Oooh a Cheeky Review: THE PLATFORM LDN

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TODAY I BRING YOU TWO BLOG POSTS IN ONE! And now for a first, my first review!

I had the pleasure of attending twenty something productions “THE PLATFORM LDN” cabaret at the Spice of Life last weekend. In case you didn’t know, twenty something productions are a company formed by Ben Vivian-Jones and Amy-Jean Ward, lovers of contemporary American Musical Theatre and passionate about bringing it to us via talented young things in London. THE PLATFORM is a concert series that was started by composer Drew Gasparini in New York (one of the contributors to the cabaret here in London) as an opportunity for contemporary american writers to showcase their work. Upon seeing the show in NYC, the pair decided that us Brits shouldn’t be deprived from the talent across the pond, and so THE PLATFORM LDN was born.

Their recent showcase featured songs by Gaby Alter, Drew Gasparini, Ryan Scott Oliver, Alex Wyse, Robert Baumgartner and Joey Contreras. I had actually only heard of three of these composers but still only heard one song that I knew which was so refreshing for showcases such as these. It’s so easy for the same amazing songs to be re-produced again and again so it was great for me and the audience to be introduced to some writing we’d never heard before.

The show opened with group number “21” by Gaby Alter which i think set the energy that was to remain for the rest of the evening. It was a song full of 20-something angst at life, love, and growing up, and was performed with zeal by the cast and the band. It was actually great to see the band giving it some balls too – kudos to the pianist who spent the majority of the performance seriously rocking out! A favourite of the first half was “Happy Times” by Alex Wyse and performed by Nicola Kill. The generic american contemporary musical theatre song can get monotonous ,but Alex Wyse has shown that contemporary doesn’t mean you can’t tackle other genres ,and Nicola Kill gave a suitably vamped up and empowered performance of this jazzy number. Another highlight of the first half came from Amy-Jean Ward and John Sandberg in “Pinch Me” by Drew Gasparini. Both fully committed to the awkwardness of this number, and Amy-Jean’s expression during the “awkward embrace” (youtube it if you haven’t seen it!) was an absolute picture. A great comedy duet, brilliantly performed that really helped to create a well-rounded first act of entertainment.

My pick of the evening would definitely be the catchy-to-the-point-where-it’s-still-stuck-in-my-head “Valley High” also by Drew Gasparini. The songs subject matter is centred around a high school shooting (I’m not sure which hence why i don’t want to quote!) but despite this, it was a light and thoroughly interesting song. Performed by Andrew Osbourne, Nicholas Corre and Ben Vivian-Jones, each provided their own take on the inner thoughts of thecharacter and it proved to be a really captivating performance for the audience, as well as toe-tappingly good! Taking it full circle, the night ended with group number “The Wreck” by Drew Gasparini, all about not caring about whether you’re a “wreck” which was a nice bookend to the start of the show. It was upbeat, fun and again summed up the energy, talent and brilliance of the evening.

I thoroughly enjoyed my time and cannot wait to see what twenty something productions have in store for us next. My only wish is that something like this existed for British writers too (See my recent blog post about why!)

THE PLATFORM LDN does exactly what it says on the tin. It provides a platform to launch new music here in London. I was overwhelmed by the sheer amount of talented writing and performances (From the cast and the band) that evening, and it gives me hope that this industry is still something worth being a part of, if only just to see what new work we can discover. I look forward to following their progress in the future.

You can find out more about twenty something productions here:

http://twentysomethingproductions.co.uk/

Or follow them on twitter: @20sumthin

They’re also taking a new musical “6” by Zack Zadek to the Fringe too, so if you’re up in Edinburgh – Check them out!

