West End Calling 2019!

On Sunday 12th of May I was generously invited to the Grand Final of West End Calling. I had previously known about the competition since my friend attended the final last year so I was very excited to see what I was in for.

What is it?

The contestants come all around the country as the first stages of the auditions held in 7 cities around the country and performed in front of a panel of West End performers. And during the Grand Final of West End Calling they perform one song to a completely new panel of judges, previous judges have included Danielle Hope, Paul Wilkins, Jamie Lambert and Lauren Samuels.

The Judges

This years judges were the two leads of hit West End show, Aladdin (Prince Edward Theatre), Matthew Croke (Aladdin) and Courtney Reed (Princess Jasmine). The panel was completed by Heathers royalty, Sophie Issacs. However, today they definitely weren’t the envy of any of us having such a difficult decision to make picking the winners. 

I was also lucky enough to catch up with them at the end of the night and ask them why a competition such as this is so important for young people and the West End community.

Sophie Issacs
“I just think it’s amazing for us to witness such amazing talent and for everyone in the same age group to experience the talent that ewe have all across the country is an amazing this to see.”

Matthew Croke
“Tonight, West End Calling is so important because of these people that want to be in the West End or do this kind of thing in the industry anything that they want to do and want to see other people that want to do this type of thing. I brings out a healthy competeetaive side of the industry but also the experience that they get that West End Calling give is just incredible. If I was their age and had something like this to go to I would be the first one to enter. It’s such a good experience for them all.”

Courtney Reed
‘Tonight is just so important because you’re giving the youths such an opportunity to get in front of some working professionals and get out and perform in front of a wonderful, loving audience who’s really rooting for them and to see where their journey goes next.”

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From Left to Right: Matthew Croke, Courtney Reed, Oscar Conlon-Morrey and Sophie Issacs

The Grand Finals!

The Grand Finals were hosted at The Other Palace. The theatre home of shows such as Heathers, Eugenius, Toast and will be hosting the UK Premiere of Falsettos.

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The Grand Final is split into two groups, the Junior Final (under 16s) and the Senior Final (Over 16s) and have thirteen contestants each.

Both shows were hosted by Oscar Conlon-Morrey who effortlessly improvised with humour and ease. I was also lucky to speak to him after the show and ask him why he enjoyed hosting the final so much.

“It’s always and absolute joy because the amount of passion they bring to the stage is incredible. This year in particular was excessive talent that we have not seen before. They were incredibly genuine, truthful performers. Lot of really exciting, new and interesting vocal qualities and style that I haven’t seen before and I genuinely think that every single one of them could have very successful careers in the industry.”

In both of the finals, the standard of the performances delivered were out of this world, however, there were a few stand out performances for myself in each of the Finals.

The Junior Finals!

In the Junior Finals, Maya Rugen who performed ‘I Love Play Rehearsal’ from Be More Chill was the first one to stand out for me. As someone who is not very familiar with the show, her performance of the song made me very interested in sitting down and listening to the soundtrack. 

In addition Phoebe Maddison with who sung the song ‘Quiet’ by Jonathan Reid Gealt. Again, I was not familiar with the song, but she really invested me in the song and her story telling, in addition, her voice is insane! 

Sasha Roberts broke my (and everyone else in the audience) heart with a stunning rendition of ‘Words Fail’ from Dear Evan Hansen. As such a popular song from such a current musical, is such a risky move however, it totally paid off with acting and vocals at a sensational level for his age.

Bibi Simpson took the competition to a different level with her rendition of ‘Green Finch and Linnet Bird’ from Sweeney Todd: Demon Barber of Fleet Street. It was the only performance of that type so it would typically stand out however, the song is a personal favourite of mine and her voice is so beautiful that I could listen to it all day. I could see her playing roles such as Christine Daae and Cosette, she has a beautiful, classic soprano voice.

3rd Place in this Round was given to Charlotte Waller with a show-stopping rendition of ‘Dying Ain’t So Bad’ From Bonnie and Clyde

2nd Place of this round was given to Sasha Roberts for ‘Words Fail’ from Dear Evan Hansen.

