Archive for Musical

The Rocky Horror Show. Liverpool Empire Review

Posted in Love Horror with tags , , , , , , , , , on February 11, 2016 by Hayley's Horror Reviews

Head over to Love Horror and check out my latest theatre review of the UK tour of The Rocky Horror Show. Its the long-standing, essential cult rock & roll musical that pays homage to Sci-Fi B-Movies and is all about embracing your true self. So get your fishnets on and book your tickets now! http://rockyhorror.co.uk/tour 

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http://lovehorror.co.uk/latest/the-rocky-horror-show-liverpool-empire-theatre-review/

Hayley Alice Roberts

Hayley’s Horror Reviews.

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.

“Don’t Feed The Plants!” A Review Of Little Shop of Horrors (Aberystwyth Arts Centre, Summer Season 2013)

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 8, 2013 by Hayley's Horror Reviews

As a major fan of Little Shop of Horrors, I will summarize its history before reviewing Aberystwyth Arts Centre’s 2013 summer season adaptation. This review does contain spoilers, therefore anyone not familiar with the show should look away now!

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Little Shop of Horrors has become a well-loved, cult hit musical over the years since it debuted on the off-Broadway stage back in 1982 at the Orpheum Theatre located in Manhattan. This Science-Fiction, Horror, Romance, Musical Extravaganza originated from the 1960 B-Movie  of the same name directed by Roger Corman; then was subsequently developed into a musical by composers Howard Ashman and Alan Menken (of Disney fame). Lee Wilkof and Ellen Greene starred as leads Seymour and Audrey in the original production and these beloved characters have since been played by many talented actors as I will further discuss . The main plot focuses on hard done by florist Seymour Krelborn, living in the grimy, urban Skid Row his luck changes when he discovers a ‘strange and interesting plant’ who he names Audrey II after the girl he desires. The unusual plant soon reveals its blood-thirsty intentions as it seduces Seymour into killing for fame and fortune with dire, moral consequences. Little Shop of Horrors was given the big-screen treatment in 1986 in the Frank Oz screen version starring Rick Moranis in the lead role of Seymour, Ellen Greene reprising her role as Audrey (a first for its time where the original stage actress would transition the part to film), Steve Martin as the demented dentist Orin Scrivello, Vincent Gardenia as Mr. Mushnik  and Four Tops singer Levi Stubbs voicing carnivorous plant Audrey II. The film was certainly ahead of its time with Lyle Conway’s magnificent Audrey II puppets and through no fault of its own was forced to differ considerably from the stage version with the change in ending due to the original test audience reactions. It has however recently been restored in full color in time for the brand new blu ray release. If I had to choose, I prefer the stage version’s ending as it brings Seymour’s story arc full circle, behind the tongue-in-cheek comedy and family-friendly horror its a story of moral consequence. Seymour is a likeable character but he does unforgivable things to get where he wants to be, “You know the meek are gonna get what’s comin’ to ’em” as ‘Greek Chorus’ Ronette, Chiffon and Crystal sing.

The film spurned a short-lived animated TV series, Little Shop (1991) and has been parodied and satirized in modern popular culture such as in South Park and Family Guy.

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Little Shop is one of the musicals that I’ve had a frequent history with and have seen on stage a handful of times. It has been tailored to both the professional theater as well as amateur productions. Its been with me throughout my childhood, my first experience being with the 1986 film, then a school production in 2003. In 2004 I saw my first professional version of the show at the Jersey Opera House with former Coronation Street star Tracy Shaw as Audrey and John Altman aka. Eastenders ‘Nasty Nick’ as the Dentist which proved a treat! The last production I saw was performed by a local Youth Theatre a few years ago. Admittedly, it has been nice to re-visit the show and in a sense see a refreshing take on it in Anthony Williams’s current production.

Following on from last year’s popular and successful Hairspray, Williams has chosen to stay within the 1960’s themed genre by selecting Little Shop and bringing it to the Theater-Y-Werin stage. What struck me was the darker turn the production took in terms of its lighting and set design giving off a sense of grimness. Revolving sets between the bleak exterior of Skid Row to the brightness of Mushnik’s flower shop and the blood-splattered dentist’s office transitioned smoothly into each other capturing the story beautifully and strongly helped to contrast the desires for escapism the lead characters sing about in well-known numbers such as Somewhere that’s Green and Skid Row.  The sound effects used such as the dentists drill and Audrey II chomping on human body parts are done very well to a convincing effect. The sets came across as very stylistic and well designed. One issue in the performance I attended on August the 7th was the instrumental music did drown out the singing in some instances.

