Open letter to Open Mic UK

I have been observing Open Mic UK singing competition since my student, Elise De Wit, made it to the Grand Finals of Open Mic 2013 in Birmingham, without fighting for a position through wildcard voting. I have raised eyebrows so many times in this competition esp when I see people getting through to the next round, with no voice, who sing flat, no performance, no personality, except a guitar or a piano, and the judges would always say, ‘we want them to perform as it is not just about the singing.’

This year, I had two students in the 16 below category, and they both sang brilliantly in the Regional finals. Michael Cotter is only 14 years old and the only boy who sang amazingly in that category, and didn’t get through to the Area finals. His version of Sia’s ‘Chandelier’ gave a lot of people goosebumps as his voice was flawless. Ok not the pop voice but no one his age has ever done such style. Unfortunately, the judges didn’t see that at all. Even the presenter himself, gave an amazing comment to Michael. Having all men panel of judges didn’t see that at all. But what really annoyed me was seeing like four people who didn’t deserve to get through. One sang ‘Quiet’ from Matilda musical, totally flat, out of tune and got through? And I was right as when I saw the same kid during the Area finals, she was absolutely out of tune! I was so furious that she got through and Michael didn’t! What were you thinking judges? One played ukelele, whispered, and got through? Geeeez!

Now my other student, Mea Ellease, was absolutely nervous during the Regional finals. That’s for sure. She fought back when she won the wildcard voting. She sang ‘Love You I Do’ by Jennifer Hudson (Dreamgirls). Now if the judges were fair enough to notice that massive change in her performance and amazing rendition, and self-confidence, she would have gotten a place at the Grand Finals which was totally well deserved.  Yes, I understand about what you’re looking for, a style. What style? Whining? Play guitar and scream at the microphone? Is that what singing is to you? No control, no performance, nothing! You should have at least acknowledged the change in Mea. That girl who sang Ariana Grande’s ‘One Last Time’, she was horrendous! She couldn’t hit any of the high notes, cracking, and looked liked she was going to bed with that denim long sleeved shirt. What were you thinking?  Oh yes, she was giving the performance, but can’t SING!

I will no longer let my students join this competition as it is obvious that there is something political going on with your judging. Absolutely disgusted by what I have witnessed.

Your wildcard voting charges £1 per text, XFactor charges 35p. And lastly, get a female judge in the panel.

 

The Wizard of Oz by Showco Bedford

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The Wizard of Oz
Review by Sandra Samwell, NODA

This 1987 RSC adaptation of the perennial classic has become a favourite with youth groups up and down the country and it is easy to see why. The fairy tale plot and haunting score with its scope for colourful costumes and creative choreography make this a delight for the eyes and ears as well as providing ample opportunities for young actors of note.
Showco grasped the opportunity with both hands and made the show their own in a production which pleased at every level. Director, Rebecca Toms, and Musical Director, Chris Phelps, are to be congratulated on an assured and energetic show that made the most of the, largely, excellent facilities at ‘The Place.’
The picture book concept of the set, the live band and the large, but not over-large, cast of many ages from very young to late teenage delighted with their enthusiasm and their ability from the first Kansas moment to the last sighting of a rather splendid yellow brick road.
A cast headed by a most engaging Dorothy played by Alyanna Noakes guided us skillfully through the familiar songs, but also thrilled and frightened us when the need arose. Alyanna’s singing, as with all the other leads, was melodic and strong.
I particularly enjoyed Thomas Mullan’s portrayal of Scarecrow which combined adept physical acting with a personality that extended way beyond the ‘footlights.’ His was the stand-out performance of the show for me in something which boasted many very good performances.
For example,Ashley Miles as Tinman played the most thankless of ‘the three’ beautifully whilst Michael Cotter overcame a somewhat cumbersome costume and heavy make up to convey the humour and pathos of Lion most effectively. Felicity Spencer was a very sweet Toto.
I loved Cassie Dallaire’s ‘take’ on Glinda , one which gave us something of the 1939 film and the old style magic. Grace Craddock was a terrifying Wicked Witch. Emily Marchant,Jake Button, Jack Hartley- Booth, Theo Diedrick, Luke Marchant, Kia Diedrick and Ben Mullan all gave delightful performances of truth and conviction in their various and ,in some cases, multiple roles.
The well integrated and executed choreography allowed the action to develop without seeming like set pieces against a background of smooth set change and effortless continuity that marked out the professional standards of this company.
I have no particular criticisms except those relating to the piece itself where the libretto never stands up to close examination, some heavyweight costumes when ‘less would have been more’ in some cases (although the scarecrow might have benefited from a bit more stuffing!) and the setting of some action out of the audience sight line or in too much gloom with few faces visible. A few of the cast must curb their propensity to laugh or smile in the more serious scenes, but I put this down to the joy of being on stage and that is no bad trait!
Overall, this was a visually stunning, well played and well directed musical which would compare with the best of the youth productions seen nationally.
From a NODA point of view, I cannot fault the hospitality of the front of house team and the courtesy with which we were welcomed.
I loved this show and wish I was the regular NODA reviewer in Bedford! Well done, ShowCo.

