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Blog 50

On Monday I was back at The Other Palace for the second week of the brilliant New Year. New Favourites. ‪series produced by Lambert Jackson Productions, and for the return of Steph Parry.

This was the first cabaret has done in over six months, since joining the cast of Mamma Mia: The Party and I’ve really missed her. I always tried to see as many of Steph’s cabarets as I could, as I think she’s brilliant. Steph was one of the first people I interviewed when I launched my blog last year, and I also took over from her to host The Show Goes On at the piano Works West End. I remember at the time worrying that her’s were incredibly big shoes to fill, as she was such a natural and funny host.

For her show at the Other Palace, she was accompanied by musical director Ben Papworth who worked with us both in The Show Goes On.

Without any special guests, Steph rattled through fourteen show tunes, mixing them up with her own brand of reworked songs, in which Steph rewrites the lyrics. She did this with the songs ‘I Cain’t Say No’, ‘Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious’, and a couple of medleys from Wicked and Mamma Mia.

Although it was mainly all material that Steph has done before, you can never get tired of hearing her perform them, she then also performed ‘Perfect Mother’ from the musical The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13¾ by Jake Brunger and Pippa Cleary, that I had not heard her do before, as well as ‘Me and the Sky’ from Come From Away, ‘Waving Through a Window’ from Dear Evan Hansen, and finished the evening with ’The Winner Takes It All’ from Mamma Mia.

Steph looked stunning in a blue jump-suit, that she told us had been made for her character in Mamma Mia: The Party, but then when they later changed the design, she got to keep. Her hair was also looking incredible.

Steph brought out a meat raffle as per tradition too, which she awarded to two of the audience members.

It is always a pleasure to watch Steph, and hopefully now that she has settled into her new job, she might have time to do a few more cabarets now and again.

Here are some of the songs from the evening:

Steph Parry performing ‘Me and the Sky’ from Come From Away

Steph Parry performing ‘Perfect Mother’ from The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13¾. By Jake Brunger and Pippa Cleary.

Steph Parry performing ‘She Used To Be Mine’ from Waitress.

On Tuesday I went to watch the new cast of Everybody’s Talking About Jamie.

Having seen this show four times already, once with the original Jamie, John McCrea, twice with Luke Bayer and last year with Layton Williams, who is now taking the show on tour around the UK. Although the character of Jamie and his story was based on the real life of Jamie Campbell, a young white man, as a black actor Layton Williams has now opened the role up to be played by anyone.

Slipping into the red stilettos is newcomer Noah Thomas, a third year student from Mountview yet to even graduate, who makes his professional debut in the West End. It’s a move seen by Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat and Dear Evan Hansen who both cast Jak Yarrow and Sam Tutty in their title roles whilst they were both yet to graduate from their drama schools.

It’s a huge strive forward for the industry to recognise and cultivate upcoming talent, and to continue to make and create brand new stars, rather than rely on stunt casting.

Everybody’s Talking About Jamie has become one of the most successful new British musicals of recent times, with a film adaptation as well as a UK tour launching this year. It is testament to the brilliant writing, Tom MacRae provides the book and lyrics, and Dan Gillespie Sells, the lead singer from The Feeling, wrote the music, and the songs are all incredibly catchy, and brought together by a very very funny script. Because of this, the actor who plays Jamie needs to be an incredible singer with brilliant comic acting. In Noah Thomas they have found just that.

Noah is an absolute superstar, with an exceptionally strong and clear voice, his comic timing is superb. Noah draws out the vulnerability within Jamie producing a much stronger and balanced story arc for the character and masters every scene with precision.

Noah also confidently leads the cast with absolute assurance.

Roy Haylock a.k.a. Bianca Del Rio is back, reviving the role of Hugo/Loco Chanelle. Roy is a surprisingly good singer, comfortably delivering the songs and is also a brilliant actor. Some lines have been modified to explain Hugo’s American accent, which is done effectively. Having first played the parts last year, Roy seems to have settled more in to them this year. I chatted to him after the show, and he said it feels different because of the different connections he has made with this cast.

