The Full Monty

The Full Monty

I have never seen the film The Full Monty (well, apart from the first 10 minutes we watched in class) but I knew the basic plot, I had heard the stories, I could guess what would happen from the title, but I was going in with no expectations.

Well, except from the fact my family thought we were going to see the musical of The Full Monty.

It was, in fact, not the musical version. I realised this at the intermission when there had not been a single burst of musical performance. It was then that my mother had to explain to myself and my cousin (who also was also a Full Monty virgin) it was not what we had initially thought. The show that we were seeing was basically the movie rewritten for the stage. I wasn’t complaining, though. It was still a fantastic night.


Every actor involved blew me away. The majority of their credits are from TV or film so to be equally as good on stage is impressive. Some actors can’t do both, but these guys could. Especially Kai Owen who played Dave. He stole the show for me.

However, I would have loved it if the actors connected with the audience more. I know The Full Monty is not a pantomime, but the woman sitting on the far left of me obviously thought it was. Maybe she had one too many from the bar before the curtains rose, or maybe she was unaware how loud her remarks were, but the one liners she announced to the room completely made the show what it was for me. Her commentary was hilarious and it would have made my night if one of the actors reacted to it. I understand that this may not suit the kind of production that The Fully Monty is, but if your tour dares to venture to Glasgow – you better be prepared for those Glasgow women. 

Especially those that have had a drink.


The stage design was beautiful thanks to Robert Jones. It never changed throughout the entirety of the show but it didn’t matter. The actors would casually rearrange the boxes and scrapyard junk while on stage in order to set up the next scene which was determined by lighting changes (thanks to Tim Lutkin). These subtle changes were so simple yet worked extremely well.

The aspect of the show that really touched my heart was the reaction from the audience. It didn’t matter if the man was “too thin”, “too fat” or “too old” – the woman (and some gents) surrounding me cheered them on all the same. In a society where men believe they have to have the same amount of muscle mass as Thor, have cheekbones chiselled like Tom Hiddleston and be tall and pouting like so many models on magazine covers, it was unbelievably refreshing to know that so many women don’t feel the same. It felt like a statement was being screamed from all around me: “you are beautiful to someone.”

Also: “Get your willy out!” 


Us Glasgow women like a laugh after all.

So, if you like the film of The Fully Monty, you will love the stage show. The atmosphere in the theatre is electric and, like my cousin said, you won’t laugh like that again for a while.

And to anyone wondering, yes they did go the full monty. I saw a little too much of some performers and not quite enough of Gary Lucy. 

Strictly Come Dancing: The Live Tour

Glitz, glamour, humour, talent (sometimes questionable) and the wow factor – Strictly has it all. 2017 marked the year of the tour’s tenth anniversary and it did not disappoint.

The show’s layout is identical to the television show so if you’re a super fan like myself and my mother then I cannot recommend it enough. There’s something mesmerising about seeing the dances in person rather than through the screen. Some may argue and say that for the money they paid they want to see new dances – not just the ones you can now watch on the BBC Strictly YouTube page – but each dance is improved for the tour. Each couple can have an ensemble of dancers plus a much larger playing field to dance on. Plus, hearing live music will always change the atmosphere instantly. Therefore it is still a breathtaking experience as you can witness the true Strictly magic first hand.

And, since I’m certain my boyfriend will not be reading this review, who wouldn’t want to see Danny Mac’s samba in the flesh?


I mean…


Wouldn’t you?

As usual, in true Strictly fashion, the costumes were stunning. I think the total number of sequins used is more than the population of Scotland. Plus the props, the lighting, hair and makeup were as perfect as ever.

Plus if you’re a “man’s man” and the thought of being dragged to see Strictly with your wife or girlfriend is turning you green then don’t worry! There’s fire effects!

All jokes aside, I have to congratulate Strictly for welcoming all ages, genders and sexualities into their audience. True, the vast majority of viewers are women – older women to be honest – but there is something to be admired in its popularity with such a wide range of individuals.


This year marks the sixth time my mother and I have witnessed the Strictly magic in the flesh and it is by far my favourite. I can’t tell if the production was bigger, or if I simply liked the contestants better, or the dancing in general was more moving, but the one thing I know for sure is that I will never ever forget Craig Revel Horwood performing Gangnam Style in a kilt.

