Nicky’s Showbiz Diary: Water, Water everywhere

There has been an abundance of water everywhere this week and I’m not just talking about the typical August torrential rain.

After the water tank split in the loft at the beginning of the week and the living room suffered a slow seepage of yellowy liquid through the ceiling, we were without hot water for a couple of days. This meant my only way to have a shower was to go to the gym. Now, I have been trying to get fit again recently (having lost years of fitness after changing from a career as a fitness instructor to the life of a deskbound journalist), but having to visit everyday (twice on Monday) just to make sure I was clean enough to ingratiate myself with local dignitaries, was a bit much even for me.

Luckily my London digs had a fully functioning water supply, so I was able to maintain my exemplary personal hygiene once I’d made my weekly commute to the capital.

And it was a good job too, as I had a really busy week of networking to fit in, despite the sometimes monsoon like weather conditions.

My first stop was to have a tour of the Bob Hope Theatre in Eltham. I last visited the lovely little venue in June for their production of Sand Castles and was thrilled to be invited along to see their structural improvements and to hear about the plans for further refurbishment over the summer. I was also allowed to drop in on a rehearsal for their next production – Monty Python’s Spamalot  – which sounded amazing and I can’t wait to see.

After a hectic morning in the London office, I then ventured out to Kensington to watch a rehearsal of Flashdance – a new touring production of the musical adaptation – which starts a national tour in Glasgow this week. The show stars former Strictly Come Dancing champion Joanne Clifton and 90s pop star Ben Adams. I got a chance to chat with them both and they were lovely. In fact, I’m a little bit in love with Ben. From the scene I saw – which included the famous water drop sequence – the show looks good too.

 

I then popped into central London to see The Blues Brothers Summer Special at the Hippodrome Casino. I have to say, it wasn’t really my cup of tea, but with lots of summer hits and beach vibes, it was nonetheless a good show.

I finished off the week in Lyme Regis at the Marine Theatre. I consider ‘The Little Theatre by the Sea’ to be my home venue, as it’s where I first performed as a teenager and it’s the place I credit with igniting my love of theatre. With it’s proximately to the sea, there’s nowhere quite like it and the homely ambience evokes such happy memories.

Next week I’m finally of to see Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour at the Duke of York Theatre and I’m heading to the Phoenix Theatre to see Evita (starring fabulous former green witch Emma Hatton). I’m also really excited to go to the launch of the New Wimbledon Theatre’s autumn season, which promises to be starry.

I’m also preparing for a new challenge as the entertainment reporter for the Sunday Independent newspaper. I’ll be covering theatre across the Southwest, so if you have any shows coming up, do get in touch.

You can follow me on Twitter for all the latest news @NickySweetland

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Nicky’s Showbiz Diary: Keep Moving Forward

What is it with some people? You know the ones; those people (sadly usually women) who have to blow out your candle to try to make theirs burn brighter. Most of the time, toxic beings don’t get a look in with me, but every now and then, when things are already a bit tough; one manages to get under my armour.

I feel ashamed to say that at the start of the week a particularly venomous viper, spent what felt like an eternity, trying to convince me that I’m quite rubbish and for a while (about 24 hours) I believed her.

Being tough and learning the reasons behind people’s decisions to be unpleasant, are all very well, but sometimes it just plain hurts.

Anyway, I picked myself up, brushed myself off and ended up having an awesome week.

After accepting a bit of freelance work for another theatrical website (it is always so nice to be asked and really gives you a sense that you are heading in the right direction) I popped along to my first proper rehearsal of Spamalot. There’s nothing quite like belting out some cheery tunes to lift the spirits and this Monty Python inspired show is full of them.

With an added spring in my step I embarked on my working week with renewed vigor and after a fantastic trip to Bristol to see Kerry Ellis and co in Wonderland felt even better. The show, which is about a 40-year old single parent that is dealing with a catalogue of disasters (I know! Spooky right?), is a lovely positive way to spend an evening, with some great music and stunning performances. In fact, the Cheshire Cat even says, “Don’t look down. Stand up straight. Be decisive – never hesitate. If you’re lost, just keep moving forward”, which felt pertinent.

