Archive for Andrew Lloyd Webber

Stage Fright (2014) Review.

Posted in Horror Festivals with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 18, 2014 by Hayley's Horror Reviews

**WARNING: CONTAINS MINOR SPOILERS**

A camping slasher that’s also a musical happens to be right up my street. This enjoyable genre hybrid that played at FrightFest 2014 is what happens when you combine Sleepaway Camp with Glee adding a splash of The Phantom of the Opera into the mix. Much like how Astron-6’s The Editor delivers an affectionate parody and homage to the giallo sub-genre, Stage Fright sends up the musical movie and parallel’s it with the slasher, creating something different in its own way. Seeing more intelligent horror parodies this year is a breath of fresh air, made by people who appreciate the genre; a far cry from the toilet humoured Scary Movie type spoofs that have emerged from the Hollywood Machine during the last decade or so.

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Stage Fright goes straight for the jugular with a surprising opening sequence that gives horror fans exactly what they want, echoing Scream. The plot centres on Camilla Swanson (Allie MacDonald), a tortured young woman haunted by the brutal murder of her Broadway star mother. Now working in a kitchen at a stage school summer camp, Camilla breaks the rules and auditions for the revival of the musical production that shot her mother to fame ten years prior. The head of the camp is played by Meat Loaf, a former Broadway producer named Roger who ruthlessly uses Camilla as an avenue for his own showbiz gain. Since the death of the talented Kylie Swanson, cut down in her prime, Camilla and brother Buddy (Douglas Smith) have been under Roger’s care.

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History begins to repeat itself when cast members of the fantastically titled kabuki version of The Haunting of the Opera are slaughtered one by one. Its a wonder they even manage to raise the curtain on opening night! Its a tale of mystery, murder and musicals as Camilla proves she has what it takes to become centre stage!

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Judging by several reviews of Stage Fright, it appears critics haven’t been too kind toward the film as understandably it is an acquired taste. Its not the The Rocky Horror Picture Show that gravitates its appeal toward cult/horror audiences with its strangeness but also it struggles to attract a more commercial audience because of its graphic violence. It has several upbeat numbers, an Andrew Lloyd Webber style score and some 80’s heavy metal sounding songs making it a somewhat experimental piece. There are a few teething problems with its pacing, leaving the majority of the kills nearer the end. The extended sub-plot of Camilla feeling pressured into degrading herself for the slimy amateur director Artie (Brandon Uranowitz) also takes up too much of the run-time. The callous Artie, plays Camilla and her rival, spoilt brat Liz Silver (Melanie Leishman) against each other for the opportunity of bagging the leading role that shows Uranowitz completely relishing his villainous part.

Stage Fright does gradually build up but doesn’t quite manage to balance both its genres equally. The majority of the first act focuses on the musical aspect diverting away from the jaw dropping slasher moment that’s offered at the beginning. That said, when the conventional masked killer slays his victims they are some of the most inspired and creative kills in a film of this kind. The gore compliments the retro 80’s slasher aesthetic. It unashamedly homages classic horror films from Carrie to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre providing nice little nods to some of horror’s most iconic films.

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Allie MacDonald is sensational, elegant and stunning as Camilla. She most definitely has the makings of a future starlet. Camilla sings a selection of beautiful numbers including ‘Alfonso’, this production’s ‘All I Ask of You’ in concept and ‘The Audition’.  Contrasting is the killer’s hard rock medley of Iron Maiden sounding tracks that perfectly suit the masked maniac, who’s construction is of a classic slasher villain with a simple eerie mask, reminiscent of the KISS look and a black cloak.

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The big cast number ‘We’re Here’ is side-splittingly funny as it pokes fun at wannabe stage school kids and pulls up every stereotype imaginable, making a comment on bullying and sexuality. Thomas Alderson’s openly gay stage manager David Martin is wonderful in a comical supporting role along with Ephraim Ellis’s ‘gay but not in that way’ character Sam Brownstein. There’s an interesting dynamic at play through the conflict their characters share. Stage Fright also exposes the darker side of amateur theatre, the ruthlessness and entitlement these possible rising stars will strive for in order to climb to the top which makes it the ideal subject for the horror metaphor treatment. Its meta-narrative of a play within a film is cleverly orchestrated with having the plays events spill into the film’s world.

