November 14, 2011
I was lucky enough to go along to the Phantom of the Opera 25th Anniversary concert last month, where I was romanced all over again by one of my earliest favourite musicals. Whether you’re largely pro- or anti-Lloyd Webber, you can’t deny the brilliance of the piece as a whole. Its (allegedly filched) arias and duets soar with gothic romance, its dashing goodie and twisted baddie are almost equally fanciable, Christine wears some stonking lingerie – in the movie version, at least – and don’t even get me started on the mist, gondolas and rogue chandeliers. The DVD of the Royal Albert Hall concert that marked the show’s quarter-century is released today and, WEG that I am, I’ve already bought my copy.
The 25th anniversary was as opulent and gaudy as the Opera Populaire should be – see my review here – although it lost a little of its haunting, wistful quality with all the projections and pyrotechnics. Still, it was worth any amount of Vegas-style pomp to see the chemistry explosion that is Ramin Karimloo and Sierra Boggess. Their voices were endlessly impressive, their performances intense and dedicated – this was the Ramin and Sierra show. I’d still rather see the Christine and Phantom show, but you can catch that at Her Majesty’s six nights a week. Incidentally, Karimloo is set to don his convict’s beard and move to Les Mis, and I’ll certainly be booking. Is he too hot to age 20 years and die over the course of an evening? Only time will tell, but he’ll certainly sing the roof off while attempting it.
If you love the music of Phantom, you’ll want to see this daring, fully-staged version. The four tenors’ version of The Music of the Night (featuring Colm Wilkinson, Anthony Warlow, John Owen-Jones and Peter Jöback) at the end was also gorgeous – although you’ll have to grit your teeth through Sarah Brightman’s part-hilarious, part-disturbing appearance. It was sort of Mariah Carey meets Bride of Chucky, via that Whitney Houston appearance on the X Factor. And all with that same 80s hair.
Anyway, some fabulous performances and a sumptuous budget make a fitting celebration of Phantom, and while I don’t think they quite topped the Les Misérables 25th anniversary in terms of emotion and tribute, they certainly had a better casting team. Still shuddering at the thought of Jonas. Enjoy the DVD and let me know your thoughts!
November 11, 2011
One of the things I’ve enjoyed the most over the past year is getting involved in great, fresh theatre website The Public Reviews, especially interviewing for them. I started out pretty much winging it; my first actor interview was with Phantom & Les Mis actor Earl Carpenter and luckily he was a perfect subject – great fun, full of enthusiasm for his work and not taking himself too seriously. Over the months that followed, I learned good interview technique partly through my journalism postgraduate course, and partly just by doing. I made countless notes on what to do and what to avoid, honed my research and preparation pre-interview, tried to go for original questions and have a clear idea of what I wanted to get out of the time slot available. But only so much of what you control at your end of the dictaphone goes towards the final product – a great interviewee is what makes an interview sparkle. One of my most-viewed articles on this blog, to this day, is my Rebecca Caine interview; the star soprano was witty, frank and completely open to different subjects – everything you need for a great read.
Unless you’re a big Hollywood star, chances are you don’t get prepped on your interviews too much. But some people seem to have a natural rapport with the press; frankness with a little splash of personal revelation is often all it takes to make a killer interview. I’m always surprised by celebrity interviews that are run despite the star clearly despising the process and giving nothing away. We’ve all read one (look out for the writer commenting on the subject’s behaviour on the day rather than quoting them – usually means not enough useable quotes) – Keira Knightley is a repeat offender, as Mr & Ms Miserable Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart.
Until you’re Madonna or the Dalai Lama there’s no way all of the questions are going to be on your terms, so why not suck it up and just answer with as much or as little revelation as you can? The best interviews I’ve done have been with people who are relaxed, open and like to talk; now and again you get someone with a chip on their shoulder who comes across badly, but at least they’re coming across as something. People read interviews to learn something, not to have the same persona and quotes reiterated. One pet hate of mine is the American ‘I’m so blessed’ culture of gushing while saying, well, nothing.
