Posts Tagged ‘MELT

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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03
Jun
18

Turbine

 

Turbine

Collusion Music & Dance Ensemble

Brisbane Powerhouse

May 23 – 26 2018

 

Reviewed by Ruth Ridgway

 

Turbine began life as a meditation on masculinity, climate change and marriage equality. We sought to build a team, a community, and see how it functioned …

Turbine looks into ourselves, our histories and our heritages … It is an exploration of our personal and creative identities …

Gareth Belling, Choreographer

 

Turbine is about struggling with identity so the music needed to be disparate things, coming together. So I looked for broken things. Tarnished, old – with their own sound …

It’s not often when I’m really lost about whether to categorise a work of mine as coming from Praxis Axis or ‘actual me’. This is one of those times: 19th century late romanticism curiously entwined with 21st century glitch and industrial.

Thomas Green, Composer

 

 

Collusion Music & Dance Ensemble’s latest chamber ballet, Turbine, was created for this year’s MELT Festival, an annual celebration of Brisbane’s queer communities, presented by the Brisbane Powerhouse. It explores power and vulnerability, the revealing of identity, being true to oneself, and relating freely and honestly to others.

 

While Turbine started out as a work about gay male identity, choreographer Gareth Belling said in publicity for the show that he and his team realised that issues of power, identity, marginalisation and equality are relevant to all of us.

 

The strength and intensity of the work are heightened by the small performance space of the Turbine Studio, the closeness of the three dancers and three musicians to the audience, and their power and focus. The audience is seated on two opposite sides of the performance space, on the same floor level as the performers. This brings us very close to some very high-energy movement.

 

The dancers (Belling, Michael Smith and Jacob Watton) are a powerful combination. They meet the challenge of this endurance test of a work, but they are sweating and panting by the end.

 

The movement includes many demanding lifts, patterns of throwing, falling, catching and supporting each other, and crashing to the floor, interspersed with moments of tenderness, passion, and complex intertwining of limbs and bodies – in one case, the three bodies interlink and open like a flower. Early in the piece, out-of-sync robotic movement and tinkling fractured music create the effect of broken creatures.

 

The dancers wear black ‘stubbies’ shorts and navy-blue singlets – starkly effective and accentuating the masculine energy of the movement. They also don modified red bike helmets at times – not just on the head, but placed over the face – to represent the masks/armour/shells we all hide behind. The helmets are visually dramatic and transform the dancers into groping, insect-like beings.

 

The impressions of the dancers that stayed in my mind are not only of their athleticism and commitment, but of the characters they portray – Watton projecting a sense of tenderness, hope and openness, Belling an intensity and suppressed anger, and Smith a sense of unhappiness and vulnerability.

 

 

The live music envelops us throughout the performance. Composer Thomas Green (eye-catching in bright red overalls) manages the electronics, and violinists Benjamin Greaves and Camille Barry produce some lush and romantic sound, intensifying at times to wild stridency, or dying away to gentle softness.

 

Green has incorporated the sounds of ‘broken things’ in his composition, including old toys, a music box, and prepared piano. Its mixture of electronic sounds, rich strings, fractured tinkling tunes, and dance music (including a darkly passionate cha cha) swing between joy, passion, tenderness, sadness, darkness and light. The lighting also creates these moods, varying from a red glow, to very bright light exposing the audience (a disconcerting feeling), to darkness lit by a dancer wearing a headlamp.

 

Turbine is a powerful work that makes a big impact. The music and dance complement each other, neither overshadowed by the other.

 

Its title is apt, in that turbines move continuously to produce power (and also, I’m guessing, in its association with the Powerhouse). I’m not sure how it relates to identity, however.

 

At just over an hour long, Turbine could perhaps be pruned a little towards the end to remedy a loss of impetus. A climactic moment about three-quarters of the way through heralded a possible ending. There was a feeling of anticlimax as the performance regrouped, building to another climax and winding down to finish with soft, poignant chords.

 

27
Jan
17

A Night at the Musicals

 

A Night At The Musicals

Brisbane Powerhouse and Strut & Fret Production House

Brisbane Powerhouse Visy Theatre

January 25 – 29 2017

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

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MELT Festival exploded onto the Brisbane scene this week with its iconic pastel inflatable icy poles, brightly coloured cocktails, stilettos galore, a glitter cannon and a wall of 100 naked men.

 

Joel Devereux’s FOODP*RN is a photographic exhibition of perfectly plated portions of nude males, all thoroughly enjoying an array of condiments and special treats. What I can only imagine was a series of very messy shoots, smothered in chocolate sauce, covered in milk and cream and popcorn, dripping with glistening syrup, shaking toffee apple maraccas, balancing buns on top of buns and grasping bananas as if their love lives depended on it. If you’ve been following this project on Instagram, you will have seen the admiration Devereux has for each of his subjects, and the care with which he has approached each shoot as a unique show-within-a-show, something that comes through in the final result. The figures, even those in repose, leap out of a whirl of colour with the energy of the unconcerned, completely comfortable with the brief and clearly proud to be a part of such a magnificent celebration of so much deliciousness. There’s a sense of mischief about the piece as a whole and in its parts is so much variety – something for everyone – and so much delight that I can’t imagine anyone standing in front (or above) the work without a smile on their face.

