Posts Tagged ‘amanda muggleton

10
Apr
16

Hairspray

 

Hairspray
The Big Fat Arena Spectacular
Harvest Rain
Brisbane Convention & Exhibition Centre
April 8 – 10 2016

 

Newcastle July 2016 / Adelaide October 2016 / Perth January 2017

 

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

 

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15th – 16th JULY 2016

NEWCASTLE ENTERTAINMENT CENTRE 

 14th – 15th OCTOBER 2016

ADELAIDE ENTERTAINMENT CENTRE

20th – 22nd JANUARY 2017

HBF STADIUM PERTH

If you’re a HR Supporter, you will have seen this message (below) from Producer, Tim O’Connor. If not, here it is so you can consider moving on and becoming one. Yes, Brisbane, I’m talking to you. I know you’re reading this. So many of you still have something to say about this company, and I love that that I’m starting to hear some recognition now, for a genius business model and the company’s ongoing commitment to creating opportunities for young artists. Credit where credit’s due, people, regardless of whether or not you, personally, would pay to be in a show.

 

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Our arena production of HAIRSPRAY closed not long ago in Brisbane. We were so proud of the production and the fact that it was seen by over 13,000 people across 5 sold out performances, and featured a mass ensemble of 900 young local performers. Being able to create an opportunity where so many young dreamers could connect with and perform alongside some of the country’s biggest stars like Simon Burke, Christine Anu, Tim Campbell, Amanda Muggleton, Wayne Scott Kermond and of course the incredible Lauren McKenna was one of the greatest joys of my career. On closing night, I took time to hang around backstage and chat with the talented members of the mass ensemble and hear their stories about how being part of the show changed their life. So many of them told me about how they are bullied at school for their love of singing, acting and dancing, but when they came to HAIRSPRAY they were shocked because instead of being bullied they were celebrated for their passion. They found like-minded friends, and many of them felt loved and accepted by their peers for the first time in their lives. It was extraordinary to hear their stories, and realise the show was much more than just a piece of entertainment – it was a life affirming and self-esteem building experience for hundreds of teens from all across South East Queensland.

At Harvest Rain, we want to create theatre that is both meaningful and entertaining. We want to be a beacon of hope for young dreamers with a passion for the arts. We want to help these young stars on their journey by connecting them up with professionals who’ve walked their path before them. We want to make a difference.

So, after 31 years of producing high quality musical theatre productions in Queensland, Harvest Rain is spreading its wings and hitting the road, taking its special brand of theatre magic all across the country! Now young performers in capital cities across Australia will have the opportunity to follow their dreams as part of the HAIRSPRAY experience, when we take the show to arenas in Newcastle, Adelaide, Perth and more over the coming months!

At Harvest Rain, we want to create theatre that is both meaningful and entertaining. We want to be a beacon of hope for young dreamers with a passion for the arts. We want to help these young stars on their journey by connecting them up with professionals who’ve walked their path before them. We want to make a difference.

So, after 31 years of producing high quality musical theatre productions in Queensland, Harvest Rain is spreading its wings and hitting the road, taking its special brand of theatre magic all across the country! Now young performers in capital cities across Australia will have the opportunity to follow their dreams as part of the HAIRSPRAY experience, when we take the show to arenas in Newcastle, Adelaide, Perth and more over the coming months!

This is a significant moment for Harvest Rain as we move towards becoming an arts organization with a significant national presence. By the end of this year, over 4,000 young people will have taken part in the amateur mass ensemble ofHAIRSPRAY somewhere in Australia. That’s an extraordinary number of lives being changed through this unique theatre training experience. We’re excited!

A venture like this is a costly exercise, and Harvest Rain still receives no financial support from the government, so we rely on ticket sales and donations to make this incredible experience become a reality.

If you believe that encouraging the dreams of the stars of tomorrow is important…

If you believe that helping young performers follow their dreams is vital…

If you believe that creating opportunities to improve the confidence and self-esteem of young performers is worthwhile…

…then please make a donation today as part of Harvest Rain’s Annual Donations Appeal.

We’re a registered not for profit organization so any donation over $2 is tax deductible. Your gift will change the life of a young Australian who loves the arts by making it possible for them to celebrate their passion with hundreds of other like-minded people across the country.

You can make a difference by donating today. For information on how you can donate, please click here

I appreciate your ongoing support, and thank you in advance for your generosity.

Let’s make something truly amazing happen together!

