SPOTLIGHT – Catching up with Taylor Rowan and Hughes

At the turn of the year, this Blue Eyed Girl was honoured and privileged to support the wonderful work of new musical writing duo Taylor Rowan and Hughes with an article about their enchanting Christmas single “Your Presence” which was performed by the breath-taking Shona Lindsay.

I am very pleased to say that I am once again extremely honoured to continue my support for this wonderfully talented duo, and their many exciting events that are on the horizon!

First up, this Sunday (3rd February), at Freedom Bar, Soho, they will be taking part in Gigging for It – where the divine Gary Albert Hughes will showcase never before heard musical theatre and classical crossover songs in the pairs first public concert. They will be joined on stage by the stunning talents of Shona Lindsay, Justine Balmer, Wayne Perrey, Michelle LaFortune, Jody Ellen Robinson, Michael Storrs, Matthew Crowe and Helen Woolf – WOW! What a line up!

For more details, check out the event at https://www.facebook.com/events/321783297928197/ and the brilliant trailer at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=odCgrRjwTRY

But that’s not all!

Taylor Rowan and Hughes are also involved in “From Page to Stage”, a new festival of musical theatre writing at The Landor Theatre, London.

On Tuesday 26th February Gary Albert Hughes will be at the piano along with two other writers as part of “3 Composers and a Piano” performing half an hour of their own songs. And if that wasn’t exciting enough, they will also present their brilliant brand new musical “Kandy Kottage” on Thursday 14th March – for one night only! This show was originally showcased in October 2012 and received phenomenal reviews all round – so this is a must see event! You can check out more details about the show on Twitter @KandyKottage

Why not check out this introduction video to “Kandy Kottage” too? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U_IzYMto9w0

As you can probably tell, Gary and Joan are such a talented duo, and they are also two of the kindest and sweetest people I have ever had the privilege to work with. As theatre fans, it is so important that we not only support the classics but also show love for new music – and these two deserve all the support, luck and success in the world!

To keep up to date with everything Taylor Rowan and Hughes are up to, check out their website http://www.taylorrowanhughes.com/ and on Twitter @TRowan_Hughes

Signing off for now

Blue Eyed Girl Xxx

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My kind of weekend – Cabaret, Phantom and Les Mis

January – what quite a lot of people see as the dullest, most boring month of the year. It’s cold, dark, and miserable. The nights are cold and dark – especially after all this snowy weather we’ve had! And no one has any money because they are still paying off debts from Christmas and New Year. No wonder people seem so down this time of year, right?

Well – when it comes to this Blue Eyed Girl, the answer would definitely be WRONG!

It has seemed to become a tradition with me that I go away for a Theatre weekend in January to wash away those New Year Blues. I started it in January 2012, where I spent the day seeing Phantom of the Opera and Les Miserables (for the first time ever!), and I decided to continue it this year so that I could start 2013 in the right way!

One thing I didn’t count on for this weekend was the snow!

On the Friday that I was due to leave for London, blizzard conditions hit the whole of the United Kingdom. Heavy snow and strong winds meant that any kind of travel was going to be extremely difficult, and I would go as far to say, dangerous! One slight positive in it all was that the school where I teach had to close early because of fears for pupil safety, and this meant I could start my trek to the station and London earlier than expected – thank goodness!

After a treacherous journey that took over 4 and a half hours (it usually takes me half that time!), I arrived in a very cold London town.

And finally, my weekend – which at one point I thought would not happen – could begin!

I decided to squash in a third show to this weekend, so not long after I arrived at my hotel, I headed back out into Friday night rush hour to the Savoy Theatre, to see Cabaret.

There were a number of reasons that I was eager to see this show. Firstly, I had never seen the show before! Yes, I knew some of the more famous songs but that was about it – and I wasn’t about to pass up the opportunity to see it, especially as its’ West End run was due to finish the following day! Secondly, I was very curious to see how Will Young would cope on the West End stage. I have been a fan of his since he won Pop Idol back however many years ago, and the thought of him on stage was another reason I could not miss this show.

I have to say the entire production blew me away – and it was quite refreshing to see a show deal with such emotional political issues in the way that it did. Will Young, as Emcee, was an absolute sensation! He was so captivating in every scene in which he was involved and I couldn’t take my eyes off him, even when he was just involved as a background character. He managed to keep a clear balance between being a comedian, to being extremely creepy – and quite intimidating – and you could see why he has received such an amazing response in this role!

