Free Theatrical Workshops ~ Birmingham Hippodrome

Birmingham Hippodrome half-term workshops. Credit: Simon Hadley

Birmingham Hippodrome is staging an exciting programme of free theatrical workshops this Easter half-term. Designed with the family in mind, children of all ages will be entertained with a range of free workshops from Monday 15 – Friday 19 April.

For the first time at the Hippodrome, the theatre will host an accessible Sensory Circus (17 Apr) for children with additional needs including Autism, Asperger’s and other complex disabilities.  As well as the Sensory Circus, there will be specially created chill out spaces close-by featuring circus play tents filled with sensory toys and apparatus.

In partnership with DanceXchange, Family Yoga (15 Apr) will offer parents and their little ones the chance to spend some happy, healthy time together. In the Street Dance workshop (19 Apr) expect a Hip-Hop inspired event where kids can work up a sweat with seasoned Street Dance teachers in the lead up to B-SIDE Hip-Hop Festival, coming to Birmingham this May.

In-keeping with Easter traditions, Easter Activities (15-19 Apr) will invite families to create their own colourful eggs, plus the chance to take part in an egg-citing Easter egg trail. There’s also the chance to discover industry secrets with Stage Make-Up for Families (16 Apr), with the opportunity to create dramatic characters and artistic make-up for the stage.

Arts and crafts take centre stage in the Build your own Brum workshop (18 Apr), working with illustrator Tsz, you’ll get to redesign your very own Birmingham. You can also join a Protest Flag Making workshop (16 & 19 Apr) inspired by Les Misérables. Drop in and create a flag with a message of peace or protest.

In the Make Your Own Theatre Poster workshop (15 & 18 Apr), families can come together to create eye-catching theatrical posters inspired by some of the headlining productions that have graced the Hippodrome stage.

Birmingham Hippodrome’s free Easter activities will take place from Monday 15 – Friday 19 April. For more information visit www.birminghamhippodrome.com/easter

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Olivier Awards 2019

Theatre has been my passion since I can remember and although in the past couple of years I’ve not been blogging as actively about my best loved genre of entertainment, it’s never left my radar.

Last night’s Olivier Awards reignited the theatrical spark for me and there are shows I will make it my mission to see – especially given the superb performances of excerpts from many of the nominated productions. From the magnificent Disney’s The Lion King to the stonking new musical Come From Away to Six – a pop concert style musical like no other I’ve seen before – the West End is packed with shows to suit every taste. The Tina Turner musical also looks incredible and if you heard Adrienne Warren who plays the real life legend, I’m sure you can’t fail to agree that she does Ms Turner proud and then some! Rosalie Craig made me feel alive with her rendition of Being Alive from Company and a finale featuring such wonderment as the stunning cast of Olivier winner Sir Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake was a dream come true. Jason Manford was a superb host, witty and offering up relevant comedy, I found the comment about the over-charging in theatre bars particularly poignantly funny. He showed off his musical theatre side with the fantastic Janie Dee and Ruthie Henshall in tow, which was an unexpected treat indeed.

What of the award winners in the hotly contested categories? Although I’ve yet to see the show as I don’t frequent London as often as I would like, I’m delighted for Company, Jonathan Bailey and Patti Lupone – worthy winners in the Best Actor in a Supporting Role in a Musical category, Best Actress in a Supporting Role in a Musical category and Best Musical Revival. Judging by the immense performance given by the cast of Come From Away, their Best New Musical win (amongst other awards) was well deserved, the production stars one of my favourite performers, Jenna Boyd, it’s got to be worth a watch just to see her! Catherine Zuber should also be congratulated, her costume design for The King And I is a triumph and she should rightly be celebrated. Shout out to my favourite Donna and the Dynamos, Sara Poyzer, Kate Graham and Ricky Butt who presented that particular award in their Mamma Mia! costumes. Porgy and Bess was also on my radar and a winner from the Best Opera nominations which I had high hopes for. I must also add my congratulations to the terrific super-talent Monica Dolan for her win for Best Actress in a Supporting Role award for All About Eve. I haven’t seen the play yet but Monica Dolan is a chameleon on an actress and wows me in all she does.

