Monday, 31 August 2009

Back To Billy (Part 3)

Its always sad when a cast member leaves a show. I am not sure why i feel a connection to that person, but some how I get entangled in the emotion of it all. Prior to the show starting Stephen Daldry took to the stage to make a special speech for the parting cast member. So quite who is Stephen Daldry? I hear you ask, well he is the director of both the film and musical adaptation of Billy Elliot. Without Stephen none of this would exist. I think that really puts his importance into proportion. To Billy Elliot fans or at least the ones with no religious beliefs... he is god!

So this speech was rather nice and included a message from Lee Hall who is responsible for the lyrics to the musical. It made me realise the huge role that Trevor Fox played in Billy Elliot. Not only had he played George (the boxing coach) on two occasions, he was also involved with the film in some way or another. This means that he had been with Billy Elliot for over ten years. That is quite a commitment. I think that in its own right is a testament to Trevor. Though I have to be honest, he is like a shadow in the night. He never partook in the curtain call, and wasn't one for fan contact. But when he took to the stage he was fantastic, and hes left a huge hole that will be almost impossible to fill. I will tell you about his replacement in due course, but thats for another day.

I am forever doling out the praise in my write ups. I assure you this isn't just because I am a nice person. In fact ask any person who knows me to describe my personality, I don't think nice would be a word that would crop up too readily. If i were to write down what a lot of people would say, this article would become x-rated, so I will leave you to use your imagination on this one. I see myself as honest and somewhat opinionated, or at least I try to be. Maybe they are not the best qualities in all circumstances but on the plus side it means all the glowing reviews so far of people such as Tom, Jonathan and Eliot very accurate. However on the down side it means that I now have to go against the grain and cite an opinion on an actor I am not too keen on.

Remember "Britain's Got Talent"? You know that show which that George Sampson won for dancing almost as well as Tom Holland?... Oh come on, lets be honest, Tom is much better than George Sampson, whilst George's routine was full of energy, and yes I admit I voted for him, put him against Tom, and I guarantee you he would wipe the floor with George. I've gone off at a tangent again haven't I? Well you may remember a young lad by the name of Jake Pratt who was on the very same show. He is now a Michael in Billy Elliot The Musical and has been getting some great reviews.

Unfortunately I still cannot give him one. He is a natural entertainer and yes he certainly can act and brings some unique touches to the role that is Michael. However, the overall package for me is somewhat weaker than the other two boys casted for the same part. Jake in my opinion lacks a singing voice and his tap routine still needs work. Though over and above this, for me he just lacks the likable factor which George and Connor both have. This would have been the second time of seeing him, and whilst I would say he has made a huge improvement from the first show which I saw him at, it will be quite some time before his characterisation of the role grows on me. But hey, I'm an open minded guy, maybe next time he will win me over... lets hope so.

As for Billy, today I had the pleasure of seeing Tanner Pflueger for only the second time. And yes it is a pleasure to see him, he has a certain elegance that other Billy's lack. As you may have remembered from the last Billy series, I described his ballet as beautiful, and it is just that. His posture and movements are that of a true professional. Though in paying so much attention to his ballet, I didn't notice how good his angry dance routine was until this show. Tanner reaches deep to bring out the emotion, and with precision movements and the finest tap steps he completely nails it, bringing the first act to such an epic ending.

I honestly feel that Tanner's skills are under appreciated. A lot of younger people prefer the street dance routines, I guess because they seem a lot more spectacular. Though if I am honest it probably takes a lot more practice and commitment to master ballet in the way which Tanner has. Whats more if you open your heart and mind to a ballet routine like this, you soon realise that it is just as spectacular as the acrobatics in street dance, just in a slightly different way. I hold Tanner in such high esteem, and I am absolutely gutted to hear the rumours that he may soon be leaving the show. I just hope in that time I get the opportunity and gain the courage to tell him just how much of an honour and indeed a privilege it has been to see him perform. A truly amazing guy.

Just for the pure fact it was Tanner performing made this show well worth being at. Getting to see Jo Ridding, the new Mrs Wilkinson was all rather nice also. Fleur who plays the role of Debbie was fantastic as ever as indeed was Jonathan Danciger. I felt Logan who played the role of small boy at the evening's performance is certainly living in the shadows of Connor and Eliot who perform the role so well, but give him his dues he is only six or seven so has a long time to work on his performing skills.

So it's goodbye Trevor Fox, as another chapter closes on Billy Elliot The Musical. Talking of closing, I think its a good time for me to draw this blog to a close also.

Goodnight and happy reading!

G xxx

Saturday, 29 August 2009

Back To Billy (Part 2)

So its Saturday morning and I have to get myself up for 6am... god thats early. I really am not a pleasant sight in the morning. Come to think of it, I'm not a pleasant sight at any point during the day... even with my new hair cut! So whats the cause? A trek into London to get day tickets for Billy Elliot. I was going to meet my friend Charlotte for the evening show and was in two minds as to whether or not I should go to the matinee performance. Part of me wanted to go see something different, but there was also something telling me that if i didn't do the Billy matinee I would be missing out... I trusted my instincts, and went with Billy. Its always a huge risk trusting my instincts, last time I did this I ended up in an ornamental pond... bad times. Anyway, on with the blog...

In part 1 of this latest series of Billy Elliot blogs I talked about roles that maybe don't get as much recognition as they deserve. I drew particular attention to the role of small boy, and in particular Eliot Carrington who has set himself out as being the strongest of the boys casted in that role. I had the pleasure of seeing him again at today's matinee, and as expected he was in supreme form. Theres so much passion packed inside this seven year old's heart and sole, you just know he is destined to go so much further in life, and who knows maybe go full circle and end up back in the show as either Billy or Michael.

I also made a very brief mention of tall boy, a role casted for a boy of a similar age to Billy and Michael. Like all the child roles there are multiple actors casted for the part, and just as Eliot stands out among the small boy's, there is a fantastic young actor by the name of Jonathan Danciger who is by far is the best tall boy the show has seen. This kid is leagues above the other boys I have seen in the role! Jonathan has an ability to express deep feelings or emotions without having to say a word. The fear he installs in the character of "the scab's" son when he is hauled from the miners social club is a picture. The use of facial expressions and appropriate body language, paints the clearest possible image of whats going through his characters mind, just as it does when he plays an upper class boy in the royal ballet scene. Again without having to say a word, his body language and movement characterises the part down to a tee.

Though the moment Jonathan really shines is where he tries to console Billy after a poor audition. Not afraid to really get into the role Jonathan takes a hands on approach, ruffling Billy's hair and putting his arm around Billy's shoulder. This all sounds really simple, but other boys in the role seem to be a bit hesitant to do this,or at least do it believably. Billy's reaction is to slam him into the safety curtain in anger. Jonathan isn't afraid to go in hard, it actually scares me a bit when he does this. It is so convincing that you almost wonder whether the move has gone wrong and he has been injured. My heart skips a beat as I wait for him to get up and run to his dad.

When i was doing some drama things in school my teacher gave the class a valuable piece of advice, which to the day I remember word for word. "It doesn't matter how big or small your part in a show is, if you give it your all people will take notice" were those exact words, and this is what Jonathan does. he may not have as much stage time as Billy or Michael, but when he is on stage he puts such an immense passion and energy into the part. He really does stand out as a star in the making. Sure his part may not be very big, but when he is on stage he makes every second count... so maybe my drama teacher was right. I really hope Jonathan decides to pursue acting after his time in this show, he is born to be on stage.

