LA LA land (2017)

Hi all,

So If you have not heard about the film LA LA LAND, you are living under a rock… La la land is a modern day musical that is making the rounds in a big BIG way at the moment. The film broke records when it won every category it was nominated for at the Golden Globes and is going to be the most nominated film at the Academy Awards this year… (My bet is that it actually wins for best film, let’s see if I am right) I recently finally had the chance to go and watch this film, was a unique experience.

I usually see a film and come home to write about it strait away but I felt like I needed to marinade in this film before I could put all my thoughts down.  This film is so wonderfully different. It is like nothing that has been on screen for a really long time. It is fun, colourful, charming, romantic, magical and cinematically, it is a treat! I left the cinema feeling like I had had my eyes opened. Not to anything too intense but to something that was just a breath of fresh air. I feel like this is why this movie is getting such good responses and is killing it at awards season this year. I feel like people are really enjoying something different being shown on their big screens.

The more I have been thinking about this film, the bigger impact it is having on me… Here is the thing, though, it starts off slow and it took me a while to get into the film. However, the film began to move swiftly along when Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling were on screen together. The film is certainly about these two characters and they make it what it is. No wonder Emma Stone is winning all the awards- she is wonderful as the protagonist Mia. I felt like Ryan suited his role. I didn’t LOVE his character, I found him to be a bit full of himself, however, I loved when the two characters were together. They seemed to balance each other while still challenging each other. It was a fun dynamic.

My favourite part of the film was the idea that Director, Damien Chazelle, wanted. He wanted to create an old Hollywood type musical in modern day LA. He absolutely achieved this goal and I feel like he can be proud of that fact. The film was set in 2016 but the themes were very much old Hollywood which I loved. It made me feel like class, elegance and magic really can exist in our fast past, technological driven world. Watching a film that brought this idea to life made me remember why I decided to go into the entertainment industry in the first place. A moment that stood out for me was when Mia and Sebastian (the protagonists) are taking a walk and the view is breathtakingly magnificent. They begin to tap dance (YES TAP DANCING MAKES AN APPEARANCE AND IT IS FANTASTIC!) It feels very much like a Ginger Rodgers and Fred Astaire moment, and then Mia’s phone rings and she picks up her 21st Centaury iPhone.

Let’s go back for a moment to the Tap Dancing thing… yes, there is Tap Dancing in La La land and I loved it! Tap dancing is such a wonderful style of dance and Mandy Moore (the dancer not the actress) did such a fantastic job of choreographing it. She really mastered the concept of old Hollywood in modern times and I was completely engaged in the dance routines that she put together. The dancing felt so natural and comfortable to the performers. I have loved Mandy Moore’s work since I saw her work on ‘So you think you can dance’ and this film made me love her work all over again.

All in all, I get why this film is being recognised so much. It is a wonderful film. And I think it deserves the press that it is getting. Was it the most exciting film I have ever watched- not really but it was incredibly romantic and it left me with butterflies in my stomach. This film is truly for “the fools who dream”

My vote is that film is going to grab all the Oscars it has been nominated for, so watch this space!

*lights out*

Natalia

xxx

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Robin Hood and the Babes of the wood (2016)

Hi everyone,

It’s that time of year again. Schools are beginning to quieten down for the year, Christmas presents are beginning to be thought about, last minute holidays are being booked and the annual PANTOMIME is on! This year Director Janice Honeyman chose a new story to share- Robin Hood and the babes of the wood. The show has a star-studded cast including Kate Normington as The spirit of the wood fairy, Izak Davel as Robin Hood, Graham Hopkins as the evil Sheriff of Nottingham, Carmen Pretorius as Maid Marian as well as many other talented South African stars.

There is such a sense of fun at the Pantomime. Everyone just wants to have a good time and relax. It really is a great atmosphere to be a part of. There is always plenty to keep everybody entertained. Cultural humor for the adults, extravagant costumes, heroes for the boys, fairies, and princesses for the girls and music that everyone can enjoy. It truly is a family affair.

The cultural references in this year’s script were so up to date that it felt like the characters were living in our present South African society. Someone must have their fingers on the pulse in the creative team because everything was so current and SO funny. Everything from taxes to social media culture, the South African government and the American election were thrown together to create a pop of well, culture.

My only problem this year was that I found the story a bit hard to follow, however, this did not lessen my enjoyment because there were plenty of costumes, sets, jokes and music to keep me going… Going back to set design, I am SO impressed with the set design that I have seen in the past few shows I have been too. Each show out does the previous one when it comes to the art department and this show was no exception. The sets were so colorful, interesting and unique that it truly brought the characters to life.

