Posts Tagged ‘opera australia

21
Mar
16

The Rabbits

 

The Rabbits

An Opera Australia and Barking Gecko Theatre Company co-production in association with West Australian Opera.

Commissioned by Perth International Arts Festival and Melbourne Festival.

QPAC

QPAC Playhouse

March 16 – 20 2016

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

'The Rabbits' Barking Gecko Theatre Company / Opera Australia - 2015 Production - 10th February 2015 / Photography © Jon Green 2015 - All Rights Reserved

‘The Rabbits’ Barking Gecko Theatre Company / Opera Australia – 2015 Production – 10th February 2015 / Photography © Jon Green 2015 – All Rights Reserved

The rabbits came many grandparents ago…

What an extraordinary experience, to be offered a taste of The Rabbits during APAM (we saw a delicious 20-minute excerpt), and then be treated to the entire visual and aural feast last week on Opening Night. Commissioned by Perth International Arts Festival and Melbourne Festival, Opera Australia and Barking Gecko Theatre Company assembled some of Australia’s finest talent to create a stage adaptation of John Marsden and Shaun Tan’s picture book (open-hearted Adaptation and Direction by John Sheedy). This is a multi-award winning genre-defying production featuring a detailed score by Kate Miller-Heidke, additional music and arrangements by Iain Grandage, and libretto by Lally Katz. Rachael Maza has been instrumental as Indigenous Consultant. It doesn’t disappoint. However, unlike The Secret River, which also features magnificent music by Grandage, musical direction by Isaac Hayward and a heavy, heavy tale of the displacement and mistreatment of our Indigenous people, The Rabbits feels less optimistic. Poppy, who is nine and so smart, disagrees. She says,

We hear the bird calls in the beginning, and the bird calls at the end sound like we can sort it out. We can have our little piece of nature and they can have theirs. Even better, we can try harder to share the land. And the water. And the sky. In the end everything belongs to no one and everyone. We all live here together now.

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Hollie Andrew who plays Coda, the marsupial who sings The Kite Song when the children are taken away, told Elissa Blake, “My mother was adopted so we don’t know where we are from,” she says. “I don’t know who my people are. So I’m singing on behalf of my ancestors in a lot of ways. I imagine my ancestors are calling out to me. I absolutely dig into it. It’s been a gift as an actor. It’s pretty raw but it’s healed me in a lot of ways, too.

“I love that this show says what has happened and then poses the question, ‘where do we go from here?'” Andrew says. “We need to own what has happened and together find a way to move forward. That’s the beauty of this story.” The story unsettles us and The Kite Song breaks our hearts; it’s devastating and we ache… 

I ache, I ache, I ache inside

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We ache as Kate Miller-Heidke mourns the loss of the children, wailing and calling to all the people and ancestors and spirits and spirit animals ever, everywhere. Her grief is exquisite, something we can never (should never) un-hear. She’s the all-seeing Bird, witness to events and narrator of our tragic tale. Resplendent in white and delicate feathers, glistening with the sky and the stars and the sea and the bright eyes of the whole world, from her central vantage point high above the land, she looks over its inhabitants without the power to put a stop to the desolation brought by the rabbits. Her voice is pure, ethereal, electrical. It has the power to permeate and affect, deeply, audiences of all ages and political persuasions. The only other performer in this country with the gift to bewitch us with her voice in this way is Katie Noonan, and I’d love to see her sing this role too. (We say hi to Katie on our way out of the Playhouse but we have to cut the conversation short in order to honour our commitment to another opening night around the corner…).

The band is slick, though slightly (and suitably) dishevelled, and quite fun, at times in good spirits and at times more sombre as the story dictates, comprising Isaac Hayward (MD and cello, piano & piano accordion), Rob Mattesi (trumpet), Keir Nuttall (guitar and electronics), Stephanie Zarka (bass and tuba). They’re front and centre when a false fire alarm stops the show at the forty minute mark and we wonder if we’ll see the end of it before having to get up and go. The cast and musicians collect themselves after the curtain fails to drop completely, and they resume the show some minutes later. It’s a live-theatre-thing, a reminder that anything can happen, giving us time to cringe for a bit longer after the bawdy pub song, Hop Hop Hooray! 

