Great placement HMV. Bieber in the horror section.
I swear I did not move the DVD, my friend pointed it out to me and I had to take a picture.
Saturday, 7 July 2012
Wednesday, 4 July 2012
So I don't usually do these. However, I felt inspired when last.fm insisted I listen to the Trolley Song. It's probably my favourite Judy Garland song.
This is a review of ‘Thanks for the memories. A celebration of 100 years of the Bristol Hippodrome.’
Quite a last minute decision to go I admit, but a good one. I had a front row seat for all of the action.
Thanks for the memories was
Directed and choreographed by Vicki Klein
Musical Directors; Richard Jeffrey – Grey and Matt Ramplin
Music Co-Ordinator Chris Northam
Script written and conceived by Vicki Klein and Gerry Parker
TFMT appealed for significant memories from the public in February this year to put into the show. This alone impressed me, both in acknowledging how much the Hippodrome is a part of Bristol and it’s residents but also that (maybe this is because I’m a huge procrastinator) how little time it seems like they needed to put such a great production together.
On stage we had BLOC productions (originally known as Bristol Light Opera Club) and Bristol Musical Youth Productions (formerly Junior BLOC). I noticed the Youth Productions and honestly didn’t think much of it until I noticed just how youthful some of the youth were. Dear little ones on stage really giving it their all, and to be commended for lasting the entire show with such talent.
1911 – The future home of the Hippo.
We begin in the planning stages, what was going to be a standard theatre going by Frank Matcham’s (the architect) design, became one of the biggest stages outside of the West End. Sir Oswald Stoll gave Matcham just 18 months to design the masterpiece and to incorporate the city’s famous port background. Stoll and Matcham I should note began working together in 1904 when Matcham was commissioned by Stoll to build the London Coliseum.
Stoll wanted a theatre ‘Where a man could take his family to enjoy the best of entertainment in a safe and peaceful environment’. The original building had a rotating globe on the top of the roof with the word Hippodrome on it. This was lost sometime in the 60’s, now I’m just speculating, but I’d check with the brummies – they had the chandelier the Hippo wanted. I can’t recall if it was borrowed back for the centenary year.
The Hippodrome originally had an 80,000 gallon tank of water under the stage, as part of the opening show they had bathing beauties dive into it.
The theatre opened in December 1912 with the Eugene Stratton as the headliner.
The musical numbers were Alexander’s ragtime band, ‘Lily of Laguna’, ‘Who Were You with Last Night’, ‘The Spaniard Who Blighted My Life’ and ‘I Do like to Be beside the Seaside’.
Standout numbers for me were The Spaniard, and Seaside. Both were well performed, the Spaniard was very funny and Seaside was overall good to watch.
We saw Sarah Bernhardt the following year performing in La Dame aux Camélias. However Ms Bernhardt was interrupted by the Suffragettes. Well I thought this wonderful, not only because I’m a Mary Poppins fan (who doesn’t love Glynis Johns?).
These suffragettes didn’t sing, but they did hand out leaflets – please see at the bottom of the post. They were harassed by a theatre goer, and the police who seemed to enjoy riling the women. They were encouraging the other women not to take the harassment. Now when I said interrupted, I mean the Suffragettes were in the boxes, on the stairs and stood in front of me in the front row. I wasn’t expecting this much participation, but I did love it.
The musical number was the ‘Suffragette March’.
The wonderfully Bristolian cleaners, Doreen, Ethel (Ef) and Tina (Teen-ool), who had a great chat about all the shows they had seen. And some gentle ribbing of a call boy who got a few things wrong, but the lad had big dreams. He did need a new name, Archibald Leach wasn’t very Hollywood. For those who don’t know, Archie later went on to become Cary Grant.
We saw Gracie Fields singing ‘Sally, sing as we go’ who told us it was a bloke’s song but she sang it anyway and Wish me luck as you wave me goodbye – with some more participation from the audience. We saw a sand dance, much the confusion of some 20 something’s behind me.
George Formby dropped in; I loved ‘When I’m cleaning windows’. Though they did have to find the lamppost, Archie lost it.
