Friday, 18 August 2017

Les Miserables - a great night at the theatre in Newcastle

Luke Baker (Marius)
Chloe Jeffrey-Williams (Cosette)
Stephanie Priest (Eponine) 
A 40 year anniversary is something special. The Metropolitan Players in Newcastle Australia are celebrating their 40th anniversary this year by doing something special. They are presenting Les Miserables, the musical inspired by the book written by Victor Hugo.

Les Miserables is the longest running musical on the West End theatre district in London and is the second longest running musical in the world.

I was fortunate to attend the opening charity night at he Civic Theatre last Wednesday with my two adult children enjoying the musical just as much as me. This was the first time I have seen a show at The Civic Theatre. What a gorgeous ornate theatre it is!

The singing and orchestra were great during this three hour show. The time went quickly as you became wrapped up in the story lines of the musical. The orchestra, in the orchestra pit under the stage, was not hidden away in darkness but was lit so that you could see the talented musicians.

Chris Maxfield, who played Valjean, was the standout star of the show with his superb singing and acting. He mastered his ageing on stage well as he recalled the events during his life up until his death.

Javert, the police comissionere was played by Simon Redhead. Simon acted well in his serious role and had a strong singing voice, but unfortunately it sometimes sounded harsh and distorted. Perhaps this was a bad positioning of his mic, or its volume being turned up too loud.

Luke Baker played Marius, the revolutionary fighter and young lover with sensitivity.

The three main female roles were well cast. Rachel Parish played Fantine, Stephanie Priest played Eponine and Chloe Jeffrey-Williams played Cosette. They all sang with sensitivity and passion and made the female characters very believable.

Light comic releif was provided by Thenardier, played by Tony Fletcher and Mme Thenardier, played by Annie Devine. The musical was quite sad in some places, moving some of the audience to tears, so these humorous moments brightened it up.

The three children in Les Miserables - Timothy Davies (Gavroche),  Frankie Parris (Young Cosette) Zamika Grant (Young Eponine) were excellent. The sang and acted way above their young years of age.

The male and female ensembles sang well together in their supporting roles. 

The sets were effective by their minimalisict style. Most of the action of Les Miserables took place on a dark stage with just a black wall as the background.. The large black revolving stage brought into view the few set pieces - a chair, a bed, a table, garden gates ....  Even though the revolving stage was round, this was not a theatre-in-the-round performance. The singers must remember to look less to the sides of the stage, or down into the orchestra pit, and more to where the audience is seated - out in front of them.

The featured set piece was the barricade that played an important role in the battle scene. It looked effective on stage, but its weigh proved to be a little too much for its swift sliding off stage when it was finished with. A bit of fine tuning will make its removal less distracting in future performances.

Lighting consisted mainly of spotlights shining down on the featured singers as they sang alone, with another person or in groups. There was no part of Les Miseables where the entire stage was brightly lit. Occasionally light patterns were projected onto the floor of the stage, and stars shone in the night sky.

Sound production was on the whole good, though there were a few occasions when mics were turned on a little late for the singers, or the volume was a bit too soft or too loud. I am sure these matters will be rectified in the upcoming performances.

The costumes and wigs looked really good and helped set the musical in the right French time period.
The bright costumes contrasted well with the drab plain costumes.

The audience on the opening night loved this 40th anniversary production of Les Miserables. The production was a credit to all the singers, musicians and people behind the scenes. They all worked hard, perhaps a little too hard, to put on this great musical. All they need to do now is try and relax a little so that they enjoy the musical as much as the audience does.

Les Miserables is a must see musical for all who live in Newcastle. It is even worth the drive for those who live further afield.

The Metropolitan Players are to be congratulated on this 40th anniversary production of Les Miserables.

Les Miserables

When:  Fri 18th Aug 8pm,  Sat 19th Aug 2pm , Sat 19th Aug 8pm,  Sun 20th Aug 2pm,  Wed 23rd Aug 8pm,  Fri 25th Aug 8pm,  Sat 26th Aug 2pm,  Sat 2 6th Aug 8pm. 
Where: Civic Theatre 375 Hunter St., Newcastle
Cost: Adult $66.30; Junior/Conc/Student $56.10 ; Groups 8+ $58.15

StellaLou, Duffy’s Newest Friend, Dances Her Way to Hong Kong Disneyland Resort

Dancers, dreamers and Duffy fans – I’m delighted to share an update that Duffy’s newest friend, StellaLou, has danced her way to Hong Kong Disneyland Resort. This little lavender rabbit with cute ears and starry eyes has been delighting guests at Tokyo DisneySea since Duffy first met herin front of the S.S. Columbia at American Waterfront, where StellaLou told Duffy her dream of becoming a dancer on Broadway.