Michelle Ryan (Sally) and Matt Rawle (Cliff) were also brilliant in their respective roles. Ryan suited the fun and feisty role of Sally extremely well, and you can tell she loved every minute of being on stage. Her voice was beautiful in her solo numbers and she worked brilliantly as part of larger ensemble scenes. Matt Rawle was also brilliant in the role of visiting American Cliff. You felt like part of his journey and you could feel every emotion that he went through as the realisation of what his beloved Berlin was becoming under the Nazi regime dawned on him – but not on the other characters.

A superb job by all involved – I can only hope this wonderful show and cats get the chance to re-visit this story sooner rather than later!

Day 2 – and I couldn’t ask for anything better!

After a relaxing morning in Covent Garden – one of my happy places – I headed to one of my favourite theatres, and home away from home, in London – Her Majesty’s Theatre to see the matinee performance of Phantom of the Opera.

Regular readers of this blog will know how much love I have for this show, one of my favourite musicals of all time. But this visit was extra special for a couple of reasons! It was the first time I would be seeing new Phantom Marcus Lovett – who I had heard nothing but phenomenal things about since he joined the cast. I was also lucky enough to be seated in what were the best seats that I have ever had in this theatre – stalls, centre of the 2nd row, and right in the line of the chandelier!!!

I can honestly say that this one was of the most enjoyable and all round brilliant visits to Her Majesty’s that I have ever had! I actually had to duck when the chandelier went upand came down – which was one of the most exciting things I have ever experienced! (Small things, I know!) Being so close to the stage also allowed me to have such a close up view of so many key moments – from when the Phantom and Christine emerged through the smoke on the boat coming straight towards me during the title song, all the way to seeing the tears pour down the Phantom’s face when Christine leaves him at the end of the show – all I can say is WOW, just WOW!

I was very privileged to meet several cast members at the Stage Door, post show. It was always good to chat to the legend that is Gareth Snook and I finally, after 5 visits, met Sofia Escobar – who was my very first Christine. But what can I say about the kind hearted gentleman that is Marcus Lovett? His performance as the Phantom was so enchanting, and his Final Lair broke my heart! He is one of the best Phantoms I have ever seen – and now a personal favourite of mine! I can honestly say that he is also one of the kindest, most humble West End performers I have ever met. He spent time speaking with me, despite the freezing temperatures, and really cared about what I had to say! I can’t wait to get back to see his mesmerising performance again – and if you haven’t seen him in this role, then you are totally missing out!!!

After such a stunning afternoon, I wasn’t sure that this day could get better – but I was wrong, as that evening, I headed to the Barricades at Queens Theatre to see Les Miserables!

Along with Phantom, this is also one of my favourite musicals ever, and this visit was actually exactly one year to the day since I saw the show for the first time! After falling in love with the recent film version, I knew I would have a new appreciation for this show and its characters, but in all honesty, I couldn’t have known what I would experience that evening.

This was my sixth visit to Queens (the third visit with this cast), and I can honestly say that this is the best I have ever heard this phenomenal cast sound! Across the board, from the brilliant leads, all the way through to the ensemble – the entire cast blew the roof off the theatre with the power and emotion they put into every song! What the performance also made me realise is that no matter how much I adore the film (and always will!) and the way the production team got it so right, there is nothing like sitting in such a beautiful theatre and watching this show live!

I was also very privileged to have a chat with many members of this wonderful cast after the show too! Oliver Savile (Feuilly) had just finished his final show (or so I thought!) and what a sweetheart he was – I am so excited to see him when Cats tours later this year. I also got to speak to new Fantine Celinde Schoenmaker – who gave a stunning performance and who was also an absolute sweetheart to chat to – Adam Linstead was as funny and genius as ever, and it was also a sad goodbye to the superbly talented Craig Mather, who is due to end his run as Marius this week. I can honestly say, having met Craig on a number of occasions both at Les Mis and elsewhere, that he deserves so much success in whatever the future holds for him, and it will be an honour and privilege to watch his star soar!

