Les Miserables West End Review || March 16

Exactly two weeks ago today, I saw Les Miserables for the fifth time. It was my fourth time seeing the West End production and my third time seeing Carrie Hope Fletcher and Rob Houchen as Eponine and Marius. I saw about half of the cast this past summer, but we had understudies Simon Shorten and James Gant on as Valjean and Javert so I knew it was going to be a bit different than what I saw eight months ago! If I seem a little bit gushy, I apologize...this cast is my favorite and I'm already sad thinking about cast change in June.

The Queens Theatre is probably my favorite theatre in the entire world because it's just gorgeous. We had incredible seats in the front right of the stalls where we could see everything; it was such an incredible experience to really get to see the expressions on the actors' faces!

My love for the West End production of Les Mis really knows no bounds. It was the Les Miserables 25th Anniversary concert that sparked my interest in musical theatre. Les Mis holds a very special place in my heart, as it's become a large part of my identify and seeing it live is always somewhat of a spiritual experience for me. After seeing Les Mis Broadway last summer and being heartbroken that it didn't elicit the feelings in me that Les Mis always had before, I was overjoyed when Les Mis West End touched my heart so deeply when I saw it again this past summer. There's nothing like that moment when the barricade revolves to reveal Enjolras's body. (I sob like a baby every time. Just ask my mother or Stefanie.)

On a side note, the audience was INCREDIBLE the night that we saw Les Mis! Thunderous applause, an almost immediate standing ovation at the end of the show...it was a crowd of people that I was pleased to be amongst. (Even if one of the guys in front of me turned around when I was crying. Yes, I am crying because the Barricade Boys died. So what?)

Simon Shorten as Valjean (x)
After seeing Peter Lockyer this summer, I was very disappointed when I realized that he would be off the night that we were seeing the show. However, I absolutely loved Simon's Valjean. He played the convict role more convincingly than many I've seen and he hits all of Valjean's difficult notes beautifully. His interactions with the women of the show (Fantine, little Cosette, Cosette, Eponine) were particularly lovely to watch. I'm notoriously picky about the song "Bring Him Home" but Simon gives a very lullaby-esque rendition that definitely pulls at your heartstrings.

James Gant as Javert (x)
Likewise, I was a bit disappointed not to be seeing David Thaxton again, but James Gant absolutely blew me away. My mum and I agreed that watching James Gant was a bit like watching Russell Crowe as Javert...but with a very impressive singing voice. He has the perfect look for a Javert, but even more importantly he played Javert as a rather nice guy...until you run from the law. His "Suicide" was stunning; one of the things I've begun to judge Javert's by is if it's obvious why he would commit suicide and James Gant played a man whose world had crumbled to the ground incredibly well. I can't say enough good things about his Javert and definitely hope that he'll be promoted to principle when David Thaxton leaves.

Celinde Schoenmaker as Fantine (x)
I love Celinde's Fantine because she pours so much emotion into "I Dreamed a Dream" that I actually cried. (I rarely cry before the barricade section so this really means something!) Her Fantine is such an incredibly strong woman who continues to fight back against the world until the very last minute. She also broke my heart in "At the End of the Day" because her Fantine seems to believe that everything will be okay and that the situation will be sorted out until the moment she's fired. Sadly, I always miss Celinde at stage door so I didn't get a chance to tell her how incredible she was!

Wendy Ferguson as Madame Thenardier (x)
I think that the thing that Wendy Ferguson truly excels at is bringing a humanity to the characters that she plays that makes even antagonists sympathetic. Her Carlotta in the Phantom of the Opera 25th Anniversary Concert is nothing short of stunning and her Madame Thenardier is a scene-stealer. Every so often, the proof of her vocal ability slips out and is stunning...she's also a hilarious comedienne who makes every line even funnier than you've ever heard it before.

Carrie Hope Fletcher as Eponine (x)
Chances are, if you've read anything on this blog before, you already know how much of a fan I am of Carrie Hope Fletcher. Not only is she an incredibly talented author and YouTuber and a lovely role model, she's also my favorite Eponine of all time!

