Posts Tagged ‘meow meow


CATS – the arena spectacular spectacular









The closest I will ever get to playing a cat.



Harvest Rain Theatre Company

Brisbane Convention Centre

July 4 – 6 2014


Reviewed by Xanthe Coward


When CATS first opened in Australia none of the members of this production’s mass ensemble were born. (When it opened in London I *might* have been just born. Alright, I *might* have been in preschool already but let’s not think too long about that).


CATS has been performed in over 20 countries and in over 250 cities.


The song Memory has been recorded by over 150 artists.


1700 meters of lycra and 2000 metres of faux fur were used to create the costumes.


Over 3000 pots of Kryolan make-up were used to create the make-up designs.


The dance floor comprises over 500 pieces weighing over 10 tonnes.


Over 1500 young performers auditioned for the mass ensemble and 800 were chosen.


The mass ensemble rehearsed on weekends for 6 months and the professional cast rehearsed for 3 weeks.


70 individual body mics were used in this production.


There are over 400 lights in the rig and over 400 stage management cues to call.




This is the second largest production of CATS ever! (The largest featured over 3000 cats in London in 2013). That makes it the largest production ever staged in the Southern Hemisphere. I think I’ve finally worked out Harvest Rain’s caper.




They’ve certainly proved with this super-sized production that they have the team to pitch something!


With more than #800cats on stage in the Brisbane Convention Centre, including a heap from the Sunshine Coast (and you know I know that drive! Well done, Mums and Dads!). At times it felt like we were caught in a musical epic about the bubonic plague, as hundreds and hundreds of cats swarmed into the space, looking for the first few moments more like rats than cats, upon a ship’s deck, which indeed, seemed to be where we were meant to be. That’s right. No garbage heap here. I actually overheard somebody explaining to his companion that the original had been staged on a rubbish heap and I was suddenly reminded that THERE ARE PEOPLE IN THE WORLD WHO HAVEN’T YET SEEN CATS. I KNOW.


I remember the first time I experienced CATS, at QPAC’s Lyric Theatre in 1989 (the Australian and New Zealand tour), in which Trevor Green played Skimbleshanks to great acclaim. We were sitting next to Trevor on opening night of Harvest Rain’s CATS and I thought I noticed the same consternation on his face that I too was feeling during Skimbleshanks the Railway Cat, as the pace began to lag a little. Perhaps it was a trick of the light; Jason Glenwright’s rock star lighting design is a show unto itself! Anyway, what I remember most about that first experience was that the cats actually came through the stalls, purring and climbing all over us! Also, we were allowed on stage at Interval to see the set up close. Unheard of! Years later, Sam played Old Deuteronomy in a local production with Nathanael Cooper as Munkastrap. (Nathanael would probably prefer you didn’t know about that but I’m telling you because he did real GOOD!), and I’ll never forget my first singing teacher, Judy, who wore face paint and cute little cat ears to sing Memory at a closing night party at our place in Buderim. I think it was after a very successful Buderim run of Waltzes From Vienna.


These cats did not disappoint either, settling into various reposes upon the floor and on the stairs at points throughout the show when not dancing, keeping character all the while and delighting patrons with their cheeky grins and fabulously feline characters, upheld by all within my scope at least. Paired with the synchronised moggie moves of over 800 performers, including fifteen or more legit tap dancers, it’s a totes impressive effort!


