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Million Dollar Baby (2004)
Critics Consensus:Clint Eastwood's assured direction - combined with knockout performances from Hilary Swank and Morgan Freeman - help Million Dollar Baby to transcend its clichés, and the result is deeply heartfelt and moving.
Million Dollar Baby
Million Dollar Baby, American dramatic film, released in 2004, that was directed by Clint Eastwoodand starred Eastwood and Hilary Swank. It garnered rapturous reviews and four Academy Awards, including that for best picture. Million Dollar BabyClint Eastwood and Hilary Swank in Million Dollar Baby (2004), directed by Eastwood.© 2004 Warner Brothers, Inc.The movie is narrated by Eddie “Scrap-Iron” Dupris (played by Morgan Freeman) and opens on a boxingmatch in Los Angelesin which “cut man” and trainer Frankie Dunn (Eastwood) is in the corner of “Big” Willie Little (Mike Colter). Maggie Fitzgerald (Swank) watches the match and later asks Frankie to train her, but he refuses. Frankie is also reluctant to let Big Willie fight in a title match. Frankie runs the Hit Pit boxing gym, and Scrap is his best friend and the maintenance man for the gym. Maggie, a waitress from the Ozarksregion of Missouri, starts working out at the gym. Scrap gives Maggie some tips and lets her borrow a speed bag. Big Willie drops Frankie as his manager and signs with the more aggressive Mickey Mack (Bruce MacVittie). Frankie then reluctantly agrees to train Maggie but states that he will not manage her. After months of training, Maggie is given a manager, but during her first fight, Frankie decides to take over as her manager, and she then knocks out her opponent. Maggie becomes an extraordinarily successful fighter, always knocking out her opponent in the first round. However, managers stop pitting their fighters against her as a result, and Frankie, out of necessity, moves Maggie up to the next weight class. She is equally dominant at this level, and she begins to attract high-profile opportunities, but Frankie turns down such offers. Scrap tells Maggie that Frankie is overprotective of his boxers and arranges for Maggie to meet Mickey Mack, but Maggie remains loyal to Frankie. Frankie accepts a fight in Londonfor Maggie and gives her a green silk robe with the Gaelicphrase “Mo Cuishle” on the back. Frankie, who studies Gaelic, tells Maggie that he does not know what the phrase means. Maggie becomes a popular fighter in Europe, where people cheer for her as “Mo Cuishle.” When Maggie and Frankie return to the United States, Maggie takes Frankie to meet her mother, for whom Maggie has bought a house. Maggie’s mother, Earline (Margo Martindale), and sister, Mardell (Riki Lindhome), respond to the gift with disdain, and they tell Maggie that her boxing career has made her a laughingstock. Maggie is devastated, and she and Frankie leave. On their return to Los Angeles, Frankie agrees to let Maggie travel to Las Vegasto face Billie “The Blue Bear” (Lucia Rijker) for the welterweight title. The Blue Bear has a reputation for aggressiveness and for fighting dirty. In the first two rounds, the Blue Bear’s cheap shots get the best of Maggie, but Maggie gains a distinct upper hand in the third. As Maggie heads back to her corner after the end of the round, however, the Bear ambushes her with a blow to the head. Maggie falls, hitting her head on the stool in her corner. She suffers a catastrophic spinal cord injurythat leaves her quadriplegic. A heartbroken Frankie seeks other opinions to no avail and then has her transferred to a rehabilitation clinic in Los Angeles. After losing a leg to gangrene, Maggie asks Frankie to kill her, as living in this condition is intolerable to her, but he will not. After Maggie bites through her tongue in an effort to bleed to death, however, he changes his mind. He later goes to Maggie’s room, tells her that “Mo cuishle” means “my darling, my blood,” and accedes to her request. Scrap’s narration informs viewers that Frankie never returned to the gym, and it emerges that the story that he has been telling is the text of a letter that he has been writing to Frankie’s estranged daughter. Million Dollar Baby was based on stories in Rope Burns: Stories from the Corner (2000), written by veteran boxing trainer and manager Jerry Boyd under the pen name F.X. Toole, and was adapted for the screen by Paul Haggis. The movie caused a great deal of controversy. Some writers excoriatedit as being a politically motivated piece to argue in favour of legalizing euthanasia, while disability-rights activists complained that the movie wrongly gave the impression that people living with a disability would be better off dead, maintaining that a better ending would have shown Maggie overcoming her despair and embracing her new life. The controversy failed to dent the film’s popularity.