Anyway before I go on. If anyone reading this is a theatre goer, please take the time to watch some of the smaller parts on stage. Its too easy to pay little attention to the supporting roles. But if you take the time to absorb their input, i think you will be pleasantly surprised. With every blog I write I will talk about some of the smaller roles at any given show. Sometimes it will be for better and sometimes for worse. However without these smaller parts the show wouldn't exist.

It wouldn't be a Billy Blog if i didn't talk about the lead role! But you know what? This bit gets harder every time. I try to make each blog different to the last, however when there are so many about Billy Elliot it does make it a tad hard to find new things to say in order to keep the blogs interesting to read. Especially when you take into account I am not a writer, I have never studied journalism, so I honestly cannot use the same tricks they have up their sleeve to sustain readership. But sustaining readership is a bit like maintaining your viewing base on prime time television. Lets face it that can't be too difficult... after all its taken Channel 4 this long to realise that Big Brother is in fact completely rubbish! Anyway back to Billy...

Tom Holland had the job of filling Billy's shoes at the matinee performance today. Every time I see him my respect for him as an actor increases. He pulls out all the stops to ensure each audience member feels connected to Billy's story. Of the current cast, Tom is by far the best actor within the role, i think its something that comes so naturally to him. Regardless to whether he plays Billy or Michael he always delivers the goods. Ok, I admit it... I don't have as bigger soft spot for him as I do Fox, but Tom is an immensely talented kid, and I love seeing him perform. When someone gives 110% every night, you can't not be taken in by it.

Talking of soft spots, I have just one other... Connor Doyle. I absolutely adore Connor, when I see him perform he just lights up the stage. Everyone says how wonderful Jake Pratt is in the role, but honestly I don't rate him all that much. But I will talk about Jake in part 3. Connor has so much more flare, committing himself fully to the role he has been given. He can sing well and has natural rhythm when it comes to his tap dancing. But over and above all of this he has that charm which a Michael needs. Michael is a very complex boy, with even more complicated feelings, and you need an actor who can open up and show these. That is just what Connor does at every single performance without fault. It feels like an eternity since I saw him last, in reality its probably only about a month, but thats a long time by my standards! It was great to see him again today. Along with Francesca as Debbie, it completed a fantastic child cast line up.

All that was missing from today's show was Kate Graham. I already miss her. There will be a special blog hitting your screens in the later half of this coming week which will compare and contrast the three Mrs Wilkinson's I have seen over the last few days.

You know what? Theres so much more I could tell you about this show, but I want to leave this blog soley dedicated to the child actors who make this show so wonderful to watch and be a part of. In the words of the song Shine... "it doesn't matter if you're large or small", because at the end of the day it boils down to passion, and when you have passion, you can be 4 foot 6 and still feel like a giant among men. Today was more than enjoyable, and the rumour was Tanner Pflueger would be performing the evening show... how could the day get any better than this?

Happy reading

G xxx

Thursday, 27 August 2009

Back To Billy (Part 1)

As you would have gathered by now the show Billy Elliot is rather special to me. Having just completed an intensive musical theatre course in which I had to dance myself, and in a sense find the Billy within me, I needed a fix of my favorite show in London. I was feeling spontaneous this morning and just decided to go. I landed a surprisingly good seat seeing how last minute I booked. Maybe it was an omen, a sign of good times to come as I can honestly say that tonight was probably my favorite show out of the fourteen times I have been. There were a lot of understudies on tonight, but in a sense that is what makes the show nice to watch, as their interpretation of a character will differ from the casted actor, thus giving the storyline a new dimension. Whats more It may give me more to write about.

So just to warn you its gone 3am, by the time I have finished writing this it will probably be almost 4, so quite how good this blog will be I don't know. But gone 3 in the morning, and i'm writing for you... thats commitment if I ever saw it! Well maybe not. My train home was delayed by almost an hour after somebody fell ill and an ambulance had to be called. I feel this was somewhat inconsiderate of this person. I hope as they lay on their hospital bed they are feeling deeply guilty for delaying me and making me stay up this late! My god, I really am heartless, aint I? Oh well... on with the blog...

Playing the role of Billy tonight was Ollie Gardner. Well what can I say? Ollie just gets better every time I see him. You can see he is more comfortable in the role as Billy these days which has allowed him to dig deeper into the emotional side of the character. When watching Ollie, he portrays Billy in such a genuine light. He adds an edginess, and an air of insecurity to the role which I really like. I think of all the actors, Ollie's perception of Billy is most real. Exploring the characters depths of emotion, tied in with his ability to express them, Ollie is capable of reaching out to every last audience members heart and mind. Thats quite a talent, and with Ollie building upon his already fine tuned act with every show he performs, I can't help but think this is the beginning of a huge career in acting for him.

Now for a surprise, Tom Holland who usually plays the role of Billy was casted as Michael this evening. I love Tom in this role, he is so different to all the other Michael's. He is a natural born performer, and seeing him in this role demonstrates his versatility. What I enjoyed most tonight was his on stage rapport with Ollie in the role of Billy, beyond the characters you could see that the pair had developed a strong friendship off stage, and this carries through in the energy the pair gave throughout. Digging deeper than usual to score extra laughs and extra tears the "Expressing Yourself" routine tonight was by far the best I have ever seen it performed. Tom's ability to show emotion is fantastic, he definetly delivers a softer Michael, and its when he breaks down into tears in the final scene we see this demonstrated best. This is truly touching, and i think really adds something to what already is one of the most powerful endings in a West End show.

It was a special evening too for Kate Graham, it would be her last official show as Mrs Wilkinson. She will return to the ensemble now, as Jo Ridding is bought in to replace her. I am quite reluctant to accept Jo, I know this is stubborn but I completely adore Kate, she is a fantastic actress who always gives 100%. I guess I am just opposed to change. Still I guess we should always look for positives, so will get to see another side of Kate when she returns to the show mid-September. I guess in due course i will report back on this for anyone who might be interested.

Now there are a lot of other roles in the show and I want to start talking about some of them. If not to make the blogs more diverse, It will at least give me something different to write about. Tall Boy and Small Boy are two roles I haven't really talked about before. They are so crucial to the storyline yet never normally get the mentions they deserve, as they are forever in the shadows of Billy and Michael. So I think this is where I will start... with Small Boy.

Tonight small boy was played by Eliot Carrington. Eliot's big moment in the spotlight is during the boxing scene. Believe it or not this part of the show is very much reliant on the involvement of Small Boy, and the innocence we automatically associate with someone so young. It is just this which adds so much humour to the scene, be it Eliot's cries of "Jeeeeeeeesus" during his press-ups or his innocent if not slightly rude parting comment as he says goodbye to George, its guaranteed to have the audience in stitches of laughter. I don't want to sound like I am knocking the other small Boy's down, but Eliot dies do this better than any of the others, i think its that devilish innocence that he uses to his advantage! Eliot is a natural and a delight to watch, he already has developed some fantastic acting skills and vocally can project himself superbly well. I look forward to seeing his future ventures after his time in the show.

I think that is a nice note to leave this blog on. I got to meet Eliot after the show and he is such a lovely kid, I love meeting new people and this was no exception. I waited around to see Kate and Barnaby also. Its not a show without saying hello to them both! Ollie, Tom and Eliot made this show so worthwhile tonight, so much so I am already looking forward to going again on Saturday! So heres a slightly different ending to a blog a photograph... well it adds a bit of colour to this rather bland page! I'll give you a clue, i'm not the adorable one, that would be Eliot! Isn't he sweet?

