Posts Tagged ‘David Atkins Enterprises

08
May
13

Hot Shoe Shuffle

Hot Shoe Shuffle 

David Atkins Enterprises

QPAC Lyric Theatre

3rd – 25th May 2013

 

Reviewed by Stephanie Brown

 

I’m a dancer and choreographer, but until now I haven’t had to string more than fifty words together about what I do or about the industry I love! Luckily for me (and for my husband Trav), Xanthe picked opening night of the award winning Hot Shoe Shuffle as my first performance to review. It’s the anniversary tour and it’s already looking like a smash hit! Here goes… and 5,6,7,8!

 

As we took our seats and scanned the souvenir programme, Trav began tapping my arm and gesturing with a nod to the men taking their seats directly in front of us. Cue wide smile and slightly dropped jaw… Adam Garcia and Dein Perry took their seats within arms reach! I considered being a blubbering fan, but only for a second. I had a job to do.

 

It didn’t take long for me to forget the two stars were even there (sorry, guys!). If I could go back in time, I think I would pick the 1940s, with the men in their bright coloured suits who sing and dance to express their feelings. The show takes you there, in a strange way. It’s a show about rehearsing for a show, with the characters openly discussing which scene they will go to next, and the open set changes by the cast on a lit stage is something I haven’t come across very often. I loved every bit of it! Every character was believable and I found myself lost in each of their stories and personalities.

 

Mood Indigo - David

Producer, Director and Co-Choreographer David Atkins played the Aloysius Shyster/Max King and Dexter Tap character brilliantly. Having never seen Atkins in real life, I had to giggle at his 4-foot-nothing stature. When he first stepped onto the stage, the audience erupted! Unfortunately, despite his background and incredible body of work, I found him completely overshadowed by fellow leads, Jaz Flowers (April) and Bobby Fox (Spring). I suppose I can still credit him for casting these two in the show!

 

Tap Brothers with Jaz Jaz Flowers stole the show.

 

I knew she could sing. I just didn’t realise how well! When I was in New York a couple of years ago, I saw a show called Memphis. At the time I said to Trav about the leading lady, ‘She has the most amazing voice for theatre that I have ever heard’. Well, I’ve found someone better. I’m glad her time on the television show The Voice was cut short. Flowers’ voice would be totally wasted as a pop star in a studio producing boring hit after hit. BUT what really threw me; she can also dance! A true “triple threat” right there, on stage.

 

Bobby Fox played a great Spring. An Irishman who is a 4 time champion Irish Dancer, his tap skills were… I was speechless! The only other person I have ever seen move that fast is our friend, Dale Pengelly. I don’t think it’s fair that these people can dance so well, yet still be able to sing AND act as well! Surely they should share some of that talent around!

 

The Tap Brothers were all great. Some struggled with holding the accent, but it didn’t dampen the mood. Of the six “other brothers”, it was debut musical theatre performer Max Patterson, who played Tap (Tap Tap!), who was the stand out. He played a very funny character, reminding me somewhat of Howard Wolowitz from The Big Bang Theory with his ladies’ man mentality.

 

As far as entertainment value goes, the show is sensational. My favourite song of the night was probably I’ve Got To Be A Rugcutter, which was expertly performed on a table. It was colourful, light and fun. Although, just as impressive was when April, Spring and Max sang When I Get My Name In Lights; I was in awe of their combined talent and totally lost in the moment. That number rang through this semi-retired dancer like it was a message to me and only me.

 

Overall, the band was fantastic, the set was awesome, and the cast was amazing. A special little addition at the end of the show even had Adam Garcia visibly STOKED (and a little jealous I think!). Even if you saw the original Hot Shoe Shuffle, you’ll enjoy going along again. This production delivers on all the fun, frivolity and laughter (and top tap moves of course!) that are promised in the promos. Now THAT’S ENTERTAINMENT!

 

 

15
Nov
10

West Side Story

I wrote in my previous post that there is a place for time-honoured traditional homages to shows that we know and love. Or something like that, anyway. The new touring production of West Side Story, currently playing at QPAC, tried to be just that. And when I say “just” that, I mean only that. It may well have sold out in various venues all over the globe but this was not the West Side Story that I know and love. It was certainly not the West Side Story that it appeared to try to replicate.

