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Curiouser and curiouser

Published July 14, 2014 by samssister

First of all, hi! I know it has been a while since I have posted but having two arms in plaster casts has made it rather tricky. However, they are recovering pretty well now so how could I turn down the opportunity given to me by Official Theatre, to watch The National Theatre’s production of The Curious Incident of The Dog In The Night Time.
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This production has newly opened at the Gielgud Theatre after the unfortunate incident of a ceiling collapse at its previous home. Based on the book of the same name by Mark Haddon, the story is told through the thoughts of 15 year old Christopher who has Asperger Syndrome.

Graham Butler plays the troubled teenager, though he is not troubled in the ways of a normal adolescent, rather in his own mind. He has a logical approach to everything, cannot tell lies, has slight behavioural problems (due to his condition) and is highly mathematically intelligent.

Finding his neighbour’s dog dead leads to him trying to solve the mystery of who killed it and along the way he uncovers a lot of information about his family despite struggling to communicate with people, particularly strangers.

This play is possibly the most uniquely staged I have ever seen. A combination of lighting and sound effects, an entirely minimalistic set and brilliantly convincing characterisation from the cast lead to a stunning show.

It is thought provoking, at times funny and yet also sad. The demonstration that for some people life is such a struggle is made visible here and there is so much going on within Christopher’s head that it is no wonder he struggles to make sense of the world. Not at any point does Butler slip out of character and his portrayal even through to his physicality is right on the money.

Of course I have never had to deal with a problem such as Asperger Syndrome, so I cannot say that what is depicted in the production is how life is for all sufferers but from research I do know how mostly they like things to be just so, to have a reason and to make sense. The way Christopher assesses situations and the way in which, at times he is so overwhelmed by his surroundings is done so that non-sufferers can clearly see what it must be like.

Director Marianne Elliott and designer Bunny Christie have been extremely clever with the set and character placement. Pocket after pocket is used to produce props, sound and lighting effects to create the chaos in Christophers mind, and a narrator is present throughout to explain everything, to read Christophers thoughts if you like, introducing the other cast members and scenarios.

The narrator, Siobhan is played by Sarah Woodward. She is also Christopher’s school teacher and one of the few people he will talk to. She is sympathetic and understanding, yet at the same time she is firm and capable of dealing with her students. Other notable characters include Dad (Nicolas Tennant), Mum (Emily Joyce) and Mrs Alexander (Gay Soper) but in truth the whole ensemble work seamlessly together to create the experience.

And that’s what it is – an experience. It is no surprise that this production has won 7 Olivier Awards, it is an extraordinary play about an extraordinary boy told in an extraordinary way and there is no doubt that it will continue to keep audiences riveted for a long time to come.

If you only see one production this year then this should be it.

With thanks to http:// http://www.officialtheatre.com /http://www.officialtheatre.com/ for arranging the trip and please check out their website link for tickets.

Keep dreaming,
Naomi xx

P.S. I hope I’m back for good now!

Seriously….never talk to strangers

Published February 27, 2014 by samssister

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I recently was pleased to be able to catch the West End version of Strangers on a train before its run ended on Feb 22nd. I’d heard a few reports from it but not much about it, so it was good to see it with an open mind and minimal knowledge.

Probably best known as a film by thriller maestro Alfred Hitchcock, Strangers on a train started life as a novel by Patricia Highsmith. This adaptation is by Craig Warner and although it was entirely new to me,  there was a definite movie feel about the production.

Jack Huston stars as the incredibly creepy Charles Bruno, a man with plenty of money and no sense of personal space. From the outset it is clear he has homosexual preferences and takes an instant liking to Guy Haines (Laurence Fox), an architect who has become the local laughing stock after his wife Miriam (Myanna Buring) has had a string of affairs.

After an initial meeting in a train carriage and then being persuaded to take a drink in Charles’ room, Guy reveals to Charles that he now has another girlfriend and that Miriam is making a divorce difficult for him. Charles then announces that he wants his father dead. And from there is the plot – Charles’ idea. Two strangers, two murders and neither seemingly connected.

Quite soon after their meeting, Charles strangles Miriam. Guy, who is now with Anne – his girlfriend (Miranda Raison), hears the news and begins to worry and is questioned by the police.  He was never planning to go through with the murder of Bruno Senior and is upset wirh the events.

Charles, however, begins to send letter after letter to Guy. He turns up everywhere, always uninvited and unwelcome, including an appearance at Guy and Anne’s wedding. Letters are also sent to Guy’s family, colleagues and friends. The mental torment for Guy is unbearable so he commits the crime in the hope of being left alone, but sadly things don’t stop there.

The play is cleverly done. Entirely in shades of black, white and grey, the costumes and set look extremely effective. The use of a turntable divided into three also means there are multiple sets but the changes are done simply by moving the round to the next third, making everything nicely slick. The use of background music to set both the period and the tone of the show and of black and white projections all help to create a movie-like and interesting piece. I thought the use of the cast to create tableaus while the man action went on in the foreground worked exceptionally well, apart from the occasional blink they could have been mannequins.

The most disappointing part for me was the end. Tension had been built nicely throughout act one and during act two I wanted nothing more than for Charles to die. Even his mother (Imogen Stubbs) who had a strange, seemingly incestuous relationship with her son, didn’t want to know him. But the final scenes,  after a fantastic performance from the cast, were a bit of an anti-climax and appeared a bit hurried.

Nonetheless I enjoyed it very much,  especially Huston’s somewhat deluded and rather scary character which was faultless. It is a shame that a talented cast such as these have had a short run but if you get the chance to see any of them perform in the future then I highly recommend them.

Keep Dreaming,
Naomi xx

Oh! What A Night

Published February 6, 2014 by samssister

I cant believe how long it has taken me to finally get around to seeing today’s show, but finally after hundreds of rave reports and a cracking ticket bargain, I got to see Jersey Boys.

I knew, of course, of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons – I couldn’t be such a huge fan of the ’60′s and not have heard some of their music. However, what I didn’t know was about them.