I wish I had a photograph, I really do.

Speaking of photographs, may I take your time to complain about the use of mobile phones at live performances. (If you do not care for my rant, please skip past the next image or check out my review of La La Land here).

I understand that many viewers want to take a picture to remember the moment. I understand they want to be able to show their friends and family and make them feel varying degrees of jealousy. But, please, if you’re going to take pictures, turn off your flash? For one; it’s annoying, and for two; it’s just going to bounce off of everyone’s heads and make what you actually want to photograph stay in darkness. Trust me – I’m a millennial.

Furthermore, do not then sit and update your status on Facebook while the performance continues. I am certain you can wait until the show finishes – or even at the interval – where you can hashtag as many sayings as you want. Trust me – I’m a millennial.

Anyway, moving on.


Something that differentiated the 2017 tour was “Len’s favourite dances.” Just after the phone lines had closed (and 10p went to Children in Need) they played some clips from series past. This was a nice touch – especially from Len since it was his last time on Strictly. It definitely got a laugh from the crowd and fond smiles were brought to many faces.

Anita Rani hosted this year’s tour and she did a good job keeping the show flowing. To be honest, I didn’t warm to her when she was a contestant however I didn’t let this put me off. And, luckily, I found her quite endearing while hosting. 


Halfway through the first act, a strange thought popped into my head. Why does this entertain me? Why does a person moving their body this way and that tug at my heartstrings? Why does someone holding their voice at different pitches make a tear come to my eye? Why when put together do I feel a smile beam from my face? It’s the question I’m sure my boyfriend and father continuously ask as both my mother and I sit ignoring them on Saturday nights. But I can’t explain it. I’ve often said I’m born in the wrong era but I thank Strictly for bringing a beautiful form of art into my life.

And also Giovanni.


Thank you Strictly!

Keep Dancing

You wouldn’t have known Robin Windsor had suffered from a back injury from the way he was dancing. 


I mean, wow, that man can move!

Keep Dancing, starring Robin Windsor, Anya Garnis and guest star Louis Smith, has been touring across the U.K. Director and choreographer Emma Rogers, along with her associate Innis Robertson King, created the stunning performance with help from Windsor along the way. The show is a cheeky, lively, fun-filled night with moments of serenity and beauty.

This tour has similarities to Anton Du Beke’s tours. Both don’t have stories like a musical would, but each dance has its own journey and emotion. There are also live singers who have the chance to perform solo, plus all the glitz and glamour you need from a frock.


They’re similar yet incredibly different. I’m a ballroom girl and that’s what Du Beke gives me. His show has almost no latin dances. He’s the King of Ballroom. He doesn’t need a jive or samba to capture your interest. His classic, traditional, Fred Astaire style is all I ask for and I’m given that every time.

However, Windsor’s show has more variety. I think almost every dance that appears on Strictly Come Dancing also appeared in Keep Dancing – and then some. Along with the traditional, there were also contemporary modern numbers thrown in. For someone younger like myself, I adored this change of pace, but I was uncertain how the older members of audience would feel. Regardless, I enjoyed the modern dances as it gave the show it’s own unique twist.

Am I saying it’s than Anton though? Of course not! Anton will always be my number one. However, that doesn’t mean Keep Dancing wasn’t good.


My favourite dance was definitely Windsor’s rumba with Garnis. I usually hate the rumba because it’s always so awkward to watch. It’s like I’ve walked in on a private moment and I’m nothing more than a peeping tom. However, Windsor changed my mind. The music intertwined with the choreography made the dance incredibly moving, beautiful and sweet.

Furthermore, the return of Louis Smith was a joyful throwback. Myself and my mother, with our Strictly Obsession Degree, both agreed he was stiff around the hips but I can’t blame him after taking time out to go to a little event called the Olymics. Nevertheless, I still dislike his man bun.

However, I do have a complaint – and not just for Windsor but for Strictly and any other shows like it. I beg you, please, please, please employ singers that can sing the songs you require them to. Especially if the performer has an old-fashioned kind of voice and you want to change the pace by inserting modern music. Someone who can sing like Judy Garland can hardly sing like Nicki Minaj. 

