As you know, dear readers – I don’t often take to my blog for particularly personal posts, however my big 40 arrived on Monday and it’s inevitable that I’ve reflected on the past 10 years. Where in my standard day I’ve been able to fit in this reflection is a bafflement when I spends most of my waking hours trying to remember everything my social butterfly son has going on in his little life! I wouldn’t have it any other way though.
Entertainment Views (previously known as Break A Leg) turned 6 years old last month so blogging has dominated my 30s for sure. It’s no wonder my husband and son roll their eyes when they spot me with my laptop – which at times has been almost permanently glued to my knees.
Theatre has been at the heart of everything I’ve done, and it will certainly continue to be as my passion for it has been awoken ten fold over the past months. Music goes hand in hand with theatre of course so that has taken a prime position in my blogging career and I will also be carrying on with as many movie reviews as I can squeeze in, it’s easier now that the youngest reviewer in the ‘team’ can sit still for at least 5 minutes in the cinema.
When I turned 30 I had very little to think about apart from myself, which was a fairly easy task…. sometimes easy…. occasionally easy…. not all that easy! A month after I turned the big 30 I joined a local amateur musical theatre group to have a go at performing on the stage myself, something I’d often given thought to but not considered myself cut out for. My amateur performing career started with a bit of fun in the chorus of Hello Dolly and finished with the role of one of the daughters in The Pirates of Penzance – I met the man who would become my husband and we have our own little family now. Although my days of cavorting about the stage are over, my husband will never leave performing behind (and so he shouldn’t, he’s ace!) and our son is a born performer. I, on the other hand prefer to write about it!
Another memorable occasion from my 30th year was a double show day in London’s West End with my very best friend, Hayley. We had both hit 30 that year so we celebrated with a matinee of Blood Brothers and an evening performance of Phantom of the Opera. It was the first time we had seen either show! Those of you who follow my blog will know that we have seen ‘Blood Brothers’ many many times since and we could probably play the roles of the boys in a gender swapped production, we know it so well!
As I enjoy the last few days of my 30s I’m hugely grateful to the various people who’ve come into my life over the past decade. They might not be so grateful… but I am. The vast majority of them have stuck around and become friends whom I treasure, some have come and gone quickly and taught me a lesson along the way.
One of the most poignant moments occurred on Wednesday night, I had been kicking my heels up in London (I say heels, for the most part I was sporting Mickey Mouse trainers… what else?!). In the afternoon my friend Jen (whom I met four years ago through my blog) and I had been sitting level with the most humungous chandelier. We were in the cheap seats at the Old Vic, watching open mouthed as the legendary Sally Field and Bill Pullman did their thing on stage in All My Sons. In a traditional two show day to celebrate her birthday and mine, we strolled across the river to watch Mamma Mia! which was light relief after the intensity of the previous production we’d chosen. Joining us in the audience that evening was one of the most recent friends I’m delighted to have in my life, Yvonne Howard. I had seen her play Katisha in The Mikado with ENO when Sky Arts had broadcast it and thought she was the bees knees. As I sat in the beautiful Novello Theatre, Jen on one side of me and Yvonne on the other, with my three favourite Dynamos (Sara Poyzer, Kate Graham and Ricky Butt) being their usual talented selves on stage together with another new friend of mine, the wonderful Stephen Beckett (nobody wears the finale costume like Mr Beckett does!) – it was akin to a culmination of my past 6 years as a blogger. A Night to remember for sure, one of the happiest places for me is singing Abba tunes in amongst a full standing ovation surrounded by friends on stage and off.
There are moments in life we never forget, however large or small – and most of my treasured memories have taken place in the theatre in one way, shape or form! So here’s to my 40s and more years of spreading the word about entertainment goodness.
To complete my rambling I’d like to give you my top 40 theatrical moments from the past decade – indulge me if you will, the list has been a joy to reflect upon!
