J Is For January

First of all, happy new year! Thank you for just over 900 views, I know my posts aren’t that regular at the moment but I’m hoping to update my blog more often this year. So, here is my list of J themed favourites for this month:

1) Jersey Boys
Currently playing at the Piccadilly Theatre, Jersey Boys tells the story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. I have wanted to see this musical for a really long time, as I love the soundtrack and have read excellent reviews of the show. This is on my list of must sees for this year, so fingers crossed I’ll get to see it!

2) Jesus Christ Superstar
I’ve had the soundtrack of this show on constant repeat since the new year began, and I’d have to say it’s definitely my current favourite CD. So if you’ve never listened to it before, then I’d highly recommend it.

3) Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat
This is one of my all time favourite musicals. I own the soundtrack featuring Jason Donovan, and I love every single song in the show. Sadly I saw it years ago so I can’t remember too much about what it looked like, so I’m hoping a new production of it will crop up soon.

4) The Jungle Book
This was my favourite Disney film when I was little, and still is to this day. I think this is one of Disney’s best ever films, and I would love to see a musical version of this one day!

5) James Corden and Johnny Depp
The Into the Woods film has been in cinemas for a while now, and I still haven’t seen it, so I’m still really looking forward to it. I’ve heard very positive reviews, especially ones about James Corden’s role in the movie, so this is a must see for this year.

6) Gypsy (not quite a j, but close enough)
The Chichester Festival Theatre’s production of Gypsy is due to transfer to the Savoy Theatre in the West End in April, along with the incredible Imelda Staunton continuing her run as Momma Rose.
This will be the first time gypsy has been seen in London for 40 years, and I hope it doesn’t sell out too quickly as this is something I would really love to see! Definitely on my list of must sees for this year.

Are The Arts Appreciated In Schools?

So I have been having a very busy time at school recently, as I am in my final year at school studying for my GCSE’s. On top of that I like to take part in all of the performances going on, so I have been involved with the dance show, the school musical and the school carol concert.

While I enjoyed this term and had a great time performing, it obviously took up a lot of time, and this also meant some lesson time had to be sacrificed. The majority of teachers accepted this and let me catch up with the work I missed from their lesson, but some other teachers didn’t seem to agree with the idea.

As well as disliking the fact that we are busy with other areas of school life, it has come to my attention that GCSE results are handled differently when it comes to the performing arts. I take drama, dance and music at GCSE, and although I will be credited a separate grade for dance and drama, the school will not. This is because they are seen as “too similar”. This, I do not agree with.

Firstly, dance requires 4 pieces of practical coursework to be performed, as well as a written exam. Whereas drama requires 2 pieces of written coursework, a theatre review, and a practical exam. This automatically makes them differ from each other.

As well as this, being able to act does not mean you are a dancer, and this works both ways. I don’t see why the school should get any less credit for someone who has a passion for drama and dance, than for someone who has a passion for geography and history.

There may be another reason as to why they are seen as similar which I am overlooking, but personally I think they are very different subjects. Dance requires a lot of revision for the written exam, whereas I do not revise for drama except when I have lines to learn.

So really unless you go to a stage school, the education system just doesn’t seem to appreciate how demanding these subjects actually are. They are not easy at all. Especially music, as this requires just as much revision as any academic subject would. So when pupils are presented with options of what they want to study they shouldn’t be guided away from creative subjects by the teachers, as really all subjects are equally challenging in their own right.

Many schools in my local area have scrapped all of these subjects from their option blocks, and even as extracurricular activities. I think this is a great shame, as many pupils that went there with the hopes of taking a performing arts subject would have been devastated.

I think schools really need to start thinking more about this issue, as it’s not all about getting more pupils to take very academic subjects. It should be about making students who have a talent and a passion for other things able to take the subjects they want, and allowing the school to get just as much credit for these as the academic subjects.

Into The Woods Film: First Impressions

Due to be released in the UK on Christmas Day this year, Into The Woods is looking good so far. From the trailers that I have seen I think it could be brilliant! Here is one of the trailers so you can have a look for yourself: http://youtu.be/2Byk9Is3TjY

The Witch – Meryl Streep
I love Meryl Streep. I think she has a great voice and is an amazing actress, so I think she’s perfect for the role. She is one of the biggest names in the film, and although I usually dislike the use of celebrities in films just so more people will go and see it, she will be one of the best things about the film I’m sure.

The Big Bad Wolf – Johnny Depp
Johnny Depp is one of my favourite actors, as he is just so versatile! He is an incredible actor, and he has a pretty good voice too. Although his singing isn’t as strong as his acting (in my opinion of course) I think he will be an asset to the movie.

