MUSIC FROM STAGE & SCREEN
Music from Stage and Screen
with Jo Connop
Nominated in the HBA Awards 2019 for Best Specialist Music Programme
If you love visiting the theatre, the movies, watching TV or all of the above this is the BHBN show for you!
I’ll do my best to pack in as many pop tunes used on the silver screen and the smallscreen, show tunes and film scores as a one hour show allows.
For added fun there are a number of features, including both some regular ones and some ad hoc seasonal specials. Regular features include ‘the Overture’ – exactly that, from a film, show or Opera, ‘The Composers’ Zone’ where I showcase a piece of music from a particular composer whilst sharing a bit of a biog about their life and career, ‘The Awards Ceremony’ – a piece of music that has won either an Academy Award, BAFTA, Tony or Olivier Award and to bow out ‘the Final Score’ – an epic piece of instrumental music.
So, grab your popcorn and your opera glasses and take to that great central seat in row F of the stalls and join me, Jo Connop every Monday afternoon at 4pm for BHBN’s ‘Stage and Screen’.
JO ON LOCATION WITH WITH NOTEBOOK, PEN AND OF COURSE A BOX OF POPCORN!
My Beautiful Laundrette – 5/11/19 Birmingham Repertory Theatre
Picture South London in the mid-1980’s. Now consider the conditions of the era – Conservative government, mass unemployment, widespread homophobia and racism from all quarters, homelessness, the rise of the ‘yuppy’ – and some fanstastic hi-NRG electro pop music.
Now meet Omar – this story’s young, intelligent, but naive mixed race protagonist, in the no-man’s land before the college term starts his ailing, widowed father sends him to work for his wheeler-dealer adulterous brother – Omar’s uncle Nasser. After witnessing Nasser’s infidelity on his first day at work Omar is promoted to ‘executive’ – which leads to his role as manager of his uncle’s not-so-beautiful laundrette.
Jonny is a skinhead – and, thankfully, not a very good one at that. Sensitive, easily led, but practical, he’s a former schoolmate of Omar. After a family party one night Omar and some of his family run into Jonny’s gang. When Omar and Jonny recognise each other a violent attack is avoided – and Omar’s hot-headed and ruthless cousin Saleem sees that Omar’s negotiation skills could be very advantageous for his questionable business dealings.
Reunited with his friend, Omar offers Jonny a job at the laundrette. When Omar is enlisted to pick up something from the airport for Saleem, he realises that his cousin is trading and that the goods will enable him and Jonny to revamp the laundrette if they sell them – which they do – at a local nightclub. The rather aptly renamed renamed ‘Powders’ places a whole new complexion on the term ‘money laundering’.
Meanwhile, Omar and Jonny realise that their feelings for each other extend beyond mere friendship, a fact which is not lost on Saleem’s spoilt, but clever sister, Tania. She is the subject of the family’s latest arranged marriage plot, which involves Omar – in no way helped, by her subservient mother and sister-in-law, to break free of tradition.
Tania’s criticism of her father’s mistress, Rachel, for depending on men too much falls flat on it’s face when Rachel askes ‘and who supports you?’ reminding us that judgement is never a good stance to take and that no-one’s behaviour is purely ‘good’ or ‘bad’.
The play deals with themes of homophobia, racism, women’s rights, class, privilege, morality and, above all, love.
No pop act from the era has immortalised the 1980’s zeitgeist more perfectly than the Pet Shop Boys and it is the perfect fusion of storytelling and music that makes this play feel so authentic.
When we hear the key lyrics to Tennant and Lowe’s ‘Paninaro’ during a violent scene – ‘Passion, love, sex, money, violence, religion, injustice and death’, it’s almost as if the duo knew thirty-odd years ago what the music would be used for in 2019 and that both the music and the story would still be relevant.
Along with the classic Pet Shop Boys tunes there are new pieces written for the show, most notably ‘No Boundaries’ – aspiration, or affirmation? That is very much up to us. 7/10
Doctor Sleep Review
Back in 1980 Stanley Kubrick terrified a generation of cinemagoers with his big-screen adaptation of Stephen King’s hit novel ‘The Shining’. nearly 40 years later director Mike Flanagan has set out to round off the story by attempting to answer some of the questions that were left hanging in the air at the end of the first movie, whilst bringing in the millenial generation into the equation.