'The Rabbits' Barking Gecko Theatre Company / Opera Australia - 2015 Production - 10th February 2015 / Photography © Jon Green 2015 - All Rights Reserved

‘The Rabbits’ Barking Gecko Theatre Company / Opera Australia – 2015 Production – 10th February 2015 / Photography © Jon Green 2015 – All Rights Reserved

The rabbits are bombastic, very British, Gilbert & Sullivan style operatic singers, each with his own quirky personality. (Kaneen Breen as the Scientist is especially memorable). The marsupials on the other hand, are grounded contemporary music theatre/pop vocalists (I’d love to hear more from Marcus Corowa); they remind me stylistically of The Lion King and Disney generally. Friends tell me after the show that this combination isn’t their favourite aspect of the production but I like the stark contrast, and I can appreciate that it’s part of the strategy now, whether or not it was originally intended as such, to draw a more diverse audience.

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Visually too, it’s a stark and sumptuous production, beautifully conveying the essence of this great Southern land, its creatures, its colours, its textures, its heat, and all its hope and hopelessness. The production looks enough like the pages of the book to satisfy fans of Tan’s original illustrations, and yet it’s not so immense and grotesque as to frighten..the children. If we’re honest – and we are – I still find the original illustrations quite frightening. (Designer Gabriela Tylesova, Lighting Designer Trent Suidgeest, Sound Designer Michael Waters). The final image particularly has me holding my breath, desperate for the marsupial and the rabbit to step across – or around – the reflecting pool to embrace one another, or grasp each other’s hands or something but I know they’ll stay on opposite sides, staring at their own reflections, because it’s the final awful (hopeful?) image from the book.

The Rabbits, in story and style, is truly for all people. If only we can learn from this rich and challenging sixty-minute tale, and from so many more, and move forward together, hand in hand. This feeling, long after the curtain has properly come down, is the power of theatre, of storytelling, and why our stories must be told and treasured, and questioned, and told again and again.

Who will save us from the rabbits?

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Comments on (the book) The Rabbits 

The parallels with a real history of colonisation in Australia and around the world are obvious, and based on detailed research, in spite of the overt surrealism of the imagery and the absence of direct references. It was named Picture Book of the Year by the Children’s Book Council, which in part generated some controversy due to it’s confronting themes, and was attacked on several occasions for being ‘politically correct propaganda’, but only by right wing conservatives of course. In spite of this (or because of it), the book went on to win numerous awards in Australia, the US and UK, and is studied widely in secondary schools. It would seem that some of my concepts and designs were unacknowledged inspiration for a section of the opening ceremony of the 2000 Sydney Olympics, although I’ve never been able to find out if this is true.

One reason for the initial controversy is that The Rabbits is a picture book, and therefore thought to be children’s literature, and wrongly assumed to be didactic, whereas it had been originally conceived as a book for older readers, and generally difficult to categorise. Some children may get a lot out of it, but generally it defies most picture book conventions and is not necessarily a good choice for pleasant bedtime reading!

30
Jul
15

Anything Goes

 

Anything Goes

Opera Australia & John Frost

QPAC Lyric Theatre

July 25 – August 16 2015

 

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

 

ANYTHING GOES has captivated millions with its delightful story of madcap antics aboard the S.S. American. When the ocean liner sets sail from New York to London, etiquette and convention get tossed out the portholes as two unlikely couples set off to find true love… proving that sometimes destiny needs a little help from a crew of singing sailors, an exotic disguise and some good old-fashioned blackmail. 

 

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With three Helpmann Awards announced the previous night, opening night of Anything Goes in Brisbane was always going to be an exciting affair. I wore sparkles, creating a major dress dilemma for the week because LA BOITE’S BIRTHDAY BASH! That’s right. Two of the shiniest occasions in Queensland’s theatrical calendar occur in one week and I’ve already been seen in my (more-twenties-than-thirties, let’s face it) sparkles. I’m not above being seen in the same frock twice but…

 

It’s times like these I have to ask myself

WHAT WOULD OUR CATE DO?

