Archive for the 'Musical Theatre' Category

15
Nov
17

Powerful Female-led La Boite Season in 2018

Powerful Female-led La Boite Season in 2018

 

 

La Boite Theatre Company has unveiled a trailblazing 2018 season, putting vital female voices at the heart of a season of new Australian works.

 

“It is no surprise that our 2018 season has a vital and strong group of female artists leading the charge,” La Boite Artistic Director and CEO Todd MacDonald said. “Throughout its 90+ year history, La Boite has been heavily influenced by formidable and talented women, from Barbara Sisley and Babette Stephens to Jennifer Blocksidge and Sue Rider. “In 2018, our season tackles global issues, personal narratives, innovative forms, and a host of exciting new collaborations, including four world premiere productions.”

 

 

La Boite’s 2018 season opens with The Dead Devils of Cockle Creek (10 February – 3 March); a new dark-comedy by acclaimed Queensland actor and playwright Kathryn Marquet (Pale Blue Dot), co-produced by Playlab. Set in the isolated wilds of Tasmania and described as “McDonagh meets Tarantino”, The Dead Devils of Cockle Creek stars John Batchelor, Julian Curtis, Kimie Tsukakoshi and Emily Weir (pictured), directed by PlayLab’s Artistic Director and CEO, Ian Lawson.

 

 

La Boite 2018 also sees the return of La Boite and MDA’s sell-out, participatory verbatim work The Village (30 April – 5 May), based on the real-life stories of refugees and asylum seekers. Featuring a fearless company of six sharing their life-changing true stories of survival in the face of adversity, The Village stars Cieavash Arean, Arwin Arwin, Silva Asal, Joyce Taylor, Lili Sanchez and Ngoc Phan.

 

Long-time La Boite collaborator Suzie Miller (Snow White; Medea) returns in 2018 with her highly-anticipated new work The Mathematics of Longing (2 – 23 June); a collaboration with internationally acclaimed Gold Coast based dance-theatre company The Farm. Also premiering is a contemporary feminist response to Aristophanes’ Lysistrata, by 2016 Text Prize winner Claire Christian, set on 21 January 2017 when women all over the world amassed to protest a Trump-led free world. Led by a fierce female chorus of women including Brisbane’s own Amy Ingram and Hsiao-Ling Tang, Lysa and the Freeborn Dames (21 July – 11 August) features some of Queensland’s brightest emerging talents, with QUT Bachelor of Fine Arts Final Year Acting students completing the QUT Creative Industries co-production.

 

 

Rounding out the main stage season is Neon Tiger (27 October – 17 November); a roaring new Australian play with songs by Julia-Rose Lewis (Samson), composed by Gillian Cosgriff (pictured). Directed by Kat Henry, this world premiere production, in association with Brisbane Powerhouse, stars Courtney Stewart, fresh from her star-turn in 2017’s runaway hit Single Asian Female.

 

 

La Boite’s 2018 offering also sees two of the company’s most-loved works from recent years on tour around the country, including Future D. Fidel’s smash hit Prize Fighter, which returns to south-east Queensland in a special presentation at Logan Entertainment Centre in September. Michelle Law’s Single Asian Female, which premiered to universal acclaim at La Boite in 2017, receives its interstate premiere at Belvoir in February. Also returning is La Boite’s popular HWY (12 – 24 March); an annual festival of readings, showing, workshops, masterclasses, conversations and pitches. Since its inception in 2016, HWY has proven a vital pathway for countless artists and championed several acclaimed new works including Single Asian Female and The Mathematics of Longing.

 

MacDonald said the 2018 program continued La Boite’s ongoing commitment to the development of new work and artists. “2018 is the year of extraordinary collaborations and brilliant local talent,” MacDonald said. “We hold a special responsibility to not just entertain and challenge but to listen and make space, so we will continue to do just that in 2018.”

 

Playwright Suzie Miller said she was proud to be part of this pioneering season of new work. “To be part of a season that’s led by female writers is such an incredible experience,” Miller said. “I remember when I first started my career in 2000 noting that there were very few women playwrights in main stage seasons, so to have come this full circle where that’s the predominant voice in the season is incredibly exciting.”

