Posts Tagged ‘melissa western

03
Jun
18

BARE

 

BARE

Understudy Productions

Brisbane Powerhouse Visy Theatre

May 25 – June 3 2018

 

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

 

 

BARE in Sydney in 2010 was the first time I’d experienced a professional looking and sounding high school production; it was a fast, shocking, moving show, which Kris Stewart included in that year’s Fringe Festival. It featured a well-trained and super talented young cast, including a couple of triple threats who went on to attend WAAPA. Understudy’s production has its moments, and it certainly doesn’t lack talent (when Oscar’s not playing, Alexander Woodward’s Understudy Productions always attracts the best that Brisbane has to offer), but it’s largely Shaun Kohlman’s show. As seen early in the piece, in Role of a Lifetime, as Peter, the co-ed Catholic schoolboy who falls in love with his best friend, Kohlman captures every nuance of a young gay man in love and in turmoil; he’s completely captivating. Playing opposite him as Jason, the popular athlete and charming leading man in the school’s production of Romeo and Juliet, Jason Bentley, with soapie good looks, strong presence, his genuine connection with both the male and female love interests in the story, and his part in the boys’ beautiful duet (Best Kept Secret) can be forgiven for the apparent anomaly of a singular over-the-top anguished moment. I’d prefer to see this underplayed, or managed slightly differently, perhaps giving us less time to question the authenticity and impulse behind his overwhelming emotion. It’s a choice, a Stella moment, and a tough one to sell. 

 

 

Other than a quick, very much appreciated nod to the social and political climate of New Farm, other additions or amendments to the book go unnoticed. It’s a pretty ordinary book. Despite its dated, flimsy feel, at the core of the show’s universal themes are the current local pangs of real-life wounds, still raw, and the knowledge that so many individuals in our communities fight even now for their right to be accepted by family, friends, colleagues, corporations and institutions, despite the big picture success of the yes vote.

 

Claire, and Ivy, played by ABC weather woman Jenny Woodward and Jordan Malone respectively, are considered by others to be perfectly cast. For me, Woodward’s most affecting work is during the heart-wrenching phone call with her son (See Me). Even so, she doesn’t quite go to the edge, and the first phone call at the end of Auditions gives no indication of her long-held maternal suspicion about her son’s sexual preferences, a missed opportunity. Malone’s Portrait of a Girl rings truer than All Grown Up, which is a little forced and nevertheless appears to leave other hearts aching, those hearts having assured me after the show that for them it was raw and emotional and real. Fair enough. We’re probably in agreement over Melissa Western being a pretty fierce and funny Sister Charlotte, delivering razor-sharp one-liners to bring the house down and at the same time, showing genuine sensitivity and concern for the wellbeing of her students. But the music is written for a voice that doesn’t need to flip into a lighter top soprano, and a misguided wardrobe decision makes a distraction of a pair of black pantyhose and a bodysuit in what would otherwise be a sensational Jesus Christ Superstar/Like A Prayer proper gospel number. While Western is the most accomplished performer on stage and delightful in this role, it’s hard to be a sassy and sophisticated Mother Mary in an 80s inspired blue sequinned bodysuit! (Design Raymond Milner). 

 

Sarah Whalen’s Nadia is sadly, beautifully vulnerable beneath her tough and entertaining exterior, and her singing is spot on. Jonathan Hickey (Matt) and Trent Owers (Lucas) also offer convincing performances with Owers’ rap and his unassuming part in the tragic end to the tale making his character a lighthouse for entrepreneurial kids everywhere.

 

The company largely comprises Queensland Conservatorium graduates and they bring with them their gorgeous contemporary vocal style, which boasts a more naturalistic tone and approach, in case you haven’t gotten out much lately and still expect to hear a big Broadway belt in a Brisbane show. (You can hear it in abundance when Patti LuPone comes to QPAC). It’s a refreshing pop-rock sound, brilliant for our performers, who need to be as versatile as possible in an increasingly competitive industry. In fact, the ensemble’s vocal work is stunning from beginning (Epiphany) to end (No Voice, a stirring, inspiring finish), with precision harmonies and a heartfelt message a joy to hear. 

 

 

Stunningly, simply lit by Daniel Anderson, the action takes place beneath abstract stained glass windows and a white cross, putting us firmly beneath these brightly coloured symbols of the ever-watchful eyes of God. Or is it a cruel joke, as God turns a blind eye? All the questions are asked and painfully, the old-school priest offers only Old Testament answers. James Shaw is rather wasted in this role after his impressive performance in RENT but then who else would do just enough here, just as beautifully?

