Review: 42nd Street

The ensemble of 42nd Street

It's hard to believe that 42nd Street first premiered on Broadway in 1980 even if it is based on a 1933 film because it feels like an old school pre-war Broadway musical. With stunning tap dancing, flashy costumes, and gorgeous sets, it's almost easy to overlook the slightly cringe-inducing plot. Whatever you think of the merits of the show itself, it's hard to deny that the production at Theatre Royal Drury Lane is a great bit of fun.

The plot of 42nd Street follows bright-eyed Pennsylvania girl Peggy Sawyer who arrives in New York desperate to find a role on Broadway. Luckily, her dreams are backed up by talent and she finds a role in the ensemble of Pretty Lady. When the show's prima donna Dorothy Brock is injured, Peggy gets her chance. Throw in some romantic intrigue, mainly with the gruff director Julian Marsh, and some cast drama and you've got a classic Broadway musical.

The show is kind of a jukebox musical  with songs from Dubin and Warren's shows in addition to the original film. Personal favourites include "Young and Healthy", "I Only Have Eyes for You", and of course the classic "Lullaby of Broadway". It's worth noting that the lyrics of "Young and Beautiful" feel particularly outdated.

The show's best asset is its tap dancing without doubt. It's the kind of dance that's hard to find in the West End these days and is absolutely stunning. (In truth, it made me regret quitting tap dancing lessons when I was eight.) There's also something about having a dance ensemble of this size, another thing not many shows can boast. The show is truly at its best during its dance numbers.

Clare Halse and Tom Lister
For me, the plot feels rather outdated, particularly in today's atmosphere of the #MeToo movement. I was uncomfortable with director Julian Marsh's treatment of young naive Peggy Sawyer as he isn't particularly kind to her other than kissing her quite a bit and rather suddenly. It almost felt a bit to workplace harassment to me as he's completely in a power position over her and doesn't seem to ask for her input on their relationship...ever. To me, it's one of those shows (like Carousel) that could use a bit of a rewrite of the book to update it for modern audiences, especially in its treatment of women. 

Pop singer Lulu has recently joined the cast in the role of Dorothy Brock, the self-centered leading lady of the show within the show. While she has charisma in spades and brings a lovely diva performance to the role, her voice does not seem quite up to the part. It felt like she was struggling through several of her songs though her duet with Clare Halse, "About a Quarter to Nine", was surprisingly lovely.

Clare Halse is truly the star of this show as Peggy Sawyer. Her tap dancing is astonishingly good and she's utterly charming with a lovely voice as well. It's hard to imagine anyone playing the role better and I can't understand how she didn't get an Olivier nomination for her performance because she's a true triple threat. (It also annoys me that she doesn't get the last bow.)

Director Julian Marsh is played by Tom Lister and while I don't like the character at all, he does the part very well. His voice seems almost too wonderful to be in a role with very little singing.

One of the amazing sets
New cast member Ashley Day plays Billy Lawlor, the show within the show's star tenor who also has feelings for Peggy. Both his dancing and singing are great and his charm certainly won me over (although I've seen it before and knew the ending, I was somehow wishing for him and Peggy to end up together).

Emma Caffrey stands out as chorus girl Annie who befriends Peggy and fights for her to get her chance. She also is a very talented tapper and her number "Shuffle Off to Buffalo" is a delightful (if seemingly random) bit of the show.

One of of the best parts of the show is the beautiful design. The sets, designed by Douglas W. Schmidt, are lovely from the rehearsal room to the incredibly cool dressing rooms set seen in the picture above. The costumes are glorious period pieces ranging from cute rehearsal wear to glitzy costumes, designed by Roger Kirk. My only complaint is that there were a couple of times it felt almost painful to look at the stage it was so bright!

Despite my issues with the show's book (and one of the leading ladies not quite being able to handle her role), 42nd Street is a fun night out at the theatre. My own personal tastes tend away from these light-hearted 1930s musicals, but even I was had a great time thanks to the talented cast, glorious design, and fun dance numbers.

