The New York Saga: August 28th – September 2nd, 2014

Have you guys heard of, or have you got your own ‘Bucket List’? This is a list of things we want to do before we ‘kick the bucket’, so to speak. What I love about the idea of the list is that what we include on it can be things really ‘out there’ and adventurous. Last December, I ticked off a major dream on my own list, seeing one of my idols Tom Hiddleston live in Coriolanus, my favourite Shakespeare play at the Donmar Warehouse. Next August, I’ll be ticking off another dream of mine seeing another of my idols Benedict Cumberbatch in the Barbican production of Hamlet, my other favourite Shakespeare play. Top of my bucket list however, was to visit New York and by extension being the massive musical theatre fan that I am, Broadway! Now it’s all had a chance to sink in, I thought I’d take some time to write about our adventures during my birthday weekend in The Big Apple!

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Right from the off, my overwhelming impression of New York (and what other parts of the US I’ve been to) was how far ahead they are compared to the UK in terms of their access for and attitudes towards people with disabilities; people can’t do enough for you, and it’s just so much easier to get around. Here at home, after one too many incidents, you will never catch me using the bus, because the attitudes of the majority of the drivers stinks and I was sick to death of some of their patronising comments and the impatient stares and under breath mutterings of the public. Over the pond though, we used the bus on a couple of occasions; the buses lower and even better the bus drivers actually get up to help you the moment they park up and get the ramp lowered for you to drive on. They also have a specific place for you to park, and clamp the chair in place so it stays safe. We also visited Liberty & Ellis Island (more on specifics of these visits later) where between two of them, gents on the boat would take my chair from my dad and help us on and off. I must also give a mention and huge thank you to all the wonderful staff at our hotel, the Salisbury for their good humour, warmth and all the support they gave us, and the company who helped provide all the equipment we needed. Nothing was too much trouble for anybody, and what it meant overall was that me, dad and my good friend Kristine could relax and just enjoy our time in the city.
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After arriving in the city on Thursday afternoon and just spending a few hours exploring to get our bearings, enjoying a good meal in Brooklyn Diner and getting our plans for the five days all set, our first full day was spent at the Rockefeller Centre & beyond, including our first Broadway show of the trip: Jersey Boys! It was also a pleasure to see the famous Radio City Music Hall, which is currently playing host to America’s Got Talent. I’d love to return there and see a show one day, from the peek we had inside it looks like a really awesome building. The jewel in the crown of the 8,000,000 square feet of buildings and 22 acres however, is the centre piece: The recently renamed Comcast building, most famous for housing the NBC television network HQ. At 850 feet high, with 70 floors, the building is the 13th tallest in New York, and the 39th tallest in the US, and the view at the ‘Top of The Rock’ is one of the most awesome views I’ve ever experienced. The Observation Deck gives sightseers what is often considered the best panoramic view of the city as it includes the infamous Empire State Building, which cannot be seen from its own Observation Deck.

Greetings from Top of The Rock!

Greetings from Top of The Rock!

