Wednesday, 19 August 2015

COMPETITION - WIN 2 TICKETS TO SEE A DELFONT MACKINTOSH SHOW OF YOUR CHOICE!

Hello everyone!

 
A few weeks back, I was very lucky to win the star prize at the Phantom of the Opera Cabaret in aid of MAD Trust - 2 tickets to see a show at ANY Delfont Mackintosh Theatre!


However due to circumstances beyond my control - I will be unable to make use of this amazing prize! But rather than having these go to waste, I wanted to make sure this wonderful charity got something back in return!


SO .... I am going to host a Silent Auction for these tickets!!!


The prize includes 2 tickets to see a top show at a Delfont Mackintosh Theatre in London's West End. These tickets can be used for any Monday to Thursday performance (including mid week matinees) between the 31st August 2015 and 22nd October 2015.


Starting today (Wednesday 19th August), you can make a bid for this brilliant prize through private message to me either here on Facebook or via Direct Message on Twitter to @TOABlueEyedGirl


You can enter as many times as you like - just make sure your name and contact details are on your bid.


The deadline will be Thursday 27th August at 6pm (UK Time) and I will announce the winner shortly after.


Please note - I will not dispatch the tickets until I have received successful payment!


All the money raised will go to MAD Trust so be as generous as you can with your bids! REMEMBER - if you were buying two full price tickets to any of these shows, you would be looking in the region of £100!


Come on folks - let's show our support for this wonderful cause!!!

Signing off for now
Blue Eyed Girl Xxx

Tuesday, 4 August 2015

STAGEY SHORTS VOLUME 1 - Cynthia Erivo, BARNUM The Musical, Matt Cardle in MEMPHIS and Les Mis vs Phantom 2015!

Hello everyone, and welcome to my first edition of STAGEY SHORTS - all your theatre news and goodness in one informative post! I came up with the idea for STAGEY SHORTS after realising that I don't always get time to write about every single thing I see in great depth and detail (Damn you day job!)  So what better way to share my thoughts on as much Stagey awesomeness as possible than by looking at things in short?

This really is a trial as I have never done anything like this before - so please let me know what you think!

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There are not many performers that I would travel 300 miles in one day for. But one of the very few performers I would do that for is CYNTHIA ERIVO. I recently attended her Singular Sensations event - in the company of the awesome Edward Seckerson - at the Charing Cross Theatre, and she once again proved why she is one of the most talented theatre performers anywhere in the world. As an audience we were given an insight into her life, her training, her amazing fashion sense (The shoes she was wearing were to die for!) as well as performances, ranging from Funny Girl to Jason Robert Brown and Dreamgirls, which solidified what a versatile performer she is.

Cynthia is hand on heart one of the most kind hearted performers I have ever had the honour to meet and quite frankly, if Broadway don't realise what an absolute megastar she is when she opens in THE COLOUR PURPLE later this year, then - quite frankly - they need their heads testing!

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Last week, the tour of BARNUM passed through my home town and I couldn't resist the opportunity to see how the production has progressed since the Chichester revival. And I am so thrilled to report that it has come on leaps and bounds!

Putting the extremely vast Chichester production into a more limited space where it was able to tour and still have that wow factor can't have been an easy job for the creative team but it has totally paid off. From the performers mingling with the audience pre-show to the scaled down lighting rig and more compact set, it all adds to a much tighter and all round slicker production.

As far as casting, the title role was made for a performer like Brian Conley. Charming, witty, funny and being able to keep the audience in the pal of your hand have become staple skills during Conley's vast career and he puts them to very good use here as he wows the entire theatre from the moment he steps on the stage. The charm and wit comes in VERY handy during the Act 1 Finale which is such  spectacle to watch in particular. His relationship with the divine Linzi Hateley is also such a joy to watch.

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This past weekend was an especially Stagey one! The first part of my weekend included a return visit (Visit number 5 in total) to see the utterly glorious MEMPHIS THE MUSICAL. Firstly, I must say that I still have no idea why such a wonderful, uplifting and original show is closing but hey! That's the way of the West End I guess!

The reason this particular visit was so memorable was it was the first occasion I was going to see former X Factor winner MATT CARDLE as Huey, after he had taken over from Killian Donnelly. Now I will be the first to say - when Matt was cast, I was one of his sceptics. I had no idea or no clue why they had cast him.

