#Interview By Lou with #Actor #Author Ronald Rand about his play #LetItBeArt and #Book #SoloTransformationOnStage #Stage #Theatre #Bookblog #BookTwitter #Theatreblog #TheArts #Arts #RonaldRand

Interview with Stage Actor/Author/Goodwill Ambassador – Ronald Rand

Today it gives me great pleasure to share an interview with you all, that I conducted with actor Ronald Rand. He is an actor, author and goodwill ambassador. Ronald Rand has appeared in many theatre plays, his latest is Let It Be Art about the life of Harold Clurman, which he tours worldwide. He is also the founder of newspaper – The Soul of The American Actor. His book is Solo Transformation On Stage is available now to purchase and includes a forward by Stephen Lang, most recently famous for playing/voicing the part of Miles Quaritch in the Avatar movies by James Cameron. The cover quote comes from the actor Christopher Plummer.
Thank you very much Ronald for allowing me to interview and for your fascinating answers about your author and stage life, as well as telling a bit about being a Goodwill Ambassador. Ronald Rand also interviews some acting greats. Discover a bit about this too, as well as some photographs Ronald Rand has kindly sent over and granted me permission to use.

It gives me great pleasure to welcome Ronald Rand onto my blog. So, let’s begin…

cover SOLO TRANSFORMATION ON STAGE by Ronald Rand (1)

You wrote a book that enlightens audiences to the art of solo performance. I’ve seen some actors do this in the UK, such as Simon Callow and Julie Hesmondalgh. I always come away wondering “How do you learn all those lines and how does the way you feel going out on stage differ to that of having a full cast around you?”

Ronald Rand: First, I would like to thank you for this special gift and privilege for this interview and to answer your questions. Congratulations on having such a very fine blog, Bookmarks and Stages.

Well, when I first began acting, I had to have been around six years old, and of course, I was worried like many actors are, about forgetting my lines. Thinking it was all about memorization. But as the years progressed and I’ve worked more and more as an actor, over time I’ve learned that the lines in a play are a natural extension of a person’s thoughts. And if they’re well written by an excellent playwright, they should roll, as The Bard said, “trippingly from the tongue,” because they’re connected to the action of what the person is doing. When I have had to learn lines to perform in a different play other than my solo play, I learn them through their connection to what the person is doing each moment to get what they need.

RONALD RAND as HAROLD CLURMAN in LET IT BE ART!
Ronald Rand as Harold Clurman

 In my solo play, LET IT BE ART! Harold Clurman   certainly has a   lot to say but the words he says   come as expressions of what   he needs to say at   the  moment as a natural action in his   storytelling.   Because I bring Harold Clurman to life after a   two-   hour transformation process in what I refer to as the ‘creation room,’ not a dressing room, when   Clurman  arrives, he’s not coming on a stage, he’s arriving at his apartment in New York City and very soon he encounters three of his students (who are actually the audience). And the things he says are a natural extension of him living his life, just the same as you do when you’re talking to others in your daily life. What you’re saying is certainly not lines in a play.

You see, in his reality he’s returning from having seen a play in Brooklyn and he’s merely going on with his life; he’s not coming on a stage. As the actor inside I’m aware that, of course, it’s a stage but Harold Clurman couldn’t care less, he’s in his apartment living his life. I still have to make sure that he’s where he’s supposed to be, and hopefully he will say the words that are in the play when they need to be said. Do I have any idea that he will? I never know for sure, since he’s living his life completely.

When you ask about having a full cast around me. Well, actually Harold Clurman is talking to  three acting students in his apartment (a part of the audience), and at another time in the play, he ‘breaks the fourth wall’ and talks to a group of actors who have come to the first get-together when the Group Theater was born in 1930, (which is also the audience.)

And throughout the play, through Clurman, you meet Lee Strasberg, Cheryl Crawford, Alfred Stieglitz, Stella Adler, Clifford Odets, Constantin Stanislavski, Aaron Copland, even Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. That’s a pretty amazing cast!  So there’s all these vibrant folks coming to life on his journey through his life. So, in a sense, you might say, there is a ‘full cast’ but they’re not around “me,” they’re with Clurman, and when he heads off to the theater at the end of the play, that’s when I return for the curtain call.

What prompted you to write a book about the transformation of an actor into the person who they are going to play? I must say it is absolutely fascinating as there is so much to explore and I’ve only ever seen this a little in the film and play – The Dresser.

Ronald Rand as Harold Clurman in LET IT BE ART! in Nakuru, Kenya
             Ronald Rand as Harold Clurman

Ronald Rand: Thank you so much for your kind words. SOLO TRANSFORMATION ON STAGE: A Journey into the Organic Process of the Art of Transformation came about because of the pandemic. I was in the middle of my 20th year touring in my solo play, and I had completed a performance of LET IT BE ART! at The Ritz Theatre in Sheffield, Alabama to a sold-out audience. They actually stayed almost as long as the performance for the question-and-answer period which I always have at the end of the show. This was in late February 2020, and after that my tour was shut down and I was sequestered like everyone else.

Well, one day I was sitting at my desk, and I thought there has to be some way that I can reach out to people since I can’t do it on stage, and it occurred to me that perhaps I could contribute by sharing the organic process I go through using the Art of Transformation, and share how Stanislavski’s acting chart, ‘The Method of Physical Actions’ makes it possible.

Now I know there’s certainly several books written by actors, some who talk about their process and their life acting on the stage. However, there’s only a few about the art of solo performance, which is a world unto its own. But I think my book is the first to go through an organic process and the transformation necessary to create your own solo show. But more than that, it’s about how to make your dreams come true drawing upon the richness of who you are.

