Monday, 29 April 2013

Two Capitals and UK's 2nd City in 72 hours!

Another adventure awaits me! This time to London, Birmingham and Cardiff.  I had managed to get a good deal with my train tickets which enabled for this trip to be made possible.  

Cardiff City Centre

Thursday 18th April 2013
I travelled down to London this morning and met up with Annie, Sheena and Cat for the matinee of The Phantom of the Opera at Her Majesty's Theatre.  Despite sitting in the balcony I loved the show as always! I felt both Marcus Lovett and Sofia Escobar improved as Phantom and Christine since I last saw them in February 2013 and they are so amazing together!  Lara was on holiday so we had Nicola Rutherford again as Carlotta whom I thoroughly enjoyed her portrayal.  I'm becoming fond of her as a performer!  We also had an understudy for Monsieur Andre and I presumed Gareth Snook was on holiday.  It was a a great 57th visit to the show!  We did the usual stage door rituals after the show and we had dinner at Bryon across from the theatre.

London Times!

After parting company with the girls I made my way to One Man Two Guvnors at the Theatre Royal Haymarket, nearby and just across from Her Majesty's Theatre.  I enjoyed seeing Rufus Hound as Francis Henshall again and the comedy was entertaining from when the band playing before the show until the well deserved encore at the end!  After One Man Two Guvnors I returned to Her Majesty's Theatre's Stage Door as I wanted to say Hi to Nicola Rutherford.  Soon after I retired for the evening at my hotel in Kings Cross.

Friday 19th April 2013

Sights of Birmingham City Centre

Having a lazy morning at the hotel.  I checked out and get my train to Birmingham from Euston Station.  I opted for a slower train as I wanted to see a bit of the Midlands countryside whilst travelling.  We passed some interesting places even if some, I feel, could do a bit of regeneration and TLC.  I eventually made it in Birmingham and checked in my hotel.  I stayed in the business district/historical part of the city.  It was nice having a wander round the area including Victoria Square and admiring the historic buildings such as the Council House and Town Hall.  I returned to the hotel to get ready for the evening performance of Phantom at the Birmingham Hippodrome. I met up with Keiko for coffee and cupcakes at the theatre's deli bar/cafe before the show. We had a wonderful catch up and she was also seeing the concert in Cardiff the following day.

A night at Phantom with Keiko in Birmingham

I was initially disappointed that Angela Cesar wasn't on that evening as Carlotta.  This was the second understudy I had for Carlotta on my trip!  Claire Platt did a good job and so did James Bisp who stood in for Simon Bailey.  I knew that Simon was on holiday that week,  It was nice seeing both Claire and James performing as Carlotta and Raoul respectively for the first time after seeing Angela and Simon 18 times in the roles!  I loved Earl Carpenter's portrayal of Phantom and I love the human interaction between him and Katie Hall (Christine) during 'The Phantom of the Opera' and 'Music of the Night' and I thoroughly enjoyed the performance.  The tour production continues to grow on me and I feel sad seeing it one more time before the tour ends on the 4th May 2013. However it's great news for the tour to go over to America.

It was nice catching up with some of the cast at Stage Door and finding out some of their plans after they finish Phantom. Keiko, her friend and I parted our separate ways till tomorrow.

Birmingham City Centre

Saturday 20th April 2013
I was looking forward to returning to Cardiff because of having fond memories of the city when I saw Phantom at the Millennium Centre last December and exploring the wonderful Cardiff Bay  I got my Cardiff bound train at the City's New Street Station for the two hour journey.  We had glorious weather received stunning views of the Severn Estuary travelling through Gloucestershire.  I arrived at Cardiff Central Station around 1.30pm and checked in my hotel near Queen Street.  As the weather was beautiful I took the opportunity to explore more of the city and see the sights I haven't visited before.  I visited the Cardiff Story exhibition at the city's information Centre which was informative and interesting.

Sights of Cardiff City Centre

I had some more energy to explore so I walked further to the City's Civic Centre (known as Cathay's Park). There were some beautiful buildings with its architecture and I had fun taking photos.  Eventually it was time for some tea and meet up with friends at St David's Hall just before the concert.  Whilst having my tea in Costa I spotted John Owen Jones! He didn't stop but it seems to be a social meeting point for all the performers in the evening's concert.

Sights of Cardiff Civic Centre (Cathays Park)

You can read about the wonderful time we had at the concert via this link.   It was worth the very late night and I returned to my hotel on a high!

Sunday 21st April

 Sights of Cardiff CityCentre

After a late check out I met up with Pat and Matthew for coffee at the infamous Costa! We had a lovely catch up and relived the exciting time the night before!  Pat and Matthew had to collect their luggage and catch their train home so we parted company where I did some more exploring.  I had a nice time wandering around the Castle and Bute Park.  Unfortunately whilst on my wanders the heavens opened! Fortunately it didn't rain too heavy.

