Hockadooooooooo (It’s not rude is it?)

I quite often let my blog lapse these days, sometimes it is due to lack of time, sometimes my reviews are professional and get posted elsewhere and then I forget to link them to here and sometimes I simply can’t be bothered. But yesterday I headed to London for one of my faves – a two show day, or a ‘Snooky’ as it is sometimes known – and I saw a show which completely blew me away.

memphis

I have seen a fair few good shows lately, not as many as I was seeing at one time but quite a few nonetheless. And there has recently been quite a few closures and therefore new shows arriving in the West End, so plenty of choice and a lot of interesting and enjoyable productions. One of the new ones I was curious to see however was Memphis. I knew very little about this show – I watched the trailer for it and saw them on Sunday Night at the Palladium but that’s as much as I knew – but as a lot of you may know, I thoroughly enjoy watching Killian Donnelly on stage and as he is originating this role in London (Ok so he’s not the original Huey but he is the first on the West End), I wanted to go along to support him. Turns out this was the best decision I have made in quite a while.

I had of course been hearing excellent things written about it, but I avoided actually reading any reviews in order to make up my own mind about it. It started off well with managing to get front row seats. These were super and I personally love to see facial expressions so enjoy being that close. I was chatting to a couple sitting next to myself and my friend, they had seen Memphis before on Broadway and therefore had high expectations, so I asked them to report at the end what they thought – more on that later.

Well from the second the show began I couldn’t take my eyes off it. Right from the first few minutes there were some fantastic vocals accompanied by first rate choreography and very accomplished dancers. Set in the 1950’s, this was a time when racial segregation still occurred (and indeed even today not everyone is accepted or given the same rights as others) and Memphis tells the story of Huey Callhoun (played by Killian Donnelly), a local white boy, who has heard the R and B sound and fallen in love with it. He wanders into the ‘wrong side of town’ into one of their clubs and from there onwards continues to create a stir.

Donnelly is funny, as ever his comedy timing and expressions are spot on. He plays Huey as an annoying yet likeable, not particularly bright, not much good at anything chap but what comes across most strongly of all is how human and real he is. Huey is such an honest character – to him there is no difference between ‘them’ and the white folk. He vows to bring their music to the people and to get Felicia (Beverley Knight) heard.

Felicia is the sister of nightclub owner Del Ray and they are shocked at the way Huey tries to “steal” their music. However, Huey eventually wins Felicia over and they begin a romance and Huey keeps his promise of getting her songs played on the radio. Their relationship has to be kept secret and they have to deal with a lot of prejudice, particularly when they are caught together. There is some lovely chemistry between Huey and Felicia but I also enjoyed the relationships between Huey and Bobby, Gator and DelRay. Although this production is centered around some very serious issues (and they are by no means glossed over despite most of the songs being very upbeat) it is also extremely funny.

When Knight opens her mouth it is as if everything stops. She has got a cracking pair of lungs and some serious voice control on her. It was almost as though the audience held their collective breaths as she sang. And when she was joined by Donnelly I got goose bumps. Their voices work beautifully together, the tones of each complementing the other and rivalling one another in strength. There are not enough adjectives to describe how incredible they are.

I was captivated not only by the vocal capabilities of the leads but also by the wonderful choreography and slick moves. The dancers were so athletic and it was also nice to see Killian having a bit of a boogie too – albeit rather in Huey’s somewhat unique style. I genuinely cannot fault any of the cast vocally or performance wise. Another good thing about the production is that it keeps moving. Even the slow parts are kept short and quite intense so your attention never starts to wander, something that I have found happening in several shows, and they all have a purpose rather than feeling as though they have been added and dragged out to extend the show.

I don’t want to ruin anything else for those who haven’t been but I truly loved everything from the costumes to the sets to the score. I can see why this has been getting four and five star reviews. I spoke to the couple next to us again afterwards and they were full of praise. They had enjoyed the Broadway version of Huey but thought Killian was even better. And it seems the rest of the audience were in agreement. I heard compliment after compliment for Beverly and her incredible voice. There was cheering and whooping after every song. The standing ovation at the end was an absolutely spontaneous, genuine one. And it could not have been any more deserved.

