Celebrating My 1st Blogging Birthday – A Year of Thoughts of a Blue Eyed Girl!

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!

INTERVIEWS
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, Selenaa 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 classsome of them having never been to the theatre before EVER – to see the show is a moment that I will cherish all my days!

 


FRIENDSHIP
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 sometimeslike 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 performanceand 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 wayso thank you Neil!

NEW SHOWS
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!

ONCE
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!

It may seem sad to say – but I have a lot to thank these two for, especially Ramin! If I had never seen Ramin perform his Night with the Phantom Tour, I would never have seen Les Mis. If I had never seen Les Mis, I would never have discovered Hadley’s amazing talent. If I had never discovered Hadley’s amazing talent, I would not have been witness to some of the most memorable gigs I have ever been to at the St James Theatre – you see what I mean!
 
I have always had so much admiration for Ramin and how he gives every part of his being to each of his performances – be it in a scripted role, like Jean Valjean or to his own concerts – you can never say he is “taking it easy” – even though  every movement, every note, every line looks effortless!
 
His May 2012 concert tour introduced me to so many wonderful people who I now consider friends for life.
 
 My darling Claire, who I first met at Ramin’s Dress Circle signing and we have been friends ever since!
 
Having seen him in his own concerts, Les Mis and at his Dress Circle album signing prior to this, it also showed me what an artist he had become. Ramin was no longer just “that guy who was the Phantom“, he was an artist in his own right. And I was privileged to be there to see that part of the journey.
 
 
It has also been a pleasure since then to see his star shine even brighter! Popping up at Hadley’s St James Studio gigs in October, his involvement with the West End Men, the AMAZING Broadway to Bluegrass . . . Ish gig, Sheytoons Derby Day and his performance at Katy Treharne’s West End Has Faith event – it just shows what a talented, kind hearted and diverse performer he is.
 
I may not be the loudest or most vocal “fan” but I am truly proud to call myself a supporter of this wonderful man – and wish him nothing but success, happiness and blessings for his current North American adventure which will culminate with his return to Valjean in Canada in September.
 
Now, Hadley!
 
 
Since discovering his astonishing talent and all round loveliness back in Les Mis during the first part of 2012, it has been an absolute honour and privilege to see Hadley not only as a phenomenal West End performer, but as a ridiculously talented artist in his own right (just like Ramin – but in a very different way!)
 


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 himand 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

Hairspray UK Tour – 25th May 2013

(Picture from www.ents24.com)
 
Another half term break away from work seemed like the best time for my next theatre visit! After being away from the theatre for nearly a month (this is like an age to me!), I returned to the Birmingham Hippodrome for a visit to the all singing, all dancing, uplifting spectacular that is HAIRSPRAY!
 
I have been very lucky to see the show on two previous occasions, both also at the Hippodrome several years back, but I was not about to pass up the chance to see a show of this pure brilliance, as well as a cast with such epic potential!
 
And I can say that once again, the show did not disappoint!
 
(Picture taken from hairspraythetour.com)
 
Newcomer Freya Sutton was astonishingly brilliant in the role of Tracey, and even now, I still can’t believe that this show is her professional debut! She acts and sings like she has been doing it for years – this girl has such a bright future and I predict big things for her! Her pairing with American Luke Striffler (Link) produced some of the shows most heart warming moments as the audience were willing them throughout to end up together!
 
Also in his professional theatre debut, former X Factor runner up Marcus Collins (Seaweed) lights up the stage at every moment and his star shines throughout, particularly during the super catchyRun and Tell That.” He should certainly be immensely proud of everything he has achieved  – and he is another cast member who has a bright, bright future ahead of them!
 
The “Dynamic Duos” in the show also shone! Lucy Benjamin and Gemma Sutton (Velma and Amber Von Tussle) were devilishly brilliant and played off the rest of the cast so well. Lucy in particular was a laugh a minute as the manipulative producer, and her reaction when she was announced as the new CEO of UltraGlow (for Women of Colour), which involved her almost vibrating across the floor was absolutely hilarious! 
 