Million Dollar Quartet
Million Dollar QuartetFrom Wikipedia, the free encyclopediaJump to navigationJump to searchThis article needs additional citations for verification. Please help improve this articleby adding citations to reliable sources. Unsourced material may be challenged and removed. (December 2018) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)For the musical, see Million Dollar Quartet (musical).The Million Dollar Quartet. L to R: Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, Elvis Presleyand Johnny Cash"Million Dollar Quartet" is a recording of an impromptu jam sessioninvolving Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, and Johnny Cashmade on December 4, 1956, at the Sun Record Studiosin Memphis, Tennessee. An article about the session was published in the Memphis Press-Scimitar under the title "Million Dollar Quartet". The recording was first released in Europe in 1981 as The Million Dollar Quartet with 17 tracks. A few years later more tracks were discovered and released as The Complete Million Dollar Session. In 1990, the recordings were released in the United States as Elvis Presley - The Million Dollar Quartet. This session is considered a seminal moment in rock and roll. Contents1 Recording session2 Releases3 Songs4 Reunions5 Musical6 Tracks, writers and duration7 See also8 References9 Further reading10 External linksRecording sessionThe jam session seems to have happened by pure chance. Perkins, who by this time had already met success with "Blue Suede Shoes", had come into the studios that day,accompanied by his brothers Clayton and Jay and by drummer W.S. Holland, their aim being to record some new material, including a revamped version of an old blues song, "Matchbox". Sam Phillips, the owner of Sun Records, who wanted to try to fatten this sparse rockabilly instrumentation, had brought in his latest acquisition, Jerry Lee Lewis, still unknown outside Memphis, to play piano (at the time, a Wurlitzer Spinet) on the Perkins session. Lewis' first Sun single would be released a few days later. Sometime in the early afternoon, 21-year-old Elvis Presley, a former Sun artist now with RCA Victor, arrived to pay a casual visit accompanied by a girlfriend, Marilyn Evans. After chatting with Phillips in the control room, Presley listened to the playback of Perkins’ session, which he pronounced to be good. Then he went into the studio and some time later, the jam session began. At some point during the session, Sun artist Johnny Cash, who had recently enjoyed a few hit records on the country charts, arrived as well. (Cash wrote in his autobiography Cash that he had been first to arrive at the Sun Studio that day, wanting to listen in on the Perkins recording session.) Jack Clementwas engineering that day and remembers saying to himself "I think I'd be remiss not to record this," and so he did. After running through a number of songs, Elvis and girlfriend Evans slipped out as Jerry Lee pounded away on the piano. Cash wrote in Cash that "no one wanted to follow Jerry Lee, not even Elvis." Whatever Elvis' feelings may or may not have been in regard to "following" Lewis, Presley was clearly the "star" of the impromptu jam session, which consisted largely of snippets of gospel songs that the four artists had all grown up singing. The recordings show Elvis, the most nationally and internationally famous of the four at the time, to be the focal point of what was a casual, spur-of-the-moment gathering of four artists who would each go on to contribute greatly to the seismic shift in popular music in the late 1950s. During the session, Phillips called a local newspaper, the Memphis Press-Scimitar. Bob Johnson, the newspaper’s entertainment editor, came over to the studios with UPIrepresentative Leo Sora with photographer George Pierce. Johnson wrote an article about the session, which appeared the following day in the Press-Scimitar under the headline "Million Dollar Quartet". The article contained the now-famous photograph of Presley seated at the piano surrounded by Lewis, Perkins and Cash (the uncropped version of the photo also includes Evans, shown seated atop the piano). ReleasesProfessional ratingsReview scoresSourceRatingAllMusicMusicHound5/5Rough GuidesIn 1969, Shelby Singletonbought Sun Records. He began a long search of the Sun catalogue, browsing through more than 10,000 hours of tape. At the same time, Singleton licensed much, if not all, of the Sun catalogue to the BritishCharlylabel for reissue in Europe. As a result of Singleton’s and Charly's searches, a portion of the session came to light. This was issued in Europe in 1981 as "Charly/Sun" LP #1006 The Million Dollar Quartet, and it contained 17 tracks, focusing on gospel/spiritualmusic from the session. Several years later, additional material was discovered. This resulted in the release of the 1987 "Charly/Sun" 2-LP set #CDX 20 The Complete Million Dollar Session, together with their simultaneous issue in CDformat in Europe. In 1990, they were replicated by RCA for US distribution as a CD and LP, titled, Elvis Presley - The Million Dollar Quartet (RCA CD # 2023-2-R), the sleeve notes of which were