JULY FAVOURITE: Sunshine On Leith

Dubbed as the feel good film of 2013, holder of several four and five star reviews and easily reaching out to audiences of all ages, I mysteriously avoided Sunshine on Leith during its cinema period. When I purchased the DVD earlier this year I realised what a mistake I had made. Sunshine on Leith, directed by Dexter Fletcher, is a delightful and joyous tale with tender heartbreak at its core.

When Davy and Ally return from their duty in Afghanistan they are welcomed home to Leith with open arms. Ally is in a relationship with Davy’s sister Liz; Liz thinks Davy would be the perfect match for her friend Yvonne. Meanwhile, parents Rab and Jean are planning a huge party to celebrate their 25th wedding anniversary. When an event from Rab’s past looms up in the present, it seems all three couples’ futures may be at risk. This is the story of hope and the power of love told through the music and lyrics of The Proclaimers.

The strong cast is headed by the superb Peter Mullan and the interlacing songs by The Proclaimers are executed with reasonable style and flair.  Although I am a fan of musicals, I feel Sunshine on Leith suffers from spontaneous and therefore cheesy dialogue to song transitions. The best transition is perhaps featured in the upbeat ‘Then I Met You’ performed by the quarrelling young lovers Davy (George MacKay) and Yvonne (Antonia Thomas). Many of the songs are recognisable and catchy; the instrumentals playing throughout dialogue scenes are simply stunning.

Many interior shots were filmed in Glasgow with outdoor scenes featuring the iconic landmarks of Edinburgh. Fletcher has captured a beautiful portrait of the capital city of Scotland and in true style of the title of the film, not one drop of rain is visible in any frame thus creating the ultimate feel good Scottish musical.


REVIEW: Jersey Boys Movie

Several month ago, during a trip to London, I made a spontaneous decision to see Jersey Boys. Since that day I’ve been singing the show’s praises, blasting the original Broadway cast recording on car journeys and watching the tracks creep up my most played list on iTunes. When Clint Eastwood’s Jersey Boys film hit British cinemas last weekend I went along with high expectations and within the first few scenes I knew the big screen adaptation wasn’t for me.

Heavily inspired by the stage show, the narrative structure of the movie rotates from one Four Seasons member to the next, the actors often breaking the fourth wall to give insight to their character’s opinions or simply tugging the story along with several lines to help the transition between scenes. Although this technique is successful on stage, I personally felt that it did not translate well onto the screen and, much to my irritation, the narration continued throughout songs, overlapping vocals and drowning out sections of Four Seasons performances. Later, a song used as background music was layered in such a way that it was clearly audible whereas the necessary dialogue was increasingly difficult to hear. This difficulty was often enhanced due to the mumbling nature of some actors’ delivery of lines.

Without the restrictions of the stage, Eastwood attempts to explore the world of the Four Seasons in depth. There is greater insight to the illegal activities carried out by the band and there is a slight development of the relationship between Frankie Valli and his daughter Francine although this development does not contribute towards the overall impact of the final scenes. Without the time restrictions of theatre, the four leads gradually age throughout the movie, making the plot feel more realistic (even though Erich Bergen’s beard becomes slightly distracting – and not for the right reasons).

Performances throughout are incredibly strong. John Lloyd Young, who gained a Tony Award for his portrayal of Frankie Valli on Broadway, reprises his role with conviction; his delivery of the final monologue, featuring the line “But the four of us made that sound, our sound… when everything dropped away and all there was was the music… that was the best.” is stunning. Michael Lomenda is fantastic as Nick Massi meanwhile Vincent Piazza and Erich Bergen both give solid performances as Tommy DeVito and Bob Gaudio respectively. Renee Marino’s final scene as Mary is particularly moving.

Eastwood’s favourite Four Seasons hit is ‘Can’t Take My Eyes Off You’ and intriguingly this song is the only section of the soundtrack that disappoints. With an arrangement that strays somewhat from the Broadway cast recording, the brass sections of the orchestrations are somewhat unpleasant to listen to (perhaps this was due to the audio setting in the cinema theatre).

With a running time of over two hours, Jersey Boys feels incredibly long however the viewer is rewarded in the last few moments of the film when we see the youthful Four Seasons singing ‘Sherry’ under a street light followed by a rendition of ‘December ’63 (Oh What a Night)’ during which the entire cast are reunited to dance down the streets of New Jersey; a cheerful and upbeat number to put the fun back into Jersey Boys.


