Monday, 13 May 2013

A Summary of the Phantom UK Tour 2012-13

It's over, the music of the night....

I've been privileged to see the amazing new production on tour 20 times between March 2012 and May 2013 in eight cities.  

I began my journey with apprehension down to Plymouth when seeing it for the first time last March.  This was during the previews so I it was easier to be so influenced and just heard personal opinions from those who saw it during the first few days.  I know it was very different to the Brilliant Original and I was encouraged to expect the unexpected.  I learnt it is important not to compare both the new production with the original one. I had to confess I was comparing my default both productions when I saw the London production a few days later! Not a good idea! Both productions are unique and each has its strengths and creativity towards this incredible love story!

I still yet wasn't sure what I really thought of the production and I was pleased I had booked to see the production again in Manchester.  I was able to consolidate my thoughts and opinions when I saw two performances at the city's Palace Theatre.  It was then the production finally began to grow on me and I was able to appreciate the strong performing cast and the very talented creative team.

I was confident I wanted to see the production again and again! So I was glad I booked more tickets fro Bristol, Leeds, Edinburgh, Cardiff and Liverpool.  Later on in the year I decided to book tickets for Birmingham including the very last performance on the tour.  

See Phantom on tour had gave me an opportunity to see more of the UK and to visit cities I haven't been to before such as Cardiff and appreciating more some of the cities on the tour especially Birmingham.  The tour gave me an opportunity to meet up with fellow phantom fans, friends and acquaintances and I also got to know the cast well from many stage door visits.

There were some emotive and dramatic moments such as John Owen Jones's last performances as Phantom in Edinburgh and to the very last performance in Birmingham where the cast has a great send off!  I remember when things didn't go exactly to place but you do notice it more when you have seen the production so many times.  I remember the evacuation during one evening performance at Leeds last September.  Still it was decent for the company to continue with the rest of the show and friends were concerned and entertained with the photo of John Owen Jones posing as 'Phantom' by the fire engine!

I have so many fond memories with the show including the cast, fellow fans, visits to different cities and consolidating my favourite show with a favourite past time, travelling.  These memories I'll treasure for the rest of my life and thank you Phantom!!!

Sunday, 12 May 2013

The Full Monty on Stage!

 Look what greeted me when I returned from a long and weary journey! (Leeds City Station)

 The Full Monty in Leeds City Centre

I was intrigued to see The Full Monty being interpreted on stage by Sheffield Theatres and also written by the award winning writer of the film, Simon Beaufoy.  I love the movie and I'm attracted to the social, political and economic messages which were relayed to the cinema goers.  I booked myself a ticket to see the Beaufoy's play based on the motion picture at my local theatre, Leeds Grand Theatre.  I've heard good reviews about the comedy (even if I ignorantly thought it was a musical initially!) so I was really looking forward to it. Leeds is the last stop to host the production before it transfers to the West End in February next year.

Leeds Grand Theatre

It attracted a full audience and I never seen the Upper Balcony, where I sat, full to the brim since Phantom last year! I just couldn't see any empty seat even in the Side Balconies where I usually sit as I usually go and see shows on the cheap haha!

I wanted to appreciate the comedy's context in order to appreciate fully the messages which lead to the former Sheffield steelworkers deciding to 'drop everything' for economic survival.  There were a number of issues which were raised and explored such as the decline in the steel industry since the 1970s, the Thatcherism era and its policies, the freedom of investment for redevelopment of old factory sites and the sociology itself.  It was heartening to see the former steelworkers' determination to keep positive and hopeful for survival despite the various setbacks and struggles from society and its usual conformations.

It was such a moving comedy created and performed by a talented team, cast and crew and it caught the audience's interest from the word go!  There was an interactive buzz throughout! I laughed from the moment the play started until I left the theatre for catch my bus home!  I felt at home with the local language used with its dialect and idioms with the story set not far away from here.

Following The Full Monty I'm inspired to see plays, comedies and musicals which have a central theme for members of the community who look for creative and brave ways for surviving whether it's physically, mentally and emotionally.  Thanks to this play I'm excited to see Brassed Off, a play which the Bradford's Alhambra is hosting next year and The Commitments at the London's Palace Theatre.

You can find out further information clicking on to the website .

A Personal Curiousity....

I was intrigued with The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time from hearing about the novel by Mark Haddon and The National Theatre's production adopted by Simon Stephens which was on at the Cottesloe Theatre.  I studied bits of the novel in one of my final university modules and its themes and messages relate greatly to my personal life and journey I'm having to make.  So my curiousity has begun from that point forward!

