Archive for the 'Music' Category

14
Aug
17

Richard Grantham & ZEN ZEN ZO Present DUSK

RESTRUNG 2017: The Viola Cloning Project & ZEN ZEN ZO

 

Saturday August 19 2017 at 3:45pm & 9pm 

 

Hit pause on your fast-paced hectic life, and take a moment to slow down, breath, and be present at DUSK

 

Restrung 2017 delivers an all-star line-up of more than 50 international, national and local artists to explore the spaces between genres – classical, electronica, folk, jazz, rock, pop, minimalism and more.

 

The three-day program includes The Viola Cloning Project and Zen Zen Zo’s DUSK, and Collusion and Queensland Ballet Academy’s Muscle Memory: Reflex.

 

Third in the series of Restrung festivals, the program offers a joyous explosion of strings-driven music, dance, theatre and art that challenges musical and artistic boundaries: a roller coaster ride through the arcane, the forbidden and the gorgeous.

 

 

 

DUSK is the third collaboration between renowned Australian composer and improviser Richard Grantham (aka The Viola Cloning Project) and leading contemporary performance company, Zen Zen Zo Physical Theatre.

 

DUSK is a moving meditation, a danced haiku, an opportunity to inhabit the “space between” (day/night; sound/silence; movement/stillness; life/death)

 

a regenerative space of unfolding potential…

 

Performer, Travis Weiner talks about

DUSK, ZEN ZEN ZO & RICHARD GRANTHAM –

 

There are 2 aspects of the show itself I can tell you about.

 

I’ve performed in all of Lynne’s shows since I started with the company in 2014 and this is probably the simplest but the most physically and mentally demanding choreography I can remember. That’s partly because some of it is just hard work and partly because Richard’s original composition can’t be broken into beats of 8. When we dance to his music, which is also in parts just him jamming, we have no musical beat to keep us in sync with each other. So almost the entire show is us kinaesthetically responding to each other. It’s an exciting challenge.

 

From a creative perspective it’s more complicated to explain what’s unique about this show. We were talking about this yesterday and we all see Richard as this god-like maestro summoning us as otherworldly spirits. I would say he deserves such a role. He is a very talented musician, and I wouldn’t say so lightly. The music he is able to create with literally one instrument and a bunch of pedals at his feet is mind blowing. It’s like he takes the concept of a one man band and turns it into a one man orchestra.

 

Our challenge was to create a movement score that kept Richard in focus for the majority of the piece. After watching Richard create his music I don’t think we would be able to steal too much limelight if we tried. His performance is simply fascinating.

 

Working with Zen Zen Zo is always a challenging experience because of the nature and standard of the work, but also very rewarding. Anyone who has trained with the company knows how exhausting an experience it can be. When it comes to a show the bar is set even higher and understandably so. Sometimes we look at each other and go, “can we actually do this for that long?” And then we do. I would say to anyone it is worth coming to see Richard play, even if he was on stage alone. But also to anyone who missed Zen Zen Zo’s sold-out In the Company of Shadows season last year, here is a second chance to see the performers from that show take to the stage again.

 

 

In the Company of Shadows from info@zenzenzo.com on Vimeo.

 

Bring a wine or a green tea and enjoy an afternoon or evening of mindfulness in the presence of these extraordinary artists.

 

DUSK is an exploration of the liminal, the space between, the threshold which facilitates transformation. The dancers move like shamans or spirit walkers between the light and dark, life and death, music and silence, weaving a shadowy web through the bitter-sweet original score of Richard Grantham’s live looped performance.

 

 

THU 17–SAT 19 AUGUST 2017

Two-Show Festival Pass (full)$110*

Two-Show Festival Pass (conc.)$100*

Three-Show Festival Pass (full)$150*

Three-Show Festival Pass (conc.)$135*

*An additional fee applies to each booking transaction. Single tickets $3 / Multiple tickets $6.

 

 

Composer: Richard Grantham


Directors/Choreographers: Lynne Bradley & Jamie Kendall


Lighting Design: Simon Woods


Design Consultant: Rachel Konyi


Costumes: Bill Haycock & Kaylee Gannaway


Performers: Richard Grantham with Jamie Kendall, Gina Tay Limpus, Aurora Liddle-Christie & Travis Weiner

 

 

 

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. 

30
May
17

Lady Beatle

 

Lady Beatle

La Boite Theatre Company & The Little Red Company

La Boite Roundhouse Theatre

May 25 – June 3 2017

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

Reality leaves a lot to the imagination.

