Review: Mary Poppins (UK Tour) – Mayflower Theatre, Southampton (14/06/2016)

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Source: http://www.marypoppins.co.uk

Mary Poppins was a favourite of mine as a child, hence I was looking forward to see the musical on tour! After their recent award (Best Regional Production – What’s on Stage Award), my expectations had risen, but strangely they were not high. Mary Poppins is about the Banks family and a nanny they hire called, funnily enough, ‘Mary Poppins’. The family unit has become dysfunctional and it is up to Mary Poppins to show them what they are missing out on – not forgetting the many adventures she, Bert (her friend) and the children have throughout.

Mary Poppins (Zizi Strallen) was portrayed perfectly! Her sense of love and seriousness was clearly apparent and even when she was talking and singing, it just sounded right – even her walk seemed elegant as it should. The vocals were powerful! Bert (Matt Lee) was strange for me. Being a big fan of the film, I was comparing him to Dick Van Dyke. With the huge age difference, I found it odd, but he still put across a very warm and humorous character although at times it did feel as though he was trying too hard to be funny. Being a big name though, he certainly delivered! I must note his tap dance routine was amazing!

The children, Michael (Harvey Shoesmith-Dean) and Jane (Lucy Simmonds) Banks were phenomenal; I could not fault them! Their vocals and speech in general were very clear, whilst hitting all the notes. The dancing was great too! Mrs Banks (Rebecca Lock) and Mr Banks (Milo Twomey) had a slow first half (the script did not give them enough time to expand), but they both came to life in the second half! Mr Banks, though, was unable to convey the anger he shared at times. Mrs Banks personally was the back bone to the musical. Upon finding out she had played Mary Poppins in the past, it was evident her experience brought so much more to the show than just her role!

The evil Miss Andrew (Penelope Woodman) was spectacular! She was the first person ever to intimidate me at a theatre, by which other musical ‘bad guys’ had failed to do. Mary Poppins is of course well known for its songs. This is probably the only musical where I knew all the songs prior. Every single musical number lived up to its name. Perfectly executed! The pit band were exceptional. Sitting in balcony, for the first time I could them throughout the show! Seeing how hard they work, somehow managed to give me more respect for them than I already had!

The choreography was straight forward but affective (not implying it was easy or that I could do it!) in comparison to some of the other musicals I have seen. But then it was what the show needed! With some very clever prop designs (Bank’s house), it was a great visual aid and added a lot of life to the show. It was very impressive seeing Bert walk up to the stage ceiling and bought a surprise factor to the show! One of the biggest surprises for me was the differences in story line between the film and musical such that adventures were cut short etc. This was not in any way a deal breaker, just unexpected. The show came to an end after Mary Poppins flew through the audience all the way up to the balcony. It was stunning and left me in shock!

The best way of describe Mary Poppins is the Taylor Swift of musicals (anyone that has seen her live knows she puts on more than just vocals, but a real show). In other words, Mary Poppins was more than just a show! It manages to take everything that step further. It is the only musical to make me feel like a child as well as an adult. The cast were fantastic and brought back many childhood memories. It offered something for the adults and children without any compromise. I just cannot believe how low my expectations had been. It certainly blew those out of the water! A masterpiece with nothing else like it!

 

 

 

Review: Guys and Dolls (UK Tour) – Mayflower Theatre, Southampton (21/05/16)

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Photo Credit: Paul Coltas

Upon finding out this well-known musical was touring near me, I knew it was something I wanted to see. Before attending, I had no knowledge prior! Guys and Dolls is a musical romantic comedy, where the unlikeliest of people fall in love. The story itself is about Nathan Detroit, who needs a venue for his illegal floating crap game. In order to find somewhere, he needs money. He bets with Sky Masterson that he cannot take Sarah Brown (missionary), to Cuba for dinner, since it is seen as impossible. During the bet, they both start to fall for each other despite the problems they have on the way.

At the start, I felt lost and confused by the storyline. Although this was due to my lack of prior knowledge, I felt that it could have been more informative. The pace though was very good. Nathan Detroit (Maxwell Caulfield) was a sneaky, deceiving yet likeable character, offering a lot of depth to the story. Although he was played very well, I found myself thinking about the other characters far more in the end.

