Cirque Du Soleil take on Michael Jackson – The Immortal World Tour (26th March 2013)

Courtesy of ticketmaster.com
 
I am all for trying new experiences, especially when it comes to the Arts, and more specifically theatre. Having ventured into the world of musicals, plays and concerts over the past year, I decided to continue my ventures by booking tickets to Cirque Du Soleil’s Michael Jackson Immortal World Tour, which made a recent stop in my hometown of Birmingham.
 
I originally booked the tickets last October and I’ll admit – I didn’t know what to expect! What I did know was that for many years, I had heard the name of Cirque Du Soleil and it had always been associated with outstanding acrobatics and amazing visual spectaculars. When you add into this the legendary music of the late, great Michael Jackson – it seemed like a match made in heaven!
 
And for me – a first time Cirque visitorit certainly was!
 
The stunningly talented group of performers – gathered from all over the world – took us as an audience on a spectacular journey through some of Michael Jackson’s best known, and some not as well known hits.
 
“Billie Jean” with some added lights!
Courtesy of altdaily.com
 
Kicking off with “Workin Day and Night“, not only did we see Cirque’s own, truly unique interpretations of many classic songs including “Wanna Be Startin Somethin“, “Billie Jean“, “Bad” and “Earth Song“, they also remained loyal to the history and status of the man himself, with nods to the original dance routines of “Thriller“, “Smooth Criminal” and the superbly choreographed robot lead “They Don’t Care About Us“, among others.
 
The cast of breath-taking performers also added to an unbelievable evening.
 
Courtesy of www.nashvillearts.com 
 
From acrobats, to sensational musicians, to ridiculously flexible contortionists – and even a one legged performer (who stole the spotlight at every chance he was given, and was the recipient of one of the biggest cheers of the night!), the cast that Cirque Du Soleil has assembled to deliver this showcase is second to none, with no weak links anywhere to be found!
 
There were so many personal highlights for me throughout the evening. They included two aerialists showing stunning skill and story-telling during “I Just Can’t Stop Loving You“, some beautiful twinkling stars floating around the arena during “Human Nature“, Michael’s Shoes and Glove coming to life as part of “Beat It“, and as I mentioned earlier, the superbly choreographed robots that lead the way during “They Don’t Care About Us
 
Courtesy of www.mtv.com
 
There are so many different moments that I could go into, but I can say with no doubt, that my explanation would do no them justice whatsoever!
 
I have seen several reviews over the past week, with the majority seeing the show in a negative light – the comment “Too much Michael Jackson, not enough Cirque” still ringing in my ears. Despite this, I am sure that everyone that was in the National Indoor Arena this past Tuesday will say that they certainly had an experience – and I, for one, if Cirque Du Soleil ever return to the UK, will be getting myself a ticket!
 
The Immortal World Tour continues across the world – check out http://www.cirquedusoleil.com/en/shows/michael-jackson-tour/default.aspx for dates, details, as well as a preview video of the show itself!
 
Signing off for now,
 
Blue Eyed Girl Xxx

 

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Priscilla Queen of the Desert UK Tour – 23rd March 2013

Picture courtesy of www.atgtickets.com
 
As if spending a Friday night with Alfie Boe wasn’t enough, the following day, I ventured out in some very snowy conditions to see the UK Tour of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert at the New Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham.
 
I had been lucky enough to have the “Priscilla Experience” before when I visited the Palace Theatre in London, and the cast featured an amazing array of talent including the delightful Oliver Thornton. Now two years on, Priscilla has taken to the roads of the UK, with a brand new cast, spreading glitter and joy wherever it goes!
 
After a treacherous journey to the Theatre through the Siberian conditions of mid-March (yes, you read that right!), I took my seat to be greeted by a very familiar sight – the stage curtain, featuring a pink map of Australia which originally featured in the London production was back – and this time, it had a very shiny lipstick for company!
 
As the show started, a Cheshire Cat-esque smile appeared on my face, and it stayed there until I left!
 
I had forgotten what a brilliant show this was! A feel good story of friendship, love, and being accepted no matter how you choose to live your life, accompanied by some classic disco songs – how could you not love every second?
 
