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

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

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

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

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

Monday, 6 April 2015

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

Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Blue Eyed Girl interviews . . . JEREMY SECOMB

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I have a VERY long history with POTO.

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

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

(Photo courtesy of Selena Zafar - original production programe)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cheesy but they all mean something!!!

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

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

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

Signing off for now

Blue Eyed Girl Xxx

Saturday, 21 March 2015

PLAYING OUR PART for Comic Relief - 1st March 2015

(Picture from www.cadoganhall.com)

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

BEAUTIFUL - THE CAROLE KING STORY: 19th February 2015

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Signing off for now

Blue Eyed Girl Xxx