Monday, 28 December 2009

La Cage aux Folles Review

A surprise Christmas present lead me to the theatre to see the West End revival which started off at my favourite Off West End Theatre, La Menier. Here is my review:

Before seeing the show, I knew next to nothing of the plot or the characters. The composer is Jerry Herman, who has composed other notable musicals, such as Hello, Dolly! and Mack and Mabel, none of which I have seen, purely because all of the original productions were staged before I was born, and with the exception of Hello, Dolly! (which I sacrificed in favour of Forbidden Broadway) there have not been any revivals in London or the surrounding area. The score was listenable, light and enjoyable, although it was a bit on the short side. Lots of the songs were quite similar, but the absence of slow ballads kept the show moving at a good pace. The book was written by Harvey Fierstein, and incorporated a range of clever, and some not-so clever, jokes. Of course, lots of them could be seen coming a mile off, but this was the nature of the piece. The storyline was relatively simple and predictable, but the cast managed to raise this into an extremely enjoyable experience.

The set was good, not too much and not too little. The scene changes were quick and fit in well with the story, although there were a couple of instances where there was nothing happen except for the movement of scenery and scene change music, however these moments were so scarce that this did not really matter. It was clever how the main stage area showed action happening backstage at La Cage aux Folles, then immediately transformed into the on-stage area. The set fit in well with the era (1970s France) that the show was set in and transported the audience back into the era.

The direction was very good. The dialogue scenes were directed very well, with the actors given plenty to do, and the interpretation of most of the characters was satisfying and deep.

I liked the choreography of the dance numbers, although I felt some sections were not choreographed enough and looked a little untidy. I also thought that sometimes the stage was not big enough for all the actors so looked a bit crowded.

The lighting design was okay, a bit boring in scenes where I felt it could have been a bit more exciting, for example in scenes where it was the La Cage aux Folles show.

Douglas Hodge in the lead role of Albin/Zazza was really good, fulfilling all the camp aspects of the role but also bringing great depth and understanding to the role. It never felt as though he was trying too hard and it was tough to tell that he was acting throughout – a sign of a really great performance.

Denis Lawson was great as Georges, reminding me of Emcee in Cabaret at several points, and getting into the swing of the show. He also made all the relationships seem really realistic and interesting.

The ensemble, especially Les Cagelles, were fantastic, a really tight unit who made the show fun and seemed to each have their own personality whilst moving as one. The rest of the cast in named roles were also good, Tracie Bennett was particularly entertaining as Jacqueline and really stood out in the midst of a very strong company.

Overall, La Cage aux Folles was a surprisingly touching show and something that will stay with me for many years. I hope it continues the success that it deserves on Broadway, in the same way as A Little Night Music has been doing.

Sunday, 20 December 2009


I'm actually starting to feel very Christmassy (which is actually not a word, but oh well), despite not feeling like this for the whole of December up until yesterday.

We put up the Christmas tree. Very exciting, probably the tree in all the world with the most unco-ordinated decorations, but I much prefer it to those boring people who buy one set of decorations which is then all they use so all the tree looks really like a tree you see in a catlogue or a magazine, with no originality at all.

It's was also the second day (third today) where the whole of the usually (!) sunny South East was absolutely covered in snow. I again ventured out, wearing my rather attractice wellies and hillwalking coat. I built my family out of snow on Friday, but on Saturday (yesterday) we drove to the next town, which actually wasn't that scary to be honest (I thought it would be) to see A Christmas Carol, on stage.

It was really cool, definitely a play with singing (acapella) as opposed to a musical, which is what I originally thought it was. I have now been inspired to tackle the novel, which I will do after (finally) finishing 1984. It must have been about a month now! Anyway, I don't really have much to say about it, other than that it put me in a very happy, Christmassy mood, even though I nearly slipped over six times on the way back to the car afterwards!

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Theatre 2009

So, I only have one more show left to see this year, which is A Christmas Carol, presented by a local amateur dramatics group at a really cool local theatre/film venue which used to be a church. I was feeling quite sad about this, because I love theatre so much, and it's strange to think that it's only been about nine months since I really got into it. A lot has happened in those nine months.

I think the most important thing, for me, was my first ever little job as a production assistant in the summer holidays. It helped me to realise how much I want a theatre career and most of all gave me a really good understanding of how a production is put together. I can read all the books I want, but they can only take me so far.

I thought I would start by posting a summary of the shows I've seen this year:

1. Chicago - West End - ****
2. Wicked - West End - ***
3. Mamma Mia - West End - ***
4. We Will Rock You - West End - **
5. Sunset Boulevard - West End - *****
6. 42nd Street - Amateur - *1/2
7. Forbidden Broadway - Off-West End - *****
8. Avenue Q - West End - ****
9. Les Misérables - West End - ****1/2
10. Little Shop of Horrors - UK Tour - ***
11. An Inspector Calls - West End - *****
12. Sister Act - West End - ****
13. Rent - Amateur - ***
14. Annie Get Your Gun - Off-West End - ****
15. A Christmas Carol - Amateur - Pending....

So, overall, an excellent year's progress! (As said in true Bridget Jones style). I'm pleased that I gave just three shows five stars and that I managed to avoid getting into the habit of giving every single thing I enjoyed five stars by default - if that were the case there would be a huge number of shows with five stars, I can guaruntee that.

