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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

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First Once trailer featuring Ronan Keating released

4 Dec

The multi award winning musical Once has released their very first trailer featuring new Guy – Ronan Keating – and Jill Winternitz as Girl.

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Ronan joined the cast just under two weeks ago and has received some great reviews. Check out my views on his performance here.

Ronan Keating and Jill Winternitz as Guy and Girl will lead the cast in Once The Musical at the Phoenix Theatre until 21 March 2015.

 

Book your tickets for Once here: http://www.oncemusical.co.uk

For more info follow @OnceMusicalLDN and check out the show on Facebook.

Immersive – the new theatrical “in” word

11 Nov

Is it just me or has immersive become the “in” word to describe theatre productions over the past year or so? I asked this question on Twitter the other day stating that most shows that call themselves immersive don’t even fit into that scheme.
A site specific production is not automatically immersive. The same goes for a promenade performance. I get the feeling a lot of people (even those who work in theatre) just don’t know what immersive actually means. Either that or we are talking about producers selling a product knowing fully well customers won’t get what they paid for.

The Drowned Man (Punchdrunk)

The Drowned Man (Punchdrunk)

I watched a production of Titus Andronicus a few weeks ago. The show was staged in a car park and called itself immersive. I loved the show and was impressed by the modern and unusual approach to the material. But Titus Andronicus in a car park was not immersive. It was a promenade production, simple as that. I spoke to one of the performers about this and he agreed that there was no way this production could be called immersive. After all immersive is more than getting a hug or a handshake from a performer and watching the performance while walking through or standing in the middle of the set.
Most so called immersive shows are site specific and/or promenade productions – be it Titus Andronicus in a car park or Here Lies Love in a club-like venue. Some of them may have certain immersive elements but very few shows that are advertised as immersive actually deserve that label.

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Titus Andronicus – Promenade but not immersive

So what makes a show immersive then? It’s quite simple: An immersive show makes you feel part of the story. It’s not to be confused with an interactive show in which you actually take part in the story and in which your decisions might even change the course of the show. Even though immersive shows usually have aspects of audience interaction, the audience doesn’t actually decide anything. You feel like you are in the story, performers interact with you, it looks like you are a part of what is happening. But everything you see and everything that happens is choreographed and very much controlled. And that is the beauty of immersive shows. They draw you in and make you feel part of them but they never let you take control in any way. Still you will end up thinking about your experiences for days, weeks, maybe even months. Immersive shows often have a much bigger impact on the audience than other kinds of shows.

Sleep no more (Punchdrunk)

A performer who has been working with Punchdrunk (the “Gods” of immersive theatre) for years once told me about “The Drowned Man” (Punchdrunk’s last London production and a prime example of an immersive show): “This show is not interactive. We (the performers) and the director decide the course of the performance. The audience is a part of this but they have no influence in what happens in the show. We just make them believe they do.”

That sums it up quite well I think.

Then She Fell, another great example of an immersive theatre production

Then She Fell, another great example of an immersive theatre production

 

SeatPlan – The new seat review website

7 Nov

Ever had that experience of booking tickets without being sure what seat you should go for? Many ticket booking sites provide basic information such as a “restricted view” warning for certain seats and a seating plan on which you can see if your seat is on the aisle, right in the middle or at the very side of the row, how far away from the stage it is etc. Very few theatres provide a “view from your seat” feature that shows you the view of the stage from different parts of the auditorium.

But imagine how amazing it would be if there was a website that would provide reviews of various seats in every West End theatre. Of course we already have Theatremonkey, a website that is doing a great job at providing seating information amongst other things.

However, the brand new website SeatPlan has just launched concentrating on seat reviews alone – written by theatre-goes, for theatre-goers. And if that wasn’t enough you even have the chance to collect points for your seat reviews – once you reach 50 points you receive a £10 theatre voucher. What’s not to love?