 

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12
Nov
17

The Wizard of Oz

 

The Wizard of Oz

John Frost & Suzanne Jones

QPAC Lyric Theatre

November 10 – December 3 2017

 

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

 

 

Give a girl the right shoes, and she can conquer the world.

– Marilyn Monroe

 

Andrew Lloyd Webber’s London Palladium production of The Wizard of Oz hits the right glittering rainbow tone for its Australian premiere in Brisbane. L Frank Baum’s beloved story, enjoyed by generations since 1900, is brought back to life in a revel of colour and rich scenery. While it seems remiss to miss making more of the famous field of poppies and the flying monkeys, particularly with such talented aerialists amongst the cast, we’ll remain focused on the otherwise visually arresting aesthetic and enduring appeal of the show!

 

 

However, we’ll also just take a moment to note that some of Jon Driscoll’s digital design appears to be used in lieu of  – or in front of – old-school scene changes during blackouts, which others love but by which I’m unconvinced. Without having the same effect as the original film’s black-&-white-to-Technicolor wow moment (remember when you thought the TV must be broken?), it lacks the edgy sophistication to put it at the same level as the rest of the design. The visual impact of both the Emerald City and the witch’s tower for example, reminiscent of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis, is more lasting. Perhaps, like a lot of things Lloyd Webber, it seemed like a good idea at the time and even just a few years later – this version of the show premiered in the West End in 2011 – the projections, including the pre-show scrim design – feel dated. Fortunately, none of these quibbles detract from the overall effect, which is supported by Hugh Vanstone’s cinematic lighting design.

 

 

Director and Co-Adapter Jeremy Sams has worked with Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice to bring the YES vote boldly to the stage, which in and of itself is nothing new, The Wizard of Oz (1939) having been claimed long ago as a gay fave film, and Judy Garland the global gay community’s kween. The updates are witty and funny and apt. When the Lion (John Xintavelonis) declares, “I’m proud to be a friend of Dorothy,” he earns heartfelt applause from Brisbane’s loud and proud opening night audience. For some reason the Lion has become that camp character, and Xintavelonis gets the balance just right, without us feeling we’re being beaten over the head with a blunt object.

 

 

He’s an adorable, loveable Lion and with Alex Rathberger as the tap-dancing Tinman, and Eli Cooper as the vague, scrappy, very funny Scarecrow, these three make the iconic characters their own. The very definition of ensemble, they generously support Samantha Dodemaide in her breakout role. (Yes, you might argue that her breakout role was Kathy Seldon in Singing’ in the Rain but I’d maintain that more people will see and retain a lasting memory of her beautifully realised Dorothy).

 

 

Dodemaide is sweet enough and strong enough vocally to make this iconic role her own; she represents all the misunderstood little girls who run away from home and grow up into their big, full, open hearts along the way to their Emerald City. Somewhere Over the Rainbow is sincerely, superbly delivered to us in the most beautifully measured mix, to us and to Toto (this coveted role shared by the most well behaved and affectionate Australian Terriors we’ve ever seen, Trouble and Flick, trained by Luke Hura).

 

To sell a song that’s been over-sung for decades is a tough gig and Dodemaide, with perfect optimism, nails it.

 

 

The indomitable Jemma Rix reprises the green skin and ghastly cackle of Wicked’s Elphie, but this Wicked Witch is the original, and she’s comic book kind of nasty rather than really vulnerable and vengeful, her unforgettable lines delivered with fresh, fun, mischievous energy, and without a spit of sarcasm. In anyone else’s hands this could be the less meatier role and while it’s lacking depth on the page, Rix gives the Witch multiple dimensions and emotions, making her a proper James Bond movie worthy megalomaniac. Her black feathered gown is the fantastic creation of Scenic and Costume Designer, Robert Jones, reminiscent of Maleficent’s high fashion look, and with her conical high hairdo rather than the black peaked witches’ hat of old, this is a savvy and stylish design choice.

 

 

And is there a better fit in all the world for a good witch other than our beloved Lucy Durack? She’s as Glinda as Glinda gets, and again, reminiscent of the role in Wicked, Durack is just as sweet, but without being saccharine, and gentler and kinder from the outset. This role too contains less depth on the page and as testament to the skill sets of both these leading ladies, the characters are made just as relatable as their contemporary counterparts.

