Do you HEAR the people sing?

Written by Charlie White

So, I recently went to the theatre and unfortunately…I struggled to pick up the dialogue and therefore missed parts of the story. This wasn’t helped by the fact that the actors didn’t wear mics (as it was a play) and they had extremely strong accents. This then sparked the idea for a blog focusing on the sound/hearing aspect of shows.

I myself am a hearing aid wearer and have had problems with my ears since being a child, so this is quite an important subject to me (especially when it comes to hearing in a theatre) as I’m sure it is to most theatregoers.

The majority of the time, most shows are pretty good at making sure things are at a suitable volume and of course there is the well know lesson of projection and ‘making sure your voice hits the back of the theatre’ (I assume…is this still a thing now?)

However, there are times when maybe the music can be a little overpowering or perhaps the characters might be deep in conversation and you can’t quite catch everything they are saying.

If any of you reading this are familiar with hearing aids or anything along those lines you’ll know most theatres now have what’s called the loop system, which if your hearing aid has it activated you can connect to it and the sound will be sent straight through to your hearing aid (I’m also an Audiologist so fit hearing aids for a living).

 

 

 

Some of the shows I’ve seen recently have varied a lot hearing wise. Firstly, the Ferryman. As much I loved the show and was extremely shocked by the ending (you have to be there), I did have a bit of trouble hearing it all. Yes, this is the play I mentioned at the beginning and I’m afraid I did struggle at times to understand what was being said. Despite this, you do get used to it by the end and I managed to follow the gist of it. My advice if you’re going to watch this is maybe trying to have a little idea of what it is about beforehand and have your concentrating caps on when you see it!

Another show I recently saw was the Cursed Child. I am pleased to say most of the actors in Harry Potter and the Cursed Child spoke very clearly and the sound was pretty good throughout the show! Occasionally if the characters were having an argument or got a bit carried away with emotion certain things might not come across quite so clearly.

Overall, musicals tend to be at an appropriate level in order for us to take in the beautiful scores or talented voices so generally, I’m sure a lot of people will manage fine. For those who do not or those who are interested in knowing a bit more about this side of things, there will be a short section on the sound/hearing quality included in our upcoming reviews. The aim is to hopefully help and guide people who may struggle so they know what to expect when going to see a particular show. So please keep an eye out for that in the future and be sure to hear the people sing!

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REVIEW: SeatPlan

Written by Nathan Deane
Contributions from Charlotte White

A useful tool for UK theatregoers, SeatPlan is a website that takes the average auditorium plan and makes it interactive, allowing users to add photos from the seats and leave reviews of their seats. Users earn rewards from each photo uploaded and can also enter competitions and buy tickets via the website.

Despite a quite confusing interface, the tool is extremely helpful to the average theatregoer, if you’re based in London, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Milton Keynes, Manchester or Oxford. Whilst SeatPlan isn’t limited to those 6 areas, it doesn’t go much further than them, leaving people outside of those areas with local touring theatres in the dark of where to sit.

The site only has the major theatres, so you can’t get seating maps for some Off-West End venues such as Southwark Playhouse or Greenwich Theatre, which limits the usage to some theatre-goers.

The rewards are enticing, you earn 40p for each photo you add to the site and the pennies go towards theatre tokens – an exciting reward for any theatre fan. For an extra 40p, make sure you take a photo of your ticket stub!

The new, updated interface makes it hard to find the interactive seat plan, a feature I couldn’t find and had to ask my Facebook friends to help me find it when the update happened. Nevertheless, now I know where it is I can use the tool whenever I want.

The seat reviews are informative, usually accompanied by photos of the view and star ratings of the comfort, view, legroom and the show itself, providing a deep enough insight so that when you book your ticket you’ll know whether the seat is right for you.

The ticket booking system is easy enough, with discounted prices scattered around and easy to use seating charts.

