Friday, 30 September 2011

Phantom of the Opera's 25th Anniversary & Interview with former Christine, Gina Beck

Welcome back to Access London and Thank You once again for your continued support for disability access and awareness in the Capital.

As many of you will know, Access London has been running a series of posts over the last few weeks for Phantom of the Opera's 25th Anniversary. The celebrations this weekend at the Royal Albert Hall will be the musical event of the year and we've been using the opportunity to promote the Access to both the Hall and to Phantom's London home, Her Majesty's Theatre.

This is the final post before the celebrations begin tomorrow, however, the posts will continue to run throughout the anniversary month and we've lots more fabulous interviews to bring you also.

I mentioned in the last Phantom 25 post that the Royal Albert Hall's disabled parking arrangements had been experiencing some difficulties for this weekend's celebrations. It appears that with the amount of set and equipment being brought in to stage the event, extra parking is needed on site. Obviously this isn't ideal for those who initially booked disabled parking bays at the Hall but I guess we will reap the benefits from what looks to be some spectacular sets once inside. The Hall have been providing people who were booked into these spaces with a free parking permit for another car park nearby. If you did have a space booked at the Hall but haven't heard anything about this I urge you to contact them to check what the arrangements may be for you on 020 7070 4410. Also note that it appears the alternative car park can only be accessed from 6pm so you may need to keep this in mind if you had a table booked at the hall for a pre-show dinner.

Many of you have sent in messages to say that you have signed up for the Hall's Access List since reading the posts. This is becoming quite a common feature in many arts venues in London now (Royal Opera House, The Barbican, London Coliseum, Royal Festival Hall...) and is especially helpful if you are thinking about watching future events at the Hall. The people on the dedicated Access booking line are extremely helpful and knowledgeable about where the best seats are to suit your individual needs once you have signed up to the List, so again, if you haven't already done so, it is well worth it! To sign up to Royal Albert Hall's Access List, call: 020 7070 4410.

If you are a wheelchair or scooter user, when arriving at the Hall, there is ramped access to doors 1, 3, 8, 9 and 12. Once inside, there are lifts to all levels (Basement-Gallery) near doors 1 and 8.

Wheelchair and Access Seating:
"Fourteen wheelchair spaces with adjacent companion seats are situated in the Stalls at Ground floor level. We have a limited number of chairs that can be elevated which may be used by customers seated at the back of the Stalls platforms who are able to transfer from their wheelchair. If you are interested in this facility, please speak to a Steward on arrival.

There are also six wheelchair spaces in the Circle at sections P, R, V and X and four spaces within the unreserved standing area of the Gallery. Please note that due to the physical limitations of the circular shape of the auditorium, the spaces in the Circle are more suitable for customers with good upper body mobility."

If you do have tickets to one of the performances this weekend....have a 'Phantastic' time! If not, then don't forget, the Sunday evening performance is being screened to cinemas around the world and of course you can buy the DVD and new recording from November (UK). Our Phantom 25 posts throughout October will focus on Her Majesty's Access and we'll also have lots more interviews, including some from the current London cast. To book Access tickets to see the show at Her Majesty's Theatre, call: 0844 412 4648.

Today's Phantom 25 interview is with former Christine, the fabulous Gina Beck. Access London would like to take this opportunity to say a Huge Thank You to Gina for taking the time to answer some questions and support disabled access to the arts.

AL: The show and story of The Phantom are so well loved, why do you believe it is so successful?
GB: It's because the character of the Phantom is so complex, and also the relationship between the three central characters. The love triangle creates a gripping tension within the piece all heightened by the dark and dangerous setting of the Opera House.

AL: The designs for the show are spectacular and the costumes beautiful - did you have a favourite costume and set?
GB: The design is absolutely astonishing and it's always been a great sadness that I never got to meet Maria Bjornson the designer. The set for the lair with all the candles is truly breathtaking when it appears and I felt little need to act Christine's amazement as the boat entered the lair every night.

AL: You sang as Christine at Andrew Lloyd Webber's 60th birthday concert in Hyde Park, what was that experience like?
GB: It was unreal, I had opened in the show the Monday before the concert and had performed the show only 6 times. In hindsight I wish I'd had a little more experience as I'm sure I would've enjoyed it more and not simply been petrified!

AL: As far as disabled access goes, Her Majesty's works very well and they have made many efforts there to make it accessible to all. But, as an actress, what is it like as a theatre to perform in?
GB: Oh it's a lovely theatre, perfect setting for the show, I mean it's been there for 25 years so the building and the show are truly bonded now. What a lot of people don't know is that at the top of the theatre is a large room called 'The Dome' which we use for rehearsals and that other people can hire out. It has massive dark wood doors and medieval looking chandeliers inside!

AL: Which was your favourite song/scene to perform in the show?
GB: I did enjoy the journey to the lair.. Who doesn't want to ride on a boat into a room filled with candles?!

AL: Phantom is set in the Paris Opera House. You had the opportunity to perform 'All I Ask Of You' there on the Grand Staircase - what was that like and was it as beautiful as the sets on the show make it?
GB: The Opera Garnier was stunning, I went back to Paris later and was able to do a tour of the building which is very interesting. The auditorium is massive and it was great to get the scope of just how daunting that would have been to Christine on her first night. Filming there was fun but unfortunately something went wrong with Simon's earpiece so he couldn't hear the backing track. I'm sure you'll agree he did suprisingly well considering!

AL: During the final lair scene, the audience sees a much more vulnerable side to The Phantom. How would you describe Christine's character and emotions in that scene?
GB: Well Christine actually comes into her own in this scene, she is scared but she doesn't crumble, she gets angry with the Phantom rather than cowering and then realises what it is that might make him see reason and gives herself to him. After he frees Raoul she has nothing but pity for him and his plight.

AL: If you could perform the role of Christine anywhere in the world, where would it be?
GB: Well I'd love to perform it in Las Vegas because the sets and special effects are all majorly Vegas-ed up! It would be fun to experience the show there.

AL: Having played two of the most recognisable female roles in MT (Christine & Cosette), if you could play any other role, what would it be?
GB: Well as you know I've been lucky enough to secure the role of Glinda in Wicked taking over in December so I would have said that, but I'd also love to play Mary Poppins and Eliza Doolittle. After playing Maria in The Sound of Music earlier this year I've got a taste for the Julie Andrews repertoire!

AL: Lastly, do you have any Birthday Message for Phantom and its fans?
GB: Yes, thank you to all the fans of Phantom who have been so kind to me over the years. I hope you enjoy the celebrations which I'm sad to be unable to take part in, but I'm sure will be spectacular. Here's to another 25 years.

Once again, a huge Thank You to Gina for taking part and for her amazing support for Access London.

Gina will be joining the cast of Wicked from December 12 2011 to play Glinda so make sure you book your tickets to go and see her in Oz!
Gina will also be performing at 'A Night for Jen' a gala charity concert at the Lyric Theatre, Shaftesbury Avenue on 31st October 2011 alongside a line up of over 50West End performers - this promises to be a fabulous, entertaining night out and all for charity.
To keep up with all of Gina's news VISIT HER WEBSITE
You can also Follow Gina on Twitter @Gina_Beck

Photographs of Gina Copyright to Catherine Ashmore, Chris Brown

COMING NEXT: Priscilla & Cast Interview
COMING SOON: More from Phantom 25 & Interviews incl Sofia Escobar, Rebecca Caine, Scott Davies and more...
The Globe Tours & Exhibition, The London Coliseum, Dreamboats & Petticoats.