I believe it’s important for the actor today to realize that transformation is necessary. I see so many actors play elements of themselves acting like they’re somebody else, but transformation takes many years through learning about one’s craft and gaining a mastery to bring to life another human being on the stage.

It’s really a never-ending discovery process to sustain a performance for an hour or longer requiring great discipline, focus and a continual stream of storytelling. That’s why I wanted to go into this kind of process more deeply through SOLO TRANSFORMATION ON STAGE, and reveal how I use Stanislavski’s ‘Method of Physical Actions’ chart. The same chart he gave to my teacher, Stella Adler when she studied with him in Paris in 1934. She was only American to study for over five weeks with him, and she brought his chart back to the Group Theatre in America.

When I was fortunate to study with Stella Adler for over five years, I gleaned great insights from her teaching which helped me understand the chart in a deep way, and I have tried to bring forward many of the insights through my master acting workshops.

Still, there is always something mysterious about what takes place inside what I refer to as the creation room because for me that’s where creation begins to allow another person to come so that they can live their life through the playwright’s creation. Did I have any idea that this process would evolve this way when I began working on the role of Harold Clurman? Certainly not. At the very beginning, I looked at Clurman as a role or as a character. But I’ve come to believe there is no such thing as a character. There is only the person, a human being who must come and live their life. And I have to allow creation to occur by being an open and willing vessel.

You say that Harold Clurman chose you and you became passionate about his ideas. What were the ideas that then gave you the impulse and drive to bring his life to the stage?

Ronald Rand: I think I first became fascinated by the Group Theatre back in high school when I was studying acting with an excellent drama teacher, David Feldman, at Coral Gables High School in Florida where I was born and grew up. Feldman was a dedicated and unusual high school drama teacher, giving us exercises by Boleslavsky and Michael Chekhov, talking about the Moscow Art Theatre and Vakhtangov, showing us films by Elia Kazan and Sidney Lumet, talking about the impact of the Group Theatre and what they did that changed the course of the American Theater.

The productions we would act in had to have been on the same level as those Off-Broadway. All of this had a great impact on my life at the time. When I completed high school and travelled to New York City and studied with Stella Adler, of course, her great impact was to show us the size an actor must rise to inhabit the great roles. I had to throw out pretty much everything I had been doing before since so much of had to with imitation and indicating, now it had to be based on creation and truth. Through her great art of script interpretation, we’d learn how to dissect a play and be an instrument and be in service to the playwright’s work. This is what the actor is responsible for.

And at the same time, I was fortunate to study with Harold Clurman. Every moment transformed my very being through his overpowering passion, his pulsating vibrating thoughts, revealing all the possibilities of how to see life, and acting and what the theater is capable of.

Did I have any idea at the time that I would write a play and bring to life Harold Clurman? Of course not. But later when I read in the introduction to Clurman’s book, The Fervent Years, Stella Adler wrote that she feared that the legacy of Harold Clurman might be lost, and I thought that would be a great tragedy.

That’s what led me to consider writing a play about Clurman. But I actually began a play about the Group Theatre instead and ended up playing Clurman in many staged readings across New York City for several years trying to get it produced. It was finally produced at Northern Illinois University. After that, maybe it was a voice inside that directed me to now write a play about Clurman. But even after reading and re-reading everything he wrote, looking at my notes from my classes with him, watching videos of him, I had to sit down, put everything aside and ask him: “What do you want to say?”

All of a sudden, the floodgates opened and the words that needed to be said came.

So, this is one of the secrets of writing your own show, tapping into the subconscious, and listening. I have to believe that’s why I was chosen to bring his passion and humanity alive, not only for audiences in America but across many different countries. Because what he has to say to us is universal and necessary to hear, especially today.

You talk about the person you are portraying being almost like an extension of yourself and you transform into the character you become, do you ever feel that this influences or affects parts of your own life and how do you separate the two as the psychology, Affective Memory, and molecules that you talk about in your book come into play?

Ronald Rand: Certainly, there’s no question bringing Harold Clurman to life through my play, LET IT BE ART! for over twenty years has had a great influence on my being. It’s also an enormous responsibility to allow his vibrancy and dynamic passion, his great humour, and humanity to come alive in every single moment.

When I decided to dedicate my life to sharing Clurman’s great being, it was after I had worked in numerous films and television shows, but now I made a deeper commitment that I couldn’t work on any production that reflected any kind of negativity, evil or destruction. I have to allow myself to be in a state of affirming the best in our humanity in order to embody Clurman.

Every decision we make in our life, our choices every day is a reflection of our moral values, and we should strive to bring forth love, beauty, and art in all its richness.

And at the same time, we’re always surrounded by invisible molecules moving around us. When I wave my hand through the air, or communicate Clurman’s great passion on stage, everything’s traveling across a sea of molecules. Everything we see, all inanimate objects are made up of invisible molecules, even though they look solid. So, we have to understand and appreciate how it’s all a flow we’re a part of and allow for the greatest energy to come forth, a willingness to affirm our deepest humanity to help others on this planet through the talents we’ve been given. That’s our responsibility, and why transformation becomes all the more necessary to be a vessel in service so that another human being can live and breathe and come and tell their story.

You have advice to always take time and stop between performances, how does this aid your next performance? How do you keep performances feeling fresh for you and the audiences?

