Tag Archives: Hadley Fraser

Ramin Karimloo live at the Union Chapel and Islington Assembly Hall

21 Jan

The last time Ramin Karimloo appeared on a London stage was in October 2012 – more than 3 years ago. Since then he has gone on to become a Broadway star and has performed in venues all over the USA, not to forget appearances in Canada and Japan.

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But despite being away for so long Ramin has never truly left London, the city he still considers to be his home. And on January 19th and 20th 2016 he finally found his way back on stage in his hometown. Two sold out gigs at the Union Chapel and Islington Assembly Hall clearly showed that London had not forgotten about “the Iranian with the banjo”. On both nights the audience was enthusiastic from start to finish.

Ramin has always been a unique talent with a voice of gold. From well-known musical theatre songs like “Till I hear you sing” (Love never dies”) to “Oh what a beautiful morning” (Oklahoma) and “Bring him home” (Les Miserables) – the latter a stunning duet with Hadley Fraser on this occasion – to cover versions of his personal and his own material, Ramin Karimloo doesn’t just sing lyrics and melodies, he embraces them and competely makes them his own. It’s what I call putting your soul into every song.

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Ramin’s unique and personal style which he has named Broadgrass is an amalgamation of Broadway and Bluegrass music and doesn’t just suit his voice perfectly but is clearly something he truly enjoys working on.

Having followed Ramin’s career since 2010 I have always loved hearing him sing his own songs as well as cover versions of his personal favourites. Getting to listen to “Constant Angel” again was just as wonderful as being treated to his take on “Ol’ Man River” and “If it’s the beaches”. But the most wonderful thing was seeing how much he has developed over the years. He is not “just” that guy with the brilliant voice. He is a talented musician and songwriter who loves what he is doing. And on top of that Ramin is still one of the most humble and gracious performers you can imagine. He doesn’t take his supporters for granted and always does everything he can to ensure everyone leaves the venue with a smile on their face.

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A special treat on both evenings was the appearance of Hadley Fraser – Ramin and his “brother from another mother” reunited on the London stage. It doesn’t get much better than this. Everyone who remembered the first Sheytoons gigs back in the days (Dublin Castle, anyone?) couldn’t help but smile all the way through “Driftwood” and “Wings”. Hadley and Ramin together are simply special – the bromance is still strong after all these years.

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Ramin Karimloo is going from strength to strength. His star is shining brightly these days but no matter where his career takes him next I hope he will always return home. London needs the Iranian and his banjo.

For all the latest info on Ramin visit http://www.raminkarimloo.com, check out his official Facebook page and follow him on Twitter @raminkarimloo.

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The Pajama Game at the Minerva Theatre, Chichester – 24th May 2013

31 May

The Pajama Game is one of those shows that are not put on stage a lot. And at first view the story does come across as a bit too simple and foreseeable and its characters seem slightly too one-dimensional. However, if you take a second look you will understand that this is indeed a musical gem that deserves to and should be seen.

The Pajama Game tells the story of Sid Sorokin, the new superintendent of Sleep-Tite Pajama Factory, and his love interest Babe Williams, the leader of the Union Grievance Commitee. Their relationship is put at risk when the employees are denied a seven-and-a-half cents an hour raise.

As mentioned before, the story is simple and its ending is crystal clear right from the start. The characters are stereotypes but this works for the show. What really stands out in this show is the score by Richard Adler and Jerry Ross. I still catch myself humming songs from the show now and then and considering I’ve never listened to any of them before watching the show that is pretty remarkable.

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The star of this production is the complete cast. They are what makes The Pajama Game such a wonderfully entertaining show. Hadley Fraser shines as Sid Sorokin. He seems so completely at ease with the character he plays and everything he does looks absolutely natural. You get the feeling he doesn’t even have to put a tiny effort into portraying Sid – which is probably not true but it’s great to see an actor so completely on eye-level with the character he plays. His singing is flawless and he manages to capture every aspect of Sid perfectly. Plus everyone who sings such a stunning duet with himself deserves extra praise And I have to mention his outfit for the bows and the encore – nice! I’m not saying anything more about that in case you haven’t seen the show yet.

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Joanna Riding plays Babe and she is just as perfectly cast as Hadley. Her Babe is feisty, stubborn and lovable. Her and Hadley portray a couple who face the struggle of combining a relationship and being in different “teams” at work. Their on stage chemistry dominates the show and gives The Pajama Game the needed depth.

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Peter Polycarpou is the obsessive factory timekeeper Vernon Hines who is struggling to contain his jealousy when it comes to secretary Gladys (played brilliantly by Alexis Owen-Hobbs). His “I’ll never be jealous again” proves to be one of the show stopping songs in the show.

