Archive for the 'Cabaret' Category

29
Sep
17

The Last Five Years – a little chat with Kurt Phelan & Lizzie Moore

 

Wax Lyrical Productions Present The Last Five Years

Brisbane Powerhouse October 7 – 14 2017

 

 

Wax Lyrical Productions bring Jason Robert Brown’s acclaimed 2001 musical, The Last Five Years, to Brisbane with a duo of music theatre heavy-weights.

 

It’s easy to fall in love with Kurt Phelan (Dirty Dancing) and Lizzie Moore (Kiss Me Kate) in this heart-breaking musical two-hander, as they re-trace their relationship from opposite ends. Jamie (Phelan), an up-and-coming writer, struggles to balance his sudden success with his increasingly tumultuous love life.

 

Meanwhile Cathy (Moore), an aspiring actress, deals with the frustrations of her own career while watching her husband from the sidelines in this story of two twenty-somethings who fall in – and out – of love over the course of a five-year relationship.

 

From the director and company behind the Matilda Award Winning Carrie the Musical, Wax Lyrical’s The Last Five Years is an intensely personal look at the rise and fall of a relationship told from both points of view.

 

Let’s just get this one out of the way…did you like the 2014 film starring Jeremy Jordan and Anna Kendrick?

Kurt: I liked it a lot. I was worried when I first heard about it and they would destroy it like they did RENT the film. But I thought it translated well and Michelle who re-choreographed Dirty Dancing for us in Australia was the choreographer.

Lizzie: I didn’t see it and by the time we found out we were doing this musical I felt like I shouldn’t. But I have seen clips for it and heard some of the tracks and I thought it was done really well but they have the advantage of being able to show two people together.

 

Tell us what’s a) universal and b) unique about these characters and their stories?

Kurt: everyone has been in love and everyone has had a break up. Everyone has been at fault and everyone has been hurt. And it’s also about who you resonate with and there are two sides to every story.

Lizzie: And Cathy is an actress full of self-doubt so you know…

 

What do you love about this show and about JRB’s work in general?

Lizzie: The music and the musical themes that continue through the show, the musical motifs.

Kurt: The man knows how to write a song. It’s also a beautiful piece that speaks to almost everyone who has ever heard it. And some of the most challenging music I have ever had to learn. So once you master it is such a joy to perform.

 

Any particular reasons for the super traditional wedding promo shots for the show? 

Kurt: It is the only time the show is written with them in the same time and space. But we wanted to choose an image that would resonate with people, intrigue them and encourage them to find out more.

Lizzie: And reflect that it is a show about two people – love! But also, to reflect the reason they got together.

Kurt: A lot of the time when the show is done it focusses on the heartache but actually, sometimes no one is right or wrong, two people just aren’t suited to be together.

 

 

What’s the relevance/significance/urgency of staging this show this year?

Kurt: I’ve wanted to do it since it came to off-Broadway in 2002 and if I didn’t do it soon I would explode.

Lizzie: And then we had a perfect storm of both being in town and available and Zoë being available too.

Kurt: Also, all of Australia is locked into a conversation around marriage and equality and it’s important, even though this is a heterosexual couple, that people realise that love is love and everyone should have the same opportunity, even if it only lasts five years.

 

What do you hope audiences get from this production?

Kurt: A beautiful night in the theatre where they can marvel how simple storytelling can strike you right to the core.

Lizzie: Yeah you don’t need bells and whistles. Musical theatre can and should be really truthful.

 

What’s the connection between you two and how do you work together?

Kurt: Lizzie and I met in a bath tub at Lucy Durack’s surprise birthday party.

Lizzie: Kurt was wearing her novelty shower cap and we were trying to be quiet but we weren’t very good at it.

Kurt: And it’s from that moment on we were friends. It wasn’t until years later doing GAYBIES at MELT Festival, that we worked together and realised our voices blended perfectly.

 

What are your favourite things about working together?

Lizzie: I think it’s a really intense piece and we look after each other, on and off the stage.

 

Are there any infuriating things?

