Philharmonic Hall (Liverpool)
It is no secret that I am a huge Matt Cardle fan. I wanted him to win the X Factor because I thought he was an amazing singer back then and my feelings haven't changed one bit despite the fact he has hardly been pushed in to the spotlight unlike the third placed act One Direction. For Christmas my wonderful little sister purchased two ... tickets to go and see Matt Cardle doing his Letters tour live at the Liverpool Philharmonic hall on the 14th of March and this is my review of the night.
==The Venue and merchandise==
The gig was at the Philharmonic Hall in Liverpool which is pretty easy to find with sat nav we found. There is a car park situated just across the road from the hall which is ideal in location really though it does seem to get full quite quickly and it isn't the largest I have to say. We paid £6 to park there for the duration of the concert which I felt was reasonable really considering how close it was to the hall and how it was manned as well.
The Philharmonic Hall is much like an opera house and not like your big arenas where I would usually go to watch music. The interior as you walk in is quite nice and bright and there is a cloakroom as well as toilets for both ladies and gents as well. Some brochures were being sold in the foyer as well as some sweets but the bulk of the merchandise and drinks were being sold further inside the building.
As you go up the main steps of the building you have entrance to the stalls where we were sitting but you could also follow the stairs round and go up to a bar area where the bulk of the merchandise were being sold as well as refreshments. There is a seated area where people could have a drink before the gig but this was very busy when we went in so my sister and I opted to have bottled water which was the only drink you were actually allowed to take in to the auditorium with you anyway. The bottled water cost £1.60 each which I thought was pretty reasonably for a place such as this.
There seemed to be just one area selling merchandise and just one person manning it and as such he was really busy. I think perhaps a full area downstairs too would have made all the difference here. As always merchandise is expensive with t-shirts costing £20, mugs £8 and so on.
Inside the auditorium was pleasant enough really and what grabbed me the most was the fact that this was going to feel like a really intimate gig because the room wasn't massive and as we were on row E I knew I was going to have a pretty good view as well. The chairs flipped up but were quite padded and comfortable but I would say there isn't a lot of leg room in between rows so this would perhaps be something to be mindful of.
The support for Matt was a girl called Roxanne who came on at around 7.55 and played until 8.30. She had a band with her and played the guitar so it fit in really well with the whole sort of ethos that Matt Cardle actually stands for. She sang some lovely songs and it was nice to listen to her although she had a tone of Janet Devlin in her as well and so made some odd little squeaky notes here and there!
==The man himself==
Despite entering the X Factor and winning Matt has never really been a fan of over the top staging and gimmicks much preferring a simple approach with his guitar and his voice. What struck me immediately was that this gig was going to be just like how he would want it and the stage was set up really simplistically with a few small tables here and there with bottles of water and a lamp and then the band equipment and his guitar and microphone. All previous concerts I have been to have been at an arena and so I was looking forward to experiencing a more intimate gig.
Matt came on the stage at around 8.55pm and the show started immediately with him singing stars and lovers from the album to plenty of screams and applause. What I love about Matt is how he seems so humble and that he just enjoys singing his songs and is grateful that people actually want to listen to him do it. This is really apparent during the show and he regularly tells the crowd that he is so grateful and what not.
Matt covers the bulk of his album, Letters, over the course of the show and there is only one missing and this isn't massively noticeable anyway. The songs are not pop music by any means but I am not really sure how I would categorise them. There aren't any breaks during the concert be it for set changes or costume changes! Matt simply stays on the stage and sings! The set stays the same as does his white top and blue jeans. I really enjoyed this as it felt more intimate and special that he was there on the stage the whole time and there wasn't any messing about at all. I would say "proper" music fans would really enjoy the experience as it is simple, no gimmicks and just all about the music. I am a fan of all kinds of music to be honest and most of the music concerts I have been to have been elaborate with lots of different staging, popping out of holes in the stage and lots of costume changes and I have to say with my hand on my heart I enjoyed the experience that Matt Cardle gave more because it felt so intimate, personal and real.
