CAROLINE or CHANGE at The Playhouse Theatre

Interesting one! Booked tickets to see this show because I wanted a night out with friends and the front row of the balcony was only £20 a seat, so it seemed the perfect match. I did not know anything about this show and in fact I did not even know it was a musical?!? The opening scene was the perfect appetiser for the musical sensation that was to follow. Set in Louisiana in 1963 this simple tale is of a hard working divorced black maid, trying her best to earn enough money to support her four children, employed by a white jewish family. Her employees do their best to be supportive but rather than empathise with her they manage to re-enforce the racial stereotypes and division that existed in the south of the US in the 1960’s. The story is a simple tale of hardship, friendship, strong women and family dynamics but what really makes this show such a treat is the pure quality of the cast. Sharon D Clark holds the stage with exception talent. However credit needs to be given to the entire cast as every member is superb from the youngest child to the more mature lady of the moon (see now you’re intrigued so you will just have to go and see what I mean) and special mention needs to go to Abiona Omonua who plays Caroline’s daughter, my god this young lady can sing! There are still seats available for most performances so fill those seats people because this really is a musical, funny, heart warming gem.

The Ivy Market Grill, Covent Garden.

Having visited The Ivy Garden in Chelsea in the summer I thought I would check out their sister restaurant in Covent Garden ‘The Ivy Market Grill’. A lovely friendly welcome greeted us in this stylish, Art Deco themed restaurant. A great vibe with a relaxed atmosphere, the restaurant was surprisingly spacious whilst retaining a cosy feel. Comfortable seating at well spaced out tables and plenty of very attentive waiting staff who had good knowledge of the menu and drink choices. I chose a prawn cocktail starter which was stuffed full of juicy, meaty prawns, followed by a big plate of steak, egg and chips with watercress and a tomato side salad. All beautifully cooked and filling my tummy to the brim. I had no room for pudding but my friends all chose an apple tart which was freshly cooked to order and once again served with a friendly, attentive smile. We had a lovely evening and highly recommend this lovely restaurant. Price wise at around £50 a head it’s not cheap but if you want a bit of a treat with quality food then give it a go. But book early as tables fill up fast.

THE BAND Theatre Royal Haymarket…..

I have never been a big ‘boy band’ fan but I can never resist singing along to the occasional Take That song and as ‘boy bands’ go Take That are probably the best that there is (sorry other boy bands!) So with a bunch of similarly aged friends, all of whom can safely say were around ‘Then” and ‘Now”, we set off to the Theatre Royal, Haymarket with great anticipation. I knew the story was not about how the band had formed but I did not have any other insider knowledge. The story starts back ‘Then’ with the band in their hey day and their fans in their teens. I felt the show was a little bit slow to start and I wasn’t sure how well it was going to pick up. I know this is a touring show and was only doing a twelve week run in the West End, but it did, at the beginning, feel more like a local theatre piece. However the story then took an unexpected turn and from then on really captured the audience. The band themselves, as well as spending some time in concert mode, provided the backing track throughout which worked brilliantly. It was also great to see a young cast (both male and female) perform with such confidence, alongside older actors with one playing a multitude of bit parts transporting you to the different times and locations. But what really made this show a winner was the story, which I can’t reveal because I promised no spoilers, but all my friends agreed that they had to try really hard not to have a good weep! This is not just a celebration of all things Take That but also a message of friendship and loyalty and a realisation that whichever different paths peoples’ lives may travel down, true friendship can survive the test of time.

Sovereign Light Cafe made famous by Keane!

Little side tract from the big smoke today whilst visiting family in good old Bexhill-on-Sea. Driving along the seafront on this beautiful sunny day with a very hungry tum, I saw a parking space outside The Sovereign Light Cafe, yes the one in the Keane song and thought it would be rude not to! So in I went and was rewarded with a delicious full English plus a cup of tea with a sea view and the most delicious freshly cooked ingredients. Cost £5.75 was a little bit expensive for the size of the plate but quality over quantity was definately the recipe of the day and I would absolutely go back again for such a tasty bite. So if ever you find yourself driving along West Parade and fancy a bite to eat you really can’t go wrong with this little gem.

The best so far.