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Each performer within the show displayed masses of talent. James Gillan plays Seymour, the geeky florist as meek and conflicted as he must commit horrible acts in order to ‘better himself’ until his last minute heroic actions and eventual sacrifice. Gillan has a nice singing-voice and performs his solo and duet numbers e.g. Grow for me and Git It in a 60’s pop style manner. Sarah Earnshaw fits the part of Audrey beautifully, she makes the role her own and provides compassion and empathy for the character which makes her death scene all the more heartbreaking, I definitely choked up. Earnshaw and Gillan have convincing chemistry, their rendition of Suddenly Seymour is both powerful and emotional. Jimmy Johnston plays a self-indulgent Mr Mushnik with much humor, his duet with Gillan Mushnik and Son is one of the show’s comedy highlights and a fantastic opportunity to showcase their dancing skills. Richard Hurst takes the challenge of playing a number of parts throughout the show, a tradition for the actor playing the dentist and does it well, he is mostly humorous but ventures to the dark side during his scenes with Audrey as the abusive boyfriend to disturbing effect. Edward Baruwa voices the man-eating plant and sings soulfully in a performance just as fantastic as Levi Stubbs. Brett Shiels is the other man behind the botanical monster, both of them give Audrey II a grand stage presence that really stands out. I had a smile on my face every time the carnivorous plant appeared. Amy Coombes, Rachel Ann Crane and Mary Fox are sensational singers and remain charismatic throughout the show; they belt out the title number and give off a morbid vibe dressed in funeral attire and clutching lilies at the end of the first act. An interesting addition is Sam Giffard who opens up the show as a character titled ‘Demonic Child’, an otherworldly, sinister presence who informs us of an impending “deadly threat to the human race”. Reminiscent of Regan from The Exorcist (1973), with pigtails and a lollipop in hand, she laughs maniacally and is in place as a conscience for Seymour, chillingly appearing at the window each time he provides Audrey II with human flesh. To my knowledge this character hasn’t appeared in any other version but definitely provides an eerie tone.

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Anthony Williams’s Little Shop of Horrors is a must-see, he has managed to bring in traditional elements from past versions including the spectacular finale and the omission of Mean Green Mother From Outer Space (a song written for the film which admittedly I did miss!) while putting his own vision into it. I now look forward to seeing more of this talented cast in The Magic of the Musicals on August 18th, a yearly show that showcases the individual talents of its current summer season casts. The show is dark, creepy, funny and entertaining. Don’t miss it unless you want to be fed to a hungry plant!!

Hayley Alice Roberts.

Spidarlings- A New Horror Musical! The Official Trailer.

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , on July 20, 2013 by Hayley's Horror Reviews

Spidarlings (2013) is an upcoming Horror, Musical that appears to take elements from various other genres resulting in a colorful, outrageous and quirky extravaganza. Channeling the style of 70’s and 80’s exploitation such as the films of John Waters, Spidarlings echoes back to a nostalgic vibe and has the makings of achieving a cult status.

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The film focuses on a lesbian couple Matilda and Eden, who are victims of the Welfare System, their applications for housing benefit and job seekers allowance have been rejected. As they struggle to get by, they are constantly terrorized by their landlord who is gunning to evict them, Matilda finds work at a night club named Juicy Girls where she must deal with advances from unsavory middle-aged men, one who is particularly unhinged and develops a deadly obsession. As tension mounts, the showgirls start to get brutally murdered, however Eden has just invested in a pet tarantula that is soon to change their lives forever! With an ambitious plot, and a tongue-in-cheek look at the state of the UK, Spidarlings is set to be a blood-soaked, gore fest full of carnage, a rocking soundtrack  (composed by Jeff Kristian) and much, much more!

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Spidarlings is directed by Salem Kapsaski and will be his debut feature, however he has had much experience within the horror industry through creating short films and plays. In 2009 he gained the opportunity of working as a production assistant on Dario Argento’s Giallo. Through studying Directing at the New York Film School, Kapsaski has plenty of experience behind him which will hopefully be demonstrated within his new film. Its certainly going to be interesting seeing how he has merged different sub-genres and styles together. With a project so ambitious, it can potentially lose itself so hopefully they will compliment each other and flow well alongside the narrative.

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The film is a critique of the British Welfare system and pokes fun at it in numerous ways, making it extremely relevant to our time and providing some light relief amongst the depressing recession we as a country are facing. The punk-themed costumes used indicate an 80’s influence, making the connection between the impact of the Conservative governments on the lives of the working class from back then and this decade, suggesting a pattern of history repeating itself, through the lack of job opportunities. Even though its ultimately a British film, it features actors from all over the globe including Lloyd Kaufman, Rusty Goffe, Sophia Disgrace, Lynn Ruth Miller and Bloody F Mess to name a few.

So with that little teaser I now present the official trailer courtesy of Rahel Kapsaski, which provides a detailed look of what to expect. It certainly is a visual treat. Full of campiness, themes of anarchy and exploitation, enter the strange world of Spidarlings.

Hayley Alice Roberts.

