Last Friday I got dressed up, drank champagne, ate ice cream and explored the gloriously odd world of The Grand Budapest Hotel. I did in my living with with 1000s of people from around the world thanks to Secret Sofa.
Secret Sofa is a new branch of the highly acclaimed Secret Cinema. It is obviously slightly different as you cannot possibly get the same level of interactivity without the incredible amount of work that goes into the standard Secret Cinema experience, but this is all about what you make it and if you put in some effort, it is blooming brilliant.
The premise is this:
Every Tuesday you receive an email telling us what the next film is. You are given some activities and instructions which we can choose to do, or not, it is up to you. You find a place to stream the film and then on Friday night, the community gathers on Facebook. Announcements are made throughout the afternoon/early evening. This week that included a fabulous Spotify playlist to get us in the mood. 15 minutes before you start the film, a member of Secret Sofa immerses you in the world of that film. This week it was the Lobby boy, Henrik. ( Kieran Mortell). He welcomed the guests, told us of the happenings in the hotel, promised to hold any sordid secrets until his death, and taught us to waltz.
There are now many plays and musicals being streamed access the internet but sometimes we all need a bit of variety. You need something you can just watch and enjoy, something where you do not have to follow a complicated story, or get heavily invested in the lives of the characters on stage only for them to die, be heartbroken or something else tragic. So, I propose to you that at times like these, when we are anxious about the outside world and fed up being stuck indoors, there is simply nothing better than watching people performing incredible death defying acrobatic feats on, for example, a giant floating ships high above an enormous swimming pool!
Over the last decade or so, dating has completely changed. Gone are love letters, childhood sweethearts and meeting at your local social club, and replacing all that is battling the perils of Tinder, speed dating, Plenty of Fish and the like. This has all become standard fare for singletons worldwide and something which might be fun to explore on stage. Since Games for Lovers is billed as a show about four millennials looking for sex, love and a well-located flat trying to navigate rivalry, desire, seduction and the new rules of love, you would expect it to not be terribly relatable to anyone who dated before 2000 and would focus on what being single as a 20 something now means.
The problem here is that this play addresses nothing to do with modern relationships, new rules or dating in the internet age in. For a moment I thought that this was the point and perhaps it the aim of the play was to say that dating now isn’t in any way different, that yes there are Tinder and online dating but actually the rules are just the same but I am not sure that this was the idea at all. Instead, the show gave us characters and a storyline with little depth
Everyone knows the The Bodyguard – the 1992 film starring Whitney Houston and Kevin Cosner about the Former Secret Service agent turned bodyguard, Frank Farmer, who is hired to protect Rachel Marron from a stalker. As this is a romantic thriller, the inevitable happens and they fall in love.
I was expecting a lot from Alexander Burke and she did not disappoint. I know she has a fabulous voice and she has also shown her acting prowess recently in Sister Act and Chicago and she certainly delivered. Her voice was raspy and smooth to a point I was concerned that she may not hit the notes, but it was all part of the plan; she belted every number perfectly even when adding in energetic dance moves.
Benoît Maréchal takes on the role of Frank Farmer. Marécha has previously been in the French production and, while he has good chemistry with Burke and the rest of the cast, the American accent slipped regularly, giving a slight “Arnie” twang which was at times a bit distracting.
Micha Richardson as Nikki Marron, Rachel’s jealous sister also had the chance to show off some stunning vocals. Aside from Burke’ and Richardson’s impressive voices, the person that stole the show Rachel’s 10-year-old son Fletcher played by Caelan Edie, who was truly brilliant in the role. He has oodles of confidence and dances along with the cast like a pro. He is one of six playing the role during the tour.
Who wants to be a Spice Girl when you can be a Queen?
I think that the hardest reviews to write are the ones like these and, while it is so very exciting when something comes along that makes you speechless, it makes this job very hard to do. Six is one of those shows! Every moment of this production is an absolute joy to watch. The women are sassy, the music is incredible, the singing faultless and all within a very well known story being told from a point of view we have not seen before. Really, all, I wanted to say for this review was “just wow!”
But, I don’t think that is quite enough so here I go.
Six is a musical about Henry VIII’s wives, all of whom want to win the crown of being the most hard done by wife. The queens perform as a girl band, Six, desperately trying to tell their stories and win the title of “best queen”. Aimed to be a bit of a feminist retelling of Henry’s wives, each one gets a song in which to prove they’re the biggest victim – the one who suffered the most at Henry’s hands. Thankfully, throughout the show by way of song, we hear a few more bits of information about the Queens aside from the fact that they were married to a fat, bearded, adulterous man.
