My Stagey Week -31
They say blondes have more fun? Well I thought I'd find out. I honestly don't know what possessed me but this week I bleached my hair blonde. I don't know whether I look more like Jessie J circa 2013 or an alpaca, or whether people think I'll be taking over from Layton Williams in Everybody's Talking About Jamie when he takes the show on tour. Either way, the response to my new look has been good. And I'm loving it.
I had finished filming after five intense weeks and have a two week break where I'm going up to Edinburgh and move flats so I thought if there's every a time for a change, it's now. Whether I'll keep it after I get back, we'll just have to see how much fun I do have with it.
Monday and Tuesday were long and tiring days filming and late finishes which meant I didn't get to see any theatre.
On Wednesday I finished filming early. So managed to get across to the Duke of York's Theatre to watch the stage adaptation of The Girl On The Train.
Adapted from the book by Paula Hawkins which was also made into a film starring Emily Blunt. Although the novel was set in London, the movie switched location to New York. The stage version now reverts back to it's original London setting. Starring Samantha Womack most known for Eastenders and recently playing Morticia in The Adams Family Musical, the production has already toured around the UK before coming to the West End.
I had really wanted to see it on tour but missed the chance, so I was delighted when it was announced that it was coming to London. It also stars the very dishy Holby City and Eastenders star Marc Elliott, as well as Alex Ferns.
Now I don't know whether it was down to the volume of soap stars or the bad adaptation by Rachel Wagstaff and Duncan Abel, but this was nowhere near as good as the movie, which I have seen, and I suspect it doesn't compare to the original novel, which I have not seen. The dialogue was terrible, with a lot of really bad acting. The set was also very basic which I understand is probably down to the fact that they have brought it from a touring production into the West End.
The Duke of York' is also a very uncomfortable theatre. For the first half I sat in the stalls where the rake really isn't sufficient enough to allow a good eye line. For the second act I moved up to the circle, which meant I could see all the stage hands between scenes.
Thursday was my last official day filming, although I might be back in later in the year for re-shoots, but for now I said goodbye, which was a little sad, to be leaving the friends I had made, and the routine that I had started to get settled in to. We finished reasonably early, which meant I had time to pop home before heading across to the Regents Park Open Air Theatre for the press night of their new production Evita.
While I was at home I picked up my new jacket that had just arrived in the post. I had it especially made to take to Edinburgh with That Stage Blog embroidered onto the front and back of the jacket.
I was secretly hoping that it would rain so that I would get to show it off. I made it to the park with just minutes to spare to take my seat before the show began. And oh what a show!
I was transfixed from the second Trent Saunders stepped on to the stage with a microphone in his hand wearing a Che Guevera T-shirt. Samantha Pauly then crawled onto the stage I just a delicate slip.
The orchestra struck up, and the ensemble came through the aisles carrying smoking flares.
With a director like Jamie Lloyd at the helm, you pretty much know what to expect from his style and taste if you have seen any of his work before.
His style is very post apocalyptic and edgy. He's teamed up with Fabian Aloise, who has recently choreographed The View Upstairs and Madagascar, and whose work on The Rink won him an Off West End Award for Best Choreography. In The Rink he had actors tap dancing in rollerskates brilliantly.
Together Jamie and Fabian have created something exceptional, along with the superb work of musical supervisor, Alan Williams who worked on Matthew Croke's debut album. The orchestra for the production sound stunning.
Everything about this production is brilliant. The stage is set out as a bank of steps, which allows for some brilliant and innovative movement and dance.
In the same way the Jesus Christ Superstar was designed and updated for Regents Park, Eva is now presented as a modern day pop icon, abandoning the usual look and style ever seen before in any production of Evita. Samantha Pauly's Eva is strong, defiant, warrior like girl with an edge. They have stripped back and removed all the gloss and sheen to present the raw unapologetic truth behind Eva Peron and her story.
It's fair to say you can easily accuse this production of following the trend set by Jesus Christ Superstar, and yes there are a lot of similarities. But then these are both the works of Andrew Lloyd Webber, and let's face it there are always a lot of similarities within all of his scores.
