The Bloke asked me the other day of my opinions of the last twelve months. Admittedly, my initial thought was to respond with “dumpster fire.” On a general day to day basis it has been tough. Working from home sometimes means that it is difficult not to get into your own head and can feel like you’re spending 24/7 within the same four walls, and during moments of extreme stress there is little escape. However, amidst the lows there have been a number of highs.
The start of 2021 was indeed a dumpster fire of epic proportions. Within the first month The Bloke got covid (this was before the vaccinations were available) and was incredibly ill for weeks while being quarantined upstairs, two family members had heart attacks (both are thankfully doing okay), the roof in the kitchen started caving in after five years of asking the landlord to fix it and when I lost my temper he put our rent up in retaliation. A few weeks later I had to have a tooth removed – a small filling fell out just before covid hit in 2020 and dentists were closed for months – and after a year the tooth became so damaged the only option was to take it out.
Written by Marshall Brickman & Rick Elice, with music by Bob Gaudio and lyrics by Bob Crewe, the award-winning Jersey Boys tells the true story of Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons, from their beginnings as four guys from New Jersey, to their meteoric rise to fame with their distinctive style and eventual induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. While this may appear as a classic musical rags-to-riches story, we get to see the real trials and tribulations of behind one of the biggest bands in history – from stints in prison and run-ins with the mob, to debt, divorce and the loss of Valli’s daughter.
There’s nothing better than speaking to someone who genuinely loves what they do, and Norton James is clearly one of them. Currently starring in the UK Tour of smash-hit musical Jersey Boys, I had the chance to have a chat with Norton and find out more about his life as an actor, being on stage and what it’s like being in an award-winning show.
Tell me a little bit about you! How did you become an actor?
My dad trained as an actor and he ended up running a theatre which actually isn’t too far from Birmingham so it was always in the family! It started with a teacher called Tom Goodluck who gave me the role of Mr Bumble in Oliver as I was the biggest kid in school, and I thought “oh, I quite enjoy this!” and it all kind of started from there. I was playing rugby and I found theatre and I thought “ah, I prefer that!”. From that I went off to drama school and I’ve focused on it over the last five years and I’ve been very fortunate to work and keep everything going.
Alice in Wonderland is a retelling of the Lewis Carrol classic, with a young cast of performers from BOA (Birmingham Ormiston Academy).
Creatively reimagined, Alice in Wonderland focuses not on Alice herself, but the experiences of her three daughters as they navigate the eclectic and bizarre world of their imaginations. Alongside the well-known characters of the story – the White Rabbit, Mad Hatter, Cheshire Cat, Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum and the Queen of Hearts – we are introduced to plenty of weird and wonderful personalities, from talking doors and playing cards, to a crab, Pat the Guinea Pig, Bill the Lizard and a rather hilarious cook.
We all want to meet people from history. The trouble is everyone is dead! So it’s time to prepare yourselves for Horrible Histories live on stage with this special production of Barmy Britain!
I was unable to attend, but my friend Anna was more than happy to oblige on my behalf!
Directed by Neal Foster with music by Matthew Scott, Horrible Histories is the stage adaptation of the critically acclaimed franchise. The show is unusual in that it stars just two performers – Jack Ballard as Rex and Morgan Philpott as Roger. Would this take anything away from the performance?
Note: This is a review for the 2021 UK Tour of Death Drop.
Starring Ru Paul’s Drag Race legends Willam, Ra’Jah O’Hara, Karen from Finance and the UK’s very own Vinegar Strokes, Death Drop is killer comedy that is set in a mysterious mansion in 1991, as group of rather flamboyant and unique guests gather for a dinner party to celebrate the 10th wedding anniversary of Prince Charles and Princess Diana. With plenty of hidden secrets and shady behaviour, the ferocious finger pointing and savage speculation begins as one-by-one each guest is murdered.
Starring Ru Paul’s Drag Race legends Willam, Ra’Jah O’Hara, Karen from Finance and the UK’s very own Vinegar Strokes, the killer comedy is set in 1991, as a gaggle of guests gather on the mysterious Tuck Island for a dinner party like no other. The tension rises as the outrageous guests reveal their questionable pasts and hidden secrets. As the ferocious finger pointing and savage speculation begins, one by one they sashay away, until at the last, nerve-shredding, side-splitting moment we find out who-dunnit!
I got the chance to have a quick chat with Ra’Jah O’Hara at Mailmaison Birmingham ahead of the Birmingham shows to find out more about Death Drop, her character Summer Raines and what makes the ‘Queen of the Death Drop’ tick.
When three orphaned children – Charlie (Conor O’Hara), and his siblings Carrie and Paul* are reluctantly evacuated from wartime London following the death of their parents to live with the eccentric Eglantine Price (Dianne Pilkington), they have no idea what adventures lie ahead. They discover that Eglantine is a trainee witch, who is learning magic from spells she has bought from Emelius Brown (Charles Brunton). Complete with a flying bed, an enchanted bedknob, a broomstick and a book they go on an incredible adventure to find a secret spell that will defeat their enemy, which takes them from Portobello Road to the depths of the beautiful briny sea.
Note: This review is for the UK 2021 tour of Grease the Musical.
It has been 50 years since Grease premiered at the Kingston Mines Theatre in Chicago before transferring to Broadway and 43 years since the release of the film starring John Travolta and Olivia Newton John, undergoing multiple revivals, tours and a live TV performance making it one of the most successful musicals in history.
The 2021 UK tour is the first new production in 25 years, and with an iconic soundtrack including Summer Nights, Greased Lightnin’, Hopelessly Devoted to You and You’re the One That I Want, it has big shoes to fill. Judging by the packed and excitable audience at The Alexandra Theatre it clearly still remains as popular as ever.