Archive for the ‘ Musicals ’ Category

A trio of musical treats

Recently, I’ve made three trips to three different theatres (in two different towns) to see three very different shows.  From a classic to a new piece, from a star vehicle to an ensemble piece, they offered very different pleasures.  None of them were perfect, but none of them were a waste of time or money either.  I’m probably not all that hard to please if you throw a musical at me, but I think that all three were definitely enjoyable.

The first was by far the strangest, being Thatcher the Musical! (exclamation mark essential, and yes, it really does have a website, which includes a couple of sound samples).  Continue reading

Rodgers and Hammerstein – at last

It seems to me that Rodgers and Hammerstein are rather under-rated these days.  People tend to pass their shows off as trite, dated, old-fashioned or twee.  Well, either that or assume they wrote everything from Anything Goes to Fiddler on the Roof, and only gave up when Andrew Lloyd Webber came on the scene and wrote all the new shows.  Both views are, in my considered opinion, absolute rubbish.

Continue reading

Fun and flimsy?

Oh, dear.  Another post that isn’t the promised musings on Rodgers and Hammerstein…  That will come.  It really will.   But before that, my attention was drawn to an article in the New York Sun which discusses the imminent return of Les Miserables to the Broadway stage, a few short years after it left.  The article discusses the various merits of the show, and quite rightly (in my view) praises it for its weight and ‘heft’.  However, the main thrust of the article rather got up my nose. Continue reading

What’s so great about Kiss Me, Kate?

Musical theatre is my passion.  Hardly a surprising admission, but it is definitely true.  There are many musicals which I like, many songs which I love to sing, hum or hear, many writers, composers, directors and performers I admire.  And of course, there are the shows that I love.  The cream of the crop, and Kiss Me, Kate is one of those.  Convenient, really, as it’s going to be part of my life for the next few months!  But what’s so great about it?  What makes me rank it almost as highly as Cabaret, Sweeney Todd and West Side Story?

Continue reading

Audition preparation

Many things in life make me nervous.  Performing.  Meeting new people.  Seeing crocodiles (or alligators) on the television.  Looking at my bank balance.  Watching someone I know perform.  But auditions are one of the worst things for nerves.  I know that the audition panel are not really evil monsters, that they want you to do the best you can do, and that any decision they make is unlikely to be personal.  But even so…they’re a terrifying experience.  The weeks leading up to them are rather scary as well.

This coming Sunday, I have an audition for Kiss Me, Kate.  Amateur, of course, but that doesn’t make it any less scary.  After much soul-searching, I decided to audition for two roles within the show – Bill Calhoun and Second Man.  Second Man is actually the best role, one of the two gangsters who are the root cause of much comedy and who get to sing ‘Brush Up Your Shakespeare’ at the eleventh hour.  The gangsters are often played by people older than my oh-so-youthful 27-year-old self, but the director is willing to consider anyone from their twenties upwards for Second Man, who is the subordinate (and marginally more stupid) one.  Bill Calhoun is a long shot, the juvenile male who plays Lucentio in the musical version of The Taming of the Shrew which forms a large part of the plot.  He’s a dancer, which is the main problem.  I can sing his songs and I can possibly be charming enough to play him if I try, but the dancing is the real worry.  Still, I can dance ‘in my fashion’, so I’ll just give it all I’ve got at the audition and see what happens. 

Continue reading

The world’s longest-running musical? I don’t think so!

This weekend, Les Miserables is celebrating its 21st birthday on the West End, claiming the crown of London’s longest ever run for a musical (The Mouse Trap, of course, is miles ahead, but is a straight play).  The press claims have been that this will make it the world’s longest-running musical, but that’s really a bit of a lie, or at least an example of hyperbole.

It certainly beats Cats as the longest-runner in London (with Phantom of the Opera holding that record for Broadway), but none of those shows come anywhere near the long run that was enjoyed by a little show called The Fantasticks in New York.  Not a spectacular show, and not (it has to be admitted) with the same audience capacity in the theatre, it nevertheless ran for just under 42 years, twice as long as Les Mis has trundled on for.  It’s not as splashy and newsworthy, though, so it seems it can be conveniently swept under the carpet in order to make the London record sound so much more impressive.

The Fantasticks is a lovely little show, and it introduced the world to ‘Try to Remember’, a song that crops up every so often, most recently in a TV commercial for coffee in the UK.  The songs and the script make me smile, though they don’t move me as much as Les Miserables does.  I just feel it deserves to keep the distinction of world’s longest running musical – 41 years and 8 months is no small achievement!

In praise of jollity

A conversation about the musical Honk!(which won the Olivier award a few years ago, much to everyone’s surprise) today reminded me of the love I have for its authors.  Composer George Stiles and lyricist (sometimes librettist as well) Anthony Drewe have been working together for over twenty years, and I find that all their work, together or with other collaborators, leaves me with a smile in my face and a song in my heart.  ‘Jolly’ certainly describes a lot of their output, and much as I love the beauty of Rodgers and Hammerstein, the bite of Kander and Ebb or the complexity of Stephen Sondheim, there really is nothing wrong with jolly.  They can take on other moods as well, but sometimes jolly is what you need after a hard day at work! Continue reading

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

%d bloggers like this: