English Royal Ballet – Nutcracker (2017) – the film

December 24, 2017 at 4:25 am | Posted in Ballet Review, Concert Review, Dance Review, Film Review | Leave a comment
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I went to see the Royal Ballet’s annual production of the Nutcracker – captured on film and shown at the Light House Cuba cinema. Darcy Bussell was one of the commentators: one of the difference between a live production and a production designed to be webcast and filmed. Bussell and her co-commentator interviewed, some of the young dancers from the Company’s dance school, and Peter wright – the guest ballet master for this production. Most of the principal dancers were also interviewed – pictured as they worked with Wright. The interval was shown in its full length (the main curtain counting down the minutes).

This production has been performed every year since 1984, when Peter Wright first ‘put it together’. What I liked about this production is that the party is a substantial segment; in some productions, the party is much foreshortened, serving only to convey the nutcracker to Clara. I also liked that Drosselmeyer (Gary Avis) has such a substantive part – and played with a wonderful Rothbart-like feel at times.

Francesca Hayward and Alexander Campbell dance the parts of Clara and the Nutcracker respectively. Hayward was superb as a young girl growing into womanhood. Campbell is strong yet youthful. A lovely touch that the nutcracker is also Drosselmeyer’s son / nephew (?).

Sarah Lamb and Steven McRae dance the Sugar Plum Fairy and the Prince. Lamb was beautiful; McRae soared. The various Sugar Plum Fairy and Prince pas des deuxs are often overshadowed by those from Swan Lake.

This production of Nutcracker really celebrates the Rose Fairy; ‘her’ dance is an extended piece of technical and dramatic substance. The Arabian dance was a very tidily choreography piece – technically demanding of the genie (?) and her three companions. the principle companion has to hold her aloft with straight arms, when he carries her on an off the stage.

The shrinking Clara – tree expanding – sequence was superb. Though, I did find the lighting and setting for the Snowflakes a little too bright; they looked to me like icicles.

I am pleased that I went to see this. It is unlikely that i will get to see such a show in person.

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The BeatGirls’ 21st – All Grown Up

April 17, 2017 at 3:49 am | Posted in Concert Review, Show Review | Leave a comment
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To commemorate their 21st year milestone, the Group put on a celebratory season at Circa Theatre. There have been 29 Beat Girls during history of the Group; this show featured Beat Girls #1, #4, #26, and #29.

The show was a walk down through the 21 years: intermixed with congratulatory video messages from past Beat Girls, projected photos of past performances; the Group performed numbers from their wide repertoire.

The BeatGirls – Andrea Sanders (#1), Carrie McLaughlin (#4), Kali Kopae (#26) – took the stage and launched into a Tom Jones number. After two more numbers, Sanders welcomed the audience and began a show long history of the Group. Apparently the Group began covering Beatles songs in Wellington pubs. To show off a little bit, the Group then sang the Beatles’ Daytripper in a bossa  nova style.

Dresses from past performances were suspended above stage, a strong reminder of the colourful nature of the Group. After a costume change Kopae utterly owned Amy Winehouse’s Valerie. This is the real power of the Group: their vocal versatility combined with great choreography and on stage energy guarantee a great show.

Just before the interval, the Group re-introduced the character of Doreen (Christina Cusiel). She gave a wonderful characterisation of a sex goddess covering  Aretha Franklin’s  Think. in the process, she gave a reluctant member of the audience bit of close attention.

After the interval, the Group came on in their 70’s psychedelic pants suits. Their was touching tribute to David Bowie – Modern love. McLauglin hammed it up a bit, by acting stiff and occasionally stuck in a pose!

The final costume change saw the Group in their characteristic beehive wigs and 60’s one-piece short dresses.

The show fittingly ended with Sanders (#1) singing a duet – No More Tears – with Ella Monnery (#29).

It was a fantastic night, with great music, great choreography, with the added bonus of a short history of the Group. Throughout the show, each of the Group took turns to explain a little of the history of the BeatGirls.

I’m glad I went.

 

 

 

Jukebox Heros: The Legends of Rock’N’Roll

May 8, 2016 at 1:05 am | Posted in Concert Review, Show Review, Uncategorized | 1 Comment
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This musical gem was from Backyard Theatre and staged at the Gryphon Theatre on Ghuznee Street. I don’t like crowds, so I am unlikely to ever go to a real rock concert, but for 2 hours I got to experience the next best thing: five amazingly talented singers – Alex Rabina, Flora Lloyd, Harriet Dawson, Ingrid Crispin, and Michael Stebbings – taking me on a musical journey from Bill Haley to the present.

