Author Archive for Xanthe Coward

08
Dec
16

More Than A Boy

More Than A Boy

Brisbane Powerhouse with Two&Co

Brisbane Powerhouse Turbine Studio

November 24 – 27 2016

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

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Brisbane’s darling, Tom Oliver, in his fearless debut cabaret directed by David Bell, shares an epic family story, told to him countless times by his mother. We know it’s often the true stories that make the best cabaret shows. We also know cabaret is a genre we grow into, and it’s not for everyone. But Tom Oliver is made for cabaret and he comes of age in More Than A Boy

The 60-minute show feels like it’s got some settling to do and this will happen over time. Comprising a surprisingly eclectic mix of musical numbers, it’s a treat to hear original songs penned by Oliver, Andrew McNaughton and Wes Carr, alongside a few reimagined gems, each neatly placed to punctuate or advance the true tale of a young Croatian who flees a terror stricken Yugoslavia. Have you ever even heard Where Do I Go performed away from a production of Hair? Oliver sings this with the candour and longing of a refugee prepared to flee one life and cross unknown territory to find another, in this case in New Zealand. We go on a long, strange sea journey (More Than A Boy and McNaughton’s The Search and Tears in My Throat) before the shock and surprise of the clever, comical Swear Song, which reminds me of Briony Kimmings’ The Fanny Song.

The title track is a standout, a stunning songwriting achievement for McNaughton and for Oliver a terrific showcase. Could it be Oliver’s next new release? It’s a chair turner. It belongs on an EP with Carr’s Hey Brother and the sure-hit These Are the Times. Will somebody make that happen?

I sort of want the start of the show to let us know more clearly where we are headed – on one level we need earlier, clearer contextualisation – but then it’s such a lovely not-really-a-surprise-at-all to learn by the end of the journey that everything Oliver’s shared is about a family member and probably actually really happened that way.

Oliver succeeds in juxtaposing You’ve Got a Friend in Me (Toy Story) against I Won’t Grow Up (Peter Pan / American Idiot) followed by Queen’s Under Pressure and The Beatles’ beautiful Blackbird, and these are the transitions that will need to be a little smoother in the next incarnation of the show. Very smooth – we knew it would be – is Sondheim’s There Are Giants In the Sky (Into the Woods) and the deceptively gentle opening number Nature Boy cut short to good effect. These early numbers and later, literally shifting gears once more, a lilting Every Now and Then (Thirsty Merc), as well as a New Zealand accent and a gorgeous Colin Farrell/Colin Fassnidge winking Irish brogue, spot on, are delivered in Oliver’s signature style, his vocal work strong and sweet. He’s a young, wide-eyed sage, wisdom beyond this lifetime locked away behind a baby face, and able to bring out a powerful rock persona when things need to be taken up a notch.

But a one-man show is never simply that. Beneath the melody of many of the musical numbers, Oliver’s three-piece band offers a subversive late-night/all-night underground jazz vibe. At times this threatens to fray a song’s narrative thread but the essence remains, like messing with the Christmas Pudding. Everyone can see something funky has happened in the kitchen – perhaps the chef has enjoyed more brandy than the batter – and the flavour and foodie photos will be just as satisfying, of course, but it’s not what Mum used to make. This is both shocking and refreshing, a proper cabaret shake up in terms of what we’ve seen recently jumping from the bandwagon. Oliver tells me the sure, solid sound comes from the musicians having worked together before. And with just one rehearsal for this Brisbane Powerhouse Wonderland season, the result is impressive.

More Than a Boy will undoubtedly tour and deservedly so. It’s a highly engaging all-new-ancient universal coming-of-age tale. One of our most versatile and adaptable and adorable performers, Oliver genuinely connects with his audience, gives us his all and leaves us wanting more, much more.

If you missed it this time, look out for More Than A Boy’s return season somewhere, sometime…

In the meantime, there is VELVET

06
Dec
16

Other Women

Other Women

Brisbane Powerhouse with Charming Rebel & Wax Lyrical Productions

Brisbane Powerhouse Turbine Platform

November 25 & 25 and December 3 2016

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

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Lizzie Moore’s latest show doesn’t quite match up with Joel Devereux’s slightly erotic and very inviting publicity image for it, but this bold cabaret makes a strong statement about the way we continue to view the women in our lives and the way we present ourselves, as women, to the world. Featuring a cast of circus, burlesque and musical theatre performers, Other Women asks the tough questions, and leaves us to come up with the answers we’d like our sons and daughters to hear. Are we going to keep putting every sort of woman in a box? Are we going to keep measuring every sort of woman by the same yardstick? Are we going to continue to laugh uncomfortably at the misogynist jokes and references our friends and family members and the media make rather than actually make changes to the language we use every day, and fuck off the cultural lies that keep women from just showing up and feeling genuinely confident to be who they want to be without shrinking or making themselves invisible or putting on an unsustainable OTT Wonder Woman act? Phew. DISCUSS.

