Archive for the 'Reviews' Category

21
Jun
17

Noises Off

Noises Off
Queensland Theatre & Melbourne Theatre Company
QPAC Playhouse
3 – 25 June 2017

 

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

 

In all probability, an amateur theatre company near you has given Michael Frayn’s classic farce, Noises Off, a red hot go, and perhaps they shouldn’t have. On the other hand, it might be the best thing you’ve seen on a local stage for some time… Anyway, what a joy it is to fall about laughing at a full-scale professional production! This one’s a beauty, with a stellar cast, and a detailed two-storey set and full revolve (designed by Richard Roberts with lighting by Ben Hughes) to reveal the goings on of putting on a show called Nothing On; it’s all very meta.

Under the fearless direction of Queensland Theatre’s Artistic Director, Sam Strong, and with many doors and sardines and rewrites involved (it’s all about doors and sardines), this cast tears through the text, slapsticks through the spaces in between, and quells any audience fear of having to lie through their gritted teeth at the opening night party to say we thoroughly enjoyed the three-hours, after it felt like we’d endured five. In bold defiance of the one-act-no-interval entree sized shows that have become popular, this feast is served up in three rich courses, each more complex than the next, and only as successful as each set up. Luckily, the hard work in setting up the many gags appears effortless, although we know it is not; with so many tiny details to remember to attend to, and never actually getting a break offstage, even when they are seen by us to be “offstage”, these performers demonstrate athletic endurance and artistic mastery.

 

It’s a uniformly excellent company. Simon Burke as Lloyd Dallas, the director of Nothing On, leaps up the stairs from the auditorium onto the stage, but only when he feels he absolutely must make an appearance, to coax or console or clarify, as Zach does in A Chorus Line. We hear his voice first, the “voice of God”, a rich, authoritative tone that also captures his enduring kindness and patience, until he lets slip the weary tone of a repertory director who never made it to the West End. At times Burke’s pace is either slightly self-indulgent or beautifully realised – you decide – and when he disappears again, leaving the company in order to direct a highly anticipated production of Richard III (we get a surreal glimpse of the show within the show within the show), you might decide we all know directors like this and it’s the latter; he’s nailed it.

Ray Chong Nee is Gary, a vague actor when talking about the process, but a perfectionist within the process, so that when sardines and phones and bags and boxes are not where they should be, he flips out, unable to improvise or to take the cues from his fellow actors to get through a scene gone awry. We all know actors like Gary. And like Hugh Parker’s hilarious Freddie who plays Phillip, prone to nosebleeds brought on by the demands of being an actor. Steven Tandy is the most delightful elderly Selsdon, an alcoholic actor/bumbling burglar, the cause of much distress amongst the cast when he goes AWOL. Emily Goddard is the gorgeous and hopeless Poppy (ASM) and James Saunders is fantastically funny as Tim (SM).

Libby Munro is Brooke the brunette bombshell, who is credited in the program-within-the-program as being best known for roles such as the girl wearing nothing but ‘good, honest, natural froth’ in an unpronounceable lager commercial. Her fictional bio gives us an idea of the pretty, vacuous thing Munro gets to play as Brooke playing Vicki, proving her versatility after fierce performances in Disgraced, Grounded and Venus in Fur, and also the results of intensive physical training for her first feature film, recently wrapped in LA, Wild Woman. Louise Siverson is sensational as Dotty Otley/Mrs Clackett and Nicki Wendt as Belinda as Flavia adds a distinctly bohemian diva element to this dysfunctional theatrical family.

 

There really is nothing funnier, or more impressive, than witnessing such disastrous results so brilliantly orchestrated and delivered by skilled performers. Nigel Poulton (Movement Director) has had a field day with complex choreographed sequences of fast and furious physical comedy, and Strong’s attention to detail means that no plate of sardines is left behind…except when it is supposed to be left behind…or is it supposed to be? As well as executing some precision direction, Strong has promoted a generous sharing/mentoring culture throughout the process, having been ably assisted by Leith McPherson (Associate Director/Dialect Coach) and Caroline Dunphy (Assistant Director), with Emily Miller having been invited to share in the artful chaos (Director Observation). Our leading companies, becoming more transparent and accessible each season not only help themselves to promote the magic and wonder of the theatre, but also engage audiences earlier, earning loyalty through genuine relationships between patrons and creatives.

