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Tag Archive | "Andrew Lloyd Webber"

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Blog: The Wicked Stage: “It’s what got him into musical theatre, after all – how bad could it be?!”

Posted on 16 November 2013 by Sarah Green

One of my biggest frustrations as a musical theatre dork is snobbery about which musicals are better. This is an argument that continues in any art form of low brow vs high brow and the favouring of cerebral niche work over mass audience favourites.

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During my undergraduate studies I rocked up knowing the entire Andrew Lloyd-Webber back catalogue (except By Jeeves) and me and a few other newbies thought the lecturers were talking about a composer called Songtime, which we thought was the most apt name ever! Turns out we misheard the name and they were saying Sondheim, oops! I was told fairly quickly to broaden my knowledge and step away from the Lloyd-Webber. Which is of course good advice as I needed to learn more about the genre, but it was also said in a derisive manner, implying that there was something wrong in knowing and liking Andrew Lloyd-Webber. An opinion I disagree with considerably.

4016372259_04ddde3379_bThe trigger for this blog was an interview with Glee star Darren Criss on BroadwayWorld.com in which he ‘fanboys’ over Sondheim and also discusses the musicals he first fell in love with. Criss discusses how one of his friends loves Cats and notes how many people deride it and its megamusical status. Criss poses the question: “It’s what got him into musical theatre, after all – how bad could it be?!” My answer is it isn’t bad at all because it is introducing people to musical theatre; many who I have met over the years highlight the feline showstopper as their first, too. As a young teenager the first time I saw a musical on stage was either Blood Brothers or Miss Saigon on tour in Birmingham. I often cite Miss Saigon as the show that got me into musical theatre because it was through-sung, had special effects and the most adorable little boy ever. During my MA I looked at McTheatre and the perpetuating of carbon copy shows around the world, and how wrong this seems to some folk. I can understand this, but I saw a carbon copy and in the New Year I graduate from a postgraduate course where I focused on musical theatre, so personally I can’t fault it.

6447076293_a4e088382aCriss also makes a point of bringing up movie musicals and how “for most of us, I am happy to admit, we love a lot of movies that movie professors and stuff probably hate – you know, they might not be the most earth-shattering, ground-breaking things, but, you know what, man? That’s the first musical I saw when I was 5, so I love it.” Whilst a movie musical would conjur up images of Singing in the Rain, Cabaret and Chicago I think there is also room for the Disney films of the nineties. I often wonder if I would have found musical theatre so easy to fall into if I hadn’t watched Beauty and the Beast or The Lion King repeatedly on film and watched characters express themselves through song.

What do you consider your first musical to be? Do you ever get protective if someone knocks your first musical?

 

Photos by Flickr users ell brown, chazzvid and AndyRobertsPhotos under a Creative Commons licence.

Sarah Green

Sarah Green

Sarah is a musical theatre graduate now studying for her Masters in theatre practice with hopes of going onto a PHD. She has been writing for A Younger Theatre since September 2011 on all things musical theatre related.

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Blog: The Wicked Stage: Andrew Lloyd Webber – is he friend or foe of musical theatre?

Posted on 07 October 2013 by Sarah Green

6687987361_ea4f077ae3_nGrowing up, my first experience of musicals was from a tape of Andrew Lloyd Webber songs that me and the family played in the car almost continuously the summer I turned 10. This was added to by VHS tapes of Cats, Joseph and his Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat and the fiftieth birthday celebration which we owned. Once I went to university to study musical theatre I found a snobbery regarding these songs I had spent a childhood loving and there was an anger towards Lloyd Webber and his big musicals. So which is it? Is he an innovator and worthy of a statue in his honour, or is he to blame for an apparent decline in the quality of musicals?

