Tuckman’s Christmas Cracker

Louise Dearman & Rachel Tucker’s “Christmas Cracker” – 15th Dec 2020 @ The Crazy Coqs, Zedel.

Disclaimer – all images used are by the incredible Danny Kaan.

So for about 9 years now, we’ve been praying for Louise & Rachel to do a concert together. There’s been a couple of gigs they have both been guests at, but always with other performers and those sorts of gigs are usually where people just get introduced, walk on, smash their song & walk back off, without the chance to engage the audience as themselves & let their personality shine. That is what we’ve been banging on about, every time we said they need to do a gig together because we (I keep saying we, meaning, myself and all the other long time Tuckman fans who’ve been wanting this), because we knew that the only thing that could happen when they finally reunited as a duo would be a magical convergence of their unique personalities & talents.

Cut to 2020, a global pandemic hits, with all its tragedy, challenges and harrowing effect on the arts #SaveTheArts. Finally Louise & Rachel decide to make our dreams come true & reunite, I don’t know who contacted who, or made them finally sync their diaries but THANK YOU, you little angel. Earlier this year we got West End Musical Drive In… The pre show Instagram stories alone, showed any fan, old or new, how amazing they’d be as the dream team together again, let alone the actual gig. They smashed out all the songs you’d expect & want from them and a few more you’d never have expected just for good measure, albeit with car horns honking, in a damp car park, with that bitter cold nipping at our noses. It was immense but unfortunately for them, only left us all wanting more, and a chance for them to really be them, in true Tuckman fashion banter & all, because as epic as the drive in was, it wasn’t the place for the kind of antics we knew we’d be in for in a Tuckman only gig, where they could be their own hosts.

Lucky for us, they seem to have caught the Tuckman bug again & decided to throw us a Christmas Cracker at the Crazy Coqs. Heck Yea!!!!! Obviously in the times we are in, it is a small venue. The audience number was slashed due to social distancing. So weather I felt ready to actually go on public transport, in an actual venue, or if the show would even get to go ahead with Tier’s & Lockdowns, being threatened and enforced or not, I threw caution to the wind & figured i’d work it out when it actually came to it. Then came the 15th Dec…. the actual day, and the last day for London in Tier 2 before Christmas. Lou & Rachel’s Christmas Cracker managed to sneak in just on the last night. Geez so lucky & I managed to get my anxious ass out the door and into an Uber, as couldn’t face public transport.

Now for the show… normally i’d go through song by song and give my flailing impressions but, there is a stream heading our way next week (Go book now on Zedel’s website, if you haven’t already) & I don’t want to spoil it for people but… From the moment Guy gave them their “5 minute call,” I could tell we were finally getting that sprinkle of Tuckman dust that we’ve been craving. Where they could let their hair down & give us their own unique blend of pizazz, class, repartee & all. 

Part of their draw is their complete willingness to never take themselves to seriously all whilst still managing to maintain the highest level of quality & elegance. Singularly they both shine in their own rights. Their talents know no bounds and they have distinct qualities & ways of delivering material, but when they band together they each bring something else out of each other that you just don’t glimpse solo, and it is a sight to see & behold that will never leave you.

They bounce off of each other & you can see the joy it brings them to share a stage just seeping out of them, and it is overwhelmingly compelling, drawing their audience in to their joy & filling them with it too. I can not say how much this kind of pure joy was needed in these times. There’s just something special about Tuckman.

They started with a sketch that set the tone for the evening, letting you know they were here and ready to ham it up if and when needed. There were props, and simple yet effective stage pieces, as well as a couple of costume changes throughout the hour. We were treated to duets, solos and a hilarious/brilliant sketch/mashup that will make the heart of any Wicked fan leap, all based around the festive theme of the evening. We even had a reworked classic that was flawlessly adapted to suit Tuckman & the night. The audience were given individually wrapped and sanitised Jingle Bells to help with atmosphere & Louise and Rachel brought the Christmas Cheer with every note they sang. 

I can not articulate how happy it made me not just to be in a venue again, seeing live performances but for it to be Louise & Rachel together again, helping us get in the Christmas spirit. In a year where it’s been a chore to find positives and not be dragged down by the weight of everything going on around us. They lifted my heart higher than it’s been all year & took us on a beautiful journey. That’s the beauty of theatre & the arts though isn’t it, the escapism! The chance to put aside all that’s going on around us and just be in that moment, enjoying two friends, sharing a stage, their talents, beautiful music and their charm with us. We laughed together, some of us cried & we all just enjoyed that moment, soaking up Tuckman’s Christmas Cracker LIVE on stage. 

Massive props to the team behind them that helped bring it all together in the perfectly wrapped package that it was. Obviously huge props to the MD Christopher Duffy, helping set the tone & tune for the evening. The wonderful Danny Kaan (Photography & Videography, Lois Morgan Gay, Sound/Lighting, the staff at The Crazy Coqs & all those behind the scenes. 

The only disappointment of the night was that it had to end. My take aways from the evening are that basically we need all Tuckman, all the time. Next year I expect their Christmas Cracker to move to the Palladium, giving us a full 2.5hr gig, with a Christmas album (complete with duet of Winter Song by Ingrid Michaelson & Sara Bareilles) & of course a just for fun whatever they wanna duet album too. Who wouldn’t love a stocking with two Tuckman albums? Seriously who? Also that they need their own TV show, where they can just entertain us on a weekly basis. Not to be too demanding or anything. 

Luckily for us, on Monday the 21st we have the stream of the gig i’ve been rambling on about so you can see for yourself what all the fuss is about. (Book Here – https://tickets.artist-tix.com/tickets/series/LouAndRachel/a-live-stream-with-lou-rachels-christmas-cracker-280156?startDate=12-21-2020).

They also have gigs planned in Horsham in the New Year which you should all keep an eye on. Obviously it will be subject to changes in accordance with Tier’s and such. Saturday – 23rd January @ The Capitol Theatre, Horsham – Book Here https://www.thecapitolhorsham.com/whats-on/all-shows/louise-and-rachel-live-in-concert/18900/#schedules

📸 Credit https://www.instagram.com/danny_with_a_camera/

If you enjoy spoilers….. watch this trailer for the Livestream & then BOOK!!

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Dreamcast for Waitress in the West End

So i’ve been compiling my list of “dream cast” for Waitress for some time now. Since well before it was announced or i’d even seen the show in person. Well I have finally seen it in all it’s glory on Broadway not once but twice, a few weeks ago. So bearing that in mind i’ve rearranged my list and added a few extra people into the mix. Whilst i’m certain they’ve already cast the show, or at least Jenna. Can’t hurt to put this list out there as there’s always cast changes here & on Broadway. So I have every hope that at least half of these ladies should be given the chance at some stage. Though I do fear they may be looking for something very specific in their Jenna’s. A certain type/style of voice, which maybe doesn’t come so naturally in musical theatre, but you know these ladies are all top of their craft and I have every faith that if they were given the chance they’d rise to any challenge set before them, to get this role.

So here’s my list of a few of my favourites to play Jenna one day. I’ve kept the reasons super simple and brief, because I do tend to waffle on. Also you’re welcome for all the Jenna’s in costume. Only took all day to do that. If anyone doesn’t look quite right, I do apologize, one can only stare at that blue uniform for so long. Also NB: Don’t be mad I added 2 broadway performers, because well they rock and Megan performed here recently & Shoshana is always here, so why the heck not? There is also a few other performers I think would be fantastic for the role, but the list was just getting way too long already so had to be brutal.

Speaking of brutal, if you find it hard to take on other peoples opinions, or only came here to bash my choices, please stop here. This is supposed to be a fun positive post, to share my thoughts and show a few performers I think they’d be great. Not to start anything. Happy to hear your thoughts on who you’d love to see, just not at the expense of others. There is always a polite way to share positivity.

Who could play Jenna in my personal opinion:

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So I also have a few idea’s for the other parts, I don’t have the energy to put them all in costumes too unfortunately, as much as I really was tempted.

Becky: Sandra Marvin, Sharon D Clarke, Marisha Wallace, Brenda Edwards, Chloe Hart & Gillian Hardie. Also if they just got Keala Settle to come and open it here that would be EPIC. Would also help with bringing in the crowds.

Dawn: Julie Atherton, Lizzy Connelly, Sophie Issacs, Lauren Samuels, Louise Dearman, Katie Rowley Jones, Maria Coyne, Rachael Wooding and Laura Baldwin.

* Yes there is a few of those ladies who I also have for Jenna, but they are just so versatile, I could quite easily see them in either role.

Dr Pomatter: Ian McIntosh, Richard Fleeshman, Oliver Saville, Dominic Marsh, Killian Donnelly, Jon Robyns, Michael Xavier, Jason Winter, Jeremy Taylor, Rob Houchen, Andy Coxon, Paul Ayres and George Maguire.

Karl: Simon Lipkin … i’m stuggling on this one if i’m honest, who do you all think?

Ogie: Simon Lipkin, Ben Stott, Thomas Sutcliffe, David Ribi and Dan Buckley.

So those are my thoughts so far, there is a million other incredible people out there perfect for the roles, these are just my initial thoughts and hopes. Hoping I haven’t left anyone off my list that I really wanted on there, i’m sure I have. There’s too much talent.

I am super excited to see who they do cast, with a show like this I know it’s going to be brilliant.

 

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Oscars for Orchestra – The Halle

So pretty much after every show I go to I say to myself, I should blog about that because well, it was a great night & there has been SOOOOO many these last few years & I’m rubbish, but I genuinely want to try harder to keep a record of fun stuff on here even if only for me, so I can look back when i’m old & grey with all my cats (that I dress in random costumes of characters from my fave shows) & think yes that’s right that was an incredible night & actually have something to remind me why it was so epic.

So when you get to have a road trip & a catch up with friends you don’t get to see enough, it’s always going to be a good day. When you throw in an insanely talented Orchestra, a gorgeous venue & a vocalist with an amount of talented that just can not be summed up in one word, it’s a bloody brilliant day!

Yesterday we set off for Manchester, iPod at the ready for car singalong’s & just general catch up for the 4 or so hour drive from my place to Manchester, my friend had already driven 2 hours just to get to me, so let it be known that she is a legend, I do not know how she stays awake on those drives late at night but she always gets me home safe.

926113_1243100445717523_2128917555_nSo what was the gig? Oscars for Orchestra, The Halle Orchestra to be exact with special guest vocalist the incomparable Louise Dearman, at The Bridgewater Hall in Manchester. I’ve lost count of how many times i’ve been to this particular hall, but it’s always been to see Louise & always an incredible night.

Last night the Orchestra had lined up a number of Oscar winners to share with us & started with a bang with The Imperial March from Star Wars. Way to get a sci fi fans heart racing & settle us in for a fun night. Then moving on to Princess Leia’s Theme, which I can’t lie brought a tear to my eye, in a it’s so beautiful, makes me miss sitting on the couch with my Dad back in NZ watching Star Wars kinda way. There’s something about movie & i’ll add TV scores that I just love because not only is the music itself beautiful & moving, but without possibly being able to remember exactly why, it can stir up emotions in you from deep within that remind you of that movie & how it made you feel or about that characters plight throughout & it’s just truly special.

