Archive for the 'Musical Theatre' Category

29
Mar
19

The Book of Mormon

The Book of Mormon

John Frost, Stuart Thompson & Important Musicals

QPAC Lyric Theatre

March 20 – May 31 2019

 

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

 

 

 

One man’s blasphemy is another man’s scripture. Matt Stone

 

Religious stories are just stories. That’s enough. They don’t need to be more. Bobby Lopez

 

We grew up with Mormons, and their MO is to beat you by being kinder than you and higher than you. Trey Parker

 

 

Is the opening of this musical not the most iconic and adored since we first saw Maria running, twirling and singing across the tops of those hills? (You can’t miss the cheeky nod to her later). In keeping with the new curriculum – not that any school should feel the need to make a group booking; see note below – The Book of Mormon blows musical theatre apart. And raises suit standards for young male Mormons everywhere.

 

PARENTAL ADVISORY: If you’re a parent and you’re OK with your kids watching South Park, then use your own judgement about letting them see this. I would add to that, if you would consider that I’ve taken my child to just about everything, and that we talk about just about everything, now that she’s 12-going-on-32 we agree that this content is not what she needs in her life right now. It’s a little like choosing not to have the evening news on in our house. We know stuff is happening to people everywhere, and quite simply, we can better serve those near us. It’s not so much about being blissfully ignorant as it is about retaining our right to make conscious choices. Having skipped the songs marked explicit on the soundtrack for years, we discussed again recently that there is so much else for Poppy at the moment, and she can look forward to experiencing this show in its entirety another time. As an adult, you might decide the same thing. And then you’ll have to decide how you feel about that because when everyone else is seeing it and talking about it, there’s a real risk of FOMO! 

 

HELLO! Hilarious and irreverent beyond belief, and boasting a company of new and engaging triple threat male performers, The Book of Mormon must be the most eagerly awaited show to open at QPAC this year. And it returns next year! It doesn’t disappoint. If you’ve never even listened to the original Broadway cast album (apparently, there are still people who go in cold to a show) you’ll be thrilled to see that it’s been brought to life in the most outrageously musical theatre way imaginable. 

 

Directed by Trey Parker and Casey Nicholaw, with choreography by Nicholaw, and outstanding full orchestrations from a 9-piece band under MD David Young, The Book of Mormon, for those making a conscious choice, is a must-see. 

 

 

When Elder Price (the ridiculously talented and gorgeous, Guy Smiley channelling Blake Bowden) is paired with Elder Cunningham (his perfect foil and the best import ever, Canadian, Nyk Bielak) at the Mormon mission training centre and they’re assigned their mission destination, Africa is not exactly the place they had in mind. (Two By Two & You and Me). While their pals get to go to Norway and Japan, the mismatched pair are sent to war-ravaged, poverty-stricken, AIDS-infected, maggot-infested, fuck-you-God Uganda.

 

Disappointingly, it’s not a bit like The Lion King. (Hasa Diga Eebowai)

 

 

Despite their best efforts to deliver the word of the Heavenly Father and convert the sinners, the suit clad, little blue book bearing boys make little positive impact on the Ugandan people. In fact, they attract all the wrong sorts of attention, from cynics to local war lords, as well as complicating relationships with their Mormon missionary brothers (Turn It Off & I Am Here For You) and before long, having given preaching a red hot go (All-American Prophet, the first incredible showstopper, harking back to the all-singing, all-dancing, all-grinning numbers of the 1950s-ish Golden Era of all-American musicals), Elder Price walks away from his mission partner and his mission, with the intention of going to Orlando, with its clean streets and theme parks. Without his best little buddy by his side, the version of biblical events offered to the villagers by Elder Cunningham is mostly imagined, but the strange stories appear to make sense to the Africans, who all agree to be nice to people, and to be baptised as Latter Day Saints. (Man Up, Act 2 Prologue, Making Things Up Again). Bielak has so many fantastically funny moments that it’s impossible to pick just one. The secret to his performance, and to the rest of them, is that there’s nothing happening that’s actually outrageous. Everyone is completely genuine and responding just as they might in real life, within the world view created on stage, and therein lies the best kind of comedy and the most convincing kind of theatre, no matter how silly the premise might appear to be.

