Saturday, 19 April 2014

Blue Eyed Girl interviews . . . Hadley Fraser


It is my absolute honour, and gives me so much joy to announce that my newest interviewee is the phenomenal HADLEY FRASER. Anyone who knows me knows how much respect and admiration I have for this very talented gentleman, so I actually still can't believe I have had the privilege to interview him.

One of the most versatile performers I have ever had the honour to see perform on stage, Hadley has performed in such diverse productions as Les Miserables, the Phantom of the Opera, The Pirate Queen, The Fantasticks, The Pajama Game, A Christmas Carol, The Last 5 Years, The Machine, The Pirates of Penzance, and most recently, the sublime Coriolanus. Not only does Hadley excel when he is performing on stage, he is also a gifted musician, both in his own right, and as part of SHEYTOONS with Ramin Karimloo and some very talented friends.

Read on to find out what happened when Hadley and I discussed juggling, originating a role, Shakey, red jeans, his own album and what is ahead for the rest of 2014 . . .

Tell us a little known fact about yourself - something we wouldn't know by looking at you.
 
I'm quite a good juggler.
 
Who or what inspired you to get into the Theatre Industry?
 
Not too sure about getting into the Industry. But I remember watching my brother as Bernardo in our school production of West Side Story and being thrilled by the orchestra during the Dance at The Gym. I mean, this was a school band so probably not threatening the Philharmonic - but when the congas came in prior to the Mambo I thought to myself, "I want to have a go at that". Went home and listened to the soundtrack (on cassette as it was back then) and next time my school did a musical I was at the front of the queue.  
What has been the best moment of your career so far (if you had to pick just one)? And what has been the biggest obstacle you have faced?
 
Not sure I could pick one. I'm not awfully career-oriented, so frankly I look back on most jobs with an equal sense of perspective and pleasure. Usually the best moment career-wise are when something personal is delivered in the same envelope.
 
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?
 
This is tremendously hard. I listen to a great deal of music, so whittling a selection down is always hard. Let me slightly dodge the question by answering that in fantasy land I'd ask Thomas Newman, Darrell Scott and Elbow to score the soundtrack.



Last year, you starred in "The Machine", both in Manchester and New York - how was it going into a production that was so different from your previous on stage roles as Javert in "Les Miserables" and Sid Sorokin in "The Pajama Game"?
 
It was no massive shift. I've been fortunate throughout my career to play a diverse number of parts. Bear in mind this wasn't the first time I've done straight theatre (I had a few years in the profession pre-twitter...) so it was no different to going from Gilbert and Sullivan to Boucicault or Arnold Wesker to Stephen Sondheim. Ultimately I'm just damned happy when anyone offers me a job. What WAS thrilling about The Machine, which was different to Les Mis and PJ Game was being a part of a new production. Originating parts is always so thrilling. New work is what keeps us alive, artistically speaking.
(From www.donmarwarehouse.com - photo by Johan Persson)

You have recently finished playing Tullus Aufidius in the Donmar Warehouse production of "Coriolanus". Was the dream of being part of a Shakespearian production - especially one so unique - everything you hoped it would be?
 
And more! I've said it to others, but there was something exceptionally thrilling about that production. Tackling an epic play in such an intimate venue, playing an interesting part surrounded by talented individuals on stage and off, and getting to grips with the verse was all a tremendous experience and one I hope to repeat. It's given me a taste for Shakey. Would love to do a comedy down the line...


I mentioned Les Mis - how much fun was it to be a part of the movie adaptation that has brought such a legendary story to a whole new audience?
It was great fun, especially being part of the stage production at the same time. I mean, I suppose me and the other double-shifters may have been subject to a little Mis overload at the time - but I'll never forget walking out onto the soundstage at Pinewood and seeing the barricades. My word what a thrill. It was an exciting time to be part of the show - I'll always remember seeing Eddie Redmayne applauding the company from prompt corner at the Queen's prior to filming. He was excited and so were we, even though at that time I don't think any of us had even auditioned...

