Ten Things About Who: The Name of the Doctor

This post has been edited, tidied up and expanded to form part of my new ebook, TEN THINGS ABOUT WHO, available on Kindle. Buy it now for £1.99More details

Okay, this time more than ever, you must watch the episode before reading anything about it. Spoilers, sweetie…

Read previous Ten Things About… posts

1. “Less poetry, Doctor”

Do you hear the Whisper Men
The Whisper Men are near
If you hear the Whisper Men
Then turn away your ear

Do not hear the Whisper Men
Whatever else you do
For once you’ve heard the Whisper Men
They’ll stop… and look at you

A simple, but effective, design helps lift the Whisper Men from being the generic henchmen that they would otherwise become. I couldn’t help being reminded of the Gentlemen that Joss Whedon created for one of Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s best ever episodes, the near-silent Hush. True, they stole hearts rather than just stopping them – but they, too, were presaged by a cod nursery rhyme:

Can’t even shout, can’t even cry
The Gentlemen are coming by
Looking in windows, knocking on doors
They need to take seven and they might take yours
Can’t call to mom, can’t say a word
You’re gonna die screaming but you won’t be heard.

Continue reading “Ten Things About Who: The Name of the Doctor”

Ten Things About Who: The Angels Take Manhattan

This post has been edited, tidied up and expanded to form part of my new ebook, TEN THINGS ABOUT WHO, available on Kindle. Buy it now for £1.99More details

And so it’s the end, but the moment has been prepared for. Oh, no, wait, that was another Doctor Who moment. Anyway, here are my weekly ten points about the last of this current batch of Doctor Who episodes.

1. Blink twice

Conceptually, this episode felt far more of a sequel to Blink than The Time of Angels/Flesh and Stone did. It’s the third in a trilogy that, in essence, returns to the roots of the first: scary statues that send their victims back in time, rather than snapping their necks and speaking through them (cf. “Bob” in Time of Angels).

Which reminded me of this speech from Scream 3:

Because true trilogies are all about going back to the beginning and discovering something that wasn’t true from the get go. Godfather, Jedi, all revealed something that we thought was true that wasn’t true.

So if it is a trilogy you are dealing with, here are some super trilogy rules: 1. You got a killer who’s going to be super human. Stabbing him won’t work. Shooting him won’t work. Basically in the third one you gotta cryogenically freeze his head, decapitate him, or blow him up. 2. Anyone including the main character can die. This means you Syd. I’m sorry. It’s the final chapter. It could be fucking ‘Reservoir Dogs’ by the time this thing is through. Number 3. The past will come back to bite you in the ass. Whatever you think you know about the past, forget it.

2. Again, with the opening narration

Of the five episodes in this run, four have featured a voiceover either before or just after the opening credits (Dinosaurs on a Spaceship being an exception). It’s almost like it was planned. I suspect it’s more because it’s a convenient way to get some exposition out of the way – something that these “epic” stories just don’t have time for when crammed into a 45-minute running time.

I don’t mind it too much here, as it’s both a pastiche of the detective movie genre, and also a sign that the Doctor is reading aloud.

Continue reading “Ten Things About Who: The Angels Take Manhattan”

If It Only Even Runs a Minute – London Edition, Landor Theatre

Editor’s Rating
Rating

Regular readers will know that I was a big fan of Above the Stag Theatre’s 2009 summer cabaret, Blink!, which celebrated the joys to be found in songs from shows that did not last particularly long, and to different degrees their 2010 and 2011 shows, Blink! Twice and Blink Again!. There probably won’t be a 2012 version, as Above the Stag’s home of The Stag pub was recently closed as part of the redevelopment of the area around London Victoria station.

A series of concerts on the same theme has been running at New York’s Joe’s Café for a while now. And while each iteration of Blink! was a show that would repeat each night, If It Only Even Runs a Minute promises to be different each time, as befits a series of occasional concerts. The beauty of that format is that it can be as flexible as possible, and allow many guest stars to make a one-night commitment to perform songs from shows that they were in.

Last night saw the first in a hopeful series of UK equivalents at the Landor Theatre. And while it was a bit of a shambolic mess at times, it was at the very least a loveable mess, with some cracking performances.

Continue reading “If It Only Even Runs a Minute – London Edition, Landor Theatre”

If It Only Even Runs a Minute – London Edition, Landor Theatre4Scott Matthewman2012-04-24 19:53:22Regular readers will know that I was a big fan of Above the Stag Theatre’s 2009 summer cabaret, Blink!, which celebrated the joys to be found in songs…

Blink Again!, Above the Stag

Editor’s Rating
Rating

On the publicity material for the third in Above the Stag’s now-annual revue of songs from shows that flopped, The Stage is quoted as describing it as “a high quality evening”.

That quote came from my review of 2009’s first show. However, the section of that review that the quote comes from was not quite so equivocal:

The weakest elements come when the actors must drop out of character and narrate the history of the dud shows direct. While there is an element of humour to be had from their frequent fluffs, more work clearly needs to be done to improve what is already a high quality evening.

Annoyingly, I could use exactly the same paragraph in the review of 2011’s show. Which would be appropriate in many ways, since Blink Again! itself recycles much from the previous two years.

