Posts Tagged ‘alex woodward

18
Dec
18

A Very Naughty Christmas – The Second Coming

 

A Very Naughty Christmas – The Second Coming

Understudy Productions

Brisbane Powerhouse Visy Theatre

December 6 – 16 2018

 

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

 

Elliot Baker & Sophie Christofis. A Very Naughty Christmas.

 

THE POLAR OPPOSITE OF CAROLS BY CANDLELIGHT

 

Alex Woodward’s Understudy Productions returned to Brisbane Powerhouse for the holiday season with the naughtiest Christmas cabaret show in the city. It really should have run for another week. It’s the return of A Very Naughty Christmas and it’s only missing Miss Libby Hendrie, the gorgeous blonde triple threat in all of the marketing collateral. Other than that, there’s not a single disappointment; it’s perfectly designed to become a (strictly adults only) Brisbane Christmas Tradition.

 

Apparently, The Second Coming is nothing like last year’s production. But I missed seeing it, so from what I can gather it’s either lacking its original raw, really naughty edge, or it’s even more titillating and entertaining than before! We’re going to assume that the latter is the more common response because box office records. Also, Woodward is one of our excellent new producers who learns from each experience rather than giving up, packing up and moving on to another, bigger, brighter city. The lights are getting brighter in Brisbane and it’s largely because the indies, like Understudy, persist and survive – very well it seems – alongside the mainstage offers. (It’s also because table service survives at many of Brisbane’s better haunts. C’mon, Sunshine Coast!). Woodward always assembles the best of the best, both onstage and off, which makes it easier to garner support for each new project, and also makes the next tickets on offer from this company, for next year’s production of Sweet Charity starring Naomi Price, a very attractive Christmas stocking filler indeed…

 

Dan Venz directs a fierce and fiercely talented, unafraid, flamboyant cast. Each is a bit of a star in their own right, and not a bit reticent about performing this style of comedy. There’s a great deal of the individual in each very personalised role. Let’s face it, we’ve never seen Santa’s Helpers quite like these! Unlike last year’s rough and ready reverie, this script was written by Emily Christopher and Matthew Semple. It’s super speedy, stupidly funny and yes, very naughty.

 

Emily Kristopher & Stephen Hirst. A Very Naughty Christmas.

 

The role of Santa comes, of course, to Stephen Hirst, the host with the most…well, let’s just say he’s the most indecent Santa we’ve seen on local stages. Leading a completely politically incorrect, drug addled, intoxicated and very sexy band of elves, it’s no surprise to see an Austin Powers’ nude number eliciting raucous laughter, and equal measures of delight and dismay, when sight lines outside of the main seating bank offer sneaky peaks at a little more than the punters thought they’d paid to see, especially for those sitting in the right (or the wrong?) seats. Hirst is well known for his easy manner and wicked humour, his ability to take an audience along for the ride with a wink and a knowing grin; all qualities that serve him well here, lowering the tone a little nearer to bawdy, but lifting the standard of the show into the realm of Club Cumming, rather than just another cabaret show; yes, high praise indeed!

 

There was never any doubt that raunchy Aurélie Roque could steal the show, but she resists (that) temptation and plays nice – real nice – with performers and unsuspecting audience members. With powerhouse vocals and legs up to her ears, Roque leaves an indelible impression as always.

 

Emily Kristopher, having had two other productions in the Wonderland program, lets her hair and her guard down in this one. A substantial amount of the writing has got to be hers, such is the clever, concise dialogue, breathing space and overall pace. A versatile performer, her character is ridiculously cute, her comic timing is perfect and her voice is sublime. Sofie Christofis finds her place in this cast, establishing herself as the one to watch. I suspect she is to Understudy Productions what Stef Caccamo is to The Little Red Company.

