Monday, 26 February 2007

Soundtrack - Tracks 18-21

18.Thank You For The Music (Andersson/Ulvaeus) ABBA
Another song of the sixth form, this reminds me of my old friend Fay. Fay wasn't good with song titles and would say things like "play woosh" ("Nothing" from " A Chorus Line") or "When I Saw You In Glasgow" (Super Trouper) or in this case "Mother Can't Walk Anymore" - quite bizarre and unforgettable! It very strongly conjures up images of myself, Fay and Emma listening to music in the sixth form house after we had moved on from the "end room".

19.I Am What I Am (Herman) from "La Cage Aux Folles" GEORGE HEARN
I continued coming down to London and working front of house at the theatre. By 1986 (my third summer) I was working at the Palladium on this show. Made some good, although not long term, friendships and really had a fantastic summer. The tradition of front of house staff dancing at the back of the stalls continued, and this show possibly contributed to me coming to terms with certain facts about myself! So what better song to sum up this summer! "I am what I am, and what I am needs no excuses!"

20.Losing My Mind (Sondheim) from "Follies" ELAINE PAIGE
"The sun comes up, I think about you, The coffee cup, I think about you"....Well we have all been there haven't we? This was my song for Lester who I had met working on La Cage. I was totally besotted! For quite some time too! Did I get my advances spurned? No. Did I ever even give an indication that I was interested? No! A great song of unrequited love for me, and although there are many wonderful versions I am plumping for the one I first heard! As much as I actually prefer Barbara Cook's version it is the version by Paige that belongs on the soundtrack and summons up memories for me

21.Nowhere Man (Lennon/McCartney) THE BEATLES
Well as I said right at the beginning that this is not a linear life story so I am going back just a few years to 1982. Up until then I was an only child, but my first sibling, Joseph, was born in this year. I so loved having a little brother. Now he is no longer little and expecting the imminent birth of his first child. Well his girlfriend is at least! I rarely see Joe these days but there is a strong bond there. I would often baby sit him when he was a toddler, and would bribe him to sleep by saying his daddy would bring him some sweets if he went to sleep. Bless him! His daddy brought him sweets every day! Now I was very young myself so should be forgiven, but once he was on his potty and Bruno (the dog!) barked and Joe leapt off the potty and accidentally kicked it over. So what happens? A turd on the carpet that's what! Anyway I made him pick it up and put it back in the potty! Sadly ten years later he could remember this and to my embarrassment reminded me! Bad Markus! Anyway my mum used to sing this song to him as a lullaby. I had "Lucy" and this was his Beatles tune!

Saturday, 24 February 2007

NEW COLUMN 24/2 Liza With A Z Not Lisa With An S

These days most media coverage of Liza Minnelli focuses on her private life. It’s easy to forget what a great talent she has been through most of her life when stories of her marriage to David Gest and her health problems of recent years take precedence in the press. However, having recently watched the DVD of her “Liza With A Z” special, I thought I would talk about Liza and her successes. I am not going to dwell on her personal life as, well frankly, it all gets a little boring hearing the same stories over and over again!

Well if you didn’t know by now that Liza is the daughter of the legendary Judy Garland and MGM Director Vincente Minnelli then you must have been living under a rock. With that pedigree it was possibly inevitable that Liza would go into the entertainment industry so it was no surprise that, as a teenager, she made her first steps towards a show business career. Liza’s dream when she was growing up was to be a “gypsy”, a jobbing Broadway dancer, so it was the New York theatre scene that particularly attracted her . Her big break was in 1963 in a revival of Martin and Blane’s (“Meet Me In St Louis”) “Best Foot Forward”. This small scale off Broadway revival was not a long runner but did get Liza noticed and lead to her first bona fide Broadway role. “Flora The Red Menace” was a small scale musical about a young woman who gets involved with a group of communists and, of course, falls in love with one of their number! This was the first time that Liza worked with the song writers John Kander and Fred Ebb, beginning a professional relationship that lasted until Ebb’s death a couple of years ago. Oh I should also mention that it won her a Tony award! She had already made her impression on British audiences with a live concert performance at the London Palladium in 1964 with her mother. This was televised on ITV and, viewing the DVD, makes fascinating viewing seeing her talent at a relatively embryonic stage and she displays an infectious energy that really shows her star potential. Similarly if you see her guest appearance on her Judy’s sixties TV series you also get to see a youthful Liza in variety mode!