Having performed, they all realise they shouldn’t be in competition with one another, that it helps no one and that actually, the only reason Henry VIII is famous, is because of them. It is a story of hardship, pain, love and lust, culminating with the moral that women should support women all cloaked in a wonderfully glitzy, glamorous and fresh musical which I am sure can be enjoyed by anyone. For a large number of theatregoers, these Queens will now have names and will no longer just be “divorced”, “beheaded”“died” or “survived”.
#Tweetingit – 2** a troubling storyline which should be updated for a modern audience and choreography that could be far more impressive particularly since the cast doesn’t sing. 5***** for the “Bee Gees” performing the classic songs. Full review to follow.
Saturday Night Fever is possibly the first of the Jukebox musicals; a show jam-packed with Bee Gees hits coupled with a dark and gritty story.
For those who haven’t seen the film, it stars John Travolta as Tony Manero, a working-class young man who spends his weekends dancing and drinking at a local Brooklyn disco. While there, Tony is the champion dancer. His circle of friends, weekend dancing and the fact he is adored by the ladies, help him to cope with the harsh realities of his life: a dead-end job, clashes with his unsupportive and squabbling parents and racial tensions in the local community. Meanwhile, everyone around him are battling with problems of their own. Stephanie, his dance partner, trying to fit into the big city, Annette, his previous dance partner and would be girlfriend, dealing with rejection, and all his male buddies coping with what it means to grow up.
Ok, so let’s begin with clearing something up straight away; THIS IS NOT A MUSICAL. I have seen it before and was aware it wasn’t a musical but I did hear a few people at the interval saying that they were upset/confused/disappointed that it wasn’t a traditional musical with the cast singing, and rather it is a play with a soundtrack. To be perfectly honest, the idea of this show being a musical doesn’t really do it for me and so I am far happier that it isn’t a musical, but I just wanted to clear that up from the start.
Now, on to the show itself. Based on the smash hit film starring Robert Carlisle, this cult film was adapted by Simon Beaufoy into a heartwarming, funny and very revealing stage show about a group of guys left unemployed, depressed and desperate after losing their jobs. Unsure how they will manage to get by, support their children, or keep up with the Joneses, what else is there to do after 6 months of unemployment than, for one night only, “waggle your willy” on stage to make a few bob? Once this idea is cemented in their minds, the task of gathering together a suitable selection of men, learning to dance, and selling out tickets are all just small obstacles which they need to overcome.
I had one or two concerns entering the theatre on this September night. No, not a single one about what I knew to be a fabulous musical (having seen it once before) but more that I had been bigging it up to the rest of the press crew for months and I was worried that either I had gone overboard and it wasn’t as sad as I remember, or that I had spoilt it in advance, that perhaps by saying how much I had sobbed and how amazing it is, no one would cry, and at the interval I would be ribbed one way or another. Despite these concerns, I did some further warnings to those I knew to be of a more sensitive nature, telling them that they would need a tissue or 20. Big, strong men that they are, they brushed off my comments. Sure enough within 3 songs I was in (uncontrollable) tears and those big strong men – no names mentioned, they know who they are – were wiping away more than a handful of tears by the time the interval came around
And so now, dear reader, I am telling you too – Calendar Girls the musical is a show not to be missed but one which you will need an entire box of tissues to get you through. Heed my warning!
Now, before I begin, this is the time I need to tell you, I have never seen Officer and a Gentleman the film. I know, I don’t know how this has happened either, so if you want to choose right now to stop reading and disregard everything I have to say, I will understand.
But if you are still here, I can tell you that, in my film ignorant opinion, An Officer and a Gentleman the musical is most definitely worth going to see. It is, however, possible that those who have seen the film 100 times and love it, may not be able to get behind a stage musical version of it, just as I struggled with the stage version of Dirty Dancing. Sadly I don’t know anyone who has seen both stage and screen versions of Officer so I cannot judge. I might watch the film soon and compare them and report in.
I, however, LOVED this show. Spot on vocals from the entire cast, a very impressive set, a feel-good 80s soundtrack and a timeless love story make this a great night out.
This show is a great example of how subjective productions are, and therefore, how interesting reviewing is. I had a reviewer see Shrek at Norwich. I also bought tickets for my mum and her partner. My reviewer gave it 4 stars (4*shrek-review) and my mum loved it. My partner and I, however, had a slightly different experience and view of it, and that is what you will read here.