Archive for April, 2011

Royal Wedding

Today is the Royal Wedding.  It’s pretty amusing to see how it’s completely taken over American television.  I’m switching around channels this morning, and it’s all about the wedding.  Kelly Ripa on Regis and Kelly Live is wearing a bunch of feathers on her head that she calls a “fascinator,” competing with some of the amazing hats at the ceremony.  I planned on getting up in the middle of the night to watch some of the wedding live, but exhaustion won out.  There’s so much coverage of the highlights, I’m not worried about what I missed.  I mostly want to see footage of Prince Edward, but so far I haven’t spotted him.

I was seven the first time my family visited London.  My uncle, Dennis Severs, was a young law student there, and he was the best tour guide we could have.  One evening, he took us to Buckingham Palace in a light rain.  He was very secretive, refusing to tell us why we were there.  The sidewalk in front of the Palace was almost deserted.  Soon, a black car drove slowly through the gate.  The Queen was in the back seat, and she gave us the famous royal wave.

I visited my uncle again when I was sixteen.  It was my first time traveling to London alone, and I was pretty pathetic.  It didn’t help that I had mono!  The trip turned around for me when Dennis took me to watch the royal procession for the Queen Mother’s 80th birthday.  He found us a brilliant spot on the route,  right in front and only a few yards from the cars and carriages.  I had broken my glasses, having stepped on them as I got out of the bathtub, so I was holding them onto my face as the royal family rode by.   Prince Edward looked in my direction, smiled, and waved.  I was lovestruck.   I was charmed by his braces, but my uncle didn’t believe me.  He said, “The Royal Family does NOT wear braces!”  It took me ages to find a photograph of Prince Edward that confirmed my observation.  I spent the rest of my trip buying postcards and photo books of the young prince.  I sent him a birthday card that year, and I got a fancy formal letter from Buckingham Palace thanking me.  I framed it and hung it on my wall.

Prince Edward, Prince Charles, Prince Andrew (clockwise)

Prince Edward, Prince Charles, Prince Andrew (clockwise)

The following summer Prince Charles married Lady Diana.  When I asked my father if I could go back to London, he told me he didn’t want to hear one more word about it.  Looking back, I understand that he was jealous of the spell my uncle had over me.  It was a complicated case of sibling rivalry, and I was caught in the middle.  I was really hurt, though, and it kind of spoiled the wedding for me.  Still, like the rest of world, I was caught up in the pomp and circumstance of it all.  Diana was so young and pretty, but I was looking behind the royal couple trying to find Prince Edward.

Charles and Diana Wedding

I was so proud of Prince Edward when he had the courage to break family tradition, leaving the military to find his own way.  I was delighted when he started working in theatre!  My heart broke just a tiny bit when he got married.  I’ll bet there are lots of young women feeling the same way today as they watch Prince William get married.

In 1988, I went to Trooping the Colours.  This time I didn’t go with my uncle, so I experienced the event without his special magic.   I was squashed in the crowd several rows back from the barricade.  It wasn’t pleasant.  This event was the only time I saw Princess Diana.  Like most people, I remember exactly where I was when I heard about her tragic death.  I was so angry about the paparazzi and the role they played in her accident.  I hoped some good would come out it, that the press would stop hounding public figures so remorselessly. Nothing has changed, and the paparazzi are even worse now.   Let’s hope William and Kate are allowed some privacy and peace.

I keep crying as I watch footage of the wedding today, and I know it’s because of  all these memories of my uncle.  He introduced me to the romance, the pomp, and the history of all things British.   He died in 1999, and I miss him.

Congratulations to Prince William and his lovely bride!

Update:  Later today, I found photos of Prince Edward from the wedding.

Les Mis: The Streets of Paris

Here we go again—more screencaps from the Les Misérables concert!  This is one of my favorite sequences.  So many new characters are introduced, revolution is stirring, and it all happens so fast.

Robert Madge as Gavroche, Les Miserables

We live on crumbs of humble piety, tough on the teeth but what the hell!

Prostitutes and Pimp, Les Miserables

When we gonna live? Something's gotta happen...something's gotta give!

