Sunday, 27 November 2016

TheatreCraft 2016 | LittleEllieMae

TheatreCraft is a free careers event open to all 16- 25 year olds, presenting opportunities to work in theatre beyond the stage. The theatre industry is such a massive market and there are so many routes in other than the traditional performing route, but it can be difficult and overwhelming to say to least to search out these prospects. This is where TheatreCraft comes in: it presents a vibrant marketplace of theatre and education exhibitors, workshops lead by theatre professionals, one-to-one advice in the Ask The Experts zone and the best chance to network with others in the industry.

This year's TheatreCraft was held on Monday 14th November, when thousands of young people gathered at The Waldorf Hilton hotel. Situated at the heart of the West End 'Theatreland', The Waldorf was the perfect location to host such an event and provided the most gorgeous backdrop for the day. 

Other iconic West End venues provided space for workshops and tours throughout the day: the Lyceum Theatre, Novello Theatre, Aldwych Theatre, Theatre Royal Drury Lane and Dewynters. It really was a West End takeover for the next generation of directors, producers, writers, designers, managers, marketers.

I was lucky enough to be a part of the Media Team for TheatreCraft this year which meant that I handled the social media for the day. The @TheatreCraft Twitter account was buzzing the entire day with enthusiastic attendees, volunteers and experts sharing their experiences of the event. I loved it.

The day kick started at 10am with speeches from some of our ambassadors, including Adam Kenwright, Executive Vice President of ATG who delivered a touching and inspirational speech to the younger generation of theatre-makers. He spoke about his personal connection to theatre, mentioning his delight in watching people captured and blown into a new world, allowing them to leave their troubles behind when watching a performance. I think this is something the audience of young people could really resonate with- it is ultimately our joint interest and passion in theatre that bought every single person to TheatreCraft that day. Kenwright also explained his career background in theatre, explaining how he started out in producing alongside marketing at AKA for eight years before leaving to work at his current role at ATG. He ended his speech by urging everybody to ask five questions a day to promote curiosity, and sent the crowd on their way to do so. 

The Marketplace teemed with enthusiastic theatre- lovers. The Waldorf's Palm Court held nearly forty stalls of a variety of theatre exhibitors including Society of London Theatre, The Stage, Stage One UK, National Theatre, Global Marketing Group and many many more. Next door, the Adelphi Suite was full of theatre institutions at The Education Hub, these included Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, Bristol Old Vic Theatre School, Plymouth College of Art, University of Winchester and East 15 and many more. The Marketplace was the perfect place to network with representatives of the industry and learn more about the different opportunities they offer. Personal favourites of mine include playing with VR headsets with Technicians Make It Happen and flicking through beautiful backstage photos in the Curtain Call book!

I also had the chance to visit some workshops myself. There were a whole range on offer, from producing, directing, choreography, backstage tours, casting, wardrobe and even virtual reality and many more. The first workshop I attended was at the gorgeous Lyceum Theatre, currently home to The Lion King. The workshop was with James Quaife and focused on developing as a producer both Off West End and West End. 

As an aspiring producer myself, I found it very interesting to hear from James, who has produced Barking In Essex, Good People, as well as Lady Chatterley’s Lover and French Without Tears with English Tour Theatre. He spoke in an extremely honest manner, pointing out every aspect of the industry in a matter of fact way. For an industry that so often gets swept up in the glitz and glamour of it all, it was refreshing to hear James' no- nonsense approach. He taught us the ins and outs of funding, networking and how to survive in such a competitive industry. 

My next workshop to follow was PR and Marketing in London and On Tour with Target Live, one of the major design and advertising companies for theatre. PR and marketing is something I thought I was fairly familiar with due to my experience working as PR assistant for an arts organisation alongside my blog work. However Target Live presented new ideas and processes for marketing a show- they talked through traditional paper methods as well as technological advancements such as social media. It was the creative ideas that interested me the most, including decorating theatres with key branding, plastering advertisements on unsuspected locations (such as ATMs) and even branded cars to carry the message! I loved finding out more about such large scale marketing for the world- renown show Dirty Dancing, of which Target Live handle. 

After chatting to a few exhibitors in the marketplace, including Curtain Call, White Light and National Theatre (check out TheatreCraft Twitter and Facebook for the live interviews we recorded).

 I headed to my final workshop of the day which was about Making a Career Out of Creative Freelancing with Roundhouse at the Novello theatre. Linda Bloomfield from Roundhouse chatted to the group about what it takes to be a creative freelancer, from freelance producing to designing and everything in between. Linda was so informative on the subject, pointing out everything from registering as self employed to how to do your taxes. She taught us the real-life skills that are essential for surviving in the industry that there's no way I would find out about off my own back. It was super useful and showed me another potential career path for my future.

And that's where my extremely busy but exciting day at TheatreCraft ended. The whole experience was very inspiring and has opened so many doors for me, in terms of future career prospects in theatre. It makes you realise the vast opportunities on offer in the sector and there is so much help and support to get you where you want to be. We're so lucky to have an event such as TheatreCraft to help. It was a fantastic experience. 

I'm so grateful to Masterclass and TheatreCraft for involving me in this awesome event. I can't wait to go back next year!

To find out more information about TheatreCraft, visit their website, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram

Ellie Mae x

Disclaimer: I worked with TheatreCraft/ Masterclass on this event but all thoughts and opinions are my own. 

Tuesday, 22 November 2016

The Red Shoes by Matthew Bourne World Premiere Review | LittleEllieMae

I've been fascinated by Matthew Bourne's work for years and completely fell in love with his choreography after watching his production of 'Sleeping Beauty' a while back. I've also witnessed his fantastic work in hit musicals 'Oliver!' and 'Mary Poppins' which I adored too. So to hear that his latest production of The Red Shoes would be premiering at my hometown theatre, Theatre Royal Plymouth, I was ecstatic!

