Showing posts sorted by relevance for query The Sound of Music. Sort by date Show all posts
Showing posts sorted by relevance for query The Sound of Music. Sort by date Show all posts

Wednesday, 14 March 2018

The Sound of Music, Palace Theatre | Review


The Sound of Music (UK Tour) 
Palace Theatre
Reviewed on Tuesday 13th March 2018 by Becca Cromwell
★★★


The Bill Kenwright production of The Sound of Music has embarked on another UK tour, but this time with Lucy O’Byrne and Neil McDermott at the helm. Based on the 1959 Rogers and Hammerstein musical of the same name, the film became one of the highest grossing films of all time. 

The well-loved story shows Maria Rainer, a young Postulant at the Nonnberg Abbey who is sent to be the Governess for the Von Trapp Family after not fitting in at the Abbey. It is there that she meets Captain Georg von Trapp and his seven children Liesl, Friedrich, Luisa, Kurt, Brigitta, Marta and Gretel. During her time as Governess, the Anschluss begins where the Germans invade Austria, and the second act of the show depicts the struggles and changing moods during this time.

Lucy O’Byrne is known for becoming runner up on ITV’s The Voice in 2015 and landed the role of Maria in the previous UK tour of this production. Since then, O’Byrne has gone on to play Fantine in Les Miserables in the West End, and has now thrown herself back into the iconic role of Maria von Trapp for the 2017/2018 UK Tour. Originally played by Julie Andrews in the 1965 film, she has big boots to fill. The vocals were impressive and her portrayal of Maria was fantastic. It was well acted and believable.

Neil McDermott plays the Naval Captain Georg von Trapp, who after the death of his wife lost touch with his children. McDermott is known for playing Ryan Malloy in BBC’s Eastenders, amongst many other theatre roles. With a strong voice, McDermott gave a fantastic performance.


A stand out however, was Megan Llewellyn as the Mother Abbess. Her voice was absolutely astounding. Even though she does not make too many appearances in the show as the Reverend Mother, you certainly knew about it when she did. 

The child cast were superb, providing incredible vocals for their ages. They were true professionals from the beginning through to the end and I hope to see them go far in their careers. The rest of the company all gave very good performances, leading to a fantastic performance of the show. 

I was pleasantly surprised with the production, and it deserved a bigger audience than the one it got. I would recommend seeing this when it comes to a theatre near you in the future, as it is a highly enjoyable family show.

The Sound of Music UK Tour unfortunately comes to an end this week; however I hope to see it tour the UK again in the next few years.

Monday, 4 May 2020

Theatre You Can Stream For FREE

With no end in sight to this lockdown, the boredom may be setting in for a lot of people so I thought I'd make a little round up of some FREE theatre you can watch from your home. Now some of these do rely on you having a Netflix, Disney+ and/or Amazon Prime account but I assume most people do! There are also some no subscription shows at the end. If you have a show you'd like to be included in this list, feel free to email rewritethisstory@outlook.com


Netflix has a whole host of binge-worthy films and series, with a great selection of musicals including:

The Wizard of Oz: A young farm girl Dorothy (Judy Garland) and her dog Toto are whisked away from their Kansas home in a tornado to the magical land of Oz. A complete classic, with whimsy to take you away and a load of tunes to sing along to.

Burlesque: Ali (Christina Aguilera) is a singer who moves to LA in hopes of achieving her dreams. After getting a job at a burlesque lounge, Ali performs there nightly and helps the lounge's owner (Cher) restore the club to its original glory. It's a film of absolute boppage with two musical queens.

La La Land: While navigating their careers in Los Angeles, a pianist (Ryan Gosling) and an actress (Emma Stone) fall in love. As they start to experience professional success, they struggle in their relationship and have to decide between love and doing what they love.

Opening Night: A failed Broadway singer who now works as a production manager must save opening night on his new production by wrangling his eccentric cast and crew. Starring Lesli Margherita and Taye Diggs.