I also thought of some overall thoughts about what I've seen this year. I decided that, although it's not my favourite musical, the performance of Sunset Boulevard I saw was absolutely outstanding and one of the best performances that I've ever seen. I decided that this was my favourite musical of the year.

An Inspector Calls is my play of the year, not just because it was the only play I saw (!) but also because I had studied it at school and the performance surpassed all the expectations I've ever had of seeing a play.

Forbidden Broadway was awesome, so I chose it as my favourite alternative style event/show. I finally found a whole load of other Broadway fans, all in one room, and the show was totally amazing!

Here are some notable performances that I really enjoyed:

David Shannon as Valjean in Les Misérables
Daniel Boys as Princeton/Rod in Avenue Q
Julie Atherton as Kate Monster/Lucy the Slut in Avenue Q
Patina Miller and Katie Rowley Jones in Sister Act
Helen Owen, the awesome understudy, as Eponine in Les Misérables
Kerry Ellis (my only reason for going to see it) in Wicked
Linzi Hately as Donna Sheridan in Mamma Mia

I now admire Stephen Daldry and Trevor Nunn as directors after seeing An Inspector Calls and Les Misérables respectively. I think that what they've created on stage is just stunning and I hope one day I can create as great a production as they have throughout their careers.

Finally, I'll post my top musicals list. It's changed quite a lot since I first posted it!

1. Rent
2. Avenue Q
3. Les Misérables
4. Chicago
5. Sister Act
6. Starlight Express
7. Sunset Boulevard
8. Annie Get Your Gun
9. Marguerite
10. Mary Poppins

I much prefer the look of this list now! I hope next year can be just as good, if not better, for my theatre trips!

Sunday, 13 December 2009

So.....I hadn't watched any films for ages, then:

I watched:

The Pianisit (2002)
Cheri (2009)
Synechdoche, New York (2008)
State of Play (2009)
The English Patient (1996)

in eight days. That sounded so much more impressive in my head, but now I've typed it out it doesn't seem impressive at all. Oh well. Anyway, I haven't ever done this on here (I think, at least, I never read my own blog), so I thought I would write my thoughts on each film. Here goes.

The Pianist (2002)

I think 2002 is fast becoming my favourite year of the decade for film. This film was captivating, wonderfully shot and directed by Roman Polanski. Adrien Brody's performance was amazing, definitely Oscar worthy, although for one reason or another the film left me a little bit cold. I cried more at the Boy in the Striped Pyjamas than I did at this. The violence inflicted on the Jews caused sudden, sharp tears to form in my eyes, but in the back of my mind it was obvious that he was going to survive, so there was no real point where I felt scared that he wouldn't. Overall, though, the story was amazing and I am now in an impossible position - this or The Hours for my BP win in 2002? One thing's for sure, though, Chicago is now definitely out, though I still love it.

Cheri (2009)

I had been looking forward to seeing this. Not because of the presence of Keira Knightley's (rather attractive) boyfriend, of course. I am a serious film watcher. Actually, we all have our weaknesses. Mine is Rupert. This wasn't my only reason though. Cheri, I could see from the poster and calibre of the film, that it was probably Oscar worthy, but would sadly not get a look in at the Oscars. Pleasingly, I was right. I love it when this happens. Anyway, Michelle Pfeiffer's performance was the best I've seen from an actress this year (bearing in mind that I've not seen much). All of the other performances, paticularly Rupert's (!) and Kathy Bates', were also fantastic. The story was relatively simple, but the way the film was directed was beautiful. I've never been a Stephen Frears' fan (I fell asleep whilst watching The Queen), but this made me realise how good a film maker he actually is. However, what ruined it for me was the irritating voiceover. The screenplay was strong enough without it!

Synechdoche, New York (2008)

I really thought I would love this. I love Adaptation, Being John Malkovich and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, so why not this? The premise looked fantastic - the plot centres on a theatre director who becomes wrapped up in creating a replica of his own world in a battered New York warehouse. However, the film went on for two hours. During this time I became quite bored, none of the characters were rerally engaging and I just didn't connect with it in the way that I've connected with the writer's other films. Also, it left me with a really odd feeling about life.

State of Play (2009)

A political thriller. I felt inclined to watch it, mainly because of the buzz it got when it first came out. Let's just say that I wasn't disapointed in any way. Helen Mirren and Rachel McAdams gave paticularly good performances, although I would like to see a film where Helen Mirren does something other than her natural British accent. It was a fantastic story, very well scripted and managed to hold my interest. I just wish it had been released in the Oscar season, then it may have had a good chance at the awards.

The English Patient (1996)

I am now a bigger Kristin Scott Thomas fan than ever before. She stole the film, making it so (as it rightfully was) it was all her character's story. The scenery and direction was fantastic and transported me to another world. The way two different but inextricably linked stories were told together was really good, not at all confusing or annoying, though Katherine's story was the most interesting. Definitely better than Cold Mountain, and now one of my favourite films.

So, five films. School will be finished for Christmas soon, so I'll have more time to watch loads of films.

Friday, 4 December 2009

November....what a slow month it was!