Last night I attended the opening performance of this new show at Theatre Royal Plymouth. The house was buzzing and for the first time in a while it was completely sold out which was absolutely lovely to see. 

The Red Shoes brings the Powell and Pressburger's 1948 film and Hans Christian Anderson story to stage. The show, much like the film, employs a story within a story device, and tells the tale of a young ballerina, Victoria Page, who joins an established ballet company, leading their new ballet called The Red Shoes. She and the struggling composer, Julian Craster, fall in love but is overshadowed by Boris Lermontov, the ballet impresario who also catches feelings for Victoria and controls their relationship and careers. The red ballet shoes are a motif of control, as once they are put on they will not allow the wearer to stop dancing and similarly off stage, they control Victoria's urge and desire to dance. It tells a story of the extremes an artist will fight for their work: with the composer's intense descent into some sort of madness to achieve perfection, the developing evil of the impresario and ultimately what leads to Victoria's tragic and melodramatic death. 

Its an utterly intense and gripping story that is conveyed through Bourne's choreography beautifully. I find that in some dance shows, its easy to lose the plot but this story was clear and easy to follow, even with the complex 'story within a story' structure that is so well executed by Lez Brotherston, associate designer who depicted onstage and backstage in different locations seamlessly.  

The set and staging was breathtaking. It has transformed the Theatre Royal Plymouth's Lyric stage into a glorious grand, vintage theatre with impressive red velvet curtains which revolve to depict onstage and offstage. Projections are used well to portray the array of locations in the show, from Monte Carlo to Covent Garden. My favourite use of projections was during The Red Shoes ballet at the end of Act 1: silhouettes of almost Tim Burton-esque trees and houses as well as movement of wind projected onto a massive blank canvas acted as a backdrop to the chilling story. 

Matthew Bourne decided against using the Oscar award- winning score from the 1948 film but instead chose the music of celebrated Hollywood composer Bernard Herrmann. Throughout the performance, extracts of Herrmann's film scores and concert music is used. The Currier and Ives Suite from 1935 provides perfect waltz music as well as Concerto Macabre from Hangover Square of 1945 and The Ghost and Mrs Muir. The orchestrations are powerful, beautiful and accompany the dance routines perfectly. 

The costumes are just as dazzling, with impressive traditional ballet tutus onstage (which I am obsessed with!) as well as contemporary 40s/50s fashions incorporated for the backstage segments of the show. They act as a real asset to the performance as they gracefully move with the dancers which add an extra impressive visual element to the spectacle. 

The performers were incredible. Although I think it took them a couple routines to fully warm up on opening night, they soon presented Bourne's choreography in the most impressive, beautiful and synchronized way. The routines are totally complex and the performers were completely mesmerising to watch. 

Overall, I really adored this new production of The Red Shoes. It is Matthew Bourne's ability to present such an engaging, clear story, humour and intense emotion through the power of dance that makes it what it is. The design was spectacular and the talent onstage was very impressive. It definitely deserved the standing ovation it received! I would totally recommend. 

Ellie Mae x

Disclaimer: All thoughts and opinions are my own, as always. 

Monday, 21 November 2016

Half A Sixpence at Noël Coward Theatre Review | LittleEllieMae

I was kindly invited along to the press/ opening night of Half a Sixpence at the Noël Coward Theatre. After a hugely successful run at Chichester Festival Theatre, this Mackintosh- produced show is finally bracing the West End stage where I think it’s found a firm home. 

Half a Sixpence tells H.G. Wells' story of his autobiographical novel 'Kipps' which follows Arthur Kipps, a young man who goes from rags to riches after inheriting a large sum of money from an unsuspecting Uncle. We follow Kipps’ love triangle between high society doll Helen and childhood sweetheart, Ann and his struggle with his newfound life in the upper class. 

The original production in 1963 was a huge success and launched new star Tommy Steele back in the day. However I was a little apprehensive that the show could appear a little outdated over 50 years later, but with a fantastic new creative team to boost the revival, it worked perfectly. 

New material has been added by George Stiles and Anthony Drewe with an additional eight new songs and a new book by Julian Fellowes. Alongside David Heneker's beautiful original score, Stiles and Drewe's additions fit in seamlessly. It is actually a lot the new songs that I enjoyed most, with 'A Little Touch of Happiness' and 'Pick Out a Simple Tune' proving show-stoppers of the evening. The music is truly impressive and I haven't stopped listening to the new cast recording since I left the theatre! 

To accompany the amazing soundtrack of the show, Andrew Wright gives some of the best choreography I've ever seen. Its slick and complex but effortlessly pulled off by the insane cast of dancers. I am a massive fan of big ensemble pieces and this show is packed with perfect examples, including 'Pick Out A Simple Tune', 'If The Rain's Got To Fall' and 'Flash, Bang, Wallop'. I'm glad the company have had time to develop through their run at Chichester and previews as its obviously paid off, showing off their tight routines and real chemistry as a cast. There is such a buzz of energy on stage that is totally infectious. I turned to Shaun afterwards and expressed how desperate I was to jump on stage and join in! 

It is an absolute gem of a cast where the joint effort has produced the perfect show. I'm not one for following rave reviews but I can indeed myself rave about new star Charlie Stemp. I can't remember the last time I've felt so blown away and excited by a new performer. He is completely charming in his role of Arthur Kipps and he is the definition of a triple threat. For me, it was his smooth and gliding dancing that mesmerised me most. As strange as it sounds, something that stood out to me was his incredible posture and how he utilised this to create beautiful shapes through movement. They've really hit the jackpot with this one, I cannot wait to follow his future successes. 

