The Final Show

Earlier this week I posted a video of Lael Van Keuren and Florrie Bagel singing I Will Never Leave You from the musical Sideshow between Lael’s final two shows as Sister Mary Robert in Sister Act and it inspired me to write a short story for my collection entitled The Final Show, so, ladies and gentlemen, I now present to you my very first shared short story! I really hope you enjoy it and would love to hear your thoughts in the comments section.


Evelyn O’Darrell was seated in her dressing room for the final time after eighteen months of touring the UK in the role she had dreamed of playing ever since she discovered theatre as a child. Evelyn had always loved the theatre and knew that the only place for her was the big, bright stage and there was no feeling quite like the rush of adrenaline you get when the first note of the orchestra strikes up, or when you take your bow and the audience are applauding you, and only you. As she got ready to leave for the final time, Evelyn thought back over the past year and a half she had spent with the show.

As she unbuttoned her heavy, velvet black dress, she thought back to her audition for the role. The process was a long one, she recalled, eight auditions in total over the course of nearly two months. Evelyn had worked harder than she had ever, ever worked before for this role. It was her big chance, her chance to shine, she had only ever been given ensemble roles before which, of course, she loved but this was different, it just felt so right, although arriving at the audition quickly scuppered her hopes when she saw how many people, and who for that matter, she was up against. There were some very well known faces amongst the candidates, they were bound to choose one of them over someone like me, she thought to herself downheartedly. Even so, she sung her heart out and put in all the emotion she could possibly summon into her chosen song. No sooner had she walked in the door of her house, her phone began to ring. It was her agent. This call could make or break me, she thought to herself. She picked it up and was overjoyed to be told that she had made it through to the next round. The process repeated itself the second, third, fourth and fifth time but by the sixth audition, her confidence had grown and she felt for the first time that she was really in with a fighting chance. Stage number eight of the audition came and went and after all being quiet for the following two days, Evelyn decided that it was apparently not to be this time, but she had had such a great experience that she would not be hasty in trying again for another role. Getting her first solo role was always going to be the most difficult and besides, she was only twenty-five, there would surely be plenty more opportunities. That same evening, her phone rang whilst her and her family were in the middle of dinner. She took the call out in the garden, where it was peaceful and private, apart from the cat and the odd bird that came to rest on the fence until said cat caught sight of it. After ten minutes, Evelyn went back inside with a huge grin on her face.

“I got the part!” She told her family excitedly. Immediately, they all jumped up out of their seats and gave her a big hug, they were proud of her beyond words. It was a wonderful moment for them all.

Snapping back out of her daydream, Evelyn was interrupted by her two fellow cast members entering their shared dressing room in a rather ungainly manner, both laughing uncontrollably. Evelyn herself could not help but crack a fond smile at her two best friends’ antics, as she was by now very used to them and they were one of the things she would surely miss most about the show.

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Four Candles

In light of the recent sad passing of comedy legend Ronnie Corbett, I thought I would share my favourite Two Ronnies sketch with you. Many of you will, I’m sure, be familiar with this but ladies and gentlemen, I present to you, Four Candles…

I Will Never Leave You – Sister Mary Sideshow

One of my favourite musical cast recordings at the moment is Sister Act (London Cast Recording) so I thought I’d have a look and see who was in it on Broadway and whilst doing so, I came across this video of Lael Van Keuren and Florrie Bagel – US touring Sister Mary Robert and Sister Mary Patrick – performing I Will Never Leave You from Sideshow between Lael’s final two shows on tour. I find this very enjoyable and incredibly sweet, enjoy!

Loserville

I was offered tickets by a friend of mine to her new production of Loserville on the 6th August 2015. The production was put on by Aylesbury Vale Youth Theatre, a local performing arts group.

The show tells the story of Michael Dork, who wants to change the world by allowing people to be able to communicate by computer, resulting in the invention of emails. He then befriends fellow computer geek Holly Manson and together, they make this dream a reality.

Haden Spence was cast in the role of Michael Dork and was outstanding. All performers involved with AVYT I believe are between the ages of 16 and 21 but they are all so professional and serious about what they do, making this show truly delightful and Spence was no exception. Michael is an extremely bright character who loves Science but is picked on for being a ‘geek’ – he’s basically a very sweet boy who wants to change the whole world. Spencer’s portrayal of this character was both funny and touching at the same time. We all know how it feels to be ‘different’ and people may not like us for it but we still have to be ourselves – that is the message I got from the character of Michael and it was conveyed with beautiful emotion and honesty from this young actor.

Holly Manson was played by Emma Kniebe and out of all the performers on stage, she stood out the most. She has the most incredible voice and is such a natural actress, she really felt the character’s feeling and consequently made the audience feel it too. Holly joins the school and is unafraid to declare her dream of wanting to become an astronaut – the first woman in space, despite being mocked for it. The courage that this character has and the self-sacrifice she commits for her friends is so admirable and this really struck a chord with me thanks to Kniebe’s wonderful portrayal – a young lady who I can see going further with her performing career, so listen out for that name folks!