Thursday, 29 September 2011

The Cavendish Hotel - Autumn/Winter Deals!

Welcome back to Access London and Thank You once again for your continued support for disability access and awareness in the Capital.

The Cavendish Hotel is Access London's recommended hotel for 2011. It is in the heart of the West End, on Jermyn Street, and 5 minutes from Piccadilly, making it the ideal location for visiting theatres, the Royal Academy, National Gallery, restaurants and the Royal Parks.

The Cavendish is a superb, contempory and stylish hotel with some of the most welcoming, friendly and attentive staff you will ever find. The Cavendish is Access London's recommended hotel for 2011 because of its central location, great access and accessible facilities, disability aware staff and fabulous value for money. For those of you that use a wheelchair or scooter, the hotel now has the added benefit of extra dropped kerbs around the Duke Street entrance which is completely step-free and accessible.

The hotel has several accessible rooms set up for those who use a wheelchair. They include fully accessible shower rooms, grab rails, emergency pull cords, extra space for wheelchairs and much more. For those who can transfer out of a wheelchair and step into a shower, there are also some beautiful and stylish Executive Rooms that I would definitely recommend.

The Petrichor restaurant offers some beautifully presented and delicious dishes that have their ingredients sourced as locally as possible. With pre-theatre, lunch, a la carte, and afternoon tea options all available, there is plenty to choose from.

The Cavendish has some fabulous offers on this Autumn and Winter: Autumn Weekend Breaks from £159 valid until 27th November including breakfast. Winter Rates from £149 valid 7 days a week from 15th December until 23rd January 2012, including breakfast (not including 31st December). For all the details on these offers, to make a booking and to find out more about the hotel VISIT THE CAVENDISH WEBSITE

For those interested in the wheelchair and scooter accessible rooms, I would advise ringing the hotel first to check availability of these rooms before you book online. You can ring the hotel on +44 (0)20 7930 2111.

To make reservations at The Petrichor Restaurant or for afternoon tea, contact 0207 389 3500.

COMING NEXT: More from Phantom 25, including Cast Interviews
COMING SOON: Billy Elliot, Priscilla, Phantom 25, Globe Tours and Exhibition

Monday, 26 September 2011

Phantom of the Opera's 25th Anniversary & Interview with Original Carlotta, Rosemary Ashe

Welcome back to Access London and Thank You once again for your continued support for disability access and awareness in the Capital.

It is now less than a week until the celebrations for Phantom of the Opera's 25th Anniversary are held at the Royal Albert Hall and by all accounts, it is going to be some event!

For those lucky enough to have got tickets to one of the concerts, the Hall's restaurants and bars are all accessible to those using a wheelchair or scooter. Tables can be booked from two hours before the start of a performance. If you do use a wheelchair or scooter, make sure you take advantage of the access booking line to reserve your table - 020 7070 4410. This line can also be used to book and enquire about disabled car parking. The Hall has a limited number of spaces on site reserved for disabled visitors. If travelling in from outside of London, please remember that the single and double yellow line rules differ from other parts of the country - please check the latest guidelines on the blue badge scheme website.

I have heard of a few problems with the onsite disabled parking at the Hall for Phantom 25 - people having made reservations for a space when they booked their concert tickets are now being told that the spaces are being used by other people! However, the Hall are offering spaces at a nearby car park to compensate for this at no charge. If you are affected however, the Hall should have contacted you by now.

The lifts inside the Hall are located near to Doors 1 and 8 (8 being the nearest to the disabled parking bays) and these service all levels of the Hall. For wheelchair spaces in the Hall:

"Fourteen wheelchair spaces with adjacent companion seats are situated in the Stalls at Ground floor level. We have a limited number of chairs that can be elevated which may be used by customers seated at the back of the Stalls platforms who are able to transfer from their wheelchair. If you are interested in this facility, please speak to a Steward on arrival.

There are also six wheelchair spaces in the Circle at sections P, R, V and X and four spaces within the unreserved standing area of the Gallery. Please note that due to the physical limitations of the circular shape of the auditorium, the spaces in the Circle are more suitable for customers with good upper body mobility."

If you are able to transfer, more seating options will be open to you and the Hall can store your chair or scooter throughout the performance. For most events at the Hall, including Phantom 25, a companion/carer can have access to a free ticket when accompanying a disabled guest. The number of companion seats is limited for each performance and is down to the organisers of each individual show there. For all access ticket enquiries, please call 020 7070 4410. For all other tickets, the Hall's box office number is 0845 401 5034.

The Hall also has a scheme called the Access List that enables those with disabilities to book tickets and make enquiries with a more efficient service. It works by registering your details for free with the hall - your access requirements, whether you are a blue badge holder, seating requirements etc. This allows the access box office line (020 7070 4410) to be able to deal with your call more efficiently, rather than having to go through all of your requirements every time. It also entitles you to the free companion/carer tickets (depending on availability).

Access London has been lucky enough to bring you an interview with a current or former cast member with each of our Phantom 25 posts and this post is no different. Today's interview is with the original London Carlotta, Rosemary Ashe. Access London would like to say a huge Thank You to Rosemary for taking the time to answer some questions...

AL: You joined Phantom as part of the original cast. Did you think at the time that it would go on to be one of the longest running and best-loved shows?
RA: When I was rehearsing the new production of 'Phantom' I had no idea it was going to be such a massive hit and run for years. I thought and hoped I would get a year's work out of it. It wasn't really until the press night, when we received a standing ovation, that I realised we were on to a winner. Up until that time you could still purchase tickets quite easily, then the box office went mad, and the rest is history!

AL: In your opinion, why do you think that people love the show so much and come back to see it time and again?
RA: It's such a good story and a brilliant production. The music is very memorable and the whole experience of watching the show is magical and provides escapism

AL: Have you been back to see the show since you left it? If yes, has it changed much since it originally opened?
RA: I've seen the show a few times since I left, as various friends have gone into it. It hasn't really changed that much, although the last time I saw it, there was less humour than before.

AL: Carlotta is such a deliciously extrovert and diva character, what did you enjoy most about playing her?
RA: I loved playing Carlotta because not only is she a wonderfully extrovert character, but she has to sing incredibly difficult music (some of that is MY fault as I was allowed to give my input with the top notes and show off)! Many people just talk about the singing but it's a real acting part too. My favourite combination. Also, having previously done a lot of opera, it was the ideal role for me, to play an opera singer in a musical.

AL: The designs for the production are magnificent. Did you have a favourite costume in the show?
RA: I loved Carlotta's second act costume, the red dress with an ermine stole (originally they used real fur, then had to dye it down as the white of the ermine was too bright! Think they use fake fur these days!). That costume was made after the opening and I didn't get it until several months into the run.

AL: What was your favourite song or scene to perform in Phantom?
RA: 'Prima Donna' because it's so brilliantly written and is a fantastic ensemble number, very operatic in form.