Alongside Stemp, other notable cast members include Devon- Elise Johnson as Ann, who gives a spine-tingling rendition of 'Long Ago' and Emma Williams who plays Kipps' other love- interest, Helen. The two leading ladies are such different characters but both are played with such finesse. Bethany Huckle plays Flo, an outgoing and loveable friend of the haberdashery boys. Huckle's performance of 'A Little Touch of Happiness' alongside Johnson was hilarious and hugely impressive due to their comedic timing with great vocals. 

I loved the staging design by Paul Brown who creates scenes of small town Folkestone as well as grandeur of Kipps' new life. The set was simple with use of an odd desk, bar, pillars but this was perfectly done to keep the attention on the performers and projections were also used as a backdrop to the story. It was the use of the five- piece revolve that impressed me most, keeping the environment constantly moving forward and was even used to enhance the sublime choreography. 

I tried to think of some critiques for this show but I honestly couldn't think of any. I am so impressed with this production... I wasn't expecting to be so blown away by it! I am already desperate to go back to watch it again! It is a truly great British musical and I hope it goes down in history.

I give this production a faultless ★★★★★.
What a triumph!

Half a Sixpence runs at the Noël Coward Theatre until February 11th.. buy your tickets now! Read further Half A Sixpence reviews at

Ellie Mae x

Disclaimer: I was kindly invited to this performance but all thoughts and opinions are my own. Photos are credited.

Sunday, 20 November 2016

Evening Standard Theatre Awards 2016 | LittleEllieMae

On Sunday evening I was lucky enough to attend The Evening Standard Theatre Awards at The Old Vic theatre in London. 

It was an incredibly spectacular night full of glitz and glamour and of course some wonderful theatre.

One of my favourite comedians and actors, Rob Brydon, hosted the night. He kept the award show afloat with his hilarious gags and impressions. 
He was joined by a star- studded cast of co-hosts who presented awards on the night, including HRH Prince William, Sir Elton John, Dame Maggie Smith, Orlando Bloom, Tom Hiddleston and many many more. 

Amber Riley gave a stunning performance of 'And I Am Telling You' from her new Dreamgirls venture. She blew the roof off the Old Vic... she gave the most incredible performance ever. She most definitely deserved the standing ovation that she received. Her vocals on that night has prompted me to buy tickets for Dreamgirls at The Savoy theatre ASAP!

The room was filled to the brim with celebrity names who whooped and cheered the winners all night long. I was mesmerised as I looked around the room and continued to notice more and more show-stopping names. It was the first real awards ceremony I've ever attended so it was all very exciting for me!

There was a great variety of awards on the night, showcasing the very best of British theatre and entertainment. 

The nominees and winners are listed below:

Best Actor
Winner: Ralph Fiennes - The Master Builder (Old Vic)/Richard III (Almeida)
Kenneth Branagh - The Entertainer(Garrick)
O-T Fagbenle - Ma Rainey's Black Bottom(National Theatre's, Lyttelton)
James McArdle - Platonov (Chichester Festival Theatre/National Theatre, Olivier)
Ian McKellan - No Man's Land(Wyndham's Theatre)

Natasha Richardson Award for Best Actress

Winner: Billie Piper - Yerma (Young Vic)

Noma Dumezweni- Linda (Royal Court, Jerwood Downstairs)
Helen McCrory - The Deep Blue Sea(National Theatre, Lyttelton)
Sophie Melville - Iphigenia in Splott(Sherman Cymru/National Theatre/Temporary Theatre)

Best Musical Performance

Winner: Glenn Close - Sunset Boulevard (Coliseum)

Andy Karl - Groundhog Day (The Old Vic)
Sheridan Smith - Funny Girl (Savoy) 

Best Play

Winner: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by Jack Thorne, J K Rowling & John Tiffany (Palace Theatre) 

Father Comes Home from the Wars (Parts 1,2 & 3) , by Suzan-Lori Parks (Royal Court, Jerwood Downstairs)
The Flick, by Annie Baker (National Theatre, Dorfman) 

Evening Standard Radio 2 Audience Award for Best Musical

Winner: Jesus Christ Superstar - Regent's Park Open Air Theatre

Funny Girl - Menier Chocolate Factory/Savoy

Groundhog Day - Old Vic
Guys and Dolls - Savoy/Phoenix
Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour - National Theatre, Dorfman
Sunset Boulevard - Coliseum

Milton Shulman Award for Best Director

Winner: John Malkovich - Good Canary (Rose Kingston)

Dominic Cooke - Ma Rainey's Black Bottom (National Theatre, Lyttelton)  
John Tiffany - Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (Palace) 

Best Revival

Winner: No Man's Land - Wyndham's (dir Sean Mathias)

Ma Rainey's Black Bottom - National Theatre, Lyttelton (dir Dominic Cooke)

Young Chekhov: Platonov, Ivanov and The Seagull - Chichester Festival Theatre/National Theatre, Olivier

Les Blancs - National Theatre, Olivier (dir Yael Farber)

Best Design

Winner: Gareth Fry with Peter Malkin (sound design) - The Encounter (Edinburgh International Festival/Barbican)

Jon Bausor - You For Me For You (Royal Court, Jerwood Upstairs)
Rob Howell - The Master Builder (Old Vic)/Groundhog Day (Old Vic) 

Charles Wintour Award for Most Promising Playwright

Winner: Charlene James - Cuttin' It(Young Vic/Royal Court/Yard)

Jon Brittain - Rotterdam(Theatre503/Trafalgar Studios)
David Ireland - Cyprus Avenue (Royal Court, Jerwood Upstairs) 

Emerging Talent Award in partnership with Burberry

Winner: Tyrone Huntley - Jesus Christ Superstar (Regent's Park Open Air Theatre)

Jaygann Ayeh - The Flick (National Theatre, Dorfman)
Anthony Boyle - Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (Palace)
Aoife Duffin - A Girl is a Half-formed Thing (Samuel Beckett Theatre, Dublin & Young Vic) and The Taming of the Shrew(Shakespeare's Globe) 

Beyond Theatre Award

David Attenborough, for his contribution to broadcasting

Editor's Award

Good Chance Theatre

Lebedev Award

Kenneth Branagh, for his plays at the Garrick

There were some fantastic and very well deserving winners this year. Some of which I predicted, and others that were a great surprise!

