Event, Melbourne

“My Fair Lady” in Melbourne

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It was through my love of Audrey Hepburn that I first discovered the classic American film My Fair Lady (1964) directed by George Cukor. I instantly adored it and have wanted to see the live musical version ever since.


Background

Based on the play by Bernard Shaw entitled Pygmalion and with the dream of Gabriel Pascal to turn it into a musical, lyricist Alan Jay Lerner and composer Frederick Loewe brought My Fair Lady the musical to life. Taking audiences on a grand melodic journey on Broadway in 1956 for a sensational 2,717 performance run, the lead female role of Eliza Doolittle went to the young and talented rising star, Julie Andrews, and the lead male role to seasoned theatrical actor, Rex Harrison, who won the Academy Award for his performance in the film version, with the Warner Bros film also taking out the Best Picture of the Year category in 1965. The Broadway version was followed by a hit London production (running for 5.5 years at the Theatre Royal) and the musical eventually reached Australian audiences by 1959, playing at Her Majesty’s Theatre in Melbourne to high acclaim.

Synopsis

The story is set in London in the year 1912. Eliza Doolittle, a common flower-girl from the lower classes meets phonetician Professor Henry Higgins outside Covent Garden one night. He makes a bet with fellow language expert, Colonel Pickering, that he can transform Eliza into a duchess at the embassy ball, teaching her to speak proper English and to behave like a lady who can then work as a shop assistant at a flower shop. Through their ups and downs, the audience is able to witness her transformation and gain insight into British classes, gender politics and social values of the time, all within a light-hearted sense of comedy and playfulness.


Dame Julie Andrews directs this very special diamond jubilee production, which broke box-office records at the Sydney Opera House when it played there in 2016. Last month the beautiful production hit Melbourne’s Regent Theatre where it will continue until July 29th. Don’t miss your chance to see it!

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My Experience

First of all, the majestic Regent Theatre is a breathtaking place to hold such a special show. The organisers and everyone involved should be praised for their choice of venue and everything about this musical production. The interiors of the Regent Theatre are simply spectacular and I was pleasantly transported to the class of creativity seen in Barcelona earlier this year whilst on holidays there. The exquisite detailing, lavish furnishings and luxurious fittings leading up to and inside the main concert hall were elegant and set the mood nicely. Photography was allowed prior to the start of the show only. The lights went out and the live orchestra began the Overture, entertaining us with short renditions of all the main musical numbers we were about to hear play out on stage. The curtain opened and I immediately knew that we were in for a delightful night of heartfelt, glorious music accompanying the amazing performances from the cast and the hardworking crew backstage.

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In this wonderful 60th anniversary production it is also worth mentioning that as a world first, director Dame Julie Andrews teamed up with the associates and former staff of the original set designer Oliver Smith and costume designer Cecil Beaton to recreate the original look of the musical of 1956. Audiences are able to come face-to-face with designs from both these visionaries in the upper and lower foyers before the show and during the short interval.

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Piece by piece the audience were delighted by music that makes the heart sing. The vocal performances of the Melbourne cast were incredible. The role of Professor Higgins was played ever-so-brilliantly by Charles Edwards and Anna O’Byrne’s Eliza Doolittle almost brought me to tears because of my connection and love of Audrey Hepburn. There were revolving sets, wonderful lighting and sound effects, and even a surprise on stage that no one was expecting but was always intended for the original Broadway production.

My favourite part would definitely have to be the immaculate Ascot Racecourse scene where the curtain opens to reveal a cast of men and women all dressed in black and white attire at the famous London horse race. The attention to detail on the hats and gowns of the women and the charm of the men with their suits, still gives me such a thrill just thinking about it. They sing an opening number and then we are introduced to the beautifully transformed Eliza Doolittle, now a lady with confidence and poise, who converses with other race-goers about the weather and everyone’s health. Once the horse race starts though, her cockney upbringing comes to the foreground and audiences are laughing out loud uncontrollably as she cheers for her horse, Dover, to win the race. I love it!

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I enjoyed this production immensely and couldn’t stop smiling for the entire duration of the show! I would like to thank Dame Julie Andrews and everyone involved (notably Opera Australia and John Frost) for bringing this musical to life for younger generations like mine who only came to know it from the film version. Having one of your favourite musicals play out right in front of you is an unforgettable experience that I will always cherish.

My Fair Lady is a masterpiece.


Tickets are available through Ticketmaster but are selling fast.

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Melbourne, Music

Adele’s Melbourne Show

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Imagine you’re one of a record 77,300 Adele fans waiting to enter Etihad Stadium on a balmy Sunday night. There’s barely a breeze but plenty of insects in the air. The gates open exactly on time and you’re finally within a couple of hours of seeing your idol on stage for the first time in your life. Upon entering you see her beautiful closed eyes and that’s when you realise that the night is finally here and tonight your dreams will come true.

