Tag Archives: 5 stars

Review: Sing Musical Theatre

One of the things I had been intending to add in to my blog posts is reviews of new materials. Now I’ve finally been shopping, here’s my first review.

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Title: Sing Musical Theatre; Wouldn’t It be Loverly? (Foundation, Grades 1-3)
Type of Material: Sheet Music with Backing CD
Publication: 2011 Faber Music
RRP: £14.99

 

 

I was delighted when I discovered this series as I have been looking for a “graded” approach to musical theatre songs for a while. Musical Theatre is dominated by vocal selections, or anthologies sorted by theme or voice type, rather than difficulty. This made it hard to give students a single text to buy. Thankfully, Trinity developed these volumes which help students up to Grade 5 work on easy but satisfying songs.

Wouldn’t It Be Loverly? has a good selection of songs, many of which are well-known. A good number, however, are taken from UK Youth Music Theatre productions which are less known. This could be a disadvantage, but I like that the book isn’t just the standard songs. There is a good range of styles and dates which means one could pull an LCM programme out of this book alone for the early grades.

This book is also an educational manual as each song has some background on the show, and tips on both musical and theatrical performance. This makes it a great buy for learners as they have reference material to support their practice. For LCM candidates, the information about the song is really helpful for the viva too.

The backing tracks too are good. They’re nicely paced (not too fast or slow) and have a fuller sound than just the piano, with some percussion etc where appropriate.

I would recommend this book to any beginner or teacher working with beginners. It’s not too condesending to use with adults either, and the inclusion of backing tracks really makes this a value for money choice.

Content: ♠ ♠ ♠ ♠
Layout: ♣ ♣ ♣ ♣ ♣
Value for Money: ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦
Overall: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

Review: Histoire d’Amour

This is the first of two shows I’ll be reviewing from the Edinburgh International Festival.

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EIF RUN: 15/8-18/8; King’s Theatre; 19:30 [£12-£30]

Where and When: King’s Theatre; Thursday 15th August 2013; 7.30pm

The Show

This show is literally like nothing I have seen before. The stage is set up with a large screen, on which a projection is shown, as though the audience is going to watch a film. However, once the titles have rolled, a live actor appears on stage, surrounded by a projected animated set drawn in the style of a graphic novel. The story proceeds to unfurl with only two actors interacting and moving within their film surroundings. I think the closest things I have seen prior to this are films like Mary Poppins and Bednobs and Broomsticks which have portions of film with live actors in animated sections. This was, however, a far cry from Disney.

The plot, titled “A Love Story”, is really the story of an obsession, more than romance. The monochrome graphic novel projections, and the virtually monologue script create a Film Noir effect that only darkens an already deeply disturbing and twisted story that does not have a happy ending. I found myself spell-bound (or should that be curse-bound?) by the dark but uncomplicated plot, though I know for others it was really too depressing, or did not give enough background to the characters.

The Cast

There is nothing I can criticise about the cast. The chorography of this show is demanding and challenging, with sets flying around the characters. Neither Julián Marras nor Bernardita Montero put a foot out of place, using projected props with absolute precision. Julián Marras is virtually the only character to speak, as he narrates the story in a way which leaves you feeling that we are not so very far away from evil as we would hope. Although his character’s acts are horrific, his inner monologue shared with the audience gives a disturbing insight into how easy it is to justify such behaviour. Bernardita Montero plays the virtually silent victim, and the play raises some important challenges about the nature of consent, and the implications of silence.

Overall

This was a dark and disturbing play, which would not be suitable for all audiences (there is a substantial amount of strong and explicit language and depictions of sexual violence) – it is harrowing to watch even as it is gripping. I adored Teatrocinema’s innovative form of blended theatre, and this alone is worth seeing. Definitely one of the best things I’ve seen all festival season.

Rating ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

Review: Hansel and Gretel

The first opera of the Fringe this year.

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FRINGE RUN: 12/8-24/8 (not 18th) @ 17:45; Space @ Surgeon’s Hall (53); [£14.00/£11.00/£7.50]

Who, Where and When: Opera Holloway; Space @ Surgeon’s Hall; Tuesday 13th August 2013; 5.45pm

The Show

This production was a new translation of Humperdink’s German opera Hansel und Gretel. I always prefer to see operas in their original language as productions as translations never quite sound as good when sung, and in the age of supertitles, there’s really no need to sing in English. However, Hansel und Gretel is normally performed in English, and this translation (by the director Christopher Moon-Little) is certainly up-to-the-minute in its cultural references.  The staging too has been directed in a very contemporary way. For this reason, the show is likely to be very accessible to older children, teens and other opera novices.