Eugene McCoy finally gets to show off his funny side (much-needed after playing the rather stoic Jersey Boy Nick Massi for three years) and manages to steal more than one scene as Prez, the head of the Union.

The talent in the whole cast is visible throughout the show. From the leads to every single ensemble member – these boys and girls can sing, dance and act. They make Stephen Mear’s choreography a complete joy to watch. And they are the ones who bring every scene to life, from the pajama factory to a sleazy night cub – the audience is transported into the world of Sid, Babe and co.

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The sets are quite simple but effective. And it’s great to see how a rather tiny performing space like the Minerva Theatre can provide room for a show with quite excessive dance routines without ever losing the intimacy this show needs to work properly.

If you love shows like Guys and Dolls you will most likely adore The Pajama Game. This show bursts with energy and just the chance to see such an amazing cast work together in an intimate venue alone is worth the trip to Chichester. So, count yourself lucky if you have a ticket to one of the few remaining performances. Otherwise I’m sorry to inform you that the run is sold out – but you never know, Chichester is known for transferring popular shows to the West End.

The Pajama Game is running at the Minerva Theatre until 8th June 2013. For more info visit http://www.cft.org.uk/the-pajama-game#-Overview

An Evening with Hadley Fraser – St. James Theatre, 28th October 2012

30 Oct

In my eyes Hadley Fraser is one of the most talented songwriters in the world of musical theatre. So the chance to see him perform some of his own material live on stage was just too good to miss out on. “An Evening with Hadley” Fraser took place at St. James Theatre on October 28th and featured Hadley (obviously) and his guest singers Rosalie Craig and Craig Mather.

Craig Mather is currently starring as Marius in Les Miserables at the Queen’s Theatre and he is definitely an extremely talented singer and musician. I hadn’t heard any of his own songs yet and I am pleased to report that the boy has another talent I didn’t know of so far: Songwriting. I’m sure we’ll hear more from this young man in the future.

Hadley himself performed a mix of his own material and some covers and I am happy to say that there couldn’t have been better song choices for this wonderful evening. Some of you will only know Hadley as a musical theatre performer (he recently played Javert in Les Miserables to rave reviews and you can catch him as Raoul on the Phantom of the Opera 25th Anniversary DVD). But there’s more to Mr. Fraser than “just” a fantastic voice and great acting talent. He is also an extremely gifted songwriter and musician – watching Hadley on stage playing the guitar while singing his own song is such a complete treat! He really puts his heart and soul into his music.

Personal favourites of the evening have to be “Heading West”, “Big Love’s Small” and “Driftwood” (the Sheytoons fan in me did a little jump for joy as soon as the song started). Plus I absolutely adored “Again” which has to be one of the most heartbreakingly beautiful songs ever written. It was great to have the composer of this fantastic song, Scott Alan there to accompany Hadley on piano. “River Take Me” (by Darrell Scott) was another highlight of the evening – such a powerful song performed beautifully by Hadley.

Rosalie Craig provided some wonderful backing vocals and treated the audience to a stunning version of Tori Amos’ “Baker Baker”. I have adored Rosalie’s voice ever since I first saw her on stage in Lord of the Rings (a show that will always have a special place in my heart). She’s one of those performers that will completely draw you into a song. She’s never just singing the lyrics, she is telling a story and you can’t help but be completely in awe of her performance. On a side note: Rosalie will be playing the lead in a new play at the National Theatre next year – something I am really looking forward to.

It was great to see such a wide mix of songs, from ballads, to uptempo songs to some good old bluegrass (again, I love myself a bit of Sheytoons). Hadley, his band and guests appeared to have the best time. There was great music, there were brilliant voices, there was banter and there were laughs (the highlight being a rather rude but funny discussion between Scott Alan and Matt Lucas who was in the audience that night) – all in all “An Evening with Hadley Fraser” was everything I had hoped for and more. I urge you to watch out for more gigs of the talented Mr. Fraser in the future. And generally make sure to check out his music – hopefully we’ll get the chance to buy his first solo album in 2013.

I’ll stop rambling now and will just let pictures speak. Below is my little photo gallery of the evening. As always, please don’t use these pictures anywhere else without asking. Thank you.

For some great videos of Saturday’s gig (27th October) check out Blue Eyed Girl’s Youtube channel: http://www.youtube.com/channel/UCkMYAxrbhrQWcyjRuLxVyFw.

And last but not least: The set list of the night. Big thanks to Tom Deering for sending this over to me!

