Archive for the 'Musical Theatre' Category

28
Jan
19

Sweet Charity

 

Sweet Charity

Understudy Productions & Lizzie Moore

Brisbane Powerhouse Visy Theatre

January 25 – February 10 2019

 

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

 

FUN     LAUGHS     GOOD TIMES

 

 

Singing without acting is just noise.

Sutton Foster

 

Social change is coming and things will never be the same again.

It makes literal the misogynistic idea that women’s bodies are rented, until they are “bought” by a husband.

It is a show that stands as relevant today as ever.

Kris Stewart and Maureen Bowra

 

You probably know a number of the famous songs from Sweet Charity, but you might not be as familiar with the show, which tells the tale of a perpetually lovestruck, politely regarded “dance hall hostess” in the swinging sixties, while NYC’s Madison Avenue bustles, hemlines rise, and eternal optimist, Charity Hope Valentine, sets about rebuilding a broken heart and readying herself for life outside…other people’s apartments. More than fifty years after opening, Sweet Charity retains its innocence, and as we find ourselves in the new Age of Aquarius, we also find that the torrent of emotions and frustrations expressed here by writers Cy Coleman (music), Neil Simon (book) and Dorothy Fields (how about those how-about-it-palsy lyrics), against the foibles of love and the attentions of the patriarchy are, unsurprisingly, apt. 

 

 

Sweet Charity’s director, Kris Stewart knows musicals. Like, in case you didn’t already know, he KNOWS musicals. And with Dan Venz not only performing but choreographing too, Shanon Whitelock not only on keys but musically directing too, Ben Murray making flawless sound happen like the miracle it quite often appears to be in a Brisbane venue, and Maureen Bowra by his side as Co-Director and Associate Choreographer, Stewart must have have thrown his head back to the sky and laughed at how perfectly this team came together.

 

And in the intimacy of the Visy Theatre, the performers are close enough to let us in on their every nuance, which means the hyper-reality of Charity’s theatrical storytelling is nicely balanced with the authenticity of the performances. This is a must-see production, beautifully realised, and these performances, I guarantee it, are already among the best this year. 

 

 

 

The company on stage is the strongest we’ve seen in Brisbane since Beautiful: The Carole King Musical, which boasted among its cast members Charity (Naomi Price) and Vittorio (Andy Cook). The ensemble is also superb and so strong that we can’t help walking away thinking that luckily for Price, she is THAT good! To be outstanding in such convincing company is testament indeed to the carefully studied voice and accent, the commitment to the pigeon toes and other awkward angles, and the natural flair for character and comedy that Price possesses. I think she’s the funniest I’ve ever seen her when hidden in Vittorio’s wardrobe to keep out of sight of his lover, Ursula (Lizzie Moore, also at her comic best!).

 

Price really is Sweet Charity, embodying every gorgeous, ridiculous tendency offered by the original girl on the page, without adding so much sweet, sticky, tacky taffy that we’re repelled by her and compelled to pry her from between our fingers and flick her away. Instead, we find ourselves giggling with her, dancing through these little bits of life with her, and eventually wanting to leap into the lake with her! Charity always reminds me of Milly Molly Mandy, only she too often depends upon boys to get her out of a scrape and she needn’t be home for tea.

 

Through all her misadventures, we find ourselves hopelessly, irresistibly, infuriatingly, firmly in Charity’s corner. Sigh. Yes. We all have a disastrously sweet Charity in our life.

 

 

This show is a big show, with a big mood, recognised famously in If My Friends Could See Me Now, which Price smashes out of Central Park, but even so, we recognise that the dear girl’s plight each time is just another human one, and in the grand scheme of things, hers is another tiny story in the world. Really. Consider. Charity is flawed, and fine, just like the rest of us. But without feeling anything for Charity, without hoping against hope that she will find the love of her life and somewhere better than where she’s let herself be, we wouldn’t actually care whether or not she finds true love, or friendship, or ever even escapes from her seedy workplace. This tiny story has suitably high stakes and loads of heart. This is of course, the secret to making seemingly light, fluffy musical theatre material speak to a contemporary audience the way it was intended to. Or better yet, more clearly than ever. For the telling of this heartfelt, heartwarming story, Price is perfect. 

 

 

Big Spender introduces the sassy chorus of girls with whom Charity works. This is essentially, before it was ever imagined, the title song and bar scene from Miss Saigon, and their Fosse-esque posturing and pouting go a long way in painting the picture of this place, where the open set fails to do so (Set Design Joseph Noonan). Or does it? Others think it’s ideal, but I feel it’s lacking in detail and a mood distinct from several other scenes (Lighting Designer Christine Felmingham). The number, staged diagonally, isn’t as effective as it could be in this space and the dance, as obviously Fosse as it is, lacks the sophistication of the style, and the nuance of the acting, with the temptation to push it into an an aggressive, self-righteous attack on all men everywhere proving too great to resist. The slow burn of the number, no matter how many times we’ve seen it, is still in our full realisation of exactly what the job entails and how au fait the girls are with it, but there’s little space held here for our growing horror. Perhaps we’re no longer horrified. Perhaps that’s the point. Let’s settle with saying that the majority appear to be a little too eager to be anything but eager (deliberately, delightedly, genuinely nonchalant is incredibly difficult to pull off, it tends to come across as bored), although there’s a startling energy that I fail to pinpoint; someone whom likely fully wields their feminine power off stage as well as on. There’s always one. What leaves a deeper mark for me than the execution of the dance itself is that there are moments when the girls as a collective are fierce enough to make us realise that they don’t want to be there, and feel they don’t have a way out, and vulnerable enough to make us realise that they don’t want to be there, and feel they don’t have a way out. And there’s the reminder. Dancing without acting is just movement. 

