conference day 02 | hamilton

To get up early for the 8.30am session or not, that was the question. We were good students, so we did. The day was full of educational sessions. One that touched on the current political climate, a masterclass on great openings, an update on the legacies project documentary, a discussion on swearing. The membership meeting highlighted the contributions made by volunteers and that the organisation was in good hands.

One of the most important meetings I went to was the one on awards changes. I had some input to this and we were excited with the improvements suggested. Seemed to be well received by the membership too, so the effort wasn’t wasted.

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We finished early and met at the lobby for the drive into the city. The destination, Hamilton the musical. Car had gotten tickets as soon as the booking window opened and a group of us piled into her car. There were a number of our friends who were there also. I hadn’t had dinner so I bought some of their “pyes” ie small apple and cherry pies. The theatre was completely full and as soon as the house lights went off the audience cheered loudly. And the cheers didn’t stop. The show was really amazing. I know very little about Alexander Hamilton except he was one of the group that included George Washington, James Madison. I was able to follow the story easily. The music was a departure from usual musical style, I had listened to the soundtrack so I knew it was mostly hip hop. Simply put, very well done and a fantastic show. Up there with Les Miz.

musical: kinky boots

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We went to see Kinky Boots the musical today at the Cadillac Palace theatre. I’d never seen it before, and I know it’s opening in London soon. The biggest draw is that the score is by Cyndi Lauper and it won 6 Tonys including Best Musical. The story is simple: a young man inherits his family’s shoe factory, finds out that it’s on the brink of closure, meets a new friend and saves the factory by producing a very niche shoe while in the process becomes enlightened and accepting.

The kinky boots in question take the form of said niche shoes, thigh-length sparkling boots that are sturdy and aimed at the drag queen market. The idea comes from the new friend, from the outside a flamboyant drag performer by the name of Lola, who is in fact Simon from Clacton. The young shoemaker, Charlie, together with his gruff factory colleagues, are initially uneasy in the company of Lola, but at the end they become a family.

Seems like we’ve been there before. The premise comes from

a line of charming but formulaic British screen successes, in which economic hard times and battered self-worth were alleviated by such means as a brass band (Brassed Off), a male stripper act (The Full Monty), ballet (Billy Elliot) and menopausal nudity (Calendar Girls)

Although the story may be considered predictable, the music is anything but stale. Cyndi Lauper did a great job, the tunes were poignant, catchy, beautiful and grand. The singing was all kinds of wonderful too. A lot of the action took place in one set (the factory) and at times the actor was the only person on stage. The solos were also spread out, with several characters given the chance to shine, and they did.

The only minor negative was the audio. The mics were uneven, sometimes too loud and screechy, sometimes not loud enough that we couldn’t hear what the actors were saying. The accents were inconsistent too. The setting is East Midlands, with some London and Essex. Some of the actors managed British accents better than others. Once I got over it, I focused on the story and music. Accents aren’t noticeable when someone is singing anyway. I noticed small non-British things that shouldn’t be there—a sign in Northampton won’t say “Northampton, England” (emphasis mine) and you can’t give only two weeks’ notice to fire people like in America—these aren’t negatives, just observations.

I was tapping and humming along throughout the musical. At the end, they got the audience on our feet and clapping along. Thoroughly enjoyed it.<

#07: new musical on your feet

onyourfeet01oriental onyourfeet02curtain

Task #7 of 101.1001 is to go to a new musical. Today I went to see on your feet at the oriental theatre in chicago.

There are so many new musicals that I’ve lost touch at what is showing and which one is new. On Your Feet is a show about Gloria Estafan and her husband Emilio: how they met, how they worked to become successful in the music business and how a bus accident almost derailed their lives and careers. Some reviews likened it to a feel-good tv movie. Although there are similarities to a tv movie, the energy, the music and the overall production pushed the standard much higher.

I can’t name a single Gloria Estafan (with or without Miami Sound Machine) song, but I could recognise the bigger hits when I hear them. And I did, the bigger hits. The songs I hadn’t heard of before were a revelation to me, I enjoyed them too. The dancing was great and the energy was infectious.

