Monday, April 30, 2012

Not Famous Yet

Somewhat predictably, I'm not famous yet.

This didn't come as a surprise - I was aware of this for some time. It's not totally me fault either, since Sam Boyd is a pretty common name. What was fairly fairly entertaining were the events the lead up to me discovering just how un-famous I am on the internet.

Thomas and Sarah (Sherlock) Boyd. I'm so not famous that
they even came up before me (Source: Roots.web)
This situation became pretty apparent to me on Thursday, when I was running into people all over university. I'd turn a corner and BAM up would pop up another loveable personality I was glad to have as a friend. After I'd assembled a small entourage, we were congregating outside Beadles 'cafe' when this red haired guy came walking in the vicinity of us. I felt as if I'd run into him a thousand times passing by, since I'd seen him at my club, just below my window World Theatre Festival, FAST, Vena Cava shows, and I'd most recently seen him the week before at Room 60 at a talk.

I felt like I knew EVERYONE that day, so it was good day to make friends - I glanced at him, made eye-contact, and I then I yodelled "HEY YOU, COME OVER HERE. NOW." I wonder if that was daunting, but since we're all part of the same, incestral drama family, it was probably a perfectly legitimate way of establishing contact. He came over and I screamed some more things like "WHO ARE YOU??" and "HOW DO YOU DO?!" before I found out his name was Nathan, and he said he worked on Underground, so that was probably how I knew him. I told him that I did not manage to see Underground since it was sold out, but made an alternative, long, irritating list of everywhere I'd seen him. He laughed and shook my hand. What a nice chap. Newly acquainted, I blessed him with a "Godspeed" and then we parted ways.

"The best Sam Boyd ever" - Everyone ever on the internet
(Source: UNLV)
I realised about an hour later that I didn't know his last name (over that hour I had ran into him twice again), so I looked up 'Nathan' and 'Underground' online and the illusion was finally shattered and I found his last name and I finally put a face to the name. I thought it was pretty cool (and a bit scary) that you can find so many people on Google, so I thought it might be fun to look up my own name. I tried my Dad too, and he popped up with his QUT website as the first result, and also got mentioned in book dedications and thanks before anyone remotely tried to masquerade as him (some country singer has the same name). Unlike  Dad, I haven't really done anything in life, so I knew this already wasn't going to end well since a while back Jeff alerted me there was a 'Sam Boyd' stadium in Nevada. Nevertheless, I typed my name "Samuel Boyd" into the Google machine, and braced for the worst.

Google suggested I change the term "Samuel Boyd obituary" to garner more results.

The #1 result for Samuel Boyd isn't a cracking picture of me, but instead is a rather brief and incomplete (and strangely formatted) Wikipedia entry on Samuel Leonard Boyd, an infamous Australian (!) serial killer who bashed several children and women to death in the early 80s. While that sounds like something I'm capable of, I can't say that it's something I'd ever do or that it was someone that sounded particularly like me, seeing as I wasn't alive in the 80s. The next result is Sam Boyd of the Sam Boyd Stadium/Boyd Gaming Empire. The next few were some obituaries about some boring Sam Boyds who lived in Virgina, a real estate agent, and then it got onto the names where Sam wasn't even the first name, just included for the fun of stealing my thunder (like Augusto Sam Boyd, or Jerald Samuel Boyd).

"Angry Sam Boyd Eating Watermelon in 2002"
(Source: Sam Boyd Fans). This guy actually
look like Tom Noble . . .
The best result was a blogspot called 'Sam Boyd Fans', an extensive fan site of the figure which spans back as early as 2005. It houses many novelties, such as a bunch of fun pop quizzes, such as "What is Sam Boyd's middle name?" and "What would Sam Boyd think of this photo?", in addition to various theories of what Sam Boyd would look like in various outfits or at stages of his life, and there were several thrilling sightings:
"After more than two years, I found him. He was wandering about a little used bookstore in Hyde Park looking for a book to read. I don't think he reads enough. I talked him into letting me sleep on his living room floor and then we went to breakfast the next day where we both partook of a delicious breakfast. I'm probably not supposed to reveal this, but I will anyway. Sam is being courted by an elite producer in Hollywood. I can't say his name, but let's just say it rhymes with Dom Banks. He (or she) wants to purchase the rights to Sam Boyd's life story. 95% of the film will take place in the corner of a library and Danny Boyle is set to produce." (Source: Sam Boyd Fans)
God, I wish my life was as interesting as that. Anyone have any thoughts on who the producer might be?