Last month I got to interview a personal idol of mine, Idina Menzel. I was lucky enough to do this because she was about to do a phenomenal gig at the Royal Albert Hall, and I was nervous she would only want to talk on a very superficial level about the gig and the new season of Glee. The musical diva soon reassured me with her open, chatty nature, and despite sounding tired (she has a two-year-old and about three full-time jobs, so she’s forgiven) she happily mingled her personal life with her professional information from the beginning, saving me the awkward job of testing the waters with a tentative personal question. Idina got me thinking about what makes a great interviewee, and I think it comes down to a few basic things:
Americans are always better at this, but talking in the affirmative comes across far better on the page or screen than our apologetic British neuroses. If someone’s enjoying their job, you get great answers from them because they’re just bursting to share.
Actors generally have a bad record for intellect, but stage actors are very often knowledgable and analytical about their work and the industry in general. This is ideal, but you also want the balance between relatable chat about their personal perspective, and lofty talk about the state of modern theatre. Thoughtfulness is as important as academic intelligence when it comes to a good answer.
Most people will never be asked about themselves and have those words published. People who don’t do many interviews (especially directors and producers) are often great subjects because they’re insanely flattered to be asked. I remember always being nervous about interviewing people, until somebody pointed out to me that people love talking about themselves. Love it. So there’s hardly anything to lose in an interview situation. Of course there are the minority who buy into their own hype and get bored of ‘doing press’, but the savvy ones will learn to love promotion and use it to their advantage.
>> It’s good to (actually) talk
I often get asked about email interviews, and quite frankly, it’s not something I believe in. If you give someone the time and the blank page to talk about themselves, you’ll no doubt get a carefully manicured, PR-approved account of things – which may as well just be a copied-and-pasted press release. If someone who essentially could do with the exposure insists on email questions, I’ll usually say no – if you’re promoting something, it’s not hard to share a few thoughts via a 20-minute phone call (see again the Madonna/Dalai Lama exception).
Interviewers don’t want the interview to go badly. They pretty much have everything crossed for the opposite occuring. So if you go in there suspicious and guarded, the result will be an uncomfortable, stilted interview. Unless they work for a trashy rag (no names) or a brand that trades on sleazy gossip, they won’t be after the skeletons in your closet – just a nice, neat insight into your life and work.
>> Be aware (and beware)
If you are less than gracious, be prepared to see that in print. Maybe not explicitly, maybe not in expletives, but journalists are a crafty bunch. They can edit your words to ensure a certain overall tone – if you haven’t already set yourself up for that. An interview is a short blast of you; if you’re having a bad day you may want to be honest about it or simply reschedule because, especially in the age of the internet, that blast may be around for quite some time.
October 21, 2011
I’ve blogged before about the wonderful Interval Productions, who produce cabarets and gigs to showcase those ‘in-between’ performers who are working their way into the industry. Their shows tend to be raw, sexy, funny and not too polished – and you might just spot a future star. Now Interval are trying something new, inspired by Radio 1′s Live Lounge – West End Unplugged, on October 30th.
West End Unplugged will mix in new talent and recognised performers such as Paul Spicer and Helena Blackman, performing mostly pop with a dash of our beloved musical theatre in a sultry evening gig at the Leicester Square Theatre. I’m looking forward to seeing and hearing a different side of musical theatre performers; all of the song interpretation but with a more relaxed vibe. Definitely complementing a smooth cocktail of some sort. Another exciting thing about West End Unplugged is the return of the Ensembelles – Interval’s Greek chorus-esque tribe of backing singers, who both accompany soloists and perform cheeky, harmonised group numbers of their own. I’ve seen a video of their rehearsals, and it’s sounding spine-tingling. This gig is rumoured to involve pop mashups, so Glee fans should come on down.
Interval also launched a competition when they announced this gig (now closed), asking from YouTube ‘auditions’ from would-be performers, one of which will appear in the show. This company is all about opportunities, which in a West End full of overly familiar faces can only be a good thing.
WEG will be there, schmoozing with the rest of the Wendies, and I hope to see you there too! Here’s a video blog posted by producer Tori Allen-Martin and guest star Paul Spicer with more info:
September 30, 2011
If you love musical theatre (and are not a gay man) chances are it won’t enhance your love life. Much has been made of the effect of Disney on girls’ expectations of romance, but what of the good old fashioned musical?
Watching too many musicals when you’re small and impressionable will slowly indoctrinate you into a world of serenades, serendipitous timing and females who just win at life (while delivering some killer soprano.)
Rationally, you know that men aren’t going to walk up and down your street singing about how much they love doing that (My Fair Lady), be your next smokin’ hot but complicated employer (The Sound of Music) or drop all of their friends and debauchery to be your perfect man (Grease/Guys and Dolls).
