Tag Archives: Jill Winternitz

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.

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Once at the Phoenix Theatre – There’s a new Guy in town

15 Jul

A lot of you will know that Once has a special place in my heart and is one of the shows in the West End I keep going back to again and again. I won’t deny that the Original London Cast are the reason I fell in love with the show – those guys and girls were truly special and I still miss them dearly.

However, in March 2014 a brand new cast took over (with a few familiar faces remaining in the show). After watching the show for the first time post cast change I was happy with the knowledge that Once was in save hands. And by now the new guys and girls have truly made the parts their own. Jill Winternitz took over as Girl in mid May and I loved her portrayal of the role from the start. Her Girl is cute but feisty and all around lovable. I have followed Jill’s career since I first saw her as Baby in Dirty Dancing and it’s great to see her in a show that gives her the chance to shine as an actress and singer (not to forget the piano playing which she handles effortlessly).

I wasn’t going to write another Once review mainly because everyone is probably tired of me going on about how wonderful this show is. However, on Saturday I was lucky enough to catch Jack Beale as Guy and I just had to share my thoughts on his performance. First of all, for me Declan Bennett will always be Guy. He was the first person I saw in the role and even though I haven’t seen a bad Guy yet Declan’s portrayal was the one that truly touched me. He was the one that made me cry as soon as he started singing simply because he put so many emotions into the songs. In short: I connected with Declan’s Guy like I did with no other Guy during my Once journey so far.

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I had heard good things about Jack’s Guy. There was talk about him being a bit like Declan – which both excited and worried me (I definitely didn’t want to see a wannabe Declan on stage). I soon discovered that there was no need to worry at all. The moment Jack stepped on stage I was gripped. Yes, his Guy has that certain scruffy vibe that Declan’s Guy had. But that’s were the similarities end. Jack is in no way a copy of any other Guy I’ve seen.

Jack’s portrayal of Guy is subtle and moving. He seems almost shy yet his Guy has a cheeky charm that makes you fall for him straight away. He blends in with the rest of the cast without ending up in the background. It’s a perfect mix of leading the cast without outshining your fellow cast members. His rendition of “Leave” and “Say it to me now” is hauntingly beautiful and if his “Falling slowly reprise” doesn’t make you cry I don’t know what else will.

Jack’s Guy truly develops throughout the show. He starts off as an insecure man who doesn’t know how to go on in life. With the help of Jill’s Girl he learns to believe in himself again. In my months of watching Once I have never seen anyone portray this journey so well-defined and believable. It is a true joy to watch Jack on stage. He is funny without playing the part for the laughs. He is emotional without being soppy. And he gives the songs his own stamp with his raw and mesmerising voice which for me is one of the most important things in the show.

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If you get the chance then please go and watch Jack’s performance in Once. You won’t be disappointed. And just in case you are wondering: Declan is still “my Guy” but he definitely has some strong competition from now on.

To find out about Jack’s upcoming Guy dates follow him on Twitter @JackjBeale .

Theatrical highlights of 2013

25 Dec

It’s that time of year again where I want to take a moment and name my theatrical highlights of the past 12 months. I know a lot of theatre websites and blogs publish their personal “best and worst” but I’ve decided to concentrate on the good things and not name and shame shows and such that were not to my taste.

So here goes, in no particular order. Lets start with my show highlights of 2013.

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Once the musical (Phoenix Theatre)

I admit I had been listening to the soundtrack for months before I first saw the West End production of this show and I kind of knew I was in for a treat when I stepped inside the Phoenix Theatre on a Saturday evening in March. However, I couldn’t have imagined this show would have such a huge impact on my theatre life. Once is by far the most beautiful thing I have seen on a stage for a long time. It’s such a sweet and simple show that touches your heart and soul. I have become a regular at the Phoenix Theatre over the past months and I intend to keep watching and supporting this show. Everyone involved in this production deserves the biggest round of applause for bringing Once to life in London’s West End. Thank you for some of the finest moments I’ve spent in a theatre this year.

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Sweeney Todd (Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester)

This production was everything I hoped it would be and more. A brilliant cast and fantastic staging. This is the way a show like this should be presented to the audience. I was thrilled from start to end.

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The Curious Incident of the dog in the night-time (Apollo Theatre)

This play has been around for a while but it took me until this year to finally go and see it. Having read the book years ago I had no idea how it would be possible to transfer this story to the stage. To say I was amazed after my first visit would be an understatement. I left the theatre completely blown away by the staging, the set and the cast. I really hope this play has a future after the tragic events the other week (thoughts are with everyone affected).