                 (Hadley as Javert in the West End production of Les Misrables. 2011)


What is the best (or shall we say most memorable) musical or play you have ever seen?
 
The Pillowman at the NT and Jerusalem at the Royal Court stick in my mind - though obviously it's hard not to mention others.
 
Is there a current West End show/play that you haven't seen that you really want to see?

 
Ghosts at the Trafalgar (though have I missed it...?)
 
If you had the choice of any West End show (be it a play or musical theatre, past or present), what would your dream role to play be and why?
 
A frequent question to most actors I suppose, and one I never quite know how to answer. I want to do more new work, so I can't answer that too specifically. If pushed, in a few years I'd love to play Sweeney Todd. Let me stress, IN A FEW YEARS.  

Which West End show (be it a play or musical) would you most liked to see revived and why?  

See above!
 
As far as your own music goes, you have always talked about putting together an album of original material. Are you any closer to achieving this dream?
 
Yes, actually I am, though I don't want to put a time frame on it. Suffice to say I've recently been incredibly lucky with realising the project in the manner I've always wanted.
 
How would you describe your own music to someone who has never heard it before?
 
Mostly predictable.
 
Who would you say are the biggest influences on your own music?
 
Erm... Darrell Scott, John Martyn, Nick Drake, Crooked Still, Sheryl Crow. I could go on...
 
What is the one album - past or present - that you think everyone should listen to at least once?
 
Martha Argerich playing Ravel's Gaspard de la Nuit. I wrote my only completed play listening to nothing else (the play is terrible and unproduced, the music sublime).
 
If you could collaborate with any artist - past or present - on your album, who would it be and why?

 
Darrell Scott (are you spotting a theme)? There is a soul within his writing and playing that touches mine.
 
What was the last concert/gig you went to that left you speechless (in a good way)?
 
I hate to sound like a broken record, but honestly it was Darrell Scott live at the Leicester Square theatre. Just him solo for a couple of hours. Speechless, awe-struck heaven.  
 

(One of my Stage Door pictures with Hadley, this was at the Pajama Game in Chichester, June 2013)

If you could give your 13 year old self one piece of advice - what would it be and why?
Don't buy those red jeans. Man, they were terrible.  

What do you do to relax in your spare time?

Cook, run, listen to more music.
 

What are your plans and hopes for the rest of 2014?
 
Plans mostly involve getting married. Hopes include the successful completion of this event.
 

I can't thank Hadley enough for taking the time to take part in this interview - it truly means the absolute world to me and no words can truly express to him how thankful I am.

I wish him, as I'm sure we all do, nothing but joy, luck and happiness for the rest of the year, particularly in his upcoming marriage to the beautiful Rosalie Craig.

Signing off for now

(A very, very happy) Blue Eyed Girl Xxx

Thursday, 17 April 2014

West Side Story - New Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham (12th April 2014)


"West Side Story" - the Stephen Sondheim and Leonard Bernstein classic - is consistently voted as one of the greatest, if not the greatest musical of all time. Loosely based on the legendary romantic tragedy "Romeo and Juliet" by William Shakespeare, it tells the tale of two star crossed lovers (I'm an English teacher by day - pardon the quotes!) from two rival gangs who try to keep their love alive in extremely hostile surroundings, with disastrous consequences. Add to that one of the greatest musical scores ever created, you have the recipe for a true emotional rollercoaster of a story.

Now, knowing what an absolute Musical Theatre geek I am, it may surprise you to learn that this is a show I had NEVER seen on stage - I know right? That was until this past week, when the most recent UK tour of this phenomenal production rolled into my hometown and I decided to go and see what all the fuss was about!

When I sat down in the theatre, I had some idea of what to expect - I use the classic film version of this musical every year when I teach "Romeo and Juliet" to my pupils - but never did I expect to be so drawn in to this enchanting yet dark and mysterious story.

