Posts Tagged ‘lucy maunder

28
Jul
18

Beautiful The Carole King Musical

Beautiful The Carole King Musical

Michael Cassel

In Association With Paul Blake, Sony/ATV Music Publishing & Mike Bosner

QPAC Lyric Theatre

July 19 – September 2 2018

 

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

 

 

Beautiful tells the inspirational true story of Carole King’s remarkable rise from teenage songwriter to global superstar. She fought her way into the record business as a schoolgirl but it wasn’t until her personal life began to crack that she finally found her true voice and went on to become one of the most successful solo artists in pop music history.

 

Michael Cassel’s production of Beautiful The Carole King Musical is so extraordinary it’s hard to know where to begin, but let’s make it as simple as possible: right from the outset Beautiful is an exceptional show, inspiring and life-affirming, its magic largely due to its star, the incredibly intuitive and talented performer, Esther Hannaford

 

I’ve hash-tagged #allthesuperlatives on social media and I mean it. Beautiful is the most structurally sound, entertaining and touching show we’ve seen at QPAC since Tim Minchin’s Matilda. In case you’re still a bit Brisbane-centric, it’s worth noting here that Beautiful’s Musical Director, Daniel Edmonds, joins The Book of Mormon’s Blake Bowden in Noosa tonight, to premiere Bowden’s original cabaret Straight From the Hart. With Edmonds at  the helm, both in Brisbane and here by the sea, we can be sure we’re in good hands.

 

Beautiful has garnered so much attention, won so many accolades since its Broadway beginnings, it’s no surprise that at this year’s Helpmann Awards it took out Best Musical, Best Direction of a Musical (Marc Bruni), Best Female Actor in a Musical (Esther Hannaford) and Best Male Actor in a Supporting Role in a Musical (Matt Verevis). 

 

 

The book is witty and funny and at times very moving, with the observations of these wonderful real-life characters laced with intelligent humour and lifting the story out of nostalgia – dangerous territory in a contemporary musical. Written by Douglas McGrath, who notes in an interview that King’s music is infused with her kindness, “marked by forgiveness, compassion and warmth,” the show successfully hones in on the earlier and most essential elements of King’s songwriting story, to give us a glimpse into her world, and the people inhabiting it.

 

As singer-songwriter Carole King, Hannaford is sheer perfection, bringing pure and simple joy, and her own wry humour to the role. Her soaring, stunning vocal work lifts us out of ourselves. Bookended by the title track, the opening and closing scenes reveal either the most convincing acting ever seen on an Australian stage or actually, Hannaford’s whole heart and soul shining through.

 

If you’ve met Hannaford, you’ll know it’s the latter. The woman is that incredible, and honest and humble too. Her higher vibration probably influenced the feeling generally on opening night, with Beautiful premiering in a warm golden glow as opposed to the typical excitable bright white hype that we love…and sometimes love to have a break from. In terms of experiencing live theatre, this is such a soulful night out, I defy anyone to remain unaffected by Beautiful.

 

 

Hannaford skilfully manages the darker aspects of the story too, taking time and at times, allowing a single glistening tear to leave a streak down one cheek as she ponders the deeply troubling aspects of King’s life and the tumultuous relationship with first husband, Gerry Goffin. There’s so much involved here, but for the sake of brevity, as Facebook would suggest, over time the relationship becomes “complicated”. Josh Piterman’s portrayal of Goffin is heartbreaking, encouraging us to consider how much our attitudes towards mental health have changed, if at all. This is another accomplished performance that enamours, challenges and ultimately earns our compassion and understanding.

 

 

Lucy Maunder is a gorgeous, intelligent, sassy Cynthia Weill. She has to be to come up against the brassy confidence and bold advances of Barry Mann (Matt Verevis) and just as quickly fall for him. This pairing is divine casting, creating a completely convincing second songwriting pair who remain together to this day. It seems Maunder can truly turn her hand to anything, and it’s such a joy to see her embody this role with gusto and great comic ability as well as the tenderness of King’s closest friend.

 

Pitch perfect performances also come from Chloe Zuel (Little Eva, the babysitter, gifted Locomotion), Stefanie Caccamo (Betty), and Naomi Price (Marilyn Wald), proving once again that there are no small parts, and in our current musical theatre climate, no small players either. Let’s take a moment to recognise what a thriving, amazing, exciting musical theatre industry we’re enjoying right now!

 

Mike McLeish (Don Kirshner) and Anne Wood (Genie Klein) each bring such attention to detail to their roles, and rounding out the core ensemble, we wish we could see more of them. These are the roles that would be fleshed out for the film version, which – let’s face it – is a no-brainer. Hurry up, Tom Hanks!