I use the SeatPlan site quite frequently and, although it has a few minor issues, it’s a brilliant tool that anyone who is able to access a London theatre should use, and with the rewards system it’s a great way to fund your theatre-going!

4stars

REVIEW: Randy Writes A Novel @ Theatre Row

Reviewed by Annie Zeleznikow

The purple puppet, Randy Feltface, played hype man, MC and special guest for his comedy show ‘Randy Writes A Novel’. The glitz and glamour of 42nd Street didn’t discourage my countryman from putting himself in the vulnerable situation of performing a comedy show in the Theatre district. Randy warmed up the crowd with some honesty, explaining that if we didn’t like the show we could leave, and he wouldn’t know- not having functioning eyes and all. Randy’s honesty and self-awareness were a clever form of introduction to a different and unusual sort of show.

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Randy banters and makes conversation, as he slowly moves towards the core purpose of the show; to read an excerpt of “Walking to Skye”. Before he can get too far, Randy finds himself falling down a dark hole of Wikipedia research; truly one of the most relatable things about this show. Recounting Hemingway’s epic life, Randy keeps the audience in suspense for a little bit longer. The curiosity of the crowd is kept at bay by Randy (and by extension Heath McIvor)’s engaging storytelling. Randy avoids the possibility of a poor book review by perhaps alienating the audience- he won’t give us what he promised.

Randy continuous on his self-professed “90-minute stream of consciousness”, something I am all too familiar with. He rants about spiritual appropriation, the infallibility of ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’, and after some heckles, he addresses the pros and cons of singing some Amy Winehouse, acapella style (deciding to give us only a tantalizing few seconds of melody). Randy masters the nuance of time and tension building, and eventual tells some tales of the homeland (Australia).

It’s about an hour and 20 minutes into the show, Randy hasn’t read a line from his book, and I am beginning to suspect I will never learn about Skye, as woeful as that seems. Randy’s masterful procrastination that at times felt slow, ends with some astute observations, most relevantly that my friend and I will leave the Theatre and discuss the nuances of the show, focusing on the different factors that impacted on its quality. Naturally, we did, only to come to the conclusion that as Theatre lovers we are sometimes clichéd and that Randy knows his audience.

Randy moves around behind his desk in a life-like way. It’s easy to forget that there are complicated skills at work whenever Randy makes a gesture. It is truly a testament to the crew and cast of this comedy show that Randy feels to me as fun, charismatic and charming as the next purple man. It didn’t hurt that I’ve missed the easy flow of conversation that occurs whenever I meet a fellow Australian, even if he’s not quite the average Australian bloke.

4stars

Randy writes a Novel is playing at Theatre Row until June 9th. Get tickets here

REVIEW: Ms. Estrada @ The Flea Theatre

Reviewed by Annie Zeleznikow

The Flea Theatre that houses this production can be found off the beaten path in Tribeca, in a twist of oxymoronic fate this company is creating edgy and thought-provoking shows in the heart of the industrial upper class. This funky company introduced themselves by providing single pieces of paper, rather than a playbill. It was announced before the show began that this was a deliberate decision and that all other information can be found online. Their dedication to conservation is an interesting and thoughtful act towards global sustainability.

The show began with a disclaimer from the writers,The Q Brothers Collective. They astutely noted that they were all male, some gay, some of colour. The sensitive themes explored in Ms Estrada warranted the warning. The cleverly written prose professed profanity, and ultimately set the scene for a production that challenges and entertains.

Another visual that struck me before the show began was the DJ, Marguerite Frarey. Rather than having an orchestra, Ms Estrada had a band of one. Frarey would often shout and boo as the story developed. She was the first character you meet, and she remains a constant throughout. Frarey at times could be compared to an all mighty presence, watching the events of the show unfurl.

