Showing posts sorted by relevance for query book. Sort by date Show all posts
Showing posts sorted by relevance for query book. Sort by date Show all posts

Wednesday, 16 May 2018

The Book of Mormon, Sydney's Lyric Theatre | Review

The Book of Mormon
Lyric Theatre, Sydney
Reviewed on Tuesday 10th March 2018 by Amy Mitchell

The Book of Mormon opened on Broadway in 2011 and since then has been showered with Tony Awards, international re-runs and widespread critical acclaim. Now, I’m a self-confessed sucker for show tunes, but to my own surprise I had little to no idea what this mammoth in musical theatre was all about before I took my seat (3 rows from the front- smug!) in Sydney’s Lyric Theatre last week… 

Writers Trey Parker and Matt Stone (creators of South Park) and songwriter Robert Lopez (Disney’s Frozen ring any bells?) joined forces to concoct a joyous melange of politically incorrect subject matter, riotous stereotyping and unapologetically crass humour all tied up in an oddly charming, toe tappingly melodic bow. 

Book of Mormon follows the journey of two young Mormons and their quest to spread the word of the Church of the Latter Day Saints. Elder Price is a cookie cutter Mormon poster boy while Elder Cunningham is a hyperactive, loveable dork with a penchant for lying and Sci-fi movies. This unlikely duo is sent to a remote Ugandan village on a quest to convert its inhabitants to the Latter Day Saints. Their visions of an Africa a la Lion King are abruptly shattered as they encounter AIDS, female genital mutilation and a tyrannical warlord with an unprintable moniker. 

As Elder Cunningham, Broadway’s own A.J. Holmes dominated the stage with his enormous presence and side splitting physical comedy. It was one of those performances where it’s nigh on impossible to imagine there being an actor behind the character. 

Elder Price was played by understudy Steve Danielsen. Danielsen was superb, his all Australian good looks and strong vocal performances managed to make the audience warm to an obnoxious and potentially unlikeable character. 

In fact, the entire cast was stellar. It’s impossible to decipher who stole the show. Aside from our two main Missionaries, the best performance title could equally have gone to PJ Adzima who played Mission Leader Elder McKinley. His energy could genuinely take your breath away. Also a close contender was Aussie local, Zahra Newman who played Nabulungi, daughter of the village chief. Her vocals in Sal Tlay Ka Siti (Salt Lake City) were nothing short of heavenly. 

The Book of Mormon score/lyrics are brilliant and will have you cringing in half delight at the controversial lyrics peppered with comedic hooks. Spooky Mormon Hell had the audience erupting in laughter and Joseph Smith American Moses is equally hysterical. 

Each song draws inspiration from well-known musicals, e.g. Hasa Diga Eebowai is reminiscent of the Lion King’s Hakuna Matata. Challenge – try and guess the parody. Hint – think West Side Story, Avenue Q, Fiddler on the Roof, Wicked and Hairspray. 

There’s been a certain amount of hullabaloo surrounding the religious and racial overtones of the show. I’m actually surprised Book of Mormon got the go ahead (and unsure if it would if it was pitched in 2018!) but I’m not surprised it went onto become a smash hit. To me, it delivers on so many levels and the delightfully distasteful satire (in true Trey Parker and Matt Stone style) has a palpable social conscience.

Wickedly witty, The Book of Mormon pokes fun at the seemingly un-pokeable and ultimately manages to leave the audience with the cheerfully uncomfortable warm fuzzies. It’s also fantastic to see homegrown Australian talent holding their own (and killing it) alongside the Broadway greats.

The Book of Mormon runs at the Lyric Theatre, Sydney until 2nd September

photo credit: Jeff Busby

Thursday, 26 July 2018

Theatrical, Maggie Harcourt (Book) | Review

Theatrical | Maggie Harcourt
Published: 28th June 2018 by Usborne Publishing ltd
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Unless you've stumbled across this blog by an unexpected twister of fate (10 points if you get that reference) then I'm assuming you love or at least, like, theatre, so you'll more than likely be a fan of the book I'm talking about today: Theatrical.

The latest release from Maggie Harcourt, is Theatrical which takes us behind the scenes of the theatre and transports us to a world of romance and performance.

Our lead character Hope, dreams of working as a stage manager; her mother is a renowned costume designer who could easily get her daughter any job she wants but Hope wants to do it herself. When she lands an internship at the Earl's Theatre working on one of the biggest openings of the year, her secrets begin and she starts a journey she'll never forget. Now the story itself is fairly predictable and typical of contemporary novels but I'm a sucker for a cheesy romance so it's right up my street. What makes this book stand out is the theatre itself. Maggie highlights the world of theatre and makes it the heart of the story, showing the ups, downs and pressures of working on a production, especially one with a huge name attached and a lot of money invested into it! Of course the characters and their stories are crucial but throughout it feels as if the theatre is it's own character.

