Chit-Chat and Tea with Jaymi Hensley

Jaymi Hensley is currently starring at Joseph in the UK tour of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.
Here he chats about the role of Joseph.

Jaymi Hensley is currently starring at Joseph in the UK tour of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. The tour has numerous stops around the UK from now until February 2020 so you have plenty of time to catch him in action!

For our readers near the Bath, Bristol and Oxford area, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat will be playing at New Theatre, Oxford from Tuesday 16th July to Saturday 20th July 2019.

Below, Jaymi chats about the role of Joseph.

What is Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat about?

It’s based on a biblical story about Joseph the dreamer. He has 11 brothers, but he’s his father’s favourite and his Dad gives him a coloured dreamcoat as a gift. His brothers get very jealous and hatch a plan to kill him, but instead he gets taken to Egypt as a slave and is sent to prison. Fate is on Joseph’s side however and despite trying times, he eventually becomes the prince of Egypt.

Joseph has got something special. It has all these markers that made me think of my life. I had people, not brothers, but contemporaries at school, who told me I couldn’t be what I wanted to be. I’m a dreamer; I wanted to be a star. I also had something that made me different; being a gay man and finding out at a young age.

I always had my head in the clouds, but I was always sure of who I was and I never let what anyone said deter me. That’s how I approached Joseph, with the message that as long as you stand by who you are, eventually the rest of the world will see how wonderful you are too.

Is that what drew you to the role?

It just felt right. Theatre was always my first love. I always envisioned myself on stage every day. But life took a different turn.

I believe in the universe giving you signs and the tools you need to make things happen. I did panto with Jimmy Osmond, who’s done Joseph, and then I met Joe McElderry, who’d also played Joseph. All these signs were there. It was so bizarre. It just felt like I need to do this. And I’ve never felt like I’m more in the right place at the right time than I do right now.

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat is 50 years old this year. How do you think this show has stood the test of time?

Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice are the best. They wrote this musical at university! The songs are timeless. I think that is the one word to use. You have songs here that, in 2019, don’t have to be modernised. We’re not changing anything at all. That’s testament to how well written they are. I know how dated the music I released in the last seven years is already, just listening to the charts!

How did it feel to put on theatre’s most famous coat for the first time on stage?

At my opening night in Windsor, that moment was when I got an out-of-body, hairs on the back of your neck moment. I had goosebumps everywhere and was rushing with emotion. This is just such an amazing show to be a part of. I’m honoured that they’re letting me take the torch.

What’s most exciting about touring the show?

What I love about a touring show is people are so grateful that you’re coming to see them, that you’re doing the leg work. People really appreciate that.

I’m really looking forward to going to places I’ve never been before and finding new audiences. I love being on the road. Although I’ve been a pop star for the last seven years, being on stage is the thing I’ve done the least. It was all about being on TV or in a studio. The stage is what I love. I love being live in front of an audience, so to do it 10 times a week, I couldn’t be happier.

What is it that makes live performance so special?

It’s the seeing sweat on someone’s face, the passion and the being in the room with them. You can’t beat that. Especially singing, you can’t beat live music and hearing that passion come from someone’s voice. As a performer, you have to impress there and then; there’s no rerun, it’s now or never. That added pressure is what makes theatre so amazing.

At the start of 2019, you announced Union J were splitting for now. How do you look back on your time with that band?

I have the fondest memories of that project, even when things were tough for us. You need to have those moments to give you a sense of how much it means to you. I’ll be forever grateful to that band for giving me what it’s given me and the joy we’ve had over the years. In my adult life I’ve only done what I love. Very few people can say that. I would never take that for granted.

People might think it a little self-indulgent, but I watch back our YouTube videos and listen to our music. I’m very proud of what we achieved as, initially, three young kids who set out to do something and made it happen. We were all so determined.

One day, hopefully, we can get back together and do a reunion and be together at a different time in life when it’s right again. As much as we were a band, we are individual people and we have individual passions, hopes and aspirations. In every good relationship you have to let the other person flourish.

What can audiences expect from a trip to see Joseph?

It’s a real feel good musical. The music’s fun, it’s bright and colourful, and we have the most amazing, talented cast. The world at the moment is so depressing; I think everybody should come for a couple of hours of detachment from reality, and have a fun, uplifting time.

More information on the show, upcoming venues, dates and tickets can be found here.

 

Syndicated Interview

West End Eurovision 2019 – Review

West End Eurovision 2019 – Review

Adelphi Theatre, London

★★★★★

West End Eurovision 2019

Adelphi Theatre, London

 

Reviewed by Jade Prince

Seen April 28th, 2019

★★★★★

 

— Straight away, my apologies this is such a long one. I wanted to capture the night in as much detail as possible to show people what they are missing out on and why they really need to consider attending awesome events like this! No pressure, ha! I will provide my summary in bold at the bottom for those in a rush! 

What a night! 

So camp.

Piled high with all the cheese.

Delivers and embodies everything Eurovision is and then some! 

This year we were able to attend West End Eurovision. Creator and writer Jade is the first person to dive out of the room when anybody utters the E-word. That and the P-word (panto) are the deal breakers. 

-BUT-

West End Eurovision may have converted me. Not enough to watch the Eurovision on TV but to return to the annual West End event. I’d be Mad not to! (<— did you see what I did there? If not, you soon will). 

Each year West End Eurovision takes up residence in one of the sparkly west end venues. This year happened to be the Adelphi Theatre (currently home to Waitress) and was celebrating its 9th return. 