Completed in 1933, the building is also famous for a photograph Lunch atop a Skyscraper which was taken during construction on the 69th floor. The photo features eleven men eating lunch and sharing banter whilst sitting on a girder with no safety equipment, feet dangling 840 feet above the New York City Streets. Since my trip, I’ve read various articles and the like that say the famous photo was a publicity stunt, and whether that be true or not, I love the homage the staff pay to it when you enter the floor: you can have your photo taken on a girder with a skyline as a backdrop, and even pretend to fall for another photo. I even enjoyed a little serenade of Olly Murs’s Troublemaker from a member of staff once he knew I was from England that put a smile on my face … it’s the little things eh? We also met up with our good friend Carol and a new friend, Gabby for dinner and a good catch up prior to showtime!
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When booking our theatrical adventures for this trip, a couple of people were confused as to why we decided to see Jersey Boys. ‘You’ve seen it five times already in London… why here too?’ was something I was hearing on a regular basis. My logic behind the decision was two fold: quite simply I adore the show; it’s special to me as it has bought some awesome people and performers into my life, and makes me happy in a way so intense and unique that I’ve yet to have it rivalled by another major West End musical. The second part of my reasoning was to do with the seating. With the London production since it moved home in March to the Piccadilly, I don’t deny my view is miles better from its previous home, the Prince Edward, having moved from the Loges where I was sideways on and having to lean forward in order to look more closely and intently at facial expressions and such (oh the pain in my back and neck by show end) to front row Dress Circle with a view of the entire stage, but it, and London theatres in general from my experience, can’t hold a candle to the views I experienced on Broadway.
Unlike London, on Broadway, I was floored to see that the wheelchair seating is in the Stalls, and for Jersey Boys if I went for the higher price seat, I’d be sitting in Row D. Given that this was a special trip and my favourite show, there was no way I was going to pass the opportunity up! I have to say, going into the August Wilson theatre that evening was pretty special, I felt like a VIP. This is because you’re escorted in through a door different to the queue, and most importantly they have a lift that you can drive your chair onto that’ll take you up to the few stairs up to the Stalls entrance, and from there you are able to drive straight to your seat. I noticed that aside from the lift, they take a seat out of the usual row. My face must’ve been a picture as I took my place, as the usher smiled and asked me if I was ok, it took me a few minutes to compose my thoughts into something beyond excited babbling (with the occasional overwhelmed under the breath expletive!) but eventually I said simply: ‘I’m ok thanks. I just can’t explain what it means to me to be sitting here, this close up.’

To be honest, I probably still can’t, and you won’t truly understand how I felt or what it means to me unless you’ve been in my situation or have spoken about it with me, so I’m not even going to try; just know that the entire evening was a joy from start to finish, and that a ridiculously happy smile only left my face to make way for tears during Fallen Angel in the second half, and even they were only because I was so moved!
You’ll know if you know me well or indeed just follow this blog that I’m a fan of Ryan Molloy, and having missed him twice in the role of Frankie Valli in London, it really meant a lot to finally see him on stage in Stratford in Fings Ain’t Wot They Used T’ Be back in June, and meet him after the show there. It was about this time that I’d heard Ryan was announced to be playing Frankie for a limited time on Broadway, and the run included our trip! So picture the scene, there’s me sitting with my grin growing ever wider as Tommy (Richard H. Blake) was talking the audience through the beginning of The Early Years: A Scrapbook with his: ‘Eisenhower, Rocky Marciano and four guys under a street lamp singin’ somebody else’s latest hit’ and I tense, holding my breath, my right hand clenched into a fist, hoping and praying it was going to be third time lucky…

To use a phrase from the show yet again: My Hand to God, I have never ever been so overjoyed and relieved to hear a man sing the word silhouette as I was to hear Ryan and from the minute he appeared onstage I was mesmerised by him. Vocally I thought he was flawless; he just made it look and sound so effortless, and being able to hear his falsetto live was truly something (it’s completely and utterly ridiculous and I adore it) and the cheers and applause he was getting even before particular songs ended were deservedly rapturous. It didn’t take me long to conclude that no other performer I’ve seen can sing these songs and move me in the way Ryan can. He bought wonderful conviction and charisma to Frankie that was wonderful to watch grow and develop as the character aged, I was drawn to him and believed every single thing he said. Even though I was fully aware that Ryan had already played the role for six years on the London stage, it was a joy to watch him; he’s clearly comfortable and knows the part and it fits him like a glove, but even with those six years already under his belt I just got the sense he was having a ball up there: his enthusiasm totally swept me away and it was wonderful to see the smile and cheeky glint he had in his eye close up, and in particular his I’m in the Mood for Love/ Moody’s Mood for Love gave me the most delicious goosebumps! I talk a lot whenever I see the show about how some of Frankie’s later scenes when he’s older are my favourites in the show, and Ryan was no exception to my personal rule. I particularly enjoyed his disbelief when Norm Waxman (Miles Aubrey) rocked up at their show and revealed Tommy’s debts, his: ‘excuse me?’ really made me think, ‘oh god, Tommy’s busted’, and the sit down where Frankie admits: ‘God help me Tommy, part of me would really like to see you hurt’ as they were both really fierce and tenacious in terms of delivery. That said, Ryan was equally wonderful at the softer, vulnerable side of Frankie. His Fallen Angel broke my heart and I was so grateful that I was sitting so close, though he has his back to the audience I could feel every emotion, and when he did turn being able to see him on the verge of tears made me connect with the moment even more.
The interval was especially amusing, I was just so overwhelmed and overjoyed that it took me a while to say anything, because Ryan took all my expectations and completely smashed them. It was a delight and honour to finally see him in the part and I’ll never forget it.

