Book review: The Half – Simon Annand

The Half – Photographs of Actors Preparing for the Stage by Simon Annand

Just a quickie for this book as The Half – Photographs of Actors Preparing for the Stage by Simon Annand was released in 2008. But with an imminent new exhibition of these photos and a bargainous copy of the book popping up on Ebay, I thought I’d take the plunge.

And I’m glad I did as it is a proper work of art in its own right. Annand has been photographing actors for over 25 years and as such, has a veritable treasure trove of shots to share with us, resulting from the trusting relationships he has built up with so many, from the new kids on the block to veritable dames. Continue reading “Book review: The Half – Simon Annand”

Album Review: She Loves Me (2016 Broadway Cast Recording)

“Thank you, madam. Please call again. Do call again, madam“

Those outside of Broadway were lucky enough to have the opportunity to see She Loves Me last month as it became the first show there to be livestreamed (here’s my review) but if you missed it, never fear as a cast recording has been released which captures much of what made it an absolute pleasure to watch and to listen to. Sheldon Harnick and Jerry Bock’s Fiddler on the Roof may be better known but I’d argue that Roundabout’s revival makes a strong case for this to be the better show.

Orchestrated beautifully by Larry Hochman and played expertly under Paul Gemignani’s musical direction, it’s hard to imagine the show ever having sounded this lovely and fresh. From the thrill of the overture through the entirety of the score which allows pretty much every character to have their moment in the limelight, She Loves Me has a deceptive simplicity that seem disposable but its old-fashioned charms are revealed in all the splendour here, delivered perfectly by an ace cast. Continue reading “Album Review: She Loves Me (2016 Broadway Cast Recording)”

CD Review: Jane Krakowski – The Laziest Gal in Town (2010)

“I’m not gonna holler, cos I’ve still got a dollar”
 
For someone so active on stage and screen in so many musical ways, it’s a little surprising that Jane Krakowski hasn’t delved more into releasing albums of her own. Her debut, and to date only, solo album was 2010’s The Laziest Gal in Town, a club show recorded live at Feinstein’s at the Regency Hotel. It’s a hugely enjoyable listen and very much of its moment rather than an absolute classic cabaret album, but that’s no bad thing really.
 
The focus is on her undoubted comic skills and hip-to-the-moment references, as evidenced by the rewrite of Rodgers and Hart’s ‘Zip’ by Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman renamed ‘Tweet’, and a cheeky rap inserted into ‘Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend’ – personality for days shining through. The multiple spoken interludes also add into the informality – to wit, a confession of her predilection for British men leading into a sprightly ‘An Englishman Needs Time’.

Continue reading “CD Review: Jane Krakowski – The Laziest Gal in Town (2010)”

CD Review: Cheyenne Jackson – Renaissance (2016)

“Never seemed so right before”

Cheyenne Jackson’s first album I’m Blue, Skies was an unexpectedly shiny and effective pop-fest but Renaissance sees him move a little closer to his acting roots. This album has been adapted out of his one-man show ‘Music of the Mad Men Era’ and so heavily features music from the 50s and 60s in all their brassy, bossa-nova throwback charm into which Jackson, in all his elegance and ravishing vocal prowess, slides beautifully.
It’s almost criminally smooth at times – from the opening big band sound of ‘Feeling Good’ which sounds amazing to multitracked vocal of ‘Angel Eyes’ to spring in the step of ‘Walkin’ My Baby Back Home’, it’s impossible to resist its huge geniality. And by the time he throws in the lighter touches of ‘Americano’ (with a cheeky interpolation that will please fans of his American Horror Story role), the sway of ‘Bésame Mucho’ and a delightful, gossamer-light duet with Jane Krakowski on ‘Somethin’ Stupid’, you’ll be utterly seduced.

Jackson is so at home in this material that the deviations from it thus feel a little incongruous. There’s nothing wrong with the gentle piano-based covers of the likes of ‘A Case of You’ and ‘Your Song’ but they just don’t stand out in this company. You just want to hear that 22-strong orchestra, conducted by Kevin Stites, time and again, and so the drama and passion of ‘I (Who Have Nothing)’ and ‘A Change Is Gonna Come’ are more successful in that respect.
There’s a nice personal touch late on with Renaissance’s sole original track ‘Red Wine Is Good for My Heart’, co-written by Jackson and Michael Feinstein in tribute to his late grandmother, proving not only is he drop-dead gorgeous and sound like a dream, he’s a nice boy too. Please come to London soon!

