Billy Elliot

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David Muscat Answers…

Published October 2, 2013 by samssister

Ladies and Gentleman, may I please introduce to you my next interviewee….David Muscat. If you are unfamiliar with the Australian actor then please read on to learn more. If you are already know about him then I hope this interview will help you to learn more about him.

1. Please introduce yourself….

I’m David Muscat, currently working in Billy Elliot the Musical. I grew up in the Western Suburbs of Melbourne (Australia), at a time when boys dancing wasn’t widely accepted. I was raised by my Great Grandparents Marie & Bernie Bresnan. I’ve been living in London now since May 2010. I like long walks along short beaches.

Myself with David after Billy Elliot in May

Myself with David after Billy Elliot in May

2. You’re Australian, what is the Aussie theatre scene like?

I’m no expert, so in my opinion… I think it’s very similar in a lot of ways but it’s just much bigger here. In Australia there are thousands of extremely talented people all wanting to make a living doing what they love, so in that sense it’s very similar in the competitive nature of the industry. The UK has the West End which, along with Broadway, is the highest platform to be involved in, in the world. Australia doesn’t have that….yet, but some day you never know. There is a lot of passion for the arts in Australia and I’m a firm believer that back at home there’s an extremely high standard of work being done.

3. What brings you to the UK?

Initially I came over for change, to live somewhere where you don’t know what’s around the corner and challenge my comfort zones. One of the major advantages of London, is it’s close proximity Europe. I spent the majority of my first few years here working and travelling. So for me, being able to be in a different country within an hour was a big draw card. You can be flying for 6 hours and still be over Australia back home. I’ve been fortunate to travel to a lot of countries over the past few years, take part in the Running of the Bulls festival in Pamplona and drink many, many beers in Germany’s Oktoberfest.

4. Are audiences very different between here and Oz?

I think there’s a lot more audience members coming through the doors here thanks to tourism, but other than that I think the lovers of theatre are the same between both countries. There’s always people eager to support theatre, from local non-professional theatre companies, brand new works to large scale productions.

5. If you weren’t acting, what would you be doing?

I’ve spent the majority of my working life not acting, most of my working life has revolved around office work either in Customer Service or Sales. Previous to getting into Billy here in London I’d worked for a leading UK website as an Advertising Account Manager.

6. You’re currently in Billy Elliot. You have to do a bit of dancing in that – is this something you enjoy?

I’ve danced for most of my life. When I was a young kid I had a condition where my legs were turned inwards at the hips, so I was always tripping over when running. The doctor suggested that I be taken to ballet classes to open out my hips. So from the age of 5 I was doing Jazz, Tap and Ballet at a local dance school. During my childhood, dance was always kept secret from the kids at school and I managed to keep it that way till I was about 16, when I finally left my dance school. I’ve always had a love of dance.

7. What do you like most about Billy?

There is a lot to like. In no particular order, it’s an amazing piece of theatre, so it’s great being a part of something that’s so well written and performed. All the people involved - behind the scenes, on stage and in production are great to work with, always fun and up for a laugh. The audiences are amazing as well and always very supportive. Tap dancing in a 7 foot mechanical dress is also a highlight.

8. Is the Australian production different to the London one? If so, how?

It’s 93.76% the same. Set wise, it was weird walking onto the London stage for the first time after not doing the show for 3 years as even the wallpaper on the set was exactly the same. Show wise, there was a couple of minor changes scene wise. In Australia, they had cut the London audition panel scene in Act 2 and the riot at the end of Act 1 also had differences. Also, Mr Braithwaite in the Australian production was a combination of Big Davey & Mr Braithwaite (Big Davey Braithwaite), so he was one guy instead of being split.

9.Is there any role in theatre that you would like to play? Why?

Psendolus in a Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum. Such a comedy driven role, something to really sink your teeth into and interacting with the audience is something I love to do.

10. And if you could sing ANY song from a show (even a female one), what would it be?

I’d love to be able to rock out Gethsemane without fear of my vocal chords exploding. Such a powerful song. Either that or It’s Raining Men.

11. Who are your influences and inspirations?

A lot of the TV I watched growing up was good old fashioned British comedy. Carry On films, Are You Being Served, Benny Hill, The Goodies, Dad’s Army, Blackadder, Only Fools and Horses, Steptoe and Son, Allo Allo, The Young Ones, Fawlty Towers, Red Dwarf etc. I grew up on these programmes and loved the honest style of humour.

12. You also perform in cabarets (Singer’s soiree etc) – are these something you would like to keep doing? What do you like about them?

I’m always happy to be involved with charity events because I think there’s a lot of people out there that need assistance and for the price of some time and effort it’s the least I can do. The added advantage is it gives you something else to think about, so it’s a welcomed break from the day to day routines.

13. West End Bares. You took part in this event, could you tell us all about it? How did you get involved? Would you do it again?

