Category Archives: Opinion

Tweet Seats…. #YayOrNay?

Must accept this is only an occasional blog….

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Anyways, this week the Birmingham Hippodrome announced on its blog with great fanfare that they were ‘introducing’ tweet seats for a performance this week by Brazil dance group Grupo Corpo.  “The great thing about this idea” according to the press department at the Hippodrome “is that spectators can share their thoughts as the show happens without having to wait until curtain down.” But what’s the point in live tweeting a show that only a handful of followers will be at and what about the people sitting around these so called ‘tweet seats’?

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Eurovision – Did Equality Really Win?

Last night Eurovision was won by Austria’s act Conchita Wurst. And it was a ruddy good song that deserved to win. But the second she won my facebook and twitter were alight with comments saying ‘Equality has won’. Why? Oh, because for the last few weeks any story about Eurovision would mention the bearded lady or the Austrian drag queen. Because apparently, by highlighting the differences between Conchita and the other acts and by emphasising she was a drag queen, and for the announcer from one country saying it was time for her to shave, and the constant jokes and comments made in her direction, it means that equality is the champion.

Erm.

Is it?

It’s a lovely idea. But it sits uncomfortably in my stomach.

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London’s Small Theatres

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A recent BBC news story that grabbed my attention was about the future of London’s small theatres.  A small theatre is one that has a capacity  of 300 or less.  The closest I’d got to a small theatre earlier this year was seeing performances in studio spaces but earlier this year I visited the Union Theatre in London to see the musical Bare.  I was blown away at the theatre space and at the time had plans to blog about it but they were way laid with work commitments and so never happened (although when I see the transfer of Bare at Greenwich Theatre in October I’ll endevour to blog).

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next to normal

An apt name for a blog post that’s appearing out of the middle of nowhere!! I keep saying that I’ll get back to blogging on here as I intend to and keep thinking of things to blog but then get waylaid.  Anyways, next to normal isn’t the title of a blog about trying to get back into the swing of things, it is instead the name of a musical I discovered quite by accident yesterday (after seeing a still image on someone’s tumblr from one of the numbers) that I’m slowly getting obsessed with.

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next to normal is a rock musical (how I hate that phrase) with book and lyrics by Brian Yorkey with music by Tom Kitt.  It focus is on a mother who struggles with her worsening bipolar disorder and hallucinations which of course have a major effect on her family.  As the musical progresses her daughter goes off the rails, her marriage suffers and she finds out the truth about her son.

Without giving anything else away (the synopsis is on wiki if you’re desperate as well as some grainy attempt at recording the show in the theatre) it is a bit of an emotional rollercoaster of a show, with some amazing music and songs that infect your mind.  From what I’ve seen online productions in New York (both off and on Broadway) have had fantastic casts and design.  This is a contemporary music in every sense.  I’d love for it to make a move over to the UK and see it for myself.

This performance from the 2009 Tony Awards of ‘You Don’t Know/I Am The One’ is just one example of why this is such a great show.

http://www.nexttonormal.com/flash/embed.swf

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Other Theatres of Birmingham – The New Alexandra Theatre

The New Alexandra Theatre

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The New Alexandra Theatre isn’t a new theatre.  It somehow got given the ‘new’ to the name of it last December – no idea why, no reason why – but that’s against the point.  The Alex as it’s known locally, is Birmigham’s ATG (Ambassador Theatre Group) theatre.  99.9% of it’s shows are touring shows which have been to the other ATG theatres in the country so expect Grease, Colin Fry the medium, and those awful tribute act shows.  It’s a strange building, and you have to be careful as on more than one occassion I have been there and had a broken seat so spent the first act with my knees holding my body weight.  You might also recognise the blue painted interior from the ITV show, Britain’s Got Talent as it shares the Birmingham auditions with the Hippodrome.

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Brilliant Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark spoof

I’ve just come across this brilliant spoof of the Spider-Man musical starring one of the best monsters of all time, Grover! I love how Sesame Street approaches the much fabled troubles that the Spider-Man had in it’s own special way.  Watch and enjoy!

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Other Theatres of Birmingham – The Mac

I have just completed a short series of blogs about the theatres of Birmingham, but as you can imagine there are more than just three theatres in Birmingham!  I focussed on those three as they’re the most well known.  Don’t worry though, over a number of blogs I’ll let you know of some of the other theatres.

The MAC 

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More than just a theatre, the MAC is a fully functioning Arts Centre which hosts galleries, a cinema and with a huge variety of workshops to get your teeth stuck in all things arty.  The MAC reopened last year after a massive refurbishment and is a stunning space within the confines of Cannon Hill Park.

