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

COMING SOON! The West End Wilma Awards

 
Anyone who knows me will know that one of my "Blog Idols", if you will and someone I respect immensely in the Blogging Community is the wonderful WEST END WILMA.
 
So when I heard she was launching the first ever WILMA AWARDS, needless to say, I was very intrigued!
 
In association with Freedom Bar Soho, the first ever WILMA AWARDS will take place on Friday 7th November 2014 at an exclusive invite-only ceremony at Freedom Bar in Soho, hosted by the brilliant Tim McArthur. The afternoon will include Afternoon Tea with Wilma (courtesy of The Full English) while the winners are revealed alongside some very special live performances!

People have been telling me for years that I should do The Wilma Awards but I wanted to wait until I felt the time was right. If I’m going to do something in life, I’m going to do it properly! And if there’s one thing I know how to do it’s throw a good party!” said everyone's favourite Nana of the Theatre World.
 
She went on to say There are some great Theatre Awards out there already with the Oliviers, Whats On Stage and Off West End Awards but I wanted to bring my own little list of awards to life for some categories that I feel maybe don’t get recognised in other awards.”
 
Those categories are: -
• Best West End Show
• Best Fringe Production
• Best Touring Production (sponsored by Churchill Theatre Bromley)
• Most Underrated West End Show
• Best Supporting Cast Member
• Best Theatre Blog (sponsored by IOGIG Online Services)
• Rising Star Award (sponsored by Planet Hollywood)
• Most Welcoming Venue
• Best Take-over in a Role
• Lifetime Achievement in Theatre

West End Wilma and her team of reviewers will shortlist the nominees in each category from their combined opinions on the past 12 months of Theatre. Those shortlisted will then be put to the public vote to decide on the winners.

Public voting will open on 1 October 2014 and run for two weeks at www.westendwilma.com


You can keep up to date with everything you need to know about the Awards on Twitter @WilmaAwards and over on Facebook too! Oh, and if you've never paid it a visit, www.westendwilma.com is a must read for all Theatre fans!

Signing off for now

Blue Eyed Girl Xxx

SWEENEY TODD at Twickenham Theatre

 
In my quest to not only expand my own knowledge but my readers knowledge of Off West End Theatre, I had to share with you all details of this fantastic new production which were passed to me by former interviewee, the awesome Jamie Chapman Dixon.

With music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, book by Hugh Wheeler, an intimate new production of the Tony Award and Olivier Award-winning musical, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street.will kick-off the autumn season at Twickenham Theatre in West London.

It will start previews on Wednesday 10 September and runs to Saturday 4 October.

David Bedella (Sweeney) was a triple award winner, named Best Actor in a Musical at the 2004 Olivier Awards, the Evening Standard Awards, and The Critics Circle Awards, for creating the role of the warm-up man Jonathan Weiruss/Satan in Jerry Springer The Opera. He appeared in the role at the National Theatre, in the West End, the Sydney Opera House and in New York in a concert version at Carnegie Hall. On television David most notably played Dr Carlos Fashola in Holby City and more recently guest starred in By Any Means and Inside No. 9, all for BBC, and his film credits include Alexander and Batman Begins. His other West End starring roles include Frank n Furter in The Rocky Horror Show, Billy Flynn in Chicago, and Hedwig in Hedwig and the Angry Inch. He starred as Arnold in Torch Song Trilogy and Wilson Mizner in Sondheim’s Road Show, both at the Menier Chocolate Factory. In the past year he played Man 1 in the acclaimed production of Sondheim’s Putting It Together at St.James Theatre and Kevin in Into The Heights at Southwark Playhouse.

Sarah Ingram (Mrs Lovett)’s many West End musicals include Oklahoma!, South Pacific, Martin Guerre, Inherit The Wind, Flashdance, Imagine This, Murderous Instincts and Napoleon. She worked with David Bedella on Sondheim’s Road Show at the Menier Chocolate Factory. Most recently, Sarah played Josie in the revival of the Boy George musical Taboo at Brixton Clubhouse following her critically acclaimed performance as Miss Hannigan in Annie at West Yorkshire Playhouse.

Mark McKerracher (Judge Turpin). His West End starring roles include The Phantom in The Phantom of the Opera, Jean Valjean in Les Miserables, Sunday in the Park With George, Ragtime, Cats and The Bodyguard.

