Who Will Buy…A ticket to Oliver!?

Oliver! is not a musical that I am keen on. I base this solely on the film (and an amateur production that I once had the misfortune to see). So I wasn’t overly excited to go to see the touring production at Bristol Hippodrome last night. I had, however, read good reviews, it was a chance to catch up with my good friend and regular theatre buddie Kerrie, and I knew that Samantha Barks (who plays Eponine in the Les Miserables film) was playing Nancy, so I figured it couldn’t be all bad.

As ever, Oliver! begins in the workhouse, with the poor children dreaming about eating a decent meal in the famous ‘Food, Glorious Food’. The children were well in time with their marching and dance moves, though I was a little concerned that the show may in fact be more ‘pantomime’ when a few touches were a little ‘acted’ and rather slapstick. I appreciate that this is a show as much for children as adults (though in fact it really is quite dark with elements of a sexual and violent nature) but I am not a fan of panto and I like to believe totally in what I am watching rather than being reminded that it is being performed. That said, however, as time went on I did become involved and the slapstick became less.

I always forget just how many songs I know from the musical and was pleasantly surprised when each song followed another with an equally famous number. Mr Bumble (Jack Edwards) gave a suitably large and rather overbearing characterisation, with a big voice to go with it, his ‘Boy For Sale’ not too dissimilar from that of a certain Mr Secombe. An unfortunate (but well timed and extrememly funny) comment from an audience member in the second act caused the poor chap to laugh and have to hide behind his newspaper to regain his composure but it was very funny.  We first hear Oliver sing when he is in Sowerberry’s funeral parlour (‘Where Is Love’) and this was a good representation of what was to come from this rather angelic boy. Sowerberry himself was played by David Langham and he was a very tall, thin man, perfect for a rather creepy funeral director.

The set was traditionally dark as Victorian London is often portrayed. The workhouse, funeral parlour and Fagin’s Den were all wooden and dimly lit but this was appropriate for the scenes and Fagin’s Den was brightened up by a string of hankies hanging from the bridge and the colours of all the boys’ clothing. Young Jaydon Vijn who played the Artful Dodger was excellent and gave a confident performance (as Dodger should be). His ‘Consider Yourself’ was well sung, with good diction and his dancing was perfectly in time.

Joseph Bennett who played Oliver was very talented and he had a lovely, sweet voice.The youngsters (the ‘Guineas’ team) were all impressive and acted and sung as well as any of the adults. They never once looked unsure about anything and I have seen adults who are far worse at keeping time than these little people. Ilan Galkoff who played Nipper was super and highly amusing. A huge cheer went up when Neil Morrissey, as Fagin, stepped out from behind a curtain. I had no idea of what to expect but Morrissey played Fagin in as shifty a manner as I would assume him to have, a true thief and selfish but not unkind. He did at one point (during ‘Reviewing The Situation’) manage to get in a Bob the Builder reference which the audience found highly amusing. Although I don’t feel he was the greatest singer in the world, I don’t think you have to be to play Fagin, and I was not disappointed at all by Morrissey’s take on the old crook.

All the ensemble numbers were most enjoyable, ‘Oom Pah Pah’ lead by Samantha Barks as Nancy was great fun (such a catchy tune) though was set in a pub so was a backed by a dark set, but ‘Who Will Buy’ was set in the posh, brightly lit London streets and was a pleasure to witness. There was so much going on that it was hard to see everything at once but it was lively, colourful and vibrant. Everyone held their own, there were dancers and tumblers, people on bikes and things for sale.

I have been waiting to see Barks perform for quite some time and she was worth the wait. Her Nancy was confident, assured and yet sensitive and loving. ‘As Long As He Needs Me was beautifully and powerfully sung and brought a tear to my eye. I am thrilled that she has finally got to play Nancy after coming third (though I must admit she always had my vote) in TV’s ‘I’d Do Anything’. Her Bill Sikes (Iain Fletcher) was extremely sinister and he came across brilliantly as an evil man. He was threatening and imposing and watching his disregard for everyone, particularly Nancy, was almost shocking.

The whole show seemed to fly by. I got more involved than I thought I would and I genuinely thoroughly enjoyed it. I have come away with a new found respect for the Oliver! musical and I would recommend others go to see it. Every performer is professional and quality and it is no surprise that this is another Cameron Mackintosh production due to the nature of the staging and the fantastic casting. Even the little English Bull Terrier cast as Bullseye was immaculately behaved and seemed very unphased by the whole thing, even when he got his own little cheer at the end. I came away singing the tunes and thrilled that I went.

Oliver! is on at the Bristol Hippodrome until Feb 24th and I suggest you hurry and get your tickets before the tour comes to an end. Kerrie and I both agreed that we had an excellent evening, with the added bonus of meeting Fletcher, Morrissey and Barks at the stage door afterwards.

