Tuesday, April 08, 2008
Tomorrow night I am going to the theatre and the production is so long who knows when I will get home... Such is the odyssey that one particular production is currently enduring in the West End. Bearing that in mind I plan to use twitter as my means of communication to the outside world... Oh and I will stay awake if I can find a new energy drink called Pussy... Now that's a drink with a name that's going to take off...
Monday, April 07, 2008
Sunday, April 06, 2008
Wednesday, April 02, 2008
Tuesday, April 01, 2008
From the Tony Awards 2006
I caught Jersey Boys at the Prince Edward Theatre Monday night. I saw it with Grant and we must have looked like a right pair of luvvies as a lady in front of us from Cincinnati asked us if we get to the theatre all the time living in London. I wasn't quite sure if that was a question asking us whether we liked musical theatre. Whatever the line of questioning was, I wasn't going to admit that I had just bought on DVD Show Business. Besides it had been over a week since I had last been to a theatre. And that was fringe theatre...
Jersey Boys - a show about some workin' class boys from New Jersey makin' good - was was all class. Rather than the usual trick of being a juke box of hits strung together for an unbelievable story, or weaving a string of b-side songs into a nights entertainment because that is all the rights that were available, this show tells the story of the boys rise to fame using their music. Their story moves at breakneck speed and has been very cleverly put together. Songs spin into drama about the creative process that spun into new songs spinning into more drama about paying back mob loans. It felt like Dreamgirls meets The Sopranos... But by the end of it you felt like you knew something about each of these boys.
Drama aside, even more fascinating was what happened when the show gave the audience the recognisable music of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. The first time it occurred was half way through the first act in the build up to the song "Sherry". Surrounded by baby boomers, as the song started there was this shock wave of audience excitement that rippled across the theatre. It was like we were taking part in some sort of phenomena channelling a collective experience of the 1960s. As that was a little before my time, I was a bit taken aback by this... Music always takes me back to when I first heard it, and I was assuming that this audience had a bit longer to travel back than some eighties retro flick like Dirty Dancing... Just as well the tunes were so easy to groove to otherwise there could have been quite an emotional mess in the Prince Edward Theatre...
It was easy to forget it also wasn't the Four Seasons on stage but a talented group of young(ish) actors and a rather amplified band. There seemed to be a great chemistry onstage with the actors and Ryan Molloy as Franki Valli and Stephen Ashfield as Bob Gaudio were particularly memorable. When songs you have heard many times before seem new and fresh like "December 1963 (Oh what a night)" you know something good is going on.
The only thing that had me perplexed all evening was the set. It was a mish mash of styles and almost as hideous as the one in Thoroughly Modern Millie. I could appreciate that it was to give the show the backstage / gritty / Jersey look, but surely we could have something executed a little bit more elegantly. Oh perhaps nowadays one should just be glad to have seen a decent new show, well made and performed, that hasn't had to rely on BBC advertorial to pull in the punters... Good tickets available at the usual outlets.
Monday, March 24, 2008
Man: Oh take a look at that. Now you won't like that will you?
Woman: Oh no... No! NO!
Woman: Oh no... No! NO!
The Orphanage was a funny sort of film to be watching on Easter Sunday... A movie about dead orphans that don't seem to be dead. But since it was in Spanish it had an art house feel to what is essentially a mystery about a boy who disappears while his parents are moving in to the old orphanage his mother went to. To give away any more of the story would be to ruin the fun(?), thrills(?) of the film.
Of course, if you have seen The Others or The Sixth Sense, you will know that dead people are not to be feared as they are your friends (or at the very least they just have a few issues like the Maitlands in Beetlejuice). Bearing this in mind I didn't find it scary. But it still was a creepy way to spend a few hours in the dark... Particularly with that kid (pictured above) popping in every now and then...
Friday, March 21, 2008
I don't normally go for photos with performers but West End Whinger Andrew made me do it since he hassled Maria Friedman enough to get her to pose for photos. Why not blind her in the process? I don't quite recall what the distraction was... Nor why I am covering my mouth...
Anyway, Maria Friedman has just started doing a concert series at the Menier Chocolate Factory through until May. Maria has been around for ages (particularly if you note her very long timeline on her website), and I had seen her in the concert version of Follies last year. But not being a Friedman devotee (or should that be groupie?), I wasn't particularly won over by the music, performance or banter of the first half of the show. I wasn't alone with this view either, since the guy next to me fell asleep.
