That Stagey Blog
My Stagey Week 35
I had an early start on Monday as I made my way to the Bridge House Theatre in Penge. Typically this is only ten minutes away from where until two weeks ago, I used to live. I am now almost an hour west, so I stayed at my brother's house the night before which is also only ten minutes away.
I was here to interview the cast of Tick Tick Boom, two of which I had already interviewed before and are friends, James Hume and Alexander Lodge, the third was Georgie Ashford.
I had been asked to interview them by their producer Rob Harris. Rob and I had met when I worked at the Actors Centre, and we both produced shows at the Tristan Bates Theatre. I was producing my first play Fragments, while Rob produced a musical starring Darren Day called The Last Session. It was directed by Guy Retallack who is now also directing Tick Tick Boom. Guy is married to Rachel Tucker who he set up the Bridge House Theatre with Rob.
Tick Tick Boom is a musical written by Jonathan Larson before he went on to write Rent, and was based on his own life, written in 2001. It premièred in London in 2005 at the Menier Chocolate Factory starring Neil Patrick Harris, Tee Jay and Cassidy Janson, and in the West End in 2009 with Paul Keating, Julie Atherton and Leon Lopez. Most recently in 2017, it was produced by Katy Lipson at the Park Theatre and starred Chris Jenkins, Gillian Saker and Jordan Shaw. This is where I saw it.
I am a huge fan of Rent, and you can easily identify musical influences from Tick Tick Boom, the song 'Louder Than Words' is brilliant.
I was excited to see Alex as I arrived to set up to interview the three of them together. I walked in just as he was injecting himself with insulin to manage his diabetes, I gave Guy a hug who was also there and was introduced to their musical director Jamie Ross.
Not wanting to take up to much of their time so that they could get on with their rehearsals, I got straight to work firing questions at them about the show and left them to it.
The whole interview can be found here: https://youtu.be/IR5_Mya39jQ
Tick Tick Boom is on at the Bridge House Theatre between,1st-27th October. Tickets can be booked here: https://www.ticketsource.co.uk/bridgehousetheatrese20
Later that evening, I went along to Freedom Bar in Soho, where Tuck Shop were presenting a new talent search called The Crown to find the next Drag Royalty.
Hosted by Kitty Scott-Claus and Ophelia Love, from the bands Gals Aloud and the Spice Gals, as well as their own YouTube series The Tea Bag, with judges Tete Bang. Demi Noire. Louis Cyfer and Stuart Saint. Seven contestants Auroras Boring Alice. Anna Toni. Luna Lakes. Miss Disney. Ashley Fox. Tayris Mongardi. and Doctor Doctor competed in their first heat in the competition.
Each either sang or lip synced infront of the huge audience and then received feedback from the panel of judges. Kitty and Ophelia both performed too. There were some really great performances, and the judges were very entertaining too, especially Stuart Saint who I had met earlier this summer in Edinburgh.
On Tuesday I slipped on a suit and made my way to the Dominion Theatre for the press night of Big The Musical.
Lead by Jay McGuiness, Kimberley Walsh, Wendi Peters and Matthew Kelly. Based on the 1988 film starring Tom Hanks, this musical adaptation originally opened in 1996 on Broadway where it ran for six months after a tryout in Detroit, and was nominated for five Tony Awards. It went on to tour in the US from 1997.
In 2016 it was brought to the UK and Ireland for a tour starring Jay McGuiness and Diana Vickers and Gary Wilmot. The music is by acclaimed composers David Shire and Richard Maltby, both now in their eighties, and this is the problem. The music feels dated and doesn't suit the story. Set in the eighties, the costume and set do a brilliant job of replicating this, however the music at points draws you back to the fifities with it's big band influences, but even so it is stilted and dreadful.
I absolutely adored this film as a child, but now as an adult, I have to address the awkwardness of the storyline which involves Kimberley Walsh's character taking a twelve year old boy to bed, albeit, the boy is trapped in the body of a man, it is still none the less contentious.
Jay McGuiness and Kimberley make noble efforts, and are both quite sweet in their performances, but neither instil you with confidence when they reach for the high notes. Their joint dance skills and experience from Strictly Come Dancing are utilised effectively.
I caught up with little Charlie Kristenssen and his mum Kat during the interval, as we grabbed some icecream, and Charlie had a go on one of the Zolta machines that they have in the lobby. Charlie wasn't able to come to the after party as it was at an over 18's venue.