 

There’s also a slight anomaly in the tears shed by both Nickie and Helene, as we simply haven’t been given a chance to see the friendships develop enough to warrant said tears. Perhaps this is the point, and even these relationships have been that shallow. The ensemble features legit triple threats, Emily Corkeron, Shay Debney, Irena Lysluk, Sophie Stephens, Kate Yaxley (who steps into Charity’s chorus shoes just for January 31), Hayley Winch (Helene), Lizzie Moore (Nickie) and Rebecca Rolle, who simply shines, it having been said already that it’s quite a feat to stand out in this superb ensemble. The men are equally impressive, with dance detail and character traits well considered and delivered (Elliot Baker, Carlo Boumouglbay, Luke Hodgson and Venz).

 

 

To make up for the apparent lack of consideration for the set design, Noonan has successfully dressed (or semi-dressed!) the company in super cute sixties outfits, right down to the minis and boots. The ensemble’s Off-Broadway revival inspired all-white-everything and precision execution of the peculiar choreography during this extended sequence transforms Rich Man’s Frug into a beautiful aesthetic, somewhere between My Fair Lady, James Bond and Austin Powers. There’s Gotta Be Somewhere Better Than This is missing the same level of attention to detail though, and with its passion intact, with pace, precision and a genuine connection between the girlfriends, should be another showstopper by the end of the season.

 

 

Stephen Hirst, as the adorable, unbearable Oscar Linquist, brings a special kind of warmth and weirdness to the role. He and Price are well matched, and we shouldn’t be at all surprised if someone else takes advantage in the casting of anything upcoming to reflect this. I’m the Bravest Individual is clearly a crowd favourite, such as it is, sung in the most awkward situations.

 

 

Other than Price-as-Charity, the highlight of the show is The Rhythm of Life featuring Elliot Baker, Whitelock’s sensational new arrangement, and some Hair inspired staging, undressing and choreography. A band in this space has never sounded better, thanks to Ben Murray (the band comprises Whitelock on keys, with Daniel Robbins, Conall O’Neill, Michael Whitaker, Lisa Squires and Alanna Ritchie). I’m surprised when this toe-tapping (foot-stomping) full company number is not reprised, such is the audience’s obvious thrill on opening night, to experience a reinvigorated version of it. I ‘reckon if you can secure closing night tickets you’ll get a second look! For me this entire sequence sums up the approach we see Understudy Productions taking to stage anything, inspiring a fresh look at some of the more familiar (and less so) stories on stage, and to do so in a way that not only moves and delights audiences, but reignites our local industry. 

 

Sweet Charity is the feel good show of the year; there’s not a more enjoyable or inspirational night out to start your theatre year, and trust me, it will sell out! Book here. Wouldn’t you like to have fun, fun, fun?

 

 

08
Jan
19

Jersey Boys

 

Jersey Boys

Dodger Theatricals, Rodney Rigby and TEG Dainty

QPAC Lyric Theatre

 

January 5  – February 16 2019

 

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

 

 

You sell a hundred million records. See how you handle it.

Nick Massi

 

You ask four guys how it happened, you get four different versions.

Tommy DeVito

 

Comparison is the thief of joy.

Theodore Roosevelt

 

Of all the jukebox musicals, Jersey Boys is the best (And I ‘reckon SHOUT! The Legend of the Wild One comes a close second), and this production, unless you saw the original touring production (2009-2012) is the best! A sizzling, slick retelling of the real life story of Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons, featuring their original much-loved music, and flamboyant characters and events to shape the era that saw the blue-collar boy band become one of America’s biggest pop sensations of all time, selling 175 million records worldwide. A little dramatic license allows time to move swiftly by, and almost all perspectives to be taken into account, as Frankie Valli (Ryan Gonzalez), Bob Gaudio (Thomas McGuane), Tommy DeVito (Cameron MacDonald) and Nick Massi (Glaston Toft) take turns to narrate, and manoeuvre themselves through fame, fortune, misfortune and finally, to land a place in The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, back when a place in The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame was hard won. Like, when top of the class and good behaviour awards actually went not to the next name listed in the roll, but to the kids who were top of the class and well behaved. Like, when five stars and superlatives actually went not to every show under the sun, but to the productions that could blow your mind and change your life. There’s a bigger picture here…

 

For an entertaining and highly energetic musical production with a strong story and a smash hit, chart-topping, finger-snapping score performed by one of the tightest little musical outfits in the country (MD Luke Hunter), I mean it; Jersey Boys is the best. I know you’ll love it. You’ll actually love. this. show. You already love the music.

 

 

If you want the breakdown from a comparative point of view, read on.

Let’s just quickly note that as per the book (Marshall Brickman & Rik Elice), the girls play second fiddle; it’s the band’s story but even so, in a range of support roles Cristina D’Agostino, Mia Dabkowski-Chandler and Mackenzie Dunne seem even less a part of the story than in the earlier production. Even given the chance to prove that there’s more to the woman, D’Agostino is an extremely bitter and angry Mary Delgado – and perhaps, to the male writers and director, award-winning though they may be, she is reasonably so – but in each moment, particularly those fragile moments after the fury, leading into My Eyes Adored You, which is delivered beautifully and delicately, it would be far more interesting to see the full gamut of emotion, and I’m afraid we don’t. Imagine, just for fun, for half a second, what Paige Rattray might ask of her within the same limited timeframe? As The Angels, the trio is vocally precise and the harmonies just gorgeous. It’s a shame we don’t get to hear more from them during the road trip / tour scenes. But, not their story, y’know? 