Such a fun story was superbly delivered by an amazing cast and a very clever use of the set!
 
Being a touring production, the set was going to have to be scaled down from the extravagance of the London original, but by doing this, it allowed the audience to focus more on the characters and their individual stories. Don’t get me wrong – the quality of the set was outstanding, especially for a touring production, but I really enjoyed learning more about the characters and being able to see them in a very different way to the way in which I saw them back in London.
 
The cast was also nothing short of sensational. Jason Donovan (Tick/Mitzi) showed so much strength as the lead character who probably goes on the biggest journey out of the three. He was able to showcase so many different sides to Tick, from elaborate glitzy Drag Queen extraordinaire, to a man who just wants to do the best by his son. I am not ashamed to say that when he sang the duet with his young son – “You Were Always On My Mind/I Say A Little Prayer” – I got ever so slightly glassy eyed! (OK, I lied! I cried my eyes out! It was so touching!)
 
Richard Grieve – who was almost unrecognisable as Bernadette – brought a classy and stylish flair to the group and his comic timing was superb. One of the most touching parts of the show for me was Bernadette’s blossoming relationship with mechanic Bob (Giles Watling) and as an audience, you really want to see two such kind-hearted souls to end up together.
 
The absolute revelation for me was Graham Weaver (Adam/Felicia). The last time I visited Priscilla, Oliver Thornton took on this role and blew me away! But after seeing Graham take it on, I can say he was nothing short of phenomenal, and totally surpassed the standard Oliver had set in my eyes! What a performance!
 
He held my attention from the moment he descended on to the stage all the way through to his final bow – and he was sensational in every scene he was involved in! He made you feel like you were totally part of his journey, so much so that after he is beaten up by the locals and bursts into tears in Bernadette’s arms, you just want to run on stage and give him a hug! Graham was also an absolute sweetheart at the Stage Door too, despite the weather – watch out for this guy, I see HUGE things ahead for him!
 
Finally, I must mention the addition of the song “True Colours” to the score. I couldn’t think of a song more appropriate to sum up what the message of this show is all about. “Don’t be afraid to let them show, your True Colours, True Colours, beautiful like a rainbow!” – a perfect choice and so beautifully performed too.
 
I had the most brilliant afternoon (if you hadn’t guessed already!) and I only hope that his Tour finds a more permanent home very soon – it totally deserves all the success that it has earned and will continue to earn for many years to come!
 
The Tour continues across the UK – check out dates, venues and all things glittery at http://www.priscillathemusical.com/ – I can guarantee you won’t regret going to see this!
 
Signing off for now,
 
Blue Eyed Girl Xxx
 


Alfie Boe LIVE – 22nd March 2013

Picture from www.alfieboeuk.com
 

I had always been a huge admirer of Alfie Boe. He first came to my attention when he took on the role of Jean Valjean at the 25th Anniversary Performance of “Les Miserables” at the o2 Arena. All the way through, he commanded the stage and took the huge audience with him on every step of that emotional journey. The stand-out moment had to be when Alfie stood centre stage, alone and began to sing “Bring Him Home.” This was the moment when so many people fell in love with this man’s magnificent voice. His heartbreaking rendition of this classic song was greeted with a rapturous standing ovation – and a star was born!

After taking his performance of Jean Valjean to London’s West End, Alfie returned to his roots and has now established himself as one of the greatest performers that the UK has ever produced.

This past Friday, I was lucky enough to see Alfie perform live for the first time. I should also explain something before I go on – I went to the concert with my parents, as the tickets were their Christmas present. They had both seen Alfie perform in Les Miserables and said that his version of “Bring Him Home” was one of the best things they had ever heard! Me on the other hand, I had only heard Alfie sing on YouTube or on the TV. And I will be honest, the main reason I booked myself a ticket to go with my parents was so that I could hear him sing THAT song!

Little did I know that I would leave the National Indoor Arena that night (in the Siberian weather conditions!) being, as one of my lovely followers stated, well and truly Boe-d!!!