Listen to the music
Coming around
Big love’s small
Furious ball
Heading West
Unbound
River take me (Hadley and Nick)
Baker Baker (Rosalie and Tom)
Just let go (Hadley and Sonya)
Herne & the red kite
On Constellation Street (Hadley)
Nureyev of SE19 (Hadley)
Take me away (Hadley)
Again (Hadley and Scott)
How many times
Africa
Driftwood
Someday
Encore (Hadley)

Scott Garnham Cabaret – The Delfont Room, May 5 2012

7 May

I only discovered Scott Garnham recently through Les Miserables in which he is currently appearing as Feuilly and first cover for Enjolras (a part I was lucky enough to see him play on several occasions). When it was announced that he was organising his first solo cabaret there was no question I would have to be there.

So here I was in the Delfont Room on a Saturday evening – one of my favourite spaces for late night cabarets in the West End I’d like to add. I had little to no idea what to expect but after seeing Scott appear in A West End Christmas last December I was quite certain I wouldn’t be disappointed.

And what can I say? The evening was everything but disappointing for sure. I think the word “unconventional” sums it up well (a term Scott himself used). A rather creepy obsession with a girl named Claire, the joys of making love alone, being friends on Facebook and a completely “Self-indulgent ballad” – I doubt there has been a cabaret in the West End with a similar choice of songs. And I’m writing this with the biggest respect and praise because I can honestly say that I have never laughed more at a late night cabaret. Scott Garnham is not just a talented singer, he is also one of the most natural entertainers I have had the pleasure to see on stage. His interaction with the audience was flawless and he managed to combine songs and fun without turning the evening into a stand up comedy show. Scott’s songs – while often being more than hilarious – were personal and it was obvious how much thought had gone into chosing them (and partly even writing them).

Scott’s guests on this very special evening were Jon Hawkins, Hadley Fraser, Carl Mullaney, Liz Pendleton (backing singer and saxophone), Laura Tebbutt, Craig Mather (drums) and Rob Vickers (guitar). Personally I loved Scott’s and Jon’s “That’s life” because it was so obvious how well those two get along and how much fun they were having. The same goes for Scott’s and Sir Hadley’s (as I shall refer to him from now on) “Butter outta cream”.
Laura Tebbutt’s “Fabulous Girl” was a complete joy to listen to – that girl would make a more than fabulous Deloris in Sister Act (who cares she isn’t black)! I loved Carl Mullaney’s “Someone to fall back on” – a great tune which was sung beautifully.

But no matter how fantastic the guests, this evening was about Scott. And everyone who was there will surely agree with me when I say that Scott Garnham is one of the most original, witty, clever and talented young men in London’s West End. He doesn’t sing the same old songs that have been done to death at every cabaret around the world. His take on a late night cabaret was fresh and different and quite simply brilliant.

The whole evening took place in aid of Theatre MAD, a charity Scott has been supporting for quite a while. Please do check them out at http://www.madtrust.org.uk/.

Here’s hoping this wasn’t Scott’s first and last cabaret evening. It would be a shame if all those people who couldn’t make it on Saturday wouldn’t get a chance to experience this talented singer/songwriter/entertainer being delightfully unconventional on stage.

Thank you, Scott, for the songs and the laughs. I had the best time!

Complete song list

Let me drown
Follow these instructions
Die vampire die
Different
Making love alone
Did you get my message
Someone to fall back on (Carl Mullaney)
Loving you to excess
Solitaire
Self-indulgent ballad
Pencil full of lead
In Dublin
That’s life (with Jon Hawkins)
On the Facebook (with Carl Mullaney, Liz Pendleton and Laura Tebbutt)
All American prophet
Fabulous girl (Laura Tebbutt)
Butter outta cream (with Hadley Fraser)
We live on borrowed time
The curtain falls

Go and find Scott on Twitter @scottgarnham for a link to a complete audio upload of the evening and to get in touch with the man himself.

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Upcoming theatre events (a.k.a. stagey nights out)

23 Apr

Do you have a bit of spare time in the next few weeks and want to spend it doing something fabulous? Then maybe one (or more) of these upcoming events are for you.

