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Bye Bye Jersey Boys

28 Mar

This post is not going to be about the final performance of Jersey Boys in the West End. Although I have been a supporter of the show since 2008 I did not attend the performance on Sunday. Jersey Boys still does and always will hold a special place in my heart though. And I did celebrate the show on Sunday but I did it by attending Ryan Molloy’s Farewell Frankie gig at the Hippodrome in London.

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For those of you that were not there and did not see anything about what happened yet I will sum it up in three words: Original Four reunited. Ryan Molloy, Glenn Carter, Philip Bulcock and Stephen Ashfield (who flew in just for a day from New York – that is dedication!) took the stage together for the first time since 2010 and gave Jersey Boys the best send off imaginable. It was a celebration of a show that has had a big impact on both its fans and the performers who have been part of it.

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I will not bore you with long talk about how important Jersey Boys has been for me – I have made friends through this show and have met so many wonderful people. I have not watched it regularly for the past few years but I cherish the memories from those first six years when I was a regular at the Prince Edward Theatre. And I am happy the show continued to make people happy for another three years at the Piccadilly Theatre.

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On Sunday I got the chance to celebrate Jersey Boys with the people who made me fall in love with it. And for that I cannot thank the man who made it happen enough: Ryan Molloy. What an incredible day he managed to put together: From the gig in the afternoon all the way to an aftershow party that went on until after midnight.

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It was lovely to see so many former Jersey Boys (and Girls) reunited at the gig and/or the aftershow party: Ryan Molloy, Stephen Ashfield, Glenn Carter, Philip Bulcock, Suzy Bastone, Kieran Jae, Charlie Bull, Chris Gardner, Jon Boydon, Matt Wycliffe, Trina Hill, Eugene McCoy – You are all amazing. Thank you for everything.

And Ryan was right: He only offers the truth – I shit you not.

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Since words cannot do the whole thing justice here are some videos for you to enjoy.









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Matt Wycliffe – Debut Album Campaign

19 Jul

If you are  a theatre fan (and if you are reading you probably are) you will have come across numerous West End performers doing crowd funding campaigns. Several of you might even have support one or more of said campaigns. And if there is one thing we all know it’s that we can’t just spend our money on anything.

That’s why I rarely promote a performer’s crowd funding campaign through this blog. I only ever do it when I am 100% convinced I am promoting something that will be worth my and your money.

Having seen Matt Wycliffe in several shows over the years and having witnesses his impressive skills not only as a singer but also as a musician I feel supporting his album campaign is something all of you should definitely consider.

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He has put together an Indiegogo crowdfunding page with a whole bunch of fun perks. There’s something for everyone: From digital album downloads to physical albums plus bonus EP, tickets for Matt’s new theatrical venture “A Million Dollar Quartet” (there are backstage tours available too), a signed electric guitar and private gigs.

Check out the campaign!

Support by pledging for one of the perks (or more – go spoil yourself!). And please spread the word: Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, tell your friends at school or at work….

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Make sure to keep up to date with all the latest updates by following Matt on Twitter @MattWycliffe .

Fascination Punchdrunk

24 May

I posted the following thoughts on my other blog a couple of months ago. Due to lack of time said other blog has been neglected for ages and will probably vanish in the not too far away future. However, this post is theatre related and I figured I might as well make it a part of my theatre blog. I know most of my readers watch “regular” theatre: Musicals and straight plays. A lot have probably never been to an immersive show. But maybe even those who have had no contact with this form of theatre so far will find the following interesting.

Why do I love Punchdrunk and what do I get out of their shows? I’ve been asked about this several times so I thought I’d try and answer once and for all.

For those who don’t know: Punchdrunk are a British theatre company who specialise in immersive shows. They take over whole buildings and transform them into a huge and insanely detailed set. The masked audience is free to explore the set and follow performers who play out a story throughout the building. Now and then an audience member will get chosen for a very personal one on one performance with a performer and if you are lucky you might even get a walk out at the end of the show – the most personal way to end a Punchdrunk performance. Usually a Punchdrunk show lasts 3 hours in which the characters play out their one hour long  story (called loop) three times. That way the audience has the chance to see several storylines, revisit favourite scenes or watch narratives from different angles.
I got hooked on Punchdrunk through their production The Drowned Man which ran in a former postal sorting office next to Paddington Station for a year. The building had been transformed into the 1960s film studio Temple Studios (including a western town, a desert and so much more), the story was a take on Woycek with references to Nathaniel West’s The Day of the Locust. My current Punchdrunk obsession is Sleep No More in New York which tells the story of Macbeth in a 1930s hotel (The McKittrick) with references to Hitchcock’s Rebecca. I attended The Drowned Man 34 times in just 4 months (I was late to the party, something I will always regret) and have seen Sleep No More 45 times so far.