Sandra Samwell
East District 1 NODA

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That’s what friends are for?

I have questioned the definition of ‘FRIENDSHIP’ since I have been treated unfairly, used for their own convenience, been talked about unjustly, and been bossed around constantly.

I am not perfect myself. I made a lot of mistakes in my life. Pleasing wrong people was one of my mistakes. I used to tolerate how they made me feel but then I’ve learned to fight. I’ve learned how to defend myself. I remember posting this Four Phantoms with Nicole Scherzinger on Facebook singing at the Royal Variety Show here in the UK, the next thing I knew, I was being belittled by an old colleague for appreciating it. That these celebrities are taking away theatre jobs from trained musical people. Yep, and I’m the one with a ‘small mind’?

I made myself proud the moment I stood up for myself after being trapped in a ‘one way friendship’ for years and from being looked down on by someone who always thought of herself ‘superior’. All these years I never felt inspired by her. Every time I called her, there were no praises or sympathy for me whether good or bad news. My husband always warned me about her, but I never listened and kept pleasing her instead.

True FRIENDS support each other, happy for each other. You don’t stab them in the back.

I knew I was not really being considered their friends when my daughter was not asked by her godmothers to be a flower girl. I was hurt by that snobbish gesture. Yes, I felt that we’re not friends at all because friends don’t do that. I felt that my daughter was not good enough for them. But we still went to that wedding even if it was kinda expensive for us. We paid for the present we were asked to sponsor. We were there to wish the couple. I still kept good friendship with them after that. Forgiveness is always practiced in my heart. Whenever they needed shelter in the UK whilst doing a show, they were welcome in my house. I still treated them nice.

I worked so hard to be good in what I do now. People trust and respect me in Bedford. I’m so proud of what I have achieved outside the performing world. I’m proud of doing fitness too, exercising to look after my health, not for vanity. I have a beautiful man who looks at me everyday like I’m the most beautiful woman in the world, who compliments me a lot, who shows his love unconditionally, and interesting to talk to. I have an intelligent and talented daughter. I love being in England. What more can I ask for?

I am not blaming social networks for falling out with a friend. Reconnecting with people you haven’t seen for many years is the hardest thing to do, but in this day and age we have the social networks that make it so easy to send messages to anyone. Scary to be honest. Everything in writing, less talking. And it allowed everybody to cross the line and DISRESPECT others. No matter how good your intention is, it will always be misinterpreted in writing. Sending a prayer is not considered a ‘chain letter’. A chain letter is something with a threat in the end if you don’t forward it to someone, but a prayer is a prayer. And even if you’re not religious to appreciate it, someone remembered you and prayed for you, and it doesn’t require a RUDE reply! If you treat your friend a friend, respect them, be kind with your words, inspire and support them.

The worst for me was finding out that my FULL name, Viven Mercado Noakes, was mentioned on her status, without me knowing it. Thanks to a few concerned friends who told me about it. You guys are my real friends. If she can do it to me, even as godmother of her daughter, then she can do it to anyone, remember that. She knew I have already removed her, so why do such thing to hurt me? Of course, to let the public know that I am the bad person and for her to get sympathy from people who dislike me. Their comments were viewed by thousands of people. You call them friends?

In this case, I’m not proud to have worked with such people.

I rest my case.