I laughed, I (nearly) cried, I wanted to get up and dance. I heard it and I felt it. So if you only buy one ticket this year, make it a trip to see Memphis. I will be going back without a doubt, and it will be sooner rather than later. Everyone should see this phenomenal production and hear just how outstanding Donnelly and Knight are.

What are you waiting for!? Hockadoo!

Keep dreaming,

Naomi xx

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Challenges

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
 

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

The Commitments is DEFINITELY bringing soul to the people

image

Last night I had the absolute honour of going to one of the first previews in the world of The Commitments musical. Directed by Jamie Lloyd (and already a film), the Roddy Doyle novel has been brought to life in London’s Palace Theatre.

It was my first time being witness to a brand new show with an original cast but I am so pleased that I managed to get tickets. I have to confess to not having read the book (my copy didn’t arrive in time) but I knew the sort of thing I was expecting and I was not disappointed. The story is set in Barrytown (a fictional town) in Ireland, in the mid 1980’s in a time of social upheaval due to high taxes and unemployment. Many people found themselves in the grasp of Heroin. The Commitments is a group formed from people who want to bring soul back to Ireland, to their lives and who are passionate about the music because it’s all they have.

Friends- Outspan, a guitarist, (Matthew Wycliffe) and Derek, a bassist, (Mark Dugdale) – are looking to progress in the music industry, so they end up looking for advice in Jimmy Rabbite, played by Denis Grindel. The Commitments is Grindel’s West End debut, but there is no hint that this is the case as he gives a confident and professional performance as the young hopeful. He has grand ideas for the group and begins auditioning for members. He remembers seeing a drunken performance from a young man and goes to ask him to join the group. This chap becomes The Commitments’ (who are as yet to be named) front man, Deco, played by Killian Donnelly.

After getting together, more members are added – these include The Commitmentettes (the backing singers) – Imelda, Natalie and Bernie (played by Sarah O’Connor, Stephanie McKeon and Jessica Cervi respectively), James the pianist, played by Barnaby Southgate, Joey the trumpeter (Ben Fox), Billy the drummer (Brian Gilligan) and Dean the saxophonist (Andrew Linnie).

An extremely mismatched group, with very little musical talent between them, Rabbite sends them away to learn various soulful tunes, from the likes of The Supremes and Marvin Gaye. They struggle to play their instruments, the singing is pretty terrible, as is the saxophone, and Deco is extremely difficult.The actors playing the Commitments all play their own instruments (initially very badly) but as they begin to perform in public, they begin to improve, gradually playing bigger venues and they eventually start to get press attention and the chance for a recording deal.

Donnelly plays the crude, arrogant and moody Deco with such conviction. He is very temperamental, inclined to walk out at the slightest thing and really only looking out for himself, and most of the other band members really don’t like him. They are told to tolerate him, however, for his vocal ability. And I have to say that Donnelly is incredible. Vocally he is extremely strong, powering out the soul. His energy on stage is infectious and despite the fact that he is difficult, obnoxious and a law unto himself he is hysterically funny (as is the entire production) and you cannot fail to be mesmerised by him. He also throws quite a few shapes, however, he also seems to like eating and getting his kit off!

Each of The Commitmentettes are strong characters, using their female charms to impress Joey the trumpeter, the only member of the group with any real musical experience. This leads to tensions and jealousy between the other members of the group (who all rather like Imelda, including Rabitte), so when she is seen kissing Joey, punches are thrown, fighting ensues and the band, which is barely holding it together anyway, falls apart. The girls throughout all hold their own, each one with a great voice and on occasions get their chances to sing, which they do most impressively.

One of my favourite performances came from Joe Woolmer, who plays the bouncer Mickah. He was absolutely superb as the ‘no messing’ character and literally every time he was on stage I was in stitches. For me, he was the icing on a rather delicious cake.