Liza continued working through the rest of the sixties, making her first movies towards the end of the decade. “The Sterile Cuckoo” garnered her an Oscar nomination and she also appeared in “Charlie Bubbles” (her debut with Albert Finney) and “Tell Me That You Love Me Junie Moon”. This period also saw her releasing her first albums. However it was in 1972 that Liza firmly established herself as a major star. So what was it about 1972 that was so special? Well firstly a little movie called “Cabaret”, which capitalized on her musical partnership with Kander and Ebb. Liza was not obvious casting for the role of second rate British cabaret artiste Sally Bowles, however under the directorial eye of Bob Fosse the story was re-imagined quite considerably for the movie and bears little relation to the stage production in many ways. Quite often when stage musicals are chopped and changed and altered for the screen it is a recipe for disaster, however “Cabaret” is a masterpiece, and captures brilliantly the decadence of the era in early thirties Berlin as the Nazi’s came to power, not to mention some wonderful musical performances. Who could forget her “Mein Herr” and the duet with Joel Grey on “Money, Money”. Her multi layered performance was universally acclaimed so it was almost a foregone conclusion that she was nominated for and went on to win an Oscar for best actress. Also in 1972 came, the afore-mentioned, “Liza With A Z”. Once again it was Bob Fosse at the reins for this production which he perceived as a film for television. Filmed in a theatre, “Liza With A Z” is essentially a concert, featuring Minnelli alongside a full company of dancers. Fosse was careful to present many facets of Liza’s persona and talent, and he achieved this by including character songs that were essential dramatic pieces as well as plenty of comedy. Without a doubt the highlight is the iconic Fosse number “Bye Bye Blackbird” with “Ring Them Bells” a close second. The choreography works to great effect on “Blackbird” – angular movements accentuating the dancers’ physicality and encompassing all of Fosse’s trademark moves. The show went on to win an Emmy, US televisions highest accolade. Hot on the tails of the show saw Liza’s breathtaking concert for the theatre “Live At The Winter Garden” (again with Fosse) which, in turn, saw Liza winning a Tony making 1972 a record breaking year and a personal highlight. From this remarkable year onwards her relationship with Fosse proved to be an important one for Liza and she continued to work with him sporadically until his untimely death.

Whilst Liza would never again have a year quite like 1972 there were many more highlights in the years to come. 1977 saw the acclaimed movie “New York, New York” directed by Martin Scorcese and co-starring Robert De Niro. Set in the worlds of Broadway and Jazz, the movie successfully married the style of old time MGM musicals with the harder grittier elements more common to Scorcese’s oeuvre, and didn’t shy away from making the lead characters flawed and not necessarily likeable at times. Minnelli and De Niro played an active part in developing the film and much of their dialogue, and aspects of the story, stem from improvisation. The original cut was critically acclaimed, however as the cinema owners felt it was too long the movie was drastically edited and the version that had a full release failed to capture the public imagination. However the DVD does re-instate some of the cut material and offers some fascinating extras that reveal many fascinating facts about the making of the movie. Anyone with a love of jazz music and/or film musicals will find much to enjoy on the excellent soundtrack which also features it’s fair share of big band music. Much of the score is well known songs from the second world war (and post war) period although Kander and Ebb composed a handful of new tunes for the movie including the anthemic title number.

The next few years saw sporadic film appearances from Liza, most notably in the classic comedy “Arthur” co-starring Dudley Moore and a scene stealing John Gielgud. TV Specials and concert appearances followed, notably at the Palladium and New York’s Carnegie Hall, but it was the late eighties that saw two of her most memorable performances. The first was “The Ultimate Event” a highly successful world tour that teamed her with Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis Junior. The programme included solos, duets and trios – Sinatra and Minnelli shared duties on “New York, New York” which despite being written for Liza is heavily identified with Frank! 1989 saw her career go in a radically different direction when she worked with the, then extremely popular, Pet Shop Boys on the album “Results”. This album included her top ten re-working of Stephen Sondheim’s “Losing My Mind” as well as interpretations of some Tennant/Lowe compositions, notably the stunning ballad “So Sorry I Said”.

