Saturday, July 30, 2011

BOND Play with their new image

BOND's new image. Note the absence of Haylie Ecker, the addition of Elpseth Hanson (left) and how small Eos' waist is...
In 2004 bond released 'Explosive', a track that rocketed them to world wide fame, and then they disappeared. Emerging seven years later, with a new member, new image, new sound, and a new recording label, bond are attempting with a new Middle-Eastern themed album to win their way back into the music scene. While the 'Play' is mostly a disappointment, there are a few great moments, and seeing as it's a new album from bond it seems like it's worth the investment.

Highlights of the CD include 'Diablo', coined by Magnus Fiennes who wrote their previous hits including 'Shine' and 'Victory'. The piece is a flurry of staccato strings, tedious and spontaneous, with a dark flare - all being accompanied by a rapper who questions prejudice and the fairness of existence and an introduction to the vocals of Eos Charter. They provide a much needed intervention amongst the noise, and her dreamy vocals are hypnotic and entrancing. Cellist Gay-Yee Westerhoff also provides a surprisingly funky tune with the Gypsy influenced 'Beatroot', an energetic dance piece which will make toes tap. Fiennes also produces magic with 'Elysium', a whirlwind sci-fi piece which sounds like a fusion of the Doctor Who theme and Muse's 'Uprising', creating up uplifting ethereal and transportive piece which is nothing short of awesome.

Most of the album is comprised of covers of other material, but some of them are quite good. The Slumdog Millionaire theme tune is here in a glitzy dance version of 'Jai Ho' which has some sweeping moments thanks to the cello and viola chord progressions, and the Black Eyed Pea's 'Pump It' is also included, however it's one of the better numbers on the album as it's adrenaline pumping, catchy, and has a distinct flare of Eastern tonality. The rendition of Bittersweet Symphony under the title 'Last Time' is pleasant, but out of place with the theme of the album, and the piece is just a glorified, souped up version that pales in comparison to other innovative arrangements such as the cover by the Vitamin String Quartet.

'Summer' and 'Winter' are equally out of place, and are equally terrible as bond has started to employ the use of a very tinny/electric string noise which many of their competitors started using over the years. bond already covered segments of Vivaldi's Winter movement in their piece 'Viva!', which could pass as a dance floor anthem, but apparently that wasn't enough because they've covered it again here with 'Winter'. The effort is passable compared to 'Summer', but also comes across as tacky, being drenched in over 9000+ effects. 'Summer' is a bombastic rendition of the second movement of Summer, which clearly tries to emulate the success of Vanessa Mae's 'Storm' - it even has rain and thunder sound effects at the end - and it falls on its face since it's just the original piece, but it's presented as some techno porn with all kinds of effects detracting from the music. There is way too much going on in the backing, and combined with that grating electric string noise it's almost distressing to listen to. The two movements try to fuse the avant-garde with pop music for the masses, but it just ends up feeling contrived.

The rest of the new material is nice, but not especially memorable. 'West With The Night' starts off promisingly with a dark mood before unintentionally morphing into some kind of RPG battle boss music. It's loud and powerful, but not moving or special. 'Apasionada' is essentially a redux of bond's old 'Gypsy Rhapsody', but 'Road to Samarkand' is punchy and distinctly Arabic, with a nice focus on strings with the right amount of percussive instruments backing conjuring up images of the Middle Eastern deserts.

The new mix of 'Victory', that is included as some kind of vague reference to the quartet being re-born and celebrating their tenth anniversary, is a total step backwards. The backing and mixing of this piece sounds dull and lifeless, and topped with the tinny strings this produces a rendition which is totally inferior to the charming original, and is miles behind the dance mix which propelled bond into their initial fame. 

This CD serves as a sort of reboot for bond. 'Play' has too many covers, and most of their new repertoire is not really that memorable. There are a few great tracks that sound perfect amongst bond's greatest tunes, but there are a couple of shockers too, and overall this material is not really up to the standard that bond left behind seven years ago. I'd recommend giving it a listen to, but don't expect it to be as good as their work with 'Shine' and 'Born'.

BOND's new album 'Play', is available in stores and online in Mexico now. Asia and Europe release dates are on September 13th, USA to be announced.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Dead Puppet Society's 'The Harbinger'

The Old Man watches the Little Girl the whole time. Not nearly as uncomfortable as you'd think.
Dead Puppet Society have presented 'The Harbinger' at La Boite Indie over the last two weeks, and I'm delighted to say that it's been playing to sell-out audiences. Indie and low-budget productions are often shunted in Brisbane (but isn't all theatre?) so it's makes me feel good that people are getting behind and supporting these companies. 'The Harbinger' is simply charming - a delightful mise en scène feast of the senses to experience a melancholic story told through the innovative fusion of puppetry and animation.

