Due to unforeseen circumstances my recent collaboration with Thoughts of a Blue-Eyed Girl has been removed. Please accept my most sincere apologies and stay tuned for a “Wicked” blog post in the next few weeks!
I am so happy and proud to say that today Theatre Therapy reached 20, 000 views! I still can’t believe it and I want to say a huge HUGE thank you to everybody who has put up with endless blog-related spam, conversations, photographs and more, you have no idea how much I appreciate it. I put my heart and soul into this blog and to see that my posts have been read twenty thousand times just blows my mind.
To celebrate 20,000 views I have a very exciting collaboration coming up with fellow theatre blogger Thoughts of a Blue Eyed Girl. We have come together to organise an interview with a very popular West End star which will be published before the end of the year. I will interview the star and edit the piece, which will then be published on TOA Blue Eyed Girl, along with a special post here on Theatre Therapy. We’re going to keep the identity of the interviewee a closely guarded secret for now but I can tell you this – when the article is published, you will wet yourself with excitement! If you think you know who it is, drop me a direct message at @alisonlouise94 or leave a comment below and you will be entered into a draw to win a special prize!
Thank you all again for visiting my blog and here’s to the next 20,000!
For the past month or so I’ve been very aware of the fact that I’ve been neglecting my blog, but there is a good reason – there’s only one of me!
Since my last update, “Times Are A-Changin” my life has changed beyond all recognition (again). I did make it down to Kent and I absolutely adore where I live now, and I have loved putting my own stamp on my very own flat. Unfortunately the job with PGL fell through due to a clause in my lease that states the flat cannot be left unattended for more than 8 consecutive weeks. This was a blessing in disguise, however, as I now have a job in a kitchen that I absolutely love, despite it being VERY stressful at times!
I’ve also officially enrolled as a student at the University of Greenwich, and have been studying in Dartford for just over a month now. My aim is to post a blog at least once a month whilst at University, and October’s post will be my second visit to see “The Perfect Murder.” I’ve been doing a lot of creative writing recently for various assignments and I have thought about posting them on here but a) they’re not theatre related and b) they’re not very good! If you’d like to read some of my original writing please let me know but I will try and stick to theatre posts for the time being.
I want to thank everyone who has continued to support my blog while I’ve been too busy to do so myself, and I will try my absolute best to continue posting as often as possible.
*warning – this post contains spoilers, fake blood and public urination*
I’m still not entirely sure what the hell I watched at the Apollo Theatre, but I know that it was sheer genius. I’ve been aware of the director Jamie Lloyd for a while – he is renowned for creating dark, sinister and sometimes gruesome pieces – but I’d never actually seen one of his productions. I missed Urinetown when it was at the St James Theatre in March and, having heard nothing but praise for this bizarrely named musical, I was very excited to hear that it would be transferring to the West End.
The cast remained almost the same as at the St James, although sadly Richard Fleeshman would not be reprising his role as the hero Bobby Strong. There was one addition to the cast who I was fairly excited to see: Nathan Amzi would be taking over the role of Officer Barrel from Adam Pearce. Fairly excited? Try running around the house screaming and immediately booking two opening night tickets excited.
I had absolutely no idea what to expect from this show, all I knew was that it was based in the future, where water has become scarce and all toilets are owned by a mega-corporation “Urine Good Company” (isn’t that great?!) who charge you extortionate fees to pee. I met several people outside the theatre who I knew either from sight or from Twitter, and swore them to secrecy. I didn’t want any spoilers; I didn’t want to know anything! Believe me, that would come back to bite me on the arse later.
I didn’t realise how close my seat was to the stage – I was dead in the middle of the second row. The stage was quite high and the set was split into two levels, and was very dark and grungy which made the whole theatre seem quite sinister. The musical didn’t start with a big fanfare or even the rising of a curtain, just with Officer Lockstock (Jonathan Slinger) and Little Sally (Karis Jack) wandering onto the stage and going about their business.
