Posts Tagged ‘christopher wayne


Smooth Criminals: The Songs of Michael Jackson

Smooth Criminals: The Songs of Michael Jackson

Brisbane Powerhouse & Christopher Wayne

Brisbane Powerhouse Theatre

December 4 2016

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward


It’s the music of Michael Jackson but not as we know it.

The odd couple of the entertainment industry, Joel Turner (world champion beat boxer and platinum selling hip hop artist) and Luke Kennedy (The Voice & The Ten Tenors), make a perfect pair on stage in a celebration of the music and the memory of the King of Pop. Who would have thought this unlikely combination would bring any sort of success? Producer, Chris Wayne, that’s who, and together with Turner and Kennedy, his gamble paid off with a single sold-out show at Brisbane Powerhouse during Wonderland, and subsequent talks to take this universally appealing show on the road.


The magic of Smooth Criminals – n.b. there’s no nakedness or actual magic tricks – is a unique take on Michael Jackson’s discography, taking us on a journey through his unenviable life, from boy to man to immortal. It’s not a succession of greatest hits but rather, a poignant and personal account, seen mainly through Kennedy’s eyes, as he shares his encounters with the man’s music, reimagined and thrillingly remixed in collaboration with Turner and talented musos, Michael Manikus and Scotty French.

Smooth Criminals offers to a new generation a truly original take on MJ’s classic pop sound, but it caters to the die-hard fans first.


732a0363Kennedy, front and centre, demands our full attention. He’s as relaxed as we’ve ever seen him, gracious and respectful to the living memory of Michael Jackson, and confident, cute and actually flirtatious, inviting one guest to join him on the edge of the stage as he serenades her. This is a perfectly orchestrated crowd pleasing moment – we might think it’s a gimmick (she’s surely a plant!) – but Kennedy retains an ease that’s impossible to fake. We believe. He has us in the palm of his hand. AND he has this gorgeous Heath Ledger thing going on, as if he’s ready to bound through the tiered seating, singing……


You’re singing it now, aren’t you?


Kennedy emits the same sort of abandon, irresistible. Despite his protestations, he retains a crooner core, but Kennedy boasts a much broader vocal range and emotional spectrum than most, and he has the technical precision to sing just about anything. If you were privy to his Gethsemane several years ago (or anything since, really, let’s face it, even his National Anthem is nothing less than spectacular), you can imagine the power and control rendered behind even the simplest pop song. Yet, he remains humble and grateful.

Ben is a bittersweet treat, and Kennedy brings to it a sense of such simplicity and purity that we might imagine it’s the first time we’ve ever heard it, and for the very youngest audience members, it might be so. How lucky are they?! The Girl is Mine bounces beautifully between the artists, demonstrating an easy camaraderie and a great sense of cheeky comedy.


Smooth Criminal and Dirty Diana delve a little deeper and darker, although not once is there anything that goes into shadowy controversy, nor does there need to be. The crowd is on side from the outset (Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’, Remember the Time) and we need no reminders of anything other than the genius and the music of the man. The genius of these new arrangements is in Turner’s work, providing depth and soul beneath Kennedy’s vocal line, and on the odd occasion, the perfect harmony as well. The guy can sing. 

The collective energy is palpable during an earth medley, linking Heal the World, We Are the World and Man in the Mirror. (When was the last time you heard these numbers straight up, unparodied, with feeling?). It’s almost an anti-climax to hear the sensitive Gone Too Soon. A bigger, bolder finish would leave this show at Man in the Mirror, and make an encore of Billie Jean, bringing Turner out front too, with both amazing artists wearing one white glove. It seems remiss to keep Turner behind his mixing table, sans iconic symbol. Perhaps that’s as he wished. Let’s hope he wishes for more of the spotlight next time.

With Kennedy’s talent and a natural flair for performance, and Turner’s uncanny vocal and technical ability making each number an exciting and unique immersive musical experience for all ages, these two are not as unlikely a pair as they first appear to be.