Norman Lebrecht is very clear on where he stands regarding the composer: in his blog he claims that whilst Lloyd Webber may know how to sell a show he “has trashed down the genre to a series of musical clichés and pop tunes”. Whilst I might agree that Lloyd Webber’s influence on scale and technology is evident, I disagree that he has caused musical theatre to be a form “that barely engages the brain”. Lloyd Webber is merely one facet of a widespread genre. It is still a predominantly American theatrical form and, in their hands, engaging and thought-provoking musicals abound. However, I also believe that British writers can be up there, too, if given the chance to nurture their shows. Lebrecht also harks back to the early musicals that sat between grand opera and low brow music hall. We have now lost the music hall tradition and as such new parameters have been set; I could argue that musical theatre has merely expanded to hold the middle ground as well as filling a niche in the more low brow entertainment.

In regards to this statue I do agree it is a mistake in so far as it comes across as very narcissistic. Regardless of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s involvement, there is an arrogance around a statue of a someone still alive. I believe they mean more when given retrospectively and in memorial of a life. Who knows what Lloyd-Webber might still do? He may squander everything and we won’t want to have a memorial to him, or he may produce his best work yet. Additionally, if Broadway is not giving Harold Prince or Stephen Sondheim statues then Lloyd Webber doesn’t deserve his yet, either. What I would agree on though is that he should have one at some point because, love him or hate him, there is no denying he has brought audiences to musical theatre and helped place the West End in the history books of musical theatre.

Therefore, whilst I agree a statue may be apt I believe it premature to erect one just yet. All I really know for sure though is that if a statue is put up it won’t cause me to want to leave the country like Lebrecht.

Photo by Flickr user Robert Couse-Baker under a Creative Commonc Licence.

Sarah Green

Sarah Green

Sarah is a musical theatre graduate now studying for her Masters in theatre practice with hopes of going onto a PHD. She has been writing for A Younger Theatre since September 2011 on all things musical theatre related.

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Review: Profumo, The Musical

Posted on 31 August 2013 by Daniel Harrison

Profumo“If you remember the sixties, you weren’t there” is an often quoted line, as 60’s Britain, with ‘Swinging London’ in particular, receives the usual rose-tinted and sentimentalised treatment. Another truism could well be “some theatre you choose to forget”. Unfortunately, Matthew Lloyd Davies’ production, Profumo, is such an example.

Profumo charts the decline of John Profumo, Secretary of State for War in Harold Macmillan’s Conservative government, whose liaison with call-girl Christine Keeler ( who was also, incidentally, seeing a Soviet attaché at the height of the Cold War), works to bring down the government and usher in Harold Wilson’s new, ‘permissive’, society.

In theory, there is plenty of scope to make a musical out of this undeniably juicy political sex scandal. Indeed, Andrew Lloyd-Webber seems to think so, and his latest work, Stephen Ward, focussing on another major player, the socialite and host to Keeler, Stephen Ward, launches at the Aldwych Theatre in December. It is such a pity therefore, that Profumo, much like the man himself, so fails to live up to its promises and expectation. The production limps lifelessly from one baffling number to another, crassly shoe-horning songs (songs, incidentally, which rely on repeating the same line over and over until the audience is battered into submission) with little link to the plot or the fascinating socio-political context behind it.

Some of the action was downright uncomfortable to watch. ‘We’ll do you’, sung by notorious east-end gangsters the Kray brothers appeared to skip over their horrific history of brutality and murder, sterilising them instead into ‘propa cockney geezas’. I’m not sure if it counts as a saving grace, but at least James McGregor, as Ronnie Kray, looked the part. The opening number, so pivotal in shaping and framing a musical, was disappointingly underwhelming, too.

It is important to acknowledge the obvious limitations that Waterloo East Theatre faces. This is more a studio space than theatre, and as such certain poetic license has to be allowed for its undeniably minimalist set and staging. Whilst this is accepted, the blocking, which sees certain members of the cast masked by their fellow actors fairly frequently, was bemusing to watch.

After a much-needed interval, we received a far stronger second half. Darrie Gardner in particular, both as Profumo’s wife Valerie, and as the chipper Labour powerhouse Barbara Castle, gleefully revelling in Tory misfortune, gave a heartfelt and engaging performance, providing a poignancy and nuance sadly lacking elsewhere. She reminded the audience that Mrs Profumo is an oft forgotten casualty in this whole sorry debacle. Gardner’s rendition of ‘Without Love’ is a standalone moment.

