Tuesday, 18 November 2008

simply the beth talks musicals (1)

First up for the simply the beth treatment: Mamma Mia!

I'd heard that Merly Streep was very good in this film, and Pierce Brosnan less so. So I wasn't horrified to find that the men weren't as strong as the women in the film, having been over-prepared on that front. If you enjoy Abba, nice landscapes, good acting, a touch of Bollywood here and there, then you'll love this. If you don't know how the story pans out, you'll enjoy it more. I didn't know what happens (despite various attempts over the years to get friends to go to see Mamma Mia! in the theatre with me), so I particularly enjoyed the twist on 'I could dance with you baby' and other touches. 'The winner takes it all' scene could have benefitted from being less stationary. For me the best part was undoubtedly 'Slipping through my fingers'. It brought tears to the eyes of a childless woman mourning the time she hasn't spent with her child yet. Generally, a big thumbs up. Buy the DVD when it comes out and watch it with your daughter or mother.

Secondly: The Sound of Music; a musical we have all seen, I'm sure, and can't even remember the first time we saw the film.

What's its secret? Listeners to Elaine Paige on Sundays on Radio 2 will know how often her guests cite 'The Book' as the most crucial element in their essential musicals. And there's no doubting that the book behind this show is fantastic, all the more so because it's true. If you haven't read the story of the Van Trapp family after they made it over the mountains, get a copy of it now.

The success of the film cannot be doubted, even by those who are unaware of the phenomenon that is Sing-along-a-Sound-of-Music. It was quite an eye-opener for me when I went to this event some ten years ago in Newcastle upon Tyne. All those men dressed as nuns. I went as a brown paper package tied up with string, a dress my then boyfriend made for me. Sadly a more conservative Maria won the best costume competition.

The Sound of Music has got a new audience through the BBC1 programme 'How do you solve a problem like Maria?' And it was this take on the reality TV show that caused a friend of mine to be quite so desperate to see the show at the theatre. So this August we finally went to see the show at the London Palladium.

What did I think? Let me review the show itself before I discuss the whole experience package. Captain Von Trapp aside, who, for me and my companion lacked any stage presence whatsoever, the show was good. The Mother Superior had a truly superior set of pipes. The scene between Liesl and Rolf was neatly choreographed and original. And the stage management was on another level - you have to check out the rotating hill.

But, overall, I didn't enjoy it. Why? The audience. I paid £35 for the pleasure of being up towards the gods and, guess what? I got to sit behind a women who decided a modern take on the beehive was a good idea for a theatre hairdo. When you're struggling to make 5' 2'' this is not good news. The end result was that I spent the whole show fully aware of the audience.

My general advice? Stick to the film. It can't be beaten.

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