Wednesday, 8 April 2020

Royal Albert Hall shows direct to your living room!

Some exciting news from the Royal Albert Hall today! Rufus Wainwright, Alfie Boe, Baxter Dury and Ayanna Witter-Johnson will be the first artists to take part in Royal Albert Home when it opens its virtual doors this week.
One of the world’s most iconic venues, the Royal Albert Hall building may be physically closed but it will come direct to audiences from artists’ living rooms with a programme of exclusive shows starting tomorrow.
Rufus Wainwright will launch the series and keep the venue’s spirit alive during its closure by presenting the first of what is hoped to be lots of free sessions from performers’ homes.
The specially-curated opening week will also feature celebrated tenor Alfie Boe, indie sensation Baxter Dury and Idlewild frontman Roddy Woomble, as well as singer-songwriter Ayanna Witter-Johnson, spoken word act Toby Thompson – performing a specially reworked version of his Edinburgh Fringe show – and cellist Peter Gregson, renowned for his reinterpretations of Bach.
On Monday 13 April, Hard-Fi frontman Richard Archer and vocalist Krysten Cummings will perform Hard-Fi hits alongside songs from their new collaboration, OffWorld.
The Hall will also present at-home versions of shows which have had to be cancelled, ensuring that the talent and practice that went into developing these events can be shared with the world. Following an enhanced screening of the hit British comedy-drama, Brassed Off on Wednesday 15 April, conductor Moritz Gnann will present Isata Kanneh-Mason and Eldbjørg Hemsing performing Beethoven, Mendelssohn and Saint-Saëns (Sat 18 Apr), before Robin InceDr Helen Czerski and Steve Backshall are joined by a host of special guests for Sea Shambles (Sun 17 May).
And an upcoming programme of family matinees will include classical music, opera and jazz concerts for kids presented by performers from the venue’s in-house group, Albert’s Band.
Rufus Wainwright said“When push comes to shove, the Royal Albert Hall is my favourite venue in the UK. It is the perfect mix of both formal and fun. It is grand and intimate at the same time. Also it is where my mother Kate McGarrigle did her last concert in 2009. I am proud to be one of the first artists to give a Royal Albert Home concert from my home in Laurel Canyon in Los Angeles.
“I will try to be your ‘Gay Messiah’ in these difficult times, serve you some ‘Cigarettes and Chocolate Milk’, give you hopefully a ‘Peaceful Afternoon’, maybe pray a little ‘Agnus Dei’, hold you virtually ‘In My Arms’, take you to ‘Sanssouci’ in your mind, show you some ‘Pretty Things’ and make your ‘Alone Time’ uplifting, funny, hilarious, beautiful and bearable. In short, I will take you through my repertoire and my life, and preview some of my new material from my upcoming album, ‘Unfollow the Rules’, which we are now releasing on 10 July.”
Alfie Boe said: “In this difficult time for all I hope to bring some joy to everyone’s homes and raise some money to help preserve one of my favourite venues. Let’s have a good old sing-along!”
Lucy Noble, the Hall's artistic director said: “The Hall has always been a place where people come together at times of national crisis. Right now that isn’t possible, but we want to keep the venue’s spirit alive, and provide something that will cheer you, inspire you or just distract you during this difficult time.
“These events will reflect the diversity of the shows that we put on each month, allowing audiences not just to spend an evening with a favourite artist, but also to discover new favourites and try something different, whether that’s genre-hopping singer-songwriters, award-winning spoken word, or world-class classical music.”
The shows will all be streamable free of charge, but with the option to donate to the venue. The Hall, which turns 150 next year, is closed for the first time since World War Two, meaning that it has no regular income to support staff or its Grade I-listed building.
Lucy added: “When times are tough, people’s priorities understandably change, but we know that the Hall holds a unique place in the memories and hearts of millions. We are doing our best to keep entertaining the world during our closure but the building is at risk and the show cannot go on without support and donations. Now is the chance for anyone who loves this place to show their appreciation and protect the future of the Royal Albert Hall.”
For full programme details, go to www.royalalberthall.com/rahome. To donate to the Hall, visit https://www.royalalberthall.com/support. More shows will be announced soon.

Friday, 3 April 2020

Hairspray - from September!

Some welcome news for theatre lovers! The producers of Hairspray the Musical have announced today (Friday April 3) new performances dates for the multi award-winning smash hit musical at the London Coliseum.

The production will now begin performances on Tuesday 1 September 2020 and play a strictly limited 10-week season to Sunday 8 November.

Until Monday 4 May, all existing ticket holders have priority to move their tickets to a new date. All new ticket purchases can be made from Tuesday 5 May. See www.hairspraythemusical.co.uk for all ticket information.

It will see comic legend Paul Merton make his West End debut as Edna's husband Wilbur. He will be starring alongside Michael Ball who returns as Edna Turnblad.

