Tag Archives: Review

The Noteworthy Life of Howard Barnes at Village Theatre

the noteworthy life of howard barnes

The concept of this new musical at Village Theatre was instantly appealing. Howard Barnes wakes up to find his life has become a musical. As a musical theatre fan, I can’t think of anything more wonderful than having a life full of spontaneous songs and dance breaks, but for an ordinary guy like Howard, he simply wants to return to normality.

Watching the first few scenes, I was worried I would be disappointed. It was amusing but not laugh aloud funny and I was still waiting for a wow moment. However, once I settled into the rhythm of the show, those moments came time and again.  As a reserved Brit, it takes a lot to make me laugh out loud, but I laughed and smiled my way through the whole show.

The story is clever, funny, emotional and surprising, with an array of fantastic characters, from the key players to the tiniest cameos. The cast was flawless, the energy infectious and the dramatic moments pulled at the heart-strings.  If you are a musical theatre fan, you will love spotting the references to all of your favourite musicals, as familiar characters and numbers appear and are reborn, Howard Barnes style. My personal favourite was the homage to cell block tango by Howard’s ex-girlfriends.

The Noteworthy Life of  Howard Barnes is not some frivolous comedy musical. Hilarious as it is, the show has some unexpected emotional scenes and explores the complex world of relationships, rejection and moving on.  A must see for musical theatre fans but a wonderful treat even if you’re not. Don’t miss it!

Here’s a little taster

Would I take the kids?

There are some adult references and sexual words in songs (some of which, I wish weren’t there so it were more kid friendly). I would say it is a PG13 rating – on balance I would take my musical theatre obsessed 10-year-old, because I think she would love it. I do however, think some of the relationship themes would be difficult for her to fully understand and I really wish some of the sexual words in certain songs would be taken out, so I didn’t have to answer awkward questions. If you want more information before making your own judgement, check out the production preview guide

The Noteworthy Life of Howard Barnes runs until October 21st in Issaquah and from October 26th – November 18th in Everett. The show runs without an intermission, so if you go on a week night you can still be in bed by 10.

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The Steves: Picture Book Review

If you are a fan of  ‘I am Bat‘  you will love Morag Hood’s new book, The Steves.  Written and illustrated in the same quirky but simple style, it captures perfectly young children’s competitive nature and their drive to be bigger and better than friends and siblings. I can almost hear the words flowing from my daughters’ mouths.

Kids will laugh out loud at the insults they throw at one another and the wonderfully, comical illustrations. I love the way Morag Hood captures emotion in her illustrations.  Simple, beautiful and funny – a perfect package. I have no doubt the Steves will become a classic favourite for young children.

The Steve’s is available on Sept 4th 2018.

Are You Sick of the Seattle Spring Rain?Brighten your day with Seussical Jnr. at Village Theatre Kidstage.

Seussical-Jr_900x900If the rain is getting you down, Seussical Jnr at Village Theatre Kidstage, Issaquah, can’t fail to put a smile on your face. Many theatre goers shy away from kids productions for fear that they might not be any good. My own perceptions have been changed over the years since seeing  some truly excellent junior productions. I attended Seussical’s opening night because my daughter is playing the baby kangaroo, but I was in awe of this amazing cast and felt compelled to share my experience.

The last time I saw Seussical, it was performed by a group of talented adults (many of whom I had appeared on stage with) in Bristol, UK.  I had been told by many that Kidstage productions would exceed all expectations. The competition for a place in the cast is fierce with over a hundred children auditioning for thirty something places. I expected a quality show but these talented kids and teens blew me away and matched and sometimes outdid those adults in the UK.

The show itself, is colourful, high energy, funny, heartwarming and full of memorable songs. Setting the show in a playground and using everyday clothes for the costumes but adding magical twists like animal ears and feathered tails, emphasised the role of imagination, an important theme of the show, where ‘ Anything is Possible’.

Each cast member had a unique character that they maintained throughout the show.  Cat in the Hat (Nina Romero), is a fantastic physical actress. Every movement and facial expression embodied this familiar character perfectly and her clear speaking voice and strong, faultless singing made her perfect for this role.  Jojo (Natalia Oritz Villacorta) owned the stage, with a wonderfully, rich singing voice that surpassed her age.

Seussical introduces a myriad of familiar Dr. Seuss characters, but the main thread of the story centers around Horton the elephant. McKay Hancock made a perfectly sweet, lovable and downtrodden Horton and his heartfelt opening to Solla Sollew was one of my favourite moments. Arin Sandidge’s, beautiful voice, strong presence and ability to convey every emotion through her eyes, was captivating as Gertrude the bird with the one feathered tail. You couldn’t fail to cheer her on in her quest to get Horton to notice her.

I loved the characterisation of the Mayor and Mrs Mayor of Whoville (Colin Bixler and Eleanor Olsen). The Mayor’s comic timing was wonderful and this was counterbalanced by Mrs Mayor’s strong character and vocal ability.