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The Drowned Man

The number of visits alone is enough to produce raised eyebrows whenever I talk about my love for Punchdrunk shows. Even though I have seen other, regular theatre productions more it is the fact that I will happily watch 10 Punchdrunk performances in a row without ever getting bored. It sounds insane and people keep asking what makes me go back again and again.

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Sleep No More

First of all it’s the quality of performance you get to see when attending a Punchdrunk show. Some of the finest dancers and actors can be found in their productions and watching these guys and girls do what they do best while often standing just a few metres away is breathtaking. The second aspect is the set. Attending a Punchdrunk show is more than just watching a performance. You are transported into another world the minute you enter the building. I used to say going to see The Drowned Man was like visiting my second home. And it really felt like that after a while. When The Drowned Man closed I honestly felt like I had lost my save place – the place I could spend three hours in and forget about the outside world.

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The Hotel Lobby in Sleep No More

I guess that’s one of the main things that attracts me to Punchdrunk. Watching their shows means leaving everything else behind for the time being. It’s like a timeout from regular life. You get to be in a different world and to a certain extend you become someone else too. There is definitely a psychological aspect to it – everyone wants to break out sometime. I don’t consider myself the most outgoing person in real life. I don’t trust people easily. However, in a Punchdrunk show I have no problem putting my trust into a (most of the time) complete stranger. I don’t know most of the performers in the show and yet I’ve let them blindfold me, take me into pitch black rooms, force feed me oranges (don’t ask) and I’ve drunk whatever they have handed me without asking what exactly I was about to swallow. It’s the strange thing a Punchdrunk show will do to me. I become obedient in a way but it also sets me free. No worries, no second thoughts, no pondering if doing this or that is a good idea or not. In a Punchdrunk show I can just BE. It’s like walking around in a dream and it gives me goosebumps every single time. The thrill cannot be described, it has to be experienced.

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The desert in The Drowned Man

The Drowned Man probably described it best in one of its most used quotes: “We live inside a dream.” This is exactly what Punchdrunk shows are for me. The chance to live in another reality, if only for a few hours. And who doesn’t want that now and then.

You can find out about Punchdrunk’s latest ventures here.
And if you are ever in New York I urge you to check into The McKittrick for an evening.

Theatreboard.co.uk: The new home of independent theatre discussion

12 Feb
The UK now has a new independent online forum to discuss theatre – TheatreBoard.


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Following the recent decision by ist American parent company to discontinue support for the discussion forums originally established by WhatsOnStage.com, a group of dedicated fans have taken on the challenge to create a brand new home for lively and informed discussion about the UK theatre scene and beyond.

 

Once the closure of the old forum was announced at the start of January, many users rapidly got involved suggesting ways forward. Different approaches were considered before the community as a whole put ist support behind a plan to create a new home at http://www.theatreboard.co.uk.

 

A former moderator of the WhatsOnStage.com forum commented: “It was fantastic seeing our online community come together to protect something they valued so much. It was a very democratic process and we are proud to have launched the new site within a matter of weeks”.
A small team of volunteer staff came together to cover the costs and work on the
design and functionality of the new site which already boasts over 500 members and is averaging 17,000 hits a day.

 

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A spokesperson said “We are thrilled to have secured this new online home which we hope will continue to grow and flourish in the years to come. Everyone is welcome – whatever type of theatre they enjoy or how often they manage to see a show”.
TheatreBoard features sections discussing musicals, plays, performers and following member demand, a new area dedicated to opera and dance. Conversations already cover dozens of productions including West End, fringe and touring; alongside topics as diverse as badly behaved audiences to theatre technology and a live chat planned for the upcoming Olivier awards.

 

All year round the UK delivers an exceptional wealth of live theatre in venues ranging in size from over two thousand seats down to the most intimate studio spaces. TheatreBoard aims to support informed, varied and vigorous debate among those who love theatre.

 

 

2015 – A look back

15 Dec

First of all apologies for the lack of updates lately. I won’t bore you with details so lets just say I simply didn’t have the time to do any proper writing and unless I can really sit down and do something properly I would rather not do it at all – that goes for writing reviews as well. Plus most shows I visited in the past 2-3 months have been repeat visits or previews so not much to review anyway unless I wanted to bore you with ramblings about the same shows over and over again.

Anyway, what’s the point of this post? Easy, it’s the end of the year (almost) so time for my annual look back. I do have one more show coming up this year – Love never dies (Liebe stirbt nie) in Hamburg – but I doubt I will manage to post my views before January so in terms of reviews I am done for 2015.

