Priscilla, Queen of the Desert Jan 29th, ’11

london west end

According to my very good friend Beverley I should seriously rethink my conviction that I do not like musicals. Because as soon as I go see a musical, I find I like it.

Priscilla – now THAT was absolutely, gorgeously, marvellously brilliant!! The total and shameless lack of subtlety, the precision of both the dialogue and the dance, the whole colourful spectacle – it was absolutely fabulous!

And like with Rocky Horror or La Cage aux Folles, Priscilla has long since achieved cult status; people come multiple times and are dressed to the occasion – they don feathers and pink dresses and it’s fun to watch audience queuing before the show starts. A show that – aside from the characters’ names – has not much in common with the famous movie – and I do think that is a good idea. The trip in the old pink bus unites Felicia/Adam (the absolutely gorgeous Oliver Thornton – boy, I have rarely seen such a blindingly good looking body! www.oliverthornton.com ) and Bernadette (Don Gallagher, brilliant as the remodelled new woman) to accompany their friend Mitzi /Tick (Ben Richards) from Sydney to the Alice – where Mitzi has stashed away his life before coming out – in the form of a wife and a son he hasn’t seen since the boy was born. Add to that highly explosive mix Bob (Ray Meagher, the  only actual Australian in the cast I’ve seen LOL) who is in search of true love and you have a comedy with its sad moments which add spice and a little tear into the mix.

Also, the music used is a fun ride – from Downtown, to Don’t Leave Me This Way to Go West to the classic A Fine Romance to Girls Just Wanna Have Fun (by The Divas who are just smashing with voices like angels and bodies like hot she devils – on strings flying from the skies!) to a really moving Kylie Medley in front of Ayers Rock!

One of the moments that impressed me was Tick’s first scene – he comes on stage all butch and tough in a trench coat and then transforms within one song and only a couple of seconds’ time into Mitzi. Now we have seen this in LaCage where peerless and incomparable John Barrowman puts on his mascara for the first time – and it is such an intimate and heartwarming scene that transpires so much feeling then. It is done totally different in Priscilla – with his back to the audience Tick applies lipstick and puts on a mask that will be his eye make-up and when he turns around again – Mitzi! And that rather flashy start also sets the scene for the rest of the musical – it’s glamorously loud and fun and brilliant – subtle it is not. But a lot of fun! And – as I shallowly have stated before – I’ve rarely seen so many really well trained, trim and good looking bodies on one stage before! Go, check it out, ladies! You are worth it!

*+*+*+*

Now apparently Liza Minnelli made it to the Palace theatre to watch the show! and judging from the pictures taken by WireImage she enjoyed herself tremendously!  http:// http://bit.ly/hIKb6B Just like I did!!

King Lear Jan 29th, ’11

london west end

Derek Jacobi now owns this part.

Sorry, everybody else who wants to try out Shakespeare’s masterpiece, you’ll have to wait at least ten years. The part is Jacobi’s for now.

Most readers of any theatre blog will have seen King Lear at least once – Lear is all about love and rejection, greed and wealth,  power and the loss of it as age claims a once great king. And about how one wrong decision can bring kingdoms to their knees and drive men into madness.The Donmar Warehouse theatre has brought Lear to the stage – a stark, empty stage, with whitewashed wooden boards that continue to the walls, naked and nothing more. It is Shakespeare’s story that, as it unfolds, fills the empty space with emotions and pictures and the timeless beauty of the bard’s words. The costumes are vaguely contemporary, with long woollen coats and Lear all decked in pale cream colored linnen (as if his clothes were in anticipation of the plain long shirt the dead were dressed in).  And as the theatre is very small, the audience almost participates, is part of what is going on, is even more involved in the heartbreak of a king who gave away his power not realising that he would give away his sanity and his life, too.

One of the most impressive scenes – to me, at least – was when Lear surrounded by his two daughters, neither of whom wants him in her home and cuts his entourage down to – why not ten, why not 1?? – nothing starts to apologise for being old, and yet still is full of regal power, but now despised by his daughters, with not one person standing by him other than his fool. This is eternal truth, so present-day even more so when brought to life by Derek Jacobi, that it hurts to listen.