The character of Lucas Lloyd was played by Joey Watson-Smith. Lucas is the best friend of Michael but later has to deal with coming second-best to Holly. As much and as hard as he tries, Lucas is not quite as up to scratch on technology as his best friend, but is still valued just as much. Watson-Smith is fantastic in this supporting role. Lucas’ vulnerability is quite often present played by this young man which I believe is very crucial to the character as not being as ‘geeky’ as his best friend does have the potential to put him in an unstable position and although, the show is run mainly on Michael and Holly’s story, Lucas’ is just as important in my eyes, therefore this was brilliantly played.

Eddie Arch is very much on the opposing team to the geeks and is played by the fabulous Thomas Hodge. Initially, Eddie starts out as the usual school bully but after finding out something potentially harmful about Holly, his nasty side comes out. This critical change in character was so on-point and even subtly done by Hodge which really made me despise him (the character, not the actor obviously!). It was such a fantastic portrayal that I can see this young actor being a sublime Bill Sikes in Oliver or even Javert in Les Miserables. I will stop making suggestions now because I am sure AVYT already have their next production planned.

It would take me a little while to write a paragraph about every cast member and because I am writing this in time constraints, I will not be doing this. However, I would like to give a mention to everyone in the cast. So, Gus Kerr, Darcy Power, Sahan Hiddalarachchi, Stuart Taylor, Kayley Rose Canfield, Amelia Bower, Leigh Batson and Alice Ashwell are all names to look out for in the future as every single actor gave an outstanding, heartwarming and thrilling performance in their own quirky ways. This show has so much fun and energy in it that you will definitely leave with a smile on your face. As soon as I got home I was straight on to finding a cast recording but it turns out that such a thing does not exist. Fancy it, AVYT?

Oklahoma UK Tour

On Wednesday 5th August, I went to see the UK touring production of the classic musical Oklahoma. Prior to the show, I had never seen it before but of course was familiar with the music and the basic storyline.

The musical tells the story of Laurey and Curly, two young people who meet and fall in love. True to any romance, classic or modern, there are plenty of obstacles between them and a happy-ever-after.

The role of Laurey was played by the ever-so-lovely Charlotte Wakefield who has had various roles in popular television shows such as Waterloo Road, The Royal and was a semi-regular in Holby City, as Holly Cullen before beginning her musical career (and she’s only twenty four!). I honestly do not know where to begin with her, she was a joy to watch and played the part superbly. She absolutely nailed every aspect of Laurey as a character – her cheeky side, naivety and wit as well as highlighting how she matures and develops considerably during the course of the show. As soon as she walked on stage, she made me and undoubtedly the rest of the audience fall in love with Laurey (and want her as a friend…just me there? Okay then!). There is something very special about the way this young lady creates a chemistry with the other characters. Sometimes – often on television most commonly – you can watch two actors and really struggle to believe the relationship between these characters because the actors are not putting their heart and soul into the performance but Wakefield was faultless, especially in this area of her portrayal of the character – a diamond of an actress who has so much more success to come and hopefully goes further than being nominated for awards!

Ashley Day played the role of Curly and he had the ‘Jack-the-Lad’ character to a T. Day is a fine young actor and brought a certain freshness to Curly’s character. Much like Curly, Day is a real charmer but Curly ultimately is just a young man with a good heart who is deeply in love with Laurey and truly cares about her. His rendition of the classic Oh What a Beautiful Mornin’ was certainly one to remember for its originality combined with nostalgia of the original version which we all know so well and was a perfect rendition of the song. Every element of the show was performed with so much enthusiasm and energy from Day that made him a pleasure to watch and a completely wonderful character.

The iconic Gary Wilmot played peddler Ali Hakim, a character who can very well be classed as a loveable rogue. Every part of Ali is false and his dishonesty leads him to being in awkward positions with women and eventually marrying the formidable Gertie Cummings. Wilmot is a theatrical legend and is someone I have been familiar with for a long time, from me first seeing him in the London production of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. I am 100% certain that he still has several decades of a career still to come and will become one of the greats, if he is not already. His performance as Ali Hakim was nothing short of genius, with his quirky attempts at trying to make his stories believable combined with brilliantly timed comedy.

Belinda Lang played Laurey’s Aunt Eller, an eccentric, elderly woman with no fear and a pretty cynical view of life. I was astounded by the fabulous make-up, as Lang did not look one bit like her usual self but like an old country woman. Lang was hilarious, particularly in the song The Farmer and the Cowman. Known as a comedy actress in the comedy 2Point4 Children, she has still got it and her performance most certainly was a memorable one.

