Cinderella on Ice

July 30, 2008 at 4:19 am | Posted in Show Review | 5 Comments
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I wasn’t sure what to expect, I had heard that it was not the classical story, but I enjoyed Swan Lake on Ice, so I thought that I would give the Imperial Ice Stars another go.

Warning: this review has plot details!

July 26, 2008 by


Show Hanger

Paper Hanger Blog
Wellington
New Zealand

The Cinderella story has definitely been upgraded. The opening sequence introduces Cinderella beside her dead mother and also introduces her father. The rest of first 15 minutes were a little bit confusing, still I worked my way through it.

Cinderalla instead of being reduced to being a scullery maid in the family kitchen is actually in the corp de ballet of a company of which her stepsisters are principal dancers – not very good ones at that. So, when on opening night of Swan Lake, one of them falls and hurts herself, Cinderella’s talent is finally recognised and she thrust into the main part! This brings her to the attention of the ‘Prince’ character – who has to organise a ball to meet her. Cinderella is so mobbed by well wishers at the post performance party that her doesn’t actually get to meet her!! The rest of the story is pretty much as the classic version, even though the setting is more Regency than Queen Anne. The stepmother ended up as a mixture of ballet-mum and Mrs Collins (as in Pride and Prejudice).

The production went out of its way to emphasis the importance of midnight. I thought that this was the most innovative aspect of the production. Cast members dressed up as the numbers in a clock face – this allowed the use modern-dance choreography and costumes without it being out of place with the Regency period. Full marks for using a tissu performer to be the clock hands in one of these sequences.

The stepsisters lost some of their significance in the re-worked story, they are just there to give smore credence to the step-mother character – if cinderella is to be discriminated against, there must be someone(s) who are favoured unfairly ahead of her . The ‘prince’ character is slightly diminished – he is now the Lord Mayor’s son (Andrei Penkine). By not making him royalty, some of the shine goes off the character. The contribution to the story made by the fairy godmother character increases; there is almost a sense of a dual between the fairy godmother and the step-mother.

There are three main charaters: Cinderella (Olga Sharutenko), her father (Vadim Yarkov) and her stepmother (Olena Pyatash). There is a bit of a love triangle: the father for both of them, each for him, and Cinderella also seeks acceptance from her stepmother.

The ice skating is brilliant: energetic, but precise. The stage/ice is quite crowded with skaters and props – there is no room for error. There are one handed carries – with the female partner held above the man’s head with a straight arm !

The Ice Stars have a managed curtain call: at the end of the performance, two of the cast gets the crowd clapping madly and then cast members take turns doing tricks. This slightly artifical segment is well worth it, as the cast does spectacular tricks without having to worry about the story telling ! Just natural joy in having mastered difficult tricks.

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Rome the Musical

July 28, 2008 at 1:52 am | Posted in Musical Review, Show Review | Leave a comment
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I went to see Paul Jenden and Gareth Farr’s third in a series of musical inspired by historic events, on at Circa Theatre. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but it looked worth a go. I didn’t go to Troy the Musical or The Monarch the Musical, but based on this work, I will try to catch them next time.

July 23, 2008 by


Musical Hanger

Paper Hanger Blog
Wellington
New Zealand

This was really a modern opera – what is the difference between an opera and a musical anyway ?

The musical compresses the struggle to be Julius Ceaser’s successor into a single dinner – on the evening of 15th of March 44BC. There is a high body count – very high! The musical is historially accurate – as far as a I can tell from wikipedia after the show – with a few extra bodies thrown in at the end to lead into the political commentary finale. Otherwise the first 90% of the musical is about the struggle between Ceaser (Kingsford-Brown), Brutus (Wood), Mark Anthony (Kennedy), Octavian (Wilson), and Cleopatra (Cusiel). Most of the action is set after dinner; Ceaser’s wife, Calpurnia (Kinane) and a house slave (Solino), keeps the food and refreshments flowing while the bodies stack up!