 

Also, Durack’s spectacular sparkling gown allows her to enter from above, in full flight, descending like some glorious faery queen, and then the length of skirt, part of the scenery only seconds before, is whipped away to allow her to step into Munchinland. It’s a dazzling effect, but then Durack’s appearance always is.

 

 

Anthony Warlow is in top form as both Professor Marvel and The Wizard, bringing us an original wizened man of many tricks, with a genuine attitude of concern and care for Dorothy’s wellbeing (and, eventually, for her friends). Warlow emanates a warmth that makes both Marvel and The Wizard absolutely loveable.

 

 

The company includes the Sunshine Coast’s Rachael Ward, which is not the only reason she gets a special mention (although we’ll continue to claim her!), but also because our eyes are drawn to her every time she appears on stage. This is an exceptional ensemble – every performer looking and sounding sharp – so it’s no easy task to be a standout amongst them and yet, the statuesque Ward shines.

 

John Frost continues to bring the biggest and best looking musical productions to our venues, and I’ll be genuinely surprised if there’s anyone who is left unmoved by The Wizard of Oz this time around, with its updates and upscaled set (obviously, such a sap is in need of a heart). It’s retained a sense of nostalgia and allowed a whole new generation to see the land beyond the rainbow, and the love that – we have to hope – surrounds them at home.

 

13
Oct
17

The Last Five Years

 

The Last Five Years

Wax Lyrical Productions

Visy Theatre Brisbane Powerhouse

October 7 – 14 2017

 

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

 

 

 

Within the first ten minutes of The Last Five Years we know whether or not we’re up for hearing this story and watching heartbreak happen. Wax Lyrical’s production, directed by Zoe Tuffin, and starring Kurt Phelan and Lizzie Moore, is exquisitely sad and beautifully crafted to let some light shine on the perfect imperfections of two people who were once in love.

 

During the opening three minutes we’ve already had our hearts crack irreparably and we realise we’re in for a relentlessly emotional 90-minute ride. If you’re coming in with real, raw, brand new wounds, or savage old ones that you’re not ready to let heal, take a drink or two in; you may feel the need to self-medicate.

 

Jason Robert Brown’s contemporary song cycle boasts a neat structure that sees the two performers share the stage throughout, and yet meet and connect only once, for a moment when they marry (The Next Ten Minutes, ever so delicately crafted and delivered). Despite the clever chronological device, and their continuous comings and goings, these gifted performers retain a deep connection with the material and with each other throughout.

 

 

 

If you’re unfamiliar with the work, it pays to know this much: A novelist, Jamie (Kurt Phelan), shares his story from the start to the finish of a five-year relationship with actress, Cathy (Lizzie Moore), who tells us her side of the same story in reverse, from the end of their relationship to its beginning. The characters are complex, the relationship complicated and it doesn’t end well.

 

 

 

As Phelan and Moore settle into their challenging roles, on opening night of a too-short season in the intimate Visy Theatre, we begin to sense what these two can really do. Phelan (Boys of Sondheim, Dirty Dancing) and Moore (Kiss Me Kate, On a Night Like This) know each other from way back, having met in a bathtub at a surprise party for mutual friend, Lucy Durack. There’s no doubt they’ve attracted attention as individual performers, but if they can perfect Moore’s first couple of numbers (Still Hurting & See I’m Smiling) – and perhaps she’s hit the mark after opening night, letting the emotion drop in, and going to the edge from the outset, as she does a little later – this two-hander will be the smash hit of next year’s national touring circuit.

 

You get to be happy…

 

 

In his most honest and searing work to date, Phelan embraces Jamie’s narcissism, ambition and shifting affection, offering a bold and precise physical performance, buoyed by a deeply committed energy that could be bottled and sold to most undergraduate (and some professional) performers. He’s effervescent, irresistible in this challenging role, which is the perfect vehicle for Phelan, with an impressive vocal range and a cavalry of emotions. From Shiksa Goddess to If I Didn’t believe in You we get the full gamut of emotions. The Shmuel Song – that track that might use a Spotify skip to miss – works so well that I’d happily see Phelan perform it again; he keeps us fully engaged (although the literal aspects, which are mimed, could go). His Nobody Needs to Know is, unsurprisingly, completely devastating. Phelan’s a busy, busy guy, but I hope this role is one he can keep smashing for some time.

