Tag Archives: James Winter

Shrek UK Tour – Leeds Grand Theatre – 1st August 2014

9 Aug

When a West End show goes on tour the first thing many people wonder is: Will the tour version do the show justice? Will it be downsized and turn out to be a disappointing experience for those who have seen the scale of the West End version?

I admit when it came to Shrek that fear was not on my mind. Having watched the show numerous times while it was playing at Theatre Royal Drury Lane I had always thought it would be a show easy to tour without too many changes. And I wasn’t wrong.

Shrek has just started its UK tour and is currently playing at the Grand Theatre in Leeds. And everyone who knows the show will be pleasantly surprised to notice the set has only been altered slightly to make it tour-able. It’s still colourful, the dragon is just as well done – even though the puppeteers need a bit more practise I dare to say – and I was quite impressed they even managed to work out a believable version of the bridge and lava (you’ll understand it when you see it).

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The staging of the show is quite similar to the West End production with just a few minor changes. My only grip would be the lack of a young Princess Fiona in the opening scene. I’m sure there’s a reason for it but having a young Shrek but no young Fiona looks a bit strange to me especially since there is a young Fiona for “I know it’s today” so it’s not like they have cut her completely. But I am definitely complaining on a high level here – no one beside me probably even spared a single thought on this.

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Leading the cast is a familiar face: Dean Chisnall reprises his role as Shrek and he is without a doubt the highlight of the show. It still amazes me to see how well-defined his portrayal is – after all he is trapped in a costume that doesn’t leave much room for movement let alone facial expressions. But Dean manages to give Shrek heart and soul. His Shrek is lovable, he makes me laugh and he makes me root for the character which is quite an achievement considering big green ogres are usually not my type and I have never even managed to watch Shrek the movie (I tried but gave up after about twenty minutes). And to top it all Dean has a voice to die for and he has obviously been working on the songs since his stint in the West End production. There is a significant change in his vocal tone especially noticeable in “Big bright beautiful world”. He has always sounded great but this is something else – a proper treat to listen to.

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Faye Brookes plays Princess Fiona with a feisty charm that suits the character well. Gerard Carey’s Lord Farquaad is not quite on the same level as his predecessors but I’m sure he will get there with time. His facial expressions are hilarious though and he has a great voice. Idriss Kargbo is the new Donkey and even though it is nice to see a performer in the role who can actually sing the songs I can’t warm to his portrayal. But I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s possibly the role itself and not so much the performer who is playing it. I just don’t like Donkey and his over the top behaviour.

The ensemble does a wonderful job in the show. They truly embrace their fairytale roles and it’s obvious how much fun they are having on stage. Special mention for James Winter who is brilliantly funny as Pied Piper.

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Shrek the musical delivers exactly what it is supposed to: An enjoyable and light-hearted evening in the theatre. It’s a show both adults and kids will enjoy. There’s a nice score, a talented cast, colourful sets and costumes and a story that’s easy to follow without being pointless.

If you get the chance make sure to check out the show. It will most likely come to a venue near you in the upcoming year. For more info and tour dates visit http://www.shrekthemusical.co.uk, find the show on Facebook and follow on Twitter @ShrekUKTour .

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10 Questions with James Winter

30 Nov

James studied at Guildford School of Acting. He made his West End debut in the hit Musical Jersey Boys playing Hank Majewski and covering the part of Bob Gaudio. Other theatre credits include Les Miserables (Queen’s Theatre, London), Lucky Stiff (Landor Theatre, London), The Full Monty (Key Theatre, Peterborough) and The Last Maharajah Workshop (Wyndham’s Theatre, London). James has recently finished touring the UK with Carnaby Street the musical.

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Did you always want to be on stage or did you have other dream jobs as a kid?
I always wanted to be a pilot as a kid. I was always involved in theatre (Am Dram and youth theatre) but it was more of a hobby. I wanted to join the RAF as a fighter pilot! I went for a scholarship selection at RAF Cranwell at the age of 16 but there was a mix-up with the type of scholarship I was up for and they had no more places for pilots. So I planned on re-applying when I was 18, but then started helping a friend, Griffin Stephens, with his application to drama schools and thought “Why don’t I give this a go?!”, and then got in to GSA!

What was the first role you ever played and how old were you?
My first role outside of school plays was the role of Tommy in Blitz! the musical when I was about 9 or 10. It was a local Am Dram production and my mum was the choreographer. My brother Jason and I got our first tastes of the stage there, and then joined the Key Youth Theatre at the Key Theatre, Peterborough.

