Earlier this week I made the trip down to Chichester to see another of this season’s smash hits Gypsy starring the incredible Imelda Staunton. The run has already sold out but I’d put money on it that we’ll see it in London before long.
Earlier this week I went along to see BMOS’ production of Carousel to review for WOS. As a fan of amateur theatre, being involved in it myself, I always have hopes for companies to push themselves to their maximum ability, but to also have realistic expectations and not to take themselves too seriously. Whether or not BMOS fit in with my personal point of view n am-dram is to be decided. The full review can be found on the Whats On Stage website here – but for a sneak peak follow the jump…
So it’s almost time for Simba and co to come to Birmingham! The Lion King opens at Birmingham Hippodrome next Friday (the 28th June). It’s the big summer show this year, running until September 28th. Having seen the show in London I can assure you that it is a fantastic production that brings the classic film to life. I still need to get my tickets for the tour (hint, hint to any generous readers!) but let me know what you think if you see it.
I came across this video on YouTube – it’s by an amazingly talented guy called Nick Pitera who has done several videos in which he performs as multiple people – including a lot of Disney. In this video, made to celebrate the 15th anniversary of the Broadway production, he got a little bit of help to make a special Lion King video…. Enjoy!
This week I’d thought I’d try to start a new feature – hopefully I’ll remember to do this weekly – showcasing some of the fantastic array of productions gracing stages across the West Midlands. Being Birmingham based I’m in a fortunate position (literally) to get to some great theatres hosting or producing theatre of all sorts. So new month, new blog name, new feature – kind of makes sense!
The tour may be over, but I got to review the show for whatsonstage.com when it visited Wolverhampton in October.
For the full review follow the link at the end of the post, but here’s a peek of what I had to say about it:
The show is full of musical numbers you’ll recognise such as ‘We’re in the Money’ and ‘Keep Young and Beautiful’ and keep the songs you didn’t know before stuck in your head long after the show. There are some fantastic set pieces (one of which involving human shadow puppetry), with stunning choreography throughout the show.
Full review here.
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:
First of all, let’s go back to April 11th 2009 when families gathered around their TVs to watch the first episode of a new series of Britain’s Got Talent. During the episode, there was this audition…
It turned out that that lone audition would capture the entire world thanks to the power of YouTube and the Internet. Now in 2012, a whole musical based around the life of Susan Boyle is touring the UK and last night I went to see the opening night of the show’s Birmingham run at the Birmingham Hippodrome.
I have decided that this blog is going to be the most honest ‘review’ I’ll have given so far – as I cannot decide exactly what I thought of this show but that’ isn’t necessarily a bad thing. As I waited outside the theatre for the other half to arrive I noticed the demographic of the audience was an older crowd mainly middle aged ladies and their mothers (or husbands). People walking past the theatre who weren’t attending scoffed at the idea of a Susan Boyle (affectively known as SuBo) musical and for a while I was in that camp too. I couldn’t fathom how a musical based on SuBo would work and wondered if we’d have some actors hamming it up as Cowell and co for the audition. However – the production surprised me and although there were moments when I did actually cringe, I left the theatre glad I had taken an evening to go see the show.
I didn’t always feel like that however. In fact for the first 20 minutes I couldn’t wait for the interval and was considering whether to even bother sticking around for the second half, but once (and this sounds horrible) SuBo was being bullied it stated to turn a corner. At times the imposing set of television screens and black glossy doors made too much of an impression, but on the whole it worked well, even if I did spend a lot of time trying to find the cameras filming reactions of actors for some of the screens.
All the cast were fantastic. Obviously Elaine C Smith in the role of Susan Boyle has to be mentioned. Her singing was great with her performances of ‘Wild Horses’ and ‘Someone to Watch Over Me’ sending tingles across the audience. Her renactment of the famous audition was performed with precision and her portrayal of Susan losing her parents and her breakdown were with great emotion. She told the story – in form of SuBo looking back at her life and narrating with clarity – although the constant clicking of fingers to freeze or switch action soon got tedious. Other stand out performances include James Paterson as Mr Boyle, Karen Mann as Mrs Boyle and Ashleigh Gray as the ever dependable friend Lorraine.
As for the music, it was a collection of songs from musicals, pop songs and hymns used to try link the story together. On the whole it worked well with a haunting arrangement of ‘I Dreamed a Dream’ to open the two acts and ‘This Will Be Our Year’ sang between SuBo and her mother to show her mother’s support. However some of the arrangements weren’t too great and these were the moments I actually cringed such as the Blood Brothers’ inspired version of ‘Perfect Day’, the raggae ‘Mad World’ performed by the ensemble wearing Simon Cowell, Amanda Holden and Piers Morgan masks whilst holding newspapers to show the press attacks on SuBo and the chorus of Crowded House’s ‘Don’t Dream It’s Over’ to show SuBo in rehab. Another thing that bugged me about the music was that we never heard a whole song. Yes, there are 31 songs listed in the programme – 23 of them in Act 1 alone – but it wouldn’t have hurt to have had a full version of ‘Wild Horses’ rather than cutting it after one verse and chorus when the audience are entrapped.
