Tag Archives: Stephen Ashfield

Bye Bye Jersey Boys

28 Mar

This post is not going to be about the final performance of Jersey Boys in the West End. Although I have been a supporter of the show since 2008 I did not attend the performance on Sunday. Jersey Boys still does and always will hold a special place in my heart though. And I did celebrate the show on Sunday but I did it by attending Ryan Molloy’s Farewell Frankie gig at the Hippodrome in London.

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For those of you that were not there and did not see anything about what happened yet I will sum it up in three words: Original Four reunited. Ryan Molloy, Glenn Carter, Philip Bulcock and Stephen Ashfield (who flew in just for a day from New York – that is dedication!) took the stage together for the first time since 2010 and gave Jersey Boys the best send off imaginable. It was a celebration of a show that has had a big impact on both its fans and the performers who have been part of it.

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I will not bore you with long talk about how important Jersey Boys has been for me – I have made friends through this show and have met so many wonderful people. I have not watched it regularly for the past few years but I cherish the memories from those first six years when I was a regular at the Prince Edward Theatre. And I am happy the show continued to make people happy for another three years at the Piccadilly Theatre.

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On Sunday I got the chance to celebrate Jersey Boys with the people who made me fall in love with it. And for that I cannot thank the man who made it happen enough: Ryan Molloy. What an incredible day he managed to put together: From the gig in the afternoon all the way to an aftershow party that went on until after midnight.

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It was lovely to see so many former Jersey Boys (and Girls) reunited at the gig and/or the aftershow party: Ryan Molloy, Stephen Ashfield, Glenn Carter, Philip Bulcock, Suzy Bastone, Kieran Jae, Charlie Bull, Chris Gardner, Jon Boydon, Matt Wycliffe, Trina Hill, Eugene McCoy – You are all amazing. Thank you for everything.

And Ryan was right: He only offers the truth – I shit you not.

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Since words cannot do the whole thing justice here are some videos for you to enjoy.









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Everybody knows my name – A short film by Philip Bulcock

18 Jun

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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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

The Book of Mormon at The Prince of Wales Theatre – 9th March 2013

13 Mar

If you have been walking around London in the past weeks or are just slightly interested in musical theatre (or both) you will have noticed one thing: The Mormons are in town! It is almost impossible to avoid this show these days.

The Book of Mormon has been a sell out on Broadway since March 2011 and has now found its way across the pond and right into London’s West End. The show tells the story of Elder Price and Elder Cunningham, two young Mormon missionaries who are sent to Uganda to share the Book of Mormon and convert the locals. However, people in the village they travel to are worried about war, poverty and AIDS and have no interest in religion.
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It does sound quite deep just from reading this short and VERY basic summary. However, in reality The Book of Mormon is a satiric approach to organised religion and the literal credibility of the LDS Church (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints). But despite being downright filthy in parts The Book of Mormon is a show with heart and in the end it tells us that religion can do good if taken metaphorically.
The show’s songs are as clever as they are hilarious – some of them hinting at well-known musical theatre classics. The choreography has to be one of the finest you have seen on a West End stage and the characters – whilst drawn out of proportion – are thought through and well-developed.

Gavin Creel reprises his role as Elder Price after opening the US National Tour of The Book of Mormon. Gavin is no stranger to the West End having starred in both Mary Poppins and Hair. His Elder Price starts out on his mission wonderfully optimistic and sure of his beliefs but after being sent to Uganda and experiencing various set-backs his faith starts to crumble. Gavin plays Elder Price with a boyish charm that is impossible to resist. His singing is flawless and his acting is nothing but spot on.

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Jared Gertner plays Elder Cunningham who is sent to Uganda with Elder Price to spread the word of Jesus amongst the locals through the Book of Mormon. Elder Cunningham is the geeky outsider, the one that never fits in. He doesn’t actually care about the Book of Mormon (in fact he hasn’t even read it). Elder Cunningham just wants to be accepted and declares the popular Elder Price his new best friend. Jared is a perfect fit for this part – his Cunningham is hilariously funny and awkward but he’s never a complete laughing-stock.