written by Colin Escottof Showtime Music, Toronto, Ontario, Canada. In 2006, RCA used a copy of the session recordings owned by Presley to create a 50th-anniversary issue of the session. The new release placed the titles in the original recorded sequence and contained about twelve minutes of previously unavailable material. According to Ernst Jorgensen, an authority on Elvis who consults for RCA, the published material contains about 95 percent of the master recordings. "We found three reels", he says, "You could always argue that there were more. But in the first you can hear Elvis arriving and in the last you can hear him leaving. I doubt that there are more." In his liner notes to The Survivors Live, a 1982 album that reunited Cash, Lewis and Perkins, Cash claims that Elvis performed "This Train is Bound for Glory" and "Vacation in Heaven" during the 1956 session, but neither track has surfaced. The released albums contain 46 musical tracks, most of which are incomplete and are interspersed with chatter between the participants. They are not pristine, well rehearsed studio recordings, which were meant for commercial release, but rather the sound of a group of friends, who are gathered together to play old favorites and share the pleasure of making music together. Bob Johnson described it as "an old fashioned barrel-house session with barber shop harmonies resulting." SongsCountry musicand country gospelloom large in the choice of songs. The songs of such country and Westernlegends as Bill Monroe, Ernest Tubb, Hank Snowand Gene Autryare among those featured. Lewis played most of the piano and Presley took nearly all of the lead vocals. The other participants easily follow Presley’s lead with what seems a close familiarity with his choice of songs. Critics have remarked on the irony of his choices as rock & rollwas branded as satanic music at the time. Carl Perkinstook the lead on only "Keeper Of The Key" and seemed content to play guitar and supply harmony vocals. He had, however, been singing all afternoon. Clayton Perkinsand Jay Perkinsand drummer W. S. Hollandcan be heard on the earliest titles. The rhythm guitar on the earlier songs was played by Charles Underwood, who was a writer for Phillips’s publishing companies. Presley also brought with him another aspiring singer, Cliff Gleaves, who might be participating on some of the ensemble parts. Jerry Lee Lewis can be heard more frequently, often singing in duet with Presley and at the end of the session, when Presley got up to leave, he swiftly took over the piano and whipped off five piano ravers in rapid succession, including a rousing "Crazy Arms" (his debut Sun single) and a soulful make-over of Gene Autry's "You're the Only Star in My Blue Heaven". Colin Escott, author of the sleeve notes for Elvis Presley - The Million Dollar Quartet, reported that according to Sun employee and session participant Charles Underwood, Presley and Phillips went into the control room while Lewis was playing and Presley commented to Bob Johnson that "[Lewis] could go. I think he has a great future ahead of him. He had a different style and the way he plays piano gets inside me." Johnny Cash’s voice does not seem to appear on any of the released tracks. Since his voice is not obvious on the tracks, the point at which Cash arrived at the studio has been a matter of discussion. Carl Perkins and othershave stated that Cash was already at the studios when Presley arrived, with Perkins adding that Cash had stopped into the studios to "get some money". Colin Escott reports that according to attendee Bob Johnson (whose article was published in the Memphis Press-Scimitar the day after the session), Cash joined Presley, Perkins and Lewis on "Blueberry Hill" and "Isle Of Golden Dreams." This was confirmed by Carl Perkins in a 1972 interview, when he stated that "we did things like 'Blueberry Hill', 'Island Of Golden Dreams', 'I Won't Have To Cross The Jordan Alone', 'The Old Rugged Cross', 'Peace in the Valley', 'Tutti Frutti', and 'Big Boss Man'." Of these, only "Peace in the Valley" has been released. Cash himself, in his 1997 book Cash: The Autobiographycommented, "I was there - I was the first to arrive and the last to leave, contrary to what has been written - but I was just there to watch Carl record, which he did until mid-afternoon, when Elvis came in with his girlfriend. At that point the session stopped and we all started laughing and cutting up together. Then Elvis sat down at the piano, and we started singing gospel songs we all knew, then some Bill Monroesongs. Elvis wanted to hear songs Bill had written besides "Blue Moon of Kentucky", and I knew the whole repertoire. So, again contrary to what some people have written, my voice is on the tape. It's not obvious, because I was farthest away from the mic and I was singing a lot higher than I usually did in order to stay in key with Elvis, but I guarantee you, I'm there." Other reports, including one in a very detailed account in Peter Guralnick's book, Last Train To Memphis - The Rise of Elvis Presley, suggest that Cash stayed for only a short time and then left, possibly to do some Christmas shopping. Colin