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Theatre on screen

Theatre on screen

First, happy 2013. Second. I presume you have all unlike me, not been living under a rock and have therefore watched 2009 film Nine. Sometimes, the earth shakes under your feet and you find yourself questioning the very foundation upon which you have built your life. For me, the foundation is musicals and the day was two weeks ago. I discovered that not only had I not watched Nine, a bonafide musical in the flesh, starring Daniel Day Lewis and a bevy of lovely ladies but I had not so much as heard of it. I pounced like those lions do when they spy a gazelle.

In a minute I was plunged in the somewhat messed up head of Luigi Contini, a genius Italian movie man in the 1950s who finds himself driven to near madness by the women in his life.  As far as musicals go, this one is for those of you who either really, really, really love the genre or want to see sweet-faced Marion Cotillard play an injured wife or Penelope Cruz play a sassy but insecure mistress. Yes that’s Penelope Cruz and Marion Cotillard in the same movie but for those of you who want steamier stuff there’s a heavy lidded Fergie (the whore), a crisper than fresh toast Judi Dench (the confidant), an elegant but puffy-lipped Sophia Loren (the mother), a svelte blonde Nicole Kidman (the muse) a blonde and playful Kate Hudson (the temptation). Still, though the movie was very much to my liking, I couldn’t shoo away the nasty suspicion that it would have been about 20,000 times better had I seen it as a stage production.

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Which got me thinking about screen adaptations of theatre and how technically the movie screen short changes us without us knowing it. Let’s face it, about 80 per cent of those who don’t have the luxury of looping on a Burberry scarf and “going to catch a show” in New York, have to rely on movies like Mary Poppins, Chicago, The Lion King, The little shop of horrors and so on to get our fix. If you ever want to compare Disney’s The Lion King to the stage production, Youtube it. But I warn you, the movie will never be the same for you. The stage affords so much more grandeur. I guess the point of all of this is, I’d better get rich fast and catch a real Broadway show, where a stage is packed to the rafters (pointless show, don’t ever watch) with singing, leaping, pirouetting dancers. Hashtag wishlist. Hashtag get rich or die trying.

Let’s go to the movies, let’s go to the show

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Let’s go to the movies, let’s go to the show

When I was six or thereabouts, good behaviour was rewarded by a trip to the video tape store (those were the days of VCR) and a film of my choice. Yay! You got to understand, we already had a ton of tapes just for me (As a baby, I was plonked in front to view a tape of nursery rhymes acted out and I would cry bitterly when Twelve days of Christmas played. Strange.) This was the beginning of a long love affair I have with the movies. For me a film isn’t really watched, unless you’ve watched it twice or even four times. As a kid, I already established that my favourites were musicals (Take me to St.Louis, Singing in the rain, My fair lady and Hello dolly.) Today I can sing every song from these films standing on my head.

This column is kind of a nostalgia trip, so if any of you don’t like my weepy side, step aside and move on to brighter things.

These people, scenes and dialogue made me love films and when I say love, naturally I mean obsess over.

Dick van Dyke: He will always be Bert from Mary Poppins for me, no matter how much people criticise his cockney accent. And Bert can do no wrong in the eyes of a child, whether it’s surveying Londons’ rooftops as a chimney sweep or drawing pictures on pavements.

Barom Bomburst trying to kill his wife in Chitty chitty bang bang.

Julie Andrews: The golden girl of movies. When I was too young to know any better I thought she had flown away from the Banks residence to be governess for the Von Trapp kids and I kept expecting her to whip out an umbrella in front of them and start cleaning up.

The child snatcher from Chitty Chitty bang bang. Scariest scene ever. Even now, when I hear the syrupy “come my little mice,” I shudder.

Judy Garland singing, “We’re off to see the wizard,” on the yellow brick road with her peeps.

Eliza Doolittle before she became a lady. The best scenes from My fair lady are when she imagines “’Enry ‘Iggin’s dead,” and when she swears at the races. And don’t ask me to choose among the songs. Except maybe that awfully boring.

The line, “Stop that wailin’ or I’ll sell you South, I will.” Gone with the wind. Disturbing but contextually hilarious. Contextually.

The song “Feed the birds,” from Mary Poppins always making me cry even though I didn’t get the subtext.

Speaking of not getting stuff, why were the Von Trapps hiding and who were they hiding from? My moms’ succinct, “They’re the bad people,” held fast as an explanation for many years. I wasn’t really the questioning kind.

Dolly Levi from Hello Dolly. The woman who arranges things. I loved how my mom would cheer and clap when Louis Armstrong came on and sang like a stuffed bullfrog.

Movies. Win!

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