Miss Adelaide (Lucy Jane Adcock) was different. Being engaged to Nathan for 14 years probably said enough, but was, at times, both annoying and comical, with moments of what can be considered as a female stereotype (quick changes between anger and forgiveness etc), not that I am saying these are true! But then this was Adelaide! Seeing her role increase in depth was great and with time, you respected her more.

Sarah Brown (Anna O’Byrne) was the star of the show! Her vocals, although not what I was expecting, were flawless! Being a missionary, she had very strict morals for herself. When her mission was not going to plan, she let her hair and went to Havana with Sky, where you saw a completely new side of her. This was great for the audience as you saw her come of her shell. It was portrayed perfectly! Sky Masterson (Richard Fleeshman) was a wealthy gambler who, with time, you find out is more of a romantic than expected when he fell for Sarah, which was evident when revealing his real name to her!

Nicely-Nicely Johnson (Jack Edwards) and Lieutenant Brannigan (Anthony McGill) both brought a lot of heart and soul to the show, which made a huge impact! The ensemble were fantastic! The shear amount of energy required was staggering especially with acrobatic-like routines. I am not normally someone to notice choreography, but throughout I was left in disarray! It was exquisite!

When Sky and Sarah jet off to Havana, it brought a nice change of scenery and even dance routines! It was here the romance began! The love story was my favourite part of the show! They were unlikely lovers, but it proved that love happens in mysterious ways! When she found out this was all about a bet, she was convinced it was wrong and backed off. When Sky proved his love, you felt such warmth and, of course, a cheeky smile! Their passion was exhilarating!

The pit band were absolutely phenomenal and at the end, the musical director (Andy Massey) was presented to the audience. It was nice to see the pit band given their rightful recognition. With the songs in general, I left the theatre with nothing playing in my head, which was strange. They were certainly good, but not as appealing to me as other musicals. The show ended on two marriages: one being Sarah and Sky and the other Nathan and Adelaide. It was the perfect ending, which meant I was smiling for what seemed to be a disturbing amount of time!

Guys and Dolls is a fantastic musical that offers a huge amount of romance and humour, which is very appealing. The cast were terrific and there was never a point where I could not feel the emotions! Although the songs may not have quite been for me, they were still very enjoyable! It finished in the way you wanted, with happiness! There was never a boring moment!

Review: Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (UK Tour) – Mayflower Theatre, Southampton 11/02/16

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As a child, I absolutely adored Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, so logically I wanted to see it on its tour. If any of you have read my previous blogs, you would have seen it was in my ‘Top 5 Musicals to See’. In addition, the production had a few celebrities starring, so I was interested to see how they would perform.

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is about a car that has the ability to go on water, land and can also fly. It was built from an old winning grand prix car by Caractacus Potts, who, with son (Jeremy), daughter (Jemima), Grandpa and a new friend (Truly Scrumptious), go on thrilling adventures. One such example is when the Baron and Baroness Bomburst of ‘Vulguria’, who want the car, take Grandpa and they must go and rescue him.

The comedian, Jason Manford, played Caractacus Potts, the lead role. I was very sceptical of him, especially as he replaced Jon Robyns, whom I enjoyed very much when I saw him in Memphis last year. I have to admit; I am a fan of his. He was extremely likable and had that real father figure needed for the role. His vocals were far better than expected. Overall I thought he was superb! My only criticism was that, having seen him on the television, I was expecting him to portray a far more comical role than he actually did. But then that was down to the role not being able to accommodate this, which was a shame.

Caractacus’s children, Jeremy (Henry Kent) and Jemima (Lucy Sherman) were beyond amazing, with their vocals, acting and dancing all on point, despite their age! Truly Scrumptious (Amy Griffiths) who I have to say played the role very well. My only criticism was that she did not leave her mark on the role. This meant, when I came out of the theatre, I was not really thinking about her role. Grandpa Potts was played by Andy Hockley. Prior to the start, my friend made me aware that Andy had been in Phantom of the Opera, so this increased my expectations. He certainly did not disappoint. His vocals were on point and if I am honest, he was perfect for the role through his entertaining and comical ways.