Nick Jonas and Ramin Karimloo, Marius and Enjolras, Les Miserables

With all the anger in the land, how long before the Judgment Day?

Samantha Barks as Eponinie, Les Miserables

That's Eponine, she knows her way about...

Nick Jonas, Samantha Barks, Katie Hall, Les Miserables

I didn't see you there, forgive me.

Alfie Boe, Valjean and Gang, Les Miserables

What is this? Are you mad?

Javert Valjean Cosette: Norm Lewis, Alfie Boe, Katie Hall, Les Miserables

Another brawl in the square! Another stink in the air!

Related Posts:   Gavroche    My Les Mis    Please Sir, I Want Some More    To The Barricade!    Ramin Karimloo      Enjolras & Grantaire     Grantaire   Thénardier Waltz    Gavroche: Liar!     Bring Him Home    Enjolras    Les Mis: The Originals   24601    Fantine    Cosette & Madame Thénardier

Sheytoons at Dublin Castle, Camden, London

As promised, here is a report of the Sheytoons show at Dublin Castle on April 24th.  Sheytoons is the band led by Ramin Karimloo and Hadley Fraser.  I couldn’t attend, since I’m here in San Francisco, so Claire has joined me as a guest:

I was flattered to be asked to write something on the recent Sheytoons gig I was lucky enough to attend.  Don’t think I’ve ever been a ‘guest blogger’ before!  Stacey’s blog is great—I love seeing people with the same passion for theatre as me.  First I thought I’d write a bit about the concert and then try to answer a few questions.

Ramin Karimloo & Hadley Fraser, Sheytoons at Dublin Castle

I’ve followed this great band from right before their first guest spot at Hadley’s cabaret in October.  Their mix of folk and bluegrass with great vocals and beautiful lyrics really is very special.  It was an exciting night, seeing them play their first real gig at Dublin Castle.  The venue is in the back area of a rather dingy-looking pub in perhaps not the most glamorous area of London.  But, boy did it work.  The excellent support act Dharma Sunset had the packed venue ready for a great evening.  It was intimate and relaxed.  I’m not sure if the band or the crowd was having more fun.  They played all their songs to date, and it’s great to hear how much some of them have grown.  We got treated to great solos by Ramin and Hadley and then to some of their new material.  The whole group is so talented—I know they can go a long way.  The great relationship between band mates shows, and they put their heart and soul into everything they do with the band.  It’s a special opportunity to see two of the West End’s most talented performers doing something they love, showing  just how talented they are as musicians.

Ramin Karimloo & Hadley Fraser, Sheytoons at Dublin Castle

Sheytoons has some different faces sometimes, but they are always led by Ramin and Hadley, who do all the songwriting together, playing guitar and banjo and providing the main vocals, too.  I’ll introduce the band as it was on Sunday:

Tom Deering (keyboard), Nick Pini (bass), Ruth Irons (violin), Roy Pfeffer (drums, doing a great job at very short notice), Rosie Craig (backing vocals–Rosie can currently be seen in London Road at the National Theatre).

Ramin Karimloo (vocals, guitar and banjo) – Iranian Canadian Ramin formed Sheytoons with Hadley nearly a year ago, after suggesting to a record company that of course he could write music.  With best friend Hadley, it transpires that he most definitely can.  He’s developed his guitar skills and learned banjo and now sounds pretty awesome on both.  Ramin is a hot property in the West End right now, wearing the famous mask in Love Never Dies until September.  He is so talented it’s unreal.  I’d urge everyone to catch him while we’ve still got him in the West End.  He is also the most genuine, down to earth, generally lovely guy I’ve ever met.  He’s so good to his fans.  It has always been a pleasure to support him.

Ramin Karimloo & Hadley Fraser, Sheytoons at Dublin Castle

Hadley Fraser (vocals, guitar) – Hadley is one of the most underrated talents in the West End. He’s been unlucky with some of his shows, but that is to change in June, when he joins the Les Mis family again as Javert.  He is an incredibly talented musician, turning his hand to anything.  He has a stunning voice and guitar skills which are second to none.

I’m quite impressed if I’ve not bored you silly by this point, but I’ll now try to answer some of Stacey’s questions:

How long did Sheytoons perform?  How many people were in the audience? What was the male/female ratio?

