Author Archive for Xanthe Coward

04
Jan
17

Fawlty Towers Live

Fawlty Towers Live

Michael Coppel and Phil McIntyre in association with Louise Withers

QPAC Playhouse

December 28 2016 – January 22 2017

 

Reviewed by Michelle Widdicombe

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When I stepped inside QPAC’s Playhouse and saw the transformation of the stage into that little seaside hotel at Torquay, I knew I was in for a trip down memory lane. And it was a nostalgic trip, which didn’t disappoint.

Fawlty Towers Live took me right back to Summer nights watching the much-loved 1970s British sitcom on the TV with Dad, only this experience wasn’t in front of a small box, but live and large, close enough to almost catch the drips of sweat from the forehead of a frustrated Basil Fawlty and feel the heat escape from a jaw-clenching Sybil.

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John Cleese’s own adaptation blends plot lines and scenes from several episodes – The Hotel Inspectors, Communication Problems, and The Germans – into a two-hour show. It leaves you wanting more; more laughs, more of Basil’s over-the-top reactions, Manuel’s confusion, Sybil’s annoyance and her throaty laugh, and more of Polly Shearman, who you’d swear was the young Connie Booth on stage.

The set is almost the same as we remember seeing in the television show. Everything is retro, reflecting the original Fawlty Towers hotel. There is even an upstairs bedroom on stage, built above the reception/dining area. The characters move seamlessly from reception to dining to kitchen to bedroom, never missing a beat between scenes. Liz Ascroft (set and costume design) is to be applauded for recreating a stage which mirrors the landscape of the original Fawlty Towers.

Steven Hall as Basil Fawlty strikes the perfect balance between the original character and his own interpretation of it. Physically, he’s just as tall but not as lean and his gestures are almost identical. When Syd Brisbane first appeared on stage as waiter, Manuel, I thought for a second Andrew Sachs was before me on the small screen. Brisbane’s faultless execution of Manuel’s utter confusion and limited grasp of the English language kept the rumble of laughter going throughout the audience. His ‘I know nothing’ line is such a familiar and popular scene that some of us say it with him. Brisbane dedicated his performance to Sachs, who recently passed away.

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Deborah Kennedy, cast as the selectively deaf Mrs Richards, is absolutely brilliant. She commands the stage, delivering a performance which reflects her 40 plus years in the industry.

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The script for Fawlty Towers Live is the original, with a few tweaks: a celebration of the genius work of John Cleese and Connie Booth. As a Fawlty Towers tragic, I absolutely loved the show but wondered if it had more appeal because I had grown up watching the British sitcom over and over again? Certainly the young woman in front of me (probably aged in her early 20s) seemed more interested in nibbling on her partner’s ear than watching what was happening on stage. It’s fair to say most of the audience inside QPAC’s Playhouse were of an age that would have watched the original Fawlty Towers over and over again. I guess we all wanted to relive some of the happiest moments from our past, and going by the roar and the applause that came at the end of the show there were no unsatisfied customers.

Thank you John Cleese for believing that Australia would be the “perfect fit” to mount your world first stage production, with an all Australian lineup. In Basil’s own words, “Thank you so much, goodbye”.

16
Dec
16

Smooth Criminals: The Songs of Michael Jackson

Smooth Criminals: The Songs of Michael Jackson

Brisbane Powerhouse & Christopher Wayne

Brisbane Powerhouse Theatre

December 4 2016

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

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It’s the music of Michael Jackson but not as we know it.

The odd couple of the entertainment industry, Joel Turner (world champion beat boxer and platinum selling hip hop artist) and Luke Kennedy (The Voice & The Ten Tenors), make a perfect pair on stage in a celebration of the music and the memory of the King of Pop. Who would have thought this unlikely combination would bring any sort of success? Producer, Chris Wayne, that’s who, and together with Turner and Kennedy, his gamble paid off with a single sold-out show at Brisbane Powerhouse during Wonderland, and subsequent talks to take this universally appealing show on the road.

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The magic of Smooth Criminals – n.b. there’s no nakedness or actual magic tricks – is a unique take on Michael Jackson’s discography, taking us on a journey through his unenviable life, from boy to man to immortal. It’s not a succession of greatest hits but rather, a poignant and personal account, seen mainly through Kennedy’s eyes, as he shares his encounters with the man’s music, reimagined and thrillingly remixed in collaboration with Turner and talented musos, Michael Manikus and Scotty French.

Smooth Criminals offers to a new generation a truly original take on MJ’s classic pop sound, but it caters to the die-hard fans first.

 

732a0363Kennedy, front and centre, demands our full attention. He’s as relaxed as we’ve ever seen him, gracious and respectful to the living memory of Michael Jackson, and confident, cute and actually flirtatious, inviting one guest to join him on the edge of the stage as he serenades her. This is a perfectly orchestrated crowd pleasing moment – we might think it’s a gimmick (she’s surely a plant!) – but Kennedy retains an ease that’s impossible to fake. We believe. He has us in the palm of his hand. AND he has this gorgeous Heath Ledger thing going on, as if he’s ready to bound through the tiered seating, singing……

 

You’re singing it now, aren’t you?

