Archive for the 'Musical Theatre' Category

30
Jan
18

Richard O’Brien’s Rocky Horror Show

 

Richard O’Brien’s Rocky Horror Show

Gordon Frost Organisation, GWB Entertainment and Howard Panter Ltd

QPAC Concert Hall

January 19 – February 11 2018

 

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

 

 

Don’t dream it, be it.

 

The message has never been clearer: you can be whatever you want to be. But somewhere along the way, has Richard O’Brien’s Rocky Horror Show taken this lesson a little too literally, and lost some sense of self?

 

It’s still a ridiculously fun, kitsch show (a ridiculous, fun, kitsch show) – it’s even retained a little bit of its naughtiness (the bed scene is still hilarious, although, thank Adam, not quite as lewd) – but it seems it’s not only the size of the production that’s been scaled back. With Craig McLachlan’s departure from this slick little mini-production from London and even less time allowed than in 2014 for the double entendres and sight gags to sink in, it’s no longer a wild and untamed thing. Richard O’Brien’s Rocky Horror Show is practically PG.

 

 

In London, in 1973 the very first Rocky Horror Show genuinely shocked audiences, and with the 1975 release of the film (a dismal failure at first, and let’s not even speak of the appalling remake from 2015), based on the stage production by Richard O’Brien, this strange encounter of virgins and phantoms and aliens quickly became a cult classic. The show has played all over the world non-stop for 45 years, and in case you were unaware, an audience participation ‘script’ informs both screenings and live performances, although the Brisbane Cards 4 Sorrow crowd (if that’s who they were. Incidentally, their next floorshow is in March; check it out here) didn’t get much of a look in this time, the couple of determined callouts deflected without hesitation by Narrator, Cameron Daddo, superbly and very suavely his natural self in this coveted role). Perhaps they felt, after the initial bold outburst, that QPAC’s Concert Hall was not the place for it…

 

Tim Curry remembers the moment he realized that his performance as Dr. Frank-N-Furter in “The Rocky Horror Show,” the London stage precursor to the 1975 cult film, was no longer his alone.

 

David Bowie and his wife at the time, Angela, were in the audience that night in 1973. Onstage, Frank, the hypersexual alien mad scientist, was being held at ray-gunpoint by his former servants, Riff Raff (Richard O’Brien) and Magenta (Patricia Quinn). They were about to shoot when Ms. Bowie shouted, ‘‘No, don’t do it!”

 

Indeed, the Concert Hall feels like the least likely space in which to experience Rocky Horror, but Mamma Mia! continues to claim the Lyric until February 4. According to one of the venue’s producers, we’ll likely see more of this use of the Concert Hall, which has historically been home to artists and acts of a slightly different ilk. Perhaps the precedent was set by Harvest Rain, with their full-scale musicals in this space before a move across the road, or had it been set already? It’s truly magnificent to have so much coming to Brisbane that QPAC (booked ahead for years you understand), must utilise every space, but by the same token, it’s a firm reminder that we are in desperate need of another performing arts venue in Brisbane that doesn’t also serve as a convention centre or conference location.

 

In exciting news for independent artists, presenters and producers seeking a brand new and intimate performance space, XS Entertainment is issuing an invitation to come play with us on the Sunshine Coast. 

Email xanthe@xsentertainment.com.au for available dates and details. 

 

It could be said that this version of Richard O’Brien’s Rocky Horror Show continues to suffer from its smaller scale, although probably not if you’ve never seen it live on stage before…

 

 

A couple of Rocky Horror virgins joined me on opening night, and despite some confusion surrounding the story and some horror/mock horror moments – cold blooded murder and beneath-the-bed-sheet sight gags – they enjoyed the show and the performances from a cast rocked by allegations against the previous leading man, made before the Brisbane season commenced, by Christie Whelan Brown, Erika Heynatz and Angela Scundi, cast members from the 2014 production and, for the record, as far as I can see, all without reason to fabricate anything against anyone to further their careers. (Honestly. The things people say). Regardless of our understanding of the facts, the women experienced something that negatively affected them.