 

HOLLYWOOD, CA - MARCH 02: Actress Cate Blanchett arrives at the 86th Annual Academy Awards at Hollywood & Highland Center on March 2, 2014 in Hollywood, California.  (Photo by Gregg DeGuire/WireImage)

HOLLYWOOD, CA – MARCH 02: Actress Cate Blanchett arrives at the 86th Annual Academy Awards at Hollywood & Highland Center on March 2, 2014 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Gregg DeGuire/WireImage)

 

Well, there’s no Armani here yet, but it’s okay, don’t panic, I have more white in the wardrobe now, thanks to a fortune fortnight spent on Hastings Street during Noosa Long Weekend Festival and the smiling, sophisticated ladies at KOOKAI. Admittedly, all they had to do was to bag a couple of cute frocks, which I’d spotted on the rack and decided to purchase without even trying on (because KOOKAI), but still; they are lovely there. Go visit them if ever you find yourself in similar strife.

 

This dazzling production of Cole Porter’s classic musical comedy is indeed almost too de-lightful, too de-licious and too, too de-lovely for words. It’s not my favourite clever, convoluted, old-fashioned, funny because it’s so unlikely excuse for a plot – misadventure and mistaken identities on the high seas with enough theatrical evangelical shenanigans to create another show entirely – but the music is timeless and the comedy is pitched at a broad audience of loyal Porter fans and musical theatre newbies. Everyone will enjoy this one.

 

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Musical theatre queen, Caroline O’Connor, is superb as Reno Sweeney, as we knew she would be. In this demanding role, O’Connor earned the Helpmann Award for Best Female Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical. She barely pauses for breath – unless there’s a laugh to be had (and there are plenty, with her knack for physical comedy most obvious in Friendship with Wayne Scott Kermond) – and with her suitably Ethel Merman styled powerhouse vocals, polished dance and comedic finesse, O’Connor steals the show. But only just because this is the strongest company we’ve seen in Frosty’s trilogy with Opera Australia.

 

Reno’s girls are standouts – hot, glam goddesses who get to strut and shimmy their stuff in a red-lit and racy Blow, Gabriel, Blow (Annie Aitkin, Bridgette Hancock, Hayley Martin & Samantha Leigh Dodemaide).

 

And the ensemble are all gorgeous, great, true triple-threats, with an abundance of very young-looking sailors on board… didn’t Fleet Street happen already?! The title number, reprised for the Finale, is the highlight of the show – precision tap at its best to leave you, unlike the company of #fitspo performers, gasping for breath! Helpmann Award winning choreography by Andrew Hallsworth is simply spectacular, brilliantly executed.

 

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Todd McKenney, perfect in the role of English fop, Lord Evelyn Oakleigh, reminds me of Eric Idle in The English National Opera’s The Mikado (1997), which was watched and re-watched for years in our house, thanks to the miracle of VHS. We see this sort of silliness in a role attempted so often but it’s very rarely achieved. Todd McKenney nails it. And of course, he can dance! Act Two’s The Gypsy In Me showcases McKenney’s triple-threat skill set and has us in stitches. (N.B. McKenney doesn’t do the Sunday show). Wouldn’t you just love to sign up for a Todd’s Tour with Evelyn?!

 

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Alex Rathgeber’s Billy Crocker won him the Helpmann Award for Best Male Actor in a Supporting Role in a Musical. A legit leading man, Rathgeber brings warmth, charm and natural comedy to Crocker, making the character seem more present than ever in the ludicrous plot, and giving Hope Harcourt (Claire Lyon) much to consider in her will-I-or-won’t-I-marry-him throes. In Act One, You’re The Top (with O’Connor) and Easy To Love (with Lyon) carry old-world, swoon-worthy charm. Lyon is lovely, elegant and perfectly matched.

 

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Wayne Scott Kermond and Deborah Krizak – Moonface Martin and the sexy, haughty Erma – bring hilarity to new heights; Krizak’s mercury-like moves in the constrictive cabin space and her Madonna attitude in Buddie Beware make her my new fave what-else-have-ya-got-for-us female. (She has in fact, got CABBARET, an ABBA biopic).

 

MD/Conductor, Peter Casey, leads a slick outfit – there are no disappointing horns here – and Dale Ferguson’s simple set adaptation (lit by Matt Scott) and sublime costumes (to make up for the simple set?) complete the look and feel of what is really a magnificent production, astutely directed by Dean Bryant.