It’s been a New York City kind of year for me with three trips in total. The award for most watched and most loved show of the year goes to Punchdrunk’s Sleep no more. You can find my review from my first visits in 2014 here. The show never fails to amaze me and even after almost 30 visits I am still discovering new things. If you like immersive theatre this is a must see. Actually, it is a must see, full stop. If you happen to be in New York at some point do go and check it out. It’s different, it’s clever, it’s thrilling and it’s visually stunning.

Another immersive theatre highlight in New York City was Third Rail Projects’ Then She Fell which I was lucky enough to see twice this year. I am still in awe of the pure beauty of this show and cannot wait to see the company’s new production Grand Paradise on my next trip to the Big Apple.

When it comes to musicals I am so glad one of my favourites of 2014 has made a return in 2015: In the Heights opened at the King’s Cross Theatre after a succesfull run at Southwark Playhouse last year. Find my review here and please don’t miss this gem of a show.

Then there was Gypsy at the Savoy Theatre and Imelda Staunton’s incredible performance as Mama Rose. In case you missed it or if you just want to rewatch it in the comfort of your home: It’s on BBC4 on 27th December (for those outside the UK: Have a google, there’s ways to stream tv online from abroad).

Other favourites of the year are An American in Paris (Broadway), Fun Home (Broadway) and Jersey Boys (London). I rediscovered my love for the latter after staying away for more than a year.

Personal fangirl highlight of the year: Meeting Hugh Jackman in New York City in January. The man is not just talented but also lovely.

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Hugh Jackman

 

Same goes for Ben Whishaw who I saw in Bakkhai at the Almeida Theatre this year and who remains my favourite British stage actor.

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Ben Whishaw

 

With this said there is nothing left for me than to thank everyone who has contributed to this little blog by reading, commenting and sharing (also a big thanks to the performers who kindly took part in my “10 Questions with” interview series). I really appreciate all the support and I am looking forward to sharing an exciting theatrical 2016 with you. Please keep in touch – comment on here, tweet or email me. I love hearing from fellow theatre supporters.

Wishing all of you a merry christmas and a wonderful new year.

xx

A day in the life of Chowsie – The Diva Dog

12 Aug

Ever wondered what it’s like backstage when you’re a West End star? What about if you’re a West End star who is also a dog?!

The secret star of Gypsy

The secret star of Gypsy

Gypsy’s Nessie (who plays ‘Chowsie’) has given exclusive backstage access to her life treading the boards at the Savoy Theatre.
Chauffeur driven Rolls Royce? Check. Valet service? Check. Olivier & BAFTA winning actress looking out for your every need? TRIPLE CHECK.

A theatrical dog’s life really isn’t all that bad!

Find Gypsy on Twitter @GypsyMusicalLDN and Facebook.
To book tickets visit http://gypsythemusical.uk/

RED – A new work by Mischief

1 Aug

Dancing has always been one of my favourite things to watch. I’m not into classical ballet but I adore contemporary dance. Over the past one and a half years I have been paying more attention to dance companies in the UK (there are so many – I had no idea before I started looking properly) and now and then one sticks out. One of those companies is Mischief who are currently developing a new dance piece called RED.

RED explores the fairytale Little Red Riding Hood and Dante’s Inferno and is being directed and choreographed by David Lloyd.

“Told through the character of the M.C. the story follows a relationship between RED and the wolf, passionate and intense. Through the change of season the two become consumed by the nature around them drawing the male to become animalistic, controlling, manipulative and the women to become victim, fragile, lost. RED descends into madness as the male transition from boy to wolf devouring her every move. In one last attempt to save her life RED battles the wolf for her territory, axing the wolf to death. BUT did the wolf actually exist or is RED playing both roles?” (taken from Mischief’s sharing website)

Company members for RED are Darragh Butterworth as WOLF, Vinicius Salles as THE M.C / DEVIL and Miranda Mac Letten as RED.

THE M.C. / DEVIL played by VINICIUS SALLES "MIDWAY upon the journey of our life I found myself within a forest dark, For the straightforward pathway had been lost." (Canto 1 - INFERNO - THE DIVINE COMEDY BY DANTE ALIGHIERI)

THE M.C. / DEVIL played by VINICIUS SALLES
“MIDWAY upon the journey of our life I found myself within a forest dark,
For the straightforward pathway had been lost.”
(Canto 1 – INFERNO – THE DIVINE COMEDY BY DANTE ALIGHIERI)

Mischief has been sharing the development of RED via live stream over the past weeks. Please do yourself a favour and take a look at the recorded sharing of the past two weeks here: http://www.ustream.tv/channel/mischief-company-sharing

Right from the start I noticed that this is a show with a proper and clear storyline. Lets be honest, dance pieces have  the tendency to not be very accessible unless you are a) familiar with the material or b) experienced in the world of dance theatre. RED is very much still in development and everything that has been shared is just a rough first look at what will be the finished show. But everything I’ve seen so far has proven that RED is going to be an exciting new dance piece – it’s funny and scary and it will move you to the core.