The music for this show is excellent, and I enjoyed a number of the arias. Humperdink’s pacing has the most common opera problem (one that many films face too) – strange pacing. The introductory scene is very long, although there is a wide variety of music, and singers that lifts it. However, the climax is very Witch heavy and has little musical interest and variety or drama to sustain what is a very long section. This, as in many other operas, is made all the longer by the well-paced action throughout the middle section of the work.

I enjoyed this opera, and it is a great “starter” opera – rather like a sweet Rosé is often the introduction to the rich and varied world of wine. There is plenty to inspire the audience, and this creative new staging and translation. I’d have rather heard it in German, but then I’m a geek!

The Cast

There is much to admire in this cast – full of strong voices. The leads playing Hansel (Katie Coventry) and Gretel (Jenny Stafford) created a wonderfully believable sibling relationship switching between love and hate. I also really enjoyed the characterisation employed by Fiona Hymns as the Dew Fairy and Krystal MacMillan as the Sandman.

Although her vocal performance was excellent, I think there were some weaknesses in Sarah Denbee’s acting performance as the Witch. Unlike the other characters, I was concious of the fact she was acting – her performance lacked a depth of conviction which left her character a little shallow and fake.

The musicians were also excellent and deserve recognition for their flawless performance.

Notable Songs

  • Sandman’s Song (Medium-Hard)
  • Dew Fairy’s Song (Medium-Hard)
  • Mother’s Song (Hard)

Overall

Despite my dislike of operas in translation, I couldn’t help but enjoy the light-heartedness of this version of Hansel and Gretel.  Any weaknesses in performances by the cast were not sufficient to distract from the overall quality of the music, acting and singing. I imagine families will really enjoy this production, as will both opera lovers and opera virgins. If you’ve not been to see an opera before, I can’t recommend many better places to start than this production.

Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ (5/5)

Review: I Need a Doctor: The Unauthorised Whosical Adventure

In honour of the 50th year of the Doctor, a whole new adventure comes to Edinburgh…

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FRINGE RUN: 2/8 – 26/8 (not 14,20) @ 14:30; Pleasance Beside (33); [£11.00/£10.00]

Who, Where and When: Stormy Teacup Theatre; Pleasance Beside; Friday 2nd August 2013

The Show

Being a somewhat dedicated Whovian, spotting I Need a Doctor: The Unauthorised Whosical Adventure in the theatre section was my Fringe planning discovery of the day. We made it only by the skin of our teeth, but it’s not the Fringe if you’ve not “only just made it” at least once!

A smile-inducing voicemail message preceeds calls from various Doctor Who stars (well impersonated, I presume, by Jamie and Jess) declining the offer to be in the show by way of introduction. This is followed by the first scene whereby Jamie (James Wilson-Taylor) receives a “cease and desist” letter from Stephen Moffat and as a result has had to rewrite the whole show to avoid using any BBC Copyright terms. This provides a number of funny jokes, but thankfully avoids becoming overused. There are some lovely references to other musicals including Wicked and Les Miserables which will please theatre geeks in attendance.

The songs are brilliantly done, and I still have the theme song of “I need a Doctor” as sung by Jess (Jessica Spray) running in my head days later. I particularly enjoyed the Bossa Nova version of the Doctor Who theme tune as played by the tireless keyboardist (who, sadly, I don’t know the name of).

The story runs through a delightfully Whovian (if Scooby Doo-vian!) plot, but while the Doctor and his Companion are vanquishing the monsters, Jamie and Jess’ friendship seems to be underpressure…

The Cast

Jamie and Jess not only do a fabulous job of bringing life to the (Non-BBC Copyrighted) companion Fiona McFeisty (Jess) and the Slime Monster, the Doctor, the Master and a few others besides (Jamie), but they also genuinely appeared to be good friends trying to put on a show together. I can’t fault their boundless enthusiasm or their acting as its their personality which brings life to all the comedy.

Notable Songs

If only there was a hope of a few of the songs being released, but alas that might induce a real cease and desist letter. So, I can’t list any notable songs, but why not be inspired to write your own Who-inspired tune?

Overall

This is an excellent family show and an excellent fan show with two charismatic actors who seem set to carry of this show to great applause right to the end of their run. In fact, I’m almost tempted to go back this weekend to see how the script has evolved to incorporate the latest Doctor Who news. If you’ve come to the Fringe for postmodern theatre, edgy issues or shocking theatre, this is not it – but there’s definitely something in it for everyone else.

Rating ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ (5/5)