The singing. Wow, the singing. Ana Villafane plays Gloria, looks like Gloria, and sounds like Gloria. Superb. The other cast members were memorable too, from Josh Segarra who played Emilio and the family members: Gloria’s mom, grandmother, father and sister all excelled. The boy who played both her son and a dancing bar mitzvah boy was wonderful. At the end of both acts, the audience were on their feet, clapping and dancing, that was how much everyone enjoyed the show.

london musicals apr-2015

Current musicals in London that I am interested in, and today’s availability at the “half-price” tkts booth at Leicester Square:

  • book of mormon at the prince of wales — not sold at tkts, there are more expensive seats available direct at the theatre
  • charlie and the chocolate factory at the theatre royal drury lane — £18.50-50.50 no discount
  • let it be at the garrick — £32.50 with discount
  • matilda at the cambridge — £36 no discount, I saw this in 2012, I definitely want to see it again and definitely think mm will like it
  • miss saigon at the prince edward — £28.50-38.50 no discount, saw it when it first came out (lea salonga!!), will be interesting to see it again
  • sweeney todd at the london coliseum — not at tkts, limited run closing on 12-apr; cheapest tickets are £86, I love Emma Thompson but…gulp
  • women on the verge of a nervous breakdown at the playhouse — £22.50-39.50 with discount

 
There are others playing I’m less interested in, like Beautiful, the Commitments, Gypsy, Jersey Boys, Lion King, Molly Wobbly, Once, Seven Brides; others I’ve seen already like Billy Elliot, Cats, Les Miz, Mamma Mia, Phantom, Wicked. The two I do want to see, Kinky Boots and Damon Albarn’s Wonder.land, are not on yet.

 

My personal preferences: the Book of Mormon, Matilda, Women on the Verge. The ticket booth doesn’t have tickets or offer discounts for the more popular musicals, not even on the day. Disappointing. I’ve always thought of the booth as a tourist attraction anyway, and now even more so with the new look booth and the twee phone box next to it. Seriously, apart from escort services, who uses phone boxes?.

Anyway, I think we’ll probably end up seeing Matilda, if we were to go to the West End. Which is more than fine with me.

 

matilda the musical

I never read Roald Dahl’s book, but I can guess at its quirkiness. I’ve been wanting to see Matilda the Musical for a while. It’s too popular to be in the special offer in May, and somehow mm and I couldn’t find the time for it when she was here. But nevertheless, I managed to get a ticket for myself. No, it’s not the same, watching a musical on my own, can’t be helped.

I had a good seat, upper circle second row aisle seat. Full house tonight, a good mix of adults and children. Worth the ticket price, doubled and tripled. Absolutely fantastic show — the kids were just naughty enough to be endearing, the adults despicable caricatures, the story moving without the emotional blackmail that goes with this sort of tale. And oh, Lara Wollington as Matilda tonight really shone. Like everyone in the house, I was entranced by her story of the acrobat and the escapologist (kudos to the sound and lighting effect, there was one scary bit when I was scared too). No big huge production number, all the songs were great. The highlights were Naughty and When I Grow Up.

It doesn’t matter that mm hasn’t seen this, it took me years to manage to show her Wicked, I’ll make sure she gets to see Matilda one of these days. It’s one show I won’t mind seeing over and over again. Highly recommended.

sweeney todd at the adelphi

Oh my goodness. This is the definition of quality. I’d seen the film and was underwhelmed. My smart theatrical friends told me that this is a must see, because of Imeda Staunton (and Michael Ball.) They were not wrong. So I went out on a hot Monday evening to the Strand to see Sweeney Todd at the Adelphi.

This version of the Stephen Sondheim’s musical was dark and chilling. The chorus was menacing and the occasional screech of the steam whistle heightens the sense of unease. Remember Michael Ball as the babyfaced Marius at Les Miz? Now he’s scary and broody and still sings like an angel. The real star of the show, for me, was Imelda Staunton, which isn’t much of a surprise. I tried unsuccessfully to watch Superstar, the only thing I took away was the in musicals acting ability is just as important as singing ability. Imelda Staunton brought comic relief and masterful acting ability to her portrayal of Mrs Lovett.