West Side StoryRomeo and Juliet told through the street gangs of New York City — The Sharks and The Jets. When Tony (Richard Beymer), a Jet, falls in love with Maria (Natalie Wood), a Shark, drama ensues as the gangs fight one another and Tony and Maria fight for their love.

Crazy Ex Girlfriend: Rebecca Bunch, a New York City real-estate lawyer abandons her job and her life in an attempt to find happiness in the unlikely locale of West Covina, California. It's hilarious and heart-warming and the music (by Rachel Bloom) is completely genius.


Disney+ there are of course all the live action movies on here as well as the classic Disney films such as Annie, The Sound of Music, Frozen etc... but here are a few other things you may have missed/not gotten round to yet:

High School Musical: The Musical: The Series: If you haven't watched this, you'll probably think it's rubbish but it's actually really entertaining and has some great songs. The main plot point is that the school where the HSM  movie was filmed are putting on their own production of the musical, but amongst that there's teen romance, rivalries and over the top musical numbers.

Newsies: Based on the real-life Newsboy Strike of 1899, this musical tells the story of Jack Kelly (Jeremy Jordan), a rebellious newsboy who dreams of a life as an artist away from the big city. After publishing giant Joseph Pulitzer raises newspaper prices at the newsboys' expense, Kelly and his fellow newsies take action. The dancing, the choreo, the cast- it's all exceptional and worth a watch purely just for Jezza singing Santa Fe!

Encore!: Hosted by Kristen Bell, this series takes adults back to high school to revive the musicals they were a part of in their youth. There's a great selection of musicals included from Godspell to The Sound of Music and it's lovely to see theatre kids who have all taken different directions in life reunite through a shared love.


Amazon Prime has a few more rogue theatrical selections as well as some great documentaries; some of my favourites are:

Once The story of Girl meeting Guy. He, is a Dublin busker on the brink of walking away from music after having his heart broken and feeling unheard in a bustling world; whilst, she is a force for change who exudes positivity from the moment their worlds collide. In the space of a few days, their lives become beautifully connected and changed forever.

The Last Five Years: This show chronicles the lives of a struggling actress (Anna Kendrick) and a successful writer (Jeremy Jordan) as they journey through their ultimately doomed relationship. Told from two perspectives, this is just a beautiful piece of theatre.



Wild Rose: Fresh out of prison, a Scottish woman  (Jessie Buckley) juggles her job and two children while pursuing her dream of becoming a country music star. She soon gets her chance when she travels to Nashville, on a life-changing journey to discover her true voice. Featuring both original music and covers, this is a lovely, lovely film.

Jesus Christ Superstar: Based on Andrew Lloyd Webber/Tim Rice's musical, JCS recounts the last days of Jesus Christ (Ted Neeley) from the perspective of Judas Iscariot (Carl Anderson), his betrayer.

Hamilton: One Shot to Broadway: If you're a Hamilton fan this is a must watch. It looks at how the hit musical came to be and features snippets of the show as well as interviews and archive footage.


Aside from what's available on these regular streaming platforms, the brilliant creatives from the world of theatre have put together some amazing online resources:

National Theatre at Home: Each week the National Theatre are streaming plays from their archives on YouTube. Each show stays up for 7 days and there's a whole variety of genres. This week's stream is Frankenstein with Anthony and Cleopatra going live on Thursday and more to be announced. Check out the channel here

Ghost Quartet: If you missed the recent revival of Dave Malloy's show at the Boulevard Theatre, you can now watch the original production here

Signal: A series that presents new artist driven musical theatre has released a complete playlist of songs presented over the past two years. Available here

The Show Must Go Online: Each Friday Andrew Lloyd Webber is sharing one of his musicals, available here

21 Chump Street: Lin Manuel Miranda's lovely 15 minute musical is available to stream now. Telling the true story of an agent who went undercover in a school to reveal students who were dealing drugs. For a short musical, this fits so much in and the performances from Anthony Ramos and Lindsay Mendez are outstanding.