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Theatres of Birmingham – The Crescent Theatre

The third, and for a while the final, blog about the theatres of Birmingham, this time a theatre that I have a massive respect towards, The Crescent Theatre.

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The Crescent Theatre is more about the company rather than the building.  The company is one of Birmingham’s oldest theatre companies dating back to the 1920s when it began as the Municipal Players performing in a converted building, formally Baskerville Hall in the Crescent, Cambridge Street.  It all began with a group of council employees wanting to entertain their colleagues and their friends and the rest, they say, is history.  The Crescent Theatre is an amateur group.  It is run mainly by volunteers with people taking time out of their schedules to perform, design, make, build, pour drinks and direct across the theatre.  The members of the theatre are vital in the running and there is a real community feel whenever you go to the theatre.

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It’s current building, part of the Brindley Place development opened in the 1990s.  It’s current building, boasting two performance spaces (a 340+ seat main house and a 120 seat studio), a large bar area and conference facilities as well as a workshop to build sets as well as a large props and wardrobe department.  It thrives to produce quality shows that attract a large amount of different people of different backgrounds and does so with great success.  In the season just gone the theatre produced a sell out production of Sweeney Todd (which, in my opinon put professional theatre companies to shame), a highly emotional All My Sons, a family production of Danny the Champion of the World, and a highly effective production of Shakespeare’s Julius Ceaser to name just a few of the productions produced.  

The company produce on average 15 shows a year across the two performance spaces including a summer tour which visits a number of locations around Birmingham and a Christmas Wassail which also tours as well as having a sell out run in the main house.  The theatre is used by a large number of amateur groups from around the region who come back time and time again, as well as by musicians and comedians who also use the bar as a performance area.  Birmingham School of Acting also use the theatre to perform it’s productions in – a great chance to see some new acting talent.  Highlights in the forthcoming season include Talking Heads, Macbeth, and Bedroom Farce as well as The Rep taking residence over the Christmas period for their production of Sleeping Beauty.  I know that there are still some more awesome shows still to be announced so keep an eye out!

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What kind of shows will you find at The Crescent?

The Crescent does a variety of shows, usually mainly plays with a big musical once a season.  However they do ensure that there is a good mix of shows and you’ll find a couple of shows at least per season that will get you interested.

Who goes to the Crescent?

Depends on the show.  You’ll find a lot of members going to shows and the families and friends of those in the cast, but at the same time you’ll find students, families, adults, a real mix really.

 What’s coming up? 

So far announced for the following season are Talking Heads (September), MADEA (devised by the theatre, October), Macbeth (November) and Bedroom Farce (January).  Over December and January The Rep will be taking residence with their production of Sleeping Beauty.

 First show seen here?

Acorn Antiques the Musical (the amateur premier production).

 Last show seen here? 

Sweeney Todd.

Over notable shows seen:

Danny the Champion of the World; Wedding Singer (GBMTC); Arcadia; Julius Ceaser; Dad’s Army; Women on the Verge of HRT

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LINKS:

The tailer for the smash hit production of Sweeney Todd

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A Blog that Came About While Listening to the New ‘How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying’ Soundtrack…

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How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying is an awesome musical.  I first saw it in Chichester several years ago with an awesome cast and when I heard it was being revived on Broadway I was actually quite excited – even though I knew I wouldn’t get to see it.  Then I heard Daniel Radcliffe was going to be the main character….  Not only do I find it difficult to think of him as an adult and not a 10 year oldf boy wizard but there’s something about him that I don’t like.  Watching the latest couple of Harry Potter films he was clearly acted off the screen by everyone and everything including a CGI creature.  He’s also a bit too excited about, well, everything and comes across as a smug person trying to be humble, so I was almost kind of glad I wasn’t going to be able to see this production.  Then I heard the soundtrack had made it’s way to Spotify where I can listen to it (albeit 5 times and only if I still have time allowed) for free so I can have some form of judgement on Radcliffe’s performance – even though I can’t be sure if hasn’t been tampered with.  I’m guessing it hasn’t as I’m only on the first big number and already Radcliffe seems to be struggling with his singing (I dread to think what he’s like when he has to dance around too).

Anyway, the music for the show is brilliant, so I’m going to carry on listening.  Don’t want to get myself into a track by track review but will come back when something good or bad happens…

  • Coffee Break is just as good as I remember it being when I saw this show years ago! (Maybe it’s because there’s no Radcliffe?)
  • Oh, some talking, Radcliffe’s accent is…. interesting.
  • Advert time for a Blackberry Play Book – this is exciting me more than the music…. not a good sign :S
  • The support cast are either fantasitc or just sound better due to Radcliffe
  • 20 seconds into track 18…. Oh. My. Word. It’s a soundtrack recorded in a recording studio over time – how does Radcliffe sound so crap?
  • Oh Ghost the Musical is oh Spotify now too – though I did buy the album last week on itunes (but it’s now on Amazon to download for a bit cheaper!)
  • I am going to have to give up.