1st Place of this round was won by Phoebe Maddison who sung ‘Quiet’ by Jonathan Reid Gealt.

The Senoir Finals

The second round included performers from the age 16 and up. Opening the show, and setting the standard really high, was Amelia Wilkins with ‘Out Here On My Own’ from the musical Fame. The performance to me felt so intimate and personal so was immediately a stand out one for me. 

Ashley Hartley performed a stunning rendition of ‘Stars’ from Les Miserables. As the song is in my Top 3 of all time favourite musical theatre songs, I was anxious to hear his rendition, and I was not disappointed! The judges remarked that they could close their eyes and believe that that was the actual actor playing Javert and I couldn’t agree more. I can’t wait to see Ashley performing the same song at the Queen’s in years to come. In addition, his acting was so strong, despite the lack of costume and context, you would know exactly who he was playing. It was a stunning performance.

The next stand out performance to me came even before it was performed. When I saw the words ‘Megan Lapper Memory- CATS’ in the programme. I might have had a little heart attack. It’s a very ambitious song to sing, even for the most trained singers. Although I have never seen the show Cats, ‘Memory’ is an iconic musical theatre song, my Mam’s favourite and my eldest cat is named after the character who sings it. Yes, my cat is called Grizabella. I couldn’t help by feel Megan had given herself a massive challenge… Challenge? She flew through the song with so much ease, a powerful belt and an amazing outfit on a tiger print variety in homage to the show. 

In addition, another song that really stood out to me as very ambitious to sing was ‘Rose’s Turn’ from the musical Gypsy. However, Megan Keaveny Brough the house down with her performance both vocally and physically.

3rd Place was given to Bryon-Rose Brookman for her portrayal of ‘Lost in The Brass’ from Band Geeks. 

2nd Place went to Megan Lapper for ‘Memory’ from Cats.

1st Place went to Serafina Bird for ‘Wait a Bit’ from Just So.

Overall Thoughts…

Although I have not mentioned each competitor by name in this post, doesn’t mean I didn’t appreciate and enjoy each and every performance. I can see them all standing on all the West End stages, leading the shows. I can guarantee everyone that I see that the future of the West End is in safe hands.

In addition, it’s so nice that there is a competition like this out there for aspiring performers, I wish I had known about West End calling when I was an aspiring performer because I would have applied for it, and got all of my friends in musical theatre to have done so as well! 

I can’t help but feel incredibly lucky that Alex was kind enough to invite us. The work that he is doing for these aspiring performers is astonishing. I really can’t thank him enough Even a week later finshing up this blog, I can’t help but feel incredibly lucky seeing the names of future West End shows performing in front of my very eyes, already trained to perfection, so in a few years time, they’re going to be unstoppable!

I you would like to get involved in West End Calling 2020, auditions for entry are now open. Please check out http://www.westendcalling.co.uk for more information. And for all I know, I might see one (or a few) of you there next year…

Written By: Sophie Reed @misssjreed_
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Nathan’s TOP 10 SHOWS of 2018!

Written by Nathan Deane

This year I saw a lot of theatre. In all honesty, 2018 was a brilliant year for theatre, and I though I’d round up my year with my top 10 shows of the year!

Read my top 10 of shows from 2017 here.

10: Hamilton

Victoria Palace Theatre, London

Hamilton

I first saw Hamilton way back in January, a month after it officially opened in London, to mixed emotions. Yes, what was presented in front of me was beautifully written and staged, but I felt a tinge of disappointment as I felt it didn’t live up to the hype. It wasn’t until a month later when I saw it again, that I understood Hamilton for what it truly is: a magnificent work of art. I have visited Hamilton since, and it just gets better each time. Give into the hype and give Hamilton a go, I’m sure you won’t regret it.

9: It Happened In Key West

Charing Cross Theatre, London

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As Count Carl Von Cosel sings in It Happened In Key West, “I promise you my undying love…”. IHIKW was a romantic, macabre musical comedy focusing around the story of Carl Von Cosel and the love of his life, Elena Hoyos, as she succumbs to tuberculosis, and the relentless effort of Cosel to bring her back to life. It’s such a shame that this show didn’t release the cast recording it announced, but the show will live on in my heart.