Well i said it would be 4 by the time i finished this.... well its 3.58am... not a bad guess eh? Please leave a comment, reading them will keep me occupied tomorrow :)

Saturday, 22 August 2009

Musical Theatre - Day 5

So here it is, the final curtain call, the finale so to speak. After an intense week of training this is what we were working for. The Friday night performance. But before we go there I have just read over my last 4 days worth of blogs, and its interesting to see how much my confidence has built in such a short time. At the beginning of the week I was out of my depth, now I am swimming as beautifully as a swan. Ok maybe not a swan, that may be a bit too majestic.... maybe just a duck or something. But either way I am not drowning like I was on Monday thats for sure.

I was also distinctly worried that I wasn't connecting with the course tutors on the first couple of days, but that really changed as the week went on. Both were very supportive, and I would really relish the chance to work with them again. Becky in particular was fantastic, she spent time with whoever needed it and was always happy to stay behind for a few minutes if you needed to run over some dance moves and Vicky was always there to support us in our solo songs. So what about the group? I had said that it was lacking warmth and didn't gel all that well. Even this changed tonight, there were a couple of exceptions, but we found ourselves working as a group, supporting one another and bonding how a group should. We had become a unit rather than a series of individuals on the same course, and that is something which makes such a difference, especially in a final performance.

So needless to say before the class had even started I was feeling a lot better than I was at the beginning of the week. We were to have one dress rehearsal then it was the performance in front of a small audience. By now everything should be slick and very much ready for the dress rehearsal, well it wasn't.... things were messy, and all of a sudden we had all become very nervous again. In under 30 minutes we would be performing the final show. I used this time to help that guy in front of me i've talked about previously in "One" get his steps right. With a little guidance and one on one he started to pull things together well. I think I was a bit harsh on him in the last two blogs, but thats frustration for you I guess. I was just hoping this would be enough to make a difference.

So its show time, and we start with "All That Jazz". I hate to admit it but whilst at the beginning of the week I described this dance as rather boring, but I love it now, I even like the song. I pulled this off faultlessly, as did the group. It was smooth, it was elegant it was outright sexy, just how its meant to be. We couldn't have asked for a better start. We would now move into our solo pieces, mine (which was in fact a collaboration with two course late starters rather than a solo) was three quarters the way down the bill so it would in fact be after our first group song "Seasons Of Love". This all went rather well too. In the dress rehearsal, we were all out of place and failed to deliver the song in the way we should have. But as a group we heeded Vicky and Becky's advice, and delivered the goods.

So far so good, but then came "No One But You", the song I was singing with two others. I have to be honest in every run through I had been left kicking myself because I wasn't happy. Everyone accuses me of setting the bar too high, but I set it that high because I know its what I am capable of. With this said whilst I knew singing was a weakness, but I still had to set the standard I wanted to achieve over and above what I had so far delivered. Ok, we were by no means the best of the individual performances (that goes to Jess with Good Morning Baltimore), but boy did we do well. We had far exceeded anything we had delivered before, by a long shot. This wasn't our best performance by a margin, it was our best performance to date by a mile... you have no idea how good this felt. Also there was another great feeling I had actually sung solo in front of an audience, something I feared doing. So it shows if nothing else had come of this week at least my confidence had improved. The reality was however this week I had learned more than I had in a long time. The applause at the end felt genuine and I felt good. Surly this was going too well?

So to bring the show to a close we had our last group song "You'll Never Walk Alone", we had pretty much nailed this song from day one so there were no fears here. This just left us with our finale piece "One", you know that one that always ended a mess? It had all gone too well so far, surly this is where it all goes tits up? Surprisingly not, ok there were small errors from people, but nothing overly noticeable. Remember that guy in front of me? I couldn't criticise him one bit, he delivered, as did I, well as did everyone. We truly finished the performance on a high!

What a show... what a week!!! I don't think anyone let the group down, so what better way to finish it off than with a few photo's, and a few drinks. I actually missed my last train home, and instead had to get one to a neighbouring town, from where I would have to walk. I got home at 3.20am, and had to be up little after 6 for work. But that vibe from the show made all these sleepless nights and the 5 mile walk so worthwhile. Had you have asked me on Monday I would have said this course would have been a waste of time and indeed money. Ask me now and I will happily say its been amazing, great course tutors, a great group and an amazing show to top it all off!

So anyway thats another course done and dusted, so I guess I will continue telling you about the last course I was involved with next time I write. Until then keep reading, and leave some comments! You guys have been slacking off!

G xxx

Thursday, 20 August 2009

Musical Theatre - Day 4

Day 4 and everythings starting to click, my fear of singing isn't half as bad as it was earlier this week. Don't get me wrong I am still a pretty poor singer, but theres been some improvement all be it slight. The dancing has come along well on the whole but I made one big mistake which left me so angry, I know i can do the dances, i just need to keep my concentration. I now know why Fox Jackson-Keen was left inconsolable after he missed a flip in a show of Billy Elliot. I think I have taken in a lot so far this week, and from someone whos never danced before, I have really started to show some flair.

We had our first proper run throughs today, on the whole for about 10 hours work its all come on great. I think in honesty I would have preferred to have this course more spread out to allow me to practice a bit more in between classes. Maybe one a week for 6 weeks or something. However the intensity of it is all rather real, as you cant just do one rehearsal a week for a proper show. So there is that aura of reality there which is something I have coped with well.

There has been a lot of pressure and stress, but will it all have been worth it? I guess I will find this out tomorrow. I need to keep focused and get that winning mentality at the forefront of my mind. Or at very least I need to ignore that guy I mentioned yesterday who somehow manages to grind me every time we perform "One", he iss a nice guy don't get me wrong, its just in this dance he manages to get to me, but I'm sure it will all end up alright... well at least I hope so.

Anyhow the last update in this series of blogs tomorrow... will it be heaven or hell? We will just have to wait and see.

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Musical Theatre - Day 3

Right so its the half way mark of this intensive course, and for the first time I am starting to find some degree of comfort. Ok that doesn't mean i'm great at what we are doing, but it means I no longer fear I am the worse there! I in fact got some positive remarks from Becky one of the course leaders today. She has grown on me a lot since yesterday and I am really starting to feel comfortable taking guidance from her. She complimented me on my dance work which has inspired me to give it even more tomorrow evening to raise the bar a little further.

We finished the routine for "All That Jazz" today. Its really come together well. With a few more run through's we will have this mastered. The final part of the song is really easy to do, so as it happens we had already learned the hard bit. As for "One", which is from "A Chorus Line". We have that all finished too but if I am honest it is still looking a little messy. My frustration at this is I am stuck in a line behind someone with a limited sense of co-ordination, timing and movement. In group choreography you become very reliant on the person in front of you, as your moves feed from theirs. So this is making it doubly hard for me to make my moves right. We are going to need to work hard on this for Friday if its to be ready, thats for sure, or at very least I need to learn how to focus on my own moves without letting other peoples poor steps influence mine, but that is soooooooo hard.

The group songs are slowly coming together too. I still can't sing, but my confidence in singing as part of a group is definitely improving. Singing alone though leaves me trembling still, but apparently I am gonna spend some time with Vicky doing this tomorrow.... oh joys! (Note extreme sarcasm) I really am not looking forward to the singing!

