Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Jesus Christ’s everywhere at the mo!

There is no doubting that this month has been filled to the brim with talk of Andrew ‘Lord’ Lloyd Webber’s JCSS in our Family. My sisters and brother in laws were the masterminds behind a youth production of this show in Ealing (South West London) a few weeks ago. The show was put on to help raise as much funding as possible to put towards the costs of the casts mission to go on church youth pilgrimage to Brazil next year. The cast was made up of church youth from all over London, many of whom had never been on stage or were completing their first musical. It was a invigorating challenge for a group with no budget and no previous experience of producing a musical on there own, but there was a ‘never say die’ momentum about the production, nothing could stop them creating a fantastic show.

As with all shows there was a great deal of discussion between everyone during the build up to the four days of shows. There was a significant push of energy during the shows themselves which was swiftly followed by gleeful celebrations at the success of the production. Now comes the usual enhanced and mournful reality check as the shows have come to close. The place was packed every night and the figure they raised was far beyond all expectations.

High light of the show was a close call between the bellowing low notes from Caiaphas (wish I could hit low notes like that!) and Herod’s ‘You are the Christ’ which received the loudest and biggest round of applause of the show. Despite mic issues, some doggy am-dram vocals at times (and a small group of unruly cast members), I was extremely proud of them (they were at least 10 times better than the original 70’s movie version!). Here’s hoping this isn’t the last show they do (And I hope I’ll be in a position where I can help more)

So, why else is JCSS so big at the mo? Well, it’s all about the random mix of Mel ‘spice girl’ C, Tim ‘Matilda’ Minchin and Chris ‘he’s the savoir’ Moyle’s, a future stadium tour, and a need to find a Jesus. ITV’s Superstar has kept the household entertained for the last few days. Over the next week the final 11 contestants will be whittled down by public and ‘Lord’ vote to find out who will be Jesus. In all honesty the viewing figures so far for the show have been slow rising and low and I really wish the show would use less religious innuendos (loosing contestants who go into the light…..really?!). Despite this, the show has continued to impress with some great male singers who are all fantastic prospects for the future of the west end.

Who are our favourites I hear you cry? Well, Nathan has a great tone and Is my personal favourite – reminds me of a 1970s – 1980s rocker so even if he doesn’t win he would be amazing on Rock of Ages or We Will Rock You. Roger has past experience in theatre (he was Simba in Lion King!) and his acting and vocal skills really do shine. But we think the public will choose Rory and we have no doubts he would make a great Jesus and work brilliantly with Mr Minchin as Judas.

Well, to finish this blog, here is my new favourite clip! A former Herod who made me smile (Te he I couldnt find it, but in the scene before this there is a bald guy that looks like Voldamort :-)


Friday, 13 July 2012

illness sucks!

Last week was going to be a very active week......

Sadly, it ended up being more stuck in doors then I like. We were supposed to be travelling to London Coliseum (B.Brittens' 'Billy Budd') and to Margate Theatre Royal (Shakespeare 'As you like it').Unfortunately illness struck as I was rushed to hospital from work with chronic stomach issues. I’m now on antibiotics (yorn and grrrr!) but am feeling a lot better - if slightly disgruntled that I missed two shows that I had been looking forward to for a long time.

On the up side, my wonderful wife Bekah has been amazing and has kept me smiling and laughing. She has also bought me tickets to The Rose Theatre in Kingston to see 'Mort' the musical just before my birthday. I am a Terry Pratchett fan and a musical fan....but in all honesty I cant quite imagine the two together, but we shall give it a go :-)

I have tomorrow off so I will be spending the day plotting a plan as to how I can take over the world.....or at least build a larger blog base :-) I will also start writing a long awaited review about my favourite this space

Thursday, 5 July 2012

Cape Town Opera - I'm In love with your Vocal chords

Sometimes working in a Theatre box office is amazing - last week was one of those moments. 

