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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.

I cannot forget Mr Bean joining in playing the Chariots of Fire theme as another inspired piece:

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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How many Shakespeare plays can you name in 2 minutes?

How many Shakespeare plays can you name in 2 minutes?.

Why not try this challenge on my Learning Shakespeare blog? Share how many you can name in a comment.

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Learning Shakespeare

Hey everyone!

I’ve got a new blog – a sister blog as it were – to After The Curtain Comes Down.  This new blog is a bit of a challenge/learning curve on my part.  Please pop over and have a read of the introduction post to get some idea of what I hope to achieve with it.  Future posts will hopefully shed more light.  Would be great to have some input from people who have a better grasp of Shakespeare who could lead me in the right direction of reading/viewing material that would help.

Thanks!

http://learningshakespeare.wordpress.com/

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The Voyage – Victoria Square, Birmingham

A free, outdoor dance spectacular finally managed to set sail after having the first night rained off – and the wait, well it was so worth it. The Voyage helping to launch the London 2012 festival is set upon a ship that spans the length of Birmingham’s iconic Town Hall and uses the space of Victoria Square (and its audience) to show the ship setting sail launching its passengers into a new life.  Produced by Birmingham Hippodrome and created by dance company Motion House and featuring stunning aerialists and performers from Australian performance company Legs On The Wall it’s a massive treat for the eyes and with performances from the Town Hall’s own gospel choir and a stunning orchestra and soundtrack it’s also a treat for the ears.

Stunning projections that have been carefully mapped onto the side of the ship and the Town Hall to make it feel as though the ship is actually setting sail.  From waves crashing against the hull, to cities forming on the Town Hall you really get the impression that you too are going on the journey.

The narrative of the piece is sometimes lost in the amazing visuals, but it is easy enough to follow along with when you get back on track but every single performance in the huge cast is brilliant.  The cast includes a large number of local youngsters taking part alongside the professionals of Motion House and Legs On The Wall and all looked to be really enjoying themselves in taking part in such a fantastic event.

I could go on about this for a long time – but I’d only start spoiling things and repeating myself.  It is honestly one of the best things I have ever seen and is a real life example of the word spectacular.  The weather might not be looking too great for tonight (Saturday) but keep an eye out on the weather forecast and the website/twitter/facebook of The Voyage (links to follow) for the latest news.  It’s on till tomorrow night ONLY and will not be seen again in Birmingham after that.  It starts at 10pm but last night reached capacity by then so get there early.  And as for the best place to stand? I was in line with the Victoria statue (which probably wished it had turned around to watch it – like the CCTV!) and had a great view, too close and you won’t have the full affect of the projections.  And if it rains? Try to use a hood rather than a brolly.

The Voyage – 5 broken champagne bottles smashed against its hull out of 5!

The Voyage is performed (weather permitting) at 10pm on Saturday 23rd and Sunday 24th June 2012 in Victoria Square, Birmingham.  It’s FREE!

Website: www.thevoyage.org.uk (Includes MUCH better photos than my grainy iPhone ones!)

Twitter: @TheVoyage2012

Facebook: TheVoyage2012

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Les Miserables – The Movie Trailer

The first trailer for the anticipated Les Miserables movie has been released today.  Anne Hathaway reveals her performance of I Dreamed a Dream as Fantine and we see glimpses of Hugh Jackman as Jean Valjean, Russell Crowe as Javert, and Amanda Seyfried as Cosette.

I’ll be honest, I was sceptical of this when it was first announced, but the trailer has defiantly piqued my interest.  Looking forward to seeing more about the film in the future.

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I Dreamed a Dream….

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.

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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.

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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.

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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:

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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.

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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

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Godspell – Cast of 2032

 

ImageThis is awesome!! It’s great to see shows embracing the community, whether it be fun days that appear to be popping up in the West End or more ambitious things like this from the current Broadway revival of Godspell, seeing shows opening themselves up for more interaction is always a good thing.

So what is this all about? Well the production of Godspell held open auditions for children aged 6-16 to perform a medley of songs from the show after a performance infront of a paying audience, with the show’s crew, set and orchestra – maximising the Broadway experience for these young people.  What was produced is shown in the video below.  You never know – some of these kids might be the next big thing!

“The GODSPELL Cast of 2032″ features Gaten Matarazzo as “Jesus,” Danny Ward as “John the Baptist/Judas,” Montana Byrne as Anna Maria, Grace Capeless as Celisse,Zoe Considine as Morgan, Jon Viktor Corpuz as Telly, Alec Gallazzi as George,Rebecca Goldfarb as Lindsay, Analise Scarpaci as Uzo and Evan Smolin as Nick.  Holly Block is the swing.

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A Wonderful Show for a Wonderful Town

Apologies for my silence.  Things need to change and change they will.

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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.

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A Month of ‘The Book of Mormon’

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Last year, Broadway.com shared a series of videos on YouTube from The Book of Mormon, the musical that has become known as the one by the South Park guys and the one from Avenue Q.

Having not been to New York whilst it’s been on, I can only hope that the rumours of it coming to London very soon are very true as I’m dying to see it.  The soundtrack is awesome and everything I’ve seen about it has got me more and more interested.  These videos give an interesting look at the show from it’s conception through to the production itself and worth a watch.

Here’s day 1 to start you off….

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