Tag Archives: London

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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Charlie and the Underwhelming Chocolate Factory – ONE OF THE FIRST EVER REVIEWS!!

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Last night I was part of the first ever public audience for the new musical ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory‘.  Based on the Roald Dahl classic which has spawned two films (depending what camp either one’s great the other’s not or both are great or whatever…) the musical joins Dahl’s other classic ‘Matilda‘ which has taken the theatre world by storm.  Whether or not the new Sam Mendes’ directed musical will be as bigger hit I’m really not too sure as I left the theatre last night deflated (unlike Violet) and underwhelmed by the whole thing.

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The Greatest Show On Earth – London 2012 Opening Ceremony

Last night I was one of the 27.9+ million television viewers watching, quite possibly, the most amazing opening ceremony for any Olympics ever.  Danny Boyle, the master mind director behind it has made a negative nation proud – no mean feat for anyone.

We saw the models of the set, we all commented how it looked like Tellytubby land – but as everything moved, as everything evolved, as everything pulsed, we saw Great Britain.  ‘An opening ceremony’, I remarked earlier this week and again last night, ‘shouldn’t make sense.  It should be a combination of things to do with the host country and leave people scratching their heads.’  Well actually, maybe I was wrong.  This told a story – not some flouncy made up story of a child on a star that leads them to some universe of stilt walkers with silk tails – but of a nation.   Yes it may have left out the negative bits (quell surprise) but it also left out a lot of the great (it was long enough as it was!)  Overall we saw the changes to a country that in term helped shape the world we live in.

As a show it was fantastic.  Amazing music, great visuals, stunning use of lighting technology (all those lights on the seats – wow!) and some fantastic performances.  No one can beat the Queen meeting James Bond – well apart from the actor who played the parachuting Queen that is.  Even Paul McCartney not quite being in time with his click track couldn’t cast darkness over the proceedings.

And then the all important lighting of the Olympic flame.  I’ve followed that flame online across the country.  I cheered it when I went to see it come through Birmingham, and beamed with pride when I watched a friend’s Mum carry it.  Steve Redgrave was the perfect choice.  It was great when he went to meet Beckham on the boat to get it… but then perfect was improved.  Having seven great Olympians nominate seven up and coming sportsmen and ladies was inspired (Rower Cameron MacRitchie, 19, Sailor Callum Airlie, 17, London 2012 Young Ambassador Jordan Duckitt, 18, Runner Desiree Henry, 16, Runner Katie Kirk, 18, Javelin thrower Aidan Reynolds, 18, Runner Adelle Tracey, 19).  That is the legacy that these Olympics is about.  So not only did us Brits get that bit right, we also had the best cauldron ever.  Made of copper petals representing every nation taking part that once lit rose to create a flaming flower.  Yes it looked a bit like a bonfire in the middle of the stadium but once it’s in its rightful place it’ll be a sight to behold.

Last night I tweeted how proud I was to be British and how it’s so easy to forget the great things that your home country have achieved.  It’s like when tourists come to your city and ask what to do and you can’t give them an answer because you don’t explore where you live.  You think you know it all, but you don’t.  If anything this ceremony made me realise that I don’t know all that much about our history.  I’m aware we haven’t had the best times, but at the same time we’re greater than we allow ourselves to think.  Maybe that is why we are team GB – team GREAT Britain.

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Ghost the Musical

With the big press conference last week announcing the Spice Girls musical, the quiet confirmation that Ghost the Musical would be closing in October became louder amongst theatre goers.  Although many knew already, and others had heard rumours before the cast knew there’d been no big announcement and with the show having similar rumours state side (though hopefully with no truth) it could be that the journey for Ghost the Musical is coming to a more permanent end than what would be liked.

Some of you may remember when this blog first started I ranted and raved about this show – before I’d even seen it I was obsessed with the soundtrack and I got a chance to see it in October and loved it.  It’s a fantastic show and I can only recommend that people go see it while they have the chance.  I can only hope it tours as I think it’d do well – though they’d have to compromise with some of the set pieces that are just phenomenal.