Having said that, I’m aware that you may have read one or two rave reviews already. This is not one of them. In fact, I found only one rave review and I read it and deferred posting my own, thinking that perhaps, on this occasion, I might be wrong (I have been known to be wrong on the odd occasion). But then I remembered that I’d read other reviews and I had, in fact, seen the same show as those critics. I was also reminded that a review is merely an opinion. And everybody is entitled to expressing that. It’s just that some of us have a compulsive urge to publish our opinions on the Internet! And oh, how interesting are the differing views and opinions on this particular show! There is a chasm between what I and some others think of this production.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I’m a really generous audience member. Even having read unfavourable reviews from the runs in previous cities, I’ll go in with very few expectations. No, wait. I have a few expectations; especially if it’s a touring professional show AND a classic.

  1. I pay to see the show. I love comps and champagne on opening night as much as the next theatre-goer but I don’t make a habit of asking for tickets and I don’t mind paying for them, knowing that I’m contributing to the growth of our industry. What I expect in return, for the cost of my ticket is a professional show. Perhaps my interpretation of “professional” is different to that of, say, David Atkins Enterprises.
  2. Sometimes I go see a show purely because it is marketed well. I’m a sucker for advertising, the perfect consumer, of shows, skin care products, iPhone apps, glossy mags, alternate medicine (how good is the migrastick?! How perfectly soothed, calmed and totes not crazy with pain does she look?!) See? Barnum Bailey said it (many have sung it. Raul is one of my faves, making me think, inexplicably of Mr Percival. Um. Casting tip, anyone? Time to do Barnum again? Will it ever be time to do Barnum again?!) You get it. If it’s new and exciting, I’ll buy it. But to buy into the story of a classic show, one that I know and love; the version is going to have to live up to its claims.
  3. I expect to see our industry’s best performers. Were they these performers? Well, I’m not sure. I have my doubts, largely, I suspect, because of the way they were directed and allowed to give us a second rate performance on this particular night. I’m also happy, as you would know if you follow this blog, to see and support the industry’s rising stars, our new talent, IF THEY ARE GOOD. I’m not saying that this was a poor ensemble. I’m saying that most of them were cast in the wrong show and left up there to be dancers who can sing and act a little (I also suspect that Action may have been told that he was the “actor” of the company and so decided to really let us know that. Over and over and over-the-top again).

I grew up with, respectfully respectively, my dad and mum, singing and twirling (as a singer, my mum makes a great twirler), to the original soundtrack recording in the kitchen. I always wondered how my dad kept mum (maybe that’s how: singing and twirling), you know, as opposed to the (1961) movie’s other star, George Chakiris, getting her in the end, because God knows, she would have willingly gone! Probably lucky for me and the siblings, she compromised, having One Hand, One Heart played at their wedding. In the movie, this scene is excruciatingly cute and daggy, representing all the joy and innocence of young love and making me cringe even to think about it.

In Brenner and Atkin’s production, this scene stinks. Sorry, I really hope some of you felt differently but I have coached un-WAPPA-ed teenagers who come across as a stronger star-crossed pair of lovers than Josh and Julie managed. In fact, let’s do that shout out, shall we? To Ms Mel White and her creative team at Matthew Flinders Anglican College because, HOLY SHIT THEIR SHOW WAS GOOD. I’m not even being biased. Not one bit. Kudos to the upcoming stars (no, really; look out for them), Charlie Sells and Lauren Lodge-Campbell, who worked with me to get this scene and this song REAL. It took a bit of convincing, that they had to face each other and lock eyes before locking lips but it was just so obvious that THAT is what Josh and Julie needed to be told too! A different sort of connection was missing from the action between members of the rival gangs and there was not a lot of tension throughout the places I wanted to hold my breath. And Anita at Doc’s? ALMOST GOT IT. Again, if you’re going to replicate a classic, please give us opportunities to experience the same roller coaster ride all over again! That’s precisely why some of us are there and you owe us that much.

More of these sorts of opportunities might encourage young performers to question their approach to their craft and set higher expectations for themselves and the productions they are involved in. I wonder if Josh or Julia ever asked of the director, Joey McKNeeley, “Um…hey Joey? Why are we not looking at each other for this most poignant and beautiful moment in what will otherwise remain a corny, daggy, cute, kitsch scene?”

I could write about this West Side Story and all its associated issues for days. It’s fascinating to me that something with so much money behind it could go so wrong. I guess we add it to the list. What list is that? You may well ask. I’ve asked Sam to elaborate on this little theory so, very simply, I will say this: we have our Cheeseburger Theatre list. On it, are more and more of what should be the newest, most fabulous, spectacular, mind-blowing, blah blah blah shows. Sadly, a few of the shows we’ve seen lately were billed as such and didn’t live up to our expectations. They are mass-produced, look fancy in the posters and don’t taste quite the way you’ve been led to believe they will.

