The escapism of theatre

Isn’t theatre a wonderful thing! Whether you are watching a serious play, a comedy or a musical, you will normally find yourself smiling at some point during the show. You may smile during it, at the story line or the characters or you may smile after it at the joy that for 2-2.5hrs you managed to escape your normal life and forget all your worries. This is the joy of the theatre!

Theatre allows us to be temporarily part of someone else’s world, be they fictional or fact, for the time that show is on, you don’t care. You embrace your self in the story being told on stage.

The reason you are there shouldn’t be relevant to anyone but you, you may have a little extra work stress or someone close to you with ill health, whatever it is, if you love theatre then it will always help. It maybe that you chose to go to different shows each night of the week, or maybe you find one particular show that gives you that buzz and makes you feel normal again. Either way it is your way of coping, your way to make you feel better, to forget what ever other worries you have going on and simply bury your head in the sand for a couple of hours.

So often people are judged for making this choice, by their friends, their families, other theatre goers, but worst of all by the performers themselves. It’s very easy to judge someone when you don’t know their back story, we all do it. That woman on Jeremy Kyle who wants to sue her own mother for not giving birth to her as a boy, those parents on the news defending their darling child who’s just scammed a pensioner out of her life savings, that person who gets the same tube as you every morning, we judge! It’s who we are, it’s what makes us human and that’s fine because we do this judging silently, to ourselves or to our nearest and dearest. What we don’t (or shouldn’t) do is openly judge that person, to their face, for simply doing something to stop the pain.

People say it’s an unhealthy addiction to go to the same show multiple times, I disagree, unhealthy addictions are alcohol or heroin. What’s unhealthy about sitting in an auditorium and feeling pure joy with no repercussions on your health?!?!

And what a lovely feeling it must be as a performer to look out at the audience and see that familiar face smiling back at you, how lovely to think ‘I don’t know what this person if going through, but I am really touched that myself, my colleagues and our show is helping them through this difficult time’ how nice to know that your job is having that impact on someone’s life. How lovely to think that, in some circumstances, you maybe the reason that person can still get out of bed in the morning, the thought of seeing you and your show in the not too distance future is what gets them through their week.

With a growing increase in Mental Health problems and adolescent suicide, in a time when bullying should no longer exist, let’s all embrace what happiness we can and hopefully be able to go through this without the judgement of others, making you feel bad for doing something that feels so good.

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Importance of an understudy

kinky-boots-london-tt-inlineFor those of you who have read my previous blogs, you will know I have somewhat of a soft spot for an understudy and it increasingly frustrates me that they are not appreciated for the hard work they put in.

This week I was lucky enough to catch Kinky Boots at its best. For this week, not only did we have 1, not 2, but 3 lead characters being played by understudies.

Paul Ayres as Charlie Price, Emma Crossley as Lauren and James Ballanger as Don. This meant we also had Michael Vinsen as Harry and 3 Swings in the factory. Simon Anthony Rhodes as Richard Bailey, Robin Mills as Mutt and Suzie McAdam as Gemma-Louise.

And as if that wasn’t exciting enough, we also had the 3 other male swings as Angels! Jason Winter covering Craig as Referee Angel, Dominic Tribuzio covering George as Splits/Bikini Angel and Robert Jones covering Ben.

By the end of the week Alan Mehdizadeh had returned to the role of Don and George Grayson to Splits/Bikini Angel, however this did not make the cast any less exciting as by Saturday we had Jane Milligan showing us her Trish, Catherine Millsom as Milan Stage Manager and Robin Mills covering Sean Needham in the factory. The return of George meant Dominic Tribuzio moved over to cover Referee Angel and Jason Winter onto cover Ben. I’m sure you can agree it has been a very exciting week at the show and anyone who managed to catch it received a truly special show with an incredible cast! The energy from the cast was brimming, they were having fun and enjoying their jobs! Each and everyone of them fully deserving of their opportunity to play the role and they all nailed it!

