Oscar Week Film Review: The Greatest Showman

Defying the critics and showcasing the marvellous Keala Settle, there’s more to like about The Greatest Showman than you might think. Or not.

“The noblest art is that of making others happy”

There’s always something amusing about a piece of art that manages so successfully to flick two fingers at the critics and right now, none more so than The Greatest Showman. In the UK alone, it has achieved a box office consistency near the top of the list unseen since Avatar, the cast recording has been at the top of the album charts for the past two months, and such is its hold on the zeitgeist that it is now holding singalong performances across a range of cinemas.

None of which you would have predicted on its critical reception ahead of its Boxing Day release. It’s not an accurate portrayal of PT Barnum’s life, some said; it doesn’t have enough of a dramatic narrative, others sniffed; still more have derided its complete lack of any post-modern ironic edge, de rigueur for a contemporary musical so they’d have you believe. And there’s merits to all of these points though they do seem to spectacularly miss the point of the film, which is pure entertainment. Continue reading “Oscar Week Film Review: The Greatest Showman”

Review: Young Frankenstein, Garrick

If gay jokes and boob jokes and dick jokes are your thing, then Young Frankenstein is for you. Not for me though, not at all. 

“Though your genitalia
Has been known to fail ya
You can bet your ass on the brain”

It’s alive…barely. Mel Brooks’ Young Frankenstein staggers into the West End after some more time on the operating table since its 2007 Broadway opening (2 new songs are among the changes made) and a short run in Newcastle to tighten the bolts. But for a piece of new musical theatre, it is so desperately old-fashioned that you half expect Russ Abbot and Bella Emberg to pop up and do a turn.

Given that Brooks is now over 90 and that the film on which it is based dates from 1974, it is perhaps little surprise that it feels dated. But also given director/choreographer Susan Stroman’s close collaborative relationship with him, the opportunity to be necessarily brutal about what works and what doesn’t feels to have been lost, lightning really hasn’t struck twice for the creators of The ProducersContinue reading “Review: Young Frankenstein, Garrick”

DVD Review: Oklahoma!, National Theatre

“I heared a lot of stories an’ I reckon they’re true”

A nip into Wigan whilst up at my parents’ for Bonfire Night paid great dividends with the My Fair Lady soundtrack and this DVD popping up in the same charity shop. I was particularly excited for Oklahoma! as it has Josefina Gabrielle in a lead role: becoming aware of her in recent years, I have only seen her in supporting roles and loved her immensely in almost every one. It also has Hugh Jackman whom I saw a snippet of in Hey Mr Producer! just a couple of weeks ago, which introduced me briefly to the concept of him as a musical theatre star, something that’s still a bit odd. My favourite bit of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s first musical though is how it confirms that everyone thinks they’re a great dancer when on drugs!

Trevor Nunn’s 1998 production for the National Theatre takes an impressively gritty approach to the show which undercuts the popular notion that musicals are all cheery jazz hands and nothing more. Yes there is splendid choreography from Susan Stroman which sparkles with a marvellous joie de vivre but it comes in scenes when people are coming together for a good time, market day or the big ball, and they are captured beautifully here. But alongside this, is no attempt to hide how tough day-to-day life is for these people and the violence that underscores much of life on the ranches and farms. Continue reading “DVD Review: Oklahoma!, National Theatre”