Sunday, 18 April 2010

Don't feed the fangirls!

The title could be offensive to certain people, and I apologise for that. I just thought it was clever, because my Mum went to see Wicked for the second time yesterday and Wicked is infamous for its fan girls. It's also a parody (if that's the right word) of the song "Don't feed the plants" from Little Shop of Horrors, which also has a cult following.

I guess this post is really about seeing shows repeatedly. This is something that I've never really done. I've seen We Will Rock You twice, the second time being for a friend's birthday, and also Beauty and the Beast, the second time being for a school trip, but other than that I have only seen each show once. I know several people who see certain shows again and again until they are well into double figures. I can understand this to an extent, even though I've never done it myself.

No two performances are ever the same. This is a fact. Performers may hit different notes, perform better on some days, and of course accidents do happen. Then there are special performances such as cast changes, the chance to say goodbye to perfomers that one paticularly admires.

Then there are the performers themselves. I have several performers which I love and admire, Kerry Ellis, Ruthie Henshall and Katie Rowley-Jones to name but a few. I think I am different from most performer fans in that I'll see them once in a paticular show and treasure that memory, whereas others will keep on going back to relive the moment.

Understudies. I have a friend who repeatedly sees Avenue Q, finding out the days when certain actors will be off and their role played by their understudy, presumably to compare the two and again, to see a different performance or interpretation of the role.

I suppose there is also the love of the show itself. This seems paticularly true of classics such as Les Misérables.

So why have I never seen a show more than once, aside from the two exceptions mentioned above?

I suppose the main reason for this is my age. Not only am I not yet able to travel to London alone, which would allow me to go for dayseats and visit Tkts to obtain cheaper revisits, and also not to have to make someone else come and see the show again, but I have only really been a real theatregoer for just over a year. In this time I have managed to see quite an impressive amount of shows, but there is still so much that I haven't seen that I would rather see different things than go and see the same thing again. With age, the time will come when I do go and see things again, but for now I would rather go and see new things.

I've seen 25 different musicals on the stage. Just scrolling through the list, I thought it would be interesting to list the ones that I would see again, and why:

This was my introduction to Bob Fosse, and really what made me first start thinking about a career in the theatre. I would definitely see this again because there are so many different ways that the lead characters could be interpreted/played, and I just love the music. As a matter of fact, I'm listening to it now. Ruthie Henshall is currently playing Roxie Hart in London, and I had to fight the urge inside myself to go again just to see her. It's just over thirteen months since I first saw the show, and although I would dearly have loved to see Ruthie, I am almost certain that I'll have another opportunity to see her on stage one day. I will definitely go and see Chicago again before the London production closes, though.

Sunset Boulevard
I was moved through an emotional whirlwind by last year's revival, directed by Craig Revel-Horwood. I have never liked an Andrew Lloyd-Webber musical as much as this, I usually listen once then get bored, but with Sunset I always go back for more. The character of Norma Desmond still fascinates me, and it was the first time that I'd seen an actor-musician show. I would definitely see Sunset again, and am looking forward to the almost inevitable revival, probably in ten years time, whether it is an actor-musician show or not.

Avenue Q
I am addicted to the cast recording, and almost know it off by heart. It resonates with me so powerfully, and made me a fan of Julie Atherton. It was so original, offbeat and humourous. I would definitely go, considering the show has now moved for the second time, to the Wyndham's, so it would not only be a different cast, but also a different theatre.

Les Misérables
I think in five years time, if the show is still running, which it most probably will be, I would go and see this again. Even though the musical is nearly perfect, I didn't love it as much as I've loved other things, but it still amazed me, and I think when I've nearly forgotten the staging, I would probably go and see this again. I also now look on it differently, having read the novel.

The amateur production we saw was quite possibly the best amateur production of anything that I've ever seen. If there was a production of this within 100 miles of my home, I would be there immediately. The story is just wonderful, and I find the ending so uplifting. I can't stop myself from listening to the cast recording, reading the script and living the lives of the bohemians.