Despite successfully making it into the pop charts for the first time, the early nineties saw her returning to more familiar territory. She lead the cast of the screen version of “Stepping Out” alongside Julie Walters and Shelley Winters, as an inspirational dance teacher. Around the same time she appeared in concert with Charles Aznavour in Paris, and embarked on a world tour of her “Live At Radio City” show. I saw this tour when it came to the Royal Albert Hall (two nights running) and it was amazing, Liza sang and danced her way through two and a half hours, and when I went back the following night for a midnight matinee she actually did three extra numbers even though she had barely been off the stage from the regular performance. I think this concert was possibly the best, most exciting, thing I have ever seen in a theatre or concert hall.

It’s fair to say that since this period, largely due to her intermittent health issues, Liza’s career has never scaled the heights it had hitherto. However she returned to Broadway in her show based around her father, “Minnelli On Minnelli” where she sang a handful of her mothers songs for the first time, and not long after embarked on a world tour with “Liza’s Back”. Time take’s its toll and naturally, for a performer who has always been so physical, she will never recapture the glory years of the seventies , after all she is now over sixty, but I am sure that we haven’t seen the last of Liza with a Z!

On DVD “Cabaret”, “New York, New York”, “Arthur”, and various episodes of “The Judy Garland Show”
On CD “Results”, “Live At Carnegie Hall”, “The Singer” (for some seventies MOR selections)
On both “Liza Live At Radio City Music Hall”, “Aznavour/Minnelli” and of course “Liza With A Z”. The Judy/Liza performance is very difficult to get hold of but you can possibly find it on CD and DVD if you search hard enough.
Also worth seeking out, if you are a Sondheim fan is “Sondheim:A Celebration At Carnegie Hall” which features two Liza performances on the CD and one on the DVD. This is also worth seeking out if you like Bernadette Peters, Patti LuPone or Betty Buckley as they are all amongst the cast!

In Closing (Where was it last week? I quite forgot!)

Jennifer Hudson (The new Aretha?)

Martha Jones (The new Rose Tyler?)

Sadie Lyth (The new Basil Brush?)

Monday, 19 February 2007

Soundtrack Of My Life - tracks 13-17

13.Evergreen (Streisand/Williams) BARBRA STREISAND
I never liked Streisand when growing up. Then I heard this song (in 1985) sung by someone else and by chance discovered that my mum had the original single. So began an interest in Barbra! In 1994 she announced her London concerts and sadly I knew that I just couldn't afford to go. Well, at some point my friend Plum told me that I had to keep a particular evening free but she wouldn't say why. I had a vague feeling that the date was around the time of the concerts, but couldn't allow myself to believe it was going to be a night at Barbra! After all, whatever it was for I was sure it would be something nice! Anyway the night came round and my initial suspicions proved to be true. Overall it wasn't the most amazing concert ever, but to be there when she was singing those signature numbers like "Evergreen", and "The Way We Were" - complete with clips from the movie on a big screen - was absolutely amazing!

14.Don't Leave Me This Way (Gamble/Huff/Gilbert) THE COMMUNARDS
Singing and dancing along to this song used to happen a lot when I was in the sixth form, so even though I don't have any specific stories about it, it does deserve a place on this list. We were kind of an odd bunch in the sixth form, as a large group of us had ended up congregating in the "end room" of the sixth form house. Apparently there were people who were scared of us! Very odd, although if you ventured to the end room then anything could happen. It wasn't unusual for paper planes to be set light to, and I can remember one landing on someone's head on one occasion. Generally it was quite a forward looking group of people and, although we had our inevitable fall outs, most of the time we got on. Although I do admit that if I spy the majority of these people on visits home I hide rather than speak to them! Aren't I awful!.....come satisfy meeeeeeeeee!

15.Wipe Out (Sufraris) THE SURFARIS
16.Theme From "Rupert The Bear" (Weston/Roker) JACKIE LEE
The sixth form had rather a large mod contigent and they were often to be found "shaking their tail feathers" and doing quite a strange dance to "Wipe Out". In time most of the sixth form seemed to absorb the steps and join in, and it became a staple of the sixth form disco! I often remember Mark, one of the mods, saying "no one has serious fun anymore" I understand what he meant, however it seemed a little ironic as his kind of fun seemed to be dancing little boxy steps and having a very serious expression. When they danced along to "Rupert" (allegedly a northern soul classic) it really seemed quite bizarre with them all dancing very seriously to this silly little song!Also I should mention that every Christmas, when I was little, Simon, my Uncle, would buy me the "Rupert" annual so the song also triggers that memory!

