Posts Tagged ‘Broadway


Disney’s Aladdin

Disney’s Aladdin

Disney Theatrical Productions

QPAC Lyric Theatre

February 24 – June 3 2018

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

Princess Jasmine & Aladdin. Image by Deen Van Meer.

Aladdin is the multi-Tony Award winning, multi-faceted jewel in Disney’s crown, a decadent feast for the senses – flawless – rich in colour, romance, action, ambition, greed, honour, mischief, magic, glitz and glamour, and losing nothing of its original heartwarming essence. Booked yet?

Based on the 1992 animated film, and even more spectacular on stage, Aladdin’s intricate popup storybook sets are immediately transportive. The skyline alone is an Instagram Influencer’s dream! (Are the presets available for purchase?). Masterfully designed by Bob Crowley and superbly lit by Natasha Katz, with more than 300 lavish costumes on display, glistening with thousands of Swarovski crystals (Gregg Barnes), and gifted with swirling, seamless choreography making a showstopper of every musical number (Casey Nicholaw), AND with its extraordinary talent and automation, this sensational production is the must-see musical theatre event of the year.

Book here.

Princess Jasmine & Aladdin. Image by Deen Van Meer.

We were just discussing the need (or not) for overtures the other week, and this production, directed by Casey Nicholaw with musical direction by Geoffrey Castles, opens both acts with one, celebrating the many moods of the Middle Eastern influenced music composed by Alan Menken and from the first strains, freeing us from the throes of daily life and city traffic for a couple of magical hours. Additional songs have been added back into the stage production after being cut from the film, with lyrics by Disney dream team Howard Ashman and Tim Rice (with book & lyrics by Chad Beguelin). It’s got to be one of the catchiest, most uplifting scores of contemporary musical theatre. One of the reintroduced songs, the poignant Proud of Your Boy, showcases the acting chops and golden voice of Ainsley Melham, who brings the title role to life. This guy is set for superstardom. 

Aladdin (Ainsley Melham). Image by Deen Van Meer.

With effervescent energy, a mischievous grin and Disney leading man chiselled good looks, Melham is one of several WAAPA grads in the company, and a perfect match for this Princess Jasmine, Hiba Elchikhe. Hailing from the UK and Mountview trained, Elchikhe is divine and definitely the strong-vulnerable female role model you’d hoped your own little Princess Jasmine would get to see at stage door after the show for a #twinning pic. 

It was a JOY to see so many excited kids at opening night, lighting up the foyer with their bright eyes and infectious smiles. I only wish our major productions could be made more affordable, allowing even more families to enjoy a night out at the theatre together. Honestly, especially in this case, it can be the life-affirming, life-changing stuff of a happier childhood and a more harmonious household!


Adam Murphy’s Jafar is suitably imposing and delightfully wicked whilst remaining so suave when having to play the perfect gentleman and advisor to the Sultan (George Henare, charming and pleasingly, far more sensitive and intelligent than the bumbling / loveable old fool in the film). Jafar’s sidekick on stage, the parrot of the film, is henchman Iago, played with perfect comic timing and terrific physicality by Aljin Abella. Together these two give Aladdin’s three friends a run for their money in terms of laugh time.

Kassim (Adam-Jon Firorentino – please stay in the country now), Omar (Robert Tripolino) and Babkak (Troy Sussman) replace Abu, Aladdin’s beloved on-screen mate, a monkey, and they share some wonderfully funny moments, as well as getting the chance to shine as individual performers.

Genie (Gareth Jacobs). Image by Jeff Busby.

But it’s the Genie, Melbourne’s Gareth Jacobs who steals the show by a nose, having stepped into the big curly-toed satin shoes of Michael James Scott late last year. Jacobs is relaxed and makes the perfect host; he has us in the palm of his hand from the moment he first appears to welcome us, and later, magically, of course, in the Cave of Wonders. This dazzling set design is up there with the multiple cascading chandeliers of My Fair Lady (in fact, not since My Fair Lady has a musical production looked so good in the Lyric), and the Genie’s famous number here, Friend Like Me, literally stops the show, prompting an enthusiastic standing ovation and real hopes for a reprise. There isn’t one, because the show must go on! But this is so much better than the Super Bowl halftime show, and much more thrilling than the film, with literally something for everyone (the tap sequence is fantastic!). Genie even gives a nod to some other Disney smash hits, sans the R-Rated treatment we’ve enjoyed since 2014 at Oscar’s Boy&Girl

Aladdin. Cave of Wonders. Image by Deen Van Meer.