AL: Phantom is full of special effects and technical surprises. Do you have a tale to tell of any mishap during a performance?
RA: There was a performance when the chandelier didn't fly out. I was so busy preparing for my opening cadenza I didn't know until I got on stage. Apparently the stage manager had been gesturing to me from the wings not to go on stage, but I was oblivious. I walked on, singing, carried on until the end, at the same time walking around the chandelier on the floor. When I finished, the stage manager came on stage and stopped the show. So I had to go off while they sorted it! It was all to do with the air conditioning being installed in the theater apparently, someone hadn't switched a simple switch back on. So it didn't take too long to sort out. Then I had to come back on and sing the cadenza again. The audience went wild. It was a matinee day too!

AL: From an Access point of view, Her Majesty's Theatre has made some great efforts to make itself accessible to as many as possible. But, what is it like as a theatre to perform in?
RA: It's a lovely theatre to perform in; in fact I sang there quite recently in a gala concert. It feels very intimate.

AL: Finally, do you have a Birthday Message for Phantom and its fans?
RA: It's incredible that Phantom has reached it's 25th birthday. I am so proud to have been a part of its inception. I have a feeling it will be around for at least another 25 years, and I look forward to being at the 50th celebration!!

Once again, a huge Thank You to Rosemary for taking part. Rosemary will be performing in the 25th Anniversary Concerts this coming weekend. To keep up to date with all of her news, buy cds and watch videos or her perform SEE HER WEBSITE

To see the full cast list for Phantom 25 CHECK OUT THE OFFICIAL WEBSITE

COMING SOON: More from Phantom 25 and Interviews (right through the October anniversary month), Priscilla, The Globe Tour and Exhibition, Billy Elliot.

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Phantom of the Opera's 25th Anniversary & Interview with former Christine, AJ Callaghan

Welcome back to Access London and Thank You once again for supporting disability access and awareness in the Capital.

Access London has been running a special series of posts over the last month or so in the lead up to Phantom of the Opera's 25th Anniversary celebrations in October. Thank You to everyone for your kind comments on the posts and access information provided and also your feedback on the interviews - although these Thank You messages go to all the lovely cast members who have given their time to answering the questions. These posts will continue throughout the Anniversary month of October. To read past interviews and posts, please scroll down.

The anniversary concerts are being held at The Royal Albert Hall on the 1st and 2nd October. The majority of the tickets have now been sold but I believe there may still be a few available - although be warned, they may well be in the higher price bracket of around £250! If you are looking for accessible seating, your best bet is to call the dedicated access line at the Hall on 020 7070 4410 as there may be some accessible seats available at a more reasonable price. You can also use this number to pre-book one of the Hall's disabled parking bays to be able to park for free from up to 2 hours before a performance.

The Hall has its own Access Scheme which allows you to register your details and requirements so that the access box office can better assist you in booking seats for you and your companion/carer. For most events at the Hall (including Phantom 25), a companion/carer can go in for free with every full paying disabled visitor. Prices will differ depending on where you are sitting and which event you are going to see. For more information and to register for the Access Scheme, please contact the access box office line on 020 7070 4410. For all other ticket types, please call the main box office on 0845 401 5034. All of the restaurants and bars are accessible at the Hall for those using a wheelchair or scooter. These must be booked in advance of any event and tables can be booked from 2 hours before the performance. For wheelchair and scooter users, again please use the access box office line to book a table and make enquiries to any of the restaurants at the Hall on 020 7070 4410.

Throughout this series of posts we've been lucky enough to bring you interviews with current and former Phantom cast members and today is no different. We're delighted to share with you an interview with former Christine, AJ Callaghan. Access London would like to take this opportunity to say a huge Thank You to AJ for her support and taking the time out to answer the questions.

AL: You were involved with Phantom of the Opera between 2001 and 2004 playing cover, alternate and stand-by Christine Daae. Why did you choose to stay with the production for that amount of time?
AJ: Initially I was hired as first cover Christine for which I completed two nine month contracts. I was then asked back as the alternate for a few months in 2003. It wasn’t until 2004 that I went back as standby Christine. At the time I was actually in Les Miserables, they needed someone to standby, as both the Christine’s at the time were ill. It was brilliant going back to the show and rehearsing Christine again but unfortunately I didn’t get to actually perform.

AL: Now approaching its 25th birthday in London, why do you think that Phantom has been the worldwide success it has?
AJ: For me personally it is the marriage of characters. The love story of Christine and Raoul but also the bittersweet twist of the Phantom and what he brings to the dynamic of the relationship. On the one hand you have this wonderful relationship between Christine and Raoul, which is the typical princess finding her prince analogy and then darkly underlying this is the parallel story of the tortured soul of the Phantom. Reflecting on this from an audience perspective, the story helps the audience relate on a personal level, as it takes a journey from innocence through to broken dreams and aspirations as we watch the characters develop, change and grow. I also think it taps into the every day psych of the fact we all love an underdog and those whose story is so much more challenging than the norm. Then of course, this inter cut with the relationships, twists and turns is a great story set to the most beautiful and incredible score, although quite dark in places it is still a very romantic piece.

AL: Who played opposite you as The Phantom and Raoul?
AJ: I was very fortunate to have two very talented, incredibly supportive and very lovely Phantoms in John Owen Jones and Richard Halton, who was the standby. Equally, my Raoul’s were just as good in Matt Cammelle, who later went on to play the Phantom, and Rob Finlayson. When I returned as standby in 2004 I was lucky to rehearse with Ramin Karimloo, with whom I was later to work with in Les Miserables.

AL: When you were the alternate Christine, are you still involved with the show on the nights you aren't playing her or are you free to pursue other projects?
AJ: As alternate you perform two shows a week. However, each day you are on standby until 3pm, but the company manager will try to let you know as soon as possible if you are performing. When the main Christine is on holiday, as alternate you take over her six shows and the first cover performs your two, which is great as first cover as you are guaranteed to perform the role within the contract.

AL: What was your favourite song/scene to perform in the show and why?
AJ: Christine was my ideal role and part of what helped me decide to choose a career in musical theatre. ‘Think of me’ is a beautiful song to perform as it’s the first time the audience hears Christine sing, starting from a shy nervous ballet girl to a blossoming future opera star by the end of the song. There are many individual lines in the show I particularly enjoyed, ‘and through music my soul began to soar’ on the roof top to where Christine grows in confidence as she questions Carlotta with ‘how dare you’ in the build up to ‘the point of no return’. Christine is confused as she questions her love for Raoul and begins to understand the deeper thoughts of the Phantom with ‘twisted everyway.' I particularly like this as it’s the point in the show we see Christine take a shift from the innocent ingénue to a more mature persona. Ultimately, I loved the final scene, for me, this is the most emotive, passionate and intelligent we see Christine. Her journey has finished and no longer is she scared or naive. I would say she is actually, by the end of the show, the strongest character and shows the audience she has lost all fear of the Phantom and his hold over her and realised her love for him was a confused manifestation of love for her father who she deeply misses. She is now free to love Raoul as she understands he is the one she truly loves, this is highlighted as she finally, and freely, kisses the Phantom goodbye. It really is such an incredibly powerful and poignant scene.

AL: The song 'Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again' is an iconic moment in the show for Christine. What do you believe she is feeling and thinking at this time?
AJ: During this scene Christine takes a very compelling internalised, personal journey. At first she is facing her demons of the Phantom, questioning who he is and why he is there, this soon becomes more significant as she realises she is talking to her father. She has spent so long wanting to see and hear him she has convinced herself the Phantom is an angel sent in a metaphysical manifestation of him. Upon realising this by the end of the song she has freed herself from the Phantom’s clutches by acknowledging finally her father is dead and that she has to go on with out him, thereby engaging finally in her internal strength to face the Phantom and become the force in the situation.

