Happy Birthday Sacha Baron Cohen

This week’s Born This Day feature celebrates the birthday of Sacha Baron Cohen, the English stand-up comedian, writer and actor. A graduate of Cambridge University, Sacha Baron Cohen is most widely known for writing and playing four unorthodox fictional characters: Ali G, Borat, Brüno, and Admiral General Aladeen. He has encountered many controversies regarding some of his comic characters.

Sacha Baron Cohen married Australian actress Isla Fisher on 15 March 2010. After three years of study, Fisher converted to Judaism in early 2007. She received the approval of Baron Cohen’s observant Jewish parents. Baron Cohen and Fisher have two daughters: Olive, born in 2007, and Elula, born in 2010.

"Ali G", "Borat", "Bruno",

Sacha Baron Cohen with his wife Isla Fisher

Characters played by Sacha Baron Cohen

Ali G

Sacha Baron Cohen shot to fame when his comic character Ali G, an uneducated, boorish junglist, hailing from Staines, started appearing on the British television show The 11 O’Clock Show on Channel 4, which first went to air 8 September 1998. A year after the premiere of the show, GQ named him comedian of the year. He won Best Newcomer at the 1999 British Comedy Awards, and was nominated for Best British Entertainment Performance at the British Academy Television Awards. Da Ali G Show began in 2000, and won the BAFTA for Best Comedy in the following year. Also in 2000, Baron Cohen as Ali G appeared as the limousine driver in Madonna’s 2000 video “Music”, directed by Jonas Ã…kerlund, who was also responsible for directing the titles for Da Ali G Show. In 2002, Ali G was the central character in the feature film Ali G Indahouse, in which he is elected to the British Parliament and foils a plot to bulldoze a community centre in his hometown, Staines. His television show was exported to the United States in 2003, with new episodes set there, for HBO. Ali G’s interviews with celebrities (often politicians) gained notoriety partly because the subjects were not privy to the joke that Ali G, rather than being a real interviewer, was a comic character played by Baron Cohen. The resulting willingness of Baron Cohen’s targets to answer his frequently risqué questions often created surprising conversations. Interviewees have included: astronaut Buzz Aldrin, real estate mogul Donald Trump, businessman and billionaire Mohamed Al-Fayed and former Conservative Party MP Neil Hamilton. Sacha Baron Cohen is a supporter of Comic Relief and as Ali G has hosted an interview with footballer David Beckham and his wife, ex-Spice Girl Victoria Beckham.

Borat

Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan, a feature film with Borat at the centre, was screened at the 2006 Toronto International Film Festival and released in the United Kingdom on 2 November 2006, in the United States on 3 November 2006 and Australia November 2006. The film is about a journey across the United States in an ice cream truck, in which the main character is obsessed with the idea of marrying Pamela Anderson. The film is a mockumentary which includes interviews with various American citizens that poke fun at American culture, as well as sexism, racism, homophobia, anti-Semitism, jingoism.

Brüno

Another alter ego Sacha Baron Cohen performed as is ‘Brüno’, a flamboyantly gay, allegedly-19-year-old, Austrian fashion show presenter who often lures his unwitting subjects into making provocative statements and engaging in embarrassing behaviour, as well as leading them to contradict themselves, often in the same interview. Brüno asks the subjects to answer ‘yes or no’ questions with either “Vassup” (whats up) or “Ich don’t think so” (No); these are occasionally substituted with “Ach, ja!” (Ah yes!) or “Nicht, nicht” (“Nicht” means “not” in German). In one segment on Da Ali G Show, he encouraged his guest to answer questions with either “Keep them in the ghetto” or “Train to Auschwitz”. Brüno’s main comedic satire pertains to the vacuity and inanity of the fashion and clubbing world. In May 2009, at the MTV Movie Awards, Baron Cohen appeared as ‘Brüno’ wearing a white angel costume, a white jock strap, white go-go boots, and white wings; and did an aerial stunt where he dropped from a height (using wires) onto Eminem. Baron Cohen landed on Eminem’s lap, with his rear in Eminem’s face, prompting Eminem to exit the venue with fellow rappers D12. Eminem later admitted to staging the stunt with Baron Cohen. After an intense bidding war that included such Hollywood powerhouses as DreamWorks, Sony, and 20th Century Fox; Universal Pictures paid a reported $42.5 million for the film rights. The film was released in July 2009.