Ms Estrada focuses on a young woman’s experience through college. Written with dark humour and a clever sense of self-awareness, Liz Estrada (Malena Pennycook), a new college student, seeks the “power to change the system”. In an attempt to prevent the “Greek Games”, a sexist male competition focused on stereotypical frat games, Estrada convinces her fellow female classmates to withhold sex. With the support of her roommates and mentor (Jenna Krasowski), Estrada shows the Dean (Ben Schrager) how damaging the Greek Games are.

The songs in Ms Estrada are clever and catchy. With a flair for rap, the show slowly moves towards more traditionally female musical genres as the story progresses. “Ring the Bell” is a catchy earworm, as Estrada and the female rebels reprise the song whenever they are confronted. Estrada and her empowered peers rename themselves “Womxn with an X”, and flaunt their feminine power with some complex and intricate choreography. The boys begin losing matches and they complain to the Dean with a song that appears to find inspiration from Lin-Manuel Miranda and Macklemore. The show continues with a compelling blend of rap and pop.

Estrada’s compelling fight against an unrelenting torrent of sexism is remanent of Rob Thomas’ Veronica Mars. Young women are fighting for equality, and the stories focus on the struggle and success of these women. The storytelling and incorporation of Ms Estrada exudes a quirkiness similar to that of the charming Veronica Mars.

This masterful adaptation of the Greek Classic Lysistrata brings modern life to an ancient play. The in-house ensemble of The Flea Theater, The Bats, shine in this complex and captivating show.

4stars

Ms Estrada is playing at The Flea Theater until 28th April. You can buy tickets here

 

Eight Powerful Shows that I Love

Written by Annie Zeleznikow

I have seen a lot of theatre throughout my life. I was lucky enough to have parents who valued theatre, and grandparents who could afford tickets for us. I travelled a lot as a child and my dad took great pleasure in finding shows in strange and wonderful locations. My life has always been filled with show tunes, and so here is a sneak peek into some of my favorites, and some stories about why they mean so much to me.

8) The Sound of Music

The loveliest musical. Julie Andrews is truly a fabulous gift to the world. I think the best way to sufficiently explain my love for this show is to first watch this recreation, made by Lin-Manuel Miranda’s father, Luis.

This was a musical that taught me the value of perseverance. Maria and the Von Trapp’s feared for their lives, so they climbed mountains and escaped, all while singing.

When I was about 13 my family went to Saltsburg. This is where the movie was shot, and where the story is based. There are Sound of Music tours, and we went on one. It was magical, we danced and sang where Ms. Andrews had danced and sung. The story came to life as we ran across the fountain and looked across the mountaintops. The Sound of Music is a movie that I have watched countless times, and I know I will continue to watch it, as it never gets old.

7) Guys and Dolls

When I was in twelfth grade I spent one weekend procrastinating. This was a week before a major exam. And I spent both Saturday and Sunday watching guys and dolls. I watched it on repeat. I watched it over and over again. It took me away from the chaos of my life, and it gave me an escape. I got to watch Marlon Brando fall in love, again and again. And the music was an enchanting combination of cabaret, soulful ballads, and sappy love songs. It was the perfect distraction from a horrendously stressful time. And it brought me such joy and relief from the stress of the real world around me.

guys and dolls

6) 13

This was the last musical that I participated in during high school. And I loved it. It was my introduction to the wonderful Jason Robert Brown. I had never really been exposed to a pop style musical before this show. The quirky characters fill the show with clever songs and funny numbers. The ballads are fantastic, and the lyrics are catchy. I was so lucky to be involved in such a fun show.

NOTE: While trying to find photos to add to the article I found the whole show, which was recorded and put on YouTube. Please enjoy my minor role as a preppy (chorus member), that’s me in the green blouse.

5) 1984

A most terrifyingly moving play. I saw this during my first week living in NYC. It was powerful and overwhelming. At one point the house lights went up, and it was clear that this terrifying dystopia that was created within the show was seeping into the real world. It was powerful and moving and I thought it was amazing.

