Posts Tagged ‘concert hall

05
Jan
15

The Illusionists 1903: the golden age of magic

 

The Illusionists 1903: The Golden Age of Magic
QPAC and Simon Painter & Tim Lawson
QPAC Concert Hall
January 4 – 11 2015

 

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

 

illusionists_doves

 

Featuring brand-new, world class Illusionists handpicked from across the globe, The Illusionists 1903 promises to transport the audience back to the golden age of magic, a time when conjurers were the true rock stars of the day. Showcasing the origins of some of the greatest and most dangerous illusions ever built, the show also unveils never-seen-before experiments drawn from a treasure trove of long-forgotten mysteries.

 

The true art of magic will be explored in exquisite, turn of the century grandeur in this larger than life production from the acclaimed creative team behind international mega hits The Illusionists and The Illusionists 2.0. In this world premiere at QPAC audiences will discover first-hand the spectacles that transformed stage entertainment over 100 years ago.

 

After the weeklong magic of Woodford Folk Festival it seems apt that the first show on offer in 2015 is a celebration of old world grand magic.

 

The Illusionists 1903 is the newest creation of its kind from producers, Simon Painter and Tim Lawson. The third lavish instalment in the smash hit live-on-stage series, The Illusionists 1903 features some of the world’s greatest practitioners of magic and illusion. It’s at QPAC until Sunday.

 

Having missed the previous productions (The Illusionists & The Illusionists 2.0) I’m unable to offer a comparative study, but what I do know is this: people love the mystery and allure of magic and they keep coming to see it! With a simple formula designed to please, featuring a little bit of history and eight Illusionists, each with their own character and area of expertise, it’s a no-brainer. That’s not to say that audiences will even come close to working out how the magic is done. If we suspend disbelief and don’t look too closely we miss the clues exposed by slowly changing lighting states and slightly clumsy moves.

 

The Illusionists 1903 actually has something for everyone and at times it’s truly astonishing. An interesting aspect of this version though, is the inclusion of some sleight of hand “micromagic”; the card and coin tricks you’ll likely see at a party (or on the streets of Woodfordia). Only with close up real time footage shown on a suspended screen can we see what’s going on. It makes me question the validity of this form within a show such as this. Or is it a brilliant masterstroke, using the available technology, allowing us to get a glimpse of the magic when otherwise it would be missed? The Maestro (Armando Lucero) invites two audience members to join him at the table on stage, in order to witness proceedings at close hand, and it is this couple that get the best of this part of the show, micromagic being much more exciting close up.

 

The Immortal (Rick Thomas) confounds me, and not only because of his tricks. In keeping with his arrogant character, he states in a most confident and terrifying manner, “Woman was created using a man’s rib. Tonight I’ll take it back! It’s a little creepy. Distasteful. I cringe. Is it just me? The real question remains: how does he make the girl disappear and reappear? After the show I’m told the “secret” compartments in each apparatus can be seen if you know what to look for… “Not listening! Lalalaaaa!”

 

illusionsts_amalievantass

 

The Clairvoyants (Thommy Ten & Amelie van Tass) don’t serve the show as well as they should. Each mentalism segment is slow, giving us time to question whether or not these tricks are set up before the show, and there are too few “wow” moments. Cynical me decides they must have plants in the audience, in which case van Tass’s true talent is an incredible ability to instantly memorise and later recall in the correct order, the facts pertaining to each audience member. Is the real question though, “What does it matter?!” If that’s entertainment, it doesn’t matter. But let’s make it entertaining.

 

The Eccentric (Charlie Frye) boasts some seriously impressive circus skills, making him another anomaly in this line up. Though it’s not strictly magic, his vaudevillian humour and his tricks using interlocking hoops, and his balancing and juggling acts win the respect of the Brisbane audience. Sam and I argue whether or not there is more “skill” in these acts than there is in conjuring an illusion.

