January Goals

Don't worry, I have a full New Years Resolutions and 2018 Goals post on its way, but first I thought I would share my January goals with you.

Goal Update - December Goals

1) Finish my Christmas shopping. I'm so glad that I can say that I finished it not only before I headed home to the States, but actually a week ahead of my flight. It took so much stress off of me this month. I'm always starting my shopping in October from now on!

2) Have my essays at least outlined before I go home. I will readily admit that I failed miserably at this. I did have all of my sources found and some of them read before leaving London, but I was nowhere near as far along as I'd hoped.

3) Finish two more books. I've actually read five books in the month of December, surpassing my yearly reading goal of 20 books (I'm up to 23!). It's possibly I might even sneak a sixth in within the next couple of days.

4) Go to an exercise class. Alright, I failed on this one as well. Which means I didn't go to one in all of 2017...this sounds like a goal to add straight onto my 2018 list. However, I did go to the gym to do weight lifting and cardio several times this month before heading home.

January Goals 

1) Get back into going to the gym. I haven't been to the gym since I got back to the States and I need to get back into the swing of it here where I can go to my family's country club gym. That way I'm ready when I return to London mid-January!

2) Finish my essays. This isn't so much a goal as a necessity. I turned in my first essay today so that's two to go in early January before their due dates.

3) Write at least eight blog posts. This is a fairly low goal as it's only two a week and with so much New Year content, it would be easier to write even more. However, I've kind of fallen out of writing since coming home for Christmas so I need to get back to it.

4) Find a great outfit for my first day of my internship. I start my dream internship at the end of January (keep an eye out for a life update coming soon!) and I want to make sure that I have a great outfit planned that makes me feel super confident on my first day.

What I Did This Week: December 11-17

Well, here it is: my final week in London before going home for Christmas. Obviously, this series will momentarily stop while I'm home for a month, but it'll be back come mid-January when I return to London.

On Monday night, Corinne and I trekked up to the Almeida Theatre to see The Twilight Zone, a stage adaption of the popular TV series. You can watch my video review here, but we both really enjoyed it even if it was a bit...odd. (And I discovered that I associate The Twilight Zone so strongly with the Tower of Terror, that the music makes me feel a bit queasy.)

I finally made it to see The Ferryman, which has been winning many awards. The cast is changing before I get back and I really wanted to see Fra Fee in it while I could. It's a beautiful play that I definitely plan on returning to and I feel like I learned so much about the Irish troubles.

The last show that I saw this first term was the Barricade Boys at the Other Palace! Corinne and I had such a fun time at their Christmas concert, with special guest star Killian Donnelly. I highly recommend their show as they're all talented and charismatic lads. If we're being perfectly honest, however, I would have paid the ticket price just to hear Killian sing "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas."

I got to do an email interview with the mysterious and witty West End Producer about his latest book, which went up this week. You can read it here.

I got to accompany Jamie to two very exciting video shoots on Wednesday. First we interviewed the lovely and eloquent Anna O'Byrne who plays Laura Fairlie in The Woman in White. She had some lovely thoughts about the show as an adaption of the novel. (Also, we both prefer Wilkie Collins to Charles Dickens though she's also trying to get into Dickens as well.) You can watch that video here.

We also got to go to a press event for Christmasaurus Live, Tom Fletcher's special Christmas musical. It was so exciting to get to interview two of my favorite authors/YouTubers/actresses, Carrie Hope Fletcher and Giovanna Fletcher. The video isn't up yet, but keep an eye on my Twitter because I'll share it when it's released. 

On Thursday night, I went to see the much-anticipated The Last Jedi in 3D at the Barbican with Eryn and Riley (god bless the Young Barbican's £5 movie tickets). While I didn't love it as much as The Force Awakens, it is a really amazing film with beautiful performances from its cast, especially Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, and Mark Hamill.

Friday Internet Finds

This wraps up my last week in London here for a while. Next week this time, I'll be home in the States!

1) This week saw the results of the BroadwayWorld UK awards, voted for by the public. Check the list to see if your favorite won! (My favorite actor, Killian Donnelly, got Best Long-Running Show Performer.)

2) Trying to decide what Christmas movie to watch on Netflix? Take this Buzzfeed quiz and it will decide for you.

3) I'm more invested in the Victoria TV series than ever as David Oakes (who you might remember me seeing in Venus in Fur...several times) plays Prince Ernest. They announced this week that they've been renewed for a third season.

4) Playbill put together a list of great theatre books to give as presents this holiday season. I definitely need to check a few of these out!

5) The lovely Brittain Ashford (who recently played Sonya in Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812) uploaded a video of a new song to her YouTube channel and it's perfect for the festive season.

Review: This Old Love (EP) by Chris Peluso

Chris Peluso is currently playing Sir Percival Glyde in (my new favorite show) The Woman in White at Charing Cross Theatre in London, but he also just released his first EP, "This Old Love."

Chris is known for roles in shows like Miss Saigon, Death Takes a Holiday, and Showboat here in London, but he's also performed across his native United States in shows like Wicked and way back in the day was in the La Jolla Playhouse pre-Broadway cast of Bonnie and Clyde.

I always am excited about a performer releasing an album, so I had to give this one a listen and I'm so glad that I did. The album is made up of five tracks: four covers of popular music in addition to a cover of "Send in the Clowns" from A Little Night Music.

If I had to describe the album in one word, it would be soothing. Many of the songs on the album like "This Old Love," "Caught in the Rain," and "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?" remind me of Garth Brooks (but without his country twang). They have a simple honesty to them with equally simple musical arrangements that allow Chris to show off his voice alongside some lovely guitar music. I also think the use of horns in "This Old Love" is a nice touch.