Then it was time to bring out Louise for a couple of Disney’s Oscar winners, starting with Beauty & the Beast. Who doesn’t love a bit of Disney & even more so when it’s originally sung be Celine Dionnnnnn. We’ve had the privilege of seeing Louise perform this before & loved it then to, but it’s always so lovely to see it in different venues with a different orchestra. It was a wonderful intro for those who’ve not seen Louise perform before to what they were in store for. Flawless vocals, breathing new life into old classics whilst staying true to their original beauty in her own way. Before the show began I was chatting to the lady next to me about why we were there, after calling us groupies, i’m sure as an insult, she then turned to me after Louise’s first number to say “I agree, just excellent!” Yes ma’am I can agree with you on that note. Then we moved on to one of my all time faves that often people don’t seem to appreciate as much as some of the ‘bigger’ numbers. Colours of the Wind from Pocahontas. This is such a beautiful song & my love for it was recently rekindled when I heard a complete reworking of it at a recent gig, so but a few weeks later getting to hear one of my favourite vocalists sing it was quite the treat, specially in front of a full orchestra. I don’t know what it is but there’s just some songs that lift your heart, specially when sung so beautifully. Seeing Louise perform these Disney songs does always leave me wondering why the heck Disney haven’t created a Princess in her honour yet? I mean full package right there, come on Disney, catch on.

The Halle then moved swiftly on to a rousing rendition of the theme from Dancing With Wolves  John Dunbar by John Barry… I admit it wasn’t till the end of the song when Stephen Bell the incredible conductor of The Halle mentioned where it was from, that I worked it out but even so from the first few bars I was overcome with the song & had goosebumps all over & found myself tearing up without quite being able to put my finger on why, but it all became clear. Dances with Wolves is a classic, one of my favourite movies & starring one of my favourite actresses, Mary McDonnell so of course it would stir something in me, that was absolutely gorgeous to hear live. I really do not give the Orchestra’s enough credit when i go to these gigs because I always go for the vocalists, but if I didn’t enjoy the Orchestra’s so damn much I wouldn’t keep going back. The talent within that group is truly astonishing.

Next we were treated to a Streisand section, which let’s face it, if you’ve got Louise Dearman backstage it’d be a crime not to whip out some Streisand because well she’s basically a modern day Streisand but of the Westend, vocal & acting chops galore. The Way We Were is one of those all time classic’s that just every body knows & everyone has their own story to go along with it as to why it stirs so much within them. It’s a breathtaking song, tugging at the heart strings of even the most stoic amongst us. I am quite clearly not one of the stoic few, this song will always break me, especially when sung with such heart, dedication & adherence to the original, Louise soared on this & I was definitely not the only one sweeping away silent tears. Evergreen another Streisand classic, sung once again to perfection by Louise, i’ve had the privilege of hearing her perform this in a intimate gig with only her & a keyboard & now in front of this insanely talented orchestra & I can’t decide which I prefer because both were just beautiful & perfection.

The Orchestra went straight into another stirring performance, this time of the late great James Horner’s theme from Braveheart. Again it was one of the moments in the show with which I felt overcome with familiarity and knowing the song but not quite being able to place it & still feeling swept away by it. James Horner was a genius & taken from us far to soon. We then moved on to a Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves section, i’m unsure if i’ve seen this particular movie so the first extract I didn’t recognise but was obviously played delightfully by The Halle. Followed by a simply gorgeous orchestral version of Everything I Do, I Do It For You. Which of course was sung famously by Bryan Adams. As stunning and beautiful as this was, I couldn’t help but wonder what it might’ve sounded like with the dulcet tones of Louise Dearman on it, but obviously completely understand why that couldn’t happen in this concert, doesn’t stop me now wanting to hear her version somewhere else though now does it? #FanProblems.

To take us into the interval Louise rejoined the Orchestra for a what seemed an effortless performance of the infamous Skyfall. Which I have of course heard Louise sing numerous times when supporting along the Bond Tours & we saw her perform it previously with The Halle at Tatton park, which I did do a write up about & share a video of, so I wont go into too much detail here as i’ll only be repeating my praise.

The Halle kicked off act 2 with a wonderful medley of some of the music from Gigi by Lerner & Loewe, before swiftly inviting Louise back to perform the Judy Garland classic from the Wizard of Oz, Somewhere Over The Rainbow, which is another of my personal favourites & one we’ve heard Louise interpret on many occasions & in many different ways, but never quite so closely to the original & it was simply beguiling. You know when you turn to a stranger during a song as you both casually wipe away your tears of both pure joy but also sadness? That’s the Louise effect. It was also quite the treat to hear Louise sing the often forgotten intro to this song. Then it was time to revisit Disney with the Pinocchio classic, When You Wish Upon A Star. This was surely a highlight of the evening amongst my giphy.giffriends & I, as Louise got to finally show off the depths or should I say heights of her talents by giving us a bit of Soprano, effortless floating across those beautiful high notes. I don’t know why it is but when Louise opens up high like that it’s just a sight to behold & a sound that just astonishes, I basically sit there like this whenever we witness her soprano..

 

Delving straight into the theme from Rocky, the Halle masterfully performed this well known classic with ease & sheer brilliance, filling the room with the inspiration that this song so calls forth. After which Louise returned to perform the song I think my friends and I have so built up & wanted to hear a full rendition of since well before we even heard
Louise sing a snippet of it back when she was in Stoke Panto, to which song am I referring? The Celine Dion classic from Titanic, My Heart Will Go On. I spoke in my Panto write up about how enthralling hearing her sing just two lines of it was so imagine our excitement when we saw the set list for this gig & knew we’d be getting to hear the full, uninterrupted version. It lived up to & surpassed all the hype we’d put behind it & more. The song alone is one of those always stick with you, everyone knows it but to hear Louise sing it…..

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I think those Gif’s pretty much sum it up in a nutshell.. I can’t explain it, there are no words, you had to be there. #Dramatic

Back to a bit of John Barry with the striking music of Out of Africa. Isn’t it so bizarre when you don’t think you’ve seen a movie yet some how it’s music is still familiar to you, I think i’ve said that many times in this blog but this music whilst mostly unfamiliar still stirred me somehow. Similarly the Theme from Schindler’s List by John Williams was suspiciously familiar and unfamiliar all at the same time but nevertheless performed impeccably by this masterful orchestra.

Another highlight of the night came in the form of a singalong section of Mary Poppins music with Louise Dearman as our comedic & very encouraging  back up singer. I always love when we the audience get our chance to shine, i’ll admit sometimes it’s hard to sit & not singalong, so when they take note that some songs just have to be indulged by everyone & allow us that thrill it’s always a joy. I personally have a lot of love for Mary Poppins, growing up loving the movie, being inspired by Mary herself in my career as a
giphy-(2)educator turned super nanny & now with the UK tour capturing my heart, I was a little excited to get to hear Louise back us up in this section. A Spoonful of Sugar, Chim Chim Cher-ee, Feed The Birds, Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious what more could you want? Left us all a toe tapping with a grin on our faces that’s for sure. I’m quite sure we were…

Sticking with the Disney theme for Louise’s last number we got Let It Go from Frozen, had to be done didn’t it? I admit to not even remembering how Idina sung it now after hearing Louise perform it on numerous occasions, but I am in no way complaining as her version has become the quintessential standard of the song now, there’s no going back it’s now Louise’s song for me, she hits those notes in her stride & soars through it.. refer to above gif for this too.

For the encore The Halle got our motor’s running with a uproarious performance of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang complete with all the appropriate sound effects.. I mean what a night, from Star Wars to Chitty Chitty Bang Bang it doesn’t get much better than this.. what a way to end a night, leaving us with a spring in our step ready for the long journey home.

Can’t thank my friends enough for a wonderful day, wonderful company & such a fun journey home. Who knew you could play Eye Spy between two seperate cars to make the time pass quicker. Great day!

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My thoughts on the dark side of Chat boards

So some of you may have seen @PattiMurins’s blog in which she publicly stands up for herself & the theatre world against those who seem to make it their mission to bring it down or at least target certain performers or shows. If you missed it please catch up on it here, it’s a great read & one I really hope anyone who hasn’t learnt yet, how to respect their fellow man, needs to read. Check it out here…

So I shared the blog post on Twitter & added “I’ve always said if you’ve got nothing positive or ‘constructive’ to say then don’t say anything publicly online!” I wanted that to be all I had to say on the matter but it wasn’t, so i’ve waffled. It was meant to be a short tweet to Patti, but it got too big & then it just made more sense to put it here, because that’s why I made this blog, to talk about things I couldn’t fit in a tweet. So here you go..

I for the most part avoid chat boards because I used to spend all my time fiercely defending the performers/shows I love with people who were only there because they enjoy getting a rise out of others! Even when others get nasty I always tried to stay respectful, but when you’re surrounded by that evil snark it starts to seep in & you find yourself slowly getting darker just to survive. Which is why I now avoid them.

I love theatre, and consider myself so lucky to live in London & see all sorts of shows & performances & if I don’t like something or don’t understand a performers interpretation of a role, I try to show respect & pick out the best bits to comment on, or not comment at all, which probably tells my followers/friends my opinion without being horrible! Yes I have strong opinions and luckily I have friends who I can speak with about them in person. I also know what it’s like to live far away and not be able to physically chat to those who share my interests (grew up in NZ). When in that situation, boards & groups were my only option to feed the thirst of wanting to know all I could and have like minded people around me (online). It’s so important for the genuine people to have an outlet and safe space to chat and get to the nitty gritty & share their love, but I agree there needs to be a way to actually keep it safe. There’s been a few boards or groups i’ve been apart of that have very strict rules, and if you don’t follow them you get warnings & in severe cases banned, but it doesn’t always work because they can just rejoin under a different name. 

Over the years and many fierce debates i’ve come to a point where for the most part, I try to ignore the ridiculous and only focus on the real comments that have been written with care & respect, granted I lose my shit sometimes on people who are just so rude with their comments that I struggle to keep quiet, and almost always regret it because they just get worse when fed. I found though when they aren’t fed or given any attention they yes, may get louder for a period but then they give up & scurry away like the cowards they are. If all the genuine people on the boards just kept the real discussions alive & let the other’s simmer down it’d be a much nicer place & one that i’d feel safe to venture back to. I admit I don’t think i’ve ever posted on there, but that’s because it’s a Broadway board & until recently i’d not made it to Broadway, so only went when people directed me to see ‘nasty things.’ But I know that it’s not all bad & the good that lies within far outweighs the bad. “Fans” should not be attacked it’s the “haters” that need to be taught manners.

I love a healthy debate as much as the next person & there’s certain theatre goers who I know have opinions much different than my own & I enjoy getting to the root of that opinion so I can better understand it & open my mind to it. I respect that you have big love for this person, I have big love for this other person, but it’s ok, we can still be friends. The world would be boring if we all liked the same things.. but the world gets rather scary when we spread hate & lies. People on the boards may be allowed their ‘free speech,’ but free speech doesn’t give you free reign to spread lies & mistruths or rumours. If you don’t know something to genuinely be true you shouldn’t be sharing it or should at least put a disclaimer that it is speculation.