West End Eurovision 2012 (Dominion Theatre, April 26 2012)

This is a fantastic late night show that pays tribute to the Eurovision Song Contest in true West End style. Several West End shows compete against each other by performing a past Eurovision Song Contest song. This year’s entries are:
39 Steps
Billy Elliot
Les Miserables
Mamma Mia!
Phantom of the Opera
Rock of Ages
Shrek, the musical
Sweeney Todd
Wicked
Wizard of Oz
The celebrity judges of the 2012 West End Eurovision are Tony Blackburn, Kerry Ellis and Stefanie Powers. The evening will be hosted by Gaby Roslin and John Partridge. And as if that wasn’t enough there will be a special guest performance by 2005 UK Eurovision Song Contest entry Javine Hylton.
I attended both the 2010 and the 2011 West End Eurovision and can assure you this event is one not to be missed!
For more information and to book your tickets go to http://www.madtrust.org.uk/west-end-eurovision-ticket-box-office.php?sub=overview.

Scott Garnham Late and Live in Cabaret (The Delfont Room, May 5 2012)

I only discovered the very talented Scott Garnham quite recently through Les Miserables and I was lucky enough to see him as Enjolras on several occasions (he is on again from May 21st to 23rd for anyone that wants to catch him in the part before he leaves the show on June 16th).
This will be Scott’s first solo cabaret and tickets are selling fast. Special guests include Hadley Fraser, Liam Tamne, Jon Hawkins, Laura Tebbutt and Carl Mullaney and the evening will feature two brand new songs written with Tim Prottey-Jones and Steven Luke. And all of this in one of the best cabaret venues in the West End: The Delfont Room.
Book your tickets here: http://www.delfontmackintosh.co.uk/Tickets/LiveIntheDelfontRoom/ScottGarnhamLateAndLiveInCabaret.asp

West End in Concert (St. Paul’s Church, Covent Garden, May 20 2012)

This is the first event run by the West End in Concert team. Taking place at St. Paul’s Church in Covent Garden the evening will see performances by Sabrina Alouche, Lauren Samuels, MiG Ayesa, Adrian Hansel, John Wilding, Tenors of Rock, Scott Garnham, Liam Doyle, Tori Allen-Martin, Lauren Varnham, Mazz Murray, Woman Band, Chloe Hart, Brenda Edwards, Liam Tamne, Ian Carlyle, Victoria Hamilton-Barrit, Sandra Marvin, Ryan Dawson, Lucy Sinclair, Katie Paine, Rebecca Treharne, Parnell Page, Jack Hawitt and Danielle York.
If the bunch of talented performers isn’t enough to convince you to attend then the fantastic location should do the job. St. Paul’s Church is simply a stunning place for concerts.
For tickets go to http://www.seetickets.com/Event/WEST-END-IN-CONCERT-COVENT-GARDEN/St-Paul-s-Church-Covent-Garden/626896.

And in case you don’t want to go home after the concert I suggest you head over to Roadhouse Covent Garden where Bloomfield Avenue will be on stage from 8pm on. There’s free entry before 10pm and you should easily be able to catch at least part of the second set. Check out Bloomfield Avenue here http://www.bloomfieldavenueband.co.uk/. I have seen them on stage various times and have never been disappointed. They are a guarantee for a good night out.

A spotlight on Hadley Fraser

21 Apr

As you may have noticed by now I am a huge theatre fan. And just like most theatre fans I have my favourite performers that I will happily go and see in whatever show they are appearing in. So I thought I could use this platform to introduce you to some of them. I’ve decided to call this special series “A spotlight on” (not the most creative title, I know). It will feature performers I am proud to support and who I think you should keep an eye on.

And who would be a better person to start with than the hugely talented Hadley Fraser (coincidentally it’s his birthday today: Happy Birthday Hadley! xx).

I first discovered Hadley through his and Ramin Karimloo’s band Sheytoons. The two formed the band in the summer of 2010 and made their stage debut with Sheytoons at Lauderdale House in October 2010. I was lucky enough to see them perform at the 2011 Whatsonstage Awards and at Dublin Castle in April 2011. Since then things have gone a bit quiet regarding the band with both Hadley and Ramin being quite busy with other projects. But hopefully we haven’t seen the last of Sheytoons. The band really is a breath of fresh air and needs to make another appearance in the not too distant future.

Hadley made his West End debut back in 2003 as Marius in Les Miserables. Now, 8 years later, he’s back in the show this time playing the part of Javert for which he has received rave reviews. I only started watching Les Miserables after he joined the cast and soon became a proper regular at the show. And whilst I admit my weekly visits to the show between December 2011 and March 2012 were mainly due to Ramin Karimloo appearing as Jean Valjean I always made sure I didn’t miss out on seeing Hadley as well. I adore his Javert and he definitely has one of the best voices I have heard on a West End stage ever since I started visiting London on a regular basis back in 2002.