One of the highlights for me was the scene prior to the audition with SuBo in the queue waiting to audition with a range of characters from musicians to a clown, to a trumpet player to a tapdancing group of ladies. As they wait they burst into ‘Stuck in the Middle With You’ – one the more inspired song choices.
As I mentioned earlier the play was full of finger clicking to freeze or gather thoughts. I felt this was the weakest aspect of the script which wasn’t the strongest to start off with. Personally this let it down as it felt a bit school-play like with the freezing for a thought idea. However, the script did tell the story well and I guess the thoughts were valuable to the story. I just wish they’d come up with a more original idea to do this. It would have been good too if they could have used Britain’s Got Talent branding – but guessing it would have been a mammoth task and very expensive to have done so.
I started this post saying I didn’t know what I thought of this show – and I still don’t. However, I did send these tweets last night and this morning:
And I think that’s my conclusion. It really is intriguing and at times surreal – especially the final 10 minutes when SuBo makes an appearance to perform a couple of songs. I wanted to see this because I was curious. I went in with no expectations and no idea what it was going to be like. That was the best decision. Yes, there were moments I didn’t like, but on the whole it was one of those shows that will stick with you for a long time – and for the right reasons.
Oh yeah, and if you do see this show at the Birmingham Hippodrome this week do not attempt to take photos of SuBo at the end – the staff will pounce on you!!
I’m not going to rate this show – but it comes recommended.
‘The Susan Boyle Musical I Dreamed a Dream’ is on at Birmingham Hippodrome until Saturday.
The tour continues to Inverness and Manchester until June 23rd. Information at the show’s website.
Apologies for my silence. Things need to change and change they will.
Anyway last night I was lucky enough to go see Bernstein’s ‘Wonderful Town‘ at Birmingham Hippodrome. The show, currently touring across the UK starring the ‘nation’s Maria’ Connie Fisher, isn’t one that I was attracted to in any way, and if it wasn’t for an invite on a day I wasn’t busy I probably wouldn’t have gone to see. However, I quickly realised that my feelings towards this show were wonderfully wrong.
Wonderful Town is a traditional American musical – based in the 1950s we follow two sisters, Ruth (Fisher) and Eileen (Lucy van Gasse) who decide to come to New York from Ohio to seek their fortunes. It’s a clichéd plot where two people move to a bigger city and their innocence is battled but all comes good in the end – but clichéd or not, it works well in this show. There aren’t any complicated side plots, and the main plot you see coming a mile away, but it’s all good fun and the cast appear to be having a whale of a time on the stage.
Just thought of another title for this post – Wonderful by name, Wonderful by nature. The show just gives itself awesome names for positive blogs and reviews!!
The design (by Simon Higlett) of the show is classic 1950s America. Costumes are of the period, and the buildings depicted are classic skyscrapers from the era. The colour purple is the main colour for the throngs of people – from purple suits to shiny purple trousers of writers to a purple desk with purple paper and purple side way sky scrapers showing the depth of the stage. There is an early set piece in which the ensemble in their purple suits and orange gloves mould the first days in the city with tight cheography (by Andrew Wright) and direction which uses the set to its full potential.
The cast are brilliant – they all support each other and there isn’t one member letting the others down. Connie Fisher is brilliant as Ruth, the sensible sister to Lucy van Gasse’s care free Eileen. The two together have such a large range from Fisher’s lower tones to Gasse’s higher pitched singing and they work so well together, complimenting each other’s styles perfectly. The main male character Bob Baker is played by Michael Xavier who’s lowest tones almost cause the theatre to vibrate!! There are such wonderful voices in this show – possibly the best cast in terms of singers I’ve seen in a very long time. Other stand out performances include Nic Greenshields who plays the giant of a laundry expert Wreck Loomis and the artist landlord Mr Appopolous played by Sevan Stephan. The ensemble are fantastic – with the opening of Act 2 to go down in comedy legend with their portrayal of the New York police department…. (won’t spoil it for you – but the accents are all brilliant!) The only downside to the show is that the few slower songs/ballads don’t necessary suit the show and slow the action down, but it’s only a small point and with this cast they make those songs great!
Wonderful Town is a great show – and should be amongst the American classics but is overshadowed by the likes of Bernstein’s other musical hit West Side Story. It’s definitely worth a trip to the theatre – even if the weather is getting better outside!!
4.5 Big Apples out of 5
Tour stays in Birmingham until Saturday 26th May – Ticket information can be found at the Birmingham Hippodrome website. Then moves onto Southampton, Norwich, Newcastle, Woking, Plymouth and Cardiff ending on 7th July 2012. More tour information at the Wonderful Town website.
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.
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.