Blue Eyed Girl catches up with . . . NADIM NAAMAN

I feel truly blessed to announce a first for Thoughts of A Blue Eyed Girl!

Never before have I been lucky enough to have a West End performer (particularly one that I have so much respect and admiration for) agree to chat to me not once, not twice but THREE TIMES – until today, that is!

So why not read on to find out what happened when I sat down to chat, for the THIRD time, with the awesome NADIM NAAMAN ….

 
If you had to write a letter giving advice to your 12 year old self, what would you say?
I would tell myself to enjoy being that young. Life becomes more complicated, full of anxiety and fears. If I could relive being 12 to 22, I would take many things a lot less seriously, including myself!

How do you relax in your spare time?

I try to switch off from what I do for a living, things that are connected to performing. My two biggest passions away from the arts are sports and food. You’ll most likely find me (with an increased heart-rate) watching Arsenal, in the gym, playing tennis or golf, in a restaurant or my own kitchen. I don’t eat to live, I live to eat! I’m not one for sitting around and doing nothing – I save that for holidays.
Since we last spoke in Summer 2013, you have achieved so much across a range of shows, concerts and events. Is it possible to pick a highlight? Or maybe a most memorable moment?

It’s never easy to pick one moment. A few things stick out – firstly the response and feedback that came as a result of releasing my first album. I never imagined I would get so much out of it. Secondly, being involved in productions that have gone on to have second lives; both Titanic and Sweeney Todd were wonderful experiences first time around, and now this year they both get second outings which I am thrilled to be a part of. I also have to say how much I enjoyed doing my first West End play, One Man, Two Guvnors, back in 2013-14. I was very lucky to be a part of such a successful production; it was raucous every night.
 

 
Playing Our Part – in particular – has been such a phenomenal success! What inspired you to create the event? And could you have ever imagined the phenomenal response it would receive?
 
Playing Our Part really took me by surprise. When we produced the first concert, which was a one off for a charity that I thought was somewhat neglected, we had no idea it would happen again, let along become a brand name of sorts. This is down to the audience and our supporters; as long as the appetite is there to support great causes, we are happy to entertain and put on a good show. As the name ‘Playing Our Part’ suggests, the premise is simple – we can all apply our own abilities, skills and passions to make a difference for a specific cause. As singers, we are happy to sing for a cause. As audiences members too, we are happy to be entertained knowing we are doing our bit. When Playing Our Part returns, it will be for a different charity, as I am not a fan of the idea of only helping a limited number of charities. We may also go for something a little bolder next time, so watch this space!

Nadim as Anthony and Zoe Doano as Johanna


You are currently a part of Tooting Arts’ Club’s SWEENEY TODD, which has recently found a new home on Shaftesbury Avenue. Being such a small cast and such an intimate setting, has your experience with this show been different to others you’ve been involved in?

This show is wholly unique, and the thing that makes it so is simultaneously what makes it special for both the company and the audiences. Our director Bill Buckhurst is a phenomenal story-teller. His whole basis for the production was to tell the story as clearly as we possibly could – this may sound rather obvious, but musicals as an art form can sometimes prioritise presentation and form over telling the story. For example, singing up above the audience to reach the back, now it’s a dance break, here is a break for you to applaud, etc. This production does away with all of that. The audience are in the show with us, and if we are not looking into the eyes of another actor, we are looking into the eyes of an audience member. It’s all so focused, it’s thrilling for us as actors to experience that whilst singing one of the greatest scores ever written. The result is in the feedback the show has received – they say they hear words they have never heard before, and see the characters as less stock, their traits more human and recognisable – interesting when you consider what crimes many of them commit in the story.

(Top: Dame Angela Lansbury with th cast – from Ian Mowat’s Twitter.
Below: Legendary composer Stephen Sondheim pays his first (of two) visits to see the cast – from www.whatsonstage.com)
 
