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Sunday, 13 November 2022

INTERVIEW: Parisa Shahmir, currently playing Alwyn in Fisherman's Friends the musical on its UK and Ireland Tour

Parisa Shahmir is currently playing the role of Alwyn in the UK and Ireland tour of Fisherman's Friends the musical after also being part of the show in its UK premiere in Cornwall. Her other credits include Gerda in The Snow Queen, (The Rose Theatre), Layla in We Live in Cairo (American Repertory Theater), Young Meg in The Last Ship, (Northern Stage, UK & Ireland Tour) and Mamma Mia! (UK Tour, NGM/ Littlestar).

Having not long opened the show, we caught up with Parisa and chatted about all things Fisherman's Friends! 

Fisherman’s Friends the musical is based on a true story and the 2019 hit film, what was your experience of the story before auditioning for the show?

I’d actually never seen the movie before auditioning, but my parents had and they loved it, my dad in particular! I was careful not to tell him about the audition until after I’d got the job because I didn’t want to get his hopes up. Needless to say, he was thrilled when I got the part. He plays the shanties in the car all the time, Drunken Sailor is his favourite.

Tell us a little bit about the show and your character, Alwyn.

The show tells the story of a sea shanty band made up of a group of Fishermen from Port Issac, Cornwall and their voyage to greatness with the help of Danny Anderson, an A&R representative from Island Record. My character, Alwyn, is the daughter of one of the fishermen, Jim Penburthy. She goes on an emotional voyage of her own throughout the piece. Similar to me, she is a singer-songwriter and plays and sings for the folks at the local pub, the Golden Lion, regularly. She’s got a tough exterior but she feels fiercely and deeply and music really is everything to her. Alwyn is an incredible character to get to play every night and I honestly resonate with her and her story so much. This is such a luxury as an actor and I feel so lucky to get to play a part that feels like it has so much of me in it.

Monday, 7 November 2022

INTERVIEW: Joseph Peacock, currently playing Donny Osmond in The Osmonds - A New Musical on tour around the UK

Joseph Peacock is currently taking on the challenge of playing international superstar Donny Osmond in the new musical, The Osmonds. His other credits include Young Gideon in The Last Ship (US Tour), Bat Out Of Hell (London Coliseum, Dominion Theatre), Benjamin in Joseph And The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (UK Tour), Pete in Burnt Part Boys (The Park Theatre), Grease, and West Side Story (The Factory Playhouse).

Aside from his busy touring schedule, he managed to find some time to tell us all about what life is like being an Osmond brother. 

You’re playing the icon that is Donny Osmond in the show, a man well-loved by many around the world. When you got the role, did you feel any pressure and how do you feel now you’re well into the run?

I’m so grateful to be playing Donny Osmond. There definitely was an initial pressure, because he is an icon. Not having lived through the time when the Osmonds were at their peak, I underestimated how much love the fans still have for them, it’s amazing. I just want to be able to live up to their expectations, and Donny set the bar pretty high!

There must be very different challenges that come with playing a real person, What kind of process did you go through to prepare for the role?

Research, research, research. It’s the only way you can get an accurate representation. I read Donny’s autobiography Life Is Just What You Make It, to get as much from his own words as possible. However, a real blessing for us was having Jay Osmond work so closely with us. He would answer any questions we had about his brothers, and he was so open with us that we could form a rounded vision of how we could portray them onstage without becoming an ‘impression’.

Wednesday, 12 October 2022

INTERVIEW: Anton Stephans, currently playing Leadville in Fisherman's Friends the musical on its UK and Ireland Tour

Anton is currently playing the role of Leadville in the UK and Ireland tour of the new musical Fisherman's Friends. His credits include Fizz in Bugsy Malone (West End), Monsieur Vernier in the world premiere of Conor Mitchell's Mathilde (Edinburgh Fringe), Lead Vocalist in Blues Brothers Meet Soul Sisters (Theatre Royal), Robbins in Porgy and Bess (UK Tour), Poppa in Andrew Lloyd Webber's Starlight Express (UK tour), Musical Lead in Smokey Joe's Cafe (1st UK tour/Broadway and US tour), Lead Vocalist in Hey Mr. Producer for Cameron Mackintosh (Lyceum Theatre), His one-man show, Crying for You...No More (Fortune Theatre), Musical Lead in Dancing and Singing The Blues (European Tour), Classique (Off-Broadway/US tour), Songs of Broadway (Off-Broadway/US Tour), An Evening with Anton (Congress Theatre, Eastbourne), Lead Singer in the Riverdance (Europe tour), Company of Francesca Zambello's Show Boat (Royal Albert Hall), Lead role Father in Children of Eden concert version (Prince of Wales) and Sweeney Todd (Chichester Festival Theatre).