The Baron Bomburst (Phill Jupitus) was fair. I found his accent to be inconsistent and in general unconvincing, but he did have some golden moments. The Baroness (Michelle Collins) was good, but I really struggle to say much more. The Child Catcher (Martin Kemp) was not at all intimidating especially when comparing him to the film. In the film, he bought genuine fear to my eyes. I am unsure as to whether this is due to me no longer being a child, that he did not have enough stage presence, or maybe he was just not right for the role. The two Vulgarian spies, Boris (Sam Harrison) and Goran (Scott Paige) were enjoyable for the most part. Their jokes I found only half the time to be funny, but even so it was enough for me to enjoy them!

One of the main attractions of the show is seeing the car ‘Chitty Chitty Bang Bang’ on stage. It looked incredible and the mechanics used to manoeuvre were clearly well done. It was agile and looked quite elegant. When the car was being driven, there were projections onto the set to show the surroundings. It looked really good and was highly affective. There was enough detail and clarity to feel like they were actually driving along a coastal road etc.

The pit band, I could not fault as their timing was on point and the music always sounded as it should. The ensemble performed some very clever choreography with the most memorable being ‘Me Ol’ Bamboo’ which by the end gave a slight shiver down my spine. I could remember this well from the film and it made me feel like a little kid again seeing it for the first time. In the film, my favourite parts were the inventions Caractacus made. I was excited in the breakfast scene that these were present as it gave me flashbacks to the film and the happiness it brought to me back then!

Overall, I really enjoyed the touring production of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and you could see why it appeals to such a wide age group. Although some of the characters were in my opinion just okay, the other characters more than made up for this. As I left the theatre, I could not help but feel there was something missing. There was not a completely empowering moment where I just thought ‘wow’. But it cannot be denied that they put on a very good production of a childhood classic and left me feeling like my 8-year-old self again!

Review: Miss Saigon – Prince Edward Theatre 23/01/16

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After my university exams, a trip to the theatre was a nice way to celebrate. Miss Saigon, although not top of my list, is closing next month and hence I wanted to see it before it went. Miss Saigon is a tragic yet heart warming romance about an American soldier (Chris) who falls in love with a local girl (Kim), whilst fighting in the Vietnam War. As the war ends, he tries to bring her back with him, but unfortunately fails. We learn later she was pregnant with his child. Chris finds out, but what Kim does not know is he is with someone else now. In the end, Kim wants the best life possible for her son and ends her own life in order for her son to live in the USA with Chris.

One of the first scenes started with ‘Dream Land’. You are straight away introduced to ‘The Engineer’ (Jon Jon Briones) who was absolutely fantastic! To my understanding, he has been in the role for a while and you could see why. In other words, he was made for the role through his witty comical quotes, deceitfulness and cowardly ways. Despite all of this, he was likable and I still managed to feel a hint of sympathy.

During the same scene, a shy girl ‘Kim’ (Tanya Manalang – Understudy) walked in to work for the first time. Her ability to portray so many emotions throughout was phenomenal – you could always feel her pain. This was in particular shown in ‘This Money’s Yours’, where the audience is informed of her past. I have to admit, that for most of the show, I did not realise it was Tanya performing because she was that good! I was excited to hear that an understudy was performing as from experience (although very little), the understudies have been just as good if not better than the principals. This was proven again!

We meet an American Solider called ‘Chris’ (Richard Carson – Understudy), who was spectacular! When he first appeared, I was unsure what to think – but then I was feeling lost. When it reached the second act, he took my breath away, particularly with ‘Kim’s Nightmare’. I could feel with all of my heart, the love he shared for Kim. As the show progressed, I could see the chemistry between Chris and Kim build. Richard once again proved that understudies are just as good as the principals!

Honourable mentions to ‘John’ (Hugh Maynard) and ‘Ellen’ (Siobhan Dillon) in particular to their vocals of ‘Bui Doi’ and ‘Maybe’ respectively, which blew me away. ‘Thuy’ (Sangwoong Jo) was enjoyable, but at times, I did not feel intimidated especially when he was supposed to be a high rank in the army.