The whole thing felt like a grown-ups fairytale, so I wasn't surprised when I read that Morton states he wanted to evoke a play that was partly a storybook. The play is centred around the life of an old bookseller living a ruined city in a post-apocalyptic like state. A little girl seeks refuge in his bookshop and they form a tentative and unlikely friendship, before they reminisce about happier times in the shelter of the books around them. There is something about the story that makes me want to think it's some kind of fable with a deeper meaning, but alas, I didn't have anyone to discuss it with.

The central focus, and highlight, of the show are the puppets. The stage is dominated by a large puppet, The Old Man, who is operated by three female actors (one of which looks suspiciously like Rosalind James). The women on stage operate and move the hands and head of this daunting figure, and although they flawlessly operate the figure, we never lose sight of them. I wish that they could have been better integrated into the story, rather than been ignored completely – could they have been the Old Man's daughters? Other refugees? A rat runs across the man, and he shows some emotion to it – could they have been other rats or vermin to represent how dilapidated the environment had become? In the grand scheme of things it doesn't really matter though, since we believe in the Old Man's stories, and by extension, we believe his character is real. Combined with the wonderful animation, the Old Man gets a fairly in-depth back-story, and considering he lives in a dump, we get the idea that he's pretty tired and sorrowful – so, we believe he's a real character. His character is just as realistic and believable as if there was a real actor on stage. In addition to the old man, there are also a few marionettes that are used throughout the show to re-enact stories, and they're just as entertaining to watch.

With the exception of a few sporadic lines from the soothing narrator, and a single distressing scream, the play is performed without any dialogue or noise coming from the performers. This approach was particularly innovative, although it was certainly a trial. I heard from a number of audience members that it was difficult to sit so long without hearing dialogue, and I admit I found it a little tedious, but overall it was fascinatingly different and quite admirable to get a mixed reaction from the crowd. All of the story is shown via animation, gestures, or movement.

The film and animation sequences in the show are superb, it's like being treated to a moving picture book. The esoteric and roughly drawn pictures are colourful and captivating, and are truly innovative in creating a story within a story. It's like watching living art in front of you which deepens your involvement and understanding in the story. There was only one point that could have been improved and that was a scene near the end, where the animation reverted to a sort of cartoon-ized rendering of the villain. It wasn't remotely foreboding or fearsome, and all he needed to complete the image was a monocle and a moustache to twirl, while cackling “I'll get you, my pretty!” to the little girl. It was jarring that a character suddenly received so much detail, and he looked like a pirate. Besides that one moment, the animation was very slick and it was always entertaining to watch.

The only aspect of the play that I actively disliked was the the score. The music was obnoxious and only tolerable, as it was perpetually in your face since there was no dialogue to take focus away from it. There was little differentiation between the sound, and most of the score is comprised of synths. There is some sense of appreciation for the marriage between the music and the set to begin with, but it's just unending, dull and repetitive - at times we could have done with some silence (which could have been just as, if not more effective). Generally most shows easily get away with not having great, memorable music, but usually it's not so bombastic that's it's distracting.

Settings and props are another particular highlight within the show. 'The Harbinger' takes place within a weathered and ravaged bookshop, which is perfectly presented and totally compliments the use of the . The ruined room emits an ancient elegance, and it is accompanied by small stacks of books and lose pages which are sprinkled across the stage. The lighting accentuates and compliments the set, with a scrim being used for projections and to wash the shade with the appropriate colours to intensify the emotions being portrayed on-stage. On a whole it looks intimate, charming and timeless - with this setting the play could be set 200 years in the past, or 100 years in the future.

'The Harbinger' is one of the best theatrical pieces I've seen this year. With its innovative fusion of puppetry and animation, with a gorgeous setting and an enchantingly macabre story, Dead Puppet Society have created a wonderful piece of work that everyone should go see- it's so under the radar and not at all mainstream, I'm sure hipsters everywhere are having fits of glee. Except the season has now sold out, so if you don't have tickets quel dommage. When it's re-staged somewhere and running for a long season, make sure you make the trip to see the show.

Tickets for all La Boite Indie are $25, and helps support local theatre communities). 'The Harbinger' presented by Dead Puppet Society and La Boite Indie runs until July 30th. Book by visiting La Boite's website or by calling (07) 3007 8600. Photos on this page by Al Caeiro for promotional purposes.

