Wednesday, 31 May 2017

Joseph And The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat has the X-Factor

Last night saw the opening of the long-standing hit musical Joseph and His Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. Now fifty years running, the shows first performance was on March 1st 1967 in London. Now 50 years later, it is telling the story of Joseph and more and still wooing audiences worldwide. Last night it certainly wooed the Derry audience and had them on their feet like never before.
Having seen this musical a number of times in Derry I really didn't know if I would see much difference this time around. Different Joe, but same show? Yeah? No!
The opening performance last night at Derry's Millennium Forum was bigger, livelier, more colourful, and just something a bit more special. To say it was spectacular seems such an understatement. But it was.

The stage was big and bold. The cast were big and bold. The choir were little and brilliant. Even the audience were big and bold. I have never seen a Derry audience behave as such last night. They were dancing, clapping, cheering throughout and the end spectacle was just memorable in the same audience. Seeing the enjoyment of young and old really made last night something special.

Having had the pleasure to speak with Joesph, Joe McElderry last week, I knew it would be a show to look forward to after all these years. But the ever humble, exceptionally talented McElderry could never have prepared me for what I saw on that Derry stage from 7.30pm.

Lucy Kay, from Britain's Got Talent, really stole the show for me. She excelled in telling us the story of Joseph and his family through song throughout the entirety of the show. Never faltering a note, she allowed us to see how a family can become lost and yet there is always hope. Reconciliation is
always possible. Kay was simply outstanding.

The cast were alive on stage last night. It was clear they each enjoy the show. Huge smiles from the stage matched those from the audience. But there was one just a little bit brighter. One cannot take it away from Joe McElderry. Quite simply he was phenomenal. Joseph has never looked and sounded this good. His portrayal really did tug on the heartstrings, and showed how one really can come home, after a long estrangement. Beneath it all, the lights, the colour, the music, there really is a lovely simple, moral. Family means everything.

I hadn't expected to travel to Cannan, Paris, the Carribean and Egypt when I left home yesterday evening for Derry, but that's exactly how it felt. Culture from far and wide was very much incorprated into the show. And of course there was Elvis. The Elvis-inspired Pharaoh. Ben James-Ellis won the crowd in every way. He had the old ladies rocking in their seats and dancing in their rows. He really did bring a little bit of rock'n'roll to the show. And it worked.

Being a biker chic myself I was of course very impressed when Joseph arrived home from Egypt on a rather cool bike. Very impressive indeed.

I first saw this show in Derry with my young son (approx 7) about 12 years ago. That same young son is going along on Friday night with his now girlfriend. This was his first introduction to musical theater. He has returned again and again. I will be very keen to hear his feedback on Friday night. But I know they will both be blown away with this show yet again. It blew him away as a young boy. Now it's set to blow him away as a young man.

Why is Joseph still so popular after 50 years? It really is timeless. The music is such that everyone and every age can enjoy and appreciate. And this is one show in which the music really does tell the full story. Ben Johnson once said of Shakespeare, "He was not of an age, but for all time." Such it is with this show. I don't doubt it will continue for many years to come and continue to win audiences' hearts at every turn.

Joseph runs at Derry's Millennium Forum until this coming Saturday night. When I say it's a show you really won't regret going to see, trust me. You really will walk away on air. It's that good.

Tickets can be bought at the box office by calling 02871264455 or here at Joseph tickets.


Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Joe McElderry is Derry bound with JOSEPH, the musical

It's now less than a week to curtains up on JOSEPH,

Bill Kenwright’s ‘Amazing’, ’Superb’, ‘Wonderful’ and ‘Brilliant’ production of Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s sparkling family musical continues on its record breaking tour having sold to date an estimated 15 million tickets.
Retelling the Biblical story of Joseph (Joe McElderry), his eleven brothers and the coat of many colours, this magical musical is full of unforgettable songs including Those Canaan Days, Any Dream Will Do and Close Every Door. Joe McElderry was just 18 when he won the sixth series of The X Factor in 2009 and immediately went straight to number one in the UK Singles Charts with his debut single The Climb.
He has since gone on to have three top ten albums, as well as notching up two more reality TV show victories, winning ITV’s Pop Star to Opera Star and Channel 4’s The Jump.

