Join Academy Award-winning filmmaker, Taika Waititi as he reads James and the Giant Peachby Roald Dahl, in full across 10 episodes, to raise money for @Partners In Health.
Over the series, Taika will be joined by Utkarsh Ambudkar, Cate Blanchett, Jamie Cullum, Benedict Cumberbatch, Roman Griffin Davis, Cara Delevingne, Cynthia Erivo, Beanie Feldstein, Josh Gad, Chris Hemsworth, Liam Hemsworth, Mindy Kaling, Nick Kroll, Kumail Nanjiani, Lupita Nyong’o, Sarah Paulson, Billy Porter, Gordon Ramsay, Eddie Redmayne, Ryan Reynolds, Ben Schwartz, Meryl Streep, Tessa Thompson, Olivia Wilde, Ruth Wilson and Archie Yates, with a select number of celebrities still to be announced.
A pair of album reviews for the OG Wicked stars – Kristen Chenoweth’s For The Girls and Idina Menzel’s Christmas: A Season of Love
“You know the Queen of hearts is always your best bet”
No matter how they’ve diverged now, the careers of Kristen Chenoweth and Idina Menzel will forever be connected by Wicked and so you wonder whether their respective 2016 albums being released at the same time was ‘just’ a coincidence. And those ties just won’t quit as late 2019 sees them both dropping records, albeit with a month or two inbetween this time.
Chenoweth’s album is For The Girls, a concept album of sorts, produce by Steve Tyrell and Jon Allen, focusing on tracks either written or performed by female artists. She might not exactly reinvent the wheel with her covers, but there’s something impressive about the way in which she draws the connecting line between the country pop of her upbringing – ‘Desperado’, ‘Crazy’ – to the standards for which she’s now famed – a glorious ‘The Man That Got Away’, ‘The Way We Were’. As diverse a collection it gets, it always coheres effectively. Continue reading “Album Reviews: Kristen Chenoweth – For The Girls / Idina Menzel – Christmas: A Season of Love”
Who knew that exploring the soul of Richard Rodgers would reveal a Lauryn Hill sample and a guest rap from upcoming Bronx rapper Zaire Park? And that’s just on ‘Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered’ alone. But that’s exactly what you find on Billy Porter Presents: The Soul of Richard Rodgers, a project co-produced and co-curated by Billy Porter, the Tony Award-winning Broadway actor and musician.
With lyricists Oscar Hammerstein II and Lorenz Hart, legendary composer Richard Rodgers redefined the American musical theatre with now-classic musicals like Oklahoma!, The Sound of Music, South Pacific, and The King and I. And now Porter pays tribute to his legacy by reinterpreting his songbook with an entirely more contemporary soulful bent. In his own words, “I like to think of this as the Richard Rodgers version of the Hamilton Mixtapes.” Continue reading “Album Review: Billy Porter Presents: The Soul of Richard Rodgers”
“I woke up this morning on the wrong side of life”
I loved Billy Porter’s second album Billy’s Back On Broadway so I turned with interest to his first, released nearly a decade before in 2005. At The Corner of Broadway + Soul was recorded live at Joe’s Pub and sees Porter bring together his own R’n’B compositions with gospel songs and Broadway hits – both old and new in his own inimitable style. Porter has a massive voice and loves to sing big and it is a joy to hear him cut loose as he so often does here.
A snippet of Dreamgirls’ ‘And I’m Telling You I’m Not Going’ is fierce, Into the Woods’ ‘Last Midnight’ is just beyond, and there’s a healthy smattering (7 in fact) of his own songs which effectively mine a nu-soul vein – the dirty funk of ‘Hell or High Water’ probably emerging as my favourite. He’s not just a belter though. The Adam Guettel/Jason Robert Brown two-fer sees him rein in the power to glorious effect on both ‘Awaiting You’ from Myths and Hymns and ‘King of the World’ from Songs for a New World which shine in their subtlety. Continue reading “Album Review: Billy Porter – At The Corner of Broadway + Soul (2005)”
“The towering feeling just to know somehow you are near”
Billy Porter’s career may have received a fillip from winning the Tony Award for Best Actor in a Musical for his turn as Lola in Kinky Boots (a pattern interestingly repeated by Matt Henry at the Oliviers this year) but he is a performer who has certainly paid his dues. From his 1994 debut in Grease, he’s carved out as a path as an almost old-school multi-disciplinary entertainer – appearing on film and TV as well as on stage, writing plays and music…boy’s been keeping busy.