 

Credited with the New Book Co-Author credit is Timothy Crouse, son of one of the original authors, Russell Crouse, but it seems there hasn’t been much of a re-write, which is a shame because contemporary audiences are looking for more than a name change for the Chinese. Aren’t we? Bryant’s production for Opera Australia and John Frost is glamorous, gorgeous and hilarious, and it won’t make a difference to box office sales to find fault with a slightly outdated book, but it’s worth noting that once this one is done there might be more to consider than star vehicles boasting terrific song and dance numbers that gloss over obvious racist undercurrents, which so many of the older, much-loved shows perpetuate within their stories. Of course, each reflects the popular themes and attitudes of its time. But does that deem them untouchable? South Pacific somehow seemed more relevant and The King and I not so much. The London Palladium Production of The Sound of Music certainly seems a stronger choice (and you can book for that now. Amy Lehpamer is going to be amazing).

 

Anything Goes is a lavish production with a stellar cast. It would be a crime to miss Caroline O’Connor in this iconic role, in a riotous show that doesn’t claim to be anything it’s not. It’s pure entertainment and it’s honestly the most fun you’ll have at the theatre before you have your mind blown at Brisbane Festival.

 

Anything Goes must finish August 16 so be quick and book tix and dress nicely, and go and have some fun on board the S.S. American!

 

 

Production pics by Jeff Busby

 

22
Jun
15

Helpmann Award Nominations 2015

 

Helpmann Award Nominations 2015

 

If awards equate to success for you, the Helpmann’s are the top of the heap.

 

Because I’m vaguely on strike for a bit while David Williamson’s Dream Home has my attention, I’ll share the nominations as per suzygoessee because now that Augusta Supple is busy with other projects and I (still) need to know what’s happening in Sydney, I sometimes glance at what Suzy Wrong is seeing, and you know I like to share the blog love. Check her out!

 

 

This year’s Helpmann Awards, hosted by Todd McKenney, will be presented live at Sydney’s Capitol Theatre on July 27 2015. Watch the live simulcast from wherever you are via foxtelarts.com.au

 

 

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BEST DIRECTION OF A PLAY
ANDREW UPTON
Endgame (Sydney Theatre Company)
CLARE WATSON
What Rhymes with Cars and Girls (Melbourne Theatre Company)
KIP WILLIAMS
Suddenly Last Summer (Sydney Theatre Company)
SARAH GOODES
Switzerland (Sydney Theatre Company)

 

BEST FEMALE ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE IN A PLAY
HELEN THOMSON
After Dinner (Sydney Theatre Company)
JULIE FORSYTH
Endgame (Melbourne Theatre Company)
PAMELA RABE
Beckett Triptych – Footfalls (State Theatre Company of South Australia)
SARAH PEIRSE
Endgame (Sydney Theatre Company)

 

BEST FEMALE ACTOR IN A PLAY
JULIE FORSYTH
Night on Bald Mountain (Malthouse Theatre)
PAMELA RABE
The Glass Menagerie (Belvoir)
ROBYN NEVIN
Suddenly Last Summer (Sydney Theatre Company)
SARAH PEIRSE
Switzerland (Sydney Theatre Company)

 

BEST MALE ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE IN A PLAY
BRUCE SPENCE
Endgame (Sydney Theatre Company)
GLENN HAZELDINE
After Dinner (Sydney Theatre Company)
JOHN BELL
As You Like It (Bell Shakespeare)
LASARUS RATUERE
Kill the Messenger (Belvoir)

 

BEST MALE ACTOR IN A PLAY
HUGO WEAVING
Endgame (Sydney Theatre Company)
HUNTER PAGE-LOCHARD
Brothers Wreck (Belvoir)
PETER CARROLL
Oedipus Rex (Belvoir)
STEVE RODGERS
Eight Gigabytes of Hardcore Porn (Griffin Theatre Company and Perth Theatre Company)

 

BEST PLAY
CALPURNIA DESCENDING
Malthouse Theatre and Sydney Theatre Company
ENDGAME
Sydney Theatre Company
THE GLASS MENAGERIE
Belvoir
SUDDENLY LAST SUMMER
Sydney Theatre Company

 