Chris's version of "Send in the Clowns" feels like a lullaby and is very well suited to his voice. Although beware: I once almost fell asleep on the Tube while listening to it.

The last song on the album is one of those songs that many male actors seem to cover (no, it's not "Run Away with Me"). I've heard many versions of "Hallelujah," including my own on the ukulele, and Chris's is actually very beautiful. His voice never seems strained as some people's do and it's the song he shows the most emotion on of the whole album.

I do still prefer this version by Ramin Karimloo aided by his son Jaiden, but Chris's is a close second. It's a strong finish to a wonderful first EP. Let's hope Chris has plans for a second in the future! x

What I Did This Week: December 4-10

I didn't realize until writing this that I actually didn't see any theatre last week that wasn't for a review. I had a busy week writing for BroadwayWorld though as I don't have too much time left in London before I'm home for a month so I want to get in as many articles as possible.

Heritage Sites & Museums
On Saturday, I went to a brunch-time lecture event at Kensington Palace called "Queen Victoria on TV." It was with the production designer Michael Howells of the ITV television series Victoria, which I love. It was so fascinating to get to hear more about how they recreated Victoria's world. I wrote up a little summary of what he shared on my London blog.

Monday night, I saw The Melting Pot at Finborough Theatre. It was a very good production of an incredible play. While there was some fumbling of lines and some questionable costuming, the show itself is terrifying relevant for a play written about anti-Semitism in 1908. You can read my review here.

On Friday night, I got to see The Hound of the Baskervilles, a hilarious and charming telling of the classic Sherlock Holmes story. I was so impressed that all fourteen roles were split between just three men! You can read my review here.

Finally, on Saturday, I went to the Royal Albert Hall for the first time to see the live action Beauty and the Beast film with a live orchestra. What a wonderful event and what a gorgeous venue! I definitely want to go back and see something else there. You can read my review here.

For interview this week, I got to speak to the lovely Michael Fabiano, an American opera singer with some fascinating ideas about the future of opera. He also is the co-founder of a non-profit called ArtSmart that gives free voice lessons to underprivileged children. You can read the interview here.

I also wrote a rather emotional and honest blog post about Hamilton for BroadwayWorld this week. I addressed why I think it resonated in the States and why I think it will be the same here, along with how the musical has personally affected my life. Do give it a read here.

Friday Internet Finds

I can't believe that I only have one more week in London before I go home to my family for a month. Of course, I'm so looking forward to seeing everyone but...I'm trying to remember what my life is outside of London 🙈

1) Hamilton had its first previous on Wednesday night in the West End, so I had to bring to your attention these first production shots of the London cast.

2) Time Magazine announced that their Person of the Year is The Silence Breakers, those who have stood up this year and spoken out about assault and harassment. I don't think I possibly could be happier with this choice.

3) Not to overload you with production images, but the ones for The Woman in White are absolutely gorgeous. There's a good reason Darren Bell is my favorite photographer!

4) This article tells about an event hosted by New York's Public Theatre in which people in the industry spoke out about harassment and assault. It's a powerful read and one that raises many concerns that the theatre industry must deal with.

5) I am absolutely loving all of Amy Lovatt's content for Dec-AME-ber and she has many videos like the one below that I think would be so helpful for aspiring actors. Make sure to check out her whole channel!

December Goals

A little late on the December goals this month, but hoping I'll still manage to complete all of them...

Goal Update - November Goals

1) Apply to internships. I actually did send in several internship applications and am currently negotiating final details with an organization so hopefully you'll be seeing an announcement from me soon...

2) Catch up on show reviews on my blog and YouTube channel. I've been much better about actually writing reviews and just making content in general in November, thankfully!

3) Learn more about Charles Dickens. I've been learning more about dear old Dickens, although I think this may be a goal for the whole year that I'm here because there is so much to learn. Anyone have a recommendation for books of his to start with?

4) Keep my succulents alive. I can't believe it but they've actually survived a full month! I might lose them while I'm home for Christmas break, but at least they made it this far.

December Goals

1) Finish my Christmas shopping. I would love to have it finished before I leave London. I only have a few bits and bobs left so this one is actually doable.

2) Have my essays at least outlined by the time I go home. This might be too ambitious of a goal, but I would love to be done at least with the researching and outlining of my essays before I go home. They're due in the first week of January, which will be a bit of a buzzkill on the Christmas mood if I'm having to work on them loads while I'm home.

3) Finish two more books. This was the one goal I set at the beginning of the month because I knew I wanted to hit my 20 books goal for the year. I actually have already done this as this weekend, I finished a Queen Victoria biography and Carrie Hope Fletcher's latest novel.

4) Go to an exercise class. This was one of my goals for 2017 that I've somehow not yet done. Whether I do it here in London or at my gym back home, I think it's something very achievable by the new year.

Review: The Woman in White at Charing Cross Theatre

In some ways, it's no surprise that The Woman in White is one of my favorite musicals I've ever seen. Having just read the novel by Wilkie Collins and fallen absolutely in love with it and being someone who first came to theatre through Andrew Lloyd Webber's work, I am perhaps the best possible audience for this show.

I first saw this brilliant new production on its opening night and then saw it again one week later. It was wonderful to see the way it developed further during its first week. While I sadly was not at its press night on Monday, I thought I'd save my review to come out the same week as the others'.

My second time seeing the show was from the
middle of the front row
This production is a revision of the earlier 2004 musical, with a book by Charlotte Jones, music by Andrew Lloyd Webber, and lyrics by David Zippel. While the original show came under criticism for its supposedly dizzying projections and rambling length, the newly revised musical manages to condense a 700 page novel into two and a half hours and relies on fairly simple set design.

