Sunday, 31 August 2008

Some New Pics From CSWY Rehersals

Enjoying the little bit of summer during rehearsals 
with other members of the cast

Some of the cast on stage rehearsing

Fran, Siobhan and Jade Steele chilling in dressing room

The Casts gift from the man himself

Fran In Costume 

Siobhan and Fran in the Park with other
 unseen cast members

Saturday, 30 August 2008

Can't Smile Without You - Bromley 29th August 08

Well the night finally arrived, I was really excited to be going to see the show as it was so long since I had last been to see a musical and knowing Fran was going to be in it which made it all the more exciting. 

Arrived in Bromley and went for a wonder round the area, I'm sure that as we walked past where the stage door was through the park I heard Fran talking to someone but didn't want to look back and check, and we were desperately trying to find a way back out of the park without having to walk all the way round and up the hill as we were right by the theater and just unable to get to it.

The reception area of the theater started to fill up and several people were looking at the posters and like ooohhh look its that girl from that I'd Do Anything Show. Before we knew it we were going in and taking our seats, the theatre looked almost full from where we were sitting.

Then the show started Chesney and the Band came in and started the music, Fran's first real shining moment comes with a superb rendition of 'Look's Like We Made It' with Edward Handoll, the momentum then just continues to grow throughout and talk about chills when Fran and Siobhan sung a Duet 'Tryin' To Get The Feeling Again' such power and emotion from both of them. 

The show has a nice storyline, even if a little predictable in places, however that takes nothing away from the show and the music. The stage is simply set with a backdrop that changes colour, two small spiral stair cases, the band based on the balcony, simple but it all worked.

I won't outline more of the story as I don't want to spoil it for those of you who are going to see the show, but will say it is definitely say if you get the opportunity you have to go see it.

Chesney made one woman on the front rows night when he came to shake her hand, she was able to give him a kiss on the cheek. 

Everyone seemed to enjoy the show, and many were up on there feet during the final scenes clapping along to the music, some even dancing in the aisle. I think it's safe to say the show covers everything you could want, it has the party atmosphere, the despair, and Howard Samules plays the comedic role incredibly well. Just before the end Who Needs To Dream is another real pull at the heart strings.

If you are going to see the show I'm sure you'll enjoy it and see the real star that we all new Fran had in her. 

I have to say I am really looking forward to going back next week and whatever I have missed here I'll tell you about after that one - All we need now is a CD Soundtrack, or at least some rehearsal audio's.

Tuesday, 26 August 2008

Interview Time

As Can't Smile Without You Starts on Thursday , In order to promote the show Our Fran along with Chesney will be doing an interview on BBC Breakfast tomorrow Morning (Wednesday 27th August). 

As there seems to have been limited publicity for this show unlike some others maybe it would be good if people could email in to the BBC to try and also get them interviewed on Maybe the one show or other similar shows to make sure the show is as widely publicised as it deserves to be. 

For anyone who like me will be at work when this is on I will try and get the interview posted on here tomorrow night. 

Keep the support coming guys as Fran deserves it so much.

And thanks to Frans Mum and Brother for letting us know in advance about the interview it's greatly appreciated by all Frans Fans.  

Also be sure to check out the new whats on stage article

Thursday, 21 August 2008

The First Night Dawns

With the first night of CSWY approaching very fast (A week today) it seems like only yesterday that we got the news,  I felt it was time to ask if anyone has any good luck messages they wished to pass on to Fran or indeed the rest of the cast. 

Trust me I'm counting down the days as I already have my tickets for both Friday the 29th and Saturday 6th September. 

Also wanted to ask if anyone else is going to any of the shows to write us a review for the blog so we get as much information out there as possible for those who aren't lucky enough to get tickets. 

Please email me any posts or good luck messages to the email address below.

Friday, 15 August 2008

New Can't Smile Without You Poster

New Can't Smile Without You Poster also be sure to check out the following link for New site home page for the show.

Broadway World Article Announcing Can't Smile Without You

Hawkes, Dillon and Jackson Head Cast of West End Manilow Musical
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Thursday, July 31, 2008; Posted: 7:26 PM - by Robert Gould 

The magic of Manilow is about to hit the stage across the UK with Bill Kenwright’s production of the new musical Can’t Smile Without You. Joining pop/rock singer-songwriter Chesney Hawkes in the show’s leading roles will be BBC’s How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria? finalist Siobhan Dillon and I’d Do Anythingcontestant Francesca Jackson.

Hawkes is best known for his role as the title character in the 1991 film Buddy’s Song and for his number one hit recording of the song “The One And Only” from the film’s soundtrack. Ms Dillon recently played the role of Patti Symcox in Grease at the Piccadilly Theatre andFrancesca Jackson delivered a sensational performance as Joanne in the 2007 production of Rent at the Duke of York’s.