What I love about theatre is how it brings people together, not only the cast and crew, but audience members who know nothing about one another but are more than happy to launch into full conversations in the interval. There's also the pure magic of theatre when the perfect combination of great acting, stellar lighting, beautiful makeup, costumes and sets and every other aspect of a production come together to truly transport you to another world. As someone who goes to the theatre roughly 1-4 times a week I do find myself falling into a routine of going into London, picking my ticket up, watching the show and rushing home to write my review and I end up forgetting how special theatre is. Maggie has perfectly captured the magic of theatre and I found myself welling up towards the end when her writing reminded me of it and brought to the forefront why I put so much time into seeing as much theatre as I can. 

Now back to Theatrical! It's just so cute. The romance between Hope and Luke had me swooning and I really felt as though I was standing alongside Hope and she worked and worked to help get the show open. Hope's determination is inspiration for anyone hoping to get into theatre and she shows us just how much hard work goes on behind the scenes. So much of what makes a great production is the work that's gone on in the rehearsal room which of course an audience never see, so this book is not only a celebration of theatre but of the unsung hero's of the stage.

Theatrical is a brilliant read for any stagey, romance lover. You'll find yourself willing everything to run smoothly with the show and will definitely finish the book with a newfound appreciation for the crew who work tirelessly behind the scenes. If you want a swoon-filled summer read then pick up Theatrical and if you're not already a theatre fan then this might just be the book to make you truly stagey!

Theatrical is available now, more information can be found here.

Maggie gave us an exclusive and very interesting deep dive into her research for this book which can be found here.

Review by Editor, Olivia Mitchell

Monday, 23 November 2020

The Digi Creative release Theatrical Coffee Table Book

The Digi Creative release Dear Audience, a theatrical coffee table book filled with over 140 pages showcasing the Arts industry. With exclusive imagery, personalised letters to the Audiences, and more, this book is a celebration of Theatre and everyone who works in it.  

Featuring Lucie Jones, Carrie Hope Fletcher, Cedric Neal, Lambert Jackson Productions,  Layton Williams, Alice Fearn, Nicole Raquel Dennis, Rachel Tucker, Carl Man, Paul Taylor-Mills, Sejal Keshwala, Frances Ruffelle and so many more. 

15% of profits will be donated to Applause For Thought a triple award-winning organisation that facilitates lower-cost Mental Health; support, talks, accredited courses, and bespoke Mental Health and Well-being Consultancy for all those working within the Arts and Entertainment Industry.

Digi Creative co-founder, Sophie Ross says: “We hope that this coffee table book will bring joy in a time when the Arts industry needs to be celebrated the most. Theatre is made up of so many people, (this being just a small percentage) and it’s important to showcase that at every given opportunity. I’m so proud of Danny and I for creating something that is an homage to this year and something we can look back on in years to come. Super grateful for everyone who gave up their time to be involved and can’t wait to share the book with everyone.”


Digi Creative co-founder, Danny Kaan says: I’ve always wanted to make a coffee table book but making it in 2020 feels even more special. The number of people that were willing to be involved was overwhelming and shows how supportive this industry is and how passionate we all are for the Arts. Combining Photography and my love for this industry has been a joy and I’ve honestly had the best time. Seeing so many faces in a time where human contact has been so limited has been heartwarming and wonderful”.


Pre-order the book here: (Christmas guarantee)

General on-sale Wednesday 25th November 10am (second batch delivery)

Pricing £35 with worldwide shipping available

Monday, 4 June 2018

When The Curtain Falls (Book), Carrie Hope Fletcher | Review

The latest edition in Carrie Hope Fletcher's book empire, When The Curtain Falls (the same title as her debut album) is all about theatre and romance, aka, my dream. The book follows two young lovers, Oscar Bright and Olive Green as they meet backstage whilst performing in a revival of a show in which tragedy struck 50 years earlier. Through a series of flashbacks and memories, we discover what happened to the original lovers, Fawn Burrows and Walter Brown, and whether tragedy is set to strike again. With heartache, tragedy, theatre and a little bit of magic, When The Curtain Falls is the perfect read to wrap you up and transport you to the glittering lights of the West End.

Carrie's writing is lyrical but easy to read. Reading her books feel as though you're listening to a friend talk; When The Curtain Falls especially, has a relaxed feel about it. 

In a previous review of All That She Can See I wrote that Carrie's writing has a theatrical feel, this is obviously even more evident in this story which is all about the stage, performing and backstage antics. There are a whole host of stagey references which any avid theatre fan will love spotting. I especially loved the fact that the first musical Olive saw was Beauty and the Beast, which was my first too and that she lives in Turnham Green- West London represent! 

The section at the start where Olive is talking about being in the 'theatre world' and the 'real world' is just one very interesting and relatable moment. When you go to shows a lot and are part of the theatre scene it feels like it's the only thing that exists and that everyone knows everyone, but once you go back to the 'real world' very few people have the same connections. It’s the same with theatre stars, at their theatre they are famous, signing autographs and standing for photos but once they turn the corner they blend into the crowd and normal people wouldn't bat an eyelid seeing them. This ramble has very little relevance to this review, other than saying that it's very clever how Carrie has worked tidbits of the musical theatre world into the story without making it overbearing or factual. The entire story flows with the ease of watching a really good show.