Sejal Keshwala has remained with the show since I saw it last year, and is still brilliant but underused. Her voice, as we all know is incomparable, and yet here it is confined to one song. Despite that Sejal nails it, and has some of the best lines in the show too.

James Gillan has remained on since originated the role of Tray Sophisticay, and this year is joined by David O'Reilly and Leon Craig. David was standby Elder Cunningham in The Book of Mormon and is one of the co-creators A MAD Drag Night which he takes part in each year. He along with Leon who has just finished playing one of the ugly sisters in Cinderella in Wimbledon, both fit in to their parts perfectly, with Leon seamlessly taking over the part of Sandra Bollock previously played by Drag Race UK’s Vinegar Strokes.

Margaret new is now played by the brilliant Melissa Jacques who previously unstudied the part. The song ‘He’s My Boy’ is undeniably one of the most poignant moments in the show, and Mellisa delivers a souring rendition.

Preeya Kalidas makes a welcomed return to the West End as Miss Hodge, having been nominated for an Oliver in Bend It Like Beckham, before starring in Eastenders. She is brilliant as Miss Hodge, a role that requires her to rap, and on top of this her northern accent is spot on.

Making her long over due West End debut as Pritti Pasha is the incredible Hiba Elchikhe. Having playing Jasmine in Aladdin in Australia, it’s astonishing that it has taken this long for Hiba to be cast in the West End. Hiba is exceptional, and convincingly plays a sixteen year old. She too nails her characters arc and sounds incredible during her two main songs.

The rest of the cast consists of Jordan Ricketts. Keenan Knight. Zion Battles. Alexander Archer. Emily Kenwright. Harriet Payne. Jordan Laviniere. Marlon G. Day. Tilly La Belle Yengo and Zahra Jones.

I find it incredible each year that I return to watch this show, how it continues to thrive, and it some respects keeps getting better. Each year I am bowled over by how good the cast are, and come away thinking, I don’t know how they’ll top that. Yet each year they manage to find and bring in a brilliant cast who complete the show seamlessly. I think it’s also testament to how good the show’s structure is, along with its music and writing that enables the show to continue.

This is a show that has lost nothing since it first opened and if anything in some parts keeps getting better and better. The line about Harry and Meghan, that has always sat within the show, delivers a completely different connotation now and is simply brilliant.

If you haven’t seen this show before, you simply must, and if you have, then it is definitely worth revisiting with this superb cast.

On Wednesday afternoon, I was at the Press launch for Be More Chill.

This new version of the show is coming to The Other Palace between the 12 February and 3 May.

Based on the book written in 2004, the musical a regional production in 2015 with limited success, however the cast recording began to acquire a following. By 2018 an off broadway production lasted six weeks, and transferred finally to broadway for six months in 2019. By then the cast recording had acquired almost 350 million downloads.

It is now being brought to London, and modified for a British audience by original Producer Jerry Goehring and director Stephen Brackett, who have purposely used an entirely new cast of British talent, including star of Six, Millie O’Connell, and Renee Lamb. They join Scott Folan, Blake Patrick Anderson, Miracle Chance, and Stewart Clarke.

The press conference was full of YouTube influencers who all filmed the three performances we were shown and then were invited to interview anyone from the cast.

I managed to interview five of the cast before time ran out, but I was really happy with who I chatted to, and the footage that I managed to get. I was also really happy with the video that I put together of all the interviews and performances.

It was really interesting watching and comparing mine to some of the other videos and content produced by the other YouTube influencers. Some of them have a staggering amount of followers, and their videos gain a huge volume of views. Everyone’s style is very different, and it’s actually really nice to see such a contrast. It does intrigue me who these thousands of people are that tune in to their channels, and what it is that attracts them.

If you are interested in watching my full video from the Be More Chill press launch, you can find the video here:

And more information about the production and how to book can be found here:

On Wednesday evening I was at the Other Palace to watch Sejal Keshwala’s very first solo show as part of the New Year. New Favourites.

Having watched Sejal the night before in Everybody’s Talking About Jamie, she had taken the evening off to be part of this series produced by Lambert Jackson Productions.

Although having performed many times as part of the power house trio Divalution, Sejal was stepping out alone to front her very own solo show, which she said afterwards was incredibly daunting. If this was the case, it really didn’t show.