Anyway Its been another 20 hour day so I'm off to bed!

G xxx

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Musical Theatre - Day 2

So its day two and I practiced hard on my day off from work today. I know I will never be a great singer, so I didn't put too much emphasis on learning the songs, I figured I would just go with the flow and focus on dance. I have never done any work in dance before, so this is all completely new to me. Yet somehow I am picking it up rather well. Ok I am not the best at it, but Rome wasn't built in a day, well at least thats what they say. But this isn't Rome, its North London, so I guess things are different here, especially seeing as we all have to be up to scratch for Friday's performance.

The only problem is, that whilst I am picking this up reasonably fast, Its not particularly enthralling. Well at least the routine from Chicago isn't. I did go to see Chicago back when Jerry Springer was staring in the show. I can't say I enjoyed the show all that much and the theatre itself was nothing special. The choreography is good for the show, the storyline is all over the place and the set.... well it doesn't exist. I'm in no hurry to see that show again, but at the same time, now I am performing a routine from it, I do feel a little more attached to the show... well just a little bit!

The choreography for "All That Jazz" is rather simplistic yet very dramatic. Its not about big moves, more about the symbolism that each move carries. Its a very sexy dance routine, which I guess makes me entirely the wrong person to be performing it.... but oh well.

We started work on the finale piece too which is a song called "One" from some show I cant remember and have never seen. We get gold shiny hats... gotta love it. Only thing is there are two moves I am struggling with. This dance is a lot faster, a lot more up beat with bigger moves. Its much harder to get right, and with my limited experience is pushing me further that maybe I would like, or at very least am comfortable with.

Either way I quite like the dance element of all this and whilst the singing isn't really for me at least I get some benefit out of this. I am still not feeling a great group rapport and our course leaders, as nice as they are have failed to inspire me in the way Jenn had in the other classes I have been telling you about. I am not overly confident in my ability on this course, but theres improvement. Guess we just have to wait and see what day 3 holds.

Anyhow its late and I am only gonna get 4 hours sleep again, so i'm outta here until tomorrow!

G xxx

Musical Theatre - Day 1

So I am gonna leave talking about the other course for a week or so, to do a live blog of whats going on this week. Remember that course that I told you Janet had talked me into doing? And how stupidly despite knowing I would be out of my depth, I agreed to do it? Well thats this week. And you want the truth... I'm shitting myself. I can't sing all that well, I know that. i've never danced before in my life. I am completely outside of my comfort zone of plain old acting in this course. I haven't felt this much fear since it was announced that Big Brother was returning for yet another series. But I guess you need to be outside of your comfort zone to better yourself at a skill... right?

I was first to arrive at Sadder's Wells where the course was taking place. Its rather daunting being the only person in a huge well equipped studio, well alone bar the two course tutors. It wasn't long though until some other faces started appearing. i know its wrong to make judgements so soon, but I instantly felt that this group wouldn't get as well as the previous set of classes I had. Maybe it was my fear of being well out of my depth that was withdrawing me from the group, I don't know... but there was a certain warmth lacking from this group that had been prominent previously.

I wasn't exactly sure what to expect from this course, well not specifically. The criteria on the course outline is a bit vague, but I had expected a gentle smooth introduction to musical theatre. Rebbecca the course leader instead threw us straight in the deep end. there was no zip-zap-boing or name games for this group. We were to get straight into the nitty gritty of it all. I guess on an intensive course this is just the way it had to be, but it did nothing at all for my nerves.

After a few vocal warm ups with Alex, we were all to do a bit of singing individually to find our range, which in turn would help the course leaders work to our strengths. Or in my case what would make me sound least bad. I was actually shaking, I was petrified! I have been through what on paper was a lot worse than this, yet I can comfortably say standing there I was terrified. As we went round the circle there were distinct mixed abilities, though I feared I would be the worse. The one line we had to sing in different keys was "Somewhere over the rainbow, way up high". I have quite a deep voice so there is no way that I would reach the high notes that some others were managing. Rather Alex suggested I should see how low I could go.... i did alright I suppose, but to say I am comfortable singing would be a massive lie.

We went on to do some other singing exercises. We focused on "Seasons Of Love" from Rent, and "You'll Never Walk Alone", which off the top of my head is in Carousel, (someone correct me if I am wrong). Either way it is better known in football as Liverpool's anthem. I am more comfortable in group singing as I am less conscious of my contribution, and safe in the knowledge it would be difficult for an audience member to hear me specifically. I think we did ok at these two songs. Alright we picked them up a bit slower than maybe one would have liked but we were sounding half decent. But my fear was my duet performance for the end of the week. Even now I am dreading it. But more about that some other time.

So on to some dance. We will be doing a group piece. This will be "All That Jazz" from Chicago. Its not too difficult actually. Well the movements aren't, mastering the timing is a tad harder. As one bad move and the group choreography can look all out of sync. As a group we somewhat excelled. It needs work, and we have only done the first two verses, but its getting there and with some practice will look good. Or at very least it will make up for my terrible singing!

So that in short is my first day, its noon on Tuesday as I write this, so my next class is in a few hours, so I best go get some practice in... as I need to blow some people away tonight. The thought of not being in the top portion of the class is enough to inspire me to keep trying, but I am gonna need an awful lot more will power if I am to sing on friday!!!

So thats me done until tonight or tomorrow whenever I manage to update you next. Until then, happy reading.

G xxx

Sunday, 9 August 2009

A is for Acting, B is for Beer

Well after that series of Billy Elliot blogs its been a while since I told you what I was getting up to in my acting classes. In fact if I recall correctly I had only told you about the first week. Well after the lesson Jenn our workshop facilitator said "sometimes people like to go for a drink together after class"... with this in mind we all scarpered home. I don't think anybody was quite out of their comfort zone with this room full of strangers just yet. Or at very least we were all being wussy and didn't want to be seen to be the only one keen for an after class piss up.

So anyway, its week two, and honestly I dont remember specifically what we did that week, what I do remember is Chris at the end of the lesson saying "well who's up for a drink then?" I think it was at this point after just two lessons that I realised how much as a group we had already gelled. Many of the class were up for socialising after lesson, I think we were all just waiting for someone else to make the suggestion that we should actually do it.

This would be a great opportunity to learn more about the people I would be working with over the coming weeks, and maybe if they got completley hammered I could learn some of their deepest darkest secrets and hold them against that person at a later date. Its great to have ammunition to use against people.... wow that made me sound so vindictive. But you know what? I can live with that! It was a great evening, we stayed there until closing time and as a group we started to form some stronger personal bonds. This really helps in any acting environment, as being comfortable and at ease around those who you work with allows you to be more natural in your role as an actor.

So onto week three, and this week Jenn was away walking in the roaming hills of Wales or somewhere like that. In her place was a gentleman called Charlie. Like Jenn he too was trained in RADA, so he knew his stuff. The theme of this workshop "was status". There is something to remember in theatre, and I guess in any other work place. Its simple really. Everyone is equal, from the lead role through to the supporting cast and right down to that person who has a walk in part in the second scene. Whilst the lead actors can look the most important person on the stage, take away their supports and they have nothing. When you have nothing, lets face it... you too become nothing.

