Saturday, February 2, 2019

CAST RECORDINGS OF 2018: A PERSONAL LOOK

In 2018, between cast recordings and movie/television musicals soundtracks, I counted 59 releases. Of course, I didn’t listen to all of them, but I only missed a few.

Before crucifying me for my choices, let me confess that I love the traditional Broadway sound and I have strong difficulties to enjoy other music styles. So, everything that sounds like rock country or folk hardly have a chance to catch my narrow-minded ears. In order to get an idea, take a look at my 20 FAVORITE SCORES of all time.

Without further delays, here are my choices. First, the “Jorge’s Place Awards” and then my “Top Twelve" recordings of 2018, in preference order and not including reissues.

If you like this, take a look at my choices of 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013 and 2012.  

JORGE'S PLACE AWARDS 2018




TOP TWELVE CAST RECORDINGS OF 2018





Monday, December 24, 2018

MARY POPPINS RETURNS – A Movie Review

Cast: Emily Blunt, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Ben Whishaw, Emily Mortimer, Pixie Davies, Nathanael Saleh, Joel Dawson, Julie Walters, Colin Firth, Meryl Streep, Jeremy Swift, Kobna Holdbrook-Smith, David Warner, Jim Norton, Dick Van Dyke, Angela Lansbury
Creative Team: Songs by Marc Shaiman & Scott Wittman • Choreography by Rob Marshall, John DeLuca & Joey Pizzi • Screenplay by David Magee • Based upon the novel by P. L. Travers • Directed by Rob Marshall
My Rate: 10 (from 1 to 10)

The Plot: Michael Banks, is now a widower with three little sons, on the brink of losing their home. But Mary Poppins is back to help him and his family 

The Movie: Since I saw the trailer for this movie that I’ve been very excited about it, but I never expected to fell in love with it in just a couple of minutes. But I fell head over heels for it! I know the original is an eternal classic and I enjoyed it very much, but I’ve to confess that, although it had better songs, I prefer this sequel… it’s very rare for that to happen to me!
I think director Rob Marshall did an amazing job recreating the magic of the original and giving it a modern pace that takes us from one scene to another with rhythm, imagination, humour and magic! He has a terrific sense of how a movie musical should work and took full advantage of the means at his disposition. Visually, the movie is amazing and the scenes between humans and cartoons are so real that we forget they are special effects.
It’s true, the characters sing and dance every time they get a chance and I love it! The sequence at the “Royal Doulton Music Hall” is fabulous and “Trip a Little Light Fantastic” is terrific and contagious. But there’s more, including a hilarious Meryl Streep giving us “Turning Turtle” and the great Angela Lansbury with the melodious “Nowhere to Go but Up”. The song “The Place Where Lost Things Go” is beautiful and “Can You Imagine That” magically funny.
In the title role, Emily Blunt is perfectly perfect, showing us what a great and versatile actress she is (early this year she was fighting monsters in A QUIET PLACE). I love Julie Andrews, but Blunt made the role her own. At her side, Broadway’s Lin-Manuel Miranda is the nice Jack, a lamp lighter who believes in magic. As Michael Banks, Ben Wishaw is like a lost big kid in need of a miracle and, has his sister, Emily Mortimer is sweet and always giggling. In a change of character, Colin Firth convinces as the bad guy and Julie Walters is funny as the Bank’s house maid. I already mentioned Meryl Streep, she’s at her best here, enjoying every minute of her performance and dear old Angela Lansbury is sweet as over. One last word for Dick Van Dyke, who played the characters of Bert and Mr. Dawes Senior in the original, and here plays, sings and dance as Mr. Dawes Jr. Having him in the cast was a nice touch by Marshall.
I can’t recommend this movie enough! The world is in terrible need of believing in the magic of Mary Poppins and the movie melted my heart, put a big smile on my soul and made me cry of happiness! I don’t know about you, but this is one of the best movies I saw this year! Don’t miss it and let Mary Poppins magic live in you; it’s good to be a child again!  






