Photo Credit: Brinkhoff & Moegenburg 

Review: Julius Caesar, Bridge Theatre

David Calder as Julius Caesar
RATING: ★★★★

The Bridge's Julius Caesar is the epitome of theatre that is an experience. With a bold immersive staging and modern setting, it brings the audience directly into the story and shows that the ancient tale of a Roman emperor brought down by those closest to him isn't as far from our current world as we may think. Directed by Nicholas Hytner and designed by Bunny Christie, the production is a very tangible and accessible version of Shakespeare's play.

Julius Caesar is the story, based in truth, of a Roman emperor who has amassed too much power and his assassination at the hands of his friends and senators. The second part of the show follows the aftermath of his death and how Mark Antony wins the people over from the side of the perpetrators. In many ways, it reads as a warning about how the people may be swayed by rhetoric and great speeches.

The Bridge Theatre has seating around a large open space and audience members who have purchased "mob tickets" have free reign of the area. During the performance, platforms rise and fall from the ground and ushers urgently move people out of their way -- and the way of the action. I ended up at the front of the platforms in the pivotal scene in which Caesar is assassinated and it was a thrilling, and even a little bit frightening, experience.

Luckily for those standing, the show has been cut down to two hours with no interval. The continuous action and the proximity to the actors make it easy to get caught up in the drama of the piece. In my opinion, if you are at all able to stand for two hours, then it's the right way to see the show. I can imagine that it's still good from the seating, but it's incredibly powerful to be standing next to actors at times and be a part of the Roman crowds as Mark Antony delivers his famous speech.

Plus, as people filter into the theatre, the Street Band performs a mock rock concert and it's so fun to be towards the front of the stage. It's like a free mini concert thrown in with your theatre ticket!

Ben Whishaw as Marcus Brutus
The entire ensemble give wonderful performances, especially considering how close they are to the audience and the unique staging they're contending with. Ben Whishaw plays Brutus as a man who is bookish and intellectual to the point of naïveté. He makes it clear that it is only his love of Rome and his belief in doing what's right that motivate him to kill his friend, not his own ambition. He delivers Shakespeare's words very naturally and brings a likability to the character that easily wins the audience over to his side.

Michelle Fairley is a devious Cassius, playing Brutus and the other conspirators into her hands easily. However, in the second half of the show, she brings a vulnerability and a humanity to the character that is truly touching and disallows the audience from labeling her a villain.

It's obvious that this is no mere stunt casting, despite her being well known for her Game of Thrones role, but a part that she is truly qualified to play. I also love the decision to make many of the conspirators women, especially the role of Cassius.

David Calder plays a dignified and friendly Caesar, even as he makes it evident that he is happy to take all the power will Rome allow him. As an American, the site of a older white-hair politician in a baseball cap shaking hands with members of the crowd is all too familiar to me.

I was particularly impressed by Leila Farzad as Decius Brutus who did a lovely job showing her immediate grief after the assassination. I felt David Morrisey's Mark Antony was solid, if a bit standard but his speeches to the crowd were rousing.

Fred Fergus, Zachary Hart, Abraham Popoola, and Kit Young as the Street Band
The production definitely presses its relevance to today's world. In the beginning, while the band plays and people find their way to the auditorium, ushers circulate with food and red baseball caps with Caesar's motto on them to buy. It truly felt like a modern day American Republican political rally (except with a great band).

The modern adaption worked well with one exception. To me, the decision to (minor spoiler!) use guns to assassinate Caesar instead of knives took some of the brutality out of the action. The conspirators were able to stay at a range rather than having to see each of their own effect on him, which to me, took away from some of the difficulty of their task. Otherwise, I felt that the contemporary setting was well done.

I highly recommend seeing Julius Caesar while it's at the Bridge Theatre whether you're a Shakespeare fan or not. The immersive standing tickets are just £25 (or £15 if you join the Young Bridge Members) and I strongly believe it's the best way to see the piece. It closes on 15 April so hurry there before you miss it.