Recipe for Butterbeer

Our first attempt at Butterbeer.
"Butterbeer is the drink of choice for younger wizards. Harry is first presented with the beverage in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. Although House-elves can become intoxicated on Butterbeer, the amount of alcohol contained in Butterbeer has a negligible effect on Witches and Wizards. J.K. Rowling said in her interview to Bon Appétit magazine that she imagines it "to taste a little bit like less-sickly butterscotch." Butterbeer can be served cold or hot but either way it has a warming effect." - Wikipedia
There has lately been a big buzz for the recipe of Butterbeer, which is available to purchase from 'The Wizarding World of Harry Potter' theme park at Universal Orlando. Although we'd never tried the drink before, Anj, Rhed, Maddy and I set out to try and create a recipe of what we imagined Butterbeer would taste like. We think this recipe is a cracker, so I wanted to share it with the interwebz. It was very easy to make and it tasted perfect. We chose to make it warm and slightly alcoholic, but it can be made cold sans the alcohol.

What You Will Need:
  • Microwave
  • Blender
  • Spoons
  • Glasses

  • 1 Litre of vanilla ice-cream
  • 1 Litre of Cream Soda 
  • Bottle of Toffee Syrup
  • Bottle of Butterscotch Schnapps 
  1. Add ice-cream to a blender, and pour cream soda on top. Blend together until the ice-cream is well mixed into the soda and the mixture is consistent.
  2. Add the desired amount of toffee syrup into the blender with the mixture, and blend until it's mixed it. 
  3. Pour a small (or a lot, it's your choice) amount of the butterscotch schnapps into the glasses, and then add the mixture, making sure to leave a little space between the mixture and the top of the glass (as the foam will rise eventually).
  4. Microwave for one minute in the microwave on high heat. The foam will separate to the top and the drink will now be warm and ready to drink.
That's all there is to it. Although I highly recommend it, if you don't want it to be alcoholic you can leave out the schnapps and compensate with more toffee syrup, and probably some brown sugar. The beverage can also be served cold without the microwaving. Also, to make it more aesthetically pleasing, it could be worthwhile to add a few drops of orange food dye, which I'll be sure to try the second time I make it.

Anyway, I hope you enjoy the recipe as much as we did. It'd be good fun to drink Butterbeer, or the remaining schnapps, while playing The Harry Potter Drinking Game!

Looking pleased with our work!

The Harry Potter Drinking Game

Created by Rhed and Sam.
This game is recommended to be played with beer and other light drinks, because you will be drinking a lot during this game. For maximum entertainment, this game is best enjoyed with shots of your favourite spirits and liqueurs, although if you elect to use them rather than beer you'll be off your face within the first hour of the movie. You have been warned, and remember to drink responsibly, or at least with your friends.

Beverage of our choice: Butterbeer

If you are playing with BEER/LIGHT DRINKS - take one sip per step below unless otherwise stated.

If playing with SHOTS - divide the steps between the people playing the game, so that 1) you don't get drunk too quickly 2) you don't run out of booze so soon. * indicates that everyone must drink.

  1. Everytime someone utters the name 'Harry Potter'.
  2. When Ron speaks his trademark catchphrase of the movies. Eg: 'Wicked', 'bloody hell', and 'brilliant'.
  3. Anytime Hermione becomes angry, distressed, or irrationally concerned about something.
  4. *Anytime a character says 'Voldemort'.
  5. When any character casts 'Expelliarmus' at another character.
  6. Anytime an owl delivers post to Harry, Ron, or Hermione while at Hogwarts.
  7. When Snape makes an appearance out of nowhere, bringing 'bad' vibes.
  8. Anytime points are awarded/deducted to any house.
  9. Everytime an elder issues a stern warning or grave message.
  10. Hermione puts her hand up in class. Take an extra drink if she answers a question without being asked to.
  11. *When Dumbledore delivers enigmatic words of wisdom which may, or may not, impact on the plot.
  12. Someone insults another character with the comment 'Mudblood'.
  13. When the Weasley Twins finish each other's sentences. Take an extra drink if they finish speaking by speaking in unison.
  14. Anytime that Hagrid breaks down in tears.
  15. *Everytime Gryffindor score during a Quiddich match.
Everytime Harry reminds someone that his parents are dead. Eg: 'Voldemort killed my parents...', 'My parents are dead...', 'He killed my parents...' etc.

There it is, in all its glory. Enjoy!  

Friday, July 22, 2011

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 Soundtrack Review

The final Harry Potter soundtrack isn't anywhere near as good as the John William's material.
The 'Harry Potter' films will be heralded as canonical works of our generation, and since the franchise is adored by millions, it should be fitting that the finale of this series be given a phenomenal score. While I had high expectations, I think they were reasonable considering this was such a landmark movie event. Unfortunately Alexandre Desplat's score doesn't fit what I was expecting for the finale of the series, but even though the score is underwhelming compared to the original works of John Williams, having a huge number of generic battle moments and background noises, 'Harry Potter & Deathly Hallows Part 2' has some truly magical moments that compliment the film.

