Tag Archives: musical

Loved Avenue Q!

Here’s a musical I’ve been waiting to see for a while!  We couldn’t go in New York because we had the kids with us, I think we just missed out when we took our last trip to Melbourne, and Wifey raved about it when she saw it in London earlier this year and then progressed to show me all these YouTube videos when she came back.

Well, I finally had my turn to see it on the weekend here in Perth – and even going in with high expectations I loved it!  It’s just so… wrong and funny!  The songs and story were rude, naughty and hilarious!  Just think – Sesame Street for adults.  Do not go if you get offended easily!

The performers were really top notch, the sets and puppetry were excellent, the band was tight.. and the sound, which I usually have problems with at the Regal, was clear!  The Regal, even though old, suits this musical perfectly – as my Wifey says, it is not a “mega musical” – Avenue Q requires a small intimate venue like an off Broadway theatre. 

There was a mini drama on Saturday night – the girl playing Kate Monster and Lucy T Slut, Michala Banas, started playing the role, but within 15 minutes or so, Natalie Alexopoulos, the understudy took over and other people took over her role.  It was so seemless I wondered whether people were actually just going to change playing characters all throughout the show!   A real credit to the performers who could change parts during a show that easily.  

I was really impressed with Luke Joslin who plays Nicky and Trekkie monster – he has that Sesame Street Ernie voice down so well!  And I just loved how Josie Lane, who was involved with some puppets that required 2 operators at once, was so into the acting even though she might have just been operating one hand only.  Actually, with all the performers, who acted it so much in their body and face.  And then were able to make their puppets mimic them.   Great work!

Good news is that Wifey was definitely impressed, rating some of the performers even better than the West End show she saw.

And we enjoyed it so much that we’ve bought tickets to see it again!

More info here:  http://avenueqthemusical.com.au/

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Switching from Violin to Saxophone

Miss 8 on sax

Back in March, I blogged about how Miss 8 was losing interest in the violin (https://jasechong.wordpress.com/2009/03/29/giving-up-the-violin/).  She just didn’t want to practise, making practice sessions a real struggle and very non-productive.

We then tried her on the piano with Wifey teaching her.  This was quite good.  But 2 things have happened lately which have changed the game again – Simpsons and a concert outing!

Miss 8 has suddenly taken a keen interest in watching the Simpsons.  I don’t know what has spurred her interest – kids at school?  the bright colours?   We only let her watch a couple of times a week, but Lisa Simpson’s saxophone has definitely inspired her.  And then a month or so ago, Wifey brought Miss 8 to a school concert where there was a really entertaining saxophone quartet. 

We started hearing, “Mum, when can I get a saxophone?”, “Dad, can I learn the saxophone?”.  Not once, but nearly daily!

So we lined up a teacher and a week ago we hired a sax.  It was so weird – Wifey and I are pretty musical, but our expertise is all in keyboard and string instruments.  I have no idea how wind or brass instruments work, how they fit together, how to put your mouth on the mouthpiece, how to “install” a reed, etc! 

At the hire shop, we opened up the case.

I looked at it.

It was shiny and golden with a dazzling number of buttons, ok 🙂  It was also bigger than I thought, and heavier than I expected.

It was so refreshing to see Miss 8’s enthusiasm for it.  She got it out straight away at home, tried to put it together and had a go!  And then spent the rest of the evening just walking around the house with it strapped around her neck, producing lound honking sounds from it.   She experimented with the keys and finally figured out the first few notes of the Simpson’s opening theme tune!

Wifey and I looked at each other – the difference in attitude and enthusiasm towards the violin and the saxophone is like night and day.  She couldn’t wait for her first lesson, and then apparently yesterday, the first thing she did when she got home was to get the sax out to practise.  I’ve learnt that it may take a few goes to find the “right” instrument for your child – there’s no “best” one for all – it really depends on your child’s personality.

I just hope her enthusiasm lasts!

Head shot photography

On the weekend, our 9.5yo daughter had an audition for a child part in an upcoming Les Miserables production. Wifey had a read through the sheet with instructions about the casting audition and saw that we needed to provide a head shot. I thought “Cool! I’ll get to use my flash setup!”.

So, I set up the light stand, umbrella and the Nikon SB-600 together with my recently purchased flash umbrella swivel adapter, to take a few shots.

I used Nikon’s CLS (Creative Lighting System) to expose the shot and communicate wirelessly between the Nikon D80 body and SB-600 flash. Unfortuately, it seems to rely on using on the on camera flash firing a pre-flash to communicate with the off camera flash, so you end up with 2 flashes in the end. It worked OK on our 9.5yo, but when I took some photos of our 8yo, nearly all the shots had her blinking. She is just more sensitive to the pre-flash and ended up blinking by the time the real flash fired. Hmm.. not good. Maybe I need to invest in a Pocket Wizard or some other wireless flash communication system.

