Posts Tagged ‘JRB

18
Jul
13

Songs For a New World: Sunshine Coast Premiere Tonight

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Songs For a New World opens at The Lind Tonight!

 

How excitement! The Tipokis have teamed up, synched calendars and produced Jason Robert Brown’s Songs For a New World for the Sunshine Coast! Actually, I suspect it’s for a national tour, but we’re happy here being the outta’ town try-out audience. I hope it will go everywhere so you get to experience it too!

 

The show opens tonight at The Lind in Nambour, and Sam and I will see it tomorrow night.

 

In the meantime, I’ve been reading what Scott Miller had to say about the show.

 

One of the characters in Songs for a New World says “I don’t want to philosophize. I just want to tell a story.” And that line describes Songs for a New World perfectly; in fact, it tells a whole collection of stories. It’s not a book musical – there is no over-arching plot and no consistent characters throughout the evening. In its construction, it owes much toJacques Brel is Alive and Well and living in Paris and the theatre experiments of the 1960s. It’s a collection of independent scene-songs but it’s also more than that. In a 1998 review in St. Louis’ Riverfront Times, Mike Isaacson wrote, “Songs for a New World is that very rare beast: an abstract musical. There is no specific location other than the natural ambiguity of the human heart and mind.” And yet it has a very strong sense of unity about it. Even though many of these songs were actually written for other projects over the span of several years, this show feels like it was planned as a unified whole from the beginning.

 

It accomplishes this mainly because every song in the show is essentially about the same thing: those moments in life when everything seems perfect and then suddenly disaster strikes, in the form of the loss of a job, an unexpected pregnancy, the death of a loved one, the end of a marriage, imprisonment, even suicide. But it’s even more about surviving those moments. It’s about the way we regroup and figure out how to survive in a new set of circumstances – a new world – even against seemingly overwhelming odds. These are songs about that new world, a world in which the definitions of family, distance, money, technology, the very nature of human contact is changing every day, a world in which the rules don’t apply as often as they do, a world in which the solutions our parents found don’t work for us, and a world in which today’s answers probably won’t apply tomorrow. For someone who has lost his job or lost a spouse, our everyday world becomes just as frightening, just as dangerous, just as uncharted as the New World was to Columbus.

 

The other thing that lends unity to this show is composer Jason Robert Brown’s musical habits. There are a handful of rhythmic, melodic, and accompaniment patterns that he obviously likes and that he uses frequently throughout the show. And because he wrote the opening number last, most of these patterns are gathered together in the opening to provide a nice musical framework for the evening. Also, the melody and sometimes the lyric of the opening are used throughout the show as transition pieces and even occasionally show up within other songs.

 

This is one of my fave songs from the show. I can’t wait to hear all of these incredible songs performed live by this awesome cast!

 

 

 

 

And how did the show come to be? Mr Miller can tell us.

 

Composer/lyricist Jason Robert Brown came to New York City at age twenty, determined to write Broadway musicals. Because he had no contacts or connections, he decided to do a cabaret show of songs he had written for various past projects. He had the good fortune to run into Daisy Prince, daughter of the legendary Broadway director/producer Hal Prince, at a piano bar where Brown was working. Out of the blue, Brown asked Daisy Prince to direct this show he was putting together, having no idea if she had ever directed anything before in her life. She agreed immediately. They worked on the material for three years but still had no opening number and no clear idea what the show was about. As they discarded existing songs, Brown wrote new ones. Finally it hit him. In his own words,

 

“It’s about one moment. It’s about hitting the wall and having to make a choice, or take a stand, or turn around and go back.”

 

They did a workshop of the show in Toronto, and then it was brought to the WPA Theatre in New York where it played a limited run of twenty-eight performances. The score was recorded in 1996 by RCA and released commercially. In 1998, Brown was given his first Big Time assignment – writing the score for the new musicalParade, opening at Lincoln Center in the fall of 1998, with a book by Alfred Uhry (Driving Miss Daisy) and directed by Daisy’s dad, the legendary Hal Prince. Up until this point, Brown had done a lot of work writing orchestrations and vocal arrangements for other people’s musicals (including William Finn’s A New Brain) but now it was time for him to get the spotlight and no doubt he will become one of the strongest new musical theatre writers of this generation.

 

Starring Patrice Tipoki Arkins, Kuki Tipoki, Jennifer Vuletic and Mark Doggett, and Musically Directed by Laura Tipoki Songs For a New World runs for a strictly limited season July 18th – July 20th 7pm and a matinee on Saturday July 20th 2pm.

