Posts Tagged ‘Angela Harding


Guys and Dolls


Guys and Dolls

Harvest Rain Theatre Co

QPAC Concert Hall

March 20 – 23 2014


Reviewed by Xanthe Coward




I love Guys and Dolls. I love the show, I love the music and I still love the movie. I love the iconic 40s fashion and I love the language, the strangely natural formal Runyonese. Along with Seven Brides for Seven Brothers it may be an odd contemporary choice for a big-budget show, but despite the archaic sentiments, there is much to enjoy. Tim O’Connor’s Guys and Dolls for Harvest Rain, their first fully professional production, is suitably bright in terms of its costumes and lively characters, but something is missing and it might just be the same clarity and sincerity I’ve longed to see for years from this company. Who IS Harvest Rain, anyway? Has anybody cracked them yet? For the life of me, I can’t put my finger on what is is that leaves me hanging after each production, despite the impressive individual elements and collective talent we see in their shows.


The audience at the Sunday matinee last week was subdued to say the least, though I could see there were many who enjoyed the show, most notably a heap of young theatregoers, including a group of MFAC senior students and their mums, who had organised themselves to see the show; they said they enjoyed it very much. I have no doubt that it was a very different vibe to that of opening night, which I was unable to attend due to my commitment to A Little Night of Music – Songs From the Silver Screen, starring some of Australia’s most accomplished musical theatre stars, and which I only mention for the sake of saying that Angela Harding, who played the proud “missionary doll” Miss Sarah Brown, may very well have felt right at home on that stage too, such is the calibre of her performance in this Guys and Dolls.


Harding adds her own jazz baby cabaret gold to the role, giving the character a little less saccharine sweetness than we’ve seen historically, and a little more spunk. There are times when she and Skye Masterson (Ian Stenlake) have a lovely connection but it’s not often, which is simply not enough for a show built around that unlikely relationship. Chemistry? Yeah, not so much. Stenlake is charming on stage though, and styles up his singing just enough to deliver a great performance overall so we’ll forgive them and the casting process.



Speaking of casting, Liz Buchanan is just gorgeous as Miss Adelaide, and I’m sure her Hotbox girls must be too, only we don’t get more than a strained glimpse of them because somebody forgot to turn up the lights.



This is the darkest production I’ve ever seen Jason Glenwright light away from shake & stir and in many places it’s too dark. We lose energy and pace when we lose colour and the characters’ faces, including during the Hotbox scenes, which are playfully choreographed and snappily executed, if only we could see them! I think I get the concept – it’s very Dick Tracy (I LOVE Dick Tracy!) – we see the star in the spotlight and the secondary characters inhabiting the shadows around them, but it’s not cinema and it doesn’t do it for me. Is it just me? Josh McIntosh’s design allows big, open performance spaces across a couple of levels and it’s a shame to lose so much action amongst the shadows.


Daryl Somers, as Nicely Nicely Johnson, does indeed do the job nicely; he’s a true blue triple threat and Sit Down Your Rocking the Boat is, as it should be, a highlight. In the same breath, I’ll mention our good friend, Dale Pengelly (Benny), who sings and dances and caricatures up a storm. In this comical secondary role, Pengelly reveals yet another box of tricks to add to his extensive performance repertoire, shining brightly and at the same time resisting stealing any of the limelight. Pengelly might just as easily have played either major male role.



Steven Tandy brings warmth and Santa Claus kindness to Abernathy. I can imagine no better reading of this role. I even enjoy his song, More I Cannot Wish You, which is the one I would usually skip on the DVD.



I enjoyed the show, it’s true that I loved lots of it, including Wayne Scott Kermond’s Nathan Detroit and the orchestra on stage (or above it), led by Maitlohn Drew. Strangely though, there is something not quite…enough about this production of Guys and Dolls. It’s all there, sure, in fact it’s not even heart that’s missing, but something is still not able to penetrate Harvest Rain’s shiny, happy high school musical walls. If you know what it is I’d love you to enlighten me. In the meantime, I’m looking forward to seeing the greatest number of unpaid ensemble members in a fully professional production, in July, in CATS.