 

I open myself one stitch at a time…

 

 

Cathy is one of the more demanding high belt roles for any female vocalist, asking of the performer a massive emotional range, difficult to keep in check, and it’s up to the performer to resist pushing vocally without the inner life to back up the big sound. When Moore settles into the role she nails it, embodying the sweet, insecure Cathy, and able to bring home the big brash open notes (Anna Kendrick doesn’t sell them like that!), as well as more thoughtful, gentle moments. Moore’s comedy is superb, it’s her thing; she’s so funny and cute, and yet, within the world of the show, she gives us reason to understand why Jamie might look the other way. I’d love to see her contain more, especially to begin with, to sit with the shock and immediacy of Jamie’s departure before the hilarity – the Climbing Uphill sequence later, and the little moments and glances that have us giggling during A Summer in Ohio and I Can Do Better Than That. We have to laugh out loud during the multiple failed auditions. We’ve all been there. Fucking shoes. Poor Cathy.

 

I have been waiting…

 

 

Shannon Whitelock (MD and piano), leading guitar (Joel Woods), violin (Ruth Donovan), cello (Wayne Jennings & Ruby Hunter) and bass (Conall O’Neill), plays with conviction and coaxes from his on-stage 5-piece the rich sounds of a much larger assembly of musicians. When I speak to Jennings, with whom I train on Monday nights in Zen Zen Zo’s Dojo, he modestly dismisses what he does so well outside of the training room. But if it were not for the sweet, desperately sad sounds and contrasting upbeat and humorous numbers (and with the hold these musicians have on JRB’s challenging score), our hearts might still be in tact!

 

Zoe Tuffin’s poised direction hones in on the detail, the specificity of each intimate moment. Her use of the sparsely configured space and contrasting lighting states, designed by Jason Glenwright, draw us into two completely different worlds, which collide for just a little while, for just as long as they need to, to tell the common tale of two people who are just not meant to be together.

 

The Last Five Years is quite a journey, for the cast and for us.

My head spins. My heart hurts. The hawk soars forth from my chest.

 

All I could do was love you hard and let you go…

 

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

 

27
Sep
17

Kinky Boots

 

Kinky Boots

Michael Cassel Group

QPAC Lyric Theatre

August 26 – October 22 2017

 

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

 

 

The most beautiful thing in the world…

 

You realise we’re talking about shoes, don’t you? Callum Francis, completely gorgeous, is unequivocally the SUPERSTAR of this show. Admittedly, Kinky Boots is written to make a star of any performer who lands the role of Lola, but I doubt that just any performer can play the role – own it – the way Callum Francis does. 

 

Of course it’s the right show for right now, when we must continue to challenge everyone in our circles and on the outskirts, to accept a person for who they are. A true celebration of the individual, inspired by real life events, Kinky Boots is honest, uplifting and utterly heartwarming.

 

The medium is the message, with a fabulously talented and diverse cast directed and choreographed by Jerry Mitchell, sharing the story of a failed guy made good through Cyndi Lauper’s music and lyrics, and a lively book with a stack of priceless one-liners (mostly Lola’s) by Harvey Fierstein. It feels like there are too many songs in the show, but who would dare cut anything from a celebrity penned award winning piece?

 

 

Charlie Price is struggling to save the family shoe business and live up to his father’s expectations. Determined to keep the factory from bankruptcy, Charlie meets a fashionable new friend who gives him an outrageous idea that could change both of their destinies.

 

The message couldn’t be clearer. A change of mind can change the world.

 

It’s refreshing to get a complete story unfolding on stage with enough early detail to add colour and depth to the factory setting of Act 1. Otherwise, it’s dimly lit and a bit dull, as befits the daily grind of the family owned business, until Lola’s Angels appear (and we close Act 1 with a fabulous conveyor belt finale), but it’s a space that’s cleverly designed around a central stairway leading to a platform, which oversees the factory floor. This structure also serves as the backdrop to Lola’s more colourful up-late cabaret performances and the bathroom cubicle in which she hides at one stage, when she feels she is at her most vulnerable.

