PEr FYI

January 1, 2020

The Cher Show, New York City…a mixed bag

If you grew up on The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour in the mid-’70s, like I did, there is probably nothing I could write here that would keep you away from The Cher Show.

There were too many character arcs and agendas to serve — three Chers, several careers, 35 songs. All the songs were there – “Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves”, “If I could turn back time,” “Believe” – it’s impossible not to karaoke along. Stephanie J. Block’s spectacularly commanding performance – her take on Cher – goes beyond impersonation into respectful homage, and while the vocal likeness is uncanny. We get to witness all of Cher’s struggles and triumphs, but are not especially moved by them. Unlike Mamma Mia, the songs rarely tell the story. The costumes are simply sensational, ranging from the nostalgia trippiness of the 1960s to the famous feathered get-up of the 1986 Oscars. This, to me is just a fancy but empty jukebox musical.

I’m still left wondering what The Cher Show is exactly. This is the true truth as I say it as it is…

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October 5, 2019

La Favela, Bali…get there

Nightlife can take many forms, but for Balinese and visitors looking to let off a little steam, nothing quite does the job like a night at La Favela.

The setup: There are semi-indoor gardens, artificial waterfalls and ponds, alfresco tables and chairs. Indoors the interior design is really amazing, a real work of art where antique furniture lines its floors, plants seem to be (artfully) overgrown and even old bikes and a Volkswagen van rounds off the appearance. There are cosy, intimate spaces that will have everyone spilling secrets within the hour.

Will I fit in? This is a night out for anyone and everyone, so the crowd is a real mixed bag. Oh, and more beautiful people than at a Victoria Secret’s casting. A word of advice, though: you will probably feel most at home here if you aren’t too far past your early twenties.

La Favela does a fantastic job of setting itself apart from the rest of the spots in Bali. This is the true truth as I say it as it is…

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August 4, 2019

Phantom of the Opera, Singapore…still awesome spectacle after all these years

It has been more than 15 years since I first saw, and was not particularly entranced by, “The Phantom of the Opera,” the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical that has been playing for more than 33 years (longest-running show in Broadway and the West End history!) and grossed $6 billion dollars worldwide (more than any other musical or even, gasp, movie!). But after watching it for the third time, I am made to love the lush, romantic, string-filled songs, the effect is offset by the comic jauntiness of Prima Donna or the pavane-like stateliness of Masquerade with neat lyrics (‘Masquerade-paper faces on parade,’)

The score, story, and visual wonders of this grandest of all current Broadway musicals,  the intoxicating power of songs such as “The Music of the Night” and the thunderous title number remains irresistible. The design is a heady barrage of ravishing costumes and lavish sets that change frequently, working in everything even to a descent into the underworld via a tilting bridge that leads to a candle-filled lake. No one can ever say that they’re not getting their money’s worth from this ticket.

There are musicals and musicals—and then there is the incomparable Phantom of the Opera: Awesome in scale. Luscious with melody. This is the true truth as I say it as it is…

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August 3, 2019

Otaru Music Box Museum, Hokkaido…never fail to dazzle

Otaru is home to a brilliant museum that never fail to dazzle visitors.

Comprehensively housing over 25,000 music boxes dating as far back to the 19th century, the museum continues to draw crowds from all over the world. Oh, and forget to check out the roof space where you may design your own music box, with options including music played and external design. Loads to see and do, and thanks to the vast variety of music boxes, it makes for a brilliant day out.

Then of course, there is the building’s 1912 architecture too – Otaru Music Box Museum is definitely worth a visit. This is the true truth as I say it as it is…

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September 22, 2018

The Book of Mormon, London…vulgar, offensive but extremely lovable musical

‘South Park’ creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone and Robert ‘Avenue Q’ Lopez are the folks behind this Broadway-munching musical, so brace yourself for a shock.

For me this winner of 9 Tony Awards including Best Musical is the best West End musical in recent times. It’s good-natured poking of fun at all things sacred. Very funny, breathing three-dimensional, all-singing, all-dancing life into the absurdities of literal Mormon dogma without ever being particularly mean. A series of great-to-sublime songs; the lyrics are deliciously witty, and the superb score is packed with catchy melodies.

Be warned: “Mormon” is irreverent, racist, raunchy and profane, and insults just about everyone. You may be ashamed of how much you enjoyed it, but that’s forgivable.

