Archive for the 'Theatre' Category

22
Sep
12

The Seduction of Ingmar Bergman

 

I discovered this remarkable musical by American group Sparks earlier this year courtesy of an internet surfing session. It is not like other modern day musicals in that it isn’t a juke box musical nor is it one based on a movie. It is a fictional story based on real life film director, the Swede Ingmar Bergman. The combination of music by Sparks and the Swedish connection drew me in.

The Seduction of Ingmar Bergman was originally commissioned by Swedish Radio. Brothers Ron and Russell Mael (aka Sparks) were asked to develop a musical as part of a series to be broadcast on Swedish Radio. The musical had to have a Swedish element so Ron and Russell, both film buffs, came up with the idea of Hollywood trying to seduce Ingmar Bergman into making films there. An unusual idea but one that works very well.

The radio broadcast version was in both English and Swedish. A  limited edition Swedish CD was released of only 1,000 copies which appears to be as rare as hen’s teeth. I tried to hunt it down the last time I was in Stockholm without success so ended up getting it via iTunes. An English language version came out later and I was able to get that CD. It was produced for a special one-off performance at the LA Film Festival 2011.

I have long admired Ron and Russell Mael and their work as Sparks. They have had a long and varied career and have never been afraid to try something new. The music in this project is epic and dramatic and I love to play it really loud when I get the chance. There are plans to turn it into a full stage production and eventually a film. I would definitely make the effort to see that.

Here is one of my favourite songs from the musical, “Garbo Sings”. This appears as a fantasy sequence as Bergman is trying to escape Hollywood. Greta Garbo appears as a vision to help guide him back to Sweden. Awesome stuff.

And here are some clips from the LA Film Festival performance.

06
Aug
09

Priscilla the Musical

priscillatheatre

I always meant to see Priscilla the Musical during its initial Sydney run. I mean, I adored the movie and was drawn to the new soundtrack and the appeal of the legendary Tony Sheldon in the role of Bernadette (played by Terence Stamp in the movie).

Of course. I never got round to it and before too long, it had shifted to Melbourne and then London with Jason Donovan joining the cast as Tick (aka Mitzi). So, when we were planning the trip to London, I just knew that we had to see the musical in the West End.

Confession time. I have always been a huge Jason fan. In Neighbours, he was the classic Aussie boy next door and as he went on to show, he could act and he could sing. He did go through a rough patch in his career because of drugs and losing touch with reality. He did make the career destroying decision to sue Face magazine (although I totally understood why he did it and it was nothing to do with homophobia). But he has cleaned up his act and been very upfront about his mistakes. You have to admire him for that. And Jason has got his career back on track.

Back to Priscilla. We were able to get a good price through http://www.lastminute.com and the blurb said best possible seats at time of booking. We had to wait until we got to the theatre to discover where we were sitting. Front row centre – we were certainly happy.

We were even happier when Jason first appeared, doing his walking on the spot routine that he did so well in his pop clip “When You Come Back To Me” all those years ago. Our jaws dropped when he started stripping off and changing into his drag persona right in front of us, leaving nothing to the imagination (and I do mean nothing). We literally could have reached out and touched him.

Let me say right here that Jason may be older and he may have been surrounded by buffer and younger men, but he was still the hottest guy on stage by a mile. His acting was top notch and he can still sing.

He looks good in drag too. 😉

mitzi

We were also very lucky in that Tony Sheldon had come to London to reprise his role as Bernadette. I believe that this is his West End debut following a long and illustrious theatre career in Australia and he certainly showed his brilliance to the London audience. He was superb. I first saw Tony in the lead role of “Torch Song Trilogy” many, many moons ago and was very impressed. More recently, I saw him in the Melbourne production of “Witches of Eastwick” in a small but pivotal role as the long suffering husband of the character who spewed cherries.

Tony certainly owned the role of Bernadette and played well against Jason and Oliver Thornton as Adam/Felicia. Most of the movie was there and it transferred very well to the stage. The ABBA songs were gone but the switch to Kylie worked just as well, also providing Jason a good little in-joke. There were a lot more songs added (it is a musical after all) from the 60s, 70s and 80s and it really felt like they had raided my record collection. No complaints from me in that regard. 🙂

As I said, we were front row centre which was mostly great. The only time it was a problem was during the famous scene recreated from the movie where Felicia is atop the bus in the giant shoe singing opera. It was hard to see that clearly but we at least we got to see it from a unique angle when the bus and then Felicia extended out over the edge of the stage right above us.

I do highly recommend the show – the music, the choregraphy and the costumes were all top notch and showed that no expense had been spared. The performances by the leads and the ensemble were just as dazzling.

And did I mention that Jason is still hot?  😉

01
Mar
08

Kathy Griffin Hits Sydney

Kathy GriffinOn Friday I went to see the stand up comedy of Kathy Griffin at the Enmore Theatre. I haven’t laughed so much in years.

I must confess to being a bad gay. I hadn’t really heard of Kathy Griffin until last year. Sure, I remembered her from that hit and miss sitcom Suddenly Susan (Kathy was the highlight of the show) and her guest spot on Seinfeld but that was about it.

