My Stagey Week -28
Updated: Jul 28, 2019
My life literally was a cabaret last week. I might as well have moved in to the Crazy Coq. Not that I'm complaining the art deco styled cabaret space nestled within the Zedel Brassiere near Piccadilly Circus is a beautiful venue. They give you popcorn on your table, serve cider, and their food is amazing. What more could I want. Any one who performs there, gets a free meal, and occasionally I have snuck on to the table with some of my pals to join them after their shows, whether it was Scott Alan flirting with the waiter, or Lauren Samuels arguing with one, they are always entertaining evenings.
This was my second week of filming at Pinewood, although I wasn't needed until Thursday, which gave me the start of the week free.
On Monday I spent the evening with Alex Lodge. Fortunately for him there was a room full of other people, so the restraining order was not required. Before I begin to gush, I will disclose that I have a slight crush on this man, even though he is straight. He is beautiful. I first saw him perform opposite Jonathan David Dudley in Closer to Heaven at the Union Theatre, and most recently saw him in Romance Romance at Above the Stag with Ryan Anderson.
On Monday, Alex took over the Sing Easy room at the Piano Works West End to present two sets of his cabaret Pints Pals and Diabetes and of course I stayed to watch both shows. Both in aid of Diabetes UK and Acting For Others, Alex joked as he opened each show saying that as an actor with type one diabetes, basically all the money that was raised would come straight back to him. This was one of many corny jokes that Alex endearingly delivered throughout the evening. To my delight, and anyone else who was there, he also delivered a plethora of stagey tunes from his repertoire.
He was joined for his first show by Grace Mouat from Six, who is about to head off to Manchester with & Juliet. She sang Part of Your World from The Little Mermaid, which she declared was a big two fingers up to the #NotMyAriel campaign which had hit social media after the announcement that Halle Bailey had been cast as Ariel in the live action version of The Little Mermaid. Accompanied by Kris Rawlinson, who resided as MD for both shows. Grace added some flare to Kris' new arrangement of the song.
Kris is an old friend of Alex, who recently got married with Alex as his best man. Kris is a brilliant musical director who toured with Rachel Tucker and produced the successful West End Switched Off albums.
Alex's second guest was Mollie Melia Redgrave who stuck around to sing at both shows. Mollie trained at Arts Ed with Alex, where she gave a celebrated performance as Eva Peron in Evita in their final year. She performed a song from Frozen and 9 to 5 and sounded incredible.
Alex continued to sing songs from The Book of Mormon, in which he was understudy for Elder Price in the West End for three years. During the evening Alex opened up about having diabetes as well as talking about depression. Alex talked candidly about both as he defiantly told us that he is careful with the terminology never to use the word 'suffers with' when he describes his conditions. Refusing to allow his disorders to own him, he boldly acknowledged that he simply lives with them. His words were very empowering and well put as he sang 'Waving Through a Window' from Dear Evan Hansen.
As I said, I already had a soft spot for Alex before this evening, but listening to him open up about his demons, just made me want to cuddle him. As with Ryan Anderson, who I actually interviewed at Sing Easy when he opened up to me about his anxiety, I still find it incredible that two lovely, characteristic and ridiculously talented young men like Ryan and Alex can be affected by mental illness. It goes without saying, mental illness can and does effect anyone, even people who exude confidence when they stand on a stage behind a microphone. But for me when I look at these guys, I am in awe of their talent and charm and yet within themselves they often don't see and feel about themselves what we all see in them.
I really commend Alex for talking openly about his condition, and about his diabetes, which he alluded had recently prevented him from taking a job as a performer on a cruise ship.
For Alex's second show, he was joined by the incredible Matthew Harvey who is currently playing Peter in Jesus Christ Superstar at the Barbican. Matt performed a mash up of 'Summer of 69' and 'Living on a Prayer', accompanying himself on guitar. This delighted the crowd which included Olly Dobson who also attended Arts Ed with Alex. Olly is about to start rehearsals to play Marty Mcfly in Back to the Future the Musical.
Joining Alex as his final guest for the evening was Lucy May Barker, who came straight from performing as Sophie in Mamma Mia! Earlier in the evening. The pair had an incredible report as they talked about how they briefly dated when they were younger, and had performed together in a touring show of High School Hits, this led to the pair performing a medley of songs from High School Musical.
The evening was incredible. Alex even gave us a costume change, slipping from a grey chequered suit into a the navy one that he had worn at Kris' wedding.