It was also beyond brilliant to chat to the wonderful Tam Mutu (Javert) – who only gets better and better every time I see him, and who is always so kind and generous with his time at Stage Door (Thanks for taking my photo with him Craig!) Not forgetting my favourite Valjean Geronimo Rauch, who continues to be absolutely breathtaking in the lead role, and is always so sweet to chat too as well! I can honestly say that these two are giving Ramin Karimloo and Hadley Fraser a run for their money when it comes to being my favourite Valjean/Javert pairing – as they work together so well on stage, and the electricity between them is so mesmerising – you can’t take your eyes off them! The day that these two finish at Queens – which is not one I want to think about – will be a sad day for this show, as right now, I don’t see how anyone can be any better than these two! They will go down as Les Mis legends and I am honoured to support such fantastic talents!

As you can tell, I loved every moment of this weekend – and as always, I can’t wait to return! I am currently scheduled to visit London again at Easter, but am hoping to squeeze in a few weekends before then too!

Signing off for now,

Blue Eyed Girl Xxx

Blue Eyed Girl interviews . . . John Owen Jones


John Owen Jones is one of the most successful musical theatre performers of all time.

He is probably best known for his portrayal of The Phantom in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Phantom of the Opera, both in London, where he performed the role over 2000 times, and on the recent UK Tour, as well as for his stunning performance as Jean Valjean on the Les Miserables 25th Anniversary Tour.

He is just as well known for his own music, having released two very successful albums, “John Owen Jones” and the captivating “Unmasked.”

It was an absolute honour to chat with John about his wonderful career, the pros and cons of touring as well as hopes and dreams for the future . . .

What captivates you so much about the role of the Phantom to make you keep returning to it?
It’s very open to different interpretations as the show is written well enough to give the actor room to breathe. Therefore one has the opportunity to change it nightly. It’s also a very cathartic role to play. The Phantom can help me “let off steam” as it were.


What are the best and worst things about touring – both as a part of a production and in support of your own music?
Best: seeing new places and meeting new people. Worst: not being with my family

Are there any theatre roles that you would love to play that you haven’t yet?
I’d like to create a brand new role but otherwise Sweeney in Sweeney Todd, George in Sunday in the Park with George…

What was it like to play Jean Valjean on Broadway?
It was an honour and a dream come true!

Who have been the biggest influences on your own music?
Mandy Patinkin, Michael Ball, Geoff Tate from Queensryche, Bruce Dickinson from Iron Maiden and…Tom Jones!

If you had to describe your career so far in 3 words, what would they be?
Everything. I. Wanted.

John will release a new version of his beautiful single May Each Day for St David’s Day on 1st March. He will also be seen in the ITV drama “Scott and Bailey” and new BBC3 drama “In the Flesh” which are both due to be broadcast in Spring 2013.

For more details, including latest concert dates, visit his website at http://www.johnowenjones.com/

Thanks to John for taking the time to answer my questions and to all at Bobbie Coppen Management for helping to make this happen!

Signing off for now,

Blue Eyed Girl Xxx

The In Between – Blue Eyed Girl interviews . . . Laura Tisdall

If you are one of my long-time readers, you will know that on several occasions, I have talked about my love for concept album “The In-Between.” A fantasy musical, which tells the story of sisters Alice and Flick, who despite a very rocky relationship, face a new challenge when Flick accidentally steps into a space between different worlds – known as The In-Between.

 

 
The stunning collection of songs, which feature such amazing talents as Hadley Fraser, Dianne Pilkington, Cassie Compton, Sabrina Aloueche, Daniel Boys, Julie Atherton, Lauren Samuels, Alexia Khadime and Liam Tamne, is already cementing its’ place as one of the must have musical albums around today.
 
I got the chance to chat with its’ creator and writer, Laura Tisdall, to learn about how she came up with such an unique concept . . .
 
Tell us a little known fact about yourself – something we wouldn’t know by looking at you!

Hmm… I used to play guitar and sing in a rock/metal band. Rock music was how I started writing songs!

“The In Between” isn’t your first musical – how do you get into the theatre business?
When I was in my second year at uni studying music, we did a joint showcase at a local theatre with performers from Guildford School of Acting. My first musical, Faerytale, was one of four musicals by uni composers showcased. In one of those twists, Lauren Samuels, who was studying at GSA at the time, played the lead in it! We invited a lot of people from the theatre industry to come along, one of whom was a director called Hugh Wooldridge, who later on gave me my first job as an orchestrator.