Read my five star review of It Happened In Key West here!

8: Once

Queen’s Theatre, Hornchurch

Once

I might be a little bit late to the Once train. I had to wait all this time to finally see it, and boy it didn’t disappoint. The production I saw at the Queen’s Theatre in Hornchurch was gorgeous, the intimate venue really suited the minimal style of the show. The cast were sensational, and the show left me sobbing as it ended. Let’s just say that Gold will be playing in my head for years to come.

7: Pippin

Southwark Playhouse, London

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A revival of Schwartz’s larger-than-life circus musical in one of London’s small fringe venues? Seems like a difficult task. However, it was pulled off beautifully and it payed off, as the run sold out fairly quickly. I was lucky enough to score two sets of tickets, so I could enjoy this beautiful show more than once. Once again, it was my first experience seeing Pippin, and I was enthralled from start to finish. A glorious production at the Southwark Playhouse.

6: The Jungle

The Playhouse, London

the jungle

Set in the real life Calais Jungle, a migrant and refugee camp in France, The Jungle tells the story of refugees and volunteers within the Jungle, all from different walks of life. A heart-wrenching and honest portrayal of life within the Calais Jungle, this production transformed the Playhouse Theatre to a mini Jungle within the theatre, immersing audiences as they watched the play and were served fresh naan, curry and chai tea. A beautiful and vital play that is now performing Off-Broadway.

5: Brief Encounter

Empire Cinema, London

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A truly captivating production taken away from London audiences too soon, Brief Encounter finished it’s run at the Empire Cinema on the Haymarket months too early. The story is based on the classic Noel Coward film, Brief Encounter, which is, in turn, based on the Noel Coward play, Still Life. This musical adaptation by Emma Rice and featuring songs from the Noel Coward archive was truly a feast for the eyes and ears, as the likes of Jos Slovick and Beverly Rudd serenaded each other and pranced around the stage in this gorgeous fusion of film and theatre.

4: Seussical

Southwark Playhouse, London

seussical

I’ve always been a Dr Seuss fan, and so seeing the marvellous Seussian universe come to life this Christmas at the Southwark Playhouse was truly a dream come true. Featuring performances from the likes of Mark Pickering and Scott Paige among this cast of musical theatre royalty, this hardly-revived musical captures the hearts of all that watch, from young children to the older generations, and inspires them to think that anything’s possible.

3: Six

Arts Theatre, London

six

This show, a concert re-telling of Tudor history, mainly the six wives of Henry VIII, has gripped audiences all over the country, and it’s easy to see why. Seeing the “queens” perform (divorced, beheaded-) live in front of your eyes with a wonderful pop score is truly a spectacle that everyone can enjoy.

Read Charlie’s review of Six The Musical here.

2: The Inheritance

Noel Coward Theatre, London

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A life-affirming two-part play transferred from the Young Vic to London’s West End, The Inheritance tells the story of a group of gay men who are telling their own story inspired by E.M Forster’s Howards End. An emotional, heart-warming drama showing the harsh realities of living with HIV/AIDS, this is a vital piece of theatre that everyone should see at least once.

1: Mythic

Charing Cross Theatre, London

mythic 2

Greek mythology is always extremely interesting, and this updated version of the myth of Persephone and Hades captured my heart and practically every other heart that saw this show. A short 90 minute feast for the eyes and ears, this pop, rock, and even a hint of hip hop musical extended in London but closed a week earlier than expected. Good thing, though, that there’s a cast recording and it’s available for pre-order from Broadway Records now! Hopefully this wasn’t the last that London audiences have heard (and seen) of Mythic, as the world deserves to see this funny, heart-warming show.