Adam Spiegel, the Co-Producer of Hairspray, said: We are pleased that, with the support of everyone at the London Coliseum, we are able today to announce rescheduled dates for Hairspray. I would also like to thank everyone who has worked to ensure the season is able to take place later in the year, and when we are able to do so, we look forward to welcoming audiences and bringing people together again in a way only the theatre can."

Marisha Wallace will take the role of Motormouth. Marisha won rave reviews when shetook over from Amber Riley in the smash hit Dreamgirls (Savoy Theatre), and also starred in the original West End cast of Waitress (Adelphi Theatre). Rita Simons (Eastenders’ Roxy Mitchell) will star as Velma Von Tussle.

Paul Merton is a founder member of The Comedy Store Players, and still appears at the Comedy Store in London most Sundays. He is a resident guest on BBC Radio 4’s Just A Minute and is an established face on TV shows such as the hugely popular Have I Got News For You, Room 101, Paul Merton Looks at Alfred Hitchcock (BBC4/2), Paul Merton’s Birth of Hollywood (BBC 2) and his travel series for Channel Five, Paul Merton’s Adventures which covered his travels in IndiaChina and Europe. His Autobiography, Only When I Laugh reached the Sunday Times bestseller Top 10.  Paul’s Anthology of funny stories, Funny Ha Ha was named Sunday Times Humour Book of the year in 2019. His first Channel 4 series, Paul Merton The Series, is due to be released on DVD this Spring.

Baltimore, 1962. Tracy Turnblad is a big girl with big hair and big dreams. Can she make it on the local TV dance show, win the heart of teen heartthrob Link Larkin and bring everyone together – whatever their colour, size or hairdo? Well if you want a change, you’ve really got to shake things up!

With the original award-winning creative team of director Jack O’Brien and choreographer Jerry Mitchell, and featuring the infectiously feel-good songs “Good Morning, Baltimore”, “Big, Blonde and Beautiful” and “You Can’t Stop the Beat”, this inspirational, fun-loving and fabulously uplifting musical sensation is back and bigger than ever.

The original New York production of Hairspray won three Tony Awards, including Best New Musical, whilst the original West End production won four Olivier Awards, also including Best New Musical, as well as giving Michael Ball one of his two Olivier Awards for Best Actor in a Musical.

Hairspray is produced by Adam Spiegel Productions & Fiery Angel.

Saturday, 28 March 2020

Lockdown -Saturday, March 28

I've lost track of time! It's been a bit of a week. What with our laptop breaking and a complete change in routine and lifestyle it's been tough at times.

But also what's given me a few rays of joy are the ways in which people are reaching out to help others get through this incredibly difficult time.

The clapping the other night for all those working on the front line in the NHS was truly uplifting - all our street came out and we were shouting at each other from across our front lawns/yards.

On a personal level, a tweet I put out a couple of days ago about how I couldn't find sugar or eggs for my mum who can't get out because she is in the high risk group, garnered a level of response that left me truly overwhelmed. The generosity of spirit, togetherness, offers of help - wow, amazing and I was in tears for most of the morning. Everyone was so kind and when I told my mum, she was similarly touched.

Elsewhere for people like me who love live performances of any kind, finding out that organisations such as the Royal Opera House, National Theatre and RSC were going to stream some of their productions online via their YouTube channels. I have put the links below.

Stay safe and well

The RSC link:
Arts lovers can now sign up for a 30-day free* trial on Marquee TV, the performing arts streaming service with a catalogue of more than 400 dance, opera and theatre productions. There are currently 17 of our shows to stream, including Richard II and King Lear with David Tennant and Antony Sher in the title roles, respectively.  *Please note that you will be asked to enter your billing details, but you won't be charged until a month has lapsed (at which point you'll be notified that your trial is coming to an end).
As part of the BBC's plans to keep bringing arts to audiences during the Coronavirus pandemic, you will be able to watch six of our shows from the comfort of your own home between now and September. Further details of the broadcasts will be announced over the next few weeks.

The Royal Opera House
We are pleased to announce a FREE live programme of full-length productions to spread the joy of ballet and opera during these uncertain times. They will be broadcast via our Facebook and YouTube channels allowing you to enjoy them from the comfort of your own home. #OurHouseToYourHouse
Keep scrolling to view the full schedule...
Many thanks to our generous supporters, who make work like this possible. Click here if you want to join us, and them, in sharing our artforms whilst we are closed.    

Peter and the Wolf

BALLET
27 March 2020, 7pm GMT
This children's ballet, set to music by Prokofiev, is about a boy who isn't afraid of the big, bad wolf. It is performed by the Royal Ballet School.

