SWEENEY TODD at Twickenham Theatre

 
In my quest to not only expand my own knowledge but my readers knowledge of Off West End Theatre, I had to share with you all details of this fantastic new production which were passed to me by former interviewee, the awesome Jamie Chapman Dixon.


With music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, book by Hugh Wheeler, an intimate new production of the Tony Award and Olivier Award-winning musical, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street.will kick-off the autumn season at Twickenham Theatre in West London.

It will start previews on Wednesday 10 September and runs to Saturday 4 October.

David Bedella (Sweeney) was a triple award winner, named Best Actor in a Musical at the 2004 Olivier Awards, the Evening Standard Awards, and The Critics Circle Awards, for creating the role of the warm-up man Jonathan Weiruss/Satan in Jerry Springer The Opera. He appeared in the role at the National Theatre, in the West End, the Sydney Opera House and in New York in a concert version at Carnegie Hall. On television David most notably played Dr Carlos Fashola in Holby City and more recently guest starred in By Any Means and Inside No. 9, all for BBC, and his film credits include Alexander and Batman Begins. His other West End starring roles include Frank n Furter in The Rocky Horror Show, Billy Flynn in Chicago, and Hedwig in Hedwig and the Angry Inch. He starred as Arnold in Torch Song Trilogy and Wilson Mizner in Sondheim’s Road Show, both at the Menier Chocolate Factory. In the past year he played Man 1 in the acclaimed production of Sondheim’s Putting It Together at St.James Theatre and Kevin in Into The Heights at Southwark Playhouse.

Sarah Ingram (Mrs Lovett)’s many West End musicals include Oklahoma!, South Pacific, Martin Guerre, Inherit The Wind, Flashdance, Imagine This, Murderous Instincts and Napoleon. She worked with David Bedella on Sondheim’s Road Show at the Menier Chocolate Factory. Most recently, Sarah played Josie in the revival of the Boy George musical Taboo at Brixton Clubhouse following her critically acclaimed performance as Miss Hannigan in Annie at West Yorkshire Playhouse.

Mark McKerracher (Judge Turpin). His West End starring roles include The Phantom in The Phantom of the Opera, Jean Valjean in Les Miserables, Sunday in the Park With George, Ragtime, Cats and The Bodyguard.

Zoe Curlett (Beggar Woman). Her West End starring roles include Christine in The Phantom of the Opera and Cosette in Les Miserables, and Cats and The Secret Garden on UK tour.

The rest of the cast includes: Shaun Chambers (Pirelli), Genevieve Kingsford (who makes her professional debut as Johanna), Mikaela Newton (Tobias), and Josh Tevendale (Anthony).

The Creative Team includes: – Derek Anderson, Benjamin Holder, Lee Crowley, Rachel Stone, Olivia Ward, Joel Price, and Anne Vosser

This sounds like a truly phenomenal production and one not to be missed!

Check out more details about the production and get your tickets over at http://www.twickenhamtheatre.com/#!SWEENEY-TODD-A-Musical-Thriller/c1lw/hz411kya171

Signing off for now

Blue Eyed Girl Xxx

LES MIS vs PHANTOM – Sunday 3rd August 2014


I have to post a few thoughts on the wonderful day that I had at the annual Les Mis vs Phantom charity football match last weekend.

This was my 2nd time visiting this event – and as I travelled down to Bromley on a very warm Sunday morning, I began to wonder if anything could top the brilliant day I had at the event last August. But my expectations were exceeded, no absolutely obliterated!

The event, organised by Les Mis resident director Chris Key, had an added tinge of sadness this year as Chris explained on the Les Mis vs Phantom website: – “As many of you will know, our inspiration for starting this event, Melanie Oakley-Dow, sadly lost her battle with cancer at the end of last year. She is extremely missed by her family and all who knew her and Les Misérables is not the same without her. We will be playing this years match in her memory, hence our goal in making this years match the best one yet! ”

And from my perspective, that goal was totally achieved!