 

This production of Noises Off, probably the funniest meta-farce ever, while not a direct reflection of all that goes on in a theatre company (I guess it depends on the company!), certainly gives us a moment to reflect on why we do what we do, and why as creative types, we need to keep doing it, and guarantees all, whether or not you consider yourself to be a creative type or a comedy type or a trip-to-the-theatre type, an evening of raucous laughter and good old fashioned fun.

20
Jun
17

Wireless

 

Wireless

Judith Wright Centre, Lisa Wilson Projects, Paul Charlier & Metro Arts

Judith Wright Centre Performance Space

June 15 – 17 2017

 

Reviewed by Ruth Ridgway

 

We should perhaps not ask each other what we think about surveillance, but rather whether we understand it—because privacy may be an invention without a future.

Co-Directors Paul Charlier and Lisa Wilson

 

Whoever would have thought that smartphones—the objects themselves—could be used to create beautiful visual effects? The glowing screens of multiple devices around the edge of the performance space, and moving in floating patterns or frenzied twirls in the darkness as they are manipulated by the dancers, create a mystic, meditative effect.

But, as Wireless makes clear, this seductive superficial appeal overlies a darker, more sinister dimension.

There is so much happening in this work by Co-Director/Choreographer Lisa Wilson, and Co-Director/Composer/Writer Paul Charlier: dance, occasional spoken words, live music created by sensors in smartphones held by dancers or strapped to their limbs, and video projections, including security camera footage, recorded drone footage, and live footage of dancers filming each other and creating images on tablets.

Integrating all these human and technological elements is a complex feat—congratulations to the team who brought it all together (including Co-Directors Wilson and Charlier, Designer Bruce McKinven, Sensor Designer Joshua Minor, Video Artist Nathan Sibthorpe, Lighting Designer Ben (Bosco) Shaw and Dramaturge Jennifer Flowers).

Dancers, Storm Helmore, Craig Bary, Gabriel Comerford and Joshua Thomson, effortlessly managed the many smartphones (I counted up to 14 at one point), as well as a large movable structure that doubled as a black wall, and a series of small rooms or cells.

The movement is grounded and acrobatic, with dancers often shadowing each other like stalkers. Comerford, in particular, is menacing, prowling like a leopard stalking prey. His fluid strength and his waist-length hair make him an arresting presence.

Helmore, the lone woman in the group, has some speaking to do, which she performs with conviction. In a very early sequence, she plays with a phone, experimenting with different movements to produce different sounds, shaking it, flinging her arms and running. The feeling is playful, with a sense of wonder, and she finishes by saying one word: ‘Cool!’

Later sequences reveal the dark world underlying this seemingly innocuous attraction. With Thomson, Helmore illustrates the sinister potential of dating apps. Standing behind and against her, Thomson manipulates her with a phone, won’t let her speak, and creepily takes selfies of the two of them.

Bary plays a character who spies on a woman (Helmore) in an apartment, and assaults her. He objectifies her by videoing, in closeup, different parts of her body. Multiple frames of these disconnected images, including the look of fear on her face, are projected live on a large screen at the back of the stage, with chilling effect.

In a hallucinatory sequence, images of dancers are projected on the wall, with sections then removed to reveal small cell-like spaces. Video of the dancers overlies and alternates with appearances by the live dancers, and openings and closings of sections of wall, so that the viewer loses track of what is real and what is illusory—a powerful metaphor for the real and illusory contacts and networks that wireless technology enables, and for the infinity of cyberspace.

The ‘cells’ also evoke imprisonment, with dancers literally climbing the inner walls, and faint noises seeping in from the outside world.