Here’s the full list of winners….

BEST ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE IN A MUSICAL

Jonathan Bailey for Company at Gielgud Theatre

BEST ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE IN A MUSICAL

Patti LuPone for Company at Gielgud Theatre

OUTSTANDING ACHIEVEMENT IN MUSIC

Come From Away – Book, Music and Lyrics: David Hein and Irene Sankoff; Music Supervisor, Arrangements: Ian Eisendrath; Orchestrations: August Eriksmoen; Musical Director/UK Music Supervisor: Alan Berry; and the band of Come From Away at Phoenix Theatre

BEST NEW DANCE PRODUCTION

Blkdog by Botis Seva at Sadler’s Wells

OUTSTANDING ACHIEVEMENT IN DANCE

Akram Khan for his performance in Xenos at Sadler’s Wells

BEST ENTERTAINMENT AND FAMILY

A Monster Calls at The Old Vic

BEST THEATRE CHOREOGRAPHER

Kelly Devine for Come From Away at Phoenix Theatre

MAGIC RADIO BEST MUSICAL REVIVAL

Company at Gielgud Theatre

BEST ACTOR IN A MUSICAL

Kobna Holdbrook-Smith for Tina – The Tina Turner Musical at Aldwych Theatre

BEST ACTRESS IN A MUSICAL

Sharon D. Clarke for Caroline, Or Change at Playhouse Theatre

CUNARD BEST REVIVAL

Summer And Smoke at Almeida Theatre and Duke of York’s Theatre

BEST NEW COMEDY

Home, I’m Darling at National Theatre – Dorfman and Duke of York’s Theatre

OUTSTANDING ACHIEVEMENT IN AFFILIATE THEATRE

Flesh And Bone at Soho Theatre

WHITE LIGHT AWARD FOR BEST LIGHTING DESIGN

Jon Clark for The Inheritance at Young Vic and Noël Coward Theatre

ROYAL ALBERT HALL AWARD FOR BEST SOUND DESIGN

Gareth Owen for Come From Away at Phoenix Theatre

BEST COSTUME DESIGN

Catherine Zuber for The King And I at The London Palladium

BLUE-I THEATRE TECHNOLOGY AWARD FOR BEST SET DESIGN

Bunny Christie for Company at Gielgud Theatre

BEST ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE

Chris Walley for The Lieutenant Of Inishmore at Noël Coward Theatre

BEST ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE

Monica Dolan for All About Eve at Noël Coward Theatre

BEST NEW OPERA PRODUCTION

Katya Kabanova at Royal Opera House

OUTSTANDING ACHIEVEMENT IN OPERA

The ensemble of Porgy And Bess at London Coliseum

BEST ACTOR

Kyle Soller for The Inheritance at Young Vic and Noël Coward Theatre

BEST ACTRESS

Patsy Ferran for Summer And Smoke at Almeida Theatre and Duke of York’s Theatre

SIR PETER HALL AWARD FOR BEST DIRECTOR

Stephen Daldry for The Inheritance at Young Vic and Noël Coward Theatre

AMERICAN AIRLINES BEST NEW PLAY

The Inheritance at Young Vic and Noël Coward Theatre

MASTERCARD BEST NEW MUSICAL

Come From Away at Phoenix Theatre

SOCIETY OF LONDON THEATRE SPECIAL AWARD

Sir Matthew Bourne

You can book tickets for the West End Theatre shows here: Break A Leg Ticket Shop

Photo Credit for Come From Away – Matthew Murphy

Other Photo Credits: YouTube

The Lady Vanishes ~ Malvern Theatres

Star Rating: *****

Take a classic thriller written by Sidney Gilliat and Frank Launder, the film version having been directed by Alfred Hitchcock, add a stellar cast and one of the most atmospheric sets I’ve seen in a long time – what do you get? A flawless production of The Lady Vanishes.