Cirque Du Soleil 60-Minute Specials: The iconic troupe are releasing regular hour long special's of their spectacular shows which can be viewed here

Southwark Playhouse have introduced the Southwark Stayhouse with three of their previous productions, including the tale of the Bronte sisters, Wasted. Find them all here

The Royal Opera House #FromOurHouseToYourHouse: The Royal Opera House are releasing lots of their archive shows, including La Traviata. Find them all here

The Shows Must Go On!: Weekly readings of Shakespeare's plays, performed by stellar actors take place on YouTube

Only The Brave: Telling the story of a group of soldiers in the run up to the D-Day landings, the hit musical starring Caroline Sheen and David Thaxton is available to view here



Myth: The Rise and Fall of Orpheus: Filmed live at The Other Palace in March 2018, this belt-fest of a musical is available to watch here

Eugenius! Towards the start of lockdown, team Eugenius! released their show which was filmed during its run at The Other Palace and the show is still available to stream now.

Friday, 1 July 2022

Come From Away to Play Final Performance in West End on 7 January 2023

The multi award-winning London production of global hit musical Come From Away will extend in the West End from September until the end of the year before holding its final performance at the Phoenix Theatre on Saturday 7 January 2023.

By the time the West End company take their final bow, this critically acclaimed production will have played 1048 performances in London, 47 performances in Dublin and won many major UK theatre Awards including the Olivier, Critics’ Circle and What’s On Stage Awards for ‘Best Musical’.

The current London cast of Come From Away includes Jenna Boyd (Beulah and others), James Doherty (Claude and others), Mark Dugdale (Kevin T/Garth and others), Alice Fearn (Beverley/Annette and others), Kate Graham (Diane and others), Robert Hands (Nick/Doug and others), Jonathan Andrew Hume (Kevin J/Ali and others), Gemma Knight Jones (Hannah and others), Kirsty Malpass (Bonnie and others), Harry Morrison (Oz and others), Emma Salvo (Janice and others), Lejaun Sheppard (Bob and others), with Chiara Baronti, Ricardo Castro, Stuart Hickey, Alexander McMorran, Sarah MorrisonLucy ParkJennifer Tierney and Matthew Whennell-Clark.

The Come From Away band includes Alan Berry (Musical Director/UK Musical Supervisor), Matt Bashford (Whistles/Irish Flute/Uillean Pipes), Aoife Mairead Ní Bhriain (Fiddle), Oli Briant (Electric/Acoustic Guitar), Justin Quinn (Acoustic Guitars/Mandolins/Bouzouki), Joey Grant (Electric and Acoustic Bass),  Ray Fean (Bodhrán/Percussion), Ian Whitehead (Drums/Percussion), Huw Evans (Associate Musical Director), Andrew Barrett for Lionella Music, LLC (Electronic Music Design), Phij Adams (Associate Keyboard Programmer), Ryan Driscoll (Music Preparation), and David Gallagher (Orchestral Management).

Come From Away shares the incredible real-life story of the 7,000 air passengers from all over the world who were grounded in Canada during the wake of 9/11, and the small Newfoundland community that invited these ‘come from aways’ into their lives.

Experience the joy, heartache and soaring music as the spirited locals and global passengers overcome their fears and a world of cultural differences to come together and forge friendships that will stay with them forever. The first female American Airlines captain, the quick-thinking town mayor, the mother of a New York firefighter and the eager local news reporter are among the many real characters caught at the start of the moment that changed the course of history, and whose stories became a true celebration of hope, humanity and unity.

The international hit musical has celebrated sold-out, record-breaking engagements on Broadway, in Canada, throughout Australia, and on a 60-city North American Tour.

The Come From Away creative team includes Irene Sankoff and David Hein (Book, Music and Lyrics), Christopher Ashley (Director), Kelly Devine (Musical Staging), Ian Eisendrath (Music Supervision and Arrangements), Beowulf Boritt (Scenic Design), Toni-Leslie James (Costume Design), Howell Binkley (Lighting Design), Gareth Owen (Sound Design), David Brian Brown (Hair Design), August Eriksmoen (Orchestrations), Pippa Ailion CDG and Natalie Gallacher CDG (Casting), Joel Goldes (Dialect Coach), Michael Rubinoff (Creative Consultant), Bob Hallett (Newfoundland Music Consultant),  Shirley Fishman (Dramaturg) and Tara Overfield (Associate Director and Choreographer UK).