This show reminds me of everything that is best about the musicals that epitomize Andrew Lloyd Webber's style -- sweeping music, large emotions, gothic melodrama. In truth, I prefer it to Phantom of the Opera because it feels more real and more relevant.

Carolyn Maitland, Ashley Stillburn, and Anna O'Byrne
create a beautiful tableau
The Woman in White tells the story of drawing master Walter Hartwright who, on his way to Limmridge House, has a mysterious encounter with a young woman dressed all in white who tells him that she has a secret that could ruin the man who has wronged her. Walter's students are half-sisters Laura and Marion. While Laura is everything you could want from a Victorian heroine -- kind, fun, and beautiful--Marion is a wonderfully witty and modern woman who adores her sister above all things. They are watched over by their uncle, Mr. Fairlie, a hypochondriac invalid.

However, their idyllic existence and Laura and Walter's blossoming love is interrupted all too soon by the appearance of Laura's fiancé, the dashing Sir Percival Glyde who is perhaps not what he seems. Add in his comically villainous best friend, Count Fosco, and you have everything you need for a gothic sensational story.

Carolyn Maitland is the superstar of the cast as the loving and determined Marion Halcombe. She is delightful in "I Hope You Like It Here" (perhaps the closest ALW has ever come to a patter song?) and heartbreaking in her big solo, "All For Laura." She is completely believable as the protective big sister and manages to convey such longing in each heartbreaking glance at Walter. I've adored Carolyn for years (she is the most wonderful person and always has a kind word for everyone) and I hope that this show finally gets her the recognition she deserves.

Carolyn Maitland as Marion Halcombe
Anna O'Byrne provides a beautiful contrast as the seemingly delicate ingenue Laura Fairlie. She is one of those actresses who actively acts the entire time she is on stage and manages to make a character who could seem cliché a completely developed person. Her voice is absolutely lovely and has a strength behind it that many sopranos lack, but it's her acting--particularly in the last few scenes--that blew me away.

The titular 'woman in white,' Anne Catherick, is played by Sophie Reeves who has a stunningly beautiful voice. I was particularly impressed with how she built Anne's grief and anxiety into every part of her characterization, like the fact that she is constantly fiddling with her clothing. She stands every bit the third part of an equally talented trio of women.

Chris Peluso as Sir Percival Glyde and
the 'Woman in White'
Ashley Stillburn is in every way the perfect Walter Hartwright. He brings a gentleness to the character in his interactions with Laura, while still having something appropriately unrefined and honest that sets him apart from his pupils. His voice is absolutely stunning and well suited to songs like "Perspective" and "Evermore Without You." He completely broke my heart in Act II of the show. (I must say that Walter Hartwright is my favorite male character in a novel ever and Ashley Stillburn does him justice in a way I hadn't thought possible.)

Chris Peluso portrays the dashing but ultimately dastardly Sir Percival Glyde, Laura's fiancé. He brings a convincing reality to a character that could easily become a caricature and his voice is very well suited to the role. I'm impressed by how he transitions from the Glyde of Act I to Act II without the character seeming disjointed.

Greg Castioglioni plays Glyde's friend, Count Fosco,  with a lot more subtly than the character was allowed in the original production. His "You Can Get Away With Anything" is splendid and he somehow maintains his lovability despite his villain status. I loved that while he was certainly the show's comic relief, he never lost sight of the fact that Count Fosco is a rather horrible person (in the way that many actors who play Thenardier in Les Mis do).

Greg Castioglioni as Count Fosco
Antony Cable is a wonderfully funny Mr. Fairlie and the rest of the ensemble (Christopher Blades, Olivia Brereton, Janet Mooney, and Dan Walter) are all lovely in their roles. I can't help but be impressed by the three young girls who share the role of the Corn Dolly Girl -- Alice Bonney, Olivia Dixon, and Rebecca Nardin -- as it's a bit more vocally demanding than many roles for girls of their age.

I cannot praise director Thom Southerland's reimagining of this show enough. He manages to pull out all the drama and the humor of the story while still keeping it based around the simple human emotions that drive it. The lighting by Rick Fisher builds a wonderful atmosphere and the set itself by Morgan Large is lovely and understated. I particularly loved the use of sliding panels to have many reveals of characters, especially Anne Catherick. The costumes by Jonathan Lipman are another highlight of the show and I appreciate that the costumes worn by Glyde and Fosco rival Marian and Laura's for their beauty and creativity.

The show feels perhaps more relevant now than ever, with its themes of the mistreatment of women and the need to stand up against men who abuse their power. Both times I saw the show, I was struck by the moment when Marian tells her sister, "We will not be victims, Laura. We will right this wrong." This show, despite its soaring music and beautiful design, is most meaningful because it demonstrates that it is always worth standing up to those who mistreat others and not giving up on those that you love.

The Woman in White has become my favorite Andrew Lloyd Webber musical and I look forward to seeing it again in January. There are rumors of a possible Broadway production in the future, but for now, my greatest hope is for a cast recording of this brilliant cast.

If you'd like to know more of my thoughts on the novel and the musical as an adaption of it, make sure to watch my video:

Photo Credit: Darren Bell

What I Did This Week: November 27 - December 3

This past week was a bit calmer than the few before, thank goodness! But now that it's December I'm really starting to get into the festive mood. x

Monday night, I returned to The Woman in White -- this time with Corinne in tow. The show had already improved and been tightened up a bit since the week before and I fell even more in love with it. I also got the chance to talk to the lovely Anna O'Byrne, Sophie Reeves, Carolyn Maitland, and Chris Peluso after. Maybe most importantly...I met Chris's dog, Peety!