Although I was already familiar with the title of the production, initially I was unfamiliar with the story. Therefore watching the action and mystery unfold with no prior knowledge was a real treat. The scene and tone at the railway station were immediately set and there was an overriding feel of authority and fear as Hitler’s Germany reigned supreme. The characters are introduced gradually and they all have a tale to tell, while a few characters remain vague which helps to build the tension and suspense throughout. What’s evident from the outset is that clues are everywhere and dovetail perfectly when the conclusion is reached.

The story is paced to perfection by the strong ensemble, Juliet Mills shone as Miss Froy – the lady who seemingly vanishes aboard a train to England, Lorna Fitzgerald has the opportunity to demonstrate that she is capable of extraordinary stage craft – I had known her as Abi Branning in Eastenders. As Iris, the young woman who is hell bent on discovering what has happened to Miss Froy, she couldn’t have characterised better. The chemistry and sublime partnership Fitzgerald has with Matt Barber as the unintentionally comedic Max. Barber is another familiar face from the television, having starred as the husband of Lily James’ character, Lady Rose, in Downton Abbey. While Barber remains a firm favourite of mine from the series, for as a screen actor I felt he was a joy to watch – on stage he excels further and every nuance of his performance was measured and deliberate – he certainly has hidden depths. Maxwell Caulfield possessed an eerily unpleasant quality in the somewhat pivotal role of Dr Hartz, it was really easy to dislike him and suspect him. Robert Duncan and Ben Nealon often stole the show as cricketing enthusiasts and businessmen, Charters and Caldicott. Duncan’s comic timing had me laughing out loud on more than one occasion. Philip Lowrie played the fairly benign Eric, apparently trying to run off with Margaret (Elizabeth Payne) yet making a dog’s dinner of their scandalous liaison. Lowrie and Payne made a watchable and believable couple – Lowrie’s years of experience on stage and screen are obvious and I was fascinated with Payne’s stage presence and superb diction.

Antony Lampard’s adaptation lends itself to the stage, brilliantly and Roy Marsden’s direction is on point as always, he’s one of my favourite directors. You’ll be sure to become an armchair sleuth as the story unfolds, chaos ensues and inevitable tragedy occurs too.

The Lady Vanishes stays at Malvern Theatres until Saturday 23rd March, book now: https://www.malvern-theatres.co.uk/whats-on/the-lady-vanishes/

Entertainment Views Interviews Star of The Full Monty UK Tour… Andrew Dunn

Dinnerladies from the genius mind of the late, great Victoria Wood remains one of my firm favourite sitcoms to this day, all these years on. The man who played Victoria’s character, Bren’s love interest, Tony – is the brilliant Andrew Dunn. Andrew is playing the role of Gerald in the UK tour of The Full Monty so I was thrilled to have the opportunity to chat to him about the show.

Thank you for chatting to Entertainment Views, Andrew tell me about The Full Monty and the character you’re playing.

If you’re familiar with the film, you’ll know the story. It’s set in Sheffield and set around six out of work steelworkers who get together to become male strippers. I play Gerald, he hasn’t told his wife that he’s been made redundant, he goes out ‘to work’ every morning – but he has nowhere to go and its all an act to keep up the pretence.

What do you think the strengths of the show are?

The subject matters dealt with are relevant today. It’s a feelgood piece of theatre but as the writer, Simon Beaufoy says, he’s amazed that it’s a feelgood piece when the subject matter is depression.

How does it compare to the movie version?

Unlike the musical version the play is just the same as the film. We have the dole queue scene where the lads start dancing to ‘Hot Stuff’ and we do the full monty at the end. There are big lights on stage which are supposed to ‘blind’ the audience at the end but there have been times when the audience haven’t been blinded by the lights!

What have audience reactions been like so far?

Well they’ve bought a ticket to see it because of what they think they’ll see at the end! We get standing ovations and the audience are always on our side. It’s a fun show to do, that’s why I’m still touring with it. The audience get into it and they follow the story to the end.

I can’t not mention Dinnerladies as I still love the sitcom now, what was the best thing about being part of the series?

All the people I got to work with, there’s one episode where I’m standing with the late Dame Thora Hird, Dora Bryan and Eric Sykes. I grew up watching them on television. People wanted to work with Victoria.