Carrie plays a fierce and fiesty Eponine who is angry at her situation in life. Her "On My Own" is exactly how I would want to hear the song sung: not a hint of self-pity, only intense anger that she can't get what she wants. However, some of my favorite moments of Carrie's are actually in "Look Down"...when she laughs in Montparnasse's face when he pulls a knife on her (it's terrifying in all the best ways) and how she strokes Marius's hair when she sings, "I like the way you grow your hair."

I'm so excited for see what Carrie is going to do after leaving Les Mis, but I'm already heartbroken at the idea of other people not getting the gift of watching her!

Rob Houchen as Marius (x)
Rob's Marius is so sweet and cute that you honestly expect half of Paris to be in love with him, instead of just two girls. His naive affection towards Eponine is adorable and his sincere grief at her death is heart-breaking. However, it's his rendition of "Empty Chairs at Empty Tables" that wins him the title of My Favorite Marius. The first time I saw him sing it, I broke down into ugly sobbing because he made me truly understand the lyrics for the first time. And seeing it from only a few rows away from the stage allowed me to see how truly fantastic of an actor he is.

Michael Colbourne as Enjolras (x)
I've been blessed to have seen some incredible Enjolras's in my time and Michael definitely ranks amongst the top few. His vocals are incredible, but it's his acting that truly stands out. His physical presence on stage just screams Enjolras and he manages to play a man who is both friend and leader to the rest of the Barricade Boys (quite a few Enjolras's only manage one or the other). His interactions with both Marius and Grantaire are lovely and his is definitely one of the stand-out performances in the cast. I can't believe this is his West End debut!

Christian Edwards as Grantaire (x)
I saved the best for last...Christian Edwards is the Grantaire the world deserves. I've never cried most over Grantaire before, but somehow Christian made that happen. He has surprisingly lovely vocals in "Drink With Me" and acts the role fabulously. His interactions with both Enjolras and Marius are at turns hilarious and heartbreaking. My favorite bit is probably when he responds to Enjolras's line "Who cares about your lonely soul?" with an energetic "I do!"

You could watch his slow spiral downwards starting with Eponine's death, as he realized long before the others that they were all going to die. It was hard to look anywhere else during the fall of the barricade! I'm so excited to see where Christian's acting career will go next; I predict great things for him. (He was also super sweet at stage door!)

March Favourites!

Fashion & Beauty

I just bought this dress at H&M just this past Saturday, but it's definitely my favorite fashion purchase of this month! It was only 20 pounds but it looks like it cost much more. It's a fairly standard black lace dress, but the entire back is just lace. It makes me feel like Taylor Swift in the Blank Space music video, so I had to buy it! 

When my parents came over, I had them bring my Madewell booties because I was missing them! All of the girls over here wear booties (much more than in the States) and they're so perfect for wearing to class or just around town. Definitely a favorite this month!

I have a tendency of finding a mascara and then sticking to it for long periods of time. For example, I've been using a Clinique mascara for over a year now...however, I managed to cry all of my makeup off telling my family goodbye at the airport and had forgotten to pack my makeup in my carry-on bag (oops). So I headed into a Boots in the terminal to find some new mascara. To be honest, I picked this one because it was the cheapest one they had by Rimmel London, which is my favorite brand for lipsticks. I actually really like it and have been wearing it ever since!

In the past week, I've become obsessed with coating green vegetables in breadcrumbs and sticking them in the oven. Asparagus fries! Zucchini fries! Just watch, next thing you know I'll be making green bean fries. But seriously this is such a delicious way to eat vegetables. 

I also discovered these vegan Mexican bean burgers which are such a perfect alternative to a meat dish. I'm not a vegetarian, but I don't like cooking with raw meat so these are perfect. They're spicy, but not so much that it kills your taste buds!