I then journeyed up to London and bumped into one of the cast members of The Girls, Sophie Louise Dann, who joined me for quick cuppa. I then interviewed Sheila Atim, who is currently leading the cast of Babbettes Feast at Print Room at the Coronet, before I popped into the Southwark News office to agree on an exciting new writing opportunity. I’m going to be working on the Greenwich Weekender and after meeting the team, I know it’s going to be a really enjoyable new venture.

I also went along to the open auditions of Cilla – The Musical and had a chat to some of the auditionees along with the writer Jeoff Pope and Cilla’s son Robert Willis.

I had a coffee with the lovely Siubhan Harrison who after starring alongside Rebel Wilson in Guys and Dolls is looking forward to getting back to the London stage and will be leading the cast at Southwark Playhouse in Steven Schwartz’s Working.

One thing I’ve learned from this week is that as long as I stay true to myself I can succeed. Yes, they’ll be plenty of rubbish people along the way who are determined to“Rain on my Parade” but nobody “Is ever gonna bring me down!” (I’m sorry for the shameless musical theatre quotes!).

Next week I’m doing a bit of a theatrical marathon and I’m starting off by going to see the Play That Goes Wrong at Exeter Northcott Theatre. I’m then really excited to be watching The Addams Family in Wimbledon, followed by Richard III at the Arcola Theatre, Ballroom at the Waterloo East Theatre and then Judy! at the Arts Theatre. I’m also popping over to Southampton to catch Samantha Barks’ solo concert before I trot along to Cadogan Hall to listen to a concert version of The Colour Purple.

Theatre cures all! Fact!

You can see all of my reviews and interviews on my website thesweetlondonlife.com listen to me every week on BBC Radio Kent or follow me on Twitter for regular updates @NickySweetland

Nicky’s showbiz diary: It’s all been a bit otherworldly!

Dear readers, it has been a couple of weeks since my last confession, so I thought I should fill you all in on my latest pursuit of theatrical greatness.

With the news that I’ve not only lost my home, but also a rather big contract, I’ve had to put my faith back into family and friends, who have rallied to assist not only with my move, but also in keeping up my confidence.

Being freelance means you spend most of your life looking over your shoulder. It’s either feast or famine, with too much work to keep up with or not enough to pay the bills, there is rarely anything in between and the last couple of weeks have made me feel a bit like I have been in an alternate universe looking down on myself and having to laugh at the disastrous set of circumstances which I have faced.

Luckily I have still been able to escape into the theatrical world and have appreciated more than ever before how lucky I am to be able to spend so much time on something I am so passionate about.

I’ve had my first read through of Spamalot, but as the Lady of the Lake I don’t actually get to say very much as it is a mostly singing role (don’t get too excited, I’m in an amdram version not the touring production). For those of you that have followed my limited onstage career, you’ll know that this is a good thing as I’m about as wooden as two by four, but can, just about, hold a tune.

I was also thrilled to get the chance to see a rehearsal of Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour, which opens at the Duke of York Theatre next week. As a keeper of a couple of couple young adults, I have to say, the story of six catholic school girls, who go on a drink fuelled rampage in a big city is a little bit frightening, but after watching the cast perform a couple of scenes, I’m really looking forward to seeing the full show.

With life imitating art, or the other round, it has been a bit disconcerting that all of the other shows I have seen over the last couple of weeks have had some kind of otherworldly, parallel dimension aspect to them, which has further had me questioning my sanity.

I had an amazing evening at Alice’s Adventures Underground and thoroughly enjoyed City of Glass at the Lyric Hammersmith. I also popped down to Exeter to take a peak at La Strada (which opens at The Other Palace later this month) and got severe cramp of the buttocks after spending eight hours watching Angels in America at the National Theatre. The impressive production, which boasts an all-star cast including Andrew Garfield, Nathan Lane and Russell Tovey is very good, but even for a hardened theatregoer like me, spending that much time watching one show is a bit much for the undercarriage.

Those eagle-eyed readers will notice the change of website for this column. That is down to the fact that I am now going it alone and attempting to promote my own business. It is gradually gaining momentum thanks to tremendous support from industry colleagues and performers and I’ve been really heartened by all of the help I’ve been offered.

Next week, I’m doing a bit of stage crewing for a local amateur production of Thoroughly Modern Millie and will have my first full rehearsal with the Knights of the Round Table.

I’m also off to see Wonderland in Bristol and I’ll be covering the London auditions for the new musical Cilla.

