Event, Melbourne

“My Fair Lady” in Melbourne

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It was through my love of Audrey Hepburn that I first discovered the classic American film My Fair Lady (1964) directed by George Cukor. I instantly adored it and have wanted to see the live musical version ever since.


Background

Based on the play by Bernard Shaw entitled Pygmalion and with the dream of Gabriel Pascal to turn it into a musical, lyricist Alan Jay Lerner and composer Frederick Loewe brought My Fair Lady the musical to life. Taking audiences on a grand melodic journey on Broadway in 1956 for a sensational 2,717 performance run, the lead female role of Eliza Doolittle went to the young and talented rising star, Julie Andrews, and the lead male role to seasoned theatrical actor, Rex Harrison, who won the Academy Award for his performance in the film version, with the Warner Bros film also taking out the Best Picture of the Year category in 1965. The Broadway version was followed by a hit London production (running for 5.5 years at the Theatre Royal) and the musical eventually reached Australian audiences by 1959, playing at Her Majesty’s Theatre in Melbourne to high acclaim.

Synopsis

The story is set in London in the year 1912. Eliza Doolittle, a common flower-girl from the lower classes meets phonetician Professor Henry Higgins outside Covent Garden one night. He makes a bet with fellow language expert, Colonel Pickering, that he can transform Eliza into a duchess at the embassy ball, teaching her to speak proper English and to behave like a lady who can then work as a shop assistant at a flower shop. Through their ups and downs, the audience is able to witness her transformation and gain insight into British classes, gender politics and social values of the time, all within a light-hearted sense of comedy and playfulness.


Dame Julie Andrews directs this very special diamond jubilee production, which broke box-office records at the Sydney Opera House when it played there in 2016. Last month the beautiful production hit Melbourne’s Regent Theatre where it will continue until July 29th. Don’t miss your chance to see it!

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My Experience

First of all, the majestic Regent Theatre is a breathtaking place to hold such a special show. The organisers and everyone involved should be praised for their choice of venue and everything about this musical production. The interiors of the Regent Theatre are simply spectacular and I was pleasantly transported to the class of creativity seen in Barcelona earlier this year whilst on holidays there. The exquisite detailing, lavish furnishings and luxurious fittings leading up to and inside the main concert hall were elegant and set the mood nicely. Photography was allowed prior to the start of the show only. The lights went out and the live orchestra began the Overture, entertaining us with short renditions of all the main musical numbers we were about to hear play out on stage. The curtain opened and I immediately knew that we were in for a delightful night of heartfelt, glorious music accompanying the amazing performances from the cast and the hardworking crew backstage.

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In this wonderful 60th anniversary production it is also worth mentioning that as a world first, director Dame Julie Andrews teamed up with the associates and former staff of the original set designer Oliver Smith and costume designer Cecil Beaton to recreate the original look of the musical of 1956. Audiences are able to come face-to-face with designs from both these visionaries in the upper and lower foyers before the show and during the short interval.

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Piece by piece the audience were delighted by music that makes the heart sing. The vocal performances of the Melbourne cast were incredible. The role of Professor Higgins was played ever-so-brilliantly by Charles Edwards and Anna O’Byrne’s Eliza Doolittle almost brought me to tears because of my connection and love of Audrey Hepburn. There were revolving sets, wonderful lighting and sound effects, and even a surprise on stage that no one was expecting but was always intended for the original Broadway production.

My favourite part would definitely have to be the immaculate Ascot Racecourse scene where the curtain opens to reveal a cast of men and women all dressed in black and white attire at the famous London horse race. The attention to detail on the hats and gowns of the women and the charm of the men with their suits, still gives me such a thrill just thinking about it. They sing an opening number and then we are introduced to the beautifully transformed Eliza Doolittle, now a lady with confidence and poise, who converses with other race-goers about the weather and everyone’s health. Once the horse race starts though, her cockney upbringing comes to the foreground and audiences are laughing out loud uncontrollably as she cheers for her horse, Dover, to win the race. I love it!