In preparation for seeing Miss Saigon again last week, I listened to the Miss Saigon 2014 cast album all month long. Okay, to be fair, I also listened to it for most of February and January and...every other month since it was released. 

I started reading The Creation of Anne Boleyn by Susan Bordo on the plane to London and it is a fantastic book. Basically, it examines all of the lies about Anne Boleyn that we're taught and how those lies were produced by looking both at Anne's life and media portrayals of her since her time. A must-read for anyone who likes the Tudors.

And that's it for this month's favourites! What have you been loving with the month of March? 

Warner Brothers Studios Harry Potter Tour Vlog!

Last week while I was in London on vacation, I went to the Harry Potter Studios just outside the city. I wanted to share some of the tour with all of you so I made a little montage-y vlog!

Letters to St Andrews || Part IV

Friday Internet Finds

Goodness knows with this being break and all, I've had plenty of time to mess around on the the Internet. Here's some of what I've found!

1. I had no idea that there are apparently still plenty of unexploded WWII bombs in London. They found one and had to evacuate the area shortly after I was in London. That's so crazy! (Okay, my history major side is showing.)

2. I love Company Magazine's "Which YouTuber Would Be Your Best Friend IRL?" quiz. I got Louise Pentland (or Sprinkle of Glitter), which is very accurate. Who did you get?

3. And while we're taking quizzes, this Buzzfeed quiz in which you have to guess which ASOS item cost more is hilarious. I'll admit...I missed quite a few!

4. What do you guys think of College Fashion's recent blog redesign? I'm not a fan. Personally, I'm very fond of the full story layout instead of having to click on each individual article because it guarantees I don't miss anything. I'm sure it will grow on me though...if I can just learn to ignore all the ads!

5. In the other hand, I'm in love with Alyssa Campanella's new blog The A List. Her first fashion post showing one of her outfits from New York Fashion week is so so lovely.

6. I know that I've dealt with how to handle stress and anxiety all throughout high school and university. Carrie Hope Fletcher recently made a video for Rise Above where she shares some suggestions for how to relieve stress. I know I can always use advice of this sort, so I thought I should share it with you. xx

Ten Years Time

Alfie Deyes (or PointlessBlog) recently uploaded this video discussing where he expects to be in ten years.

I decided to film a video in response, discussing where I hope to be in ten years. Enjoy! xx

Recapping My Travels

Hello everyone! I'm officially back to St Andrews after an incredible week in Edinburgh and London. It was so hard telling my family and my favorite city goodbye, but I'm hoping to use this coming week productively...which means, lots of new content for you!

If you want to read more about what I did while on holiday, here are the links to specific posts on my travel blog:

Day One: Showing my family around St Andrews

Day Two: Seeing the former royal yacht Brittania in Edinburgh

Day Three: The Palace of Holyroodhouse and Edinburgh Castle in Edinburgh (good for Mary Queen of Scots fans!)

Day Four: Traveling to London and Les Miserables Stage Door

Day Five: Hanging out in Hamley's (this is also the day that we went to Primark; I just uploaded my haul video!)

Day Six: The Harry Potter Studios and Harrod's 

Day Seven: Hampton Court Palace and Miss Saigon Stage Door (a must read for Henry VIII lovers!)

Day Eight: Our day in Brighton!

Day Nine: Westminster Abbey, the Tower of London, and saying goodbye 

Primark Haul!

While in London last week, I finally got to take Hannah to a Primark! I picked up a few things so I wanted to share them with you. Excuse the strange lighting.

Friday Internet Finds

I am so excited for this weekend...my family is here visiting me for spring break and we are heading to London soon! If you want to read about my travels, check out my St Andrews blog.

1. I am always looking for ways to make leggings look put together enough for wearing out, so this article full of suggestions is my new favorite.

2. Have I ever loved a Buzzfeed quiz as much as I love this "Which Type of Tea Should You Drink?" one? #probablynot

3. I've been a fan of Alyssa Campanella's blog, Jumpers and Jasmine, for a while now. I'm so excited for her launch of her newly branded blog, The A-List. Go ahead and bookmark it now ahead of time!