A spectacular performance I personally thought came from Nick Greenshields in the role of Jud Fry, an older man who is in love with Laurey. I cannot make up my mind whether I felt sorry for Jud or whether he was just a nasty person. His innocent love for Laurey quickly escalated into a stalker-ish kind of obsession, as foreseen at the end of act one in the dream ballet. The scene where Jud and Laurey are alone in the second act really leaves you on the edge of your seat as Jud at this point is so unpredictable and at times, it seems that he wants to deliberately hurt Laurey, but at others, he just wants her to love him and this was beautifully played out by both, with a particularly strong performance from Greenshields. Jud did meet a tragic ending, which in several ways was foreshadowed in a number of moments in the show.

Oklahoma is such a great, feel-good musical where every audience member leaves on a high. The cast are absolutely sublime and I could go and write a paragraph about each and every one of them if I had the time. This show has now become my favourite classic musical and is definitely in my top ten all time favourites. I really cannot praise this show, the cast, crew and music enough so all I have to say now is that if this show happens to tour again (which I hope it does!) get down to the theatre and see it. A very special night out for people of all ages.

Memphis

As a treat for finishing my exams, my Grandma bought me tickets to see the Broadway phenomenon that is Memphis on Wednesday 15th July. I heard the music a while back and instantly wanted to go and see the show – I was not disappointed.

Memphis is about the segregation of black and white people in the 1950s in the American town of Memphis (you never guessed that, right?). Aspiring DJ Huey Calhoun goes to the Beale Street underground club which is run by black people and they do not want him there. Felicia Farrell is a very promising singer and after being sacked from his job at a record shop, Huey vows to get Felicia on his brand new radio show.

Rachel John was on as the alternate Felicia for this performance and although I absolutely adore Beverly Knight’s portrayal of the character from the cast album and various performances they’ve done on shows such as the Olivier Awards and Sunday Night at the Palladium, John was mind-blowing in the role. Her vocals were out of this world and she really explored the character’s depths, which was conveyed in her fantastic portrayal of every aspect of Felicia’s character.

Another alternate was on for this show, and that was Jon Robyns in the role of Huey. From the moment he came bounding down those steps into the underground club, I knew he was going to be thoroughly polished and entertaining in the role, which he most certainly was. He gave the character so much energy and humour – often conveyed in his ‘bull in a china shop’ approach to things. Robyns was truly a joy to watch and made Huey a truly loveable character.

The cast was made up of a lot of performers who are all wonderful, however I do need to pick out some to give mentions to and I chose Rolan Bell as Delray, Claire Machin as Gladys and last but certainly not least, Jason Pennycooke as Bobby. Bell has the most wonderful, rich vocals, Machin is just hilarious and Pennycooke’s dancing skills leave nothing to be desired!

Overall, a brilliant, feel-good show packed with so much energy that you feel physically exhausted afterwards. It also leaves you with the Mamma Mia effect – meaning that you leave the theatre still singing and dancing hours, or in my case, days later. I definitely enjoyed the show far too much as I cannot get enough of the cast album or the various performance clips from other shows. Tickets are booking until October so if you’re in London, go and see this masterpiece. If you cannot get down to see the show in time, then you must get a copy of the London Cast Album, which I will also be posting down the side with my other cast albums in a few moments.

All I Know Now by Carrie Hope Fletcher

When I started sixth form, all my reading went on hold apart from what we had to read for English, therefore now I am done education-wise, I can start reading what I want to now and reviewing these books as I go. My first review is of All I Know Now or All I Now Know as I keep calling it because I can’t for the life of me say the title properly. Apologies, Carrie.

This book is a non-fictional work written by the lovely Carrie Hope Fletcher – YouTuber, blogger, singer, actress…the list goes on and is essentially a handbook on how to survive the teenage. I have been a follower of Carrie’s for a good few years now so for me and many others, this book is an expansion of her videos and blog.

As a nearly-nineteen-year-old, I thought that it was too late for a lot of what she said but was just as keen to read it anyway, however I now stand corrected. Obviously the likes of surviving school are over for me but all of what Carrie has written can be used in numerous contexts. The anecdotes of her own experiences are great – some funny, some awkward and some even sad – it conveys that although she is looked up to by many, she is just like us. In true Carrie style, I read the majority of the book on the four train journeys I have made these last few days.

The book is packed with tips and advice which generally all add up to becoming a better person and being the best that we can be. The word inspiring is very apt for this book because Carrie does not tell you that in order to be successful you have to have a high-profile job like a doctor, a lawyer or an accountant, but to do what you want to do, to make your own choices in life and follow the path which will make you happiest. I personally am now very inspired and motivated to pursue my writing and write up the various stories I have in my head. I don’t think I want to go to university, despite the pressures put on by schools, but Carrie says that is alright and that you still can succeed in life and for that, I am eternally grateful.

Every teenager out there needs to read this book as it covers everything they could possibly want to know. Actually forget that, everyONE needs to read this book as the advice Carrie gives applies to every stage of our lives and there is plenty that anyone of any age can take from it, no matter what point they are at in their lives.

All in all, an incredible and eye-opening read.


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View and buy All I Know Now by Carrie Hope Fletcher on Amazon