Come From Away is produced in the UK by Junkyard Dog Productions and Smith & Brant Theatricals. The European premiere of Come From Away was co-produced with the Abbey Theatre, Ireland’s National Theatre.

Tickets for Come From Away at the Phoenix Theatre are available via comefromawaylondon.co.uk.

Sunday, 8 July 2018

A Stagey Guide to Singing... Sharon Sexton, Danielle Steers, Christina Bennington | Bat Out of Hell | Stagey Sunday

Happy Stagey Sunday everyone! I hope you had a wonderful Pride yesterday and are enjoying the glorious weather. I'm actually on holiday in Corfu but that doesn't stop me from bringing you the newest instalment of this month's Stagey Guide to Singing! Bat Out of Hell month may be over but the Bat fun isn't over as this week we have stories, advice and information from the three leading ladies of the Steinman musical: Sharon Sexton, Christina Bennington and Danielle Steers...



What has your vocal journey been like?
Sharon Sexton (Sloane): I have been singing for as long as I can remember and was always told I had a "good voice" though no one in my family was a performer. I sang in school and my mum enrolled me in a youth music group when I was 5 and I lived for my weekly class. I learned all sorts of material and fell in love with musical theatre. I went to a couple of different local singing teachers and joined the school choir as a 1st soprano, though I always remember being jealous of the altos and wanting to learn their lines, because I thought their lines were more challenging and I found harmonies fascinating. 

There was nowhere in Ireland that taught the musical style I wanted to sing so I studied what video footage I could find of the greats like Bernadette Peters, Doris Day, Elaine Paige and Lea Salonga; studying their mouth shapes and imitating them. The same with Whitney and Mariah. I finessed all the riffs and set myself challenges in completing them. I ended up training classically in the Conservatory of Music in Dublin, which gave me a really solid foundation and understanding of my instrument, but all I wanted to do was sing contemporary musical theatre and belt. So I went through a host of singing teachers and robbed bits from everyone until I developed a technique that worked for me. 

My voice has definitely changed over time. I try and keep my top C soprano in check but like anything- when you don't use it that often, it gets rusty and I've accepted I shall probably now never be Christine in Phantom, I'm much more of a mezzo these days. 

Danielle Steers (Zahara): I've been singing for as long as I can remember. I went to an amateur dramatics group from around the age of 10 and still go back there now to help out and put on shows etc... My voice has definitely changed over the years. I couldn't belt until I went to college at 16 and only learnt how to twang and other techniques from my first few jobs. I have always had a low voice though, people always thought I was a lot older than my years due to the maturity of my voice. 

Christina Bennington (Raven): It’s been a long and exciting one. I began singing at school at the age of 7 and was in very high standard choirs for my entire school life at Methodist College Belfast. We rehearsed every day and it’s where I learnt the disciplines of sight singing, vocal maintenance and musicality. I took classical lessons and was convinced I wanted to be an opera singer until I fell in love with musical theatre. 

I started training in earnest at the Guildford School of Acting with Steven Luke Walker. Together we pushed my voice to extremes in every style so that I felt comfortable approaching anything. He’s a genuine wonder and I owe a lot of my jobs to his skill and teaching. I still see him when I have a new job or auditions because there’s always more to learn. 



What/who got you into music? 
Sharon: I can't ever say I remember my life without being completely obsessed with music. My dad had an amazing vinyl collection and I could sit for hours with headphones just getting lost in the music. 

Danielle: I actually have no idea, I didn't grow up in a particularly musical house. I just loved singing; it was how I expressed my emotions. I remember watching all the old MGM movies on TV and thinking how wonderful they were and wanting to be in them! 

Christina: My house was always filled with music and I still thank my Dad for a lot of my musical taste. He had carefully curated car CDs and amazing records he would play on his HiFi. My family are involved in amateur theatre in Northern Ireland so I got involved in pantomimes as a child. I’ve seen home videos of me imitating rockstars and opera singers from the age of two so I think it was always in me! 