 

It doesn’t matter if we would not be affected in the same way. What happens to a person happens to them in a way that no one else can ever fully appreciate. It is a person’s right to feel the way they feel about a situation. 

 

The producers had told us in the early press, “this is sure to be an even wilder and sexier night out than ever before…” and perhaps it is, if you don’t get out much. The reward this time, if you’ve seen the show before, is in the night out itself, the whole event of going to the theatre with friends, a bit of fun, and also, thankfully, in solid performances across the board.

 

 

The standout, however, is Kristian Lavercombe, with more than a thousand performances to his name as Riff Raff. Again, he’s absolutely sensational, building vocally on the work we’d heard previously and deceiving us into thinking we’re witnessing Richard O’Brien’s soul take up residence in another body. Amanda Harrison holds her own as the Usherette and Magenta. (It’s a really tough gig to keep us enthralled throughout that opening number of obscure sci-fi references and plot points!)

 

 

It seems appropriate to note that one of the best ever in this dual role, Jayde Westaby, can be seen across the hall until February 4 as Tanya in Mamma Mia!

 

 

Brendan Irving is, once again, just beautiful as the all-singing, all-posing, all-glittering and glistening Rocky, bringing to life a scene that threatens to slow the bull-in-a-china-shop pace if it were not for his impressive posturing. The hand mic, used inexplicably by both Rocky and Frank-N-Furter for this scene and the following, loses its potency after about three seconds, becoming a distraction. I’ve never understood its inclusion. Also, Irving’s an aerialist and I’m still confounded as to why his considerable skill in the air hasn’t been incorporated by Director, Christopher Luscombe. The bizarre interruption of Eddie (James Bryers) also lightens the mood before it turns gruesome, with Frank’s response to the appearance of this unwelcome guest. Unfortunately, Hot Patootie is turned into an untidy non-event rather than featuring as the fully choreographed showstopper it might be (and wasn’t it, in 1992?). This time the morbid game of chainsaw cat and mouse played out across the stage is chaotic, but doesn’t add to the excitement of the show. This oddity, common in blockbuster smash hits demanding more of the marketing and publicity teams than of the touring company, occurs across the entirety of the show, with the exception of Lavercombe’s Riff Raff and Rob Mallet’s (adorable) Brad. The ensemble is rounded out by Michelle Smitheram as Janet, Nadia Komazec as Columbia and Phantoms, Bianca Baykara, Ross Chisari, Hayley Martin and Stephen McDowell. The on-stage band is ably led to light speed by MD Dave Skelton.

 

As for Australia’s newest superstar, Adam Rennie turns the role on its head to become the sweetest transvestite we’ve ever seen. It’s true, he’s missing some specificity and physical extravagance (Tim Curry speaks about creating the character here), at least on opening night, although he may have spiced things up and nailed more precise movement (and electrifying stillness) towards the end of the season, but he’s gorgeous and he makes it his own. His is a thoroughly entertaining performance, marked especially by sensational singing and his unique sweet and cheeky take on the role. In fact, whether or not he means to, Rennie comes across as just about the antithesis of McLachlan’s leering hyper sexual alien scientist. And despite being at odds with the character’s placement and purpose in the story, it’s refreshing, perfectly non-threatening, and perfect for this (political climate) light, fun, smash-hit re-staging, which really does appear to assume we’ve seen it all before, and also, that its audiences will continue to get younger and younger… (The film retained its R-Rating in some countries for the single silhouetted sex scene). QPAC advises: This show has rude parts…parental guidance recommended.

 

Why go back again and again to Rocky Horror? It makes little to no sense, neither its costumes (Sue Blane) nor its fluid sexuality are particularly shocking anymore, and we can watch the original film, which is arguably the best version anyway, whenever we like. But there’s something irresistible, isn’t there, about the electric energy of a live glam rock infused performance, and the permission to relinquish judgment and inhibitions, as well as the fleeting connection with strangers in a dark space, lost in time, and lost in space. And meaning.