The cast of this show is so talented. Having seen a number of cast members, Natasha Van De Merwe, Bongi Mthombeni, Candida Mosoma and Nurit Graff (to name a few) in other productions I got so excited at the prospect of seeing them on stage again! Everyone who walked on stage performed with such enthusiasm, energy and commitment that it made me happy to watch people enjoying their craft and succeeding. I always feel that any actor, singer or dancer on stage is so brave because they put themselves forward for public scrutiny and they hardly receive enough credit for their hard work and dedication.

There was some stand out moments of course. The merry men performed a hilarious song about their manly-ness, which my 11-year-old brother found most amusing. The two babes Tokkel (Dale Scheepers) and Tina (Kyra Green) brought some heart into the show. Friar Tuck (Desmond Dube) and Little John (Phumi Mncayi) do a Hilarious rendition of ‘the bear necessities’… the list could go on and on…

Naturally, the only thing left for me to say is congratulations to the entire cast and crew on a fun-loving, entertaining and exciting production!

The show runs at the Joburg Theater until the 30th of December so be sure to book your ticket for an awesome day out….

*lights out*

Natalia

xxx

Saturday Night Fever in South Africa

Hi all,

Last night I was fortunate enough to go and watch the South African production of Saturday Night Fever. Ironically enough, it is one of the only musicals I had not see before and I was excited to go to a musical with no expectations or ideas about what the production ‘should’ be like. I knew about John Travolta and his fantastic white suit and I knew that the movie was about dancing and popularised Disco music, but that was where my knowledge more or less ended.

Let’s start with the music, I LOVED IT. Disco music is such a fast paced and exciting genre to dance to and it was really fun to watch this come alive on stage. I was surprised to see how much music I recognised throughout the production. Songs like Boogie shoes, staying alive and more than a woman were performed and it made me very happy. The music used in the play is just so happy that you can’t help but tap along.

What goes hand in hand with a story about dancing? The choreography of course and WOW was it amazing! The cast was so extremely talented in the dancing department that I was blown away by how wonderfully all the dances were executed. From complicated lifts too fast disco moves, it was all put together so beautifully. Being a past ballroom dancer myself, many of the dance moves brought back such great memories. Watching the actors dance on stage made me miss dancing and the high that it can give you. There is something different about Disco choreography. It is not as gender specific as other styles of dance and it was fascinating because instead of watching couples dance as a leader and a follower, it was more a sense of just keep up! Everything moved so fast that if you had to blink you would miss it all and I loved that feeling of not knowing what comes next.

Whichever way you look at it, I am an art department baby. My passion lies within the art department and it is the first thing I notice at any production. What stood out for me in this production was the Production design. It was so inventive and honestly nothing like I have seen on South African stages before. The way the stage moved and how the different ‘blocks’ were used to manipulate the surroundings was brilliant. The underground Disco club and the top of the Brooklyn bridge were so well presented and it gave the production a whole new perspective. The club felt deep and heavy and the bridge felt high and daunting.

One of the scenes that stood out for me with regards to the production design was towards the end when the main characters were singing about their misfortunes and every block was lit differently, revealing different people and their different situations. It was really a wonderful moment in the story and it was executed so well. The costumes, scenery and background action all gave the audience a very good sense of where the story was and the type of feel that was in the city at the time.

From the beginning, it was obvious that the cast of the production is very talented. However, the leads Daniel Buys and Natasha Vander Merwe were exceptional. There are many cases where a supporting role can outshine the lead role however this was not the case in this production. Both leads were so extremely strong with their performances that I could not take my eyes off of them. Daniel Buys sang and danced all at once while staying slick. His accent was also so well done and within an hour and a half or so, I grew to love his portrayal of the character. Natasha Vander Merwe, on the other hand, was equally as strong of a dancer and her voice was just beautiful. When she sand the song ‘What kind of fool’ I felt like I was in a trance and I did not want it to end. The two of them together made such a fantastic team on stage and I wouldn’t be surprised if they found themselves acting opposite each other in many other productions in the future. They really were the whole package.

Overall the production was a celebration of good music, good dancing and a great story. A story full of friendship, passion, honest mistakes and honest apologies. From not knowing much about Saturday Night Fever, I can now declare that I am a big fan! The production is running until the 9th of October at the state theatre in Pretoria. Tickets are available from Computicket and I highly suggest you make the trip to be transported into the 1970’s and the world of Disco.

*lights out*

Natalia

xxx

Shrek the Musical at Gold Reef City

Hi guys,

Yesterday my girls and I decided to go on a girl’s day. We went to go see the musical “Shrek” that is on at the Lyric Theatre in Gold Reef City. I had seen the Broadway version of this show before and have watched many behind the scene videos about the production. I was really excited to see it right here live in South Africa because I had seen what a complex production it is to put together.

