Guest Top Five Musical Productions

I was first introduced to the world of musical theatre when I was around five years old. Back then my Aunt would make a weekend out of it and we’d watch the classics on VHS. When I was seven, we moved onto visiting the theatre to watch some of our favourites and so my love of everything theatre related was born. Almost twenty years later, I still love the Arts and frequently head to Sydney to see productions. So today I want to share with you some of my favourite productions and just what makes them so great. Having gone to so many over the years, I’m going to limit this list to my top five, otherwise we could be here all day!

5. Next To Normal. ( Original Broadway cast includes: Alice Ripley, J. Robert Spencer, Louis Hobson, Jennifer Damiano, and Aaron Tveit).

Like many productions, I first came across this musical when browsing iTunes one day. On a whim I purchased the album and it’s been one of my favourites ever since. The music is beautiful, and the lyrics surprising. Unlike many musicals, this is not a musical for the faint hearted. In fact it is a gritty take on mental health and how that can affect an entire family structure. It speaks about loss, and feeling neglected, about being drugged, and choosing drugs. It features a broken family who are struggling to survive and what they endure to try and ‘right’ themselves. Stand out tracks include: ‘Who’s Crazy/My Pharmacologist and I’ ; ‘Perfect For You’ ; ‘I Miss The Mountains’ ; ‘Super-boy And The Invisible Girl’ and ‘Maybe (Next To Normal).’

4. Avenue Q (2009, Sydney Australia).

One of my best friends recommended this musical to me. Having never heard of it before, I was intrigued by the idea of puppets and people together on stage and jumped at the opportunity to go see it in Sydney. The plan at the time was to see it blind, having never listened to the soundtrack. This didn’t quite eventuate though, as I cracked the day before we were meant to see it, and listened once to the songs. I’m glad I did, because although I’ve been to a few musicals without knowledge of the songs (Jersey Boys), I felt the prior knowledge allowed me to take in the full story better. Not to mention gave me a bit of warning for what I was in for too. This musical is not for kids folks, and I admit to being dumbfounded when we noticed a father and his young daughter (I’m talking about at least ten) in the audience. I can only imagine there were a lot of questions the following day! Stand out tracks include: ‘Purpose’ ; ‘There’s A Fine, Fine Line’ ; ‘I Wish I could Go Back To Collage’ and ‘The Internet Is For Porn.’

3. Wicked (2010, Sydney Australia).

I first heard the songs from Wicked when I was in High School back in 2006 and I fell in love instantly. For close to a year, the soundtrack was blasted through my bedroom and my family in turn grew to know every single lyric. I hadn’t read the book at this stage and although I knew it was on Broadway, I’d never seen a clip or Youtube video of the performance. Thankfully, what I grasped from the soundtrack was somewhat close to the story line and I sat through the entire stage performance in awe. Although a bit sad that Sydney didn’t get the flying monkeys over the audience (Melbourne apparently were treated to this). This was the musical through which I was introduced to the extraordinary vocal talents of Idina Menzel and Kristin Chenoweth, both of whose career’s I have followed since discovering the soundtrack. Stand out Tracks Include: ‘Gravity’ ; ‘Thank Goodness’ ; ‘For Good’ ; ‘The Wizard and I’ and ‘One Short Day.’

2. The Lion King (2014, Sydney Australia).

I know this production toured some ten years back, but I missed out on seeing it then. And I’ve mourned that loss out loud for years. So naturally when I heard the production was returning to Australia late last year, I quickly secured tickets for early 2014 and waited eagerly to see the most talked about musical. The costuming in this production was simply astounding – and although I’d been warned off this, it’s something entirely different to see costumes first more. I thoroughly enjoyed watching some of my favourite Disney characters being brought to life, even despite the few narrative changes. Stand Out Tracks: ‘Circle Of Life’ ; ‘I Just Can’t Wait To Be King’ and ‘Can You Feel The Love Tonight.’