In the west end, we all love a good charity event. It was evident to see at this event. The purpose of West End Eurovision is to raise money and awareness for HIV & AIDS. Back in 2008, The Make a Difference Trust – Theatre MAD was created in order to fundraise for HIV and AIDS in the theatre community. There are numerous charity events they host throughout the year with different themes and performers but I can honestly say, they are incredible to attend. I have been to a few and I’ve had a blast. 

The theory behind MAD Trust is having the theatre community come together and make a difference as a team, showcasing their skills and talents to help those living with/impacted by HIV and AIDS. 

To the event…

West End Eurovision pretty much says what it is on the tin. The same principles of the normal Eurovision, the only difference, instead of countries joining together, it is west end shows. This year, 7 west end shows came together for one night and one night only to fight it out to see who could claim the prestigious title of, “West End Eurovision Winner 2019!”. Gracing the stage were the casts of ‘Only folks and Horses’, ‘Everybody’s Talking About Jamie’, ‘Aladdin’, ‘Mamma Mia!’, ‘Follies’, ‘The Phantom of the Opera’ and ‘Wicked’.

Last year’s winner was The Phantom of the Opera and trust me, everyone was gunning for that title this year. 

The claws where out and no wow factor was left unturned. We had pyrotechnics, light shows, insane choreography, a human Ken doll and quick changes! 

For the night we had the delightful Richard Gauntlett hosting, ensuring the laughs kept coming and the show kept moving.

First up we saw the cast of ‘Only Fools and Horse’ performing “Dancing Lasha Tumbai”. The energy was fab and a great start to the show. It set the bar high for the other contestants. They were cleverly able to incorporate their show into the song! 

Second to perform was ‘Everybody’s Talking about Jamie’ with their version of “Toy”. Now, this song secured Israel’s win in the 2018 Eurovision and it was looking to have the same fate with Jamie. The costumes where in keeping, with each ensemble labelled as a different toy brand. The three lead vocals smashed it and well…the human Ken doll at the end was an added bonus. Layton Williams demanded everybody’s full attention; aerial, pirouetting and splitting all over the stage. They know how to please an audience! Things were looking great for ‘Everybody’s Talking About Jamie’ as the audience found themselves asking, “what could top that?!”

Third to perform was the cast of ‘Aladdin’ with “Monsters”. Yet again, another strong contender. With brilliant choreography the fluorescent green was really mesmerising to watch as the lights dimmed. 

Closing act one, ‘Mamma Mia!’ took to the stage and performed their choice song, “Je Ne Sais Quoi”. Something new was brought to the stage that we hadn’t seen prior to this performance…comedy. Initially I think the majority of the audience was distressed when it appeared a cast member was almost dropped and then hobbled off stage only to return with a cast on her leg. By this time enough had ‘gone wrong’ for the audience to relax back into the night and laugh along. 

‘Follies’ had the honour of opening up act 2. We saw a much slower pace is comparison to act 1 however this pace change did not impact the entertainment! With “L’oiseau et L’enfant” the smallest cast of the night had the audience in the palm of their hand. You could have heard a pin drop during that performance. For the first time that night, the whole audience erupted! This had just become the lead contestant! 

And just when you thought the talent couldn’t get any better. No seriously, I thought it had peaked, the cast of ‘The Phantom of the Opera’ had the entire building lose their chill! Oh my word, there have only been a handful of moments where I had full-body chills during a performance and this made the list. Their performance of “Grande Amore” caused me to forget how to breathe! Firstly those vocals were to die for. Obviously we knew there would be perfect harmonies. Secondly, we witnessed wow factor after wow factor! The energy of the performance gripping to and working in perfect unison with the music. Each heightened moment visually replicated on stage. The moment the performance finished the audience blew the remainder of the roof off the Adelphi! It is safe to say that ‘The Phantom of the Opera’ was back to reclaim the title of West End Eurovision winner 2019.

That Phantom runs an incredibly tight ship. WHERE CAN I JOIN PHANTOM BOOTCAMP?!?!

The final show to take to the stage was ‘Wicked’ with “Wild Dances“. I hate to say this but they were very unfortunate in this line-up. I mean, how on earth could you top The Phantom of the Opera’s performance? The talent was there but just fell a little short.

Having never been to a West End Eurovision I was unsure on how the voting would play out. To my surprise it was much more technically advanced than I was expecting! We had the four main judges; Amber Davis (winner of Love Island 2017), Bonnie Langford (currently staring in 9 to 5), Wayne Sleep OBE (Cats, Song and Dance) and Tim Vincent (TV personality). The four judges were providing comments after each performance. There were several categories the shows could win but I know that you are all interested in the overall winner. This was determined by a combination of votes from the judges and the audience. In the room, we had a certain amount of time where we could text a main number to cast a vote. The votes cost £1 a go but all the money went to MAD Trust.

During this time were were entertained further by some incredible special guests. These included Michael Rice (winner of the BBC’s All Together Now in 2018) and Dana International (winner of Eurovision in 1998). Michael Rice’s voice was fabulous. He is one to watch out for!

Now it was the moment we had all been waiting for. The auditorium held there breath as the suspense ate us alive. When people say the shows get competitive, you had best believe them!