A special mention must also go to Mark Benton and Paul Rider as Tracey’s lovable parents Edna and Wilbur Turnblad. They kept the audience’s attention every time they stepped on stage and their comic timing was second to none! “You’re Timeless to Me” continues to be one of my favourite songs in the show – and these two absolutely brought the house down with their rendition!
 
I can not finish this review without mentioning the unbelievable talent of Sandra Marvin (Motormouth Maybelle)
 
(Picture taken from uktheatre.net)
 
She is one of the feistiest, most passionate performers I have ever had the privilege to witness on stage – and Motormouth Maybelle suited her down to the ground! I adored her version of “Big, Blonde and Beautiful” (That song is about me – don’t you know?) but what can I say about her performance of “I Know Where I’ve Been“? WOW! WOW! WOW! Utterly breathtaking, absolutely spine chilling and it took the roof off the Hippodrome! What a phenomenal talent this woman is!
 
If you were unsure about getting a ticket to see this show, Sandra’s performance is worth the ticket price alone! It is one that MUST NOT be missed!
 
Hairspray is in Birmingham until 1st June, before moving on to Belfast, Cardiff, Nottingham and other cities all across the UK. Check out http://www.hairspraythetour.com/ for more details
 
Signing off for now
 
Blue Eyed Girl Xxx 
 


Blue Eyed Girl interviews . . . Lauren Varnham

(Picture taken from westendframe.com)


Lauren Varnham has had a truly spectacular rise to stardom. After training at Laine Theatre Arts, she has gone on to perform in such West End hits as “Hairspray“, “Carousel” and (for our younger audience) – “High School Musical.” However, she is probably best known for her roles in the brilliant “We Will Rock You“, which has recently celebrated 11 years in the West End.

Lauren is currently starring in the Chichester Festival production of “The Pajama Game” which is earning rave reviews and standing ovations night after night.

I was very lucky to speak to Lauren in amongst her busy schedule about her time at the Dominion Theatre, her favourite shows to watch, getting all Pajama-ery in Chichester as well as some very exciting personal projects that she has lined up . . .

Tell us a little known fact about yourself – something we wouldn’t know by looking at you.
For my We Will Rock You audition, I put pink fluffy socks down my bra to make myself look more curvy! Haha… This was before I knew that in a show they give you padded show bras so I needn’t have bothered! LOL!

What is the best musical or play you have ever seen?

Well this is a tricky one because I have seen so many that are brilliant throughout out my life! But I must say, I went to watch HAIRSPRAY the other day and LOVED it! I was in it in town but when you are in a show, you don’t get to see what it’s like from the front (unless as a cover, you get a show watch to take notes on the part you cover) and it was just great. The script was brilliant, and works so well. The songs are catchy and I saw a wonderful cast so it made it! I left the theatre with the biggest grin on my face and I just wanted to stand up and sing and clap the whole way through!

You are probably best known for the time you spent at We Will Rock You – was it as fun to perform in as it looked?

YES! I had the best time at Rock You, and I would go back in a heartbeat. I only left because I felt being 24 years old, I needed to do some other different things. I had a great cast and the audience were what made the show. When you can feel their energy from the stage, it makes the show feel alive. And the Dominion is such a great theatre to play. I am very thankful for my 2 years there!

(Picture courtesy of hotticketoffers.com)
 

You are currently starring in The Pajama Game as part of the Chichester Festival 2013. For those lucky enough to have tickets, what can they expect from the show?
Well! I’m sure most people are excited for Hadley Fraser and Joanna Riding! I was just as excited knowing I would be working with them. Apart from the whole cast being absolutely AMAZING! We have some wonderful choreography by Stephen Mear. The creative team Stephen, Sir Richard Eyre, and Gareth Valentine have nurtured the show and created something really special. Watching the show, I feel the audience will be taken on a journey by every single character. We all have our own stories to tell, along with the actual plotted storyline.

 
In 10 words, what would you say to convince people, currently without tickets, to come along?

Get tickets now, you’ll be sorry you missed it otherwise!!!!