I found the first 30 minutes hard to get into: lots of characters being introduced and me trying to integrate them into my fading knowledge of Roman history. It might have been better if I had had no knowledge of the Romans. I became more engaged when Cleopatra arrived – her solo gave me the zip I needed. Who can wrestle with the work at an intellectual level when you get lyrics like ‘I don’t look like Elisabeth Taylor” or “My tongue is my best appliance” being sung in lovely seductive voice! Not thinking about Roman history certainly made the last three quarters more enjoyable and accessible.

I kept wondering why the performers weren’t wearing togas. It was revealed at the end, when the general political commentary was revealed. Octavian is actually stands in for all of the charismatic democratic leaders down in the last 100 years. The set was very simple and the symbolism had a definite fascist feel to it – the Roman eagle was more symbolic that anatomically correct and the Roman courtyard had a Reichstag and Brandonberg Gate feel to it

The musical used live musicians, and cleverly introduced them in a parade at the beginning, before hiding them in a stoa; and placed the ‘voice over /commentary’ singer on stage as the soothsayer (Lineham) – who warns Ceaser about the Ides of March – to direct the muscians.

Overall, quite good: definitely worth going to. It was a very intellectual work, that engaged my analytical side more than my emotional side. I thought Lineham (the soothsayer) and Cusiel (Cleopatra) stood out in terms of the singing.

The best death scene award goes Lyndee-Jane Rutherford, who played Mark Antony’s wife, with a very exaggerated death flop.

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Mamma Mia

July 25, 2008 at 12:53 am | Posted in Film Review | 1 Comment
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Or rather Poppa Mia – since it is about a young women’s search for her true father.

I went to see the film of the stage musical Mamma Mia – which seems to re-use every ABBA song ever.

July 22, 2008 by


Film Hanger

Paper Hanger Blog
Wellington
New Zealand

This film is a must see for ABBA fans; ABBA’s music is cleverly re-cast to tell the story of a young 20 year old woman – Sophie played by Amanda SiegFried – searching for herself. It is set on an incredibly picturesque Greek island – that must have been especially built by the Greek tourism commission.

Sophie is about to get married and after coming across one of her mother’s old diaries, she secretly invites the three men who could be her father to the wedding: Stellan Skarsgård, Pierce Brosnan, and Colin Firth duly turn up. I am not going to bother giving their characters’ names, because their star quality just powers through the plot!

This comes as a unwanted surprise to Sophie’s mother – played by Meryl Streep. Two of her old friends – played by Julie Walters and Christine Baranski – who have proper invitations help to balance out the sexual dynamics. Once again I won’t bother giving their characters’ names, because their star quality just shines through!

The storyline is appealing: young woman searching for her father, but really searching for herself. Minor threads include: single parenthood; love that lasts a 20 year separation; and being true to yourself.

The music was wonderful; the singing was patchy: the mum, aunts and dads were not great singers, but hey, it was sunny and it didn’t get in the way of the story being told.

The dancing was nice. As someone said to me afterwards: “It is a bollywood movie with white people!” Who can turn down the cygnet dance done by four men wearing flippers! Did Meryl Streep really do the cossack unassisted off the bed?

The flow of the movie was a little stilted – stop start – due to the need to work in or set up the lines of the next song. This is where the movie betrayed its beginnings as a stage musical. But it did not really matter – the music and scenery carried all before it!!

The only thing that did not work, for me, was the visual age of the dads, aunts and the mother. Amanda SiegFried looks 20, but for me the others looked more like six grandparents. Still good on them for putting themselves outside of their genres.

I think that between them Christine Baranski and Julie Walters nearly ‘stole’ the movie.

They must have really enjoyed themselves making the movie – imagine getting paid to hang around on a sunny Greek island.

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In some ways, this is long ad. for Mamma Mia the stage musical ! I will certainly go if given a chance !! I might even buy the sound track if it comes out.

Gravity and Other Myths et al in Civic Square

March 8, 2008 at 7:30 pm | Posted in Show Review | 3 Comments
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I went to Fused Productions’ 2008 version of “Gravity and Other Myths” at Civic Square. The permanent fixture suspended above the Square, a sphere composed of silver ferns, added to the atmosphere.

Mar 08, 2008 by Show_Hanger

The main act was an evolutionary step from Fused’s 2007 work of the same name. Footnote opened the evening’s entertainment and I was disappointed – less on this later. A stand-up comedian then warmed-up the crowd for the main act: Vinyl Blank.

