Posts Tagged With: Theatre

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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Chichester Festival Theatre – the book!

I know, you’re all waiting for blogs on Idina Menzel and Ghost the Musical – I know you’re all refreshing the blog every five minutes and sighing in frustration when nothing comes up then getting ready to throwing the computer out the window when I blog about something completely different.  Please don’t open that window – but bare with me as I will blog about them – hopefully within the week.  It’s been a tad busy (unusally) and things are going on the wayside.

Anyways, as you know, I have a very special relationship with Chichester Festival Theatre.  One of the best shows I’ve seen this year was Singin’ In The Rain there in August and next week I venture back down there to see Sweeney Todd with Micheal Ball playing the title role.  Next year it celebrates it’s 50th anniversary.  It doesn’t seem 10 years since I had my first driving lesson to a rehearsal for the youth theatre’s first main house production to celebrate 40 years (was not the best and it’s been wiped from history…. A Story About Listening was a bit of a disaster….).  Over the past 10 years it’s gone from strength to strength moving effortlessly away from becomming an ice rink as some Chichester residents were suggesting for it to become when it was going through some troubles.

To mark it’s milestone, the theatre are releasing a book, and much like how the theatre was founded is asking the public to help with it.  This video explains it.  My name’s going to be printed in it, if you value local theatre or Chichester, get yours in it too.

For more information go to http://unbound.co.uk/books/15

 

 

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Theatres of Birmingham – The Crescent Theatre

The third, and for a while the final, blog about the theatres of Birmingham, this time a theatre that I have a massive respect towards, The Crescent Theatre.

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The Crescent Theatre is more about the company rather than the building.  The company is one of Birmingham’s oldest theatre companies dating back to the 1920s when it began as the Municipal Players performing in a converted building, formally Baskerville Hall in the Crescent, Cambridge Street.  It all began with a group of council employees wanting to entertain their colleagues and their friends and the rest, they say, is history.  The Crescent Theatre is an amateur group.  It is run mainly by volunteers with people taking time out of their schedules to perform, design, make, build, pour drinks and direct across the theatre.  The members of the theatre are vital in the running and there is a real community feel whenever you go to the theatre.

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It’s current building, part of the Brindley Place development opened in the 1990s.  It’s current building, boasting two performance spaces (a 340+ seat main house and a 120 seat studio), a large bar area and conference facilities as well as a workshop to build sets as well as a large props and wardrobe department.  It thrives to produce quality shows that attract a large amount of different people of different backgrounds and does so with great success.  In the season just gone the theatre produced a sell out production of Sweeney Todd (which, in my opinon put professional theatre companies to shame), a highly emotional All My Sons, a family production of Danny the Champion of the World, and a highly effective production of Shakespeare’s Julius Ceaser to name just a few of the productions produced.  

The company produce on average 15 shows a year across the two performance spaces including a summer tour which visits a number of locations around Birmingham and a Christmas Wassail which also tours as well as having a sell out run in the main house.  The theatre is used by a large number of amateur groups from around the region who come back time and time again, as well as by musicians and comedians who also use the bar as a performance area.  Birmingham School of Acting also use the theatre to perform it’s productions in – a great chance to see some new acting talent.  Highlights in the forthcoming season include Talking Heads, Macbeth, and Bedroom Farce as well as The Rep taking residence over the Christmas period for their production of Sleeping Beauty.  I know that there are still some more awesome shows still to be announced so keep an eye out!

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What kind of shows will you find at The Crescent?

The Crescent does a variety of shows, usually mainly plays with a big musical once a season.  However they do ensure that there is a good mix of shows and you’ll find a couple of shows at least per season that will get you interested.

Who goes to the Rep?

Depends on the show.  You’ll find a lot of members going to shows and the families and friends of those in the cast, but at the same time you’ll find students, families, adults, a real mix really.

 What’s coming up? 

So far announced for the following season are Talking Heads (September), MADEA (devised by the theatre, October), Macbeth (November) and Bedroom Farce (January).  Over December and January The Rep will be taking residence with their production of Sleeping Beauty.

 First show seen here?

Acorn Antiques the Musical (the amateur premier production).

 Last show seen here? 

Sweeney Todd.

Over notable shows seen:

Danny the Champion of the World; Wedding Singer (GBMTC); Arcadia; Julius Ceaser; Dad’s Army; Women on the Verge of HRT

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LINKS:

The tailer for the smash hit production of Sweeney Todd

 

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Theatres of Birmingham – The Birmingham Rep

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The second in this series of blogs about the theatres of Birmingham visits the Rep.  Well, I say visit, if you visit the Rep at the moment you’ll come face to face with a building site while the new library is built next door and improvements are made to the theatre.  The Rep’s building might be closed, but the Rep are still producing shows across Birmingham visiting other theatres and performance spaces.