From top to bottom, the concert was magnificent! Such an eclectic range of songs which showcased every level of Alfie’s stunning voice – from enchanting slow ballads, to rock classics, even performing in different languages – no matter what style of music you like, Alfie had something for you!

Starting off with current album tracks “It’s Over“, and one of my favourites “The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Anymore“, the set-list took us on a journey through the songs that Alfie loves, as well as the songs that his fans love him for. For me, hearing him sing for the first time ever, I could not get over how versatile his voice was – I mean, I knew he was good, but I was totally blown away! It was also great as an audience member to see how much fun Alfie was having on stage – this was a chance for him to unleash his inner rock-star, and he certainly did that with a little Elvis and Jimi Hendrix mixed in for good measure!

Stand out moments for me were, as I just said “The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Anymore“, “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face“, “Please Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood” and “Bridge Over Troubled Water.”

And how can I forget THAT song? Being the HUGE Les Mis fan that you all know I am, when I heard the opening chords of “Bring Him Home”, I knew that I was about to experience something special – this was the sole reason I had come to the show. And I am glad to say that Alfie didn’t let me down! His absolutely breath-taking version of this song took me on the rollercoaster of emotions that it always does during Les Mis – and then some! (Even if I did have to turn round and tell the drunk woman behind me, who was singing along very loudly and badly to shut up! Nothing was ruining that moment for me!) It earned Alfie yet another standing ovation from everyone in the Arena, and with tears streaming down my face, I had gained yet another magical memory – and ticked something else off my Theatre Bucket List!

A special mention must also go out to support act Emilia Mitiku – who has the most stunning voice and even being heavily pregnant, commanded the stage with a classy and stylish grace that totally endeared her to the audience. This girl is going to be a BIG star – make sure you check her out!

As you can see, I had a sensational evening, and I am so glad that I booked myself that extra ticket to go! I will definitely be going back to see Mr Boe next time he is in town!

Signing off for now,

Blue Eyed Girl Xxx

Phantom of the Opera UK Tour – Opening Night in my Hometown!!!

So anyone who knows me knows what a HUGE Phantom of the Opera fan I am – and I talk about this phenomenal show on a regular basis on this blog!

But I have been very blessed this week as this sensational 25th Anniversary production of the show – that has been touring all over the UK since January 2012, has FINALLY come to my hometown of Birmingham and had it’s first preview this past Wednesday. Needless to say, I was in attendance! 🙂

I had visited the Tour before, but it had been 11 months since my last visit! Yes – you read that right – 11 months! All the way back in April 2012, I spent a few days in Manchester, where I was honoured and privileged to see this production for the first time. Those two visits will stay in my heart for so many reasons – my first ever visit to Manchester, the first time I met the person that I now consider to be my closest friend, and the first time I was witness to the outstanding talents of Katie Hall, Simon Bailey and the magnificent John Owen Jones (who became my favourite Phantom bar none in less than 1 show!)

Fast forward to March 2013 – and there have been many changes!

Earl Carpenter now leads the cast as the masked man, and some key scenes have been changed ever so slightly! But, one thing I can say is that this cast, from ensemble all the way through to the leads, continue to be some of the most talented people I have ever seen on a stage!

When I walked into the Birmingham Hippodrome on Wednesday evening (which was looking particularly splendid adorned in it’s Phantom regalia!), I knew I was going to be in for a brilliant evening – but never did I expect to enjoy the show as much as I did!

You all know the story, so I will focus on what stood out most to me!

The sets continue to be absolutely sensational and for a touring production, they are of such a high standard! My particular favourites have to be the journey down and the reveal of the Lair during the title song, and all the effects that go with “Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again” followed by the Confrontation (and I don’t mean Les Mis!)

The slight changes that have been made since Earl took over are also extremely effective. And when I say slight, I do mean slight! From single words, to standing on the stage – if you hadn’t seen the show before, you wouldn’t spot them! But being the “huge geek” that my friends say I am (and proud may I add!), I picked up on quite a few! The most obvious change had me in floods of tears! I won’t say exactly what – all I will say is the end of the Final Lair – if you don’t usually get emotional about it, I guarantee you will now!