Smooth Criminals is a sure hit, a thrilling tribute to Michael Jackson – the man and his music – and if you missed it in 2016 I’m sure it’s just a matter of time before you’ll see it at a venue near you.

Remember The Time from Chris Wayne on Vimeo.





Brisbane Powerhouse

Brisbane Powerhouse Visy Theatre

February 3 – 6 2016


Reviewed by Simon Denver




Verbatim theatre. Bite sized morsels of humanity whose sum of all parts give a well rounded theatrical presentation based on a particular event or theme. It can work particularly well, as in this case, when the performers let the words lead. The power will always be in the honesty of the words; overt characterisation mustn’t distract. In Verbatim theatre the actors are the backing and the words are the lead. In GAYBIES we heard the stories of growing up with a same sex parents. (Well – same sex parents, surrogate mums and donor dads). The people interviewed ranged from 4 year old to 40 year old. This gave fantastic scope for the ensemble of 18.


Statistics may say that children of same sex parents make up such a small fraction of society – but that does not detract from the relevance of this work. As I mentioned earlier – society is the sum of all parts. We, as individuals, have an almost moral duty to research, examine or at least familiarise ourselves with as many of those working parts of life as possible – No matter how the findings might be at odds with our “white bread 2.2 children” view of life. In fact, having same sex marriage as a political issue de jour only amplifies this production’s relevance.


For over seventy minutes we were presented with stories. Honest stories and clear memories.


Too embarrassed to tell your friends your parents are gay. An awkward scenario. But then again, lots of people have always been embarrassed to tell their friends that their parents were Nudists / Mormons / Swingers / National Party Members etc. The charades of truth (“If anyone asks I sleep in this room and Bob sleeps in that room”). But then again, what family doesn’t play out its charade of little white lies? The more stories that flooded the stage the more you realised that these stories were running a parallel course to most people’s stories. Finding so many touchstones within such a small statistic can only serve to humanise as oppose to demonise. It was a gentle reminder that whether parents are the same sex, (or from different religions, race, creed or colour for that matter), in the end it doesn’t matter. A house of love and laughter can only come from love at its core.



By default or design the limited two-day rehearsal period meant scripts on stage were going to be a necessity. But a two-day rehearsal period with the calibre of the cast involved was always going to make this a very up-market rehearsed reading. Quite a tough brief really. Find the natural flow and rhythms of the words yet continually have to remind your self what the words are. Personally I thought those almost rhythmic glances at the scripts constantly reinforced the fact that these were someone else’s stories. I suppose its like the subtitles in a foreign film. If the film is good you don’t notice that you are reading. The words are not those of professional writers. They are the words of the average man / woman very creatively “cut and pasted” together by Dean Bryant. It was a great “ensemble” piece. And the ensemble did a mighty job. The direction by Kris Stewart was as much as can be expected from a two day rehearsal. Again, without the time to be flash, complex, personal or brave, the direction seemed to merely be there to set the words free.


All in all it was an incredibly feel good journey.


The Ensemble itself consisted of professional actors and social / media commentators. With that in mind it’s unfair and impossible to single any individual out .. .. .. .. .. (Damn! Can’t back that up! Margi Brown Ash’s four-year-old on a bike was the show stopper for me. Still chuckling at that little gem days later). They were a unified front and they were all on the same page. For that I say to them all – Thank you. So Barbara Lowing, Bec Zanetti, Blair Martin, Kurt Phelan, Libby Anstis, Lizzie Moore, Brad Rush, Brittany Francis, Christopher Wayne, Margi Brown Ash, Pam Barker, Pat O’Neil, David Berthold, Emily Gilhome, Gordon Hamilton, Rebecca McIntosh, Xanthe Coward, Michael James, Dean Bryant, Kris Stewart, Joseph Simons and Jason Glenwright .. .. when you get a moment, give yourselves a pat on the back. You collectively acheived a great thing.


However, (and there are always howevers) .. ..