17.Me And Little Andy (Parton) DOLLY PARTONT
his is the silliest song ever, about a little girl knocking to come in from the rain with her little dog.....anyway she comes into shelter and "that night when they slept the angels took them both to heaven" . I remember playing it to Lesley (we have known each other since we were toddlers!) and her crying, so naturally everyone took the piss out of her....when her boyfriend arrived we told him about it and when he heard the song he blubbed too! He was a slightly less serious mod!

Saturday, 17 February 2007

New Column 17/2/07 A Stairway To Paradise

Well its time for an essential musical with a difference. “No songs?” You ask. No, don’t be ridiculous, this time it will be a movie musical from the golden age of MGM. “An American In Paris”.

With a ravishing score taken from the back catalogue of George and Ira Gershwin, the central performance of MGM wunderkind Gene Kelly and the direction of the legendary Vincente Minnelli, “An American In Paris” had all the ingredients to make a classic movie.

The initial idea for the movie was borne from a conversation between legendary producer Arthur Freed and lyricist Ira Gershwin. Following on from previous movies featuring the work of just one composer Freed was desirous of doing the same for the Gershwins, using their epic orchestral work “An American In Paris” as its central point. Alan Jay Lerner (lyricist of “My Fair Lady”) came aboard to write a script to link the songs together, and Vincente Minnelli with his background in art direction was an inspired choice to occupy the directors chair. Any regular readers of this column will know that personally I find the city of Paris and the world of art inextricably linked, and it seems that Minnelli and Kelly had the same thoughts as they began work on this picture. It was no accident that Gene Kelly’s role was as an aspiring artist, as paintings play a big part in this picture. From the opening scenes set in Montmartre to the ambitious ballet that closes the film you are taken on a Technicolor journey through the works of Degas, Lautrec and more.

Anyway let’s start with the cast. Gene Kelly as star/choreographer was of course faultless in the role of Jerry Mulligan and performed with great charm, and naturally he danced up a storm! The movies big discovery was Leslie Caron, plucked from the ranks of David Lichine’s Ballet company to make her film debut as the gamine (try and find a quote about Leslie Caron where they don’t describe her thus!) ballerina Lise. In supporting roles are pianist/entertainer Oscar Levant as Adam Cook and real life star of the Folies Bergere Georges Guetary as entertainer Henri Baurel whose preposterously over the top vocal of “I’ll Build A Stairway To Paradise” is one of the films lingering memories.

The plot is simple, dealing with a boy meets girl, boy loses girl etc story, but essentially it is there to show case a series of classic songs and performances. Kelly’s “Tra La La” in Adam’s apartment , and his “I Got Rhythm” performed on the streets of Paris with local children are both original and effective. “Our Love Is Here To Stay” , because of this film , a song that will be forever connected to Paris for me as Kelly sings it to Caron as they wander along the banks of the Seine. This is such an iconic scene that when Woody Allen came to make his own musical “Everybody Says I Love You”, some forty odd years later, it includes an homage to this number. The art direction of the movie is beautiful and even though the film was largely made on the MGM back lot you are able to suspend disbelief and feel as if the whole movie was filmed in the city of lights. From the scenes around Montmartre to the theatricality of the Folies Bergere and the parks and avenues of the city, it seems that all of Paris is there to enjoy. As was the fashion at the time, both on film and at the theatre, the picture features a ballet. This spectacular conclusion to the film features the title tune “An American In Paris” and takes us to the requisite happy ending. Every scene in the ballet is based on a different artist whose work is evoked both in the scenic design, the palette of colours used and even the choreography, all adding up to a visually stunning finale. There are some elements of the film that are very much of it’s time but overall I would say that this really is a timeless movie. Even though studio heads were a little wary of certain elements of the production, particularly the ambitious closing sequence, it went on to become one of the years biggest hits, becoming one of the years most successful pictures and went on to win a total of six Oscars including Best Picture and a special Academy Award for the achievements of Gene Kelly.

Even though “Singin’ In The Rain” (made a year later) is often thought of as being Gene Kelly’s finest hour it is “An American In Paris” that is usually regarded as his masterwork. A meeting of minds that saw a group of collaborators at the top of their game the movie is rightly considered to be one of the all time greats. Sadly within a few short years the glory days of the MGM musical would be over. Judy Garland had already filmed her last movie for the studio and Fred Astaire would not be far behind her. Gene Kelly would film his swan song for the studio “Les Girls” in 1958. However the magical combination of Leslie Caron, Vincente Minnelli ,Alan Jay Lerner and the city of Paris would again feature in what is generally considered to be the last great MGM musical, Lerner and Loewe’s “Gigi” based on the stories of Collette. In 1958 “Gigi” once again uses influences from the world of art and is possibly one of the most sumptuous and beautiful films ever made and well worth a look Once again the production team went away heavily laden with Oscars , nine in total on this occasion, yet again including best picture.

