Archive for the ‘ Musicals ’ Category

25 greatest musical movies?


The American Film Institute, in their infinite wisdom, have announced the 25 greatest film musicals, probably so that there can be some sort of exciting countdown documentary on American television at some point soon.  These things are always fun, and great for a debate/argument/fight.  It’s an interesting list – the oldest is 42nd Street from 1933 and the newest is 2002’s Chicago.  Some are adaptations from the stage, like West Side Story and the inevitable Sound of Music, others are originals written specifically for the big screen.  Some I agree with, some I don’t. Continue reading

Singing Librarian flashback: Preparation Fugue


My second flashback is cheating in some ways, as it’s to an aspect of my most recent show, and I have already discussed it, as it was happening, on an h2g2 discussion thread.  But I think it might be an interesting insight into the joys and woes that go into making the near-impossible seem effortless.

Spring 2006.  The Marlowe Theatre.  Me and My Girl. I played the Hon. Gerald Bolingbroke, an upper-class twit and one of the principal roles.  This involved a number of marvellous costumes and a couple of essential props – a monocle, and an engagement ring.  The poor fool spends most of the show trying to persuade a perfectly awful woman to marry him, so the ring made several appearances, and the monocle had to be worn with all of the costumes, being secreted away in a range of waistcoat or shirt pockets.  Learning how to use a monocle was an entertaining struggle in itself, but I mention it as an aside because it’s vaguely relevant to the scene in question.

The scene is the last one in the first act, the preparation for a grand party (which will soon be interrupted by the famous Lambeth Walk), and the beginning of the scene made us all break out in a cold sweat every time it approached.  The Preparation Fugue.  Continue reading

Born to play the role?


I’m very lucky.  In my theatrical ‘career’ so far, I have played four principal roles and two of them were so brilliantly suited to my abilities that it was almost unbelievable.  Herr Schultz in Cabaret was admittedly some fifty years older than me when I played him, but it was in a school production, so questions of age were irrelevant.  However, his mixture of quiet joy and pathos, combined with his characterful songs, made him a perfect match for me.  Gerald in Me and My Girl was just ridiculously right, as well.  Everything from the ridiculous accent and the old-fashioned singing style through to his complete ignorance of his own ludicrosity was so ‘me’.  I slipped into the role like a glove.  Not that it wasn’t hard work, it most certainly was, but it was all so right.

The trouble is, there aren’t many perfect roles for each performer, and I’ve already used two up before the age of 30.  And if I really was born to play Gerald Bolingbroke, as some people said, does that mean I’ve peaked, and it’s all downhill from here?  I certainly hope not.  But the idea does make me think – what roles would I like to play, and what roles am I ideally suited for?  Continue reading

Billy (the musical)


My latest visit to a local theatre was to see the musical Billy at the Whitstable Playhouse, a theatre I’d never attended before.  The production was by the Lindley Players, and starred the guy who played Bill Snibson in Me and My Girl when I was in the show in March.  He is a performer I admire very much, and also a person that I like, and so I welcomed the opportunity to see him in a show from the auditorium rather than from the wings with no glasses on. Continue reading

A Slice of Saturday Night


Last night, I saw a local production of A Slice of Saturday Night, a show set in a 1960s nightclub, featuring the lives and loves of a group of teenagers over one typical Saturday night.  I went because I know several of the cast, including my housemate.

It’s not a particularly good show, in my opinion.  The music is 1960s pastiche, but it veers between outright stealing of tunes and general dullness.  There are some fun songs,though – with about 30 numbers, they had to strike gold at least once!  The plot is practically non-existent as well, just wandering around between the characters, with one character serving very little purpose as far as I could tell.  There are some laughs, but it doesn’t hold together particularly well.

However, the cast were very good and carried the material well.  Some of the singing was marvellous, and several of the cast managed to create characters out of very little from the script.  The dancing varied from competent to very good, and the band sizzled nicely.  It’s not a show I want to see again, but it entertained me.  A popcorn musical, I suppose!

Overall verdict: a not-very-good musical performed very well.

On blasphemous operas


A column in the Guardian prompted me to think, yet again, about the intriguing phenomenon that is Jerry Springer: The Opera.  This is a show that I feel rather strongly about, and given that I am an evangelical Christian, you might think that you can see where my thoughts are likely to be headed.  You’d probably be wrong.

Continue reading

Four songs


I’ve been trying to organise my thoughts on a topic close to my heart – the defence of musical theatre, a medium which comes in for more than its fair share of (snooty) criticism. Yes, the musical can be blooming silly and rather pointless, but it can also achieve an astonishing level of power and artistry.  CabaretWest Side StorySweeney Todd.  Incredible works of art by any standard, surely.  However, try as I might, I cannot write something without ranting or babbling incoherently.  Perhaps one day I’ll manage it, but for now, I’ll simply mention just four songs written for musicals which never cease to amaze me.

  • ‘Ev’ry Time We Say Goodbye’ from Seven Lively Arts, by Cole Porter.  I’ve never been in love, but this song speaks so eloquently of loss and longing, of the highs and lows of parting and reuniting.  It is one of a very small number of songs that can make me cry.
  • ‘Night and Day’ from The Gay Divorcee, also by Cole Porter.  This is a searing song of yearning and desire with powerful lyrics.  But pay attention to the music as well, and the song reveals just how good Cole Porter was.  The staccato opening verse contrasts brilliantly with the soaring, swooping liquid melody it leads to.  It’s simply gorgeous.
  • ‘(I Wonder Why) You’re Just in Love’ from Call Me Madam by Irving Berlin.  This one just makes me smile – it’s a duet between a young man experiencing love for the first time, and an older woman who is touched by this.  His verse is very sweet and simple, while hers is more bouncy and belty (it was written for the very scary Ethel Merman, so it’s hardly a surprise).  And then they sing them together!  I have never understood counterpoint, but I love it.  It makes me very excited, whether it’s in a mass or a love song.  I really do wonder how they write them like that.
  • The ‘Quintet’ from West Side Story by Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim.  This is surely the pinnacle of theatre music, with counterpoint taken to extremes.  Only ‘One Day More’ from Les Mis comes close for this sort of thing – disparate groups of people anticipating a specific time, and putting their hopes and fears into words and music.  The rival street gangs anticipate their rumble, the two lovers look forward to meeting, and Anita adds a sexual frisson.  And they all come together into something that is greater than the sum of its already-incredible parts. 

I could go on, and make the longest blog post ever, but I won’t.  I don’t wake up and launch into ‘Oh, What a Beautiful Morning’.  I don’t automatically sing ‘My Time of Day’ if I wander the city streets at night.  I don’t (thank goodness) drag out ‘The Sun Has Got His Hat On’ every time the clouds part.  But I’m glad to have a body of songs from a supposedly inferior source to draw on, to sing and to listen to.  As Abba said in ‘Thank You For the Music’ from the mini-musical The Girl With the Golden Hair, ‘without a song or a dance, what are we?’  I don’t know, and I hope I never have to find out.

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