Jonathan Slinger is probably one of the most talented actors I have ever had the privilege to witness on stage. Right from the get-go he established Officer Lockstock as a sleazy, creepy, slightly demented police officer who gave you chills. I squirmed in my seat as he leered at the audience from the stage and began to tell the story of Urinetown.
Soon we are introduced to Penelope Pennywise played by Jenna Russell. Miss Pennywise runs Public Amenity #9, assisted by Bobby Strong (Matthew Seadon-Young). The ensemble come together to perform “Too Much Exposition” and it is rare to find such a strong cast as this. Jeff Nicholson and Katie Bernstein particularly stood out, giving outrageously hysterical performances as oppressed members of the public.
Bobby’s father Old Man Strong (Cory English) cannot pay the admission fee and decides to pee in the street, which leads to the arrival of Officers Lockstock and Barrel (again, how brilliant is that?!) I’m a bit shady on the details from this point because I was too distracted by the fact that Nathan was on the stage in front of me for the first time in over four months. I picked up the story again as the two policemen took Old Man Strong down to “Urinetown” which is basically a euphemism for “we’re going to beat the crap out of you now.” It was so well done – the policemen were nowhere near the prisoners they had captured but as they swung their truncheons the prisoners fell, blood spewing from their mouths and flying all over the stage. This musical is definitely not for the faint hearted but I thought it was bloody fantastic. No pun intended.
If there’s one thing that lets this musical down it’s the love story between Bobby Strong and the heiress of Urine Good Company, Hope Cladwell (Rosanna Hyland). To me it felt like their union was shoehorned in, because all good musicals have a love story, and it was a bit clunky at times. Rosanna Hyland was fantastic, although a little inconsistent. I loved Hope’s trilling, high-pitched voice but unfortunately Rosanna didn’t maintain this all the way through. I do think, however, that she would make a cracking Glinda in Wicked in a few years time.
I wasn’t overly impressed with Matthew Seadon-Young as Bobby either. He did have his moments – a particularly impressive riff in the second act comes to mind – but his voice was a little weak, especially against the flawless ensemble. I felt at times he needed to command the stage a bit more to prevent himself getting lost in the busy background action.
There was one moment in the musical that I did not like one little bit (this is the part that contains spoilers). Officer Lockstock and Officer Barrel are patrolling the sewers when Officer Barrel declares his love to Officer Lockstock (sound familiar? At one point I thought they were going to whip out the Fogmaster 5000 and sing an 80’s love song.) I thought this was a really sweet moment and was quite happily watching Officer Barrel declare “that went well” when someone snuck up behind him, slit his throat and sprayed his blood all over the stage. I screamed. Did they just kill Nathan?! I told you that “no spoilers” bullshit would come back to bite me. I would like to point something out at this point – telling me that somebody kills Nathan is not a spoiler, it’s a health warning. I honestly believe my heart stopped when it happened, and I was sat incredulously staring at the stage in utter shock and disbelief for the remainder of the show.
That little hiccup (total mental breakdown) aside, I absolutely adored the show. It was incredibly surreal and messy and weird, but it was also hysterically funny and so ridiculously tongue in cheek you couldn’t help but love it. (Towards the end Officer Lockstock claims he knew he’d survive because he’s the narrator).
The absolutely sensational cast received a well-deserved standing ovation at the end and again I have to mention Jonathan Slinger because I can’t get over how bloody brilliant he was. Creepy as hell, but brilliant.
I didn’t really have time to visit the stage door before my train home, but I had to check that Nathan was in fact still alive. When he came out looking fresh as a daisy I told him that I’d actually screamed when it happened, and he said “I know, I heard you.” That’s mildly embarrassing. After lots of big squishy hugs (I missed those!) and a quick photo I really did have to run. For the entire train journey home I was trying to figure out what the hell I’d just watched, but then I decided to stop analysing it and just accept that it was weird, it was sinister, it was vulgar, but my God it was good.
