'I SAW THE LIGHT' RECEIVES MIXED REACTIONS AT WORLD PREMIERE IN TORONTO 0 232

The highly anticipated biopic of country mega-star Hank Williams titled “I Saw The Light” had its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival last night, which was attended by director Marc Abraham and the movies’ two leads, Tom Hiddleston as Williams and, Elizabeth Olsen, as his first wife, Audrey Mae.

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Soon after the screening, the reviews came pouring in, many offering contrasting opinions as to what they thought. Below is just a sample of what the critics had to say.

Gregory Ellwood, HitFix.com:

“Despite the worthy efforts of stars Tom Hiddleston and Elizabeth Olsen, the Hank Williams biopic “I Saw The Light” is a shockingly bad movie. Outside of a handful of Williams live performances (wonderfully sung by Hiddleston) there is almost no other music in the movie. The English actor has a fine singing voice that approximates Williams’ signature style better than you’d expect…Hank Williams deserves to have his story told with the same creativity and soul he infused his songs with.  “I Saw The Light” is absolutely not that movie.”

Indiewire.com’s Noel Murray:

“Hiddleston’s performance as the hard-living, still-influential country music singer-songwriter is likely to get the most attention, and for good reason. He’s makes an absolutely magnetic Williams, using his wiry frame and wide, thin smile to convey both the fragility of the man and his innate charisma. Hiddleston is so commanding during the rare times when Abraham lets him sing an entire song. Olsen’s Audrey has a lot of acid oozing through her…whenever those two are on screen together—nuzzling each other and snarling at each other with a similar intimacy—“I Saw The Light” is something special.”

Mitch Salem, showbuzzdaily.com:

“Although we hear plenty of Williams’ singing (all recreated remarkably by Hiddleston), there’s very little in the film to suggest why William was different from any other talented, self-destructive music star, or why 60 years later, his work is acclaimed by rock stars as well as Nashville. Hiddleston’s performance is excellent but also wasted, because the script lacks the kind of depth that can make a biographical portrayal feel like a possession rather than an impersonation. Abraham has provided the outline for a film that could have been great with fine acting…solid cinematography…period production design and costumes, but he’s left out the greatness – including the very greatness that the story should have been about.”

Variety.com’s Andrew Barker:

Despite a thoroughly committed, impressive performance from Tom Hiddleston as Williams (and an even better one from Elizabeth Olsen as his first wife, Audrey), the film tackles the life of one of the 20th century’s most seminal musicians with all the passion of a stenographer, making for a dull, unfocused slog through what should have been an effortlessly cinematic story.  Erasing all traces of Britishness from his voice, Hiddleston makes for a very effective country singer…the sheer amount of effort the actor took to nail a number of the singer’s distinctive tics, hiccups and blues notes is obvious. No biopic could ever manage to capture the entirety of such an eventful life…but the omissions Abraham makes are puzzling… the singer’s death is bungled…Abraham neglects to film the fateful trip.”

Jordan Mintzer, hollywoodreporter.com:

“Carried by an uncanny turn from British actor Tom Hiddleston, who convincingly swaps his Loki helmet and staff for a cowboy hat and guitar…it’s unfortunate that Light feels both too traditional and too concerned with showcasing life behind the music, instead of trying to explain why Williams was one of the greatest American musicians of the last century. This picture could garner kudos for its strong lead performances, with Hiddleston bellowing Williams’s ditties like no actor ever has. Rather than showing him as a major artist who came along during a transitional period in music history, Light is much more interested in revealing his failed love affairs, first to Audrey and then to a string of women ending with his last wife Billie Jean Jones. Sequences offer some insights into his thought processes…his songs say far too much already, and perhaps no story can ever do them justice.”

Thewrap.com’s Steve Pond:

“The film paid more attention to its subject’s tortured life than this creative genius…it rose above the standard biopic movies mostly thanks to a towering lead performance by Tom Hiddleston as the haunted country icon…an indelible performance as the star whose excesses turned him into a shell of his former self before his heart gave out. The actor turns out to be a fine, convincing country singer, but that’s not enough. Williams’ voice was high, keening, utterly distinctive and such an integral part of his persona that if you don’t get it right, you’re missing something huge. The music in “I Saw The Light” which should be the heart of the film, is like a very good cover version of a classic song. It’s enjoyable and it’s sometimes enough, but it’s not the real thing.”

Twitter was also inundated with comments and thoughts on the movie from those who had seen it:

@nic919:

“I Saw The Light: Tom Hiddleston plays Hank Williams in biopic. Sings his own songs. Elizabeth Olsen also good. #TIFF15.”