The show has also been blessed with a number of very famous audience members. Who have been the most memorable guests? And do you have any stories you can share about their participation/involvement in the show?
It has been surreal to say the least. We’ve met James Franco, Victoria Wood, Alison Steadman. Even Geoffrey from The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air has swung by the pie shop (Joseph Marcell)! Sir Cameron Macintosh attended our first preview, and was so supportive, and then last week we met Dame Angela Lansbury. She stayed behind to meet us all, embraced us with tears streaming down her cheeks, thanking us. It would undoubtedly be the greatest moment of my career, no question, had we not also had the honour of performing to Stephen Sondheim himself on two occasions. Once was an honour and literally incredible, but the fact that he enjoyed it so much that he flew back to watch us again took it to another level. I’ve never felt so proud or humble. We joked afterwards that we may as well retire now, because it’s not likely to get much better than this!
Looking forward – you are once again taking on the mammoth challenge of running the London Marathon this year, in aid of MAD Trust. What made you want to take on the marathon again? And why this charity in particular?
This all came about out of my own hands, which was lovely. I was approached by The Make A Difference Trust, who I have worked with previously through concerts, cabarets, and song-writing. They are a charity at the heart of the West End and the performing industry, and do wonderful and vital work fighting HIV, AIDS and many other long term illnesses. They were allocated their first ever charity place in the London Marathon, and I was both delighted and honoured to have been approached by the wonderful David Pendlebury to represent them. Hopefully, it will be the start of a great phase of people running for MADTrust, but that all depends on how much we raise. It’s an incredible cause, and I implore anyone reading this to have a look at www.virginmoneygiving.com/nadimnaaman to find out a little more about what I am doing and how they can help to make a difference.

 

You are then going to be heading off to Toronto to be a part of a new staging of TITANIC THE MUSICAL, which ran to such a wonderful response at Southwark Playhouse. What are you most looking forward to about being involved with this beautiful show again?

The score is just so beautiful. I can’t wait to sing it again. And we’ll have a few more voices this time as we are switching from the intimate Southwark Playhouse to the 2,000 seater Princess of Wales. That will be a huge challenge, but hopefully it will be one that we relish. The other lovely thing about Titanic is that it is an ensemble show – everyone has an equal amount to do, which leads to a really healthy and family-like vibe throughout the company.

And, from a music point of view, are there any plans for album number 2 in the near future?

I never write for the sake of releasing another album, but once I have enough songs that I am happy with, I will do it. I’m currently sitting on four or five that I am proud of, so I suppose I’m nearly halfway there! I am also working on a new musical with a great friend of mine. It’s very early stages, and we have no idea where it’ll go, but we have a story, about twenty minutes of script and I’ve got the basics of three songs at the moment, so if our commitments allow, hopefully we’ll have some time to make progress with it over the next year. You’re more likely to hear recordings of these songs before my own second album – that’s the way I want to prioritise things.

What are your plans for the rest of 2015 (post Titanic)?

Currently, absolutely nothing! I will have a breather over July when I get back, and hopefully a few things will line up for later in the year.

And finally – if you were going to be shipwrecked on a desert island, and could only take 3 songs with you (from any style or genre) – what songs would you take?

I’ve spent an hour thinking about this, and I can’t do it! I do know that they would most likely feature Billy Joel, Michael Jackson and Fleetwood Mac.

It is so wonderful to see that Nadim has so many wonderful projects going on both now and in the future – and deservedly so for such a talented gent!

It particularly blows my mind how he will be running the London Marathon this Sunday while in the middle of his run at SWEENEY TODD and just before he is due to head to Toronto – that is true commitment folks! And if you can sponsor Nadim, be it a small or large amount – it will truly go to a brilliant cause in the MAD Trust. Head over to www.virginmoneygiving.com/nadimnaaman for more details including how to donate – you definitely won’t regret it!

 
A personal MASSIVE thank you to Nadim for once again giving up his time to chat to me  – it is such an honour and means the absolute world to me Mr N! Thank you so much 🙂
Signing off for now
Blue Eyed Girl Xxx
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Blue Eyed Girl interviews . . . JON ROBYNS

Continuing my new interview series, my next interviewee is a former star of Les Miserables, Avenue Q, The Last 5 Years and Spamalot. He is currently turning up the volume as Alternate Huey in MEMPHIS THE MUSICAL at the Shaftesbury Theatre.
 
Read on to find out what happened when I chatted to the brilliant JON ROBYNS!
 
 
(Photo provided by O.Edmonds)
 

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

 
I can impersonate the sound of a harmonica really well. Got me a job once.
 
Who or what inspired you to get into the Theatre industry?
 
Can’t say that there was ever a Eureka moment. Just a series of shows seen as a teenager, Jesus Christ Superstar and Les Miserables being the two that stick out, as well as various teachers being wonderfully encouraging or putting me in the position to succeed. I also think that this job chooses you. If you can make money doing anything else, I would suggest doing it. Far less heartbreak and way more control elsewhere.