We were all allowed to call ourselves feminists…as long as we were not pricks. We were allowed to have one but just not behave like one.

– Barry Stone

Who are the other women? Moore is joined on stage by circus dilettante Freyja Edney, burlesque darling Rosie Peaches and aerial artiste Eliza Dolly, with special guest vocalist Chloe-Rose Taylor, who also performs a contemporary dance. She brings Mad Men ordinary-housewife-and-mother gritted teeth to the story, along with the infuriating, smiling, winking sentiment of Wives and Lovers. That’s before I’m invited up to hold a placard that reads JUST A HOUSEWIFE, alongside other audience members self-consciously displaying STUD and SLUT and BOSS. These labels appear to be self-nominated since we came by them via an audience elimination survey, in my case, judging damning leaving with hands up, only those who chose to have children and stay at home with them for longer than 2 years.

But this is how quickly and casually we assess ourselves and each other.

 

Each individual in the Other Women lineup has her own skill set and distinct style, adding colour and texture, perspective and fierce energy to a show that could almost as easily do without all of it…and perhaps the original concept was just that. Moore could certainly carry this show on her own. But that’s not the show. That’s an entirely different show, and perhaps that’s worth exploring another time. Moore is such a strong, super sexy performer, she doesn’t need anyone but the band on stage. (And the three-piece band is fantastic… Bradley McCaw is actually everywhere again at the moment, isn’t he?!).

In February during MELT you can see Moore in her original one-woman show On a Night Like This: The Erin Minogue Experience

An engaging, entertaining storyteller, Moore minces and sizzles on stage and off, and sings up a storm of epic feminist street protest proportions. Her bold Man-Eater entrance through the audience sets the tone from the outset and The Other Woman offers a glimpse of the stripped-back, rather more raw Moore. In this show she’s a provocateur and she’s here to disrupt, but nicely. It seems she’s here to “misbehave with integrity” (Dr Clarissa Pinkola Estes).

The show is strongly political – we can’t possibly miss the message (a Big Book of Misogyny segment spells it out in case you weren’t already paying close attention) – and if we don’t feel any more empowered than we did when we walked into Wonderland, at least (At Last), we feel uncomfortable enough to continue to challenge the status quo.

05
Dec
16

Matilda the Musical

Matilda the Musical

Royal Shakespeare Company

QPAC Lyric Theatre

December 1 2016 – January 8 2017

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

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Matilda the Musical is hands down the best made and the best promoted show we’ve seen in this country. Not many productions live up to the hype preceding them but this one exceeds expectations. The elements combine in a perfect alchemy of joy, morality, imagination and witty, wicked humour, delighting kids, and daring adults to look around, pay attention to the children and begin to listen again to their own inner child.

Roald Dahl’s Matilda is the extraordinary little girl who, armed with a vivid imagination and a sharp mind, dares to take a stand and change her own destiny.

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Queensland’s Matildas are Izellah Connelly, Annabella Cowley, Venice Harris and Eva Murawski.

On opening night we saw Venice Harris, and as the rockstar chocolate-cake-eating Bruce, Exodus Lale, both superb. We will have to return a little later in the season to see our Eva perform! Last night she was on standby and she was able to appear on stage for a very special curtain call with the standby cast, and composer and lyricist, Tim Minchin.

We rarely see a genuinely rapturous, heartfelt standing ovation from an actual full house at QPAC.

(Don’t believe every accolade you see on social media. I’m so often surprised/bemused to see claims of a standing ovation when only a smattering of the audience is on its feet!), but the opening night Matilda audience was as excited and appreciative and awestruck as you’ll ever get at the end of a show. 