   Bute Park and Cardiff Castle, Cardiff

Then it was time to depart Cardiff for home via Birmingham.  On the train, I was able to reflect what a great and successful trip it was! I had a packed itinerary and felt very tired a few days after I returned.  Still it was worth it.  Very soon I'll be doing another multi-city trip for some more phantom adventures!

Sunday, 28 April 2013

My Memory Returns....CATS!

CATS is my 2nd ever favourite musical behind The Phantom of the Opera. Ironically when I first got into musicals in the late 1980s/early 1990s I had a stronger desire to see Cats more than The Phantom of the Opera, which never appealed to me until one October evening in 1994 and then as you know the rest became history!

My parents weren't concerned about seeing the musical and I had to wait one September Saturday afternoon in 1995 when I finally got to see it! I was amazed and since then I saw it a few times in London since my first visit to the show until its closure in 2002.  I also saw it on a couple of UK National Tours in 2003 and 2006 in Manchester and Bradford.  I feel, even today, it was a big mistake to close the show at The New London Theatre even if The War Horse is so amazing!  Anyway, I understand Cats is returning to the West End in the not too distant future and it's currently on UK Tour.

 Cats at Braford's Alhambra

I recently had the opportunity to see the new tour production at the Bradford's Alhambra Theatre at the end of April.  It was the same theatre when I last saw Cats in 2006.  I was having a stressful day that day so I was really looking forward to it.  I began my evening in the lovely Restaurant 1914 in the theatre.  The restaurant isn't exactly cheap, but it's worth it for the quality of food and its presentation, and the ambiance with its eclectic decor and theatre's history memorabilia with flyers advertising variety shows and pantomimes!  I had a lovely meal with great views of city park.

 Having dinner at the theatre's Restaurant 1914 with views of the City Park

I had a great seat in the stalls.  I was disappointed that Joanna Ampil wasn't on as Grizabella but the understudy, Alice Redmond (I think!) was excellent.  We had Oliver Saville as Rum Tum Tugger; Nicholas Pound as Old Deuteronomy and Ben Palmer as Munkustrap.

 Waiting for the show to start!

The staging and lighting was impressive and it sychronises so well especially during the overture and the coordination of the musical numbers.  Munkustrap was the perfect narrator throughout the show with the entertaining Rum Tug Tugger.  There was the fatherly Old Deuteronomy and the sad and lonely Grizabella.  I loved the energy of the show with its dancing and gymnastics and how the cats 'interacted' with the crowds.  The characters of the show demonstrated different personalities of the cats and how unique each indiviual cat is. I think one can relate to one's personalities and uniqueness whether its emotions or characterisation in life.

During the interval I had my progamme singed by 'Old Deut' (Nicholas Pound). I was planning to stage door after the show but being offered a lift home from a work colleague was too good of an opportunity to miss, thanks Diane! I also saw another colleague I used to work with, Jessica and her husband, Adrian, after the show. It was nice seeing familiar faces as well as having a successful evening.

I plan to see Cats again on tour later this year! I was happy that a medley of Cats was performed at the 2013 Olivier Awards in honour of Gillian Lynne, who amazingly choreographed Cats and won a special award at the ceremony.

An Evening of Movies and Musicals in Cardiff!

I waited in anticipation for An Evening of Movies and Musicals at St David's Hall in Cardiff.  I was especially looking forward to the concert especially with the appealing line up of my two favourite phantoms, John Owen Jones and Peter Karrie. I have seen them a combination of 21 times as Phantom in my favourite musical. Soon as I heard they were in the line up I immediately booked!

I met up with some friends just before the concert.  It's nice meeting up with like minded friends who share my favourite musicals and performers such as Pat,  Matthew, Keiko and her friend.

 Pat and I outside St David's Hall, Cardiff, before the concert!

Matthew, Pat, Keiko and her friend at St David's Hall, Cardiff, before the concert!

Waiting for the concert!

The orchestra opened up the concert with hits from some of the movie soundtracks and also at interludes during the performance and introduced the second part after the interval. The music got us in the mood for what is to come for the evening.

The presenter, who was a substitute, introduced Fiona Kelly, a Scottish artist, who performed in a similar concert last year in Edinburgh.  She sang some hits from a variety of musicals.  There were impressive acts from the Siren Sisters, Live and Swing In and South Wales Gay Men's Chorus who performed a variety of movies and musicals hits. The choir was a wonderful ensemble throughout.  They sang in unison when singing hits from the musicals, Evita and Wicked.

