Lost Musicals: Paris

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U-oEA1sK374[/youtube]

Forget people banging on about going to see Rufus Wainwright’s opera at Sadlers Wells in the next couple of weeks; the real hot ticket comes courtesy of Lost Musicals performing ‘Paris’ in the accompanying Lillian Bayliss Studio.

Run by Ian Marshall Fisher, Lost Musicals is a brilliant project. It is designed to find and stage musicals which have been ‘lost’, either literally or in memories, by some of America’s greatest songwriters. Over the last 21 years, the project has staged over 70 different works and does so with the help of actors who give their time for free as well as researchers and Ian himself who trawls the world looking for songs that have been mislaid so he can reconstruct the shows.

I’m a massive Cole Porter fan and last year, Lost Musical’s staging of The New Yorkers first introduced me to their project. The show takes place on Sunday afternoons with actors in evening wear, on a stage with neither a set nor props, reading from their scripts. It’s a very unusual style to watch but utterly captivating.

This year, one of their three shows is another Cole Porter show and I caught it last weekend. Not quite as sharp and lively as ‘The New Yorkers’, ‘Paris’ was Porter’s first Broadway show and revolves around a marriage between an American socialite and a French actress. It’s the show which features possibly Porter’s most famous song ‘Let’s Do It (Let’s Fall in Love)’ and showcases his brilliant rhyming wit that really shines in later songs like ‘You’re The Top’. The show is really stolen by the socialite’s mother, Cora, who at Lost Musicals was played by ‘er off the tele’, Anne Reid, probably best known to me as Doctor Who monster, the Plasmavore, who enjoyed sucking people’s blood with a straw.

The Lost Musicals series is totally recommended and I think now a firm spring outing each year in the diary. Paris runs for three more weeks and it’s followed later in the year by Lerner & Loewe’s ‘The Day Before Spring’.

Wednesday Afternoon at the Movies

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I might know a lot of random music trivia but ask me anything about film and I’m generally have a blank face. I’m a bit rubbish at going to the cinema and have never seen ‘cold stone classics’ like ET, The Godfather, Star Wars etc. This complete lack of knowledge was further compounded this week when The Times released their list of 100 Best Movies of the Noughties and I had seen precisely 25. It could be worse I guess.

I’ve been making a bit more of an effort in the last month taking in a few at the London Film Festival (‘Cold Souls’ – 4/10; ‘Cracks’ – 7/10; ‘Kicks’ 6/10; ‘Capitalism a love affair’ 6/10; ‘Scouting Book for Boys’ 8/10) and forcing myself to go and see the delightfully silly ‘Julie & Julia’, the weepy ‘Up’, the disappointing ‘An Education, and the truly awful ‘The Boys Are Back’. To add to this, after many years of wanting one, I’ve just bought myself a Cineworld Unlimited card. Next up, Jennifer’s Body.

Anyway all this is leading up to me being delighted to find out that my very local independent cinema Rio, Dalston today showed my favourite film slightly inappropriately in their monthly golden oldies matinee slot. The film is 2004’s (slightly romanticised) Cole Porter biopic ‘De-Lovely’. I originally saw it in the cinema in Whitely’s where I bawled my eyes out, and have since played the soundtrack endlessly – Sheryl Crow’s ‘Begin The Beguine’, Vivien Green’s ‘Love For Sale’ and Lara Fabian’s contribution to the intense ‘So In Love’ are particularly special. Anyway I say inappropriately because I’m not sure a film with quite a substantial gay plot was the best thing to show the 70+. The actual ‘gay action’ is very tame – there are two kisses, but it was enough for the whole crowd to react in a shocked, loud jeering way. It was quite odd. The other noticeable moment was during John Barrowman’s scene where the ladies behind me shouted really loudly ‘THAT’S THAT BARRYMAN’. Amazing.

The film screening was absolutely full and free, even for me. Not only that but they provided everyone with free cakes and tea in the interval & it’s all done without a sponsor – they just asked for donations at the end. I hardly see anyone who isn’t 24 with a wonky fringe in Dalston but this is a great little get together for the older generation. Hurrah for the Rio.

So yes, see De-Lovely. Even if you don’t really dig the film, you’ll be introduced to Cole Porter’s music and snork at the various pop star cameos. Mick Hucknall even gets to say a line.

This is my favourite scene. My tears started three minutes into the film today but this is the time when I absolutely cry so hard I could vomit. It’s up there with Billie being sucked into the vortex.