Escott also reports that Cash might have been brought in for the last part of the session, after Sam Phillipshad decided to call the Memphis Press Scimitar. Cash's presence for the entire session might be confirmed, or denied, by four pieces of “chatter” caught on the tapes. In the first, another Sun artist, Smokey Joe Baugh, came by and his gravelly voice can be heard after "I Shall Not Be Moved", saying "You oughta get up a quartet", which could either mean that they should add a fourth, or could also mean that the four of them should become an official quartet. In the second, a female voice can be heard asking if "This Rover BoysTrio can sing 'Farther Along'?", which could imply that only three (trio) were present at that point. (Elvis' then girlfriend, Marilyn Evans, confirmed in 2008 that the voice was not hers, though she is later heard requesting the song "End of the Road.")Yet on the track prior to this Elvis can be heard saying "take it easy, boy" as someone exits the session. In the third piece of chatter, Elvis is plainly heard mentioning Cash by name on the track "As We Travel Along The Jericho Road", at the 0:07 mark, although the form of the reference leaves it ambiguous as to whether Cash was on premises at that point. Finally, Elvis can also be heard saying goodbye to someone named Johnny during the "Elvis Says Goodbye" track that closes the 50th anniversary release which seems to indicate that Presley was present when Cash left the session. Country musicwas not the only choice of the participants; they performed "Home! Sweet Home!", a sentimental ballad as an energetic rockabillyclip. They can also be heard turning their attention to the hit parade of the day. Presley led the session with "Out Of Sight, Out Of Mind," an R & Bsong popularized by the Five Keys. Meanwhile, Lewis sings one line of Chuck Berry's "Too Much Monkey Business" which leads into Lewis and Presley experimenting with snippets of Berry's "Brown Eyed Handsome Man." Elvis can also be heard singing a snippet of Little Richard's "Rip It Up" (with a ribald change in the lyric) and Pat Boone's hit of the day, "Don’t Forbid Me" which Elvis on the tape claims was first offered to him but the demo "sat around my house" without being played. In addition, Presley previewed material that he was considering for up-coming RCA Victor sessions in January and February 1957. He sang "Is It So Strange," "Peace In The Valley," and "That's When Your Heartaches Begin," which he acknowledges on the tape as having been one of the songs he recorded for Sun during his demo session a couple of years earlier, and which he would record again for RCA Victor a month later. In the case of "Is It So Strange", he comments, "Ol' Faron Youngwrote this song sent to me to record." The title which most critics seem to highlight is Presley’s rendition of "Don't Be Cruel," one of his major hits of 1956 (see 1956 in music). This is not Presley singing Presley, but his imitation of Jackie Wilson, then the lead singer with Billy Ward’s Dominoes, imitating him. It appears as though the Presley entourage spent a few days in Las Vegas(most likely during Presley's short-lived tenure earlier in the year at the Frontier Hotel) and went to watch Jackie Wilson, who had obviously built an impersonation of Presley into his act. Presley describes Jackie Wilson tearing up Las Vegas audiences with a house-on-fire rendition of "Don't Be Cruel". He goes on to say that, "He tried so hard until he got much better, boy, much better than that record of mine.... I went back four nights straight and heard that guy do that," he says, imitating Wilson's bluesy smolder and big finish. "He sung the hell out of the song," Elvis can be heard saying with admiration, adding with a laugh, "I was on the table lookin' at him, 'Get 'im off, get 'im off!'" Obviously on a roll, Presley, then ripped into a slower, sassier version of "Paralyzed," a song recorded for his second album and also released on an extended play 45. He was backed up by Perkins and his trio. According to the Rolling Stone review of the album, "'The Complete Million Dollar Session' provides a rare post-Sun glimpse of Elvis Presley momentarily free of the golden shackles of stardom and the manipulativegrasp of his manager, Colonel Tom Parker. His singing, especially on the gospel numbers, is natural and relaxed, minus some of the trademark mannerisms of his official RCA releases." Colin Escott has said, "They mixed and matched their disparate styles – and their innate musicality ensured that what emerged had the rarest of all musical qualities: originality." The surviving members of the Quartet session would reunite several times in years to come, with Cash, Lewis and Perkins uniting in 1982 for the concert album The Survivors Liveand again, in 1985, Perkins, Lewis, Cash and Roy Orbison, also a Sun recording artist in 1956, went back into the Sun Studios to record the album Class of '55. ReunionsThe Survivors Live- a 1982live album featuring Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Carl Perkinsduring Johnny Cash's 1981 tour of Europe.Class of '55- a 1986 reunion of the surviving members of the "Million