 

Tim xx

TIM O’CONNOR
CEO/Artistic Director
Harvest Rain Theatre Company

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It’s 1962, and pleasantly plump Baltimore teen Tracy Turnblad has only one desire – to be on television dancing on the popular Corny Collins Show. When her dream comes true, Tracy is transformed from social outcast to sudden star, but she must use her newfound power to vanquish the reigning Teen Queen, win the affections of heartthrob Link Larkin and integrate a television network – all without denting her ‘do!

Holy security, Batman! When you attend a show at BCEC be prepared to present ID at the counter to collect your tickets and then hold onto your tickets. Don’t lose those tickets! You’ll need to show them again at the door after Interval. You’ll either feel super safe, or completely paranoid.

If you’re in Newcastle or Adelaide or Perth you can feel pleased that you haven’t yet missed this fun mega-show. Harvest Rain’s Hairspray (the big fat arena spectacular) is a flurry of smiling faces and joyous voices, and with its mass ensemble of 950 kids, it’s record-breaking; the largest production of Hairspray ever staged, directed and choreographed by Callum Mansfield (he choreographed the company’s 2012 production) with musical direction by Dennett Hudson.

Question: does anyone else care when there are no live musicians in sight at a musical?

The core cast is strong, with delightful, powerful performances from Christine Anu as Motormouth (I Know Where I’ve Been is a showstopper), Simon Burke as a gruff and affecting Edna Turnblad, Wayne Scott Kermond in his best role to date, Edna’s husband Wilbur (in Act 2, their rendition of You’re Timeless to Me make Simon Burke and Wayne Scott Kermond musical theatre meets vaudeville royalty), and Lauren McKenna as Tracy is ideal. We loved McKenna in Heathers and in her dream role here (already? What next then for McKenna?!) she nails the character, and she can mix and belt with the best of them.

Lollipop-sucking, scene-stealing Emily Monsma makes a fabulous, cheeky Penny, and Barry Conrad a sexy, soulful Seaweed. Channelling Cruella de Vil, Amanda Muggleton lavishes her role as Velma Von Tussle, and channelling Buble, Tim Campbell is a smooth, crooning Corny Collins. Dan Venz brings Link Larkin to life and with more consistent work on his vocals, if it’s what he wants, Venz will no doubt land similar roles in the future.

How fortunate for the younger members of this company to have had the privilege to work alongside actual singers, who depend more upon technique, discipline, good pitch and natural vocal quality than on a reality television network for their success. Producer Tim O’Connor told ABC Radio, “The whole heart of the arena spectacular is to create a pathway, a connecting point, between the young dreamers and the doers, the people like Simon Burke and Christine Anu and Tim Campbell”.

 

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With a multi-level design signifying no particular time or place (unless we are to see, simply, the increasingly concreted city of Baltimore in the sixties, and by extension, every American city), Josh Macintosh has had some fun here, creating ample space for performers to play. Trudy Dalgleish has gone to town with a lighting design of suitably flashy rock concert colour.

Choreography for more than 900 kids of varying levels of ability and experience can’t be easy to create, but the Madison is nearly perfectly in synch and a few impressive Rock Challenge inspired moments delight the audience, including a Mexican Wave sequence that makes dominoes of the dancers.

 

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An insipid sea of white inflatable fat suits & pink wigs must have seemed like a good idea at the time but this is a horribly misjudged reminder that money can’t buy good taste. It must have been a big fat spend in the budget and even thinking about it now – the memory of it is neither witty not funny – I don’t understand what the purpose could possibly be, other than to elicit a cheap laugh. It’s a flashback to the Harvest Rain of old, when somebody’s sense of humour or a lightbulb moment didn’t quite translate to the stage. It doesn’t fit the new picture of this company. Harvest Rain has grown (and matured) considerably, and recently extremely rapidly; they’ve created a genius production model and opened a hugely successful musical theatre training academy. They’ve been doing mostly amazing work for some time now. But this decision seems out of step with the creative concept for the show and feels like a hilarious late-night alcohol-infused inclusion. For the record, I see others in the audience who are loving it!

The sound is generally too loud for Poppy, who covers her ears at times; the levels are consistent with the rock concert approach and the scale of the production.

optikal bloc’s imposing IMAX screen stretches across the back of the performance space and shows on it animations in the style of the opening credits of Grease. But without a live feed to throw the performers’ faces across the same screen, it seems wasted.

 

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If you want intimacy, and an up close and personal experience, there is probably no arena show on earth that will meet your expectations, but if you’re after a loud, large, fast and fun mega smash-hit show featuring a stellar core cast and hundreds of your local kids, you’ll LOVE this Hairspray.