When I was in Stockholm last October, my friend Gustav gave me a crash course on all things Kathy Griffin. We watched a few of her stand up shows that he had plus he gave me a lot of background info on Kathy. I left Stockholm with a much deeper appreciation of Kathy and a yearning to experience more of her comedy.

It was about a week ago that I discovered by accident that Kathy was doing a show at the Enmore Theatre. Being the gay community’s number one fag hag, I knew she had to be here for Mardi Gras and I also knew this was probably my only chance to see her perform live so I had to grab it. Unfortunately, it was a bit far for Gustav to come over. If only she had been a year earlier, he would have been able to go. I asked a friend from work, Tania, and she very quickly said yes.

Although the Enmore Theatre is one of the major concert venues, I had never actually been there. So for me, part of the experience was soaking in the atmosphere. The theatre was smaller than I thought but I loved the art deco of the place. I have always been an art deco fan.

We caught the end of the support act, an Australian comedian who wasn’t bad. I loved his rant about the stupidity of Facebook since I could totally relate to it.

Then it was time for Kathy. Her show started with a montage of clips from TV shows and movies she had been in. I was surprised at how many things she had been in, including The X Files and Pulp Fiction. Suddenly she bounced out onto the stage and it was all systems go for almost two hours of non-stop laughter.

Kathy loves her gays and the feeling was mutual. The predominantly gay audience loved her and it was easy to see why. She was totally in tune with gay sensibilities and gay humour.

It was so fast-paced, I’m finding it very difficult to remember the specifics. Britney Spears was dissected, especially her infamous appearance at those video awards. The Osmonds, including Marie’s fainting spell on Dancing With the Stars. Oprah. Scientology. Doctor Phil. Andy Dick. No one was safe. Kathy also shared a wonderful and very funny story of meeting and hanging out with [big gay gasp] Liza Minnelli (whom Kathy holds in high regard). Kathy also had a few stories with an Australian focus, including a dig at John Howard, the former and easily the worst Prime Minister we have ever had. That got a great response from the audience.

I wish I could remember all the funny lines but I’m sure I couldn’t do them justice. The best thing is to see Kathy in action herself, either live if you can manage it or on TV or DVD. She has her own reality show called Life On The D List which will apparently be shown on Arena TV in Australia later in the year. Parts of her performance were filmed for inclusion on the show and you may even see Tania and me since the camera did pass over us.

A great night out.

03
Oct
07

Holding The Man

Guy Edmonds and Matt Zeremes in Holding The ManLast night, I saw the play Holding The Man with my friend, Graeme. Before going, I thought that writing a review for the blog would be a great idea. Today, I think that any attempt at a standard review would be trite and would not fully convey how much it affected me. I still feel emotionally wrecked from the experience and have been drifting through my day on automatic pilot.

I should start off by saying that I have been subconsciously avoiding this play ever since I heard that it was being staged. Friends of mine had been talking about going to see it but every time it was put on, it was sold out. I guess I was always secretly relieved. When I heard it was coming back for a fourth season at the Belvoir St Theatre, I once again ignored it and assumed it would sell out quickly.

Unbeknownst to me, Graeme had gone online and booked tickets for the two of us to go. I don’t know if he sensed my reluctance because he only sent me an email and we never talked about it at all until yesterday when arranging to meet after work.

I read the book Holding The Man written by Timothy Conigrave over 10 years ago when it first came out. It was a book filled with charm, humour and ultimately a lot of sadness. It is the real life story of Tim Conigrave and John Caleo who fell in love at school and it follows their lives and their relationship until their deaths from AIDS-related illnesses. First and foremost, it is a love story. Brutally honest and quintessentially Australian. A brilliant read but I knew at the time, I could only read it once. A very emotional story.

Seeing it acted out in front of me all these years later and the story had not lost any of its impact but this time I feel a double whammy. Like many of us,I have lost friends because of HIV/AIDS including one very dear friend, Steve about 10 years ago. Steve’s death hit me very hard at the time. He had been a great friend and a mentor, someone I valued very much. With time I came to accept his passing. I still thought of him from time to time but it was always of the good times and with a smile on my face. Seeing the play last night brought back the pain of his death. Even as I’m writing this, the tears are streaming down my face.

I think this is one of the reasons that the play has been such a massive success. It strikes a chord with so many of us. There was a lot of laughter last night from the audience but also a lot of tears. As we left the theatre, someone was being consoled by a friend as he wept uncontrollably.

It is a powerful story and I do recommend it to everyone, either on stage or on the printed page. It is currently playing in Sydney and San Francisco until November. It is being staged in Melbourne in March next year and a New Zealand production is planned. The book is readily available in Australia and was finally published in the USA and Canada last month.

I would like to thank Guy Edmonds and Matt Zeremes for bringing the characters of Tim and John to life so vividly as well as the rest of the cast and the crew for such a brilliant production.

I can’t believe that I actually feel ready to read the book again and face some of the issues that I have obviously kept buried.

Links

Sydney production –
http://www.belvoir.com.au/310_whatson_upstairs.php?production_id=187

San Francisco production –
http://www.nctcsf.org/press_room/press_room_holding.htm




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