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BEST CHOREOGRAPHY IN A MUSICAL
ANDREW HALLSWORTH
Anything Goes (Opera Australia and John Frost)
KATE CHAMPION and MICHELLE LYNCH
Dirty Dancing – The Classic Love Story on Stage (John Frost)
MICHAEL ASHCROFT and GEOFFREY GARRATT
Les Misérables (Cameron Mackintosh Australia)
STEVEN HOGGETT
Once (John Frost, Barbara Broccoli, John N. Hart Jr., Patrick Milling Smith, Frederick Zollo)

 

BEST DIRECTION OF A MUSICAL
DEAN BRYANT
Anything Goes (Opera Australia and John Frost)
JOHN TIFFANY
Once (John Frost, Barbara Broccoli, John N. Hart Jr., Patrick Milling Smith, Frederick Zollo)
LAURENCE CONNOR and JAMES POWELL
Les Misérables (Cameron Mackintosh Australia)
STUART MAUNDER AM
Into the Woods (Victorian Opera)

 

BEST FEMALE ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE IN A MUSICAL
AMY LEHPAMER
Once (John Frost, Barbara Broccoli, John N. Hart Jr., Patrick Milling Smith, Frederick Zollo)
CLAIRE LYON
Anything Goes (Opera Australia and John Frost)
KERRIE ANNE GREENLAND
Les Misérables (Cameron Mackintosh Australia)
LUCY MAUNDER
Into the Woods (Victorian Opera)

 

BEST FEMALE ACTOR IN A MUSICAL
CAROLINE O’CONNOR
Anything Goes (Opera Australia and John Frost)
HELEN DALLIMORE
Blood Brothers (Enda Markey Presents)
MADELEINE JONES
Once (John Frost, Barbara Broccoli, John N. Hart Jr., Patrick Milling Smith, Frederick Zollo)
PATRICE TIPOKI
Les Misérables (Cameron Mackintosh Australia)

 

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BEST MALE ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE IN A MUSICAL
ALEX RATHGEBER
Anything Goes (Opera Australia and John Frost)
BRENT HALL
Once (John Frost, Barbara Broccoli, John N. Hart Jr, Patrick Milling Smith, Frederick Zollo)
CHRIS DURLING
Les Misérables (Cameron Mackintosh Australia)
COLIN DEAN
Once (John Frost, Barbara Broccoli, John N. Hart Jr, Patrick Milling Smith, Frederick Zollo)
EDDIE MULIAUMASEALI’I
Show Boat (The Production Company)
TREVOR ASHLEY
Les Misérables (Cameron Mackintosh Australia)

 

BEST MALE ACTOR IN A MUSICAL
HAYDEN TEE
Les Misérables (Cameron Mackintosh Australia)
SIMON GLEESON
Les Misérables (Cameron Mackintosh Australia)
TODD MCKENNEY
Anything Goes (Opera Australia and John Frost)
TODD MCKENNEY
La Cage Aux Folles (The Production Company)

 

BEST MUSICAL
ANYTHING GOES
Opera Australia and John Frost
DIRTY DANCING – THE CLASSIC LOVE STORY ON STAGE
John Frost, Karl Sydow, Martin McCullum and Joyce Entertainment
LES MISÉRABLES
Cameron Mackintosh
ONCE
John Frost, Barbara Broccoli, John N. Hart Jr., Patrick Milling Smith, Frederick Zollo

 

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BEST COSTUME DESIGN
ANNA CORDINGLEY
Masquerade (Griffin Theatre Company and State Theatre Company of South Australia)
DALE FERGUSON
Anything Goes (Opera Australia and John Frost)
GABRIELA TYLESOVA
The Rabbits (Opera Australia and Barking Gecko Theatre Company)
GARY MCCANN
Faramondo (Brisbane Baroque in association with QPAC)

 

BEST LIGHTING DESIGN
GEOFF COBHAM
The Philip Glass Trilogy (State Opera Company, South Australia)
NICK SCHLIEPER
Macbeth (Sydney Theatre Company)
PAULE CONSTABLE
Faust (Opera Australia)
PAULE CONSTABLE
Les Misérables (Cameron Mackintosh Australia)
RACHEL BURKE
Marlin (Arena Theatre Company and Melbourne Theatre Company)

 