Paul’s Charlie is passionate and he brings an amazing emotion to the role. As an original London Cast Member Paul has been lucky to play Charlie many times and this shows, as he has truly put his own stamp on the role and sings the part, effortlessly, as if he has been doing it full time for years. Paul’s emotion really shows during the phone call to Lola, before Hold Me In Your Heart, when you are genuinely drawn in and feel for Charlie as he suddenly realises he pushed Lola away because of his own pride. Paul’s deliverance of the role is beautifully done with perfect timing and exceptional acting.

Emma’s Lauren is fun, natural and energetic. At no point do you feel she is overplaying the part for laughs. You can really connect to the role through Emma’s portrayal as she progresses through the show and fights to help the man, she wants to be with, achieve his dreams and help save the family business. Emma gets the chance to show off the full potential of her beautiful voice during History Of Wrong Guys and brings a bit of playfulness to the character. As the week went on you could really see Emma growing in the part and experimenting to put her own twist on it and the development she has made truly shone through by Saturday.

James Ballanger has a very different take to the role of Don, portraying the character slightly more cocky than angry, a little bit like the Original West End Don, Jamie Baughan. Although James still keeps the character’s dislike of Lola alive, he plays it out in a more placid sense. James’s voice really shines through during the final song, as he bursts onto the cat walk and surprises Charlie by bringing everyone along. As he belts out the lines, he then hits, and holds, a very impressive note, receiving rapturous applause from the audience.

Jane Milligan as Trish is comical genius! Her slapdash, straight to the point, take on the role has the audience in stitches and her feistyness when defending Don, particularly during In This Corner, is played with brilliant hilarity. Jane also gets an opportunity to show off her impressive vocal range when covering this this track.

As anyone who has seen the show probably knows, Lola and her Angels burst onto the stage and automatically grab the attention of the entire auditorium. These Angels (covers very much included) are some of the best talent currently on a West End stage. The levels of dancing are above and beyond, along with the make up! These ladies certainly know how to have fun! Each one having their own little characters and traits, playfully playing off each others incredible energy, this week the energy coming off of them was so strong it almost lifted the roof off the Adelphi!

At the beginning of the week we were treated to Jason Winter’s In This Corner, as he donned the Referee costume and dreads. The sass and fierceness that Jason brought to the role reflected onto the audience, who instantly lite up with screaming, shouting and joyous applause. At the end of the week, audiences were treated to Dominic Tribuzio’s Referee. Like Mary Poppins, Dominic is also ‘Practically Perfect In Every way’. He can sing, he can dance, he can act and better than that, he can do them all at once, whilst strutting around fiercely in a pair of heels! And just when you think you’ve seen it all, he flawlessly drops into Box Splits half way through In This Corner, sending the audience into a completely frenzy, before subtly regaining himself as if nothing out of the ordinary has happened!!

What this week at the show has proven is what an incredible bunch of people covers/understudies/swings truly are. Each day can bring a completely different role, playing opposite completely different people, but each and everyday they take it on with full professionalism and play the parts out to their full potential. Yet still we find they are often hidden away and never truly praised for their efforts, even though a lot of times, without these individuals, shows simply wouldn’t go ahead. It’s bad enough when members of the public complain about/ignore covers, but when the companies themselves are shying away from celebrating these wonderful performers, we have some real problems.

All companies, nationwide, should take pride in what they have and celebrate these most fabulous human beings for saving their shows night after night!

A second Kinky year!!

On 13th August this year Price and Son opened its doors for its first shift with new workers. To celebrate the shows 1st birthday, on Thursday 8th September, they hosted a press night to welcome the new cast.

First to start their shift is Don (Alan Mehdizadeh) instructing the audience to turn off their phones. Mehdizadeh took on the role perfectly and shows real development of the character throughout the show as he learns to accept Lola (and Charlie) for who he is.