Although this blog is looking forward to 2019, I feel I should take a little bit of time to mention some of the best and worse shows of my back catalogue so far. Mainly because there have been a few theatrical experiences that have absolutely blown me away. I can’t name them all but along with favourite gig’s, venues and restaurants, here’s my top ten from high to lower, drum roll please………………… (ps I promise no spoilers). 1. Lazarus – David Bowie’s musical masterpiece, created by a genius (bit of a Bowie fan me!) and performed by a quality cast. Hard to explain this one, best description I can think of is a musical emotional experience that has to be lived (you really had to be there, so to speak). Mental breakdown, evil personified, lust, love, bonkers moments that can only be created within Bowie’s mind with his incredible sound track and the most gentle innocent beautiful relationship between a father and child. Outstanding. 2. Sunny Afternoon – there are a lot of musicals out there these days that follow the format of the rise of a musical band or genre, some good, some rather boring. However this story of the Kinks is superb. Raw, funny, honest and all played live, it is just great fun with fantastic music (bit of a Kinks fan me!) and a fast flowing energy that leaves you singing and dancing all the way home. 3. The Kiterunner – not for the faint hearted. The most spine chilling, honest, shocking, humbling, emotional (two of my friends sobbed through most of it) play I have ever seen. A true example of the power of theatre with minimal scenery and no special effects. Just a powerful beautifully written script transformed to the stage. 4. Blondie at the Roundhouse – This is a double whammy, fab gig at fab venue. I love Blondie and 11.59 is my favourite song ever (if you don’t know it Spotify it). I’d always wanted to see them live but was worried that my dreams would be shattered and they wouldn’t live up to my expectations – WRONG – Debbie Harry is officially the coolest rock chic alive and Blondie are the best gig I have ever been to, need I say more!!!!! 5. The Savoy – Yes very posh I know and it really is. But OMG they do it well. Had afternoon tea here which was expensive and was a treat but was lovely from start to finish. But we also went here on a meal deal, paid £35 a head for three courses and a glass of champagne. The food was amazing and the service outstanding. So if you see a meal deal give it a go. 6. Parliament-funkadelic with George Clinton – again at the Roundhouse in Camden. Didn’t know quite what to expect but got over two hours of partying on down with a stage over flowing with musicians and singers having the time of their lives. Their vibe filtered down through the crowd and even the pillars were moving and a grooving. Loved it…….. 7. Trafalgar studios – Whitehall. Fantastic, intimate little venue with two studios holding 380 (studio 1) or 150 people (studio 2). Saw Orlando Bloom in Killing Joe in studio 2, fast paced black comedy and Orlando Bloom, need I say more! And then Misty, a poetic drama written and performed by Arinze Kene about a youth growing up in Hackney. Amazingly lyrical and very moving making me both smile and cry. 8. Jesus Christ Superstar at Regents Park Open Air Theatre – another spine tingling experience. I’m not a fan of Andrew Lloyd Webber musicals but I do love this one. Went on the recommendation of a friend who said the setting made the whole show come to life. Modern production with not a well known, but incredible cast and the most flowing, incredibly choreographed performance set amongst the trees. I’m singing along in my head as I write this and probably will be now all evening ……….hosanna hey sanna, sanna, sanna hosanna ………………. 9. Les Miserable – I’ve seen this musicial more than any other in the West End and I never get tired of it. It is definitely a marmite play either loving it or hating it but I’m a lover and have to go back every so ofter just to get a Les Mis fix. Now I’m singing Les Mis tunes in my head!!! No still singing hosanna hey sanna! 10. The Globe – saw ‘As You Like It’. Paid £5 to stand in the yard. I love a good Shakespeare play as long as I’ve read about it first so I have some idea what might be going on. This was superb. Incredible acting, very funny play with a profoundly deaf actress completely integrated into acting within the play by using British Sign Language, with the other actors seamlessly interpreting her speech, so well integrated that you would have thought Shakespeare had written this character as someone who was deaf. Be prepared though if you do choose the £5 standing tickets as you have to stand at all times during the performance and if you sit down the staff come round and ask you to stand up again. I would definitely go again but I think I would splash out and pay for seat which range from £7 to about £30 so still affordable but bring a cushion! So that’s my top ten. There are so many more I could comment on but from here onwards it’s all about the new. But before I sign off for today I do have one play to mention that has been the only complete disaster. ‘Glengarry Glen Ross’ starring Christian Slater, Kris Marshall and Stanley Townsend to name but a few. What was that all about????? 45minute first half when nothing happened and if it did we couldn’t understand anyone’s attempt of an American accent, even the Americans, an interval that consisted of a lot of wine to get us through the second half and a second half with even less substance – sorry boys but that’s an hour and 45 of my life that I’m never going to get back. Oh well you can’t win them all!!!! Well that’s me for today but I’m off to see ‘The Band’ followed by dinner at The Ivy Grill next Saturday so please come back to my blog to see what I have to say ………with thanks.