 

 

Enjoy the ride and take what you will, again, from Richard O’Brien’s Rocky Horror Show.

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21
Jan
18

Matilda Award Nominations 2017

 

2017 Matilda Awards

 

I’m thrilled to have seen across social media, the overwhelmingly positive response to the announcement of the 2017 Matilda Award nominations.

 

Dash Kruck and Emily Burton: A Tribute of Sorts to the Matilda Awards in 2014

 

Tuesday 6th February, 2018 at 6:30pm for a 7pm start at Brisbane Powerhouse. Hosted by Bridget Boyle & Bryan Probets. Directed by Kris Stewart. Dress Code: After Five. Use #matildas17

 

Arts awards are always funny things – I feel like the Matildas, our long-standing performing arts awards in Brisbane, have been criticised more than most and yet, by the winners and nominees they are cited just as often as any other (very funny, that!) – and when we hear and see delight rather than gripes running through our community of artists, it makes it that much more worthwhile to be a part of the process.

 

As well as keeping up (sometimes barely) with our real lives outside of the theatres, we saw 64 eligible productions in 2017. On Tuesday February 6 we’ll find out which of those won the votes from our panel of ten hard-working and highly qualified judges.

 

I have mixed feelings about some dramatic changes to the configuration this year, as applications for all committee positions were welcomed and considered by the Executive Committee before Christmas. I hope it’s understood that the current committee had not been invited to vote or to comment on potential / incoming committee members’ applications (we actually don’t know, unless you’ve told us, who has been up for discussion); the decision is that of the Executive Committee, as per changes made in the interests of transparency, and to see an unbiased changing of the guards, which some industry friends had felt was overdue. However, I’m not sure what the issue with the previous method was, when we had recently welcomed the newest judges, Elise and Anna, after careful consideration as a committee of all applicants (and I think, before I came on board, that this was an invitation-only process, so I’m glad to have been a part of this necessary revision). But it certainly was not the recommendation of the active committee to take this new appointment process completely out of our hands, and it remains to be seen whether or not it’s the most effective means of “refreshing” the judging panel. Having said that, I’m no less excited to see the announcement – any day now, surely – of the 2018 committee members.

 

 

The committee has continued to respond to industry and Arts Queensland feedback in our efforts to add value and share as much as possible about the voting process and also, in our continued efforts to expand the reach of the awards, before the results are announced each year. Here’s a rundown by Deb Wilks of what’s been happening for the last couple of years to ensure the Matilda Awards continue to evolve and to serve the industry they’re designed to support.

 

I’ve adored working with the current panel of judges. Because I have this space in which to do so, I want to thank each of them for making it an absolute joy to attend productions with them over the last few years, and be involved in the highly rigorous voting process, involving lengthy discussions and lots of late nights! What a privilege it’s been to come to know and respect this panel of judges: Elise Greig, James Harper, Annette Kerwitz, Baz McAlister, Troy Ollerenshaw, Cameron Pegg, Olivia Stewart, Rosemary Walker and Anna Yen.

 

 

Nominations

 

One Gold Matilda Award honouring an individual, organisation or creative team for an outstanding contribution to Brisbane Theatre will be announced on the evening of 6th February, 2017.

Silver Matilda Awards will be presented to an artist or company for commendable work in each of the following categories.

 


Best Mainstage Production

American Idiot (shake & stir theatre co and QPAC)
Blue Bones (Playlab in partnership with Brisbane Powerhouse)
An Octoroon (Queensland Theatre & Brisbane Festival)
Ruddigore, or The Witch’s Curse (Opera Queensland)

 

 

Best Independent Production

Boys of Sondheim (Understudy Productions & Brisbane Powerhouse)
England (Nathan Booth & Matt Seery at Metro Arts)
Swallow (EG & Metro Arts)
I Just Came to Say Goodbye (The Good Room & Brisbane Festival)
The Forwards (Shock Therapy Productions, Zeal & Brisbane Powerhouse)

