Tag Archives: West End

Stage Door (8): Charles Dance, Conleth Hill, & Game of Thrones

Another in series of stage door encounters with interesting actors.

I just finished binge-watching all six seasons of Game of Thrones. A couple of years ago I tried to watch it, but I only got through two episodes before deciding it was too brutal. I’m tougher now. With so many actors I like, and all that gorgeous Ireland scenery, I wish I’d joined the party sooner.

Over the years I couldn’t avoid plot spoilers, but there were still plenty of shocks and surprises. At this point, there’s not much I can say about Game of Thrones that hasn’t been said already. I love the characters I’m supposed to love (Arya, Tyrion, Brienne, Davos, etc), hate the ones everybody hates (Joffrey, Ramsey), wonder why baby Sam grows slower than any other child in Westeros, and wish I’d counted how many times Casterly Rock is mentioned.

Years ago, I saw two of the Game of Thrones cast members perform in plays in London, and I met them at the stage door with my camera.

In early 2001, I saw Charles Dance (Tywin Lannister in GofT) in Long Day’s Journey Into Night. The other cast members were Paul Rudd, Paul Nicholls, and Jessica Lange. My seat was right up close to the stage, which normally is too close but was just right for this one. Lange didn’t come out to meet anybody afterward, but the three men did. This was before gathering at the stage door after a show was popular in the West End, so there were only a few of us waiting. This was also before digital cameras, so I didn’t realize that my photo of Rudd caught him with his eyes shut.  He was very friendly, and Charles Dance was very gracious.


Soon after, I went with two friends to see Stones in His Pockets with Conleth Hill (Varys in GofT) and Sean Campion. We laughed so hard, our ribs ached by the end. It was fantastic, with just the two men playing multiple roles, including women. We were the only ones waiting afterward. While we were waiting, Stefanie Powers came out the stage door. She must have been in the audience. I recognized her immediately, but I didn’t want to bother her. Hill and Campion came out together, and they were friendly and fun. I don’t usually pose for photos (I prefer taking them), but my friends grabbed the camera and I got sandwiched between two fantastic actors. Lucky me!

With Conleth Hill & Sean Campion


Filed under Actors, Photography, Television, Theatre

Les Misérables: The Day of The Understudies!

Once again, my friend Scolytinae brings us a review of the West End production of Les Misérables, after her excellent piece on the version with Alfie Boe as Valjean last autumn.  She and her husband braved the bad winter weather to see Ramin Karimloo in the role, only to be met with a few surprises:

Let’s be honest, you don’t actually need an excuse for a repeat visit to Les Misérables, but I must admit that the prospect of seeing Ramin Karimloo as Jean Valjean persuaded us to make a return trip only 4 short months after our last excursion.  So you can imagine our disappointment when on arrival at Queen’s Theatre, we were greeted with notices in the foyer stating that due to the indisposition of Ramin Karimloo, the role of Jean Valjean would be played by Christopher Jacobsen.

Settled in our seats, we philosophically decided that “these things happen.” As a Twitter user I knew that Ramin’s recent Japanese tour had taken a lot out of him and that he was struggling, but then came an announcement that the roles of Marius and Enjolras would also be played by understudies.  We looked at each other—this would definitely be a different show to the one we had seen last September!

However, I would now like to go on record to say that this was one of the finest performances I have ever seen.  Christopher Jacobsen was simply stunning.  A powerful actor as well as singer, he brought us a Valjean of contrasts—burning passion at the injustices he suffered, yet a quiet dignity as he determined to throw off his past, start again, and make things right.  Opposite the magnificent Hadley Fraser as Javert, it felt like a whole new dynamic had appeared as the two of them faced off against each other, on occasion speaking rather than singing some of their lines as they circled each other, vying for control of the situation.

I thought Hadley was fabulous when I saw him last year, but over the ensuing months, his Javert has evolved—still intractable and inexorably driven, but now almost a sense of vulnerability.  Valjean’s manner and treatment of him was just so far outside his view of the natural order that he simply could not cope.  There was a particularly poignant moment during the suicide scene where he sings “I am the law and the law is not mocked.” At this point, he valiantly tries to regain his control and composure by pulling his lapels together and buttoning up that iconic overcoat—magic.  Thunderous applause greeted both his featured songs, and rightly so. This man is a true performer.

