Album Reviews: Love on a Summer Afternoon / The Maury Yeston Songbook / There’s Something About You – More Words and Music of Richard Kates

This trio of album reviews covers Love on a Summer Afternoon: Songs of Sam Davis, The Maury Yeston Songbook and There’s Something About You – More Words and Music of Richard Kates

“You don’t know what you do to me”

There’s something of a deliciously old-school feel about Love on a Summer Afternoon: Songs of Sam Davis, these vignettes of song that recall even Noël Coward in their ability to capture mood and tone as well as telling a damn good story. David Hyde Pierce’s ‘Goodbye to Boston’ is probably the best, most heart-breaking example, Gavin Creel’s ‘Greenwich Time’ coming a close second. There’s levity and humour too, ensuring the collection doesn’t become too downbeat, but there’s definitely a musical and lyrical gift here that deserves to be more widely known. Continue reading “Album Reviews: Love on a Summer Afternoon / The Maury Yeston Songbook / There’s Something About You – More Words and Music of Richard Kates”

Album Reviews: Jonathan Reid Gealt – Whatever I Want It To Be / This Ordinary Thursday / Among Friends – The Words and Music of Richard Kates

This trio of album reviews spans the decades with Jonathan Reid Gealt – Whatever I Want It To Be, This Ordinary Thursday and Among Friends – The Words and Music of Richard Kates

“Nothing worth doing will ever come easy”

There’s something irrepressibly catchy about the music of Jonathan Reid Gealt as evidenced on this album Whatever I Want It To Be. From the cracking one-two of the driving pop of the title track sung with exciting energy by Jane Monheit and Alysha Umphress and the swinging delights of Loren Allred, Natalie Weiss and Luke Edgemon on the adorable ‘Boy Crazy’ to the more restrained but no less deeply felt emotion of Joshua Henry on ‘Let Me Try’ or Laura Osnes on the shimmeringly lovely ‘Lullaby’, this is some top-notch songwriting. Continue reading “Album Reviews: Jonathan Reid Gealt – Whatever I Want It To Be / This Ordinary Thursday / Among Friends – The Words and Music of Richard Kates”

Countdown to new Who: Doctor Who Series 6

“Demons run when a good man goes to war”

And here it is, the point at which I stopped loving new Doctor Who, even in a series that has two of the best episodes it has done, and the first series that I haven’t ever rewatched in its entirety. I do enjoy Matt Smith’s Eleven immensely but the writing across this season – which was split into two for transmission – was just fatally erratic for me. Alongside the innovative work from Neil Gaiman in The Doctor’s Wife and Steve Thompson in The Girl Who Waited, two contrasting but superlative pieces of writing, stories such as The Curse of the Black Spot and Night Terrors took the show to a less sophisticated place – (or do I really mean that I started to feel that this version of Doctor Who wasn’t necessarily aimed at me…?)

Even the big finales (for there were two, one for each half) fell a little flat. The premonition that the Doctor would “fall so much further” than ever before in A Good Man Goes to War raised expectations only to be dashed by an overloaded episode with little emotional heft aside from the River Song reveal, and The Wedding of River Song suffered from the general over-use of the characters dying-but-not-really-dying trope (poor Arthur Darvill…). That said, the high points of the series are so very good – the striking US-set opening double-bill, the Doctor finally meeting the TARDIS, and brain-scratching sci-fi with real heart. Frustratingly inconsistent. Continue reading “Countdown to new Who: Doctor Who Series 6”

Review: Stevie, Minerva

“I don’t care what they think”

The quality of theatre that the Chichester Festival Theatre produces on a regular basis can barely be questioned. Big musicals aside, it may rarely be heart-thumpingly exciting or shine with innovative flair, but rather the focus is on meticulously constructed productions of the more traditional side of drama. Which goes to say that CFT couldn’t be more MOR if it tried, at the top end of the middle of the road to be sure, but still lacking something of a cutting edge.

In some ways, it might be an unfair suggestion. Christopher Morahan’s production of Hugh Whitemore’s 1977 play Stevie is impeccably put together and features a fantastic performance from Zoë Wanamaker at its heart but the speed at which that heart races rarely gets above resting pace. The Stevie of the title is Stevie Smith, a poet and author who has been somewhat forgotten, whose work sprang from the minutiae of her daily life and the play goes about realising moments from that life. Continue reading “Review: Stevie, Minerva”

DVD Review: The Road to Coronation Street

“I don’t care what they do in St Helens but in Salford, no-one puts soap next to bacon”

Despite being relevant to my interests on a number of levels (David Dawson, I’m northern, and the rest of that cast!), The Road to Coronation Street managed to slip by me when it was first broadcast on BBC4 in 2010. Though a long term fixture on ITV (this drama celebrated the 50th anniversary of the soap opera), it was the BBC that took up the reins of creating this origin story for the show, a journey that partly reflects that of its writer Daran Little, who worked on Coronation Street for many years as an archivist but is now a screenwriter for Eastenders, long its traditional rival. But oddities aside, it was a frenetic, energetic romp that I found highly engaging and found it to be over far too soon with its scant 75 minutes-long running time.