Basically, I've just finished my mock GCSE exams (scary), so haven't watched any films since seeing An Education at the cinema. But, Nine comes out in exactly two weeks, which conincidentally is the last day of term, so hopefully I will get to see it then. I am looking forward to it so much - I've never seen a musical film (I'm not counting Mamma Mia) at the cinema before, and I absolutely love all the actresses, except maybe Kate Hudson and Fergie, and of course Daniel Day-Lewis. And of course it's directed by Rob Marshall, the reincarnation of Bob Fosse (in my humble opinion).

Near the beginning of the month I finally became a Renthead. I saw a really good amateur production of Rent, it was the best amateur production I've ever seen - it was very proffesional and looked so close to the Broadway show. The way a couple of the characters were played was annoying, but apart from that, it was thoroughly enjoyable. Great value for money, too! I wish that someone would revive Rent in the West End. Maybe one day I will.

Also at the theatre, this month I saw the revival of Annie Get Your Gun at the Young Vic in London. I'm now going to post a slightly shorter copy of my review:

Annie Get Your Gun Review:

The story of Annie Get Your Gun is based on the real life of Annie Oakley. Quote of the evening, however, from the woman in front, showed her lack of knowledge. “This is a stupid story, isn’t it?” I absolutely love quotes like this, my all time favourite being the couple having a full on argument with the usher at Mamma Mia about why Meryl Streep and Pierce Brosnan weren’t in the show, or “They should put this on stage, it would be really good,” heard at the end of Sweeney Todd by a dear friend of mine in the cinema. If only they knew. This was a similar example here. Annie Oakley was a real person, and the majority of the events in the show were true, and occurred in her life, so that person had just effectively insulted an awesome historical figure.

Anyway, moving on. We arrived at the Young Vic at 6 o’clock, an hour and a half before the performance, because there was that wonderful thing in operation, known as unreserved seating. We were second in the queue to get into the auditorium, behind three relatively old ladies, so managed to grab some great seats, right in the middle and five rows from the front. The actual theatre was really nice and modern, and the restaurant/bar area had a really nice vibe.

The musical was composed by Irving Berlin in the 1940s. I’ll own up to it, before now I had never seen a musical composed before the 1980s, though I was born in the 1990s, so it’s excusable. This proves that Berlin’s scores are timeless, especially with White Christmas playing up North this season. I adore the score, there are so many classics in it that some people may not realise actually come from the musical. It’s like old films – you can’t beat them. EDIT: Just listenied to Razzle Dazzle, and realised that Chicago was first performed in the 1970s, so was therefore composed before 1980. Then, however, I realised that no one considers Chicago to be a classic musical anyway. Not classic in the classic sense. I think I’ll just stop with the Broadway history and get on with the review now.

The score had been rearranged by Jason Carr, who has a multitude of credits. I was a tad worried when I spotted that the orchestra would be made up of four pianos, but as the show progressed I realised how good the simple arrangement of the score sounded and how it suited the type of production. I would still like to hear it played by a full orchestra, though.

The direction was rather good. No, it was very good. For once the humour was not forced and it all seemed natural – consistency had been achieved across the actors. The stage was set very well, using video, holograms and even an ingenious extra stage area above the main stage, which was, you guessed it, a bedroom. There were some really great pieces of set, for instance a conveyer belt which the poor stagehands had to sit on stage loading and unloading scenery onto to signify a train journey, and a door which slid on to split the stage up for a multitude of situations. Back to the direction. I felt like the entrances and exits were always done very well, and the way the characters moved and utilised the space was very good. The interpretation of the characters was great, and a special mention must go here for the quality of the American accents from everyone.

Jane Horrocks. I will confess I knew little about her before seeing the show, other than that she lead the original production and subsequently the film version of The Rise and Fall of Little Voice. Within that role she obviously impersonated Ethel Merman, who happened to originate the role of Annie Oakley on Broadway. So far, so good. Her performance was entertaining and her vocals fit well, although at the beginning I had to adjust to her character voice. Richard Gere in Chicago gives character voices a bad name, but here Jane altered her voice as her character changed, suggesting a good understanding of the character and vocal ability. Her acting was good, and her comic timing perfect. Considering she is 45, she pulled off the role remarkably well.

Julian has still got it. It’s hard to believe that almost a year and a half ago I was seeing him in Marguerite. I can’t decide which performance I prefer, obviously Armand is a more challenging role than Frank, but unfortunately, as is often the case in musical theatre, both roles are second fiddle to the female lead. Julian gave the best acting performance, and, even if all else had failed, he would still have had his natural good looks and charm to fall back on. Not that Julian’s presence in the show had anything to do with me being there, of course.

All of the rest of the cast were excellent in their roles, but for me there were no particular standouts other than the two leads mentioned above. Overall, the stage musical is better than the film because there are almost three times the musical numbers, of which the interpretations are a lot better – in the film Betty Hutton seems to holler “Anything You Can Do” as opposed to singing. The show is also more engaging and stimulates the imagination more.

To conclude, it is now common knowledge that La Cage Aux Folles with fulfil its West End run then head to Broadway. This means that the Palace Theatre will be empty from 9th January, the exact day Annie Get Your Gun closes at the Young Vic. Now instead of picking up a boring jukebox musical (Dreamboats and Petticoats), wouldn’t it be nicer if Annie Get Your Gun could move to the Palace for the West End run it deserves?