The series has maintained its popularity after twenty years….

Yes, and its been shown on Gold channel which helps. We also toured theatres with it and it was amazing to see that young children were watching it and giving us pictures they’d drawn of the characters. People still stop me in the street and quote lines from it.
I don’t think that she thought about the future but the way she wrote things meant that the humour is still there and relevant.  

Back to The Full Monty, why should everyone buy a ticket to come and see it?

It’s a feelgood piece and a great night at the theatre, come along and have a good night out!

The all-important link to check out the tour dates/venues and buy tickets to see The Full Monty, is here: fullmontytheplay.com/

Entertainment Views Interviews Star of The Full Monty UK Tour…. Amy Thompson

Amy Thompson is a household name in the Entertainment Views HQ home, as a presenter of Channel Five’s Milkshake, she is a firm favourite with my five year old son. We have also seen her in pantomime twice, where she never fails to dazzle. Amy is currently treading the boards in the UK tour of The Full Monty, I was delighted to hear that Amy had added another credit to her list and couldn’t wait to hear all about her latest role.

Thanks for chatting to me, Amy – tell me about The Full Monty and the character you’re playing.

It’s always a pleasure to chat to you, Helen. The Full Monty play is written by Simon Beaufoy, he’s adapted it for the stage and it’s based on the original movie version. I play Mandy, she’s Gaz’s ex-wife (Gaz is played by Gary Lucy). Gaz owes Mandy child maintenance money, or there’s a chance he will be stopped from seeing his son. Mandy is with a man called Barry, he’s safe and secure. Life with Barry is different to life with Gaz. There’s still love there for Gaz though, so there’s still a chance for Gaz if he can get his act together. The reason Gaz needs the money is so that he can pay Mandy, so she is definitely part of the reason Gaz and his mates decide to become strippers.

Amy as Mandy in The Full Monty (far right of the picture)

What inspired you to go for the role?

Milkshake! are very supportive of me going off to do other things when there’s an opportunity and I still film the Milkshake! at the same time. I’m a Yorkshire girl and my background is in theatre so I’m going back to my theatrical roots. The Full Monty came along and offered me the chance to do something different.

How do you feel the show translates years after the movie was released?

The subjects that are handled are still relevant today, although it’s a fun show there are many serious issues dealt with. There’s unemployment, depression, homosexuality, body image etc. From a political point of view it’s relevant too.

What’s your personal highlight of the show?

I love the fact that I get to watch the amazing Andy Dunn (who plays Gerald) on stage, that’s a highlight for me every show. He’s an incredible actor and has worked with Hull Truck Theatre, the same as me.

Does it feel strange to be on stage as opposed to in front of a camera?

Not at all, because I started off in theatre and always thought that would be where I would be working. Milkshake! came along ten years ago (in March) and I love that I can do television and theatre. I also do pantomime every year too, I played Cinderella last season.

Any particular ambitions for the future? Are there any roles you’re keen to play?

I’d love to do more theatre and get into musical theatre, which is really difficult to get into. Les Mis is one of my favourite shows. I’d like to do something different where I have the opportunity to play a variety of characters.

Last year, Coleen Nolan encouraged a group of famous ladies to bare all in aid of Breast Cancer, would you be tempted to join in if it’s organised again and they ask you?

How funny you should mention this as I appeared in pantomime with Michelle Heaton last season and she did this. She told me about what it meant to her and I’d definitely do it if I was asked, it’s for a great cause.

Amy thinks you’ll have a great night at the theatre if you book a ticket to see The Full Monty on its UK our – here’s the all important link: fullmontytheplay.com/

Calendar Girls The Musical ~ New Cast : New Enthusiasm

I’ve been reviewing musical theatre productions since 2012. My love of musical theatre dates back to my wee small years when my parents took me to see a number of popular shows at either Birmingham Hippodrome, Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham or Wolverhampton Grand Theatre. Great memories remain and the buzz I reveled in at the time and on our way home afterwards while I clutched my programme and finished off any sweets we might have had left is a feeling I cherish. Inevitably there comes a point where, as a regular theatre-goer, you’ll have seen the vast majority of productions in a variety of incarnations. I reached a stale-mate with musical theatre recently, where apart from Blood Brothers which remains a steady favourite, I’ve lacked the inspiration and will to get up and go to see musicals.