I went along and got stuck into the fish and chip canapes and mini burgers, whilst circling the room with a few glasses of prosecco. The party was nice, and there were a few familiar faces but I didn't stay too late.
Big The Musical runs until 2nd November for more information visit: https://www.bigthemusical.co.uk/
On Wednesday, I met up with Kyra Willis, the writer of The Feeling, which I saw last week but held off discussing in my blog. Kyra is an incredible sweet and kind person, which I could sense from what I know of her, from when she invited me to watch her show. I wanted to sit down with Kyra in person, to learn more about her background and where she wanted to take The Feeling. I really admire Kyra for being brave enough to put her work out there and certainly didn't want to discourage her. I had some advice for Kyra about what I think would be helpful for her, and we had a long chat, which I hope helped.
After this I went over to The Kings Head Theatre to watch Voldemort and the Teenage Hogwarts Musical Parody.
Although I could have seen this show whist I was in Edinburgh, knowing that it was coming to the Kings Head theatre as part of it's UK tour, and with so much to see while I was in Edinburgh, I purposely waited until now to see this. Although I almost didn't get the chance. The run had completely sold out here at the Kings Head, and this was the only night that I was free. I went along, in the hope that I might be able to get a return ticket, and thanks to the lovely box office staff, they were able to squeeze me in.
Written by Fiona Landers. Zach Reino. Richie Root. Scott Passarella, Voldemort and the Teenage Hogwarts Musical Parody has elements that reminded me of Six, which also had a successful run at Edinburgh. There are some very catchy hooks within the music, and some very funny lines, with some clever references to Harry Potter that any die hard fans will adore.
Storywise, it is set in the forties, as a prequel to the Harry Potter series, which sees a younger Dumbledore teaching a younger Hagrid, Moaning Myrtle, and Tom Riddle. Stefani Ariza is particularly convincing as Myrtle. Eric Michaud and Brendan Matthew are a delight as Dumbledore and Hagrid, and very funny. Stephen Graney, Katarina Hardy, Tim Murray and Alice Robinson complete the cast and are all very good.
The show is very good. The original music is great, and the story is smart and effectively played out. Unlike Six which transcended beyond Edinburgh into global proportions, I'm not sure if Voldemort and the Teenage Hogwarts Musical Parody will take over the world, but with some tightening up it could continue to do well. The reference to '500 miles' is probably limited to Edinburgh, as well as a few other jokes and set ups, but the show does have a universal appeal, that extends to Harry Potter fans as well as non fans.
I caught up with Brendan afterwards, he seemed exhausted from rehearsing The Ascension of Mrs Leech during the day, and doing this show in the evenings. Brendan was last here performing Guy the Musical. As we were chatting, three young people wearing Harry Potter T shirts, came over excitably, and asked for Brendan's autograph. They exclaimed how they loved the show, and had seen it twice already. It was really endearing and sweet to see such a reaction.
I obviously see a lot of theatre, and I admit it becomes harder to impress me, and in some cases I do become a bit jaded, but I do love theatre, and it does warm my heart to see reactions and responses to theatre like this. It reminds me the power and effect that theatre has, and why I love it, and live for it.
It also reminded me how much people love Harry Potter, I spent two years working on Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Parts One and Two, which was an incredible and unbelievable experience that changed my life, and although I'd be the first to admit that I'm not the biggest HP fan myself, I can understand and recognise the appeal, and value people's love for it.
On Thursday I gave myself a night off from theatre, well -sort of. It was Sophie Isaacs birthday, and she was having some drinks at Jack Solomons in Soho.
I absolutely adore Sophie, she is as absolutely gorgeous and hilarious as she seems and is ridiculously lovely and talented. It was a nice chance to catch up with her Heather's co stars Jodie Steele and Charlotte Jaconelli, and producer Paul Taylor Mills.
Jodie is about to start rehearsals to go on tour in Six, and Charlotte is rehearsing for The Boy in the Dress. It was nice to catch up and get all the goss. Jodie's boyfriend Liam Doyle has recently had vocal surgery so was on vocal rest and couldn't talk, he spent the evening writing messages on his phone to us all.