Barry Manilow is one of the most successful singer-songwriters of all time, having sold more than 75 million records worldwide, and he is also the composer and co-writer of the musical Copacabana, which began as a TV movie in 1985 and was later adapted for the stage for a West End run in 1994-6, followed by tours in both the UK and USA.

Can’t Smile Without You, which has a Book by Tim Prager based upon an original idea by Bill Kenwright, draws upon Manilow’s extensive songbook of hits, including “Could It Be Magic?”, “I Made It Through The Rain”, “I Write The Songs” and “Mandy”. The show will be directed by Keith Strachan and Bill Kenwright, with musical direction by John Maher and choreography by Carole Todd. The UK tour commences at the Churchill Theatre, Bromley (from 28 August 2008) and will then embark on a national tour (Liverpool, Bristol, Manchester, Hull, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Northampton, Stoke and Newcastle) prior to a planned West End engagement in 2009.

Photo by Sara De Boer / Retna Ltd.

Tuesday, 12 August 2008

As we appear to have a runaway favourite performance I have posted that as the site song for the time being.


Whats It Like Working With Fran? Well We Asked the Question...

Here at Frans Blog we aim to go further to bring you more information on the very talented Fran Jackson and we have been very lucky to have received the following exclusive piece from Fran's friend and fellow performer CJ Johnson. Fran and CJ worked together in Rent Remixed on the West End in 2007/08. 


I would like to take this opportunity to thank CJ for her time in writing this piece and providing another great picture for the site.


Working with Fran... Rent Remixed, Duke of York's Theatre '07/'08.. CJ Johnson

I've been asked to say a few words about Fran. But I'm sure it'll turn into a novel! Fran and I had no choice but to become close friends very quickly, as I was rehearsing Maureen (her girlfriend) for the first 2 weeks of rehearsals. Had I a choice.....! But seriously though, I felt such a deep bond with Fran in those few weeks that it was very difficult to hand her over to Denise (Van Outen)! I had to refer back to Stanislavsky to decipher whether it was mine or 'Maureen's' jealousy appearing every time they held hands! Ha ha. Really, she gave me so much in the rehearsal process. In terms of her commitment to the growth of both our characters and their complex relationship and as a warm, beautiful friend.  

Fran's one of those people who makes you feel wonderful about yourself. She gives you her undivided attention, and as long as you're with her, you're the centre of her world! And that's why I would happily spend every single matinee day over the road in 'Med Kitchen' with her and Rhoe (Oliver) Thornton. In the safety that as long as we're there, discussing who made who laugh in the show that day over Fran's 'burger with no bun' and "three hot waters with a slice of lemon', then we're the funniest and most talented people in the world! Ha ha! She is ridiculously self-effacing when it comes to her own talents and achievements. She is so very true to herself. All cliches aside, she's genuinely a beautiful, dedicated and giving actress and such a refreshingly, powerfully unique voice. I love that about her. I also love her 'woolly grey' wardrobe, her pink steamer attached to her face and her belief that lemon bon-bons are 'good for the voice'. She will go from strength to strength and deserves this wonderful support from all her lovely fans.

Keep checking back for more news and updates on the incredibly talented Fran Jackson, including a fan review on Can't Smile Without You at the end of the month and much more.

Wednesday, 6 August 2008

As you probably all know by now Fran has been offered and accepted the part of Lucy in Bill Kenwright's new Barry Manilow musical Can't Smile Without You which features around 30 of his greatest hits. 

The musical will be produced out of Bromley's Churchill theatre starting on Thursday 28th August ( 22 days) prior to going on tour details below, and is then due to hit the west end in 2009. 

The story centres around an aspiring young band who, on a visit to New York, come across an opportunity not to be missed - auditions for the latest reality TV show to find the next pop music sensation. When the TV company offers lead singer Tony a chance to appear on the show, the other band members give him their unconditional blessing. But before Tony can realise his dream, he is caught up in a tragic sequence of events which leaves him fighting for his life.

Left with no memory his dreams are all but shattered. His only hope lies in the power of the music he loves and his feelings for a girl he once knew called Mandy…

Bromley Churchill Theatre - 28 Aug - 6 Sep 
Dartford Orchard Theatre - 8 Sep - 13 Sep
Liverpool Empire Theatre - 15 Sep - 20 Sep
Bristol Hippodrome Theatre - 22 Sep - 27 Sep
Manchester Palace Theatre - 29 Sep - 4 Oct
Hull New Theatre - 6 Oct - 11 Oct
Glasgow King's Theatre - 13 Oct - 18 Oct
Edinburgh Festival Theatre - 20 Oct - 25 Oct
Northampton Derngate Theatre - 10 Nov - 15 Nov
Stoke Regent Theatre - 7 Nov - 22 Nov
Darlington Civic Theatre - 24 Nov - 29 Nov

Francescajackson.blogspot will bring you more information as we get it.

