Archive for the 'Musical Theatre' Category

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.

 

 

 

28
Jul
18

Beautiful The Carole King Musical

Beautiful The Carole King Musical

Michael Cassel

In Association With Paul Blake, Sony/ATV Music Publishing & Mike Bosner

QPAC Lyric Theatre

July 19 – September 2 2018

 

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

 

 

Beautiful tells the inspirational true story of Carole King’s remarkable rise from teenage songwriter to global superstar. She fought her way into the record business as a schoolgirl but it wasn’t until her personal life began to crack that she finally found her true voice and went on to become one of the most successful solo artists in pop music history.

 

Michael Cassel’s production of Beautiful The Carole King Musical is so extraordinary it’s hard to know where to begin, but let’s make it as simple as possible: right from the outset Beautiful is an exceptional show, inspiring and life-affirming, its magic largely due to its star, the incredibly intuitive and talented performer, Esther Hannaford

 

I’ve hash-tagged #allthesuperlatives on social media and I mean it. Beautiful is the most structurally sound, entertaining and touching show we’ve seen at QPAC since Tim Minchin’s Matilda. In case you’re still a bit Brisbane-centric, it’s worth noting here that Beautiful’s Musical Director, Daniel Edmonds, joins The Book of Mormon’s Blake Bowden in Noosa tonight, to premiere Bowden’s original cabaret Straight From the Hart. With Edmonds at  the helm, both in Brisbane and here by the sea, we can be sure we’re in good hands.

 

Beautiful has garnered so much attention, won so many accolades since its Broadway beginnings, it’s no surprise that at this year’s Helpmann Awards it took out Best Musical, Best Direction of a Musical (Marc Bruni), Best Female Actor in a Musical (Esther Hannaford) and Best Male Actor in a Supporting Role in a Musical (Matt Verevis). 

 

 

The book is witty and funny and at times very moving, with the observations of these wonderful real-life characters laced with intelligent humour and lifting the story out of nostalgia – dangerous territory in a contemporary musical. Written by Douglas McGrath, who notes in an interview that King’s music is infused with her kindness, “marked by forgiveness, compassion and warmth,” the show successfully hones in on the earlier and most essential elements of King’s songwriting story, to give us a glimpse into her world, and the people inhabiting it.

 

As singer-songwriter Carole King, Hannaford is sheer perfection, bringing pure and simple joy, and her own wry humour to the role. Her soaring, stunning vocal work lifts us out of ourselves. Bookended by the title track, the opening and closing scenes reveal either the most convincing acting ever seen on an Australian stage or actually, Hannaford’s whole heart and soul shining through.

 

If you’ve met Hannaford, you’ll know it’s the latter. The woman is that incredible, and honest and humble too. Her higher vibration probably influenced the feeling generally on opening night, with Beautiful premiering in a warm golden glow as opposed to the typical excitable bright white hype that we love…and sometimes love to have a break from. In terms of experiencing live theatre, this is such a soulful night out, I defy anyone to remain unaffected by Beautiful.

 

 

Hannaford skilfully manages the darker aspects of the story too, taking time and at times, allowing a single glistening tear to leave a streak down one cheek as she ponders the deeply troubling aspects of King’s life and the tumultuous relationship with first husband, Gerry Goffin. There’s so much involved here, but for the sake of brevity, as Facebook would suggest, over time the relationship becomes “complicated”. Josh Piterman’s portrayal of Goffin is heartbreaking, encouraging us to consider how much our attitudes towards mental health have changed, if at all. This is another accomplished performance that enamours, challenges and ultimately earns our compassion and understanding.

 

 

Lucy Maunder is a gorgeous, intelligent, sassy Cynthia Weill. She has to be to come up against the brassy confidence and bold advances of Barry Mann (Matt Verevis) and just as quickly fall for him. This pairing is divine casting, creating a completely convincing second songwriting pair who remain together to this day. It seems Maunder can truly turn her hand to anything, and it’s such a joy to see her embody this role with gusto and great comic ability as well as the tenderness of King’s closest friend.

 

Pitch perfect performances also come from Chloe Zuel (Little Eva, the babysitter, gifted Locomotion), Stefanie Caccamo (Betty), and Naomi Price (Marilyn Wald), proving once again that there are no small parts, and in our current musical theatre climate, no small players either. Let’s take a moment to recognise what a thriving, amazing, exciting musical theatre industry we’re enjoying right now!