There are quite a few elements to the set and although much of it is set on one level there are scenes taking place upstairs and also ensemble scattered around in balconies and higher up positions. This potentially creates a problem for those faced with an overhang from upper theatre tiers, but I think probably not a lot is missed. I thought the set design was great though – some of it (the Rabbite house, for example) done using trucks which could be easily and quickly wheeled on and off.

At times there was an element of audience participation and there was a real sense of being part of it -on occasion the cast are in the auditorium – and with classic music – songs such as I Heard It Through The Grapevine, Knock On Wood, Mustang Sally and Reach Out I’ll Be There – it is nearly impossible not to join in. What I did enjoy is that although these are all classic hits, the performers in this production very much make them their own. It was hard to stay seated throughout, as my toes (and I could feel others too) were tapping along, so when the opportunity to get up and dance came about at the end, not one person remained in their seat.

Without giving too much more away, every single cast member has clearly worked hard to make this production really impressive. During the interval and at the end I heard only positive comments from the audience. Certainly there was hilarity all the way through, I don’t think I stopped smiling once. If bad language offends I would advise staying away, as it is rife throughout but it really doesn’t bother me in the slightest and apparently didn’t seem to be concerning anyone else either. I can’t find a bad word to say about any of the cast – if I haven’t given them an individual mention here it is simply because I don’t want to go on too much, but they are all super talented and a joy to watch, many of them making their West End debuts. I defy anyone not to be smiling and singing when they leave the theatre.

I absolutely can’t wait for a return visit, and there WILL be one. And another, and more after that…this is a watchable show which I would happily see again and again. And I very much intend to. Do go if you can, it really is great fun and this cast deserve to be seen. I hope this will be sticking around for some time.

Keep Dreaming,
Naomi xx

Niall Sheehy answers…

Hi everyone. I am really excited to announce my latest interview to you all. Probably best known for getting into the final eight on TV’s ‘Superstar’ (the search for Jesus), Irish actor Niall Sheehy is currently rehearsing for Les Miserables on London’s West End and he kindly agreed to answer some questions for me. Once again I am extremely grateful to him for taking his time out to do this.

