Musical Theatre

All posts tagged Musical Theatre

I’ve got a confession – I have never before last night seen either the film or a production of Carousel, although I had a fair idea of the synopsis and some of the staging in the current production at ENO, not to mention most of the songs. This lack of prior knowledge meant that I came to Carousel almost entirely free of preconceptions about the show.  Having said that, prior knowledge would have prepared me for the huge amount of dialogue in the show – modern musicals tend to have very little spoken word in them and I’d forgotten that older shows don’t just rely on the music to carry the show.  Indeed, it is the dialogue that is integral to the storyline here.

The role of Billy Bigelow is Alfie Boe’s third musical theatre role in short succession (but his first in a newly opened show, albeit in a short, five week run) and his first appearance at ENO for over six years.  Alfie is on stage for most of the show and copes effortlessly with the physicality of the role, particularly in the soliloquy, which involves singing whilst using the whole of the stage, ladders included.  As you might expect, Alfie’s glorious tenor voice is a delight; soaring vocals when necessary, tender and soft when the music requires, yet blending in perfectly on the ensemble numbers.  Alfie has recorded If I Loved You and if I’m honest, I’ve never really liked his version because I felt that despite the beautiful vocals, there was no emotion behind the words.  It is a totally different experience to hear Alfie sing the song in this production – the emotion, especially in the second act reprise, bursts out.  You are left in no doubt as to how Billy feels and that is down to the acting.

As mentioned earlier, Carousel is Alfie’s third musical theatre show in a short time but since both of those were on Broadway, this was my first opportunity to see Alfie in an acting role on stage.  I wasn’t disappointed.  The vocal demands are all in the first act and I felt Alfie relaxed into the role more as the show went on.  However, the characterisation of Billy was always totally believable and although there were moments when Alfie seemed almost awkward, I felt that was part of the character; Billy, as we understand from the opening dream sequence, is an awkward character who has not had the easiest start in life and it would be wrong, in my view, to have him portrayed as someone who is happy in own skin.  Anger is an emotion that is never far from Billy, always bubbling under the surface and Alfie plays this to perfection – he’s on a knife edge the whole time which lends an air of unpredictability that is central to both the character and the storyline.

Billy’s relationship with Julie Jordan is the the plot driver in Carousel and the role of Julie carries high expectations.  Katherine Jenkins makes her stage debut here and honestly, you wouldn’t know it. At no time did I feel I was watching an actress who had never performed in a stage musical before. In Katherine’s hands you felt that there was no other way for Julie to behave – of course she would run off with an unemployed carousel barker and inexorably start down the road of unhappiness.   The difficult relationship between the two lead roles is fully explored, with Billy going from the confident barker to an angry husband who resorts to domestic violence and Julie doing her best to save and reform him.  The violence is not shown on stage but much more powerfully, it is the constant belittling of Julie by Billy that remains with the audience and you understand just what compels women in Julie’s position to stay in such relationships.  Integral to this sensitive portrayal was the cracking chemistry between Alfie and Katherine which made the relationship believable.  Both were outstanding.

In addition, the whole cast and ENO chorus were sublime, with Alex Young as Carrie and Brenda Edwards as Nettie being in especially fine form.  Nicholas Lyndhurst’s role is tiny but pivotal to the plot and he displays his mastery of comic timing (Alfie also uses his natural gift for comic timing throughout) to devastating effect.  However, the laughter that greeted Lyndhurst perched on a ladder has possibly nothing to do with Carousel and everything to do with his previous incarnation as Rodney.  Rodgers and Hammerstein wrote some wonderful tunes for this show and the ENO orchestra make the most of them, beautifully conducted by David Charles Abell (yes from the 25th Les Mis concert).

Carousel is a show that I think will stay with me for a long time and not just because Alfie Boe stars.  Both he and Katherine Jenkins were outstanding but it is the overall story of redemption that sticks with you.   Does redemption mean that our earlier deeds are forgiven?  Perhaps yes, but not forgotten.  During the finale, having achieved his aim, there is nothing left for Billy but to disappear from the scene and it is entirely fitting that we are left with the happy ensemble.

Carousel is on at the London Coliseum until May 13 – tickets are available here and I urge you to go – you won’t regret it.

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It was with an intense feeling of anticipation that I embarked on the journey to Newcastle to see the first show of Alfie Boe’s UK Tour…and it’s safe to say that I was not disappointed!  Straight off, I’m going to say that although Sol3 Mio were great, I’m not going to mention them any further here – look out for further blogs.