‘Doctor Sleep’ shines the spotlight on a middle-aged Danny Torrance, played by Ewan MacGregor, and tells the story of his life from 1980 and the present day.
Intercut footage from ‘The Shining’ along with some great lookalike casting fill in the gaps over the years as we learn about Danny’s state of mind along the way. The highs, the lows and the punctuation mark that sees him starting afresh in a new town.
This movie, however, is far from being merely a biography of Danny Torrance. Just as Dick Halloran (played by Hong-Kong Phooey voice artist Scatman Crothers in ‘The Shining’, now portrayed by Carl Lumbly) once became Danny’s mentor, Danny himself is needed by a youngster with the ability to ‘shine’ who has landed themselves in a spot of bother.
This movie’s menace comes in the form of a malignant being that goes by the name of ‘Rose the Hat’, played by Rebecca Ferguson, and her band of baddies who prey on young children – warning – there are some very distressing scenes relating to their appetites!
The movie’s strength lies in its loyalty to the ‘Kubrick style’ – the camera angles, the sound effects and music used in ‘The Shining’ all making for pleasing continuity.
Indeed, without giving too much away, when THAT hotel in Colorado enters the story, it is almost like seeing an old friend.
There are some nice side stories covered, particularly in the nursing home where Danny works as an orderly – and when MacGregor’s natural impersonation of Dad Jack has us believing that he really is the son of Jack Nicholson.
Less impressive are the predictable behaviours of the antagonists – but I can almost forgive that, beacause the rest of the movie is so impressive.
A satisfying sequel with a good cast. 8/10
There have been a fair few movies about the Beatles and their music over the years, but none with the premise that they suddenly never existed – until now. What if you seemingly were the only person who remembered them – and what if you were also a struggling musician who has forfeited a career in teaching for music? Wouldn’t that be a dilemma if your memory was full of Beatles songs that suddenly no-one else seems to know?
Thus Jack Malik’s plight is laid bare. We follow his story through shock and disbelief, opportunism, disaster and…
well, go see it.
The Richard Curtis British romcom formula holds true as ever and Lily James as Road-Manager-come-love-interest provides the perfect counterpoint to Himesh Patel’s torn protagonist. Plus, as always in a Richard Curtis film there’s an American influence. Sanjeev Bhaskar and Meera Syal are priceless as Jack’s parents and each time things start getting unreal, they are there to bring us back down to earth.
A wonderful moment towards the end of the film gives the plot another dimension and to be frank I never saw it coming.
All I’ll say is Imagine…
Ed Sheeran adds an acting string to his bow, particularly shining in the kitchen scene, whilst James Corden as himself puts in an appearance at a point in the film where things take a bit of a nosedive. Considering the end result of the story, perhaps a more apt title would have been ‘All You Need is Love’ but maybe that would have been too obvious. Plus the closing scenes did make me wonder if Himesh Patel will be the next teacher in the surely inevitable next Nativity movie
8/10 Great music, great cast, a little predictable but definitely feel-good.
Rocket Man Review
Taron Egerton, it seems, is destined to depict bespectacled beloved outsiders – first playing Eddie ‘the Eagle’ Edwards and now Elton Hercules John – no small ask.
The movie’s setting is that of a rehab clinic group therapy room, where Elton recounts seminal moments in his life which then become musical flashbacks in the classic Hollywood musical style. Each situation provides the context for each song used from the immense musical back catalogue of our rocket man, though – in the words of Eric Morecambe – not necessarily in the right order. Oodles of whimsy, dance routines and outrageous costumes abound and we wouldn’t expect anything less.
Elton John once said that he wouldn’t go through all of those years leading up to his rehab again and watching his story we understand his reasons, even though some elements may not be completely accurate (e.g. see the scene where he picks his stage name). The heartbreak is almost too much to bear but for the movie’s sprinkling of lighthearted humour.
Egerton’s performance proves he can not only put over the shy introverted Reg Dwight, but also the angry, embittered and damaged Elton John that walks into the therapy room.
A nice piece of casting in the form of Jamie Bell as Bernie Taupin is an important piece of the John puzzle – he played Billy Elliott in the very movie that Elton John saw before leaving the cinema reduced to tears before writing the music for the West End musical version of the story.