 

 

Jason Arrow (Righteous Brother, Neil Sedaka), a recent WAAPA grad in his professional music theatre debut, makes a couple of fantastic and very funny, though all-too-brief appearances, as Neil Sedaka; keep an eye on this one, we’ll be seeing him again and again. As the other, taller Righteous Brother, and also as the lovely Nick, Andrew Cook once again leaves a lasting impression. Some of Nick’s mannerisms seem so familiar that I had to resist asking him after the show if he’d studied our Thomas Larkin in real life, since he was also there and this would have been awkward. Every characterisation is so natural, despite the silliness of some of the songs, testament to the talent on stage and the belief in the story. The Drifters and Little Eva’s Locomotion dancers are hilarious, largely because their every number is a tongue-in-cheek effort to celebrate the music and at the same time, unapologetically laugh in the face of its factory generated bubblegum aftertaste. From the outset, with a fabulous medley of smash hit ditties, we understand that Kirshner was the Stock, Aitken and Waterman, or the Willy Wonka of this musical era, and the Brill Building his chocolate factory. Edmonds’ musical direction takes the accomplished band through the decades, and the design team neatly place us in each location (Set by Derek McLane, Lighting by Peter Kackzorowski, Sound by Brian Ronan, Costumes by Alejo Vietti and not to be overlooked, amazing Wigs & Hair by Charles G. Laponte).

 

Director Marc Bruni has superbly realised McGrath’s take on Carole King’s early career and personal life. The most successful female recording artist of 1971, outselling any album by The Beatles, staying on the charts for six years and selling more than 15 million copies of her award-winning album Tapestry, King’s transformation from an ordinary sixteen year old girl with extraordinary talent, to a successful songwriter and singer in her own right, is an inspiring true tale of destiny, dreams and empowerment. Beautiful is a joyride. We only have to look at Hannaford to see its essence in her smile, and be sure of this show’s lasting impact.

12
Jan
16

Heathers: The Musical

 

Heathers: The Musical

QPAC & Showwork Productions

QPAC Playhouse

January 9 – 17 2015

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

We’re all damaged, we’re all frightened, we’re all freaks but that’s alright.

Eat or be eaten.

Based on the cult film (1988) starring Winona Rider and Christian Slater, Heathers – The Musical received its sold-out developmental premiere in Los Angeles in 2013 after years of development following a concert reading at Joe’s Pub (NYC) in 2010.

Well, fuck me gently with a chainsaw! Heathers: The Musical is outstanding, it’s such a fantastic, timely surprise! After last year’s movies-to-musicals Dirty Dancing and Strictly Ballroom failed to exceed expectations, Trevor Ashley’s Heathers: The Musical succeeds mightily on all levels. Book online and be quick about it because this gorgeous, talented company are only here until January 17.

Whether or not you’ve seen the cult film that inspired the Off-Broadway hit, this show demands your attention. With book, music and lyrics by Laurence O’Keefe (Legally Blonde) and Kevin Murphy (Reefer Madness), Heathers: The Musical brings the microcosm of nauseating, alienating high school life to the stage. Nominated for nine Sydney Theatre Awards, this production originated at Hayes Theatre thanks to a golden ticket from Hayes Theatre Co. (Let’s hope Hayes sends some more world class product our way). It sees cabaret and musical theatre performer Trevor Ashley in the director’s chair for the first time and from the look and feel of this stellar effort it won’t be his last. In fact, Ashley may have found his new calling – this wicked show allows him to flex his creative muscles and really play, stretching to the limit the devilish humour he loves so much. 

A1 production values, cheeky comic interpretation and some exceptional Australian talent means Ashley’s production surpasses the original minimalist attempt at New World Stages. See for yourself.

Heathers_0004_photobyKurtSneddon

The book is fast paced and nicely condensed for the stage, more entertaining than horrifying, not a bad thing in musical theatre. The music is fantastic, easily passing the whistle test, much of it memorable days later. Immediately we hear the same chirpiness and witty extrapolation of Legally Blonde, and the punchy yet haunting sound and style of Next To Normal. It’s a neat blend of pop and rock, basic enough to be broadly accessible, that is, if you’re over the age of 14 and can’t be offended by strong language, intense adult themes and references to alcohol, drugs and guns. That’s right. Don’t know the story? Don’t take the kids. Strangely, Heathers: The Musical doesn’t come with a trigger warning. No pun intended. The story stays true to the original film.

In order to get out of the snobby clique that is destroying her good-girl reputation, an intelligent teen teams up with a dark sociopath in a plot to kill the cool kids.

Heathers_0020_photobyKurtSneddon

Kirby Burgess is Heather #1 – the Almighty Heather Chandler (until the show goes to Melbourne in May, when Lucy Maunder returns to the role), and straight from playing the naive Baby in Dirty Dancing, Burgess effortlessly morphs into the wealthiest, wickedest, cutest bitch from hell…er, high school.

