When reviewing shows, anything goes... [by James Wenley]
Anything Goes is currently enjoying a very successful revival at the home of musical theatre: Broadway. If you believe the hype headliner Sutton Foster is akin to the second coming, and it received the 2011 Tony Award for ‘Best Revival’. It’s a classic musical that truly earnt its ‘classic’ tag, how could it not when it features a writing credit by PG Wodehouse (of Jeeves and Wooster fame), and songs by brilliant composer Cole Porter.
Aucklanders get to see what the fuss is about with a local production playing at the Civic by Auckland Music Theatre (who previously bought RENT and 42nd Street to the big stage), directed by Grant Meese.
Anything Goes is set on an ocean liner, bound to London from New York, which is judged not by its service, speed or style but on the quality of the passengers list and whether any celebrities will be on board.
It’s a familiar bag of comedic ingredients, reminiscent of a Shakespearean comedy or a Gilbert & Sullivan Opera... Reno Sweeney (Jackie Clarke) fancies Billy Crocker (Tyran Parke),but Billy’s in love with Hope Harcourt (Delwynne Winter), but she’s engaged to Evelyn Oakley (Richard Neame). Throw in some gangsters, mistaken identities and a lost pair of glasses, and we are set for a very silly, but very entertaining plot. We know who’s destined to end up with whom, and we know it will all come right in the end, but with these things it’s all about the journey. Or the cruise.
A Yellow Brick Road worth following [by James Wenley]
We're off to the see the Wizard. I’ll get you my pretties. Dorothy. Scarecrow. Lion. Tin Man. Toto.
The songs, images, lines and characters from The Wizard of Oz are burned in technicolour into the memories of generations of people for over 70 years. While deviating wildly from L. Frank Baum’s 1900 original book (turning the whole thing into a dream for one), the 1939 movie musical is arguably perfect cinema, and it is this interpretation that has taken hold of popular culture.
Still timeless, the memorable characters light up the screen in technicolour, and the story rewards both the young and the young at heart. Who hasn’t, like Dorothy, longed for a place where the “dreams that you dare to dream really do come true”.
And the Western world has continued to be fascinated by it. Andrew Lloyd Webber has put his own spin on the musical, Wicked revealed that the Wicked Witch of the West was actually rather nice, and there’s a new ‘prequel’ movie coming out starring James Franco as the Wizard.
But nothing has surpassed the film. Mess with this property at your peril.
Oh what a night… Tommy, Bobby, Nick and Frankie on their way [by James Wenley]
Len Brown announced at a press conference this morning at the Civic Theatre’s Wintergarden that the smash hit international musical Jersey Boys, the story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, will be coming to Auckland in April 2012.
Jersey Boys is a key part of the Mayor’s dream of the new Supercity becoming a true “events and show city” and driving tourism to Auckland nationally and internationally. Aucklanders shouldn’t have to go to Australia to see the latest hit shows, and Brown wants to attract more here.
Len Brown admits he hasn’t seen Jersey Boys yet, but looks forward to seeing and supporting it. It has been playing in Melbourne and Sydney over the last two years, and while Brown was tempted to go, he’s glad he waited.
Andrew Lloyd Webber, do you think you’re what they say you are? [by James Wenley]
Love him or hate him, there is no denying the massive impact that Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber has had on Musical Theatre over the last 4 decades. After all, the ‘British Invasion’ of Broadway in the 80s was almost single handedly driven by the composer.
The Music of Andrew Lloyd Webber is a celebration and retrospective of all of the musical wizard’s key works. What is perhaps surprising is how many of them aren’t as instantly recognisable as the hit tunes of Joseph, Cats, Evita, Jesus Christ Superstar and arguably his master work: The Phantom of the Opera. Indeed, it seems Lloyd Webber had been chasing the illusive mega-success of 1986’s Phantom ever since, his post-Phantom output never reaching the same heights. Tellingly, his recent Phantom sequel Love Never Dies (opening in Melbourne this month) was his most panned yet, though based on the album alone, I’d say that his musical powers haven’t died. Have audiences lost their love affair for Lloyd Webber?
The man whose tunes once swept the world now presides over a series of reality shows to find new West End stars, though he is still possibly one of the few composers who could get away with adding *new* songs into a new production of the timeless Wizard of Oz which opened in London this year.
Judging by the opening night response to The Music of Andrew Lloyd Webber, Auckland audiences love affair with his musicals is very much undimmed.
You can't stop the camp!