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4) The Mountaintop

This was a play about the final day of MLK’s life, and it was my first introduction to MLK and the Human Rights Movement that occurred in the US in the 60’s. The Melbourne Theatre Company produced this show in 2013. I saw the play with my grandmother, sister, and cousins. My grandmother would buy season tickets to the theatre each year for my sister, cousins and myself. There were many amazing and powerful plays during the years that we went to the theatre, but when I started writing this list The Mountaintop jumped out at me. I remember it concluding with a video montage. And the montage included footage of Obama, and I started to tear up. The contrast of MLK and Obama was powerful and provoked powerful emotions within.

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3) Kinky Boots

My mums favorite. No way around it. She adores Callum Francis, the Australian Lola. We speak of him like an old friend, we speak about how he is doing, where he is living etc. I took a class called LGBT Community through the Life Span. During one class we were asked to write up different thing that affected how LGBT communities are viewed. I proudly wrote “Kinky Boots”, and although some of my classmates laughed, the Professor acknowledged it, this show impacted worldviews, and empowered people to live and be themselves. This show brought LGBT rights to the forefront, exclaiming to the world that we should all “Be who you want to be.” The unconditional acceptance in this show acts as such a powerful tool. Each time I’ve seen the show I’ve had an involuntary grin on my face.

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2) Dear Evan Hansen

This is one of the most powerful shows I’ve seen. I, like most audience members, found myself in tears. After all, Evan just wants to connect, and I can understand that. He gets caught up in a lie that he can’t escape, and he just wants to be seen and loved. I felt connected to Evan. The pop music is also a pleasant addition to the wonderfully classic repertoire of my favorite musicals. I keep coming back to this show. Each time I get excited about a new musical that opens in NYC, I get drawn away by Dear Evan Hansen, I find myself wanting to see it again and again. Despite the high costs. Each time I’ve seen it it’s been dynamic. All parts of this show make a mark; the music, the story, the acting- each connect to a deep part of me.

Dear Evan Hansen

1) Hamilton

I really owe so much to the genius work of Lin-Manuel Miranda. Although I was brought up with musicals, my obsession with the genre didn’t blossom until I heard the exquisite lyrics of Miranda’s tantalizing show. I am not American and knowing the history of America didn’t excite me in the same way it might excite a history teacher in the US. But this show lit a flame under me. And my desire to see the show quickly turned deeper and became an unquenchable thirst for Miranda’s materials. I moved to New York. I waited in line for 7 hours. I saw Hamilton. From my bedroom in Melbourne, Australia, I had made it! Hamilton is everywhere now. Rapping “My Shot” to the 4-year-old that I picked up from school brought me joy, and I hope to continue doing it. My favorite TV shows make jokes about how hard it is to get tickets. NYC appreciates and loves Miranda, and I do too.

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6 Ways To Afford Theatre in NYC!

Written by Annie Zeleznikow

Ah, the bright lights of Broadway! My eyes are drawn to the flashing lights of the star-studded posters. My heart is drawn to the warmth and depth of the shows. My ears a drawn to the sweet warbles of the casts. But alas, I have the budget of a graduate student (for I am a graduate student).

I moved to NYC from Australia late August 2017. Since then I have seen over 30 shows. “How is this possible?” I hear, through the gasp of college students all across Manhattan. It took some waiting, a little know-how and a lot of good luck. This article will take you through my favourite ways to get decent* Theatre tickets for one of the most expensive cities in the world, New York.

Note: Most of these are ways of getting tickets the day of the show!