Starting today, StellaLou will join her friends at Hong Kong Disneyland in the photo zone of Main Street Cinema: My Journeys with Duffy – Presented by Fujifilm to share her dream of becoming a dancer with guests of all ages.

To welcome StellaLou, more than 150 new and exclusive plush toys, stationary, pins, accessories and more are being introduced, along with specially themed food and beverage items. Personally, I can’t wait to try the StellaLou Steamed Sweet Purple Potato Bun served at Hong Kong Disneyland Hotel’s Crystal Lotus restaurant. It sounds delicious!

Join us in welcoming StellaLou, and keep an eye on the Disney Parks Blog for more from Hong Kong Disneyland Resort.

Australian tourists spending more than ever before in Queensland

Australian domestic overnight travellers are spending more than ever before in Queensland pumping $15.3 billion into the state economy.

Tourism and Major Events Minister Kate Jones said the latest Tourism Research Australia data released today showed continuing strong growth in visitor numbers and expenditure.

“The growth we have seen in expenditure of 5.8 per cent is nearly double the growth rate of New South Wales,” Ms Jones said.

“More Australians are choosing to holiday in Queensland with close to half of our domestic market expenditure – $7 billion – coming from people holidaying in the state.

“Australians know just the place to holiday – here in Queensland with our unique experiences, natural wonders, world-class events and unbeatable hospitality.

“In the year to March we saw Australians take more than 21 million trips to Queensland over the past year, a growth of 4.3 per cent, exceeding the national average of 3.1 per cent.

“Those visitors stayed a total of 83 million nights, up 5 per cent.”

Ms Jones said business visitors to Queensland grew more than 10 per cent and business expenditure up by almost 5 per cent.

“The strong growth we are seeing in our business travel to Queensland is a strong vote of confidence in our state economy and a strong sign of state’s growing capacity to provide exceptional business events,” she said.

“Business travellers are looking for much more than just a venue, they are looking for the whole package in terms of location, experience and hospitality – and Queensland delivers in spades in all of these areas.”

Queensland has also seen 5.2 per cent growth in the number of travellers visiting friends and family to 7.39 million.

Regional Queensland performed well, with about three quarters of expenditure in Queensland coming from outside Brisbane.

The latest National Visitor Survey (NVS) results are available on the Tourism Research Australia website at

Silk Road International Tourism Festival in Gansu

The Seventh Dunhuang Tour on the Silk Road International Tourism Festival was held in Gansu Province this June. The festival was co-hosted by China National Tourism Administration and Gansu Province, guided by the United Nations World Tourism Organization, and has been successfully staged for seven consecutive years since 2011. 

 Leaders from international tourism organizations and China National Tourism Administration have attended the each of the past sessions, and each festival has attracted more than two hundred tourism administrators, tourist agencies, and journalists from overseas. The festival, offering a diversity of spectacular and practical attractions and information, has become an international platform to promote international tourism cooperation.

The Seventh Dunhuang Tour on the Silk Road International Tourism Festival was held in Yongjing County, Linxia Hui Autonomous Prefecture, Gansu Province from 19th to 20th June, 2017. The main activities included: opening ceremony, 2017 Silk Road International Tourism Promotion Night, “Glamorous River, Colorful Linxia” Light Show, Silk Road International Tourism Exposition, Silk Road International Travel Agencies Conference and technical tour, and more. 

In attendance were many administrators of international tourism organizations, tourism officials of the countries along the Silk Road, and representatives from across the tourism industry in and outside China.

Tourism Authority of Thailand scores big with Tuk Tuk at Hungarian Formula 1

At the Formula 1 race in Budapest, Hungary in July 2017, the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) displayed an icon of Thailand – a 34-year-old Tuk Tuk that had been driven from Bangkok to Prague.

Mr. Chattan Kunjara Na Ayudhya, TAT Deputy Governor for Marketing Communications said, “This little tuk-tuk was fondly nicknamed ‘the Beast’ by the Hungarian media given her age, history and stamina, and the sheer crowd-appeal was well beyond our expectations.”

“This Tuk-tuk and the man that drove her across two continents, Mr. Martin Mĕchura, is a highlight of the Hungarian F1 Village. The Amazing Thailand Pit Stop design that we have created in this, our fourth F1 event, evidently works well,” he added.

“I was so happy to see so many European F1 fans coming up to our team at the Amazing Thailand Pit Stop at Hungarian Formula 1 expressing not only their delight that we were there but also sharing their stories of their travels to the Kingdom,” said Mr. Chattan.

Mr. Martin Mĕchura, who hails from the Czech Republic, received a round of applause when he started up the tuk-tuk after an 18-month hiatus.