The romance between the lead couple is extremely sweet, if at times cringey. You can almost see the way the pair look at one another and at times it feels like we're invading a private moment whilst we read. The mirrors between the 1952 relationship and the current one are well written and interesting to see. All the characters are well developed and I couldn't help but wonder if anyone, especially Tamara, is based on anyone Carrie has come across in her career! With Moulin Rouge vibes, I can so see this story as a swooping romance film.

When The Curtain Falls is a theatre fans dream. With stagy references, a beautiful romance and some unexpected plot twists, there's not much more you could ask for in a book. This is certainly my favourite of Carrie's novels and I hope she continues to include theatre in her work. I also hope that the magic of this book will welcome new people to the theatre so they can experience whatbthe stars of the story do (perhaps with less drama though!) 

It's clear how much passion and love Carrie has for the stage and it really comes across in her heartfelt writing. I urge you to pick up When The Curtain Falls and to escape into a beautiful world for a few hours.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

When The Curtain Falls is released July 12th by Little Brown

If you enjoyed this book review, be sure to check out Olivia's other book reviews at

Review by Editor, Olivia Mitchell

Monday, 21 February 2022

Carrie Hope Fletcher Announces Debut UK Tour

Actress, author, vlogger and award-winning West End sensation Carrie Hope Fletcher is heading out on her first ever UK tour.

Carrie Hope Fletcher - An Open Book will see the musical theatre star play a series of unmissable theatre shows in May and June 2023.

Performing songs from her incredible career expect fan favourites including hits from Heathers, Les Miserables, The Addams Family and many more interspersed with chat about Carrie’s fascinating life and career.

Tickets go on sale at 10am Friday and are available from

Carrie Hope Fletcher - An Open Book 2023
18-May Bradford, St George's Hall
21-May Southampton, Mayflower Theatre
22-May Norwich, Theatre Royal
25-May London, The London Palladium
27-May Llandudno, Venue Cymru
28-May Salford, The Lowry
29-May Birmingham, Symphony Hall
31-May Sheffield, City Hall
02-Jun Nottingham, Royal Concert Hall
03-Jun Newcastle, O2 City Hall
04-Jun Edinburgh, Festival Theatre

Speaking about Carrie Hope Fletcher - An Open Book, Carrie said: “I am absolutely thrilled to be taking on my first ever UK tour.

“This is something I have wanted to do for some time and next year presents the perfect opportunity.

I absolutely adore being on stage and am fortunate to have performed across the West End and overseas, but there’s something very special about theatres around the UK so I can’t wait to get out on the road and visit these absolutely fantastic and beautiful venues.”

Currently wowing West End audiences in the title role of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Cinderella, Carrie - who has an impressive three WhatsOnStage Awards - has enjoyed a breath-taking career since her West End debut at the age of nine playing Young Éponine in Les Misérables. Since then Carrie’s theatre credits include Fantine in Les Miserables: The Concert, Veronica in Heathers, Wednesday in The Addams Family, Eponine in Les Misérables, both Truly Scrumptious and Jemima in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Beth in Jeff Wayne’s War of the Worlds and Jane Banks in Mary Poppins.

And when she’s not treading the boards of the West End’s biggest stages Carrie is also a best-selling novelist, Top 20 recording artist and respected vlogger with her popular self-titled music and vlog channel attracting more than a million views a month.

Carrie Hope Fletcher - An Open Book is presented by Lambert Jackson, Live Nation and Cuffe and Taylor.

Jamie Lambert, of Lambert Jackson, said: “Carrie Hope Fletcher - An Open Book presents an opportunity to take one of the West End’s most celebrated and successful leading stars to theatres across the UK.

“Not only will audiences be wowed by the stunning voice of Carrie, they will also get an insight into her incredible career and that is not to be missed.”

Cuffe and Taylor Director of Theatre Touring Ben Hatton added: “We are very excited to be presenting Carrie’s debut UK tour.

“She is the most wonderful musical theatre talent and so much more. Audiences will absolutely love this show.”

For more information about Carrie Hope Fletcher - An Open Book and to secure tickets head to

photo credit: Michael Wharley

Thursday, 26 July 2018

Theatrical, Maggie Harcourt (Book) | Things I Read Whilst Writing

A bit of a different post for you today, as you know I love theatre and books so when I heard about Maggie Harcourt's newest book release, Theatrical which is all about the stage, I was very excited to get my hands on it!

Maggie did a huge amount of research for this book, not only on shows but also a lot about what goes on behind the scenes as our lead character, Hope, is working as an intern backstage. This book is all things adorable and you can read my full review here, but without further ado lets set the stage for Maggie Harcourt's deep-dive into the DNA of Theatrical...