THE PLATFORM LDN 27/04/2014 Set List:

GA – Gaby Alter
DG – Drew Gasparini
RSO – Ryan Scott Oliver
AW – Alex Wyse
RB – Robert Baumgartner
JC – Joey Contreras

• 21 – GA
• My Time With You – AW – Nicholas Corre
• Sorrow Done – RSO – Olga-Marie Pratt
• What Lies Ahead – AW – Gregory Hazel
• Happy Times – AW – Nicola Kill
• Pinch Me – DG – AJ Ward & John Sandberg
• The Flood – AW – Andrew Osbourne
• Make Me Happy – RSO – Chelsea Taylor-Day & Ben Vivian Jones

• The Princess – GA – Charlotte Bradford
• On Monday – RSO – Chloe Nicolson
• Picking Up Speed – AW – Nicholas Corre & John Sandberg
• Pictures of the Bordersigns – RB – Olga-Marie Pratt
• Love Me Love Me Not – JC – AJ Ward
• Twirler Girl – GA – Olga-Marie Pratt & Nicholas Corre
• Valley High – DG – Andrew Osbourne, Nicholas Corre, Ben Vivian-Jones
• Ruination – RSO – Chelsea Taylor-Day
• The Wreck – DG – John Sandberg, Nicola Kill, Chloe Nicolson & AJ Ward.

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STAGEY ALERT: why British Musicals are still amazing.

Shaftesbury Avenue, London

Good Afternoon one and all,

I hope we have all been enjoying a suitably merry and relaxed bank holiday weekend. Mine has consisted of takeaways, Despicable Me 2 and making a batch of cookies far too big for two people (of which i shall share the recipe on here… one day… when i’m nice enough to share the yumminess!)

So yes, first of all. I AM LATE! I usually post every Thursday but this week became suitable manic so apologies first of all. But I also wanted to wait for the dust to settle surrounding the closure of I Can’t Sing the musical. This week I wanted to get a bit stagey and discuss the state of Musical Theatre in Britain at the moment. Having only seen I Can’t Sing three weeks ago, I was shocked to hear it was closing mid-May. Now, I Can’t Sing may not be a mind-blowing spectacular but it is providing very talented people within our industry a great showcase for their skills. In my opinion, the cast and crew made something great out of what they were given and i didn’t stop laughing throughout! But still this show is closing after only 6 or so weeks.

I Cant’ Sing is following in the very recent footsteps of From Here to Eternity and Stephen Ward – two more British musicals that didn’t have the run they had hoped for. Again, all of these shows have their merit. But why are they losing out? It seems that our industry (or at least the marketing and advertising companies) seem to be turning their back on shows written by British writers. Why didn’t these shows get the marketing that they deserved? Is it not budgeted? Or is it simply assumed that these shows will have a safe run because they are British? Maybe it’s that producers are going for the “safe bet” when really the public are looking for something more from our British writers? We could try and figure it out but, as we all know, the nature of this industry is that nothing is based on real reason. It’s all subjective. My fear now is that this trend of “failing” musicals will now hinder the production of new brilliant British writing, with producers now seeing it as risky business.

Well producers of Great Britain – I AM HERE TO CHANGE YOUR MIND. Here are my reasons for putting on BRITISH musicals in the west end:

We have the best source materials to create musicals from!

(I Can’t Sing – The X Factor Musical)

Charles Dickens, William Shakespeare, Monty Python, The X Factor – Britain has a crazy amount of history and brilliance to draw inspiration from. The fact that we can even have a musical about the X Factor and then a musical based around Monty Python shows how amazing this tiny little island is. If we can make a musical about winning a reality show.. then we still have hope to create something more brilliant yet!

We have companies in the UK dedicated to creating new musicals.

(Lift the Musical)

Perfect Pitch and Mercury Musicals who are both dedicated to nurturing new musical theatre writing are just the tip of the iceberg of developing writing in Britain. The National Theatre, RSC and now the English National Opera are also leading the way in developing new musicals for the masses. So big-wig West End Producers, follow suit please! Matilda is proof enough that a bit of trust, some development and a whole heap of talent (even if it is Aussie Mr Minchin!) can create an international hit! The talent is there, it just needs to be found!

(If you hadn’t heard about ENO’s new announcement, read more here: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/music/opera/10795780/ENO-moves-into-the-West-End-musical-business.html”

We have produced some of the best talent… and there’s still more to be discovered.

(Sweeney Todd)

Britain has been the birthplace of Elaine Paige, Michael Ball, JOHN BARROWMAN, PEOPLE!! Classic musical theatre talent (Alongside the whole list of people in the West End, Off-west end and the fringe that are killing it 8 times a week). We are graced with Tony and Olivier award winners even in our smallest venues. We train brilliant actors over here (some who may not have even had the chance to shine yet) and as actors, choreographers, musical directors, techies, we all deserve to have new British material to work with.