It was also lovely to see Felix Mosse who had played Brad in Rocky Horror Picture Show with Sophie. It was nice to see Felix looking relaxed since I saw him in Edinburgh having just got back from a holiday in Ibiza.
On Friday I spent the day filming an advert at Tottenham stadium. It was an easy day and the food was incredible. I love doing little jobs like this, as it gives me backstage access to buildings like this, which I probably would never step foot in ordinarily. We managed to finish in time for me to head over to the Tristan Bates Theatre to watch three of the new musicals as part of the Goldsmiths Embrace Festival.
I was approached earlier in the year by Alejandra Rojas Ayala who was studying for an MA in Producing at Goldsmiths. As part of their course they have to develop a brand new musical. Alejandra had invited me to come and watch some early rehearsals, I met the composer she was working with Lyndon Samuel whose work I knew of. Several of my friends had been in his production of Cleopatra.
Together Alejandra and Lyndon were devising a new musical called Dawn of Silence. The music was instantly catchy.
The footage and interviews I recorded can be found in this video: https://youtu.be/FVZu-AgIDNM
The first show I watched as part of the Goldsmiths Embrace Festival was Mary Shelley. A musical based on the acclaimed author of Frankenstein, Mary Shelley, who wrote the famous novel when she was eighteen.
Producer Nicole Sciberras has worked with producer and director Mikolaj Chrobot and composer Alexander Diaconu with book & lyrics by Paloma Henrickx. Set and costume by Hanna Kuchar and musical direction by Kieran Stallard. The cast included Aneira Evans, Lauren Wilson, Daniel Ghezzi, and Vivian Belosky.
When it comes to these shows, it is hard to know what to judge, these are all new work which has been produced with limited time, and money. Essentially these shows are course work for the twelve young students studying Musical Creation at Goldsmiths either in writing or producing. In some cases the students have worked together, and cross over between productions. The course provides a valuable foundation and introduction to the industry.
The second show was called Drought Quintet, and is the combined work of four students, Yulu Zhang and Angela Zheng who produce and Ivy Liu who wrote the book and lyrics with composer Lukas McCabe. Their assembled team include director Jianlei Li, assistant director Donghong Wu, dramaturg Yuru Huang, MD Hamish Brown and set and costume by Shanshan Liu. The cast included Sophie Wilson, Joy Brenugat, Egor Pluzhnikov, and Angelo Lauletta.
In most cases the teams have been restricted to using unpaid actors and thereby have used emerging and recent graduates or performers with limited experience, in order to further their experience. It's not exploitative, but rather an opportunity for these performers to develop in a learning environment. It again reinforces that the Embrace Festival is a incubator for new talent and professional development.
Drought Quintet, tells the story of four students who form a singing group at college, and explores their relationships.
Dawn of Silence completed the evening. Set in a post apocalyptic world where music and art is forbidden, the story follows a group of rebels who fight to overcome this.
As producer Alejandra Rojas Ayala has worked with other Goldsmith students, Paloma Henrickx who provides the lyrics, musical supervisor Lukas McCabe and choreographer Nicole Sciberras. As well as them she has worked with composer Lyndon Samuel, book writer CB Yale, and director Kevin Russell. With set and costume by Sheree Paton, designed by Ana Bretes with lighting by Perttu Lahdesmaki. The cast include Kelsie Walsh, Jack Donald, Wictor Koch, Lucy Forrester, Franz S. Rojas, Shaylyn Gibson, Aneurin Pascoe, Julie Cloke, and Carrigan Thompson.
Of the three, Dawn of Silence is the most developed piece with the most potential, which is ultimately what I would assess. But all three teams have done an accomplished job of devising and staging new work, and the industry needs these young pioneering creatives.
It is fantastic that Goldsmiths provides these courses and opportunities for young creatives to learn and develop, and I commend everyone involved in the festival. It also annoys me that money and focus can be lavished on productions like Big the Musical, when more money and support should be made available to these young creatives who, for me, represent the future in musical theatre.
On Saturday, I met up with my friend Sarah who had been struggling all week with tonsillitis, I had two tickets that I insisted she couldn't miss. They were for the live recording for Prime Video by Jayde Adams of her show The Ballad of Kylie Jenner's Old Face.
Sarah had introduced me to Jayde's work earlier this year, as she is a huge fan. Sarah had taken me to see Jayde as part of the comedy show Amusical that Jayde takes around the country with Kiri Prichard-Mclean and Dave Cribb.