It’s no secret that opening nights are a special kind of magic but Matilda the Musical is a show with a buzz that makes you feel like every night is opening night. If there’s a person in the world who hasn’t enjoyed it, I’d like to meet them and ask, “WHAT’S YOUR DAMAGE?” There’s nothing to dislike here (except Miss Trunchbull and the Wormwoods and we’re supposed to loathe them). Matilda the Musical is an uplifting, life affirming, incredibly moving experience, and the cast of children a dynamic new breed of Australian talent. (Minchin has said the girls who play the Brisbane Matildas are four of the best, in this extremely demanding role, in the world. High praise indeed!). We recognise them by their tremendous hearts and rich, clipped voices, their explosive energy and their neatly contained egos. There are adults in the industry who can learn from these hard working and humble kids. (Those adults are not in this show!). And the synergy between adult and child performers makes this show extra special. The ensemble’s opening number, the fast-paced, bright and brilliant, memorably cheeky Miracle, followed by Matilda’s Naughty, and the School Song, choreographed and executed with military precision, testament to the extraordinary talent on stage and off.

There are also a number of must-be-something-in-my-eye moments.

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One of these moments is the beautifully bittersweet When I Grow Up. This is a smiling-while-tears-are-running-shamelessly-down-cheeks scene, reminiscent of Mary Poppins’ Let’s Go Fly a Kite. The use of a slippery slide and timber seated swings hanging from the gods creates a child-sized whimsical world of wide-eyed possibility. I want a swing hanging from the gods in my backyard! When the “big kids” fly out over the audience we gasp in surprise and delight and abandon – even those of us who have seen it before – and our hearts fill to bursting.

It’s not often that a production succeeds in pouring pure glee over an entire audience. 

A fully engaged little kid sitting next to me, so smart, asks his mama if they are sad because they don’t want to grow up. The kid is no older than four or five. Other innocent comments throughout the evening earn smiling, murmured responses from a lovely older gentleman in front and giggles from the rest of us. There’s a little bit of healthy fear happening too. True to the original story, there are some quite frightening moments in the show, just as there are in our dreams and ordinary lives, and the mother does her best to quietly comfort her child. I know parents sometimes avoid taking kids to the theatre because they know it will be their kid to shout out something in the middle of a show. They think this will annoy the other punters and leave themselves embarrassed and apologetic so they decide to give it a miss until the kids are older, and they and the child miss out on an awesome experience and lifelong memories. If you’re a parent wondering whether or not you should take the kids to the show, STOP WONDERING, BOOK THE TICKETS AND TAKE THE KIDS TO THE SHOW.

If the teens and the spouse are slightly wary, they should know Matilda the Musical is also, obviously and subversively, a very grown up show. If nothing else, tell them to hang in there until the final number, the epic kid rock anthem, Revolting Children, which is a showstopper they’ll be singing (and stomping!) for you for days, even weeks. Probably for the next six weeks…of school holidays…lucky you.

The burning woman, hurling through the air with dynamite in her hair, flying over sharks and spiky objects, caught by the man locked in the cage…

The Acrobat and the Escapologist, the story-within-the-story, which has been somehow magically more fully woven through the production since last seen, and which Matilda tells to Mrs Phelps (the fabulous Cle Morgan, a delicious performer of exquisite expression and passion; she shines in this underwritten role). You’ll remember it doesn’t appear in Roald Dahl’s book. The dramatisation of – spoiler alert – Mrs Honey’s parents’ romance, is a neat theatrical device to move us into another realm of storytelling, the segments perfectly placed throughout the show now to allow us to wander through Matilda’s imagination. Her voracious reading and imagining is her escape from a despicable family and horrible home life (loud, brassy, not-real-classy caricatures of the worst possible parents, in Daniel Frederickson & Nadia Komazec in Marika Aubrey’s absence).

There are so many dark themes and dastardly deeds detectable in life, which children need to be able to process just as grown ups do. Roald Dahl knew this, and Minchin and Dennis Kelly make a considered art of serving it straight up, without apology.

Elise McCann is a stronger, more focused and better settled Miss Honey than when we saw her early on in the Sydney season, her rendition of My House poignantly, perfectly delivered, the vocal tone just divine. And the incomparable James Millar, as the formidable Miss Trunchbull, takes the cake (and makes poor Bruce eat it!). Millar’s hilarious, highly physical performance is another highlight. His performance is so polished and so perfectly ridiculous and reasonable at the same time that you might have a hard time now, as I do, listening to the original Trunchbull, the much-loved Brit, Bertie Carvel. Sorry, Bertie.

Can we have an original Australian Cast recording please and thank you. 

Hugh Vanstone’s lighting and Rob Howell’s costume and set design transfer spectacularly well to the Lyric Theatre and MD Peter Rutherford’s orchestra is spot on. The only superfluous number for me is Mr Wormwood’s Telly, but others love it. 