I think remembering this theme of equality, really helps you when your in a role. Sometimes it can be disheartening when you are casted for a part which is smaller than what you would have hoped for, But what you need to remember is "without me the lead becomes nobody". Charlie set us a task to signify this. He gave us a table and 5 chairs. He pointed to one chair and said "make this chair the most important part of your structure". After arguing different approaches which included using the chairs to symbolise people we decided to stack the table on top of the chairs, with one beneath each leg of the table and place the "important chair" at the top of the structure. There it was the important chair was right at the top. It was the most important chair there! Or was it? Remove any supporting chair and the structure falls. So there is a great mentality to use when you are in any part on stage. Make the best of whatever role you have as you are just as important as everyone else on that stage.

This was one of my favorite classes it must be said, though I did find Charlie harder to work with than Jenn. We were also set the task of demonstrating structure, by playing the parts of a master and his servent. This was exploring another view on the theme of status. We had looked at the real life element of the matter. Now we were looking at how status is used within acting, how emotions, movements and working in character can create status on stage. This master and servent role play was an extreme example of how characters can be used to depict just this.

I really excelled at this task, and the performance myself and Vikas put on got a great response from the others in the class. Now saying this comes the big revelation. When we rehearsed the scene, we did it in mime. When it came to performance it was completley improvised as we threw the concept of mime right out the window. It came out great, and I think that was a testiment to how well myself and Vikas get along, which all stemmed from that beer the week before.

Needless to say more beer followed that evening and we were once again the last ones out of the pub when we were litterally turfed out by the bar staff. A gesture that was quite nice was where Charle joined us for a drink. He is a very knowledgable guy, and I think given time I could warm to his approach... though I think I would be glad to see Jenn the following week again after her break away. I make us out to be a group of alcoholics with all this talk of pub social circles, hoewver the truth is that none of us got hammered. It was just a great oppostunity to chat and reflect upon the lesson that we had just gone through.

I guess the moral of this story is that beer is a great tool if you want to act. Maybe this explains why I see the bulk of the cast from Billy Elliot running from the stage door to the pub opposite after every show!

Anyway theres a nice short blog for a Sunday evening for you! Happy reading!


Saturday, 8 August 2009

We Were Born To Boogie (Part 7)

So here we are on the seventh and final part of the "We Were Born To Boogie" series of blogs. By now you will have gathered I like the show a little bit... ok a lot, alright I admit it, i LOVE it. But what is there not to love? Its a show that appeals to all the senses and has everything you would ever want from a theatre production, packed into three hours of what is simply a master piece. You may have noticed that I haven't talked about the other cast members all that much. Seeing as they are on every night, I decided a blog should be dedicated to their collective performances, rather than reviewing them on a night by night basis like I have the Billy's and Michael's who rotate in the role.

Firstly I will say that there are so many great actors in the show, so many in fact that it would be impossible to mention them all. I truly believe that this show has without a doubt the best cast in London. This statement goes beyond their abilities on stage but also looks into their personalities and their ability to work with one another. Lets face it working with child actors is harder especially for roles such as Mrs Wilkinson and Billy's dad who are continually interacting with the kids. When there are five actors playing the role of Billy it takes a talented actor to work to their individual strengths in order to give the best possible performance for both themselves and the Billy who they are performing alongside.

Kate Graham has been playing the role of Mrs Wilkinson of late. She is a very talented actress who in real life couldn't be more different to the role that she plays. I love the way that Kate expresses the personality of Mrs Wilkinson. On the whole the character is a tough woman who doesn't like to show the big heart and loving side that she has beneath her hardened shell. Its only on two or three occasions with Billy that the maternal instinct comes to light, and its these developments which really establish just who the real Mrs Wilkinson is.

When you meet Kate in person it is hard to imagine her playing such a hardened character, yet she does it so well. I haven't seen anyone else playing the role in the 12 times that I have been to the show, but I couldn't imagine anyone doing it but her. In fact I don't think I would want to see anybody else, as when you experience the extraordinary in such a talented actress, it just makes everybody else seem... well... plain ordinary really. Kate is truly a delight to watch on the stage and in real life she is such a wonderful person. I'm not sure for how much longer she will be in the lead role, as Jo Ridding is in rehearsals already to make her come back in the show. I just hope that I get the chance to see Kate many more times before the formal cast change. Though she has assured me that she will be staying with the show as an understudy. I will need to find out when Jo is on holiday just so I can see Kate again!!!

Joe Cafffrey is the advertised "Dad" in the show, however I have seen his understudy David Bardsley on 8 of the 12 times I have been, including at all of the shows which have been mentioned in this series of blogs. Both are great actors, and it is really difficult to pitch them against one another, though there is something about David that is much more paternal than Joe. I can't put my finger on it, but when you see him perform you really do believe that he could be Billy's dad. Of course there are scenes that I believe one actor delivers better than the other, but I am going to sit on the fence on this one. They are both fantastic, and whoever I see delivers every time without fail.

Tony is played by Craig Gallivan. You may have seen him in Torchwood. Craig is fantastic. I don't think I have mentioned him in any of the previous blogs. On the face of it Tony is an angry character, in fact Tony is driven more by the passion for what he believes in, but feels he can only express himself, through being angry. But you realise as his character develops that he too has a big heart, and a lot of belief, just he doesn't know how to express himself. As the hope of saving the pits diminishes, Craig lets loose the emotion to deliver a powerful speech about how 200,000 miners were now doomed. The tears in his eyes really showed how much the strike meant to the real miners of the time. It makes you realise just how real this time must have been for so many men, so many families... so many communities. For a moment you have to remember that this story though fictional, for so many in real life Britain of the 1980's it was a stark reality of a very dark time. When you realise the truths behind the story, it really does hit you very hard. With his younger brother departing for the Royal Ballet School, its a hard time for Tony and Craig doesn't hold back in delivering these feelings. Tied in with the rest of the emotional climax to the story this is such a powerful speech and shows off just how good Craig is as an actor.

I would love to talk about every character before my big closing speech but I will focus on just one other. This has to be Barnaby Meredith. Not a bad word can be said about Barnaby. He is a versatile actor and a superb ballet dancer which we get to see in the Swan Lake scene. The technicality in this part of the show is immense, but what you have to remember is Barnaby needs to do this with five different boys on different nights. As a result, he needs to know and work to each of their strengths and weaknesses in order to bring out the power that this dance routine needs to deliver. This as I mentioned earlier is a huge talent, as each of the Billy's is a different size, a different weight and has a differing ability when it comes to ballet. So making sure the scene is just as good as the night before really must be difficult. Watching Barnaby dance in this scene with Billy is simply beautiful. I am no expert on ballet, in fact I don't know much at all. But what I know is Barnaby is damn good and deserves so much more recognition for his part within the show. This aside he is such a lovely person to talk to.

So yeah, here we are the end. Five great shows, across three awesome days. So many wonderful people from both sides of the curtain. Connor acknowledging me in two shows was awesome, as I said in the last blog such a small gesture makes you feel hugely appreciated. Having the chance to meet Fox, Barnaby, Kate and Connor was really nice too. My signed program looks awesome and will soon be framed and on my wall. And over a week on I am still reminiscing about what a great time I had. I am very much aware I started the last sentence with the word "and". I know its a grammatical no-no, but you know what? This is my blog and I am going to rebel. If only my old English teacher could see me now!!!

So after a marathon of Billy Elliot shows am i sick of it? Hell no!!! Charlotte and me are already making plans to go back, but with a lot of theatre studies work coming up, it will be difficult... but something tells me it wont take much to get me to another show. This leaves just one more thing to say.... Thanks to everyone who was involved in making this one of the most fun experiences in my life. So its back to telling you about my acting classes in my next blog. Until then... happy reading.