So, that's my review. It's quite long, really, but I do enjoy writing them. Not much else theatrey/filmy happened to me this month, although I did vote for the theatregoer's choice awards. Seems like the annoying revival of Oliver has everything (undeservedly) in the bag. Disapointed not to see Katie Rowley-Jones nominated for best supporting actress in a musical, but the other performances nominated were really deserving too.

Tonight I'm hopefully going to watch a film (finally).

Saturday, 7 November 2009

An Education

Carey Mulligan is quite amazing, really. Considering that her only well known film before An Education was Pride and Prejudice, where she played Kitty Bennet, she carried this film amazingly. It was probably the best performance I've seen by an actress this year so far, not hard really because I've only seen ten 2009 films (terrible, I know).

I think Carey is different to Keira in looks and choice of roles, although their second film together, Never Let Me Go, comes out next year. Both are equally as beautiful and talented, and I'm looking forward to seeing more than both of them. Naturally, Carey is my current Oscar win for Best Leading Actress this year.

So. The film. Well, I am a big fan of all Nick Hornby's novels, male orientated as they are, and the subsequent films. I thought his screenplay for this was absolutely fantastic, well paced and humourous in all the right places. The direction and the use of music was fantastic as well.

All the cast, especially Carey, were great, although I wish that Sally Hawkins had been on the screen for more than two minutes! It was a really enjoyable way to spend an hour and a half, and I'm wondering if the film will be a contender for the Academy. It certainly is for me! We definitely need more British films like this.

What the film did get me thinking about, though, was how lucky I am to have so many choices about my future. In the 60s it was get married or go to university, then have a limited range of jobs afterwards. It also made me wonder what I would do if I was in that situation. In fact, it's been the first film in ages where I can strongly identify with one of the characters!

Friday, 30 October 2009


So, I've just got back from a week long holiday. It was great, really relaxing and good to have a break.

The first part of our holiday was spent in Blackpool. On the first night we went to see kyran Bracken's Ice Party at the Pleasure Beach Arena, which was meag exciting because I ahd no idea it was going to be on there, so when i arrived it was a really great surprise. It wasn't as good as Hot Ice (sob), but was still really fun. Karen Barber skated for the first time in twenty years. She was a whole lot better than Nicky was and looked so amazing. Overall, the show was quite good and really entertaining. Definitely better than the Holiday on Ice disaster!

The next day we had an amazing day at the Pleasure Beach where I went on twenty three rides. Sadly this did not include The Big One - it was closed because it was too windy, although I have been on it before so I didn't really mind. I still want to go on the Big Dipper, but it's been closed both times that I've been there. That evening I went ice skating, and didn't fall over once. I think I did really well, considering that it was probably the seventh or so time I've ever been ice skating in my whole life!

Sadly, we had to leave Blackpool the next day. We arrived at our Derbyshire holiday home. That evening we watched Monsters vs. Aliens. I don't tend to like Dreamworks films anywhere near as much as I like Pixar films, but I think after Flushed Away this has to be my favourite one of their films. It was funny without trying too hard and a really nice way to spend an evening.

On Wednesday we visited Chatsworth House for the second time. I really love it there, and this time it was even more special because there was na exhibition about the film The Duchess, because it was filmed there. The costumes were actually right in front of me, and I was walking in the same places that Keira Knightley had! Such a wonderful place, if you ever get a chance you should visit.

Thursday evening....our last evening. We hired Michael Clayton, which was actually really good. Well I knew it would be good, I just didn't know I would enjoy it, which I did. I thought Tilda Swinton gave a really great performance, and I'm looking forward to seeing more of her films. I also thought that George Clooney gave the best, most natural performance that I've seen him give.

I also read the novel Julie and Julia (I thought the film was better, there was more about Julia in the film) and Lord of the Flies for English, which I found a lot easier than expected. I'm now back to the House of Night novels, purely for fun and no intellectual gain.

What a great holiday!

Friday, 23 October 2009


This was one of the first words that I ever learnt to say, so it's no wonder that I was wondering if my one year old self would have been delighted with a movie of which I could say the title. However I couldn't actually read when I was one, so this wouldn't have made a scrap of difference. Add to that the fact that the word up was not even said once in the film, then I realised the title was just Pixar, catchy and original, one that everyone will remember.

Pixar movies, along with Matilda, were my first love. I watched them repeatedly, and even now am still eager to sample every one of Pixar's latest offerings. Up is now my Best Picture win for 2009 (I have still only seen 8 movies that have been released this year - what's up with that? It's not even enough to fill a Best Picture line up now it comprises ten nominations instead of five). Anyway, I think, like Wall-e, it will stay in the top ten (five in Wall-e's case) for sheer originality.

What sets Pixar apart from other studios making animated pictures is that they develop the characters properly, meaning that although the concepts are total fantasies, they are totally believable. Whereas with films such as Kung Fu Panda, Ice Age and Madagascar, for me the characters are completely 2 dimensional and implausible, turning it into a children's film. The magical thing about Pixar is that it's enjoyed by people of all ages, and isn't just another recycled, rubbishy film, like most of the other fare that climbs to the top of the box office.