4. I could definitely use some tips for Photoshop and this tutorial on how to make collages looks super helpful! Definitely saving it for when I'm back to Elon and computers that have the Adobe suite on them.

5. I know that last week's Friday Internet Finds had a Carrie Hope Fletcher video in it...so I told myself that this one wouldn't...but I lied to myself. Because Carrie uploaded her video of her trip to Disney World with Pete Bucknall and it's so cute, I cried watching it. I want to go to Disney, right now. 

The Art of Packing

I have a love-hate relationship with packing. By which I mean: I love the idea of packing, but I hate actually having to pack my suitcase. Does anyone else have that problem?

Right now, I'm packing for going to Edinburgh and London next week with my family. Speaking of which, I might as well apologize now for the lack of posts next week. But posts will resume the next week as normal once my vacation is over!

My mother can tell you that my packing anxiety has gotten much better over the years. I used to end up crying or yelling when packing for long trips. Granted, packing for airplane travel will always be stressful because of the weight limits.

Packing for London this time is very different than every other time I have. Before, it's always been packing for a two week (or more!) trip overseas and planning out each outfit meticulously. The last time I packed for London was this past summer, because Stefanie and I spent a week there on our way home from Brighton. Therefore, we were simply stuffing all of our clothes (dirty and clean) into our suitcases in the easiest way possible and then disassembling them once we were at our hotel.

This time, oddly enough, I'm packing to go to London from within the UK for a quick trip. While I'll be using my huge suitcase (it's all I have!), I won't have nearly as much stuff as usual. I'll be able to have a bit more flexibility instead of planning out my outfits so carefully and take as many pairs of shoes as I like! It's very strange, packing for just a week's holiday that's only a short plan ride away, instead of a big overseas trip...

Do you like packing? Hate it? Let me know in the comments below. And don't forget to follow me on Instagram to see photos from my "holiday" (that's a word the British use for vacations!) next week. xx

Book Review: Billy and Me & You're the One That I Want

Recently I've been doing so much reading for my classes that whenever I have a bit of time to relax, the last thing I want to do is read. (Ah, the life of a university student.) There has, however, been one large exception to this rule: Giovanna Fletcher's novels.

This book was my happy companion for two days
I discovered Giovanna Fletcher through her sister-in-law, Carrie Hope Fletcher, who you all know is one of my favorite West End actresses and YouTubers. One of the first days I was here, in St Andrews, I decided to pick up Billy and Me at Waterstones.

When I started it, I finished it in about 48 hours. Once upon a time, long ago, this wouldn't have been an anomaly for me. But these days, it's incredibly rare.

Billy and Me is a charming book about a small town girl who falls in love with a famous actor. And no, I just don't love it because that sounds like my dream. Giovanna does an incredible job of creating complex characters that are impossible not to fall in love with. Billy and Me will thrill you, break your heart, and leave you feeling warm and cozy inside. Honestly, reading the book just made me want to curl up with a cup of tea under my duvet!

I made myself wait to buy Giovanna's other novel, because I knew that no course work would be accomplished while it was in my possession until it was read. But when Valentine's Day rolled around and I realized that a new novel was the only hope of having romance in my life, I caved. And again, I read this book within a few days! While I definitely prefer Billy and Me, I think that You're The One that I Want is the more thought-provoking of the two. It's about a girl who grows up with two male best friends and it traces their lives from when they meet as children to her marriage. I won't spoil anything, but the book centers around the main character's conflict of which man to choose....it was hard to put down!

I'm so grateful I gave Giovanna Fletcher's books a try, because it's been quite some time since I read something that I was so addicted to. I'm so excited to see what her next book will be and I can't wait to lend the books to my friend, Stefanie, once I'm back in the States.

Want to find out more about what I'm reading? Let's be friends on GoodReads.