The musical brings everyone’s favourite Ogre and fairy tale friends to life in such a ‘shrektacular’ way. The production is extremely aesthetically exciting as well as funny and charming. When Shrek the movie first came out in 2001, it pushed so many boundaries. It changed the face of traditional fairy tales because the princess does not end up with the prince, she ends up with the ugly Ogre. It also showed so many new and interesting techniques in animation that it won the first ever academy award for an animation feature film in 2002.

With a film so unique and special it only made sense to turn it into a Broadway musical. The production opened on Broadway in 2008 and spent almost two years in The Broadway Theatre. The original cast included the amazing Sutton Foster as Princess Fiona and the wonderful Brian Darcey James as Shrek. During 2010 and 2011 the production toured the USA and played on the west end in London. After a successful tour, the rights for the musical were opened up to theatres all over the world. The production has been put on in countries like Israel, Madrid, Sydney and Budapest and now South Africa…. Lucky us!

After seeing this production live, I understand why it is such a thriving production and franchise. The production is very kid friendly however the humour is aimed at parents which makes the perfect combination. Kids are drawn to colour and excitement which is exactly what this production incorporates. It truly is an experience for the eyes! The set design and costumes are so bright and eye catching that I could not take my eyes off of the stage. There were no boring moments that allowed my eyes to wonder, they were hooked on the bright backdrops and over the top outfits the entire time.

Another aspect of this show, or in fact franchise, is that the characters are so relatable! Yes, it is about an Ogre, a princess and their friends. But after about the first 5 minutes you don’t see an Ogre anymore. You see a man who has always been told he does not fit in and now he is learning to be in touch with his emotions. The audience does not watch an Ogre fight his way to solitude, rather they watch the emotional journey of two ‘freaks’ becoming comfortable with themselves and each other. It is actually pretty deep once you think about it…

The story embraces difference and emotions in such a beautiful way. Every character has a back story that comes through, even the fairy-tale creatures. Because of the back stories we understand the context that the characters are in so much more clearly. The song “I think I got you beat” that Shrek and Fiona sing is a brilliant example of this. In the song they try and beat each other on who had the worst childhood. it quickly becomes obvious that they both had equally difficult childhoods and because of it have more in common than other one of them thought. This scene particularly is a really lovely turning moment in the show. We watch as Fiona becomes less fairy-tale princess and more real and Shrek becomes less scary Ogre and more emotional.

As I was watching the show yesterday I kept think of how professional it all felt. I genuinely felt like I was watching a show that could hold its own next to any current Broadway or west end production. Everything was on point. The only criticism I could give the production is that it felt a bit to long for a child orientated show. The show was almost 3 hours long and I feel like that is a long time to sit still for children. Luckily though the music and bright colours managed to keep majority of the children still for 80% of the production.

All in all, this production really is a must see during the July Holidays. It is completely family friendly and I guarantee everyone will enjoy it. There is a Princess for the girls, a hero for the boys, humour for mom and dad and music for everyone in-between! The show is running at the Lyric Theatre in Gold Reef City till the 17th of July.

*lights out*

Natalia

xxx

 

Singin’ in the rain (17 February 2016)

Hi guys,

So I am extremely excited to be writing this review. I grew up with Singing in the Rain, it was one of my all time favourite movies. It is one of those feel better movies, you know, the one you choose when you feeling down to help cheer you up. I found out this production was coming to SA over a year ago and could not control my excitement! It was always a life’s goal for me to see this on stage so you can imagine how high my expectations were.

As I walked down to the Teatro at Montecasio the hallway was decorated with many umbrellas hanging from the ceiling, the ushers were wearing yellow raincoats and the weather was almost obliging to the theme of the evening- rain. It was such a wonderful way to build the excitement before the show started. We found our seats and waited for the show to begin. The lights went off and the orchestra began to play the overture. I heard them start to play the infamous song ‘Singin’ in the rain’ and all my memories of the wonderful film came flooding back.

From the first moment that the company steps onto stage you get this feeling that this show is high energy! The stage is set up like a movie studio and there is a hollywood sign in the background. You are automatically placed in the 1920’s in the golden ages of hollywood. It is most glamorous. The show opens the same way as the movie, which I think was a very good choice. The show feels like the movie, you feel  like you are in the movie. This is something I loved. The stage production did not feel like it was trying to out do the movie, rather it kept the essence of the movie and brought it to life.

The night we went to the show Duane Alexander played the lead as Don Lockwood. I am a fan of Grant Almirall and would have loved to have seen him play the part but nonetheless Duane did a great job of bringing Don and his over the top personality to life. After all stepping into the shoes of Gene Kelly is no easy task. The chemistry between Don and Cosmo Brown , his loyal sidekick, is a very important part of the story. Steven Van Wyk, who played Cosmo was fantastic! I enjoyed his performance so much and his duet with Duane, Moses Supposes was brilliant! They really worked so well on stage together.

