as my hands
poised over the keys
I asked myself
If I still believe
If I write a story
When so uncertain
Would regret be result
Of pulled back curtain
The WiFi unstable
The resolve shaken
Even committing the words
And feelings forsaken
Never a guarantee
Aught would be read
The chamber of laying
Became chamber of dread
And so as always
I curl my fingers in
Too shy to write the extent of his sin
I sit, contemplate madness
For that is what happens
When you crush your sadness
I try to prevail
Find strength and rally
But dark is the road
And narrow the alley
pinprick of light
And pen, mighty sword
Will take up your fight
Beautiful the musical in Woking – the story of Carole King: As a line in the show uttered by her character says ‘I’m just a normal person, who wants to hear a normal person sing?’ Clearly the packed theatre confirmed they did and were interested to hear the story of one of the most successful songwriters of the 20th Century woven around the songs that made her so famous first as a writing partner with her then husband Gerry Goffin and later as a solo writer and performer.
Jukebox musicals are always popular. Whilst telling their story they allow the audience to add their own memories associated to the songs they share. As a vehicle to encompass, especially for those who may not know and assign the credit to performer rather than writers, the vast catalogue and contribution King made to modern music it serves so well.
The story centres at first around her relationship with Gerry Goffin (Kane Oliver Parry) and as part of the songwriting stable of impresario Donnie Kirshner (Adam Howden) they compete with friends Cynthia Weil (Amy Ellen Richardson) and Barry Mann (Matthew Gonsalves), as to who can produce the most hits. Including their work which was often then taken up by Phil Spector’s artists gave an added, welcome dimension to the piece – hearing the basic versions of songs pre Spector orchestration allowed the imagination to add that in and remember The Ronettes, Darlene Love, The Crystals, Righteous Brothers and the finished songs.
The friendships between King, Kirshner, Weil and Mann seemed to sustain her through troubled times with Goffin. His frustration at feeling inadequate in the wake of the new artists playing their own work and poets such as Dylan coming on the scene as well as his behaviour in the marriage finally contributed to its end and in a heartening scene her mother reminds her that she did write lyrics once and could again.
Her success in her own right came quickly after and the show tracks her reticence at being a performer to her concert at Carnegie Hall.
I admit to being still at odds with some of the songwriters I like getting the big musical treatment, though on the other hand happy to see people get deserved recognition I haven’t yet seen how ‘musical walking’ fits in – a style of sashaying across the stage that is so prevalent. Let’s face it though, if we don’t see it in real life that is only because we are all doing it in our heads going up the bread aisle at Asda and down the escalators in the Peacocks centre. It’s not just me…everyone does it, definitely.
I liked that it celebrated a diffident success “I’m just a normal person’ a person who had such a talent that she couldn’t not do it and who wrote regardless of fame, whose songs have provided a soundtrack to more than one generation even if they were flashbacks – The Locomotion- I remember jumping up on stage with the band at my sister’s wedding shouting that out, loudly, out of tune for three minutes – whatever- people danced and next day they did a whip round for singing lessons for me – never looked back- ha doubters! Anyway back in the room, Take Good Care of My Baby – sending that via private messenger to a teenage daughter’s boyfriend because I am so hilarious, a view not shared by her – philistines to my comedy. I Feel The Earth Move – doing an aerobics class, leg warmers (remember them) doing a grapevine in the wrong direction and knocking the rest of my line down like dominos, my sister (different sister, I keep spares) rolling her eyes and pretending she didn’t know me Around the theatre people were happily engaged in their own reminiscence.
As a vehicle to celebrate her work it, for those who know of it, and to present just how much she did for all those who didn’t realise, it is excellent. The early pop tunes to the later more introspective work and (ahem..) darker indictments of surburbia like Pleasant Valley Sunday and her release of an updated version of One Small Voice in 2017 on Donald Trump’s inauguration track her career. The cast were dynamic, especially Bronte Barbe in the lead role who reprised her poignantly, you really felt for innocent Carole who wanted to do the best for everyone. At times when the ensembles were singing the sound was very bright and as it only occurred when it was groups on the stage in big numbers – it seemed as if the performers couldn’t hear themselves over the music or the frequency was high, perhaps something only from the first night.
If it were to be said to be a musical about Carole King that centred more around her marriage than her work it wouldn’t be true, the King/Goffin collaboration was a success, it is also a celebration of friendship, You’ve Got A Friend seemed to sum up what her songs have done for people; been there in all aspects of their lives, and her attitude to her work and talent. I went with a friend, felt very friendy when that came on then I accidentally burped and looked at her in disgust so she would get the blame – as I said, friendship.
Beautiful – The Carole King Musical runs from Tues 27 February to Sat 3 March 2018 for tickets contact http://www.atgtickets.com/woking 08448717645
She sleeps silently while the wind rushes
fast and silent across the sea
She sleeps on, eyelash on cheek,
I don’t think she dreams of me
I gave her a kiss and left her there
Never to see her again
But when I left only I said goodbye
silently she slept on
There wasn’t a fight or parting of ways
or sneaking out in the night or break of the day
There were many tears though I left her
away from the fact she’d already gone,
And she sleeps silently despite all she gave
all while I weep mightily
by her grave
Legally Blonde held court in Woking’s New Victoria Theatre on its first night out this week where it plays until Sat 14 October.