Continue reading “Blink Again!, Above the Stag”

Blink Again!, Above the Stag2Scott Matthewman2011-07-27 12:42:00On the publicity material for the third in Above the Stag’s now-annual revue of songs from shows that flopped, The Stage is quoted as describing it as…

Blink Twice, Above the Stag

In 2009, Above the Stag filled the usual torpidity of the summer fringe with Blink!, a collection of songs from musicals that flopped.

Unlike the shows it used as source material, it was a hit. It was not without faults, though: the spoken links that provided context weren’t executed well enough to adequately stand alongside the sung material. Also, there was something of an over-reliance on numbers from shows that, while possibly counting as flops on paper on their original run, have gone on to not insubstantial success (e.g., Chicago).

This year’s sequel has the confidence not to play it safe in such a manner, although it does include one number from a show that is currently running in the West End — the title song from Love Never Dies, albeit in its original form as Our Kind of Love from the Lloyd Webber/Elton mess of The Beautiful Game.

In a brave move for a show which is attempting to repeat its predecessor’s success, there is a continuing theme of demonstrating how composers repeatedly mine the same ideas. Jerry Herman, showcased last year for his drag comedy La Cage aux Folles, provides similar numbers from his revue flop, Jerry’s Girls. Adam Lilley’s scene stealing entrance in the second act’s opening numbers provides one of many comedy highlights, and ironically also gives him a vocal which is much better suited to his voice than many other songs which sit uncomfortably at the upper end of his range.

Ironic use of over-earnest choreography is used frequently to comically undermine songs which don’t deserve to be taken seriously, or to provide additional comedy to numbers which are nowhere near as funny as the writers clearly wanted them to be. The trio of Anna Gilthorpe, Ashleigh Jones and Emma Lumsden performing Glitterboots from Saucy Jack and the Space Vixens manages to transform an intrinsically silly number into something that lampoons the over-earnest choreography that has scuppered many a West End show.

Perhaps the strongest vocals belong to Reed Sinclair, whose renditions of Dear World (another Herman flop) and, in duet, First Lady of the Night from Bad Girls add to an impressive roster of numbers from all concerned.

There are so many bad musicals with odd little gems of songs in that the Blink format has every chance of becoming a regular franchise. If any future incarnations improve as much as Blink Twice has over 2009’s original, they will be truly amazing.

Blink! – the double-take

Last night, Paul and I went back to the [Above the Stag](http://www.thestage.co.uk/listings/venue.php/7934/above-the-stag-london) theatre in Victoria to see _Blink!_, a revue about songs from musicals that closed early. For both of us it was our second time to see the show, although we’d previously seen it on different nights. My first was on press night, when I [reviewed it for _The Stage_](http://www.thestage.co.uk/reviews/review.php/25036/blink-).

When I reviewed the show, I said:

> The weakest elements come when the actors must drop out of character and narrate the history of the dud shows direct. While there is an element of humour to be had from their frequent fluffs, more work clearly needs to be done

Thankfully, those bits did seem to have improved since press night – there were certainly far fewer occasions where the actors dried. They still feel clumsy and stilted, though, and it feels wrong to ask a performer who’s just finished belting a number to then switch to a straight narration.

The core of shows like this is not the narration, though, but the performances of the songs. There were points which didn’t work quite as well as on press night, but then you always get variation from show to show. And although there was a full house last night, as there was the last time I saw the show, the audience wasn’t quite as receptive, which has a big impact on the onstage performance.

_Blink!_ is on at Above the Stag until August 16 — which means that current West End flop _[Too Close to the Sun](http://matthewman.net/2009/07/27/ernie-get-your-gun/)_, which will have closed by then, qualifies for inclusion…

To finish, here’s a YouTube version of Debra Monk performing one of the songs included in the show, _Everybody’s Girl_, from Kander and Ebb’s **Steel Pier**. In the show, it’s performed by Julia G Addison (and in the after party, **Legally Blonde** star Sheridan Smith proclaimed, “I’ve found my new audition song!”)

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mJg7YZHRXtE

Blink!, Above the Stag

A cabaret of songs from unsuccessful musicals will be made or broken by the selection of material. Save for a couple of misses, Blink’s repertoire provides for an evening packed with memorable and occasionally well-known numbers.

A flexible approach to the brief accommodates shows that succeeded in Broadway but flopped in London (or vice versa) as frequently as shows that anyone could see had no chance. This allows moments such as Tim McArthur’s rendition of La Cage Aux Folles’ I Am What I Am, which is easily on a par with the current West End version.

That number is the most effective of the ballads included. The cast are clearly more comfortable, however, with the comedy numbers which make up the majority of the running time. Whether it’s a jaw-dropping version of the Silence of the Lambs or an inspired medley of numbers gleefully ridiculing actor-musician revivals, there are numerous opportunities for belly laughs from an ensemble that is clearly revelling in the material.

The weakest elements come when the actors must drop out of character and narrate the history of the dud shows direct. While there is an element of humour to be had from their frequent fluffs, more work clearly needs to be done to improve what is already a high quality evening.

_Reviewed for [The Stage](http://www.thestage.co.uk/reviews/review.php/25036/blink)_

Devised & directed by: Peter Bull and Tim McArthur
Management: Trilby Productions
Cast: Julia G Addison, Alexander Bradford, Nikki Gerard, Tim McArthur, Elena Rossi
Design: Prav Menon-Johansson
Lighting: Howard Hudson
Musical direction: Debbie Morris