In this superbly talented ensemble we don’t expect to see any stand outs, and yet Brisbane’s Kimberley Hodgson is just glorious in every moment. I’d love to return to see her play Princess Jasmine. (Jasmine’s second understudy is Heather Manly, whom we recognise from Showwork’s Heathers. And though there are times when it is disappointing to miss out on a star performer, with understudies of this calibre there’s no need to give a second thought as to whether or not you’ll enjoy the show if someone is off for the night! This is a truly sensational cast, the strongest sounding ensemble we’ve heard in this space in a long time, absolutely world class).

Aladdin. Magic Lamp. Image by Deen Van Meer.

Aladdin is a no-brainer, the ideal date night, or an extravagant and entertaining evening with friends or family. If your household makes it to just one mega musical each year, this year make it this one.

Aladdin is beyond splendid. It’s bold, it’s beautifully staged and performed, showcasing some of the country’s most exciting musical theatre talent, and it guarantees the shared experience of a lifetime. Most impressive of all (and let’s face it, it’s largely due to this stellar cast), Disney’s dazzling production puts the heart and soul back into blockbuster musical theatre storytelling… Well, it was time. 


David Campbell and John Bucchino in Concert


David Campbell and John Bucchino in Concert

QPAC & Queensland Cabaret Festival

QPAC Concert Hall

June 6 2014


Reviewed by Xanthe Coward


These two talented entertainers are old friends and it shows. There is such a delightful energy between David Campbell and John Bucchino. Whether or not the music is familiar, this is an enjoyable show and a great, relaxed night out.




I love the music, which we got to know very well during Bucchino’s last visit to Oz in 2011, when he joined Georgia Stitt and Jason Robert Brown for a tour of concerts and masterclasses. Bucchino’s CD It’s Only Life has been a favourite in the car ever since and if you consider for a moment how much driving I do that is high praise indeed! The new album, a collaboration between Bucchino and Campbell is out now (and has joined the collection in the car). During Bucchino’s Brisbane masterclass it was fascinating to hear a bit of background – the secrets behind the songs – and observe cabaret magic happen as Bucchino practically handed the vocalists the keys to unlock each song. This we see happening again, but it’s our mate, David Campbell, sharing the intricacies and intimacies of each story, with the perfect example being the opening number, Sweet Dreams. This is a catch-in-your-throat song if ever we heard one. It’s one of my favourite sad songs of all time. It sets a slightly sombre tone for the evening, giving die-hard fans the chance to reimagine the bittersweet stories behind the lyric and newbies (many, I suspect, being television morning show fans) just enough gentle time perhaps to adjust any pre-conceived notions. The mood lifts with the upbeat number that follows, and so begins our rollercoaster evening, punctuated by some super slick shtick and very funny apologies from both Bucchino and Campbell for their over-indulgence in comfortable chat and private jokes to make us feel as if we might be in one or the other’s living room.


I enjoyed the pair’s easy repartee, and felt it added to the intimacy of the show. My mum, and others I suspect, might have preferred to hear more of the music! If you know Bucchino you’ll know his music is not exactly all-Broadway and it’s not quite “cabaret” either, but what is that now, anyway? (Campbell explains his take on contemporary cabaret to arts writer, Elissa Blake, here). It’s somewhere in between, and it gives someone like Campbell the perfect opportunity to flex his performance muscles. He’s a born entertainer – we knew this already – but it’s in the portrayal of a character from Bucchino’s Broadway show, A Catered Affair, that we see once again Campbell’s natural acting ability. He steps forward and slips into the role of the father of a reluctant bride and I make a mental note: tell Lisa (Campbell) to get this guy back into musical theatre. (And I do, immediately after the show via Instagram). Campbell even references Shout! The Legend of the Wild One and for half a second it seems that were a musical theatre option brought to the table he might just let an arm be twisted. In stark contrast, it should be noted that Campbell just as effortlessly takes Bucchino’s hit song from the DreamWorks animated movie Joseph: King of Dreams and makes it his own. He makes this little story, one of the complete ones, soar and sear our hearts.


It helps that there is so much in the music to share. Bucchino is a precise lyricist and a gifted storyteller, but not in the traditional sense of the word. In fact we almost get just as much story in those apologetic interludes as we do in the songs, as he takes great pains to establish the context of each, remembering and describing the people and places that have served as inspiration. The songs themselves become just snippets! But what intriguing snippets, what delectable morsels they are. (Warning: foodie references to follow). Sometimes they start and end with just a feeling, pure intensity, making me think, inexplicably, of Silky’s Pop Cakes, filled with honey, which she serves with Toffee Shocks and Google Buns to unsuspecting guests in her cosy home at the top of The Faraway Tree. (I found a recipe for Pop Cakes here! Wheeeee!).