Alfie, together with his band, started out with stripped down songs from Serenata – the way that Alfie has always wanted to play them.  Serenata Celeste was majestic and My Heart is Yours felt hugely emotional for both audience and Alfie.  Seamlessly moving into songs from La Passione (Parlami D’Amore Mariu), there was an audible sigh of anticipation from the audience when Alfie announced Caruso.  This turned out to be a humdinger of a number, especially when Alfie’s voice rose to a crescendo and the backdrop curtain fell to reveal the orchestra.  Very effective.

Musical theatre featured heavily on Alfie’s first two Decca albums and he returned to this repertoire last night.  Come What May, Wheels of a Dream and Being Alive were powerhouse performances and made an excellent intro to the Les Mis section and an outstanding rendition of Bring Him Home.  A standing ovation duly followed.  Leading into this, Richard Causon played a very effective Do You Hear the People Sing on accordion and got a fair portion of the audience singing along; this could have been encouraged more and perhaps will be in a bigger audience.

One of the most talked about parts of this tour was whether or not Alfie would sing any operatic arias – if you are a fan of his early albums you will be thrilled to find out that accompanied just by Richard Causon on piano, Alfie sang a medley of Recondita Armonia and Nessun Dorma which was simply outstanding.  Goosebumps time.  However, as wonderful as the sound was, the applause was slightly more muted than perhaps could have been expected due to the fact that we weren’t actually sure when Alfie had finished singing!  Recondita Armonia went straight into Nessun Dorma and so were half expecting that a third aria would follow.  A few of us were on the verge of standing up to applaud but weren’t sure and then of course the moment had gone.  Thanks Linda for sharing this:

At this point, I should probably mention that although Alfie’s stage patter was still there, there was much less talk as there was a whole lot of singing!

After a short break (at this point, it was most noticeable that it was the first show as there were a couple of lengthy pauses for set movements) Alfie and the band returned to the stage for Trust and Storyteller songs.  Bridge Over Troubled Water gave way to Trust and Keep Me in Your Heart...I confess to being a little hot and bothered over the “buttons on your blouse” moment… We then returned to where we started with more Serenata.  Chitarra Romana started us off and we then enjoyed Luna Malinconia, Mamma, Volare, Mambo Italiano and Buona Sera where the main performance ended.  We were encouraged to dance during this last part (only where our seats were) and Alfie had us all blowing kisses to him during Buona Sera, and yes, he did reciprocate.

The encore brought an acapella version of Danny Boy which showcased Alfie’s superb vocal abilities (and I don’t normally like this song) but I loved it last night.  The final song of the night was a fabulous Glory Glory Hallelujah from Trust – and Alfie sent us off in style.

Overall, all the fans I spoke to thought the show was absolutely amazing, Alfie at his best, something for everyone and quite possibly his best ever concert.  Writing this now, I am reliving it all over again and I definitely agree – Alfie was simply out of this world.  Having said that, it will be interesting to see how the show goes in Leeds on Friday when the teething difficulties with the staging etc. have been ironed out.

If you don’t have tickets, go and get them now – you won’t be disappointed!

I can’t believe you don’t have Serenata yet but if not, click on the image to order:

serenata

 

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The day has arrived!  Michael Boe and Sean Ashmore will shortly be entering the studio to record their new album of musical theatre songs and – as a special treat for you – we can now reveal the track listing exclusively, right here, on thoughtsofjustafan!

If you remember, Michael and Sean asked for readers to help pick the tracks and promised that the first person to pick a song that made the final cut would have that song dedicated to them – so congratulations to the ones that were chosen:

Not while I’m around – Sweeney Todd – dedicated to Pamela Eubanks
Every Single Day – Harmony  – dedicated to Maureen Goldsworthy
If Ever I would Leave You – Camelot –  dedicated to Beverley Eagle
If I loved you – Carousel – dedicated to Lilian Evans
Memory – Cats – dedicated to Cynthia Shepherd

Serenade – The Student Prince
Where or When – Babes in Arms
Not a Day Goes By – Merrily We Roll Along
Bui Doi – Miss Saigon

Stay tuned for the winner of the free CD  – this will be picked when the album is ready for release!

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michael and sean

Great news this week for all those Michael Boe and Sean Ashmore fans – a new album is in the works!  Following on from the success of their last album, A La Voix, available from North Star Opera (click here to buy), Michael and Sean are heading to the studio soon to record an album of musical theatre songs.

Now for the exciting bit!

Michael and Sean are keen to get suggestions for this new album, as yet untitled, and are running a competition to win a copy of the CD!  One suggestion will be picked at random.

To enter, do the following:

fill in the comment box below,

tweet your suggestion to @mashboe

post on facebook  (click here for the page)

As an added incentive, Michael and Sean will dedicate each song on the album to the first person to suggest it  – so get thinking!