Honorable Mentions:

The Ferryman (Gielgud Theatre), Instructions for Correct Assembly (Royal Court), Company (Gielgud Theatre), Billionaire Boy (Nuffield Southampton Theatres, City), Trainspotting LIVE (The Vaults), The Country Wife (Chichester Festival Theatre, Minerva) 

Review: Pop Punk High @ (Le) Poisson Rouge, NYC

Reviewed by Annie Zeleznikow

The show began with a standing crowd and no chairs (except some couches and a reserved section), not what one expects when heading to the theatre. And as the unconventional seats forewarned, Pop Punk High was no ordinary show. The evening I attended began with a band, Dude Ranch, singing and encouraging the audience to shout “DICK”. The band was loud, and I should have paid more attention when the merchandise stands outside the theatre had earplugs for sale. Despite the intense volume, Dude Ranch sufficiently warmed the audience, preparing them for the power of pop-punk music. 

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The show began in earnest with the protagonist, Derek (Ben Lapidus) yelling at his parents (Mclean Peterson and Eric Wiegand), telling them he hates them. Which seemed odd to me, as I have a deep respect and love for my parents. Little was I to know how clever the foreshadowing was in this overtly silly show. The cleverness of this show, as a form of self-deprivation, is unfortunately overshadowed by the loudness of the dated music.

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While describing the evolution of pop-punk, Tib (Amanda Centeno) states that pop-punk was created by “tak(ing) out the nuance, and leav(ing) the power cord”. How accurate she was. Although moving at times, this show pandered to a specific niche music fan. Despite that, the hilarious show remains nostalgic, if sometimes a bit silly. And Tib’s charisma and charm help elevate the show.

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The crux of the story is that Derrick, a loser with a needledick, sprays a magic axe bottle, releasing a dead Avril Lavigne (Kelly Krauter), who offers Derek 3 wishes. The ridiculous wishes come as no surprise, despite its predictability the wishes nicely foreshadow the outcome of the show. The story itself is whimsical, and at some times thin, logic crumbles under narrative pressure.

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The pacing of the show and the quality of the songs were excellent. The songs meaningfully moved the story forward, providing excellent rhythm for the show. The ensemble continuously sang and danced their hearts out. It was the first time I asked myself what the true meaning of punk-pop was. And I’m surprised a show with such an airy story managed to perfectly provide me with a deep existential question. This show climaxes with a giant dick knocking over the antagonist. Despite that, the evening was enjoyable.

Niched, fun and a bit rude, this silly show will fulfil your 2003 self’s dreams. With all the ups and downs of the show, it creates a positive atmosphere for growth and excitement. I felt empowered as the cast took their bows, to be the best version of myself.

3-stars

Pop Punk High is currently playing at (Le) Poisson Rouge until November 1st, tickets can be purchased here

In Conversation With: JILL SANTORIELLO (It Happened In Key West)

Jill Santoriello is a writer, composer and lyricist whose newest musical, It Happened In Key West, has recently opened in London at the Charing Cross Theatre. Santoriello also penned the award-winning musical adaptation of Dickens’ “A Tale of Two Cities”. It Happens In Key West tells the story of Carl Tanzler, an eccentric German man living in Key West, Florida, in the thirties, who was found living with the body of Elena Hoyos, his true love but also a young woman who passed away seven years earlier.

Read my five-star review of It Happened In Key West here. 

What interested you about the story of Carl Tanzler and writing a Carl Tanzler musical?

I had never heard of this story until my producer and collaborator, Jeremiah James, pitched me the idea several years ago. It immediately appealed to me in an over-the-top gothic romantic sort of way. Jeremiah was familiar with my work on “A Tale of Two Cities” so I knew he had to be envisioning a musical that was somewhat romantic as well. But he couldn’t have known that I also have a slightly twisted, dark, demented side that was just as drawn to the potential for black comedy as it was drawn to the grand romance. The good news was Jeremiah didn’t want the show to be all one thing or the other either. We shared the view that as romantic and sincere as Carl’s intentions may have been, keeping and preserving a decaying body around the house just had to present certain challenges that were ripe for comedy.

Why did you choose to portray Tanzler as a romantic rather than a psychotic body-snatcher as many have?