 

 

Best Musical or Cabaret

American Idiot (shake & stir theatre co and QPAC)
Boys of Sondheim (Understudy Productions & Brisbane Powerhouse)
Briefs: Close Encounters (Briefs Factory & Brisbane Powerhouse)
Joh for PM (Jute Theatre Company & Brisbane Powerhouse, in association with QLD Music Festival)

Best Circus or Physical Theatre Work

Landscape with Monsters (Circa with Merrigong Theatre Co at Brisbane Powerhouse)
Plunge (Seeing Place Productions in association with Bleach*)
Monsteria (presented by GUSH and Vulcana Women’s Circus in partnership with Brisbane Powerhouse)
Humans (Circa & QPAC)

The Lord Mayor’s Award for Best New Australian Work

Blue Bones, by Merlynn Tong
Joh for PM, by Stephen Carleton & Paul Hodge
My Name is Jimi, based on a story by Dimple Bani, Jimi Bani & co-created by Jason Klarwein
Spectate, by Nathan Sibthorpe
Laser Beak Man, by David Morton, Nicholas Paine & Tim Sharp

 

 

Best Director

Daniel Evans, I Just Came to Say Goodbye (The Good Room & Brisbane Festival)
Lindy Hume, Ruddigore, or The Witch’s Curse (Opera Queensland)
Ian Lawson, Blue Bones (Playlab in partnership with Brisbane Powerhouse)
Paige Rattray, Scenes from a Marriage (Queensland Theatre)

Bille Brown Award for Best Emerging Artist

Meg Bowden, The Winter’s Tale (Queensland Shakespeare Ensemble)
Derek Draper, The Lonesome West (Troop Productions at JWCoCA)
Patrick Jhanur, Single Asian Female (La Boite Theatre Company)
Matt Seery, England (Nathan Booth & Matt Seery at Metro Arts)

Best Female Actor in a Leading Role

Ellen Bailey, The Forwards (Shock Therapy Productions, Zeal & Brisbane Powerhouse)
Margi Brown Ash, He Dreamed a Train (Force of Circumstance & Nest Ensemble with Brisbane Powerhouse)
Merlynn Tong, Blue Bones (Playlab in partnership with Brisbane Powerhouse)
Barbara Lowing, England (Nathan Booth & Matt Seery at Metro Arts)

Best Male Actor in a Leading Role

Sam Foster, The Forwards (Shock Therapy Productions, Zeal & Brisbane Powerhouse)
Bryan Probets, Ruddigore, or The Witch’s Curse (Opera Queensland)
Colin Smith, An Octoroon (Queensland Theatre & Brisbane Festival)
Steven Tandy, England (Nathan Booth & Matt Seery at Metro Arts)

Best Female Actor in a Supporting Role

Christine Johnston, Ruddigore, or The Witch’s Curse (Opera Queensland)
Elise Greig, Swallow (EG & Metro Arts)
Helen O’Leary, Swallow (EG & Metro Arts)
Barb Lowing, Joh for PM (Jute Theatre Company & Brisbane Powerhouse, in association with QLD Music Festival)

Best Male Actor in a Supporting Role

Kurt Phelan, American Idiot (shake & stir theatre co and QPAC)
Travis Ash, He Dreamed a Train (Force of Circumstance & Nest Ensemble with Brisbane Powerhouse)
Kurt Phelan, Joh for PM (Jute Theatre Company & Brisbane Powerhouse, in association with QLD Music Festival)
Anthony Standish, An Octoroon (Queensland Theatre & Brisbane Festival)

Best Set Design

Georgina Greenhill, The Lonesome West (Troop Productions at JWCoCA)
Josh McIntosh, American Idiot (shake & stir theatre co & QPAC)
Jonathon Oxlade & David Morton, Laser Beak Man (Dead Puppet Society, Brisbane Festival & La Boite)
Simona Cosentini & Simone Tesorieri, My Name is Jimi (Queensland Theatre)

 

 