Friday, 7 August 2009

We Were Born To Boogie (Part 6)

When you give everything you've got, when excellence and perfection are the names of your game, you live an extraordinary lifestyle. When that lifestyle is on a stage and every night you share these fantastic attributes with the world before you there is a Divine satisfaction that comes with it. Thats being an actor, your purpose is to bring satisfaction into the evening and maybe even the lives of the paying theatre goers who have come to see you perform. Equally with that comes a huge responsibility both professionally and personally. So what happens when you take a fall? What happens when you feel you have failed to deliver the high standards you set of yourself?

Fox Jackson Keen found himself in exactly this dilemma on the Saturday evening. In his "Electricity" routine something went wrong causing him to miss his finishing move where he runs up a wall and does a backwards somersault. I guess he just got bad footing or something. What saddened me was that Fox looked devastated by not completing the move. Fox was gutted, and in the words of his dad was inconsolable that evening on the way home.

I think as an actor if you make a mistake you are more conscious of it than anybody else, especially when the performance you had delivered for the rest of the show was to such a high standard. I wish Fox was able to see what a great show he had put on that evening. Myself and Dennis were discussing at the interval just how good Fox was that night. Well ok... he always puts on an outstanding show, but some how on Saturday he had raised his game to a level that far exceeds any word I could use to describe its sheer greatness.

What I am saying is acting is like learning to walk, when we take our first steps its such an achievement. But just like a toddler we inevitably fall, we have to pick ourselves up again and simply carry on. I am already trying to work out how I would feel in Fox's place, and I guess despite my words of wisdom, I would be as gutted as he was. Though this brings me to another part of my learning curve. Fox recovered from the missed flip beautifully. This is a sign of a great actor. You have to try not to draw attention to any mistake you or indeed any actor you are working with has made. I don't think many people would have realised that Fox even missed a somersault, as his routine is so packed out with huge dance moves that everyone was already in awe of his ability, and with this superb recovery Fox earned the rapturous applause that he deserved.

Maybe I am bias as I openly adore Fox as an actor, but I think after the show he put on he can hold his head high. I am looking at this as neutrally as possible. So maybe it didn't meet his high standards, but it sure as hell met mine. I still maintain that this was one of Fox's best performances, and it left me respecting and admiring him as an actor even more than I had before. I just wish I had the chance to openly tell him how much I respect him and how much he has inspired me but its harder to say in person than it is to write on here.

So anyway remember i mentioned Connor nodding at me a couple of shows ago. I was still wondering whether or not he was acknowledging me. Tonight I was again at the front and as the cast waved to the crowd Connor turned to me and waved. I gave him the thumbs up. It was without a shadow of a doubt that he had directed this at me. I guess that positive feedback I gave him must have meant a lot to him. He is an extremely talented actor and again pulled off a faultless performance. Its really sweet that Connor went to the effort of acknowledging me on both occasions, as it really does make my participation in the show as an avid fan feel appreciated. A simple gesture can mean a whole lot! I really do hope I get the chance to talk to Connor again soon.

So its the end of the show and time for a few goodbyes as I guess it will be my last visit to the show for about a month. Ok thats not long for most but it is for me. As usual I descended upon stage door with Dennis in toe. This would be his last stage door shuffle of 2009, as he is not due back into the country until Easter of next year.

To my surprise Fox appeared at stage door. He was being met by his dad. I was star struck, I managed to mutter "Fox would you be able to sign my programme". I was seriously left speechless. Here was the guy that inspired me right in front of my big blue eyes. I was so speechless in fact it was Dennis who had to ask Fox if he would pose for a photo with me, which he kindly did. My only regret is that i never told him how much i respect him and how much he has inspired me. All i managed was a "cheers Fox". Hopefully next time I will have the guts to tell him!

I concluded the night with a brief chat to Barnaby and Kate and of course some photos before walking to the bus stop with Dennis. He was due to fly home just over a day later so it would be the last time I would see him until Easter. I was quite sad to see him leave as I had made a great new friend in him. I look forward to hearing from him soon and meeting him next year.

So this is the end of my little adventure, theres one more blog to come in the series... so look out for that over the weekend.

G xxx

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

We Were Born To Boogie (Part 5)

The previous night a little birdy had told me that Tanner would be performing at the Saturday matinee. Its really hard to find out who is on when, but sometimes you just strike it lucky and get that inside scoop. Having found out that Tanner would be appearing at this show I was ecstatic, like a kid at Christmas, or something like that anyway. I never have been a huge fan of Chhristmas, there is all that excitement and build up, then every year it just ends up being... well... so damn average. The presents soon lose their excitement, we all eat too much and feel sick, and there's never anything interesting to watch on television.

Anyhow, I had already planned to be at the matinee show as I was relishing the opportunity to see George Maycock again in the role of Michael. Remember George? I mentioned him in the blog "The Inspiration", last month. So there were now two reasons as to why I was looking forward to this show. With each person I spoke to I was getting more excited about the prospect of seeing Tanner. The reviews of his performances were consistent and all very favorable. I must admit in the back of my mind I was concerned that Fox may have competition as my favorite Billy if Tanner lived up to these expectations.

I had met up with Dennis again, and after a short chat I was in my seat ready for the show. I have to be honest it wasn't the best seat going, but this wasn't a problem. Whenever I am in a naff seat I always look around me for the opportunity to move to somewhere with a better view. Further down the row near the centre aisle I saw two empty seats and like a predator stalking its prey I pounced the minute the interval kicked in. With the swan lake and electricity scenes in the second act it was crucial my view was not impeded, after all its taken me this long to see Tanner, I simply didn't want to miss a second of what was to come.

In musical theatre there are three main disciplines, these being singing, dancing and acting. All actors always have stronger disciplines than others, and honestly in most actors you can always spot their strengths and weaknesses. For me singing would be my current clear weakness,.. but i'm working on this. Tanner however has the most angelic voice when he sings, whilst his voice is breaking which is most notable when he is speaking, his singing is something else. He has such a gentle singing voice and as for his technique its faultless. I think it is very fair to say that he is the best singer of the current Billy's. Singing "The Letter" so softly with such emotion conveyed in his voice, it brings a tear to even a grown mans eye.

I will be honest his acting isn't quite as good as some of the other Billy's. Don't get me wrong, he is very good but the standard set by the others is so high that you have to be an outstanding actor to be at that level. But like I said all actors excel at certain disciplines better than they do others. Tanner has a real ability to express himself with his facial expressions, and they really do speak a thousand words, especially in the comical scenes. I really don't want to take anything away from Tanner's performance because if his singing isn't enough to win you over what I am about to tell you next really is.

Tanner has been described as an outstanding ballet dancer. I think the word outstanding is not very imaginative as it doesn't even touch on the skills this kid has. He far exceeded the ability that I thought would be possible for any human being. His posture was always spot on, and his movement as graceful and elegant as a sunset on a summers evening. The scene where he dances with his older self played by Barnaby Meredith truly is something else. I have always been amazed at this scene as the choreography, and specifically its timing is impeccable with any of the Billy's. But this isn't just any Billy, this is Tanner Pflueger, and alongside Barnaby he some how makes this already perfect scene... well better than perfect. I am genuinely struggling for words. When you see two great ballet dancers upon the stage performing like this emotion simply overcomes you. This wasn't just me being over emotional I assure you, I looked around me and others were just as taken in by this as me.