West End Bares is an event that MadTrust have put on for the past few years and is a night of immense fun and frivolity. The night raises money for MadTrust and goes to all the good work they do. Each year several people are asked to choreograph a number and they then go and do that with a team of dancers of their choosing, who are from various shows on the West End.
Racky Plews, a fantastically talented director/choreographer (she makes me say that), was asked to do the opening number. She asked if I’d like to be involved and after several coffee meetings and a few bombed ideas, she decided to run with my Neil Patrick Harris Tony Awards Opening idea. We only had about 3 rehearsals, but I think all those involved did a brilliant job.
It was a great night and I’d love to be involved again in some way next time.

Click here to see the sort of happenings at West End Bares: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vSb_ErmRsQw&feature=youtu.be

Mad Trust also hold West End Eurovision each year, where the various shows perform a routine as if they were on the Eurovision Song Contest. They all go head to head for votes. Turquoise was a bit of fun, a few of us from Billy (David, Simon Ray Harvey, Matty Dale and Craig Armstrong) entered into the West End Eurovision contest to raise money for MadTrust and take part in a cracking night. It was great fun and was the closest I’ll ever come to being in a boy band. We got some fantastic support, a lot of people worked hard on it and we really enjoyed the ride.

See the Turquoise boys in action here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sSqeeSvBmp8&feature=youtu.be&a

14. Any career highlights?

My favourite so far has been going to the Olivier Awards with some of the Billy peeps and being there when they won the only award that had evaded them for 8 years. Celebrating the Audience Awards was epic fun! On a personal note, sometimes I still pinch myself when I think about where I’ve come from, the local dance school I went to in a little scout hall in Footscray (Melbourne, Australia) and performing in local amateur theatre productions for most of my young adult life to now being fortunate enough to step out on a West End stage each night. It’s something I dreamed about as a kid.

15. Is there anything you would like to achieve that you haven’t yet?

Loads….so much. I’d like to continue working in the entertainment industry and I’d like to create new things across multiple platforms. I’d also like to be invited to either a jelly wrestling competition or local Crufts event before I pass on.

I’m hoping to do a new film later this year. It’s a film I’m working on with Nothin Or Double Films. It’s to be shot in a documentary style, following the journey of a guy, living with his fiancé and best mate from school, with a kooky neighbour and rock legend roadie. It’s all improvised, non scripted. Video teaser is coming soon – Twitter account: @AirGuitarTheMov

16. Outside of MT what do you get up to?

At the moment, not much. 8 shows a week takes it toll and the little time you have is either spent recovering or spending time with those dear to you. But when time permits I try to keep moving forward with creative projects. That and furthering my paper-mâché skills.

And now for some more general questions:

1. If you were an animal, which would you be and why?

I’d be a Koala…. just like the idea of hanging around and being cuddled all day.

2. What single item couldn’t you live without?

My TV…. it’s always there for me…. in good times and bad.

3. Favourite band/singer/recording artist?

Australian band; Thirsty Merc and Mumford & Sons.

4. If you could have any THREE guests to dinner, who would you choose? (Can be anyone, alive or dead).

Gordon Ramsay
Jamie Oliver
Nigella Lawson

Would be the most nervous cooking ever, but would be fun!

5. If you could only eat one thing for the rest of your life, what would it be?

Chicken Parmigiana. All day, everyday!

6. If you could choose a superpower, which would you pick?

The power to be able to fold fitted sheets without just rolling them up and throwing them in the wardrobe in anger.

7. Do you have any bad habits?

Several… same as anyone else I guess. Putting my french fries in my chocolate sundae is one.

8. Are there any unusual or little facts about yourself that you are willing to share with us?

I grew up with my Great Grandparents and for some time as a little’un, we also had my Great Great Grandmother with us.

I would like to thank David very much for his time and for some very interesting insights. If you don’t already then I recommend checking out MadTrust. It is a very worthwhile charity (supporting those living with HIV and AIDS) and the events they put on are great fun. Follow them on Twitter @MADTrust or go to madtrust.org.uk
You can follow David on Twitter @DavidMMuscat and if you happen to be watching Billy then I also suggest you stop to say hello. He is well worth a follow, so now you know where to find him, please look him up.
Keep Dreaming,
Naomi xx

 

Just checking in…

Published September 16, 2013 by samssister

I realise it has been a while since I posted anything. Truth be told I have been feeling rather flat and disheartened lately. Partly because I have no money and don’t live in London and haven’t been able to get to see half the things I wanted to (such as Title Of Show and The Colour Purple). This doesn’t however mean that my theatre trips have stopped – far from it. I have actually seen the following:

Top Hat – to write about it here would not do it justice so I shall try to do a full review post of it, but I thought this was brilliant and thoroughly enjoyed it.