The “Pajama Game” cast in action (Picture courtesy of broadwayworld.com)
 

Finally, tell us about your upcoming charity album.
The idea for this CD and the ‘A Cuppa Music’ Event (2nd June 2013) was born after I lent my vocals to the backing track for a slide show the charity were putting together to highlight the children supported by the charity. I always dreamed of making my own Musical Theatre CD. ‘Peterson’s Fund for Children’ decided to help make my dreams a reality by sponsoring my very first CD featuring the finest musical theatre selections that are both near and dear to my heart. In an effort to promote this CD, the charity founder Charlene Peterson and I have organised a concert, which will feature me doing a selection of songs from the album as well as a group of my West End friends, who will be performing too!

The link above will take you to the page to get tickets for my charity gig on the 2nd June. That will be the first time my album will be on sale. It is a very exciting time for me and the charity as we hope to raise as much money as possible for Peterson’s Fund For Children.

The Pajama Game runs in Chichester until 8th June (I am very lucky to be visiting myself on 1st June!) – tickets are VERY limited so it is best to check availability over at https://bookings.cft.org.uk/selectdate.asp?SID=2862 Don’t forget to click on the above link to check out details of Lauren’s concert and upcoming album too!

Thank you so much to the very wonderful Lauren for taking time out of her busy schedule to chat to me – such a lovely and kind-hearted lady who I wish all the success in the world!

Signing off for now,

Blue Eyed Girl Xxx

Blue Eyed Girl interviews . . . CJ De Mooi

(Picture from www.demooi.co.uk)
 
CJ De Mooi is probably best known for his appearances on the BBC Quiz Show “Eggheads“, where he would pit his amazing wealth of knowledge against a team of challengers.
 
But there is more to this super talented man than that!
 
The public profile that he achieved as a result of “Eggheads” allowed him to expand and broaden his horizons, which included a range of charity work, writing his own book on how to win Quiz shows, as well as a return to his first love – acting.
 
CJ is currently starring in “GEEK – A New Musical“, which he not only produced but also performs in as the feisty Ms Axel. The show is currently playing to rave reviews at The Tristan Bates Theatre.
 
I was very lucky to be able to chat to CJ who took time out of his very busy schedule to speak to me about all things GEEK!
 
Tell us a little known fact about yourself – something we wouldn’t know by looking at you.

I have a third nipple. You’re welcome.

What is the best play or musical you have ever seen?

Best play was Frost/Nixon with Michael Sheen and Frank Langella before they went to make the movie, which I didn’t think was as good.

The best musical was The Last Session with Darren Day which was also at the Tristan Bates Theatre. A truly moving piece which brought tears to my eyes several times.

What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given? And what advice would you give to young people just starting in the industry – as either a performer or as a writer?
The advice I would give is very simple. Don’t.

If you can think of anything else at all that could make you happy, do it. If you wake up in the morning and acting is the only thing that will put a smile on your face, go for it. The chances of you succeeding are terribly small but which would you regret more – failing or not having tried?
 
CJ as Ms Axel with GEEK! co-star Ewen Macintosh (Picture courtesy of www.tristanbatestheatre.co.uk)
 
You are about to debut your own original musical GEEK! Tell us about what we can expect.
As much as I would love to have the talent to write music, Geek! was written by Scott Morgan. Imagine your typical, sweet, fluffy high school musical. That’s not our show. Alcoholic nymphomaniac teachers, transvestites, gay jocks, suicidal goths and sex dolls which are frequently defiled. That’s Geek!
 
In 10 words or less, convince my readers why they should come and see the show!

Look at the previous list!

 
“GEEK – A New Musical” is at the Tristan Bates Theatre until 18th May. You can get your tickets via the GEEK website at http://www.geekmusical.co.uk/index.html or get the latest news from the show and its fabulous cast on Twitter @GeekANewMusical. You can also follow CJ on Twitter @cjdemooi
 
Big thanks to CJ for taking the time to chat to me – it was appreciated more than you know!
 
Signing off for now,
 
Blue Eyed Girl Xxx


Blue Eyed Girl interviews . . . Nathaniel Morrison

I first came across the vibrant, exuberant personality of Nathaniel Morrison back at West End Has Faith at the start of April. I had never heard of Nathaniel before, and I had never seen him perform either. So when this wonderful soul and very funny man bounded on to stage, along with the West End Gospel Choir, I knew we were in for a treat! The next 3 songs absolutely brought the house down at St Paul’s Church and it was rightly given a well deserved standing ovation!