So Electricity... this is Billy's big moment in the show, and for me it is the song that makes or breaks a Billy. What I saw was simply beautiful. using every inch of the stage Tanner demonstrated the full spectrum of his abilities, and its when you see this you realise just how great a dancer he is. I think the street dance moves which Ollie and Fox pull off have a bigger wow factor on face value, however let yourself connect with the ballet and you feel just as much energy coming from the routine. I had barley recovered from the emotion of the swan lake scene yet I found myself overcome once more. How was he managing this? It was like somehow subliminally the ballet and I had become one... cheesy maybe, but i really did feel this, it was so powerful. Just wow... that sums Tanner up... no not wow... WOW!!! Thats better.

I sometimes feel acting in the role of Michael is a bit harder than Billy. Ok sure the work load and the stage time for Billy is far greater, but Michael's personality is much deeper than Billy's. Michael is a boy with a big heart and a bigger personality. He is a kid growing up experiencing things many of us did. Ok I am not insinuating that we all dress up in our sisters dresses, but at the heart of Michael's dilemma is a boy trying to discover just who he is. I think we as audience members can truly identify with this in the Christmas scene where he kisses Billy. Its such a nice scene where an uncomfortable Billy plays down the incident, which is a great move in the story, as it leaves the question of Billy's feelings for Michael wide open. I like a bit of mystery.

Either way it takes someone truly special to play the role of Michael, its not a role for just anyone. Connor Doyle as I already mentioned is superb in this role. But today I would be seeing George Maycock. This would be just the second time I have had such a privilege, so how would he fair? Having been with the show longer than any of his fellow actors in the same role, he has had the time to settle into the part and build upon the foundations of the character he started with all those months ago. George has really developed as an actor since I saw him last, and this is where the experience shows. He seems so comfortable on stage, he even makes the tap dancing scene look effortless. What I like most about George is his ability to convey whatever he is doing with such innocence. Throughout he builds on Michael's personality which allows you to relate to him so much more. This all comes down to that innocence I just described, as George's character isn't all about making a scene, rather he allows Michael to simply be himself. Its a wonderful touch of acting and character development that reminds us of just who Michael really is, and Its also a testament to George's ability as a performer.

Soooooo... What a show, everyone was fantastic and full credit to Tanner, Barnaby and George for providing what was without a doubt the most emotional show I have been to so far. So is Tanner now my favorite Billy? Well he is right up there thats for sure. This show was very special to me, but there is just something about Fox which will always keep him at the number one spot... but more about him tomorrow.

Monday, 3 August 2009

We Were Born To Boogie (Part 4)

So I had just completed a double stint of Billy Elliot, which was all rather awesome, yet I still had the urge to see it some more. There is something about the show you just fall in love with. That tied in with my need to see Tanner Pflueger perform as Billy, meant I found myself booking a ticket for the evenings show. Truthfully I wasn't too bothered which Billy I saw, however I would have been totally gutted had I have missed the Friday evenings show and found out he was actually performing that night. It was a no brainer, book a cheap seat and I would enjoy it whatever the outcome.

Remember I told you in the last blog how Tom was playing the role of Michael? Well he was back again in his usual role of Billy at this evenings performance. It had been quite some time since I had seen Tom playing the part so was quite looking forward to it. I have recently found myself comparing the 5 Billy's a lot, noticing the little things they all do differently which in turn makes the character their own. From my perspective not only is it fun to compare it also helps me learn about how actors build their character. As from the same script you can watch all 5 Billy's, and the personality of each one is entirely different dependent on the actor who has been casted at that particular show. I pay a lot of attention to this, as when I get the chance to perform this will be something that I will have to consider. Just how will I make that character my own? What kind of personality will that character have? How will that character express their emotions and feelings on stage? In my drama class we touched upon this. It was rather interesting to see the characters people created. I didn't excel too well at that task so it is something I am paying a lot of attention to now, in order to do better next time.

So exactly how does Tom play the part of Billy? Well, compared to the other four Billy's, Tom is much more emotional within the role. At several points he allows Billy to cry, where as other actors choose to have him fighting back the tears. This is a superb decision by Tom, as it shows the vulnerability that he sees within the character. He only chooses to show this level of emotion in scenes around Mrs Wilkinson and his dead mother. Theres a line of Grandma's early on in the show "What he lack's is a mother's touch". Tom clearly identifies with this and only allows Billy's emotions to show when he is within a maternal comfort zone. In a sense I think Billy sees his mum in Mrs Wilkinson, and whilst she will never replace his mother in heart or mind, he allows his character to open up to her. This allows both Mrs Wilkinson and the audience to see the softer side to him and that big heart that Billy possesses.

On to Connor Doyle who was playing the role of Michael at this evening's show. Connor is an outstanding performer, theres not been one show in the five times I have seen him where I have felt disappointed. Michael is a character with a huge personality so you need someone with an equally big personality to play the part, and Connor is just this. He has a real art of using dramatic pauses to emphasise something Michael is doing. In most cases with the comical nature of the part, Connor can have the audience rolling around in laughter.

What I love about him is his ability to appear natural at whatever he does. Whether its dancing in a dress or saying an emotional goodbye to Billy, Connor rises to the occasion. The final scene really shows how adaptable he is as a performer. With a huge smile he calls Billy back to the stage with the line "Oi dancing boy". Billy returns to say goodbye with a kiss on the cheek. As he turns away, Connor shows that underneath that huge smile of Michael's is a broken heart. With his best friend walking away, that smile soon turns to a face of sadness, and as the curtain falls you can almost imagine Michael turning his back and bursting into tears. Connors expressions alone tell this story and go to show that whilst he is best suited in a comical role, he can play a serious emotional role to perfection also.

This kid is one of the most talented performers and off stage he is such a nice guy too. After chatting to him the day before briefly i didn't think he would remember me at all. Well after all a lot of people must talk to him right? Just to show what a nice guy he is, during the final curtain call he nodded in my general direction as if to acknowledge me, I nodded back. I wasn't truly sure if this was aimed at me, i mean that nod could have been to anyone in that area. Though the following day on my return to the show all this would become much clearer... thats a blog for later this week however!

So I have learned a lot about character at this evening's show, but I had still not seen Tanner!!! I had planned to do another double the following day as for Dennis it would be his last day in the UK until Easter and his last opportunity to see the show this year. I was also looking forward to seeing George Maycock in the role of Michael once more. I will tell you all about this in the final parts of the "We Were Born To Boogie" series of blogs later in the week. Until then, happy reading!!!

G xxx

Sunday, 2 August 2009

We Were Born To Boogie (Part 3)

So its about 6PM by this time, we had done the stage door shuffle and headed to Starbucks for a frapachinno. Well at least I had a frapachinno, Dennis had a cup of tea whilst Charlotte opted to have nothing and save money. This was great except for the distinct lack of a toilet, its a basic amenity of life and there wasn't one to be seen. So busting for the loo we headed back to the theatre for the evening performance. I was particularly looking forward to this performance, as Tom Holland would be playing the role of Michael.

So who is Tom? Well Tom normally plays the role of Billy. He is a great actor and is superb at conveying emotion in the character. Until now I had seen him twice as Billy, though not in a couple of months. This however would be a new experience. He is holiday cover for the three actors who rotate in the role of Michael. What would be interesting is on the whole Billy as a character is quite highly strung and serious, Michael is the complete opposite. Would Tom manage to adapt or would I be left disappointed?