Ronald Rand: Sometimes as a performer we’re called upon to do eight performances a week. At other times it so happens that there may be a larger break between one performance to the next. When that occurs, one has to find ways to constantly refresh and refuel one’s persona and keep one prepared, ready for the next performance; it’s always like being ready to run a marathon. Being in a state of readiness is the way I exist because this is my life’s calling which I will be doing to the end of my time. Especially today when as Clurman put it, “We live in an age of amnesia and for the most part, nobody remembers anything that happened the day before yesterday, so you naturally have to say it all over again.”

When audiences all over the world no matter what country I perform in, no matter what language they speak or their background or culture, once they come in contact with Harold Clurman, it’s as if they’re transformed and become excited because what he’s telling them is about something eternal and necessary to be heard today.

When I’m called upon to bring Harold Clurman to life in a performance, it’s never been done before in this particular setting, at this particular moment so everything is completely fresh, and the theatres are always different. Whether I’m performing in the courtyard of a palace or outside on a grassy knoll at a university, or in a tribal hut or a cave theater or inside a thousand seat auditorium.

You mention so many actors, directors from theatre and film in the past and present, such as Charlie Chaplin, Simon Callow, Lin Manuel Miranda and many more… How does studying such a wide range of people and their creations influence you and how important do you think it is for actors, whether they are new or established to know the heritage of theatre and the stories they tell?

Ronald Rand: Well, when I began as an actor, I slowly became aware of my heritage, or as we’re called, being a part of a ‘tribe.’ In high school I read everything actor biography and autobiography I could get my hands on, from Edwin Booth, Ira Aldridge, Salvini, Eleanora Duse, Sarah Bernhardt, Edmund Kean, Michael Chekhov, Vakhtangov to Stanislavski but it’s not only the theater I familiarized myself with. During college, I read countless books on philosophy, psychology, anthropology, the great religions of the world. I read every great novel, poem, and play written by the greatest writers of all time from the Greeks to the present. One particular book, Actors on Acting brought me further in contact with actors from different cultures taking me all over the world

It’s a personal decision to decide to learn about one’s history but I consider it a responsibility. If you’re a baseball player, you certainly want to know about Babe Ruth and Joe DiMaggio and Jackie Robinson. Why shouldn’t you if you’re an actor know about your heritage? That’s why I’ve included in my book a rich diversity of some of the greatest performers who have inhabited the stage from Ira Aldridge to Cicely Tyson and James Earl Jones. There is a great ‘well’ I talk about in my book, SOLO TRANSFORMATION ON STAGE, that each of us can draw from, and it will only greatly fuel the ‘leap across the footlights’ and touch the very souls and hearts of the audience.

Towards the end of the book, you had the great opportunity to interview other actors, such as Adrienne Barbeau, Christopher Plummer, Spalding Gray, to name but a few about their own transformations. What did you learn and come away with for your own thoughts or performances from them?

Ronald Rand: I’ve been very fortunate over the past nearly twenty-five years to do over fifteen hundred interviews through my newspaper, The Soul of the American Actor, and it’s brought me in touch with these particular performers that I’ve included in my book. Some of whom have become good friends. By sharing the more than twenty interviews in the book, and their journey as a solo performer, the choices they’ve made and how their particular shows came to life has been extremely inspiring for me, and I hope will also be for the reader.

Eve Ensler talks about how she created The Vagina Monologues, Ben Vereen shows how the world around him deeply affected his choices as a young performer, Christopher Plummer plumbs the depth of his rich being, Stephen Lang (who wrote the Foreword to my book) and Laurence Luckinbill, both highly seasoned performers offer great insights into the extraordinary courage it takes to come on a stage alone and become someone else.

Through the ages up to today, when you see someone like Ralph Fiennes or Simon Callow, Ruben Santiago Hudson, Anna Deavere Smith, or Ian McKellan, you’re experiencing a great thread of our humanity in the stories being revealed. Every time I experience a solo performance, it further awakens my own understanding about what it means to be alive and how much more there is to know about this world.

It’s interesting that you say that in your masterclasses people such as lawyers, therapists, teachers, taxicab drivers and those from other professions come and are a part of your workshops, as if there is a common thread to be realised. What would you say is the common thread and why are so many wide-ranging people attracted to your masterclasses?

Ronald Rand, Goodwill Culltural Ambassador, Fulbright Specialist Scholar teaching his Master Workshop in Mostar, Bosnia
Masterclass in Bosnia
Ronald Rand, Goodwill Cultural Ambassador teaching his Master Workshop at Festival of Fame in Johannesburg, South Africa
Masterclass in Johannesburg

Ronald Rand: It has been a special gift and privilege being able to teach my
‘Art of Transformation’ master acting workshops around the world for the past twenty-five years in over twenty-five countries, and across twenty states at over seventy-five theaters, universities, colleges, and acting schools. And yes, several times a diverse array of those who have attended my workshops come from many different backgrounds and professions. Why do they come? I think it’s because of transformation. We’re all constantly changing every single day, and every choice we make literally transforms us.

When I have individuals from many different backgrounds in my workshops, they’re excited to dip into some of the exercises and learn about Stanislavski’s ‘Method of Physical Actions,’ because for some, they may have thought “What would it take to become an actor?” and they find it fascinating and some realize that they have it within themselves to let their imagination loose, and in one of the exercises, I literally ‘take them off and they all fly like a bird.’ I want to give them a chance to feel this kind of freedom which is not something that always happens in their daily lives.

We have to allow ourselves to dream the biggest dreams we can dream. To achieve everything, we’re born to achieve and enjoy every moment we’re alive. And the more we understand about what moves us forward, perhaps we can be in even greater service to others, especially at a time like this.