 

illusionists_nails

 

The Daredevil (Jonathan Goodwin) is another clear favourite of Sam’s. He gains instant respect from me due to his physique husband and father status (read your glossy souvenir program, peeps!). All around, we hear him being compared to Houdini and Johnny Jackass Knoxville.

 

Meanwhile, I’m wondering if his wife has ever stopped thinking yet that he might not come home after a show; that it might end BAD.

 

He’s not a magician, nor an illusionist. He’s an escapologist! Everything he does is for reals, kids… Don’t try it at home! Here’s the gimmick: invite an audience member to perform a classic pain threshold trick and then casually, respectfully, with a disarming smile, up the anti. Felicity, from the audience, reluctant to lie on a bed of 1000 nails, does so with the assistance of Goodwin, who explains the science behind it. I wish I’d had a science teacher like Goodwin at high school. If that were the case I may have taken Science in Senior instead of Modern History. #sorrynotsorrydad Anyway, knowing the science behind the feat now, we watch Goodwin settle on just one nail! Ouch! This guy also plays with knives… #ofcoursehedoes He plays 5-finger fillet AKA “Nerve”, which is a “game” with which a friend used to freak me out (he used a flick knife given to him by his father, which he kept on him at all times. No, not my friend anymore). Goodwin’s manner is easy going; a carefully crafted, or else completely genuine combination of Hugh Jackman effortless suavity, Richard Branson devil could care less larrikinism and Robert Downey Jnr slick tendency towards double entendre.

 

illusionists_flames

 

Later, it’s not enough for The Daredevil to get out of a straight jacket; it’s been done. But apparently this is new: Goodwin is hoisted upside down and left to hang by his boots while a fuse is lit and flames creep towards his trousers, leaving him just sixty seconds in which to get free and put out that fire. Phew! Going by the gasps in the crowd, this act has the desired effect, especially on the kids in the audience. Seriously, kids, don’t try it at home.

 

I enjoy the music. It’s old school, vaudeville, maintaining the salon/saloon sorta’ mood and building tension where appropriate. Sometimes it’s played live on stage… And then we recognise something from the montage in Singing in the Rain (even Rocky had a montage).

 

 

illusionists_levitation

 

The show should have finished with The Immortal’s levitation illusion, which was short and sweet, and truly breathtaking. Instead, we went back to The Maestro’s card tricks, captured on camera and conveyed to the big screen; an anti-climax to say the least, with those uninvolved (ie the other Illusionists) posed on stage as if they were waxen figures. Awkward.

 

The Maestro’s insistence that we would suffer “sleepless nights” wondering about the magic left me wondering if he was for real. This is not a show that I’ll remember for the rest of my life, but it’s a great way to start a magical new year. I may be one of a handful but the truth is I don’t care how the trick is done. I’m curious, sure, but ultimately I want to be entertained, and I want to leave the theatre feeling breathless and awe inspired. With the exclusion of the The Immortal’s levitation and The Daredevil’s dramatic flames, this show lacks wow factor.

 

While high expectations might mean it’s not the spectacle it promises to be The Illusionists 1903 offers a genteel evening of parlour tricks, physical challenges and grand illusions. The brand lays claim to a large and loyal following, though this particular production may be better suited to a more intimate theatre and a smaller crowd each time.

 

If you’re a fan of any sort of magic and illusion you’ll certainly get a glimpse of it here. But only until Sunday so be quick!

 

26
Jan
14

The show must go on – The Illusionists 2.0

 

The Illusionists 2.0 

QPAC with Tim Lawson & Simon Painter 

QPAC Concert Hall

19 – 27 January 2014

 

Reviewed by Josh Kirwan

 

The Illusionists 2.0

 

What do you get when you mix QPAC’s concert hall with a bunch of strobe lights, confetti machines and six of the world’s top magicians all rolled into one? The astonishing production that is The Illusionists 2.0, that’s what! The unbelievable magic and the bold defiance of the conceivable laws of nature left me bewildered at the end of the show in a way that I have never felt before.