John Lennon

We used to sing a song to Poppy when she was little.

Ladybug, ladybug, landed on my stinky toe….. It was so funny; we would giggle and sing bits of it intermittently for days at a time. It still makes me smile (and if we’re honest, we still sing it from time to time).

Did you even know that lady beetles don’t see colour? They see only grey. Perhaps I knew this once, or I should have known it, since my dad is an entomologist and no doubt has told me this and many other fascinating insect facts, but I think I’d forgotten. I’ve never forgotten rowdy closing night parties and random days and nights throughout my childhood, singing The Beatles’ songs at the tops of our voices. There are things that contribute far more than other things to the grown ups we become, and if The Beatles were part of your childhood or adolescent soundtrack too, you probably turned out alright. Poppy, now eleven, agrees that The Beatles are timeless, for every generation, “even if not ALL of my friends have a favourite Beatles’ song.” Poppy’s favourite Beatles’ song is, appropriately, Here Comes The Sun. If you know Poppy, you know how perfect that is.

I’ve been thinking about Lady Beetle Syndrome a lot. A major aspect of our Master of Professional Practice Performing Arts is psychology and self care, and the way in which we, as artists, look after ourselves and support each other. And just as the lady beetles don’t see their own bold beauty, despite our strengths and reflective practice, we often fail to recognise in ourselves the things that appear obvious to everyone else.

 

This sensational show, the third and final in The Little Red Company’s trilogy of pop culture cabaret productions starring Naomi Price (following the hugely successful Wrecking Ball & Rumour Has It), depended largely upon La Boite’s recognition of the company’s previous success and their faith in the creation of new product, even before the creators knew what it would look like. With only the title to start the process, La Boite held space, gifting the luxury of time to the artists, who were able to immerse themselves in a truly collaborative development period in between the demands of touring, managing to keep Rumour Has It on the road while writing and rehearsing Lady Beatle. I don’t think any of our artists strive to be owned by a venue, but La Boite’s Todd MacDonald, like QPAC’s John Kotzas, and our other industry leaders (at Queensland Theatre, Brisbane Powerhouse, Judith Wright Centre of Contemporary Arts and Metro Arts), has certainly provided the vital support that makes it less stressful and more enjoyable to be an artist, or a company of artists, creating new work in Australia. Sam Strong was right to insist we begin to recognise that we are, indeed, leading from Queensland in so many ways.

Premiering on the 50th Anniversary of the release of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, this production is the ultimate deep and meaningful feel-good show, with a guaranteed touring life ahead of it. It goes to Adelaide and Noosa next, and I’ll be surprised if we don’t see it back in town in September for Brisbane Festival. Imagine, in the Spiegeltent! But like Rumour Has It, when it moved to more spacious venues, this show is bound to take on a different vibe, and I do love the intimacy of this first version, using cabaret seating in The Roundhouse, and allowing us to feel as if the stories are special secrets shared between Lady Beatle and her closest friends, i.e. anyone who loves The Beatles as much as she does.

Co-creators, Naomi Price and Adam Brunes, just about perfected contemporary cabaret with the many incarnations of Rumour Has It, but this time they’ve made the experience more personal. Rather than taking on multiple roles or an iconic role, Price is a complex, compelling, mysterious woman from Liverpool who loves The Beatles. She loves them more than anything else in the world. She was there at the Cavern in 1962 for their first ever performance, and recalls watching them running, with nothing to lose, towards the light at the end of a dark tunnel, and into a crowd of hundreds of screaming fans. No fear. Just running towards it all. In the music and personalities of the lads she finds her escape and inspiration, and a way back to a world in which she thought she’d never belong.

With The Beatles in it, the woman’s grey world becomes kaleidoscopic and full of promise.

A rousing, crowd pleasing Yellow Submarine sounds just the way we thought it might (and yes, we sing along), but new musical arrangements allow for a raw, sweet, pure Penny Lane and a dark, sombre, somehow sadder than ever Eleanor Rigby. Queensland’s Chamber Orchestra, The Camerata, play Andrew Johnson’s original string arrangement (recorded, mixed and mastered by Geoff McGahan). In true sharing culture style, The Little Red Company has made this stunning track available to download for FREE. The Lonely Hearts Club Band comprises four lads who are easily among our country’s best musicians; we’ve seen the proof of it in previous productions. They are Jason McGregor, Andrew Johnson, Michael Manikus and Mik Easterman. They scrub up well, in suits by Leigh Buchanan. Price wears knee highs and a mod woollen coat dress to start and a sparkling classic red pants suit to finish; very Elle Macpherson/Goldie Hawn/Celine Dion, and both outfits are just right with her black bobbed hair. Jamie Taylor’s sound design and engineering is first class, and Jason Glenwright’s tubular lighting is both practical and magical, retaining the focus on the singer and the songs.