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MELT celebrates queer art and culture, and not only those who identify as LGBT but those who support them. It’s Brisbane’s most diverse and original festival, flamboyant and genuinely friendly. I was proud to be a part of the program last year, appearing in Dean Bryant’s GAYBIES directed by Kris Stewart, with the likes of Bec Mac, Margi Brown Ash, Barb Lowing, David Berthold, Brad Rush, Christopher Wayne, Kurt Phelan and Lizzie Moore. You’ll see Moore (with Brad Rush on keys) return to the Powerhouse during MELT with her hilarious cabaret, On A Night Like This: The Erin Minogue Experience and Phelan in Kris Stewart’s exquisite Boys of Sondheim. Other MELT highlights this year include RENT, Hedwig 15, An Evening With Amanda Palmer and A Night at the Musicals. Cake Face, Queer Comics, Virtual Drag and the MELT Portrait Prize round out the visual arts component of the festival.

I wanted to get into musical theatre…so I became a drag queen.

– Jonny Woo

 

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Jonny Woo and Le Gateaux Chocolat raise the bar with their cabaret show, A Night at the Musicals, a self-effacing, funny look at a few of their favourite musical theatre things. Given the extraordinary talent of its stars, this show has the potential to evolve into a much slicker and more sophisticated something, but perhaps this is not the intention – ever – within the world of drag. Is it? I don’t know. I just love Trevor Ashley’s new-found class, which he brings to his latest show Liza’s Back (is broken), and the precision and artistry of impersonators such as Simply Barbra / Steven Brinberg, as opposed to the original misogyny of ugly “tacky drag”.

Drag is for everybody.

– Jonny Woo

 

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Perhaps it was RuPaul’s Drag Race or Priscilla, Queen of the Desert on stage, or Slide or the Butterfly Club, or Trashley’s latest work that’s helped to change the face (or the sound) of the drag scene here, but I had long been under the impression that even the most popular drag acts were lip syncs rather than singers and for me, no matter how good the lip synching, it’s not as satisfying as hearing a great voice live. Jonny Woo and Le Gateaux Chocolat have great voices, and when Woo indulges in some old-school lip synching, it’s highly effective. In the first instance we hear the ensemble of Les Miserables while he contorts his face and posture to mimic every single character actor in At the End of the Day and later, we hear Liza Minelli singing Mein Herr as Woo dons giant jazz hands and dances around and over an audience member seated in a cabaret chair centre stage. There’s nothing “ragged” about it, Woo is cheeky and carries out the original choreography with precision. It’s extreme clowning, the grotesque in a good way, and the statuesque Woo makes it both alarming and completely charming to watch.

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Le Gateux Chocolat’s indulgence is different, giving us a shamelessly Star Wars inspired Phantom of the Opera and then a quick rundown on how Fantine comes to chop her hair off before he sings superbly, I Dreamed A Dream. In what becomes a running joke for the rest of the night, he runs the opening words together (no one ever really knows the intro, do they?) before getting to the bits that really matter. And let’s not neglect to mention a glorioius rendition of Let It Go, with Woo’s budget conscious SFX, absolutely hilarious. His voice is rich, sonorous, just beautiful, but whenever we begin to take him too seriously, he breaks the slightly more sombre mood and breaks into a fantastic scat or free dance until we have tears of laughter streaming down our cheeks. 

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Before the night is over we’re invited to offer suggestions and sing along to Summer Nights. There is no Funny Girl, despite hearing something from the soundtrack as we take our seats before the show. There is no Chicago or South Pacific orThe King and I or Singin’ In the Rain. No West Side Story or Oklahoma or Avenue Q. There is no Into the Woods or The Book of Mormon. No Aladdin. If you’re a serious musical theatre fan you might take the opportunity to shout our your suggestions during the requests segment of the show. You’ll be rewarded with an acapella excerpt of your preferred musical numbers. A Chorus Line complete with high kicks and The Lion King are the highlights for us.

In true, trusted Strut & Fret style, A Night at the Musicals offers a riotous evening in an intimate space, which we could easily enjoy again. If you haven’t yet come across Le Gateaux Chocolat or Jonny Woo – I just adore them both – this is your chance to discover a whole new beautiful world of quality high class camp entertainment. 

07
Feb
16

Dangerous Liasons

Dangerous Liasons

Brisbane Powerhouse & Little Ones Theatre

Brisbane Powerhouse Theatre

February 3 – 5 2015

 

Reviewed by Rhumer Diball

 

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Deliciously decadent in all things revenge and ravishment related, Dangerous Liaisons bursts into the Brisbane Powerhouse MELT Queer Festival.