So many people have recorded the works of George and Ira Gershwin that you really are spoilt for choice. Michael Feinstein has released a number of worthy collections, and Ella Fitzgerald’s three disc songbook is a good primer, but you will see the music of Gershwin on recordings by all sorts of artists. There is a fantastic double remastered cd of “An American In Paris” which features all of the movies soundtrack plus some cut songs, and a great single disc of “Gigi” is also available.
As I was growing up the MGM movies were a staple of Sunday afternoon and bank holiday TV viewing. Sadly these days, with the exception of “Singin’ In The Rain” and “The Wizard Of Oz” these films rarely get a terrestrial showing although they can be found on TNT quite often. Slowly but surely they are all appearing on DVD however, often with some fascinating “extras” , but for a real treat why not seek out “That’s Entertainment” which is a pot pourri of the very best clips from these pictures featuring legendary performances from the likes of Garland, Astaire, Rogers, Miller, Keel and of course Gene Kelly. Otherwise there is “The Bandwagon”, “Meet Me In St Louis”, “Easter Parade”, “Seven Brides For Seven Brothers” ….well the list goes on!

P.S. as we are on Paris (kind of!) I have been informed by Fanny Dulin that she has seen a trailer for “Fauteuils D’Orchestre” one of the movies I recommended that I had bought in France, so it looks like its heading to our screens soon!

Monday, 12 February 2007

Soundtrack Of My Life - Tracks 9-12

9.99 Luftballons (Kerner/Brendel/Karges/Fahrenkrog-Petersen) NENA
Back in the early eighties "Top Of The Pops" included a run down of the European top ten, so I had heard this song before I went to visit my German relatives at Easter 1983. I remember there being some confusion when I was in the record shop asking for the single. But the story my Oma (German for Grandma!) tells is that I told her I wanted 99 Luftballons - which translates as 99 Balloons (red was added for the English lyric) - and she couldn't really understand why I wanted so many balloons - I don't recall this happening at all but she is quite certain! I got Nena's next couple of albums but then lost interest in her for many years, then about four years ago I was in Germany when Nena had just released an album of new recordings of her early hits. I loved it so much I have gradually collected her back catalogue since then. There is the odd track in English but the majority has been in German - although the last few years have seen me become more open to foreign language music so that's fine! Overall the song really sums up that particular holiday for me

10.Rough Justice (Jolley/Swain/Dallin/Fahey/Woodward) BANANARAMA
This just reminds me of a school trip to Holland in 1984. An odd little trip which amongst other things saw the teachers inadvertently taking us to a gay bar, and some of the group playing strip poker one night, not to mention someone climbing up one of the flag poles to steal a flag - and breaking the flag pole! One evening we spent watching the most peculiar ballet on television as well. All the male dancers were wearing quite grubby pants and not much else, and at one point they actually removed the pants, sat on the floor butt naked and washed them in a bowl of water then did a little nudey dance after! Very odd (but they had wonderful physiques!) It really was the oddest trip - I still have a quite odd sort of seal thing I bought there! Anyway for some reason this song always reminds me of this trip!

11.I Want To Dance (Heneker) from the musical "Peg" CAST
No sooner had I got back from Holland than I found myself coming down to London to work in the theatre for the first time. The show was "Peg" (my Uncle was in the cast) and it was, frankly, on it's last legs. It really was a different world - to be working in the company of adults for the first time - and rather eccentric ones at that! It was great fun to work on though, and I remember that all of the front of house staff would often be found dancing along to the somewhat bizarre choreography of this number.

12.Nobody's Side (Rice/Andersson/Ulvaeus) from "Chess" ELAINE PAIGE
I have already said I love this show, and this song is chosen on behalf of Jackie who felt it explained what she was going through at a particular point. She, as all of us do, had her own personal demons and along with the breakdown of a group friendship which saw me and Jackie on one side, and four former friends on the other she felt the lyrics of this song were quite significant. I can remember one of the former (now quite malicious) friends saying to me "Why does she think we are talking about her? The F***ing bitch is paranoid" . Says it all really! Frankly it's just a good bloody song.

