An Interview with Anna Pancaldi

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Recently returned from a US tour, Essex born Anna Pancaldi describes herself as a “gutsy, melodic singer-songwriter”. Her new single Keep On Keeping On proves this instantly with its stripped back intro, allowing Pancaldi to show off those gutsy and melodic vocals. The song then spirals through waves of beautiful melodies and acoustic rhythmic guitar patterns.

Anna explained her inspiration behind the single. “It’s about growing up and revisiting homes you once lived in that look identical to how they were back then during childhood” she said, “but then the juxtaposition of returning and life resembling no likeness anymore at all. Strange really isn’t it!”

Explaining how she doesn’t stick to a regular process for writing a song, Anna says: “sometimes the lyric is first, sometimes the melody, sometimes both. It’s a magical one with no strategy and that’s part of it’s beauty.”

Making musical waves not only in the UK but also over in America, Anna has just returned from a US tour which saw her playing in New York, Nashville and LA. “The crowds, having never played there before, completely blew me away. I couldn’t believe how many people were there!” she said.

Comparing the experience of playing in the States to playing back at home, Anna explained that “for me, I haven’t noticed too much of a difference, just immense support and love for what I’m doing, which was not expected in a new place at all!”

I then sent a few quick fire questions to try and learn a bit more about Anna’s musical inspirations.

The best album of all time is…  Tapestry by Carol King, reminds me of childhood and the joy it brings.

The artists that have inspired my sound the most are… Jeff Buckley, Carol King, Judy Garland and Doris Day. More so for the tonal quality with Judy and Doris. And Jeff is just incredible with his lyrics, vocals, melodies and his presence. He makes you feel something that may artists can’t.

The thing that made me want to become a musician is… I never really questioned it, my dad’s a singer so it’s always been a part of my lineage. I can’t live without it, that’s why I’m a musician.

Anna Pancaldi’s new single, Keep On Keeping On, is out on 10th October, followed by a single launch at St Lenoards Church in London on 12th October. Tickets available here: https://billetto.co.uk/anna-pancaldi-single-launch

Find Anna on her website, Facebook, Twitter, Soundcloud, Instagram, Youtube, Snapchat and Spotify

Rewind 2.0! The second half of my 2015 favourites

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You may or may not recall me creating this rundown of my favourite shows of the first 6 months of 2015. If you don’t (where have you BEEN?!), have a look now to see the first half of my favourite shows last year and then return to this post to see the second lot of shows I loved in 2015. In common with my last post it’s a little delayed, but hopefully an enjoyable read nonetheless!

The first thing that comes to mind when I think about 2015’s best theatrical excursions has to be The Spitfire GrillI went in with no idea what to expect – hardly even an idea of what the show would be about – and left with a smile on my face and a whole load of songs stuck in my head. The Union Theatre’s cast were outstanding and James Valcq and Fred Alley’s score was incredibly enjoyable. I only wish I could get the soundtrack without having to pay £30 to ship it from America!

I could hardly go through my favourite moments of 2015 without mentioning the experience that I still miss every single day: The Wombats at Alexandra Palace. There are hardly enough words in the English language to describe what a genuinely life changing gig this was for me but rarely a day goes by where I don’t mourn the Let’s Dance to Joy Division mosh. Unfortunately every other concert looks resoundingly underwhelming in comparison, though I have high hopes that All Time Low might challenge their crown for the best gig of my entire life in February.

Along a similar vein is my short but sweet visit to Reading Festival in August. Spending only a day there was really not enough and I have booked my full weekend ticket for this year’s festival. I’m very excited already… only 224 days to go! I can’t wait to see Red Hot Chilli Peppers and Rat Boy, and I wake up every day hoping that Foals will be announced as the next headliner.

Going back through my reviews and posts of the last six months really has reminded me of how lucky I was to see so many brilliant things in the second half of the year. Surely one of the best theatrical experiences has to be going to see the first preview of Kinky Boots. The atmosphere in the Adelphi theatre that evening was something which I have never witnessed before – everyone was so up for it and I don’t think I even embarrassed my friend Sean too much by dancing and singing along with Raise You Up / Just Be at the end (though he might tell you differently).

Another notable mention has to go to the Arcola theatre’s production of ClarionIt followed the antics of a British tabloid newspaper and was totally hilarious and actually quite thought provoking, particularly with its references to xenophobia in the press. I could definitely see this transferring to the West End and being quite successful as it was pretty accessible and dealt with some really current issues.

2015 was certainly a great year for me and I feel really lucky to have been to see so many great shows. 2016 is already looking very exciting and I have high hopes for it being even better than last year (although it has definitely got a lot to live up to!).

London Theatre Direct: First Impressions of Aladdin

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In order get myself to feel slightly less annoyed about Miss Saigon closing in February, I tried to get excited for its replacement – Aladdin The Musical. It’s already off to a bad start as a result of having ‘the musical’ in its title (something that really bugs me for some reason… I don’t know why) but after doing some research maybe it won’t be too awful. But do we really need another Disney musical? Probably not, but if that’s what makes money then I’m sure we won’t be saying goodbye to big companies dominating the West End anytime soon!

