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:

Friday Internet Finds

Happy Friday! It's hard to believe that I've already been in London for three weeks now. Classes are fully in swing and I'm even starting to have a handle on the buses. How is October going for all of you?

1. The Stage's annual ticketing survey revealed that for the first time ever, the majority of West End shows are selling their top tickets for over 100 pounds. As someone used to Broadway prices, this still sounds fairly inexpensive especially considering the amount of theatres that offer lotteries or dayseats. However, it's a big deal for the West End as there's been a rapid increase in pricing over the past five years.

2. Amidst all of the horrifying revelations about Harvey Weinstein this past week, the In The Heights creative team have asked for the Weinstein company to give them back the rights to the movie adaption. Let's hope they comply -- and quickly.

3. There's nothing to make you miss New York like a "How Trash Are Your NYC Food Opinions?" quiz. (Dollar pizza beats everything else. Always.)

4. Young Frankenstein had its official opening this week to mixed, but overall positive reviews. The Stage rounded up many of them in this article. I saw the show at the end of September, when it was in previews, and (while a full review is coming) have to say I agree with some of the critics' positive and negative points.

5. I love Instagram takeovers so of course I loved Charlotte Kennedy's for West End Wilma. Charlotte plays Cosette in Les Mis and her takeover was absolutely hilarious and I loved how she managed to involve a majority of the cast in it!

Review: Hamlet (Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts)

The Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts made headlines in September with their production of Hamlet, directed by Kenneth Branagh and starring Tom Hiddleston as the Danish prince. Both Branagh and Hiddleston, along with being two of the greatest living Shakespearean actors, are alumni of the RADA, as were about two thirds of the rest of the cast and crew. Tickets were sold via ballot as the show was performed in the RADA's Jerwood Vanbrugh Theatre, which has only 160 seats, and ran just for three weeks. I was lucky enough to snag tickets for my mom and I to see it while she was in London moving me over here and I couldn't have asked for a better first experience seeing a professional production of Shakespeare.

There were many who criticized the show for its exclusivity, however, it was a fundraiser for the RADA and thus was performed in one of the RADA's theatres, hence the small size. This also explains why it didn't provide press tickets -- any press members wishing to see the show had to battle for tickets just like anyone else because it was seeking to raise funds, not get great reviews. (Because of the time change, I had to get up at 5am to get my tickets.)

I felt that the small venue gave the piece an intimacy that worked very well with the material. At one point, I actually made eye contact with Hiddleston from my seat in the third row. There wasn't a bad seat in the house and the proximity of the actors made it even more gripping.

One of my favorite things about the production was that Branagh decided to cast several of the traditionally male roles as women. This seems to be a recent trend, as I've seen in done in productions by the Royal Shakespeare Company too, and it's one I highly approve of. Horatio became Horatia, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern became Rosacrantz and Guildastern, and Marcellus and Bernardo became Marcella and Bernarda. This helped even the ratio of men to women in the cast and I thought it was a lovely touch since it didn't alter the story at all.

Another strength was the combat scenes. Hiddleston is truly a wonder to watch in stage combat and the scenes were endued with an energy and a reality that made the audience momentarily worry about the safety of the characters. It appeared more like combat than stage combat. The production had few weaknesses in my mind, aside from perhaps Nicholas Farrell's King Claudius being a bit flat at times.

The women of the production were absolutely stunning. RADA-trained Lolita Chakrabarti gave Gertrude such an earnestness and a genuine worry about her son that it made the queen's despair quite touching.

Similarly, Kathryn Wilder as Ophelia truly pulled at the audience's hearts. I was astounded to learn that she only graduated from the RADA two years ago. Her Ophelia was bright, happy, and affectionate without a sign of weakness. I loved that they played a genuine affection between her and Polonius and Laertes and made the scenes in which they warn her about Hamlet's intentions seem more like teasing than actual disapproval. Her madness was unsettling--as it should be--and heartbreaking. Ophelia has always been one of my favorite characters in all of Shakespeare and I feel so lucky that I got to see such a wonderful, strong portrayal for my first time seeing Hamlet live.

Surprisingly, I felt that one of the strongest performances was that of Sean Foley who played Polonius. He struck a perfect balance between seeming foolish and seeming like a statesman, which made his Polonius seem like someone you could find in government today. His open affection with Ophelia and Laertes endeared him to the audience as more than just a comic figure, so that you felt genuine sorrow when he was killed. I enjoyed that he played a Polonius with the best of intentions as it provided a foil to King Claudius.