Some bits of this soundtrack are exquisite and compliment the movie impeccably. The score opens with the enigmatic and melancholic 'Lily's Theme', a gem on this album which highlights Desplat's esoteric approach to composing, in this case heard in the fusion of luscious strings with atmospheric drones to culminate in a beautifully bitter-sweet introduction - and a heartbreaking moment during its appearance in 'Snape's Demise'. 'Battlefield' immediately conjures up a vivid memory of the battle of Howgarts, and is one of the few engaging moments in the action where the music is powerful and imposing, managing to carry a discernible melody without drenching itself in so many generic techniques found through the album. 'Severus and Lily', the longest piece on the album, is a good representation of both Desplat and the series, led by a eerie clarinet over the top of the orchestra while beautifully utilising a solo piano and tubular bells, and it's followed by 'Harry's Sacrifice' which is short and sweet, moving and tragic. The best piece on the album is 'The Resurrection Stone', which is angelic and very mise-en-scène - the traits which made William's work so magical finally appear in Desplat's work, and the music is truly evocative and entrancing. I would say I liked the ending ('A New Beginning') but to be honest it's too brief and lacks the catharsis that you're looking for after hearing forty something minutes of battle scores.

Beyond those movements, the rest of the album is very generic. This is hardly Desplat's fault - the final episode in this saga is crammed full of action and high tension, and this is unfortunately reflected heavily in the music. Pieces such as 'Dragon Fight', 'Showdown', 'Underworld', 'Panic Inside Hogwarts' don't share a distinct motif, so while you'd never associate them with a Harry Potter score, it's also difficult to follow and truly enjoy any parts of the score with the exception of the interjections of William's original material. For the rest of the pieces, the album is very atmospheric. Songs like 'Gringots' and 'In the Chamber' don't really have much going for them or much going on. They're pleasant, full of incidental music with sporadic interjections of strings and pitched percussion, while other pieces just roll along without really doing anything except provide background noise ('The Grey Lady', 'The Diadem').

In the end, the best parts of the soundtrack are the brief reprises of the scores from the first two films by Williams, and Desplat's original themes are fairly forgettable and only few pieces are really engaging. The score is fitting and works well for what is happening on camera, but lacks the edge and memorability which made the previous (read: first three) scores so magical. This music is good and highly effective in the movie, but doesn't really stand that well on its own. I would never walk down the street listening to the majority of this album on my iPod, nor would I really care to recommend it to anyone beyond Harry Potter fans to purchase it. Besides that handful of pieces, I'd recommend you stick to the first three scores written by John Williams.

Originally posted on Amazon.

If You Don't Like Musicals, This Isn't Where to Start

'A New Musical' is still the tagline Wicked pops out every now and then.
It's ironic that the majority of the libretto in a musical based on the life of a poet is hilariously bad. On Wednesday I took Anj to see Doctor Zhivago as part of her 18th birthday present. The musical itself is flawlessly directed by Des McAnuff, and the result is a charming recreation of the moving times in Russia. Although the music is lacklustre, and some of the lyrics unforgivable, the design of the show are excellent and the piece is still a good piece of entertainment.

A few factors contributed to me checking out the show. I first heard about Zhivago when the show opened with little fanfare in Sydney during February this year, and I was intrigued to hear that the show would be re-opening and making its official debut in Australia. I admit my interest was hooked by the artwork - I'm a sucker for any esoteric visual design, especially those that involve eyes casting enigmatic gazes (Alegria, Zed). The cast of Anthony Warlow and Lucy Maunder is a great combination and it's always worthwhile to see Warlow in anything. Since Glee has revived an interest in musicals, I wanted to treat Anj to something special and different for her birthday, so off we went. Since it was a matinee on a Wednesday, I wasn't expecting to see many glamorously dressed people - as it turned out, we were the only 2 people (as fas as we could see) who were 'young'. Anj proclaimed in our check in that we were "representing the under 80s". It would be more accurate to say under 40s, but that would be the truth - the musical clearly isn't attracting the same audience that Wicked drew in, which is regrettable because the huge following Wicked got I was hoping would open people up to better musicals. Then again, Brisbane never manages to get the audiences that the cultural capitals do. If you don't like musicals, or you're not sure about them, then this certainly isn't the piece to show up to and hope to enjoy.