Dollar Quartet", this time adding another Sun Recordsalumnus, Roy Orbison; this was actually recorded at the original Memphis Recording Service building.Interviews from the Class of '55 Recording Sessions - an album featuring interviews and chatter during the recording of Class of '55, which won the Grammyfor Best Spoken Word Albumin 1987.MusicalMain article: Million Dollar Quartet (musical)The stage musical Million Dollar Quartet, with a book by Floyd Mutruxand Colin Escott, dramatizes the Million Dollar Quartet session. It premiered at Florida's Seaside Music Theatre and was then staged at Village Theatrein Issaquah, Washington (a Seattle suburb) in 2007,breaking box office records. The musical opened for a limited run at Chicago's Goodman Theatreon September 27, 2008.Mutrux co-directed the Chicago production with Eric D. Schaeffer, of Virginia's Signature Theatre. The show transferred to Chicago's Apollo Theater where it opened on October 31, 2008. The Broadwayproduction opened at the Nederlander Theatreon April 11, 2010.The Broadway production closed on June 12, 2011 after 489 performances and 34 previews, and then re-opened Off-Broadwayat New World Stages.Million Dollar Quartet then opened in the West Endat the Noël Coward Theatreon February 28, 2011, with previews from February 8. The Broadway play was nominated for three Tony Awardsin 2010: Best Musical, Best Book of a Musicalfor Escott and Mutrux, and Best Featured Actor in a Musicalfor Levi Kreis. Kreis won, marking the show’s sole Tony win. Tracks, writers and duration
Canadian hospital sues mother of million
Canadian hospital sues mother of million-dollar baby, amid growing concern over Chinese birth tourismDozens of ‘baby houses’ have sprung up in British Columbia to house pregnant Chinese women seeking automatic Canadian citizenship for their children, with one in five births at Richmond Hospital involving non-resident mothers PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 13 June, 2018, 6:26amUPDATED : Thursday, 14 June, 2018, 11:33am
Elton John: The Million Dollar Piano
Elton John: The Million Dollar PianoEXPERIENCE THE LARGER-THAN-LIFE CONCERT ON THE BIG SCREEN Dates: Tuesday, March 18 and Wednesday, March 26 Time: 7:00pm (local time) Run Time: 2 hours (approximate) Ticketing: Tickets are available by clicking the Buy Ticketsbutton in the menu above. If online ticketing is not available for your location, you can purchase your tickets by visiting the box office at your local participating cinema. Special Fathom Features: An incredible set list including all of Elton John's greatest hits PLUS an exclusive behind-the-scenes look at the making of Goodbye Yellow Brick Road. "Elton John and Las Vegas were made for each other" Gavin Edwards, Rolling Stone Produced and Directed in 2012 by Yamaha Entertainment Group, this VIP Las Vegas experience features all of Elton's greatest hits from his legendary career including "Rocket Man," "Tiny Dancer," "Your Song" and more. At the centerpiece of this larger-than-life concert event is the show's namesake Yamaha piano, a one-of-a-kind engineering marvel featuring more than 68 LED video screens, which display imagery to complement each of the show's iconic songs. The piano weighs in at nearly 3,200 pounds and is the brainchild of Elton and Yamaha Entertainment Group founder Chris Gero and was designed by Yamaha industrial designer Akie Hinokio. Don't miss this once-in-a-life time event when Elton John: The Million Dollar Piano comes to a cinema near you! Elton is one of the top-selling solo artists of all time, with 35 gold and 25 platinum albums, 29 consecutive Top 40 hits, and he has sold more than 250 million records worldwide. Elton holds the record for the biggest selling single of all time, "Candle in the Wind '97," which sold 37 million copies. He also holds the record for most appearances on Billboard's Adult Contemporary chart, with his newest single, "Home Again" marking his 69th entry. Since his career began in 1969 he has played over 3,000 concerts worldwide. John has recently been named the first recipient of the BRITs Icon Award, which recognizes the very highest level of British music achievement, presented only to iconic artists whose writing, recording and performances set them apart as having made a lasting impact on the nation's culture. Elton John’s The Million Dollar Piano show made its debut performance at The Colosseum, Caesars Palace, Las Vegas, on September 28, 2011. Elton onstage in The Million Dollar Piano show, Caesars Palace, Las Vegas, 2011 Elton was no stranger to this amazing auditorium; he had already performed his hit show, The Red Piano, 243 times in this arena. This is by a mile the most shows he has performed in one venue. Created and designed by David LaChapelle, The Red Piano debuted at The Colosseum on February 14, 2004. It was originally booked for 75 shows over three years, but the agreement was soon extended, and the final Red Piano show took place five years later on April 22, 2009. On September 23, 2011, Elton celebrated his ruby Las Vegas anniversary — 40 years since he first played there — with the debut of the astonishing new show, The