Much Ado About Nothing

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Yesterday, I finally got to see Joss Whedon’s film adaptation of Much Ado About Nothing. Shot in twelve days in black and white in and around Whedon’s California home, most of the cast have worked with Whedon on previous projects, and that’s clearly helped achieve the sort of directorial clarity that other films can’t always manage. 

Much Ado About Nothing [DVD] [2012] (DVD)


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Including some silent flashbacks of Beatrice and Benedick’s previous liaison is a luxury stage productions can’t have, but here it helps establish the cause of their antagonistic relationship in a nutshell. She fell for his charms once, and her antipathy towards him is as much regret for her own part in that one-night stand.

Amy Acker’s Beatrice is wonderful: strong, compassionate, fragile, quick, strong, headstrong. I said in my preview blog post that I’ve never been particularly enamoured with Alexis Denisof, and for the most part that opinion hasn’t changed: however, his farcical acrobatics as he overhears Leonato, Claudio and Don Pedro talk about how Beatrice is in love with him are hilariously accomplished. His weakest scenes are those where he must monologue his way through his internal thought processes. On stage, Benedick can use the audience as confidantes: no such luck on film – although at one point he addresses an imagined audience within Whedon’s garden amphitheatre, and that just about works.

Clark Gregg’s Leonato is a warm, genial figure – and not a little camp, which is no bad thing – while Reed Diamond’s Don Pedro and Sean Maher as his bastard brother, Don John, provide solid, ever watchable interpretations of those stock characters.

As the secondary couple, Jillian Morgese is little more than a cipher in the thankless role of Hero, far eclipsed by Fran Kranz’s Claudio. As the smitten young man who allows Don John’s lies to lead him to believe his fiancée has been unfaithful to him, Kranz is astonishing. He’s been a supporting actor in several Whedon projects up to now, but I really hope that this role is enough to get casting directors considering him for the romantic lead in future projects. 

Much Ado About Nothing [Blu-ray] (Blu-ray)


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There is an undoubted highlight in the casting, though – Nathan Fillion as the buffoonish constable Dogberry. Fans of Doctor Horrible’s Singalong Blog know that, as Captain Hammer, Fillion can play heroically stupid like nobody else. That’s a path he not only treads again here, but trips down with abandon. He steals every scene he’s in, although Tom Lenk as his assistant Verges is a hilarious accomplice in that regard.

The music is also wonderful, composed by Whedon, produced by his brother Jed and featuring the vocal talents of Jed’s wife Maurissa Tancharoen. In terms of adapting the song Sigh No More, they do a great song that fits in with the mood of the party scenes. (I still prefer Michael Bruce’s Eighties-themed interpretation, though.)

Much Ado About nothing is still on release – for details, see the official websiteThe film is available to pre-order on DVD and Blu-Ray for release in October. The original score is available now.

Much Ado About Nothing5Scott Matthewman2013-06-23 14:17:44Yesterday, I finally got to see Joss Whedon’s film adaptation of Much Ado About Nothing. Shot in twelve days in black and white in and around Whedon’s…

Much Ado about cast recordings

Whenever a new musical comes to the West End, there’s always a bit of a buzz about a possible cast recording. Different productions take wildly different views: Love Never Dies put its cast recording on sale so far in advance that it was more of a concept album than a record of the eventual stage production, in any of its reworked forms. Legally Blonde the Musical waited until there was obvious demand for a West End version in addition to the original Broadway recording, while Stiles and Drewe’s magnificent music for Betty Blue Eyes may eventually be available next month (although a sampler CD was issued with the Evening Standard newspaper as part of the show’s initial publicity drive). And while Ghost the Musical, which holds its press night tomorrow, hasn’t officially released its cast recording yet, it’s currently available to listen in a streamed form on the show’s Facebook page.

What’s unusual, though, is for a straight play to release a cast recording. But the production of Much Ado About Nothing currently playing at Wyndham’s has done just that.

Continue reading Much Ado about cast recordings

Portrait of a Princess

A full review of last night’s Michael Bruce concert and his album, Unwritten Songs, will be forthcoming shortly (edit: my review of Unwritten Songs is now online). In the meantime, enjoy this fun video starring Julie Atherton and a host of familiar West End faces, as Julie sings her track from the album, Portrait of a Princess:

Coming soon: Michael Bruce’s Unwritten Songs

Speckulation Entertainment seem to be on a real roll at the moment. As well as Helena Blackman’s wonderful collection of Rodgers and Hammerstein classics, in a couple of weeks’ time they will release a CD of songs written by composer Michael Bruce.

Michael first came to my attention when he entered a competition they ran (under the banner of their Notes from New York brand) in conjunction with The Stage to find a new Christmas song in a musical theatre style. Michael’s song, Children, is a just beautiful, plaintive ballad that became one of my personal highlights of both the Christmas in New York shows and the subsequent cast recording. Since then, as well as orchestrating some of Speckulation’s other works (including some of Helena’s album, and the musical ads for Confused.com) he’s been working on various projects, the biggest and most recent of which is composing music for the forthcoming version of Much Ado About Nothing which is to star David Tennant and Catherine Tate.

Back in November 2009, a one-off show at the Apollo Theatre highlighting some of his work drew some of the cream of the West End’s young performing talent. I’m pleased to see that on the just-announced track list for the new CD, Unwritten Songs, many of them will be making an appearance on the CD.

Continue reading Coming soon: Michael Bruce’s Unwritten Songs