On a whole, the musical is charming, and very effectively conjures up a nostalgic atmosphere through the transcendence of time of the political advances in Russia. Although I knew the musical was based off the very famous novel by Boris Pasternak, I haven't had a chance to read the book yet, and I decided I would watch the musical without reading a synopsis to see how well the plot is explained. [Spoilers until paragraph ends] The plot centres around the work of a doctor called Yurii Zhivago, who enters the service of the army during the first world war. There, he is the only doctor working until he is joined by the lovely Lara, and they both slowly fall in love. At the end of the war, Zhivago returns to his wife Tonia to find that Marxism and communism has spread to Moscow, and they have lost their position in society. Persecuted by the communists who discourage his science, Zhivago and his family move to a rustic village in the country. He is then taken into the communist army again, and eventually meets up with Lara after Tonia flees to Paris. From there, Zhivago and Lara live together briefly, before Zhivago sends Lara to escape Russia and he dies healing the sick back in Moscow.

Lara (Lucy Maunder) and Zhivago (Anthony Warlow) perform the ballad 'Now'. Just look at that hair line.
The cast sing perfectly well, all with a level of professionalism that balances and upholds the perfect equilibrium required in musical theatre of not compromising the vocals with the acting. None of them drench their voices with vibrato and they all can control their voices very well (unlike some actors at Wicked). I had the pleasure of hearing both Anthony Warlow and Lucy Maunder last year at the Sydney Opera House in a cracking performance of 'A Little Night Music'. Warlow, playing the titular role, needs no introduction, as he is one of Australia's best male singers, easily transitioning between baritone to tenor with a wonderful texture to his voice. Maunder's soprano range is phenomenal, portraying her character of Lara with a voice that is strong and clear, but with the ability to sound beautifully delicate in the tender moments of the score (read: non ensemble numbers). Both leading figures are wonderful actors also, and they are joined by Taneel Van Zyl who plays Tonia, Peter Carroll playing Alex, Trisha Noble as Anna, Bartholomew John as Kamarovsky, and Martin Crewes playing the antagonist (?) of Pasha. They're joined by a wonderful ensemble who are really well utilised, and when they're required on stage they swarm on it and the energy they put in is admirable. The cast sing perfectly well, all with a level of professionalism that balances and upholds the perfect equilibrium required in musical theatre of not compromising the vocals with the acting. None of them drench their voices with vibrato and they all can control their voices very well.

The downfall of this show is the score - which seems inconceivable. A musical where the only bad aspect is the music? I can count the number of female composers I know of on one hand (yes, I know there are many more female composers than 5, but the average person can't even give me one name). Lucy Simons joins the ranks of female composers along side Elena Kats-Chernin, Violaine Corradi and Kumi Tanioka, and unlike her predecessors, her score for Doctor Zhivago is pretty uneven. On a whole, the music is lovely but very pedestrian. The score seems to aim to fuse traditional Russian musical roots with the sounds of a fairytale or lullaby. The sound is distinctive, a strongly orchestrated score which evokes the patriotism and idiosyncrasies of Russia which is, sometimes imposing, but always nostalgic and regal. There are some really lovely moments, such as Zhivago and Lara's tender moment during 'Now', and the gorgeous melody and flawless cast work of 'In This House', which closes Act One. I remember liking the opening of Act Two but clearly it was quite forgettable, and likewise I remember the excellent use of harmonies and five (!) part performance during 'Love Finds You'. I remember liking 'It Comes As No Surprise', which is a duet between Zhivago's two women and is very pretty, but inexcusably tries to get away with rhyming 'wife' with 'surprise'.

Unlike modern marvels such as Passion or Parade, the lyrics are corny and are quite pandering. Michael Korie and Amy Powers work together to write the libretto, and I get the feeling that one is better than the other. If I had to sum up my initial feelings on the lyrics, I'd say they're generic, uninspired and predictable. I recall some of them being okay, others passable, but mostly they're boring and muddy. The common clichés such as rhyming 'die' with 'eye', and 'you' with 'do' are cringe worthy, but the other material we end up with are throwaway lines that aren't really interesting or stimulating. Without such an important element, the songs in the show can't take you past a shallow and generic emotional journey.

The best song of the show, but I can't remember how it goes. 'In This House'
The main problem with the score is that there seems to be no differentiation between the style or instrumentation of the songs. I can appreciate the difficulty to break away from this style, because the show is a romantic epic, but every song is just about painful love. Solos that are performed are slow, luscious, moving ballads - but they're ALL sung in that fashion, and they all sound too similar. Look at a score like Sweeney Todd - 'Green Finch and Linett Bird' is sung by a soprano covering several octaves of her voice while she is accompanied by sweeping strings and pitched percussion to emulate the sound of birds, before it segues seamlessly into a tenor reprising an earlier tune while introducing 'Ah, Miss!', which leads up to re-introducing the soprano's tune and the two intertwine. Although Simon composes pretty material, the brilliance of composition is absent here, and that's because the instrumentation between the songs never changes or challenges the audience - there are always strings, some kind of bass drum, a soft piano, etc. The other two moulds encountered in the show are pretty ensemble numbers and loud ensemble numbers. The ensemble numbers are usually the faster paced material, but even then the music fails to ignite any real energy despite the cast being on fire. Sitting here right now, I can't recall any of the music with the exception of 'Now', which is available to listen to for free on the website. It's not at all bad music, but in summary it's not all that inspired or ground-breaking, catchy or memorable. I think it would be very beneficial for audiences to listen to the score and familiarise yourself with the material before you attend, but as I understand it the plans to record the score have been terminated... probably not that surprising, but worse scores have made it to print and it's a shame that the talent of the Australian cast won't be captured.

