letters to my Dad – a way of feeling I can constantly communicate with him, and that is something I find very reassuring” – and I can certainly say that, from my own personal listening to this album, that this sentiment comes through on every single track.

The album combines both original material as well as a series of superbly chosen covers, not forgetting 3 superb duets – but more on those later!

It seems only right to start with Simon’s mesmerising original material. Opening track “Sing for the Angels” – which started life as a rough-cut video on YouTube – sets the tone for what is a reflective yet uplifting series of songs. “The EverChanging” is probably the most reflective of the original material in my opinion, and the lyrics mean it can be related to by so many people on so many levels. “I Can’t Stop The Rain” is yet another enchanting track that takes you on a journey through so many different emotions. And the heart-wrenching “Goodbye” just sums up everything that Simon is trying to achieve with this album – a fitting tribute to a much loved and missed father by a very talented man.

**See Simon perform “Goodbye” at the Ramin Karimloo’s recent “Broadway to Bluegrass gig http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N2xWzDJeV0I **

As far as the selection of cover tracks, the diverse choice of songs once again highlights the personal journey that Simon has been on in putting this album together. “Dance With My Father“, originally performed by Luther Vandross, was a song that always brought a tear to my eye and I can honestly say that this version was no different. Sung with such strength and beauty, you can truly feel every emotion through every single word that comes out of Simon’s mouth! The same can be said of the enchanting “My Immortal” (originally by Evanescence) and the breath-taking “Tears In Heaven” (performed originally by the legendary Eric Clapton.)

The cover tracks are rounded out by a brilliant version of Scott Alan’s “The Distance You Have Come” and the surprisingly wonderful inclusion of Dolly Parton’s “Travellin Thru“- both of which say so much about the journey that Simon has been on through his career so far. I can only hope that the inclusion of a Scott Alan track means we won’t have to wait too long for a collaboration between two of the most talented artists I have ever had the privilege of hearing!

Finally, I must also pay special mention to the 3 duets that are included on the album. Having heard Simon and Ramin Karimloo perform “Murder In the City” by the Avett Brothers on several occasions, I was over the moon to hear that it would finally be recorded onto an album. This is an extraordinary song that has the ability to take you on such a journey and all through it’s simplicity!

**See Simon and Ramin perform “Murder In The City” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lwsLUDQp1PA **

With “Once” debuting in London’s West End next year, including the magical “Falling Slowly” as a duet with the supremely talented Sabrina Aloueche was sure to be a phenomenal success – and it became another heart breaking track which was performed with such beauty and grace. I have only seen Sabrina when she took the lead in “We Will Rock You” but I sincerely hope after showcasing such beautiful talent that it isn’t too long before we see her back at the heart of the West End where she belongs.

The final duet – performed with Simon’s Phantom co-star Katie Hall – was the track that surprised me the most. “I’d Give It All for You” – originally written by Jason Robert Brown, was not a song I had heard before, but I can truly say that this is on it’s way to becoming one of my all time favourites. It’s clear to see that their time performing together on the Phantom Tour has gelled their voices into one seamless golden sound, and I can only hope that this is not the last we have heard of this stunning, enchanting pairing.

If you hadn’t guessed it by now, this is a must-have album.

This personal selection of songs from Simon Bailey allows us to join him on a stunning, enchanting and beautiful journey through a life full of ups and downs. All the songs – be it original or cover – give a personal message of love and thanks to so many – and I defy anyone who listens to this album not to be deeply moved by what you listen to.

If his Dad wasn’t already looking on with such joy and pride, then this album is the icing on the cake! Well done Simon – a stunning album!

Signing off for now

Blue Eyed Girl X x x

LOOKING UP – Interview with Simon Bailey


 Simon Bailey is currently wowing UK audiences as part of the 25th Anniversary Tour of “Phantom of the Opera.” As if he wasn’t busy enough, he has also found time to put together his sensational debut solo album – “Looking Up“, which gets its official release on 17th December. Featuring Simon’s own original songs, as well as duets with fellow West Enders Katie Hall, Sabrina Aloueche and Ramin Karimloo, this album is a must-buy for all music fans.

Despite his extremely hectic schedule, I was very honoured to be able to interview Simon about how things are well and truly “Looking Up” for him . . .

As far as music goes, who would you say are your biggest inspirations?

SB: I have had many artists inspire me, but Frank Sinatra, Elvis, Freddie Mercury, Damien Rice…the list is endless really. And varied, I think it’s important to find inspiration from different artists.