Perhaps it goes without saying that Hiddleston was an astounding Hamlet. I'm always interested in an actor's choices around Hamlet because there are so many to be made: is he actually mad? Does he, or did he ever, love Ophelia? Hiddleston's Hamlet was intelligent, profoundly sad, and filled with fury. While some Hamlets seem like sullen teenage boys, his had a rage that simmered under the surface and leapt out in some scenes. He played a very physical Hamlet, both in embracing friends frequently and slamming tables. He was the sort of Hamlet that had you a bit on edge about what he might do next; there seemed a real danger in him despite the semblance of a noble man.

Hiddleston's monologues were lovely but he really shined in scenes with the show's actresses. His relationship with Horatia was touching; in very few scenes, they managed to portray a true depiction of close friends. In scenes with Gertrude, he exuded a betrayed feeling. And he was stunning in his scenes with Ophelia. It was clear that underneath a mask of madness, he had real concern for her. I've never heard the "Get thee to a nunnery" line delivered as he did it; it seemed a warning to her to flee Elsinore before bad things occurred, not a dismissal or an insult.

All in all, the RADA Hamlet was a unique and thoughtful production of Hamlet, if not an overly original one. Though somewhat classical, it also made some radical choices with its casting of females in male roles. Hiddlestone was every bit as brilliant a Hamlet as might have been expected, with a strong supporting cast, many of them not many years out of the RADA. My only regret is that the production wasn't filmed to raise more money for the RADA as DVDs certainly would have sold well.

You can also check out my video review of the production, paired with my review of Much Ado About Nothing: 


Friday Internet Finds

Happy Friday! It was a big week in theatre with several big announcements being made. This week, I made it through my first week of classes and saw two shows. Let me know how your week was in the comments or on Twitter. x

1) The BroadwayWorld UK awards are now open for voting. My personal recommendation is for everyone to go vote for Killian Donnelly for Best Male Long-running West End Show Performer, but there are so many well deserving nominees for the awards.

2) One of the best things about the month of October is that you can watch Halloween movies! This Buzzfeed quiz will tell you which Halloweentown character you are based on your Chipotle order.

3) Casting was finally announced for the upcoming Broadway production of My Fair Lady. With names like Colin Firth and Laura Benanti having been whispered (and my personal hopes that they might cast younger talent like Denée Benton), it was a bit of a let-down in my opinion but I'm excited to see how this cast does.

4) The stage adaption of Moulin Rouge has announced the rest of its creative team. It will have a developmental workshop this October 30 to December 15 before hopefully coming to Broadway in the near future.

5) As I just got back from the Globe Theatre as I'm writing this, I felt I had to include the announcement that Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson will star in a BBC2 television production of King Lear. The rest of the cast includes British greats like Emily Watson and Jim Broadbent. It's set to air in 2018.

October Goals

I can't believe that September is gone and we're already in October! It'll be the end of 2017 before you know it. I actually did a good job with my goals in September so here's to hoping October will be just as productive.

Goal Update - September Goals 

(1) Pack for the move. Well, I'm in London now! I managed to get everything packed (even if it came down to the hours before we left for the airport) and moved across the ocean.

(2) Pre-write and pre-film some content for the end of September. I actually did this and managed to keep uploading fairly frequently. I also hit 200 subscribers on my YouTube channel so I really can't complain.

(3) Finish cleaning my room. Okay, this goal...I struggled with a bit. But I managed to make everything decent and can finish when I'm home in December.

(4) Launch my new study abroad blog. I launched Sailing Off to London and have been posting on it every day or every other day since getting here. I couldn't be more happy with it and I'm plugging along with learning how to use Wordpress.

October Goals 

(1) Find a part-time job. Because I have more free time than I'm used to and can work up to 20 hours a week on my student visa, I'm trying to find a part-time job. Thus far, I've been focusing on front of house jobs at theatres, but I'm also open to working or volunteering at a museum or anything else relevant to my degree.

(2) Film some videos and figure out a new set-up. I've only filmed one video here thus far and that was just to film a quick bit about moving here. I need to figure out where and how I'm going to film videos in my room and get some new content up this month.

(3) Stay on top of my reading list. One of the main differences about university in the UK versus in the US is that you're in class for much less time every week but you have mountains of reading to do in exchange. My major goal for this month is to adjust to the amount of reading I need to be doing and not fall behind.

(4) Do something with a friend at least twice a week. This could be as simple as grabbing lunch with someone after class, but I need to push myself to socialize. I've been a bit lonely thus far but for someone so extroverted, I'm rather terrible at making myself make friends. So it's my goal to have some 'people time' at least twice a week. (This week, I'm going to the pub with a friend on Thursday and then going to a matinee with the same friend on Friday!)

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

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