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The secret star of the show has to be the wonderful Stephen Ashfield who shines as Elder McKinley. His “Turn it off” is a complete show stopper and has the audience in fits of laughter. Stephen has appeared in several West End shows to rave reviews including Jersey Boys (Bob Gaudio) and Legally Blonde (Emmett) but The Book of Mormon finally gives him the chance to show off his incredible comic timing. To say Stephen is great in the show would be an understatement – he is quite simply outstanding.

Alexia Khadime is an irresistibly cute Nabulungi. She plays the part with a tender humour and manages to win the audience over instantly. “Baptize me“ (Nabulungi and Elder Cunningham) is brilliantly funny and “Hasa Diga Eebowai (Reprise)“ gives her the chance to show off her amazing voice.

There really is no weak link in this cast. From Chris Jarman (General) to Haydn Oakley (Price’s Dad, Joseph Smith, Mission President), Giles Terera (Mafala Hatimbi) and the complete ensemble this cast is put together perfectly. The chemistry on stage is noticeable throughout the show. In fact I don’t recall watching a show that was so extremely slick after less than two weeks of previews in all my years of theatre going.

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The Book of Mormon is by far the most offensive piece of theatre I have ever seen and I am sure there will be visitors who can’t cope with this kind of humour. This is definitely not a show for kids and if you can’t take jokes about religion The Book of Mormon is not for you.
However, I had the absolutely best time watching this show. I laughed until I cried and I loved all the “Did they actually just say that??” moments (there are plenty, believe me). And in the end this is a parody but it is also a story about friendship, standing up for your belief and staying true to yourself. Having said that it is funniest show I have had the pleasure to attend in my life – a through and through brilliant night out.

The Book of Mormon is one of those “Beg and steal for a ticket” shows – a proper hit musical that you just can’t miss out on!

The Book of Mormon is playing at The Prince of Wales Theatre. For more info and to book tickets go to http://www.bookofmormonlondon.com.

2012 – A look back

31 Dec

With 2012 coming to an end I thought it was time to look back at the past 12 months and sum up my theatre related highlights of the year. And what a year this has been! I have had the opportunity to discover new shows, keep re-visiting my favourite shows, spend time with some amazing people, travel to places I haven’t been to before and – thanks to this blog – share my views on shows and theatre in general with all you guys.

It’s impossible to name each and every fantastic theatre moment – there are just way too many. But I want to mention a few that have had a special impact for various reasons. Lets start with my show highlights.

First of all one of my all time favourites is still going strong: Jersey Boys. That show has been a huge part of my theatre life since 2008 and I’m happy I got to visit the boys and girls in Jersey a lot during 2012. Obviously I have my favourites in every part but all in all the whole cast of this show is doing such an amazing job. They are the reason I will never get bored of the show. A special thank you goes out to Ryan Molloy (you are totally mad but I love you for it), Jon Boydon, Ben Wheeler, Mike Conway, Matt Wycliffe, Eugene McCoy, Mark Isherwood and TeeJaye. You guys are amazing!

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Another show that has had a huge impact on my 2012 is Les Miserables. Thank’s to (mainly) Ramin Karimloo I ended up seeing that show around 25 times between January and March 2012. Ramin’s Jean Valjean was quite simply one of the most stunning things I have ever seen in a show – breathtakingly fantastic all around. And his final show is definitely in the top three of my favourite theatre performances of 2012.

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Next up is a show I wish I could have seen more often than just twice. But sadly a limited run (clashing with the Olympics as well) prevented me from that. It is, of course, Mack and Mabel which was staged at the Southwark Playhouse this summer. This show was such a perfect production, from set and choreography right through to the cast (led by the wonderful Norman Bowman and Laura Pitt-Pulford).

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A show that restored my faith in musical theatre was Singin’ in the rain at the Palace Theatre. Shows like this are the reason I fell in love with musical theatre in the first place – from the dancing to the story to the amazingly talented cast, there’s no weak link in this production. I adore that show and it’s on my list of shows to see a lot more often in 2013.

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One of the smallest yet most enjoyable shows I have seen this year is Boy meets Boy at Jermyn Street Theatre. My reason to book tickets was Stephen Ashfield who I always enjoy to see on stage. I ended up loving this gem of a musical and would be thrilled to see it get another run sometime in the future.