Although I actually want to see Price singing it, it’s fitting that a rendition of Blackbird comes literally out of the dark. Let It Be wraps a proper rock medley, and it’s an ear worm of inspiration and comfort, a reminder of the present moment, to continue to “hurry slowly” through life from the place of stillness and self-love that’s easy enough to find in our quieter moments, but so difficult to carry with us as we go into our busy days and nights.

Lady Beatle is mostly upbeat, but it has some beautifully charged and reflective moments, and while it’s a tribute, with its focus firmly on the life affirming, world changing music of The Beatles, we’re invited to go deeper to consider everything that’s precious in our lives right now. Price is in fine voice; she can twist and shout and whisper and croon and rock! The ultimate entertainer, she opens (and closes) the show with a bang, settling into a friendly, intimate tone from the outset, simply inviting us to join her on a trip down memory lane, into a world of tangerine trees, marmalade skies, and strawberry fields forever. It’s a brilliant concept, a massively appealing and entertaining show, superbly delivered. We’re left with a sneaking suspicion that there’s more to come.

When the band plays and the voice soars, and the entire sold-out opening night crowd sings along, you know you’re at one of the best new shows of the decade. You know you’ll get to see it again.

 

25
May
17

Behind Closed Doors

 

Behind Closed Doors

Expressions Dance Company

QPAC Playhouse

May 19 to May 27 2017

Reviewed by Ruth Ridgway

Each dancer brings passion, dedication, vision and respect. I feel their trust in me and it is empowering. They are brave in the studio and brave in performance.

Natalie Weir, Artistic Director, EDC

 

Set in an upmarket hotel, Expressions Dance Company’s Behind Closed Doors marries live contemporary jazz and contemporary dance.

If only all dance performances could include live music! It might not always be practicable or even possible, but this work powerfully demonstrates how the two live artforms complement and enrich each other.

Artistic Director/Choreographer Natalie Weir and the EDC dancers have collaborated with contemporary music ensemble Trichotomy: Musical Director Sean Foran (piano), John Parker (drums) and Samuel Vincent (acoustic bass), with guest artists Kristin Berardi (vocals) and Rafael Karlen (saxophone). Compositions by the group have been reworked for Behind Closed Doors, and performances include improvisation.

Behind Closed Doors is a reworking and further development of the 2010 EDC production While Others Sleep, also created and performed with Trichotomy (then called Misinterprotato).

The ‘film noir’ hotel setting (design by Greg Clark, lighting design by David Walters) seems a natural one for a jazz ensemble. At the end of the show, the audience stayed seated for a while, enjoying a final number from Trichotomy – it was as if we were transported into that hotel.

The stage is divided into three spaces: an area for the musicians, with space in front of them that is a foyer or a restaurant, and a revolving set, with doors on one side opening into ‘rooms’ with missing walls on the other, into which the audience can see.

We see glimpses of hotel guests’ stories in vignettes featuring a range of characters. In between these vignettes, people pass through the public spaces of the hotel, carrying luggage, hurrying to meet schedules, and presenting their public personae.

Elise May is very moving in her role as The Lonely Woman, partnered by Benjamin Chapman as the memory or ghost of her lost partner. Their duo in their first appearance is fluid, poignant, and sad, with beautiful complex lifts executed almost in slow motion. The lyrical effect contrasts with the strength and control that the movement needs, but which is completely transcended.

The Lonely Woman’s costumes (design by Greg Clark) are stunning: a filmy black dress strewn with 3D appliqué red poppies; and a full-length cream wraparound dress, reminiscent of 1930s film star Jean Harlow.

In this role and in his solo as The Dark Man, Chapman is strong and compelling. The Dark Man appears to be escaping from life in the outside world. Tormented and desperate, he trashes his hotel room, and is found unconscious by the maid. The acrobatic contortions of Chapman’s solo as he ricochets around the room convey the character’s torment and desperation.