(Avenue Q – photo from www.broadwayworld.com) 

 

What has been the biggest highlight of your career so far? And what has been the biggest obstacle you have faced?
 
Avenue Q would have to be the career highlight. It’s a close run thing between that and opening Les Mis in Paris for the first time in its history. That felt like a massive deal. As for obstacles, I would say that everyone has their own challenges and that makes it an even playing field. Not getting a job can be for one of a thousand reasons that you can do nothing about. I don’t think that constitutes an obstacle. It’s just the hand you’ve been dealt. You’ve got to be the best version of you. That’s all anyone can ask.
 
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?
 
Something by Radiohead, maybe Exit Music or High and Dry. Some Rachmaninov and some sort of choral music, Finzi or Walton love that period.
 
What is your must-see West End show (other than your own!) at the moment?
 
I always say that Matilda is one of, if not the best show I’ve ever seen. Everything about it is top drawer.
If you could duet with any West End or Broadway performer – past or present – who would it be and why?
 
I think Sutton Foster’s pretty wonderful. Got a little crush there. But probably it’d be one of my friends. I love singing with Louise Dearman, Gina Beck, David Thaxton, Drew Sarich, Killian Donnelly, Simon Lipkin or Julie Atherton because they’re my mates and it’s more fun that way.

You have been a part of such a diverse range of productions throughout your career – if you could re-visit any 3 of those roles/productions, what would you choose and why?
I’d love to go and do The Last 5 Years again. I only got to do the show 7/8 times and it’s a part I’ve always loved so to go back and really get my teeth into it would be great. I hope to go and do Les Mis for a third stint one day – you can’t beat One Day More! Best end to any act ever written. I’d like to work at the Menier Chocolate Factory on a Sondheim again. Road Show was everything you hope to get to do in this job, I’d have done that gig forever.
 
The first time I saw you perform live was when I saw DESSA ROSE last year at Trafalgar Studios 2. What was it like to perform such a powerful piece of theatre in such a unique space?
Hot. And I would like to take this opportunity to apologies to any audience member who I stepped on/landed on/spat on during that run. It felt very focused, which was excellent. Nowhere to hide a moments mind wandering when the audience can see every bead of sweat. 

(Photo provided by O.Edmonds)

  

And now you are part of MEMPHIS at the Shaftesbury Theatre. Is it as fun to be a part of this amazing show as it looks to us audience members? 🙂
 
Yes. Every night. I’ve never known a show electrify an audience like this does.
 
Do you have a favourite part of the show? (Either that you are involved in or love to watch from the wings?)
“Radio”, which is a company number at the end of act one, is a genuine Joy fest. Both to sing and watch.
 
If you could give one piece of advice to your 11 year old self – what would you say?
Worry less. It’ll be OK.
 
In 10 words or less, why should people come and see you, along with all the fantastic cast at MEMPHIS?
 
The best voices and dancers in the West End. Seriously.

MEMPHIS is one of the best new shows that I have seen in the West End for many years and it is another show that I have so much love for and can’t recommend enough!

Get your tickets now at http://www.shaftesburytheatre.com/shows and if you want to see Jon take the lead in the show, get down to see the show every Thursday evening or keep an eye on his Twitter @JRobyns for details.

I can’t thank Jon enough for doing this interview – it was an absolute honour!

Signing off for now

Blue Eyed Girl Xxx

Blue Eyed Girl interviews . . . THEY LIVE IN YOU’s Michael Porter

I consider my newest interview to be such an honour, as the interviewee in question is a truly inspirational man. Please may I introduce the creator of the upcoming THEY LIVE IN YOU event, the wonderful MICHAEL PORTER.

 

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

I can turn my eyelids inside out.

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?

Yesterday -This Beatles song was the first song I can remember singing in public on  karaoke in the Blackpool social clubs, with my dad watching proudly.

You’re Simply The Best – Tina Turners’ epic anthem was a song that mum use to always attempt to sing to me, whether it be on our own or in front of people. I would always get so embarrassed. It then went on to be the name of my first concert I produced for mum in Mansfield in 2009.

All of a Sudden – This is the closing song to “They Live In You.” I am incredibly proud of this as it is the first song I have ever written and I have been fortunate enough to work in collaboration with Scott Morgan who has written the music. This songs sums up the loss and love when losing someone but also shows that your loved ones are always there.

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

I have 4 very diverse roles which I cannot choose between so I have listed all 4.

1) Joseph – as this was the first musical I ever saw with my mum at Blackpool Winter Gardens

2) Frank ‘n’ Furter – Love this character and well the costumes!!!