You can buy tickets on the Bridge's website or on TodayTix.

Photo Credit: Manuel Harlan 

Playlist: Musical Theatre Songs to Help You Turn Your Life Around

Today I wanted to share with you all a playlist I recently made. When I need to motivate myself, I always listen to music that inspires me to chase my dreams. I find that music can have such a huge impact on my mood -- surely that's been scientifically proven, right?

This playlist was specifically inspired by my love for the song "Dust and Ashes" from Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812 sung by Josh Groban on the OBC album. When I was struggling last spring with feeling like I had studied the wrong thing in undergrad, being rejected from dozens and dozens of jobs, and feeling as though I'd messed up my career (and maybe even my life!), I listened to this song a lot.

It pushed me to keep going, to keep fighting to realign my life in the way that Pierre decides to by the end of the song. I identified with Pierre's despair and his desire to build a life worth living. It was this song that pushed me to apply to grad school in the UK when jobs in New York weren't working out and without it, I certainly wouldn't be in London today.'s a collection of musical theatre songs (and a few songs from musical theatre performers' albums) that will help you turn your life around if you need it, whether that's in relation to your career, your love life, or your whole life in general. Enjoy! x

Review: Wicked

Alice Fearn as Elphaba
RATING: ★★★★

Wicked is practically a staple of musical theatre and one I've seen many times from the West End to Broadway to the US tour. It's the kind of show that I typically enjoy, but am not crazy about. However, my friend Corinne and I went to see the current London production earlier in March and I was absolutely blown away. It felt like I was experiencing the show for the first time.

For anyone who is somehow unaware (if so, where have you been?), Wicked tells the backstory of the Wicked Witch of the West, Elphaba. She attends Shiz University with her crippled younger sister, Nessa, where she meets Galinda, a bubbly popular girl, and Fiyero, a shallow but intriguing prince. The show follows how she encounters the Wizard of Oz himself and becomes known as the Wicked Witch of the West that we know from The Wizard of Oz. 

The design of the show is, of course, stunning in its complexity and outlandishness. The current cast is particularly lovely in the dance scenes. While the ensemble are strong, I was absolutely astonished by how great the current leads are. All three main leads made me reconsider what I thought of their characters and to say I was a bit weepy at the end is the understatement of the century!

Alice Fearn is a beautiful and strong Elphaba with powerhouse vocals. Her portrayal of the character is a bit softer than some I've seen and her "I'm Not That Girl" was particularly heartbreaking. I also thought that she absolutely smashed "No Good Deed", my favorite song in the whole show.

I'm notoriously hard on Galindas because she's my favorite but Sophie Evans is brilliant. She manages to find a middle ground between being energetic and 'popular' and portraying the more vulnerable side of the character. I thought that she had wonderful chemistry with both Alice Fearn and Bradley Jaden and she truly highlighted what a tragic character Galinda really is.

Sophie Evans as Galinda
Bradley Jaden is without a doubt the best Fiyero I've ever seen. His voice is very well suited to the role and makes "As Long As You're Mine" such a treat. He also pulls off all the dancing in "Dancing Through Life" incredibly smoothly. But it was his acting that blew me away: he somehow portrayed a sensitive intellectual Fiyero hiding behind a mask of vanity and a carefree nature. (Also, who knew Fiyero with a man bun was a thing I needed in my life?)

I got to see understudies Rosa O'Reilly as Nessarose and Danny Michaels as Boq, both of whom were absolutely lovely. I never would have guessed they weren't the principles if I hadn't checked the cast board. I was also very impressed by Melanie La Barrie's Madame Morrible. I've never heard a Madame Morrible riff before! She brought such incredible vocals and a delightfully snitty attitude to the role.