Also i’d just like to add. Some of the people who’ve replied to Patti seem to think that it’s only teens who stoop to the disrespectful & rude comments, but in my experience in other groups for London, it’s often times not just teens who are the snarkiest/rudest & I find it even more disturbing when people with a few years behind them stoop, because they are the ones who should be setting a better example for the young of how to behave in a respectful & appropriate manner! I’ve also seen a very very small few use their age as an attack upon the young to make it seem that their opinion is somehow less or not even worthy of being shared due to their age. Just because someone is young or new to the world of theatre does not mean their respectful & genuine comments should not be heard.

Bravo to Patti for speaking out, i’m so sick of the social media world & performers having to pretend like words, even those on screen don’t hurt. When they are on screen they can often hurt even more because it’s so public & you can feel you have no right to respond, but if they get to say it, why the heck shouldn’t you get to respond as long as you keep it respectful & don’t stoop. I can’t stand seeing people publicly directing there rude & disrespectful comments straight to the performers. For Twitter example. “@…. you’re shit, I hate you, you’re the worst ….. i’ve ever seen in the show.” What does that even achieve except making you look like a complete ass & bringing the performer who I assure you, is indeed human, down. If you didn’t like the performance, find a constructive criticism to make so they could use it to continue honing their craft or just instead focus on people you do enjoy & build them up.. but building them up doesn’t require bringing someone else down.

I’m so fed up of “theatre goers’ dehumanising performers & expecting that because they ‘signed up for the job’ they should take the crap that people so flippantly throw at them. They are human beings with feelings & they do not deserve to be treated as anything less. If you wouldn’t say that to/about your mother why would you say it to a stranger who goes out of their way to bring joy to the masses through their craft? Why?

I’m so sorry to hear that ‘Nerds’ has been cancelled, I can only imagine how devastating that is for Patti, the cast & crew. It is never good when a show is closed or cancelled, we all miss out on something that could’ve been brilliant & brought joy to so many.

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Sunday In the Arts with Jacqueline Hughes

So I don’t know about you all, but i’ve been waiting for Jackie Hughes to do a solo concert since the first time I heard her sing a solo at Chloe Hart’s Cabaret in Freedom back in early 2012. At that time I was just getting to know the Wicked London cast. I knew that I loved what they were all doing in Wicked, but was curious to see what they could all do beyond it, because half of them get one line if that & it’s just never enough.

I left that gig absolutely in awe of Chloe Hart & her talent for a start but also completely mesmerised by Jackie Hughes, Charlotte Scott, Michelle Pentecost, Lauren Samuels & Thomas Sutcliffe. Since then i’ve always tried to support them in their careers, where ever I could. It’s so nice to start a journey & have it take you to so many places, meeting amazing people & watching people develop & also being introduced to new music.

At that gig, Jackie performed a solo of what has become somewhat of a signature song for her, a song I was not familiar with & have to admit at the time, back in my more ‘innocent’ days of living in London was a little shocked by.. shock soon disappeared because she delivered it perfectly, fully committed to it & sounded perfect. For those who don’t know or may have not seen it …

Fast forward a little bit & Jackie moved up from #SuperSwing in Wicked to #SuperSwing & Cover Morrible.. Fast forward another cast change & Jackie swapped her white wig & over the top frocks for green paint & a broom.. Jackie then left Wicked London to become Standby Elphaba on the Wicked Tour. So after Defying Gravity in numerous cities across the UK & Ireland, Jackie went on to win West End Frame’s ‘Understudy of the Year’ award. An award voted for by theatre lovers online. There was a large number of insanely talented performers in this category & she held strong in the top two for the whole voting process eventually taking it out. An award she definitely deserved, in my opinion (eventually I’ll finish my write up of why her Elphaba is the perfect Elphie, so keep an eye out for that one day soon, i’m sure).

So anywho, I & many of her fans have been telling Jackie for years that we need a London cabaret from her. I’ve seen her in gigs here & there but we only ever got a few songs & they only served to make us yearn to see a full gig. So when Sunday in the Art’s announced earlier this year that Jackie would be doing a solo gig i’m pretty sure I booked within 30secs, to ensure I wouldn’t miss out. Knowing that it was a small venue & Jackie had built up quite a following in the past 4 years.

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So on Sunday the wait was finally over & it was time for ‘Sunday in the Arts with Jacqueline Hughes.’ After a brief welcome & introduction from Emma Ralston & Anthony Williamson the hosts & masterminds behind Sunday in the Arts with, Jackie stormed the stage with a rousing rendition of “Don’t Rain On My Parade” from Funny Girl, which set the tone for the afternoon, letting us know that we were in for a treat & lots more of that rich, gorgeous & powerful voice.

She then flowed straight into a delightful interpretation of Eva Cassidy’s ‘Songbird.’ A song that i’ve grown to really love over the years & as it’s such a classic have heard numerous times from different performers, but Jackie’s take on the song was gorgeous in a way that naturally complemented her vocal tones. Keeping it ever so gentle in the moments that needed it but every so often allowing her self to build it up a bit & throwing her own mark on it too.

Jackie then introduced herself before inviting her first guest up, Oliver Brenin, whom she met whilst doing “some little show,” you may have heard of, Wicked. Oliver is now in Les Miserables & joined us to share “Take a Chance on Me,” from Mamma Mia (as Jackie joked)… Little Women. I’ve had the pleasure of seeing Oli in pretty much all of his cover tracks in Wicked & a few cabarets over the years & always enjoy his performances but I think this was my favourite from him. I’m very fussy with male vocals & his just sat so comfortably on the ear. I love it when a song from the get go has a clear plot & this was one of those kinds of songs & Oli hooked you into the story from the first line & had you captivated till the end.

Before a charming duet of “As Long As You’re Mine” from Wicked with Oliver. Jackie warned us about the fact that during their time in Wicked it became somewhat impossible for them to look each other in the eye & poked fun at the fact they were going to give us this particular love song ‘without in fact looking at each other.’ This number pleased, from what I can gather, almost all of the audience, whom clearly are familiar with & fans of Wicked. It was a joy to see Jackie performing this again after missing her Elphie since the tour ended a few months back & so lovely to see her singing it with a familiar Wicked face & friend of hers.

We were then joined by our hosts Emma & Anthony for a bit of a ‘get to know Jackie’ segment. Chatting about her time in Wicked & how she moved up the ranks & this segment ended with a hilarious but also not, story about Jackie’s most embarrassing & painful memory of her time in Wicked, which occurred during a show as Elphaba in Sunderland. I remember the day it happened there was chatter on Twitter about Jackie being injured & messaging her at the time to make sure she was alright & hearing about her most unfortunate tumble down the stairs, but until now had not heard the full & funny (after the fact) story of how she ended up at the bottom of those stairs, in full plank position & completely alone, as all other cast members were on stage. Until finally one cast member, who was late for his off stage scene & may as well have been trouserless came to her aid & got the show stopped. I am not doing this story justice at all, you had to have been there & heard Jackie tell it, with impressions of her saviour & all for the full effect. Long story short Jackie ended up having to go to hospital in full green make up to be checked out. You know what’s great about Jackie? I remember even at the time, but she can just laugh it off & see the funny side of what was, in reality, quite a scary situation. She’s just that kind of woman though, always ready to brighten a situation with a bit of light hearted fun & not taking herself too seriously.

Moving forward Jackie next enraptured us all with an invigorating performance of Scottish band 4 Non Blondes, “What’s Up.” (Which for my whole life i’ve thought was called “What’s Going On?”). I have to say when Jackie mentioned 4 Non Blondes I was overcome with a great deal of excitement & hoped like hell this would be the song she’d sing. As I remember this is the first song that was ever my favourite, growing up. It’s the first song I remember attempting to belt out in the car with my Mum & the first song I ever made a cassette tape of with just that song on repeat (on both sides). I can even remember the day that cassette tape broke in the car in the parking lot of a supermarket & how heartbroken I was. It’s my go to karaoke tune & apparently the one song I didn’t even realise that I needed to hear one of my favourites sing.. so i’ve got to say, absolutely wrapped that Jackie performed this & with such spirit & zeal.

JackiCU__AArWIAAKRnoe then introduced us to her next guest & best friend Lyndsey Gardiner, who is currently in Phantom of the Opera. She graced us with a glorious & eloquent rendition of ‘Love Never Dies’ from Andrew Lloyd Webber’s ‘Love Never Dies.’ I’ve heard so much about Lyndsey because of Jackie, but before yesterday I don’t believe (could be wrong) i’d ever had the pleasure of hearing her perform live, which now seems like a crime. Love a soprano & especially one with such a gorgeous tone that is so pleasing to the ear.

 

Jackie then acquainted us with her love of Kander & Ebb and the song “A Quiet Thing” from Flora & the Red Menace. This song was simply gorgeous & gave Jackie the perfect moment to show off her stagecraft, taking the time to gently tug at our heart strings with this number. Can’t lie, tear’s were very near falling in this song, but in the best way, as a performer makes you feel the lyrics & allows you to get lost or taken away with them.

Jackie next took the opportunity to stop & thank everyone for coming. Something that really stands out with Jackie is just how truly humble she is & thoughtful. She clearly pays attention to the people who support her & took the time to thank those who’d travelled far & wide to be there & just everyone for their support. Speaking about how honoured she was to be even thought of for West End Frame’s ‘Understudy of the Year award,’ let alone to have such overwhelming & unwavering support to help her win the award, you can truly see how much of a sweet & kind soul she truly is.

Speaking of Understudy of the Year, Jackie’s next guest Carolyn Maitland was the previous year’s winner of the award, for her covering the role of Ellen in Miss Saigon, which she has just recently returned to for a stint. Carolyn will next be playing Sally Bowles in Cabaret in Aberdeen. Carolyn joined Jackie for a riveting duet of “Who Will Love Me As I Am” from Sideshow. The pair had only met earlier that day for their first rehearsal, which is something that always fascinates me about performers. How they can meet someone then give a flawless performance together as if they’d been singing together for years. Both Jackie & Carolyn are delivered this song with such emotion & truly drew you in.

After a short interval Jackie immediately captivated our attention straight back with that ‘signature’ tune I mentioned earlier, ‘An Old Fashioned Love Story.” Delivering it with such flair & commitment to the song. It’s wonderful to be able to see someone perform a song over time & see how their interpretation can evolve & grow. How they hone specific bits to make it fit better with in the song, how their acting choices can change to enhance a specific moment, get a better laugh & such. It’s clear to see how far Jackie has come in the past 4 years through watching her refined performance of this song. She truly does blow me away with her talent & this song is so good at showing off her many skills.

To introduce us to the next song, Jackie took a moment to share a bit about tour life, how hard it is to be away from home & just how lucky she is to have a supportive husband & family who allow her to pursue her dreams & keep her grounded. ‘Home’ by Scott Alan is such a powerful number. Scott Alan is known for his heartfelt & deep lyrics & this is definitely one that hits hard for those who can relate to the lyrics. This song is special to me personally & it was just such a pleasure to hear Jackie’s passionate rendition. It was made all the more special just by knowing how dearly she holds her family & having them there in the audience for her. It was a ‘pass the tissues’ moment that’s for sure.

