Tag Archives: Carley Stenson

Les Misérables – London

14 Jun

Les Misérables has long been one of the all time classics of London’s theatre scene. And ever since the release of the motion picture starring Hugh Jackman as Jean Valjean the musical’s popularity has reached new highs.

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Now in its 33rd year the show recently welcomed a new cast to the Queen’s theatre. Dean Chisnall now stars as Jean Valjean – the man who quite frankly gets into a whole lot of trouble for stealing a loaf of bread. Having recently appeared as The Narrator in Blood Brothers (UK Tour) this is Dean’s long overdue return to the West End. Jean Valjean is a role that requires both vocal and acting strength. And Dean is not short on either of those. He manages to give Valjean a vulnerability that makes it easy to relate to the convict who breaks his parole. At the same time his Valjean is determined and strong. He is haunted by his past but knows right from wrong and wants to be a good man. Vocally Dean handles the score with ease, his “Soliloquy” and “Bring him home” being a particular highlight.

David Thaxton continues as Javert until July 21st (Bradley Jaden takes over from July 23rd). His take on the role is unique and perfect in its very own way – Javert being driven by his hunt for Valjean and appearing to be on the edge of losing his mind. Combined with a strong voice this makes for a stand out performance. Seeing Dean and David on stage together is especially thrilling. Watching them literally puts you on the edge of your seat.

Elena Skye’s Eponine is exactly what I expect of the role – rough and a bit run down from what life has thrown at her, yet strong and witty with a will to be better than her parents. Eponine is not the pretty girl from next door and Elena portrays just that. Her “On my own” brings the house down and her longing for Marius is believable without being tacky.

Another strong new addiction to the cast is Amara Okereke as Cosette who does not drift into the “helpless girl” cliché too much which is all too easy with this role. And with her clear voice she manages to express Cosette’s feelings through the songs.

Toby Miles is a solid Marius with a good voice. However, the stand out amongst the students is Samuel Edwards’ Enjolras who shines every time he appears on stage. I will admit I am no fan of his wig – but that might be just me.

The Thenardiers, played by Steven Meo and Vivien Parry, provide most of the comic relief moments of the show with Vivien giving the strongest performance. Her Madame Thenardier is sarcastic to the bone and nasty as can be.

Carley Stenson gives a good performance as Fantine. Her “I dreamed a dream” is full of despair and pulls at the audience’s hearts.

It is great to see Les Misérables is still going strong at the Queen’s Theatre. The show proves that theatre is alive and kicking and will be for many years to come.

If you have not seen the show I suggest you do it now because Les Misérables is having a great year cast wise. And if you have seen the show before: Go again because you do not want to miss seeing all that talent on stage.

Les Misérables is playing at the Queen’s Theatre. For more info and tickets go to https://www.lesmis.com/london.

Find the show on Facebook and Twitter @lesmisofficial .

*More pictures will be added once the new production shots have been released*

 

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Shrek the musical at Theatre Royal Drury Lane – 19th August 2012

26 Aug

I know Shrek is one of those shows that is looked down upon by not only regular theatre goers but also by people working in the industry. And I admit I most likely wouldn’t have watched it at all if there hadn’t been performer in the cast I wanted to see.
The show is designed to appeal to kids, that’s for sure. It has its rather cringy moments and it doesn’t play in the same league as shows like Les Miserables or Phantom of the Opera.

BUT there was never a better time to give this show a try and actually have a fantastic evening than now. Why you may ask. Well, it’s quite simple: Shrek has never had better leads than at this very moment.

There’s Dean Chisnall as Shrek who is a true triple treat. He has a brilliant voice, he is able to act the part despite being stuck in a ridiculously heavy costume and he has proper stage presence. Shrek is such a hard part to play. Imagine having to display everything from joy to anger and sadness while being hidden behind a green mask. Dean manages to do just that. His Shrek shows emotions and no matter how tough it is on some days (hot weather is a killer when you’re wearing a fat suit on stage) he always gives his all. I’ve seen lots of performers who love their job but I can honestly say that Dean is the most dedicated performer I have ever met.

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Carley Stenson has taken over as Princess Fiona and she is a pure joy to watch. I was never a fan of Amanda Holden’s and Kimberly Walsh’s Fiona. I just didn’t find them suited for the part. Carley’s Fiona is funny and sweet and it’s brilliant to finally see someone in the part who has a fabulous voice (I do love Alice Fearn’s Fiona by the way and couldn’t choose between her and Carley when it comes to naming my favourite).

Neil McDermott has developed so much as Lord Farquaad. I remember not being convinced by his portrayal the first few times I saw him. But he has definitely made the part his own by now. Nigel Harman was a tough act to follow but Neil has found “his” Farquaad. He’s hilarious to watch and it certainly looks like he is having the best time on stage.

