Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Review: Adolf Hitler – My Part In His Downfall, New Theatre, Cardiff

When Spike Milligan sat down to write the first part of his war memoirs he wanted to give it the title "It’ll be all over by Christmas", because as he later told his manager, Norma Parnes, his father and Winston Churchill both said it in the early days of World War II.

Norma didn’t like the title and told him to come up with another and so ‘Adolf Hitler: My Part in His Downfall’ was born.

The book was a huge success and a film adaptation quickly followed but we’ve had to wait nearly 40 years for a stage adaptation and it was truly worth the wait.

Drawing largely from Milligan’s first four War memoirs, the production is presented in the form of a concert party with Spike’s character providing a fast and furious narrative throughout.

Sholto Morgan delivers a fantastic portrayal of the Young Gunner Milligan displaying everything from the Goonish comic creativity through to the pure tragedy of his ultimate nervous breakdown in the front line of wartime action.

There is much in the way of barrack room humour (so not really one for the younger audience) and dance tunes including a version of Count Basie’s One 0’Clock Jump performed from a Tin Bath, a wonderful a capella version of Sheikh of Araby and a moving version of Swing Low Sweet Chariot.

The production is a wonderful example of tragicomedy that never fails to surprise. It certainly made me feel closer to the phenomenon that was Spike Milligan, giving an insight into the creativity that would later produce The Goon Show and the comical writing that would go on to make people laugh for generations.

Monday, 17 May 2010

Review: The Glenn Miller Orchestra, Newport Riverfront

It’s apt that on the week of the 65th anniversary of VE day the UK version of the Glenn Miller Orchestra played two live concerts at Newport Riverfront.

I was in attendance at the second concert on Saturday evening in which the orchestra under the direction of musical director, Ray McVay played to a packed house of Glenn Miller fans.

The 16 strong orchestra maintains a line-up on stage originally devised by Miller himself, consisting of director, five saxophones, four trumpets, four trombones and three rhythm plus a male and female vocalist.

The singers performed both individually and as part of The Moonlight Serenaders vocal group, The Uptown Hall Gang - an outstanding Dixieland group drawn from members of the orchestra.

The orchestra, dressed in smart red blazer and bow tie for the first half, American air force uniform for the second played many Miller classics including Flying home, At Last, Tuxedo Junction (in which members of the orchestra walked freely amongst the audience as they played – much to our delight) Chattanooga Choo Choo and Pennsylvania 6-5000, with great emphasis on the ‘Oh!’ on the numbers climax.

There were also tributes to other artists including, quite rightly, Dame Vera Lynn in which vocalist Jan Messeder, performed White cliffs of Dover and We’ll Meet Again. Colin Anthony also delivered some great vocals in Sinatra style including Fly Me to The Moon and A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square.

Other highlights included Lead alto, Peter Hughes (distinguishable in his small trousers) performing My Funny Valentine and 2nd alto Andy Potts providing a magnificent solo on You Made Me Love You.

Moonlight Serenade, Little Brown Jug, String of Pearls and In the Mood also delighted the audience, showing that nearly 70 years on from his tragically early death you still can’t beat the musical magical melodies of the Glenn Miller sound!

TRACKS PERFORMED INCLUDED:
  • Adios
  • American Patrol
  • A Nightingale Sang In Berkeley Square
  • Anvil Chorus
  • A String Of Pearls
  • Begin The Beguine
  • The Bells Of St. Mary's
  • Chattanooga Choo Choo
  • Come Fly With Me
  • Flying Home
  • I'll Be Seeing You
  • I'll Never Smile Again
  • In The Mood
  • I've Got You Under My Skin
  • Little Brown Jug
  • Moonlight Serenade
  • Over There
  • Pennsylvania 65000
  • Tuxedo Junction
  • When Johnny Comes Marching Home
  • When The Saints Go Marching In
  • When You Wish Upon A Star
  • White Cliffs Of Dover
  • We’ll Meet Again
  • Gentle On My Mind
  • Sway
  • 633 Squadron
  • You Made Me Love You
  • At Last, My Funny Valentine

Glenn Miller Orchestra Website

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Theatre Review: Dad's Army Marches On, Bristol Hippodrome

It’s definitely a case of “Don’t Panic Captain Mainwaring!” as four classic episodes of the evergreen sitcom Dad’s Army are presented at the Bristol Hippodrome this week.

Dad’s Army Marches On ties in with the 70th anniversary of the formation of The Home Guard and the 65th anniversary of VE day and is as much a timely reminder of how the British kept calm and carried on on the home-front in Great Britain during the early days of World War II as it is a celebration of British comedies finest half hour.

Timothy Kightley delivers a comical and pompous interpretation of Captain Mainwaring, displaying the authority required to play such a role. He’s put to the ultimate test in the productions presentation of Mum’s Army in which Mainwaring has his own “Brief Encounter” moment with Mrs Gray (Sarah Berger).

Leslie Grantham recreates the role of Cockney Spiv Joe Walker who as well as interjecting comments and jokes also provides a welcome linking narration between episodes.

Kern Falconer presents a very competent portrayal of Scots curmudgeon Private Frazer and provides much hilarity with Richard Tate as Lance Corporal Jones and Maitland Chandler as Private Godfrey in their ridiculous attempts to look younger in the Keep Young and Beautiful sequence.

Accompanied with two further classic episodes in which Godfrey is accused of Cowardice and Jones is accused of leaving a fellow soldier behind in the desert years before, Dad’s Army Marches On presents over 2 hours worth of classic comedy that can be enjoyed by fans of all ages.

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