We were then taken on a Kander & Ebb education with a medley of a few of Jackie’s favourites from them. Starting with “Life is Just A Bowl of Cherries” from Fosse & leading into “All That Jazz” from Chicago. I wasn’t familiar with ‘Life is Just a Bowl of Cherries” before this, so I was pleasantly surprised to be introduced to such a thoughtful song, but then when you’re dealing with a character such as Jackie, you should expect nothing less than the most thoughtful kind of song. It’s clear that when planning her gig, she put a lot of thought into her set list & the tone she wanted to set. “All That Jazz” was just as it should be, exuberant & sassy.

Emma & Anthony our hosts returned again for more ‘Getting to know Jackie,’ to chat all about the current show she’s touring the UK with, Mary Poppins. The highlight of which was her telling us about when her agent called to inform her which cover’s she was being offered, I really can’t do justice to the story so I wont try, but we were then treated to a cheeky snippet of a Glaswegian ‘Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.’ Which really got the crowd going.. think we need to get the whole band back together if Jackie ever gets to go on for that track.

Carolyn Maitland then returned to try out something new on us, her rendition of Demi Lovato’s ‘Stone Cold.’ I wasn’t familiar with this, so it was nice to be introduced to another new song & something that’s current, being slightly stuck in my stagey world, it’s so easy to ignore what’s happening beyond theatre land. I love seeing musical theatre performers taking on ‘popular’ songs & truly performing them, telling the story by  interpreting & portraying the meaning of the song. It was a pleasure to see Carolyn’s impassioned take.

Another thing I really love, is finding out what songs performers use for auditions, to see  how they impress the casting directors & land their roles. Jackie gave us quite the performance with her audition song for Mary Poppins, “Like Love” from Charlie Girl. Jeepers, seeing that it’s clear to see why they wanted her to cover such a varied range of characters. Such fun, bloody love it, what can I say? She’s ‘practically perfect in every way,’ yes I went there *cringe.*

Lyndsey returned to share her “Art Is Calling For Me (Prima Donna Song)” from The Enchantress & showed off her vocal prowess & charisma. Once again an absolute joy to see such talent up there. Jackie pulled together a fantastic line up to share her stage.

After an array of thank you’s to all involved in the planning & pulling off of the gig, especially to Inga Davis-Rutter on keys, who effortlessly provided the backing to an incredible array of music all afternoon. Jackie then treated us to her impeccable & formidable “My Man” from Funny Girl. This gig gave us the chance to finally see beyond just Jackie from Wicked & get to know Jacqueline Hughes the performer & see the many dimensions to her talent. To summarize, this cabaret was well worth the wait, Jackie knocked it out of the park & beyond & all who were privileged enough to witness it truly are so lucky & i’m pretty sure they know it. We were spoilt rotten.

To top the show off Jackie came back for an encore of ‘The Wizard & I,” I mean how could she not give us that or Defying Gravity? It had to happen & boy did it go down a treat with the crowd. Again I just find it so special as i’ve said previously to watch the evolution of a song from a certain performer & I can remember the first time I saw Jackie perform the Wizard & I in a similar intimate cabaret, through to the first time I saw her do it in Wicked, to her last one in Wicked & now post Wicked.. I mean what a journey Jackie has been on & boy how she truly has evolved into one of the actresses I hold in the highest regard. Her thoughtfulness as I previously mentioned shines through her when she performs & adds that extra level of performance with which you can easily relate to the story she is portraying behind the eyes & get lost in it. If you aren’t a story teller how can you possibly act? Thank you Jackie for being a thoughtful & pure story teller & thank you for finally overcoming that fear & giving us a Jackie Hughes solo cabaret.

Edit* Blast Entertainment have kindly uploaded all the videos from Jackie’s ‘Sunday in the Arts with’ & i’ve put them in a handy playlist for you all to watch.. go on you know you wanna watch & pretend you’re there again (or for the first time, if you missed it).

 

 

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Tatton Park Picnic Concert with The Halle

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Yesterday I had the privilege of heading off to see The Halle Orchestra perform in Tatton Park with special guests Louise Dearman, Gardar Thor Cortes & AJ Brown. All as part of the Tatton Park Concerts season. I of course was interested because the name Louise Dearman was on the bill, so my friends & I made plans as soon as we heard about it, specially as the last outdoor concert I went to in the UK (Live By The Lake) was one of my favourite days here to date, so this just didn’t sound like it was something that could be missed.

So we packed our picnic, the camping chairs, a positive mental attitude towards the weather & took ourselves off to get a good spot near the front of the queue to get in. Being the keen ‘supporters’ [you may choose the term crazies] we are, we arrived with many an hour to spare & once we actually found somewhere to park (the concert carpark was yet to open) & hiked back to where the concert actually was, we settled into our spot, starting the queue. Luckily we weren’t the only keen beans & within half an hour the next group showed up & a steady stream of people followed behind. Before long the queue was overflowing & bursting at the seems, as some preferred to ignore the queue and bunch around the entrance to apparently ‘wait’ for the queue to go in.

I tell you people, you make no sense. A queue is quite simple, you see a line of people, if they are facing you, as you approach, you’ve reached the front, walk straight on past, follow the line of people till you see someone who doesn’t have someone behind them.. and that my friend is where you join.

Anywho… we were told they wouldn’t let anyone in till close to 6pm then suddenly they were calling us over & letting us in. This is where it usually gets dicey, we calmly packed up our picnic & headed on down, steady but calm speed ahead to front.. place our chairs all eager and chuffed with ourselves, get comfy & then turn to discover that NO one else was interested in being close.. and the rest of the audience had set up behind what seemed like an invisible barricade between us, I swear no one sat within 10 meters of us.. it was too awkward once we’d set up to skulk on back, so we had to just commit to the embarrassment of being the keenest beans in that queue.  Still baffled, I mean yes there was a shadow cast by the stage which seemed to draw that invisible barricade but the sun would be going any time.

As we’d been so early, sitting under the gorgeous trees, looking out over the lake we’d already been treated to a soundcheck, so had kind of been spoiled for what was to come, but it only heightened the excitement for seeing it up close. Also we got our first taste of Gardar Thor Cortes whose voice is like that of an angel.

The evening started with a set from AJ Brown. He came out sat at the keys & serenaded us with his smooth vocals.. I wasn’t familiar with him before, but thoroughly enjoyed his set of a few originals & some familiar covers.. check him out on Youtube & if you enjoy you can pick up a copy of his EP –

After a short break The Halle Orchestra came out to do their thing. I’ve seen them perform a few times before now thanks to usual suspect (Louise Dearman) & am always blown away by their talents. My favourite pieces from them for the night have to be “Flight To Neverland” by John Williams, as it brings back so many memories from watching ‘Hook’ in my childhood, with my brothers & awakens within one that longing to always have a dash of youth & to keep a great capacity for fun within them. Followed by the ‘Girl Crazy Overture’ by Gershwin which is full of some of the most familiar music to me, specially as i’ve just been following ‘The Song Book of Judy Garland’ around the country & have a new found love & appreciation for all that gorgeous & timeless music.

There really is something truly magical about hearing a full orchestra perform live, but when in such a gorgeous setting as Tatton Park it really does transcend the images of beauty you can conjure up in your mind. Then add a dash or two of insane vocals from ridiculously talented performers & it’s a win in my book.

I was not familiar with Gardar Thor Cortes before this gig, but from the moment we heard him in Soundcheck we were hooked & then to actually see him up close performing these incredible numbers, was an absolute treat, you really do not see talent like that every day.

Then came the one we were clearly there for.. Louise Dearman. Now i’ve seen Louise perform numerous times, all over the country, in different roles & different settings, but dare I say when ever she’s standing in front of a full orchestra ready to let rip on a big number you can’t help but think she was born to be there.

Her first number was ‘Get Happy’ a song we’ve seen Louise perform a few times now, but not since her stint in ‘The Songbook of Judy Garland’ within which she actually didn’t perform the fun upbeat classic, so it was a treat to see her now perform it with a new interpretation. This is what I love about getting to see people perform a lot. You get to see the growth & development & how they can always bring something new to a song you may have been listening to your whole life. You can view this performance below.

Straight on to ‘Don’t Rain On My Parade,’ one of my all time favourites & a song that before last year i’d been dying to hear Louise perform, I was lucky enough to get to see her do it in an intimate cabaret evening in Cardiff last year but to see her able to go full throttle on it in front of that gorgeous orchestra for a packed & enthusiastic crowd was something rather special. Louise often gets likened to the incomparable Barbra Streisand & when she gives it a bit of Babs it’s easy to see why but also by the same token you can see just how much of a stand out she is on her own merit. ‘Nobody does it better’ than Louise Dearman. Over the past 4 years i’ve come to believe that there really is nothing that she couldn’t sink her teeth into & deliver to complete perfection. You can watch her ‘Don’t Rain on my Parade’ below.

After that Louise was joined on the stage by Gardar Thor Cortes for a gorgeous duet of ‘Tonight’ (Or the Balcony scene) from Westside Story. See this is what I was saying about Louise being able to do everything, in this song & the other duet later on, she got to delve into her Soprano side, which is an absolute dream when you get to witness it live. I don’t know what it is about the Soprano side of her voice but it genuinely lifts you up & fills you with joy & also complete awe. I think too it reminds me of her Glinda, which is what reeled me into the crazy world of Lou in the first place, so it’s just special anyways. Then match that voice with the flawless tones of Gardar Thor & you’re literally witnessing magic.

We all know that Louise is the only woman to have played both lead roles in Wicked the Musical, starting with Glinda & then taking a year off only to return as Elphaba (which, random fact was actually announced 3rd August (yesterday) 3 years ago, so it now seems appropriate that we just saw her smash Defying Gravity quite literally out of the park). Obviously being a big supporter i’ve seen Louise perform this song numerous times, within the show & outside of it & I have to say, it never gets old & she never ceases to bring something new to it, both vocally & acting wise. Last nights Defying Gravity had a whole new level of fierce to it & that ending was just phenomenal.. a video can never capture the full feeling of how incredible a performance is, you really do have to witness it live to feel it properly but it was a sight to behold & witness.

The next number Louise performed was Skyfall, again a song i’ve seen her perform a few times now as we followed the ‘Bond & Beyond’ tour around over the last 2 years & it’s become one of my favourites, not just because she gets to show off her vocal chops but because of the significance the song/lyrics holds for me. I dare you to witness Louise Dearman performing any Bond songs & not leave wanting to start a campaign for her to be the voice of the next Bond Theme song, and beyond that actually the next Bond girl too. Seriously get her on the big screen already, she’ll light that up too.

Gardar Thor Cortes then returned to the stage to join Louise in an astonishing rendition of ‘All I Ask Of You’ from Phantom Of The Opera. Again gliding effortlessly into that powerful & beautiful upper register. A stunning way for the two vocalists of the show to end their part in it.

The night culminated in a boisterous fireworks display as the orchestra played us out. The fireworks seemed to be planned out to perfection with the music, hitting all the big notes with massive bursts of colour shining bright above the lake, it was quite a sight to witness & a perfect end to a delightful & charming day spent with good friends being thoroughly entertained.