Niall

Niall and myself, 18th May 2013

1. Was acting something you always wanted to do?

It’s quite a hard question to answer. I know I always wanted a creative job – which led me to study marketing (which turned out to be a lot less creative than I expected). Ireland is slightly different to the UK in the sense that there aren’t many established theatre schools for younger children, so I never really got into performing until a later age. I did a bit of performing as a child and loved it, but none of my friends were with me and when I had to choose between drama classes or football, I chose football. Having said that, ever since I finally started performing on the amateur circuit, it was genuinely the only thing I wanted to do.
2. If you weren’t an actor what would you do?
If I had never acted at all, then I think I would still be in my Sales job back in Dublin. I didn’t really enjoy the work, but I was on a good salary and had a lot of great friends there. But, if I was to walk away from acting at this point in my life, I think I would like to work with children with development issues. It’s something I’ve been touched by in my life, and I can see me pursuing it later down the line.
3. You had been in a few productions prior to auditioning for ‘Superstar’. What made you decide to do it? (I think it would be terrifying to sing the composers songs in front of him…!)
I’m not really sure why I applied for Superstar, to be honest. I think it came down to frustration; I can’t count the amount of times I’ve done a great audition process, only to be told I was preferred for one of the lead parts, but the other guy had “more of a profile”. It can become debilitating and I said to myself a few years ago that if another suitable show came along, I’d apply. I never actually thought I’d get anywhere NEAR the live rounds, but I just wanted to throw my hat in the ring.
4. Please talk us through the process you had to go through to get to the finals? Did you genuinely get on well with all the other guys?
God, it was such a long process, I’d bore you if I went into any major detail. We initially went along and prepared a couple of Rock/Pop songs, and were eventually whittled down to about 200 or so guys, who were recalled to another day in Brixton. Before that, we were asked to prepare a different song, along with the song “Gethsemane” from JCS. So, one by one, we went onto the stage there and sang our songs. From this day, we were cut down to a final 41 guys, to head off to the Bootcamp. I have to say, that was the best part of the whole experience for me – it was just  group of guys hanging out (working hard as well, obviously) and having fun. The TV Show showed the rest, really; they cut us down to 30, then we headed to Majorca and were cut down to 20. We then had to come back to London to sing for a place in the finals. Sorry….I sort of rushed that a bit, but honestly, we’d have been here all day!! 🙂
5. Was being live on TV and singing to audiences of millions different to performing on stage? Did you find you were more nervous going through this than usual?
I didn’t really notice the whole “Live TV” thing that much because there was a fairly big audience in the studio anyway, so it wasn’t that different to performing on stage. Having said that, I was gradually getting more and more ill over the course of the week, and knowing that you are going to perform far below your best in front of the nation was a really horrible feeling. It didn’t make me any more nervous as I was fairly resigned to it, but it was just depressing knowing that I wasn’t able to show people what I was capable of…..Ah well, it could have been worse, I suppose!
6. Would you go through a reality show again and would you recommend it to people looking for a break?
I don’t think so. Not for any negative reasons, as I had a great time, but I feel I’ve had my moment. I mean it all depends; if there was another casting show to find a guy to play a part and I REALLY thought I’d be right for the part, I would probably apply. I would always recommend those shows to people because it’s the MOST nerve-wracking experience you can go through and as a result it helps you find out what you’re capable of. I always said that you have nothing to lose other than a perceived sense of pride – I didn’t care if I got cut; I just wanted to try.
7. If Jesus Christ Superstar was to return to the West end, do you think you would go for Jesus again (or even Judas/Pilate/Herod/Simon/Peter)?
Of course. I would love to be part of that show. I’d just put myself in for it, and after that, they’d hopefully see me as being right for something in the show.
8. Do you have any advice for combatting nerves?
Not really. You can only combat nerves yourself. Nervousness is completely self-imposed, and people don’t always realise that. As rude as it sounds, I really don’t care what anyone thinks of my auditions/performances – I’m only interested in doing my best and being proud of what I’ve done. For that reason, I don’t really get nervous very often. If I had any advice, it would be to stop worrying what other people think – the people who like you will be biased and say you were great, and you can’t impress the people who don’t like you….So when you think about it, all the criticism AND praise is fairly redundant – do it for yourself, no one else and I believe you’ll feel less nervous.
9. Les Miserables – the next step on the ladder. How does it feel to be part of such an iconic show?
To be honest, it’s a dream come true. Les Mis is probably the most iconic show of all time and to get to say that I’ve been a part of it’s history is a great feeling.
10. How are rehearsals going? – Are you excited for mid June? 
Rehearsals have been fantastic – the only problem is you ALWAYS want more time, but that is the same in any show. Knowing that we’ll be opening in a week is incredibly exciting, but at the same time, we saw the current cast at a matinee last week and it’s daunting to have to try to match the level that they set. Fingers crossed, we can achieve somewhere near the level that they set for us – they’re a tough act to follow.
11. You have been lucky enough to be a part of all three of the shows you wanted to be in – do you have a favourite? How about a favourite character to play?
Yes, I always said I wanted to be part of Les Mis, Wicked & Spamalot. When Spamalot closed I was devastated, but thankfully I got into Wicked and as I was preparing to leave after 2 years, they announced a UK Tour of Spamalot and I was blown away to get into it. Now, getting into Les Mis has completed my wish list – I’ll have to add some more shows on there. As far as a favourite goes, I couldn’t really pick – they’re all so different. Getting to go on for Fiyero & Sir Lancelot was a real honour and I’ll always remember those shows vividly, but now I’m 1st cover Enjolras and I have DREAMED of playing that part, so I’m slightly afraid I’ll blow my mind the night that I get to go on!!
12. If you could perform any song from any show, which would you choose?