There wasn’t a weak link in the show – every cast member put their life and soul into the production and there were so many little character moments to watch that I will need to watch it multiple times to catch them all. You can’t help but come out of this show with a smile on your face and you may very well be seeing future stars in the making.

Seussical Jnr runs from 13th – 29th April with performances on Friday evening, Saturday afternoon, Saturday evening and Sunday afternoon. Tickets are available from the Village Theatre box office for $18 general admission or $16 Youth and Senior.

 

Organise Your School Year Activities with The Busy Family Calendar

 

busy family calendar

Disclaimer: This post contains an Amazon affiliate link. If you order this item by clicking this link, I will receive a small commission. All opinions are my own, no payment was received for reviewing this product.

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As a family of five, remembering the girls after school class schedule can be a challenge. Add in appointments, school events, birthdays, parties, concerts, rehearsals and homework deadlines and I regularly have a pin board loaded with lists and timetables.

I’m a little old-fashioned when it comes to making lists and organising events.  I use digital calendars but I like to have a physical calendar to help me see the whole picture.

busy family calendar

It can be difficult to fit my family of five’s activities in one small square, so family organiser calendars are the perfect choice. I love the Busy Family Calendar from Quarto Books, because it has space for a family of five to record all their activities on separate lines.  Furthermore, the 2018 calendar lasts for 17 months, so I can start it at the beginning of the academic year and keep it going until December 2018 (by which time I may have remembered to buy a new one.)

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Additional features are a large calendar grid and handy storage pocket for appointment cards, invitations and such.  The charming seasonal artwork by Alison Cole is bright and cheerful to complement it without distraction. I particularly like the additional stickers for birthdays, medical appointments, school breaks etc. as they really help these events  stand out on the calendar. Some even have space to add your own content, like chores and meal planners.

The Busy Family Calendar is available in Canada and the US for an rrp. of $15.99 US and $18.99 Canada

 

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory the Musical

charlie-and-the-choc

 

I took a blogging break this summer to concentrate on travelling with my family and now I am back, I have lots to share from my busy summer.  Today is Roald Dahl day and would have been Roald Dahl’s 100th birthday, so I thought it would be fitting to share my thoughts on the West End musical production of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

This was our first visit to London with the children.  We only travel home every few years, so we wanted to show them the sights and experience a West End show.  To be honest, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory wasn’t our first choice of show and we arrived with a little uncertainty.  We couldn’t have chosen anything more memorable or spectacular.  From curtain up it was visually mesmerising.  Costume and set design were out of this world and totally lived up to the company’s aim to astound the audience.

Roald Dahl’s original story was preserved throughout but was cleverly tweaked with  modern touches. The children were characterised perfectly and wonderfully portrayed by the cast.  My kids spent time discussing who they would like to play;  ballet dancing Veruca Salt, video game obsessed Mike Teavee or Violet Beauregarde the acrobatic child star. The parents were also brought to life in quirky and interesting ways.

Directed by Sam Mendes, this is the first stage adaptation in 50 years and completely surpassed my expectations.  We all came out of the theatre feeling a little emotional. We had clearly witnessed something  unique and special.

If you get a chance to see it before it closes at Theatre Royal, Drury Lane in 2017, I highly recommend it.  Don’t despair if not, a UK tour is coming soon and for US audiences, the Broadway production will open in 2017.

Disclaimer: This is a personal recommendation, no monetary compensation or complimentary tickets were received for writing this post.

 

Spitter Spatter Stain Free Anti-Bacterial Children’s Clothing Giveaway

spitter spatter logoI have an exciting giveaway for my readers today from a new children’s clothing company Spitter Spatter.

What is Spitter Spatter?

Spitter-Spatter is a new children’s clothing range for 0-5 year olds with anti-bacterial properties woven into the fabric and also claims to be stain and odour resistant.

Spitter Spatter builds revolutionary antibacterial performance into the fibres of every fabric, without altering the natural breathability or feel of the fabric. Using a proprietary process to modify fabric at the molecular level by creating an invisible barrier on the exterior of the fabric to defend against over 100 different types of germs.

As you can see from many of my posts I love to get my kids outdoors in the dirt. Getting dirty and picking up germs are a natural and necessary part of childhood fostering independence and  building up their immune system.messy play outdoors

So what on earth am I doing reviewing anti-bacterial clothing?

  • I love my kids to get messy, but that doesn’t mean I want them to ruin their clothes.  Through the weaning stage I lost count of the number of t-shirts that had to be thrown away because the stains wouldn’t come out.

Stain Free, Odour free clothing; that interests me

  • I have twin nephews who were born prematurely. Their immune systems are weak and since attending nursery they seem to pick up every bug going and of course pass it to each other. I can see that for children like this Spitter Spatter clothing could be a worthy investment.
  • Many moons ago I worked as a nursery teacher. As any teacher will tell you in the first few months of working in a new school you pick up all of the children’s germs. Working with young children involves lots of sitting on the floor, playing with messy materials, wiping noses and cleaning up spills.  I would always go home feeling grubby, needing a shower and a change of clothes.  If Spitter Spatter had made our uniforms it may have made a difference.

spitter spatter parcelOur Spitter Spatter parcel arrived beautifully presented in a cake box, wrapped in tissue and a note attached.