Book online or call 07 54411 814

 

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01
Jun
13

The Boat & Big Rig Casanova

 

The Boat & Big Rig Casanova

Lind Lane Theatre

24th May – 1st June 2013

 

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

 

The Boat

by Jill Shearer

 

Directed by Anne Grant

Featuring Ray Paine, Denise Hauville, Sean McBride & Kathryn Barnes

 

Confident direction and a decent exploration of Jill Shearer’s affecting text about a family man who is retrenched isn’t enough to send it skimming across the waves to us, but The Boat drifts along nicely for a while, and reveals a new creative force in Director, Anne Grant.

 

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In the little Lind Lane Theatre foyer, Grant provides terrific detail about absurdist theatre, for those who are unfamiliar with the genre, and a copy of the heartfelt tribute to Shearer, which David Berthold wrote at the time of her passing in 2012. It’s lovely to know that the production will be re-staged in the Seaside Museum on Bribie Island, where Shearer originally imagined the play, in a twilight performance on June 9th.

 

Sel (Ray Paine) sets up his reality confidently, without question, and the wife (Denise Hauville) and son (Sean McBride) support him in it just long enough to make sure we’ve invested too. A neat theatrical convention – an excellent choice – allows us time to process the unlikely image before us, which is a boat in the middle of a living room. Shearer’s is poignant, perfect writing, beautifully realised, and losing nothing until the introduction of the son’s girlfriend (Kathryn Barnes), which leads to a climax that seems undermined by some awkward moments. The naturalistic delivery style gets a little lost in the water at this stage, but on a special note; for his theatrical debut, Paine shines in this production.


The Boat
sets out from the shore strongly, and suffers a little as it suddenly loses the wind from its sails, but I did enjoy it, and I can imagine it will feel just perfect in the Seaside Museum. If you can catch it there, on June 9th, go see Grant’s production of Jill Shearer’s The Boat for yourself.

 

 

Big Rig Casanova

by David Haviland

 

Directed by David Haviland

featuring Michael Healy, David Haviland, Kirsty White, Julian White & Rex Halverson

 

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As with any new, unheralded thing, one goes in slightly wary, but there was no need for any misgivings about David Haviland’s Big Rig Casanova; it’s an entertaining, amusing and mysterious plot-driven piece that gives us a unique Australian story, a couple of good outback characters, and an upbeat song to boot! It feels like it wants to be a bigger show, something on the scale of Bob Cat Dancing perhaps?! Just imagine!

 

With projected images of a painted sunburnt country scene – picture an army of anthills and a windmill under various shades of blazing sun and sunsets – and minimal set pieces, we settle into an empty, eerie, outback out-station that hides away an artistic soul and his alter ego (some might say “muse”) from the harsh reality of the exterior, the “real world”. Colin Grevett  and Josh Wilson (Lighting & Sound) have contributed a distinct, almost hollow ambience to this production. It’s just right. With an odd assortment of additional characters to lead us, eventually, in the right direction, we see the pieces of the puzzle fall into place and start to understand the man…and a little bit about what it must be like to live alone in an ancient sacred place. I’d love to hear more about the spiritual aspects of the setting; the Indigenous aspect of the tale is so alluring and could easily help to raise the stakes when developed further. It seems a stronger character piece than perhaps first intended (or at least, advertised), but there’s a high-stakes sub-plot begging to be explored.

 

I look forward to seeing more from Haviland, and whether or not anything more is done with his Big Rig Casanova.

 

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Tonight is the final performance of the two one-act plays at Lind Lane Theatre but there’s certainly some must-sees coming up, among them, JRB’s superb Songs for a New World, produced by The Tipokis and starring Patrice Tipoki Arkins, Kuki Arkins, Jennifer Vuletic and Mark Doggett, together with Musical Director Laura Tipoki. I cannot begin to tell you how excited I am about this production!

 

Book early because SONGS FOR A NEW WORLD WILL SELL OUT!

 

24
May
11

The Last 5 Years & The Young Ones

So. As well as recovering from the flu and throwing a great big party in the park for my four-turning-five year old, I saw two local community theatre productions on the weekend. One delivered on all of its promises. The other did not.

As far as I can see, for about the last five years, some of our community theatres have struggled with identity, committee structure and processes, programming, membership, marketing and dwindling audience numbers. On the Sunshine Coast, we currently have 9 groups operating and the potential for about 12.

People are involved in community theatre for all sorts of reasons. People attend community theatre productions for all sorts of reasons. When a community theatre group actually goes ahead and, on the strength of its conviction and collective ambition and determination, delivers the great, fun show that it said it would, it is refreshing to say the least! I’m referring to the Australian Premiere of The Young Ones, which is in the middle of a three week run in Coolum.