Your book is more thought-provoking than I imagined, in a good way. You talk about the late Chadwick Boseman and basically about empowering others. How important do you think theatre is for telling the stories and making the most of what you have to say in this medium, since no one knows what is going to happen in our future?

Ronald Rand: Yes, we live in an age of great uncertainty and there are forces at work constantly trying to upset the balance and harmony of life. However, we know, deep in our beings, the most powerful forces on earth like love, truth, peace, and justice, to name a few, represent the highest ideals of who we are as human beings on this planet.

I mention Chadwick Boseman in my book because he understood the responsibility he was given as an actor and when he became a ‘star,’ he recognized it was part of his responsibility to help empower others. This is certainly what we can do as artists. To help others find their path, and that’s why for me, because the theater is ‘alive in the moment’, through our storytelling we can literally transform others to reach a place where a revelation may come, or the experience may propel them to take a good look at their lives.

Well, while we may not know the future, we actually have the power to shape its potential, and bring a deeper awareness to the others through art. and I’ve personally experienced how a solo performance can touch people in a very deep place.

You have a very accomplished CV, including being a US Goodwill Cultural Ambassador and US State Department Fulbright Specialist Scholar. How did you come to have these positions, how long have you done this for and what are some of the things do they entail?

Ronald Rand: On my first world tour with LET IT BE ART! I was invited to Tbilisi, Georgia to perform at The GIFT Festival. I was welcomed as a Goodwill Cultural Ambassador as a representative from my country to theirs bringing goodwill and as a ‘bridge of understanding.’ And over the years it has happened many times, which is especially meaningful to me.

This coming summer, I have been invited to Iceland’s Act Alone Festival to bring Clurman’s great passion and ideas as the “Elder Statesman of the American Theater.” So, it continues been an enormous responsibility bringing him alive to audiences in several many countries.

When I was first chosen as a US State Department Fulbright Specialist Scholar during my five first five years, I was able to spend six weeks at the University of Sarajevo’s Academy of Dramatic Arts teaching their wonderful students, and at the same time, I was invited to direct a production of Murray Schisgal’s hit comedy, LUV, at one of their most prestigious theatre’s, Chamber Theatre 55 in Sarajevo. The production was in Bosnian, which was an extraordinary learning experience, and I directed three of Bosnia’s finest young actors.

During my second tour as a Fulbright Specialist Scholar, I taught and performed in my solo play for six weeks at the University of Malaya in Kuala Lumpur, and then the Malaysian Cultural Ministry invited me as the first American master to bring Stanislavski’s ‘Method of Physical Actions’ across Malaysia to hundreds of students at their State Theatre and schools. Truly a most amazing experience!

On my third tour as a Fulbright Specialist Scholar, I travelled to Uruguay to teach actors and actors and students for five weeks at the Paysandu Theater Group and also ended up directing a workshop production of Thornton Wilder’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play, Our Town in Spanish with several of the actors of the company.

Being a Goodwill Cultural Ambassador and a Fulbright Specialist Scholar has allowed me to share what we have in common and to learn from one another. It’s up to us to feel empathy for others – this is what makes us human. We must care about others with the greatest of compassion and love, giving our best towards the betterment of all.

It’s always been my goal to inspire and empower people to learn and grow in the most truthful and compassionate way by sharing our creativity and transformation. And it’s about collaboration. I encourage those I’m teaching to feel the rhythm of life, to listen with their heart and soul, to become as expansive as possible, to give more of themselves to others through their craft which I believe adds to the healing which needs to take place between peoples.

When I taught students in Mostar in Bosnia & Herzegovina, I learned the young student actors are constantly faced with pressures on a daily basis in a very difficult environment divided along ethnic and religious lines. I told them: “Art teaches us we each carry the tools to transform, not only our own lives but to share truths about how to live with those around us. Storytelling can help you shape your frustrations into creative expressions through transformation, finding ways to teach each other a way towards peace, through love, through the power of art, you can inspire others to come together to live in harmony.”

If history has taught us anything, it takes a willingness to build trust, and by coming together in person a dialogue can take place, transforming into an entirely new dynamic of understanding, of empathy – sharing what is basic in all of humanity.

Through SOLO TRANSFORMATION ON STAGE, I talk about that through solo performance, we can go further than we ever thought possible. There are no barriers of language or cultural misunderstandings when our performing is done with an open heart, vision, a willingness to share knowledge, and to learn from one another honestly.

cover SOLO TRANSFORMATION ON STAGE by Ronald Rand (1)

#BookReview by Lou – Love and Miss Harris by Peter Maughan @PeterMaughan5 @farragobooks @RandomTTours #ContemporaryFiction #Theatre #HistoricalFiction #Humour

Love And Miss Harris
By Peter Maughan

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Love and Miss Harris is perfect for theatre-goers and everyone working in theatre productions. It is also perfect for people who enjoy Ealing Comedies and authors such as P.G. Wodehouse and Jerome K. Jerome and people who enjoy a good bit of capers and humour as the book captures a certain era so divinely. It’s a lot of theatrical fun! This is book 1 of what is becoming a series and I am looking forward to the second already. It’s a feel-good funny book.

Find out more in the blurb and review below. Thanks to Random Things Tours for inviting me to review and for Farrago Books for gifting me a copy of the book.