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After a few mexican waves go around, the crowd begins to cheer and roar with excitement. The circular curtain starts to lift and standing on the stage is the superstar that is Adele. She’s real. She’s actually here and is within reach. The atmosphere is electric. The visuals on the screen have now changed to her beautiful open eyes and then she starts to sing – “Hello, it’s me…”

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Wearing a dark pink sequined gown, she sparkles like a diamond as she makes her way around the stage. Delivering note-for-note perfection with each song, she entertains the crowd with a mix of music from all her chart-topping albums. She simply is unstoppable and 100% believable.

Adele is flawless in her performances but seeing her live, you also get to see the other side to her. The completely unedited version, raw and free to speak her mind. She isn’t trying to be anyone but herself. She swears a fair bit. She complains about the insects and the fact that the almost 30-degree heat is causing her make-up to sweat off her face. She reveals that she’s very emotional as it’s her final show in Australia and she doesn’t want to leave yet. This was her first tour Down Under after all.

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Seeing Adele live at a show like this really is something. She has a great sense of humour and seems to be very honest and direct. The crowd was completely hooked on her words not only during the songs but also in between the music. She got a fan up on stage and there was a surprise proposal. She offered parenting advice to couples going through a divorce. She gave some insights into what she was going through when she wrote particular songs and how terrified she was of shooting clips in a tank of water for the on-screen visuals shown during the concert. She told us that she’s the happiest she’s ever been. She shot a few T-shirts out into the audience along with $20 notes so winners can buy themselves a drink. Her handwritten lyrics and messages launched into the air as confetti and fireworks lit up the stage. Adele was on fire and we were with her every step of the way.

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Last night was magical. From the brilliant visuals on the screen to the powerhouse vocals, Adele left Melbourne wanting more. She exited the stage holding a cuddly koala toy presented to her by a fan. Last night was a night many who attended will never forget, as one of the world’s most influential performers with once-in-a-generation talent entertained us like no one ever has. Indeed there will never be another Adele.

Music

Jack Savoretti “Sleep No More” Review

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Not many artists in the music industry today can touch your soul through music the way Jack Savoretti can. His fifth studio album “Sleep No More” was released on October 28th 2016 and is charting at No.6 on the Official UK Albums chart. I’ve been a fan of Jack’s from the first moment I heard him sing in Munich in 2008 and it has been such a beautiful thing watching him evolve into the confident, charismatic singer-songwriter he is today, finally getting the recognition he deserves.

The first track on the album “When We Were Lovers” is the perfect opening track as this rhythmic ballad sets the mood for the music that follows. Jack expresses so much raw emotion in his voice and performs with such passion that it’s hard not to be completely spellbound by him, especially during his live shows with his incredible band.

“Deep Waters” performed acoustically sounds even better than the album version in my opinion and it would be amazing to have this version on a future record. If you close your eyes and listen to the beautiful guitar music accompanying a man with a husky voice like Jacks’s you’ll go to some amazing places in your mind. Pure bliss and a personal highlight for me!

The third track “I’m Yours” has been described by many fans as the perfect first dance song at their wedding and is so beautifully delivered by Jack, I can’t help but feel as if he wrote this song for his beautiful wife, Jemma Powell, describing their life together through poignant story telling.

With each track it’s easy to get a sense of who Jack is and where his music comes from, even if you’ve never heard his older songs before. “Helpless”, “Only You” and “Start Living in the Moment” are all bold songs with a driving drum beat you can’t help but tap your feet to. Jack’s brilliance really shines through in “We are Bound”, “Tight Rope” and “Sleep No More” as each track showcases his amazing vocal range and songwriting ability. “Troubled Souls” is a powerful track (one of my favourites) and has a catchy Eurovision vibe.

“Any Other Way” is an upbeat track which perfectly sums up how far Jack has come after almost 10 years in the music industry. It tells a beautiful story through its lyrics and is a track you can’t help but dance to. “Lullaby Loving” is such a beautiful way to end the album and has a slight resemblance to “Harder than Easy” with its melancholy and haunting vocals. Jack delivering the line “Don’t give up on our love (x3)…Don’t give up on us” is a highlight for me because it’s such a bittersweet moment knowing that this is the last song on the album and after he delivers these lines, it’s all over. When the silence hits after this track, I always feel an overwhelming sense of emotions. I’m so proud of how far he has come and so grateful that he didn’t give up making music in the face of adversity.

Jack’s fifth album is absolutely brilliant. After touring around his native UK this month, Jack will next head to other parts of Europe and the US next year. Fingers crossed for a return to Australia very soon as well.