I also returned to my other favorite show in London currently, Venus in Fur for my third visit and Patrizia's first. It was absolutely as electric as it was the first two times, despite a costume mishap, and I can't believe it closes 9 December.

Corinne and I went to see the Friday afternoon performance of Romantics Anonymous at the Globe and I'm so glad that we did. It's an absolutely charming show, which you can hear more about in my video review or blog post.

Heritage Sites & Museums
Sadly, I didn't have time this week to visit any heritage sites or museums other than doing my normal shift at the Dickens Museum and my very first shift at the Keats House which went very well despite how nervous I was about working the till.

It was a busy week for my BroadwayWorld contributions. I went to the press event for La Soiree on Monday and got to help Jamie film bits of the show along with interviews with the cast. He put it all together into this lovely video.

I interviewed Olivia Jacobs, the co-founder of Tall Stories and director of the upcoming Wilde Creatures, a family show based on Oscar Wilde's fairy stories. You can read our conversation here.

I also spoke with Mark Perry, director of the upcoming Bananaman the Musical, who had some lovely comments about updating a much beloved comic and cartoon into a show. You can read that interview here.

I got the chance to go to Marisha Wallace's Soul Holiday concert at Charing Cross Theatre (even when I'm not seeing The Woman in White, you can't keep me out of there!) and I'm so grateful. Marisha is from North Carolina, not far from Raleigh, and hearing her talk about Christmas back home made me feel the closest I've felt to NC since leaving in September. You can read my review of this superstar's concert here.

Review: Romantics Anonymous at Shakespeare's Globe

Romantics Anonymous is a charming original musical about two shy reclusive people falling in love in a chocolate shop. What more do you need to know, really? I went to see Emma Rice's new show which she wrote and directed at the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse at the Globe Theatre this past week, thanks to a TodayTix Cyber Monday deal. I ended up falling in love with this absolutely delightful pure musical, which is the last of Emma Rice's work before she leaves the Globe.

It tells the story of the reclusive and socially awkward Angélique, a creative chocolate maker, and Jean-René, the owner of a failing chocolate shop. Apparently it's based on a French-Belgian film called Les Emotifs Anonymes. It's a funny and heartwarming love story as they realize that their biggest obstacle is their own fears and doubts. (Somehow terrifyingly relatable.) The general vibe of the show reminds me a bit of She Loves Me, one of my absolute favorites. 

The music is fairly typical of contemporary musical theatre songs, but well done and the dancing is impressive especially in such an intimate venue. I love the way they played with the fourth wall, often interacting with the audience and at one point, a character even points out that they're singing. The show is set in France and including some dialogue in French. While it's definitely not necessary to know French to enjoy the show; as someone who studied French for eleven years, it made me happy to hear it (and with very decent accents too!). 

Carly Bawden is lovely as Angélique, with a stunning clear voice and acting that keeps the character from being trite or cliché. The entire audience falls for her just as Jean-René does. Meanwhile, Dominic Marsh manages to portray a bumbling awkward Jean-René without becoming a caricature and portrays both the drama and comedy of the role equally well. 

The ensemble of the show truly shine as they flit between playing many characters. I must mention that Marc Antolin's Ludo (a cheeky boy who works in the chocolate shop) was particularly funny and Lauren Samuels always cracked me up as the voice of Jean-René's self-help tapes. Natasha Jayetileke was incredibly good at switching between roles and making each one a distinct, fully formed character. 

The show is only on until 6 January so I recommend booking tickets now so that you don't miss it! While I tend to veer towards darker, more serious shows, Romantics Anonymous absolutely warmed my heart and left a smile on my face for the rest of the day. 

An American's Guide to Panto

Since moving to London, I've discovered that one of the biggest British Christmas traditions is panto, or pantomime. So I thought I'd put together a little guide to panto for anyone who is as confused as I was.

Panto is a style of family musical comedy traditionally performed at Christmas. It blends slapstick, song, dance, and other physical comedy. For many British children, panto is their first introduction to theatre and the mention of it can bring both nostalgic sighs and groans, I've found.

While it used to be occasionally performed in other parts of the world, like America, Australia, and Canada, panto has come to be a completely British concept and is rarely performed elsewhere. It also used to be prevalent in other seasons (there would be a 'spring panto' and a 'summer panto'), but now it happens only at Christmas time.

Panto comes from the Italian commedia dell'arte and the 16th and 17th century British traditions of the masque and music hall. It involves fairy tales being told in a somewhat outrageous manner with basically no fourth wall.

There's lots of audience interaction, like throwing candy out into the audience or call and answer. The audience, and especially children, are encouraged to vocally react to the shows and often a character will ask for an opinion. Plus, panto will typically pick an audience member to bring up onto stage for a number.

Panto also always includes gender bending. Sometimes male roles, like Peter Pan or Aladdin, are played by young women. But to even be considered a panto, you have to have a panto dame: a hilarious man playing a female character. For example, I saw a production of Cinderella in which the Ugly Stepsisters were played by men in drag.

Panto, like most children's shows, always have a happy ending and the villain is always redeemed. But it's not entirely for kids because there's always a lot of double entendres thrown in for the adults in the audience -- often by the panto dame(s).

Pantos use a combinations of original music and popular music, sometimes with new lyrics. They also often feature a person in a cow or horse costume. One of the funniest things to me about panto is that typically, the villain enters from stage left and the hero from stage right.

Obviously, this isn't a comprehensive guide to panto but hopefully it will help introduce any other non-British people to what is one of the UK's most unique Christmas traditions. While perhaps not always high quality theatre, it's definitely fun and I can see why children absolutely adore it.