Marius was played by the impossibly cute Fra Fee—and what a fabulous performance it was.  Such depth and emotion from one so young; I am not ashamed to admit to a few tears after “A Little Fall of Rain,” beautifully portrayed opposite the superb Alexia Khadime.  I’m sure my hubby won’t mind me saying that he reached for the tissues too at this point!  What a beautiful voice this young man has, and such presence on stage.  I sincerely hope he’s a name to watch out for in the future.

Enjolras was beautifully played by Scott Garnham, who led his students with an understated strength and authority.  I just loved the interaction between all the students, and Adam Linstead’s Grantaire was a triumph.  In fact, I was so impressed by everyone who stepped up to fill roles vacated by the leads.  If I have to be critical, and maybe I should to prove that I can be objective where Les Mis is concerned, the only weak spot was the youngster who played Gavroche. Whether it was down to nerves, I don’t know, but he had a rather shaky start, rushing some of his lines and throwing some away completely.  He did soon settle down, and there was a huge gasp from the audience during the scene where he was shot whilst collecting ammunition.  You know, I must be getting old, because both he and the young girl playing Cosette seemed so small and fragile, almost like they should be at home tucked up in bed rather than up onstage!!

If there were any negative vibes emanating from people who bought tickets expecting to see Ramin Karimloo, then Christopher Jacobsen certainly wasn’t affected by them.  It must be a daunting feeling to step onstage knowing that many people in the audience wish you weren’t there.  Christopher simply took the audience by storm, and seemed genuinely overwhelmed by his rapturous reception at the end.  So much so that, after taking center stage for a few seconds, he called the cast back onstage to join him for another bow, to happily acknowledge the lengthy standing ovation which was a fitting end to a truly incredible show.  A day of understudies it may have been, but it is a tribute to the depth of talent in British musical theatre that this didn’t matter one iota—we heard the people sing, and they were fantastic!

Thank you, Scolytinae!  It sounds like a great afternoon of theatre.  It looks like we’ll have to add Christopher Jacobsen, Fra Fee, and Scott Garnham to our growing list of favorite West End actors.

See also: Beg, Borrow or Steal to See Les Misérables


Filed under Actors, Theatre

Hadley & Les Mis: the only way to spend a Saturday

A guest review of the London production of Les Misérables from Scolytinae:

Hadley Fraser as JavertAs I am a huge Hadley Fraser fan, I should warn you in advance—this review may be a little biased!  I had booked my tickets back in April and was eagerly anticipating both the show and just how Hadley would interpret this complex character, my expectations were high, and I am happy to report that they were met, then exceeded tenfold!

 From the moment he strode on stage to hand Valjean his “yellow ticket of leave”, Hadley grabbed the role and made it his own.  His Javert was not a cold, calculating villain, but rather a man driven by his own certainties—you break the law, you are punished—you are a lawbreaker, you are unworthy, and it’s this that ensures his dogged pursuit of Valjean across the years.  Every time they encounter each other, Javert is bested by Valjean, and this sense of growing frustration came over so well.   One particularly memorable moment for me was after the students had fallen at the barricade. Javert returns and, in a very agitated manner, searches through the corpses looking for Valjean.   When it becomes clear he isn’t amongst the bodies, Hadley’s cry of rage and despair was something to behold.

 “Stars” is one of my favourite songs from the show, and I have heard it performed many times, but never quite as well as this.  I was obviously not alone in that opinion, as the thunderous applause began long before that amazing final note finished.  This moment was only surpassed by the incredible suicide scene.  As Valjean slips through his fingers yet again, you really begin to feel for Javert and watch in dismay as he begins to lose his grip on the world.  There really is no place for him to go, and with wild hair and dishevelled clothing, he clambers over the railings, throws himself off the bridge and, with clever use of lighting and the centre revolve of the stage,  is swept away.  A breathtaking moment, with Hadley not just singing but acting every note.

One of the many things that struck me was just how physical the show was.  Students, and the more senior cast members, clambering up, down and across the magnificent barricade, an incredible fight between Valjean and Javert, culminating in Alfie Boe smashing a chair and brandishing the broken leg in Hadley’s face, and, after Javert is revealed as a spy and handed over to Valjean, Alfie throws Hadley against a wall and pins him there with a musket under the chin!   All this whilst singing too—you certainly need stamina to be in this production! 