- Top of the list has to be first being introduced to Sara Poyzer, Kate Graham and Ricky Butt as the dynamos in Mamma Mia! Not only did their stunning performances reawaken my love of musical theatre, their sheer exuberance, energy and talent has turned me into a life long fan of all three ladies.
- Stephen Beckett must come next, not only for his brilliant portrayal of Bill Austin in Mamma Mia! but also for his memorable performance as Prospero in The Tempest at Stafford Castle.
- Yvonne Howard’s performance as the Queen of the Fairies in Iolanthe at the Coliseum last year. She is responsible for my interest in opera going beyond Gilbert & Sullivan, even though this particular production was a G & S.
- Sticking with Yvonne Howard, I’ve yet to see her live as Katisha in The Mikado with The ENO – however watching her via the broadcast on Sky Arts was one of the pinnacle moments in my love of theatre.
- All My Sons at the Old Vic was firmly on my radar as soon as I knew that Sally Field and Bill Pullman would be leading the cast. It’s not every day that Hollywood legends perform on stage and certainly not a regular occurrence for that to happen in London. I will never forget the buzz of seeing them right there in front of me bringing a level of intensity to a classic play that moved me immeasurably.
- Blood Brothers ~ the countless amounts of times I’ve watched the show speaks volumes. Plus I LOVED Sarah Jane Buckley playing the role of Mrs Johnstone, she understudied the part so opportunities to see her were limited, but thank goodness I was able to see her.
- The Girls – or Calendar Girls the Musical was so good I saw it twice in the West End and I’m all set to see it on tour too. One of the best moments in the West End version was Claire Machin as Cora singing ‘Silent Night’.
- Club Tropicana was one of the cheesiest musicals I’d ever had the pleasure of reviewing, but it was absolutely brilliant and Kate Robbins stole the show.
- Cats, I’ve seen it plenty of times before, but I went to review it at New Wimbledon Theatre with my lovely friend Judy Buxton and she had never seen the show. So not only was I blown away as usual by the content, I was also overwhelmed to watch my companion’s reaction as she was overcome by the emotion of the show.
- Move Over Mrs Markham at The Mill at Sonning was a fantastic highlight of last year, starring the aforementioned Judy Buxton, her husband, Jeffrey Holland, plus the super talented Finty Williams. A farce de force!
- Sunset Boulevard at the old Comedy Theatre, London (now the Harold Pinter Theatre) was a defining moment of my 30th year – I adored Kathryn Evans as Norma Desmond and the show inspired me to have a go at treading the boards myself. In fact it was ‘With One Look’ that I used to audition to join a musical theatre company.
- Gypsy at the Savoy Theatre absolutely rocked my world. Imelda Staunton has long been a favourite actress of mine but this performance was on a whole new level. I will never forget Julie Legrand as Electra either!
- Wit at the Manchester Exchange Theatre starring Julie Hesmondhalgh has to be one of the most poignant pieces of theatre I have ever seen. She is so much more than Hayley from Coronation Street and the sublime Julie Legrand also starred in the production.
- I think that Jeffrey Holland is one of the most talented stage and screen actors around and his one man show And This Is My Friend Mr Laurel is exceptional – I can’t wait to watch it again.
- The Rocky Horror Show has to be seen to be believed and is one of my best loved musicals. Audience participation aplenty and great fun to dress up as weirdly and wonderful as we all like. Let’s do the time warp again!
- Evita – not only one of the most powerful Andrew Lloyd Webber musicals in my humble opinion but one that holds s many special memories. One of the most poignant being my son’s first kicks when I was expecting, it was during ‘Peron’s Latest Flame’.
- The Mousetrap, a legendary show that I was delighted to finally see – it’s an intricate tale and what a superb set!
- 42nd Street was one of the first musicals my parents took me to see so to be able to review the production in the west end last year was an amazing opportunity. Clare Halse was an incredible Peggy Sawyer.