Review: She Loves Me, Studio 54 via BroadwayHD

“They all come here just for the mood”

It’s nice to know that you have good karma, sometimes at least, as I came very close to seeing She Loves Me on my last flying visit to Broadway, opting for Waitress instead at the last minute. So it was most gratifying to hear that She Loves Me was to become the first ever Broadway show to be live-streamed on BroadwayHD, following in the footsteps of the hugely successful NTLive enterprise (and that the show would be available for the following seven days on catch-up, making up for the time difference).

The merits (or otherwise) of live-streaming have long been debated and will likely continue to be so for years to come as circular arguments go round and round. But as long as you accept that no, a recording will never be as good as the live thing and yes, it is an amazing thing to have accessibility increased in this way, it seems to me that everyone is a winner, especially with a show on a limited engagement like She Loves Me, which closes at Studio 54 on 10th July. Speaking of which, you’ve only got until 7th July to catch it on BroadwayHD. Continue reading “Review: She Loves Me, Studio 54 via BroadwayHD”

Winners of 2015-2016 Outer Critics Circle Awards

John Gassner Playwriting Award
Lindsey Ferrentino, Ugly Lies the Bone
Lauren Gunderson, I and You
Martyna Majok, Ironbound
WINNER – Marco Ramirez, The Royale
Anna Ziegler, Boy

Outstanding Actor in a Play
Reed Birney, The Humans
Gabriel Byrne, Long Day’s Journey Into Night
WINNER – Frank Langella, The Father
Mark Strong, A View From the Bridge
Ben Whishaw, The Crucible Continue reading “Winners of 2015-2016 Outer Critics Circle Awards”

70th Tony nominations

Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Play
Frank Langella, The Father 
Gabriel Byrne, Long Day’s Journey into Night 
Jeff Daniels, Blackbird 
Tim Pigott-Smith, King Charles III 
Mark Strong, A View from the Bridge

Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Play
Jessica Lange, Long Day’s Journey into Night 
Laurie Metcalf, Misery 
Lupita Nyong’o, Eclipsed 
Sophie Okonedo, The Crucible
Michelle Williams, Blackbird

Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical
Leslie Odom, Jr, Hamilton
Alex Brightman, School of Rock
Danny Burstein, Fiddler on the Roof 
Zachary Levi, She Loves Me
Lin-Manuel Miranda, Hamilton

Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical
Cynthia Erivo, The Color Purple
Laura Benanti, She Loves Me
Carmen Cusack, Bright Star 
Jessie Mueller, Waitress
Phillipa Soo, Hamilton

Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Play
Reed Birney, The Humans 
Bill Camp, The Crucible 
David Furr, Noises Off 
Richard Goulding, King Charles III 
Michael Shannon, Long Day’s Journey into Night

Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Play
Jayne Houdyshell, The Humans 
Pascale Armand, Eclipsed 
Megan Hilty, Noises Off 
Andrea Martin, Dotty Otley
Saycon Sengbloh, Eclipsed

Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Musical
Daveed Diggs, Hamilton
Brandon Victor Dixon, Shuffle Along 
Christopher Fitzgerald, Waitress
Jonathan Groff, Hamilton
Christopher Jackson, Hamilton

Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Musical
Renée Elise Goldsberry, Hamilton
Danielle Brooks, The Color Purple 
Jane Krakowski, She Loves Me
Jennifer Simard, Disaster! 
Adrienne Warren, Shuffle Along

Nominations for 2015-2016 Outer Critics Circle Awards

John Gassner Playwriting Award
Lindsey Ferrentino, Ugly Lies the Bone
Lauren Gunderson, I and You
Martyna Majok, Ironbound
Marco Ramirez, The Royale
Anna Ziegler, Boy

Outstanding Actor in a Play
Reed Birney, The Humans
Gabriel Byrne, Long Day’s Journey Into Night
Frank Langella, The Father
Mark Strong, A View From the Bridge
Ben Whishaw, The Crucible Continue reading “Nominations for 2015-2016 Outer Critics Circle Awards”