What was your inspiration for writing “The In Between”?
Lots of things! A friend had mentioned to me about a computer game where people got judged and sent between levels of death accordingly, but someone got sent where they weren’t supposed to be. That started the cogs turning really. It’s quite a common idea in a lot of stories, the idea of a kind of purgatory and people claiming they’ve been sent to the wrong place and they don’t deserve to be there. I think it’s a really compelling and powerful concept and was interested in telling that kind of story – but I didn’t want my main character to have died. The trapped between parallel worlds element probably came from years of reading fantasy and sci-fi books, and watching lots TV shows and movies in those genres. I love that stuff!

You have an amazing array of talent on the album – how did you choose who you wanted for each song?
They were people I’d seen or heard performances by and thought were amazingly talented – both with tremendous voices and the ability to really act a song – so important for just an audio recording. It was basically a dream cast list and I still can’t believe who’s on there!

If you could choose one performer, past or present, to be involved in “The In Between” when it finally gets to the stage, who would it be and why?

Oh gosh, only one? That’s so hard! I thought everyone on the album was fantastic and so lovely to work with. I think there are probably several versions of a dream cast right there, so I wouldn’t really want to single that down to just one. Okay, so, to be fair, I’ll go for someone not on the album… and say Sutton Foster. I absolutely love her performance on the Little Women CD. Funny, compelling and moving – I wish I could have seen it live.

If you haven’t got a copy of “The In Between” – and if not, why not? (ha ha!) – you can pick up a copy of the album as well as sheet music for a number of the songs at http://www.theinbetweenmusical.bigcartel.com/

You can also check out “The In-Between” website for news, updates and videos at http://theinbetweenmusical.com/. If you are on Twitter, you can also follow
the show @TIB_musical

Thanks so much to Laura for taking the time to do this interview- it was an absolute pleasure chatting to you

Signing off for now

Blue Eyed Girl Xxx

Why it’s GOOD to be Miserable – My Love for Les Mis


With all the hype around the UK release of the film Les Miserables, I felt it was so appropriate for me to take some time to reflect on why I love this show so much – and why the film does the original so much justice! (More on that later!)

I had never really wanted to see Les Mis as I was told it was “depressing” and “the story was so confusing!” But it was back in September 2011 that my mind started to change! My Mom and my Step-Dad (who I hold responsible for my love of Phantom of the Opera) went to London on a short break to see Les Miserables at the time that Alfie Boe was playing Jean Valjean (as my Mom has a massive soft spot for Mr B!)

On their return, the conversation was simple. I said “So – how good was it then?” Their reply – “Well you know how we always told you that Phantom was the best thing we’d ever seen? Les Mis is better!”

This said it all to me!

It was later on in 2011 that this love continued to grow. It was in October of that year that I was introduced to the music of Ramin Karimloo through his “A Night with the Phantom” concert at Symphony Hall, Birmingham. It was around the time of this concert when it was announced that Ramin would be taking over from Alfie Boe at Queens in November. And after hearing Ramin perform for the first time that night – including a heart-breaking rendition of “Bring Him Home” – my decision made. I HAD to go and see Les Mis live!

Fast forward to January 2012 – Queens Theatre, London. I took my seats, so excited to finally see this show that I had learnt so much about in the months before. That performance – and yes, it only took the one – made me fall so in love with this show. Going on such a rollercoaster from start to finish, being so happy yet so sad, and being completely overwhelmed at the spectacle of “One Day More” and many other songs – it was everything I wanted it to be! The cast also played their part with such spectacular performances. Ramin, alongside Hadley Fraser (Javert) completely stole the show with their dynamic chemistry on stage. As my first Valjean/Javert pairing, they will always have a special place in my heart and became the very high standard that I have compared all my later visits to the show with.

So began my love affair with this phenomenal show – and nearly one year, and 5 visits later, I still adore this show as much as I did from when I left Queens on that cold January evening last year.

Skip forward again to January 2013 – and the release of the Les Mis film.

For me, I can’t remember the last time that I had looked forward to seeing a film as much as this. The anticipation certainly grew when it was revealed that the film would not be released in the UK until January, when several other countries would have the chance to see it first. I have to say though – it was totally worth the wait!