 

 

Movement sensors in the smartphones borne by the dancers affect the music/soundscape of the work in different ways. For example, sometimes sound is generated by the movement, and sometimes the dancers trigger certain sequences of sound. The sounds vary from pure piano-like notes, to klaxon-type blaring sound, sounds like whale-song, and staticky noises. As well, there are ambient noises, such as distant cries of children playing, and muffled sounds of people in apartment buildings, heard through adjoining walls and floors.

The glow of the phone screens and the multiple video projections dominate the visual impact of the work. The dancers’ costumes are low-key: shorts, T-shirts, checked shirts, long pants, all in nondescript colours. The living human beings in Wireless are dominated by the technology, which also usurps our attention.

The drone footage at the end of the work, with the camera rising far above Thomson lying on the ground in an anonymous cityscape, emphasises the insignificance and powerlessness of the individual in the face of this pervasive technology.

 

Wireless is intriguing, powerful and sinister, but with moments of beauty and of ‘cool’.

20
Jun
17

The Forwards

 

The Forwards

Brisbane Powerhouse, Shock Therapy Productions & Zeal Theatre

Brisbane Powerhouse Visy Theatre

June 14 – 24 2017

 

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

 

 

 

You may or may not be a footy fan but The Forwards is for everyone, no matter your feelings about sport or art, or the inconceivability of combining the two in any way in between opening ceremonies…

because it’s about people.

Stefo Nantsou’s latest show for Zeal Theatre and Shock Therapy Productions was originally written for high school audiences, and while there remains a made-for-school-curriculum quality early in the text, in its set up, this and its humour is what makes it accessible; it’s wide open, literally with something for everyone, and like The Apology, my other favourite work from this Gold Coast based collective, it deserves to go far.

The Forwards ticks all the boxes, but more importantly, it tugs at the heartstrings and reminds us, powerfully, of who we are, where we come from, and the reasons we might feel the need to escape. In this highly physical and confrontational drama, Australia’s small town mentality and a number of universal issues go under the microscope.

 

 

It might not have been you who grew up in a football obsessed town the size of the fictional Pintoon, but you must know someone who did. The stories we have after spending just three years in Mt Isa would make a disturbing evening too, but we’ll let those sleeping dogs lie a little longer. The panoply of Pintoon characters is impressive, and even more so when we realise that this show is performed in schools by three actors rather than five.

Despite each character coming dangerously close to being a Great Australian Stereotype, the immediate recognition (and the nicknames: Twerk, Hashtag etc), are vital, helping us to get to know everyone in record time. (It’s already a slightly longer than necessary show; we only need to see the first or second, and then the final quarter of the match, or each quarter can be a good deal shorter, more effectively applying the tableaus).

 

 

To return to each individual at the end of the play in a beautiful, extended, transformative sequence is a masterstroke, and a masterclass in nuanced physical performance.

Nantsou has shaped the story as if it’s already optioned for a television movie or mini series, and perhaps it might be; there’s certainly a broader audience for this story, and what a refreshing wake up call to see something so Australian, so unforgivably real on our small screens. Using slow motion and choreographed sequences to good effect, we’re sickened by the small-minded, heavy-handed violence throughout – implied and actual – and horrified by the inevitable end.

 

Spoiler alert: there hasn’t been a more terrifying car crash seen on stage since Fractal’s Anywhere Fest production of My Love Had a Black Speed Stripe (2015), which also benefited from mesmerising slow motion sequences and a lighting design by Geoff Squires. I’d LOVE to see these productions done as a double bill at Brisbane Powerhouse (…and Mt Isa Civic Centre). Can you imagine? And afterwards the drinking culture would continue, because we’re gonna’ need something pretty strong at the end of an evening like THAT. 

 

Sam Foster, Hayden Jones and Ellen Bailey bring accomplished performances to the Visy stage,  playing all manner of townsfolk as well as the main characters who harness our hearts and would have us take sides, only we can’t because we’re given all angles to consider and compassion is the only way through.

Bailey as both the jock and his girlfriend is inspired casting; it’s a demanding ask of the actor but she delivers, leaving us in the end with a heart wrenching image of desperate hollow grief. 