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Matilda the Musical lifts our spirits and raises the musical theatre bar. It’s a show that proves the book, the film and the real life lens we look through every day can be improved upon. YES. The way we view the world is a choice we make every day. And Matilda reminds us that putting things right and standing up for ourselves and for others is easier than we’ve been led to believe.  

Don’t even think for a second you can miss it. There is no gift more magical or inspirational you can give yourself and those you love than Matilda the Musical

 

Brisbane Opening Night Company:

Matilda – Venice Harris
Bruce – Exodus Lale
Alice – Tahlae Colson
Amanda – Isla White
Hortensia – Madison Randl
Lavender – Charlotte Smith
Eric – Elias Geffen
Nigel – Alfie Jamieson
Tommy – Jake Binns
Adult Cast as follows:
Miss Trunchbull – James Millar
Mrs Wormwood – Nadia Komazec
Mr Wormwood – Daniel Frederiksen
Miss Honey – Elise McCann
Mrs Phelps – Cle Morgan
Ensemble – Stephen Anderson, Reece Budin, Travis Khan, Daniel Raso, Rachel Cole, James Bryers, Leah Lim, Adam Noviello, Patrick Whitbread
Swings – Cristina D’Agostino, Matt Douglass, Hannah Stanton, Clay Roberts, Danielle Cook

 

 

 

 

 

01
Dec
16

Matilda the Musical opens tonight!

Matilda the Musical opens tonight!

 

Matilda the Musical opens tonight at QPAC! The Brisbane cast features the same powerhouse principles and welcomes to the stage four new local Matildas: Izellah Connelly, Annabella Cowley, Venice Harris and the Sunshine Coast’s Eva Murawski.

 

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My teen niece, Ayla Vashti, saw Matilda in Melbourne and wrote this review…

Nobody but me is gonna change my story. There is a certain element of magic in those words; a promise of more mischief and wonder to come.

Matilda The Musical was based on the beloved novel by Roald Dahl. Written by Dennis Kelly, and directed by Matthew Warchus, it is an assault on the all the senses; audio, visual and even emotional. It is the winner of over 50 international awards, including 12 for Best Musical. The Observer reviewed it, saying, “It’s hard to imagine a show capturing the spirit of Roald Dahl’s literary world more perfectly than this one.” Being an avid reader of all of Dahl’s works, I wholeheartedly agree!

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The title role of Matilda was played in rotation by Dusty Bursill (age 11), Tiana Mirra (age 11), Alannah Parfett (age 10), and Ingrid Torelli (age 9). These girls perfectly captured the essence of the witty and comical character that is Matilda.

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Elise McCann (Fiddler On The Roof, Mamma Mia) was the ever sweet Miss Honey, with her dulcet tones filling the theatre and bringing tears to the eyes of the audience. The roles of Mr and Mrs Wormwood played by Daniel Frederikson (Ghost Rider, 2007) and Marika Aubrey (Miracle City). Their hilarious British accents and moronic comments had the audience in stitches with their stupidity. One of the most stand-out characters of the night was the large and terrifying Miss Trunchbull. This fantastic monster was brought to life by the incredible James Millar (Jesus Christ Superstar, Gutenberg! The Musical!). The eight other children in the schoolyard and the adult ensemble were all once more extraordinary actors, particularly Lavender, a girl who was so comically over-the-top that it made you laugh just as much as it made you cringe, feeling for the poor girl’s parents!

Entering the theatre my eyes were instantly drawn to the fantastic set; enlarged scrabble pieces and letters scribbled on blocks were stacked haphazardly, every now and then creating words. Naturally the letters that make up Matilda were recurring, my brain automatically making the connection to Matilda without the word actually ever being spelt. The opening song (Miracle) entranced me, drawing me into the fantastical world that was being created on the stage in front of me.

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One of the most outstanding moments of the night was the scene in which Miss Trunchbull picks up a young girl by the name of Amanda Thripp by her plaits, and swings her around before throwing her! This was done extremely well, and Amanda came dropping down at just the right moment to cause heart palpitations among the viewers!

Tim Minchin is the genius that is to take credit for the music and lyrics. His songs are just the right mix of mischievous and whimsical, comical and solemn, effortlessly leading the audience on an emotional journey as they follow this little girl’s story.

Projections were effectively used to further the story, capturing the audience’s attention and keeping them mesmerised by the story that was playing out in front of their eyes. The technical elements only added to what was already an outstanding performance through skilful manipulating of lights and sound to give an almost dreamlike quality to the production.