About the Author

Love And Miss Harris Peter Maughan Author picPeter Maughan’s early career covered many trades, working on building sites, in wholesale markets, on fairground rides and in a circus. He studied at the Actor’s Workshop in London, and worked as an actor in the UK and Ireland, subsequently founding a fringe theatre in Barnes, London.
He is married and lives currently in Wales.

 

Love and Miss Harris Cover

Blurb

Titus Llewellyn-Gwlynne, actor/manager of the Red Lion Theatre, has lost a backer who was going to fund a theatrical tour – when unexpected salvation appears.
Their home theatre in the East End of London having been bombed during the war, The Red Lion Touring Company embarks on a tour of Britain to take a play written by their new benefactress into the provinces.

This charming series transports the reader to a lost post-war world of touring rep theatre and once-grand people who have fallen on harder times, smoggy streets, and shared bonhomie over a steaming kettle.
The mood is whimsical, wistful, nostalgic, yet with danger and farce along the way.

Review

I love theatre and everything about it, ever since my mum introduced me to the theatre when I was a teenager, I’ve had a passion for them, so much so, that I even volunteered for just over a decade for a local theatre company, mostly doing front of house duties and occasionally backstage. So, when I was invited to review this book, I jumped at the chance and I think the timing is most apt as theatres and everyone has struggled to get by at this time and now they are starting, slowly but surely, and safely to re-open. This book instantly brings back the joy of theatre and also comedy. The fact it is The Company of Fools series, is in itself theatrical and Shakespearean in that subtitle, although the book itself is not Shakespearean, it’s thoughtful and adds fun and history right there and also cleverly alludes to the fun readers will have, as does that cover. This is worthwhile hopping onto that bus on the cover and enjoying the ride the book takes you on…

Titus, Reuben, Dolly, Jack are prominant characters within this theatrical cast, that instantly transports readers to rep theatre and with wonderful characterisation and observations are divine and everything comes to life. It is also nice that The Windmill Theatre gets a mention as it is pretty famous for rep theatre at this time. 

The title of the book is more clever than you’d think. Love and Miss Harris is the title of a play that Lady Devonaire has written, or rather George, with this as his pseudonymn. The style of writing is quite theatrical in places, which is wonderful and it has a lot of charm. It’s easy to depict in your minds eye – The Red Lion Touring Company losing their theatre due to it being bombed and how they overcome it by jumping on a tour bus and travelling. It shows a certain ingenuity and resillience and admiration how theatre has had to overcome hard times to survive, a bit like today in a way…. So hop on the bus with them and enjoy the ride that is full of humour and get to know a little about the places they go to. That isn’t to say that things are all plain sailing, the company are suspicious of Jack and there’s financial issues to try to overcome. There are also interesting bits about war times too, in memories, that isn’t to say this is a book that jumps from one time frame to another, it isn’t as that wouldn’t have enhanced what is a perfectly good read as it is.

All in all, it is a thoroughly enjoyable book.

I have read the preview for the second in the series and I must say, it is sounding good. 

Love and Miss Harris bt Poster

 

Love Never Dies by Andrew Lloyd Webber @OfficialALW #BenElton #LoveNeverDies #AndrewLLoydWebber #FrederickForsyth #GlennSlater #Theatre #Review #VirtualTheatre #Musicals #Books

Love Never Dies
By Andrew Lloyd Webber
Rated 5 stars *****

Love Never Dies

Today I present a review of the sensational follow up to Phantom of the Opera – Love Never Dies by Andrew Lloyd Webber. This was a virtual event. Like most musicals, there was also a book produced too. This is however primarily a theatre review, but would give you an idea too as music, lyrics and the written words in a book collide for both art forms.

Composer – Andrew Lloyd Webber

Lyrics – Glenn Slater

Book written by Andrew Lloyd Webber, Ben Elton and Frederick Forsyth.

Synopsis

The year is 1907. It is 10 years after his disappearance from the Paris Opera House and the Phantom has escaped to a new life in New York where he lives amongst the screaming joy rides and freak-shows of Coney Island. In this new electrically-charged world, he has finally found a place for his music to soar. All that is missing is his love – Christine Daaé.

Christine is struggling in an ailing marriage to Raoul. She accepts an invitation to travel to New York and perform at a renowned opera house. In a final bid to win back her love, the Phantom lures Christine, her husband, and their young son Gustave from Manhattan; to the glittering and glorious world of Coney Island, not knowing what is in store for them…

Review

A couple of weeks ago I watched Love Never Dies by Andrew Lloyd Webber on You Tube. It is the sequel of Phantom of the Opera and is every bit as stunning and attention grabbing as The Phantom of the Opera. It got some bad press, but certainly would not from me. It is set on Coney Island. For those who do not know – Coney Island is near New York and was a place that gained a reputation for fun fairs, circuses, and freak shows. Today, this doesn’t really exist quite in that form, but there does seem to be a fun fair and eateries.

The Phantom has moved from Paris to Coney Island and seems to be controlling it with all its glitz and mystique, but still has an obsession with Christine. The singing is beautiful, the music and lyrics works so well for the story that is being told. There are bits of music and song reminiscent of the times in the opera house in Paris in the first musical about the phantom, but there are plenty of terrific original songs to whet your appetite and really get into as well. The musical is full of life when showing the circus. The set is always sumptuous and at times has an element of fun to it, although always dark. The atmosphere that is created fits every mood and absolutely fits with the storytelling.

There’s shocks and surprises and some almost edge of your seat scenes. This is a musical that swept me away with it and grabbed me and took me into every dark corner, every bit of romance and every bit of emotion. If this is ever on stage, when things return to normal (which they will someday), it would be absolutely be quite the spectacle to see.