Evita, is for me though my favourite Lloyd Webber musical, and I can honestly say that this is my favourite production I have seen of it.
Having seen the show before various times, this is the first time that I saw and discovered new things. Details that have always been there in Tim Rice's brilliant lyrics, but that I had missed. This production brings all these out and presents a truer more accurate portrayal of Eva Peron.
I will admit that it probably helped that I did know the story, as the way the show is now styled with few transitions and no scenery, I suspect if you have not seen this show before, that you might struggle to follow it all. The design is stunning, with some subtle pop references and tributes to Madonna and 42nd Street mixed in.
For any traditionalists out there, there is a satisfying pay off in the finale where Samantha does morph into the iconic look of Eva Person that you will know and expect. The way they do this, is simply genius, and creates a truly spine tingling theatrical moment of magic.
At this point, I also got my wish, as the rain began to fall as if perfectly timed just for the finale. As people rushed to put shawls over their heads, I proudly put on my That Stagey Blog jacket and hood.
After watching the show, I ran into Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss, the writers of Six, who have just signed an incredible deal with Warner Music. Toby was telling me how nerve racking it had been to go on for Catherine Parr recently, and says that he will definitely not be doing it again.
I had sat through the show infront of From The Wings blogger Jordan Haugh, who was equally as giddy over Fabian's choreography, I introduced her to Racky Plews who was also watching the show. I also chatted to Charlotte Jaconelli who was watching the show.
I then bumped into Charlotte Wakefield, who with Michael Xavier had both been in the Open Air Theatre's production of The Sound of Music. Michael and Charlotte were both their with their fiancées. I also caught up with Marc Antolin who last year was nominated for an Olivier Award for his performance in Little Shop of Horrors at the Open Air Theatre. I am in love with Marc's gorgeous welsh accent.
My pal Sam O'Rourke was there with Charlie Stemp, who met when they were both in Half A Sixpence together, and now share a flat together.
We were treated to prosecco, brownies and canapes as I congratulated Chloe Hart and Alex Cardall who were the only people in the production I knew personally. They were both brilliant.
Evita plays at the Regents Park Open Air Theatre until 21st September. To book visit: https://openairtheatre.com/production/evita
On Friday, it was Luke Byrne's birthday. Luke attended Arts Ed at the same time that I was there. He has gone on to act, produce and now choreograph and direct at the Union Theatre where he is currently directing Showtune: Celebrating the Words and Music of Jerry Herman.
Luke doesn't drink, so for his birthday I gave him a That Stagey Blog mug and jar of coffee as we sat down to begin the interview. Luke is beautiful which is quite distracting when trying to talk to him.
We chatted about his own career which ranges from Soho Cinders to White Christmas, he also toured with La Cage Aux Folles which introduced him to the music of Jerry Heman. The renowned composer also wrote Hello Dolly! I will be honest, I have never seen either show, and I don't know any of Jerry Herman's music. Never the less it was lovely to sit and chat to Luke who clearly has a passion and a strong future for making theatre. He is such a lovely and driven person.
My interview with Luke can be found here: https://youtu.be/hPUs4iwXqGI
After Luke, I then stayed to interview the ten cast members of Showtune. I then raced across to The Pheasantry where my friend Scott had invited me to watch Lee Mead's cabaret. Up Front and Centre. Again!
Lee won the title role in the 2007 West End revival of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, through the BBC talent show Any Dream Will Do. He is now a regular in Holby City. Along the way, Lee has continued to do these intimate gigs for his allegiance of fans, most of whom were there to watch his three date run at The Peasantry.
Scott had warned me that we would be the youngest people there, as for some reason Lee has attracted an older fan base. I remember watching Lee in Any Dream Will Do, in which he met and married judge Denise Van Outen and together they have one child, but this is probably only the second time I had met him.
He is lovely, and very charming, and with his curly hair and song choices I think the best way I can describe him is as a bit of a crooner. I did wonder whether his fan base had developed from the songs he chooses to sing, or whether his style of singing is now tailored for his fan base. I think the truth lies someone in between both of these things.