Les Miserables (I will blog this properly on Thursday as I am seeing this again then)

A Chorus Line – I just don’t know about this one. I knew what the show was about and I knew some of the music. But if I’m honest, I really didn’t enjoy it, in fact I actually got quite bored at one point, and I never get bored watching musicals! I don’t know if the cast were having a slow day, whether I wasn’t in the mood (although I had been really looking forward to it for months and was delighted to be getting to see it before it closed) or whether it just wasn’t what I was expecting. I thought I was going to be blown away – maybe that was the problem – but I heard so many good things about it and as I said, I had some knowledge of the show so didn’t go in completely blind. I don’t like to say I didn’t enjoy it but I certainly won’t be in a hurry to see it again should it ever be on anywhere and I left feeling thoroughly disappointed. It had good moments of course, but in my opinion not enough to stop me looking around the auditorium, checking the time and wondering how much longer the two hours was going to be. I hate leaving shows I didn’t like – I feel bad for not enjoying them.

Billy Elliot (for the third time) - I won’t write this up as I have done a recent post on this show. Seeing as the two previous times I saw it though it had Killian Donnelly in it, it was a little strange to have a different Tony. There were a few new cast members but all were very good, the MIchael had only been in it for a week but he acted as though he’d been performing the role for years. I had seen Harrison’s Billy previously.

The Three Musketeers by Barbershopera at Salisbury Playhouse, this was a review and can be seen in its original format here: http://www.thepublicreviews.com/the-three-musketeers-the-salberg-salisbury-playhouse-salisbury/

A Little Hotel on the Side at Bath Theatre Royal, also a review and the original of this can be found here: http://www.thepublicreviews.com/a-little-hotel-on-the-side-theatre-royal-bath/

I think that is the list. Though after seeing Les Miserables on Thurs I will be seeing the new Phantom cast on the following Tuesday and then the Commitments on the Sunday after that. Phew! These will all be written up of course so watch this space for those. I am really excited to see the Commitments, I am also hoping to catch some shows at Bristol Hippodrome, I know they have Cabaret there this week and Evita there soon. I need to find out if there is any way I can get to see those. If anyone wishes to accompany me then I would love to see you.

Although I will be writing about Les Miserables when I see it next, I must say that Tam Mutu will not be on as Javert. Thankfully I was fortunate enough to see him on Saturday, something I have been trying to do since he started in the role, and it was absolutely worth the wait. The guy is stunning as the law abiding, criminal hating policeman. He has such a strong voice, I literally cannot fault anything about his performance. I was sadly too far away to see facial expressions and things so can not really comment on those but from where I was sitting his acting looked as strong as his voice. Adam Linstead and Nicky Swift were also on in place of Cameron Blakely and Wendy Ferguson as the Thenardiers. I personally prefer Cameron’s Thenardier, though Adam was still very good, and I am yet to see Wendy undertake the role of Madam.

I do also have a couple more interviews coming up soon so I shall publish those as soon as they have been sorted. I am also thinking of writing a review for Nadim Namaan’s album, We All Want The Same. I think I shall try to do that this week, but I have been so busy. It is rather marvellous though and I would recommend it.

I have been wondering guys if you could please help me out? I am looking to make this blog better in any way I can so if there is anyone you would like to see me interview, something you would like me to write about or some other way to improve this then please let me know. I will then do what I can to sort it. Also if you could share my blog wherever you can, be that Twitter, Tumblr or Facebook etc (if you enjoy what you read) then please do, I will be extremely grateful. I believe that if folk are good enough to take their time out to answer my questions, then the least I can do is give them plenty of exposure to make it worth their while. Of course, if you don’t like what I write then I would also be interested to know why so I can hopefully improve this blog for everyone.

I would finally like to add that I had a singing lesson with Craig Mather this weekend. I loved my lessons with Fra but I have found it hard to pin him down lately so Craig offered to teach me. He is fab and I would definitely recommend him to anyone. I was a blithering, self conscious, nervous wreck, but Craig was great and after about 15 minutes I was able to at least attempt what he was asking. So if you’re looking for lessons, then look him up.

Apologies that this is not particularly exciting but I thought I should check in with you all and let you know where I’ve been and what will be coming up, but please do watch this space as there should be some exciting things coming soon. As always thank you for reading, thank you for your feedback and most of all thank you for your support. I appreciate every single one of you who contributes (by reading, sharing, answering questions or even by performing in the shows I’m reviewing).

Keep Dreaming,

Naomi xx

Steph Parry Answers….

Published August 4, 2013 by samssister

Today’s interview is with the thoroughly lovely West Ender Steph Parry who agreed to tell us more about herself and her work. An experienced performer, Steph can currently be found at the Novello theatre dancing and singing in the world of ABBA. As well as Mamma Mia, she has a wealth of shows under her belt. I hope this interview will be an interesting insight into her world.

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1. When (at what age) did you know that you wanted to perform for a living?