Bradley Jaden as Fiyero
It was a rather emotional night at the theatre as I was there with my best friend, Corinne, on her last night in London before moving back to Australia. We ended up sat in the front row of the centre stalls as we'd gotten dayseats that morning and we both sobbed our way through the show. Funny enough, seeing a show that ends with two best friends parting is a bit of a hard thing to make it through without crying when you're about to be across the world from one of your closest friends!

I highly recommend going to check out Wicked with this incredible cast if you're in London. Whether it's your first time or if you've seen the show many times before, I guarantee that it will make you reconsider what you know about the story of The Wizard of Oz.

Photo Credit: Matt Crockett 

My Fitness Journey | #FitLife

After sharing so many tips and thoughts on fitness and what I think it should be about, it felt only fair to talk a bit about my own fitness journey. I've never had an easy relationship with fitness -- or my body in general -- but I've recently come to a place where I genuinely enjoy working out, even if I don't always go to the gym as much as I plan to!

I grew up as a dancer and having started dance at the age of three years old, I never had to worry about being active as a child. I played outside on my swing set a lot and generally enjoyed healthy foods so my parents didn't worry. By the time, I'd cut back on dance, I also was taking tennis lessons. In the summers, I would spend time in the pool and run around in the yard.

By the time I hit my later teen years, I had cut back the hours that I was spending in dance classes and had given up tennis (I've never been particularly sporty). I started to feel bad not just about my body and how it looked, but the fact that I was always the last one to finish running the mile in gym class and couldn't do a single push-up. Through my teen years, I would go through periods of obsessive calorie counting and grueling workout routines of hundreds of crunches. Unsurprisingly, I never really stuck to any of it.

Then, I did what most teenagers do: I went off to university, stopped dancing, had sudden access to buffets for every meal, and ate a lot of junk food (I shudder to think how many Cookout milkshakes I consumed in my first year alone...why was I eating ice cream at 1am? I'm somewhat lactose intolerant!). Throughout university, I would occasionally go to a workout class and sometimes I would get into a rhythm of going to the gym and using the elliptical, but it never seemed to stay for long -- partially because I was busy and didn't want to spend my free time doing something that made me miserable.

This past summer after graduation, I decided to try going to the gym and lifting weights. I have luckily come to terms with the weight that I am and how my body looks -- while it wouldn't hurt to lose some weight to ensure that my heart is healthy, I now know that my weight is not a reflection of my character -- but I wanted to be a bit more in shape. What motivates me now is wanting to be able to go up several flights of stairs without getting winded, be able to comfortably carry boxes around the office if we're moving something, and have plenty of energy to play with my young cousins.

I'd always shied away from weight lifting because I wasn't sure what you were meant to do (how do you put all those exercises together into a routine??) and because I was intimidated at my university gym by how all the machines were dominated by guys. But I was inspired by my friend Allie (see my interview with her here!) and decided to give it a go.

I booked in a few sessions with a trainer at my family's country club gym and told him my goals and my lack of experience. He showed me how all the weight machines work and together we came up with a routine that is both an effective all-body workout and actually enjoyable for me. Now, I don't always stick to the workout plan; sometimes I'll substitute one exercise for another.

In the fall, I went to the gym nearby me here in London twice a week. I haven't been going to the gym much recently because I've been sick and then out of town and I've found that I actually miss it. I've learned the importance of finding a workout that is both effective and enjoyable -- if you don't like what you're doing now, try something else!

If there's anything I've learned, it's that working out shouldn't be a punishment, physically or mentally. It should be a way to take care of your body that you find some joy in. x

Interview with Allie Ducote | #FitLife

A friend of mine from university, Allie Ducote, runs an amazing fitness Instagram account. Allie focuses on how weightlifting has helped her become stronger both physically and emotionally. As soon as I started planning this series, I knew I wanted to feature her account, her inspiring determination, and her great outlook on fitness and nutrition. I'm so happy she agreed to do this interview; make sure to check her out on Instagram. 