Jersey Boys tells the story of the band, from its conception, through the trials, tribulations and sometimes tragedies of the group as a whole and as individuals.

Started byTommy DeVito (Jon Boydon), a slightly temperamental gambler with big ideas, who’s original band members – himself included – spent a large proportion of time in jail, he discovers a young lad with a hugely distinctive voice.

This young man is Frankie (Ben Jennings). Because he is young he is easily influenced and he is under Tommy’s thumb. Decisions are all made by Tommy, though it is debatable that Frankie would ever have been so successful had Tommy not helped to kick start everything.

As time passes and agents begin to get involved,  Tommy struggles to maintain control and becomes resentful. The other group members – Bob Gaudio (Edd Post) and Nick Massi (David McGranaghan) are sick of being constantly renamed and never getting anywhere.

Tensions flare up and the discovery that DeVito is thousands of pounds (well, ok, dollars) in debt, along with the agreement between Gaudio and Valli, is the final straw.

The show covers the story, in detail and with narration – mostly from DeVito but from each member of the group – about their rise to fame, their relationships both inside and outside the band and beyond,  right up until now.

The soundtrack is a surprising one due to a number of songs being covered, and ultimately better known by alternative artists, an example of this being ‘Cant Take My Eyes Off You’ perhaps most familiar by Andy Williams. Other hits include ‘Walk Like A Man’, ‘Ragdoll’ and ‘Big Girls Don’t Cry’ but these are by no means the only ones.

The staging is done over two levels and the clever use of lighting enhances the speaker or situation at any one time. I also enjoyed the way that TV or concert appearances were performed using techniques such as ‘live-cams’ and using upstage for downstage.

Ryan Molloy is world renowned for his performance as Frankie and he has a huge following.  His understudy,  Jon Lee, is also an experienced performer after a pop career with S Club 7 and a stint as Marius in Les Miserables. However,  our Frankie for the evening was Ben Jennings. I have to say I thought he was incredible and I am not in the least disappointed that he was on. Jennings is definitely going to be a name to watch out for, his vocals,  even at such a high range, were flawless and he was great to watch.

I thoroughly enjoyed Boydon’s DeVito, though every one of the ‘Seasons’ was convincing. I think my favourite scene had to be Gaudio’s ‘initiation’ into becoming a man, accompanied with the lovely ladies of the cast.  A mention must also go to Tommie Lee Jenkins who played a number of small roles but his moves were slick and he was captivating.

This is a show that would appeal to all ages. It is not mind-blowing and there are few special effects or fancy pieces of set. But what you get is a good solid show, with toe-tapping tunes, a well thought out and easy to follow story and one which will put a smile on your face. Definitely worth seeing, though be warned, you will probably want to make a return visit.

If you have not seen the show,  or indeed if you have and are interested,  I recently interviewed Jon Boydon and he gives a lovely description of his character among lots of other things. You can find it here: http:// wp.me/p2RIFK-5I

Keep Dreaming,
Naomi xx

Can’t buy me love? Then a ticket to Let It Be will do nicely

Published January 13, 2014 by samssister

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Well, it seems ages since I have written a show review on here, but let’s start 2014 like I mean to go on – a new review blog, this time from Let It Be at the Savoy Theatre. As a massive Beatles fan, I had heard about this show when it was still in its creation stage. I dare say that I was somewhat sceptical to go to see a show containing people posing as my four favourite boys. I have seen countless ‘tribute acts’ and although I have always found them enjoyable (due in the most part to the music), I don’t think the originals can be matched. The only exception to this being the Bootleg Beatles, who’s performances, mannerisms and stage presence are like watching the ‘Fab Four’.

So, bearing the above in mind, I was unsure about seeing Let It Be. I have been tempted, don’t get me wrong, but it wasn’t until I saw a few numbers performed by the cast at West End Live that I actually seriously considered going. I was able to witness the show for myself, however, when a friend of mine won a competition of two tickets and a meet and greet with the cast after the performance. Perfect! I am SO glad we went, my only disappointment is that I did not go sooner.

The show itself is rather a condensed history of the Beatles and although the settings (such as the Cavern Club, Strawberry Fields etc) are in chronological order, the songs are not necessarily. I actually rather liked this fact as many of my favourites are from the mid-sixties, so chances are they would have been performed by the interval if this had been the case. It is clear that a lot of research has been done when bringing Let It Be to life. Everything, from the costumes, the instruments, the orchestral arrangements and the mannerisms of each of the cast according to which of the Beatles they playing, all are accurate, realistic and believable. Vocally, you can see why the individuals have been chosen for John, Paul, George and Ringo as they sound more than look like them – of course they are dressed appropriately, so from the minute they begin to play – in the day of Liverpool’s Cavern Club gigs- there can be no debating who’s who.

The selection of Beatles hits is an interesting one. They play many number ones and those which are expected (Let It Be, the show title, of course being the main one) but they also play a variety of songs which were only released as album tracks rather than singles. This was a pleasant surprise as very often only the most famous songs are played which is great as they are always crowd-pleasers, but not overly creative. I therefore thoroughly enjoyed the additions of It Won’t Be Long, Girl, Blackbird and Two of Us as just a few of the many chosen for the performance. All of the cast were talented musicians but John Brosnan who plays George Harrison was an extremely accomplished lead guitarist, I thoroughly enjoyed his version of While My Guitar Gently Weeps and couldn’t fault his playing.

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What was very clear was from the beginning to the end the cast ‘were’ The Beatles. The theatre was rocking, people were on their feet, they were singing and dancing and clapping. At the end they were bombarded with noise and it was obvious that not a single person sitting in that auditorium, myself included, wanted that gig to be over. My friend, who knew nothing about The Beatles is now a total convert. She had been slightly concerned that it wouldn’t be engaging enough but in actual fact the music grabbed her and she was absolutely into it from the start. I think this proves that Let It Be is suitable for anyone – certainly the age range in the audience was hugely varied. There is minimal story, but there is humour and for me, nothing is needed other than the music as that, after all, is what it is about. I would be amazed if people hadn’t heard at least one of the songs, even if they didn’t realise it, for example All You Need is Love, Help! or Hey Jude.

