Wednesday, 12 November 2014

REVIEW - Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (Harrington’s Pie Shop, Tooting)

Review by Selena Zafar.

From the moment you enter the barber’s shop doubling as a ticket office/bar, you are aware you are about to experience something special. The serendipitous location of 106 year old Harrington’s directly opposite where we lay our scene is without question the most unique venue for theatre you will ever encounter. Sondheim’s bloody masterpiece has never looked so good.
 
(Photo provided by Selena Zafar)
 
Sweeney Todd in a living, breathing pie shop in vibrant Tooting is a stroke of genius. Every inch of Harrington’s is used to perfection by the eight strong company who clamber over benches and worktops. The noise from the locals filters in at points and adds to the authenticity of this stunning production from Rachel Edwards and her team.
 
(Photo from www.thestandard.co.uk)
 
Jeremy Secomb’s menacing and gloriously sung Sweeney is a marvel. At numerous points I stared into those demonic eyes and genuinely feared for my safety. Audience members will find themselves within inches of the infamous razors and beware the urine hair tonic. Siobhan McCarthy is a chirpy lovelorn Mrs Lovett while the romance is supplied by Grace Chapman’s sweet Johanna and Nadim Naaman who is fast becoming one of London’s most appealing leading men. Special mention must also be made of Kiara Jay who doubles as Beggar Woman and Pirelli and Joseph Taylor who is truly heartbreaking as Tobias.
 
(Photo from Tooting Arts Club - Facebook Page)
 
I am not surprised that the entire run sold out before press night and that this has garnered five star reviews. If anything five stars does not seem enough for such an emotive, immersive, unforgettable evening. Perhaps I shall throw in the moon too! Tooting Arts Club have excelled themselves and I applaud every single person involved. This is site specific theatre at its very best.
 
(Photo provided by Selena Zafar)
 
In short, Sweeney Todd at Harrington’s is without doubt the most memorable and delicious piece of theatre you will see this year.

I can't thank Selena enough for writing this review of what sounds like a phenomenal evening of theatre. As I wasn't lucky enough to get tickets myself - it has been such a pleasure to hear so many rave reviews and comments from those I know who were lucky enough to go, including brilliant reviews like Selena's. And although I won't see this production for myself - I am absolutely over the moon it has been such a resounding success, especially for the super awesome Jeremy Secomb, Nadim Naaman and the whole cast and crew - you should all be so proud of this little diamond of a show!

Signing off for now,

Blue Eyed Girl Xxx

Sunday, 9 November 2014

The Top 10 "STAGEY" albums that everyone should own!

Music is such an integral part of the world we live in today.

From the songs we sing in the shower every day (go on, admit it! :)), to the theme songs of our favourite TV shows, all the way to the ringtones on our phones, music surrounds us every hour of every day. And for me, I can honestly say I couldn't live without music being the soundtrack of my life - whether it be the slowest ballad, the bounciest pop song or the loudest rock anthem you have ever heard.

Now, being the self confessed STAGEY geek that I am, I am not ashamed to say there is a large proportion of Theatre based/inspired albums in my collection and there has been for a very long time. The talent on show on every one of these tracks on every one of these albums is just phenomenal and a true treat for the ears.

I wanted to share with you 10 of the albums and EPs currently in my collection that I think everybody should own as they are some of the most stunning, enchanting and wonderful albums/EPs that I have had the privilege to hear.

1) "Bond and Beyond" by Louise Dearman.


I first came across Louise's magnificent talent when I saw her as Glinda in WICKED. Since then, she has become a must see talent for her powerful, soaring vocals and extraordinary skill for telling a story through song (To this day, she remains my favourite ever Elphaba and her version of DEFYING GRAVITY - well it gives me chills and takes my breath away just thinking about it!) So when it was announced she was to record 4 of the most iconic James Bond theme tunes for this EP, I couldn't think of a more perfect fit for Louise. She sings every song with such emotion and tenacity that you can't help be captivated by the voice of this amazingly talented lady.

2) "View of You" by Craig Mather
  
 
It has been a true honour to support Craig ever since I first encountered his amazing talent back in Les Miserables in January 2012. He also gave me the great honour of being my first ever face to face Blog interview (which you can read at http://thoughtsofablueeyedgirl.blogspot.co.uk/2013/09/face-to-face-blue-eyed-girl-catches-up.html) and he is definitely one of the sweetest and humble performers I have ever met. His debut EP shows that not only is he a fantastic on stage performer, but he is an extremely talented and credible music artist too. Think Passenger, Muse, Jason Mraz and Bryan Adams all fused into one - with Craig's own unique twist and you have yourself a must own EP.
 