Rob Diley and Nantsou bring a number of additional roles to life, and from the outset, carry the garage band sound and energy. The original music played live by the entire cast on stage adds another raw, real element to the production. Without it we’d be left wanting.

With Foster and Nantsou’s simple set design, and Squires’ moody lighting, this school show has grown up and graduated to the main stage. 

There has been one other company to have the same powerful impact on audiences of all ages, inside and outside of the school setting. 

Only Nelle Lee’s Tequila Mockingbird has delivered a similar shock to the contemporary collective system. On one hand it’s surprising that there are not more like it, The Apology and The Forwards, and on the other, it’s possible that the code is just too hard for other companies to crack. Or perhaps the others think the scene is stitched up? Or they’re interested in other things. But there is great demand for these works, due to the desperate need in our secondary schools for real life issues to be brought to the table in powerful, transformative ways that teens can relate to.

If you know a teacher or a school administrator, can you make sure they know about this show? We see the impact of theatre on the whole school community; it should never be just for the kids who do Drama.

The Forwards offers a rare opportunity for our youth and the people who care about them to consider the challenging issues of belonging, leaving, the law, loyalty, love, loss, sex, secrets, pride, rules, respect, envy, violence, entertainment, youth, ageing, country towns, clubs, community, the lure of bright city lights and celebrity, alcoholism, addiction, football and rape culture, and what it means to be a man or woman or mother or father or figure of authority in this country. The jury’s still out on that one. Rather than being condescending or irrelevant to kids’ lives outside of the classroom, The Forwards will make them, and their teachers and parents, sit up and see familiar people and familiar problems in a way that demands discussion.

 

 

With deep insight, sensitivity and a necessarily light touch at times, Nantsou has written and directed an outstanding, hard-hitting theatrical piece to challenge its actors and audiences.

The Forwards is potent and it has the potential to change lives.

Production pics by Garth Ledwidge

17
Jun
17

1984

 

1984

QPAC, ATG, GWB Entertainment & STCSA 

QPAC Lyric Theatre

June 14 – 18 2017

 

Reviewed by Katy Cotter

 

 

The Lyric Theatre is a venue I rarely visit and I’m always overwhelmed by its grandeur. I witnessed a spectacular and mind-boggling theatrical adaptation of George Orwell’s novel 1984. Co-creators and directors, Duncan Macmillan and Robert Icke found that interrogating the appendix of the book provided a new access point into the work, and helped them devise an exciting and terrifyingly current production.

 

 

For those who have not read the book, this show will have you falling down the rabbit hole, discovering a strange world with fresh eyes, and being confronted with characters you don’t completely trust. Orwell’s dystopian classic, first published in 1949, follows protagonist Winston Smith (Tom Conroy) a citizen of Airstrip One that was formerly known as Great Britain. The world is at war and the government is keeping a close eye on their people. A very close eye. Party leader of the state Oceania, known as Big Brother, has his city under constant surveillance and is swift to persecute anyone who steps out of line. This is a world where individualism is snubbed.

 

Freedom of speech, even the right to own your thoughts, feelings and ideas, will see you “erased” from existence.

 

 

The play opens with Winston writing a diary. To whom he is writing to, even he is unsure. The next generation? Is it a warning to remember the past and history as he knows it? Winston is aware the world he lives in is vile and unjust, eradicating that which does not fit with Big Brother’s ideology, providing a clean slate and obtaining total power. Winston wants to stand up against his oppressors and provoke change. He is also aware of being watched, and could be seized by the Thought Police at any moment. After a romance is kindled between Winston and another citizen, Julia, they decide to risk their lives and fight for freedom.

 

 

Macmillan and Icke intended to create a visceral experience, and they succeeded. There was a tension sustained that never allowed the audience to settle or become complacent. We were continually searching for meaning and truth. Or was that even important in the end? The sound (Tom Gibbons) and lighting (Natasha Chivers) was electric, breathing life into the ever-present and watchful Big Brother, and sending out shock waves, warning the audience to pay attention, “Where do you think you are?”

