Posts Tagged ‘dakota striplin

26
Jun
12

Hairspray

Hairspray

Harvest Rain Theatre Company

22nd June – 1st July 2012

QPAC Playhouse 

Reviewed by Michelle Bull

There seem three certainties when it comes to music theatre

1. The hair can never be big enough

2. The costumes can never be bright enough

(And in the words of Tracy Turnblad),

3.”You can’t stop the beat!”.

Well you most definitely could not stop the toes from tapping at the opening night of Hairspray by Harvest Rain Theatre Company on Saturday night as a packed Playhouse Theatre was swept up by the beat and left dancing in the aisles from the moment the curtain rose.

Set in 1962, Hairspray follows the story of plump teenage dreamer Tracy Turnblad as she realises her dream of dancing on the Corny Collins Show. As a consequence she wins the heart of teen idol Link Larkin and causes quite the kafuffle with her ‘hair-brained’ idea of equality and racial acceptance, inadvertently making her the face of integration. Throw in some catchy songs, good ol’ corny comedy and a whole lot of dancing, and you have an uplifting shout out to love, equality and all things good.

For all its catchy melodies and tongue in cheek humor, there are some pretty strong themes embedded in this production. Director Tim O Conner does not shy away from the more serious side of the musical and for that I am grateful, it adds just enough grit to give the production the weight it needs to legitimise its message and remain accessible and entertaining. It is the universal message of love that permeates the heart of this show however and resonates with its widely diverse audience.

The set design (Josh McIntosh) is the first thing that grabs my attention as the show opens with a cartoon-esque bed from which Tracy sings her opening number, a great visual effect and one that is matched tastefully and effectively throughout the show by a simple yet effective lighting design (Jason Glenwright) and theatrical costuming. Choreographer Callum Mansfied is to be praised for creating an engaging visual spectacle that truly maximizes the talents of the cast and provides a high energy and seamless production, allowing the chorus to bring a vibrant energy and demonstrate some great comic characterization. Likewise, Musical Director Maitlohn Drew delivers a musically vibrant score with drive and sensitivity to both the style and pace of the production.

The principal cast handle the demands of this high energy show expertly and with a great sense of ensemble. Casey McCollow as Tracy Turnblad is an engaging performer with a secure vocal sound and innate comic timing that characterizes the role skillfully. Playing opposite as love interest Link Larkin, Dakota Striplin is equally at ease vocally, with a wonderful timbre and energy to his sound. A capable and practiced performer, Striplin’s teenage-crooner look is a perfect match for the role, and overall he delivers a strong and likeable performance.

Simon Gallaher is a predictable crowd favourite as Tracy’s mother, Edna Turnblad, and has the audience in stitches with his clever characterisation and sharp comic timing. Vocally, he manages the role with poise and refinement, indulging the audience with Edna’s amusing duet with Husband Wilbur (Gary Jones). Opposite Gallaher, Jones gives an entertaining and likeable performance as Wilbur Turnblad, bringing a comic clownish physicality to the role that is balanced by a comfortable vocal.

The charismatic Heidi Enchelmaier is goofily likeable as Penny Pingleton and quickly becomes a favourite with her wonderful physicality and commitment to the role. Playing opposite William Moyunuu as Seaweed is a capable performer with a rich velvety lower register and great commitment to character, although at times I felt a little more energy was needed in his sound and delivery of text, which became a little hard to understand and muffled over the music. Together they create an onstage chemistry that is natural and wonderfully believable.

Astin Blaik plays the ditsy and mean spirited Amber Von Tussle, and is engaging and consistent in her characterization topped with a wonderfully diva-like vocal tone. Playing Amber’s mother Velma Von Tussle; Liz Buchanan is elegantly snooty and possesses a wonderfully smoky vocal colour that gives the character just a touch of the femme fatale. Tod Strike is as cool as Guy Smiley in the role of Corny Collins, and delivers an elegant and refined characterisation of the popular TV host with a vocal presence that is secure and equally as charming.

For me the standout performance from the night was Rachel Dunham in the role of Motormouth Maybelle. Aside from the Act 2 knockout solo I Know Where I’ve Been that showcased her rich, legitimate and heart-wrenching vocal, Dunham consistently gave an honest and vibrant onstage energy that enlivened each of her scenes. An absolutely captivating performer who made this role her own.

