Jon Boydon answers….

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

8. Are there any negative aspects to your job?

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

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

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

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

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

10. Who or what are your influences?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Keep Dreaming,

Naomi xx

Geronimo Rauch answers…

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

With Geronimo outside HMT

With Geronimo outside HMT

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

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

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

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

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

Les Miserables still as strong as ever

So, as you all know, and as per my last post, I went to see Les Miserables last night. Last weekend doesn’t really count as tonight’s was the one I had been waiting for. The only minor downside was that we had no Tam Mutu, so Javert was played by James Gant who actually made a perfectly decent policeman.

I had booked front row seats for myself and my friend Jessica, I personally love the front row and I wanted her to be blown away the first time she saw the show live. This was my fifth time seeing this musical, but it still never fails to give me goosebumps. I dont think I’ll ever tire of the orchesta sounding out those first few bars.

Each role is so famous that it is quite difficult to go in without any expectations but to give credit to the cast they each make the roles their own and all offer excellent vocals. I enjoyed Dan Koek’s singing immensely, his Bring Him Home was beautiful and his upper register seemed to come fairly easily to him. Jean Valjean has a huge range to cover and the expected big notes – “Fliiiiiigghht”, “2-4-6-0-waaaaaann” etc – did not disappoint.

Gant was a good replacement for Mutu. There is something about Mutu’s Javert, a presence perhaps, that was slightly lacking for Gant, however I cannot really criticize his performance. Vocally he was strong, wavering a little at opposide ends of the range, but both his suicide and Stars were sung pretty much spot on. He certainly got a huge cheer for both. I am quite happy to watch understudies performing,  it often offers you a different interpretation of a part as well as the chance to see new/less well known but often equally (and occasionally more) talented folk.  

I still rather like the use of the revolve, which is used throughout,  it definitely maximises space and it is ideal for those ‘2-sided’ scenes such as the barricade or the courtyard. Both slow motion and smoke are used to cleverly create effects (I personally enjoyed Niall Sheehy’s slow-motion forward roll). The barricade is cleverly put together,  the runaway cart is effective and although a majority of the show is dark (dark streets, dark set, not exactly cheerful content) it would be wrong to add more colour than just the costumes, and of course the red flags. It also adds more of a contrast for the scenes involving the Thenardiers, the only comic relief of the piece and a most welcome one.  

Cameron Blakely has been playing the grotty innkeeper for many years and as expected his portrayal is hilarious. Wendy Ferguson (Madame Thenardier) is much newer to her role but you would never guess. Both are vulgar and conniving but deliver the comedy aspect flawlessly,  very important in these characters and they make a most enjoyable partnership to watch.  

Anton Zetterholm plays a strong Enjolras, his voice has the strength that the role requires. I feel that sometimes Enjolras, or rather his voice (I do not mean Zetterholm here, rather a general comment) can be a little weak and is therefore a bit lost, which as the leader of the students is not ideal, particularly when he burats in during One Day More. Occasionally Zetterholm’s accent comes through, but on the whole I was impressed by him. I do also really want to see his cover, Niall (one of my interviewees) in the role so fingers crossed another trip will be on the cards soon.  

There has been much speculation over Carrie Fletcher playing Eponine – why was she cast, will she be any good, etc, you name it, it’s all been asked. But I can definitely say that she makes a likeable, passionate and strong Eponine, her voice is powerful and her death is heartbreaking. It was great to finally see her play the role she has wanted for so long, and two fingers to all doubters because Miss Fletcher is brilliant as the tragic (at least, I always think she’s a tragic character) Eponine.

The ensemble are all – as you would expect – very together, well rehearsed and they make the most fabulous sound.  one Day More has always been a favourite of mine and I literally had shivers down my spine during this. The students were excellent,  most notably Grantaire (played by Adam Linstead) as he plays the most convincing drunkard and several times really made me chuckle. Of course I enjoyed also seeing ‘the many faces of Niall’ too, and Gavroche was, as always, a confident young lad. Les Miserables always has remarkably talented children, the Cosette seemed particularly tiny but still very competent.

I’ve never been a fan of Cosette, Marius or Fantine really, (though Michael Ball set an exceptionally high standard for Marius), so I dont have a huge deal to say about them, they all sang well enough (and I way preferred Samantha’s voice to Amanda Seyfried’s in the movie).  

It is really no surprise that this show has been running for so many years. The score still sounds as fresh as ever, the story in many ways still relevant. I guess I am a bit predictable but it truly is one of my favourite shows for so many reasons. Everybody should see this show (and I don’t mean the film) at least once. It is fair to say that the film has raised more interest, and to some extent I think Carrie being in it has also heightened the show’s profile again. Tonight’s audience seemed to consist of a lot of foreigners,  but in all honesty, the wider the audience the longer the production will run. My next visit wont be after such a long gap, that’s for sure. In fact, I am already planning it….

Keep Dreaming,
Naomi xx

Apologies for the formatting, this was done on my phone.

Just checking in…

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….

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

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