Just as the tour kicked off, we managed to get some time with Anton to chat about the show. 

Fisherman’s Friends the musical is based on a true story and the 2019 hit film, what was your experience of the story before auditioning for the show?

Honestly, I knew zero about the show or the band ‘Fisherman’s Friends’ before the audition! I have since learnt a great deal. I’ve met the actual Fisherman’s Friends. They are a lovely bunch of very down-to-earth men. My character’s name, Leadville, is the name of one of their fathers; so it feels very special to me. He told me I honoured his father’s memory. I am really happy I am able to do this.

Tell us a little bit about the show and your character, Leadville.

Leadville is a joyous and beautiful character to play, full of hope humour and passion. A great best friend to ‘Jim’ our leading man played brilliantly by James Gaddas. Leadville is a widower who loved his wife very much. Now years on he is a wannabe ladies' man but in truth, he’s a bit lame in that department. Much happier having a pint with his mates singing songs and cracking jokes. I don’t think he cares about money fame glory. He just wants to be with his friends who he considers family. He and I are very much alike in that way.

Friday, 26 August 2022

15 Celebrities you forgot were in Chicago!

Chicago the Musical remains one of the most iconic pieces in the theatre world, with numerous runs in the West End and a long run on Broadway, the revival production is celebrating 25 years since opening on Broadway! The show has been renowned for casting celebrities in the iconic roles, so we picked out a few that you may have forgotten about!  
Mel B 

The Spice Girls star played Roxie Hart in the Broadway production back in 2017, having previously appeared as Mimi in RENT, she was no stranger to the Great White Way. 

Jerry Springer 

The TV star already had a hit musical made about his talk show but hadn't made his theatre debut until he took on the role of Billy Flynn in the West End company in 2009, not long after he reprised the role on Broadway. 

Sunday, 5 September 2021

REVIEW: 9 to 5 at the Mayflower Theatre

The huge 2300 seat grade II listed Mayflower Theatre has bounced back from the pandemic closure with a strong programme of Musical theatre and in a short period since reopening has presented tours of The Rocky Horror Show, Hairspray and now the opening week of 2021 regional tour of 9 to 5. The strongly themed shows around sexual awakenment and transvestism, racial equality and integration and female equality in the workplace respectively, though wrapped up in a period feel of the sixties to the eighties, still resonate well with audiences today in the era of Pride, Black Lives Matter and #MeToo. But most of all they work as entertainments because they are fun, high energy and presented with a knowing charm, well targeted at audiences who crave that feel-good factor on a night out.

It is interesting that the West End too has found a strong response to Anything Goes at the Barbican, Hairspray at the Coliseum and Jersey Boys at the Trafalgar Theatre and now in previews, Back to the Future at the Adelphi with their period feel and lively high-quality presentation. The regional sector may not get the same production values and big-name casting but venues like the Mayflower are big and roomy enough to offer well-priced comfortable access to these big musical shows with top ticket prices less than half the average price achieved in London. It makes for a very good value night out without the travel hassles of the London Tube or a 20-mph speed limit in the congestion zone in London!

Monday, 7 June 2021

COMING HOME: Tanisha-Mae Brown, about to head off on tour with Chicago the Musical

Pocket Size Theatre and Liza Heinrichs (Captured by Liz) have teamed up again and created our new series 'Coming Home'. In this new piece, we look at the reopening of Theatres in London and around the country and celebrate our industry coming back. We got together some performers who will be some of the first to return to theatres and created this piece to bring some positivity to the theatre industry which has been through one of the toughest years in our lifetime. Whilst it is important to acknowledge the hardships we've all gone through, it's important we pull together as a community and celebrate our beloved industry finally coming back! 

