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Tag Archive | "Musical Theatre"

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Blog: Fighting the fight – From Here To Eternity

Posted on 09 April 2014 by Julia Wagner

From Here To Eternity has closed and my heart is still aching. It was a show with great potential, a fantastic new musical with diverse and amazing music by Stuart Brayson, imaginative choreography (Javier de Frutos), a good book and lyrics (Bill Oakes and Tim Rice) and performers who could really act (leading man Robert Lonsdale was superb). The only problem with the show – as I see it – is that it doesn’t know who it is aiming at. No, let me rephrase that. That is not the problem of the show as such, but rather of the marketing.

Why does everyone think that the only way to sell anything is sex? Maybe I’m naïve, but I don’t want to think that. The first posters of From Here To Eternity don’t tell you anything. It was basically two couples embracing each other. Some time early in the new year, they changed their strategy to “sex sells”. The posters now depict soldiers showing their defined and oily naked bodies,  and some women in lingerie.

I was talking about who the target audience was with friends and our opinions differ. Some said they should have started with this campaign, some don’t know what to think, knowing what the show is really like. When you have seen this musical you know that these posters do not do it justice, you can’t relate to them. Well, I couldn’t.

If you’re a fan of the 1953 film you’ll remember the famous beach scene starring Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr. The musical doesn’t go there despite what the posters are telling us. Well, yes, there is a beach scene and some nudity providing a “shock moment” for the audience – it works because it’s theatre and it’s best left for the imagination of the audience, but it’s not what some might expect after being seduced by the nakedness of the “poster boys”. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have anything against those soldiers looking fit, but as an advertisement for musical theatre?

From Here To Eternity isn’t a story about sex. It is a story of a man struggling with life. It is a story that speaks to you. You can relate on different levels and I like that it focuses on this man’s life. But I also like that there are stories on the side that – in a way – contribute to him addressing life issues. There is the question of life’s purpose, and there are also the issues of religion, rebellion, dignity, homosexuality, the definition of “respectability” and, of course, the army, solidarity and humanity.

Could it be that musicals that focus primarily on a single man’s fate instead of a woman’s struggle are less popular because women, who make up the majority of the audience, have difficulty empathising with a man’s perspective on life? Are they less willing or able to identity with a man on stage? I don’t know the answer, but it got me wondering…

All I can say for sure is that From Here To Eternity was a breath of fresh air in the West End that left me deeply touched. It is not perfect, but it talks about and shows life. It is truthful and gets to you and I hope that it will have a life after its West End run.

And for the issue of marketing it, the difficulty is obvious. You cannot communicate the richness of this musical via a single poster, but you could at least try by being somewhat creative. Maybe go for its uniqueness, it being different, it bringing new music to the genre… And, if it goes to Broadway at least this issue shouldn’t be a problem: patriotism is a sure bet.

 

Julia Wagner

Julia Wagner

Born and raised in Vienna, Austria, Julia studied Journalism and Theatre Studies. She is currently living in London doing her Master’s Degree at Goldsmiths and tries to get as much out of the experience of living in this city as possible.

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Blog: The Wicked Stage – Have I fallen out of love with musicals?

Posted on 04 February 2014 by Sarah Green

I was initially going to write a blog about how I have fallen out of love with musicals, hence my absence in blogging recently. However, I then realised that isn’t true and what I actually mean is due to location and lack of funds I have not seen any musical theatre. However, that probably isn’t true either and it all comes down to definition.

The term ‘musical theatre’ means, for me at least, the musicals going on in theatre buildings; so by that definition, no, I have not seen much to blog about. However, the broader term ‘musical’ opens up all the movie musicals (which I watched a lot of over Christmas) from the classics such as Singing in the Rain to the more recent Frozen. To an extent, this can also include me belting the Wicked soundtrack in my room whenever I’m home alone – personally I think I do a killer rendition of ‘Popular’. You have the same issues with what is the definition of ‘drama’ next to ‘theatre’ and when does a play become a musical? War Horse contains original songs but does that make it a musical or a musical play? This is in turn complicated when book writers such as Oscar Hammerstein called their integrated musicals a musical play. A tangled web of different terms and opinions but, as I say, this is why I love the genre.

To return to why I think movie musicals are important, it is because of accessibility. I live in rural North Devon where my nearest big city is Exeter (an hour away) which has amazing venues, which, like my local theatres, are too small for the massive touring musicals; this is why projects such as National Theatre Live! are so important, but sadly there aren’t that many musicals for it to show. Therefore going to the local cinema and seeing a film musical is amazing. From a performer’s point of view, it is also another area of work and a chance to hone voice skills; most of the key cast of Frozen are Broadway vets: Idina Menzel (Wicked), Jonathan Groff (Spring Awakening), Santino Fontana (Cinderella), Josh Gad (Book of Mormon) and, although more known for her TV and film work, Kristen Bell trained in musical theatre.