The technical aspects of this production are simply a marvel, and the creative team working on the show have an impressive range of relatively newcomers to life-long veterans - it's the best result you could get when designing a show. McAnuff has managed to retain the interest of the audience without the music by carefully balancing the other elements together. Unlike the clumsy lyrics, Michael Weller's book has some thought provoking moments and some excellent lines (one sticking in my head is when Lara laughs hollowly and says "Innocent love? I'd like to know what that feels like"). The show is centred in Michael Scott-Mitchell's sporadically furnished set, evoking a feeling of oppressiveness with a floor paten that is characterised by slanting and angular designs to manipulate the view of the set. Working in excellent conjunction, Damien Cooper's soft and evocative lighting perfectly compliments the time and set and some of the best moments of the show involve beautiful little snow flakes flashing and twinkling on stage. Teresa Negroponte's work on costumes perfectly capture the era, and Kelly Devine's choreography is very prim and proper when its utilised. The team working on sound include include the fabulous prolific Eric Stern and Danny Troob working together on arrangements and orchestrations - I remember thinking that some moments of the score sounded like a Disney fairytale, so it was no surprise when I saw that Troob wrote and conducted music for many Disney related projects. Kellie Dickerson, Ben van Tienen and Michael Waters all function perfectly in utilising the sound design and the direction of the music, and there wasn't a moment where you couldn't hear anything. Overall, I'm thrilled with the team and presentation of this musical.

The Opening of the show - I'd have a real description but I can't remember what happened here.
So on a whole, I'd give Doctor Zhivago a 3 out of 10 5. A musical without great music and with sloppy lyrics seems to be beyond repair but all the other set design elements are impeccable. Led by two fantastic singers, and backed with a wonderfully talented cast, Zhivago definitely provides entertainment. If you want to preview the show before it toddles off overseas to try and win some awards, and you enjoy musicals, definitely check it out, at the very least to sound cultured at parties or to view the always wonderful Anthony Warlow. If you don't like musicals, just forget it, you'll want to die.

Tickets for 'Doctor Zhivago ' range from $59.90 to $140.90 (plus a $5 booking fee, so make sure you get them to send the tickets to you so that it covers the postage cost), and is showing until July 31st. Book by visiting Doctor Zhivago Official Website or by calling (07) 136 246.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Saltimbanco in Brisbane

I have no idea why he's in the artwork.
On Friday (8/7/11) I took Rhed along to see Saltimbanco at the Brisbane Entertainment Centre. Seeing as Cirque du Soleil only tours here every other year, and I'd already seen Saltimbanco last year in Germany, it was a little disappointing that they were sending us Saltimbanco again. It toured the Asia Pacific area back in 1999, and although it's being doted as the show that started Australia's love of Cirque, it's not even touring in the tent this year. Still, we're not America - we don't have five troupes trotting over the continent at once, so I'll take whatever Cirque I can get. I was glad to take Rhed to see a real show though, and of course, it did not disappoint.  

Saltimbanco is a feast of entertainment. Clearly there wasn't enough colour in the '80s, because the show was concieved by master director Franco Dragone as an antidote to the ridiculous doom and gloom of that the '90s were bringing us.  Saltimbanco is bursting with colour and brimming with excitement. While I think the colours of the show are starting to look out of date, the charm of the show is still felt since you are fully hooked when you sit down to watch the show. Likewise, the music is drenched with synthesisers (as is Dupéré's signature on his music) but it's not quite out of date since the vibrant band rock the fuck out on stage like it's no one's business, and at their helm was the ferocious, firey and powerful BEAST that is Nicola Dawn, who rips through the music with so much passion that makes your skin crawl. The BCE is an okay venue - Rhed and I were sitting a lot closer than I expected, so with a large focus on the stage I managed to mostly forget... but I couldn't fully forget that we weren't sitting in the signature magical Cirque du Soleil tent, we were indeed in an arena.