Matilda The Musical is an extraordinary tale about an extraordinary girl with a vivid imagination, brought to life by the genius mind of Dennis Kelly and the witty and catchy tunes of Tim Minchin. It helps to remind us of all the fun of being a child, yet the longing to be grown-up, and that sometimes, you have to be a little bit naughty!

At QPAC from November 25 – February 12 

 

30
Nov
16

KOOZA

KOOZA

Cirque du Soleil

Skygate, next to Brisbane Airport DFO

November 24 2016 – January 8 2017

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

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Which Cirque du Soleil shows have you seen? Australia has seen eight:

Quidam – Dralion – Varekai – OVO – TOTEM – Michael Jackson THE IMMORTAL World Tour – Saltimbanco – KOOZA

KOOZA (since 2007) is touted as being Cirque du Soleil’s best show yet, but it’s not my favourite. It’s light and bright and lots of fun without delving too deeply into the psyche or anything overly social or political. And, in times of trouble in the world, apparently that’s just what we need. 

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As the court clowns and the foolish footmen build the tension of a new show the king shuts off the lights… the show has begun. One spotlight appears…a clown…”the innocent ” trying to fly a kite, a large box appears and out comes the trickster. Who will be the KOOZA?

– Poppy Eponine

KOOZA is not entirely without narrative and some would say it’s the most simple and effective story of all (there have been some convoluted plots in the past, let’s be honest). This one features a powerful Trickster (Vladislav Zolotarev), who springs from a box to lead the Innocent, a naive and charming clown (Joey Arrigo), on a fantastical journey through fun times with new funny friends to find his place in the world. It’s a wafer thin classic quest premise, a young hero’s journey – the Innocent’s gotta’ find his corner of the sky – and by combining acrobatics and the art of clowning, we get the best of all aspects of traditional circus (Creator and Director David Shiner).

KOOZA comprises many disparate pieces, something for everyone, and boasts an Olympics worthy international ensemble of acrobats, contortionists and aerial artists. KOOZA might be the first Cirque you’ve ever seen, in which case you won’t look for deeper meaning and you’ll probably see this company’s most exciting and death defying acts straight up.

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On opening night we were privileged to see Queenslander, Lisa Skinner, on the aerial hoop, her act fast and furious; she just a whirl of bright colour high above our heads, and spinning until blurry, toes barely touching the ground, centrestage. Barely into the same act during Sunday’s matinee, Skinner fell from a height of almost 5 metres and landed face first on the floor, sustaining injuries for which she was treated before being taken by ambulance to hospital. My sister (a stage manager) wasn’t calling Sunday’s show, she saw the accident on the monitor backstage. Our parents were in the audience and my mum cried out, along with hundreds of other horrified witnesses. They said Skinner looked as if she might be dead, with her neck resting at an odd angle. Fortunately, Skinner is recovering well. Having already undergone shoulder reconstruction before the commencement of this tour, she must be devastated to miss performing in front of her home crowd for the remainder of the season. 

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The contortionists deliver an exquisite act of ancient serpentine elegance and humour, their bodysuits, of jewels and earth, glistening as they bend and twist and impossibly pose (Sunderiya Jargalsaikhan, Ninjin Altankhuyag & Odgerel Byambadorj). A unicycle duo delight (Olga Tutynina & Yury Shavro), teeterboard acrobats defy gravity, high wire antics thrill, and the balancing chair act elicits gasps of genuine disbelief and awe (Yao Deng Bo). Yao Deng Bo is my favourite performer, the epitome of focus, strength, balance, grace and old world circus charm.

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The Wheel of Death (or, more philosophically and psychoanalytically, The Wheel of Life-Death-Life) proves itself the highlight of the show, although we missed much of it due to the sweat sheet and poor sight lines behind a lighting truss in our seating section. The Columbian acrobats, Ronald Montes & Jimmy Zapata actually risk their lives during this performance; it’s terrifying to watch. I wish we’d been able to see more of it. KOOZA is the first Cirque show to incorporate front of house lighting, requiring the trusses spaced throughout the Grand Chapiteau, and I wonder if it’s the last. The little we were able to see of the skilled artist leaping above the arm of one of these towers was indeed impressive, as he ran and rose magically from the hamster wheel on one end of the turning mechanism, but it lacked tension and thrill factor for us. The same problem applied to the double high wire act and we heard a number of disgruntled audience members around us. Do these people offer their feedback to the company? I hope they do, and I hope, rather than giving a 1-star rating on Trip Advisor or Facebook, they simply advise friends to book seats in a different section. Poppy had an ideal view from Section 200, where she was sitting with her cousins, and she could not stop talking about these amazing acts for days.