I really don’t know where to start. First of all, I booked this show to see Bill Nighy. I didn’t know anything about the play or the playwright; I just knew that if Bill Nighy was going to be on a West End stage then that’s where I needed to be. The tickets weren’t cheap and I’d love to say it was worth it but it really wasn’t.
I’d spent most of the day in various states of panic – everyone who had been to see the play had said the same thing: Bill Nighy is an absolute gent at the stage door. He was generous with his time and posed for photographs for up to an hour each night. Now I just had to comprehend the fact that I would be meeting the man whose films I had adored for almost eight years. Ha!
The play itself was… awful. There’s no other way to describe it. It has been suggested that maybe I didn’t understand the play and that’s why I didn’t enjoy it, and I find that extremely offensive. I understood it perfectly, I just didn’t like it. I didn’t connect with it on any level and the only thing holding it together was Bill Nighy’s exceptional talent.
The plot was that a young woman, Kyra, (Carey Mulligan) had had a six year affair with an older, married man named Tom (Bill Nighy) whilst living in his family home with his wife and son. When Tom’s wife found out, Kyra disappeared. Shortly after, Tom’s wife died of cancer and a year later he tracks Kyra down. Not exactly earth-shattering but enough to keep the audience engaged, if it were not for the fact that Bill Nighy and Carey Mulligan had absolutely zero chemistry. It wasn’t even believable that they’d met before let alone been madly in love for six years. The only thing holding the play together was Bill Nighy – with his charm and grace it was easy to believe that a younger woman could have fallen for him (I certainly did!)
Carey Mulligan, on the other hand, was absolutely dire. She was so preoccupied with ensuring her diction was perfect and her voice carried that she forgot to inject any kind of personality into her character, and created a role so instantly dislikeable that the entire plot was ridiculed. Even her character’s appearance was infuriating – an incredibly baggy jumper she didn’t stop messing with for the entire play and a chin-length hair cut that she was constantly pushing behind her ears, only to have it fall directly back into her face. It was so frustrating!
Despite my grievances I sat quietly in my seat and basically watched Bill Nighy for two hours, wishing he was onstage when he wasn’t because that was the only time the play had any kind of life. He generated laughs from a fairly mundane script and even from a single look at times – he is a very talented actor and it was a privilege to watch him in action.
After the play had dragged to a close I clapped politely and then headed to the stage door. I was so intent on getting there that I didn’t utter two words to my Mum, but when we arrived we took one look at eachother and burst out laughing. What the hell had we just put ourselves through?! At least I was safe in the knowledge that it was over, and now I’d get to meet Bill Nighy as so many others had done before me. Ten minutes passed. Twenty. Thirty. By fifty minutes the crowd were starting to get a bit edgy, but I wasn’t worried. He always came out, everybody said so. I’d seen the pictures myself! Then a lovely man named Stephen from the Wyndham’s Theatre came out of the stage door. “Unfortunately Mr. Nighy and Ms. Mulligan have exited the theatre via the front door and will not be coming to the stage door tonight.”
I’m not going to lie, I felt like somebody had slapped me. To my acute embarrassment I felt my bottom lip begin to quiver and, without a word to anyone, I ran away from the crowd as quickly as possible before bursting into tears just around the corner from the theatre. I know I shouldn’t have got my hopes up and he’s only human and needed to rest etc etc, but what am I, a duck? I had to be in work for 6am the next day, I’d paid well over £100 to attend a show I didn’t even like and at the end of it? Nothing. Oh, and my make-up was ruined. All in all, a bitterly disappointing night.
Oh, and if you’ve seen Skylight and loved it and got to meet Bill Nighy and everything was wonderful – I don’t need to know. That’s like saying to someone “aww, your kitten died? I love playing with mine we have so much fun!”