 

 

 

It takes time to establish this charming story though, and the entire first act to reveal the kinky boots! The pace slows each time we come to a ballad and there are several; they make fantastic big sings for the performers but they’re not the most memorable musical theatre numbers of recent years. Fortunately, it’s a talented company with terrific voices (and legs!). Highlights include the showstoppers Sex Is In the Heel, Everybody Says Yeah and Raise You Up/Just Be (with its cheeky Too Funky type vibe). Not My Father’s Son is beautifully, sensitively sung and becomes a poignant turning point in the tale. On the other hand, Lola’s epic Hold Me In Your Heart appears to be included solely so we may enjoy a Whitney Houston moment. And we do, perhaps even more so than during The Bodyguard

 

 

 

Toby Francis as Charlie, gives his heart and soul to the role, his first commercial lead role. He’s in fine voice and despite the plot requiring him to stack it on the catwalk, he wears the two and a half feet of irresistible sex very well! It’s worth noting that the friendship between Charlie and Lola is actually a little like the cheeky, loveable picture book siblings of the same names created by Lauren Child, with the same tenderness and special bond between them, so it is strange that there’s a moment between them involving raised voices and an obstinate decision that takes them in different directions for a bit. This is not anything lacking in the performances or direction, but in the book. No one seems to have stepped up during creative developments or rehearsals to say aloud, that doesn’t seem right. Let’s change it.

 

 

Sophie Wright is hilariously OTT as Lauren; her solo (The History of Wrong Guys) demonstrating superb comic timing and her ability to read the crowd, taking the joke well beyond where others might. The little we see from Tegan Wouters is great, but she’s stuck with one of those underwritten girlfriend roles that doesn’t give her much to do, when we know she’s capable of much more.

 

 

When the music is upbeat and totally sexy you won’t be able to resist clapping along, and you may shed a tear during more sensitive moments.

Kinky Boots has a big heart and it’s a big hit! It’s a fantastic, current, funny and moving family friendly celebration of life in all corners. With a whole lot of glitter and glam and soul to nourish (and decorate) us by the end of it, the message is abundantly clear: the whole world changes when we accept people as they are

 

 

 

 

09
Sep
17

[title of show]

 

[title of show]

Understudy Productions

Hayward Street Studios

August 31 – September 10 2017

 

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

 

 

Jeff and Hunter, two struggling writers with nothing to lose, have decided to put everything on the line and create a show for New York Musical Theatre Festival. With the deadline for submissions a mere three weeks away, Jeff and Hunter decide to follow the old adage, “write what you know,” and set off on a unique musical adventure: writing a musical about writing a musical. With the help of their friends Susan, Heidi, and Larry on keys, they make a pact to write up until the festival’s deadline and dream about the show changing their lives.

 

[title of show] is one of the funniest productions to have been staged in Brisbane in a long time. I don’t know if this company saw Oscar Theatre Company’s production, directed by Emily Gilhome, in Brisbane in 2010 and Noosa in 2011 but this cast, directed by Ian Good, can hold their own.

 

 

Alexander Woodward’s Understudy Productions threw into the MELT Festival mix at Brisbane Powerhouse earlier this year an original cabaret (Boys of Sondheim), and now with Jeff Bowen and Hunter Bell’s [title of show] the company continues to provide professional work for local, Australian-based talent in another production that is LGBT and gender friendly. In the current political climate, a show about two gay guys writing a show about what matters to them and stuff that happens to them couldn’t be better placed.

 

Jackson McGovern plays an adorably goofy Hunter and Woodward is the perfect foil, an unassuming, charming Jeff. Together they go through the tumults of a working relationship and the closest kind of friendship, earning wide smiles, lots of laughter and our genuine affection.

 

 

 

Aurelie Roque is a wry, self-effacing Susan and Lauren McKenna a bold, bright and bubbly Heidi. Joel Curtis on keys is MD and an appropriately pacified Larry, and once again I feel like Larry should have more to say! Some of the best moments are in fact when the characters have nothing “scripted” to say. The girls soak up the spotlight during Secondary Characters during which they discuss what happens when the writers leave the room.

