Monthly Archives: December 2016

Katherine Jenkins (Barbican Centre)

This was the last date of Katherine Jenkins’ ‘Celebration’ tour, but with the Christmas carols dropped and a new guest performer in John Owen-Jones.

I am not much of a fan of Jenkins and her light classical crossover warbling, although taken purely as an entertainment her show certainly seems to please her hardcore fans of men of a certain age and their wives.

‘Santa Baby’ added a sprinkle of fun, and three dress changes and a crystal encrusted microphone gave a dash of glamour: there was strong accompaniment from the London Concert Orchestra conducted by Anthony Inglis (Die Fledermaus and Sleigh Bells opening both halves of the show).

In anticipation of the upcoming ENO production of ‘Carousel’ in which Jenkins makes her musical theatre debut in April, she treated us to a stirring ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’, while more traditional repertoire included an Italian translation of Dolly Parton’s ‘I Will Always Love You’ and ‘Sanctus’ (to the melody of Elgar’s Nimrod).

John Owen-Jones is always a solid proposition, having served long stints in the musicals ‘The Phantom of the Opera’ and ‘Les Miserables’, and we heard a song from each plus one from the underrated ‘Love Never Dies’, the lovely ‘Maria’ from ‘West Side Story’, one from ‘Miss Saigon’ (with a slight lyric fluff), and even the Eurovision winner from Conchita Wurst a couple of years ago, ‘Rise Like a Phoenix’.  

A duet of ‘Barcelona’ with Jenkins didn’t really work though, and she shone most convincingly in anthems like ‘Amazing Grace’ and ‘How Great Thou Art’.


The Dresser (Duke of York’s)

Ronald Harwood’s play, inspired in part by his own experience as dresser to the actor-manager Donald Wolfit, creaks a little these days but this is still a very enjoyable revival.

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‘Sir’ is the leading man in a touring company (‘next week, God willing, we will be in Eastbourne’), who, along with his ‘lady wife’, presents Shakespeare in a haphazard way to an audience who are probably as bored with the proceedings as those in the company (‘cripples, old men, and nancy boys’).  In this version of the play Sir is portrayed by Ken Stott, and at first I thought he was a little miscast, but as the play progressed he grew into the role and by the end was really rather effective.

In the main role of Norman, the dresser, Reece Shearsmith is wonderfully waspish and camp as the man who has been responsible for the cheering up of his charge and the ‘washing of his foul underpants’ for some sixteen years.  This man sees the lie of the land and realises that the game is up, and yet he still has to play-act just as much as those on stage.  His timing is faultless and his acting cuts straight to the heart, whether making us laugh with his constant refrain of ‘I had a friend’, or touching us with his final scenes of loneliness and desperation.

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Supporting roles go to Simon Rouse, as the doddery Thornton, who for years has soldiered on in the smallest of parts, but tonight has to play the Fool; Harriet Thorpe as Her Ladyship, now too old to care anything for her career or her sham marriage; and Selina Cadell as the quietly devoted but steely stage manager Madge.

I would like to give a nod to the set and staging too, Simon Higlett’s revolving backstage and wings, and Sean Foley’s direction, which is spot on, whether in the intimate two-handed scenes between Stott and Shearsmith, or the amusing opening of ‘King Lear’ (‘methinks I saw the King’) or the later storm, requiring all hands on deck.  In fact, Lear is the perfect depiction of the backstage drama, too, with Norman as the Fool, who although ever present, finds he has ‘slipped out of sight’ when he reads Sir’s book dedication.


Deep Purple studio albums revisited – part two

Following on from part one, which dealt with the output of Deep Purple pre-split, this post will look at their reunion albums up to and including Purpendicular.  This means the most recent four albums are missing, but I no longer actively follow that line-up of the band and it would be wrong of me to comment on something in which I had no interest!