Vinyl had to really work, to get the crowd onside and generally relaxed. To his credit, I think he did a good workman like job. He struggled a bit to get to grips with the audience, but he got there. His sense of humour did not always sit well with everyone – there was wide range of ages in the audience; but when he started working circus moves in, the timeless ageless magic brought everyone together. He had some good diablo moves. How many people can unicycle and play the guitar !

Fused’s Big Rig was set up so that the audience was under the silver sphere or could see it over the venue – a constant reminder of ‘gravity’. Fused were up to their usual high standards: spectacular aerial work on tissu, hoop, rope and swining trapeze; and some nice hoops, juggling, strength and flexibility work on the ground. The girl-in-a-box was back too !

Fused have tweaked their work from last year and made general enhancements across the board. For me the most spectacular change is that placement of two performers on the swinging trapeze. Only one of which have a safety harness! I am told by those in the know that having two harness would actually decrease safety – as the harness ropes get tangled up. It certainly added a real wow factor. The man on a burning rope was the finale – boy it is spectatcular.

This year, things were a little more polished: there was slightly more ‘acting’ and stronger portrail of the ‘aliens studying gravity and other phenomena’ theme. Full marks for working the tricks into a theme.

Fused need to pay a little bit more attention to their surroundings: some of the fire juggling, hoop throwing and girl-in-a-box was hard to see if you were not sitting on the steps or at the front. While a stage maybe impractical, if these acts could have raised up, they would have been more visible. Maybe a temporary platform that can be worked into the theme. Fused have an entertaining product, and they need ensure that they show it off at its best.

Footnote opened, and they have made no significant advances since they air-ed their piece last month at the Fringe Festival. I am still waiting for the mature dance&aerial work – with a smooth integration of aerial elements into the general story telling or concept. Where the use of aerial moves is used because it is the best move in the toolkit to advance the story; not look I learnt this trick, and this other trick. At the moment it is a modern dance piece immediately followed by a display of aerial skills. What ever was going on in the dance portion – beaches, swimming ? – was not supported by the aerial portion.

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Dance and Circus Aerials

February 22, 2008 at 10:00 am | Posted in Show Review | 2 Comments
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I went to a work that was the result of a collabooration between Footnote and Fused, put on as part of the Wellington Fringe Festival 2008.

Feb 22, 2008 by Show_Hanger

The name of the work is a combination of the two groups: Footnote – a contemporary dance company; and Fused a collective that puts on circus aerials shows. The collaboration was in five distinct parts: some street theatre, modern dance, aerials, aerials and more aerials.

The street theatre piece was interesting and gave the audience some light exercise, as three, then six dancers lead the audience from The Bats Threatre around to the aerials rig in Oriental Terrace. The dancers danced and clowned their way around Oriental Bay – occassionally slowing traffic. Much of what they did could not be seen all of the time – especially when there were two groups of dancers on separate sides of the road! Still, it was an enjoyable walk to a mysterious location.

The location of the performance was not publically available: you had to text you SECRET to mobile number and have the starting location texted back to you. I found the process a little disconcerting, as there was a very long delay between my TXT and the answering TXT. Next time they need to make the response immediate: TXT is an electronic medium, and there should be no reason why I had to wait over an hour.

I have not watched dance outside, in a while. The setting for the dance peice was on a driveway that had a partial view of Oriental Bay; I found it very disconcerting not having a presidium arch to frame my world ! I really had to concentrate on individual dancers or tight groups of dancers, to avoid being distracted by the views. Still some interesting stuff.

Then the audience decamped from the driveway into the frontyard of a large property, where the rig – The Big Rig – holding up the aerials apparatus was set up.

The first aerial display was by two members of Fused. They was pretty good, up to the standard that I have seen Fused put on before.

The second aerial display was by members of Footnote. They were pretty good from an aerials perspective. They demonstrated that a group of people who have well trained bodies can pick-up basic and intermediate forms in 20 hours. There was even some inventiveness around two dancers on a single tissu – doing mirror shapes.

This fourth part was introduced as a work in progress. I had expectations of dance with an integrated aerial component. There wasn’t. I was a little disappointed. Still it is early days, hopefully once the dancers get over the fun of aerials they can concentrate on incorporating (grounded) dance into the aerials, and vis-a-versa.