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Bare (Greenwich Theatre)

I went to see this without knowing anything about the show except a few songs. It was one of those “So-and-so is in it so I’m going to see it” kind of visits. What can I say? I loved it. It made me laugh and it made me cry and I wish I could have seen it more than just once.

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Mojo (Harold Pinter Theatre)

I went to see this because I just couldn’t miss out on seeing this cast on stage together. It may not be the strongest play but it was one of my most memorable theatrical evenings of 2013 thanks to the wonderfully talented cast.

Obviously I have seen and enjoyed a lot more shows, some of which I’ve been watching again and again for years. But the five productions above are my stand outs of all new (at least for me) shows I’ve seen this year. Lets go on with my highlights when it comes to performers in 2013. Please note that I’m not only choosing from the list of performers I’ve seen for the first time in 2013. But I am only including performers I have seen on stage this year in one or more productions. Again, this list has no particular order.

Declan Bennett
He is currently playing Guy in Once the musical as well as doing gigs in London (and recently New York) now and then. I could seriously listen to Declan singing for hours. His voice makes my heart smile – as cliché as it may sound.

Heather Headley
For me this lady is a singing goddess, simple as that. I adore her voice and I loved seeing her on stage in The Bodyguard more times than I should possibly admit. I think she’s stunning through and through.

Ryan Molloy
I’ve been following Ryan’s career for the past 6 years and he still manages to amaze me. His voice is incredible and he is one of those people who were just born to be on stage. On top of that he is a wonderful person and I’m happy and proud to call myself a supporter.

Ben Wheeler
Ben has been a swing at Jersey Boys in London for the past six years. Not only is he by far my favourite Tommy DeVito, he has proven that he is one of the most talented and versatile performers this production has ever seen.

Jill Winternitz
I admit I’m not the biggest fan of Dirty Dancing the musical. However, I am a huge fan of this lovely lady. Jill is currently playing Baby in Dirty Dancing at the Piccadilly Theatre and she is one of the reason I find this production hugely enjoyable.

Stephen Ashfield
I haven’t listed The Book of Mormon in my show highlights of 2013 even though I did enjoy the show a lot. I am however a bit tired of the never-ending hype surrounding the production (good for them though, it’s always great to see a show selling well). And when I think about it the real highlight in this show is Stephen. In my eyes he is the star, he is what makes me want to go and see this show again at some point. I’ve been supporting Stephen for a few years now and I have loved him in every single show I’ve seen him in, from Jersey Boys to Legally Blonde, Boy meets Boy, Book of Mormon etc. Stephen is brilliant, full stop.

Ian McIntosh
He never really caught my eye in Rock of Ages. I remember seeing him on stage a few times but for me he didn’t stand out. Then I went and watched The Commitments and he happened to be playing Deco that evening. I was blown away! That voice is quite simply insane and I cannot praise his performance high enough. Ian is a future leading man, I’m absolutely sure of it.

Ben Whishaw
I’ve been dying to see Ben Whishaw on stage ever since I watched Perfume – Story of a Murderer ages ago. So as you can imagine this year has been a dream for me in that sense – Ben appearing in not just one but two plays in the West End. I loved him in Peter and Alice and I was completely stunned watching him in Mojo. It’s very rare to see such an incredibly talented actor on stage, someone who doesn’t just play his part but who seems to truly become the character he is playing.

Luke Treadaway
This man amazed me with his portrayal of Christopher Boone in Curious Incident of the dog in the night-time. His performance was so real and honest – I am still in awe just thinking about it.

And finally I’m adding a group of people to the list because I honestly can’t just name a few of them – these guys and girls are all stars:

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The cast of Once the musical
It’s very rare to see a cast that fits together so incredibly well. This group of people – all incredibly talented individuals – have come together and created something magical at the Phoenix Theatre. As much as I love Once as a show, I absolutely adore its cast and I cannot thank them enough for the music, the laughs and the tears. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

And that’s it everyone. There have been a lot more performers who have made me smile, laugh and generally filled my theatre-loving heart with joy. I could try and name them all but we’d still be here next year and I’m sure you all have better things to do than going through a list of names.