The first half started slowly for me, and I was waiting for the next big scene or next big number. The second half though, I was at the edge of my seat, totally riveted. I remembered that almost everybody died at the end, but even so the way they met their ends were just as gruelsome as I expected. Wonderful production.

(This video is from the run at Chichester last year, with the same London cast>)

chicago the musical

Musical #3 this summer, Chicago. On my own this time, and matinee at an odd time of 5pm. I’d gone to Hawksmoor to grab a lobster roll for lunch and ended up staying there till almost 3pm drinking their best bourbon, heehee. Anyway, I opted for the cheapest £20 upper circle tickets, this is a musical that I feel like I’m supposed to see rather than me chomping at the bits to see it. Truth is, I hadn’t even watched the film till this week, and only because I knew I was coming to see the show and I want to get familiar with the story.

I got to the Garrick early and made my way up to the top floor. At which point one of the officials informed me that the upper circle is closed and if I would follow him to the box office he’ll give me a new seat. Wow. They gave me 4th row stall, on the aisle. Nice seat. It was full house, I wonder why they closed the upper circle.

I won’t compare with the film, they are two different animals. I am glad I watched it to get a sense of the story, it’s kind of surreal and needs a bit of imagination. Enjoyed the performances, thought it was strange that there weren’t costume changes (policemen and doctors tend not to be bare-chested or wear see-through tight shirts). The principal casts were great, if not outstanding. To my amateur eye, the dancing was better than the singing. All in all, as I said, an enjoyable performance. Should have bought my ticket for next week, Robin Cousins join as Billy Flynn for Olympic season.

singin’ in the rain

The London production of Singin’ in the Rain opened in February after a run at Chichester last year, and is one of the tickets RM and I got during the May discount season. We managed to snag the second row and our tickets had the warning that people in the front stalls may get wet. Ha! May?

First the production. Excellent. Excellent dancing. Excellent choreography. Singing was good, though none of the solos brought the house down. Liked that they used the whole theatre, including the aisles at the stalls. The screening of the Duelling / Dancing Cavalier at the back of the stage made us feel a part of the filmmaking. It had enough merit on its own without comparisons to the Gene Kelly film.

The best thing was the theme song at the end of Act 1, and there was real water!! Adam Cooper as Don Lockwood was dancing his way on stage with real water. And kicking the real water towards the audience. Some people came prepared with raincoats, but I think the fun part is actually getting wet. Throughout the intermission, we watched a team of people mop the stage dry, in its strange way it was mesmerising. The company repeated the number at encore and there was even more splashes. We were drenched, completely drenched. It was brilliant.

les miserables london

I saw Les Miz a couple of times in the early 1990s in London, it was a huge hit then. It is still a huge hit. Earlier in May, there was a theatre offer where tickets for London shows were offered at big discounts, RM and I managed to get mid-stalls for £40. It’s the first time I’d seen Les Miz at its new home at the Queen’s Theatre on Shaftesbury Ave, it is smaller than the Palace, but it’s still a huge hit.

The storyline, the music, and spectacle have all been well documented. I had forgotten quite a few of the songs, so I watched the 10th anniversary concert on youtube beforehand. Oh yes, I had forgotten. There were so many opportunities for solos, everyone on the stage could shine. Geronimo Raunch from Argentina was wonderful as Valjean, but it is always the Javerts that steal the show, and tonight it was Tam Mutu. Samantha Dorsey is making her professional debut as Cosette, I think she needs more experience. Craig Mather as Marius, well he did Michael Ball proud

So many favourite songs. The one that always bring misty eye is Empty Chairs Empty Tables. This video is Michael Ball and Alfie Boe singing, ignore the scenes with Nick Jonas.