 

A proper South Park style scene, Spooky Mormon Hell Dream takes the ridiculous to new heights – or depths – as Elder Price laments his decision to leave, hearing from Lucifer, and a couple of Starbucks single-use styrofoam coffee cups, and infamous historical figures, including Ghengis Khan and Hitler. This is a dazzling musical theatre disco zombie showstopper; it’s superbly staged, very Fosse, riotously funny. The design team – Scott Pask (Set), Ann Roth (Costumes), Brian MacDevitt (Lighting) and Brian Ronan (Sound) – create worlds within worlds, keeping each chapter of the story within a proscenium of stained glass, complete with revolving heralding angel, against a backdrop of the entire universe. If you look closely, you’ll see that you have your own planet up there. 

 

The costume design, I would hope, is certainly conscious of what the show is saying about the world. Ann Roth

 

 

The high energy performances from every last member of this company means that there are no weak links. It’s virtually impossible to single out an ensemble member, but the Brisbane audience thrills in seeing our own Alex Woodward (a standout, though we don’t know when he’s had time to learn the show, having been busy recently staging so many of his own), Tom Davis and Billy Bouchier. Sydney’s Joel Granger is a perfectly over-enthusiastic McKinley, and Andrew Broadbent is a groovy and gallant Joseph Smith, among a number of other roles. The bedtime tap number, Turn It Off, is a properly polished and fabulous number, and includes a nifty costume trick to draw gasps and squeals of delight. A new graduate of APO and VCA with beautifully controlled vocals and a smile to brighten even the darkest Ugandan day is Tigist Strode, a light-filled Nabulungi. (Sal Tlay Ka Siti, Baptize Me)

 

 

We went to restaurants and we’d grab one of the wait staff and say, do you know any Mormons who went on missions? They’d say, yeah, me and all of our wait staff. And then we’d say, do you know anyone who was gay, and gay Mormons? And they were like, yeah, me and all of our wait staff. Bobby Lopez

 

 

Blake Bowden smashes the role of Elder Price, and I Believe serves as confirmation, in case we weren’t sure when we heard You and Me, that Bowden is a superstar. On the Sunshine Coast we already knew this, having hosted Bowden in Noosa over the last couple of years. But if you don’t get out much, or you subscribe to the myth that Broadway still boasts the best of musical theatre, it might be difficult to predict how good Bowden’s performance is. You simply have to experience it to believe.

 

 

…there are literally no jokes in that song; it’s just facts. It’s just funny ways to describe Mormon things that they believe in. It’s all directly from The Book of Mormon. Bobby Lopez.

 

 

Matt Stone, Trey Parker and Bobby Lopez use the darkest and most ludicrous comedy to highlight some truly horrific humanitarian issues, including religion, race, gender, power, privilege, politics, violence, sex, discrimination and indoctrination. And just like any issue highlighted or disrupted by an art form, what we do about it after the show, or not, is up to each of us. The Book of Mormon is the most irreverent, the most hilarious, the most surprisingly poignant in parts, and the most polished, energetic and entertaining show we’ll see in Brisbane this year. You better believe it.

 

 

According to its own merch and social media, The Book of Mormon is God’s favourite musical, and it might just be yours too. 

 

 

The Book Of Mormon is the winner of four Olivier Awards (West End, London) and nine Tony Awards (broadway, NYC), including Best Musical, Best Score (Trey Parker, Robert Lopez, Matt Stone), Best Book (Trey Parker, Robert Lopez, Matt Stone), Best Direction (Casey Nicholaw, Trey Parker), Best Featured Actress (Nikki M. James), Best Scenic Design (Scott Pask), Best Lighting Design (Brian MacDevitt), Best Sound Design (Brian Ronan) and Best Orchestrations (Larry Hochman, Stephen Oremus); the New York Drama Critics Circle Award for Best Musical; five Drama Desk Awards including Best Musical, the 2011 Grammy Award for Best Musical Theater Album; four Outer Critics Circle Awards, including Best Musical, and the Drama League Award for Best Musical.

 

The Australian production of The Book of Mormon is the winner of the coveted 2017 Helpmann Award for Best Musical. It has performed for over 500 packed houses since opening on January 17, 2017, and broke the house record for the highest selling on-sale period of any production in the 159-year history of Melbourne’s Princess Theatre.

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.

 




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