GAYBIES slapped the face of the economic rational of current theatre. It was the first time for a while where I witnessed a professional stage creaking, groaning and crammed with performers. Does this mean if we want quality and quantity we can only expect it from Verbatim Theatre? Is the future for large cast rehearsed readings? It’s sad that the size of the average cast is dwindling. It’s even sadder that the cast size can dictate any artistic process. So thank you Brisbane Powerhouse for giving us a brief respite from the so-called “economic reality”.


I thought the production was a tad too long and perhaps a couple of performers too many. I thought the music was beautiful and exceptionally well delivered but I had difficulty marrying it to the words and stories. My main criticism was quite simply that it was preaching to the converted. It was a safe option to stage it during the MELT festival (A Celebration of Queer Arts and Culture).

This production needs to jump its rails and be taken to the wider community. It needs to be seen by the detractors not the sympathisers. I feel it is the perfect vehicle to confront those who passively or covertly or overtly demonise anything gay. This plays humanity is undeniable.

Finally I felt it only took or was told good, warm and fuzzy stories. Nothing is perfect, nothing is 100%. I would just liked to have heard one negative experience, as I am sure there are, have been and will be.


But the last few comments aside, it was a great night out. I hadn’t been quite sure what to expect but I left the Powerhouse smiling .. .. and thinking. Thank you to all concerned. Well worth the 200k return trip from the Sunshine Coast.






The Naked Magicians – again!


The Naked Magicians

Samuel Klingner Entertainment

Twelfth Night Theatre

March 5 – 13 2015


Reviewed by Xanthe Coward 




On Thursday night a full (super) magical moon seemed the appropriate big picture setting for the return of The Naked Magicians. Chris Wayne and Mike Tyler have been touring the countryside since their debut (and return season) at Brisbane Powerhouse last year, attracting all sorts of capacity audiences. This “tweaked” incarnation of the show though, reflects a very particular brand of entertainment; one to which I hadn’t expected these guys to stoop, but one which seemed ENTIRELY appropriate at this rather dilapidated venue. If you’ve seen these guys before, it’s a slightly different show. (If you’ve seen these guys before, you’ll know to DRINK FIRST!). If the bar had stayed open after the show and the boys had come straight away to meet their adoring fans, and not just those with VIP tix (as much as I appreciate the value of the gimmick) they might have continued last Thursday night to build their apparently vast and very diverse fan base. But I overheard some unhappy punters leaving right away, disgruntled due to the fact that there was no opportunity to buy drinks or meet the boys.


I understand the bar at Twelfth Night Theatre is run by vollies…as is the bar at many smaller independent venues, and they don’t do themselves any favours by electing to close early…or to demand cash only.


It’s so important that we leave a venue wanting to come back to it!


It’s a gross disservice to the artists and producers to cut short such an exciting theatrical event, killing the atmosphere and heading home before the night is over! For some, this was their one-night-out for the week and like the worst one night stand, it ended prematurely. In stark contrast – and I do hope some of you make the trip up our way to see that I’m right, for Cruise Control in April, and for various events during Noosa Long Weekend Festival – the vibrant atmosphere at Noosa Arts Theatre is always so social it’s difficult to say no to the drinks and activity after a show! Just you TRY to go straight home! It’s one of the main reasons Sam and I love working there. It’s currently being renovated again to better suit the needs of its ever-growing theatrical family and subscriber base. The volunteers who take the tickets and work the bar there have such energy and enthusiasm, and there is ALWAYS opportunity to top up our glasses and continue our conversations after the show. In fact, the vibe at Noosa Arts Theatre is a little like La Boite wants to fashion back. JUST SAYIN’. ANYWAY.


The Naked Magicians. At Twelfth Night Theatre. (There’s no other theatre like it!). Here it is in a nutshell.