They played for an hour and a quarter with approximately 150 people there. It was great to see some other West End faces and the guys’ families coming along to support them.  I’d say the male/female ratio was pretty equal—surprisingly!

Did they start on time?  And why was Hadley Fraser in the dark?

They started on time after an excellent support act.  The lighting hasn’t come out well on the videos, but yes, Ramin is lit almost too brightly and Hadley to the side not as much.

Did you get a look at Ramin’s new tattoos? Did he show them off?

I have seen Ramin’s new tattoos. (I don’t like tattoos in general, but his are pretty cool and have great personal meaning for him.)  He is very proud of them, but apart from what you could see round his t-shirt, no.  He wouldn’t have ‘shown them off’ at this sort of event.

Did the band interact with fans offstage? Pose for photos, give autographs?

There was some interaction before with fans—they were chatting easily with people over a beer outside.  Only a few saw them after, as most of us ran for the last tube.  But yes, it seems they were as giving with their time as ever.

Were there any funny mishaps?

A few mishaps.  They shot off far too fast on one song and had to restart.  Then Ramin forgot to plug in his guitar at one point, which Hadley milked for all it was worth: “Take your time, Ramin, whenever you’re ready!”  There is always lots of banter when they are together—they are hilarious.

Ramin Karimloo & Hadley Fraser, Sheytoons at Dublin Castle

Do Ramin and Hadley write all their songs together, or are some written by just one?

All the songs are joint ventures.  They use the internet etc. if needed, to bounce ideas as they are both so busy. You’ll often see Ramin leave the Stage Door with a guitar.  (He even took his banjo to Malaysia earlier in the month where he was performing in a concert—he’s songwriting all the time.) When their busy schedules allow, Hadley and the rest of the band are regulars in Ramin’s huge dressing room at the Adelphi for impromptu jam sessions.

Any new faces in the audience?  Did you see lots of familiar faces from the Stage Door?

I did see some new faces which is always lovely, but it was also a great evening with friends, too.

Thank you for reading.  Please support Sheytoons; they have an official website and are on Twitter and Facebook. I have uploaded videos of the whole set at Dublin Castle to my You Tube channel (clairetrillwood).  Enjoy!

Thank you, Claire! I hope you come back for the next Sheytoons gig.  I also hope other fans who were there will add to this report in the comment section.  Well, even if you weren’t there, leave a comment!

Credit where credit is due:  I made the screencaps in photoshop from videos posted by tnlew and steffiG79 on YouTube, with their gracious permission.   Please do not post these elsewhere without credit or permission. 

Related posts:   Please Sir, I Want Some More   Enjolras & Grantaire  Enjolras    Grantaire   Les Mis: To The Barricade!    My Les Mis    Ramin Karimloo    Hadley Fraser

Stage Door (4): Ewan McGregor

The fourth in a series of fan encounters with favorite actors.

The first thing I used to do upon arrival in London, after ten hours on an airplane, was sleep.  The next thing I’d do was grab a Time Out to find out who was performing in the West End.  I probably should have done it before I arrived, but I hated finding about things that I’d miss because I didn’t schedule my trip just a little bit sooner.  Or later.  I really can’t win.   In March, 1999, I changed the dates for a trip to London at the last minute, and I lucked out.  I was able to catch one of the final performances of Little Malcolm and His Struggle Against the Eunuchs with Ewan McGregor.

Little Malcolm Comedy Theatre sign

This was just two months before Star Wars: The Phantom Menace hit the theatres.  I was a huge Ewan McGregor fan, mainly because of Shallow Grave.  I honestly can’t remember if I’d seen Trainspotting at that point, but I did come to appreciate the movie after avoiding it for many years.

The play was at the Comedy Theatre on Panton Street, which has 796 seats, meaning it’s fairly small for the West End.   The tickets were sold out except for a few seats in the front row, which went on sale a couple of hours before each performance.  I was willing to try for one, so I went early to stand in line at the box office.  There were only four people there, so I was pretty confident I’d get a seat.  The three young people ahead of me were American college students from the East Coast, studying in London.  We got to chatting.  We had plenty of time to kill, and I really enjoyed their company.