Of course, there were Four Seasons, weren’t there? Now to talk Richard, Drew and Matt!
Richard H. Blake plays Tommy with a wonderful mix of charm, swagger and perfectly delivered subtle humour that meant I was endeared to the character just as intensely and immediately as I am with his London counterpart. Strikingly though, it was with Tommy where I also noticed the biggest difference. Being in an American audience with Jersey Boys makes for a great atmosphere; it struck me the audience gets and appreciates the humour much more than the London crowds, so unlike our version they don’t rid the script of Americanisms and making it amusing seemed much more effortless: I, for one loved hearing: ‘Marriage is you take a shave while your wife sits on the can and clips her toenails’, ‘toilet’ doesn’t quite have the same ring to it now!
What I loved about Richard’s take on Tommy was that he played the character with a different kind of grit and intensity; normally in the show I love Tommy irrespective of what goes on, but here I found myself being swayed to both extremes towards him which was really refreshing, and I took more notice of him during certain moments than I may have done previously because Richard captured my attention, sometimes with little more than a look. ‘The Title: Walk Like A Man. As opposed to what?’ had me chuckling away as it does always, and yet I was struck by and at times caught off guard how arrogant and fierce he could be which I loved as he managed to surprise me even though I’m totally familiar with the script. Richard moved between the light and dark in Tommy with ease and bought a new sense of depth to him that I appreciated and thoroughly enjoyed. I was extremely impressed with him vocally, and hope that this one August Friday wasn’t the last time I’ll get to hear him.

In my time so far as a fan of the London show, I have seen three different Frankie’s, and two different Nick & Tommy’s. As such, having only one Bob I was curious to see how I’d take to a different one in Drew Gehling, and I’m pleased to say he did an awesome job! Completely different to his London counterpart, I found Drew’s Bob much more serious and intense than I’m used to, and was wowed by his ability to make even his simplest lines make a huge impact and impression on me. That said he was wonderfully sweet when the occasion called for, in an adorably awkward kind of way. He has a lovely pure tone and quality to his voice; Cry For Me in particular was spine tingly stunning, also his eyes are piercingly beautiful; when he sat down at the bar briefly before joining the group we shared eye contact briefly and it took my breath away!
Matt Bogart plays Nick Massi, and I could not get over how brilliant he was. He is extremely dry and witty which is what I love about about the character, but what struck me most about Matt’s portrayal was its powerful simplicity: he just had this incredible way of saying things without ‘overacting’ that got you immediately into what Nick was thinking or feeling with real intensity, I really believed his: ‘Maybe it’s time I start my own group’ and his ‘Ten Years’ rant was perfect, again I loved being so close as you could really feel and see he was starting to crack before he exploded!

I loved watching the four of them together- to me it felt so slick and tight in terms of chemistry and the way they interacted, and I loved how I could appreciate each voice individually and thus how they came together to create this amazing sound. Special mention also to Mark Lotito (Gyp Decarlo) whose ‘Schoolkids! Take that outside’ gave me shivers and he didn’t have to raise his voice one iota, Cara Cooper (Mary Delgado) who made me fall in love with Mary again, and Chris Messina (Joey) for doing the same. Throughout the entire show, I was mouthing along to every word, and for once I even busted some moves! (Granted, the Walk Like A Man strut doesn’t have quite the same impact if you’re sitting down, but I don’t care) I think my face must have been a picture during Who Loves You, Chris caught my eye and his face lit up, and I was just so honoured for once to be sitting where they could all see what a great time I was having and be touched by it. I left the theatre completely buzzing and hyper, having fallen in love with my favourite show all over again, just as if it was the first time around!