You just finished touring the UK with Carnaby Street the musical. Do you enjoy touring?
Carnaby Street was my first experience of touring and I have to say I loved it! It was only a 3 month tour, so there wasn’t really time to get frustrated with it. Obviously it is hard being away from home and loved ones, but it’s kind of a mini adventure and refreshing after being in London for 4 years.

You’ve been in several shows over the past years. What has been your favourite job so far and why?
My favourite job will always be Jersey Boys. It was my first largescale job out of college, my West End debut, and I got to cover and play Bob Gaudio a lot over the 2 years I was in the show. It was such a fun building to work in that I actually went back after I left the show to work backstage for a few months between acting jobs.

Would you ever consider returning to a show you’ve already been in or do you rather go for new shows and new challenges?
I’d certainly consider going back to any of the shows I’ve been in, but you’re always looking to progress your career and as yet I’ve never been a lead or a feature, so if I was to go back I’d always be looking for some sort of improvement if it was at all possible.

What are your dream roles?
This is a tough one, as there are so many. I always wanted to play Marius but I’m too old for that now! I’d love to play Javert, I just think there’s so much depth to that character. Princeton/Rod in Avenue Q would be a lot of fun, and Raoul in Phantom. So just a few!

This year you have been in one of the most popular musicals of all time (Les Miserable, obviously) and in a new musical set in 1960s London (Carnaby Street). What’s next for you then? Any plans for 2014 you can share?
At the moment there’s nothing lined up for 2014 unfortunately. There were a couple of things in the pipeline that didn’t work out but part of the job is being patient and waiting for the next opportunity to show itself, so watch this space!

Where do you see yourself in 10 years time?
I’d love to say that I see myself still performing, and preferably in a lead role in the West End! I’ve always wanted to move into TV/Film but that’s increasingly more and more difficult for Musical Theatre performers to do.

How do you spend your free time? Do you go to the theatre sometimes or do you rather do something completely different?
I go to the theatre when I can but it’s usually to see friends in their shows. The problem is that when you’re in a show you have very little time to go to the theatre and when you’re between acting jobs you can’t afford it! I’m a big motorsport fan, so I like to watch the F1 and I regularly go karting with friends. I’m also a bit of a computer game geek, so the Xbox gets a lot of use! And I play guitar and bass.

Last question and this is an all time favourite: If there was a movie about your life, who should play you? Obviously it can’t be yourself!
Tough question! And I saw that Jason said he’d pick me! Cheers bro! One of my favourite actors at the moment is Andrew Garfield, so I’d pick him!

Thank you James for taking the time to do this interview!

You can follow James on Twitter @jamesnwinter

Carnaby Street – New Victoria Theatre, Woking – 14th September 2013

16 Sep

I admit my first thought when I heard of Carnaby Street the musical was “Dear God, not another pointless jukebox musical!”. The show didn’t get the best reviews during the first part of the tour which I missed out on. But since I do like to make up my own mind I decided to catch the show in Woking last week.

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Apparently there have been quite a few changes to the show resulting in a running time of 2 hours and 45 minutes including interval (about 10 minutes more than the original version). The first thing you notice is the amount of songs that have been cramped into those 2.45 hours. There are A LOT of them – too many if you ask me. Don’t get me wrong, generally the songs are great! The problem is the story gets a bit lost in between all those 60s tunes. I ended up thinking someone must have been trying really hard to put as many songs as possible into one show and write a rather random story around them. Speaking of the story – it’s there and it’s not as bad as I anticipated. A singer/songwriter/musician from Liverpool (Jude) travels to London with his friend Penny with the ambition to become a star. On Carnaby Street he meets Jack and Wild Thing and joins the C-ST band. But Jude wants more and through various twists in the story (all quite forseeable) gets signed by Arnold Layne’s record label. He reaches stardom but forgets his friends along the way – but of course there’s a happy end because shows like this always have one. Oh, and there’s love and heartbreak involved, too.

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What makes this show enjoyable is the talented cast. Stand outs for me are Jonny Bower as Jude, Tricia Adele-Turner as Jude’s love interest Jane and Hugo-Harold Harrison as Arnold Layne. Jonny Bower has a truly fantastic voice and plays Jude with a boyish charm that is hard to resist. Tricia manages to portray Jane with just the right mix of self-assurance and vulnerability. And Hugo is just wonderfully mean as Arnold Layne.
Mark Pearce shows off a true rock voice and Aaron Sidwell does a great job leading the audience through the storyline.

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I’m not too convinced by Paul Hazel’s character Lily The Pink. Do we really need yet another stereotyped cross-dressing gay guy on stage? Obviously that is not Paul Hazel’s fault and he makes the best of the material he has been given.
Then there’s Gregory Clarke’s character (Al – Newspaper Seller) whose purpose escapes me. Yes, those thrown in 60s headlines are amusing – some of them at least – but for me they makes the story look even more randomly put together.