 

 

Another missed opportunity is in the role of Tommy Devito, with Cameron MacDonald coming across at times as overly aggressive, however; others see this as the ideal interpretation of the character. My guess is that he’s overcompensating and that he’ll settle as the season continues. At the moment, if there’s any sense of vulnerability, guilt, shame or softness it’s a case of too little too late. Originally, MacDonald had understudied the role, and now he misses the opportunity to strip away Devito’s many layers, as Anthony Harkin did, without having built this character from the core, though of course the actor – and director – and coach – would say that he did exactly that. But as performer, the trick is to have done all the work, allowing us to catch glimpses of the degrees of shade without letting us in on the work it takes to get to that place night after night. These subtleties, or lack thereof, are inconsequential if you’ve never seen someone else embody the role.

 

Thomas McGuane doesn’t let memories of Declan Egan’s Bob Gaudio cloud his own captivating performance. With Egan taking on the UK touring contract after our Sydney season ended, it must have been thrilling for everyone involved to see McGuane step into his shoes. He’s a standout, a proper superstar, with the voice, and energy and charisma to slow-burn for days.

 

Who can forget the wit and sass of Helpmann Award winning cabaret star, Michael Griffiths, as Bob Crewe? Unfortunately, Glenn Hill doesn’t appear to, and he is allowed to overplay to the hilt. Again, if you’re a Jersey Boys virgin you might be amused by his particularly camp posturing, but I miss Griffiths’ stylish and sophisticated take on what must have been just as challenging a role in real life at the time. It’s a pleasure to see Enrico Mammarella return as Gyp, and always a pleasure to see in any guise, Luigi Lucente.

 

 

Ryan Gonzalez opens as Frankie Valli, and perhaps we’ll get less aggression as he settles into the season, or perhaps we’ll get a better sense that this is Valli’s fierce determination (we’ll see yet another interpretation of the role with Daniel Raso at alternate performances). It seems ridiculous to confirm that he can hit the notes – if he couldn’t he wouldn’t be here – but there’s a bit to settle into yet. Having done it all before, Glaston Toft hits his stride early, and of course he’s vocally splendid, and this time he’s also fitter and finer, more relaxed, in the role of Nick Massi.

 

 

The staging is slicker, the television studio scenes are snazzier, and though the production overall looks and feels less casually confident than before, the vocals and harmonies are spot on, and the story’s a good one. It’s a perfectly finished and polished jukebox production, and the crowd does indeed go wild! Believe it! Because this Jersey Boys is just as glossy as its new-look souvenir program.

 

With just a few Brisbane shows remaining, there’s no reason to miss Jersey Boys; certainly not because you’ve already seen it! We know that we love to return again and again to the stories that resonate with us, and if this is one – if one of these versions of the story is the one – that resonates with you, don’t let the opportunity pass you by. There. That’s Jersey Boys

 

They ask you, what was the high point?

…when everything dropped away and all there was, was the music – that was the best.

 

04
Nov
18

Neon Tiger

 

Neon Tiger

La Boite Theatre Company

La Boite Roundhouse Theatre

October 31 – November 17 2018

 

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

 

 

The adult gap-year you never know you needed.

 

Fast, frivolous and continuously flashing, the always-away playground of a tourist mecca in Bangkok paints the scene for Neon Tiger – a new Australian musical love story. Andy (Lisa Hanley) is an Australian traveller outrunning her broken heart. She has taken residence as a host at a Bangkok part-district karaoke bar where she meets Thai-American Arisa (Courtney Stewart) who’s on a personal quest to connect with her mother’s culture. When the two meet, sparks fly.

 

Once somebody sent me to Bangkok for ten days with two strangers and now they are my friends and this show exists.

Gillian Cosgriff

 

The sense of this show was seeded overseas and brought forth into the world by its female creative team and the team at Brisbane Powerhouse, after Kris Stewart asked Director, Kat Henry, to come up with something during ten steaming hot days in Bangkok with two women she’d never met before. Co-creators, Kat Henry, Julia-Rose Lewis (Writer) and Gillian Cosgriff (Writer/Composer/Performer) returned from that trip in 2015 conceptualising a number of vastly different productions, including something like a cross-cultural physical theatre performance using masks, until Stewart sagely told them, “It’s a musical.” And so, Soi Cowboy was born. A creative development season in the Visy Theatre was so polished, I walked away from it with the impression that the piece was just about ready to tour! (And if you have a space, ArtTour will look after Neon Tiger following its world premiere season). 

 

 

Performed by dynamite duo, Gillian Cosgriff and Courtney Stewart, in that first instance (2016), Soi Cowboy was a vibrant story of a friendship cum fling evolving over ten heady days in the midst of the city’s summer haze, and its cacophony of sounds, smells, beers, bars, gutters, beggars, flashing lights, ridiculously sweet and garishly coloured cocktails, temples, tuk tuks and muck. Over the last two years, the simple story has been pared right back by Lewis, and the dialogue retains its smart, sassy pace, making the new shorter, sweeter iteration – Neon Tigeran engaging and entertaining 90-minute new musical. Although I miss Cosgriff’s sass, her comic timing, and her extraordinary vocals, Lisa Hanley in this role brings a different sort of spunk and sound with her acoustic guitar (the vocals are extraordinarily similar in tone and style to Cosgriff’s……) 

 

 

Sarah Winter’s open split-level design offers specificity and scope, putting us anywhere – everywhere – in Bangkok, from the titular karaoke bar on Kao San Road, to the Tiger Temple, the Don-Rak War Cemetery, the streets, a shrine, a five-star hotel… Deceptively simple, it’s a set that reminds us how much magic can occur using very little. Andrew Meadows resists overusing the neon and strobe lighting (there is some, necessarily), working intimately with the sound design to give us the afterglow of the city, the afterglow of a relationship that retains its lustre even over time zones and oceans, without prolonged and potentially fit-inducing pulsating lights. Sound Designer, Guy Webster, assisted by Anna Whittaker, intricately weaves an evocative soundscape between dialogue and song, bringing to life the vibrant city, and bringing back a looped vocal excerpt to tug at the heartstrings at various intervals. This unsuspecting theme is almost the through line of the piece, a gentle memory that lingers in the heart not the head, interrupting real life, just for a second sometimes, for years to come. 