My friend Drew joined me for part of the evening. Drew had not been to Sing Easy before, but had been told of it as a possible venue to stage his musical Villages.
On Tuesday I made the most of my day off by booking some time at the Crazy Coq to interview Amy Di Bartolomeo, Daniel Downing and Caroline Kay.
Amy was first up, and arrived with a mass of curly brown hair and energy. She treated me to a chocolate milkshake and brownie as she ordered an espresso and began telling me about her upbringing with an Italian father and an English mother. This was the first time that I had met Amy although I had seen her in Bat out of Hell, which she stayed with for its runs in Manchester, the Coliseum and then Toronto, before declining the offer to return to the show when it came to the Dominion. As I told Amy about the movie I am currently filming, she leaned in and told me off camera that she has been cast in the new touring production of We Will Rock You, as Oz.
Amy was an absolute dream to interview, as I quizzed her all about her career and roles in Starlight Express and Priscilla Queen of the Desert. We talked about her upcoming show at the Crazy Coq as part of the Big Smoke Festival that Thursday. I was disappointed to miss it as she had some incredible guests, Lucy St Louis and Lisa Marie Holmes.
For my interview with Amy visit: https://youtu.be/1LYJyQzACYo
And look out for her in We Will Rock You which opens in Bromley from September. http://www.queenonline.com/wwry/uk_tour
On Tuesday evening I came back to the Crazy Coq to watch Emma Lindars, As We Grow Older cabaret taken from the name of her recently released debut album. She was joined by MD Tom Knowles who I first met when he was one of the original hosts of Overtures piano bar.
Emma is a formidable singer who I have known for probably about eight years, just after she finished playing one of the Divas in Priscilla Queen of the Desert. She then went onto form singing trio The I-dolls with fellow divas Portia Emare, and Charlotte Riby. The three have continued to perform together intermittently around whatever work commitments they all have. Charlotte is currently in Waitress. All three are incredible vocalists together and separately.
Emma performed a number of songs including a stripped back jazz version of 'I Will Survive' and 'Never Enough' from The Greatest Showman which has fast become her anthem since she sang it at a West End Fest cabaret at the Actors Church in Covent Garden. The song motivated her friend Steven to launch a kick starter campaign that funded Emma's first album.
Following Emma in the 9.15pm slot, was Nick Hayes, an absolutely gorgeous human being who is about to play Adam in the new touring production of Priscilla Queen of the Desert.
This was Nick's first solo show and he was a natural. His hair might have been a little too sun kissed and his face a little red from overdosing on sunshine leading up to the show, never the less Nick looked and sounded gorgeous, and seemed completely at ease as he talked about his life and the songs that had inspired him.
He was joined by MD Sean Green who is about to work with Nick on Priscilla Queen of the Desert. His guests included Jessica Aubrey who sang an original song called 'I Do Until I Die' accompanied by Craig Watson. They had all worked performed together in Grease on the Royal Caribbean cruise liner. Jessica was very funny and the pair had a good bit of banter.
Nick was next joined by Sabrina Alouche to perform 'Shallow', as well as Julia Jenkins who also sang an original song.
My highlight was hearing Nick sing a stripped back version of 'If I Only had a Brain' from the Wizard of Oz.
Nick is a sensational performer, who talks opening about defeating drug and alcohol addiction and has been sober for nearly four years, which we discussed when I interviewed him last month. The interview can be found here: https://youtu.be/uLfGLkKU_nA
On Wednesday it was time for Geneviève Nicole's My Gift to You. If you saw the interview with Genevieve you will already know how hilarious she is. I first met her through my friend Peter who used to be her agent, and I think she's incredible. Her evening was exactly what you would expect, stagey, camp and fun. She was joined base player Jack Cherry and by MD Nick Barstow who is known for his Re:Arragements.
I chatted to Nick afterwards who has a new album coming out later in the year which will feature Alice Fearn, Noel Sullivan and Andy Coxon.
Genevive's guest was Vicki Lee Taylor who she had met and worked with in A Chorus Line. Vicki is lovely and very funny, the pair sang Happy Days Are Here Again/Get Happy, and a reworked version of No More Tears Enough is Enough.
Genevieve didn't have any medical conditions or disorders to talk about, but did talk about how tough the industry can be, she now teaches between jobs which she admits she absolutely loves.