I don’t really know. I was introduced to a Swedish show written by Benni & Bjorn from Abba, called “Kristina från Duvemåla” and there is a song in it called “Du Måste Finnas” which I heard performed by the original “Kristina”, Helen Sjöholm in English, entitled “You Have To Be There”, and I have to say her performance was so emotional I just fell in love with the song…..so in a VERY long-winded way, my answer is “You Have To Be There” from the show “Kristina from Duvemåla“.
13. If you could play ANY role what would it be?
I’ve never really had my heart set on a specific part – I just want to work. When I audition for a part, I can feel myself wanting to get it, but there has never really been a part I felt the need to play – maybe it avoids the disappointment of never playing it….Wow, that was deep! If I’m allowed to get overly ambitious, I have always wanted to be one of the X-Men in one of the movies….I actually wouldn’t care who – just one of the gang!!
14. What is the most embarrassing thing to have happened to you on stage? And off stage?
Onstage, I would have to say blanking on a line in “West Side Story” – instead of saying “Afraid to slug it out?”, I blanked and had to quickly think on my feet. Unfortunately, all I could think up was to say “Afraid to…MESS WITH EACH OTHER’S FACES?” and proceeded to shake a jazz hand in Riff’s face. Everyone in the building laughed for a week over THAT one!
Offstage, there have been some atrociously embarrassing things that have happened to me, but I couldn’t possibly divulge – that’s how you make certain people forget about them….! 🙂
15. What is the best piece of advice you have ever been given?
Never be afraid to try. The worst thing that can happen is you will be told “No”, but anything other than that is a win.
16. You will be performing at West End Fests in July –  why should people buy a ticket?
Well obviously, there is the incredibly important fact that it helps to raise money for a really worthwhile cause, CRY_UK, which fundraises for raising awareness, preventions and treatments of cardiac risk in the young. Other than that, all I can tell you at this point is it promises to be an amazing night, with some hilarious fun thrown in on top.
17. Describe yourself in three words?
Laid-back. Friendly. Marmalade.
18. What single item couldn’t you live without?
I have my Grandfather’s old initialled ring, which I always seem to wear when I feel homesick. Over the past year, however, I’ve started just wearing it all the time; Not because I’m homesick, but because it reminds me of my family. I think if I lost that I would be fairly heartbroken.
19. What do you get up to in your spare time?
Nothing. Honestly…..If all goes to plan, I will do next to nothing during my down time. The shows can really take it out of you, so on that rare day off I try to just chill out in the park or at home and switch my brain off. I have a fairly extensive and varied collection of music, so I like to just whack iTunes on shuffle and veg out.
20. You live with Killian Donnelly – do you find you both burst into song (are you both actually really ‘stagey’) and is there any rivalry between you two?
Ha. We actually DO burst into song all the time – the other week he played a tune on the piano, and I dropped a SICK rap on top – we’re really cool that way!! He’s my best mate and we have a great laugh living together – the amount of times we’ll be in the middle of just talking utter nonsense in some concocted scenario and one of us will have to say “Who is this benefitting?”, but yeah, we have a laugh. As far as rivalry goes, there’s none. I mean, we’ve never been up for the same part, so one of us getting a job is never at the other’s expense. Naturally, you’re always envious of someone who gets a great job, but when it’s your best mate, you’re just proud of them. We’re like two loser brothers, really…..Hugs and cups of tea.
21. Killian and John Owen Jones used to do videos of John V Killian…have you ever considered Niall V Killian?
HA….I always say that for a laugh and he says no way! I think you have to be original with ideas; John V Killian was so funny, but doing the same thing again with different people would just be a cheap knock-off……I’m busy creating a new idea called “Niall Throws Killian Off The Roof Of Things” – don’t tell Killian though…..!
22. Who are your idols, influences and inspirations?
I come from a really varied background, so a lot of the people I looked up to when I was younger were actors, musicians and athletes, as well as the people who directly influenced my life. I could sit here all day listing people, but I’d forget someone and feel terrible. More than anyone, I look up to my Dad – he’s my hero and what I want to be when I grow up!
23. What is your favourite film?
WAAAAY too many to pick just one, but if I HAD to pick a Top 5, it would be……5) Amélie 4) Cemetery Junction 3) Stranger Than Fiction 2) Oldboy 1) The 25th Hour. Do NOT hold me to that, though….!
24. If you could only choose one thing to eat for the rest of your life what would it be?
My Mom’s Lasagne….Hands down, no contest!! AND DON’T TRY TO GIVE ME A DIFFERENT LASAGNE….I’LL KNOW IF IT’S NOT HERS!!!
25. Tell us a little known fact about yourself that a lot of people don’t know.
At 2pm on the opening night of my first professional job out of drama school, I stepped on an upholstery pin in my bare feet. It snapped and got stuck in the bone. They drove me to hospital, where they cut my foot open to get it out. The anaesthetic was taking forever to kick in fully and we only had 2 hours until the opening show, so I lied and said I couldn’t feel anything – which meant I sat there in absolute agony as they sliced my foot open (What a hero, huh? Or idiot, as it’s also known) but because it was jammed in the bone, they couldn’t remove it and we had no choice but to just dose me up and stitch me shut. I did the show that night, in more pain than I could imagine and bleeding profusely from start to finish, then, the next morning I had to be put under a general anaesthetic to have an operation to remove it. I woke up in a panic, and tried to fight my way out of the bed, shouting “You don’t understand – I have to get to the theatre” (How dramatic are actors?), only to be told that it was a few hours still until the next show. So I went in, dozy as hell, and did the remainder of the week with a club foot and crutch….Then they didn’t even pay us our full fee……Showbiz, eh?
Another huge thank you to Niall for not only answering my questions but for being so entertaining. If you would like to see him in action he will be on stage at Queens Theatre from 17th June. Do stop by and say hello, I have no doubt he’ll be happy to have a chat. I hope you have all enjoyed reading a little more about Niall as much as I have enjoyed putting this together.
Details on West End Fests can be found at: @westendfests or on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Westend-Fest/182890208508837
Keep Dreaming,
Naomi xx
ma boys
L-R  – George Blagden, Killian Donnelly, Fra Fee, Niall Sheehy, photo courtesy of Phill Cowndley  (thank you)