I had made a conscious decision NOT to look at any of the spoilers that were posted in the lead up to the film. This meant no seeing clips of the musical numbers, not reading any clues to new parts/surprises – it even meant that, although I ordered the soundtrack on CD, it remained in its plastic wrapping until after I had seen the movie! The only clues I got about the film were what I saw on the TV trailer.

I wanted to judge the film as a whole, rather than seeing smaller parts here and there. And as hard as it was to avoid all of this – it made the experience so much more exciting for me!

Let’s just say from start to finish, the film was everything I wanted and hoped it would be – and so much more! For me, in all areas, I wouldn’t have changed a thing! It was so amazing to see this beautiful story up on the big screen after such a long wait – and in amongst all the tears, I was so pleased that the whole team behind the film got it so right!

I could go on and on about my favourite parts of the film – but we would be here forever! So here are my thoughts on some stand out moments . . .

(PLEASE BE AWARE! THE FOLLOWING SECTION CONTAINS SPOILERS! IF YOU HAVE NOT SEEN THE FILM YET OR YOU JUST DON’T WANT TO KNOW, PLEASE SCROLL DOWN TO THE BOTTOM OF THE ARTICLE)

The casting was so spot on – it was better than I would have thought! Hugh Jackman’s portrayal of Jean Valjean was just brilliant. He showed both his vocal and acting skills in so many different ways, and on several occasions absolutely broke my heart with his performance. From the tenacity and fight of Valjean’s Soliloquy to the fragility of Bring Him Home – he was the perfect leading man! And I can only pray that that Best Actor Oscar is in his future!

I had heard so much negativity about Russell Crowe as Javert – in fact, I don’t think I had heard one positive comment before the film’s UK release. Javert is one of my favourite characters and Stars is one of my favourite songs – so I was concerned! However, I couldn’t have been more wrong – Russell did an amazing job as Javert and I was really impressed. The fire he showed, particularly in his joint scenes with Hugh Jackman was sensational – especially in the brilliant Confrontation – and he commanded the screen every time he appeared. The moment when he chases Valjean and young Cosette (the enchanting Isabelle Allen) on horseback was so full of tension and suspense and his brutal suicide – well, all I can is that that THUD echoed around our very shocked cinema and the audience was stunned! Well done Russell!

Now let me mention Anne Hathaway. It was obvious from all the Award nominations that her performance was going to be something special – but I was blown away! By extending the sequence in which we learn about Fantine’s downfall, as an audience, we were given more chance to care about Fantine and what happened to her. My heart broke into so many pieces as this went on, and the shocking nature of the teeth removal was astounding. Her rendition of “I Dreamed A Dream” was so perfect for the way she played the character, and it’s new place in the sequence of songs made so much sense! The addition, during her death scene, of seeing little Cosette behind the curtain, also added to the emotion overload in this scene – wow, just wow! She was one of the highlights for me – and deserves all the success!

Eddie Redmayne’s Marius was also a revelation for me. He gave Marius an inner strength that we don’t see as much in the show and the courage and bravery he showed at the Barricade, especially when threatening to cause an explosion right in the face of Hadley Fraser’s Army soldier (more on him later) showed true heart. His performance of “Empty Chairs at Empty Tables” was mesmerising and – as someone pointed out to me earlier – by not having the spirits of his dead friends there, as they do in the show, it showed how truly alone he had become! Eddie’s on screen relationship with Amanda Seyfried (Cosette) also made me believe in them more as a couple, and their involvement in the Epilogue was enchanting. Yet another stunning performance!

The rest of the cast were just as astounding! Aaron Tveit (Enjorlas) was a charismatic leader for the students and his voice suited that role so well! His death alongside Grantaire (the very funny George Blagden) which lead to the iconic image of him hanging dead, red flag in hand was so brilliantly done. Samantha Barks (Eponine) was also a star in every scene she was in. I knew from her experience with the show that “On My Own” would be brilliant but it was beyond sensational and I felt every word she sang! Her subsequent death – as a result of saving Marius – was also one of the most heart-breaking moments of the film. This girl has such a bright future!