I’m not suggesting that these singers have no talent, but I felt their voices struggled to cope with the songs the show was throwing at them. During some numbers I thought they had a beautiful voice only to be sitting a moment later begging them to stop trying to hit the notes the tune required. Just because someone’s an alto, a soprano, and the original singer was too, it doesn’t mean they can sing the song beautifully.

But one woman who was flawless throughout, and deserves a massive shoutout, was Lisa-Marie Holmes. I would be happy to hear her on Strictly any Saturday night.


I was surprised that Windsor didn’t experiment with same sex dance couples. He voiced his passion for this change during his time on Strictly Come Dancing but the show has not made the daring move. I expected Windsor to showcase the possibilities in his show but there was only one number that was all-male. This dance was a contemporary, paso doble and the men were rarely in hold – and being in hold during the paso isn’t very close or long anyway. I was slightly disappointed but I understood that maybe this was a risk he wasn’t personally willing to take against the critics.

During this all-male dance, each male appeared onstage topless. It was easy to see each individual body shape so it was easy to tell that each dancer was incredibly different. Some had large muscles, some were quite lanky, some were small whereas others had a bit more padding around the waist, but regardless of how they looked one thing was very clear – they could all dance. This revelation is the one I remember the most about the show and will take away to my ordinary life. It doesn’t matter how you look or what society tells you, if you train hard enough, you’ll still be as good as the bloke with massive shoulders.


But, boy, does Robin have massive shoulders!

Thanks for reading! Let me know what you think in the comments below or tweet me at @freetheleaves ūüôā 

My Top 5 Favourite Musicals

I’ve seen a good few musicals in my time. I love them all but do I have a top 5? Can I pick just 5?!

Let’s see what made the cut…

5. Singing in the Rain

To start off this list we have an old classic. I mean who didn’t fall in love with Gene Kelly singin’ and dancin’ in the rain? MGM was definitely the golden era of film/musicals and I can’t help but long to be back in that age from time to time.

Musicals were different back then, though. There were no orginal scores – the music was taken from elsewhere and a story was created around it. And what a story! Such a simple yet beautifully told tale. An actress who looks good but cannot sing – forced to mouth to another woman’s voice – what could go wrong?

I’ve even had the pleasure of witnesses Singing in the Rain live on stage. I know what you’re thinking; “Surely they can’t have rain on stage!”

You would be wrong, my friend.

I’m incredibly glad I wasn’t sitting in the front row. People were actually sitting with umbrellas as the show went on! And the actors don’t hold back, oh no! It must be a game to see how many people they can soak after each kick – and how far they can reach with their soggy kicks. The theatre was rolling with laughter and screams during the musical number and it’s an experience I will never, ever forget.

4. Chicago 

He had it coming!

This musical particularly appealed to me while in high school. It was the time of dramas with fellow male peers so Cell Block Tango spoke to me on a hormonal, angsty level.

What a show to witness though.

I first watched the DVD with my mother as she wanted to make sure I was ready for the theatre experience. I was won over after the infamous line:

“He ran into my knife. He ran into my knife ten times!”

Sold! Where can I see it live?

When I first saw the stage show I was ready to be disappointed because there was only one set up. The orchestra were on stage and the actors would sing and dance around the stand. When I realised this, I was ready to be bored. But it never happened. It was every bit as powerful and sexy as the DVD I watched at home.

But just because these women are bombshells, doesn’t mean you mess with them. I mean emphasis on BOMB.
3. Top Hat

I’m one of Strictly Come Dancing’s biggest fans. Anton Du Beke is my favourite professional dancer and it feels weird to admit I have a bit of a crush on someone who is older than my parents… But he’s just so lovely

Anyway, moving on…

Du Beke is the reason I fell in love with ballroom dancing and he encouraged my love for top hats and tail coats. For one Christmas my mother bought me Swing CD along with Swing Time and Top Hat. Top Hat was instantly my new obsession. The music, the costumes, the story, it was all so perfect! As soon as it came to the theatre I begged to see it live. 

AND THERE’S EVEN MORE SONGS IN THE LIVE SHOW.

I was in heaven.

The love story is what makes my heart flutter. The misunderstandings between characters, the drama, the cockiness of Fred Astaire’s character (Jerry) compared to Ginger Rogers’ Dale is everything I want from a love story and musical combined. The singing and dancing is flawlessly performed and there’s the right amount of humour to keep me content for a night of entertainment. 