The final result was:

1. The Phantom of the Opera – 88 votes (Congratulations on that well deserved win!)
2. Follies – 80 votes
3. Wicked – 62 votes
4. Aladdin – 52 votes
5. Mamma Mia! – 42 votes
6. Everyone’s Talking About Jamie- 40 votes
7. Only Fools and Horses- 16 votes

k0mHW-8n
West End Eurovision 2019 winners, The Phantom of the Opera with “Grande Amore”. Photo credit: Gaz Sherwood PBGstudios.com

All in all, I had a bloody amazing night! Everyone involved with performing and putting on the show is there on their own time. Not a single person is paid but that doesn’t impact the quality you receive. I’ll be going again, for sure. Not only are you getting a fabulous night of pure talent and laughter but you are also helping out a well deserving charity! 

I have also linked the MAD Trust’s website. I strongly encourage you to have a look.

If you’ve made it through to the end, thank you!

SIX – REVIEW

SIX – REVIEW

Arts Theatre, London

♚♚♚♚♚♚ (<- yes, stars won't do it. Bring out the royal attire!)

SIX

Arts Theatre, London

 

Reviewed by Katie Middlebrook

Seen March 10th, 2019

♚♚♚♚♚♚ (<- yes, stars won’t do it. Bring out the royal attire!)

 

“Divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded, survived.” 

SIX The Musical is a brand-new musical phenomenon that everyone is losing their heads over and the soundtrack is storming up the UK pop charts. 

SIX was originally performed by Cambridge University Musical Theatre Society directed by Jamie Armitage before first playing in The Arts Theatre in December 2017. 

The story of SIX allows each of Henry VIII’s wives to tell their story individually of what they went through during their time as his wife. 

The show starts with the opening song ‘Ex-Wives’ and from the get-go the energy on stage is very apparent. The girl’s costumes have an aspect of old fashion to them but at the same time are very modernised. Each girl has an individual style which fits their character. A part of the costume I really liked is the little microphone holders where during dance numbers, the girls can still carry their microphones but without having to hold them. 

In-between each song the characters tell you are little bit about their story and set up the song before it starts. During these times you can really see the chemistry and friendship between the six girls not only as their characters on stage but also off. The banter they have on stage with each other and the way they deliver the lines had me sitting on the edge of my seat and smiling from ear to ear. 

The first of the wives to tell their story is Catherine of Aragon who was played by Jarneia Richard-Noel. The energy of the girls carries on into this song was a real joy to watch with some fun dance breaks between verses and sassy comments put in throughout the song. The interaction and involvement with getting the audience to clap and dance along with them was great. With the amount energy put into the song the audience are quick and eager to join in. 

The next song is ‘Don’t Lose Ur Head’ which is Anne Boleyn’s story performed by Millie O’Connell. This is one of my favourite songs on the soundtrack, so I was very excited to see this song performed on stage and it definitely lived up to my expectations. Millie’s sassy and engaging performance had me mesmerised from the start and was one of the stand out performances of the show. 

Next up is Jane Seymour’s ‘Heart of Stone’ so wonderfully performed by Natalie Paris. This is also another one of my favourite songs from the album and did not disappoint. Natalie’s outstanding voice and performance had me tearing up and giving me goose bumps with the emotion she put into her performance. 

The fifth song on the soundtrack is ‘Haus Of Holbein’ which is one of the comedy songs. The outfits, lighting and dancing in this song are all very cleverly thought out with parts of them glowing in the dark. This part of the show is set in Germany and I love how the girls all talk and sing in German accents to fit in with this theme. The lyrics, outfits, dancing and accents were hilarious and had me laughing, making this one of my favourite dance numbers in the show. 

Alexia McIntosh plays Anna of Cleves and definitely got down during her solo, ‘Get Down’. The lyrics in this song are hilarious and Alexia performs them so easily leaving the audience hanging on to her every word. 

‘All You Wanna Do’ by Katherine Howard is another one of my favourite songs (are you seeing the pattern here?! Ha!) This is performed by Aimie Atkinson. There is a certain serious side to this song with some of the lyrics being very powerful and this was shown through the choreography throughout the song. ‘All You Wanna Do’ is one of the harder songs to sing in my opinion and Aimie sings it with so much ease and sounded phenomenal. 

Last but not least, Catherine Parr tells her story with her song ‘I Don’t Need Your Love’. Courtney Stapleton, the alternate Catherine Parr, was the one to perform this song. Her voice and outstanding delivery of a meaningful song were fantastic. 

The finale ‘Six’ is where you really see what the show is about. Girl power. The all-female band all get a chance to showcase their amazing talent along with each girl getting a chance to show their outstanding vocals. 

SIX The Musical recently got nominated for five Olivier awards and after seeing this show I can see why. The talent on stage is absolutely breath-taking and I wish them all the luck in the world. I will be raving about it for years to come. 

The live pop-concert musical returned to the Arts Theatre, London in January 2019 after playing in venues around the UK such as Cambridge, Southampton, Glasgow and Edinburgh. 

SIX The Musical, “Divorced. Beheaded. LIVE in concert!” is at the Arts Theatre until January 2020 so grab the hottest ticket in town while you still can!

More information about the show and tickets can be found here.

 

Fame (UK tour) – REVIEW

Fame (UK tour) – REVIEW

New Theatre, Cardiff

★★★★

Fame

New Theatre, Cardiff

 

Seen September 29th, 2018

Reviewed by Jade Prince

★★★★

To start off, I actually really enjoyed this show! This type of show isn’t normally my favourite however it managed to win me over!