Sixteen years ago, on my very first trip to the cinema at the tender age of three years old, I came across a man named Robin Williams. He played an eccentric professor with a strange green substance called “Flubber” and I was hooked. Throughout my life this wonderful man was a constant, whether it was as a housekeeper or a robot, a doctor or a genie. He brought laughter to my life at times when there was none. I can’t count the times I’ve played “Friend like Me” at full blast or watched Mrs Doubtfire to cheer myself up, and it worked every time.
It was a little after 1am when I discovered that this brilliant, shining star had taken his own life. I cried and cried for this poor man who, despite bringing joy to millions of people, in that moment at least, could find none within himself. I cried with grief and sorrow, but most of all, I cried with fear. I don’t pretend to know what personal struggles Robin was going through or what finally tipped him over the edge, but I know the feeling of utter hopelessness all too well.
I was diagnosed with severe depression and anxiety at the age of sixteen, mere months after my Grandad died. It was my first experience of death and I went to pieces. I lost a part of myself the day he died and sometimes I fear that it will never come back. Depression is just a word that people throw around so carelessly, but it should be treated with great respect, because it can kill. If someone is diagnosed with cancer there are treatments available, set plans and schedules to follow, and the outcome can be predicted with reasonable accuracy. But what if someone is diagnosed with depression? They’re told to “think positive” or “be happy.” That’s like telling a cancer patient to “think healthy.” It’s just not going to work, it’s insulting and it can often make the situation worse.
Depression should not be kept in the shadows. It needs to be treated like any other illness – raise awareness, talk about it, teach people to recognise the signs. For months I felt like I was in a pit so cavernous I could never claw myself out, and the more I tried the deeper I buried myself. I didn’t know I was suffering from depression, I didn’t even know what depression was! I am so lucky that my Mum recognised the signs and convinced me to get the help I needed.
Robin Williams had family, fame and fortune, but he also had demons just like so many others. His battle with depression was devoured by the media but never understood. While there are still people thinking “what has he got to be depressed about?” there is work to be done. I am not ashamed of my depression and neither should anyone else be.
The world is so lucky to have had someone like Robin Williams, who brought laughter to so many even when he couldn’t laugh himself. I will remember him for his spirit, his talent and his selfless nature. He may not have been able to save himself but he saved many, including me. I’m not sure I believe in heaven and hell but I hope that Robin is in a place where he can finally be at peace with himself.
Genie, you’re free.
*contains mild spoilers*
After about three false starts trying to write this blog, I’m not sure I’m ever going to be able to do this show justice. I’d never heard of “Dessa Rose” before – I didn’t even know where the venue it was being held at was – but I did know the name Cynthia Erivo and that was enough for me. I’d had the pleasure of seeing Cynthia live at one of Scott Alan’s concerts back in May and she truly is an extraordinary talent.
As it turned out, I’d walked past Trafalgar Studios hundreds of times before on my adventures around London. It’s not one venue but three, each studio putting on a show simultaneously. “Dessa Rose” was being held in Studio Two, a room with just three rows of seating on three walls, with the front wall serving as a backdrop for the show. The musicians were dotted around the room and it reminded me immediately of the Southwark Playhouse, although much more intimate.
“This powerful and moving story, set in 1846 in the ante-bellum South, follows two young women on their journey to acceptance. Passionate and innocent Dessa Rose is a young slave faced with a barrage of hardships because of the colour of her skin while Ruth, a young white mother, faces difficulties because of her gender. Through this extraordinary tale, Ruth and Dessa discover the value of unconditional friendship and establish a deep and lasting bond.” That synopsis was all I had to go on, so when the show started I had no idea what to expect.
One of the first things that struck me was Cassidy Janson. She played Ruth alongside Cynthia Erivo’s Dessa Rose and she was a fascinating actress to watch. Ruth’s mother had always told her to act as a lady – straight back, proper dress, polite demeanour. Throughout the show I noticed little things about Cassidy’s performance – she would sit down and slouch slightly, and then draw herself back up, her back poker-straight, as if she was remembering the lessons her Mother had taught her. Such a simple touch that could easily be missed, but her commitment to the role and her understanding and portrayal of Ruth was something very special to watch.