I’m putting all my eggs in one basket and saying this is one of the best musicals ever made.

2. Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat has a very special place in my heart. I first saw this musical when I was very young – I’m not sure what age I was – and it was at my Grandmother’s house along with my cousin Rebecca. (Who has her own blog by the way; check it out here: https://rebeccaallan.wordpress.com). We found the video cassette of Donny Osmond performing in a school and we were instantly hooked. We would watch it all. The. Time. We would watch and sing along, watch and dance along, watch and act along. We even wore out my own copy of the video my mother bought me from a car boot sale. I now have the DVD though which runs much smoother.

So it’s easy to see how much this musical means to me. Going outside to play in the sun like a normal child? No! We stayed in and studied the bible, darling. Considering my cousin is the biggest atheist I know, I find this aspect incredibly amusing.

For Rebecca’s Christmas I took her to see Joseph at the King’s Theatre. It was by far the best performance I’ve seen! I never thought anyone could top my childhood bestie Donny Os but Joe McElderry was utterly incredible. The song Close Every Door To Me is one of Rebecca’s favourites but it was never one I got excited hearing. 

Until Joe McElderry let loose!

I don’t watch the X Factor, so I had no idea who he was, but my goodness the boy can sing! Close Every Door To Me is a completely different song to me now simply due to the way he preformed. It was utterly flawless and I got chills from my toes all the way to my scalp. If he is to ever be Joseph again, I’ll be there in a heartbeat.

Usually I don’t like musicals that are all singing all the time. I’m definitely not a Les Miz fan much to many people’s disgust. But Joesph is such a fun filled musical that I find it very easy to follow and it still holds my attention from beginning to end. It’s such a bright production- obviously it has to be – but as a child it’s pretty clear why I fell in love with it. The stage show tends to stick to one set up for the stage (much like Chicago) but it never gets boring since there’s always so much popping up, popping on and going on. It’s just a spectacle to behold.

Joseph has to be the only Andrew Lloyd Webber musical I have seen and liked. I can’t say I’m much of a fan of Cats – or even Jesus Christ Superstar for that matter – but Joesph is one that will always be in my heart. 

And my brain; those lyrics will never leave me.

Go, go Joe!

1. Wicked


I struggled picking my number one. It was a split between Joesph and Wicked. In the end Wicked took the cake.

I first saw Wicked when I was 14. I was on a school trip to London and part of our getaway included tickets to see the stunning musical. I wasn’t overly excited. I had always liked The Wizard of Oz but I was never obsessed. I remember it frightening me more than inspiring me when I was younger. So, when everyone told me, “Oh, it’s absolutely amazing!” I wasn’t convinced.

But then I witnessed magic for the first time.

Wicked the musical is based on a novel by Gregory Maguire. I tried reading the book but I think I was too young; I’ll have to try reading it again. It’s quite a… Sexy book, if I may. It deals with different concepts and has a much darker side than the musical. Many people hate the musical because it makes light of such a hard hitting book, and many people hate the book because it’s not the light and romantic musical.

Winnie Holzman and Stephen Schwartz are responsible for this production. Schwartz composed the music and lyrics and I will call you a liar if you say you’re unimpressed. The music is utterly incredible. Every sound, every lyric, every crash of the drums and thud of the piano is arranged so beautifully – it instantly takes you away to Oz. I mean, all I really need to say is Devying Gravity. What a way to end the first half! Every person in the audience is shaken with chills when Elphaba’s voice changes pitch. 

However, my favourite song is No Good Deed. The second “FIYERO!” was screamed I fell in love. It’s such a powerful song – so full of feeling – and the lyrics are too good to be true.

“One question haunts and hurts – too much, too much to mention. Was I really seeking good? Or just seeking attention?”

Seriously thought provoking stuff. This line has inspired me over and over again.

The first time watching the spectacle that is Wicked, I failed to trust Glinda. I’m not sure if it was just my interpretation of the story or maybe it was something the actress was giving me – but I didn’t believe Elphaba and Glinda’s relationship. I felt on edge until the very last scene; as if Glinda was planning something. However, after seeing it for a second time, I knew the story and knew that the duo are actually meant to be best friends.

