Thursday, November 27, 2008

New York, New….something…I forget the rest.

Day 1 in New York was pretty quiet. I arrived later in the evening but got to have a good walk around Times Square. Ca-razy place. Seriously. All the movies I watch with New York are mostly set before the 60’s, so I was pretty shocked to see so many people. You hear about all the cars and buses, but there’s really nothing like standing in the middle of it (the hustle and bustle, that is, not the road – you don’t wanna do that). I called it a night pretty early as I was buggered from the flying and lugging luggage.

I hit the road pretty early the next day and did some more walking. Then I made my way to the TKTS (discount ticket booth) to check it out and see what the deal was with getting passes to shows. Then I saw that Avenue Q was available, so I lined up to grab tickets. I had no idea what the time was, and then the guy said the show started at 2 p.m. and told me how to get to the theatre. I moseyed over and realised that everyone was lining up, so I asked when the show started – “Now”, was the grouchy and urgent answer. Pretty good timing I guess.

The show absolutely rocked my world. Avenue Q is one of my favourite musicals, although I had never seen it performed live. I know the soundtrack and score inside out and obviously know what goes on in between. I am very used to the Original Broadway Cast performance, and for that reason I had to do a quick adjustment and accept that the show I was seeing was NOT the show I knew so well. Some of the characters were performed in a similar way to the original recording, but mostly the actors had a great new slant on the voice and style. This I liked, once I got into the swing of the show.

Now, after spending some time in New York City, it becomes kind of weird to see pigeons actually flying in the air. It’s that breed of town. There is so much trash (I hope it’s just trash) on the ground in Times Square, and of course the flying rats just flock to that area.

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The next day in Noo Yawk was a whole heap of fun. I started the day by walking around Central Park and visiting the United Nations headquarters. I caught up with 3 friends from New York - all fellow voice actors. First I met Lucien, who I know through the internets. We chatted for a bit and then Rachel joined us. I had met Rachel at the VOICE conference in Los Angeles, but she lives and works in NY. We all had a great meal at a restaurant with all organic meals and then cruised out back to Bryant Park. We caught up with Crystal, who is a roomie of Lucien (and of course, a VA).

We had planned to watch the original Superman movie in Bryant Park (they do free screenings there in summer). Unfortunately, although we arrived about 4 hours before the movie started, the whole park was absolutely packed. We stood for a while, but after a little while, our legs grew weary and Rachel and I decided to head off to Downtown Manhattan. We checked out a busy little comic book store and then moseyed over to a restaurant called Max Bremmers. Ok, so this restaurant’s gig is chocolate. Big time. And they do it with style. When there is an abundance of food, and you can’t decide between all the tasty dishes, the best thing to get is a platter. So we did.

Oh man, the decadence, the flavour and the pure, chocolatey goodness was just too much. Rachel and I ploughed our way through a banana split, Italian hot chocolate, chocolate slice and marshmallows, banana and strawberries with a fondue. It was brilliant and I’d recommend this place to any chocolate lovers or closet chocolate lovers.

Having eaten enough sugar to power a plasma TV for 3 hours, we called it a night.

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The next day, Rachel and I hung out again. We first met at the NY Natural History Museum. It was really fun. I met Rachel’s buddy Armistead, and he showed us around some of the exhibits. We saw this very impressive movie about the universe and all the cosmic changes that have been happening and will happen. It was narrated by Robert Redford and the movie screen was the roof of this dome building! We also saw this sea monsters film, which was really cool. We also checked out the lizards exhibit and it was fun to see some reptiles from back home (frill necked and blue tongue lizard). It never matches up to the seeing them in your own backyard, but it was a nice bit of nostalgia!

After a classic New York pizza and some more looking around the museum, we headed back to Times Square to try to get tickets to Wicked. We spent some time enjoying the interior decorating in the Gershwin Theatre (waiting in line) to try to score us some reserve tickets. After about 2 (?) hours, Rachel and I managed to get superb seats. Orchestra, to the left. Elated, we left to get a meal at the ‘Musical’ restaurant nearby. Oh, the place was great fun. Waiting staff dancing on tables and root beer and ice cream – you can’t get much better than that.