The appearance of the Thai vehicle at the F1 was to promote the fun of driving in Thailand, as well as underlining the uniqueness of Thai culture and the Thai way of life, which always contain an element of fun and relaxation.


Griffith restaurant Limone Dining will host a special art series event this September to celebrate the forthcoming exhibition of local sculptor, Hape Kiddle.

Stories, process and inspirations will be shared directly from the artist and chef as diners experience an exclusive first look at the artworks while enjoying a thoughtful and interactive flow of fine food and service.

The art series dinners are being offered over four nights from 26 to 29 September, ahead of the official exhibition opening on Saturday, 30 September.

Click here for more details.

World News Vietnamese wins prize at int’l flycam photography contest

Vietnamese photographer Le Thai Duong, nicknamed helios1412, won second prize in the category “People” in the International Drone Photography Contest, an annual competition for flycam photography enthusiasts around the world.

The organizing committee has announced winners of the fourth contest on its website ( Duong’s photo “Waterlily” depicts a woman harvesting water lilies in a pond in the Mekong Delta province of Bac Lieu.

The panel of judges comprises Patrick Witty, deputy director of National Geographic Magazine, and photo editors of the magazine.

Held for the first time in 2014, this year’s drone contest received thousands of entries in the Nature, People, Urban and Creativity categories from professional and amateur photographers from around the world.


  • Fashion dos and don’ts for the Melbourne Cup of the Outback

The trackside glamour usually reserved for metropolitan race meets will embellish outback Queensland when the Birdsville Races kick off this September 1 & 2, 2017.

Known to many as the ‘Melbourne Cup of the Outback’, the iconic 135 year-old Races are staged against the spectacular backdrop of the red Simpson Desert, with the colour and couture of Fashions on the Field (FOTF) an annual highlight.

“Birdsville is the most remote town in Australia, with more than 7,000 visitors travelling thousands of kilometres to attend the Races each September. And with no beauty facilities like hairdressers or manicurists in town – and the lack of a high street with boutiques or fashion retailers – planning ahead is important,” saysBirdsville Races Fashions on the Field coordinator, Olivia O’Neill.

“Our FOTF judges look for unique outfits that either throw the current trends out the window or follow them with such precision and style that they blow them out of the water.

“Whatever race meet you’re attending, I would suggest checking the race club conditions of entry for any FOTF. For the Birdsville Races, stockings are not essential as the weather is lovely and warm this time of year.

“Given that our event takes place on the first weekend of September, I would also suggest incorporating spring colours,” added Olivia O’Neill.

With FOTF becoming an increasingly popular feature of the Birdsville Races, Olivia shares some of her fashion dos and don’ts:

Dos for the ladies

“Decide what the feature of your outfit is,” says Olivia. “Is it your headpiece or dress?

“If you’re planning on wearing a hat in spring, you should aim for a straw hat and one that’s very lightweight and summery.

“When it comes to shoes, be practical. The trend at the moment is the block heel, which has better support and might offer more comfort on sandy and uneven ground like racegoers will experience in Birdsville.

“Open toe and strappy sandal styles are ideal for the warm weather in Birdsville and spring-styling. Just proceed with caution when wearing heals and think about where you will be spending your day at the races.

“The jury is out on whether you need to match your headpiece to your bag and shoes. After following the debate closely, my personal opinion is that your headpiece, shoes and bag should complement your finished look – however, they don’t have to match unless you feel the outfit needs it.

“Only follow a trend if it suits your style,” adds Olivia. “Otherwise, only adapt some of it by incorporating it into your style. Or opt for timeless elegance. Classic, ladylike styles with a modern twist are perennial winners.”

“Gloves are also popular and can help bring spring colour to an outfit,” says Olivia. “They are not, however, mandatory and will add to the warmth of an outfit in the hot temperatures of Birdsville. If you have had a week in Birdsville camping, gloves on your hands might be a welcome distraction from not having well-manicured fingernails.

“Grooming is an important part of any head to toe FOTF look,” Olivia notes. “Keep makeup and tan to a minimum. It is a race day - not a night event - so keep your eyes bright and the look fresh and natural.

“Lipstick can also help to tie everything together, especially when coordinated with your nail colour. And remember, nails in Birdsville will either need to be done by a professional before you hit town – a hard wearing shellac is ideal – or they’ll need to be a DIY project.”

“Do protect your outfit,” adds Olivia. “As Birdsville is a dusty dirt track, I’d recommend sourcing protection covers for your heels.

“Also, do your research. Jump on the Birdsville Races Facebook page for some inspiration on winning looks from last year’s finalists.”

Don’ts for the ladies

“Don’t over accessorise, keep it simple,” says Olivia. “Do, however, play with the textures of accessories to personalise a look.