Stage Door was an absolute joy. My thanks to Miles, Chris, Richard, Matt & Ryan for all their warmth and humour (and in Chris’s case his compliments on my moves) and another extra special thankyou to Ryan, for making my evening not only with an incredible performance, but also with all the glorious smiles when he saw me and five little words: ‘Hey baby! You made it!’

3rd Time Lucky!

3rd Time Lucky!

Richard, our Tommy

Richard, our Tommy

Matt, our Broadway Nick

Matt, our Broadway Nick

Saturday saw us again meet up with Carol for breakfast, where I had some of the most delicious pancakes I’ve ever eaten. We also took a wander round Central Park, which was pretty amazing for someone whose always wanted to visit; I loved how green and lively it was, even saw some squirrels! We also paid a quick visit to the Park Avenue Armoury, which was cool to see after knowing one of my stagey heroes (Hadley Fraser) has performed there. If we make a return visit to the city in the future, which I really hope we are able to, I’d love to see a production there.

Our evening was spent at Studio 54, watching the Sam Mendes directed revival of Cabaret. I haven’t seen this musical for about four years, so part of the reason I wanted to see it was to refresh myself with the story and the other half was to indulge another whim of mine to see Alan Cumming live. Studio 54 is an awesome venue, and from the minute we entered I really felt like we’d stepped into the Kit Kat Club – kudos to Robert Brill (Set & Club design) and Peggy Eisenhauer & Mike Baldassari (Lighting) for the tremendous ambience. A special mention also to the Ensemble of this cast (which incidentally includes some incredibly good looking men) who were onstage as people were taking their seats, in character getting the audience warmed up. I was also reminded of Once, because they are also the orchestra for the piece and incredibly talented.
My favourite lines from Cabaret are from Cliff, near the end. He says: ‘There was a Cabaret, and there was a Master of Ceremonies and there was a city called Berlin in a country called Germany. It was the end of the world and I was dancing with Sally Bowles, and we were both fast asleep…’I love this line because it sums up the musical for me: it brings a collection of people together who embody a moment in time that’s gradually fading in the face of the rise of Nazi Germany, and their struggles to love and come to terms with their vision of the world coming gradually and brutally down about their ears. In light of that the musical is incredibly dark, but it also has moments of great warmth and humour.

I admittedly wasn’t taken by Michelle Williams as Sally. When I first saw the production, Samantha Barks was in the role, and I marvelled, having not seen the musical before what a sexy, sultry yet vulnerable and naive character Sally is. Sadly, for me, Michelle didn’t quite manage to marry all those elements together: her performance overall felt incredibly stiff, awkward and unbelievable, almost as if she is uncomfortable getting under the skin of this sensual, wild girl. Her Don’t Tell Mama was probably my biggest example of this; it stuck out like a sore thumb leaving me cold and disappointed, a feeling not helped by the costume design: pink and feather boas don’t scream ‘sultry, naughty club singer’ to my ears. In the number she came across as a little too innocent and sickly sweet, which wound me up, she felt timid and bland. Having said that, I did feel she had flashes of brilliance, particularly during her later scenes with Cliff, I just found myself wishing these were more consistent. Vocally I was impressed by the effort, but particularly her rendition of the title song struck me as her almost trying too hard, again so uptight and ‘rehearsed’ and I longed for her to let go. Maybe This Time was suitably fragile, but I found myself missing the ‘journey’ of the song, it lacked force and the emotional build I think the song needs and my applause wasn’t anywhere near as enthusiastic as I wanted it to be for one of my favourite songs in the piece and for that I was incredibly sad and frustrated.
Sadly, her performance wasn’t among those that stayed with me, and I feel she’s lost in and overshadowed by an otherwise consistently strong, sometimes stellar cast.

