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!