Up was probably not as good as Toy Story or Monsters Inc, but encompassed brilliant character and relationship developments withing a story which was so simple on one level, but so complicated on another. I actually foudn the story quite sad, and nearly cried at one point. Overall it was thoroughly enjoyable, and, similar to An Inspector Calls, I don't want to write a review because I enjoyed it so much and don't want to ruin it for myself.


I don't give these out lightly.....

I've just been voting for the People's Choice awards, and about 90% of what's there is rubbish. Ah, well, my favourite saying: Generally, the more popular something is with the masses, the worser the quality.

Off to work on my top movies list now!

Friday, 16 October 2009

Sister Act!

The West End needs more new musicals. Like Sister Act, which I saw on Wednesday evening at the Palldium, which I've decided is my favourite of the larger West End theatres. Okay, it's based on a film, but it's loosely based on the film, and this was not really a reason why i flocked to see it. I wanted to see it before I had watched the film, and actually thought the film wasn't very good when i watched it on Monday evening.

Admittedly, this, and Priscilla: Queen of the Desert, have been the only two new musicals this year to have survived in London. I never got to see Spring Awakening, so if I had this might have changed because it really seems like my thing, but to me this is the best new musical to open in London since Avenue Q. Better than Wicked, Footloose, The Drowsy Chaperone and Billy Elliot. Just seemed to be a lot more original and fresh. Best of all though, the house was packed.

I won't say it was the best show ever, but it was certainly enjoyable. I gave it four stars, and am loving Alan Menken even more as a composer now than I did before. Hopefully this will change the situation for new musicals and help put more faith into investors. Everyone, go and see Sister Act! I did write a full review, but it's nearly three pages so I won't type it up here...

Sunday, 11 October 2009

An Inspector Calls

I thoroughly enjoyed stuudying this in year nine, so when I realised that the National Theatre production was playing in the West End for eight weeks I knew I had to go.

I had actually never been to see a play before. Well, I had seen the Tempest as open air theatre, but this was my first proper play in a theatre, free of worries about the rain.

Everything about it was anazing. The only other thing I have ever said this about before was the recent revival of Sunset Boulevard. Even though I knew that the house was going to collapse in accordance with the family's bond it still surprised me, and I am sure that this is the most effective use of scenery that I have ever seen.

Although I knew exactly what was going to happen (I foudn myself remembering large chunks of the script...) I was still caught up in all the tension at the right moments. All the performances from the cast were excellent, and Stephen Daldry's direction was superb. I want to see soemthign else on stage that he's directed (I have seen all three of the films he has), but really don't want to see Billy Elliot.

I really want to see the production again, although I definitely prefer musicals to plays. I would recommend this production to anyone!

Friday, 9 October 2009

There's Something About Cameron....

...that makes me want to include her on my favourite actresses list. This is Cameron Diaz I'm talking about by the way. A few months ago I didn't take her seriously as an actress. I cringed every time she apeared on screen, complained that she was cast in My Sister's Keeper before I had even seen it and groaned every time I saw one of her films on DVD in a shop. Now, however, I have realised that she is actually a talented actress and one of the best at playing the romantic comedy role. In some cases, as I add to my 1990s and 2000s Oscar line ups, her name pops up. I suppose it is just the Academy's prejudice towards the type of film she mainly makes which means she has never received a nomination.

Cameron films I have seen:

All the Shrek films (although I wish I hadn't - one of the most overrated and annoying animated franchises ever!) I do love Cameron's voice acting in this though. In fact, I love all the voice acting in it.

Now in chronological order:

1. My Best Friend's Wedding (1997)
Listed as a potential Oscar nominee for Best Supporting Actress for this one (this is the only film other than Titanic that I've seen for 2007, though). I really liked the way that the guy ended up marrying her, because the cliche would have been for him to run off with the nasty Julia Roberts character.

2. There's Something About Mary (1998)
Again, listed as a potential Oscra candidate, Cameron does a great job in playing a conventional romantic comedy role, but giving a proper acting performance, unlike people such as Katherine Heigl.

3. Being John Malkovich (1999)
My favourite Cameron movie. Although eclipsed a little by Catherine Keener, this is definitely another Oscar worthy role (in my opinion) and is in such an original and fantastic movie.

4. Charlie's Angels (2000)
Saw this ages ago and can't remember it. Don't paticularly want to watch it again though.

5. Vanilla Sky (2001)
Currently my best supporting actress win for 2001. I had no expectations for this film so was pleasantly surprised when I watched it.

6. Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle (2003)
Was absolute rubbish and probably what made most people stop taking her seriously.

7. In Her Shoes (2005)
I may have to say this: I think in this she outperforms Toni Collette, one of my all time favourite actresses.

8. The Holiday (2006)
Quite good for a romcom, but probably what turned me off her acting at first (eg. car in driveway scene - way too OTT)

9. My Sister's Keeper (2009)
Shamefully I have only seen 7 2009 movies, so Cameron is currently number 3 for the Best Leadign Actress Oscar, losing to Meryl Streep in Julie and Julia. I probably won't end up nominating her, but her performance was such a surprise to me and a pivotal moment - when I realised she could act and may have a career after 40.

Of course, there are still lots of Cameron films I need to see, but I'm so glad that I discovered her as an actress!