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I enjoyed this production immensely and couldn’t stop smiling for the entire duration of the show! I would like to thank Dame Julie Andrews and everyone involved (notably Opera Australia and John Frost) for bringing this musical to life for younger generations like mine who only came to know it from the film version. Having one of your favourite musicals play out right in front of you is an unforgettable experience that I will always cherish.

My Fair Lady is a masterpiece.


Tickets are available through Ticketmaster but are selling fast.

Melbourne, Music

Adele’s Melbourne Show

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Imagine you’re one of a record 77,300 Adele fans waiting to enter Etihad Stadium on a balmy Sunday night. There’s barely a breeze but plenty of insects in the air. The gates open exactly on time and you’re finally within a couple of hours of seeing your idol on stage for the first time in your life. Upon entering you see her beautiful closed eyes and that’s when you realise that the night is finally here and tonight your dreams will come true.

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After a few mexican waves go around, the crowd begins to cheer and roar with excitement. The circular curtain starts to lift and standing on the stage is the superstar that is Adele. She’s real. She’s actually here and is within reach. The atmosphere is electric. The visuals on the screen have now changed to her beautiful open eyes and then she starts to sing – “Hello, it’s me…”

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Wearing a dark pink sequined gown, she sparkles like a diamond as she makes her way around the stage. Delivering note-for-note perfection with each song, she entertains the crowd with a mix of music from all her chart-topping albums. She simply is unstoppable and 100% believable.

Adele is flawless in her performances but seeing her live, you also get to see the other side to her. The completely unedited version, raw and free to speak her mind. She isn’t trying to be anyone but herself. She swears a fair bit. She complains about the insects and the fact that the almost 30-degree heat is causing her make-up to sweat off her face. She reveals that she’s very emotional as it’s her final show in Australia and she doesn’t want to leave yet. This was her first tour Down Under after all.

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Seeing Adele live at a show like this really is something. She has a great sense of humour and seems to be very honest and direct. The crowd was completely hooked on her words not only during the songs but also in between the music. She got a fan up on stage and there was a surprise proposal. She offered parenting advice to couples going through a divorce. She gave some insights into what she was going through when she wrote particular songs and how terrified she was of shooting clips in a tank of water for the on-screen visuals shown during the concert. She told us that she’s the happiest she’s ever been. She shot a few T-shirts out into the audience along with $20 notes so winners can buy themselves a drink. Her handwritten lyrics and messages launched into the air as confetti and fireworks lit up the stage. Adele was on fire and we were with her every step of the way.

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Last night was magical. From the brilliant visuals on the screen to the powerhouse vocals, Adele left Melbourne wanting more. She exited the stage holding a cuddly koala toy presented to her by a fan. Last night was a night many who attended will never forget, as one of the world’s most influential performers with once-in-a-generation talent entertained us like no one ever has. Indeed there will never be another Adele.

Celebrations, Food, Life, Melbourne, Travel

Memories of 2016

Whoa, 2016 was quite a year! So much happened in the world, tragedies, triumphs, the unthinkable, the magical. This year had it all. In many ways I’m glad to bid farewell to 2016, which for me had its fair share of ups and downs just like any year.

A definite highlight was visiting beautiful Japan for two weeks in March. Tokyo, Osaka and Kyoto were all places I had longed to travel to for many years and it will be hard to top my birthday from now on, having spent the day at Disneyland Tokyo – a magical place in every sense. I shall never forget my first trip in the Land of the Rising Sun – eating delicious food, seeing the sights with my own eyes, entering historic temples, smiling at the pandas and flamingos at Tokyo’s Ueno Zoo. Getting a feel for Japanese culture was just incredible.

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Closer to home it’s been enjoyable spending afternoons at wildlife sanctuaries where cute koalas and wallabies can be fed and petted. It’s been so much fun creating a new studio feature wall and launching Mishka Mail back in August. I feel so grateful to every single customer who bought a subscription and every blogger that reviewed our kits on their blogs. Thank you!

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It’s been so exciting to place our first print advertisement in a funky Canadian hobby magazine called Uppercase for their special 30th issue.