Good Luck goes to Fran and the rest of the cast who are now hard at work in rehersals for the production.

Sunday, 3 August 2008


Welcome to the Francesca Jackson Blog, Following the recent blogs that have been set up I decided that it was about time Fran had her own page. Having spoken to Fran who has officially endorsed the page and has kindly agreed to answer some questions for us all. 

Fran has now started rehersals for her part of Lucy in Bill Kenwrights upcomming production of the Barry Manilow musical Can't Smile Without You which starts with a tour commencing in Bromley on Thursday 28th August. The plan is this show will then hit the west end in 2009.

Francesca is to star alongside Chesney Hawkes and How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria Contestant Siobhan Dillon. For more information please see the following link.

Pic's Kindly Donated by Fran

Fran has been kind enough to answer a list of questions for all her fans as unfortunately She was ejected from the show way to early, and we did not get to know her as well as some of the others.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank Fran for taking the time to answer all the questions for us and to let her know that most of us who have the I'd Do Anything songs also have what little from Rent Remixed we could get hold of as well on our ipods.

  1. How have you been since I’d Do Anything?

Lots of auditions and meetings but also plenty of relaxing, and even a little holiday… its been nice – lots of great opportunities but I have been careful about the next step after I’d Do Anything.


  1. Favourite solo performance and why.

Somebody to Love – Because it’s a song that makes a point and is in a style that I love singing.

  1. Favourite mission and why

Acting with Bill Sykes – it went SO well and he was my Bill when I played Bet back in 1994 so it felt amazing to be doing a scene with him as Nancy.

  1. Favourite Group performance

Never Forget in the final week – the pressure was off so it was easier to enjoy.

  1. Did you get to choose any of your songs or were you told what you would be singing each week?

We were always told. We weren’t allowed to choose our own.

  1. What song would you have chosen if you could have chosen anything to sing?

If I could have done musical theatre I would have done Maybe I Like it This Way from The Wild Party. I would love to have done Hurt by Christina Aguilera as well.

  1. How much of a say did you have in your wardrobe and makeup on the show?

Again we had no say – it was always decided for us

  1. Which costume did you most like / dislike? How did you feel about having to wear pink each week?

Well there is no pink in my wardrobe… hee hee… My fav was the Week 2 dress and the long pink one on my last week was pretty horrific!

  1. What happened with the makeup in week 4? It’s widely felt that the makeup artist disliked you that week.

Ha ha ha… I didn’t realise til I came offstage what had happened – Keisha and I had the same makup artist that week and literally before I went on she retouched my makeup with Keisha’s blusher by accident (I hope). Oh dear.

  1. How hard was it continually being singled out as the professional by everyone, including Graham he seemed to introduce you as the professional actress every week?

It was really difficult – especially as I wasn’t the most experienced but I tried not to focus on it or let it get me down. There was nothing I could do to change it and it definitely made my time on the show harder.

  1. If you could play any role in any musical (not Nancy) what would it be?

So many – but Elphaba, Fantine, Ellen in Miss Saigon, Linda in Blood Bros, Queenie in the Wild Party. I want to do everything!!

  1. Who is your dream leading man sorry Tom she can’t chose you?

Johnny Depp – need I say more.

  1. If you couldn’t do musical theatre what would you do?

Anything with children or animals – but I would be devastated if I couldn’t continue my career!

  1. What was the role that made you decide this was what you wanted to do?

I suppose playing Bet in the 1994 Palladium production of Oliver confirmed that this was my dream career but I can’t ever remember NOT wanting to do it

  1. Who is your role model/idol

Julie Walters and Emma Thompson – I love them both!

  1. Favourite Meal?

My mums Shepherds Pie.

  1. What do you like to do in your spare time – if you ever get any?

Coronation Street and Eastenders… I love Monday nights.

  1. Favourite musical of all time?

Tom is making me say Jersey Boys… But maybe Rent – this is difficult… Blood Brothers… Oh I don’t know!

  1. What 3 items would you take with you to a desert island?

A Steamer – Nasal Spray – Vocalzones – I live off that stuff... ha ha!!

  1. If you could go anywhere in the world where would you go?

The Maldives

  1. If you have looked on Digital Spy you would see that most of your fan base is slightly crazy does that worry you? – They have also somehow decided that because your CV states you can play the drums to associate you with the bongos – check out bongos and teapots unite – do you play the bongos or Drums regularly.