 

This play is about feeling like a tourist in your own life. It’s about falling in, and out of, love. This play is about meeting yourself, the real you, for the very first time on the vibrant city streets of Bangkok.

Julia-Rose Lewis

 

Kat Henry’s direction is so refreshing – remember, I loved her Constellations for QT so much that I went a second time – and in this I recognise the same real stuff. Henry uses every opportunity to move the performers, inwardly and outwardly on their journeys, expertly manipulating pace and production elements to shift out of languid and into high alert in a split second, and embracing the natural pauses and stillness of the script, so often glossed over or stretched for too long (in case we don’t get the poignancy of half a moment? I don’t know; this aspect of so many productions, on stage and on screen, completely baffles me. Why can’t we just let the actors say the words and see what happens?). Cleverly structured and measured direct address means we get the girls’ inner monologues in short bursts and freaking-out-outbursts at times, as they navigate the fascination and trepidation of a new relationship, however; nothing is superfluous or melodramatic, just so Australian. And so American. So universal. 

 

There’s a big mood here just beneath the surface, and I love that we’re not made to feel obliged to explore it at length or worse, to wallow in it, but instead we’re asked to simply bring our attention to it, and just like when we’re travelling, there’s a gentle nudge to consider perspectives other than our own. I’m sure there’ll be directors and performers in the future who want to ramp it up, make Neon Tiger racier, spicier, and add “some girl-on-girl action” (actually an opening night comment!). But I would advise against it! Just as it is, this is a story around which the artists have reserved some respectful, gorgeous, really very groovy space.

 

 

Cosgriff’s original songs are witty and funny as always, included here under the premise that they make Andy’s debut album. Hanley delivers each with sassy, smiling aplomb, unapologetic about her point of view and at the same time, perplexed about what she sees and feels about the situation in Bangkok, and about Arisa.

 

There’s nothing steamier here than the city’s suffocating heat, not even a flash of flesh (disappointingly for some, erotic scenes are recounted rather than played out; for me this is far more effective and a stroke of genius in terms of the work being widely viewed and read in secondary and tertiary circles. What a joy it will be for our young female performers to find this text in their hands!). The intimacy of Arisa and Andy’s complex relationship is kept shrouded in the hot haze of memory, and we savour its allure and magic as if it were our own precious, private experience. It’s the story behind the Instagram story.

 

 

We had to accept that Thailand was unknowable to us, that we were part of the problem, and that creating a piece of entertainment about this complex place would seem, to most Thai nationals, a perplexing and peculiar privilege. But this is our experience, and this is a version of love: messy, thrilling, and confusing, with temperatures rising, full of paradoxes – wanting both to stay forever and to find a way out; always trying to understand what the hell is going on.

Kat Henry

 

Neon Tiger is the most genuinely culturally sensitive theatrical work we’ve seen in years, beautifully personal and universal in its explorations and observations on what happens when we give ourselves over to new experiences and new influences. Neon Tiger is innocent, optimistic, charming, chaotic, comforting, raw and real. It’s for anyone who’s ever even dared to dream of travel or adventure or love, or forgiveness.

06
Sep
18

Disenchanted!

 

Disenchanted!

Mad About Theatre

Noosa Arts Theatre

July 27 – 28 2018

 

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

 

…just one more ‘Once Upon a Time’ and I swear I’ll go insane!

 

Poisoned apples. Glass slippers. Who needs ’em?! Not Snow White and her posse of disenchanted princesses in the hilarious hit musical that is anything but Grimm. Forget the princesses you think you know. When these royal renegades toss off their tiaras, this hilariously subversive, not-for-the-kiddies musical cleverly reveals what really happened ‘ever after’!

 

Disenchanted!, the smash hit Off-Broadway fractured musical fairytale for feminists and dissatisfied Disney Princesses, previewed at NOOSA alive! in July before transferring for a limited run to Melbourne’s Athenaeum Theatre.

 

Director, Madison Thew-Keyworth (Artistic Director of Mad About Theatre), has assembled the brightest, brassiest, sweetest-on-the-surface-at-least ensemble of five multi-talented performers to bring to vivid life the royal suite of princesses: Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, Ariel, Belle, Rapunzel, Pocahontas, Mulan, Badroulbadour and The Princess Who Kissed The Frog. Her spare direction, letting the gags speak for themselves, allows the artists to go a little and a lot OTT in terms of vocalisation and characterisations. I feel like a fly on the wall at a private princess party and overhearing what everyone really thinks of Prince Charming.

 

 

Off-Broadway style big belt voices, beautiful close harmonies, cute and silly contemporary choreography, sexy costumes and loads of sass make this politically correct call to arms a delightful surprise at Australia’s premier performing arts and cultural festival, now in its 17th year in Noosa.

 

History teacher, Dennis T. Giacino (book, music and lyrics) rewrote the inner monologues of the princesses we know so well, giving the gals good reason to revolt. Even in this enlightened age it seems that it still takes both guts and grace to stand up and proclaim that we don’t need a guy, or that we actually need to eat. And all of this, taken up and written down by a guy. Praise be.