The theatre industry has been hit incredibly hard over the pandemic. Performers, creatives and freelancers across the whole entertainment industry have been affected hugely, but a group of people who the industry has pulled together to try and help are the 2020 graduates. Coming into this industry is usually an exciting and scary thing, but for those who entered it during this pandemic, I can’t even begin to imagine what it felt like to come into an almost destitute industry. 

Tanisha-Mae Brown graduated from the Arts Educational Schools last year and although it's been a challenging time for theatre, she has thrived and has an exciting future ahead of her. She was featured in the Garden Theatre production of Pippin last summer playing Catherine. The theatre was built in a pub garden and was one of the first to open up with live productions. Her next venture will be on the UK tour of the smash-hit musical, Chicago. Our photoshoot with her took place at the Cambridge Theatre, one of the many homes to Chicago in its time in London. 

Tuesday, 23 March 2021

REVIEW: BKLYN The Musical (Online)

How much do you think it would cost to hire five actors to follow you around and sing the soundtrack to your life? Asking for a friend. 

BKLYN is a musical within a musical. Five street performers tell the fairly-tale of Brooklyn; a young Parisian ballerina who crosses the Atlantic in search of her long-lost father. The story has everything you could want from a good ol’ tragi-romance; love, death, mystery, a Parisian summer fling, and, I know what you were thinking, a sing-off, of course. It’s whimsical, heart-warming fun, with a touch of magic for good measure. 

There are many things to say about the online Lambert and Jackson revival, but the one thing I simply cannot get over is the cast. I would kiss the casting director if I could. ‘Powerhouse’ barely does them justice, but we shouldn’t be surprised. Sejal Keshwala (Faith), Emma Kingston (Brooklyn), Jamie Muscato (Taylor) and Marisha Wallace (Paradice) have a list of well-deserved credits taller than me, and Newtion Matthews (street singer), who, admittedly, I did not know before today, deserves the most illustrious career there is going. As soon as Matthews opened his mouth I was enamoured with him, and when he was joined by the cast in some soaring 5-part harmonies, I was utterly lost in their world. 

Tuesday, 2 March 2021

REVIEW: The Sorcerer’s Apprentice at the Southwark Playhouse (Online)

The title Sorcerer’s Apprentice evokes strong memories for me of the sequence with Mickey Mouse surrounded by dancing brooms and buckets in the 1940’s animated masterpiece Fantasia which I saw as a child (some years after its release!). Richard Hough has taken the same source, the 1797 poem by Johann Von Goethe as the inspiration for this new musical which he has written with music by Ben Morales Frost. While it is now set in Midgard in the Frozen North in the nineteenth century it has a very modern feel with its themes about Global Warming’s impact on the Earth. The resulting 2-hour musical is a cross between Nanny McPhee and His Dark Materials with the parent-child relationships at the centre of this typical folk story with an ethical message and a central character Eva Gottel in a Greta Thunberg style role as the teenage activist trying to change behaviours. 

Indeed, Mary Moore in her professional debut role holds the production together and drives the storyline from her first appearance in a loft bedroom with “Invisible” bemoaning that they treat her as invisible while seeking attention through disruptive behaviour at school, only to be told that direct action is at odds with the philosophy of this house! She has a sweet charming innocent demeanour that masks her desire to be noticed by her father and society but perhaps explains her falling for Erik Sanderson, a scientist a few years older than her, played by Yazdan Qafori. Their song together “Spellbound” about channelling the power of the Northern Lights Aurora through an open mind (which has been released as a music video and single) not only embraces the theme of the enhancing of magical powers with science but also provides the opportunity for some on-stage magic.

Thursday, 28 January 2021

REVIEW: Public Domain at the Southwark Playhouse (Online)

“We came here to find friends, and just like that I felt a little less alone” 

Poignant lyrics from the opening of Public Domain a new musical which looks at online connections. 

Written and performed by Francesca Forristal and Jordan Paul Clarke, this new two-hander musical takes you on a journey through the world of social media following 2 vloggers and featuring some unapologetic Facebook satire. 