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Other highlights include riding a bicycle at the beach in Port Melbourne, eating some delicious meals, writing and receiving some awesome letters from international pen friends, winning auctions on Ebay and listening to lovely concerts at outdoor summer venues.

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2016 has taught me that life isn’t about chance encounters that happen to you, it’s about how YOU chase each and every opportunity to make moments for yourself. I’m entering 2017 with this very notion in my mind and have a lot that I’m already looking forward to. Here’s to a beautiful and successful 2017 for you all!

Happy New Year!

Melbourne

Bicycle fun in Melbourne

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These last few months have been really cold and miserable here in Melbourne and we’re not completely immersed in spring weather just yet. However, during one beautiful sunny day I felt the urge to hire a bicycle and ride along the empty cycling lanes of Port Melbourne, with the sea breeze in my hair. Why? Just for fun!

Melbourne’s Bike Share system has been around for a few years now and is much like the concept in other cities of the world like London and Paris. There are daily, weekly and yearly options available with the cheapest one starting at just $3.00, including unlimited 30-minute trips in 24 hours. You can dock your bike at any bike station and the timer automatically resets, allowing you to hire another bike should you want to. Many bikes now come with free helmets, allowing riders to abide by the law.

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Port Melbourne is a great place for foodies, tourists and lovers of the sea. It’s from here that the Spirit of Tasmania makes her voyage across Bass Strait to Tasmania. The architecture of the streets have a little bit of a European charm and there’s plenty of shopping and restaurants to keep everyone happy.

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For me, there is something extremely liberating about riding by the beach, looking over at the horizon and the perfectly floating clouds above. It’s something I long to do as often as possible and I never think of it as exercise, rather living a healthy lifestyle and smiling the whole time I pedal.

 

Event, Melbourne

“The Dressmaker” Costume Exhibition

A couple of days ago, during the Queen’s Birthday long weekend, I was fortunate enough to visit the brilliant costume design exhibition of the Jocelyn Moorhouse film The Dressmaker (2015). Based on the best selling novel by Rosalie Ham, this well-executed film, which stars Kate Winslet and Liam Hemsworth, transports audiences to 1950s rural Australia and tells the story of Myrtle “Tilly” Dunnage (Winslet) who returns to her hometown after working in the fashion houses of London, Milan and Paris, and transforms the lives of the residents of Dungatar by making a name for herself as chief dressmaker.

This film takes viewers on Tilly’s journey of self-discovery, with flash-back sequences investigating her alleged murder of a boy her age during her childhood. The developing present-day love story between Tilly and Teddy McSwiney (Hemsworth) is just beautiful to watch. Winslet’s wonderful portrayal of Tilly makes her a highly believable character; an independent and strong woman, who wears luxurious, bold gowns and hats inspired by Parisian couture, yet also struggles to overcome the scars of her past behind closed doors. It should also be mentioned that the supporting cast, namely Judy Davis and Hugo Weaving, delivered outstanding performances.

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I loved the film a lot so going to see this exhibition was a real treat! Visitors are greeted with a train platform sign saying “Dungatar” out the front of the estate and a red carpet leading into the immaculate Rippon Lea House, which now belongs to the National Trust and was built in 1868. As guests explore the intimate and lavish 1930s Hollywood-style interiors of the mansion they can see images of actors wearing the costumes, as well as beautiful production displays, spinning mannequins, projections, video clips, hat displays and realistic photo backdrops. The highlight for most people, of course, is the privilege of coming face-to-face with the creations of costume designer Marion Boyce, and Margot Wilson who designed Kate Winslet’s wardrobe. Seeing these beautifully-crafted artisan pieces right before your very eyes is very gratifying, albeit keeping your hands from touching the gowns is easier said than done! The amount of time and effort it must have taken to create each dress on display, truly left me feeling very inspired. The production team’s eye for detail with the props and artistic touches in each room should also be commended. In most settings these masterpieces are not hidden behind any glass and non-flash photography is permitted.