Javert (Les Miserables)

Even if you haven’t seen Hadley live on stage you might remember him as Raoul in the 25th anniversary production of Phantom of the Opera (he was the one with the “guy-liner” to quote the man himself ). Watching that performance live in front row at the Royal Albert Hall still ranks as one of the greatest theatre experiences in my life. And Hadley, Ramin and Sierra (Boggess) have become my on stage dream team with their amazing performance as Raoul, Phantom and Christine.


Raoul (Phantom of the Opera 25th Anniversary)

Hadley will soon start filming for the upcoming movie version of Les Miserables (starring Hugh Jackman as Jean Valjean and Russel Crowe as Javert) in which he will appear as the Army Officer. For those of you that are familiar with the show: He’s the guy who usually stands off stage singing “You at the barricades listen to this…” and so on. Apparently Hadley will make it in front of the camera for the movie though. I sure hope so as everything else would be a huge loss for the film.

One of the things I deeply admire about Hadley is the fact that he is not only an amazingly talented singer, actor and songwriter but he is also a through and through interesting person to talk to. He’s witty, nice and he’s got a great sense of humor. I’m sure everyone who has had the pleasure to meet Hadley will agree with me: He’s just an all around charming and lovely guy.

So, please do try and catch Hadley in Les Miserables until June 16 2012, watch the 25th anniversary DVD of Phantom of the Opera and generally look out for this guy. No matter what he will be up to in the future – theatre, song writing, movies and so on – I can assure you it will be worth checking out.


Me and Hadley


Sheytoons at Dublin Castle, April 2011

Hadley’s theatre credits
West End: Les Miserables (Palace and Queen’s), Phantom of the Opera (25th Anniversary production, Royal Albert Hall), The Far Pavilions (Shaftesbury), The Fantasticks (Duchess), The Pirates of Penzance (Savoy), Peter Pan (Savoy):
Broadway: The Pirate Queen
Regional: Pacific Overtures (Leicester Haymarket), Assasins ( Sheffield Crucible), The Last 5 Years (Theatre Aspen, Colorado), A Christmas Carol (Birmingham Rep), My Fair Lady (Larnaca Amphitheatre, Cyprus), The Last Session (Hackney Empire), Putting it together (Harrogate), The Shaughraun (Abbey, Dublin), Little Shop of Horrors (Northampton Derngate), Longitude (Greenwich)

Concerts include
Les Miserables 25th Anniversary Concerts (O2 Arena) and appearances at the Royal Albert Hall, Birmingham Symphony Hall, Ronnie Scott’s and Birdland Jazz Club (New York).

Recordings include
Scott Alan’s second album Keys, The Pirate Queen (original cast), Phantom of the Opera (25th anniversary cast recording)

Visit http://www.hadleyfraser.com for more info on Hadley and follow the man himself on twitter @hadleyfraser .

Les Miserables – January 3 2012

10 Jan

The 3rd of January 2012 ;marked my 7th visit to Les Miserables since June 2011. What can I say? I’ve always had a habbit of watching ;shows various times for different reasons. With Les Miserables every reason is coming together: It’s a great shows with a fantastic score, I really like the current cast as a whole and one of my favourite performers is playing the lead at the moment. So honestly, I couldn’t resist even if I wanted to. 😉

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The first time I went to see Ramin Karimloo as Valjean Hadley Fraser was on holidays. I didn’t mind at the time as that gave me the opportunity to concentrate on Ramin’s performance without being “distracted” by Hadley (who I love to see as Javert).

Since then I had seen the two on stage together once and loved the interaction between them. They honestly work so well together. That combined with the fact that they are two of the nicest performers I have ever met makes them pretty special.

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It’s hard to grasp the little things when seeing something for the first time so I decided to wait until now before I reviewed their performances.

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First of all I adore both Ramin and Hadley as performers and as people. They are fantastic singers and they both always bring something unique to the parts they play (that is my opinion at least).

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Seeing them on stage together in Les Miserables is simply breathtaking. The chemistry between them is so special – it’s like they know what the other one is thinking and have the perfect understanding of each other and trust each without boundaries. The confrontation scene between Javert and Valjean just after Fantine’s death had me on the edge of my seat. There was such a raw anger visible on stage at that moment, I seriously thought the two might start a proper fight at any time.

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Hadley’s Javert used to be quite animalistic but he has calmed down a lot and plays the part with a more ;subtly dangerous touch now. And that works perfectly with Ramin’s Valjean who is full of raw anger at the beginning and grows into a more collected yet still passionate character throughout the show.