Annie Get Your Gun
The Young Vic production was a great update to the classic musical. I'd really like to see a different interpretation, perhaps more intune with the original production. I also love Irving Berlin's score.

Blood Brothers
For the same reasons as Les Miz, except for the bit about the novel. I would also be interested in seeing a different actress play Mrs. Johnston. I'm also curious as to whether I would have less of an emotional reaction the second time around. Either way, the show is marvellous and different to almost every other musical I can think of.

I would also go and see (in the future) different revivals of Sweet Charity and La Cage aux Folles, though I think it would be difficult to top the Menier productions.

Other than that, I don't think I would go and see any other shows I have seen for a second time, with the possible exception of a performer I really like being cast. This, for me, reflects the nature of theatre - the creation of a special moment for the audience, which is different each night.

Thursday, 15 April 2010

Steven Spielberg's goddaughter

Who knew she could act until 2009? Up until Grey Gardens, the wonderful made for TV movie based on a true story, Drew Barrymore had gone from cute child star to troubled teenager, and had emerged from this as another formulaic actress who did comedies. And romantic comedies.

I'd seen her in E.T, I'd seen her in The Wedding Singer (which is probably Adam Sandler's best film, but let's not get sidetracked), and I'd suffered through Charlie's Angels. All her other films weren't what I would usually watch, so I never considered following her career, like I do with other actors and actresses, until now.

I decided to watch Grey Gardens when it was aired in the UK over Christmas, not only because Drew had received an Emmy for her performance and dozens of rave reviews online, but also because I vaguely recall listening to the cast album of the Broadway musical adaptation. I watched it, and I was blown away. Her performance was fantastic, moving and poignant in every way. Suddenly, in my mind, Drew was an actress.

Whip It (2009) was her directorial debut. It's finally been released in the UK, so I went to the cinema with my Mum to see it yesterday. I was a bit concerned, because it looked like a stereotypical teen-comedy, but after talking to many people who had been surprised by it and reading some very good reviews I decided to give it a chance. It also helped that the cast included Ellen Page, who in my opinion is one of the best young actresses working in film, and Kristen Wiig, who I recently noticed in Adventureland (2009) and on Saturday Night Live.

I really loved the film, and thought it was one of the best teen comedies I have ever seen. My Mum enjoyed it a lot too, which shows it's apeal was not just limited to the teenage market. The script was clever and each of the characters were written sassily with plenty of good one-liners, so each character had a chance to "get some laughs" and shows their own personalities.

So, what was the film actually about? It was about roller derby, an old American sport which has just been given a new lease of life. Well, that was what the film suggested, I'm not trying to generalise all American towns here. Bliss (Ellen Page's character) lived with her mother, father and younger sister. Her mother is obsessed with beauty pageants and wants Bliss and her sister to achieve what she never could, so thus enters them for as many as possible. Whilst Bliss' sister loves this, Bliss isn't so keen, even dying her hair blue as a dare in attempt to liven up a dull pageant. One day she spots an advert for a roller derby, and decides to go with her best friend, Pash, to watch. They are both enthralled by it, and after the game Bliss meets two of the girls from the team who suggest she tries out. She does, and gets on the team. Now Bliss has discovered this new talent, a whole new life evolves for her as the team, who were on a losing streak, begin to win with her help. New friends, including a boyfriend, follow, but this is at the expense of her former life....

Sounds average, doesn't it? But it wasn't. The energertic and fresh performances of the cast coupled with the excitement of the roller derby moved the story along quickly and ensured that we were never bored, Ellen gave a great performance as Bliss, and really carried the film. Drew, as well as directing, played one of the roller girls, called Smashlee Simpson. She was rarely on the screen, and her character was bit mad, but it was still a good performance. Kristen Wiig's character was almost a split personality, and the way she played her made me fall in love with the motherly side of her character. Jimmy Fallon was incredibly entertaining, I had had no idea that he acted before the film.

