Florence Foster Jenkins

I randomly came across this movie when it was on free to air TV a couple of weeks ago, and it was amazing. Based on the life of a real person – and I actually looked up the real woman and was happy to see how historically accurate the movie is – Florence Foster Jenkins tells the story of a Gilded Age New York socialite who, near the end of her life, decides she has what it takes to become a famous opera singer.

The problem? She can’t sing to save herself. She becomes infamous rather than famous.

This is one of the funniest movies I’ve ever seen. You laugh and laugh … and then suddenly you’re crying because it really is a tragic story.

Meryl Streep actually trained as an opera singer (something I just learnt), and – much like the character of Carlotta in The Phantom of the Opera – in order to sing badly, you first have to learn to sing properly.

The real woman really was an appalling singer, and because she paid to have records of her voice made, you can listen to her even now. She’s even worse than in the movie.

The costumes in this movie are worth your time alone.

Streep was ROBBED of the Oscar for this performance (it went to La La Land that year), and both Hugh Grant and Simon Helberg (who is most famous as a sitcom actor, but who is actually a trained concert pianist) were nominated for Golden Globes for their parts. They’re both brilliant, too.

I’m so glad I stumbled across this.

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child Melbourne Production

After a few weeks of previews, the red carpet was rolled out in Melbourne over the weekend for the Australian premiere of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, which focuses on Harry, Ginny, Ron and Heroine as adults. It’s receiving rave reviews.

Terrifying, mesmerising, magical: Harry Potter lives up to the hype

I’ve been following the show’s development for months, because two of its stars are childhood friends from Canberra.

The Potters Harry (Gareth Reeves), Ginny (Lucy Goleby of Canberra) and Albus (Sean Rees-Wemyss). Harry Potter and the Cursed Child Melbourne Production

The Potters

Lucy Goleby, who plays Ginny, was a close friend of my brother’s growing up, and her older sister was one of my best friends in primary school. And “Hagrid” – Soren Jensen – was in my class at school from when I was twelve onwards (and his younger brother was in the same class as my brother). What a funny little world we live in!

We’re all a bit too old to say we grew up with Harry Potter; I was about to graduate from high school when the first book came out, and back then the series was very squarely aimed at young kids.

The show was first staged in the West End in London in 2016, and then moved to Broadway last year, and has won a mountain of Olivier and Tony Awards.

R.I.P. Errol Pickford

Errol Pickford as Mercutio in Romeo and Juliet © Leslie Spatt Royal Ballet Royal Opera House

As Mercutio in Romeo and Juliet. X

The weekend brought news of the death of Australian-born star of Britain’s Royal Ballet, Errol Pickford. After years in London he moved back to Perth to dance with the West Australian Ballet.

He was only fifty-one at the time of his death.

Errol Pickford as The Bluebird in The Sleeping Beauty © Leslie Spatt Royal Ballet Royal Opera House

As the Bluebird in The Sleeping Beauty.

Pickford was known for his powerful dancing, and was famous for his performances in The Sleeping Beauty and Don Quixote.


R.I.P. Bryan Lawrence

Bryan Lawrence in Le Conservatoire. The Australian Ballet, 1965. Photo Ken Byron, Australian News and Information Bureau.

I was going to post a book review today, but I need to mention the death of Bryan Lawrence. I’ve been out of the ballet world loop for a few years, and only heard about this yesterday. He died on Saturday.

I’d recommend Michelle Potter’s obituary – HERE.

A soloist with the Royal Ballet in Covent Garden, London, and then a principal with The Australian Ballet, Lawrence and ballerina Janet Karin founded the school I took my first ever ballet class, and the company I gave my first ever performance with.

The school produced some world-famous dancers, including the late Ross Stretton, a dancer with both Joffrey Ballet and American Ballet Theatre, and later the artistic director of The Australian and Royal Ballets (I did work experience for him in the 1990s), Joanne Michel, Adam Marchant…

Swan Lake Royal Ballet School performance 1960 with Shirley Grahame. — with Shirley Grahame Kershaw. Bryan Lawrence.

Beyond going to the theatre as an audience member, I’ve not had anything to do with ballet for a few years. My last contact with Bryan Lawrence was a Facebook conversation a number of years ago.

For the dance world, this loss was significant.


On this day: the death of a prima ballerina

In Times Gone By...