Your voice is so smooth but strong at the same time. What are your tips for conveying the emotion of songs whilst maintaining power? 
Danielle: Why thank you, luckily the songs I sing in the show sit very well with an altos range, meaning I don't need to think too much about technique and I can just let rip with my emotions. 

I think power comes with emotion and even if you don't have the most powerful voice you can still make a song powerful by meaning every single word you sing and telling the story through the song. 


Bat Out Of Hell is a tough sing, during rehearsals how did you adapt to the vocal challenges it presents? 
Sharon: The tricky thing with Steinman's music is that it is so passionate and it reaches such great heights both musically and emotionally. The most difficult thing for me was finding a way to keep the passion and make the rock sound, but finding a technique to do it safely 8 shows a week, without losing that grit. I do a lot of belting and growling in the show, which I had to sing in to muscle memory and which I continuously have to keep in check. 

At the beginning of rehearsals the sing for Sloane seemed almost overwhelming, and I felt I was pushing myself to my limits, especially when we started moving keys up, but I was in rehearsals with Rob Fowler who is a vocal gymnast genius! And just when I felt I was getting to grips with my vocals, we would be working with the musical supervisor and Rob would ask "can I try something here?" and then sing and incredible riff and then go "Shazza could then sing that up a third no? or maybe you could octave that, or you could jump up and do a waaaaah there?" and I would clear my throat and go "uh uh, nope" and he said - "try it and if you can do it once, you'll find a way to do it 8 shows a week". I didn't know him very well at the time - but I was damned if I was going to be shown up! He pushed me to give so much vocally and believed in my ability to match him on stage, more than I ever did. All my numbers are duets with Rob so having that support and belief in a vocal partner on stage really gave me confidence to build the role vocally. And I think when you're on stage, yes technique is important but sometimes a lot of what comes out of your mouth, depends on the belief you have in your head. 


Do you have any personal/random techniques for maintaining vocal health? 
Christina: I’m afraid the secret for me isn’t very rock and roll! Sleep, hydration and avoiding too much stress and tension. Looking after myself is the best way to deliver a consistently strong 8-show week. It’s easy to be focused on that for a job that I love so much. My top tip is not to do a crazy vocal warm up. You don’t need to belt or push yourself there – it should be about activating the right things and setting up your voice for what the show requires – not a singing competition! 


Vocal health is obviously so important but do you have any coping techniques for the mental side of performing such as when you lose your voice or feel unmotivated? 
Danielle: I think a lot of the time when you "lose your voice" it can be a mental state. Sometimes if I know I have a big event coming up or new opening I "lose my voice" but it’s all in my head. You just have to trust that it will work, even maybe change your technique to get out certain notes. 

Steaming is a massive factor, drinking lots of water, I also like to keep my voice lubricated by having two Jakemans per show. When you feel unmotivated it's hard, especially with a show like Bat where you cannot give it any less that 100%! All I try to remember is why I'm doing what I'm doing, that people have paid good money to come see the show; the audiences reaction always helps us perform like it’s the first time every time. 


Steinman’s songs have some crazy belting so vowel modification must be important to make everything clear and safe to sing. Is that something you do naturally when learning music or do you change depending on the mood/style of the piece? 
Christina: Vowel modification is necessary to keep the sound safe and consistent the higher you sing. Steven has always taught me ways to make it subtle and to make the song work for my voice. It comes naturally now but it’s most useful if we have a week with lots of other vocal commitments outside the show. Technique is most useful when you’re tired. It enables you to modify safely and thin the sound down to help get back to full strength without compromising the sound of the show. 


Not only do you sing flawlessly in the show, but you’re also very humorous in the role, how do you bring that humour, comedic timing and lightness to your voice whilst still maintaining its power? 

Sharon: For me if I try and think "I have to be funny here" I will never make you laugh. I just commit 100% to the thought process of the character and believe in the truth of the moment. I find if you hunt for a laugh, you won't get it. So a lot of it is about storytelling and when I am in my head acting wise, the right noises just come out of my mouth... I hope... 


