Album Review: Dirty Dancing (2006 London Cast Recording)

“Not a stress or strain is found here for it must be said
Here at Kellerman’s you gladdened, stomach, heart and head”

Would that Kellermans was able to gladden anyone who has bought this cast recording of Dirty Dancing… This album is a bizarre hodge-podge of original songs from the film in their original recorded versions combined with studio recordings of tracks from the musical adaptation, onto which audience noise has been spliced to give the impression of ‘liveness’. And the result is about as good as you might imagine such a thing to be.

 

DVD Review: Stage Beauty

“A woman playing a woman, where’s the trick in that” 

Any film with Clare Higgins yelling ‘give me back my merkin’ is surely destined for stone cold classic status but 2004’s Stage Beauty seems to have slipped from people’s minds whereas I always remembered it as a film I really enjoyed, more so that Shakespeare in Love. Much will depend on your opinion of Claire Danes but this tale of the rapidly changing world of the theatre during Charles II’s reign proved much more enjoyable than Shakespeare in Love ever did, and offers a fascinating, even-handed look at how both the men and women of the stage were affected by the decision to ban the former from playing the latter.

Billy Crudup’s Ned Kynaston has become one of the top actors in town, specialising in female characters like Othello’s Desdemona in which he frequently steals the show and aided by his faithful dresser Maria, played by Danes. She has a burning desire to act on the stage herself but since the Puritans outlawed such a thing in professional theatres, she’s limited to appearing in grubby pub theatres on the fringe (plus ça change…). The thespian desires of Charles’ ambitious mistress Nell Gwynn seem set to change that completely though, along with the fortunes of all concerned. Continue reading “DVD Review: Stage Beauty”

Review: The Colby Sisters of Pittsburgh, Tricycle

 “Nobody knows us. They think they do. But they don’t”

As per the publicity image, Canadian playwright’s Adam Bock’s black comedy The Colby Sisters of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania has aspirations of splashy cultural recognition with other North American fantastical worlds such as Carrie Bradshaw’s fabulously-affordable-somehow-even-though-shes-a-writer fashion-dominated New York, or the glossy lives of the spoiled uber-rich teens of Gossip Girl, but it achieves neither with a curiously unsatisfying clunk, possibly the first mis-step by Indhu Rubasingham since taking over the Tricycle.

It’s all so insubstantial, not in the way that the lives of the five spoiled sisters from Pitts…etc who now reside in New York are super-vacuous (though they are), but in the fact that Bock says nothing of any import about them. In their world, money says everything, except that it doesn’t really say a lot and being told money doesn’t buy you happiness is hardly ground-breaking stuff. Hints of more interesting stories do poke their way through in Trip Cullman’s production but at just over an hour, there’s no room for them to develop.

Running time: 75 minutes
Booking until 26th July

DVD Review: The Prisoner (2007)

“6 knows that 6 is 6”

I’ve never seen the original series of The Prisoner from the 1960s so I was able to approach the 2009 remake with a fresh mind and take in another of Ruth Wilson’s earlier televisual appearances. A co-production between ITV and US cable network AMC, it was filmed in the Namibian desert and featured the likes of Ian McKellen and Jim Caviezel in its cast as a man who wakes up in a strange isolated village with people calling him 6, and no idea of how or why he got there or how he can escape. It’s something of a curious beast. Caviezel’s 6 is the leading man of this show yet it is not always immediately apparent why we should really care about his fate. Somewhere between Caviezel’s handsome but anodyne looks and Bill Gallagher’s simplistic script, the driving thrust of the show just isn’t there.

There are aspects to enjoy though. Wilson gets some brilliantly emotive scenes as 313, the doctor who finds herself at the forefront of event as she is caught up in 6’s battle against the Village, and there’s some amazing work from her in the final episode, and Ian McKellen really is excellent as the Machiavellian 2, the sinister puppeteer who controls so much of what is going on, even as it seems that things are slipping from his grasp. Good support comes too from a range of strong actors in minor parts like Hayley Atwell, Lennie James and Rachael Blake. Continue reading “DVD Review: The Prisoner (2007)”

Review: Dirty Dancing, Aldwych

Much of the trumpeting around the arrival of the stage adaptation of the 1987 movie Dirty Dancing has been around its sensational advance box office takings, apparently the biggest in West End history. The film obviously holds a strong cachet amongst the 30-somethings who flocked to the cinema first time round, but I only hope that they emerge from the Aldwych theatre less appalled and dumb-founded than I that this has made it to the West End.

For those who aren’t aware, Dirty Dancing is a coming-of-age story, following the 17 year old Baby Houseman who is spending a family holiday in 1963 at a Butlins-type resort in upstate New York. She discovers love in the staff quarters there, her eye being particularly caught by the muscle-bound dance teacher Johnny. Continue reading “Review: Dirty Dancing, Aldwych”