Killian Donnelly Answers… some more…

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: https://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): https://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

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Phantom Review: London Theatre

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

David Muscat Answers…

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