Kurt: Yes, Lizzie’s jaw clicks and that’s my pet hate in any human, but she can’t help it and she’s pretty, so I’m cool with that.

Lizzie: Kurt has been making out with me with a moustache but apparently he’s going to shave it so that’s OK. And Kurt and I met in a bath tub.

 

Is there a personal connection to the show, with the characters or the situations?

Kurt: I just got out of a five year relationship so yes, I’m equal parts Jamie and Cathy at the moment.

Lizzie: I’ve climbed many a hill before.

Kurt: I mean it’s about love, we’ve all been in situations similar to this. We both come at this show with a great depth of understanding of both sides of the story which is what makes it so interesting to work on.

 

We see this couple trying to mend a broken relationship for so long. What do you think makes them keep trying? What do you feel it’s worth? As a performer, how do you keep the stakes high enough to convincingly tell this story?

Kurt: through our extensive analysis of the characters we found very interesting insights to their romance and being so familiar with the story I thought it was all doom and gloom but when you unpick it, there is actually a beautiful, loving, human relationship worth hanging onto. We’re trying to highlight that as much as possible.

 

 

Away from the theatre, what tends to take you off to Kurt-land / Lizzie-land?

Kurt: I have a huge passion for wine and have been training to be a sommelier, so that helps when working with Lizzie, because she loves to drink it!

Lizzie: (While holding a glass of wine) Mmm hmm… I like cooking and gin, and I’m a small, fluffy dog enthusiast.

 

What made theatre your passion / preferred career?

Lizzie: If I’d be as happy doing anything else, I’d do it.

Kurt: Ditto. It’s the only thing I’m good at.

 

What are your favourite moments on stage so far? (in this and in previous productions)

Kurt: Getting groped by an audience member during a matinee of Dirty Dancing in Brisbane was a definite highlight…

 

What’s next for you two? 

Kurt: I’m headed to New York to observe a few physical theatre companies and write my new cabaret, and to hopefully start the next five years…

Lizzie: I’m on tour in Tasmania and WA next as Patsy Cline in The Coal Miner’s Daughter.

 

What would you like to see more of (in local and national theatres and festivals)?

Kurt: New Australian content of a larger scale and the time to create it properly.

Lizzie: Musical theatre with really great acting and directing. We all love spectacle but that isn’t all musical theatre is.

 

Book online for The Last Five Years presented by Wax Lyrical Productions and directed by Zoe Tuffin at Brisbane Powerhouse October 7 – 14 2017

 

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27
Sep
17

Limbo Unhinged

 

Limbo Unhinged

Brisbane Festival

The Courier Mail Magic Mirrors Spiegeltent

September 8 – 30 2017

 

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

 

 

70 minutes of sizzling, sexy, adult circus and cabaret returns to the magnificent Spiegeltent at Brisbane Festival. Strut & Fret, it seems, can do no wrong; the formula and style perfected, the audience lapping up every moment. With only a slight dip in energy and drive, while Remi Martin, in the clown role (no, he’s not scary or silly), spends several minutes miming various approaches to opening an imaginary door. It’s the preset to one of the better pole routines we’ve seen in a while, a sensational display of strength and grace in the most masculine way. Other than this precursor, there’s no lull and we love the spectacle of circus trained sculpted bodies, Heather Holliday’s magnificent fire breathing, sword swallowing and light sabre swallowing (Will we see it glow? We see it glow!), stunning aerials, superb vocals and the graceful, swaying, verging-on-death-defying Chinese Poles. Is it any wonder that there are gasps from the crowd beneath, as the artists dip low enough to give someone a quick kiss on the cheek?!

 

 

Limbo Unhinged is everything we desire in circus right now – we’ve talked about this before – with so many offerings, the best of them in terms of content, style and audience appeal, are still Cirque du Soleil, Casus, Company2 and Scott Maidment’s Strut & Fret, since 1997, delivering on their manifesto to make artistic experiences “breath-taking, heart-gripping, unforgettable and entertaining”. 