 
From the opening notes of the Jets and the Sharks first "battle", you are immediately transported to the streets of New York, and you feel so close to the action, you could easily be a bystander on the street watching this showdown take place! From there, you can't help but be on the edge of your seat, as the tragic love story between Jet Tony (Louis Maskell) and Shark Maria (Kate Hall) unfolds.
 
I can honestly say that there is not one single weak link in the entire cast! Whether it is their mind blowing dancing skills (more on that shortly), their beautiful vocal range - or quite simply an innate ability to make you believe, I could not find any fault with any of them!
 
 
The cast is lead by the breath-taking talents of Louis Maskell and Katie Hall. I had encountered Katie's brilliant talents when she played Christine during the 2011/12 Phantom of the Opera UK Tour, but I must say, it was so refreshing to see her in such a different role. She gives Maria a perfect balance between youthful naivety and the Puerto Rican passion that she has certainly learnt from her brother Bernardo. Alongside Louis Maskell - who, for me has to be one of the best male vocals I have ever heard in theatre, there is a spark that makes the audience want them to have their happily ever after - even though we all know what happens in the end! This astoundingly talented pair also produce many of the shows vocal highlights - "Maria", "Tonight" and "Somewhere" broke my heart, lifted my spirit, and made me cry tears of joy and sadness all at the same time!
 
A special mention also has to go to the pure brilliance of Jack Wilcox (Riff), Javier Cid (Bernardo) and Djalenga Scott (Anita).
 


As silly as this may sound, it was just brilliant to see men dancing on stage, and not only that but doing it so brilliantly! All of the male dancers were so skilled, and particularly in their group numbers, their precision and execution of those iconic dance moves was just so on point - but Jack and Javier in particular have to be two of the most talented dancers - male or female - that I have ever seen - and believe me, I have seen A LOT of theatre! And the best thing about their amazing skill? The smiles on their faces while they do it - it's clear how much fun they are having, and that makes you enjoy it even more!

(From www.atgtickets.com) 

The only person that comes close to these two in their skill, precision and all round excellence is the enchanting Djalenga Scott. Having heard so many phenomenal reports about Djalenga's performance before I saw the tour - I was overjoyed to see her perform in person - and what a phenomenal performance it was! She gave Anita so much soul and passion, while also making her vulnerable during her key scenes in Act Two. Her on stage relationship with Katie Hall was just a joy to watch - you could see they have developed a sisterly bond both on and off stage! But for me, it was her performance of the iconic song AMERICA that just blew me away - and was my definite highlight of the entire show! Djalenga more than matched up to her male counterparts in the dance stakes and deservedly got one of the loudest ovations of the afternoon.

I can't speak highly enough of this show, and its' whole cast - for me, it is a must see no matter what your age or your musical knowledge.

The Tour is in Birmingham until Saturday 19th, before moving on to Southampton, Nottingham, Leeds, Milton Keynes and Aberdeen.

Check out http://westsidestorytheshow.co.uk/ to see if the show is coming anywhere near you - I guarantee you will not regret buying a ticket!

Signing off for now

Blue Eyed Girl Xxx


UPCOMING EVENT - "The Mikado" at Battersea Barge

Here at THOUGHTS OF A BLUE EYED GIRL, we always like to promote new productions, especially ones run by our previous interviewees and supporters.

So when Jamie Chapman Dixon, the director of SANTAPHRENIA, got in touch about his new production of Gilbert and Sullivan's classic THE MIKADO, which he will co-produce with Nick Martland, needless to say I wanted to find out more!