Acis and Galatea

OPERA/BALLET
3 April 2020, 7pm BST  
A collaboration between the Royal Opera and Royal Ballet companies, created by Wayne McGregor and set to music by Handel. Based on Greek mythology, it tells the story of a mortal shepherd and a goddess' doomed love.

Così fan tutte

OPERA
10 April 2020, 7pm BST
This comedy by Mozart sees two men test their girlfriends' faithfulness. Their plan - to disguise themselves in order to try and seduce the other's lover. What could possibly go wrong?

The Metamorphosis

BALLET
17 April 2020, 7pm BST
A contemporary piece by Arthur Pita, created on Royal Ballet Principal Dancer, Edward Watson. It is based on the novella by Franz Kafka, about how one family reacts when their son wakes up, transformed into a monstrous insect.


From the National Theatre
From Thursday 2 April, a number of productions previously screened in cinemas globally as a part of National Theatre Live will be made available to watch via the National Theatre’s YouTube channel. The first production to be broadcast as part of NATIONAL THEATRE AT HOME will be Richard Bean’s One Man Two Guvnors featuring a Tony Award-winning performance from James Corden. Each production will be free and screened live every Thursday at 7.00pm GMT, it will then be available on demand for seven days. Alongside the streamed productions, NATIONAL THEATRE AT HOME will also feature accompanying interactive content such as Q&As with cast and creative teams and post-stream talks, with further details of this programme to be announced.

Working closely with YouTube, other productions streamed as part of NATIONAL THEATRE AT HOME include Sally Cookson’s stage adaptation of Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre on the 9th April, Bryony Lavery’s adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island on 16th April, and Twelfth Nighton the 23 April featuring Tamsin Greig as Malvolia in Shakespeare's classic comedy, with further titles to be announced.



Thursday, 26 March 2020

Lockdown Day 3

Things I've learned so far during this lockdown....

1)Teens do not know the meaning of quiet learning - blame Skype, FaceTime, tech in general. The shouting, cheering, yelling coming from my 15 year old daughter’s room every day is quite something!

2) My 11 year old son is the biggest fidget in the history of the world - can’t sit let alone sit still for more than a minute - seems to spend his time kneeling on the chair to do his schoolwork or just standing by the table or jigging about.

3) The absolute worst time a laptop can die is in the midst of a Corona virus lockdown - I should know. Said 11 year old now has to make do with his phone which isn’t ideal as all the other computers in the house are in use by the rest of us. 

4) And our black assassin (aka Darcy) is bringing in voles (dead or alive) daily.  She never asks if we'd like them, she merely provides.

5) I'm going to have to self isolate from the chocolate / crisps / wine cupboards (delete as appropriate) at some point....

And breathe....!

Tuesday, 24 March 2020

Lockdown - Day 2

I've not been doing much on here for the last few months. Mostly this is as a result of a lack of commissions - something that has made me really quite sad. I've been writing about theatre, music, comedy and dance for years and I really miss it. Not being in a theatre as much as I had been has been a sobering experience.

However, this Coronavirus has put things into perspective. I cannot imagine how directors, actors, writers, production staff, performers and in fact anyone involved in the arts and entertainment industry feel right now - loss of income, loss of the lives they love and a feeling of insecurity - I can only hope they are able to survive, physically, mentally and financially.

For me, not being able to see my mum as much as I would normally do has been the hardest. She is in the high risk group - her age and underlying health issues. I cannot take the risk and so she is in "splendid isolation" for her sake as much as ours.

Life as we know it is changing on a daily basis. However, taking it a few days at a time really helps mentally - and as I love a challenge, that's how I'm treating this. Somehow it makes me feel a bit better about things.

Yesterday for me was all about getting my two kids to follow the work their respective schools have set them for the next two weeks, before what would have been their Easter holidays. My eldest (in Year 10) is great and has embraced home working - really powering through her lessons, live and recorded, plus doing her homework and extra revision.

For my youngest, in Year 7, it's been harder. He's a natural fidget so getting him to actually sit on a chair to do his work has been tough. Also, he's a highly social animal and is struggling with the concept of not being able to see his friends face to face. However, he did manage to do the work as well as listen to the Head of Year 7 give an audio message.

Today he and I have done some of the PE exercises the PE teacher set him - Workout of the Week (WOW) - doing a set of exercises per day depending on the letter of the alphabet. It's been fun and we are determined to keep going throughout the next few weeks.

We are also planning to be creative with lessons such as DT, Art and Music.... and I am determined both my kids will have mastered operation of the washing machine, oven, hob and dishwasher by the time we come out of this weird and surreal time. We will also plant seeds, play games, cook, listen to music and dance along to it, and anything else we can think of to do and keep our minds active and in good spirits.

At the moment my youngest has a Computer Science lesson - and is watching a video about engineering presented by Jeremy Clarkson.

#keepwell #keepsafe