Monday, 27 June 2016

Musical Monday #109

I need something comforting today, so I have chosen one of my favourite scenes from a film.

Tango from Easy Virtue
Scene performed by Jessica Biel and Colin Firth

Monday, 20 June 2016

Musical Monday #108

I was in a school/college production of Grease about fourteen years ago, and I STILL can't watch Grease without wincing.

Born To Hand Jive from Grease
Song performed by Sha-Na-Na, scene performed by the cast of Grease
Written by Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey

So... a lot of people run out of this high school dance in a sulk.  Jeez guys, it's just one number.  I guess in musical land, not getting to dance with your boyfriend is like getting stabbed in a regular movie.

Wednesday, 15 June 2016

Review: The Comedy About A Bank Robbery

The Housemate has his birthday treat revealed.  He feigns surprise.


This review is going to repeatedly mention The Play That Goes Wrong, which is bad form.  As a younger sibling myself, I know there’s nothing worse for a young’un than to live in the shadow of their over-achieving elders.  But the fact is that I went to see The Comedy About A Bank Robbery because of The Play That Goes Wrong, so I can’t help comparing it.

I saw Goes Wrong about a year ago.  It won me over before the play even started, I was completely in love with Chris Bean (Henry Shields) and Max (Dave Hearn) moments after they entered the stage and the show shot instantly into second place in my top-five-greatest-shows-of-all-time like a hot knife through a tub of vitalite.

Through not paying any attention at all, I failed to notice the Christmas run of Peter Pan Goes Wrong until the final week and, sure my life now depended on seeing these guys again, without any forethought, planning or checking I was actually free at all, I managed to grab tickets for the penultimate performance.  

At the end of the show when Shields told the audience about their next show The Comedy About A Bank Robbery, it was all I could do to stop myself leaping on to the stage and demanding they put it on NOW NOW, NOT IN SEVERAL MONTHS TIME I NEED MORE DON’T MAKE ME GO HOME WITHOUT YOU.

Then, despite booking time off work and regularly getting out the flyer and waving it at anyone who entered my flat, I forgot to actually book tickets.  Which is how I ended up in the third row of the stalls behind Mr and Mrs McFreak GiantHead, who follow me about and sit in front of my every time I step foot in a theatre.  I hate them.

But to cut a long ramble short, last Friday I finally went to see Bank Robbery.

Actual Review:

With a fresh new show from Mischief Theatre, we get a real treat.  We get to see these talented guys actually doing what they were trained to do – act, instead of pretend to act badly.  And there’s no doubt that these guys can act.

The entire cast is a hoot, making silly characters believable, showing off their skills in comedy and physical stunts, and even singing, though some of the characters don’t feel particularly necessary to the plot.  Newcomer Jeremy Lloyd is hilarious as Officer Shuck, while Charlie Russell as Caprice and Dave Hearn as Sam (both very funny) have the task of playing the ‘human’ characters – you know, the ones you actually worry about when a gun is pointed their way.  They succeed; I was certainly holding my breath during the finale. 

The best part of theatre comedy are the fourth wall references, with which my favourite shows The Producers, The Play That Goes Wrong and The 39 Steps are rife.  Bank Robbery only really has two moments – the major one being the ‘birds-eye-view’ scene, which is so innovative that you will want to climb up on the stage and kiss whoever came up with this idea full on the mouth.  This is the scene people are going to walk away still talking about.

Ever since seeing Kneehigh Theatre’s Brief Encounter or The-Wankiest-Show-Ever-Arted I have something of an aversion to certain theatrical techniques.  With Bank Robbery the musical interludes add that feel of theatre pretension that Goes Wrong refreshingly lacked, but they do slide over the many scene changes, are very catchy and give it all a filmy feel.  There is a definite trend to make it all feel like a movie, which is so successful that when describing an exceptionally good bit, The Housemate referred to a scene change as a ‘cut’.  This show definitely looks slick – in that way where creative geniuses from improvisation backgrounds can do magic.  With their skill and humour, they keep it on the right side of ‘impressive’ without quite slipping into ‘pretentious’ but it’s still a fine line.

Because not everything in this is comedy.  While this is to be expected in a story, often making for the best moments, it feels at odds with the silly title.  Mitch (Shields) is successfully threatening, which is a tribute to Shields’ acting because you’d never think Mitch and Chris Bean could come out of the same person.  But in being so threatening he doesn’t get much funny material, which when considering the ‘Chris Bean gets the stage to himself’ scenes are the highlight of the Goes Wrongs is a little disappointing, particularly since frustration and exasperation (Chris’s allies) would fit what is happening to Mitch perfectly.

There are much fewer laughs after the actual robbery and the ending is something of a bloodbath (perhaps this should be obvious when considering what usually happens in this kind of genre (The Lady Killers for example) and the Goes Wrongs’ lust for violence, but it's more shocking and upsetting than exciting and funny).

But when Bank Robbery is trying to be funny, it never misses.  It’s littered with recurring jokes (I love the seagulls) and Mischief staples: actors precariously dangling from great heights, characters repeatedly getting knocked unconscious and Henry Lewis screaming.