But equally, you are left with a lingering disappointment when they don’t spend an evening dedicated to repeatedly singing your name (West Side Story), ditch the blonde cheerleader for the weirdo outcast (Wicked) or love you despite the impending doom of your mutual AIDS diagnosis (Rent).
Avenue Q came too late for me – blokes are infinitely more likely to hand you a confusing mixed-tape or freak out about you morphing into a giant bride monster. But too little too late, musicals – you injected me with beautifully-sung romance and I had no shot at a clear perspective.
The social scene that comes with London theatre is also a weird sci-fi experience, as if a sparkly dictator simply weeded out all of the straight men in a hetero-intolerant parallel universe. Catch a guy’s eye across the stalls bar? He may have a dreamy tan and impeccable shoes, but he’s not looking for a
leading lady. It’s getting so I actually have to schedule designated ‘straight man’ social events to avoid spending my golden years as a fag-hag spinster with two mangy cats called Lloyd and Webber.
Now I’m off to wait for a handsome aristocrat and a sewer-dwelling musical genius to start fighting over me. Have a fabulous anniversary weekend, Phantom fans
August 11, 2011
…goes to the release on Tuesday of Lea Salonga’s album The Journey So Far, recorded live at Café Carlyle in New York. Geek that I am, I snapped up the 16-track album pretty quickly – and it’s brilliant.
Whatever type of theatre (or music) you’re ‘into’, you cannot deny that Ms Salonga is a goddess. No one does vocal purity and passion quite like her, not to mention the sheer strength and stamina of voice she had when she became a huge star in Miss Saigon at just 18.
This release is, as you can probably gather from the title, a celebration of landmark moments, “a kind of a musical resume, a summary of my musical career.” Opening with the jazzy Salamat Salamat Musika in her native Filipino, Lea takes us through Les Mis, Flower Drum Song and her favourite standards (Someone to Watch Over Me/Let’s Fall in Love.)
OK, it’s not gritty stuff. While the woman can certainly act her socks off, her choices here pretty much reflect the uplifting romance of her voice. But my feeling is, once you’ve been a Disney princess (twice!), you have full license to be as corny as you want. In between songs she chats to the audience in a fun, relaxed way, offering some great anecdotes. It’s essentially downloading an unmissable gig direct to your iPod.
For Saigon geeks there is an extra treat; Too Much for One Heart, a gorgeous ballad written out of the original production (presumably for time and narrative reasons – it’s a bloody good song.) You’ll recognise the tune as it was used in the track Please. As a mini-Geek, listening obsessively to musical theatre soundtracks, I used to play and replay Please – which was weird, because storyline-wise it’s pretty much just a conversation (albeit a revelation) in Act 2. But something about the melody just got me, and when you listen to Too Much For One Heart you realise why the melody is so much bigger than the lyrics it ended up with.
I have massive love for Salonga for so many reasons – for being the original Miss Saigon, for being the only cast member to land a lead in both the 10th and 25th anniversary concerts of Les Misérables, for the fact that she still promotes, respects and celebrates her native country, the fact she has made 26 albums since she was 10 years old and that rather than hiding away, a fading child star, she’s still performing – not to mention being fabulously witty, political and opinionated on Twitter and her blog. Musical theatre goddess, I salute you.
The Journey So Far is available on iTunes for £7.99
August 6, 2011
I’d never been to The Landor before, I didn’t know the show and thus everything about it, from the plot to the cast to the press night drinks, were a surprise. The Hired Man was adapted by Melvyn Bragg and British musical treasure Howard Goodall from Bragg’s novel of the same name, drawn from his grandfather’s stories about pre-war life in Cumbria.
The story follows the inhabitants of a small Cumbrian village as they start out as youngsters looking for farm work at a hiring fair, their struggles as relationships mature and an increasing numbers of local men embark on dangerous work ‘down t’pit’, all this cut through by the disruption and devastation of World War I.
Bright-eyed young couple John and Emily Tallentire are the main two agonising over their life decisions. John is ably played by Joe Maxwell, his singing as open and pure as his character, who manages to make an irritatingly nice and moral bloke just edgy enough to be interesting. Catherine Mort is an interesting choice as Emily; while vocally she didn’t sparkle as much as the rest of the small but brilliant female cast, she brings a melancholy touch to the show and her acting is impressive, with real tears closing the first act. The Dissatisfied Wife is perhaps the hardest role to make appealing, and she did a good job with it.