Cinderella – Anna Kendrick
Probably best known for her role in the film Pitch Perfect, Anna has a really good singing voice. Technically speaking, she probably does not have the right kind of voice for musical theatre, but at least she can actually sing.

The Baker’s Wife – Emily Blunt
A great actress, but I have never heard her sing, so I will be interested to see what her voice is like. Again, I do not know if technically she will be as able as a trained musical theatre performer would be, but she is a very good actress so I’m sure she will not disappoint.

The Baker – James Corden
I am a big fan of James Corden’s work, and I believe he went to stage school, so I have a feeling he will be excellent as The Baker. Hopefully he will bring some technique to the singing aspect of the film, and he could end up being one of the best things about the film.

Other cast members include:

Cinderella’s Prince – Chris Pine
Cinderella’s Stepmother – Christine Baranski
Cinderella’s Mother – Joanna Riding
Lucinda – Lucy Punch
Rapunzel – Mackenzie Mauzy
Rapunzel’s Prince – Billy Magnussen
Red Riding Hood – Lilla Crawford
The Giant – Frances de la Tour
Jack – Daniel Huttlestone
Jack’s Mother – Tracey Ullman
Florinda – Tammy Blanchard
The Baker’s Father – Simon Russell Beale
Grandmother – Annette Crosbie

I shall be uploading another post of a more in depth review after I have seen the film, as this is just my brief first impressions. So, watch this space.

This or That Tag (Musical Version)

This tag is mainly done by beauty gurus and fashion bloggers, so I thought I’d put my own spin on it. So, I filled a hat with the names of 20 musicals, and I had to pick out 2 at a time. I also have 10 “would you rather” categories (it should all make sense in a minute). So here goes:

1. Which would I rather see?
Jersey Boys or The Book of Mormon:
I was so annoyed when I got these two for this category, as they are both at the top of my list for shows I want to see next! But I’d have to say The Book of Mormon purely because I want to see I believe live really badly.

2. Which would I rather be in?
Les Miserables or Grease:
Ever since I have wanted to be in musicals I have wanted to be in these two. I have been in two productions of Grease (read about one of them in my post: The Understudy), and that was really fun so I would love to be in a West End version. But I have to chose Les Mis as I desperately want to be either Eponine, Fantine or Cosette. Imagine going out on stage and belting out one of the tragic songs from one of the greatest musicals of all time? I think it would be incredible to be a part of.

3. Which would I rather marry a character from?
Cats or Miss Saigon:
I knew straight away I would like to marry Chris from Miss Saigon. Who wouldn’t? I think I’d marry him and then sing Sun and Moon with him. Perfect.

4. Which soundtrack do I prefer?
Billy Elliot or Starlight Express:
I love the music from both of these shows, but several of the songs from Billy Elliot really move me (Mainly The Letter). So, I would have to chose Billy Elliot.

5. Which choreography would I rather perform?
The Wizard of Oz or Moulin Rouge:
I am currently in a production of Moulin Rouge, and although I love the show I’m not a big fan of the choreography. However I love doing the classic “wizard of Oz step/skip” that Dorothy and Co do on the way to Oz. So I’d have to pick dancing in Ruby Slippers over CanCan skirts.

6. Which would I rather was real?
Thriller Live or West Side Story:
It would be cruel to wish West Side Story was real, even if I would love to meet all the Jets. So, Thriller Live it is.

7. Which main character do I prefer?
Fame or Blood Brothers:
Fame is a great musical, but I don’t feel like I connect with the characters the way I connect with the Blood Brothers cast. Blood Brothers really moves me and Mrs Johnstone is one of my dream roles, so I would have to chose Blood Brothers.

8. Which costumes would I rather wear?
Matilda or Phantom of the Opera:
The costumes from Phantom are beautiful and very elaborate, but I have a huge desire to put on a Matilda blazer and sing Revolting Children, so I’d have to chose Matilda The Musical.

9. Which set do I prefer?
High Society or Wicked:
Let’s face it, who doesn’t love seeing the gorgeous emerald city and the ending of Defying Gravity? Also even the curtains have a beautiful map on them, so I think Wicked wins hands down.

10. Which would I rather see everyday if I had to?
Oliver or Joseph:
I really love Oliver, and it was one of my childhood favourites. But I can never get bored of the Joseph soundtrack, and it would be pretty cool to be able to see the Technicolour Dream Coat come to life every night, so Joseph is my winner for this category.

And there you have it, The This Or That (Musical Theatre Version) Tag.

