Posts Tagged ‘dan venz

28
Jan
19

Sweet Charity

 

Sweet Charity

Understudy Productions & Lizzie Moore

Brisbane Powerhouse Visy Theatre

January 25 – February 10 2019

 

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

 

FUN     LAUGHS     GOOD TIMES

 

 

Singing without acting is just noise.

Sutton Foster

 

Social change is coming and things will never be the same again.

It makes literal the misogynistic idea that women’s bodies are rented, until they are “bought” by a husband.

It is a show that stands as relevant today as ever.

Kris Stewart and Maureen Bowra

 

You probably know a number of the famous songs from Sweet Charity, but you might not be as familiar with the show, which tells the tale of a perpetually lovestruck, politely regarded “dance hall hostess” in the swinging sixties, while NYC’s Madison Avenue bustles, hemlines rise, and eternal optimist, Charity Hope Valentine, sets about rebuilding a broken heart and readying herself for life outside…other people’s apartments. More than fifty years after opening, Sweet Charity retains its innocence, and as we find ourselves in the new Age of Aquarius, we also find that the torrent of emotions and frustrations expressed here by writers Cy Coleman (music), Neil Simon (book) and Dorothy Fields (how about those how-about-it-palsy lyrics), against the foibles of love and the attentions of the patriarchy are, unsurprisingly, apt. 

 

 

Sweet Charity’s director, Kris Stewart knows musicals. Like, in case you didn’t already know, he KNOWS musicals. And with Dan Venz not only performing but choreographing too, Shanon Whitelock not only on keys but musically directing too, Ben Murray making flawless sound happen like the miracle it quite often appears to be in a Brisbane venue, and Maureen Bowra by his side as Co-Director and Associate Choreographer, Stewart must have have thrown his head back to the sky and laughed at how perfectly this team came together.

 

And in the intimacy of the Visy Theatre, the performers are close enough to let us in on their every nuance, which means the hyper-reality of Charity’s theatrical storytelling is nicely balanced with the authenticity of the performances. This is a must-see production, beautifully realised, and these performances, I guarantee it, are already among the best this year. 

 

 

 

The company on stage is the strongest we’ve seen in Brisbane since Beautiful: The Carole King Musical, which boasted among its cast members Charity (Naomi Price) and Vittorio (Andy Cook). The ensemble is also superb and so strong that we can’t help walking away thinking that luckily for Price, she is THAT good! To be outstanding in such convincing company is testament indeed to the carefully studied voice and accent, the commitment to the pigeon toes and other awkward angles, and the natural flair for character and comedy that Price possesses. I think she’s the funniest I’ve ever seen her when hidden in Vittorio’s wardrobe to keep out of sight of his lover, Ursula (Lizzie Moore, also at her comic best!).

 

Price really is Sweet Charity, embodying every gorgeous, ridiculous tendency offered by the original girl on the page, without adding so much sweet, sticky, tacky taffy that we’re repelled by her and compelled to pry her from between our fingers and flick her away. Instead, we find ourselves giggling with her, dancing through these little bits of life with her, and eventually wanting to leap into the lake with her! Charity always reminds me of Milly Molly Mandy, only she too often depends upon boys to get her out of a scrape and she needn’t be home for tea.

 

Through all her misadventures, we find ourselves hopelessly, irresistibly, infuriatingly, firmly in Charity’s corner. Sigh. Yes. We all have a disastrously sweet Charity in our life.

 

 

This show is a big show, with a big mood, recognised famously in If My Friends Could See Me Now, which Price smashes out of Central Park, but even so, we recognise that the dear girl’s plight each time is just another human one, and in the grand scheme of things, hers is another tiny story in the world. Really. Consider. Charity is flawed, and fine, just like the rest of us. But without feeling anything for Charity, without hoping against hope that she will find the love of her life and somewhere better than where she’s let herself be, we wouldn’t actually care whether or not she finds true love, or friendship, or ever even escapes from her seedy workplace. This tiny story has suitably high stakes and loads of heart. This is of course, the secret to making seemingly light, fluffy musical theatre material speak to a contemporary audience the way it was intended to. Or better yet, more clearly than ever. For the telling of this heartfelt, heartwarming story, Price is perfect. 