I thought Amusical was hilarious, and thoroughly enjoyed the evening, which is why I was later a little disheartened when Jayde reached out to me after I had posted that I had been to see the show. By direct message, Jayde kindly asked me not to review the show, as she explained it's not that kind of show. Although I completely respected Jayde was simply protecting herself and the show, in the same way, I was a relatively new blog and was still trying to establish myself as a supporter and champion for the arts, rather than a faceless critic who sets out to bring people down. It upset me to think that I was being censored.
After this in early February, Sarah bought us tickets along with two other friends to watch Jayde's solo show The Divine Ms Jayde at Soho Theatre. I was possibly still holding some animosity, but I remember watching Jayde's show and coming away from it feeling annoyed. The show felt under rehearsed and disorganised, with Jayde dropping lines, and lyrics and reading from notes on her hands. I felt disappointed that Sarah had bought these tickets for us, and this was what we were getting for our money. I just felt that Jayde didn't really care.
The Divine Ms Jayde had been Jayde's smash hit Edinburgh show in 2018, and it felt like they were now just peddling it for money.
When it came to Edinburgh 2019, I purposely avoided watching Jayde's new show The Ballad of Kylie Jenner's Old Face in order to avoid disappointment. It was after returning from the festival, that a friend messaged me a tweet that Jayde had posted where she outed a journalist for writing what Jayde considered an unfavourable review. In retrospect, the review wasn't actually that bad. In reality Jayde was simply emotional and exhausted following a gruelling schedule in Edinburgh.
Historically Jayde has had to overcome her fair share of negative social media, which has often been targeted and personal. For anybody, I appreciate this must be hard, especially somebody like Jayde who had a meteoric and sudden rise to fame and success. It is understandable that she is quick to defend.
Having received some criticism and backlash myself during Edinburgh, I was equally as tired and sensitive, and quick to defend the journalist. I noticed that Jayde had posted by list all the star ratings that she had received across the festival. I felt it was hypocritical of Jayde to on one hand chastise a journalist and name and shame them, whilst on the other side Jayde was acknowledging the journalists who gave her good reviews and celebrating her star ratings.
Jayde took the tweet down, however I then posted a screen grab of it exhibiting it as the reason why I didn't go and see her show in Edinburgh. This was unfair of me, as Jayde had obviously retracted her tweet, and so it wasn't right of me to perpetuate it by reposting it.
Jayde then reached out to me to ask why I had posted it. I then responded with a lengthy message. Jayde was at this point incredibly noble and understanding. Between us we resolved our differences and I saw the side of Jayde that I should have recognised all a long.
Jayde is a very kind and caring person, who cares about her work. Jayde is creating work that matters and is brilliant, whilst still as a human being battling as we all do with insecurities and personal demons.
Jayde explained, which I had neglected to consider, that her Soho show was nearly six months after its Edinburgh run, where naturally Jayde wasn't as rehearsed. Jayde had also made some changes to it, which was why she had prompts written on her hand.
I apologised for questioning Jayde's commitment to her work, and in return Jayde unepectidly and kindly invited me to come to watch her recording of The Ballad of Kylie Jenner's Old Face and offered to put me and my friend Sarah on the list as her guests. It was very kind of Jayde, which I really appreciated.
It's easy, especially on social media for any of us to say things we don't mean, but harder to own up when you’re wrong and want to take them back. Jayde was very gracious to accept my apologist and she had reminded me that I set out with my blog to support and champion theatre and to look for the good in everything.
I think comedians often don't get the credit they deserve, along with any performer they are giving themselves over to their audience, in their case to make them laugh and feel better, in spite of how they possibly might be feeling themselves. It's a very self less and humane act of generosity for a performer to take to a stage, to entertain us whilst putting their own feelings aside.
Sarah and I grabbed a quick drink and a catch up before arriving at the Bloomsbury Theatre for the recording. There was a large lorry parked outside the theatre, and lots of crew and cables setting up for the recording. I paused for a moment, and thought wow. What an achievement. This one women from Bristol, who had the courage to stand up on a stage with a mic, now had her own TV special and an audience of 1000 waiting to watch her record it.
We grabbed our tickets and our seats as Jayde's boyfriend Rich Wilson took to the stage as warm up, which he did brilliantly. I could see Jayde standing in the wings watching. I can imagine she was probably feeling nervous by this point but all I could see was how proud she looked watching Rich. Rich then handed the show over to Jayde.