But now he's coming to The Millennium Forum Derry with the superb show that is Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat. Joseph opens in Derry on Tuesday 30th May and runs until Saturday 3rd June.
I first saw this show many years ago at the same venue in Derry. I brought my young son along then to what was to be his first of many musical and theater shows. I loved the show then and I love it now. The young boy who came with me all those years ago is also going along next week (at 19 years of age) with his now girlfriend (Mum not cool enough anymore!!)
It was a delight to speak with Joe McElderry (Joseph) earlier today and find out how he feels about coming to Derry next week as Joseph.
"I'm really looking forward to coming to Derry", Joe told me. "I was there just two years ago with my Evolution tour and look forward to this return next week." Joe told me that he remembers the Derry audiences in 2015 as being 'great' and is certain next week will be the same.  "Derry was a great audience during my tour that year and I'm sure it will be the same with the show next week."
Just why does Joe McElderry believe that Joseph is such a success? Now in it's 50th year, how does it continue to appeal? "It's just a family friendly show. It's a show for everyone. It has comedy, emotion, great music, in fact it has everything. The music is fantastic and it's just great. Everyone just has a genuine love and affection for this show and it transcends time." I certainly do agree, having seen the show a number of times and as Joe said this I immediately thought on Shakespeare's contemporary Ben Jonson and what he said of the great bard: "He was not of an age but for all time." Such it is with this musical too.
With such an array of songs within the show, which is Joe's favourite? "Every song is so different and every song has it's own story. I love them all, but 'Close Every Door' is my big number and I do love that one."
I told Joe about my son planning to go along next week having first seen this show as a young boy. He explained that Joseph is the one show other than Panto that is kids first introduction to theater. I strongly agree with that as this show has instilled a love of theater in my boy. 
Joe told me that there's just four weeks remaining of this show and then his new album 'Saturday Night at the Movies' is released in July. He's immediately off on tour with that then and there really is no rest for this young man. Just how does he cope with such a hectic schedule?
"I tend not to think about it", he says. "I eat well, keep fit, keep moving and just enjoy it." He goes on to explain the difference to his own music touring to that of the musical. "I love all styles of performing but with the solo performance you have a more direct contact with the audience. I love both however and for now I'm really enjoying Joseph."
X-Factor gave this young man a platform for everything he now does. "X-Factor enabled me to experience everything I have to date. It was huge life changing." But is there an ultimate goal for this multi-talented singer/performer? "I've been very fortunate so far. I'm very lucky to have achieved so much. I would like to take my music to other countries and travel the world with it." I don't doubt one as talented as Joe McElderry will indeed travel the world with his music and soon.
But for now Joe will arrive in Derry early next week and perform on the Millennium Forum stage as Joseph. I for one am hugely looking forward to that. 
Tickets can be bought online at Millennium Forum or by calling the Box Office on 02871264455.


Wednesday, 17 May 2017

PANTO Auditions Derry

It's time to come audition for the forthcoming Derry panto 2017 - Jack and the Beanstalk!

Calling all budding actors and singers!  If you’ve ever fancied treading the boards in a professional theatrical production, make your way to the Millennium Forum on Saturday 10th June from 12.30pm to 2.30pm when the North West’s premier theatre will be holding auditions for yet another fabulous Christmas Panto, ‘Jack & The Beanstalk’.

Directed by Jonathan Burgess, with choreography by Venessa Chapman and Alan Wright as Musical Director, ‘Jack & The Beanstalk’ at the Forum boasts the best in local talent in the biggest show of the Autumn/Winter programme of events.

A number of lead cast roles including the King and Queen (playing an age of 35+) are up for grabs at the auditions.  If it’s simply singing and dancing that’s your thing, then there are also a number of adult ‘General Ensemble’ parts to be won (age 17+).  All roles require excellent singing, acting and dancing ability.

David McLaughlin, Chief Executive of the Millennium Forum and show producer for the past fourteen years, encourages everyone with a desire to perform to audition:

“The Millennium Forum has developed a reputation for producing fantastic Christmas pantomimes that are fun for all the family.  ‘Cinderella’ last year was hugely successful, having performed to a massive audience of almost 30,000!  The auditions for this year’s Christmas Panto provide a great opportunity to act, sing or dance in the biggest show of the season for all budding professional or amateur performers.  Who knows – it could be the first step to a career in acting for some talented individual.  We have already seen Gerard McCarthy (Jack in ‘Jack & The Beanstalk’ 2002) move onto great success with Channel 4’s ‘Hollyoaks’, our ‘Aladdin’ from 2009 and ‘Peter Pan’ from 2004, Conleth Kane, is also doing exceptionally well; he has recently enjoyed success on London’s West End following an appearance in the hit television programmes, Casualty and RTE’s search for FAME THE MUSICAL stars; Orla Mullan who played our ‘Fairy Godmother’ a number of times, has enjoyed success in the recent hit television series, ‘The Fall’; our ‘Peter Pan’ from 2013 and 2015’s Aladdin, Mikey J Heath has recently starred as ‘Tom Thumb’ in the West End touring production of the hit musical, ‘Barnum’ and local actor, Dylan Reid, landed the part of ‘Andrej’ in the musical, ‘Once’.”