Of course all composers will claim their songs come from pure feeling but these are different, defining a core feeling from very few words, or from many more words than we might expect. Even when the story “ends”, we can hear that beyond the song the story goes on. The evening is basically a banquet of exquisite tasting plates, just like we find at a couple of our favourite spots that deserve a shout out here, Ole (Little Stanley Street) and the Spice Bar (Mooloolaba Esplanade). Unexpressed and Feels Like Home are lovely, light, warm and delicious little dishes that give us an appetite for something more, something like Puddle of Love. Sweet Dreams and Playbill offer an entirely different taste, like Zumbo’s caramel salted somethings (this is not Zumbo – I know ’cause I finally met him this year at Noosa International Food & Wine Festival! But if you wanna’ try making his macarons this vid is GOOD! REMEMBER- DO NOT OVER PULSE AND DO NOT OVER BAKE. JUST SAYING). On My Bedside Table is the laughter that goes with liquor and cigars at the end of a great night. Taking the Wheel is genuinely joyous; full of zest, and Grateful brings the evening to a gentle, not-too-sentimental close, sending us out with satisfied smiles.


This concert is an intimate insight into a long-lasting friendship and two very different – but maybe not so much – creative careers. Bucchino and Campbell are masters of song and story. I feel privileged to have been a guest at what feels like a living room post-show champagne and canapé party around the piano. This is fun, fascinating and truly entertaining cabaret, and it’s touring so get onto it! Tour dates below.




Friday 6 June Brisbane QPAC Concert Hall
Friday 13 June Adelaide Cabaret Festival
Saturday 14 June Adelaide Cabaret Festival
Wednesday 18 June Hayes Theatre, Sydney
Thursday 19 June Hayes Theatre, Sydney
Friday 20 June Hayes Theatre, Sydney
Saturday 21 June Hayes Theatre, Sydney
Sunday 22 June Hayes Theatre, Sydney
Wednesday 25 June Hayes Theatre, Sydney
Thursday 26 June Hayes Theatre, Sydney
Friday 27 June Hayes Theatre, Sydney
Saturday 28 June Hayes Theatre, Sydney
Sunday 29 June Riverside Theatre, Parramatta




The TEN Tenors On Broadway


The TEN Tenors On Broadway

Frog in a Sock & Dmand

June 6 – 7 2014

QPAC Lyric Theatre


Reviewed by Michelle Bull


Following a four month tour of the US, The TEN Tenors are back on home-soil with a brand new Broadway show! This dynamic live experience is a wonderful collection of Broadway’s most-loved classics sung by Ten of Australia’s hottest Tenors. Fans will be delighted by this powerful mix of theatrical showstoppers and heart-melting ballads as The TEN Tenors break new ground and take on some of the greatest show tunes in the world.



Racing across town on Friday night I was delighted to finally be catching the international success story that is The TEN Tenors.


Since forming as students at the Queensland Conservatorium the Tenors have gone on to sell over 3.5 million concert tickets across seven continents, not to mention laying claim to multiple gold and platinum albums. Not bad for a bunch of blokes from Brissy who started the group to raise some extra cash for beer!


The currently touring production, On Broadway, is a rousing romp through iconic musical theatre classics from Rodgers and Hammerstein to rock and roll favourites from Queen. Given the hype, I was sure I was about to experience the thrill of the ‘power of ten’ that I have heard so much about.


Arriving to find the Lyric theatre packed to the rafters, it was clear the boys have a solid home following; the audience buzzed with anticipation and it was hard not to be caught up in the excitement! After all what’s not to love? Fabulous voices, epic arrangements and rock and roll energy times ten!


Over the next few hours the boys delivered a selection of musical theatre favourites old and new…Jersey Boys, Miss Saigon, Phantom of the Opera, Oklahoma, The Wizard of Oz all were on the menu along with the surprising addition of Defying Gravity from the musical Wicked (sure to turn any Elphaba green with envy!) as well as an absolutely gorgeous arrangement of Falling Slowly from the movie/musical Once.


A set from West Side Story showed some tight ensemble singing and brilliant onstage camaraderie. While solo moments provided a wonderful opportunity to hear the diverse vocal colours and personality of each singer, combined as ten, they produced a thrilling blend that was beautifully balanced, powerful and rich. It is this collective sound that I’m sure has ensured the group’s ongoing success.


A set from Frankie Valli and the Four seasons seemed to be a favorite moment for the boys themselves, the iconic song Sherry in particular was vocally flawless and utterly infectious; my guess is these songs are a lot of fun to sing!


The final number, Journey’s Don’t Stop Believing (re-invented on the hit show Glee) was another unexpected addition and had everyone (including my non-dancing date for the night) up on their feet!


Along with undeniable vocal prowess, the group’s boundless energy and sense of fun are captivating. Their cheeky banter was relaxed, full of Aussie charm and created a natural connection to the audience.


The use of live musicians along with recorded tracks gave life to the arrangements and provided a wonderful sense of authenticity; short solos showcased the skill and musicality of both players.