A few of my favourite winners include Tyrone Huntley of the Emerging Talent Award in partnership with Burberry for his role as Judas in Regent Park Open Air Theatre's production of Jesus Christ Superstar. I've been following his career for a little while now and I'm thrilled at his success. I can't wait to see him smash the role of C.C. White, opposite Amber Riley in Dreamgirls next.

The Editor's Award went to Good Chance Theatre who made a real impact on the whole night. Good Chance Theatre is a theatre company, operating in the Calais Jungle migrant camp. In a place of such despair and fear, Good Chance set up a theatre of hope. During the day they scheduled writing workshops, music lessons, dance, acting and performances. In the evenings they held communal events to bring the communities together with poetry slams, stand up comedy, acoustic sets, theatre performances, rap battles, film nights and mass chill outs. Founded by British playwrights Joe and Joe, the theatre scheme has been such a massive success in providing entertainment and most importantly a glimmer of hope to these people's lives. I found their speech incredibly inspiring and it goes to show why theatre is so so important and relevant in today's world. Very deserving winners indeed.

A theme of the evening seemed to emphasise the importance of art and theatre. In many speeches, the winners and presenters spoke out about wider issues and especially made a point to encourage the younger generation in which a handful of students cheered about in the upper circle.
 Kenneth Branagh said that there has "never been a greater need for entertain, to divert and also to know that we and they are not alone. It matters.”. Andrew Lloyd Webber spoke up whilst receiving his award for Evening Standard Radio 2 Audience Award for Best Musical for Jesus Christ Superstar by directing the Government, “Can I passionately beg you to believe you must stop cutting the arts in schools.” Sir Patrick Stewart raised the issue of elitism in the industry, directing his speech towards Theresa May, he says “Some of us will have the impertinence to have ambition. Working-class scum will have ambition.”. All of which, as you can imagine, received loud roaring applause. Its nice that things aren't being swept under the carpet and during this awards ceremony, it really showed the political and social importance of the art.

The evening was surreal and wonderful. It has inspired me beyond words to be surrounded by such creative, successful, motivated people. It has proved once again that theatre is most definitely not a dying art form. Its prevalent and powerful than ever before and London is still its home. How lucky we are. 

Thanks to the Evening Standard for inviting me along to the awards. I had such a fantastic time!

Ellie Mae x

Disclaimer: I was kindly invited to this event by Evening Standard/ The Communications Store but all thoughts and opinions are my own. Photos credited David M Benett for The Evening Standard. 

Thursday, 10 November 2016

Cyberscene - Masterclass and Kidscape project announcement

The Theatre Royal Haymarket Masterclass Trust (Masterclass) are partnering with anti-bullying charity, Kidscape, to create Cyberscene - an innovative project which will use theatre to support the health and well-being of young people affected by cyber bullying.

Ahead of Anti-Bullying Week (14th – 18th November) Masterclass and Kidscape are proud to announce Cyberscene: an essential new theatre project that will work with students from South Thames College, Leyton Sixth Form College, Hackney Community College and Barnet and Southgate College to create a powerful new play which explores the impact of technology, social media and cyber bullying.

Working with director, Guy Unsworth, and writer, Emily Jenkins, the play will be scripted through a series of theatre based workshops. In this supportive environment, young people can share their stories, learn from each other and be part of an empowering project which aims to address the impacts of cyber bullying and the wider digital realm. The final production will be staged at the Theatre Royal Haymarket in March 2017.

Dame Judi Dench DBE has endorsed this amazing project- “As a Patron of the Theatre Royal Haymarket Masterclass Trust, I am delighted to lend my support to a worthwhile project which will harness the power of theatre to bring together a community of young students to address the issues associated with cyber bullying.”  

Check out the video below to find out more about this project:

I think this really is an awesome project and I'm looking forward to seeing the end results, supported by these great charities. 

If you or someone you know is experiencing cyber bullying and you would like some additional support please visit Kidscape’s website for further guidance.

Ellie Mae x

Sunday, 6 November 2016

Big The Musical European Premiere Review | LittleEllieMae

We all know and love 'Big'- the 1988 comedy film starring Tom Hanks which follows the story of a young boy, Josh Baskin, who makes a wish "to be big" and is then aged to adulthood overnight.

In 1996 the concept was created into a musical which then opened on Broadway for a total of 193 performances throughout that year. 

20 years later, Big The Musical makes it's European premiere at the Theatre Royal Plymouth. Last night I was lucky enough to catch its opening night in my hometown.

I think the heart-warming story is well suited to be a musical adaptation. It has obvious breaks in the storyline where a musical number fits perfectly and this production generally executes it well- it doesn't seem like its stopping/starting throughout which gives the entire production a comfortable flow and makes it easy to follow. The only point in the show which threw me off was when Josh's love interest, Susan (played fantastically by Diana Vickers), performed a song about her first love in 'Little Susan Lawrence' after spending the night at a 'sleepover' with Josh. I understand she was self-reflecting during this number but it dragged a little and seemed quite irrelavant. The show could've easily done without this sequence, but Diana Vicker's stellar vocals did make it somewhat worthwhile. 