Zoe Curlett (Beggar Woman). Her West End starring roles include Christine in The Phantom of the Opera and Cosette in Les Miserables, and Cats and The Secret Garden on UK tour.

The rest of the cast includes: Shaun Chambers (Pirelli), Genevieve Kingsford (who makes her professional debut as Johanna), Mikaela Newton (Tobias), and Josh Tevendale (Anthony).

The Creative Team includes: - Derek Anderson, Benjamin Holder, Lee Crowley, Rachel Stone, Olivia Ward, Joel Price, and Anne Vosser

This sounds like a truly phenomenal production and one not to be missed!

Check out more details about the production and get your tickets over at http://www.twickenhamtheatre.com/#!SWEENEY-TODD-A-Musical-Thriller/c1lw/hz411kya171

Signing off for now

Blue Eyed Girl Xxx

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

LES MIS vs PHANTOM - Sunday 3rd August 2014


I have to post a few thoughts on the wonderful day that I had at the annual Les Mis vs Phantom charity football match last weekend.

This was my 2nd time visiting this event - and as I travelled down to Bromley on a very warm Sunday morning, I began to wonder if anything could top the brilliant day I had at the event last August. But my expectations were exceeded, no absolutely obliterated!

The event, organised by Les Mis resident director Chris Key, had an added tinge of sadness this year as Chris explained on the Les Mis vs Phantom website: - "As many of you will know, our inspiration for starting this event, Melanie Oakley-Dow, sadly lost her battle with cancer at the end of last year. She is extremely missed by her family and all who knew her and Les Misérables is not the same without her. We will be playing this years match in her memory, hence our goal in making this years match the best one yet! "

And from my perspective, that goal was totally achieved!

From cake stalls, to hoopla, the bouncy castle, raffle, silent auction to face painting (I had mine done by the awesome Melanie Bright from Les Mis!) - this was definitely a day for the whole family, and that was all before the on pitch activities had even started!

Commencing with a performance from local dance group Studio 74, there was definitely a feel good atmosphere all around the ground. This atmosphere only continued at half time with phenomenal performances from Carrie Hope Fletcher, Lucie Jones, Liam Tamne and Sapphire Soul.

WATCH: Carrie Hope Fletcher performs LET IT GO and Liam Tamne performs HAPPY https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1j0maWzkXiM

WATCH: Lucie Jones performs DON'T STOP BELIEVING https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NQ9K2gdFaGY

The match itself was definitely a more tense affair compared to last year - where Team Les Mis won on penalties - as Team Phantom came out as winners after 90 minutes with a score of 4-3! I can't imagine how gutted Chris Key must have been to hand the trophy over to Team Phantom - although he deserves special credit for his Man of the Match goalkeeping skills.

But two of the most stand out moments of the day for me were two vocal performances that occurred before the match.

As I said earlier, the event was played in tribute to Melanie Oakley Dow. But as an additional tribute to her, the 4 Valjeans (Chris Holland, Peter Lockyer, Daniel Koek and Geronimo Rauch) performed an absolutely heart-breaking version of the Les Mis classic BRING HIM HOME. Now, I'll be the first to admit - this song usually makes me cry. But there was something about this version of the song which broke my heart more than usual. I have so much respect and admiration for all 4 of the Valjeans who performed as individuals - but there was definitely magic in the air as they sang their hearts out in the sunshine. I have no doubt Mel was looking down and smiling as they did.

WATCH: The 4 Valjeans perform BRING HIM HOME https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F63ilGRpVko

The other vocal performance which just blew me away was also by Geronimo Rauch. Now, when host with the most Carl Mullaney announced that unlike the previous year, we wouldn't be having the team anthems, I will be honest and say I was quite gutted as they had been a HUGE highlight of the previous years event. However, my sadness was extremely short-lived as Carl went on to announce that instead,  Geronimo would be performing the legendary NESSUN DORMA to bring the teams out!

Needless to say, anyone who knows me knows how much respect and admiration I have for Geronimo as a performer but even I was in shock at this (in a good way though!) Was it possible me to be even more in awe of this man's amazing talent?

WATCH: Geronimo Rauch performs NESSUN DORMA  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C1-i8EMGIvI

Quite simply - yes. Yes it was. Even now - 4 days since the event, I am still completely in awe of the performance that I was witness to. Geronimo is an extremely talented guy, and an absolute gentleman at that! If you haven't seen him perform live before, I urge you to get to see him in "The Phantom of the Opera" as soon as you can - you won't be disappointed!