Maggie Harcourt: One of the best things about writing Theatrical was getting the chance to spend time completely immersed in the theatre world: not just writing about it but thinking about it, reading about it – and, of course, visiting it! 

Here’s my deep-dive list of everything that went on behind the scenes. Not everything is obviously part of the world of the finished book, but it’s still part of the story… 

Things I read: 

  • All About Theatre: the National Theatre
  • Unseen London (especially the ‘backstage’ section): Mark Daly and Peter Dazeley 
  • London Theatres: Michael Coveney, Peter Dazeley and Mark Rylance 
  • Stage Management – The Essential Handbook: Gail Pallin 
  • Stage Management and Theatre Administration: Pauline Menear, Amanda Saunders and Terry Hawkins 
  • Untold Stories: Alan Bennett 
  • Simon Stephens – A Working Diary: Simon Stephens 
  • The Oberon Glossary of Theatrical Terms: Colin Winslow 
  • Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (black cover) souvenir brochure, which is full of detail about putting a big show together. 

I also read a lot of plays: not only for research, but because I was also taking a theatre writing class, and because I just enjoy reading them. Here’s a few of my favourites, which I know I was reading at the same time as writing the book. A couple of them make cameo appearances in Theatrical as Luke’s scripts or as things Hope has seen… 
  • Rope: Patrick Hamilton 
  • The History Boys: Alan Bennett 
  • And Then Come the Nightjars: Bea Roberts 
  • The Ferryman: Jez Butterworth 
  • Misterman: Enda Walsh 
  • The Hairy Ape: Eugene O’Neill 
  • The Dazzle: Richard Greenberg 
  • Sea Wall: Simon Stephens 
  • The Habit of Art: Alan Bennett 
  • Ink: James Graham 
  • Harry Potter and the Cursed Child: JK Rowling, John Tiffany and Jack Thorne 

Like Hope, I also read The Stage, which is the weekly theatre trade paper– especially the technical columns, and particularly Jess Gow’s stage management columns. And Usborne’s Slot Together Theatre was an invaluable tool for helping me picture the Earl’s Theatre! 

I hope you enjoyed this amazing peek at all the research Maggie did for Theatrical, I know I'll definitely be picking up some of the books to fulfil my thirst for all things stagey. Theatrical is out now, more information can be found here and my full review can be read here.

This review for Theatrical is a part of the official blog tour, be sure to check out the other blog stops for more reviews, personal stories and guest posts from Maggie.

Post by Editor, Olivia Mitchell

Wednesday, 13 November 2019

Mary Poppins, Prince Edward Theatre | Review

Mary Poppins
Prince Edward Theatre
Reviewed on Tuesday 5th November 2019 by Olivia Mitchell

Since she landed umbrella in hand, the mystical nanny Mary Poppins has been a much loved character. From the hit Disney film to a number of revivals and performances around the world, there's something universally adored about the feel-good story of the Banks family, so it's no surprise that the musical is once again gracing the West End. It's a musical full of sparkle, magic and wow factors but at times feels as though it's on just for the sake of being on.

In this musical, co-created by Cameron Mackintosh, with additional songs by Stiles and Drewe and a book by Julian Fellowes, the moral aspect of the story is strongly highlighted, as are the darker sides of the original book. The story of Mr Banks' redemption and the importance of making the correct moral choices for those around you remains ever relevant but much of the secondary plot feels somewhat dated and not relevant for a modern audience. Of course this isn't the making of a show, and with something like Mary Poppins it's mostly about the nostalgia and feel-good-factor but for a show that runs almost three hours long, some tweaks to make it more engaging wouldn't have gone amiss. 

However, this is a show about compassion and the cast do a joyous job of bringing the story to life with energy, wonder and colour. Thanks in part to Bob Crowley's sets and costumes which are structured, colourful and all around excellence. The house which opens like the pages of a pop-up book is magnificent each time it's seen; and the plain park which becomes a psychedelic garden of amusement is completely brilliant. Sparkly costumes and beautifully tailored coats adorn the stage and evoke the joy from both the book and film well.

Stiles and Drewe's songs are much darker and sharper than those we've grown up with, with 'Playing the Game' bringing toys to life as the stuff nightmares are made of. Elsewhere scenes are taken from book to stage effectively and interestingly. Overall the musical is a whole lot of sugar with a little bit of spice thrown in for good measure... just how Mary Poppins would like it I assume!

Richard Eyre has directed a show for adults and children which brims with surprise but at times lacks sufficient pace. However, the choreography by Matthew Bourne and Stephen Mear is sophisticated, sharp, witty and utterly first-rate. 'Step in Time' is a complete highlight as the stage comes to life with sweepers and leading man Charlie Stemp literally walks on the ceiling. 

