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.

DESPERATE MEASURES: A CD Review

Off-Broadway Cast – 2018 / Music by David Friedman and lyrics by Peter Kellogg
Starring:, Lauren Molina, Emma Degerstedt, Conor Ryan, Peter Saide, Nick Wyman, Gary Marachek
Rate:5 (from 1 to 10) / Photos byCarol Rosegg

Review:Shakespeare and musical theatre may sound a little bit strange, but it had given us more than a couple of great scores, THE BOYS FROM SYRACUSE, KISS ME KATE and WEST SIDE STORY, just come to mind.
This time, Shakespeare’s “Measure for Measure” becomes a western musical comedy and its authors, Peter Kellogg and David Friedman, saw their work winning the 2018 Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Music and Outstanding Lyrics, plus the Outer Critics Circle Award for Outstanding New Off-Broadway Musical.
With a mixed of country and showtunes, sometimes this score reminded me of CALAMITY JANE, a score that I really enjoy. None of the songs of this new musical are up there with the likes of “Secret Love” and, sometimes, they sound too country for my traditional taste, but it makes for a pleasant listening. For me the highlights are the ballads “Look in Your Heart” and “What is This Feeling?”, both sung with soul by Emma Degerstedt; Laura Molina gives us the steamy “It’s Getting Hot in Here” (this one brings me memories of SMASH), Peter Saide shines with the Alan Menkinsh “Stop There”, the ladies have a good time with “In the Dark” and Lauren Molina and Conor Ryan share the comic-romantic duet “Just for You”.
The cast sounds like they are having fun with their characters and in complete harmony with the spirit of the score. The end result is an unpretentious score, nice to the ears and, sometimes, it puts a smile on our face.



Sunday, July 15, 2018

AN AMERICAN IN PARIS – London Production: A Screening Review

Cast:Robert Fairchild, Leanne Cope, Haydn Oakley, David Seadon-Young, Zoe Rainey, Jane Asher, Julian Forsyth, Julia Nagle, Ashley Andrews
Creative Team:Music by George Gershwin • Lyrics by Ira Gershwin • Book by Craig Lucas • Choreography by Christopher Wheeldon • Directed for the stage by Christopher Wheeldon • Directed for the screen by Ross MacGibbon
My Rate: 9 (from 1 to 10) / Photos: Tristram Kenton, Dave Morgan, Angela Sterling, Johan Persson, Clive Barda

The Plot:Paris 1945. Jerry, an American soldier, decides to stay in Paris after the end of the Second World War and try his luck as a painter. While there, he falls in love with an unknown girl and becomes friends with an American composer and a French singer. The problem is they are all in love with the same girl.

The Show:I have two confessions to make. First, the MGM classic directed by Vincente Minnelli was never one of my favorite movie musicals and although I like it, I never thought it was one of the genre’s best. Second, I always found Leslie Caron a little bit irritating. So, my hopes for the stage adaptation of this musical weren’t very high. 
A few years ago, I saw SINGIN’IN THE RAIN (one of my favorite movie musicals) in London and I was disappointed by it. So, imagine my surprise when I attended the movie screening of the London production of AN AMERICAN IN PARIS and fall in love with it!
The plot is similar to the one of the movie, but it’s more interesting. There’s a dark shadow that kind of haunts the story, giving the show an edge that doesn’t exist in the movie.
The musical is, without any doubt, the son of director/choreographer Christopher Wheeldon, who does an amazing job recreating the MGM movie to the stage and reimagining it in a way that makes it more exciting, interesting and dramatic. In his creative hands everything dances, not only the cast, but also the sets. The entire show works like a ballet full of romance, poetry and life.
This is a perfect oiled production, without dead moments. The use of projections gives it a cinematic dimension and transport us to a Paris still leaking its war wounds, but ready to embark on a new life. The opening number creates the perfect atmosphere and its with delight that we dance through the streets of a post-war Paris. 
The final ballet it’s the number closer to the one in the movie. But for me the most enjoyable numbers are the entertaining “I’ve Got Beginner’s Luck” and the genial and contagious “Fidgety Feet”. Of course, the songs by the Gershwin are unforgettable and it’s always a pleasure to hear them and see them become alive in such a wonderful production. 
Leading the cast are Robert Fairchild and Leanne Cope, the ones who created the roles on Broadway, and they are a match made in heaven. Their singing voices aren’t strong, but they know how to carry the tunes and their dancing talent is fabulous. Fairchild has everything that is needed to be a star and a matinee idol. Cope is delightful and it’s easy to see why the three guys fall in love with her.
David Seadon-Young as Adam is a bit annoying at the beginning, but soon we warm up to him. As the French singer, Haydn Oakley is a nice sweet feller and his “I’ll Build a Stairway to Paradise” is great fun. As Milo, Zoe Rainey is a scene stealer and make us wish there will be a happy ending to her.
On the whole this a breathtaking musical and Ross MacGibbon did a terrific job filming it during its London run at the Dominion Theatre; it feels like we were there, at the theatre. The end result is a treat for all senses and “who can ask for anything more?” Don’t miss it in a cinema near you!