**SPOILERS SPOILERS**

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qBrQ9PChuh8[/youtube]

Review: The New Yorkers, Lilian Bayliss Theatre, Sadlers Wells

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Musicals come and go. The lucky ones get turned into films and are immortalised. Everyone’s heard of Oklahoma!, Anything Goes and Guys and Dolls. But what about Allegro, Nymph Errant or Greenwillow? No, us neither.

Since 1989 Ian Marshall Fisher has been a one-man musical preservation industry, every year dredging up unfairly forgotten shows by the great writers of the early 20th century and labelling them the Lost Musicals. His latest project at Sadler’s Wells (Sundays until April 26) is Cole Porter and Herbert Fields’ 1930 society satire The New Yorkers. What hits you first is the minimalist approach. Smartly decked out in evening dress, the company files onto a brightly-lit stage – empty apart from a row of chairs. Each clutches a black folder containing the script. There are no props and only piano accompaniment. It’s almost like watching an early BBC radio drama recording. But the performances themselves are boisterous, especially from the remarkable Michael Roberts in a role originally taken by Jimmy Durante.

There’s a negligible plot: wealthy young New York socialite falls for shady nightclub owner and ends up organising a jailbreak when he is busted. This being the Prohibition, there are plenty of jokes about alcohol and the lengths people will go to for it, including an entire song, ‘Say It With Gin’. The links between the revue-style numbers and story are sometimes tenuous, but sometimes that helps: after one particularly rowdy comedy routine, Corrie Mac steps forward and sings ‘Love for Sale’, Porter’s great, sad song about a prostitute. The effect is devastating.

What’s most surprising though is how funny the show still is. Yes, some of the contemporary references are missed, but the acidic swipes at the uber-rich, the justice system, and above all lovely ‘liquor’, still have the power to raise a laugh. If something as classy as The New Yorkers can be lost, what other musical marvels might still await rediscovery?

The New Yorkers plays each Sunday at 4pm until April 26. Full details here. If you only see one show this month, this should be it.

Miss Pettigrew Lives For A Day

Back in February I watched a trailer on youtube for a film called Miss Pettigrew Lives For A Day. I’m not very up on my film but thought this looked simply wonderful. Ever since I’ve not heard a single peep about it until The Times offered it up last week for a free screening.

The screening took place yesterday and lived up to my expectation in every way. It’s a light hearted romp through the glitz and glamour of the days just before WWII broke out with the fabulous Amy Adams and serious acting lady Frances McDormand in the lead roles. Frances plays Miss Pettigrew, a dowdy & homeless former governess who accidentally becomes the social secretary of American flap about town Delysia Lafosse. With excellent costumes, a brilliant soundtrack and some tasty supporting male actors, it had everything to make it a karinski success review wise – music, Lee Pace, war, romance, pre war hair, Cole Porter, frocks, a run time of 1h 30, Amy Adams,  duets and old London.

Simply wonderful, go and see it when it’s released next Friday or at very least check out the trailer here.

Review: A Swell Party at Cadogan Hall

[Originally posted on Londonist]

The music of Cole Porter may not be something you would expect to be discussed on Londonist, but every since we sobbed our way through ‘De-Lovely’ in Whiteley’s cinema we’ve been a big fan. So we were excited to see Chelsea’s gorgeous Cadogan Hall promising 4 nights Cole Porter kind of biopic ‘A Swell Party’.

Originally staged at the Vaudeville Theatre in 1991, John Kane’s show attempts to re-create Porter’s life story using a narrator as Cole himself with songs sung by 4 of his friends. Featuring 47 songs in just over 2 hours, there’s a lot to cram in and as such some of our favourites such as ‘Night and Day’ and ‘You’re The Top’ get shoved into medleys.

Simon Green is a commanding Cole with all the dapper swing and flirtnyness you would expect from the man himself. He even deals with forgetting his lines in character with a twinkle to the audience. Accompanied by leading musical directors David Firman and Jason Carr on two pianos, the production is a little old fashioned, but if you’re just after songs rather than a dazzling stage show you’re in luck.

Maria Friedman, fresh from a recent one woman show at Menier Chocolate Factory, puts in a big performance of ‘Blow Gabriel Blow’ from ‘Anything Goes’; while other highlights include Daniel Evans’ once scandalous ‘Love For Sale’ and ensemble number ‘Coffee’.