Stemp's entire performance is a masterclass in stage presence. His continually fresh characterisation completely draws the audience in as he moves and speaks with a natural grace and charms everyone who witnesses him. Additionally his rapport with Strallen's Mary is genuine and engaging. Zizi Strallen makes the famous nanny her own as she floats around the stage with a whimsical but grounded air and takes on the leading role excellently. Elsewhere Amy Griffiths is touching and vocally excellent as Mrs Banks and the entire ensemble give top notch performances.

Yes, this show is lacking at times but much of the time it's a feast for the eyes and ears and is sure to be enjoyed by many so why not take a trip to see magical Mary float in on her brolly right in front of your eyes.

Mary Poppins is currently booking at the Prince Edward Theatre until 31st May 2020, tickets are available at

photo credit: Johan Persson

Sunday, 11 July 2021

Hamilton and Me, Giles Terera | Book Review

Hamilton and Me | Giles Terera
Published: 1st July 2021 by Nick Hern Book
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

While working to bring the smash hit musical Hamilton to the West End stage, Giles Terera kept a journal which chronicled the journey and now provides a wonderfully moving insight into the process that so few get to be part of. However, instead of just being a diary which looks at the day to day process of putting on a show, this book is an honest and academic look at what it takes physically and mentally.

Throughout the rehearsal period, Terera takes a methodical approach to playing the role of Aaron Burr; he looks at what made Burr do the things he did, as well as comparing his own journey and life experiences to the character. It's quite amazing to see just how much mental work goes into making Burr as well-rounded as he comes across in the musical. 

What is also striking about this book is how humble Terera seems. The way he openly discusses his fears, weaknesses and struggles comes across very genuinely and as an outsider, it's particularly interesting to see how he overcomes his struggles and pushes through the intense process without breaking down. His rawness clearly comes across in his portrayal of Burr and it's no surprise that he received rave reviews and praise when the show opened in London.

Hamilton and Me: An Actor's Journal serves as a snapshot of time and masterfully takes readers on a journey they would rarely get to go on, of even really understand. Terera offers an exhilarating look at a musical stripped down to its simple roots and lets us be both in the room where it happens as well as watching the room be formed. This is a real treat of a book and a must-read for theatre lovers and aspiring performers.

Wednesday, 15 April 2020

Laura Cassidy's Walk of Fame, Alan McMonagle | Book Review

Laura Cassidy's Walk of Fame | Alan McMonagle
Published: 5th March 2020 by Picador, Pan Macmillan
Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars

As a theatre fan (note: obsessive), I was thrilled when I was asked to review this book all about one young lady's journey to achieve her dream of stardom. Now it was not exactly what I expected. I had pictured Laura taking part in a rom-com esque battle to fight opposing actresses and pull out all the stops to achieve a coveted space on stage, and whilst that is a part of the story, the real driving force is Laura's mental struggles and falsely inflated sense of ego and stardom.

During childhood, when Laura's mother and sister were asleep, her father would fill her head with dreams of stardom as they watched classic films. When her father dies, Laura's whole life turns upside down and she never recovers from the trauma. Now in her mid 20s she hasn't managed to take Hollywood by storm and she lives an unbalanced life. 

When a new Director comes to town, Laura thinks she will finally get her big break as Blanche DuBois in his new production of A Streetcar Named Desire. In an attempt to fulfil herself and make her father proud, she makes it her mission to land the role. 

Needless to say, things don't go quite to plan. With Laura's globetrotting sister returning home and her kind-of boyfriend helping fill her head with daydreams, Laura begins a downward spiral and her feet fall out from beneath her in her own personal, Galway version of Streetcar.

I can't say this is in my top reads ever, but there's certainly some good moments and it's a very unique way to portray mental health. It's a hard book to explain because it doesn't really fit into a category. There are elements of contemporary chic-lit as well as darker moments, but it's never really dark enough to really be affective. Laura is continually an unreliable narrator so it's difficult to know how we should react. This partly makes it entertaining, having to try and pull apart the characters motivations and truth of her stories, but a lot of the time it feels laborious.

I found the writing somewhat hard to get into, which in part I think is intentional as it shows Laura's fragmented thought patterns, however, this didn't make it the most well paced book. The character development of course is essential but due to this, the key plot points often feel rammed in.

However, in saying all of this, I certainly think McMonagle has done a great job of showcasing passion for performing, and effectively creates some humourous scenes. There's a lovely sense of optimism throughout and you can't help but admire Laura's fervent desire to get her name on the Hollywood Walk of Fame!

Review by Olivia Mitchell

*This book was sent to me by Picador for review purposes. All views and opinions are my own*

Wednesday, 17 November 2021

My Name is Not Wigs, Angela Cobbin (Book) | Review

My Name is Not Wigs! | Angela Cobbin
Published: 11th November 2021 by Brown Dog Books
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

If you're a theatre fan (which I'd assume you are if you're reading this) then I would urge you to pick up My Name is Not Wigs! by Angela Cobbin. It's not just a look at theatre but it provides a deep dive into what goes on behind the scenes, and a look at all the hard work which goes into learning and perfecting a craft.