Million Dollar Piano. Aside from his band, Davey Johnstone (guitars and vocals), Nigel Olsson (drums and vocals), the late Bob Birch (bass), John Mahon (percussion and vocals) and Kim Bullard (keyboards) plus 2CELLOS (Stjepan Hauser and Luka Sulic), backing vocalists Rose Stone, Tata Vega, Jean Witherspoon and Lisa Stone, and percussionist Ray Cooper, Elton shared the stage with another shining star — The Million Dollar Piano. This unique instrument, created especially for Elton by Yamaha, is an engineering marvel. It features more than 68 LED video screens, and took nearly four years to construct. The piano is the perfect accompaniment to Elton’s music, displaying imagery to complement his greatest hits, such as Bennie and the Jets, Rocket Man, Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting and Circle of Life. This onstage line-up, never before seen at an Elton John concert, heralded Elton’s three-year residency at The Colosseum, with Creative Direction by Mark Fisher and Patrick Woodroffe. At the time Elton declared, “Caesars Palace is just a perfect idyllic place to play, and the show will be a gargantuan feast of music and imagery. I’m going to have a fabulous piano that Yamaha have been working on for four years, and that’s the reason why the show is called The Million Dollar Piano.” Reviews from the first night of The Million Dollar Piano were a delight to read. The Las Vegas Sun writer Robin Leach reviewed The Million Dollar Piano in glowing terms, concluding that the show left him, “…deliriously happy and thrilled”, and making this prediction: “Don’t be at all surprised if it’s a total sellout with the three-year term quickly expanding to five. Don’t run to the box office — race there. You’ll be talking about The Million Dollar Piano for years to come. Simply put, it’s one epic masterpiece of musical entertainment.” The LA Times reviewer noticed that, “To fully appreciate the spectacle that is Elton John’s new show The Million Dollar Piano at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, you have to pay attention to the details, such as the jumbo piano-roll swirls that flank the piano player and change colors throughout the night, shifting from gold to ruby to emerald to sapphire. Not that you can miss them. They’re the size of stretch SUVs. Or the pair of cocker spaniel bas-reliefs tucked at the base of another set piece, representing John’s two canine companions, which sit beneath a handful of cupids leaning on a ledge and peering down amid bountiful grapevines. Or the tennis-court-sized screen behind John and his five-piece core band, which displays dozens of animated backdrops to accompany the songs, moving from glowing sunsets and spinning candelabras to carnival scenes to live-action clips of John throughout the years in many ridiculous outfits.” Creating The Million Dollar PianoThe band equipment and The Million Dollar Piano set, 2011 The Million Dollar Piano was conceived and is directed by Patrick Woodroffe and Mark Fisher, who have collaborated on presenting the world’s greatest live events for the past 25 years. Mark Fisher conceived the basic concept and designed the production while Patrick Woodroffe is the Show Director and Lighting Designer. Mark Fisher designed Elton’s 1999 Medusa Tour as well as shows, events and portable architecture for some of the most famous names in popular entertainment and sports. These include The Wall for Pink Floyd in 1980, Steel Wheels for the Rolling Stones in 1989 and 360° for U2 in 2009. His theatre shows include the West End hit We Will Rock You, and two shows - KÀ and Viva Elvis — for Cirque du Soleil in Las Vegas. Mark came up with the basic concept presenting Elton as the Sun King, which is a reference to Louis XIV of France, the builder of Versailles and thus a great patron of European Baroque architecture. He remembers that, “at the first meeting with Elton I offered that he was now the King of Rock and that he should present himself as the Sun King of Las Vegas. The coincidence of this image with the Roman fantasy of Caesars Palace was no accident, and it provided the springboard for my hyper-Baroque stage set.” There were only five months from the genesis of Mark’s concept to the launch of the show. He said, “Patrick and I met with Elton in late April 2011. I described my vision of the stage set, there were no sketches or drawings. Elton got the idea immediately; I talked about the golden sun-rays of Bernini’s Ecstasy of St Teresa in Rome, of the extravagant exaggeration of form found in the architecture of northern Italy and south Germany, of the gilded, mirrored halls of Versailles. What I was imagining was the creation of an over-the-top world that presented Elton as I saw him, dancing on the knife-edge that separates high art from low camp.” “I guess Elton was happy with my description,” says Mark, “because he announced that he didn’t want to see any illustrations of the idea or the design. Instead, he wanted to ‘be surprised’ — to arrive at The Colosseum two days before opening night, walk into the theatre and see everything for the first time. Over the following weeks I produced numerous sketches and detailed