Anyway, I wanted to post this blog to say go see it if you have the chance and also to post this video.  When Ghost the Musical first started it really embraced social media.  Before the show even premiered/previewed they streamed a showcase of the soundtrack live from Abbey Road – this video is a highlights package of that:

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Avenue Q’s Summer Holiday

A few years ago, Avenue Q was moving theatres in London and to help spread the message that the show wasn’t closing, just moving, this video was made.  As it’s August (though outside it doesn’t look it) I thought I’d treat you to this summer holiday-esque video.

Enjoy!

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News: Discrimination at Wicked – UPDATED .

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FURTHER UPDATE 8/8 Statement from ATG in comments

The following has just been brought to my attention on facebook:

‘Wicked’ Discrimination at The Apollo 

 

What you are about to read is a personal account on behalf of our son Gregor aged 12, regarding a recent visit to the Apollo Theatre, Victoria, London on the evening of Friday 22nd July 2011 to see ‘Wicked’-The story of the Wicked Witch of the West. I don’t know if you have seen this show but it is about someone, who due to being different is subjected to bullying, discrimination and ridicule her whole life.

 

Myself, and Jennifer my wife, have two children, Gregor, 12 and Emily, 9. Gregor has a condition called Neuronal Migration Disorder, is on the Autistic spectrum, suffers from epilepsy and struggles with his balance. Vocally Gregor communicates using vowel sounds to sound like words. Behind the huge smiles, Gregor is a very happy and clever little boy with an absolute abundance of affection, which in turn has touched the lives of many people. Emily is a fantastic young carer to her big brother and we as a family are very close.

 

At the show, from the very start, Gregor was really enjoying himself. He wasn’t making any more noise than any other child at a show or in the cinema would make, certainly nothing out of context, or disruptive. We are constantly assessing situations that affect Gregor and others around him and would most definitely have taken Gregor out of the show if he had been affecting any other member of the audiences’ enjoyment.

Fifteen minutes into the show, the front of house manager approached us and advised that we had two options. One – Gregor watched from behind a glass partition or Two- that we leave the theatre. The glass partition was completely unpractical- I even struggled to see over it! I asked to see the General Manager and queried the manner of the complaint. I was told –quote-,”it was our precious sound engineer”. I asked if any of the audience had complained and was told, “No.” One member of the audience for who we are very thankful for even stood up to fight our corner.

 

Something I will never forget, is the look of shock and surprise in the many faces of the audience nearby as we were asked to leave and for the humiliation caused to Gregor. The saddest part of it all was the look of sheer enjoyment on his face being wiped out as I had to tell him we had to leave.
At the interval, my wife and daughter were approached again to make sure they were ok and would like anything eg. Sweets/Drinks, from the obvious visual upset caused earlier. My wife’s response was an obvious one, “Yes, my son and my husband back.”

 

I was left with no choice but to take Gregor back to the hotel. I should say at this point that we live in the North of Scotland and were visiting London as part of our holiday. Jennifer stayed with Emily to watch the show but then had to find her way across London alone with our young daughter. Emily was extremely upset as to how her brother had been treated and all the excitement of going to the show was completely spoiled.
I personally find our treatment disgusting and extremely hurtful. In modern day London and Britain we are taught not to judge, discriminate or mock people because of their differences. Isn’t it ironic that this happens to a little boy in a show that is exactly about that.

 

Glyn Morris

This saddens me.  I take it that it has nothing to do with the cast of the show and that the front of house staff are going from a complaint of an over protective sound engineer.  The audience was fine with the boy’s noises and were happy to accomodate his needs and front of house staff seemed to be trying their best to make amends.

Wicked London, the official facebook page for the show has posted this response:

We are distressed to learn of the Morris family’s experience at the Apollo Victoria Theatre where our show is performed. WICKED embraces acceptance and works hard to champion tolerance through support of many charitable organisations that tackle social prejudice. We will work with the theatre owner The Ambassador Theatre Group to improve access for all and support a full appraisal of their operational procedures.