Sejal is brilliant, with her name in small light up letters on the stage, she poked fun at herself by saying “Who do I think I am? Beyonce?”. The truth is, Sejal is every bit as brilliant and captivating as Queen B, and if anything is a lot funnier.

Here evening was a brilliant collection of musical theatre, pop and rock songs with Sejal showcasing her impressive range and ridiculous vocals.

She was joined by special guests former Everybody’s Talking About Jamie co-star Sabrina Sandhu, ‪Andrew Bateup and Evie Rose Lane, and looked dazzling in a green sequent dress.

I could honestly listen to Sejal recall stories about the industry and sing all night long. She is incredibly entertaining, and so incredible nice too.

I uploaded some of the performances to my YouTube channel:

Sejal Keshwala performing ‘Satisfied’ from Hamilton

Sejal Keshwala and Sabrina Sandhu performing ‘Spotlight/It Means Beautiful’ from Everybody’s Talking About Jamie.

Sejal Keshwala performing ‘The Sparkling Dimond’ from Moulin Rouge

Sejal Keshwala and Andrew Bateup performing ‘My Funny Valentine’

Sejal Keshwala and Evie Rose Lane performing ‘So Emotional’ by Whitney Houston

On Thursday, I travelled to Bristol Old Vic to watch the matinee of Romantics Anonymous.

Bristol isn’t actually that difficult or expensive to get to from London, either by train or by coach, and the Bristol Old Vic theatre is a beautiful building, and the perfect setting for this beautiful show that I had seen in 2017, and was reintroduced to recently at an evening of Kooman and Dimond’s work.

Directed and written by Emma Rice with music by Kooman and Dimond. This production has been made under Emma Rice’s own production company Wise Children. Wise Children was conceived and created by Emma Rice who received a huge and controversial pay out from the Arts Council, following a decision by the theatre board at Shakespeare’s Globe to removed Rice as artistic director after complaints about her use of modern theatre techniques.

Regardless of this, Romantics Anonymous remains rightly one of Emma Rice’s crowning achievements. It is simply a beautiful stunning piece that I fell instantly in love with when I first saw it.

It has been revived in Bristol for a limited two week run before it will be taken later this year to Los Angeles and Washington.

Original cast Carly Bawden returns to the central role, having recently appeared in Ghost Quartet at the Boulevard Theatre. She is joined this time by Marc Antolin, who appeared in the original production in a smaller role. Having gone on to be nominated for an Olivier in The Little Shop of Horrors. Marc now plays the awkward romantic lead in this brilliant story, about social anxiety.

The pair are beautifully matched and brilliant, creating charming scenes of excellence.

Joanna Riding and Lauren Samuels have been replaced by the brilliant Sandra Marvin and Laura Jane Matthewson with Brett Brown, Me’sha Bryan, Harry Hepple, Craig Pinder, and Gareth Snook completing the cast. Gareth is the only other cast member besides Carly and Marc to return.

It’s always a danger when you have fond memories of a show, whether it will live up to your own recollection of it. Fortunately Romantics Anonymous did just that. It is still a beautiful, elegant, charming piece with some delightful moments, and it was an absolute treat to see Marc now leading the production. He is absolutely dreamy.

I am not sure whether they have any plans to bring the production back to the UK after, but it would be a shame not to tour or return to London. As I said of all of Emma Rice’s work, for me, this is the finest.

On Thursday evening, I travelled back to London to catch Declan Egan.’s New Year. New Favourites. at The Other Palace.

Declan put together a solo show last year at the Crazy Coq that was also produced by Lambert Jackson Productions, and it was brilliant. I had interviewed Declan before the show, and found him hilarious. His show was so entertaining, and as a performer Declan is superb and very very handsome.

He was joined at the other Palace by the gorgeous Georgi Mottram from the IDA girls and Jamie Lambert. Having produced the series it was nice to see Jamie stepping on to the stage, and I had almost forgotten how stunning his voice is. Declan also reunited his Jersey Boy co stars, Dayle Hodge. Simon Bailey and Joe Maxwell with Nick Barstow at musical director.