When in it’s current home (since 1971) on Centenary Square in Birmingham, it boasts two performance spaces – the main house (901 seats), and the studio theatre known as ‘the Door’.  The theatre has been in existance since 1913 and it’s original home, the Old Rep Theatre is still a much used theatre space in Birmigham.  Unlike most of the other theatres in Birmingham, the Rep has a history of producing many shows themselves (averageing on 20 a year) varying from well known shows and musicals (recently a new production of ‘Little Shop of Horrors’) to the less known, as well as hosting a number of touring productions of (mainly) plays.  The theatre has many links with other theatres around the country, most notably the West Yorkshire Playhouse which it has produced shows alongside and ‘swap’ productions with regularly (most recently ‘The Wiz‘).

The theatre building is currently closed as mentioned above, and the theatre is producing a season of shows around Birmingham.  So far they’ve performed in an old factory, a kitchen in a house, the Alexandra Theatre and have just produced a Young Rep (the youth section) show in the Old Rep.  This Christmas they take Sleeping Beauty to the Crescent Theatre and the Rep’s smash hit The Snowman to the ICC.  When the theatre re-opens not only will it have improved backstage facilities but also a brand new 300 seat studio theatre giving the theatre another performance space.

Before the new library:

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Artistic impression of what it will look like when the library has been built:

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What kind of shows will you find at the Rep?

The Rep does have a variety of shows, but tends to have more plays and ‘highbrow’ shows than musicals and lighter shows.  However they do ensure that there is a good mix of their own inhouse shows and you’ll find anything from family books on the stage through to a translated version of an obscure German play.

Who goes to the Rep?

Depends on the show.  Some shows will attract families, others a large amount of school groups studying said play, while others will attract a very culturally aware crowd.

 What’s coming up? 

This Christmas Sleeping Beauty at the Crescent and The Snowman at the ICC.  In September/October The Imporatance of Being Ernest and The Travesties at the Old Rep.

First show seen here?

Trainspotting.

 Last show seen here? 

The Wiz (though at the Alexandra was a Rep production) / at the actual Rep, Little Shop of Horrors.

Over notable shows seen:

Once on this Island; East is East; The 39 Steps

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LINKS:

 

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Theatres of Birmingham – The Birmingham Hippodrome

Birmingham has a vast array of theatres from the large theatres that host touring spectaculars to the smaller theatres that host new writers and groups.  Which leads us into a new series of blogs about the theatres of Birmingham (well, the ones I’ve been to – I’ll admit, I’ve not been to all of them!)

First up is the first theatre in Birmingham I went to when I first moved here, the Birmingham Hippodrome.

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The Hippodrome has a vast history opening back in the 1890s as the Tower of Varieties and Circus it even had a replica Blackpool Tower which stayed until 1963.  It was an enterprise that failed quickly and reopened as the Tivoli in 1900, becoming the Hippodrome in 1903.  The current auditorium was designed in 1924 and seats around 1,900.  It underwent a huge transformation in the early 2000s to update its facilities and building as well as the opening of the Patrick Centre – a studio space that is used primarily by the Dance XChange as well as by other outside groups.

Although it tends to host touring shows, the theatre is the home to the Birmingham Royal Ballet (BRB).  Recently celebrating 20 years together there was a gala performance with HRH Prince Charles (which I was lucky enough to attend).  Therefore within the regular touring musicals there will be a season of ballets that compliments the array of shows that they show.

Last year the Hippodrome launched Six Summer Saturdays.  Six different events that take place in a variety of locations across the city.  Last year it was a huge success and is being repeated this year with six new events.

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What kind of shows will you find at the Hippodrome?

The Hippodrome is the home to the big touring musicals (in the summer there tends to be a blockbuster musical for several weeks), the huge record breaking pantomimes (the last one starred Joan Collins, Julian Clary and Nigel Havers!) and ballet and opera.

Who goes to the Hippodrome?

Thanks to its varied seasons, anyone from families to the older generation and from all walks of life are found at the Hippodrome.

What’s coming up?

Currently the host to the smash hit tour of ‘We Will Rock You’. Future shows this season include ‘Top Hat’, ‘End of the Rainbow’, ‘Slava’s Snow Show’, ‘BRB’s Nutcracker’ and the panto ‘Cinderella’ with Brain Conley and Lynda Bellingham.

First show seen here?

Jerry Springer the Opera

Last show seen here?

Yes, Prime Minister

Over notable shows seen:

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang; Mary Poppins; Slava’s Snow Show; Flashdance; Footlosse; Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake, The Car Man & Dorian Gray; BRB Nutcracker

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Links:

 

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Ghost the Musical Soundtrack Preview

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So today the twitter of the new musical based on the smash hit film Ghost, Ghost the Musical, revelaed that at noon their facebook page was going to have something special appearing.  

Pictures? Videos? Nope.  Instead a preview of the soundtrack album.  Not just a couple of tracks but the whole thing.

Now, I was’t too fussed about this show.  But seeing some pictures and videos pipped up my interest.  Now that I’ve listened to the soundtrack (4 or 5 times now….) I really want to see it.  To have a listen yourself, head over to our brand new Facebook page (which has no fans at the moment…. *hint*) and follow the link to the musical’s own page.  You’ll have to like their page first, so that’s 2 new pages for you to like tonight, but it’s worth it.  

Why not let us know what you think of it either on here or on the facebook page?

 

After the Curtain Comes Down on Facebook

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