Once Review

..”a beautiful, unique piece of theatre which I believe deserves to run and run!”

Photo credit to Once the Musical's Official London Website

Photo credit to Once the Musical’s Official London Website

Yesterday I managed to catch a matinee performance of Once. I’ve wanted to see Once for a while now, so I was very excited to see it! I’m so glad I did see it, because it’s a beautiful, unique piece of theatre which I believe deserves to run and run! The cast is made up of actor-musicians who are astoundingly talented.

I hadn’t seen the film of Once before watching the musical, so didn’t really know what to expect story and music wise. The story of once involves an Irish guy and a Czech girl who meet through a shared love of music. They begin to write music with one another, which sparks a romance that neither of them anticipated.

Photo credit to Once the Musical's Official London Website

Photo credit to Once the Musical’s Official London Website

I was so impressed with Once. It’s so simple, yet so effective. There is only one set, but in my opinion this really works. Once is a production that doesn’t need lavish costumes and sets. The audience gets the songs flowing seamless throughout the show. This, of course, is helped by the fact that the cast all play instruments including the fiddle, guitar, drums, accordion and guitar alongside others! The actor-musicians all become part of the action.

Declan Bennett is perfect as Guy. His voice is beautiful and so powerful. I thought his relationship with Zrinka Cvitešić’s Girl was completely believable. Zrinka has a lovely voice and she acted the part perfectly. I thought she was incredibly endearing with fabulous comic timing.

Photo credit to Once the Musical's Official London Website

Photo credit to Once the Musical’s Official London Website

I’m thrilled to see Phoebe Fildes is the first cover for Girl. I saw Phoebe in Michael Bruce’s Acoustic Sessions concert, and was blown away by her then. I may have to keep an eye out for her dates and see if I can catch her in the show.

The whole cast of Once are incredible. I thoroughly enjoyed myself and would highly recommend it if you want a decent, original theatre experience!

Les Misérables Review: New Cast 2013-4

I’d definitely recommend going to see this cast if you can!

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Yesterday I returned to the Queen’s Theatre to watch Les Misérables. I had many reasons for this, the main one being that I hadn’t seen it for a while and wanted to return. The other was that I really wanted to see Carrie Hope Fletcher as Eponine. I then found out that the talented Niall Sheehy was going to be on as Enjolras. So I was a very happy person!

Daniel Koek is currently playing Jean Valjean. I have seen Daniel in several productions now and I’ve always thought his voice was flawless. This is still the case with Les Mis. I thought vocally he was superb as Valjean. I think my only (slight) problem with his interpretation of Valjean was his acting. It was mainly very good, but sometimes I found it  was over the top and began to move from passionate to incredibly exaggerated.

I last saw Tam Mutu as Phantom in Love Never Dies. I was blown away by him then and as Javert my opinion of him was cemented. I really love Tam’s voice and his Javert is incredibly determined and menacing. I simply love his voice as well!

Na-Young Jeon now plays Fantine. I loved her vulnerability but her desire to do what’s necessary to save her daughter. I thought her performance of ‘I Dreamed A Dream’ was incredibly passionate.

Carrie Hope Fletcher takes on the role of Eponine, a role that she has wanted to play for a long time. I’ve been listening to Carrie’s voice for years, and I was excited to see how she took on a role she was so passionate about. Carrie takes on the role superbly. She seemed incredibly comfortable in the role. Her ‘On My Own’ was sublime. She made me believe in Eponine’s love for Marius. Unrequited love is heart breaking and Carrie portrayed that beautifully.

Cameron Blakely continues to play Thenardier. I really enjoyed his performance and he works well with Wendy Ferguson as Madame Thenardier. Wendy is brilliant as Madame Thenardier, wonderfully menacing. Both Wendy and Cameron have superb comic timing.

Usually Cosette is a character I really can’t stand. Until now.. I really enjoyed Samantha Dorsey’s interpretation of Cosette. There’s not much to do with the character, but Samantha really shines in the role. Her voice is beautiful and her relationship with Rob Houchen’s Marius is believable. I enjoyed Rob’s interpretation of Marius. His voice is lovely and he gave a great performance of ‘Empty Chairs at Empty Tables.’

I, of course, have to mention Niall Sheehy as Enjolras. I thought he was fantastic. He gave a very assured performance of Enjolras. He is definitely my favourite Enjolras yet! Vocally he was brilliant and his interpretation of the character was solid. He commanded the stage.

I thoroughly enjoyed my trip to Les Miserables yesterday. The whole cast are incredibly talented and give everything to the performance. I’d definitely recommend going to see this cast if you can!