The Coolum Theatre Players have had new life breathed into them, by newcomer, Julia Loaney. I met Julia before the matinee on Sunday. What an absolute delight this woman is! When her long-term friend, Helen Rimanic (Director), approached her about staging this brand new (British, obviously) jukebox musical, Julia’s immediate thoughts were to do with enticing new, young people to their theatre. And it’s worked. Having worked, in various capacities, with just a few of the performers, it was terrific to see so many new faces on stage. And they look great! Some of those minis are undoubtedly the real thing; vintage PVC specimens! There is definitely some talent there. The trick will be to lure it all back for the next one!

The ensemble sound was good; the parts were solid (Musical Director Vivienne Ellis), though, I will admit, it was extremely disappointing to see The Shadows mime playing their instruments as we listened to backing tracks, rather than enjoy a live band play on stage. Apparently, finding musicians who’ll give up their weekend gigs for the love of community theatre is proving just as difficult as it has always been. I guess I’ll have to keep putting off our plans to stage The Existents!

There were some great dance sequences throughout (Choreography Mandy Masterson) and it was good to see so many boys dancing confidently and competently. Whilst the look of the show is a little underdone, in terms of staging and managing people (particularly in the busy ensemble scenes and the transitions between them), the pace a little lacklustre and only the slightest attempt made to create genuine characters and relationships (luckily, the characters are written pretty thinly), overall, this is a terribly penned show done pretty well! Really! The book is terrible! And you thought Summer Holiday was corny?!

Actually, I’m pretty sure my mum (and we kids) always loved this film and what’s more, I’m pretty sure she still has a major crush on Sir Cliff! Despite its flaws, just like the original film was able to do, this show had us smiling and clapping along. I was pleased to observe that most of the matinee audience enjoyed it too (incidentally, the houses have been great, averaging 150 per performance, which must be a reflection of a number of factors, which Coolum Theatre Players have addressed recently, in order to pick up the ball again). Had the cast given us a whole lot more energy, I’m sure we would have been up and dancing too, to hits such as Livin’ Doll and Do You Wanna Dance? Unfortunately, there has been some illness and just like in any community theatre group, these are ordinary people, who can’t take time off to recover while the understudy steps in. Everybody involved in community theatre either works or studies and the theatrical ventures must fit into their already busy lives.

This is a group with enormous potential in its midst and I’m glad to see the community supporting them by attending in droves. The Young Ones is not a show that will challenge you on any level but you will, quite simply, be entertained by fresh, new, young, enthusiastic performers who have found, in Coolum Theatre Players, a stepping stone that will lead, for a good number of them, to a more serious playing field…if that is what they seek. If not, then may they continue having fun and meeting new friends in colourful musical productions that are genuinely appreciated by local audiences. All sorts. So many reasons. There is certainly a place for fun, entertaining theatre that brings new people to the stage and new audiences through the doors.

There is also a place for the more ambitious performing artists to continuously work on developing their skills and their repertoire if that is what they desire…currently, that place is not Lind Lane Theatre. Without going into the petty politics, which unfortunately seem rife in community theatre (and in any community group, sure), this production of The Last 5 Years was never going to work. Well, let’s qualify that because I – unlike others I know – was prepared to give these guys the benefit of the doubt.

If Jason Robert Brown had written The Last 5 Years as a one-man show, it might have worked superbly, due to the hard work and talent of Rowan Howard. However, as a two-hander, this production hasn’t been given a chance; as opposed to the inspired casting of Howard, a newcomer to Lind Lane Theatre, the role of Cathy is the result of completely misguided casting. And therein lays the penultimate problem of this production. I’m sorry to say I predicted it and I was desperately hoping, even up to the first strains of the opening song, that I would be proved wrong. Sadly – for all involved – during the first 16 bars we had already realised that we were in for a long night. In a much-loved, highly anticipated one-act musical! Seriously, it’s one of my favourite shows ever; how dare they get it so wrong! What we have in this production is the result of a self-indulgent decision made by slightly deluded committee members and in that, a missed opportunity and a real shame for at least one of the directors, who had good intentions from the outset…as well as some notion of what it is to be a director. Further to that, if you insist on staging JRB in a community context, do the man the courtesy of practising those songs on that piano until your fingers BLEED.

I look forward to seeing what Co-Director, Russell Morgan, chooses to get involved with after this experience and also, what Howard decides to tackle next, after giving us a convincing portrayal of Jamie Wellerstein. His renditions of Moving Too Fast, A Miracle Would Happen and Nobody Needs to Know showed us that he is a perceptive and intelligent performer with a much broader scope than one would have imagined. There are many more performers like him, who (unlike him) are all too familiar with the recent history (and histrionics) and will wait for the changing of the guard before setting foot in that lovely little theatre space again. What a great loss for so many theatre enthusiasts on the Sunshine Coast.

I look forward to seeing what they – and other community theatre groups – have programmed for 2012, at the inaugural Sunshine Coast Theatre Alliance Season Launch Soiree! That’s right! How excitement! Details to come…