Blue Eyed Girl interviews . . . JEREMY SECOMB

I am absolutely delighted to introduce to you my first interview of 2015!

Formerly of The Woman in White, Priscilla and Phantom of the Opera – but now terrorising Shaftesbury Avenue as the Demonic Barber Sweeney Todd, read on to find out what happened when I chatted to the marvellous JEREMY SECOMB.
 

Who or what inspired you to get into the Theatre industry?

I had an amazing music teacher in High School that was a big influence on my singing. But having grown up in the country in Australia I didn’t see my first Professional Musical till I was 22. I was doing an amateur show in my local area and the director was the one that sparked my decision to throw in my 9 to 5 job and move to Sydney and start auditioning for Professional shows.

If you could duet with any West End or Broadway performer – past or present – who would it be and why?

I’m an massive fan of Anthony Warlow’s voice, always have been. So a male duet with him. As for a female duet…….. That would be with Kelli O’Hara. If you haven’t heard her, listen to Jason Robert Browns’ score of The Bridges Of Madison County. She is incredible.

If you could play any role, be it play or musical past or present, what would be your dream role to play and why?

Would have to be Miss Trunchbull from Matilda. When I saw the show I knew nothing about the show. Tim Minchin is a very intelligent/clever guy. It would be so much fun playing the baddie to all those children. I also think I have the legs to pull off the costume – ha ha!

Who are your favourite theatre performers (to watch) on stage?

I love watching performers working really hard. I get a real buzz from it. There is just something about seeing a performer just giving it. I love it. But to single someone out. Bertie Carvel, who I first saw as Leo Frank in Parade at the Donmar Warehouse, absolutely blew my mind. I couldn’t take my eyes off him.

What is the best piece of advise you’ve ever been given? And what advice would you give to young performers trying to break into the theatre industry?

I was once told when I first started auditioning that you have to be Think Skinned. You’re gonna come up against a lot of Walls. It’s absolutely true. The biggest thing is learning to handle the No’s. Sometimes you don’t even get a no. You just don’t hear anything at all.
What I would, and do, tell young performers now, is you have to want it. Your heart has to be in it fully. You won’t last if you’re half hearted towards auditions, working and continuing in the industry. If you want it………… Go for it!

You are probably best known for your performances as ‘Piangi’ in the legendary “Phantom Of The Opera”. What was it like to be a part of such an iconic show? And what was the biggest highlight of your time there?

I have a VERY long history with POTO.

It was my first job, in the Australia/New Zealand Tour in 1996. I’ve been in the show on and off for over 10 years now. I’ve played Piangi for 6 years all up in London. So it’s a very special show to me. I love the role of Piangi. I have many great memories of the show. One of the great memories was singing Piangi next to Wendy Fergusons’ Carlotta for the Sitzprobe for the 25th Anniversary. We were both standing in for the Sitzprobe and then Wendy stepped in last minute to play the role for the Concert. She smashed it and I couldn’t have been prouder.

Then I got to play The Phantom for my Brother and his family when they came over to the UK for my wedding last year. That was probably one of my all time career highlights.

(Photo courtesy of Selena Zafar – original production programe)

Last year, you also played the Lead Role in Tooting Arts Clubs production of Sweeney Todd. Did you ever expect the production to receive the phenomenal response that it did?

Not at all. It was a great cast, director etc…… I nearly didn’t do it. I was in two minds about it. But so glad I did it. It was such a great production to be involved with. It’s a testament to Rachel Edwards, Bill Buckhurst, Ben Cox and the cast and crew. Everyone just jumped into it. And it was such a great experience.

Do you have a favourite moment in the show? or maybe a particular song that you love to perform?

It’s a toss up between The Epiphany. It’s the time when Sweeney just throws all the toys out of the pram! And the Johanna Quartet in the second act. It’s a beautiful piece of music.

(With Siobhan McCarthy (Mrs Lovett) – photo from www.theguardian.com)


In 10 words or less, why should people come and see you, along with all the fantastic cast when Sweeney Todd comes to Shaftesbury Avenue?

Immersive, Intimate, Brilliant, Dark, In your face, Exciting pop-up Theatre!

Finally, if you had to choose any 3 songs from any genre as the soundtrack to your life so far, what would they be and why?

In The Arms Of The Angels – Sarah McLachlan. I’m not religious at all, but I like the sentiment behind this song.

Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life – Monty Python. For obvious reasons. It’s a good “Just Keep Going” song.

The Luckiest – Ben Folds. I sang this to my wife on our wedding day.

Cheesy but they all mean something!!!

Having recently visited Jeremy and the whole cast at Tooting Arts Club’s Sweeney Todd on Shaftesbury Avenue, well – there are not enough superlatives in the dictionary to say how good the show was! I couldn’t fault one element of it – and Jeremy in particular makes a truly powerful, menacing Sweeney. Go and see it folks – I swear you won’t regret it!

