Please Sir, Can I have some more

Hello from Canada!

 

My first proper working week here, and it is nonstop! I arrived just over a week ago, after an unbearably bumpy flight, with myself, Jeremy our director and Graham our musical director holding onto our seats for dear life!  A little bit shaken, and feeling ever so sick, I arrived at my accommodation for the next couple of months, and I think one word will describe it perfectly, damp.  Or maybe two words in fact, damp and stinky!  Candles ablaze, I went about my unpacking and settling in, as Tuesday was day one of rehearsals for the Wizard of Oz, and I wanted to be fresh and ready to go.

 

After introducing all the cast to Danielle, our winning Dorothy, it was straight down to business.  Fortunately, I have working with me my super talented associate choreographer Richard Roe to do all the demonstrating, as whether it’s due to all the flying or not – my foot has gone completely numb!  It’s driving me absolutely mad, and no amount of banging my foot or stomping around will bring it back to life!  I have however spoken to a few people who seem to think it’s something called a ‘Morton’s Neuroma’, which thankfully is more annoying than serious, and on my return to London will most definitely be getting that checked out…

 

Anyway!  Enough of my grumbling, oh what am I saying here comes grumble number two… although it’s a bittersweet grumble, the food here in Toronto is just ridiculous.  Never have I eaten so well, and so much!  Even the food court in the Eaton Center mall by my apartment is like 40 gourmet restaurants.  The restaurants we’ve been for dinner at as well include sushi from heaven at Izakaya, the ultimate comfort shepherds pie at the Queen and Beaver pub (yes haha!), Japanese fusion at Ki, mouthwatering Mexican at Milargo, steaks beyond anything ever at the Barbarian Steakhouse (unfortunately with prices beyond anything ever!) the best burgers you have ever tasted at Five Guys where they pile the chips so high in your bag you can’t even see the burger… I mean the list is endless.  Most worryingly (mainly for the size of my waistband) is the ice cream shop round the corner.  The Marble Slab Creamery.  Never have I experienced such deliciousness…  They have flavours that include Birthday Cake, Red Velvet, French Toast, Chocolate Peanut Butter… and then, once you’ve chosen, they scoop out the ice cream onto a large chilled marble slab, where they proceed to mix in ingredients ranging from sprinkles, crumbled Kit Kats, marshmallows, fresh fruit, bubblegum balls – you name it they’ve got it.  Alana who has been here helping me out this week, has definitely developed an addiction to it, and almost cried having to choose between Black Cherry with shredded coconut, or Birthday Cake with rainbow sprinkles.  Yes I have a loyalty card, and no I’m not afraid to use it! Although I should be…

Speaking of having Alana here, it’s been an absolute godsend as rehearsals are consuming my time so much that it’s easy to forget there’s still a whole world going on at home in the office.  Of course we managed to squeeze in a quick shopping trip at my favourite, Holt Renfrew where is sure ‘aint cheap, but it sure is fabulous!  I have as well, fallen in love with super shop Joe Fresh.  It’s a high st store that reminds me of a Uniqlo in style, but on a much smaller scale.  I was snapping up bargains galore, and this week have mostly been seen in my gorgeous new blue knit trousers that look like they just came off the Prada catwalk!  It looks like it’s going to be a Joe Fresh christmas, as I am stocking up on presents galore.

 

Although I have been in rehearsals practically twenty-four seven, I did manage to fit in on my one day off a meeting with the wonderful Pamela Stephenson, who’s love and passion for dance is so inspiring, we couldn’t help but put our heads together and see what we could come up with… So watch this space for some exciting news coming soon…

 

So this is where I leave you, the Yellow Brick Road is once again calling me down it to attend to my Munchkins…

 

Until next week

Love Arlene x

 

Who You Calling Pointless?

I know I said last week I sometimes wished that I could write “This week I did nothing” – in truth I am hopeless at doing nothing. I love being busy, and although I’m crazy tired at the moment, my life couldn’t be more exciting.

It was a nonstop week in London from the moment I touched down on the tarmac at Heathrow, and here’s what I got up to.

I had what was one of my busiest days ever, starting with an amazing morning working with the Alzheimers Society. First stop was for a photoshoot at the Arcadia offices with Sir Philip Green as he generously donated an overwhelming amount to Dementia Friends, as well as heralding two Arcadia employees who had themselves raised an incredible amount of money to get the new initiative started. http://www.dementiafriends.org.uk/gclid=CISb2pSu0bMCFePHtAodk1MAgQ 

That was followed by a reception at No.10 with David Cameron to discuss the first report since starting the Alzheimers challenge.

Next was a swift journey to the Mayfair hotel, where I was doing some top secret filming in one of the most beautiful hotel suites I have ever seen.  In the rush to touch up my makeup, to my despair my MAC liquid eyeliner burst all over my stunning and expensive Tory Birch cream leather jacket!  Several babywipes later, it was just about wearable for the rest of the day, but I’m still waiting to hear back from MAC about what they’re going to do about it!!

