Posts Tagged ‘elise mccann


Matilda the Musical

Matilda the Musical

Royal Shakespeare Company

QPAC Lyric Theatre

December 1 2016 – January 8 2017

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward


Matilda the Musical is hands down the best made and the best promoted show we’ve seen in this country. Not many productions live up to the hype preceding them but this one exceeds expectations. The elements combine in a perfect alchemy of joy, morality, imagination and witty, wicked humour, delighting kids, and daring adults to look around, pay attention to the children and begin to listen again to their own inner child.

Roald Dahl’s Matilda is the extraordinary little girl who, armed with a vivid imagination and a sharp mind, dares to take a stand and change her own destiny.


Queensland’s Matildas are Izellah Connelly, Annabella Cowley, Venice Harris and Eva Murawski.

On opening night we saw Venice Harris, and as the rockstar chocolate-cake-eating Bruce, Exodus Lale, both superb. We will have to return a little later in the season to see our Eva perform! Last night she was on standby and she was able to appear on stage for a very special curtain call with the standby cast, and composer and lyricist, Tim Minchin.

We rarely see a genuinely rapturous, heartfelt standing ovation from an actual full house at QPAC.

(Don’t believe every accolade you see on social media. I’m so often surprised/bemused to see claims of a standing ovation when only a smattering of the audience is on its feet!), but the opening night Matilda audience was as excited and appreciative and awestruck as you’ll ever get at the end of a show. 

It’s no secret that opening nights are a special kind of magic but Matilda the Musical is a show with a buzz that makes you feel like every night is opening night. If there’s a person in the world who hasn’t enjoyed it, I’d like to meet them and ask, “WHAT’S YOUR DAMAGE?” There’s nothing to dislike here (except Miss Trunchbull and the Wormwoods and we’re supposed to loathe them). Matilda the Musical is an uplifting, life affirming, incredibly moving experience, and the cast of children a dynamic new breed of Australian talent. (Minchin has said the girls who play the Brisbane Matildas are four of the best, in this extremely demanding role, in the world. High praise indeed!). We recognise them by their tremendous hearts and rich, clipped voices, their explosive energy and their neatly contained egos. There are adults in the industry who can learn from these hard working and humble kids. (Those adults are not in this show!). And the synergy between adult and child performers makes this show extra special. The ensemble’s opening number, the fast-paced, bright and brilliant, memorably cheeky Miracle, followed by Matilda’s Naughty, and the School Song, choreographed and executed with military precision, testament to the extraordinary talent on stage and off.

There are also a number of must-be-something-in-my-eye moments.


One of these moments is the beautifully bittersweet When I Grow Up. This is a smiling-while-tears-are-running-shamelessly-down-cheeks scene, reminiscent of Mary Poppins’ Let’s Go Fly a Kite. The use of a slippery slide and timber seated swings hanging from the gods creates a child-sized whimsical world of wide-eyed possibility. I want a swing hanging from the gods in my backyard! When the “big kids” fly out over the audience we gasp in surprise and delight and abandon – even those of us who have seen it before – and our hearts fill to bursting.

It’s not often that a production succeeds in pouring pure glee over an entire audience. 

A fully engaged little kid sitting next to me, so smart, asks his mama if they are sad because they don’t want to grow up. The kid is no older than four or five. Other innocent comments throughout the evening earn smiling, murmured responses from a lovely older gentleman in front and giggles from the rest of us. There’s a little bit of healthy fear happening too. True to the original story, there are some quite frightening moments in the show, just as there are in our dreams and ordinary lives, and the mother does her best to quietly comfort her child. I know parents sometimes avoid taking kids to the theatre because they know it will be their kid to shout out something in the middle of a show. They think this will annoy the other punters and leave themselves embarrassed and apologetic so they decide to give it a miss until the kids are older, and they and the child miss out on an awesome experience and lifelong memories. If you’re a parent wondering whether or not you should take the kids to the show, STOP WONDERING, BOOK THE TICKETS AND TAKE THE KIDS TO THE SHOW.

If the teens and the spouse are slightly wary, they should know Matilda the Musical is also, obviously and subversively, a very grown up show. If nothing else, tell them to hang in there until the final number, the epic kid rock anthem, Revolting Children, which is a showstopper they’ll be singing (and stomping!) for you for days, even weeks. Probably for the next six weeks…of school holidays…lucky you.

The burning woman, hurling through the air with dynamite in her hair, flying over sharks and spiky objects, caught by the man locked in the cage…

The Acrobat and the Escapologist, the story-within-the-story, which has been somehow magically more fully woven through the production since last seen, and which Matilda tells to Mrs Phelps (the fabulous Cle Morgan, a delicious performer of exquisite expression and passion; she shines in this underwritten role). You’ll remember it doesn’t appear in Roald Dahl’s book. The dramatisation of – spoiler alert – Mrs Honey’s parents’ romance, is a neat theatrical device to move us into another realm of storytelling, the segments perfectly placed throughout the show now to allow us to wander through Matilda’s imagination. Her voracious reading and imagining is her escape from a despicable family and horrible home life (loud, brassy, not-real-classy caricatures of the worst possible parents, in Daniel Frederickson & Nadia Komazec in Marika Aubrey’s absence).