 

I will admit that as this was my first magic show, The Illusionists 2.0 – the sequel to last year’s smash hit – went straight to the top of my list. But in the age of the Internet, thanks to YouTube, I’ve seen my fair share of magic tricks, and the feats of The Illusionists was something to behold. With everything from card tricks to miraculous escapes from imminent death, the magicians had a little bit of everything, and they pulled it off flawlessly.

 

Obviously I don’t want to give anything away or ruin any of the surprises, but the show has an uncanny way of drawing you in and making you a part of the magic. It’s almost as if you become involved in the show itself. Audience engagement is one of the keys to a good performance and as with every element, these performers manage it brilliantly, though I am still sceptical of whether or not their “audience member volunteers” were just that… I suppose we are all sceptics until we find ourselves on stage with a sword pointed at our head!

 

Unfortunately the show was somewhat mired in an air of tragedy, due to the very recent loss in a tragic accident of one of The Illusionists. A touching message from the entire company was displayed prominently at the Concert Hall.

 

On Saturday 11 January 2014, our friend and renowned hypnotist, Dr Scott Lewis, passed away. He made a remarkable contribution to this world premiere production, and he is dearly missed. We dedicate the Brisbane season to his memory.

 

However, the show must go on. In their dedication to their friend and colleague, the magicians pressed on and put on a stellar performance.

 

In a very timely patriotic mention, it was good to see our Australian, Raymond Crowe, up on the stage. Some of you might recognise this Unusualist from Australia’s Got Talent. He is definitely up their with the best of them, with his funny antics and a unique spin on the typical magic show.

 

On stage with him was American born Futurist, Adam Trent, who used some fancy tech to show off his skills. The amazing Warrior took the art of weaponry to a whole new level and the unbelievable Deceptionist, James Moore, demonstrated his astounding high-risk tricks. The current world magic champion, Yu Ho-Jin the Manipulator, boasts unbelievable skill with cards. And of course, last but definitely not least, The Master Magician, Luis De Matos, charismatically leads the show and pulls off some amazing magic.

 

Together these talented men made the impossible seem like the easiest thing in the world.

 

The best part about this production is that it is for absolutely everyone; from young children to elderly gentlemen, everyone will love this show. If you can scrounge a ticket, catch one of the final shows before The Illusionists 2.0 closes on January 27. You don’t want to miss this fabulous opportunity to witness world-class magic in our own backyard.

 

 

 

30
Jun
13

Missing Idina Menzel

Well, I’ve missed Idina Menzel live in concert.

 

I’m not sure how that happened.

 

Sometimes I have moments of common sense and self-preservation, and I remember thinking months ago, “You will have just finished The Noosa Long Weekend, moved house, seen three other shows the same week, made three deadlines, kept up with washing, shopping, meals and a marriage, AND have Poppy home for the holidays. You can’t possibly get to Idina as well!” And I was right. I saw all your tweets and pics and status updates instead and I’M HAPPY FOR YOU! I am, truly. I’m grateful to see so much as it is. What a momentous and very special event you’ve been a part of!

 

AND some of you got to meet Idina, have her sign your Grimmerie, AND SING WITH HER! THAT’S RIGHT! OMG!

 

Eloise Mueller. Image by Cade Mooney

We are so proud of our lovely friend Eloise Mueller, who hails from the Sunshine Coast and is well on her way to perform in all the world’s greatest venues.

 

Well, NOW THAT SHE’S SUNG WITH IDINA AT THE OPERA HOUSE THERE’S NO STOPPING HER!

 

 

Actually, there was never any stopping her

 

And she nailed it, look! AMAZING!

 

 

 

WERE YOU THERE? AND DID YOU ALSO SEE KRISTEN CHENOWETH?

 

I’d love to know about your night with IDINA AND/OR KRISTEN! Let us know about your experience in the comments below. Who’s next on your Must-See List?

 

 

 

23
Apr
13

Oklahoma

Oklahoma

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!