Saturday, 11 March 2017

Grand Hotel and Melodifestivalen

I'm sitting with Brother Edward in Canary Wharf watching Eurovision Song Contest entries for this year. Early doors predictions suggests that Italy will win, with an incredibly charismatic singer and a man in a gorilla suit! Eyes down for some hard-core yodelling from Romania, a woman with an incredibly low voice singing dark synth pop from Belgium, and a really catchy song from Estonia. Speaking purely from my heart, however, for me it's still all about Finland's deeply touching entry, Blackbird, which has made me cry every time I've heard it so far.

The big draw this evening, however, was the final of Melodifestivalen, which is the Swedish mega-search for their Eurovision entry. They take it incredibly seriously, which is probably one of the reasons why they've placed in the top five for the last ten years. In fact, they take Eurovision so seriously, that they always have an international jury at their internal competition. It is not enough for the Swedes to know they've chosen a song which their nation loves, they also need to know that the rest of Europe will "get it." Melodifestivalen lasts for weeks, with a series of heats slowly whittling the songs down. It's the biggest show on Swedish telly. If the BBC didn't whittle their songs down behind closed doors, it might be that we too could have a winning song.

The Melodifestivalen winning psong is brilliant. It could well win the whole contest. It's got a gimmick, a good looking performer with sparking blue eyes, and a catchy chorus. The gimmick involves the five performers doing choreography on running machines. Nothing new, there, but it's plenty enough to get the Eurovision voters excited.

This afternoon I went to Central School to see this year's third year musical theatre performers in Maury Yeston's Grand Hotel. It was really rather odd to think that this very bunch of kids will be performing Em in a few months' time. Of course, it was really hard to watch them without casting the show in my head, but I doubt I shall have much say in those sorts of decisions.

The production was wonderful. The set was fabulous. The band sounded brilliant. And the cast acted their socks off. I saw them kîuihin Sunday In the Park with George at the end of their last academic year, and they've all improved greatly. I got quite excited to think about them doing Em.

Grand Hotel is a slightly odd show. Musically, it's pretty good. I have a huge amount of respect for Maury Yeston as a composer. Nine, for example, is one of my all-time favourite scores. Yeston, however, in my view, never opts to set the most interesting stories to music. Nine, from a purely dramatic perspective, is about as entertaining as pubic lice, and Grand Hotel rather limps along, featuring an ensemble of characters, none of whom are particularly likeable, have any form of redemption, or really feature enough in the piece for an audience to get to know them. But it was certainly a good choice for the drama school because it gave a good number of the kids a big chunk of material to sink their teeth into.

I feel I may sleep forever tonight...

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