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.

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