I started this blog in 2011 to report back on shows I have attended, mainly theatre but also some concerts and sporting events.
It has also become a vehicle for some film, television (current and archive), book reviews, and some more personal pieces.
On a professional level I worked for twenty-five years as a librarian, and also am a published writer – academic articles, poetry, popular culture – and spent five years editing a journal for a major publisher. If you would like to know more, see my LinkedIn profile.
As of 2019 writing and editing has become my main job, and I am very keen to engage with productions, outlets, and arts organisations to expand my coverage and my reviews.
The amazing Ella Fitzgerald duets with the sublime Sammy Davis Jr on the Ed Sullivan Show. What’s striking about this clip is how delighted Davis seems in having the chance to sing with Ella. Truly ‘S’Wonderful’.
Ladies and gentlemen, you have Elvis Presley (the King of Rock ‘n Roll), Frank Sinatra (the Chairman of the Board), and Fred Astaire (Gershwin’s favourite singer and the screen’s most graceful dancer) in one shot.
I wonder what the conversation was about? And I wonder what Joe Esposito was thinking (one of Elvis’ Memphis Mafia, in the background between Elvis and Frank).
Presley and Sinatra appeared together on a TV special:
And on also on YouTube, someone has had fun putting a clip of Fred dancing with Rita Hayworth to one of Elvis’ hits:
Three fabulous guys from the golden age of film and music.
Ever since the birth of ‘the talkies’ at the premiere of ‘The Jazz Singer’ in 1927, the genre of film referred to as ‘the musical’ has been strongly represented in the type of material brought to the screen.
But what IS a musical?
Films developed from Broadway and West End hits are easy to classify (‘Guys and Dolls’, ‘How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying’, ‘Hello, Dolly’, ‘Sweeney Todd’). Alongside these there may also have been concert versions of the same material (‘South Pacific’, ‘Camelot’, ‘Follies’, ‘Les Miserables’), or versions made expressly for television or video (‘Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat’, ‘Wonderful Town’, ‘Peter Pan’, ‘Cats’, ‘Into The Woods’).
Alongside these are the concert films featuring rock bands (‘The Last Waltz’, ‘Woodstock’, ‘Festival!’, ‘Message to Love’, ‘Mad Dogs and Englishmen’), and musical versions of popular plays or films (‘Silk Stockings’ – Ninotchka, ‘High Society’ – The Philadelphia Story, ‘My Fair Lady’ – Pygmalion, ‘Legally Blonde’, ‘My Sister Eileen’).
There’s a third group which are more problematic, films which have songs included in them, but which are not generally thought of as musicals – but they could be (the 1940 ‘Thief of Bagdad’, ‘The Wicker Man’, even ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’ or ‘Pillow Talk’).
Then we have the operettas (‘The Mikado’, ‘Rose Marie’, ‘The Student Prince’) and the full-blown operas (‘Tosca’, ‘La Boheme’, ‘Das Rhinegold’). These are musicals, too, if having characters breaking into song counts – and if the argument against an opera being a musical is ‘no dialogue’ then where does that leave ‘Les Miserables’, ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’, or ‘Phantom of the Opera’)?
Some musicals have simply been written for the screen, although in some cases, they have made it onto the stage later – ‘State Fair’, ’42nd Street’ – some have been comedies with music attached (‘The Cuckoos’, ‘Buck Privates’, ‘Way Out West’). And if Rochester and Blanche share a duet in one of the many versions of ‘Jane Eyre’, is that a musical too? What about Westerns with a bit of music, like ‘Rachel and the Stranger’? (Singing Westerns of course are a genre all on their own, with Gene Autry, Roy Rogers, and even John Wayne and Vaughn Monroe contributing to titles often dismissed as ‘horse operas’).
For me all the above fit the definition. You could also stretch the definition to fit the dance or ballet film, although music without words becomes something else. But some ballet versions of ‘A Christmas Carol’ brought to film give Tiny Tim his song.
If it sings, is it then, that thing – the musical?
First in a series of DVDs presenting performances shown once on American television during the Tony Awards, ‘Broadway’s Lost Treasures’ promises “22 rare performances from Broadway’s greatest musicals.”
Does it deliver? If you want to see the people who created iconic roles, look no further. Here is Vivian Blaine as Miss Adelaide bewailing her single state which has left her with a permanent cold. Here is Zero Mostel’s joyous Teyve the milkman, wishing he was a rich man. Here is Robert Preston’s Harold Hill warning of trouble ‘right here in River City’. Here is Angela Lansbury’s mad Mrs Lovett and the worse pies in London. Here are Chita Rivera and Gwen Verdon as the murderous duo ‘nowadays’. Here is John Raitt’s Pajama Game boss. Here are Yul Brynner and Patricia Morison learning to dance. Here is Carol Channing leading the parade and starting life anew.
And that’s just for starters. If you love musicals, then this purchase is a no-brainer. If you like the classic artists, then you will see them at their best here, even if one or two numbers are mimed. There aren’t that many disappointments – Julie Andrews and a truncated ‘Send in the Clowns’ is perhaps one of them; I would have preferred to see Glynis Johns. Patti LuPone as Evita is also not to my taste, but it is interesting to see her here.
Broadway’s Lost Treasures can be purchased from Amazon and the usual retailers, and is well worth a look.
Deep Purple’s appearance at the California Jam on 6th April 1974 was the fiery finale to an open-air concert that also included Earth Wind and Fire, The Eagles, Black Sabbath, and Emerson Lake and Palmer (who has the misfortune of going on after their co-headliners had raised havoc).
It was the first American show for the new line-up of Purple, who now had a new singer from Redcar, David Coverdale, and a new bassist/singer from the Midlands, Glenn Hughes. Coverdale at 22 years old was a raw talent with a rich bluesy voice and in this show he really stands out – the highlight being ‘Mistreated’, a blistering song of lost love that he co-wrote with the band’s guitarist, Ritchie Blackmore.
The DVD we have today comes from the live broadcast on the ABC network, although a version released to laserdisc and VHS in the 1980s had different camera angles and a far more satisfying view of Blackmore demolishing one of the cameras that got too close. However the most recent release has included ‘Lay Down, Stay Down’, missing from the 1980s releases, and has an alternate cut of ‘Burn’.
In their 117 minute prime, Deep Purple show themselves to be a vibrant and passionate band, totally focused on delivering the best of their catalogue to a huge and enthusiastic audience. Coverdale in embryo before all the Whitesnake silliness is a delight, and Hughes’ soul vibrato rounds out the new sound. After two albums, though, Blackmore walked from the band to join and rename Elf, which became Rainbow, and another chapter of music history was born.
Deep Purple – Live in California ’74 is available on DVD from Amazon and all other online retailers. The print isn’t that great, and where the laserdisc had stereo sound, the DVD is mono … but it is still terrific, and their version of Smoke on the Water here can raise a goosebump or two.