Now normally at the end of a tag, the blogger is supposed to tag other blogs to do it as well. But seeing as I don’t know who it would chose, I tag any musical theatre or theatre blogger reading this to take on the challenge, and let me know you have completed it so I can read yours too. You could do this tag with any musicals or plays of your choice, so give it a go, and I look forward to reading more from this tag.

N is for November

It’s November! One of my favourite months as it is now the lead up to Christmas, and my birthday is this month. So I thought I’d share some of my favourite “N” things…

1) NeverLand the home of Peter Pan. The Disney animated version is one of my all time favourite films, and the music is gorgeous, so I’ll definitely be getting this DVD out this month.

2) Niall Horan from One Direction. Now this may seem a bit off topic for this blog, but of course people who love musicals also have other music that they enjoy listening to. They are one of my favourite bands and I’ve loved them ever since they were on the X factor, but I’m not a crazed fangirl. I really like their latest song “Steal My Girl” and I’m really looking forward to the release of their new album!

3) Narnia (aka The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe). I adore these films, especially the 1st and 3rd. They are beautifully made, and the soundtrack is amazing! My favourite is the soundtrack to the first film, so I recommend you give that a listen. It’s also very appropriate to the current season as it’s now starting to become winter, so it’s perfect for watching at this time of year.

4) New York. Now, I have never been to New York but I can tell you this; it looks stunning at Christmas time! I am hoping to go in a few years time for a visit (mainly to see Broadway), but also just to be amazed by the scenery. For now though, I can just flick through photos of it and dream that one day I’ll make it there.

5) Newsies, with music by Alan Menken. I love this show! The soundtrack is great, and although it’s not one of my favourite musicals ever I still love to listen to it’s music now and again.

6) Next to Normal, with music by Tom Kitt. I have never seen this musical, but I have heard many a person rave about how good it is. So this month I’m going to listen to the soundtrack to see what all the fuss is about, and maybe I will have some new songs to add to my musical favourites playlist.

7) Lindsay Lohan (there is an n in Lohan I promise). Now you may think this one is cheating, but I just couldn’t resist adding this in. She is starring in David Mamet’s Speed-The-Plow, which originally featured Madonna. Now when I first heard this news a while ago, I wasn’t sure what to think. I love her in films such as “Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen”, but I didn’t know if theatre was for her. But it appears her West End debut is the talk of the town, and the Observer’s review even states that Miss Lohan is the best thing about the production! So maybe, I will give her a chance, and go and see this spectacle this month.

8) Nicole Scherzinger. This is similar to the last one, but Andrew Lloyd Webber’s new production of Cats is due to open on the 6th of December 2014 and Nicole will be playing Grizabella. I am not the biggest fab of her work, although I do admit she is a good singer. But I worry she will not have the same technique that a trained musical theatre performer will have, even though she is a talented pop artist. Also, she is no Elaine Paige. But I may be being too quick to judge, so I will wait until her reviews come out, and then decide if I will go and see the show or not.

So that’s all for now, although I do have many more things I could have included in this post, but I do not want to go on for too long.

My blog is nearing 700 views, which may not seem like a lot, but I’m so happy with this! I started this blog just as a space to publish my thoughts, but I love the fact that people read it, so thank you. I will start posting more regularly, and I would love to take requests as to what I write about. So if you have a topic you want me to cover, please comment on this post, tweet me (@justamusicalgal), or email me: justamusicalgal@gmail.com

I Look forward to hearing from some of you! Happy November.

Audience Members: Take Note

Yesterday evening I went to see Miss Saigon at the Prince Edward Theatre in London’s West End, and it was amazing! The cast were all extremely talented, the music was of course amazing and I can’t even begin to count the number of times I got goosebumps, it was so moving (I cried several times), the set was beautiful and so well thought out, the helicopter was spectacular and overall it was an amazing show.

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However, I am quite short, and I happened to be sat behind a particularly tall man. Now don’t get me wrong, they stager the seating very well in theatres, but our height combination just didn’t add up. Having said that, I would have been able to see perfectly if he had been sitting up straight. As theatre goers will be aware, seats are arranged so people have a gap to look through (in between the two people in front of them). But, this man decided to lean to his right throughout the entire show so he could talk to his partner. This meant that I had to lean the other way so that I could actually see the stage, but as I’m quite small I don’t think this caused problems for anyone behind me.

Even though I did manage to lean far enough over to be able to view the performance, it got me thinking about things that audience members should consider. Things that they should know are okay to do, and things which are not. So, here’s a list of 5 things I think audience members should not do when at the theatre:

1) Eating during the interval is perfectly acceptable, I mean they do serve refreshments at the theatre after all. But, when there is an emotional and intense moment happening on stage and someone behind you is unwrapping a sweet, it can ruin and distract from the masterpiece in front of you. So please, eat before the show starts, and during the interval. But as soon as act 2 starts, please for everyone’s sake, put it away.