 

 

And where their Blanc De Blanc fails to capture the imagination (others loved it but I’ve always found it slightly less tasteful), Strut and Fret’s Limbo and Limbo Unhinged both offer a level of sophistication and sexiness that we demand now in circus and cabaret – there’s no going back to cheap vaudeville stunts unless they can be sold as brilliant parody or a little nod to nostalgia.

 

Sxip Shirey plays a starring role on vocals and a variety of instruments, leading a fabulous band. He’s a quirky figurehead, the lively persona of all upbeat components of the work, which would be nothing without his original compositions and zany personality. But the acrobats also play, stepping in and out of the band to jam at this big, bold party while someone else takes a starring role on stage. 

 

 

There’s really something for everyone. Charlotte O’Sullivan and Nico Jelmoni delight with their daring balances, lifts and counter balances, defying gravity and all common sense. We won’t be trying this at home…without a spotter. The element of danger across all physical feats is just enough to induce a state of excitement and anticipation – we don’t fear for the performers. We’re in awe of their focus and strength and control. There’s the light-hearted, awe-inspiring pole routine, contortion and aerial contortion, a fire breathing counter balance, and the men strutting and dancing, Kinky Boots style, in an epic choreographed number that would put to shame many of the under-30s out for a dance on a Saturday night!

 

 

One of the more elegant moments, reminiscent of the rose petals and paper of Per Te, brings an artist in billowing white to centre stage – for not quite long enough – beneath beautiful lighting that makes her appear almost mystical, a muse. And then she disappears; she’s moonlight and then she’s gone.

 

David Berthold’s Brisbane Festival only brings in or brings back the very best, and Strut & Fret’s Limbo Unhinged is one of the highlights again this year, offering an exciting and erotic, enticingly exotic evening of pure escapism and entertainment we don’t see anywhere else for the rest of the year.

 

 

24
Jul
17

Short+Sweet 2017

 

Short+Sweet – the biggest little play festival in the world!

Launch Event 

Brisbane Powerhouse

July 26 – August 5 2017

 

Attended by Claire Harding 

 

 

The Short + Sweet theatre and cabaret festival kicked off in style this week, with an interactive collage of contemporary theatre bites that was some of the most entertaining theatre I have had the pleasure of attending. A mixture of short stories and moving movement pieces, the audience was engaged at every turn.

 

 

It was exciting to see the return of old talent and new, including cabaret and musical extraordinaire Emily Vascotto, expertly accompanied by Ben Murry, bearing her soul recounting past love and heartbreak in The Confession, direct from Melbourne Fringe Festival (and directed by Gabriella Flowers). 

 

This theme ran strongly through the entire showcase, including Jamie Kedal and Gina Limpus’ exquisite physical theatre piece, The Attachment Theory, a beautifully choreographed work that is sexy and violent. The pair explored the three phases of attachment, from infatuation through to separation. This was followed by a two-hander featuring Hannah Belansky and Paige Poulier performing a female duologue, which comments on the social expectations of women, and contrasted starkly with the very politically incorrect comedy duo, The Foxy Morons, known for their performances at Queensland Cabaret Festival, showing us through the Aussie country culture, that they are not fans of Pauline Hanson, whom they describe as more vicious than a cassowary.

 

 

Another funny fierce force was life coach, Kaitlyn Rogers, a fitness fanatic who idolises Shannon Noel and Whoopie, which is exactly what she did to the audience. It’s entertaining with enough serious moving moments and issues, addressing political correctness, racism, love and relationships, to give the performance purpose and meaning.

 

The opening night show culminated with a performance from the winners of last year’s event, having developed their work into a full-length show. Written and performed by Caitlyn Hill and Peter Wood, Boys Taste better with Nutella, lived up to the hype, taking the audience on a journey of relationship ups and downs including asking where do we turn to for love? Nutella and the internet! Frederick aims to make himself feel better by gaining popularity and turns a pleasure and pastime into a business eating things for viewers, which is popular in Korea; a trend which has him questioning his relationship with food and body image as he receives backlash for his imperfections and ‘must be cute not fat’. A string of lights, which the actors jumped in and out of, creates the set and shifts the focus from outer to inner monologue, between past, present and future. This tempo, along with the sound tracks and dance pieces, drives the piece and keeps the audience wanting more, remaining true to its Short+Sweet theatrical conventions.