A couple of schools including Stagecoach were invited on stage.  They were exceptional especially the younger performers. I specially enjoyed the act one of the schools with songs sung from 'A Little Shop of Horrors',

As expected, I thoroughly enjoyed seeing Peter Karrie on stage again.  I have fond memories seeing him as Phantom in Bradford and Manchester on the Phantom's Millennium Tour back in 2000.  He still is one of my favourite Phantoms and it was such a pleasure to hear him sing once more! He sang songs from 'Yentil' and in the second part of the concert he sang Jekyll and Hyde's 'This is the Moment'.

I saw Ruthie Henshall in Chicago in 1998 soon as the show opened in the West End.  I have seen Chicago once since then which was in Bradford last year.  I enjoyed 'All that Jazz' which was nicely choreographed with some dancers. Later on, I was awed with her Les Miserables ' I dreamed a dream'.

I was very impressed with Nathan James, a contestant on the Jesus Christ Superstar Arena Tour televised auditions.  I thoroughly enjoyed his act when he sang 'Gethsemane' and I think he would be a great Jesus in the Arena Tour.

The highlight of the concert was undoubtedly was John Owen Jones! Me and many supporters gave him a very warm,if not hot, welcome when he came on stage! He sang amazingly and unforgettably Phantom's 'Music of the Night'.  I was awed with it and felt I went in heaven and stayed there for the duration of the song!  It was so emotive and subtly so powerful that you couldn't hear a pin drop in the audience during the song! Hearing  'Music of the Night' reminded me how much I miss him as Phantom and is a joint favourite one after seeing him 14 times in the role.

In the second part of the concert, he sang 'Thunderball' following the soundtrack from James Bond by the orchestra in introduction to the second part.  I can't think of a better singer singing 'Thunderball' than John himself.  He sings it with so much power and conviction.  Later on in the concert, he sang a beautiful duet with Dafydd Christopher Gape.  They sang 'I Don't Remember You; Sometimes A Day Goes By (And The World Goes Round)' and it was so beautiful.  Dafydd is very talented and I'm sure I'll see him either on a musical or opera stage in the not too distant future.

John sang 'Bring Me Home' and it made me feel sad that I never had seen him as Valjean live in Les Miserables but still I was awed as ever!  We were treated to a great encore and finale when all the artists had sung 'One More Day' which was received well by the audience.  This also summed up what an incredible concert it was that evening.  It was worth the long journey to be there in person.

After the show we were able to have our programmes/memorabilia signed by the star artists despite the farcical crowd control/evacuation attempts.  I was honoured to have a photo taken with John and Peter.  It was also a pleasure to meet Nathan James and Ruthie Henshall.  With Ruthie I was going down to Memory Lane to 1998 when I last saw her live.

 Me with Peter Karrie and John Owen Jones

There was some sort of after show party going on as the bar was still open.  So it was nice to have a drink and catch up with everyone including Jacqui and her family and Lindsey and Jamie.  We even met some of John Owen Jones's family behind before and after the show!

 An unbeatable evening! With Jamie, Lindsey, me and Pat

Monday, 22 April 2013

Lee Hall's The Pitmen Painters

I recently went to see The Pitmen Painters at Bradford's Alhambra Theatre.  As well as enjoying this wonderful play I learnt a lot more about myself in relation to my personal, arts and humanities journey.

Credit: Live Theatre/National Theatre

I don't intend to talk about the Live Theatre/National Theatre production in general but do a personal abstract in relation to this.  Being a humanities graduate it is important for me to fully appreciate the arts and what it means to a lot of people especially those of the rich and famous!

Lee Hall's The Pitmen Painters took us through a journey of their personal lives and their political and social circumstances.  This had begun from attempting to try to appreciate art from a prescriptive and theory perspective and undergoing their definitions in a descriptive and practical setting.  The painters learnt through their journeys that art is about you and about yourself and it isn't representational, it's universal!

One does not need to rely on prescriptive art with its audience.  For example, the Romantics believed that art is within yourself and as a form of personal expression in whatever form as demonstrated at many art exhibitions.  The prescriptive genre would be considered as 'good art' but it doesn't necessarily mean it's exclusively good art.  The painters pointed out art reaches what really matters to you and how you feel.

I've always considered myself open to 'art' and view many forms whether they are paintings, sculptures, architecture, literature, language etc.  However I have to confess during the production there were some existing preconceptions I didn't realise I had!  These preconceptions and opinions were challenged and some change personally is in order.

I now look forward to exploring more about myself through the arts now and in the future.  I would definitely see The Pitmen Painters again and I highly recommend it.  Thanks to the cast and creative team for putting together an amazing production! It moved me and I'm sure many will share this sentiment.

 Please click on this link for further information about The Pitmen Painters.