"Oh, grandmother, what big ears you have!"  "All the better to hear you with."  "Oh, grandmother, what big eyes you have!"  "All the better to see you with."  "Oh, grandmother, what big hands you have!"  "All the better to grab you with!"  "Oh, grandmother, what a horribly big mouth you have!"  "All the better to eat you with!"   (Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm - Little Red Riding Hood)

“Oh, grandmother, what big ears you have!”
“All the better to hear you with.”
“Oh, grandmother, what big eyes you have!”
“All the better to see you with.”
“Oh, grandmother, what big hands you have!”
“All the better to grab you with!”
“Oh, grandmother, what a horribly big mouth you have!”
“All the better to eat you with!”
(Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm – Little Red Riding Hood)

RED is driven by a gripping plot told through dancing and acting. The three dancers are beyond talented and really bring the characters to life. I’ve been particularly impressed by the often raw physicality of the choreography. Combine this with a clever set and great music and you’ve got a mesmerising show.

Dance theatre rarely gets the same amount of support as musical theatre. And as much as I like my musicals (and I know most of the people reading this do too) I really urge everyone to keep an eye out for all the exciting dance pieces that are being performed at venues across the UK.

'A gentleman is simply a patient wolf' Lana Turner

‘A gentleman is simply a patient wolf’
Lana Turner

As for RED – take a look at the recorded sharing and if you like what you see please show your support. You can find Mischief on Facebook and Twitter @Companymischief . Do get in touch and share your thoughts on RED. The Mischief guys are really nice people and would love to hear from you.

And please spread the word and keep an eye out for all the exciting things to come. It’s not every day you get the chance to see a brilliant dance piece being developed right before your eyes.

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A personal message

17 Jul

I was planning to post several reviews this week catching up with all the shows I saw on my last trip to London and Leeds. However, on Monday I received a message that put a stop to those plans. At the end of last week a friend of mine sadly passed away unexpectedly.

Brian was a kind and funny man. He travelled all the way from Colorado to watch The Drowned Man in London again and again (my trips from Germany were nothing compared to his efforts to see the show!). I only saw him a couple of weeks ago on my last trip to New York. It seems unreal that I will never wait in the queue with him again pre Sleep No more, never have a post show drink in the Manderley with him again, never meet up for brunch at The Heath on a Sunday again.
He was such a vital part of the Punchdrunk community sharing his experiences in (sometimes insanely detailed) show write ups. Everyone who spoke to Brian about The Drowned Man or Sleep No More would notice how his eyes lit up when he talked about his favourite characters and performers. He once said Punchdrunk completely changed his outlook on life.

You can find Brian’s show reports in his blog: http://shuttersopen.tumblr.com/. Read them even if you have no connection to the shows. Brian’s passion and enthusiasm for the things he loved most is infectious.

I’ve decided to talk about this on here because a donation page has been set up in Brian’s memory. Every pound goes directly to Punchdrunk and so helps to support future projects that hopefully will have just as much of an impact on others as The Drowned Man and Sleep No More had on Brian.

Please take a look, give if you can or just think of Brian for a minute and share. We want the memory of Brian to live on through his love for Punchdrunk.

http://rememberingbrian.tumblr.com/

Help Ryan Molloy bring a 10 year dream alive

16 May

Usually I don’t use this blog to promote Kickstarter campaigns simply because I don’t want anyone to feel like I’m trying to make them spend their hard earned cash.

However, I’m going to make an exception because I think this campaign and the person running it is worth it. I’ve been following Ryan Molloy’s career for the past 7 years and I can honestly say this man is one of the most talented performer I have ever had the pleasure of seeing on stage. He’s probably best known for playing Frankie Valli in the hit musical Jersey Boys in the West End and he recently reprised the role on Broadway to rave reviews.
Apart from being a great theatre performer Ryan is also a gifted songwriter who has released several albums over the years. And now he is working on his latest release: Ryan Molloy’s Suntan, an album of original songs written and performed by Ryan and his band Suntan.

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This is where you come in. Ryan is raising funds to complete the studio recordings and launch the album live on stage at a venue in London in August.