As I briefly said earlier, I actually found myself lost for most of the first act. This was partly due to me feeling overwhelmed and the big jump in time from Chris in Vietnam, to him back in the USA with Ellen. At this time, I did not know that in the second act, the time gap would be shown. By the second act, everything fitted into place and I was able to appreciate it.

In the second act, there is one scene in particular I remember, where Chris is forced to get on the helicopter without Kim. A helicopter (prop), actually came down from the stage ceiling and landed. It looked magnificent and left me in shook for the rest of that scene! Not only that, but the scene itself it was full of emotion from leaving Kim behind and how they were both left in despair. It truly showed their love was real.

On occasions in the first act, I found the stage lighting to be too dark. Although I am sure this was meant to show the darkness found within war zones, it felt to the extent that I could not see what was on stage, but then again sitting in the Grand Circle would not have helped this. I do at this point want to give some credit to the Pit Band, who were on point and put on a great show themselves! The Ensemble were really underrated and deserved far more credit as they kept the show moving throughout.

Some of the scenes were historically powerful. This was by the very striking Vietnamese Army routines and the conditions you saw the population living in. The ending of the show was devastating and I do not think it is possible for anyone in the audience to not feel something. If you agreed with Kim’s decision or not, you could not help feeling distressed especially as throughout the show you loved her more and more as a character.

Miss Saigon is an absolute masterpiece and I would highly recommend it! It has a massive reputation and I can now see why. It saddens me to think its closing at the end of next month. It is such an emotional show of romance, which can quite easily overwhelm you and leave you in tears by the end. Nothing else I have ever seen has made me feel so many emotions in such a short amount of time. I guess it shows us the true power of love.

 

5 West End Musicals I Would Like to See

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Source:http://www.united-productions.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/west-end-live.jpg

Lets Start it off:

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Source: http://cdn.londonandpartners.com/asset/db678d4ff23f3757c433beebf142003f.jpg
  1. Les Miserables

This is actually a peculiar choice for me as I have not seen the film (this will change soon). I know only the basics to the storyline which I must say sounds interesting and some of the music from the soundtrack come across as being amazing! The fact that it is the longest running musical conveys how special it must be to hold such a prestigious title. In addition, I have not spoken to anyone that has seen it and has not given it so much credit – most wanted to see it again. I do hope to see this West End Musical one day, but not until I have seen the film and have done my research as I have been told, I would be lost anyway.

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Source: http://www.londontheatres.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/wicked.770×4001.jpg
  1. Wicked

As a child I watched the ‘Wizard of Oz’ many times on the television as well as pantomimes. It was not my favourite, but I always enjoyed it. A member of my family saw it and they could not praise it enough. The soundtrack, ‘Defying Gravity’, would have to be to the one song I would look forward to the most. It comes across like it needs to be heard live rather than just via YouTube etc (which I am sure most would agree)! I was unfortunate enough to miss it on its tour last year as musical theatre only became a bigger part of my life shortly afterwards. A couple of years ago, I was the lighting technician for a local production of ‘Wizard of Oz’ and it remains very much in my heart as I got to know a few of the songs and had an amazing time. I really hope to see it in the West End in the near future and I am intrigued to hear the other side of the story!

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Source: http://www.chittythemusical.co.uk/images/logos/logo-main.png
  1. Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (I understand that this is not currently West End)

This was once again a film I watched several times when I was younger. It was one of my favourites (even if the child-snatcher scared me)! I found myself intrigued by all his marvellous inventions and now the thought of the Grandad being uplifted in the outdoor toilet has surfaced! As you can see I have many great memories with this film. I absolutely love the story line and can only imagine what it would be like in the West End! I am fortunate enough to have recently booked a ticket to see it on its UK tour early next year at the Mayflower Theatre (Southampton). This will star Jason Manford and will be interesting to see how he is. I cannot wait to see it and I am sure a review will follow!