Their success is my success…

Two fantastic news cheered me up the last couple of weeks. First, my 13 year old student, Lauren Marler, passed the crucial auditions for MATILDA The musical in the West End, London. Yes, she is going to be in the show next year! Amazing! She’s a brilliant kid, very determined and focused. Her dance training at Sylvia Bebb School of Ballet and Performing Arts since she was little made her dreams come true. Sylvia and the rest of her team are all dedicated to their craft, professionals and passionate in teaching children to be great dancers. In the real world of performing, we need to dance, sing and act. Singing is where I come in and my husband handles the acting. We’ve done our best to help Lauren perform her singing, taught her techniques to bring out the best in her vocals and did her monologues realistically. We are so happy for Lauren. Congratulations once again my dear Lauren! I couldn’t be prouder! 🙂
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Another student of mine who just recently been successful is my 17 year old student, Elise De Wit. She made it to the FINALS of The Open Mic UK nationwide competition.  Hurrah! 🙂  Open Mic UK is a national music competition for singers and solo artists in the UK. Almost 9,000 hopefuls auditioned all over UK, and Elise made it to the final 8!
Once bullied at school, had a low self-esteem and didn’t know how good she was but the past 2 years of training with me, she blossomed into a happy young lady who is slowly gaining confidence to pursue her dreams.

I am so proud of her.  Looking forward to the Grand Finals!

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SAYAW

After our successful three shows in London last 30th and 31st August 2013,  SAYAW is going to be presented again in Milton Keynes this Sunday, 20th October, at The Venue MK, 7pm. This is a fundraising show for the victims of the recent 7.2 earthquake in Bohol and Cebu, to help buy foods and water. Please support ‘DANCES OF PARADISE ISLANDS’ in Milton Keynes (SAYAW).  Salamat po!  x

 

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25th Anniversary celebration of STARLIGHT EXPRESS – Bochum, Germany

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First of all, and before anyone raises their eyebrows, I did not do Starlight Express musical to be so excited in sharing my experience last Sunday. But the love and support that I have witnessed from this reunion was so moving, and I would like to share it with everyone. I have never seen a cast reunion like this. Everyone flew from different parts of the world, and you can feel how much they loved this show and each other. My husband was part of this show since it started in Germany in 1988. I felt my husband’s happiness being there, and for us being there with/for him. Our daughter was so lucky to see the show where her Mummy and Daddy met. I am thankful for this show because without it, I wouldn’t be with the man of my dreams. Starlight Express gave me the best blessing in my life.

I saw Starlight Express over a decade ago, after doing Miss Saigon in Stuttgart. I met my very good friend, Dolan Jose, in 1994 who was the dance captain of the show then, and he was the one who made me fall in love with this show. He was also the reason why me and my husband are together. 🙂
The energy on stage last Sunday was exceptional. It was like watching a concert more than a musical. Hundreds of old cast members were in the audience watching the new STEX cast. Every number was like a curtain call, non-stop applause from everyone. It was AMAZING! Even me who was not part of the show had goosebumps and was teary for them.

I remember auditioning for this show and I almost killed myself. I promised myself I will never dance again after that audition. LOL It was so hard! It’s the hardest musical on earth, believe me! So everyone who was part of this show should feel proud as it is a great achievement to be part of this incredible musical.  

Me and my daughter, Alyanna, are so grateful for having been able to support Garry, my husband. We haven’t seen him for weeks as he’s been touring with a show, and it was great to meet up in Germany and come home together.
We were so proud of my husband and everyone who did the show. I was speechless when all the cast from 1988 to present went on stage. I felt so happy for everyone. It was one of the best Galas I have attended. The Germans know how to throw a party for the actors. That’s why Germany will always have a soft spot in my heart. I will never forget my amazing experiences in Deutschland. Never. 

I would like to single out one amazing person who deserve a huge recognition for her hard work and dedication. To Ms Debbie Hearnden Mayer, congratulations for doing a great job for the last 25 years. You truly dedicated yourself for this show and that’s why it is as flawless as always. I have never met a person like you who is still as passionate about the show after all these years. I always felt your positive energy whenever you talk about STEX, and you are truly inspiring. Thank you for accommodating me and my family. We had a great time with you, and your lovely family. 

To all the cast, creatives, crew of STARLIGHT EXPRESS, Congratulations! May you continue inspiring yourselves to always do a good show, and love your work above all. You don’t know how lucky you are to be there. Thank you for the great experience you showed my daughter last Sunday. She will never forget this day.

To Mr Meinolf Muller, vielen dank fur alles! Thank you for this amazing treat you gave me and my daughter. You made all of us so happy. x

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