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There were so many other shows I enjoyed (and still enjoy) watching. I can’t name them all but if you’ve been reading my blog and maybe even follow me on Twitter you probably have a basic idea anyway.

I’ll go on with some gig highlights of 2012.

The ones that had the biggest impact on me (and my travel diary) are Ramin Karimloo’s Road to find out concerts in May 2012. Without this tour I would never have ended up visiting cities like Newcastle, Cardiff and Birmingham. The tour consisted of 10 concerts and I am proud to say I managed to attend 7 of them – not bad considering I was flying over from Germany all the time. Was it worth it you may ask? Oh yes! I had a brilliant time. It was wonderful to see Ramin explore this new chapter in his career and I hope he continues to be successful with what he enjoys so much – making music.

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Some slightly smaller but still memorable concerts were the Bloomfield Avenue gigs at Roadhouse, Covent Garden on various Sundays throughout 2012. If you haven’t heard of that band I urge you to check them out: http://www.bloomfieldavenueband.co.uk/. They are currently looking for a new London venue for 2013 so watch out for any upcoming gigs.

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And finally some personal highlights that will remain a special memory of 2012 for me.

I still remember how thrilled I was when Dean Chisnall was promoted to playing the lead in Shrek the musical. I have known Dean for several years and I am proud to call such a wonderful and talented person my friend. And trust me when I say: Dean is by far the most dedicated performer you will ever meet. He so deserved to have a lead part in a big West End show and this year he finally achieved just that. It fills me with joy to see Dean on stage in such an iconic theatre as Theatre Royal Drury Lane. Here’s to more fantastic parts in great shows in the future!

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Tim Howar taking over as Stacee Jaxx in Rock of Ages is yet another highlight of 2012. I first saw Tim on stage in Tonight’s the night (the Rod Stewart musical – some of you may remember it) in 2003 and fell in love with his voice straight away. Tim has to be one of the kindest people on this planet. I feel privileged to know him and I’m beyond happy that he is back on stage in the West End where he belongs.

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My charity auction in aid of The Brain Research Trust was by far the most challenging theatre related project this year. Lots of emails, walking around the West End collecting posters and programmes and generally a lot of organisational work – but it was all so worth it. I couldn’t have done it without all the support from various lovely people (thank you again – you know who you are). It was great to see what a wonderful community the theatre world really is.

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So, all that’s left now is a look out for what is to come in 2013. There are so many things I’m already looking forward to. In no particular order:

1. Once the musical
2. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
3. Book of Mormon
4. Seeing MiG Ayesa and Jenna Lee James in the We will rock you arena tour
5. Seeing my lovely friend Björn Klein play Emmett in Legally Blonde in Vienna
6. Seeing Peter Johansson as Stacee Jaxx in Stockholm
7. Finally seeing Ben Whishaw live on a theatre stage
9. Watching The Bodyguard again (slightly addicted I fear…)
10. Generally continuing to support my favourite performers

… the list goes on…

With that I will leave you for 2012. Thank you for sticking with me throughout the year. I really appreciate your support for my little blog. Hopefully I’ll manage to keep you entertained with more reviews and other theatre related posts in 2013 (watch out for my review of The Bodyguard which is coming up as soon as possible).

Happy new year everyone! I hope 2013 brings you all you ever wished for. Keep in touch – comment, tweet or email me. I love to hear from you guys. x

Boy meets Boy at Jermyn Street Theatre – 24th November 2012

28 Nov

Boy meets Boy, a musical comedy by Bill Solly and Donald Ward, tells the story of American journalist Casey O’Brien who is in London to cover the story of the abdication of King Edward VIII. However, he ends up chasing after the mysterious “English Rose”, a man described as charming and exceptionally handsome who has jilted the rich and self-absorbed Clarence Cutler at the altar.

After being shown off-Broadway for the first time in 1975 this show now finally gets its UK premiere at Jermyn Street Theatre. What strikes first is that the story is set in an entirely re-imagined 1930s in which the marriage between two men is just as common as the union of man and woman.