I sat there looking at this man, who is so full of vitality, passionate about what he believes in, and so supportive and caring of those around him – and I knew that I HAD to find out more! Luckily, Nathaniel was gracious enough to chat to me about the West End Gospel Choir, what advice he would give to others, and his love for Whoopi Goldberg!

Tell us a little known fact about yourself – something we wouldn’t know by looking at you!

I am double jointed in both shoulders!! Eeeew!!!

What has been the biggest obstacle you have had to overcome in your career so far?

The biggest obstacle I’ve had to overcome in my career so far is deciding to go into it as at the time, it wasn’t looked upon as a respectable career to uphold by many people I knew and there were many oppositions, a lot of them from within.

On the flip side, what has been the highlight of your career so far? (If you could choose just one!)

As you can imagine there are many highlights along the way, especially considering I’ve been fortunate to be in musicals that are godly/spiritually orientated and be the founder of The West End Gospel Choir.

However, one awesome highlight would be meeting Whoopi Goldberg!  I’ve never met any A list celebrity as down to earth and as funny! I laughed my way through that particular contract and that experience came at a really crucial time in my life when I was particularly at my lowest so I was flowing with gratitude!

You are currently starring in the UK Tour of the fabulous musical “Hairspray” – what would you say to convince people to come and see the show?

If you wish to laugh, be moved, motivated, inspired, lifted and undergo a groundbreaking theatrical experience that breaks down the walls of racism and class as well witness a cast that can’t stop to breathe……what are you waiting for???

**Check out the BRAND NEW Hairspray Tour trailer – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eP-0vA_ZQac **

You are the founder and creative director of the West End Gospel Choir – why did you feel it was so important to put together such a unique group of such amazing talent?

At the time – there wasn’t many individual, theatrical, social, networking groups of a Christian persuasion, let alone a place for very talented aspiring or working artists to socialise, network and commune with other artists joining together and growing collectively as “one voice“, strengthening and gaining confidence in performance individually and singing music “they” love, ranging from such genres as Musical Theatre-Pop/Gospel-Classical.

I discovered a passion for this idea immediately and felt that it not only had my own best interests at heart but also those of any talented professional artist that wished to be part of such a collective, especially one that is for us by us.

** Watch the West End Gospel Choir perform at West End Live 2012 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8uiO3_h73q0 (Video courtesy of canuseeyourself) **

Both on a personal and professional level, what are your hopes and dreams for the rest of 2013?

It may sound vague and I could offer you a list of things that I wish to achieve for myself and the choir but my motto and encouragement to others in life is “Higher Heights and Deeper Depths!” This motto offers me/anyone the opportunity to pursue the greater good in every aspect of life enabling us to seize moments and press towards a standard that God, myself/yourself, family, friends and supporters are proud of.

I feel it is so important to press for a deeper/higher level of achievement in life, understanding that anything you wish for is/can be attainable with the energy and life God has blessed me with. I have 9 months left and so far…so good! I wish you and anyone reading this the best of luck, although you probably won’t need it if you try 😉

Nathaniel is a part of the current UK Tour of “Hairspray” – see if this wonderful production is coming to a city near you at http://www.hairspraythetour.com/ You can also follow Nathaniel on Twitter @natemorrison012, and the West End Gospel Choir @westendgospelchoir or over at http://www.westendgospelchoir.co.uk

Thank you so much to the lovey Nathaniel for taking the time to chat to me – can’t wait to see you when Hairspray gets to Birmingham!

Signing off for now,

Blue Eyed Girl Xxx

London Easter Extravaganza Part 2 – Singin In The Rain, A Chorus Line, Once, Macbeth and Les Miserables!

Hey there folks!

So here we go – part 2 of my London Easter Extravaganza! (You can read Part 1 here)

After a wonderful afternoon at the magical Top Hat, it was on to a new show that evening – but one very much from the same genre. For the first time since I saw Priscilla there, I would be returning to the Palace Theatre to see Singin In The Rain.