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Now, I had only ever seen Richard Blackwood as Donkey and although I have gotten used to his Donkey with time he was always the weak link in the cast for me. This time I was lucky enough to catch Aaron Lee Lambert in the part. And this is what made the show that day extremely special. Aaron’s Donkey is probably the campest thing I’ve ever seen on stage (and I’ve seen Priscilla!). I loved it! He made Donkey so extremely likable and he delivered the humour perfectly. And to top it all the guy can sing!! “Who I’d be” is my favourite song in the show and it’s even better to hear it sung by three amazing singers.

In my opinion the ensemble has always been the fifth lead in this show. Those guys and girls do an incredible job and work extremely well together. Even when facing a cut show on a boiling hot day (which was the case on this occasion with only two pigs instead of three up until the finale) they deliver a flawless performance. Special mention for Joseph Prouse who is brilliant as the Pied Piper and in his ensemble parts. He always manages to distract me from everything else that is going on on stage – and yes, that is a good thing!

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Shrek will never please everyone and it will always have its flaws but this show has definitely grown on me over the past months. And with an amazing Shrek, a hilarious Farquaad and a Fiona that can sing and act the part I recommend you give this show a chance even if you think this is nothing for you. If you don’t try you’ll never know what you’re missing!

Shrek is playing at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane. For more info and to book tickets go here.

Watch out for my interview with Dean Chisnall which is coming up soon (depending on time) together with the chance to win a Shrek related price.

Legally Blonde – January 14th 2012 (matinee)

24 Jan

You guys! It was time for yet another trip to the Savoy Theatre to see the equally talented and lovely Stephen Ashfield (and the rest of the cast, of course) in Legally Blonde.

 

This show has to be the ultimate feel good piece of theatre around. I always end up with the songs stuck in my head and I just love how clever the lyrics are despite the rather “light” character of the whole show.

 

Carley Stenson once again delivered a good performance as Elle. She will never be my favourite Elle (that spot is shared by Sheridan Smith an Susan McFadden) but I do think she fits the part and it’s great to see her add little bits and pieces to her portrayal now and then. It shows that she is still working on and developing the character – something I always appreciate.

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Stephen Ashfield – what can I say about the guy that I haven’t already mentioned? I loved Alex as Emmett and I didn’t think anyone could ever properly replace him. But Stephen has done just that and has definitely made the character his own. His Emmett is cheeky and lovable and I can’t help but have a smile on my face whenever he appears on stage.
Never mind the slight glitch during “There! Right there!”…. it made me laugh for sure so thank you Stephen for the extra entertainment. Ha!

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I was so glad the fabulous Jane McMurtrie was on for Brooke again. She is by far my favourite person in the role (and in any other part I’ve seen her in so far). I sometimes wonder how she does it though – that woman definitely is super swing! Besides being on for Brooke she also played Elle’s mum during act one (yes, they were short on cast once again).

Ben Freeman does nothing for me as Warner I have to say. I always feel as if he doesn’t take his part seriously and therefore kind of ridicules Warner by completely over-acting the character.

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I love Ellie Kirk’s Margot and Lucy Miller’s Serena. In fact Lucy was my favourite Serena right from the start (I was lucky enough to see her understudy the part on one of my first ever visits to the show). Abiona Omonua’s Pilar hasn’t really found her way into my heart yet. She’s a bit over the top in her interpretation if you ask me.

 

Highlight of this performance has to be Ruthie Stephenson as Paulette though. Oh my God, how amazing is she?! I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I really don’t like Natalie Casey’s Paulette. So I’m always happy to see an understudy and most of the times that has been Sorelle Marsh who so far was my favourite Paulette right after Jill Halfpenny. I’m saying “was” because that spot has been taken over by Ruthie now. She managed to get all the laughs without ridiculing the character and her Paulette was so utterly lovable that I wanted to hug her after “Ireland” (which was sung beautifully – the high note at the end was incredible!).

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Big shout out for Chris Ellis-Stanton who IS Kyle – simple as that. I’ve seen different understudies over the year and while none of them was bad they all weren’t Chris either.

And I’d like to say that I really, really want to see Lincoln Stone’s Professor Callahan again. I do think Peter Davison does a great job but Lincoln was absolutely fantastic on that one occasion I got to see him.

 

Legally Blonde is one of those shows I can watch over and over again… when I really like the cast. And with few exceptions I do like the current cast a lot. So, bring on the next visit!

 

For more info on Legally Blonde and to book tickets go to: http://www.legallyblondethemusical.co.uk

Legally Blonde – October 15th 2011 (eve)

20 Oct

It’s been a while since I’ve seen Legally Blonde. I used to go a lot during the first year of the show as I just loved the cast and really enjoyed the show. And I still think it’s a great musical with a catchy score and some very clever lyrics. But me being me I tend to watch shows more when I know someone in the cast and that just wasn’t the case anymore after the first cast change back in October 2010.