“Also, be careful not to overexpose; balance your outfit. If you choose a short dress, keep the top covered and vice versa.

“Colour is also very important, especially at this time of year,” adds Olivia. “Try to avoid head-to-toe black.

“For winter-colour ladies, coming into this year’s Spring Carnival in Australia, I recommend keeping accessories away from your face to brighten your outfit – for example, your handbag and shoes.

“Also consider a belt, whether it be fabric or metals.”

Tips for the gents

“Guys are also invited to join our FOTF, so we’re hoping they’ll also get on-board with coordinating a special look for the races,” says Olivia. “We have a men’s and couples division.”

“A good quality suit always looks great, and men should purchase a suit that best fits their body type rather than just following a trend,” adds Olivia. “A slim fit suit isn’t for everyone!”

“Accessorising is also important,” Olivia says. “Consider a hat, tie, shirt, leather shoes, cufflinks, gloves, pocket handkerchief, belt, sunglasses and a watch.

Prizes for this year’s FOTF at the Birdsville Races include a range of vouchers from supporters including naming rights sponsor Akubra as well as Birdsnest, Charlotte’s Nest (Charleville), Panda Pearls, Birdsville Bakery, Outback Jack Designs (Longreach), Meredith McMaster Millinery, Mad Hatters, Target, Coca Cola and The Tack Room (Longreach).

This year’s Birdsville Races FOTF boasts the biggest prize and sponsorship pool on record, with a combined value of nearly $10,000.

The Birdsville Races are proudly supported by Tourism and Events Queensland It’s Live! In Queenslandmajor events calendar.

Birdsville Races

Where: Birdsville, Queensland
When: Friday 1st & Saturday 2nd September 2017
How much: Two day packages start from AU$62.75
More info:
Road trip video:

Thursday, 17 August 2017

Toy Story Land to Open at Walt Disney World Resort in Summer 2018

Many of you know that Toy Story Land is coming to Disney’s Hollywood Studios – we’ve shared several updates on this exciting project. Today, Bob Chapek, Chairman of Walt Disney Parks & Resorts announced that the land will open next summer!

In 2018, you’ll find yourself shrunk to the size of a toy to explore the world of Andy’s backyard with your favorite Toy Story characters, including Woody and Buzz. And Toy Story Land will feature two new themed attractions.

Slinky Dog Dash will be a family coaster attraction where you’ll zip, dodge and dash around many turns and drops that Andy has created to really make Slinky and his coils stretch to his limits.

Alien Swirling Saucers will also be a new attraction at Toy Story Land. It’s designed as a toy play set that Andy got from Pizza Planet, inspired by the first “Toy Story” film. Aliens are flying around in their toy flying saucers and trying to capture your rocket toy vehicle with “The Claw.”

Stay tuned to the Disney Parks Blog for more details on Toy Story Land.

Toowoomba’s Carnival of Flowers continues to bloom

Tourism and Major Events Minister Kate Jones today announced a new partnership with Toowoomba’s Carnival of Flowers, securing the future of the popular event for the next three years.

Ms Jones said the new agreement locked in support from Tourism and Events Queensland for the 2017, 2018 and 2019 events.

“There is a reason the Toowoomba Carnival of Flowers is a multiple Gold award winner at the Australian Tourism Awards and we are proud to support it on an ongoing basis, as it goes from strength-to-strength,” she said.

“Tens of thousands of people flock to Toowoomba every year for the carnival to enjoy the Ergon Energy Food and Wine Festival, watch the Grand Central Floral Parade and take in a series of live concerts.

“But obviously above all else, they come for the more than 80 community flower-themed events and to explore more than 110 private garden showcases.”

Ms Jones said the support of Tourism and Events Queensland for a further three years would enable the Toowoomba Carnival of Flowers to grow its position as one of Australia’s leading horticultural events which last year pumped more than $10 million into the Queensland economy.

“There is no better place than Toowoomba – our very own Garden City – to discover the best of Queensland’s horticultural history while also exploring the unique visitor experiences offered right across the Darling Downs,” she said.

“This new strategic partnership will allow carnival organisers to focus on making the carnival bigger and better for the future.”

Toowoomba Regional Council Mayor Paul Antonio said the new agreement gives the Carnival of Flowers an even stronger foundation for growth.

“Our community is so proud of the Toowoomba Carnival of Flowers, Australia’s longest running horticultural festival as it continues to reach new heights,” he said.

“Our city comes alive each September as we host close to 200,000 event attendees who take in our natural beauty, gourmet delights and all that Toowoomba Carnival of Flowers has to offer.

“This latest boost from the State Government is further testament to the event’s strength and potential and I thank the Minister and TEQ for their faith in our carnival.”
This year’s Toowoomba Carnival of Flowers runs from September 15-24.