Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Oxford Circus has been having a major overhaul and in their excavations and steam-cleaning they have uncovered a whole load of posters from the early to mid 90s.

How nice to see the 4-sheet for Boy George's cover of FUNTIME from 1995 again.

Some art director would charge a fortune for this 'distressed' look now!

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Oooo it's Harry Potter in the nip! Daniel Radcliffe publicising his role in EQUUS at the Gielgud Theatre soon... I hope he doesn't get put off by the binoculars catching the lights...

Monday, January 29, 2007

A new wonderful Madonna dvd/cd of her Confessions Tour from London was released today so I was there this morning to buy it.

As a fan must, on the morning of the day of release... I do so love being a fan. There are traditions that just Must be upheld. Luckily Owen was there to record the event - and to make sure I didn't faint in HMV when I saw them on the rack.

Speaking of which... here I am last week at the Madonna night at Vauxhallville..

Saturday, January 27, 2007

This is going to be a long blog... I will allow you Constant Reader to go for a drink/pee/shaving break if needs be.

I first became aware of DREAMGIRLS when I watched the 1982 Tony Awards – oh for the days when theatre award shows were shown on tv – and was totally blown away by the clip of the show which culminated in Jennifer Holliday justifying her award for Best Featured Actress with a mind-blowing performance of the song “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going”. A few weeks later, while queuing early in the morning for tickets to that night’s GUYS AND DOLLS at the National Theatre with fellow front-row regulars, we got chatting to a New Yorker next to us in the queue. He fully understood our G&D obsession as he was a DREAMGIRLS regular and his enthusing for the show made me buy the cast recording and it was love at first hearing. So much energy, such great songs and of course.. that song and that singer.

I patiently waited.. no London production. Jennifer Holliday launched a solo recording career and I got her to sign my DREAMGIRLS poster after an appearance on “Wogan” but still no London production. The theatre agent I later worked for tried with a guy who worked at the Society of West End Theatre to get the rights to stage the show for an AIDS charity performance here and finally we found out why there had been no London production… the woman who handled the rights felt there wasn’t enough good black British talent to carry the show. Cow.

So I have never seen it on stage but I have HEARD it on stage! Paul in New York had a recording of the original cast taped through the theatre’s sound desk which he gave me a copy of *note to self… find tapes *! So just as I was reconciling myself to never seeing it I heard it was definitely being adapted for the screen which of course threw up the problem – how could I possibly enjoy it when I loved and knew every single note of the original? So well in fact that 5 years ago I got up on stage at the Piano Bar in Sitges and mimed the title song *note to self… burn photos*

So yesterday, 25 years after falling under the score’s spell, I saw the film with Owen at a special preview at the National Film Theatre. I tried, I really tried… but after about 5 minutes I gave in… and loved it! Bill Condon wrote the screenplay for CHICAGO which I never really warmed to but here he also directs and he does it with a wonderful sweep and √©lan which glides you through the story of Effie, Deena and Lorrell (Jennifer Hudson, Beyonce Knowles, Anika Noni Rose) and their rise from the humble Dreamettes to the glamorous and chart-topping Dreams. Starting out as backing singers for the ‘wildest man in show business’ James Thunder Early (Eddie Murphy) they are slowly groomed for stardom by their unscrupulous manager Curtis (Jamie Foxx) who realises they have what it takes to cross over into the lucrative pop market of the 1960s.

The Motown inference is bolder in the film – the location is changed from New York to Detroit, the visual references for Deena and The Dreams are blatant steals from both Diana Ross and The Supremes photo shoots and album art while Curtis also later manages a boy band who even Stevie Wonder would recognise as The Jackson 5. Of course the main area where the storyline veers from the Motown source is that the ousted Effie – based on Florence Ballard –after an initial struggle becomes a successful solo singer. For Flo there was no second act, forbidden by Motown to mention The Supremes in any solo publicity material and paid off with hardly any royalties, she struggled with a failing career, depression and addiction problems only to die from a heart attack at the tragically young age of 33. Indeed in one of the early workshops of the show, Effie’s character died but this was dropped when the production team saw what a star-in-the-making they had with Jennifer Holliday.

The performances on the whole are fine although Jamie Foxx is underwhelming as Curtis, his vocal on his song “When I First Saw You” isn’t a patch on Ben Harney in the stage version. Beyonce Knowles wasn’t as bad as I was expecting but the role of Deena is hardly the most dramatic as she reacts more to events than instigates them. She looks sensational though. I really enjoyed Anika Noni Rose as Lorrell who suffers from her one solo being the only song from the original score to be cut. She holds her own though with a feisty performance and Keith Robinson is fine as Effie’s songwriter brother who also becomes disenchanted with Curtis’ manipulations.

