Posts Tagged ‘singalonga’

Review- Wink the Other Eye – Wilton’s Music Hall

August 4, 2008

What a grand time I had on Saturday when I went to Wilton’s to see Wink! I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect given the one review I’d read, but since I’m a fan of sing alongs and I like the old theatrical traditions (vaudeville, burlesque, and music hall), I wasn’t about to miss this, and rushed through a meal at the tasty and nearby “Bon Appetit” Lebanese restaurant (133 Leman Street, really very close and in a neighborhood that’s a bit of a wasteland) to be there on time. The format was a sort of loose story (the history of the hall combined with the life story of a few of the characters) framing the performance of a variety of songs. I was in very good luck as the audience the night I went was very much up for it, and shouted right back at the performers (or just made slightly off color comments) and were over all just very participatory, almost at the level I’d expect of Rocky Horror Picture Show (but not quite at panto level). The audience also sang along with every number, which was especially impressive given that only a quarter of the songs had their lyrics in the program.

Of the performers, my favorite was Kali Hughes, whose voice as she sang on a swing completely transfixed me, reminding me of of the power of Eva Tanguay and her “I Don’t Care.” It was really nice to see all of the actors just hamming it up to their maximum extent, though – Mike Sengelow didn’t take being the waiter as meaning he had a bit part – he was fully in the role and then seamlessly switched into the role of a young boy later on, doing such a smooth job I missed noticing it was the same actor (though later on I put two and two together). And even though the “showgirl” character (Suzie Chard) and the “sweet innocent” (Lulu Alexandra, blonde curls and pink cheeks, my!) were hardly deep, they had great stage presence and were really fun to watch. On top of that, the singing from everyone was really great. Good job, guys!

I realize some people may wonder why I so highly praised this in some ways amateurish show – it was very much lacking in polish and the plot, such as it was, existed mostly as a device to fit songs around – but all I was looking for was a good night out and this gave it in spades. If you like singalongs, cockney culture, and/or the history of theater, I would highly recommend seeing this show. If you want to practice ahead of time, here’s the songlist (starred ones are in the program – you can see how there’s not nearly enough lyrics to get you through the evening!):

Wotcher ‘Ria*
Birmingham Bertie
Never lost her last train yet
Oh! Mr Porter*
Champagne Charlie*
Have some more, Mrs. Moore
A little fancy does you good
Father come home with me (“Mother’s been waiting since tea”)
Don’t Dilly Dally on the way*
It Really Is a Very Pretty Garden
It’s easy to be a lady if you try
That’s the little bit the boys admire
They made me a present of Mayfair Crescent
Joshua (“nicer that lemon squash you ‘a”)
Ta ra ra boom de a
She’s lost her honest name
Come into the Garden
Swing me just a little bit higher (the very sexy song Kali Hughes performed)
The man on the flying trapeze*
Enemy of Agar (? – can’t read)
Keep the Home Fires Burning*
My Mother Said
God Save The King (I sang “America the Beautiful since this was the song I knew to this music)
Standing at the Corner of the Street
The girl I left behind
Stairway to Devon (joke)
Hinky Dinky Parlez Vous
One of the Ruins that Cromwel Knocked About a Bit*
Bless Her Name/Champagne Charlie
I live in Trafalgar Square

Apologies for not knowing the correct names for many of these songs. Fact was, I’d never heard most of them before so I was just guessing about the titles. I was in the minority, though!

(This review is for a performance that took place the night of Saturday, August 2nd.)

Review – Singalonga “Hairspray” – Prince Charles Cinema

July 21, 2008

This is a guest review from K, who took a Saturday afternoon to go to the Prince Charles Cinema to check out the Singalonga version of the movie Hairspray
Sing-a-Long Hairspray at the Prince Charles

Apparently, “the first ever sing-a-long happened at an old people’s home in Inverness. The nurses wanted to involve the old people in an interactive group therapy and so screened Seven Brides For Seven Brothers and gave out song sheets so that everyone could sing-a-long”. A Sing-a-Long was then held at the Gay and Lesbian Film Festival in London in 1999 and subsequently ran at the Prince Charles Cinema, where it has found a permanent home. A global franchise has now developed: The Sound of Music is probably its signature show, but it also encompasses Joseph, Annie, Rocky Horror and now Hairspray. And soon, Abba.

Waiting outside the Prince Charles on Saturday afternoon, I could see that the audience for the show was going to be enthusiastic. A lot of them were wearing 1950s/60s outfits. Some of them were in costume as characters from the show. Almost all of them were female – this is apparently standard for the Sing-a-Longs. When we’d settled into our seats, we found the row behind us was mainly made up of pre-teens, which was reassuring. There are ten-year-olds who know all the words to Hairspray. That makes me very happy.

Before the film started, a cheerful and bossy woman in a wig told us what was in our plastic bags – a bell to ring during I Can Hear the Bells, a piece of sparkly fabric to wave during Welcome to the 60s, cards to hold up during Without Love, and so on. We had different noises to make when the different characters came on – wolf-whistles for Link, boos and hisses for the von Tussles and Penny’s mother, and so on. She made us stand up and practise our dance moves. I was glad I’d chosen my companion for the event carefully: P is, like me, a massive fan of Hairspray, and, not like me, an extrovert. He danced and waved and joined in, and I did too, but it took me a while to warm up to it all. It probably would have been easier at an evening showing after a couple of drinks.

There was a fancy dress competition – two in fact, one for adults and one for children – and then the film started. Watching a film in a Sing-a-Long atmosphere changes it, I found. You’re always waiting to join in. It’s now an interactive experience, not a passive one. After the first couple of numbers I started relaxing about it all, and I did enjoy singing along to everything. And dancing, although the amount of dancing you can do standing in a row of cinema seats is limited – I wonder what it would be like holding a Sing-a-Long in a nightclub? I even waved my various accessories, and the experience of holding up a placard saying ‘Integration not Segregation’ during I Know Where I’m Going was actually rather moving.

Ultimately, Hairspray is a great film, and being in a cinema full of other people who loved it and wanted to celebrate it was a feelgood experience. P and I came out smiling, although we admitted our feelings about the event were mixed. Maybe it would have helped to have had people at the front, as Rocky Horror does, to help us get in the mood. Maybe it felt a little too much like organised fun. I would definitely say that this is a show for people who have already seen the film and loved it – anything less and I think you’d feel out of place. I’d also suggest a couple of drinks beforehand. But maybe I’m just too English and introverted.