‘I must admit to being slightly upset at the news Miss Saigon would be closing in February 2016 to make room for Aladdin at the Prince Edward Theatre. Miss Saigon is a show I have loved on all viewings and it was surprising to me that such a seemingly successful show would be closing after only a couple of years. But it’s always good to get some new musical talent on the West End so I’ve decided to find out a bit more about Aladdin to try and get myself excited!’

Read the full article here.

Theatre Blogging and the West End

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As I was reminded by a delightful woman the other day when I told her I had a theatre blog, ‘any old person can have a blog now, can’t they?’. Well, yes, they can, but it takes dedication to keep up with it and if what you’re writing is rubbish, no one’s going to want to read it. However, the sheer growth in the number of people writing blogs is undeniable and it means everyone can be a critic with a bit of commitment and a laptop. So what effect has this had on London’s West End?

Blogging’s impact is not yet as high as an endorsement from a national newspaper; a five star review from The Guardian, for example, will make its way onto a poster for the production, but a five star review from me will be nowhere near. But this is arguably only applicable for recently opened shows – what happens when it’s been running for six months? A year? The big papers don’t tend to get invited back unless there’s a cast change so this leaves a gap for theatre bloggers to have a bit more of a say. Every night there’s a possibility that someone with a blog will be in to give the show a review. I think this is where the impact lies; productions have the constant possibility that someone will publish a review of their performance making it even more vital that a five star show is always put on. This works both ways – bloggers want the exposure, and shows want people to know that they’re still there so might even post a positive blogger’s review on their Twitter or Facebook pages.

Social media also maintains this constant judgement on West End shows – most people probably don’t even think before sending out a quick tweet to either praise or criticise a show soon after they’ve seen it. My Twitter feed is always full of shows retweeting positive comments in this way and I think this arguably has an even bigger impact than a full review. Seeing a short message from someone you care about enough to follow on Twitter about a show has a massive effect on what you might think about it. It gives theatre criticism a more personal touch, making it seem as if a friend is recommending you do or do not see a certain thing – and who’s opinion would you value more, a friend, or someone you probably wouldn’t recognise in the street writing for a paper?

Despite this, I still sense there’s a slight reluctance of West End shows to get fully involved with bloggers. London’s fringe and many local theatres have, in my experience, embraced this phenomenon with open arms. But if the big theatres can fill their seats just by inviting in the traditional newspaper critics (which has worked well for years), why would they go to the effort of venturing out into the hundreds of blog writers if only to expose their show to a few extra people, (compared to the millions that might see a Daily Mail article)? I think this is where large blogging communities such as the #LDNTheatreBloggers really come into their own. By gathering a big group of writers together and combining their readership, theatres can get the best of both worlds: support emerging bloggers, but still gain the views needed to effectively promote a show.

Now onto my inspiration for writing this post… I was contacted about two weeks ago by Caity O’Shaughnessy about her dissertation research into the effect theatre blogging has on the West End. I then managed to miss the Twitter chat on this subject which was arranged last Tuesday as I was seeing I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change (which was brilliant, by the way), so this post is kind of my way of joining in without actually joining in (if that makes ANY sense whatsoever).  Anyway, there’s a survey which I will link here about how you interact with theatre blogs. I’m sure five minutes of your time to fill it out would be much appreciated, and if you have any other thoughts on this subject I’m sure a comment on this post wouldn’t go amiss!

London Theatre Direct: Big Shows On A Student Budget

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This one’s for all you students out there (and anyone else who isn’t prepared to pay an extortionate amount for a theatre ticket); my top tips for the best ways to get into London’s shows on a budget! If you have any more do let me know as getting discounts on things is one of my greatest passions… I am often found buying things I don’t need just because I can get 10% off.

‘As a student, it may seem as if all of London’s theatres are out of your reach – with top price tickets for some shows soaring over £200 it’s easy to believe there’s no way you’ll get to experience the best entertainment the capital has to offer. But this couldn’t be further from the truth – there are so many ways for students to get cheap theatre tickets for really high quality shows.’

Read the full article here and check out my reviews of some of the shows mentioned in the article; The VoteGreat Britain and The House Of Mirrors and Hearts.

Rewind! My theatre favourites of the year so far

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I’ve only just written the title of this post, yet I’m already questioning weather or not I can actually bring myself to call it ‘Rewind!’ as it sounds so much like a feature on a children’s TV show. Hopefully that hasn’t put you off too much (I assume it hasn’t if you’re still reading) and instead you are still interested in hearing about my favourite plays/musicals/general theatrical events at this halfway point of 2015!