The show is written entirely using online content such as tweets, Youtube videos and Instagram posts. Every lyric and line is taken directly from the internet and social media whilst following the two aspiring influencers who feel surprisingly relatable. The teenage characters both contain attributes we probably all encompass in one way or another and give an unfiltered insight into the positives and negatives of the online world. 

Thursday, 7 January 2021

When will the West End re-open?

In these very strange and uncertain times, we have been lucky enough to have performers, creators, theatres and producers up and down the country providing everything they can to entertain the public from their homes. Over Christmas, we saw a huge step forward, with numerous West End venues opening and Pantomimes all over the UK being announced. Unfortunately, all of these have now come to a close. But we must look to the future, here you'll find all the information you'll need about when and where these shows are opening in the West End. Of course, these may change but these dates really give us something to look forward to. I for one cannot wait to be back in a dark auditorium in the theatrical heart of the world! 

& Juliet

Re-opening at the Shaftsbury Theatre from the 24th September 2021. 

Back to the Future

Due to open at the Adelphi Theatre on the 20th August 2021. 

The Book of Mormon

Taking bookings from the 12th July 2021 at the Prince of Wales Theatre. 

Andrew Lloyd Webber's Cinderella

Taking online bookings from the 25th June 2021 at the Gillian Lynne Theatre.

Come From Away

Performances at the Phoenix Theatre are suspended until the 18th June 2021, online booking from 21st June 2021. 

Thursday, 19 November 2020

REVIEW: Marry Me A Little, The Barn Theatre, Cirencester

A catalogue of songs largely cut from Sondheim shows; Marry Me A Little follows an estranged couple, now living in separate apartments, dreaming of a connection outside their four walls - something we can all relate to more than we’d like this year. The Barn was one of the first regional theatres to re-open and stage socially-distanced productions in their outdoor space over the Summer. Each of those shows received huge praise, and this is no exception.

It’s incredibly refreshing to see both performers in a different light. Celinde Schoenmaker (a seasoned Christine Daae), and Rob Houchen (a veteran Marius) are both given the opportunity to play with a broad range of different emotions throughout the sung-through piece. They make a formidable partnership and deliver exceptional performances.

We hear a wonderful, fuller voice from Schoenmaker in Can That Boy Foxtrot, beautifully contrasting her famous soprano, whilst Girls Of Summer is sultry and full of yearning. In the show’s title number, she teases big, belted notes and then quickly switches to a soprano sound. Finally, in There Won’t Be Trumpets she opens fire, and it is absolutely worth the wait. Thrilling!

Friday, 6 November 2020

REVIEW: Mary Poppins: Live at the Prince Edward Theatre, 2020 Cast Recording

Live albums of any genre always pack an extra punch, and musical cast recordings are no exception. Cameron Mackintosh seems particularly fond of this approach, with both the Miss Saigon revival and Les Miserables Staged Concert immortalised in this way. Now, Mary Poppins joins the lineup, and right from the off the album delivers pure magic. An amalgamation of several of PL Travers’ stories, it’s a refreshing take on a screen-to-stage adaptation, and proves that there is always room for fresh ideas.

The combination of the original Sherman Brothers’ music, and the works of British Musical Theatre pairing George Stiles and Anthony Drewe results in a perfect score. The opening sequence (Prologue / Chim Chim Cher-ee / Cherry Tree Lane / The Perfect Nanny) is bursting with nostalgia but also finds its own identity, rather than replicating previous productions. In fact, that tends to be the theme for the entire album, which is decorated with new songs, orchestrations, harmonies, lyrics and dance breaks. It’s such a treat to hear a large orchestra nowadays, particularly when shows like The Phantom of the Opera and Les Miserables (the concert being an exception) have scaled back over the years, and new shows like Dear Evan Hansen and Everybody’s Talking About Jamie use just five or six pieces. For this production, William David Brohn’s orchestrations are pure joy.

Friday, 18 September 2020

REVIEW: Pippin at the Garden Theatre

The Garden Theatre was one of the first venues to stage a live theatrical production with Fanny and Stella, with more shows popping up and more announcements being made every day they haven’t stopped and they continue their season with a newly staged version of Stephen Schwartz Pippin. 

