TV Review: The Undoing

Nicole Kidman and Hugh Grant may have been the headliners but the real star of The Undoing was Noma Dumezweni saying the word ‘muck’

“People hire me to create muck”

Created by David E Kelley and directed by Susanne Bier for HBO Max, The Undoing was sold on its prestige merits but in the end, proved to be watchable hokum. And heaven knows in these times, that was what we kinda needed. Traditional scheduling of one episode a week heightened the buzz with some good old-fashioning theorising going on between episodes and if it didn’t quite live up to expectations in the end, well we’ve only ourselves to blame.

Set up as a whodunnit in the higher echelons of Manhattan society, we followed Nicole Kidman’s Grace and Hugh Grant’s Jonathan as their gilded lives are torn asunder when he is arrested for the murder of Matilda De Angelis’ Elena, who we soon find out is his lover. He couldn’t have done it, could he? Over six episodes, an inordinate amount of red herrings and a titanic court battle, the result might not have that surprising but I found the journey highly entertaining. Continue reading “TV Review: The Undoing”

Album Review: Billy Porter – At The Corner of Broadway + Soul (2005)

“I woke up this morning on the wrong side of life”

I loved Billy Porter’s second album Billy’s Back On Broadway so I turned with interest to his first, released nearly a decade before in 2005. At The Corner of Broadway + Soul was recorded live at Joe’s Pub and sees Porter bring together his own R’n’B compositions with gospel songs and Broadway hits – both old and new in his own inimitable style. Porter has a massive voice and loves to sing big and it is a joy to hear him cut loose as he so often does here.

A snippet of Dreamgirls’ ‘And I’m Telling You I’m Not Going’ is fierce, Into the Woods’ ‘Last Midnight’ is just beyond, and there’s a healthy smattering (7 in fact) of his own songs which effectively mine a nu-soul vein – the dirty funk of ‘Hell or High Water’ probably emerging as my favourite. He’s not just a belter though. The Adam Guettel/Jason Robert Brown two-fer sees him rein in the power to glorious effect on both ‘Awaiting You’ from Myths and Hymns and ‘King of the World’ from Songs for a New World which shine in their subtlety. Continue reading “Album Review: Billy Porter – At The Corner of Broadway + Soul (2005)”

DVD Review: Love is Strange

“Sometimes when you live with people, you know them better than you care to”

The move to a more sensitive, nuanced portrayal of lives well-lived is none more evident than in the excellent Love is Strange. Ira Sachs and Mauricio Zacharias’ screenplay puts John Lithgow’s Ben and Alfred Molina’s George, a happy couple of nearly 40 years standing at the heart of its story and pleasingly lets them remain (relatively) happy. Instead, the trials in their life come from the fallout of finally deciding to tie the knot, it leading to one of them losing his job. 

Financially up against it, Ben and George find themselves having to sell their much-loved apartment in New York City and with limited options in a tough real estate market, end up living apart with friends and family as no-one has room for them both. Separated and going through a transitional time, it is the relationships of those with whom they’re staying that get put under the microscope, particularly Ben’s nephew and his family. Continue reading “DVD Review: Love is Strange”

68th Tony Award nominations

Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Play 
Samuel Barnett – Twelfth Night as Viola
Bryan Cranston – All the Way as President Lyndon B. Johnson
Chris O’Dowd – Of Mice and Men as Lennie Small
Mark Rylance – Richard III as Richard III
Tony Shalhoub – Act One as Older Moss Hart / Barnett Hart / George S. Kaufman

Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Play
Tyne Daly – Mothers and Sons as Katherine Gerard
Audra McDonald – Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill as Billie Holiday
LaTanya Richardson Jackson – A Raisin in the Sun as Lena Younger
Cherry Jones – The Glass Menagerie as Amanda Wingfield
Estelle Parsons – The Velocity of Autumn as Alexandra

Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical 
Neil Patrick Harris – Hedwig and the Angry Inch as Hedwig
Ramin Karimloo – Les Misérables as Jean Valjean
Andy Karl – Rocky the Musical as Rocky Balboa
Jefferson Mays – A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder as the D’Ysquith family
Bryce Pinkham – A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder as Monty Navarro Continue reading “68th Tony Award nominations”

Nominations for the 2014 Drama Desk Awards

Outstanding Play
Nell Benjamin, The Explorers Club 
Steven Levenson, Core Values
Conor McPherson, The Night Alive 
Richard Nelson, Regular Singing
Bruce Norris, Domesticated
Robert Schenkkan, All The Way
John Patrick Shanley, Outside Mullingar 

Outstanding Musical
A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder 
Aladdin
Beautiful: The Carole King Musical
Fun Home

Love’s Labour’s Lost
Rocky
The Bridges of Madison County
Continue reading “Nominations for the 2014 Drama Desk Awards”

19th Critics’ Choice Awards nominees

Best Picture
12 Years a Slave
American Hustle
Captain Phillips
Dallas Buyers Club
Gravity
Her
Inside Llewyn Davis
Nebraska
Saving Mr. Banks
The Wolf of Wall Street

Best Director
Alfonso Cuaron – Gravity
Paul Greengrass – Captain Phillips
Spike Jonze – Her
Steve McQueen – 12 Years a Slave
David O. Russell – American Hustle
Martin Scorsese – The Wolf of Wall Street Continue reading “19th Critics’ Choice Awards nominees”

Album Review: Scott Alan – Dreaming Wide Awake

“I have fought, I have cried.
I’ve been broke, I’ve been bruised.
Yet at the end of the day
This life is what I still choose.”

I was recommended this Scott Alan CD, Dreaming Wide Awake, by a reader who like me wasn’t a huge fan of Tim Prottey-Jones’ album which I reviewed last week and claimed that US composers were basically better all round. Whereas that sentiment made me automatically want to not bother, I do love a good recommendation and Scott Alan is one of those composers of whom I’ve heard a fair bit without having actually engaged with his music or any of his shows. Alan is a lyricist and composer who has written a handful of shows but more recently, his output seems to have been channelled into collections of his work on CD: he is now up to his third, of which Dreaming Wide Awake is the first.

I’m not going to get sucked into a US/UK debate here, there’s room in my heart to like all sorts of different things for different occasions, but I do have to say that this is an album which pretty much blew me away from first listen. Opening with the punchily brilliant ‘I’m A Star’ by Eden Espinosa, it is clear that Alan is unafraid of showing emotion in all its colours through his writing. I’m A Star is the kind of song to get pulses racing with its determined dreams of success and one I’m surprised I haven’t heard in a cabaret set (yet). Tracie Thoms’ ‘Let Love Begin’ has a driving tunefulness and there’s a great comic number in the countering viewpoints of ‘At Seventeen’. Continue reading “Album Review: Scott Alan – Dreaming Wide Awake”