1) Digital Ticket Lotteries

One of the best ways to get good tickets to shows for cheap is winning the digital lottery for shows. There is a whole range of websites that provide this service for individual shows, and each show has a different policy! Lottery tickets are usually the BEST seats, so it is well worth the 30 seconds it takes to fill out the forms online. However, for shows like Hamilton, there are hundreds of thousands of people entering each day. A lot of shows have a separate website for their lotteries, but below are some websites with multiple lotteries in the once place:

  1. https://lottery.broadwaydirect.com/
  2. https://www.luckyseat.com/lottery.php

2) In-person Lotteries

Something that is similar, but has a different process is the In-person Lottery. You will P1013243mormondraw.jpgusually get those sweet seats, without the huge odds against you! The only problem is that you have to have the free time to wait around for the draw before the show! Below are some shows that offer in-person lotteries:

  1.  Book of Mormon (2 ½ hours before curtain up)
  2. Mean Girls (2 ½ hours before curtain up)
  3. Once on this Island (2 hours before curtain up)
  4. Wicked (2 ½ hours before curtain up)

3) Rush Tickets

Rush Tickets, although far from the best seats, do offer great value for money. These tickets are offered just when the box office opens (for most shows during the week this is 10am). Depending on the popularity of the show, you might want to get to the box office at 8am, or if the show is not doing well, just stroll in any time after 10am! I have gotten front row tickets, where I missed whatever was happening in the back, but I didn’t care because I was inches away from Christian Borle’s face. Below are some shows that offer Rush Tickets:

  1.  Anastasia^
  2. Angels in America
  3. The Band’s Visit
  4. Beautiful (during the week only!)
  5. Carousel
  6. Chicago
  7. Come From Away
  8. Escape to Margaritaville
  9. Farinelli and the King
  10. Hello Dolly^
  11. The Play That Goes Wrong
  12. School of Rock
  13. SpongeBob SquarePants^
  14. Waitress
^ From experience, you won’t need to get there before 10am.

4) Standing Room Tickets

Shows that sell out will often have Standing Room tickets. If you don’t mind standing for the whole show, you can get a great ticket with an orchestra view. I found that Kinky Boots was made more interactive with standing room, as my mum and I danced to the BN-RJ672_NYSTAN_GR_20161227154525funky music while enjoying the show. Shows that offer Standing Room tickets when they sell out include:

  1. Book of Mormon
  2. Chicago
  3. Come From Away
  4. Farinelli and the King
  5. Hello, Dolly!
  6. Kinky Boots
  7. Once on this Island
  8. The Phantom of the Opera
  9. School of Rock
  10. Waitress

5) TodayTix

My favourite app TodayTix always provides me with quick and easy accesses to affordable tickets. Not to mention the numerous in-app Lotteries and Rush Tickets available! The app neatly compiles the best shows offering discounted tickets on and off Broadway. Visit TodayTix here.

6) The TKTS Booth.

Finally, there is the well-loved TKTS booth. Although I have not utilised this wonderful tool, it is the best way to get good tickets last minute. The tickets are a little out of my price range, but you will often find good value for money. TKTS is run by an organisation called Theatre Development Fund (TDF) that provides discounted (properly priced) tickets to teachers, students and many more professional for an annual cost of about $30. TDF, and other subscription-based discounts can be worthwhile if your living in NYC and hope to see lots of theatre!

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Although at times stressful, I have found all these methods to bare results. It is important to enter lotteries every day if you want to win, it’s only a matter of time. It is essential to remember that if there is a will, I’ll find a way- inside the theatre. You may not always get the best seats, and you may not always get into the show that you want, but it will always be an adventure. And it’s an adventure that you will treasure.

Olivier Awards Nominations: MY PREDICTIONS

Written by Nathan Deane

It’s not common practice to predict nominations for awards ceremonies. But the 2017-2018 theatre season in London was so great that the Olivier Eligibility is one of the best things I’ve ever seen. I feel like I have to tell everyone (is predict the right word? Oh well.) what I hope is nominated for the Theatre section of the Oliviers this year! I’ve limited myself to 3 or 4 nominations per category. These are not the official nominations; just my predictions/wishes.

