Legally Blonde: the musical

May 15, 2016 at 12:36 am | Posted in Dance Review, Musical Review, Show Review | Leave a comment
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I went to Wellington Footlights‘ production of Legally Blonde:the musical last night, at Whitireia Theatre (in Wellington). Footlights put on an entertaining musical version of the Reese Witherspoon movie. Directed by Ben Emerson, apparently, this is the first time this musical has been staged in New Zealand.

This is a morality play about hard work, not judging-a-book-by-its-cover, being true to yourself, etc. In the end the bad people get their come-uppance and true love will out.

Standouts for me:

  • Kirsty Moir is fantastic as Wood COMMA Elle – Elle Wood –a UCLA blonde sorority queen turned Harvard law student.
  • Karen Anslow plays Paulette Buonofuonte, a  hairdresser fated to marry an Irishman, and Elle’s  fairy godmother.
  • Uncredited person playing the UPS “I have a package” Courier, who Paulette ends up marryingHis sense of timing and delivery stole every scene he had a part in.
  • Stacey O’Brien as Brooke Wyndham, charged with the murder of her husband, and Elle’s client. If she really were to putout a workout DVD it would be worth buying!
  • The Greek chorus Brigid Boyle, Ellie Stewart, and Kree MacMillan.

I don’t know how Michael Stebbings found time to be the musical director and perform in Jukebox Heros: The Legends of Rock’N’Roll. Briar Franks has done a good job with the choreography.

A good two hours, plus, of entertainment.




Jingles the Musical

March 16, 2015 at 6:53 am | Posted in Musical Review, Show Review | Leave a comment
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I went to see Dean Hewison’s Jingles the other night – at Bats Theatre.

Warning: Plot elements discussed

Hewison has cleverly worked some well known TV jingles to tell a story of farm girl to weather girl.

Wella, ably played by comedian, Hayley Sproull, leaves her home on her adopted father’s farm, in the back blocks, for the bright lights of Auckland. In true puss-in-boots style, she has a new pair of shoes, a parting gift from dad, and she is off to make her fortune (and to find her biological mother).

Jack Buchanan and Carrie Green, play all of the other characters: Wella’s mum, Wella’s adotive father, Wella’s adoptive sister, a dog, Coke, Wella’s brother, … .

All three of the cast: sing, joke, dance, and act their way through Wella’s adventure in the ‘big city’. From being greeted by the ‘dog’ on entering the theatre, to the free goodies tossed out during the ‘encore’, it was laugh out loud stuff.

The chocolates and cheese at the end was an apt way to finish off a show that was studded with jiggles from ‘golden age’ of New Zealand TV (when we made our own programmes and ads).

Definitely worth a go; and yes, the Wella hair ad gets an airing; as do lots of McDonalds’ ads.

Dead Tragic (2014)

December 14, 2014 at 7:08 am | Posted in Musical Review, Show Review | 1 Comment
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Last weekend, it was Michael Nicholas Williams’s Mama Mia, this weekend it was his Dead Tragic – which I saw at Bats Theatre 20 years ago.

The original cast:

  • Emma Kinane,
  • Jo Pheloung,
  • Lyndee-Jane Rutherford,
  • Michael Nicholas Williams, and
  • Darren Young.

updated some of the material, cast off the years and wow-ed the audience.

Mysteriously, the Bee Gees number was cancelled – copyright (?), after all, with a name like Dead Tragic, surely Tragedy, when the feelings gone, … would have been perfect. Still the updated choreography, included ‘selfies’ in hilarious rendition of “I did what I did for Maria” – very generation X.

It was really funny – “putting the fun back into funeral” – and very entertaining – even the Circa Theatre ushers were bopping to the music during the interval :-). The tradition version of how Billy[the] Hero [despite orders from his fiance] is challenged! Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love to Town gets an update – what does happen if Ruby’s dis-abled husband doesn’t die, but lives for 20 years; well she waxes! The Leader of the pack was actually as lady biker!

Go see this, you laugh and be transported back to a simpler music period.

Begin Again

August 27, 2014 at 1:32 am | Posted in Film Review, Musical Review | Leave a comment
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Another day, another film, … this time “Begin Again“.

Warning: plot discussed.