I stopped past the launch of the amazing new Zatchels collection, which was all about their collaboration with the one and only (and my daughters’ obsession) Hello Kitty.  The bags are adorable, and my cute new purple one is perfect for toting my computer around!

The last stop of the day was a very special invite from Sir Philip Green himself to the launch of the new Kardashian Kollection for Dorothy Perkins.  Although I only saw them from a distance, Kim and Kourtney are stunning in real life, and oh so tiny!  Of course the party was crammed wall to wall so I’m afraid I didn’t last very long, that and the fact I was pretty exhausted by this time.  I happily made it home to waiting bowl of Angus’ homemade soup and a big cuddle from Abi, what more could I want.

The next day I was up early for a meeting and a gossip with the lovely Robin Cousins, who I’ve known for many years.  We talked nonstop swapping stories until time was up and it was BBC-wards I was heading…  I can’t tell you too much about it as it hasn’t been shown yet, but I was filming a very special Children in Need episode of Pointless.  Yes I was back for more humiliation, and you can tune in to watch this friday at some point during the event showing all night on BBC.

Talking of Children in need, you can bid for some of my fabulous jewellery collection to help raise funds, and you’ll get a signed Pudsey keyring as well! http://bit.ly/APCIN

Saturday was all about one thing, The X Factor, dun dun dun…..!  I was appearing on the Xtra Factor that evening, so I went along to watch the main show with Abi, who at 22 is of course completely in love with Union J – as is Alana, 33! The show was great, and I had a hilarious time on the sofa with Olly and Caroline, Tinchy Strider and Steven K Amos.  We all had very different views on who we liked/disliked – especially Christopher, but all I have to say is never mind Jahmene and James Arthur, Jaymi from Union J has a voice that outshines all the others in the competition, and he can tap dance!

Sunday was again all about one thing, although slightly less exciting… Packing. It was a much needed family day as come Monday I would be off on my travels again back to Toronto, this time to start rehearsals for the show.

So this is where I leave you, and hope you’ll check in next week to hear all about how my first full week in Toronto and rehearsals goes…

Hope you’re all warmer in London than I am here.

Arlene x

The Final Countdown

I wish just for one week I could write “This week I did nothing”…  but of course it has been another jam packed couple of weeks once again zooming between London and Toronto.

I left the semi final hightailing it to the airport to fly home on the back of hurricane Sandy, and in the spirit of all things speedy we made it back in just 6 hours 10 minutes exactly. (The guide time is roughly 7 hours 20…)

So my three days back in London went something like this… Meetings, meetings, Wizard of Oz meeting, agents meetings, lunch meetings, brunch meeting, I honestly managed to pack in about five a day.  I did however find the time to attend a conference hosted by Flora, all about keeping your heart healthy, and I tell you some of the case studies I saw have made me all the more determined to stick to my healthy diet!

 

I also managed to make it down to Brixton to see Taboo, the Boy George musical they have revived at the the Playhouse.  It was such a fantastic production, updated from the original (which my Alana was in before her makeup days!) with a supremely talented cast, including the phenomenal Paul Baker, who is reprising his role as Philip Salon.  It is most definitely a must see, and now the run is being extended till March so make sure you get down there.

After my hectic three days – which felt like a month in three days – I flew back for the final show, accompanied this time by a very special guest.  Andrew Lloyd Webber was coming back for the show, and the night before the final he took myself, Nigel our musical supervisor, Yvie our vocal coach, and the three final Dorothys out for the a fantastic meal with some of the most inventive and exotic food I have ever tasted.  It was such a lovely evening, and a wonderful end to what has been an immense eight weeks.


Between filming the show, the dinners and of course more meetings, I managed to get over to St Lawrence market early on Sunday morning to hunt down vintage finds, which of course you all know is my favourite past time! I picked up the most fantastic miniature vintage sewing machine that i lugged it all the way back home, as well a few great clothing pieces I can’t wait to wear!

So of course I can now reveal who our Dorothy is… it’s Danielle!  A strange coincidence that it was also a Danielle who won the original London show. and I know our new Danielle will do the show just as brilliantly.  She has a beautiful voice, she’s a wonderful actress, and most of all has a real childlike vulnerability about her and really does embody the character perfectly.  I said a sad farewell to all at the aftershow party, and thanked everyone for their hard work and commitment over the past couple of months, and then for the last time I made the crazy dash to the airport to fly home to my family.