MD Maitlohn Drew leads a confident lot of cat wig clad musos, and the music, which is usually easy to get sick to death of – c’mon, be real, it is – was actually really enjoyable. I even loved lots of little moments largely because of the music. Mostly, if I’m completely honest, I ACTUALLY LOVE CATS. I love CATS because of Sarah Brightman, Elaine Paige, Macavity the Mystery Cat and RUM TUM TUGGER. Unfortunately, HR’s Rum Tum (Ethan Jones) gave us more Ty Noonan than Mick Jagger and you know I’m a big fan of Ty’s stuff but it has its place, and it’s place is not in Lloyd Webber’s CATS. (WE LOVE YOU, TY!). That’s not to say that Jones disappointed anybody else on opening night – he was a hit! Mungojerrie (Callan Warner) and Rumpleteaser (Hannah Crowther), though a bit breathless, wowed us with their acrobatic song and dance routine and it’s testament to Harvest Rain’s training program that these two – two of the strongest of the core ensemble, along with Munkastrap (Dean Vince), Mr Mistoffelees (Stevie Bishop) and Jennyanydots (Astin Blaik) – are stand outs in terms of their performance flair, energy and vocal and physical prowess. (It should be noted that I felt Jones redeemed himself in his rich contribution to Magical Mr Mistoffelees). CATS is considered a dancers’ show, sure, but it’s a much more entertaining dancers’ show when the dancers can hold a tune and convey character.


Steven Tandy makes a delightful Bustopher Jones and a lovable Gus. Our leading lady of musical theatre, Marina Prior, is an apt choice for Grizabella, giving the famous role a beautiful blend of fragility and fallen grace, not to mention making a pristine appearance in her Wheels & Dollbaby at the after party.





Choreographer and Director, Callum Mansfield has always worked meticulously and he had his work cut out for him on this one – we know that CATS is really the choreographer’s show – and word is that Mansfield started work on this production a year ago. Actually, Mansfield choreographed Harvest Rain’s 2007 production of CATS, at their teeny tiny Sydney Street theatre in New Farm, with Designer Josh McIntosh and Producer, Tim O’Connor. Mansfield was 17 years old. During that original run he’d said, “For a choreographer and dancer, Cats is THE dream gig. It’s athletic, energetic and joyful and it’s a challenge to ensure that the choreography reflects the feline movements of the characters while also communicating with the audience.” He also played Mr Mistoffelees in that production. We can only imagine his horror delight when O’Connor suggested staging the show again but this time, on a much larger scale! This time Mansfield says (and this I LOVE), “…here was my chance to provide 800 young performers with the same kind of opportunity that was given to me. Whether they were eight or eighteen years old, I set out to make this experience an enjoyable journey of music, dance and storytelling that would solidify their passion for performing and help them on their way.”


Mansfield has BOOKS of choreography – I’d love to see those – and this time he engaged two assistant choreographers (Jennifer Miller& Courtney Underhill), and thirty-nine dance captains to lead the mass ensemble in “tribes” of different colours. Wow! And yikes! And it’s because of these sorts of logistical nightmares that no one else comes close to even attempting anything of the size and scale of this production. I’m not even joking about the Olympics’ bid.


I’m actually convinced now that Harvest Rain can (and will) do anything.


Look, if you hate CATS you would still have hated it after seeing this production – just face it, you’re a Hater and not even Harvest Rain’s eight million cute kids in furry costumes can cure you – it’s still a whimsical non-story using the poems by T.S. Eliot in Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats, about a bunch of cats with human qualities who come together for the Jellicle Ball, the cat event of the year, akin to Damien Rossi’s Oscars’ party, obviously, during which (the Jellicle Ball, not the Oscars’ party), one cat will be chosen to become elevated to somewhere vaguely above us. Of course that cat is Grizabella, an outcast and set up beautifully to be the underdog who comes out on top, literally, disappearing via smoky scaffolding into the mystical realm of the Heaviside Layer. The tales within the tale are beautifully realised, allowing for the most plot-like non-plot I’ve seen in a production of CATS.




Apparently, without Marina Prior signing on as the Glamour Cat, this production would never have gone ahead, and whether or not her star power has attracted just as many audience members as family members of the kids involved, what it does do is this – it reaffirms Harvest Rain as one of our premiere performing arts companies, giving them the sort of street cred that only Prior’s sort of star power can buy (check out the cast of Spamalot!), and it gives the younger members of the company a legit role model and mentor. Just as those of us who are *slightly older* looked to Sarah Brightman before her crazy-ass experimental pop chart electronica era (I saw her live on stage, y’all. She sang off key), these aspiring performers look to Marina and her industry peers. It’s obviously been such an awesome opportunity, on so many levels, to be part of Harvest Rain’s Wakakirri Creative Generation Arena Spectacular Spectacular Rock Challenge CATS! Congrats, all! I’m looking forward to seeing all your lovely new faces, although perhaps not all at once, on a stage somewhere again soon!