Drew's first feature as a director was really good. The camera angles were really good in capturing the action, and the setting of the film perfect. It took what she's been acting in for the mpast couple of decades to an amazing, original new level, which makes me wonder why, if she has managed to do this, she didn't choose to act in better quality films before? It seems that she is following in the footsteps of her godfather after all.

Overall, Whip It was a great film to see and be entertained by. Dear John, across the corridor, was sold out. Sadly, only about a quarter of our cinema was full, which was a shame because Whip It was probably a lot better and original than Dear John...

Sunday, 4 April 2010

Share the love....

In case you weren't able to guess by the title, I went to see Hair yesterday evening. Before I write the review, I just want to say that it was one of the funnest, most enjoyable experiences that I have ever had at the theatre, and I would recommend it to anyone who loves going to the theatre. It was unlike anything that I have ever seen before.

Last night's performance was only the third preview, but pretty much the whole of the original Broadway revival cast had come over to London, so they were really tight anyway, unlike some previews of other shows. It was the first time that I have ever seen a Broadway cast, having never been to New York. It wasn't really much different from seeing a UK cast, but they all seemed really at home in their roles and it was probably one of the most talented ensembles that I've ever seen.

I didn't really know much about the show beforehand. I had received the cast recording for my birthday, and listened to it, but I hadn't really paid much attention when I listened to it. Overall, Act Two was better than Act One because more of the plot was centred in Act Two. Act One seemed to be mainly about introducting the characters and the era. The plot was quite thin compared to some other musicals, but the characters were developed quite well. I really enjoyed the music and it fit really well with the show, helping to move the story along and keep the audience interested. There were only a few ballads, which worked really well and seemed to come at exactly the right moments.

The set was great. It was very simple and allowed the orchestra/band to be on stage, something which always adds to the atmosphere of the show. The set mainly consisted of a large steel frame of staircases at the back to allow the cast to go up there. There were also steps which lead up to the dress circle, and of course steps that lead down into the stalls.

The audience interaction added to the atmosphere and the experience of the show. Even though I sat towards the end of row E, I didn't experience any of this, although it seems all the people sitting around me did. At the end of the show, I was the fifth person to run up onto the stage though. The dance party was so fun, I just wish Gavin had stayed on the stage and not run up to the dress circle.

Diane Paulus directed the piece very well, especially the sensitive moments. She made such good use of the stage, which looked massive compared to how small it seemed when Avenue Q was on at the Gielgud. The choreography, by Karole Armitage, was amazing, it really captured the mood of each scene and allowed all the tribe members to be individuals. The cast as a whole also had such amazing levels of energy and never stopped throughout the whole show.

Onto the cast. Gavin Creel was great as Claude. I saw him play Bert in Mary Poppins a couple of years ago, one of the first West End shows that I ever saw. I really enjoyed his performance then, but he managed to give an even better performance as Claude. He did the sensitive scenes really well, and managed to show many sides of Claude's character. Overall, he probably gave the best acting performance out of the whole cast.

Will Swenson played off Gavin very well, although was a little scary as Berger at times. His comic timing was great, although he was panting in a very strange manner at times. Allison Case stood out as Crissy, in what was quite a small role. The rest of the principals were also very good, and as said before it was probably the best ensemble that I've ever seen in a show.

Overall, Hair was an amazing experience and it was wonderful to have the chance to see something from Broadway. I didn't paticularly love the show, but more the amazing experience and atmosphere that was created in the theatre. Recommended.


I have given up giving shows star ratings, except for shows which I would give 5 stars too, because it became too difficult to differentiate between 3 stars and 4 stars and to do it with the shows relative to each other. I still only have three 5 star shows:

Sunset Boulevard (June 2009)
Forbidden Broadway (July 2009)
Blood Brothers (February 2010)