By the second half however, the show picked up the pace and turned out to be quite a treat. Particular highlights were her picking on members from the audience while she sang "The Worst Pies in London" and "I Want to Sleep With You Now". There also was a wonderful performance of Irving Berlin's "I Got Lost In Your Arms" that had the audience on the edge of their seats. And with a terrific band, here's hoping there are more concerts here in the future. One caveat would be to make sure that any future concerts ensure that the star is more elegantly attired. The house dress and glitter potato sack with boots was a bit distracting...
This is a concert worth catching, but you will of course have to get there well ahead of its 8pm start to fight for an unnumbered seat. The couple who tried to reserve half a row with their jackets hadn't counted on seasoned chocolate factory goers such as we challenging them on that... The theatre can be such a tough place... Especially when all the guests in your party don't arrive with you...
Tuesday, March 18, 2008
Monday, March 17, 2008
Sunday, March 16, 2008
Friday night I had the chance to see at Hackney Empire studio Postcards from God - The Sister Wendy Musical. Written by London Gay Men's Chorus member Marcus Reeves, it tells the story of the rise to fame of a nun - Sister Wendy Beckett - and her love of art. I pretended to recall the Sister Wendy phenomenon of the nineties when Marcus asked me at a rehearsal last year "You remember Sister Wendy?" But the reality was that the phenomena passed me by. Fortunately there is enough on Youtube to enable anyone to brush up on her life and her passion for Poussin.
The musical featuring Gay Soper in the title role as Sister Wendy Beckett covers her life from contemplative hermit to celebrity art critic. Part of the fun in watching this show is when the art she talks about comes to life. I would have preferred the focus to remain solely on Sister Wendy, Soper's terrific performance, and less of the side characters (and giving her much more to do throughout), but there are the makings of a great musical here.
The show runs until the end of the month and you can also join the Facebook groupies called Wendy's Frendies. Tickets are from £5 too... Enough to make anyone want to venture to Hackney... The bar there is great too...
Tuesday, March 11, 2008
Sunday, March 09, 2008
All I'm asking for is a tune
Something itchy to tap my toes to
Something that in late afternoon
Makes high strung boys collapse... (Make Me A Song - William Finn)
I have been familiar with the music of William Finn for a little over five years now... This is not long for a groupie, but after seeing a performance of Falsettos with the opening number "Four Jews In A Room Bitching" I knew his music was going to be my cup of tea. While the subject matter (brain tumours, Bar Mitzvahs etc) I am not always able to relate to, the themes, issues and the humour his work explores I have loved. And since my Falsettos moment, I have made a point of finding the rest of his music. This has led to me laughing out loud on the tube (always a good way to get labelled a freak) listening to Infinite Joy and relishing the chance of being a disciplined non-hammy speller on Broadway.
But the fact that his music hasn't really had a decent showing in London has always bothered me. Perhaps it is the sentiment I have heard around here that his music is regarded disparagingly as "a bit off Broadway". Then again, for a city that doesn't have such an institution to develop new work and would rather keep running revivals of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat I suppose that has to be put in perspective.
Anyway, all this can be forgiven now that Make Me A Song - a musical revue of Finn's music featuring some of West End's finest - Louise Dearman, Frances Ruffelle, Gareth Snook, Simon Thomas, Sally Ann Triplett and Ian H Watkins - is playing at the New Players Theatre. With so many fabulous songs sung by such a fabulous cast it was a real treat...
When the show is this good you could get a bit prissy about the production and hope that as the run goes on that the lighting hits the actors better, Sally Ann Triplett doesn't have to keep moving the furniture about during the number "All Fall Down", they all remember the lyrics, and Ian H gets a more flattering wardrobe. But none of it really mattered. Actually on the wardrobe point Finn was there in the audience looking very comfy in his t-shirt, trousers and crocs so maybe Ian's baggy trousers and lumpy jumper was deliberate. It was nice to see with Finn his "this is how it is" attitude in his music extends to his attire, particularly since the rest of the audience were dressed to the nines... The show runs until 6 April... Hopefully a cast album will be in the works too...