I truly wish that I had taken the plunge and gone before so I could return time and time again. Sadly, I have limited time as the show is closing in February. For those who will be unable to catch it in that time, the production is going on tour so it may be visiting a venue near you. I strongly recommend that you look out for it and book your tickets as soon as you can. You truly do not want to miss this. I have already booked to go again. I would like to say so much more about this production, but as some of you may know I recently broke both of my wrists, so typing is rather painful hence the short post.

The icing on the rather marvellous cake was getting to chat to the four ‘Beatles’ after the performance. A thoroughly delightful bunch of people, they are naturally warm and funny and made us feel very welcome. Indeed, all the staff at the Savoy involved with our day were extremely helpful and pleasant and on behalf of myself and Jessica, we would very much like to thank everyone. I will leave you with a few tasters from the show (apologies for the filming- arms again made it awkward) which I hope you will enjoy. I only filmed in the second act as having my phone/any recording equipment in a theatre goes against everything I believe, but in this case it was allowed! A final shout out must go to Michael Bramwell who was effectively the ‘George Martin’ of the show and he really helped to crate some magic up on that stage.

Meeting 'The Beatles'

Meeting ‘The Beatles’

An extract from ‘Girl’ (sorry for blurry beginning): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tyb1Z18mdLg&list=UUCTne8KnCefwqWo8a-gSNFg

A snippet from ‘All You Need is Love’: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YWV6YmH4B98&list=UUCTne8KnCefwqWo8a-gSNFg

A portion of ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps’: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jx4c1gJbyQ0&list=UUCTne8KnCefwqWo8a-gSNFg

Two short clips from Let It Be at West End Live (a different cast, but for any performance you may get an assortment from all cast members. This is a good thing as all are really talented)

‘HELP!’: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vUUGjR2M80o&list=UUCTne8KnCefwqWo8a-gSNFg

‘I saw Her Standing There’: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9m2bM13xadY&list=UUCTne8KnCefwqWo8a-gSNFg

Take your Mum, Dad, Granny, Baby nephew, get your dancing shoes on and have a brilliant time.

Keep Dreaming,
Naomi xx

Jon Boydon answers….

Published December 30, 2013 by samssister

For my final interview of 2013, I have been lucky enough to persuade Jon Boydon to answer a few questions. Many of you will have seen Jon in action at the Prince Edward Theatre playing Tommy DeVito in Jersey Boys. It has taken me a while to write this up as he answered everything so thoroughly, but I am delighted with his answers and very much hope you’ll agree that it’s a wonderful insight into his career.

Three of the 'Four Seasons', Jon Boydon (Tommy) is centre.

Three of the ‘Four Seasons’, Jon Boydon (Tommy) is centre.

1. You are currently playing Tommy DeVito in Jersey Boys. Please tell us a little more about your character.

Tommy DeVito is one of the founding four members of the pop group The Four Seasons which launched Frankie Valli’s career and spawned countless pop hits. Tommy is principally a guitarist and a singer, but really his input to the band was the drive that he had. He wasn’t the best singer, ideas man or musician but he had the guts and the drive in the early days to secure them gigs. Once he saw he had the potential in the other three to get somewhere, he was determined to get there and he was responsible for those early bookings and getting money – a lot of which he kept for himself – and getting this band off of the starting blocks and out into the public eye. He’s a bit of a bad boy, he has a gambling problem once the money starts coming in, he’s mixed up in the mob. He’s a very mixed up character and great fun to play.

2. Were you a fan of Frankie Valli (and the Four Seasons) before you joined the cast?

I knew quite a few Frankie Valli/Four Seasons songs before I joined the show. I was brought up on my Dad’s music really – my Mum and Dad had great taste in music, Dad particularly has a great music collection – so I was aware of quite a lot of the songs. I wouldn’t necessarily know who they were by. I think a lot of people come to see the show armed with a handful in their minds and as the show progresses they think “oh, they did that one.”

Their music was covered by a variety of British artists and some of those British artists had bigger hits in the UK than The Four Seasons did with their songs. I would say about a third of them I knew, a third of them I knew but not by them and there were a third that were new to me – songs I had never heard before such as ‘Ragdoll’ and ‘Dawn’ which just weren’t on my radar – I’m not that old!

3. Are there any other roles within Jersey Boys you would like to tackle?

I joined the show nearly four years ago and came in to the role of Tommy and I’ve done it ever since. If I was going to play another role in Jersey Boys, I think I’d probably like to try Nick. I think Nick’s a really interesting character, I’m certainly too old for Bob and I don’t have the voice for Frankie. Maybe in another ten years I’ll be looking at Gyp (laughs), but I do think Nick would be interesting to play. If I was to play Nick, I think I would always be secretly looking at Tommy thinking “Hmmm, I wish I was doing that!”

4. You have been in Jersey Boys for around four years. Have you noticed any changes within the audiences or the popularity of the production over the years?

Being in a show for four years is a new thing for me, two years has usually been my maximum. There’s something about Jersey Boys that’s kept me here and it’s interesting to see a show – it was two years old when I joined it, so very much still at the beginning of its hype and excitement – Year three was still surging forward in that, a lot of the original cast were still involved and it was a very exciting time.

The show has maintained an incredible following and we still have very, very busy houses, people that are coming to see it for the first time and then people who are coming to see it for the hundredth time, it’s a real mix of experiences for people. I can’t seem to see that it has changed at all really – there are always seasonal fluctuations in the size of the house in any show unless it is in its first six months when it is totally sold out, so (for example) any given Wednesday at the beginning of November could be pretty quiet on any show and that’s been true of Jersey Boys as well, but the weekend crowds we get in are still packed to the rafters, still loving it, still seeing it for the first time. The show itself is maintained with incredible precision by our British creative team that the show is still as fresh as the day I joined it.

