Posts Tagged ‘guys and dolls


Guys and Dolls


Guys and Dolls

Harvest Rain Theatre Co

QPAC Concert Hall

March 20 – 23 2014


Reviewed by Xanthe Coward




I love Guys and Dolls. I love the show, I love the music and I still love the movie. I love the iconic 40s fashion and I love the language, the strangely natural formal Runyonese. Along with Seven Brides for Seven Brothers it may be an odd contemporary choice for a big-budget show, but despite the archaic sentiments, there is much to enjoy. Tim O’Connor’s Guys and Dolls for Harvest Rain, their first fully professional production, is suitably bright in terms of its costumes and lively characters, but something is missing and it might just be the same clarity and sincerity I’ve longed to see for years from this company. Who IS Harvest Rain, anyway? Has anybody cracked them yet? For the life of me, I can’t put my finger on what is is that leaves me hanging after each production, despite the impressive individual elements and collective talent we see in their shows.


The audience at the Sunday matinee last week was subdued to say the least, though I could see there were many who enjoyed the show, most notably a heap of young theatregoers, including a group of MFAC senior students and their mums, who had organised themselves to see the show; they said they enjoyed it very much. I have no doubt that it was a very different vibe to that of opening night, which I was unable to attend due to my commitment to A Little Night of Music – Songs From the Silver Screen, starring some of Australia’s most accomplished musical theatre stars, and which I only mention for the sake of saying that Angela Harding, who played the proud “missionary doll” Miss Sarah Brown, may very well have felt right at home on that stage too, such is the calibre of her performance in this Guys and Dolls.


Harding adds her own jazz baby cabaret gold to the role, giving the character a little less saccharine sweetness than we’ve seen historically, and a little more spunk. There are times when she and Skye Masterson (Ian Stenlake) have a lovely connection but it’s not often, which is simply not enough for a show built around that unlikely relationship. Chemistry? Yeah, not so much. Stenlake is charming on stage though, and styles up his singing just enough to deliver a great performance overall so we’ll forgive them and the casting process.



Speaking of casting, Liz Buchanan is just gorgeous as Miss Adelaide, and I’m sure her Hotbox girls must be too, only we don’t get more than a strained glimpse of them because somebody forgot to turn up the lights.



This is the darkest production I’ve ever seen Jason Glenwright light away from shake & stir and in many places it’s too dark. We lose energy and pace when we lose colour and the characters’ faces, including during the Hotbox scenes, which are playfully choreographed and snappily executed, if only we could see them! I think I get the concept – it’s very Dick Tracy (I LOVE Dick Tracy!) – we see the star in the spotlight and the secondary characters inhabiting the shadows around them, but it’s not cinema and it doesn’t do it for me. Is it just me? Josh McIntosh’s design allows big, open performance spaces across a couple of levels and it’s a shame to lose so much action amongst the shadows.


Daryl Somers, as Nicely Nicely Johnson, does indeed do the job nicely; he’s a true blue triple threat and Sit Down Your Rocking the Boat is, as it should be, a highlight. In the same breath, I’ll mention our good friend, Dale Pengelly (Benny), who sings and dances and caricatures up a storm. In this comical secondary role, Pengelly reveals yet another box of tricks to add to his extensive performance repertoire, shining brightly and at the same time resisting stealing any of the limelight. Pengelly might just as easily have played either major male role.



Steven Tandy brings warmth and Santa Claus kindness to Abernathy. I can imagine no better reading of this role. I even enjoy his song, More I Cannot Wish You, which is the one I would usually skip on the DVD.



I enjoyed the show, it’s true that I loved lots of it, including Wayne Scott Kermond’s Nathan Detroit and the orchestra on stage (or above it), led by Maitlohn Drew. Strangely though, there is something not quite…enough about this production of Guys and Dolls. It’s all there, sure, in fact it’s not even heart that’s missing, but something is still not able to penetrate Harvest Rain’s shiny, happy high school musical walls. If you know what it is I’d love you to enlighten me. In the meantime, I’m looking forward to seeing the greatest number of unpaid ensemble members in a fully professional production, in July, in CATS.