Little Orphan TrAshley


Little Orphan TrAshley

Brisbane Powerhouse

17 – 20 July 2013


Reviewed by Xanthe Coward 


Direct from a sell-out season at Sydney Opera House, the writers who brought you the smash hit Fat Swan (Trevor Ashley and Phil Scott) team up with acclaimed director Craig Ilott (Smoke & Mirrors) to give you this uproarious new spectacle with an all-star cast.


Ashley stars as little orphan Fannie, a ten-year old with a terrible secret… one she can’t even share with her inmates at the Sutherland Shire Girl’s Orphanage, let alone the bad-tempered showbiz has-been who runs the place: the drunken Miss Trannigan (Rhonda Burchmore). The truth is: Fannie is not yet all woman. But, to get her gender reassignment surgery, she’ll have to find her true birth parents to get their permission.


Luckily for Fannie, she meets acclaimed photographer/multimillionaire Daddy Warhorse (Gary Sweet) who promises to sponsor her! But can she survive a rigorous set of blind auditions, a very ‘arty’ photoshoot and an appearance on evil controversial talk-back radio personality Ellen Jones’ show before she finds her parents?


To make her wish come true, Fannie may need more than just her trusty ex-sniffer dog Bullshit (Rhys Bobridge).


Well, you might have LOVED this show. I’m happy for you #winning


Let me know in the comments section below what it was you loved (as opposed to telling me what you think I should already know about my lack of knowledge, experience, tact, etc, etc when it comes to reviewing theatre).


I really wanted to love this production. I’ve missed previous TrAshley shows but I was looking forward to seeing this one. I had a ball live tweeting the show (I’ll add those Instagram pics later), but I didn’t enjoy it. In fact, I’m surprised that something so unpolished has had some of the rave reviews it’s had. There is such a wealth of talent involved in this production but sadly, very little of it manages to cut through the crass humour and faltering pace. It could be that the brand of humour is just not my cup of tea, but even so, I expected a higher standard across all departments, regardless of personal preference when it comes to comedy.


Do you know what this show was? (An industry peep who shall remain nameless said it was a train wreck!). For me, it was one of those really bad parties (you know the ones, you’ve been to them too), when someone who is not the most popular person in the building invites everyone around after work on a Friday night and you go with some colleagues and a couple of add-ons because there was nothing else planned, but there’s no footy on, and they haven’t tidied the house, or planned any party games, or offered the first drink, and they’ve shopped at Coles on the way home with a budget of $32 for chips, cheese and crackers for 30 people (can you even GET chips, cheese and crackers for 30 people for under $32?). While this scenario would make a decent play, the feeling during the show that I was AT THAT AWFUL AWKWARD PARTY did nothing to convince me that I was experiencing the same show I’ve heard others go wild about!


Of course I was there with my social media hat on, having been invited to a lovely little pre-show soiree by the fast-moving folk in digital marketing at Brisbane Powerhouse. My feedback to them was not really for them (other than that they put on a lovely little soiree), but for the performers; if they’re going to announce before the show that they’d like us to turn ON our mobile phones and tweet the night away, they need to pause for a moment longer in those wonderful camp poses so we can get great, clear shots to post! It’s a great idea, and opens up the discussion on the merits (and annoyance to other patrons) of Tweet Seats at performances, particularly at performances of this nature. Social media loves the shock value. The Brisbane Powerhouse team are way ahead on so many counts, but I hope they have some better quality fodder to throw at us next time. Or a whole lot more champagne.