2) Using your phone. Fair enough, check your messages just before the show starts or during the interval. However when the overture starts your phone should be switched off. It can be very off putting to see a bright screen shining out of the corner of your eye, and it’s very disrespectful to those on stage who have worked hard to perform for you. Also, if you have paid a lot of money for your ticket, why text through the whole show? Make the most of it, you can use your phone anytime you want, but don’t waste the opportunity to watch the show you have come to see.

3) Please do not talk the whole way through the show. I think this one speaks for itself. It’s rude and distracting, so please save your comments for the interval and the end of the show.

4) Please sit properly in your seat, unless you have a specific reason why you cannot do so. I discussed my annoyance for this earlier, so I think you get the picture now.

5) You should always check how long the interval is, and keep track of the time. There is nothing more annoying than being ready for the start of act 2, the curtain going up again, and then having to stand up to let someone in your row back in. It blocks the view of those behind you, and disturbs all those around you. Just be sure to make it back to your seat in good time before act 2 begins, and then no one will complain.

But aside from all of this, do give standing ovations to shows that deserve it, do be polite and respectful to other audience members, do clap at the end of every song, do read the programme thoroughly, and do enjoy the experience. Going to the theatre is supposed to be an enjoyable thing to do, so don’t spoil it for others.

Childhood Memories

I recently did a blog post about school musicals, and yes, most young children do take part in these. But I feel that not enough children are being taken to London or even to their local theatre to see professional productions. I think they should get to have those kind of experiences, as it could open doors for them creatively. And if not, at least they gave it a go.

As a child my whole family loved musicals, and they still do, so I was exposed to them from a very young age. I went to ballet at the age of two and a half, and then soon joined other dance classes as well. I loved musicals and performing throughout my childhood, and I had seen many local professional productions and other shows up until I was 7, but I had never been to see a West End show. So, on my brother’s 10th birthday, we went to see Disney’s The Lion King.

That day I realised what I wanted to do with my life. I had always known my purpose in life was linked to performing and musical theatre, but seeing this show changed everything. The actress playing Rafiki at the time (I sadly can’t find the programme, so I cannot name her) was incredible! She had such a powerful and rich voice, as did all the cast. I was blown away by the amazing costumes and talent I saw that evening. It really was a magical moment for me, because it confirmed for me that this was where I needed to be in the future.

I think that being creative as a child really helps as you get older, even if you just want a hobby. You never know, a child could be incredibly talented, but because they do not know much about an industry, or think it is a possible career option, they could never get to share their talent with the world.

So parents and teachers, please think about this and encourage your children and students to go to the theatre. If the West End is too expensive, then go to your local theatre one evening, or enrol your child in an art club or a youth theatre company, and maybe a child’s life could fall into place just like mine did.

West End and Broadway Halloween Style

So Halloween is fast approaching, so I thought I’d share some musical villains you could dress up as on October 31st! Of course there are plenty of Disney villains who would make perfect costumes (some will be featured here), but I’m taking more of a West End and Broadway approach.

1) One of the Cell Block Tango Wives from Chicago (this is what I dressed up as last year)

2) Scar from The Lion King

3) The Wicked Witch of the West or the East from The Wizard of Oz

4) Inspector Javert from Les Miserables

5) The Phantom from The Phantom of the Opera

6) Sweeney Todd, Judge Turpin or Mrs Lovett from Sweeney Todd

7) A flying monkey from Wicked/ and or The Wizard of Oz

8) Miss Trunchbull from Matilda

9) Bill Sykes or Mr Bumble from Oliver

10) Bernado from West Side Story (or any of The Sharks)

11) The Scorpions, ChaCha or Rizzo (although she isn’t a villain, she is a very negative character) from Grease

12) Jafar from Aladdin

13) Joseph’s brothers from Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dream Coat

14) Killer Queen from We Will Rock You

15) Lucy the Slut from Avenue Q

16) Lord Faquaad from Shrek

17) Madame Morrible from Wicked

18) Miss Hannigan from Annie

19) Roxie Hart from Chicago

20) Sharpay and Ryan Evans from High School Musical

21) The Thenardiers from Les Miserables

22) The Wizard of Oz from Wicked

And of course there are many more, but those are just a few of my favourites. This year I am going to a Heroes and Villains Disney/Musical Theatre party, and a friend and I are going as Maleficent and Aurora. I will post pictures of my costume on my twitter account which is @justamusicalgal
Happy Halloween!

