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

My Crazy Commute Part 2

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Better late than never! 

Life really is a whirlwind at the moment, I’m not sure if I’m coming or going!  This week it’s all about my adventures in Toronto, but just before I headed off for the third 3rd I managed to squeeze in a couple of things in London, starting with a meeting in town with the enigmatic Sonia Friedman, the theatrical producer – she really is a powerhouse!

 

I attended a very fabulous party at City Hall for The Big Dance, where I was giving prizes to all the regional creators who helped make it the biggest dance event ever!  It was amazing to see inside City Hall, and I got to talk dance all night long, aah bliss!

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Saturday was a wonderful family birthday lunch at Cecconis in Piccadilly, where we were busy stuffing ourselves with the most delicious food and cocktails, before I realised it was time for me to dash back home, grab my bags and head off to the airport, where this time I was going to be accompanied by my trusty Coco for the week.  All was in order, the taxi was on time, and I was filled with confidence that me, not the calmest of travellers, would arrive without a hitch. Being that I seem to do the journey to the airport far too regularly for my liking, I’ve become pretty good at knowing the quickest routes, and not wanting to tell anyone how to do thier job – but please Mr Taxi Driver listen to me next time so I don’t arrive shaking and barely in the nick of time because you won’t listen to me! Arriving the other end wasn’t much fun either due to Canadian Customs deciding that anyone arriving without a connecting flight should wait in a cattle pen for what seemed like forever, and me not being the most patient of people had had enough by this point… 

 

Finally at our hotel I managed to relax and get some sleep before the two shows ahead…

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The Sunday show flew past, it was Musical Theatre numbers this week and some fabulous performances and then after I headed out for pizza with the Over the Rainbow gang including singing coach to the starts Yvie Burnett, Musical Supervisor Nigel Wright, and my dear friend and fellow choreographer Anthony Van Laast who also happened to be in town for his show Sister Act, which was opening in the week.

 

Monday was the hard decisions of the results show, and yet every week bring us closer to finding our Dorothy… Afterwards I went for a divine Italian meal with set and costume designer extrodinaire Rob Jones, and the rest of the creative team to talk over the new and exciting changes we’re making to the show.

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Tuesday I finally got to do some exploring with Coco, and the first place we headed was Kensington Market and Augusta street.  I found some amazing vintage jackets and other fab finds in Bungalow, we ate weird and wonderful taffy, scoured up and down Queen St West, and ate the most fantastic lunch at Ban Mi Bros, that serve the most delicious Vietnamese sandwiches. I had the speciality – Tofu lemongrass and coriander with coleslaw and pickle in a bun! Trust me on this, they are too good to be true!  A bit more shopping, a quick drop of the bags at the hotel and a light dinner at a lovely French bistro in the setting sun, all before the grand opening of Sister Act and after party at Baton Rouge.

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Wednesday morning was more shopping, this time in the glamorous area of Yorkville, and once again I find myself talking about food – but the sushi we had there for lunch was out of this world! The afternoon was spent at the costume makers Seamless, where I was surrounded by the most gorgeous fabrics in preparation for  the Emerald CIty numbers.  I couldn’t resist a trip to Honest Ed’s round the corner, the original pile ’em high and sell ’em cheap store, where I left piled high with bags of goodies!  That evening I watched War Horse, has anyone ever watched it and NOT come out crying?  It was on in the  beautiful Princess of Wales Theatre where the Sound of Music was on, and is sadly about to be pulled down to make way for condominiums and an art gallery.

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Thursday was a race against time to get to H&M where I managed to pick up some of the Anna Della Russo collection, and then more fabulous shopping at The Bay to choose my clothes for the final shows Over The Rainbow, I honestly could’ve spent the day there!

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So yes I managed to shop till I dropped, and although I’ll be back in London next week, I’ll be staying out there with my girls soon and I think it mught have to be another round!  Toronto is just one incredible place to shop, eat, see, and shop round, and lucky me get’s to explore it for another month at least!

 

However, I do miss London and can’t wait to get back to my family, so I’ll be hopping straight on a flight after the Monday results and catching up with you all next week.

 

Until then…

 

Love Arlene x

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Crazy Commute Part 1 Commute Part 1

So it’s been a while I know, but traveling off down the Yellow Brick Road all the way to Toronto and back has left my head spinning!

I’ll start a couple of weeks ago, where I was lucky enough to be Andrew Lloyd Webber’s guest to attend a private showing at the Tate Britain to see the glorious Pre-Raphaelites collection.  It was such breathtaking artwork, and will never to be seen again publicly – certainly not in my lifetime -so I felt all the more privileged to have seen it and to by guided by Andrew.  It was an utterly glamorous affair, with champagne and delicious cocktails floating past me that I tried to ignore, as I knew I had an early morning and a long trip ahead of me.