May and Chapman also have a scene in the hotel restaurant as a warring young couple, whose row extends to involve other patrons, as they knock over tables and chairs, and hit the suspended lights. The force of the movement and its representation of disregard for polite behaviour is both liberating and discomforting to watch. They are not people you would want sitting near you in a restaurant.

While The Dark Man appears driven by torment to escape from life in the outside world, The Chameleon (guest artist Xu Yiming) disguises himself to avoid notice. He wears a cherry-red suit that blends in with the curtains and bedspread in his room. His fluid and boneless movements are in peripheral planes: he lies on the floor, flopping along impossibly, hides behind curtains, and sprawls on the bed.

In another story, The Businessman (Richard Causer) appears in a suit, so formal and restricted that he must be hiding something.  Sure enough, when inside his hotel room, he sheds the suit and reveals a struggle between his feminine and masculine personae, posing in front of us as if watching himself in a mirror. Causer projects both vulnerability and strength in this role, engaging our sympathy.

Michelle Barnett and Jake McLarnon join Causer to represent The Female Side (represented by a dramatic and erotic dark-red dress) and the Male Side of the character, struggling with him and each other. Barnett and Causer fly and fling each other through a duo, and all three finish by grappling together. We are left wondering how long The Business Man will be able to endure the struggle.

Barnett and McLarnon express completely different emotions and physicality in their roles as Young Lovers. Their duo is passionate, playful and joyous, with Barnett memorably taking a flying leap onto McLarnon on the bed.

McLarnon and Causer also perform a ‘young love’ (or maybe ‘young lust’) duo. The two men’s encounter begins when they pop out of their doorways in bathrobes, and continues in a very physical, gymnastic display of muscularity and humour.

The Maid threads her way through the action as the constant among the shifting group of hotel guests. She finds odd things people drop or leave behind, accidentally sees people in vulnerable or compromising situations, fantasises about guests’ lives, and is harassed by guests. In this role, QUT student Tiana Pinnell did an outstanding job of filling in at short notice for the injured Alana Sargent*.

The publicity for Behind Closed Doors invited us to unleash our inner voyeur. I found that I was identifying with the characters instead – a tribute to the power of the performers to inspire our empathy.

It’s hard to write about the EDC dancers without gushing. They perform amazing physical feats which are at the same time evocative and expressive, and they transport us into other worlds.

*This review is of the second night performance, Saturday 20 May.

02
Apr
17

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone In Concert

 

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone In Concert

J.K. Rowling’s Wizarding World & CineConcerts

Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre

Saturday April 1 2017

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

hp5

We’re at Brisbane’s Convention and Exhibition Centre with a crowd that is not your ordinary theatre crowd, although perhaps it’s a new theatre-ish crowd, and we get some interesting looks ourselves, as if we’re the odd ones out. We’ve swept into the venue at the last second, having parked at QPAC because we always park at QPAC (it’s automatic now; the car can magically get itself there), which means that when the show is not there, a graceful-as-a-giraffe little run down Grey Street and across the road is required to get to the right box office. This mixed crowd, in the Convention Centre foyer, is not expecting an evening of live theatre.

They’re here for a movie concert, the first of a new genius series from CineConcerts, featuring your local symphony orchestra playing every note of a Harry Potter film shown on a 40-foot screen.

It may be a movie night but it’s an entirely theatrical event! The vibe is electric and a great number of hard-core fans are proudly wearing Gryffindor shirts, and ties and sweaters and robes. Everybody is so excited to be here.

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We take our seats moments before the house lights go down and when Conductor, QSO’s Sarah Hicks, appears, she is welcomed by appreciative applause. She smiles and asks if there’s anyone who’s never been to a live orchestral performance. Many hands go up, and she smiles encouragingly, inviting everyone to get involved. In true pantomime fashion, we should feel free to cheer for our hero and boo the villains. There’s no question about whether or not we’ve seen the film or read the book… No matter what our individual stories are, we’re in for a treat!

I wonder how the orchestra will precisely match the action, but only for half a second before Hicks raises her baton and the Warner Bros logo appears on screen as we hear the first sounds from the string section. A collective shiver runs through the Great Hall. It’s perfect. It’s actually intense. Every moment of the movie becomes sharper and more vital. The entire underscore, which we might forget is there sometimes, when we see the film at home or originally, in the surround sound cinema, comes alive. Every moment of discovery, joy, anticipation, trepidation, celebration and dread is able to be fully experienced, savoured.