The programme tells the true life story of how Tony Warren, a young screenwriter struggling to make his name in the business at Granada Studios, who hit on the idea of creating a television programme that related directly to its audience by presenting a version of everyday working class life on a terraced street in Manchester. We see the genesis of Warren’s idea, conceived from so many details of his own upbringing; his fight to convince his Canadian-born boss to take a chance on it; their battle to persuade the Bernsteins, the studio owners, to put it on the air; and once agreed, the trials of casting it perfectly so that it met both the exacting standards of Warren’s ideal and the new realities of acting on television.   Continue reading “DVD Review: The Road to Coronation Street”

2011 British Academy Television Awards nominations

Best Actor
Jim Broadbent – Any Human Heart as Logan Mountstuart (Channel 4)
Benedict Cumberbatch – Sherlock as Sherlock Holmes (BBC One)
Daniel Rigby – Eric and Ernie as Eric Morecambe (BBC Two)
Matt Smith – Doctor Who as The Doctor (BBC One)

Best Actress
Anna Maxwell Martin – South Riding as Sarah Burton (BBC One)
Vicky McClure – This is England ’86 as Lorraine “Lol” Jenkins (Channel 4)Natalie Press – Five Daughters as Paula Clennell (BBC One)
Juliet Stevenson – Accused : Helen’s Story as Helen Ryland (BBC One) Continue reading “2011 British Academy Television Awards nominations”

Review: When We Are Married, Garrick Theatre

“Marriage isn’t perfect”
J.B. Priestley’s farcical comedy When We Are Married arrives at the Garrick Theatre in London for a limited season with a substantially star-studded cast donning their finest Edwardian gear. Set in 1908, three middle-class couples in Cleckleywyke, Yorkshire have their world turned upside-down when, in preparing to celebrate their silver wedding anniversaries, the validity of their marriages is called into question and they face certain social ruin but also huge personal issues as the very nature of their relationships is called into question.

There’s no doubt that it is extremely strongly cast with stalwarts of screen and stage forming the ensemble, especially in its six leads. I enjoyed Susie Blake and David Horovitch as the Helliwells with a particularly believable partnership, but the most fun is had by Maureen Lipman as the redoubtable Clara and Sam Kelly’s hen-pecked Herbert who have great fun playing out the role reversal when he is freed from the shackles of her imperious gaze and withering put-downs. Michele Dotrice does well as the long-suffering Annie who revels in her freedom from her dour councillor husband as played by Simon Rouse with some delicious comic timing, but is then slightly compromised by the need for a neat happy ending to the play.

There are constant hints of something more: the beginnings of revolution in the serving classes; the potential for female emancipation; even domestic violence, but none are explored for this is indeed a comedy, a rambunctious farce which is fine for the most part but a little frustrating for me and I personally struggled find the humour in a man slapping his wife. As for the rest of the play, I found there were just too many extraneous characters: the presence of Helliwell’s young niece is completely unnecessary and her relationship with Forbes is not used to counterpoint any of the marriages so I struggled to see why they were there and others like the Reverend and the reporter simply cluttered the stage. And I wasn’t really a fan of the broad comedy essayed by Roy Hudd’s drunken photographer with his end-of-the-pier routine and Rosemary Ashe’s brash, vulgar Lottie, but this is thoroughly old-school stuff.

It is uncomplicated fun and at times quite amusing, but ultimately it does have to be said that this is aimed at the upper age bracket. Whereas it was a entertaining diversion for me, it was rapturously received with rounds of applause coming at the end of every flourish by an actor, even the set got a good clap as the curtain rose at the beginning but to be honest, I was by far the youngest person in the stalls as far as I could see. All in all, if you appreciated 1970s sitcoms, or indeed enjoy watching re-runs of them these days, then this will be the perfect show for you.

Running time: 2 hours 10 minutes (with interval)
Programme cost: £3.50
Booking until 26th February 2011
Note: some smoking of cigars and cigarettes onstage

Originally reviewed for The Public Reviews