Posts Tagged ‘christine anu




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



15th – 16th JULY 2016


 14th – 15th OCTOBER 2016


20th – 22nd JANUARY 2017


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.




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

CEO/Artistic Director
Harvest Rain Theatre Company


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”.




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.




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.




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)



South Pacific

South Pacific


South Pacific

Opera Australia and John Frost

QPAC Lyric Theatre

27th December – 27th January 2013


Reviewed by Xanthe Coward


This year marks the 60th Anniversary of South Pacific in Australia.


This is the iconic album cover image I grew up with.

This record (Google it, kids; vinyl record) became scratched beyond repair before it was discarded (if it was discarded at all. I have a sneaking suspicion that I saw it recently, stashed upstairs, amongst Mum and Dad’s fave records of all time!). I remember singing the songs for years, skipping and kicking around the lounge room, washing that man right outta’ my hair and sending him on his way!

South Pacific Album Cover

First performed on Broadway in 1949, Rodgers & Hammerstein’s South Pacific made a bold statement in post-war America about tolerance and acceptance. Only four years on from World War II, South Pacific gave us inter-racial relationships, and what it takes to overcome our own prejudices.


Opera Australia and John Frost’s co-production, from the original Lincoln Center Theater production, directed by Bartlett Sher, is superb. The Brisbane cast is impressive and they have the privilege of working in Catherine Zuber’s authentic costumes (we get just a glimpse of several gorgeous evening gowns), within a simple, elegant set.


Whether or not you’re a fan of Rodgers & Hammerstein, there is a lot to love about this show. The first thing is Teddy Tahu Rhodes, who is sublime as the Frenchman, Emile De Becque. Honestly. What is there NOT to love about this guy? His heartfelt delivery of Some Enchanted Evening (What’s this? Another reprise? Alright!), and This Nearly Was Mine are heart-melting, heart-breaking perfection. Already well respected in the international opera world, South Pacific is Rhodes’ first musical and it’s won him a host of new, devoted (swooning) fans. I’m sure I was not the only one on opening night left quite breathless by Rhodes’ enigmatic performance.


Teddy Tahu Rhodes. Image by Kurt Sneddon.


Well-matched and perfectly cast as Ensign Nellie Forbush is multiple award-winner and golden girl of the stage and small screen, Lisa McCune. I know! Remember when we were all slightly suspicious of McCune? That transition from Australian TV Drama to the stage can be a killer. But remember back even further? That’s right. When she was just 15, McCune was Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, in Wanneroo, Western Australia. Since then, McCune has gone from strength to strength and in this role she excels, coming full circle as a singer, despite a voice that is sweeter than you might expect to hear, traditionally, in this role. But you can’t fake Nellie Forbush. It’s all or nothing and McCune gives it her all. I love her naivety and her boldness, perfectly juxtaposed to reveal a woman who can clearly see that her ingrained prejudice will leave her unstuck in the end but not – at first – how she can change her perspective. Her prejudice and confusion come as a shock, both to her and to us, but we have to remember where we are…and where Nellie comes from. You’ve Got to be Carefully Taught


Lisa McCune. Image by Kurt Sneddon.


In lesser productions of South Pacific, Lieutenant Joe Cable is so often the weak link but thanks to the incredible talent and sensitivity of stunning Tenor, Daniel Koek, combined with Sher’s insightful direction, he is so likeable, and it is a truly awful moment to hear of his demise. In fact, he reminds me of Miss Saigon’s Chris but he’s not such a sap. Sher’s multi-award-winning direction of this production has ensured we see full characterisations and rich, real relationships (though the rumours of a romance between McCune and Rhodes were quashed on Monday at the media launch, so perhaps not as real as we’d like to imagine, which only goes to show that the acting must be A1!). Suffice to say, there is no nuance missed, such is the attention to detail.


Daniel Koek as Lieutenant Cable. Image by Jeff-Busby.


Gyton Grantley offers plenty of giggles as go-to Seabee, Luther Billis, and balances his comedic antics with tenderness towards Nellie that doesn’t go unnoticed. Christine Anu somehow manages to seduce more than repel, with her betel nut stained teeth and a haunting rendition of Bali Ha’i. Celina Yuen, as Liat, is fragile and beautiful, and the children are suitably spirited. On opening night they were Joy Ehue (Ngana) and Levi Ehue (Jerome). I’d love to get back before the season closes to see our own Louisa Finau; Sunshine Coast based and a newcomer to the professional stage. The ensemble is uniformly excellent; they look good and their sound is rich and full.


Christine Anu & Gyton Grantley. Image by Kurt Sneddon.


The inspiration for Rodgers and Hammerstein’s love story, James A Michener’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel Tales of the South Pacific, is rich in detail and this design team brings both Michener’s prose and the legendary island, Bali Ha’I, out of the mist and into reality with a deceptively simple set comprising a painted backdrop, beautifully lit, narrowly avoiding looking like a set for The Bold and The Beautiful (Sets by Michael Yeargan & Lighting by Donald Holder). Once we accept that it’s not a moving, multi-media image, it becomes all the more real. The moment of acceptance creeps up on us; it’s similar to that point where, as an adult watching Peter Pan, we just HAVE to clap and chime in with, “I DO believe in fairies!” Timber plantation blinds help to set each scene, delineating different spaces for the islands, and the company street, the Commander’s Office and De Beque’s plantation home, and seamless transitions make it easy to suspend disbelief. The magic of this South Pacific is not only in the performances on stage, but also, in the unseen performances of the crew, and in the inspired direction of Sher, whose vision is exquisitely shared.


With Australian Musical Director, Andrew Greene, at the helm, the orchestra sounds superb – the overture swells just as it should, igniting our love of old-school live theatre and the Great American Musical of the mid-20th century – and the well-loved songs tumble forth like a waterfall’s glistening gifts; still enticing audience members to sing along softly under their breath, 60 years on.


South Pacific is a rare pearl. A poignant, still relevant message and absolutely superb performances make this the perfect show for the start of a magical year of musical theatre.


Lisa McCune & Teddy Tahu Rhodes. Image by Jeff Busby.