Maya_Plisetskaya_-_1974Plisetskaya performing in Carmen (1974)

As Carmen in 1974.

Soviet ballerina Maya Plisetskaya, one of only a handful of dancers in history to hold the title of Prima Ballerina Assoluta, died on the 2nd of May, 2015.

Born into a prominent family of Lithuanian Jews, Plisetskaya completed her ballet training in Moscow, first performing at the Bolshoi Theatre at the age of eleven.

Maya Plisetskaya Grand Jete Ballet Vintage

Despite being one of the most respected dancers in history, she was treated badly by the anti-Semitic Russian authorities. For her first sixteen years of her career she was banned from leaving the country.

Her father was executed during the Stalinist purges, and her mother, a famous Lithuanian film actress, spent several years in a gulag in Kazakhstan.

Maya Plisetskaya Ballet Vintage

Plisetskaya followed in the footsteps of another great Soviet ballerina: Galina Ulanova, and took over her position as the Bolshoi’s star dancer upon Ulanova’s retirement. Plisetskaya was a member of the…

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Book to watch out for?


I’II admit it: the cover got me. I saw an ad for A Note Yet Unsung on the side of a book site, and just had to go and look it up.

Yes, it’s Christian fiction, but I often find these books aren’t particularly religious. And yes, the costume department could have tried a little harder – a bit less modern wedding dress, and a little more in the way of sleeves!

However, I do think this one sounds interesting, and I’m always excited to read books involving the theatre.

A Note Yet Unsung is out now.

A Note Yet Unsung (Belmont Mansion #3) by Tamera Alexander

Despite her training as a master violinist, Rebekah Carrington was denied entry into the Nashville Philharmonic by young conductor Nathaniel Whitcomb, who bowed to public opinion. Now, with a reluctant muse and a recurring pain in his head, he needs her help to finish his symphony. But how can he win back her trust when he’s robbed her of her dream?

The Week: 1st – 7th August

Winter Sunset Caberra Australia Sonya Heaney 3rd August 2016 Sky Clouds Nature

Wednesday evening sunset.

I will be in Sydney to attend my cousin’s wedding when this post goes up, but I will add to it when I get home.


Okay, so I’m home after a few days in Sydney. 🙂 I am going to share a bunch of pictures from the last few days. My cousin, who is eight years older than me, married a (Turkish) man she met in Turkey a few years ago. The ordeal of getting visas, crossing religions (she is Catholic; he is Muslim) etc…

It was an outdoor (in cold, rainy winter!) wedding, where dogs took part in the ceremony. My whole weekend was “animal-y”. We rented a house in Rozelle, and it came with a cat and a tank of fish. Another cat came visiting. My cousin’s dog was the “bridesmaid”! I got home this afternoon with cat scratches and a blood blister from a totally accidental dog bite on my hand (that’s what happens when you spend an hour wrestling with a Staffie!). But I loved every moment. 🙂

We stopped at Berrima on the way home, and had lunch at the oldest pub in Australia. I love Berrima so much, and always want to stop there when we’re on the highway. It’s a very early convict town, and pretty much every building there is pre-Victorian or early Victorian.

Rio results.

So – for about five minutes – Australia is at the top of the Olympic medal table. I said I’m not watching the Olympics – and I’m not – but we’ve been so bad at sport recently, this is nice news.

Rio 2016 Men's Gymnastics

Also – congratulations to Oleh (I am so freaking sick of everyone translating the Cyrillic alphabet from Russian – many countries use it, and in Ukrainian “G” = “H”!) from Ukraine for qualifying first for the men’s gymnastics final. He won’t win – gymnastics is so unpredictable, and I am being pessimistic and saying that on the day someone else will win. I want him to, but I don’t want to curse him!

Sonya and Billy the huge cat. Sydney Australia 5th August 2016.Erol and Nadia's Wedding. 6th August 2016.

Me + cat. Bride and groom.



My cousins.

Sonya Heaney Oksana Heaney Mia Jacyshyn Nadia's Wedding. Sydney Australia 6th August 2016.

Me (looking enormous for some reason!), my mother, one of my aunts. Plus the Sydney Harbour Bridge. 🙂

Billy the cat waiting for us. Sydney Australia 5th August 2016.

The house we rented – with cat waiting for us!

Billy the cat. Sydney Australia 5th August 2016.Cute half-grown ginger cat. Sydney Australia 5th August 2016..

Cats everywhere!