The inspirational block wasn’t necessarily a bad thing as it turned my head in the direction of the Opera and I’ve been lapping up as many opportunities as possible to go to see different Operas. However, there is another musical theatre production that I have a passion for aside from Blood Brothers. I saw this particular musical twice in the West End and had great fun interviewing one of the stars of the show too, Claire Machin, Calendar Girls the Musical from the combined force of Mr Gary Barlow of Take That fame and Tim Firth is the one I’m referring to and the soundtrack from the West End cast has a regular home in our car for sing-alongs, it’s addictive!

Sarah Jane Buckley will be missed when she leaves one of my favourite musicals, Blood Brothers!

One of the many reasons that I return to Blood Brothers time and time again is that Sarah Jane Buckley has been playing the role of Mrs Lyons and understudying Mrs Johnstone. She is incredibly believable as both characters, giving beautifully nuanced performances. She’s also one of a few performers I make a great effort to support, as she has been immensely supportive of my little blogging empire. I had fully intended to see Calendar Girls the Musical on its tour before this year, especially as Fern Britton was cast as Marie, the disapproving W.I. Leader. However, I have now got yet another reason to get out there and see it – there’s a brand new cast (although Rebecca Storm and Ruth Madoc (who was one of my childhood heroes) remain) and Sarah Jane Buckley is playing the role of Annie. It’s a part which I watched Joanna Riding and Jenny Gayner play at the Phoenix Theatre, London and which I had my eye on for Sarah Jane to play, funnily enough, I knew she’d fit it brilliantly.

I loved The Girls when it ran at the Phoenix Theatre in London’s West End

So, with midlands tour dates on their list and not only Sarah Jane Buckley on the cast list, which is a draw in itself for me obviously, but also Sue Devaney who I loved in ‘Dinnerladies’ and Julia Hills of 2 Point 4 Children fame joining the line up – I need to go and see the show again (and again!). My enthusiasm for the show has been renewed of course, but also my enthusiasm for musical theatre off the back of my palpable excitement. The buzz is back and I’m raring to see more musicals because I’m so enthused about the tour of Calendar Girls. Of course, when you’re a fan-girl, as I am, and your best-loved performer is taking on a new challenge, that in itself is always quite a moment. Sarah Jane will embrace the role of Annie and make it her own, that’s my totally biased view… I can already imagine her singing ‘Scarborough’. I can’t wait!!!

I can’t wait to see Calendar Girls the Musical again – ‘Sunflower’ is one of my best loved songs from the show

When it comes to any production, be it a musical, a play, a television series or even a film – we all have our favourites in the various roles and there’s no denying that the West End cast of ‘The Girls‘, as it was called then, were outstanding. From Sophie Louise Dann to Claire Machin to Michele Dotrice and indeed Joanna Riding – each and every one of the girls and boys in the cast put their heart and soul into the show. However, I hope that all the theatre fans out there who have a passion for the show as I do will give the new cast a chance. I think they’ll be a force to be reckoned with.

With the announcement finally out there today that there’s a new line-up in the offing to get behind those buns, I’m just so happy that my musical mojo is back! Bring on a year of musical theatre trips in 2019!

If you want to book tickets for the tour, you’ll see the current cast until the gang head to Southend. I’m sorry to have missed out on the chance of seeing Fern Britton, however from Southend onwards I predict a new magic in the air for this amazing piece of musical theatre.

calendargirlsthemusical.com

Photo Credit: John Swannell

Blood Brothers ~ Malvern Theatres

Blood Brothers, the musical that has had a special place in my heart for a long time – it will always be a five star production in my eyes and has yet to deviate from that honour. Each time I see it feels like watching again for the first time as it’s easy to find something I may have missed on other occasions.