Wednesday, June 27, 2018

BROADWAY SEASON 2017-2018 - THE MUSICALS

Here you’ll find images from all the musicals, new ones and revivals, which opened on Broadway during the 2017-2018; plus the City Center Encores! and Off-Center series. Some became hits, others closed in a few weeks, but I believe all of them are worthy of celebration.

This season winners at the Tonys were THE BAND’S VISIT (Best Musical, Leading Actor –Tony Shalhoub. Leading Actress – Katrina Lenk, Featured Actor – Ari’el Stachel, Director – David Cromer, Original Score – David Yazbek, Book – Itamar Moses, Lightning Design – Tyler Micoleau, Orchestrations – Jamshied Sharifi, Sound Design – Kai Harada), ONCE ON THIS ISLAND (Best Revival), CAROUSEL (Featured Actress – Lindsay Mendez, Choreography – Justin Peck), SPONGEBOB SQUAREPANTS: THE MUSICAL (Scenic Design – David Zinn) and MY FAIR LADY (Costume – Catherine Zuber).

PS.: To see larger images just click on them. 

BROADWAY MUSICALS 2017-2018



CITY CENTER ENCORES! 2018


ENCORES! OFF-CENTER 2017





CITY CENTER GALA PRESENTATION - 2017


Sunday, May 20, 2018

PLAY IT AGAIN, MARVIN! A MARVIN HAMLISCH CELEBRATION: A CD Review

An Orchestral Celebration – 2018 / Music by Marvin Hamlisch 
Featuring:The Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra under the direction of J. Ernest Green,
Sylvia McNair, Judy Harrison, Doug LaBrecque, Kevin Cole, Adrian Daurov
Rate: 8 (from 1 to 10) 

Review:Marvin Hamlisch will forever be remembered for his score for A CHORUS LINE and for giving us one of the most romantic songs of all time, the theme of the movie THE WAY WE WERE. But there’s much more from this award-winning composer, one of the two (the other one was Richard Rodgers) who won the PEGOT (this means winning the Pulitzer Prize, EMMY, Grammy, Oscar, Tony). In fact, he won three Oscars, four Grammys, four Emmys, a Tony, three Golden Globe awards and the Pulitzer Prize.
This highly enjoyable live recording is a great way of celebrating the melodious music of Hamlisch and starts with a haunting orchestral version of “The Way We Were”, followed by a terrific “A Chorus Line Concert”; later on, Judy Harrison gives us a good version of “Nothing” and the concert ends with a touching “What I Did for Love”.
Between all this, there’s the 007 song “Nobody Does It Better” from THE SPY WHO LOVED ME and Hamlisch’s famous adaptation of Scott Joplin’s ragtime music “The Entertainer” and “Pineapple Rag” from THE STING. Of special interest for musical lovers like me, there’s the song “Dreamers” from the musical JEAN SEBERG, plus two great songs from SWEET SMELL OF SUCCESS, “I Cannot Hear the City” and “At the Fountain”, beautifully sung by Doug LaBrecque; this musical has a highly interesting score that deserves to be rediscovered and its cut song “That’s How I Say Goodbye” fits perfectly within it and Sylvia McNair rendition is a strong one. For me, these three songs are among the highlights of this recording.
Hamlisch himself can be heard in previously recorded versions of “They’re Playing My Song” and “If You Really Knew Me”, both from THEY’RE PLAYING OUR SONG. Back to the movies, there’s the theme song from ICE CASTLES, the “Suite” from SOPHIE’S CHOICE, a song from THE CHAMP and Hamlisch’s first movie theme, THE SWIMMER. Near the end they give us a “Marvin’s Medley”, intimately played on piano by Kevin Cole.
On the whole, this is a wonderful celebration of Hamlisch’s music and he may be gone, but, as another famous composer wrote, “the melody lingers on”. Don’t miss it!


Sunday, April 29, 2018

JANUARY-APRIL 2018: A QUICK PERSONAL LOOK TO SOME NEW SHOW MUSIC RELEASES

Before reading this, take a look at MY FAVORITE SCORES, so you may get an idea of what I like and keep in mind two other things. First, I don’t understand nothing about music; second, when it comes to my music tastes, I’m very narrow-minded and old fashioned. 

Now that I got that off my chest, here is a quick look at some of the show music recordings that were released from January to April 2018.