The two performances that shine out are in the best roles. Eddie Murphy seizes the role of Jimmy, the wild and vain insecure star becoming more burnt-out and stifled by Curtis’ indifference and mines it for all it’s got. His response to Curtis’ dismissal of an obvious hit record is wonderful, his face etched with a pain beyond words. And then there is Jennifer Hudson. My love of the other Jennifer H made this the biggest hurdle for me but while not having the mighty church vocal of Holliday she is marvellous – an instant star and a natural on screen, even more amazing that this is her film debut. Her performance of “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going” alone should guarantee her the Best Supporting Actress Oscar. At its conclusion the audience burst into spontaneous applause which it also did when her name appeared at the end. So few recent musicals allow you to concentrate on the performer – what I hated about MOULIN ROUGE and CHICAGO in particular was the way the busy editing ruined any chance of sitting back and just being able to enjoy the singer singing. Here Condon wisely lets nothing gets in the way of Hudson.

Sadly Jennifer Holliday has been getting a lot of press attention in the US bemoaning the fact that she was not asked to appear in the film – the stage ‘Lorrell’ Loretta Devine appears as a blues singer towards the end of the film – but I think this has been rather sad. There is no way she could play Effie now having lost all the weight she had back then and would probably have raised hell had she been offered a cameo. Down the years how many great stage originals have lost out when the film version is made? Most notably Ethel Merman in GYPSY, Chita Rivera in WEST SIDE STORY, Barbara Cook in THE MUSIC MAN or Angela Lansbury in MAME but those performances live on. It’s a shame she cannot see that the opportunity afforded Hudson is the same that Michael Bennett gave her in the original show. The film is dedicated to Bennett, the director/choreographer whose genius had already given Broadway A CHORUS LINE, who died 20 years ago this year aged 44 of an AIDS-related illness.

"Every man has his own special dream..."

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Time to add my 2 Cents I guess....

over the Celebrity Big Brother implosion. When they all trooped in on that rainy night a week or so back I sat straining in eagerness for the housemate who would give us more bang for our buck. Amazing that this most dreary of line-ups has in fact given us 3 walk outs - damn even Jodie Marsh didn't flounce off last year despite the set-tos with Pete Burns, Michael Barrymore and George Galloway. So it trundled along it's samey little rut... until some bright spark decided to ship in Jade, her mother and toy boy. Now we have effigies being burnt in India and questions asked in the House of Commons.

Random thoughts:

Surely CBB should have been put to bed last year when we had the post-modern, HEAT-sent denouement of a non-celebrity winning the show by becoming famous just by being on it? But Channel 4 needs it's biggest cash cow... and I'm not talking about Jade.

For my part I don't think what's happening is racist, just nasty playground bullying of the worst order - oh for Richard from last year to be let in there to rename Jade, Danielle and Jo 'The Plastics'. It also makes for highly depressing and queasy viewing as it illustrates how vulgar, mean and debased the whole Celebrity/Chav culture has become and that is glorified in the yellow press that is HEAT, GRAZIA and any number of shite magazines which stoke and perpetuate this current breed of oxygen-thieves.

How strange that none of the other housemates - Jermaine, Ian, Dirk or Cleo - feel they can assert themselves in the face of the three-headed Hydra that is JadDanJo? Although I must say I am feeling kinder to Ian than even I could imagine.

Where do these people come from for a spontaneous effigy burning in front of the television cameras? Is there a 24 hour shop open which just sells old Guy Fawkes figures ready to be immolated at the drop of a hat? Likewise is there a shop in Muslim cities that sell Western flags for the weekly demonstration with the Swan Vestas?

How likely is it for Endemol to perceive Jade as the spanner in the works - when she has the same agent as Davina McColl, Dermot O'Leary and Russell Brand? Can't wait to see Davina's jokey "Oh Jade you are a one" interview when she is hopefully voted out... and now it's revealed Cleo Roccas is with the same agent which throws her role as 'peacemaker' into question.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

I have been that knackered since Thursday I have been remiss in posting about the extravaganza that was Bearlesque at the Vauxhalla Taverna.

This was the third time I had seen Freddy's troupe there and this
time they had the run of the whole show. The place was crowded - I wonder what Nathan who runs the regular Thurday evening Vauxhallville felt - and the beary lads had a rousing reception. I must say that I had my usual last-minute thoughts about going... yes I am getting old... but it was a fun night in the company of O, Lady Miss Coates, Poor Posh Paul and Don (who had forgotten to take his unimpressed medication before he came out) and college friend.