From cake stalls, to hoopla, the bouncy castle, raffle, silent auction to face painting (I had mine done by the awesome Melanie Bright from Les Mis!) – this was definitely a day for the whole family, and that was all before the on pitch activities had even started!

Commencing with a performance from local dance group Studio 74, there was definitely a feel good atmosphere all around the ground. This atmosphere only continued at half time with phenomenal performances from Carrie Hope Fletcher, Lucie Jones, Liam Tamne and Sapphire Soul.

WATCH: Carrie Hope Fletcher performs LET IT GO and Liam Tamne performs HAPPY https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1j0maWzkXiM

WATCH: Lucie Jones performs DON’T STOP BELIEVING https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NQ9K2gdFaGY

The match itself was definitely a more tense affair compared to last year – where Team Les Mis won on penalties – as Team Phantom came out as winners after 90 minutes with a score of 4-3! I can’t imagine how gutted Chris Key must have been to hand the trophy over to Team Phantom – although he deserves special credit for his Man of the Match goalkeeping skills.

But two of the most stand out moments of the day for me were two vocal performances that occurred before the match.

As I said earlier, the event was played in tribute to Melanie Oakley Dow. But as an additional tribute to her, the 4 Valjeans (Chris Holland, Peter Lockyer, Daniel Koek and Geronimo Rauch) performed an absolutely heart-breaking version of the Les Mis classic BRING HIM HOME. Now, I’ll be the first to admit – this song usually makes me cry. But there was something about this version of the song which broke my heart more than usual. I have so much respect and admiration for all 4 of the Valjeans who performed as individuals – but there was definitely magic in the air as they sang their hearts out in the sunshine. I have no doubt Mel was looking down and smiling as they did.

WATCH: The 4 Valjeans perform BRING HIM HOME https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F63ilGRpVko

The other vocal performance which just blew me away was also by Geronimo Rauch. Now, when host with the most Carl Mullaney announced that unlike the previous year, we wouldn’t be having the team anthems, I will be honest and say I was quite gutted as they had been a HUGE highlight of the previous years event. However, my sadness was extremely short-lived as Carl went on to announce that instead,  Geronimo would be performing the legendary NESSUN DORMA to bring the teams out!

Needless to say, anyone who knows me knows how much respect and admiration I have for Geronimo as a performer but even I was in shock at this (in a good way though!) Was it possible me to be even more in awe of this man’s amazing talent?

WATCH: Geronimo Rauch performs NESSUN DORMA  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C1-i8EMGIvI

Quite simply – yes. Yes it was. Even now – 4 days since the event, I am still completely in awe of the performance that I was witness to. Geronimo is an extremely talented guy, and an absolute gentleman at that! If you haven’t seen him perform live before, I urge you to get to see him in “The Phantom of the Opera” as soon as you can – you won’t be disappointed!

Finally, a big amount of respect must go to event organiser Chris Key. He has yet again put on a wonderful day that has raised so much for charity – for his overwhelming warmth of heart and giving spirit all while remaining so humble, Chris totally deserves all the praise that comes his way – and then some.

As you can tell, a fantastic day was had by all! And not only that, I got to spend the day with 4 of the best friends a girl could ask for. I won’t name names, but you know who you are!!

Signing off for now

Blue Eyed Girl X x x

MARRY ME A LITTLE (St James Studio – Saturday 2nd August 2014)

 
After having my mind truly blown by the cast of DESSA ROSE at the matinee, I headed over to my one of my favourite London theatre venues – St James Theatre, near Victoria – for the second part of what was another day of firsts for me.
 