Mark Five (Mark Two, rebooted)

  • Vocals – Ian Gillan
  • Guitar – Ritchie Blackmore
  • Bass – Roger Glover
  • Keyboards – Jon Lord
  • Drums – Ian Paice

This definitive line-up returned in 1984 with one of the best rock records ever made, which still stands up today.  Then a mis-step towards commerciality and another breakup caused the band’s musical style to waver, before a final catastrophic collapse in 1993.

The albums

‘Perfect Strangers’, released October 1984

  • Knocking at Your Back Door
  • Under The Gun
  • Nobody’s Home
  • Mean Streak
  • Perfect Strangers
  • A Gypsy’s Kiss
  • Wasted Sunsets
  • Hungry Daze
  • Not Responsible (cassette and CD only)

High point: there are so many, with hardly a dud throughout the album.  But if pushed, the beautiful ‘Wasted Sunsets’.

Low point: A Gypsy’s Kiss is probably the one I listen to least of this set.

Marks out of five: five.

‘The House of Blue Light’, released January 1987

  • Bad Attitude
  • The Unwritten Law
  • Call of the Wild
  • Mad Dog
  • Black and White
  • Hard Lovin’ Woman
  • The Spanish Archer
  • Strangeways
  • Mitzi Dupree
  • Dead or Alive

High point: it’s a strange album which is far too geared to the idea of the ‘radio play’ single.  But I love the organ bits on Bad Attitude.

Low point: Black and White is pretty unmemorable.

Marks out of five: two.

Mark Six

  • Vocals – Joe Lynn Turner
  • Guitar – Ritchie Blackmore 
  • Bass – Roger Glover 
  • Keyboards – Jon Lord 
  • Drums – Ian Paice 

Ian Gillan’s departure from the band brought former Rainbow singer Joe Lynn Turner back to be reunited with former colleagues Blackmore and Glover, with a new slick sound for the band.  Sadly after one excellent album and tour this association came to an end.

Album:

‘Slaves and Masters’, released October 1990

  • King of Dreams
  • The Cut Runs Deep
  • Fire in the Basement
  • Truth Hurts
  • Breakfast in Bed
  • Love Conquers All
  • Fortuneteller 
  • Too Much is Not Enough
  • Wicked Ways

High point: Fortuneteller is worth a couple of minutes of anyone’s time.

Low point: I like Too Much is Not Enough, but it isn’t a Deep Purple song.

Marks out of five: five

Mark Seven (another reboot for Mark Two)

This reunion was a mistake and the resulting album does not stand up well today. Perhaps it is a conflict of styles. But its dated rock sounds and pretty dreadful lyrics have killed it.

Album:

‘The Battle Rages On’, released July 1993

  • The Battle Rages On
  • Lick it Up
  • Any
  • Talk About Love
  • Time to Kill
  • Ramshackle Man
  • A Twist in the Tale 
  • One Man’s Meat
  • Solitaire 

High point: I love Solitaire.  But Ramshackle Man is almost back to Purple at their finest.

Low point: One Man’s Meat and Lick it Up suffer from really childish lyrics.

Marks out of five: three

Mark Eight

  • Vocals – Ian Gillan
  • Guitar – Steve Morse
  • Bass – Roger Glover
  • Keyboards – Jon Lord 
  • Drums – Ian Paice 

After the 1993 tour conflict reared its head in the band and for whatever reason,.Ritchie Blackmore departed to reform Rainbow.  The new album was an odd mix of material which could have been on any earlier album plus new songs which were a stylistic departure.

The only album I will comment on is their first.

Album:

‘Purpendicular’, released February 1996

  • Vavoom: Ted the Mechanic
  • Loosen My Strings
  • Soon Forgotten
  • Sometimes I Feel Like Screaming
  • Cascades: I’m Not Your Lover
  • The Aviator
  • Rosa’s Cantina
  • A Castle Full of Rascals
  • A Touch Away

High point: A Touch Away and Sometimes I Feel Like Screaming are good songs

Low point: Ted the Mechanic.  The lyrics are awful. 

