Firstly, let me apologise in advance! This is very much a belated (and a very soppy!) birthday blog – but nevertheless, here we go!
I can’t actually believe that Thoughts of a Blue Eyed Girl is now 1 year old! It seems like only yesterday that it was suggested to me (as a joke!) that I should start a blog writing about all the theatre that I go and see. 12 months on, and who knew what that suggestion would do for me both as a theatre fan, and as a person?
This blog has opened so many doors and given me so many opportunities to see shows I never thought I’d see, to do things I never thought I’d do, and to meet people I never thought I’d meet! And you have no idea how much I have adored every single second of it!
I wanted to celebrate my Blog birthday by looking back at some of my highlights of the past 12 months. It was so difficult to choose just a few, but here we go!
The biggest opportunity that the blog presented to me was to be able to interview some phenomenal West End performers. After starting my Blog in May 2012, and doing a number of reviews and features, I was beginning to wonder how I could take my writing to the next level. Then, Selena – a very good friend of mine – suggested interviews and a light bulb went off! Here is where I must give a special mention to Simon Bailey – who was my first interviewee. Without him taking a chance on me and agreeing to the interview, I would never have been able to interview so many amazing and inspirational performers and for that I am eternally grateful to him!
Special thanks must also go to all my interviewees for being so brilliant and so supportive in answering my questions – Taylor Rowan and Hughes, Nadim Naaman, Laura Tisdall, John Owen Jones, Craig Mather, Rosie Ladkin, Kristian Lavercombe, Scott Garnham, Katy Treharne (and everyone at West End Has Faith), Anna O’Byrne, Marcus Lovett, CJ De Mooi, Nathaniel Morrison and Lauren Varnham.
PHANTOM OF THE OPERA UK TOUR
One of the most momentous events of my Blogging year has been The Phantom of the Opera 25th Anniversary UK Tour. I never thought that when I saw this show for the first time in Manchester in April 2012, that it would lead me on such a voyage of discovery and introduce me to so many wonderful people – both from an audience and performer perspective.
It introduced me to my now favourite Phantom – John Owen Jones, who I had only heard perform on CD/recording before my visit to Manchester. It also showed me how unbelievably phenomenal Earl Carpenter is as a performer – his performance was sensational every time I saw him! It introduced me to a company of outstandingly brilliant performers – including the stunningly beautiful Katie Hall, the phenomenally talented Olivia Brerton, the charismatic Simon Bailey and the divinely brilliant David Phipps Davis. But it introduced me to so many people who I would never have met if it had not been for the show. Finally, having my favourite musical visit my home town on the final leg of its’ ridiculously LONG tour, and being able to take my own class – some of them having never been to the theatre before EVER – to see the show is a moment that I will cherish all my days!
The Phantom Tour, along with Twitter (see, it is a good thing!), also allowed me to meet so many wonderful people, who have all made my life better for having met them! There are too many to mention here – for fear of missing anyone out! Just know I love you all – and thank you for all of the laughs, joy, rants, tears and inspiration you have given me over the past year. Despite that, I must include this picture and say to my guardian angels – I honestly don’t know what I would do without you!
MEETING INSPIRATIONAL PERFORMERS
Seeing so many shows has also introduced me to so many inspirational performers who I have so much respect and admiration for in everything they do! It has been a true blessing to meet so many of them – but there are a few that truly touched my heart!
Getting the chance to finally meet Anna O’Byrne – after watching her perform on my Love Never Dies DVD so many times – was a truly special moment. Not only is she one of the sweetest and kindest people I have ever had the privilege of meeting, her performance as Christine in The Brilliant Original was nothing short of perfection! She will be greatly missed when she leaves Her Majesty’s later this month – but what a legacy she will leave! Thank you Anna for being so wonderful to me!
And then there’s Marcus Lovett! Not only is his performance as The Phantom one of the best I have ever seen – but he is also one of the sweetest, funniest, most gracious performers I have ever met! I first met him in January after being totally spellbound by his portrayal as the Masked Man, and also in April when I went to say a quick hello before one of his matinee performances. On both occasions, I left our chats with the biggest smile on my face as I couldn’t get over that a performer of such amazing talent, magnitude and grace was giving me the time of the day in the way that he did! (He even complimented my blog too – which, well, meant everything!) Eternally grateful to you Sir!
Finally, there is the Les Mis “Dream Team” – Geronimo Rauch and Tam Mutu! After being introduced to this show through the earth-shattering performances of Ramin Karimloo and Hadley Fraser (more on them later), I didn’t think that anyone could match the standard they had set in my eyes. WRONG! Geronimo and Tam not only met but completely exceeded my expectations and they have fast become two of the most charismatic, dynamic and kind-hearted performers I have ever seen and met!