From the outset there were some shocking moments that had me crying out and reaching towards the stage as if to try and stop the horror unfolding. The choreography of these moments was so precise that it really did seem violent and spontaneous – there was no time for the actors to think, they just reacted and it made the show so raw that it was almost uncomfortable to watch. I had to remind myself several times that, while this story may not be true, thousands of others did suffer like this. It wasn’t just the product of some warped mind, deliberately setting out to shock and stun. It was real.
Jon Robyns played Adam Nehemiah, a man who had come to see Dessa, now pregnant and languishing in prison, to document her story. Day after day he listened to Dessa’s plight and, although it was never spoken, it was clear through his actions and things he said to himself, that he was falling in love with Dessa. It seemed that Dessa was intrigued by this man too – until she took advantage of his lapse of concentration by hitting him over the head with a bedpan and making a break for it. I have to admit I didn’t see that coming!
With the help of her friends Harker (Gabriel Mokake) and Nathan (Edward Baruwa) Dessa escapes to Ruth’s farm where she has her baby, who Ruth begins to nurse because Dessa is too frail and emaciated to produce any milk. Dessa sees this as Ruth taking ownership of her child and, despite Ruth’s insistence, refuses to name her child until she is free.
I have to mention Edward Baruwa who plays Nathan. I fell head over heels for the energy and mischief surrounding his character and, through the whole of the second act, was sat on the very edge of my seat praying that nothing bad would happen to him. In another show his forbidden romance with Ruth would have been cliché and maybe even a bit boring, but the way Cassidy Janson and he played it, you longed for them to be together and cursed the fact that they could never be. Their love scene was delicate and hesitant and beautiful and I found myself holding my breath, not wanting to intrude on their very private moment.
I won’t tell too much about the ending, only that it was an unexpectedly happy, albeit bittersweet one. Cynthia Erivo is a truly sensational talent, playing Dessa Rose perfectly, not once breaking character despite a few scenes which must have been tough to perform. She was in love, heartbroken, bitter, hardened, happy, desolate, broken, scared and oh so beautiful and you couldn’t help but care for and even cry for this poor young girl.
The entire cast was flawless, especially performing in such an intimate space where it must have been so hard to concentrate and stay in character with the audience in such close proximity. I made a point of tweeting the director Andrew Keates to tell him what an absolute gem of a show he has created, and he and the cast and crew fully deserve all of the praise being heaped on them. “Dessa Rose” is a hard-hitting yet beautiful show with a solid cast and a storyline that makes you weep with sadness and joy and I cannot recommend it enough.
I first got tickets to see Kristin Chenoweth in April 2013, but unfortunately she cancelled the night before due to a problem with her work permit (she didn’t have one). When she announced her concert at the Royal Albert Hall I was in the process of moving from Manchester to Kent, and so money was tight and I knew I’d miss her again. Then, What’s On Stage started a competition on twitter – share the link they posted and you’d be entered into a draw to win a pair of tickets to see Kristin Chenoweth. I shared the link and didn’t think about it again – until they messaged me saying I’d won! After lots of jumping around and screaming I rang my Mum and told her that I wouldn’t be coming home to visit that weekend because I’d won two tickets to see Kristin Chenoweth – I’ve got my priorities in order!
I decided to take my lovely friend Becky who I met on Twitter and who is also a massive Kristin fan. Neither of us had been to the Royal Albert Hall before – that was an experience in itself! Probably the most beautiful venue I’ve ever been to although I felt very out of place in the posh borough of Kensington! What’s On Stage didn’t tell me where I would be sitting so we were both nervous and excited as we queued up to collect the tickets, which turned out to be for two seats in row 14 of the stalls. Not too shabby!