It contained a dress for my 4-year-old and a t-shirt for my 2-year-old. The clothes are pretty yet practical.  The dress can be worn on its own or with leggings and the t-shirt with pretty ruffled sleeves is great for wearing under sundresses or with trousers.

On the first day the dress was worn my neighbour invited the girls to play. She gave them a home-made slime mixture to play with coloured with blue colouring. A  few spots got on the dress but after washing I was impressed to see that they were gone. I gave the girls permission to eat chocolate ice-cream and get it on their clothes to test it further. Again the dress came out clean.

I only have one small suggestion for improvement. My 4 -year-old chooses her own clothes. She doesn’t often choose the Spitter Spatter dress because she only chooses her ‘prettiest dresses’. I think if it had a patterned fabric she would put it in this category.

Giveaway
The competition is open to readers in the UK and the US.
One reader will be chosen at random to receive a piece of Spitter Spatter clothing in the form of a voucher code that can be redeemed on the Spitter Spatter website.

Competition closes on 25th May 2013 at 12pm PST

To enter follow this link:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Activities to Build Children’s Language Development from Ages 3-5.

A few years ago I ran training sessions for early educators and parents on communication, language and literacy. Many of the resources we recommended, including the excellent dvd Chatter Matters, came from the Communication charity I CAN. One of the key messages of this training was that ‘reading and writing float on a sea of talk.’

Kate Freeman, I CAN Communication Advisor and experienced paediatric speech and language therapist says:

Given the right support, many children learn to talk without too much effort. There’s a golden age for learning to talk – this is before 5½ and so skills learnt at this age bring great benefits later on. Evidence has shown the early years to be a vital time for supporting all children’s communication, as well as a time to identify any difficulties and put support in place to improve a child’s overall life chances.

I was very excited to review I CAN’s latest resource Chatting with Children.  This is a really nicely presented set of 30 cards with activities for promoting speaking and understanding for children aged 3-5. The activities are simple and require no specialist resources. Some are copying or guessing games of the kind we often play in the car, some require household objects and a couple that I played with my 4-year -old and 2-year-old  used our musical instruments box . These games would be great for including in my music groups.

Each card has ideas for making the activity easier if your child is struggling or more challenging if it is too simple. The activities are equally suitable for large groups or one child. They are a great resource for families and could provide a wealth of ideas for small group times at pre-school. Many of the cards remind me of games I played with the autistic children I worked with, helping them extend their vocabulary and comprehension and categorise language. These cards would have been an invaluable resource for these families.

The cards focus on a number of skills, listening, developing vocabulary, social skills and understanding what is said. The games are varied  and can be played for a few minutes or half an hour or more.listening games My 4-year-old loved the listening games, playing hide and seek with our timer and listening carefully for the soft tick to help us find it and making sounds with household objects and guessing what they might be.

Chatting with Children is also available as part of a brand new boxset being launched this month by I CAN – the Early Talkers Boxset (£19.99). The boxset contains the original Babbling Babies and Toddler Talk as well as the new Chatting with Children, and has been created especially for parents and Early Years practitioners supporting babies, toddlers and young children in learning to talk.

The three packs between them, contain activities for children from birth to school age. I  was so impressed that I am going to order the box set for my brother to play with his one year old twins.

Chatting with Children is available in paperback for £7.99 paperback and hardback for £12.99 .

All proceeds go towards I CAN’s work with the 1.2 million children in the UK who have long-term speech, language and communication difficulties. To purchase Chatting with Children or the Early Talkers Boxset comprising all three activity card sets visit http://www.ican.org.uk .

 

This is not a sponsored post, a copy of chatting with children was received for review purposes

Kate’s Top Tips for Chatting with Children aged 3-5 years old

Be quiet Take time to talk to each other in a quiet room. Turn off the TV and radio, and shut the door to block out any other background noises. Children have to learn to block out background noises, so they need a quiet environment to focus on the sounds they hear.

Be face-to-face Help young children to see your face – make sure you’re at the same level as them. Sit or crouch opposite them as they play, or sit them on your lap. Sit opposite the child so you’re face-to-face with them. Being face-to-face means that the child can see you and your facial expressions. Also, you can see them and their responses and reactions to the games you play together or the conversations you are having.

Don’t rush – take plenty of time Young children take longer than adults to process what they hear – sometimes up to 12 seconds. They need plenty of time to respond to you.

Be patient Young children can easily lose interest in what you’re doing – this is perfectly normal, especially for 3-year-olds. Don’t worry – just stop the game that you’re playing together and try again another time.

Be prepared for anything Follow the child’s lead and adapt the game or conversation to fit in with what they’re doing. This can help maintain attention on particular games.

Ditch the dummy A dummy gets in the way of attempts to talk during conversations and games. Children of 3 and over don’t need to use a dummy.

Use the language you naturally use at home It’s important that you speak naturally to young children; this helps develop their language skills.

Enjoy it This is a special time together, so have fun playing, chatting and learning about each other.