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Review: Pre-‘Les Mis,’ Minnie Driver & Gang Sing Live in Welsh High School Musical ‘Hunky Dory’

Review: Pre-'Les Mis,' Minnie Driver & Gang Sing Live in Welsh High School Musical 'Hunky Dory'

Welsh filmmaker Marc Evans’ elegiac, semi-autobiographical high school musical “Hunky Dory,” which played at SXSW last year after its UK release, is finally opening in NY and LA theaters and on VOD March 22 via distrib Variance. The delightful comedy written by Laurence Coriat, set in the sweltering hot summer of 1976, stars a winning Minnie Driver as a drama teacher who mounts a glam rock version of Shakespeare’s “The Tempest.”

Driver gets to display her skills as a singer (she has released two
albums), along with an ensemble of young actors singing live on set–long before “Les Miserables”–led by the film’s breakout, Aneurin Barnard (“Citadel”), who won the Olivier award as best actor in a musical for the West End “Spring Awakening.” They all cover music from
David Bowie to ELO, the Byrds, Beach Boys and Nick Drake in the service of a
contemporary translation of Shakespeare’s tale. The film was composed by Joby Talbot (“Is Anybody There?”) with Jeremy Holland Smith (“Billy Elliot”) as musical director.

Driver based her performance on all her “unconventional teachers who swore at you a lot,” she said at SXSW. The movie, shot in Swansea, was conceived long before “Glee,” and feels both authentic and universal, as we root for the gang to put on their show. “We got to do Shakespeare on stage with music in the moment,” said Barnard. “It was happening there and then.”

Typical of many European productions these days, “Hunky Dory” producers Jon Finn (“Billy Elliot”) and Dan Lupovitz (“Death Defying Acts”) assembled a complex set of financeers: Film Agency for Wales, The Wales Creative IP Fund, Eyepatch LLP, Panaramic LLP, The Aegis Film Fund, Atlantic Swiss Productions, Magna Films, Lipsync Productions, Greene Light Films, Middlemarch Partners, and Brecon Media, with support from the Welsh Assembly Government through the Single Investment Fund.

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