Porgy & Bess is one of Gershwin’s greatest master pieces and yet it is very rarely given justice in this country. This is why when I first heard about Cape Town Opera's production of this classic I was first in the queue to purchase the best available seats. Thankfully in this instance no early morning queuing was needed as the venue in question was my work place, The Marlowe Theatre (Canterbury), so all that was needed was a willing box office bod to take some card details (Bliss!). That moment was around 5 months ago - fast forward to last week when the production arrived.

Setting the scene - The venue was on top form. We had managed to sell all available seats with a few weeks to spare ('Like Gold dust' doesn't even compare to how much people wanted to see this show). The day before the show was to commence a visit into the auditorium was needed where I found what looked like the contents of a skip being unloaded, hammered, bolted and forcefully positioned into some sort of order by a mass of technical wizards (see the video at the bottom of this blog to see what it looks like). The set is stunning - designed to look like the streets of a poor and divided Soweto (South Africa), a fitting design that mimics the American streets (Catfish row - Charleston, South Carolina) the opera was originally about.   

The next day was show day - Music billowed from the changing rooms every time we wondered past. The deep voices of the Porgy's could be heard in all the admin rooms of the theatre. The lead roles of both Porgy and Bess were split between a few singers to help with the pressure of the tour. The Cape Town Opera has been renowned for many years as being the creator, trainer and developer of great opera and great performers, and this latest group really were the bee's knees. I think before I go any further with this praise, please take a moment to listen and watch the link below.....

Wow does not even get close to expressing how I felt after the first few bars of full chorus once 7.30pm passed. The opera is truly amazing, filled with suspense, lust, heroes, villains and lovers. The performance was way beyond all expectations in my mind - but if I had one niggling feeling, it was let down slightly by our positioning. Usually our preferred seating - upper circle row B - is one of the best places to sit as the sight lines are great and the acoustics are special, but in this instance, with a full orchestra situated in the pit (first 5 rows of the stalls lowered down), they were often too overpowering for some of the soloists - a issue that I’m sure will have been resolved by the time they arrive at the London Coliseum later this month.

 I was going to call this blog - the voice box I would love to steal. This is due to the sound that bellowed from the vocal chords of the leads that played Porgy. I love singing and it’s almost worth me catching a cold so as to make my voice even deeper - just to give me the slightest glimmer of the sound they produced. I wish them all the success possible as they finish off their UK tour with a trip to the west end. I really hope this is not there final visit to our shores.

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

London's Bright Red Rubies

The West Ends Demon Barber of Fleet Street

Having been a huge fan of Stephen Sondheim since being introduced to his music during A Levels (thank you Mr Hubble), the opportunity to see this hauntingly beautiful show live on stage was one not to be missed.

As it was Bekah's birthday last month, we felt a trip to the west end a few weeks ago to start the celebrations and to spend some theatre tokens was due. So off we trotted to Tkts Leicester Square (The Square is open again for those who have missed it during its refurb) where we purchased two £26 tickets.....front row, centre stalls :-) We knew we wouldn’t see everything from this angle, but the opportunity to see two fantastic performers up close was one we chose not to miss. 

The two leads, Michael Ball of Les Mis fame and Imelda Staunton - Harry Potter's sinister Dollores Umbridge (....shiver) are both wonderful performers in their fields, but when we found that they would be playing Sweeny Todd and Mrs Lovett, our instant reaction was @what?#.

Despite our trepidation's, I have never seen a live version of the show (excluding the staged DVD versions we have on our shelf) and as I studied Music at The University of Chichester, situated right opposite the theatre where this version of the production was dreamt up and created last Autumn (Chichester Festival Theatre), I felt all would be fine - The theatre has a long pedigree of creating great shows and was certain this production would not let anyone down.