 

 

Big Spender introduces the sassy chorus of girls with whom Charity works. This is essentially, before it was ever imagined, the title song and bar scene from Miss Saigon, and their Fosse-esque posturing and pouting go a long way in painting the picture of this place, where the open set fails to do so (Set Design Joseph Noonan). Or does it? Others think it’s ideal, but I feel it’s lacking in detail and a mood distinct from several other scenes (Lighting Designer Christine Felmingham). The number, staged diagonally, isn’t as effective as it could be in this space and the dance, as obviously Fosse as it is, lacks the sophistication of the style, and the nuance of the acting, with the temptation to push it into an an aggressive, self-righteous attack on all men everywhere proving too great to resist. The slow burn of the number, no matter how many times we’ve seen it, is still in our full realisation of exactly what the job entails and how au fait the girls are with it, but there’s little space held here for our growing horror. Perhaps we’re no longer horrified. Perhaps that’s the point. Let’s settle with saying that the majority appear to be a little too eager to be anything but eager (deliberately, delightedly, genuinely nonchalant is incredibly difficult to pull off, it tends to come across as bored), although there’s a startling energy that I fail to pinpoint; someone whom likely fully wields their feminine power off stage as well as on. There’s always one. What leaves a deeper mark for me than the execution of the dance itself is that there are moments when the girls as a collective are fierce enough to make us realise that they don’t want to be there, and feel they don’t have a way out, and vulnerable enough to make us realise that they don’t want to be there, and feel they don’t have a way out. And there’s the reminder. Dancing without acting is just movement. 

 

There’s also a slight anomaly in the tears shed by both Nickie and Helene, as we simply haven’t been given a chance to see the friendships develop enough to warrant said tears. Perhaps this is the point, and even these relationships have been that shallow. The ensemble features legit triple threats, Emily Corkeron, Shay Debney, Irena Lysluk, Sophie Stephens, Kate Yaxley (who steps into Charity’s chorus shoes just for January 31), Hayley Winch (Helene), Lizzie Moore (Nickie) and Rebecca Rolle, who simply shines, it having been said already that it’s quite a feat to stand out in this superb ensemble. The men are equally impressive, with dance detail and character traits well considered and delivered (Elliot Baker, Carlo Boumouglbay, Luke Hodgson and Venz).

 

 

To make up for the apparent lack of consideration for the set design, Noonan has successfully dressed (or semi-dressed!) the company in super cute sixties outfits, right down to the minis and boots. The ensemble’s Off-Broadway revival inspired all-white-everything and precision execution of the peculiar choreography during this extended sequence transforms Rich Man’s Frug into a beautiful aesthetic, somewhere between My Fair Lady, James Bond and Austin Powers. There’s Gotta Be Somewhere Better Than This is missing the same level of attention to detail though, and with its passion intact, with pace, precision and a genuine connection between the girlfriends, should be another showstopper by the end of the season.

 

 

Stephen Hirst, as the adorable, unbearable Oscar Linquist, brings a special kind of warmth and weirdness to the role. He and Price are well matched, and we shouldn’t be at all surprised if someone else takes advantage in the casting of anything upcoming to reflect this. I’m the Bravest Individual is clearly a crowd favourite, such as it is, sung in the most awkward situations.

 

 

Other than Price-as-Charity, the highlight of the show is The Rhythm of Life featuring Elliot Baker, Whitelock’s sensational new arrangement, and some Hair inspired staging, undressing and choreography. A band in this space has never sounded better, thanks to Ben Murray (the band comprises Whitelock on keys, with Daniel Robbins, Conall O’Neill, Michael Whitaker, Lisa Squires and Alanna Ritchie). I’m surprised when this toe-tapping (foot-stomping) full company number is not reprised, such is the audience’s obvious thrill on opening night, to experience a reinvigorated version of it. I ‘reckon if you can secure closing night tickets you’ll get a second look! For me this entire sequence sums up the approach we see Understudy Productions taking to stage anything, inspiring a fresh look at some of the more familiar (and less so) stories on stage, and to do so in a way that not only moves and delights audiences, but reignites our local industry. 