For more information on panto, you can check out my video below or read the sources I used to write this post. (1, 2, 3)

Friday Internet Finds

Can you believe it's already December? Make sure you head over to my YouTube channel because I have LOTS of Christmas content coming.

1) Last week, Hamilton on Broadway broke all time box office records. It looks like the show is still going non-stop.

2) The Play that Goes Wrong has announced that it's going on UK tour and have released their cast list. I'm so excited that one of my favorite YouTubers, Dave of Dave and Sophie, will be in it!

3) I'm so excited that Dove Cameron, known for Descendants, Liv and Maddie, and Hairspray Live!, finally got to announce that she is going to be on Agents of Shield in their next season.

4) I adore this interview with the lovely Anna O'Byrne, talking about being in Andrew Lloyd Webber shows and working with Julie Andrews in My Fair Lady. 

5) This video of The Addams Family cast in Singapore lip-synching is absolutely hilarious and adorable.

What I Did This Week: November 20-26

This week was quite busy so I didn't get to do as much London exploring as I typically like. Plus, with only a few weeks left before I head home for Christmas I'm going to have to buckle down on my essays. However, I do have some very exciting things planned for the next few weeks!

On Monday night, I attended the first preview of The Woman in White, a slightly reworked version of the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical based on the novel by Wilkie Collins. I've been looking forward to it for months as it has some of my favorite West End actors in it and it did not disappoint in the least. I filmed a video reviewing the novel and the show, which the Woman in White Twitter and Charing Cross Theatre Twitter were both kind enough to share. Definitely keep an eye out for my upcoming blog review of it as well!

Heritage Sites & Museums
I actually didn't attend any museums this week other than my normal shift at the Charles Dickens Museum and doing my orientation at the John Keats House. However, I did work the 'Sherry Cobbler & Strawberry Collins: An Evening of Forgotten Cocktails' event on Wednesday night at the Charles Dickens Museum which was so fun. It was all about the cocktails that Dickens loved, complete with a tasting by the London Gin Club, which was also my work station.

(My final verdict is that the Sherry Cobbler was nasty, but I wish the Strawberry Collins was still in fashion because it would be my drink of choice.)

For BroadwayWorld this week, I went to see my first panto (a blog post and YouTube video coming about that soon). I got to see Hackney Empire's Cinderella which was really great fun even if it was very different than anything I'd seen before. You can read my review here.

On Friday night, some friends and I went out to Enchanted Woodland at Syon Park. It's a super creative and inventive light show of sorts that I honestly can't even explain (and my photos certainly don't do it justice). It was really cool experience, even if it was freezing cold!

Friday Internet Finds

Happy Friday! Can you believe that next week marks the beginning of December?

1) I'm so excited that Six, a pop mini musical about the six wives of King Henry VIII that was popular at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, has announced four London performances over December and January. I'll definitely be going to that one!

2) This Buzzfeed quiz tells you which Disney character you should play at a Disney park. I was so excited that I got Belle (even if I know I'm actually too short to play her).

3) While it's technically past Thanksgiving today, I still wanted to share this awesome Thanksgiving-themed playlist that my friend Raj made.

4) Alyssa Campanella is by far my favorite fashion blogger, partially because of her love for history and period drama, so it's no surprise that I fell in love with this Downton Abbey inspired post of hers.

5) Rob Houchen recently released his music video for "Safe and Sound" from his latest EP on his new Vevo channel on YouTube. Definitely check it out as it's absolutely gorgeous.

Review: Kinky Boots starring Jordan Fox (Charlie Price u/s)

Kinky Boots has been one of my favorite shows for years and I recently got the chance to see it for the fifth time here in the West End. I saw it last month with David Hunter, the lead, playing Charlie Price and while he was amazing, last week I went specifically to see Jordan Fox as Charlie. I'd heard amazing things and I definitely was not disappointed.

I was lucky enough to win the TodayTix lottery, which I cannot recommend enough, and thus got an amazing front row seat for just £20!

Kinky Boots tells the story of Charlie Price who begins making boots for drag queens to save his father's shoes factory. At the heart of the show is his relationship with drag queen, Lola, and how both he and the rest of the factory workers have to come to accept her. Throw in a cute love story, a great message about accepting yourself and others, fun music by Cyndi Lauper, flashy big dance numbers, and you've got an amazing show.

Verity Rushworth is a wonderful and hilarious Lauren who manages to bring charm to the kooky role. She has a lovely voice and her "The History of Wrong Guys" is easily a highlight of the show. She remains relatable and provides a great contrast to Bleu Woodward's Nicola. I must say that Bleu is the best Nicola I've ever seen, simply in that she made a somewhat difficult character quite likable. She has a lovely voice that almost seems wasted on this small role and her Nicola is a driven career woman who is simply unwilling to give up her dreams for a man -- and quite rightly!

I was impressed by Simon-Anthony Rhoden's Lola once again. He has a glorious voice and dance skills to match. Simon also manages to bring both the humor and the drama of the role across equally, whereas I have found that many Lola's are good at one and not the other. (I also have to say that every time I see him, I'm a bit struck by how muscular he is...you definitely can believe that he's a trained fighter like Lola supposedly is!)

Jordan Fox is definitely one of the best Charlie's I've ever seen. He comes across as quite a young Charlie: a young man who has lost his father and is struggling to find his purpose in life. He has a splendid voice and hit Charlie's higher notes seemingly effortlessly. His chemistry with both Simon-Anthony Rhoden and Verity Rushworth was lovely. I will also say that he used his shorter height to his advantage, which made scenes with factory worker Don even funnier than normal.