5. You have played a multitude of roles as well as been in a number of concerts/bands. Do you have a favourite and why?

I’ve been a very lucky boy and played a lot of fantastic roles in theatre. I’ve almost been able to tick off my hit list. They are all special for different reasons, I don’t think I’ve ever really done anything that’s so similar to another one that I have to pick a favourite between two. Playing Judas in Jesus Christ Superstar was as legit musical theatre as I’ve ever been, even though it’s still a rock musical, so that was a great journey for me to go on, doing a totally through-composed musical playing such an incredibly heavy part and going on a very difficult emotional journey every night – it was incredibly rewarding.

We Will Rock You being the alternate Galileo was a fantastic acting journey for me actually, because I’m not typically suited to the role – I’m quite tall and I was probably a little bit too old on paper – but it was great to put my head inside Galileo’s mind and be this young kid with this information bursting out of him that he’s seemingly unable to control and of course to sing such amazing songs, at times in the presence of Queen and Ben Elton. And being a rockstar at the end of the show every night was just a dream come true.

Currently, Tommy is my favourite role, I think the fact that I’ve done it for four years is testament to that. It’s a funny thing when jobs like this come along at the right time, when you’re available for a start, you’re the right type, you’re the right skillset and the door opened as I was ready to walk through it, so I’m not done with Tommy yet and I continue to enjoy pushing the envelope within the constraints that we have here at Jersey Boys, you know, finding new things out. And the profile of the show is magnificent, it’s like being in a band sometimes when we’re out doing little roadshow things and it just is a real buzz every night being not even the frontman – being the ‘side-guy’ on the guitar but still the band leader, it’s a great little adventure every night.

If I was pushed to pick a favourite I would say Tommy but if I end up in something else in a few years time, I’m sure it’ll be whatever I’m doing at that time although I will always have fond memories of everything I’ve done at different stages of my career.

6. If you could play any role – from ANY show, which would you choose and why?

The one that got away, probably because I’m not a great dancer, was Rum-Tum-Tugger in Cats. I always thought I might like to play Rum-Tum-Tugger and it’s certainly not going to happen now. Currently in the West End there’s not much that’s suited to me that I’d regard as being better than where I am, but I went to see The Bodyguard and I did enjoy the part of the Bodyguard (Frank Farmer) and I thought ‘Oh I could play that’ and it was the first time for a little while where I have watched something and thought ‘I could do that’ (I can’t obviously get to the theatre much because I’m working) and I did think that would be a nice role.

I think I’m suitable for one of the Dads in Mamma Mia! But I don’t have a huge desire to rush along and do that whilst I’ve got Tommy DeVito to play with. I toyed with the idea that I might like to play Phantom but I think vocally I’m not quite right, I would have to put on a bit more of a legitimate theatre voice and that’s not who I am, but the kudos of a role as famous as that would be incredible to play. I guess Jean Valjean in a similar way would be something else. But right now? I think I was lucky enough to tick off Frank-N-Furter and Judas and Galileo and a Jersey Boy and there isn’t much left that leaves me hungry. But there are always new shows coming – new shows on Broadway that you hear of, new writing for London – and who knows what will come along that will have my name all over it and I’ll think “I’ve gotta do that job!”

7. What has been the highlight of your career so far?

To have a career at all has been an incredible achievement or extended highlight. I didn’t go to drama school, I didn’t train as an actor, I didn’t train as a singer, I didn’t train as a musician, I’ve just taught myself everything along the way and to sustain a successful career for nearly 15 years just by sheer determination and hard work is something I am thankful for every day.

There are highs in any gig – singing Bohemian Rhapsody for Brian May on the opening night of my contract as Galileo was an incredible high with my family watching. Playing Hyde Park for Radio 2 Proms in the Park on my birthday doing Jersey Boys songs for 80,000 people was an incredible highlight. And sometimes it is just smaller things along the way – just having a kid at stage door come up to you and say “I want to be an actor when I’m older, would you sign my book” or “I bought your CD”. It sounds a little bit twee, but it’s a genuine thing that if you know that you’ve been to work and done your job – essentially all we’re doing is going to work and doing our job every day – but you’ve affected one person in an audience of 1500 and changed the course of their life for the better or inspired them to be creative, then that’s a little something you can take away with you without thousands of screaming fans or meeting famous people and that’s enough.

8. Are there any negative aspects to your job?

There aren’t many negative aspects to this job, it is a job, after all, that we love to do. We’re very lucky that we leave the house every day to go to work and know that we love what we do, but any job can be tedious at times or you can be tired or you can have personal problems or issues that you’re dealing with outside of work that you have to leave at the door and carry on regardless.

It’s a tough job in its energy, it’s a very focussed, extensive burst of energy at the end of the day when everybody else is switching off after finishing work and going out for an enjoyable time. You spend all day at home having your leisure time and then work very hard for a concentrated period in the evening. I think the biggest drawback is the impact it has on your social life, knowing that you’ll never have a weekend, a Saturday night date, time with your family – you know, anytime that everybody else is relaxing – Christmas time and things like that, they are always our busiest period. Anyone that works in the entertainment business or the leisure business or the restaurant business knows that Fridays, Saturdays, weekends, Christmas time, they’re always going to be your busiest time so eventually that does take its toll.However, it is a choice we have. We don’t have to do this job and you have to take the rough with the smooth. But in the main I love what I do, I love my job and I’m very thankful.

9. If you weren’t a performer, what do you think you would be doing instead?

If I wasn’t a performer I’m not really sure what I’d do, it’s changed over the years. When I first started out I was still young enough to just get another career, I imagined I might do something in advertising. Now, obviously, I’m older and it would be difficult to start out doing something from scratch, I’ve thought in terms of jobs I would do maybe in-between being a performer, such as a driving instructor or something similar.