 

 

 

Die Vampire Die is still the best song of the show, possibly because it rings so true for artists, and Roque knows how to sell it. She easily elicits plenty of laughs and pathos within this number’s satisfying harmonies and hilarious lyrics. Curtis has ensured that each musical number is tight and while the pace lagged at times during the opening weekend, it will have picked up during the too-short season. It’s an exceptional cast; there’s no weak link and everyone has their turn to shine.

 

From Untitled Opening Number to Nine People’s Favorite Thing, this heartfelt, upbeat show is fun, irreverent and intelligent, and the perfect vehicle for these super talented triple threats. If you’re new to this musical, or to musicals in general, it’s likely you’ll miss some of the references to exisiting shows and Broadway stars, but that’s okay. While there’s nothing actually new happening here and the Hayward Street Studios’ space is a little unkind to such an intimate production, this [title of show] features five of our brightest. It’s highly entertaining and worth stealing a ticket to see tonight’s final performance; you’ll laugh out loud and leave grinning.

 

 

26
Aug
17

Understudy Productions do [title of show]

 

A chat with the cast of Understudy Productions’ [title of show]

Hayward Street Studios August 31 – September 10 2017

 

We haven’t seen anyone tackle the hilarious cult hit [title of show] since Oscar in 2010 so it’s about time we saw it again. Ahead of Understudy Productions’ season, which opens next week, we chatted with the company’s founder and AD Alexander Woodward, and let the other cast members chime in…

 

We love [title of show]! Can you talk about the creative process, from the idea to bring a humble YouTube-Broadway surprise smash hit to Brisbane, to your independent company securing the rights to the show, to finding space and casting incredible talent, and preparing to put on a show? 

Alex: Directing is Ian Good, from the UK. We originally met when he came over while I was at the Con. He’s an outstanding director who’s fallen in love with the country and I trust him more than words can express. I’m a big believer that if i’ve put somebody in a position its for a reason, and after I’ve brought somebody in I just trust and believe in that persons judgement. This is the company’s third production and so far so good, so I’m going to stick with this attitude.

Rehearsals are amazing, better than could be expected. We’ve had such a quick process I thought it would be a scramble to the line but we are a week out and still have so much time to play so I’m beyond happy.

The process? Well I’m constantly on the search for theatre to put on. I heard about title while at uni and loved the concept; it’s such a theatre lovers’ show.

Putting on theatre is HARD. It’s expensive, and risky and really hard to get right, but I love doing it. Origin Theatrical are amazing and I love dealing with Kim there. She’s a theatre lover and is always so helpful getting us independents off and running.

 

Tell us about Understudy Productions.

So basically Understudy Productions was formed because I thought it was crazy that people thought they had to move cities in order to be involved in professional quality work. I also thought we have so much music theatre and acting talent coming out of Brisbane, let’s use it and create some shit hot theatre. There’s no reason Brisbane can’t have an independent theatre scene like what’s seen at the Hayes, or Chapel off Chapel.

 

Tell us about each cast member (or they can tell us about themselves!). What drew each of you to this show?

Alex: Jackson is a stupidly good actor. I remember being at uni and thinking, yeah, this guy is going places.

 

 

Jackson: Well it’s a bloody funny show, for a start. I didn’t actually know it before I started looking up stuff when I saw the audition brief for this production, but I remember listening to the soundtrack for the first time and laughing my tits off. It’s completely ridiculous, but has a real heart to it.

 

 

Lauren: My name is Lauren McKenna. I’m a Sydney based music theatre gal who has worked in Brisbane a lot in the past couple of years. I played the double of Martha/Ms. Fleming in the smash hit Heathers which played at QPAC and have been in Harvest Rain’s latest touring Arena productions of Hairspray (Tracy) and Grease (Jan). My nine favourite things are picnics, fresh flowers, tall humans, new stationary, sleep-ins, high belt, snail mail, edamame beans and salon manicures. I was drawn to this project because some friends told me I’d love [title of show]. They were right! Also, I have a massive crush on Brisbane so any excuse to work up here I jump at!

 

Joel: I’m Joel and I am the Musical Director and play Larry (the unfortunate forgotten pianist) in the show.

 

Will you tell us your real-life vampires?