 

Kennedy emits the same sort of abandon, irresistible. Despite his protestations, he retains a crooner core, but Kennedy boasts a much broader vocal range and emotional spectrum than most, and he has the technical precision to sing just about anything. If you were privy to his Gethsemane several years ago (or anything since, really, let’s face it, even his National Anthem is nothing less than spectacular), you can imagine the power and control rendered behind even the simplest pop song. Yet, he remains humble and grateful.

Ben is a bittersweet treat, and Kennedy brings to it a sense of such simplicity and purity that we might imagine it’s the first time we’ve ever heard it, and for the very youngest audience members, it might be so. How lucky are they?! The Girl is Mine bounces beautifully between the artists, demonstrating an easy camaraderie and a great sense of cheeky comedy.

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Smooth Criminal and Dirty Diana delve a little deeper and darker, although not once is there anything that goes into shadowy controversy, nor does there need to be. The crowd is on side from the outset (Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’, Remember the Time) and we need no reminders of anything other than the genius and the music of the man. The genius of these new arrangements is in Turner’s work, providing depth and soul beneath Kennedy’s vocal line, and on the odd occasion, the perfect harmony as well. The guy can sing. 

The collective energy is palpable during an earth medley, linking Heal the World, We Are the World and Man in the Mirror. (When was the last time you heard these numbers straight up, unparodied, with feeling?). It’s almost an anti-climax to hear the sensitive Gone Too Soon. A bigger, bolder finish would leave this show at Man in the Mirror, and make an encore of Billie Jean, bringing Turner out front too, with both amazing artists wearing one white glove. It seems remiss to keep Turner behind his mixing table, sans iconic symbol. Perhaps that’s as he wished. Let’s hope he wishes for more of the spotlight next time.

With Kennedy’s talent and a natural flair for performance, and Turner’s uncanny vocal and technical ability making each number an exciting and unique immersive musical experience for all ages, these two are not as unlikely a pair as they first appear to be.

Smooth Criminals is a sure hit, a thrilling tribute to Michael Jackson – the man and his music – and if you missed it in 2016 I’m sure it’s just a matter of time before you’ll see it at a venue near you.

Remember The Time from Chris Wayne on Vimeo.

10
Dec
16

Phelan Groovy

Phelan Groovy

Brisbane Powerhouse & Kurt Phelan

Brisbane Powerhouse Turbine Studio

December 1 – 3 2016

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

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Never let the truth get in the way of a good story.

– Kurt Phelan

Kurt Phelan is one of those hard-working, long-time-coming “overnight” success stories. You may have heard of him. He’s been in such shows as Kiss Me Kate, Priscilla Queen of the Desert, Singin’ In the Rain, Saturday Night Fever and Dirty Dancing. Phelan hails from Townsville and his cabaret show, the fantastically funny Phelan Groovy, is both a tribute and a tongue-in-cheek exposé of what it’s like to come from the tropics and conquer the world of musical theatre.

A natural performer, warm and genuinely welcoming, Phelan demonstrates from the outset perfect comic timing, a flair for rewriting our favourite musical theatre songs and a knack for nailing the sort of impersonations usually left to the drag queens. His delivery of Memory in (broken) Debra Byrne style, with her permission, of course, and complete with enormous dark sunglasses, an oversized martini glass and what could be a wrap or the green room rug thrown across his shoulders, is sidesplittingly funny and painfully accurate. Byrne is just one of the celebs Phelan dishes the dirt on during the show. When the balance is struck between a little bit nasty and a little bit naughty, these moments will land with greater aplomb.

A re-worked Dream A Little Dream paints the picture of Phelan’s birth on the laundry steps of his parents’ house up north. I Dreamed A Dream describes his heartbreak upon seeing the woeful film version of Les Miserables. And I’ve Had the Time of My Life is dedicated to the women who groped him during the touring production of Dirty Dancing (during the show!). Whether the entirety of this story – or any story – is truth or fiction we’ll never know, but the question doesn’t keep me from laughing until mascara tears stream down my cheeks.

When Phelan leaves the stage momentarily to slip into “something more comfortable” it’s to lose his dress shoes to flip flops. Only in Australia. And later, we’re certain only Peter Allen could be as comfortable as Phelan appears to be in a garish tropical shorts and shirt combo. Phelan wears it proudly. He’s a gorgeous performer with a cheeky grin that lets him get away with saying the most outrageous things in the most outrageous dress ups. Bare-chested and bold before conceding defeat in the face of Disney, he shares the infuriating discomfort of all the dads whose children are still singing/screeching Frozen’s Let It Go.

The show takes a serious turn when Phelan reflects on the too-soon deaths of some industry friends (Vanessa Carlton’s A Thousand Miles, stunning in its unadorned delivery) and again, as he shares JRB’s superb song, Someone to Fall Back On. It’s an incredibly difficult number to do, vocally demanding and emotionally complex, but Phelan sells it with a stirring, stinging honesty, just as he did during a masterclass with the composer.

There’s no ceremony about Phelan; he’s the real deal, as frank and honest, and as heartwarming and entertaining as any cabaret performer can ever hope to be. 

Joined by Luke Volker on keys for this Brisbane Wonderland season, Phelan shows us what it is to be human and fallible and funny and loveable and laughable, in that typically Australian, incredibly ironic sense. While the show in its current state is clearly meant for our audiences, and probably the more theatrically inclined among them, with a few tweaks it could travel, and it should. Phelan’s appeal is universal, and talent such as his in this context deserves a larger, broader audience.

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 

 




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