Friday, 9 February 2007

Funny Valentines

Well valentines day is just around the corner so what better excuse to wax lyrical on romance and the stage!

Love and passion play a big part in musical theatre from the closing moments of “South Pacific”, when Nellie Forbush and Emile DeBecque clasp hands under the table, to the joyous celebration that is Collins’ and Angel’s “I’ll Cover You” in the more contemporary “Rent”. To quote Daisy Gamble (On A Clear Day You Can See Forever), “Love With All The Trimmings” would seem to be one of the publics favourite things when it comes to a night at the theatre.

“The Sound Of Music” may have it’s fair share of Nazis and an unlimited supply of nuns but it is the tender love story at it’s centre that touches audiences most. Only the hardest of hearts can fail to melt when Maria wonders that maybe she has done something good. Likewise in Rodgers and Hammerstein’s other blockbuster “The King And I” it’s the audience’s belief that there was a kind of love between the King and Anna Leonowens that holds the audiences attention.

Love stories at the theatre rarely seem to be particularly conventional and the path of true love rarely runs smooth. In “The Pajama Game” Sid Sorokin and Babe Williams are boss and trade unionist and find industrial action gets in the way of any action of a more intimate kind. The two pen-pal lovers of “She Loves Me” write letters to each other of great devotion, yet their love seems doomed to fail as neither realises the other is in fact a colleague that they despise. The hero of “How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying”, hardly seems to deserve the love of the beautiful Rosemary given that his big moment is singing “I Still Believe In You” to his own reflection! Although given that the young ladies of the show are just “Happy To Keep His Dinner Warm”, perhaps this doesn’t concern Rosemary a great deal.

So love has it’s ups and downs I guess. As a member of the audience though, perhaps, this is what we want to see. Lovey dovey types who just seem to have enduring bliss from the moment they first set eyes on each other across a crowded room . Where’s the fun in that? How many of you wish that it was the tragic Eponine who actually ended up with Marius rather than the respectable, but safe, Cosette. And in “The Phantom Of The Opera” is it really Raoul who we want to capture Christine’s heart? No, I suspect most people find the true romance of the piece to be between Miss Daee and the opera ghost himself.

Without a doubt some of our greatest love songs first appeared in musicals. Many of the standards that we hold dear such as “Come Rain Or Come Shine”, “Smoke Gets In Your Eyes” and “The Man I Love” all first appeared in Broadway shows of the twenties through the forties. Most of the songs from this era seem to be pretty straight forward as love songs ago but that’s not without exception. Rodgers and Hart’s “Funny Valentine” from “Babes In Arms” seems like a touching song about love not being all about good looks and superficial things, however given that it is sung to a character called Valentine rather than being a more general valentine it’s not quite as romantic as you first think! In fact many of the great musical love songs are not as obvious as they seem. The big ballad from “A Chorus Line” – “What I Did For Love” is about dancing, and what’s “Superstar’s” “I Don’t Know How To Love Him” all about? A woman of possible ill repute, falling for Jesus? God forbid that should happen! So in the theatre, as in real life, love is not that straight forward.

I suspect that there is a show tune for every situation in life – at least romantically. We have first love in “Guys And Dolls” with “I’ve Never Been In Love Before” and unrequited love in “On My Own” from “Les Miserables”. “Follies’” Sally Durant sings of obsessive love in “Losing My Mind”. In another Sondheim show, “Assassins” he even gave us an example of the psychopathic obsession, that can feed the passions of a stalker with “Unworthy Of Your Love”. Many songs speak of the unconditional love that you may have when you love someone despite their multiple failings, such as Nancy’s “As Long As He Needs Me” in “Oliver” and Lady Thiangs “Something Wonderful” in “The King And I”. Sometimes people can’t even admit the way they are feeling, for instance, in the movie of “Pajama Game” Doris Day was adamant that “I’m Not At All In Love”, and Curly and Laurie flirt with each other in “Oklahoma” and discuss all the things they shouldn’t really do otherwise “People Will Say We’re In Love”. Sometimes love is a case of self improvement, such as “Carousel” where we have Carrie Pipperidge extolling the virtues of Enoch Snow’s fishing business even though he “can’t seem to lose the smell of fish”. Indeed sometimes we even hear of the love that dare not speak it’s name such as in “I Walk With You” in “The Full Monty”.

