21 March 2020

The Musical Theatre Challenge.

Hello all, I firstly want to wish you all well during these difficult and challenging times. Without the theatre, it's a strange time for us all, but I hope you and those around you are keeping safe and well. Theatre is basically everything to me, I blog about theatre, I work at a theatre, I live and breathe theatre, so for all the theatres to be (rightly) closed it's an odd time. Hopefully, over the coming weeks, I'll share some content that keeps you amused and entertained. I start here with a musical theatre challenge. This is something you can all do and I'd love to see read your answers to the following questions. To make it more interesting try and not use the same musical twice!

A Song From The First Musical You Saw
My earliest theatre trips when I was a child was going to the Pantomimes at Leicester's De Montfort Hall - although I have no real memory of them - but the first musical I saw though was also at De Montfort Hall, it was a touring production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat. The musical by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice is a classic and one that families still enjoy to this day. My favourite song from Joseph would be "Go, Go, Go Joseph". The toe-tapping ensemble number that closes the first act.


A Song From Your Last Musical You Saw
It's been a couple of weeks (at the time of writing) since my last musical, that was a 6th a final visit to the Royal Shakespeare Company and their production of The Boy in the Dress. The musical was an adaptation of the book by David Walliams. Mark Ravenhill did a fabulous job with his adaptation bringing all the humour and joy of the book to the stage. The music for the production came from the formidable duo of Guy Chambers and Robbie Williams. Hopefully, the production has a future life. The score was full of catchy tunes and my favourite changed quite a few times but I'm sticking with Disco Symphony. The song just burst to life and with the use of giant glitter balls, it brought a real dazzle and shine to the Royal Shakespeare Theatre. You can see the trailer below.


A Song From Your Favourite Musical
Those who know me will know how much I still talk about Amelie. The 2019 UK Touring production which transferred over the winter in London's The Other Palace was musical theatre perfection. Featuring a cast of actor-musicians this Parisian paradise was everything. Adapted from the 2001 French-language movie with songs by Nathan Tysen and Daniel Messe and a book by Craig Lucas. The show has a short-lived run on Broadway but the UK production was much better received and is nominated for three Oliviers. The change of musical styles with the numbers really worked effectively and the hugely talented company pulled it off with such skill. Audrey Brisson just IS Amelie, she brought her to life so beautifully. I could easily pick every number from this show but my favourite number is "When The Booth Goes Bright" sung by Nino and the ensemble. Here you can enjoy a selection of songs from the production by the original London company.


A Song From An Underrated Musical
Where do I start with this? There are quite a few musicals that I'd personally call underrated. Made in Dagenham, The Lord of the Rings, From Here To Eternity and Betty Blue Eyes to name some but the one I'm going to chose here is The Wind in the Willows. The musical which ran for a UK tour in 2016 and a summer season in 2017 at the London Palladium had a book by Julian Fellows and music by Stiles and Drewe. A fantastic cast too helmed this production, Rufus Hound as Mr Toad, Simon Lipkin as Rat, Craig Mather as Mole and Neil McDermott as Chief Weasel. During it's run at the London Palladium the show was filmed and you can currently watch the production for free via https://www.willowsmusical.com/ where you can also choose to make a donation to Action For Others. My favourite song from this show is the act two opening number sung by Chief Weasel and all his companions "We're Taking Over The Hall".


A Song That Makes You Emotional
Many songs from the hit musical Dear Evan Hansen fit the bill here. The musical has proved a hit with audiences both on Broadway and in the West End. The score written by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul features some of the most powerful and moving lyrics that you'll find in any musical. "You Will Be Found" is a powerful anthem that reminds you that "you are not alone". The song I've chosen though is "Words Fail". I'd heard most of the soundtrack prior the seeing the show but this was one of the songs I hadn't heard and it packed a punch performed by London's alternative Evan, Marcus Harman. I won't give any spoiler but it's painful and powerful.


A Song That Makes You Laugh
If you're looking for shows that make you laugh look no further than Monty Python's Spamalot. Lovingly ripped off (as the advertisements say) from the movie Monty Python and the Holy Grail by Eric Idle. The show keeps many of the films great moments and hilariously brings them to life on stage. Idle who alongside John Du Prez wrote the music created some truly hilarious routines. The use Python classic, from their movie The Life of Brian, "Always Look On The Bright Side of Life" fitted in brilliantly. I had the great pleasure of seeing Tim Curry at King Arthur in the original London production and I've chosen a number from the show that has subsequently been re-written. The original number "You Won't Succeed on Broadway" was changed to the "Star Song", both of hilarious but this video from Broadway below still makes me laugh.


A Song From Your Least Favourite Musical
I rarely dislike musicals but I have a firm least favourite musical and that is Cats. I saw the production when I was growing up and didn't enjoy it. The whole thing seemed bizarre especially in the stage musical where the cast come through the audience. I've had no interest in revisiting the show or the recent movie adaptation ever since. If I had to pick the most likeable song from the score I'd go for "Jellicle Cats".



A Song From A Musical That You'd Love To be Revived
The 2017 London production of Half A Sixpence. I'd bring that back in a heartbeat. Charlie Stemp was extraordinary in the lead role of Arthur Kipps. He moved with such grace and skill and sung superbly too. Devon-Elise Johnson and Emma Williams provided strong love interests in Ann Pornick and Helen Walshingham. A strong company on the whole too. Much like The Wind in the Willows, the show featured a book by Julian Fellows and music by Stiles and Drewe and numbers by David Heneker from the original musical. It's a show that filled me with such joy. I was so excited that Kilworth House Theatre was due to have a new production directed and choreographed by Andrew Wright (whose outstanding choreography lit up the stage in the London production) this summer but due to the virus that's been postponed but hopefully, that'll have another chance to be seen. I've chosen the uplifting "Pick Out A Simple Tune" as it represents everything about the show brilliantly.


A Song From Your Favourite Musical Film
This is so difficult to nail down. There are so many musical films that I adore, Oklahoma, Seven Brides For Seven Brothers, The Rocky Horror Picture Show, The Greatest Showman and The Producers to name a few. I'll go with La La Land as that movie really connected with me as did the music by Justin Hurwitz. Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling are fantastic and carry the film with superb performances. I know the film is a bit of like marmite with people I know but for me, it's a breathtaking cinematic experience - although granted I'm still unsure how I feel about the ending. Again the lyrics for the music were provided by Pasek and Paul (Dear Evan Hansen and The Greatest Showman) and I've picked the duet version of "City of Stars" sung by Stone and Gosling.


I hope you enjoyed reading and listening to my choices. I'd love to see what you'd pick. Let me know in the comments or on any of my social media.

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