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Posts Tagged ‘music’

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The word ‘legend’ is bandied about too frequently these days – I’ve seen it used to describe reality tv stars, YouTube ‘stars’ and all manner of others which in truth it should not be used for – but sometimes the word is entirely fitting and Bruce Springsteen is one of those people truly deserving of the title. Whether you like his music or not, his songs are familiar to all, for their stories of blue-collar working class families and their struggles, from the anti-Vietnam protest song Born in the USA, to the Oscar winning Streets of Philadelphia from the groundbreaking 1993 Tom Hanks film about AIDS.

Bruce’s autobiography is a joy to read – not only does he discuss his own working class, blue collar background, and his rise to success, he is also amazingly candid about his struggles with depression and anxiety. He talks with obvious love and gratitude about his wife Patti Scialfa and their three children, and with open-ness about his troubled relationship with his father, who nonetheless he loved and loves very deeply.

His passion for his craft comes through on every page (no surprise to anyone who has listened to his music), as well as his enduring friendships with the many people who he has played with and alongside. I loved that he was starstruck, even at the height of his own success, when meeting the Rolling Stones!

Again – this will be no surprise for anyone who listens to Bruce’s lyrics – but he is a very talented author, likeable and amusing, and unapologetic…not that he has anything to be apologetic about. I always felt that Bruce was one of the good guys, and this book reinforces that view.

If you are a fan of Bruce Springsteen, or if you just really like reading autobiographies, I highly recommend this one.

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This musical is based on the 90s hit film of the same name, which starred Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore. Robbie Hart is the wedding singer of the title, whose life is ruined when his fiancee dumps him on their wedding day (I know it doesn’t sound like much of a comedy at this point but bear with me). Meantime, his friend Julia is desperate for her boyfriend Glen to propose to her, although the audience can see right from the start that Glen is an unpleasant character and not good for her – or to her – at all. As Robbie and Julia become closer, they both start to wonder if there might be something more between them…

Let me start by saying that if you are looking for a feel-good show with lots (loads!) of laughs, you won’t go far wrong with this one. It’s also dripping with 80s nostalgia, from the clothes to the hairstyles, so if like me you have a fondness for the 80s, with it’s bad fashion sense and perfect pop, you should definitely check this out.

A word about the music though – the score is all original music written specifically for the show. I felt some trepidation about this; I love 80s music and would have liked to have heard some BUT the songs here are so catchy and enjoyable that if you don’t know them at the beginning, by the time each one ends you will find yourself humming along.

The cast were all great – Jon Robyns was very likeable as Robbie and perfect for this role. Ray Quinn was also excellent as the nasty Glen. Cassie Compton brought the same sweetness and vulnerability to the role of Julia that Drew Barrymore did in the film, and Ashley Emerson was very funny indeed as Robbie’s band mate and friend Sammy. For me though, there were three standout members of the cast – Samuel Holmes as friend and keyboardist in Robbie’s band, George – in complete Boy George regalia; Stephanie Clift as Julia’s cousin and best friend Holly; and Ruth Madoc who played Robbie’s feisty grandma Rosie. (George and Rosie have a number together towards the end of the show, which had the whole audience in hysterics).

This is simply one of those shows that leaves you with a huge smile on your face – full of happiness and fun. I highly recommend it!

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In this enchanting true story, Tom Michell relates how in the 1970s, when he was in his early 20s and teaching in an Agentinian boys boarding school, he encountered a penguin who became his best friend. He saw the penguin on a beach covered in oil and near death as the result of a recent oil slick and on an impulse decided to rescue him and clean him up, with the intention of then releasing him back into the wild. However, the penguin refused to leave his side, and so after naming him Juan Salvador, Michell became the proud adopter (or adoptee?) of his new feathered friend.

Juan Salvador soon becomes a favourite among staff and students alike at the boarding school and brings a little magic into all of their lives. Through his and Tom Michell’s story, the reader also learns a little about the Argentinian political situation at the time, and how badly inflation was affecting the poorest in the country, and there is also some insight into life in the boarding school.