My interview with Genevive can be found here: https://youtu.be/LhsRDEi8Bl0
On Thursday I was busy filming during the day, so I missed Amy Di Bartolomeo's cabaret, but I managed to make it in time for the Velma Celli's My Diva's and Me. He was accompanied by Edward Court.
Velma Celli is the drag persona of Ian Stroughair who produced the entire Big Smoke Festival, and it's not easy.
I've known Ian for about six years and first met him when he was playing Angel in Rent in Concert which toured with Kerry Ellis. It was around then that he began focusing on Velma Celli as his main creative outlet. As Velma, he has released an album and toured around the world creating different cabaret shows.
In My Divas and Me Velma delivers an assortment of songs from the all time divas including Whitney Houston and Celine Dion. Ian's voice is remarkable, and as a drag queen Velma is hilarious, delivering gag after gag of razor sharp wit. On my way to the show I stopped to buy some flowers for Ian, to say congratulations and well done for all the hard work he has put into the entire week. As Velma sang her encore, and the audience stood in ovation, I took to the stage to present Ian with the flowers and to say thank you. I was a bit worried he might have felt I was ambushing his stage, but he actually seemed overwhelmed by the gesture, which pleased me.
My interview with Ian can be found here: https://youtu.be/AE6Vp_kRTFE
On Friday I was up early for filming again, but because of the rain, filming was aborted and I got sent home early, which I was delighted about. It meant I was able to catch An Evening with Declan Egan, the last of this week's Big Smoke Festival.
The room was packed as the evening had sold out, and I managed to tuck myself into the corner to film some of the evening.
Declan I have known for a couple of years as he used to date a friend of mine, but this was the first time I had actually heard him sing. As well as appearing in Jersey Boys in the West End he went on to tour around the UK with it with Simon Bailey, who was one of his guests for the evening.
Joined by MD Nick Barstow, Declan worked chronologically through songs that he had sang throughout his career which included 'I Believe' from The Book Of Mormon that Declan toured America with.
Although I had interviewed Declan, I had no idea how funny he is. His entire evening was superb, and his voice is incredible. He brought to the stage his sister Cara Egan who was equally impressive to sing 'Shallow'. Along with 'Maybe This Time', I had heard 'Shallow' three times this week, but Cara was stunning, and you could see in Declan's eyes how much he adores his sister.
The room was full of supportive friends as Declan amused us all with stories from his childhood and career. He delivered a mash up of Hamilton and Dear Evan Hansen with Simon, before closing the show with 'Oh! What a Night' and 'Ce'La Vie' which brought the house down.
My interview with Declan can be found here: https://youtu.be/XCUMRIm05ug
On Saturday, I went along to watch Magic of the Musicals one of the three summer concerts presented at the Bromley Amphitheatre by Torch Entertainment. The other two were Marvellous Motown and Big Band Fever.
The amphitheatre is tucked away next to a large lake next to Bromley's Churchill theatre, and is a beautiful setting. I happened to have lived up the road near Catford for nearly a year, and I had no idea that this was even here.
For the three evenings chairs are put out and a large marquee erected over the stage. There are also portoloos brought in and a bar set up within a tent. It's a very professional operation, and I was really impressed.
The evening was presented by Georg Tormann who was one of the judges in BBC's All Together Now series. Georg was an absolute natural, with a lot of charisma and control as a host. The guests were Charlotte Wakefield and Stuart Matthew Price both who are close friends, who I have known for years.
Charlotte has had an extensive career as a leading lady, and Stuart has one of the best voices I have ever heard. The pair have had some time out recently, so for them both this was a huge return singing over twenty show tunes between them across the evening. They were accompanied by an excellent and enthusiastic choir, and a superb orchestra.
It was nice to hear Charlotte sing a medley of Mamma Mia! Songs, the show which she was in when I met her, I sat with her fiance Marc for the evening, and went for a drink with them both afterwards to catch up, as Charlotte showed me photos of the house they have put an offer in for.
The concert was brilliant, and a real treat to hear and see two of my favourite performers. Their friendship and banter spilled out between songs. They ended the evening singing Seasons of Love from Rent which is also one of my favourites.
I was really impressed with the evening, and felt it was a shame that it wasn't fully attended. There were several rows of unoccupied seats, which I blame on their marketing. Their art work could do with an overhaul if they are to attract more people, and to be honest I would not have know about this concert had it not been for the fact that I am friends with Charlotte and Stuart, and saw them post it on Facebook.
Having really enjoyed the evening, I will definitely look out for it again next year.