The Bristol Blitz and the Sandy Powell Road Show
Not something I would have expected to see if you’d asked me beforehand. However it’s worth noting that the Hippo survived 2 world wars. We saw the confirmation that Britain was at war, had a talk from the home guard and saw women not only in the work place but in trousers. Bless the usherette though; she was giving the kiddies carrot lollies.
We heard how the children were offered free tickets to come and see the show if their houses had been bombed.
The musical performers were Tiller Girls. It was like seeing a Hollywood movie right in front of you, and the ladies were beautiful.
We had ‘Top Hat’, ‘Fascinating Rhythm’ and ‘Isn’t it a lovely day’.
However we were interrupted by an air raid siren and urged by the theatre manager to join the cast, orchestra and crew beneath the stage.
Under stage in the Blitz
Listening to the sounds of an air raid we watched the audience and performers huddled under the stage. The adults discussing what they’d like to eat if they didn’t have rations, and how sick they were of carrots – including carrot lollies, carrot fudge and carrot jam. Then came the discussion of meat, and how they would even settle for some rabbit.
This broke into ‘Run Rabbit’ that I really wanted to join in with. Not just for the kids, everyone had a sing.
Next was what is listed as ‘Hitler’s Testicular Problems!’ instigated by one of the teenage boys, they finished with ‘Underneath the arches’.
The woman behind me told her daughters that this was the 60’s. Maybe she had something to do with my Education post.
VE Day. Arsenic and Old Lace
We were watching Arsenic and Old Lace. I’ve never seen this before but I really want to now. However the theatre manager burst on to the stage and bought all of the crew and cast on stage to announce that the war was over. Maybe I get sucked in far too easily; however when they sang ‘There’ll always be an England’ and ‘We’ll meet Again’ I found both moving, and the cast did an incredible job.
During the first song one of the female wardens on my side of the stalls asked a gentleman to dance and on the other side, a sailor asked a woman to dance.
The theatre manager then told us that the bar would be open for an extra 15 minutes to celebrate, now isn’t that the way to announce an interval?
Scenes 8 and 9
February 1948 Pantomime, Babes in the wood and the great fire
We saw Old Mother Reilly and the babes generally having a lark and indulged in the traditional ‘oh yes it is’. Which I’m sure most people loved (I can’t help it, I hate panto). We watched ‘I’m looking over a 4 leaf clover’ and ‘When Irish eyes are smiling’. In the middle or Old Mother Reilly being scared by a ‘ghost’ - or 2 babes and a sheet - the stage began to fill with smoke and they had to evacuate. One stage hand burnt his hand trying to help and some crew rescued a few instruments.
The flames were 30 feet high and it was a horrific fire, but due to the quick thinking of the staff the safety curtain was bought down and the dome in the roof was opened allowing the smoke to disperse. The stage and backstage were ravaged in the fire but the auditorium was fine. We got to see the dome open as well, which is rarely done these days and is always a treat.
March 1948 The burnt out stage
This scene had some help from the public who remembered being able to play in the burnt out stage as children.
We saw the children playing on the burnt out stage and finding microphones and props to play with. They performed ‘We are the Ovaltinies’, ‘The Bee song’, ‘The Trolley Song’ which I really enjoyed and was dancing in my seat. Then ‘Straighten up and fly right’ and finally ‘Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy’ complete with some great dancing.
I happen to adore ‘Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy’ and was again dancing. The kids were interrupted and it was explained how there were plans to rebuild the theatre and restore it to its original glory.
Then they were chased off before they had their backsides tanned.
The mother I mentioned before confirmed to her children this was the 40’s. I did want to ask what happened to chronological order at that point.
1977 Save the Hippo
The hippo had some difficulties in the 70’s and petitions were circulated to save the Hippo, rather than have an office block or a supermarket. I came away with a badge from this scene – to be shown at the end of the post.
Needless to say, they were successful.
We gained a narrator, Tony the stage doorman. Now he was wonderfully played by Simon Vardakis. Tony has been working at the Hippo for 34 years, and no doubt has more fantastic memories than these. The next set of performances was as if we were watching a home movie that Tony had shot.