Killian Donnelly answers…

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.

 

Garnham, Guests and Gibbons. Yes, Gibbons.

What can I say? What a brilliant night. Held at The Pheasantry – a Pizza Express along Kings Road, London – I was not sure how it would support a cabaret. But it was a great venue, with a downstairs area set out with tables all around the stage so that all guests could watch, eat, drink and generally have a thoroughly relaxed evening.

 

Having seen Scott Garnham performing in Les Miserables, both as Feuilly and as Enjolras, I knew that the guy had talent. I had also watched some video from a previous cabaret of his which gave me some idea of what to expect. I didn’t howevr expect Garnham to be such an all round performer. He was funny, potentially controversial, sang a variety of songs (and might I add these were mostly away from musical theatre) and had a superb voice.

 

Kicking off with a croony number ‘Moving Too Fast’, Garnham proceeded to reminisce between songs taking us back to his teenage years, first loves and many other ‘experiences’ that youngsters go through. Next ‘appropriate’ song was If Only I had A Brain from the Wizard of Oz and this was followed by the hilarious ‘Talk To Me’, a song about being caught in a compromising situation. The next few songs followed the pattern of a journey through the teenage years (including  – ‘Blame It On My Youth’, ‘She’ and ‘Too Excess’. Each introduction contained witty anecdotes or banter with one of his guests, the first being Kieran Brown, a strong singer with real talent.