I’ve always performed, it was just something I did. My mum has tapes of me singing from the age of 2! I don’t think I took it seriously as a career choice until I was 19 though. I always had instilled in me the importance of an education and I stayed at school to do my A Levels. It wasn’t until I’d left school and got myself a job as a full time doctors receptionist that I realised what I really wanted to do was perform. I had an epiphany one day when I was filing some notes and went home that afternoon and applied for drama school. The rest, I guess, is history.

2. As a Welsh person, how do you feel about the ‘ability to sing’ stereotype that is attached to all Welsh folk?! (It does seem to be true!)
Well, I’m the daughter of 2 singers, my Mum and Dad are a vocal harmony duo, so it’s no surprise that I can sing. Believe me, not every welsh person can sing….I’m sure my very best friend from school would be the first to say this as she’s tone deaf, bless her! I think, in Wales we’re encouraged to sing….it just seems to be something we do!
3. What would you be doing if you weren’t performing?
Hmm?! Tricky one, if my career suddenly ended tomorrow I’d probably go into Personal Training as you may have noticed that I have a passion for fitness. But I’m not sure I could ever not perform….even if I went into fitness, you’d probably find me fronting an exercise DVD or “performing” somewhere!
4. What advice would you offer to anyone wanting to get where you are?
DON’T GIVE UP!! Good things come to those who wait….and those that work bloomin’ hard. It’s taken me years to get where I am today and there’s been times where I’ve thought, “is this heartache really worth it?” I’ve doubted myself and my ability but thankfully something told me to keep pushing on and eventually I got there. I always got told, if there’s something else that you can do and want to do….do that! Because this business is hard! You have to develop a tough skin and be willing to fight for what you want.
5. Do you remember your first West End performance? What was that like?

Ha ha! Nope! It’s like a blur! I just remember being slightly scared. That’s always the way with me, especially when I first go on for my covers, I get through it and it all happens but I don’t remember a thing!
6. You have recently joined Mamma Mia after a stint in Billy Elliot. Two very different shows, do you have a preference and why?
Ha ha! I can’t answer that!! As you say, they’re both so different and I love them both for very different reasons. Billy is a show with such amazing heart and the talent of the kids just blows your mind. Mamma Mia is such amazing fun, you can’t help but get carried away with the singing and dancing at the end. I feel like I’m at a pop concert EVERY NIGHT!!
7. You understudy some FANTASTIC roles. Which is your favourite to play?
I don’t think I could’ve answered this until the other night when I went on for Donna. As much as Tanya and Rosie are brilliant parts….Donna is “me”. Yes, she’s a good few years older than me but I relate to her so much. And belting the end of Winner (The Winner Takes It All) is a pretty special moment!

8. Which scene has been your favourite to perform (including from all of your previous shows – Sound of Music, Oklahoma, MM etc)
I did a Ray Cooney farce a few years ago called “Not Now Darling” with a fantastic comedian called Damian Williams….His character was having an affair and I played his wife who came home unexpectedly. I think the scenes with him were the most fun I’ve ever had on stage….mainly because I’d spend the whole time trying not to laugh.
9. If you could perform in any other show which would you choose? Why?
Oh god! That’s a hard one, though I think it would have to be either Les Mis or Wicked. Those are two roles I would LOVE to play…..Elphaba and Fantine.
10. Do you ever get nervous and if so, how do you combat the nerves?
I get more nervous for auditions than I do for shows. I’m surprised people have actually given me a job as I’m so rubbish at auditions. I’m someone who thrives on pressure when it comes to performing and I’m ridiculously calm backstage….to the point where people worry that I’m ok because I don’t flap! I get a few little butterflies in my stomach but that’s it….my main aim when I walk out onstage is to enjoy myself because if you don’t absolutely love what you’re doing, what’s the point in doing it? I just wish I could be so cool in auditions!
11. Describe yourself in three words
Ambitious, friendly and tall.
12. What ONE thing couldn’t you live without?
Tea!!! Love a good brew. Milk no sugar if anyone’s buying?!
13. What has been the highlight of your career to date?
I think a really special moment was the night I played Mrs Wilkinson on Ryan Collinson’s last Billy show. The atmosphere was electric and just before the show he said to me “Lets just go out there and enjoy it” and that’s exactly what we did.
14. You have worked on cruise ships – what was that like? What were you expected to do? Please tell us more :)
I loved ship life, mainly because it was one big party! I got to travel the world, sing and get paid for it! I would advise anyone to do a ship, it was such a great learning curve for me. We’d have to learn a total of 9 45 minute shows which would be rotated throughout a 14 day cruise. I also had my own cabaret which was amazing.
15. Your career has been quite varied, with several musicals, pantomimes and cabarets (including The Sound of Music in Cyprus). Is musical theatre where your heart lies? Do you fancy branching into TV etc?
I’d love to do TV and film. I’ve done a fair few commercials in my time but not quite broken through into the TV world. I love Musical Theatre though and there’s a wide range of parts that I would love to play so I’m not done with it yet. I guess I’d like to keep my career varied, I’m an actor at heart, whether that’s in a play or a musical or TV….as long as I’m acting, I’m happy.
16. How and where would you choose to spend your ideal day?
By the beach, I miss the beach so much having grown up by the sea. It would probably involve a big bunch of friends and family, a BBQ, lots of food and laughter.