The hands of the factory are now left to David Hunter (Charlie Price). Hunter brings a new approach to the character, a loveable rouge. Hunter’s Charlie is very excited at the prospect of his new life in London, with Fiancé Nicola (Cordelia Farnworth), his passion to abandon the family business is soon thrown into turmal with the passing of his father and suddenly we see Hunter’s passion and excitement focusing on saving the family legacy. As Charlie takes over the reigns of the factory, worker Lauren (Elena Skye), begins to see a different side to him. Skye has great comical timing and during her solo number, History Of Wrong Guys, is able to show her incredible vocal ability as well. Her bashful approach to the character shows another side to Lauren. Hunter needs some work on the pace in which he is delivering his lines, especially in places where a pause is needed ‘who offered you a chance to make ….. Kinky Boots’, however the pair work brilliantly together and I’ve no doubt these little niggles will iron themselves out.

Female Factory workers Trish, Maggie, Marge and Gemma Louise are now played by Melissa Jacques, Charlotte Jeffery, Jane Milligan and (Original London Cast Swing) Emma Crossley. Chloe Hart remains in the role of Pat. Crossley, inparticular, is now a stand out as she is able to show off her beautiful voice when singing the Price and Son theme, after Mr Price’s passing. Jacques, Jeffery and Milligan have given new personalities to their parts and brought a fresh new feel to the factory. Milligan’s Milan Stage Manager being a particular hit with the audience!

Male factory workers Crispin (Harry), hooch, Simon Snr, Paddington/Richard Bailey and Mr Price continue to be played by original cast members Paul Ayres, Sean Needham, Robert Grose, Michael Vinsen and Alan Vicary with James Ballanger joining in the role of Mutt. The original cast members continue to maintain a faultless performance and keep the factory ticking over with no hiccups.

Matt Henry stole the show with his breath taking rendition of Hold Me In Your Heart and continues to strongly hold the show as flamboyant drag queen Lola, now accompanied with a gaggle of fresh faced Angels (Jemal Felix, George Grayson, Jon Reynolds, Ben Sell, Craig Thomas) and original cast Angel Philip Town. The new Angels are all showing excellent potential, however there are still some minor Choreography issues, which I’m sure will iron out over time. They are all enjoying developing their own character and putting their own little stamps on the parts. They have jel’d extremely well and work alongside each other perfectly. Grayson, who graduated from Laine Theatre Arts only this year, has stepped into “Splits Angel” position, his split are done with beautiful grace and he is really making his debut on the west end count! I can see big things in his future! Town, as the only original Angel to stay, rules the roost perfectly and continues to wow the audience with his flawless dancing and backflip!

Farnworth shows us a very different side to Nicola, than that of original cast member Amy Ross. Farnworth’s portrayal shows a more fierce side to the character, who is determined to achieve her dreams, with or without her childhood sweetheart. Her accent can slip in and out a little, however I’m sure this will settle.

New swings joining the cast are Suzie McAdam, Robin Mills, Simon-Anthony Rhoden and Jason Winter. The new additions join continuing swings Robert Jones, Catherine Millsom and Dominic Tribuzio. Due to the indisposition of Robert Grose since cast change, the role of Simon Snr has been played by new swing Simon. Jason Winter has played the role of Richard Bailey, Robin Mills has been on as Hooch and Suzie McAdam as Gemma Louise. All swings have taken this exciting opportunity to make the most of being part of an Olivier Award Winning show and the ones I have seen have been faultless.

I feel it is only right at this point to mention Original Cast Angel/2nd cover Lola, Arun Blair-Mangat, who, despite leaving the show on 13th August, stepped in to cover for Matt Henry whilst he took holiday from 31st August to 3rd September. Blair makes a beautiful Lola, his grace and elegance shine through the entire auditorium along with his mesmerising voice. He has made his own interpretation of the character and added personal tricks and quirks. During Hold Me In Your Heart it is as if Beyoncé herself has joined the show!

Catch Kinky Boots now at London’s Adelphi Theatre www.kinkybootsthemusical.co.uk now booking until May 2017! 

Guys, Dolls and Fat Amy!


I have pondered on whether or not to write this blog and thought over how I can express how I feel, yet be controversial. 

Disclaimer: I have nothing against Rebel Wilson personally, I very much enjoy her TV/Film work. I haven’t met her personally, but know people who have and say she is very friendly. If you are the type of person who struggles to deal with controversial/conflicting opinions, I suggest you don’t read.