You dance as lot as well as singing in the show, what are your tips for doing both at once? 
Danielle: Gosh this is a hard one, this is something you go through every day at college. It's super hard especially if you're singing a different rhythm to what you're dancing, which happens a lot in Bat. The best thing to do is to sing along from the start of learning the choreography so you can get it into your head right from the go, then you can also work out where is best to breath. It's hard work! 


You’ve been doing the show for a while now so there must be a lot of muscle memory involved but are there any moments which are difficult or that you have to think about whilst performing? 

Sharon: My body is well oiled in the machine of the show now and my chords know what is expected of them, so yes it is actually getting easier to sing the role, the longer I play it, but on tired or ill days I do completely rely on my technique and have to step out of my character's head. ‘All Coming Back To Me’ can be tricky because of the blocking, I'm walking, in heels, on a raked stage, filled with track marks that like to eat my stiletto heels and it is highly emotional, so I have to play the feelings but I sometimes have to really concentrate on my breath and placement of that long "Now" note for 14 counts. I have to move the placement around to sustain it sometimes. There is no greater feeling that the days where my voice is on top form and I can just get lost in the emotion in that song. 

I also ironically find the last three lines of the show that I sing, really sneak up on me sometimes. It’s the very end of Anything For Love. Myself, Danielle (Zahara) and Christina (Raven) sing a little trio "I would do anything for love" to close the show and I have done a huge amount of belting and growling and crying and think it's all over and then go "oh gosh, this bit" and I have to take the high harmony in a very soft angelic voice which is very unlike any other part of the show for me, so I suddenly have to replace everything into my mix! 

Danielle: Sometimes you can go into auto pilot, it does happen, but I always have to be careful during "two out of three" it’s such an exposing song and everyone knows the words so I feel I really have to concentrate, also if you don't you end up not putting the emotion across. I also have to think about Tinks death scene, again, if you just go into auto pilot there’s no emotion there. ONE MORE.... DANCING DEAD RINGER IN THOSE HEELS!! Really have to concentrate in those haha! 

Christina: There’s definitely a degree of muscle memory but I’m never happy with what I’m doing. There’s always more to learn. I concentrate on different parts of the score for every week and explore making them bigger, stronger or smoothing transitions. The most difficult section for me is the ‘tuck jump chorus’ of For Crying Out Loud. Belting on almost one note as I jump with Andrew across the stage takes a lot of physical energy which needs to be balanced with not throwing too much breath at the sound. 


We know by now that I’m your breath control’s number one fan. Are there any particular exercises you do/have done to help with supporting? 
Christina: Haha thank you! You’re too kind. Breath control is an interesting one. I think a lot of people assume you need a big breath for a long phrase. As with a lot of singing, the rules aren’t one size fits all. In this style of music it’s often not the case. For a clear belt, I take a small high breath and support by resisting the breath in my rib cage. This can often lasts me many lines eg. the passage in Heaven Can Wait that I know you’re a fan of! 

For me, a lot of ‘breath control’ throughout the show is really about recovery breathing and fitness. I do as much interval sprinting and high intensity training as I can to ensure that I have the stamina for songs like ‘For Crying Out Loud’. If your body is strong and ready your voice will be too. 


Who would your dream duet partner be? 
Sharon: Male - I'm already singing with him 8 shows a week…. 

Female - Stevie Nicks 

Danielle: In terms of the show I’d have to say Rob Fowler, but in life Shirley Bassey 100% 

Christina: Andrew Polec of course! I’m beyond lucky to get to duet with him every night. Our voices fit well together. He is so resonant with so much weight in the sound which really gives me permission to use the full depth of mine. 

There are a lot of women I would love to duet with who I admire greatly. Hmmm. Amy Lee from Evanescence, Louise Dearman, Gina Beck, Laura Michelle Kelly, Rosalie Craig. I guess I’ve been inspired by all of them in different ways. Actually I did sing ‘At the Ballet’ in a concert with Louise so I suppose that’s sort of one already achieved!