 

 

The physicality of the actors was next-level and helped blur the lines of reality and false-memory within the show. The “book-club” scene was repeated and each time a new discovery was made, unsettling the audience, as well as Winston who becomes increasingly un-reliable as time goes on. The cast hit every beat that ricocheted seamlessly from one to the other, showcasing how engrossing live theatre can be. A favourite performance of mine was Parsons (Paul Blackwell), whose comedic timing and honeyed vocals made him such a joy to watch. He was the bright light in contrast to Martin (Renato Musolino) who was deliciously menacing; you couldn’t let him out of your sight.

 

 

Winston and Julia met several times in a secluded room where they were free to be themselves, to love each other, and discuss how they could contribute to the rebellion. This room was offstage with a video camera inside that was projected onto the set, allowing the audience to see and hear everything. The lovers were unaware they were being watched. I must admit the use of the video projection for some reason did not work. I understand the intention behind it: Big Brother is always watching, but I felt disengaged. I was straining to connect to Winston, who in these moments had important and illuminating thoughts. I found it funny since we are so used to viewing things on screens nowadays, but I came to the theatre for a reason. Perhaps this was a conscious decision by the creators (and by extension, Orwell) for us as viewers to continue to question the norm.   

 

 

Spoiler alert: when Winston and Julia are captured by the Thought Police and interrogated at the Ministry of Love, the set is torn apart, and in this moment, I screamed inside. I absolutely love when sets are transformed, alluding to a shift of perception; a change in the fabric of the world to which we had grown accustomed. The ending reveals the true identity of Big Brother, who comes to question Winston and everything he thought he knew about himself, about love, sanity, war, the list goes on. Terence Crawford’s performance is supreme as he digs into Winston’s brain, into the audience’s brain. His voice sent me into a trance and I was complacent in watching him torture Winston into admitting he was superfluous. I sat in my seat, gob-smacked, overwhelmed with information, filling up with questions.

 

 

Something that stuck with me is that power will continue to corrupt. There will always be someone at the top and someone at the bottom. This is what makes 1984 a timeless story, and why it’s important to continue interrogating. It speaks to the oppressed and why it is paramount that people stand up for what they believe to be right. I left the theatre terrified with the realisation that everyone is so vastly different. There are numerous cultures, languages, ideologies that often divide humans instead of uniting them. Every individual believes they are standing up and fighting for the right reasons.

 

This adaptation is magnanimous on so many levels. It steam-rolls Orwell’s novel into the 21st Century where the same themes are painfully current and expressed with renewed vigour. It rips you from your seat and spits you back into the world to question everything you thought you knew.

 

This 1984 is a glorious example of the power of theatre.

13
Jun
17

Screw Loose

 

Screw Loose

Queensland Cabaret Foundation

Queensland Multicultural Centre

7-8 June 2017

 

Reviewed by Katy Cotter

 

 

Arriving at the Queensland Multicultural Centre in Kangaroo Point, I was puzzled as to why I hadn’t been there before. This venue is Brisbane’s best hidden secret, it seems, with a large theatre performance space. As part of Queensland Cabaret FestivalEmily Vascotto took to the stage in her hilarious show Screw Loose. With direction from Gabriella Flowers and accompanied on piano by Ben Murray, Vascotto delves into her experience as a self-confessed stalker. She takes the audience on a journey of past relationships from kindergarten to adolescence to now, with passionate (and somewhat embarrassing and obsessive) stories, and songs of her struggles with letting go. By the end of the show, Emily Vascotto is just a woman scorned, misunderstood. She is far too fabulous and gorgeous for any man to handle. But don’t worry, she’s not one to give up easily, and her search for Mr. Right or MR RIGHT NOW continues.

 

Screw Loose is quirky and unsettling in the best way.

 

I found myself wondering if all these absurd tales were in fact true and taken directly from Vascotto’s life. She introduces herself as “Emily.” Is this an alter-ego?