 

Austin Cornish and Elliot Baker round out this devilishly talented cast. Cornish, given the opportunity to do so,  dances rings around the other elves, and Baker relishes his comedic role as the newest elf on the shelf with a shameful secret and a crush on Christofis. Cornish and Baker are further testament – as if we needed any further evidence ever – that the Queensland Conservatorium Griffith University (i.e. the Con) is training our next generation of triple threat superstars. Watch out, WAAPA. It’s a delight to hear each sing up a storm, in between their riotous workshop antics, and at times combining these elements to deliver, for example (and possibly, for a verse and a chorus too long), the viral Lonely Island number about a particular appendage in a boxMD Tnee Dyer (keys), Chris Evans (drums) and Elliot Parker (bass) appear to have just as much fun as we do. New arrangements of the most popular Christmas songs become fabulously dirty ditties with new lyrics; singalongs that you might not want to be caught on camera singing along with!

 

Understudy Productions had already gone to some lengths to fill the gap in the market, a chasm in fact, left by Oscar Theatre Co – now Oscar Production Co. A Very Naughty Christmas is potentially a neverending year-round series, like enough Club Cumming or Jim Caruso’s Cast Party, starring new and old talent, featuring new and favourite sketches and songs, and satiating new and returning audiences, as long as they’re over the age of eighteen. It’s a no-brainer to bring this show back to Brisbane Powerhouse each year at Christmas time (and in July!). If you missed the last two versions, you don’t want to be left out of a third.

 

Make sure you’re amongst the first to hear of another season. While you’re at it, you might want to book for the return season of The Little Red Company’s Christmas Actually and then let QPAC know that you’d like to take the whole family to A Christmas Carol. But keep any version of A Very Naughty Christmas for yourselves. It’s a lovely, filthy treat especially for the big kids. Talk about filling the gap in the market!

 

 

Austin Cornish. A Very Naughty Christmas.

22
Jul
16

Edges

 

EDGES: A Song Cycle

Understudy Productions

Metro Arts

July 20 – 23 2016

 

Reviewed by Katy Cotter

 

Edges-19-400x267

 

Last night I entered (for the millionth time, I’m sure) the hallowed halls of the Metro Arts building in the city. I never get sick of the place. It was opening night of Understudy Productions’ debut show Edges: A Song Cycle. For those who are not familiar, Edges is a coming of age musical about a group of friends in their early twenties. They reflect on the people they were or pretended to be in high school, and the people they hope to become. It focuses on the tumultuous relationships, the importance of friendship and forgiveness, and the necessity of dreaming big. It also warns about the crazy ex and that closure is paramount.

Edges was written by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul in 2005. Apparently, while they studying musical theatre at the University of Michigan, they were dissatisfied with the roles they were being assigned so they decided to write their own show. They were only 19 at the time, and now the show has been performed around the world.

Understudy Productions is a brand new Brisbane-based company founded by Alexander Woodward who last year graduated from the Griffith University Queensland Conservatorium of Music. With the help of his creative team, the company strives to create professional opportunities for local performers. Edges was the perfect choice to display the incredible vocal talent of the six cast members, including Woodward, giving each a decent amount of time in the spotlight. They played multiple characters which at first was jarring, though it was quickly established that each song was a snapshot into a person’s life, and then we moved on.

The production itself was minimalist; set at the beach. The friends were spending the day reminiscing while lounging on picnic rugs, eating strawberries and drinking craft beers. A small wooden boardwalk crossed the stage adorned with mood lights and surrounded by pale white sand. Behind this sat the band.

The musical itself is the right amount harrowing and hilarious. The audience enjoys the emotional rollercoaster without being overwhelmed or begging for there to be one central character to root for. I must mention my favourite performance from the Musical Director, Dominic Woodhead, who sang Along the Way. This young man is not only an incredibly talented musician, but his comedic timing was superb during this number. He was completely endearing and charmed the pants off the audience.

The transitions between songs were awkward space and needed more consideration as to what the performers were doing instead of just waiting for their cue to start singing. Those transitions are vital in maintaining that relationship between the performer and the audience. If there is awkward space, then the audience drops out of the world being created for them. And, of course, in large scale musicals there are many magical distractions like flying witches or hobbits disappearing. Edges has a raw and vulnerable quality.

This show is a whole lot of fun but it only runs until Saturday. Understudy Productions is a group of young creatives that are passionate about musical theatre. We need to support those who are brave enough to step out on their own and carve their own path. Support the arts, Brisbane, and most importantly, support the locals!