This new and exciting production, which will be hosted at the brilliant BATTERSEA BARGE, before moving to THE RISE (No. 1 Leicester Square), is set in a lady boys nightclub in downtown Bangkok where all sorts of fun and frolics are unfolding.
This classic show has been re-imagined with an edgy and risqué feel with all of the original score and music on show. Will Katisha get her man? Will Nanki Poo get his girl? Will Ko-Ko become a full time lady boy?
Featuring Anton Stephans as 'The Mikado' and a phenomenal cast which includes Ross McNeill, Michael James Porter, Niall Rooney, Harry Wright, Jade Spivey Natalie Bush, Ellie Self, Molly Marie Walsh, Joe Foyster, Marc Gee - Finch, Dean McCullough, Jamie Papanicalou, Perri Hanson and Rachel Lea Gray, not forgetting director Drew Baker, musical director Benjamin Holder and choreographer Holly Hughes - you are guaranteed to have a fantastic evening!

This brilliant production opens on 5th May.

Tickets are available now from - http://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/the-mikado-tickets-10977302407 (group discounts are available) - for the Battersea Barge run of the show, with further details to follow about its' transfer to the 750 capacity nightclub in the middle of Leicester Square!

Each show will have a 7:30pm start (with a 2:30pm Matinee on 6th May only)

Make sure to check out this wonderful production - and if you are lucky enough to go - let this Blue Eyed Girl know your thoughts!

Signing off for now

Blue Eyed Girl Xxx


 
 

Sunday, 16 March 2014

FIRST LISTEN - Dan and Laura Curtis' "Love on 42nd Street"

 
I have been so blessed to support the phenomenal writing duo of Dan and Laura Curtis since I first discovered their work in the summer of 2013, and I have also been lucky enough to interview them, as well as the winner of their YOUR VOICE competition Kasia Howley, on 3 occasions in total.
 
So when they gave me the chance to have a sneak preview of their new album LOVE ON 42ND STREET - featuring the stunning vocals of such amazing talent as John Owen Jones, Sierra Boggess, Lea Salonga and Ramin Karimloo, amongst many others - I jumped at the opportunity!
 
And now, just a mere few hours away from the official release date - I am so pleased to report that this very special album, full of delightfully enchanting original tracks, more than lives up to the hype.
 
 
 
From your first look at the unique artwork - so beautifully created by Mike Collison - it is obvious that this album, which will be raising money for Children In Need, is one that stands out from the many Musical Theatre style albums that are being released at the moment. It also creates an enchanting atmosphere as it draws in the potential listener, and makes them curious as to what they are about to hear.
 
And if that wasn't intriguing enough, you then look at the list of vocalists - and I defy anyone not to be blown away by the wealth of phenomenal talent that Dan and Laura have assembled. From Broadway and Hollywood stars, the best of upcoming British talent, and a new star discovered by Dan and Laura through one of the featured tracks - you could not ask for more!
 
What Dan and Laura have crafted here is 8 tracks which tell the most beautifully enchanting story, which every single one of us can relate to - LOVE. Whether it be that first moment of laying your eyes on that one special person and questioning what to do next, the first moments of a blossoming relationship, or declaring the bond that two people share to the rest of the world - each track tells a truly distinctive, yet delicately stunning story.
 
 
Starting off the album with new Broadway superstar Ramin Karimloo, "Why Am I Falling" - which Dan and Laura released in aid of last years' Children in Need appeal - sets the tone for the whole album. With its soaring piano melodies, and uplifting chorus, it is a song that will fill any loving heart with joy and hope at the wonder of what may be to come. Ramin's powerful, yet tender vocals are the perfect match for this beautiful track which could be the anthem for new couples everywhere.
 
Following this track with Ramin's former "Love Never Dies" and "Phantom of the Opera" co-star Sierra Boggess was the perfect match to me. In fact, for this Blue Eyed Girl, "You Caught Me Off Guard" could easily fit into either of Andrew Lloyd Webber's legendary productions with the greatest ease. Sierra's stunning soprano range fits this elegant track perfectly - so much so, you can easily imagine Sierra's Christine Daae sitting in an ornate Parisian room in that infamous Opera House, singing about this mysterious voice that she hears "inside of her head."
 