Best Revival

The Birthday Party – Harold Pinter Theatre

Frozen – Theatre Royal Haymarket

Glengarry Glen Ross – Playhouse Theatre

Stepping Out – Vaudeville Theatre

New Play

The Ferryman – Gielgud Theatre

John – National Theatre (Dorfman)

Lady Day At Emmerson’s Bar & Grill – Wyndham’s Theatre

Pinocchio – National Theatre (Lyttleton)

New Comedy

Labour of Love – Noël Coward Theatre

Mischief Movie Night – Arts Theatre

The Miser – Garrick

Musical Revival

42nd Street – Theatre Royal Drury Lane

Follies – National Theatre (Olivier)

On The Town – Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre

New Musical

Everybody’s Talking About Jamie – Apollo Theatre

The Grinning Man – Trafalgar Studios

Hamilton – Victoria Palace Theatre

The Toxic Avenger – Arts Theatre

Entertainment & Family

Dick Whittington – London Palladium

Five Guys Named Moe – Marble Arch Theatre

The Hunting of the Snark – Vaudeville

Affiliate

The B*easts – Bush Theatre

tick, tick…BOOM! – Park Theatre

Room – Theatre Royal Stratford East

Disco Pigs – Trafalgar Studios 2

Is Theatre A Dying Art Form?

Written by Sophie Reed

Earlier this week an article written by Stuart Heritage caused anger throughout the musical theatre community. The article was in response to the announcement of the cast of BBC’s 6 Part version of Les Misérables. Heritage said he was thankful for the BBC for the adaptation of Victor Hugo’s novel that doesn’t have the ‘annoying singing.’ The most dreaded line was ‘theatre is a dying art form.’ This statement shocked and angered actors and fans alike, even I had a few words to say about it. This is what encouraged me to write this. There is so much you can write about it, you can’t fit it into a single tweet, or a thread.

There was a time, I believe, when it could be argued that theatre was a dying art form. Where musicals on the West End and Broadway were barely lasting a year. If I were to put a date on the most recent decline, it was probably around mid to late 2000’s. Maybe it’s because the shows weren’t good quality, or maybe even that audiences weren’t interested in seeing shows at the time. Right now, the West End is solid. We have shows that are staying because of the popularity with the audience. I can name loads off the top of my head: The Lion King, Wicked, Phantom of the Opera, Thriller, Les Misérables, Kinky Boots.

The dedication of the fans makes all the difference. Especially when the musicals have been on the West End for a long time. I’m taking from my own personal experience here. Although I had seen musicals before then, the musical that made me fall truly and deeply in love with musicals was Phantom of the Opera. My mum is a big fan of the musical and even saw the Original Cast 7 times! Seeing the show justified why she was so captivated by it. Because My Mum was in her late teens/early twenties when these ALW and B&S musicals came out, like so many people, their children grew up with the songs and now we have a whole new generation of fans who have now grown up and now seeing shows.

I really think I can’t do this post without talking about Hamilton. It took the world by storm and interested people that wouldn’t listen to musicals and because they like Hamilton, they listen to other musicals. Hamilton has brought in more people into the community. Also, how can you say Theatre is dead when Hamilton is sold out until May? Like, seriously?!

Original Broadway Cast

Hamilton

It’s not just musicals, The Mousetrap, The Woman in Black, The Play That Goes Wrong. All Plays that have been running on the West End for more than a couple of years. The Mousetrap is the West End’s longest-running show. Yes, plays don’t usually have a long run, but there still are some that stick. Even The Ferryman, which opened last year is doing amazingly well!

Yes, the recorded performances and film adaptations have probably stopped people from seeing the stage show, however, there is nothing like the exhilarating thrill of live theatre. The film sometimes encourages people to see the show live, because the film will always be different to the musical.

I wanted to write a response to this statement because it made me really think about my degree. I’m studying Film and Screen Media. This degree doesn’t just teach me about Film and the Media as a whole, but question it. Even though I’m looking forward to the adaptation of Les Misérables and I do watch live broadcast television, it can be argued that live television is a dying art form. Everything is going online, Netflix, Amazon Prime, IPlayer. People don’t want to sit in front of a television and watch normal TV.