Saturday, March 24, 2012


From left: Brian d'Arcy James, Raza Jaffrey, Jack Davenport, Katherine McPhee, Christian Borle, Megan Hilty, Debra Messing, Jaime Cepero and Anjelica Huston (source)

I don't usually watch TV series but of course I had to check out one which basically is about Broadway and about the process of making a musical. Before the people who are not musical theatre fanatics stop reading, I'll have to add that this is a series for everyone, not just musical theatre people. There is lots of that standard American relationship drama which keeps you hooked not to mention that there are some great covers of popular songs and absolutely amazing original tracks (to the extent that you can't often tell which ones have been made specifically for the series). 

In short: Tom Levitt (Christian Borle) and Julia Houston (Debra Messing), a composer/lyricist duo decide to write a new musical based on the life of Marilyn Monroe. Two actresses end up battling over the main part: Karen Cartwright (Katherine McPhee) who is new to the industry but shows great promise and Ivy Lynn (Megan Hilty) who is experienced after years in the ensemble and is desperate for her big break. Derek Wills (Jack Davenport) and Eileen Rand (Anjelica Huston) join the team as the director and producer respectively. Not only do we get to see a musical in the making but we also get glimpses into the lives of the characters outside of the rehearsal studio. 

Smash is not a copy of Glee. The setting is completely different and the former is aimed at a slightly older audience. It is true that both of them have singing and dancing in them and I agree with what Megan Hilty said in an interview: that Smash would never have been possible without Glee preceding it and making musical theatre cool and popular amongst the general audience and particularly the younger generation, but still Smash is very different - in a good way. One of the things I particularly like is that many of the actors have been chosen as a result of Broadway credits and many big musical theatre names have come to guest star as well. So yes, the singing is top class.
The trailer:

And one of my fave songs from the series so far (sung by Megan Hilty and the guest-starring Will Chase):
I found a great quality video of the cast doing this song in the series but for some reason I couldn't insert it. Here is the link if anyone wants to see it though:

My advise: do have a look into this one :)
Smash on the NBC website:

Monday, March 12, 2012

'The King's Speech' - play

How many people knew that The King's Speech was originally written as a play but the stage production was put aside due to the making of the film (David Seidler wrote the script for both)? Luckily they are now touring the play and preparing for a West End transfer because it is an absolutely amazing piece of theatre.

The King's Speech at Richmond Theatre
Performance: Tuesday 6th March 2012 at 19:30
Seat: Stalls
Cast included: Charles Edwards (King George VI), Jonathan Hyde (Lionel Logue), Emma Fielding (Queen Elizabeth), Joss Ackland (King George V), Ian McNeice (Winston Churchill), Daniel Betts (King Edward VIII), Charlotte Randle (Myrtle Logue), David Killick (Stanley Baldwin), Michael Feast (Cosmo Lang), Lisa Baird (Wallis Simpson)

Theatrical poster
I have actually seen The King's Speech the film which in itself is rather a coincidence as I quite rarely watch films. This particular one I liked a lot and naturally, as the film was such a massive phenomenon too, I was keen on seeing the play. An additional positive factor was that it came to one of the closest theatres to where I live, Richmond Theatre, so I could not not go...

The King's Speech definitely goes onto my list of best plays I have seen: it was concise, captivating and witty. I assume everyone knows the story line so I will not start explaining that any further. The play is very similar to the film but I don't think it drags on as much. For example at the beginning the scenes change rapidly getting Queen Elizabeth to Lionel Logue's office for the first meeting in record time. I can imagine even people who do not usually go to the theatre liking this one because it is not packed with abstract imagery and, frankly, it was fascinating to see people act this one out on stage. The play was funnier than I remember the film being but then, I have only seen the film once so don't quote me on that. 

I am sure that people who have seen the film will be able to fairly easily picture the story working well on stage also. In the theatre the free-standing wall in the middle of the rotating stage made the set-changes fluent and enabled the projection of old film footage drawing the audience into the war-struck England for instance.

Charles Edwards with Jonathan Hyde and Emma Fielding
The cast were great. Charles Edwards most certainly did not come second to Colin Firth as the stuttering Bertie (in all fairness I am impressed by anyone who manages to convincingly play a stuttering character) and Jonathan Hyde as Lionel Logue was another great casting choice. I was also impressed by how well Ian McNeice suited the part of Winston Churchill (it's always interesting to see how the roles of such iconic people have been cast).

The King's Speech will open at the Wyndhams Theatre in the West End on 22nd March 2012 and is currently booking until 21st July 2012. 

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

'Master Class' with a pre-theatre meal

A play with a little bit of opera... over from Broadway. 

Master Class at Vaudeville Theatre, London (limited run until 28th April 2012)
Performance: Tuesday 28th February 2012 at 19:30
Seat: 3rd row Dress Circle
Cast: Tyne Daly (Maria Callas), Jeremy Cohen (Emmanuel Weinstock), Dianne Pilkington (Sophie de Palma), Garrett Sorenson (Anthony Candolino), Naomi O'Connell (Sharon Graham), Gerard Carey (Stagehand) was offering a meal&theatre package at a very reasonable price and since I was intending to see Master Class anyway, I decided to try it out. The meal was at Porter's English Restaurant which was only a short walk away from the theatre. Frankly, I am not one to critique food because I don't really mind what I stick into my mouth but I think the food was decent and, most importantly, the meal was a perfect size (i.e. not massive). We got to select our meal from a set menu which had about six different choices on it. A special mention goes to the lovely waiting staff.

Our seats were supposed to be in the Upper Circle but when we got to the theatre we were told we had been bumped up to the Dress Circle because there were a whole lot of empty seats. The view from there was perfect actually. I can't imagine the view from the stalls being significantly better.

About: Sophie de Palma, Anthony Candolino and Sharon Graham all come in individually for a master class with Maria Callas. Callas conducts her classes in a stern, individual way which causes a number of comic moments and we learn a lot about her personality and her life.

Tyne Daly was amazing, as anticipated. She had an unbelievable stage presence and played Maria Callas stunningly. She seemed so much taller on stage compared to what she actually was when seeing her at the stage door afterwards. She delivered extremely well throughout. She was incredible - not much more I can say about that. 

Tyne Daly and Naomi O'Connell (photo: Johan Persson)
I was very excited about seeing Dianne because I really love her voice and I have been to see her perform in a cabaret but I have never seen her in a part at the theatre. Sophie de Palma was such a great part for Dianne. I started giggling when I realised it was another part which involved crying. It reminded me of an interview in which she said that she tends to get a lot of crying girl parts :P 
It was great to hear Dianne, Garrett and Naomi actually sing opera with Jeremy accompanying them on the piano as Emmanuel the accompanist (whose name Callas has trouble remembering). The two latter are actually opera singers and Dianne has got a great operatic soprano range as well so quality stuff there. I used to be a big fan of opera at one point and before I began singing musical theatre, I did some classical stuff. Seeing Master Class really inspired me to go and have a look for some classical music to sing for a change :)

The only thing that put me off a little was the fact that I did not know much about Maria Callas from before and although there obviously was a short biography in the programme, I have a feeling the show would have had a greater effect on me had I known a bit more of the background prior to seeing it. 

Finally, a special mention to Gerard Carey as well for being an absolutely hilarious stagehand!