But this weekend, I ate a massive slice of humble pie - Matt Cardle was nothing short of absolutely sensational! I was totally blown away from the moment he stepped on the stage to the moment that he left. He performed like his life depended on it and gave Huey his own silly, quirky charm. His on stage chemistry with Beverley Knight was also fantastic! Oh and I must say - that final note in "Memphis Lives In Me" was mind-blowingly brilliant!

Go see him folks!!!

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The other part of my especially Stagey weekend took place this past Sunday, when I spent the day at the 4th annual Les Mis vs. Phantom football match in Bromley.This was my third time at the charity spectacular, but instead of a spectator - this time, I was helping out my best mate at the face painting. However, even though I was working, I was still able to enjoy what was, yet again, an utterly fantastic day! The sun was shining, the company was wonderful, the music was sensational and the football itself was brilliant, especially as it saw a 6-2 win for my beloved Phantom of the Opera!

Speaking of music, check out these videos from the fabulous pre-match concert: -

John Owen Jones performs "Thunderball" and "Rise Like a Phoenix"

Killian Donnelly performs "Music Of My Soul" from MEMPHIS

Carrie Hope Fletcher performs "Colours of the Wind"
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RYWnAnkJ_Mc (Video taken by Samuel Ch Zernig)

Rachelle Ann Go performs "Bang Bang" and "Chandelier"
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zvY99qxWQNc (Video taken by Samuel Ch Zernig)

Kerry Ellis and Rob Houchen perform "Who Wants to Live Forever"
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-CyoVX5flgU

And you can still donate to this fantastic cause over at: - https://www.justgiving.com/LesMisVPhantom4

I must salute the extraordinary Chris Key, who puts his heart and soul into organising this fantastic event and thank him personally for letting me and my best mate be a part of such a memorable day! Will there be a 5th match between these 2 West End giants? We shall see!

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So there you go! The first ever edition of STAGEY SHORTS is now complete! Like I said, I would love your feedback on this new format - all comments are welcome!

Signing off for now
Blue Eyed Girl Xxx

FEATURE - Will Barratt's CONFESSIONS OF A JUSTIFIED SINNER

One of the events I am most looking forward to during my next London trip is going to the launch of the debut album of Will Barratt.

Will was my first ever Raoul when I first saw Phantom of the Opera back in 2011, and since then, I have been very lucky to see him in both Sweeney Todd and Jersey Boys. He also performed a duet on the debut album of Nadim Naaman (which I was also extremely honoured to review).

His album - Confessions of a Justified Sinner - will be released on 10th August. Featuring 14 original songs written by Will over the past 15 years, the album includes a song co-written and performed with Nadim, plus a solo and a duet from Rebecca Trehearn.

The album will be available for download via all major online retailers and limited edition signed physical copies, complete with lyric booklet and album photography, can be pre-ordered via Kickstarter pledges along with tickets to the album launch, exclusive gigs and experiences including a vocal masterclass with Will and attending the filming of the music and dance video for the Moulin Rouge-esque tango track, Tatiana, featuring Latin & Ballroom dancers from Karen Hardy’s studios.

Will says of the album: “This album has taken quite some time to come into being. I began writing at college about 15 years ago, and there are a couple of tracks from all the way back then. Since then, I have written more and I've been wanting to record them properly for years. I've had an amazing time performing in shows in London and the UK, and more recently all over the world gigging with The 4Tunes, but I felt now was the perfect time to create something myself, and have faith in my own writing.”

The launch gig, held at the glorious Hippodrome Casino the night before the release date, will include guest performances from Nadim Naaman (Sweeney Todd, Phantom of the Opera), Rebecca Trehearn (City of Angels, Ghost), Ryan Molloy (Jersey Boys, Tonight’s The Night) and Michael Conway (Jersey Boys, Fiddler on the Roof), accompanied by a live band led by the album’s producer Joe Davison.

You can still get tickets to the launch gig, as well as pledge towards other fantastic experiences at https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1028518331/confessions-of-a-justified-sinner-solo-album Or, you can also get launch gig tickets at http://www.hippodromecasino.com/whatson/will-barratt-confessions-of-a-justified-sinner/ or by calling 020 7769 8888.