I admit I’m not totally sure yet what to make of ;Ramin’s high notes in certain parts of the show (take the very last note in “Who am I” for example). They sometimes seem a little too screechy. But that’s just a minor rant and doesn’t take away from the fact that his performance as Valjean is stunning. I love that you will never get two performances from him that are exactly the same. His portrayal of a part changes, often on a daily basis. He develops his characters constantly and will change the way he plays certain scenes throughout his run in a show.

Ramin once told me that Mark Rylance is an actor who inspires him a lot – method acting at its best. And while I do think that no one comes even close to the acting genius of Mr. Rylance I can definitely see that inspiration in Ramin’s acting.

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Hadley has been the most underrated performer in the West End for quite some time if you ask me. It’s fantastic to see he finally gets the attention he deserves. And I know his Javert ;is not to everyone’s taste but personally I love the way he plays the part. I’m generally not a fan of the song “Stars” but I could listen to Hadley singing it night and day.

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I’ve been talking about Ramin and Hadley all the time but I can and will not forget to mention someone else: Scott Garnham. I was really impressed ;by his performance at A West End Christmas last December and so I have been looking forward to catching him as Enjolras in Les Miserables. And my God – that guy is incredible! Nothing against Liam, I do enjoy seeing him as Enjolras a lot, but Scott’s portrayal was spot on from start to finish. His Enjolras ;displays such a pure determination and his vocals were absolutely brilliant. This showed me once more how much talent is hidden in the ensembles of various shows in the West End. ;

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So, I’m urging everyone to go and see Ramin Karimloo and Hadley Fraser in Les Miserables – you’ve still got until March 3 so make sure to book your tickets. Just don’t forget that Ramin only does 6 shows a week (his off dates are posted on the Delfont Mackintosh website) and Hadley is on holidays the week commencing January 23.
And if you happen to see Scott Garnham as Enjolras as well you’re in for an extra treat.

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Book tickets for Les Miserables on http://www.delfontmackintosh.co.uk

Les Miserables – Queen’s Theatre, London

18 Oct
Believe it or not but until August 2011 I had never (and I repeat: NEVER) seen Les Miserables live on stage. Sure, I knew the story and the songs and had seen videos of the show. But that was it. I know this is strange for a musical theatre geek like me. But somehow I just wasn’t drawn to that particular show. Or maybe I had just secretly been waiting for someone I definitely wanted to see to join the show because that’s what happened this year and so I’m no longer a Les Mis virgin.
For anyone that is asking “But if you wanted to wait until someone you like to join the show why didn’t you go when Ramin Karimloo was in it?” – Well, I would have but sadly it took me way too long to discover the amazing talent of Mr. Karimloo and so I had no idea he existed back in the day.

The reason I just couldn’t neglect Les Miserables any longer was Mr. Alfie Boe. I have watched the Les Miserables 25th Anniversary DVD various times (of course!) and I was lucky enough to see Alfie perform at the 2011 What’s on Stage Awards at the Prince of Wales Theatre. And once it was confirmed he was joining the London production of Les Mis for a few months it was set in stone that I would go and see him on stage.

I’m writing this after my third visit to the show (yes, I’ve been trying to catch up quickly). I guess everyone knows the basic story of the show so I won’t go into that – Wikipedia has quite a good synposis in case you are interested though.
Alfie Boes as Jean Valjean is a true revelation. From the moment he appears on stage I could hardly take my eyes off him. Although he is known for being a singer more than an actor I found his portrayal of Valjean to be extremely intense and gripping. He is a very physical actor which works exceptionally well in this show. I remember one show where he almost ended up falling off the stage after being pushed by the ensemble and falling down a little too forcefully.
Together with one of the most amazing voices I have ever heard that makes an absolutely stunnuing Jean Valjean. When Alfie starts singing “Bring him home” the whole theatre is completely silent and you can feel just how special this moment it.

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Hadley Fraser is playing Valjean’s “opponent” Javert. Until Les Miserable I have only known Hadley as a member of the band Sheytoons (alongside Ramin Karimloo). So I knew he could sing and was a talented songwriter but I had no idea what an all around fantastic performer he is. Well, I do know now. Hadley’s Javert is dangerous, a little arrogant and angry and he is just as physical as Alfie. He portrays a Javert that is almost haunted by his need to find Valjean and completely driven by this one goal. Him and Alfie work so well together – a pure joy to watch.

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I’ve seen Liam Tamne in other shows and best remember him for being a fantastic Fiyero in Wicked and he was, of course, part of the “Summer of Hair” (meaning he was in the cast of Hair at the Guilgud Theatre in 2010). It’s great to see him in Les Miserables now playing the part of Enjolras. He’s got a really good voice and he totally fits the part of the leader of the student revolutionaries.