If Star Wars was reality (and before anyone says anything, in what remains of my teenage memories it does exist) I would be entitled to say that Michael Ball has had to take a giant leap into 'the dark side' to play this role. He portrays this character as a revenge seeking, love lost barber which surprised us from the start - considering his previous roles have included Marius (les Miserable’s), Caractacus Potts (Chitty Chitty Bang Bang) and.....*cough cough* Edna Turnblad (Hairspray), Sweeny Todd is definitely a complete change of character. His style of acting is totally different to what I expected and his sinister and incredibly well formed makeup really does add to his character image (especially as we were so close). If anything, this older Michael Balls voice is deeper and more powerful then I have ever heard it. He has succeeded in adding to the role substantially with some wonderfully powerful and forceful moments and did a wonderful vocal tribute to the part that has previously been played by such great actors/musicians (such as George Hearn, Len Cariou, Bryn Terfel and not forgetting Mr Depp - even Kelsey Grammer has had a go).

I have great love for Imelda Staunton and the way she portrays Mrs Lovett - who happens to be my favourite character in the musical. From the moment she enters the fray with her 'worst pies in London' song, she is the glue that encourages, develops and holds the plans together. Even though her voice is not spectacular, her acting skills made sure the moments she was on stage were extra meaning filled. 

As with Sweeny, some great names of stage and screen have acted this part, most famously Angela Lansbury (murder she wrote and Mrs Potts!), Sheila Hancock (Famously on stage in Cabaret and Sister Act over recent years) and more recently Helena Bonham Carter (Harry Potter & Kings Speech).The role requires a strong, will-powered woman with a great deal belief and passion in the task ahead - this is something that Imelda Staunton has in reams. 

In news on Characters - keep your eyes and ears open over the next few weeks when Jason Manford (comedian) takes over as the Pirelli (the fake Italian Barber) - Here's hoping he is as successful as Sasha Baran Cowen.

Over all, the performance was beyond all our expectations. We would, after careful debate on the train on the way home, have preferred to have sat further back in the stalls - don’t think my bank balance could coup. The performance has helped my love for Sondheim to grow and I honestly cannot wait for the opportunity to arise for me to see another live musical - here’s hoping its not a long wait.

Saturday, 9 June 2012

Welcome to the fun house :-)

I've decided, after much thought that i should probably write about the wonderful new theatre I work at..... Ok, well not that much was quite an easy desicion actually as why would i talk about a far off place when i can talk about the place in my own back yard.

For those of you who don't know canterbury well, this is the old Marlowe.

Built origianlly as a cinema in the 1930's it was converted into a theatre in the mid 1980's. It served the city well as a approx. 1000 seat venue, but did not utilise the space that it sat on. In 2008 the theatre closed to be replaced by the new new marlowe.

During the wait for the new home to be built, the theatre continued its panto tradition and moved into this... wonderful tent. Many happy memorys were spent in portercabins set up as a box office, but a few years have passed and now.......

The New Marlowe Theatre.

As a boxoffice bod it has been an amazing experience moving into a new purpose built 1200 seater venue. Opinions of the exterior design have been mixed which was to be expected when you consider Canterbury is a heritage city and this has been built right in the center of the town. Despite these instant opinions about the outside, the vast majority of those who have been to see shows on the inside have found the place to have incredible acoustics and a wonderful feeling. The shape of the main auditorium design is based on old horse style theatres, a style of theatre that helps to amplify sound to even the highest corner and aims to make sure no one is too far away from the action (max distance to stage is 25mtrs). Add this old style design with the unique sound reflecting roof, and the specially designed sound reflecting seats and you have a venue with all the feeling of a old theatre but with the style and up to date technology of a new.

The theatre also boasts a smaller 'black box theatre'  (The Marlowe Studio). Home to the Youth Theatre and home to some new and exciting smaller works. Canterbury has been calling out for a multipurpose venue and this 150 seat venue offers a wonderful place for smaller production companies to show off there skills. It has also been used as a comedy cabaret venue (the seating is retractable leaving a nice sized floor space) and as a gig venue for local groups. 

Since opening, the theatre has experienced great growth and solid attendance figures, something which is leading to new west end tours choosing the venue in future years. So the future is bright and here's hoping that the theatre goes from strength to strength.

For more info on the Marlowe, visit   

I'll be back soon with some reviews of shows we have seen over recent months.