The real magic is in the supporting cast, especially Les Mis graduate Martin Neely, delivering an Enjolras-type leader in Seth Tallentire. His rousing song about unionism oddly bridged the gap between labouring peacetime and chaotic wartime, but as I wanted to hear more from him, it sort of worked. Neely is one of the only cast members to remain completely poised and in control through speedy scene changes, energetic choreography and emotional turbulence, and draws the audience to him for this reason. It is the combination, though, of seasoned performers and drama school graduates that makes this cast so compelling. The amount of nerves and calm, tension and effortlessness exactly creates the differences in maturity and temperament you’d find in such a community, and the rawness of the younger performers really adds something – you wouldn’t want this show too polished.
The male chorus is the main reason to see The Hired Man. Every time another labourer or soldier had a solo, we were treated to a sensational voice. The vocal and acting strength in every performer is exceptional, and as a reviewer who has become bored of listening to weedy, pop-lite boys singing American musical theatre, this celebration of the male voice was such a treat. Beards, sweat and testosterone-filled tenors; I thought I’d died and gone to musical heaven.
Special mention must go to the beautifully-voiced Ian Daniels as the third point of Emily and John’s love triangle, as well as Abigail Matthews as their sweet little songbird May Tallentire – the perfect amount of innocence and freshness, while avoiding a period-drama cliché. Your eyes are continually drawn to the steely acting of Jamie Birkett and the sweet hopefulness of Kimberly Powell in the group numbers, no mean feat when you’re battling with thirteen strapping men. Sean-Paul Jenkinson also charmed as the wheeling-and-dealing Isaac.
The staging is slick, with Andrew Keates’ direction providing us with both witty dialogue and beautifully interpreted songs. The way Howard Goodall’s score weaves in repeated themes and connects the musical narrative is breathtaking, as are many of the vocal performances here. The group songs are infinitely more stirring than the solo numbers, however. Niall Bailey’s musical direction is perfection, and I’ve rarely seen actors so spot on with their musical cues, which often seem to come from nowhere. All round a tight team, with Cressida Carré’s choreography adding a touch of country-dancing joy and stomping-rhythm grittiness.
There are holes and swift fast-forwards in the narrative which prevent you from basking properly in the characters’ story, but overall The Hired Man is an important narrative, and far more worthy of funding and venue than so many vapid musicals I’ve seen in recent years. Melvyn Bragg feared while writing it that it was “a cavalcade of working class history so unfashionable it’s almost out of sight,” but what could matter more than real people’s lives, loves and tragedies? It isn’t a perpetual giggle, but neither is life sometimes; there is a reason why shows about nothing more glamorous than the human condition, like Les Misérables, have endured. There is something gritty, earthy and defiantly British about this piece that might just be the antidote to the Dirty Dancings of the theatre world. I definitely want to see more from the Landor and Andrew Keates after experiencing this show.
Runs until 27th August
June 29, 2011
It’s been a long time since I saw a show I was genuinely, hyperventilatingly excited about, but Ghost was just that. The website I write for, The Public Reviews, gave its recent Manchester run five stars, and I’m a huge fan of both the 1990 movie and female lead Caissie Levy. The original score was written by former Eurythmic Dave Stewart, with Glen Ballard (who wrote and produced Alanis Morrisette’s Jagged Little Pill), so is naturally of quite a pop-rock persuasion.
Firstly, I’d say seating choices will alter your experience of Ghost. I was lucky enough to be a friend’s freebie plus one, so we were right on the edge of the stalls, quite close to the stage. Many of the brilliant supernatural illusions were ever so slightly more visible from this viewpoint. I’d really like to go again and sit higher or more centrally, but it was still spine-tingling.
In case you haven’t seen the movie (DO IT), the story begins with sickeningly content couple Molly (Caissie Levy) and Sam (Richard Fleeshman), an artist and a banker, who have just bought their first apartment and moved in. Sam is tragically killed not long after, and Molly is left with only the comfort of Sam’s best friend Carl (Andrew Langtree) – but there is more to his death than she knows. Sam’s spirit is left to put things right with only the help of quirky and fraudulent psychic Oda Mae Brown (Sharon D Clarke.)