See it in Newcastle (15 – 16 July), Adelaide (14 – 15 October) and Perth (20 – 22 January 2017)

 

03
Feb
15

Boston Marriage

 

Boston Marriage

Queensland Theatre Company

QPAC Playhouse

January 24 – February 15 2015

 

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

 

AD LIBITUM

towards pleasure

 

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“Acting, which takes place in front of an audience, is not as the academic model would have us believe. It is not a test. It is an art, and it requires not tidiness, not paint-by-numbers intellectuality, but immediacy and courage…

 

In life there is no emotional preparation for loss, grief, surprise, betrayal, discovery; and there is none on stage either.”

David Mamet

 

Did you know? Despite the fact that Massachusetts, in 2004, became the first American state to legalise same-sex marriage, a “Boston Marriage” didn’t originally imply only a sexually active relationship, but also a platonic one between two women of independent means.

 

You might not know this either (I tend not to tell people so there’s no reason you would), but I’m not fond of flying. I KNOW. I don’t love it. In fact, I really don’t like it at all. I LOVE CRUISING. But I hate flying. I hate the hold-your-breath moments of the take off and the landing and I remember crying once all the way through a bit of bad turbulence. It was a flight to Hobart, a really looong flight, for a funeral. Typical. Way to set the mood, Universe…

 

This probably helps to explain why I’m not quite as well travelled as I would like to be (that, and my penchant for fine food and wine). On a plane, as soon as I’m seated, I click the belt closed, and check it, and tighten it to make my waist approximately size 4 (I’m already holding my breath in case something bad happens so no probs there), and all my energy goes into surviving enjoying that flight. I try to think I’m not even on a plane! Usually I try to do this by reading. I read A LOT. FAST. I read the safety chart, the papers, the in-flight mag, the script that Sam is supposed to be reading, the pages of whatever the person in front of me is reading (no, it’s not creepy; it’s resourceful) and at least one novel before we get to where we’re going. But the other week, coming home from Auckland, a movie caught my eye and I watched it. And I forgot I was miraculously supported in mid air by a complex set of mechanical and aerodynamical MIRACLES. It was Woody Allen’s Magic in the Moonlight, starring Colin Firth. I was completely absorbed. And not entirely due to Colin Firth’s presence (yes, I’m a fan, which also explains Hugh Parker’s appeal, doesn’t it? I’ve mentioned that before). It’s a sweet, funny film.

 

Magic in the Moonlight follows Firth’s character as he attempts to unmask Emma Stone’s character. She claims she’s a mentalist, and runs around the country hosting séances with her MOTHER. ANYWAY, hosting or attending a séance was once A THING and it’s A THING that is used by David Mamet in Boston Marriage to a) add a presumably highly amusing plot twist and b) take away any sort of sense that he had almost begun making before any mention by his leading ladies of a séance. Magic in the Moonlight is really A LOVELY FILM. And Colin Firth and Emma Stone are really LOVELY. LOOK…

 

 

 

 

Now, what a very interesting conversation we can have about QTC’s production of Mamet’s Boston Marriage. This is the first show of the year for our state theatre company, and it’s certainly difficult, but it’s also quite delightful! (It was Mamet who said we come to the theatre to be delighted!). I say you’ll come to Boston Marriage and be delighted, and perhaps, well, possibly slightly disenchanted… Oh well!

 

 

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While Mamet is not always for everyone, this production, directed by Andrea Moor, a massive fan of Mamet and a Practical Aesthetics aficionado, offers an especially inviting point of access in her exceptional cast; strong performances that give us whole, hilarious characters. With a B-Grade plot (yes it’s Mamet but not as we know him), and characters and devices to distract us from the fact, Boston Marriage is an intentionally pretentious comedy of errors set in one lavish room featuring three female performers. It’s unique in Mamet’s repertoire, as he wrote mostly ghastly male characters; you’ll know the fast-talking guys in Glengarry Glen Ross, American Buffalo and Speed-the-Plow (the latter was given new life at the cinema as Wag the Dog). Although there was something intriguing to Mamet about the power of a woman in a man’s world, this is the one play in which he explores women’s power over each other (and their support for one another), in an undeniably “feminine” chintz covered New England drawing room.

 

And the set is exquisite. It’s not as intimate as we might have expected, and nor should it be, the imposing columns standing as the rest of society might – just out of reach and privy to every word and deed from the fringes, if only for the entertainment of their highly critical self entitled social circles.