Go out there and buy this amazing musician’s album and listen for yourself how music of today can be so meaningful in its lyrics, so poignant in its delivery and so beautiful in its musicality.

-Naira Tamanian

“Graceful Avenue” Founder

Music

Jack Savoretti – “Written in Scars” Review

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With the launch of his new album “Written in Scars” last week, Jack Savoretti is finally getting the recognition and acclaim he deserves. The album reached #13 in the official UK Chart. I’ve blogged about this wonderful artist in the past (Jack Savoretti: musician, dreamer, poet), but when an act is this talented and this good, it definitely requires more publicity. So here we are.

Jack’s music comes from the heart. Whether you’re listening to his music online or getting goosebumps from his sensational live shows, there’s no denying that this man is the real deal when it comes to emotional lyrics and powerful melodies. His husky voice draws you in, enticing you to listen and dream with every note. The album isn’t yet available for purchase in the Australian iTunes Store, so I’m listening to it on Spotify with his commentary on each new track. My copy of the album is on its way from the UK as we speak.

Jack’s music has evolved so much from his earlier years but each one still has his very unique stamp on it. This album showcases a bolder, braver artist, no longer afraid to challenge himself musically and go to new places previously unattainable. The true artist in Savoretti shines through, gaining him more recognition and keeping his long-time fans happy.

The opening track “Back to Me” sums this fierce new direction up beautifully and is a testament to how far Jack has come. The album progresses with bold music like “Home” and “Tie Me Down”, both strong melodically and a powerhouse in his vocals. The title track “Written in Scars” was the first song written for the album and sets a rebelious, even revolutionary mood that is evident throughout the entire record. In his own words this is “an album done with tremendous determination” and the final track “Fight ‘Til the End” really completes the album with a strong beat and repetition of the lyric “never back down”, showcasing that determination that Savoretti presents in each of the 11 tracks.

Interestingly enough during the commentary Jack mentions that all the music on this album was recorded on the same day it was written, an extraordinary achievement given the technological age we live in. This not only provides a great sense of authenticity to the music, but also helps it feel genuinely from the soul.

Here are two exclusive acoustic recordings of “Home” and “The Other Side of Love” (courtesy of HMV) filmed at Hoxton Square Bar & Kitchen in London. You can catch Jack touring around the UK, with a select few shows in Italy also in the works. Please visit his website for more info and show your support.

Music, Our Studio

Music I Love…

Pictured here with my older sister, singing together
Pictured here with my older sister singing together

For as long as I can remember I’ve been in love with music. There are old cassette recordings of me singing popular children’s songs in Armenia at the age of 3 or 4. These recordings are a beautiful way of remembering my childhood, as we didn’t have a lot of different ways to capture things, like we do now. There’s one video of me as a baby at my uncle’s wedding and a few moments captured on photographic slides (negatives viewed through a special slide viewer). I get very emotional whenever I listen to my voice on those tapes as I can hear the passion in my voice for something I loved so long ago! I am so grateful that we managed to bring these tapes to Australia with us.

Music has surrounded me all my life. Playing the piano, composing music and singing always cheer me up after a rough day and brighten my mood. While there are hundreds of songs I love, below I’ve created a Spotify Playlist of songs that are always playing while I’m at work in my studio. They’re an eclectic mix of tunes of various genres and various tempos. These songs help me remember special moments in my life and make me get things done productively while singing (sometimes dancing!) and humming away with the music that I love. Take a listen…

London, Music, Travel

Last Day in London

Around this time last year I walked the streets of London for the last time. On a cloudy Sunday that transformed into a warm and sunny summer’s day, something very unplanned happened. Dad and I were up early every week because on Sundays he was the conductor of a choir at an Armenian Church in Kensington. I would explore the city each Sunday, discovering new places, picturesque squares and beautiful streets. Those were my favourite days when I think back on my time there.

It took some time for me to warm up to London. When I first visited the UK in 2008 on the way to Germany for my studies, I must admit it wasn’t true love at first sight! London was a much busier city than Melbourne, with plenty of events going on and a hustle and bustle that I didn’t expect to see. Londoners struck me as very serious people, never smiling, always rushing somewhere and being very private about their business. However, when you really get to know London and its locals, finding places that make your heart sing along the way, it truly becomes a one-of-a-kind destination and one that I find myself yearning for more and more.

When I think back on my time in London there are certainly a few moments that stand out to me. One of those is of course the beautiful shop I was lucky enough to manage and sell my own creations in. Other highlights include attending movie premieres and seeing stars such as Ben Affleck and Johnny Depp only a few metres away from me! Attending shows of Jack Savoretti and riding the London Eye also count as fantastic memories. However it was on my very last day that without any knowledge of the event what-so-ever we came across a festival in Hampstead Heath with one of my all-time favourite bands performing there. Call it destiny or fate but seeing the wonderful band Keane perform in the open-air (for free!!) was incredible to say the least.