Alex: Not being good enough, not getting work, letting people down from family to friends to ticket buyers. I always think its funny that performers are often highly strung/stressed/emotional types and here we get on stage and basically say, “Please like me, and please let me invoke some form of emotion on you”. Plus being poor…god, theatre makes you poor! Haha!

Joel: I’m terrified of not being good enough. That’s actually something that Jeff says in the number. One of these days someone is going to work out that I’m a fraud and I can’t do all the things that I’m employed to do/say I can do and then they’ll tell everyone and I’ll be fired, never work again, all my friends will hate me and I’ll end up penniless, lonely and miserable. Or something…

 

Will you share with us that show idea you’ve stashed in the bottom drawer?

Alex: Well, I’m pretty excited to putting on an Adults Only Christmas Show later this year at Brisbane Powerhouse. Every year of my adult life I’ve done “friends’ christmas” where we drink and dance, and be merry. I wanted to recreate that kind of idea for theatre. I think it sucks that the only option at Christmas is to go to church! I want to do the polar opposite of that.

 

Will you each share how you came to be a performer and what it is that keeps you in the industry?

Lauren: I’ve been doing musicals since I was 10 years old. There’s no other industry for me.

Jack: Storytelling is such a primal part of being human, and live theatre to me is one of the most rewarding ways of being part of that, either as a performer or audience member. Live theatre is different every time. I honestly can’t think of anything cooler than 5, 10, 200 or 1000 people going into a room together and having a storytelling experience that is completely unique to that group.

Alex: I used to play in bands and – long story short – went to visit my brother living in London, saw a show in the West End and went, “Wow, music theatre can be amazing,” and then knew I wanted to get involved. I came home and started doing courses and then I scored an amazing first gig with STC.

 

Joel: To be honest, I rarely perform anymore. I prefer my day job as a singing teacher, with the occasional MD gig.

 

Favourite / challenging / exciting roles thus far?

Alex: My first job ever was also the first thing I ever auditioned for. Spring Awakening with Sydney Theatre Company, it was like being thrown into a pool and it was sink or swim…. But I loved it. The most challenging role would have to have been Mickey in Blood Brothers, emotionally such a draining and in-depth role. You basically have to put yourself though a rollercoaster every show.

Lauren: Playing two characters in Heathers was incredible- an actors dream! Tracy Turnblad in Hairspray was so challenging stamina wise (especially in arena style) but ridiculously fun! Heidi in [title of show] is definitely up there with my favourites!

 

Roles you covet and would kill for?

Alex: Cliff in Cabaret, Evan Hansen in Dear Evan Hansen, Anything in Book of Mormon. Plus any role that has the power to invoke thought and change in people.

 

Other jobs? Your first job (perhaps it wasn’t in the performing arts industry)?

Alex: Professional Uber Driver and drink slinger.

 

What did mum and dad want you to do? What did teachers think you would do?

Alex: My parents are incredible and always encouraged me to do whatever I wanted. My mum has been working with the ABC for 30 years now, and my parents met while my mum did drama and Dad studied photography, so the arts was pretty much always engrained in them.

 

 

What else do you want to do?

Alex: I want to help create an independent theatre scene in Brisbane. I want there to be a Brisbane Hayes. There’s no reason why there shouldn’t be.

 

How does everyone keep fit and maintain healthy voices?

Alex: the show for me is a huge sing. Basically, 10 years of practice and semi-okay technique. (Still a long way to go!).

 

Why do we wanna’ see this show (again)?

Alex: Because it’s fun, it’s moving, and it speaks to everyone who’s ever been involved in performing. It’s just very music theatre.

 

Jack: [title of show] speaks to anyone with even the tiniest creative bone in their body. Rehearsing this has been an experience in uncovering relatable quality after relatable quality within all four of these beautiful, twisted, genius characters. Whether you are a musical theatre fan, a theatre fan, or you’ve never even stepped foot in a theatre, you will love it as much for its relatable charm as its ridiculous comedy.

 

Lauren: Because it’s awesome and I have to take my top off for the first time onstage… so you don’t wanna miss that!

 

What’s next?

Alex: After this I go full steam into producing A Very Adult Christmas…

 

 




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