New York - 16 - 21 September 2001

New York
Arriving 6 days after the events of 11 September I didn't know what to expect of NYC but despite the terrible tragedy New York is pulling through . Midtown and Uptown are up and running and if you were not aware of what had happened initially things would appear as busy and normal as they always were. But poignant reminders are there - flags on the street and hanging from buildings with many messages of peace beside them, pictures of people on lampposts listed as missing and shrines with candles and flowers in Times Square, Central park and all the fire stations. I saw two of the stations and they had the photos of those firemen missing with flowers, candles and messages of sympathy. At the time of the disaster it was the shift changeover and both shifts went in so the loss was high for these stations. Sitting on a bus at the foot of the Empire State Building it is unbelievable and almost incomprehensible to imagine how a building that tall could fall down. As we went down fifth avenue instead of the two towers in the distance there was just a dust cloud and when we took a night tour bus we were taken to Brooklyn and looking back at what is still a great sight of Manhattan at night but now amongst the night lights the dust cloud is even more prominent. Our tour guide affectionately recalled as we passed within half a mile of the site that as he did the last tour of the night he would put the 'twins' to bed but sadly no more. NYC is changed forever but is determined to carry on and it is still a wonderful town and place to visit

Aida - 18 September 2001
Aida is more a rock opera than musical and though the staging was more simplistic than I was expecting it still conveys very well the passionate love triangle which is doomed from the start. Aida is the Nubian Princess enslaved by the Egyptian soldier Ramedes who in turn is betrothed to the Egyptian Heiress Amneris. Radames and Aida fall in love but they face many obstacles and passage of time before they can truly love in peace.

The opening is a modern day museum with Egyptian artefacts and we see two people, who later we learn are Aida and Radames - centuries later though, who seem to know each other without having met before. The statue of Amneris in one of the display cases comes to life and narrates the beginning of the story which takes us back to ancient Egypt.

The lead players are Maya Days (Aida), Adam Pascal (Radames) and Idina Menzel (Amneris). Maya and Adam were both excellent conveying the characters, their passion and emotion and a believable relationship between the two lovers. Maya displayed a superb voice which could gently sing the ballads but also soar above the chorus voices. Adam, has a very recognisable voice which has great edge to it which brings the feeling in the music alive. Idina has a great voice and again can sing gently or belt the songs out but although she conveyed the character of Amneris very well her speaking voice was high with a strong American accent (believe it was New York but I am not an expert in accents) and this seemed very out of place in ancient Egypt. There was also strong support from Rhett George as Meheb, a Nubian slave working for Radames.

The music is very tuneful and easy on the ear. I particularly liked 'Every Story', 'Past is another place', Written in the Stars' and 'Elaborate lives'. Although the words to some of the chorus songs were not always audible as the orchestra volume was too high.

Staging was simple but not minimalist and it suited the design and look of the show. Some of the scenes played on a bare stage could have done with some more back imaging and more could have been made of the bath scene effect.

Costumes were fabulous. I loved the design of them all and thought they captured the mood of the style of the piece. The designs for the catwalk were stunning and my favourite being the final cat one : )

I didn't know what to expect of Aida but I really enjoyed it and the more I listen to it and think about the show since I saw it the more I am taken with it and hope to see it again.

The Producers - 19 September 2001
I cannot fault the production of The Producers but am disappointed that I didn't enjoy it as much as I wanted to. The reason for this is that I believe it is not my type of show and I found the humour more slapstick than subtle. It had some very funny lines and situations but I wanted to enjoy it more.

As I said I can't fault it, the cast, staging, direction, music were all excellent. Brad Oscar was playing Max Bialystock in Nathan Lane's absence and he was excellent. He was flamboyant and created the exuberance of Max in his performance always ducking and diving to eventually get where he wanted to be helped by several little old ladies. He had a good voice and excellent timing and worked very well with Mathew Broderick as Leo Bloom. Leo is a very insecure, no confidence, no risk taker, no self asteem kind of person and Matthew brings over very well all these lack of qualities in Leo. There was excellent support from Cady Hoffmann, Gary Beach and Roger Bart as Ulla, Roger de Bris and Carmen Ghia. Gary and Roger were a great team as the 'queen' of a director and his 'camp' assistant and they were obviously having great fun playing those roles and both portrayed excellent sense of timing.

The direction and choreography were very sharp, coordinated and slickly performed by a very tightly drilled company. I guess the show was set in the 60's and staged as though it was done in that period in the style and design of that set.

The 'Hitler in Springtime' section was excellent and a great parody of musicals with even a hint of Beauty & the Beast at the end, The swastika dance and the costumes design were fun and innovative. At one point the leaders of England (Churchill) and Russia (Stalin) came on and were introduced but when the American President came on it was assumed everyone in the audience would know who he was. I assumed it was Roosevelt as he was in a wheelchair. When it comes to England perhaps introductions will need to be changed !!

Throughout the show there seemed to be nods to different musicals and films and although I missed most of them or I knew they were parodying something but couldn't think what it was I did spot the Show Boat and West Side Story references.

The music was enjoyable and well orchestrated and highlights for me would be the Betrayal song sung by Max as he is in his jail cell.

I can see why the show won all the awards it did and I did really like the show but wished I could have come out on a high rather than a medium.

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