The first thing that comes to mind when I think back to my favourite shows of the last six months has to be the Menier Chocolate Factory’s production of Assassins. It’s the sign of a great show when you are still thinking about it hours after leaving the theatre and Assassins certainly did this and more; a creepy and surprisingly funny musical that boasted a perfect cast and was staged brilliantly. I really can’t imagine enjoying the show half as much anywhere other than the Menier Chocolate Factory – it was such an interesting venue that I can’t wait to visit again.

Possibly the most exciting show I have seen this year so far is The Vote. I’m still horribly smug about getting tickets to this one and will be forever grateful to my auntie for queueing in the rain to get them on the morning of the show! James Graham has secured his position as one of my favourite playwrights after seeing this show (I say that like I’m particularly knowledgeable about playwrights, trust me, I’m not) and being able to rewatch the show live the next day was a real general election treat.

Continuing the political theme, I couldn’t make a post about my favourite shows of the last six months without mentioning Margaret Thatcher Queen of Soho. Easily one of the most fun nights out I’ve ever had, it follows the story of the Iron Lady as she gets lost in Soho before Section 28 is debated in Parliament. As I remember, my face actually hurt from laughing/smiling constantly for the 90 minutes of this show and I would so love to return to witness Matt Tedford’s sassy Maggie all over again. Oh and here’s a picture.

If you’d told me at the start of the year that a Shakespeare play would be making it into my favourite plays of 2015 then I probably wouldn’t have believed you, but Twelfth Night, performed at St Paul’s Church in Covent Garden, has done just that. I am by no means a Shakespeare expert, in fact this was the first time I’d actually ever seen a Shakespeare play, and to the amazement of myself and the other people I’ve told this story to: I actually really loved it. Staged so beautifully in the gardens of the Actor’s Church, it really transported you to a different world and was told in such an accessible way that even a Shakespearean pleb (such as myself) could follow it without any major effort.

There we have it – my favourite theatrical bits of 2015 so far. I’ve been lucky to see so many great productions this year – I could have easily mentioned more – but those are just the four that are my absolute bestest total favourites. Hopefully I will return in December with even more brilliant shows to rave about!

West End Live Sunday Round-Up!

IMG_6848 I wrongly assumed that a Sunday, in London, in June, meant that I would probably need long sleeves, a denim jacket and a raincoat in my bag (just in case), but upon arriving in Trafalgar Square for West End Live, I found that this was entirely unnecessary. I also decided suncream was uncalled for, and I write this post now with a lovely big sunburn on my nose. But all this hardship was of course worth it for the wonderful, fun, free and theatrical experience that was West End Live!

This year was my first time going to West End Live and the first thing I was really surprised by was the amount of people there – the figure of 10,000 was mentioned and I can definitely believe that! Despite this we (my friend Sean and I) found it fairly easy to get a good spot near the stage and I felt that it would have been probably unnecessary to get there any earlier unless you were absolutely set on getting a place in the front row (we got there at about 10 to 12). WEL1 For me I felt the day was kind of split into two parts – mostly because we decided to go for a wander during a few acts we weren’t too interested in. The first half consisted of some brilliant performances from Billy Elliot and Memphis (a show I have decided I need to go and buy a ticket for as a result of how good it was!). There were some parts which I wasn’t so keen on – the extremely long performance from Thriller Live being one – I don’t know who decided how long each show got to perform for but it seemed a bit unfair that Matilda only performed one song, yet Thriller Live seemed to stay on for about half an hour!

After Memphis we decided to go to Leicester Square (a word I’ve finally learnt how to spell!) (Leicester that is, not square) to see what was going on – a decision we immediately regretted once we realised the massive queues to get back in to Trafalgar Square. This really wasn’t as exciting as I had hoped it might be, and after about a 5 minute look at what was going on we decided to go and queue to get back in to the main event. Luckily this didn’t take too long and we didn’t end up missing anything we really wanted to see. WEL2 The second half of the day was where it got even more fun, starting off with a great Hairspray medley presented by the West End Masterclass. I’m not the biggest fan of the show, but luckily they sung my two favourite songs from it (Good Morning Baltimore and You Can’t Stop The Beat) and the cast was so talented I really didn’t mind. Another great singalong moment was with American Idiot who put on a brilliant performance considering they’d only had one day rehearsal. But the best part of the day by far was definitely the performance from Showstopper! The Improvised Musical. What they did defies belief (and explanation), but they took suggestions from the audience and ended up improvising a musical set on the moon and involving Neil Armstrong and an alien. It was completely ridiculous and really, really clever – I am determined to catch their show in full!

Rounding up a really fabulous day was the West End Cabaret, presented by Ben Stock and featuring West End favourites including Louise Dearman and Mark Evans. My favourite performances were definitely Ben and Caroline Sheen doing Suddenly, Seymour and the Rock Of Ages reunion with Oliver Tompsett and Simon Lipkin. After standing up for 6 hours I was not really prepared to fully commit to dancing to Don’t Stop Believin’, but I gave it my best shot!

I thoroughly enjoyed the day and will definitely try to return next year on both days – hopefully I will be better prepared for the weather!