Special mention goes to the ensemble who does a great job. Those guys and girls are running around constantly playing various characters, carrying scenery on and off stage and dancing their socks off. I especially enjoyed James Winter’s Tom Jones – I won’t go into detail here, you have to go and see for yourself.

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In the end Carnaby Street is a 6os jukebox musical – not more and not less. If you like the music of that era and want to see talented people in a “Best of 60s” performance you will have a good time watching this show. If you are looking for a challenging story with complex characters this one most likely won’t be for you.

It was a bit of a shame to see so many empty seats in the theatre. Hopefully the tour will attract larger audiences during the rest of the run. It may be no innovative piece of musical theatre but it is a fun night out and the cast deserves to be seen by more people.

So, if you happen to be around you should try and catch Carnaby Street in a city near you. Go here for the tour schedule and ticket info:
http://www.carnabystreetthemusical.com/

Les Miserables at the Queen’s Theatre – July 11th 2012 (matinee)

17 Jul

Les Miserables is one of those shows that will probably be around for ever – and rightly so. The show is an all time classic and loved by millions of fans around the world. It has a great story, interesting characters and a score to die for.

The cast is now led by Geronimo Rauch as Jean Valjean. He has already played the part in Spain to rave review. His Valjean is very physical and his voice is strong and suits the songs well. He doesn’t have a strong Spanish accent but I admit I found his pronunciation slightly irritating from time to time.
One of the things I enjoy watching the most in this show is the interaction between Valjean and Javert. Tam Mutu has taken over from Hadley Fraser as the latter and delivers a particularly strong performance. Sadly I don’t think him and Geronimo work too well together. Tam’s Javert seems to dominate Geronimo’s Valjean both physically and acting wise. I have seen Tam in Love never dies and whilst I liked his performance in this show I was never blown away by him. Being a fan of Hadley Fraser I was slightly worried about seeing Tam take over as Javert. But I can honestly say my worries vanished the moment he appeared on stage. His Javert is driven and strong and I loved his portrayal of the role. I never thought I’d say this but I actually preferred his suicide scene to Hadley’s.

One of my highlights of the new cast is Sierra Boggess. She has to be the most fragile Fantine ever – I just wanted to hug her and tell her everything would be alright! Her voice is impressive – as expected – even though she seems to struggle a bit with the lower tones in “I dreamt a dream”. I especially liked to see her play opposite Tam Mutu. You can see that those two know each other inside out by the way they work together on stage.

Danielle Hope’s Eponine is both perky and vulnerable. I wasn’t too impressed by her “On my own” but she definitely made up for it with her acting. Jonny Purchase was on for Marius and as much as I love Craig Mather’s performance it is always nice to see a new take on a role. Jonny has a lovely voice but for some reason I don’t think he’s right for Marius. He just looks too tough and mature to pass for a rather inexperienced student. The same goes for Samantha Dorsey as Cosette. She looks too mature and not right for the part. Her singing was lovely though and she and Jonny sound great together.

Cameron Blakely and Katy Secombe as Thenardier and Madame Thenardier continue to do a fantastic job. Cameron has changed tiny bits of his performance which I as a returning visitor love to see. And his “Master of the house” is simply hilarious. Liam Tamne is strong as ever as Enjolras. He has the most beautiful voice and really commands the stage during ”Red and black” and “Do you hear the people sing”.

The ensemble in Les Miserables is known to being vocally strong. The new cast makes no exception. Hearing the full cast sing “One day more” is a goose bump guarantee and the various members of the ensemble show off their impressive voices throughout the show. A special mention for James Winter who I was lucky enough to see as Bamatabois – I never knew he could be so nasty on stage! Awesome acting and what a fantastic voice! Adam Linstead never fails to make me chuckle with his fabulous portrayal of Grantaire and I really enjoyed seeing Chris Holland as Courfeyrac. Hopefully I’ll manage to catch him as Valjean in the not too distant future.

Les Miserables remains to be one of the most impressive shows in the West End. The new cast still needs a little more time to settle into their parts completely but they already do a great job after less than a month in the show. I was slightly worried about seeing this production again after so many of my favourite performers had left at the last cast change in June. But I really was pleasantly surprised by the new cast and will definitely be back to see the show again later this year.

Les Miserables is playing at the Queen’s Theatre in London. For more info and to book tickets go to http://www.lesmis.com.

Please note: Sierra Boggess, Craig Mather and Liam Tamne will stay with the production until January 2013 so plan your visit accordingly in case you want to catch them on stage.