It goes without saying that if something sells out at the Sydney Opera House you’re gonna’ wanna’ bring it to your venue, but I fail to see what’s so appealing about Little Orphan TrAshley. It failed on so many levels for me, and I don’t think it’s useful to anybody to say otherwise. If I did, it would be a case of supporting and condoning the mediocre in a country that is renowned for its cabaret. Yes we are, indeed! So how does a show like this get let loose on the unsuspecting public? I DON’T KNOW. BUT I WOULD LIKE TO KNOW. IT FASCINATES ME. It’s different to just not being blown away by a great show (case in point: Mrs Warren’s Profession & The Maids. No, I haven’t written about them yet). So. Oh dear. Here we go. Here’s the break down:


  • the premise is tres amusement for a moment and then IT GETS OLD
  • the set actually looks CHEAP. This may well be the intention.
  • the lack of improvisation skills baffles me. A simple encore of the opening number would have saved everybody – performers, crew and audience – the uncomfortable two and a half minutes on opening night of microphone lead or pack probs, or whatever it was that made us all squirm uncomfortably while a techie adjusted something beneath Burchmore’s skirt. That’s right. And yet nobody on stage or off had the initiative/training/experience/forethought/improvisational skills/confidence to call it. EXCEPT THEY ALL HAVE ONE OR MORE OF THOSE SKILLS/QUALITIES. They just stood there looking embarrassed. Oh, and in the middle of all that awkward silence TrAshley acknowledged via his working mic, “Well, this is fucked!” BIG MISTAKE. I’m afraid I lost a lot of respect right there. Even in community theatre THE SHOW MUST GO ON
  • the jokes are bad. Really bad. Like, think of the worst racist, misogynist dad joke you’ve ever heard and multiply that by about 100 you-can’t-laugh-at-that groans, and that is ALMOST how poor the comedy is. I was expecting trashy AND witty. I was genuinely surprised when people laughed.
  • pedophile jokes – and worse, characters that are built upon them – are never funny


Bobridge and Burchmore both did their best to save the night, almost succeeding on a number of occasions, but even his chap-clad buttocks, cheeky grin and spot-on moves, and her sass, self-deprecating humour and supersize talent wasn’t enough to win me over. 


IS IT JUST ME? It might be. And that’s okay. I know TrAshley has a huge following already, and some of the dedicated fans were obviously glad to have caught this Brisbane season. They weren’t disappointed at all! But I bet anybody in the audience with a good, slick, sophisticated and intelligent cabaret show ready to go will be wondering WHAT THE HELL DO WE NEED TO DO TO GET A SIMILAR TOUR UP?! 


If Meow Meow is the Queen of Cabaret in this country (and she must be), why aren’t more artists aspiring to be like her? And by “be like her” I simply mean writing and producing cabaret shows that are slick, sophisticated, intelligent, funny and completely gorgeous. (I’ve seen a few lately that could do with the hype that comes with TrAshley, but deservedly so). Meow Meow’s shows are the best parties in town. Let’s have more of those.



7 Sleeps… The Noosa Long Weekend Festival Countdown is on!

The 12th annual Noosa Long Weekend is just 7 sleeps away!


Bobby Fox Jersey Boys Australia

Now in its 12th year, the Noosa Long Weekend Festival takes place in various venues across Noosa with 85+ free and ticketed events on offer featuring a host of international, national and local guests.  The multi-arts genre program includes literature, music, cabaret, theatre, dance, forums, comedy and supper clubs, food, workshops and free events.


Festival Director, Ian Mackellar said that whilst some events were sold out, tickets remained available for the majority of events with local resorts, hotels and apartments offering great accommodation deals to festival patrons.

“The beauty of our festival is the quality, accessibility and affordability of it all. With 10,000 tickets on offer there is still the opportunity for audiences to come and enjoy a Long Weekend experience.
“A few tickets remain for our sensational opening night and Saturday performances of 4 Seasons in 1 Night with Bobby Fox of  Jersey Boys Australia and Hot Shoe Shuffle fame.  It’s the Queensland premiere of Bobby’s new show and will be something really special for audiences.