There is one moment I feel is taken too far. Trigger/Spoiler alert: During one song, a set of keys are used to cut a lover’s name into skin. It went on for longer than necessary and it felt a bit insensitive.

Also, the space seems too large for the show. A curtain drawn to hide the depth of the stage would have created more intimacy. In saying that, Vascotto’s performance is physically spot on. She knows how to work it, never missing a beat, knowing exactly how to draw the audience in. With a flick of her luscious auburn locks, the wink of a smoky eye, she exudes confidence and sass, and is a joy to watch on stage. She keeps the audience on their toes, having everyone falling in love with her and then with a simple twitch of the head or a change in her tone, has us all thinking “this girl really does have a screw loose.”

I am blown away by Vascotto’s voice. Holy moly, what a set of pipes! And it isn’t only during the songs (that she wrote, by the way), but the musicality of her speaking voice, which is just as captivating.

Regarding cabarets and musicals, there needs to be a flow between story and song. The beginning of Screw Loose seemed a little stagnant, though a better momentum was found as the show progressed. It is hard when the only thing on stage is a performer and a pianist – there is nowhere to hide. But more often than not, that’s cabaret. Vascotto has an amazing presence, which she uses to her advantage.

It’s a shame the season was so short but this isn’t the last we’ll see of Emily Vascotto. With this year’s Tony Awards just announced, it seems appropriate to ask, will it be Broadway next?   

    

10
Jun
17

Song Lines

 

Song Lines

Brisbane Powerhouse & Charming Rebel

Brisbane Powerhouse Visy Theatre

Thursday June 1 2017

 

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

 

 

 

What’s your song line? Do you know? Do you know where you come from; where you’ve been and what’s brought you to this place? If you do, that story is your song line, your living narrative, connecting you to all things, past and present. For many Indigenous cultures, their personal and cultural maps are far-reaching networks of songs, creating connections between people and place.

 

Michael Tuahine’s song line is not only his story, but those of his parents too; an Aboriginal mother and Maori father, and just like the slice of heaven that is the New Zealand production, Daffodils (sorry, if you missed it, it was superb), Tuahine’s debut solo show features his parents’ relationship and the soundtrack of their lives. His own story almost takes second place, however; it’s made very clear that the story continues, and that at this point, Tuahine’s 42 and single!

 

We hear the troublesome tale of his mother’s experiences as a young girl, at the hands of white Australians, and her resolve to start her life again in New Zealand, the only place to which an Australian Aboriginal woman could escape without a passport. I feel like we want to see a whole show about Tuahine’s mother… Let’s make that happen.

 

Once, once in a while

You’re gonna find her

Waiting for some recognition

It’s her transition to recognition

She has to be loved

She want to be needed

Don’t want to be hated

Just loves to be wanted

 

 

Tuahine’s deep connection to family and place comes through so beautifully and authentically.

 

We share in some of his fondest memories, of the fun and lively extended family gatherings, involving rich voices and guitars, and beers and footy, and good food and great kids; we understand perfectly, the deep sense of belonging and returning, and returning again to wherever home is made. Then of course there are the career moments that had to be had, including the relative success of the 90s boy band AIM 4 MORE. While the photos of the band and the family, which are shared as slides, add a personal element to the show, I think I’d expected something a little more sophisticated in the presentation. We’re accustomed to the audio visual work of the likes of optikal bloc, and perhaps we’ll need to see something more engaging in the next version of the show. Have we seen already, the screen shots of the family pics shared on Facebook, with all the likes and comments and emojis? That would be a neat way of sharing these precious memories for a social media savvy cabaret audience. This is an artist who can get away with such a gimmick.

 

 

Tuahine himself is nothing short of engaging. He’s charismatic, quick witted, cheeky and very funny; he’s quite a catch! (What are you doing about it, women of Australia?!). He’s able to bring pathos and proper crooner compassion to the ballads, certainly his strong point. At times the rock numbers lose a little of their impact, but this is easily remedied if Tuahine is to continue to work with musical directors such as Bradley McCaw, who is musically brilliant and brilliantly entertaining on keys, guitars and vocals. In fact, this three-piece band could easily travel with Tuahine to the far ends of the earth for gigs. They work beautifully together.