Harvest Rain Theatre Company

Music by Richard Rodgers

Book & Lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II

QPAC Concert Hall

17th – 20th April 2013


Reviewed by Michelle Bull


It’s funny how a good ol’ humdinger of a musical can make life seem less complicated. Collapsing into my chair at QPAC Thursday night; my mind was still stuck simultaneously tapping away at emails and memorizing the French translation of art song. But as a baton rose and the familiar strains of Rogers & Hammerstein’s Oklahoma filled the Concert Hall, I mentally hit the esc key and took a breath of warm country air.


Harvest Rain Oklahoma

Bringing this classic to life are the Harvest Rain Theatre Company, directed by Tim O’Conner. With a line up that includes IAN STENLAKE as Curly McLain and ANGELA HARDING as the headstrong Laurey along with ANDY CONAGHAN, GLENN FERGUSON, MATTY JOHNSTON, VAL LEHMAN, ERIKA NADDEI, CASEY McCOLLOW, STEVEN TANDY and a strong ensemble.


This production of Oklahoma sees Harvest Rain transition to the larger scale professional stage and I must say, I think it suits them.


Transforming the Concert Hall stage to small town of Oklahoma was something challenging in itself. I had never seen the space extend to more than a cabaret set so I was surprised to see it playing host to a musical, but surprisingly, it totally worked. With lighting by Jason Genwright and a great set  by Josh McIntosh, a sense of intimacy was created, and it framed the production wonderfully.


Directed and produced by Harvest Rain’s Tim O’Conner; Oklahoma propels forward with a steady momentum, and the cast manage this pace and energy with ease.


Music Director Maitlohn Drew’s approach to the score has vigour and enthusiasm. An onstage orchestra adds to the picture, and I’m sure, feeds the cast with a musical drive reflected in their performance.


Likewise, Choreographer Callum Mansfield realises the choreography well; the well known dream sequence was well staged and executed by the cast. I wanted a little more from the grittier moments like the fight scenes and Jud’s possession/attack on Laurey, but in keeping with the era of the piece, it is suitably poised, works well enough and creates some great texture onstage.


Taking the reigns on cowboy Curly, Ian Stenlake is perfectly cast. His strong ringing tenor charming, endearing, and testament to the fact he has played this role before and completely made it his own. The onstage chemistry he shares with love interest Laurey plays out predictably, but is nonetheless engaging to watch.


Angela Harding as the headstrong Laurey is natural to the stage. There is sincerity and approachability in her light soprano that makes you want to listen; I felt her strengths vocally were clearly in her warm mid-range but she is a performer who gives and gives, and it is a joy to watch.

Angela Harding Just Like You

Love Ange’s performance? Catch her next week in her solo cabaret show Just like you … only different at Brisbane Powerhouse April 27th


Erika Naddei was also well cast as the cheekily promiscuous Ado Annie. Having seen Naddei only weeks before in Harvest Rain’s Tell me on a Sunday I knew this was a role that would show off her enthusiastic approach to characterisation and it clearly fits to a tee. With a wonderful ‘twangy’ belt she delivers an Ado Annie that bounces between exasperating and lovable all rolled into one.


I do believe essential to any musical’s success is a strong supporting cast and ensemble, and this is something that is apparent in this production. While there were a few little bugbears (inconsistency of accents, lost dialogue, and slightly unbalanced chorus numbers), overall each and every member of the cast was at 200%, which made for great onstage energy.


I particularly enjoyed Andy Conaghan as Jud Fry. His solo moment Lonely Room showcased his rich Baritone and his committed delivery fleshed out the tenderness and darkness of the character well. The moment was a welcome relief from the pace of the other numbers although I felt a darker side of Jud Fry could have been developed a little more. I found myself empathising with his character so much I was secretly rooting for him to get the girl (Sorry Curly!); perhaps a little more ‘grit’ might’ve swayed me?