Charlie can be a bit of a hard role, in that in many scenes, he comes across as a bit of a jerk, yet the musical doesn't seem to function properly if he's not lovable. Jordan is the only Charlie I've seen who maintained his likability the entire way through the show. Several lines I've normally seen delivered harshly, he said with an apologetic smile. He also broke into tears in several different moments (his voicemail to Lola at the beginning of "Hold Me in Your Heart" was particularly poignant). He brought me to tears more than I thought you could cry in a feel-good show like Kinky Boots!

I've now seen Kinky Boots now on Broadway twice, the US tour, and in the West End twice and there's something special about this current cast here in London. I can't recommend this beautiful show with upbeat music and a lovely message enough. When people are going to New York or London, it's always one of the things I suggest they see!

You can buy tickets to see Kinky Boots here or via TodayTix.

What I Did This Week: November 13-19

This week was a crazy week for me! I saw three different shows (and a movie!) and had a lot going on with class and work as well. I decided to add another category onto these posts, BroadwayWorld, as a place to share with you the articles that I've written for them each week and separate the shows I review from the ones I see for myself personally.

On Corinne's suggestion, I went to see Apologia on Monday night which starred Stockard Channing, Laura Carmichael, and Freema Agyeman. It closed on the 18th, so I realized that I needed to get on it if I wanted to see it and wow, am I glad that I did. It's a stunning family drama that largely deals with the issue of the sacrifices that the family matriarch has made for her career as an art historian. The entire cast was stunning and proved that, unlike some celebrity casting, each of them was perfectly suited to their role.

On Wednesday night, I returned to one of my favorite shows, Kinky Boots. I absolutely adore this show and when I heard that the Charlie Price understudy, Jordan Fox, was on, I knew I had to go. I was lucky enough to win the TodayTix lottery and get the very middle seat of the front row. I plan on doing a full review of Jordan's Charlie, but for now, I'll just say that he was definitely one of the best I've ever seen. He managed to make Charlie likable the entire way through...which I've never seen before!

Heritage Sites & Museums
On Monday, I went to the British Library exhibit about Harry Potter and the history of magic. If you want to go, I recommend buying your tickets far in advance because it does sell out far in advance (we booked our tickets over two weeks before). It's well worth seeing as it has a combination of objects related to the history of magic (including actual cauldrons!) and things like J.K. Rowling's original sketches and drafts. More than that, it's beautifully designed and has some lovely interactive bits as well.

I went to see a show at the Saatchi Gallery called Inside Pussy Riot on Thursday afternoon. You can read my full review for BroadwayWorld here, but it's a completely immersive on your feet production about the Russian feminist punk rock group, Pussy Riot. It's completely different from anything I've ever experienced before and if I'm perfectly honest, a bit too much for me, but also very good for what it is.

I interviewed Robert Hastie, the artistic director of Sheffield Theatres on Wednesday and he was absolutely lovely. He's done some amazing work and was quite eloquent in the interview as we spoke about directing and his upcoming production of The Wizard of Oz. I'm really looking forward to seeing The York Realist which he's directing at the Donmar Warehouse in the spring. You can read the interview here.

On Friday, I interviewed Marisha Wallace who is moving from being the alternate to the principal Effie in Dreamgirls and also is releasing her own Christmas album. She had some great comments about being an alternate to a celebrity and about the need to return to real music. I also loved talking to her because she's also from the Raleigh area of North Carolina! You can read that interview here.

Friday Internet Finds

Happy Friday! It seems like this fall is flying by and it will be December before you know it.

1) Speaking of December, Tony Howell put up his gift guide geared towards creative people. If you love doing your Christmas shopping a bit early like I do, this is amazing!

2) Has anyone else seen the Murder on the Orient Express movie yet? Leslie Odom Jr. gave such an incredible performance in it! I love this "Which Murder on the Orient Express Character are You?" quiz from Buzzfeed.

3) Some of the biggest news on Broadway this week is that Come From Away is being made into a film!

4) Full casting and US transfer dates have been announced by the Old Vic production of A Long Day's Journey into Night. I am definitely planning on trying to get a ticket to see it!

5) I was lucky enough to be at Carolyn Maitland's #SongsChosenByYou concert at the Zedel a couple of weekends ago. West End Video put up this video of her jazzy rendition of "Proud of Your Boy" from Aladdin and it's stunning.

What I Did This Week: November 6-12

Last week was an exciting week because it was my Reading Week -- a week meant to give you time to catch up on reading and start planning on essay. Well, I don't think any of my classmates or I thought it meant that...a lot of people in my program went traveling, while I explored some of London and took a day trip out to Brighton!

On Monday, I got to help out BroadwayWorld at a press junket for Glengarry Glen Ross. You can watch the video put together from the footage I worked on here. (And yes, I met Christian Slater and he was incredibly nice.)

Corinne and I went to see the Royal Shakespeare Company Coriolanus at the Barbican, where it transferred to after its run in Stratford-upon-Avon. We were actually both quite unimpressed with the production; it seemed a bit lackluster and tame for such a bloody, exciting play.

I also went back to see Venus in Fur again with my friend Rhiannon. The play definitely seems even better now than it did the first time around and I am still floored by Natalie Dormer and David Oakes. It was quite the experience to see it from the front row! You can read my review from the first time I saw the show here

This week I also did an interview with two of the stars of the Hackney Empire panto this year, Cinderella. They were both absolutely lovely and I'm looking forward to seeing the panto to review it for BroadwayWorld next week. You can read the interview here

I don't often go to the cinema to see a film (they're expensive these days!), but I had to go to see Murder on the Orient Express. I absolutely loved the book by Agatha Christie when I read it in September and I'll see anything directed by Kenneth Branagh. I was so impressed by this movie, especially the performances by Branagh, Michelle Pfeiffer, Leslie Odom Jr., and Daisy Ridley. I will definitely be buying the DVD for this one.