Then we made our way back to the theatre during which time I was goin’ supernova. Like Avenue Q, I’ve wanted to see this musical for about 4 years. I could have actually seen it in Melbourne before I came to the USA (Wicked just started an Australian tour), but I thought that as I’ve waited this long, I can wait a few more months. Plus the cast looked a bit unimpressive (except for a few cast members, namely the late Rob Guest – I wish I had seen him in his last show)

Anyway, back to the action. I felt like I’d taken a trip back to childhood, walking up the steps to the theatre doors. When we finally got inside, I found myself lookin’ up at an amazing set – I had never seen anything so impressive in all the shows I’d been to. Obviously it’s Broadway, baby, so they have a huuuuuge budget, but it was still mind boggling.

The musical was pretty much all I hoped it to be and more. I was slightly let down by the acting of the gal who played Elpheba. She actually performed in the West End debut and was clearly British, trying to do an American accent. Unfortunately that was a barrier for her and resulted in a lot of ‘forced acting’. Her vocal performance was outstanding though. I also liked the performance of the actress who played Glinda – she had a fun slant on the character. A little more serious and subdued…

I am so glad I went to see the show. I sat through the whole thing, thinking ‘hell yeah’….it was a bloody beudy!

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Last day. I caught a train to Astoria, which is Rachel’s neighbourhood. We hung out for a while, I did some laundry, and we went to a brilliant little Greek restaurant. Seeing as I had eaten so much meat so far on my trip, I thought it would be the responsible thing to do, to get a salad. It was freakin’ massive! We had some dip and bread before that, so the salad destroyed me. Some of you may shake your head in disbelief, considering my usual appetite, but this thing could have catered for a couple of big Greek weddings. After that it was just about time to dash off to La Guardia. Having been lucky enough to spend a whole heap of time with my mate, Rachel, it was a bit sad to say bye! New York won’t keep me away for long, though….

The city was amazing, and as I said, I know I’ll be back there again soon. Next up, I’ll be writing about my very first European adventure ever. Watch this broken jpeg!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

My Animated Series Debut!

Some of you may know about it, some of you haven't stopped hearing about it, but it's finally here - The Beach Crew hits Fox 8 on Foxtel and Austar on the 6th of December!



I am super-excited as this is a step forward toward my dream, and I had an unreal time recording the first season. 

Visit the website www.thebeachcrew.com for some videos and more info.

I am the voice of Billy and Sammy, and the majority of the other male 'crew'. Some characters include Cash Coin, Slimy Seaweed, Uncle Umbrella and Screechy Seagull.

Please check it out and don't forget to watch (if you have it) on December 6.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Review: Mitsuko and Mozart


Last night I went to see the world acclaimed interpreter of Mozart, Mitsuko Uchida perform with the London Philharmonia. The program consisted of two Mozart piano concertos, No. 22 in A major and No. 24 in C minor, preceded by Igor Stravinsky's Apollon Musag├Ęte. What a pleasure it was to hear the dark and quirky yet less bold work of Stravinsky against the sublime and transcending musical perfection of Mozart!

Well, let's start with Apollon. I really enjoyed this performance. Originally a ballet in two scenes, the production is accompanied by strings only. It’s about the Greek god Apollo and 3 muses. Stravinsky achieves a great range of texture, though and this colour was accentuated masterfully by the ensemble's synergy. I reckon' the best way I would describe the effect of the music, was that it was transfixing. Sometimes I didn't quite know what was really happening, but I listened intently anyway! I think the violins needed to have some more guts when approaching dissonance. Sounds a bit harsh, but it wasn't that bad.

My only major complaint has nothing to do with the orchestra. At the beginning of the performance, we had the usual announcement say "please turn off phones, blah blah" (I think it was Ian McKellen) and then at the end was added, "and please, keep coughing to a minimum". Everyone had a giggle, but after the first break between movements, I could see why it was announced. The orchestra could not make a louder sound than the fortissimo coughing fit that erupted in the Royal Festival Hall. I mean, it was ridiculous. I understand that it's London, the weather is crappy, and everyone rides the Tube (which is like a cylinder of germs), but I CANNOT grasp how that many people with tickly throats, flu or the pneumonic plague can forget to bring a bottle of water or a cough drop!!!!! You might say, "Hang on Matt, at least they weren't coughing during the pieces"...