I am pleased to say he was fantastic. Had you have been at the show for the first time you would have no idea that he is not playing the part he was casted for. As a person Tom isn't as flamboyant as Connor or George who are the regular actors for the role, but his interaction with Billy who was played by Ollie Gardner on the night was superb. Most notably was the final scene where Michael says goodbye to Billy. Tom broke down into tears which added so much emotion to an already powerful scene. I would absolutely relish the chance to see Tom in this role again. Though this said he is a fantastic Billy and again uses emotion to encapsulate his audience, such as in powerful scenes like "The Letter", so I would also like to see him in his regular role some time soon.

Ollie too was on form tonight. He has improved a lot since I saw him first. If you remember my review of his performance, I commented saying that his "Electricity" routine was too gymnastics based. It is great to see that this routine has progressed, it very much reminds me of Fox's routine now, with a lot more hip-hop/ street dance moves. Ollie has such innocence in his character, an angelic voice and superb acting skills. He really rose to the occasion tonight, and will continue doing so for a long long time to come. Remember I said he has the ability to become the best Billy in the show? I stand by this statement. Give him a few more months and he will be there, I promise you!

At both shows covering for Joe Caffrey who was on holiday David Bardsley played the role of Billy's Dad. I had seen him before, and I think I actually prefer him to Joe. Both actors have their strengths and do things their own way, which is great for me from a study perspective as it allows me to compare and contrast how an actor can develop within the role. There is one small thing that David does (which Joe doesn't) which I feel is superb. In the final scenes where he is helping Billy pack his bags to go away with, he decides to show Billy how to fold his clothes properly. After folding a t-shirt immaculately he screws it up and then chucks it into the case. Its a very simple touch, but it adds a little high into what is otherwise a powerful and sad scene.

The only thing that had left me disappointed by this double was that I had now been 9 times and not seen Tanner Pflueger in the role of Billy. I had built myself up hoping to see him. Though the thing is you are never left truly disappointed when going to see the show, it just means that I would have to go again the following day and try my luck in seeing Tanner then... so that is exactly what I did... but you guessed it the adventures of Friday are to be left for another blog.

Thats it for today, leave your thoughts and feedback as ever.

G xxx

We Were Born To Boogie (Part 2)

So what happens after a show... normally I head home, and theres nothing more to it. But not today, as today was a double... two shows in one day! This clearly meant that going home was not an option. In these instances its normally Starbucks and something to eat between shows. I am somewhat predictable when it comes to things like this, I know what I like and where to get it... why change a formula that works? Starbucks are the only coffee shop that make good frapachinnos.... the Costa ones are awful... and indeed we did eventually head to a Starbucks, but only after myself, Charlotte and Dennis did the stage door shuffle.

So whats the stage door shuffle I hear you ask? You want to know right? Well even if you don't here is the explanation for you. Its a term Ollie who I talked about before made up at Avenue Q as meeting the cast at stage door was something he liked to do whenever he could. So the stage door shuffle... Its where everyone gathers around stage door, waiting patiently for their favorite cast members to come out and sign things etc. If you watch what happens as soon as someone credible emerges everyone shuffles that little bit closer to the door, until the entire gathering is pretty much on the door step! I had decided I wanted my program signed by the cast, its a nice looking program, and having that framed and on the wall would be amazing.

One by one various cast members emerged. At billy the over protective minders usher the kids away normally so its not all that easy to get anything signed by them. Its only if the cast members parents are picking them up that you have a chance. So needless to say I was really happy when Connor emerged and was happy to sign things. If you can't remember from previous posts Connor plays the role of Michael, Billy's best friend. I had a brief chat with him at stage door, he is such a nice kid. He seemed to genuinely appreciate the kind words people had to say about him and had the time for everyone who wanted a picture or an autograph. He has rapidly become one of my favorite cast members and I look forward to seeing him again soon. I will be talking about Connor a bit more in a blog or two's time so look out for that.

A little later after a few more autographs on the program Barnaby Meredith emerged. Since seeing the show for the first time a few months ago I have had a huge amount of respect for Barnaby and had always felt that he is an unsung hero in the show. He appears throughout as a member of the ensemble, as a miner and a policeman among other things. Though his big moment is when he appears as Billy''s older self where they dance together in the scene where his Dad sees him dance for the every first time and realises that he needs to give Billy a future. That routine is just beautiful, theres no other word for it, simply beautiful. I had wanted to speak to Barnaby to tell him how much I respected him for his part in the show, and ironically as I was telling Charlotte this he emerged from stage door. Maybe his ears were burning.

I had a short chat with Barnaby who gave me a lot of support in my ambitions to get on to the big stage. I asked him a few questions about dancing. He is the perfect person to speak to about this having gone to the Royal Ballet School himself. What I found nice was he had so much time for me. Some actors just want to up and go at the end of the show, but Barnaby really took the time to talk. I am so appreciative of this. As i mentioned before my motivation comes from others and right now i feel so motivated to achieve things. Barnaby is a simply an amazing performer and such a warm and lovely guy. I had a ton of respect for him before I spoke to him on Thursday, now words cannot even comprehend how much I look up to him. I hope he stays with the show for a long time to come.

The last person to emerge was Kate Graham. She plays the role of Mrs Wilkinson. She is a fantastic actress, and in my opinion dominates her role with such precision, I couldn't imagine anyone in her place. Being a lead role I didn't think she would have the time to stop for more than an autograph. I guess in my mind and from experience a lot of people who play the lead parts are a bit arrogant sometimes. Kate isn't this at all. She is wonderful, such a nice person and ever so polite. She stopped for a long chat where she said a lot not just about the show but also about me getting into theatre. For me one of the most inspirational things she said was that until she went into her current role she couldn't dance and it wasn't until she was 35 that she learned. Such a simple line but it conveyed so much truth.... that you are never too old to learn something new. Until now I always felt dancing was something you had to pick up as a kid, and that if you hadn't there was no chance. If Kate could learn at 35 I had a fighting chance too, its an important element of theatrical training so these words have really given me the push i need to succeed.

This chat with Kate was so nice. I learned a lot about her and the development process she went through in order to get into the role of Mrs Wilkinson. This is really helpful as things like this are hopefully things I too will experience in the future. She gave me an insight into the process that goes on behind the scenes, in particular she was saying how she worked with all the new Billy's in their rehearsals when she was an understudy. She was rather lucky with both Tanner and Trent (who is now a Broadway Billy) as not only did she get to train them she also got to perform alongside them on their opening nights, as performing the very first show is the last chapter in the training process. She is such a lovely person, she has already been a huge inspiration to me, and I hope to see her again soon.

So this all lasted maybe 45 minutes, in the grand scheme of things thats not long at all but it was one of the most inspirational, educational and fun 45 minutes I have ever experienced. Well it beats the buggery out of watching the first half of a football match! I learned a lot and and met some wonderful people. If Connor, Barnaby or Kate ever read this I just want to say a huge thank you. If not, I want to say publicly what great people the cast of the show are especially these three... what legends!

So i guess Billy Elliot is having an even bigger impact on my life than we first thought. There is still so much more to tell you about, including a special appearance at the evening show, getting to see George Maycock again, finally getting to see Tanner Pflueger for the first time and some more tales from stage door. Stay tuned for the next update. Hopefully a little later today!

G xxx