Emma Badame @pollyprissypant:

“Holy cracker, @twhiddleston absolutely kills it as Hank Williams. The singing, the accent. A fitting tribute to an icon. #ISawTheLight.”

@Melekkk_P:

“#ISawTheLight was amazing! Loved the music, emotions & script! #TomHiddleston #TIFF15.”

@KelseyAPye:

“I Saw The Light was an amazing film. Great performances all round.”

James Narvey @jcnarvey:

“I Saw The Light is extremely disappointing. Script and direction are weak but performances good. #TIFF15.”

Baz Bamigboye @BazBam:

“The thing about #ISawTheLight is that @twhiddleston doesn’t shy away from #HankWilliams demons & boy-oh-boy can he sing! Brilliantly captures the sad Southern heart (& accent).”

Nigel M. Smith @nigelmfs:

“I Saw The Light and it’s mostly dull despite some great singing by Tom Hiddleston. He’s electric when on stage as Hank Williams. #TIFF15.”

@MaijaKappler:

“I Saw The Light: a little long and occasionally clumsy, but well-crafted and anchored by phenomenal performances from its two leads #TIFF15.”

@adambvary:

“Tom Hiddleston is very impressive in I SAW THE LIGHT, capturing Hank Williams voice with eerie power. I wish the film was better. #TIFF15.”

Rich Young @tiffgraffer:

“#ISawTheLight, I heard the songs, I appreciated the performances, and I felt sad. Well done by all. #TIFF15.”

“I Saw The Light” is released in the US on November 27 although as yet no UK date has been announced.

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DOREEN TAYLOR TELLS ALL ABOUT HER OFF-BROADWAY SHOW “SINCERELY, OSCAR” & LOOKS TOWARDS A VERY BRIGHT FUTURE 0 201

Doreen Taylor is no stranger to dreaming big. With two music and performance related degrees under her belt, an array of theatre production credits to her name and a successful career as a solo artist, she’s ambitious and not afraid of people knowing it. After her production “Sincerely, Oscar”, which she created and produced herself, had a successful run in Philadelphia last year, the show has now moved to New York and is currently undertaking a 14 week run at Theatre Row, Off-Broadway. In between shows, Doreen kindly took the time to chat to ThisIsTheLatest about the creative process behind the show, her memories of opening night and where Sincerely, Oscar might go in the future.

TITL: First of all, for those unfamiliar with you and your background, can you just give a little insight into your music and performing career? 

Doreen Taylor: I’ve been performing for many years now, and having earned myself degrees in both opera and voice performance, I consider myself very fortunate to have been a part of some fantastic theatre productions including Robert Ward’s The Crucible, in which I played Abigail Williams, and Christine in Phantom Of The Opera. In terms of my music, I released my first album Magic back in 2012 while my latest album Happily Ever After has received great reviews and is to hopefully become an Off-Broadway musical in the next couple of years.

TITL: You’ve been pretty busy lately with your off Broadway show, Sincerely, Oscar, after a successful run in Philadelphia last year. How does it feel to know you’re working on the same streets and around the same venues as some of the biggest and most popular musicals and shows in the world? 

DT: It is pretty surreal. One of the very first musicals I starred in when I was just a kid was “42nd Street” and now here I am all these years later starring in my very first show I have written in an iconic theater on 42nd STREET! It is pretty amazing how life can just come around full circle and give affirmations that I have been on the right path all along. I guess the most amazing part is that the shows that we are honoring by the great Oscar Hammerstein all opened on Broadway within one mile of where we are performing “Sincerely, Oscar” now. That is a pretty humbling feeling!

TITL: You created and produced the show yourself – what is it about this particular show that made you want to bring it to life in the way that you have?

DT: It’s weird… I was busy working on my mainstream Adult Contemporary music career writing, producing and performing my own music and this opportunity came out of nowhere at a music video premiere that I was hosting. I was lucky enough to meet the grandson of Oscar Hammerstein and his lovely family at this event and we instantly hit it off. I felt a strong calling to use my talents to bring recognition to Oscar and help honor this iconic Broadway legend. I created the previous iteration of the show and debuted it in Philadelphia and we did so well that I wanted to bring it to the heart of Broadway. I worked for over a year and a half developing “Sincerely, Oscar” and am so proud at the finished product. It is truly like my child and I feel as though I have nurtured and loved it every step of the way.

TITL: Did you have any prior creative/production experience prior to this or was this project something you felt so passionately about you just had to give it a first time try? 

DT: I always have had a hand in producing my solo mainstream concerts that we have toured around the US, and even some of my music videos, but this is the first time I have written and produced something of this colossal size and importance on the theatrical stage. I feel so lucky that I have been given such a great opportunity right out of the gate!