So what are my final thoughts? Hairspray is the embodiment of a fun yet socially significant musical. From the spine-tingling moments of sincerity to the sugary sweet and boppy tunes that will be stuck in your head for days on end, it’s a lot of meaningful fun and Harvest Rain do it complete justice. And while driving home I did feel a little nauseous and in need of some heavy metal music or hard core indie art to balance the equilibrium, the closing number kept ringing in my ears and bringing a little smile to my lips…apparently you really can’t stop the beat!

16
Apr
12

the voice

So. Thoughts on (the Australian) The Voice, which premiered last night on Channel 9? Who did you love? What surprised you? It’s a reality TV show unlike anything we’ve seen before…for now. After the first round, it becomes a coached competition with the results coming from viewers who can be bothered take the time to vote for their favourite artist.

The point of difference is the Blind Audition. How refreshing! A competition that begins with the voice rather than the singer’s appearance. Of course they’re on camera for our benefit even before the judges turn around and it’s fascinating to watch the good singers sing. And to be reminded that good singers don’t just sing. They communicate a story. The story and all of the emotions involved in telling it are the very essence of any powerful performance.

Blind Auditions continue tonight and tomorrow night (be watching for our friends, Darren Percival, Kelsie Rimmer, Tom Oliver and Dakota Striplin)! After that, we’ll see just where the four coaches – Seal, Delta Goodrem, Keith Urban and Joel Madden – can take those performers who make it through the first round.

Here’s a sneak peak at a rather special moment, just in case you needed further convincing to catch The Voice tonight (watch to the end)…

The show has experienced massive success in the UK and USA, smashing ratings and perpetuating the myth that all you need to succeed in the music industry is that elusive “lucky break”. Does it work? Sure! Get some good management and PR behind you and the entertainment world’s your oyster!

Who will you be voting for? Is it too early to tell? Perhaps not!

06
Feb
12

A Very Potter Musical

A Very Potter Musical

Lost Boys Theatre Company

Metro Arts Studio

2nd – 4th February 2012

If you’ve seen on YouTube, A Very Potter Musical (Book & Score by Darren Criss & A.J. Holmes), you’re already either a big fan or a hater. Haters gonna’ hate, y’all. But the big fans got themselves and their friends along to Metro Arts on the weekend to see The Lost Boys Theatre Company’s stellar starter production. Yes, it was their debut on the Brisbane theatre scene. Yes, there are some things that will improve in future with a little more attention to detail across the board but this was a great, fun, free show, delivered confidently, by a new, fun-loving company who deserves our support.

The brainchild of Joshua Correa (Director) and Sarah Harvey (Producer), the Lost Boys are a group of very young, very talented performers who claim they are “not trying to be the BEST theatre company, just the COOLEST.” A few of the faces are familiar because, well, performers gonna’ perform, aren’t they?

This is not the production you’ll see online. Starkid Productions, a group of music, theatre and dance students from the University of Michigan’s School of Music, created a cheeky parody (for $150) for their families and friends, of J.K. Rowling’s successful stories about The Boy Who Lived and helped by other comedies such as Starship and Me and My Dick – I didn’t make that up – very quickly discovered a worldwide cult fan base of epic proportions. A Very Potter Musical Act 1 Scene 1 has over 8 million hits on YouTube!

If you’ve been living under a rock or at Pigfarts, on Mars, you might not know the story so here’s a brief synopsis. Reluctant kid wizard, Harry Potter (The Boy Who Lived), returns for a new year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry with his friends, Hermione and Ron, basically to study as little as possible and to kill Harry’s nemesis, Voldemort (The Dark Lord), who is living parasitically at the back of Professor Quirrell’s head. What the Lost Boys have done very well is to make this production their own and in doing so, they have improved on the original.