 

 

With a different line up each week, this amazing and entertaining competition is now a global event! With shows across Brisbane and the Gold Coast venues for the next 4 weeks, get along, you won’t be disappointed. 

13
Jun
17

Screw Loose

 

Screw Loose

Queensland Cabaret Foundation

Queensland Multicultural Centre

7-8 June 2017

 

Reviewed by Katy Cotter

 

 

Arriving at the Queensland Multicultural Centre in Kangaroo Point, I was puzzled as to why I hadn’t been there before. This venue is Brisbane’s best hidden secret, it seems, with a large theatre performance space. As part of Queensland Cabaret FestivalEmily Vascotto took to the stage in her hilarious show Screw Loose. With direction from Gabriella Flowers and accompanied on piano by Ben Murray, Vascotto delves into her experience as a self-confessed stalker. She takes the audience on a journey of past relationships from kindergarten to adolescence to now, with passionate (and somewhat embarrassing and obsessive) stories, and songs of her struggles with letting go. By the end of the show, Emily Vascotto is just a woman scorned, misunderstood. She is far too fabulous and gorgeous for any man to handle. But don’t worry, she’s not one to give up easily, and her search for Mr. Right or MR RIGHT NOW continues.

 

Screw Loose is quirky and unsettling in the best way.

 

I found myself wondering if all these absurd tales were in fact true and taken directly from Vascotto’s life. She introduces herself as “Emily.” Is this an alter-ego?

There is one moment I feel is taken too far. Trigger/Spoiler alert: During one song, a set of keys are used to cut a lover’s name into skin. It went on for longer than necessary and it felt a bit insensitive.

Also, the space seems too large for the show. A curtain drawn to hide the depth of the stage would have created more intimacy. In saying that, Vascotto’s performance is physically spot on. She knows how to work it, never missing a beat, knowing exactly how to draw the audience in. With a flick of her luscious auburn locks, the wink of a smoky eye, she exudes confidence and sass, and is a joy to watch on stage. She keeps the audience on their toes, having everyone falling in love with her and then with a simple twitch of the head or a change in her tone, has us all thinking “this girl really does have a screw loose.”

I am blown away by Vascotto’s voice. Holy moly, what a set of pipes! And it isn’t only during the songs (that she wrote, by the way), but the musicality of her speaking voice, which is just as captivating.

Regarding cabarets and musicals, there needs to be a flow between story and song. The beginning of Screw Loose seemed a little stagnant, though a better momentum was found as the show progressed. It is hard when the only thing on stage is a performer and a pianist – there is nowhere to hide. But more often than not, that’s cabaret. Vascotto has an amazing presence, which she uses to her advantage.

It’s a shame the season was so short but this isn’t the last we’ll see of Emily Vascotto. With this year’s Tony Awards just announced, it seems appropriate to ask, will it be Broadway next?   

    

10
Jun
17

Song Lines

 

Song Lines

Brisbane Powerhouse & Charming Rebel

Brisbane Powerhouse Visy Theatre

Thursday June 1 2017

 

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

 

 

 

What’s your song line? Do you know? Do you know where you come from; where you’ve been and what’s brought you to this place? If you do, that story is your song line, your living narrative, connecting you to all things, past and present. For many Indigenous cultures, their personal and cultural maps are far-reaching networks of songs, creating connections between people and place.

 

Michael Tuahine’s song line is not only his story, but those of his parents too; an Aboriginal mother and Maori father, and just like the slice of heaven that is the New Zealand production, Daffodils (sorry, if you missed it, it was superb), Tuahine’s debut solo show features his parents’ relationship and the soundtrack of their lives. His own story almost takes second place, however; it’s made very clear that the story continues, and that at this point, Tuahine’s 42 and single!