I wait for the more mature work with some anticipation – particularly dancing in the air, that owes its origins in aerial shapes, without being a series of static shapes.

The final aerial display was a short – but cool – sequence on the rope by a member of Fused.

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Armslength – a play

January 26, 2008 at 7:30 pm | Posted in Play Review | Leave a comment
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I got the chance and went to Circa Theatre to see a play.

Jan 26, 2008 by


Theatre Hanger

Paper Hanger Blog
Wellington
New Zealand

The play has five characters and three scene settings – actually there are four, but you see three most of the time.

The theatre space has no arch, so the audience is very close to the cast; at the end the audience is co-opted in to be the audience at a gallery openning. The three setting are side-by-side across the stage: a post-graduate office, a student flat, and a lecturer’s office. The characters never actually cross from one directly onto another; clever stage design creates the impression of doors and a series of corridors and roads at the back of the stage.

The cast are:

  • Elsie, played by Kate Prior, is a a photo journalist come home to study photographic art and to patch up things with her younger sister.
  • Ruth, Abby Marment, is Elsie’s estranged sister. She has a Mac-job, having stopped dancing, to support herself and her student boyfriend.
  • Steve, Jamie McCaskill, is the student boyfriend – half way through a two-year photographic art course.
  • Julie, Emma Robinson, is a photographic art lecturer and mildly famous as a photographer.
  • Harry, Eli Kent, is an alcoholic PhD student studying the Earth’s magnetism. a very geeky guy.

With an uneven number of characters and an uneven number of the sexes, the opportunity for pairing, triangles and quadrangles is explointed to the full. You wonder at times: who else has a relationship who, that is about to be disclosed. There is a love quadrangle !

The play is definitely worth the ticket price. The plot is rich – maybe too rich. I hope that the playwright – Branwen Millar – has not used up all of her material. There is even a knock-down fight. Plus the obligatory shock end.

For me, the best character was Harry: a real nerd !

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Alvin and the Chipmunks

January 16, 2008 at 10:10 am | Posted in Film Review | Leave a comment
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Jan 16, 2008 by


Film Hanger

Paper Hanger Blog
Wellington
New Zealand

The film is really a tribute to Ross Bagdasarian Snr – Jnr produced the film – who wrote and was the voice for the chipmunks in the 1961-62 TV Series.

This time around Justine Long, Matthew Gray Gubler & Jesse McCartney are respectively: Alvin, Simon & Theodore. Jason Lee plays their manager Dave. Cameron Richardson plays Claire – Dave’s on again off again girlfriend.

It is all very sweat and surprisingly watchable. OK the Chipmunks are computer animated and they have very squeaky voices, but there is something for everyone. There is humour for kids and adults – they don’t over do the fart jokes. There is even a mild slapstick chase scene.

It is a bit predicatable: uncle Ian is the exploitative baddy – but you expect that; Dave and the Chipmunks do get back together, and Dave discovers commitment.

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The Golden Compass

January 11, 2008 at 10:30 am | Posted in Film Review | Leave a comment
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An Alethiometer – it tells the truth. This review contains spoilers.

Jan 11, 2008 by


Film Hanger

Paper Hanger Blog
Wellington
New Zealand

The film is based on Northern Lights – the first book in Philip Pulman’s His Dark Materials trilogy. I have not read the books, but I might be tempted – just to see how much they changed. Chris Weitz was the director.

The first chunk of the film sets up the story for the first book/film and the sequels. It got a little tedious. It was fascinating to consider a world where people (a) have souls, and (b) these souls have their own physical manifestations, and act more like a close companion.

Inspired decision to cast Nicole Kidman in the role of “Mrs Coulter” – the trouble shooter for Magisterium. The Magisterium is an example of the kind of government you can end up with when there is no separation between religion and civic government; they are not the good guys! Consequently, Mrs Coutler is at best a grey character – all the more fitting that she is played as pale skinned blonde haired woman who wear pale/light colours. Mrs Coulter is bright in a grey world; she is an assertive woman in a man’s world; she is ruthless. For me, she stole the movie !