Either way - I guarantee this is one you will NOT want to miss!

COMING SOON - my very special review of Will's album Confessions of a Justified Sinner!

Signing off for now

Blue Eyed Girl Xxx


GUEST BLOG - Wonder.Land (Manchester International Festival, July 2015)

As 2015 is the 150th anniversary of Lewis Carroll's famous novel Alice in Wonderland, it seemed only fitting that one of the centre pieces of this year's Manchester International Festival was a new musical inspired by this classic story. 



With a creative team including Damon Albarn, Moira Buffini and Rufus Norris, wonder.land truly brings Alice, The Mad Hatter, The Cheshire Cat and all of the iconic characters crashing into the 21st century, but that is where the similarities end; this is a truly modern adaptation for a modern day, tech-savvy audience....

Read the rest of my Guest Review for the wonderful WEST END FRAME over at http://www.westendframe.com/2015/07/guest-review-wonderland-at-manchester.html and don't forget to check out this stunning production when it transfers to the National Theatre later this year.

Signing off for now

Blue Eyed Girl Xxx

The new cast at LES MISERABLES through the eyes of my non Stagey Family! (June 2015)

Now, any of you that know me - either personally or through reading this Blog - will know how much love and passion I have for all things theatre, especially the West End and all the shows which run there. And there is nothing that makes me happier than when I bring a non Stagey friend or family member to experience this magic, and have them fall in love with the world of Theatre just as much as I am!

Recently - I got to spread the Theatre love in quite a major way to my very non Stagey family. Now before I go on, I should definitely qualify my previous statement - my family are Stagey to an extent! (In fact, I took my youngest sister to see Phantom of the Opera last year and she still goes on about it now!) They are just not as Stagey as me :)

So when my Dad, back in January 2015, asked me to help him organise a weekend in London for my Stepmum's 50th Birthday celebrations for the whole family - which had to include a visit to see LES MISERABLES - my inner Theatre geek was thoroughly ecstatic and overjoyed at this prospect!

Fast forward a few months - and I realised that the day of our scheduled visit was due to be the first weekend AFTER the annual Cast Change (and the same day as West End Live!), which filled me with even more excitement as it meant I would get an opportunity to check out the new cast members very early in their run, as this legendary show builds towards its' 30th Anniversary in October 2015.

But as the day of the show dawned, I became extremely sceptical! I have so much for Les Miserables as it is one of my all time favourite shows and I just didn't think I could bare it if my family didn't love it as much as I did. And I won't lie - I was worried!

However, my worries quickly disappeared once the lights went down and the convicts appeared to open the show. In fact, as soon as Valjean's Soliloquy was over, my Stepmum grabbed my arm and whispered "Oh my God - it's amazing!" I was then able to sit back and enjoy every moment of what an extremely strong new cast had to offer.

Speaking of the new cast - what a cast they are! A mix of continuing class members, new faces, sensational understudies and emerging stars has ensured that Les Miserables is as strong as ever heading into its' major anniversary this year - they truly have brought new life into this legendary show.

Peter Lockyer continues as Jean Valjean and his performance is as mesmerising as ever. The emotion in his voice is second to none and I just adore how he can not only tell this heart-breaking story through song but also through his eyes - it just makes you believe in his fight for survival even more. His version of "Bring Him Home" remains as one of my personal show highlights. The new cast brings Peter a very formidable new adversary in Jeremy Secomb as Javert. Having seen Jeremy in both "Phantom of the Opera" and "Sweeney Todd", I was so intrigued to see him in this role - and he certainly did not disappoint. A truly confident and powerful performance captivated the entire theatre - including myself - as he particularly shone during "Stars", "The Confrontation" and "Javert's Soliloquy." I can't wait to see how Jeremy further develops his interpretation of this  brilliant character throughout the upcoming year.

Rachelle Ann Go gave such an emotive performance as Fantine and showed, after taking on the role of Gigi in MISS SAIGON, that she can pretty much sing anything and it would be sensational. Her version of "I Dreamed A Dream" was one of the most hauntingly beautiful versions of that song I have ever heard. Zoe Doano takes on the role of Cosette, after previously understudying the role, and after her stand out role as Johanna in SWEENEY TODD, she brings Cosette to life with a new confidence and fragility that I have not seen in previous portrayals. Her on stage relationship with Rob Houchen - who continues his brilliant interpretation of Marius - is also one of the show highlights for me, especially during the beautiful "A Heart Full of Love."