Sacha Baren Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter suited the Thenardiers down to the ground and I thoroughly enjoyed their more subtle humour throughout both “Master of the House” and their other appearances in the film. Cohen referring to Cosette as “Courgette” still makes me laugh every time I think about it! Daniel Huttlestone – as Gavroche – was also a little superstar in all of his scenes. When he started singing “Do You Hear the People Sing?” to motivate the Barricade boys, it brought a tear to my eye!

A special mention must go out to all the West End performers that I spotted across the film. I was so pleased to see so many familiar faces in a film that is sure to go down as one of the best ever! Special mention must go out to Killian Donnelly and Fra Fre – especially for their faces when they were trying to get Gavroche back over the Barricades, and their reaction to his death. I swear that one was of the most upsetting scenes for me – and they handled it so well. Their deaths – when standing upstairs at Le Cafe Musain and facing a barrage of bullets from soldiers below – well, let’s just say, you ought to have seen the state of me!!

Hadley Fraser – sporting a very fetching moustache – also played a small yet significant part in the Final Battle. His involvement in the film was summed up for me when a close up of his reaction to Gavroche’s death was one of the film’s most memorable moments. It says alot when such a short shot can say so much and it takes quite an actor to have such an impact – well done Hadley!

I loved the involvement of Colm Wilkinson too – and what a nice touch it was for him to be the one that Valjean (Jackman) went to in Heaven at the end of the film!

As far as memorable scenes – loved The Confrontation and the fight through the hospital; Stars overlooking Notre Dame was breath-taking and the parallels that could be drawn with Javert’s suicide were stunning; One Day More – one of my favourites which was done so well; and I ADORED Do You Hear the People Sing? and the storming of LeMarque’s funeral! The slow rising of the song, from one or two singers to the whole crowd was so overwhelming and so brilliantly done!

Heck, I LOVED IT ALL!! (Can you tell?) But finally, I must mention one scene in particular – that moved me from tears to uncontrollable sobbing – and that was after the Final Battle, and involved Russell Crowe and Daniel Huttlestone. When Javert walks along the row of dead bodies, and comes across little Gavroche, he removes his medal from his uniform and places it onto the little man’s body! For me, this showed such a human, almost, dare I say, a nice side to Javert which is something you don’t see in the show. This will be one of the images that stays with me when I think of this film – and I am starting to well up just at the thought of remembering it! This moment alone was worth the price of admission!!

END OF SPOILERS!

As I sit here, finishing this article, proudly sporting my Les Mis charm bracelet and listening to the film soundtrack, I can’t help but smile when I think of all that I have experienced as a result of a love for this story. A stunning show, so many phenomenal performers, and one of the best films I have ever seen to name just a few! 

Yet again, it’s all thanks to my parents – who were the ones that gave me the idea to this show, just as they did with Phantom of the Opera – and long may this love of Les Mis continue!

Next weekend – Saturday 19th more specifically – I will celebrate my one year anniversary of seeing Les Mis for the first time ever – and how will I celebrate? A return, and first visit of 2013 to Queens Theatre!!! I definitely think seeing the film – which I also intend to see again very soon – will give me a new appreciation for the show. I also intend to rectify the fact that, despite being such a fan of the show and now the film, I have never read the book! I intend to make a start on “The Brick” very soon!!

Thanks for reading!

Signing off for now,

Blue-Eyed Girl Xxx

Blue Eyed Girl interviews . . . Nadim Naaman


 Nadim Naaman is one of the brightest young stars in the theatre world today.

From his early days in The Sound of Music, right up to his recent roles in Phantom of the Opera as well as new musical Thirteen Days and the classic Marguerite, Nadim continues to push the boundaries and challenge himself in every performance he does.

I was lucky enough to sit down with Nadim and chat about his inspirations, his 2012 highlights, and what we can expect from his debut solo album . . .


Tell us a little known fact about yourself!

The most obvious little known fact about me is that I am half Lebanese. The other half is English, and I have lived here my whole life, but I am very proud of my mixed heritage and try to visit friends and family in the Middle East as much as possible. If you want to know where in London does good hummus, I’m your man.

Who or what inspired you to get into the acting profession?