Mostly though, this is Juan Salvador’s story; it is he who is the true focus of the book, and what a delight he is. Michell describes the penguin’s own little personality and quirks and really brings him to life on the page.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book – it’s a quick read, both because it is only just over 200 pages, and also because I didn’t want to put it down. Highly recommended.

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When their friend Cookie (Thandi Newton) overdoses after using heroin for the first time, musicians Spoon (Tupac Shakur) and Stretch (Tim Roth) decide it’s time to kick their addiction, get into a government rehab program and finally get clean. However, it is easier said than done, as their good intentions are thwarted by bureaucracy and red tape at every turn. Not only that, but a local drug lord (Vondie Curtis-Hall) has it in for them, and staying one step ahead of him is not easy…

I watched this film purely because Tim Roth is in it, and honestly I was just expecting a fairly enjoyable way to pass a couple of hours. From the outset though, this film exceeded all my expectations and I would probably now put it in my top ten films of all time.

It’s a comedy, and there were several scenes which made me laugh out loud. That said, it’s definitely not a light-hearted comedy – there’s a serious point to be made about how hard it is to get help for addiction (bearing in mind this film is nearly 20 years old, I can not be sure how realistic it is nowadays), and there is a lot of violence, albeit most of it does take place off-screen.

Although there are a lot of characters, it’s basically Tim Roth and Tupac Shakur’s film. I knew Tim Roth would be great, because…well, he ALWAYS is – and he was – but I have never seen Tupac’s acting before, and I was really surprised by how talented he was. Often when singers turn to acting, the results are less than stellar, but Tupac brought just the right about of comedy and angst to the role. He and Tim Roth bounced off each other perfectly, with Stretch (Roth) being the more wild and impulsive character, while Spoon (Shakur) was the one attempting to keep him in line.

Kudos too to Vondie Curtis-Hall as D-Reper, the drug lord who Spoon and Stretch found themselves on the wrong side of – Curtis-Hall also wrote and directed this film, so he is obviously a multi-talented man.

If you are not offended by swearing or drug references, I would definitely recommend this film. I give it a solid 10 out of 10.

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Year of release: 1997

Director: Vondie Curtis-Hall

Writer: Vondie Curtis-Hall

Main cast: Tim Roth, Tupac Shukar, Thandie Newton, Vondie Curtis-Hall

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Following last years successful Full Frontal Nerdity show (review here) Steve Mould, Matt Parker and Helen Arney are back with Just For Graphs, a comedy show with science related songs, experiments with fire, and lots of graphs and maths.

These are the kind of people who you wish had been your teachers at school. Science is a lot more interesting when you are actually part of the experiment – such as the experiment showing the conductivity of humans which was demonstrated in this show – or indeed when a tennis ball set on fire is thrown across the stage (it’s not as dangerous as it sounds!)

The show was more maths centred than Full Frontal Nerdity, but even though I am not a maths lover (give me English and Drama over Maths and Science any day), I found it very interesting, and there was certainly a lot to laugh at. There was a great section about Venn diagrams (yes, really!) and Euler diagrams (often mistaken for Venn), and light and bouncy atmosphere kept the whole audience engaged.

Arney, Mould and Parker all interact very well with each other – I can only imagine that they are great friends offstage, and this makes for a friendly dynamic with the audience. Parker in particular is well aware that many people see maths as boring or dry, but if anyone can change people’s minds, he can.

Definitely a fun night out whether or not you have an interest in science. Go catch them on the tour if you can.

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Hilarious is a word often thrown about to describe shows, film, tv etc., but in the case of National Theatre’s One Man, Two Guvnors (based on Carlo Goldoni’s play from the 1700s, Servant of Two Masters), it’s completely appropriate.

It’s the early 1960s, Francis Henshall is the none-too-bright minder of gangster Roscoe Crabbe – but Roscoe is really Roscoe’s twin sister Rachel, disguised as her brother for her own safety, after her brother was murdered…by none other than Rachel’s boyfriend Stanley Stubbers!  To complicate matters, Francis is hired to work for Stubbers, but he must keep his two gunners – who (as he far as he knows) don’t know each other – apart, and that proves to be a lot harder than it sounds.