There may be a statement from the ATG later today, in which case I’ll update the post.  I hope this issue doesn’t dissuade people to see Wicked as it is an amazing show and it’s so sad that the serious issues that the show tackles has been brought to the forefront but with Wicked as the ‘attacker’.

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UPDATE:

The following statement from ATG has just been posted:

ATG OFFICIAL STATEMENT

 

We deeply regret any upset caused to the Morris family and would like to apologise for their bad experience last week at the Apollo Victoria in London. 

 

We are grateful to them for highlighting an issue that is at the very heart of our company. We firmly believe that everyone has the right to access live theatre and we especially welcome children and young people. 

 

We have prioritised training and have a member of senior management responsible for learning and access. However, this situation has emphasised the need for further training so that our operational staff can be better prepared in future and we have taken immediate measures to ensure that training is implemented and put into practice. 

 

We are further working with the Producers of Wicked to explore improving access to as wide an audience as possible for the fantastic production at the Apollo Victoria. 

 

ATG’s Joint CEO and Head of Learning and Access have both personally spoken to Mr Morris and held a useful discussion about our access provisions and the company will learn from this experience.

 

Ambassador Theatre Group

No real answer to be honest, and appears pretty standard, but let’s hope that this kind of thing doesn’t happen again.

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Ghost the Musical – New Google-inspired Trailer

We’ve all seen that Google advert where the new Dad sets up all these Google accounts for his new daughter.  It’s heartwarming isn’t it?!

Anyway, now think of it the opposite way and using lots of Apple gadgets (sure the fact it’s all Apple is a coincendence).  You’ve just died and trying to get messages across.  Well this video explores that, again it’s heartwarming!

Also, I know I have done a lot of blogs on Ghost – the Musical, I will give it a break now until I hopefully see it!

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The Wizard of Oz – YouTube is a friend of Dorothy

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The Wizard of Oz already had huge preshow publicity what with Andrew Llloyd Webber using his favourite casting method, the BBC talent show.  Maybe more etched into people’s memories due to the number of friend of Dorothy jokes and the camp moon exit that the ruby-slipper-less Dorothy’s went through rather than the winner Dannielle Hope and the show itself.  However so, when the musical opened earlier this year it had kept the anitcipation going through endless videos on YouTube and a very active Twitter and Facebook account.

I’m aware that many shows have these accounts but none seem to endlessly promote their show than The Wizard of Oz.  It has the standard rehearsal vlogs and the video of opening night, but whereas most YouTube accounts would then fade without trace, the Oz account has kept going with videos showing the transformations of key characters and the theatre itself, and more recently a series of videos from the wings that follow the stage manager in her duties.  It’s these behind the scene snip bits that keep people interested in the show, that keep make those kids who dream of being a star see a bit more of the industry they want to join and over all increases the experience of seeing the show before or after seeing it.  Now you know that they climb onto the roof of the London Palladium to fly down into the audience – regardless of the weather for instance.

It’d be great for more shows to follow this example and show what does go into making a big scale West End show.

Wizard of Oz YouTube account

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Ghost the Musical Soundtrack – Track by Track

As blogged about yesterday, Ghost the Musical has previewed their soundtrack on their Facebook page.  It’s only online for a limited time and already had thousands of listens.  Go have a listen yourself, and let us know what you think of it… which just so happens to be what I’m going to do now!  I haven’t seen the show, I’ve not even seen the movie so I’m basing my judgements from what I’m hearing.