Let me be clear – I love the music, I love the show and I think most of the cast are fantastic – but, call me narrow minded – I just can’t get over Daniel Radcliffe.  I saw Joe Macfadden in his role and he was brilliant.  Robert Morse in the film is fantastic.  Radcliffe…. is making me cringe.  I don’t want to feel like this when listening to music.

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Well… I went to YouTube to try see a clip of the show and watched this – the performance from the Tony awards:

And my opinion, though not changed, has softened.  Softened to a more ‘Gawd-bless-‘im-and-his-little-cotton-socks’ attitude, but still softened.  He is doing a much better job than I could do so if any Radcliffe fan girls see this I have admitted he is better than me OK? BUT he still comes across as unnatural, a bit too excitable and slightly ‘high’ (if you get what I mean).  Also, anyone else notice how out of breath he gets? I know it’s a high energy number, but there’s a lot of them in this show.  I dread to think what he’s like by the end of a full show!

And for a comparrison, here’s Robert Morse in the film of the musical (it’s brilliant, if you can see it do so!)  It’s not as big as the above video but it’s still brilliant.

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Six Summer Saturdays… Hmmm…

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When I did my Hippodrome blog you may recall I mentioned Six Summer Saturdays.  A fantastic idea and I cannot fault the Hippodrome for trying to fill those summer Saturdays with some culture and theatre – however, and the ‘Hmmm’ in the title probably suggests, I wasn’t that excited or thrilled by what I saw on Saturday when I was in Birmingham.

The main event for the weekend just gone was circus performance and circus skills in Chamberlain Square.  Fine, it’s a good idea and parts were great – however when there’s a huge event happening on the adjoining space (Victoria Square) that is seriously outdoing what they’re doing in terms of effort and activities it doesn’t bode well.  And sadly I felt deflated and let down by the Hippodrome’s offers on Saturday and I spent most of my time enjoying the music, food and festivities at Jamaica Live – that huge event next to them.

Looking further into these two events they were apparently linked, although Jamaica Live had been arranged by other groups.  The one thing linking them was the Olympics Open Weekend.  Events were happening across the country to celebrate there being only a year until the start of London 2012.  Jamaica Live had the Olympic mascot, Olympic flags and genereally had a huge celebratory atmosphere – it also had a clear link to the Olympics, celebrating the Jamaican team not only for next year but also with a display of replica tobaggan carts used in training for the winter Olympics.  I find it very difficult to see what link the Hippodrome’s ‘No Fit Circus’ had with the Olympics.  Maybe at a stretch some gymnastics, but apart from that not much else.  It seems very much that the Hippodrome were more latching themselves onto a (I’m pesuming) funded event and taking advantage with some strenious (if that) links.

Looking through the programme for this year’s Six Summer Saturdays I’m not impressed.  The first event for example was some Jazz music – which, with massive ‘coincidence’ just so happened to fall into Birmingham’s International Jazz Festival.  So nothing new of different from what had been happening across Birmingham, nothing unique, nothing that exciting.  Poor effort for something to launch a summer of ‘big’ events.  Another event they had was using Titan the robot.  You’ve seen him on Paul O Grady, in pantos, on other TV shows, on Big Brother and a number of other events – a couple of years back.  Where’s the new, exciting, unique and artistic things we’re expecting? Also, to highlight my opinion that the Hippodrome have been jumping onto pre arranged things and hijacking them – the Hippodrome have been promoting ‘Ping!’ which, in fairness they do acknowledge that it’s run by another company, as an event you can do as part of 6SS…. they had nothing to do with them being installed, and if I’m right in thinking, members of the public can use the ping pong tables across the city whenever they want or whenever someone from STK International is present.

To compliment the negative vibes so far, I do have to admit that the events planned for the next few weeks do look better.  But when promoting the event ‘Snow in the City’ why do they have to use a picture of the event being held in London?! Make these things seem unique to Birmingham, make them look special, make them look fun and make them look like they belong to the people of Birmingham like the theatre.  This year’s 6SS doesn’t seem to have the intregrity and promise that last year’s highly successful one had.  Whatever the reason why needs to be addressed as 6SS is a fantastic idea, and needs to be brilliantly executed. 

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