 

Luke Volker (MD and keys) leads a tight band, hidden from sight but who make their presence felt, particularly with the inspired inclusion of cellist, Kate Robinson. Contemporary pop choreography by Madison Lee makes every company number a Britney Spears’ video, with the angst and frustrated aggression of a couple of these numbers, including Confession, suiting some performers better than others. Variations in tempo and dynamic make the rave scene’s Rolling multi-layered and more visually exciting than anticipated. Director, Sue Rider, manages with more aplomb and sensitivity than at other times, these tricky transitions between music video moments and the continuing drama. 

 

BARE is a polished and emotionally charged production, thanks to the high calibre of artists on stage and off, and it feels like the next stepping stone for this ambitious company. It was an ideal inclusion in this year’s MELT Festival program. The too-brief season concludes tonight with an extra performance due to solid bookings before the show had even opened. We are clearly craving more of this style of work, and happy to embrace the stories selected by savvy young indie producers as our own. I can’t wait to see what Woodward does with his Spring Awakening (we saw Oscar do it best in 2011). Book early for it because going by the general response, Understudy Productions continues to challenge and satisfy both artists and audiences. 

 

 

ONE HEART

ONE LOVE

ONE LOVE, ONE LIGHT

ONE LIGHT, ONE TRUTH

ONE TRUTH, ONE LIFE

ONE VOICE

 

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07
Jun
17

Seven On Sinatra

 

Seven on Sinatra

Brisbane Powerhouse

Brisbane Powerhouse Theatre

Friday June 2

 

Reviewed by Katy Cotter

 

 

American singer Frank Sinatra was one of the most popular and influential music artists of the 20th Century. He sold more than 150 million records worldwide and was the recipient of eleven Grammy Awards, including the Grammy Trustees Award, Grammy Legend Award and the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.

 

Sinatra was a class act, making the ladies swoon and men wish they were as suave and charismatic.

 

Under the musical direction of Tnee Dyer, seven of Brisbane’s finest female singers took to the stage to honour Sinatra’s incredible legacy. The Powerhouse Theatre was packed, and with cabaret seating set out, there was a buzz of excitement in the air. Being born in the 80s (I’m proud to admit it), I am no Sinatra expert and I entered the show without expectations. By the end I was bopping in my seat, singing along, surprised at how many songs sounded familiar.

 

What I love about music is its ability to transport you through time and space. When listening to songs like Fly Me to the Moon and I’ve Got You Under My Skin, memories were conjured of my mum dancing and humming in the kitchen as she listened to the wireless. And hearing They Can’t Take That Away from Me I remembered being a teenager watching the movie Corrina Corrina over and over.

 

The set list included all the hits and the band was exceptional. The joy of listening to a swing or jazz band is tuning into those often surprising, intricate moments that showcase each instrument. There is a subtly between each transition. At one time the audience is engrossed with the lyrics, then the piano is the focus, and slowly a glorious crescendo of the trombone sneaks into your ear. I was filled with a warm and fuzzy feeling. Other times it was all go-go-go, with a hot to trot, get out of your seat, let’s dance kind of energy. The lighting design was amazing and lifted the performance again, with cool blues, booming reds, and sensual greens.            

Now to the seven ladies… Apart from the talented Liz Buchanan, who sang with such elegance and poise, I had not seen the other women perform. It was opening night (and sadly the only night) so there were some nerves shown by some at the beginning of songs. Jo Doyle had a smile from ear to ear and was a pleasure to watch as she weaved through the audience and danced with the band. Jacqui Devereux was clearly known and beloved by the audience who praised her with roaring applause. The beautiful Claire Walters was in her element; her voice was pure romance, making my eyes wander… “Could my love be here?” The vocal range of Bethan Ellsmore was otherworldly. She was a musical siren, seducing the audience back in time to 1930s New Orleans. Bombshell! Rebecca Grennan was an absolute delight and one of my favourites. She was cheeky and flirty, and the girl can dance! I did not want her to leave the stage. 

 

Two words. Melissa Western. This is a name you need to remember. One of Sinatra’s idols, Tony Bennett, said that Frank had “perfected the art of intimacy.” Western seemed to be channelling the man himself. Her performance was utterly captivating, wooing the audience with every word. Jaws dropped as she sang My Way. If she has a solo show, I need to know about it because she is dynamite.

 

 

 

 

(Melissa Western’s Gig Guide is here).

 

I thoroughly enjoyed Seven on Sinatra. This show was the perfect homage to the man and the music. 