AL: Phantom has many special effects and technical elements in it. Do you have a tale to tell of a mishap or something funny happening during a show?
AJ: One time, the trap doors were open due to a malfunction during the second managers scene. Whilst reading the score walking in circles and singing, I could hear someone in the wing calling out to me, I saw stage management telling me don’t walk straight downstage as the trap door was open. I had to take a strange convoluted route around the stage in order to confront Carlotta which lead to many smirks and hidden laughter by the other cast members and probably confused the audience as to what exactly I was doing.

AL: If you could choose any other female character to play in Phantom, apart from Christine, who would it be and why?
AJ: Definitely Carlotta, she has a fiery and passionate personality which is a great contrast to Christine, they are like Ying and Yang. Christine the calm and intelligent thoughtful one and Carlotta the wild and passionate one, its almost the other side of the same character and would be very interesting to visit the role with this in mind having played Christine. She has some great numbers in the show and her costumes are truly outstanding. Nan Christie was my Carlotta and at the same height as me, 5ft, proved in her fantastic portrayal that Carlotta can be larger than life and a noticeable character regardless of height through portraying the passion and understanding deserved of the role.

AL: Phantom has had many successful productions staged worldwide. If you could choose to perform as Christine anywhere in the world outside of London, where would it be and why?
AJ: Obviously being Welsh my first place would be Cardiff; I would like to bring the character home for the Welsh audiences. Other than Wales, the Netherlands, I love the country and spend a lot of time there. As I am also learning Dutch I would love to sing the role in another language, which would probably bring a whole new dimension to my character analysis and portrayal and could prove a very interesting challenge. Having worked in Sweden and other countries, I know audience reaction changes from country to country so it would also be interesting to see how the reactions to the show form a different perspective to the characterisation.

AL: Do you have a Birthday Message for Phantom and its fans?
AJ: Well obviously to say happy 25th birthday and hope it will live for many more. I also would like to add how wonderful it is that the amateur rights have been released for schools and amateur groups taking the show to a whole new audience for future generations. May it live on for a very long time with new and renewed energy and interpretations! See you at the 50th!

Again, a huge Thank You to AJ for answering the questions, I hope you enjoyed reading them. AJ will be performing in the 25th Anniversary Concerts next weekend. She is also in the current London cast of Les Miserables at The Queens Theatre in ensemble and cover for Fantine until 16th June 2012, so make sure you go and see her perform there also. The cast of Les Mis are also performing a charity concert on Thursday 8th December called Les Mis Gives at Christmas in the Delfont Room at the Prince of Wales Theatre, tickets will go on sale soon.

Remember that the Phantom 25th Concert on 2nd October will be broadcast across cinemas in the UK and worldwide so check with your local cinema to see if it is being shown there. There will also be a DVD and CD release in November. Plus, you can always book tickets to see it at Her Majestys. Please note: There will be no performances at Her Majestys on Friday 30th September and Saturday 1st October because of the anniversary celebrations. Also, as of the beginning of November, the mid-week matinee performance will be on Thursday and not Tuesday!

COMING SOON: The Globe Tour and Exhibition, Priscilla, Les Mis, Billy Elliot, more from Phantom 25 with interviews....

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

The Belle's Stratagem & The Southwark Playhouse

Welcome back to Access London and Thank You once again for your continued support for disability access and awareness in the Capital.

Hannah Cowley's The Belle's Stratagem is the latest production brought to us by the award-winning team of last year's The Rivals. One of the greatest hits of the Georgian stage, this production is the show's first major London revival.

"In a time when women were second-class citizens, a group of wily women are determined to get their own way…

When, beautiful Letitia Hardy’s ...betrothed returns from the Grand Tour convinced that English women are dull, she sets out to gain his love with an ingenious scheme to prove him wrong.

Meanwhile, the jealous Sir George Touchwood arrives in town with his new wife, Lady Frances, in tow. It’s not long before two of London’s most rambunctious wits, Miss Ogle and Mrs Rackett, make it their mission to convert her into a lady of fashion.

THE BELLE’S STRATAGEM features Marc Baylis as Courtall, Gina Beck as Letitia Hardy, Holly Blair as Mrs Fagg, Cassandra Bond as Kitty Willis, Jackie Clune as Miss Ogle, Samuel Dent as Crowquill, Tim Dorsett as Villers, Mark Fountain as Dick, Jeremy Joyce as Saville, Michael Lindall as Doricourt, Christopher Logan as Flutter, Joseph Macnab as Sir George, Nigel Munson as Silvertongue, Hannah Spearritt as Lady Frances, Maggie Steed as Mrs Rackett and Robin Soanes as Hardy."

This is a truly funny show that won't fail to make you smile. It really engages with the audience in the fairly intimate space of the Southwark Playhouse and has some exquisite costumes too. Jackie Clune, Maggie Steed and Joseph Macnab will have you laughing long after they leave the stage and Gina Beck is superb as the sprightly and beautiful Letitia Hardy.

The Belle's Stratagem is at the Southwark Playhouse until the 1st October, so get your tickets fast!! There are performances Monday-Saturday evenings at 7.45pm and a matinee on Saturdays at 3.15pm. There has also been an additional matinee performance added on Tuesday 27th September at 3.15pm.

Southwark Playhouse is fantastically accessible to those using a wheelchair or mobility scooter. Set back from the main road of Tooley Street, the entrance is in Shipwright Yard and has level access across the courtyard and through the large double doors to the box office. The Belle's Stratagem is performed in the Main House, the entrance of which is just off the box office. There is level access to a bar area with lots of seating and an accessible WC. Staff are happy to keep wheelchairs and scooters in this area throughout the performance.

When booking tickets with the box office (on 020 7407 0234) please tell them if you are a wheelchair or scooter user. Tickets are collected from the box office on arrival and seats are not allocated. However, if staff know that you have certain access requirements, the most accessible seats along the front row, or a wheelchair space, will be reserved for you. A companion or carer can attend for free with each disabled visitor. Staff are happy to sit assistance dogs throughout the performance.

All the staff at Southwark Playhouse were amazingly helpful.

London Bridge train station is 5 minutes away and is accessible (as much as any accessible station is in London!!). There is also a taxi rank outside on Tooley Street. If you are a blue badge holder, there is a bay on Tooley Street (just past the junction with Bermondsey Street). It doesn't look like a conventional blue badge bay as it has red lines around it but it is reserved as a permit and disabled bay until 7pm, whereafter anyone can park there. Please remember to use your blue badge timer also as there is a 3 hour limit up until 7pm.

Don't forget, book tickets now for The Belle's Stratagem, less than 2 weeks left of this fabulous show. Box Office number: 020 7407 0234 - open 10.30am-6.30pm Monday-Friday.

To find out more about The Belle's Stratagem and future productions, see THE SOUTHWARK PLAYHOUSE WEBSITE

To find the location of more blue badge bays in the area SEE THIS WEBSITE

COMING NEXT: More from Phantom 25 Celebrations & Interview with former Christine A J Callaghan.
COMING SOON: The Globe Tour & Exhibition, Priscilla & Interview, More from Phantom 25 and Interviews

Friday, 16 September 2011

Phantom of the Opera's 25th Anniversary & Interview with former Piangi, Lee David Bowen

Welcome back to Access London and Thank You once again for your continued support for disability access and awareness in the Capital.