I know this is not the first Kickstarter campaign of this kind and obviously we all don’t really have a lot of spare money. I was lucky enough to attend a private Suntan gig in March and I can assure you that if you like Ryan Molloy’s voice or funk music (or both!) this Kickstarter campaign is for you. I am quite picky when it comes to live music – I’m one of those people who usually have a few favourite songs on an album but just as many songs they will skip. Because of that gigs can be very hit and miss for me depending on how many of my personal favourites the artist will play. However, Suntan have managed what very few other bands have: A collection of favourite songs and nothing else. Their music is fresh, funky and quite simply a whole lot of fun.

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So, please do yourself and me a favour and check out Ryan’s Kickstarter campaign. Please spread the word and support someone I not only consider a brilliantly talented singer and songwriter but also a great person who deserves every success.

(Plus some of the pledge rewards are just insane and need to be seen – if anyone goes for the spray tan pledge please let me know and I will personally buy you a ticket for the album launch gig when they go on general sale!).

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/622093788/ryan-molloys-suntan-recording-the-album-and-launch

The theatrical 2014 – A look back

23 Dec

Seriously, how fast has this year come and gone? Feels like yesterday that I was planning my first theatre trips of 2014.

On the theatrical side 2014 has been a true rollercoaster. First there were two major cast changes and in one case even a theatre change. The Original London Cast of Once played their last performance on 8th March 2013. It has been such a joy to watch these brilliant guys and girls on stage at the Phoenix for a year. And even though Once remains truly wonderful the show lost something very special on that Saturday in March.

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Just a day later it was the end of an era. Ryan Molloy played his final performance as Frankie Valli in the London production of Jersey Boys. It also marked the end of Jersey Boys at the Prince Edward Theatre and the end of my time as a regular at the show. What an emotional weekend and something I feel privileged to have been a small part of.

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A Musical highlight of the year has to be In the Heights at Southwark Playhouse. I remember watching the show on Broadway back in 2009 and thinking it was an ok but not outstanding musical. That completely changed when I saw the Southwark Playhouse production. I was in awe from start to finish. One of the best fringe productions I have seen in my life.

On the straight play side the excellent production of Of Mice and Men at the Birmingham Repertoire Theatre deserves a mention especially because I sadly didn’t get round to writing a review. I generally adore this play and it was a delight to see such a wonderful version of it.

The annual West End Live event once again had its place in my theatre diary in June. Representing Musical Theatre Review I was a photographer for the weekend with the opportunity to witness various performances up close. Take a look at some of the pictures I took here.

A through and through life-changing experience (in terms of my theatre life) occurred in early March. I attended Punchdrunk’s The Drowned Man at Temple Studios. It took me about 3 weeks to come to terms with what I had witnessed but from that moment on I was hooked. This was my first immersive theatre performance and it was both exciting and scary. Being inside Temple Studios felt like being in a different world. I was late to the party (The Drowned Man had been running since summer 2013) but this show literally opened a new theatrical world for me. From March to July all other shows had to take a step back. It was about The Drowned Man during those months. And yes, I still miss Temple Studios.

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In September I was lucky enough to fly over to New York and see Ryan Molloy reprise the role of Frankie Valli, this time in the Broadway production of Jersey Boys. A huge thank you to Ryan at this point for being all around brilliant and for making me feel so welcome. I even got to stand on a Broadway stage (I had to mention this, a very special moment).

And what else beside Jersey Boys could I watch in New York but Punchdrunk’s Sleep no more at the McKittrick Hotel. I adored the show and urge all of you to go check it out if you get the chance. I’m flying back to the Big Apple in January for several more hours inside the McKittrick Hotel and can hardly contain my excitement.

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The last London theatre highlight of the year turned out to be Here Lies Love at the National Theatre – one of the most upbeat shows of the year that just pulls you in. I highly recommend you go and see it if you can get a ticket for the rest of the run.

It really has been an exciting theatrical year and I am happy and thankful I got to spend so much time doing what I love: Watch and experience shows. It’s been a joy to support so many talented performer – some of which I have known for years. A special thanks goes out to all the wonderful Punchdrunk performers for making 2014 so absolutely unique – neither The Drowned Man nor Sleep no more would have been even half as amazing without all those talented people.

Well, that’s it for 2014 I guess. I have no more theatre trips planned during the last few days of the year but the theatrical 2015 is shaping up nicely already.

I would like to thank all performers who have given up their free time to take part in my blog Q&As, everyone who has contributed to this blog in any way and, of course, all of you who have been reading my theatre ramblings throughout the year. I really appreciate the comments, likes and shares – thank you!

Wishing all of you a Merry Christmas and all the best for the new year. X