I’m not really sure. I guess if I had to give up the most logical thing for me to do would be to retrain as a teacher and become a drama teacher with experience. At least then I would be keeping within the creative area but just passing on my knowledge to someone else.

10. Who or what are your influences?

I’m influenced by everything really, everything I see, people I see every day, any interaction with the outside world is going to inform your performance at some point or another. Characters you meet out and about on the street, on the bus, in a shop, people you work with, any of this can feed into characters you come up with, even if it’s just for fun.

I don’t particularly single out any one actor or musician that has influenced my life in such a great way, I like a lot of actors and I like a lot of musicians. I think I’ve learnt most from working with people, so anyone I’ve worked with has influenced my skill. Being on stage with someone night after night and feeding off their energy and bouncing off them and using the dialogue that you’re given to create a story is something that you learn – to watch the other person very closely and feed off their timing and their energy and give it back to them in the same way, so although it’s essentially the same performance every night, there are microscopic little differences and changes that you perceive that transform the way you respond.

So I would say that my role models, if you like, have been my family and teachers and a few pop stars and a few movie stars, but generally it’s just getting out there and doing the work and working with good people – it rubs off on you.

11. You have recorded an album – is this a reflection of your musical taste? Do you write your own music and are there any plans for another?

My album ‘Three-Four’ was a collection of some of my favourite songs. Also with the knowledge that my market-base was going to be primarily Jersey Boys fans initially so it was deliberately pitched in places at the ‘Doo-wop’, sixties sound, but these in a way are the songs I grew up with, listening to stuff that my Dad used to play, so I haven’t just gone through and deliberately picked songs that sounded a bit like Jersey Boys songs – they’re songs I’ve known since I could walk and talk.

There’s a little walk down the rock ‘n’ roll side of me, not very heavy rock but enough to fit in with the taste of the album and ‘Fallen Angel’ is one of my own compositions on there, which was ironically titled since there’s a fallen angel in Jersey boys. I wrote it when I was about 20, at university, and never really did anything with it, so in coming to do the album I decided I wanted to put it on there and do a full arrangement with the band, so it was really nice hearing a song that I’d only really ever done with an acoustic guitar and voice come to life with full orchestra, keys and drums etc.

It was quite an expensive process and I was doing it for myself, I wasn’t doing it to make money, but it did in fact cost quite a lot – I haven’t recouped the cost of doing it and I still have several boxes of CD’s that are, as yet, unsold (laughs) in the garage. But even saying this, I do plan to do another one next year, I think we’ll go about it in a slightly different way. The first one was, primarily for me, to spend a week in a recording studio and have some fun and lovingly doing it for the fans. I think the next one will be more directed at the fans ’cause I’ve fulfilled my ambition of recording an album with the last one. It will be funded differently, it’ll be marketed differently, it will be available differently. As to the content, I have had some good ideas and… watch this space!

12. Which three words would you choose to best describe yourself?

The impossible question of three words! (After a lot of thought) For today we shall go with optimistic, dedicated and stubborn.

13. What single item couldn’t you live without? (Family is a given):

The item I couldn’t live without would be a guitar.

14. Do you have any advice for budding actors or people wanting to break into theatre?

People do ask me advice at stage door or when I see them, or “Oh, my friends’ daughter is thinking of doing this…”. Advice is an odd thing to give because everybody’s  journey is a little bit different. I, for example, didn’t go to college but I wouldn’t necessarily recommend that you don’t go to college but I can’t recommend that you do go to college ’cause I don’t know what the college will give you.

I think you have to be true with yourself, you have to be honest and ask yourself “Am I really good enough?” “Am I better than the thousands of other people out there that are going to be trying to get ahead in this very difficult industry where there are a very small amount of jobs for a very large amount of people?” And “Is it worth my time and money pursuing it if I’m just average?” That’s quite a hard thing to come to terms with especially if you come from a small town where you’re the greatest thing in every production and play and drama group. Suddenly you come to London and you realise you’re a small fish in a big pond so you’ve GOT to be honest with yourself about your likelihood of succeeding if you want to do it to make a career and a living out of it.

And then just be determined. Just be strong. You will get a hundred knock backs before you get a door opened and that’s all part of the business. There was some very good advice I heard online recently where there was a guy going to auditions worrying about getting a job and he suddenly realised that his job was going to auditions as much as doing the productions. So if you’re an actor, as soon as you walk into an audition room, that’s when your job has started – you’re performing to a very small number of people, and you have to not fret about whether you’ll get the job but just go in and do a good performance, a good audition. That’s your job, that’s what you do and eventually you’ll get some financial reward for it.

I would also say to look after your body. It’s very easy when you’re 19 and bendy to throw yourself around or to not take as many safety precautions for yourself. Just because you’re keen and want to work hard and get on, you HAVE to look after your body. You have to look after your knees and your back and your shoulders and all these things that when you suddenly turn 30, start to say ‘hang on a minute, we’ve had enough, you’re working us too hard.’ But enjoy it. I love what I do, I make a lot of friends and it’s very lucky to be able to do that every day and still get paid for it and say I am a professional performer.

15. Has anything embarrassing ever happened to you whilst performing? Can you tell us about them?

I’ve never really had any terribly embarrassing things happen. In any long run you’re going to have moments where you forget your lines, forget your dance moves, a prop breaks or a chair (or something) isn’t on stage when it should be, and whilst at the time they seem to be quite horrendous to you and maybe minutes and minutes are passing by, generally nobody notices. Even people that have seen the show before, you say “Did you notice such and such happened?” and they say “Oh no, I had no idea,” so the more you work you learn to deal with it – with experience comes confidence and if I’ve stuffed my lines up I just take a beat, take a breath and carry on. The worst thing you can do, and it happens when you’re young and inexperienced, is you get into a flap and you break out in a sweat and then you start shaking and you’re constantly thinking about everything and you clam up basically. The best thing you can do is just relax into it and almost have a sort of  ‘well, I don’t care, I can’t take it back’ attitude and just get on with the show.