The legendary Lea Salonga brings her beautiful voice to "Wish That I Could Call You." The balance of the mellow, relaxing melodies complimented by Lea's enchanting vocals is the perfect showcase for this astonishing talent, who even many years after her Theatrical debut, still has the ability to evoke so many emotions in anyone who listens to her. The same can be said of the fantastic Katy Treharne - who lends her stunning talent to the magical "What Love Is For." She delivers the track with such amazing grace, skill and beauty that it is difficult not to be moved by the stunning story that she tells through the song.
 
The powerhouse vocals of Welsh legend John Owen Jones are up next on "Tell Me What Makes A Man" - definitely one of the most up tempo tracks on the album - and one of this Blue Eyed Girl's personal album highlights! On first listen, I was very much reminded of JOJ's version of "Thunderball" from his own recent album - and this Dan and Laura original more than matches it with its' thundering bass and thrilling build to its amazing climax. Yet another track that suits its' singer perfectly - I have always said John is one of the best vocal storytellers I have ever heard - and I will state now, after hearing this - if John Owen Jones doesn't sing the next James Bond theme tune, I don't know what he has to do! His vocals would just be so perfect!
 
Simon Bowman also lends his powerhouse vocals and fantastic storytelling skills to "No Time for Romance." This song is what I would call an "old school classic" -  it reminds me of the tracks that you would usually associate with the Ratpack Era. Smooth, laidback and effortlessly cool. You feel at total ease when you first listen to Simon's smooth and mellow voice, and even when he unleashes the power behind that voice, you just feel compelled to keep listening.
 

One of the biggest achievements that Dan and Laura have accomplished in this last year would be the discovery of  the amazing talent that is Kasia Howley through the YOUR VOICE competition. After recording and releasing her version of "Why Am I Falling", Kasia returns on the stunningly beautiful "Now." For me, this has to be the biggest tear-jerker on the album - it certainly made me cry! It is just astonishing to me that someone as young as Kasia can tell such an enchanting story and with such a beautiful voice. I guarantee this is a name you will be hearing big things from in years to come - mark my words!


And what a way to finish the album with the mind-blowing vocals of Samantha Barks. After her successes both on stage and screen - most notably in the big screen adaptation of Les Miserables - Samantha returns to what she does best and proves why she is one of the greatest talents that the UK has ever produced. "You Fixed My Broken Wings" - another Blue Eyed Girl album highlight - is an absolute tour de force and a masterclass that any aspiring music performer should listen to and take note of. The powerful and soaring melodies, complimented by the magical mix of Samantha's vocals backed by a majestic choir was just the perfect way to finish what is a sensational album.

Track Listing

1. Why Am I Falling - Ramin Karimloo
2. You Caught Me Off Guard - Sierra Boggess
3. Wished That I Could Call You - Lea Salonga
4. Tell Me What Makes A Man - John Owen Jones
5. What Love Is For - Katy Treharne
6. No Time For Romance - Simon Bowman
7. Now - Kasia Howley
8. You Fixed My Broken Wings - Samantha Barks

If you want to grab a copy of LOVE ON 42ND STREET - and come on, why wouldn't you? - then, check out the following links where you can buy or download the album: -

Amazon - http://www.amazon.co.uk/Love-42nd-Street-Various-artists/dp/B00IU10JU2/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1394901437&sr=8-1&keywords=love+on+42nd+street

Dan and Laura's Official website (CD) - http://www.danandlauracurtis.com/#!shop/c24l6

**The album will also be released on iTunes!!


I must thank Dan and Laura from the bottom of my heart for letting me listen to the album ahead of its' release. I consider it an absolute honour and I only hope that my review has done justice to their amazing album.

Signing off for now

Blue Eyed Girl Xxx
 

Saturday, 15 March 2014

Blue Eyed Girl catches up with . . . Dan and Laura Curtis

(Photo from Google Plus)
 
To say Dan and Laura Curtis have been on a rollercoaster ride since we last spoke would be a massive understatement! From recording with Ramin Karimloo, to discovering the amazing Kasia Howley, to the Your Voice Competition and the start of a musical on the life of the late Richard Burton, this very talented duo just keep on going!