Carrie Hope Fletcher's Eponine is as sensational as ever - I don't think I have ever believed in a performance more than I do with her version of "On My Own" - and it was particularly wonderful to see the sensational Katy Secombe, who was my first ever Madame Thenardier back in January 2012, return to the role and being as sassy as ever! She was partnered on this occasion by the legendary Adam Pearce (on in place of new Thenardier Phil Daniels) who continues to prove what an absolutely brilliant performer he is. His timing was second to none and I can honestly say, hand on heart - he is the best Thenardier I have seen since Cameron Blakely.

I reserve a final, and very special mention for Bradley Jaden (Enjolras). All I knew about Bradley when I arrived at Queens on that evening was that he was an Ensemble member during the previous year and had now stepped up to take on this new role. For me, Enjolras has to have a confident authority when he steps on to the stage. You have to believe him and you have to feel like you want to follow him to join this Revolution. Bradley had all of this and then some. I have seen a number of people in this role over the years and I can honestly say Bradley's performance was one of the strongest, most charismatic I have ever seen. A total stand out in every scene that he was on stage - he is a talent that I have no doubt we will be hearing about for many years to come.



Just under 3 hours later, and I exited the Queens Theatre with the biggest smile on my face - not only had the new cast been all kinds of sensational, but my entire family were thrilled, overjoyed and totally ecstatic about, and I quote "One of the best, if not THE best thing we've ever seen!" In fact, they are already looking at planning a trip back to see another show! (And I have already been back with the older of my two sisters to see MATILDA!)


My work here was definitely done - a now very Stagey family who have the West End Theatre bug, and the new cast at one of my favourite shows looking as strong as ever heading into what I have no doubt will be another brilliant year.

Signing off for now

Blue Eyed Girl Xxx


ATTEND THE TALE - Tooting Arts Club SWEENEY TODD (March-May 2015)

You always know when you have experienced a truly special piece of theatre. It is something that stays in your mind constantly, something that consumes your every thought - a show that you are drawn back to wanting to experience over and over and over again.

There have been a very small number of shows that have ever drawn me in in such a way - the most memorable was being witness to Kenneth Branagh as Macbeth in an abandoned church at the Manchester International Festival 2013.

But earlier this year, there was a new show that drew me under its' magical spell. Ironically - it was a show that I thought I would never ever see.

Back in late 2014, in a Pie Shop in Tooting - a small company of performers gathered together to put on a very unique interpretation of the Sondheim classic SWEENEY TODD. This immersive experience was one of the hottest tickets in Theatre Land and everyone who "attended the tale" could not stop raving about how special this production was.

(Take a look at what my guest reviewer Selena Zafar had to say about the original run: - http://thoughtsofablueeyedgirl.blogspot.co.uk/2014/11/review-sweeney-todd-demon-barber-of.html)

As for me, quite simply - I wasn't quick enough to get tickets and missed the boat, so to speak. It looked like this production was going to be "the one that got away". But that was until early 2015, when an e-mail popped into my inbox, telling me that this stunning production was transferring to a pop-up Pie Shop on Shaftesbury Avenue for a limited run.

I don't think I have ever bought myself a ticket to a production so quickly! :) :)

So, on a very sunny day at the end of March - it was finally time for me to see what all the fuss was about. I had been given hints by close friends, who had seen the original run, about what to expect - including my dear friend Selena telling me about a seat that I HAD to sit in on my first visit - but I had no idea what lay behind those dark doors.

I came out just over 2 and a half hours and all I could say was WOW! (Literally - that was it! Even when people were asking me what I thought, I was just like OH MY DAYS, WOW!) I had never seen or ever been witness to something so unique, immersive and completely in your face as this production - and I was completely hooked.

I was so fortunate to be able to visit this enchanting show on another 2 occasions and it simply got better and better on every visit.

If I were to go into every single thing I adored about this production - we would be here until NEXT Christmas! From the set design, to the music, to the production, and the absolutely sensational cast - everything was just perfect and it would be wrong for me to single out one element over another.