I noticed a fellow walking toward the theatre, talking on a cell phone.  It was Ewan McGregor.  I waved at him and asked if I could take his photograph.  He looked around to see if I was talking to him, as if there was somebody I’d rather photograph standing nearby.   He put his hand over the phone, saying politely that he’d finish his phone call and come back for the photo.  The students and I were really excited, although Andy was pretending to play it cool.  I struggled to get my camera out of my bag without dropping it on the pavement.  We debated whether he would come back, but I was certain he wouldn’t let us down.  He came around the building again, with a cigarette in hand, and he posed on the steps with Marilyn, Meredith and Andy.  Ewan McGregor was so friendly and down-to-earth, and when I spoke to him, he looked right into my eyes.   His eyes are very blue, very large, and quite mesmerizing.  When a crowd began to gather around us, he left to go backstage.

Ewan McGregor, Little Malcolm, Comedy Theatre 1999

The box office opened soon after, or maybe it was a long time later.  I was too starstruck to notice.  We got our front row tickets, and then the students and I had a couple of hours before the play started.  Naturally, we went to a photo lab to get the photos developed, ordering lots of copies for everybody.   Then we parted company to get dinner.  I met them again in the front row as we took our seats.  There wasn’t a curtain, so we could see the set, which was a messy art student’s apartment.  Our seats were next to a bed covered in clothes.  I had that funny feeling you get when you sense somebody is nearby.  Sure enough, the house lights went down and then came up almost immediately onstage.   The clothes on the bed began to move.  Ewan McGregor was buried under the clothing, and as far as I could tell, he’d been there the whole time.  I would love to know what strange and silly things he heard from the audience during the run of the play!

Little Malcolm, by David Halliwell,  is about an art student who’d been expelled from his college.  He and his cohorts plan an elaborate revenge involving the kidnapping of the college president.   They act out the various stages of the plot, and it’s all outrageously funny.  At the end, it takes a very dark and tragic turn, but mostly it’s a comic romp.  Malcolm is meant to remind us of the Hitler, how he was both ridiculous and dangerous, or so I’ve read.  I was simply caught up in the performances.  All five cast members were wonderful:  Ewan McGregor, Sean Gilder, Joe Duttine, Nicolas Tennant, and Lou Gish.  The play was directed by McGregor’s uncle, Denis Lawson, who appeared in the original Star Wars films.

Little Malcolm curtain call

Lou Gish, Joe Duttine, Ewan McGregor, Nicolas Tennant, & Sean Gilder

Normally, I would go around to the stage door after seeing a show, but that evening the entire cast rushed off to the Comic Relief Benefit.  During curtain call, the cast came out in red clown noses (a Comic Relief tradition).  I used my cheap pocket camera to get a few photos.   I would never take photos during a performance, but I couldn’t resist the curtain call.  Instead of hanging out at the stage door, I went out for coffee with Andy, Marilyn and Meredith.  I stayed in touch with Andy, and we’re still facebook friends.

I was not impressed with the new Star Wars films, to say the least.   I still love Ewan McGregor, but I’m behind watching his more recent movies.  Sean Gilder and Denis Lawson appeared in Horatio Hornblower, my favorite mini-series.  Lou Gish died of cancer in 2006, which I only just discovered while preparing this piece.  I saw Nicolas Tennant in another play in 2002…but that story will have to wait.  It’s a good one, and it’s coming soon!

Related posts:  Stage Door (1): Richard Coyle   Stage Door (2): James McAvoy    Stage Door (3): Simon Trinder

Happy Easter 2011

Near Gortin, County Tyrone, Northern Ireland

ducklings
Easton Farm Park, Suffolk, England
Flatford, Suffolk, England
Flatford, Suffolk, England
Minsmere RSPB Reserve, Suffolk, England
Minsmere RSPB Reserve, Suffolk, England

Today is Easter.  I’m long past the age when Easter automatically brings to mind bunnies and baskets of candy.  Still, after a week inside inhaling incense and listening to gorgeous choir music at St Agnes, it’s kind of nice to go outside for a bit of nature.  Even if it’s just in a photograph.