There are so many dark themes and dastardly deeds detectable in life, which children need to be able to process just as grown ups do. Roald Dahl knew this, and Minchin and Dennis Kelly make a considered art of serving it straight up, without apology.

Elise McCann is a stronger, more focused and better settled Miss Honey than when we saw her early on in the Sydney season, her rendition of My House poignantly, perfectly delivered, the vocal tone just divine. And the incomparable James Millar, as the formidable Miss Trunchbull, takes the cake (and makes poor Bruce eat it!). Millar’s hilarious, highly physical performance is another highlight. His performance is so polished and so perfectly ridiculous and reasonable at the same time that you might have a hard time now, as I do, listening to the original Trunchbull, the much-loved Brit, Bertie Carvel. Sorry, Bertie.

Can we have an original Australian Cast recording please and thank you. 

Hugh Vanstone’s lighting and Rob Howell’s costume and set design transfer spectacularly well to the Lyric Theatre and MD Peter Rutherford’s orchestra is spot on. The only superfluous number for me is Mr Wormwood’s Telly, but others love it. 


Matilda the Musical lifts our spirits and raises the musical theatre bar. It’s a show that proves the book, the film and the real life lens we look through every day can be improved upon. YES. The way we view the world is a choice we make every day. And Matilda reminds us that putting things right and standing up for ourselves and for others is easier than we’ve been led to believe.  

Don’t even think for a second you can miss it. There is no gift more magical or inspirational you can give yourself and those you love than Matilda the Musical


Brisbane Opening Night Company:

Matilda – Venice Harris
Bruce – Exodus Lale
Alice – Tahlae Colson
Amanda – Isla White
Hortensia – Madison Randl
Lavender – Charlotte Smith
Eric – Elias Geffen
Nigel – Alfie Jamieson
Tommy – Jake Binns
Adult Cast as follows:
Miss Trunchbull – James Millar
Mrs Wormwood – Nadia Komazec
Mr Wormwood – Daniel Frederiksen
Miss Honey – Elise McCann
Mrs Phelps – Cle Morgan
Ensemble – Stephen Anderson, Reece Budin, Travis Khan, Daniel Raso, Rachel Cole, James Bryers, Leah Lim, Adam Noviello, Patrick Whitbread
Swings – Cristina D’Agostino, Matt Douglass, Hannah Stanton, Clay Roberts, Danielle Cook







Opening Night Style at QPAC: Everybody Loves Lucy




Opening Night Style at QPAC: Everybody Loves Lucy


On Tuesday night at QPAC’s Cremorne, the gorgeous fifties’ frocks were out in force for Luckiest Productions’ cabaret festival hit, Everybody Loves Lucy, starring Elise McCann. I didn’t love, love, LOVE it but I LOVED McCann’s superb performance. Read my review here.

You only have today and tomorrow to catch it so go and enjoy!


Everybody Loves Lucy


Dress Code: Pinup Doll retro fifties frocks, baby!


Pre-show drinks: Cremorne Theatre Foyer Bar




Dress: Basque at Myer


Shoes: Zou Zou at Myer


Mum wearing Jayson Brunsdon Black Label at Myer. Scarf from St Petersburg, Russia.





See more social pics on QPAC’s Facebook page.


Everybody Loves Lucy


Everybody Loves Lucy

QPAC & Luckiest Productions

QPAC Cremorne

February 24 – 27 2015


Reviewed by Xanthe Coward




Lucille Ball? Game changer. Yeah, you know her. Actually, when I asked around at school, the kids didn’t know her. That made me feel old. She’s the funny female figure stomping grapes in a barrel, on the TV screen in the hotel room as Julia Roberts sprawls across the carpet eating strawberries and laughing her head off in Pretty Woman. Oh, right. You never saw Pretty Woman either… THAT makes me feel really old!



Everybody Loves Lucy, directed by Helen Dallimore, and penned by the star of the show, Elise McCann, and Luckiest ProductionsRichard Carroll, is not quite all it wants to be yet, but it IS entertaining and enlightening; it’s a lovely, light evening of expert impersonation and an old school celebrity reality television story. I’d be interested to see the role in the hands of Francine Cain who, in lieu of a McCann Clone, is also touring the show (Go see her on the Gold Coast March 2). I guess we’re accustomed to multiple companies touring the same show on a grander scale (think of Wicked’s nine professional productions at any one time in the world!), but not so the smaller cabaret pieces and this is testament to the show’s instant popularity, and the good business sense of Luckiest Productions.