With their new album LOVE ON 42ND STREET due to be released on Monday - featuring the mind-blowing talents of Sierra Boggess, John Owen Jones and Katy Treharne amongst many others, I sat down with Dan and Laura for a much needed catch up . . .

What have you been up to since we last spoke?
 
It has been such a crazy time with recording the album and running the Your Voice Competition. We really haven't stopped but it is great to be busy!

You released "Why Am I Falling?", featuring Ramin Karimloo at the end of last year. The song was also part of the catalyst that found the first winner of the YOUR VOICE competition, Kasia Howley. Did you ever expect to get such an overwhelming response to the song as you did?

 
When you write a song, you can only hope that it gets a great reaction. When we wrote the song, we really believed it could do well but the response has been mind blowing. We get so many messages everyday from people who are just discovering the song. Working with Ramin on the recording and the lyrics was a pleasure and we cannot wait to see him on Broadway later this year.


Kasia Howley is such a unique talent and we really believe she will be in the West End in a lead role in the not so distant future.

What is the one album (apart from your own), past or present that you think everyone should listen to once?
 
That is such a hard question but I think it would be The Beatles and their Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band album which is a masterpiece. Musical theatre soundtrack though would be Newsies! We just love Alan Menken's music and that cast are sensational.

What was the last concert/gig you went to that left you speechless? (In a good way!)
 
We go to see many concerts but watching Michael Feinstein record his live DVD at the Leicester Square Theatre in London was a night that we will never forget. He was just amazing and the energy in the room that night was very special.

What was the last play/musical that you saw?
 
The last musical that we saw was Pippin on Broadway. It was one of the strongest casts that we have ever seen. Matthew James Thomas who is currently playing Pippin is an incredible talent and it was great seeing him perform. The show was recommended to us by John Owen-Jones and we were so pleased we took his advice.

You are about to release your new album LOVE ON 42ND STREET. How did you come up with the album name? And what was the inspiration for the cover artwork?
 
We asked people to come up with suggestions of possible names for the album along the theme of 'Broadway Hearts' and after a lot of though we came up with the title. We wanted something that symbolised Broadway and 42nd Street is just so iconic.

(Picture provided by Dan and Laura Curtis)
 
For the cover art, we decided that we would love an actual painting to be the main front cover image but we are not gifted in that department at all! Our good friend Mike Collison is a very gifted artist and he took our vision and turned it into reality.

What was your favourite part of the album-making process?
 
Without question it would be the vocal recording sessions. It is such a pleasure to work with incredible singers and hear it all come together. They all put their own spin on what you have written and it such a creative time.

Obviously - the theme of the album is LOVE. What made you choose that theme in particular?
 
Definitely our first trip to New York, where we were constantly surrounded by the emotions and stories of others. From Central Park, where we’d see new parents, couples – young and old, to the 9/11 memorial where the flowers in the names surrounding the water told thousands of stories of loss. From this we decided to create an album that conveyed love in all forms.
 
If you HAD TO pick (and if you don't mind me asking!), which song is your favourite on the album?
 
It is a strange thing to say but after you write a song you kind of hand it over to the world and it kind of becomes as much theirs as it does yours. We don't have a favourite but the great thing with music is that our music choice changes with the mood that we are in. We have tried to write songs that reflect happy, sad and different emotions so whatever mood you are in, there is something that you would hopefully enjoy!
 
You have such an array of amazing talent on this album. How did you choose the vocalists that you wanted to include? Did you have a singer in mind for each track when you wrote them?
 
We actually wrote each of the songs for the person singing them, which was a very different way of working for us. We wanted the album to be very personal and we wanted to try and capture the singers individual style in the song. We did come up with a wish list of who we would love to have on this album and fortunately we were able to write and record a song with most of them. For scheduling reasons some songs did not work out but do watch this space!

Are there any artists out there you would still like to work with that you haven't yet?
 