Les Miserables Film Review

I know, I know. It’s been AGES since I’ve posted a blog. I’m sorry! Real life has got in the way and with a hectic schedule at work and other personal things going on in my life, I haven’t been able to go to the theatre as much as I would’ve liked.

Tomorrow I’m going to see the new cast of Les Miserables and I thought, since I’ll be writing a review for that, that I’d preface that review with my thoughts on the film adaptation.

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I think I have to admit that I’m not the biggest Les Mis fan on the planet. I do like Les Miserables but I wouldn’t call myself a massive fan. I’ve seen it on stage at the Queen’s Theatre several times and I’m looking forward to seeing it tomorrow.

I’m assuming most people that have watched the film have seen Les Miserables. If not, why not? I know it’s not my favourite, but it really is a classic and I think something every theatre fan should watch at least once.

In a nutshell, Les Miserables is set in 19th Century France and letts the tale of broken dreams, unrequited love, sacrifice, passion and redemption. Jean Valjean is an ex-prisoner, hunted for decades by Javert after Valjean breaks parole. Valjean agrees to care for Fantine’s daughter, Cosette and from this their lives change forever.

I enjoyed the film, but I much preferred the stage version. This isn’t to say that I wouldn’t recommend the film. I certainly would. I really like the fact that Tom Hooper decided to film the actors singing their songs live, rather than overly auto tune their voices in the studio. It made it seem much more raw.  I appreciate that every note wasn’t flawless because it seemed honest.

I really enjoyed Hugh Jackman’s interpretation of Jean Valjean. He gave a very assured performance.  I think he portrayed the character brilliantly. Jean Valjean goes through so many emotions, from broken to heroic, Jackman seems to live in the moment. He is equally convincing as a strong, young prisoner to a dying old man, whilst belting out some notoriously hard songs.

I’d heard such mixed opinions on Russell Crowe’s Javert. Personally I thought he tried his best to portray the character. He came across as very earnest, but unfortunately I didn’t find him very credible.

I’ve always liked Samantha Barks voice. She is worthy of playing Eponine in the film. Her version of ‘On My Own’ is brilliantly performed and devastating. You can feel her pain as she yearns for Marius.  I haven’t ever been the biggest fan of Cosette. I don’t think she’s a very good character at all, I find her quite boring and unfortunately I feel the same with the film adaptation. It’s nothing to do with Amanda Seyfried’s performance. She does well with what she’s got. I just don’t think I’ll ever like Cosette!  I thought Eddie Redmayne gave a good performance as Marius. His relationship with Cosette was believable.

I really enjoyed Anne Hathaway was brilliant as Fantine. I think she gave everything to her performance. Her version of ‘I Dreamed A Dream’ was so well acted.  It really was heart-breaking.

It was great to pick out familiar West End faces within the well-known cast. It became a game of Spot The West End Wendies.

Overall, I think the Les Miserables film is well worth a watch, but nothing will beat the original stage production. I can’t wait to see it tomorrow, it’s been a while since I’ve seen the stage version and I’m well due a visit.

Your Presence- a new song by Taylor-Rowan & Hughes

YOURPRESENCE ARTWORK iTUNES

Taylor-Rowan & Hughes are  a musical theatre writing duo. Their musical ‘Kandy Kottage” was showcased in October 2012 and following further development will be shown on 14th March 2013 as part of The Landor Theatre’s musical theatre writing festival.

Shona Lindsay has starred on stage and screen since she was 11 years old. She has appeared in shows such as Annie, The Phantom Of The Opera and Singing In The Rain to name a few. She lends her beautiful voice to Taylor-Rowan & Hughes’ Christmas song Your Presence.

Taylor-Rowan & Hughes wrote this song for a musical theatre loving audience tired of hearing the same Christmas songs.  Your Presence is a perfect song for musical theatre goers.  The lyrics are beautiful and easily relatable. I can imagine hearing it on stage, yet it’s versatile enough to be found on a Christmas album along with the other Christmas classics.  Your Presence is a beautiful love song which builds stunningly throughout. Shona Lindsay was the perfect choice for this song.

Although I may not be able to make the date for ‘Kandy Kottage’ at The Landor, I shall be looking out for more from Taylor-Rowan & Hughes in 2013. With an album in the pipeline something tells me that Taylor-Rowan &  Hughes will be sticking around for some time yet…

You can download Your Presence on iTunes for 79p. It’s worth the money!