The music by David Shire and lyrics by Richard Maltby,Jr was enjoyable. Each song that was performed was well formed and fit the story well (in most cases). Favourites of mine include 'My Secretary's In Love', 'Cross The Line' and 'Coffee Black' which had me tapping my feet along to the fantastic orchestra. However, as soon as I stepped out of the theatre I had forgotten the majority of the music. It was good but not very memorable at all which is a shame. 

The most memorable and exciting parts of the show for me was the ensemble pieces. The stage was very large and the cast filled it with so much energy through portrayals of everything from toy soldiers to executive office workers. The choreography by Morgan Young/ Helen Rymer was so much fun and the ensemble performed it with such skill and effervesence. 

The quality of staging was fantastic (designed by Simon Higlett). The Lyric stage of the Theatre Royal Plymouth was transformed and made to look five times bigger than usual with use of a curved stage. The use of a floor revolve was cleverly done to change sets as well as provide movement aid for the characters. The set was so intricate and life-like, alongside the use of tech screen panels to project backdrop videos. The combination of technology, traditional set, props and the revolve added so much dimension to the story and production as a whole. The design was by far my favourite aspect of the whole show.

This show was packed with an all-star cast which really intrigued and excited me. 

Jay McGuiness makes his stage debut as Big Josh Baskin and wins the audience over with his charming personality. He is fantastic at portraying the young-hearted character with great humour and boyish delight. His dancing skills were slick and he effortlessly kept up with the high-energy ensemble in routines such as 'Cross The Line' and 'Coffee Black' but I think his voice is too soft and raspy to tackle some of Josh's belter songs. The songs were big and one after another and sometimes his voice just wasn't strong enough to keep up. I'm not sure how much of it was affected by opening night nerves, and whether his voice will develop to the role more throughout the run, but his skills were more suited to the acting and dancing last night. 

Jay's leading lady was Diana Vickers who played up-tight office executive/ turned lover, Susan Lawrence. Diana surprisingly stole the show for me. She lit up the stage with her quirky and loveable character and her vocals were outstanding. She seamlessly participated in some of the dance routines too. Diana just got the character SO right, even more so than the original film character I think. What a performance. 

Other stars of the show include Jessica Martin as the humorous yet loveable Mrs Baskin, Gary Wilmot played company CEO George MacMillan- the old executive who bursts with boyish energy and Irwin Sparkes (of The Hoosiers) who nailed the role of douchebag Paul Seymour with such great comedic timing. The team of young children in the show were outstanding, especially Keir Edkins-O'Brien who played Josh's best friend and cheeky chappy, Billy Kopecki. 

Overall, I thought that Big The Musical was a great production. Its a light-hearted show that bursts with energy left, right and centre. Although I was somewhat disappointed with some of the music and singing performances, I think it has such great potential and I really hope it continues to develop as it progresses throughout the tour. 

Its here at the Theatre Royal Plymouth until 12 November then moves onto Bord Gais Energy Theatre in Dublin from 7th December- 7th January. I would definitely recommend a visit to check out this show, as it brings a much-loved story to life. 

Ellie Mae x

Disclaimer: All thoughts and opinions are my own. I have been informed that Jay McGuiness performed with a cold in this performance. 

Thursday, 27 October 2016

TheatreCraft Announcement | LittleEllieMae

TheatreCraft is back for another year on Monday 14th November at the Waldorf Hilton Hotel with partnering West End theatres, the Aldwych Theatre, the Lyceum Theatre, the Novello Theatre and the Theatre Royal Drury Lane.

TheatreCraft is free to 16 – 25 year olds and offers a busy Marketplace of exhibiting theatre, training providers, educational institutions and career advisors. Up to 70 accompanying workshops, talks, panel discussions and one-to-one sessions led by industry practitioners will be offered to all attendees. TheatreCraft is a collaboration between Theatre Royal Haymarket Masterclass Trust, the Royal Opera House, the Society of London Theatre, Mousetrap Theatre Projects and Creative and Cultural Skills. 

Workshops at TheatreCraft 2016 will include:

Behind the Scenes tours of Theatre Drury Lane

 How to Market a Show from Scratch with the Dewynters team

 Charlie And The Chocolate Factory on stage automation demonstrations

Wardrobe with Mamma Mia at the Novello

How The National Theatre Works  with Jonathan Suffolk, Technical Director 

Armoury led by the Royal Opera House

Lighting Visualisation with James Simpson, Royal Opera House

Careers in Casting with the Ambassador Theatre Group

Festival Making with the Southbank Centre

Directing with Blanche McIntyre

A Provocation for Writers with Barney Norris

Producing Site Specific Theatre with Emma Brunjes

Theatre Photography with Nobby Clark

How to Design a Theatre led by Charcoal Blue Theatre Consultancy

New Writing with Paines Plough

How to Produce and Tour Your Show with James Quaife, English Touring Theatre

Millinery with English National Opera

Theatre Criticism with Tom Wicker

How to Raise Theatre Investment with James Seabright

Press and Marketing with TargetLive

Taking Part at the Young Vic

Creating Your Own Pathway with the Barbican

Manning Your Online Presence with Stage Jobs Pro

General Management with Peter Huntley

Stage Management with LAMDA

Booking is also open for TheatreCraft’s ‘Ask The Experts’ sessions; an opportunity to have one-to-one conversations and gain valuable career insights with a leading industry figure, including professionals from the Young Vic, Barbican, Sadler’s Wells, English National Opera, White Light, National Theatre, Society of London Theatre, Opera Holland Park, Michael Grandage Company and the Roundhouse.

Sign up and book workshops for free on TheatreCraft's website here.

I really can't wait to attend my first TheatreCraft next month and to be a part of their social media digital team! 

Check out their twitter: @TheatreCraft and their Instagram: @TheatreCraft to keep up to date with the exciting event!