Get your tickets at http://www.delfontmackintosh.co.uk/Tickets/SweeneyTodd/SweeneyTodd.asp The show runs until 30th May!

Thank you so much to Jeremy for taking the time to do this interview. Being able to chat to a performer I have such great respect and admiration for is always such an absolute honour that I am truly grateful for.

Signing off for now

Blue Eyed Girl Xxx

PLAYING OUR PART for Comic Relief – 1st March 2015

(Picture from www.cadoganhall.com)

10 months on from the phenomenal first concert in aid of Target Ovarian Cancer last year, PLAYING OUR PART made its’ truimphant return to Cadogan Hall at the start of March, this time supporting the brilliant COMIC RELIEF and RED NOSE DAY.

The event last year was definitely one of my 2014 highlights and it was an absolute honour to support both the event and its’ organiser, Nadim Naaman, through a series of features and mini-interviews conducted with just some of the brilliant performers. What an even bigger honour for me though was to once again be able to support the concert again this year, particularly when it is supporting a charity I have always been fond of.

One thing I did wonder going into the event was how could Nadim top what was such an astonishing and emotional evening last year? Was there anyway in which he could surpass himself?

Well, in my eyes – his mission was well and truly accomplished! What an evening it was!

 
In linking with the charity it was supporting (and the light hearted nature it uses to raise money), the concert reflected this with a set list of songs ranging from “Sweeney Todd” and “The Producers” to “Into the Woods” and “Mamma Mia“, all of which were guaranteed to put a smile on your face. Add to this a stellar line up of West End talent – including a number of performers I had never heard sing in person before alongside some of my personal favourites, then I knew I was in for a treat. But I was not prepared for the amount of talent and just general awesomeness that I would be met with.
 
 
The concert was kicked off by the unbelievably brilliant Steph Parry, leading the cast in a foot-stomping rendition of the classic “Get The Party Started”, and the roof raisers just kept on coming. Newcomer Laura Jane Matthewson showed off her comic side in “Taylor The Latte Boy”; Chloe Hart showcased her fantastic range in “Astonishing” (from Little Women) and Laura Tebutt her versatility in “Climbing Uphill” from The Last 5 Years. I name these sensational ladies in particular as I had never heard any of them sing live before and was blown away by every single one of them – but more on that later!
 
 
It was also so wonderful to see so many familiar faces giving such outstanding performances as I have seen them do on so many occasions. One of my favourite on-stage duos – Louise Dearman and Gina Beck – shone in both their duet and solo numbers, while Wendy Ferguson completely took the roof off Cadogan Hall with her “Alto’s Lament”. Laura Pitt Pulford gave a mind blowing performance of the very wordy and very speedy “If You Hadn’t, But You Did”; Killian Donnelly melted the hearts of every woman in the room with his rendition of the Jersey Boys classic “Can’t Take My Eyes Off Of You”, and I simply adored Christopher Howell’s version of “Mr Cellophane” from Chicago. A special mention must also go to Simon Bailey, whose performance of From Here To Eternity’s “Fight the Fight” was delivered with oodles of power and confidence – and another song that I had not heard before was etched into my brain as a result 🙂
 
 
I have been asked many times since the concert what my personal highlights were – and I have struggled to narrow it down to just one, they were all just so good! From Killian and Nadim’s phenomenal version of “Agony” from Into the Woods (if they ever re-cast that show – there are your 2 Princes!), to the just superb Adam Linstead at his charismatic best in “Where is the Life that Late I Led?” from Kiss Me Kate (who knew Grantaire could sing like that 🙂 ?) and how could I forget the bloody awesome Jeremy Secomb performing my favourite Guys and Dolls song – “Sit Down You’re Rocking the Boat” – and joining Wendy Ferguson for a duet on the Sweeney Todd classic “A Little Priest”. Oh and by the way – you have not lived until you’ve seen “Keep It Gay” from The Producers performed with such energy, enthusiasm and choreography skills! Just the thought of that particular number still brings the biggest smile to my face!
 
 
My final mention actually goes to two performers who, before Playing Our Part, I had never heard sing live – although their wonderful reputation definitely proceeded them. Dogfight at Southwark Playhouse was, for many, one of the best shows of 2014, and won rave reviews from all who saw it – mainly for their 2 charismatic leads Laura Jane Matthewson and Jamie Muscato. So, when the line up for Playing Our Part was announced, and also that Laura and Jamie would perform a duet on the night – I couldn’t wait to finally see what everyone had been going on about. And I can honestly say I don’t think I have ever been so mesmerised by two individual performances in all my time going to the theatre. In their solos, Laura and Jamie captivated the attentive audience, showcasing their versatility, in both their comedic and romantic sides. But it was their duet – the Elephant Love Medley from Moulin Rouge – that just completely blew me away! It was everything a love duet should be – enchanting, haunting, powerful, stunning – I could go on and on! If Moulin Rouge is ever made into a musical – it would be an absolute travesty if these two are not cast as the leads! Hell – I just can’t believe it took me till now to see what phenomenal talents Laura and Jamie are, and I can’t wait to see what they do next!
 