Friday Internet Finds

Happy Friday everyone! I'm quite excited for this weekend as I have a lot to accomplish and it's always nice to have two completely free days...but first, this evening I'm attending an a cappella competition! What're you looking forward to this weekend?

1. Who else is incredibly excited about the casting news for the upcoming live action Beauty and the Beast film? Emma Watson as Belle was enough to guarantee that I'll go see it (probably multiple times, plus buying the DVD as soon as it comes out) but Dan Stevens as the Beast and Luke Evans as Gaston? It's already my favorite movie and it doesn't even have a release date.

2. It's so good to find out that I'm not the only person annoyed with the new trend claiming that asking women "Who are you wearing?" is sexist. This article perfectly explains why it's not: while actresses should obviously be asked other questions as well, the red carpet is the place for a designer to shine.

3. I'm loving this Buzzfeed quiz called "How Classy Are You Actually?" Turns out, I'm "classy and I own it." #blairwaldorfstatus

4. Feeling like I'm not doing enough is a problem that I always have. So this article recommending "5 Things To Remind Yourself When in the Midst of a Quarter-Life Crisis" is very important for me. Can any of y'all relate?

5. Obviously, I love Carrie Hope Fletcher. But her latest video, giving advice on broken hearts, might just be my favorite one yet.

Letters to St Andrews || Part 3

Finally, here's the third installation of Letters to St Andrews, this time about friends As always, remember to like the video and subscribe to my YouTube channel.

February Favourites

Since today is the second day of March (how did that happen???), I thought it might be nice to do a February favorites video. I did a favourites post at the beginning of February and I'm continuing to love all of those items, but I wanted to share my end of the month favourites too.

Fashion & Beauty
I've already raved about how much I love red lipstick on the blog, but I just had to talk about this one. It's the Rimmel London Shade 170 (Alarm) and it's just gorgeous. It's the perfect color for my skin tone and it stays on so long. I've been wearing it all month long.

I've had this American Eagle flower crown for a while, but I recently discovered a new way to wear it that I've been loving. I tuck the hair from the very front of my head on either side into the crown at the back. It keeps it out of my face and also looks quite pretty, I think. It might be winter, but I definitely wore this flower crown a lot this month! 

I love mint green and I love rose gold so this new Primark purse is just amazing. It was only 8 pounds and it's surprisingly roomy inside. I love that I can use the shoulder strap or carry it by the handle. It's basically the perfect bag for me: ladylike, but not stuffy. 
Sorry this picture is so horrid!

I'm in the UK, so it's only right that I'm loving fish and chips. But Cromars' fried haddock is by far the best fish and chips I've ever eaten. Love, love, love.

I could rave about Battenberg cake in general for hours, but I've recently been loving these little mini ones especially. They're the perfect serving size (which is great, because I tend to eat way too much of the normal sized Battenberg cake!) and such a yummy little treat. 

Film & TV  
You're all aware of how much I've been loving The Last Five Years movie. I've probably watched it 4-5 times already and I listen to the soundtrack constantly. Definitely a February Favourite.

As far as TV goes, I've been struggling a bit. UK Netflix doesn't have The Borgias (what I was watching at home) or Vikings (what I was planning on watching next). I've been trying to finish up Gossip Girl because I'm on the last season, but I've not been enjoying it at all. Then I remembered The Tudors, which I had abandoned in favor of The Borgias earlier this year. I've been watching quite a bit of it: it's historically very inaccurate and sometimes I question what the costume designers were thinking (you might think it's hypocritical of someone who loves Reign to say that, but the producers of Reign freely admit that it's a "historical fantasy"), but the actors on the show are quite good. Who doesn't love Natalie Dormer?

What did you love in the month of February? xx

Nicole Goes to a Rugby Match

Yesterday, I went to the 6 Nations Scotland vs Italy rugby match and actually quite enjoyed it. I took just a little bit of video that I compiled so that you can see! If you want to find out more about my rugby experience, you can read the post on my St Andrews blog.

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