Joined by Libby Asciak (Heather Duke) and Erin Clare (Heather McNamara) the three mean girls appear to be impenetrable. Their slick and sassy Candy Store perfectly introduces them and intimidates…everyone else. But beneath their perfectly preened eighties’ exteriors even the Heathers are damaged, and the real story of how tough high school can be comes through in a surprisingly genuine way, not least within the layers of Clare’s standout Lifeboat, stinging long after the final note fades.

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The phenomenal Jaz Flowers embodies social misfit Veronica Sawyer without needing to channel Winona Ryder or Barrett Wilbert Weed, bringing her unique brand of sass to the role, reminding us (in case you needed reminding) that she’s one of our brightest musical theatre stars. Her renditions of Beautiful, Fight For Me and Dead Girl Walking are powerful, informed, lingering things. Flowers’ energy and careful attention to detail, not to mention her powerhouse vocals, drive the show. Paired with the super tall, super talented Stephen Madsen as the trench coat clad sexy sociopath, the richly textured duets (Our Love Is God, Meant To Be Yours and Seventeen) provide the stuff of a love story so believable that the lines between right and wrong become blurred for us too. 

I just want my high school to be a nice place.

Heathers_0035_photobyKurtSneddon

Of course, our investment in the relationship is largely due to Madsen looking just enough like Slater on stage to win us over even before uttering a word. Freeze Your Brain is silly and funny and seductively sung. Where has this guy been?! Next, he’ll be seen as Richard Loeb in Thrill Me: The Leopold and Loeb Story.

Our love is God. Let’s go get a slushie.

Lauren McKenna shines as Martha – her spotlit solo Kindergarten Boyfriend is tragically, hilariously poignant – but also as Ms Fleming, stealing the show with her all-singing, all-dancing whole school healing session. We’ll see McKenna next in HR’s Hairspray Arena Spectacular in the role that made Flowers famous.

Heathers_0012_photobyKurtSneddon

Vincent Hooper (Ram Sweeney) and Jakob Ambrose (Kurt Kelly) play to the hilt those horny footballers, earning plenty of laughs and little gasps because, well, they’re cute too. N.B. No cows are tipped during this production.

MD Bev Kennedy leads a sensational sounding band (a pity about the opening night mix) and the ensemble shines in The Me Inside of Me, a surprise reprise of the boys’ hilarious number Blue and an even more surprising gospel number, Dead Gay Son. Cameron Mitchell’s choreography throughout is first class. With a beat change and a break up,Yo Girl successfully builds the tension needed during a tricky, speedy denouement. It’s a tough ending to pull off and this production almost succeeds in creating the same level of horror and humour in the original movie scenes before its upbeat Broadway-worthy finale and extended curtain call. Emma Vine’s inspired set design, Gavan Swift’s lighting and Angela White’s cute costumes contribute vivid colour and distinct style.

heathers_redscrunchie

I don’t know how Trevor Ashley made this show happen whilst playing Master of the House Thenadier in Les Mis but he’s done it and he’s done it in the same masterful way. If you miss Heathers here you’ll have to catch it in Melbourne in May, and if you miss it there you should see what you can do to help get it to Broadway. It would be a shame to see Fickman’s underwhelming production go there before Ashley’s does. The red scrunchie should go to Trevor Ashley next. This show wins everything.

29
Aug
13

GREASE

 

GREASE IS STILL THE WORD

 

Guy Frawley caught up with the GREASE gang in the lead up to opening night. Guy loved the show and we did too. I defy anyone to not enjoy it!

You can read Poppy’s Perspective at the end of the week (there is school in the meantime…for us both!).

Now that the show has opened you’d better book! It’s a sell-out!

 

40 years after the first Australian production, producer John Frost is bringing back the “number 1 party musical” for a three-stop tour around Australia. Having opened on Sunday in Brisbane, the show is set to run for several weeks at QPAC’s Lyric Theatre before opening in Sydney (October 13th) and Melbourne (January 2nd).

 

The current version of the much loved musical is a direct transfer from London’s West End and explodes onto the stage with dazzling sets, bright costumes and a cast so bursting with energy and enthusiasm it’s impossible to look away. From the moment the band strikes up with the first bars until well after the show is over you’ll be humming along to the familiar soundtrack and wishing there was a re-wind button to give you the chance to relive the numbers over and over again.

 

We all know the songs and the story (whose childhood didn’t include endless reruns of the Paramount film?) and I’m sure that most of you will have seen the show before in a previous incarnation. But it’s the cast that keeps this show fresh and will keep you cheering for more when the final curtain closes.