3)  "Equally The Musical" by Tim Prottey Jones and Tori Allen Martin
 
(Pictures from www.itunes.com)
 
What do you get when you put together two of the most talented performer/song-writers together and they decide to write a musical? Well - you need look no further than EQUALLY. Written by the stunning Tori Allen Martin (more on her later ;)) and my fellow Brummie, and current star of ONCE, Tim Prottey Jones, EQUALLY tells the story of Orianna Young. She is just a normal girl, living a quiet life in a sleepy town, when out of nowhere Tristan Hamilton arrives on the scene, and straight into her heart, like a bullet. Suddenly, nothing will ever be the same again. Orianna has to make a choice and either way, it's going to hurt.
 
The EP features the utter vocal perfection of both Prottey Jones and Allen Martin, as well as original EQUALLY cast members Will Bridges, Shaun Chambers and Ambra Caserotti - all of whom deliver a performance that will melt your heart for all the right reasons. After producing such a stunning collaboration, I can only hope it won't be long before Tim and Tori work together again!
 
4) "West End Switched Off"
 
 
"West End Switched Off" has to be one of the most unique albums on this list. "West End Switched Off" is a brand new, exciting series of recordings that arrange musical theatre into acoustic, 'unplugged' covers, collaborating with a wealth of talented musicians and performers. The album features Ashleigh Gray (Wicked), Simon Bailey (I Can't Sing/Phantom of the Opera), Adrian Hansel (Hairspray), Ian Stroughair (RENT/Chicago), Katie Hall (Les Misérables/Phantom of the Opera) Dale Evans (Miss Saigon/From Here To Eternity) and many more.
 
It is so refreshing to hear such iconic songs transformed and performed by such an array of phenomenally talented performers - I would go as far to say some of these tracks may give the original versions a run for their money. For a different take on classic songs - this is the album for you!
 
To learn more about the album  - head on over to http://www.parallelproductions.co.uk/#!projects/cnec
 
5) "Rock of Ages - Original Broadway Cast Recording"
 
 
Just the thought of this show makes me smile like a Cheshire Cat and I'm sure anyone who has experienced this brilliantly funny and hilarious show feels exactly the same. Despite closing in the West End after an extended run at the Shaftesbury and then the Garrick Theatre, ROCK OF AGES still brings hundreds of people to their feet across America, and with the UK Tour of the show still going strong after beginning back in May this year - the love that people have for this show, especially the hardcore ROAdies, seems to be having a resurgence. Don't get me wrong - ROCK OF AGES was never going to be about a complex storyline and deep and meaningful characterisation! But if you love a show full of heart and laughter and one of the most uplifting experiences you will have in the theatre - then this is a must buy album for you!
 
6) "Greatest Hits - Volume 1" by Scott Alan.
 
 
When you talk about creating music with heart, soul and passion - for me, there is no other composer who can evoke so many different emotions through music in the way that Scott Alan does. I first discovered Scott's enchanting music through his collaborations with Hadley Fraser (on the heart breaking "Again") and also with Ramin Karimloo and his duet with Hadley on "Take Me Away." Since then , I have become such a fan of Scott's work - particularly in the honesty that he gives to every song he writes - and I have also had the privilege to meet this amazing man on two occasions as well. This album - his first Greatest Hits collection - brings together some of his most spell binding tracks with some phenomenal vocalists including Shoshana Bean, Willjemin Verkaik, Marc Broussard, Oliver Tompsett, and Cynthia Erivo amongst many others. If you have never encountered Scott's music before - I can guarantee you that buying this album will be the best decision you've made all year - but be prepared, it's going to be emotional!
 
7) "Just Let Go" by Hadley Fraser
 
 
If you have ever read a post on this Blog, you will be more than fully aware of the huge amount of respect and admiration I have for Hadley Fraser. Ever since I first saw Hadley perform on stage in "Les Miserables" back in January 2012 and first heard him play his own music live in June 2012, I along with many others have patiently, and at sometimes impatiently, waited for the day when he would finally release an EP of his own material. Thankfully, that day came back in August this year and the result was the beautiful "Just Let Go." With a cover design by the super talented Rachel Hunter (@RSIllustrations), these 5 tracks perfectly sum up not only the kind of artist that Hadley has always strived to be, but they also compliment each other perfectly, taking a listener on the most relaxing, enchanting journey through love, heartbreak, loneliness and the quest for a hopeful future. The perfect album to chill out and relax to on these cold winter evenings.
 