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE
CAMERON GOODALL and QUENTIN GRANT
Little Bird (State Theatre Company of South Australia)
KATE MILLER-HEIDKE with IAIN GRANDAGE
The Rabbits (Opera Australia)
MIKELANGELO and THE BLACKSEA GENTLEMEN
Masquerade (Griffin Theatre Company and State Theatre Company of South Australia)
TIM ROGERS
What Rhymes with Cars and Girls (Melbourne Theatre Company)

 

BEST MUSIC DIRECTION
ERIN HELYARD
Faramondo (Brisbane Baroque)
MARTIN LOWE
Once (John Frost, Barbara Broccoli, John N. Hart Jr., Patrick Milling Smith, Frederick Zollo)
TIM ROGERS
What Rhymes with Cars and Girls (Melbourne Theatre Company)
TIMOTHY SEXTON
The Philip Glass Trilogy (State Opera South Australia)

 

BEST SCENIC DESIGN

DAN POTRA
The Perfect American (Brisbane Festival and Opera Queensland)
GEOFF COBHAM
Little Bird (State Theatre Company of South Australia)
MARG HORWELL
Marlin (Arena Theatre Company and Melbourne Theatre Company)
MATT KINLEY
Les Misérables (Cameron Mackintosh Australia)

 

BEST SOUND DESIGN
CLIVE GOODWIN
Once (John Frost, Barbara Broccoli, John N. Hart Jr., Patrick Milling Smith, Frederick Zollo)
JD BRILL, CLAIR GLOBAL and EAGLES
Eagles | History of the Eagles Live In Concert 2015 (The Eagles and Frontier Touring)
MICHAEL WATERS
Anything Goes (Opera Australia and John Frost)
MICK POTTER
Les Misérables (Cameron Mackintosh Australia)

 

BEST NEW AUSTRALIAN WORK
AIDAN FENNESSY, MUSIC AND LYRICS BY TIM ROGERS
What Rhymes with Cars and Girls (Melbourne Theatre Company)
ARENA THEATRE COMPANY
Marlin (Arena Theatre Company and Melbourne Theatre Company)
JOANNA MURRAY-SMITH
Switzerland (Sydney Theatre Company)
NICKI BLOOM with songs and music by CAMERON GOODALL and QUENTIN GRANT
Little Bird (State Theatre Company of South Australia)
OPERA AUSTRALIA and BARKING GECKO THEATRE COMPANY
The Rabbits (Opera Australia and Barking Gecko Theatre Company)
TAMARA SAULWICK
Endings (Sydney Festival and Insite Arts)

 

BEST AUSTRALIAN CONTEMPORARY CONCERT
CHET FAKER | NATIONAL TOUR 2015
JIMMY BARNES | 30:30 HINDSIGHT GREATEST HITS TOUR 2014
KYLIE | KISS ME ONCE TOUR 2015
TINA ARENA RESET TOUR

 

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BEST CONTEMPORARY MUSIC FESTIVAL
BLUESFEST BYRON BAY
LANEWAY FESTIVAL
VIVID LIVE 2015
WOMADELAIDE 2015

 

BEST CONTEMPORARY INTERNATIONAL CONCERT
ED SHEERAN | X WORLD TOUR 2015
FOO FIGHTERS | SONIC HIGHWAYS WORLD TOUR 2015
PAUL SIMON and STING – ON STAGE TOGETHER
THE ROLLING STONES | 14 ON FIRE

 

BEST COMEDY PERFORMER
JUDITH LUCY
Judith Lucy – Ask No Questions of the Moth (Token Events)
MATT OKINE
The Other Guy (Century Entertainment)
NAZEEM HUSSAIN
Nazeem Hussain – Legally Brown (Live Nation)
RONNY CHIENG
You Don’t Know What You’re Talking About (Century Entertainment)
SAM SIMMONS
Sam Simmons – Spaghetti for Breakfast (Token Events)

 

BEST CABARET PERFORMER
BECCY COLE and LIBBY DONOVAN
The Cowgirl and the Showgirl (Adelaide Festival Centre Trust)
CAMILLE O’SULLIVAN
Camille O’Sullivan – Changeling (Arts Centre Melbourne)
DAVID CAMPBELL and JOHN BUCCHINO
David Campbell Sings John Bucchino (Luckiest Productions)
KIM SMITH
Nova Noir (Adelaide Festival Centre Trust)