Alex Rabina’s Mick Jagger, early on, really got the audience (a full house) really warmed up. Harriet Dawson’s Joan Jett had the audience singing and clapping with her. All through the show people were clapping and shifting in their chairs, by the last third of the show, the younger audience members were up on their feet.

There was a minimum of dialogue – partly because most of it was original words said by the original artists during interviews, and partly, it was all about the songs.

The band – Bruno Shirley, Steve “Shack” Morrison, Bernie Stander, Paul Gadd, Michael Stebbings, and Harriet Dawson – were also pretty amazing, with some excellent guitar solos. Bruno Shirley’s Bruce Springsteen was awesome. Bruno was also the music director.

I really enjoyed it, and hope they re-stage it next year. Kira Josephson did a great job, writing/directing/choreographing, bringing the singers and band together . Kira admits that the songs used are a combination of her picks and the singer’s vocal ranges. So next time, some other songs might make it onto the stage; though if the same amazing singers are in the production, that would be fine too.

Mama Mia! (Wellington 2014)

December 6, 2014 at 10:56 pm | Posted in Concert Review, Dance Review, Event Review, Show Review | 1 Comment
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After I saw the Mama Mia movie in 2008, I resolved to see the stage show. Well last night, I finally made it: Wellington Musical Theatre put on a production.

I won’t go into the story of Mama Mia – because some much is available on the web about it.

It was fun; it was fantastic; much more satisfying that the movie (which was pretty entertaining). The movie had great locations and a cinematic sharpness; but, the stage show (any stage show) has actual presence – the performers are there with you and when they do a great job you get carried away in a way that is different to a movie.

So, instead of

  • Amanda SiegFried, we had Ellie-Jane Neal;
  • Meryl Streep: Julie O’Brien;
  • Julie Walters: Jody McCartney;
  • Christine Baranski: Frances Leota;
  • Pierce Brosnan: Russell Dixon
  • Stellan Skarsgård: Mark Shepherd; and
  • Colin Firth: David Cox.

There was a nice juxtaposition of Sophie and her three two friends (Ali – Brogan Wilkinson, Lisa – Flora Lloyd) and beside Donna, Rosie, and Tanya. Jody McCartney absolutely nailed the “Take a Chance on Me” number.

The Scripted encore – with Donna, Rosie, and Tanya in 80’s lycria was fantastic: like being at a mini ABBA concert. The cast had most of the audience at the St James Theatre on their feet and dancing.

The on-stage and off-stage cast members (who are too numerous to list here) did a fantastic job.The dancing was technically good and very enthusiastic (Whitireia Performance Centre and New Zealand School of Dance are turning out great dancers); the singing was wonderful; and the invisible band did a great job.

I would tell you to go ad see this production, but I went to closing night – full marks to the cast for delivering right to the end.

Bryn Terfel – A Gala Evening

May 4, 2013 at 8:34 am | Posted in Concert Review, Recital Review, Show Review | Leave a comment
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I went to the concert last night: Bryn Terfel with the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra at the Michael Fowler Centre. I wasn’t sure what I would get, but I got a world renowned bass-baritone and a brilliant orchestra – conducted by Tecwyn Evans.

Bryn Terfel is bass-baratone sang a collection of Wagner, Boito, Weill, Rodgers and Hammerstein, Lerner and Loewe, and some ‘folk songs’. In between, the Orchestra played some Wagner, Boito, and Lilburn.

Evans is a comparatively animated conductor and really seemed to bring the parts of the Orchestra into a greater whole.

Terfel has a magnificent operatically trained voice. His voice easily filled the Michael Fowler Centre. He held his own against the combined orchestra – both in volume, and retaining his clarity.

I liked the Orchestra’s rendition of The Ride of the Valkyries. I was transported away with images of Huey helicopters attacking a surfing village in Vietnam; then I imagined chapter one of Starship Troopers the way it should have been filmed (or is it the way i would have done it?).

I also liked: Oh What a Beautiful Morning and Fiddler on the Roof; as I associate them with warm childhood memories.

I found the german/operatic/orchestral arrangement of The Ballad of Mack the KnifeDie Moritat von Mackie Messer – far too clinical.

I found the two encores hopelessly contrived. Terfel sang three songs that the orchestra just happened to know how to play. Maybe the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra could be expected to be able to play Pokarekari Ana, and be able to adjust for bass-baretone’s range, but for the other two songs the Orchestra just happened to have the sheet music (I could see the cello-ists turning and arranging sheet music).

The near-standing ovation at the end seemed much more genuine.

However, I did feel slightly out of place: the average age of the audience must have been close to 70; a sprinkling of Welsh flags were unfurled throughout the night; and I don’t speak German.

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