DVD Review: South Pacific (2001)

“You can’t fix an egg when it ain’t quite good”

It’s funny where the gaps are for someone who was brought up on many a musical – I was obsessed with the film version of The Pirates of Penzance and so was nearly word-perfect on it from a small age, yet I never once saw or listened to South Pacific. Indeed, the first and only time I’ve seen it was from the gods at the Barbican back in 2011, an experience that did not leave me rushing to explore the show further. So it was with a little interest that I put on this 2001 TV film version, directed by Richard Pearce and executively produced by, among others, Glenn Close, who also took on the role of Nellie Forbush. 

And as I have so little connection to the musical, it’s been hugely fascinating to read just how up in arms some people got about the choices made in this version of South Pacific, showing how easy it is to swept up in expectation and emotion when talking about shows that you love and particularly, the way that they ‘should’ be done. So some were up in arms about Close being too old to play Nellie, others concerned about Rade Šerbedžija not being an operatic singer for Emile, songs being cut and rearranged sent many into apoplectic fits, and the rejigging of some of the supporting characters was the final straw for yet more. Continue reading “DVD Review: South Pacific (2001)”

DVD Review: Moulin Rouge

“I’m paid to make men believe what they want to believe” 

‘Spectacular, spectacular!’ It’s donkey’s years since I’ve seen Baz Luhrmann’s 2001 hit film Moulin Rouge, I probably watched it too many times in a short period of time so I remember declaring myself over it but for a goodly while, I was very much under its spell. And giving it another spin now reminded me why. Its bold and brash vision is just as arresting today as it was over a decade ago and the sheer cinematic vision that it indulges in as sumptuous and inventive as any pastiche-jukebox musical (gotta love a Wikipedia descriptor!) made since, managing that rare feat for a musical of being nominated for best film at the Oscars.

From the fiercely romantic and indeed passionate love story between penniless writer Christian (a fresh-faced Ewan McGregor) and ailing star courtesan Satine (a luminous Nicole Kidman, to a soundtrack that iconoclastically cherry-picks musical snippets from the entire 20th century to create a fabuous collage of sonic invention, the film leaps from the screen with glitter and glee. The costume and production design (Angus Strathie, Catherine Martin and Brigitte Broch) is lavish beyond belief, the choreography recalls a marvelous sense of Parisian decadence and the whole thing constantly teeters on the brink of overwhelming. Continue reading “DVD Review: Moulin Rouge”

Review: Miss Saigon, Prince Edward Theatre with TodayTix

“I’ll do my dance, I’ll make them drink”
 

I’m pretty there’s a clause in the gay contract that means it is illegal to turn down the offer of drinks in the Julie Andrews room so who was I to resist when the folks at TodayTix invited me to try out their mobile ticketing app by coming along to see Miss Saigon. Founders Merritt Baer and Brian Fenty have had big success on Broadway with their service, offering tickets for a range of shows one week to one hour before showtime and boasting of enabling tickets to be purchased in 30 seconds or less.

And I have to say that they’ve pretty much nailed it. The interface of the app is bright and easy to use (certainly it was on my iPhone6), there’s a wide range of West End shows available and the process of choosing and booking tickets at all price levels is simple and speedy with a little seatmap showing you where in the theatre your selected seats are. It really does streamline the ticket-buying process so that making any last minute decisions to see a show that much easier. Continue reading “Review: Miss Saigon, Prince Edward Theatre with TodayTix”

fosterIAN awards 2014

 WinnerRunner-upOther nominees
Best Actress in a PlayGillian Anderson, A Streetcar Named Desire Chris Nietvelt & Halina Reijn, Maria Stuart (Toneelgroep Amsterdam) Linda Bassett, Visitors
Susannah Fielding, The Merchant of Venice (Almeida)
Denise Gough, Adler and Gibb
Imelda Staunton, Good People
Best Actor in a PlayCary Crankson, The Saints Jack Holden, Johnny Get Your Gun Jonathan Broadbent, My Night With Reg
Chris Connel, Wet House
Harry Melling, peddling
Mark Strong, A View From The Bridge
Best Supporting Actress in a PlayVanessa Kirby, A Streetcar Named DesirePhoebe Fox & Nicola Walker, A View From The Bridge Blythe Duff, The James Plays
Liz White, Electra
Lydia Wilson, King Charles III
Best Supporting Actor in a PlayJoe Caffrey, Wet House Hans Kesting, Maria Stuart (Toneelgroep Amsterdam) Patrick Godfrey, Donkey Heart
Julian Ovenden, My Night With Reg
Hugh Skinner, Thérèse Raquin (Theatre Royal Bath)
Geoffrey Streatfeild, My Night With Reg
Best Actress in a MusicalImelda Staunton, Gypsy Gemma Arterton, Made in Dagenham Charlotte Baptie, Free As Air
Natalie Mendoza, Here Lies Love
Christina Modestou, In The Heights
Sophie Thompson, Guys and Dolls
Best Actor in a MusicalSam Mackay, In The Heights Benjamin Scheuer, The Lion Adrian der Gregorian, Made In Dagenham
Killian Donnelly, Memphis
Jon Robyns, The Last Five Years
Jeremy Secomb, Sweeney Todd (Tooting Arts Club)
Best Supporting Actress in a MusicalJenna Russell, Urinetown Lara Pulver, Gypsy Samantha Bond, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels
Victoria Hamilton-Barritt, In The Heights
Kiara Jay, Sweeney Todd (Tooting Arts Club)
Zoe Rainey, The Return of the Soldier
Best Supporting Actor in a MusicalJason Pennycooke, Memphis Aaron Tveit, Assassins Damian Buhagiar, In The Heights
Tyrone Huntley, Memphis
Nadim Naaman, Sweeney Todd (Tooting Arts Club)
Jonathan Slinger, Urinetown