I can honestly say that Matt is completely flawless in his singing as well and I actually was telling my sister that he sounds just like he does on the album. My sister wanted one direction to win the X Factor and she is a real fan of them and whilst I really like them too (we are going to see their arena tour in 2013!) the difference in how they sound live to how they sound on their cd is massively apparent and I guess it shows that Matt won the show for the right reasons.
My favourite part of the night was when Matt sung the first time ever I saw your face which is one that he sung on the X Factor as well so people who watched the show will be familiar with his version of it. Matt actually sung the song originally for family when they lost a very close family friend and as he sung it last night you could see the emotion sweeping over him. It was beautiful to watch and flawless as ever as far as I am concerned.
The only thing which irritated me through the show wasn't actually anything to do with Matt at all. Before the show started my sister and I noted there were quite a lot of older people seated in the auditorium but figured they must be fans to be there! When Matt actually came on the stage obviously people got up out of their seats to clap, cheer and have a bit of a dance but the people behind us actually tapped my sister and told her to sit down! A lot of people around us stayed sat down where as the other side of the hall was completely standing and it was frustrating as I wanted to go a little mad!
The tickets cost my sister £31 each with booking charges and what not and I think this was a good price to pay for the night and the experience to be honest. Matt sings for around an hour and fifteen minutes which I think is plenty of time but I would have stayed there all night if I could. I would certainly go again if there was someone near to me who loved Matt as much as I do but sadly I don't think I will be able to make my sister go again next week! I would certainly recommend the show to Matt fans of course but I think other people would be pleasantly surprised at the fact that he is a proper musician who is keeping it real and about his voice.
Thank you for reading my review!
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Disney On Ice: Princesses And Heroes
Last year I took my daughter to see the Disney On Ice tour as a special treat for filling up her sticker reward chart and we had an amazing time. When I heard about this years tour that was coming to Liverpool I immediately knew that I had to get tickets - even more so when I realised the show was based upon the Disney Princesses which ... my daughter is just completely obsessed with! As the timing of the show coincided with the television show Dancing On Ice ending (I ended up missing the final!!) it seemed perfect that we go to the final show of the tour.
The nearest venue to us was Liverpool Echo Arena which is about a forty five minute drive away and the show was to start at 6.30pm so it meant that we could have a day in Liverpool before the show began. In hindsight I should have booked an earlier show as the clocks went forward that day so I knew my little girl would be feeling tired by the evening. The tickets are set at various prices and this is dependant on where in the arena you are to be seated. I managed to get some amazing seats, just six rows from the front and slightly off centre so I expected quite a high price but they cost £21 per ticket plus a £3 booking fee (which unfortunately is per ticket and possibly would be better per card transaction in my opinion!). Children under two years old are free.
The day of the show finally arrived - which seemed like forever as the tickets were booked in January - and it was the weekend that we were enjoying the heat wave so we set off just after dinner so we could spend the afternoon looking around Albert Dock and Liverpool One. There is a very large multi storey car park just next to the Echo Arena so there was plenty of spaces available and due to the show there was a set price of £5.00 for parking for the full day. We had a lovely afternoon around Liverpool, and as my little girl was dresses as Princess Aurora (Sleeping Beauty) we were stopped many times by locals who wanted to admire her dress. The sights around Liverpool were lovely with lots of little Princesses walking round with their families.