I’m afraid I haven’t looked on Digital Spy as I try to not read forums because I’m scared of reading the negative stuff. It is difficult in this profession not to take criticism to heart as you are so exposed so I try to minimise the risk… for my own sanity!! As for the drums/bongos I played the drums at college (A-levels) cos I wanted to be a rock-chick but I haven’t played for years.  

  1. Sam has ‘Sam’s Lambs’ and ‘Barketeers’, Niamh has her ‘Niamphers’, Rachel has 'Team Tucker', Sarah has ‘Larkabouts’ your fans are struggling and the best they can come up with is ‘Frans Fans’ as the other names are dangerous if read or spelt wrong do you have any other ideas?

I can’t even believe I have fans – let alone name them!!!

  1. How does it feel to be the 3rd finalist from IDA to start work in a production, (not counting Edinburgh Fringe festival or Sarah's Hits of The West End) you beat Sam in to third place by 1 day

Sam actually got Cabaret a few days before me but its just fantastic to be working again

She May have got the part first but you go on stage the day before.

  1. Was it any consolation to know that your exit was one of the most controversial decisions of the series and is still talked about now?

It was great to know I had done my best that night and that people thought I should stay but hopefully everything happens for a reason.

  1. What was it like doing a concert back in Swansea with Peter Karrie? (And what happened to the DVD that was being produced of the event that Jay promised me? (It was just to costly to get from hear to Swansea at that short notice a week before going away)

The concert was fantastic – I couldn’t believe how many people were there and it really amazed me to see how much support I had. I got quite choked up at the end. I’m not sure about the DVD I’m afraid. 

  1. How excited are you about ‘Can’t Smile Without You’ and can you tell us anything about the show and your role?

I’m very pleased to be a part of it!! It’s a really good script and Barry Manilow is a massive star so hopefully we will do well. My part is called Lucy and she is the fiancĂ©e of Tony (Chesney Hawkes) but is having an affair with his best friend, Scott. Its really exciting!!

  1. When will we know if the show is going to be on the west end at the end of the tour as is predicted?

I’m not sure really – as soon as I know, you will!!

  1. If Rent Remixed was to come back and go on tour would you reprise your role of Joanne if asked?

I would absolutely love too. I loved every minute of Rent.

  1. How does it make you feel to know that a lot of your fans spend most of their days listening to your IDA performances on their ipods.

It’s such a lovely feeling and slightly bizarre that people have ME on their ipods!! Although I would rather they had Rent Remixed (hee hee)… I wasn’t too confident with most of my I’d Do Anything songs.

Saturday, 2 August 2008

Fran the Early Years

The following was kindly sent by Robert Gould who has known Fran since she was at school, to give us a little insight into Fran and where it all began. 

Francesca was always destined for a career on the stage - ever since she took on the role of Percy the Polar bear in nursery school!  She began taking dance classes at the age of five and soon afterwards began performing with a local theatre group in Ystradgynlais in the Swansea valley, the Glantawe Players. At a very young age she sung  the Alan Menken/Howard Ashman song “Part Of Your World”, in full Mermaid costume, and stunned the audience with the power and tone of her voice as well as her immense stage presence and ability to “sell” a song.


As a member of the National Youth Musical Theatre company in 1991, Fran appeared in Whistle Down The Wind and in 1994 she made her West End debut at the age of 13, playing Bet in the Sam Mendes production of Oliver at the London Palladium. The following year, again with the NYMT, she was in the cast of Bugsy Malone and she continued to perform with the Glantawe Players as well as in school productions at Maesydderwen School, playing Sandy in Grease and later Nancy in Oliver. After taking her GCSEs, Fran went on to study Performing Arts at Neath College, where her roles included Carmen in Fame.


 In 2002 she wowed audiences at the Swansea Grand Theatre as silent screen star Mabel Normand in the Swansea Amateur Opera production of the Jerry Herman musical, Mack and Mabel. She went on to train at the Mountview Academy in London, performing in shows such as Elegies for Angels, Punks and Raging Queens.

 In 2006 she was in the UK touring ensemble of Rod Stewart’s Tonight’s The Night, covering the lead roles of Dee Dee and Mary. And in 2007 she thrilled West End audiences with  her stunning vocal performance as lesbian attorney, Joanne Jefferson in Jonathon Larson's Pulitzer Prize winning musical, Rent.


Shortly after the closing of Rent, Fran began to demonstrate her talent to a wider audience as a contestant in BBC’s I’d Do Anything. Though she failed to win the coveted role of Nancy in Cameron Mackintosh’s new production of Oliver, she clearly demonstrated that she belongs on the West End stage, especially with her incredible rendition of the torch song As Long As He Needs Me during her final moments on the show.

Thanks Again for the article Robert its good to see where it all started and look forward to the bright future ahead of her.