If you can get to the next Tatton Park Concert I urge you to do so, especially if any of the above mentioned performers are on the bill. You’ve not lived till you’ve seen The Halle Orchestra perform live.

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Questions for a Wicked ‘Superfan’

So within the space of about 3 months (earlier this year) I was asked to answer some questions for two separate articles about Wicked ‘Superfans’ & asked to do an interview for a mini documentary as well. I never got the chance to do the documentary & only one of the articles actually had enough room for even a snippet of my answers, so as some of you were curious about the rest of my answers, I thought i’d post them here for you all to read & continue judging.. or possibly stop as the case may be.

When and where did you first hear about Wicked?

I don’t recall when I first heard about it, but I remember when I was on holiday in London in 2009, someone had said I must go see it, but no one would go with me, so I didn’t end up seeing it. When I came back in 2011, I told myself I had to do it this time, because i’d rather go alone, than miss out again & I didn’t know if i’d ever be back in London to try again. Little did I know that before the year was through i’d be moving my whole life here & seeing this incredible show an insane amount of times.

How many times have you seen it and where?

I do find it a bit awkward to be honest about this, specially in public, but most people know by now anyways, so lets just be honest about it. I’ve seen Wicked 204 times (possibly 206 by the end of July 2015), yes I know, craziness. That’s since my first time in London in Jan 2011. I’ve seen it 191 times at the Apollo Victoria Theatre in London. 4 times in Melbourne, Australia. Once in Manchester, Liverpool, Milton Keynes, Edinburgh, Sunderland (kinda – but that’s another story), Southhampton. Twice in Bristol & once in Salford (but again maybe seeing it twice tomorrow).

What do you like about it?SuePost

I was asked this question by a Madame Morrible last year & the answer remains the same.. except it’s been 4 years now.. and with less spelling mistakes. I literally could write an essay about all the performers i’ve met through this show & just how deeply they’ve touched me & helped me throughout these times, but we’d be here all day so this is a brief reasoning for my passion for this show. For a teeny bit more background you could read the about me section of my blog https://wafflingkiwi.wordpress.com/about/

Favourite Staging? 

Interesting question, i’m not able to say over and above that one production is the be all & end all, they all have their own charm & special moments that make each different production magical in their own way. I admit that the London production did have the main big draw for me from the start, it’s where I first saw it, it’s where my favourite casts were & it’s been where I could most easily get too & it’s been just pure magic. There is nothing about the staging that isn’t grand & mesmerising.. it does have one of my favourite parts though.. the No Good Deed lift, or as I believe one of the London Elphaba’s so lovingly named it Arcy Darcy… the moment where Elphaba rises up from beneath the stage on her pedestal casting her spell to try & save Fiyero just can’t be beat, and I do find that moment not as special on tour (UK) or in Australia with Elphaba running on from the side.. though they deal with the missing pedestal very cleverly using Chistery to hold her book for casting. It kind of distracts from one of my favourite small moments in the show.. when Elphaba sings the line “my generous supply” in No Good Deed & waves her arms at the pedestal making it move down with her ‘powers..’ It’s not the same when the monkey just closes the book and bounces away, like why did it look like she was using her powers when nothing happens? Confusing, but only to the eye whose seen the show so much & clearly overanalyses it all.

I must say I was completely blown away by the quality of the Australian production when I saw it in Melbourne last year. I never expected it to be so high, which I feel bad about, why shouldn’t it be? It was very interesting seeing it there & being able to notice a few differences here and there but over all just how satisfyingly similar it was. I did love the staging differences in Thank Goodness, where they utilise the bridge across the top of the stage & put some of the ensemble up there, breaking up the business of the stage & keep you on your toes following what’s happening.

Then there’s the UK tour in which is the first production to add in extra aerial acrobatics in the lion cub scene when Elphaba’s anger overcomes her & her classmates are put under her spell long enough to escape with the lion cub with Fiyero. At that moment in this production two of the ensemble girls spin completely upside down on wires, which puts a real emphasis on the power within Elphaba.

Each of the productions i’ve seen have been unique, there are restrictions due to venues which can dictate what can & can’t be done in certain spaces & i’ve been thoroughly impressed at each of the 10 venues i’ve seen it in.

If you could be in it who would you play?

I’ve often pondered this & of course i’d love to play Elphaba, I connect with her character on so many levels & feel I understand the role well enough that if I was actually an actor/singer i’d be able to bring something raw & real to the role.. haha but as I said.. if I could actually act or sing. Though there is something so fun about prancing around singing Popular.. so i’d still like to give Glinda a go too, just think i’d pull off Elphaba better. I also think I could pull off Morrible, i’m sure i’m scary enough.

What’s the maddest thing you’ve done which has been related to Wicked?

Errm… Camping out for 2 nights in December in the middle of London for front row tickets for Cast change, twice. First when Louise Dearman, Mark Evans, Zoe Rainey & Ben Stott, as well as numerous ensemble left & the second time when Rachel Tucker left. I’ve also done a number of one night camps for other people’s departures from the show.

Fitting in a trip to Australia, when I went home to NZ, just so I could spend the weekend with my friend (who also loves Wicked) seeing Wicked. We saw it 4 times that weekend, winning the lottery each time.

I also had one whole week where I day sat every day just in case the 2nd cover (4th in line) for Elphaba might get a show.. she didn’t that time.  Also for that same actress.. I got myself on a coach to Bristol one Saturday on the off chance that she might actually be on (she’s been standby on tour), luckily that gamble paid off & I got to see her that time. Though I also went to Southhampton on the prayer she’d be on (she was not), as well as possibly the craziest prayer, which was to Sunderland. Got the over night coach & waited to find out if she was on.. that time unfortunately she wasn’t. Also I dare say flying from Belfast to Manchester once again on the off chance she might get the Sunday matinee was rather crazy too, but thank my lucky stars that one paid off & may just well be the last time I saw her Elphaba. Which I am not OK with at all.

What memorabilia do you have?

I don’t really collect memorabilia as I spend too much on the show myself to justify it & the designs of clothing are not exactly what I’d wear. I’ve obviously got numerous programs, posters and other freebies i’ve picked up along the way. I do however own a Wicked Hoodie that once belonged to Louise Dearman (the only women to have played both lead roles in the show). I won it in a competition & it’s signed by most of the cast from that time. That is rather special to me. I also own a notebook designed by Jackie Hughes that was auctioned off at Wicked Day in 2013 to raise money for charity.

Who are your favourite actors that have played the roles?

It’s impossible to choose just one when you’ve seen as many people in the roles as I have, so I am sorry but top 3 because they all share my favourite spot for different reasons.

Elphaba: Rachel Tucker, Louise Dearman & current UK Standby Jacqueline Hughes

Glinda: Louise Dearman, Gina Beck, Zoe Rainey, Charlotte Scott & Lucy Durack (I couldn’t have just 3, this is FAR too hard).

Fiyero: Mark Evans, Jason Winter & Justin Thomas

Nessa Rose: Zoe Rainey, Charlotte Scott, Katie Rowley Jones & Phillipa Buxton

Boq: Ben Stott, Marc McBride, Andrew Bryant

Madame Morrible: Julie LeGrand, Jackie Hughes & Harriet Thorpe

The Wizard: Clive Carter, Christopher Howell

Dr Dillamond: Julian Forsyth, Christopher Howell & Kieran Brown

I could genuinely write you essays on all of them & have often written them mini essays after their shows to give them feedback on what I love about their individual portrayals of they role. Everyone brings something new to the role, from their own experiences & their understanding of the roles & that is something I just love!

Favourite Song From The Show?

For Good’ will forever hold a special place in my heart, this song has seen me through so much & helped me to get perspective. When you watch that scene/song being performed you can’t help but think of the friends who’ve been important to you throughout your life & if they are still with you it fills you with joy but equally if they are no longer with you it can be a bittersweet song to see/hear but what’s the point in life if you don’t feel anything? This song has often given me the chance to let it out, to think about those I love & care for, who may no longer be here or around & remember the good, but also to ponder & work through the bad. As i’ve said previously the show is a bit like therapy & For Good is like the nitty gritty part of the session where your truth really comes out.

Defying Gravity means a lot & uplifts me every time. It gives me hope & makes me want to be better! I really can not put into words what goes through my mind when I see someone perform this song. It’s just something else entirely, especially when they act it with true heart & soul. I have to say though as with anything my favourite really does change depending on the mood & what i’m feeling at that particular time.

Favourite Line from the show?

“It’s not lying it’s looking at things another way.” I could go into more detail as to why but I don’t want you all to be here all day, except to say that we should all be more open to the beauty that lies within people & the fact that true beauty isn’t what the media & society would have us think.

Favourite Ad lib?

I don’t really think of them as Ad libs.. it’s more muck up’s. After seeing the show 200+ times, there’s been far too many to even try & rattle them off. Kieran Brown though once delivered the perfect line when Fiyero asks him as the Wizard’s guard to fetch him some water, the line is “Water Sir,” but as a muck up he said “Still or Sparkling Sir,” which was priceless & will always be one of the many favourites.

Julian Forsyth used to change up the animals in his speech in Dr Dillamond’s classroom scene. I think it started as a mix up but it caught on and always provided some much needed freshness in the show for those who frequent it. “When one would walk these halls & hear an Aardvark explicating a sonnet.” It’s supposed to be Antelope, but that one has always stuck with me.

I can’t possibly write about ad-libs & not mention the complete and utter genius of Gina Beck. I saw her Glinda 102 times & every single time she changed up her Popular Jig, as I started calling it. The bit where Glinda dances across singing ‘La la la la.’ As i’ve mentioned i’ve seen the show a few times, so when a performer goes out of their way to keep it fresh & fun it’s very much appreciated.

Louise Dearman chasing Fiyero across the stage just before ‘I’m Not That Girl” in her last matinee as Glinda. There really is so many I want to mention but we’d be here all year. So that’s just a few things.

How often would you watch it if possible?

If possible I would watch every single show where someone NEW gets their start. When ever there’s a cover on for the first & last shows. All the cast changes & muck up matinees. Also every time Jackie Hughes is in the role of Elphaba. It genuinely is breaking my heart that my favourite ‘current’ Elphaba is standby on Tour & due to her only getting planned dates on Thursday matinees when I work, I can barely ever see her. I love seeing all the special shows, birthdays, press nights etc. When you’ve seen it as much as I have, you really do wanna see something different & special, so new combinations of actors in the leads & when swings are on in different tracks. Cut shows are interesting too. Money is an issue now that i’ve got so many people I love to support that I discovered through Wicked, and now they are all in different places, so it all keeps me very busy. Also… if there’s ever an emergency cover situation where one of my old faves gets called in to play the role due to all others being indisposed.. i’d literally do anything to see that show. I’m so lucky to live in London & the job i’ve had for the past 3 years has allowed me to catch so much that others haven’t been so lucky to see. I’ve been spoilt that’s for sure.

Who would you cast in the Movie?

Again i’ve spent many hours debating this in my head & with friends who also love the show. Frankly i’ll be happy if they cast performers who’ve ACTUALLY played the role on stage, I just want real theatre performers to get to bring it to the mainstream & not the usual ‘FAMOUS’ faces.