17. When you are not on stage, how do you like to spend your spare time?
In the gym! I’m a bit of a gym bunny. It’s something I’ve gotten into in the last few months and I’m always trying to cook up healthy nutritious recipes. I spend a lot of time socialising, I love my friends and love to catch up with them whenever I can.
18. Are there any interesting but little known facts that you can tell us about yourself?
Not that I can think of?! I was once stood up on a date because the guy was in a coma! Ha ha! That do?

I really hope that I can get along for a performance where Steph is playing Donna, I know she’d be brilliant (Dianne is super too of course!) but why not follow her on Twitter @thatStephParry where she will inform us all of any of her ‘stand in’ dates. Otherwise she can be seen living it up with the rest of the cast so do pop along and see her in action.

Apologies for any strange formatting issues – in translation from writing this up and publishing it, my formatting seems to be getting lost. Once again, a huge thank you to Steph for taking the time out of her busy schedule to answer these.

 

Keep Dreaming,

Naomi xx

West End Live

Published June 28, 2013 by samssister

The weekend of June 22nd 2013 dawned somewhat overcast but this did not seem to deter the crowds of people queueing around Trafalgar Square, some of whom had arrived at around 6am for a prime position. The Square was fenced off and behind the barriers were the huge stage, nice and high so that everyone could see the performances, a couple of big screens for those further back and around the edges some tents with various uses – some for promotions, some for shows and the one for TKTS near the stage for people to buy tickets to whichever shows took their fancy from those showcasing. I have to say, the TKTS booth definitely seemed to be doing a roaring trade, it was jam-packed every time I went past it.

The buzz was noticeable and it took no time for the Square to fill up once the crowds were allowed in. It was clear that everyone was really excited to see a preview of what the West End has to offer. The nicest thing, for me, is that the performers were all those who actually put on the performances night after night, so it gave everyone the chance to see the actual casts and the shows almost as they would be if they were in their respective theatres. There was a huge turnout once again, both of West Enders and of the general public. It’s fantastic to see how popular musical theatre is – it is certainly showing no signs of dying a death.

Compered by Matt Wilkinson and Lisa Vickery onstage, with Katy Federman in amongst the crowd, they kept the event running smoothly with a few facts about each show beforehand and helping to keep the crowd geed up using techniques such as Mexican waves (not that they needed any encouragement). Kicking the event off were ‘The Beatles’ – that is to say, the stars from ‘Let It Be’, the musical history of one of the biggest and most influential bands to date.  Rocking the audience with hits such as ‘I Saw Her Standing There’ and ‘Help!’ West End Live could not have had a more lively start. I adore the Beatles, I have been a fan for many years as I grew up listening to them. I am, therefore, slightly skeptical of any ‘tribute’ acts or similar. I have been stalling on seeing this show for that reason, However, I was really surprised at how much they impressed me. They have all clearly been studying The Beatles and their actions and movements and despite the fact that ‘Paul’ was right handed rather than left handed, it was obvious who was who. In fact, I enjoyed their performance so much that a trip to see ‘Let It Be’ is now on the cards.

See ‘I Saw Her Standing There’ here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9m2bM13xadY

The productions followed thick and fast, with performers from ‘Once’, ‘Wicked’ and ‘Billy Elliot The Musical’ all taking the limelight. I was thrilled to see all of these, as I love every one of those shows. ‘Once’ showed what they were all about with a medley of numbers and they were very well received. Gina Beck and Louise Dearman delivered a stunning rendition of ‘For Good’, then Dearman took the stage on her own to perform Defying Gravity. A real treat followed when the cast of Billy Elliot decided to drop the usual ‘Electricity’ number (which is amazing but always brought out) and instead performed a medley which included the entire cast. This was a true representation of what the show is about and I just loved it.

View ‘For Good’ here:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3eLhp0n2qlg

And the ‘Billy Elliot’ performance here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9fQQd1xZ3ZM

Every show and every performer was given a fantastic reception by the crowd, who screamed, shouted and clapped along and of course, where they could, they sang along. The cast (many of whom only started in the show a week ago) of ‘Les Miserables’ came out to the most tremendous roar, showing that it will continue running way beyond it’s current 27 years. Again, it is a show that I love very much and there was absolutely no give away that this cast had been in the show for less than a week. I forgot the shivers I get from watching it and again, I succumbed and bought myself some tickets to see it again in September. The sound those guys made was simply incredible.