Heritage Sites
I had my orientation and first shift at the Charles Dickens Museum this past week. I absolutely love this little museum that is located in the only surviving London residence of author Charles Dickens. It's a charming little museum and has an impressive amount of Dickens's belongings, including the only piece of his clothing known to have survived. I highly recommend a visit if you're ever in London and not just because I'm a volunteer there.

I went to the Banqueting House for the first time this past week. It's one of the Historic Royal Palaces so I get in for free on my membership. If you're a member, I would definitely recommend going because it's gorgeous and quite interesting. However, as it's only really two rooms I'm not sure that I would recommend going if you had to pay the fee to get in. However, it's definitely beautiful and has a great audio guide. The structure is the only surviving part of the Palace of Whitechapel. You can see more photos in my blog post about it here.

Like I said, I went out to Brighton for the day on Friday and went to the Royal Pavilion there. As a matter of fact, I ended up buying a membership so that I can go back! It's a fascinating palace with its Indian-inspired exterior and Chinese-inspired interiors. The exhibits center around its two most important residents, George IV (who lived there when he was Prince Regent) and Queen Victoria. It also has a fascinating history as a hospital for Indian soldiers during World War I.

I wasn't sure what category to put this under, but I attended a special performance for Remembrance Day on Sunday at the National Portrait Gallery. "In Remembrance" was a performance of World War I poetry and songs by four actors. It was a great experience and felt nice to do something to commemorate the holiday.

What I Did This Week: October 30-November 5

I'm excited to announce a new series for this blog called What I Did This Week. I was reading Jim Chapman's blog and he does a weekly post called "What I Got Up To." Now, I won't be sharing all that I'm doing because you can find that on my London blog, but I wanted to share with you all of the cultural events and sites that I visit each week.

I thought it might be nice for anyone who wants to or is planning on moving to London to see what the city has to offer in terms of heritage and arts. It will also be a place for me to share the reviews I write for BroadwayWorld. I'll normally be posting on Sundays or Monday mornings, but this week's just got a little behind.

Diary of a Nobody, King's Head Theatre
On Thursday, I saw the delightful Victorian comedy Diary of a Nobody at the King's Head Theatre up by Angel Islington. It's an impressive little shown with four actors playing 45 characters. It was actually my first show as a member of the press and you can read my full review for BroadwayWorld UK here.

West End Wilma Awards
On Friday, I got to attend the fourth annual West End Wilma award show. Run by one of the most successful theatre blogs, it's a great time for people from all areas of the industry to come together and enjoy a fun afternoon in the lovely events space in the Prince of Wales Theatre. There's nothing like realizing that you're sat in front of Rachel Tucker only when she stands up to get her award.

Rob Houchen at the Theatre Café 
While I went to Rob Houchen's EP launch the weekend before, I also couldn't resist going down to see his small set at the Theatre Café. I highly recommend you check out Rob's new album, "Within Reach," on iTunes. (I'm actually listening to it as I write this.) Rob's got a lovely voice and he's also proven himself to be a great songwriter.

St Albans Cathedral 
On Sunday, I went out to St Albans to visit a friend of mine who's also an Elon alumna. She showed me around the charming town and the cathedral where she works. I also hear St Albans Cathedral cited as a great day trip from London and I couldn't agree more. Only a half hour outside of London and surrounded by a delightful town full of fun shops and restaurants, the cathedral has a history that dates back to Roman times. I put up lots of photos and recounted as much of her tour as I could remember in my blog post.

Friday Internet Finds

Can you believe that it's already November? It feels like October absolutely flew by.

1) Want to take a quiz that will tell you which Disney Princess would play you in a movie about your life? Of course you do!

2) I found a super helpful website called "How Long to Read This" where you can enter a book title and it tells you how long on average it takes to read it. Useful for readings for school or just when you want to know how long a book will take.

3) The Lion King on Broadway has made the first Broadway show themed Snapchat filter. You can download it from the link in this article about it. (I'm not saying I sent a bunch of lip-synch snaps of me singing along to "Shadowland" with the Nala filter on, but...)

4) Speaking of The Lion King, this article talks about a cast member who has been in the show since it opened 20 years ago. So impressive!

5) I love the Broadway.com 'Character Study' features that they're doing lately and this one of Gardar Thor who plays the Phantom in the Love Never Dies tour is especially interesting because you get to see his makeup and hair being done for the role.


November Goals

Happy November! Since they don't have Thanksgiving here in London obviously, as far as I'm concerned the Christmas season starts today...

Goal Update - October Goals

1) Find a part-time job. This is something that I'm still working on. I found a volunteer position as a Room Steward at the Charles Dickens Museum, which I am so excited about! I've applied to a few other volunteer positions and have also given a resume to almost every West End theatre in hopes of finding a Front of House job. So fingers crossed that November is the month that something works out!

2) Film some videos and figure out a new set-up. I'm very happy that I've figured out a set-up that works (at least for now) and have gotten a new tripod. In the month of October, I uploaded EIGHT videos to my YouTube channel and gained fourteen subscribers.

3) Stay on top of my reading list. I actually managed to keep up with all my reading for class somehow despite sometimes feeling like I was drowning in it.

4) Do something with a friend at least twice a week. I've made so much progress in the month of October with making friends. I've gotten together with multiple friends, eaten lunch with my classmates often, and even had a sleepover with Corinne.

November Goals

1) Apply to internships. I have already started applying to internships and placements for the spring, but I have many more applications left to do and more internships to find.

2) Catch up on show reviews on my blog and YouTube channel. I've fallen quite behind in my reviewing and need to catch up and then attempt to keep up during the month of November.