This Harry Potter is written as a self-absorbed, fame-affected prick and Dakota Striplin, last seen (with Tom Oliver and Emma Taviani) in Oscar Theatre Company’s Spring Awakening (2011), plays it to the hilt, as well as playing guitar throughout, which gives him a real rock star quality – including the unlikeable bits brought about by fame and fortune – lifting the game from the outset. Another notable improvement is that Clay English has choreographed where Starkid has not and despite seeing all of English’s best Broadway/YTT moves in the opening number, the energy and parody benefit.

The band was split, with the drummer on stage, and not just onstage but upstage dead centre, a spot that would otherwise have made a convenient entrance and exit. I hated seeing the tabs either side pushed aside to make way for the performers. The band is terrific (only Musical Director, Ben Murray, is credited in the program), however; early on they drown out unamplified voices. Now, in the small Studio space, the voices shouldn’t need amplification but if you’ve got a loud band and inexperienced singers without the vocal strength required to fill even that small space, do amplify them (or box your band)! Tough gig, Joel Redding (Sound Designer). A simple, open set serves the performers well (Set Designer Daniel Harvey) and, ably lit by Michael Rogerson (Lighting Designer), we focus on the characters and their ridiculous, OTT antics.

Emma Taviani is a sweet, book-hugging Hermione, The Bold and The Beautiful of this production, complete with fixed gazes out front prior to her exits. Tom Oliver is a continuously snacking, hilarious Ron Weasley. This role allows Oliver’s comic and vocal ability to come through in a most relaxed manner. As Severus Snape, Cameron Whitton is the ultimate sneering, gliding, glaring, suspicious professor, making the most of his sweeping and dramatic entrances and exits. In boxer shorts, blue cape and rainbow hat, is Robert Pigdon as Dumbledore, more oddball than endearing, with an odd NYC accent that seemed out of place (as it does in the original). I should mention at this point, in case you’re imagining that due to its British origin, this is a British story with British accents, the vast majority of characters speak (and sing) in American accents. Do the American accents make the show funnier? Not really, just more American. And which generation is enjoying the additional American-accented course language? I wonder. On the other hand, scene-stealer, Lauren Neilson, played pretty Draco Malfoy as the British snob that he is. Although Neilson seemed at first inexperienced or insecure, mimicking the original performance, she warmed to the role, rose to its challenges and ended up delivering a better version of it with some fabulous comedy, mostly in the form of completely over the top choreographed…well, everything! Her every line was supported by fluid and controlled athletic-balletic-Matrix moves that had the audience falling about laughing until we are crying. I would like to see even more time taken over these moves, now that the joke has been tried and tested in front of an audience (and executed with far greater competence than that which we see on YouTube). But sadly, the season is done. Neilson could not have executed many of her moves without the able assistance of her comical henchmen, Lachlan Geraghty (Crabbe) and Nic Mohr (Goyle). Some great character work there. Sally Lloyd was lovely as Ginny Weasely and would certainly develop vocal strength and greater confidence before the end of a longer run.

Together, Anthony Craig as Professor Quirrell and George Kennedy as Voldemort, were bosom buddies of the most bizarre kind. The cooperative work of this kooky couple was fantastic and Kennedy’s song and dance number a showstopper. The ensemble was complete with Dallin Williams (Cedric Diggory), Allison Nipperess (Neville Longbottom), Kristen Barros (Mrs Weasley/Pansy), Kelly Smith (Bellatrix Le’strange), Samantha Lan (Lavender Brown) and Lauren Jimmieson (Cho Chang).

A Very Potter Musical is a wonderfully, funny, quirky show, with catchy, toe-tapping tunes and politically incorrect jibes and in-jokes, which the true fans of Harry Potter must drink up just as easily as their butterbeer, which, strangely, was not available at the theatre, nor downstairs at Verve. An oversight? Too short a season to offer it? Not necessary? I’ve provided a recipe below so you may BYO (Brew Your Own) the next time this show comes to Brisbane. Despite the lack of butterbeer (or chocolate frogs for that matter), the diverse pool of talent involved in this production indicates that The Lost Boys Theatre Company is one to watch and this, their debut effort, performed for free, is one to applaud.

The Lost Boys had the kind support of Vast AV, Metro Arts, Elisabeth Harvey, Christian Aas

and Harvest Rain Theatre Company

Butterbeer recipe courtesy of misterhope.com