 

Disney purists will laugh along with these talented girls right from the opening number, One More Happ’ly Ever After, dripping with sarcasm and brimming with righteous anger, to A Happy Tune, which clarifies the issue of domestic duties and the mental load with the hilarious and well timed help of triangle, kazoo and the sweetest smiles, to the sad-but-true and very funny All I Wanna Do Is Eat. A significantly poignant moment though, comes with Honestly, a more considered and compassionate, pondering look at the story Pocahontas had thrust upon her. There are other opportunities for this sort of moment elsewhere in the show – they’re few and far between but they’re there behind a raised eyebrow or a sad, knowing smile – but the preference in this production is obviously to get the laughs, and the NOOSA alive! audiences eat it up.

 

Can someone tell me why I’m forced to row around that riverbend – just around the riverbend – am I the only one who knows this is pretend? And honestly, I was only ten but now I’m Double D. Can anyone explain why leaves keep following me and why my story can’t be told honestly?

Pocahontas, Disenchanted!

 

You’ll recognise a number of famous riffs and beloved musical theatre moments throughout (MD and Piano Man, Bradley McCaw is right at home here, and his extreme energy on stage is another highlight of the show). You’ll surely feel compelled to cheer and shout for the rights of princesses everywhere, and if you can overlook and laugh at the kitsch, cheap props and a distinct lack of any sort of set (“It’s Vaudeville!”), you’ll see Mad About Theatre’s Disenchanted! for what it is: a superbly sassy, witty, fast-paced and unapologetic political and social statement about everything that’s better than being a storybook princess, simply staged and boldly sung. You’ll love it! Let’s hope we see a return season on the Sunshine Coast.

 

05
Sep
18

Spring Awakening

Spring Awakening

Underground Broadway

Metro Arts Sue Benner Theatre

August 23 – September 8 2018

 

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

 

 

 

A Children’s Tragedy…

 

What serves each of us best is what serves all of us…

 

Duncan Sheik and Steven Sater’s Spring Awakening, based on the controversial drama by Frank Wedekind, written in 1891 though not staged until 1906 (and not performed in English until 1917 in New York City, when it was deemed pornographic and closed after just one show), successfully opened on Broadway in 2006.

 

Directed by Michael Mayer and choreographed by Bill T. Jones, the acclaimed original production went on to win eight Tony Awards including Best Original Score and Best Musical, and launched the careers of Lea Michelle and Jonathan Groff as Wendla and Melchior, doomed teens drawn to each other in a world where parents, ministers and teachers smother that next generation in silence and shame. With its themes of puberty, fantasy, masturbation, depression, death, grief, sex, suicide, abuse, forced teen abortion, control and censorship (ironically, the 2006 Tony Award performance was heavily censored!), it’s no wonder schools opt to stay away from this dark show. Originally much darker, since the NYC workshops preceding the Broadway opening, there’s no longer a rape implied at the end of Act 1. Instead, this issue, as prevalent as ever, is addressed by Ilsa (Ruby Clark, lovely in this role, proving her versatility after a couple of turns at Maureen in RENT and Rizzo in Grease: The Arena Experience), and Martha (Jordan Malone, back after Understudy Productions’ BARE and next, joining the professional touring cast of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) in The Dark I Know Well.

 

 

Tim Hill’s Spring Awakening opens innocently, quietly and gently leading us into the sneaky little showstopper, a highlight of this production, Mama Who Bore Me, featuring the entire fierce female contingent of this stellar cast from Underground Broadway, coming together in solidarity to stomp and sing and state their place, i.e. their confusion and frustration as young women in the world without the knowledge they need to stay safe and strong. Ruby Clark, Jordan Malone, Jacqui McLaren, Monique Dawes and Maddison McDonald are uniformly excellent in this powerful and inspiring anti-anthem of the sisterhood. We get the sense that nothing can stop them but…

 

BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH

 

Jacqui Mclaren (Wendla) elicits shivers in her first simple moments on the small Sue Benner stage, sitting as still as a porcelain doll, seemingly just as fragile, but not, building up the courage to ask Mama to let her in on the secrets of life, and later discovering the ecstasy and horror for herself. In McLaren’s take on Wendla we see the embodiment of the maiden archetype and sadly – spoiler – she never has the chance to fully embrace that energy, or to get a look in on the mother or crone. 

 

Not condoning or encouraging any more boot Broadway footage online ever, of course, but watch Deaf West’s opening minutes here to experience additional layers to this and every other scene. Seriously. Deaf West will change your musical theatre life.

 

 

No more spoilers, but Mclaren is missing a final scream of terror as she’s taken away; this omission is likely the director’s call. There are other missteps, including a slap across the face that fails to make us squirm, the birch branch caning that  fails to make us gasp, and a gunshot represented by a snap to black, without the sound effect…a-hem. Chekhov, anyone? Even with Wes Bluff’s lights, Ben Murray’s sound and choreography by Deanna Castellana, sans these disturbing images, some of the pivotal moments, landing like stones in the pit of our stomachs, this production lacks a little intensity. I came away with a similar feeling after Hill’s RENT. Is it just me? Is it just a matter now though, of trusting the actors to delve deeper, push further, play around a little more, take a little more time in the process to discover the full extent of the breath, and the actual natural responses and timing for the stage? This does take time, a careful eye and brave hearts – guts – all round. Despite its slightly lighter, nicer treatment (others will certainly consider it a shocking show, sure, of course), Spring Awakening is undoubtedly Hill’s most astute direction to date, with Act 1 offering the most attention to detail. Having said that, the reprise of The Word of Your Body and the fraught scene embedded within Whispering are both beautifully precise. Dominic Woodhead’s musical direction perfectly supports both the upbeat and more measured, melancholy pieces.

