Monday, 6 January 2014

Singin' in the Rain UK Tour @ Wales Millennium Centre

This isn't a show I know a lot about. I have seen the film once or twice, but never from start to finish. I was keen to see this production because of the positive reviews I'd heard from theatre goers and critics alike. The bright yellow logo always caught my eye at its prominent position at the Palace Theatre in London and I knew I wanted to see it in 2013. Then the announcement came that it was closing and consequently I wouldn't have an opportunity to see it.

Another 2 announcements followed.

One was that the am-dram company I work with would be doing Singin' in the Rain next year and the other was that the London show was going on tour and coming to Cardiff.

I had to see it. 

As someone seeing this pretty much for the first time, this'll be comparison free of both the film and the London show.

Sitting in the upper circle was a pretty good choice, I think (not to mention significantly cheaper). Being predominantly dance, often the best place to see it is from above to experience the impact of the more bustling dance scenes.

As usual the stunt casting of Faye Tozer, previously of the pop group Steps, made me groan and I was surprised that, of all the roles, she was playing Lina Lamont - much more of a comedy role focussing on acting and dancing, certainly not on singing. But I was pleasantly surprised. Her accent was perfectly annoying and didn't waver once, she played the comedy easily and was entirely believable as this talentless, floundering victim of the silent era (though this is clearly not a reflection of her own skills)

Matthew Malthouse was on for Don Blackwood during this performance. He is well rehearsed and comfortable in the role being an alternate, rather than an understudy. However he did sound rather out of breath toward the end of the title song. We'll forgive him that, though, given this is a solo dance in a stage saturated with water with more pouring from the flies.

It was clear that this was the scene most people were waiting for. The general audience perked up in their chairs, leaning forward over the balcony to see the front row of people getting sprayed with water being kicked from the stage. It was a special theatrical moment.

I can't help but feel, though, that because many people wanted especially to see this moment, they weren't too focussed on the rest of the show; a gripe I often have with Wales Millennium Centre in particular - the quieter, dialogue scenes get lost in audience chatter. Not a fault of the show, obviously, nor even of the venue. I just mention it because I find it bewildering. Don't they want to know the story? And, even if they already know it, don't they want to see all of this interpretation? Why spend all that money, if you're going to talk? *shrugs*

Anyway, on with the

Stephane Anelli was outstanding as Cosmo Brown; A character whose star doesn't shine as brightly as it should. Cosmo is talented but lives in the shadows, shining other people’s stars. The talent clearly comes naturally to Anelli, who unlike his character, shines as outrightly as co-star Malthouse – I’d even go so far as to say outshines. My friend pointed out that there was a slight lack of synchronisation between them, though, which may be due to the fact Malthouse is the alternate, or perhaps because Gene Kelly and Donald O'Connor were so close in real life it transferred naturally to screen and cannot be replicated (ok, there's one comparison, but that's because my friend is a big fan of the film and voiced the observation).

Amy Ellen Richardson plays Kathy and managed to silence the audience as she sang her rendition of ‘Lucky Star’ In her beautiful voice - that says more than my words can.

I also have to mention Maxwell Caulfield, who played the producer R F Simpson – not a major role but I was excited to see him in this, having been a big fan of Grease 2 (people hated it, but I saw something in its cheesy terribleness)

Highlights of the show for me were, naturally, the ‘Singin’ in the Rain scene’ (particularly at the end when the whole company joins in), ‘Good Morning’ - the number which allows the 3 leads to bounce off each other and the dance number at the beginning of the second act - a visual treat from the circle. The most surprising highlight, however, was Faye Tozer's number ‘what's wrong with me’ which, in good humour, was sung terribly but performed wonderfully.

The story won’t blow you away but with the catchy tunes and the mesmerising dance scenes, you’ll be tapping and humming your way home.

Singin' in the Rain is currently touring the UK and will be heading next to Sunderland. Make sure you catch it. 

Sunday, 5 January 2014

Goals, Resolutions and Shows to See 2014

I like goals and targets. It helps me get on with things. I embrace the January tradition of resolutions and start off the year with vigour and positive energy. That’s how I start, anyway. Then, as the year progresses and change isn’t eagerly knocking on the door, I generally become more disheartened, lose the positivity and forget the goals. I don’t want that to happen this year - maybe one of my resolutions should be to review and rewrite my goals list half way through the year.

My main two goals this year are:-

1.       Get a new job - break out of the comfort rut and go for jobs that inspire and excite me. Hopefully in theatre.
2.      Go to New York, dammit - been a dream all my life and it's time.

This year is a big one for me. I wasn't going to admit it publicly - or to myself, for that matter - but I'm turning 30 this year (a hazy vision of Joey in friends crying out "why god why? we had a deal" plays before my eyes). I will be resetting my age to 25 in my mind ... I could pass for 25.

When milestones approach, it makes you reflect on where you're at, where you've been and where you're going. More often than not, it's not exactly all you dreamt it would be and, if not, the important question is - what can I do to change it? I'm asking myself that now.

And, so, with that in mind, with all my new year enthusiasm, I resolve to...

3. Take more risks - comfort can be... well, addictively comfortable but eventually you realise you're stagnating and it can turn uncomfortable very quickly.

Already I'm all set to join a tap dancing class on Thursday and looking into joining a show choir to focus my energy into my passion. 

Another 2 resolutions:-
4. Turn off the tv - I'm not saying I'm not going to watch any tv at all. I think that's unrealistic and actually unnecessary; There's a lot of great, well written, thought provoking stuff out there. What I mean by this is, don't sit slouched in front of it, mindlessly flicking through channels, watching endless reruns of 'Come Dine With Me'.... Admit it, you've done it. How much time have I wasted in this way?
5. Drink More Water - I'm terrible for choosing coffee/hot chocolate over water. This month I'm taking part in a water drinking challenge with a work colleague. I'm aiming to drink 2 litres of water every day. So far, it's going well, but I need to pee ALL THE TIME.

Shows to See
Since I would like to go to New York this year, I don't want to put too many West End shows on the 'to see' list. I need to save money and spend it all (and more, most likely) on Broadway. There are, however, two that I really want to catch:-
1.    The revival of Miss Saigon
2.    I Can't Sing - I'm impressed by the standard of the cast and liked what I saw on the Royal Variety performance

I'd also really like to see Phantom again this year because I hear such fantastic things about Geronimo Rauch's performance and I'd also like to see Carrie Fletcher as Eponine in Les Mis. 

I'm not sure how much of this I'll stick to or whether I'll be able to restrain myself from many London visits in favour of the bigger NY picture. Who knows. At least this gives me a starting point....