 

Mike McLeish (Don Kirshner) and Anne Wood (Genie Klein) each bring such attention to detail to their roles, and rounding out the core ensemble, we wish we could see more of them. These are the roles that would be fleshed out for the film version, which – let’s face it – is a no-brainer. Hurry up, Tom Hanks!

 

 

Jason Arrow (Righteous Brother, Neil Sedaka), a recent WAAPA grad in his professional music theatre debut, makes a couple of fantastic and very funny, though all-too-brief appearances, as Neil Sedaka; keep an eye on this one, we’ll be seeing him again and again. As the other, taller Righteous Brother, and also as the lovely Nick, Andrew Cook once again leaves a lasting impression. Some of Nick’s mannerisms seem so familiar that I had to resist asking him after the show if he’d studied our Thomas Larkin in real life, since he was also there and this would have been awkward. Every characterisation is so natural, despite the silliness of some of the songs, testament to the talent on stage and the belief in the story. The Drifters and Little Eva’s Locomotion dancers are hilarious, largely because their every number is a tongue-in-cheek effort to celebrate the music and at the same time, unapologetically laugh in the face of its factory generated bubblegum aftertaste. From the outset, with a fabulous medley of smash hit ditties, we understand that Kirshner was the Stock, Aitken and Waterman, or the Willy Wonka of this musical era, and the Brill Building his chocolate factory. Edmonds’ musical direction takes the accomplished band through the decades, and the design team neatly place us in each location (Set by Derek McLane, Lighting by Peter Kackzorowski, Sound by Brian Ronan, Costumes by Alejo Vietti and not to be overlooked, amazing Wigs & Hair by Charles G. Laponte).

 

Director Marc Bruni has superbly realised McGrath’s take on Carole King’s early career and personal life. The most successful female recording artist of 1971, outselling any album by The Beatles, staying on the charts for six years and selling more than 15 million copies of her award-winning album Tapestry, King’s transformation from an ordinary sixteen year old girl with extraordinary talent, to a successful songwriter and singer in her own right, is an inspiring true tale of destiny, dreams and empowerment. Beautiful is a joyride. We only have to look at Hannaford to see its essence in her smile, and be sure of this show’s lasting impact.

14
Jun
18

The Sound of a Finished Kiss

 

The Sound of a Finished Kiss

Brisbane Powerhouse, Electric Moon & now look here

Brisbane Powerhouse Visy Theatre

June 13 – 16 2018

 

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

 

 

When an old mixed tape is unearthed, four friends rewind to Brisbane in the 1990s. Through a series of monologues interwoven with the songs they loved, they relive the events which shattered friendships and scattered friends to the four corners of the world.

 

There is undoubtedly more lively material than any of the music ever released by The Go-Betweens and if you’re not a fan, this might not seem like the show for you, but wait, there’s more to it than that. And when you make art, is it not right that you should make it the way you want to, using the soundtrack you want to, without having to tick funding application boxes, or satisfying sponsors or producers who are under the misguided impression that their dollars equate to creative talent or artistic decisions better left to the artists? Right. Here we have Kate Wild’s show, not yours, and not mine, and it’s clear from the outset that it’s a labour of love.

 

 

I love the story, which is penned by Wild with nostalgia and style, complete with colloquialisms and local references, which might not have the same impact anywhere else in the world, but here where everyone can picture very clearly, as we did during Zig Zag Street, the share houses and cracked coffee cups and odd, stoned characters at late night share house parties, the in-jokes and the bin references are appreciated. There’s a poetry and honesty to this work that leads us gently from four corners of the globe to our own back yard, begging us to recall the details of a decade. Nothing from your life? No one you know? Look closer. No hammer here with which to shape society, not really, but a mirror held respectfully within our reach while we gaze and wonder and remember, if we’re willing, crazy, hazy days and nights.

 

 

I adore these performers – Lucinda Shaw, Lucas Stibbard, Kat Henry and Sandro Colarelli – in their element as actors who can sing and move proficiently, and certainly in the case of both Shaw and Colarelli, as singers in their own right. This is clever casting, giving Stibbard another recognisable, relatable, beautifully underplayed super sensitive sad guy (you know, he can play happy people too!), and having Henry fill the shoes of a sweater-wearing, box-ticking, wide-eyed and impressionable Toowoomba girl on a fierce/lonely/dissatisfied life journey, Shaw delightedly swivelling and swaying and dancing her way into all our hearts, despite the distinct feeling at first that she doesn’t fit in here, and Colarelli – what a master, of sensual presence, poise and too-cool, disdainful and casual connection, enthralling us even as he reaches demurely for a mic hidden beneath the floor. I don’t know how we’ve managed to keep him in Brisbane… Can we still say parochial things like that?