Jayde came out wearing a simple black polo neck, which she attributes to this show, a new refined version of herself, poking fun at wanting to be taken seriously, yet under her banter and bravado this show really does have an important message, and Jayde really does have something to say.
As well as hilarious and engaging comedy delivered skilfully by Jayde, there are some really poignant moments of realness as Jayde pushes to highlight and identify changing trends in society and social media, and possible negative influences. It's a message wrapped up with her infectious charm and delight, but with a swift and barbed punch, and she really makes you think.
Jayde showed no signs of nerves as she delivered a cool and controlled show, making me take back every comment I had made about her not being prepared. After the show Sarah and I bought some jumpers and were given a poster, before going to dinner.
I'm not sure when the show is due to be released through Prime Video, but I for one can't wait to watch it again. I again thank Jayde for being so kind and for being so brilliant.
On Sunday afternoon, I was asked by Leslie Armstrong to host her birthday concert at the Covent Garden hotel.
Leslie is a dear friend who is fanatic about musical theatre, especially Phantom and Les Mis. Each year, she and her friend Alexander throw an intimate concert and party with a few select friends and guests and enjoy some of her favourite music performed.
They had hired the screening room at the Covent Garden Hotel, where musical director Carl Herlitz had set up his piano.
I was delighted when I arrived to see my pal Danny Whitehead, who now plays Raoul in Phantom, as well as having been in Les Mis. Danny and I first met when he was in Geek! The Musical at the Tristan Bates Theatre. Danny was joined by Paul Ettore Tabone and Lara Martins, and three of them sang a collection of songs as well as a medley of songs from Phantom.
Other performers included two musical theatre students from London College of Music, Jack Giblin and Michael Hill, as well as Carl Daniels, Lucy Victoria Morris and Joseph Roi.
It was a great opportunity for me to practising my presenting skills, and with it being so intimate it wasn't overwhelming, I really enjoyed myself.
It was a thoroughly pleasant evening, as we were treated to champagne, popcorn and birthday cake.
My friend and fellow blogger Perry O'bree arrived as we crossed paths, he had been at the Industry Mind Awards which had started at the Piano Works West End, which is where I was now on my way to join.
Industry Minds is a podcast and initiative set up only one year ago by Scarlett Maltman and Cathy Reed. Amongst the great and incredible work they do to create awareness and recognise mental health within the industry, they also provide free counselling services, and motivational mornings.
The awards were established to recognise and acknowledge people working in the industry who particularly champion and support initiatives to combat and help mental health.
The awards included,
Creative Award, to a creative raising the profile of mental health in the arts.
Establishment of the Year, to an establishment in the creative arts who are bettering mental health and well being.
Healthcare and Commercial Enterprise Award to a healthcare or commercial enterprise that are pioneering action for mental health in the arts.
Recognition Award to any individual or individuals who are changing the face of mental health in the arts.
Performer Award to a performer raising the profile of mental health in the arts.
Training Institution Award to a training institution for their progression in mental health awareness, support and action.
Volunteer of the Year Award to a person who gives their time for nothing to help better mental health in the arts. As well as the Public Choice Award.
The winners were: Nikolia Foster, Applause For Thought, King Manual Therapy, Raffaella Covino, Amy Booth Steel, Arts Educational Schools and Addam Merali-Younger.
The judges were Rosalie Craig, Arlene Phillips, Denise Welch, Stephen Mear, Tyronne Huntley, Saima El-Wardany, Paul Taylor-Mills, Katy Lipson and Broadway World. With performances from Amy Booth-Steel, Sophie Evans, Jake Halsey-Jones, Ceili O'Connor and Lawrence Smith.
The event was very well turned out which is testament to how much the topic of mental health matters to people.
Scarlett and Cathy have done an incredible job of putting these awards together in under a year, and I hope to see their work continue to grow and be recognised.
It was nice to catch up with Tori Allen-Martin one of the nominees, who is currently enjoying a run of One Man Two Guvnors in Ipswich, she was saying how nice it is to be out of London and focussing on work for a bit after the difficulties she faced with Tree. I also caught up with choreographer Philip Joel who was another nominee, and Tyrone Huntley looked particularly handsome suited and booted.