I think the reason I love this tale so much is because it shows a different side to the story. Back stories are my favourite kinds of stories. Why is someone evil? Why is someone so bad? Why does someone do the things they do, act the way they act, think the way they think? I would love to believe there’s no true evil in the world; we are all just shaped the way we are through our experiences. Wicked explores this idea and proves even the “baddie” has a reason to be the way they are. I think this is why I loved Malificent as well because it shows the other side of the coin and proves villains are much more 3 dimensional – rather than cackling idiots.

So there you have it! My top 5 favourite musicals. Do you agree with my list? Leave your top five in the comments or tweet them to me at @freetheleaves. 

Frankenstein- The Royal Ballet

roh_frankenstein_locandina

Wow.

Just, wow.

There is no better word for this stunning ballet. I found myself bewitched as I sat in the Showcase cinema, surrounded by popcorn guzzling watchers, my mouth open and my eyes unblinking. I was hooked from beginning to end. What a show!

I thought I knew the story of Frankenstein. A big, green man with bolts in his neck, created by a mad scientist, so on, so forth. I had no idea the original story went much deeper. It’s more of a love story – a tragic one, too. I didn’t even know it was a woman who wrote the tale! Talk about girl power.

Liam Scarlett, the creator of this ballet masterpiece, decided to stick to the original story of Frankenstein. Well, mostly. I have never read Frankenstein but I quickly read the cliff notes before writing this review and it has to be said that Scarlett did a fantastic job at adapting this piece to fit the stage. He managed to portray a¬†beautiful relationship¬†between Victor Frankenstein and Elizabeth that both melted my heart and broke it at the same time. The progression of the monster’s character was also done expertly. His beginning moves resembled more of a contemporary feel and as the ballet went on, and the creature became more human, his moments became more classical – something I wouldn’t have noticed without Darcey Bussell’s help, but after she mentioned it, it was easy to see.

(It should also be noted that this man, the creator of this amazing piece, is only 30 years old and this is his first ballet adaptation. If that doesn’t get your life into gear, then I don’t know what will.)

FRANKE2

Image by The Royal Opera House

The choreography mixed with the music created an experience I’ll never forget. The original score was done by Lowell Liebermann and it’s easy to see – or hear – he knows what he’s doing. Character personalities were told through the music, as well as the story, and it all came together to create a great narrative.

FRANKE

Image by The Royal Opera House

Another aspect of this ballet that made my mouth fall open was the set. I’ve never seen sets like this before. There were literal sparks. Even the screen at the beginning of the performance set up the atmosphere perfectly. As soon as the show began, a projection was put¬†onto the screen which made it look like writing and shapes were appearing over the skull. To me, this felt like the opening credits of a TV show and I absolutely adored it. It set up expectations instantly and we weren’t disappointed. All sets were incredibly beautiful and suited the era of the tale down to a T. The costumes also had this effect on me. I’m a sucker for a man in a waistcoat so I was very pleased. All this was designed John MacFarlane, and I have to say, he is incredibly talented and anyone interested in set design needs to look him up.

FRANKE3

Of course, what would the show be without dancers? Each performer gave their all and danced with absolute grace. Laura Morera who played Elizabeth created a fantastic character through her moves and expressions. She had an air of innocence that completely contrasted with her husband; Victor, played by Federico Bonelli. He was frantic and serious compared to his loving gal. I loved both of these characters and the way their personalities came across – it was incredibly believable.

The creature was played by Steven McRae. He was utterly impressive. The way he grew throughout the performance from a scared, naive thing to a menacing, scary monster was something to behold. It also impressed me how he spent the majority of the performance with one butt cheek on show for the world to see, but perhaps that’s something professional critics won’t focus on…

FRANKE4

Image by The Royal Opera House

However, I have to say I was a bit disappointed at the end of the performance. Each dancer came back onto the stage for their bows and the creature, Steven McRae, got the biggest cheer. I can’t argue that his performance wasn’t legendary, but his fellow dancer Federico Bonelli did a whole lot of work. The creature didn’t truly appear until the second act, whereas Victor was in the entire performance from beginning until end. Furthermore, Bonelli’s acting/dancing was equally as impressive to McRae’s in my opinion. But then again, everyone loves a good bad-guy, so that might explain the cheers.