I last saw this show at the Southwark Playhouse in the transfer production from the Hope Mill Theatre, being a huge fan of this particular version I was excited to see another interpretation of this interesting piece. 

As I said before in my review of Fanny and Stella, the venue and the staff are doing everything they possibly can to make this a safe and comfortable experience for all of their patrons. All staff have protective masks on and the bar is covered with screens, they’ve sure stepped up their game since my last visit! The bar itself has a really great atmosphere, made even better by people eager and excited to see some live theatre. The staff are all so polite and accommodating and the venue should really be proud of their front of house team. 

When you enter the theatre you are instantly transported to the world of the show, the smell of incense and the sound of 60’s music mixed with news broadcasts immediately sets the scene. Putting the show in the context of the ’60s was an interesting and brave choice, I’m not sure it was completely justified within the production but it certainly made sense most of the time. I may have felt like some choices in this production may not have completely worked but they sure committed to every single one of them and for that I commend them. 

Tuesday, 5 November 2019

REVIEW: The Green Fairy at the Union Theatre

The Green Fairy is a new musical playing at the Union Theatre. It follows Jo and along the course of the show we discover all about Jo, her past and all those issues she’s faced which now have affected her relationship with her daughter. The show uses ‘The Green Fairy’ as a conscious for Jo, although the show has no relation to or doesn’t feature absinthe in any way this is an interesting way for us to follow Jo’s story. 

This piece has a lot of themes; child abandonment, alcoholism, friendship, homosexuality and marriage to name a few. My struggle with the show was that I didn’t really understand which one of these were most important, they were just all thrown in there to add drama but to me the focus wasn’t clear enough. 

Sold on the poster as a ‘Queer Pub Musical’, this isn’t correct. Yes, the piece does feature a lesbian relationship however this is not the centre of the show. And actually, credit to the writer for this, this never comes up as an issue or problem in the story. It is merely falling in love with someone else, rather than realising that the character is gay. But having seen the show, this is not the marketing route to go down as it sets an expectation that it will not fulfil, not in any bad way at all, just in the way that this is not what this show is about. 

Tuesday, 1 October 2019

REVIEW: Brooklyn at the Greenwich Theatre

Brooklyn follows the story of a group of street performers who come together to play out stories to try and earn an honest wage. In Brooklyn, this play within a play, tells the story of a young orphan singer who uses her talents to hunt down her father. 

This story is really poignant is many ways right now; politically it focuses on the greed for money and power whilst being told by people who are begging for money on the street, which is pretty ironic. And for those of us in the performing arts industry, its an interesting reflection on how we use our talents and what our worth is as performers. It also highlights our need to tell stories, with funding cuts and performing subjects being undermined its an important message about how we as humans need stories like this for so many varied reasons. 

This musical has discovered two stars; Andrew Patrick-Walker (Street Singer) and Emily-Mae (Paradice) both stand out in this show as incredible talents. Patrick-Walker has an insane voice, amongst a cast of incredible talents his voice is especially unique and he has a natural charisma on stage, which works for the part of the Street Singer who acts as the narrator of the story. Emily-Mae has the most powerful voice and in the role of Paradice, demands everyone's attention and brings a bunch of attitude but also has some really tender moments. A brilliant actress and an outstanding vocalist.

REVIEW: Assassins at the Watermill Theatre, Newbury

Stephen Sondheim’s breadth of catalogue is astonishingly good from West side story and Gypsy in the fifties, Company, Follies and Sweeney Todd in the seventies and Into the woods and Sunday in the park in the eighties but this nineties musical Assassins is less well known. However, in this latest UK revival at the Watermill we can see it is every bit as good as its predecessors. It is a dark bleak comedy about the notorious assassins who killed or attempted to kill eight US Presidents. At first glance it feels an odd choice for a musical but at a time when US politics seems as divisive as ever and mass murders common place it seems a timely and sharp look at the American gun mentality and the failing American Dream.