We create shows.. that require awesome costumes.

(Dogs the Musical….. Just Kidding)

Oh thank you Lord (Yes i mean you Andrew!) for giving performers everywhere the opportunity to dance around in cat costumes. (The cat lady in me wishes i was more flexible!)

Jokes aside though, it seems we are losing out to Broadway transfers or jukebox musicals that producers know will “pull in the punters” when we deserve better. We need to showcase the talent we have on offer in this country and show the British public what brilliant home-grown talent we have.

I was lucky enough to attend a cabaret last Sunday called THE PLATFORM LDN created and produced by twenty something productions. The evening was created and inspired by PLATFORM NYC where new composers were given a place to showcase their work for the general public, using new talent. Now although twenty something used American composers again, I feel the premise for this evening is something that more young companies should be taking inspiration from. I’d be really intrigued to know if people could give me a list of 5 young musical theatre composers that are from Britain. I honestly don’t know very many and it seems that either we don’t have many (LIES) or they are hiding in the shadows of their American counterparts. WELL BRITISH WRITERS – IT’S TIME TO TAKE THE SPOTLIGHT I’M AFRAID! I recently put a call out for new British writers to send me some links – THE OFFER STILL STANDS.

I’m looking for British writers who I can showcase on my blog, and hopefully, in time, in an evening of new work, performed by fresh actors who haven’t already been circulating the cabaret scene. (That’s another thing that ticks me off… a lot of cabarets with the same “fresh” faces! It was nice to see some actual new talent I hadn’t seen before at PLATFORM LDN, so thank you twenty something! See my full review of the show here!) If you want to test the waters with a newly recorded song, or you are interested in potentially being featured on my blog then please do get in touch – who knows where it could lead to in the future?

So where does the future of British musical theatre lie? It lies with us – the crazy people brave enough to be in this industry! We have to make the choices to put on new work or spread the word about that composer whose music deserves to be heard. So, my lovelies, start making the choices! Go out and see new work, support new writing, and take opportunities to show that we have something worth investing in. And if all else fails – don some Cat face paint and remember why it is that we put ourselves through this torment.

My best of wishes goes to the I Can’t Sing cast and crew, and i hope that each and every member of the team moves on to bigger and better things!

ENOUGH STAGEY NOW.

Have a brilliant week all!

Koko xx

If you have some material you would like to be showcased then please do tweet me @koko91 or email kayleigh.mcknight91@gmail.com

Featured links:

http://www.perfectpitchmusicals.com/

http://mercurymusicals.com/

http://www.icantsingthemusical.com/

Pirates and Princesses

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 Good Evening once again all!

It’s Thursday blog day and this week the idea of role models has been playing on my mind. I read a blog post on the weekend about Kate (Duchess of Cambridge) and how she is a “dangerous” role model for women and young girls. (Read it here: http://www.mamamia.com.au/social/kate-middleton-not-a-role-model/)

Now as much as everyone is entitled to their opinions (not that i entirely agree with the above post) it got me thinking – what does being a role model mean? I instantly think about young girls aspiring to be princesses and little boys running around with an eye patch because their role model is Captain Jack Sparrow. And as cute as that is, that’s not relevant to those of us above the age of 14. So what is a role model for a 20-something?

Here’s an estimated list come from myself and other 20-somethings who are awesome:

  • Someone who works hard for what they want.
  • People who give up the ordinary to achieve their dreams.
  • Someone who takes care of their body/appearance.
  • Happily married with children.
  • People who are talented but can keep down-to-earth.
  • Someone who doesn’t care what people think of them.
  • Anyone that has given birth/been part of creating another human being.
  • The one who always provides the wine..  (I think that may just be me and a select few others!)
  • People who are happy to give without expecting a return.

This is just a small example of a long list of what inspires us about other people. But what i think is most important about this list is that none of it is to do with being famous, or rich, or even particularly successful. Although these reasons have all been associated with rich and famous actors/politicians/sportsmen and women, none of these characteristics are beyond our reach. In fact, these men and women have merely pointed out that these qualities are GREAT to have.