As always, thank you for reading, your comments and feedback are most welcome.

Keep Dreaming,

Naomi xx

Since posting this I have received a disappointed tweet from an orchestra member that I did not mention them. I must apologise for this and this was simply an oversight. The orchestra were faultless and of course they carry the show. Had they not impressed I would have been quick to comment and it should be the same when they are note perfect. That said, it takes a huge amount of people to put on a production and credit should go to all concerned – lighting, sound, costume folk, stagehands etc. I’m sorry if I disappoint anyone, it is not my intention, but I write as I find and often dont include half of what I’d like to say for fear of boring everyone to death!

Naomi x

Exciting New Musical Must See!

Hello everyone! Here is another new post for you all. As you all know, I love musicals and theatre and I am always up for seeing new shows. Just recently I have been hearing talk of an up and coming new musical which has been in the making for several years. I am really excited about this one as I think it is a moving story with a wonderful score to accompany it. The soundtrack has been produced by someone I believe in massively and who has been mentioned in previous posts – Simon Grieff at SimGProductions.

 

‘Silenced by injustice – from the scaffold truth will roar!’ I don’t know if many or any of you have heard of Christopher Orton or Robert Gould? They are the brains behind this production. Titled ‘My Land’s Shore’ it is set in Wales in 1831 and based on a true story.  I was lucky enough to speak to Robert Gould, one of the writers of this wonderful piece, in order to find out more.

 

Could you tell me where your inspiration for the story came from? Is it a true story?

 

Yes, the show is based on actual characters and events. It’s actually one of the most famous stories in the social history of Wales – set during the infamous Merthyr Rising of 1831, when a young miner named Richard Lewis (aka Dic Penderyn) became the first Welsh working class martyr. We have, of course, embellished the show with other fictional characters and opened things up with a love triangle, etc to make it less of a history lesson and more of a musical!

It was always intended as a musical. Although I am a historian (and former history teacher) and a playwright, I am a lyricist more than anything else and my interests as a writer are primarily in writing for musical theatre. And Chris (Orton) set out from the outset to write a musical a number of years before he and I began working on it together.

 

For those who do not know the show, what is it about?

 

My Land’s Shore is set in Merthyr in 1831, when the town was the industrial heartland of Britain and when the nationwide campaign for Reform of Parliament and growing localized social unrest turned into a riot that was brutally suppressed by the authorities. In the aftermath of the Merthyr Rising, Richard Lewis (aka “Dic Penderyn”), an ordinary man of conviction and integrity carried along by the wheels of history in extraordinary times, became the first martyr of the Welsh working class. Now he – and a number of other characters both real and fictional – become the central characters in our musical tale of conflict, social injustice, moral dilemmas, love, guilt and heartbreak – an epic musical gift from the musical nation of Wales to the world!

 

http://d2bm3ljpacyxu8.cloudfront.net/width/930/crop/2,0,930×620/mylandsshorethemusical.webs.com/MLS%20%20workshop%20cast.jpg

 

Chris began writing the show basically because he felt there was a need for a Welsh songwriter to create a musical with a Welsh theme and he wrote the book, music & lyrics and then managed to stage a concert in London while he was at the Royal Academy of Music. I met Chris in January 2006 and we began work on another show. A few months later he showed me what he had written for My Land’s Shore and we began working together on developing it further.

 

How long has the show been in the making?

 

Around 10 years! Chris wrote his original draft back when he was a student. I came on board in 2006 – and it has been a long but exciting road to get the show to the point it is at now. I re-wrote and re-structured Chris’s original draft, cutting songs, rewriting lyrics for some songs and writing new lyrics which Chris then composed music for. We staged a concert of the rewritten version in Cardiff in 2007 and then performed another major rewrite. We recorded a studio cast album which was released by SimG Records in February 2012 and we’ve continued rewriting even after that, with some new songs written after the release of the album.

In the current West End climate of musical theatre when most shows tend to be either long-running shows, revivals or juke-box musicals – My Land’s Shore is an original musical with a brand new score. Chris’s music is gloriously stunning. But it also has themes which have a universal appeal and an emotional core which we believe will touch anyone who sees and hears it. George Stiles and Anthony Drewe very graciously wrote in their endorsement of the studio cast album: “Orton and Gould have written a soaring, passionate and hauntingly melodic score for a story which, though set in 1831, has a resonance and relevance in today’s Eurozone era.”

 

To listen to some sound bites from the score please visit: http://www.mylandsshoremusical.com/images/MLS_Bkd.jpg

 

There has recently been a Workshop – how did that go? How have your performers (many well known) responded to the show? And what are your future plans?