Ellie Mae x

Wednesday, 26 October 2016

Product at Outpost Theatre Review- New Model Theatre | LittleEllieMae

I've always been a big advocate for new theatre, especially when that talent is local to my community. So when Zoe, producer of New Model Theatre, got in touch to tell me all about the new Outpost theatre season at Ocean Studios at the Royal William Yard in Plymouth, I was thrilled. 

The Outpost 2016 Rep Company consists of four incredibly talented local professional actors and a local designer who created 'A Doll's House', 'Product', and 'Foundations', Alongside this, three touring productions also featured at this season of Outpost including 'Eurohouse', 'The Man Who Would Be King' and 'Don't BAME It On Us'. Two family shows, 'The Ugly Duckling' and 'Much Ado About Puffin' also feature for day- time showings. 

Unfortunately I couldn't make it to their opening night with their production of 'A Doll's House' but I did manage to make a trip back home to catch their show 'Product'. 

'Product' is a New Model Theatre own production, written by Mark Ravenhill. 

It follows the relationship between a director, James, and his (potential) leading lady for his upcoming film. The play is a constant running monologue by James- an outpour of passion and enthusiasm for his latest plot line, whilst his leading lady remains silent in anticipation/ confusion/ shock throughout. 

James' outlandish plot line for his film includes a young business woman falling in love with a suicide bomber. There are absolutely no limits to his plot and the ridiculousness of it all makes it laughable and thoroughly enjoyable. 

Ben Kernow plays James with such a charming charisma. He's totally camp and eccentric which brings a real comedic aspect to his taboo- ridden story of terrorism, sex and ruining Disneyland.

Tessa Mason played the silent role of Olivia, the leading lady. Although she had no dialogue in the play, her character shone with personality which I found impressive. 

 An aspect I thought was interesting was the choreography. During the fantastical scenes of the play when James and Olivia acted out parts of the plot, they both moved in synchronization, much like a dance routine that summed up the symphony of the creative process between director and actor. This was complemented by the simple yet effective lighting which acted in sync to movement. At the click on a finger, the lights turned off. Although it was very much a simple piece, the attention to detail was great. 

Overall, I really enjoyed the show. I adore the space Outpost have utilised at Ocean Studios at Royal William Yard. The exposed stone walls and high ceilings with wooden beams are beautiful and the small space makes it seem more intimate and immersive than other pieces I've seen.  

My first experience with Outpost season with New Model Theatre has been great and I wish I could've caught more of their season which runs until the 30th October! I can't wait to see what they do next.

Ellie Mae x

Disclaimer: I was kindly invited to the show by New Model Theatre but as always, all thoughts and opinions are my own. 

Sunday, 9 October 2016

The Wind in the Willows The Musical World Premiere Review | LittleEllieMae

After hearing that a musical adaption of the well- loved story of The Wind in the Willows was in the mix, I was intrigued. And to hear of the legendary cast and creatives involved, I knew it should be something special. There has been a real buzz about the unveiling of Julian Fellowes, Anthony Drewe and George Stiles' creation since it was announced but I was especially looking forward to it as it has premiered in my hometown of Plymouth at the Theatre Royal.

After waiting for months in anticipation, tonight I finally saw the show at it's world premiere. I've come straight back after the show to write about it as I'm just so excited and inspired by it.  

The show has been in works since 2011 when producer Jamie Hendry first discussed the project with the talented team of Julian, George and Anthony. Tonight it finally showcased the final creation to the world and to say it was special is an understatement! 

We all know and love the nostaligic story of The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame, following the enchanting adventures of Mole (Fra Fee), Ratty (Thomas Howes), Badger (David Birrell), Mr Toad (Rufus Hound), friends (and enemies!). As much as I have a personal attachment to the novel as I read it throughout my childhood, I did wonder how it could be adapted to a stage musical without seeming too 'childish'... however, this production brings the classic story to life with a breath of fresh air and complete contemporary feel.

Fellowes and Stiles introducing the show on opening night
The show opens with Fra Fee as Mole, singing the opening lines to 'Spring'- a number that has a real traditional musical theatre/ choral feel to it as the ensemble begin to assemble on stage, the brilliant orchestra strikes up and the set begins to build in the background. Its a beautiful opening number that automatically gave me goosebumps and I straight away knew that this was going to be a great show.

The music, produced by composer and lyricist duo Stiles and Drewe, is some of the best I've heard in a musical in a while. The same team who created Mary Poppins The Musical, are great at conveying classic stories through a variation of music. For The Wind in the Willows, Stiles and Drewe have created a world of music inspired by the last 150 years of British songs- ranging from Gilbert and Sullivan (As If In A Dream), Flanders and Swann (The Hedgehog's Nightmare), pop/ hip-hop style (The Amazing Mr Toad) and glam rock (Taking Over the Hall). There are musical styles suited to everyone, all generations who are sure to come and see the show. The lyrics are clever, witty, very catchy and will leave you humming all the way home. You can tell that the music is the forefront of this production and it really carries the story the whole way through, moving the plot along as well as providing toe-tappingly good entertainment. 

Alongside the fantastic music, the choreography by Aletta Collins was outstanding and really pulled everything together. From the humorous hip-hop moves of Mr Toad to the more complex ensemble pieces, the choreography was truly impressive. My favourite scene of the show was 'The Wild Wooders' routine where the 'baddies' of weasels, foxes and stoats congregated in a rock 'n' roll/ bad-boy style routine with fantastic slick ensemble dance. Though it was seemingly simple, it was technically perfect and provided great visuals to a stunning track. 