As the lights went down the band played an instrumental medley of a selection of songs from various musicals that Kristin had appeared in, and that’s a fair few! This went on for a while and the tension kept building until all of a sudden Kristin appeared on the stage. I couldn’t believe she was actually here! She is so petite it’s hard to believe that she can belt out those big notes but she did it with ease. She performed “Maybe This Time” which is a personal favourite of mine, and it was such a treat to see her perform it live. A few songs in she introduced her first guest (I didn’t even know there would be guests) and it was Peter Lockyer, the West End’s current Jean Valjean! Becky and I looked at eachother, both absolutely stunned. It really was our lucky night!
The thing that I love about Kristin is that she is so versatile – she can really let loose with those high notes but she can hold back too; she can sing anything from Country to Disco to Classical and each song sounds entirely unique to Kristin. There were so many moments that made my jaw drop throughout the night, but a personal highlight was when Kristin sang a version of “Bring Him Home” from Les Miserables. When she announced she was going to sing a Les Mis song I presumed it would be “On My Own” or “I Dreamed a Dream” so when I heard the opening notes of “Bring Him Home” I went into shock! I have heard that song performed by some truly exceptional male vocalists, but Kristin’s version was so stripped back and so pure that she made the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end. By the time she’d finished I was covered in goosebumps and had tears streaming down my face – as did every other person in the audience!
Kristin also performed a self-penned song named “WWDD?” or “What Would Dolly Do?” inspired by her idol, Dolly Parton. Halfway through the song Kristin stopped singing and said “you know what, what WOULD Dolly do?” then pulled out her phone as if to make a call, and a video of Dolly Parton answering appeared on the big screen! It was so well done and so simple yet really effective and more than a little bit impressive!
Kristin’s next guest was none other than the fabulous Kerry Ellis who was the UK’s first Elphaba almost 10 years ago. The duo then went on to perform “For Good” from Wicked which is a big, emotional song. I was in absolute awe of Kerry and so was Kristin, who was so mesmerised that she almost missed her cue! I’ve listened to the Wicked soundtrack hundreds, maybe even thousands of times but to see Kristin perform this song live was truly special, especially with such a talented singing partner. She also sang “Popular” from Wicked after talking about all of the different Glindas around the world, and sang different parts of the song in different languages, complete with her own little Glinda traits. That must have taken so much time and concentration to learn but she made it look effortless!
Kristin’s final guest was the incredible Alison Jiear and I’m fairly sure that the Royal Albert Hall roof is still in orbit somewhere after they blew it off with their insanely powerful duet of “No More Tears (Enough is Enough).” It was quite a bizarre sight – Kristin is so teeny tiny and Alison is big and beautiful but they matched eachother note for note with neither of them holding back.
The most moving moment of the night was when Kristin performed Lady Antebellum’s “I Was Here.” The lyrics touched my heart and Kristin performed the song with such passion and raw emotion that I was holding back the tears. She told the audience to always follow your heart and work hard towards what you want to do and never ever give up. It was such a magical moment – I felt like she was talking directly to me. I’ve been having a very hard time lately trying to find my path in life, but Kristin’s words touched me and renewed my determination to succeed, doubters be damned. The word “inspiration” is thrown around so often these days that it has lost some of its meaning, but Kristin is definitely an inspiration to me and, in that moment, she saved me.
I want to thank Kristin Chenoweth for such an incredible, powerful, moving, magical concert. It’s not often you leave a concert or a show with a renewed sense of purpose and determination but Kristin spoke to my heart and inspired me to carry on and for that I will be eternally grateful.
*Warning – contains, swearing, spoilers and spooky Mormon hell dreams*
To be honest, I’m still trying to get my head around this show! Thanks to a glitch on the Delfont Mackintosh Theatres website, for a brief period of time a few months ago all £150 premium tickets from July onwards were selling for a mere £15 – that’s a saving of £135 per ticket. Naturally there was a mad scramble to purchase these mythical tickets before the theatre realised their mistake and put the prices back up, and I was one of the lucky few. I was now the proud owner of two, top price stalls tickets for The Book of Mormon, and praying daily that I wouldn’t get an email from the theatre asking for the other £270!