Ah, yes—there were other people up there on stage too!  The entire cast was absolutely superb, and mentioning everyone’s individual performance could take some time!  Instead, I’ll just say that this young cast have gelled together so well since June, and are producing some quite incredible performances.  I must however give a quick mention to the lovely Alfie Boe, magnificent as ever and who gave an incredibly moving performance, and Cameron Blakely who took over the role of Thénardier following Matt Lucas’ departure last week.  He has a lovely voice and gave us some genuinely funny moments, his timing was spot on.   I loved the little girl who played young Cosette.   She was such a tiny, fragile looking little thing, and the pail to fetch the water from the well in the wood was almost as big as she was!  This didn’t stop her from delivering a lovely “Castle on a Cloud.”  It was such a pity she wasn’t able to return to take her bow at the end.

It may be 26 years old, but Les Misérables shows no signs of ageing or of losing its appeal, as the “House Full” sign at the door on a sunny Saturday afternoon attested to.  It looks great, sounds fabulous and, with performances like this, means that this is a situation that isn’t going to change any time soon!  Quite simply, this is musical theatre at its very best.

Thanks, Scolytinae!   Now I’m even more desperate to get to London to see this production.  Great bug name, too.  (My guests get to pick their own!) 


Filed under Actors, Theatre

Stage Door (7): Alan Rickman and Lindsay Duncan

Another in a series of stage door encounters with favorite actors.

Last month, I discussed the BBC America website’s “Anglo Fan Favorite” competition.  Well, Alan Rickman won. The man has a powerful fan base! This is kind of late, but I’m saluting his win by sharing this stage door encounter.

In October 2001, I was lucky enough to see Alan Rickman perform in a West End production of Noel Coward’s Private Lives with Lindsay Duncan. It was a delightful romp. Having just seen Hamlet at Statford-upon-Avon, the Coward play seemed so short! We went to the stage door to meet the cast, naturally. Rickman and Duncan were perfectly friendly, but we could see that they were tired from the performance. They posed for a photograph, and Rickman signed the cover of my Harry Potter book. It may sound tacky have him sign a Harry Potter book at a stage door, but this was just a couple of weeks before the first movie opened in cinemas, when nobody knew how huge it was all going to be. Anyway, Rickman didn’t seem to mind!

alan-rickman-photo-and-autograph copy

Americans will notice that my Harry Potter book is a UK edition, so it’s “Philosopher’s Stone” and not “Sorcerer’s Stone.”  I could launch into my rant about how stupid it was to change the American title to “Sorcerer’s Stone” (which isn’t an actual historical reference to anything), but it’s a lost cause.

Other Stage Door Encounters:  1   2   3   4   5   6


Filed under Actors, Theatre

Matilda The Musical: Cast Recording

Yesterday the cast recording of Matilda was released, featuring the original cast from the RSC Stratford-Upon-Avon production.  This musical adaptation of the Roald Dahl book had a brief run last Christmas, playing to enthusiastic audiences and rave reviews.   I am posting this information because Robert Madge was part of the cast, and he’s a favorite since playing Gavroche in the Les Mis anniversary concert.  Matilda is opening October 18, 2011, in the West End, but Madge is not in London production.  (See the new cast list on the official website.)   The cast recording is being sold exclusively here for now, and it will be available on iTunes beginning October 18th.  I haven’t heard it yet, but I’m sure it’s wickedly good. 

If you want to listen specifically for Robert Madge, he sings solo lines in the opening song “Miracle” and in “When I Grow Up.” 

Matilda CD cast recording


Filed under Actors, Music, Theatre

First Look: Hadley Fraser’s Javert

Last night, a mix of current and upcoming Les Misérables cast members performed on the Classic Brit Awards television broadcast, giving us our first look at Hadley Fraser’s Javert.  Here’s the video clip.  (Thanks to summerdress14 for uploading the video and Soliloquy for helping me to find it so quickly.)

Hadley Fraser as Javert, Les Miserables, Classic Brit Awards

Hadley Fraser as Javert, Les Miserables, Classic Brit Awards

Naturally I had to make screencaps.  My thoughts?  It was difficult to capture stills of Hadley Fraser when he wasn’t looking demonic!  Javert is not a nice fellow.  I also believe, and this is just a guess, that Fraser is not in full makeup yet.  He’s looking very young for a guy who’s been chasing Valjean for almost thirty years.  Not that I’m complaining.  I will take any glimpse of him I can get.  As for the new cast, they begin performances on June 23rd.

Update:  Oh, so you want to see demonic?  Okay.  Here.

Hadley Fraser as Javert, Les Miserables, Classic Brit Awards

Related posts:  Please Sir, I Want Some More   Grantaire   Enjolras & Grantaire   To The Barricade!   Sheytoons at Dublin Castle    Les Mis: The Big Opening


Filed under Actors, Television, Theatre