Access London has been running a series of posts over the last month to celebrate the forthcoming 25th Anniversary of Phantom of the Opera in October. The show began previews on 27th September 1986 and officially opened the following month. Since then, the show has been seen by over 130 million people and won over 50 major theatre awards, making it the most successful piece of entertainment.

"Far beneath the majesty and splendour of the Paris Opera House, hides the Phantom in a shadowy existence. Shamed by his physical appearance and feared by all, the love he holds for his beautiful protégée Christine Daaé is so strong that even her heart cannot resist."

Phantom's London home is at Her Majesty's Theatre on the Haymarket. For those of you who are wheelchair or scooter users, this theatre is definitely accessible for you! On arrival, simply make yourself known to someone at front of house (usually someone outside from 45 minutes before the start of a performance) and they will escort you around to the accessible entrance on Charles II Street. This entrance leads you straight into the back of the stalls. Facilities: wheelchair spaces, transfer to aisle seats, accessible WC, handrails, gentle rake, wheelchair/scooter storage, assistance to get interval drinks and fetch wheelchair/scooter.

*There are evening performances Monday-Saturday at 7.30pm. There are also matinee performances on Tuesday and Saturday at 2.30pm until the end of October. After this, the matinees will be performed on Thursday and Saturday!*

The Phantom 25th celebrations at The Royal Albert Hall on the 1st and 2nd October will be screened to selected cinemas in the UK and worldwide. There will also be a DVD filmed and new CD recording available to buy from November. Until then, you can always buy the original London cast recording and the original Canadian cast recording.

To book access seats for Phantom, please call 0844 412 4648 where you can get unrestricted view seats in the stalls from £22.50 each for you and a companion/carer! For all other tickets types for Phantom, please call 0844 412 2707.

Access London's next Phantom 25 post will look more at the accessible facilities available at The Royal Albert Hall.

For every Phantom 25th post Access London has written, we have been delighted to share with you an interview we have done with a current/former/original cast member. Today, we are delighted to share with you an interview with former Piangi, Lee Bowen. Access London would like to take this opportunity to say a huge Thank You to Lee for taking the time to answer our questions and for all his continued support for Access London.

AL: You joined the cast of Phantom after it had been running for almost 15 years. What was it like to join such an iconic and much-loved show?
LB: This was a dream job for me, I had always wanted to be a performer in the West End and to get a job in one of its most iconic shows was amazing. It was a great challenge to take on the role of Piangi after many acclaimed performers but I was given a great deal of encouragement from the production team and was able to develop the character and add my own personal stamp upon Piangi.

AL: Why do you think audiences come back to watch the show time and again?
LB: I think as a piece of work it ticks all the boxes - it has a great story, the music is great with some of Lloyd-Webber's best writing not only for solo voice but for ensemble and orchestral music. Also the sets and costumes are fantastic. Emotionally it takes you into a world of fantasy but with a touch of reality which is totally gripping.
Mix that with Hal Prince (original director), Gillian Lynne (choreography), Charles Hart (lyrics) and Maria Bjornson (design) and you have a success!

AL: You played Piangi in the show, what was it like to play such an extrovert and diva-like character?
LB: Piangi was a great role for me as he is so extrovert and diva like, everything about him was exaggerated and over the top which is something I really enjoy . I was also very lucky as the production team really allowed me to put my personal stamp upon the character and also to have Sian Cothi playing the role of Carlotta. We started at the same time and together we worked really well on stage.

AL: What was your favourite song/scene to perform in the show?
LB: My favourite scene would have to be the first managers scene in the first half. Here, the real character of Piangi is really seen as someone quite vulnerable. Also there are some great musical moments in this scene especially during "prima donna" where as a singer you have a great line an octave above the two managers. Interestingly in the original production Piangi actually wasn't in this scene and added at a later date. Although, I did enjoy the opening scene with the elephant and very heavy cloak!

AL: Which Phantoms and Christines did you perform alongside?
LB: I was lucky enough to perform alongside one of the best Phantoms in Scott Davies also John Owen-Jones and Richard Halton. I worked alongside Charlotte Paige, Deborah Dutcher and a long-term friend from my part of the world Claire Louise Hammacott.

AL: You sang the voiceover for Piangi in the 2004 film version of Phantom, what was that experience like?
LB: The actual recording of the soundtrack was a great experience and I feel very privileged to have been asked at the last minute.

AL: If you could play any role(s) in musical theatre, what would it/they be?
LB: I would love to play the role of Thenardier in Les Miserables, this would be the absolute dream for me. Other roles include Mr Bumble in Oliver and Pirelli in Sweeney Todd.

AL: Lastly, do you have a birthday message for Phantom of the Opera and its' fans?
LB: Penblwydd Hapus/ Happy Birthday to Phantom of the Opera after an incredible 25 years in the West End. Diolch yn fawr/ thank you to all the dedicated fans who have loved the show and kept it at the top for so long. Here's to the next 25 years. Lots of love, Lee Bowen.

Since this interview, Lee has changed his stage name to Lee Bowen.
You can find out more about Lee on his agent's site MUSIC INTERNATIONAL
You can also follow Lee for all his latest news on Twitter @LeeBowenTenor

COMING NEXT: The Belle's Stratagem & The Southwark Playhouse
COMING SOON: The Cavendish Hotel's Autumn Offer, Priscilla and Interview, The Globe Exhibition, More Phantom 25 and Interviews (including Sofia Escobar, Rosemary Ashe, Rebecca Caine, Scott Davies, Gina Beck....)

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

The Tempest @ Theatre Royal, Haymarket

Welcome back to Access London and thank you once again for your continued support for disability access and awareness in the Capital.

The Tempest at The Theatre Royal, Haymarket, is part of Trevor Nunn's spectacular season at this iconic venue. It stars Ralph Fiennes as Prospero, Elisabeth Hopper as Miranda, Clive Wood as Stephano, Julian Wadham as Antonio, Julian Wadham as Antonio, Julian Wadham as Antonio, Chris Andrew Mellon as Sebastian and Nicholas Lyndhurst as Trinculo.

Ralph Fiennes, as might be expected, delivers the verse of what is considered to be Shakespeare's final play superbly and Elisabeth Hopper's tender and beautiful Miranda is a joy to watch. Much comedy is provided by Nicholas Lyndhurst's Trinculo and Clive Wood's Stephano. Although I believe this play can be delivered in shorter duration (it clocks up to around 3 hours), it is a definite to see this season.

The Tempest has a limited run at the Theatre Royal, running until 29th October 2011 so make sure you book your tickets now. Performances are Monday-Saturday at 7.30pm with matinee performances on a Thursday and Saturday at 2.30pm. There is also an audio described performance on Thursday 29th September.

When you arrive at the theatre, if you use a wheelchair or mobility scooter, simply inform one of the FOH staff at the door and they will open the doors to the side of the entrance steps for you. This entrance is level and leads round to the back of the stalls. There is also an accessible WC in this area. There is 1 dedicated wheelchair space at the back of the stalls. If you are able to transfer out of your chair/scooter then you can book any aisle seat in the stalls. Although there is a handrail on the walls of the stalls, please note that this theatre has a fairly steep rake down the stalls, towards the stage. If you cannot manage slopes particularly well, I would advise booking a seat closer to the back of the stalls. Many of the aisle seats have pretty good leg room, please ask for more details about this when you book.