Declan launched straight into his evening with some 90’s nostalgia, singing a mash up of ‘Larger Than Life’ and ‘Hit Me Baby’. His voice lends itself to pop brilliantly, although his dance moves perhaps should stay in the 90’s.

He also covered ‘River’ by Joni Michell and ‘One Hand In My Pocket’ by Alanis Morissette

With Georgi he sang an adorable version of ‘Love is an Open Door’ from Frozen and then brought it up to date performing ‘When The Party’s Over’ by Billie Eilish as a duet with Jamie Lambert as well as a Lewis Capaldi cover.

Declan is an incredibly versatile and engaging performer and his show’s are always so much fun to watch. It was also really sweet that his parents had flown over from Australia and were in the audience watching.

Here are some of the performances from the evening:

Declan Egan performing ‘River’ by Joni Michell

Declan Egan performing ‘One Hand In My Pocket’ by Alanis Morissette

Declan Egan and Georgi Mottram performing ‘Love is an Open Door’ from Frozen

Declan Egan, Dayle Hodge, Simon Bailey, and Joe Maxwell performing ‘Cry For Me’ from Jersey Boys

Declan Egan and Jamie Lambert performing ‘When The Party’s Over’ by Billie Eilish

Declan Egan performing ‘Larger Than Life/Baby One More Time’ from & Juliet

On Friday I was again at the Other Palace to watch. Natasha J Barnes.

I had seen her very recently towards the end of last year when she performed as part of the Finale series at the Boulevard Theatre.

At the Other Palace, Natasha focussed more on new writing and new arrangements.

She performed a brilliant new arrangement of ‘I Dreamed A Dream’ from Les Miserables, and ‘Someone To Fall Back On/Halo’ by Jason

Robert Brown and Beyoncé.

Natasha then performed original songs from The Wicker Man by Darren Clark and Rhys Jennings and Love Child by Theo Jamieson and Tanya Ronder and introduced Vikky Stone who performed a song from The Zoological Society a new show that she has written with Katie Mulgrew.

Her others guests were the gorgeous Joanna Woodward and Gemma Knight-Jones.

Natasha completed the evening with a stunning version of ‘Being Alive’ from Company and ‘People Who Need People’ from Funny Girl.

Natasha is an incredible actress and singer, and it always surprises me when she reminds us that she didn’t train. Natasha was part of the young original cast of Spring Awakening in the West End that launched her career, and since they she has had some incredible jobs.

Here is the video of Gemma Knight-Jones performing ‘Don’t You Worry ‘Bout A Thing’ by Stevie Wonder

On Saturday I was at the final cabaret of the series, presented by Oliver Ormson.

Most recently seen in High Fidelity and Cats at Killworth House. Oliver is absolutely gorgeous, and every time that I have met him, has been incredibly lovely and charming. He looked incredibly handsome in a waistcoat and tie as he sang a few musical theatre songs and covered the Radiohead song ‘Creep’.

He was also reunited with Sam Murphy who he shared a dressing room during Cats, and Joshua Dever who was performed alongside in High Fidelity.

His musical director was Paul Schofield.

Oliver is a superb singer and very funny, and his evening was the perfect way to round off this incredible fortnight of talent.

Here are some of the videos from the evening:

Sam Murphy performing ‘This Love’ by Maroon 5

Oliver Ormson performing ‘I’ve Been’ from Next To Normal by Brian Yorkey and Tom Kitt

Oliver Ormson and Joshua Dever performing ‘Goodbye and Goodluck’ from High Fidelity

Oliver Ormson performing ‘If I Didn’t Believe in You’ from The Last Five Years by Jason Robert Brown

Oliver Ormson performing ‘I Believe’ from The Book of Mormon

I have to say a huge thank you to Eliza Jackson and Jamie Lambert for their incredible work putting together the 14 shows in this two week series, of which I managed to see 9, and they were all brilliant.

Lambert Jackson are next producing Monday Favourites. Which will feature Davina De Camp, Jordan Luke Gage, John Owen Jones and Maya Quansah-Breed, which are not to be missed.

The accompanying video for this week’s journal can be found on my YouTube channel here:

And the audio version can be found as a podcast here:

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