The tone is set when we enter the delightfully intimate Watermill auditorium as Simon Kenny’s red and white striped set places us at an American Fairground shooting gallery and as the Proprietor (Joey Hickman who doubles up as the Assistant MD)introduces us to the historical assassins in “Everybody's Got The Right" to be happy, while handing out their chosen weapons. It has the feel of a vaudeville variety show with each Assassin having a distinctive musical style.

Friday, 20 September 2019

REVIEW: Big at the Dominion Theatre

Based on the 1988 film with Tom Hanks, 12-year-old Josh Baskin (Jamie O’Connor) decides to makes a wish to be ‘big’ on an old Zoltar machine after being humiliated at the carnival. The next morning, he wakes up a fully-grown man (Jay McGuiness) much to the horror of his mother (Wendi Peters) who thinks she’s being robbed. Josh, with the help of his best friend Billy (Jobe Hart), moves to New York and is given a top job in a toy shop by (mildly creepy) business tycoon McMilan (Matthew Kelly). There he meets the serious Marketing Manager, Susan Lawrence (Kimberley Walsh), who swiftly falls for him- unaware of his real age, of course.

Overall, the production is bright, exciting and bursting with youthful energy. However, there are many flaws that cannot be dismissed. The problem with musical adaptations of films is there is little room for originality and any kind of individual flare. The biggest let down of the show was the music by David Shire and lyrics by Richard Maltby. With 27 musical numbers, you would hope that at least one of them would be slightly memorable- this was not the case. The opening song made no impact; it was not catchy or clever and this set the scene for several hours of songs that could have been cut. It all becomes quite monotonous in the first act and made me question whether it would have been better as a play. Even the cast seemed deflated when singing several of them.

Tuesday, 3 September 2019

The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13¾ to close early on 28 September

The West End transfer of Sue Townsend's THE SECRET DIARY OF ADRIAN MOLE AGED 13¾ - THE MUSICAL is closing, after a successful run at The Ambassadors Theatre, on 28 September. The show was originally booking until 12th October. 

Set in 1980s Leicester, this adaptation of Sue Townsend‘s best-selling book is a timeless tale of teenage angst, family struggles and unrequited love, told through the eyes of tortured poet and misunderstood intellectual Adrian Mole. One of the most enduring comedy characters of all time, he is the hapless, hilarious, spotty teenager who captured the zeitgeist of 1980s Britain, and this critically acclaimed production brings Adrian’s story to life for a new generation of theatregoers.

“Honestly. My family just don’t understand me. Perhaps when I am famous and my diary is discovered people will understand the torment of being a 13¾ year-old intellectual” Adrian Mole.

Monday, 12 August 2019

REVIEW: Showtune at the Union Theatre

Showtune celebrates the words and music of Jerry Herman. For musical theatre fans his work is legendary. But the whole world knows his work. If nothing else that’s thanks to Hello Dolly – both the title song and, for a younger generation, from the Disney film Wall-E, Put On Your Sunday Clothes. There’s also I Am What I Am from La Cage aux Folles and the title song from Mame.

Showtune is a musical revue with no dialogue. The songs and lyrics are allowed to do all the work. They are grouped together thematically so some extra sense of structure is added to what would otherwise be effectively a concert. That it is so much more than this is thanks in large part to the brilliance of Herman’s songs. As the show progresses you find yourself increasingly in awe of the talent that can produce so much high quality material, writing both music and lyrics.

Sunday, 21 July 2019

DREAM CASTING: Six on Broadway!

What makes this cast so special in the West End is that we have a cast of fresh faces that really make you realise how much undiscovered talent we have around. But we couldn't help our minds get creative and wonder who we'd absolutely adore to see in the Broadway cast of the show! We do however love how they've cast it in the UK so we would love the same to happen across the Atlantic, but heres our dream! 

Catherine of Aragon | Shoshana Bean 

Most famed for her portrayal of Elphaba in Wicked on Broadway, having replaced original cast member and Tony Award winner Idina Menzel. She returns to Broadway to play the role of Jenna in Waitress and we think she'd be epic in this show and as this role! 

Anne Boleyn | Denée Benton 

Seen in her Tony nominated interpretation of Natasha Rostova in Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812 and currently as Eliza in the Broadway production of Hamilton. We think she'd be a great Anne Boleyn! 
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