What is your pre-show warm up like? 
Sharon: So important to me. I think it's important mentally and physically as when I start I can feel my brain sending all the signals to my voice going "ok, it’s that time of the day again" and it begins to anticipate what is expected of it. It's like starting the engine of a car before a long journey. I try not to use an awful lot of vocal energy during warm up. I keep it very light and subtle. A lot of closed mouth sirens, quiet humming, lip trills, slowly and focused so that I can just check in gently on every note. I'll also do a neck massage and loosen up my tongue muscles. I always do some amount of physical warm up but on days where my voice feels dry or tired I will really push myself with the dancers warm up, just to get my blood pumping in my muscles, which is so important to make my voice work. 

Danielle: We start with a physical warm up so I like to make sure my back and legs are super warm because of what is required of me, also the neck for head banging purposes! Then we do a vocal warm up which is super important as we sing loads! Then we do fight call which is so everyone can make sure their fights are all good and safe before the show. 

Christina: I love our full company physical with our dance captain Courtney. It gets my body woken up and prepped for the marathon that is Bat Out Of Hell. Then I take it easy in the company vocal. It depends what I need each day. 


What’s your top piece of advice for aspiring performers in terms of finding and maintaining your voice? 
Sharon: Know your limits. Accept them. 

Slowly and carefully continue to try work around them but remember your voice is unique, so embrace what you can do and let go of what you can't. 

If it hurts, stop. It should never be painful. 

Sometimes less is more - in terms of effort and support. A lot of people have the misconception that you must support and push and be tense on the big high belt notes when in fact the opposite can be so much more effective. 

Listen to your body when it's telling you that you need a rest. You only have one voice and if you are a performer - it is your life insurance, so never compromise it for anyone or anything or any production. It needs you to be smart to take care of it. When you need a show off, take it, because if you sing on a tired voice in a long run, it always, always catches up on you. Vocal massages are little gifts from heaven! Find a good therapist! 

Danielle: Always try new things, I didn't find my voice until I was about 18. Before then I had a very limited range and wouldn't have even dreamed of being able to sing the songs I can now. I still have a long way to go and I'm always trying to better my voice. It’s a case of playing around with different genres as well to see what fits well, rock, pop, jazz, musical theatre, legit? So much to choose from. Also.... don't smoke!!! 

Christina: I would say don’t compare your voice to anyone else. Yours is unique and wonderful! Absorb as much knowledge as you can and decide what works for you. Be disciplined in looking after your instrument and practise! 

Sending a massive thank you to Sharon, Christina and Danielle for giving us all their inside information of all things singing! Join us next Sunday for a tips from someone with All That Jazz

Bat Out of Hell is currently at the Dominion Theatre until 27th October 2018

Post by Editor, Olivia Mitchell


Photo credit: Specular, Christina Bennington, Danielle Steers

Sunday, 12 August 2018

TitanicDance, Waterfront Hall | Review


TitanicDance
Waterfront Hall, Belfast 
Reviewed on Thursday 9th August 2018 by Damien Murray
★★★★

Having originally premiered in Belfast four years ago, before going on to tour in America and China, this successful Irish dance and music spectacular has come home again and is temporarily berthed at Belfast's Waterfront Hall. 

Being staged about a quarter of a mile from where the infamous liner was built, there was always going to be something special about this run of the show, which – with a cast of world-class dancers and musicians – told the story of the fateful voyage of the Titanic using an illustrated projected narrative as the dance ensemble vividly brought the story to life. 

Probably because the story is so well-known, opting for not having an audible narrator actually worked here. 

As hundreds of people perished in 1912 when the ship went to its watery grave in the North Atlantic, I am always very cynical about any form of ‘celebration’ of the Titanic tragedy – be it a museum, a Hollywood film, a stage musical or, as it is here, through the medium of Irish dance. 


However, this production was directed by Sean McAnaney, Ray Sweeney and Kevin Toland with such sensitivity, reverence and respect that I don’t believe anyone could be offended in any way by it.  