Keira Knightley sings – she plays Gretta, a song writer, and occasional singer. Gretta was also half of a couple who wrote songs for each other, but Dave (Adam Levine) is plucked from obscurity and sucked into the Machine, in New York, by a big record label. Dave’s head is turned, and Gretta is adrift in New York. She ends up in Steve’s one room ‘apartment’. Gretta, Dave and Steve were friends in Bristol. Steve is trying to make it big in the Big Apple. James Corden, as Steve, puts in a fine performance – he is like a musical young Ray Winstone!

I was a bit doubtful at first, but Knightly won me over – after 10 minutes she was Gretta, song writer and occasional singer – she certainly sings well enough to occupy the part. For Gretta, it is about letting the song be itself, not turning the song into a ‘hit’

This is one of films challenges: are songs for the song, or are they for the audience? The latter leads to the Machine – find the next young thing and cash in quick. Or do you let the song stand front-and-centre, let it do the work, not be overshadowed by the presentation?

Gretta leaves Dave’s Label supplied posh mega loft and squats on Steve’s couch. This another of the film’s challenges: two song writers doing their thing, one has a big label, the other gets by busking. It all seems to be about the money. Not the art or the journey.

Gretta meets Dan (Mark Ruffalo) a burned out record producer, who has been moved sideways by everything he valued in life – his record label, his wife, and his daughter. Dan is damaged goods. While the focus is on Gretta – the camera loves knightly in an Audrey Hepburn way – a strong storyline is Dan’s: will he get his life back? He was once a young turk of the recording industry. He loves his 14 year old daughter, and she loves him, yet they are further apart than the usual age gap. And he still burns with the betray by his with with a rock star in Europe. Ruffalo puts in a great performance. The director and writer, John Carney, dangles an unsympathetic portray of Dan in front of the audience, at the start of the film, to set a broad canvas. Yet, by the end of the film you rooting for Dan.

Then there is Violet (Hailee Steinfeld), the slightly confused daughter who wants her dad back – and the hot boy at school. Dan wishes she would add more area to her clothing; Gretta offers style advice.

It is a nice movie. the music really works; in parts it is almost a musical. Gretta composes are ‘you bastard, you broke my heart’ song, on a napkin and she and Steve sing it into Dave’s voicemail.

There is the tension and uncertainty of the relationship between Dan and Gretta – will they be more than friends who collaborate. I was pleased with how that ended up.

Carney even manages to pull it off the tricky one point in time from three perspectives sequence.

I enjoyed this film. I like that it had no violence. I like the well crafted feel on the film. I like seeing the creative process in making an album being executed by people who looked like they were enjoying it. I like the satisfying conclusion. It made me think: do we like something because we like what we perceive (in this case hear) or do we like something because we like what it helps us to perceive (helps us to hear)? At the start of the film Dan like Gretta’s song, not just for what she sings, but more so for what it could be.

World of Wearableart 2013

September 28, 2013 at 3:22 am | Posted in Dance Review, Event Review, Musical Review, Show Review | Leave a comment
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Another brilliant show

WOW ! I went to the 2013 World of Wearableart dress rehearsal AND opening night!  Obviously, I think it is great, so get a ticket if you can. I might even try for another session.

Likes: Man Unleashed and Costume & Film

I liked the Man Unleashed section. WOW moved away from the models on revolving stage segments for this section; the audience got a close-up on the garments via a big screen.  The guys danced and hammed-it-up on temporary stages made of white boxes moved by movers dressed in white unitards. The ‘Born to be Wild’ garment nearly bought the house down.

I also like the Costume & Film section, which was based on a 1900’s circus theme. The circus acts was so good that they stole the show 🙂

Observations: a Lighter Shade of Pale

WOW was very ‘white’ this year: many of the garments were white, cream, or dominated by light colours. The make-up, lighting, and ‘props’ tended to create a pale aesthetic. This was very noticeable in the South Pacific section. In other sections, things verged on a WOW re-interpretation of a Victoria Secrets show.

Between the Dress Rehearsal and Opening Night, WOW swapped the order of the Costumes & Film section and  the Avant Garde section. The Dress Rehearsal closed with the Avant Garde section leaving everyone feeling a little flat.  Opening Night used the Avant Garde section to create a serene calm before a torrent of circus fun closed the show. I thought the change was a good move – the little wave from the final circus act aptly closed the show.