Meow Meow The Cat That Got the Canary 2008

“We pride ourselves on being ‘first’ for a number of events, so other Queensland premieres include the wildly entertaining Tom Sharah with his contemporary cabaret show It’s Raining Me as part of a double bill show with Sarah-Louise Young and Julie Madly Deeply; the super talented David Pomeranz from New York with his poignant tribute to the life of Charlie Chaplin in his show ChaplinMeow Meow’s self titled kamikaze cabaret show; Bernadette Robinson’s Evening With concert featuring songs from her favourite singers and songwriters; Robyn Archer’s French cabaret show ‘Que-Reste-t’il’David Williamson’s new play, Happiness as performed by Sydney’s Ensemble Theatre Company  and finally the Australian Cabaret Showcase performance with Bradley McCaw and Amelia Ryan.


Ian said that the festival’s literary program had some “big names” coming to town with Ramona Koval, David MaloufMichael Leunig and Matt Condon visiting as part of the 13 total authors featured in the program.


Brisbane’s Expressions Dance Company will present two contemporary dance pieces at the festival and the serious side of life will be explored through a range of forums exploring topics as varied as clean energy, refugees, women in power, near death experiences, what China thinks of Australia and more.

Rumour Has It Naomi Price. Image by Dylan Evans. 

If it all gets too serious however, the perfect antidote for audiences will be the inaugural Comedy Club or festival favourites such as food events, late-night supper clubs and workshops.


“The Noosa Long Weekend Festival is a truly unique and special event, Ian said.

“Our audiences come from all over Australia to enjoy a diverse and world class program which is presented in a range of intimate Noosa venues.
“It’s up close and personal, inspiring and entertaining – everything a festival should be.”


To secure your tickets:



  • Phone – The J (07) 5455 4455


  • In person – The J Box Office



La Soiree


La Soiree

Featuring the stars of La Clique

Brisbane Festival

Courier Mail Spiegeltent

8th – 29th September 2012


Reviewed by Xanthe Coward



David O'Mer La Soiree


This is, without a doubt, the sexiest show you’ll see this Brisbane Festival. It’s my pick of the festival program and if you think something else can top it, you’d better let me know.


I would have posted my response to the show earlier, only I was still at the Brisbane Writers Festival yesterday, and today devouring a block of Lindt Chili Dark Chocolate in front of YouTube clips of the acts that make up this smash hit international success (don’t for a second think that the video footage will suffice. You must see these performers LIVE).



Within the intimate and glorious surrounds of the famous Courier Mail Spiegeltent, cabaret, circus, burlesque and comedy combine to titillate and tease a turned-on, ramped-up audience, offering tricks and toned bodies that have to be seen to be believed. It’s sheer fun (and games and look, it’s pointless labelling any of these guys Greek Gods; two in particular trump that title and have us chomping at the bit after just a glimpse of rippling muscle!). Ladies and gents, look out! In case you haven’t heard, this adults-only, world-class, Olivier Award winning show is hot, hot, HOT!


Up close and personal, the Master of Ceremonies welcomes us in ratchet tones, a scratchy voice after just one show (we saw the 9:30pm performance on opening night) and promises the night of our lives. Thanks to creator, Brett Barnum-Bailey-in-a-previous-life Haylock and the ever-evolving members of La Clique, La Soiree delivers, in abundance, on every level. There is nothing to fault here and everything to love…and lust after.


The English GentsDenis Lock and Hamish McCann – perform stylish and impressive feats of strength, control and balance to rival Cirque du Soleil’s best acrobats, all the while maintaining a very British stiff upper lip. At first, we marvel at their ability to perform fantastical feats in their pinstriped suits and bowler hats. Then we marvel at the incredible physiques underneath those suits. Yes, there were gasps from the audience. These two set the bar high and they leave us wanting more.