The costumes and set for this show were so impressive. Peter McKintosh has designed gorgeously quirky pieces to fit the contemporary feel to this classic story. The set was so varied and it seemed like there was so much of it! In every scene, there was a new interesting piece of set to admire. From the simple river bank of the willows to the grandeur of Mr Toad's Hall- the set had a fantastical aura to it that bought the magical story to life. Additionally, McKintosh's costumes were great- contemporary pieces such as suits, jumpers and jackets were redesigned to suit the woodland creatures' personas. They were embellished with ears, spikes, tails, scales and claws. I loved them so much! 

Something that I did pick up on during this production, that doesn't usually capture my imagination that much, was the lighting. Howard Harrison was the lighting designer for this show and I loved his work in portraying the various situations of the story. From the dreary lighting of Toad's prison cell, to the fast and furious lighting of the race track- it was great. Despite the one hiccup on opening night... "Toad is standing in the dark..." 

Although not necessarily a large cast, they smashed the show. The lead characters were taken on by Rufus Hound (Toad), David Birrell (Badger), Fra Fee (Mole), Thomas Howes (Rat), Chief Weasel (Neil McDermott) and Mrs Otter (Sophia Nomvete) who were supported by a really strong ensemble. As a team, they worked really well and even though it was their first night performing to an audience, you could feel the chemistry between them which is just what you need for a heart-warming story such as this.

 Fra Fee and Thomas Howes were absolutely charming as their rodent characters and the bond between them which flourished throughout the show was completely endearing. A performance that stood out to me was Fra Fee as Mole, performing 'A Place To Come Back To' as he reflected on his home and friends. The song really tugs at your heartstrings and Fee's performance was beautiful. 

Rufus Hound steals the show with his portrayal of the bolshie but loveable Mr Toad. He is the epitome of fabulous-ness and wins the hearts of the audience with his quick wit and funky musical performances (think: glitzy suits, green moustache and some thrusting dance moves). I was interested to see what Hound would be like in a musical, having only a perception of him alongside Keith Lemon on TV, but he is perfect for this role and for this show. A fantastic performance. 

I'm pretty sure I could sit here and talk about this production all day (as with any show I love). But to witness the birth of this fantastic new musical creation tonight was something really special. Fellowes said that he hopes "people who come to see it will be cheered by it, and will walk out of the theatre feeling warmer than they were when they walked in" and I can tell for a fact that that is exactly what this production will do. It has left me on such a high and I'm already desperate to go back and see it. I have a feeling that this is something very special and this production will go far. Perfect for people young and old, into musical theatre or not- a show for everybody. I definitely recommend it!

I give this show an impressive ★★★★★.

The Wind in the Willows is at the Theatre Royal Plymouth until 22nd October then will be heading to Salford and Southampton. But I anticipate big things and a long future for this show so keep an eye out and follow its success!

Ellie Mae x

Disclaimer: All thoughts and opinions are my own. I will add production photos as soon as possible!

Tuesday, 4 October 2016

Sam Mackay Interview - In The Heights 1st Birthday | LittleEllieMae

You may have read my post on the amazing party to celebrate In The Heights first birthday last weekend and saw how over the moon I was the entire evening. To add to the excitement, I had the chance to chat to some of the cast and crew too. Here's my interview with the delightful and extremely talented Sam Mackay who plays the lead role of Usnavi. As well as playing Usnavi in In The Heights at Southwark Playhouse and Kings Cross Theatre, his previous roles include Eddie in Mamma Mia at Prince of Wales Theatre, Jimmy in Flashdance at Shaftesbury theatre and Reecey in Our House UK Tour. 

It was a pleasure to chat to Sam beforehand and he absolutely smashed the show, as per usual. He really is a gem of a performer- he puts so much energy and passion into his performance and receives nothing but love back from the audience. Usnavi is one of my favourite theatrical characters of all time and Sam's portrayal proves no exception. 

The show has been running for a whole year now, what is it that makes In The Heights so special? 

I think the show has universal themes that people connect with. At a time when there's a lot of political instability, financial instability- which are both two massive themes in the show- I think, coming somewhere and escaping to a place with a real sense of community and caring for the people around you. Its a nice new message when you turn on the TV and you see Trump with so much violence coming out of his mouth and you come here like, here is a hub of love and story of community and home. I think that's something that everybody needs in their life.I think its very easy to connect with, regardless of whether you're Latino or not, its just about community and struggling together. What's not to like about it? 

I'm still such a fan of this show. It's still crazy to me! I did this show in 2014 at Southwark- I was a fan of the show then, and I'm still a fan of the show every day. Its a piece that I love talking about and sharing it... I mean, how can you not?! The music is SO good. I think there's something in it for everyone. We've had such a spectrum of audiences- all races, colours, creeds, genders, ages- there is such a mixed audience and I don't think you get that much on the West End anymore. 

Even me, as someone who has grown up half very middle class and half very working class, I go into the theatre and I feel very {out of place}. There's a very particular type of person there so its nice that there's a break of that here. We offer very affordable prices (£15 tickets for under 25s)... there should be accessible theatre, especially for a piece like this. It resonates with people that wouldn't necessarily usually be theatre- goers but also attracts middle-class regulars too- it has classic musical theatre ballads, a very honest musical theatre structure to the show as a whole yet it also appeals to a much wider audience beyond that. 

Of course I have to ask, your boss and former Usnavi visited a few weeks ago, what was that like?!

Oh yeah... that guy! It was mental and wonderful. He's a very generous and humble man. He came over when we were at the Southwark in 2014, but unfortunately he missed it as he was writing Hamilton at the time. He came over and met us afterwards and he was very lovely about it. His parents had seen the show and they loved it. It was a big pressure with him coming in, performing this role to this guy. I was getting tweets when he mentioned me on his Periscope! I was smitten. In life I try not to idolise people, when you meet these people you realise we are all just humans. Those people I aspire to and follow in their footsteps work- wise are just like us. Lin is the depiction of a lovely human being, despite his huge success. He had lovely things to say about the show and the company. Of course it was nerve- wracking but the audience was unreal that night- it was like a rock gig or something. We hit the end of "in Washington Heights... BAM!" and it just went wild. After that, I was just like "oh cool... at least these guys think it's alright.". It was amazing. Unreal. 