We all know the 1980s film, Fame. It’s a classic. If you haven’t seen it, where have you been?! Fame follows the development of students enrolled on a four-year programme at The High School Of Performing Arts in New York City. The highs and incredible lows of the performing industry and the agony which is trying to crack it. The show itself pretty much covers every topic imaginable: young love, self-discovery, ambitions, drugs and acceptance.

The overall performance was great! It was well put together and clean-cut, this is something which has to happen in a show heavily based around dance. The choreography was classic but sharp. Nick Winston did a fab job! It always make me beam when the choreography is neat. Everyone was on time and giving 100%. I have seen too many dance shows recently where this was not the case. Super job!

We need a real moment of appreciation for the set, please. It was very simple but did everything it needed to do whilst giving the personal touch. Not just the generic, run of the mill for Fame. Specifically crafted for this cast. The year book photos were brilliant. All in-keeping with the 80s (I wouldn’t expect anything else!). Although there were a couple of point during the show were I found myself attempting to figure out who was who, especially as I couldn’t read the names under each photo. They were great to look at during the interval.

The cast was great, top marks across the board. Singing and dancing is never easy but they were able to make it look like a walk in the park! I am going to have to give a shout out to Stephanie Rojas (Carmen) who, vocally, killed it! There were several places where she stole the show but very graciously gave it back to the others to shine as a whole.

I would say this is a feel good show, I mean, it is although it does take a dark turn. Only briefly. A beautiful way to depict the fall in that industry. You want to start the game fast, you’ll burn much faster. The music definitely gives it this feel good vibe and will leave you humming the iconic ‘Fame!’ as you leave.

Fame is still traveling the UK before taking up residence in London’s Peacock Theatre for a short run lasting a little over a month next September.

For more information of the remaining tour venues and tickets, head to http://fameuktour.co.uk/tour-dates

 

GUY! A New Musical – REVIEW

GUY! A New Musical – REVIEW

King’s Head Theatre, London

★★★★

GUY! A New Musical

King’s Head Theatre, London

 

Seen August 31st, 2018

Reviewed by Mark Sykes

★★★★

This musical is about Guy, an overweight millennial gay man and his search for true love. Played by Brendan Matthew, Guy thinks he doesn’t fit into the gay community and his struggles to find the right partner provides the focus for this story. He shares an apartment with Tyler (Steve Banks) and the relationship goes through a number of ups and downs; friendship troubles emanating from Guy setting up a fake profile on the dating app Grindr using Tyler’s picture. Tyler’s distant partner (Adam Braidley) sees the picture, assumes Tyler is on the latter’s ongoing conquest to find love.

Meanwhile, Guy has decided to lose a few pounds in the hope that a fitter body will make him more attractive and therefore easier to find a suitable partner. It is this storyline where Guy meets Aziz (Seann Miley-Moore), a young, fit, good-looking man of whom Guy thinks someone like that would never fall in love with him. In a way, they are a bit of an ‘odd-couple’, but actually have much more in common than each of them initially realise. Their friendship blossoms, but Guy is afraid to take it to the next level for fear of scaring Aziz away. This causes its own problems when Aziz reaches forward for that first kiss; Guy’s self-doubt and insecurities come crashing down on their relationship and it’s then a question of whether or not things can be retrieved or are their irreconcilable differences?

There only four actors in this show and Brendan Matthew shows admirable qualities as he remains on stage for pretty much the whole of the two hour show, portraying Guy’s qualities and inner demons well. Special mention though goes to Seann Miley-Moore who gave a captivating performance and was seriously impressive.

This was my first visit to the King’s Head Theatre. It’s a very small venue, albeit with a surprisingly wide stage. The intimate setting actually worked well for this show, and with only four actors there was plenty of space for them to express themselves. The staging was simple; no scenery as such, just a few props on stage; but this didn’t detract from the storyline. More so, it puts more emphasis on the dialogue and the acting, with no peripheral frills to be concerned with.

There was a sharpness to the script and lyrics, with some cutting one-liners expertly delivered by the cast. Being slightly critical though, I did feel that parts of the dialogue were a bit contrived and some of the scenes in between the 14 songs could perhaps do with a bit of trimming so as to maintain the momentum of the overall show. My only other criticism is that there were a couple of scenes where it wasn’t clear (to me at least!) whether the dialogue taking place was a virtual conversation or a physical one.

Overall, this modern love story serves as a reminder of the dangers of social media. A reliance on a virtual world of the Internet and dating apps to build relationships and to find ‘the one’, is not necessarily a path to success – especially when all may not be as it seems. For anyone though, gay or otherwise, Guy’s tale can serve as a reminder to us all to look in the mirror, accept yourself for who you are, and don’t try to become something you can never be. Embrace your own qualities, focus on the positives and be proud of YOU!

The Beautiful Game performed by the National Youth Music Theatre – REVIEW

The Beautiful Game performed by the National Youth Music Theatre – REVIEW

The Other Palace, London

★★★★

The Beautiful Game

The Other Palace, London

 

Seen August 16th, 2018

Reviewed by Mark Sykes

★★★★

NYMT was established in 1976 and has had some illustrious alumni and patrons over the years, including Kerry Ellis, Sheridan Smith, Jude Law and Idris Elba, to name but a few. NYMT provides young people with training and mentoring in musical theatre, both those wanting to tread the boards as well as those wanting a career in the creative and technical aspects of theatre.