Induction Loop and Amplification: Infra-red system with headsets are available and can be collected from the front of house desk. A £10 deposit is charged and refunded at the end of the performance, provided all parts are returned correctly. Assistance dogs are not allowed in the auditorium during the performance but, front of house staff will be happy to look after the dog during this time.

There are disabled parking spaces on Whitcomb Street and also a little further away on both Charles II Street and St James's Square - these become unlimited on time restrictions after 6pm.

To book Access Rate Tickets for The Tempest, please call the Box Office directly on: 020 7930 8800. To book all other ticket types for the show, please call: 0845 481 1870. Alternatively you can book online (although for access seats, please call the box office number above) via the THEATRE ROYAL HAYMARKET WEBSITE

COMING NEXT: More on Phantom's 25th Celebrations & Interview with former Piangi, Lee David Bowen
COMING SOON: The Globe Exhibition, Priscilla

Saturday, 10 September 2011

Phantom of the Opera's 25th Anniversary & Interview with former Christine, Myrra Malmberg

Welcome back to Access London and Thank You once again for supporting disability access and awareness in the Capital.

Today's post is the next in our series that is celebrating Phantom of the Opera's upcoming 25th Anniversary in the West End. Please scroll down for previous posts that include Access information to both Her Majesty's Theatre and The Royal Albert Hall.

Her Majesty's Theatre, located on The Haymarket, has great access to its stalls area which has - a fairly shallow rake, handrail along the wall, accessible WC, storage space for scooters and wheelchairs, wheelchair spaces, transfer seating and some of the most helpful staff I have known in any London theatre.

The accessible entrance is on Charles II Street and leads you straight into an area at the rear of the stalls - simply ask a member of the FOH team on arrival (there is always someone outside the front entrance before a performance) and they will escort you around to this entrance. Charles II Street also has several blue badge parking bays (after 6pm there is no time limit on these) and there are also several spaces on St James's Square.

If you are looking for other accessible attractions in the area to visit before a performance, the National Gallery and National Portrait Gallery on Trafalgar Square are 5 minutes away and for younger visitors, Ripley's Believe it or Not is also a short distance away on Piccadilly Circus.

To book Access Tickets for Phantom of the Opera at Her Majesty's (current rate £22.50 for disabled visitor and companion/carer in the stalls!), please call: 0844 412 4648. For all other tickets for Phantom, please call: 0844 412 4653.

Since our previous post on Phantom's 25th, there has been a cast change at Her Majesty's (although several of the previous cast have remained including, John Owen Jones (The Phantom) and Sofia Escobar (Christine Daae)) - so now is a great time to go and show support for the new cast in the lead up to the anniversary date. Please note, there are no performances at Her Majesty's on Friday 30th September and Saturday 1st October 2011 because of the anniversary celebrations at The Royal Albert Hall.

It has also been announced that the anniversary will be screened to cinemas in the UK live on October 2nd 2011 and to various cinemas worldwide throughout October and November. There will also be a DVD and new CD recording released in November.

Previous posts on Phantom's Anniversary have shared interviews with former cast members including, Michael Xavier, Richard Halton and Katy Treharne, please scroll down if you wish to read these. In today's post, Access London is delighted to share with you an interview with former Christine Daae, Myrra Malmberg. Access London would like to take this opportunity to once again thank Myrra for taking the time to talk.

AL: How did you land the role of Christine Daae?
MM: I was in The Music of Andrew Lloyd Webber with the wonderful conductor and composer Michael Reed who worked closely with Sir Andrew and had been Phantom's musical supervisor for years. He introduced me to the then current Musical Supervisor Anthony Inglis. One thing led to another, I auditioned for Hal Prince, and suddenly found myself on stage as Christine at Her Majesty's.

AL: Who have you played alongside as The Phantom and Raoul?
MM: My lovely Phantom was Peter Cousens. My Raoul was Mike Sterling. I was very fortunate to work with a great cast and crew, some of whom have remained close friends.

AL: In your opinion, why do you think that Phantom is the success that it is and has run for so long?
MM: Phantom is a fortunate blend of fantastic music and an intriguing plot, well directed by the amazing Hal Prince. And the late Maria Bjornson's set and costumes are visually stunning.
I think that Phantom speaks to us on many levels; you can feast your eyes and ears and leave it at that, you can flow with the romance; but you can also delve deeper into the psychology of it.

AL: What was your favourite song/scene to perform as Christine?
MM: Oh, I had several favorite scenes and songs... "Think of Me" was always a wonderful moment in the show. I enjoyed the boatride and the scene after. The handing back of the mask was a lovely moment... and the whole emotional ending. Oh, yes, and "Wishing." Happy memories!

AL: How different is it to perform on stage in London/UK to Sweden?
MM: I have performed in many different countries, and in every country the audiences have been different. I was in Italy at the Rome Opera playing Maria in West Side Story for instance and was thrilled by how very romantic the audiences were, but less thrilled by the fact that they were allowed to smoke during performances...
In Sweden, the audiences are usually less demonstrative during the performance (although thankfully non-smoking!) but then they might surprise you with a long standing ovation at the end.
In the UK, there is an theatrical tradition among the general audience that is almost palpable; I have a feeling that people have been brought up with the theatre as a part of their lives. They listen intently, you can feel them with you at every twist and turn of the plot. In the West End obviously you get a mixed crowd of international theatregoers, but I have played regional theatre in the UK as well, and think that I could also detect influences from the Panto tradition in that, once in a while, someone in the audience would yell out a comment to what was happening on stage... Not quite "It's beind you!" but not far from it...

AL: Lastly, do you have a Birthday Message for Phantom of the Opera and its fans?
MM: Happy, happy birthday! Spending a quarter of a century together is something to be treasured and celebrated!

Thank you once again to Myrra Malmberg. To keep up to date with all of Myrra's news VISIT HER WEBSITE
Myrra has released several albums already, all of which can be found on iTunes HERE
Myrra has a new album, being released on 21st September 2011, entitled "Another World".
Myrra had this to say about the soon to be released album "it is a foray into the classical crossover world, together with conductor Paul Bateman and one of Scandinavia's top orchestras: The Norrköping Symphony Orchestra. Songs by Benny Andersson (of Abba fame), Jörgen Elofsson (songwriter for Celine Dion, Kelly Clarkson, Britney Spears, etc), Per Magnusson (songs for Il Divo, Josh Groban, Katherine Jenkins, etc) and other wonderful composers. (Including a piece or two by myself...) I am also honored to be the first allowed to record a vocal version of Samuel Barber's Symphony for Strings opus 11."
You will be able to buy Another World from 21st September via iTunes and her website. You can listen to sounds clips right now from the new album HERE

COMING NEXT: The Tempest at Theatre Royal Haymarket
COMING SOON: Priscilla, The Globe and Exhibition, Dreamboats and Petticoats

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

South Pacific & Nick Wyschna Interview - Part 2

Welcome back to Access London and thank you once again for your continued support for disability access and awareness in the Capital.