The heroine is actually Lyra Belacqua – played by newcomer Dakota Blue Richards. She has to rescue some children that the nasty Magisterium is conducting experiments on.

Between them, these two are the movie. Yes, there are lots of other characters – most notable, is somekind of polar bear. But they are just there to move the plot along and give Lyra and Mrs Coulter points to engage with. One of the reasons they engage so well, is that Lyra is not an orphan living with her uncle after all; she is actually living with her father, and Mrs Coulter, is actually Lyra’s mother. Presumably the parents split up when ‘uncle’ Lord Asriel (Daniel Craig) had a falling out over scientific and polictical philosophy with Mrs Coulter. In many subtle ways, mother and daughter are alike – they are both: fearless, manipulative, willing to be frugal with truth, not unwilling to do what needs to be done, and resourceful. Daniel Craig is hopelessly under utilised – maybe he has a bigger role in the sequels.

The alethiometer – golden compass – is the major plot device for moving Lyra around and getting her into and out of trouble. It turns out that not everyone can use it.

The last part of the movie was really disappointing. There is a long segment after the climax that has no entertainment value – it just seems to set you up for the sequel. It had the effect of making the film seem like half a film; you just know that there is more story to come. It really pulls the rug out from under the film.

An interesting question that popped into my head, as I watched Mrs Coulter and Lyrac lie and manipulate: when is it, if ever, alright to do such things?

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National Treasure : Book of Secrets

January 9, 2008 at 12:00 am | Posted in Film Review | Leave a comment
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Just been to see this film.

Jan 9, 2008 by


Film Hanger

Paper Hanger Blog
Wellington
New Zealand

The film is the continuing adventures of treasure hunter Bejamin Franklin Gates (Nicolas Cage), his on-again-off-again girlfriend Abigail (Diane Kruger), his side-kick Riley (Justin Bartha), his father Patrick (Jon Voight). This time we are introduced to his mother ! – Emily Appleton, played by Helen Mirren!!

Asside from the injection of Helen Mirren, it all seemed a bit formula. The Gates family name needs to be cleared, and before you know it, we off on a treasure hunt. There is the usual car chase and Riley gets a little character development.

I have to confess that I am a Helen Mirren fan, and felt those scenes with her were definitely the better ones!! At 60+ she is still attractive and gives her character a fullness that some the other minor characters lacked.

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The Darjeeling Limited

December 24, 2007 at 1:33 pm | Posted in Film Review | Leave a comment
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I went to see this film just before Christmas. Warning the review has spoilers.

Dec 24, 2007 by


Film Hanger

Paper Hanger Blog
Wellington
New Zealand

The film was directed by Wes Anderson, and starred: Owen Wilson, Adien Brody and Jason Schwartzman. The latter play three brothers making a journey. The script was written by Wes Anderson, Roman Coppola, and Jason Schwartzman.

On the face of it the three brothers are taking a train journey to re-ignite their bonds of brothership. Secretly, the eldest brother – Wilson – is taking them to see their mother – Anjelica Huston – who is running a nunnery at the foot of the mountains in north India. He tells them that he is taking them on a spiritual journey. Underneath the train journey is an analogy for life.

I have to confess that I am not a Wes Anderson fan: I found The Royal Tenenbaums only mildy amusing. I found the whole first half of the film inpenetrable. I kept wondering: “what is this about and where is it going?”. For a while I toyed with the idea that the three brothers represented America, that the brothers’ self-centeredness and complete blindness to the India that they were travelling through was some commentary by Anderson about the American’s view of the rest of the world.

The second half of the film seemed to make more sense. I decided that the film was about personal development. Anderson takes too long to bring it together – I almost walked out of the movie. It takes the death of an India boy that the brothers fail to save, halfway through the film, to explain why the brothers have not seen each other for a year and why there is an unresolved tension between the brothers.

The train, in that way that is seems particularly India, from a non-India perspective, is named “The Darjeeling Limited”. The train is indeed an analogy for journey through life – Anderson, in the usual subtle American way, confirms it in a train-journey-through-life sequence, towards the end of the film.

Owen wilson gives a particularly good performance as an annoyingly calm older controlling older brother.

The film is hardwork.

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