Even though it is early days, it is hard to imagine a new cast succeeding the unbeatable combination of Fleeshman and Levy. His tall, Superman physique and her petite boho quality are perfectly matched, as are his soulful voice with her rock-tinged belt. In life, their chemistry sizzles; in death, their connection persists. Even without the careful and spectacular staging and excellent direction by Matthew Warchus, much of the magic of Ghost lies in this pairing.
Levy makes me realise what I look for in a leading lady – utter control, confidence and security in her voice and character. She makes her often wistful and lonely numbers unpredictable and haunting, but you always feel comfortable with her taking the stage. She makes a difficult character, one preoccupied with mourning, fascinating to watch. Fleeshman has the hard job of holding many of the scenes together while ‘invisible’ to 99% of the other characters. His scenes with Oda Mae in particular are a real highlight, and he shows off musical ability (strumming a guitar onstage), comedic talent and a silky vocal tone that is both distinctive and well-suited to the character.
This is an updated Molly and Sam; don’t expect a pixie-cropped Demi or a copper-Adonis Swayze, because this is a whole new Ghost. This works fine in my opinion, as it freshens the characters and you are drawn into a whole new love story, though much of Bruce Joel Rubin’s excellent screenplay remains as the dialogue.
Sharon D Clarke sets the stage on fire with her hilarious, warm, sparkling interpretation of Oda Mae, the unique character originated by Whoopi Goldberg. She avoids pitfall number one by steering clear of doing a Whoopi impression, and her added gospel and disco numbers showcase this woman’s astonishing voice and stage presence. Again, God help the actor who has to step into her shoes.
Andrew Langtree smarms and sweats as the couple’s friend Carl, managing to be both sinister and a man way out of his depth. His ‘New Yoyk’ accent was a little studied and made him more of a caricature than he needed to be, but overall he handled his scenes brilliantly – even as a fan of the movie, I felt like I didn’t know where we stood with him.
Overall this main cast of four are practically perfection – their voices, their chemistry, the slickness of their direction. In the scenes where Sam is talking ‘through’ Oda Mae, no one misses a beat. However, there is also an unaccountably large and awkward ensemble, who appear at intervals for largely pointless group numbers.
I don’t wish to criticise them as performers; I’m acutely aware of how hard a West End ensemble works and how grateful they often are to be part of a new show. I just feel they are badly used; something just didn’t work for me. At times, Caissie Levy is centre stage singing something heartfelt, and there are suit-clad businessmen and women dancing oddly in the background.
Much of their purpose, from what I can glean, is to diplay the fast-paced world of Wall Street and add to the street and subway scenes, but not a line of their songs was memorable, and Ashley Wallen‘s choreography felt clunky and ill-fitting with the simplicity and soul of the main plot.
One use was as a backing choir for Oda Mae in her uptempo number in Act Two, which was obviously needed, but other than that I’m afraid I would have sacked the lot of them and started from scratch as a smaller, more focused musical. I think there is enough of a spectacle with the supernatural effects, and enough lightness and humour in the Oda Mae storyline to get even the most X Factor-fed audience member through it unscathed. Some might disagree.
The only moment where their presence truly offended me, was after Sam’s incredibly acted and cleverly-conceived death. We are left grieving with Molly for approximately eight seconds before a tap-dancing ghost (with a host of bizarre, historically-costumed spirits) comes to sing to Sam all about death. The only word I have for this is ‘Why?’ The song wasn’t even good.
In terms of the main characters though, there was just the right balance of music and dialogue, you cared just enough about the couple and saw just enough of Oda Mae’s antics – the central plot of this show is beautifully balanced.
Rob Howell‘s design (with projection design by Jon Driscoll) is for the most part excellent. Most of the scenery turns into a video screen, which is best used in the subway scenes and with views of New York from Sam and Carl’s office. However, it is overused, seemingly to justify having it. This could be scaled down, as the moody, blue-tinged sadness of Molly’s apartment scenes are some of the simplest and best. Again, the structure and different panels of the screens were more clearly visible from the stalls, which may have made it less effective.
To go with this visual display, the sound was also very loud in the stalls (although a friend in the Circle tells me she found it almost inaudible from there at first) so the team are obviously still ironing out the creases in these previews. There is a moving section of the stage which is used to great effect, and the flexible, projected scenery mean we can move from red-brick Brooklyn to seedy Harlem in seconds, great for those who dislike clunky scene changes.