 

 

Beneath some beautiful lighting by Christine Felmingham, Sarah Winter’s design puts us right at home in any number of share houses during uni years, making use of various levels and all four corners of the intimate Visy stage, and placing the accomplished musicians (James Lees, Ruth Gardner, Richard Grantham, Brett Harris and Karl O’Shea) behind a scrim and in an actual Paddington living room. Really. I swear it’s our place off Latrobe Tce. Or Susan’s Kelvin Grove house. Or Marnie’s Red Hill house. Or Lyndelle’s or maybe Annie’s parents’ place. Or a random St Lucia address that preceded coffee and gelato and too much wine and table soccer and intense conversations with actors and the Italians after knockoffs under the Eiffel Tower on Park Road… The memories come flooding back and I think there are probably really bad late-night, red-eyed, smokey, blurry photos of the parties in any or all of these spaces. You know, actual photos, in photo boxes, that have never been seen on social media (and nor will they ever be). 

 

This is one of the marks of a decent show, though, isn’t it? It pulls you in, even as you resist and don’t recognise much of the music (I don’t mind telling you that right through uni I was still listening to a heap of Single Gun Theory and Indigo Girls and show tunes and I don’t remember what else), and it doesn’t let you go until it’s time to leave, and drive home through all those roadworks (six sections, people, SIX SECTIONS OF ONE LANE OPEN ONLY AT 40KM/HOUR), and marking devising pieces before morning. No wonder I’m tired.

 

 

The Sound of a Finished Kiss is such a sweet new thing, I want to challenge the makers to lift it a bit and find the places it can continue to keep us engaged; these are in between sections of dialogue, with a number of the songs going on for longer than necessary, sometimes by two or three verses, so at 90 minutes it feels like the show drags at times. The pace at one point is helped considerably with the fun and ironic execution of Neridah Waters’ choreography.

 

With its deep insight and some dark and topical content, its wonderful reflection on an era and its bunch of misfit, perfect-for-each-other friends (yeah, c’mon, now you know them), this production could literally bring the party to wherever it shows. Like Soi Cowboy (it was one of those amazing creative developments, like Hanako, which I’ve never finished writing about and yet often reference), and unlike many others confidently charging you full price for the privilege of seeing them, this is one of the few new works to actually, genuinely be ready for their opening night, only begging the most minimal work, only in my opinion, before a return season somewhere, surely. 

 

The Sound of A Finished Kiss closes on Saturday. It’s not just for The Go-Betweens fans. Go see for yourself.

 

Production pics by Greg Harm

 

03
Jun
18

BARE

 

BARE

Understudy Productions

Brisbane Powerhouse Visy Theatre

May 25 – June 3 2018

 

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

 

 

BARE in Sydney in 2010 was the first time I’d experienced a professional looking and sounding high school production; it was a fast, shocking, moving show, which Kris Stewart included in that year’s Fringe Festival. It featured a well-trained and super talented young cast, including a couple of triple threats who went on to attend WAAPA. Understudy’s production has its moments, and it certainly doesn’t lack talent (when Oscar’s not playing, Alexander Woodward’s Understudy Productions always attracts the best that Brisbane has to offer), but it’s largely Shaun Kohlman’s show. As seen early in the piece, in Role of a Lifetime, as Peter, the co-ed Catholic schoolboy who falls in love with his best friend, Kohlman captures every nuance of a young gay man in love and in turmoil; he’s completely captivating. Playing opposite him as Jason, the popular athlete and charming leading man in the school’s production of Romeo and Juliet, Jason Bentley, with soapie good looks, strong presence, his genuine connection with both the male and female love interests in the story, and his part in the boys’ beautiful duet (Best Kept Secret) can be forgiven for the apparent anomaly of a singular over-the-top anguished moment. I’d prefer to see this underplayed, or managed slightly differently, perhaps giving us less time to question the authenticity and impulse behind his overwhelming emotion. It’s a choice, a Stella moment, and a tough one to sell. 