 

Elise Grieg affirms her place towards the top of the Brisbane tree, playing every female adult (as Melchior’s mother, refreshingly real), and as every male adult, James Shaw demonstrates again that he can play the pious, the ridiculous and the serious with aplomb. Their elderly scholarly characters are deliberately larger than life, terrifying and amusing in that sickening what-are-you-gonna’-do-about-it way. I don’t love them; it could be considered another missed opportunity to highlight the subtle horror of the reality these kids are in, no need for caricatures but instead, an undercurrent…

 

Meanwhile, poor Moritz.

 

 

Oliver Lacey is a properly despairing and angst-ridden Moritz in the best British punk rock way (at the root of anger and sadness there is fear), Michael Nunn a beautiful, sensitive Ernst and Tim Carroll a delightfully wicked and seductive, street smart Hanschen. Harrison Aston, fresh from 8 months of touring life with Brainstorm Productions, has a distinctly Credence look and manner about him, as he navigates his way through the mire of adult expectations. Not a single member of this company goes as far as they can go, but this slightly sanitised staging is typical of what we’ve been seeing for a little while again, in fact, since Oscar Production Co was Oscar Theatre Co, and presented both Spring Awakening and Next to Normal in the most nonchalant and quietly confident way, challenging performers and patrons to take a good, hard look at themselves – ourselves – by taking those stories into a place of extreme discomfort. If you were there, you know. If not, if you’re a snapchatcat/millenial, perhaps this Spring Awakening is the most disturbing, and darkly exciting and challenging thing you’ve seen in a theatre. And that’s fine. 

 

 

Claire McFadyen’s beautifully realised Tim Burton-esque silently screaming lightbulb tree also points to the desire of this company to really provoke, and like the maiden / crone optical illusion, we can only see what we see in it, in the same way we each have our unique experience of every live show. So I want to be clear that it’s not a case of the talent not being evident, but of the impact of the storytelling falling short of expectations.

 

I feel like we’ve seen the prelude now; this year has been just the beginning for this company, and for these performers, who are able and probably willing, to go deeper and darker yet. Whether Tim Hill is prepared to take them there, or go there himself remains to be seen. There’s no denying that Underground Broadway has been blurring the lines between amateur and professional performance with regular industry nights since 2016 featuring professional performing artists and local emerging stars, making this company well worth following.

 

We’re certainly ready for what’s next.

 

 

27
Aug
18

Any Moment – a new musical by Bradley McCaw

 

 

Set over the course of 24 hours, Bradley McCaw’s original two Act revue is inspired by such works as Closer Than Ever, I Love You You’re Perfect Now Change and Songs For A New World.

 

 

Each song and scene take place in the one town, as the musical drops into different people’s lives through the course of a single day. We begin at midnight, and progress through the ‘every day stories’ that unfold minute by minute. Hour by hour.

 

 

Inspired by the famous John Lennon quote, ‘Life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans’ Any Moment explores what a minute in time truly represents. What purpose does a day hold? What unfolds in those little moments that happen without us noticing? It aims to highlight the beauty and fragility life, asking if the ultimate unifying theme for all human beings, is that all of our lives will play out… one moment at a time. Who knows what will and could happen… Any Moment.

 

 

Bradley McCaw, Lauren McKenna and Lizzie Moore had a wonderful chat about the project…

 

To create this album, OFPC is rewarding supporters of the project via a Kickstarter campaign. How does that work?

Brad: It’s a way of bringing in people at the beginning – for them to be part of making art happen by purchasing a ticket to a VIP concert event and have an original song written for them or someone they love!

 

Lizzie: This way, supporters become part of the creation of a brand-new Australian work. We’re building awareness of this wonderful musical, Brad’s work and as artists, we all come out of the project with a deeper level of involvement and sense of ownership AND an amazing studio recording of our vocals!

 

As performers and presenters/producers, how do we better support each other?

Lizzie: I am really passionate about engaging with artists and creatives who are looking to offer a hand down or a push up. I have found that the Australian industry is full of incredible talent but there can be an element of competing for scarce resources rather than buoying other people up. By supporting Australian creatives and new work, we lift the industry as a whole, and we build a greater and more engaged audience as well.

Brad: When I started out making theatre, I certainly felt less confident in my abilities and was really stubborn and found it hard to listen and engage with other professionals. Now, being a little older… I can overview what I do well and what I need to improve – to get to learn from other artists is genuinely one of my favourite things to do. To hear an artist sing my song and bring it to life – revealing both its flaws and the beauty in it – it such a privilege – because their skills make it possible for me to use mine. Perhaps that’s another way of looking at ‘support’ – that it can also be a process giving other artists room to do what they do well – and letting that improve and strengthen what you do and create.

What have you been doing recently?

Lauren: I have just finished up working on a play, Puffs: Or Seven Increasingly Eventful Years at a Certain School of Magic and Magic for the record-breaking season at The Alex Theatre in Melbourne. I am now working on an exciting new project called Mad World. It is an immersive theatre experience inspired by Alice in Wonderland and I am on board as Resident Director. 

Lizzie: The last 12 months for me have included a lot of touring all over Australia with Coal Miner’s Daughter (with country star Amber Joy Poulton as Loretta Lynn and me as her bestie Patsy Cline). We got to bring the show to Queensland for the first time— we sold out 4 performances at the QPAC Playhouse, which was exciting. I’ve also been working on a show with jazz legend Dan Barnett called Gin Swing.

Brad: Recently, I’ve been developing a new podcast called Making a Musical. I was in New York City speaking with writers, producers, marketers, folks on the street buying nick knacks – trying to tangibly understand why people like musicals – and what makes them a success. Season One takes place in New York.

Describe the moments that led you into showbiz?

Lauren: The moment I always revisit in my mind is my year 4 teacher Mr. Cowan suggesting I audition for a community theatre production of The Secret Garden. They were looking for a 10-year-old girl to play the lead role of Mary Lennox. My very eccentric mother stormed into the church hall and announced, “My daughter doesn’t know the song from the show but she’ll be singing Castle on a Cloud from Les Miserables!” 

