Saturday, April 28, 2012

'Dreamboats and Petticoats' - another feel-good

This show has been going on for quite while now, both on tour and in the West End, and there has been talk of going ahead with productions in New York and Australia so I thought it was about time for me to check out what the fuss was about. I discovered this musical demonstrated the aspect that first made me realise the world of musical theatre is the one where I belong, the same sensation I got when I saw the Finnish production of Wicked: an incredible sense of togetherness and an incredible atmosphere.

Dreamboats and Petticoats at The Playhouse Theatre, London
Performance: Thursday 19th April 2012 at 19:30
Seat: Dress Circle (5th row centre), £22.50 ( deal)
Cast included: Scott Bruton (Bobby), Harry Neale (Norman), Charlotte Jeffery (Laura), Richie Hart (Ray u/s), Susannah Allman (Sue), Gemma Salter (Donna), Roger Martin (Phil/Older Bobby)

I did not know this would be another one of those jukebox musicals. I generally tend to avoid those because the story lines in them are rarely great and the story line, for me, is one of the most important things in a musical. I suppose that is one of the reasons why I like Chess so much: the story is remarkably complex considering it is a piece of musical theatre. That is also the reason why I did not particularly enjoy We Will Rock You. Of course the singing and Queen's music was great but the story line was far too obscure for my liking. In Dreamboats and Petticoats the story was a standard one with teenagers' love troubles (the geeky girl likes the main semi-geeky guy who likes the popular girl who likes the popular macho guy who seems to be eyeing every girl around him) while at the same time the youngsters are trying their hand at a songwriting competition.

The story is set in the early 1960s and I ended up falling in love with some of the costumes. (I totally want a dress similar to those the girls were wearing!) Naturally the music consisted of hits of the 50s and early 60s. Songs such as Do You Wanna Dance?, Hey Baby and Bobby's Girl were featured. As a consequence, the audience consisted mostly of older people who grew up with the songs and remember them first hand. Of course I ended up sitting close to some old couple who insisted on singing along through most of the second act. This keeps happening to me! People singing along somewhere near me I mean. I can't stand it. Although with jukebox musicals it isn't as bad as it is with something like Chicago for instance (this also happened to me although the culprits were two young ladies). I recognised some of the songs but most of them were unknown to me. However, because I like old music I really enjoyed listening to it. The only drawback was that the singing could not always be heard due to the music being too loud. This was mainly a problem at the start. 

Photo: Tristam Kenton (source)
I had not heard of any of the cast members before. However, I think that made me concentrate on the musical as a whole rather than directing my focus on just one of the actors. I don't think they could have picked a more perfect actress than Charlotte Jeffrey to play the part of Laura. She had a powerful voice despite having a sort of innocent blonde girl look. I also liked Harry Neale as Norman and Susannah Allman did a great job of Sue. One felt sufficient sympathy for Scott Bruton's Bobby. What I loved about him was that he did in no way steal the show despite playing the main character and I think that worked very well. 

The most amazing thing was though, one as an audience member could just tell the actors were having a ball doing the show and performing together and the energy spread out to the audience also. As stated, this is the kind of thing that always makes me aware of how much I love musical theatre and why I first began enjoying it. There is a tendency for West End shows to be (too) perfect and have a certain sense of routine (understandable when the same show is performed 8 times a week) which may sometimes alienate the audience instead of truly engaging them. This one didn't come across like that.

I am currently trying to find a date when I could go see this one again. I just have to see it one more time. There are lots of cheap deals currently for Dreamboats and Petticoats as well so I recommend this in particular to theatre-lovers and people who enjoy 50s and 60s music.


Sunday, April 22, 2012

Chlöe Hart & co in cabaret - Ensemble Power

Chloe Hart, who is currently in the ensemble of the London production of Wicked, put on a cabaret to raise money for a lung cancer charity. Some of her fellow cast members as well as a few drama school students came and joined her on stage during the night and if there was one thing the average audience member gained from this night I should imagine it to be respect for the ensemble. 

Michelle Pentecost (2nd cover Elphaba)
Photo: Fonsaca Malyan-Brooker
Chloe Hart
Photo: Fonsaca Malyan-Brooker
Each and every one of the performers (shame on those people underestimating the ensemble) was not only perfectly capable of singing solo, they were fantastic at it. In a way that should not come as a surprise considering they are trained musical theatre actors but it seems to me that the ensemble does not always get much credit. It is also very rare to get to hear them sing individually. That's why I thought the cabaret was such a great idea. Big thanks to Chloe for organising it!

The theme of the cabaret was new writing so all the songs had been taken from new musicals or they were new songs from current musical theatre composers. The only major song that really did not fit into that category was one Thomas Sutcliffe had decided to sing: Bring Him Home from Les Misérables. 