The cast, as I said before, continues to blow me away with the amount of talent that they all possess! Earl is a very different Phantom to John Owen Jones, but he still brings a charismatic quality to the Phantom, and his Music of the Night was truly beautiful! Katie Hall has grown so much as a performer since I last saw her – and she completely blew me away at this performance! Her vocal range is totally unbelievable, and she was absolutely enchanting throughout. Simon Bailey continues to combine the suave and sophisticated with the arrogance and strength that makes him one of the best Raouls I have ever seen – and his vocals continue to be absolutely superb. They are backed up by a ridiculously talented cast (with a special shout out to the wonderful David Phipps Davis!) who continue to show why they have made this Tour become such an amazing success!

I am very lucky and blessed to say that I will be going back to see this show on a number of occasions while it is here – seems wrong not to! Ha ha!

For more information about tickets and availability, check out www.birminghamhippodrome.com or on Twitter @brumhippodrome

Signing off for now

Blue Eyed Girl Xxx

West End Has Faith – Blue Eyed Girl interviews . . . Katy Treharne


I first had the privilege of seeing Katy Treharne perform when I visited Phantom of the Opera in August 2012. Her portrayal of Christine Daae was absolutely enchanting and Katy was also an absolute sweetheart to chat to at the Stage Door post show too!

Since then, Katy has taken on many challenges, including a Tour of Sweden with former London Phantom Peter Joback, as well as taking on the role of Nina in Gillian Lynne’s production of Dear World.

Now, she is taking on yet another challenge, but this is one that is very close to her heart. Katy is the main organiser for “West End Has Faith” – a concert where a variety of West End performers will join together to share their faith in aid of three very worthy charities.

Designed by @_RachelSuzanne
 


I had the chance to sit down with Katy and chat about the event, and what she hopes it will achieve . . .

What was the inspiration behind West End Has Faith?

 
My inspiration for this event comes from my own personal beliefs. I am a Christian and wanted to give something back with the talent God gave me. I have been fortunate enough to sing in some wonderful venues and play great parts but this concert is to show that behind my voice there is a lot more, which I can also safely say for a lot of the performers singing with me. There is nothing more powerful than singing from the deepest part of your heart about what you believe in. Spending time chatting to David Birch (my partner in crime!) certainly inspired me to get on with it and plan the concert. I said it was something that I had wanted to do for a long time but hadn’t plucked up the courage to do. David’s reply to this was simply, if God keeps putting it on your heart you know its something he wants you to do. David’s strength of faith has inspired me and I can’t wait for people to hear him speak at the concert. 
 
What can the audience coming to the event expect?

The audience can expect a night filled with music, love and hope. It will have a Christian underlying message but there will be an eclectic mix of music, something for everyone. From classical to Michael Jackson! It will be an evening full of positivity and we want everyone to enjoy themselves, let go and be inspired regardless of your beliefs! I have no idea whether an event like this has happened with West End singers before so its an experiment as well. You don’t have to be a Christian to enjoy it, see what personal message it brings to you. Ask the question what does faith mean to you? Faith in God, faith in your friends and family, faith in humanity as a whole, even faith in yourself and your decisions. Its an evening of discovery, I want people to leave thinking about what they have just experienced, maybe being enlightened or even confused, but left thinking. In a world where so many bad, negative, oppressing matters are always been shown in the media, we want show that you can have faith in others and even in God if you want, he’s accessible to everyone. 
 
How did you go about gathering such an amazing group of performers?

Well the people I have asked are all friends actually! I have been blessed to have either worked with a lot of these people or met through mutual friends with the same beliefs as me. Everyone involved are being extremely generous with their time. Its difficult to get actors/singers on a Sunday when they have a gruelling 8 shows a week schedule. Everyone involved truly believe in this great cause and I hope all the performers involved will also form friendships from working together under the same banner.  
 
Designed by @_RachelSuzanne
 
What do you hope the legacy of West End Has Faith will be?