visualisations, but Elton saw none of them. He really did walk into the theatre, as promised, 48 hours before the first show. And I’m delighted to say that — as a result of the hard work of many people who supported my original concept with their own creative contributions — he wept tears of joy.” Sculptor Jacqui Pyle enabled the transformation of Mark’s sketches into the physical objects on the stage. She created beautiful maquettes, detailed hand-sculpted models that are then scaled up to build the full-size pieces of scenery. As soon as the production elements were assembled in Las Vegas, Elton’s crew gave a most apposite nickname to the pieces of swirling scenery on either side of the stage — they were named, and remain entitled, “the Danish pastries.” Mark explains that, “in various changing forms, the pastries were in my sketches almost from the beginning. I was working to balance the huge size of The Colosseum stage with the human scale of one man at the piano. The pastries were part of the scenic frame that I created to do that job.” “Then there are some dead areas each side of the stage that I filled with burgundy velour drapes swagged over poles finished with rocket finials, and I thought we needed some nice regal dogs to finish off the composition. They are distracted guard dogs — they are facing out into the audience but they have their heads turned back towards the stage so that they are looking at Elton.” Mark Fisher too has been looking at Elton for many years. He bought Elton’s first albums, Elton John and Tumbleweed Connection, in 1970, and has enjoyed his music ever since. He says, “it has been a privilege to work with Elton on this show — I have tried to create an on-stage world that represents my image of him as an artist. I think one of the most successful moments where the song, the stage design, the lighting and the video come together is Don’t Let the Sun Go Down On Me — the whole composition and emotion of the number is very strong.” Lighting Designer Patrick Woodroffe has lit and directed shows for many of the world’s greatest artists including ABBA, Bob Dylan, Genesis, Michael Jackson, Paul McCartney, Take That and The Rolling Stones. A recent project is the lighting of the opening and closing ceremonies for the 2012 Olympic Games. Patrick also remembers that first meeting with Elton. “The day we went to meet Elton at his home in Windsor, England, Mark suggested that our approach should be to present Elton as a 17th Century Sun King in a 21st Century Las Vegas! Elton loved the concept, and Mark started very quickly to produce sketches that illustrated the idea. They were all wonderfully extravagant and expressive, and immediately excited me with the possibility of changing the appearance of the stage with the way in which it might be lit. In a two-hour show one is constantly looking to take the static set-up of the artist, the musicians and the scenery, and transform it with colour and movement to create a different atmosphere for each of the songs that is performed. Mark gave us the opportunity to do this in spades.” Patrick was also impressed that Elton was willing to give them autonomy over the show’s production and design. He knew that “whatever we did had to be something that reflected where Elton was right now,” and with support from Tony King, Elton’s in-house Creative Director, Patrick felt that he and Mark were “on the right track.” In fact he and Mark now feel that The Million Dollar Piano “is some of the best work we’ve done in over 20 years of working together.” Patrick remembers the excitement when he finally encountered Blossom, the actual million dollar piano, on The Colosseum stage. “I always thought that the piano would be an extraordinary thing, but I had only seen it in isolation in the workshop, and although it was clearly impressive I wasn’t sure how we would integrate it into the show. It wasn’t until she was unveiled in all her glory on the stage in Las Vegas and was then plugged in, turned on and tuned up, that it suddenly felt that she had come home. As we created and then honed the colours and images for each of the stage pictures, Elton’s piano took on the character of that song, either mimicking a colour from the lighting or taking part of an image from the video screen. As soon as the stage and the piano worked in concert with each other some sort of magic appeared, and Elton and the piano suddenly became the focus from which everything else appeared to emanate.” Patrick explains the technicalities of lighting The Million Dollar Piano show. “The lighting is programmed into a control board over many long days and nights. A particular song is played over and over again while we analyse the rhythm, the mood, the lyrics and the musical changes and then, by instinct as much as anything, we paint a picture that accentuates all those elements. It’s a very special way to earn a living – interpreting wonderful music with an electronic paintbox and a canvas like the one that Mark has provided for us in his extraordinary stage set.” He adds, “the challenge of putting a shape to Elton’s show is that the material has such enormous breadth. At times it is