I finally popped up on Page 7, with a link to my World Theatre Festival blog, except it linked to a dead page when the blogs had been pulled down for being too honest, so all that was on the page was some text that said "Blog posts . . . coming soon!". Hopefully the amount of times that I've written 'Sam Boyd' on this page will help boost me to the top, but I'm doubtful. That's how famous I am; not famous yet.


  • You can also like Sam Boyd on Facebook.
  • I actually appear on the first page of Google Images, since I wrote the music to Of Little Matter. This is me:

Friday, April 13, 2012

Attending the tale of Sweeney Todd

I enjoy the irony that after dedicating almost 400 hours to Sweeney Todd, I was originally going to skip my audition. Tonight is our closing night and the last of 16 performances which have been seen by (what I guess) a few thousand people. I thought I probably should record some thoughts since this is my first musical in a community and I don't think I've ever been so emotionally invested and attached to the content and the people involved.

Me and John!
In terms of musical genius in the realms of Broadway, Sondheim's Sweeney Todd is simply unrivaled. Its lavish score is replete with superb arias littered with complex rhythmic passages and exquisite lyrical content that explores the gamut of human emotions while simultaneously captivating its audience through progression of the storyline. Amongst the luscious and generous orchestration, Sondheim utilises a cinematic approach with motifs and themes that correspond to and enhance the plot and the characters, ensuring that each song adds extra facets and dimensions to the plot and that none of the pieces are superfluous.

The sheer grandeur of the score can be identified in practically every song in the show - a few highlights include the mesmerising and hypnotic beauty of 'Johanna', the vivacious and delightful rendezvous of 'A Little Priest', and the melancholic disenfranchisement of 'Green Finch and Linnet Bird'. My two favourite pieces are the quartet arrangement of 'Kiss Me!', a fleeting and inherently romantic piece which holds Sondheim's best of harmony and counterpoint galore with beautifully sweeping instrumentation, and 'City on Fire!'. 'City on Fire' literally takes off and explodes, boasting cascading phrases of violent imagery with obscene hyperboles and metaphors to conjure an intense, visceral nightmare. After all this time I've not grown tired of the score, it's still something that enjoy and am fascinated with.

Members of Ignatians Musical Society have been rehearsing for Sweeney Todd since the 1st of December last year. Since Sweeney Todd is my favourite musical I promised myself if it was ever staged I would try my best to be involved, so I booked an audition a few weeks before at the suggestion of a friend. On the day I actually considered not going (I was reluctant since I was worried about the commitment), but at the last minute I caught the train and turned up to the audition, where I still hadn't picked my two audition songs. On the way into the room I finally decided on 'This is Not Over Yet' (from Parade) and 'Quidam' (from Quidam). We also had to learn a movement number at the audition and it was pretty scary since I'm not very coordinated and the prospect that we had to move like ballet dancers was daunting and made me want to drop out. In the end I got a callback to audition for the role of Tobias, and at the callback I was eventually (I think just because I happened to be there) offered a role in the ensemble which I accepted straight away since the main reason I auditioned was so I could sing 'City on Fire!'.

Sam and Sam!
'City on Fire!' is my favourite song to perform (I also get to sing my favourite line "The engine roared, the motor hissed"), but I'm also extremely lucky to be one of the only 5 people in the show who get to be killed on Sweeney's chair. I manage to die spectacularly each night thanks to a bunch of maple syrup dyed red and some fancy tricks which usually gets a reaction from the audience (thanks to the Makeup Wizards!). I really respect our director John Peek, because it feels he managed to get everyone some moments in the show where they shine.

The cast and crew involve some of the best quality people I've ever met in my life. They're a really fun, talented bunch and I feel cheated that I didn't know some of them sooner. What I'm really thankful for is that there are so many supremely talented people who don't need to be featured in a leading role and are happy to be featured in an ensemble. That said, we have a bunch of phenomenal leads that I'm really thrilled with the performance of. The cast execute their performance in a manner that is on par with professional productions and it was a fantastic opportunity to play which enjoying the practical experience of performing. Lots of good times happened in the theatre and out. One of my favourite memories in the whole process was when Sam was driving a few of us to the station and when we stopped at some lights we noticed Miranda was in the car next to us, so Sam signaled to Miranda to wind down the window, and we started shouting the lyrics from 'City on Fire!' at her. It was just awesome. I could probably go on for a while, but for the sake of maintaining reader interest (dubious already) so I'll just leave it there.