Our last post was the first in a two-part series on South Pacific, currently playing at The London Barbican and part 1 of our cast interview with Nick Wyschna - if you missed it, please scroll down to read more. Since then, I have checked with The Barbican box office and Access seats are selling very fast for this production. South Pacific is only at The Barbican until the 1st October when it leaves to go on a UK tour. After this date, you can catch it in Milton Keynes, Manchester, Glasgow, Bristol, Oxford and Southampton throughout the rest of 2011 and into 2012.

If you qualify for Access Seats at The Barbican (have a disability as stated under the disability Act) then don't forget to register for The Barbican's excellent Access Scheme. The scheme allows you to register your details for free so that the box office can assist you in booking the best seats for your particular needs. It also means that, if you use a wheelchair or mobility scooter, you can watch South Pacific in the stalls at The Barbican for only £7.50 a ticket for you and your companion. The scheme entitles you to free blue badge parking in one of The Barbican's car parks - simply take your ticekt to the box office on arrival and they will provide you with your exit ticket. To book Tickets, Access Seats and Blue Badge car parking, please call the box office on 020 7638 8891. To register for the Access Scheme, please see THE BARBICAN'S WEBSITE

After the popularity and all the messages (thank you) sent in after part 1 of our interview with Nick Wyschna, Access London is delighted to share with you the second part - a huge Thank You goes out to Nick again for taking the time out to talk. This second part focusses on Nick's debut album 'Lost In The Wilderness'.

AL: What was it that prompted you to decide to record an album?
NW: I don't know, it sounds quite big headed to do something like that but, I don't think I'll ever be any better and I wanted to actually capture a moment when I was OK. I don't think I'll be doing this job forever, simply because of the money, that was half the reason for it. Another reason is that I was going to work on a cruise ship and to sell an album on a cruise ship is quite nice because people like to take a souvenir home and I was the lead singer on the ship, so it was good to be able to sell it onboard.
Plus, I trained at The Royal Academy of Music and so I was surrounded by all these amazing musicians, so I had lots of friends that were willing to do it with me, which was incredible. And if you listen to it, the band are's only a 4 piece but it's superb.

AL: The band was something I was going to ask you about....if you had worked with them before?
NW: They are amazing lads. I love working with the guys. I'm not into the stereotypical and bad side of what people think the industry is like - I've surrounded myself with mates and people and I'm blessed with that and some amazing friends. They really did me a favor, I was dead chuffed with it.

AL: It does have almost a gig-like sound to it....
NW: I wanted it to sound like that.

AL: It does, as if you've got the band right there with you in the room when you listen to it, quite intimate...
NW: Well if I'd have had my own complete choice, I'd have done it as a live recording, which I didn't, as it's not really practical but, I wanted it to sound as live as possible and most of the takes were in one block, it's not cut and paste. If there was a tiny mistake I didn't really mind, as long as it wasn't flat or anything like that but I didn't mind if a particular note wasn't held for the right length - I wanted it to sound raw.
The original master of it was really raw and rocky, I loved it. But, I wrote off to the record label, Making Records, who are a label for musical theatre people - they've got an album with Julie Atherton and Gemma Atkins - they're fantastic. So I wrote to them and sent them my rough demo, just to ask their opinion as to where I should go from now, not expecting anything to come of it. Then Guy James, the Producer, called me and said 'we'd like to have a meeting with you, we think you've done a great job on this, producing it yourself'. So I went and met him and he said 'we'd like to sign you to the label' - which meant that they re-mastered it and made it sound a little bit less raw, they haven't taken it all away but they've made it alot cleaner - it's much better quality, it's shop quality now. So they did that and thanks to them it's been packaged lovely, they put good money into the album cover and it's a much better product thanks to them.

AL: Your voice does have a jazzy sound to it, do you have many influences in that area?
NW: Neil Diamond. I love jazz, I love swing and I've done loads of it so I can't help but be influenced by that kind of vocal sound.

AL: The choice of tracks on the album are from quite contemporary musicals - how did you go about choosing them?
NW: Well I didn't want, against my mum's best wishes, as she wanted me to do all the Les Mis stuff and I wasn't up for that. I didn't want it to be a self-indulgent album, I wanted to do stuff that people don't always hear. I think there's only one track on there that people would really really know and that's 'High Flying, Adored' from Evita. Other things from The Life people haven't even heard of that musical a lot. I've got Wicked on there, I've got a track from Jason Brown's album which isn't strictly speaking from a musical but it's from JRB who's a musical theatre composer - so they're all songs that are less known. I wanted it to be really contemporary.

AL: I think that helps with the gig/live sound you wanted. If you did Les Mis, it would certainly be a very differernt type of album.
NW: Yeah. If I did that, it would have been very self-indulgent. When I first decided to do it, I knew I wanted to do an album of contemporary musical theatre and I think that's what I've got.

AL: If you did make another album and could have anyone to come in and sing alongside you on it, who would you choose?
NW: Paulo! (laughs). My God but he would make me look really rubbish. But there's so many people. Dan Koek has got a lovely voice, he's playing Cable in the show (South Pacific), but he'd upstage me too so I wouldn't choose him (laughs) but I don't know, there are so many...we have a very talented cast here too.

AL: Would you like to be part of any of the shows that feature on the album?
NW: Well I got down to the finals for Fiyero in Wicked for Germany, so I had to learn the whole score in German, I'd never spoken German before, so it was very intense but, I really wanted the job, but I didn't get it - I would have loved to have been in that. I'm getting to the age now where I can't play young leads so that would have been my last chance to play that kind of part.

AL: You must have really wanted it, to learn it all in German?
NW: Oh my word! I can still remember it, it's imprinted on my brain, the madness!

AL: How long did the recording of the album take?
NW: About a week, working full days. Clive Cherry produced and recorded it for us in a shed at the bottom of his garden, so that's another thing that I think contributed to the live sound, I loved it! And he's an old rocker, long hair, really cool guy. It was fantastic with all the lads, the band, lots of fun.

AL: Do you play your own gigs?
NW: Well I run a company called Prestigious Entertainments which is an entertainments agency and I book out anything to do with entertainment for weddings, corporate events, that kind of thing. That's where I started, I started my career singing swing, jazz and Blues Brothers at weddings and it kind of snowballed and people were asking me if I could put them in touch with a harpist or choir for their wedding and I was saying 'no'! Then I thought, 'why am I saying no?', I trained at The Royal Academy, I know all these musicians, so I just started saying 'yes' and it developed into a business. It's not massive and I couldn't make it massive yet as I'm too busy with other things but I do want it to get to that stage. If I do cut back with tours and musicals, I want it to be in place so I'm not scrabbling around - I think it's very important as an actor to have something to fall back on.

AL: But you would carry on performing yourself?
NW: Oh yes, absolutely. I do, as soon as I'm out of work, out of a musical, I'm straight back into corporate and weddings.

AL: Would you ever make another album?
NW: I'd love to. But I think I'd wait. If I got a lead role in a show then I'd probably re-master this one or bring a new one out, they're very expensive to do (laughs).

A huge Thank You once again to Nick for answering all those questions. Nick's album, 'Lost In The Wilderness' is available to buy from his website
You can also follow Nick on Twitter
For Nicks entertainments agency, see the Prestigious Entertainments Website

COMING NEXT: Phantom of the Opera's 25th Celebrations - Interview with former Christine Myrra Malmberg
COMING SOON: The Tempest, Priscilla, The Globe Theatre and Exhibition

Thursday, 1 September 2011

South Pacific at The Barbican & Cast Interview - Part 1

Welcome back to Access London and thank you once again for your continued support for disability access and awareness in the Capital.