Finally, a big amount of respect must go to event organiser Chris Key. He has yet again put on a wonderful day that has raised so much for charity - for his overwhelming warmth of heart and giving spirit all while remaining so humble, Chris totally deserves all the praise that comes his way - and then some.

As you can tell, a fantastic day was had by all! And not only that, I got to spend the day with 4 of the best friends a girl could ask for. I won't name names, but you know who you are!!

Signing off for now

Blue Eyed Girl X x x

MARRY ME A LITTLE (St James Studio - Saturday 2nd August 2014)

 
After having my mind truly blown by the cast of DESSA ROSE at the matinee, I headed over to my one of my favourite London theatre venues – St James Theatre, near Victoria – for the second part of what was another day of firsts for me.
 
Now, I know this may be a shock (please don’t kill me!) but, to my knowledge I have never seen a Sondheim musical! This is not through choice, may I add. I have just never been to one of his productions before. However, when I heard that former Blue Eyed Girl interviewee SIMON BAILEY and former Light Princess and Playing Our Part star LAURA PITT PULFORD were starring in MARRY ME A LITTLE at St James Studio – I decided the lack of Sondheim in my life needed remedying.
As I entered the Studio space, the setting immediately struck me. I had only even been in this space once before and that was for a Hadley Fraser gig nearly 2 years ago. So to see it set for a performance was quite something for my mind to get used to. The setting was a New York apartment front room, complete with two rows of shoes, noticeably male and female; a sofa; a guitar; and shelves full of books and souvenirs.
As I took my seat, my curiousity continued to grow as the lights went down and both Simon and Laura took to the stage.  Was I watching two people in the same apartment? You would think so through how the performance space was shared. However, as the opening song “Two Fairy Tales” began, it soon became clear that what we were actually watching was two single people – only known to us as “Man” and “Woman” – “left alone in their respective studio apartments on a Saturday night, passing their time with sweetly secret, unshared fantasies, never knowing that they’re just a floor away from each other and the end of their lonely dreams.”
Throughout this 75 minute show, you see every side of the potential relationship evolve on stage – from the nervous starts and having the courage to ask someone out; the ups and downs of the tricky dating scene; lust and passion; silly things only two partners would understand; marriage; and how sometimes, however heartbreaking, things don’t always work out how you plan. And it is a testament to the two amazingly talented performers on that stage that as an audience member, you care so much about what happens to these two characters.
I have had the honour of seeing Laura Pitt Pulford on stage 3 times now – in “The Light Princess”, at Playing Our Part singing “Before the Parade Passes By” and now “Marry Me A Little” – and I am absolutely convinced there is nothing this girl can’t sing! I was mesmerised by every aspect of her phenomenal performance. From the super speedy and pure genius of the quick changes in “Can that Boy Foxtrot”, to the loved up “Marry Me A Little” and the emotional “There Won’t Be Trumpets”, her voice was absolutely faultless no matter what range she needed to cover and add to this her innate ability to draw in an audience and make them believe in everything she does and says. Her chemistry with Simon was one of the outstanding features of this production and I defy anyone not to be utterly heartbroken by their final duet in the show. (More on this later!) Laura truly is a very special talent and definitely one of the most underappreciated female performers in the UK Theatre Industry today.
Simon Bailey is at his charismatic best throughout the show and as with Laura, takes you on an emotional rollercoaster as you learn about the ups and downs of his relationship dreams and fantasies. What struck me most about the performance Simon gives here is that – in comparison to the productions I have seen him in previously - it is such an open, honest and utterly heart-wrenching performance as you see his character go from the highest of highs to the lowest of heart-breaking lows. Stand out moments had to be his dynamic chemistry and intense spark with Laura during “All Things Bright and Beautiful/Bang”, and the emotionally charged finale “It Wasn’t Meant to Happen”, where even Simon needed a few moments to wipe the tears from his eyes before taking his bow. After being my first ever interviewee here at “Thoughts of a Blue Eyed Girl”, I consider it a true honour to support Simon where I can and to see him add yet another fantastic string to his bow.
I can honestly say that my first ever experience of live Sondheim was a truly memorable one and I have no doubt this will not be my last – considering the entire score for this show were Sondheim cast-offs, I wonder what Sondheim approved shows are like?
MARRY ME A LITTLE is only on until this Sunday (10th August) so make sure you get down to St James Theatre to catch this piece of enchanting Sondheim magic.
Signing off for now
Blue Eyed Girl Xxx


DESSA ROSE - Saturday 2nd August 2014


 
It is not often that I am left speechless after seeing a new production. Moreover, it is a very rare occurrence indeed when I sit there thinking “how on earth am I going to write about this?” – those who know me will attest to the fact that I’ve always got something to say, ha ha!