If you don’t know the story let me enlighten you… the action is set in Liverpool where class difference has never been more prominent and centres around Mrs Johnstone, her family and struggles. She was married but he scarpered as soon as the number of children she was having almost rivaled that of a football team. With twins on the way and the welfare threatening to take her kids away she reluctantly strikes up a bargain with her well to do employer, Mrs Lyons. Splitting up her twin boys, Mickey grows up with the big boisterous family and of course, Mrs Johnstone as his mother, whereas Edward is raised by Mr and Mrs Lyons, with Mr Lyons remaining in the dark about the reason why his apparently barren wife has born him a son. As the lads grow up, having met each other and become friends when they were age 7 (nearly 8) there’s a love triangle developing with a girl called Linda and the class divide is set to catalyse fatal consequences.

You’re bound to have heard a number of the timeless songs; there’s ‘Tell Me It’s Not True’, ‘My Child’, ‘Easy Terms’ and ‘Marilyn Monroe’ to name a few. Linzi Hateley plays the iconic role of Mrs Johnstone, taking over from Lyn Paul, she’s made the role her own. Mark Hutchinson plays Edward (Eddie) and his years of experience in the part are very telling, it’s almost like a second skin for him. Robbie Scotcher is a moody, shadow-dwelling narrator, the power of his vocals wows and he possesses extraordinary stage presence. Daniel Taylor will always be my Sammy, the tantrums are show-stopping and there’s always a splash of real menace which hints at what the future holds for the character. Danielle Corlass gives another flawless performance as Linda. Tim Churchill is as superb as always, excellent as Mr Lyons and hilarious as the milkman cum gynaecologist. The ensemble are also as strong as ever with Graham Martin reducing the audience to tears of laughter with his performances as the Judge and the two vastly different teachers. Amy-Jane Ollies also shines as Donna Marie and Miss Jones. Andy Owens never fails to give a wonderfully funny portrayal of the nerdy pal, Perkins.

Last night belonged, for me personally, to Sean Jones as Mickey and Sarah Jane Buckley as Mrs Lyons. That’s because it was the last time that I was to see them in the show. They’re both bound for pastures new and with Sean having 15 years under his belt it’s going to be rather strange getting used to a new Mickey. Sarah Jane joined the cast in 2016, but it’s no secret that I was already a huge fan (and still am a huge fan!) as I loved her as Kathy Barnes in Channel Four’s Hollyoaks. As Mrs Lyons she has surpassed my expectations, adding an extra something special to the ‘bridesmaid’ of the female roles. I was also lucky enough to see her play Mrs Johnstone as she has understudied the part, and her performance still resonates now. One of my favourite experiences in the theatre.

Sean Jones IS Mickey, so although I’m certain the new one will be fantastic and find his feet, I’m sure the loss of Sean from the cast will be felt keenly. Wishing both of them all the best for their future roles anyway – which I know they will both be amazing in. Look out for them, and indeed catch them in one of the venues that they will tour to with Blood Brothers before they finish. This is the first of their four remaining weeks with the tour.

All in all, Blood Brothers is one of the best nights at the theatre you could wish for, miss it at your peril! If you want to catch it at the wonderful Malvern Festival Theatre, it plays there until Saturday 2nd February: blood-brothers

Photo credits: Robert Day

The Snowman ~ Birmingham Repertory Theatre

Star rating: *****

It’s the stage spectacular that’s certain to make you feel like you’re walking in the air with its feel-good yet beautifully moving story, choreography and music. In its 25th anniversary year, the live version of the stage show based on the Raymond Briggs classic is heart-warming and brings tears to the eyes in equal measure!

The atmosphere of the piece is created from a combination of stunning ballet, beautiful, believable characterisation and the strength of the story alone which is told so brilliantly by the utterly incredible cast. The stage version dovetails with the film in that we follow the friendship between an over-excited boy waiting for Christmas and even more enthralled to see its snowing. His glorious snowman comes to life in wondrous fashion as the pair embark upon a marvellous adventure. Together they make a formidable team as they combat a cat attack, encounter dancing fruit from the fridge who limbo dance and even brave a trip to mum and dad’s bedroom to dress up the frozen wonder. However it’s when the pair take flight into the night sky that the piece reaches its crescendo. The party that ensues with a selection of other snowman, animals and Father Christmas himself can’t fail to put a smile on your face. Punctuated by the sensational music and lyrics from Howard Blake.