The contortionist act was spellbinding but still second-best to THE WHEEL OF DEATH (dah dah dah!). How Ronald Solis Montes & Jimmy Ibarra Zapata amazingly survive the wheel of death time & time again I do not know.   

– Poppy Eponine   

A tight band under the direction of Carl Murr, and powerhouse singer, clad in rich, colourful silks (Jennlee Shallow), deliver KOOZA’s original jazz, funk and Bollywood styled music with gusto. The beautiful, magical structure that holds them, a tall, ornately carved, cylindrical timber tower, the Bataclan, glides forward to feature the musicians and then backwards to serve as an entrance and exit for various acts (Designer Stephanie Roy). It’s a glorious piece of design, fully integrated into the show. I love the way our Australian percussionist (Adelaide’s Ben Todd) is brought out into centrestage to be featured, just as each acrobat takes his or her turn in the spotlight. And spilling from the doorway (only to be chased by a Death Cape destined pack of 150 fake fur rats), I enjoyed the exuberant Day of the Dead dance; it’s a theme from which I’d love to see Cirque draw more heavily.

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Irina Akimova’s hoop manipulation is also highly entertaining but it’s her magnificent feathered coat, the standout costume in this show, that leaves a lasting impression. The KOOZA costumes, designed by Marie-Chantale Vaillancourt, are inspired by comic books and graphic novels, the work of Gustav Klimt, Alice in Wonderland and The Wizard of Oz. (You’ll see the influence of the flying monkeys on the faces of the acrobats on the double high wire). In KOOZA we see much more from the clowns than in previous Cirque shows and rather than use gibberish to communicate, these clowns speak English. It takes away a little of their charm but it means that every punch line lands just right. The King (Gordon White) and his court jesters (Michael Garner & Michael Berlanga) are clearly adored by the vast majority.

KOOZA is guaranteed quality from the world’s best circus creatives and a collective of 50 performing artists/super humans, and it’s super fun for the whole family. I would never miss a Cirque show and nor should you.

24
Nov
16

KOOZA opens tonight!

 

Cirque du Soleil’s incredible KOOZA opens tonight!

with our own Lisa Skinner

 

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Using very conservative mathematics, Queenslander Lisa Skinner has spent more than 75,000 hours in a unitard; in reality, it’s probably more like over 250,000 hours. That’s a lot of time in lycra.

 

Brisbane audiences are about to see the result of Lisa’s dedication because this Albany Creek born, world class gymnast and Olympian is about to take over one of the key solo acts – the Aerial Hoop – in the critically acclaimed KOOZA, by Cirque du Soleil, opening in Brisbane on November 24.

“I have spent considerably more time in lycra than I had ever planned when I was young, but I have been lucky enough to have made a career out of what I love doing; out of what I started as a kid in Albany Creek when I was six years old and wanted to learn to do the splits and a handstand!” said Lisa.

Born in Brisbane Lisa began gymnastics at age 6 at Lawnton Academy; she went to Albany Creek Primary School and later she traversed the city each day, from the northside to the south to attend senior school – at Holland Park, because it was close to Chandler sports complex where she trained. For almost ten years Lisa reigned supreme in Australian gymnastics. From her international debut at the 1995 World Championships in Sabae, Japan where she placed 12th with the Australian team, through to 2004 she competed at four World Championships and three Olympic Games (1996 Atlanta; 2000 Sydney and 2004 Athens). She held the Australian National Champion title in 1996 and 1997; earned two gold medals at the 1998 Commonwealth Games and was the highest-ranked Australian WAG athlete at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney. She was the country’s most celebrated elite gymnast.

And while she may have shone at three Olympic Games, numerous world championships and won standing ovations for her role in another Cirque du Soleil production in Quidam, this upcoming season of Kooza in Brisbane will be the very first time Lisa Skinner has performed in front of her hometown crowd.

 

She’s excited, and yes, just a touch nervous.

 

However, in a twist not unlike some of the breathtaking moves she performs under the Big Top in Kooza, her time in the Cirque du Soleil spotlight almost didn’t happen.