To me, in most works, the silence or space in between movements is part of the work. I use that space to absorb what has just happened, or maybe I won't be allowed to, for now, and the orchestra will just charge on. However, it's extremely hard to create that suspenseful or serene effect, when you have a symphony of irritated throats hacking away, or.....I'm going to say it.... a cacoughony.

Anyway, rant over. The piece was excellent and it was a nice choice to start the concert with that.

I'm going to kinda lump the two Mozart concertos together in this next bit, and look at Ms. Uchida's performance overall, because I fear this review is getting too long.

I should start by saying that the Concerto K. 491 in C minor is my favourite piano concerto of all time, and definitely one of my top pieces overall. So I came into this concert with high excitement, high hopes and from Highbury and Islington. I'm pleased to say that I was so very, very satisfied. I love the Concerto in A major (K. 488) also and studied it a couple of times in Uni (studied, not played).

Mitsuko Uchida has been called the 'high priestess of Mozart' by many critics, and I can totally back that up. Uchida brings this wonderful kind of blissful elegance to Mozart. This is not all she brings though - try a bit of passion, fury and majesty on for size.

Uchida played the solo and directed the orchestra, just like old mate Amadeus used to do. I love this, and it is so inspiring to watch. Sometimes I thought there was unnecessary conducting in there, but it never really hindered Mitsuko's performance.

I have to say that Uchida has a gorgeous conducting style that is quite feminine. It's almost like dancing at times. When I say feminine, I mean it is something that a bloke couldn't pull off. Except Jackson (I can say that because I know he probably won't read this far).

Never having seen this work (K. 491) performed live, this was a really special treat for me. To hear things like the clarinet arpeggios, the flute mimicking the piano, the strings swaying and sweeping and an UNBELIEVABLE piano cadenza (please, someone tell me who wrote it) was heightened by the fact that I could see and feel it too. Bloody awesome!!

I'm going to leave it there, because I've rambled on for too long, but honestly, I could talk to you about this concert for houuuuurs.

If you haven't ever heard the 24th Piano Concerto, please listen to it sometime. Even if you don't like classical music, I would like to think that this is a piece that would make you appreciate the genre on a different level.

For recordings, you could listen to oh, I dunno....MITSUKO UCHIDA. Also Geza Anda is wonderful. Check it out.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

The Boy Who Cried Nigeria

If I'm in contact with you via email or social networking sites, you may have noticed that I was hacked by a scammer in the last week. If not, you probably have pretty good spam filters, or just usually ignore what I send you.

It was really, REALLY annoying, but you just gotta try and get through these things. Though the situation is naturally stressful (as your business contacts may be receiving highly suspicious emails), you have to keep as cool as possible. 

All I can suggest is to regularly update your passwords (just for your peace of mind) and the most important thing is to have a 'secondary' email. For this, I would say Google (Gmail) are best, in my opinion. They got back to me really quickly and were able to boot the hacker out of my account.

The main reason I like having two (or more) accounts is that it allows you backup if this sort of thing happens. You have your business contacts located predominantly in one email, and then things like Facebook, Myspace, eBay etc. in the other one (Gmail or your choice). It also means you have another email so that staff at Google, social networking sites and your bank (maybe?) can contact you.

As I said, it was extremely stressful and I lost a lot of sleep and work hours. I am grateful though, that nothing worse happened. Saying that, I know what sort of present I would have for the hacker if I ever met him. Here's a photo of me with a sampling drill from when I was doing some farm work.


Ahh, I'm not really a violent, vengeful person. I actually feel sorry for these people, because they are sick. I spoke to the bloke on chat - I know. Desperate and ignorant, is what they are.

PLEASE - look after all your data etc. - I hope this never happens to any of you! If anyone has any further suggestions for security in this regard, please add them here or write to me.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Just if you missed it....

Here is the 'wrap-up' article and interview about my TV appearance on The Richard and Judy Show, kindly organised and written by Stephanie Ciccarelli from Voices.com. You'll also find the Youtube video on the page.


Although I didn't win the 'contest', I had a really great time!
Thanks to all who left me comments and watched the show - I appreciate your support.

Oh, and just for the heck of it, here is the other video of me doing an impression of Gollum, back in March. For those who are faint hearted, you may want to turn your monitors off or avert your eyes.