Jeremiah, Jason Huza (co-book writer) and I were never interested in doing a dark, grisly horror story. That’s just not how we saw it, though it can be interpreted that way and has been portrayed that way in other versions of the story. But that’s what appealed to us frankly – taking what some people thought they knew – a creepy tale of body-snatching and obsession – and turning it into a silly, absurd, uplifting romance. We made a choice early on to take Carl at his word and tell the story from his point of view. And actually, his accounts were not greatly contradicted by the newspaper and legal accounts of the time, so he seemed to be the most reliable first-hand narrator for the show. And he literally ends his diary with the most optimistic, adoring words of gratitude for having known Elena and having had the honour of taking care of her as long as he did. So, when you read that, it’s kind of hard to not appreciate the romantic side of him and what he did. And it’s impossible to deny that this man truly loved this woman – as they say – to the bitter end.

What were the most challenging parts of the true story to adapt to fit the style of the musical?

Well even though Carl wrote a rather detailed diary account of the events, they didn’t automatically “sing” or lend themselves to being dramatized. In fact, sometimes his notes were a little too scientifically detailed and clinical, so we did take our fair share of dramatic license, inventing some scenes and conflicts as needed. The hardest (and most fun) part of writing a show like this is figuring out what to approach as heartfelt and what to approach tongue-in-cheek through the dark comedy filter.

Whilst researching for the musical, did you meet anyone who was around in Key West when the discovery was made?

It’s funny that you ask that because my collaborators actually met a woman in Key West who was alive at the time that Carl was discovered living with Elena’s body. So this person literally attended Elena’s second wake and viewing in 1940 when she was a little girl. They had a long conversation with this woman, whose mother was best friends with Elena, and the amazing thing was she literally corroborated our “imagined” version of events! In other words, we had written scenes where Elena showed that she really cared for Carl whilst she was alive, loved him and asked him to take care of her body when she passed away – and this woman told us that yes she did. And also that the people of Key West, people who actually knew them, saw the story exactly the way that we saw it – not as something creepy or horrible but as an expression of how much this man loved this woman and the lengths he went to to keep his promise to her. I was particularly touched by the fact that when the song “Undying Love” was played for this lady, she actually broke down weeping because she said it was how they all felt about the story.

Are there any other true crime stories you’d like to adapt to the stage?

Honestly, I never thought of this as much of a crime. I mean, the charges against him were grave robbing and desecration of a tomb. Well, he had paid for Elena’s funeral, paid for and built the mausoleum that she was kept in – all with the consent of her family. And if you happen to believe in an afterlife and spirit communication, which I do, if the dead girl you love comes to you from beyond the grave and asks you to get her out of the cemetery and take her home with you, well what else are you supposed to do? So where’s the crime in that? You can question whether he was delusional to think he’d been visited by a spirit – but no-one who knew him ever doubted he believed that to be the case. So I believe he truly thought he was honouring Elena’s wishes and I can’t fault him for that.

Where would you ideally like to stage It Happened In Key West in the future?

London has been great and it’s my favourite place on the planet so this has been a wonderful experience premiering the show here. And I’m definitely planning on coming back again on coming back again before the end of the run. But I would love to see it done in the U.S as well: in New York (where I live), of course, and especially in Florida and/or Key West. I think the story of undying love and how tough it is to say goodbye is pretty universal so I’m hopeful we’ll eventually find an audience in many places.

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I’d like to really thank Jill Santoriello for agreeing to be interviewed. You can find more information about her as a writer and her shows here. 

It Happens In Key West runs at the Charing Cross Theatre in London until the 18th of August 2018. Tickets and more information can be found here. 

REVIEW: It Happened In Key West @ Charing Cross Theatre

Reviewed by Nathan Deane

A classic love story that involves forbidden lovers, tuberculosis, and grave-robbing. Honestly, what’s not to love?

