Posts Tagged ‘bethan ellsmore


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. 


Queensland Cabaret Festival opens tonight!


We’re sending the lucky winners of our double passes to ABSINTHE tonight!

Have fun, Chris, Tara and Gail!


Meanwhile, in New Farm…



Queensland Cabaret Festival opens at Brisbane Powerhouse TONIGHT!






Tonight’s Voices of Vice lineup features a mouth-watering feast of festival performers and local legends including Bethan Ellsmore, Dirty Sexy Politics, Cienda McNamara, Tyrone Noonan, Alison St Ledger, Lizzie Moore, Sandro Colarelli, Greg Bird, Rebecca Grennan, David Megarrity and Bridget Boyle.



Feel free to flaunt your bad habits, perversions, and licentiousness in our den of iniquity where too much is never enough. Indulge in this celebration of tantalising transgressions, which are guaranteed to be delightful, delicious and a little bit wrong.



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In the immortal words of Tom Waits, “There ain’t no Devil, there’s just God when he’s drunk” so leave your better angels at the door – we won’t tell if you won’t!


















Babushka: I Can Keep A Secret…


I Can Keep A Secret…


5 – 6 July 2013

The Box, West End


Reviewed by Guy Frawley


“We don’t have a liquor license so can’t sell any alcohol, but with every item of merchandise sold, a complimentary wine or beer is included.”


This is the line my evening began on, last Friday night at the The Box in West End. This is also why I now have two screen printed, Babushka tea towels. This quirky exchange set the tone for the evening, which was quickly fostered by the general setting. Inside the gutted interior of an old workers cottage, The Box is a delightful space that’s been set up as an artist run initiative to provide a dynamic space for a range of performances, events, workshops and other assorted projects. It provided an incredibly intimate performance space that made you feel as if the act was playing out in your living room.


And what a performance it was! The girls of Babushka (Alicia Cush, Bethan Ellsmore, Laura Coutts, Michelle Bull) have created an incredibly funny, sexy, spellbinding performance that draws you in and keeps you hooked until the end. Gallivanting through a far-wandering songbook, you were never quite sure what could possibly come next. Opening with a powerful rendition of Kylie’s Confide in me they took full advantage of the song’s natural operatic feel and coaxed it into the diva territory that they’re all so obviously comfortable in. It was entertaining in itself, simply trying to work out what those familiar snatches of music were going to become, or realising all of a sudden what it was exactly you were listening to. Like the moment in the evening that the girls performed Lotion, as in the lotion that one puts in the basket so as to not get the hose. Yes, Buffalo Bill goes to the opera at a night with Babushka. I must say, I also felt they proved quite marvellously my personal theory that Gotye’s music would lend itself well to musical theatre. David Law accompanied on piano and kept up a playful rapport with the girls.


I really liked the fact that the structure of the show allowed each of the four their own time to shine, and in some cases quite literally, grab the spotlight. Within each of their individual characterisations you could see how much fun they were having performing and it really translated itself into a great atmosphere. Cush’s representation of her pregnancy leant itself well to humour and it was rather refreshing to see the idea and mythos behind ‘the pregnant woman’ being played out in a relatively unique way. From a completely selfish point of view, it’s rather unfortunate that the impending arrival of her baby is likely to put the brakes on Cush’s performance schedule and I’m really looking forward to seeing what she comes up with when we see her climb back into the theatrical saddle so to speak. Unfortunately, it would appear however that Coutt’s absence will extend a great deal further than Cush’s as this has been her final performance with the group before moving to the U.K. for post-grad study at London’s Central School of Speech and Drama. I do hope they manage to find a replacement with as much zest and character as Coutt’s displays on stage. Bull’s naturally expressive abilities work well with this style of performance and whilst she initially appeared to play more of a supporting role, when she took the stage it was clear that she could control it with the same intensity and strength as the other three.


Babushka I Can Keep A SecretFor me though, Bethan Ellsmore offered the standout performance of the evening. Her individual performances crackled with intensity and I was often transfixed. In her 1940s-silver-screen-siren gown and flaming fuchsia hair she ticked all the femme fatale boxes and has the knack of flicking the switch on her sex appeal down to an art form.