Marks out of five: one.


The Human League (Royal Festival Hall)

I’ve been a fan of The Human League since the early 80s: not their Don’t You Want Me phase as I was only nine years old then, but not that long after when The Lebanon was in the charts in Spring 1984.  Quite soon after like many other teenagers I sang along to the whole of ‘Dare’ on cassette in my bedroom many, many times; I had posters of the band on my wall; and loved their big selling singles Louise and Human.

hlthree

I lost them around the time the 90s hit, but eventually came back and now, finally, have seen them live, so it’s been a long wait.

As with anything else which teeters on the ‘nostalgia’ tag (although I know they hate that and they haven’t really, technically, been away) you never know what you are going to get, but the moment the set appeared with the pulsing beat of the opening song, Being Boiled (a showcase for Phil Oakey alone, as it dates from the days of The Human League #1, when they were a kind of Yorkshire Kraftwerk electro outfit) and the video projections kicked into life, I knew we were in for something special.

Watch a bit of ‘Seconds’

hlsix

The songs from ‘Dare’ were liberally sprinkled through this set: The Sound of the Crowd, Seconds, Open Your Heart, Love Action, The Things That Dreams Are Made Of.  There were those big singles I loved, too, plus Mirror Man (which I had forgotten, not having heard in years) and, of course, Don’t You Want Me, with the neat conceit of having one of the backing band playing an instrumental introduction of it which just got the crowd more fired up.

hltwo

Joanne Catherall and Susan Ann Sulley are the decorative side of the band, and an integral part of their trademark sound, and they were showcased well on their own with One Man In My Heart as well as (particularly Susan) providing energy to keep the audience going throughout.  Their costume changes were slightly exceeded by the parade of Phil’s designer wardrobe, but it all adds to the spectacle.

hlfive

Can I just pause to say how fantastic Phil Oakey’s voice still is?  It’s been said in some quarters that he isn’t one of the best popular vocalists, but I have to disagree: he has such a recognisable vocal style that fits the band’s songs perfectly; and I was so pleased that we got to close with Together In Electric Dreams, a song which I have always loved, even if the film it was written for is now hopelessly outdated.

hlone

Now slightly north of 60 years old this singer has unbounded energy and enthusiasm, and he is a total showman.  It is always a pleasure to see an act coming across so professionally, and The Human League are one of the most professional and accomplished acts I have seen.  Compare last night’s work with something way back like The Path of Least Resistance from nearly forty years ago and the look may be different (a sleeker hairline these days, but that’s no bad thing) but the voice hasn’t changed much.

hleight

I haven’t danced so much in years, and loved every minute.  How could I have waited so long?  My husband (not really a fan) enjoyed himself too, and yes, first thing we did on the way home was order a CD copy of ‘Dare’ to replace that tired out 80s cassette!

hlfour

I wanted to give a nod to London band Ekkoes who were the support act, right at the start of their career.  Their cover of the late Laura Branigan’s Self Control was excellent and I liked their own song Last Breath as well.  I hope they go places and it was a bonus to see them, even if I would have rather liked (for 80s nostalgia again) to see Blancmange, who are doing some of the other dates on the tour as support.

You can investigate Ekkoes a bit more at http://ekkoes.com/.

Here’s the twenty song setlist from The Human League: Being Boiled, The Sound of the Crowd, Sky, Heart Like a Wheel, Filling Up With Heaven, Open Your Heart, Soundtrack to a Generation, Seconds, The Lebanon, One Man In My Heart, Human, Louise, Stay With Me Tonight, Love Action, Tell Me When, Keep Feeling (Fascination), Mirror Man, Don’t You Want Me, The Things That Dreams Are Made Of, Together in Electric Dreams.

hlseven

Photographs taken by Louise Penn and Colin Penn.  Video clip by Louise Penn.