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Track 1 – Overture:

This might actually become one of my favourite Overtures ever. I’m not a huge fan of the Overture, but this one is haunting and mystical with the familiar themes of Unchained Melody interwined with other themes from the show.  Builds up gradually, building a sense of anticipation. 5/5

Track 2 – Here Right Now:

This track shows off the vocal talents of Caissie Levy & Richard Fleeshman very quickly.  Their voices suit each other in this poppy number.  The lyrics may be a bit basic but with a huge jump of contrast from the haunting Overture this track, I imagine,  sets the emotional bonds between the audience and the characters.  It’s a good track.  Not my favourite, but it’s very catchy. 4/5

Track 3 – Unchained Melody:

The song everyone knows.  Being performed with a guitar gives it a new lease of life with a bit of Elvis thrown in.  Fleeshman’s vocal talents are shown off to great effect in this track.  With a beautiful orchestral instrumental completing the track it feels like a completly differerent song to all the versions that have been released in the past.  4/5

Track 4 – More:

Oh! There’s more than two people in this musical as this track makes clear with a chorus of ‘more and more and more and more’.  Feels as though this one builds the story a bit more.  Like ‘Here Right Now’ it’s a very poppy number with some lyrics that seem a bit basic.  There are times when it feels like a spoof musical number with the lyrics being along the lines of ‘I’m in New York and there are lots of people here’ etc. 3/5

Track 5 – Three Little Words:

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Back to Levy & Fleeshman! Now we find out that Sam (Fleeshman) doesn’t say ‘I love you’ but ‘ditto’ – the git! Even though he protests that he does it with his eyes, he doesn’t get that sometimesMolly (Levy) might have her eyes closed or they might be on the phone so how does she know so why can’t he say those three little words – cue title of the song!  It’s a cute song. Again, building the connection between the two characters and the audience ready for the big event in the next track… 5/5

Track 6 – Sam’s Murder:

A bit of a talky track here.  It’s the big turning even that makes this musical into one about a ghost.  It isn’t exactly spoiling the plot of the show here to tell you that Sam get’s killed in this track.  I assume Fleeshman’s echoey tones make more sense on stage and a bit more outer-body so giving this track benefit of the doubt.  Also assume the sequence on stage is more exciting than it sounds on the sountrack (imagine the robbery in Blood Brothers).  The music’s good though! 3/5

Track 7 – Ball of Wax:

We’re in the middle of a musical this track shall be known of from hence forth.  It’s probably the most musical theatre this show gets to be honest.  With brass at the start and an older male who talk-sings just jazz hands itself into a musical.  It possibly even involved tap dancing…. so heaven is a Broadway musical? 2/5

Track 8 – I Can’t Breathe:

Imagine the scene in Rent when Angel dies where it’s pulsing beats and lights and a dance beat – now imagine that with a rock-music-esque tone and here you go! 3/5

Track 9 – Are You a Believer?:

The wonderful Sharon D Clarke finally appears as Oda Mae Brown.  This gospel laden track is a welcome relief from the darkness of the death and is a great introduction to Clarke’s character.  Clarke can do no wrong! 5/5

Track 10 – With You:

Molly’s lost her lover.  Sad times.  Now we need a song that reminds us that she is sad and this is it.  That may sound cynical that this is a bog standard soppy ballad about a dead loved one.  It’s not.  It’s just stating the obvious theatrical ploy used here.  It is a fantastic song.  Beautifully performed by Levy.  I’m certain that the middle aged Swayze fans in the audience will be sobbing at this song (maybe some others as well).  Like I said, it’s a beauty, at times it follows the book of musical song writing by the rules but it works.  5/5

Track 11 – Suspend My Disbeleif / I Had A Life:

Still in mourning Molly encounters Oda.  Molly has told Carl (Andrew Langtree) the things that Oda has told Molly from Sam.  Molly believes it, Carl is (on the outside) dismissive about it…. maybe he knows more? Sam acts as a guardian angel overseeing what’s happening…. leading to a big reveal…. *won’t spoil it* It’s an effective way to reveal this twist (though it gives it away if you’re listening to the soundtrack before seeing the show/film like myself).  I really like how things overlap in the music and the songs throughout the soundtrack but especially in this track.  This track is the last in act one and from listening it would appear to be great way to end the first act with big plot developments to look forward to.  5/5