Thanks to Fox Animation Studios, I grew up with the name Anastasia never far from my lips. My video copy of the 1997 animation Anastasia, based on the urban legend surrounding the Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolaevna of Russia, was long ago worn out by back to back viewings of the magical musical. Upon reflection, it is unfortunate that the historical story I fell in love with as a child was a misleading piece of Russian history and, although Anastasia is Don Bluth’s highest grossing film to date, it was criticised for its “offensive depiction” of the Grand Duchess in a “sugar-coated” reworking of her story. In my experience, this film is socially overshadowed by the works of Disney and as a result of this it is largely overlooked by the public.

Having discussed Anastasia with several friends, I recently purchased the soundtrack of the animated film. This soundtrack contains all the songs featured in the film and a selection of the beautiful score composed by David Newman. Songwriters Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty  received recognition for their work in the form of nominations for ‘Best Original Song’ at both the Academy Awards and the Golden Globes however in both cases Titanic’s ‘My Heart Will Go On’ proved to be victorious. 

Whilst rediscovering the soundtrack of Anastasia, it occurred to me – as it has to many others – that an animation with a soundtrack as distinctive and strong as this one could have the potential of becoming a fantastic theatre show. Beauty and the Beast, The Little Mermaid, Finding Nemo and Aladdin have all made successful animation to stage show transformations and Frozen is the latest animation reported likely to be developed into a stage production. 

In 2012 it was reported that Anastasia – A New Musical was in the pipeline but with two years surpassing the latest update, has this project been abandoned? With the success of the previously mentioned shows, is there space for another musical based on an animation? Judging from my research, the theatre community’s answer to the latter is a resounding yes. All we can do is sit and wait. And listen to the Anastasia soundtrack on repeat. 


Love Never Dies: the sequel to The Phantom of the Opera. Having been exposed to two of the songs from the show; Til I Hear You Sing and Devil Take the Hindmost at the recent Three Phantoms concert, my curiosity was suddenly risen. We all know about the negative reviews the show received during its London run and the mixed reviews circulating the web from fans of Phantom. I enjoyed the Three Phantoms renditions of both songs and was left with one question in my mind: just what is Love Never Dies about?
Last year a revamped version of Love Never Dies opened in Australia to favourable reviews and was even filmed for a DVD release.I bought myself a copy of the DVD and settled down for a viewing of the show I thought was going to be truly awful…

Set ten years after the Phantom of the Opera on Coney Island, the Phantom is the anonymous genius behind “Phantasma” where Meg Giry is the “Oh La La Girl” and very much the star of the show. The Phantom, however, is not content and longs for the return of his original obsession, Christine Daae. Having written a beautiful new aria with her in mind the Phantom invites Christine to make her American debut on the Phantasma stage. Unaware that the Phantom is behind this she accepts and arrives on Coney Island with her husband Raoul de Chagny and their son Gustave and is instantly haunted by memories of the events ten years ago in Paris, France. Raoul, who gambled his wealth away long ago, is now prone to drinking and is not at all close to his son who worries his father does not love him. Christine reassures Gustave that love is in many forms and that Gustave should “look with his heart.” Christine sends her son to bed and the Phantom reveals himself to Christine. They reminisce about their love and the possibility that it may have succeeded in different circumstances-

And here lies the first fault within the storyline of Love Never Dies. Yes, the Phantom was obsessed with Christine to the extent that he did not think he could exist without her but did he truly love her? Did Christine’s fascination for the masked man ever turn into love? My answer to both of these questions is no and this makes the plot of Love Never Diesextremely hard to believe. 
Plot, on its own, makes a very powerful musical that consists of haunting and memorable original music by Andrew Lloyd Webber that will echo in your mind for days after viewing. 
The DVD version of Love Never Dies consists of a very strong cast. Ben Lewis stars as the Phantom and gives an excellent performance. His leading lady is Anna O’Byrne who was recently the alternative Christine Daae in the West End production of the Phantom of the Opera. Vocally and physically stunning, O’Byrne is a wonderful Christine and Simon Gleeson does very well as the shamed and slightly less admirable Raoul. Sharon Millerchip and Maria Mercedes provide fantastic performances as Meg and Madame Giry respectively. 
Love Never Dies is a brilliant show with intriguing sets, lighting and beautiful costumes. If you have not yet purchased this DVD and are a fan of Phantom then I recommend that you check this show out. You may, like I did, find it difficult to accept certain aspects of the show or you may love every moment. 
Love Never Dies (Australian production) is available to buy on Amazon. The London Cast Recording is also available, with some significant differences, on Amazon and iTunes.