Stage/Film Musicals Comparison, Part One

After catching the UK tour of Little Shop of Horrors on Wednesday evening, which was incredibly enjoyable even if it wasn't the best production in the world, I decided to create a comparison between the stage and film versions of all the musicals that I've seen which have both. They're in the order which I saw them, with the year of seeing them in brackets:

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (2004)
I have so many happy memories associated with watching the film, and can barely remember anything about the show, although it was my first ever West End musical.

Oliver (2005)
I don't paticularly like the concept, and the score does nothing for me, but of the two, the stage production was the least boring.

The Lion King (2005)
It was just spectacular, and strangely enough more believable than the film.

Beauty and the Beast (2005 and 2006)
Even though I've seen the show twice I can't really remember it much, and the film was just amazing. It's also worth noting that this was the first animated film to receive a Best Picture Oscar nomination.

Mary Poppins (2008)
It was a lot more grown up and character focused than the film, and the extra songs were brilliant!

Annie (2008)
The film is horrendous, but the show was hardly better - my lowest rated musical.

Chicago (2009)
This is such a close call. Fosse choreography is so much better live and there's no scenery, which emphasises the contrast between the characters even more. The film is probably my favourite movie musical though.

Mamma Mia (2009)
Anything is better than the film...

Little Shop of Horrors (2009)
A different production of the show would have swayed it the other way, though. The choreography was excellent, but the show (which started at the Menier) just didn't seem to work on a larger stage and the way the director interpreted the characters made the relationships too difficult to believe.

So the current score:
Film musicals - 3
Stage musicals - 6

I want to see the non musical film that Sunset Boulevard was based on and the non musical film adaptation of Les Miserables, although I won't include these in this comparison because it's too difficult to compare in that way. I am also seeing Sister Act on Wednesday, so will have to find time to watch the non musical film that that's based on too. This will be the same when I see Legally Blonde in January.

Also, in the next few months, I'll be seeing Rent, Annie Get Your Gun and Sweet Charity, all of which have equivalent musical films, so this list will be updated in due course!

Sunday, 4 October 2009

Les Miserables means...

...the shabby looking. It does not mean "the miserables", it is another one of those irritating French phrases known as "false friends". Anyway, I saw the show in London yesterday. Here is an edited version of my review, which in full is five and a half pages long:

Ever since my first visit to the West End at the age of ten, I had been fascinated with the idea of Les Miserables. I fondly remember asking my parents why a show called miserable was the longest runnign musical in the world as a bus bearing an advert for the show rolled past us on Argyll Street. Fast forward five years, and here I was desperate to see the show that all my theatre pals rave about. I was worried, though, that I would see it, shrug, and mutter, "That was just another overrated hype of a musical," as heard escaping from my lips at the end of Wicked and Mamma Mia. Luckily, though, this was not the case, and I can now proudly say that I have gained a full undertsanding of why this show has sustained a 26 year run in the West End. I generally like to disagree with things that apeal to the masses, but in this case I simply can't. Maybe because this, to me, is such an unusual thing that would apeal to many people.

The score was compelling right from the overture and I now understand why Andrew Lloyd Webber wishes that he wrote this show. Before this I had never seen a sung throigh musical, and I think it helped to move this paticular story along exceedingly well.

The set was exciting. I usually have a less is more aproach to set, especially when it clutters up the stage and it is as though the set is giving the performance and not the actors. The set was lavish in many ways, but so simple in others. The design utilised trap doors, and the boxes, which were not available to audience members due to this. Obviously, the design and therefore the direction, has been altered drastically since the production first opened, because there is no way that in 1983 there would have been a conveyer belt on the stage. I l;oved this - it enabled the directors to show people's thoughts as well as two sceens happening simultaneously without the annoying method of lighting half the stage then lighting the other half.

Speakign of lighting, much of the show was very dark which helped to create atmosphere and give off the intended mood. The final major piece of scenery was a massive construction split into two halves which represented both the bridge and latter the battlefield when it veyr cleverly twisted. All the other scenery was flown in very subtley, and the way the cast were directed to make entrances around all this was nothign short of sublime.

This served as an introdiction to Trevor Nunn's work as a director for me. Of course it was co-directed with John Caird, who is also a well knwon director and has an equally impressive resume. I think it is the most complete direction I have ever seen of a stage show. The pair seemed to get the best out of each and every one of the actors. The collaboration with the set designers was flawless, paticularly in the battle scene. Overall there were no obvious niggling faults, and I found myself wishing that I was born thirty years ago so I could have seen the show at several different points through history as it developed.

The story was a lot simpler than I had anticipated. Neverthless, it was wonderful, and although the fact that SPOILER ** Valjean is Cosette's father SPOILER** was quite obvious from the beginning, it was still compelling throughout with new developments comign with every number. Unusually for an ensemble piece, the pivotal characters were all reasonably developed.

It was interesting the way that Valjean's story was woven into the beginnign through a couple of flashbacks, because this is the way that Boublil and Schoneberg's Marguerite (which I love) was told. I also liked the way the story was similar to Shakespeare plays in that there were lighthearted, perhaps unneccesary to the plot, scenes which broke up the serious action for the audience.