Quite honestly, after reading reviews of this play, I expected a few good belly laughs.  What I did not expect was to be literally crying with laughter, but there’s no doubt – this is simply one of the funniest shows I have ever seen.  First of all the music – skiffle band The Craze come on stage about 10 minutes before the show begins, and then during the performance they provide a number of musical interludes.  The music is jaunty and thoroughly enjoyable, performed by very obviously talented musicians.  There are other musical interludes too – performed by various cast members, and all very enjoyable.

Gavin Spokes was absolutely perfect as Francis.  This role was originally played by James Corden, who I’ve no doubt was brilliant, but I’ve also no doubt that he could not have been more brilliant than Spokes.  Francis is loveable, despite all the double-crossing and deceit which is character employs with varying degrees of success.  Shaun Williamson (forever destined to be known as ‘Barry from Eastenders’) is probably the most well known cast member, as Charlie Clench (!) father of ditzy blonde Pauline Clench (Jasmyn Banks), who was due to enter a marriage of convenience with the newly dead Roscoe, but who has since fallen in love with wannabe actor Alan Dangle (a superbly over-the-top Edward Hancock).  Roscoe/Rachel is played with aplomb by Alicia Davies, and I also really enjoyed Patrick Warner as the upper-class Stanley Stubbers.  The terrific cast is completed by Derek Elroy as Lloyd Boateng (a friend of Rachel/Roscoe and Charlie Clench), Emma Barton as Dolly (Charlie’s book-keeper who Francis falls for), David Verrey as Harry Dangle (the lawyer father of Alan) and Michael Dylan who practically brought the house down with his portrayal of Alfie, a doddery old Irish waiter.

The wordplay is fantastic, with many genuinely laugh-out-loud lines – and I also loved how Francis broke the fourth wall to talk directly to the audience, reminding us that this is after all, not real, before pulling everyone back into the delight of the show.  However, as well as a great script, there is also a LOT of physical slapstick comedy, the highest point of which is probably the scene at the end of the first half of the show, where Francis is trying to serve dinner to both of his bosses in the same venue, but without letting them find out about each other.  The cast throw themselves around spectacularly, and I can only imagine that Gavin Spokes in particular must be exhausted by the time the show finishes!  There is also some terrific interaction with audience members, but at the risk of revealing spoilers, I’m not going to give details.

Overall, I reiterate that this is truly one of the funniest and cleverest plays I have ever seen.  Just brilliant from the opening scene to the closing moment.

(For more information about this production, please click here.)

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I first discovered Duran Duran when I  was a young teenager, and quickly become obsessed.  As I grew older, I drifted away from them, but always came back again.  They may not be my favourites any more, but I still like listening to them, and as John Taylor was by far my favourite when I was growing up (I was convinced I’d marry him one day, and boy, did I hate Amanda de Cadenet when she beat me to it!), I was looking forward to reading his biography.  I should point out that I actually listened to the audio version of this book, which is narrated by John himself.

Anyway…I have mixed feelings about it.  I enjoyed the first part when he talks about growing up as an only child, and how he developed a love of music.  He talks about forming bands with friends including Nick Bates (now known as Nick Rhodes), and eventually forming Duran Duran with the line-up for which they are most famous.  They were very democratic, being one of the few bands who credited each and every member with writing each and every song.  However, the story of living his dream soon becomes a nightmare, as Taylor details how he fell into the drug scene, and become dependent both on cocaine and alcohol.

Some of the inside info about the music business was interesting – the machinations of the publicity machines, the secrets behind recording a slot for Top of the Pops, for instance – but the whole book kind of feels more like an overview of Taylor’s life, rather than a detailed autobiography.  I liked that he pretty much avoids dishing the dirt on anybody except himself – although after initially speaking pretty affectionately of fellow band member Andy Taylor, he seems rather dismissive of him at the end of the book.  Some of the language though feels quite contrived – maybe it sounds more so when it’s being read aloud, and the book generally feels like it was rushed.  (It was ghostwritten however, so I’m not sure exactly how much blame can be attributed to Taylor for that.)

Overall, Taylor comes across as a genuinely nice guy, and it was good to hear how he eventually conquered his demons, and has managed to stay clean and sober for two decades.  I’d probably recommend the book as decent but not essential reading, strictly for fellow Duran Duran fans.

 

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