 

Roy Orbison’s Crying will always make me think of Mulholland Drive, but this rendition is in remembrance of Jimmy Little, the Aboriginal artist who encouraged Tuahine to pursue his dreams of becoming an entertainer, and inspired him to go to Queensland Theatre Company’s AD, Wesley Enoch, with the concept for Country Song.

 

When we hear She Has To Be Loved and Tuahine’s favourite Maori numbers and Australian Aboriginal songs, we hear his whole heart and soul.

 

This beautifully packaged show, taken under the gentle wing of someone willing to quietly coax a little more out of it, and with all the charm and sincerity of its rising star, will be as far-reaching as any song line. Keep an eye out for its return.

 

 

07
Jun
17

Seven On Sinatra

 

Seven on Sinatra

Brisbane Powerhouse

Brisbane Powerhouse Theatre

Friday June 2

 

Reviewed by Katy Cotter

 

 

American singer Frank Sinatra was one of the most popular and influential music artists of the 20th Century. He sold more than 150 million records worldwide and was the recipient of eleven Grammy Awards, including the Grammy Trustees Award, Grammy Legend Award and the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.

 

Sinatra was a class act, making the ladies swoon and men wish they were as suave and charismatic.

 

Under the musical direction of Tnee Dyer, seven of Brisbane’s finest female singers took to the stage to honour Sinatra’s incredible legacy. The Powerhouse Theatre was packed, and with cabaret seating set out, there was a buzz of excitement in the air. Being born in the 80s (I’m proud to admit it), I am no Sinatra expert and I entered the show without expectations. By the end I was bopping in my seat, singing along, surprised at how many songs sounded familiar.

 

What I love about music is its ability to transport you through time and space. When listening to songs like Fly Me to the Moon and I’ve Got You Under My Skin, memories were conjured of my mum dancing and humming in the kitchen as she listened to the wireless. And hearing They Can’t Take That Away from Me I remembered being a teenager watching the movie Corrina Corrina over and over.

 

The set list included all the hits and the band was exceptional. The joy of listening to a swing or jazz band is tuning into those often surprising, intricate moments that showcase each instrument. There is a subtly between each transition. At one time the audience is engrossed with the lyrics, then the piano is the focus, and slowly a glorious crescendo of the trombone sneaks into your ear. I was filled with a warm and fuzzy feeling. Other times it was all go-go-go, with a hot to trot, get out of your seat, let’s dance kind of energy. The lighting design was amazing and lifted the performance again, with cool blues, booming reds, and sensual greens.            

Now to the seven ladies… Apart from the talented Liz Buchanan, who sang with such elegance and poise, I had not seen the other women perform. It was opening night (and sadly the only night) so there were some nerves shown by some at the beginning of songs. Jo Doyle had a smile from ear to ear and was a pleasure to watch as she weaved through the audience and danced with the band. Jacqui Devereux was clearly known and beloved by the audience who praised her with roaring applause. The beautiful Claire Walters was in her element; her voice was pure romance, making my eyes wander… “Could my love be here?” The vocal range of Bethan Ellsmore was otherworldly. She was a musical siren, seducing the audience back in time to 1930s New Orleans. Bombshell! Rebecca Grennan was an absolute delight and one of my favourites. She was cheeky and flirty, and the girl can dance! I did not want her to leave the stage. 

 

Two words. Melissa Western. This is a name you need to remember. One of Sinatra’s idols, Tony Bennett, said that Frank had “perfected the art of intimacy.” Western seemed to be channelling the man himself. Her performance was utterly captivating, wooing the audience with every word. Jaws dropped as she sang My Way. If she has a solo show, I need to know about it because she is dynamite.

 

 

 

 

(Melissa Western’s Gig Guide is here).

 

I thoroughly enjoyed Seven on Sinatra. This show was the perfect homage to the man and the music.