Although if you think that’s the last of my Canadian adventures… think again!  In a weeks time I start rehearsing the actual show!  Yes I’ll be be back and forth once again until sometime in mid January, however this time I’ll be getting to spend a little longer in each place, although will that make my jetlag worse?  We’ll just have wait and see…

Keep your eyes peeled for my next blog all about last weeks adventures in London…

Until then
Love Arlene x

The Family Make It To Oz

My life is moving too fast with all this running around, or should I say literally flying around and I just don’t know where my head is!  Sleep has most definitely been evading me as I’m stuck in two time zones and it’s really quite confusing… Still I can’t complain as I’ve been up to some fantastic things!
I just have to say I can’t believe Starlight Express in Bochum is celebrating it’s 25th anniversary in 2013, and I have been in some very exciting secret meetings about some changes we’re planning to make to the show, I know loads of you watched Rusty and Pearl from the UK tour on Alan Titchmarsh as I have had so many lovely tweets and messages about it, so thank you for that!  Incase you missed it, here it is again.
So my week began again in Toronto, except this time I brought reinforcements from home to help me out; Alana and Abi! As I get nearer the end of the Over the Rainbow TV show, and closer to the actual Wizard of Oz show, all the meetings and extra filming plus a constant stream of emails arriving about everything else going on at home, created such madness over there so help was most definitely needed.
The night we arrived, we headed out for dinner at 360, the restaurant at the top of the CN Tower.  With views of Toronto 1,151 ft below, it spins slowly giving you the most stunning views all around the city and beyond as you eat.
 
After dinner we made our way one floor down to the observation deck, where we all ventured out to look down the glass floor, Alana braver than us to stand on it!
 

The show went by once again, and we sadly waved goodbye to Cassandra, our ‘Geek Chic’ Dorothy, who has done a fantastic job the past few weeks. It was great to have my girls there watching the show, and I loved introducing them to all the team who’ve heard so much about them as all I do is waffle on about my family!

Tuesday was a really fun day, as we were filming at the Mirvish Theatre where the show is going to be. We took the remaining Dorothys there for the first time to sing Somewhere Over the Rainbow live on the stage, and see how they coped with it. It was an incredibly overwhelming experience for them, knowing that they were that one step closer to fulfilling their dream of playing Dorothy. I also got to have a great chat with David Mirvish, he of the Mirvish Theatre, who told me what he’s looking for in his leading lady, so between him, Lord Andrew and myself, boy have those girls got a lot to live up to!

As I was busy filming, I sent the girls off to to Holt Renfrew, Toronto’s answer to Harvey Nichols to find me a dress for the finale.  They came back with a few too many bags for my liking, and I’m not sure all of it was for me! However, after a delicious dinner that evening at Canteen with Yvie Burnett (our vocal coach you may know from the X Factor) Nigel Wright (our magical music supervisor) and my girls, I was ready for my bed and ready for the exciting two days to follow.  

 
Of course it can’t always be work work work, so I decided to hold the phones, and treat myself to day off and head out to Niagara on the Lake.  One of the most beautiful areas of Canada, and just an hour away from the falls, Niagara on the Lake is small town made up of one main street, complete with clock tower and quaint shops mainly selling the most delicious handmade chocolates, toffee, fudge and any other variety of candy you can imagine and of course I couldn’t resist sampling pretty much everything there was to offer…
The surrounding area is made up of houses that look like they came straight out of a picture book overlooking lake Niagara, that we took a horse and carriage ride around, all wrapped up in a big blanket. Of course I also visited the famous Shaw Theatre that I’ve heard so much about to see the current productions.
Dinner was just heavenly, at the Stone Road Grille, recommended to us by my fellow Over the Rainbow judge Thom Allison.  I have never tasted food like it, and Alana’s dessert of maple flavoured cotton candy was something else!
 
We stayed in a beautiful old fashioned hotel, where I had my first EVER pedicure – which I would also like to add is going to become a regular occurrence!  
Breakfast the next morning was giant blueberry pancakes with crispy maple bacon and maple syrup all round, you can tell I may be getting a little over the maple, but however it was too delicious for words and I was dreaming about it by the time we arrived at the falls a couple of hours later.
 
Although it’s the second time I’ve been, it was every bit as breathtaking and magical as the first, and I was thrilled to be able to take the girls there, who were every bit as enthralled as I was.
 
 
Of course it can’t be all play, so after a quick drive through lunch at Wendys (Yes Wendys!) I was back in the city and back at my computer, going double time on all the emails I missed the previous day, again thank goodness for my helpers!
 
Friday I sadly waved goodbye to Alana and Abi, tears in my eyes, despite the fact I was going to see them in three days, I am a soppy mother. Then it was back on skype to the office until it was time for more filming, giving my opinions on the final four.  
 
Once again the weekend flew past, and we yet again waved goodbye to another Dorothy, this time Colleen, who very sweetly thanked me for all my comments, good and bad, over the past few weeks and how the show has really helped her develop as a performer. 
 
I can’t believe I’m saying this, but next week is the final! Only one more week of crazy commuting, then the long haul trips start as we head into rehearsals for the show and I’m there more on than off until January! 
 
Tune in early next week to find out who is our Dorothy, and what I’ve been up to this past week in London…
 
Until then
Love A x