Monday, December 10, 2007
But towards the end of Act two I was preoccupied with the added tension of Ian Bostridge's music stand teetering over the stage. He had been leaning over it, pushing on it, holding it with both hands as the drama dictated, and every time he did, the music stand moved closer and closer to the edge. By the finale, one leg was over the edge. If another went surely that would have made the evenings recording less than satisfactory. The old woman in the front row might have let out a yelp as well. By the Epilogue, Bostrige wasn't even holding the stand and with one and a half legs over the stage I was expecting a crash bang clang any moment. It didn't take long to come. It started to topple like it was in slow motion. There it went. The old woman was probably not watching the stand about to thump her as Bostridge is a bit of a sex symbol for that demographic. What I had not counted upon was Bostridge's quick reflexes. He swooped in and picked the stand up and moved it back to the stage. All was well. Epilogue finished with whimper (as it should). But there was just so much added drama and distraction to the evening...
Sunday, December 09, 2007
A "million Santa march" on Washington leading to Christmas being cancelled sounds like a great idea for an antidote to Christmas panto, but it was more of an ordeal to be endured. Perhaps it is a work in progress but I was just glad I didn't pay to see it.
Still, there was mulled wine on offer at the end of it and the entourage of lesbians enjoyed it. Hopefully for the rest of the run there will be some revisions that take 30 minutes from it. Oh but the killing of the reindeer (and their reassembly) was my favourite part.
Tuesday, December 04, 2007
Monday, December 03, 2007
It was Sunday evening around 10.30pm when I looked at my watch while waiting in the wings of the Coliseum and wondered what the hell I was doing there. Sure it was Barbara Cook's 80th Birthday concert. Sure she was great. Sure we were about to go on to sing two minutes in the finale chorus of Make Your Garden Grow... But after being there since 3pm it was a bit of a stretch. Well the concert didn't start at 3pm, it just felt like it did.
Mind you there were more than just a few of us in the chorus that jumped at the chance to sing with Barbara Cook when asked a few months ago. Hell even if it was for just two minutes we were there. Some people in the chorus did ask "Who is Barbara Cook?" to which I replied "Wash your mouth". Well, in the four years I have been in London I have seen her perform twice and got her autograph but all that wasn't intentional. But she is one of the interpreters of the great American song.
Barbara Cook's 80th was a fund raiser for World AIDS day as well. Cook has been doing this concert in the US for the past few months and getting raves for it. And you could tell why. Cook was in great form and it is always a treat to hear her sing. You get a sense of a performer wanting to share something with you, sing without pretension and with a lot of experience. It was a pity what could have been a tight 90 minute show without intermission was padded out for another 90 minutes with a lot of filler. That filler included "stars of tomorrow", dancers out of time, and Elaine Paige.
Paige came on in the second act and started telling Cook how much she adored her since she was young. She did this by rubbing Cook's back in a creepy manner and telling a strangely incoherent anecdote about how she first heard her sing. As she kept telling and telling and telling the story, throwing in some lines such as she couldn't afford a proper seat so some man "stuffed her up the back" (what the...?) the story made less and less sense. She finally finished the story and then inflicted on the audience a tourettes-induced version of "I Know Him So Well" with a spontaneous scream singing of lines like "leahrned about the maaahn bufah ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh fehhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhlll". This was then followed by a spectacle of "Cry Me A River" that was a cross between Judy Garland and Faye Dunaway in Mommie Dearest. It reminded me that she still is the worst thing you could ever see on stage. Seeing such a hammy screamer perform on the same stage as Cook has to be a crime. Actually seeing Paige perform on any stage surely has to be a crime. I was wondering if we can serve an ASBO on her for anti-social performances? Not even a theatre full of luvvies drunk on champagne from the interval could give her more than polite applause.
Fortunately Barbara Cook got back on stage after this horror and again she stopped the show. Alas it was getting close to our call so we did have to give up our box seats we had commanded for the second act and get back on stage. Even though we were in the finale, the show just wouldn't end. After many curtain calls the compere in a moment of dementia felt that it was time to get everyone to sing "happy birthday". A bit late since she turned 80 in October I thought . I think I got home by midnight. Well that was a night to remember...On our dinner break we walked past Cook's dressing room only to be told off by her assistant for making too much noise as she was having a nap after dinner. And dinner was salmon. Maybe omega-3 is the secret for longevity and preserving those pipes. It would have been better than that Mexican we had in Covent Garden I suppose...
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
Sometimes you can't keep a good polyester down... First preview at the Chocolate Factory the curtain had a mind of its own. And so did the costumes... Sitting in front row I got a lap full of beads during a particularly vigorous number... Then there was the occasional firm grip of Philip Quast on my shoulder... Was all this intimate production of Jerry Herman's big gay musical worth it?