You can follow me on twitter for all of the latest news @NickySweetland

New production of Spamalot set to gallop into Wimbledon

Following a critically acclaimed run in Colchester, Spamalot transfers to Blackpool Opera House before embarking on a UK tour, which includes a residency at the New Wimbledon Theatre.

Lovingly ripped off from the hugely successful 1975 film Monty Python and the Holy Grail, this spammier than ever production is a riotous comedy full of misfit knights, killer rabbits, dancing nuns and ferocious Frenchmen. Join King Arthur as he travels with his hapless Knights of the Round Table on a divine mission to locate the illusive Holy Grail – with uproarious consequences.

Spamalot was the winner of the 2005 Tony Award for Best New Musical, while it enjoyed a victorious West End run. This hilarious show is written by Python legend Eric Idle, who has been entertaining the British public for over 50 years. The funnyman also wrote the score alongside John DuPrez, famous for his work on Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life amongst a host of other big-name scores.

David Hutchinson, Executive Creative Producer for Selladoor Worldwide, said:

“We are delighted to be working with the Colchester Mercury to bring Spamalot on a comprehensive UK tour and exploring international touring opportunities, having secured Selladoor’s first production in Korea – hopefully to be followed by further international dates. Selladoor continue to strive to ensure high quality work made in producing regional houses meets the widest possible market, this nine month tour certainly shows the demand for this brilliant evening at the theatre”

With comic tunes including Brave Sir Robin, We’re Knights of the Round Table and perennial favourite Always Look on the Bright Side of Life, Spamalot audiences are sure to be dancing in the aisles. Don’t be a knight who says ‘No’ …. Grab your coconuts and gallop down to a venue near you to book your tickets today!

Spamalot will run at the New Wimbledon Theatre from 21 – Sat 25 November

Our top five classic musical theatre soundtracks you should be listening to now

There are lots of wonderful new musicals about, but there are a few classic soundtracks which we think theatre fans should really add to their playlists. We’ve compiled a list of our top five must listen to soundtracks, which will have your ears enthralled by rapturous rhythms and sumptuous singing, while helping you to prepare for your latest theatrical escapades.

1. Five Guys Named Moe – Original London Cast Recording 

With the announcement that a new production of Clarke Peters’ foot tapping tale is set to return to London in a new pop up venue at Marble Arch later this year, we think you should get your listening gear around the original London Cast recording. Featuring the music of Louis Jordon (and others) this jazzy and fun musical ran in the West End for four years in the early nineties. Those who prefer their ballads need not fear as the soundtrack also contains some truly glorious heart stoppers including “Azure Te”, “Don’t Let the Sun Catch You Crying” and “Is You Is or Is You Ain’t My Baby”.

 

2. Carousel – 1993 London Cast Recording 

With both Carousel and Joanna Riding back in the West End, this album from the early nineties is a must. The overture is the stuff of musical theatre dreams and Joanna Riding’s “What’s The Use Of Wond’rin” is simply stunning. In our opinion this was the best ever production of the classic Rodgers and Hammerstein musical masterpiece.

3. Crazy For You – Original London Cast Recording

This musical shares a lot of songs with An American in Paris (currently wowing audiences at the Dominion Theatre) and with Ruthie Henshall’s  wonderful vocals massaging Gershwin’s score it’s filled with joyful earworms that will put a smile on your face.  We also like the original Broadway Cast recording ( with Jodi Benson as Polly) but recommend a listen of the London cast recording from 1993.

4. Sunset Boulevard – Original London Cast Recording

After the huge success of the ENO production at the London Coliseum last year, Sunset is again riding high. This is among Lord Lloyd Webber’s finest work and with the show touring the UK later this year, it’s worth getting more familiar with some of the gorgeous stanzas. This is the original London cast recording which saw Patti Lupone take on the role of the infamous Norma Desmond.

 

5. Spamalot – Original Broadway Cast Recording

Funny, irreverent and unlike any other show you’re likely to watch, Spamalot is off on a UK tour again later this year. This soundtrack from 2005 has a great mix of styles, with Tim Curry leading the cast, although not necessarily the singing  (he does a bit of a Rex Harrison impression, by speaking along to some of the songs!). The Lady of the Lake ( Sara Ramirez) however gets some proper  standards, which are great for belting along to.

Let us know if you agree, or if you have some of your own to add to the list.