Admiral General Aladeen

Baron Cohen’s 2012 film, The Dictator, was described by its press as “the heroic story of a dictator who risked his life to ensure that democracy would never come to the country he so lovingly oppressed”. Baron Cohen played Admiral General Aladeen, a dictator from a fictional country called the Republic of Wadiya. Borat and Bruno film director Larry Charles directed the film. The main target of the film’s satire was Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi, who was still alive when the film was written. The producers of the film were concerned it would anger Gaddafi, possibly even resulting in a terrorist attack, so they released deliberate misinformation saying that the film was loosely based on a romance novel written by former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.

In 2012, Sacha Baron Cohen will be starring in the film adaptation of the stage musical Les Misérables as the villanous character Thénardier.

It has been announced that Sacha Baron Cohen will star as Freddie Mercury of the rock band Queen in Mercury, an upcoming film about the period in the band’s history from 1971 to the Live Aid concert in 1985. It was Baron Cohen himself who contacted screenwriter Peter Morgan with the idea of portraying the flamboyant lead singer. Time magazine commented with approval on his singing ability and physical resemblance to Mercury. The film is due for release in 2014.

Images reproduced from celebritysmackblog.com, twylah.com, jennymccarthy2012.blogspot.com, inquisitr.com and outofcontrolcelebrities.com
Biography text reproduced from Wikipedia under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License

Musical Review: The In-between

Young composer Laura Tisdall is the changing face of the West End. At only 24 she has already written her second musical, The In-between and now she is bringing it to the west end with little more than a concept album. such as Lauren Samuels and Hadley Fraser, stars of We will rock you and Les Miserables respectively. Now she is taking the internet by storm, promoting her play in hope to receive funding to turn it into a full scale production. With massive online support, interviews with the BBC and the successful West-end live, which showcased performances of her show, she is well on her way to attaining her goal.

The musical follows protagonist, Flix, an underachiever who lives with her older sister Alice. Since their parents death ten years ago the bond being the two has been strained due to Alice’s responsibility as a guardian preventing her from being a sister. Flix’s attitude to life is to expect nothing and give the same in return however her world is turned upside down when she steps through the wrong doorway and enters the In-between. In this world between worlds meets the guide Callicus and discovers problems on a far larger scale than her own. Its time for her grow up and become the hero she never believed she could be.

The album itself is beautifully constructed with Tisdall playing the entire score on her keyboard alone. The score is stunning and the variety of songs on the album showcase her skills as a composer which are complimented by the amazing range of talent singing on each track. “She’s my sister” is a upbeat opening to the show sung by Dianne Pilkington & Cassandra Compton. Its fast tempo and sarcastic lyrics illustrate wonderfully the tense relationship between Flix and Alice as well being impossible not to sing along to. “Someone to be proud of” is a stunning performance by the talented Lauren Samuels, with a breathtaking climax I can see it easily becoming the shows “Defying gravity”. However the song which stands out most for me is the heartbreaking “When I was nineteen” sung by Julie Atherton as the role of Alice. The melody is soft yet impacting and Atherton clearly delivers the raw emotions of her character, showing a girl who grew up to fast, desperate to still be there for her younger sister despite no longer having anything to give. It shows the depths of her personality and presents Tisdall’s ability to make you really connect with her characters.

In all the play is clearly a product of hard work and dedication on Tisdall’s part, the little of the story she has revealed is refreshing from the clichés which have crowded musicals for too long, and the fantasy element should prove an interesting production to watch. Though there are no confirmed performance as of yet, I am confident that her talent as a writer will get her funding soon and I’m sure we will be seeing the In-between on the West End by next year.

For more information about the play and to listen to the concept album visit : http://www.theinbetweenmusical.com/

Image reproduced from lornahannah.blogspot.co.uk/2012/06/in-between-new-musical.html

Musical Review: Sister Act

I liked the show but it wasn’t as good as the film. An enjoyable event but soon forgotten afterwards.

Cynthia Eviro did a good job as Dolores Van Cartier, who if you haven’t seen the film, witnesses a mob murder and has to go into hiding. The police put her in a convent where she joins the choir and uses her mo-town/disco songs to liven things up.

I can’t put my finger on it, but the show lacked something. I found myself waiting for Whoopi to come in and take over.

Denise Black (Coronation Street) played the Mother Superior and again I wanted Maggie Smith there. Denise lacked the authority and the humour of Dame Maggie. (Although I don’t know if Dame Maggie Smith CAN sing!)