Check out the new musical theatre writing festival From Page To Stage at The Landor Theatre HERE

For more on Taylor-Rowan & Hughes, click on the image of Your Presence!

Jack and the Beanstalk

“Its high tech nature makes it one not to miss..”

Jack-The-Beanstalk-MAyflower-Theatre

I thought I’d seen my pantomime until next pantomime season, but then I kept hearing glowing reviews of Jack and the Beanstalk at The Mayflower, Southampton. So taking advantage of the Christmas/New Year break I booked some tickets.

Southampton’s production of Jack and the Beanstalk is traditional pantomime with cringeworthy jokes (but of course!) and the usual audience involvement. However, this production is incredibly high tech with 3D sequences which cause much screaming from adults and children in the audience. The cast are very talented and include Julian Clary, Nigel Havers, Lee Mead and Paul Zerdin.

Julian Clary, as the Spirit of the Beans, has incredible stage presence and star quality.  His costumes are ridiculous but amazing, something only Julian Clary could pull off! He has some fantastic one-liners which luckily go over the heads of most of the audience members. I enjoyed his banter with the other cast members.  Nigel Havers plays Fleshcreep brilliantly and he works incredibly with Julian’s Spirit of the Beans. Lee Mead as Jack Trott sings the song I don’t think he’ll ever get away from, but also proves he can sing trickier songs very well. He’s an endearing Jack.  Paul Zerdin, a ventriloquist is incredibly charismatic and binds the production together fantastically as Simple Simon with the aid of Sam the puppet and a baby at some point too! His interactions with the young children in the audience is very natural and funny. Jeffrey Holland, Shireen Jordan and Ian Gledhill make small but good contributions to the production too. Robyn Mellor is a brilliant Princess Apricot. Her voice is incredibly strong, she is a perfect princess.

This pantomime is worth taking a trip to see. Its high tech nature makes it one not to miss and Julian Clary really does shine.

American Idiot UK tour

“The direction is fantastic as it really captures the dark mood and paranoia of the time.”

Green Day’s album American Idiot is a spectical. Each track tells a story following on from the next so it really does set itself up to theatrical interpretations. The stage adaptation is co-written by band singer/songwriter Billie Joe Armstrong and director Michael Mayer.  American Idiot: The Musical originally opened at the Berkeley Repertory Theatre followed by a year long run on Broadway and it is now embarking on a UK tour.

American Idiot’s plot centres around Jonny, Will and Tunny, (Alex Nee, Casey O’Farrell, Thomas Hettrick) three rebels desperate for a cause post  9-11 in small town America. The direction is fantastic as it really captures the dark mood and paranoia of the time.  Through Green Day’s songs the trio seek a purpose and come up short. Alex Nee as Johnny becomes the musical’s focus as he juggles both love and heroin.

The American touring cast are energetic and give everything to the show and are incredible to watch. Trent Saunders as St Jimmy is a great alter ego for Alex Nee’s Johnny, although for me personally, Trent’s voice wasn’t quite my cup of tea singing the very difficult Green Day songs. I loved Alex’s voice and he was incredibly charismatic.

The musical is full of songs from the American Idiot album with some added songs and is well worth watching if you’re a Green Day fan. I really enjoy Green Day’s music and I think once you take the show for what it is you will enjoy it! It’s not a complex piece, but it’s enjoyable. The cast are never going to sound as good as Green Day do, but they do a damn good job!

Oh, I should also warn you, that being Green Day’s music it does include sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll. I saw quite a few unhappy theatre-goers somewhat offended by the language and explicit nature!

Cinderella at the Lyric Hammersmith

I think one of the funniest things was to watch the cast try NOT to laugh at each other.”

It’s that time of year again! I know some theatre-goers find pantomime very tacky but I can’t resist a good pantomime. The Lyric Hammersmith was calling me this year. Two reasons… Julie Atherton and Steven Webb.  Julie and Steven are two of my favourite performers so I was really looking forward to going!

This production of Cinderella was written by Joel Horwood and Morgan Lloyd Malcolm and directed by Sean Holmes. It’s an incredibly witty, silly but lovable interpretation with some of the classic Cinderella ‘moments’ involved but much more modernised with ‘current’ songs (e.g. Gangham Style and Wings) included. Cinderella had some real laugh out loud moments, some Christmassy magic (obviously) and very naughty jokes for the adults in the audience.