It Happened In Key West tells the very true story of “Count” Carl Tanzler, a German man who lived as a doctor in Key West, Florida in the 1930’s. He had said that when he was a young boy, he dreamed of a girl that would be the woman he marries. He finds that in Key West in the form of Elena Hoyos, but ends up diagnosing her with tuberculosis. She is already married, but he showers her with gifts (and even proposes, to which she declines). When she eventually dies, he builds a mausoleum for her and eventually…steals her body and lives with it. For seven years.

Not traditional musical theatre inspiration, and being familiar with the story before seeing the show means I was extremely intrigued to how they’d pull it off.

Penning the book, music and lyrics, Jill Santoriello does her best to turn the macabre true story into a beautiful romance. The music is lush, with extremely clever lyrics and a book that turns Tanzler into a wisecracking romantic. Santoriello twists some truths of the story to play in favour of romance (I particularly liked the changing of Tanzler dragging Elena’s corpse out of the cemetery in a toy wagon to a variety of different ghosts and spirits marrying them in the graveyard).  In the true court case, Tanzler was medically proven sane. The book does its best to show that he wasn’t crazy, and it worked. There were moments which I found myself tearing up, which was a change from most versions of the story where they try to make Tanzler look like a psycho.

Marc Robin‘s direction and minimal choreography worked for the small stage of the Charing Cross theatre. Wooden crates were moved and stacked to create locations, aided by projections designed by Louise Rhoades-Brown.

Wade McCollum takes on the role of Carl. His comical, yet creepy, performance was perfect. He plays Carl from the moment he first meets Elena up to the day he dies, which McCollum plays wonderfully. In particular, his act one solo “Undying Love” was beautifully done.

Playing Elena Hoyos, both dead and alive, is Alyssa Martin. The innocence of Elena was shown perfectly in both acts, firstly accepting Carl to try and “cure her tuberculosis” (there was no cure for TB at the time), and in act two as a dead woman, singing beautifully “I Feel Loved”.

It Happened In Key West is definitely a musical to suit all tastes, from the classic musical theatre vibe of the score to the macabre but comic book. It’ll be hard to find a better new musical comedy this year.

5stars

IT HAPPENED IN KEY WEST runs at the Charing Cross Theatre until 18th August. Tickets and more information here.

REVIEW: The Producers @ Ferneham Hall

Reviewed by Nathan Deane

The Producers is an iconic comedy musical based off of the 1969 film of the same name written by Mel Brooks. South Downe Musical Society have returned to Ferneham Hall in Fareham to tackle the challenge of producing the over the top, lavish musical written by Brooks himself.

The Producers tells the story of Max Bialystock and Leo Bloom, two theatre producers scheming to produce “the worst show ever written” and take all the money and travel to Rio. However, the show they produce, Springtime For Hitler, is ultimately a success and the fraudsters are caught out.

Taking the roles of Bialystock and Bloom are Matt Sackman and Sam Townsend. Sackman was excellent as Bialystock, a scheming ex-King of Broadway. Sackman is funny in the role, and his act two solo “Betrayed” was a highlight of the show. Townsend was perfectly cast as Leo Bloom, giving an awkwardly cute performance with lush vocals and comedic delivery of lines.

Director Jane Pegler had a tough job of bringing the book and music to life without copying too much from the film or previous productions of the show. And whilst I did see some similarities between the movie, Pegler did her best to keep the staging fresh and inventive.

The standout performance of the night goes to Kimberley Harvey as Ulla. An extremely funny performance, with strong vocals and a convincing Swedish accent throughout.

It was a shame that the sound levels weren’t balanced properly as the ensemble often seemed to be drowned out by the pitch-perfect orchestra (who were West End standard, may I add.)

The Producers was a great night out guaranteed to entertain anyone from die-hard theatre lovers to die-hard Mel Brooks fans.

4stars

REVIEW: Island Song @ Davenport Theatre Loft, NYC

reviewed by Annie Zeleznikow

All Things Broadway, a much beloved Facebook group, presented their first full-length show. The theatre was filled with family, friends and supportive theatre lovers. One of the producers, Eliyahu Kheel, addressed the audience, explaining in a short and heartwarming way the long road that lead to this production.

