July 2018~ Mamma Mia 2

Spoiler-Free, quick review!

Okay, confession time first. When the first Mamma Mia film came out ten years ago I hated it. The singing by some of the male cast really put me off, especially Pierce Brosnan’s. Over the years though I have grown to love it. Partly because my niece rammed it into my head like she did with Frozen and also because of the interviews I have read and watched with cast members, including Mr Brosnan and I quickly realised that none of them take themselves seriously. They had fun doing it and their aim was to make a fun, feel-good movie (unlike a certain film set in France in 1836 whose stage play I love but film I hate!).

Anyway, Mamma Mia- Here We Go Again is set a few years after the first film. I don’t want to give too much away but I will say that it takes place in two different time periods; the current day, where we see that Sophie is pregnant with her first child and also 1979 where we meet a young Donna (played awesomely by Lily James) who sets of on her adventures to meet Bill, Sam and Harry- Sophie’s dads!

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Again, lots of great ABBA music is used, including my favourite, ‘Fernando’ and a relatively unknown song (as it had a limited release) ‘Andante, Andante’.

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All of the original cast are back and are joined by Andy Garcia and Cher. For me, the one major triumph was in the casting of the young Donna, Tanya and Rosie. Lily James, Jessica Keenan Wynn (Tanya) and Alexa Davies (Rosie) are absolutely amazing as the younger versions of Meryl Streep, Christine Baranski and Julie Walters characters and they even managed to copy their voices and mannerisms down to a tee.

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Its a great sequel and if I’m honest I prefer it to the original. MM2 has some amazing dance routines with a great ensemble cast and outstanding dancers and as I said the music is awesome.

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If you want a fun, feel-good movie this summer, go see this!

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January 2018~ The Greatest Showman

It’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of musicals. It’s also no secret that as much as I love the Les Mis stage version, I’m not a fan of the film due to the way the sound/singing was recorded. It was with some hesitation that I decided to watch The Greatest Showman.

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The film tells the life of Phineas Taylor (PT) Barnum, American Showman and the founder of Barnum & Bailey’s Circus. It isn’t true to life (though some bits are) but aims to tell a story “in the spirit of PT Barnum” and act as a celebration of humanity. Therefore the creators have taken a fair bit of artistic licence with the tale and I’m ok with that.

During the film, Barnum gathers a variety of oddities, from Fedor Jeftichew aka The Dog Boy, the world’s heaviest man (The Lord of Leeds, played by Daniel Everidge) and Shannon Holtzapffel as Prince Constantine, The Tattooed Man who all bring something different to the circus and the film itself. The recruitment scene near the start is one of my favourites.

Whilst there were great performances all around, Hugh Jackman (as PT Barnum), Keala Settle (as Lettie Lutz, The Bearded Lady), Zac Efron (as Phillip Carlyle, a character based in-part on Barnum’s real-life partner, James Bailey) and Zendaya (As Acrobat/Trapeze Artist Anne Wheeler) shone throughout. ‘Rewrite the Stars’ has to be one of the best scenes in the movie, coming a close second to the ‘This is Me’ routine, powerfully performed by Keala Settle and co. Other notable songs include the title track ‘The Greatest Show’ and ‘From Now On’.

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The only issue I had with the film is the scene set in England with Queen Victoria. To me, the actress playing her wasn’t quite right. Apart from that, it is a real, feel-good movie with a great message on inclusion. I really hope it does well during award season this year.

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The Prince Charles Cinema announced that they would be showing a sing-along version on Saturday 27th of January. I managed to get the last ticket as they sold out very quickly. I’m not a great singer. I sang in choirs and on stage in ‘Hansel & Gretel’ at The Bloomsbury Theatre in 1983/84 as a child but when my voice broke I gave up. I still enjoy it no matter how bad I sound- I blame my mother! Luckily, others at the PCC were the same. Only a few decent singers, the rest of us just “harmonised”!

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Before the film begam Toby Anstis of Heart FM Radio fame ran some competitions, gave away some freebies and held a very quick Q&A with the director of the film, Michael Gracey. Then there was a fancy dress competition; a young girl dressed as Barnum, won a hat worn (and signed by) Hugh Jackman himself.

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Then the film began. It was a fun afternoon and was so popular that the PCC have announced more screenings.

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My only gripe: for a film that promotes inclusion and equality (and has a large man as a character) why were all the freebie tee shirts only large?? At least my niece will get something to wear.

October 2016~ Les Mis & Jessica

This afternoon totally blew me away! It wasn’t the fact that this was my 29th time seeing Les Mis. It was something else.