Disclaimer: I had to go into this like a puppy for that ‘special’ vet visit – reluctantly but for the good of all, for the good of society even – my daughter* told me I had to review it because the film was what inspired her to want to study law because it showed fashion and law could mix. I have a bit of an anathema to pink but when such a heartfelt plea (guilt trip) is laid on so heavily what can you do? I put it under the ‘things we do for our kids and will mention a lot when I want a visit when they’re old’ file and set forth.
*I’ve got two daughters so whichever one you think it is – it’s the other one in the interests of me getting a good Christmas present.
After noting that in this performance the role of Elle Woods was played by Rebecca Stenhouse and the role of Margot by Sally Frith due to Lucie Jones being unwell (get well soon) we all settled our belongings about us – me ready for a little rest and the daughter on the edge of the seat, bracing herself. A woman near me shifted about in her seat a lot and moaned about not liking the dates she’d had recently ‘I thought – I’m not surprised love you don’t sit still for a minute some of us are trying to rest tsk tsk!’
Bright, fashionable Elle Woods vows to woo back the love of her life Warner Huntington III (Liam Doyle) by following him to study at Harvard Law school. Dismissed as being an airhead she studies hard and manages great results, not sure about the using cheerleaders as a great role model in place of a personal statement (as the eyes next to me slid over in a questioning way I mouthed NO! Very firmly) Elle proves her worth and comes out on top smashing through stereotypes to win her career.
It was lively, pink yes, vibrant definitely and the cast were superb. The variety of characters representing the law students from the typical, entitled, ‘ready for Senate’ to Enid Hoops’ (Nancy Hill) firebrand social justice campaigner (daughter turns with a smirk and says ‘wait, you’re about to come on look – ha ha that’s you that is – see it really is a musical for all!’ like some government appointed musical tzar) worked off each other very well. The dance routines are clever and blimey! The skipping display by Helen Petrovna as Brooke Wyndham was mind boggling – not since our playground cat’s cradle c 1972 or Malcolm McLaren’s Double Dutch has skipping ever raised my blood pressure so much, admittedly in 1972 I didn’t know what blood pressure was and is now only a polite word for a tantrum after falling over (I still say I was pushed by……… no names, can’t afford a solicitor and injurylawyers4U won’t take playground cases and it wouldn’t make a good legal musical so back to this one) but, suffice to say the display on offer in Legally Blonde is incredibly skilful and choreographed without skipping a breath whilst singing a full number – I should coco! Even I leaned forward in my seat – I never lean forward- I am too cool*
Rebecca Stenhouse as Elle was incredible her comic timing was spot on with the others and the whole cast show a chemistry and dynamic that made the whole thing flow. All without exception had great vocal skills. Special mention for strong, more bluesy at times, and sweet vocals also for Rita Simons whose performance as the good hearted but vulnerable Paulette Bonafonte was comedic and poignant and her journey to finally finding the man of her dreams brought us an unexpected step dance in front of the Irish Flag to full Riverdance from the whole cast. Poor old Professor Callahan hoisted by his own petard and the solidarity of his students who initially turning on Elle recognised unfairness, sexism and that they have had their day and kicked him into touch. Bill Ward played him admirably. People of my cultural magnitude will remember him as Charlie Stubbs (nasty builder who came to a bad end) in Coronation Street but who has had a varied and rich TV and theatre career from Sophocles to Shakespeare and beyond and now, Woking and he performs with menace and elan.
The juxtaposition between Elle’s likes and lifestyle and the stuffy halls of Harvard Law School were lightly seamed together (fashion expression – skills) by using the old Greek chorus device (of sorority friends) and sliding Cupids with silver lame shorts
So as it ended and the show, especially Rebecca Stenhouse, got a well deserved standing ovation from an enthusiastic audience of people from the very young to well, people older than that, (who were clearly fans of the film – a man walked in saying ‘are there any blokes in here at all?’ – there was I saw loads) I had to concede that the stage show was excellent, uplifting, funny and vibrant and the ways the story were told told differently from the film worked really really well. I still grunted when my daughter said ‘see saving the world isn’t all wearing black and shouting ‘keep the faith’ at each other at grungey gigs is it Mum?’ I may have grunted in agreement but she still can’t have a chihuahua at University so, ha- I win!
When I got home I tried to do the ‘bend and snap’ but only the cat was there and he’s European so didn’t notice and my leggings weren’t really up to the job – who can I sue? This has made me very litigious this theatre show, I’m going to be tripping over in supermarkets and falling off pub tables on a regular basis from now on and saying m’lud -oh ok maybe the latter is a current pastime rather than an actual industrial injury.