Aside from general things that everybody goes through in their career, I’ve not had any huge moments where I’ll be writing my memoirs and must include the funny story about x,y and z, whatever so no juicy bits I can give you there, sorry!

Once again, a massive thank you to Jon for answering everything so thoroughly, I have really enjoyed compiling this post. I am very much looking forward to seeing Jersey Boys at the end of January – I will of course write a future post containing my thoughts about it. In the meantime, for those who have seen Jon in action then I hope you have enjoyed this, and for those who haven’t – why ever not? Get yourself some tickets to this toe tapping production and see what the fuss is all about.

Signing off for the final time in 2013, hope to see you all in 2014.

Keep Dreaming,

Naomi xx

Challenges

Published December 29, 2013 by samssister

Well its been a year since I wrote a post like this one and it’s been just over a year since I started blogging. I must say (from a blog point of view) it’s been amazing. I have been lucky enough to interview some wonderful people and to see some fantastic productions.

I have flipped and flopped and ummed and aahed countless times. I’ve pondered and wondered and I’ve laughed and I’ve cried. I’ve questioned everything and worried even more. But I am eternally grateful to all those who have taken the time out to answer my questions and to all of those who have read my posts.  It has made everything worthwhile.

I have been extremely thankful for the number of reviews which have come my way this year, including those which, for whatever reason I have not been able to make. A shout out must therefore be made here to The Public Reviews, London Theatre and Official Theatre, all of whom have offered me the chance to review productions and therefore represent them. I thank them so much, hope I did them all proud and I also hope they will think of me again through 2014.

Sadly, the main reason for turning down numerous reviews in the last fee months has been because on October 6th my horse and I were out for a ride and we had a nasty accident. Many of you already know this, but the outcome was 2 dislocated and shattered wrists and therefore the inability to do anything for myself.

As it stands, I am thoroughly miserable, not to mention bored,  and I am awaiting a second operation on both wrists. My surgeon, a wrist specialist, did not exactly comfort me when he said they were the worst injuries he’s ever seen. I am guessing from this that you can see why I have been unable to go to the theatre or review anything since. Even typing is painful and an extremely slow process, every day I am able to do a little more but this second surgery will delay my progress for another short while.

All most frustrating.  I think it will be hard for 2014 to be worse than 2013, as also this year we have had my Godmother who is suffering from breast cancer, an aunt in hospital for months (she’s still there, she weighs 5 1/2 stone) who is very poorly and an uncle with a heart attack (he already has diabetes and recently started epilepsy). I think it is about time for some good news so I am trying to be optimistic as 2014 rapidly approaches.

I go through regular phases where I feel I should stop blogging. Although I do this for myself, I love for others to read my posts, mainly because, if they are interviews,  folk have taken time out of their busy schedules to answer my questions.  Not something they have to do, so I feel that when people read the interviews it makes it worth the while of my interviewees. I always enjoy feedback and I’d also be interested to know if there is anyone YOU would like to see interviewed.

I have one more interview to write up – Jersey Boys fans watch this space – which I’ll attempt to do before the year is out. Next year I already have five or six plans which I desperately hope my arms won’t prevent me going to so I can blog those as well.

I sincerely hope you have enjoyed my posts through 2014. If you have any suggestions so I can improve my blog then please let me know, also posts/interviews or anything else you would like to see.  This blog is as much for you as it is for me. Please do feel free to follow me on Twitter too: @JustSamssister.

I’d like to end by thanking the following:

Killian Donnelly
Niall Sheehy
Nadim Naaman
Steph Parry
Kit Orton and Robert Gould
Simon Bailey
Craig Mather
David Muscat
Scott Alan
Geronimo Rauch

Rebecca at Official Theatre
Neil at London Theatre
Jacqui and Marina at The Public Reviews

YOU. For reading, for supporting and for sharing.  I never thought my little blog would be read so far across the globe. I can’t thank you all individually but each and every one of you visiting here and sharing my posts means so much to me.

Thanks again to all of you and I wish you a very happy, prosperous and above all healthy new year. May 2014 be good for us all.

Keep dreaming,
Naomi xx
 

Geronimo Rauch answers…

Published November 25, 2013 by samssister

Today’s interview comes from someone who has, over the last few years, really made a name for himself in the world of UK theatre. Having played some of the most iconic roles in musicals, he is currently appearing every night at Her Majesty’s Theatre playing the eponymous role in The Phantom of the Opera. I’d love for you all to learn more about the fabulous Geronimo Rauch.

With Geronimo outside HMT

With Geronimo outside HMT

 1. You have an impressive career so far. When did you decide that performing was something you wanted to do?

I was studying advertising and at the same time I had my singing lessons with a private teacher. Once we did a concert and when I sang ¨sueña¨(dream) something very special changed in me and my way of singing and since then I decided to do this the rest of my life.