And this is where its got me thinking. Who needs a role model when it isn’t the person themselves that we want to be? As much as we love our Mums and Dads, we don’t want to step into their shoes and live their life. Instead, they provide us with an end goal – a visual image that gives us inspiration. And that is where the line should end.

Having a role model is not about looking to that person and wanting their life, it is about looking to that person and working out what it is about them you relate to and feel inspired by. For me, I am inspired by Chalene Johnson (American Fitness and Lifestyle guru.. she’s awesome) because of her positive outlook in life and her no-nonsense opinions about finding what you want and getting it. It shows me that by looking to myself, I can find my positive outlook and start my journey by choosing what I want and finding the way to get it. For some of us, it will be our parents and families we look up to, and that’s because they’ve shown us from Day 1 that you can get through life (maybe with some bumps on the way) and still be in one piece, with a family who loves you and a life to be proud of.

Our role models should inspire us to be role models. By looking at what makes us great human beings and implementing these qualities into our daily life, we will eventually be the inspiration for others and the love will just keep on rolling along!

AND SO HERE COMES MY WHAT IF? OF THE WEEK!

I fully believe in the power of visualising what you want. So.. What if you had a visual reminder that you could look at every day, that showed you the life you could have and things you want to achieve?  I’d like anyone who reads this to think about their role models. This can be a specific person, or group of people, and pick out the qualities of these people that you are most inspired by. NOW it’s time to get Visual. Either set up a Pinterest board or just cut out some images from a magazine or newspaper and put together an image/board of what you will achieve if you take these qualities on board.

For example: My Mum is so organised and on top of things that daily tasks DO NOT stress her at all. So i would think about posting a picture of a SUPER neat wardrobe of clothes or just a really well presented outfit/room in a house/etc. Jennifer Lawrence has shown to me and other women that being a healthy, strong individual is not about starving yourself – it’s about making the best of the body you have through exercise, diet and dressing the way you want to. I’d therefore post some pictures of a brilliant meal i know will make me feel great, or an outfit that I know would make me feel unstoppable.

I know this seems MEGA LAME – but i promise that if you can have visual reminders of what you want to work towards, YOU WILL ACHIEVE THEM!!! WOOO!!

So in conclusion, let your role models be an inspiration. Don’t strive to live these people’s lives, but let them give you the impetus to find the life you want and live it to the fullest. Be the Example for others!

(Ohh look at me trying to be inspirational!)

You can take a look at the start of my board here!

Thanks for reading and SPREAD THOSE INSPIRED WINGS!! 🙂

Lots of love,

Koko xx

Nine things we learnt from the Nineties

Good Evening Easter Bunnies,

First of all, HAPPY BANK HOLIDAY WEEKEND/EASTER FESTIVITINESS! I hope anyone who isn’t reading this is having a wonderful time sunning themselves in a pub garden, and for those who are reading this.. you’re my favourite so I hope you win the Euromillions and eat all your Easter eggs without gaining weight.

A video on facebook caught my eye that literally brightened my day and it inspired my to write this little article about the wondrous NINETIES. Have a cheeky watch below:

I hope this filled everyone with as much joy and horror as it did for me. As if they have no idea what a casette is? (I have Mel & Kim and Wham still on tape…. just sayin) But it got me thinking how amazing the nineties was as a kid. I asked friends on Facebook to send me a list of things they loved/missed from the nineties and have used this to come up with a definitive NINE things we learnt from the NINETIES that shaped us to be the crazy, wonderful, briliant individuals that we are today. So without further ado:

1) Stickers are more valuable than money

There was no greater feeling than when your mum arrived home with the shopping and there was a shiny packet of new stickers poking from the top of the bags. Stickers, I hear you say? What worth do they have? They proved to your class that you could customize with style – what a trait to behold in a new friend! Even better was when you had stick on jewellery – a party-bag staple and ticket to being the “groovy chick” in your class 😉 Boys, don’t think I’ve left you out – I know how important it was to be filling in that Football sticker book of yours. Stickers were common currency within my school, and hey, for at least once in my life I was rich!

2) Real pets were for grown ups!