So where does this leave us? Sally Bowles and the MC believe that “Money makes the world go around” yet in “Carnival” they state that “Love Makes The World Go Round”. Well I really don’t know, I suspect that it’s a little of both but what I can say with great certainty is – “Love Changes Everything”.

Well you could go for the obvious and buy a bunch of flowers, then of course a meal out is always nice – and if you are trying to woo me then I am allowed to eat chocolate again by that point. However given the above why not take them to the theatre

In Closing
Posh And Becks (Hollywood bound)
David and Jessica (Married at Last)
Bill and Ben (The Flowerpot Men)

Monday, 5 February 2007

Soundtrack Of My Life - tracks 5-8

5.”Pity The Child” (Rice/Andersson/Ulvaeus) MURRAY HEAD from the musical “Chess”
Well, I did say in the introduction that I would seek out songs that I felt I related to, although in retrospect this choice does make me sound like I live a life full of self pity! (I don’t!!!) Never the less, when I first heard this song, aged fifteen, it really felt like it had been written with me in mind, telling the story of a child from a broken home as his mother moves someone else in, and he retreats to his room. Even as I look at the song now, at a time when I have long since realised that life is what I choose to make it rather than allowing myself to be traumatized by the fact that my dad ran off to Benares in India when I was eighteen months old, the lyrics are still poignant and do sum up a large part of my child hood. Where they miss the point is in not describing the love and security I grew up with. The other stuff is often scarily to the point in describing the way I often felt – they just got the ages wrong! I have gone for Murray Head because (on the original studio album) it’s the first version I ever heard…plus I got to see him performing it live in this show that has always meant so much to me!

6.British Summertime ( Watt/Thorn) EVERYTHING BUT THE GIRL
Skegness! If you grew up in Leicestershire then its inevitable you will have gone to Skegness at some point. This song, however, is not Skeggy-specific but it wonderfully evokes those childhood car journeys to the sea side “windows down on the coast road waiting to be first to see the sea”, you know the feeling, twenty minutes after you set off you start saying “Mum, how much longer, how many miles?” and end up singing along to daft songs on the radio, until finally you arrive at the destination, often in dreary weather to a very bleak setting. At around the age of five I remember one of these caravan holidays in the sea side village of Salt Fleet. I was there with my mum and my (great) Grandma. Now my Grandma had a rather odd sense of humour and, at some point, I remember her telling me that the man in the next caravan was the black panther, a notorious child abductor of the time! Nice!

I have some wonderful friends, and I would hope that winter, spring, summer or fall I will be there if they call. So I simply dedicate this song to all of them, particularly to Jackie who, in my darkest hour, was there without question within the hour and helped me to see that, even in the dark, there is light! I was also pleased to discover, on a personal level, that in this bleak time it was the well being of those I care about that remained at the forefront of my mind. I have chosen this version, just because I like it best – although there are many other worthy recordings as well.

8.Oh What A Circus! (Rice/Lloyd Webber) from “Evita” David Essex (with Elaine Paige)
Oh what a show! Although I had already been introduced to musicals and the theatre (largely via old time music hall at The Players) it was hearing this album that sparked a life long love of musical theatre. It was quite an impressive LP in a shining silver sleeve and I just loved it. I lose count of how many times I borrowed the book of the show from Coalville library, but I know I made a point of photo copying the lyrics to this song and learning them. If I had ever pursued the career in musical theatre that I once aspired to then the role of Che, who sings this song, would have been my dream role. It remains one of my favourite musicals even though my musical taste does lean more to the Stephen Sondheim than the ALW as a rule! This is the first version I heard, therefore the one for the soundtrack!

Friday, 2 February 2007

A Choc To The System

Last night I woke up in a cold sweat! I was being chased by three walnut whips and a curly wurly. I just thought I was getting away when a whole lorry load of gym ball sized Ferrero Rocher came rolling down the street towards me….and that’s when I woke up.

An odd dream I agree, but you see I have deprived myself of chocolate since January the first. I am pretty good at this healthy eating thing, but as soon as I start on chocolate I have to carry on until its all gone. Multipacks, boxes of chocolates, jumbo sized bars! Nothing is safe!! And it takes a lorry load before I feel even remotely sick! So it had to happen, a complete embargo on chocolate until my birthday. Which is very soon. Phew! (and Yippee!)