Island Song presents the overlapping lives of serval busy New Yorkers. The story follows 5 core characters, with actors doubling up to play minor characters. The show offered many opportunities to show off the actors’ vocal range, to my delight. The songs that bookend the show rang out through the theatre with the strong harmonies of a powerful cast.

The staging was interesting and the director, Keira Todd, impressively utilized the space and light of the Loft. The lighting stood out, as the twinkle lights around the room pulsed in time with the emotions and climax of each song. The small theatre space created an intimate atmosphere, and the show felt tailored uniquely for me. Focusing on romance and making it in the big city, the themes of the show resonated with me.

Each of the 5 characters struggled with living in the city and found strength in different ways. The pop songs illustrated the nuanced issues the characters were facing. Will (Mathew Billman) charismatically courted his girl-next-door, Jordan (Stephanie Michele Toups), and Shoshana (Kira Leiva) was just looking for love in all the wrong places. Caroline (Anna Harris) struggled with a purpose. The standout, however, was Cooper (Darren Cementina) who, through his story as a struggling artist, managed to give me goosebumps with his superb vocals.

Although there was a dense amount of songs, and there were some technical issues with the microphones, this show was undoubtedly heartwarming. The community produced show is representative of the great artistic creativity that can be produced with the faith and support of loved ones. Empowering and touching, this production showed me how much heart can be woven into a single show.

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Do you HEAR the people sing?

Written by Charlie White

So, I recently went to the theatre and unfortunately…I struggled to pick up the dialogue and therefore missed parts of the story. This wasn’t helped by the fact that the actors didn’t wear mics (as it was a play) and they had extremely strong accents. This then sparked the idea for a blog focusing on the sound/hearing aspect of shows.

I myself am a hearing aid wearer and have had problems with my ears since being a child, so this is quite an important subject to me (especially when it comes to hearing in a theatre) as I’m sure it is to most theatregoers.

The majority of the time, most shows are pretty good at making sure things are at a suitable volume and of course there is the well know lesson of projection and ‘making sure your voice hits the back of the theatre’ (I assume…is this still a thing now?)

However, there are times when maybe the music can be a little overpowering or perhaps the characters might be deep in conversation and you can’t quite catch everything they are saying.

If any of you reading this are familiar with hearing aids or anything along those lines you’ll know most theatres now have what’s called the loop system, which if your hearing aid has it activated you can connect to it and the sound will be sent straight through to your hearing aid (I’m also an Audiologist so fit hearing aids for a living).

 

 

 

Some of the shows I’ve seen recently have varied a lot hearing wise. Firstly, the Ferryman. As much I loved the show and was extremely shocked by the ending (you have to be there), I did have a bit of trouble hearing it all. Yes, this is the play I mentioned at the beginning and I’m afraid I did struggle at times to understand what was being said. Despite this, you do get used to it by the end and I managed to follow the gist of it. My advice if you’re going to watch this is maybe trying to have a little idea of what it is about beforehand and have your concentrating caps on when you see it!

Another show I recently saw was the Cursed Child. I am pleased to say most of the actors in Harry Potter and the Cursed Child spoke very clearly and the sound was pretty good throughout the show! Occasionally if the characters were having an argument or got a bit carried away with emotion certain things might not come across quite so clearly.

Overall, musicals tend to be at an appropriate level in order for us to take in the beautiful scores or talented voices so generally, I’m sure a lot of people will manage fine. For those who do not or those who are interested in knowing a bit more about this side of things, there will be a short section on the sound/hearing quality included in our upcoming reviews. The aim is to hopefully help and guide people who may struggle so they know what to expect when going to see a particular show. So please keep an eye out for that in the future and be sure to hear the people sing!

REVIEW: SeatPlan

Written by Nathan Deane
Contributions from Charlotte White

A useful tool for UK theatregoers, SeatPlan is a website that takes the average auditorium plan and makes it interactive, allowing users to add photos from the seats and leave reviews of their seats. Users earn rewards from each photo uploaded and can also enter competitions and buy tickets via the website.