Also grabbing my attention was Matty Johnson in the role of Ali Hakim. What a fun and holistic performance. From vocals to physicality, I felt Johnson delivered and enjoyed some great comic moments along the way.


Overall, I felt Oklahoma was a triumph for Harvest Rain Theatre Company, and probably one of the best productions I have seen from them in a while. Yes, it is squeaky clean wholesome family fun, but for lovers of Rogers and Hammerstein musical classics, they’re definitely doin’ fine in Oklahoma…. OK!



The 10th Annual Australian Showcase…in Noosa!




cabaret showcase



For the first time a heat will be held in Queensland for

The 10th Annual Australian Cabaret Showcase.


Jim Berardo’s sophisticated restaurant and bar on Hastings Street in Noosa, is the fine dining venue for the event, which has been sold out since the announcement of the heat! The Noosa crowd don’t miss much!

Your Enterprises’ Jeremy Youett has teamed up with local entertainment master mind, Manager of the Noosa Longweekend, Ian MacKellar, and Jim Berardo to create a one-of-a-kind cabaret evening.

The nine Sunshine Coast entrants include the dazzling Rachael Ward, fresh from her starring role in Chicago on board the Royal Caribbean Allure of the Seas and Adam Flower, who’s been laying low but whom you may remember from our production of Jesus Christ Superstar, which we staged in a warehouse in Kawana in 1999 and broke all Sunshine Coast box office records with Adam in the title role. It’s great to see him back on the circuit. IT WAS TIME.

Rachael Ward Chicago Allure of the Seas

With well-known local piano man, Simon Russell-Baker on the keys, and a dinner menu to make your mouth water, this is an exquisite night of entertainment that most of us will miss this time. And I would have told you about it earlier but there has been SO MUCH HAPPENING. That’s right. Real life has had to take precedence. There will be intermittent posts right up until late January, when we’ll LAUNCH THE WEBSITE. I KNOW.

It’s been a long time coming.

I’ll try to blog from Woodfordia (come see us at The Mystery Bus!), and if you don’t want to miss anything in the meantime



If you managed to secure a ticket to the 10th Annual Australian Cabaret Showcase in Noosa, enjoy a sophisticated and entertaining evening, hosted by Sam Coward and featuring some of our best new (and returning) talent!

Jeremy Youett Blueprint Studios

Jeremy Youett. Image by Blueprint Studios.

“Despite the challenges of continuing to produce the event when I’m based overseas, the Showcase is something I continue to develop because I strongly believe in it as a platform for developing and supporting Australian talent and the art form… I’m excited to say that we have just confirmed that we will launch heats in Adelaide for the first time in 2013 for the 11th Annual Showcase, with the support of The Adelaide Cabaret Festival and Artistic Director Kate Ceberano.”

Jeremy Youett, Producer of the Australian Annual Cabaret Showcase and General Manager of the New York Musical Theatre Festival

Winner of last year’s comp, Angela Harding, will perform her original cabaret show Just Like You…Only Different (MD Mark Chamberlain) on Friday 21st December at El Rocco’s (Bar Me) in Sydney


the wizard of oz – harvest rain theatre company

The Wizard of Oz

Harvest Rain Theatre Company

QPAC Playhouse

10.02.12 – 19.02.12

Image by Trent Rouillon

Tim O’Connor, CEO & Artistic Director of Harvest Rain Theatre Company and Director of their latest musical, The Wizard of Oz, wanted more than anything else, to put the classic (1939) film on the Playhouse stage. And I think he’s done it. This is a glorious production, of considerable scale, which far surpasses anything I’ve seen staged by Harvest Rain. I’ve noted previously that family entertainment is this company’s specialty and in this production we have it in abundance. The ideal choice for this group, showcasing all their strengths, O’Connor has assembled superb leads, a fabulous ensemble and an adorable children’s chorus. And then of course there’s the creative team, who have finally found a way to get the creative juices flowing in the same direction.