But if I was going to be specific.. I’d need

Elphaba – Rachel Tucker

Glinda – Louise Dearman (though Gina Beck…. ahhhhh)

Nessa – Zoe Rainey

Boq – Ben Stott

Fiyero – Mark Evans

Wizard – Clive Carter

Morrible – Julie Legrand

Dillamond – … Hmmm Julian Forsyth

Also I think if they can’t just film it from stage… or make it really feel like the Wicked Musical theatre land has grown to love, then they should make it Disney very similar to Frozen.. who ever was behind that, needs to do Wicked but with all the voices i’ve mentioned. There is an artist called Squeegool on Instagram who does the most incredible art work for fun for the performers in the show, I think they should be hired to do the animation though.

Are you Wicked: Yes i’m beautifully tragic!!

So those are my answers to the questions I was asked for the articles about ‘Superfans.’ Though I must say I don’t like that term & as i’ve slowed down a bit with Wicked over the last year, I don’t really feel i’m worthy of that title anyways. I’m not as update to date with whats happening at the moment, but once you become passionate about Wicked it’s hard not to keep coming back, even as your connections to it all seem to slowly disappear.

It’ll never be feel the same as it once did, without all the people in it I know & seeing it with those I care most about but I love chasing the hope that someday soon, someone new will interpret the roles in such a way that my complete & utter love for the show will rise from what feels like the ashes & soar again.

If you have any other genuine questions please don’t hesitate to ask.

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My Panto Season & lots of Dick Whittington

So this festive season i’ve been swept away by the Panto bug. Such things as this happen when supporting talented performers. There was no less than 6 different Panto’s that were on my ‘make an effort’ list. I’m pleased to say I managed to see/support 5 of the people I wanted to see. As usual time & money got in the way of the 6th, which is very frustrating but unfortunately can’t be helped. I’ll make up for it somewhere down the line.

10608493_545789402189388_4662467872934965345_oSo I started the Panto season with a trip to Stoke on Trent to see ‘Westend Singing Sensation’ Louise Dearman (as they so lovingly refer to her as, up there) in Dick Whittington. Having only previously seen 3 panto’s before & not being familiar with this one at all, I wasn’t sure what to expect, but knew that with Louise involved there would have to be a touch of class & I was not disappointed, not by a long shot. I left Dick Whittington with the songs from the show & some of the jokes, going round & round in my crazy little brain. It helped that I saw it with a few of my friends, so I had others to reminisce with & in turn plot future trips with, because it seemed Dick Whittington just couldn’t be seen only once.

Before returning to see more Dick… Whittington I headed off to the Thameside Theatre,
Grays, to see Michelle Pentecost Screen-Shot-2014-12-08-at-9.43(Wicked/Evita) in Snow White & The Seven Dwarfs. She played the ‘Wicked’ Queen & I have to say she was my favourite ‘Baddie’ of the season. I’m likely bias but i’ve thought long & hard about this & I definitely think she raised the bar for baddies with her stellar & committed performance. The stand out moment of the show was definitely the pantofied rendition of ‘Defying Gravity’ belted out, no holds barred by Pentecost. I’d heard that she would be giving it some Defying Gravity but I didn’t imagine that i’d actually be seeing a full on gravity defying performance of the song. Very impressed with the ingenuity of the creative team behind that scene & it was just special to see Michelle revisiting Wicked/Defying Gravity in such a fun & interesting way.. so much so that I had to watch it again that day pretty much for that scene alone & for the fun of being able to heckle her from the audience.

Screen Shot 2015-01-07 at 9.43.24 amThe following day I took myself off to Potter’s Bar to see Chloe Hart (Hairspray/Wicked/Les Mis) in ‘Beauty & the Beast’ at Wyllyotts Theatre. I saw Chloe in the same production last year but in a different city/theatre. This was a slightly scaled back version of the show & obviously had a different cast but luckily for them they were able to snap up my favourite fairy of the panto season in Chloe Hart’s ‘Fairy Formidable.’ Having seen ‘this’ show previously my expectations were very high, and I was frankly just excited to see Chloe Hart on stage again, because she is one of a kind, with an incredible talent that needs to be seen to be believed. She did not disappoint & I was rather chuffed to see that a few change
s had been made, most notably giving Chloe the big finale number of “Without Love” from Hairspray.. I mean talk about making a perfect choice, if you’ve got someone who played the lead in a Westend show, why not use that to your advantage & let her just go crazy on it & that’s what they did. So consider me very happy about that, again I was so happy about just that, that I had to go again. What a fun show.

I’m trying to only really comment on the people I went specifically to see unless someone really shone through, because otherwise this blog would be never ending.. but just wait i’m sure it’ll get close when I come back to Dick. Speaking of, there may have been another trip here to see it again.. and with a few slight changes it was made even funnier & accidentally booking the front row, I felt very much immersed in the whole craziness of it all & was even heckled from on stage by Louise Dearman herself.. definitely felt part of the show, if not embarrassed but loved every moment of it. Such a fun day.

The next panto I ventured too was Aladdin at the Shaw theatre to see Justin Thomas BzfbO9hIgAABxR-(Wicked, soon to be Mamma Mia International Tour) (Are we sensing a theme in the people i’m supporting?). I took the children I was looking after at the time & went with a fellow theatre loving friend. Again this was a nice intimate theatre & smaller scale panto.. but it looked fabulous all the same. It was disappointing to see not a very full house, but it was very early in the run & a week day before most schools were off. So i’m sure it picked up after that. Justin Thomas made an incredible Aladdin & was very endearing. You can’t help but want him to win, there’s just something about him. Stand out moment from this show had to be their take on Let it Go. Where all the other shows so far had for the most part let the ‘diva’s’ in the show take the lead in this.. refreshingly here, Aladdin got to do the honours with the genie of the ring accompanying him. He belted it out as he flew on his magic carpet, which frankly he made look easy, but considering that carpet was throwing him all over the stage, can not have been so. Hats off to him that is for sure.

14Hayes_newThe following panto was a different production of ‘Snow White & the Seven Dwarfs,’ this time at the Beck Theatre, Hayes with Lauren Stroud (9 to 5, Wicked & soon to be Dance till Dawn Tour) as Snow White. The day we went, we were treated to a cut show, due to cast illnesses/injuries & young ensemble members having to step up, with from what I can gather no proper rehearsal, so that the show could go on. So a few scenes were scaled back to accommodate the number of male ensemble members. So I’ve got to give the entire cast props for pulling off a performance that didn’t show in any way that something was amiss. I only know from speaking to a friend who’d seen it previously & been following the show closely. So any who…. Lauren made the perfect Snow White, loveable & beguiling. She lit up the stage with every scene. Having previously only seen her in the ensemble of Wicked, I very much enjoyed seeing her taking the spotlight, even if ‘only’ in Panto. She got a real chance to shine & show off her vocal prowess with a rousing rendition of ‘Listen’ from Dreamgirls, which i’m not going to lie, brought a tear to my eye. I’m very glad I managed to get to Hayes to see this little gem being the fairest of them all.

So after supporting most of the people I wanted to.. and after numerous discussions & planning sessions with my friends & of course a perfectly timed discount code delivered directly to my email (thanks ATG – saved 80GBP). We decided it’d be a fabulous idea to spend the whole last ‘panto’ weekend up in old ‘Stokie’ to see off Dick Whittington in style, by catching all four of the final shows of their season. You may call us crazy but what more could you ask for than a weekend away with incredible & like minded friends, seeing one of your favourite performers on stage in the funniest panto of the season? You really can’t ask for more than that.. well perhaps topping it off with a Toby’s Carvery… #Lush

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So Dick Whittington at The Regent Theatre, Stoke on Trent… where does one even begin? The theatre itself is a great place I guess, as that is what first draws you in. It’s bright & somewhat I want to say Art deco interior is welcoming & bright & gets you in the mood for fun as soon as you walk in. The staff were pleasant & didn’t judge the crazies picking up tickets for the whole weekend & it was just a warm & inviting place. Once you step into the auditorium it’s a proper full theatre with a gorgeous grand roof. Whilst the leg room in the front row isn’t exactly what you’d call spacious, the rest of the theatre is wonderfully comfortable & spaced perfectly for great views (well from all the stalls seats I tried out).

So on with the show… Dick Whittington is a wonderfully fun & innuendo filled show, full of talent. With the likes of Stoke favourite Jonathan Wilkes & THE best dame in the country in Christian Patterson, they already had a winning team but with the addition of Louise Dearman (Westend Singing Sensation) they really couldn’t lose. Well not in my book anyways.

8524129After being introduced to our Fairy (Debbie Chapman) & the ‘Baddie’ King Rat (Kai Owen) we are quickly introduced to our leading lady Alice Fitzwarren played by Louise Dearman & of course treated to her astonishing vocals on ‘Don’t Stop Me Now’ from Queen (Or We Will Rock You, for the stagey folk reading this). A fabulous song to get the crowd all riled up & involved.

From the first time I saw this production I was blown away by the ensemble.. all from Wilkes Academy, they are an incredibly talented bunch especially the 16+ group, I mean talk about moves & the energy they bring to the stage is infectious. Their dance routine in the second act to ‘Jai Ho’ had me sitting their in complete awe of the young talent & wishing I could dance, it was also exhausting, what an immense amount of effort they put in. Speaking of Jai Ho, I want to know what version of the song they used, as it sounded suspiciously like it could’ve/should’ve been Louise, but it isn’t? Back to the dancers though.. wow & a few of the boys get a couple of lines to shine with some hilarious moments from the ‘Gay Gordons’ & ‘Walk This Way.’ They really got into it & it was a lot of fun to watch. Also props to them all for their antics in the ‘muck up matinee,’ added so much spice & pizazz & it was brilliant.

While we’re on the subject of dancing. It was a lot of fun to see Louise Dearman getting a chance to show off her dance skills, as most of the roles i’ve seen her in haven’t had much of this.

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Moving on, this show was an absolute barrel of laughs, much of which is obviously very cleverly scripted, but at the same time much of it comes about spontaneously throughout the journey of the show, with the interactions of the actors/mistakes & adlibs. From watching the show 6 times you can see, where sometimes a genuine mistake works so well at getting a barrel of laughs, that it then becomes a perfect & seamless addition to the show. With every viewing of this show & any panto for that matter my respect & admiration & frankly sheer awe of the talent & commitment of the actors involved just grows exponentially. For specific example.. take Jonny Wilkes & Christian Patterson. Throughout the show there are comedic moments where they literally have to 6877398 - by Steve Bouldlaugh so hard they are almost crying & if I hadn’t seen the show before, so knew they’d laughed that hard previously i’d genuinely think every single laugh was spontaneous & in the moment. As I watched & laughed every time, I found myself wondering how on earth they could keep laughing at the same jokes over & over for a whole Panto season & not get bored.. but there in lies the magic & their sheer talent & of course their genius in keeping it fresh & making slight adjustments on the fly. I dare say not any old actor could pull this off as believably as this dynamic duo. I think this is what made Dick Whittington so special. They’ve got such fantastic chemistry, it’s obvious that they’ve been working together for a long time & know each other well enough to know what buttons to push & how far to push the boundaries. I honestly can not praise Jonny Wilkes & Christian Patterson enough. Speaking of praise, the extra comedic genius of Simon Nehan was a heck of a lot of fun 8524135too. How on earth he puts on that voice, keeps a straight face & falls flat on his face every day is beyond me.. massive props for his extra efforts in the ‘muck up matinee’ attempting to avoid his drenching from Jonny & Christian. It’s been a pleasure seeing him on stage too. The 12 Days of Stokie Christmas & 5 toilet rolls, was definitely a highlight of each performance.