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Exit the mansion and find yourself in a stunning 14 acre-garden with a lake and waterfall, rustic iron bridges, grass tennis court, Gatsby-style swimming pool (not in use), conservatory, lookout tower, largest covered fernery in the world and windmill. The nostalgic 1950s style of the film also extends to the cosy pop-up Dungatar Tea Room and the flourishing gift shop, which serves as the start and end point of the entire experience.

The Dressmaker Costume Exhibition runs until July 31st at Rippon Lea House and Gardens, Elsternwick, from 10am until 4pm daily.

Tickets are available online or at the door.

Visit www.dressmakerexhibition.com.au for more information.

Celebrations, Melbourne

Hundred

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I’m so excited to blog my 100th post on WordPress today! I started this blog three and a half years ago when I was getting ready to open the doors of my stationery gift shop in the UK. Thinking back on that time of my life always brings the biggest smile to my face. I believe it was the fearlessness of venturing out into a brand new direction with my business that gave me the strength to actually pull it off, I simply had to do it and there was nothing that was going to stop me. The story of how my shop came about deserves a blog post of its own and I’ll be glad to share that with you some other time but for me, even today, my business still brings so much joy and satisfaction to my life that I cannot imagine what I would be doing if it wasn’t for Graceful Avenue!

When I first drew Mishka the panda I didn’t know how he would be received and of course I was apprehensive about sharing my drawings with the world through a retail outlet, but the people of Watford quickly diminished any self doubt I had. Customers came into my shop to buy something that I had illustrated by hand, something that I put my heart and soul into. They were investing their money in my work and to date I am honestly so grateful for each and every customer at market stalls or online who connects with my products and supports me as an illustrator and small business owner. Thank you all so much!

Today was Labour Day here in Melbourne, so I decided I’m going to throw a mini celebration in honour of my 100th blog post. So I packed a small backpack with balloons, soap bubbles and panda ears (I couldn’t resist!) and convinced my sister to come along and photograph me with my 3D Mishka. It was so fun to just be silly for a few hours without a care in the world! It was truly just what I needed.

Thank you to new and old friends for coming along with me on this crazy journey in cyber space! Happy 100th!

Life, Melbourne

Dream Mansions in Brighton

There is a seaside suburb in Melbourne by the name of Brighton and it’s the place dreams are made of. Those lucky enough to call Brighton home have the beach on their doorstep and have pulled out all stops to make their homes feel welcoming and reflect their personalities. From the wide open tennis courts, to the exquisite gardens, unique architectural additions and just the right balance of colour and materiality, the residents of Brighton are truly living the life of luxury.

Here are my favourite homes snapped up on my walk in this ultra chic and exclusive suburb that has stolen my heart. A girl can only dream, right?

Latest News, Melbourne

Australian Open 2016

For as long as we’ve lived in Australia, we’ve never been to the Australian Open tennis except for Charity Matches or Kids’ Tennis Days. Luckily last Sunday we decided it was about time to experience the real atmosphere of a highly popular and entertaining tournament that brings visitors to Melbourne from all around the world. As a tennis fan and lover of the great game, getting a Ground Pass for the day made me really excited.

It was a rainy start to the day that made the practice courts outside wet and dangerous. Other fans and us waited for Novak Djokovic to begin practicing on one of the exterior courts, but after a while we saw Spanish tennis player, David Ferrer arrive for training. With his athletic looks and on-court charisma, it made the long one-hour wait by Court 17 really worth it. He graciously signed autographs for fans and posed for selfies afterwards.

It’s one thing to see the matches on TV and a completely different experience to actually be at the Australian Open. We’d catch celebrities everywhere we looked, even finding tennis champion turned commentator, Jim Courier, near the entrance to one of the major courts. My sister and I split up in order to see more and find our favourite players. I managed to come across my childhood idol, Martina Hingis posing with trophies, while my sister found her idol Mark Philippoussis.

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Luckily by the afternoon many of the practice courts were being used and we could also catch Australian Bernard Tomic practicing, as well as second seed Andy Murray hitting shots with his coach Amélie Mauresmo. We were once again made to wait over an hour in the hopes of seeing the legend Roger Federer, but a last minute court change made us all run to a much larger practice court where the atmosphere was much less personal and made getting an autograph from the champion a lot more difficult!

