Archive for the ‘ Theatre ’ Category

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?

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Singing Librarian flashbacks: Dreams

I don’t often remember dreams.  I’m not sure why this would be.  It could be due to my sleep patterns, or a side-effect of my utter lack of a visual memory (I cannot picture anythingin my head), or maybe I just don’t dream as much as other people.  Whatever the reason, I very rarely wake up knowing that I’ve had a dream, and it’s very rare indeed that I remember what I was dreaming about.  I do remember two different dreams where my house went up in flames, though, and my dream self has killed at least two people I know (so watch out, mwah ha ha!) for some reason.  However, I do normally manage an anxiety dream in the days or weeks leading up to a performance, and this is the focus of this flashback.  No insights into the strange backstage world of the theatre, I’m afraid.  Just into my head!

I’m sure most performers of any kind and at any level have had the usual anxiety dreams – turning up late; forgetting the words, or the steps, or the music; turning up with no clothes on…  But that’s kid stuff!  My sleeping mind seems to be able to come up with some wonderful variations on this theme. 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. 

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Amateur operatic people

Having been involved with quite a number of amateur and semi-professional shows now, certain patterns in the make-up of each group have become evident.  Whether a Society that has been running since Victorian times, or a group pulled together for one specific production, there are people who seem to manifest themselves in every situation.  Perhaps we are all avatars of some peculiar theatrical pantheon?  I don’t know, but I’d like to introduce you to them.

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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!

Singing Librarian flashback: Dido and Aeneas – costume dramas

I think it’s about time for another flashback.  Another long one, I’m afraid.  Summer 2003, The Gulbenkian Theatre, Canterbury.  Dido and Aeneas, performed in a double bill with The Ephesian Matron.

There are many things I could tell you about this production, but the thing that sticks most clearly in my mind is costume, and I know I shall never forget the June evening when we had our first fully-costumed run-through of the show.  Nor will anyone else present.  It was one of those evenings. Continue reading

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

Getting sucked in by G&S

It may have become apparent through recent entries in this blog that the works of Gilbert and Sullivan are gradually taking up more space in my consciousness, having been creeping in stealthily (with cat-like tread, perhaps) before I had a chance to notice them.  I’d never really paid their work much attention before now.  What never?  Well, hardly ever.  I had assumed that it would all be outdated, silly, pointless and trite.  And it seems that I am wrong.  My growing appreciation for their tunes and lyrics is most intriguing. 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: Tosca tantrums

Readers beware.  This is not a happy tale of backstage life, but rather a cautionary tale that I remember every time I am tempted to have a prima donna moment or act like a divo.

Summer 2001.  The Gulbenkian TheatreTosca.  This was one of the summer operas for the University of Kent with a combined professional and amateur cast, where I sang in the chorus.  In this one, I also had a significant ‘silent role’ as a soldier, but perhaps more on that another time.  As part of the project’s mission was to take a fresh look at each opera (always performed in English), the action was moved from occupied Italy during the Napoleonic era to occupied France during the early 1940s, which mostly made very good sense.  One notable change that is significant to this flashback is that the shepherd boy who sings a little ditty to open act three became instead a lost young woman in a holding camp, one of many about to take the train journeys we know so well from that period.

As act three opened, it was snowing on stage.  Continue reading

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