I was slow off the mark writing about this. Other life things took over, so it is not available on YouTube anymore, but there are previews and it is available on DVD. So, not all is lost. That is the positive, that you can indeed still watch this spectacular musical.

Andrew Lloyd Webber, every Friday for 48 hours has got creative and kind and is putting on You Tube many of his musicals and concerts under The Show Must Goes On. Pay or do not pay into the actors’ fund, that is up to you. It looks like Cats is the next musical to be streamed.

Review of the Outstanding – The Habit of Art By Alan Bennett #AlanBennett #TheHabitofArt @OriginalTheatre #MatthewKelly #DavidYelland #Theatre #VirtualTheatre #VirtualEvent #Review

The Habit of Art
By Alan Bennett
Rated: 5 Stars *****
Available now online

The Habit of Art Poster.jpg

I have been watching some online theatre because I’ve been missing theatre performances and stage doors. The Habit of Art by Alan Bennett is one of the terrific plays I have seen being streamed and you can too.This production marks the first ever revival of the play and I am so pleased it has been revived. On the poster it says “La
It is with great thanks to Alan Bennett for giving permission to stream his play that should have been touring and to The Original Theatre Company and cast and all those behind the scenes for also allowing this to happen. I only hope that one day theatres will re-open and that proceedings will be normal someday in the not too distant future and touring will re-commence.
I have a link after my short review.

The Playwright and Cast


Alan Bennett      Matthew Kelly    David Yelland
Alan Bennett                Matthew Kelly                       David Yelland

Playwright – Alan Bennett is one our greatest and most celebrated playwrights, with a cavalcade of stage and screen blockbusters including The History Boys, The Lady in the Van, The Madness of King George and Talking Heads. He is applauded as a genius for his sharp character observations and treasured for the way he beautifully balances wit, wistfulness and compassion.
Director – Philip Franks

Matthew Kelly – Olivier Award Winning (Of Mice and MenToast and Pride and Prejudice)
David Yelland (Chariots of Fire and The Crown)
Veronica Roberts (Tenko, Peak Practice)
Robert Mountford (Anita and Me)
John Wark (Dead Sheep)
Jessica Dennis (Henry Vand The Tempest, Shakespeare’s Rose Theatre)
Benjamin Chandler (Passing From The Third Floor Back).

Synopsis

In The Habit of Art, Bennett gives us a play about a meeting between the poet WH Auden and the composer Benjamin Britten.

Exploring friendship, rivalry and heartache this multi layered masterpiece examines the joy, pain and emotional cost of creativity.

Review

Wow!!! Alan Bennett is a clever, genius playwright as lots of people will know. This play is absolutely brilliant. It is actually incredibly funny and poignant, even more so than what I first thought it would be. It is also thought-provoking at times as it explores life. I was going to see this in Edinburgh, but it got cancelled as lockdown occurred. I thank The Original Theatre Company for putting it online.

Matthew Kelly gives an outstanding performance in what is a play within a play as does David Yelland as WH Auden and Benjamin Britten as they portray the relationships between them and their lives. This is however also a play within a play, as I’ve said and so, this is where it also gets very funny because this is what they’re trying to do, is rehearse to get the play about these 2 men to its showtime stage. So, there’s the trying to get the lines just so and the little squabbles about things and the silent relenting to directions and the trying to get points across. So, it’s as much about the relationships between the cast and behind the scenes people as it is the actual poet and musician they are trying to portray. It all sounds more high brow than it actually is.

The emotion, the relationships of different kinds, the pain and the rivalries are captured tremendously in every word, in every nuance in the tones of voices. There’s the real sense of WH Auden and Benjamin Britten still wanting to produce great works like in their real heydays and the need to work together. I’ll leave it to viewers to watch to see if they manage to collaborate or not. 

There’s also the emotion and sometimes the frustrations of backstage people too as they try to get things just so for the actors and direct and so and so forth. Some of this is really poignant too, as well has having some humour, as you get a glimpse into that part of life.

 The actual play and the rehearsal go seamlessly together because the timings and the writing is also so outstanding. I will say that what you absolutely have to remember is to forget present day sensibilities, WH Auden and Benjamin Britten lived in very different times. I honestly cannot praise this play enough. I had a fabulous time watching it and I am sure many others will too. I hope one day it will be able to tour up to Scotland again. 

Just below is the link that will direct you to the page of the play itself. This is a paid performance whereby you pay whatever you can. Actors, backstage and front of house are all out of work just now and I must say this play is definitely worth paying some money for the privilege to watch it. It really doesn’t have to break the bank. You will get more directions online as to how to watch.

You can also watch The Croft too, all under that one payment. It comes directly afterwards. I will review this too. At the time of writing this review, I am yet to see it. I must say that it does sound very good too and very different in contrast to The Habit of Art.

Click Here For The Play

The Habit of Art Poster

#Review of Ten Times Table – 1 Committee, 1 Pageant Funny Results. 5 stars ***** #TenTimesTable @RobertDaws @Ayckbourn #Edinburgh #York #Shrewsbury #Cheltenham #Chesterfield #Brighton @captheatres #Play #Theatre #humour #TheatreGoers

Ten Times Table
By Alan Ayckbourn
Rated – 5 stars *****

Bill Kenwright presents The Classic Comedy Theatre Company, who are performing – Ten Times Table – An excellent play by Alan Ayckbourn, set around a committee trying to put on a pageant. This is a fun revival of the Ayckbourn’s 1970s comedy play that is currently on a UK tour. Below, after the review, is also a list of where the play appears to be touring next, including links.