Despite a quite confusing interface, the tool is extremely helpful to the average theatregoer, if you’re based in London, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Milton Keynes, Manchester or Oxford. Whilst SeatPlan isn’t limited to those 6 areas, it doesn’t go much further than them, leaving people outside of those areas with local touring theatres in the dark of where to sit.

The site only has the major theatres, so you can’t get seating maps for some Off-West End venues such as Southwark Playhouse or Greenwich Theatre, which limits the usage to some theatre-goers.

The rewards are enticing, you earn 40p for each photo you add to the site and the pennies go towards theatre tokens – an exciting reward for any theatre fan. For an extra 40p, make sure you take a photo of your ticket stub!

The new, updated interface makes it hard to find the interactive seat plan, a feature I couldn’t find and had to ask my Facebook friends to help me find it when the update happened. Nevertheless, now I know where it is I can use the tool whenever I want.

The seat reviews are informative, usually accompanied by photos of the view and star ratings of the comfort, view, legroom and the show itself, providing a deep enough insight so that when you book your ticket you’ll know whether the seat is right for you.

The ticket booking system is easy enough, with discounted prices scattered around and easy to use seating charts.

I use the SeatPlan site quite frequently and, although it has a few minor issues, it’s a brilliant tool that anyone who is able to access a London theatre should use, and with the rewards system it’s a great way to fund your theatre-going!

4stars

REVIEW: Ms. Estrada @ The Flea Theatre

Reviewed by Annie Zeleznikow

The Flea Theatre that houses this production can be found off the beaten path in Tribeca, in a twist of oxymoronic fate this company is creating edgy and thought-provoking shows in the heart of the industrial upper class. This funky company introduced themselves by providing single pieces of paper, rather than a playbill. It was announced before the show began that this was a deliberate decision and that all other information can be found online. Their dedication to conservation is an interesting and thoughtful act towards global sustainability.

The show began with a disclaimer from the writers,The Q Brothers Collective. They astutely noted that they were all male, some gay, some of colour. The sensitive themes explored in Ms Estrada warranted the warning. The cleverly written prose professed profanity, and ultimately set the scene for a production that challenges and entertains.

Another visual that struck me before the show began was the DJ, Marguerite Frarey. Rather than having an orchestra, Ms Estrada had a band of one. Frarey would often shout and boo as the story developed. She was the first character you meet, and she remains a constant throughout. Frarey at times could be compared to an all mighty presence, watching the events of the show unfurl.

Ms Estrada focuses on a young woman’s experience through college. Written with dark humour and a clever sense of self-awareness, Liz Estrada (Malena Pennycook), a new college student, seeks the “power to change the system”. In an attempt to prevent the “Greek Games”, a sexist male competition focused on stereotypical frat games, Estrada convinces her fellow female classmates to withhold sex. With the support of her roommates and mentor (Jenna Krasowski), Estrada shows the Dean (Ben Schrager) how damaging the Greek Games are.

The songs in Ms Estrada are clever and catchy. With a flair for rap, the show slowly moves towards more traditionally female musical genres as the story progresses. “Ring the Bell” is a catchy earworm, as Estrada and the female rebels reprise the song whenever they are confronted. Estrada and her empowered peers rename themselves “Womxn with an X”, and flaunt their feminine power with some complex and intricate choreography. The boys begin losing matches and they complain to the Dean with a song that appears to find inspiration from Lin-Manuel Miranda and Macklemore. The show continues with a compelling blend of rap and pop.

Estrada’s compelling fight against an unrelenting torrent of sexism is remanent of Rob Thomas’ Veronica Mars. Young women are fighting for equality, and the stories focus on the struggle and success of these women. The storytelling and incorporation of Ms Estrada exudes a quirkiness similar to that of the charming Veronica Mars.

This masterful adaptation of the Greek Classic Lysistrata brings modern life to an ancient play. The in-house ensemble of The Flea Theater, The Bats, shine in this complex and captivating show.

4stars

Ms Estrada is playing at The Flea Theater until 28th April. You can buy tickets here