Cliff Bradshaw is left in the capable hands of Bill Heck, and I felt he gave a strong, assured performance. Particularly during Cliff’s scenes with Sally, given my indifference to Michelle’s performance I found (and was extremely grateful) that Bill’s performance captured and managed to keep hold of my attention and be genuinely interested in what was happening between the two. My favourite scenes of his were actually the darker ones in Cliff and Sally’s relationship. When back at the boarding house, Cliff intends for the couple to return to America to raise their child (though it is left ambiguous as to whether the child is actually Cliff’s), but Sally protests, saying how wonderful their life in Berlin is. Cliff tells her to wake up and take notice of the growing unrest around them as the Nazi party continues to rise to power, and Bill’s ‘Sally, wake up!’ rang with such ferocity that it made my spine tingle. Later, the pair has their final scene together in which Sally admits she has had an abortion. Cliff slaps her, but is visibly heartbroken and still tries to persuade her to join him. He leaves, alone and I remember being incredibly moved by Bill’s expression and ease in which he went from intense anger to heartbreak. On the train leaving Berlin where he delivers my favourite lines, I was captivated by his eyes. I could sense the longing and sadness in them, and loved how hauntingly he delivered a few lines of Wilkommen with the same emotion.

Linda Emond plays Fraulein Schneider with wonderful grace and sensitivity, and I was blown over by her voice. I love the character, she strikes me as the most ‘real’ of the piece; she is strong, sensitive and in love with Herr Schultz, but is not afraid to admit that the love scares her because of Herr Schultz being Jewish and the implications that would have for the couple. In light of that, she makes the brave decision to call off their engagement. What I loved about Linda’s performance was the fact that she helped me understand that decision completely and utterly, whereas normally even though I have seen the musical before, the hopeless romantic in me would still have found it hard to get my head around. Phillip Hoffman was on for Herr Schultz (usually played by Danny Burstein) and I adored him in the role. He’s incredibly charming, warm and sweet but also possess this beautifully profound and tragic way of looking at the world in light of his circumstances and Phillip pulls off the balance with tremendous conviction, with an uncanny ability to make me focus on the importance of every word and gesture he made, however small. Nowhere was this more apparent was when Herr Schultz visited Cliff to say he’s finding another boarding house. Cliff questions him about recent events, wherein Herr Schultz says he understands Germans, because he is one also. The irony, coupled with the beautiful way Phillip delivered the line broke my heart. His and Linda’s voices complimented each other beautifully, and I loved their duets.
Gayle Rankin and Aaron Krohn did wonderful jobs as Fraulein Kost and Ernst Ludwig, by the latter stages of the first act they both had my skin crawling and yet I was still completely captivated by them.

Alan Cumming is, I think, nothing short of a revelation as Emcee. What I love about the character is that he’s so fluid: he’s wickedly funny, naughty and in a strange alluring kind of way: sexy, (and boy, does Alan have fun with this side of it!) and at the same time has moments that are utterly bone chilling. In his second outing in his award winning role, what I loved about Alan’s interpretation was that he completely understands the fluidity in the character and his emotional dynamics are incredible throughout. The finale was a crowning moment for me in light of this, in those final few minutes you get him being all cheeky and playful in the manner we see at the opening of the show, then as he declares: ‘We have no troubles here’, he switches into complete and utter darkness so smoothly that it’s unsettling. Even though I knew how the piece ends I still had chills at his final: ‘Auf Wiedersehen, A Bientot’ as he took off his jacket to reveal what was underneath. One thing I hadn’t really appreciated the first time I saw the show was the idea that the Emcee is strangely supernatural, a trait that Alan’s performance helped me to tap into. Even in those moments where the Emcee is merely silently observing, I was always acutely aware of his presence and found that my attention was drawn to him even with other things happening, purely because Alan’s facial expressions and eyes were capable of saying so much. His rendition of I Don’t Care Much was my highlight of the whole evening: I’ve always enjoyed hearing Alan sing, but I swear the atmosphere during those almost three minutes was so intense and everyone so captivated that you could’ve heard a pin drop! His Wilkommen was a delight and had me in stitches, I think it’s totally unfair that a man can be so naughty and yet make it look and sound so good!

Lacklustre Sally aside, it was an awesome evening and I’m really glad we decided to see it. Stage Door was a bit more of a scrum than had been the previous night, but I’d like to again give Phillip a mention for being so friendly and charming, and it was cool to meet Alan even if the ‘conveyor belt’ method meant there wasn’t time for anything beyond a quick hello from him. Linda and the Cabaret Boys we met were fun, too. Mission Accomplished!