Opening with a mournful, haunting and atmospheric lament on the uilleann pipes against the sound of water, before facts and images about the world-famous ship were projected onto the large central screen behind a symbolically gigantic porthole in the set, this retelling of the Titanic story in dance and music was successful on many levels. 

Indeed, artistic symbolism was always a core part of this production throughout and Rory Harkins’ versatile lighting plot added greatly to the production’s success as did KSR Productions’ practical and symbolic set (reflecting the tall metal sides of the ship with numerous portholes) and authentic period costume designs. 

Although the musical score may have lacked the impact of some of the bigger numbers in a show like Riverdance (sad to say, there will always be comparisons), it went in a different direction by using some well-known songs like The Water Is Wide (performed against a warm and stunning sunset) and I Know My Love; all beautifully performed with a natural warmth by solo singer, Orla Mullan


Under the musical direction of Darragh Healy, the four multi-talented and multi-instrumental on-stage musicians – Pauric O’Meara, Karl Doherty, Oisin McCann and Healy himself – often adopted a vibrant Irish style and, at times, a ‘session-like’ format to their performances, which worked well with this piece. 

Depicting elements of this emotional journey as a major dance drama was a great challenge for choreographers, Louise Hayden and James Keegan, but – using a varied selection of hard and soft-soled jigs and reels and other styles – they managed to capture the changing moods of the story. 

Indeed, the dancing and music combined in the early scenes to perfectly capture the undoubted sense of joyous hope and excitement behind the smiling faces of the ship’s passengers and crew as the high energy ensemble dances often displayed the sheer exuberance of those on board. 

The raw physicality of the male boiler room crew with shovels during their fiery hard-shoe routine in front of the hot engines contrasted so well with the gentle and dainty dancing of the first-class ladies with parasols on the bright sunny deck. 

While the genial and more formal dancing in ballroom was nice, it was quickly followed by an example of the always present class distinction that existed on this fateful voyage as a tap-filled dance battle ensued between the lower and upper classes. 


The more joyous first half of the show and the high spirits of the dancing passengers were cut short during the Act 1 finale when all lost balance and fell to the ground at the tragic moment of impact with the iceberg, giving way to a more sombre Act 2 where the mood dramatically changed to one of distress and ultimate tragedy. 

Staged with such sensitivity, the scene set in a ghostly underwater world was both poignant and appropriate as it showed the universality of the hymn, Nearer My God To Thee, which was so beautifully merged with the equally apt song, The Parting Glass. 

This touching scene was an undoubted highlight as it chillingly displayed the hierarchy of survivors that existed with 42% of first-class passengers being saved as opposed to 25% of third-class travellers. 

In the aftermath of such a tragic event, the sheer joy of reunion was great for some lucky ones, including the principal boy and girl dancers, Gerard Byrne and Ruth McKenna, who – as in the film – represented the love interest of the piece, with the added appeal of a first-class girl meeting a third-class boy. 

While McKenna‘s flame-haired locks flowed in some flirtatious routines and Byrne‘s hard shoe steps always hit the mark in terms of dancing ability, I did feel that the two young lovers could have developed a more romantic chemistry in terms of drama as, artistically, their relationship also represented the lovingly close bond that many others on the ship had. 


Another small observation would be that, for added realism and impact, the inclusion of a few child dancers would have been welcome to reflect that there were families on board. 

Despite being as hard-kicking as previous Irish dance shows, the confrontational elements and militaristic movements were not so pronounced here (even in the rebellious fight of frustration for survival between the lower class and the ship’s higher ranking officers), which gave this piece a more entertaining appeal. 

Although a piece such as this can have little humour, the courting couple’s first kiss and the bodhrán player’s solo, complete with traditional out of time clapping from non-musical members of the audience, provided nice moments of light relief. 

Overall, the combination of established songs, Irish music and dance, exhilarating performances and a well-known story plus the mixing of emotions with elements of hope, romance, joy and tragedy gave this show a universal appeal of ‘Titanic’ proportions. 

TitanicDance runs at Waterfront Hall until August 19th