3) Learn more about Charles Dickens. This month, I start my position as a volunteer Room Steward at the Charles Dickens Museum and yet I've read astoundingly little Dickens in my time. I've recently bought a book about Dickens and A Tale of Two Cities and I have the DVD of Great Expectations on its way to me.

4) Keep my succulents alive. This might seem silly but one of my succulents died earlier this week and it made me so sad! I'm determined to keep her replacement alive, so here's to hoping I can do it in November.

What are your goals for November? Let me know on Twitter or in the comments below. x

Friday Internet Finds

Happy Friday everyone! Does anyone have fun plans for Halloween? If you're dressing up as a theatre character, I would love it if you tweeted me a photo of your costume. x

1) It was announced that Renée Zellweger will star as Judy Garland in a Rupert Gold led biopic about the famed stage and screen star.

2) In an interview, original RENT star Anthony Rapp said that he's nervous that RENT Live will be "watered down" due to television censoring. I'd been thinking about this too and I'm very curious to see how they'll deal with it.

3) Many theatres in the UK released a joint statement about the theatre industry and its need to take a stand against sexual harassment. I hope that they truly do pursue finding ways to ensure that it isn't allowed to be swept under the rug.

4) This brilliant article from Forbes discusses why there is only one surviving play on Broadway from last season and why plays seem to have such little staying power.

5) I'm SO impressed by the stagey pumpkins that Amy carved. I definitely want to attempt a Hamilton one...Are any of you carving pumpkins for Halloween?

Friday Internet Finds

Happy Friday! Yesterday marked my one month anniversary of moving to London, which seems insane to me.

1) I absolutely loved this interview with David Oakes about his role in Venus in Fur. This interview makes it clear how intelligent he is and he's so humble about how amazing he is in the part.

2) This quiz to determine if your latest man is actually the man of your dreams or if he's Sweeney Todd is hilarious.

3) In case you've not heard, the first block of tickets for Harry Potter and the Cursed Child on Broadway went on sale...and it didn't go well.

4) BroadwayHD just got a little more accessible. Its subscription fee is lowering to $8.99 a month, as it's partnering with Amazon and Ericsson.

5) This Jeremy Jordan Disney medley is everything I've ever dreamed of -- and more.

Review: Venus in Fur starring Natalie Dormer and David Oakes

I was lucky enough to win lottery tickets via the TodayTix app to see Venus in Fur its opening week, starring two of my favorite film and television actors, Natalie Dormer and David Oakes. The show is currently at the Theatre Royal Haymarket, one of my favorite theatres in London, and is only running until December 9th.

It's an electrifying production of David Ives' play which did quite well on Broadway. In a gripping 90 minutes, with no interval, it manages to showcase both its actors to their full potential. It tells the story of a New York playwright/director, Thomas Novachek, who is searching for an actress to play the lead in his new play based on the German novel of the 1870s, Venus in Fur. That novel, by Leopold von Sacher-Masoch, inspired the term masochism and tells the story of a tempestuous relationship between Severin and Wanda. When Vanda Jordan, an unschooled, vulgar actress arrives late to her audition, the show really takes off. The actors switch seamlessly between the roles of playwright and actress and the characters they are reading, Severin and Wanda.

The production is simply stunning despite its simplicity. With all the action taking place in one 90 minute stretch, it's amazing that the actors can summon the same energy throughout as neither leave the stage once they've entered it. The two summon British accents for the characters they are reading, while employing New York accents for Novachek and Vanda. Natalie Dormer's brash Brooklyn accent is quite impressive, while David Oakes's more subdued New York accent is unquestionable (as I assured him at stage door). 

Having seen David Oakes as Juan Borgia on The Borgias and as the devilishly handsome and promiscuous Prince Ernest on Victoria, I had high hopes for him which he didn't disappoint in the least. 

He manages to hold his own beside Dormer (no small feat), while never attempting to upstage her. He portrays the tortured playwright with seeming ease and lends him an air of charisma that keeps the audience enthralled. He also manages to bring quite a bit of humor into the role, without losing his intellectual air. 

I also have to say that he was incredibly kind at stage door, spending several minutes talking to each person and signing out their autographs to them personally. We had a nice chat about American accents and the irony in the fact that he has a line about the Borgias in the play. 

Natalie Dormer has been my favorite actress for years, with stunning performances on The Tudors, The Scandalous Lady W, The Riot Club, and Game of Thrones to name a few. (I have never recovered from her character's death on GoT and haven't watched the show since it happened.) 

But her performance as Vanda/Wanda is one of the best I've seen from her. It was incredible getting to watch her live, as she switched effortlessly between the sophisticated poised Wanda and the brash Brooklynite Vanda. This role manages to showcase many sides of Dormer's talent, including comedy which she is surprisingly adept at. Dormer's chemistry with Oakes, and her general charisma on stage, make it difficult to take your eyes off of her.  

I wasn't expecting either actor to stage door so I was pleasantly shocked when I heard that both of them do. Natalie was absolutely lovely, despite it raining which caused issues with pens. She was happy to sign programmes, take photos, and have a little chat with each person there. I was able to tell her that I've admired her work for years and she said that she's so happy to be back on the stage after five years. 

This play is one that I will be returning to at least once, if not twice. It's an intelligent piece that never lets the audience look away with two stunning leads who live up to their lengthy resumes, and then some. In truth, I was so on edge the entire performance, I felt exhausted at the end. (And thus, I can only imagine how Dormer and Oakes feel.) I highly recommend grabbing a ticket to this show if you can make it to London during its run; you won't be disappointed.

You can also check out my video review of the show, paired with my review of Queen Anne:
Blogger Template Created by pipdig