Stephen Ashfield and Ben Kavanagh

Stephen Ashfield returns to Jermyn Street Theatre to star as Casey O’Brien. Best known for his portrayal of Bob Gaudio in the original London cast of Jersey Boys he now steps into the shoes of the American journalist who thinks love is a fun pastime but shouldn’t be taken seriously. From the first time he appears on stage right until the curtain call he manages to captivate the audience with his performance. His voice suits the songs perfectly, his acting is absolutely spot on – and who would have thought Stephen had a hidden talent for tap dancing?

Craig Fletcher and Stephen Ashfield

Ben Kavanagh is without a doubt the second star of the show. He portrays the completely self-centred Clarence Cutler with just the right amount of humour and a twinkle in the eye. His hilariously funny rendition of “Me” has the audience in stitches but he never ridicules his character and makes sure Clarence isn’t downgraded to a common laughing-stock. He’s one of those “bad guys” you can’t help but love.

Craig Fletcher gives a solid and charming performance as Guy Rose. The character itself simply isn’t as interesting as Casey and Clarence which makes it a bit hard to stand up to Stephen and Ben. On the other hand the wonderfully funny “A Boy’s Life” (performed by Craig and Stephen) is definitely a highlight and shows what a talent Craig Fletcher is. 

This gem of a show is yet another triumph for Jermyn Street Theatre. It’s funny, clever and heart-warming with some beautiful tunes and great lyrics. Performed in this intimate space the audience truly feels part of the story. And even though the stage is tiny the cast still manages to deliver some impressive dance numbers.

Make sure you don’t miss out on this production. It’s only running for a month so you will have to be quick. But trust me, you won’t regret it!

Cast
Casey O’Brien: Stephen Ashfield
Guy Rose: Craig Fletcher
Andrew: Johnjo Flynn
Clarence Cutler: Ben Kavanagh
Lady Rose / Josephine La Rose: Anna Nicholas
Ensemble:
Benjamin Bailey, Carly Mackelvie, Nicola Martin, Gregory Sims, Biancha Szynal, Helen Turner, Jay Webb, Aron Wild

Boy meets Boy is running at Jermyn Street Theatre until 20th December 2012. For more info and to book tickets go to http://www.jermynstreettheatre.co.uk.

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

Jersey Boys London, September 18th 2011

22 Sep

Yes, I am a Jersey Boys regular. I’ve been watching the show since July 2008 and have since then seen it more than 100 times (and no, that is no typo!). Jersey Boys is one of those shows that I can see again and again without getting bored. It has a gripping story, fantastic songs and is in my eyes almost flawless.

For all of you that have managed to avoid a trip to Jersey so far: The show tells the story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons (with a certain artistic freedom). The fact that it is not just a made up tale but in general the true history of real people is one of the reasons I’m fascinated by this musical. I remember the first time I went to watch Jersey Boys – I had no idea what to expect, all I had seen until then where clips online that had made me want to see the man with the fabulous voice on stage: Ryan Molloy (funny enough he was off sick on my first visit). It only took this one visit to get me hooked. So ever since that day Jersey Boys is on my “to see” list whenever I travel to London.

Once you’ve watched a show a certain amount of times you enjoy a few of change now and then. At least that’s what applies to me. So I am always up for understudy shows at Jersey Boys and I tend to book especially to see certain understudies on stage now and then.