After we had our tea we went to the Arena, making sure we arrived just after they opened the doors as remembering last years battle to purchase merchandise I didn't want a repeat of that especially as I was on my own with my daughter this year! As we entered the Arena, we went straight to one of the merchandise stands and thankfully it wasn't too busy so we were able to have a proper look at things for sale. As expected, the prices were extremely high but unfortunately there wasn't a very good range of items. Examples of things to buy were t-shirts, soft toys, Princess dolls, plastic Mickey and Minnie Mouse characters and there were some light up toys (like the kind you see at Blackpool Illuminations to buy) which were a whopping £14.00!! My little girl chose a Minnie Mouse teddy which was priced at £20.00 and this was before we even got to the food stand! All week long she had been asking could she buy a tub of popcorn again like she did last year so I agreed and then she wanted an ice drink which was like a block of ice with a bit of flavour in, priced at £8.00 (ridiculous much?!). Finally, we purchased a programme which was another ten pounds to pay so all in all it was a very expensive do!
Cameras are allowed during the show and you are even permitted to use a video camera providing it is for your own use. I did see quite a few people videoing the show and had I had a video camera I possibly would have done too as it would be something you can watch over and over again.
As we were shown to our seats we were amazed at how fantastic the view was, we were so close in comparison to last year and that just made my little girl even more excited! The atmosphere was just brilliant, you could feel the excitement just bursting out of the children (and adults!) and when the countdown from 15 minutes to start time began it felt like the roof was going to blow off!
The show this year doesn't really follow a story as last years tour did, though it does follow each of the Disney Princesses wishes:
"Enter a world of wonder where heroes and hearts prevail. Join Ariel as she yearns to explore the world above the waves and Prince Eric break Ursula's slithering spell to reclaim his one true love. See Prince Phillip defeat the evil Maleficent as she transforms herself into a fire-breathing dragon in a race against time to rescue Sleeping Beauty's Aurora. Be there to discover a whole new world with Jasmine and Aladdin. And watch in awe as the dreams of Cinderella, Belle, Snow White and Tiana all come true. High flying jumps, daring acrobatics, breathtaking skating and lovable Disney friends are just a wish away! There's even a special appearance by Disney's newest Princess Rapunzel!"
The show begins with Tinkerbell - who makes lots of little appearances throughout the show - along with Mickey and Minnie Mouse talking about the Disney Princesses and their wishes, and how each little girl is a Princess inside. Then the show really begins.....
First up we have Aladdin and Princess Jasmine - we are told the story of Aladdin in very short form and Jasmine's wish to get out of the palace and meet her "Prince". This section of the show features around a market place and features the songs "A Whole New World" and "One Jump Ahead" My little girl was absolutely amazed at the voices of the characters as she couldn't believe they were the same as in the movies (the characters lip sync throughout the whole show!). Abu, Aladdin's monkey friend is just a puppet but it was my little girls favourite part of the Aladdin set! When the Genie appeared the Arena erupted and the children were just so excited when the song "Friend Like Me" started up.
Next up comes Snow White who is sitting on a wishing well just wishing for her Prince to come. The songs featured are !I'm Wishing" and "One Song". This is followed by a lovely dance with the Prince before the seven dwarves come out singing Hi Ho! I have to say I absolutely adored the dwarves and they were possibly my favourite part of the whole show.
After Snow White we meet Belle who is wishing that there was more to life, when out comes a giant Lumiere (the candlestick) and we have a big production of "Be Our Guest" which features lots of dancing cutlery and the like. This is the only Princess who doesn't wish for her Prince but the arrangement is fantastic.
Next we meet Prince Eric from the Little Mermaid who along with a group of pirates put on a fantastic and energetic show before Ariel and her sisters come along. This is the longest part of the show featuring one Princess and it tells the story of Ariel wishing to be a human so she can be with Eric. Ursula the sea witch and Ariels friends Flounder and Sebastien are just brilliant and my little girl absolutely loved it! The "Under The Sea" song and performance was amazing, especially when all the different kinds of fish came out, there was just so much to look at. Other songs in this section are "Fathoms Below", "Kiss The Girl" and "Part Of Your World".
The next Princess is one of the newer Princesses and that is Tiana from Princess and the Frog. Out of the whole show this is the only time people seemed to lose interest as it was just twp of the songs from the movie and there were no fancy characters, just Tiana and her Prince dancing along. "Down In New Orleans" and "Dig A Little Deeper" are featured here.
