DVD Review: Chess in Concert

“Looking back I could have played things some other way”

And so the charity shop bonanza continues: this weekend I was given Chess in Concert which cost 50p from the British Heart Foundation in Reading as it had no box! I’ve never actually seen Chess and so was mildly intrigued by the prospect of it especially as it featured Idina Menzel in the cast but the presence of Josh Groban and Marti Pellow had turned me off from previously engaging and I’m no great fan of Kerry Ellis either to be honest. But I gave the show, a concert version from the Royal Albert Hall in 2008, a try and found myself quite enjoying it despite everything.

For the uninitiated, the music for Chess was written by Björn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson of ABBA with lyrics by Tim Rice and is based around a love triangle between two players in the Chess World Championship and Florence, a woman who manages one of them but falls in love with the other: the Cold War dramatised through chess and set to music, how else could this story have been told?! On first time viewing though, I have to admit to being quite surprised at how effective it was at telling a rather intimate story whilst simultaneously capturing much of the paranoia and ill-feeling that characterised this ideological conflict. Continue reading “DVD Review: Chess in Concert”

DVD Review: Hey Mr Producer

“Do something special, anything special…”

This charity shop malarkey is proving to be a veritable treasure trove of theatrical goodies, of variable quality I should stress, but after the delights of Ms Paige – which will be continued shortly with an upcoming DVD review – I was given this DVD of the 1998 Cameron Mackintosh extravaganza Hey Mr Producer which cost a whole 99p from a British Heart Foundation shop in north west London. A benefit concert ostensibly put together for the RNIB but also honouring and celebrating the work of producer Mackintosh (although oddly he was involved in putting the show together – honouring himself…) by bringing together excerpts from many of the most famous shows he has been involved in and pulling together an extraordinary cast of the musical theatre glitterati, many of whom originated the roles, the like of which has rarely been seen since.

And it really does come across as something special, at times a little frustrating but it is often the way with concerts like these that tantalise with little glimpses of shows and when the calibre of performer is such as it is here, one barely minds as there is much pleasure to be had. It is impressive how much was packed into the single evening, multi-song sections from shows were interspersed with single songs from others meaning that over 20 shows were showcased here. Whether it was shows I love – Little Shop of Horrors, Oliver!, Les Mis, ones I’m ok with – Phantom of the Opera, Company or even ones I’ve never actually seen – My Fair Lady, Miss Saigon, Martin Guerre, Carousel – the sequences that had more than one song worked surprisingly well, getting across something of the flavour of the shows even with the rapid pace and semi-staging. I would have loved to have seen and heard more from Anything Goes, Godspell and The Boyfriend and for Salad Days, Mackintosh’s favourite show apparently, to have gotten a proper treatment, but then I guess the three hour show would have gone on for days. Continue reading “DVD Review: Hey Mr Producer”

Review: Othello, Crucible

“Men should be what they seem; Or those that be not, would they might seem none!”

Forming part of the 40th anniversary season at Sheffield’s Crucible Theatre is a production of Othello which continues their ability to attract top-notch televisual talent: last year saw John Simm taking on Hamlet and here we find both Dominic West and Clarke Peters. But for all the draw of these stars of The Wire, the reason that I actually booked in the end was the casting of Alexandra Gilbreath, one of the few actresses for whom I would travel just about anywhere to see, indeed I’ve not actually got round to watching any of The Wire yet (I was all about Battlestar Galactica y’see).

It is actually the first time I had seen this play on stage, it wasn’t one I ever studied and held little interest for me since then if I’m honest, but I thought I would give this one a try and the decision paid dividends for this was a truly superb production. Directed by Daniel Evans, it is a traditional rendition but far from old-fashioned as this tale of deep betrayal pulses with life and energetic drama on the wide open stage of the Crucible. Continue reading “Review: Othello, Crucible”