The female leads were also nothing short of brilliant. Taryn-Lee Hudson played the annoying and excitable role of Lina Lamont so well! She got her voice down to a T and you could see that she enjoyed playing this character. She also got to wear some of the most beautiful costumes. Everything she wore was so glamours. I have watched Bethany Dickson in many different roles and I have never been disappointed. She has a way of bringing such grace and poise to the stage. She reminded me of when Debbie Reynolds played Kathy Selden in the movie and I adored it.

As wonderful as the leads were, the company was wonderful in there own right. They brought such energy to the stage and created the atmosphere. I especially enjoyed James Borthwick’s performance as R F Simpson, the producer of the company. He was funny when he needed to be and stern when the character called for it.

I have to talk about the famous scene when Don Lockwood sings and dances in the rain. OH MY GOSH. I have never seen anything like this on stage before. It was genius and magic all rolled into one. At the end of act one Don drops Kathy home after a long and exciting night. He then walks home and it begins to rain. He is in such a good mood that he bursts into ‘Singin’ in the rain’ and it begins to rain-on stage- with real water. I heard the thunder and I knew it was about to happen but I did not expect it be so beautiful. The rain started on stage and I was overtaken by this wonderful feeling of excitement and amazement. This experience can only be described as theater magic! Seeing one of the most famous, beautiful and enjoyable scenes recreated on stage was truly a dream come true.

There are so many elements to this production that make it such a treat to witness. The costumes are beautiful, the prop work is done so well and the technical side of things is so smooth. This production really showed off South African talent. We are a talented nation and anyone who thinks differently knows nothing! There were so many moments in the show that I enjoyed, I would list them all but then you would be reading for a very long time, so instead I will INSIST that you go and treat yourself to this show. Productions like these are what make me want to do what I do and reach my goal. The way I felt while watching this fantastic production is the way I want to make people feel one day.

The show closes on the 13th of March and bookings can be made through computicket. Trust me, you do not want to miss this one!!!

*lights out*

Natalia

xxx

 

Sleeping Beauty…. The pantomime of your dreams

On sunday afternoon I was lucky enough to go to the opening of the annual end of year pantomime at the Joburg Theater. Every November/December there is a pantomime which is written and directed by the fabulous Janice Honeyman. Surprisingly, I had never gone to a Pantomime before, I had only ever heard about the spectacular end of year event. So when the opportunity presented itself I was super excited to go and see the show live!

As we walked into the theater I turned around to my brother and said “This is SO beautiful!” The stage backdrop was beautiful designed with stars and glitter. From the first moment I knew we were in for an absolute treat! Beautiful seemed to be the word of the afternoon with every design element out doing the previous one.

The show really was a feast for the eyes. The set design was enchanting and really placed the audience in the center of the story. The palace garden scene had some stunning elements. I particularly loved how members of the cast were used as statues in the garden. I don’t think the joburg theater is given enough credit about how wonderful their stage is. To display the tower where princess Aurora- Adora pricks her finger, the stage was moved into different levels which transformed what was a flat surface into a high tower.

The costumes automatically caught my eye and were designed so well. There was not a single cast member that looked out of place. Every costume was created with such detail and precision that I was blown away by how magical every person on stage looked. You cannot have a fairy tale without beautiful costumes and this show did not disappoint! The wedding costumes at the end of the show were so eye catching that I wanted to attend the wedding, just so I could dress up in one of the many spectacular ball gowns.

In staying with the word of the afternoon, I have to give mention to Christopher Jaftha who played Prince Harry Hunkador the handsom. Boy, is this guy handsome! The moment he came on stage all the woman in the audience could not take their eyes off of him. The whole cast in fact where all so strong. I especially loved Tobie Cronje’ who played nutty Dame Nora Nursey. He was so funny and everyone packed out laughing when he arrived onto stage. Michelle Botha who plays the wicked fairy Kakkamella Khakibos was also a stand out for me. She brought such a presence to the stage and as evil as she was, her performance was effortless.

Something that Janice Honeyman does so well is make her work relevant. She incorporated contemporary hits like ‘Uptown funk’ into the show which kept the classic story up to date. She also incorporates South African culture into the performances which adds a whole new level of comedy to the production. Using Afrikaans lingo mixed with moments of political humor is what makes her pantomimes so unique and proudly South Africa.

I loved every second of the show and by the end we were on our feet doing the whip nay nay. Just as we thought there were no more surprises left, when we left the theater there was a huge sweet bar that had been set out for the audience. Lindt chocolates and marshmallows galore! It was such a nice touch to add to the fantastic experience.

The show is full of surprises but I cannot disclose these for you because you need to experience them for yourself. Sleeping beauty the Pantomime is showing at the Joburg Theater till the 30th of December. Trust me, you do NOT want to miss out on this magical adventure! Young or old, this show speaks to everyone.

To book tickets go to http://www.joburgtheater.com

*lights out*

Natalia

xxx

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