The actual shot taken also seemed to be underexposed. I wonder if the white wall was playing tricks on CLS. Nothing that a bit of post-production can’t fix.

I learnt that this type of shot is called a head shot. A head shot is basically a head only, or head and shoulders shot only, used primarily as a portfolio, casting, audition or advertising function. At first I thought a headshot is not really a creative shot, but primarily more functional. But then I thought – a creative, yet functional shot, might help the applicant stand out from the crowd – especially when a director/producer is scanning through hundreds of people who audition, or if they need to choose between people in a shortlist for a role. Seems like there is much more to it than I initially thought!

Here is the final shot we used and printed out:

Headshot
Headshot

And here is a more fun shot I snapped when my daughter started playing up 🙂

Fun shot
Fun shot

Anyone in Perth need a head shot?    I think I need more practice…

A night out at Beauty and the Beast

Beauty and the Beast
Beauty and the Beast

Last night, we started off our family’s indulgent 3 musicals in 2 weeks program!  We have planned to see Beauty and the Beast in Perth,  My Fair Lady in Sydney and Wicked in Melbourne.  A bit indulgent, but we love our musicals 🙂

And so we braved the cold and wet to drive to Subi last night with the kids.   They were quite excited about going to see a musical again and had even watched the Beauty and the Beast on DVD in the last few days.   It’s definitely a clever choice by Playlovers to put on Beauty and the Beast – a musical that appeals to kids and all ages, across the school holidays, recognisable tunes and a very popular movie to back it.

Playlovers is a local theatre production company who have been producing plays and musicals for 50 years.  They are an amateur group in the sense that the performers do not get paid.  However, much time, organisation and money is required to put on large productions, especially with rights, venue, costumes, stage, props and promotion and musos (yes – I believe the orchestra gets paid but the singers and actors on stage don’t – sounds wierd doesn’t it).

The leads were great!  It must be so hard to characterise an over the top, one dimensional, animated character, especially when much of the audience is familiar with the movie roles.  Standouts for me included Belle (beautiful voice) and Lefou (yes, over the top, but that’s what the movie character is like).

We had pretty good seats towards the front half of the hall.  Unfortunately I struggled through the night to hear the dialogue and singing.  A lot of the singing seemed to have too much mid range, making Belle sound like she’s singing through a telephone/radio type effect.  She sounded like she has a beautiful silky voice but it didn’t come out that way through the speakers.  About half way through the first half, it seemed to be a bit louder, but could still be improved.   Also in general, the orchestra was too loud in the mix.  Either they need to be turned down, or actually play softer when there is singing and dialogue on stage.  In the scene when Gaston is scheming in the pub, I couldn’t make out a single word 😦

It was great to see professional quality sets and costumes (although I’m sure at a large cost to the production company).   However, some of the scene changes could’ve been smoother, especially at the end after the Beast is injured fighting with Gaston – it detracted from the whole pace of the story as we waited for sets to get into place.  Talking about this with Wifey, I don’t think it’s the stage crews fault as the actual set mechanics worked fine and smoothly – I wonder if it’s partly a problem of trying to adapt a screen movie to the stage.  The stage adaptation can’t have as many scene changes as the movie as it would be impractical.  But then again, perhaps it needed a really clever solution.   One Disney stage production that I was most impressed with was the Aladdin show at the California Adventure theme park in Disneyland.  That was a truly slick production – but they’ve also had years to refine it and a much larger budget I’m sure!

Which makes me remember, although the ticket price is not small, this really is an amateur production.  It must be an extremely special opportunity to take part in a production like this – a chance that not many amateurs would have, especially if groups like Playlovers and other groups in Perth weren’t around.  I love the fact that the cast aren’t doing it for money, but because they want to (either for exposure, experience, fun or the love of it I’m guessing).  It reminds me of where I am in with my music having a full time job in the IT industry.

Well, it’s put me back in the musicals mood.  Can’t wait for My Fair Lady and Wicked next week!

Some entertaining community reviews here:  http://www.theatre.asn.au/theatre_reviews/beauty_and_the_beast_at_playlovers_regal_theatre

Playlovers info here: http://www.playlovers.org.au/beauty_beast.htm

And tickets to the show can be bought through Ticketek here, http://premier.ticketek.com.au/shows/show.aspx?sh=BEAUTYBE08.  Be quick though, the last show is this Saturday.