All that’s left to do now is to thank all of you for being interested in my blog. Thanks for reading and commenting and thanks for keeping in touch on Twitter. I do hope I have managed to provide at least a few half interesting reviews, interviews and such. I’ll try my best to keep you interested in 2014. I’ve got a few new shows on the agenda soon so there should be new reviews up in the not to far away future.
Please continue to comment and tweet. It’s always lovely to hear from fellow theatregoers and all you people working in the industry.

I hope each and everyone of you is having a wonderful Christmas. Enjoy the last days of 2013 and here’s to a great 2014 full of theatrical fun.

xx

10 Questions with Jill Winternitz

12 Dec
Jill Winternitz moved all the way to London to train at RADA. Her theatre credits include Ophelia in Hamlet and the Prioress in The Canterbury Tales (Queen Mary II), Wounded (Los Angeles Theatre Ensemble), Nina in The Seagull (MXAT) and Sunday in the Park with George (Interlochen Center for the Arts). Whilst training she appeared in The Last Days of Judas Iscariot, Three Sisters, Julius Caesar and Oleanna. Her film credits include Alice in The Sorrows and Lauren in The Replacement Child.

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You are an American in London – how did that happen? Did you always want to study in the UK rather than in the USA?
I had always dreamed of training at RADA, but never thought there was much chance of getting in as an American.  There were four rounds of auditions, with the final being in London.  You have to take chances in life and go for the things you most want.  This one paid off and I remember getting a call from Nicholas Barter, the principal of RADA at the time, offering me a place about 15 minutes before I was about to watch ‘Hay Fever’ in the West End starring Dame Judi Dench.  I started crying with joy and thought, wow, I hope I can be doing what she’s doing at her age.  It was quite a moment for me.

Imagine someone had told you five years ago you would be making your West End debut playing Baby in Dirty Dancing – what would you have said?
There is no way I would have believed them!  I presumed most of my work in the UK would be in classical theatre because of my training.  I also never thought I could learn to dance to the level required of my role in Dirty Dancing.  It’s been such a dream job for me and one that’s really allowed me to grow as an actress.

It must be nice to be home in London again after touring the UK with Dirty Dancing. Do you enjoy touring in general? What are the good / bad things about being on tour?
It is SO nice to be home.  I really missed my other half (filmmaker Mike Doxford) when I was away.  I moved to London when I was 19 and have really grown up in this city, so I missed it a lot too.  The great thing for me about touring though was seeing the UK.  There are some gorgeous places, and such rich history.  It was a real education and an experience I am so grateful for.

Would you like to do more musical theatre in the future? Any dream roles you’d like to play in musical theatre?
I love musical theatre!  It was the first kind of theatre I ever saw as a kid, and I became quite obsessive about shows as teenager such as Rent, Wicked, and The Last Five Years.  As far as shows I’d love to be involved with, there are many:  Once is such a gorgeous show, pretty much any Sondheim musical, I also love the work they do with musical theatre at the Donmar Warehouse.

Do you enjoy going to the theatre in your free time? If so, what shows/plays have you seen lately? Any recommendations?
Going to theatre is one of my main hobbies actually.  Call me crazy, but on a night off you will often find me seeing a show.  Recently I have seen and loved ‘Let the Right One In’ at the Royal Court, ‘The Light Princess’ at the National Theatre, and ‘The Bodyguard’ where Beverley Knight smashes it with the most incredible vocals!

Is there a theatre you would love to work in at some point in the future? Personally I think The National must be a dream workplace for any actor.
You guessed it!  I would love to work at The National.  Also on the list is the Royal Court, The Almeida, Menier Chocolate Factory, and Shakespeare’s Globe.

When you’re not doing anything theatre related, how do you like to spend your free time?
I’m really into yoga.  That’s my favourite way to unwind and feel centred.  This industry can be such a roller coaster of emotions and I find yoga to be very balancing.

I believe you are a bit of a Christmas fan. What is the special thing about Christmas for you?
Yes, I absolutely love Christmas time!  For me it’s always been about family and spreading joy.  It has great memories for me and each year I love making new ones too.  I also love the things that go along with Christmas – magical lights, German Christmas markets, ice skating, mulled wine, the smell of cinnamon, a log fire, Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker!

With Dirty Dancing finishing its London run at the end of February, what are your plans for 2014?
When DD closes, I plan to fly straight to LA to do the tail end of pilot season (the time of year where TV networks are casting all their new pilots).  It will be great to see my family and get some sunshine as well.  I’d love to move into TV and Film alongside my work in theatre.