Friday, October 26, 2018

COMPANY – London 1995: A Theatre Review

Cast: Adrian Lester, Rebecca Front, Clive Rowe, Clare Burt, Gareth Snook, Liza Sadovy, Teddy Kempner, Sophie Thompso, Michael Simkis, Sheila Gish, Paul Bentley, Anna Francolini, Kiran Hocking, Hannah James
Creative Team: Music and Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim • Book by George Furth • Musical Staging by Jonathan Butterell • Directed by Sam Mendes
My Rate: 10 (from 1 to 10) / Photos: Mark Douet

Introduction Notes: Now that a new production of COMPANY opened in London, it’s time for me to revisit the 1995 Donmar Warehouse production. I was lucky to saw it twice; first at the Donmar and, a few months later, at the Albery Theatre for where it was transferred. I love it both times and I’m sharing here the “review” I wrote back in 1995. I was 31 years old at the time… how time flies!
This production won the Olivier Awards 1996 for Best Director, Best Actor in a Musical for Adrian Lester and Best Supporting Actress in a Musical for Sheila Gish; it also won the Critics Circle Award 1996 for Best Musical.

The Plot: Bobby is a lone bachelor and his married friends decide to give him a surprise party to celebrate his 35thBirthday. Before blowing the candles, Bobby thinks about his life, specially his relationships.

The Show: This is a musical masterpiece! The book by George Furth is intelligent, with terrific lines, and lives in perfect harmony with Stephen Sondheim’s words. To tell the truth, it's impossible to know when the work of one end and the others began. Unforgettable and original, this is a modern classic, which revealed to the world one of Sondheim's best scores!
Sam Mendes took full advantage of the single set he had at Donmar Warehouse’s small stage. Paying equal attention to the small details as he did to the big ones, he transformed this production into an unforgettable experience. Being at ease with the hilarious sequences as well with the dramatic ones, he makes us care for the characters, involving us into their games. 
The cast couldn’t be better, and everyone lives their characters lively and emotionally. Of course, for obvious reasons, some of the roles shine more than others. In the leading role of Bobby, Adrian Lester plays it with heart and soul, giving a great realistic performance. His Bobby is real, and we really care for him!
But, besides Lester, the truth is that the show belongs to the ladies, specially to two of them.     As the alcoholic Joanne, Sheila Gish stopped the show with her powerful "The Ladies Who Launch". As the freaked bride, Sophie Thompson brought down the house with her touching and funny rendition of "Getting Marry Today". Both actresses were absolutely amazing, but the other females of the company were also very good.
The score has some of Sondheim’s best songs and the cast gave them a new life, making them, once again, unforgettable. There are only two dance numbers, and both were a joy to watch. “You Could Drive a Person Crazy” is brilliantly effective on its simplicity. “Side by Side by Side / What Would We Do?” is a true showstopper; full of originality and humour, was truly hilarious and one of the best dance numbers I saw on stage.
From the haunting opening number to the blew of the candles at the final, this revival is a unique event, of those that only happens once in a lifetime!

Thursday, October 18, 2018

A STAR IS BORN – A Movie Review

Cast: Bradley Cooper, Lady Gaga, Sam Elliott, Andrew Dice Clay, Rafi Gavron, Anthony Ramos, Dave Chapelle, Alec Baldwin, Marlon Williams, Brandi Carlile
Creative Team: Songs by Lukas Nelson, Lady Gaga, Bradley Cooper, Mark Nilan Jr., Nick Monson, Aaron Raitiere, Paul Blair and others • Screenplay by Eric Roth, Bradley Cooper & Will Fetters • Original Story by William A. Wellman & Robert Carson • Directed by Bradley Cooper
My Rate: 6 (from 1 to 10)

The Plot: Jack is a famous singer/composer whose career, because of drugs and alcohol, seems to be downhill. One day he meets Ally, an aspiring singer/composer, on a drag club and falls in love with her. Seeing her potential as an artist he pushes her to the front of his concerts helping her to become a star on her own.