21 Apr

Happy Birthday, Hadley Fraser

Posted by Ugly Bug in Actors, Theatre. Tagged: , , .

Hadley Fraser was Grantaire in the Les Misérables 25th anniversary concert, and he’ll be taking over the role of Javert in London’s West End production on June 23rd.  He’s a new favorite of mine.   It’s his birthday today, so best wishes from The Ugly Bug Ball.  Cheers!

Hadley Fraser as Grantaire, Les Miserables

14 Apr

One Year Old

Posted by Ugly Bug in Actors, Movies, Music, Television, The Internet, Theatre. Tagged: , , , , , , .

Reflections on my first year of blogging

Today is the one year anniversary of The Ugly Bug Ball.  I wasn’t sure I could keep it going, but here we are on post number 95.  100 would have been a nicer number, but I’m not complaining.  Honestly, my only goal a year ago was to find a way to stop driving my boss crazy.  She was tired of all my entertainment chitchat, so I took it online. 

A year ago, I was obsessing over Matthew Goode and Michael Sheen, and I was mourning the cancellation of EastEnders on my local PBS station.  I think I can be forgiven for neglecting Matthew Goode, since he hasn’t released any new movies.  Michael Sheen has been very busy, but I have to confess, I didn’t finish watching A Special Relationship.  All the politics went right over my head.  I still miss Albert Square.

A year ago, I’d never heard of Jonathan Jackson or his band Enation.  I didn’t know I’d be spending every weekday afternoon watching General Hospital to see Jackson as Lucky Spencer.   I was so excited when Enation tweeted links to my blog and even commented on one of my posts.  Now my current obsession is the Les Misérables 25th anniversary concert and some of the West End actors who performed in it.   Who knows what will entertain me next.  I try to “spread the love” by having lots of favorites, so there is always something new just around the corner.

I wish I didn’t feel compelled to check my blog stats so often.  I’m fascinated by how many visitors I get, and what brings them here.  It took me a long time to figure out that a portion of my “visitors” weren’t real, but spam referrers and creepy link posters.  Once I got over that disappointment, I soldiered on.  A dramatic change came a few months after I started, when the UK dating site with the same name was launched.   Suddenly, I had a dramatic increase in visits, but it wasn’t my Bug Ball they wanted.  Google soon sorted them out, although I still get a few strays.  My other wish?  That more people would leave comments.   Even after a year, it’s a thrill to know that people from all over the world are looking at my pages.

 I never really planned to be “Ugly Bug,”  but that’s become my username in various forums and sites that I visit, and when I leave comments on other blogs.  My gravatar photo is a damselfly, and I quite like that for a name, but I never got around to trying it.  It amuses me how some folks are uncomfortable with the word ugly.  I’m usually addressed as UB or Bug, which is fine, too.  I’m fond 0f that old saying, call me anything except late for dinner!

My most popular post this first year is  A Silent Scream, which talks about silent film.  Lots of folks out there are googling “Louise Brooks.”  A surprisingly popular one is All Thumbs, simply because of the photo of Hrithik Roshan’s double thumb.   Another entry that gets a lot of visits is In Remembrance: Armistice Day due to the WWI art.   My Les Mis posts have brought in a lot of new people, too.  I’m not sure how many more screencaps I will add, but at least my photoshop skills keep improving. 

New technology has brought big changes to my blog and what entertains me.  Last summer I got my first mp3 player.  Then my brother gave me my first digital camera, so I was able to start adding fresh photos.  I got a new Epson scanner, so old photos and slides were resurrected and added to these pages.  I learned how to make screencaps using Paint and Photoshop, and I learned that YouTube videos could be converted into mp3s.   Speaking of YouTube, I had no idea until last summer what treasures could be found there.  

Another big blogging milestone was when I started writing about personal subjects.  I wasn’t sure I wanted to go there.   Writing about my favorite uncle, Dennis Severs, was a wonderful way to share a few memories, and I found it deeply satisfying.   I’ve been neglecting my Stage Door Encounter series, but it’s been a fun way to combine personal experiences with my interest in actors.  

So here’s to one year and counting, and hopefully the best is yet to come!

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