The book is an enticing and enthralling journey through theatre, fashion and history as Angela goes from a hairdresser/manicurist in the 1960s, to a wig maker for massive West End and Broadway shows. What's lovely about this book is that it feels like chatting to an old friend. Angela's writing is witty and natural from page one, with the whole thing reading like a very entertaining and humourous train of thought.

Angela expertly makes us feel part of her backstage adventures without being excessive or including gossip to make things seem extra dramatic. As far as stagey memoirs go, this is up there with the most entertaining and certainly broaches an aspect which is not often written about. Angela's career is super interesting, with so many exciting moments combined with hard graft. The beautiful imagery included in the book adds another element and takes you through the various locations Angela mentions. I particularly loved the photo of Angela's work place Nathans at the start which was so evocative of the time- I felt like I could breathe in the photo and would absolutely love to watch a film set purely in that work room!

My Name is Not Wigs is a fascinatingly beautiful insight into what goes on behind the scenes at theatres as well as a celebration of a theatrical aspect which is so important to shows but often goes unsung. My Name is Not Wigs! is a perfect addition to a theatre fan's bookshelf and you'll never watch a show without paying special attention to the hair on the characters heads after reading it!

My Name is Not Wigs! is available for purchase now

*This book was sent to me for review purposes. All views and opinions are my own*

Tuesday, 21 April 2020

City of Girls, Elizabeth Gilbert | Book Review

"Life is both fleeting and dangerous, and there is no point in denying yourself pleasure, or being anything other than what you are."

City of Girls | Elizabeth Gilbert
Published: 4th June 2019 by Bloomsbury Publishing
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

This book is just a dream. From page one I was completely absorbed in the glorious world Elizabeth Gilbert has brought to life. I was so wrapped up in it all, that I felt like I'd open my front door and be on the bustling streets of 1940s Manhattan... needless to say I could not open said door because #lockdown but what a welcome escape from all the craziness.

In 1940, nineteen-year-old Vivian Morris has just been kicked out of Vassar College, thanks to her lacklustre engagement in her studies. Her parents send her to New York to live with her flamboyant aunt Peg, who owns and lives in a crumbling theatre called the Lily Playhouse. It's here that Vivian's life changes as she's introduced to a host of charismatic and larger than life luvvies. Her life changes to a mile-a-minute wild ride that has it's fair share of highs and lows. Without giving too much away, this is a coming of age story and a love story that's a joy to read.

I inhaled this book for a few reasons, firstly because I love theatre and I love New York, so I just wanted more of the sumptuous descriptions of the wildly theatrical life Vivvie was living in the Big Apple. Secondly because of the writing itself; Gilbert gives so much life and energy to her characters that they really feel real. I actually cannot believe I can't google search them and endlessly find information about the stars mentioned. Each character is fantastically defined with differences, attractiveness and flaws that make them both vivid an truthful. 

With Mrs Maisel vibes in terms of the humour and boldness of it all, this is a dream for anyone wanting a bit of glamour in their life. If we weren't in lockdown I think I'd now be on the hunt for a whole new wardrobe and copious Gin Fizzes!

What's also miraculous about this book is that it manages to be utterly laugh out loud humourous and lighthearted, whilst also being profound and inspiring. I did find a few times when the story lagged and I certainly think I could have been cut down in length, but I still wolfed it down! 

This is a captivating, evocative, entertaining and moving read that I loved and would highly recommend for anyone wanting glamour, theatre and emotion.

Saturday, 29 June 2019

On Your Feet!, London Coliseum | Review

On Your Feet
London Coliseum
Reviewed on Thursday 27th July 2019 by Olivia Mitchell

The long summer nights are here and it's the perfect time for a fun, high energy musical that will have you tapping your toes and feeling good. Thankfully On Your Feet! is here to provide just that. Despite a flimsy plot, there's fun to be had, lights to dazzle and latin sounds to ensure you leave the theatre smiling.

Taking us from her childhood in Cuba, through her recording career and her near fatal accident, On Your Feet! is a real celebration of Gloria Estefan's career and determination, and is a real reminder to always stand up for what we believe in. The cast are as enthusiastic and sharp as you would hope, and provide some highly exciting moments, especially when dancing Sergio Trujillo's fiery choreography. Particularly impressive is the sandal tap dance which really wows and creates a rousing wall of sound that is fantastic to see and hear.

The main downfall of the musical is certainly Alexander Dinelaris' book which lacks much depth or emotional drama. Many of the more intense emotional scenes are quickly brushed over and it's not until act two that we really become absorbed in the story. Of course this is real life and it's the music of Gloria Estefan that we are celebrating, but there are several moments where the pacing feels too slow and too little happens. However, the scenes where Gloria and her mother are at odds with one another and when there is conflict between the Estefans and their record producer, are great at highlighting Gloria and Emilio's grit and the limited book is all performed well.