 

Sweet Charity is the feel good show of the year; there’s not a more enjoyable or inspirational night out to start your theatre year, and trust me, it will sell out! Book here. Wouldn’t you like to have fun, fun, fun?

 

 

29
Nov
17

WURST

 

WURST

Brisbane Powerhouse & Jacqueline Furey

Brisbane Powerhouse Visy Theatre

November 23 – 25 2017

 

Reviewed by Rhumer Diball

 

 

Armed with a lineup of  chiseled “Menu Men”, Jacqueline Furey and her team grace the Brisbane Powerhouse’s Wonderland festival with Wurst: a delicious assortment of meal-themed stripteases and cabaret acts. Hostess Jacqueline Furey sports a collection of glamorous gowns and an elegant demeanor as she serves up the diverse evening of comedic cabaret and beguiling burlesque. A collection of sexy male performers, affectionately referred to as the “Menu Men”, come together to present a selection of bawdy, cheeky and tantalising acts. Be it ballet or hip-hop finesse, an enthralling exhibition of acrobatic ability, or cheeky exploitation of accents, the erogenous men demonstrate their diversity and embrace their distinct backgrounds throughout every performance.

 

Graceful Furey lays out the food-themed showcase like courses in a sexy feast of flavoured variety. From raunchy roast dinners to sweet yet sultry ice cream and milkshake mess for dessert, the show is loaded to the brim with variety to suit a range of tastes. While the focal food theme allows for sweet dance numbers – highlights include a cheeky lollipop trio and a playful whole-body baking demonstration, the showcase unfolds in a staggered progression of underlying premises and unpredictable maturity levels. Performance content may link together with a lens of food or audience devouring of the young men overall, however the ordering of the pieces ensures that one theme, style or performer entices the audience with distinctive substance and well paced deliveries. The acts also range in stimulating intensity and physical exposure, keeping the audience on their toes during unpredictable skits during what could have been a predictable lineup of repetitive strip sequences.

 

 

The only downfall of the work is the choice to include two considerably similar hip-hop dance sequences. Perhaps the recent Magic Mike popularity justifies the inclusion of one clichéd grey-singlet adorned, hip-hop dance work to break up the indulgent food-based content, however two in an evening offered little more than diverting movement. The two acts also lacked in the striptease element that the show promises, leaving audiences calling out for more if only to match the physical reveal reached in the other acts. This audience teasing helped to rekindle appetites for the remaining performances mid-show, but unfortunately rendered the respective floor grinding and muscle manipulation uncanny and undistinguished.

 

Gender blending Raven and physically diverse Dan are the standout Menu Men of the night, offering up twists to traditional role archetypes and stretching the recipe for where the evening’s content could reach. Traditionally handsome and classically trained Dan Venz plays with the subtle eroticism of his ballet body and the assets that come with tight-fitting white stockings. In stark contrast is Raven sporting a dramatic white mask with intense lashes and black crosses over his nipples while performing as the night’s stand alone drag queen. With a shocking opening 50s housewife skit exploring roast chicken sensuality and a dominatrix dog training session breaking comfort levels at the lineup’s climax, Raven’s acts were definitely the most provocative and potent.

 

 

Amongst the diversity and intensity of the male acts, the night’s hostess’ performance was equally as praiseworthy. Despite an innuendo segment being delivered overdone for a contemporary cabaret context, Furey’s overall performance is elegant and erotic from start to finish. However, amongst poised audience captivation, it is Furey’s humane responses to audience heckling and humble admittance to hilarious speech stumbles that pushes her performance beyond a stale, simplistic cabaret host that is seen far too often. Furey entices her audiences with glamour and prowess but truly wins them over with her sassy humanity and well-timed sense of humour.

 

With rich yet simplistic costumes and stage design the production focuses on the raw attraction of the performers and their presence on stage. By combining an array of performance strengths and fusing together styles and techniques from both cabaret and burlesque, Wurst forefronts the power of simplicity and reinforces the joy of a playful night at the theatre.