I was originally supposed to attend the show with my Mum but the date crept up on us and by the time we realised, the train fares from Manchester were more than the original ticket price, so I asked my friend Kirstie to come with me instead. Neither of us had seen the show before and had no idea what to expect – we soon discovered that it’s best to watch the show with an open mind!
We were seated slap bang in the middle of row G in the stalls and I could not have asked for a better view. The opening song of the show, “Hello” is absolute genius, so simple in its staging but so effective. We are then introduced to Elder Price played by the ridiculously talented Gavin Creel. You can’t help but fall in love with this camp, egotistical Mormon mincing around the stage and being fawned over by the other Mormons. He goes on at great length about how he can’t wait to start his mission in Orlando, Florida. As the Elders are assigned their mission buddies and locations “Two By Two” Elder Price is paired with Elder Cunningham (Jared Gertner) and sent to Uganda.
I fell head-over-heels in love with Jared Gertner the second I saw him – he is just so cute! Elder Cunningham is a short, goofy man with a hilariously high-pitched voice and no concept of personal space, the exact opposite to tall, slim, perfectly groomed Elder Price. The contrast between them is enough to have the crowd in stitches. At the airport Elder Price sings about how he is going to change the world “You and Me (But Mostly Me)” and Gavin Creel acts this out perfectly.
Upon arrival in Uganda they are greeted in song by the locals, who tell the two Elders that whenever anything goes wrong they simply sing “Hasa Diga Eebowai” (Elder Cunningham: Does it mean no worries for the rest of your days?! One of my favourite lines in the show!) After joining in this catchy song, Elder Price stops one of the locals, Mafala Hatimbi, to ask what this magical song means. “Well, Eebowai means “God” and “Hasa Diga means… fuck you. So I guess it means… fuck you God!” Cue a chorus of “fuck you God (in the eye!)” from the entire ensemble. I did warn you!
Elder Price and Elder Cunningham tell the story of the “All American Prophet” to the village but they are not interested – they are too worried about General Butt-fucking-naked coming to the village to circumcise all of their women. Yep. Nabulungi, (Alexia Khadime) who is Mafala’s daughter, is very taken with the idea of going to paradise and sings about “Sal Tlay Ka Siti” (Salt Lake City). Alexia has a stunning voice and, even though she is in her thirties, is very believable as a naive young girl, unlike Gavin Creel who is 38 claiming to be 19. Somehow he makes it work!
The absolute highlight of the show for me was Jared Gernter’s solo “Man Up” right before the end of Act One. After an argument with Elder Price in which Elder Price decides to request a transfer (I actually wanted to jump onto the stage and hug Elder Cunningham at this point – he looked absolutely crushed!) Elder Cunningham decides to stay behind to help the village by himself. Having never actually read the Book of Mormon he decides to improvise slightly with hilarious results.
The second act opens with “Making Things Up Again” which includes cameos from Yoda and Darth Vader – no, really! While Elder Cunningham continues to spin wild tales, Elder Price suffers the “Spooky Mormon Hell Dream” which is by far the more bizarre thing I have ever seen on a West End stage. There were sparkly devils dancing around, glazed donuts everywhere and, at one point, Adolf Hitler. When he wakes up Elder Price decides to return to the village but is shocked to find how successful Elder Cunningham is.
Elder Price reaffirms his belief in God and The Book of Mormon (“I Believe”) which was Gavin Creel’s best moment. He was passionate and believable and still with a touch of comedy – a couple of times I was anticipating some big notes and was left a little disappointed but Gavin was note-perfect and mesmerising to watch.
Thanks to Elder Cunningham’s embellished version of the Book of Mormon the whole village now wants to be baptized – cue an absolutely brilliant duet, “Baptize Me” between Nabulungi and Elder Cunningham. It was stuffed full of innuendos and hilarious lyrics and was the perfect tonic to the usual soppy love songs that are all too prevalent in some musicals. The missionaries are so impressed by the Elders in Uganda that they decide to visit them personally and the villagers all want to put on a show about their new-found beliefs – tears were actually rolling down my face I was laughing so hard! As it became obvious what Elder Cunningham had done the looks of horror from the other Mormons and shock and a touch of smugness from Elder Price were absolutely hilarious.