Forbidden Broadway is essential must-see viewing for any self-respecting Musical Theatre geek. Forbidden Broadway began its life in 1982 as a revue show created, written and directed by Gerard Alessandrini, spoofing the Broadway scene and musicals. It has run ever since, with Alessandrini constantly updated the show to keep up with the latest shows and trends.
Apparently broadway stars flocked to see the show and get autographs from the actors spoofing them; like all satire they only take offense if they aren’t included – the worst thing for a Broadway star is not to be talked about!
Auckland Music Theatre offer a ‘best of’ type package of Forbidden Broadway, taking some of the best bits over the years from spoofs of older shows like Hello Dolly, West Side Story through the British invasion of Cameron Mackintosh’s Les Miserable, Lloyd Webber’s CATS and Phantom of the Opera, right up to near current shows Hairspray, Legally Blonde and Spamalot.
AMT have set up cabaret table seating in their Westpoint theatre. The stage is bare apart from a sheer black drape hanging upstage. The lights are pretty, though I think different lighting states could have been utilized more to create mood and atmosphere. The dapper Musical Director Eddie Giffney sits at his piano stage right, and his accompaniment is superbly played all evening, very much in sync with the performers at all times.
Ah yes, the performers. The sparse space means that they are very much in the spotlight, so to speak. In keeping with Forbidden Broadway tradition, four actors portray a company of different musical theatre characters and personalities, clocking up a huge amount of costume changes. And do these guys deliver. At 17, Kate Reigel is the youngest; she posses a stunning voice and mature stage presence, this gal should go far. Her nicotine addicted former Annie child star (“I’m 30 years old, tomorrow”) is an early highlight, and she does a mean Lisa “One Note” Minelli. Charlotte West demonstrates a real flair for comedy, producing many of the night’s laughs.
The guys are RENT co-stars Paul Fagamalo and Cameron Clayton, who are given a great chance to take the piss out of that show! Fagamalo has a rich, soulful voice which he demonstrates as the Phantom of the Opera (once he gets taught how to sing at least). He also deserves praise for the succession of silly wigs and costumes he is subjected to, though he scrubs up nicely as Sweeney Todd. Clayton is a supreme all rounder, and particularly impressed when the spoofs asked him to get ‘dramatic’ and put on his ‘serious actor face’ – he bought the house down with the version of ‘Somewhere over the rainbow’, which as Broadway star Mandy Patinkin became ‘Somewhat overindulgent’.
Their individual talents all complement each other, and the really great moments in the show are when they all get to sing together in full voice. Although the songs are all parodies, with Pauline Vella’s direction they take it all seriously and commit fully. The choreography by Clayton Curnow is also very slick (and the take on Fosse brilliant). As a testament to their talent, I really wished I could see them in ‘real’ Broadway shows. Not that this isn’t real… but give them some money, a big theatre, and a hit show – I’d pay money to see ‘em.
The parodies range from the simple – Eponine’s tragic ‘On my Own’ becomes ‘On my phone’ , about a girl calling her friends backstage – to songs that require more technical knowledge such as Carol Channing’s revival history, or the works of Sondheim. Les Miserable gets a very thorough going over (“at the end of the play you’re another year older”) to my delight.
There is something inherently funny about changing song lyrics, but to really get the most out of the show you really do need to have a good working knowledge of Broadway stars and shows. I don’t think everyone knows who Carol Channing or Mandy Patinkin is, and some of the shows included are yet to reach these shores or have benefitted from a major professional production. There is certainly enough for the casual musical theatre fan to enjoy, but musical geeks will get a bigger kick out of it.
It is interesting to track Alessandrini’s takes on the history hit shows of Broadway, and the lyrics suggest a deeper soul searching about the genre and where it is going. Mega-smash jukebox musical Mamma Mia is called high art, but only because of the lesser shows that surround it. One of the later songs is ‘You can’t stop the camp’ (as in Hairspray’s ‘You can’t stop the beat’), where all the shows that are light on plot but big on ‘camp’ are listed. Spamalot’s ‘The song that goes like this’ (again, knowledge of this musical helps) is sung almost in its entirety, making the point that it’s not just off broadway Forbiden Broadway satirising Broadway shows these days.
Forbidden Broadway’s affectionate parodies are very much on the money, and it’s a spectacular night of entertainment. The show highlights the worst excesses of Musical theatre, but makes you love them even more. Musical Theatre fans must go.
Forbidden Broadways plays as part of the Auckland Fringe Festival at Wespoint Theatre until 12th March.
More information at the Auckland Fringe Website.