Les Miserables cast – One Day More: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PNWd5peCzyk

This was followed by the current cast of other West End veteran show ‘The Phantom of the Opera’. Despite the fact that ‘Phantom’ is probably my favourite show, I have never seen either Marcus Lovett nor Sofia Escobar in the roles of Christine and Phantom respectively. Sadly the person in charge of the smoke machine got a little carried away and there was some sort of problem with the microphones as they did not sound as good as I have heard them previously but it was definitely a technical fault not the guys themselves.

The performance can be seen here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xit5Cf4fA64 (please note, it is not me that goes “there he is” on Lovett’s appearance!)

‘Top Hat’, ‘Matilda’, ‘We Will Rock You’ and ‘The Bodyguard’ were also very popular. It was wonderful to see the support given to every single artist, performer and show. Although several of the productions came out and sang through the best known songs, a majority performed medleys or chose an alternative to the norm – ‘The Bodyguard’ for example. Probably best known for ‘I Will Always Love You’, this was avoided here and instead three upbeat numbers replaced it including ‘So Emotional’ and ‘I Wanna Dance With Somebody’ – Heather Headley and crew were in fine voice. Matilda just did the one number – ‘A Little Bit Naughty’ as did ‘Top Hat’ but I really enjoyed both and found myself grinning from beginning to end of the ‘Top Hat’ routine.

The very slick Top Hat performance can be seen here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8qGrmMIoF2k

The day continued with ‘Jersey Boys’, Jon Lee’s Frankie Valli reaching some notes that had me wondering just exactly how tight his trousers were. Their set consisted of about five songs, each one a well known hit (albeit sometimes better known by alternative performers). It is easy to see why people return to this show again and again.  ‘Mamma Mia!’ entertained the crowd, followed by ‘Thriller Live’ and dance show with the stars of ‘Strictly Come Dancing’; ‘Burn The Floor’. A couple of new shows – ‘The Sound Of Music’, ‘The Colour Purple’ and the next production from Sir Tim Rice –  ‘From Here To Eternity’ were then interspersed with those aimed at children – ‘Dora The Explorer’, ‘Peter Pan: Never Ending Story’, ‘Braniac Live’ and ‘Zoonation’s Groove On Down The Road’ as well as the West End Gospel Choir, Showstoppers and West End Kids. Joey from War Horse (one of the fully moving horse ‘puppets’) also made an appearance during the day so that people had the chance to experience him first hand. I still cannot get over how utterly realistic these horses are.

The day drew to a close but this was definitely not an anti-climax with ‘Dirty Dancing: The Classic Story On Stage’, Monty Python’s ‘Spamalot’ – another show which I love – it is in an altogether different league from Les Mis and Phantom but it is supposed to be and it is brilliantly funny, ‘A Chorus Line’ (whose cast had hotfooted it fresh from their matinee performance to join in), ‘Stomp’ and finally ‘Rock of Ages’. It is sad that ‘A Chorus Line’ is closing at the end of August but I am just relieved to say that I have my tickets booked to see it on August 10th.

 I was lucky enough during the day to speak to the four guys from ‘Let It Be’ to ask what they thought about the event. Playing The Beatles were Michael Galliano – John, Luke Roberts – Ringo, Stephen Hill – George and James Fox – Paul.

The cast of Let It Be

The cast of Let It Be

The Let It Be Beatles, L-R: John, George, Paul, Ringo. Picture my own.

Here’s what they said: “It is such an important event. There is so much talent in the West End and it’s important that we get bums on seats and keep the money coming in so we can keep the theatres running and keep producing the good shows.

It’s lovely to come to an event like this and show people just what we are about. The crowd are really responsive.”

I also managed to catch the ‘Jersey Boys’ for a chat.  Jon Lee – Frankie Valli, Jon Boydon – Tommy De Vito, Chris Gardner – Bob Gaudio, David McGranaghan – Nick Massi

“WEL is great fun and it’s lovely to be back. The crowd are responding massively, this is such a nice event which brings everybody together. It’s like a big shop window and it means people get to see all sorts.  We are lucky that we are in a show where people leave talking about it and then bring their friends back to see it too and where people who don’t necessarily like musicals will come and enjoy it. We normally bring all four seasons with us (!) but it hasn’t rained this year, we are back again tomorrow to sing to more thousands”.

Three of the 'Four Seasons'

Three of the ‘Four Seasons’

L-R Chris Gardner, Jon Boydon, David McGranaghan. Picture my own.