 

 


Remember the Night, 1940 – ★★★★

Everybody’s favourite Stanwyck (to Letterboxders, anyway), and one I hadn’t seen until today. Putting aside the fact that bits of it remind me of ‘The 39 Steps’, others of ‘Susan Slept Here’ and others of ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’ and ‘Mr Deeds Goes To Town’, I have to add my praise to that of the general majority.

Barbara Stanwyck is Lee, a jewel thief (must be something in the air, as yesterday I was watching a film with Myrna Loy in a similar profession), and here she is teamed for the first time of three with Fred MacMurray, here playing a prosecuting attorney, John, who succeeds in getting her trial postponed for decision til after Christmas, and ends up taking custody of her over the festive season instead.

MacMurray isn’t one of my favourite actors, but he’s very good here, and Stanwyck is in good form as the career criminal who opens proceedings in the court by watching her defence lawyer with barely-disguised amusement.

She’s no victim here, and in fact she is perhaps better than she was in femme fatale mode in ‘Double Indemnity’. Her gift for fun eventually paid off as Preston Sturges, screenwriter here, went on to write and direct ‘The Lady Eve’ for her, which gave her a chance to broaden her range.

Willard Robertson’s speech as the flowery defence chap is hilarious, and even more so when you note in real life he gave up a career in law for the stage. Sterling Holloway, always fabulous, and with the weirdly musical voice, is fun as a cousin of MacMurray’s. ‘Snowflake’ Toones plays John’s slightly slow servant but he isn’t quite as daft as he first appears. And Beulah Bondi ages up yet again to play MacMurray’s mother.

This is a romance, a festive one, and a courtroom drama, and succeeds at all of them. What a happy discovery!

Vía Letterboxd – loureviews


Whipsaw, 1935 – ★★★½

Spencer Tracy had switched studios from Fox to MGM in 1935, and this role has more in common with his tough guy programmers than the more sophisticated fare his new studio would eventually offer him.

This is a fairly minor crime picture but it’s lifted by the sparkling chemistry between Tracy (as a G-man posing as a crook) and Myrna Lou (as a hard-boiled jewel thief). They positively crackle in their scenes together, which makes this film a pleasure to watch.

Director Sam Wood is content to let his stars just do their thing, and they do it well. Romance beckons by the halfway point, and the whole story of the stolen pearls sinks into second place.

A happy discovery, currently available on YouTube.

Vía Letterboxd – loureviews


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MTAS

West End Reviews | West End Challenges | Exclusive West End News

A Red Lip And A Nude Shoe

Dior Dreams On A Kmart Budget

is there room for me to sew?

Quilting, Reading and the Movies

Jaime Rebanal's Film Thoughts

Cinema - moving around life one film at a time.

The Case for Jeanette and Nelson

"Whaddya gonna do? I love her. I think she loves me." -Nelson Eddy on the Jack Parr Show, 1960

STARDUST AND SHADOWS

Opinions on Classic Hollywood , B Movies, Grindhouse, SF film , Classic Horror, Film Noir, Books, and related subjects by Canadian film guy TERRY SHERWOOD. (This site is not affiliated with author Charles Foster and his book Stardust and Shadows.)

The Wonderful World of Cinema

This blog is all about cinema, movies and stars of every decades. It's wonderful!

Movie classics

Thoughts on older movies, especially those from the 1930s to 1950s.

Hiss and Tell

Featuring Gryff, the angry diabetic cat, and the humans who serve him

TESSA BARRIE'S LOST BLOGS

Random Blogger from Jersey, Channel Islands, UK. Not Noo Jersey, USA. Expect the unexpected. Life's too short to be niche.

[insert title here]

just one of many things i'm still trying to figure out

buchanblog

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The Phantom Frame

Information about the creative works of Gareth Preston

West End Blog

Bringing you independent, honest, experienced reviews of current theatre shows. We believe theatre is something truly magical and can be enjoyed by everyone.

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"To waste one second of one's life is a betrayal of one's self! I wonder what's on television?"

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Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow - the ultimate resource

So much content, so little time...

Just another review blog

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