28
Feb
17

Matilda Awards 2016

Matilda Award Winners 2016

 

thewiderearth

 

Last week the Matilda Awards took place for the first time at Brisbane Powerhouse. Queensland artists were celebrated in a dazzling awards ceremony directed by Kris Stewart, and hosted by Melissa Western and Dash Kruck.

The committee has wanted to raise the bar for a little while now, and put on a highly entertaining and social event that honours our artists in a way that can be more genuinely felt by all in attendance (and by all those playing at home). Industry feedback has been very positive and the committee, working collaboratively with the newly appointed executive committee, will continue to consider suggestions from the artists and companies whom these awards were designed to celebrate. In 2016 the committee attended a record number of shows and added an award category to recognise physical theatre and circus arts in 2017 and beyond.

Thanks to ongoing Arts Queensland and Brisbane City Council funding, and an ever widening circle of fantastic supporters, the Matilda Awards and the annual ceremony can continue to evolve.

(Missing from pic, below, are committee members James, Baz and Elise). More pics on Instagram and Facebook. Search #matildas16

 

matildaawards2017

 

GOLD MATILDA AWARD

Dead Puppet Society celebrating their exceptional body of work.

SILVER MATILDA AWARDS

Best Mainstage Production

Bastard Territory, Queensland Theatre Company and JUTE Theatre Company
George’s Marvellous Medicine, shake & stir theatre co and QPAC
Switzerland, Queensland Theatre Company
The Wider Earth, Queensland Theatre Company and Dead Puppet Society

Best Independent Production

Carrie: The Musical, Brisbane Powerhouse and Wax Lyrical Productions
Hanako, Brisbane Festival, Brisbane Powerhouse and Belloo Creative
True West, Brisbane Powerhouse, Troy Armstrong Management, Thomas Larkin and Annette Box
Viral, Shock Therapy Productions

 

carrie_bestmusical2016

 

Best Musical or Cabaret

Carrie: The Musical, Brisbane Powerhouse and Wax Lyrical Productions
Hairspray, Harvest Rain Theatre Company
Terror Australis, Brisbane Powerhouse and Leah Shelton
Snow White, La Boite, Opera Queensland and Brisbane Festival

Best New Australian Work

Bastard Territory, Stephen Carleton
St Mary’s in Exile, David Burton
The Wider Earth, David Morton
Viral, Sam Foster & Hayden Jones

Best Director

Caroline Dunphy, Motherland
Ian Lawson, Bastard Territory
David Morton, The Wider Earth
Zoë Tuffin, Carrie: The Musical

Best Male Actor

Matthew Backer, Switzerland
Sam Foster, Viral
Benhur Helwend, Bastard Territory
Thomas Larkin, True West

Best Supporting Male Actor

Julian Curtis, True West
Jackson McGovern, American Buffalo
John McNeill, Endgame
Silvan Rus, Twelfth Night
Steven Tandy, Bastard Territory

Bille Brown Award for Best Emerging Artist

Masako Mizusawa, Hanako
Sophie Perkins, Carrie: The Musical
Paige Poulier, Twelfth Night
Emily Weir, Tartuffe

Best Female Actor

Kerith Atkinson, A Slight Ache
Andrea Moor, Switzerland
Sophie Perkins, Carrie: The Musical
Kimie Tsukakoshi, Hanako

Best Supporting Female Actor

Jennifer Flowers, Endgame
Libby Munro, Disgraced
Paige Poulier, Twelfth Night
Emily Weir, Tartuffe

Best Set Design

Aaron Barton & David Morton, The Wider Earth
Georgina Greenhill, American Buffalo
Leah Shelton, Terror Australis
Anthony Spinaze, Switzerland

Best Costume Design

David Morton & Aaron Barton, The Wider Earth
Kris Bird, Bastard Territory
Karen Cochet, Snow White
Jessica Haack, Twelfth Night
Josh McIntosh, George’s Marvellous Medicine
Leah Shelton, Terror Australis

Best Lighting Design

Jason Glenwright, Carrie: The Musical
Jason Glenwright, The Tragedy of King Richard III
Ben Hughes, Switzerland
David Walters, The Wider Earth

Best Sound Design / Composition

Dane Alexander, Hanako
Tony Brumpton (Sound Design), Lior & Tony Buchen (Composition), The Wider Earth
Rob Pensalfini & Silvan Rus, Twelfth Night
Steve Toulmin, Switzerland

Best Audio Visual Design

Tiffany Atkin & John Grist, Hanako
Justin Harrison (AV Design) & Anna Straker (Illustration), The Wider Earth
optikal bloc, Terror Australis
Nathan Sibthorpe, Viral

 

krissteart_rosemarywalker_matildawards2016

 

matildaawards_credits2016




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