Dogs everywhere! That idiot black dog spent the entire ceremony toting branches around. In that picture they’re exchanging rings, but Hugo decided it was time for a game. 🙂  He’s so nice, but also so ridiculous! He is the one who gave me the blood blister. My fault – not his.

Can Cinderella stories still work?

The Cinderella Governess (The Governess Tales #1) by Georgie Lee

Disney’s Newest Movie



Anne Gracie Chance Sisters Series Covers

National Underwear Day

build your own Harlequin hero

My review of Miss Morrison’s Second Chance by Janis Susan May

Miss Morrison's Second Chance by Janis Susan May

My review of The Ballerina’s Stand (A Chair at the Hawkins Table #4) by Angel Smits

The Ballerina's Stand (A Chair at the Hawkins Table #4) by Angel Smits

The Ballerina’s Stand (A Chair at the Hawkins Table #4) by Angel Smits

The Ballerina's Stand (A Chair at the Hawkins Table #4) by Angel Smits

Love reaches far beyond words 

When she was growing up, a deaf child in foster care, dancing gave Lauren Ramsey a sense of belonging. Now she’s a prima ballerina with her own dance studio; everything’s finally going right. And then lawyer Jason Hawkins turns up and drops a bombshell: Lauren’s unknown father has left her a fortune. Well, Jason can take that money and shove it. Except…he can’t. Once he sees Lauren dancing, he can’t stay away…

The Ballerina’s Stand (A Chair at the Hawkins Table #4) by Angel Smits

If this had been a book about a former dancer-turned social worker, I think this would be close to a five-star read. The author clearly knows social work, and has clearly done a HUGE amount of research into sign language and the day-to-day issues a deaf person faces. I didn’t know how she was going to have a hearing hero who doesn’t know how to sign with a deaf heroine, but she pulled it off.

However, the book shows a lack of understanding of the sacrifice, dedication, and time it takes to be a professional dancer or athlete, which ultimately meant I could not love it.

The good? Heaps of it, if you forget the heroine is supposed to be an international ballet star.

The author finds a perfect balance in the communication. She creates a hero who cares enough to enrol in sign language lessons. He considers the obstacles, is frustrated by them, but is determined. It really makes you think, and makes you aware of all the different little ways a deaf person lives on a day to day basis.

She then adds layer upon layer of complications, giving the heroine an injury that totally takes away her ability to communicate, which terrifies her. She raises the stakes so well, and throws so many obstacles in her characters’ paths, but it never feels melodramatic. (Though sex straight out of the emergency room seems a little unlikely.)

She also makes use of so many different kinds of people, adding all sorts of diversity without making it preachy.

And it is always really nice to come across a hero who is a genuinely decent guy. He has fallen into this serious relationship before he even realises what has happened.

My problem with the book is this: the alleged world famous ballerina heroine NEVER trains!

Ballet is more than a full-time job. You dance from 10:30am to 10:30pm SIX DAYS A WEEK. And you do not do it on your own. You go to work the way other people go to the office (but put in double or triple the hours). You sign in at your “office”. You take company class in the mornings, rehearse with the company through to the evening, and then dance onstage with the company at night. You have teachers and coaches, whether you’re five or fifty-five.

And in between those dozens and dozens of hours of hard work there are costume fittings and photo shoots and media calls to attend, Pilates classes to take, physiotherapy appointments.

The hero  of this book was always working, but the heroine never did a thing. She spends the entire book meeting people for lunches, and hanging out with foster kids, and teaching children, and running her own business. Not once does she have anything to do with the ballet company she allegedly dances for.

Start this video at 1:40 to begin to get an idea of what it takes:

A day in the life of a principal dancer:

This book’s heroine goes weeks at a time without checking in at work! Nobody can do that, no matter how easy or mundane their job. She would always be considering her health, her diet and her fitness. You’re straight out of hospital? On crutches? Dying? Nine months pregnant? You still go into the company studio, and you still train for hours.

There are plenty of little mistakes about ballet throughout (little children don’t dance en pointe, and nobody has danced on a wooden stage for decades). A ballet career certainly doesn’t end at twenty-five, as implied here. Most of the ballet stars in the world today are over thirty.

Ultimately, this is a very good book about a lawyer and a *social worker*, not a book about a lawyer and a ballet dancer. I wish someone who knew the ballet world had given this a proofread, because it could have been a much more believable book.