Martin Fenton astounds in the title role, he plays the Snowman as if he were wearing a second skin and every move is measured, precise and engaging. Lewis Chan gave a superb performance as the boy, the chemistry with Fenton was stunningly palpable. Ruben De Monte was extraordinarily impressive as Jack Frost, commanding the stage and leaving us under no misapprehension as to who the baddie of the piece was. The penguins were my favourites though, comical, exact movement and a real double act – kudos to Ami Tollin and Kimberly Lawrie.

A family evening out at the theatre doesn’t come in any better packaging than this – it’s the perfect post-Christmas treat. Book your tickets to see The Snowman now: www.birmingham-rep.co.uk/

Highlights of 2018

I’m late with last year’s highlights but suffice to say that 2018 was a fantastic year for shows of all genres. A great mix was on offer for Entertainment Views to attend and there have been so many wonderful memories made along the way. Here are just a few of the stand-out opportunities I had…

Iolanthe (ENO)

Gilbert & Sullivan’s operettas have been on my radar for years and I’ve watched many of them, however I had never seen Iolanthe nor the wonderful ENO performing one of their famous operettas. So – the chance to see Iolanthe performed by the ENO at London’s Coliseum was too good a chance to miss. With Yvonne Howard giving an outstanding performance as the Fairy Queen and a cast de force, all I can say is bring on its return! Iolanthe Review

Hotel Transylvania 3

What a movie! My movie of the year for sure! If you’ve never seen the other movies in the franchise it doesn’t matter, you can dive into this one and soon get the gist of the hilarious plot and get to know the madcap characters. A great film for grown ups as well as kids.

Falstaff (Garsington Opera)

Opera is one of my new loves and Falstaff was one of my first experiences of a non-operetta style. It starred Yvonne Howard who (as you already know) is one of my all-time favourite performers and Henry Waddington was exceptional in the lead title role. Garsington offers beautiful surroundings and a unique setting – I hope to return this summer.  Falstaff Review

Falstaff by Verdi;
Garsington Opera at Wormsley;
13 June 2018;
Sir John Falstaff – Henry Waddington;
Conductor – Richard Farnes;
Director – Bruno Ravella;
Designer – Giles Cadle;
Lighting Designer – Malcolm Rippeth;
Movement Director – Tim Claydon;
Photo credit: © CLIVE BARDA/ArenaPAL;

Coventry Comic Con

One of my favourite Comic Cons returned for its second year and it was a glorious set-up as expected. Plenty of stalls, activities and cosplayers as well as a great spacious layout. Our who family love this one and can’t wait to go again this year. Coventry Comic Con Review

Blood Brothers

I adore Blood Brothers, it’s one of my all-time favourite musicals and for the past couple of years one of the best actresses (in my humble opinion) has been playing Mrs Lyons and understudying the role of Mrs Johnstone – the brilliant Sarah-Jane Buckley. I was lucky enough to see the show a few times in 2018 and look forward to seeing it again this year, although a few cast changes are afoot… Here’s one of my latest reviews: Blood Brothers Review

This Morning Live! 

I am a huge fan of This Morning and for those who know me well, you’ll be aware that I am also a massive fan of Ruth Langsford and Eamonn Holmes. In Birmingham we’re really lucky to have the This Morning Live! show at the NEC and it was a superb experience. From shopping to cooking masterclasses to meeting the presenters themselves (I only managed to meet Alison Hammond this time around but she is amazing and so lovely) – I couldn’t recommend the show more. This Morning Live! Review

Sixties Gold Show

I’ve long been a fan of The Searchers and I’ve supported them on solo tours on many an occasion – however this was the first Sixties Gold tour I’d been to. It was one of the biggest highlights of my reviewing year and I’m really looking forward to the next one. It was such an amazing night, buzzing! Sixties Gold Tour Review