The direction by Jerry Mitchell does feel basic at times and sometimes highlights the flaws in the book, but he rightly places the wonderful music of Gloria and Miami Sound Machine at the heart of the musical. The high energy songs, including the Conga and On Your Feet make the audience feel uplifted and energised. It's hard not to feel swept up by the glorious Latin rhythms that make you want to grab a cocktail and swirl around.

Leading lady Christie Prades is confident and engaging in her performance. She delivers a performance which never waivers in energy or commitment; and vocals which wow and engage. Prades' chemistry with George Ioannides as Emilio Estefan is wonderfully nuanced and believable. George also provides strong vocals, which falter at times but mostly maintain the suave Latin feel. Karen Mann as Conseulo is delightfully entertaining as she pushes Gloria to achieve her dreams in any way she can, even if that includes bribing a club owner with Empanadas! Meanwhile, Madalena Alberto is sharp (and a vocal powerhouse) as she portrays Gloria's mother who begrudges her daughter, but of course, loves her regardless. Ensemble standouts include Dawnita Smith and Francesca Lara Gordon who catch the eye as they perform each moment with power and perfection. Little Gloria Emily Perra is also fantastic, with a magnetic stage presence and beautiful vocals.

The onstage band bring every song to life with an enthusiasm which radiates off the stage. Emilio Soso's floaty, colourful costumes just add to the party feel of the piece, as does Kenneth Posner's bold, bright lighting. Both aspects are equally strong when they dim themselves to fit the more emotive, atmospheric moments.

Overall On Your Feet! is an entertaining delight of a show. The book is hugely lacking but for fans of Gloria Estefan it's a perfect portrayal of her life and music. Transport yourself to the Miami sun and take a journey through the lives of Gloria and Emilio.

On Your Feet! is booking at the London Coliseum until August 31st

photo credit: Johan Persson

Tuesday, 22 August 2017

In Conversation With... Alexandra Silber | After Anatevka | Interview

If you've been on the tube in the last few months I'm sure you'll have spotted the marvellous Alexandra Silber's face plastered over the walls for Today Tix. Whilst Al's face is up there for her performances both on the West End and Broadway, she is also a beautifully eloquent lady and recently published her debut novel, After Anatevka, which tells the story of Hodel after Fiddler on the Roof

Alexandra was lovely enough to talk to Rewrite This Story about her writing process, After Anatevka, her transition from West End to Broadway and so much more. Make sure you read until the end to find out how you can win a copy of After Anatevka!

For anyone that doesn’t know, can you explain a little about your career and highlights so far?

I went to drama school in Glasgow at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland before living in London and working the West End for several years. 

While I was in my final year at RCS, I was cast as Laura Fairlie in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Woman in White opposite Ruthie Henshall, Anthony Andrews and Damian Humbley

Among many other things, I have also played Julie Jordan in Carousel in the West End, made my Broadway debut opposite Tyne Daly in Terrence McNally’s Master Class, and have sung at Carnegie Hall, Disney Hall in Los Angeles, was nominated for a Grammy for singing Maria in a the first ever symphonic recording of West Side Story with the San Francisco Symphony, and of course, at Royal Albert Hall with the John Wilson Orchestra for the BBC Proms as the titular character in their production of Kiss Me Kate

Above all, I have been fortunate enough to play two of Tevye’s daughters, one on each side of the Atlantic— the first was in the West End, portraying After Anatevka’s protagonist Hodel (the second-eldest daughter of Shalom Aleichem’s Tevye the Dairyman who is the star of the 1964 musical Fiddler on the Roof) at the Sheffield Crucible and its West End transfer, and last year, played Tzeitl, Tevye’s eldest daughter on Broadway in the most recent Broadway revival. 

Portraying both characters for such lengths of time, and with such incomparable creative teams and casts, informed, inspired and shaped the writing of After Anatevka: it truly was a journey from stage to page. 

Have you always aspired to be a performer or did you have a different dream when you were younger?

I always knew I wanted to be a professional creative— I’m not certain that acting and singing professionally was the epitome of my dream. As a child and teenager I loved the theatre, felt at home and accepted amongst its “creatures” and had an outlet to explore new worlds, research new ways of life, get inside different people’s minds and heart, and to express so many of my deepest emotions. 

I’ve been thinking very deeply about “dreams coming true” recently— possibly because so many people are asking me about it. “Is publishing your novel a dream come true” they will ask, and I don’t entirely know how to answer that. Because of course it is, I have dreamed of sharing my stories with the wider world, to hold a book-shaped book, with actual binding and  I have written in my hands

The voices on Broadway cast recordings were not only my inspirations, but my companions, my teachers; I know many people for whom that is a familiar history. But I felt very much the same about characters in books. I was just as enamored with E.M Forster’s Margaret Schlegel as I was with the book and score of South Pacific. 

Other than writing, have you got any hidden passions you’d like to pursue?

I love the accordion and have taken several lessons, and I passionately want to visit Antarctica. 

What drew you to the roles of Hodel and then Tzeitel in Fiddler on the Roof— are the three of you alike in any ways?