The smoke and mirrors of the afterlife provide some of the best bits of the show; Paul Kieve‘s illusions are carefully and lovingly conceived, and none of the death scenes were cheesy or overplayed. The score is not memorable, sadly – it does however suit and showcase the lovely vocals of Levy and Fleeshman, and the restrained ratio of songs to dialogue improves it. Stewart produced Stevie Nicks’ latest album, and the country-rock quality of his songs really suits the actors’ vocal tones.
One of the most pleasant surprises was that the producers got the rights to Unchained Melody. I’m not a fan of the song, but it was appropriately and charmingly used, rather than in a crowd-pleasing, 80s-nostalgia way. Like the casting, it refreshes a visually iconic story so familiar to so many of us. The romance and the resolution of this stunning show are truly raw and moving, and it will hopefully introduce a whole new generation to the magical, original story of Ghost.
Warning: this trailer shows you quite a lot of the show!
*The performance I saw was a preview, and some aspects of the production may change before the show opens on 19th July.
June 19, 2011
Written for The Public Reviews
Sophie-Louise Dann has had a varied musical theatre career, with Forbidden Broadway, 42nd Street and Anything Goes all on her CV, as well as extensive concert and opera work. We chatted about her latest role as diva Diana Divane in new West End gem Lend Me a Tenor.
It’s a fast-paced farce set in the glamorous Thirties in Cleveland, Ohio, where at the opera house there is a great anticipation for a fantastic production of Verdi’s Otello, starring Tito Merelli, who is the biggest star of the day – like Pavarotti, but in the Thirties. Things start to go wrong for Henry Saunders, the general manager, because Tito Merelli is missing. Saunders is on the brink of bankruptcy so if Tito doesn’t turn up, the whole world goes upside down. Throw into the mix my character, Diana Divane, the diva of the opera house, who sees this opportunity as her step up the ladder. Max (played by Damien Humbley) has to step into the shoes of Tito Merelli, with much high jinks and shenanigans involving the drug Phenobarbitol and wine, and lots of chaos ensues.
And the play was a farce originally, with a score written for this production?
The play was a hit in 1986, written by Ken Ludwig. It actually played at the same theatre we’re at now – it was then called the Globe, it’s now the Gielgud – so it’s sort of come back home. I have to say, Brad Carroll’s score is brand new but it sounds like a Gershwin or Berlin classic. What our show invokes is the glamour and the ostentation of the Thirties in America. It’s a feelgood show. It looks beautiful – I get to wear the most glamorous frocks you’ve ever seen, as well as some rather naughty underwear! I have a knockout number in Act 2, May I Have a Moment, which is the song you wait a lifetime to sing. It’s a spoof on lots of operatic arias, so if there are any opera lovers out there, I think they’re going to love it too.
It had its first run at the Theatre Royal Plymouth, with much the same cast. Did you know at that time it was going to do so well?
I’ve worked with the director, Ian Talbot, many times during my career. First of all at Regent’s Park, as an actress, and then at the D’Oyly Carte as an opera singer. We’ve sort of followed each other, and it was lovely when this came along because he thought I was right for the part, and I’ve been thrilled to be involved with the project from page to stage. Nothing is certain in this climate, but I think the passion, as well as the monetary investment, in this show is tangible. It’s a fantastic company; I know it’s a cliché but we’re like a big family. I think that’s key element with farce, because it needs to have a rhythm, it needs team work. That’s actually led from the top with our wonderful Matthew Kelly.
“My absolute joy that I have is being able
to do something original, to put my stamp on something”
Has it been fun working with Matthew?
If I weren’t married to my husband, I’d be touting for Matthew Kelly. He is absolutely the most wonderful, lovely, happy, committed… there are too many adjectives. I can’t praise him enough. The ideal colleague.
You’ve also done Forbidden Broadway in the past – how much fun was that?
Oh my goodness – so much fun. I was lucky enough to do it twice, and it was incredible. That, for me, is everything I’m about. It’s fast-paced, it’s funny and I also love doing cabaret. So to be in such an intimate space with all those fast changes and wisecracks is just brilliant.
What was your favourite show to parody?
I had a favourite character – I loved Julie Andrews. It was quite clever because we spoofed Mary Poppins. I think that was my favourite, in my heart of hearts.
You also appeared in the film version of Phantom of the Opera. That must have been exciting.