After walking through Kensington, admiring the palace in Kensington Gardens and shopping in Selfridge’s, I met up with my dad in Trafalgar Square – the heart and soul of London. We knew that we wanted to spend my last afternoon in one of London’s best kept secrets so we got on the iconic red double-decker bus directly to what soon became one of my favourite areas in London. I can’t express how much I loved it there and how glad I was to arrive by sheer luck on the day my favourite English band was performing. Beyond the illuminated trees came the music that I grew up listening to. Songs like “Everybody’s Changing”, “Somewhere Only We Know” and “This is the Last Time” warmed my heart and I left London that evening with a strong sense of accomplishment, passion and belief that everything happens for a reason. Some would even call it love.

Music

Jack Savoretti: musician, dreamer, poet

Happy Birthday to the incredibly talented musician, Jack Savoretti. I’m so honoured to be doing a post about one of my absolute favourite singer/songwriters ever, on the day he was born. Half Italian and half English, Jack’s poetic style of singing is unforgettable and his soulful renditions always leave you wanting more.

I discovered Jack’s music when I was in Germany for Gavin DeGraw’s European Tour in November, 2008. One cold autumn morning, I took the train from Mainz (the city where I was living and studying as an exchange student) to the beautiful Bavarian Alps town of Munich in the south. I had no idea who Gavin’s support act would be as I was just so excited to be attending my first ever European rock concert! As a huge One Tree Hill fan I was so thrilled to see Gavin DeGraw (who sings the opening track to the show) performing live before my very eyes. It would be a dream come true! I arrived quite early to the show, took my place in the crowd and waited patiently for the concert to begin. A man stepped out on stage in a cowboy hat and was holding a guitar. He opened his mouth and started to sing. No one moved for the entire gig and no one spoke a single word. The auditorium fell silent. Maybe I was so captivated that I  just didn’t hear anyone else, but all I remember is how mesmerising the husky voice of the singer was, how meaningful the lyrics were and how beautifully he was strumming the strings of his guitar. Jack entertained the audience for a while, thanked us for coming to the show and said goodbye. Gavin was on stage within the next 20 minutes and he was amazing as always, but I don’t think anyone could quite get over how entrancing the opening act was.

The next day I took the train from Munich to Salzburg in the early morning. I still remember the exact feeling I had during that ride. The music from the night before was still very much in my mind and of all the songs I heard that night I had Jack’s soulful “Between the Minds” firmly stuck in my head. I had never heard that song before the show, but the fact that I was still humming it in my mind the next day said a lot. I was completely hooked on Jack’s music after the first time I heard him sing live.

I was determined to get my hands on his first album. My dad was visiting me from London for Christmas that year and I asked if he could buy me his album as it was easier to find in Jack’s native UK. On Christmas morning I opened my laptop’s CD drive, put in the CD and listened to the entire album non-stop. I had shivers down my spine from “Dreamers” and “Dr. Frankenstein”, amongst others. I became a true fan of this man’s work and tracked his progress with the subsequent album “Harder than Easy” from Australia.

As most of you know I spent the past 2 years in the UK, running my own gift shop Graceful Avenue in Watford. I was thrilled to be able to attend more of Jack’s shows whilst I was in his home country. I saw him perform at The Garage in October, 2011, and then at Bush Hall in June, 2012. Each show just got better and better, and Jack’s confidence grew and grew as did his fan-base. Jack’s third album, “Before the Storm”, arrived by post to my London address while I was on vacation with my sister in Italy that summer. I can confidently say that he’s come a long way and his music has evolved greatly. His third album is terrific and I love most of the tracks on there!

Standing there in his Bush Hall show in London, in the front row with my braces, smiling from ear to ear, listening to the most beautiful musician sing the most beautiful songs ever written was such a highlight. The very first time I heard the song “Crazy Town” I was in love. Jack sung the song without his iconic guitar and was only accompanied by a pianist. His voice was so powerful and bold that he took the crowd to a place out of this world. That performance would have to be my favourite of his live songs because I remember exactly how it made me feel and the electric atmosphere in the room.

I’m so happy to have discovered this amazing man’s music. I can’t imagine my life without it. Thank you Jack for charming your way into my life for these past 5 years. You deserve to have your music heard by everyone in the world. I hope to see you performing in Australia one day. Happy Birthday!

See Jack performing “Crazy Town” at Bush Hall in London, June 2012 on this YouTube video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=blv0F-ArTyQ

Please visit: http://www.jacksavoretti.com/ to hear Jack’s other songs and find out more about him.

(Photos shown here are my own and cannot be reproduced, distributed or copied without my permission)