With an ostentatious design, gender reversed characters, a meticulous musical score and performances that are every bit as challenging as they are comedic, Little Ones Theatre brings a devilish spin to Christopher Hampton’s adaptation of Pierre Choderlos de Laclos’ classic text.
The aristocratic ensemble present issues of class, reputation, and trust, with director Stephen Nicolazzo exploiting the tragi-comedy’s eroticism, farcical nature, and underlying camp possibilities. Valmont (Janine Watson) and Mertuil (Alexandra Aldrich) drive the story’s lessons in the pleasures of revenge and sex, the politics of marriage and infidelity, and the overall importance of one’s weaknesses when in love. Aldrich shines as the conniving leading woman who seeks out revenge through the help of her ex-lover Valmont. Watson does well to maintain a subtle yet crucial masculinity to the alpha-male character Valmont, particularly when sharing scenes with Danceney played by Tom Dent, the lone male actor in the ensemble. As a pair, the two lead actresses hold their poise, power, and piercing personality when scheming for their own revenge which trickles down to influence the entire cast in one dangerous way or another. An honourable mention also goes to Amanda McGregor’s portrayal of the flowering teenage Cecile with a burning excitement for her development into womanhood before her wedding day and karaoke style performances of songs with a dazzling gold microphone.
Despite Catherine Davies’ effortless performance as both Azolan (Valmont’s energetic page) and the carnivorous courtesan Emilie, a subtle costume change, or rather, a stripping of costume down to a pair of pink underwear, worked against the differences between the two characters and blended the actress’ performance into one erotic tease for Valmont. While the ambiguity of this layering of characters was later amended through the script’s reveal of the courtesan, other choices seemed singular or too subtle, and were not used to their full effectiveness. A wiping away of makeup on both the endearingly defiant Tourvel (Brigid Gallagher) and her suitor Valmont displayed vulnerability just in time for tears to fall on naturally flushed skin. Other examples include an inconsistent use of female performers stripping down to reveal their bare breasts, a device which may have worked well if it were only used on the male characters they had been playing. Once again Emilie the Courtesan presented an ambiguity which came with confusing contradictions to the otherwise purposeful costume and gender reversed characterisation. If this very ambiguity was intentional, as if to portray a fluidity of gender, it would then join the other direction choices that were not applied to their full potential.
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Despite a few inconsistencies in their use, when paired with the direction, the design team Eugyeene Teh and Tessa Pitt brought a rich contrast of matching gold curtains, tables, lounges and props as decadent as the Ferrero Rochers eaten live on stage, with powerful pink costumes which were as historically accurate as they were playful. Daniel Nixon and Russell Goldsmith’s sound design was equally as captivating, with a mixture of harpsichord period music and modern electronic, rock and roll, and disco hits being played, sung and danced to during scene transitions, movement sequences and strip teases.

Little Ones Theatre take a melodramatic period piece to create a fluidity of genders and sexuality and an orgy of sexual innuendos, breasts set free, and cheeky games of connect four.

Dangerous Liaisons from Little Ones Theatre on Vimeo.

04
Feb
15

The Divine Miss Bette is back!

 

Bold, buxom, bawdy and brilliant – Bette’s back!

 

cathalcorn

 

The Divine Miss Bette cabaret starring Sydney stage sensation, Catherine Alcorn returns to Noosa for one night only at 7:30pm on Thursday 12 February at The J and to Brisbane for one night only at 7.15pm Friday 13 February at the Brisbane Powerhouse Theatre. At the Powerhouse, The Divine Miss Bette forms part of the 11 day MELT Festival of music, cabaret, comedy, circus, visual arts and community panels. Tickets are on sale now.

 

Trained by Steve Ostrow, the man who discovered Bette Midler and who owned New York City’s famous Continental Baths disco and bathhouse, Alcorn’s critically acclaimed show is a high energy, feel-good, roller-coaster ride celebrating the “best bits of Bette”. Audiences will think it’s the ‘real’ Bette up on stage!

 

In The Divine Miss Bette, Alcorn takes audiences back to 1973 in the Palace Theatre New York. Accompanied by a live, four piece band and two back-up singers, Alcorn’s critically acclaimed production is a slice of Bette’s life communicated via Alcorn’s acerbic wit, scandalous one-liners and brilliant voice. Bette classics such as “Stay With Me Baby”, “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy”, “In The Mood”, “You’re Moving Out Today” and “Am I Blue” feature in the show.

 

2012 Noosa Longweekend Festival

 

A polished and professional performer with over 10 years’ experience Alcorn has appeared and headlined at some of Australia’s leading festivals including Noosa Long Weekend Festival, Adelaide Cabaret Festival, The Idolize Spiegeltent Perth Fringe Festival, Ballarat Cabaret Festival and New Zealand’s Right Royal Cabaret Festival. Catherine is also the Creative Director of Sydney music and event venue, Slide Lounge.

 

“Bette Midler is one of my favourite characters to play and truth be told, she’s a bit of an alter-ego.
“To be trained by the man who discovered Bette and then pay tribute to her life on stage is absolutely fantastic fun and a real privilege.

 

“The show is always a sell-out because people just love Bette. The audience always ends up singing and laughing out loud. I can’t wait to get to Brisbane again and be a part of the MELT Festival. It’s a fantastic program.”

 

 

 

 

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This weekend see Cath Alcorn in 5 Lesbians Eating A Quiche

 

Stay up late after The Divine Miss Bette to see Dash Kruck in I Might Take My Shirt Off

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