I had heard mixed reviews previously about the show – which if I am honest is one of the reasons I hadn’t visited earlier. However, with the shows current run due to end in June, I wanted to take the chance to see the original production – and this trip seemed like the perfect opportunity.

There were two big elements I was particularly excited about for this show – seeing the exquisite dancing of Mr Adam Cooper live and in person (again after hearing such phenomenal things!) and of course, I was really looking forward to getting “wet“! I hadn’t been brave enough to book front row tickets, but as my Row D tickets (and view) assured me, there was a VERY GOOD chance that I could get wet – and that was good enough for me!

 


Unfortunately on arrival, I discovered that I would not be witnessing the stunning talents of either Adam Cooper (Don) or Louise Bowden (Kathy). Despite this, I was still very intrigued to see what Matthew Malthouse and Charlotte Scott, along with Stephane Annelli (as Cosmo) and Jennifer Ellison (as Lina) would bring to the show!

I have to say – Singin in the Rain was another very classy show – and a perfect compliment to Top Hat as part of my very glamourous “Old School” day!

Matthew Malthouse (Don) oozed charisma and charm and showed Don to be a perfect mix of beloved movie icon and a man who wants to give his heart to the one he truly loves. His performance of the title track in particular was done with energy and passion – I think the overseas tourists sitting in front of me with their hoods up just encouraged him to kick that water even harder –  ha ha! Charlotte Scott’s performance as Kathy was utterly mesmerising. She performed every song she was involved in with such beauty and class that I am sure it won’t be long before this lady is a leading lady in her own right!

Special mentions must go to Stephane Annelli and Jennifer Ellison – who were nothing short of genius in their respective roles. Stephane brings so much energy and life to Cosmo, whose sense of humour was there to see by the bucket load. He made every audience member smile from start to finish – whether through his words or his spectacular dance moves – especially during “Moses Supposes.” Jennifer Ellison – despite being VERY pregnant – is just outstanding as Lina Lamont. Her comic timing is perfect and how she keeps that accent up for the whole show without dropping out of it once, I do not know!!! For me, she was the star of the show!

I would recommend a visit to see this very classy and very well produced show – if not in the West End, make sure you keep an eye out for the UK tour coming very soon!

So on to Day 6 – doesn’t time fly when you’re having fun!

On another two show day (just saying it makes me smile!), to start with, it was off to the Palladium to see A Chorus Line.


Yet another new show for me, where I did not know what to expect. However, I was thrilled to be returning to the Palladium – a venue I have grown to really love after my previous visits to see The Wizard of Oz and Sister Act (featuring Whoopi Goldberg herself no less!) The show seemed to have been popping up all over my TV in the weeks prior to my visit which only added to the intrigue. I had also been given a very sound piece of advice by friends who had visited the previews – use the Ladies pre-show as there is no interval! This shocked me quite a lot – could a show hold their audience’s attention for that long? And how tough must that have been on the performers?

But I have to say – I shouldn’t have been worried – as A Chorus Line turned out to be a truly wonderful show! With a very simple use of set, the show was all about the stories of each individual member of the “Chorus Line” – and despite there being quite a large number of them, you really felt you got to know each of them in their own special way. John Partridge leads the Line as choreographer Zach with poise and strength – you could definitely see his dance background shine through in all of the big dance numbers. And for me, the stand out of the Chorus Line had to be Leigh Zimmerman who exuded style, class and elegance throughout every moment she was on stage.


That evening was probably the most exciting show of the entire trip for me. After loving the soundtrack for so long, I was FINALLY going to see Once LIVE!

 
Once had recently transferred to London (you could say somewhat under the radar with all the hype over The Book of Mormon) and taken up residence at the Phoenix Theatre, after a brief stay in Dublin. In the former home of “Blood Brothers“, this was yet another theatre that was new to me. All I hoped when I arrived was that it would live up to my very high expectations.
 