I was discussing this with David last week. It would be great for this to be a platform of some kind. Of course it would be fantastic for the night to be a great success and continue to do concerts for different charities. I am also hoping that this will bring people together in the West End and start group meetings, prayer meetings, even social events and spend time with people in theatre who are also Christians. It would be great to set up a support group where people can come with prayer requests, someone to talk to etc… the list is endless, but I hope that this is a possibility.
 
If you had to convince my readers to come down to West End Has Faith – and you only had 10 words to do it in, what would you say?

Come with a open heart and open mind to experience joy! (sorry 11 words!)
 
West End Has Faith takes place on Sunday 7th April at the Actor’s Church, Covent Garden, London. Tickets cost £20 and can be purchased from www.eventbrite.co.uk. For more information about the event, you can also check out Twitter @WestEndHasFaith
 
I wish Katy and the whole team all the best of luck for what I am sure will be a sensational evening – and thanks again to Katy for taking the time to chat to me!
 
Signing off for now,
 
Blue Eyed Girl Xxx

Taylor Rowan and Hughes PRESENT "Kandy Kottage!"

 
Over the past few months, I have had the honour and privilege to introduce you all to the stunning song-writing talents of Taylor Rowan and Hughes, while also getting to know two wonderful individuals.
 
Back in December, their enchanting Christmas single “Your Presence”, performed by the breath-taking Shona Lindsay was featured here on the blog, and more recently, I posted an article promoting their Page to Stage Showcase at the Landor Theatre.
 
Now, I am so pleased to say, they are back! Joan Taylor Rowan and Gary Albert Hughes are currently preparing to showcase their own original musicalKandy Kottage” at the Landor Theatre on 14th March.
 
 
‘Kandy Kottage’ follows the story of Kevin, a timid teenager whose entire existence is spent in a sweetshop he runs for his overbearing Mother. Lonely and unable to cope with the world outside, he must find someone to bring perfection into his world of confection. Kevin embarks on a mission to win the heart of Greta, a sweet toothed ingènue who dreams of Hollywood stardom. Giving him advice, encouragement  and warnings along the way are his imaginary female sidekicks, The Kandy Kremes. Greta has a passion for sweets, but not for Kevin, so he decides to woo her in the only way he knows how – with sugar! Temples of toffee, palaces of pear drops, sweet sculptures bloom under Kevin’s hands as he tries to wow her with his tantalisingly tasty works of art. But not all fairytales have a happy ending. To what lengths will Kevin go to keep Greta for himself?
 
**Check out this introduction to the show https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U_IzYMto9w0 **
 
I was thrilled to sit down for a chat with Joan and Gary to discuss their highlights of the past few months, their plans for 2013, as well as what we can expect from their bitter-sweet new musical . . .

Since we first featured you and your Christmas single “Your Presence”, so much has happened! What has been your highlight of 2013 so far?

GARY: Gosh yes, SO much has happened. We’ve had so many highlights is hard to choose one! We had our first ever public concert of songs in the West End in February, so that was a very special evening for us. We had a packed venue full of friendly faces, family and followers of our work, which means the world to us! Also we have just been asked to write a new charity fund raising single for Shooting Star Chase, a hospice for children with terminal illnesses. We have got some MASSIVE names expressing interest in singing on the track, but I can’t confirm any of that yet unfortunately. I can tell you however that the fabulous Stuart Morley, musical director for We Will Rock You, will be producing the track and musically directing! We are THRILLED to have him on board. It is very exciting and it is AMAZING to be able to use our song writing skills for an amazing cause.
 
Your first musical – entitled “Kandy Kottage” – will be showcased at the Landor Theatre on March 14th – what was the inspiration behind the concept for it?
 
JOAN: I used to live in a London street that had a very old fashioned sweetshop run by a father and son. This was in my mind when I wrote the story. I also love birds and was fascinated by the bower bird which attracts a mate by making remarkable displays of colourful objects and somehow it all came together in the story – and of course I love sweets. I love stories that have a magical element to them, whilst being firmly based in a recognisable world. In London, I’m always seeing odd things, that make you stop and stare and wonder what that person is up to, or how some object landed where it did!
 