From a younger perspective, films such as The Lion King and Frozen or even TV shows such as Glee are an introduction to musical theatre; I had never heard Rose’s Turn from Gypsy until a character sang it on the show. Of course, many movie musicals now start as a stage show or become one at some point. Frozen has only been in cinemas a few months and there are already plans for a movie sequel and a stage show.

So to re-think, no I have not fallen out of love with musicals and I’m not sure I ever can really; my issues are all monetary based. But every time I channel my inner Glinda, watch a YouTube video/musical or reblog something on Tumblr then I am indulging in musical theatre, and the mobility and community is yet another reason why I continue to love it.

 

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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Feature: Curve Theatre’s fifth birthday – Leicester’s artistic heart

Posted on 14 November 2013 by Jessica Wilson

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Leicester’s Curve theatre is celebrating its fifth birthday. As one of the UK’s leading producing theatres, Curve has hosted a wide range of productions and has been perhaps best known for producing musical theatre. As Fiona Allan, CEO of Curve, states, it did not set out to be known for programming musicals, as the Leicester Theatre Trust already had a fantastic reputation for producing these at the Haymarket, under Artistic Director Paul Kerryson, undoubtedly one of the leading directors of musical theatre in the country. It was a natural progression to produce musicals at the Curve; with the deadly murder-musical Chicago about to land on the Leicester stage, the theatre has previously programmed numerous hits such as West Side Story, Godspell, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, Carousel, Hot Stuff and numerous works by Stephen Sondheim.

Musical theatre is not for every audience, meaning Curve also produces and co-produces a range of other genres, from dark contemporary drama such as The Pillowman, to classic and comedic drama such as Absurd Person Singular by Alan Ayckbourn, contemporary dance such as the Akram Khan Company – led by Khan who, incidentally, studied at Leicester’s De Montfort University – and children’s theatre, such as The Butterfly Lion by Michael Morpurgo. In a turn towards the more controversial, Allan recalls the decision to present the Batsheva Ensemble in 2012, a group of young dancers from Israel performing a production which was picketed by various anti-Israeli lobby groups. Protesters were planted inside the theatre to disrupt the performance yet the Batsheva tour went on to be nominated for a UK Theatre Award for Best Tour of 2012.

In an additional strand of Curve’s programme, regular work with the local community is both enjoyed and encouraged, focused on the annual community production which encompasses actors, technicians and the audience in developing skills, community spirit and an understanding of the role the arts play in society. In a big milestone for Curve, the team won the Visit England Gold Award for Access in 2011. As a national recognition for accessibility in its broadest sense, for the physical accessibility of the building and the accessibility of ticket prices, Allan was particularly proud to lead this. From just £2 to see a public dress rehearsal, a visit to Curve is affordable for all, and the extent of the community and education programmes ensures that Curve is reaching out and making theatre accessible to all of Leicester’s diverse communities. Programming new talent does not come easy, yet Allan’s team works hard to ensure they deliver. They are constantly looking out for potential cast members, new companies, emerging artists, with lots of studio programming coming from Edinburgh festival performances; a flat is usually hired during the Fringe meaning the team – including Allan! – can see six or seven shows a day.

The artistic team is led by Kerryson, who works to plan, develop and sometimes direct productions. Next up in terms of directing for Kerryson is a brand new production of musical Hairspray next year, a welcome production for the theatre and Leicester’s audiences. Working alongside Lee Proud as choreographer and Ben Atkinson as musical director, the show will run from late February to early April. Kerryson’s credits include the forthcoming production of Chicago and Hello, Dolly!, for which Janie Dee was recently named best performer at the UK Theatre Awards, a testament to the theatre and the artistic team. As a result of such rich theatre on offer, Curve has welcomed more than one million people through its doors in these past five years. Strong relationships have been established within the city and county, and are helping to grow Curve’s national reputation year on year. Allan likes to think of Curve as a showcase for the city and region’s talent, a symbol of diversity and potential. Studies have shown a real economic impact on the city by the theatre, with the Curve’s shows attracting many visitors to Leicester.

The wide programme of events and productions places the theatre at the heart of Leicester, providing something for everyone on a local, national and international scale. Not only are audiences benefitting from the richness of Curve, but so, too, are theatre practitioners: as part of the Curve’s on-going commitment to supporting and developing talent within the East Midlands, the first Associate Artists have been appointed – Aakash Odedra Company, New Art Club and METRO-BOULOT-DODO.

There have been so many major achievements of the Curve, Allan is unable to single one out. Looking back over the Curve’s five years, Allan identifies a huge turning point for the organisation with the great success of The King and I, which Kerryson directed at Christmas in 2010. It was a sell-out, so much so that it was picked up to transfer to Edinburgh Festival Theatre for the 2011 Christmas show and to go on to tour across the UK in 2012. In total, the production was seen by more than 200,000 people around the country, and marked the point at which people in Leicester, and nationally, sat up and took notice of the fantastic shows Curve produces.

Photo by Flickr user Kilian Seifried under a Creative Commonc licence.

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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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