There are so many artists that we would love to work with and the great thing is that we find new ones all the time. We have some very exciting projects coming up with some of Broadway's biggest stars.

What does the rest of 2014 hold for you?
 
First thing up is promoting the album but we have a number of projects on the go. We are working very hard on our musical based around the life of the late great Richard Burton. We have a series of singles that we will be releasing later this year and will hopefully be recording them with artists over the next few months.

In 10 words or less - tell my readers why they should buy the album.
 
Lea, Ramin, JOJ, Samantha, Simon, Katy, Sierra and Kasia :)

If you want to grab a copy of LOVE ON 42ND STREET - and come on, why wouldn't you? - then, check out the following links where you can pre-order and download the album: -
 
Amazon - http://www.amazon.co.uk/Love-42nd-Street-Various-artists/dp/B00IU10JU2/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1394901437&sr=8-1&keywords=love+on+42nd+street
 
Dan and Laura's Official website (CD) - http://www.danandlauracurtis.com/#!shop/c24l6

**The album will also be released on iTunes!!

I want to wish Dan and Laura so much luck for the album release. I only hope that such beautiful music, performed by some phenomenal talent gets the recognition it so truly deserves!

Signing off for now

Blue Eyed Girl Xxx

Sunday, 2 March 2014

A Letter to the original cast of ONCE London . . .

As the original cast of this stunning show enters its final week, I just wanted to say thank you to them all in what I hope is my own "special way".

To Declan, Zrinka, Valda, Jamie, Phoebe, Ryan, Allison, David, Aidan, Katrina, Gareth, Michael, Tim, Jos, Flora, Christina, Alex, Jez, Gabriel, Robbie, Ceyda, Emily, Rosanna and Honey.

It's hard to believe that a whole year has flown past since you all arrived in the West End as part of one of the most anticipated imports from across the Pond that we have had in years. And now, as your time at this beautiful show comes to an end, I just wanted to show you how much I, as well as thousands upon thousands of fans that you have gained over this year, appreciate everything you have achieved at the Phoenix Theatre.

When I heard ONCE was going to be coming to London, I was absolutely overjoyed! Having loved theatre since I was very young - but only renewing my love for it in 2009/10, this was the first time I had felt so much joy about a show opening. The original Broadway cast soundtrack had been a major part of my CD collection for many years. The simplistic beauty of every single track melted my heart on the very first listen - and continues to do so to this day! But despite my love for the soundtrack - I had never seen the film, so I had no visual representations of what these characters were meant to be like.

Fast forward to a cold, wet evening in April 2013. It was your second Press Night and with ticket in hand, I headed for my first of many visits to the Phoenix Theatre. The atmosphere was still electric after the resounding success of the previous Press Night and as I headed on stage for a drink and to watch your amazing pre-show performance first hand, I knew I was in for a treat.

2 hours, 30 minutes (or so) later, ONCE (and all of you) had stolen my heart.


I went on to visit your enchanting show 9 times over the year, and although I know that may not sound like alot in comparison with some, I have never seen a single show this many times in such a short space of a time - and believe me, if I didn't live so far away from the Phoenix, it would have been much more!

People would ask me why I kept coming back so many times - and my answer was the same every time. A story that is so beautifully simple, that it's simply beautiful. Put that together with one of the strongest, most dynamic and ridiculously talented ensembles I have EVER seen (bar none), then how could people not come back again and again?

Every single one of you is not only an amazing actor or actress, but a ridiculously talented musician. There is not one weak link amongst you. The dynamic nature and unity you have when you are all on stage is magical. And when I heard Declan, in a recent tweet, describe you all as a BAND, number 1 - I couldn't agree more, and number 2 - this yet again shows what a wealth of talent you all possess!


I also think it says so much about the strength of a cast that when an Understudy is on, you would not know they weren't part of the regular main cast - and this is the case with ONCE. I didn't get to see all of the Understudies - but there is no doubt in my mind you were all just as phenomenal as each other.

