Saturday, 26 December 2015

Elf! the Musical

I went to Elf the Musical fully aware I wouldn’t be seeing the best musical ever written, but ready for some Christmas fun. And that’s exactly what was delivered. I wouldn’t give it any awards when pitched against other musicals (not even close), but Elf the Musical is probably the most unapologetically Christmassy entertainment you’ll find on any stage.

The musical is incredibly true to the film, which is potentially both what makes it great and what lets it down. Was it ever really going to beat the film so many name as their favourite at this time of year? Especially a film so well-known and so ‘quote-able’. However, all of the classic lines and the heart-warming story are there.

The musical had a huge cast, considering there are only a few named characters, and this really added to the ‘party’ feel of the bigger, Christmassy group numbers. ‘Christmastown’ was a great opening, and set the mood for the show ahead. The elves were hilarious, with each actor giving their elf a personality which shone through. ‘Nobody Cares about Santa’ was also a strong group number, although could maybe have been a little shorter – the scene went on rather a long time for something which adds very little to the story.

And I think this would be one of my main gripes with the show as a whole: it was extremely long. At just over two and a half hours in total, the evening performance I went to ended at about 10.15pm. Bearing in mind the primary audience for this show is a young one, I felt that was too late and too long.

And it would have been very, very easy to make it shorter. There were a lot of musical numbers which seemed to go on and on, and the final 10 minutes in particular seemed to last forever. Once the story was complete, there was a whole bowing section, followed by another big tap-dance number (I was left very underwhelmed by the tap dancing), and then another huge song with more bows. I’ll be the first to say I like the actors to get proper time to be applauded and appreciated following a performance, but it was a bit ridiculous and added little.

‘The Story of Buddy the Elf’ was also a very long song and scene, although I have to admit it’s the one that’s been stuck in my head! It was one of the ‘show-stopping’ numbers, and was performed well by everyone in the boardroom. Little Michael in particular was clearly loving it. Harry Collett took on the Michael role when we watched, and he impressed me. He seemed to grow in confidence as the show went on, and his duet with his mother in the second act (‘There is a Santa Claus’) was beautifully sung.

Emily Hobbs was played by Jessica Martin, who was a lovely addition to the cast. It’s not a stand-out role, but Martin delivered the parts she did have in a very heartfelt fashion, and her voice was strong. Joe McGann (Walter Hobbs) did leave a little to be desired, for me. I enjoyed his first scenes, and felt his ‘growly’ speaking voice worked well, but he faded into the background when he really should have been at the forefront of the tale.

Jennie Dale was one of the stars of the show for me, as Walter’s employee Deb. She was full of life and stole any scene she was a part of. A really memorable performance.

In contrast, I found Kimberley Walsh’s Jovie to be a little flat. The song ‘Never Fall in Love’ was sung fantastically, but I felt her other scenes were very average. Her accent was hit-and-miss, and I often struggled to hear what she was saying in some of her sarcastic moments, which are the parts that really make the character.

The absolute surprise and stand-out star of the show was Ben Forster, as Buddy the Elf. I say surprise only because I was unsure how anyone could step into such an iconic, goofy, loveable role and do it as well as the original. Forster’s talent I never doubted, having seen him previously in Jesus Christ Superstar – you couldn’t get two much more different shows! So I knew his voice was incredible, but didn’t know how he would adapt to a role like Buddy.

Seconds into his first appearance, I was sold. He was quirky, goofy, loveable, and his vocal talents only added to the superb acting on show. He was what made the show for me, and I couldn’t imagine anyone playing the role better. A fantastic casting decision.

So there you have it: mixed feelings! The acting by most was average (by West End standards), but Ben Forster was incredible. The songs were festive and enjoyable, but very long. It was the story we know and love, but with a few favourite moments missing.

But most of all, and probably most importantly, it was a cheesy slice of Christmas magic.
And after all, isn’t that exactly what we want from the story of Buddy the Elf? If that was the aim of the show, then they delivered.

Don’t go expecting the best musical on earth, but do expect to leave the theatre ready to whip out the Christmas jumpers and enjoy Christmas merriment galore.

Thursday, 3 December 2015

10 things I love about December

December is such an exciting month, full of merriment and friends and family, and of course it features Christmas. Here are my ten favourite things about the final month of the year:

  1. Family time. My family are great, simple as.
  2. Advent calendar chocolate for breakfast. Why does chocolate taste ten times better when it’s been hidden behind a cardboard and foil window?
  3. Christmas songs. I know they’re cheesy, but I love them.
  4. Christmas carols. I love singing them at the top of my voice in Christmas services.
  5. Giving presents. There’s nothing nicer than being able to treat the people you care about
  6. Christmas decorations. Everything is so bright and sparkly!
  7. The gatherings. The chance to get dressed up and have a good old catch-up with friends and family.
  8. Christmas jumpers. They’re so warm and so cheesy: perfect.
  9. The mood. People seem so excited, and happy to be heading off for a break from ‘normal life’.
  10. The traditions. There’s something so cosy and comforting about family Christmas traditions.