Thomas Sutcliffe
Photo: Fonsaca Malyan-Brooker

Lauren Samuels
Photo: Fonsaca Malyan-Brooker

I won't go into all the songs that were performed but here are a few of those that stood out to me:
Charlotte Scott (1st cover Glinda)
Photo: Fonsaca Malyan-Brooker

Girl in 14G
Regardless of the massive amount of love I have for this song, I always become weary when I am told someone other than Kristin Chenoweth is going to sing it. It's just one of those songs you associate too strongly with one person. However, I have to say that Charlotte Scott (1st cover Glinda) definitely did justice to it. What an amazing voice! And the acting and comic timing were spot on. I am now determined to try and catch a performance of Wicked with her as Glinda.

An Old-Fashioned Love Story from The Wild Party
When I heard this song for the first time about a year ago, I was certain that the lyrics had been tampered with. I was proven wrong there: the lyrics actually are not what you would expect at all. This is a brilliantly funny song and I was laughing all the way through because I anticipated the comedy.
I actually found Jackie Hughes's performance from that night on YouTube:

The Wizard and I from Wicked
Well, I suppose there couldn't not be a Wicked number in the show. Chloe performed this song as one of the final numbers of the cabaret and she did it justice. 

Stagey and Proud with music by Chris Passey and lyrics by Amy Caroll
This brand new song had been written especially for Chloe and this is the first time she has performed it. Have a listen. it is funny, especially if you know Wicked

Some other songs we were treated to:

  • Mama Who Bore Me from Spring Awakening
  • Beautiful Disaster (performed by Lauren Samuels)
  • I'm Not Pregnant
  • Never Neverland (Fly Away) by Scott Alan - I love this song

Conclusion: It was such a nice night. The atmosphere friendly and supportive, we got several good laughs. In addition, it was great to meet some fellow musical theatre fans as well as exchanging a few words with the stars of the evening. More of these kinds of cabarets, please :)

A special thanks to Fonsaca Malyan-Brooker for letting me use some of the photos she took! 

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

'Spamalot' - UK Touring Cast

Although I have seen a small number of Monty Python sketches in the past and found them funny, I cannot say I was ever a massive fan of the group. The bits of Life of Brian that I saw did not particularly engage me. I doubt I would have gone to see this show if it had not come to a theatre so close-by and if I had not gotten a discount ticket. So lucky that did happen.

Spamalot at Richmond Theatre
Performance: 7th April 2012 at 19:30
Seat: Centre Stalls, £15 discount ticket
Cast included: Steven Pacey (King Arthur), Bonnie Langford (The Lady of the Lake), Todd Carty (Patsy), Robin Armstrong (Sir Bedevere), Rob Delaney (Sir Robin), Adam Ellis (Prince Herbert/Historian), Kit Orton (Sir Lancelot), Jon Robyns (Sir Galahad)

Poster for the UK tour
For those of you who are not familiar with this musical, it is based on the film Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975), it started previews in Chicago in 2004 before opening on Broadway the following year. It does not only parody the legend of King Arthur but also musicals on general. A sharp-eared audience member will spot some famous Monty Python lines as well as references to already existing musicals. Some of the lyrics had clearly been revised since the original production as there was even a reference to Susan Boyle (with a guy dressed as her running on stage).

The reason I found Spamalot funny was that it was so random. Having people lying on top of each other appearing to be dead suddenly get up and start an extremely upbeat song titled I Am Not Dead Yet is such an unexpected thing that you can't help laughing. Having a group called 'Knights who say Ni' (out of whom one is walking on stilts) who go around doing exactly that is, for some reason, very funny.
A special mention goes to Bonnie Langford as the Lady of the Lake. She acted the part absolutely brilliantly. Her rendition of The Diva's Lament (a.k.a. Whatever Happened to My Part?) was one of the most memorable moments of the show. (On a whole another note: I loved the blue, sparkly dress she was wearing.) Her and Steven Pacey singing The Song That Goes Like This was also hilarious. It basically broke down a standard love duet from a musical; it carried an unmistakable resemblance to The Phantom of the Opera.
Have a listen (and a watch because the acting is brilliant) of Christopher Sieber and Sara Ramirez (original Broadway cast) performing it. Subtitles available on this video by clicking the 'cc' button at the bottom:

And because I'm Finnish, I obviously have to put this in here as well ('Finland' song starts from 1:40):

The musical finished in a merry Always Look on the Bright Side of Life sing-along, which, I am sure the young woman next to me enjoyed especially since she was trying to join in when the actors performed the song the first time round... 
Anyway, I would go and see this musical again. It seems to be one of those constantly evolving ones not to mention that each new actor taking over a part would be adding their own touch to the character. This is what keeps it fresh and funny. 

For more information about the UK tour of Spamalot

Thursday, April 5, 2012

More about me (with photos)

I know I haven't written that much about myself in here but I know there are readers who are interested in knowing a little bit more about me. So here goes...