 

12
Oct
16

Boy&Girl

Boy&Girl

Brisbane Powerhouse & Oscar Theatre Co

Brisbane Powerhouse Visy Theatre

September 23 – October 15 2016

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

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Warning: Coarse language, adult themes, nudity, glitter and show tunes

The sexiest show in town just got better. Better see it at Brisbane Powerhouse before it goes global!

Driving through Fortitude Valley after midnight on a Saturday night is enlightening, isn’t it?

Oscar Theatre Co’s third iteration of their smash hit super sexy sell-out up-late cabaret (let’s make it a hashtag), Boy&Girl would have made the perfect prelude to a messy, sexy night best forgotten by morning an intimate and stylish, sophisticated and special date night. Boy&Girl is a whole new world of lycra, lace and latex, (barely) veiled debauchery, and loads of fun for anyone with a sense of humour and the need for late-night actual-entertainment in this town.

Emily Gilhome designed for Oscar Theatre Company a very simple strategy several years ago, staging superior musical productions  Spring Awakening and Next To Normal and [title of show] – and rapidly building a massive local following comprising artists and audiences. For eight years this humble company could do no wrong (still, can do no wrong), and became something like Brisbane’s James Bond: everyone wanted to be in an Oscar show or be at an Oscar show. They (“He” i.e. Oscar) disappeared for a little while but after a bit of travel and NIDA style life experience, Oscar’s back with a vengeance, well, with a brand new version of the hugely successful Boy&Girl brand: a sexy, racy, hugely popular show featuring some of the city’s best talent. The show is a superb stand alone piece and a fantastic festival opener. A scaled down version (or an even bigger, bolder production) could easily be seen, with the right backers, anywhere in the world.

The winning formula consists of several well known big voices within a company of superior singers and dancers, all dressed for sex, delivering a series of slick and sassy musical numbers, some cheeky comedy, and a couple of flashy circus tricks. It’s as simple as it sounds. But unlike Strut & Fret’s substandard Blanc de Blanc at Brisbane Festival this year (there are no excuses good enough to justify that level of lazy, tasteless entertainment), Oscar’s Boy&Girl delivers. Again.

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Pre-show entertainment (and during Interval too for those who can resist making an additional dash to the bar) gets us in the mood and sets expectations high. That’s if they weren’t already sky-high after viewing Joel Devereux’s publicity shots of the black leather and Lycra clad company. I wondered why there was no photo booth for punters to get a pic with their fave sexy star…maybe next time. Outside it’s noisy, chatty, and inside, as the pre-show banter continues, the mood is so relaxed we could be at a swingers’ party. But it would be a Spiegeltent swingers’ party, such is the glitter induced joy and sparkling natural charm of the performers. The front row consists of well-loved sofas, but with a great deal more white light on them than we had sat beneath during the original Visy Theatre season (remembering the second version was staged in the less intimate Powerhouse Theatre). For someone who appreciates audience participation from some distance and under the cover of darkness, the sofas suddenly seem less alluring…

It’s a slick show, opening with The Andrews Sisters (Simon Chamberlain, Lachlan Geraghty, Patrick Dwyer), a tight outfit, in tight outfits, and they offer an entirely new take on Britney Spears (Oops! I Did It Again). The first big company number, taken from La Cage Au Follies, sets the gender-bending tone of the evening (We Are What We Are), and our hosts, Stephen Hirst and Aya Valentine get things off to a rollicking start. The musical arrangements are terrific and to better appreciate the top notch band, we could do with slightly better sight lines and less distance between us and them. 

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To the delight of the Saturday up-late show crowd, Sam Turk struts and whips her way through Sweet Transvestite / Sex Bomb. Followed by a cutesy double entendre laden Disney medley featuring Stevie Bishop, Patrick Dwyer, Monique Bowdler, Kristyn Bilson and Aurelie Roque.