Yes their material was over-stretched to fit the time-slot and a little more rehearsal time would definately not go amiss - not all vaudeville should be Amateur Hour in Dixie - but they invariably leave one feeling hugely entertained and transported into their parallel bear universe. I must say watching Freddy command the stage and work the audience filled me with a fraternal glow... I burped the bitch after all.

So here are a few snatched shots of Bears Fred, Luke (who needs some proper plumes for his fandance... that pigeon must was well-rid of those ratty feathers), Justin (like a fat Tim Curry... oh...) and Ben in all their overripe glory:

Monday, January 08, 2007

and finally.... My Top 10 Reads of 2006!

Sunday, January 07, 2007

My Top 5 Theatre Drama of 2006

and Equity? You need tremble no more... click here to see the winners of this year's Chrissie Awards!
My Top 5 Theatre Musicals of 2006


It usually takes me longer to get some theatre visits under my belt for a new year but here we are, 7 January and 2 programmes on the coffee table already.

On Thursday Owen and I made a return visit to Sadlers Wells to see the tenth anniversary production of Matthew Bourne's SWAN LAKE. Despite the familiarity of the piece it was still received rapturously by the audience.

The performances were of the high standard expected to live up to the originals of Scott Ambler and Adam Cooper. Simon Williams, although lacking Ambler's neurotic intensity, made the Prince suitably tortured and Thomas Whitehead although shorter and more solid than previous incumbents of the dual role of The Swan and The Stranger delivered a powerful performance. The Queen was played by Nina Goldman with a light regal disdain while Agnes Vandrepote was suitably toe-curling as the luckless Girlfriend. Ashley Bain as the calculating Prime Minister actually provoked boos at the curtain call - nice to see the spirit of panto alive and well at the ballet!

I never tire of Bourne's choreography and the great design by Lez Brotherston. So many great moments... Bourne's nod to "The Birds" when the Prince's huge bed is quickly covered with flapping menacing swans is a great coup-de-theatre. The re-imagined story works for me every time and yes Constant Reader... when the Queen grieved over the dead Prince and The Swan appeared above them cradling the Prince in his arms I got a bit sparkle-eyed. If you have never experienced this before in a theatre, rush to Sadlers Wells before January 21st.

After such emotional high-flying it was time for more booing the villain. I had promised myself after quitting the Actors Agency never again to sit through a pantomime. Trust my dear close personal friend Nicola Blackman to appear in one in possibly her farewell performance to the English stage before chancing her arm in New York. So Friday night found me and Owen in the windswept mean streets of Watford to see ALADDIN at the Palace Theatre.

Actually I enjoyed it a lot more than I was expecting. True, the pace occasionally threatened to flag at times - none more so than in the obligatory Get The Kids On Stage routine - but on the whole it bounced along merrily and when in doubt bung in a song! Someone had fun shoe-horning DOWNTOWN, IT'S RAINING MEN, COME FLY WITH ME and most bizarrely The Soup Dragons' I'M FREE into Joe Graham's jolly script. The cast certainly performed with gusto (or possibly drugs) - Nicola was great fun in her two roles of a Jamaican Spirit of The Ring and as Lotusblossom, the Princess' security guard; Howard Coggins was an agreeably grumpy Genie and Dale Superville worked the stage and the audience without getting too annoying as Wishee Washee. Peter Shorey's rather muted Widow Twankey was a bit of a surprise as was the Abanazar of John Alistair who could have been a bit more scarey for the wee uns. Stefan Butler and Rachel Grimshaw were suitably gauche romantic leads. Keith Orton's eye-popping designs contributed to a surprisingly fun night out - withstanding the travel hell!

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Just now on Radio 5 Live in the middle of a discussion about Iraq, someone stated the problem is the fighting between Sunni and Shia.

But they divorced in 1975 didn't they??

Monday, January 01, 2007

They think THEY had a bad start to the New Year!!

Miss Nicola Blackman - doyenne of the West End stage and soon to be departing these shores for New York - is currently appearing in the well-received ALADDIN at the Palace Theatre, Watford. This evening there was the offer of comps for the 7pm show so after double-checking the Transport For London and Silverlink Trains websites for train times and possible hold-ups we turned up at Euston in good time for any of the 3 trains leaving around 6pm.

Well there was to be no BEHIND YOUs or OH YES IT IS!! for us.
All local Silverlink trains were cancelled out of Euston due to a signal failure at Watford Junction. More like some shagger not turning up for his shift.

*cue rant about London holding the Olympic Games etc etc.*