NYMT’s 2018 summer season features four musicals, three being performed at The Other Palace as part of a 3-week residency. I had never been to a NYMT performance before, but my interest was piqued when I saw that they were doing a production of The Beautiful Game, having seen the original West End production of this back in 2000 (lead by Hannah Waddingham).

The Beautiful Game has music by Andrew Lloyd Webber with book & lyrics by Ben Elton and is set in Belfast between 1969 and 1972.  Whilst it has football at its core, the focus is on a group of youngsters dealing with the troubles of the day in Northern Ireland.

One of the perennial issues when putting on a show at The Other Palace is the size of the stage. It’s much smaller than its larger West End cousins, so much credit should be given to choreographer Matt Cole for both the opening football match sequence and the cup final that happens later on. Having so many people on stage at the same time and interpreting a football match in dance could be fraught with issues, but the energy and coordination on display was an impressive feat.

If you listen to the soundtrack, one of the highlights is God’s Own Country. Led by the central character Mary, it provides NYMT’s Aliza Vakil one of numerous occasions during the show where her stage presence and performance belies her youth, as is excellent throughout. Mary’s relationship with John is one of the centre pieces of the story as they fall in love, get married and have a child; but John gets drawn into the troubles of the time and gets incarcerated for having helped his best friend escape from the police. On his release from prison, John has some unfinished business to deal with much to the consternation of Mary; but finally the two are re-united as John seeks some level of redemption for past mistakes. Rueben Browne plays John, and at just 19 years old, gives an impressive performance in conveying the emotions of being torn between family and helping wayward friends.

The character Thomas is one of the main protagonists involved in trouble-making activities, and is commendably performed here by Ned Costello. The scene which leads to someone being ‘knee-capped’ is fraught with tension and provides a jolt to the heart when the gun goes off. The experienced Jasper Britton plays Father O’Donnell, and provides much of the light relief in what at times can seem like a  very dark musical; but even with the subject matter at hand, Ben Elton’s lyrics continue to throw in the laughs throughout, helping to lighten the mood.

Director Hannah Crissick has done a sterling job bringing The Beautiful Game back to the stage. All of the NYMT casts members deserve credit in their performance, including Paul French, Edd Conroy, Rory Jeffers, Lucy Carter, TiernaMcNally and all of the ensemble members. Given their age and experience, they all dealt with the subject matter superbly. I only learned after the show that Andrew Lloyd Webber was in the audience the same evening as me; he must have left a very proud man.

The Beautiful Game may deal with issues seen as no longer relevant given the troubles of Northern Ireland belong largely to a bygone era. But the issues at the heart of this story still exist, not only across the Irish Sea but with parallels across the world as religion and violence seem ever intertwined. It’s a story that continues needing to be told. The original cast album is available to listen on Spotify. If you have an account, click here to listen.

The Beautiful Game was staged by NYMT at The Other Palace, 15-18 August 2018.

Broken wings – REVIEW

Broken wings – REVIEW

Theatre Royal Haymarket, London 

★★★★★

Broken Wings

Theatre Royal Haymarket, London

 

Seen August 1st, 2018

Reviewed by Mark Sykes

★★★★★

Having followed the development of the new musical Broken Wings for quite a while on social media, then obtained the concept album back in May and watched the YouTube recordings in awe of the talent on display, it was with much excitement that I visited the Theatre Royal Haymarket on Wednesday 1stAugust 2018 for its world premiere performance.  It was a stunning portrayal of a story about love, heartbreak and tragedy, and which leaves a lasting impression on the audience.

I’ll admit that until Broken Wings surfaced as a new musical in development, I had never heard of the poet Kahlil Gibran, the third best-selling poet of all time.  But having worked in Saudi Arabia for 6 months (in part wanting to learn more about their culture), Broken Wings once more sparked my interest in the Middle East and has provided an opportunity to learn a bit more about the culture of this region.

The show has a simple stage setting – the rear half has the orchestra sat either side of a raised element.  In the first act, the older Gibran (supremely played by co-writer Nadim Naaman) is positioned here with his writing table as he narrates his story and watches on as his younger self (played by Rob Houchen) enacts his early life in the front half of the stage.  The first act introduces all of the main characters and provides the setting for Gibran and Selma to meet and form a relationship that ultimately can never be consummated.  I have seen Rob Houchen a number of times this year and he always impresses with his dynamite vocals.  He has great chemistry with Selma, portrayed by the wonderful Nikita Johal.  Nikita deserves special praise as she stepped-up from the ensemble at short notice to take on the lead role, and she performed it with a great sense of assurance and poise.

Selma’s father, Farris (Adam Linstead) and the Bishop (Irvine Iqbal) also provide focal elements of the story.  Whilst Farris can see the blossoming relationship between his daughter and Gibran, he is persuaded by the Bishop to give her hand in marriage to another – and sets in motion a sequence of events that will lead to heartbreak and tragedy.  Whilst Selma is married off to a philandering man she doesn’t love, her friendship with Gibran is rekindled via a series of illicit meetings.  Ultimately though, Selma’s pregnancy and subsequent events (no spoilers here!) provide a devastating conclusion to this love story.

The second act has the staging partly reversed, with the older Gibran at the front of the stage providing narration for some of the scenes playing out on the raised element.  I found this actually worked quite well; the lack of endless scenery transitions kept the story front and centre and continued to flow seamlessly.  Having the orchestra on the stage was nice to see (and neatly dressed in appropriate attire) and was a positive enhancement.  The only negative of the staging was the use of smoke/dry ice.  I felt it didn’t add anything to the story or atmosphere; indeed there were occasions when events taking place in Farris’s garden were almost overwhelmed by the smoke (albeit this was less obtrusive in act 2).

