Sunday 25 February 2018

Katy sparkles in true showbiz fairytale

Paul Whitington

katy perry: part of me

(PG, general release, 97 minutes )

Director: Dan Cutforth, Jane Lipsitz Stars: Katy Perry, Russell Brand, Rihanna, Shannon Woodward

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Since Katy Perry appeared from nowhere with the massive international hit I Kissed a Girl in 2008, she's become a kind of one-woman mini industry.

She's sold 11 million albums and almost 75 million digital tracks worldwide, launched her own perfume and a Katy Perry Barbie doll, performed sellout world tours and appeared as a judge on The X Factor.

She even ventured into the shark pit of celebrity marriage, and her doomed and unlikely relationship with Russell Brand provides a sombre undercurrent to this otherwise irresistibly frothy musical documentary.

Katy Perry: Part of Me was filmed during Perry's gruelling California Dreams world tour in 2011, which involved 124 shows in 10 months.

The show itself was more like a Broadway musical, with elaborate stage designs and storylines danced and acted out by Perry and a small army of performers and singers.

It must have been a real grind, and Katy made her schedule more onerous by flying back to Hollywood whenever she got a break to spend time with her husband.

It's the kind of workload that would fell an ox, but, as this sometimes fawning (Perry is a producer) but always entertaining film demonstrates, she is a determined woman.

In between invigorating live performances, we learn a little about her unlikely background.

She grew up mainly in Santa Barbara and was immersed from a young age in the joys of Pentecostal evangelism.

Her parents were both ministers, and by the time she was nine Katy was singing and performing in church. She began writing songs in her early teens, and recorded a gospel album at the age of 15.

In 2002, she moved to Los Angeles to try to break into the music business, but success was not instant. She worked on an album for several years with producer Glen Ballard but it was never released, and she was signed and then dropped by several labels.

But she would not give up, and was ready for success when it finally came.

Katy Perry: Part of Me opens and closes with testimonies from fans, whose devotion is extraordinary.

Perry certainly doesn't short-change them: she meets and greets audience members before the concerts, and the fans with the most elaborate costumes are invited onstage to dance.

Perry's blindingly bright and sparkly costumes are like something out of a fairytale directed by Busby Berkeley; she changes them constantly, to the delight of her followers.

Offstage, however, she seems surprisingly down to earth.

She also allows herself to be filmed at her dowdiest, without make-up, and even in floods of tears after separating from Brand mid-tour.

But the show must go on, and Katy summons that blinding smile from hidden depths when the time comes to perform.

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