I saw Rebel’s first show in Guys & Dolls, on 28th June, and it was basically everything I expected it to be! 

From the moment Rebel stepped onto the stage the audience were going wild, they continued to do this every time she was on stage, the more they gave, the more she gave back! It was like being at a panto!

Her accent was very shakey from the start and, similar to Sophie Thompson, she seemed to channel many different voices and accents throughout the show. Everything about her portrayal of Adelaide was done for laughs and whilst at some points of the show this works, at no point did you feel for her, the moments when she has been let down by Nathan and her more delicate, less performer, side shows were made comical. I feel it has really taken away from what is suppose to be a classic musical. 

The whole performance felt very slapstick. 

As this was her first show and I was aware she hadn’t had a long rehearsal period, I decided to give her the benefit of the doubt and went again to see the show. I had hoped that as she settled in she would tone it down, unfortunately this was not the case at all. We have many extra sexual innuendos and adlibs (don’t even get me started on the cucumber!) which are not only unnecessary, they also increase the length of (an already long) show. The second time I saw it they cut the entire dance routine in the sewers, before Luck Be A Lady, and the show still didn’t come down until around 10:20-10:25. 

Her voice was very average, she can hold a tune but with no power, most songs appeared to be spoke rather than sung. Duet numbers, such as Marry The Man, were awkward as the other cast were in some kind of battle to equal her comedy, whilst not completely over shadowing her vocally. 

I find it really frustrating when performers, who are incredibly talented, are pushed aside for celebrities who can’t deliver. Whilst some “stunt casting” does pay off, so often it doesn’t. 

So my advise would be, if you want to see the show for what it is, a classic story set in New York focusing on two couples and their journey’s revolving around gambling, then I would wait until September. However if you want to go and watch some incredible performances dance and sing their hearts out whilst Rebel plays herself/Fat Amy whilst the audience scream uncontrollably over the top, go immediately.

Little Voice, Big Production!

Little Voice

Little Voice is the story of a young girl with a big voice. This small production, with an outstanding cast of 6, works perfectly in the intimate setting of the Union Theatre. Although a small production in a small venue, it did not feel this way once the cast took to the stage! The whole cast were brilliant, each bringing their own to the characters they are portraying.

The role of Little Voice was played beautifully by Carly Thoms (Thoroughly Modern Millie, The Sound Of Music, Whistle Down The Wind). Thoms delivered the role perfectly, beginning with a shy, timid young girl and gaining confidence throughout the show, plucking up the courage, by the end, to stand up to her mother, Mari, played by Charlotte Gorton (Memphis, Viva Forever, Mamma Mia). Thoms has a fantastic voice and her performance impersonating the stars was mesmerising. The dramatic change in LV’s character was played out impeccably, showing real talent and acting ability.

Ken Christiansen (Closer To Heaven, Pacific Overtures, An Inspector Calls) took on the role of budding agent Ray Say. Christiansen’s strong performance was spot on for this determined, vindictive man, who will stop at nothing to get his hands on the prize, no matter who he hurts along the way.

The rest of the company are made up of Mandy Dassa (Doctors, AmStarDam, La Traviata) as Mari’s loyal best friend Sadie, Glenn Adamson (The Gingerbread Man, Departure Loungue The Musical, Songs For A New World) as lovestruck Billy who sets his sights on Little Voice and James Peake (She Stoops To Conquer, Fitzrovia, A Midsummer Nights Dream) as  Mr Boo.

Each member of the cast gave an amazing performance and deserved their place in the limelight, the stand out of the evening, however, had to be Charlotte Gorton, who absolutely shone from start to finish. Gorton took you on an emotional rollercoaster of laughter and tears, bringing an incredible energy to the role, with a brilliant fierceness and excellent comic timing. She drew you into the character, leaving you shocked at her behaviour towards her own daughter (and her loyal best friend) and then, during the second act, as Gorton’s character is stripped back, you begin to see the heartbroken, vulnerable woman underneath and feel yourself reaching out to her as she crumbled in front of your eyes. She was absolutely flawless and certainly one to look out for in the future!