1. Mary Poppins (2011, Sydney Australia).

 I saw this production live in 2013 and was blown away by the talented cast. But what stood out for me even more was the incredibly unique and versatile set. You see, the Sydney production’s set was basically a house on stage that moved, with pieces attaching and detaching, opening and closing like a doll-house. I’ve never before seen something like it, and I expect I never will again. Also note worthy was Matt Lee’s performance, and his chimney sweep dance number on the streets roof tops. He even tapped upside down. The costuming was superb, and the songs and dance numbers uplifting. If it ever tours Australia again, I highly recommend you go see it. Stand Out Tracks: ‘Chim Chim Cheree’ ; ‘Step In Time’ ; ‘A Spoonful Of Sugar’ and ‘Suparcalifragilisticexpialidocious.’

So there you have it, my top five stage productions/musicals. I’m curious what would you include in your own list of favourite musicals/stage productions?

 

Guest reviewer Jess’ blog, The Never Ending Bookshelf, can be found here.

Guest Review: Voltaire’s BiTrektual

BiTrektualCoverPreliminaryWEBI was first introduced to the music of Voltaire a year and a half ago. Since then I have fallen further in love with his work and I feel his music needs to be shared with as many people as possible.  Real name Aurelio Voltaire Hernández, Voltaire is a Cuban/American gothic artist known predominantly for his dark cabaret songs but he is also a creator of comic books, animation, toys, and most recently an author. BiTrektual is his ninth album and is a Star Wars/Star Trek parody album. Compared to his previous albums, BiTrektual is more upbeat and obviously comical, yet still retains the dark humour seen in all his work.

Back in 2001 Voltaire released a four track album titled Banned on Vulcan that also included songs based around Star Trek. BiTrektual revisits these songs with slight variations, as well as his Star Wars song Cantina from a later album Ooky Spooky. These previous songs, combined with brilliant new ones create a fantastic, funny, and addictive science-fiction parody compilation.

Star Wars and Star Trek are not the only franchises parodied, Voltaire has one Doctor Who song on there for all of us Whovians as well. Voltaire himself describes his Doctor Who song “It’s Bigger on the Inside” as ‘50% Mary Poppins and 50% Benny Hill’; and having listened to this album about 30 times since its release I can assure you they are all pretty much like that in some way.

Personally I don’t think you need to be a huge fan of Star Wars or Star Trek to enjoy this album. I knew very little about Star Trek when I first heard these songs but you love them just the same. If anything it manages to teach you more about the show, and the songs are funny and terribly catchy even without knowing the exact connection to the original. There are a few references like tribbles or red shirts that may be lost on someone who does not know the Star Trek brand, similar with Star Wars or Doctor Who, but a lot is actually explained through the songs.

There are numerous guest vocalists and musicians on this album, made greater by the fact some are from the franchises themselves. Garrett Wang, Tim Russ, and Robert Picardo, the actors from Star Trek Voyager, are just some of the people who lend their voices to this album. BiTrektual contains both songs and spoken word tracks as Voltaire uses the monologue to discuss topics pertaining to either Star Wars or Star Trek, these also work well as an introduction to the next set of songs. The monologues are recorded in front of a live audience but the rest of the album is studio recorded.

What makes Voltaire so likeable in many ways is his ability to be different. He does not limit himself to staying within a single style of music. His 2010 album Hate Lives in a Small Town was country, while his other songs and albums can change between slow and menacing to upbeat and comical, all the while still embracing the dark cabaret/dark wave style he is known for. As an artist I think that not only are his songs clever and insightful, but his outlook on life and commitment and connection to his fans is wonderful as well. According to Voltaire, amazing author Neil Gaiman has on several occasions called him a ‘Dark Elf Lord.’ I find this to be very complimentary and why would you ever not believe anything Neil said.

There is swearing and adult themes in these songs but this is not out of the ordinary as Voltaire fans will know. Even sensitive issues are approached with humour and context which makes them suitable in my mind. Definitely a favourite album, but when it comes to Voltaire his style can change from album to album so you always get a new surprise.

This album is available iTunes and CDbaby and is strongly recommended for fans of science fiction, if you don’t mind them being toyed with that is, and a must for all Voltaire fans.

Guest reviewer Amy’s blog, Lost in a Good Book, can be found here.