The Movie: This is the fourth time that this award-winning story serves as the basis for a movie. The first time was in 1937 as a melodrama starring Janet Gaynor and Fredric March; in 1954 it became a musical with Judy Garland and James Mason and in the 70s a pop/rock musical starring Barbra Streisand and Kris Kristofferson. I believe you already know all about that and that this new adaptation of the story is closer to the 70s version than to the others. Before going on, I just want to tell that, not surprisingly, my favorite is the Judy Garland version.
I have to congratulate Bradley Cooper for such a strong debut in the director’s chair. He shows a steady hand and knows how to deliver emotional scenes without being too lame. He’s also excellent directing his cast and himself; in fact, he gives us one of the best performances of his career. And he also can sing!
As for Lady Gaga, she is a revelation as an actress and, at least for me, as an excellent singer. Although she reminded me of Streisand, she makes the role her own and deserves the reviews she’s having. For me, the only problem is that she didn’t convince me as the pop star her producer turns her into. She isn’t comfortable on that role (the number introduced by Alec Baldwin is terrible) and her character seemed to me too strong to let that happen.
The best thing are the concerts numbers on the first half of the movie, where “The Shallow” and “Always Remember Us This Way” become highly emotional moments that gave me chills up and down my spine. I also loved the scene on the drag club, where Lady Gaga delivers an exciting “La Vie en Rose”; she’s also terrific with the beautiful ballad “I’ll Never Love Again”.
Maybe I’m imagining things, but I think Cooper gives us a small tribute to Judy Garland when, almost at the beginning of the movie, Ally goes through an alley singing the kind of song Garland sung and a tribute to Streisand by having Ally being discovered in a gay club.
I don’t doubt the movie will be on the Oscar run and that its stars and songs have a strong chance to get deserved nominations. I enjoy seeing it, but I didn’t fall in love with it; the problem is the second half of the movie, when Ally become a star like any other pop star. Gaga is great, but Cooper is better!


Sunday, July 22, 2018

MAMMA MIA! HERE WE GO AGAIN – A Movie Review

Cast: Lily James, Amanda Seyfried, Christine Baranski, Julie Walters, Pierce Brosnan, Colin Firth, Stellan Skarsgård, Jessica Keenan Wynn, Alexa Davies, Jeremy Irvine, Josh Dylan, Hugh Skinner, Andy Garcia, Dominic Cooper, Cher, Meryl Streep
Creative Team:Songs by Benny Andersson & Björn Ulvaeus • Screenplay by Ol Parker, Richard Curtis and Catherine Johnson • Choreography by Anthony Van Laast • Directed by Ol Parker
My Rate: 4 (from 1 to 10)

The Plot:Years after the events of the first movie, Sophie is rebuilding Donna’s hotel and having problems with her husband; she also finds out she’s pregnant. At the same time, we follow Donna’s young life and how she met Sophie´s three fathers. 

The Movie:It’s true, here we go again through Abba’s songbook and back to the dreamy Greek island where the action takes place. Unfortunately, this time around, the story is uninteresting, and everything seems kind of forceful.
I love musicals (theatre or movie) but I know that when the characters start to sing and dance it must look as natural as possible and that doesn’t happen here. I don’t believe I’m saying this, but there are too many musical numbers in here and, practically, all of them seem unnatural. There’s no magic here and there isn’t enough fun.
Take for example the university number (anyone remembers GOOD NEWS?), it’s completely out of place and what is Celia Imrie doing at the end of it? And what about the “Waterloo” number? As for Cher’s “Fernando”, it couldn’t be more artificial. Anyway, the best number is the one with the boats arriving on the island with everyone singing and dancing.
But the cast is still having fun, although the young generation lead by the radiant Lily James and Amanda Seyfried aren’t up to the veterans. In fact, the movie only comes really alive as soon as Christine Baranski and Julie Walters appear on the screen. They’re the best thing about this sequel. As for Cher, what happened to her? Strangely, she moves like if she was Frankenstein’s monster. The best new addition is Omid Djalili as the funny border officer.
This still is a feel-good movie, there’s more than a good laugh in here and it’s great for an Abba sing-a-along, but it’s a pale sequel to the original.