The latest addition to those understudy shows happened on September 18th 2011. I do love Jon Boydon’s Tommy DeVito and I honestly miss Jon whenever I see the show and he’s not there but Ben Wheeler’s Tommy will always hold a special place in my heart. It’s probably a little due to the fact that he was my first ever Tommy back in 2008. But then he’s also a completely awesome performer. His Tommy is the perfect mix of dangerous and flirty, something that is quite hard to achieve. Plus I can basically see what his Tommy is thinking from every little facial expression and gesture. He doesn’t just act from script, he puts life into his performance. Ben’s Tommy is not just a one dimensional bully which makes it so interesting to see the characters development throughout the show.
What made this specific Sunday matinee even better was Mark Isherwood’s Nick Massi. He plays Nick exactly like he should be played (in my eyes at least). Nick Massi is a very defined and rather quiet character with a lot of style so for me it is important that he isn’t portayed as a joke figure. And unfortunately that can happen quite quickly with Nick wanting to “start his own group” all the time and doing the infamous “towel” speech in act 2. Mark’s Nick oozes charisma, simple as that. He’s elegant and laid back which is exactly why said towel speech comes across as a real outbreak of “the quiet one”. And I’d like to add that Mark’s smile really lights up the stage – such amazing stage presence! He needs to be on more often (who do I have to bribe??).
Matt Wycliffe always amazes me with the pure energy he puts into his performance. His Bob is very calm and collected yet he almost explodes (not literally!) with energy during the group songs and “Oh what a night”. And just how beautiful is that voice?! I will always miss Stephen Ashfield as Bob Gaudio, after all I’ve seen him in the show for 3 years. But I’m so glad they found Matt to replace Stephen and I honestly adore his Bob Gaudio.
Who’s missing? The one and only Mr. Molloy, of course. What can I say? He’s the man! I’ve never seen a performer like him on stage before. The guy is amazingly talented and if you ask me his voice is actually better than Frankie Valli’s. Plus Ryan is a born entertainer and that definitely shows in his performance. I sometimes wish he could just completely go for it and – for example – sing “Beggin” like he often does at promotional appearances (those riffs are awesome!!).
I seriously hope this wasn’t the first and last time I have seen these four guys on stage together. Their stage chemistry was fantastic and it was obvious they were having a great time performing together.

Wayne Smith as Bob Crewe always is a highlight in every Jersey Boys performance I attend. Yes, I loved Simon Adkin’s Bob Crewe and I always will. But Wayne really has made the character his own. His Bob Crewe has dignity and that is the most important thing everyone playing this part has to achieve. Bob Crewe was such a vital and important part in the history of the Four Season. As funny as his behaviour in the show is (all that “the stars are in alignment” stuff and so on) he can’t be portrayed as a walking joke. And Wayne manages this perfectly. I love his Bob Crewe and beside Matt Wycliffe he is my favourite addition to the Jersey Boys family.
Chris Gardner is doing a good job as Hank Majewski but I have to say he still doesn’t really covince me in the part. His Hank just seems a bit bland but then the part itself is not exactly the most exciting in the show. I have seen his Bob Gaudio and I really enjoyed his performance in that part so it’s probably rather the character’s than Chris’ fault that I just can’t warm to his Hank.
Jake Samuels has really grown into his role over the last few months. It’s no secret that I miss Joseph Prouse’s Norman Waxman dearly though. Joseph just had some kind of sparkle that Jake unfortunately lacks. He’s really good as Nick Massi though and I hope I get to see him in that part again.
Paul Iveson was on as Donnie/Knuckles. He did well but for some reason Paul never totally amazes me. He is good in every part I’ve seen him in but he hasn’t managed to work his way up to be my favourite in any of them.
Carl Au has developed so much since he started in the show. When I first saw him as Joey Pesci I thought he was way too insecure and not funny at all. But now he’s definitely settled into the role. Seeing his Frankie Valli is still on my list.
The three girls on stage always tend to stand in the shadow of the boys which is a shame. Rachael Wooding’s Mary Delgado is feisty and full of energy. She’s definitely my favourite since Suzy Bastone. Charlie Bull as Lorraine has grown a lot in the role over the last 1,5 years. Her Lorraine is more vulnerable now which makes me feel for the character. And Lauren Hall is by far the best Francine I have seen in the show. It’s fantastic to see what she makes of such a small role. When Francine phones her dad in act 2 I cannot help but wonder what must have happened to that girl to make her so fearful and insecure, something that has never happened to me with any of the other girls I’ve seen as Francine.

Only downside of this performance were certain people in the audience. Don’t you just hate it when people talk loudly during the show? And if you read this, yes I mean you, the two middle aged guys in the second row. So inconsiderate and just plain rude.
But even that can not prevent me from saying that this was one of the best performances of Jersey Boys I have seen in the last couple of months and I was once again reminded why I’ve seen it so many times. I truly love this show and as long as it is running in the West End I will be back for more.

Jersey Boys is showing at the Prince Edwards Theatre. For more info go to http://www.jerseyboyslondon.com/