Puttin’ on the Ritz

I spent the first couple days of this week sorting through the mass of theatre programmes spilling out my book case, reminiscing on both my favourites and those that I found particularly disappointing. It seemed a shame to find all these past shows and not give them a mention, so I have (somehow) managed to choose a few favourites!

ūüĆü¬†Top Hat

I am a golden era gal, give me Porter/Berlin/Rogers and Hammerstein and I’m immediately happy. I saw Top Hat at the Aldwych and it still remains my all time favourite, and go-to soundtrack. Beautiful costumes and lush set aside, the big dance numbers were spectacular whilst the smaller ones were wonderfully staged (in particular Jerry’s shadow dance). With plenty of comedy, a love story that was easy to invest in and, of course, the show stopping tap numbers, this was a musical that really and truly had it all.

ūüĆü¬†The Nutcracker

I was given a video of¬†Barbie and the Nutcracker on my 10th birthday and ever since then have adored the music, the ballet and the story. As soon as we were old enough to appreciate it my mum took me and my sister to see the English National Ballet’s version at Christmas time. Tchaikovsky’s score still continues to sweep me away through the lands of snowflakes and flowers, the powerful beauty of the pas de deux giving me goosebumps every time. I love the staging of this particular production, especially the ice skating at the start, with a minimalist set in the second act allowing the staggering beauty of the dancing to truly shine through.

ūüĆü¬†Mary Poppins¬†

One of the first musicals I saw in London’s West End, but one that I can still remember clear as anything. The film had, unsurprisingly, been a staple of my childhood and I found the additional plot aspects of the musical thrilling. Laura Michelle Kelly and Gavin Lee (Mary Poppins and Bert respectively) were my first musical theatre idols, and Step In Time¬†the number that I compared many subsequent theatre outings to with its breathtaking mix of dance, singing and, of course, real life walking on the ceiling. The timeless plot and¬†joyful music truly made this production a little bit of real life magic.

ūüĆü¬†Newsies

So, an admission: I have only seen the cinema screening of this. But it was so wonderfully filmed that I truly felt like I got (nearly) the whole experience and so have decided it deserves a place on this list! Jeremy Jordan is one of my favourite male voices in musical theatre with an effortless capacity and timbre, and this coupled with an outstanding dance ability serves to encapsulate the sheer vibrancy of the production. Having bought my ticket expecting a dance-heavy performance, the power of the vocals, especially in numbers such as Once and For All made this the complete package.

ūüĆü¬†Chicago

FOSSE! Having first seen the film at the age of 11, seeing the show had been in the works for a LOOONG time. The unforgettable songs and incredible dancing were bound to make this a sure fire hit, but for me the best, and unexpected, component was having the orchestra up on the stage. So often hidden away and under appreciated, character interaction and a particularly fabulous entr’acte ensured this band remained front and centre to the action. I could go on and on about every aspect of this incredible show (edit: I now have, see All That Jazz) but I’ll leave it at saying if you get the chance to see it, GO!

I’d love to hear your favourites – comment below!

Tango Moderno

For a while I debated posting this as I really dislike being negative (ESPECIALLY about anything to do with theatre) but I promised myself I would blog about every production I see so here we are!

I recently went to see Argentine tango champions (and Strictly stars) Vincent Simone and Flavia Cacace’s show,¬†Tango Moderno. As two of the most dynamic dancers to grace the screens of the BBC programme, the opportunity to see them on their own terms filled me with excitement and I failed to see how their show could be anything other than spectacular. Sadly, I was disappointed.

The show was not without its highlights – the closing dances of both acts by the two professionals were incredible; their final argentine tango utterly electric and earning a well deserved standing ovation. Rebecca Lisweski¬†on vocals was a joy to behold, effortlessly belting out hit after hit in an endlessly-comfortable range and lending real depth to emotional pieces (such as the stunning rumba to ‘The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face’).

The inclusion of live voices however, in particular the male guide throughout the show, seemed oddly out of place in a production centred around dance. The odd poetry did not add anything to the experience and the speaker even stole focus from some of the quiet contemporary numbers which I felt was a huge shame – these had the potential to be both moving and impressive but instead simply melded into an indistinct series.

You could describe how this music of the streets came to be ignored and suppressed, celebrated and exported, loved and loathed.

Mark Fisher on the Tango, 2018

Flavia Cacacae’s costumes were breathtakingly beautiful and, for me, stole the show (I would be interested to know why some of the other dancers were clothed in anything from sack dresses to a tracksuit). Upon arrival the set intially reminded me of Matthew Bourne’s¬†The Car Man, with railings and vandalised garage doors providing the perfect set up for a dark and atmospheric production: something that wasn’t fully realised until the electrifying final performance which even then seemed to exist independently to the rest of the production.

The biggest let down for me, however, was the pervading sense that no number reached its full potential, and a show that should have sparkled merely… happened. I have spent many a sleepless night listening to Sam Smith’s ‘Lay Me Down’, choreographing routines that I would never have the skill to perform myself yet appeared in my imagination with each swell of the music. In Tango Moderno‘s¬†version I found myself waiting for the dramatic moment of reunion, even a simple but effectively impressive lift, something that never appeared. The routine was beautiful, sure, but lacked anything to determine it as special from any of the other dances. Much of the music throughout the show was not used to its full potential, with many exhilarating numbers¬†hidden behind a bizarre use of props and juxtaposed against a painfully ‘funny’ opening sequences.

Tango is exciting, inspiring, gripping dance. Whilst I strongly believe it is important to bring these art forms to a contemporary audience in fresh, exciting ways, it is equally important they maintain the original spirit of these dances which are rooted in culture and tradition. Whilst the attempt in Tango Moderno was tangible, from mobile phones to packed tube carriages, each routine could have provided so much more for the audience and created a real impact on the dance scene.

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