Well as a musical it is a pretty dated show. It isn't called La Cage Awful for nothing. Back in the eighties it was no doubt all very daring so you could probably overlook the incoherent story and weak characterisations. On the plus side (and unlike the new Priscilla musical that will be making it's way to London) it is an original musical and not some jukebox of crap disco tracks. And it has a few nice numbers. In this production where I was sitting so close to the stage in such an intimate space there were a few nice touches such as the affection the two leads show in the song "Song in the Sand". The magic was only lost when a speaker went "Fzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzt".
Watching it at a table with John (and Sue and Barbara who we just met) we did find that with a few G&Ts the show went down well. But along with the West End Whingers and their entourage there seemed to be a common view that the show we saw was perhaps not quite ready yet. But it was the first preview. And as an audience we probably failed to give the show enough support by being wild and crazy. Maybe we needed more G&Ts but maybe with more audience heckling the actors may have felt inclined to slap us about a bit...
Still as a work in progress some observations:
- Front row seats are great to see the actors roll their eyes - particularly when the sound didn't work or the curtain didn't go up (or down)
- I wouldn't say the dancing was thrilling - it was more frightening - and amazing that the actors didn't hurt something when they were "mounting" the bird cage
- Una Stubbs should stand further back from the front row audience - particularly when I thought John was going to reach out and strangle her for mugging
- Get the cast some flu vaccines. Ok most of London is coming down with this virus that is around but after paying to get the vaccine I seem to be doing okay even when I am surrounded by people hacking up a lung either at work or at the chorus.
Saturday, November 24, 2007
Mind you, after singing and moving for three hours True Colours my mind started to wander about the lyrics...
You who are oversize
Don't be discouraged
With your thunder thighs
It's hard when your obese...
The rest of the week was rehearsals too... Hmm this singing is becoming a bit of a lifestyle choice...
Voting in Australia is a favourite pasttime. Voting often (in the same election) is also popular so they ask you if you have voted before... Still not as many people were around to vote this time as there was in 2004, and there were no lamingtons in sight. Maybe they realised it wasn't going to be close with Kevin07... Particularly with an amazingly dud campaign by the Coalition
Saturday, November 17, 2007
Wednesday, November 14, 2007
Sunday, November 11, 2007
Took a quick look at St Pancras station which opens later this week as the new Eurostar terminal... Looks rather good but rather than show my photos I thought it would be much nicer to show the current ad campaign from France...
Tuesday evening I got the chance to finally catch Boeing Boeing which has been playing since the start of this year at the Comedy Theatre in West End. It was also a chance for Grant, a fellow Australian just off the boat, to also see his first West End show. I told him that if he got the tickets at the TKTS booth I would treat him to the London Gay Men's Chorus concert next month. This seemed like a fair swap and helps with my duty as a
Anyway I digress... As luck would have it, on Tuesday evening there were a few problems with the tube. So after a bit of an underground adventure, followed by a run through Leicester Square, we missed the opening of the show. By being a few minutes late we were prevented by the ushers from taking our seats until the suitable break. And boy did those ushers mean it. They wouldn't let you out of their sight even to go to the bathroom (I had to use the ladies).
Grant's first show was not off to a promising start. While waiting fifteen minutes to get into the theatre down the back corridor that I would later call the "walk of shame", I tried reassuring Grant that the first half of any play is just all exposition anyway. Well last year I spent most of my time sleeping through first acts of a show. I don't think he bought it...
After finally taking seats and settling down after the first scene, it was easy to see why this play has been bringing the punters in. Even with a new cast and Elena Roger off, it is rather silly and quite enjoyable if you like a bit of farce. I always love doors slamming, outrageous foreign accents, and bright coloured costumes so this was my cup of tea. I particularly liked the work of Tracy-Ann Oberman who as a German Lufthansa flight attendant managed to keep it real while being the source of some of the shows biggest laughs. There is not enough outrageous Germans slamming doors and grabbing their bosoms on the West End stage and so she goes some way to fill that gap.
Grant on the other hand was less amused by the farce and pondering more logical questions like, why would Kevin McNally have three girlfriends? The answer lies in the perils of seeing a play with its third cast change I suppose (although I hear the third was better than the second...). And looks aside, the show was still a great night out... Well put together, well written and acted... Even missing the opening scene...
To make up for missing those first fifteen minutes of the play, I did shout Grant dinner afterwards. Wanting to give him the proper gay London experience I took him to Balans Soho where he enjoyed the experience of surly waiters in dark corners with food that tastes real interesting. Well there weren't the laughs of early in the evening but the food was a bit like a joke...