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Josh Daveta dons a dramatic cape and formidable 6-inch heels to become the evil under-the-sea Ursula (Poor Unfortunate Souls) and slays. And while nothing can ever top the original season’s Single Ladies (an encore performance by special invitation was enjoyed at the Matilda Awards), Lady Marmalade and Big Spender come close – ferocious and full of sass. (Garret Lyon, Josh Daveta, Lachlan Geraghty, Matt Bonasia, Stevie Bishop). The girls shine in Grease Lightning and Roxanne, in which the dancing features more strongly than the vocals, which seem not entirely suited to the vocalist, Alana Tierney. (Chloe Rose-Taylor was absent from Saturday night’s performance). As far as vocals go, for this tough little number, it has to be said that an encore performance of Luke Kennedy and Sam Coward’s passionate rendition of Roxanne would give them a run for their money. 

Speaking of Sam, he either enjoyed Boom Boom more than he’d like to admit, or he’s scarred for life and has expertly hidden the damage behind a diplomatic, “Yeah, that happened” expression.

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It’s unfortunate that, once again, we have dancers and vocalists competing for attention. They probably don’t feel they’re competing but I always love to see a good singer sing without having the distraction of a dancer on the floor. (Sam says hide the band and hide the singer, a la Cirque du Soleil; i.e. bring out the singers for one number and after, wave them off again!). Quite simply, when you’ve got Garret Lyon just give us Garret Lyon.

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Even Ellen Reed, a star singer with a powerhouse voice and stage presence so powerful she deserves her own line of superhero merch in the foyer, gets a little lost behind so much action on stage. Act 2’s pole dancing sequence (Earned It featuring Reed) needs slightly less fire, fewer Pippin tricks, and a bit more pizazz, however; Matthew Bonasia’s strength and grace is indeed impressive and his flesh, ink adorned, is itself a work of art. This is the sequence with the least polish. With a little more focus on the big picture effect it could be the beat change that brings about the finale.

His choreography is still sharp, snappy and oh so sexy but we miss seeing Dan Venz on stage (he’s busy again with Hairspray). Likewise, I’ve always loved Chris Kellett’s cheeky reading of the emcee role but Stephen Hirst’s brazen performance as Emcee/Uncle gives us the gift that is Long John Blues. It’s hysterical and could easily earn him billing beneath Catherine Alcorn in the next tour of The Divine Miss Bette if she was ready to cast boys as her back up singers. This happened once, when she and Tom Sharah were up for the Noosa Long Weekend Festival on the same night. But I digress. Let’s bring it back to Boy&Girl. I’d love to see Tom Sharah featured in the next Boy&Girl…

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The modifications, as much as the style of the show, its talented artists and its savvy, glossy marketing collateral keep us coming back to this show. It’s a complete package, sizzling hot, fresh and bold, surprising, sweaty, sassy, classy and all over much too soon. On another level it challenges the way we see the world, calling us to action in its rousing final ensemble numbers One Voice and Born This Way.

Beg, borrow or steal a ticket to Boy&Girl – it’s the hottest, strongest, longest running/most often returning political campaign cabaret we’ve seen in this state.

10
Apr
16

Hairspray

 

Hairspray
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

 

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15th – 16th JULY 2016

NEWCASTLE ENTERTAINMENT CENTRE 

 14th – 15th OCTOBER 2016

ADELAIDE ENTERTAINMENT CENTRE

20th – 22nd JANUARY 2017

HBF STADIUM PERTH

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.

 

hairspray_ensemble

 

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

TIM O’CONNOR
CEO/Artistic Director
Harvest Rain Theatre Company

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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”.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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)

 

11
Apr
14

boy&girl

 

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Oscar Theatre Co

Brisbane Powerhouse

April 3 – 19 2014

 

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

 

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Trust Oscar to put on the sexiest show in town! Their girls are hot and their boys are hotter, regardless of your preferences. But what makes this show spectacular spectacular is a lot more than the eye candy – these kids can sing and dance y’all! And they always have done – you’ll remember Spring Awakening and Next To Normal – and this show, which evolved as the Lightspace Cabaret Series, is the next logical step, proving beyond a shadow of a doubt that Oscar is here to stay. And thank Adonis for that!

 

There’s a blatant message behind this show, and that’s SAME (SPECTACULAR SPECTACULAR) SAME. I hope to all the Greek Gods that you’re not still struggling with the notion of same-sex relationships (if you’re reading this blog, let’s face it, probs not!), but if you are, you sad, sad excuse for a human being, all the more reason to climb into an old sofa in the front row and HAVE YOUR MIND BLOWN!