Craig Mather, a fellow cast member from Les Mis (played Marius) joined Garnham on stage for an updated version of ‘Empty Chairs at Empty Tables’. Cleverly altered words instantly changed the song into a song about the two of them and the banter between them was extremely amusing – you could tell the two of them were good friends. A video of this can be seen here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oiDaA-sQNjM

 

‘Out There’, a Disney song followed, which was beautifully sung by Garnham alone and then Killian Donnelly joined him on stage for the absolutely fantastic Take That medley. This was an absolute highlight and the two of them are just hysterical together. Take That like you have never experienced before – oh and Killian choking on his drink just made it extra funny! If you haven’t seen the video for this then you can find it here:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tkpQpeno2eI  Thanks to Shannon Young for this – mine cut out mid routine though you can find most of it (including the beginning and end) on my account.

 

The first act was finished with ‘It’s My Life’, originally a Bon Jovi rock tune, but not at this cabaret. Oh no. It was turned into a musical medley by the pianist (Niall Bailey) as he played his way through an array of famous songs from the shows and Garnham fitted the words around the music. Very clever and if anyone has tried to sing the words of one song to the tune of another, it is really hard to do!

 

Act two started as Act One finished – Garnham introducing some more brilliant songs kicking off with ‘We Belong To The Stars’, and I was definitely impressed with his choices. They showed off his vocal range well and gave an insight into the real Scott. ‘Talking Myself Into Linda’ was next, followed by another song also better known for being more of a rock song – ‘Open Arms’ was sung as a duet with Simon Bailey. It was sung in a more theatrical style and was truly lovely, their voices very complimentary to each other. This was followed by ‘Last One Picked’, pretty obvious what this one was about from the title!

 

Moving on from his previous theme, Garnham moved onto the potentially highly controversial subject of religion. Stemming largely from the West End arrival of ‘The Book of Mormon’ the next few songs were somewhat tongue in cheek about a few religions including Muslims and Catholics. It was clear from his speeches that Garnham was in no way anti any of them – he was not being negative, purely using them as a subject and I found the songs very funny. Sabrina Aloueche sang Baptise Me with him and managed to turn it into a rather sexual sounding state of affairs – brilliant. As I have said once before, Aloueche has a really strong voice and never fails to impress.

 

‘Let’s Be Frank About the Muslims’ followed, then Catholicism was targeted with ‘Epiphany’. Maybe you had to be there but both were great. ‘Music of Heaven’ was next and then a slight change to the theme with Garnham’s self-penned ‘Self Indulgent Ballad’. Although this is not about religion, it is rather taking the mickey out of the egotism that can sometimes be found within theatre. This song is genius, I had heard it before but it gets better every time I hear it. It’s so witty and observant and highlights all the stereotypes you can think of.

 

Garnham told us that he knew the score – that at concerts the performers leave, and the audience, begging for an encore chant ‘We Want More’ until the artist reappears to sing something else. He asked us to do this (all absolutely tongue in cheek as there was nothing big headed about him and no assumptions made) but he needn’t have bothered. The packed house couldn’t wait to get him back out to sing something further for us all so amidst, cheering, whoops, and ‘We Want Mores’ he came out hi-fiving and shaking hands with everyone, another nod towards the informal evening we had all shared.

 

The show ended with ‘Good Thing Going’ and a humble looking Garnham who thanked his guests profusely. He  kept up the momentum throughout. He looked so comfortable – I have seen some who are not as happy when they are being themselves as they are when they are playing a role – but Garnham was not one of them. He was a natural comedian, crooner and performer. Special mentions must go the three GSA students – Ben Sell, Christina Bennington and Steffan Harri – who will be names to watch out for in the future without doubt, and another shout out to Niall Bailey, his piano backing was faultless and I believe he sorted out all the song arrangements.

 

Everyone left on a high, it was a top class evening, the sort I love the best with shed loads of laughter, wonderful voices and fantastic entertainment from all involved. I truly hope that these cabarets will be a regular thing as everyone should try to attend one. What fun. It was also lovely to speak to all the performers afterwards and I’d like to say a huge thank you to you all for your time.

 

Congratulations Mr Garnham, I think you may be onto something with these!

 

Keep Dreaming,
Naomi xx