Auditions for ‘Jack & The Beanstalk’ will be held in the Millennium Forum on Saturday 10th June from 12.30pm to 2.30pm. Anyone interested should contact Lisa Lynch on 028 (048 from the Republic) 71 264426 between 9.30am – 4pm (Mon-Fri only) or email to arrange an audition time. Please note, you must arrange an audition in advance.

Oh yes it is...Oh no it isn't......


Friday, 12 May 2017

Wedding of Fiona and Lee

It is exactly one week ago that I was at the wedding of Fiona and Lee. Two people I know not very well. But two people whom I'm very proud to have been on the wedding guest list of. You see, I used to be Fiona's childminder, many many years ago...well not that many, just 23+!!!! Yes, even I've lost count!!
My husband and I left Shannon in Co. Clare in December 1992. We had got married earlier that year and decided to head home to Donegal to spend time with our parents (we had a little boy of 18 months). Family was, and still is, very important to me, and I wanted my little boy to spend time with his grandparents. I often thought of Shannon, Fiona and her family, and contemplated moving back there a number of times.  It was our first 'home' and it will always be special to us.
Fiona was around 3 years old (I think) at the time we left.
We left Shannon (with tears) and our our new life back home began. That seems a lifetime ago now. But now, my family is one of 5. Three grown sons and just one left at home. Donegal has been good to us, but Shannon is always in my heart.
A number of years ago I connected with Fiona's big sis, Eibhlin, on Facebook. It was so lovely to be back in touch with the little blonde girl I was so very fond of during my time in Shannon. We met for coffee in Derry a number of years ago, and it really felt like I'd known her all my life. I had also connected with Fiona on Facebook and had watched her growing into a beautiful young lady. I knew she was a hairdresser and that she had met a young man called Lee. Then I followed her as she became a mother to the beautiful Sophia. As Sophia grew and Fiona posted photos of her, I could only see the little girl (Fiona) that I used to mind. It was uncanny.
Last August my husband and I travelled to Cork to visit my husbands family. We decided on our return journey to visit Shannon for a night. I contacted Fiona and arranged to meet with her, her fiancé Lee and their now 3 children (Sophia, Seanie and Dáire). We arrived in Shannon, and later that day Fiona and her family came to meet us. I hadn't seen this girl since she was a toddler.
When we met that evening, it really did feel special. It was as if I was meeting a piece of my extended family. All 5 of them were equally special. And little Sophia just stole my heart (reminding me so much of her mother, and yet being her own wee self).
Lee was a lovely young man, and it was clear this couple were very much in love. Later that night, Lee, Fiona and Fiona's parents (Eugene and Cathy) came along to the hotel bar for a few drinks with us. That really was a trip down memory lane. Fiona's parents were so very good to me and my
husband all those years ago, and we have never forgotten it. Words will never explain or describe what they did for me when my eldest son was born. I'll never be able to thank them for their generosity and kindness back then.
However the flying visit came to an end. It was special in so many ways. Leaving Shannon the following day was very emotional for me. I visited the chapel in which I was married, and I visited the houses in which we lived. One of those was my first home with my husband and our young son. That will always make Shannon special. We arranged to keep in touch with Fiona and definitely meet up in the future.
Earlier this year I got a wedding invitation in the post. It was from Fiona and Lee. I was bowled over. I was chuffed to bits. I felt honoured. I immediately went online  and booked the wedding hotel for the night of the wedding. My husband and I were going. This was one wedding I wasn't going to miss.
Last Friday morning we travelled to Shannon once more. At around 1pm we pulled into the hotel carpark. I was immediately awash with emotion. It felt like we had come home. Everything looked familiar.
At 5pm that evening we met with the wedding party and from there on the night was memorable from start to finish. The beautiful bride and groom arrived shortly after and a most wonderful and beautiful wedding evening/night followed. A fabulous meal, super speeches and then pretty cool music all followed. We sat at a table with folks we didn't know. And yet from the outset I knew faces. I know 'him' from somewhere'. 'Her' face is familiar. As the night wore on, we did indeed know those faces. They were faces we had known all those years ago when we lived in Shannon. And as we got chatting, I really did feel I had come home. And one special young lady was introduced to us. She is Mags. And Mags is by far the best dancer I have ever seen on the dance floor.
Fiona and Lee were the most humble of hosts on their wedding day. I watched as they both moved among their guests and spoke to EVERY ONE of them. They took time to have photos taken with everyone. And nothing was a bother to them.
Someone asked me during the week, "how did the Shannon wedding go?" I simply replied, "one of the loveliest I have ever been at. I knew very few people and yet I had the most amazing day." Every word was true.
Although Fiona was a stunning bride, her daughter Sophia stole the day for me. She is just the little girl I remember her mother being all those years ago. Sophia doesn't know me, and yet every time I stopped to talk with her, she humbly obliged. A true star, just like her mother.
A whole week has passed and still I'm thinking on last Friday and all that it meant to me. Fiona allowed me to go back to the town where I first made a home with my now husband. To the town where my (our) eldest son was born. The town where I made very special friends in. The town which will always hold a little piece of my heart. Fiona, I can never thank you enough.
So as this Friday comes to a close, I am reminiscing on one week ago. I'm reminiscing on 25+ years ago. The time my wee family started out. And how wonderful to know that Fiona and her family are still very much part of mine.
Here's wishing Fiona, her lovely husband Lee, and their 3 beautiful children, the happiest of lives today, tomorrow and for all time. Lots of love to you all.
From me, to you: "Live well, Laugh often, Love always." I know you will do all three.