I certainly did. I think it’s a sort of blink-and-you’ll-miss-me appearance! But again, dream frocks, and just being involved in the whole process of making a movie is something special. Because of course I’m theatre and concert and opera-based, it was amazing to be on set and see it all happen.
The Stage has compared you to performers like Kristin Chenoweth and Liza Minnelli. Do you think it’s rare for women to be great singers and funny too?
I think it’s a real gift that I’ve been given. I’ve been fortunate enough to work with directors who work to my strengths. It’s tough out there, but if you can find your niche – I think you have to believe in yourself and speak to your gut, play to your strengths. I’m constantly humbled by the comparisons, but it’s absolutely lovely if that’s what people think. I absolutely adore comedy. I’ll tell you what it is, it’s working with a live audience, because what they give you, you can feed off. Just to come on every night and do my number in the show – it’s all the little nuances, and people pick up on different things. It’s fantastic to play every night; I wouldn’t give it up for anything.
“It’s tough out there, but if you can find your niche –
I think you have to believe in yourself and play to your strengths”
What’s next for you after Lend Me a Tenor?
Hopefully we’ll be there for a while, so I’m committed to this project for the moment, and we’ll see what happens thereafter. I do lovely concert work with the BBC Concert Orchestra and Radio 2, so hopefully it’s more of the same. I’m always happy to sing beautiful classics. I wear a lot of hats, and it’s just nice when I’ve got one on for a bit, and I can go, ‘this is me.’
What musical theatre roles would you love to play?
I’m a bit of a different animal; my absolute joy that I have is being able to do something original, to put my stamp on something. There are musicals of the Fifties that have wonderful scores. One was recently revived, Bells Are Ringing, which a friend of mine played, AJ Casey. All the hard hitters like Evita or Piaf, that’s not what I’m about – I’m a real comedy girl. Just great new material, bring it on.
Top photo: Tristram Kenton
Lend Me a Tenor is at the Gielgud Theatre. Click here or call 0844 482 5130 for tickets.
June 17, 2011
The eek-worthy rumours are true! Idina Menzel has added a London date to her current tour! The Elphaba-creating, Maureen-mooing, Enchanted-starring, barefoot-singing goddess of musical theatre will grace us with her presence (at the Royal Albert Hall, no less) on 6th October. Never have I so wanted summer to hurry the hell up.
If you’re not already a huge Idina fan – firstly, get off of my blog. Secondly, this would mean you have missed out on her basically unbeatable performance in Wicked, her show-stealing portrayal of Florence in Chess in Concert (also at the RAH) AND her fabulous cameo as Vocal Adrenaline coach/Gay Dads’ babymama on Glee. Not to mention her definitive performance as Maureen in the original cast and wonderful movie version of Jonathan Larson’s Rent.
As well as being musical theatre royalty, Idina has come out with two very respectable pop-rock albums, including some great tracks on the 2008 release, I Stand. As someone who has never caught her in a show, and fearing she might be settling down to family life more and more with hot hubby Taye Diggs and baby Walker, I am definitely not missing this one.
Videos of Idina live (and her assertion in the Daily Mail that she will go barefoot to perform) suggest she is passionate, committed and almost spiritual when commanding the stage.
The show, ‘a diverse repertoire of musical theatre and classic pop favourites’, will no doubt include some Rent, some Wicked, and maybe a little Funny Girl. I have my fingers crossed for all three. As well as the sheer strength and clarity of Idina’s voice, we will also be treated to the Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra, led by songwriting legend Marvin Hamlisch. Lucky London.
Idina, charming as always, recorded this little video message for her London fans (with the help of Mr Diggs):
Tickets are £25-75. Call 0845 401 5045 or book at http://www.royalalberthall.com/
June 7, 2011
I wasn’t her biggest fan on Over the Rainbow*, but Lauren Samuels has certainly come a long way. Check out this clip of her riffing her socks off in the studio on composer Chris Passey‘s album, due out this year:
I also heard good things about La Samuels in The Last Five Years earlier this year – my guest reviewer Tom was certainly impressed. Maybe she’s a grower, or perhaps she just needs the right role. I think she comes off a bit Rachel Berry (ruthless ambition glowing in her eyes) – so if they ever make Glee: the musical, she’s a shoe-in.
*(I thought she lacked the charm and humility for Dorothy, not to mention that traumatic ending to her I Could Have Danced All Night)