If I spoke about the sheer brilliance of every single moment of this wonderful evening, I would probably be here until NEXT Christmas. To be honest, I don’t think anything I ‘ve written can do any kind of justice to just how good PLAYING OUR PART was. So forgive me if I missed anything out – be it a performer or song – it is not intentional and does not take away from how brilliant they were.
 
 
One thing I must do before I finish is sing the praises of concert organiser Nadim Naaman. Not only one of the most talented, kind-hearted people I’ve ever met but also one of the most giving too. I am so pleased that what he created for a one off event last year has become so successful as it is completely down to his hard work and determination, and I consider it an absolute honour and privilege to support him, and the show in whatever way I can. Heres’ to the next one, right Nadim? 🙂
 
All of the fabulous event photos are taken by the awesome Virtuoso Imaging (unless stated) – check them out!
 
Signing off for now
Blue Eyed Girl Xxx

BEAUTIFUL – THE CAROLE KING STORY: 19th February 2015

BEAUTIFUL – The Carole King Story is a show I had become familiar with many months before it crossed the Atlantic from Broadway to the West End. In fact, my journey and love for another of my all time favourites – ONCE – was gained in the same way as BEAUTIFUL.
 
 
I had absolutely fallen in love with the Broadway Cast Recording of BEAUTIFUL, lead by the phenomenal Jessie Mueller. This album was the songbook of my childhood! Even though I was born in the 80s, my Mom was very much a child of the 60s/70s and raised me on the music of her youth – which included Carole King.

So when it was announced that the show – to which I knew every word of the soundtrack for – would be coming to London, needless to say – I was beyond excited. (Actually that is a huge understatement – I was utterly ecstatic!)

Fast forward to February 2015 and my 30th birthday. I had decided that I would get myself a ticket to the show (while it was still in previews) as a present to myself for my half term London trip. What I hadn’t accounted for was how popular the show was going to be – and this meant I expected not to see the show during the trip 😦

However – it is amazing what a visit to the Theatre Box Office can do! I managed to snag myself a ticket 24 hours in advance to see BEAUTIFUL a matter of days before its Press Night.


I could never have imagined how much the show and cast would not only live up to my expectations but completely obliterate them in the process!


As an audience, you are witness to the ups and downs of Carole King’s early career. From having her first song produced and released, to her whirlwind relationship with Gerry Goffin and friendship with rivals Cynthia Weil and Barry Mann – this is very much a story of what you can do when faced with adversity, no matter what form it takes. Backed by some of the most iconic songs ever released – including “You’ve Got A Friend“, “It’s Too Late” and “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow” – BEAUTIFUL really is a story which any one from any age group can relate to.

This inspirational story is brought to life by a truly sensational cast who, from Swing and Ensemble all the way through to the lead performers, light up the stage with utter joy, happiness and so much love and respect for the story they are telling, as well as those who they are performing in the name of.

Gary Trainor commands the stage in his role as super producer Don Kirshner while Ian McIntosh (Barry) and Lorna Want (Cynthia) are a fantastic pairing as the rivals to the King/Goffin writing partnership. They bring a light hearted take to the story while also delivering the more emotional moments with such charm that it is nearly impossible not to like this dynamic duo. Both shine as a duo but also individually, with Lorna’s energetic introduction during “Happy Days Are Here Again” and Ian channeling his inner rock star in “We’ve Gotta Get Out of this Place” both definite show highlights.

It seems like a lifetime ago that I first saw Alan Morrissey on stage at the London Palladium in “I Can’t Sing”, where he stood out to me as a truly beyond talented performer in amongst all the organised chaos around him. So it filled me with such joy when I heard he was going to be given the chance to shine in BEAUTIFUL as Carole’s love interest/husband/writing partner Gerry Goffin – and this chance has certainly, in my opinion, reinvigorated his already brilliant on stage presence. He portrays every part of Gerry’s changing personality with such power and grace and oozes charisma throughout. It was so brilliant to see such a talented performer up on stage where he truly belongs – and I can’t wait to come back and see him again.

But for me, it is Katie Brayben – as Carole King – who completely steals the show. I don’t think I was the only person sat in that auditorium that had never seen Katie perform (although since the show, I’ve learnt I actually saw her in Ragtime at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre) and by the time I left, I couldn’t believe how on earth I had not seen this ridiculously talented lady before. From the moment she steps on stage at the start of the show, Katie is rarely off stage and is the centre of attention for the majority of scenes and songs. Despite this, she maintains an energy and charm that means you can’t help but feel every emotion she does, as Katie brings to life every single moment of the joys, struggles, heartaches and strength of this iconic story – a true emotional rollercoaster indeed.