8) "We All Want the Same" by Nadim Naaman
 
 
It is hard to believe that it has been well over a year since the versatile, amazingly talented and all round wonderful soul that is Nadim Naaman released his first album "We All Want the Same." A collection of beautifully emotive and enchanting songs which each tell their own unique story creates an unmissable album that can become the soundtrack for holidays in the most exotic locations, creating a beautiful atmosphere for dinner with friends, even for the commute to work each morning - that is how versatile this album is, and just shows what a phenomenal artist Nadim is.
 
You can read more  of my thoughts about "We All Want the Same" at http://thoughtsofablueeyedgirl.blogspot.co.uk/2013/08/first-listen-nadim-naamans-we-all-want.html
 
9) "ONCE - A New Musical. (Original Broadway Cast Recording)"
 
 
Despite recent news of the impending closures for both the Broadway and London productions of this show, the love I have for ONCE, and particularly its' music continues to be as strong as ever. In fact, it was this recording of the Broadway cast - lead magnificently by Steve Kazee and Cristina Milioti - that allowed me to fall in love with the show before it even came to the West End. What has always stood to me about this soundtrack is the simplistic beauty of each track which, in turn, creates a beautifully simple story of a Guy and a Girl that you can't help but fall in love with. I defy anyone to listen to this album and NOT be in tears by the time the final reprise of the hauntingly beautiful "Falling Slowly" plays. A show that truly touches your heart - and an album that should be a part of your collection for many years to come.
 
10) "The Wasted EP" by Tori Allen Martin
 
 
I just had to include this final EP on this list. However I can't say much about it as it hasn't been released yet!
 
What I do know is that Tori Allen Martin is one of the most talented performers and most beautiful souls that I have ever come across in this Stagey World in which we are all a part of. I have never had the privilege to see this amazing lady perform live - but from the recordings I have heard (including EQUALLY, which I mentioned earlier), she is truly one phenomenally talented lady, and if the previews of this EP are anything to go by - you will be hearing a lot more about Tori Allen Martin - mark my words!
 

I would love to hear your thoughts on any of the albums/EPs I have recommended and also about any STAGEY albums/EPs you would recommend to!

Signing off for now

Blue Eyed Girl Xxx



Monday, 20 October 2014

NEW ALBUM - Auburn Jam Records and the MAD Trust get ready for Christmas!

You may think it is too early to start discussing all things Christmas - I know that is what I have been telling all my friends. But when a very special press release popped up in my Inbox today, I had to make an exception to the rule!

(Courtesy of Auburn Jam Music)

Auburn Jam Records, otherwise known as the super talented Joe and Nikki, alongside the MAD Trust are going to release ‘The West End Goes MAD For Christmas’; a compilation album of Christmas songs by new writers, performed by a host of West End stars.

The album will be officially released on November 30th to coincide with MAD Trust’s annual fundraiser, A West End Christmas’, at St Paul’s (The Actor’s Church), Covent Garden.

CDs, priced at £10, are available to pre-order now via both the MAD Trust and Auburn Jam Music websites.

Songs on the album will be:

Together We Can Make ItKillian Donnelly and the cast of Les Misérables; written by Felix Hagan

Home Alistair Brammer; written by Gus Gowland and Alistair Brammer

I Love ChristmasChloe Hart; from The Bakewell Bake Off written by The Baking Committee

This Christmas – written and performed by Stuart Matthew Price

Reindeer WivesHarriet Thorpe, Christopher Howell & Sophie Isaacs; written by Anderson and Petty

A Soldier’s ChristmasGerónimo Rauch and Nadim Naaman; written by Nadim Naaman

Praying For You Gina Beck; written by Alexander S. Bermange

The Little Match GirlJanie Dee; written by Tim Connor

Nikki and Joe Davison are the husband and wife team behind Auburn Jam Music production. They explain the inspiration behind the album:
 
"This year is the 5th anniversary of our studio, so we wanted to do something special to celebrate, and raise some money for the brilliant work that The Make A Difference Trust do at the same time. We have had the privilege of working with some fantastic up-and-coming new musical theatre writers, as well as talented West End performers and singer-songwriters to produce albums and original cast and concept recordings over the past five years, so it seemed like the perfect celebration to do a Christmas album of new songs! The album is very eclectic, there’s rock, pop, classical, comedy… definitely something for everyone! "

A minimum of 20% from every sale will go to the charity, and this will increase and increase the more are sold as costs are covered. So buy one for yourself, your friends, your mum, your gran, your neighbour and your goldfish!

