Idina Menzel World Tour Wembley Concert Review

The Set List

Defying Gravity , Don’t Rain on My Parade, Brave, I Stand, The Wizard and I, River, Love For Sale/Roxanne, There’s No Business Like Show Business/Anything Goes/ Everything’s Coming Up Roses, Still I Can’t Be Still, Creep, Take Me or Leave Me, No Day But Today, Always Starting Over, Let It Go.

Encore: Child, Tomorrow.

The Good

Tony Award winning theatre icon Idina Menzel is now a record breaking global superstar, adored by generations of fans around the world as the voice of Frozen Disney princess Elsa. After Oscar glory and the unprecedented pop culture phenomenon of Let It Go, it’s fitting that Menzel fulfills one of her own admitted life ambitions to play to a delighted crowd in Wembley Arena.

Menzel has a staggering vocal power which burst from the stage with every note of every ballad. There’s a deep rich tone to her voice and an unashamed theatricality to her performance, honed through years of Broadway and West End productions. She’s a true show stopping diva, of a caliber rarely seen.

Playing to over 10,000 people tonight in the cavernous arena, the ever undaunted Idina delivers a crowd pleasing section of familiar songs that serves almost like a musical autobiography. The set combines ionic tracks from productions like Rent and Wicked with covers that pay heartfelt homage to Menzel’s own musical influences.

Opening with Defying Gravity gives audiences the instant satisfaction of hearing the definitive version of Elphaba’s uplifting ballad. Though many talented performers have followed in her footsteps, nobody ever truly matches Wicked’s original star Menzel. Idina speaks with fond passion about the all the productions that made her a star. It’s especially poignant to hear her pay an emotional tribute to Rent creator Jonathan Larson before delivering a tear stained version of No Day But Today. These are the songs that won Menzel a devoted following before she ever became ‘Disney famous’, and they clearly mean just as much to her as her fans.

Menzel has a close connection to her fans and there’s no better way to show that than by literally rushing off the stage to sing among and with them. During a jaunty rendition of Take Me or Leave Me, Idina races around the crowd to duet with stunned fans, before dragging some of the most talent singers back on stage with her. It’s a perfect embodiment of the beautiful spirit of community and mutual love that often distinguishes theatre stars from their pop and rock star counterparts.

Menzel is fully aware she’s part of a proud legacy of bold stage divas and she pays frequent homage to that with covers of classic songs by Ethel Merman and Julie Styne. More contemporary covers of acts like Radiohead, The Police and Joni Mitchell prove to show Menzel’s own range as an artist and unsurpassed skill as a vocalist.

Of course for most fans, the true bucket list moment of the night is undoubtedly helping Menzel proudly blast out a belting rendition of Let It Go. It’s the song which single handily made her an instant household name around the world, beloved by children and relieved parents alike. Live, she attacks the endlessly played song with joyous enthusiasm. Indeed, the true secret of the song’s unique success and global appeal is that it encapsulates the spirit of bold anthemic optimism embodied in much of Menzel’s work. Let It Go is a song defined by Idina Menzel, not just a song that defines her.

It’s hard to imagine any encore that could possibly surpass the power ballad might of Let it Go, but closing out a set with Tomorrow from Annie is a beautiful way to leave audiences indeed.

The Bad

Younger fans may be a little traumatized to learn that when she’s not letting it go as Queen Elsa, Menzel also has a habit of letting f-bombs go on stage. Menzel’s between songs chatter is endearingly sassy and frequently foul mouthed. Though admittedly it’s highly amusing and quite charming for the mostly adult crowd to see Menzel knowingly show off in front of fellow grownups for a change.

The fiercest critics might point out that Menzel mostly sings material written by other people or borrowed from other artists. But that would do a cruel disservice to the transformative power of her unique voice and emotional performance. For example, when Menzel delivers her heart wrenching version of Radiohead’s Creep, backed by the heavenly crescendo of a big band, it’s fragile and triumphant in ways which arguably eclipse the original version.