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Over the course of the film, Stage Fright supplies the recognizable tropes and red herrings a slasher movie can offer, making it a joy to watch. There’s also plenty of twists and turns in store. While it might be overly ambitious in taking on two usually separate genres and moulding them into one, something about it just works well. Incredibly clever, emotional, tongue-in-cheek and full of fun, Stage Fright stands out on its own amongst the horror of 2014. Director Jerome Stable (‘V’ is for VacationThe ABC’s of Death 2) pays compliment to his influences and makes Stage Fright something totally offbeat. I most certainly love it for that.

Hayley Alice Roberts.

Hayley’s Horror Reviews.

“The Music of the Night”- 25 Years of “Phantom”

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on October 2, 2011 by Hayley's Horror Reviews

I have finally seen London’s longest-running West End musical; Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “The Phantom of the Opera”. To celebrate the show’s 25th anniversary a special live performance was conducted in the Royal Albert Hall and broadcast around the world in a cinematic screening format. I was fortunate enough to attend a screening at my local the Aberystwyth Arts Centre. It is safe to say that I now completely understand why “Phantom” is considered one of the greatest musicals of all time.

Prior to the performance, a short documentary was viewed led by the show’s creative team including Andrew Lloyd Webber and Cameron McIntosh; informing the audience of how the musical came about and the process of putting it together. For first time viewers it provided a useful background of the show’s history and an outline of what was about to be portrayed on screen. Here, I provide a link for more information on the history and the show itself: http://www.theatrehistory.com/british/musical005.html.

The production quality was absolutely outstanding. Set designer the late Maria Bjornson’s Gothic vision of the scenery and costumes were magnificently captured.  The whole look of the show and the mise-en-scene was elaborate and appealing from the visually stunning theatre world to the dark, brooding feel of the Phantom’s lair.The Phantom’s make-up was superb and genuinely looked horrific. This production would be depicted as a hybrid due to the fact that even though it is a theatrical performance, it also slots in to a cinematic context. In those terms, it was shot beautifully. The character’s emotions during the major musical numbers were emphasised with medium-close ups, heightening the intensity. Tracking and panning shots throughout the theatre contributed to demonstrating the surroundings of both the sets and the audience. It was clever how point of view shots were also used, placing the audience in the position of the Phantom watching the stage; adding to the eeriness. The sound was sharp and created the sensation of being in the theatre with the live audience especially in moments of applause. On the whole the production was traditional theatre at its best, unlike the more recent musicals such as “Ghost”, it did not rely on digital imagery to establish its locations.

Performance-wise the whole cast were flawless. Ramin Karimloo (who played the Phantom) and Sierra Boggess (Christine) were absolutely breathtaking to watch. The Phantom is a very complex character, creating conflict for the audience from one moment to the next. He gives off an unsettling feeling but a sense of empathy is also conveyed; particularly throughout the second act. Ramin Karimloo delivered the essence of the character brilliantly. By the finale I was saddened by his vulnerability and misunderstood nature. Sierra Boggess’s voice was earth-shattering, transitioning the audience into complete escapism. “Phantom” is one of those stories that mesmerises people and the wonderful cast contributed in order to make that notion happen.

There is no doubt that the whole score in “Phantom” is beautiful. The title number is powerful, and results in a goosebumps, hair standing on the back of the neck moment. My personal favourite “The Music of the Night” is haunting but also feels very calming at the same time. “All I Ask Of You” is a beautiful love song, lyrically describing the emotion well. “Point of no Return” was an intense lead up to the climax. “Phantom” most definitely has one of the best scores in musical theatre history.

Following the finale, Andrew Lloyd Webber made an appearance to thank and pay tribute to all those involved in his greatest achievement. For the anniversary it was very fitting. Surprisingly the audience were treated to renditions of the show’s most famous numbers, performed by past Phantom’s and a special appearance by the original Christine, Sarah Brightman which made an incredible conclusion for the celebration.

As a new fan of “Phantom” it will be on my to-do list for next year to attend a live performance in London. I can now fully appreciate why it is one of the longest-running shows of all time. Its chilling love story and stunning score makes “Phantom” a magical musical. If I was to describe it in one word: Phantastic!

Hayley Alice Roberts.