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My birthday began on Sunday with a visit to The Russian Tea Room (if you’re ever in the city, look this place up – fab service, delicious food and amazing décor) with excitement hitting new levels for our afternoon that had initially formed the entire reason for this trip: seeing Les Miserables! I’m so glad we went to the theatre when we did, we caught up with Ramin briefly (he was very late!) and even managed to exchange a quick hello with Earl, which meant a lot having seen his incredible performance in the titular role of The Phantom of the Opera while it was on tour.
An overall observation before I delve into specifics that should give you an idea of the impression this production had on me: I have absolutely no inclination to return to the London production for the foreseeable. The entire production at least in my eyes, makes its London counterpart look tired, flat and dare I say it, dull, and that’s just in the design alone before we even talk about any of the performances. Major kudos to Matt Kinley on his set and image design, it just gave the production a totally refreshing and epic feel; from the very outset where we see the chain gang, I was struck by how clever the set is: we know immediately that we’re on a boat and they even have all the sound effects and projection of the rough seas on the backdrop, and having read the book I really appreciated the nod. Other little elements I appreciated were the fact that Marius and Cosette get to have their own little Romeo and Juliet moment with Cosette on her balcony, Javert’s suicide has Earl lifted on a wire as he jumps (the projector again comes into play as it shows the water, we even hear the splash), Thénardier is shown sleeping at the top of his den before being rudely awakened and in two smaller moments that I loved: the ladies light candles for the fallen revolutionaries during Turning which are then picked up by the boys when they make their entrance as Marius sings Empty Chairs at Empty Tables, and during the finale Valjean is also embraced by the bishop when he steps back after singing: ‘To Love Another Person Is To See The Face of God’ (I’ve never understood why Eponiné appears with Fantine to take Valjean to heaven anyway!)
All that in mind, it’d be a fair assumption for you to say that I was blown away without even considering the performances and that they would generally only wow me even more……. Oh how right you’d be! Just like with Jersey Boys, we had amazing seats, this time in Row K, which again was the closest I’ve ever been watching my once most beloved musical (before 4 guys from Jersey came along!) and found my love rekindling.

I remember seeing Ramin Karimloo twice in the role of Valjean in London, and being blown away by him there. I didn’t think it was possible for him to have grown and improved in the role, but he has done, and it makes for a mighty Broadway debut. What I loved most was the depth of intensity he continues to give to his interpretation: his soliloquy is fierce and fiery and vocally his belt hits you like a speeding train (seriously, I remember jumping in fright at one point at the sheer sound and added growl) and yet in that very same song manages to balance this with a beautiful sense of light and shade as Valjean resolves to start a new life. As ever, his rendition of Bring Him Home was beautiful, but what hit me profoundly was the softness and soaring quality he gave to it, for the first time in a while I understood and appreciated that the song is an appeal to God, and was reminded, to quote another reviewer, Charles Isherwood who used a phrase I loved that: ‘Mr Karimloo’s croon as is sweet as his belt is big’.

Earl Carpenter has taken over the role of Javert for a limited time, and I’m so glad we got to see him in the role. His Javert is cold and menacing, and just had this innate authority that radiated everything he said, he often sent shivers up my spine and didn’t even have to raise his voice. The chemistry between Earl and Ramin is awesome to watch, especially during the newly imagined Confrontation. Incidentally, I love the changes made here; it’s much more ferocious and physical between the two, and chains are involved! Earl’s rendition of Javert’s Suicide really got under my skin, because he did something neither of my two (equally awesome) Javert’s did by putting a new spin on a particular moment. Lyrics in the song go thus:
‘That granting me my life today, this man has killed me; even so…’ At this point in the London production, Javert has climbed over the bridge and is clinging onto the bars, teetering on edge of letting go. Here however, after singing that line, Javert rubs his face with a hand and lets out a laugh, a quiet yet unsettling sound, as if he’s amused by the absurdity of the situation in which he finds himself, and resigned to the fact that this man, whom he has pursued for years out of nothing more than sheer belief in his own sense of duty and morality, has bought all those beliefs crashing down around him… and he can’t handle that. I remember having this overwhelming urge to burst into thunderous applause right then, because in those brief few seconds, Earl captured what for me is the total essence of the character. I remain continually astounded by the power Earl has over me as a performer in that he encourages me to focus on how the smallest moments are important because they give you a better perspective on the whole character. It was a total honour to see him tread the boards again after such a long time.