IT’S STILL FUNNY! AND THE MAGIC IS STILL GREAT! The tricks are still really good, and if you know how they’re done DON’T TELL ME. I enjoyed the show again, but there were times when I wish I’d had more to drink. Of course, this might say more about the last 2 weeks of my life than it does about the show…


This time the humour is base and it’s just not my bag, baby. This sort of humour appeals to the lowest common denominator and along with all the porn that’s still foolishly made by men but not made for women, you’re either gonna’ laugh uproariously in genuine delight, or cringe. Overall, the show lacks the sharp wit and boyish charm of the original season, and perhaps some of its naivety. I can’t quite put my finger on it (“Don’t put your finger there!“), but it’s almost as if advice from their audiences has been taken too literally (“Put your finger THERE!“). THERE IS CERTAINLY MORE NAKEDNESS. But is it too much? I guess it depends on which BITS you consider to be the most entertaining.


It’s as if all the cute “Hey girl…” moments have been taken out of the mix and we’re left with the end of the night last ditch drunken efforts to impress. Still impressive is the magic itself, the management of the audience participation (always difficult!), and the easy, bold banter between the boys and the unsuspecting audience members who find themselves on stage and a part of the show.






I don’t believe the sudden success of The Naked Magicians was ever wholly attributed to their nakedness, remember; they got a lot less naked the first time ’round! Originally the show was punctuated by a whole lot more old world gentlemanly (magicians’) charm, and contemporary, cheeky “sleeves up, pants down” confidence. We still get this in abundance from Chris, and from Mike not so much. Did somebody tell him two nice guys is one nice guy too many?! WHY WOULD THEY DO THAT? I walked away wondering why must we perpetuate the myth that locker room antics are an appealing form of entertainment? But then I guess there are those who love their nipple tassel twirling too…






This show is actually as much about audience manipulation as it is about magic and nakedness.


It’s fun, it’s crazy, it’s funny, it’s still a bit sexy, and in the end, it really is a great, stereotypical girls’ night out, if you like that sorta thing. I’m really a big fan of these guys, don’t get me wrong, but I’m a little disillusioned on this occasion. Others appear to LOVE the slightly crass, outrageous ending that just didn’t do it for me. But that’s just me. I’m keen to see what comes at the end of THIS flashy tour. I’d LOVE to see these guys make it big overseas. I know they’ll be a hit in New Zealand (May 12 – 16 2015)! And maybe a Las Vegas residency is next! But before I’m completely convinced, it might take another pair of eyes yet, to cast a glance over their bits and make ‘em all fit a little more, er, neatly…


The Naked Magicians are so excited to be coming to a theatre near you. Go check out these guys for yourself with a great big group of gorgeous friends and have some fun! I hope the venue and the boys look after you!



The Naked Magicians – return season


The Naked Magicians 

Brisbane Powerhouse & Samuel Klingner Enterprises 

Brisbane Powerhouse Visy Theatre

June 19 – 29 2014


Reviewed by Meredith McLean


Christopher Wayne & Mike Tyler bring the whole package, if you know what I mean, to their latest Naked Magicians stint. The boys are back by popular demand! This is not the first time this duo has graced us with their presence and then some. After making waves at Adelaide Fringe Festival and the Brisbane Comedy Festival it’s no wonder we’ve welcomed them back!


I’m not sure what’s more attractive about the show. The fact that it’s a magic show or that they put their own twist on it. We know it’s a given the magicians themselves are quite attractive. We’ve heard of magic tricks and dark magic before, but kinky magic? It’s a little different and a lot of fun.


Magic shows simply aren’t driving the line in theatre anymore in the Brisbane community. The Illusionists and Illusionists 2.0 are the biggest ones that many Brisbanites will remember. When I think magician I think of Uncle Larry and his amateur vaudeville hour at the kids’ birthday party…


But the hilarious and naughty pair XS Entertainment saw this weekend is something much better than that! I wasn’t sure what to call them but Tyler and Wayne have labelled themselves as “naked magicians”. Try putting that one on your resume! When you think magician you think mystery and secrecy but these guys bare it all. It’s part of the charm that makes the magic more impressive.


Without the cap and hat, where do they hide the bunny? Let’s not think too hard about it.


The Naked Magicians. Image by Annette Dew.


This show is necromancy meets nudity; mentalist meets mental and a good deal of comedy rolled into one. See the dynamic duo strut their stuff before they leave Brisbane once more.

The Naked Magicians must close June 29 2014.