TITL: Can you talk me through the creative process for the show? Where did your first ideas come from and how did you expand them over time to the point you realised you could make your thoughts and ideas a reality? 

DT: I think the most incredible achievement in the creative process of this show was the way we created the role of “Oscar Hammerstein” himself. Early on, I got it stuck in my mind that I wanted to do something unique and totally “out of the box” for his character. I had just visited Las Vegas and caught a Michael Jackson tribute show at Mandalay Bay where they had created Michael as a hologram and he interacted with the other performers. It blew me away and never quite left me. I wanted to be the very first to bring this technology to the NY stage and I never really let go of that idea – even when others said I was crazy! And now, here we are, being the very first production ON or OFF Broadway that has used this 3d holographic technology in a theatrical production. It is really quite stunning and impressive and I am so honored to be the one to pave the way for this new technology. Sure, there has been some blow back from purist critics who don’t believe in bringing this kind of technology to the theatrical stage- but I have news from them—like it or not, it’s coming and “Sincerely, Oscar” is living proof of it. You can’t stop progress.

TITL: Were there ever any days or times that you questioned or doubted what you were doing, or were you 100% committed to?

DT: Every. Single. Day. It would be weird if I didn’t occasionally doubt my creative choices- especially when you have to deal with ridiculous opinions from people who are afraid of the technology or of the advancement. But at the end of the day, I wouldn’t have changed anything and I am so proud at what has been created. I sometimes sit back while I am performing in the show and absorb the incredible audience response and feel a huge sense of pride that I am here and I am able to live out this incredible dream!

TITL: How did you bring the production’s cast/crew together? Were/are they friends of yours or did you put out a casting call? When did you know you’d found the right people for each part of the show? 

DT: A little of column A, a little of column B. In the case of my gifted director, Dugg McDonough, we had worked together years ago in several productions at Temple University as well as Des Moines Metro Opera Company. I immediately thought of him when I was creating this show and asked him to return to collaborate on this project. As for the rest of the cast and crew, most were hired from referrals and casting. One of the hardest parts of creating any new production is finding the right people to work on it. I can honestly say that in all my years of performing professionally, I have never worked on a show where I truly like and respect every person that is there. This is the first time I can say that. We have become like a family and we all look out and protect each other. It is a really wonderful thing.

TITL: What can you recall of the infamous opening night? Were you nervous or just buzzing and raring to go? 

DT: It went by SO fast! I can say that I am a little nervous before every show I do. That never really goes away and I am actually glad that those butterflies are there. I never get complacent or “phone in” a performance. Every show is like opening night to me. The party was a blast and we really had one amazing night celebrating this great success together!

TITL: Given that Broadway is typically considered to be more of a man’s world, how proud does it make you feel to know you’re proving yourself to be just as good as your male counterparts when it comes to putting on a successful production? 

DT: To be honest, I still feel there is a lack of support and respect for women creators/producers in this industry. While it is admittedly a lot better, there is still a great deal of work that needs to be done. I am really honored to be a strong woman voice out there creating good, commercial theater in an otherwise male dominated industry. It is so sad that in this #metoo era we don’t embrace more female voices attempting to create on the theatrical stage but I think there are more of us out there that will brave the storm and keep pushing the boundaries, regardless if we are always embraced or not while we do it! However, that being said- women need to start supporting women colleagues in theater more. Sad to say that some of the harshest critical voices out there are from other women. That has always baffled me. Trying to blow out the candle of another does not make theirs burn any brighter.

TITL: What advice would you give to anyone out there who has an idea that they’d love to see brought to life on a stage such as one on or off Broadway? What traits might you say they need in order to keep pursuing that idea/dream until it becomes reality?

DT: I would say that dreams can come true and I am living proof of that. However, set your sights with reasonable goals. Start small. Test the waters. People don’t usually wake up one morning and decide to have a show open on Broadway next week. It takes a long time of work, dedication, financial support and most of all- thick skin, to navigate this industry. There will be enormous sacrifices that will need to be made and there will be a lot more tears than laughs at times. But after all that is said and done, there is no greater joy than to see your creation brought to life by fabulously talented people each and every day and I truly feel blessed to have this opportunity.

TITL: Finally then, now that Sincerely, Oscar is proving to be a hit, have you thought about any other productions you might like to work on, or is all your time and energy focused on this for the time being? 

DT: Right now I am focusing on this limited engagement run at Theatre Row in NYC, but I would be lying if I said I am not looking to the future for what is next. I believe we have even bigger and better things in store for “Sincerely, Oscar” coming in the near future. Maybe it will be a national tour, maybe an international tour, or maybe a residency in Vegas? There has been a lot of buzz as to where this should go next… and right now the sky is the limit! I am just excited to see where this remarkable journey will go!