Reviews sometimes even include a photo, so visitors to the site can judge the view for themselves. Signing up for SeatPlan is quick, easy and free. Visitors can sign up via email or Facebook and access thousands of seat reviews.
Ben Jackson, Managing Director, said, “We believe that cross referencing seat prices and reviews is important when buying theatre tickets. 5 star seats are not always the most expensive as our reviews reveal.”

So why not give SeatPlan a go? After all getting the best seat in the theatre for the best price is what we all want.

St Ethelburga’s Hallowtide Fair – Punchdrunk Enrichment

7 Oct

Usually I concentrate on reviewing shows and events that have already happened or are currently running. I’m going to make an exception this time because I think this project deserves to be featured and promoted.

Eastbury Manor and Punchdrunk Enrichment present
St Ethelburga’s Hallowtide Fair

This Halloween, Punchdrunk Enrichment are working with local Barking and Dagenham residents to reimagine a legendary Hallowtide Fair that visited Barking every October in the nineteenth century but has long been forgotten.  Created for and by the community in a magnificent Tudor building – Eastbury Manor House – St Ethelburga’s Hallowtide Fair will be a magical experience for local families featuring stalls, festive music and traditional games to captivate all ages.

St Ethelburga was Abbess of Barking Abbey and each October pilgrims would flock to Barking to commemorate her Feast Day.  A local fair was held in her honour attracting visitors from far and wide. Eastbury Manor House is an enchanting property that has changed little in appearance since it was built in the 1600s.  The building has been used as a museum, an Air Raid shelter, a hospital, a stable, a merchant’s house, an outpost to Barking Abbey and may even have played its part in Guy Fawkes’ gunpowder plot.

Over the last few months, Punchdrunk Enrichment has invited Barking and Dagenham residents to Eastbury Manor to share memories of the local area and their responses to this extraordinary building.  These stories have inspired the Hallowtide Fair which will take place over three days from 31st October to 2nd November and will be designed, built and brought to life by the local community.

This will be a Halloween celebration like no other – something unexpected and new, created from local history, memories and legends. Visitors who delve a little deeper will be rewarded; discovering unexpected mysteries, hidden rooms and surprises within this magnificent Tudor building.  As the Hallowtide Fair is brought back to life the stories of the past begin to seep into the present…

Tickets are available to Barking and Dagenham residents here: http://www.thebroadwaybarking.com/event/st-ethelburgas-hallowtide-fair/

If you happen to be a local resident and find yourself with some spare time around Halloween I urge you to give this a go. It’s bound to be a great event for adults and kids.

Here’s some info about Punchdrunk Enrichment:

Since 2008, Punchdrunk’s Enrichment team has taken this immersive practice into communities, creating performances with and for children, young people and the wider community. Punchdrunk Enrichment has enjoyed widespread success, working with over 40,000 young people and community members since its inception. Punchdrunk Enrichment has worked with over 200 schools, creating groundbreaking educational projects which place pupils and teachers at the heart of the experience and provide a real catalyst for learning.
Punchdrunk Enrichment aims to give audiences and participants an unforgettable experience, which ignites and inspires their imaginations by involving them directly in an enthralling theatre story.

Here’s one example of the great work Punchdrunk do through their Enrichment programme.

 

http://www.punchdrunk.com/

 

 

Photo Gallery: The Phoenix Collective and Declan Bennett at The Boogaloo

19 Jul

The Phoenix Collective (formed by members of the original London cast of Once the musical) and Declan Bennett got together at The Boogaloo on 12th July together with a number of other artists for an afternoon of music.

Here’s a little photo collection of the gig.

If you like good music I urge you to watch out for upcoming gigs of The Phoenix Collective. Check them out on Facebook and follow them on Twitter @Feenicksband .

 

West End Live 2014 in pictures

24 Jun

Apologies for not uploading a separate photo gallery on here but the amount of photos I took is slightly overwhelming. I have put together a gallery on Facebook which I have made public so please do check out a collection of my photos on there.