Even more impressive is that I attended the final preview performance before opening night. It was the slickest preview EVER. When a company’s history is a little hit and miss, and I’ve always been honest about their misses, I’ve gottta lay on the love when they get it right. So here’s a whole lotta love for a large-scale musical production that you really shouldn’t miss.

Image by Trent Rouillon

Over the years, Harvest Rain’s has become a tight-knit little creative team. They used to not play so well together and we would see conflicting or unfinished ideas instead of a completed, melded and polished product. Now I wouldn’t dream of separating them. A couple of them come and go (they are regularly invited to play with the big boys) and the experience must be informing what they’re doing when they return to Harvest Rain to work.

They are:

Tim O’Connor – Director/Producer

Callum Mansfield – Choreographer

Maitlohn Drew – Music Director

Josh McIntosh – Set & Costume Designer

Jason Glenwright – Lighting Designer

Reilly Case – Stage/Production Manager

Sophie Woodward – Vocal Director

The Wizard of Oz, based on Frank L. Baum’s book, with music and lyrics based on the MGM motion picture score by Harold Arlen and E.Y. Harburg (background music by Herbert Stothart) and adapted by John Kane for the Royal Shakespeare Company, is truly timeless. O’Connor has imbued this production with his long-held love for the story, its characters and for that place beyond the rainbow.

McIntosh has designed starkly contrasting sets, complemented by Glenwright’s evocative lighting. The mood is set before we see any of it with the orchestra’s stirring overture. Under the competent baton of MD Drew, this old-school opening allows us to sit back and see our own images, our own memories of the much-loved film. Paired with the full sound of the orchestra, the vocal arrangements make this a nostalgic experience for the young at heart before the curtain is up.

It opens on the dreary, dusty hues of the Gale family’s Kansas farm (remember the first time you saw The Wizard of Oz and tried to fix the colour on the TV?) Far from the dull daily chores of rural life in Kansas, we are taken on a trip through a strange, strobe-lit twister moment; it’s a rather long one and it’s the only questionable moment in the entire show, all enormous flag waving, which doesn’t really work, however, I could feel that others in the audience, including the five year old, Poppy, enjoyed it, in an anticipatory, storm-comin’ kinda way. We are taken, with Dorothy Gale and little Toto (too cute) to a place beyond the rainbow and into Munchinland, complete with painted houses and the adorable children’s chorus as the inhabitants. The children do a terrific job as Munchkins. They are well rehearsed and present themselves confidently and professionally. And suddenly, it’s in Technicolor that we feel the show starts. Dana Musil warms on me and I try to ignore that somebody must have told her to be as Garland as she likes. It works for the singing (her singing is gorgeous) but not so much for her spoken lines, which might be lost at times to those unfamiliar with the script. I appreciate the efforts towards achieving a certain level of authenticity within the context but I need to hear clear speech. And, having noted the efforts towards “authenticity”, I would love to have seen an original take on Dorothy, as we saw with the travelling companions. We’ll get to them in a minute.

Image by Trent Rouillon

Angela Harding is a beautiful Glinda and presents as a possible Galinda, should the opportunity arise. The woman is versatile and I look forward to seeing her solo show later this year. Her antithesis and Dorothy’s nemesis, the Wicked Witch of the West, is Penny Farrow at her most diabolical. Maniacal cackles, well-timed one-liners and beautiful big movement give this witch the right balance of nasty and comedy. Having seen Wicked, Poppy reminded me that the green witch is not as nasty as everybody thinks but is misunderstood. She has been teased for so long that sometimes she just can’t help how she responds to people. Also, she doesn’t melt and die; she’s living with Fiyero in the field under the stage. For young Wicked fans, this show is indeed a sequel.