“But..but..but… I WANT A CAT!!” … “No Kayleigh – Here.. have some.. Sea Monkeys?” I hope I am not the only person who got the gift of Sea Monkeys as their first pet. These creepy looking tadpole creatures gave me endless amounts of joy. Hours of my childhood wasted by staring at miniscule specks of god knows what! But it didn’t just stop there… Oh no, we got Furby’s – a toy made to annoy parents mercilessly and have you spend hours in the day trying to understand Furbish. Or, for those of us who were ultra cool, we were given the grand responsibility of looking after a Tamagotchi. Not only did this mean that kids around the world were being grounded for constantly checking their pockets to see if our creature had died, but it taught us that all pets must have food, a medical check, and their poop cleaned out promptly. WAY TO GO NINETIES!

3) Aliens can’t teach you Sex Ed

These little ones were THE toy to have in primary school. The gooey sticky Aliens were cute, weird, and always ended up covered in fluff after your dropped them on the carpet. However, what still baffles me to this day is that (within my school at least) we all believed that rubbing their backs together would make “alien babies”. Thanks for clearing that one up for us, nineties!

4) Girl Bands = Confidence to sing out of tune and wear crazy outfits!

Yes I am primarily talking about the Spice Girls. Because there were NO OTHER girl bands in the nineties. Ever. Thank you Spice Girls for teaching men and women alike that you CAN wear Cheetah, you CAN sing lyrics that are essentially just a load of noises, and you CAN rely on your friends because “friendship never ends”… that is.. until Geri decides to leave.. ZIG-A-ZIG-AAAHH!

5) Pleather. Just no.

On the other hand, there were SEVERAL boy bands, all of whom proved that no matter how muscly you are, how slick your curtains are, and how white your teeth are.. PLEATHER IS A NO GO.

6) The best people were witches

The kids of today have wizards and vampires but we had witches galore on our televisions. Sabrina, The Worst Witch, Charmed, Hocus Pocus, The Craft. We were spoiled for choice when it came to getting our fix of girls defeating bullies with a spell, talking cats, and crazy aunts!! Instead, we now have pale and interesting vampires and flesh-eating zombies. I’ll have fixing my life with the swish of a finger any day!

7) We didn’t need an Iphone to play games… just a Dream Phone

The nineties was the decade of BRILLIANT board games with no technology involved, just a couple of batteries. Dream Phone, Twister, Operation, Monopoly, Cluedo. These games were AWESOME and provided HOURS of entertainment without an iPad in sight. If only Dream Phone worked in real life too!

8) It’s not always about being the birthday girl/boy!

It’s my birthday party. The decorations are up. Pass the parcel is wrapped several times. The Donkey’s tail is waiting to be pinned. And my mother has been sat for several hours putting together the BEST PARTY BAGS KNOWN TO MAN! I think we all know that the best bit about the party was not the sleeping lions or musical chairs.. but the freaking party bags. Free sweets, plastic jewellery, pirate eye patches, weird bug like things in wooden boxes (please tell me people know what these are) and a whole heap of cake. Who needs it to be your birthday when you get presents just for showing up?

9) Mum and Dad know best. Always. Except maybe when it comes to how we should dress.

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Point proven. Although the facepaint was allegedly my idea…

So there we have it kids. My Nine lessons we learnt from the nineties. I know it’s a bit of a random one, but i think Easter Weekend and spending time with the family is a great time to reminisce on some of the best bits of our past. Thanks to all those who contributed some ideas and i hope you enjoyed!

Have a brilliant weekend and i’ll catch you next week!

Koko xx

THE IN(Grateful) CROWD

 

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Good day fellows,

It’s been a busy week of 23-year-old-ness, long days in the office, London fun, birthday celebrations, commiserations (damn Grand National!) and wine. But I’ve had an awakening in these last couple of days. A realisation:

I have been a sordid member of THE IN CROWD.