The variety that the West End has to offer is plain to see. West End Live is a fantastic opportunity for people to see the talent and actual casts that perform in these shows. For those who are unsure, it is a chance to have a taster, see what they think – perhaps tempt them to try something out. For the diehard musicals fans it is the perfect way to spend the day and means they do not have to choose which ONE to see. It is also ideal for new productions to show what they are about and for people to hear the scores, to encourage people to buy tickets. Theatre can often seem inaccessible to people for a number of reasons but WEL proves that there is something for everyone and regular ticket offers mean it is also affordable for all. All the participants seem to be in agreement that this WEL is an excellent promotional tool as well as good fun and the fact that this event grows each year is a testament to our fabulous West End. I am so glad I have finally got to witness this event first hand as I’ve not been able to make it in previous years. It makes me want to be up there performing with them all, as it always does when I go to the theatre and it certainly put a huge smile on my face.

Next year is the 10th anniversary and so I very much hope I will be a part of it once again.

Tickets for all of the above shows can be bought from a variety of websites and of course the TKTS official London theatre ticket booth which resides in Leicester Square. It is also worth keeping an eye out for offers. Some shows do not really do offers but many day ticket and some just have monthly offers but there are some fantastic deals to be had – if you are anything like me and want to see absolutely everything, then believe me, it is worth shopping around!

I would like to say a huge thank you to Livetheatre.co who gave me the opportunity to report for them – you can see my original post here –  http://www.livetheatre.co/west-end-live-round-up/

Keep dreaming,
Naomi xx

Killian Donnelly answers…

Published May 3, 2013 by samssister

I am unsure how to begin today’s post other than with the utmost gratitude. I cannot express how much it means to me that I am able to write this today and I am completely overwhelmingly grateful to Killian Donnelly for his time.

As you all know I adore the theatre and everything in it so when Killian agreed to answer some questions for me I jumped at the chance. I am sure most of you reading this know exactly who Killian is, but for those who don’t he is an Irish actor currently appearing as Tony in Billy Elliot. With previous roles including Enjolras and Raoul, he also appears as Combeferre in the recent Les Miserables movie. He is a joy to watch as well as having one of the best sense of humours around and I hope you all enjoy reading this interview as much as I have enjoyed putting it together.

N: Your career began in Ireland where you were in a number of different productions, but did you always want to be on the stage?

K: I never wanted to be an actor. I’d always liked to sing etc but focused on becoming a primary teacher. Acting just took over. I grew up performing in amateur shows back home and from that my passion for performing just grew.

N: Your West End debut was in Les Miserables. Was this a show you particularly fancied or was it a case of auditioning for all sorts?

K: I’d never seen Les Mis but friends had encouraged me to get an audition. I lack the ‘get up and go’ so I’m very thankful for my friends’ encouragement.

N: You played a multitude of characters within Les Mis. Do you have a favourite and why?

K: Javert because he’s simply an incredible, complex character to play. Also the drunk in ‘Master of the House’!

N: You have quite a history with Les Mis – you were part of the 25 year celebrations at the O2 as well as being in the recent movie. Tell us about the O2, it must have been a pretty special occasion. Did you have to audition?

K: The O2 was incredible. I played the student Courfeyrac and I remember my first entrance during Paris; walking on that stage and saying to myself “you’ll remember this forever”. I was playing Enjolras in town at the time so they knew what I could do.

N: Since then you have played Raoul in Phantom of the Opera and are currently appearing as Tony in Billy Elliot. Which role has been your favourite and why? 

K: Well each role is very different. You always try to better yourself. Tick it off and move on. I don’t have a favourite but since I saw ‘Billy’ six years ago I’d always wanted to play Tony.

N: Do you have a favourite show? Is there something you particularly fancy performing in some day?

K: No. Just keep going for whatever comes along.

N: Who or what are your influences and inspirations?

K: My Dad.

N: Do you ever get nervous? If so, how do you overcome the nerves?

K: I do get nervous but that’s a good thing. The day I’m not nervous about an audition or show I’ll give up. I guess I use the nerves – adrenaline – and before I know it it’s [the show/audition] over.

 N: Would you ever take part in any of the TV musical star searches (e.g Superstar)? 

K: No. Too nervous. I take my hat off to those who do…well the good ones. The mad ones are just mad!

N: What is the most embarrassing thing to have happened to you onstage?

K: Toilet tissue was once stuck to my shoe when I was Raoul. I did a whole scene with it there. Also, during a pantomime I swung out on stage for a sword fight, but forgot my sword.

N: How did your role in the Les Mis movie come about? Did you have to audition?

K: Yes, everyone auditioned. I was in a room with all the legends for about 35 minutes singing everything from the students numbers to ‘Master of the House’.

N: In your opinion, do you prefer the stage version or the film version and why? (I am a cop out and love both, though I am not sure anything will ever top live theatre).

K: I think the film explains the story clearer but the stage show is timeless. It’s so epic.

N: Do you have any funny stories or anecdotes from filming?