I won’t reveal too much about the ending of the show, only that it received a well-deserved standing ovation. The entire cast is so strong it’s impossible to fault anyone and special mentions have to go to Kevin Harvey and Chris Jarman who have created two absolutely perfect characters. I know I’m gushing but I love love love Gavin Creel and Jared Gertner and the sweet friendship between their characters. This show is surreal and offensive and downright weird in places but I came away from it with a smile on my face and I will definitely be seeing it again soon.
I have been a huge fan of John Owen Jones ever since I saw him as Jean Valjean in a touring production of Les Miserables in Manchester four years ago. I’ve seen the show a few times since then but he has remained my firm favourite. My already huge respect for him doubled in May when he stepped in at a Scott Alan gig and sang an extra song with no rehearsal whatsoever because another guest hadn’t turned up. So, when I saw that he’d be performing an intimate gig at the Hippodrome Casino, I knew I had to go.
I booked two seats in a “Beautiful Booth,” one each for me and my Mum, and I didn’t know at the time that these tickets also included a meet and greet session after the show, so not only would I be seeing him perform live, I’d also be meeting him afterwards. It’s safe to say that I was very excited and also a tad nervous!
Not only is John Owen Jones a ridiculously talented singer, he’s also very quick-witted and definitely more than a little bit mischievous. During one song there was a bit dramatic pause before the crescendo, and John used this time to take a huge, exaggerated drink from his water bottle, much to the bemusement of his band.
I was frequently left in awe by not only the sheer power of his voice but also the control he has over it, performing Andrew Lloyd Webber’s trickiest scores with no trouble whatsoever. The highlight of the show for me was, of course, Bring Him Home. I was instantly taken back to the Palace Theatre, Manchester, watching this amazing show for the first time. By the end of the song tears were rolling down my face and I definitely wasn’t the only one.
The interval was a tad surreal – I used some of the time to get to know Kirstie, the lovely lady who I knew from twitter but not personally. I had persuaded her (oops) to upgrade to a booth so she could sit with me and my Mum for the show and it was great to finally meet her in person (earlier that day I’d had a bit of a fright meeting someone from Twitter who was nothing at all like I’d imagined). I also went to the loo and, on the way back to my seat, realised that Elaine Paige was sat in the booth next to me. I used to spend every Sunday with my Grandparents and my Grandma would listen to Elaine Paige religiously – a trait she passed on to me. I nervously approached Elaine to ask for a picture and she pulled me into the seat next to her and gave me a huge hug – I nearly cried! Partly because I was so overwhelmed to be sat next to Elaine Paige and partly because the first thing I wanted to do was ring my Grandma and make her insanely jealous.
The second act passed by far too quickly and was followed by THREE encores including “Delilah” (John is Welsh after all) and a tricky little song called Minute Minuet that his pianist had bet him £10 he couldn’t sing live. John won.
After the show everyone in the booths was ushered over to a roped-off area at the other side of the casino bar. Everybody was looking around nervously and then all of a sudden John appeared – he’s very tall! Nobody wanted to be the first to approach him (I for one was glued to my seat with nerves) but my Mum decided it was my turn and, for the second time that day, I was dragged over to meet one of my heroes. I don’t know what I expected when I finally met John Owen Jones after four years, but I didn’t expect to talk about tattoos, Rock of Ages and Steel Panther! John is definitely one of the coolest people I have ever met and he was such a sweetheart, doing everything he could to make me feel at ease. As I tried to take a selfie and realised he was far too tall, he took my phone from me, rotated on the spot to find the best light and took a few pictures of us both. I was overwhelmed – I know they say never meet your heroes but I am so glad I finally had the chance to meet John and I am proud to call myself a fan of his.