What are your favourite things about December?

Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Think Before you Tweet

I’ve ‘almost’ written this post so many times. As a fact in itself, this makes me sad.

Each time I’m prompted to write it, I take a step back, and just note it down.

Because I don’t want to make it clear each time exactly what I’m reacting to.

The particular discussion/topic doesn’t actually matter.

What matters are people’s reactions to it.

On the one hand, the blogging/social media world is a tight-knit community.

People make great friendships. People share great content. People applaud one another’s successes.

But every now and then – and unfortunately it’s fairly consistent – there’s drama.

This is to be expected to an extent. After all, no one is happy all of the time, and arguments and disagreements happen.

The majority of the time, people are mature enough to accept that it’s ok to have different opinions.

Sometimes, these opinions are harmful or upsetting to one or multiple people. Sometimes, it’s impossible not to respond.

The problem that I’ve seen time and time again though, is this whole theme of ‘jumping on the bandwagon.’ One person or blogger has an issue with something someone has said, and fifteen minutes later a huge group are venting their outrage.

Up to a certain point, I get it. If someone you respect or get along with points out an issue with a particular things they’ve read, you may well agree with what they say and have issues yourself with that original person’s point.

Unfortunately, plenty of people wade into discussions without having fully understood the discussion or disagreement they are entering into.

The problem with twitter, is there are not many characters in which to say your piece. Tiny snippets of an ‘offensive’ article are tweeted and retweeted for all to see. Totally removed from their context, more and more people vent their outrage, without having any clue about the context in which the points were first made.

I’m sure you’ve had plenty of conversations even just this week which could be heavily misconstrued if a particular person overheard just a sentence of your hour-long conversation.

What happens when people dive on tiny snippets of an argument is a ‘ganging up’ effect. The person in question is hit with a barrage of tweets berating them and slating their opinions before their full opinions are even digested.

Don’t be the one preaching about everyone having a right to voice their opinion, whilst simultaneously directing a torrent of abuse at someone you disagree with.

Sometimes, people do say terrible things, or course they do. Sometimes people’s views are outrageous.

But until you’ve attempted to understand what they’re saying, or at least read the blog post you’re apparently so violently opposed to, keep quiet.

And allow a discussion. If you genuinely disagree with a point, and the original writer comes back respectfully, then be respectful back. Countless times I’ve seen people attempt an apology, but the abuse hurled at them continues.

I’m all for speaking your mind, and letting someone know if they’ve caused you offence. But before you wade in, check you actually know what you’re being offended by.

If you feel very strongly about a certain person or tweeter, you’re allowed to unfollow them. Unfollow or block them, and move on.

Once you’ve declared you’re going to do this, or not ‘give them any more traffic’, stick to what you’ve said and drop it.

Recently, I saw one such ‘online fight’, where one ‘outraged party’ unfollowed the original writer, saying she wouldn’t be wasting any more time on her. And has tweeted about the event continuously since.

I guess what I’m trying to say is, just because you’re typing not speaking, doesn’t mean you don’t have to realise actions have consequences. Words have meanings. Misunderstandings can happen. And just don’t be the one who slates someone for actions you’re actually, in the strength of your opposition, also doing yourself. 

Hello, December

Hello, December.

You’ve raced towards us, this year.

I always look forward to December.

I’m a summer girl through and through, but December holds a special place.

It’s so Christmassy. Bright. Festive. Busy. Full of family. Full of friends. Full of excitement.

I get an overwhelming mixture of emotions in December.

I had a couple of strange ones.

In one, I was home after my first term of university, where I wasn’t happy. That December/ January, my sister was really poorly. I didn’t like that year.

In another, I felt nauseous. A lot. I was convinced I had some kind of bug, but couldn’t figure it out. Chewing gum (the minty taste) kept me going through social outings. That was third year of uni. A couple of months later, it became clear that had been the first signs of my anxiety taking hold.

In another December, I was struggling, probably at one of the worst parts of my panicking. I had to leave the room during a family gathering. I ate next to nothing of Christmas Dinner. The period prompted my first trip to the doctor about my anxiety, with my mum in the January.

Last year, December was a funny one. I had come so far, but my previous years of December memories had ended up being so fixated on my not being well. The period held a funny mixture of pride at how far I’d come, and sadness at the time I’d been struggling.

And excitement, because I was to start a new job in January.

And this year?

I’m another year on from those Decembers that were my worst.

A lot has changed this year.

I’ve moved to London, and pretty much every aspect of my life has changed.

What hasn’t changed?

I love Christmas.

And I absolutely love my family to pieces.

Which is why I’m so excited that December means home time. It means family time. It means food. It means gift-giving. It means lazy days. It means Christmas spirit.

I can’t wait.

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