8732813-large (1)Back to Christian Patterson for a moment.. I can NOT praise him enough for his complete & utter commitment to the role of Aunty Sarah (Sarah The Cook). It takes a brave man to get up there & just let lose, giving it everything & getting the constant laughs he got. His spontaneity & passion for just giving an incredible performance that makes everyone leave smiling is what makes him in my opinion the best dame in the Hatland. I can’t even… “You know it’s all About the cake, bout the cake, No Salad” has become a catch phrase amongst my friends & I, it’s just the little things. I’ve seen 9 other dames in the past 3 years & no one comes any where near Christian, i’m still giggling away at moments from the show, the kitchen scene for one with the sausage pie. I mean I’m usually not about innuendo, but come on they just do it so well in Stoke.

Jonny Wilkes as our leading man Dick Whittington shines on the stage, he so clearly 1400527_574033382698323_1669042186709787228_ofeels very welcome there & is not afraid to throw some silliness about on stage for the kids & big kids alike. Again I have a lot of respect for him, because it takes big chops to get up there & do what he does. His rendition of ‘All Of Me’ was gorgeous & one of my favourite moments of the show, he sings it with heart & manages to hold the audience fully through a slower song, which sometimes can lose a few of the younger ones. May have teared up a few times in this solo. Jonny & Louise’s chemistry on stage was electric, they so clearly go way back & played opposite one another like they’d been doing it for years.


10694402_546501258784869_740313489957649362_oLouise Dearman 
as Alice Fitzwarren is an absolute joy, she brightens up that stage & brings a boat load of class & perfection to it. As I said her chemistry with Jonny is undeniable, they make a perfect pair & opposite him she has frankly has a tough task in trying to keep a straight face, but she tackles that with ease & only ever grins/giggles where she can make it work with the show. Which really is always, because Dick is such a loveable & fun character anyway. I mean if you met him in real life, you would be giggling through your day. Their duet “Especially for You,” is a fun & frivolous number & still through all that, sung beautifully by both. Lo6877405 - by Steve Boulduise’s moments to really shine though were obviously in her numbers. Loved getting to see her do a number with the young children, seeing her working with them, you could see the children looking up to her & their dynamic together on stage was just gorgeous to witness.  The two stand out moments for me were the act 1 finale of Let it Go & Louise’s Celine Dion impression.

Let It Go, starts out with Debbie Chapman getting a short solo (too short) of ‘This Is The Moment’ which she beautifully performs & seamlessly segways into Let it Go, then Jonny Wilkes joins in before handing over to Dearman to belt it out like only she can. I’ve seen Let It Go performed lived numerous times, in all the other panto’s & at gigs & concerts for the last year & there is no one that matches Louise’s performance of this live, that i’ve witnessed. There’s a quality to Louise’s voice that I find impossible to actually describe, but it’s so rich & she effortlessly rolls the notes out like she was born to do it. This version of Let it Go has a few changes, notably the ending. Which is a gorgeous change, where the beautiful score they added for the last few power notes was reminiscent of the score to Water Babies (A show which I saw numerous times in it’s run in 2014 at the Leicester Curve) adds such a enchanting crescendo to the song & the finale of Act 1.

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Louise Dearman’s Celine Dion impression with a snippet of ‘My Heart Will Go On,’ which i’ve been calling Louline for the last month or so, is honestly my favourite 2 lines of the entire show. Perhaps it’s because I grew up listening to Celine that makes me love it so, or perhaps it’s that i’ve been wanting to hear Louise sing this for 4 years now or maybe it’s just because it’s a clever moment in the show where Louise gets to steal the spot light for a extra second, being funny & brilliant. Though every time I saw it I found my self so annoyed at Jonny for interrupting her ‘moment,’ but it has to be done for the scene I guess. Though in the muck up matinee Jonny & Christian just danced behind her & let her carry on for a a while, milking every note. So I got my wish in the end & heard a few more lines of Louise’s impression. I bet she’s glad we printed out the lyrics for her just in case.

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Seeing Louise in Panto has reminded me just how funny & comedic she is & how much I need to see her back in the westend in a pure comedy role, but at the same time, it’s made me thirst to see her in a real full on dramatic role perhaps in a strait play. It’s the Louise Dearman affect, once you’ve seen her in one role, you just want to see her in all the roles.

8524141I’ve mentioned Debbie Chapman a few times briefly but just wanted to add that she is a brilliant & beautiful fairy, her & Kai Owen make great adversaries with him being the ‘bad guy’ to her ‘good guy.’ They both deliver the exposition in the show, helping it move along at a poetic pace & sharing the relevant information to the story. They both do it in a fun & antagonistic way that really gets the children going. A panto fairy that can’t get the children bo8524140oing & hissing at the bad guy is a bit pointless but Debbie has them (even the big kids) joining in almost instantly with her no nonsense fairy. Similarly a bad guy that can’t get the kids hating him is pointless too but Kai Owen doesn’t disappoint. His ‘King Rat’ is the bad guy you love to hate. He’s rude & he’s cheeky & you just want to keep booing him, ‘oh yes you do!’ His solo & reprise of ‘I Want it All’ from Queen (We Will Rock You) is another fabulous moment in the show… he sings with conviction & a fabulous/strong vocal.

All in all what makes Dick Whittington a winner in my book is the spectacular cast, they all fed off of each other to reach great heights of entertainment & with an ensemble made up of some of the most talented kids/young adults i’ve seen this Panto season. They were always going to reign supreme.

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Speaking of the children… from what I could gather there was 2 groups of alternating ‘young’ ones. I saw one group 4 times & the other twice on the final day. Both groups were spectacular with a few noticeable stand outs who just shone through & I know there’s going to be some future stars from both bunches. Those children are inspiring. I can not help but think growing up in New Zealand with out this crazy thing you all call Panto, I was somewhat deprived. It’s such an amazing opportunity for young children to be exposed to such an incredible & exciting experience. Can’t begin to imagine all the fun they’ve had & what they’ve learnt about not only theatre, but themselves & i’m sure it’s been a confidence boost for them all being ‘stars’ on stage. I’ve got to say these children were definitely the luckiest of the Panto season getting to work with such incredibly talented performers. My only pet peeve with them, was that in the curtain call, they were first to come out which then, once everyone else had come out made them impossible to see. Can’t help but think perhaps they should’ve at least come out after the 16+ lot, so they could all be seen for a lot longer.

8524137I’d also like to give a mention to Indi-Jay Cammish who played Tommy the Cat, whilst she spends the entire show in a gorgeous cat suit, it’s clear to see she’s a clever duck or cat rather. Every time you see her you can’t help but grin & she interacted with the cast wonderfully. I really got the sense this 17 year old had put a lot of effort & thought into how she’d play the role. It’s hard to get laughs & make your mark when your only line is ‘Meow’ but she does a splendid job & should be very proud of her part in Stoke’s panto this year.

I can not possibly finish this blog/waffle without making a special mention to Louise & Jonny for their hilarious rap in the muck up matinee during Kai Owen’s big solo number.. it was genius & frankly I mean, what a treat getting to see them go all ‘ghetto’ I guess you’d call it. I can’t actually get the image of Louise’s ‘Running Man’ out of my head, such fun. The whole muck up matinee was a barrel of extra laughs, with plugs for Louise’s album & extra silliness everywhere it was just too funny. I believe my abs got the best work out they’ve had in a long time after that. What really resonated though during the ‘muck up’ was & this may seem bizarre, as it was a muck up, but the professionalism & composure of the lead cast. I mean it’s got to be hard to remember your lines & not just completely corpse (more so than usual in a Panto), but these guys were so on it that even through a few extra laughs & i’m pretty sure an actual laughing induced tear or two, the show never lost focus or flow & they kept it strong & fierce. The best moment of this for me was Louise Dearman in Let It Go, while Jonny was spinning around on his thrown seemingly uncontrollably & she is trying to give it the ‘big number,’ I really don’t know how she did it, but even with a tiny giggle she never once missed a note in this beast of song, I was frankly astonished.

Speaking of epic songs I must mention the group numbers/finale mash up.. every time the entire cast/ensemble came on stage for a number you knew you were in for a toetapping treat & one of those songs that would just get stuck on repeat in your mind. Dick Whittington obviously included the most popular panto song of the year with a rousing rendition of ‘Happy’ which got everyone clapping & dare I say singing along. Even if you don’t like this song, there is something about it that makes it super catchy & of course having Louise Dearman & Debbie Chapman on vocals for it along with the entire cast clapping & dancing away it’s hard not to just sit back & enjoy, or should I say fight the urge to stand up & join in. By finale time I think it’s fair to say the audience were more than ready to rise to their feet to join in & either attempt the dance moves we were being encouraged to try or continue the awkward clap, trying to keep in time with a massive room full of people. I’ll admit by the 3rd show of the weekend, I gave in to my inner child & attempted some of the moves, I say attempted but really it was a failure, but at least I got up & joined in & i’m pretty sure that is what Panto is all about.

I’m going to wrap it up here, because I can see this going on for a while & I’m pretty sure i’ve mentioned all the stand outs that I wanted too. Dick Whittington was my favourite Panto of the season, it stood out with such a high quality entertainment & i’d suggest to any one to go see The Regent Theatre, Stoke’s Panto next year, because you’re sure to be in for a cracker, even if only half of the crew are involved. Can not thank them enough for all the fun & laughter & the wonderful memories I now get to share with my dear friends.

It’s been an incredible Panto season & I can’t wait to see what’s in store next year & who i’ll get to go see in different shows & where. I’m going to miss it till the season starts again.

To anyone who actually read all of this, i’m so sorry it was so long and bless you.

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Zanna, Don’t!

So I know i’m absolutely rubbish at keeping up with my blog, but every now & then I do have something to say, so i’m going to attempt to pop in more frequently for small round up’s of what i’ve been up to. If I tried to catch you up on all i’ve seen since my last post we’d literally be here all week, so i’m just going to start small, as I saw a cute little show at the Landor Theatre (Clapham North) on Sunday & it really got me thinking.

Zanna, Don’t!

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Not only were the cast all outstanding but the music was catchy, what they did in the limited space they had & just the actual story all really blew me away. I sat through most of the show thinking that this show could be a great educational tool in schools for teaching about acceptance of others, especially in terms of gay/bisexual etc. I mean the show is set in a world where the norm is to be gay & people who are heterosexual are not “accepted” or looked down upon. The students at this high school decide to put on a musical about being a straight person in the army, to try & push the envelope as it were. The scenes/songs (Be A Man & Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell) from the musical within Zanna, Don’t were what really highlighted to me just how ridiculous it is to actually persecute someone just because they love someone of the same sex & lead their life… “differently.” It made me so mad at the world. I have so many friends who are in love & what right does anyone have to say that they shouldn’t be?