Best Costume Design

Anthony Spinaze, Rent (Matt Ward Entertainment at Brisbane Powerhouse)
GUSH, Monsteria (GUSH, Vulcana Women’s Circus & Brisbane Powerhouse)
Jessica Haack & Kaylee Gannaway, The Winter’s Tale (Queensland Shakespeare Ensemble)
Anthony Spinaze, Joh for PM (Jute Theatre Company & Brisbane Powerhouse, in association with QLD Music Festival)

Best Lighting Design

Jason Glenwright, Lady Beatle (La Boite & The Little Red Company)
Andrew Meadows, Ruddigore (Opera Queensland)
Geoff Squires, He Dreamed a Train (Force of Circumstance & Nest Ensemble with Brisbane Powerhouse)
David Walters, Blue Bones (Playlab in partnership with Brisbane Powerhouse)

Best Sound Design

Dane Alexander, I Just Came to Say Goodbye (The Good Room & Brisbane Festival)
Travis Ash, He Dreamed a Train (Force of Circumstance & Nest Ensemble with Brisbane Powerhouse)
Tony Brumpton & Sam Cromack (Ball Park Music), Laser Beak Man (Dead Puppet Society, Brisbane Festival & La Boite)
Guy Webster, Blue Bones (Playlab in partnership with Brisbane Powerhouse)

Best Audio Visual Design

Justin Harrison, Laser Beak Man (Dead Puppet Society, Brisbane Festival & La Boite)
Justin Harrison, My Name is Jimi (Queensland Theatre)
Nevin Howell & Nathan Sibthorpe, Spectate (Counterpilot & Metro Arts)
Nathan Sibthorpe, Blue Bones (Playlab in partnership with Brisbane Powerhouse)
Nathan Sibthorpe & Ben Knapton, He Dreamed a Train (Force of Circumstance & Nest Ensemble with Brisbane Powerhouse)

 

 

11
Jan
18

Mamma Mia!

 

Mamma Mia!

Louise Withers, Linda Bewick & Michael Coppel Entertainment

QPAC Lyric Theatre

January 28 – February 4 2018

 

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

 

 

There’s not a better night out in Brisbane to begin the year, especially for mothers and daughters, or a gaggle of girlfriends, than Mamma Mia!

 

A celebration of love, laughter, family and friendship, MAMMA MIA! brings the fun and joy the world needs right now. Set on a Greek island paradise and inspired by the story-telling magic of ABBA’s timeless songs, writer Catherine Johnson’s heart-warming tale centres around Sophie, a young bride-to-be. On the eve of her wedding, Sophie’s quest to discover the identity of her father brings three men from her mother’s past back to the island they last visited 20 years ago.

 

 

Australia hasn’t seen Mamma Mia! since 2001, when Natalie O’Donnell, Donna in this production, played Sophie. How strange it must be, to be singing Slipping Through My Fingers instead of stepping into a wedding gown during it. O’Donnell is one of the highlights of this production, with a beautiful soulful musical theatre voice and the acting chops to match. She’s a delight, and so is Sarah Morrison (Sophie), whom we remember fondly from Queensland Theatre’s Ladies In Black. Perfectly cast as mother and daughter, there is genuine affection between them. Poppy had asked me before the show whether or not I’d cry during this scene, when mother helps daughter prepare for her wedding day and imminent departure from the idyllic Greek island she’s always called home, and I told her I didn’t know, it would depend on the delivery. That’s a standard response, but it’s not always entirely true. With nothing to fault in the delivery, others might have shed a tear, but there are times when it’s hard to take off the reviewer hat and stay fully immersed in the story, suspending disbelief rather than keeping some distance from the action and emotion. It’s a safe place to be, but not a very vulnerable one, and so I’ve had to admit that this scene didn’t move me to tears after all. What did though, was O’Donnell’s gritty and bitterly accepting reading of The Winner Takes It All. With such a basic book, it’s ultimately up to the actors to sell every moment in a jukebox show and with one exception (not their fault that the opening of the second act was likely staged under the influence of ABBA era hallucinogenic drugs…other likely explanations follow, see below), this stellar cast nails it, earning in turn, our affection, and fuelling our hopes that each of them (and by association and the magic of theatre, that we too) will see their (our) dreams fulfilled.