Can you introduce yourself? 
Hi! I'm Allie Ducote and I'm a 22 year-old law student from outside of New Orleans, LA. I am a law student, CPA candidate, and fitness enthusiast. In my free time, I run a fitness Instagram, @thislilbeast. While my Instagram is almost as old as the platform itself, I began posting fitness related content at the beginning of 2016.

When did you first start lifting weight? 
In June of 2016 I began lifting weight, but I began my fitness journey in February of 2016.

Is weight lifting different than what you'd thought of it before? 
Weightlifting is absolutely different than what I thought it was before. Growing up, women are shown gendered images of different zones of the gym: women have swinging ponytails on the cardio machines and men have bulging muscles lifting heavy weights. I wanted to challenge that stereotype by being a woman with a swinging ponytail lifting heavy weights next to any person -- man or woman. Weightlifting, and the gym in general, is now my playground, safe haven, and where I go to improve my physical self daily.

How have you learned so much about nutrition and fitness? Any resources you recommend?
I am constantly researching different topics in nutrition and fitness. I typically subscribe to fitness YouTube channels that have a science basis. I recommend Stephanie Buttermore, Jeff Nippard, Amanda Bucci, and Christian Guzman. I use other ways of gaining information, but I would start with credible YouTube channels.

What misconception about weight lifting/the gym/fitness do you hate most?
I hate the misconception that women need to do endless cardio to have the body aesthetic they desire.Many women think that fitness needs to be boring and staying in an elliptical to increase their caloric deficit. In fact, women benefit more by resistance or weight training if they are hoping to lose body fat.

What is your favorite workout?
I love working out my legs. Typically my leg workouts begin with a compound movement (such as squats or deadlifts) and then have 3 or 4 more exercises that focus on hamstring and glute growth.

What motivated you to start using your Instagram as a fitness account?
Many women reached out to me at the beginning of my journey thanking me for being open and honest about the difficulty of losing weight. When more and more people appreciated my vulnerability, I knew I needed to continue sharing. I ultimately decided to stop posting about makeup and continue encouraging other women to find their strength.

What has the response been like to your Instagram?
The response has been overwhelming and humbling. I receive messages daily from strangers (typically women) that have been following me for some time and appreciate the time I spend educating my followers and sharing my everyday life.

You're really passionate about some of the fitness brands you use. Is there one in particular you wish more people knew about? 
I wish people knew more about Detox Organics. When I started drinking this chocolate green powder, I was skeptical that it would indeed taste so good and still be healthy. Every morning, I drink 16-20 oz of cold water and then 8 oz of water mixed with one scoop of Detox Organics. In that one scoop, I get over 10 pounds of vegetables, fruit, and plants that work to detox, alkalize, and cleanse my body. It has dramatically reduced my bloating, inflammation, and fatigue in the morning.

What do you think is the best thing you've gained from weight lifting? 
I have gained physical, emotional, and mental strength through weightlifting. Naturally when you are lifting large amounts of iron, you can increase your physical strength. But I never truly knew what it would do for my emotional strength. I now know that I can overcome any obstacle or hurdle that life can throw at me because I've had the strength to complete this journey thus far.

Would you say you're more confident now than you were before you started? 
Absolutely. Two years ago, I spent two hours each day doing my hair perfectly and meticulously applying my makeup. At the time, I rationalized it by saying that I devoted two hours each day as me-time, but it was time really spent hiding imperfections and scrutinizing myself. While I usually portrayed myself as someone who had confidence, I truly had none.

When you devote yourself to a goal, usually your biggest obstacle to overcome is your mind. Your mind will hold you back from getting to that next level because it is not the norm and is difficult. For me, I had to earn confidence along the way to even think about achieving my goals.

Some girls are intimidated by how male-dominated the weight lifting part of the gym often is. Did you feel that way at first and if so, how did you get over it? 
I definitely felt that way in the beginning. I talk about this a lot on my Instagram because it's a question I get so frequently. First, men that are in the gym find it incredibly attractive to see a woman working out next to them. They find your hard work and strength attractive, so why would you feel intimidated? They are checking you out, but more importantly you are focused on bettering yourself.