Billy’s Back On Broadway marks his third album and proves an interesting blend of everything that makes up Billy. The songlist is pure Broadway as the title suggests but the approach from Porter and producer Rob Mounsey is much more varied, bringing in elements both of the jazz and the more contemporary R&B he loves. Combined with idiosyncratic takes on some of these classics, it makes for an always interesting collection. Continue reading “Album Review: Billy Porter – Billy’s Back On Broadway”
“Charlie from Northampton, meet Simon from Clapton”
There is something undoubtedly ironic about a show set in Northampton opening on Broadway before it took its bow on the West End but such it was for Kinky Boots, birthed on the Great White Way with a book by Harvey Fierstein and a Tony-winning score from Cyndi Lauper. And it was that cast that got to release their album first, unleashing Lauper’s joyous songs onto the public.
Bit of a cheeky one this as this 8-track sampler of Shuffle Along, Or, The Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed was recorded live for Tony voters but hey, why should they get all the fun, especially now that the decision was made to close the show allegedly in the light of Audra McDonald’s pregnancy making it a less saleable prospect.
The show takes a little unpicking – a musical with a 1921 score by Eubie Blake and Noble Sissle and a contemporary libretto by George C. Wolfe, based on the original book of the musical revue Shuffle Along, by Flournoy Miller and Aubrey Lyles. The story thus focuses on the challenges of mounting the original production of Shuffle Along and its effect on Broadway and race relations.
Not much of the story comes through on the sampler but what you do get is an undeniable sense of the joie de vivre at the heart of the show – full company numbers like ‘Broadway Blues’, the Brian Stokes Mitchell-led ‘Swing Along’ and ‘Struttin’’ explode with fun, Adrienne Warren’s ‘I’m Just Simply Full of Jazz’ is spunky, Billy Porter’s ‘Low Down Blues’ is simply astonishing and the incomparable Audra McDonald sounding like she’s having the time of her life in ‘Shuffle Along’.
McDonald’s duet with Brandon Victor Dixon on ‘You’re Lucky to Me’ is another delight in all its scatting glory and all the way through this collection, the sound of the many choreographed moments add to the showbiz sparkle that makes me very sad I won’t get to see the show. So I’m glad that I got to hear this morsel of it, no matter how illicit it may be.
“Love, sweet love…no, not just for some but for everyone”
It’s no secret that Broadway cares but there’s still something extremely touching about a community coming together to help others, especially when it feels close to home. However others want to spin it, the attack on the Pulse nightclub in Orlando was an attack on the LGBT+ community and that is something that is just chilling in its cold reality. But from such horror comes something positive too as people rally together to share love and support, solidarity and hope that no matter how dark it gets, we’re never alone.
In London, the LGBT+ community has the Pride in London Parade to spark the coming together over what will be a poignant weekend. And on Broadway, Broadway Records President Van Dean, SiriusXM Radio Host Seth Rudetsky and Producer James Wesley have pulled together a dream choir of amazing performers to record a charity single of Burt Bacharach and Hal David’s ‘What The World Needs Now Is Love’ to benefit the Orlando LGBT+ community. Take a look at the video below (and be blown away by such luminaries as Audra McDonald, Bernadette Peters, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Idina Menzel and so many more) but I urge you to please buy a copy too, to support this very worthy cause.
And matching Broadway for passionate respect are the London Gay Men’s Chorus. The response to their musical tribute of Simon and Garfunkel’s ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water’ at the Soho vigil for the Orlando victims was such that they have decided to release it as their own charity single (it had originally been intended for their 25th anniversary album later this year, and recorded just hours before the attack took place).
Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Play Tracy Letts – Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? as George
Tom Hanks – Lucky Guy as Mike McAlary
Nathan Lane – The Nance as Chauncey
David Hyde Pierce – Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike as Vanya
Tom Sturridge – Orphans as Phillip
Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Play Cicely Tyson – The Trip to Bountiful as Miss Carrie Watts
Laurie Metcalf – The Other Place as Juliana Smithton
Amy Morton – Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? as Martha
Kristine Nielsen – Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike as Sonia
Holland Taylor – Ann as Ann Richards
Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical Billy Porter – Kinky Boots as Lola
Bertie Carvel – Matilda the Musical as Miss Trunchbull
Santino Fontana – Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella as Prince Topher
Rob McClure – Chaplin as Charlie Chaplin
Stark Sands – Kinky Boots as Charlie Price Continue reading “67th Tony Award winners”
Annie Baker, The Flick Christopher Durang, Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike
Joe Gilford, Finks
Richard Greenberg, The Assembled Parties
Amy Herzog, Belleville
Deanna Jent, Falling
Richard Nelson, Sorry