 

It’s worth noting, at least for other performing artists, directors and obsessors of the genre, that on opening night at least, the gentle, whimsical song that opens the show (I Have A Dream), didn’t particularly serve the show or Sophie as well as the following upbeat number did. (And look, other than to set the scene for Jesus Christ Superstar, do we ever need an overture anymore? Really?). The real start of the show, Thank You For the Music, saw Morrison light up, and leap into brilliant, connected and wholehearted storytelling mode.

 

 

Mamma Mia! – like so many of the jukebox blockbusters – is a perfectly polished production, one of the “precision musicals”, that simply can’t fail, with a spectacularly fun score comprising entirely of ABBA songs written by Benny Andersson & Bjorn Ulvaeus (and some with Stig Anderson), a tight and light little book written by Catherine Johnson, a beautifully designed and functional set (Linda Bewick), and a stellar cast, featuring O’Donnell and Morrison, Alicia Gardner (a hysterical Rosie), Jayde Westaby (a fabulously sexy Tanya, making Does Your Mother Know That You’re Out one of the showstoppers of the year, closely followed by the high impact full company Act 1 finale Voulez-Vous), the wonderful possible fathers – each of them a class act – Ian Stenlake (Sam), Phillip Lowe (Harry) and Josef Ber (Bill), and Stephen Mahy, an undeniably gorgeous and sensitive Sky, however; the jury is still out on whether or not he was the perfect choice for this role – perhaps it’s just the musical theatre tables turned on a secondary male role (rather than a typically flimsily written female role) getting through to the final edit without being further developed, but it seemed as though Mahy never got his moment to really shine. Did I miss it? Unlikely, with a vantage point from the second row, which I don’t recommend actually, unless you’re into counting abs and inhaling additional haze.

 

The supporting cast is terrific, comprising Monique Salle (Ali), Jessica Di Costa (Lisa), Sam Hooper (as Pepper he’s a standout) and Alex Gibson-Giorgio (Eddie). A strong ensemble brings to life the people of the neighbourhood.

 

 

Donna’s taverna is a little too pristine to be the run-down setting demanded by the story, but Bewick can be forgiven for bringing such beauty and functionality together. Transitions happen seamlessly, largely due to the multi-talented ensemble moving things about, helping the pace to race along. At least until we come to the awkward and clumsily choreographed Act 2 opening number, which for some reason is played out as if Fruma Sarah has visited from beyond the grave to join Dairakudakan’s Daiichiro, and Zen Zen Zo in their butoh bends and twirls around a double bed in the hope of scoring a cameo in The Greatest Showman… Whose nightmare is this?! What was it that Director, Gary Young (Resident Director Jacinta John), was thinking in the staging of this piece? Was it

 

  1. the writers’ work is sacred and cannot be changed
  2. the fine print states that the writers’ work is sacred and cannot be changed
  3. cutting it will mean we see less of the chorus and require the running time to be amended
  4. every musical needs a dream sequence (even Rocky had a montage)

 

It’s completely at odds with the overall look and feel of this production, but if we can move beyond it (and we must!), Young’s direction hits every other mark, and Tom Hodgson’s choreography (Resident Choreographer Danielle Bilios) is otherwise cute and fun and funky.

 

 

MD Michael Azzopardi leads a bright band, diving into the score as if it’s the playlist to the party of the year, which was the claim after all! And having taken an evening off from Woodford Folk Festival to attend opening night, we’d have to agree. We can never celebrate enough, the love, laughter, family and friendship that makes every ABBA song at any given moment still a favourite of someone’s, somewhere in the world, and Mamma Mia! all over the world, an unashamedly shiny sequinned and spandex’d smash hit!

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.”

 

SEASON TICKET PACKAGES ARE ON SALE NOW

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

 




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