It was a delight to be able to sit back for just over and hour and to be blown away by such well-polished, talented performers who also presented great, entertaining work. Between pending births and international education it would appear that the future of Babushka would perhaps have a question mark hanging over its head. But I do so hope that there’s a speedy solution as I’d love to see them perform again, and you’d be doing yourself a favour by keeping your ear out for their name. If you find yourself with an opportunity to see Babushka perform you’d be a fool to miss out, you’re guaranteed a great night.



The Last Five Years

The Last Five Years

Ignatians Musical Society

20th – 23rd June 2012

QPAC Cremorne Theatre

Reviewed by Michelle Bull

Chances are that unless you are a die-hard musical fan, you may not have heard of The Last Five Years. From its initial premiere in Chicago in 2001, this unusual and demanding song cycle written by Jason Robert Brown has had somewhat of a cult following amongst musical theatre circles. Since discovering it about five years ago, I have been a big fan of both the cycle and its composer and so it was with excitement that last Saturday night, I joined an intimate audience at QPAC’s Cremorne Theatre to see it’s latest Brisbane revival, presented by Ignations Musical Society.

The Last Five Years follows the five-year relationship between struggling actress Cathy Hyatt and emerging writer Jamie Wellerstein, as they juggle their emerging careers with the ups and downs of their relationship.

What makes this show so ultimately heartbreaking is the structure of its narrative. The show opens with Cathy (Bethan Ellsmore) beginning at the end; the demise of the relationship, and continuing through to conclude with the dizzy beginnings of their burgeoning romance. This is contrasted by Jamie (Tim Dashwood), who tells the story from the start of giddy young love to the heartbreak of a bitter divorce. The couple collide and interact directly only once in the middle of the production, before separating once again to continue on their opposite journeys.

It’s a tricky structure to wrap your head around and one, which I’m sure, was initially confusing for a few audience members. That’s why from the outset I have to say I was surprised by the lack of a program. Later I found there was a digital copy available online but for a production that’s composition is quite non-traditional, it would’ve been nice to have something more tactile and immediate to reference. The structure became more obvious gradually but a short description of the narrative would’ve been a welcome accommodation to give a little context and background for those audience members not as familiar with the story as some.

This being said, the challenge of a non-traditional narrative is well realised by director, Travis Dowling, whose clever use of staging mirrors the progression of the relationship from each of the characters perspective along their journey as well as providing a sense of intimacy and fragility.

The set itself is simple, with minimal props and lighting used to convey changes in time and place. Resisting the temptation to over clutter, the set design (Tim Wallace) is functional and intimate, adding to the contemporary feel of the production.

Despite each character moving in opposite directions, the accessibility of the setting (along with repetitive motives in the score) provides a steady connection between both characters despite their emotional journeying in opposite directions.

Musically, the score is rich with moments for the audience to indulge as one characters excitement is faintly echoed with a musical reminder of the others heartbreak and this seesaw effect carries on throughout the production leaving the audience in a quasi limbo land of emotions by the end.

Led by Musical Director, Ben Murray, the score is delivered live with sensitivity and wonderful sense of duet with the performers, seeming to exist almost as another voice at times. Contemporary in nature, with the popular catchy feel characteristic of a Jason Robert Brown score, the music helps to facilitate a heartfelt connection to the narrative, tugging at the heartstrings of anyone who’s ever been in love.

Bethan Ellsmore as struggling actress, Cathy Hyatt, is gutsy and fearless in this vocally demanding role. The challenges that present themselves in starting the show from such an emotionally charged place do nothing to distract Ellsmore from balancing a legitimate vocal with an honest and courageous approach to the text.

Likewise Tim Dashwood as up-and-coming writer, Jamie Wellerstein, is authentic in his characterization and also vocally secure. Despite occasionally losing vocal presence through some energetic staging, Dashwoods’s commitment to unraveling the dimensions of this character made for a compelling performance.

Despite the challenges of finding a connection through what are essentially two individual journeys, Ellsmore and Dashwood establish an onstage chemistry that seems to communicate even when they are not, a credit to both the direction and artistic investment by the performers.

It is refreshing to see a small Brisbane Theatre Company like Ignations embracing a challenging and relatively unknown theatre production, and doing so to great artistic success. Within a musical theatre scene that is often saturated by predictable and large, elaborate productions, it is exciting and inspiring to see a stripped back, contemporary work that relates to its audience and unapologetically reflects the raw, gritty and beautiful underbelly of love.