Next up is Sleeping Beauty who is under the spell of the evil Malifacent and it is down to the Prince to save her. The three fairies from the movie help the Prince to escape his chains and then he has to defeat Malifacent who turns into a fire breathing dragon. The fire across the ice looked absolutely amazing though it did worry some of the children that were sat around us!! When Princess Aurora is saved by the Prince they perform a lovely dance to "Once Upon A Dream" which calms the audience again.
The Royal Ball is next and before Cinderella arrives we meet the ugly step sisters Drizella and Anastasia who try and put on their best dancing shoes to impress the Prince but it turns out to be a great comedy part of the show and has the children in fits of laughter, especially when they keep falling over!! Finally Cinderella appears in her golden carriage and they have their special dance. "A Dream Is A Wish" and "So This Is Love" are the songs from the movie.
Finally, the newest Princess on the scene Rapunzel appears with Flynn Rider. This is when my daughter was literally falling out of her seat as Rapunzel is now her favourite Princess and she had been so desperate to see her. They dance to "I See The Light" and then they are off. I was really disappointed in how short their appearance was, especially as it seemed that most of the little girls there were looking forward to it due to the cheer that went up when they appeared!
The end of the show is a parade of all the Princesses and Heroes and Tinkerbell is in the centre of the rink in the golden carriage which raises really high and spins slowly round so everyone in the arena can get a good look at her.
What can I say about the show other than it was absolutely amazing? From the very first minute to the last it was fantastic, packed with stories, tricks and amazing dancing from every single character. As we had been last year I did have an idea how the show would go with the staging and lighting but I did wonder how they would make it into a story - turns out they didn't need to at all. Each Princess tells her own story and though that may seem somewhat "bitty" it flowed fantastically and the enjoyment from everyone was just plain to see.
The show lasts for two hours which I personally think is a good amount of time, especially for the money. However, I did make a mistake in choosing an evening show as my little girl was really flagging in parts. I think a child of any age could have enjoyed this show as there wasn't a story to follow, just simple mini stories to enjoy and brilliant characters to see.
My favourite parts of the show have to be the seven dwarves who were ace and the pirate scene as that was so energetic with some huge tricks in there that couldn't help make you gasp in places. I loved the large Flounder, Sebastien and Ursula and my little girl just adored the appearance from Rapunzel at the end. The only downside to the show was that her appearance was just too short and it would have been nice to have seen Pascale or Max (from the film) accompany them in their performance.
I can't really say much more about Disney On Ice Princesses and Heroes, it really has to be one of the best shows I have ever seen and seeing my daughter enjoy it so much made it even more fantastic.
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Moscow City Ballet: Swan Lake (UK Tour)
~The year of doing new things~ It's easy to get into a rut and stop doing new things. Taking my inspiration from the Radio 4 programme 'I've never seen Star Wars' in which celebrity guests are challenged to do things they've not done before, I decided that 2012 would be the year in which I had a go at a range of things I'd not ... tried before. My husband agreed that we should get out and try some new things and he was responsible for picking ballet by getting tickets for the Moscow City Ballet's UK tour, specifically for their performance of Swan Lake at the Derngate Theatre in Northampton in February 2012. When he handed over the tickets on Christmas Day, I was surprised by the choice since I'd never expressed any particular interest in seeing a ballet, but impressed at hubby thinking well outside the usual box.
When I met my husband he was a regular London theatre goer and used to take his mother to
see all the big shows. What I hadn't realised was that they only ever went to musicals. So whilst
between them they knew pretty much every musical to hit the West End in the previous 20 years,
he hadn't ever been to what I would have called 'a proper play' - i.e. one where nobody breaks into
song every few minutes. The realisation dawned after 2 hours sitting through a turgid performance
of Chekov's 'The Cherry Orchard'. We left at half time and went for pizza, not even bothering to
check how the story ended. It was great pizza. Since that time I've got him trained to love outdoor
Shakespeare and other fun stuff but I'd had no idea he was any more interested in ballet than I was
(or rather wasn't). I was concerned that one or both of us might nod off during the performance, but
I was equally determined to give it a go and not write it off as 'not for me' until I had tried it.