The Stars Shine Bright in Brisbane: Harvest Rain Season Launch 2014


Harvest Rain Theatre 2014 season launch

QPAC Playhouse

18th  November 2013

Attended by Meredith Walker


Harvest Rain stars shine in 2014


After 18 days of social media clues, Harvest Rain Theatre Company revealed its 2014 season in an all-singing, all-dancing launch at QPAC’s Playhouse. For the company’s 2014 season, its first as a fully professional company*, Harvest Rain will be continuing what it does best, presenting a trio of big musicals featuring an impressive list of Australian stars. The season features a golden oldie, a modern Broadway classic and a Broadway hit musical, ranging from the sublime to the silly, but all with promise of maximum entertainment.


Harvest Rain is fast developing a reputation for effectively reviving and recreating the classics.


The company’s 2013 Oklahoma proves that classic musicals can still be popular and the company aims to recapture the magic when it reintroduces the delightful musical Guys and Dolls to a modern audience in March.  After their acclaimed performances in Oklahoma, Ian Stenlake and Angela Harding will reteam in the show and the audience was reminded of their vocal talents, including through Stenalke’s dynamic performance of Luck be a Lady. The really big news, however, was that the company has recently signed Gold Logie winner Daryl Somers to play Nicely Nicely Johnson, a role made famous on the Australian stage by the late Ricky May. And Somers was in full schick mode as he hammed it up about his preparation for the weighty role. Auditions for professional ensemble roles are to be held in December.


Image by Nick Morrissey


Everyone is invited to the Jellicle Ball when the company presents Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Cats in an arena spectacular style show at the Brisbane Convention Centre for five performances in May. With over 500 performers taking to the stage, Cats promises to be a glorious production of immense scale. Indeed, it will be the largest production of Cats ever staged in the southern hemisphere. While the whimsical cats shone both on stage and as they slinked about the post-launch function, the highlight was undoubtedly headliner Marina Prior’s goosebumpy performance of Memory, the show’s haunting anthem.


Audiences are guaranteed a good time when Simon Gallaher and Jon English reunite thirty years after their Pirates of Penzance romp for the Tony Award winning Monty Python musical Spamalot, based on the cult 1975 film Monty Python and the Holy Grail. After rousing renditions of Knights of the Round Table and Always Look on the Bright Side of Life, Lady of the Lake Julie Anthony revealed how she was coaxed out of retirement for the show, which will be staged in QPAC’s Concert Hall in October.


Harvest Rain has not only earned its place at QPAC, but its energetic approach to theatre making makes its works valuable resources for school groups. Indeed, shows such as Cats, provide an exciting access point to for school students to engage with a classic text, wether that text be Andrew Lloyd Webber’s beloved musical or its genesis, Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats by T. S. Elliot, in a welcoming context. Not only this, but the company offers students the opportunity to engage with the arts on a practical level though their musical theatre internship program, in keeping with its aim to nurture young artists in their passion for the performing arts. Harvest Rain will also be conducting auditions for the Cats youth ensemble in early December.


The Arts in Australian schools is at a turning point; Australian students now all have an entitlement to education in the five art forms – dance, drama, media arts, music and visual art.


Companies such as Harvest Rain, should be commended for the manner in which they encourage young people to participate in the Arts more fully and to understand how the arts provide unique and valuable ways of making meaning.


Harvest Rain’s motto for 2014 is ‘the stars shine bright in Brisbane’ and if the 2014 launch is any indication, this is indeed the case, as the company adds to their list of the acclaimed artists who have trodden the boards in a Harvest Rain show over the past three decades.


*In 2014, Harvest Rain is giving young amateur performers from across South-East Queensland the opportunity to take part in a large-scale arena presentation of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s CATS, the largest production of the classic musical ever staged in the southern hemisphere.