How did you come up with the name “Looking Up”?
SB: It was quite an easy choice for me really. Once I’d come up with a few names, this one made the most sense. Things in my career have been going well, so it’s Looking Up! More importantly, since losing my father , I am always Looking Up to the sky, to the stars because that’s where I know he is, looking over me.
What was your favourite part of the album-making process?
SB: Getting to see these songs come to life. I have wanted to make this album for such a long time, to get in the room, collaborate with Tom Deering and give these tracks the life I wanted them to have and hear that all happening in one room was so creatively fulfilling. It was one the happiest times I have ever had.
Several of the songs on “Looking Up” are songs that you have written yourself. Do you have a favourite? What do you think your fans will learn about you from these songs that they don’t know already?
SB: I live them all in their own way because they were all written about moments in my life, it’s nice to be taken back in time to those areas of my life, happy or sad. If I had to choose, I think ‘Goodbye’ would be my favourite. It is the hardest thing I have ever done, aside from speaking at my fathers’ funeral, but the end product is beautiful, just like he was.
 **Check out Simon’s recent performance of “Goodbye” at Ramin Karimloo’s Broadway to Bluegrass…Ish – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=acgZszHwDVU**
If you had to choose 3 songs as the soundtrack to your life so far, what would they be and why?
SB: Great question, and tough! I think it would have to be The Distance You Have Come, Travelin’ Thru and Goodbye.
If you want a sneak preview of “Looking Up”, check out http://www.simongreiff.com/simgproductions/Records/Looking_Up.htmland if after all this, you want to get yourself a copy of this sensational album, you can order it now from http://www.simonbaileyonline.com (All pre-orders will be signed by the man himself, with the official release date of 17th December)
Special thanks must go to Simon Bailey and everyone at SimG Productions for giving me this opportunity – I hope you have enjoyed reading the final piece as much as I have had putting it together!
Signing off for now,
The Blue Eyed Girl Xxx

American Idiot – Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham

On a recent, extremely cold Friday evening, the delightful and superbly wonderful Rachel Hunter (a very good friend whose artwork I have discussed in other posts) and I paid a visit to the Alexandra Theatre, here in Birmingham, to see the Green Day musical “American Idiot.”

There are many “juke-box” musicals out there at the moment, but after hearing such rave reviews of this show during its run on Broadway, as well as being a HUGE fan of Green Day – and especially the “American Idiot” album – this show seemed like it had the recipe to make the performance a smash hit!

However, before the show even started, there were numerous things that made me think that this may not be the case. As we took our seats in the theatre just before showtime, it was hard not to notice the amount of empty seats, particularly in the Dress Circle. Granted, this was a 5pm performance, and many people would still be at work, but I have been to see other shows at the Alexandra Theatre that started at 5pm, and the theatre has been much fuller! That aside, our view was spot on, even if a small area of the stage was slightly out of our eye-line.

As the show kicked into gear, and boy did it – it was clear that this show was going to be a feast for the eyes and the ears! Kicking off with the title track “American Idiot“, the show took you on a head-banging, teenage angst filled rollercoaster journey through some of Green Day’s biggest hits. A  mix of up-tempo foot stompers, such as “Jesus of Suburbia” and “Holiday“, classic rock ballads such as “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” and “Wake Me Up When September Ends” to the more recent smashes “She’s A Rebel” and personal favourite “21 Guns“, if you are a Green Day fan, then this show is a must-see as the very talented cast execute each song with the fire and fury that you would expect from the band themselves. The encore performance of “(Good Riddance) Time of Your Life“, with every member of the cast strumming away on a guitar was one of the most memorable moments of the entire show.

The set was also quite something to be seen, while also being very simple at the same time. A series of stairs and TVs were the main focus for scene changes and allowed the main characters to interact at different levels, while additional pieces of set, including a scaffolding tower that started upright before being lowered – with the leading man still on top – to become a bus full of tourists ensured that you couldn’t take your eyes off the stage for a moment.

Sadly, the storyline of the show was also its biggest flaw. The short version of the plot was that 3 friends decided to get out of their home town to see what the world had to offer, and by the end, they all came home because everything went wrong. What happened in the 90 minutes between these two points – now that I couldn’t tell you! I am still unsure, nearly a week later, if it was purely the plot, or that we as an audience weren’t given enough emotion from the main characters to make us want to invest in them. Either way, it took a long read of the synopisis in the programme at the interval to make sense of what had just happened in Act One, and there wasn’t much difference for Act Two!

Despite the confusing storyline, “American Idiot” was certainly a theatrical experience, and as I said earlier – if you are a fan of Green Day – it is a must-see! If not, but you still want to take a visit, may I suggest reading the plot synopsis first? It may make things a whole lot clearer!!!

Signing off for now,

The Blue Eyed Girl Xxx