Disappointments: No Air Guitar and Clutter

The Man Unleashed section had a very short  air guitar sequence that did not give it the time to develop the energy that it deserved.

At times individual sequences seem disconnected, as many sections had large opaque artifacts – albeit very artistic ones – in the middle of the stage that blocked out a complete view of the stage.

Ella & Will

February 17, 2013 at 9:12 am | Posted in Dance Review, Musical Review, Show Review | Leave a comment
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I went to Anita Hutchins’ Ella & Will Friday night – part of The Wellington Fringe Festival.

Billed as a dance-theatre work, I was looking forward to a dramatic work that featured dance but in a different way to say a ballet.

At it’s heart Ella & Will is a love story: Ella is torn between will and the man in her dreams!

The continuous 2-hour long work features dance and video projection, as well as dialogue. It also featured life music – composed by double bass player Mostyn Cole.

I liked the clever movement of an assortment of boxes to create mode, create a sense of motion, and to create an amazing range of landscapes.

I also liked the pas de deux between Ella and Will – where they dance inside her skirt.

Cast (and dancers): Will Barling (Will), Anna Flaherty (Ella), Tanemahuta Gray (the man in Ella’s dreams), Sandra Normal Shaw, Aleasha Seaward, Jillian Davey, Andrew Miller, Lara Strong, and Anita Hutchins.

Script: Donna Banicevich Gera.

The Sapphires

December 2, 2012 at 4:26 am | Posted in Film Review, Musical Review | Leave a comment
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I went to see The Sapphires the other day and found it quite disturbing. The script by Tony Briggs and Keith Thompson is not just a musical – this is not an Australian version of The Commitments. The film directed by Wayne Blair is very crafted to bring out into the light some episodes in Australia’s history.

On the face of it, the film is about four Aboriginal young women who go to Vietnam, to sing, to mark their mark on the world. The three sisters Gail, Cynthia, and Julie, and their cousin Kay, are ‘discovered’ by Dave – an itinerant Irishman with a passion for soul music – and the rest is history as they say. But whose history?

There is a tension between Gail (Deborah Mailman) and Kay (Shari Sebbens) that when it is explained is quite shocking – and not the usual adolescent ‘you stole my boyfriend’ squabble. Kay is one of the ‘stolen generation’; she was taken into custody by the Australian government in 1958 to be raised as a European, and in her only visit back to the Mission, she says some very hurtful things about ‘lazy Aboriginals’.

The film begins in 1968, with Gail, Cynthia (Miranda Tapsell), and Julie (Jessica Mauboy) going into town – they live on an Aboriginal Mission – to enter a talent contest. This is the audience’s introduction to race relationships in Australia – it is not violent, but it is not a pretty sight either. Despite being the best act they do not win, and are told to go back where they belong. This is when Dave discovers them, rather Cynthia convinces him to be their manager. He is a bit of a hopeless romantic.

Gail, Cynthia, and Julie are re-united with Kay, and after a short audition, they are off to Vietnam.

This portion of the film inevitably explores Western intervention in Vietnam. The film stays firmly centred on the Sapphires, but what they see and experience of Vietnam is pretty disturbing – the brutality of war, the divisiveness of a civil war, and US race relations injected into an Asian conflict. Vietnam was a war fought without borders or uniforms – there is no rear area, and the Sapphires are caught up in the fighting.

There is lots of romance: what can you expect when young men and young women thrown together – and it is the 60’s.

Definitely worth seeing. The singing is pretty good too – especially if you like soul, the other 90% of recorded music is shite! (or so says the Dave character). Just don’t expect a just musical; there are some very serious issues gently brought out onto the ‘silverscreen’.

World of Wearableart 2012

September 26, 2012 at 7:18 pm | Posted in Dance Review, Musical Review, Show Review | Leave a comment
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WOW ! went to the 2012 World of Wearableart dress rehearsal last night – great, get a ticket if you can.

A mixture of surreal and fun would be how I would try to sum up this year’s show.

The Children’s Section has a little girl falling into her toy box at bed time and entering a dream world – there is even a rabbit in a car!