Here is my interview with Charlotte from earlier in the year. https://youtu.be/BayjRkgz9TE
On Sunday, I spent the afternoon watching the new live action film of The Lion King, a film that originally came out when I was twelve. I had avoided listening to any of the soundtrack, but knew that Beyonce was involved. Running late after struggling to find a parking space, I missed my chance to get some icecream and almost missed the film itself. But as I settled into my seat, it began. It was brilliant. The effects are superb, it honestly felt like I was watching a wildlife documentary. There were nicely considered updates to the script which added more context to the characters and story. Having seen the original so many times, it was difficult at first to adjust to the voices being distinctly different, Beyonce's in particular was especially jarring, as it literally just sounded like her which was unfortunately a bit detracting. But on the whole it was a stunning movie which I enjoyed.
After the film I made my final visit of the week to the Crazy Coq, to complete my week of cabarets, and who else to end up but the magnificent Steph Parry.
Steph and I had forged a friendship since we met when she covered a fitness class I was in. Steph trained at Arts Ed, and achieved notoriety after her amazing headline making dash down the road from 42nd Street to Mamma Mia! Steph is probably one of the hardest working and talented people I know, and has a wicked sense of humour. She has been a firm fixture in my blog, and was one of the first people I interviewed for my 'Meets' series. Since then I have pretty much attended all her cabarets as well as evenings where she hosted nights at the Piano Works West End.
Joining Steph for the evening was MD Ben Papworth, who she has worked with several times at the Piano Works, as well as her Wicked co-star Oliver Savile and from 42nd Street, Pamela Blair
I arrived just before the show started and popped into the restaurant where the four of them were dining before the show. I introduced myself to Oliver who I have not actually met before and asked him how his weekend had been. The day before he had performed at Theatre in the Fields along with my friend Abigail Carter Simpson. I was asked to attend the festival, and invited to camp over, however I had already planned to see Charlotte and Stuart in Magic of the Musicals. However Oliver said it is something that will definitely grow each year, and I will make a special effort to go next year.
Steph began her evening with a song from Wicked, before delivering songs from 42nd Street, Billy Elliot and Mamma Mia! All the shows that she has been in. Accompanied by Pamela on guitar the duo sang an acoustic medley of Mamma Mia! Songs she then sang a duet from Spamalot with Oliver who also sang a song from The Last Ship. Ben stepped in to sing 'Anything You can Do' with Steph who also sang 'When I kissed the Teacher' from Mamma Mia 2, which she exclusively revealed will be one of the songs that she sings in Mamma Mia Party, the new immersive show that she has begun working on.
For Steph the evening marked her last cabaret for the foreseeable future while she focuses on Mamma Mia Party. The highlight of the evening for me was hearing Steph sing 'Me and the Sky' from Come From Away, which I had not heard her sing before, and she was superb.
The evening came to a close, as did my week of cabarets.
I said earlier in the year that I was beginning to tire of watching cabarets. For me they had begun to loose their appeal and they weren't offering me anything. It often felt tedious to hear the same songs being sung at the same venues by the same people; and although this week revisited cabarets from Genevieve, Emma, Velma, and Steph, all of them did actually offer more, and sang some new stuff as well as some old favourites, which I reminded myself I actually never get tired of hearing. These are all incredible performers who you often pay a small fortune to sit in a huge theatre to catch often only a glimpse of them. Here in their cabarets, you get an up close and personal experience and a chance to see and hear them intimately.
This week also introduced me to the voices and personalities of Alex, Nick, and Declan, all of whom I knew but had never actually seen perform. Cabarets offer an insight into their lives and it's a real privilege to feel welcomed into their worlds, and to share the music they love.
These cabarets also offer the chance to see some of the most incredible musical directors working in the industry. Sean Green, Ben Papworth, and Nick Barstow are simply genius. Music runs through their veins. I often catch myself watching them during the shows, as its actually quite captivating to see how involved they are, you can literally see the music coming out of their souls, and as well as being able to play impeccably, they can all sing superbly, and are all brilliant composers developing new arrangements.
I took myself to bed early on Sunday night with show tunes buzzing around my head, ready for more filming next week.
The accompanying video for this week’s journal can be found on my You Tube channel here: https://youtu.be/AILL9g5g21Q
And the audio version can be found as a podcast here: https://anchor.fm/thatstageyblog/episodes/Vlog-28--Audio-e4o4uf