On arrival, I had been given yet another very useful piece of advicego to the On Stage Bar AND STAY THERE! As this was the second Press Night, you could sense the buoyant atmosphere already in the air as you entered the Auditorium. I headed towards the stage and was greeted by a set, which was actually remarkably close to what I had pictured in my mind!
 
 
It was so surreal to actually step on to the stage! I had to just take a moment to look out into the audience and take it all in, mostly thinking “WOW!” After purchasing a rather pricey drink (which was totally worth it to get a ONCE tumbler to keep), I made sure that I checked out every part of the stage that I was able to. A lot of mirrors immediately gave you the sense of the audience being able to see every little detail of the show and there truly being no where to hide for the performers! As I continued to take in this amazing sight, I turned round to see . . . . . . well, I don’t want to spoil it if you don’t know! But trust me, wherever your ticket is for in the theatre,  go to the on-stage bar and STAY THERE! I promise you won’t forget it!!!
 
As far as the show itself goes – it was everything I dreamed of – and then some! The phenomenal cast, lead by fellow Midlander Declan Bennett (Guy) and the beautiful Zrinka Cvitešić (Girl) take you on the most enchanting journey that doesn’t need big sets, huge ensembles or loud, bright special effects. All it needs is one Guy, one Girl, a stunningly talented Ensemble and the most beautifully simple show that I have ever had the absolute honour to bear witness to – ever!
 
Every word, every note, every movement just fits to the story absolutely perfectly. All the songs that I knew so well were effortlessly bought to life before my very emotional eyes by an Ensemble, including the hilarious Aidan Kelly (Billy), the feisty Flora Spencer Longhurst (Reza) and the kind hearted Jos Slovick (Andre) who without a doubt are the most talented Ensemble in the West End bar none! Don’t believe me? Get down to the Phoenix and see for yourself!
 
Declan and Zrinka are just made for the lead roles! From an audience perspective, you are desperate for them to end up together and through their highs and lows, you feel totally invested in the story unfolding in front of you. Declan’s vocal ability is magnificent and he brings such heart and emotion to every word that comes out of his mouth, be it through song or words. The chemistry he has with Zrinka, who may I say is not only stunningly beautiful but also has amazing comic timing (despite being Czech!), is just electric and for me was one of the biggest reasons that I have fallen so in love with this show. I defy anybody not shed a tear and feel some kind of emotion when they perform “Falling Slowly” (Reprise) as the shows finale – I am not ashamed to say I was an absolute emotional wreck!
 
 

 
 
 

I am the first to show my love for classic shows such as “Phantom of the Opera” and “Les Miserables” and any regular reader of this blog will know exactly what I mean! But, I am making a plea to all my readerswe need to support new musicals, especially such a unique show as ONCE. There has never been a show like this, and I don’t think there will ever be one again! If you haven’t seen it, go down and get a ticket! If you’re undecided about seeing, go and get a ticket and find out for yourself! And if like me, you’ve seen it already – go and see it again! ONCE and it’s breath-taking cast deserve to have a lengthy run in the West End – but they need our support to do it!
 
 
Before I knew it, I had come to the final day of my 8 Days of Heaven – bad times! However, despite my highly emotionally state – I was determined to go out with a bang!
 
After a brief “hello” to the truly marvellous Marcus Lovett over at Her Majesty’s, I set off for my first show of the day. Up first and satisfying the “English Teacher” side of me that was having a well deserved two weeks off, I headed – for the first time – over to Trafalgar Studios to see Jamie Lloyd’s new production of “Macbeth“, starring James McAvoy.
 
 
I had heard so many phenomenal things about this production, so I was unbelievably excited to see what the cast did with the classic story of greed, betrayal and bloody murder. You can see what I thought of this spectacular show by clicking here.
 
That evening – there was only one way I could finish one of the best times I had ever had in London – and that was to see the brilliant Les Miserables at the Queen’s Theatre.
 


 
This was the seventh time I had seen the show since my first visit in January 2012, and I would be once again sharing my evening with one of the kindest, sweetest ladies I know – Ali Broomfield! Despite being seen by some as quite a regular at Queen’s now, there was an element of the new added to my evening. I was lucky enough for the first time ever to be sitting Front Row of the Stalls and not only that, I would be sitting right behind the conductor!