When I saw Great Expectations in February 2013 in London I saw the production advertised in the programme and booked it soon after!  It was encouraging to hear the positive reviews from the previews and press night.  My confidence and positivity about the play was consolidated when  The Curious Incident.. won seven Oliver awards including best play, best actor (Luke Treadaway), best director (Marianne Elliott), best lighting (Paule Constable who also did lighting for New Adventure's Sleeping Beauty and the touring production of The Phantom of the Opera).  Some of my friends had already seen it at the Apollo Theatre so I had high expectations and a positive frame of mind.

From beginning to end I was blown away with the performance by the talented cast especially Luke Treadaway's portrayal of Christopher Boone and loved the the stunning visual staging.  It's interesting what can be interpreted on stage with a lack of props and  the creative use of lighting and video for its effective use of space on the stage.  I was able to relate my personal journey with its triumphs and struggles through Christopher's characteristics and determination.  I feel the play highlighted the social circumstances he lived in and where he and members of society found one another confusing which caused a general lack of understanding. 

I feel the play has positive vibes especially relating to Autism and Aspergers Syndrome and also the curiousity and optimism which I think are the messages the play was getting across.  Christopher's journey challenged existing attitudes to disabilities and at the same time one can recognise  his extraordinary talents and abilities especially academically.  It was heart warming to hear Christopher say 'I can do anything' which offers hope for fellow people who are autistic and have Aspergers Syndrome.  I highly recommend for anyone to see this wonderful play and I plan to see it again in the summer.

During the interval I looked at a fascinating exhibition by 'Ambitious about Autism'.  Some of the displays were moving and how those who are autistic make sense of the world and those who live in it  through communication, independence and uniqueness.
No doubt definitely a theatre highlight so far this year : )

Friday, 10 May 2013

Three Phantoms in Three Days!

My friend, Sabine, suggested this theme when she summarised our Phantom trip at the beginning of May.  

Day One  (2nd May 2013)

Me, Vicky, Lizzie and Claudia at Piccadilly Circus, London

The trip began when I was on my way down to London on the 08.15 train from Leeds.  I thought this was an early start until I recently booked rail tickets for another London trip in June!  After meeting up with Sabine and Leni and dropped our luggage at our hotel, I met up with my dear friend, Lizzie, and her two friends, Claudia (she was with her Mum) and Vicky,  We managed to find a quiet sport for lunch and a catch up in one of Soho's back streets.

Having a spot of lunch, The Blue Posts, Soho, London

It was a fun lunch meeting and I had to leave them to continue the party when I made the short walk to the Apollo Theatre for the Olivier Award winning The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time.  We had the full cast including Luke Treadway, an Olivier Award winner, as Christopher.  What an outstanding play!  I can relate personally to the themes around Autism and Aspergers Syndrome.  It was a very a very moving and positive and I think the play will do good to raise the awareness of Autism and Autistic Spectrum Disorders.  I liked how Simon Stephen's adaptation from the book were projected on stage and accompanied with amazing sets and lighting! I look forward to reading Mark Haddon's book which a friend is going to lend me.  I plan to see the play again in the summer or early autumn.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time, Apollo Theatre, London

I met up again with Lizzie and Vicky afterwards for dinner and ended up at the oldest Pizza Express restaurant in the country where it opened in on site in 1965.  The time came for Lizzie and I to see The Phantom of the Opera with the girls at Her Majesty's Theatre.  We had Marcus Lovett as Phantom and Ashleigh Flemming as Christine.  They were great together and I was specially impressed with Ashleigh in the role.  I also enjoyed seeing Nicola Rutherford again as Carlotta and the rest of this exceptional and amazing cast!  Afterwards it was great meeting up with Marcus and Ashleigh at Stage Door along with the other members of the cast who are so friendly and gracious.

Ashleigh Flemming (U/S Christine) and I
Marcus Lovett (Phantom) and I - An amazing Phantom and such a pleasant guy!
Lauren, Alison, Leni, Sabine and Sijle - Great Friends!

 Day 2 (3rd May 2013)

I was feeling a bit under the weather so I had a lazy day at my hotel.  Later on in the day I met up with the girls for dinner and another evening of Phantom.