In 1997 when Cirque du Soleil scouts first approached Lisa she turned them down because, she had never seen a Cirque du Soleil show and, “thought joining a circus meant caravans and elephants, and I didn’t want that, I wanted to continue my career as an elite gymnast, to see how far I could go.” It was at the 2004 Athens Olympics that Lisa’s destiny turned.

“By this time I had seen a few Cirque du Soleil shows and had been astounded at every one of them, at the level of excellence, at the generosity of artistic direction, and at the world class standard of acrobatics, costuming and performance involved in each. There were no elephants, just incredible human beings doing extraordinary things!”

She saw the Cirque du Soleil scouts at Athens and this time, she approached them.

She was invited to Cirque du Solei’s General Formation of 2005 – the company’s talent pool sourced from all over the world. But before she could join, she needed not one but two shoulder reconstructions to mend damage caused by years of pushing her body to extremes. “My shoulders were basically held together with tape; and I knew I couldn’t start the new career I really wanted with Cirque du Soleil, without having the operations and focusing on rehabilitation.” She returned home to Brisbane for the operations and recuperated at the family home, still her most loved destination to visit in the world! All up, this took almost a year.

After initial training in Montreal, she was offered a position on Alegrìa in the Power Track Team and later became the dance captain for the cast. Always looking to improve her skills, Lisa challenged her Artistic Director to find her a position on Quidam in one of the shows’ powerful aerial numbers.

 

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In 2010, Lisa joined the Aerial Hoops act on Quidam and toured all over the world with the show. She was in the USA and on a break from Quidam when the call came through a few months ago from Cirque du Soleil – they needed her for Kooza, the Aerial Hoops performer had to leave the show for family reasons for a few months.

“Which city?” she asked.

“Brisbane,” came the reply.

And “yes” was hers.

 

In Kooza Lisa performs the Aerial Hoops act solo. “This is my first time in a solo act with Cirque du Soleil, and yes, it’s daunting – there is no-one to share the load, no-one to shift focus, the full weight of the audience lies with me – and I guess that’s why they called me, this is what I do, I’ve done it since I was six,” she said.

 

And so, tonight when Kooza opens in Brisbane, many in the audience will be the people Lisa grew up with, her friends and even those she used to train with, old coaches and car pool drivers. Some will know her as one of the country’s greatest gymnasts. Others may recognise her from medal ceremonies. And there will be fans who applaud her after simply reading her story.

Her family will sit proudly knowing her as the girl who spent far too much time in a unitard.

And thank goodness she did.

 

KOOZA opens tonight at 8pm. See you there.

 

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24
Nov
16

Wonderland – 10 Top Picks

Wonderland!

 

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Wonderland opens tonight! Get ready for three weeks of high energy entertainment in the intoxicating heat of Brisbane’s Summer nights.

Wonderland is Brisbane’s end-of-year carnival of surprise and delight.

With 31 shows over 14 days, you’re invited to flirt with the unexpected and step into a euphoric world of body bending antics and late night temptations…

 

1. Phelan Groovy

Don’t miss the star of Dirty Dancing in Phelan Groovy, part auto biographical, part celebrity dish and ALL entertainment. For if there’s one thing Kurt Phelan has learned through life, it’s to only say 10% of what he thinks. Now you get the other 90% but only from tonight until Saturday at 8:45pm.

 

 

 

2. Wild Heart

Grand Finalist of The Voice and one of Australia’s most gifted singer/songwriters, Ellen Reed, won the hearts of a nation with her soaring voice and unshakable spirit as the Team Jessie J favourite. In Wild Heart, a one night only concert on Wednesday November 30 with her band, we can experience her national television defining performances live in the Powerhouse Theatre, with soulful renditions of Sia’s Chandelier, Demi Lovato’s Stone Cold, and Pink’s Perfect. Ellen Reed will also debut her new single Wild Heart and perform her upcoming album of original tracks including Ask Me to Stay, Blur and Not Tonight. A special Wonderland treat, not to be missed!

 

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3. Smooth Criminal

Not only is Christopher Wayne one half of the global success story, The Naked Magicians, but he’s also producing some of the hottest shows we’ll see over the next couple of summers. Smooth Criminals brings together the odd couple of Australia’s entertainment industry, Luke Kennedy and Joel Turner. For one show only, on Sunday at 4pm, audiences will get the chance to experience Michael Jackson’s back catalogue as they’ve never heard before, when Kennedy (The Voice, Season 2 runner up, The Ten Tenors) and Turner (world champion beat boxer and platinum selling hip hop artist) join forces to share in their love for the greatest entertainer to ever live, in a musical experience like no other. This is the must-see Smooth Criminals.