Image by Trent Rouillon

I hope for HR’s sake, the newcomers (and by newcomers I mean newcomers to HR, not to the stage), Dan Venz (the tap dancing, debonair Tinman) and Matty Johnson (Lion) have signed a contract to stay  – or at least to return whenever required – because these guys give wonderful performances that have helped to raise the standard of the show overall. If I Were King of the Forest is a song that, in the film, is misplaced and so slow I would rather skip it but Johnson performs it with a sassy Rum Tum Tugger type attitude to suit any cabaret club or morning television show (somebody tell DC)! He’s no Ray Bolger but Shaun Kolman is a delightful scarecrow, bringing lightness and tenderness to the character’s comedy and choreography. Steven Tandy is the wonderful Wizard of Oz and on stage, he certainly lives up to his character’s reputation, giving us a wonderful combination of emotions as the wise, lost man who is so very loved in a place he can’t call home. It’s a touching performance from one of our favourite Brisbane actor/directors. I’m enjoying working with Mr Tandy in Noosa, on David Williamson’s Travelling North, which opens in April.

Image by Trent Rouillon

Special mention must go to Grant Couchman, who is a firm Uncle Henry to Kathryn Dunstan’s gentle-ish Aunt Em. It’s as the Guard at the gate of the Emerald City that we enjoy Couchman’s easy comic ability and his is another performance you can look forward to.

With spot on vocals and energetic dance numbers, the 25 strong ensemble provides additional colour, energy and laughs. They are, thanks to McIntosh and a sizeable costume construction team, superbly dressed. In a scene that need only incorporate a sweeping staircase to be mistaken for the Folies Begere, we get a hint of the high fashion to come, admiring Dior inspired hats and reversible opera cloaks before getting the full picture, which is very Vogue indeed, inside the walls of the gloriously lit Emerald City.

By Trent Rouillon

The Wizard of Oz is a spectacular show that doesn’t disappoint and importantly for me, it’s the show that has earned Harvest Rain their place in the Playhouse. If you’ve not been a HR supporter before now, expect to be converted.

Image by Rebecca Green



John Bucchino, Georgia Stitt & Friends in Concert

Lazy post disclaimer: in case you didn’t catch it over there, this is my Briz Tix review over here…

Featuring Marika Aubrey, Tod Strike, Andy Conaghan,

Angela Harding, Luke Kennedy and Madeline Cain

QLD Conservatorium Wednesday March 3rd

Your Management International and Harvest Rain Theatre Company

It’s shaping up to be a big year for Brisbane’s musical theatre scene, especially for those ambitious (some might say crazy) souls whose only desire is to join the industry as a “triple-threat” performer. Finally, I can see that there are real opportunities beginning to be presented, for aspiring artists to train and acquire work (in their preferred industry) in Queensland. Finally – dare I say it – we seem to be approaching a phase of development and commitment from some of the major stakeholders, which means our talent can choose to stay here, make their base here, find work here and then choose to play here, there and everywhere! Now, I didn’t say it’s happened yet. But now I see that it will.

For example, by the end of their third busy day, Griffith’s Queensland Conservatorium’s first ever intake of Musical Theatre students, thanks to the enigmatic Paul Sabey, had worked with Lucy Durack, John Bucchino and Georgia Stitt. Next week, they have Jason Robert Brown and Rachael Beck in their midst. Before the end of their second week of tertiary study, these students will have rubbed shoulders with some of the very best in the industry, within the re-vamped Con. The once dowdy foyer space has been completely transformed and now looks the part, providing a world-class venue, befitting of acclaimed artists such as Stitt, Bucchino and Brown. Incredible! How lucky these students are!

And how lucky we are, to have been given a taste of the best in the business already, with Harvest Rain’s Broadway to Brisvegas series last year bringing to The Powerhouse, Scott Alan, James Sampliner and Shoshana Bean. This year, in association with the dynamic Jeremy Youett, of Your Management International, we are truly blessed to have, again, a little bit of Broadway magic come to Brisbane.

Having attended the master class on Tuesday night, I was looking forward to hearing some of the songs performed again, this time by seasoned performers, accompanied by the composers themselves, in a recital setting. Most were familiar faces and voices: Luke Kennedy, Angela Harding, Tod Strike, Madeline Cain, Andy Conaghan and Marika Aubrey.

The format of the evening was very simply a stand and deliver concert, with John Bucchino’s work showcased in the first half and Georgia Stitt’s in the second.