David Shannon was the most anticipated performance for me. With his long affiliation with the show, apearances in Miss Saigon and Martin Guerre, and of course his turn in the title role of Sondheim's thriller Sweeney Todd, i was hoping for something special. As Jean Valjean he certainly did not disapoint. His young Valjean was unintentionally sexy, innocent and naive, before undergoing a complete transformation into the older, stronger and wiser Valjean.One of the most powerful acting performances I have ever seen on the stage, Shannon sung th part perfectly and outshone most who shared the stage with him.

Rebecca Seale as Fantine was a tiny bit disapointing. Her rendition of I Dreamed a Dream was weak, but her acting was decent and believable. She definitely fared better singing the dialogue sections and in Act Two.

Martin Ball and Lorraine Bruce as M. and Mme. Thenadier were enjoyably comic, and all was note perfect.

Eponine was played by Helen Owen, who happened to be the understudy. It is worth noting that, for me, Helen gave a stand out performance. Just before the interval she became the first member of the cast to evoke emotion in me, and even her rendition of On My Own managed to make me forget all about the amusing Forbidden broadway parody of this song.

Cosette is quite a boring role, but Katie Hall gave a good performance which was unfortunately eclipsed by Helen, then later Alistair Brammer as Marius, everytime she was on the stage. Alistair was serviceable as Marius, growing into the role as the show progressed.

Mark Dugdale, the understudy, shone as Enjoras and, after the young Valjean, was easily the most attractive in the show. His movement and acting skills in the battle scene were one of the highlights of the show.

Overall, the ensemble was fantastic, diffusing between different situations effortlessly and making carefully choreographed moves seem natural. They were a tight unit and it was as though it was the first night of the show, A mention must now be made for the excellent costume and overall production design.

Les Miserables is now second on my top ten musicals list, and is only the second show to receive five stars!

Thursday, 1 October 2009


I will admit that I found the book tedious. it was one of those novels where, even though it's easy to read, you just keep reading the same bit again and again before you decide to give up. So today when I (finally) watched the TV film adaptation of it I was definitely surprised.

This had been festering on the Sky planner for about a month. I had taped it on a whim, so when i had a couple of hours to myself today I just decided to watch it.

Eve Myles was really great! Her character Gwen in Torchwood really annoys me, but in this she was actually quite endearing. Her character's style was also impeccable! The rst of the adult cast were good, but the children's performances really let it down, with most of them just trying to say their lines and look cute.

It was really cool because the story is set in a small village in Snowdonia, where I've been on two climbing trips, so I found myself recognising bits of the landcape. It was also really cool to hear some Welsg spoken in it!

We need more TV movies, because this would never have got made as a normal film. The impression I get is that there are a lot more TV movies in America, which can only be a good thing because they're relatively cheap to make.

Okay, it wasn't the most sunningly scripted or directed piece ever, but it was an enjoyable way to spend an hour and a half,a ndalso a tantalising reminder of childhood innocence. I may even try to read the book again now!

Monday, 28 September 2009

Cate as Elizabeth, Part One

Just finished watching Elizabeth, the biopic starring Cate Blanchett, one of my favourite actresses. It was surprising how much i could remember about that period of history (the Tudors), having last studied it about five years ago, and even then not in a great deal of detail. i thought it was very well acted and it never got boring because although it was two hours long, new things kept on happening. Period dramas are not my favourite type of films, and I admittedly only watched this because of Cate, but I'm glad I did because I really enjoyed it. Hopefully the next film I watch will be the sequel, and hopefully this will see Cate deliver yet another Oscar-worthy performance!

Films that are kid's films, but not really kid's films!

The title doesn't really make sense, actually. What I mean is, films that are marketed towards children, look like they're for children, usually have more than one child actor and have a child friendly rating. But then when you watch the film you find that actually a child would either get really bored watching it, or it's child friendly for the most part, but there's stuff that no way would a child understand.

For instance, a few months ago I went to the library. I was in a sad mood, can't remember why, and needed cherring up. So I hired The Holiday, a Cameron Diaz/Kate Winslet romcom directed by Nancy Meyers (who is awesome), No Reservations (which, despite the abundance of Catherine Zeta-Jones, was sadly, not too good) and Mr Magorium's Wonder Emporium. The latter is what part inspired this post. I am a fan of Dustin Hoffman and Natalie Portman, and thought, even though it looked really babyish, I might as well borrow it. Boy was I wrong! It was actually really good, and held my attention throughout. The performances, especially from Zac Mills (the small boy in the film, can't remember the name of the character) were inspiring considering the premise and amount of material they had to work with. It shows how a simple story can work really well with a good cast and good actors. The thing is, though, the average under eight year old (the film is a U) would probably have got very bored.

Moving on from this though. Last night I watched Bridge to Terabithia, the first of the three DVDs I brought yesterday. It was fantastic. The directing was great, the special effects were, for once, subtle (less is more, you know, SFX artists), and the screenplay was the best it could be. I want to read the novel now to see how it was adapted.

The performances from the young cast were all pretty good. Josh Hutcherson had improved a lot from Zathura, and even though AnnaSophia Robb's performance was nothing special in this film, I am looking forward to seeing some of her more grown up films such as Sleepwalking, because I'm sure she has a lot more to give. Bailee Madison was so cute, and if she keeps up actign she could be really good in the future. I love Zooey Deschanal, need to see more of her films other than this, Elf and Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. She's the sort of actress that always delivers a cool and quirky performance yet isn't quite famous enough for the really awesome roles.