My job
So what do I do? I work as an optical consultant which basically means I work as a sales assistant at an opticians. I help people choose frames and advise them on suitable lenses, order people contact lenses, book opticians appointments for people and answer any customer queries. When I was looking for a job in my gap year after college, an opticians was the first place that offered me a job (I was just applying for everything due to having next to no work experience) so this is how I ended up where I am now. I have been trained on the job so to say as I have no formal qualifications in the sector. 
Do I like my job? Yes, I do. I love helping customers out. It is a great feeling when a customer sincerely thanks you upon collecting their new glasses. 

These pics are from summer 2011, my previous work place in Finland.
My education
I have always been quite an academic person and so after secondary school I went onto college to study on the International Baccalaureate Diploma programme (as my six subjects I took English A1, French B, Biology, Psychology, Maths Studies and History). I then got offered a place to study Law at university which I accepted. However, I knew right away that the course was not my thing so I dropped out about 6 weeks into the first semester. I don't think university is quite my thing. 

My hobbies
Musical theatre. I am currently in the process of improving my skills in acting, singing and dancing so I am taking two musical theatre courses (Thursday evening and Sunday daytime), a tap class and private singing lessons. Singing is the component I enjoy the most.

Nottingham, December 2011
Wicked muck-up matinee 10.12.2011
Going to the theatre. Surely this counts as a hobby if I do it regularly? I go at least every two weeks although I think this year so far I have seen something pretty much every week. 

Writing. I write a lot: diary, letters, this blog... I used to do it more than I do now, though. 

Collecting autographs. I currently have about 135 signed items in my collection.

Reading. A very dear hobby of mine which I have recently reserved more time for. 

Future plans
If I am offered a place on a musical theatre foundation course I am applying for, that is the one I will accept. It is a year-long part-time course after which I would be looking to go into full-time musical theatre education. Risky business that, but that is what I love doing above everything else and I know that if I never even try taking that route I will regret it forever. 

Meeting the amazing Anna-Maija Tuokko (who played
Glinda in the Finnish production of 'Wicked') 12.6.2011
Some more random pics:
Ready for prom 25.5.2011

Helsinki Pride 2.7.2011

Helsinki summer 2011

Monday, April 2, 2012

'South Pacific' - UK Touring Cast

This was the first time I saw a professional touring production. What I have heard is that these touring casts tend to be an amazingly talented bunch of people and the only reason they are not in the West End is because they are not famous enough outside musical theatre circles. There is so much competition between shows in the West End as each one tries to attract the audiences that famous people are seen as a fairly essential component in the success of a show. People often go and see touring productions regardless of who is in them because there is not as much choice at any one time. 

Poster for the 2008 Broadway revival
South Pacific at New Wimbledon Theatre
Performance: Friday 23rd March at 19:30
Seat: Central right Dress Circle (my ticket was Upper Circle but there were so many empty seats lower down that they had moved everyone down a level)
Cast included: Samantha Womack (Nellie Forbush), Matthew Cammelle (Emile de Becque), Alex Ferns (Luther Billis), Daniel Koek (Lieutenant Cable), Loretta Ables Sayre (Bloody Mary), Elizabeth Chong (Liat), Cameron Jack (Stewpot), Luke Kempner (Professor), Dominic Taylor (Commander Harbison), Nigel Williams (Captain Bracknett)

Despite South Pacific being such a famous, classic piece by Rodgers & Hammerstein, I must admit, I did not know much about the show prior to seeing it on this occasion. My research showed that both the original Broadway production and the Broadway revival had both won a large number of Tonys. 
The plot very briefly: Two love stories in (surprise, surprise!) the South Pacific during World War II. One between an American nurse and a French gentleman living on the island and the other between an American Lieutenant and an Asian woman. Racism is one of the main issues the musical deals with. 

The feedback for this particular production (based on the 2008 Broadway revival) has been very positive. It started off with a limited West End run before embarking on tour and it is scheduled to return to the Barbican in the West End for a few more weeks to finish off. 
The show most definitely lived up to my expectations. Rodgers & Hammerstein's music is such easy listening and the scenery and the colours were all so fresh and light. I was particularly fond of the set. 

Nellie immediately rose onto the list of characters I would love to play myself. Samantha made a wonderful job of her. She has a gorgeous, shrill, very musical theatre style voice perfectly suited to Nellie. Out of her numbers I enjoyed I'm Gonna Wash That Man Right Outta My Hair the most - it was the song which I ended up humming upon leaving the theatre. 
Samantha singing A Wonderful Guy (song starts at 1:30):

Don't even get me started on Matthew Cammelle. Well, he has played the title role in The Phantom of the Opera. Surely that automatically equals to 'amazing voice'. It is not often one comes across a voice like his; Some Enchanted Evening was pure bliss to listen to. Other special mentions go to Loretta for a hilarious portrayal of Bloody Mary and the remarkably 'together' ensemble (not only vocally but also in the dance numbers which I enjoyed immensely). 

Conclusion: I most definitely recommend for everyone to see this! I will most likely go again when it returns to London and drag my mum along. 
For more information on the show and tour dates, visit
The promotional trailer for the UK Tour (I preferred Matthew Cammelle's voice in the part of Emile to the guy's in this):