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Other matches we got to see were men’s doubles between Cuevas/Granollers and Dodig/Melo on Hisense Arena and Australian Stosur/Peers playing against Rodionova/Reid in the mixed doubles on Showcourt 2 as the sun started to set across the Melbourne skyline.

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All in all, I highly recommend a visit to this tournament as it’s one-of-a-kind and really shows off the true Australian sporting culture we’ve all grown to know and love.

Congratulations to Angelique Kerber for beating Serena Williams last night in the Women’s finals and good luck to Djokovic and Murray in the Men’s finals tonight. I know that we’re in for a great night of tennis, even if this time I’ll be watching it on the television with a cool strawberry smoothie I always prepare for finals of the Australian Open.

Event, Melbourne

White Night Melbourne

Last night Melbourne came to life like never before with live indie music, illuminated buildings, creative art installations and lots of entertainment (and crowds!) to keep visitors happy from 7am to 7pm. This event known as “White Night” is a lively summer festival of light. It was a very hot and humid evening but the event was uber-cool, hip and very captivating. The packed train ride home though was far from pleasant! Still, Melbourne proved once again why it’s the artistic capital of Australia.

(All photos taken with iPhone 4S)

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Projections
Illuminations
Coffee Gelato
Blue Fountain
Flinders St Station

Event, Melbourne

Les Misérables

If you’re in Melbourne right now you would undoubtedly have seen a phenomenon sweeping the city streets. Everything from trams to lamp posts has been decorated with Émile Bayard’s sketch of Cosette and people from all over Australia have been coming to Melbourne to experience two events that celebrate the story of 19th-century Paris in Victor Hugo’s epic literary work – Les Misérables.

For many months now there has been a sensational production of Cameron Mackintosh’s acclaimed musical screening at Her Majesty’s Theatre. This world-famous musical began in June and I’ve seen the show twice now, once during an afternoon performance on a rainy winter’s day and once more just recently at an evening screening. What can I say, the production is incredible and no matter how many times I hear the beautiful music, experience the realistic set design/special effects, see the phenomenal actors on-stage in their amazing costumes performing show after show, I’m left wanting more. I leave with goosebumps on my skin, my spine-tingling from the electric atmosphere in the theatre and tears in my eyes that it’s all over once again.

Theatre Day & Night

Victor Hugo’s timeless novel is a masterpiece and in a corresponding event at the State Library of Victoria entitled Les Misérables From Page to Stage, Melburnians can see Hugo’s original handwritten manuscript on display in a world-first exhibition. Right before my eyes were the words that the great master wrote from 1845-62 and in a frame on the wall nearby were the very quills he wrote those transcendent words with. Just incredible!

Last Sunday, during the Festival de Victor Hugo, curator Tim Fisher took visitors on a special guided-tour of the exhibition providing insight into Hugo’s life and adding an interesting background about the efforts the organisers went to in order to get this French national treasure to leave Europe for the first time and travel Business Class to Australia! I absolutely loved the exhibit and highly recommend a visit to all the fans out there. Everything from Rodin’s sculpture work of the great Victor Hugo to candid photographs of his life, immaculate artworks by the writer himself, programmes from shows around the world, costumes from the 2012 award-winning film, timeless memorabilia, musical insights in the French language, and a lot more can be seen until November 9th at the State Library.

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In a specially-built addition to the main room showing the story of Hugo’s life, everything about the music from Les Misérables and musical adaptations come to life. The costume and visual art areas depict the endless amount of time spent in these creative departments through insights and screenings showcasing the work that goes into making a musical. Meanwhile the 25th Anniversary Concert from London’s O2 is played on a large screen for everyone to enjoy. Visitors are even permitted to try on costumes for themselves and take to the stage alongside the professional singers on the screen! There’s a brilliant gift shop at the end where everything and anything to do with Les Mis can be found!

I’m so thankful to have had the opportunity to experience all this French culture here in Melbourne. Organisers have done a spectacular job bringing the production and exhibition here, giving true fans something wonderful to believe in and an unforgettable experience to cherish for life.

My Collection