Now, I know this may be a shock (please don’t kill me!) but, to my knowledge I have never seen a Sondheim musical! This is not through choice, may I add. I have just never been to one of his productions before. However, when I heard that former Blue Eyed Girl interviewee SIMON BAILEY and former Light Princess and Playing Our Part star LAURA PITT PULFORD were starring in MARRY ME A LITTLE at St James Studio – I decided the lack of Sondheim in my life needed remedying.
As I entered the Studio space, the setting immediately struck me. I had only even been in this space once before and that was for a Hadley Fraser gig nearly 2 years ago. So to see it set for a performance was quite something for my mind to get used to. The setting was a New York apartment front room, complete with two rows of shoes, noticeably male and female; a sofa; a guitar; and shelves full of books and souvenirs.
As I took my seat, my curiousity continued to grow as the lights went down and both Simon and Laura took to the stage.  Was I watching two people in the same apartment? You would think so through how the performance space was shared. However, as the opening song “Two Fairy Tales” began, it soon became clear that what we were actually watching was two single people– only known to us as “Man” and “Woman” – “left alone in their respective studio apartments on a Saturday night, passing their time with sweetly secret, unshared fantasies, never knowing that they’re just a floor away from each other and the end of their lonely dreams.”
Throughout this 75 minute show, you see every side of the potential relationship evolve on stage – from the nervous starts and having the courage to ask someone out; the ups and downsof the tricky dating scene; lust and passion; silly things only two partners would understand; marriage; and how sometimes, however heartbreaking, things don’t always work out how you plan. And it is a testament to the two amazingly talented performers on that stage that as an audience member, you care so much about what happens to these two characters.
I have had the honour of seeing Laura Pitt Pulford on stage 3 times now – in “The Light Princess”, at Playing Our Part singing “Before the Parade Passes By” and now “Marry Me A Little” – and I am absolutely convinced there is nothing this girl can’t sing! I was mesmerised by every aspect of her phenomenal performance. From the super speedy and pure genius of the quick changes in “Can that Boy Foxtrot”, to the loved up “Marry Me A Little” and the emotional “There Won’t Be Trumpets”, her voice was absolutely faultless no matter what range she needed to cover and add to this her innate ability to draw in an audience and make them believe in everything she does and says. Her chemistry with Simon was one of the outstanding features of this production and I defy anyone not to be utterly heartbroken by their final duet in the show. (More on this later!) Laura truly is a very special talent and definitely one of the most underappreciated female performers in the UK Theatre Industry today.
Simon Bailey is at his charismatic best throughout the show and as with Laura, takes you on an emotional rollercoaster as you learn about the ups and downs of his relationship dreams and fantasies. What struck me most about the performance Simon gives here is that – in comparison to the productions I have seen him in previously – it is such an open, honest and utterly heart-wrenching performance as you see his character go from the highest of highs to the lowest of heart-breaking lows. Stand out moments had to be his dynamic chemistry and intense spark with Laura during “All Things Bright and Beautiful/Bang”, and the emotionally charged finale “It Wasn’t Meant to Happen”, where even Simon needed a few moments to wipe the tears from his eyes before taking his bow. After being my first ever interviewee here at “Thoughts of a Blue Eyed Girl”, I consider it a true honour to support Simon where I can and to see him add yet another fantastic string to his bow.
I can honestly say that my first ever experience of live Sondheim was a truly memorable one and I have no doubt this will not be my last – considering the entire score for this show were Sondheim cast-offs, I wonder what Sondheim approved shows are like?
MARRY ME A LITTLE is only on until this Sunday (10th August) so make sure you get down to St James Theatre to catch this piece of enchanting Sondheim magic.
Signing off for now
Blue Eyed Girl Xxx


DESSA ROSE – Saturday 2nd August 2014

 

It is not often that I am left speechless after seeing a new production. Moreover, it is a very rare occurrence indeed when I sit there thinking “how on earth am I going to write about this?” – those who know me will attest to the fact that I’ve always got something to say, ha ha!