K: Well we always worked hard and very long hours, so whenever there was down time we’d joke. Myself and Alistair [Brammer] would somehow end up laughing. There’s no real anecdotes, it was just an incredible experience.

N: Would you like to move more towards film/TV?

K: As an actor I just want to do what comes along. I definitely would love to do more film and TV but I prefer theatre.

N: Did you cry when you watched the movie?

K: I cried at the end because I was so proud to be involved. I sat beside Fra [Fee] and we hugged and cried to each other like proper men.

Still from the Les Mis 2012 film.

Still from the Les Mis 2012 film.

And a final few:

Describe yourself in 3 words: Aggressive, Boring, Small. (?? If you say so Killian!)

What one item couldn’t you live without?: Cup of tea.

Would you ever consider joining a touring production? Yes.

What is your favourite costume to date? Blue pants (Billy Elliot).

Are any of the characters you’ve played anything like yourself? Yes. I tend to find I burst into song at random points during my day, whether I’m paying a bill or ordering a Chinese. Also they’re all male!

What would be your last meal if you had to choose? Large Big Mac meal and nine nuggets. With Coke. 

Would you consider recording an album as many others are doing? Probably someday.

Do you have any advice for people wanting to do your job? Never give up. Me in a West End show is proof that anyone can do it.

 

Once again, an ENORMOUS THANK YOU to Killian for answering my questions and giving me a good laugh in the process (the blue pants are definitely something to behold if you haven’t seen them). I believe he has every right to be proud of the Les Miserables film as it is stunning, but that said I think he should be proud of everything he has achieved. He’s a credit to the West End. And I have to agree that a cuppa is the one thing I too could not live without!

 

I hope you have all enjoyed this little insight into Killian Donnelly, it’s been my absolute pleasure. :)

Keep Dreaming (some of them come true!)

Naomi xx

Meeting Killian at Billy Elliot, April 2013

Meeting Killian at Billy Elliot, April 2013

Apologies to anyone who may own the copyright on the LM movie still. Happy to credit for use but it is not my picture.

 

Billy Elliot

Published April 21, 2013 by samssister

So another trip to London beckoned, this time to see a cabaret on Sunday organised by Scott Garnham, and, as I was coming up anyway, a trip to see Billy Elliot. 

I have so many shows that I want to see but I was keen to see Killian Donnelly in the role of Tony so Billy was booked. I knew bits about it and had heard quite a few songs along the way, but I was genuinely not expecting it to be quite so epic.

I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised as all professional productions are excellent in terms of quality/effects/orchestra/set but I just dont think I expected it to be so entertaining. I knew it was about miners and a boy who wants to dance, but in truth it is so much more than that.

Every time the miners sang it was extremely tuneful, I loved all of their pieces and its always a pleasure to see plenty of men in the theatre. I know from amateur productions that finding enough (or indeed, any) men is a real task sadly.

The children were all immaculate too. Each one word, note and step perfect. And remarkably impressive with their comedy delivery and timing (particularly Debbie played by Millie Thornton). There was a lot of choreography across the whole cast but everyone appeared to know exactly what they should be doing.

Deka Walmsley played a very convincing Northern dad, who was (in the words of several cast members) ” a bastard” yet you could warm to him by the end of the show despite all his faults. I thought he was great. Mrs Wilkinson,  played by Gillian Bevan was another character who you grew to be fond of and she did a valiant performance as the ballet mistress.

Steph Parry played Billy’s dead mam and she was a lovely character, both times the songs (which were meant to be letters being read aloud) between her and Billy  reducing me to tears. Comedy relief therefore (although actually the show is remarkably funny) was provided by Mr Braithwaite (David Muscat) as the accompanist for the ballet students and wannabe dancer. Very amusing.

Killian Donnelly as Tony Elliot,  Billy’s brother was as strong and every bit as convincing as I had hoped. He stands up and fights for what he believes in and is very passionate. Though as an elf it is a little hard to take him seriously! Grandma (Gillian Elisa) is another fabulous character and she’s a feisty one too! She was hysterical,  I loved her!

Final mentions must go to Joe Massey as Michael and of course Harris Beattie as Billy. Massey was so lovable and so funny and gave such a confident performance as the slightly confused and comical best friend. And Beattie was outstanding. Everything about his performance was superb. His vocals were strong, his accent, his lines were delivered clearly and with the emotion they required and his dancing was exemplary.  Look out for this lad, he will go far.

I laughed, I cried, I wanted to get up and join in. That has to be the sign of a great show, right? It was topped off nicely by meeting some of the cast afterwards as well, so thank you to those actors who stopped to chat and sign programmes. 

If you’re debating whether or not to go, then don’t think about it anymore,  just book. But be aware there is an imminent cast change so if you want to see some of those mentioned above you will need to go in the next couple of weeks.

Hope you enjoyed, got another one from tonights cabaret on the way later!

Keep Dreaming,
Naomi xx

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