 

Yes, we work-shopped the show at RADA for 2 weeks in January – rewriting as we went along! Working with a wonderful director (Tim Welton) and an amazing cast of actors helped us to find flaws in the show and to discover what needed to be cut and/or added. At the end of the workshop we presented the show to an invited industry audience.
We have been blessed to have worked with some of the best actors/singers working in musical theatre in the UK – both on the album and in the workshop – and have been overwhelmed by the way they have responded to the material. They have all come to believe in My Land’s Shore as passionately as Chris and I do.

As for the future, to begin with – more rewrites! After that, it really depends on the response to the workshop performance. We need a producer & investors to start believing in the show and help us to take it to the next level – and hopefully to a full scale production.

 

There is a song taken from the show and recorded by Killian Donnelly, which is not on the soundtrack. Is there a reason for this?

 

This is a simple one lol – it had not been written when we recorded the album! In one of the rewrites I substantially built up the character of Irish miner Sean, which included writing a lyric for a solo number for him, which Chris then composed music for. As Killian had sung Sean’s part in a couple of songs on the album, Chris asked him if he would record Air For A Wise Celtic Fool. Killian did an awesome job on the recording and also when he performed the song “live” at the Giggin4Good concert at the Actors’ Church last October. And Ryan Gibb, who played Sean in the workshop, did a superb job on the song too. As for its placement in the show, it actually changed during rewrites while we did the workshop! As things stand now it comes during the Riot scene, after Play With War.

 

See Killian’s Air For A Wise Celtic Fool here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e0HnLM0jFfA&playnext=1&list=PLFE91345F76F9BD53&feature=results_video

 

Do you guys have a favourite song from the score?

 

That’s a tough one – my favourite keeps changing lol (and Chris’s may be different to mine!). At one point it was definitely Love On The Edge Of Our Tears (when Chris first played and sung it to me after he’d composed the music to my lyrics I was pretty emotional on hearing how beautiful the music was). Then perhaps Air For A Wise Celtic Fool took over as my new favourite. Now it’s a toss-up between that and the latest song we wrote shortly before the workshop as a replacement for Make Wales Proud. It’s called A Lonely Voice – and every time the amazing Will Barratt and our awesome male ensemble sung it during the workshop, it blew me away.

 

I truly believe that this show should be on the West End so please, please take some time out to at least have a listen to this score. It is haunting, moving and beautifully written. The story contains everything you could want in a show and I would love to see more support for this production. The soundtrack features Andy Hockley, Jonathan Williams, Rhiannon-Sarah Porter and Alexis James alongside others and all who have taken part, whether for the soundtrack or the workshop have developed a huge passion for it.

 

To find out more about the show please take a look at the following links:

http://mylandsshorethemusical.webs.com/

 

http://www.facebook.com/mylandsshore – from here you can link to iTunes to purchase the album or download Air For A Wise Celtic Fool

http://www.facebook.com/mylandsshore/app_255087544583535

Follow My Land’s Shore on Twitter at: https://twitter.com/MyLandsShore

As ever, please go to http://www.simongreiff.com/simgproductions/Records/My_Land’s_Shore.html to purchase the album and to see some reviews.

 

As they say in Les Miserables – ‘We need a sign to rally the people, to call them to arms and to bring them in line… ‘ Well, this is your sign, and this is me rallying the people! If you are interested in the show in any way please do get in touch with Robert or Chris as all support would be most welcome. I really hope you are all feeling as enthusiastic as I am about this and I really believe we can make it happen. Once again I must give the most enormous thanks to Bob Gould who took time out of his busy schedule to answer my questions. Massive appreciation and gratitude to you Sir.

 

So as ever, Keep Dreaming,

Naomi xx

Les Miserables. That is all.

I am slightly reluctant to write this for fear of giving away spoilers, so be warned, this post is about the new Les Miserables movie. It is rare that I am speechless about anything but I have to say I cannot find the words to describe it.

Most of the people reading this will probably have seen Les Mis on stage on at least one occasion. I’m guessing on that basis that they will also have an opinion and some expectations for this long awaited film.

Whatever your thoughts may be, for goodness sake go and see it. Some of the trailers and clips that have been shown have caused immense speculation and opinions on the singing have been pre-formed. But until you have seen it please do not let this be your final assumption.

Hugh Jackman offers a fantastic portrayal of Jean Valjean. He absolutely understands the part and he is tough yet compassionate. He gives a very honest characterisation and has a strong singing voice. I feel he has been well cast and his death had me sobbing uncontrollably. Some changes have been made here but I can see why they have and it still works well. Jackman has also been given a new song which I enjoyed very much.