And having Michael Stark from ‘Brookside/The Royal/Corrie’ fame as the priest O’Hara was a dreadful decision. How did he get that role??? There wasn’t anyone with stage presence. Whoopi owned Sister Act, she had comic timing, a great voice and snazzy lines.

The new songs were good but for me they weren’t Sister Act. It was more like an episode of that ITV show Heartbeat. Heart warming – yes. But it wasn’t supposed to be about THAT show.

A lot of the backing singers lacked character and while the dance routines were good; I felt it wasn’t anything new or different. The voices sounded all the same and no one, even Cynthia wasn’t memorable afterwards.

Having some disco songs straight of the bat rather than hymns being jazzed up just didn’t feel right. The cast lacked the harmony the movie sisters had. When Whoopi’s crew sang ‘My God’ (which isn’t a hymn jazzed up) it was cute. This new crew just wasn’t.

I think the best analogy would be to compare this to remakes of some TV shows. Sometimes it’s better to leave it alone! It felt at times, they were doing something else and the people just happened to share the names of those from the movie. Like an odd alternate universe or something.

It did make a good afternoon out but I wouldn’t want to see this team again.

Image reproduced from musicomh.com
Video reproduced from YouTube / sisteractthemusical

Theatre Review: South Pacific

South Pacific was on at the Ambassador Theatre in Woking. I went to the Thursday matinee. I was delighted by the whole show and cast.

I was most surprised by Samantha Womack, who was in Eastenders as Ronnie Mitchell, a role I didn‘t like much. Seeing her live however has completely changed my mind about her. She had a good American accent and her singing is unmatched.

I remembered some of the songs like ‘Some enchanted evening’, ‘There’s nothing like a dame’ ‘Happy Talk – if you don’t have a dream, how you gonna have a dream come true?‘ and ‘I’m gonna wash that man right outta my hair’.

There were splendid dance routines with a fantastic orchestra, all in all making it a great show.

There was another Eastender star – Alex Fearns who played the evil Trevor who terrorised Little Mo all those years ago! I didn’t recognise him however until afterwards. Then I was like – no way! Wow!

Alex Fearns and Samantha Womack

There was a different actor playing Lieutenant Cable than billed, I think it was James Austen Murray rather than Daniel Koek. I got a programme and he looked more like James. Hope I’m not wrong! Apologies if it was another actor!

His singing was very good, especially his solos and it’s always nice to see understudies being given a chance to shine.

The show itself, for those who don’t know, is based in the 1940s; during World War II. Dealing with relations between the army and civilians. How we related to natives in different countries. Love and desire are placed against ideals and tested to the maximum. Samantha played our heroine Ensign Nellie Forbush who loves the nice Emile de Becque (played by Matthew Cammelle).

Can Nellie look past the fact Emile had a Polynesian wife before? Which was a big no-no in that era. Can she put aside the prejudice she’s been taught for the man she loves?

Lieutenant Cable falls for Liat, the daughter of Bloody Mary a Vietnamese immigrant (played by the magnificent Jodi Kimura who provides some great humour with her one liners). Again a doomed love affair, complicated when Cable contracts malaria. Cable doesn’t know how he can marry Liat and take her back to the base/America.

To forget their problems for a while both men decide to take on a dangerous mission. Billis (played by Alex) creates a distraction to allow Emile and Cable to get past the Japanese defences and launch a daring strike. Will they come back? You’ll just have to go and see! (If you do know or seen the film/play before – go and see again anyway!)

The cast were impressive, the set changes were speedy and I thought well timed. The beach set was most impressive it looked like there was a sand dune at the back with a gorgeous sea background. But it was solid as the actors/actresses could run across the dune it without throwing sand up (which would’ve been messy and problematic!)

The actors who played Commander Harbison and Captain Brackett could’ve picked up the pace a bit. They seemed a little tired compared to the energy of the rest of the cast.

I liked the fact all the actors/actresses were used, even if it was just walking along in the background. No one seemed to be missed out, which is rare in the plays I have seen.

Some of the background actors/actresses did start doing other things that caused distraction though. One pair were playing catch. Two girls lit a fire in a steel drum, to sit on the beach and others were having animated conservations which detracted from what was going on at the front.

Still it didn’t spoil my overall enjoyment. It’s a pity it wasn’t on long enough! I wanted an encore! Encore! Encore!

I would definitely want to see this team again. I would fully recommend it.

Images reproduced from atgtickets.com and stagewon.co.uk