The Ugly Truth

Idina Menzel is a delightful diva with a powerhouse voice big enough to dominate any stage and enchant any audience. Working her way through a well-chosen hit list of show tunes and show stoppers she gave London an unforgettable night and a flawless dive masterclass.

Independence Day Resurgence Full Details

The long delayed sequel to 1996 alien invasion blockbuster Independence Day now has an official title as announced during a 30 minute live streamed press conference with the cast and director Roland Emmerich. It’s Independece Day: Resurgence. Explaining what that ominous title means here’s the official synopsis:

We always knew they were coming back. After INDEPENDENCE DAY redefined the event movie genre, the next epic chapter delivers global spectacle on an unimaginable scale. Using recovered alien technology, the nations of Earth have collaborated on an immense defense program to protect the planet. But nothing can prepare us for the aliens’ advanced and unprecedented force. Only the ingenuity of a few brave men and women can bring our world back from the brink of extinction.

Director Roland Emmerich explained  that the near apocalyptic events of the first film has created a “post-world-war” generation who are globally united against a common threat.

The new film features almost the entire cast of the original seeing Jeff Goldblum, Judd Hirsh, Vivica A. Fox, Brent Spinner and Bill Pullman reprise their roles alongside a new generation of starts that includes Liam Hemsworth and Maika Monrow.

Liam Hemsworth is playing a new character  Jake Morrison who became a fighter pilot after losing  his parents in the 1996 attack. During the press conference the Hunger Games star explained a bit more about where we find Jake at the start of the film.

He eventually joined the military and ended up in the best of the best of the best of the fighter pilots. And he made a bad mistake, a bad decision, and put someone’s life at risk, and got the great job of driving this Moon Tug, which is basically a forklift on the Moon. Where he gets to move around different pieces on the Moon. Which is not really an exciting job for a fighter pilot like himself. He’s a pretty energetic guy, he likes to do exciting things. That’s not exciting.

Maika Monrow is playing President Whitmore’s now grown up daughter Patricia. She has followed in her father’s footsteps to become a fighter pilot and is also working in some capacity for the current president. Sela Ward who plays the new President Lanford, elaborated  a bit on how the world has changed since the first invasion:

[She’s] Entirely different [from Bill Pullman’s President Whitmore]. It’s a totally different political landscape. She’s tougher, more decisive, not afraid to use force, she’s more aggressive. She’s a very different animal because it’s a very different time. We’ve been preparing for twenty years for the inevitability of an invasion. We don’t know by whom or when. So there’s a very different climate in terms of the tenor of the movie. Especially for the president.

Things have also changed a lot for former stripper Jasmine (Vivica A. Fox) who is more respectably employed as a hospital administrator. Her son Dylan (played by Jessie Usher) has grown up in the shadow of world saving surrogate father figure Capt Steven Hiller (Will Smith), trying to emulate him.

Will Smith is obviously the only major cast member to survive the initial invasion who won’t feature in the sequel, despite initially appearing to be enthusiastic about rebooting the franchise that launched his big screen career. It was initially planned for the father son dynamic of Dylan and Capt Hiller to be a central theme in the sequel, but that won’t be the case now Smith has dropped out.

Explaining Will Smith’s apparent change of heart about starring in the sequel Director Roland Emmerich basically blamed the disastrous experience of After Earth.

In the very beginning, I wanted to work with him and he was excited to be in it but then after a while he was tired of sequels, and he did another science fiction film, which was his father-son story, so he opted out.

At least Smith’s cigar buddy Jeff Goldblum is back as computer genius David Levinson, who is now in charge of Earth Space Defense, the global organisation protecting the planet.

The planet isn’t just being protected by Goldblum’s trademark awkward fast talking. Following victory in the first film, mankind has combined salvaged alien technology with our existing weaponry. The result is new ships like the Moon Tug that Liam Hemsworth drives and advanced fighter jets armed with better shields and alien engines/weaponary. Pictures below:

Independence Day Resurgence is set for release in June 2016 and filming is already well under way, Till then check out the official press conference below:

Swallows And Amazons Movie Sets Sail

Cast and crew have set sail for the big-screen adaptation of the best-selling Arthur Ransome classic Swallows and Amazons, with principal photography getting underway in the Lake District.