If you are so focused on your form and the movement you are performing, there should be no reason to get worried about the male-dominated section of the gym. From the beginning, I have always treated myself to cute gym clothes. It isn't necessary to wear the baggiest t-shirt to hide your body. A ballerina doesn't wear a huge t-shirt at the barre and neither should you. You are the sexist creature out there and spending time to look even more sexy! Don't hide it!

What's your next step from here? Do you have anything exciting planned you can tell us about? 
I have a lot of contacts with companies that I am working to leverage currently. A YouTube channel is in the works and I am thinking about taking on fitness clients in the future! In the far future, I'd love to have a fitness clothing line devoted to Lil Beasts everywhere.

What do you think is a good way to get started for someone who wants to try weight lifting? 
I would first start with YouTube. Watch as many "beginner weightlifting" videos as you can. Go to a couple of group exercise classes at your gym to get a feel for the terminology and what weight you are comfortable working at. Buy a couple of cute workout outfits (I recommend Target, BuffBunny Collection, and Lululemon) and then commit to 30 days.

You don't need to work out every single day, but commit to the lifestyle for 30 days and allow yourself to fall in love with it. You couldn't expect to commit to a partner without a couple of dates at first! And if you are ever struggling with form, exercises, or motivation, reach out to a fit friend. We seem to be everywhere!

Review: The Grinning Man

Louis Maskell as Grinpayne
RATING: ★★★★★

The Grinning Man is unlike anything else I've seen in London. It's a spectacle of semi-immersive theatre, a perfect balance of tragedy and comedy, and one of the most innovative shows I've ever witnessed. A beautiful dark story is combined with the a breathtaking set design, delightful humour, beautiful but quirky music, and a wonderful cast under the direction of Tom Morris.

The show is based on a novel by Victor Hugo called The Man Who Laughs. It's a story of a man named Grinpayne whose face was disfigured at a young age, though he can't remember who did it. He lives in London in a time "that never was" (but feels fairly contemporary with Hugo's other works) with his adoptive father Ursus and the girl he saved from the snow when she was only a baby, Dea.

Added in are some hilarious royals, including the ultimate fangirl Lord David Dirry-Moir. (Yes, he's highly relatable.) The story is told by the hilariously cynical court jester Barkilphedro.

To me, The Grinning Man feels like a combination of The Phantom of the Opera, War Horse, and Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812 - three of my favorite shows. The atmosphere is brilliantly evoked; it feels a bit like a fair from the nineteenth century in which you believe that anything could happen.

The set itself (designed by Jon Bausor) is wonderful, but the coolest part is how they decorated the entire theatre to make you feel like you're a part of the show. There are fair lights (that's the best way I know how to describe them) hung out across the audience and the entire place has an almost steampunk feel to it. It's clear from the moment you arrive that you're going to be close to the story.

Sean Kingsley as Ursus
The show also includes puppetry done by the same people who did the horses for War Horse. While the puppets of the children are fantastic, it's Mojo the wolf that draws gasps from the audience. Is it strange to admit that at times I forgot it was a puppet?

The show has a lovely eclectic score that blends traditional musical theatre and more pop/rock musical theatre very well. With music written by Tim Phillips and Marc Teitler and lyrics by Carl Grose, Tom Morris, Tim Phillips, and Marc Teitler, it blends into the dialogue quite well. My personal favorite songs from the show are "Beauty and the Beast", "Freak Show", "Brand New World of Feeling", and the show-stopping "Labyrinth". Can we please get a cast album soon?

I'm particularly impressed by the show's book, done by Carl Grose. I'm not typically keen on musicals that aren't sung-through, but the dialogue in The Grinning Man is very well done.