 

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Designer, Stephen Curtis, has created an ancient temple of love sans decay and crumbling stone because everything here has, of course, cost a pretty penny. Of course, not one cent of it is Anna’s (Amanda Muggleton); she has attracted the attention of a married man who “keeps” her. He doesn’t know it, but the bargain Anna has struck with him is part of her attempt to re-snare her lifelong friend, Claire (Rachel Gordon). Claire stops by to ask if she may bring her young friend to the apartment and if she may have Anna’s assistance in the seduction of the pretty young thing. Anna, being the cheeky c…. cat that she is, agrees to assist her, er, dear friend, as long as she may watch.

 

A maid from the Orkney Islands (Helen Cassidy) bears the brunt of the couple’s learned upper class malice and, it should be said, their ignorance about anybody other than themselves. Insert mistaken Irish heritage banter and plenty of potato famine jokes here. The plot – what little there is of it – takes a turn when it is discovered that the young friend and the married man are connected, and the maid is accused of stealing an emerald necklace gifted to Anna by the gentleman.

 

 

“It is the writer’s job to make the play interesting. It is the actor’s job to make the performance truthful.”

David Mamet

 

 

These women are aggressive, they are written that way and many lines are delivered in bold, brassy, sassy terms. Some are shouted. Sometimes it’s effective and sometimes it ain’t. These well-heeled Edwardian women know what they want and they know they can have it…or can they? There are lovely moments of vulnerability and tenderness, giving us glimpses into another side to these beautifully crafted characters, but they are short-lived and ultimately, we see the women as Mamet sees them, through a man’s eyes. Interestingly, each is aware – of course she is – of the other’s immense suffering but even under the guise of refinement and polite conversation (not to mention the intimacy and respect of a long-standing relationship), some comments and criticisms cannot be undone. But they can be accepted…

 

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Helen Cassidy, as the Scottish maid Catherine, delivers a nicely measured performance of physical comedy and tempered timing (although there are a couple of times when the pause following most entrances is a touch too long). To her merit, Cassidy’s performance prompted after the show the story of a production elsewhere, in which the long-term subscriber telling the tale HAD NOT ACTUALLY REMEMBERED THE MAID IN THE SHOW. In stark contrast, Cassidy’s performance is unforgettable. If we were going to do old-school character arcs with secondary students, we’d look at Cassidy’s maid. Hers is quite the journey.

 

 

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Rachel Gordon is truly radiantly beautiful (she could have been a face of Lancome…she might be yet!), and there are times when her lusty, wanton manner of speaking drops to a delicious purr, up there (down there?) with Eartha Kitt and Meow Meow. She’s the perfect foil for Amanda Muggleton, who is just as fabulous as we had expected her to be, perhaps more so. In sharpening the edge of every word and playing up every nuance between them, Muggleton creates a character better than even Mamet might have imagined. She’s a force to be reckoned with, and I can’t help feeling I wish I’d seen more of her recent touring work.

 

QTC Artistic Director, Wesley Enoch, spoke after the show about David Walters’ lighting design in terms of a fragrance. He was spot on. He explained that it has its base notes, heart notes and top notes. I would go so far as to say Walters’ lighting lends an oriental woody feel to the production: woody, honey base notes, patchouli, lily and pine heart notes, and jasmine and rose top notes. It’s a work of art. It all feels as if IT’S VERY EXPENSIVE.

 

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I think this is the best way to look at Boston Marriage overall – it’s a loud, lovely looking work of art, a savvy contemporary collector’s piece, brimming with ascorbic wit and some very obscure references (by all means, glance at the glossary in your program but don’t spoil your evening by poring over it!). It will appeal to some and be a source of irritation for others. Unfortunately, it has to be said, the final moments are disappointing; the ending is surprisingly droll rather than superbly passionate. I feel it’s misjudged, or underplayed. It doesn’t need to be salacious, just delicious enough to make us leap to our feet for a shaky standing ovation after we’ve taken a moment to gather ourselves. Instead, the final moments are like a terrific third date that inexplicably ends with the same awkward car-side kiss as the first! Oh well!

 

Boston Marriage has so much good and gorgeous going on (you simply must see Amanda Muggleton at the top of her game) that it’s well worth experiencing this one yourself, no matter what anyone says.