Julie Atherton played Cinderella beautifully. She has such great comic timing and a unique singing voice. Cinderella’s ‘All By Myself’ was the only opportunity for Julie to really unleash her voice, which she did brilliantly!   Her chemistry with Steven Webb as Buttons was fabulous. Their real life friendship translates wonderfully on stage.  Steven was fantastic as Buttons. He got plenty of laughs and was incredibly charismatic, he really got the audience going.

Mel Giedroyc was simply fantastic as Ms Hardup, Cinderella’s step mother.  She was brilliantly evil and really worked the audience. She was funny and wonderful at the adlibs.

Hammed Animashaunt and David Ganly were brilliant as the Ugly Sisters. They were as OTT as can be! William Ellis was a great Prince Charming and Sophia Nomvete impressed me with her Fairy Godmother/Dandini roles.

I think one of the funniest things was to watch the cast try NOT to laugh at each other. They seem to be having a fantastic time together and the fun they’re having is infectious!  I recommend going to see Cinderella at the Lyric.  It was just a fun way to spend a few hours!

Superstar Contestants- Where are they now?

Ben Forster- 

  • Theatre- Ben was voted for as the winner of Superstar and played Jesus on the arena tour. Ben will play Brad in the UK tour of Rocky Horror from 20th December 2012- 23rd February 2013. Ben returned to the role of Jesus in 2013 for some further arena tours. He then returned to playing Brad in Rocky Horror.
  • TV- Ben appeared in an episode of Pointless- Celebrity in October 2013.
  • Music- Ben has recorded two albums which can be found on iTunes and Ben’s official website. (The second from November 2013)

Rory Taylor-

  • Theatre- Rory will be playing Simon and first cover Jesus in the upcoming world tour of Jesus Christ Superstar.
  • Concerts- Rory will be the special guest of Kerry Ellis at the Hippodrome Casino from 1-6th October. Rory will also be in the 20th anniversary concert of Rent which opens in Manchester on 25th April 2013. Rory will appear at the After Show at Hippodrome Casino gig on 13th February 2013 performing with Tim and David.

Roger Wright-

  • Theatre-  Roger was in the West End premiere of You Can Do It at Leicester Square Theatre on Sunday 7th October 2012 with further dates to be announced.

David Hunter-

  • Theatre-  On 12th November 2012, David was Cousin Kevin in a one night only production of Tommy at the Prince Edward Theatre. It is possible that the show will have a full run in 2013. David was Horton the Elephant in the new London production of Seussical at the Arts Theatre.  David was in The Curve, Leicester’s production of Howard Goodall’s The Hired Man. David has joined the cast of Once as the standby Guy.
  • Concerts- David performed cabaret on 18th November 2012 at Battersea Barge and at West End Fest. David performed at the After Show at Hippodrome Casino gig on 13th February 2013 performing with Tim and Rory.

Nathan James-

  • Concerts- Nathan has continued to gig as he did prior to the show. Concerts have included West End Fest and a free Michael Jackson concert at Canada Square Park. Nathan toured America with the Trans-Siberian Orchestra in The Lost Christmas Eve. He supported Ruthie Henshall on her Welsh dates of her tour in March 2013. Nathan continues to perform in many concerts in Europe and the UK.
  • Music- Nathan has recorded an album. This can be found on his website.

Jeff Anderson-

  • Theatre- Jeff was in the ensemble of the arena tour of Jesus Christ Superstar. He was the first understudy for Jesus.
  • Concerts- In August 2013, Jeff performed with Nathan at the Jazz Café in Camden.

Jon Moses- 

  • Theatre- Jon played Prince Valiant in Worthing’s Sleeping Beauty pantomime. He was the Prince in the Easter tour of Rapunzel which started on 28th March 2013. Jon will perform on the Tenerife Fred Olsen cruise from January 2014. In March 214, Jon will play Jesus in Jesus Christ Superstar at Gloucester Cathedral.
  • Music- Jon has just released his first EP for Big Hand Records.

Niall Sheehy- 

  • Theatre- Niall was in Anglo the musical from 14-25th November 2012 at Bord Gais Energy Theatre. He was the Prince in Snow White from 12th December 2012- 13th January 2013 at the Tivoli Theatre in Dublin. Niall will perform in The Route To Happiness at the Landor Theatre from 19-24th February. Niall is currently in Les Miserables. He is in the ensemble and understudying the role of Enjolras .