And then it’s Lear’s descent into madness, when storm, lightning and thunder seem to obey his wishes – that were negated not so long ago by his own blood – as he curses his offspring, when his slowly vanishing reason seems like a soft blanket that almost gently, mercifully takes him away to a place less cruel.A place that rejects him back into horrible reality when his daughter Cordelia is killed and Jacobi carries her lifeless body onto the bright white stage, and _ a very last curtain to his whole bloodline – follows her into oblivion. Because in death everybody is finally equal – greed, powerlust, rejection, deceit,  petty differences and even murder pales in the face of death.

It is an amazing play even with lesser actors, but with the brilliant cast that will take the play on tour soon it’s absolutely brilliant. Add to that the intimacy of the Donmar theatre and it seemed I was part of the play, enthralled by it to the point of being mesmerised.

And it was only because the audience could barely stand in the small space between the unmarked rows that standing ovations didn’t happen. 😉

*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*

Add to that the friendliness of the Donmar crew who graciously let me sneak in upstairs because – ah the joy – fucking easyJet was two hours late and I therefore missed the first 20 minutes or so of the matinee. sigh. It was an absolutely BRILLIANT experience and I am more than grateful to have seen Derek Jacobi live on stage. He is absolutely amazing and I would love to see him in The Tempest sooner rather than later!

Aladdin – last two performances, Jan.9th, 2011

As always the last matinee of a Pantomime is the one show you do not want to miss – it’s the show where the mishaps are deliberately created by the actors to derail them. It’s hilarious. If you’ve seen a “normal” performance before, that is…

When the curtain goes up to the very first song, not only were all the male dancers without shirts – and yummie they looked! -,  John’s dresser Finlay was also still on stage and fiddling with John’s black pants. I asked him later if there was a hole or something, but he just laughed and replied, “no, John was just being very naughty again!”.

The half naked dancers had a nice effect on John, though. By the end of “Let’s get this party started” he slipped out of his jerkin and started to pull his white shirt out of his pants. and was gone from the stage before flesh showed!

Then the script made an appearance on stage again during the first dialogue of the Krankies ( oh, look, not opened…) and clearly it was John whose finger pointed to parts of the scripted jokes! But this time toilet paper was rolling onto the stage and unravelling!

During the song 500 miles John grabbed one of the dancer’s butt, but his retaliation came fast:

During the scene where Churchill appears on top of a box  (“product placement!”) there was banging to be heard – and as Greg Barrowman had told us that John would be VERY surprised we assumed he was in the box trying to get out!

The hypnosis scene was spiced up by yet another half naked dancer massaging John’s shoulders, and then Pete came with a big white ostrich feather and tickled him with it, trying to get him to giggle and give up his pose, but even though he teased him in places unmentionable John kept his posture and so the play commenced.

At the cave – when all the bats are flying out – John had previously added a line to his usual “I feel like I’m in Twilight!” but neither I nor Iris understood him -till during intermission our American friends stopped by and told us it was GERMAN! So I asked him at the stage door and he said “yeah, I wanted to say I’m in Twilight, and kept looking at you guys but you just were: hhhh (his face one big questionmark)! Oh, great, they understand my English, but not their own German, so how do you say ‘I’m in Twilight’?” “ich bin in Twilight” – “oh, well, I was close, then…” When the scene came again, he said “Ich bin in Twilight!” and we clapped and cheered!!

But the best thing happened on the last show:
The little boy they were calling up to the stage was talking about his christmas
gifts and that he’d put cookies out for Santa. So John asks what would happen if
Santa ate everybody’s cookies – he’d get too fat to come through the chimney.
(his punchline usually being “tell your parents to open up the front door next
christmas!”)
But then the little boy, not intimidated at all by John’s silver outfit with all
the diamonds and silver stitching, says “But he can do it – he’s magic!”; he is so cute, everybody is awwwwing. John smiles and says “Oh you’re right. I love
magical people – they sparkle, you know!”

To which the child says all earnest: “You sparkle!”
I had to bite back tears. (John was speechless for once and the audience cheered
and clapped madly!)

This child in his innocence had summed it up perfectly.
John actually sparkles, whatever he does.

And for the very last scene John came on stage alone, with a Chinese Lion’s head on – looked very smashing! And he got a standing ovation for that last show!
It was absolutely amazing – and I’ll probably need another year to recover. But then it’s Panto-time again and that is Fantastic, Fantastic, Fantastic – to borrow a Barrowman phrase!