What is it about chocolate that’s so special? Well obviously it tastes pretty good. Also there are so many different kinds – chocolate for every mood!……Thorntons Viennese Truffles….Green and Blacks white chocolate and vanilla…..and when I am in Germany there is of course Suchard’s Milka in its appealing lilac wrapper in a multitude of different deliciously desirable varieties. Speaking of Germany there is this Kaffeehaus…Zimmerman’s in Nurtingen…and they make their own chocolate…it has to be tasted to be believed….you really haven’t experienced milk chocolate until you have tasted Zimmermans.

Anyway you may notice I have been experiencing withdrawal symptoms. But so far I have managed to keep off the tasty brown stuff! I admit it’s been difficult….I have had a particularly crappy new year so far so have been reaching for the comfort food quite a lot. Crappy you ask? Well I will cast my mind back to the early hours of Thursday the eleventh of January. My landlords had fitted double glazing which I hadn’t been particularly bothered about, but seeing the sexy new windows ended up being disproportionately exciting – once you pass thirty such domestic things sadly give you a thrill! Anyway there I am asleep, with the glow of double glazing soothing me like a mother singing a lullaby…until 2am that is! I was disturbed by a faint knocking noise, so sleepily lurched out of bed and went to peer out of the bathroom window and investigate. I couldn’t see much, just smoke, so began to panic and ran to the front door…..more smoke….and flames! It seemed that the bin store at the bottom of my block and below the stairs providing the only entrance (and therefore exit!) to my flat was ablaze! What now? I ran back in put my dressing gown and shoes, grabbed my coat and got my hat, left my worries on the doorstep and ran for dear life! I banged on the windows of the next flat yelling “Get out!” and then tried to bang ninety year old Kitty up. Sadly Kitty is rather deaf and after banging a few times the smoke was getting to me so I had to run off (burn Kitty burn!). As I ran out the flames were beginning to whip around the bottom of the staircase, so images of my dressing gown catching alight filled my head as I raced out followed by Jete from next door who was screaming something unintelligible. There was already an audience out side, and the fire brigade had apparently been alerted, and they arrived very quickly. So there I am with about half the residents of the block, all in our bed wear shivering in the night air. Images of our neighbours burning to death haunted us, but in retrospect if the firemen weren’t confident in containing the blaze I am sure their first action would have been to liberate Kitty et al. It took about forty five minutes for them to extinguish the blaze, during which time we did have a couple of mini drama’s. Mia the little girl from downstairs started screaming at one point “Suzie is going to dieeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!” and frankly nobody was particularly impressed to discover that she was keeping a rat in her bedroom! Jean, her next door neighbour, was convinced she had seen someone creep into the bin store and deliberately set light to it…my opinion is that it was more likely to be arsing around than arson – probably just someone lighting a cigarette away from the wind. Bloody smokers! Anyway all in all the fire was relatively minor, although if the wind was blowing in the other direction it would have been up the ivy and to my flat pretty quickly. We were just lucky that the fire brigade arrive when they did and dealt with it so efficiently. And Kitty slept through the whole thing!

So back to the comfort food – I have been reaching for the cakes I am afraid but chocolate hasn’t passed my lips since the first day of the year. However! February the eighth is the day I hit the 38 mark (Yikes!) and the pre-decided date that I am allowed chocolate again! It’s not the first time in recent years that I have deprived myself of this nectar……so I actually know that on the 8th of February I am in for an almost hallucinogenic experience. To taste that first bite of chocolate after so long is a revelation, it hits your taste buds and sends an amazing signal to the brain, and a smile creeps onto your face, it puts a tingle in your fingers and a tingle in your feet the rhythm of life has a powerful beat….or is that something else?

So that’s it for another column – I hope you have enjoyed this alternative to the usual showtuneyness, but rest assured normal service will resume next week!

If you have a Tchibo store near you then try their dark chocolate infused with ground coffee beans its amazing. On DVD then naturally I would recommend “Chocolat” starring Juliette Binoche , Judi Dench and Johnny Depp. Also “Like Water For Chocolate” is a wonderful Mexican film with romance, drama, comedy and lots of chocolate!

In Closing
Whipped Cream Whirlnuts (Don’t ask me! It’s my grandpa’s favourite!)
Galaxy Counters (Nobody remembers these except me!)
Kinder (Chocadoobee!)