DVD Review: Mamma Mia! (2008)

All hail Mamma Mia! As we tentatively await the sequel, I revisit a film I can’t ever imagine not loving

“I won’t be muscled out by an ejaculation”

With Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again just about to hit cinemas, I thought I’d revisit the original Mamma Mia! film to remind myself of its pleasures, Pierce Brosnan’s singing and all. Released in 2008, it managed that trick of defying a lukewarm critical reception to garnering huge popularity, something repeated by The Greatest Showman (it’s almost as if film critics can’t quite imagine audiences wanting to see a harmlessly fun musical…). 

And that’s what this is in the end, lots of fun and silly with it. Based on the iconic jukebox musical of the same name, it’s a whole load of ABBA songs strung together on a gossamer-light plot of romantic comedy gold. Where it succeeds, as with the musical, is in taking the job at hand most seriously, whilst never taking itself too seriously at all. Songs are in the right places, serving as motors in the narrative, and there’s an integrity to the whole thing, even when its daft as a brush.

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Album Review: Love Never Dies (2010 Concept Album)

“The world is hard, the world is mean

It’s hard to keep your conscience clean”

I hadn’t listened to Love Never Dies since seeing its very first preview (oh how we laughed when ALW ran furious from the stalls when the set broke down) and having popped on the concept album that was released in tandem, I was soon reminded why. The not-a-sequel to Phantom of the Opera too often feels like a lazy retread of familiar ground, demonstrating zero musical progression and revealing a stagnation where there once was innovation.

The Coney Island setting undercuts any attempt to get close to the gothic horror of the opera house, the ‘freak show’ elements are desperately tame there. The swerves into rock are ill-advised in the extreme. Lyrically, there’s no ingenuity here at all, the words play second fiddle to the music to their peril And above all, the interpolation of themes from Phantom serve as a constant reminder of what this is not, and also the ultimate folly of the enterprise. Continue reading “Album Review: Love Never Dies (2010 Concept Album)”

CD Review: Bluebird (2009 Concept Album)

“He came so close to me”

I first became aware of Gareth Peter Dicks’ music through The Music Box, a compilation of some of his musical theatre tracks sung by a ton of West End faves, which served as a neat introduction to this composer. It’s a tough old world out there for new musical theatre and so people have to find the best way they can to get their music out there and noticed – showcase CDs are one, and concept albums are another, what Dicks did with his musical Bluebird a few years ago.

A love story set throughout the turmoil of WWII, Sarah Lark’s nurse Roberta Jones is like so many others in having to bid farewell to her husband Pete as he leaves for the frontline and her daughter who is evacuated to the country. Pete keeps in touch via regular letter-writing but a charming US serviceman Ben fills the void for companionship in her life but as their relationship intensifies, Roberta is forced to question what and who she wants.  Continue reading “CD Review: Bluebird (2009 Concept Album)”

Review: Floyd Collins, Southwark Playhouse

“Even Floyd knew somethin’ wasn’t right”

I don’t normally read much about shows before I go in especially if they are new to me, as I do like that element of surprise and novelty that is increasingly rare. But had I read that Floyd Collins, just opened at the Southwark Playhouse, was a musical containing a song that Stephen Sondheim wished he had wrote and is routinely described as complex, demanding and jagged, I might have been a little better prepared for it. Tina Landau (book and additional lyrics) and Adam Guettel’s (music and lyrics) musical really is a daring piece of work which challenges and provokes, though in this case ultimately frustrates.

Using the depths of the converted Vault space and a lot of ladders, James Perkins’ design seems ideally suited to recreating 1925 Kentucky and its system of inter-connected caves which our eponymous leading man is famed for exploring. But as he searches for more fame and fortune in new caves, he gets trapped by a rockfall 55 feet under the ground but it is the efforts to try and release him end up and the huge media circus that forms around it that makes up much of the show, exposing the effects on Floyd, his family and those trying to rescue him. Continue reading “Review: Floyd Collins, Southwark Playhouse”

Re-review: Wicked, Apollo Victoria

“I’ll be so happy I could melt”

As with last year, which saw my first ever trip to Wicked, the first thing that I booked from the Get Into London Theatre website when it launched was a return trip to the Apollo Victoria. As Mr Boycotting Trends had never seen it before and was so desirous, I booked and managed to get rather good stalls seats for £35. Ironically, lastminute currently have a similar promotion on which is something of a rarity for this show but it is a great opportunity to get good seats for a not-quite-as-eyewatering price.

So I returned to Oz (although not as in Return To Oz, the film that was responsible for several recurring nightmares I had as a child but seriously, someone should make a show of that) to see the story of Elphaba and Glinda, 2 girls whose destinies to be the witches of Oz are not quite as clear-cut as one might think as an unlikely but deep bond develops between them. Knowing the story this time round meant that the surprise element of the way the show fits into The Wizard of Oz’s mythology was lost but it just meant that I appreciated the main thrust of the story more and admired both the message of tolerance for those who are ‘different’ that it preaches and the frankness with which the messiness and complexity of friendship is portrayed here. And I think this last point is key to its enduring success, there’s something so recognisable in the frustrations both women have with the other that is borne out of true friendship. Continue reading “Re-review: Wicked, Apollo Victoria”

Review: Wicked, Apollo Victoria

“Who can say if I’ve been changed for the better?”

Due to a number of reasons (mainly bad reviews from friends, vitriolic reviews from critics and the ticket prices) I never quite managed to getting round to seeing Wicked despite really wanting to see Idina Menzel who reprised her Broadway role initially, and it’s always been fairly near the bottom of my list of shows to get round to seeing. But with the Get Into London Theatre offer available on good seats (£60 tickets for £35, offer now expired), I finally bit the bullet and booked at the Apollo Victoria.

Purporting to tell the hidden story behind The Wizard of Oz, Wicked tells the story of two girls, Elphaba and Galinda, who meet at sorcery school and follows their tumultuous relationship as they grow up. For they become respectively, the Wicked Witch of the West and Glinda the Good Witch of the North, and their complex friendship is tested with rivalries over love and their opposing personalities and viewpoints. And whereas the story begins well before Dorothy arrives in the land of Oz, much of what we see sheds interesting new light on events as we know them. Continue reading “Review: Wicked, Apollo Victoria”