More comes in the comical form of New Yorker, Nate Cooper, in his Australian debut; a Charlie Chaplin inspired roller-skating act (and by roller-skating I mean tap-dancing in roller skates and not altogether successfully. Visions of Barbra Streisand’s Fanny Brice come to mind). Cooper is dressed in a surprisingly slinky number, which is revealed in a parody of the previous strip. Cooper’s antics are hilarious and my cheeks begin to ache after about half a minute into the act, long before he gets to the crux of it. He adds to his beauty queen outfit a red bobbed wig and a pair of ridiculously high Priscilla style platform shoes, in which he climbs up onto a pogo stick and commences jumping and juggling machetes. It’s insane. Do NOT try it at home.


The absolutely gorgeous Amy G has an extraordinary skill set that I’m not sure I envy but I’m certainly impressed by it! Her kazoo playing ability is off the charts but don’t try explaining it to the kids over bacon and eggs the next morning. Ursula Martinez performs the most entertaining and original strip you’re likely to see in a Queensland venue, combining effortlessly, sleight of hand and the art of tease. Martinez is gregarious, hilarious, mischievous and completely shameless. Hers is a brand of sizzling adult entertainment that is naughty, classy and irresistibly, deliciously funny. You can get a sneak peak here but only if you’re over eighteen.


Amy G and the English Gents

La Clique’s La Soiree performers Amy G, Denis Lock and Hamish McCann. Picture: Chris McCormack Source: The Courier-Mail


Andrew Sisters styled (Brisbane based ex-Circus Oz performer), Jess Love, takes to task a mass of hula-hoops and the lovely Miss Flee flies above us in a graceful and soulful trapeze. We’ve seen Martinez and Amy G pull props from all over the place but this rather more delicate act is enhanced by a parasol hung high in the air, overturning to let a cascade of tiny white feathers drift down over the audience in strange slow motion, like a moment from a Baz Luhrmann scene, at once slowing the pace and softening the tone of the show. In design also (and to its benefit), La Soiree appears to draw on a little Luhrmann (or, more accurately, a little Catherine Martin).


The return of each of The English Gents builds momentum again and makes us wonder, what do these guys EAT and where do they work out so we can WATCH? Lock reveals a fine singing voice and Japanese sensibilities, including the admirable feat of looking just as attractive as a fully clothed Geisha as a Sumo wrestler (the trimmest ever). McCann returns to put the world’s top female pole dancers to shame, stunning us with his arm and core strength. Spiderman’s got nothin’ on this guy, who walks up and across imaginary walls.




The dynamic cabaret diva, Meow Meow, almost steals the show with her Bette Midler meets Eartha Kitt meets Ab Fab usual fare. She’s the all-time favourite on the circuit and it’s not hard to see (and hear) why. This woman is all woman and then some, absolutely able to blow you away with her sensational style and special brand of seductive tragi-comedy. Her guest chorus and their Barbie choreography gets a giggle too.


But what’s a show without a grand finale? And boy oh Bathboy, has this show got it! Berlin born gymnast David O’Mer, aka “the Adonis in denim” (or, as my friend very cleverly commented, “catnip for women”), appears as any self-respecting modern day merman would, from a claw-foot bath, placed centre stage by the English Gents (it then becomes integral to his aerial ballet – the wettest and cheekiest strap act you’ll see). Clad in black skinny jeans, O’Mer is the epitome of male beauty, strength and coordination, regardless of your sexual orientation or passion or apathy for the subject. In fact, in light of the many and varied responses across the social media platforms to my previous comments about viewing male bodies on stage, I have to say that if you’re tempted to argue that the form or the look is unimportant, make sure you’ve seen the show and calmed down first. This is, as The Age acknowledges, the sexiest act around. Get a coveted (and slightly scary, in that awesome, unexpected random sexual encounter kinda’ way) Premium front row (ringside) seat if you can. I could say I bet you’ll get wet but it might come across as crass so I won’t.


La Soiree is to-die-for. It’s devastatingly funny and sexy, it’s witty, trashy and sophisticated all at once, like a bandaid worn under a Louboutin, and most importantly, it’s the best kind of European styled adult entertainment available in Brisvegas for just a very short time. You’d have to be stark raving mad to miss it!


David O'Mar Bathboy