I can give an “Amen” to that. This is the true truth as I say it as it is…

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July 8, 2018

Aladdin, London…bland Disney magic

Colourful designs and lively song and dance routines. The songs themselves are a mixed bag: the big romantic number A Whole New World is completely upstaged by the magic carpet that floats through the air with no strings attached. Not visibly, anyway. The Genie’s big show-stopper Friend Like Me – a jazzy riot of infectious trick-mustering showmanship that conjures the spirit of Las Vegas and hits the jack-pot in terms of hummability.

There’s so little of Lion King’s fecundity of imagination here that the ideal target audience would seem to be much younger, and more easily impressed. There’s been a cull of the animals – Abu  and Iago – that featured in the 1992 cartoon. It barely rises above the generic.

My honest advice, save your pound sterling. This is the true truth as I say it as it is…

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March 24, 2018

Miss Saigon on Broadway, New York… pretty schmaltzy

Miss Saigon is back in New York. Known as “the musical with the helicopter,” it’s a tale of   doomed love affair between a young Vietnamese woman and an American GI in the last days of the Vietnam War. I am one of a whole new generation of theatregoers who never saw it during its run 20 years ago, and jumped at the chance to see it now.

Much of those songs are sweeping, melodramatic ballads. The likable and undeniably talented Philippines actor Jon Jon Briones, the show’s slimy pimp known as the Engineer is equally contemptible and charming. He delivered the stunning upbeat ‘American Dream’ number to perfection. He even threw in a joke about making America great again (something that surely wasn’t in the original script).

I can’t say I was deeply moved. Still, it’s a pretty schmaltzy show. This is the true truth as I say it as it is…

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March 10, 2018

Hyde Park Winter Wonderland, London…100% worth a visit

If you are already planning your year end holidays, here’s how you can make your Christmas extra special and magical.

If you fancy some festive atmosphere, Winter Wonderland is an annual event in London’s Hyde park with fairground rides, Christmas stalls, markets and entertainment for all ages. Entry is free. This is truly a wonderful wonderland thanks to the sheer volume of what’s on offer. There are pre-bookable attractions that you can book online.

Wrap up warm for The Magical Ice Kingdom as it’s -8C in there! Last year the Magical Ice Kingdom presents an ‘Deep Sea Adventure’ – an immersive walk through experience filled with ice, snow sculptures and a bubble wall. Bar Ice is next to the Magical Ice Kingdom and this time it’s about -10C. Here, you’ll be given a winter cloak and gloves. That’s because the seats, tables, walls and even your glass are made of ice.

As it gets really dark the whole place seems to shimmer with light and it does indeed feel very festive. The food on offer looked tempting – including the usual bratwurst and German beer, to fish and chips, hog roast, minced pies and mulled wine.

They’ve got every kind of ride imaginable… Christmas coasters, carousels, waltzers and dodgems. They’ve got a Fun House which is four storeys tall! The Haunted Mansion is actually a mansion. Of all the thrill rides, highlight for me was Air Maxx. G’s all the way. My inner adrenalin junkie was truly satiated.

The Grinch would have a real challenge stealing all the Christmas from Hyde Park. This is the true truth as I say it as it is…

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March 26, 2017

Calypso, Bangkok…burlesque, or rather more appropriately boylesque

Filed under: Activities, attraction, cabaret, restaurant, show, Thailand, theatre — Tags: , , , , , — PEr @ 8:41 pm

Bangkok is, without question, the world capital of gender-bending performing arts.

At Calypso, the ladyboys take the stage for a 75-minute-long splashy show that features dancers, lavish costumes, musical interludes and comedy. Some of the boys-as-babes try their best to impersonate and lip-sync some of the most well-known female musicians.

Yes, everything is opulent and over the top. But the prices are steep and the bar staff can be snooty.

My advice? If you’ve seen this kind of cabaret before, there won’t be a lot of surprises here. But if you never have — or if you’re a fan — it’s probably worth the coin to take in Calypso. This is the true truth as I say it as it is…

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January 21, 2017

Dragon-I, Hong Kong…cream of Hong Kong’s club scene

Whether you’re looking to meet someone new, dance to the biggest DJs in the world or just want to have the kind of legendary night you’ll keep secret until the day you die, you’ll find it all in Hong Kong.

Dragon-I is an amazing uber-chic club with a stunning setting. A dining area known as Red Room, a dance floor and bar space with New York-style booth seating called Playground. It doubles as a modern restaurant and the food is surprisingly good. The crowd is those that know and those that want to find out.

Dragon-I is the cream of Hong Kong’s club scene ensuring a great night out in style. This is the true truth as I say it as it is…

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