But in the case of DESSA ROSE, a new production currently running at Trafalgar Studios 2 by Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty and directed by Andrew Keates, this was very much the case.
DESSA ROSE tells the story of “a young black woman and a young white woman and their journey to acceptance in 1847 in the American Deep South, as they tell their story to their grandchildren.” I will be brutally honest – when I read this synopsis after a close friend got me a ticket to see the show, I wasn’t totally sure that this would be something I would enjoy.
But boy, how wrong was I?
As I walked in to the intimate space of Trafalgar Studios 2 for the first time, I was struck by the simplicity of what I saw. Chains hanging from the ceiling; a plain set design and only four musicians positioned around the studio floor, with one even in a corner by the door. As I headed to my front row seat, I had a good idea I would be very close to the action – and I was so right! Let’s just say had I stretched my feet out any further, I would have been tripping cast members up left, right and centre (Although I will say – there is no bad seat in this fantastic performance space!)
When it comes to the production itself, this is an honest, hard hitting, joyous yet brutal tale of two very different women.  As Dessa and Ruth narrate their respective stories, it is impossible not to be completely drawn into to everything they say, and experience every emotion that they feel. The intimacy of the space truly makes you feel that you are right in the heart of the story – you are able to look into the eyes, and thus the souls of all of these characters and it is a truly mesmerising experience. And it is as a result of this that at several points, I found I had to stop myself from running in to stop some of the horrific, yet historically accurate events I was seeing before me.
But it is the sign of a truly special group of performers that can take such a powerful story and evoke such emotion in an audience.
I had never seen Cassidy Janson in a production before. But as Ruth, she was able to deliver such a moving portrayal as the Southern Belle who was forced to “open her eyes” to the wider world around her after her “dream life” was ruined by the disappearance of her husband. Her growing forbidden love for Nathan (Edward Baruwa) was so beautiful to watch and you could really see the emotion in her eyes as the realisation that they could never be together became a reality. The sequence when Ruth first meets Dessa (Cynthia Erivo) and they argue over Ruth’s “Mammy’s” real name was also so intense and emotionally charged that you could feel Ruth’s heart-breaking in front of you as she realised that her life may not have been as simple as she always thought. Cassidy’s performance was just fantastic and I can’t wait to see what she does next.
One performer in this production who I had come across before was the phenomenal Cynthia Erivo (Dessa). I can honestly say, hand on heart, that this amazing lady could sing anything and it would blow me away – but in DESSA ROSE, she really takes it to another level. Throughout the production, Cynthia brings Dessa to life with such power, beauty, passion and intense vulnerability that I defy anyone not to be moved to tears by the enchanting portrayal that she delivers. Cynthia shines throughout and her vocals are faultless as always, but her vocals in “Twelve Children” and “In the Bend of My Arm” were particular hauntingly beautiful highlights in another career defining performance for this fantastic actress.
I must also give a special mention to Jon Robyns (Adam) – another performer who I had not come across before DESSA ROSE. But his performance as the struggling writer who falls for Dessa after beginning to chronicle her life story, before descending into confusion and madness as a result was so exhilarating to watch and definitely one of the most intense elements of this hard hitting show.  Robyns also delivered a beautiful vocal performance in his solo numbers and this makes me even more eager to see him back on stage when he joins the cast of MEMPHIS later this year.
Everywhere I have been and everyone who I have spoken to since I left Trafalgar Studios 2 last Saturday has well and truly had their ear bent by me going on and on about how this production is a must-see! Despite seeing numerous reviews comparing it to The Colour Purple (which also starred Cynthia and several other cast members), I can say that DESSA ROSE isn’t trying to be The Colour Purple. If anything, I see DESSA ROSE more as a harder hitting, powerful and more honest cousin to the famous novel!
However, there is one clear similarity – just as The Colour Purple ran to rave reviews last summer, DESSA ROSE is a must see that I can only urge you to go out of your way to see. I promise you won’t regret it.

Signing off for now
Blue Eyed Girl Xxx