Thursday, 11 May 2017

Donegal - coolest place on the Planet

Born and bred in Donegal, I'm certainly not going to argue with the recent accolade attributed to my home county here in Ireland - Donegal is the coolest place on the planet to visit. In my youth I will admit to really not noticing just how beautiful my home surroundings really were.
I was born in the small village of Quigleys Point, in North West Donegal. Living in Carrowkeel, just a mile from the River Foyle I genuinely didn't appreciate the view from my parents kitchen window of the river below and the hills of Derry. Behind us were the hills of Donegal (Inishowen!). But of course as a child and teenager I didn't notice either, or rather I simply passed no remarks on either.
When I got married 25 years ago and finally settled in the neighbouring village of Muff I slowly began to take in my surroundings. Having lived in London, New York, Co. Clare and finally coming home, I saw daily how beautiful my homeland really was.
As my three sons grew up, we would take Sunday drives around Inishowen and then further afield around County Donegal in general. We would make up a picnic in the morning and then just drive. It was during this time that I would be totally blown away by some country lane, a stunning beach, the winding mountain roads, the soaring mountains ahead. Donegal was beautiful from North to South, from East to West. This home county of mine really did have it all.
As locals we always saw how our beautiful county was often overlooked from tourism perspectives in favour of Kerry, Dublin and such. In many ways our wee county was indeed the 'forgotten county'.
It's all thanks to the National Geographic Traveller UK in December 2016 that this county is now very much discovered and at the fore of geographical beauty. “It’s a warm-hearted place, but wilderness always feels just a stone’s throw away,” said National Geographic Traveller’s UK editor, Pat Riddell. “And it is wilderness, world-class wilderness. We think it’s due a big year.”
Donegal was very privilidged last year to welcome the cast of Star Wars to Malin Head and Inishowen for their filming of the new film. I was very honoured to meet and chat with non other than Mark Hammond during his visit here.  Mark was very kind to speak with locals and take time out with them. I was rather grateful for that as I made many friends and family members jealous with my photo proving my said meet and greet with the legend. 
So just what is it that makes our county the 'coolest place on earth to visit'? Of course there's the outstanding scenic beauty. There's many historic and mythological sites. There's fine dining and there's always a great pint of guinness to be had in the bars. There's also the music. We are home to the amazing Clannad, Altan, The Henry Girls and so much more. These musicians ensure Donegal is always noted and at the fore. But at the helm of it all there's the people. There really is none like them. A warm, friendly greeting is always in place. No welcome is every a trouble. No stranger is ever turned away. Friendliness oozes from every local, from everyone you meet. 
I often drive around the coast here at home and it's so lovely to meet people walking and wave as you pass by. Total strangers salute total strangers. Walking along local streets, everyone says 'hello'. That's just Donegal.
I recently met and interviewed three young brothers from Donegal who are making their mark on the world music scene, The Byrne Brothers are all in primary school and recently returned from a month playing in the US. On meeting them that day it reaffirmed my faith in our young people. These kids are so very rooted in their home county and it's clear how much they love returning home after touring abroad. Children really are at our core. To see them appreciate home, means so much.
I'm very fortunate in the work that I do meeting many musicians from around the world, and it's always a delight to welcome them to Donegal and encourage them to visit the county and explore our amazing sights.
Living in the little village of Muff now, I am grateful each day for the community I live among. With our new coffee shop, The Workshop Coffee Co.  we have the perfect spot to stop off for lunch or a quick cuppa before exploring the surrounding area. Or if it's a wee tipple you're after, we have the delightful traditional bar The Squealing Pig. Every village you pass through will have that something special. 
Donegal is often just the county at the top left of Ireland whom no one really knows much about. It's not until you visit us, meet us, and experience life with us, that you get to see just what an outstanding piece of heaven we really do live in.
So next time you are wondering where to visit on your holidays, just book a wee trip to Donegal. You really won't regret it. We'll all be on hand to welcome you with a smile. And rest assured, if you visit us once, you will most definitely return.