Reviewer: Clifford Graham – The Monday Missile
– something rare and not just a little entertaining.
– A simple setting for something so rich.
– It’s a well conceived and staged performance.
– Louise Howlett is a consummate singer and performer
Just a glance through any gig guide in our city’s many entertainment publications and you will see a hundred and one music happenings spread throughout the city. Very rarely though are these actual staged performances, and even more rarely do they ask an audience to focus on anything more than just the music. On Saturday evening, however, I may have reacted to just another listing in the aforementioned gig guides, made a last minute booking and made my way to the venue without too much expectation. Little did I know I was about to be treated to something rare and not just a little entertaining.
On entering the Baxter Theatre’s Golden Arrow Studio, the walls are bedecked with posters from the cinema, sadly A4 sized. Real posters from the movies are becoming rare and hard to find, but of course as with most visual history, abundant on the internet. On the stage is a piano, a music stand and a microphone. A simple setting for something so rich.
I know Albert Combrink more as a classical pianist, and in this regard he is very accomplished. But in Cinema Serenade he teams up with Louise Howlett and together they take us on a journey through music used and written for the cinema. Okay, movies if you prefer. Cleverly compiled and starting from the decade of the thirties to the present, we are asked to reach into our memories and guess (in most cases) the film in which the song, or composition was used, or specially written for. To make it just that little more special, the music genres are mixed. Opera, pop, new age and jazz are all thrown in to keep us guessing. And no, this is not a weekend pub quiz. It’s a well conceived and staged performance. Louise Howlett is a consummate singer and performer. Her inflection through the songs conveying not just the right emotion, but with voice soaring in all the right places and softer, sympathetic tones well placed, I feel at home with her performance. Combrink too gets his chance to shine (no pun intended) with some beautifully played interludes. Starting with Debussy’s Clair de Lune and later with Michael Nyman’s The Heart Asks Pleasure First (guess the film).
As someone who takes pride in my knowledge of film, which I regard as an art form, I was challenged and left pondering over just how much I did not know, and just how much has yet to be learned about cinema and it’s serenades.
Just a tip. Book your ticket and brush up on your cinema knowledge. This will make the experience all the more worthwhile. Oh, and by the way, there are a few prizes for the right answers.
Read the Orginal review on the Monday Missile WebSite.
The review was also published on ARTSLINK.
Reviewer: Jordan Scot – Biz Lounge NEWS
Louise Howett (the lady with a voice like an angel) and Albert Combrink (the pianist with magic fingers) make the perfect duo. Cinema Serenade is an ode to all the classic songs that have featured in the very best movies. (Louise also bluntly tells us that they are all songs that she loves to sing.) It was interesting to see how many songs I thought came from a certain movie, but in actual fact were in so many others.
It was a tantalising journey through the ages, although I only managed to catch up round about the 1990s, but thanks to my mum I had a running commentary of where all the other songs came from. But as she sings you can almost hear everyone in the audience thinking to themselves “oh my word I know that song, but from where?”
Before singing a song Louise gave the audience various bits of information about the movie that the song came from and then continue to woo us with her songs. Afterwards, the audience was asked to tell her from which movie and year the song was. This audience interaction was not only entertaining, but also really got you thinking. (I’m quite sure many audience members suddenly realised they were getting old as well.)
There were songs from Casablanca, Titanic, The Shawshank Redemption, Moulin Rouge and many more. (Those are also a few answers, so if you win a box of Smarties it’s my pleasure). I don’t want to give away too much as it will spoil it for you.
The show runs until 16 June at the Baxter Theatre and is definitely one to go and watch. Even if it is simply to remember the classic movies that once stole your heart – before special effects and 3D.
Read the Original review on the BizCommunity Website.
Reviewer: Theresa Smith – Cape Argus Tonight Stage 5/6/12
– “Old School Magic”
– “A lovely treat for lovers of movie music”
– “Howlett’s voice is robust without being overpowering”
– I thoroughly enjoyed Howlett and Combrink’s move to highlight the nuanced emotion that songs provide in cinema.
– Howlett’s supple soprano sashayed through arias
– Her range and skill and her easy, pleasant interpretation of the music was aurally opulent
– Howlett and Combrink soared through jazz from the 1940s and 50s with excellent arrangements and superb skill
– Howlett quaintly embodied the likes of Judy Garland and presented a particularly pleasing jazzy arrangement of ‘My Favourite Things’ in a programme that continued to show off Howlett’s range and versatility and Combrink’s impressive technique.
With a laminated A4 poster of Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tffany’s to my right and a garter flashing Velma Kelly to my left I felt I was invading the bedroom of a 15 year old wannabe ingénue. More cinema poster reprints lined the walls of the Baxter Golden Arrow Studio, but my initial anxiety of being transposed into a low budget, two-man version of Glee was thankfully dispelled when popular pianist Albert Combrink gracefully coaxed the somewhat rickety piano into a pleasing if rather fast-paced arrangement of Debussy’s iconic ‘Claire de Lune’, a fitting piece of music for the introduction of the graceful, soft-spoken Louise Howlett.
Howlett, in the role of self-appointed movie muse or cinema siren, explained how Debussy’s evocative ode to moonlight prominently features in many movies including Atonement, Oceans Thirteen and Twilight. Personally I’d have liked to enjoy this particular piece of music without being reminded of Edward Cullen, gaunt and garishly glittering in the sunlight. This was the first example of a somewhat clumsy dialogue contextualizing each piece of music. The transitions between singing and speaking felt abrupt and uncomfortable, and encumbered the imagination from indulging in the strong cinematic imagery otherwise conjured up by the sweet subtleties of Howlett’s haunting voice.
At times, Howlett did touch on the historical significance of individual films, or their cinematic development, aesthetic, art or socio-politics. I’d have liked more of this. For the most part however she fell into the habit of simply recanting imagery from the films and describing why she felt a personal affinity towards them. Such introductions would benefit enormously either from a short, piquant, contextualised script, some light camaraderie between the two performers or perhaps even the projection of some (silent) film clips to distract the audience from some of the fussier costume changes.
Nonetheless as the show progressed, Howlett’s supple soprano sashayed through arias and eased effortlessly through Debussy, Mozart and Puccini. Her range and skill and her easy, pleasant interpretation of the music was aurally opulent. The characterization of Carmen was particularly charismatic with a surprisingly strong sensuality. The effortless embodiment of this of this femme fatale left me anxious to see what she would do with characters such as the chanteuses from Chicago.
Howlett and Combrink soared through jazz from the 1940s and 50s with excellent arrangements and superb skill – a highlight of the show. Howlett quaintly embodied the likes of Judy Garland and presented a particularly pleasing jazzy arrangement of ‘My Favourite Things’ in a programme that continued to show off Howlett’s range and versatility and Combrink’s impressive technique.
Cinema Serenades is an attempt to facilitate a greater understanding for music in motion, and a deeper appreciation of the carefully chosen and arranged soundscapes in films. All too often this is overlooked and – underdeveloped theatrical aesthetic aside – I thoroughly enjoyed Howlett and Combrink’s move to highlight the nuanced emotion that songs provide in cinema.
Cinema Serenades runs 2 – 16 June at the Golden Arrow Studio in the Baxter Theatre.