I have seen the last cast a few times though (although I completely missed out on Lee Mead’s Emmett) and thought they were a good bunch of performers. I was never keen on Denise van Outen’s Paulette and I missed quite a few past cast members but all in all I’ve always liked the show and the cast.

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So, the first Saturday after the latest cast change marked my return visit to Legally Blonde after several months. Thanks to a friend I ended up in the front row for a tenner – you can’t go wrong with that! And this brings us to the show – or better – the cast:

First of all there’s Carley Stenson as Elle. Having seen Sherdian, Amy and Susan on previous visits I’m afraid to say I didn’t enjoy her performance that much. She is no bad Elle, don’t get me wrong! But for me she lacks that certain sparkle and I didn’t feel for her Elle straight away (as I did when I saw Sheridan, Susan and Amy). Maybe I just need to see her a few times though so I reserve my final judgement for some other time.

Stephen Ashfield has taken over as Emmett. He was my main reason for going to see the show again that soon after cast change. I’ve loved Stephen’s Bob Gaudio in Jersey Boys and have been lucky enough to see him on stage in his own Cabaret show at Lauderdale House, in Bewitched, bothered and bewildered at Jermyn Street Theatre and at the Summer with the composers Cabaret on the Battersea Barge. And of course there was no way I would not go and see him as Emmett in Legally Blonde. And although he’s only been in the show for a very short time he has already made Emmett his own. I absolutely loved „Chip on my shoulder“ – he even hits the high note at the end! Stephen’s Emmett really is beyond adorable (and quite cheeky at times). Definitely the highlight in this cast for me and more than enough reason to go back and watch the show again.

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Natalie Casey as Paulette – I don’t know how to put it without sounding incredibly rude. I’m sure Natalie is a lovely person but I’m sorry to say I hate her Paulette. She has made the character into a complete idiot, a comic figur without heart. It’s a shame as Paulette is supposed to be funny but I doubt she’s supposed to come across as being stoned and completely stupid all the time. So thank you but no, thank you.

Peter Davison has been with the show since it started. And he’s still doing a great job as Professor Callahan.

Ben Freeman ist the new Warner. The part itself is rather bland I think. However Warner should at least have a certain ammount of charisma. Unfortunately that is exactly what Ben lacks. His voice is ok but nothing special and his acting is rather wooden (even more wooden than the character himself). Hopefully he will settle into the part with time. Considering there were special circumstances (his wife went into labour) I can imagine his mind must have been elsewhere so I’ll just wait and see if I enjoy his performance more next time.

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Jane McMurtrie was on for Brooke and I have to say I prefer her to Tamara Wall who I have seen a few times already. I really have no idea how Jane manages to handle her job in Legally Blonde – Dance Captain and definitely Miss Super Swing, sometimes covering 2 or 3 tracks during a show. No matter in what part I’ve seen her she has always stood out for me – and I mean in a good way! I guess it’s her energy which seems to know no limits. I can hardly watch anyone else whenever she’s on stage. So, hopefully this hasn’t been the last time I’ve seen her as Brooke, a part which she played brilliantly (special kudos for „Whipped into shape“ which was such a joy to watch).

Tricia Adele-Turner did a good job as Vivienne but out of the 4 girls I have now seen in the part she is so far my least favourite. Her voice seemed a bit weak and I don’t think her and Ben have as much stage chemistry as previous Warner and Vivienne combos. And someone needs to sort out her make-up – it didn’t look natural at all.

Ellie Kirk, Lucy Miller and Abiona Omonua are Margot, Serena and Pilar (Elle’s best friends). Lucy used to be a swing in the show and she has always been my favourite Serena so I’m more than happy she’s taken over the part full time now. I really liked Ellie’s Margot and thought Abiona’s Pilar was ok but she still needs to settle down a bit.

Gemma Sutton is fantastic as Enid. So funny! I didn’t think Suzie McLean could be replaced but Gemma is just brilliant.

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The one and only Chris Ellis-Stanton is still playing Kyle and to be honest I couldn’t imagine someone else in the role full time. I’ve seen understudies and while none of them was bad they just weren’t Chris either. The man just fits the role perfectly.

Out of the ensemble I’d like to give a special shout out to Jon Tsouras who is playing Nikos now. I’ve seen Jon in several shows and always thought he was a really talented performer. It’s great to see him in a part that allows him to show of his comic talent. His Nikos was hilarious to watch. I loved it!

Nick Hayes as Pforzheimer was beyond funny but very camp – whilst that did make me laugh I’m not sure it really suits the character.

I love Lincoln Stone’s portrayal of Elle’s dad and it’s good to see Sorelle Marsh his still in the cast as that means I may have the chance to see her Paulette again.

So, all in all I enjoyed the show and will definitely be back. If only they would still have Jill Halfpenny as Paulette and Simon Thomas as Warner – but hey, I’m not complaining as long as I get to see Stephen’s Emmett.

Legally Blonde at the Savoy Theatre, for more infos and to book tickets go to http://www.legallyblondethemusical.co.uk