What Are Your Favourite Christmas Songs?

So now we’re in December, we can fully enjoy the festive music and dig out the back catalogue of Christmas songs on dusty CD’s (or via spotify/google music/iMusic, which ever takes your fancy).

 

My favourite Christmas song, is definitely Little Drummer Boy-obviously partly because of David Bowie, but also because Bing Crosby really reminds me of my Grandfather.  He doesn’t look like him or even sound like him, something just reminds me of him-maybe its a generational thing.

 

I asked some of my blogger friends their favourite Christmas Songs.

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Boys

Christmas Gift Guide 2017 ~ Gifts for Boys Aged 7-10

 

It’s that time of year again people-the last payday before Christmas is almost upon us, so the panic buying can commence!
So, I’ve taken it upon myself to give you a helping hand-and give you some ideas for presents with some handy gift guides!

Todays gift guide, is for Boys Aged 7-10!

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Million Dollar Quartet at theMarlowe Theatre-Review

Last night I attended the press night for ‘Million Dollar Quartet’ at the Marlowe Theatre.

For those who don’t know the story (one of “those” was me), it’s the story of Sam Phillips, an entrepreneur who discovered four of the biggest names in rock ‘n’ roll-Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins and Jerry Lee Lewis.  This show tells the story of a night-the only night, on December 4th 1956, when Sam got those four stars together, in his recording studio ‘Sun Records’ in Memphis,  This was said to be the only night these four people “jammed” together,

The lone set is a three-sided view into the recording studio, complete with sound booth, and decorated with awards Sam would’ve won for his stars over the years.

 

Cast

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Jason Donovan

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Sam Phillips

Sam Phillips played by Jason Donovan, was a man of many talents.  An ego the size of Memphis (and rightly so), his belief in the stars he signed, saw him to be one of the greatest record producers of all time.

Jason Donovan plays the role with ease-and, although his role is a non-singing part, he commands the stage as a narrator of Sam’s story with confidence and articulate dialogue.  Telling each individual story of the four stars, and his initial meetings with them, we get to see what made Sam take a chance on each one.

 

 

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Ashley Carruthers

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Jerry Lee Lewis

Ashley Carruthers plays the goofy but eager Jerry Lee Lewis.  In all honesty, I had to keep reminding myself I was there to review all members of the cast, not just him.  His piano playing talent is outstanding (and that’s not big enough a word to explain it).  Ashley has been playing piano since he was five, and watching him, you can see that (I would’ve believed he was born playing one).

So eager to impress everyone (except Carl), his quick “wit” and mannerisms are sometimes close to the mark.   For the majority of the time though, he’s the funniest cast member on stage.

 

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Matt Wycliffe

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Carl Perkins

 

Matthew Wycliffe plays Carl Perkins, the brash, arrogant guitar player, (which he plays incredibly)!   Carl has a massive issue with just about anyone who speaks to him, but more so with the fact Elvis took “Blue Suede Shoes” onto a show,  making him famous, and, unfortunately leaving Carl without the fame that song could have brought him.*

 

 

 

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Johnny Cash

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Robbie Durham


Robbie Durham
plays Johnny Cash, one of the quieter, but by no means less talented members of the quartet.  Johnny is leaving Sun Records to go to Columbia Records, but doesn’t know how to tell Sam, who is ready and waiting with the new three  year contract to keep Johnny with his company.

Robbie sings with the range Johnny was known for, his deep baritone voice, reverberating through the auditorium, sometimes at almost a growl.

 

 

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Ross William Wild

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Elvis Presley

 

Ross William Wild plays the legendary Elvis Presley.  Unsure as to how Ross was going to portray the star, he very quickly stole the audiences hearts with his smooth moves, identical to the ones made famous by the coiffed singer.   Ross’ deep velvet voice, mimics perfectly the sounds we heard when Elvis was at his peak, and his charm bewitches everyone watching.**

 

 

In 1956, Elvis originally took along a dancer to the studio, but in the show, he brought along Dyanne, a singer.

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Katie Ray

 

Dyanne is played by Katie Ray, and oh my, that girl can sing.  Blowing the audience away with her renditon of  “Fever”, her constant enthusiasm, even during background scenes, is enchanting.  Oozing sophistication, she sashays her way around the stage, dancing and singing with all the class and talent the male cast have.

 

 

These talented five are flanked by one of the most amazing bassists I’ve ever heard, James Swinnerton as Jay Perkins (Carl Perkins brother).  Additionally (and possibly sometimes overlooked), Ben Cullingworth plays Fluke, an incredible drummer in the far back corner of the stage.   The acoustics obviously much improved from 1956, the sounds as they played, thumped through the audience-which was felt deep through our chests.

Highlights

The rendition of ‘Peace in the Valleys’ had the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end.  True talent was shown when no supporting music was used, and the individual voices of the five, congregating to harmonise was one of the most beautiful moments of the entire show.

Additionally (no spoilers here), the last scene Sam Phillips narrates found me extremely choked up-just the way that scene and how it ended, brought emotional intakes of breath from the audience-it was so moving.