I was most significantly inspired by my head of drama at school, Simon Dormandy. At first, performing was a hobby, of equal importance alongside music and sport. As the years ticked by, it eventually became very clear that I wanted to study theatre full time, and move into the industry in some way, but without Simon’s encouragement, it may not have been as a performer. He made me realise that acting was a noble profession, and provided you had the passion and commitment to counter the challenges of life as an actor, there was no reason not to go for it. He believed in my ability, and saw that I loved it enough to work hard, and also to get through the months in between jobs. Better to try than not, and be left wondering ‘what if?‘ in later life. I went on to read theatre at the University of Warwick, before training as a postgrad at the Royal Academy of Music, neither of which I would have applied for without Simon’s teaching and encouragement. I am still heavily influenced by him, some fifteen years after we first met.

2012 was an amazing year for you – what were your highlights?

2012 was an incredible year, and what a privilege to be working in London in what was a great year for everyone in the city. Being at the heart of the West End during the Jubilee and Olympic summer was a period of time I will never forget. On a more selfish level, I was thrilled to play Raoul so many times at Phantom in it’s 25th anniversary year. Fortunately for me, I was trusted to fill in for the brilliant Killian Donnelly for several weeks whilst he was off filming Les Mis, which meant I could throw myself into the role. Moving on from two wonderful years at Phantom, it was also thrilling to go straight into new work in London’s fringe, working at The Arcola on the new musical Thirteen Days, and on the new version of Marguerite at The Tabard – chatting to an emotional Alain Boublil after he saw our version was something I’ll never forget. The Fringe is the heartbeat of London theatre, and I would really encourage theatre fans to venture beyond the lights of the more commercial West End to discover many hidden gems, and to see more thought-provoking, exciting and daring work.

What are you most looking forward to about your upcoming role as Anatoly in “Chess”?

I can’t wait to get started on Chess, and am over the moon to be playing the role of Anatoly. To have the opportunity to sing music as iconic as Anthem, You and I, Mountain Duet and Endgame is very rare, and I am very grateful to those who believed I was the right man for the job. Shows like Chess, Phantom and Les Mis have been around for so many years that they have enormous and loyal fan bases, which explains how we have virtually sold out before we’ve even started rehearsing! The most exciting thing for me is the involvement and support of Sir Tim Rice. The show was his concept originally, his brainchild, and he has had to approve all of the major decisions so far – the casting, the venue, the orchestrations, the score we use, making Molokov a female character… This means that he believes in the vision of our creative team, and has entrusted them with his show. This is deliberately a new take on the material, and one that the shows’ writer believes in. All the decisions – gender of roles, age of characters, size of venue, use of the 2008 Albert Hall score – have been thought through for many months, and have been made for very specific reasons. Ultimately, this is the first time it has been fully staged in London since the original (The Albert Hall was a concert version). It really is exciting!

How would you describe your own music style – which we all hope we will hear on an album at some point in 2013?

I am delighted to announce that I will be releasing my first album in 2013, with plans to record in the spring once Chess is done. It is tough to describe the style specifically, as these will be songs I have written over several years, inspired by different events in my life and therefore different sounds and feelings. But I think it is predominantly acoustic/pop rock. Naturally, there’s a hint of musical theatre in there too. I am most proud of the fact that entire album will be original material – ten or eleven songs. Many singers release albums of covers/songs from the shows. There’s nothing wrong with that, but personally, I believe you need to earn the right to do that over many years of graft in the profession – John Owen Jones, and Ramin Karimloo for instance, have earned the right to assume people want to hear them sing their stunning versions of Bring Him Home and Music of The Night. I am a huge supporter of those who have the courage to share their own music with the world.
 

What advice would you give to young and upcoming theatre performers who are trying to break into the industry?

I think I would give three pieces of advice to those who wish to become performers.

1. Take your time. In this day and age, with reality TV castings and talent shows in particular, people often feel they are ready for everything. In truth, you can’t beat education, training and life-experience to ensure longevity in the industry. This is relevant as a singer, because just a few years of singing with a poor technique might cut your career short, no matter how brilliant the sound may be today, but this is more relevant as an actor. No matter how talented you might be, there is no substitute for life and life-experience in terms of helping you convey emotions of a character and words. Even the difference between an 18 year old and a 21 year old is vast, in terms of what they have been through in life, and how this can help them convince an audience they are believable within a role.