2. If you weren’t performing what do you think you would be doing instead?

Advertising or involved in producing musical theatre or directing movies. Hahahaha who knows?
3. You’re from Argentina – what is the theatre scene like out there? You have also performed in Spain, how do they both compare to London?
Argentina´s theatre scene is very impressive and creative. Full of talent and amazing performers. The only problem is that musicals and plays don’t stay 60 years as the Mouse trap or 28 as Les Miserables have done.
I think that the main difference is that Musical Theatre industry in the UK is massive and there is a lot of work. And also the way you study here is amazing. You can have a Degree on Performing Arts! That doesn’t exist in my country. All that I learnt was with private lessons. Thank god I found the best teachers.
4. Was performing on the West End something you always wanted to do? How does it feel to be on stage there, as the lead role, every night?
When I was young I couldn’t imagine myself in the west end because it was something impossible to dream. But since I moved to Spain I felt that the West End was closer and that I could dream on performing here.
Every day when I arrive to Her Majesty´s Theatre I realise where I am and sometimes I don’t believe it is happening.
5. Do you do much preparation for each role? If so, how? Research? Watching the show, reading the book etc?
For Les Miserables I read the book, I saw movies and also I had all the information that I learnt when I was playing Feuilly in Buenos Aires.
For the Phantom I decided to become a blank paper and started filling it with all the information that I got from the creative team.
6. Do you have any pre-show rituals or superstitions that you have to do before each performance?
Not superstitions! Yes to the rituals but I think I´ll keep them as a secret haha!
7. You’re currently playing the Phantom in the Phantom of the Opera. How are you finding this? What is your favourite part?
I love the Point of No Return. I always say this because it reminds me of Buenos Aires and the Tango.
8. You have played three of the most iconic roles in musical theatre – Phantom, Jean Valjean and Jesus (JCS). Do you have a favourite and why?
The three of them are very important in my career. All of them changed me in a good way and I will play them again if I have the chance. But now the Phantom is my new challenge and I’m really enjoying this journey.
9. Which is the most challenging – Bring Him Home, Gethsemane or Music Of The Night? Again, why?
Three master pieces, three intense and brilliant songs. All of them are challenging in different ways but I think that the hardest to sing is Gethsemane.
10. You went through a reality TV show, Pop Stars. Can you talk us through this? What was it like and would you ever do anything like it again?
It was a very intense experience mainly because we became famous instantly and I couldn’t cope with it very easily. But the artistic experience was good and we toured all around Latin America.
I don’t think I would get into a reality show again but I definitely want to became a recording artist again.
11. If you could choose any other role to play now, what would you choose? 
Billy Elliot! Hahahahaah! But I don´t have the age nor the dancing talent.
12. If you could offer any advice to people wanting to perform as you do, what would you say to them?
I would say to prepare and train a lot. And to always follow your dreams because if you believe they will come true. But it is hard work to make them true.
13. What would you say are your career highlights so far?
You named them before Jesus, Valjean and Phantom.
14. Is there anything career-wise that you have not yet done, that you would like to achieve? Any ambitions?
My Goal for next year is to record my solo album and I hope I could make my dream come true.
And here are a few more fun ones, so we get to know you a little better:
1. How do you like to spend your free time?
I love to spend my time with my wife and my son and now I’m discovering that there is a whole new world for me to discover as a father. I also have very good friends here in London.
2. If you could invite three people round for dinner (alive or dead) who would you have?
Freddie Mercury, John Lennon and Bob Marley.
3. Is there anything you can tell us about you that not a lot of people know?
No! hahahah lets keep the mystery!
4. Has anything embarrassing ever happened to you on stage? Can you tell us about it?
It wasn’t on stage but I remember it as the worst moment in my artistic life. I was 8 years old and I sang in front of my classmates. They all started laughing and I think that I had to wait 10 years to sing again in front of an audience haha!
5. If you were an animal, which would you be and why?
A Bear because many friends call me like that in Argentina.
Massive thanks to Geronimo for taking time out to answer these questions, and for giving us a lovely insight into his career. If you haven’t been to see him perform yet then you really need to put this on your to do list – I was blown away by his Phantom and cannot wait to go back to see it again. It is no surprise that he was the favourite Valjean of many and I know that he has a massive career ahead (as if it wasn’t already!). Now to watch this space for his album – I for one will be excited for news.
Keep dreaming,
Naomi xx
PS: Apologies for the formatting once again. I really need to get this sorted!

Killian Donnelly Answers… some more…

Published October 30, 2013 by samssister

I hope that this time my interviewee will need no introduction. After he most kindly agreed to answer some questions for me whilst still in Billy Elliot, he once again allowed me to ask some more following his move to The Commitments, a brand-new show which has recently opened on the West End. I was curious about the production and Killian agreed to enlighten me. Please read on to find out more…

1. So, The Commitments. What is the show about?

K: The Commitments is about a group of kids living in Dublin, who in order to escape their working class lives become part of a soul band. The show reflects the bickering and self-destruction of the band. Nothing life changing but incredibly entertaining.

2. You play Deco. Who is he? Can you tell us more?

K: Declan Cuffe (Deco ‘The Soulman’) is a stubborn prick. He’s hated by everyone, but he doesn’t care because he has a gift. His voice. As the lead singer [of The Commitments] he becomes very cocky and big-headed and diva-like. I’ve just based him on people I’ve worked with (winks).

3. Did you have to do any special research to get into the role?

K: Not really. I’d read the book and seen the film numerous times.

4. Are there any similarities between you and Deco?

K: He’s a much better singer! (N: For anyone who has witnessed Killian, particularly as Deco, you will know that this could not be further from the truth)

5. As mentioned, the Commitments started as a book (by Roddy Doyle who wrote this production) and later became a film. How does the stage production compare?

K: The stage production is a combination of the book and the movie. We take the best of both. We always wanted to be our own entity, never a tribute act.

6. Was this a role you have always liked/wanted?

K: Definitely!

7. Which is your favourite track to perform and why?

K: Midnight Mover. It’s the first track we perform where The Commitments actually start to sound good. We’ve the craic on stage.

8. How were rehearsals?

K: Rehearsals were eight weeks in a hall in Kensington. Basically spent making the band sound brilliant when they needed to be and bloody awful when they should.

9. Do you have a favourite scene?

K: The audition sequence. It’s so quick and snappy with a great medley of songs. (N: It’s also very funny)

10. Why should everyone come to see it?

K: It’s a great play with great songs. You’ve honestly never seen anything like it. Plus we all love singing these songs.

And to finish – a few of my usual quick fire questions:

What is your favourite (non-Commitments) song? K: The Luckiest – Ben Folds

Where is your favourite place? K: Family home

If you were an animal which would you be and why? K: A sloth. I love to sleep.

Is there a little known fact about yourself that you’re able to reveal? K: I love apples.

What’s your favourite joke? Too rude to say.

What’s your favourite way to spend the day? In bed, relaxing with a cup of tea and a good flick. Bliss.