John Bucchino casts an imposing presence and reveals a gentle soul. He plays (and composes) by ear. Knowing this makes his talent all the more extraordinary. His music is complex, multi-layered; it is beautiful and joyous and delicious…and fierce and cheeky and fun! It is real and it reminds us that life is supposed to be fun. And challenging. And confusing. And in life, we will have happiness and hurt and forgiveness and love and laughter and therapy and tears and hope. It is sophisticated stuff. Bucchino’s songs are about such simple things but they demand the deep emotional reservoirs and excellent technique of singers who are comfortable enough in their own skins to make sense of the context, make the personal connections and then tell the stories simply, confidently and above all, truthfully.

Georgia Stitt is gorgeous, vibrant, exuding infectious energy and offering the warmth of her generous heart in every smile. There’s also something cheeky and lovely and relaxed about her performance style, opting to sing a couple of her own songs – these are obviously closest to her heart at the moment – and it was endearing to hear from her, “Susan (Egan) sings it better than me but I enjoy it!” Stitt is an amazing talent, comfortable and confident, exactly as she sings in The Me of the Moment. Is it any wonder that she found her bashert in the witty, crazy-talented Jason Robert Brown?! Talk about a Power Couple!

Stitt’s music, like Bucchino’s, offers many unexpected gifts to singers, leading them through the whole gamut of emotions (and quite often back again), allowing plenty of opportunity to play. How lucky these singers are, to have been given the opportunity to play with two amazing artists of this caliber!

Testament to this was Marika Aubrey’s gorgeous rendition of I Get to Show You the Ocean, which Stitt wrote for her eldest daughter and which, by the end of the first chorus, had me in tears because, clearly, really, she wrote this song for my daughter and I! And so says every mother after every show, I’m sure. In Stitt’s Big Wings, Aubrey let loose her big ol’ country belt voice that further demonstrated her ability to sell a strong character.

Madeline Cain treated us to two contrasting numbers from Stitt’s Alphabet City Cycle and The Song with the Violins (Bucchino) but my favourite was This Moment (Bucchino). Cain nailed it.

Brisbane has a true songbird in Angela Harding. Her interpretations seem genuine, she is present in every moment and her voice soars. Her comical ability comes through in the lighter numbers. I enjoyed a more mature interpretation of My Lifelong Love (Stitt) but for me, It Feels Like Home (Bucchino) was perfect.

Todd Strike took on the unenviable task of singing These Two, the song Stitt wrote as a wedding gift for her husband, giving it due respect and letting us in for half a moment, to catch the tiniest glimpse of the real, raw artist that likes to take refuge under that star quality exterior of his. I’m certain Strike has more to give.

Luke Kennedy is a bit of a darling on our Brisbane stages and I’m happy to say he did nothing to dent his reputation. Kennedy has an impressive vocal range and Bucchino’s Unexpressed was the perfect opening number. Stitt’s One Day More, no doubt won Kennedy a few new fans; these songs make it easy to fall in love with the singer and Kennedy plays the audience beautifully. Even as the married man of somewhat questionable behaviour (or perhaps because of it) in Platonic Affair (Stitt), he is irresistible.

Andy Conaghan is the consummate performer and in my opinion, brought to the stage a level of professionalism and self-confidence that put the final polish on the evening. His voice is superb and his easy manner completely charming. Bucchino’s Taking the Wheel and Grateful showed us two sides to Conaghan, while Stitt’s Air, if we were not already convinced, proved his technical ability and roguish, earnest appeal. I don’t mind making a big call and predicting that Andy Conaghan is going to be the Next Big Thing.

Until recently, it would have been unimaginable for Brisbane to be up to delivering anything like the Australian Concert and Master Class Series. The fact that it’s happening here, now, is testament to Brisbane’s determination to become a leading arts city in this country and indeed, its capacity to do so. What an exciting time to be a part of the performing arts industry here, when we are graced by the presence of the likes of Georgia Stitt and John Bucchino.

I can’t wait until next week. Bring on Jason Robert Brown and Rachael Beck!

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