When we spoke with Keala after the show, she amused me no end with her joke that the Thenardiers are your old fashioned ‘meth couple’. The characters are sleazy as hell and make your skin crawl, but are incredibly fun to watch while they do so. Keala was joined by John Rapson on our matinee (he usually plays Grantaire) and I thought they both complimented each other brilliantly in terms of acting as well as having great voices. Again, I loved some of the little changes that were made in Master of the House, especially Thénardier’s little rockstar moment where he crowdsurfed! It was great sitting so close to the action as I know Keala has a great sense of humour and was trying her utmost to make Ramin laugh, and bless him, she very nearly succeeded!

Samantha Hill was a beautiful Cosette, both in look a sound and I love that she made me care about a character that I’m normally indifferent to. Her interaction with Ramin was lovely; I especially loved just before One Day More when he says that they have .to leave, her horrified ‘Papa!’ broke my heart. Andy Mientus was everything I love about my favourite interpretation of Marius: adorably akward, incredibly and sweet with a baby face that masks a fine voice – for the first time in god knows how long I actually cried at A Little Fall of Rain!
Speaking of the latter, I wasn’t overly impressed by Nikki M. James as Eponiné – preferred her in her softer moments when she wasn’t having to stretch herself too much vocally, didn’t like her On My Own. I had similar feelings with Caissie Levy as Fantine, beautiful lady with a well sung I Dreamed a Dream, but didn’t really tug at my heartstrings until her later appearance.

A huge thing that struck me about this cast: the Ensemble. There are some incredible voices that take on smaller roles: my favourites being Nathaniel Hackmann and Andrew Kober. A huge special mention also to the awesome and gorgeous Jason Forbach, who managed to do what I had hitherto considered impossible: take my attention away from Enjolras, who was played by the equally fab Kyle Scatcliffe. I really hope this isn’t the last time I’m able to see Jason, I think he’s my new stagey crush!

With my new stagey crush, Jason Forbach!

With my new stagey crush, Jason Forbach!

With Ramin, it'd been a while!

With Ramin, it’d been a while!

I left the theatre on a high that, if I’m completely honest I haven’t experienced with the London production in a long while. We told the cast that we felt it makes London look tired, much to their amusement and (in Keala’s case anyway!) horror. Course, it has been running in London for 29 years, so I think I’d know what they say: ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it?’
That evening went for dinner at Joe Allen. I cannot stress this enough: if you’re in the area go eat here. It’s delicious!! I’m really really fond of their Banana Cream Pie!

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The remainder of our trip saw us take in a bit more of New York beyond Broadway! Monday saw us take the ferry over to Liberty & Ellis Island, respectively. It was wonderful to visit two integral parts of American history and I learnt so much, and again I can’t thank the ferry staff enough for their support, patience and good humour!
Like so many, I remember exactly what I was doing on the morning of September 11th 2001. I was waiting for my lift to school, when the news broke about the World Trade Centre. When our trip was being organised, we figured we’d like to visit the memorial museum to pay our respects. I remember experiencing a strange mixture of emotions, of course tremendous sadness, but there was also a profound sense of respect for all the community who came together to help in the immediate aftermath and in the healing process beyond, and hope for the future. In the grounds, there is a beautiful tree, known as The Survivor Tree, which was found as an 8ft stump in the aftermath and nursed back to health!
There is also a mosaic wall with a quote from Virgil: ‘No day shall erase you from the memory of time’, which touched me so deeply, even as someone who was visiting from the other side of the Atlantic. I will always remember the events of that September day, and was incredibly proud to go and pay my respects to a community of people who, in the face of incomprehensible tragedy, show and continue to show tremendous resilience, courage and hope. I left incredibly inspired knowing that.

This trip was the most awesome five days. If I had the money, I’d up and do it all again in a heartbeat. That said, it taught me something that I’m still trying to get my head around, so I’ll save it for my next entry when I’ve found the words….

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