Track 12 – Rain / Hold On:

Back to the poppy tracks we lost half way through act one.  I would say Molly appears more optimistic about things now with this shift in tone… Some background info on Oda, some closure of emotions from Molly, some attempted words of wisdom from Sam doth a track make.  Bit of a typical act 2 opener if ever there was one.  It’s good but not the best (I skipped bits of it after a while). 3/5

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Track 13 – Life Turns on a Dime:

Oh no. Molly is led to beleive that Oda is a fake – well her Police records show she is, but maybe this time she isn’t…. what will happen if Carl get’s her to beleive that she is a complete fake? Plot crisis is what will happen.  It’s a strange song.  Not sure whether it’s the song or whether it’s the fact that Carl sounds more like Barny the dinosaur that get’s me about this one.  Once again though it overlaps a lot with Molly singing a song with the same tune as Unchained and Sam butting in with his own song. 3/5 (due to the purple dinosaur taking over) however for the last 30 seconds, 5/5

Track 14 – Focus:

A loud, brash track.  The Subway Ghost (Adebayo Bolaji) is trying to teach Sam how to do something.  Probably works on stage, not on a soundtrack album though. 1/5

Track 15 – Talkin’ Bout A Miracle:

Back to the funk! Don’t know what miracle they’re talking about.  Guessing it’s a good one as it’s a good song! 5/5

Track 16 – Nothing Stops Another Day:

Yet another beautiful song for Molly.  When Levy leaves there’ll be a queue for this part! Not sure what the song’s about.  Think it’s about letting go, such as letting go of Sam…. sad times. Anyway, it’s a great song and again, might make the hormonal in the audience shed a tear or two.  5/5

Track 17 – I’m Outta Here:

It’s the funk machine…. therefore it must be an Oda track! She may well be saying farewell but this woman doesnt go queitly – even managing a tiny bit of Unchained Melody’s melody in the midst of the funk. 4/5

Track 18 – Unchained Melody (Dance) / The Love Inside:

The final track, takes us back to the Overture’s haunting tone.  With Unchained Melody having such a large inspiration in the soundtrack it’s great to hear so many variations.  This is undoubtley my favourite with the orchestral tones and sweeping strings leading to a final perfromance from Sam and a final touching yet heartbreaking moment between Sam and Molly where Sam reprises how he says ‘I love you’ to Molly with him actually saying it for once.  I am certain, that if I was sat in that theatre, by now I would have goosebumps and even tears in my eyes (possibly running down my cheeks too) and by the time Molly says ‘bye’ possibly a curled up wreck. 5/5

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So there we go, my first track by track review of a soundtrack.  I have to say that this soundtrack is awesome.  I’ve enjoyed listening to it and if I were to have it on my ipod there’s only one or two tracks that I’d skip over.  Fleeshman and Levy do an amazing job with their vocals as does Clarke and the rest of the supporting cast and ensemble.  I love how the producers of the musical have used the soundtrack as a marketing tool and hope that not only does the soundtrack sell well but ticket sales go up as a result.  I’m hoping to see it when I’m in London next and with enough money for a ticket and hope that I can write a review as favourable as this soundtrack review.  There is a great mix of styles but they all compliment each other and characters have their own distinct style and themes to go with them which are vital in a musical.

Music and lyrics are by Dave Stewart and Glen Ballard.  The show’s book and lyrics are by Bruce Joel Rubin.  The show is currenlty in previews at the Picadilly Theatre London and officially opens very soon.  Tickets are avaliable from the show’s website.  The ablum is avaliable to preorder on itunes, amazon and on Dress Circle (support these guys if possible) and comes out on the 18th July.  In the meantime you can listen to it on their facebook page until this Friday (I think).  You can get there via our Facebook page.

Production photos, as far as aware, are by Sean Ebsworth Barnes and therefore copyright of him too.  Images used have been taken from the public domain and no offence caused if being used in a way in which Barnes or the producers wish them not to be.

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