I liked the tiaha wielding warriors in a video game: clever and it must be hard dancing with a projection.

The Open Section used Argentinian tango as the ‘back drop’ – some very nice dancing. This section also introduced a little meme for the show – unaccompanied male dancers. In this section, the ladies danced by themselves and it look more like flamenco, and the men partnered each other. It wasn’t exactly smoldering, but nevertheless had a degree of intensity.

The Visual Symphony Section was innovative and ‘big’ – grunge steam punk. The Gareth Farr composed and directed music partly utilised the garments themselves for musical notes. Some of the garments were very quite and this was dealt with through handheld microphones choreographed into the dancing. I liked the big disk / wobbleboard.

The Avante Garde Section was wonderfully surreal: opera, candles (lots of them), lyrical dancing, and really out-there art-on-a-person garments. I was a bit worried for the dancers and models because of all the naked flames.

The Bizzarre Bra finale was fantastic – literally out of this world. A wonderful mix of B-grade and classic science fiction moments. There were three actual spaceships!!! and a space monster.

Another brilliant show.

Crazy Horse

July 28, 2012 at 9:27 pm | Posted in Dance Review, DVD Review, Film Review, Musical Review, Show Review | Leave a comment
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The 41st Wellington Film Festival is on; I went to Federick Wiseman’s Crazy Horse – a film about the Paris nightclub of the same name.

The film is made in the same style as Wiseman’s La danse: fly-on-the-wall over a few days, apparently without much editing.

This particular screening was very fly-on-th-wall: there were no sub-titles! The audience got to experience the French, a tiny bit of Russian (at least one of the dancers is Russian), and a short burst of English, unassisted. The disconnect created by not understanding the dialogue made for a surreal experience; the slow bleed of people leaving the film and the staff announcements about ‘technical difficulties’ added a performance art nuance.

The dancers are technically very proficient – though the sway back, bottom accentuating posture must make their former ballet teachers grind their teeth. And of course the dancers are very good looking. There is lots of nudity; the dancers are clearly comfortable with their bodies and being unclothed, the practical needs of quick costume changes means that they wonder around backstage without much on.

The Crazy Horse nightclub visual esthetic is not at all raunchy – the naked body is so clinically presented and adorned that the naked aspect of the performance is not the focal point. (Or maybe there was so much nudity I became accustomed to it!)

Most of the film is of the dancers on stage or of dancers rehearsing or new sequences being put together – so no aural comprehension is required. There are meetings of the back office staff; by the body language, especially the hand waving its not all plain sailing at the nightclub – we just don’t know what the disturbance are about.

So even without sub-titles it is a good watch. If you are watching in a theatre that serves drinks, order champagne – it will be just like being in Paris at the club!


July 15, 2012 at 10:09 am | Posted in Musical Review, Show Review | Leave a comment
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… with the BeatGirls (and Jason Chasland) … a clever parody of 60’s and 70’s music (produced and influenced by Phil Spector) … a history of 60’s and 70’s music (using Phil Spector to connect the songs) … the story of Phil Spector … the wall of sound – (one of Spector’s many innovations).

I went to the opening night of this new BeatGirls show.

I wasn’t sure what to expect, having been to a number of BeatGirls gigs – where they sang some wonderful covers. But this was a show – a story, drama, … . This was also a departure for the Girls – having a male guest performer.

Some of the audience were dressed in 60’s and 70’s outfits. Some of the audience looked like they caught some of the music first time around – they clearly enjoyed the show and the music. Not being a baby-boomer, I missed many of the references.

Spector is a ‘show of two halves’: 60’s music leading up to the intermission, and 70’s music after. The first half was restrained and tidy; the second was psychedelic and a loss-of-innocence (was there really that much sexual goings-on?). In the first half, the Girls were dressed as tidy inspirations for Amy Winehouse – very ‘Mod’; in the second, the Girls were in 70’s flower child outfits (complete with John Lennon headbands). The first half was a music history lesson; the second was a riot of events – culminating in where Spector is currently living (prison) and how he got there (2nd degree murder of Lana Clarkson). In the first half, the wall of sound was explained and demonstrated; in the second it got out of control – I can see why Paul McCartney eventually released Let it Be … Naked – the wall tended to overwhelm the lead singer.

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