From a musical perspective, Katie’s true musical skill is on show throughout and I truly have no idea how she remembers all of those notes and sequences! She shines on every song – but stand out moments have to be the classic “You Make Me Feel Like A Natural Woman“, “You’ve Got A Friend” and the shows inspirational title track. It is clear that she is absolutely adoring every moment of her time on stage – and believe me when I say, there aren’t enough superlatives in the dictionary to do justice to how brilliant Katie is in this show!

I could spend days going on and on about how awesome this show is and how it is so deserving of its’ 8 Olivier Award nominations. I could try and answer all those who say BEAUTIFUL is just “another Jukebox Musical ready to flop.” But I won’t – because all I need to say is this. Go and see the show. Seriously. Give it a chance and I guarantee you will come out so full of joy, energy and positivity – it will truly be a case of being “as beautiful as you feel.”

Signing off for now

Blue Eyed Girl Xxx

MEMPHIS – 18th February 2015

 
MEMPHIS continues to be one of the hottest tickets in London’s West End. A story of love, heartbreak and forbidden relationships all against the backdrop of 1950s Deep South America wows audiences night after night – and the phenomenal energy and electricity created by the magnificent cast, lead by the divine Beverley Knight and the charismatic Killian Donnelly, recently won this brilliant show the well deserved accolade of WhatsOnStage Best New Musical, as well as an astonishing 9 nominations for the 2015 Olivier Awards.

I have been lucky enough to see the show on two occasions so far – and was very lucky to be able to review the show as part of a feature for West End Frame at the end of last year (which you can read over at http://www.westendframe.com/2014/12/guest-blog-change-in-air.html)


 

But it was my most recent visit – my third in total – that gave me an opportunity to look at this show from a totally different perspective.

It is the sign of a truly special show when you are as excited to see the alternates/understudies on stage as much as you would be for the lead performers. During my MEMPHIS visits so far, I have been lucky enough to see both Charlotte Gorton (understudy Gladys) and Simon Ray Harvey (understudy Delray) take to the stage and give such outstanding performances, you would have had no idea they were understudies in their respective roles.

And this brilliant trend continued on this visit as not only was I lucky enough to see Jon Robyns take the stage as Huey, but also I was truly humbled to see the enchanting Rachel John as Felicia. I had seen both Jon and Rachel on stage previously, in “Dessa Rose” and “We Will Rock You” respectively, but I was excited to see what energy they bought to MEMPHIS, especially as I had been so in awe of Beverley and Killian on my previous visits.

Believe me I was not disappointed!

I didn’t think I could be more in awe of Jon and Rachel’s talents than I already was, but I was so wrong. They took to the stage with such passion, power and precision that no way would you have thought or even considered that they could be the understudies. In fact they both showed such confidence and conviction, you would have thought they had been leading this show, or any other show in fact, for many years.


 

 
Rachel’s take on Felicia has many similarities to that of Beverley Knight. However, Rachel brings out a more soft and subtle side of the character, meaning that her love for Huey is more of a slow burner, and when they finally get together, you can really relate and put yourself in Felicia’s shoes – and that is all down to Rachel’s mesmerising and enchanting performance. From a vocal perspective, she also gives new life to these stunning songs. Yet again, Rachel reduced me to tears in more than one occasion while also taking the roof off the Shaftesbury with a spine tingling rendition of “Coloured Woman“.

She has all the tools and skills to be one of the biggest names the West End has ever produced – and I can only hope that when Beverley Knight leaves the show later this year, Rachel is given the chance she do deserves to have her name at the top of the cast board.


 

 
Another absolute revelation was Jon Robyns. Having only previously seen him play the strict, reserved and obsessive writer Adam Nehemiah in “Dessa Rose” last summer, my mind was struggling to imagine Jon becoming the fun loving and hyperactive Huey Calhoun. But needless to say, I am beginning to wonder if there is anything this brilliant gent can’t do!

The thing I most loved about Jon’s performance was that for every single second of the entire show – he looked like he was having the time of his life! Huey is meant to be a character that loves everything and everyone around him and Jon absolutely embodies that to a tee. His energy and positivity are infectious (in a very good way!) and it is as a result of this, that when you reach “Memphis Lives in Me” – your heart absolutely shatters as he lays his soul bare for the audience to see. I felt truly honoured to witness Jon’s take on this role and I can’t wait for a chance when I get to see it again.

The MEMPHIS train continues to steam ahead at full speed – but with such high energy, passion and electricity and one of the most diverse and versatile ensembles that the West End has ever seen – all I can say is long may it continue!!!

Signing off for now

Blue Eyed Girl Xxx