 

Rob-Mills-new2

 

Like John Travolta and Richard Gere who both made their break into professional theatre with minor roles in Grease before winning the role of Danny, Rob Mills was first seen in Grease back in the 2005 Arena Spectacular as Johnny Casino.

“It was great fun, but I always wanted to be a T-Bird during that production!” said Mills about his previous role.

 

After a month of rehearsals it’s obvious how excited both Rob Mills and Gretel Scarlet (Sandy) are to be playing to a live audience “I think just having the first audience in has been the highlight for me so far” he enthused and Scarlet was quick to agree “It’s just getting better and better every show…. We rely a lot on the audience in this show for comedy, for fun, for the vibe so it’s great to get out there on stage and to feel like we’re upping the ante each time.”

 

Gretel-Scarlett-Colour1

 

This is the sixth time that Frost has produced Grease and it looks like he has the casting down to a fine art, with the production crew assembling a cast, each and every one of whom appears to have been born to play their roles. They might make it look effortless on stage, but Gretel Scarlet makes it clear that winning their roles was no small feat “It was intense, my audition went over two weeks and 5 or 6 call backs…there was a panel of 10 producers and it kept going and going from there, it was a big process!”.

 

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Bert Newton as Vince Fontaine, Val Lehman as Miss Lynch, Anthony Callea as Johnny Casino and Todd McKenney as Teen Angel have all been cast for star power and they all shine as brightly as you’d expect. McKenney as Teen Angel especially brought the house down in Beauty School Dropout leaving the audience screaming with applause, moments after they’d been screaming with laughter.

 

There are just 6 weeks of shows left before Grease must close in Brisbane and move south, tickets a selling fast so hand jive onto the QPAC website and book yourself tickets to the best rock’n’roll party in town.

 

25
Mar
13

Grease is the word!

Grease

GREASE is still the word, as Australian theatre producer John Frost yesterday revealed the cast and tour dates for his new multi-million dollar production of GREASE, which will open as an Australian premiere at the Queensland Performing Arts Centre (QPAC) on 27 August 2013.

 

In the lead roles of Danny and Sandy are musical theatre favourite Rob Mills and rising star Gretel Scarlett. Rob Mills made a name for himself in musical theatre performing Fiyero in the Broadway blockbuster Wicked in Melbourne and Sydney for two years, and will join GREASE after starring as Warner Huntington III in the hit musical Legally Blonde in Brisbane and Melbourne. Gretel Scarlett, who is a Queenslander, has played support roles in Wicked and Mamma Mia! and is excited to take on her first starring role.

 

Bert Newton returns to his radio roots to play the role of slick veteran disc jockey Vince Fontaine, while Todd McKenney dusts off his dancing shoes to star as Teen Angel, the good-looking, falsetto-voiced, Fabian lookalike. The role of All-American, rock-star student at Rydell High, Johnny Casino, has gone to Anthony Callea, returning to the musical theatre stage after success in Rent and Wicked.

 

Rizzo, the leader of the Pink Ladies, will be played by Lucy Maunder (Dr Zhivago, The Threepenny Opera), and Kenickie will be played by Stephen Mahy (Jersey Boys, I Will Survive). The cast also includes Francine Cain (Frenchy), Chris Durling (Doody), Sam Ludeman (Sonny), Duane McGregor (Roger) and Laura Murphy (Jan).

 

GREASE is one of my favourite musicals, and with this top draw cast of musical theatre stars I have no doubt it will again be everyone’s favourite party musical,” John Frost said.

 

John Frost continued “I’m thrilled that Rob Mills will be our Danny, straight from his success in Legally Blonde, and that we have found a new leading lady in Gretel Scarlett. Both Rob and Gretel gave sensational auditions, and our UK creative team knew instantly that they were the ideal Danny and Sandy. And it’s wonderful again to be working with the wonderful Todd McKenney, the talented Anthony Callea and, for our sixth musical together, the irrepressible Bert Newton. What can I say about this cast – You’re The One That I Want!”

 

GREASE will open at QPAC’s Lyric Theatre Brisbane on August 27, with seasons to follow at the Sydney Lyric Theatre from October 13, and at her Majesty’s Theatre, Melbourne from January 2, 2014.

 

Grease. Image by Damian Shaw.

GREASE is the Number One Party musical, featuring all the unforgettable songs from the hit movie including You’re The One That I Want, Grease Is The Word, Summer Nights, Hopelessly Devoted To You, Sandy, Greased Lightnin’ and many more.

 

So get ready to dust off your leather jackets, pull on your bobby-socks and take a trip to a simpler time as ‘bad boy’ Danny and ‘the girl next door’ Sandy fall in love all over again.

 

Tickets on sale from Monday 8 April at 9.00am. To book go to www.qpac.com.au or phone 136 246