This is another laugh-till-you-choke show.

Bank Robbery did not reach the heights of joy to which The Play That Goes Wrong soared me.  There are lines and expressions from that show that I can still pull up a year later and just melt from happiness.  Bank Robbery will have to content itself with being a really entertaining evening and take company in the top-ten-greatest-shows-I’ve-seen.

What I will take away with me is the scene at the end of Act 1, in which Sam is trying to leave a room, never to succeed.  It was the perfect moment of the show.

Well, it's sort of like meeting the actor...

Monday, 13 June 2016

Musical Monday #107

Today's musical number is set over one afternoon by the logic of the rest of the film so I can only presume that Calam and Katie are wizards, particularly when it comes to making flowers grow.
A Woman's Touch from Calamity Jane
Performed by Allyn Ann McLerie and Doris Day
Written by Sammy Fain and Paul Francis Webster

This song is often used as a gay metaphor, which I can kind of see from the two women living together angle etc (after all, two men only have to appear in the same screen for hordes of slash tumblr memes to be born), but it is somewhat marred by the fact that at the end of the song, Katie specifically says everything they are doing is to impress men.  Also the plot of the film is about these two women fighting over the same man (who is a total douche by the way).  Secret Love works a lot better for the gay metaphor song, if you have to find one.  And anyway, a woman can dress and act like a man without being gay.  Calam is more of a gender queer hero than a gay one.

Monday, 6 June 2016

Musical Monday #106

For some reason I have had this song stuck in my head today, so here it is:
Gaston Reprise from Beauty And The Beast
Performed by Jesse Corti and Richard White
Written by Alan Menken and Howard Ashman

I know that a lot of people go crazy for Beauty And The Beast, but it is personally one of my least favourite Disney films.

I don't know why I wrote 'least favourite'.  That's a stupid turn of phrase.  My 'least favourite' would probably be Sleeping Beauty, in that it IS one of my favourite Disney films, but is the worst of that list.  Whereas Beauty And The Beast is just a turd.

Here are a few random reasons why:

1, It doesn't make sense.  In the opening narration we learn that a selfish prince wouldn't let an old crone into his house in the middle of the night and then she turned into a beautiful enchantress and turned him into a monster to teach him about appearances being deceptive, and turned all his servants into cutlery, and cursed his kingdom into a scary wolf-infested dump.  The prince has until his twenty-first birthday to give and receive love or he will remain cursed forever and we know that this is in a couple of days.  But during 'Be Our Guest' the candlestick says they have all been cursed for ten years.  So the prince was not even ELEVEN when he was cursed.  An enchantress punished a CHILD for not letting a stranger in when he was home alone.  What a ******** (please fill in whatever word you find appropriate)!  Plus, why did she punish his servants?  How come no one knows about the beast since all this only happened ten years ago?  Don't people in the village wonder where the castle went?  And how is the baby cup alive?  He must have been born a cup because he is way younger than ten.

2, Belle is often referred to as the bookish and intelligent Disney princess.  Really?  Coz she is reading love stories about girls meeting princes and falling in love.  She is the Disney equivalent of someone who enjoys Mills and Boon.  Not such a shock that she falls for her brutish kidnapper now, is it?

3, The villain is boring.  Sure, he's a bit rapey, but then I don't particularly like potential rapists in my children's cartoons.  His evil aim is.... to marry the protagonist.  Really?  That's it?  Who cares?  If the villain doesn't turn into a giant dragon during the finale, you have lost my interest.

4, When Gaston goes to murder the Beast, Beast (who is a total jerk by the way) just sits there and takes it because he's feeling sad.  Sure after a little bit he notices Belle (who is a massive snob by the way) wander into the yard and all of a sudden he decides he won't sit here and get murdered, but by then it's too late to care.  When Gaston arrives and the cutlery all put in a massive effort to stop and defeat an angry mob, the Beast, who is the HERO, just has a bit of a sulk and would just lie down and die, probably from boredom, if Belle hadn't wandered in when she did.  Are you kidding me?!  Eric, shouting, 'I lost her once, I'm not going to lose her again' dives underwater where he CAN'T BREATHE, to go after Ariel and fight Ursula.  Aladdin manages to escape an icy cliff of doom and journey all the way back from the Ends Of The Earth in just a vest for Jasmine and to fight Jafar.  But no, Beast just gets a bit depressed and waits to die.

5, You know how these musicals have one massive ensemble number that encapsulate something really important in the story?  Like how Sebastian desperately tries to convince Ariel of the dangers of land and that she shouldn't want to live among the humans in Under The Sea but her desire is just too strong to be quelled?  And how the Genie makes Aladdin's first wish come alive and turns him into a prince so that his dreams can come true and he can marry Jasmine in Prince Ali?  And how Simba sings about how I Just Can't Wait To Be King which is the culmination of all his youthful zest and folly which will be brutally crushed from him when he discovers the true responsibility that comes with being king?  Well the big ensemble number in Beauty In The Beast is about Belle having dinner.  That's it.  No subtext, no irony, she just has some dinner.