BBC Good Food Show

I’ve been interested in going to the BBC Good Food Show for years, I finally grabbed the opportunity to attend their winter show and it was everything I hoped it would be! I’m looking forward to attending the summer show this year. BBC Good Food Show

Claire Richards solo gig

I adore Steps, I have so many favourites from among their epic back-catalogue, however I am also loving Claire Richards as a solo artist. She’s got such a powerful voice and her versatility knows no bounds. A superb gig at Birmingham Town Hall showcased her talent, the album is out very soon and my review of her gig is here: Claire Richards Review

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (Malvern Theatres)

Malvern Theatres has long been top of my list of midlands-based theatres and their production of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was a brilliant cornucopia of mad-cap stereotypical panto antics. Su Pollard was a revelation and stole the show. A well deserved five stars! Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs Review

The Future of Entertainment Views

On a final note, I wanted to update all of my valued readers and subscribers on the direction that 2019 will most likely see my small corner of the internet, taking. You can find a bit about this particular rambling on my https://entertainmentviews.co.uk/about/ but I wanted to use this post to chat a bit more about blogging and me. As an established blogger juggling a young family as well as having a bash at hanging on to a day job too, I’m often asked all of the questions I’m about to answer…

When

In 2013 I branched out as an independent theatre blogger, reviewing shows at the local theatres I’d built up a relationship with on behalf of an established review site which sadly no longer exists. Break A Leg Review was born at around the same time as I discovered I was pregnant so my progress was slow to begin with, although I kept up with it as much as possible. I worked full time in a day job with the NHS and my morning sickness was as backwards as I can be, in that it appeared in the evenings!

Where

I was reviewing in and around the West Midlands as that’s where I’m based and I had managed to secure a place on press lists at most of the theatres that I frequent. In 2015 I was lucky enough to connect with London theatres and due to suggestions from the various people I was interviewing, meeting and liaising with – I added movie and television reviews to the mix as well as music too. My blog took off in ways I could never have imagined during that year.

Why

I made the decision to reach out to London theatres (and many other venues around the UK) as well as add other types of review to my blog because I had become a mum in 2014. That’s the quick answer. Becoming a mum changed my life in thousands of ways. To begin with, I was so consumed by the tiny little boy in my life that I considered giving up my blog. However, having returned to my day job on a part time basis while I searched for a different career that would suit motherhood and the juggling, I was considering blogging and therefore working from home, as a viable option. I ended up in another NHS job working unsociable hours instead, however so draining on my mental health was this new job, that it became even more of a goal to be able to work from home.

How

I took yet another NHS job to keep the bank account happy and which made my mental health happier (for a limited period of time!) and worked hard throughout 2016 to try my hand at other things such as social media management and website creations. I might have been working part time in the NHS but with my other work (blog included) mounting up – it felt like the right time to take the plunge and work solely from home. Timing was good as 2017 was my little boy’s last full year at nursery before he started school in 2018.

And…

Truthfully, it worked for a while and was even enjoyable at times. I branched out into entertainment PR and dabbled in many areas. However, what I learned was that working from home and making a career out of blogging is not my thing. I still love to blog of course, but I don’t want my blog to be the be all and end all. The family dynamics change once your little one goes to school too. I found I could’t just pop off to London and I didn’t want to. I lose 6 hours a days for 5 days a week of my lad’s company during term time and I love being able to drop him off at school and pick him up. The smile on his face when I’m waiting at hos classroom door is more moving than any theatrical performance I’ve reviewed.

What’s Next?

2018 saw me start another job with the NHS (it’s what I know!) and that works at the moment. I like leaving the house to go to work and although it’s been a slightly awkward transition for my boy as he got used to me being at home, we’re all getting on with it.

2019 sees me being less of a critic an more of a cheerleader as I share all my positive experiences with you. I also have a few new ventures on the horizon which will hopefully help my much-desired career changes to take shape – but at the heart of everything are my boys – my husband and my son.

Have you tried to combine blogging with parenthood and career juggling? I’d love to hear about your experiences too! 

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