Sanne den Besten and Louis Maskell as Dea and Grinpayne
The show is what I would describe as semi-immersive. People who've read my blog for a while might remember how much I adored Great Comet and I recently saw the immersive Julius Caesar at the Bridge Theatre. I think that involving the audience in the story and breaking the fourth wall is such a fun thing to do to test the boundaries of theatre.

The Grinning Man heavily uses the aisles and also has a platform built in the middle of the front stalls where some of the action takes place. I recommend booking in for the first few rows of the stalls if you can when you go, somewhere in between rows B and H for the most immersive experience. There's nothing like feeling like you're actually part of the action.

The cast of this show really are stunning. The three royal children are absolutely hilarious. Amanda Wilkin brings a soulful jazzy sound to songs like "Brand New World of Feeling" but also brings an earnestness to even the most outlandish of her lines that make them all the more funny. Mark Anderson is one of the highlights of the show, in my opinion, as he makes Dirry-Moir somehow incredibly relatable despite being ridiculously foppish.

Julian Bleach is appropriately creepy as the jester Barkilphedro and delivers one of the best comedic performances I've ever seen. The ensemble are all stunning, but I was particularly impressed by Ewan Black's vocals as Trelaw/Osric. He manages to make the rather minor character of Trelaw seem very defined and gave a dignity to the revolutionary that I appreciated. (I know, I know, of course someone with a blog called 'Flower Crowns and Revolutionaries' would give a shoutout to the revolutionary character.)

The ensemble of The Grinning Man
Sanne de Besten lends a whimsical quality to Dea without losing the gravity and tragedy of the role. She reminds me a bit of Luna Lovegood, in fact. I thought that her portrayal of Dea's blindness was rather good and her vocals are absolutely wonderful. (I'm so glad I got to see her in this as I always wanted to see her when she was the cover Fantine in Les Mis.)

What can you even say about a performance like Louis Maskell's as Grinpayne? He delivers some of the best vocals currently on the West End, despite wearing a prosthetic over the lower half of his face during the show. His voice is very strong, with a unique sound to it that's well suited to the role. His acting is equally as wonderful and he portrays the tragic character of Grinpayne with such heart that it's impossible not to feel for him.

The first time I went, I got to see three understudies who were all fabulous in their roles. Jonathan Cobb was on for Mojo and it astounds me that anyone who doesn't do that kind of puppetry every day could be so good at it. Leo Elso was playing King Clarence and his performance somewhat reminded me of the character of King George in Hamilton - utterly ridiculous and hilariously condescending.

David Bardsley as Ursus blew me away; he was so fatherly and warm that I completely wasn't ready for what occurred in Act II. His voice is also very good which made "Stars in the Sky" one of the best parts of the show. No disrespect meant to the principle, but I hope that I get to see Bardsley's Ursus again before the show closes.

I've seen The Grinning Man twice already and have plans to go back twice more before its closing. (I want to bring every friend I have to see the show.) I thought that after The Woman in White closed, it would be a while before I found another show to fall head over heels for but The Grinning Man won me over before Act I had even finished. If you love tragic stories, hilarious comedy, semi-immersive productions, or simply incredible vocals than I highly recommend going to see it.

The Grinning Man is only open until 14 April so I'd recommend going to see it as soon as you can. It plays at the Trafalgar Studios and you can purchase tickets on their website (including £25 student tickets) or on TodayTix.

You can also check out my video review of The Grinning Man:

Photo Credit: Helen Maybanks

Mental Health: It’s All About You | #FitLife

When my friend Laura offered to write a post about mental health for #FitLife, I was thrilled. I think that mental health and physical health shouldn't be viewed as such separate entities. Laura's post has some great ideas about taking care of your mental health. 

When it comes to mental health, I'm a firm believer that there's no such thing as having too many tools in a mental health toolbox. There's also no right or wrong combination of tools that you use. Everyone's brain is different and we all have different life experiences that make us unique and shape how we perceive different situations.