Catch this incredible show now, before its too late http://www.uniontheatre.biz/ or call 020 7261 9876. Playing until 26th June 2016

Performing Arts at its best

500

Anyone who has an interest in, performs in or obsesses over theatre will know that last week the Old Vic hosted a production, directed and choreographed by Drew McOnie, of Jekyll and Hyde. The production only ran for 11 performance so I felt extremely privileged to bag myself a ticket to the final performance on Saturday night. And it was like something I had never seen before.

I have personally never watched a show which has no dialogue or lyrics, I also (and I know I should probably be ashamed of this fact) have never seen Jekyll and Hyde. I knew the basic idea behind it, but not how the story panned out. I had no trouble at all following the story being performed in front of me, from the second the performance began I couldn’t have tore my eyes from the stage for love nor money, what I was witnessing in front of me was completely mesmerising, hypnotic almost. The set was simplistic, consisting of a scaffolding poles style build, revolved by the cast, with three sections, split to represent Jekyll’s flower shop, his laboratory/bedroom and outside. Although minimal, it worked perfectly to accompany the story but to not distract away from the focus of the show, which of course is the impeccable dancing being performed around the set.

The entire piece was elegantly danced, to a beautiful soundtrack, by a strong cast of 12. The leading roles were portrayed by Daniel Collins (Jekyll) and Tim Hodges (Hyde). Both of them captured the essence of their character and played it beautifully. The personalities of the characters shone through in their movements and expressions.

Every member of the cast showed amazing stamina and dedication to the part they were representing, each of them equally as strong as the next. They worked incredibly well as a team, showing great trust in each other and performing in perfect synchronisation during the group numbers, not a single slip up or person out of place. The scenes showing the transition between Jekyll and Hyde were very clever, using sharp, jaggered movements and strobe lighting ensuring the switch over was discreet and almost magical.

It is a crying shame this production had such a short run and many people missed out on witnessing an utter masterpiece, I can only hope we will soon see more beautiful work from Drew McOnie and when we do, I advise each and everyone of you to grab a ticket and spend a couple of hours captivated by the magic of dance.

If you only see one show between now and 18th June…

I honestly can’t say enough good things about this show, from the story, the set, the acting, every single detail of this show has been well thought, written, planned and portrayed.

I don’t want to give away too much of the plot of the show (however there may be slight spoilers), I went in knowing absolutely nothing about it, I just had other people’s recommendations, I didn’t know the story at all. I think this made it even more breathtaking, as I didn’t know what to expect.

The set was very minimalistic and additional props slid on from the sides of the stage. The direction of the play was very cleverly done, the show was not performed to the audience, but performed as if you are an onlooker, being able to watch the story pan out from the sidelines.

Denise Gough’s acting was absolutely mind blowing, the emotion she portrays throughout the entire show was mesmerising. She has invested 100% (if not more) into this show and at no point, considering she barely leaves the stage from curtain up to curtain call, did her acting falter, she grips you into her character from the very beginning and you stay engrossed for the entire time. You spend a lot of the show trying to pick out the truth from the fiction watching a seemingly angry woman progress and open up to show an incredibly vulnerable and broken young girl. You are taken on an emotional roller coaster that is so beautifully played out you find yourself shocked and angry one minute, laughing the next and then in floods of tears, genuinely wanting to reach out and help her. The closing scenes are incredibly heart-wrenching, as the whole story comes together and you begin to truly understand what you have just witnessed. Gough proved she was worthy of ever single inch of her Olivier award and I only wish there were a thousand more awards she could be given for this role, as I’m just not sure that one completely shows exactly how incredible she is.

The entire cast were extremely strong, particular mentions to Barbara Marten and Nathaniel Martello-White. Barbara plays several main characters throughout the show and portrays them all to show a distinct difference, yet equally showing a similar theme throughout. Nathaniel’s character goes through some big changes throughout the show as  an almost secondary character, yet at times, you feel yourself becoming as engrossed in his story as the main character.

 

So I urge every single one of you to go and beg, borrow or steal a ticket to this show and embrace every single moment of this stunning master-class in acting!