Sadly I was not present at Convent Gardens to witness the premier of Frankenstein. However, I had the second best seats in the house – the cinema. Played live from the theatre, people can watch the performance all over the world. I completely¬†adore this way of watching theatre because it’s cheaper (well I am a student), near to home and the extras you get are amazing. While the theatre audience get their break to go to the bar, us back in the cinema get an interview with the director, the dancers, the designer. Frankenstein was the third time I’ve been to the cinema to see a show and I would definitely recommend! My only gripe about it is that sometimes the camera shots aren’t exactly what I would prefer. Sometimes I want to watch the action on the left of the stage but the camera is giving me a close up of one dancer instead.

However, this does showcase the dancers’ acting ability. I know it sounds strange, but when watching a ballet I usually assume the dancers only dance. I’ve only just come to realise how much acting is involved with the art of ballet too. It’s basically a silence film with some prancey moves, so good acting is required to get the story across. Being in the cinema watching these performances has made me see and appreciate this much more as the acting is much easier to see with the use of close ups.

In conclusion, Frankenstein has made it onto my list of favourite ballets. It was breath-taking, heart warming, heart breaking and overall, simply stunning.

 

Anton and Erin – Just Gotta Dance

DSCF9274For the fourth¬†year in a row I found myself sitting in the Royal Concert Hall waiting for Anton Du Beke and Erin Boag to take to the stage. That lovely sound of the orchestra warming up filled the spaces of the hall that people didn’t occupy – which was hardly anywhere. Myself and my mother sat in the second row from the front of the stage – the perfect view – and waited patiently for the show to begin.

Oh, and what a show it was.

It has to be said though – Du Beke and Boag ¬†don’t like to experiment. The usual layout of the show was presented to me with the same razzmatazz as years before. Unlike Vincent Simone and Flavia Cacace, who had three vastly different shows ranging from purely dance, to a musical, to a beautifully acted piece, Du Beke and Erin keep to what they know. As I lay the four programmes in front of me, I can even see some songs are repeated over the years. Du Beke and Boag dance together, they dance apart, they sing together, they sing apart, the orchestra plays and Lance Ellington (another Strictly regular) sings too. It seems like a showbiz formula. Am I complaining, though? Definitely not. If it ain’t broke – don’t fix it.

The part of the show that differs from the norm and ensures you have an unique experience is the question and answers session. I always look forward to this section of the afternoon as I never know what to expect – and neither do the performers. Du Beke is the King of Audience Interaction and always has a cheeky quip to make. I was lucky enough to have my question answered this year and received the perfect answer.

Please excuse me if I’m star struck, I’m not quite over it yet.

And then there’s the singing. When I first saw Du Beke open his mouth and notes fell out, I was surprised. I can’t say I particularly loved it – he will always be better with his feet than his voice – especially when he was singing next to Ellington who is a professional¬†nonetheless. However, it was something your ears accepted because who doesn’t like a Fred Astaire wannabe? But the two had obviously taken more singing lessons because this year their voices were much better. Not quite at Ellington’s level – but it added a whole new element to the performance when the audience aren’t internally cringing.

Of course it would be ridiculous to review the show¬†and not mention the dancing. However, I feel it’s equally ridiculous to state the dancing was beautifully performed – because, of course it was. Du Beke doesn’t get called the King of Ballroom for nothing. (Is that the second time I’ve called him a King? Can you feel my crush through the screen yet?)

If you bought tickets to this show and expected a range of ballroom and Latin dances, you would be incredibly disappointed. There is still variation throughout the show – dances such as the waltz, to the Charleston, to the tango – but if you’re looking for a party you went to the wrong venue. Du Beke and Boag always put on a good show – but it’s an afternoon of class, elegance and laughter.

So, would I recommend this show to you? Is it rude to say, “duh”? If you’re a Strictly lover and like to laugh, then I definitely would. If you like an afternoon of good music, of course. If you love a hat-and-cane number, then this is the show for you. Even if you don’t – go anyway. You’ll be surprised how quickly you fall in love with a live orchestra, good singers and stunning dancers.

Trust me.

If you liked this review then please let me know! I’m still learning the ropes so feedback is always appreciated. Thanks so much for reading, Evee ūüôā¬†