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Source: http://www.billyelliotthemusical.com/images/logo.jpg
  1. Billy Elliot

This is a film and musical I actually have knowledge about. I have seen the film many times and really enjoyed it. I just find it so inspiring how a young boy from a lower class family ends up becoming a star. He has his struggles on the way, but I feel no one can question his talent and the spark he has when dancing. Earlier this year I watched ‘Billy Elliot the Musical Live’ and felt overwhelmed. Despite basically watching the West End version, I still want to see it. There are many scenes that are amazing and the choreography is superb. I know that I will enjoy this and I definitely plan to go to watch in the next year or so.

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Source: http://britishtheatrecom.c.presscdn.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/matilda-poster.jpg
  1. Matilda

It seems to be a common pattern that I have seen the film of these musicals. The same applies here! I watched the film many times and again enjoyed it. My best friend has seen the musical a few times and I know it is one of her favourites. Hence this was one of the reasons that it first jumped out at me, before seeing what it had to offer. The storyline itself is really good at communicating a huge variety of emotions throughout. Since there are a lot of younger cast roles in the show, I know that Matilda will showcase a lot of the younger talent. It is incredible what children can do at their age! I actually walked past the Cambridge Theatre a couple of months ago and even though I was going to see another musical, I felt excited that one day I will hopefully get to see it! As it stands, I hope to go see it in the next few months.

 

As you can tell I have a lot of Musical Theatre to catch up on! Even after seeing all five of these Musicals, it will be exciting to know whether they match up to my favourite musical, Memphis (read my review here)! Let me know of any musicals you want to see!

 

 

 

 

Review: Hairspray (UK Tour) – Mayflower 19/11/15

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I recently went to see Hairspray on its UK tour at the Mayflower Theatre. With its big name and reputation, I had high expectations. I had seen the DVD prior to this and knew roughly what to expect, especially with the songs. This time I sat in stalls, which were really good.

From the moment I started watching the show until the very end, I could not help but feel that there was something missing. There was just not that wow factor. I am not sure if this was down to my prior knowledge or something else. The songs, although well known, were still very uplifting and enjoyable to watch.

Hairspray is about a girl called Tracy Turnblad who has a dream about appearing on her favourite TV show ‘The Corny Collins Show’. She eventually succeeds and becomes a celebrity overnight. Throughout, she pursues a guy named Link Larkin. She fights for racial integration on the show. With this being said, not everyone is happy about her arrival, so some try to do whatever it takes to get her off the show. She ends up winning the crown and her and Link get together whilst also racially integrating the show.

Tracy Turnblad (Freya Sutton) was a very happy and energetic character. The show started with her singing ‘Good Morning Baltimore’. It lightened my mood and showed the audience what she was going to be like throughout! I can only imagine how hard it must be to maintain this amount of energy. Link Larkin (Ashley Gilmour) was a character I did not enjoy. I never felt any emotion from him. I do not want to blame the actor as I felt the character lacked depth in his personality. It must be hard to make you standout. I would like to have seen the character further developed in the script. This meant that the love story between Tracy and Link was one sided to me.

The main love story in my eyes was between Seaweed (Dex Lee) and Penny Pingleton (Monique Young). These two were in my opinion were extremely underrated and were the stars of the show. Seaweed’s acting was on point and his singing and dancing were enough to leave you stunned! Penny was very socially awkward, but we still loved her, as we knew there was far more to her then met the eye as seen in the end.

Velma (Claire Sweeney) and Amber (Lauren Stroud) Von Tussle were the ‘baddies’. This was very noticeable and clear for the audience. Almost too clear if you ask me! Velma started walking through the audience during the show. When she walked past my row, I felt very intimidated and avoided eye contact to not be noticed. This showed me how well she played her role! Amber was a very ‘Barbie Doll’ figure that once again lacked a real personality. One of the only things you noticed was how annoying she was, which I guess suggested she did her job!

The Ensemble were of a very high standard and outclassed some of the main cast at times. I saw that Brenda Edwards was in the show as Motormouth Maybelle. I remembered her from the X Factor and she proved how she got so far in the competition with her vocals. I would definitely say singing was her main strength though. In the background, the pit band was shown at times. This was great because they were noticed when the cast left, not long after the pit band finished, meaning they received a well deserved standing ovation from the audience.

