Hello all! First of all, I’d like to apologise for the lateness of this blog, I’ve been a bit swamped with essays and the like, but now that they are handed in, I’m having some downtime before starting my dissertation! So, what better way to do that than with a visit from my best friend, a concert, and a two show day in my favourite city?
Rewind to the evening of May 9th, and myself and Lou are in our seats at the Colston Hall waiting to see the wonderful Michael Ball in his Both Sides Now tour.
Having seen Michael twice in his incredible run as Sweeney Todd last year, I was looking forward to seeing him onstage as himself, and can tell you right now I hope it won’t be the last time I get the chance to see him! I love the warmth and charm he had about him and how he was so relaxed and happy to be on stage – the impressions (including a hilarious Dolly Parton) and little anecdotes he’d drop in really made me smile.
The other thing I loved was the mix of songs he did- granted his voice might be more suited to a certain style of music but I enjoyed seeing him belting out Lady Gaga’s Edge of Glory and the more up tempo songs as well as the slower numbers, because he just looked like he was having a blast and that was infectious. It was really fun dancing and singing along with him.
Special highlights of mine from the set away from the world of musical theatre were his renditions of I Will Always Love You, When She Loved Me, and Fleetwood’s Mac’s gorgeous Songbird… a song which can (and indeed did) move me to tears!
But of course, many of the major highlights did stem from the world of musical theatre! Particular favourites were a one man rendition of Pretty Women from Sweeney Todd, a song which when I heard the opening notes I was all: ‘no, he can’t be doing this as a solo, surely? It needs John Bowe too, dammit!’ but it really worked and gave me goosebumps, as did his Tell Me on a Sunday.
Sunset Boulevard was another highlight for me as it’s a song I’ve heard many people that I admire sing, but never managed to hear live before. Same with Anthem from Chess, which puzzles me as the latter is a musical that I know next to nothing about and I’ve never really wanted to see yet when I hear Anthem, I always want to sing along and get the most amazing chills!
Towards the end of the evening, myself and Lou were bowled over to hear Michael sing Empty Chairs at Empty Tables. Two die hard Les Misérables fans in a room watching THE Marius sing? RESULT 😀
This concert was also the second opportunity I’ve had to hear Adrian Hansel sing, who along with some kick ass harmonies, did a fantastic rendition of Close Every Door from Joseph, so kudos Adrian! Hoping to see him again sometime soon. Special mention must also go to Soophia Foroughi, who made me fall in love with Don’t Cry For Me Argentina and Alice Fearn, who with Michael did an AMAZING duet of All I Ask of You. The four of them also did a great job on the Finale from Les Mis. And yes, I did join in, quietly! 😉 And of course, what Michael Ball concert would be complete without Love Changes Everything to end?
Fast forward to May 11th, and we are on our way to London and the Victoria Palace theatre to see Billy Elliot. I love the film and I once saw the show a few years back, but couldn’t really recall much about it (I’d like to stress here that this does not mean I thought the show was disappointing, just that I have a rubbish memory 😉 ) so was very much looking forward to having my memory refreshed!
One of the reasons I loved this show was the fact that, pure and simple, it has a ridiculously strong ensemble cast, and given the fact that the setting of the show is the miners strike, this means that many of said ensemble are men, which is really refreshing to see! Solidarity was among my favourite numbers in the show, cause boy oh boy can these policemen and miners belt a tune and bust a move! A special mention on this score must go to David Muscat 😀
All the children, especially the ballet girls did a great job- every note sung and step danced was crisp, clean and full of tremendous energy and enthusiasm, kudos to the wonderful Millie Thornton, our Debbie, for her great comic timing!
Our Billy for the afternoon was Redmand Rance, and he was absolutely superb. I loved everything about his performance- his vocals were strong and assured, his northern accent great and of course his dancing was amazing! Favourite scenes were his Angry Dance, Swan Lake (with the equally fabulous Barnaby Meredith dancing the Older Billy) and Electricity. The chemistry he had with Ann Emery’s Grandma (who, incidentally, I adored- she’s a real fiesty firecracker!) and Gillian Bevan’s Mrs Wilkinson was a pleasure to watch and really lit up the stage. A final mention to the talented kids of the show must go to Thomas Moore as Michael who gave a very funny and endearing performance as Billy’s best friend.
To return to the adults of the show, my most special of mentions must go to Deka Walmsley and Killian Donnelly: Dad and Billy’s brother Tony, respectively. Billy’s dad Jackie is probably my favourite character in the film because he is so multi layered and goes on a really interesting journey, and I was so pleased that this sense I have of him isn’t lost in the show, due to a fantastic performance by Deka. He had all the ferocity and authority that I think his character needs, but this grew and developed into a real endearing charm and sensitivity as the show went on, particularly during He Could Be A Star and Deep into the Ground, I shed a tear at both! It was also lovely to see glimpses of comedy and fun in his character during Billy’s audition scenes.
Billy Elliot was the first opportunity I’ve had to see Killian live (I know, I know, where have I been? ;)) and I thought he did a fantastic job as Tony, I had an empathy with the character that I don’t find when I watch the film version. He really made me believe in Tony and understand what he was fighting for. The scene with Deka as he caught him sneaking out was truly electric, full of tension and anger and in the mark of a truly brilliant actor, Killian frightened me when he got angry, as did Deka! As an added bonus, my goodness me they wear Elf costumes & Tutus very well!
It’s a fantastic show with great warmth and heart, and I look forward to making a return visit.
Next up, we have Once the Musical. I said to myself I wouldn’t watch the film before I went to see it, but I eventually caved and it charmed me completely, I also bought the Broadway Cast album and became familiar and smitten with the songs and often played them on loop in the weeks beforehand. It was so refreshing to see a show built around such a small yet HUGELY talented cast, all of whom played the instruments themselves! I really enjoyed the little pre show jam that the cast do as the audience are taking their seats, their energy and enthusiasm was infectious and the smile did not leave me for the entire evening!
The story of Once can be summed up as: Guy meets Girl, they make friends and write beautiful music as a result of that friendship. Sounds simple, and it is, but therein in my mind lies its beauty and its strength, embodied perfectly by our leading man Declan Bennett, and lady Zrinka Cvitešić. I think they have a fantastic chemistry that lit up the stage and I believe every second of their relationship. Declan has a rich, warm tone to his voice that gave me chills, I was drawn in instantly and didn’t want to take my eyes off him, and this intensity and the way his voice moved me really helped me find the truth in every single lyric that he sang. Say It To Me Now & Leave were particular highlights.
If you asked me what role would be the top of my list of ‘want to play’ if I were talented enough and indeed physically able to perform on stage before I saw Once, my answer immediately would be Eponiné from Les Mis, or Nancy from Oliver! Post seeing Once, however, I can now say emphatically say I want to play Girl. She’s gutsy, funny and charming, traits that Zrinka brings out in bucketloads. They are supported by a tremendous ensemble cast who really bring out the humour of the piece, and they all work together so well, both in musical and acting ability. It’s a complete joy from start to finish, and in my mind: seeing it once will most certainly not be enough 😉