A triumphant end credit sequence gives the movie a lovely warm happy ending. 9/10
Hair the Musical – Birmingham Alexandra Theatre
Matinee Saturday 4th May 2019
There are musicals that depict a dehumanised protagonist who sings their assigned ID number, some that quote Shakespeare. some with a rock opera sound, others that deal with themes of peace, sexuality, gender and racial equality and then there are musicals with nudity.
Only one can boast that it has all of the above. Set in 1968 against the backdrop of the Vietnam War the story of ‘Hair – the Musical’ aims to put forward the thoughts and feelings of a group of disenchanted, outraged youngsters who are open to many a new experience. The powers that be that are represented in the form of politicians, teachers and parents paint them as dysfunctional troublemakers. The media simply called them hippies.
In true ‘Hair’ style (!) the score is blessed with a diverse mix of musical genres. One minute we are in Pink Floyd-esque territory, the next with the sound of Frankie Valli style doo-wop falsetto and then we’re treated to a mix of ragtime, R and B and gospel, which all serve to underscore the characters represented here.
Cheeky reality favourite Jake Quickenden and Hollyoaks actor Daisy Wood Davis – who proves her presence with her golden lungs – head up a first class cast which features outstanding solo performances from Aiesha Pease, Kelly Sweeney, Paul Wilkins and Natalie Green.
The show works on a variety of levels – humour, great performance, top notch songs, raising social awareness and not least showing the viewer how much things have and have not changed since the show’s first incarnation off Broadway. The show begins with the voices of the last three US presidents all taking about taking military action.
Back in the ’60’s audiences talked about the shows brief show of nudity, perhaps in years to come audiences will be instead taken aback at the way people used to be intent on harming each other.
We live in hope. 8/10
A Star is Born
One of this year’s musical films of note, ‘A Star is Born’, remade once again, following three previous incarnations, tells a musical discovery story against the backdrop of the modern music industry.
Lady Gaga once said ‘Being different is a talent. You illuminate what makes you special in the sea of sameness around you.’ Perhaps this quote was in the minds of the casting team when considering Gaga
for the part of ‘Ally’.
The film’s director, Bradley Cooper, in the role of Jack and Lady Gaga both deliver stunning performances with highly believable on-screen chemistry whilst the outstanding supporting cast ensure a fully-formed story.
The result is an emotionally charged rollercoaster of a plot which does not shy away from alcoholism, drug-addiction and mental health issues, making the love story all the more bittersweet.
Gaga fans will enjoy much of what she does best, looking larger than life, with great self-penned songs and top-notch electrifying live music performance, coupled with a natural acting ability – whilst the ever watchable Bradley Cooper pulls an impressive talent for singing and songwriting out of the hat to complete a phenomenal soundtrack.
An epic love story borne out of a love for music – bravo! 10/10
Stan and Ollie Review
It seems John C. Reilly and Steve Coogan have both disappeared recently and Oliver Hardy and Stan Laurel have taken their place. Maybe it was the work of aliens or fairies or a magic unicorn? Whoever is responsible they’re rather clever. Of course, the multiple talents of both actors might have had something to do with it too.
Much of the movie is devoted to the happenings during the 1953 UK Laurel and Hardy stage show, following a sixteen year hiatus. As we are treated to some classic Laurel and Hardy slapstick moments both on and off stage we are also made aware of the cracks that had appeared in the duo’s relationship – a result of happenings that we are introduced to during the movie’s opening scene.
It is of paramount importance to mention that there are many stars of this film, not least the wardrobe and make-up departments that transformed our leading men into arguably one of the funniest double acts that ever existed. Indeed, the Bottle and Glass Inn and the 1950’s street at the West Midlands’ very own Black Country Living Museum also put in an appearance to give the movie an authentic feel.
The two female leads who play the wives are also beautifully presented and their unique chemistry works as a perfect foil to the main protagonists’ partnership.
If you are the sort of person who likes to take away a message when leaving the cinema this one would be ‘friendship is priceless’. If you are not, go see it anyway it is one big hilarious romp. 10/10.
Green Book Review
There are road trip movies and road trip movies. This one incorporates classical, rock and roll and soul music, a retro 1960’s feel, American social history, humour and the relationship between two people that seems doomed to fail from the outset.
Someone once taught me that the ideal outcome when two strangers meet is that they both gain something from the experience.
This is a true story of that type which will make you laugh, cry, rant and feel nostalgic, even if you were not around in the USA in the 1960’s. 10/10