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And unless we glance at the musicians on stage from time to time, or become mesmerised watching them at their craft, as I do while the harp plays to keep three-headed Fluffy asleep (it’s so beautiful, the sound of faerie slumber), or while the percussionists keep up with thousands of magical additions, intellectually, we almost take for granted that the music is live. But at the same time, soulfully, we’re experiencing something very special. Like a festival event, there’s a true communal feeling, a momentary connection with people we’ve never met, because we all just want Harry to defeat Voldemort! We know this is only the very beginning of an epic battle, which represents something for everyone. And it’s delightful to see this film again, so beautifully realised, and it’s so funny, I’d forgotten.

Poppy has been terrified for years by the more frightening moments in the film, and has never actually watched in its entirety, The Philosopher’s Stone or any of the subsequent films. I’d made this event a surprise so she couldn’t back out and offer her seat to someone else, and she was hesitant about it, telling me she might need to hide under my wrap when we know Voldemort is about to appear. Well, she did hide towards the end, but after settling into the first few magical bars of the music I saw a grin spread from ear to ear as Harry celebrated his 11th birthday and took off to Hogwarts with Hagrid. Guess what’s on in the background as I write this? Poppy has taken out the DVD box collection and put on The Philosopher’s Stone, and as we hear the familiar strains of John Williams’ evocative opening bars, she laments, “The music’s not as good!”

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Our Queensland Symphony Orchestra gives The Philosopher’s Stone a new, unique, incredibly magical quality, the full, rich sounds of the live music letting us dive in deeper, remember our original experience of the film and enjoy J.K. Rowling’s Wizarding World all over again.

 

Don’t miss the next exciting event in the QSO / Cineconcert series on October 7 Harry Potter and The Chamber of Secrets 

 

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Harry-Potter-and-the-Chamber-of-Secrets-4-(hero)

 

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07
Mar
17

American Idiot

American Idiot

shake & stir and QPAC

QPAC Playhouse

February 25 – March 12 2017

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

americanidiot_alterego

DO YOU HAVE TIME TO LISTEN TO ME WHINE?

THIS IS THE DAWNING OF THE REST OF OUR LIVES.

In fact, this is the dawning of a whole new age of Aquarius; the new moon in Pisces during the opening week and an auspicious year one, in the first of a cycle of nine. This means we were already craving change; something new, something edgy, something to make us sit bolt upright and inspire us to sow some seeds for the future. We don’t have to be a part of the 24/7 news cycle to appreciate that in the current political climate, much of American Idiot rings as true as it did when the concept album went straight to the top of the Billboard charts in 2004, and when the show smashed onto the Broadway scene in 2009.

The Age of Aquarius is about acknowledging the system is broken…and not waiting for someone else to fix it.

americanidito_7eleven

Green Day’s American Idiot is a new kind of music theatre experience, and unlike the string of political and social rock musicals with which we’ve grown up (West Side Story, Jesus Christ Superstar, Hair, Spring Awakening, Next to Normal), which all have super strong stories, incredibly, this show rides on only the flimsiest excuse for a book (by Billie Joe Armstrong and Michael Mayer, also the show’s original director). In fact, the entire story is probably just the album description. (It’s not, I checked). More like Lloyd Webber’s Superstar in form, also groundbreaking in its time, American Idiot even has a Christ-like figure (or two, if we count the alter ego angel/devil dealer St Jimmy), Johnny, Jesus of Suburbia, whose story is told over the course of the song of the same name.

American Idiot relies on its punk rock pop and acoustic sound, its grungy rebel aesthetic and the star power brought to the stage by creators, Green Day, and the contemporary artists who star in it, in this case, The Living End’s Chris Cheney until February 26 and then Grinspoon’s Phil Jamieson.

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Michael Mayer told the New York Times in April 2010, “My idea all along was to keep the 13 songs in their original order and to interrupt it at times with other Green Day songs and the sparest of dialogue, because I didn’t want to have any extraneous words”. MISSION ACCOMPLISHED.

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The Australian premiere company is sensational, bringing big voices and rampant energy to QPAC’s Playhouse stage. The look and feel is fantastic, chaotic. It’s shake & stir’s first foray into this more expansive space and with a bold creative team, led by Director, Craig Ilot, to create the terrifying world of an idiotic America, they’re a welcome fit. A massive departure from their previous offerings, although with the same rock star energy and attitude we see applied to the schools’ touring company, this is not the usual shake & stir show. It’s inspired programming, perfect timing, and set to shift the gaze from shake & stir as a tight knit team of contemporaries, to MainStage presenters with a bolder mission to reach newer audiences still, and prove massive success at the box office while other companies continue to, by choice or necessity, play small.