Craig Mather is playing Enjolras’ friend Marius.  This show marks Crag’s West End Debut and I can see this guy going far in the world of musical theatre. Great voice and great acting.

Alexia Khadime used to play Elphaba in Wicked, a show and part completely different from Eponine. But this really shows what a versatile actress she is. I have heard that some audience members don’t enjoy the way she sings “On my own”. I have to say I adore her take on the song. I’ve never been a fan of this song as I think it’s weaker than a lot of the other songs in Les Miserables. But Alexia manages to make me like “On my own” and actually look forward to hearing it – and yes, I love that she riffs parts of the song!

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The first time I went to see the show Matt Lucas was playing Thenardier and he did a great job. Granted, he’s no born singer and it was visible that he is no experienced musical theatre performer. But he definitely got the laughs – everyone who gets the audiende to clap along during “Master of the house” must be doing something right. I could have done with fewer ad libs though.
Currently Cameron Blakely is Thenardier in the show and I have to say all in all I prefer his portrayal of the part. He’s a bit less “in your face” and manages to give the audience a bit more insight into the character instead of just going for the laughs all the time.
Katy Secombe is a great Madame Thenardier and her and Cameron Blakely work together brilliantly.

Caroline Sheen’s Fantine is probably the one link in the show I enjoyed the least. I’m not saying she’s not good but compared to the rest of the cast she just didn’t stand out for me. And her “I dreamed a dream” didn’t really do it for me – no goosebumps or anything.

Lisa-Anne Wood is a very cute Cosette and I enjoyed hearing her sing “A heart full of love” with Craig Mather.

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The whole ensemble is absolutely amazing. I can imagine how vocally and physically demanding this show is and I salute the whole cast for going through this 8 times a week!

Sadly I probably won’t be able to see the show again while Alfie Boe is in it but I will definitely be back to see Hadley and the rest of the cast. Although Les Miserables is no show I can see every week I’m more than happy that I have finally discovered my love for this show – thanks to Alfie and the whole current cast of the London production.

Les Miserables is on at the Queen’s Theatre. For more information and to book tickets go to http://www.lesmis.com/home_uk.php

Me and Hadley Fraser

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Me and Liam Tamne

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Me and Alfie Boe

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Phantom of the Opera 25th Anniversary, October 2nd 2011 (evening)

4 Oct

I was expecting to be blown away by this performance, simple as that. I’m not someone who tends to spend 180 quid on a single theatre ticket. I mean, come on, I can see Jersey Boys 9 times for that amount of money! But this was a special occasion and we’re talking about my most likely last chance to see Ramin Karimloo in the original Phantom of the Opera. So yes, I did get a ridiculously expensive ticket for the Sunday evening performance of the 25th anniversary of The Phantom of the Opera at the Royal Albert Hall. Well, technically I didn’t because I have the best parents in the world who sponsored my ticket as an early birthday present.

But still, it was a lot of money for one single ticket and I wanted to experience something special for a price like this.

 

I should point out that I am not a Phan (as the fans of the show call themselves) and I have only seen the Phantom of the Opera once and that was years and years ago. So I can’t compare this anniversary production to any other productions of the show and I’ve got nothing to compare the performers to. What I can and will do is write down my personal view of the evening.

 

First of all, the Royal Albert Hall is a pretty impressive venue. I arrived a little late so didn’t have the time to fully appreciate it before the show. But just walking into the auditorium and seeing the size of the whole place was a memorable experience. The biggest surprise of the evening happened right then (well, apart from running into Dane Quixall right before the show – London really is a village!) when I got to my seat. When I booked the ticket the seating plan indicated that I was sitting in front arena, right hand side, aisle seat, 4 rows from the stage. However I discovered that the rows in front of me had been taken out which transformed my cool 4th row seat into a super-cool front row seat. To say I was happy would be the understatement of the year!

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 The show itself was… I don’t even know how to put it into words. To sum it up with a simple “Amazing!!” doesn’t give the whole thing justice. But it’s hard to sum up an event like this. There was the absolutely fantastic cast lead by Ramin Karimloo and Sierra Boggess who both delivered the performance of a lifetime. I have seen the two on stage together in Love Never Dies various times and have always admired their stage chemistry. To see them play the leads in the original Phantom of the Opera was a dream come true. Sierra’s voice and stage presence was even better than in Love Never Dies and Ramin showed off that he is both a brilliant actor and one of the best singers the West End has ever seen. It was clearly visible how well those two get along. They work together perfectly. Ramin’s Phantom was passionate and angry, yet also vulnerable. His “Music of the night” was everything I hoped it would be. And Sierra’s Christine was breathtakingly beautiful with a voice to die for. Her “Think of me” was simply stunning. For me the two were perfection.

