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As the title of the act might suggest, Three Phantoms consists of three men who have all played the West End as the lead role in Andrew Lloyd-Webber’s musical, Phantom of the Opera.  With backing singers, including Rebecca Caine, who has not only played Christine Daae in Phantom, but who also played the original Cosette in Les Miserables, they perform a series of songs from many different musicals.  In between numbers, they share jokes with the audience, and anecdotes about their time playing the Phantom.

The Phantoms who were performing when I saw the show were Matthew Cammelle, Stephen John Davis and Glyn Kerslake (it’s not always the same three Phantoms for every tour), and the whole thing was staged by Earl Carpenter, who I was lucky enough to see playing the Phantom himself, earlier this year.

Starting with Invocation and Instructions to the Audience from The Frogs, was a nice touch because it really helped get the audience relaxed and ready not only for some beautiful singing, but also for a lot of fun.  Other songs included Dont’ Stop Believin’, by Journey; Unchained Melody, from Ghost; I Could Have Danced All Night, from My Fair Lady; Big Girls Don’t Cry, from Jersey Boys; a selection of songs from Les Miserables – including a stunning acapella version of I Dreamed A Dream, which brought tears to my eyes – and a selection of songs from other musical adaptations of Phantom, as well as a wonderful rendition of Music of the Night.

Annette Yeo, Mandy Watsham Dunstall and Alistair Barron sang beautifully with the Phantoms, and each had their own moment in the spotlight, with Alistair coming in for some merciless teasing from them!  Musical accompaniment was provided by a single pianist and a single cellist, who were on stage throughout, and the staging itself was beautifully done.

Overall, for fans of musical theatre, this show is a must – a hugely enjoyable afternoon or evening out.  I will definitely be booking to see the Three Phantoms again in the future.

(The Three Phantoms website can be found here.)

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Gene Kelly was in the process of writing his autobiography, but sadly died at the age of 83, in 1996, before completing it.  His widow Patricia Ward Kelly is said to be writing a book about her late husband’s life, but I’ve just about given up hope of it ever appearing.  Until such time as it does however, there are a few biographies of Gene available, and this book by Clive Hirschhorn is widely regarded to be the best in its field.  It is certainly the first place I would direct anyone wanting to know more about Gene Kelly.

There is a mistake right at the beginning of the book however; Hirschhorn gives Gene’s date of birth as 3rd August, when it was in fact 23rd August.  This seems like such an easy thing to have checked that I cannot help but wonder if this was a typo that somehow escaped correction!  I feel obliged to mention it however, because anyone starting the book may wonder if it is going to be filled with other errors – happily, it isn’t.

The book gives a good account of Gene’s childhood, with his strict but happy family life, including the dance lessons which his mother insisted all of her five children take, and the dance school which Gene started, together with other members of his family.  It then describes his move to New York, where he found success on Broadway, and then his film career, starting in the early 40s, when he made his first film ‘For Me and My Gal’, starring opposite Judy Garland.

Overall, the description of Gene’s career is comprehensive, and mentions the high and low points of his career, which not only consisted of dancing, acting and singing, but also directing, producing and choreographing (yes, Gene Kelly was truly deserving of the description ‘multi-talented’).

The book also gives a detailed but respectful account of Gene’s personal life, including his first marriage to Betsy Blair with whom he had a daughter, Kerry, and which marriage ended in amicable divorce; and his second marriage to Jeanne Coyne, with whom he had a son and a daughter, Timothy and Bridget.  This marriage ended in tragedy, when Jeanne died of leukemia in 1973.

Gene himself was interviewed for this book, and there are many, many quotes from him, as well as people he worked with, and members of his family (predominantly Kerry).  The book is interesting, and well written; my interest was held throughout, and although I am a big fan of Gene Kelly, I found out a few things which were previously unknown to me.  Hirschhorn seems to have great respect for his subject, but is still able to be objective.  As well as the many films which Gene starred in, I also found the accounts of his work as a director to be very interesting (in particular, his work on the film Hello Dolly!, which must have been in difficult circumstances, considering that the two main stars, Barbra Streisand and Walter Matthau, could barely stand the sight of each other!)  I would have liked to have seen more about Gene’s involvement with liberal politics, and his business relationship with Stanley Donen (which unfortunately ended in a falling out, but while the two men worked together, they certainly produced some amazing films).

Overall, Gene Kelly comes over as I have always imagined him to be; determined, hard-working (in the extreme), a perfectionist, but a very kind, unfailingly honest man, with a strong sense of right and wrong, and a very deep love for his family.

Sadly, as this book was written in the 1970s, it does not cover any of the last 20 years of it’s subject’s life, which is a shame.  It is however, worth mentioning the lovely foreward, written by Gene’s friend Frank Sinatra.  It is a lovely start to the book, and a nice tribute to Gene Kelly. 

Overall, if you are interested in reading about Gene Kelly, or his work, I would certainly recommend this biography.

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Singin’ In The Rain is one of Hollywood’s best loved films.  The American Film Industry named it the Best Musical Film of all time.  They also listed it as the fifth best film of any genre of all time, and it came the top 20 films of both their lists of romantic movies, and comedy movies.  More importantly, it is loved by film fans all over the world, even almost 60 years after it was released.

This book tells the story of how the film was created, beginning right at the genesis of the project, when screenwriters Betty Comden and Adolph Green were asked to write a musical using MGMs back catalogue of Freed/Brown songs.  All they knew was that it was to be called ‘Singin’ In The Rain’; they had no guidance regarding what the storyline should be about.  The book describes the writing process, and then goes on to describe how all the main players in the cast came on board, providing short but detailed biographies of the main cast.

There are detailed descriptions of the various problems encountered by the cast and crew during filming, and also of the personal relationships between the people involved in the film.  It also gives details of how the dances were worked out, how the sets were created, and how the characters were developed.  (And finds time to debunk a few myths – for example, despite popular reports that milk was used instead of water for the title dance, this is not true.)

Finally the book describes the impact which the film had on the cast and crew, the critics, and the viewing public, and discusses its enduring appeal (giving details of life after the film for the main cast).

This book is jam-packed with details and facts, but it is all presented in a very readable and engaging style.  It’s clear that the authors love their subject (and indeed, who doesn’t?!), and have carried out exhaustive research for this book.

Above all, it is a fitting tribute to a wonderful film, and is definitely recommended for fans of the film, or anyone interested in how movies were made.  And I guarantee that when you’ve finished it, you will want to get the film out and watch it!

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Click here for my review of the 1952 film.

Click here for my review of the 2012 (started) West End Theatre production.

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