It seems only fitting that I should see this the day after Gay Pride in London, which was a crazy time in London. I believe in peoples freedom to love whomever they want!

So back to my point about being an educational tool, can you imagine if a show like that was played to a group of young teens so that they too could realise the damage that unneeded judgement or hate can have on people? Hey, i’m not saying ‘herein lies the key to eradicating hate’ but if you can open young peoples eyes early on, it’s a good drop in the ocean.

Right back to the actual show… David Ribi played the young ‘fairy’ Zanna – he lead this cast perfectly, with great youthful energy, you just couldn’t help but fall in love with him as he spent the whole show rushing round helping everyone else find their love. Great voice & just wow, can’t wait to see what’s next for him.

Another standout whom I was just transfixed by was Jennifer Saayeng as Roberta. You know when someone comes on stage & they just light it up & completely own it? Yes that was Jennifer in this. Every moment she was on stage she just blew me away & that voice? That voice? I need to hear more of that.

Ceris Hine as Kate fresh from her run in Ushers the Musical was magical in this too, adding great comedy & again just lighting up that stage. Carol Heffernan as Candi, well she had us all proper belly laughing at many a moment, I do not know how she pulled off that voice but woah, also cudos for singing what I believe is one of the fastest lyrics i’ve ever witnessed live with Thomas & Jonathan who also sang like the wind on “Fast.”

Ben Sell as Tank was another cast member who stood out & not just because of his gorgeous hair but just I don’t even really know what to say, I just believed him on stage, especially as a DJ. As I said the entire cast really did standout in this piece with everyone getting their moments to shine. (Liam Christopher Lloyd, Jonathan Dudley, Jonathan Wooldridge, Georgia Phillips & Thomas Wright).

Tom Scanlon’s choreography was ambitious for such a confined space but executed beautifully by the cast. I’ll never not be blown away by these small scale productions that just have so much heart & really tell stories that need to be told.

Very glad I managed to catch the last performance of Zanna, Don’t, if not gutted I left it till it’s to late to return & see it again. I’d say go and see it now but it is closed, although they are teasing on their twitter about if it was really the end, so follow & stay up to date just in case. @ZannaLondon

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‘Words & Music’ by Kerrigan-Lowdermilk

St James Studio, 8th Feb 2014.

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So it’s been a while since i’ve blogged, my apologies, but i’m here now & will try & be more regular as there’s so many shows/gigs i’ve been dying to tell you all about & with any luck, still might.. one day.

Today i’m here to talk about the gig I went to last night at my second theatre home The St James Studio/Theatre. ‘Words & Music’ by Kerrigan & Lowdermilk was one of the best nights of the year so far. I’m always completely blown away by the talent they get at the St James, i’ve been introduced to so many incredible writers/performers there I can’t even count, but I know that I always feel truly blessed to have witnessed the magic that goes on down in that studio. Getting to see musical theatre writers actually performing their work is something I enjoy very much… it’s like getting a true glimpse into the process of how it all starts.. From Page To Stage I guess (to steal a name from something that’s going on at The Landor Theatre starting Mon 10th feb, which you should all check out if you’re into new writing – http://www.frompage2stage.com). Where was I? Yes, page to stage, there’s nothing more interesting in a gig than actually hearing how songs came about, where they sit in a show & what inspired someone to write a piece. So these sorts of gigs always leave me so inspired & touched & just that little bit more clued up to the process behind what I love so much.

Kait & Brian blessed us with hearing many of their songs through their own voices, which is how they begun & was such a pleasure to see, they sung them with such conviction & you just knew that they truly understood the meaning of the songs, which can often be somewhat lost in translation when someone else takes on a new piece of writing. I wasn’t that familiar with Kerrigan & Lowdermilk beforehand. With these gigs at the St James I always seem to get drawn in by a performer i’m aware of signing up to do it & I never do any research into the writers so that it can all be fresh to me on the night & i’m not spoilt, I guess. I am so glad that performers I enjoy so much keep signing on to help showcase new music. A friend made me aware of these gigs, (there is one tonight as well ‘Kerrigan & Lowdermilk – LIVE’ but I believe it’s sold out) so I had been keeping an ear out for performer announcements & when I heard Chlöe Hart would be doing the LIVE event I was sold & then of course when Rachel Tucker & Stuart Matthew Price were announced for ‘Words & Music’ I just had to get a ticket for both nights.

It turns out I did know at least 2 of the songs, one thanks to Chlöe Hart (My Party Dress) & the other I still can’t work out how I know it, but I do. My Party Dress is a song i’ve been happily singing away to myself for almost 2 years now, ever since Chlöe first sang it at her ‘Redesign’ cabaret at The Union Theatre (a great little venue that puts on incredible productions.. which you should all check out). I’ve heard one or two others perform it, but nothing quite matched up to her rendition. So it was incredible to see the writer of it Kait, perform it live for us, exactly the way it was intended. She acted the child beautifully & got the crowd going as I do think this was one of their most well known songs. Of course Rachel Tucker brought some of her own comedy to the night, unintentionally spoiling Kait’s intro to the song, such a comical accident. As Kait was telling us how she’d worn ‘this’ dress for a reason & was going to leave us guessing, but Rachel repeated something Kait had mentioned to her backstage before the show. It wasn’t till after the song Rachel cleared up that she didn’t know it till just then when she’d heard it, so hadn’t got the link… and that is just one of the reasons I love her.

I don’t have a set list, so I’m just going to mention my highlights of the night & tell you that you need to check out their site & buy their music/sheet music http://kerrigan-lowdermilk.com . One of the songs that really struck a chord with me was ‘How To Return Home.’ Obviously being a Kiwi (New Zealander), i’ve been away from home for a long time now (2.5 years), so I haven’t been able to step in ‘my’ house for all of that time & I don’t know when i’ll be able to get home. What really hit me personally about the song, is how much I want to be able to experience all of that, going back to somewhere that you recognise but i’m afraid I won’t get to experience that, as my house was badly damaged by the Christchurch Earthquakes 3 years ago & the repairs are only just happening now, my parents are packing up my my stuff & our entire house as I type, throwing out what they can & i’m not even there to help. So I guess i’ll never get to ‘return home’ in the sense that this song speaks about, but it was just so beautiful & moving & gave me a glimpse of what it’s supposed to be like. I love so much when you’re so moved by a song that it invokes so much emotion in you & you can’t help but cry & I was not the only one in the room crying at that stage. Speaking of other people in that room, I was not the Kiwi that Brian spoke to, but i’m very intrigued to know who you were, so if you’re on twitter please hit me up.

I can’t find a link for last night performances yet, but here is a link to Laura Osnes performing this stunning song ‘How to Return Home’ – http://youtu.be/5yEqCRudi4o

The second & possibly most overwhelming part of the night came in the form of “Anyway” performed by one of my favourite performers on the Westend, Rachel Tucker. It’s no secret that she blows my mind with her voice & acting, so it doesn’t come as a shock that she broke my heart with this song, but it was much more than that. There is something magical about Tucker’s ( I always feel rude calling her that, but it comes too naturally, sorry) ability to interpret & really breathe a song into life but this, last night was so heart felt and heart breaking that I may have lost it. Also the subject is pretty raw having lost one of my best friends only a week ago & being in that studio, which was the 2nd to last place I spent time with her. As well as one of my favourite memories of this studio being seeing Rachel Tucker’s gig in there, sitting with this dear friend being blown away by one of the women who had brought us together in the first place. So hearing her singing about a funeral & writing an elegy, really hit hard. The pain & angst in the song & that Rachel was able to portray so beautifully & truly, pretty much highlighted exactly how i’ve been feeling since I heard that my friend had passed away. I’ve been really struggling to put into words, my feelings this week, so to have it performed by Rachel right in front of me & just be so spot on was something I don’t think i’ll ever forget. “I feel like i’m underwater…” So I can’t thank Kait & Brian, and Rachel enough for sharing that with us. Here is a link to Emma Hunton performing this song http://youtu.be/BkyBw3IO1-M – if anyone managed to get video of Rachel performing this, I would genuinely be in your debt forever, specially as I would like to send it to my friends best friend as I am sure it would mean just as much to her.

Stuart Matthew Price has become a voice in the Westend that I seek out wherever I can, the range on him is ridiculous & when he lets rip & just goes for it, it’s a sight & sound to behold. You know when a performer just gets up there & every time you see them, they kind of punch you in the face with their talent.. yes well that’s Stuart, I mean that in the nicest way possible. I am very fussy with male voices but Stuart’s is one I could listen to for hours & never ever get sick of it. He sung the other song I know ‘Run Away With Me’ which is such a beautiful song & he sung it with so much passion & I just can’t describe it. I really hope he sings it again tonight.

Another highlight & a comedic moment of the night was ‘Vegas’ performed by Brian & Stuart, a hilarious insight into the minds of men in Vegas I guess. It was just fun & a perfect way to lead us into the interval wanting to come back for more. Another funny moment was when Brian but Rachel on the spot, asking her to join him at the Piano, her face was a picture, I do hope the photographer of the night managed to capture that. Much to Rachel’s delight she got to do some key smashing, which she took very seriously, it was so comical watching her wait or not for her cue to smash. The song was a beautiful mash up of one of the first song’s Brain wrote & the first song Kait & Brian collaborated on.

I throughly enjoyed seeing the ‘Republic’ portion of the evening, a show based in Ireland. I am a smidge disappointed Stuart wouldn’t give the Irish accent a go, but how nerve-wracking doing it in front of Tucker, so i’ll forgive him for that, I was however very impressed with Kait’s willingness to give it a whirl, I thought she did a great job, I couldn’t have done any better.

One moment that stuck out was ‘Holding On’ performed by Kait, Brian, Rachel & Stuart along with all of the audience for the sing along portion of the evening & the perfect finale to the night. I have to say that room made a beautiful sound together. The song was also another one that was very touching & struck a chord with me. Being around the age that Brian was when he needed Kait to say the words that he wasn’t ready to hear. “The earth keeps turning, the light keeps shifting & I keep holding on.’ Something I think i’m going to be taking on as my mantra for the next few months as I deal with the changes in my life. What an incredible song to share with the world. Thank you.

My only true ‘disappointment’ if you can call it that, of the night is that Brian, Kait & Rachel teased us with a possible Kait & Rachel duet of ‘I Know Him So Well’ from Chess, which they did not follow through on, but I can understand as the night was about their music…. but if Rachel would like to make a special appearance tonight & help set this right, that’d be super.

Overall I think the night was a smashing success, as did everyone I spoke to, who was completely blown away by the night. I’m very grateful to the St James & Stuart for organising to bring Kerrigan & Lowdermilk over to the UK & I can’t believe how lucky I am to be going back tonight & witnessing more of their stunning music being performed by more of my favourites. Bring it on!! I’m also reminded of just how blessed I am to be living in this ridiculous city that brings me so much joy.

As I said, check out Kerrigan-Lowdermilk they are a sensation & I look forward to hopefully seeing one of their shows here in the not too distant future.

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