My niece has been on at me for a while to take her. For those that don’t know, she is on the autistic spectrum and finds certain situations very difficult, especially anything with crowds or new places. She goes to drama school which helps her a lot with confidence etc. and she absolutely loves theatre. Even though she was excited she was also very nervous. I had spoken to her about the trip prior to this as had my brother. I also contacted the theatre in advance to let them know.

It was them that blew me away! From the moment I emailed everything just fell into place. I received a phone call yesterday confirming they had things in place to help and they advised me of the procedure.

We arrived early and collected our tickets- they allowed me to book the seats normally reserved for wheelchairs which was good as it wasn’t in with the main audience. It was a little box to the side. Within 5 minutes, Nick, the theatre manager came to collect us. He took us to a little waiting area and introduced us to some other staff. He then offered us refreshments. Nick then spoke directly to Jess and told her everything that was about to happen. From the staff roll call, setting up of the kiosks, everything! He also told her that during the briefing, all staff would be told about her and to look after her (this did happen as the staff were all great at checking in and seeing how she was). Then he asked Jess if she had any questions and afterwards sat and chatted about nothing in particular to help her stay calm. We also had access to the disabled loo so she would not have to encounter any crowds there, and a quiet room in case everything gets too much- the quiet room has comfy chairs and a large TV show so you can watch the rest of the show if need be. Then he handed us over to our own liaison person who escorted us to our seats early, just before general admission. This let Jess get acquainted with her environment. Both him and the manager checked in on us regularly.

Afterwards, she managed to meet a few of the cast at the stage door who were equally amazing! A massive thank you to everyone at The Queen’s Theatre, you are awesome!

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June 2016~ West End Live

West End Live is a free event which takes place in Trafalgar Square every year. It’s a showcase of all the amazing musicals that are currently showing or coming soon in the West End.

This year I got to see shows such as Kinky Boots, Aladdin, Motown, Sunny Afternoon, Showboat, Mamma Mia, Phantom of the Opera and of course my favourite, Les Miserables.

It was great to see Eva Nobelzada (Eponine) and Rachelle Ann Go (Fantine perform an amazing mashup of On My Own and I Dreamed A Dream, followed by a whole-cast rendition of One Day More.

I managed to meet Peter Lockyer (Jean Valjean) and Jeremy Secomb (Javert) at the stage door afterwards. An awesome day all round!

June 2016- Les Mis x27

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Performance number 27 for me!

A couple of the principle cast have recently changed and at the last minute I managed to get a seat in my favourite spot (Loge 1 or 2 if you are interested!) so I headed off to the Queens Theatre!

My two favourite characters are Jean Valjean and Eponine (One day I will make a separate blog entry about why as it will take a while!). Since April there has been a new principle Eponine. A young actress from the US called Eva Nobelzada, who made her professional debut playing Kim in Miss Saigon in 2014 at The Prince Edward Theatre, had taken over the role and I was intrigued to see how she would be.

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Would Eva be able to get across the necessary raw emotion that I think is needed for the part? I’m no acting expert but I believe that out of all the characters, apart from JVJ, Eponine goes through the most emotionally. Her feelings for Marius and how she feels when her love goes unrequited. Torn between loyalty to family and doing what is right for Marius, a lot of pent up anger as well. Could she do it??

Well, damn! She blew me away! It has been a while since I shed a tear at Les Mis (okay, February! 😉 )but Eva’s rendition of On My Own was amazing and I did cry during A Little Fall Of Rain (I’m not ashamed to say!). She checked all the boxes and whilst her predecessor, Danielle Hope. was awesome, Eva is the best Eponine for me for a very long time!

I must meet her at the stage door one day if only to say hi and grab an autograph and selfie! Maybe at number 28….

February 2016~ Les Mis!

I’m also a bit of a musicals geek. I have a few firm favourites (Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat, West Side Story etc) but my all time favourite is Les Miserables.

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I haven’t seen it in a few years, since it moved to the Queens Theatre in fact. When my brother and sister-in-law said they wanted to go it was too good an opportunity to pass up!

It is still as awesome and emotional as ever. No one will ever beat the original Jean Valjean, Colm Wilkinson, but Peter Lockyer did a damn fine job and Danielle Hope was awesome as Eponine. The sets were as amazing as I remember.

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With this being my 26th will I go again? Damn right I will!

Edit: A few days later I received an early birthday present, courtesy of my brother and his family. Something he had arranged through the theatre. Very awesome!