The music, lyrics and orchestrations are really excellent and I would heartily recommend people buy the concept album if you don’t already have a copy.  The stand-out songs are Selma and Spirit Of The Earth.  This latter song (and it’s reprise as part of the Finale) is probably the highlight of the entire show.  It brings the entire cast front and centre in an electric-charged performance that brings a lump in the throat; it compares equally to any of the big numbers in the likes of Les Miserables, Miss Saigon, etc.  Here though, I have to single out Soophia Foroughi who provides the lead vocals for this song and also plays Gibran’s mother.  I am in love with this voice!  If you watch the YouTube video of Spirit Of The Earth you’ll understand, but Soophia is one of those artists that sound even better live.  A simply supreme vocal performance.

The entire cast, including ensemble members, were excellent; there wasn’t a single weak link.  Joe Davison (Conductor) and the orchestra were also faultless; and again it was so nice to be able to see them in a West End show.

As for Nadim Naaman and Dana Al Fardan, they have created something special.  I so much hope that the four days at the Theatre Royal Haymarket is just the beginning for the stage show.  It deserves an opportunity to grow and mature, and to perhaps come back bigger and better.  Yes, I learned a bit more about Middle Eastern life, but people shouldn’t let it’s Lebanese origins put them off wanting to see this.  Miss Saigon has a love story at its heart, with Vietnam as its setting; Broken Wings has similar parallels (as do many other successful musicals).  Put any prejudices to one side and watch and listen to a genuine love story; you will be rewarded well.

Click here to see Hiba Elchikhe (Selma) and Rob Houchen (Younger Gibran) perform I know Now from the Broken Wings original concept album.

If you don’t already have the concept album, you can order it here.

Flashdance (UK tour) – REVIEW

Flashdance (UK tour) – REVIEW

★★

Flashdance (UK tour)

Bristol Hippodrome, Bristol

 

Seen June 26th, 2018

Reviewed by Jade Prince

★★

My advice: If you want a fun night out with your girlfriends, a couple of drink, see a show with good music and some well known songs, this is the show for you. However, if you are like me; see theatre on a regular basis, know what you are looking for and want to see a perfectly executed show…then…this isn’t for you. At all.

We all know the film Flashdance. Yes, Fame’s nearly forgotten sister.

I hate to say this however I can’t help but feel this product is straying towards this same path.

I can see it has potential but what it really lacks is commitment.

The standard was not there. Everything was messy. The choreography was the biggest let down. For a show with such a heavy bulk of dance involved, I was expecting so much more. Instead we go horrendous spacing on stage and 20 different energy levels. From the audience I could feel no connection between the cast on stage. This was even more prominent in the dance numbers that required partner work and group work. A few cast members were going all out! High kicks so high, precise and extended there might be a chance of a hip dislocation. Whereas others gave minimal effort or even found themselves several beats behind racing to catch up. Unfortunately, being off beat was a regular occurrence.

This isn’t me saying the choreography was bad. It was simply the delivery. I can’t fault Matt Cole’s work. Matt has definitely created high energy movement on stage…when executed well.

The staging was nice. I did enjoy the set and its movement through the different scenes. The two levels worked well. It really came into play when there were two different locations in the same scene. I just wish some of the actors remained in character when walking from upstage centre, having exited from the back stairs of the raised platform, to the wings. Some were evidently out of character and this whole walk section was exposed. Wait until you’re in the wings!

Performance-wise the show was rather bland. The script and delivery was mediocre. The vocals were good. Some stand out performers included Joanne Clifton (Alex Owens) and Emily Kenwright (on as cover Gloria for this particular performance). For the majority of the show I found myself focusing on Emily. She has a great stage presence. Although there was one scene where I did not want her to demand my focus but she still continued doing so. I didn’t want to focus on her not because of her performance but because of the costume. The opening number of act two had these lovely gold, shimmery halter neck dressed. The back is exposed therefore you either wear no bra, a strapless flesh colour bra or a regular flesh colour bra. These are forgivable. But not a regular white bra. Straps on show and everything. Glaring out into the audience like a little gremlin! I had to demonstrate some breathing exercises during this number. How did this get through costume?!

In short, I felt like I was watching a high school production. The vocals were the best part. This show could be something incredible with the right budget and time to nurture it further. It fell into the stereotype that touring shows are trying to shake; limited budget, time, resources which was very sad to see.

It’s meant to be a feel good show about chasing your dreams except this feeling was lost as it traveled off stage into the audience.

Flashdance is still touring the UK if you have a girls night out planned!

Information on the show, tour stops and tickets can be found at http://www.flashdanceuktour.co.uk

 

West End Sings Whitney Houston supporting Women’s Aid – REVIEW

West End Sings Whitney Houston supporting Women’s Aid – REVIEW

★★★★★

West End Sings Whitney Houston supporting Women’s Aid

The London Cabaret Club, London

 

Seen May 20th, 2018

Reviewed by Jade Prince

★★★★★

(All photos included in this post are all my own. Hence the amatuer feel!)

This was possibly the very best charity cabaret event I have ever seen.

The talent was to die for, the charity deserved every penny and the whole event was executed perfectly!