That seems a little over the place but the show is nearing the end now and I will be very sad to see it go - it's been a huge part of my life so far this year (and a great excuse to avoid seeing people) and I am going to miss some people so much it will probably ache. I'm going to stand offstage and watch from the wings for as much as I can tonight to see the show one last time. But I will cherish the memories, and the score of Sweeney Todd has become even more special.
Earth Hour in Sweeneyland!

Monday, April 2, 2012

An Unremarkable Adaptation of Sweeney Todd

There is nothing I recommend about this album (Source:
Clearly the 2012 London adaptation of Sweeney Todd needs to be lived to appreciate the genius, because the acclaim and rave reviews it's received definitely hasn't transferred on to this cast recording. I am fairly confident that without the presence of Michael Ball and Imelda Staunton this production would have never received a recording.

While I adore Sweeney Todd (it is by far my favourite musical), I don't care for this recording at all. It's utterly bizarre since it has exactly the same material as the Original Broadway Cast recording highlights – the difference between the two being that the Original Broadway Cast has a better cast, better orchestrations and better mixing. I don't know why this version even exists.

There are no cast members that are particularly noteworthy in their roles. The majority of the principals are vocally dull, boasting a serious flaw or undesirable trait on every character - there's a demasculinised Anthony by Luke Brady, an insufferably whiny Johanna from Lucy May-Barker and innocuous portrayal of Tobias from James McConville. There's no trace of Robert Burt's Pirelli and the portrayals of the main antagonists Judge Turpin and Beadle Bamford, played by John Bowe and Peter Polycarpou respectively, lack the authority and menace that the roles demand. Gillian Kirkpatrick is almost tolerable until she croaks out some egregiously guttural cries on her upper register.

In comparison to previous actors who have filled their roles, both of the leads are lacking in their portrayals. Imelda Staunton is an incredibly versatile actor and I have no doubt her portrayal of Mrs. Lovett on stage in stunning, but despite her colourful delivery of the libretto there is no escaping that this is a music recording and her voice leaves a lot to be desired. As for Michael Ball as Sweeney, it's fine, but nothing special and certainly nowhere near the best. There is a sense of distance in his portrayal since his timbre doesn't seem to be suitable in the role, and he also has this inconsistency of switching between accents mid-sentence. His vibrato is in its ridiculous full-throttle here ('Final Scene' is an utter debacle, with him throwing vibrato on every line: “Youuhhhh knewhhhh myhhhh Lucyyhhhhh livedhhhhhhhhh”). Ultimately every principal pales in comparison to every other recorded performer that preceded them in their respective roles, and I don't particularly care to hear any of them again.

This recording offers nothing in terms of being a remarkable, unique take on Sweeney apart from transforming the vivacious score into something unremarkable. The original Broadway cast recording maintains its pedestal for the best performance of Sweeney with the best cast and most complete score, the 2000 live cast was a celebration and collaboration of Broadway stars and a symphonic orchestra, the 2005 revival recording is a fascinating adaptation of a small ensemble performing both instrumentally and vocally, and the 2007 movie soundtrack acts as the necessary companion to the film with luscious orchestrations. This is just a scaled down version of the original and doesn't offer anything new. The mixing is lifeless but the orchestration is okay, with the exception of this new trend of having woodwinds simultaneously playing the melody. I just want to tear my hair out that this 2012 cast recording exists when the incredible 2011 Théâtre du Châtelet Cast, superior in every aspect (which until very recently, was free to download from the Radio France Musique website), will fade into oblivion.

This whole endeavor was pointless - the only immediate use of this recording could serve as would be a tool to listen to so that when you return to any other Sweeney Todd recording the experience is glorified in comparison. If you were planning on buying this recording, don't. Only approach if you're a fan of Micheal Ball or Imelda Staunton, and possibly if you're an avid Sondheim collector. But I wouldn't even recommend this to devoted fans of Sweeney Todd. As far as I'm concerned, any recording of Sweeney Todd that doesn't contain 'City on Fire' isn't real.