 

Lizzie: Castle on a Cloud! I have a strong memory of treating one of my mum’s friends to an interpretive dance version, which involved a broom and a pillow as props. That song is a gift that keeps on giving!

 

 

Brad: I heard a recording of Anthony Warlow singing This is the Moment from the live Main Event record. I literally stopped what I was doing, sat down, staring at the cd disc spinning in my walk man… It was like a scene from a film. And I was hooked.

What will you cherish about this process / project / company?

Lizzie: It will definitely be the opportunity to be part of a project with so many talented performers, who are based in or have strong ties to Queensland. I am always excited to be able to work in my adopted home city.

 

Lauren: I love working in Brisbane.  Any excuse to get back up here and be a part of this incredibly rich and thriving arts scene is always welcomed.  The people here are a total joy to work with- passionate, hardworking and it is refreshing to be involved in this incredible project with so many wonderful Brisbane based artists. 

 

Brad: Honestly, working with people like Lizzie and Lauren is a real treat. I don’t take it for granted that to get something off the ground takes a lot of work and a lot of people saying – yes that’s a good idea! To have people willing to spend longer than a coffee date with you is a privilege! And to learn from them, with them, to make songs for their voices that will forever be apart of the musical theatre landscape – that’s the good stuff for me.

How do you make the moments count?

Lauren: Stop. Breathe. Enjoy. Share.

Brad: I can’t answer, sorry. I’m too busy doing exactly what Lauren said. She’s spot on!

What are your favourite moments / events in an ordinary 24hr period and what makes an ordinary moment extraordinary?

Lauren: I think there is something special about doing mundane things with passion and love. Making a cup of tea for someone? Make it with love. Savour even the simple walk to your mailbox. Life is so short – be unapologetically passionate and always full of love.    

Lizzie: I completely agree. Some of the most special parts of my day are the little ones: hearing the whirr of the coffee machine (my husband is making me a coffee!), drinking my first coffee (I have a problem) and the furiously wagging tails of my dogs Digby and Dudley when I arrive home – love and excitement turned up to maximum!

Tell us about recording this album? What was the best part? What was challenging?

Brad: it’s unfolding all at once. So with so many incredible artists we have a strict timeline for offering the pre-sale, but also recording at the same time. So I’m meeting with artists to workshop the song – then I’m orchestrating at various coffee shops around Brisbane… Then meeting with the band in the studio the next day.

 

It’s funny – I was just in New York and I sat down with someone from COME FROM AWAY, who outlined the exact same thing – that bringing that show to life and improving it and fixing it, while getting it to an audience is such a unique and strangely stressful but enjoyable process. And people like myself – don’t want to be doing anything else!

 

What do we need to see / continue to see in Australian musical theatre? What are your favourite aspects of our live entertainment scene? (And again, why do we need to support this project!).

Brad: There are so many causes in need of our time and effort. I personally, work on new art because I have always done so, and it is something that I enjoy and have made a living from. I would be foolish to say ‘ONLY SEE AUSTRALIAN MUSICALS!’ Because I couldn’t even do that!? But I feel there is a place for Australian stories, made here in Brisbane and around the world to find a place on our stages, the challenge for all of us is there doesn’t appear to be an overwhelming number of bridges that lift our stories to the centre of public attention – and without reaching a mass amount of people – it’s difficult to convince investors to give you a large suitcase of money to sing some show tunes!

What do you love about Bradley’s Old Fashioned Production Company? Is anyone else doing anything like this?

Lizzie: I think OLDFPC came about from Brad attempting to share his music and plays with an audience. Seeing his work develop and his craft grow you start to see a road that led to here, where he will – at the drop of a hat – tell you about his big dreams for the company – for it to become a home for new musicals and the artists that create them. I think Brad brings a unique skill and perspective – being so involved in musical theatre from different areas that makes OLDFPC particularly passionate and skilled at the craft of making musicals.

Brad: OLDFPC don’t stage existing theatre works – which I feel makes us different from other companies. We just focus on making new works and building a bridge between the audience and the artist from around the world, who both desire to experience something entertaining and new.

 

LAUREN MCKENNA

Lauren graduated from the Victorian College of the Arts in 2011 as part of the inaugural Bachelor of Music Theatre class. Her breakout performance was in 2015 when she played the dual role of Martha/ Ms Fleming in the critically acclaimed production of Heathers at Hayes Theatre Co. which toured Australia in 2016. This earned Lauren rave reviews and the Sydney Theatre Award for Best Newcomer. 

Lauren performed her dream role of Tracy Turnblad in Hairspray Arena Spectacular tour in 2016 and as Jan in Grease Arena Experience tour in 2017 and 2018 (Harvest Rain).  Lauren has also appeared as Anathema in Good Omens (Squabbalogic), Heidi in [title of show] (Understudy Productions), Babette in La Cage Aux Folles (TPC), Jewel in The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas (Mystery Musical for Squabbalogic) and Gwendolyn in The Importance of Being Earnest (Citizen Theatre).  Most recently, Lauren was swing (U/S Leanne/Susie/Sally) for Puffs: Or Seven Increasingly Eventful Years at a Certain School of Magic and Magic (TEG Live).  Lauren will soon perform the role of Rose in Meet Me In St. Louis for Neglected Musicals at Hayes Theatre Co. 

Lauren is a proud member of Actor’s Equity and is represented by Working Management.

In addition to performing, Lauren also works as a director, collaborator and acting coach.  She is passionate about mentoring young aspiring artists. 

