As the last few hours of 2013 tick away, everyone seems to be in an extremely reflective mood. My Twitter timeline - in particular - seems to be full of people remembering their highlights of the past year, both stagey and non stagey, and in several different formats too.
It made me think back on so many wonderful memories I have from the past year. But rather than sit here and tell you of all my favourite moments - I would like to tell you some of the things I am most THANKFUL FOR from the epic year that has been 2013!
FROM 2013, I AM THANKFUL FOR . . .
This was a musical that I knew only a small amount about when 2013 started. The soundtrack - from the highly successful Broadway production - had been a staple part of my CD collection for several years but I had never seen the original film. What I did know was that the show was due to open in the West End in March, and this became one of my MUST SEE shows of the year!
I was lucky enough to have my first visit to the show in April 2013 (and coincidentally, this is where I first met West End Frame editor Andrew Tomlins - who has also given me so many wonderful opportunities this year) From the moment I entered the auditorium, and headed to the on-stage bar (a tip I had been given by friends who had already visited), I was smitten. Looking up into the beautiful Phoenix Theatre that night, I knew I was about to experience something truly special! And by jove - I was so right!
From the moment that leading man Declan Bennett started singing the haunting "Leave" to the final emotion filled "Falling Slowly (Reprise)" lead by Declan, the enchanting Zrinka Cvietsic and the magnificent cast, it was like I was in a truly magical dream - everything was just how I imagined it would be - and so much more. I came out of the show in absolute floods of tears and actually had to take a moment to gather my thoughts. So simple in its beauty, but so beautiful in its simplicity - it was just pure gold!
I have gone on to visit this true gem of a show another 7 times - and I am heading back there in January 2014 for visit 9! Seriously folks, this show is an absolute MUST SEE if you are yet to experience it - it is a decision you will not regret!!
GERONIMO RAUCH AND HADLEY FRASER
When people ask me who my favourite performers are, the list I usually reel off consists of so many amazing talents who I have had the privilege to see, and on some occasions - meet in person. However, if I was being honest, I am not ashamed to say that these two wonderful gentleman are at the very top of my list.
After first discovering Hadley's amazing talent back at Les Mis - as well as his own gigs - in 2012, 2013 has certainly been a year that has shown me Hadley can do anything. In supporting him - whether it was at Sheytoons in February, the Pajama Game in Chichester, the Machine in Manchester or at the upcoming National Theatre Live broadcast of Coriolanus, I have been absolutely blown away by his stunning talent, and his eternal kindness and grace when I have had the honour of saying hello - and grinning like an idiot at him - post show at Stage Door. I have no doubt that 2014 will be just as amazing as more and more people are witness to his phenomenal talent. The respect and admiration I have for him knows no bounds - and I can only hope it isn't too long before I am able to support this wonderful gentleman in person again.
Geronimo is another performer who I have such respect and admiration for. After being mesmerised by his magical performances as Jean Valjean in Les Miserables, I was over the moon when it was announced that he was taking over the role of "The Phantom" in Andrew Lloyd Webber's classic "Phantom of the Opera". Don't get me wrong - I was so sad to see my favourite Valjean leave Les Mis - but I had no doubt that he was going to be one of the best Phantoms the show (my favourite musical!) had ever seen - and I made sure anyone who asked me knew that :-) So needless to say, when I finally saw him as the Masked Man in October 2013 - from the front row, I should add - to say I was absolutely blown away would be the BIGGEST understatement EVER! I mean, I knew Geronimo was going to be amazing - but he was even better than what I expected. He brought a new fire, passion and intensity to the role that I had not seen before, and his interpretation of ALW's superb score was absolutely flawless! It's wrong to say that I felt so proud of him (I mean, I don't know him personally) but to see a performer who I have so much respect and admiration for go into such an iconic role - and one that means so much to me - and absolutely smash it was just a magical thing to see! And I just can't wait for my next visit in January 2014 - tissues at the ready!!
On a side note, it has been fantastic to discover a new theatrical venue this year. I have been lucky enough to visit Chichester on two separate occasions - once to see Hadley Fraser, Joanna Riding and Eugene McCoy in the brilliant PAJAMA GAME (which I can't wait to see in the West End in 2014!) and on another visit to see Christopher Fitzgerald, Tamsin Carroll and the beautiful Anna O' Byrne in the visual spectacle BARNUM (which is also due to tour the UK next year!) It truly is a beautiful venue, and I am sure there will be many visits to the wonderful location in the future.
Being an English teacher, you'd expect this to be a given for me really! But 2013 has been quite a year for EPIC Shakespeare productions. After starting with "Much Ado About Nothing" (Stratford) and "Richard III" (Globe) in 2012, I was so privileged to be witness to James McAvoy taking the lead in Jamie Lloyd's re-imagining of "The Scottish Play" at Trafalgar Studios in April. This was a truly unique experience and being able to witness such drama, passion and tension in such an intimate atmosphere was something I'll never forget!
Following this was my viewing of "Richard II", starring David Tennant, at the first ever RSC Live in November 2013. Considering the only thing I had previously seen David in was Harry Potter and, of course, Doctor Who, seeing him perform with such clarity, power and emotion was just beyond amazing. "Richard II" was not a play I knew well - but I understood every word that came out of Tennant's mouth - just brilliant!
I cannot discuss Shakespeare without mentioning the almost unimaginable experience that I had back in July, when I had one of the most memorable experiences of my life - seeing Kenneth Branagh lead the most phenomenal cast in his version of "The Scottish Play" at the Manchester International Festival. There is so much to say about this production - from the set (an old abandoned church, transformed for the occasion), to the sweltering heat, the fact it was was being streamed all over the world for National Theatre Live, to the multi talented and beyond astounding cast, to the fact that KENNETH BRANAGH was performing a role that I had both taught and been taught so many times myself right in front of me! To experience such awesomeness with such dear friends was just the cherry on top. Definitely one of my highlights of 2013!
ALL OF YOU
I am absolutely over the moon to announce that I have recently hit the massive milestone of 30,000 hits on my little blog and there is no way I could have done that without every single one of you. Whether you are an avid reader, have given my articles a passing glance, or a one view wonder - every one of you means the absolute world to me! What started as a bit of fun has turned into the most magical experience for me, and has opened the doors for me to experience so many different productions and meet so many amazingly stunning performers.
I should also say a special thank you to every single performer who has been kind enough to give up their precious time to be interviewed by me this year. It has been my absolute honour and privilege to chat and, in many cases, meet every single one of you. Thank you from the bottom of my heart!
Nadim Naaman (twice!), Laura Tisdall, John Owen Jones, Craig Mather (twice!), Rosie Ladkin, Kristian Lavercombe, Scott Garnham (twice!), Taylor Rowan and Hughes, Katy Treharne and all at West End Has Faith, Anna O' Byrne, Marcus Lovett, Nathaniel Morrison, CJ De Mooi, Lauren Varnham, Sofia Escobar, Aidan Banyard, Shoshana Bean, David Hunter, Dan and Laura Curtis, Tam Mutu, Ricardo Afonso, Jamie Chapman Dixon, Shaun McCourt, Richard Fleeshman, Danielle Tarento, Harriet Jones, Geronimo Rauch, Carrie Hope Fletcher and "Queen" Wendy Ferguson!
TEASER - My next post (which will not only be my 100th post but my first of 2014) will be a catch up interview with one of my most popular interviewees ever! Keep your eyes peeled!!
Signing out for this year - may 2014 bring you all the joy, blessings and happiness you all deserve!
Blue Eyed Girl Xxx