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Up early I was indeed, and on a flight heading for my first live show of Over the Rainbow in Canada.  Straight off plane and onwards to meet my fellow judges, then into fittings as 16 outfits for the next 6 weeks had to be found!  Of course I arrived bang in the middle of the prestigious Toronto Film Festival, and being alongside Lord Lloyd Webber meant only the best restaurants, surrounded by stars at every turn would do.  Two of the incredible places we ate at were Toca in the Ritz Carlton, where the fish and chips was actually lobster and chips… and Nota Bene, a dreamy Italian where I actually had no idea what some of the food even was!  

The first show went off without a hitch or a switch, and soon it was time to wave goodbye to our first Dorothy, and me to Toronto for another week.

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I arrived back in London on Tuesday morning, and headed straight off to work, with matchsticks holding my eyes open, to start creating the Wizard of Oz Canadian show, which has a completely new set to the original London production, and so all the staging has to be reset to accommodate it!  

Of course it wasn’t all work work work, and I got to attend a couple of fabulous opening nights, the first being Forever Crazy.  A totally hot burlesque show all the way from Paris, starring the most beautiful girls you have ever seen, with legs to die for, that can DANCE.  The other was the much anticipated Jesus Christ Superstar arena tour, that was in a word, phenomenal.  Ben Forster and Tim Minchin were just out of this world, and the show was big and loud, just like to should be. If you haven’t yet, go go go!  It was lovely catching up with Amanda Holden, Melanie C, and of course Ben Forster and Tim Minchin.

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 I managed to squeeze in a fabulous lunch with the even more fabulous Debbie Moore, who cooked for me at her beautiful new apartment, and it was gossips and giggles for as long as we had. Thats and the rest of my time spent catching up with Coco, it was almost time for me to hop back on the plane to the land of Oz, but not without a couple of minor disasters first…  

If you’re anything like me, traveling is never the calmest experience, so I like to have everything in order and ready to go at least by the night before. Which is why when my blackberry decided to pack up, and the house alarm system set itself off, it was just carnage.  How could I leave without my lifeline  – and would I be able to get some sleep??  When Vodaphone sent through a broken replacement, and my partner was standing with a towel over the alarm for the best part of an hour, I began to despair.  Fortunately they came through with a working handset, and the alarm guys managed to switch the thing off… So normal service was resumed, sleep was had, and the next morning I was off again to Toronto.

You’ll have to wait a couple of weeks to hear more about my crazy commuting life from London to Toronto, but trust me, it’s worth it 

So until then…

Love A x

 

Over the Rainbow in Paradise

Last week has been a mix of crazy times, lazy times and work times!  I’ve been to glorious Barbados to stay at the home of The Andrew Lloyd Webber, where our search fro Dorothy for the Wizard of Oz Canada has begun.  Twenty girls flew from Toronto to Barbados and sung their hearts out to me and  Andrew, ten girls were sent home with broken hearts, leaving our final ten Dorothys to battle it out over the next eight weeks. They’ll be appearing live every week on the Canadian version of Over the Rainbow, and your’s truly here will be head judge, in charge of finding the perfect one.  We found some incredible talent, and I can tell you now it’s going to be hard to choose!  I’m not allowed to show you yet, but as I soon as I can I’ve got some amazing pictures of our ten girls to post, so keep an eye out for them…

Barbados was paradise indeed and there are no better hosts than Lord and Lady Lloyd Webber.  On the Island, I was lucky enough to have dinner at the world famous Sandy Lane Hotel, enjoy it’s glorious food and drink champagne and rum punch, and take a tour of the incredible beauty around me.  Partying went on late into the night, and at one such evening which included the dreaded Jeremy Kyle, I got everyone up singing and dancing to So Long, Farewell from The Sound of Music, as nobody wanted to leave so we tried to make it last as long as possible!  Oh and for the record, Jeremy Kyle is in fact, a pussycat!  (but don’t say I told you so…)

All too soon it was back to London, life, and work!

This past week I’ve been campaigning for Save the Children, and highlighting the fact the HOW MANY MILLION children are living in unbelievable poverty right here in the UK, and just how shocking it really is.  I went from BBC Breakfast in Manchester, to BBC news in London, to Alan Titchmarsh, to Channel Five, meetings galore – even to the Serpentine Gallery to record a podcast with the gorgeous Lauren Laverne (you can listen here) It’s been a whirlwind few days, and my head is spinning with facts and figures, and yet all I can think about is how else to get the message across.  Please check out the campaign here, and do what you can, it shouldn’t happen here.

Who saw the Celebrity Antiques Roadtrip I filmed a couple of months ago, that was shown on BBC2 last Wednesday night?  Me and Anton Du Beke, some antiques, some vintage cars, and some hilarious banter. You can watch it on catch up here.

I finished my week with a day in Bochum at the incredible production of Starlight Express, WOW is all I can say! Image

So I hope you have all enjoyed the attempt at Summer, and best of luck to all starting back at school!

Until next time…

Love A x