2. This one is hard, but try your hardest to develop a thick skin. Ours is a business where everyone has an opinion, and getting a job or a decent review generally boils down to one person’s point of view. Your playing age, your height, your size, the size of someone they’ve already cast… these are all things that are as important when auditioning for a role as your ability. Similarly, if someone writes a bad review of your show or specifically your performance, remember it is one person’s opinion. Often, the most successful shows are the ones slated by the press, and the ones that get five stars close a few months later. If you receive a knock, allow yourself a day or two to get it out of your system, but then move on. Onwards and upwards.

3.  Have something else in your life. Use your skills to develop an enterprise that is not related to performing – in my case it’s teaching, for others it may be baking, massage/physiotherapy, personal training, temping, modelling, journalism… By having a secondary outlet, you ensure that you can keep yourself busy during the months between shows, and crucially, earn yourself a comfortable living. Doctors don’t go home and discuss surgery at the dinner table, so remember that switching off from performing and theatre is essential too. Allowing yourself a break from it all means going into work more invigorated and fresh. No matter how much you love it all, if its your profession it must be treated as a profession – it’s not healthy for anyone to live and breathe their profession 24 hours a day. I never tire of hearing soundtracks that I love, but if I’ve just done a two show day, I’ll probably not listen to a musical on the way home!

You can follow Nadim on Twitter @NadimNaaman, and for more information on the return of Chess, which runs at the Union Theatre, London between 13th February and 16th March, check out http://www.uniontheatre.biz/#/chess/4569833780 or follow the amazing cast on Twitter @ChessReturns

I must send a special shout out to Nadim for taking time out of his busy schedule to take part in this interview – an absolute gentleman who deserves such success and blessings in all he does! 

Signing off for now,

Blue Eyed Girl Xxx

The Rain – A Short Film starring Ramin Karimloo

First off, may I say Happy New Year to all of my wonderful readers! 2012 was a sensational year from me and this blog – I can’t tell you all how much your support has meant and I can only hope it will continue into 2013!

My first post of 2013 focuses on a short film that was released by Manic Phoenix Productions over the Christmas period. It is called “The Rain“, and stars Ramin Karimloo.

 
Before watching the film, you are presented with a summary of the film – “When a stranger (Karimloo) moves into an empty flat, the residents feel uneasy about the man hidden behind the curtains. Then one day, it begins to rain
 
This synopsis is simple, yet also creates great intrigue in the viewer, and this is before you even press play. Why does Ramin’s character have no name (at least at first)? Why does he hide behind curtains? And why is rain so important to this story?
 
This mystery continues as the film opens at the sight of an old block of flats, and a boy walking past on a dark evening. We also see a shot of the different names who inhabit this building. We suddenly move to some point later, when a woman, Trish (Leoni Kibbey) walks past the same building chasing after her children and notices a mysterious man, Sam (Karimloo) has moved in next door.
 
We are also introduced to several other neighbours who seem especially wary of Sam, who is rarely seen outside and keeps his curtains shut constantly. However, it is Trish that shows most suspicion of the mystery man. She questions all that she sees, including an unexpected delivery to Sam’s house.
 
That is all until it starts to rain and things become decidely clearer. I won’t spoil the ending for you as it is truly enchanting and must be seen to be fully appreciated!
 
Despite being just around 10 minutes long (and that includes opening and closing credits), this is a mesmerising short film, that captures your imagination from the first image on screen right through to the end of the closing credits.
 
The whole cast are superb and are outstanding in their individual roles. However special mention must go to Ramin Karimloo and Leoni Kibbey. They bring you totally into this story and take you on a thrilling, mysterious and almost ethereal journey. As a viewer, you can totally believe Leoni as her suspicions take hold – something I’m sure people do in their own lives every day. And Ramin, despite not having a major speaking role, commands the screen for every moment that he seen. His smile when he sees The Rain is truly breath-taking and again, it is this moment that makes you believe in his character so much.


If you want to take a look for yourself at “The Rain”, why not visit http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EUs0lohPPKs where you can see the film in full. And why not check out the charity who provided the inspiration for this film at http://www.xpsupportgroup.org.uka very worthy cause.

I am truly excited to see Ramin and Leoni work together again in another film from Manic Movies Production – “Dinner With Lucifer” which is due for release this year. (You can find out more about this on Twitter @DinWithLucifer) Check out a teaser at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XJ0DUyxYILU

Signing off for now,

Blue Eyed Girl Xxx