There are too many to mention. I honestly feel this question is best answered within the pages of After Anatevka— and not only the similarities, but the differences, and the growth every human being hopefully acquires as they age and experience life. I had the uncanny joy of being able to understand each woman more deeply as I embodied the other— much like members of the same family come to more deeply understand their siblings as they all become adults. 

One of my most treasured passages from After Anatevka is from the penultimate chapter, an epistolary exchange from Tzeitel to Hodel:

Home, Hodelleh. That place beyond the place where we rest our heads every night. Where our centerpieces, our sewing, our carefully prepared meals, simply do not matter. Where our petty little differences and competitions with one another do not matter anymore.

And I thought of you.

It is odd, Hodelleh. Because I do not know if you shall ever read this, I feel compelled to tell you more than ever. Home—where love shall reign supreme. The kind of home you always held within your heart, my dear sister, the kind no meaningless skill of mine could ever fully capture. How I love you, Hodel. It aches within me that I failed to show you in so many ways. That I provided you with every comfort but the comfort of my heart.

Yet I know that we shall both, as we always did, return to each other. For the love beneath our struggle is so strong. Perhaps in time, the Lord shall reveal to us why it is so difficult.

My goodness, to embody two such women. What a privilege.  

Did you feel any extra responsibility or pressure playing one of the few Jewish female characters in musical theatre?

I believe that if you portray any character or story with honesty and vulnerability, the work will resonate. Our only responsibility as artists is to tell the truth. 

After Anatevka tells the story of Hodel after Fiddler. When you research for a role do you think about what happens to the character after the show ends as well as their backstory or was Hodel an exception?

Hodel was absolutely an exception. 

The Broadway community and wider world may know me as the most-recent Tzeitel,  from the 2016 Broadway revival of Fiddler on the Roof, but from October 2006 to February 2008, I played Tevye's second-eldest daughter, Hodel, in the last West End revival in London. That experience was, without exception, the most immersive and deeply felt of my artistic life thus far. It was like a “first love—” the kind one never forgets, and imprints itself upon you more deeply than any to follow it. Hodel’s strength and sense of purpose, your complex feminine spirit, her wit and determination, her devotion and loving heart. She offered me a chance to find all of these things within myself, and to grow with them. 

While all characters tend to endear themselves to you, Hodel haunted me— remained in my cells like an un-rinseable, inextinguishable fuel. Actors often embody traits of the characters they take on, but few characters weave in and out of the soul until you can scarcely detect the line between the emotional truths of one and the other. 

If you could write a continuation of any other musical theatre character, who would you choose and why?

Tzeitel. I think we can all agree that I’m now intensely involved in this family’s “future story—” I do feel compelled to finish what I’ve started. Additionally, I don’t think I’ve heard the last of Hodel. We leave her at quite a cliffhanger in After Anatevka

You’ve made the transition from West End to Broadway and from acting to writing so well. What would your advice be to people hoping to do similar?

Being a “multi-hyphenate” is simultaneously straightforward, and tremendously complex. 

To “do” something other than what is listed on, say, your tax return, there is very little required other than to just DO it. You want to write? Don’t wait for a permission slip from the Gods of Writing; just write. An essay. A blogpost. A Tweet. It does’t matter what you create as long as you actually create it, and create it from a place of authenticity. 

What’s your writing setup like? Do you have a certain playlist you listen to or a drink you always have?

Yes. I have a beautiful vintage pull-down writing desk! It has been handed down from my mother— she found it on the street when she was in college. When she discovered it, it was covered in layers of paint that she subsequently stripped away, to reveal a beautiful raw wood. The desk has been in my home since childhood, and the handle where you “pull-down” is the face of a lion, that I always thought was the face of Aslan from The Chronicles of Narnia

I write for about one hour every day, with a pot of tea poured from my perfect little tea pot (gifted to me by actress Lara Pulver), under the supervision of my cat, Tatiana. 

Whats a fun fact people might not know about you?

I’m an introvert. In fact, according to the Myers Briggs personality test I’m an INFJ (which is a very rare personality type, about 2% of the world’s population). Many people challenge me on this, based on their mis-impressions of not only me, but introverts in general. Introverts are not necessarily aloof, shy, people-hating trolls, we simply recharge our personal batteries in solitude. Despite my highly developed extrovert behavior, I still require (and enjoy!) lots of time alone to process life. 

Also, I have a (fabulous, diva, rescued) cat named Tatiana Angela Lansbury Romanov. She is a star (cue: Mama Rose music)!! She has her own Instagram page, which is: photographs of “Tati” (as I call her) with theatrical captions called @ifeelkitty.…..You’re welcome. 

What’s your best piece of advice for an aspiring performer?

For anyone, really: success is not about what you do, it is about how you feel about what you do. 

A massive thank you to Al for taking the time to do this interview. Read my review of After Anatevka here.

Interview by Olivia Mitchell, Editor