Thank you again to Killian for taking more time out, I am always so grateful to those who have. I hope that answering the questions wasn’t to much of a chore and I also hope that you all enjoy reading the interview. In case you missed it, you can read my original interview with him here: http://ignitedbyadream.wordpress.com/2013/05/03/killian-donnelly-answers/

Anyone wishing to find out my thoughts on, and more about The Commitments can read my review here (In short – amazing): http://ignitedbyadream.wordpress.com/2013/09/30/the-commitments-is-definitely-bringing-soul-to-the-people/

Official Theatre also conducted a recent interview with both Killian and his co-star Denis Grindel (who plays Jimmy Rabbite) which you can view here: www.youtube.com/embed/BPPqentk8H8 . Alternatively you can visit the officialtheatre.com website ( http://www.officialtheatre.com ) and book yourself some tickets – you won’t regret it.

The whole cast are simply brilliant and I think I laughed my way through the whole show. I cannot wait to get back there. I feel privileged to be able to have interviewed the man being hailed as “the star of the show” by many different reviews and I sincerely hope this show has a long run.

Keep Dreaming,

Naomi xx

Phantom Review: London Theatre

Published October 15, 2013 by samssister

Well, I was very delighted and honoured to be asked to do a review of Phantom of The Opera by Neil from London Theatre. As many of you know, this is a show I absolutely adore, and on top of that I have heard wonderful things about Geronimo Rauch, who, in September, took over the title role. I was unfortunate that I did not get to see him as Jean Valjean in Les Miserables but from others’ accounts of him as JVJ and YouTube videos I was excited to see how he took on the role. Please see for yourself my verdict:

The Phantom of The Opera…A mystery never fully explained. Well, that may be so, but as one of the West End’s longest running shows it is safe to say that many will know what the musical is about. Even if the story is unknown, what is guaranteed are the lavish costumes, vast sets and songs which you will definitely have heard, intentionally or otherwise. If you are after drama and a spectacle then this is absolutely the right show.

As you walk in, you are faced with a stage full of dust covers, some covering the drapes and flourishes, some covering the ‘auction lots’. As the auction progresses, the famous chandelier is revealed and the organ notes which are perhaps the best known of all Andrew Lloyd Webber compositions fill the theatre. Her Majesty’s has housed this show from the beginning and very little has changed over the years, other than the cast.

The overture is used to recreate the Opera Populaire in all her grandeur, followed by a rehearsal scene where the characters are introduced. From the beginning the vocals are strong, both Carlotta (Fiona Finsbury) – the opera diva – and her long suffering, also rather dramatic partner Piangi (Jeremy Secomb), have some big notes. Christine Daae, played in this performance by Harriet Jones, also enters in style; her first number Think Of Me, ending in a tremendous cadenza. Jones played a very dreamy Christine, often appearing to have her mind elsewhere. This worked well for the character who is thought to be in a daydream a majority of the time. She sang well and seemed to have no trouble hitting the top notes. Her Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again was beautiful.

The absolute highlight, however, was Geronimo Rauch’s interpretation of the Phantom. Every time he sang, I found myself with goose-pimples.  He was entirely believable, his vocals were sensational, and his portrayal was moving. It was clear to see how the voice of this stranger was so compelling to Christine, not to mention powerful and Rauch’s Phantom had the perfect balance of anger, resentment and sadness.

The ensemble moments were every bit as bright and tuneful as I remembered and hoped, and the corps de ballet, kept in check by Madame Giry (Jacinta Mulcahy) all danced superbly.  Although all characters need to be strong singers, as there are many multiple part harmonies, I feel it is important that the Phantom is really special, with Christine and Carlotta a close second. They did not disappoint, with Raoul (Antony Hansen), also impressing, particularly during All I Ask Of You, and the owners of the theatre, Messrs Fimin and Andre(Martin Ball and Andy Hockley) adding some humour to the proceedings.

For me, along with the wonderful score, part of what makes this show so incredible is the set. It just keeps on coming. For anyone who hasn’t seen it I don’t want to give too much away, but what starts out looking like a fairly compact stage seems to turn into a bottomless pit each time there is a scene change. I personally like the scenes in the vaults of the theatre (the Phantom’s hideaway) but Masquerade is the most visually stunning.

Although this has been running since 1986, the ‘Brilliant Original’ is so called for a reason. For me, this production never gets old, and I enjoy seeing each actor’s take on the eponymous  character. The title, and the suggestion of opera may put people off, but I think this is a show everyone should experience at least once. I took a friend who had not experienced the show live before. Needless to say she was entranced, it moved her to tears and she thought it was one of the best things she had ever seen. I think, perhaps, that says it all.

 Now, I know many of you have seen this, but I do strongly recommend that if you have not seen this with Mr Rauch, that you book yourselves a ticket. I hope I can go back – I am keen to see Olivia Brereton’s Christine (she was alternate Christine on the Phantom of the Opera UK tour) on the West End  - I loved her on the tour and I am so delighted for her that she is now an alternate West End Christine.

You can purchase tickets here for Phantom and all other London shows: http://www.londontheatre1.com/

Follow them on Twitter @LondonTheatre1

You can also see my original review on the same website.

Keep Dreaming,

Naomi xx

Les Misérables

Published October 11, 2013 by samssister

Originally posted on Via Jess:

Image

For anyone who does not know the story of this production (where on Earth have you been for at least the past year!?!), Les Mis (based on the Victor Hugo novel and set in early C19 France) follows the story of Jean Valjean (Dan Koek), a man who breaks his parole and escapes the clutches of spiteful policeman Javert (James Gant) after being convicted for stealing a loaf of bread to save his sister’s dying child (and ‘branded’ prisoner 24601). After swearing to becoming an honest and selfless man, he begins a new life as Monsieur Madeleine – becoming Mayor of his town and factory owner to hundreds of workers – one of which is the quiet Fantine (Na Young Jeon), a hard-working single mother, earning every penny that she can to send cash to money-grabbing pub landlords, The Thenardiers (Wendy Ferguson & Cameron Blakely), who are accommodating her young daughter…

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