Finally, why should people go and watch Dirty Dancing at the Piccadilly Theatre?
Dirty Dancing is such an iconic and loved story, and at the Piccadilly we really invite you into the world of Kellerman’s, so you feel like you were also there in that summer of 1963. Come along if you want to enjoy some great tunes, a cracking romance, and leave the theatre in a better mood than when you arrived!

Thank you Jill for taking time out of your busy schedule for this interview!

Follow Jill on Twitter @JillWinternitz

Book your tickets for Dirty Dancing here.

Dirty Dancing at the Piccadilly Theatre – 20th July 2013

31 Jul

Dirty Dancing is without a doubt one of the most popular movies of the 80s. And I will admit it here and now: I love the movie and have seen it various times.
When I first heard rumours about a stage version of Dirty Dancing several years ago I was properly excited. I saw real potential and the possibility for a gorgeous dance musical with great songs. Years later and after having seen the show in both Germany and the UK I now think differently. Dirty Dancing – at least in its current manifestation – doesn’t really work as a stage show. It’s not that the material is bad. After all there’s romance, great dancing, catchy tunes and handsome people. But when you put a movie on stage one thing is essential: You can’t transfer a movie scene by scene. But that is exactly what has happened with Dirty Dancing. And because of the almost ridiculous amount of tiny scenes stuck together the show doesn’t flow properly. It seems rushed and incomplete which I think is a real shame. After all shows like Saturday Night Fever have proven that a dance movie can be turned into a good stage show.

After being on tour for about a year Dirty Dancing has now moved into its temporary new home in the West End. The show is slightly different from the last West End production which is no surprise considering it is a touring version.  But then Dirty Dancing has never been the show of big sets. It’s all about the dancing in the end and we sure get plenty of that.

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Paul-Michael Jones steps into Patrick Swayze’s shoes as Johnny Castle. Personally I think he lacks the proper looks for the part – I always picture Johnny as tall, dark and handsome and while Paul-Michael Jones is tall and nice to look at he’s definitely not the dark type. However, he makes up for this with his brilliant dancing skills and a kind of boyish charm he brings to the part. I enjoyed his take on Johnny a lot.

Jill Winternitz is Baby Houseman and she is without a doubt the sweetest and most natural Baby I have seen so far. I adored her from the moment she stepped on stage. Baby’s sister Lisa is played by Emilia Williams and I have to say for me she is the one weak link on stage. It may be due to direction but her Lisa is so completely over the top that I couldn’t connect with her at all. Yes, Lisa’s “solo” during the end of the season performance is supposed to be funny – but it shouldn’t be ridiculously silly.

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Charlotte Gooch’s Penny Johnson is quite a sight. She is just gorgeous to look at and a fierce dancer. Her performance is simply wonderful and she manages to give Penny a vulnerability that draws the audience in straight away.

Stefan Menaul has to be the cutest Neil Kellerman in the history of Dirty Dancing. It is very easy to turn Neil into a complete geek but to make him slightly geeky but equally cute and actually quite likable is a real achievement. So thumbs up for Stefan for that!

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A special mention goes to Wayne Smith who plays Johnny’s brother Billy and gets to sing the iconic “Time of my life” amongst other songs. It is wonderful to see Wayne back on stage in the West End. He is such a natural on stage and now he finally gets to show off his lovely singing voice.

The rest of the cast does a great job. This show must be tough for every dancer. The choreography is demanding and the cast rarely get the chance to catch their breath between scenes (another result of the constant scene changes).

So, whilst I stand by my opinion that Dirty Dancing is not a very good stage show I really enjoyed seeing all those talented people on stage. They are what make this show worth watching. And yes, I will be back because there is no way I am missing out on seeing Joseph Prouse (who was away on the day I saw the show) do a bit of dirty dancing. And the only thing I am dreading is the typical Dirty Dancing audience. I realise this show attracts hen nights and the likes and I have nothing against an enthusiastic audience. But there is a difference between enthusiastic and plain awkward and sometimes even rude behaviour. Screaming (not cheering, I’m talking of proper hysteric screams) when Johnny makes his appearance to tell everyone that “no one puts Baby in a corner” is just a complete no go. And yes, we are not watching Shakespeare but talking loudly while the show is going on is rude towards both your fellow audience members and the cast.

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So, if you like the movie and want to see the famous lift and all live on stage you should consider watching Dirty Dancing at the Piccadilly Theatre. Be prepared for bad audience behaviour though!

Dirty Dancing is playing at the Piccadilly Theatre until 22nd February 2014. For more info and to book tickets go here.