Other production elements, particularly the use of projections I had mixed feelings about. In some sets (Frankie Valli and West Side Story) it added to the experience, in others I found it a little distracting and overly cheesy. The staging and choreography however were seamless and created ongoing visual interest. It also added a great sense of fun; those legs in the kick line were enviable!


Essentially The TEN Tenors provided a fabulous, uplifting and fun night of entertainment. Their signature style fuses opera, musical theatre and rock with class and power. It’s clear these boys love what they do, and whether you’re a fan of opera or rock, folk or pop you’re bound to love it too.



Charlie Chaplin comes to Noosa

I know. I’m jumping the gun again.

Chaplin – A Life. In Concert doesn’t happen until Friday.


But have you worked it out yet?! That’s right! If you don’t book you MISS OUT!


The show has received some mixed reviews but you know what I think? I think you need to see David Pomeranz in full performance mode for yourself!


David Pomeranz

One actor, one piano, one amazing performance. This is Chaplin – A Life. In Concert, a unique evening of Musical Theatre which dramatises in song, the life story of the brilliant and controversial artist, Charlie Chaplin, starring multi award winning artist, David Pomeranz.


Part Concert; part Stage Musical, Chaplin – A Life. In Concert is an imaginative, emotional and inspiring journey that leaves the audience walking on air, humming its tunes, and in love with the artistry of the great Chaplin.

“The score is a knock­out…touching, clever, theatrical…wonderful!”….­Michael Feinstein



“David Pomeranz is wonderfully talented!”­….Mel Brooks



“I would give up all of my awards, and they are many, if I could do what David Pomeranz can do with his music.”­….Richard Harris



“This young man has captured the soul of the man I knew so well.”….­Jerry Epstein  (Charlie’s associate producer and “right hand” for more than 30 years)



“Straight from the heart…brilliant!”….Southern Evening Echo



I’m checking out Chaplin – A Life. In Concert on Friday night! See you at The J Theatre for 6pm

AND MEOW MEOW from 9:15pm (sorry, it’s sold out!).




Valium is my favorite color


Special Offer. No, not to die alive, but to book cheap seats for this phenomenal show! Only until Monday so be quick!

Take advantage of this special offer and purchase tickets to Next to Normal for just $30.
This offer is only valid for performances on Thursday 18 April 7.30pm and Saturday 20 April 2.00pm and 7.30pm – hurry, offer expires on Monday 8 April.



Alice Barbery

This is not Alice Ripley. This is Alice Barbery.

I can’t believe I’ll finally be taking a deep breath, gritting my teeth and sitting through a live production of Next to Normal in just two weeks. In 2009 – 2011 this raw new rock musical by Brian Yorkey and Tom Kitt took over Broadway, the Tonys and YouTube. And my place. I became slightly completely obsessed, with the show, with the story, with the woman grappling bipolar disorder, Diana Goodman, created on stage by the incomparable Alice Ripley.



Largely rewritten after its Off-Broadway debut in 1988 (critics had issues originally with the way the book looked at mental illness and treatment options), Next to Normal opened on Broadway in April 2009, winning the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for Drama (previously won by RENT, also directed by Michael Greif), and three (of eleven nominated) Tony Awards, including Best Original Score, Best Orchestration and Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical.



The Goodman Family

This is the Goodman family. They look normal, don’t they?

Now, from the creative team behind Oscar Theatre Company’s sellout production of Spring Awakening comes the Queensland premiere of Broadway’s Next to Normal.



Next to Normal is an unflinching insight into the humour and turmoil of an ordinary family grappling with the effects of mental illness. With provocative lyrics and a thrilling rock score, Next to Normal is one of the most ground-breaking new musicals and was chosen as ‘one of the year’s ten best shows’ by critics including The Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, Rolling Stone and The New York Times.



Director, Emily Gilhome, describes Next To Normal as her most important show to date. “This is a new kind of musical theatre. It‘s real, raw and explores some incredibly important issues”.



Recently, the issues surrounding mental health have been thrust into the public spotlight following the success of the film Silver Linings Playbook and television show Homeland. Next to Normal explores similar themes and centres its story around the experiences of one family. “It’s not just a show about mental illness,” says Gilhome, “but a story that we hope will resonate far beyond the theatre walls and open up conversations between friends, families, partners and colleagues about a number of issues once considered taboo.”



A brave and breathtaking show, Next to Normal plays Brisbane for a strictly limited season. Next To Normal plays QPAC from 18th April – 4th May 2013.



“A work of muscular grace and power. It is much more than a feel-good musical; it is a feel-everything musical.” – The New York Times



Director: Emily Gilhome
Music Director: David Law
Lighting Designer: Jason Glenwright
Cast: Alice Barbery, Chris Kellett, Matt Crowley, Siobhan Kranz, Tom Oliver and James Gauci