If you are like me you don’t really need to wait for a guilt trip (heavily laden) to be visited on you to see this show, I’d go along and enjoy yourselves, even if just to look at the face of a loved one having a brilliant time. Legally Blonde is on at New Victoria Theatre Woking until Saturday 14 October 2017 tickets can be bought from http://www.atgtickets.com
asked to writeof young lives lost
shelled and burned relentless frost
happy home to relentless fear
brave face conceals hot tears
once a hug and safety
the currency you traded
exchanged inexplicable hatred
bones exhausted hope faded
Xerxes honouring father
and so on and so forth
these wars get ever harder
millenium echoes of ‘what’s it all for?’
and weaved into the words of life
new names come
sprung from their strife
named from pain frozen hell like lava
became a young boys winter wear
running down streets without a care
cheerfully we sing of barrels rolled
Towns in Ireland myths unfold
a hundred years ago
In a room
a clock ticked
whilst cannon boomed
the heartbeat of a mother waiting to hear
that precious child coming near
the footstep on the path instead
solemnly told her
He was dead
If you see the sight of battlefield
with blood and guts and brain all spilled
sightless eyes who know no pain
Think of the ones who feel it again
and again and again and again
The ones who walk with the field inside flesh
Where their children are killed each day afresh
who cared for them fed them and loved them each day
but when the monster demanded them
waved them away
Fairy stories talk of scary dragons
demanding the people hand over their young
of evil archetype make panto players
but still it goes on and on and on
Bravery for an ideal or not is a hard won thing
sometimes pretended, just to get through the turn, away from mother,
toward an unknown king.
I pulled up outside the school the news was on and smarmy djs shocked, just reporting over and over repeating what they heard as they heard it in disbelief.
I was flustered with my toddlers in the back of the car and turned it off I didn’t register, my mind was on my baby’s birthday tomorrow what to buy and what to do the last minute bits with three kids in tow after rushing from work. I collected my son some were talking about stuff but most of us mums had rushed from work some to go back after dropping to an adoring nan and work more hours so the bills get paid or doing tea, stories, baths, reading books tucked up in bed and then turn on the computer to log in to work again. Scoop up kids and scoop up toddlers and scoop up babies and scatter our families to where they need to fit whilst we work to pay the bills and make ends meet. We had no time for news. So we went on and packed in the car, the radio still off whilst I heard about the news of the day.Reception is a very important place and the headline news in our car on 11 Sept 2001 was that some kids weren’t allowed the time on the wheeled toys at break because they weren’t being good listeners.
I had on my mind my golden haired girl’s second birthday excited for the trampoline she would unwrap tomorrow, let her loose on some of the energy that always built up to make her like a little whirlwind. She had been a whirlwind in the womb, kick kick spin. She was overdue and I had to go and have a heart trace. It should have taken 15 minutes it took over three hours because they couldn’t get 15 minutes worth of heart trace, not because they couldn’t get a heartbeat but because they couldn’t pin down a heart beat she moved so much inside, my sister drove me and we waited and waited. I apologised as much because all the magazines in the waiting room were fishing or sailing ones none of which were her choice of read, she forgave me and Whitney Houston’s My Love is Your Love played on her car radio and I already knew that whilst I studied and worked, as I carried her that she was with me they all were and when she was born she stayed awake so much outside. I walked the floors at night just her and me, I sang songs and she was soothed, My Bonny Lies Over The Ocean (sing my bonny!! She would cry to me when she could talk) You Are My Sunshine (like my Mum sang to us) the Irish Lullaby (like my gran sang to my Dad) Goodnight Sweetheart (because I love Dean Martin) and so many more. If I had to leave her she would cry, I had to go back and press her cheek against mine. No one else would do. As years went on and the school office became familiar to me, the Head of Year had me on speed dial, the slammed doors the thrown things and walking off, being the biggest enemy in the world, the near tragedies that we experience as parents, with that pulling her back from brought her to my arms again just like the baby she was and will always be.
On 11 September 2001 I took them to the shops after school, they badgered for a happy meal and I refused the junk food and started to walk back to the car park buggy laden with happy shopping and tired children, exhausted; noticing a crowd around the TV shop in the days they still had tv’s in the shop windows, I stopped to see why people standing speechless watching over and over, a plane fly into a tower, over and over and silent disbelief in retail outlets. I turned back to get the happy meal because sometimes we need to spend £2.99 on happiness. We buy stuff don’t we, when we can’t control stuff?
The next day, on her second birthday my golden haired baby thrilled, jumped up and down up and down holding on to the rail of the trampoline, her vest poppers undone and flapping, laughing like bubbles floating in the air and filling the room, her chubby arms holding tight to the trampoline safe with a rail, next to the big fire guard to keep them safe away from burning and sometimes handy for drying school uniform bits on. Keep them safe, keep them safe that is all we ever try and on the news over and over the sombre tones and the film, over and over, of a plane crashing,over and over, answerphone messages of people saying their last goodbyes, their last I love you’s because they knew they were dying.
The world was never the same again but my baby grew up, my golden haired baby and tonight she becomes an adult. Tonight I wish to hold the baby like I always do with all of them, but now every single baby I have is an adult; keep them safe, kept them safe to here and now I fear the world is mad and they are going into it………