The Saltimbanco Arena Cast (2008).
Anyway, all that aside, Saltimbanco has a (mostly) great first act. The opening is a little underwhelming but the music is beautiful and the lead into the Adagio Trio is indeed charming. I was glad to see the act because I missed it in Bremen, although it was slightly lacklustre because if you're not sitting in the audience, you don't get much of a view of what they're doing. The act was followed by the Chinese Poles, which was excellent. The booming bass and imposing strings get the boil pumping and people are ridiculously strong - it was one of my favourite acts of the night. Martin Pons' portrayal of Edi was really annoying in the first act. There were just too many juvenile jokes crammed in with a scenario where he drowns in a toilet, which I guiltily admitted was the most satisfying part of his act. He picks up in the next act though, and I can forgive him as we're not in the intimate space of a Chapiteau, we're in a huge arena. The next was the Artistic Bicycle - let me tell you right now, there is nothing artistic about it. I didn't enjoy it in Bremen, and I didn't enjoy it in Brisbane, it's just stupid. Since it was the opening night we had the pleasure of seeing the Handbalancing on Canes, which was performed by the screamingly flexible Ariunsanaa Bataa. I was literally seething with pain, emitting guttural noises out of my mouth, since she was performing the most extreme and painful looking contortion I'd ever seen in my life. She actually clamps her teeth on a stand and it looks like she's going to snap her body in half. Fucking bow down to the queen of contortion! The act was followed by juggling who dropped it a few times, my opinion on the act was exactly the same as Bremen, but he's very skilled and it was a crowd pleaser.
"Hey Nicola, can I have a high five?" "Sure LOL jk/s PSYCH!"
Act One should end there, because Boleadoras is the worst act in the world. I'd rather watch QTC's production of King Lear again than watch that 11 minute fiasco. You think it's almost finished at 6 minutes, but I rolled over to Rhed and said "BUT THERE'S MORE!!".  I'm honestly not sure why it's in the show, but Rhed pointed out it would be excellent if you were tripping out on the shrooms.
That's pretty much the whole act.
Act Two opens with Cirque's grooviest music, and the artists swarm on stage in a symphony of colours to perform the Russian Swing. The artists were having a great time, there were gasps of astonishment and admiration from the audience, and I was just smiling the whole time. Segue into my favourite act of the night, the ladies who fly with ease from the flying trapeze. Accompanied by the chilling and powerful score, they bend through the air, tossing and catching each other with their feet. A chorus of squeals came from the girls sitting behind us as the artists remove the safety padding from the stage.   Edi joins the stage but it wasn't painfuil this time - his skits involving the audience member were electric and everyone around me was laughing (including the angry couple sitting next to me). The interactions with the lovely James Clowney (who I also saw in Bremen) were really funny, and while we're on the subject of actors, Gerard Theoret who has just stepped in this year as The Baron was magical (his Rideau was perfection). Hand to Hand has music that is dreadfully dull (although somehow better than the Artistic Bicycle), and although artistically and aesthetically inferior to both Zed and Quidam, the act is undoubtedly impressive with the physical moves of the two unusually muscled men who are clad in tight green overalls. The closing act is one of impeccable beauty, with Nicola performing an aria while the Bungees glide up and down like angels while their elaborate movements are symmetrically mirrored or performed in a sequence with the other artists. The second act just eclipsed the first one, and was the most fun I've ever had at a Cirque du Soleil production.
Come and see Saltimbanco - my nose and I will be waiting for you.
Seeing as the ticket price has bled me dry I can't afford to go again (and catch the new singer, Charlie Jones, who's from NSW), but if I did have the cash I would. Saltimbanco is a wonderful Cirque du Soleil production, with amazing acrobatics, mostly excellent music, and wonderful performers. Although it's not shown in its grandeur in the Grand Chapiteau, it's a classic Cirque du Soleil show that doesn't try and put eggs on stage and call it art. Which is what Australia will be watching exactly one year from now, so expose yourself to the good shows while you've got a chance.

Tickets for Cirque du Soleil's 'Saltimbanco' range from $79-$325, and is showing until July 17th. Book by visiting Ticketek or by calling (07) 3265 8447. Children under 2 are admitted free, but if you bring a baby into a show and it starts crying people will hurt you. That's why God invented McDonalds.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

(Mostly) Gone With The Wind Comments

I really want to write an Asian Rock Opera do. I just, really do. Based on The Orphan of Zhao. I've even got a couple of melodies written, if only I had better equipment to create mock-up tracks. It'd be badass, I promise. Also, if you're reading this via twitter, you can always subscribe via twitter, so I look like I have more readers... you know who you are.

I saw 'Gone With The Wind' with Anj yesterday. Fuck me, that was absolutely the longest movie I've ever seen. And it was all over the place. I was sitting in the chair, and I just knew that 70 years ago when this came out, it must have been such a thrill. It's an absolute epic - the discourses of romance, death, patriotism, all set in the time of the war of the Confederate States. The film is hands down the most romantic and tragic thing I've ever seen in my life, tragedy after tragedy, with the 'heroine' having it all, losing it, building it up again, and then throwing it all away before she realises that was what she finally wanted. It seems appropriate to write some comments on it, since most people who read this blog probably haven't seen it.