The Cast includes:

Robert Daws (The Royal, Outside Edge and Roger Roger. Also author and podcaster) 
Deborah Grant (Not Going Out and Bergerac) 
Gemma Oaten (Emmerdale, Holby City) 
Robert Duncan (Drop The Dead Donkey)
Mark Curry (Hollyoaks, Last Of The Summer Wine)
Craig Gazey (Coronation Street and The Full Monty, West End)
Elizabeth Power (EastEnders)

Ten TImes Table.jpg

Review

Braving the beginnings of Storm Ciara, a friend and I went to see the play we had booked months in advance at the Edinburgh King’s Theatre. The verdict – we both Loved It! This is a wonderful play that kept us entertained from start to finish. There were certainly lots of laughs to be had in this captivating, very enjoyable play. With an excellent cast performing the play, it was a great evening.

The basic premise is, a committee that is being formed in the Swan Hotel for the Pendon Folk Festival. It isn’t as easy as it seems as they try to create, develop and put on a re-enactment of “The Pendon Twelve”, after a story about the massacre is discovered.

The results of the committee are hilarious as the story unfolds, showing the many personalities around the table. There’s the chair just trying to keep everything together, albeit not terribly well and often ends up dominated by others, the one who interrupts and doesn’t really get on with anyone and storms out, the shy one, the one who is pedantic, the one just trying to get the task done, the one who doesn’t always follow what is being said or done and people with opposing points of view. The personal issues also come into play a bit too… Even though some of the behaviours/personality types are exaggerated, they are recognisable, so there is a bit of accuracy there.
They all have to find a way to reach the end result – to showcase the pageant. They all want the same goal, but all doesn’t exactly go to plan…

The Committee is led by Ray – played by Robert Daws, who is a treat to watch as he gave the audience a huge range of his acting talents. The way he delivers each line is so on-point and so expressive. Deborah Grant played Helen excellently and with great energy for this strong-willed, character. All the cast give equally terrifically strong performances. There isn’t one who lets the side down as it were.

The play is directed by Robin Herford, who has done a great job in managing this cast and it all flows very well with all the comings and goings.

For a play that is predominantly set around a committee table, it has excellent comedic writing and comedy-timing. It is a fantastic play that I recommend seeing for a great afternoon or evening out. It is highly entertaining from start to finish. My friend and I certainly were not disappointed as we talked about it all the way to the train station. The weather was horrendous with the storm, but it was absolutely worth it.

Here is a list of where the play is touring next:

Mon, 10th February 2020 to Sat, 15th February 2020
Grand Opera House, York»
Mon, 17th February 2020 to Sat, 22nd February 2020
Theatre Severn, Shrewsbury»
Mon, 24th February 2020 to Sat, 29th February 2020
Everyman Theatre, Cheltenham»
Mon, 9th March 2020 to Sat, 14th March 2020
Pomegranate Theatre, Chesterfield»
Mon, 23rd March 2020 to Sat, 28th March 2020
Theatre Royal, Brighton»

Great Theatre Shows from 2019 and some to look out for on tour in 2020 #Theatre #Plays #Musicals #Humour #Drama #Theatregoers #London #Edinburgh #Glasgow #2019 #HappyNewYear #TheatreWrapUp #Review #culture

Great Theatre Shows from 2018 and 2019

I have seen some fantastic theatre shows and the shows I loved in 2018 and 2019 are, in no particular. Some of these plays are touring right now within the UK and others are getting set for national UK tours. So, I hope you have fun looking out for them. They are categorised by musicals and plays only. So, without any further to-do, here is my lists, with very brief reviews.

Musicals:

les mis        Theatre Strictly Ballroom musical
Strictly Ballroom – (on national tour in 2020). When I saw this in London, it was so much fun. It had a great cast, including Will Young as the narrator at that time. The costumes are outstanding and just so beautiful. The set was cool. The dancing and songs are expertly performed and choreographed.
Please take note that Strictly Ballroom (based on the same name) is doing a national tour within the UK (including Scotland in 2020). It has been expertly put together by Strictly’s Craig Revel-Horwood, amongst many other people. So, do look out for this fun, feel-good show. It is A-Maz-Ing… see what I did there? I couldn’t help myself, it had to be done. This is an exciting show and one that I am so pleased to see tour.

Les Miserables – This is exquisite and full of emotion. I’ve seen it twice, once in London, once in Edinburgh and it doesn’t matter where you see it, you are in for a treat. It is so well-performed and well-cast no matter the location. The performance, the set and the costumes are all so rich and it is all so atmospheric. It is often in London and also on tour.
A full review can be found within my blog

Plays:

The Greatest Play in The History of the World – This play was at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and has now reached London (check it out now for January 4th 2020. It’s an original love story set on Preston-Road and in space and time. Time has stopped in this wonderfully written and performed one-woman play that has poignancy and honour and I just love the use of shoes. You have to see it to see what I mean. I don’t want to spoil it. Shoes aren’t used in the conventional sense. Not when this was performed in Edinburgh anyway. There’s also great music too. The set may be minimalist, but the way it is written and performed feeds incredibly well into the imaginations of audiences because it is so cleverly done and so immersive and captivating.
It is performed by Julie Hesmondalgh (Haley Cropper in Corrie and other shows) and written by her husband Ian Kershaw (writer for Corrie, Cold Feet and many more shows).