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cagney lacey 30 years in london

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Both Sharon Gless and Tyne Daly are in London and will be for a while. Ms Gless in A Round-Heeled Woman, which moved from the Riverside studios to the Aldwych this week (and with the 3 times price hike upon the move to the West End). Ms Daly will star as Maria Callas in Master Class at the Vaudeville come January. I’m really, really not a theatre person, so I’m not sure I will go to either. I went to Love Never Dies with mm when she was here, and I want to see if I can book Matilda for when she is here next summer.

Anyway, back to the inimitable ladies. They were also at the BFI earlier this week to celebrate 30 years of Cagney and Lacey. Ack, I missed that, would have been interesting to attend.

respect la diva

youtube link: http://youtu.be/4qtFr8joEjk

Our department went out for a farewell party for one of our colleagues. Dinner first at the forge at covent garden. I had roasted vegetable risotto, steak diane, and crème brulee.

Then it was onto the Garrick Theatre on Charing Cross Road to see Respect La Diva. It’s only on for 3 weeks, and I thought it was a musical that included songs from the great divas — Ella Fitzgerald, Dusty Springfield, Tina Turner et al. Actually it was more like a straightforward concert of tribute singers singing those songs. The singers were all very good, but the show could have been tighter and had a bit more of a storyline. It’s a very small theatre that doesn’t seem to have an orchestra pit so the band was on stage. This meant not a lot of space for the performers (especially the dancers) to move around. Some of the audience members were really enjoying themselves and the majority of the house stood up and clapped for the finale.

stockpot, m&m, rainbow, love never dies

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I wanted to take mm to the southbank real food stalls to try the roast hog but there were no pigs there today and we didn’t feel like anything else. Walked back towards Piccadilly Circus and ended up at another old favourite, Stockpot. Had the lunch special — grilled halloumi, mm had fish and I had roast beef, then we both had apple crumble with extra custard. Can’t beat Stockpot for value although I think it’s now less of a poor student’s haunt and has been taken over by the tourist guide crowds in search of a cheap meal. We were surrounded by out-of-towners, the French family next to us ordered steak and kidney pie.

The afternoon was spent ambling around town. I showed her the new M&M store, and we had an absolute blast there. Onto Foyles to look at music books for mm (I escaped to the basement to read finance exposés). Tea at what I now realise is a gay café bar but at the time it was the first one we came across. Early dinner of roast duck noodles in Chinatown. She continued her piano playing stint at a digital piano store and there is such a huge difference between a digital piano and a Steinway (duh). She was a tad unhappy at herself for not playing very well, but we were cheered by the sight of a rainbow at Covent Garden. More blessings.

bbmmldn054love

So, onto yet another highlight of our week, the final performance of love never dies. Reviews haven’t been kind, but we really enjoyed it! I couldn’t afford stall seats so we were up at the upper circle, right in the middle though. We were riveted throughout the performance; the music was good, most of the performances were impressive (some hamming up by Ramin Karimloo notwithstanding), and, well, the audience was overly rambunctious. I even got 2 for the price of 1 for my interval drink — I’d only paid for 1 beer, but they had 2 bottles laid out when I went to collect, ah well. Andrew Lloyd Weber said a few short words at the end and I think they deserved every minute of the standing ovation. We even had a good laugh at the plot holes on the way home.

love never dies

When mm is here in August I’m determined to take her to at least one musical, we love musicals. There are so many choices, but it’s a done deal when I read that Love Never Dies is closing on 28 August. Originally I thought we’d go on the Monday, but after listening to Ramin Karimloo, who doesn’t perform on Mondays, we’re going Saturday. Shame that mm is leaving on Sunday, otherwise we can catch the last show.

didn’t make it to a musical either

London is arguably the best city in the world for theatre and we’re big fans of musicals. We thought of going to see love never dies but when I got home, mm was curled up on the sofa, trying to keep warm. It was too cold to go out, so we stayed home again. We love staying home, so it’s not a hardship. Anyway, we’ll get another chance at London, we hope.

billy elliot

After work, we went to see billy elliot at the Oriental. First time at the Oriental was when I saw Wicked, and the theatre is still imposing. We drove and parked next doors.

