The Megablog

Hello again,

It’s been an absolute whirlwind of a week, and I have been super snaphappy along they way! There’s so many pictures to share with you of all the fabulous and totally diverse places I’ve been, and I thought it would be a great way to start the week…

So this blog begins last Friday night, and dinner with the family at one of our favourite places to eat, HIX in Selfridges.  I think the madness started when Abi and I (who are total non drinkers) were seduced by the very exotic looking cocktail menu, and decided to order ourselves a couple. Well Abi took one sip of her Cosmopolitan, me one of my Chocolate Martini, and we were away with the fairies. After sliding the drinks over to Alana to finish we floated off to the second floor to look  for something I could wear for Let’s Dance the following evening, a dangerous combination when intoxicated and credit card to hand… We had left Angus and Alana’s boyfriend in the men’s shoe department, when Alana got a text saying “”I think Justin Bieber is here, he just picked up the shoes next to me” Well Abi who had been wobbling along through DVF, was off like a shot! Sadly she didn’t find him, but she still had Tuesday to come…

Saturday morning, feeling slight fuzzy headed, I wandered down the road to the hairdressers for phase one of operation “Saturday Night TV Glam Over”, to be completed by Alana on arrival at the BBC. I was off to be a judge on Let’s Dance for Comic Relief, alongside Radio 1’s Greg James, and comedian Lee Mack.  It was a hilarious evening, the highlight most definitely being Vanessa Feltz’ Cher costume, she looked amazing!  The winning performances from Jodie Prenger and Lee Nelson were genius, and the standard of the show overall was fantastic. You can catch up on the show here.  It was strange knowing that’s the last time I’ll be a judge at BBC Television Centre, as it closes it’s doors at the end of this month, and I felt a real mix of emotions thinking about all the times I’ve had there.

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My judging partners in crime, Greg James and Lee Mack.

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Two comedy legends, Richard Curtis and Basil Brush!

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A sad goodbye to the magical Television Centre.

Sunday morning I was up and at ’em early again, getting ready for the Tesco Mum of the Year awards, that I was attending with Abi, and also presenting one of the awards. It was a truly moving afternoon, and the stories of courage and truly selfless acts of some of the women told were just incredible.  I was truly honoured to be there, as were some of the people I managed to snap along the way.

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My darling Abi and I at the awards.

Monday came around again, and it was an exciting start to the week with a meeting at Candoco, a disabled and non-disabled dance company I am going to be a patron of – so watch this space for upcoming news of their latest projects. Later that afternoon I headed off to Radio 2 to chat with Nation’s favourite Claire Balding, where I also met Phillips family idol Mary Berry. The amount of times I hear “but that’s not what Mary Berry would do” is enough to make you never set foot in the kitchen again!

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The fabulous Claire Balding and I.

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Everyones baking hero, Mary Berry.

Tuesday was all about the Loose Women, and I was thrilled to be a guest, talking all about my upcoming challenge for Malaria No More called Live Below the Line.  Me and my Team Arlene – which includes Abi, Coco and Tully – are all going to be living on £1 a day each for a week to raise money and awareness on just what can be done to help prevent this terrible disease.  Please please sponsor us whatever you can, it will be so appreciated, and help motivate us for the challenge! Click here to find out how.
I had all of half an hour back home after Loose Women before I was back in my comfy shoes, and off across London to the O2 with Abi for, yes you guessed it, Justin Bieber!  One of my oldest and dearest friends Tony Selznick was here to join us, and as he’s close friends with Justin’s hairdresser, we had backstage passes, VIP, the lot! Although as I’m sure you can guess not so much my scene, Abi was in her element and we did all have the most fantastic evening.

Brazil was Wednesday’s theme, and I was in meetings all day about the new Brazilian dance project I’m working on with Pamela Stephenson, and although I can’t say too much at this stage, I can say it going to be dynamite!

Thursday I started my day with a breakfast meeting with my darling Richard Roe, assistant extraordinaire, and Wizard of Oz partner in crime.  We talked all things dance, all things gossip, and laughed hysterically at all our memories of Canada. Then it was back home to pick up my case, and get on the train to Manchester with Alana for a very special charity night “Dancing with United”, a Strictly themed night with stars from football, showbiz and Strictly all strutting their stuff for Man Utd’s very own charity.  It’s an amazing programme helping kids get out of gangs and off the streets, many becoming mentors themselves to help other kids in their position. I was amazed hearing the some of the stories, and felt very honoured to be helping such a great cause.  There were some real legends from the footballing world there, including my fellow judges Gary Neville and Nicky Butt.  Of course there were my fellow dancing superstars Louie Spence and Strictly’s own Camilla Dallerup, who joined us on the panel at the last minute after her partner Peter Schmeichel was taken ill earlier that day.  The dancers included current football hero Fabrice Muamba, Quinton Fortune, and Coronation St stars Anthony Cotton, Shobna Gulati, Jenni McAlpine, and Lisa Riley, and finally Sky Sports presenter Jacquie Beltrao. The standard of dancing was fantastic, and honestly one of the best events I have been to, with amazing attention to detail, and real northern hospitality. One of the funnier moments of the trip was me remembering as I arrived at the station I hadn’t brought any jewelery to wear, so it was a – literally – 35 minute dash round Harvey Nichols to find a necklace while the car was waiting outside!  This was only made funnier by getting it back to the hotel, realising it totally didn’t go, and doing the same crazy trip back to return it before running madly to make the train home the next morning!

See who you can spot in these pics:

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I managed to get a couple of hours rest that afternoon, between trying to get through the endless emails I had been too busy to do all week, and then I was ready and out the door for the opening of Ballet Boyz, the talent was truly breathtaking and it was a beautiful production.

The weekend finally came, and it was absolute R&R, which included being cooked the most delicious Mothers Day meal by Alana, with Abi arranging the most beautiful flowers and decorating the dessert with tiny dried purple flowers and petals strew all around the cakes, it was all just exquisite.
I can barely keep my eyes open as I look at my diary and the mad week to come… So until then…

Much love
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

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