Russell Crowe as Javert has probably had the most mixed response, with the general opinion being lukewarm. I say give him a chance. He is not the greatest singer by any means, but I have to say I think the casting works. He has the right expression, an imposing presence and he and Jackman play off each other very well.

Fantine may be only in a very small section of the show but Anne Hathaway absolutely steals it. I defy anyone to keep a dry eye when she sings I Dreamed a Dream. It is so heartfelt and you cannot help but feel sorry for her. What screen time she gets is time well spent. Utterly moving.

Eddie Redmayne shows the reason he was cast as Marius -his Empty Chairs is gut wrenching- and Sam Barks is another who absolutely deserves her role as Eponine. She is such a sorry sight as she silently loves Marius and sings it (On My Own). Barks is very strong throughout.

Fra Fee, Killian Donnelly and George Blagden are all excellent as Courfeyac, Combeferre and Grantaire respectively. There are some truly stunning scenes involving the boys at the barricade and the passion running through them is clear to see. Some parts are hard to watch as I feel very affectionate towards these guys.

A special mention must go to Tom Huttlestone who plays Gavroche. He is absolutely brilliant, his acting and singing appearing to be from someone far more advanced in years than he. Isabelle Allen (young Cosette) is also a marvellous little actress and singer.

The Thenardiers as always provide much needed comedy relief, with Sacha Baron-Cohen and Helena Bonham-Carter both suitably shifty. Cosette is rather a dull character and I fear she still is in this film, less down to Amanda Seyfried than to the role itself. Seyfried plays it well enough. Personally I am not keen on her voice but this is entirely my opinion. I did however enjoy Aaron Tveits portrayal of Enjolras.

It was also a pleasure to see Colm Wilkinson as the Bishop. A lovely nod to the original Valjean and a really special moment. I even felt moved by his compassion. Beautiful.

It is always nice to see our West Enders doing well and Les Mis is a bit of a west ender fest. Playing spot the performer is quite fun as they appear in many scenes as extras/ensemble. Hadley Fraser has a cameo role but when he sings you know about it. He has one of the strongest voices in it. His moustache should get a credit too!

I need to stop gushing but this movie is totally worthy of it’s many BAFTA and Oscar nominations. It felt wrong not clapping after every song and the round of applause at the end was spontaneous and totally justified. If you are in two minds just go. If you don’t fancy it then go. There was not a dry eye in the house and I really think this is one of the greats.

The score is wonderful, sets fantastic and Tom Hooper has made it absolutely stunning. I have tried to avoid spoilers but I genuinely do not have enough words. Just go and witness this wonder for yourself. I’m going again tomorrow. Bravo all of you. BRAVO.

Keep dreaming,
Naomi x

New projects ahead :)

We are now three days in to the new year and so far so good on the resolution front. I have to confess that I have not yet started my diet but this is simply because I have a lot of bits of food to use up before I do. However I have every intention of losing weight and have joined the newly started weigh in club at work as an added push.

I am trying to be positive though it is not easy with work being a nightmare and feeling rather under the weather but I am feeling inspired at present so I’m hoping this continues. I am ridiculously excited about the forthcoming Les Miserables film so the thought of that is keeping me going, I’m literally counting down the days.

Many people (and thank you so much all of you) have said they are looking forward to my new blog entries. I hope I dont disappoint and I also hope that I will have a lot to share with you all. I currently have four ‘theatrical’ outings booked but it looks as though there are going to be many more this year as there are so many productions I’d like to see.

Something I would like to introduce you all to is a new website and resource called The Media Directory. Due to be launched in March this year, the Media Directory is designed to be a tool to help its members to gain work or create links and networks to get on in their chosen career path.

The Directory will be divided into six sections; Film/TV/Stage, Music, Photography, Comedy, Dance and Art. Each member will get their own profile within their relevant section and all social media that they use will be dragged onto their profile. For example if a musician uses Soundcloud to upload a tune, this can be automatically placed onto their profile on the website along with Twitter, Facebook etc.

Employers can search for a suitable candidate, jobseekers can advertise for what they need. CVs will be visual with the use of the social media links and there will be plenty of opportunities to search for whatever you need. I think this is going to be both useful and exciting and as the site grows and develops then more and more sections will be added. If you are even slightly interested please take a look.

The Media Directory can be found on Facebook, on Twitter (@mediadirectory1) or at http://www.themediadirectory.com though the website is currently under construction. I’m proud to be supporting this. I’d be interested to know what you all think, if you like what you see and hear please share with anyone who you think may find it useful.

Enough waffling for now. I hope I havent bored you all but this is something Im excited and passionate about. I hope youre all having a good new year so far and next time I blog it should be about a production Ive been to.

Thanks for reading folks.
Keep dreaming,
Naomi x