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Review: Lesley Nicol Charms New York Audiences With HOW THE HELL DID I GET HERE? At The McKittrick Hotel

The star of Downton Abbey is one heck of a musical storyteller, and she's already been extended to May 22nd.

Review: Lesley Nicol Charms New York Audiences With HOW THE HELL DID I GET HERE? At The McKittrick Hotel

There's something really special happening over at The McKittrick Hotel these days. Actually, there's always something special at The McKittrick - the home of Sleep No More has turned itself into an exceptional (and exceptionally fun) entertainment complex with multiple options ranging from the Manderley Bar to the Club Car to the Gallow Green, and now they have a magic show and a storytelling show! All this, and Sleep No More... to say nothing of the friendliest, most helpful, wonderfully stylish, and completely competent staff, at every corner you turn. Yes, The McKittrick is a special place, indeed a magical place, with something for everyone.

Review: Lesley Nicol Charms New York Audiences With HOW THE HELL DID I GET HERE? At The McKittrick Hotel Right now, the newest presentation at The McKittrick is HOW THE HELL DID I GET HERE? starring Lesley Nicol. Ms. Nicol, a long-standing member of the entertainment community of England, worked for many years (some rough, some smooth) learning the trade of acting, struggling to get work, finally getting work, and building up the foundation of a real, day-to-day actor's career. Then, in 2011, the BBC premiered the television program that would change her life and make her a globally famous star. That program was Downton Abbey and, now, Lesley Nicol is known to the world as Mrs. Patmore. In fact, after last night's performance, a charming man and his date lingered in the hallway outside of the room where Nicol had just played her show and he could be heard to say, "We're waiting for Mrs. Patmore. Do you see Mrs. Patmore? Is Mrs. Patmore coming out?" In the elevator on the way down and out of the venue, the gentleman was effusively gushing about the experience of having seen Mrs. Patmore, and how he wished that Lady Mary would do a one-woman show, too. (My husband whispered to me, "Downton nerds" and I just laughed and laughed because who isn't a Downton nerd?)

Her name is Lesley Nicol, and while she discusses, in her show, the pride and the happiness that she feels for her Downton Abbey journey, her name is still Lesley Nicol, not Mrs. Patmore. And she has come to tell her story.

Review: Lesley Nicol Charms New York Audiences With HOW THE HELL DID I GET HERE? At The McKittrick Hotel How The Hell Did I Get Here? Is a storytelling show. There are a handful of songs to aid in the telling of the story, and it's a good thing, too, because Lesley Nicol has a most agreeable singing voice - pretty, straightforward, clearly well-trained, and very pleasing on the ear. Even with these songs and the clarifying descriptive A MUSICAL AUTOBIOGRAPHY appearing on the poster and the program, the show being presented here is a storytelling show, and Lesley Nicol is a very good storyteller. Lesley Nicol is also a delight. Last night a technical glitch necessitated that the three-time recipient of the SAG Award stop the program after her first number and address the audience as an actress with a quandary: to keep going without the essential accompanying slide show or to start over? The honest moment gave her audience an exciting and heartwarming look into Lesley Nicol the woman, the actress, the human, that informed the rest of the program (for the record, everyone in the house voted to start over with the slide show, and it was the right decision). For her seventy-five minute show, Lesley Nicol discussed her early years in Manchester, her relationship with each of her parents, the growing pains of youth, the trauma of her school days, and her lifelong relationship with the art of acting, including the highs and the lows germane to the profession. Armed with nothing but refreshing candor, welcome vulnerability, her lovely singing voice, deft direction by Luke Kernaghan, and a marvelously constructed script by herself and onstage pianist and off-stage composer Mark Mueller, Lesley Nicol kept her audience gently in the palm of her hand. One suspects that every person there was there because they are, indeed, a Downton nerd, so there were wells of goodwill for Nicol, but the truth is that anybody can benefit from a trip to see How The Hell Did I Get Here?, so relatable are Nicol's stories. Who here was shy as a child? Who had a parent whose overattentive care inadvertently hurt them? Who found true love after reaching the point where it didn't look like it would happen? And who struggled to make a success in their chosen field, even after others told them, point-blank, that it wasn't going to happen? Then this show is for those people. It's also for the people who love history, who want to hear about women in power positions during the war, who want to hear about the era of burgeoning rock musicals in the Seventies, who want to hear about the experience of growing up in rural parts of England in the Sixties, complete with vintage photography and the extremely personal touch of seeing it all through the eyes of a young girl, as a renowned actress recreates her, right before their very eyes. With her own words, Nicol paints vivid pictures, and with the accompanying visual arts projected on Anshuman Bhatia's beautiful set and Mueller's continual musical underscoring, imagery springs to life at The McKittrick.

Review: Lesley Nicol Charms New York Audiences With HOW THE HELL DID I GET HERE? At The McKittrick Hotel And on the subject of Mark Mueller and the work he has done with Lesley Nicol on this one-woman show: the songs that the twosome has created take How The Hell Did I Get Here? to a different level than one usually to be found in a cabaret room. It is always rewarding, satisfying, and entertaining to see how a cabaret artist can take a pre-existing work by Brenda Russell or John Bucchino and apply that composition to the story they are telling; but the fact that every song Lesley Nicol sings is an original composition based on her own real-life experiences elevates what might have been a fine cabaret show into a piece of theater that stands all on its own. The melodies are not ambitious - they are pretty, dulcet, and easy on the ear, and the lyrics are so accessible that, were it not for the fact that they rhyme, the sentences would simply be an extension of Ms. Nicol's storytelling journey, one that is never anything less than relatable and, always, an absolute joy. Audience members will particularly enjoy songs about her beloved mother's personal relationship with the war, and a clever paean to Mrs. Patmore's kitchen - both songs deserving of comparison to the works of Noel Coward. Equally effective, musically, is Ms. Nicol's final number, which will remind every member of the audience of the importance of understanding and accepting one's life, just as it is.

Review: Lesley Nicol Charms New York Audiences With HOW THE HELL DID I GET HERE? At The McKittrick Hotel How The Hell Did I Get Here? plays, from start to finish, like Lesley Nicol has been performing it for a while but the truth is that it is a relatively new project. Perhaps it is running so smoothly because it is, after all, Ms. Nicol's story of her own tenacity, perseverance, resilience, and triumph. If the segment pertaining to Downtown Abbey feels a little more comfortable to Nicol, it may be because, by that point in the evening, she is actually engaged in an outright conversation with the audience about the worldwide phenomenon that has caused so great an outpouring of love for the actress. At the end of the show, though, Downton really only occupies a portion of the evening - it is Lesley's story, and it's a good one - so good are the story and Nicol that, in fact, the production received an extension until May 22nd, only two days after its opening night, and deservedly so. Not bad for a New York debut, but also not surprising.

That's the power of Patmore. That is... that's the power of Lesley Nicol.

How The Hell Did I Get Here plays The McKittrick Hotel through May 22nd. For information and reservations visit the McKittrick Hotel website HERE.

Lesley Nicol has a website HERE.

DOWNTON ABBEY: A NEW ERA opens in cinemas on May 20th.

How The Hell Did I Get Here? production photos by Michael Brosilow; Lesley Nicol headshot by Bader Howar

Review: Lesley Nicol Charms New York Audiences With HOW THE HELL DID I GET HERE? At The McKittrick Hotel

Review: Lesley Nicol Charms New York Audiences With HOW THE HELL DID I GET HERE? At The McKittrick Hotel

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