 

 

Other than a quick, very much appreciated nod to the social and political climate of New Farm, other additions or amendments to the book go unnoticed. It’s a pretty ordinary book. Despite its dated, flimsy feel, at the core of the show’s universal themes are the current local pangs of real-life wounds, still raw, and the knowledge that so many individuals in our communities fight even now for their right to be accepted by family, friends, colleagues, corporations and institutions, despite the big picture success of the yes vote.

 

Claire, and Ivy, played by ABC weather woman Jenny Woodward and Jordan Malone respectively, are considered by others to be perfectly cast. For me, Woodward’s most affecting work is during the heart-wrenching phone call with her son (See Me). Even so, she doesn’t quite go to the edge, and the first phone call at the end of Auditions gives no indication of her long-held maternal suspicion about her son’s sexual preferences, a missed opportunity. Malone’s Portrait of a Girl rings truer than All Grown Up, which is a little forced and nevertheless appears to leave other hearts aching, those hearts having assured me after the show that for them it was raw and emotional and real. Fair enough. We’re probably in agreement over Melissa Western being a pretty fierce and funny Sister Charlotte, delivering razor-sharp one-liners to bring the house down and at the same time, showing genuine sensitivity and concern for the wellbeing of her students. But the music is written for a voice that doesn’t need to flip into a lighter top soprano, and a misguided wardrobe decision makes a distraction of a pair of black pantyhose and a bodysuit in what would otherwise be a sensational Jesus Christ Superstar/Like A Prayer proper gospel number. While Western is the most accomplished performer on stage and delightful in this role, it’s hard to be a sassy and sophisticated Mother Mary in an 80s inspired blue sequinned bodysuit! (Design Raymond Milner). 

 

Sarah Whalen’s Nadia is sadly, beautifully vulnerable beneath her tough and entertaining exterior, and her singing is spot on. Jonathan Hickey (Matt) and Trent Owers (Lucas) also offer convincing performances with Owers’ rap and his unassuming part in the tragic end to the tale making his character a lighthouse for entrepreneurial kids everywhere.

 

The company largely comprises Queensland Conservatorium graduates and they bring with them their gorgeous contemporary vocal style, which boasts a more naturalistic tone and approach, in case you haven’t gotten out much lately and still expect to hear a big Broadway belt in a Brisbane show. (You can hear it in abundance when Patti LuPone comes to QPAC). It’s a refreshing pop-rock sound, brilliant for our performers, who need to be as versatile as possible in an increasingly competitive industry. In fact, the ensemble’s vocal work is stunning from beginning (Epiphany) to end (No Voice, a stirring, inspiring finish), with precision harmonies and a heartfelt message a joy to hear. 

 

 

Stunningly, simply lit by Daniel Anderson, the action takes place beneath abstract stained glass windows and a white cross, putting us firmly beneath these brightly coloured symbols of the ever-watchful eyes of God. Or is it a cruel joke, as God turns a blind eye? All the questions are asked and painfully, the old-school priest offers only Old Testament answers. James Shaw is rather wasted in this role after his impressive performance in RENT but then who else would do just enough here, just as beautifully?

 

Luke Volker (MD and keys) leads a tight band, hidden from sight but who make their presence felt, particularly with the inspired inclusion of cellist, Kate Robinson. Contemporary pop choreography by Madison Lee makes every company number a Britney Spears’ video, with the angst and frustrated aggression of a couple of these numbers, including Confession, suiting some performers better than others. Variations in tempo and dynamic make the rave scene’s Rolling multi-layered and more visually exciting than anticipated. Director, Sue Rider, manages with more aplomb and sensitivity than at other times, these tricky transitions between music video moments and the continuing drama. 

 

BARE is a polished and emotionally charged production, thanks to the high calibre of artists on stage and off, and it feels like the next stepping stone for this ambitious company. It was an ideal inclusion in this year’s MELT Festival program. The too-brief season concludes tonight with an extra performance due to solid bookings before the show had even opened. We are clearly craving more of this style of work, and happy to embrace the stories selected by savvy young indie producers as our own. I can’t wait to see what Woodward does with his Spring Awakening (we saw Oscar do it best in 2011). Book early for it because going by the general response, Understudy Productions continues to challenge and satisfy both artists and audiences. 

 

 

ONE HEART

ONE LOVE

ONE LOVE, ONE LIGHT

ONE LIGHT, ONE TRUTH

ONE TRUTH, ONE LIFE

ONE VOICE