For more information on Sincerely, Oscar visit the official website. You can also keep up to date with Doreen via doreentaylormusic.com, or by following her on Twitter and liking her page on Facebook. Her latest album Happily Ever After is available now. Header photo credit: James Jackson.

LX MASON TALKS “DRINK ME GOODBYE” AND FUTURE ASPIRATIONS 0 123

Having earned considerable attention and a strong following on the back of his debut single “I Don’t”, which to date has been streamed more than 35,000 times on Spotify alone, the latest song by Florida born artist Jon Davis, AKA LX Mason, addresses the desperate attempts so many people make to forget long-term relationships. With plans for an EP in the pipeline, LX Mason chatted to ThisIsTheLatest about song-writing inspiration, his thoughts on social media and his long term artistic goals.

TITL: What makes LX Mason different from all the other acts out there? What’s your unique selling point?

LX Mason: I think I’m unique in the sense that I’m an African American pop artist who isn’t doing R’n’B or rap, but I don’t think that defines me. I think we’re all just out here trying to make what’s true to us. So my unique selling point is, I’m me. Get to know me a little.

TITL: Is there a particular story behind your new single “Drink Me Goodbye”?

LXM: Of course! My songs are a way of coping with things that happen in my world, so you can always count on there being some type of story. I had a falling out with a really close friend of mine years back, and it wrecked me for a little bit until I bounced back. However, I saw from a distance how that person was trying so hard to forget me and I’d say that was the part that hurt the most. We eventually mended things but if we’re being honest, a lot happened during that time and it hasn’t been the same. 

TITL: How did you come up with the concept for the video and is being creative in that way something you enjoy? 

LXM: I LOVE directing. For some reason I always have. And since I was a little kid, I’ve always loved music videos. I bounced some ideas off of my mates, and my co-director Jason Denison. We wanted to portray a story of the depths that someone has to go to in order to forget someone and actually recreate these happy memories but without the other person being there. 

TITL: In terms of your lyrics and general song-writing from who or from where do you find most of your inspiration?

LXM: Real life situations inspire me. There are some pop artists whose writing I definitely appreciate – Julia Michaels, Lauv, Lennon Stella to name a few – but I try not to let that influence my writing because I want to be as authentic to the story, and the emotion, as possible. 

TITL: How easy or hard do you find the song-writing process? Can it depend on the subject you’re wanting to write about or your frame of mind at the time? 

LXM: Yeah definitely depends on what song I’m writing. And if my head isn’t in the right place for it, I have to really push past everything that I’m feeling to get a song out. 

TITL: Is there an EP or album in the works?

LXM: I’m working towards an EP! But definitely a couple more singles out first. 

TITL: Do you have any performance or tour plans you can tell me about?

LXM: At the moment, it’s all about the writing and recording. But things could definitely change, and I’m always keen to perform.

TITL: If you could put together your dream show with four bands or artists, living or dead, who would you choose and where would you play? 

LXM: WHOA. Uhm. I would completely disregard genre and just have a really selfish line-up of people I love. 

TITL: Given that your debut single has already achieved in excess of 35,000 streams, what are your thoughts on social media? Are you someone who believes it to be a powerful and necessary tool in your business, and society in general, or can there be/are there downsides to being so “online” all the time? 

LXM: There’s no question that the abuse of social media has had an effect on mental health. We’ve seen it, and Instagram/Facebook has done a little bit of work to improve it for the user, but I don’t think it’s there just yet. I think there is an aspect of it where it is effective for business, and societally it does increase your world a bit – I’ve met some wonderful people through social media. But if -or when – it crashes, it wouldn’t bother me. Half the time whenever I post something I think about my caption for half a second, post it, and throw my phone across the room because I don’t care. 

TITL: What does the rest of the year have in store for you? 

LXM: More music! Releasing some more of my own, as well as writing for other people’s projects and potentially featuring on some tracks as well. 

TITL: Finally then, given how “full” the music industry is now with both new and established talent, how do you plan to make yourself stay current in the years ahead? What are your long-term aspirations as an artist and where do you see the music industry going/ being in terms of its shape and longevity, as time goes on?

LXM: I think, more importantly, I want to stay true to myself. If that’s current, then great. What’s “current” changes so frequently that if I were to base my artistic identity in that, I wouldn’t know who I am anymore. My long term aspirations is to get where I want to go making the music I want to make whenever I want to make it. I think for the music industry, there’s more of an inclination towards independence and honesty in music that can bring people the music they want to connect to. 

Check out the video for “Drink Me Goodbye” below and for more information on LX Mason, visit his website, give his page a like on Facebook or follow him on Twitter.