Tam is just unbelievably brilliant as Javert – and every time I see him, he just gets better and better! He has always been such a sweetheart when I have met him at Stage Door, and – as many West End performers do – will always take the time to stop and chat to me, even after the longest of show days! Despite the fact that I get it wrong sometimes – like when I mentioned football on the day his beloved Manchester United had been beaten! – he is so gracious, so warm-hearted and an all round wonderful gentleman!
Geronimo was very much an unknown entity to me when he arrived at Queens – as he was to many people. But all it took was one performance – and I had a new favourite Valjean! (Sorry Ramin!) His performance was absolutely spine-chilling and utterly mesmerising and even now, having seen him perform on so many occasions since last August, he never fails to take me on a rollercoaster of emotions throughout Les Mis, as well as reducing me to a sobbing heap when he sings “Bring Him Home.” He is probably sick to death of seeing me at the Queens Stage Door so often, usually grinning like a Cheshire Cat! But when you find a performer that moves you emotionally as much as he does with me, then showing your respect and admiration to them in any way possible is a MUST. Thank you for always being so lovely Gero!
SPREADING MY WINGS
I was able to spread my wings even further with my style of articles in April this year when the super wonderful Katy Treharne allowed me exclusive backstage access to her “West End Has Faith” event. I can honestly say it was one of the most surreal days of my life – but also one of the most amazing too! Being able to see how much work goes into a show like that, watching as performers sound-checked and being able to chat to them about the event too – just unbelievable!
Being approached by composer extraordinaire Gary Albert Hughes to write features about his music and song-writing partnership with Joan Taylor Rowan was also a truly special moment for me and one I will never forget! Gary is one of the sweetest people I have ever met (even if we have only met in person for all of about 5 minutes!) and a true friend! Can’t wait to work with you again lovely!
Not only did I continue to write for my own Blog, I was also able to spread my wings and write for other websites. I am eternally grateful to Neil over at www.lastminutetheatretickets.com for allowing me the opportunity to write a review for his website about my visit to see James McAvoy in Macbeth. When I was a little Blue Eyed Girl, being a journalist was always one of my dreams – and writing this review gave me the chance to fulfil that dream, even just in a tiny way – so thank you Neil!
I have seen so many new shows this year, there are too many to mention here! But I must make a special shout-out to two productions that will be etched on my memory for many years to come, and quite conveniently – they are both National Theatre productions!
War Horse and Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time were truly two of the most spectacular productions that I have ever seen. Both in their simplistic beauty and their sensitive subject matter – these plays showed me that the West End is not just all about glitzy big staged musicals (Shock horror – did I just say that?) These shows that I could see over and over again – and if you haven’t seen either of these, I would encourage you to get tickets as soon as you can!
Another production which has had an astonishing impact on me is ONCE.
After hearing so much about this show from friends, and having been in love with the soundtrack for such a long time, when I heard the production would be transferring to London from Broadway – well, to say I was excited is a MAJOR understatement! And I can honestly say it was one of the best things I have ever seen in a theatre! It was everything I wanted it to be and then some – and I can only pray that it gets the success that it so thoroughly deserves!
RAMIN AND HADLEY
There was no way that I could end this post without talking about two very special performers who I have so much respect and admiration for, in everything they do!
Having witnessed a number of his gigs – at 12 Bar Club for “Off Duty Thursday“, at St James Studio in October and as part of Sheytoons in February 2013 – it is astonishing to me that no one has ever offered Hadley a record deal! He is one of the most talented singer-songwriters I have ever come across and his own material is up there with anything in the charts today. I think some producer somewhere is missing out BIG TIME on this man’s talents.
These gigs have also allowed me to experience so many “moments” too! From hearing the first ever live performance of “How Many Times“, which he had only finished writing a few days before at “Off Duty Thursday“, to hearing him perform the enchanting “Again” by Scott Alan live back in October (a song that makes me cry every time, and the fact that I was seeing Hadley sing it live was totally overwhelming). Not forgetting Hadley and Ramin on stage together for the first time with an impromptu performance of “Driftwood” to rocking the house at Broadway to Bluegrass . . . Ish right up to Sheytoons Derby Day – the list goes on and on!
I know I have said it once, but I will say it again – I have so much respect and admiration for Hadley – not just for his performances or his songwriting (both which are all kinds of brilliant), but for the kind of man he is. He always takes so much time to greet his fans, chatting to them, signing autographs, taking pictures and all the time with a smile on his face even when he must be exhausted! Hadley has also always been so kind and gracious to me on the times when I have met him – and for that, I am forever grateful!
There you have it – a year of Thoughts of A Blue Eyed Girl! There were so many people I wanted to thank and so many memories that I wanted to share – but I would be hear until next Christmas if I did!
Just know that I am so thankful for each and every person that has contributed to making this such a phenomenal year – even if you are not listed by name here, then know that I haven’t forgotten any of you and you all mean the world to me!
Here’s to more adventures in 2013 and beyond!
Signing off for now,
Blue Eyed Girl Xxx