DVD Review: Cinderella

“Perhaps the greatest risk any of us will ever take is to be seen as we really are”

Who knew what the world needed was a live-action version of Cinderella directed by Kenneth Branagh. It oughtn’t be as good as it is but somehow the fusion of Disney magic and folktale wonder comes together most effectively, thoroughly traditional in its outlook yet somehow still feeling fresh. Chris Weitz’s screenplay is based on Charles Perrault’s Cendrillon but both he and Branagh take lots of inspiration from the Disney version of the story too and the resulting confection is really rather bibbity-bobbity-beguiling.

There’s a cleverness too about what it does in spinning new details like giving us a reason that her step-family don’t recognise her at the ball and weaving much humour into the magic spells that get her to said ball. Ella herself is well pitched by Lily James, not quite too perfect to be true but still hugely appealing. It’s no wonder Richard Madden’s Prince Charming tumbles instantly for her (and she for him, those breeches…those boots!) and their chemistry is palpable, one can see why Branagh has cast them as Juliet and Romeo in his upcoming theatre residency in London.  Continue reading “DVD Review: Cinderella”

Review: 9 to 5 The Musical, New Wimbledon Theatre

“It’s enough to drive you crazy if you let it”

With a score that incorporates both songs from her back catalogue and newly penned numbers by Dolly Parton and a book from Patricia Resnick, one of the co-writers of the film on which it based which also featured Parton’s screen debut, there was little danger of 9 to 5 The Musical ever veering too far from the template which saw it become a cinematic success. But though its crowd-pleasing adherence to the film brings a definite feel-good factor, which is best characterised by the effervescent opening rendition of the title song, it also imposes limits on just how successful a piece of musical theatre it can be.  

It’s 1979 and the office of Consolidated Companies, typical of most workplaces at the time, is a bearpit for the female of the species. But the tide is changing and as three women in this particular environment come together in the face of sexist adversity and an inadvertent deployment of some rat poison, an alternative way of running the company springs to mind and suggests that the future might not be so grim after all.  Continue reading “Review: 9 to 5 The Musical, New Wimbledon Theatre”

Review: Babes in Arms, Union Theatre

“I love the theatre, but I never come late”

In some ways, this tale of the exploitation of unpaid interns working in a theatre could be considered a timely revival looking at the ethics of the industry. But though that is the pretext of Babes in Arms, it is a much more whimsical piece than that – a 1937 Broadway musical from Rodgers and Hart, frothily light in plot but musically superlative in places, brimming with standards like ‘The Lady is a Tramp’, ‘Johnny One Note’ and ‘My Funny Valentine’.

This production uses a revised book from 1959 by George Oppenheimer in which a team of bright young apprentices toil away at a struggling theatre, falling in and out of love with each other at the drop of a hat and secretly rehearsing a musical revue which they hope to put on. It’s undoubtedly a candy-floss ball of a plot but cheerfully and entertainingly staged in David Ball’s production with Sam Cable’s sharp 3-man band and splendidly enlivened by the interjections of Lizzi Gee’s suitcase-wielding and delightfully tap-heavy choreography. Continue reading “Review: Babes in Arms, Union Theatre”

Review: Sasha Regan’s All Male Patience, Union Theatre

“There is more innocent fun within me than the casual spectator might allow”

The all-male Gilbert and Sullivan adaptations at the Union Theatre have become something of an annual institution now and though we’ve been kept waiting a few more months than usual, the next instalment has arrived with Patience or Bunthorne’s Bride. Last year’s Iolanthe was exceptionally good and I rather enjoyed The Pirates of Penzance the year before so it was safe to say that expectations were rather high for this, but this was a show I knew nothing of beforehand – my love for G+S being mainly limited to the film of Pirates… which I watched over and over again as a child.

Patience is a satirical look at the aesthetic movement (yeah, me neither) which was a fashionable movement of the 1880s that preached devotion to the arts and lofty ideals of love as a duty rather than a pleasure. We follow Reginald and Archibald as they both pursue a milkmaid named Patience, whilst a group of ladies swoon over the aesthetically minded pair of gents and ignore the returning bumptious soldiers to whom they were engaged the previous year. Gentle fun is poked at everyone as attentions shift from man to man and the hapless soldiers are left trying to become aesthetes themselves in order to win back their feckless ladies. Continue reading “Review: Sasha Regan’s All Male Patience, Union Theatre”

Shows I am looking forward to in 2012

Though the temptation is strong, and the actuality may well prove so, I don’t think I will be catching quite so much theatre in 2012 as I did last year. I could do with a slightly better balance in my life and also, I want to focus a little more on the things I know I have a stronger chance of enjoying.

So, I haven’t booked a huge amount thus far, especially outside of London where I think I will rely more on recommendations, but here’s what I’m currently looking forward to the most: Continue reading “Shows I am looking forward to in 2012”