 

We hear the troublesome tale of his mother’s experiences as a young girl, at the hands of white Australians, and her resolve to start her life again in New Zealand, the only place to which an Australian Aboriginal woman could escape without a passport. I feel like we want to see a whole show about Tuahine’s mother… Let’s make that happen.

 

Once, once in a while

You’re gonna find her

Waiting for some recognition

It’s her transition to recognition

She has to be loved

She want to be needed

Don’t want to be hated

Just loves to be wanted

 

 

Tuahine’s deep connection to family and place comes through so beautifully and authentically.

 

We share in some of his fondest memories, of the fun and lively extended family gatherings, involving rich voices and guitars, and beers and footy, and good food and great kids; we understand perfectly, the deep sense of belonging and returning, and returning again to wherever home is made. Then of course there are the career moments that had to be had, including the relative success of the 90s boy band AIM 4 MORE. While the photos of the band and the family, which are shared as slides, add a personal element to the show, I think I’d expected something a little more sophisticated in the presentation. We’re accustomed to the audio visual work of the likes of optikal bloc, and perhaps we’ll need to see something more engaging in the next version of the show. Have we seen already, the screen shots of the family pics shared on Facebook, with all the likes and comments and emojis? That would be a neat way of sharing these precious memories for a social media savvy cabaret audience. This is an artist who can get away with such a gimmick.

 

 

Tuahine himself is nothing short of engaging. He’s charismatic, quick witted, cheeky and very funny; he’s quite a catch! (What are you doing about it, women of Australia?!). He’s able to bring pathos and proper crooner compassion to the ballads, certainly his strong point. At times the rock numbers lose a little of their impact, but this is easily remedied if Tuahine is to continue to work with musical directors such as Bradley McCaw, who is musically brilliant and brilliantly entertaining on keys, guitars and vocals. In fact, this three-piece band could easily travel with Tuahine to the far ends of the earth for gigs. They work beautifully together.

 

Roy Orbison’s Crying will always make me think of Mulholland Drive, but this rendition is in remembrance of Jimmy Little, the Aboriginal artist who encouraged Tuahine to pursue his dreams of becoming an entertainer, and inspired him to go to Queensland Theatre Company’s AD, Wesley Enoch, with the concept for Country Song.

 

When we hear She Has To Be Loved and Tuahine’s favourite Maori numbers and Australian Aboriginal songs, we hear his whole heart and soul.

 

This beautifully packaged show, taken under the gentle wing of someone willing to quietly coax a little more out of it, and with all the charm and sincerity of its rising star, will be as far-reaching as any song line. Keep an eye out for its return.

 

 

07
Jun
17

Seven On Sinatra

 

Seven on Sinatra

Brisbane Powerhouse

Brisbane Powerhouse Theatre

Friday June 2

 

Reviewed by Katy Cotter

 

 

American singer Frank Sinatra was one of the most popular and influential music artists of the 20th Century. He sold more than 150 million records worldwide and was the recipient of eleven Grammy Awards, including the Grammy Trustees Award, Grammy Legend Award and the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.

 

Sinatra was a class act, making the ladies swoon and men wish they were as suave and charismatic.

 

Under the musical direction of Tnee Dyer, seven of Brisbane’s finest female singers took to the stage to honour Sinatra’s incredible legacy. The Powerhouse Theatre was packed, and with cabaret seating set out, there was a buzz of excitement in the air. Being born in the 80s (I’m proud to admit it), I am no Sinatra expert and I entered the show without expectations. By the end I was bopping in my seat, singing along, surprised at how many songs sounded familiar.

 

What I love about music is its ability to transport you through time and space. When listening to songs like Fly Me to the Moon and I’ve Got You Under My Skin, memories were conjured of my mum dancing and humming in the kitchen as she listened to the wireless. And hearing They Can’t Take That Away from Me I remembered being a teenager watching the movie Corrina Corrina over and over.