My final visit to you all was on 8th February 2013 (as sadly I am unable to attend your final day) - and I still remember the exact moment during that show when it hit me that I would not have the honour of seeing you all perform live together again (it was during GOLD) and it broke my heart. But the memories (and the goosebumps) I will take from that show, as well as all of my visits will stay with me forever.


For all the kindness you have shown me when I have met so many of you at the Stage Door, for the laughs, for the tears, for the joy, for the passion - and for the music - I can only thank you all from the bottom of my heart. Whatever the future may hold for you - whether it be in the East End of London, the National Theatre, Shakespeare or continuing your ONCE journey, I wish you so much love, luck, happiness and blessings. You will all be so missed - the new cast certainly have HUGE shoes to fill!!!

Signing off for now

Blue Eyed Girl Xxx

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Tonight's The Night - New Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham (25th February 2014)

 
When I walked into the New Alexandra Theatre on a cold February evening to see TONIGHT'S THE NIGHT - a musical based on the songs of Rod Stewart, I didn't really know what I was in for. Yes - I knew some Rod Stewart songs - who doesn't? But how on earth were they going to fit into a musical?

One thing I did know was that the script was written by comedian Ben Elton. With "We Will Rock You" being one of the shows I have made the most visits to, it was clear that I was going to love the script - especially if it had a sense of humour similar to the long-running Dominon phenomenon.

But I was still unsure. I was even more confused when I walked into the auditorium to be greeted by a city skyline at sunrise - and was handed a white paper Sailor Hat, being told "I would need this later!" I didn't think it was possible - but yes, I was even more confused than when I first walked in!

But once the show started, all of my confusion quickly disappeared as I was bought into Gasoline Alley - and the world of Stuart Clutterbuck.

Stu (played by former Les Mis alumni and past Blue Eyed Girl double interviewee Craig Mather) is a shy and sensitive guy, who can't find the words to confess his love to his co-worker Mary (played by the ridiculously talented Jenna Lee James) One night, Stuart strikes a deal with the Devil (the stunning Tiffany Graves) to swap souls with the Rock God himself Rod Stewart. But despite all the initial happiness his deal brings him, Stu realises that maybe life as someone else isn't all it's cracked up to be.

I was blown away by the amount of talent across the entire cast - especially from the ladies, lead by the phenomenal trio of Jenna Lee James, Tiffany Graves and Jade Ewen (who played Dee Dee). Both Jenna and Tiffany have been a part of "We Will Rock You" - and it tells in their powerhouse vocals! Both blew the roof off in their solo and ensemble numbers and I can but only bow down at their unbelievable talent. A special mention must also go to Michael McKell (Stoner) - this guy just oozed rock star charm and he had the audience in the palm of his hand at every moment he was on stage, whether it was vocally or in his many comic moments.

And what to say about Mr Craig Mather? It's been just over 2 years since I first saw Craig on stage - on my first ever visit to Les Miserables - but my, oh, my! What a transformation! Even though he is the alternate lead (Craig currently has 2 set shows as Stu each week, being part of the Ensemble at all other shows), I don't think I have ever seen a performer look so comfortable leading a company. He commanded the stage, holding the attention of everyone in the auditorium for every minute of the show, and he picked up the customary "rock star strut" with great ease. Craig's amazing vocal range - if you've listened to his solo EP "View of You", you will know how astounding it is - fits perfectly to the classic Rod Stewart tracks - "Stay With Me", "Sailing" and "Do You Think I'm Sexy?" being my highlights. It won't be long before we see him leading a phenomenal company all of his own - mark my words!

Tonight's the Night is a fun night out, and even if you are not a huge Rod Stewart fan, I guarantee you will be dancing in the aisles!

The tour is in Birmingham until 1st March, and then goes on to Aylesbury, Brighton and Wimbledon. Check out http://www.tonightsthenightontour.co.uk/#home for all the details.

Signing off for now

Blue Eyed Girl Xxx