To pre-order your copy of this wonderful album (I know I will be!), head over to:

http://madtrust.myshopify.com/ or http://www.auburnjam.co.uk/product/the-west-end-goes-mad-for-christmas/ 

Such a worthy cause deserves so much support - so spread the word and tell as many people as you can about this wonderful album!

Signing off for now

Blue Eyed Girl Xxx

Thursday, 2 October 2014

The West End Wilma Awards - NOMINEES ANNOUNCED! VOTING NOW OPEN!

 
What do you get when you take one of the best Theatre Bloggers around - and everyones favourite Nanna - and add in a touch of class, charm and sparkle in the shape of the newest set of West End Theatre awards?
 
Welcome to THE WILMA AWARDS, created by the legendary West End Wilma!
 
The Awards - running for the first time ever, and in association with Freedom Bar Soho - will take place on Friday afternoon, 7th November 2014 at an exclusive invite-only ceremony at Freedom Bar in Soho, hosted by Tim McArthur.

Guests will be treated to Afternoon Tea with Wilma (courtesy of The Full English) while they watch the winners be revealed and listen to some very special live performances
 
I am so excited to say that, after many tough decisions and difficult deliberations, West End Wilma and her team of reviewers have now shortlisted the nominees in each category from their combined opinions on the past 12 months Theatre. It is now up to the public vote to decide on the winners.
 

And the nominees are….
 
• Miss Saigon
• Shakespeare In Love
• Wicked
• Matilda

Most Underrated West End Show
• Stephen Ward
• From Here To Eternity
• 39 Steps
• Ladykillers 

Best Fringe Production 
• Urinetown - St James Theatre
• Fleabag - Soho Theatre
• The Spring Tide - Old Red Lion Theatre
• Title of Show - Landor Theatre 
• Rocky Horror
• Cats
• Cabaret
• Avenue Q

Best Supporting Cast Member
• Lizzy Connolly - Dirty Rotten Scoundrels 
• Alexia Khadime - Book of Mormon
• Peter Polycarpou - The Pajama Game
• David Huwel Baynes - Alice Through The Looking Glass

Best Take Over In A Role
• Savannah Stevenson - Wicked
• Alex Gaumond - Matilda
• David Hunter - Once
• Dianne Pilkington - Mamma Mia
• Official Theatre
• West End Frame
• Pocket Size Blog
• A Younger Theatre
• Cynthia Erivo
• Laura Pitt-Pulford
• Nellie McQuinn
• Jordan Lee Davies
• Above The Stag
• The Union Theatre
• The Old Red Lion
• Park Theatre

Lifetime Achievement In Theatre – sponsored by HotTicketOffers.com
• Bonnie Langford
• Imelda Staunton
• Sheila Hancock
• Harriet Thorpe
Public voting IS NOW OPEN and will run for two weeks at www.westendwilma.com
 
For more details, you can follow @WilmaAwards on Twitter and 'Like' the Wilma Awards Facebook page
 
I certainly know who I will be voting for - do you?
 
Signing off for now
 
Blue Eyed Girl Xxx


URINETOWN - Welcome to the West End!

 
One of my favourite new shows of 2014 has to be the dark comedy classic URINETOWN, which ran at the wonderful St James Theatre for a sold out run earlier in the year. Directed by Jamie Lloyd, it was certainly one of the strangest yet phenomenal shows I had ever seen - it had definitely been a while since I had laughed that much at a show.
 
So when I heard it was transferring to the West End - I was overjoyed that this show was going to be brought to an even wider audience, and I certainly cannot wait to pay another visit very soon.
 
Until then - my dear friend, and truly awesome fellow Theatre Blogger THEATRE THERAPY was present for the shows first night at the Apollo Theatre. Check out her fantastic report here: -
 
 
Head over to www.urinetown.co.uk for more details about the show, as well as details of how to book tickets - I promise you won't regret it!
 
Signing off for now
 
Blue Eyed Girl Xxx
 


Saturday, 6 September 2014

Blue Eyed Girl interviews . . . West End Wilma


I am over the moon to announce the identity of my next interviewee - an interviewee who to me, as a novice blogger and someone who has such immense respect and admiration for her, needs no introduction.

Here's what happened when I chatted to the legend that is WEST END WILMA . . .

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

I love wine.

Did you always know you wanted to be a writer/blogger? And what was it about theatre that inspired you into becoming TheatreLand's favourite Nanna?