Needless to say, Lee appears comfortable and relaxed on stage as are his audience as they watch him. Lee sang a mix of musical theatre classics as well as one of two pop songs. His rendition of Gethsemane was stunning, and proved why he is an undisputed leading man. As Scott and I caught up over pizza and wine, it was all in all a very enjoyable evening.
On Saturday, after dying my hair in the morning, I spent the afternoon with friends having a BBQ, it was really lovely to catch up with them as we came together for my friend Sarah's birthday.
In the evening, I returned to the Union Theatre to watch Showtune: Celebrating the Words and Music of Jerry Herman. The theatre was quite warm as I sat on the back row with Luke.
Now, I have to say all of the productions I have seen recently at the Union Theatre, I have adored. With this one, it wasn't so much that I didn't enjoy it, it's just that it wasn't really my thing. As I said, I'm not really familiar with Jerry Herman's music, so for me a show that showcases his music, although lovely as it was, it just really wasn't my cup of tea.
Having said that, it was clear that the cast were doing a brilliant job. They all sounded superb and looked incredible as they brought Luke's choreography and staging to life, I can see this definitely being a crowd pleasure, for the right crowd, and there is nothing bad I can say about the show other than perhaps the casting.
The cast are all young, and mostly recent graduates, which is part of the Union Theatre's on going mission to create platforms for new graduates, and although this is something I certainly commend, I have known lots of actors get their breaks by starting out here. The only draw back is that when you are watching a cast of ten recent graduates, it does feel a little bit like you are watching a grad show, rather than a professional production. But when the performances are this good, why should that matter.
The show is superbly resided over by musical director Henry Brennan, who has become a Union Theatre regular.
Showtune: Celebrating the Words and Music of Jerry Herman isat the Union Theatre until 24th August. To book tickets visit: http://www.uniontheatre.biz/showtune.html
On Sunday, I spent the day packing as I had to move flats after my tenancy expired. Realising I had accumulated a lot more crap than I realised, I assigned the whole day to packing and cleaning with my flat mates.
Having managed to get it all done, I travelled across to The Albany to watch A Spoonful of Sugar.
A burlesque show that I had been invited to by Aaron Jenson who originally intended only to choreograph the show, that was supposed to be five ladies playing stripping Disney Princesses. After some drop outs, Aaron and another actor had to drag up and play the princesses themselves.
It was all presented as harmless fun, as a one of show as part of the Camden Fringe festival, and had been put together by a group of friends who all know each other from working front of house at Aladdin.
Now, I'll be honest it felt just that, like it had been put together and rehearsed in their tea breaks. Although it was harmless fun, it wasn't great, and even two people sitting in the front row left after ten minutes. I stayed, and awkwardly watched Aaron play Ariel and tucked into a couple of cupcakes and some jelly shots that were being passed around.
For what it's worth the show was sold out to an audience made up of friends who created a supportive environment for the guys to bravely bare all, and passably sing some songs and lip synced others whilst removing items of clothing.
I gave Aaron a hug afterwards and went for some drinks with his friends who were lovely before going home.
I spent my final day in Catford where I have lives for the past year, and I where I have filmed all my vlogs since starting this blog is January.
I will be moving to Chiswick where I will continue to make them in two weeks.
Before that, I am travelling up to Edinburgh for the Fringe tomorrow. When I will be making a daily vlog to talk about all the shows I see and everyone I meet each day.
If you are in Edinburgh. I will be there until 26th. So if you see me around, say hello. If you have a show that you would like me to see. Email me firstname.lastname@example.org
Tonight I will be watching Refresh at the Underbelly where they will be for your next three nights.
Refresh is a brilliant show produced by Ryan Carter with a clear aim to redefine and present musical theatre in a new way for a new audience.
I saw their show earlier this year and I absolutely loved it. So I am so looking forward to seeing what they’ve been working on.
To book tickets. Visit: http://www.underbellyfestival.com/whats-on/refresh
The accompanying video for this week’s journal can be found on my You Tube channel here:https://youtu.be/Ez8IOSv9te8
And the audio version can be found as a podcast here: https://anchor.fm/thatstageyblog/episodes/Vlog-31---Audio-e4up58