West End Live Photo Gallery

A big thank you goes to Musical Theatre Review who kindly selected me to be their reviewer on the scene. As soon as time allows I will write down my thoughts on the event. The review will be a Musical Theatre Review exclusive but I will provide the link so anyone interested can check it out there.

Update
Check out my review of West End Live here

Everybody knows my name – A short film by Philip Bulcock

18 Jun

“Everybody knows my name” is a short film featuring the original London Jersey Boys leads Ryan Molloy, Glenn Carter, Philip Bulcock and Stephen Ashfield. The film is based on the song of the same title (written by Bob Gaudio and Bob Crewe) which is referred to but not actually used in the hit musical Jersey Boys. Some might call this film an extended music video but it really is so much more than that.

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We see four guys in a hotel room. The setting is gloomy and there is a hint of melancholy in the air. It is clear that these four guys are famous – members of a band. The window is opened for a second, screaming fans can be heard, the window is closed again. The four guys hardly acknowledge their surroundings. One of them starts playing a melody on his guitar. They sing a song about the price of their fame. All the while they appear impassive – maybe they are lost in thoughts, maybe they have just given up.

“Everybody knows my name” exposes the cost of fame. In the musical Jersey Boys Frankie Valli tells the audience: “If you’ve got a home and a family, you’ve got much more than me”. In Philip Bulcock’s short film we see what exactly that means.

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Ryan Molloy’s clear lead vocals are a joy to listen to and together with his fellow Jersey Boys he gives the song a wonderfully melodic sadness that fits right into the picturesque but despondent appearance of the film.

I’ve always admired the chemistry the original London Jersey Boys leads had and it is wonderful to see those four guys reunited in this film. There is something about this group that makes them special and Philip Bulcock has managed to capture this unique vibe perfectly.

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Whether you are a fan of the original London cast of Jersey Boys or just generally interested in short films – “Everybody knows my name” is a work not to be missed. Philip Bulcock proves his talent as both director and actor with a thought-provoking story told through song and pictures.

“Everybody knows my name” is set to be released on Friday, 20th of June 2014. It has been a long time waiting but I can assure you: This film is worth the wait.

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Stay up to date with the latest news about the film on Facebook and follow its director Philip Bulcock on Twitter @PhilipBulcock .

I can’t sing – Social Media Call – 21st March 2014

24 Mar

Currently still in previews the highly anticipated X Factor musical I can’t sing invited bloggers and press photographers to a special Media Call at the London Palladium on 21st March 2014.

My review of the show is coming soon. Here’s a first glimpse of the cast in action and a few snaps of the arranged cast Q&A bloggers attended after the press photo call. I have to say Barlow really is one handsome fella!

More photos can be found on my Facebook Photo Page. Check them out please (page likes always welcome).

For more info and the latest news about I can’t sing please visit the show’s website, follow @icantsingUK on Twitter and check out the show’s Facebook page.

More photos…

Watch the trailer: http://youtu.be/8ZSdAL78ffg>

Once Social Media Call – 19th March 2014

20 Mar

Just like last year selected bloggers were invited to attend a special Social Media Call of Once at the Phoenix Theatre. On top of being treated to a couple of songs from the show there was also the chance to ask the cast questions in order to get more insight into what it is like to be a part of Once the musical.

Here are a few pictures and some very special clips of the brand new cast of Once, starring Arthur Darvill as Guy and Zrinka Cvitesic as Girl.
Thank you to my guest blogger for the day, Louise Marris.

To find out more about the show please visit http://www.oncemusical.co.uk/, follow @OnceMusicalLDN on Twitter and check out the show’s Facebook page.

And watch this space for the exclusive Q&A with the cast.

Say it  to me now – live

When your mind’s made up – live

If you want me – live

Falling slowly reprise – live 


Exclusive Photo Gallery