The show wasn’t full, about 25-30% capacity only. I can still remember the film, and it was good to see the musical version. The Billy for the night was JP Viernes, and overall the show was good. Not outstanding, still enjoyable. Lots of memories on the miners’ strike, I doubt many people in the audience understood or were there for that.

#11 Wicked in London

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I could have gone to see a musical I hadn’t seen, yet I decided to go see wicked instead. May be if it hadn’t been on the 101.1001 list? Hmm. No. It’s been a few years since I last saw it in Chicago, and I wanted to see the London company perform. Must admit it was strange yet refreshing to hear dialogue and singing in British accents. It’s been a long time.

Enjoyed the show very much. I had to stop myself singing along. It wasn’t superstar gasping level, I was happy I got a centre stalls seat. I hadn’t heard of the cast — Rachel Tucker as Elphaba, Louise Dearman as Glinda, Lewis Bradley as Fiyero — the ladies deserved the standing ovation they received at the end.

improv

Went to an amateur improv show tonight. It was okay, the main purpose was to support one of the performers, and I enjoyed the show.

All I know is that, I will never be able to do it, I simply aren’t quick-witted enough and my comic timing is in the negatives. Nowadays when I think of improv, I think of the antics of improv everywhere, who have

caused [over 100] scenes of chaos and joy in public place

brigadoon

I got a chance to watch an old musical, Brigadoon on stage. The venue was the Huron Playhouse, a part of Bowling Green State University of Ohio. This is the 60th anniversary year of the theatre and they are putting on 5 productions, as per usual.

The theatre itself is the auditorium of a local school, but it was a full house! All 500+ seats were sold, and many of the audience have season tickets to watch all 5 shows.

I liked the show. The cast and crew are mainly students and this is a sort of educational / semi-professional production. It’s not 100% professional of course, and there were some outrays, but it made it charming. All the credit goes to the company and the director for getting it all ready in 2 weeks. It’s a 5 hour drive from Chicago and I’m glad I was invited.

wicked!

Decided to have a later start today, went to Chinatown for lunch. Can’t remember the name of the restaurant but it was green and we had dim sum. K&P got carded, yikes! But they got their beer anyway.

Wandered around for a bit, then headed back into town to meet Car at Miller’s Pub. Tried all sorts of different beers, and had early dinner. I had a nice sirloin steak with vegetables.

The reason for the early dinner was because we were going to see Wicked. Oh wow, it was a wonderful show! Simply fantastic. Better than Phantom. Better than Les Miserables. I can watch it again and again. It’s in London, so if bbmm get a chance to go back to London, it’s a must.

Here’s a couple of interesting pics: one of the inside the Oriental theatre and the other the roof of Lake station on the CTA.

chi377wicked   chi380redline

By the time we got home it was late. We discovered a new game, and I ended up playing until 1.30am. Heehee.

not audrey

mm and I went to see My Fair Lady today at the theatre. It was a production by a local amateur company. Although it wasn’t bad, we were hard pressed to find any overly enthusiastic words unfortunately. Top marks for effort, the ensemble did well and the director worked well with a large cast who seemed at times to be crowded on a tiny stage. Ultimately there just wasn’t enough chemistry between the actors. I did enjoy myself, the songs were familiar and the atmosphere very nice.

iron lady in song

I came across this last week, Thatcher the Musical played for a short run at the Warwick Arts Centre. Mrs Thatcher is played by 10 different actresses, all representing different stages of her life, starting from life as a grocer’s daughter to one of the most respected prime ministers. Key moments include the Brighton bombing, the Falklands war and the miner’s strike.

Reviews were not wonderful. The Independent gave it one star out of five and says that it’s “so relentlessly superficial, so innocuous, that it rouses only apathy.” The Telegraph was more sympathetic, call it an “enjoyable romp” and “grateful that someone in the theatre world has finally had the decency to acknowledge her seismic role in British politics.”

The plastic wigs (left) are reminiscent of the Spitting Image puppets (right). I guess we’re supposed to take the musical as seriously as we took Spitting Image. That is, not at all.

thatcherimage