Hadley Fraser as Raoul was the third person I had really been looking forward to seeing that night. I love Hadley’s Javert in Les Miserables plus he is one half of Sheytoons (alongside Ramin Karimloo). It’s fantastic to see him finally getting the attention he deserves as I think he is one of the most underated performers in the West End. Hadley is such a talented singer and actor and I loved his portrayal of Raoul. Some people have written that his Raoul was too arrogant and his voice too weak but I honestly can’t go along with those opinions. For me his Raoul came across as very sure of himself – a guy who knows exactly what he wants – and I think that fit perfectly. And I adore Hadley’s voice – he and Sierra sounded beautifully in “All I ask of you”.

The rest of the cast did a great job as well and it was quite a sight to see such a huge ensemble fill the stage. I was particularly impressed by “Masquerade”.

 

The set was a clever mix between set and projection screens. Some scenes might have worked better in a more intimate venue but all in all I thought the way this show was staged was very well done. They even had the big chandelier which was quite the sight. Yes, it would have been even better to have less projections and more set but I can see the reason for staging the show the way it was done. And it worked and didn’t take away from my enjoyment of the performance.

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For the big finale we first got a speech by both Andrew Lloyd Webber and Cameron Mackintosh and appearances by the original creative team and the original London cast of the show. Following that was a choral arranement of “The Music of the night” sung by Colm Wilkinson, Jon Owen Jones, Anthony Warlow and Peter Jöback – impressive although I am not really sure Peter Jöback’s voice is suited for the part (everyone shall find out when he joins the London cast in March 2012). Of course, a Phantom anniversary wouldn’t be complete without the original Phantom and Christine. Sarah Brightman sang the title track of the show together with 5 Phantoms (the ones named before plus Ramin Karimloo). It was a memorable moment to see her on stage that evening but I have to admit I was rather disappointed with her singing. Her voice was almost drowned out by the music and the high note at the end was clearly click tracked.

Michael Crawford took a bow at the end of the show and seemed completely overwhelmed by the response of the audience (everyone was on their feet as soon as he came on stage) but didn’t sing. The show ended with Ramin and Sierra taking an extra bow (after being pushed back on stage by Colm Wilkinson) and Ramin carrying Sierra off stage which was a lovely ending to a fantastic evening.

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I admit I’m not a big fan of most of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s shows and The Phantom of the Opera will never be amongst my favourite shows. But to be part of this anniversary was something I will cherish forever and I wouldn’t have missed it for the world. I was expecting to be blown away by this performance – and I was.

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Thanks to Sarah for the first photo.
Credit for the other 3 photos goes to wooller.com.

Next theatre trip coming up….

14 Sep

Been a bit quiet but unfortunately too much work and nasty shoulder problems have prevented me from any freetime writing. Will make up for that with some reviews soon.

So, my next theatre trip is coming up. I’ve got quite a few shows booked so hopefully there will be something for everyone once I’ve managed to review all of them. In case anyone wants a first taste, here’s the list of what’s to come:
Anna Christie (bit of Jude Law can’t be wrong!)
Les Miserables (hoping both Alfie Boe and Hadley Fraser will be on as scheduled)
Jersey Boys (twice – once with Jon Lee and once with Ryan Molloy as Frankie)
Parade (because I finally want to see that one on stage after missing the Donmar production and because Simon Bailey is in it)
Rock of Ages or Shrek (Rock of Ages is my first choice as I haven’t seen it yet but if I miss out on day seats for that I’ll try and get a ticket for Shrek)

And last but not least I shall attend the second West End Rockaoke at Roadhouse, Covent Garden on Sunday Sept 18th. The first one back in June was lots of fun so hopefully this one will be a great night out as well. Bloomfield Avenue are playing – if you haven’t heard of them go check them out now: http://www.bloomfieldavenueband.co.uk/ – and there will be performers from various West End shows.

Anyone who’s in town and free on Sunday evening should definitely consider coming down to Roadhouse. Doors open around 6pm and you get 2 for 1 drinks until 7:30pm. Rockaoke starts around 8pm.
Put your name on the guestlist as it tends to get busy (and you wouldn’t want to queue outside and maybe miss out on the 2 for 1 drinks, would you?): http://www.roadhouse.co.uk.

So, I’ll speak to you all next week! xx