~ My (lack of) Ballet Dreams~
Most little girls are supposed to want to be ballet dancers. Not me - I was born with the natural
grace of a dyspraxic elephant and the musicality of a brick. When other little girls pranced about in
tutus with those silly wrap around cardigans, I was much more interesting in going off on my bike
and catching tiddlers in the local river. I missed the whole 'in love with horses' thing too - such are
the omissions of an inelegant working-class artistically talent-free childhood.
The Moscow City Ballet is a relatively new, post communist ballet company which was founded
only in 1988, the dream of a choreographer by the name of Victor Smirnov-Golovanov. Before this, most Russian ballet companies were state enterprises supported by the Soviet era governments,
seemingly happy to offer their people boring food, limited opportunities, very little freedom but
(compared to the rest of the world), really cheap ballet. Not so much Marie-Antoinette's "Let them eat
cake" and more a case of "Let them watch ballet". The Moscow City Ballet has toured all over the
world as well as within Russia, making hundreds of performances in the UK.
I'm not unfamiliar with touring theatre - especially repertory theatre - so my expectation of a touring
ballet company was that they would be a small group. I wasn't expecting a tiny Rep theatre group
of four to eight actors all playing multiple parts but I certainly wouldn't have been surprised to find a
couple of dozen dancers and maybe some smoke and mirrors to make them appear to be a bigger
This was our first time in Derngate theatre - I've been in the smaller Royal theatre before but not the
larger Derngate and I was quite impressed by the layout. I'm more familiar with the older theatres but
the Derngate only dates back to 1983 and lacks the elegance of other places and looks a bit like it
was designed by an architect more familiar with 1970s high rise housing estates that soon degenerate
into drugs and gang warfare. The curves and curlicues of the Victorian and Edwardian theatres are
missing, replaced by sharp straight lines. But on the plus side, the seats have been designed for late
20th century bottom width and leg length and are more than usually comfortable. We had seats in the
second row of the circle which was a perfect place to be - far enough from the stage to be able to see
all of the action, but not so far away as to need binoculars. Our performance was a Sunday matinee
and there was a wide range of outfits on display amongst the audience - from jeans and jumpers
through to frills and flounces. The younger audience members in particular seemed to have been
dressed up as if for a birthday party and I loved seeing how excited they were.
We were too mean to buy a programme and this proved to be a bit of a problem as we had absolutely
no idea what was going on for most of the first half. I had managed a furtive glance at the programme
of the lady next to me so I know that the first act was the prince's birthday party and the second was
a hunting trip but other than that I was clueless. I would definitely read an online synopsis before
attempting another ballet. I wouldn't normally reveal a plot to a book or a film but when you buy a
programme you get to know the whole story because there's the square root of bugger-all chance that
you'll work it out just by watching the dance.
~What's it all about, Siegfried?~
In the first act, Prince Siegfried's birthday party is taking place and it would appear that his parents
are lining up lots of eligible young ladies for his consideration. During this act there are some stunning
dances from the prince, his friend and the court jester but the jollity is short lived as the prince realises
that his happy carefree youth is soon to be curtailed by an arranged marriage.
In the second act, the prince has run off to join a hunting party. He sees a beautiful swan on the lake
dancing with the other swans. She has a coronet on her head and he returns at dusk to see her turn
into a beautiful young woman who explains that she's been put under a spell by an evil sorcerer. Only
the pure love of a good man can save her. This is the act with the big swan dances with dozens of
women dancing in formation to the most famous of the music.