I knew the ending, but it still made me cry. The film was well paced, because although it happened really quickly, it didn't seem at all sudden. I don't want to spoil the ending, as it was spoiled for me!

The way the film was filmed was clever, because it was like you were seeing it from Jess' own point of view, without the director resorting to the lazy technique of the voiceover! The relationships between the parents and children in the films, and some of the themes would have been too much for me to understand when I was younger and owuld have gone over my head, which is why I thought this wasn't really a children's film. At the same time though, it didn't have the big name casting or the promise of non stop action to attract a mainstream movie audience, nor the storyline to be an arthouse film. Overall, this is a film that you could grow up with and learn to appreciate more as you got older. It really has something for everyone, because parents could watch this with their children without getting bored and wishing they were watchinf The Dark Knight, or whatever they like. I wish there was a film that I had grown up with, and could still watch and really appreciate!

Saturday, 26 September 2009

2008 Oscar line up, only seven months after the ceremony....

So, it is September, and in fact exactly seven months since the 2009 Oscar ceremony was held, which obviously honours the best films from 2008. I could finish it after watching Frost/Nixon for the first time last night. For 2009, I plan to be more organsied and have already started ranking the films that I've seen this year. I still feel like I need to see Frozen River, but apart from that I think I've definitely sampled the best cinema had to offer in 2008.

So, I put Kate Winslet's performance in the Reader as a supporting performance, as opposed to lead like the Academy did. I put Frank Langella's performance in Frost/Nixon in supporting also. I also felt that Lina Leanderson deserved a nomination for her great work in Let the Right One In, so I put her in supporting because even though she had the female lead it's the Tatum O'Neal/Abigail Breslin situation, where if the young actress was pushed in lead they wouldn't garner a deserving nomination, hence why I put her in supporting.

So here is my list, with them ranked in my order of preference. I don't do tech awards by the way!

Best Picture:

1. The Wrestler (WINNER)
2. Milk
3. Wall-e
4. Doubt
5. The Dark Knight

Best Actor in a Leading Role:

1. Clint Eastwood - Gran Torino (WINNER)
2. Sean Penn - Milk
3. Mickey Rourke - The Wrestler
4. Michael Sheen - Frost/Nixon
5. Francois Begaudeau - The Class

Best Actress in a Leading Role:

1. Kristin Scott Thomas - I've Loved You So Long (WINNER)
2. Kate Winslet - Revolutionary Road
3. Sally Hawkins - Happy go Lucky
4. Cate Blanchett - The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
5. Angelina Jolie - Changeling

Best Actor in a Supporting Role:

1. Eddie Marsan - Happy Go Lucky (WINNER)
2. Frank Langella - Frost/Nixon
3. Phillip Seymour Hoffman - Doubt
4. Aaron Eckhart - The Dark Knight
5. Michael Shannon - Revolutionary Road

Best Actress in a Supporting Role:

1. Amy Adams - Doubt (WINNER)
2. Marisa Tomei - The Wrestler
3. Kate Winslet - The Reader
4. Lina Leanderson - Let the Right One In
5. Rosemary DeWitt - Rachel Getting Married

Best Achievement in Directing:

1. Gus van Sant - Milk (WINNER)
2. Clint Eastwood - Changeling
3. John Patrick Shanley - Milk
4. David Fincher - The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
5. Christopher Nolan - The Dark Knight

Best Writing - Adapted Screenplay:

1. The Reader (WINNER)
2. Frost/Nixon
3. Doubt
4. Revolutionary Road
5. The Duchess

Best Writing - Original Screenplay:

1. Happy Go Lucky (WINNER)
2. Milk
3. I've Loved You So Long
4. Rachel Getting Married
5. Gran Torino

So, this is my first ever finished Oscar line up. Enjoy!

Monday, 21 September 2009

My top ten favourite stage musicals, and the Emmys 2009

So, I thought I'd start this blog with a list of my current top ten favourite stage musicals:

1. Sunset Boulevard
2. Chicago
3. Avenue Q
4. Mary Poppins
5. We Will Rock You
6. The Lion King
7. Starlight Express
8. Marguerite
9. Beauty and the Beast
10. Mamma Mia

This will change, bearing in mind I haven't seen Les Miserables, Phantom of the Opera or Blood Brothers yet! I do change it quite frequently actually.

I don't really watch much British TV, let alone American, but I was so happy to see Toni Collette win the best leading actress in a comedy series last night! I love her work in films, and she is one of my favourite actresses. As soon as I get a chance I'll be checking out the United States of Tara! Of course she beat Tina Fey. Now, I am a huge 30 Rock and a huge Tina fan, but I won't comment on this because her performances are the only ones i've seen in this category. Of course she won last year and has six Emmys already, so it's not like it was a Kate Winslet situation. Alec Baldwin was a great winner again (Jack is so awesome), and I was pleased to see 30 Rock win best comedy for a third year running! Also, congratulations to Kristin Chenoweth, one of my favourite Broadway actresses. I wish Pushing Daisies didn't get cancelled, but hopefully this Emmy win will get her a lot more fame and work in the future. Long live Olive Snook!

So, that was the Emmys, well my little corner of them anyway. It's times like this I wish I had American TV, but then if I did it would probably annoy me in the same way british TV does. Goodnight for now!