GARY: I first heard the short story ‘Kandy Kottage’ being read at The Liar’s League, a short story showcase evening that happens monthly for up and coming writers to showcase their work. The stories are read by actors, which really adds something wonderful to the evening. Anyway, I was captivated by this particular story and it just stuck with me. It wasn’t until a year later that I had a moment in the bath where in a flash it just occurred to me that ‘Kandy Kottage’ would make a wonderful musical. Then the mission of finding out who the writer was and how to get in touch. All I had to go on was ‘sweet shop story liar’s league’. About 60 pages of Google later, a frozen shoulder and eyes hanging on the floor, I found ‘Kandy Kottage by Joan Taylor-Rowan’. We met, hit it off and the rest is history. We have a wonderful working relationship and a dear friendship.
 
What can we as an audience expect from “Kandy Kottage”?
 
JOAN: Well it’s quirky, funny in places but with a dark undercurrent. A son with repressed desires, an embittered mother and a starstruck girl, and the tale unfolds with the help of the Kandy Kremes, three smart cookies with opinions on everything, who live inside Kevin’s head!
 
If you could choose any West End performer, past or present, to be involved in “Kandy Kottage”, who would it be and why?
 
GARY: Well, first of all, the cast I have are amazing and they are in it because I know, love and respect them all as people, performers and musicians. It is very important for me when I am in charge of who sings my music, that they be outstanding MUSICIANS as well as singers. Coming from a classically trained background, it is important for me that singers instinctively know how to phrase, back phrase when needed, where to build tension and release it, how and where to use vibrato and everything like that. The pool of singers I am currently working with have this wonderful ability to do all of those things and I rarely have to ask for anything from them except to just do what they think is right, and it usually is! They just do it.
 

Hannah Blake and Jamie Sheasby
(Greta and Kevin in “Kandy Kottage”)

 

The Kandy Kremes – (left to right) Lucyelle Cliffe, Jody Ellen Robinson,

and Kate Scott

 

GARY: In terms of singing our stand alone songs and West End names, I am a massive fan of people like Gina Beck, Louise Dearman, Ramin Karimloo – the list is endless! But these singers are most definitely musical theatre voices, but they have something very distinctive that makes them THEM if you know what I mean? They craft and colour their voices and their performances intelligently, and are not bland in the slightest. We are hoping that all three of these singers will want to sing on our charity fund raising single Shooting Starhint hint.

If you had to convince us to come and see “Kandy Kottage”, and you only had 10 words to do it in, what would you say?
 
JOAN: surprising, lyrical, sinister, fantastical, quirky
GARY: dark, delicious, touching, funny, magical
 
**Check out these videos from Taylor Rowan and Hughes’ recent gigs, showcasing some of the songs you will hear in “Kandy Kottage”: –
 


What’s next for Taylor Rowan and Hughes in 2013?

GARY: We are just trying to ‘make it happen’. We write songs for people to sing and for people to hear. So if as many people get to hear our music as possible then I will happy. We want to make an album of our songs, and we have started writing for artists such as up and coming classical crossover star Justine Balmer, so we definitely want to do more of that for singers’ albums. We have ‘Shooting Star’, the charity fundraising single coming up this year, and we will hopefully be putting ‘Kandy Kottage in for a full run!
JOAN: I love writing with Gary, so the more of that the better. I’d love to have an album of our songs, and to see a fully staged version of Kandy Kottage. I’d also like to meet Judi Dench HAHA!
 
To keep up to date with all the exciting news about “Kandy Kottage”, as well as details about attending the show, visit www.facebook.com/KandyKottage. You can also keep up with all of Taylor Rowan and Hughes’ exciting projects by checking out www.taylorrowanhughes.com, www.gartyalberthughes.com or over on Twitter @TRowan_Hughes, @G_AHughes or @JoanTRowan  
 
Gary and Joan are two of the sweetest, kindest and most talented people I have ever had the privilege to know and they deserve so much success in everything they do! Please show your support at the Landor Theatre on 14th March if you can – I promise you won’t regret it!
 
Signing off for now,
 
Blue Eyed Girl Xxx