It was very special seeing Phantom that evening! I was even more delighted to have learnt beforehand that Scott Davies was going to be Phantom!!! On this significant visit to the show!!! Also Anna O'Byrne as Christine and Lara Martins was back on as Carlotta!  It was one of my dream casts and so fitting for my 60th visit to the show! I felt some of my wishes came true in one evening!  Well the performance was one of the best I've ever seen on stage! Scotty is one of my favourite Phantoms and his portrayal continues to amazes me! He and Anna have this amazing chemistry on stage and this was especially reflected during 'The Phantom of the Opera', 'The Music of the Night' and during the Final Lair.  I was moved and left the theatre in absolute awe!  It was definitely my favourite Phantom performance of the trip!!!

My 60th Visit to Phantom!

The Cast for my special visit!
Me with Scotty (Scott Davies (Standby Phantom), a truly special phantom and performer!
Anna O'Byrne (Alt. Christine) and I
Me with Janet Fischer (Wild Woman (Hannibal) and U/S Carlotta)
Photo Credit: Sabine Lehr. Me with Lara Martins (Carlotta)
It was great seeing Scotty again at Stage Door afterwards and caught up again with some of the cast from last night! It was a great 60th visit to my favourite show and also thanks to Sabine, Lara and Janet for making it special as well!

Thank you Scotty for Phantom!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
It dawned upon me the following day that Scotty was the phantom on my 30th visit to the show in January 2011! He's truly special and played a big part of my Phantom journey since 1994! He was the highlight of this trip!

Day 3 (4th May 2013)

Birmingham Bound at London Euston Railway Station
Sabine and Stephen at Birmingham New Street Railway Station
Sabine and me at Birmingham New Street Railway Station

Sabine and I caught our Birmingham bound train from London Euston late morning.  On our arrival in Birmingham we met up with Stephen, a fellow Phan, for a catch up! Once we checked in our hotel and rested a bit we made our way to the Hippodrome for the final performance of the Phantom UK Tour via the Stage Door.  There we met up with some cast members and fellow friends, fans and acquaintances including Annie, Olivia and Kay. Then we met up with Jeanette and Cath for coffee and cake at the theatre's Deli Cafe Bar.

Sabine and Annie at Birmingham Hippodrome's Stage Door
Jeanette and Cath at Birmingham Hippodrome's Deli Cafe Bar
Cast Board for the final ever performance on the UK Phantom Tour
I knew it was going to be an emotional evening with the final ever performance of this amazing tour production.  It was my 20th and final time I would see this production and hope it will return on tour in the not too distant future.  North America are so lucky to receive it this autumn and I hope the audiences across the pond will love it as much as I have!  The cast gave it their awe and it was great to see and hear them once more! I've got to know some of the cast on and off stage over the past year and I wish them all the best in what they do next.  

Photo Credit: The Phantom of the Opera UK Tour.  Thanks all for Phantom!

I know I'll miss Earl Carpenter's portrayal of Phantom especially the emotive and moving scenes of 'The Phantom of the Opera' and 'The Music of the Night'.  I also never forget his emotive Final Lair.  The cast had a great send off at curtain call and I was so glad to be there in person.  The principals were thrown a bouquets of flowers each which was a very nice touch.

We said goodbye to most of the cast members at stage door.  They couldn't stop long as they were having well deserved after show drinks at the nearby bar.  In all it was epic although emotional.
Sabine and Kevin at Birmingham Hippodrome's Stage Door
Birmingham Hippodrome
Sabine and Cat at Birmingham Hippodrome's Stage Door
Me with Woody (Richard Woodford (U/S Phantom) and Sabine

Day 4 (3rd May 2013)

Birmingham Sights

Victoria Square
Centenary Square
Brindley Place
The Canal
Boulton, Watt and Murdoch Statue
 Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery

The last day of the trip!  After seeing Sabine off at the railway station for the airport and her flight home I fought the anti climax feeling of the night before with exploration of Birmingham City Centre.  I began my explorations at Centenary Way, Centenary Square and onto the Canal.  There is mixed regeneration of old and new buildings around the city.  I ended up visiting their wonderful museum and art gallery.  I have been before before so I went to galleries I haven't yet visited including the new 'Birmingham it's people, it's history' exhibition.  Those galleries are amazing where I learnt and appreciated a lot of Birmingham's history and heritage.  I think the visit made me happy that I've given the city a 2nd chance and the bad experiences I've had on past visits are finally behind me!  The weather was wonderful throughout the trip and it was nice relaxing at Victoria Square before catching my train back to Leeds.

I'll soon do a separate blog on 'The Curious Incident...' and my overall thoughts of the Phantom UK Tour.  Signing off until next time and thank you for reading!