Today's post looks at the Lincoln Center Theater production of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s classic musical, South Pacific, currently playing at the London Barbican before going on a UK tour. The show is at The Barbican until the 1st October. After that it will tour the UK and currently has shows booked in Milton Keynes, Manchester, Glasgow, Bristol, Oxford and Southampton.

Whilst at The Barbican, South Pacific is showing on Monday-Saturday evenings and has matinee performances on Thursday and Saturday.

The Barbican is completely accessible to those using a wheelchair or mobility scooter. However, it is a large venue and so for those who find walking difficult, The Barbican does have three wheelchairs for visitors' use, subject to availability; these can be pre-booked by calling the Box Office on 020 7638 8891. The main entrance on Silk Street is ramped and has lifts nearby, allowing access to all levels within the Barbican.

An induction loop is provided in the Concert Hall and Cinema. Visitors with hearing aids can make use of this facility by switching their hearing aid to the 'T' position. A radio network system is provided in the Theatre and Pit - visitors with hearing impairments may benefit from this facility. Headsets can be collected from Theatre Stalls Right prior to performance.

Assistance dogs may be taken into the auditoria or left with a member of staff. Adapted WCs are provided on Levels -2, -1, G, 1, 2, 3 & 4.

The Barbican also has its own Access Membership Scheme - this allows those with disabilities to register your requirements for free so that your needs can be met. The scheme also entitles you to the fantastic Access Rate tickets for shows (the current Access Rate for South Pacific is £7.50 each for a disabled guest and their companion!!). You can also pre-book a blue badge car parking space at The Barbican and park for free - to do this, book your space with the box office on 020 7638 8891 and when you arrive at the theatre, take your show ticket to the box office and they will provide you with a free exit ticket for the car park. To book tickets and find out more about the Access Membership Scheme please visit THE BARBICAN WEBSITE

South Pacific itself is a fabulous show with a beautiful score and an extremely talented cast, including several cast members from the US Tony Award winning show - reinvented for British audiences, this show is a must-see either at The Barbican or on its UK tour later this year and into 2012.

As promised in previous posts, Access London is delighted to bring you an interview with one of South Pacific's cast, Nick Wyschna. Access London would like to take this opportunity to once again say a huge Thank You to Nick for taking time out to answer some questions. Nick's interview will be shared in two parts, so here we go with the first.....

AL: How has it been to work with Paulo (Szot) and Loretta (Ables Sayre) and has it been helpful for you all to be working with them as they have done this show before?
NW: Well we did the first week, week and a half, without them because they were doing other things. I think Loretta was working in Hawaii and Paulo was doing an opera somewhere else, so we didn't have them for the first week and a half. We were learning the show on our own and then they turned up, and obviously they know the show very well, and they are phenomenal. It didn't make it harder at all as their knowledge helped the rest of the cast learn the show to a more broader depth.

AL: That's great! So they were a real support for you all?
NW: Absolutely. I mean, to learn the show from scratch is hard anyway and also exciting but having someone there that's already done it and is happy to reinvent their show - because they're so open - they're not playing the same shows they did on Broadway. That's what Bart, the Director, wanted - they're not precious about it at all, they will work with the new cast, this is a brand new production of it.

AL: That's really good to hear...
NW: Yeah, it's nice because we were all worried about that because they've already done it and with Bart aswell - Bart's directed it twice now, on Broadway and on the US tour. The first day he said 'this is not the same production, this is a reinvention of the same show', and he's stuck to that.

AL: A production for the UK then?
NW: Absolutely, yes. The body of it is the same but you've got different actors and they do it in different ways. I think that's very important for Bart to keep and for Paulo and Loretta to reinvent it.

AL: Yes, they need to make sure they kept it fresh?
NW: Definitely, and they have done - they've kept to their word for sure.

AL: How did you get involved with the show and land a part in it?
NW: My agent. This show has been spoken about for a while and it's been on and off kind of thing but they were seeing everyone in this industry, so many wanted a part in this so I think I did maybe 6 rounds. But I've got an agent, a manager, who puts me up for these closed auditions and they just whittle you down slowly so, a couple of dance calls, a couple of singing calls. We found out quite quickly actually, which was nice. And it was a nice audition process aswell as sometimes the panel don't make you feel completely comfortable so you don't perform at your best. Whereas, with these guys, Neil Rutherford who's head of casting, he is one of the nicest guys you'll ever meet and he makes you feel so at ease so that you can be yourself, have a laugh with them and so they see the best of you - I think that's so important.

AL: That's fantastic, so they can really get to see what you can do then?
NW: Yes, you've got to be able to be yourself. First of all you've got to be talented, second you've got to be someone who can work in a team because we're together for 12 or 13 months and if there was one person in who wasn't a team player then it could go absolutely 'tits up!'. This is a fantastic company, everyone has gelled and it's accommodating and not back-stabbing, it's just a lovely company.

AL: Do you think that it's quite a 'British' thing to be supportive within a company, or not?
NW: I don't know. I worked in America, I did a show in New Orleans and I found them to be just as lovely but it's just a completely different work ethic. I can't really put my finger on it - from day one, it has been so supportive. Before day one we all got a letter from Neil Rutherford saying 'Bart's requested everyone off book for the first day of rehearsals', now I've never heard of that. I mean, I've not worked for years and years, I've only done six years, but I've never had anything like that! To be off book for the first day of rehearsals - so we do a full read through off book -it was incredible! So, we started at that level, so then you start at a place where you can carry on working from, rather than learning your lines on the job, which is a waste of time.

AL: Do you have a favourite part of the show?
NW: The songs are all incredible, I don't have a favourite song as it's such a beautiful show. I love watching Paulo, he is such a natural actor, everything is just so truthful and Loretta aswell. And Loretta has had no training, never been to drama school, it's just amazing!

AL: Are you looking forward to the tour as you only have 7 weeks at the Barbican before you go off on that?
NW: Seven weeks here, yeah. Then we've got a tour planned for 12 months or so - I know we go to Milton Keynes and Manchester to start with. I am looking forward to it because the job is just immense. I've just finished a tour five months ago in Mamma Mia, an international tour, and that was hard - touring is hard anyway but touring internationally throughout most of the year is super hard, so I'm looking forward to being in the UK - you can use your phone for free!!! I've got a girlfriend so I don't want to go too far and this means on my days off I can get home to see her and that's important to me and my family of course.
The thing is, I'm not in a position where I can choose my jobs so, if they said to me 'you've been offered an international tour' then I would have to say yes, but this is much better for me.

A huge Thank You to Nick Wyschna once again and I hope you all enjoyed reading this interview. Part 2 of Nick's interview includes lots of great information about his album so please check back with us to catch up with him again - due for posting on Sunday. In the meantime, to find out more about Nick and his Album 'Lost in the Wilderness', please VISIT HIS WEBSITE HERE
You can also follow Nick on Twitter @NickWyschna

Watch the official trailer for South Pacific here....

COMING NEXT: Nick Wyschna - 'Lost in the Wilderness'
COMING SOON: The Tempest, Billy Elliot, More from the Phantom 25th Celebrations and cast interviews