Australia’s leading lady of musical theatre, Marina Prior, will star as Grizabella in this record breaking production, along with a core cast of professional musical theatre performers (auditions for the professional adult cast will be held in January 2014). Surrounding this cast will be a large youth ensemble made up of over 500 young amateur performers from across South-East Queensland.


If you want to be one of those young performers, then apply to audition today!



Legally Blonde Stars Share Stage Secrets with Students


Wow, I just haven’t had a chance to put this together for the blog until now, but you might remember that a few weeks ago, I arranged with Cinnamon Watson Publicity for leading Australian musical theatre stars Lucy Durack and David Harris to join Patrice Tipoki on stage, to share their hot tips for aspiring performers, and tales of their own theatrical journeys during a special visit to my favourite Sunshine Coast school (you know Sam was a Foundation Student!), Matthew Flinders Anglican College in Buderim. I’m lucky enough to be invited to teach there sometimes so it was the obvious thing! Of course I couldn’t have the students missing out on such a fabulous opportunity! Also, I didn’t want to miss the chance of quickly capturing some pics with these guys on the day. They are always so busy on opening nights and I don’t do the Stage Door Thing anymore either. So even though I think I look generally EXHAUSTED this year (it could be the longer, darker hair. It could also be the lack of restorative sleep), I seized the day and stopped for those shots, along with the most eager students! Thanks to Tully Grimley and Mr Quirk, we now have the pics to prove it…




So it was on an ordinary Monday afternoon, before Year 8 Drama, that I facilitated a Question and Answer session with the stars, which we realised was as valuable to staff as it was to the students so all were made welcome, and even Mr Price managed to pop in! You might have seen the Channel 7 news story, or caught the feature in the Sunshine Coast Daily.


Patrice, a former Flinders student and Music Scholar, was delighted to catch up with her good friends Lucy and David, who are starring in Legally Blonde the Musical, which opens in Brisbane’s Lyric Theatre on Thursday.


Lucy will play leading lady Elle Woods made famous by Hollywood actress Reece Witherspoon, and David will play heart-throb Emmett.



The leads of this year’s Flinders musical, Guys and Dolls, joined other students in the hour-long Q&A session with the theatre stars, hosted in the College’s Performance Centre.


Questions included how the stars discovered their passion for the theatre and tips to help their performances.


While Lucy and Patrice studied together at WAAPA (Western Australia Academy of Performing Arts), David unsuccessfully auditioned for both WAAPA and NIDA (National Institute of Dramatic Art), but then scored a role in The Boy from Oz.


“If one door closes then go knock on another one,” David told his young audience.



David said he first found himself on the stage back in Year 8 when no-one would try out for the school musical.


Drama was just a hobby and he always thought he would become an architect. But after spending just two days at university, David decided that he was destined for a career on stage.


Lucy said when she was at school she did not have such an amazing facility to use as the Performance Centre, however, she found inspiration in her passionate drama and music teachers.


“I was heart-broken when the school musical was over every year,” Lucy said.


Like David, Lucy started a university degree (appropriately, for the role of Elle Woods in Legally Blonde it was Law), but after a semester she was “miserable” and headed back to the theatre.



Lucy, who auditioned for eight months to get the role in Legally Blonde, said some of the best advice she could give to aspiring actors was to learn their lines – “then you can focus on everything else that is going on around you”.


David encouraged the students to find their “spice”. “We all have our individual spice flavour – know what your spice is and use it,” David said.


Patrice, who was one of the youngest to be invited into WAAPA at just 16, encouraged the students to enjoy all the experiences on offer while at school.


Patrice, who graduated from Flinders in 2000, was raised in a musical family and has been performing all her life. Her credits include starring as Nala in The Lion King, We Will Rock You touring Australia and Japan and most recently in the hit musical, Wicked. Patrice has moved back to the Sunshine Coast where she lives with her husband and two young daughters.


Both Patrice and David said their next big dream roles would be from Les Miserables, while Lucy is working on a project and would love to star in that when it is produced.







This article was published originally on

Thanks to Debbie Southern

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