CALENDAR GIRLS – Gary Barlow & Tim Firth musical adaptation of the hit movie has a light pop score, that’s not really my cup of tea. The very British cast, led by Claire Moore and Joanna Riding, sung their songs with honesty. In the entire score there are three numbers that I enjoy, “Sunflower”, “Who Wants a Silent Night?”, where the cast sounds like they’re having fun, and, specially, “So I’ve Had a Little Work Done”, sung with gusto by Sophie-Louise Dann. 

ESCAPE TO MARGARITAVILLE – Would you believe me if I told you that the name Jimmy Buffett meant nothing to me? Well, it’s true. While listening to this recording of a new jukebox Broadway musical I realized one thing, I don’t care much for Jimmy Buffett’s songs. Anyway, the tropical flavor of some of the songs and the nice cast makes this is a listenable recording. Numbers like “Volcano”, "We Are the People Our Parents Warned Us About/The Natives Are Restless", "My Head Hurts, My Feet Stink and I Don't Love Jesus" and “Grapefruit – Juicy Fruit” are mildly entertaining. If you’re a Buffett fan, I’m sure you’ll love this.

EVERYBODY’S TALKING ABOUT JAMIE – This new score with music by Dan Gillespie Sells and lyrics by Tom Macrae, isn’t for me. Its rock/pop songs are far from the style of music I enjoy and, although the cast sings them with heart and soul, I think the songs sound too much alike and only one was able to catch my attention. It’s sung by Josie Walker and it’s called “If I Met Myself Again”. I believe the younger generation and older ones with an open mind will like it.

JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR LIVE – People who know me know that I’m not a big fan of Andrew Lloyd Weber, but there’s no doubt the guy writes some great songs, although not great scores. This new recording of one of his first big hits has a strong cast, with John Legend in the title role, but the score was never very high on my list. Anyway, I always liked “I Don’t Know How to Love Him” and “King Herod’s Song” was an entertaining number in the musical style I love; in this new recording, Sara Bareilles sings the first one with emotion and Alice Cooper has fun with the second one. “Superstar” and “Everything’s Alright” are the other two songs that I don’t mind listening to, the rest of the score is too ‘rockish’ for me. As for this new recording, I don’t think it’s better than previous ones.

KRIS KRINGLE – Christmas is still far away, but here is the studio cast recording of a new Christmas musical. Composers & lyricists Tim Janis & Angelo Natalie managed to get a cast that includes Broadway’s Andrew Keenan-Bolger, Nikki Renée Daniels, Janine LaManna and Kim Crosby, among others. The songs are cheerful, without being great, in the kind of the traditional Broadway style that I enjoy, with some of them on a more modern ballad mood. My favorite ones are “What Is So Merry ‘bout Christmas”, “Something Wonderful in You”, “Skip Ba Doo” and “Tonight We Will Roar”. If you’ll like Christmas songs you’ll enjoy this one.

ONCE ON THIS ISLAND – I have to confess that I never cared much for the original cast recording of this Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens musical, so I was surprised to find this new cast recording very pleasant to hear. It was like listening it for the first time and I enjoyed rediscovering songs like “Ti Moune”, “Mama Will Provide” and “Some Girls”. Some of the music reminded me of THE BOOK OF MORMON but, since the original Broadway production opened in 1990, I know that it should be the other way around. The songs are melodious, and the new cast sung them perfectly. I don’t love this score, but it gets a new life in this recording and that’s good news!

PRINCE OF BROADWAY – This revue or jukebox musical built around the work of Harold Prince take us back to some terrific scores but, with the rare exception of a riveting version of “The Right Girl” from FOLLIES (Tony Yazbeck sounds terrific), don’t bring nothing new to the songs. But there’s plenty to enjoy. Besides the mentioned number, my favorite tracks are Karen Ziemba’s “So What” and “The Worst Pies in London”, Brandon Uranowitz’s “Dressing Them Up” (one of my favorite Kander & Ebb songs), Chuck Cooper’s “Ol’ Man River”, Emily Skinner’s “Now You Know” and Tony Yazbeck’s “This Is Not Over Yet”. As for the new song “Do the Work”, it pales compared with the old ones. Anyway, for me, the highlight is “The Right Girl”!

WORKING – Here is another musical to which I never payed attention to and this London Cast recording won’t be changing it. There’s nothing wrong with the cast, but I don’t find the songs interesting. I know that several people wrote the songs but to my ears they don’t diverge much from one another, it’s like all composers were exactly on the same mood. Only one song caught my attention, “It’s an Art” by Stephen Schwartz. I know this is about real people, but there’s was no need for almost all songs being kind of depressing. Not my kind of score.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

CAST RECORDINGS OF 2017: A PERSONAL LOOK

In 2017, between new cast recordings and movie/television musicals soundtracks, I counted 55 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 2017, in preference order and not including reissues.




JORGE'S PLACE AWARDS 2017







TOP TWELVE CAST RECORDINGS OF 2017


If you like this, take a look at my choices of 2016201520142013 and 2012.