This can also make starting a mental health journey difficult because it's hard to know where to begin. Here are three of my favorite tools that helped me get started on my journey to creating and maintaining a balance and healthy mental headspace.

1) Get Organized 
Find an organization style that works for you. For me, it was a combination of a physical planner, different colored gel pens, whiteboard, and dry erase markers. When I was in college, I had a different colored pen assigned to each of my classes and highlighted important exams or due dates. Knowing how far out an exam or paper was helped me to create a plan which helped me reduce my anxiety.

I rewrote my notes on the whiteboard in different colors and organized my notes into different topics. Putting the information into smaller pieces made it a lot easier for me to process.

2) Me Time
I am a huge advocate of Me Time. Every weekend is dedicated to recharging my batteries and getting ready for the next week. Yes, a whole weekend just for me. That amount of time is what I have found works for me.

Some weekends, I have plans and go out and sometimes the whole weekend is spent binge-watching my favorite Netflix shows. I like to leave my weekends open for spontaneous activities. If I've had a particularly draining weekend, I like to do a 'digital detox' where I shut down my phone and put it in a drawer where I can't see it.

Your Me Time can be whatever you want it to be and it doesn't always have to be the same thing.

3) Patience is a Virtue
This is the hardest lesson that I've had to learn when I started focusing on my mental health, but it's also been the most important. Creating and developing a balanced mental headspace isn't going to happen overnight. It might not even happen in a month or a year. That's ok.

I was in a rut for years before the right combination of life experiences and people came into my life and helped me get to a mindset where I was ready to really tackle my mental health. My mantra these days is that everything happens for a reason when it's meant to happen. We can't plan or even anticipate when things are going to happen. All we can do is take one day at a time and be mindful enough to consciously change the way we look at our lives.

No matter how, where, or when you decide to start focusing on your mental fitness, it's important to remember who all of this is for: you. You can go at whatever pace you decide is best and start at any place that feels right.

For more tips and ideas to get you started, check out the post by Nicole's friend Jenna that also focuses on the importance of mental health as part of a fitness routine that focuses on self-love.

March Goals

It felt like February flew by so quickly, which makes sense I suppose because it has less days than normal months. March is a crazy month for me, but I'm hoping to accomplish a lot despite my busy schedule.

Goals Update - February Goals

1) Be vegetarian for two weeks. I actually achieved this! It was quite a challenge and I learned the meat foods that I actually really appreciate and missed (mostly the chicken hot boxes from Leon). I don't think that I would ever go vegetarian full-time - at least not right now - but I think doing one week a month for this year will be very do-able.

2) Network. In addition to attending a leadership in the arts youth conference this month, I also met up with some other theatre YouTubers and forged some connections that I hope to continue in the months ahead both professionally and personally.

3) Stay on top of my class reading. I didn't do this perfectly, but we also have a strike going on at the London universities right now that has led to some classes being cancelled. This is one to continue trying to do over the next few months!

4) Do a blog series. This month I launched my #FitLife series which I'm so excited about. It launched a bit later than I had planned so it'll be continuing into the first few months of March as well.

March Goals 

1) Properly document my trip to Paris. During my spring break from classes, my friend Patrizia and I are going to Paris for a long weekend. I haven't been since I was sixteen, so I'm very excited and want to make sure that I document the trip very well so I can look back on it for years to come. Expect lots of Instagram and YouTube content!

2) Decide on all my essay topics. I have a second round of essays due in April, so I want to make sure that I at least decide on my topic for each of them and start doing some research during March so that I'll have less to do in April.

3) Work out at least once a week. I had been working out twice a week in the fall, but it all fell apart when I went home for Christmas and then had a horrible cold in January. I'd like to try to workout at least once a week in March even if it just means doing a pilates video in my room.

4) Make seven YouTube videos. I want to attempt to do two YouTube videos a week this month and get eight videos filmed. It's an ambitious goal, but one that I'm hopeful about!

What are you hoping to accomplish this month? Let me know in the comments below. x
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