W we saw the protest for the rock musical Hair and then the actual performance. The cast performed ‘Aquarius’, ‘Hair’ and ‘Let the sun shine in’.
Then Tony told us of how we got all the good premiers, it’s true we did.
We saw The Music Man, and the performance of ’76 Trombones’.
Then, the European premier of Guys and Dolls was bought to life with ‘Luck be a lady tonight’ and I have definitely felt some renewed love for this song. The men did it proud.
The Hippo also played host to the Rice and Lloyd Webber adaption of P. G. Wodehouse's Jeeves stories ‘By Jeeves’. This musical was their only real flop. Opening night went on until 1am, despite scrapping Act 2 and an entire character.
The following I never got to see in person unfortunately. This musical was supposedly conceived in house by Cameron Mackintosh. I’m talking of course, about Mary Poppins.
The casting choice for Mary Poppins (Vicki Hartland) was perfect. I would most certainly pay to see her again, Bristol or the West End. I adored Jane and Michael Banks. India Garret Cox played Jane and Thomas Ireson played Michael.
Thomas and India were two of the fantastic children I mentioned before. I think Thomas was one of the youngest – it’s a tie between him and a little girl who played Gretl in the sound of music (I think this was Jess Bell) based on what I saw.
The Mary Poppins cast performed ‘Chim Chiminee’ and ‘Step in time’. Step in time was pretty fabulous, and there were some very nice looking chimney sweeps.
Our next story is about Joseph and the technicolored dream coat. One night the curtain chain got a bit stuck – and well Halfords wasn’t open. So instead of pulling the production, the entire cast and I quote “camels an all” did the show in front of the curtain. That is dedication. As well as a nice performance of ‘Any dream will do’.
Moving on to the sound of music, one of these shows was certainly eventful. A woman went into labour in act 2 and stopped the show when she got very loud. The baby is named Jack and was born in the hospital up the road. The performance to go along with the story is ‘Do Re Mi’ and included some cute children.
Our second to last story is 42nd Street. A huge production, that came with an excruciating rehearsal schedule. They rehearsed one number all day until it was right. A fabulous performance was concluded with the director marching down the centre isle and describing everything that was wrong with it. I do recall that more breasts were needed. The cast got so hot that their mikes gave them shocks. The news worthy (yes really) solution? Pop them in condoms.
Tony’s final show is expected to a degree. Les Miserables. It happened to be Tony’s birthday during one performance and the backstage crew did him proud and got him a tiny part on stage. The cast began with ‘At the end of the day’ which merged into ‘One Day More’. Brendan Casey was - among other roles that night – Valjean and I thought he was fantastic.
I will note that too many phones were most likely on during the show as a few times the mikes stopped working. Grace Brendle, who was playing Eponine seemed to have this issue, but it certainly wasn’t a problem. Her voice was huge, and very clear. The Thenardiers played by Alex Turasiewicz and Jacqui Bell were also worth mentioning they were very funny. Tony was waving a flag in ‘One Day More’.
Happy Birthday was sung by Tony and the children. They were joined by the full cast, and a (fake) cake. The audience got to join in with ‘There’s no business like show business’. With a final round of happy birthday sung to the tune of ‘Let the sun shine in’.
Overall a fantastic performance, with a huge and wonderful cast. They certain deserved every round of applause and the standing ovation.
My favourite performers were; India Garret Cox, Thomas Ireson, Simon Vardakis, Lynden O’Neil (Sky Masterton, G&D), Emma Watkins (An Usherette during scenes 5 & 6), Vicki Hartland and Grace Brendle.
The orchestra and crew were also spot on, and the conductor took some heckling from the performers – being called a punk at one point, all good natured of course.
Finally, the hard work that went into a screen that showed up occasionally, this had pictures and videos of Bristol and the Hippodrome throughout the years. This and the radio broadcasts used early in act 1 show just how much research has been put into the show.
Happy Birthday to the Hippodrome!