Watch STIRRING UP SHEFFIELD from Theatres Trust

In 1969, work commenced on The Crucible in Sheffield, designed as a thrust stage theatre in the style pioneered by Tyrone Guthrie.

Earlier this year, Theatres Trust broadcast a fascinating online talk about how a group of visionaries came together to build this revolutionary thrust stage. And now, thanks to their generosity, you can see it here. The talk, which lasts an hour, is introduced by Jon Morgan of Theatres Trust and the talk is given by Tedd George, co-author of the book Stirring Up Sheffield: An Insider’s Account of the Battle to Build the Crucible Theatre.

Enjoy!

Watch STIRRING UP SHEFFIELD here


Wishing You All a TAPPY CHRISTMAS!

Fayard and Harold – The Nicholas Brothers, undisputed kings of tap, in motion during a routine in STORMY WEATHER (1942).

Christmas is a time when many of us like to get out and see a show with our special friends and family, and song and dance often feature high in the sort of entertainment we seek out, to match the exuberant and cheery feelings many feel about the holiday season.

For those of you who may prefer celebrating from home, I have picked out a few things you can see online, which I think you may enjoy in this time when we relax and indulge ourselves a little.

Still on BBCiPlayer (for UK licence-holders) is the big musical ANYTHING GOES. Filmed live at the Barbican in London, this major new production of the classic musical comedy features an all-star cast led by renowned Broadway actress Sutton Foster with Cole Porter’s timeless songs and a sprinkling of dance, including a good bit of tap.

Find ANYTHING GOES here

If tap is really your thing, you’ll enjoy this rarely-seen and recently rediscovered documentary, first broadcast in the UK on Channel Four in 1983, MASTERS OF TAP- with contributions from legends such as Will Gaines, Honi Coles and Chuck Green.

Find MASTERS OF TAP here

FOSSE/VERDON was a great series about the relationship between legendary choreographer Bob Fosse and his second wife, the dynamic performer Gwen Verdon. In eight parts, and boasting great performances by Sam Rockwell and Michelle Williams, with a guest spot by Lin-Manuel Miranda, it’s well worth your holiday time.

Find FOSSE/VERDON here

For fans of classic tap, you can’t go wrong with Ann Miller, Guinness World Record holder as the fastest tapper in history (for many years). There’s a nice new print of a long-unavailable Miller movie, TIME OUT FOR RHYTHM from 1941 currently on YouTube. It’s a very lumpy but passable musical, but definitely worth seeing for Ann’s numbers (starting at 24:15) which are delightful, especially the number she does with comedy character actor Allen Jenkins, in what I believe is his only dance routine on film – and its enormous fun! (Find it fast by going to 37:07). Foghorn-voiced Jenkins was one of the group of Irish-heritage actor/singer/dancers who worked their way up, through being chorus boys on Broadway in the 20s and then onto Hollywood in the 30s, whose number included close friends such as Pat O’Brien and James Cagney.

Find TIME OUT FOR RHYTHM here

And if you’d like to know more about my personal (and Fred Astaire’s) top tap stars, the Nicholas Brothers, you can see a great biography of them below with lots of clips of them in action. If you watch nothing else, jump to the end, at 49:43, where they project their movie routine LUCKY NUMBERS from 1936 behind them, while performing it perfectly almost 60 years later. I saw this routine live when they performed it at the all-star gala STAIRWAY TO THE STARS in November 1989 at the London Palladium, and it absolutely brought the house down. Enjoy!

Find WE SING, WE DANCE here

Happy Holidays to you all!


Disability theatre charity Head2Head Sensory Theatre has launched a new YouTube series aimed at children with special needs, autism or other sensory issues

It’s great to report that Head2Head Sensory Theatre have created a special YouTube series on their channel for children with special needs or other sensory issues.

Head2Head Sensory Theatre is a registered theatre charity dedicated to the SEND Special Needs’ and disability Community.

The new series is called Sensory Squad and the videos are free to watch on YouTube, and are signed and captioned

Sensory Squad enhances communication and offers supportive and fun learning experiences through songs, crafts, stories dancing and repetition, all aimed to help families and children prepare for real world experiences through a variety of exciting sensory experiences.

The charity says “Our channel offers fun and interactive multi-sensory theatre experiences for ALL including; shows, storytelling, learning, games and mask workshops for families, schools, colleges & SNSUs.

We are passionate about making theatre accessible to all and understand that families who have a child with a disability face many barriers.

We raise awareness, share knowledge and develop new ways to make this happen.

We include opportunities for self-development and learning by offering work experience to students transitioning from education.”

You can find Head2Head’s channel here


Time Travel Theatre – watch WANDERING STARS – a 1987 documentary on Yiddish Theatre

Yiddish theatre is a fascinating and under-celebrated cultural tradition. Dating from the late 19th century, Yiddish theatre spread around the world as a by-product of mass global migration from Europe, helping displaced groups continue to feel connections with the homelands they had fled.

Into the twentieth century, Yiddish theatre could be found in many of the world’s capital cities, providing traditionally-based fare for their audiences.

Yiddish theatre productions often revolved around the central themes of identity, immigration, poverty, integration and deep cultural ties to tradition. Yiddish theatre was embracing of other works, often performing Yiddish versions of plays from Shakespeare and other notable important playwrights. It also embraced a wide range of styles – musical comedy, revue, operetta, drama and melodrama, also embracing new and traditional playwrights’ works.

Yiddish theatre, its exponents and expressions, were devastated by the impact of World War Two and the Holocaust , after which its influence waned, although still practiced by a few loyal defenders of the tradition.

I recently came across this engaging 35 minute documentary which was produced in 1987 and tells the story of the movement in London through some of its exponents.

Interestingly, actress Anna Tzelniker who features in this film is the daughter of well-known actor Meier Tzelniker who had a long and successful career in the UK in Yiddish theatre as well as films and non-Yiddish theatre. He was the co-founder of the UK’s Jewish National Theatre with Fanny Waxman, a well-known Yiddish actress, in 1936.

I am very grateful to the Tower Hamlets Local History Library and Archives for posting this video on their YouTube channel so that it can be more widely appreciated.

Documentary Copyright: The London Museum of Jewish Life, 1987. Reproduced with permission of Jewish Museum London.


EXTRA: Here’s an extract from a US PBS series on Jewish Americans which talks about Yiddish theatre in America Thanks to YouTube poster Leora Hatchwell for posting this:

Over 50 National Theatre Talks now available on YouTube

The National Theatre has for many years presented Platform events featuring actors, directors, writers,musicians and others involved in the production of the NT’s works, but until recently these events were not available unless you attended in person.

Now the National are sharing over 50 of their recent events, usually averaging around 40 minutes long, on their YouTube channel.

Dip into a fascinating roster of some of the theatre’s most significant contributors, including Stephen Sondheim, Judi Dench, Neil Gaiman, Sam Mendes, Imelda Staunton, Olivia Coleman, Nathan Lane, Ruth Wilson, Alan Bennett, Tom Stoppard, Nicholas Hytner, Helen McCrory, Rae Smith, Simon Stephens, Adrian Lester, David Byrne, Michael Palin, Derek Jacobi, Simon Russell Beale, Peter Hall, Simon McBurney, Michael Frayn, Danny Boyle and many others.

And then of course if your interest has been piqued to see a particular production, then chances are you can watch it in the National’s online offering, where many of their shows can be purchased for home viewing.

You can find the link to the list by clicking the Theatre Recordings option on this page, where you’ll also find podcast and other resources to bring you closer to the work of the National – and all for free! Enjoy!