But in the case of DESSA ROSE, a new production currently running at Trafalgar Studios 2 by Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty and directed by Andrew Keates, this was very much the case.
DESSA ROSE tells the story of “a young black woman and a young white woman and their journey to acceptance in 1847 in the American Deep South, as they tell their story to their grandchildren.” I will be brutally honest – when I read this synopsis after a close friend got me a ticket to see the show, I wasn’t totally sure that this would be something I would enjoy.
But boy, how wrong was I?
As I walked in to the intimate space of Trafalgar Studios 2 for the first time, I was struck by the simplicity of what I saw. Chains hanging from the ceiling; a plain set design and only four musicians positioned around the studio floor, with one even in a corner by the door. As I headed to my front row seat, I had a good idea I would be very close to the action – and I was so right! Let’s just say had I stretched my feet out any further, I would have been tripping cast members up left, right and centre (Although I will say – there is no bad seat in this fantastic performance space!)
When it comes to the production itself, this is an honest, hard hitting, joyous yet brutal tale of two very different women.  As Dessa and Ruth narrate their respective stories, it is impossible not to be completely drawn into to everything they say, and experience every emotion that they feel. The intimacy of the space truly makes you feel that you are right in the heart of the story – you are able to look into the eyes, and thus the soulsof all of these characters and it is a truly mesmerising experience. And it is as a result of this that at several points, I found I had to stop myself from running in to stop some of the horrific, yet historically accurate events I was seeing before me.
But it is the sign of a truly special group of performers that can take such a powerful storyand evoke such emotion in an audience.
I had never seen Cassidy Janson in a production before. But as Ruth, she was able to deliver such a moving portrayal as the Southern Belle who was forced to “open her eyes” to the wider world around her after her “dream life” was ruined by the disappearance of her husband. Her growing forbidden love for Nathan (Edward Baruwa) was so beautiful to watch and you could really see the emotion in her eyes as the realisation that they could never be together became a reality. The sequence when Ruth first meets Dessa (Cynthia Erivo) and they argue over Ruth’s “Mammy’s” real name was also so intense and emotionally charged that you could feel Ruth’s heart-breaking in front of you as she realised that her life may not have been as simple as she always thought. Cassidy’s performance was just fantastic and I can’t wait to see what she does next.
One performer in this production who I had come across before was the phenomenal Cynthia Erivo(Dessa). I can honestly say, hand on heart, that this amazing lady could sing anything and it would blow me away – but in DESSA ROSE, she really takes it to another level. Throughout the production, Cynthia brings Dessa to life with such power, beauty, passion and intense vulnerability that I defy anyone not to be moved to tears by the enchanting portrayal that she delivers. Cynthia shines throughout and her vocals are faultless as always, but her vocals in “Twelve Children” and “In the Bend of My Arm” were particular hauntingly beautiful highlights in another career definingperformance for this fantastic actress.
I must also give a special mention to Jon Robyns (Adam) – another performer who I had not come across before DESSA ROSE. But his performance as the struggling writer who falls for Dessa after beginning to chronicle her life story, before descending into confusion and madness as a result was so exhilarating to watch and definitely one of the most intense elements of this hard hitting show.  Robyns also delivered a beautiful vocal performance in his solo numbers and this makes me even more eager to see him back on stage when he joins the cast of MEMPHIS later this year.
Everywhere I have been and everyone who I have spoken to since I left Trafalgar Studios 2 last Saturday has well and truly had their ear bent by me going on and on about how this production is a must-see! Despite seeing numerous reviews comparing it to The Colour Purple (which also starred Cynthia and several other cast members), I can say that DESSA ROSE isn’t trying to be The Colour Purple. If anything, I see DESSA ROSE more as a harder hitting, powerful and more honest cousin to the famous novel!
However, there is one clear similarity – just as The Colour Purple ran to rave reviews last summer, DESSA ROSE is a must see that I can only urge you to go out of your way to see. I promise you won’t regret it.

Signing off for now

Blue Eyed GirlXxx