 

Remember The Time from Chris Wayne on Vimeo

 

4. More Than A Boy

Starring Tom Oliver, More Than A Boy is a playful rite-of-passage about family and adventure, do-or-die situations and seemingly random events that build character and shape destiny. Featuring an eclectic mix of original songs written by Tom, Andrew McNaughton and Wes Carr (Australian Idol winner), theatre tunes and reworked contemporary hits, More Than A Boy magically weaves together the stories of a Croatian refugee forging a new life and a grandson who follows his dreams. Backed by a live band, get the adrenalin pumping and experience Tom Oliver shoot for the stars in this lively quest journey.

 

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5. The Lady of the House of Love

If you’ve never seen this show – or this artist – you’re in for a real treat. Performed by award-winning artist Sandro Colarelli, The Lady of the House of Love is a darkly eerie and exotic one-man show exploring the themes of desire and destiny. With original music composed by award winning singer-songwriter Jake Diefenbach, this combination of evocative narrative and stunning songs harks back to the darkest roots of cabaret.

 

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6. Other Women

This is the season’s sexiest circus-cabaret! Starring Lizzie Moore, Eliza Dolly, Rosie Peaches, Freyja Edney with a Chloe-Rose Taylor. Other Women: Temptress or tempting? Fast woman or free-spirited? If a man is a stud, what is a woman? Enter the world of Other Women: a provocative and witty circus-cabaret celebrating female sexuality and exploring sexual double standards. A thrilling live band, circus soloists and burlesque cheek electrify the stage in this World Premiere performance. Featuring an eclectic mix of songs by artists such as Nina Simone, Goldfrapp and Prince; Other Women explores promiscuity, and our contradictory views towards women and their sexual behaviour.

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7. Emma Dean in Concert

Heralded for her captivating vocals by the New York Post, Brisbane’s own Emma Dean is a consummate performer and has released over ten independent original albums/EPs.She has toured the world, performing alongside Jesca Hoop and Kate Miller-Heidke, and in support of Macy Gray, Jinkx Monsoon, Katie Noonan, Amanda Palmer and The Dresden Dolls. Emma will be joined by her brother, Tony Dean to perform an eclectic catalogue of songs exploring love, loss and light. One show only on Saturday December 3 at 4pm.

 

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8. The Chaser’s Australia

Discover The Chaser’s Australia with Charles Firth and James Schloeffel. A very special multi-media presentation of The Chaser’s Australia. Covering politics, culture, religion, sport and jokes about Karl Stefanovic, it includes a special segment on Australian cooking, and why chicken salt is the only ingredient you’ll ever need. It also includes an extra special presentation on the environment entitled “There’s Absolutely Nothing to Worry About”, sponsored by the Minerals Council of Australia. If you only attend one event this year, you should probably go out a bit more often. The Chaser’s Australia; it’s everything you wanted to know about Australia, but were too apathetic to ask. One show only tonight at 7:15pm.

 

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9. Mills and Boom!

Join the Fanciful Fiction Auxiliary, a fictitious amateur writers’ group of oddball characters with fake hair, fake lashes, and real passion, for its personally acclaimed stage show. Mills and Boom! is a simply stupendous salon of bosom-heaving, lip-quivering ecstasy during which we regale you with our smouldering romance stories. Featuring Pascalle Burton, Carody Culver, Adam Hadley, Michelle Law, Ian Powne, Tessa Rose, Jackie Ryan, Leah Shelton, Lucas Stibbard, and Neridah Waters. One show only on Sunday December 5 at 5pm.

 

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10. House of Mirrors

The House of Mirrors is a grotesquely fascinating walk-through installation composed of a labyrinth of seemingly endless mirrors. Since the 19th Century, mirror mazes have been trapping and reflecting participants, challenging those that venture into them, both physically and psychologically, resulting in delight, amazement and sometimes, fear. The House of Mirrors includes Kaleidoscopic like chambers, voids, doorways and darkened breaks, the purist and most traditional form of a mirrored maze. No added gimmicks, no special effects, no special lighting, no sound track or soundscape.  The primary ingredients of carefully arranged mirrors, geometry and pure optical illusion.

Please be aware that during busy period, long wait times are possible. We recommend if you pre-book a ticket and plan on experiencing House of Mirrors before another show, to give yourself ample time in case of lines. Your House of Mirrors experience could take anywhere between 5 minutes and 20 minutes, depending on how fast you solve the maze.

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