School Musicals

School musicals. Love them or hate them, they happen every year. They give some talented students a chance to practice and improve their skills, and they give false hope to those who are cast “because everyone has to have a part”. But is the casting process in these shows realistic? Is it fair? We shall see.

In many schools it is a case of the older ones get the best parts, and the younger ones are usually just chorus members. “It’s their last show”, “You’ll get your chance when you’re older”, “They have more experience”. Yeah, right. This is not always the case. I understand that it may be their last performance with the school, but if they are not as talented as someone in one of the younger years, why should they be given the lead over them?

As a child I got fairly good parts, but I was usually an understudy who would be asked to fill in for a lead who was ill at the last minute. I was constantly told that I’d get my chance when I was older. And finally in primary school, I got into year 6 (the oldest year in the school) and I thought it was my time to shine. But no. That year they decided a year 4 should have the lead, as it is unfair to keep giving them to the older ones. Typical.

Then in secondary school, I was always a principal chorus member. Also, I continued to understudy leads, and as I mentioned on my blog before had to step in last year as Frenchy in Grease. And this year the production is Moulin Rouge, and I desperately wanted to be Satine. When I looked at the cast list it was the same as every year. The sixth form (the top of the school) were cast as the leads, and although I got a good part it was not what I had hoped for.

The other sad thing about these decisions is when you know you would work harder than whoever got the part over you, but the teachers just can’t seem to see that.

As well as this, some schools have started casting couples in the main romantic roles because they think it will be less awkward for them. Come on! It’s acting, people need to get over it.

Basically, it should be like a professional production. Whoever is the most talented, should be the lead characters, end of. Forget age, relationship status and other factors, the bottom line is the show will only be good if you cast the most talented kids. And if that means the youngest child in the show gets the lead then so what, they will do a much better job.

I’m sorry I haven’t written a blog post in so long, I’ve just had lots of school work to do recently, but I should be posting more regularly again soon. I’m in a play next week, so I may post about that, so watch this space.

The Understudy

It’s been a long time since my last post , as I have been so busy lately, but I’m back!

Anyway, one of the things I’ve been busy with was a production of Grease. I auditioned last year, but as I was doing another show (so I couldn’t commit to all the rehearsals), I was in the chorus. But then my other show finished, and Grease was pushed back a few months because it wasn’t finished. I was a cheerleader and it was a lot of fun, but I was given the job of being an understudy to all the female roles in the production. I was thrilled, but at the same time I knew no one would drop out so I didn’t think anymore of it.

Then the day before the show’s first matinee, one of the cast members sustained an injury. I was asked to step in at the last minute, so I learned the show in a few hours, and I got to play Frenchy.

I was really excited and nervous about the opportunity, but all I could think about was the poor girl who hurt herself.

On the night of the second show, we were having our microphones fitted, when the girl I took over from walked in. I took one look at her, and burst into tears and ran off.

I didn’t think I would react like that, because I hadn’t done anything wrong. I think I felt bad because she had worked so hard on the show, and she was probably really looking forward to it.

She was really nice about the whole thing, and I really appreciated that. She watched the show that night, and I just couldn’t look at her. I felt awful, and there was nothing I could do.

It got me thinking how tough it must be for understudies professionally. I mean, they probably feel like the second best option, and that’s not a nice feeling. Also they must feel bad for whoever they’re taking over from.

As well as this, they may hardly ever get to play the role at all, when they have spent just as much time learning the show as the actual cast member. So either way, it can make you feel upset.

Or you could look at it as a positive, as you still have a job, and you’re helping out when the show is in need. Also the cast member is probably relieved to know they have a reliable understudy, so really it must be an odd situation to be in.

This is all what I have assumed from the experience I had, so please correct me if I’m wrong.

After this I think understudies do not get enough credit for what they do, and that is a great shame. Every time I go to the theatre and it is announced an understudy is performing I think how incredible they are, and how I would never have noticed they weren’t the actual cast member themselves!

Jeffrey Tambor:
“My part had three lines. I said, ‘You look wonderful, sir,’ three times. All my friends said, ‘Do not take that role – and do not understudy. You’ll regret it the rest of your life.’ I did both of those things, and I’ve never regretted it once.”

Jon Cryer:
“I’ve been mistaken for a lot of people. Often for Matthew Broderick. I tell people not to feel bad. One of my first jobs was to be Matthew Broderick’s understudy. I was paid to look like him.”

In my opinion, understudies are heroes. Heroes waiting in the wings, to save the day.