- Wendy and Peter Pan at the RSC still resonates now as a production, it was magical and enticing. I loved Rebecca Johnson’s performance as Mrs Darling too.
- Present Laughter, the Noel Coward play was on my radar when it toured as it starred Phyllis Logan and I had been keen to see her on stage. It did not disappoint and neither did Ms Logan. Rebecca Johnson also co-starred and gave yet another excellent performance.
- My second experience of watching the marvel that is Phyllis Logan on stage was provided by a two-hander play called Switzerland and it was spell-binding.
- The Wizard of Oz at the London Palladium was glorious, I’d invested my time in watching the search for Dorothy on BBC One so to be able to see the winner in action was quite something. Plus Michael Crawford was outstanding.
- Wind in the Willows which was also on at the London Palladium was so much fun, I loved the songs and Jenna Boyd was a real treat in her roles as well as the irrepressible Rufus Hound.
- Over The Rainbow starring Lisa Maxwell and Gary Wilmott was a stunning piece of theatre, heartbreaking and packed with biopic content. Maxwell’s performance was second to none.
- Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour was a raucous riot of a show from beginning to end and a fabulous afternoon out with the girls, especially with Hooch on offer!
- King Lear at the Globe Theatre was worth all the standing up to see Kevin McNally as the King and a fantastic cast – it was one of the best incarnations of the piece that I have seen.
- Avenue Q brings puppetry and inappropriateness galore, it’s one of the most hilarious evenings in the theatre I’ve had. You’ll not be able to get the lyrics out of your head.
- The Lady Vanishes is one of my favourite plays from this year so far, I’ve not been so engrossed in a mystery on stage in a long time. Tension in the auditorium created by the drama on stage was palpable.
- The Snowman is one of my favourite films and on stage it’s a wonder. Ballet and enchantment, it’s not to be missed and I will definitely watch it again in the future.
- I’d never seen Ruddigore before, however last year I was delighted to have the chance to see it at Malvern Theatres. What a performance the whole cast gave, they were a sensation.
- Night Must Fall was a gripping thriller I had the pleasure of reviewing in Malvern a few years ago, starring the marvellous Gwen Taylor. It’s a play I’d be interested in reviewing again as I spent so much of the previous experience on the edge of my seat!
- Ghost Train was another fine example of a play which left me with many questions. Judy Buxton was memorable in this as an eccentric older lady. She was great fun to watch.
- Anita and Me was a fine example of a poignant play set ahead of its time. and with a stellar cast too it’s one of my favourites.
- Brassed Off was a wonderful production which started life at Wolverhampton Grand Theatre and was yet another chance to see Jeffrey Holland on stage. Beautifully done.
- Jersey Boys was an emotional one to watch, one of our best friends whom we lost at the end of 2016 adored the show and had seen it many times. I could see why he loved it so much, it was joyful and also informative.
- The Buddy Holly Story is one of my all time favourite shows, it’s got all my best loved hits in it! Of course it’s tinged with over-riding sadness but anyone who knows the story before they watch the show will be expecting the inevitable.
- 9 to 5 at Upstairs at the Gatehouse was such a fabulous show and worked in the small scale space. Pippa Winslow was on fire as Violet.
- Pippa also starred in The Sound of Music on tour and I loved that production, it was well cast and the closest to the film version that I’ve seen.
- Funny Girl, a show I’d managed to miss in the west end however on tour I saw Natasha Barnes, much celebrated for stepping into Sheridan Smith’s shoes and boy could I see why. Nova Skipp did an excellent job of standing in as Fanny Bryce’s mother too.
- Finally, nobody shines on stage quite like my husband Garry McWilliams, he’s the consummate professional even when he’s appearing in amateur production. His training at Arts Ed never fails to show and I think he’s a talented performer. I am biased, but it’s also true!
That’s all folks! I can’t wait to make more memories and fall in love with many more productions during the next decade. I’ve got lots in the diary so I look forward to sharing my thoughts on my theatrical meanderings during my first year in the 40s club.