 

While some are still insisting on trying to fit cabaret into a neat little box, Oscar goes beyond definition to create a gender-bending, mind-blowing phenomenon that you’ll experience and want to experience again, immediately. It’s not often we see something with the awesome, powerful, positive sexual energy to lift us out of our seats shouting, “Again! Again!” And look, no, it wasn’t just me. A packed house roared their appreciation at the end of the show, already having clapped and squealed throughout it in pure delight. Being able to bring drinks into the space is obviously essential to the atmosphere, but actually, during Interval, Adam and I lounged – literally – and chatted away, taking in the high-voltage vibe and wondering aloud, “Where does Emily FIND these performers?” Or do they find her?

 

In Chris Kellet we have an Emcee in true Cabaret tradition. To open with Wilkommen makes perfect sense, setting the ambience with ease (helped already, before we even begin by the band, led by MD Dale Lingwood and cast members strategically placed posed amongst the punters), and allowing us – especially those of us right under the, er, noses of the performers, admire an entirely new perspective on the number, choreographed by Dan Venz. The impact of the full company is felt at once, and not again until an extraordinary homage to West Side Story, ringing out that core message loud and clear, to bring the evening to a close. The voices are rich and full, befitting the well-loved score, and we are convinced. There is indeed a place for us, no matter who (or what) we are. In between, of course there is naughtiness! And some standout performances, including a gorgeous Andrew Sisters style arrangement of Call Me Maybe (Conor, Dakota & Dan), Conor Ensor’s touching Sandra Dee/There Are Worse Things I Could Do, Aya Valentine’s riotous take on My Girlfriend Who Lives In Canada, the expertly executed Cell Block Tango (all the boys), and Single Ladies (Garret, Adwan & Andy). Oscar’s very own Bath Girl seems an odd – but  not – inclusion and I hope there’s another show for her (and her South Pacific cum Rubby Ducky parodying boy chorus); it’s as if this one couldn’t NOT go into the final mix, but there might be a better fit within a future vision. And there are moments of contemporary dance that almost take away from the vocalists’ work, but I let those moments slide because the dancers are good; precise and emotionally present, earning their place in the shared space. THIS TIME.

 

boy&girl

 

It’s with surprise and delight that I take on board the gender-bending vocals and physicality of the cast (who knew Rizzo could be such a sensitive guy?), and so it’s with some surprise also, that I realise later Bring on the Men is performed entirely by the girls, as per its original context from Jekyll and Hyde. And would that not have been an interesting piece for the boys to explore?

 

If for no other reason, you should probs see this show before we lose Venz to Vegas; surely that’s his destiny, or at least within his sights. Not only a hot, sharp mover and shaker, he’s choreographed the whole thing, beautifully lit by Jason Glenwright. Now THAT’S more like it, Mister! Light up those guys and dolls! Very clever, the way Ms Gilhome gets people together to create a little somethin’ somethin’…

 

boy&girl

 

This little somethin’ somethin’ is absolutely sizzling so see it before it sells out! Or… Perhaps it’s already too late and you will only have everybody else’s party stories to go by. That’s sad. For you. This fun fiasco finishes next weekend. Get on it, get a ticket and get to it!

 

 

Aaand roll credits…

 

 

Director: Emily Gilhome

Choreographer: Dan Venz

Music Director: Dale Lingwood

Lighting Designer: Jason Glenwright

Designer: Falco Fox

Assistant Director: Jack Kelly

Photography Design: Joel Devereux

 

Band: Dale Lingwood, Gene Stevens, Justin Bliss, Daniel Robbins

 

Company: Adwan Dickson, Aimee Butterworth, Andrew Kanofski, Ash McCready, Aya Valentine, Chris Kellett, Claire Walters, Conor Ensor, Dakota Striplin, Dan Venz, Danny Lazar, Ellen Reed, Garret Lyon, Jack Kelly, Jacqui Devereus, Jakob Evelyn, Kimie Tsukakoshi, Michael Hogan, Shannon Metzeling, Shelley Marshall, Vanessa Friscia, Josh Daveta