All I will say is this - and I think this sums up my love for this show. I was very fortunate to also attend a production of SWEENEY TODD that was staged by the ENO at the same time as the smaller Pie Shop version. Now don't get me wrong, it was a definite experience to be witness to such a spectacle, and I thoroughly enjoyed the show. But - if someone had presented me with a ticket to see ENO Sweeney again or a ticket to return to the Tooting Arts Club version - I would have gone back to the Pie Shop every time. (I was even recommending the Pie Shop version to people sat around me at ENO, ha ha!)

I can only pray, with every fibre of my being, that we have not seen the last of this stunning production. It is not often that every single element of a show is so perfectly aligned that it creates such a special kind of magic. And I know that that magic will stay with me forever.

Signing off for now
Blue Eyed Girl Xxx

Saturday, 16 May 2015

Blue Eyed Girl interviews ...... PHANTOM's Layla Harrison!

 
It is such a wonderful honour to announce that my next interviewee is the marvellously brilliant LAYLA HARRISON, who is currently starring as one of the sensational Ballet Girls (and also First Cover Meg) in the legendary "Phantom of the Opera" at Her Majesty's Theatre.  Read on to hear all about Louis Armstrong, vegetarianism and Sweeney Todd . . .

Tell us a little known fact about yourself - something we wouldn't know by looking at you.
I am a vegetarian.

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

Nothing specific. My parents always say I could dance before I could walk. As a baby I would pull myself to stand up and dance along to music. As a little girl, I fell in love with performing and of course, dressing up!
 
What has been the biggest highlight of your career so far? And what has been the biggest obstacle you have faced?
The biggest obstacle is easy...I was very injured through my training but pushed through and ended up having over three years off at the start of my career with surgery on both feet. I had both legs in cast and was in a wheelchair for a bit!

One highlight is very hard to choose. Dancing wise, I would have to say playing the role of the dormouse in Ashley Page's 'Alice' with Scottish Ballet. I have also adored playing the role of Meg in 'The Phantom Of The Opera' (West End).

(From Peter Crome Photography at www.laylaharrison.com)


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?
My goodness that is tough. Only three?!?! My parents have great taste in music so I grew up to an amazing playlist!

"Don't Stop Me Now" by Queen is the song to lift my spirits if I'm feeling low. "We Have all the Time in the World" by Louis Armstrong is very dear to my heart for several reasons but mainly because it was my wedding song and "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" by U2 is just one of the many songs that reminds me of being a child and singing along to it loudly in the car with my Dad!

What is your must-see West End show (other than your own!) at the moment?
Sweeney Todd on Shaftesbury Avenue!

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 love exploring dramatic and passionate characters so my dream roles have always been Juliet (Romeo & Juliet) and Eponine (Les Mis).

Who are your favourite theatre performers (to watch) on stage?
There are so many incredible artists I love to watch, I find it impossible to choose. I can tell you my favourite onstage partnership though, which was watching my dear friends Adam Blyde and Sophie Martin (who danced at Scottish Ballet with me).

What do you do to relax in your spare time?
I rarely have spare time but seeing friends, playing cards, painting watercolour or spending time with animals!

You are currently part of the cast at the legendary "Phantom of the Opera". Do you have a favourite part of the show? (Either that you are involved in or love to watch from the wings?)
My favourite scene is the Manager's Office (Act 1) and Masquerade has a special energy to it. I adore listening to whichever talented friend is singing 'Wishing' and then climbing down the portcullis as Meg (getting to close the show at the end of that stunning score) has to be the most amazing feeling. Sorry, that was four!

Layla as Meg in "Phantom of the Opera"

If you could give one piece of advice to your 11 year old self - what would you say?
To believe in myself no matter what. (Easier said than done.)

In 10 words or less, why should people come and see you, along with all the fantastic cast at Phantom?
It's a classic! An emotional story shown through beautiful design.

I want to thank Layla so much for taking the time to answer these questions - especially knowing how busy she is! She really is the most enchanting dancer and is truly mesmerising to watch. Her portrayal of Meg is also one of the most stunning I have ever witnessed - and believe me, I have seen Phantom quite a few times, ha ha!

If you would like to see this for yourself, head over to http://www.thephantomoftheopera.com/london for ticket details.

Signing off for now

Blue Eyed Girl Xxx