No, this does not mean i have been invited to every party in town, been swept off to swanky dinners and red-carpet events, nor does it mean i am now a Scientologist. In fact, The In Crowd is my affectionate nickname for that group of young twenty-somethings who cant quite see how lucky, talented, brilliant they actually are. The InGrateful Crowd, if you will, and they sort of sound something like this:

  • You have those who quite literally have it all on their plate – amazing job, brill friends, perfect partner – but still seem to be unhappy with their lot and searching for more;
  • You have those who are presented with a brilliant opportunity, like a job interview, but instantly talk down their own (very capable) skills so that they do not achieve their full potential when attempting to achieve what’s been given;
  • And you have those who neglect their own achievements and challenges because they focus their energies on everyone else’s successes. 

I am more than willing to admit i have felt like each of these examples on more than one occasion, and i think i’m one of many young individuals who feel this way. And why wouldn’t we? As a generation, the 20-30 bracket is constantly bombarded by the press about how DOOMED we all our, economic crisis, housing crisis, jobs crisis. CRISIS AAAAAAAAAAHHHHH! We’re told to believe that we are in a situation where nothing can be achieved and we are not going to reach the peak of our potential. It’s no wonder that half of us are freaking out that we can’t do that presentation for our job interview, or can’t ask that rather dishy guy in Starbucks for his number (in case you start nervously talking about cats or something…) We’re constantly sold this idea that we are the generation who won’t succeed, and shouldn’t try for fear of failing.

But at this age, we are at our most ambitious, most daring, and have the most potential to achieve our dreams. It is in these precious moments in our young lives that we set the first paving slab on our path to adulthood. This could be taking an evening course to gain the skills you need for that dream job, learning a foreign language because you always wanted to travel abroad, or even just saying hello to a person passing you on the street, because sometimes all you need is a smile and a Good Morning! to make your day feel worth it. 

I am a firm believer that we are the makers of our own futures. I do believe in fate and luck, but unless we take what resources and opportunities we have in both hands we wont ever reach our full potential. THE TIME IS NOW MY FRIENDS. Get living. Be grateful. Snog that guy from starbucks, and GO FORTH! I promise – being a member of The I’m-Grateful-And-Proud Crowd is much more rewarding. 😉

On a very cheeky side note, I’m going to start introducing my What If? of the Week – a series of challenges for people to just give a go and hopefully inspire you to do something new! It’s so easy to get complacent at this junction in life when really it should be a time of discovery and action, so let’s get to it. 

Sending the love your way,

Koko x

(Image Credit: http://www.onefinea.com/2012/11/the-friday-five.html)

DOOOO IITTTT

Two words that most of us ignore. Do it. And Why not? I’ll tell you why… the dreaded What If? 

I’ll put this into context. Straight after drama school, i decided that it would be best to move home and save my money before beginning my big, grand adventure in London. And whilst my bank balance has thanked me for this decision, I have not. Don’t get me wrong, moving home has been grand: catching up with the parents and brother, a great flexible job with a seriously understanding boss about auditions and easy access to nights at the pub with old friends. But something has been niggling me. It took a long day in the office on my own to make me realise that SOMETHING had to change. All i could envision was me, a large sledgehammer, and the walls of my office crumbling around me. DING! Something sparked within me. Why don’t i just do it? (No, not actually destroy my office). What If i come back to what counts and start doing things to bring me back? Knock down these walls holding me in this “safe” place and build my life, the way i want it, brick by brick? 

Pretty daunting. But something i feel most twenty-somethings face. You’re let out into the world and expected to start your life. But where to begin? Well here is my starting place, and i hope the starting place for other individuals in my position. I have started this blog not only to rekindle my passion for writing, but to find the What If’s in my life and actually find out what’s on the other side. I hope that with this blog, i can inspire others to get out there, join that yoga class, learn to cook that lasagne, climb mount everest (ok – maybe not but you can dream) and hopefully by doing so myself, i can find the right path for me. 

I will be updating this blog with (hopefully) inspirational pieces you need to read, interesting people you need to meet, places i’ve been that people should see, food that you must cook (i’m a foodie – apologies!) and hopefully in time that What If? complex will be a distant memory for a bunch of people who will be yelling DOOOO IIITTT into the faces of those too scared to take that first step.

It’s the eve of my 23rd birthday, and i’m proud to say that i’m taking my first step. I’m gonna start this next year off with a bang, and I hope you’ll be joining me for the journey.

– Koko xx