Equally, the songs and choreography steadily improved, and were, in places, and in what I hope was deliberately tongue-in-cheek, rather enjoyable, for instance Profumo’s case of having “the porno blues” once his affair is rumbled.

And amongst some of the excess there is also some food for thought; Caribbean Johnny Edgecombe’s revelation that he “didn’t know [he] was black until he came here” is genuinely provocative, and reveals much about the ingrained racism and xenophobia prevalent even in the supposedly trendy Marylebone. Likewise, Matthew Howe as Stephen Ward flitters between class warrior, lamenting the lack of democracy and accountability in Britain, and racial purist, chastising Christine for her association with “jungle bunnies”, displaying a level of hypocrisy which works to add depth to his character.

‘You’ve never had it so good’ we are told in Act 1. Honestly, we could have had it so much better.

Profumo is on at Waterloo East Theatre until 31 August. For more information and tickets, see the Waterloo East Theatre website.

 

Daniel Harrison

Daniel Harrison

A graduate of Theatre Studies, Daniel has worked in a number of different areas within theatre, most recently cutting his teeth with the Communications team at BAC. He is currently Project Assistant for the Young Vic's upcoming Schools Theatre Festival, and is a champion of the power of theatre as a force for good within society.

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Blog: The Wicked Stage – Newsies

Posted on 29 July 2013 by Sarah Green

7284868320_fe45cb18dc_bSo this is perhaps my guiltiest pleasure musical of the moment, but who doesn’t love a cast of athletic men singing and dancing their faces off? The show is a Disney Theatrical Productions show and as such my excitability is playing right into the hands of the corporate machine, but let’s be honest, I have been doing that since I spent my childhood singing along to Andrew Lloyd Webber songs in the car and I regret nothing.

The show is based on the 1992 cult classic Newsies, with music by Alan Menken and Jack Feldman, and details the Newsboys Strike of 1889. They have re-arranged the songs from the film as well as adding new material. The original Broadway production transferred from the off-Broadway Papermill Playhouse in 2012 and lost out on the Tony Award for Best Musical to Once (a worthy winner). However, it did win for choreography (which is no great surprise if you have seen these boys tumble, spin and tap their way through the show) and for Best Original Score. What I also liked about the production and how they generally work in New York is that you go through open auditions as part of the casting; there is less need for an agent to submit you for work. Therefore, the majority of the young cast had their Broadway debuts when their show transferred to The Nederlander in March 2012. Even when it transferred it was only for a limited run, which they extended, before announcing in May 2012 that the show now had an open-ended engagement.

So as the show prepares to transfer to London in spring 2014, I was very excited to read that they held open auditions in June for the show. Whilst you do need to have strong technical dance ability and be able to sing well, you also need a playing age of 16-22. So there is a chance a young performer, who might find it difficult to break into the industry, will have gone and shone at these auditions. So say whatever you want about the ethics of commercial theatre and big corporations like Disney, but it is hard not to be excited at the possibility of nurturing young talent. Plus, it’s hard to ignore yet another show promoting dance and masculinity – seriously I’m going to need a fan or a hose when I watch it live next year.

My only concern is perhaps that British performers won’t be at the same level. I’m not sure what they feed them on in America, but some of the US cast seem almost superhuman in what they can do. This video of their Tony award performance last year is proof of that, particularly Ryan Steele as Specs (stripy shirt and glasses) who, for any nerdy fact gatherers, is now in the original Broadway cast of Matilda. I do hope it is a surprise hit here as it was for Broadway despite its very New York story and I am excited to see the casting for the London production.

Photo by Flickr user Ashley Rehnblom under a Creative Commons Licence. 

 

Sarah Green

Sarah Green

Sarah is a musical theatre graduate now studying for her Masters in theatre practice with hopes of going onto a PHD. She has been writing for A Younger Theatre since September 2011 on all things musical theatre related.

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