McCann MAKES this show and it’s just as well! After all, what use is a tribute if there is no similarity between the performer and the original artist? Here’s an artist who presents the iconic comedienne in minute detail; the characterisation both “on air” and off is exquisitely studied and presented with skill and finesse. We get all the comedy, but we are also gifted with an insight into the imagined mental and emotional state, first through song and then, intermittently, via the musings of an ordinary housewife and mother, who enjoys her gin and represents US ALL. ALTHOUGH, I DON’T DO GIN. (I did it once. Try everything once, right?). A very clever device, this character keeps us in the political-social loop as the times rapidly change and women everywhere followed Lucy’s lead in the pursuit of independent work and play.




The physical comedy is natural and bold, the facial expressions hilarious (THE WINK!), and the voice lilts and builds and holds and diminishes to a whisper, as the storytelling requires. Joined by multi-talented Musical Director, Nigel Ubrihien, who appears on stage as Desi Arnaz (he’s fantastic – I would like to have seen him reappear as Desi by the end so our “on air” couple could give us that last look), McCann takes us through years of television sitcom success. We also see, on the other side of the camera, the couple’s failed marriage, despite every effort to keep up appearances. It’s the classic balance of comedy and tragedy, drawn from real life, making it all the more devastating.


The sadness emanating from the dressing room would get you down without the clowning; succinct excerpts from the original skits, which punctuate the storytelling and remind us that it was Desi who called the shots but Lucy who delivered the goods. And these scenes are so good because McCann embraces each one as if it had always been her own story. The comedy is completely natural, with the ballet lesson bringing the house down, and the Vitameatavegamin commercial taking the cake. This is McCann at her comical best!




In complete contrast, she sings lovingly to her baby in utero. It’s a simply played and suitably stunning moment, and she takes her time with it, thank goodness. When the performer is confident enough to make us wait while she takes her time to work through many layers of conflicting emotions we are also able to invest more deeply in character. We travel with McCann, on a journey that takes her far away from where she started. So far away, in fact, that we end up seeing the ordinary housewife and mother again! This doesn’t work as well as somebody (everybody) had probably hoped it would. On opening night it meant that the mood fell flat, and I thought, “It’s just me” until I spoke with a couple of normal people (ie not industry types. Ready, normal people?!), who were not sure how they felt about the show by the end of it! One of them had expected hilarity for the finish, and another had been waiting for another (funny) song. Oh well. All you gotta’ do is make one person happy, right?


I’m reluctant to say it – I wanted to be blown away by this production – but for me the show doesn’t quite hit the mark. It has all the elements, but despite its fluid transitions and a story mostly well told, there’s some flow lacking in the structure. The opening number, Make ‘Em Laugh, lacks punch and feels like it hits us before we’re ready for it (are we really not quite ready for it?!). With the beautiful blend of comedy and potential for tears, it quickly makes up some ground, but goes awry again with a television interview in an attempt to neatly wrap up the narrative. Clearly, audiences everywhere (else) LOVE IT! (NOOSA AUDIENCES WOULD LOVE IT!).


It’s McCann’s performance I adore; it’s perfectly pitched, and delivered with all the highs and lows to crack open our hearts. McCann makes us remember why everybody loves Lucy.


Final shows today (Thursday February 26) at 1:30pm & 6:30pm and tomorrow (Friday February 27) at 1:30pm & 7pm.




Everybody Loves Lucy opens tonight!


fall in love again…. with Lucy at QPAC




Queensland will fall in love with Lucy all over again as Everybody Loves Lucy brings the larger-than-life character from one of America’s most popular sitcoms to the stage 24-27 February 2015 at (QPAC).


Lucille Ball was the Queen of American comedy for decades. Her signature role in I Love Lucy saw her win the public’s hearts and reign supreme as television’s biggest star.


Now, see the wacky, fearless, and totally endearing Lucy come to life on QPAC’s Cremorne Theatre stage in this superbly-written intimate cabaret that has been described as equal parts hilarious and thought-provoking.


Brimming with Lucille Ball’s irrepressible spirit, acclaimed Australian theatre star
Elise McCann (Mamma Mia, South Pacific) presents a tribute to a true trail-blazer, joined by musical director (and sometime ‘Desi’) Nigel Ubrihien.


Lucille Ball broke the mould for the way women were allowed to behave on TV. Joined by her real-life and on-screen husband Desi Arnaz, she held up a fun-house mirror to every marriage in America – exaggerating and making amusing every idiosyncrasy of married life. But as Lucy’s popularity thrived, her relationship with Desi suffered both professionally and privately.


Her own marriage may have fallen apart, but Lucille’s brave and outrageous depiction of married life saw her credited with saving the marriages of millions of Americans.


Intelligent and well-executed, with a generous serving of laughs, Everybody Loves Lucy is one that is not-to-be missed for the trail-blazer inside all of us. Book here.





Starring Elise McCann
With Nigel Ubrihien
Written by Elise McCann and Richard Carroll
Directed by Helen Dallimore
Musical Director Nigel Ubrihien
Choreographed by Christopher Horsey
Dramaturge Merridy Eastman
Dress Design by Tim Chappel