Marking the feature debut of acclaimed director Philippa Lowthorpe (TV’s “The Other Boleyn Girl”, “Call the Midwife”, and “Jamaica Inn”), and adapted from a screenplay by Andrea Gibb.

Swallows and Amazons follows four children dreaming of an escape from the tedium of a summer holiday with their mother. When finally given permission to camp on their own on a remote island in the middle of a vast lake, they are overjoyed. But when they get there they discover they may not be alone…As they battle for ownership of the island, they learn the skills of survival and the value of friendship, which helps prepare them for the real danger they must face from the adult world. Steeped in the wonder of a child’s imagination and set against the breath-taking backdrop of the Lake District, this is an exhilarating adaptation of a treasured classic.

The cast includes Rafe Spall as the enigmatic ‘Captain Flint’ and also features Kelly Macdonald, Gwendoline Christie, Jessica Hynes, and Harry Enfield. The Walker and Blackett children from the beloved Ransome story will be brought to life in this big screen adaptation by a crop of young breakthrough stars.

Speaking about the cast director Philippa Lowthrope said:

“Watching the young actors learn to sail so brilliantly in our Swallow and Amazon, as we prepare for the shoot, has been a great thrill. I can’t wait to bring this world of pure adventure to life.”

 

Mila Kunis Attends Gemfields Launch Party

Black Swan  star Mila Kunis was in London on tonight  to attend the launch of Gemfields Mozambican rubies at The Orangery, Holland Park. The actress stepped suitably covered in rubies and diamonds, showcasing pieces from the Fabergé’s Devotion collection. The event marked the global launch of Gemfields rubies from the Montepuez ruby mine in Mozambique.  Check out a gallery of eye catching pics below:

New Spider-Man Is Tom Holland

The Impossible star Tom Holland has been officially confirmed as the latest actor to play Spider-Man, replacing Andrew Garfield as our most recent Peter Parker. Holland has also recently been seen in How I Live Now and historical TV drama Wolf Hall. Holland fits Marvel’s requirements of being young enough to play a genuinely adolescent spidey for many years to come.

Obviously the casting does finally put an end to any suggestion that Marvel might have updated Spider-Man with his more recent comic book alter-ego Miles Morales. Some fans had hoped that the latest reboot would have been an opportunity to take the franchise in a different direction replacing Parker with the Black Latino teen instead.

In truth Marvel were never really going to move away from the perhaps overly familiar origin story of Peter Parker as they seek  to  introduce him as an established figure in the wider Marvel cinematic universe as quickly as possible. Having negotiated long and hard with current rights holders Sony to bring Spider-Man back under Marvels creative control, they were always unlikely to force the issue by dramatically reinventing the character.

The new film also has a director in place with relatively unknown newcomer Jon Watts being selected after a number of Marvels other leading candidates reportedly ruled themselves out of the running in recent weeks. Aside from being responsible for low budget horror effort Clown, Watts has at least recently been getting some attention at the indie festivals for Kevin Bacon thriller Cop Car. Though it’s fair to say he’s a surprising choice for such an important project, providing the third and many hope definitive big screen version of Spider-Man.

Presumably the studio’s logic is that going with a rising young director means that Marvel will be able to guide the production perhaps more closely than if they’d brought in a more established name keen to put his own style/stamp on things. Obviously Marvel didn’t fare well after ten years trying to put Ant-Man into Edgar Wright’s hands and ended up bitterly parting ways over ‘creative differences’.

Those confused or worried by Marvel’s choice of director should take a lot of comfort from Guardians Of The Galaxy. Once seen as a risky side project based on fringe characters, with James Gunn directing it became one of the most popular cosmic jewels in Marvel’s cinematic universe. Much like Watts, prior to landing his surprise Marvel gig Gunn only had some low budget horror flicks and embarrassing live action Scooby Doo movies to his credit. If it worked out fine for Star Lord then surely our friendly neighborhood spider-man is in good hands…