Tag Archives: musical theatre

The Noteworthy Life of Howard Barnes at Village Theatre

the noteworthy life of howard barnes

The concept of this new musical at Village Theatre was instantly appealing. Howard Barnes wakes up to find his life has become a musical. As a musical theatre fan, I can’t think of anything more wonderful than having a life full of spontaneous songs and dance breaks, but for an ordinary guy like Howard, he simply wants to return to normality.

Watching the first few scenes, I was worried I would be disappointed. It was amusing but not laugh aloud funny and I was still waiting for a wow moment. However, once I settled into the rhythm of the show, those moments came time and again.  As a reserved Brit, it takes a lot to make me laugh out loud, but I laughed and smiled my way through the whole show.

The story is clever, funny, emotional and surprising, with an array of fantastic characters, from the key players to the tiniest cameos. The cast was flawless, the energy infectious and the dramatic moments pulled at the heart-strings.  If you are a musical theatre fan, you will love spotting the references to all of your favourite musicals, as familiar characters and numbers appear and are reborn, Howard Barnes style. My personal favourite was the homage to cell block tango by Howard’s ex-girlfriends.

The Noteworthy Life of  Howard Barnes is not some frivolous comedy musical. Hilarious as it is, the show has some unexpected emotional scenes and explores the complex world of relationships, rejection and moving on.  A must see for musical theatre fans but a wonderful treat even if you’re not. Don’t miss it!

Here’s a little taster

Would I take the kids?

There are some adult references and sexual words in songs (some of which, I wish weren’t there so it were more kid friendly). I would say it is a PG13 rating – on balance I would take my musical theatre obsessed 10-year-old, because I think she would love it. I do however, think some of the relationship themes would be difficult for her to fully understand and I really wish some of the sexual words in certain songs would be taken out, so I didn’t have to answer awkward questions. If you want more information before making your own judgement, check out the production preview guide

The Noteworthy Life of Howard Barnes runs until October 21st in Issaquah and from October 26th – November 18th in Everett. The show runs without an intermission, so if you go on a week night you can still be in bed by 10.

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Shrek the Musical

shrek the musical

At the age of 2 my daughter would insist I play ‘Evita’ every time we got in the car.  Her favourite DVD was Joseph and his Technicolour Dreamcoat and she is often heard singing ‘Close Every Door to Me’ in a fake vibrato.  A recent favourite is ‘Pirates of Penzance’. At the weekend she waltzed downstairs in a party dress,singing in a falsetto voice and declared ‘I’m Mabel’.

The girls love of musicals is such that I knew they would enjoy ‘Shrek the Musical’. I’m a fan of musical theatre too but I wasn’t sure I would enjoy it. As a classic animation I wondered if it would really translate to the stage, why turn it into a musical?  Isn’t everything being made into a musical these days? I was however, pleasantly surprised.

It took a while to get into the songs, at first I felt it was a nice alternative to watching a pantomime, but as it went on I became more and more absorbed. Just as in the animation there are some great characters and the original Broadway cast are spectacular.  I particularly loved Pinocchio, the cross dressing Wolf and Donkey who was even more camp, flamboyant and hilarious on stage than in the animation.

The girls were fascinated by Lord Farquaad’s costume.  They spotted immediately that the legs weren’t real (they thought his tiny feet in the bath were hilarious) but couldn’t work out how they made him so small. The show received a Tony Award in 2009 for best costume design of a musical and I can clearly see why.

I loved the tap dancing rats at the start of Act 2 and the girls were up and dancing along.

It is so expensive to take a family of 5 to a live show these days, so it is refreshing to be able to watch one from the comfort of our sofa.  I thought it was a great family show, I’m not singing any of the songs after the first viewing but I’m sure it won’t be long.  There is a sing-along section on the DVD once we become really familiar with the music.

Musicals aren’t everyone’s cup of tea but this one was funny, visually stunning and highly entertaining.  There is something for everyone (with a large dose of cleavage for the dad’s).  I’ll definitely see it live if  it ever comes to town. The UK tour begins in 2014.  At about 2 hours long it is a little long for very young children (my 3-year-old struggled to sit through it) but my 5-year-old was mesmerised. The DVD is a sensible alternative to taking very young children to an expensive live show.

Shrek the Musical is available In the UK from 2nd December 2013 in DVD, Blu-ray and Digital HD.

Disclosure: No payment was received for writing this post.  A copy of the DVD was received for review purposes.

Choir is Not for Geeks

When I was young, Musical Theatre was my life. While my friends spent their Saturday afternoons choosing lipstick in Woolworths, I was rehearsing for my next show. When my job sent me into a frenzy of boredom, the excitement of finding out which show we would do next and what part I would play  kept me going.  My husband and I met doing Musical Theatre together and we had a huge network of theatre friends. Now that family life has taken over those days are long gone but I miss it.

It took me a long time to realise that my voice didn’t always need to be the one that stood out in a group and that I could enjoy singing even if I wasn’t a soloist. Once I encountered the sheer pleasure of singing in a perfectly blended chorus, I realised what I had been missing. The end of Act One chorus from ‘The Pirates of Penzance’, the nuns Gaudeamus from ‘The Sound of Music’ and ‘Requiem for Evita’ all send shivers down my spine as I remember the moment I sang them on stage.

Even though singing was my hobby, I never sang at school.  The only avenue for singing at school was choir but choir was for geeks. My perception of choir was of singing ‘boring hymns’ probably because church was the only place I had encountered a choir.   As I grew older my perceptions changed but I still felt choir wasn’t my thing.

I tried to continue with theatre once I had children but the weekend rehearsals, complicated schedule of babysitters and the week of the show nearly killed me. So now I have broken the mould and joined a choir. Choir is so much simpler, I no longer have to stand at the back of the stage silently oohing and ahhing, I don’t have to learn dance moves (or sing in the wings with the old people because my dancing isn’t good enough),I don’t even have to learn the words because we carry our music with us.

My perception has changed about the people too. Recently we went on a weekend choir retreat – a large group of women in one house, singing, eating, drinking and getting to know one another.  I was quite excited about making new friends but being in new company isn’t my strength, so was also a little nervous.  The choir is very diverse, there is a huge mix of ages, nationalities, cultures and backgrounds but without exception each member sees choir as their ‘thing’, their chance to be themselves for one evening a week. Fuelled with the euphoria of a whole day of singing, ocean views, relaxing in hot tubs and a few glasses of wine, we began to get to know one another.  There is something extraordinarily powerful about getting people together in one place away from their ordinary lives. I used to feel it on my annual blogging conference weekends in London, the connection with like-minded people and the sense of relief that we all have the same insecurities.

I felt a connection with every woman on the retreat, many of whom were very different to me. It made me wonder about judging people by appearances; often people who we perceive to be ‘not our type’ based on appearance, become our closest friends.  The openness  of the choir members was refreshing and sent me home with the feeling that it is ok to be imperfect. All of the women talked of their very different and complicated lives and for a brief moment we were able to leave them behind.

In the modern world there is an immense amount of pressure to be perfect. When everyone admits that they are not it’s like you’ve been set free. Nobody is a perfect, wife, mother, career woman, friend, cook, housekeeper or icon of beauty and on the whole nobody expects you to be either. The pressure to be flawless comes from within.

I returned from the retreat with a new perspective, with a belief that it is okay to be flawed, we are all flawed, people like me for who I am and I like them more because of, not in spite of their imperfections.