 

The set list included all the hits and the band was exceptional. The joy of listening to a swing or jazz band is tuning into those often surprising, intricate moments that showcase each instrument. There is a subtly between each transition. At one time the audience is engrossed with the lyrics, then the piano is the focus, and slowly a glorious crescendo of the trombone sneaks into your ear. I was filled with a warm and fuzzy feeling. Other times it was all go-go-go, with a hot to trot, get out of your seat, let’s dance kind of energy. The lighting design was amazing and lifted the performance again, with cool blues, booming reds, and sensual greens.            

Now to the seven ladies… Apart from the talented Liz Buchanan, who sang with such elegance and poise, I had not seen the other women perform. It was opening night (and sadly the only night) so there were some nerves shown by some at the beginning of songs. Jo Doyle had a smile from ear to ear and was a pleasure to watch as she weaved through the audience and danced with the band. Jacqui Devereux was clearly known and beloved by the audience who praised her with roaring applause. The beautiful Claire Walters was in her element; her voice was pure romance, making my eyes wander… “Could my love be here?” The vocal range of Bethan Ellsmore was otherworldly. She was a musical siren, seducing the audience back in time to 1930s New Orleans. Bombshell! Rebecca Grennan was an absolute delight and one of my favourites. She was cheeky and flirty, and the girl can dance! I did not want her to leave the stage. 

 

Two words. Melissa Western. This is a name you need to remember. One of Sinatra’s idols, Tony Bennett, said that Frank had “perfected the art of intimacy.” Western seemed to be channelling the man himself. Her performance was utterly captivating, wooing the audience with every word. Jaws dropped as she sang My Way. If she has a solo show, I need to know about it because she is dynamite.

 

 

 

 

(Melissa Western’s Gig Guide is here).

 

I thoroughly enjoyed Seven on Sinatra. This show was the perfect homage to the man and the music. 

07
Jun
17

The Really Real Housewife of Surfers Paradise

 

The Really Real Housewife of Surfers Paradise

Brisbane Powerhouse & Lisa LaCelle

Friday June 2 2017

 

Reviewed by Katy Cotter 

 

 

Yes, you heard it here first, Mercedes DeLuca-Jones is auditioning to become the new Really Real Housewife of Surfers Paradise. This lady has everything her heart desires, a husband with a large check-book, two beautiful children who have moved out of home. What more could she want? FAME!!!

 

The ever-versatile Visy Theatre was transformed into Mercedes’ luxurious sitting room on the Gold Coast. There sat a grand piano, a bar cart with only the most expensive French champagne, extravagant rugs, and a large statue of a Cassowarie – of course, darling! Mercedes, played by the beautifully charming Lisa LaCelle (as it turns out, a housewife of Brisbane) graces us with her presence in a fabulous sequinned number with diamonds sparkling on her ears and fingers.

This wickedly hilarious comedy-cabaret sees Mercedes gossiping about friends both alive…and dead. She recently lost her gay best friend, Ritchie, whose voice she still hears and believes now is her guardian angel. To help deal with her grief she’s hired a music therapist, Ivy, who sits behind the piano sufficiently boozed up, it seems, to withstand Mercedes’ rollercoaster of emotion.

The story follows the highs and lows of Mercedes journey to be the next Housewife. She suffers shocking personal blows that see her husband Gregory running off with a Japanese exchange student, and her left clawing at her polyester Moo Moo in the hope to regain her dignity.

Alongside the witty and intelligent writing, the lyrics from hit pop songs weaved seamlessly throughout the show have been altered to suit the story. It was clear that LaCelle had a voice, but Mrs. DeLuca-Jones not so much, though it was the over-the-top performance of each song that had me in stitches. Her I don’t care what you think attitude got the audience on side from the get-go, and singing along.

With reality television taking over, this show is extremely current. It was entertaining and like reality TV, it was a chance to escape the hum-drum of everyday life, and have a laugh at another’s expense.

 

LaCelle’s performance is entrancing, throwing herself into the character, eliciting raucous belly laughs from the audience.

 

She was in complete control, even when phones starting ringing and people deciding to have loud conversations during the show, she powered on and I applaud her for that. It was a tough gig.