Cult Retrospect: “Repo! The Genetic Opera” (2008)

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , on August 7, 2012 by Hayley's Horror Reviews

**WARNING: MINOR SPOILERS**

“Zydrate comes in a little glass vial, And the little glass vial goes into the gun like a battery, And the Zydrate gun goes somewhere against your anatomy, And when the gun goes off, it sparks, and you’re ready for surgery”- Graverobber

“Repo! The Genetic Opera” (2008) is a deliciously daring cult film that has spawned an unexpected phenomenon in terms of fandom especially since it was received negatiely by some critics upon its release. The consensus on Rotten Tomatoes.com claimed the film was “Bombastic and Gross”, many like myself would argue, gross in a good way! The film was picked up through touring across America. Director Darren Lyn Bousman and the cast and crew took part in extensive Q&A’s in order to promote their stylish horror rock opera. The cult following the film has achieved is phenomenal, fans embrace “Repo!” in a similar vein to “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” (1975). The dedication and effort the fans put into purchasing or making costumes for screenings demonstrates how passionately they regard the film that in terms of mainstream cinema is an acquired taste!

The story is set in a futuristic world where an organ epidemic threatens to eliminate the human race. The only hope for survival lies in “GeneCo” an organisation that is able to provide organ transplants through a payment plan. However, in a surgery addicted world many fail to make these payments and GeneCo sends out a Repo Man who takes back what they cannot afford, “He will rip the still beating heart from your chest!”. The results of mass surgery addiction has also accumulated a black market that creates a powerful anaesthetic called “Zydrate” that emerges from the brains of the dead and is handed out by a mysterious figure known as the Graverobber (Terrance Zdunich) who partly acts as a narrator. Following the backstory the plot takes a more intimate turn as it shows the personal lives of the characters involved and how they are ultimately entwined. We meet Nathan (Anthony Head) a desperate widower and father with a dark past who searches for a cure for his teenage daughter Shilo’s sickness, a blood disease he believes he has caused, Shilo (Alexa Vega) refuses to be a victim and dreams of being able to live a normal life. Little does she know, Nathan is in fact the Repo Man by night which takes the film onto a whole new complex and emotional level. The Villain comes in the shape of GeneCo’s CEO Rotti Largo (Paul Sorvino) who is dying of a terminal disease and does not trust his three kids Luigi (Bill Moseley), Pavi (Ogre) and Amber Sweet (Paris Hilton) to carry on his legacy. Rotti has manipulated Blind Mag (Sarah Brightman) GeneCo’s star opera singer who will soon lose her eyes if she does not agree to a final performance and give up the stage for Amber Sweet. In order to discover more about this intriguing plot that becomes more twisted as the film goes on, I advise you to seek it out immediately!

  As a musical, “Repo!” works on so many levels and has a little bit of everything, infectious rock anthems, beautiful, melodic opera pieces and a number of intriguing characters that push the plot along. It has the essence of a dark tragedy similar to other musicals of the same nature such as “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street” and “Jekyll and Hyde” as it tells the tale of a man driven into madness and carnage due to unfortunate circumstance. It does play on the conventions of musical theatre by using a narrator as an outside POV and the typical characters such as the young female who searches for something more that what she’s confined to. The fact that its a hybrid along with the horror genre ramps up the visual squeamishness of the piece with the blood and gore, that looks great against the dark backdrop. But its not all grim as it sounds there’s a nice balance of black humour added in especially with the Largo brothers who argue over their future inheritance and a musical number where the Repo man sings as he’s removing an organ out of his victim and the victim still manages to join him in song! The film is very stylish, it cleverly uses a comic book approach in order to depict flashback sequences which is refreshing rather than just using a black and white effect and the actors, its also reminiscent of graphic horror novels such as “Creepshow”. The way the film is shot is incredible with sweeping camera work on the detailed world we are embroiled into. The gothic costumes really make the film stand out and highlight its uniqueness while encouraging fans to try out some extreme and out-of-this world looks. The main attraction however has to be the cast who deliver outstanding performances, Anthony Head showcases his talent for both singing and acting as he sticks his knife into this dark role, he manages to create a sense of fear and empathy at the same time and just defines this tragic figure through his performance. Sarah Brightman is sensational as always in her first film role, conveying her talent for opera and providing the film with some haunting and eerie music pieces. Alexa Vega plays Shilo with an innocence and vulnerability and also has some fun teenage moments of angst in there. Paris Hilton is surprisingly good in this, her singing fits in well and she clearly has fun with the role. Terrance Zdunich is appealing and menacing and brings in an air of mystery with the Graverobber, questioning can the audience and Shilo trust him?

Unique, mesmerizing, visually astounding and unforgettable, there is no doubt that “Repo!” will hold a special place in cult cinema for many years to come. Everything about it just works, the music, the acting, the emotional depth of the story. Watch it once and you’ll be addicted just like Amber Sweet is to surgery!

Hayley Alice Roberts.

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“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.