2014 Best Actress in a Play + in a Musical

Best Actress in a Play

Gillian Anderson, A Streetcar Named Desire
In what proved to be a banner year for brilliant female performances, narrowing this category down to 10 proved nigh on impossible (indeed, the 10 is actually a 11 and I can’t tell you how it killed me to miss Helen McCrory who was just on the cusp). But after much consideration, it is Gillian Anderson’s Blanche DuBois who takes the prize. Star casting it may have been but resulting in a performance of the highest wattage, Anderson’s modern-day leading lady was captivating from the moment she tottered onto the revolving stage and kept us transfixed until the bitter, bitter end as she broke everyone’s heart with the most devastating of exits.

Honourable mention: Halina Reijn/Chris Nietvelt, Maria Stuart (Toneelgroep Amsterdam)
When rounding up a year’s worth of theatre, it can be difficult to avoid focusing on the shows seen more recently but even though Maria Stuart was one of the last things I saw this December, I left the theatre in Amsterdam utterly convinced I’d seen one of the best productions of the year and in Halina Reijn’s Mary and Chris Nietvelt’s Elizabeth, two of the fiercest, most impassioned portrayals on women on the stage. Wrestling with the duties of statehood, the practicalities of being a woman in a man’s world, the very nature of power itself, these two actors inhabited the very substance of Schiller’s text and brought it to extraordinary life.

Linda Bassett, Visitors
Susannah Fielding, The Merchant of Venice (Almeida)
Denise Gough, Adler and Gibb
Imelda Staunton, Good People

7-10
Lisa Diveney, Donkey Heart; Sophie Gråbøl, The James Plays; Marieke Heebink, Medea (Toneelgroep Amsterdam); Sinéad Matthews, Pests


Best Actress in a Musical

Imelda Staunton, Gypsy
We knew this was going to be good, but I don’t think anyone dared dream it would be this good. Destined to be one of the hottest tickets in town when the London transfer opens at the Savoy, better experienced than written about!

Honourable mention: Gemma Arterton, Made In Dagenham
One of the most sweet-natured performances lies at the heart of one of the most sweet-natured shows currently in the West End and I think it is fair to say that Gemma Arterton surprised many of us by anchoring Made in Dagenham to such delightful success. A mother, a machinist, an unexpected feminist hero, she’s a wonderfully warm presence and one that I hope can help the show to continue to succeed.

Charlotte Baptie, Free As Air
Natalie Mendoza, Here Lies Love
Christina Modestou, In The Heights
Sophie Thompson, Guys and Dolls

7-10
Madalena Alberto, Evita; Clare Foster, Guys and Dolls; Nicola Hughes, Porgy and Bess; Siobhan McCarthy, Sweeney Todd (Tooting Arts Club)

Saturday afternoon music treats

Maria
Friedman – As If We Never Said Goodbye/With One Look (from Sunset Boulevard)

Not content with stopping the world from turning with an amazing rendition of
the first song, Friedman then nails the second without stopping for breath – a
truly iconic performance.
 

Beverley Knight – Colored Women (from Memphis)
One of my favourite songs from the show sung live at the launch gig and reason enough to book for Memphis now if you ask me 😉


Continue reading “Saturday afternoon music treats”

Review: Here Lies Love, National Theatre

“Dancing, oh so beautifully
Dancing, dancing together
Dancing, oh as if in a dream”

It’s not often I leave a play with penis envy – giant golden cock hat envy to be precise – but that’s how I felt leaving the newly-opened Dorfman Theatre (the National’s Cottesloe getting a much needed facelift) after the blisteringly good fun of Here Lies Love. (I also felt sad that I didn’t get a glowstick, it was only later I realised they weren’t being handed out to all and sundry.) But by and large, the abiding feeling was one of huge exhilaration, akin to the endorphin rush of a good night’s clubbing, for if you’ve booked correctly, that’s what you get here.

You can sit down to see the show, the tiered seating of the theatre remains intact, but the real route into Alex Timber’s ingeniously immersive production is by getting a dancefloor ticket, whereby one is thrust right into the midst of this utterly idiosyncratic musical which tells of the rise and fall of Imelda Marcos, former First Lady of the Philippines entirely through the medium of dance music from David Byrne and Fatboy Slim. It is so thoroughly audacious a concept that it is hard to fathom how it even came into being, never mind emerge as the huge success it is here. Continue reading “Review: Here Lies Love, National Theatre”