West End Sings is a new charity concept with very specific themes. There are the odd one or two events similar by they don’t have this unique quality. This debut event had a rather spectacular theme. One that fit the chosen charity like a glove! It was songs from the one and only, Queen Whitney Houston!!! To sing Whitney songs, you need some smashing vocals and the performers did not disappoint!

Our host for the night was Norman Pace. Along with everything else, he was perfect! The right amount the comedy, the right amount of cheese but also kept the show moving at a good pace.

In total we were treated to 15 performers display the stunning work of Whitney.

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Above we have Damien Winchester (currently in Aladdin as swing/cover Genie) singing I’m Every Woman/Million Dollar Bill.

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Here we have a picture of Sabrina Aloueche (Chess) killing I Will Always Love You. I bit song to sing but. she. nailed. it.

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Nathaniel Morrison (Founder of West End Gospel Choir) singing Greatest Love of All. Damn. Did he slay! This performance gave me life and Nathaniel worked it! He worked that stay, he worked the floor, he worked every part of The London Cabaret Club!

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This was a beautiful rendition of How Will I Know sung by Charlotte Riby (Recently in Jesus Christ Superstar at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre)

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The attention drifted during the interval but the moment that first note left Liam Tamne’s lips, the room was under his spell! Liam performed I’m Your Baby Tonight/So Emotional.

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I’ve always loved Lucie Shorthouse’s voice ever since I saw her last year in Everybody’s Talking About Jamie and her performance of It’s Not Right But It’s Okay melted my heart!

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This has to be my favourite Whitney song. That is the stunning Run To You. I take my hat off to Summer Strallen (currently paying Inga in Young Frankenstein). It was truly mesmerising!

The event itself was organised and at no point was the charity out of focus. As soon as you walked into The London Cabaret Club, you know what you were there for. Projections were found on the walls in the main concert hall. I have been to many ‘charity’ events where the show starts and the charity is pushed into the background and forgotten. Not with this one and it made me so happy! It was also a charity I hold so close to my heart!

As I mentioned, this is a new venture for West End Sing but I know for sure I will be there 100% of the way! I am very excited to see the next one scheduled in for later this year. They may or may not have revealed the next theme…BRUNO MARS!!!

This is an event crafted with love and passion by all people involved! I am sure we will see you at the next one!

Follow West End Sings on twitter so you now exactly when the tickets go on sale for West End Sings Bruno Mars!

P.S. if Mr. Producer man happens to read this, we so need a Taylor Swift one. This mega swiftie would be in her element! Thanks.

 

 

 

Knights of the Rose – REVIEW

Knights of the Rose

The Arts Theatre, London

★★★

Knights of the Rose

The Arts Theatre, London

 

Seen July 5th, 2018

Reviewed by Jade Prince

★★★

I was really rooting for this show to be much more. Having seen this talented cast perform on numerous occasions and sounds epic each time, I had high hopes. Unfortunately, the music and vocals couldn’t carry the show alone.

Knights of the Rose is meant to be an epic Shakespearean tale of love, betrayal and sacrifice but a lot of this seemed under developed. The rock score was what made the show unique and exciting with music from Bon Jovi, Meat Loaf and Bonnie Tyler to name a few.

I do want to take a moment to appreciate the cast. Wow! These guys were great! Their voices were incredible! Pretty much every number sounded brilliant!

This biggest let down for me was the fact the show didn’t know what it was. It was right in the middle of being a serious Shakespearean play and a cliche rock playlist put to a story. The songs were used very literally throughout the show and several had the audience laughing within the first bar. A reaction along the line of “Oh my God, are they really using this song!”. I mean, with the literal use, the songs worked very well.

I felt that a lot fo the characters were under developed. One moment the princesses were madly in love, the next, not interested. And then through a drastic change in circumstance, about to marry a man you had know idea they were interested in!

The staging was rather nice. Two levels and sections which moved in order to show the scene changes from the castle, to the bar, to the battle field. One scene that really sticks in my mind was the battle scene in act 2 with the horses. I want to say it was the number “The War To Win”. This was a pretty spectacular scene! The horse head puppets were beautiful and the use of the mesh screen down stage was stunning. You really felt like you were in the heart of the battle with the pouring rain.

I have to say the writing really made you root for certain characters. At one point you wanted the so call ‘villain’ to be killed by the man he betrayed and just when you think it could happen, your hopes were crushed! It was nice to see that aspect wasn’t predictable.

I really need to take a moment to point out a flaw which I couldn’t stop noticing. The shoes. Oh, the shoes. The male shoes were fine but the female shoes were a no, no. They were modern high street shoes. It was as if they were going to get off stage, rip their historical dresses off and hit the town! They were definitely not in-keeping with the time period.

I think if it was developed more into a lighthearted Shakespeare rock musical it could enjoy great success. Or maybe it is there already? It is just needing some way to convey this to the audience.

Overall, this was an enjoyable show. I would recommend it but don’t go in there expecting anything flash. The music and vocal performance was really what made the show for me.

Knights of the Rose is playing at The Arts Theatre until Sunday 26th August.

Information on the show and tickets can be found at: http://knightsoftherose.co.uk

Also don’t forget to follow Knights of the Rose of twitter.

If you are still intrigued, we got to still down briefly with Katie Birtill and Rebekah Lowings at the press call. Check out the short interview here.