I really didn't ever think about it. I always enjoyed writing but it wasn't until one day a friend of mine said I should start a blog because I see so many shows that I decided to give it a go! I didn't think anyone would ever read it! I'm still not sure anyone does!
 
What was the first song/album you ever bought?

I think it was Moon River! Back in my day there was no iTunes or Spotify but I think is wonderful that music is so accessible these days!
 
Wilma collects her Ticketmaster Blog Award for Best Theatre Blog
(Picture from www.thestage.co.uk)
 
What was the first play/musical you ever saw (as a theatre-goer) and what was the first show you ever reviewed?

The first show I reviewed was Masterclass at the Vaudeville Theatre with Tyne Daly back in 2012 (not that long ago)! Interestingly the second show I reviewed was a production of Les Mis performed by inmates of an all male prison!
 
The first show I ever saw? I have no idea!

What was the last play/ musical that you saw that took your breath away (in a good way!) and why?
 
I saw the touring production of Top Hat a couple of weeks ago and it was every bit as wonderful as the West End production! I loved it!

One of the most popular features on your website is TEA WITH WILMA. If you could have any Theatre Performer (West End or Broadway) be a part of a future TEA WITH WILMA that hasn't been involved already, who would it be and why?

Oh wow. That's a good question. I'd love to meet Imelda Staunton. Or of course the legend that is Angela Lansbury! That would be incredible!

(Picture from www.westendwilma.com)
 
Your newest project is THE WILMA AWARDS. You have said yourself that there are already so many Theatre Awards out there - what will make THE WILMA AWARDS stand out from all the rest?

I think there are a few categories that are different to those you would typically see in theatre awards. Guests at the ceremony will be treated to afternoon tea courtesy of The Full English (http://www.thefullenglishfoodcompany.ltd.uk) which is lovely as I will get to have tea with so many people at once!

All the awards will be voted for by the public and you will be able to vote for each category separately. So if you haven't seen any of the shows listed or don't know who the people are, you can leave it blank to avoid contaminating the results with a randomly chosen answer.
 
You have some very specific categories - why did you choose those in particular?

It was actually very difficult to keep it to 10 categories. I didn't want it to go on forever and so was keen to narrow it down. I think there is a good mix of categories and ultimately they were the ones I wanted to recognise most.

We know that the awesome Tim McArthur will be hosting at the Awards Ceremony in November - what else can we expect from the event?

There will be a couple of very special live performances. And it's being held at the stagey Freedom Bar Soho (http://freedombarsoho.com) and so I'm sure there will be a few Pornstar Martini's consumed at some point!

In 10 words or less, what would you say to my readers to ensure they vote once the nominations have been announced?

If you love theatre then show your support by voting!

And finally, if you could give one piece of advice to your 13 year old self - what would you say?

My mother told me when I was young that I could be anything I wanted to be. You might have to work hard to make it happen but anything is possible. I still live by that motto and I believe it's true!
 
To find out more about the Awards, including nominations and voting, please check out the brilliant http://www.westendwilma.com/wilma-awards/ , and over on Twitter @westendwilma and @wilmaawards

It was such an honour and an absolute dream to conduct this interview. I can only but give my endless thanks to Wilma for giving up her time to answer my questions!

All hail West End Wilma :-)

Signing off for now

Blue Eyed Girl Xxx

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

UPCOMING EVENT - Dan and Laura Curtis at the Royal Albert Hall's Elgar Room


Just a note to let you all know - if you don't know already - about an upcoming concert at the Royal Albert Hall's Elgar Room by the truly marvellous songwriting duo (and former interviewees) Dan and Laura Curtis.

The concert will take place on 14th October and will feature artists such as Alexander Hanson (Stephen Ward, Jesus Christ Superstar), Sabrina Aloueche (Les Miserables, We Will Rock You), Rebecca Caine (Les Miserables, Phantom Of The Opera), Mark Moraghan (Priscilla Queen of The Desert), Chloe Hart (Hairspray, Wicked), Anna O'Byrne (Love Never Dies, Phantom Of The Opera), Lucie Jones (Les Miserables) and many other special guests.

The evening will feature music from Love on 42nd Street as well as premiering a number of new songs.

You can still get tickets for what I am sure is going to be a night to remember over at http://www.royalalberthall.com/tickets/daniel-and-laura-curtis/default.aspx and to learn more about Dan and Laura, including their stunnning new song WHEN YOU SMILE, performed by the stunning Laura Osnes, why not check out http://www.danandlauracurtis.com/ too!

Signing off for now

Blue Eyed Girl Xxx