Tim Prottey-Jones

  • Theatre- Tim was in the ensemble of the arena tour of Jesus Christ Superstar. He was the first understudy for Judas. Tim will play Michael in the 2 actor musical “I Do, I Do” at Riverside Studios in London from 5-7th December 2012.
  • Concerts-  Tim performed on 2nd December at Out of Our Heads in London, a show with music from Kooman and Dimond. He was a guest at Lauren Samuels concert in Eastbourne on 8th December 2012. Tim will appear at the After Show at Hippodrome Casino gig on 13th February 2013 performing with David and Rory.
  • Music-  Tim will do some gigs with his band Straight On Red in London and the Midlands.

Afnan Iftikhar

  • Theatre- Afnan played Dandini in Bradford’s pantomime Cinderella from 15th December 2012.

The Hired Man at Mountview

“The cast are talented singers but amazing actors who really portray the emotion of the piece beautifully.”

The musical theatre students of Mountview Academy of the Arts are currently performing in Howard Goodall’s The Hired Man. I’ve made no secret of the fact that I’m a huge Howard Goodall fan so when I knew Mountview were putting on a production it was pretty much a given that I went! The show finishes tomorrow. It’s worth trying to see if there are any tickets left as the production is truly stunning.

The plot centres around John Tallentire (Kane Oliver Parry), his wife Emily (Laura Darton) and their family during 1898 and 1921.  The stories are told by focusing on the family and the trials and tribulations of events that impact their lives.  The Bernie Arts Centre is a fantastic space for The Hired Man, it’s interesting to see the difference having that more space has in the production. Having previously seen it at The Landor Theatre I was worried it would lose its intimacy but it doesn’t.

The casting of this musical is superb. There are some incredible lead performers with such strong voices and brilliant acting skills. Having a bigger ensemble and more girls in the production works really well, the harmonies are beautiful.

I thought Kane Oliver Parry was fantastic as John Tallentire. His voice is brilliant and he had great chemistry with Laura Darton as Emily Tallentire.  Laura’s voice is also fantastic, but I was drawn to her acting in particular. Daisy Amphlett as May, John and Emily’s daughter was great and made the audience laugh. Harrison Spiers as the son of John and Emily is also impressive. Damien Walsh plays Jackson Pennington who is the son of the farmer John works for and the man who Emily falls in love with. I thought Damien was fantastic, he had great chemistry with Laura as Emily, you really believed in them.

The incredibly strong cast are supported by a wonderful ensemble who add to making Howard Goodall’s music so spine-tingling brilliant to listen to. The cast are talented singers but amazing actors who really portray the emotion of the piece beautifully. I can’t wait to see Girlfriends from the Mountview students in a few weeks time.

London Road, Review

London Road is a thought-provoking piece of theatre…..”

Photo by Mark Douet

London Road has moved from the Cottesloe Theatre, where it opened last April into the Olivier Theatre as part of the Travelex £12 season. I kept meaning to see the show last year but never got round to it, so I was thrilled when I had the opportunity to see the show. I didn’t think it was a perfect piece of theatre. At times, some of the dialogue is just too repetitive for me and it feels slightly too long, however, it does make you think. It’s worth going to see with an open mind and seeing what you make of it.

London Road paints a portrait of the Suffolk community in a state of shock at the murder of five prostitutes in 2006.  London Road does not focus on the murderer or the victims, but the community and how it affected them. Some of the members of the communities words were recorded and edited by Alecky Blythe during the trial of the murderer and then set by Adam Cork to music. What is so unique about the music is the amount of  ‘ums’ and ‘ers’ included. It’s hard to explain why the music works. It just flows naturally like one comes to expect in everyday conversation.

The cast includes Kate Fleetwood who is the Neighbourhood Watch Events Organiser who came up for the idea of London Road in Bloom, the way to move forward after the terrible events;. Nick Holder, Nicola Sloane,  Linzi Hateley and Duncan Wisbey, Claire Burt, Hal Fowler and Paul Thornley as committee members.  Paul Thornley plays a window cleaner, James Doherty and Claire Moore are keen line-dancers.  Other members of the company are Michael Shaeffer, Dominic Rose and Daniel Simpson.

There are 52 other parts including policemen, journalists, lawyers, paparazzi etc all played by members of the company. All are played brilliantly by a wonderful company portraying the lives of the members of the community in the aftermath of such an awful event.

I didn’t expect humour in the show, but through the interactions of couples, including long married couples, there are conversations and typical ‘old married couple’ behaviour that make you smile in spite of the subject matter.

I wasn’t sure if I was going to like London Road as a musical. Before seeing the show I thought it would work better as a play but in my opinion it does work as a musical, the cast sing their way to living with the past and moving on to the future. London Road is a thought-provoking piece of theatre which concentrates on building and surviving a terrible ordeal by coming together as a community.

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