The Lion King

The Lion King

Lyceum Theatre, London 

Written by Jade Prince 

The Lion King

Lyceum Theatre, London 

 

Seen May 19th, 2018

Written by Jade Prince 

This will only be a quick one about Lion King simply because I feel this show doesn’t need another review. I simply want to document my thoughts because all of mu previous beliefs were totally wrong!

I always said I’d never see Lion King as it was overrated, over-priced and dated. Boy, do I retract those statements!

I was in London on a Saturday and had no matinee show so I decided to pop in to the box office to see what the day seat situation looked like. I wasn’t;t expecting anything as ti was 10:30am. Lo and behold they had one lonely seat left. For £20, how could I refuse. So I was seeing the show I had always labelled as overrated.

I tell you what, as soon as the opening number started, “The Circle of Life”, I had chills everywhere! It didn’t take much more to make me cry like a baby. As soon as the giraffes came out I was gone!

Regardless of how long its been in the west end, it still works that Disney magic. Its classic Disney magic.

The puppetry was stunning, Not just the animals but also the scenery. Those grass costumes were so creative!

With the incredible feeling that show gave me, I could so easily get addicted to it!

It was nothing high tech but it worked so well. I never expected that stage and my mind was blown by the way if was used to create those iconic scenes we all know and love.

I could go on but I’ll stop it here. I love it and have never has that kind of reaction with a show!

I’m going again!!!!!!

Chit-Chat and Tea: Knights of the Rose

Chit-Chat and Tea: Knights of the Rose

In celebration on Knights of the Rose officially opening tonight, here is a little exclusive! 

I greet thee!

In celebration on Knights of the Rose officially opening tonight, here is a little exclusive!

Who got to have a quick chat with Rebekah Lowings (Isabel) and Katie Birtill (Hannah) at the press call a couple of weeks ago! The night was so much fun! It was at a medieval banquet! We had some great bellytimber! (<– its an actual medieval word!) I got some great footage which I am in the process of editing so that will be uploaded as soon as its finished!
To start with, we had to ask the basic – Why should be come and see the show?
Katie: It’s so passionate, we have got some fantastic rock songs. It’s a tale of love and betrayal and sacrifice and its really got a lot of heart and soul as well as being a wonderful night of rock entertainment.
Rebekah: It is just sheer passion. It is just so incredible to be on stage with so many people who feel passion and love for the rock music and for the scripture. I mean Jenny (Jennifer Marsden) is absolutely incredible, she’s written this beautiful piece.
Katie: Really luscious language.
Rebekah: The language is ‘Game of Thrones”, very sort of ‘A Knight’s Tale’, Bon Jovi. It’s just like any girls dream to be a princess…but we get to sing rock songs *laughter* It’s absolutely incredible!
You guys performed both days this year at West End LIVE, how was that crowd?
 
Katie: Uh-mazing!
Rebekah: Electric!
Katie: Electric! As soon as we came out, the crowd was absolutely on our side and it was so fantastic because we were showing something new and everyone was really supportive. It seemed it all went down really well which was really exciting. I mean, just going out there for our first ever performance of any of our work was in front of thousands of people!
And then the interview was cut short as a knight and jester approached! More on that aspect will be revealed in our upcoming video!
Gramercy m’ladies for taking the time to speak with Ginger in the Theatre and all the best for press night! See you there!
More information about the show and tickets can be found at http://knightsoftherose.co.uk
Farewell, peasants!

It’s Only Life – REVIEW

It’s Only Life – REVIEW

Union theatre, London 

★★★★

It’s Only Life

Union theatre, London 

 

Seen June 16th, 2018

Reviewed by Jade Prince 

★★★★

It was a rather cute show and contains some great reminders for people wanting to live a fulfilling life. Although, putting these into practice isn’t always the easiest. ‘It’s Only Life’ covers every human need spanning the whole spectrum whilst delivering the message wisely.

The music is solely John Bucchino’s who, over the year, has wrote songs which have been  performed my theatre legends such as Audra McDonald, Liza Minnelli and Patti LuPone to name a few. He isn’t well know in the UK. In all honestly, I had never heard of him. I do have to say though, I love his writing style. All of his songs in this show are very heart warming and honest. He manages to capture true life in its rawest nature.

I can’t say I saw much of a story during this show (the story I did see was left till the end) which did detract from the enjoyment initially. I was very worried I was missing the point so I started really listening to the lyrics. And that is when the enjoyment came back.

You could not ask for a more talented bunch of performers! Including the MD, Nick Barstow. I do love seeing a show and every person on stage is at the same level. No weak link in this cast! The songs were just so well suited to their voices and each of them got to demonstrate their range at various points during the show.

This was a very basic production with no microphones and just one pianist. It was such a beautiful touch only having a piano accompanying the performance. It worked so well with the lyrics being sing. Where the venue was of an intimate size there was no need for the microphones but I do wish that certain cast members had a microphone. At certain points I was really struggling to hear and I was sat front row.

The set was so cute! The use of different levels was perfect! It was very minimalistic, colour-wise. All white washed with the odd burst of colour here and there. All pastel colours and I am a sucker of pastels! I really enjoyed looking around and seeing all of the everyday items (the majority painted white) hung on the walls in the various rooms of the house. I did spy a pastel blue Buzz Lightyear!

‘It’s Only Life’ is currently playing at the Union Theatre until July 7th. If you are looking for a cute, heartwarming, enjoyable show, this is the one!

Tickets and information can be found at: http://www.uniontheatre.biz/its-only-life.html