3) Sweeney Todd – I have always has a soft spot for Sondheim, and I love a good gritty character, which brings out my darker side.

4) Felicia (Priscilla) – A life long dream to play the ultimate queen, plus I get to sit on the top of a bus, and I love the music.

What do you do to relax in your spare time?
 
I find it very hard to relax as I always love to be doing something. I am at my most relaxed in the company of the people I love.

What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

Treat people the way you wanted to be treated in return.

What are your plans for the rest of 2015 and beyond?

2015 is looking to be a great year, I have they “They Live In You”, and new job, a new home, and I am confident that mum’s case is moving in the right direction.
 

Speaking of THEY LIVE IN YOU, which will take place at the Bloomsbury Theatre on 12th April – you are the organiser and creator. For those who don’t know, what was the inspiration behind you creating this event
The inspiration for this concert comes from my fight for justice following my mum’s death in March 2009. My mother, Jean Hanlon, disappeared whilst living on the island of Crete. A few days after she disappeared, her body was found in Heraklion Harbour and the Greek authorities tried to dismiss it as a drowning accident. However, my family and I had strong suspicions otherwise. We then started a long battle to get the case re-opened and a second post-mortem subsequently showed that she had died before entering the water so, whether she died accidentally or by intent, someone had discarded her body into the water

In September 2009 I produced a concert in Mansfield and this raised enough money to pay for legal costs and my intent to hire an investigator to look into my mum’s case further but despite initial positive movement, nothing came of this and the case fell back to obscurity.Towards the end of 2014 however, I had a breakthrough when I had a met with the Greek Ambassador in London and this high profile meeting brought much interest from the press, both in the UK and in Greece which resulted in me being asked to appear on the Greek version of the Oprah Winfrey show.

My mothers case is currently in the hands of the prosecutor and a new application to re-open the case has been put forward. The purpose of “They Live in You” is not only to help the financial costs of this case should the decision to re-open be made, but also to raise and sustain awareness and reach out and appeal to others who have also suffered a loss overseas. Funds from the concert will be also be used to help others in their fight for justice.

**CHECK OUT A RECENT NEWSPAPER REPORT ON MICHAEL’S FIGHT FOR JUSTICE – http://www.sundaypost.com/news-views/scotland/i-ll-never-end-the-hunt-for-mum-s-killer-1.860153**

The title “They Live In You” comes from the song “He Lives In You” from The Lion King, which, for those who have not seen it, is when Simba sings about his father and how he lives on through him. When I made the decision last November to produce another concert, I was absolutely overwhelmed by the phenomenal support I have received from both my friends and other performers. This support has now materialised into what is going to be a fantastic evening.

Without giving too much away, what can people expect from THEY LIVE IN YOU?

An eclectic mix of true variety, I have singers and performers from TV shows such as The Voice, The X Factor and Britain’s Got Talent, plus a myriad of performers from the West End. The show will open with a montage of VT’s from both celebrities and families, in a similar situation to myself, interspersed with hard-hitting statistics of non natural deaths overseas. The show will close with the song “All of a Sudden”, which I have written with Scott Morgan as mentioned above. This shows promises to have excellent production value.

What do you hope the legacy of THEY LIVE IN YOU will be – for both you and those who attend on the night?

For me, my goal is to raise funds which will help us achieve #JusticeForJean and I am also confident that this show will, and has already helped raise awareness of so many others who have also lost people abroad. I am hoping that, as well as having a very enjoyable evening, the audience will also take away a heightened consciousness of all these unanswered cases and will do their part to make sure they are not forgotten. All profits from the show will to go to our legal fight for my mums case and remaining funds will be donated to  D.A.Y.N.A, which is Death Abroad You’re Not Alone, a charity organisation which helps and supports families like ours.

In 10 words or less, why should people come and see you, along with all the fantastic performers at THEY LIVE IN YOU?

#TheyLiveInYou –  Is a spectacular evening with a serious message…. #AreYouAware

THEY LIVE IN YOU promises to be a truly fantastic event that is not to be missed. You can get your tickets at https://www.thebloomsbury.com/event/run/14162 or you can find more details on both Facebook and Twitter.

Michael is such an inspirational man and I wish him, and all those involved with THEY LIVE IN YOU the most magical evening this Sunday at the Bloomsbury Theatre. I can only urge you to go down and support – I promise you won’t regret it!

Signing off for now

Blue Eyed Girl Xxx