The audience, mainly of an older generation, caught my eye a lot.  Throughout I watched as they were captivated by the incredible talent before them, tapping feet, nodding heads, and in some cases, singing along.

Towards the end, encouraged to get up out of our seats and dance along, the auditorium erupted, with the sounds of constant clapping along, applause, and cheers.

Summary

What more is there to say-considering the music isn’t my current era (although in no means from a forgotten era), I wasn’t sure how well I’d find reviewing this performance.
If anything, somehow, this ended up being one of the easiest shows to review.  With nothing but praise from each and every cast member, and their individual talents, it’s most definitely well worth a watch,

Million Dollar Quartet is still at the Marlowe Theatre until the 6th of March!  Tickets can be found HERE, and the rest of the tour dates of where you can watch the show next are HERE!

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*Matt also has an album out!  You can buy it HERE, or from Front of House at the theatres he’s touring at!

**Ross has also just released a CD of his music, which you can also purchase at Front of House.

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The Snowman at The Marlowe Theatre

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Last night I attended the Press Night for the opening of The Birmingham Repertory Theatre’s Production of The Snowman at The Marlowe Theatre.

 

For those that don’t know much about The Snowman or for those that have never heard of it, here’s a little synopsis for you of the original book by Raymond Briggs. 

The Boy builds a snowman on a winter’s day.  That night, at the stroke of midnight, The Snowman comes to life. They go around playing with appliances, toys and other things throughout the house, all while keeping quiet enough not to wake the boy’s Mum and Dad.
They then go for a ride on a motorbike where they see many animals.  The engine heat affects the insides of the Snowman’s thighs, and so they find him a freezer to cool off in. Later they take flight, over the ocean.  
They continue through an arctic landscape and land in a snow-covered forest where they join a party of snowmen.
They meet Santa with his reindeer, who gives The Boy a scarf with a snowman pattern.
The morning after they get back, the sun has come out and The Boy wakes up to find The Snowman has melted. The Boy reaches into his pocket and finds The Snowman scarf given to him by Santa.

As a child, I watched this every Christmas-it was a tradition in our house.  Little did I know I’d be reviewing the stage production of it 20 years later.IMG_8743

 

From the second I entered the auditorium, the festive backdrop on the stage already
evoked those Christmas memories, and, with the constant winter snow scenes, the Christmas tree in the house, and  familiar music, I left full of the festivity I had only a month ago.

 

The first half of the show, got off to a slightly slow start, but it can’t have been slow for long, because I don’t remember the point I was suddenly sucked into the festive excitement along with the rest of the audience.

The beautiful carol singers, The Boy building the Snowman (that for a little while had me questioning if it was going to move or not because it had stayed so still for so long)!  The scenery, that seemed to change the entire feel of the stage, with just one simple backdrop screen behind the constant wintry trees, and the props that were changed with ease and speed created perfect festive settings for each scene.

The absolutely awesome boys who play The Boy, had me in awe-the stamina and talent these children have is admirable.

The Snowman himself, was hilarious.  The fact someone can portray humour and emotion while not speaking is incredible, and the ability he had to keep up with all of the dances and dancers around him, dressed in what I can only assume was a ridiculously hot Snowman suit, just shows how talented he is

This does lead me nicely on to the music.  Although compliments go to all dancers and actors, the real emotion is evoked from the power of the music.

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I was thrilled to hear prior to this event, that the Howard Blake, who, 34 years ago wrote the original music and lyrics for the to feature film of The Snowman, did the same for this stage production.

Even more thrilling was the opportunity to meet and speak to Howard in person during the interval.  A thoroughly humble and gentle man, he seemed genuinely happy to discuss the show, mentioning that they’ve now done so many shows in this tour so far, Hannah Flynn, who plays Scotty Snowman, has danced as Scotty for 1000 shows!

Obviously, the most famous of all of the music in this show is “Walking In The Air“. There’s just something about that song that gives me goosebumps, and, with the Snowman and The Boy wired up enabling them to fly across the stage, it’s clearly one of the most iconic moments in this production.

Additionally to this part though, there are so many other moments that left me open mouthed.

The various animals, with their beautiful costumes, dancing in perfect synchronisation, the beautiful ballets performed by the Ballerina, the Ice Princess and Jack Frost (who did a beautiful job of being scary-the majority of the children in front of me jumped when he came on).  The timing The Boy had when dancing with his peers, the “dance off” with all the different snowmen, and, let’s face it, the moment Santa came on and brought us so much joy while we watched him dance in front of us.

That same rush of joy we felt, turned to utter heartbreak when we saw The Boy discover his Snowman had melted, and, shortly after, as the last scene concluded, the sheer elation, from, lets face it, more adults than children, at the magical snow that fell around us-making it the perfect way to end this beautiful show.

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I’ve come away from this production, holding dear those festive feelings, that evoked so many of my childhood memories, in the hope they will see me through until next Christmas.

 

 

If you get the opportunity to go and see this-do!  It’s perfect for children and adults of all ages!  The Snowman is on NOW until the 22nd of January at The Marlowe Theatre, and tickets can be found here.

 

 

 

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