extravagant and over-the-top and demands a visual treatment to match, but at others there are numbers that have such simplicity and poignancy that a white spotlight and a dark stage is all that is needed. Add to this the fact that Elton plays not only with his full band, but also at times alone and at others with Ray Cooper, and so the focus of the performance is constantly shifting. But these challenges also offer a huge advantage. Over the hour and half that Elton is on stage the audience gets a hit of just about everything.” Patrick is unequivocal when asked to name his favourite songs from The Million Dollar Piano: “I love Philadelphia Freedom for the cartoon exuberance of Sam Pattinson’s video treatment, and Your Song for its elegant simplicity. And nothing beats the beautiful moving elegy to New York in Mona Lisa and Mad Hatters, where the lighting consists of three single white spotlights that offset that amazing piece of film.” Enhancing the MusicElton, the late Bob Birch, Nigel Olsson, Davey Johnstone and John Mahon onstage in The Million Dollar Piano show, 2011 For a project as huge as The Million Dollar Piano, Elton likes to surround himself with creative people and just allow them to create. He leaves them to it, he does not interfere and, as his Creative Director Tony King says, “He didn’t want to know about anything we were doing until he arrived in Las Vegas.” This unusually free rein placed huge responsibility on Screen Content Producer Sam Pattinson, who was selected for the role simply because, as Tony King says, “He’s part of the best team of people that put lighting and staging and video together. Sam Pattinson, Patrick Woodroffe and Mark Fisher have worked on some of the greatest live shows ever — Pink Floyd, The Rolling Stones, U2, Take That…” A former student of sculpture at Central Saint Martin’s College of Art and Design, Sam entered the world of video production via involvement in independent film-making. His entrance into creating visuals for the world’s ultimate live shows came via a colleague who enlisted him to work on the 2002 Rolling Stones Forty Licks tour. For Sam, working with Elton has its origin in his childhood. His family home resonated with Elton’s music; both his brother and his designer father were huge fans. From The Royal College of Art Sam’s father knew fellow designer Alan Aldridge, creator of the famous artwork for Elton’s 1975 album Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy. Sam remembers singing along to Goodbye Yellow Brick Road; a memory that would be rekindled spectacularly in years to come. “The brief,” says Sam, “was to enhance the music. We wanted to make the show more intimate, bringing the focus back to Elton’s performance. We would do this by following the architecture and style of Mark Fisher’s stage set and extending that set on to the screen. So we wouldn’t have full-on full-frame video playing throughout the show, just at certain points. At other times we would be creating environments that were less distracting than the full-frame films.” Alan Aldridge’s style inspired the video for Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, a fantastical landscape which uses a massive montage of archival elements such as music videos, photos, interviews, costumes and pastiches of song lyrics to tell the story of the milestones and achievements of Elton’s life. Towards the end a flower bud opens to reveal a smiling baby, Elton’s son, Zachary. This is a moment that always elicits warm applause from the audience. And this was the only film that Elton wanted to change when he finally saw the finished version — he wanted Zachary’s image to be bigger! Trunk Animation, under Creative Director Luke Halls, was impressive in their depth of research and attention to detail. “There are many Elton nuances in these films that the real fans will spot and enjoy,” says Tony, “for example we used Elton’s original Donald Duck costume from his 1980 Central Park concert. And Yoko Ono gave me permission to use the likeness of John Lennon — she said John would have loved it.” The 19 films and videos used in The Million Dollar Piano were completed in less than four months, achieving a scarily tight deadline: 10 computers at a time working 24 hours a day only create a few seconds’ worth of film in any one day. Sam worked with a core team of eleven animators and two production crew based in London — “the biggest in-house team we’ve ever had on one job” — and overall it took 175 people to create those 19 films. Even after overseeing these 19 films, Sam Pattinson cheerfully acknowledges that, “all Elton needs is a piano and a microphone and you’ve got a fantastic show.” All through this project the Screen Content has been created to enhance the songs, to help them have even more of an emotional impact on the audience. “With Elton our work doesn’t need to prop up the performance, we enhance it, and we can be quite subtle in what we do. His performance is so impressive, so energising and so sincere; you can’t help but enjoy it. The show is two hours long and it just flies by — it is a truly great show.”
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