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Josh McIntosh’s set design, utilising scaffolding and stairs, a hidden bed and eight enormous in-built television screens, provides the perfect anarchic playground for the cast of angry characters and also, for optikal bloc’s vivid AV design, which includes a barrage of chaotic images and lyrics – we get a taste of what’s to come in the opening minutes with the 24-hour news cycle popping up, as it does if we let it, on each screen – and a clever representation of that sacred ground, 7-Eleven. Matthew Marshall’s rock concert lighting states offer exactly the right mix of chaos and abandon, although we are blinded frequently and for some sensitive types this will not be a happy memory of the show. Lucas Newland’s choreography is edgy and angsty, sharply conceived and executed. Melanie Knight’s costumes capture a perfectly punk style, incorporating leather, tartan, torn denim, black hosiery and boots. It’s actually refreshing to see army fatigues, and Dirty Dancing’s Kurt Phelan cutting a fine figure in an officer’s uniform, despite the negative connotations of war at this point (at any point) in the not-quite-a-narrative. The look and feel and gritty sound will attract a whole new generation of theatregoers, but at the same time another set may well stay away. And that’s entertainment. At the first show on opening night – I can only assume the oldies and those having to travel from farther afield because we’ve never built our Instagram numbers to 10K and struck a deal with any of the nearby accomodation options (I’m counting myself in the latter category), were invited to the early show – the sound was muddy and the band overbearing. I thought it might be a punk thing? But no, and it will have been rectified by now. Under the musical direction of music industry stalwart Glenn Moorhouse (also on guitar), the on-stage band could easily sell a national tour without the rest of the show happening around them. These are some freakishly talented, dynamic performers.

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Ben Bennett, in his professional stage debut, leads a uniformly excellent cast, as a convincing Johnny, Jesus of Suburbia, styled to look alarmingly like Billie Joe Armstrong (the original Broadway Johnny). The Living End’s charismatic Chris Cheney gives St Jimmy a wicked Machiavellian grin and legit Green Day frontman movements like a snake, making it easy for us to believe in the simple allure of spending hard won cash on the drugs he magically procures from his pocket. Bringing the hyperactivity down a notch, Boulevard of Broken Dreams and Wake Me Up When September Ends capture the melancholy that underpins the show’s inherent angst. 

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Rowena Vilar’s dream sequence aerial is accomplished and delightful to watch while we question what the hell is it doing in there? We can forgive this very poor excuse to throw in a super sexy number because she’s mesmerising. Likewise, Strictly Ballroom’s Phoebe Panaretos (Whatshername) and Ashleigh Barlow (Heather, the only female character granted an actual name), do their best with embarrassingly underwritten roles that continue to perpetuate the myths of (Vilar) the sexy nurse/slave to men, (Panaretos) the girlfriend/good fuck/slave to men and (Barlow) the doting mother and desperate wife/slave to men. Definitely a theme there. While there are some shoddy attempts to lift these women out of their boxes, even when Heather ups and leaves the hopeless, useless Will (a stereotypical sofa slob, played by Alex Jeans, a performer who could do so much more given half a chance), it’s at the insistence of a friend. Likewise, Cameron MacDonald does what he can with the role of Tunny, similarly thinly veiled as representative of a vast section of the population (because we all dream of that extraordinary girl in dazzling white and crystal embellishments performing aerial acts for our viewing pleasure during a stint in hospital).

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In case we haven’t felt affected along the way (or in case we’ve felt more affected than we had expected to), the show closes with an overly sincere and unnecessarily sentimental, full company acoustic rendition of Good Riddance (Time of Your Life), which would have been better left as the play out music. It undoes much of the hard work, apologising in a way that feels very Robin Goodfellow, too earnestly hoping we can all still be friends by the end! But that’s okay because otherwise, of course we might leave and kick over a trash can, or shout impatiently at somebody waiting for their Uber. As it turns out, we have a delightful conversation for the next hour while one of the friends is waiting for her Uber, so perhaps it is, after all, the perfect note on which to end.

The contemporary collective voice of several generations, American Idiot is Brisbane’s biggest, loudest, funnest, most offensive premiere of the year. You’d be an idiot to miss it.