 

Images by Rob Maccoll

07
Aug
13

Blood Brothers

Blood Brothers

Harvest Rain Theatre Company & QPAC

QPAC – Cremorne Theatre

1-17th of August 2013

 

Reviewed by Guy Frawley

 

 

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With the opening of Harvest Rain’s new show Blood Brothers on Saturday night at the Cremorne theatre, Tim O’Connor has finally been able to bring to fruition a plan he hatched a decade ago. Unable to make the stars align over the past 10 years, it took one very special star, Amanda Muggleton, to provide O’Connor with his ideal Mrs Johnstone and to set the wheels in motion that would eventually lead to his impressive staging of this long-running musical.

 

Whilst I saw a fair amount of early-to-mid-2000s Harvest Rain on a mixture of school and family trips to the theatre, it’s been a long time since I’ve seen a show by this company. And how the times have changed! I remembered a local theatre company, with a foundation of wholesome, family friendly material doing their best to add a pro to the space before their amateur status. What the creative team and cast presented on Saturday night however, was a show as professional and impressive as I could have hoped for. Honestly the only negative commentary I could come up with is entirely to do with the sound system and being QPAC, that’s hardly a surprise.

 

Honestly though, isn’t that what tech runs and previews are for? With the amount of cash the companies outlay to rent the space SURELY they deserve a higher quality and more consistent level of sound quality?! In our state’s premier cultural precinct?! /rant

 

 

The script is a Willy Russell creation (Educating Rita, Shirley Valentine) and offers equal amounts of humour, pathos and social commentary. The music is enjoyable and memorable but the real reason you should see this show is for the assembled talent you’ll have the chance to witness from your seat.

 

O’Connor himself has done a beautiful job in directing and producing this show, but it’s his ability to draw together a phenomenal creative team and cast that makes Blood Brothers a show not to be missed.

 

Over the course of its two hour run time Blood Brothers transports us through a roughly 25 year period and whilst this is key to the storytelling, it also makes for a very hard show to cast and perform. I’m generally not a big fan of adults playing small children. So often the performance is simply a crude caricature or over-acted stereotype. But the eponymous “blood brothers”, Zack Anthony Curran and Shaun Kohlman, give us a spectacular performance. As Curran bounced around the stage as a 7-nearly-8 year old it was an initially disconcerting experience. He nailed every facial expression, every gesture, every slouch and every hop, skip and jump of a cheeky kid. In Curran and Kohlman, O’Connor has found actors that not only have beautiful chemistry but that are also such great character actors that their transformation throughout the show is an amazing thing to watch. Without giving away too much of the plot, for me the most emotionally wrenching moment of the entire show came not in the finale, but during a heartbreaking scene before Christmas.

 

Josh Te Paa, gave a commanding performance in the role of the narrator, injecting into the character a unique sense of personality and purpose often lost in the standard idea of a narrator. Julie Cotterell couldn’t have been more perfectly cast as Mrs Lyons and plays out the role with the most fabulous sense of patrician repression and paranoid neurosis. I credit Stacey de Waard in the role of Linda as the second most important reason as to why I found Curran and Kohlman such believable characters. She was able to create the perfect counter to the boy’s own awkwardness as they grew. Her accent was absolutely spot on throughout the entire show and she radiated a joyful confidence.

 

Performing a show in Brisbane, Australia that’s set in Liverpool, England is bound to create a challenging complication with accents, and by and large the cast did an impressive job. Distractingly several performers seemed to struggle towards the end but largely it all sounded pretty authentic, special mention to Te Paa who stood out once again. The vocal direction in general is a highlight of this show. Sophie Woodward’s direction in this area is on best display during the group musical numbers where each line is delivered with such clarity that I could understand every word.

 

The set and costume design by Josh McIntosh provides O’Connor with a beautifully realised world to inhabit. Simple enough to not appear distracting but designed with such smart details so as to allow it to burst with life. In one scene where all the nooks and crannies are filled with the ensemble the stage seems to almost seethe and roil.

 

Amanda Muggleton was worth the 10-year wait that it took O’Connor to find his perfect Mrs Johnstone. Even with all of the amazing talent in this show, it’s her performance that holds it all together and imbues Blood Brothers with so much of it’s heart. The character could easily appear a cartoonish impression of a hopeless, financially irresponsible, single mother but Muggleton gives the role such a multi-faceted portrayal, filled with naivety and vulnerability.

 

Blood Brothers plays for another week and a half and closes on the 17th of August. This is a really impressive attempt made by Harvest Rain and through a real collaboration of talent the entire cast and crew pull off a great show. With this as the level of quality theatre they’re turning out I’ll be very interested in hearing later in the year what the company has planned for 2014.