Thanks to Sam for such an interesting chat. It was great to meet you! Check out the audio of our interview below:

And thanks to In The Heights for inviting Aby and I for an amazing evening of celebrations... HAPPY BIRTHDAY! 

In The Heights is running at the Kings Cross Theatre until 8th January 2017 so book your tickets now... Everybody needs to see this unreal show. Check out their website for more details:

Ellie Mae x

Monday, 3 October 2016

In The Heights First Birthday Party! | LittleEllieMae

Photo by Johan Persson
During the second week of settling into university, tackling new assignments and dirty kitchens, an email landed in my inbox one morning, inviting me to the first birthday party of one of my favourite shows, In The Heights and Kings Cross Theatre! To say it made my day (or week) is an understatement. 

My new friends Jo and Aby accompanied me to London and on Friday 30th September we arrived at Kings Cross Theatre to celebrate one year of In The Heights!

I first saw the show back in July where I completely and utterly fell in love with the whole production. Check out my initial review here. So I was beyond excited to revisit it with new additions to the company!

We arrived at Kings Cross Theatre to be greeted with a much-needed glass of wine (after driving from Cornwall to London that same morning), a programme and our tickets for the evening. After mingling with some other bloggers and media/ press, we all made our way to the impressive stage for a salsa class with the awesome Rafaella Covino (Swing & Dance Captain) and Johnny Bishop (Graffiti Pete).

Photo by Johan Persson
They taught us a routine called 'The Arm Breaker' which is featured in one of my favourite scenes in the show, The Club. Set to super fast-paced, sizzling salsa music, the choreography (like all of the dance in the show) was mesmerising. After a few attempts and support from varying members of the cast, me and Aby finally got the steps down to a T and have been salsa dancing together ever since. Look out for us to be featured in the next cast of ITH... just you wait..!

After some more wine and food, some of the cast came to chat to us as well as Simon Marlow, the production manager of the piece. It was great to talk to the company and crew, to get a real inside view of the production. Something that really struck me was the overwhelming sense of passion and dedication of this piece. Every single performer and backstage worker there were real fans of the show and its so refreshing to see people love what they do so much. I found it really inspiring.

Aby and I sat down with Sam Mackay who plays the lead role of Usnavi, which you can catch in another blog post.

Then it was show time!

From the very opening of the show, when the first beats of that hypnotic score begins to play, I am completely mesmerised.

Sam Mackay as Usnavi opens the show with the titular song, 'In The Heights' where he acts as a narrator who introduces the tight- knit community of Washington Heights, Manhattan's most vibrant community which is on the brink of change. Though Sam leads the production as the charismatic, kind of dorky, but fully loveable character of Usnavi, it is totally an ensemble piece of theatre as every character helps to carry the show effortlessly and with heaps of energy.

We follow the stories of various members of el barrio, including Nina who drops out of college, Benny who falls deeply in love, Vanessa who's running away to a new life, Daniella who is taking the next career step, Abuela Claudia who bags the luckiest/ unluckiest days of her life and of course, Usnavi whose there between it all.

Photo by Johan Persson
The engaging stories are fueled by Lin- Manuel Miranda's famous contemporary score of vibrant latin/ hip-hop infusion. Its one of my favourite scores to date and is the only music that never fails to make me cry as well as dance. I find it difficult to choose favourite songs but '96000' and 'The Club' have to be up there with some of my favourite musical theatre songs of all time, let alone just in this show. The witty lyrics alongside the sizzling hot beats make the music the pulling factor of this phenomenal show.

To complement the insane music is some of the best choreography I have ever witnessed. Drew Mconie utilises the fusion of latin and hip-hop in his choreography so well and the burst of energy and passion from the stage is infectious. Its technically outstanding and fits the story of the show so well. The ensemble are out of this world performing it.

A handful of the original cast are still performing in the show: Sam Mackay has been killing it as Usnavi since its run at Southwark in 2014, Gabriela Garcia makes a stunning Nina, Johnny Bishop as Graffiti Pete, Norma Attallah as Abuela as well as some fantastic ensemble members.

Photo by Johan Persson
Recently some new cast members have joined the family, including Arun Blair- Mangat who plays a charming Benny and Juliet Gough makes a fierce Camilla. Sarah Naudi has been with the show since its opening back in 2014 at the Southwark Playhouse and is finally playing the role of Vanessa full time. I saw her understudy the role earlier this summer and she is beyond perfect for it. She rules the stage with her confident presence and outstandingly effortless powerhouse vocals. Damian Buhagiar returns to his role as the adorable Sonny and Jocasta Almgill slays as the sassy Daniela.

All of the aforementioned cast as well as the additional ensemble and swings are phenomenal. They make the show what it is with their amazing energy and obvious passion for the show and its story.

I could honestly talk about this show all day and I am desperate to see it again before it closes its doors of el barrio on January 8th 2017. Its one of my favourite shows out there at the moment and I urge everybody to see it.

In The Heights is showing at Kings Cross Theatre in London- tickets start at £22.50, with a selection of best seats available for Under 25s at £15 per performance (AMAZING!!). Go get your tickets now!

Thanks again for In The Heights for inviting me and Aby along for this fantastic evening of celebrations. I couldn't have asked for a better evening at my favourite place.

Keep an eye out on my blog for my interview with Sam Mackay!

Ellie Mae x

Disclaimer: I was invited to this event by In The Heights/ Raw PR but all thoughts and opinions are my own, as always!