 

Lizzie Moore is a singer and actor who has appeared on stage in London, New York and throughout Australia. She’s most recently appeared in The Last Five Years at Brisbane Powerhouse and has been touring Australia as Patsy Cline in the smash hit Coal Miner’s Daughter with country star, Amber Joy Poulton.

As a cabaret and concert performer, Lizzie has headlined for Sydney Festival, Ten Days on the Island and Festival of Voices; her show Cool Britannia was the fastest selling show at the 2015 Queensland Cabaret Festival, and her one-woman show On A Night Like This played to sell-out houses at Brisbane Powerhouse, Adelaide Cabaret Festival, Chapel Off Chapel and BL_NK in London.

In New York, Lizzie appeared Off-Broadway and Off-Off-Broadway: credits include Hot and Sweet (with Katie Finneran and Lea Michelle), La Femme Est Morte, You People, and Closer.

Lizzie’s theatre credits include Heidi in the Broadway musical: [TITLE OF SHOW] (The Seymour Centre/Squabbalogic), Hattie in Kiss Me Kate (Opera Queensland/QPAC), as Mary Magdalene in Jesus Christ Superstar (Arts Centre Gold Coast), Deb in Ordinary Days (Tasmanian Theatre Company), Sally Bowles in Cabaret (Playhouse Theatre), Miss Adelaide in Guys and Dolls (Darwin Entertainment Centre), the original company of Anthony Crowley’s The Wild Blue and Tin Hotel (Darwin Festival).

Lizzie is a graduate of the Ballarat Academy of Performing Arts with a Bachelor of Arts (Music Theatre) and is represented by BMEG. www.lizziemoore.com

 

 

BRADLEY MCCAW

Bradley McCaw is a multi-instrumentalist, composer/playwright, performer, and orchestrator. His musical theatre works include The Oasis, A Little Princess, Any Moment and Becoming Bill. His published plays include The Game and Everybody’s Doin’ It.

He has received National awards from Queensland Theatre, New Musicals Australia, and Home Grown. As a performer he toured the world with International singing group The Ten Tenors, and was the winner of the 2012 International Cabaret Showcase touring his one-man show to festivals worldwide, including a sold out show on Broadway’s 42nd street (USA).

His recordings, Highlights from Becoming Bill, and Cabaret: Unauthorised Biography are available online www.bradleymccaw.com

 

To secure a personalised private performance by Bradley McCaw and an Any Moment cast member, pledge AU$1000 or more via Kickstarter

 

 

Any Moment features 17 new songs performed by: Kurt Phelan (She Loves Me, American Idiot), Tom Oliver (The Voice, Velvet), James Shaw (Chicago, Mamma Mia USA), Lizzie Moore (The Last Five Years, Kiss Me Kate), Lauren McKenna (Hairspray, Puffs), Trevor Jones (International Piano Man and leading academic), Judy Hainsworth (First World White Girls, Babushka Cabaret), Emily Kristopher (Single Asian Female), Alex Woodward (Underground Broadway Founder), Irena Lysiuk (The Owl & The Pussycat), Stephie Da Silva (Rent), Shaun Kohlman (Bare, Opera Queensland) and Kathryn McIntyre (Ladies in Black, Twelfth Night).

07
Aug
18

The Book of Mormon on sale today!

 

The Book of Mormon, Broadway’s smash hit musical written by Trey Parker, Matt Stone and Robert Lopez, is coming to Brisbane and Adelaide and tickets are now on sale!

 

The Tony®, Olivier®, Grammy® and Helpmann® award-winning show will begin performances at
QPAC’s Lyric Theatre on 16 March 2019 for a limited season, before it transfers to the Festival
Theatre, Adelaide from 27 June 2019. BOOKINGS: HERE

 

The Australian production of The Book of Mormon has notched up 615 performances since
opening at Melbourne’s Princess Theatre on 17 January 2017 for a one year run, then moving to
the Sydney Lyric Theatre from 27 February 2018, with every performance selling out.
Winner of nine Tony Awards® including Best Musical, the Grammy® for Best Musical Theatre album
and four Olivier Awards® including Best New Musical, The Book of Mormon set a record for the
highest grossing on-sale of any musical theatre production in Sydney’s history with more than
45,000 tickets sold by the end of the first day of public sales, and broke the house record for the
highest selling on sale period of any production in the Princess Theatre’s 159-year history in
Melbourne.

 

At the 2017 Helpmann Awards, The Book of Mormon was crowned winner of the coveted Best
Musical award, while Trey Parker and Casey Nicholaw were awarded Best Direction of a Musical.
Since making its world premiere in March 2011 at New York’s Eugene O’Neill Theatre, The Book of
Mormon has played more than 380 consecutive weeks there, at more than 100% capacity
(standing room adds additional capacity), and has broken the house record more than 50 times.
Its successive North American touring companies have played to more than 100% capacity for a
combined total of 3,768 performances and broken 104 house records at 57 theatres.
The London production opened in February 2013, winning four Olivier Awards®, including Best
New Musical.

 

The Book of Mormon smashed box office records for the highest single day of sales in West End history and has sold out every single one of its 2,268 performances thus far in London’s West End.

 

Book, Music and Lyrics are by Trey Parker, Robert Lopez and Matt Stone. Co-directed by Trey
Parker and Casey Nicholaw, The Book of Mormon has choreography by Casey Nicholaw, set
design by Scott Pask, costume design by Ann Roth, lighting design by Brian MacDevitt, sound
design by Brian Ronan, orchestrations by Larry Hochman and Stephen Oremus, and music
supervision and vocal arrangements by Stephen Oremus.

 

 

 

The Australian cast stars Ryan Bondy (above), A.J. Holmes, Bert Labonte and Zahra Newman.

 

The Book of Mormon is produced in Australia by Anne Garefino, Scott Rudin, Important Musicals
and John Frost.