 
The view was magnificent and you totally felt even more involved in the story as at many points, you were almost face to face with the characters on stage. I would highly recommend these seats to anyone who goes to see the show, as it will completely re-define your Les Mis experience – in a very good way!
 
My love and respect for the current Les Mis cast is well documented both on this blog and over on my Twitter feed @TOABlueEyedGirl – but they continue to blow me away every single time that I visit them!
 
Geronimo Rauch (Valjean) continues to be one of the most breath-taking performers I have ever had the privilege of seeing live. He takes you on such a journey throughout the show – from the highest of highs to the lowest of lows – and you can not take your eyes off him for a second! This emotional rollercoaster is only heightened when he performs “Bring Him Home” – which, once again brought me to tears with its’ haunting beauty. This man will be sorely missed when he leaves the cast at Cast Change in June!
 
 
Another man who will be sorely missed come Cast Change Day is the phenomenal Tam Mutu (Javert). I swear every time I see this show, he just gets better and better! When I first saw this cast back in August 2012, I didn’t know much about Tam. All I did know was that he had some big shoes (or should that be a big hat?) to fill in place of my 1st Javert and all round marvellous gent Hadley Fraser. Fast forward to present day, and Tam is one of my favourite performers in the West End and one of the best I have ever seen! His all round performance is second to none and the chemistry he has with Geronimo is as good as the chemistry that Ramin Karimloo and Hadley Fraser had – maybe even better! (OOOH, did I just say that? Ha ha!) Not only that, he is a warm and kind-hearted soul that is an absolute pleasure to talk to when you meet him at Stage Door (as long as you don’t mention a bad Manchester United result!)  I wish him nothing but luck and happiness for all that the future holds for him!
 
 
The rest of the cast were also on astounding form – special mentions must go to the hilarious Adam Linstead, the comedic genius Cameron Blakely (who I met for the first time in 7 visits to Queens – the man is a legend!), the beautiful Danielle Hope and the enchanting Celinde Schoenmaker.
 
 
The three cast members, who I had the pleasure of seeing for the first time – Vicky Entwistle (Madame Thenardier), Jamie Ward (Marius) and Chris Jacobsen (Enjolras) are all stunning additions to the cast and are also so talented in their own unique ways. Vicky is just brilliant as Madame Thenardier and along with Cameron as Thenardier, they command the stage every time they appear and have the audience crying with laughter. Jamie is such an awesome talent and has such a bright future in this industry. His portrayal of Marius shows strength and confidence and I look forward to seeing how he grows in the role on my next visit. Finally, Chris is just phenomenal as Enjolras. He is no stranger to the Queens stage (having previously been an alternate Valjean) and it shows – he gives a powerful yet understated performance at every step of the way. I particularly liked his off-focus interactions with Marius and Grantaire, showing a more emotional side to the charismatic leader.
 
 
I must also give a special mention to the wonderful Gary Albert Hughes! Having written so many articles and features for Gary and his songwriting partner Joan Taylor Rowan, we had never actually met in person and only ever spoken over Twitter. We had planned to meet up during my trip but several things came up meaning that we couldn’t! So it must have been written in the stars that, while I was at Les Mis Stage Door, who should be at the pub over the road with his friends? Only Mr Gary Albert Hughes! It was so wonderful to finally meet this super talented man – and he really was as wonderful in person as he is on Twitter. I can’t wait to support Gary and Joan with so many more of their exciting future endeavours – watch this space all!
 
Well, that’s it!
 
This was one of the best times I have ever spent in London. I don’t know if it was the length of time I was there or the amount of shows I saw or even the experiences I had, there are just no words that can describe how amazing this trip was. If I have only conveyed a minor part of the wonderful emotions I felt through this article, then I have done a good job!
 
My next trip to London is scheduled for the end of May – I am hoping to include a return to Les Mis and Once and I will also be off to Chichester to see Hadley Fraser in The Pajama Game – very exciting!
 
As always, thank you so much for reading – your support means more than you will ever know  🙂
 
Signing off for now,
 
Blue Eyed Girl Xxx