Quite simply, this production of West Side Story did nothing for me. It left me cold. I was prepared to take out the kleenex and do my usual stiletto run to the ladies after the heart-wrenching conclusion, to check my makeup, before moving on to Drinks and Debrief (this time at our good friend Mia’s new groovy joint, The Junk Bar. You MUST check it out and tell her we sent you)! But I didn’t shed a tear. Some would say that is because I am a cold, callous, over-critical chick with a black heart. I say it’s because the combined elements of this production failed to move me.

Seriously, I had such high hopes and they were all dashed, not least of all because we missed seeing Rohan Browne as Riff. Clearly, we made it into town before he did and unfortunately, for us and now for his understudy, we saw his understudy, with his Australian accent and all (friends who saw Rohan said he was the absolute highlight of the show). I’m happy to give the understudy another go, in another show; perhaps it was a poor casting choice. But in a professional production, your understudies should be up to the task at hand.

The same can be said of every performer in the show.

Let’s not pick on the young, vibrant, mainly-appropriately-dance-trained, largely-recently-graduated ensemble; they too were told they up to the task. But dancers unable to hold their poses (and in bare feet, girls?! Shame! There are no excuses for wobbles at this level! Who decided to have them dance without shoes and stockings in the first place? It’s part of the sex appeal. It’s a little thing but it matters.) Dance pairs who didn’t have that wild, sexy chemistry whilst dancing at the gym? Ensemble members whose looks totes threw the older couple sitting next to me: “Aren’t they meant to be Puerto Rican?” etc. Mind you, these here are crazy times, when you don’t have to cast a single Asian-looking performer to be able to put on Miss Saigon. And if you’re still wondering what all the fuss is about, think back to when Miss Saigon almost didn’t make Broadway.

As I write this, another rave review has gone up online and I wonder again DID I SEE THE SAME SHOW?

To summarise and to partly respond IMHO, to a couple of points made by Katherine Lyall-Watson and Pepa Wolfe:

  • West Side Story was not a fantastic night at the theatre, nor a winner in any way, except perhaps to appeal to a new audience who have never seen any other theatrical production. Wow. I can’t believe I just typed that. That is too kind. And it is ludicrous. Is this the standard of professional production with which we want to seduce new audiences? The cast announcement coincided with the Australia Council survey ”More Bums on Seats: Australian Participation in the Arts”, which found that musical theatre/cabaret was second in popularity to pop and rock concerts. It says that young people aged between 15 and 24 were engaging with the arts, as participants and spectators, more than any other age group. Scary…the power of well-promoted and supported-from-the-inside mediocrity. Isn’t it?
  • I have no doubt that Rohan Browne stole the show. I also loved Alinta Chidzey as Anita, though poor Bernardo was no match for her and I didn’t buy into his leadership of The Sharks. I’m glad my mum will not get to this production, being between India to see my brother and Adelaide to see Leonard Cohen.
  • The costumes looked as if they had come straight out of the packets and off the hangers and onto the performers. Seriously. Did you ever see such clean, brawling teens?
  • The set was laughable, like an enormous barricade that was designed to be re-used next time as a dolls house. Or something. I thought, if only they had stuck to steel and scaffolding, this enormous, over-bearing structure might have been the star of the show. It looked misplaced and the performers were lost within it. Literally. The girls placed strategically throughout it for the quartet of Tonight looked messy.
  • The real winners and stars of this production were Vanessa Scammell and her musicians. They were superb. As they should have been. Thank you.
  • I KNOW ONLY THE GIRLS ORIGINALLY SANG AMERICA. This sucked. This is a big production number and was made famous in the film because the boys were such a gorgeous, cheeky, strong part of it, reaffirming the importance at the time of the gender roles, the real racial tension and reigniting that sexual spark between guys and girls, which is really, I mean, c’mon, what’s at the core of this little, universal Romeo and Juliet plot. Just having the girls perform this number always dilutes it. Compare:

with

If you’ve seen this production, or you’re a part of it, I’d love to hear from you. Feel free to comment below and tell me what you thought. What did you think of The Ten Tenors’  Josh Piterman as Tony? What did you think of the rumble? The end of the show? You may completely disagree with me on every count and I’d love to hear why! If this is the type of theatre you love and want more of, let me know. I won’t be making it – not like this – but I’ll keep going to see it and questioning the motives of those who do!