Hairspray was good, but I cannot say it lived up to the big name I was expecting. I felt it was far more about the well-known songs than the story line. With some of the characters lacking depth in their personality (fault of the script), I could not feel the emotion of the show properly. There was only once in the whole show when I was genuinely overwhelmed with excitement. This was when Penny and Seaweed declared their love. I did really enjoy Tracy’s determination to racially integrate into the show! Although for the most part the cast were phenomenal, I just did not feel the script and production gave them the justice they deserved.

 

My Return to see Memphis the Musical – Shaftesbury Theatre 17/10/15

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After I watched Memphis the Musical for the first time (Read my last blog post), I absolutely fell in love with it and when I found out that it was finishing on 31st October 2015, I knew that I wanted to return once more. I do have to admit that I still wanted to see Matt Cardle, so they effectively went hand in hand!

Seeing the same show twice in quick succession was a brand new experience for me. When I told my friends and family that I was returning, most questioned it and wondered why. I was anxious about returning since I did not know how this would change my perception of the show. Also, I bought a cheaper ticket since, being a student, you cannot afford such luxuries twice! After talking about Memphis (which must have seemed never ending) I had convinced my mum to tag along.

We arrived at Shaftesbury Theatre and sat in the grand circle, located on the far left side. The view itself was fair considering the price paid, but obviously the difference was noticeable from my seat last time. In the end, I could see everything which is all that matters!

As the show started I found myself excited like before. Not long in and Matt Cardle appeared! I do admit my face lit up! For some reason I had it in my head that he would be unable to perform, like before. Therefore, when he entered the stage, it hit me! I should probably mention that I went on Beverly Knight’s last day in Memphis. You could tell it was her last day because she had such a noticeable fire in her belly, which in other words meant her vocals were absolute perfection. This was strange as she was phenomenal last time, but you could just tell she was giving it her all!

I felt for Matt Cardle when it came to vocals. His softer voice is less noticed and heard when there were duets etc., since Beverly is a powerhouse. Throughout the whole show, I was waiting on one song in particular. As I said in my last post, ‘Memphis Lives in Me’ is favourite song, sung by Huey (Matt Cardle). This song is the point where he ‘screws up’ and afterwards is left with nothing. The actual song is about how he is expressing his love for Memphis and how he does not feel comfortable being anywhere else. Memphis is all he knows and it’s where his success all began. The line, ‘I couldn’t even try, to run away and say goodbye, here I was born and here is where I’ll die’ sums up how he felt when offered a job in New York. For these reasons I find the song empowering and compelling as the lyrics describe the situation perfectly.

When Matt Cardle sings, I always feel he tells a story that somehow gets to me. After he finished, I found myself in shock, almost in tears. It was without a doubt the best live piece of music I have ever heard. At the end of the show, I was not as overwhelmed as before, but I still had a smile on my face. It was amazing how much more I noticed from seeing the show again and it still left me with a genuine sense of happiness. I guess that is a sign of a good show!

Although I really liked the understudy of Huey (Jon Robyns), I felt there was more chemistry between Matt and Beverly, perhaps because they have worked together on more occasions. The ‘extra’ chemistry only made the story more real and believable in my mind. I noticed the Ensemble far more this time. They were truly fantastic and I never doubted at any point that they were not enjoying themselves.

After the show, I once again made my way to stage door, hoping to meet Matt Cardle. Over 100 people had turned up. When Beverly Knight came out, there was huge excitement from what can only be called a large crowd. Matt Cardle had still not come out. Eventually we decided enough was enough and accepted he was not coming out. I guess it made sense; considering it was Beverly’s last night, he did not want to take any of the attention away from her and rightly so!

Returning to see a show really is great and I would recommend it to anyone! I still absolutely love Memphis and, for me, it’s sad to think when this blog is posted it will have already finished. I wish all the cast the best of luck in the future and I really hope the show returns as I would have no doubts about going for a third time!