As a naive viewer who didn't know the story (and looked it up on google after getting home), I had
worked out what was going on in the first act but was totally baffled by the second. When the swans,
all dressed in white were prancing about the stage, I really struggled to tell which was Odette, the
Swan Queen, and it was only much later that I spotted the crown. I was awestruck by the bendy
dancers and the contortions they put their bodies too, but the story wasn't coming across particularly
well from the dance. I also found the repeated breaking off from the action to take bows and curtseys
was really annoying.
After drinks and nibbles in the interval which my husband had carefully concealed about him in
an attempt to avoid the long queue for half time drinks, we borrowed the programme of our seat-
neighbour in order to have a bit more idea what was going on in the second half.
Act three opens with the prince checking out the girls again, each putting on a special performance
to show her worthiness to be his princess. Some of these performances are spectacular and it's nice
to see that it's not only the boys who get the big set piece dances. Siegfried can only think of Odette
and when he thinks she's come to the palace he wants to dance with her again. The only problem
is, it's not Odette - it's Odile, the daughter of the evil sorcerer who has been magically transformed
to look like Odette. Did I tell you to suspend disbelief before going to watch Swan Lake? I should
have. Women turn into swans, swans turn into women, people look like other people and it's all rather
confusing. Poor dumb Siegfried tells Odile he loves her and Odette, who flutters in now and then in a
way that left me utterly confused, flees back to her lake. Her Siegfried has picked the wrong girl and
she's doomed to be under the spell forever.
In the final act we're back at the lake for Siegfried to face a show down with Odette - who forgives
him - and a big dust up with the sorcerer who insists he must marry his daughter. It all gets very
confusing and lots of people die and then it's all over and I'm still totally confused.
As a first timer the whole thing baffled me. I nodded off a couple of times in the first half (put the lights
down on me and I fall asleep, can't help it) but I did enjoy it despite not really understanding most of
the action. I spent rather a lot of time musing on how on earth they got the men dancers into the tights
that looked as if they'd been spray painted onto them, how any human being could have buttocks that
were quite so muscular, why the swans appeared to be dancing around with what looked like sanitary
towels on their heads and why it was necessary to keep interrupting the action every few minutes
for all the bowing. In total I counted more than 50 dancers on stage at one time and wondered how
ballet can make money with so many salaries to pay. Add the costs of the orchestra on top and it's
a wonder that ballet companies can survive in the 21st century. The Moscow City Ballet tours year
round, getting a day or two off every month or two and travelling long distances. To put yourself
through such a rigorous schedule, dancing one or two performances per day and having to switch it
on day after day, left me overwhelmingly impressed by the stamina of the dancers and scared by the
damage that they must be doing to their bodies.
Would I go to watch ballet again? I'm not sure. I was very impressed by the amazing 'bendy' people,
irritated by all the bowing and the lack of clarity about what was going on and awestruck by the
energy displayed by the dancers. Did I actually LIKE the show? To be honest, it's not really my cup
of tea. I'm happy to be able to say I've been, to be able to tick it off my 'must do' list, but it's not
something I'd rush back to see again.
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Theatre / Musical National
Theatre Type: Circus / Theatre / Musical National / Theme: A captivating forest inhabited by whimsical and enchanted creatures.
Theatre / Musical National / Vampire Musical Comedy Stage Show
Theatre / Musical National / Address: Civic Hall, North Street, Wolverhampton, WV1 1RQ
Theatre / Musical National / Theatre in Sunderland Address: High Street West Sunderland SR1 3EX
Theatre / Musical National / A live stage show featuring rock music and strange acts following a horror theme
Theatre / Musical National / An ice skating show from Disney
Arts and community centre / Theatre / Musical National / Address: 1 Mill Street / Ludlow / Shropshire / SY8 1AZ / Tel: 01584 873229
Theatre / Musical National / Show by Australian comedian Tim Michine which is touring the UK and Australia in 2009.
Theatre / Musical National / Live theatrical show.
Mercury Theatre, Balkerne Gate, Colchester, Essex, CO1
1PT. Box Office 01206 573948 or email@example.com
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