For a film that has made a total of almost $3 billion, you'd pop it into the DVD with some high expectations. The stunning Vivien Leigh played the role of Scarlet O'Hara, a woman whose heart is cold as ice and is as calculating and scheming as a... snake? [I'm not sure why I'm bothering to come up with these glamorous adjectives and similes for this since it's so informal]. Clark Gable plays the charming and suave Rhett Butler, who keeps our sanity and connection to Scarlet throughout the film. The two of course have marvellous chemistry, but you spend most of the film disapproving of Scarlet's gold digging escapades, and feeling sorry for the lovely Melanie Hamilton (played by the ravishing Olivia de Havilland), Scarlet's best friend who she continuously undermines, mistreats, and takes advantage of her while scheming to steal her husband Ashley (Leslie Howard). They're joined by a cast of hundreds, but the best character is the strong independent black woman (just kidding, she's actually a servant, but she may as well be a beaaaast), a ferocious beast called Mammy (played by Hattie McDaniel). She's the secondary voice to keeping Scarlet's head out of the clouds, and she manages to transform her blasé stereotypical role during a time of much racism and hatred towards her race and becomes a personification of the human spirit on screen.
Like a boss.
I was going to write more about the annoying kid that disobeys her parents and decapitates (read: falls off) herself from her horse, but I think I can summarise it by saying "Kids, do what your parents tell you to or you will die". There was also this bat-shit craaaazy bitch called 'Prissy' who walked around wailing in the most unbearable tone that I moaned in pain whenever she walked on stage.

Anyway, the representation of the glory of the Confederate States was wonderful and the grandeur of the time was fully captured in the picture. It's a beautiful, wonderful film that I recommend you sit down and watch with someone you're close to. I honestly don't think I could have handled it on my own, but having Anj there we were able to laugh at some of the dated acting, the genuinely funny bits, and at ourselves watching this mammoth piece. There are so many beautiful and inspirational moments in this film - when Scarlet stands up in the field and cries "As God is my witness, I'll never be hungry again!" I got goosebumps (and now, just thinking about it) and of course, we have the infamous, tragic, but very deserving "Frankly my dear, I don't give a damn" from Rhett at the film's closing. I'm really proud to say I made the effort to watch it!
Probably what you though about this entire blog post.

of the review 

In other news:
This bitch got away with killing her child:
What a reddd necckkkkk
For those of you who aren't familiar with the story, this is from 'Know Your Meme' database:
"Caylee Marie Anthony was born on August 9, 2005. She was last seen by her grandfather, George Anthony, on June 16, 2008. He said that he saw Caylee with her mother, Casey. Casey Anthony reported her missing on July 15, 2008, saying that she hadn’t seen her daughter for 31 days. She initially claimed that she left Caylee with her nanny, Zenaida Fernandez-Gonzalez, and that when she went back to the apartment, Fernandez-Gonzalez was nowhere to be found, and the phone was out of service.

She later changed her story, claiming that Fernandez-Gonzalez and her sister kidnapped Caylee, and told her to tell authorities a false story, in exchange for Caylee’s safety. According to Wikipedia, her remains were not found till 6 months after her disappearance when her grandmother, Cindy Anthony, reported that she was missing.
She was found not guilty today and celebrated with the photo above. Amusing. So... pretty much...
The world is thinking that.
To sum up, Mum and Dad are going away for 6 months on Sunday, which terrifies me greatly. However, this time I pretty much got promoted to the head of the household over that time, since I'm in charge of shopping (read: we will eat good food and use soap that cost more than $1).

I'm going to see Saltimbanco with Rhed tomorrow so I'll post my first coherant review of a show in months. I'm disappointed that I had to cancel my reservation to see Colder - I just kept pushing it back and now it's come to it the only night I could go was tonight, and I had to stay at home and transform into the boss, so I didn't end up going. I'm disappointed, the cast and storyline looked to be really top notch, and independent theatre really needs to be seen. If you are interested in checking out Colder, you can book tickets at La Boite's Website.

I FINALLY DID SOME WORK ON THE BOOK. Jeez, about time, it's the whole reason I started this blog anyway. The two tasks were to write messily on one page, and the other was to look at the dots on the page, then close my eyes and connect them via memory. So let's see how I went.
Calcifer is sitting on the fridge... what musical is this song from, everyone?
When I started this I actually thought "HOW HARD COULD THIS BE LOL?". Touché, myself.
That's about all for tonight. Goodbye until tomorrow...