This House – This play was an unusual play in that it encouraged people to be part of the cast on stage for the whole play. This was a political play set in the 1970’s and was set in the Houses of Parliament. There was a great cast playing the opposition party and party in power. There were high stakes, debates, fist fights in the parliamentary bar, crucial votes that had party’s hanging by a thread, games and tricks. It was all there. A friend and I with a number of others took up the limited spaces on stage, which was split for the left and the right of the House with its mocked up parliamentary seats. We were given our lines and directions as the play went on and followed accordingly to become part of the cast. It was lots of fun, if not a bit daunting looking onwards at a full theatre where the rest of the audience was sitting. It was completely immersive from our point of view and we are glad we did it and both enjoyed the experience immensely. Some of the key cast also took time at the interval to talk to my friend and I, which was most interesting and of which we again thank them for this. This immersive and brilliantly conceived play was written by James Graham.

ArtThis was a terrific play at the Glasgow Theatre Royal about 3 men and a piece of modern art, which happens to be a white canvas, bought for a huge amount of money. The play gets revived every so often and is worth looking out for. It is about friendships and those friends falling out and making up, it is about life and all the paths that it can lead people down. It also has a big twist in it. It is poignant, important, funny, sad and such a great pace. When I saw it, the cast was Stephen Thomkinson (Wild at Heart, DCI Banks and much more) Denis Lawson (New Tricks, Holby City and much more), Nigel Havers (Coronation Street, The Cockfields, Midsomer Murders and much more). I thank Denis Lawson and Nigel Havers again for their time in having a very pleasant quick chat and signing my programme.
Full review can be found on my blog. 
Duet for One – I saw this at the King’s Theatre in Edinburgh as part of a national tour. I think I saw this in 2017, but then it toured again in 2018, which is why it is on this list. It was a both serious and funny two-handed play (tours from time to time), about a woman with MS, which at the time of me seeing  it was Belinda Lang, and wow, what a performance. She played someone coming to terms with MS and limited mobility as if she could have had it herself (I sadly speak from experience as a member of my family has it). The emotion was there, the movement and everything was brilliantly executed. If this ever tours again, seriously consider seeing it. This was a revival of this play, so it isn’t impossible for it to return. It isn’t as depressing as it seems. This play has humour at many points. It is so well-written. It was so lovely to be able to actually tell her how well she played her part and to hear what she had to say about it – which was all positive things. I also thank her again for signing my programme and especially for talking to my mother and being so insightful.
A full review can be found within my blog.

Humble Boy – directed by the always very busy Paul Miller, I wish it would do a national tour. If it did this, I would certainly write a full review. It is one of those plays I think people should see. It was a funny play that tackles love, death, friendship and the importance of bees. This play had it all. It had emotion, serious and tender moments, poignancy as well as so much humour. It was so well-written by Charlotte Jones.
The set was amazing. I saw it in a round theatre and it was set in a garden. The time it must have taken to set up the scenery must have been immense. Parts were actually real plants. I loved having to walk on the cobblestones to my seat with my friend (we were on the front row and the set started right in front of the front row). The cast were all fabulous – Belinda Lang (from 2 Point 4 Children she played the mother and other shows and theatre), Paul Bradley (Cardio-surgeon in Holby City and other shows), Selina Cadell (Pharmacist in Doc Martin and other shows), Jonathan Broadbent (Silent Witness and other shows). There was also Christopher Ravenscroft and Rebekah Hinds.
The cast all sounded like they enjoyed performing this show at the Orange Tree Theatre in Richmond, London. It was a joy and privilege to catch up with the cast after the show, of which I thank them for their time and their sheer kindness and also for signing my tickets.

The Importance of Being Earnest – This was a fun production of Oscar Wilde’s play, brought to the Vaudeville Theatre by Classic Spring. It was in London (another play I think should tour. His plays do tour from time to time nationally within the UK, so do look out for them. The play was full of humour and was recognisable from the film-version of the play. There was again, another great cast, most notably – Stella Gonet (House of Elliott, Holby City, Outnumbered and much more), Sophie Thompson (Coronation Street and much more, also sister of Emma Thompson), Jeremy Swift (Downton Abbey) and many more. A full review can be found in my blog. I thank Stella Gonet again for having a very pleasant chat and for asking if I would like my programme signed.

De Pro-fundis – Simon Callow performed this in Edinburgh for the Fringe Festival when I saw it. This was a play I just had to say Wow at. I was hooked from the beginning to the end. I have seen quite a number of his one-man plays before. All are amazing and this was no different. It was played with conviction, energy and how he remembers all those lines, I will never know. If you ever see Simon Callow is doing a one-man play or even doing a book talk, I urge you to go. De-Profundis was the letter Oscar Wilde wrote from prison. It was haunting, dark. No one talked, no one made a noise in the audience, you could hear a pin drop, until the stunned audience erupted in applause at the end. He captured everyone from start to finish. The set was minimalist, his performance was passionate and full.

I have some plays already booked for 2020 of which I shall review and I am planning on doing a quick resume of different plays and musicals I have seen as many of them still run in theatres today and I suspect they will for many years to come. This will be done in- between book reviews and the occasional article. I’ve plenty of exciting things to be blogging about in 2020 and I hopefully many more exciting opportunities will crop up in the future. For now, I hope you enjoy what I have for my 2019 resumes and all else that is on my blog. I hope you all had a great Christmas and I wish you all a Happy New Year and all the best for 2020. Thank you too for following and reading my blog, without such, it wouldn’t exist. I love writing my blog and always grateful to those who give me opportunities to review and to write and to talk to people and to those who read what I write. Thank you!!!!