 

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BEST BALLET OR DANCE WORK
FRAME OF MIND
Sydney Dance Company
MEETING
Antony Hamilton and Alisdair Macindoe
MOTION PICTURE
Lucy Guerin Inc
PRECIPICE
Rachel Arianne Ogle

 

BEST CHOREOGRAPHY IN A DANCE OR PHYSICAL THEATRE PRODUCTION
ANTONY HAMILTON
MEETING (Antony Hamilton Projects, Arts House and Insite Arts)
NATALIE WEIR
Natalie Weir’s The Red Shoes (Expressions Dance Company and Queensland Performing Arts Centre)
RAFAEL BONACHELA
Frame of Mind (Sydney Dance Company)
STEPHEN PAGE
Patyegarang (Bangarra Dance Theatre)

 

BEST FEMALE DANCER IN A DANCE OR PHYSICAL THEATRE PRODUCTION
CHLOE LEONG
William Forsythe’s Quintett (Sydney Dance Company)
ELISE MAY
Natalie Weir’s The Red Shoes (Expressions Dance Company and Queensland Performing Arts Centre)
JESSE SCALES
William Forsythe’s Quintett (Sydney Dance Company)
MADELEINE EASTOE
Giselle (The Australian Ballet)

 

BEST MALE DANCER IN A DANCE OR PHYSICAL THEATRE PRODUCTION
ALISDAIR MACINDOE
Motion Picture (Lucy Guerin Inc)
CASS MORTIMER EIPPER
William Forsythe’s Quintett (Sydney Dance Company)
DAVID MACK
William Forsythe’s Quintett (Sydney Dance Company)
JACK ZIESING
Natalie Weir’s The Red Shoes (Expressions Dance Company and Queensland Performing Arts Centre)

 

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BEST VISUAL OR PHYSICAL THEATRE PRODUCTION
BEYOND THE CIRCA
Arts Centre Melbourne and Circa
DISLOCATE’S “IF THESE WALLS COULD TALK”
Marguerite Pepper Productions
THE PAPER ARCHITECT
Davy and Kristin McGuire and Perth International Arts Festival
TABAC ROUGE
Produced by Compagnie du Hanneton, presented by Sydney Festival

 

BEST DIRECTION OF AN OPERA
DAVID MCVICAR
Faust (Opera Australia)
DAVID MCVICAR
Don Giovanni (Opera Australia)
LEIGH WARREN
Philip Glass Trilogy (State Opera of South Australia)
PAUL CURRAN
Faramondo (Brisbane Baroque)

 

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BEST FEMALE PERFORMER IN A SUPPORTING ROLE IN AN OPERA
ANNA DEVIN
Faramondo (Brisbane Baroque)
ANNA STARUSHKEVYCH
Faramondo (Brisbane Baroque)
NICOLE CAR
Don Giovanni (Opera Australia)
TARYN FIEBIG
Don Giovanni (Opera Australia)

 

BEST FEMALE PERFORMER IN AN OPERA
CAITLIN HULCUP
Iphigenie en Tauride (Pinchgut Opera)
JENNIFER RIVERA
Faramondo (Brisbane Baroque)
LATONIA MOORE
Aida – Handa Opera on Sydney Harbour (Opera Australia)
NICOLE CAR
Faust (Opera Australia)

 

BEST MALE PERFORMER IN A SUPPORTING ROLE IN AN OPERA
CHRISTOPHER LOWREY
Faramondo (Brisbane Baroque)
SHANE LOWRENCEV
Don Giovanni (Opera Australia)
TEDDY TAHU RHODES
Faust (Opera Australia)
WARWICK FYFE
The Flying Dutchman (Victorian Opera)

 

BEST MALE PERFORMER IN AN OPERA
ADAM DIEGEL
Madama Butterfly (English National Opera, Metropolitan Opera and Lithuanian National Opera)
CHRISTOPHER PURVES
The Perfect American (Brisbane Festival and Opera Queensland)
CLAUDIO SGURA
Tosca (Opera Australia)
MICHAEL FABIANO
Faust (Opera Australia)
TEDDY TAHU RHODES
Don Giovanni (Opera Australia)

 

BEST OPERA
FARAMONDO (Brisbane Baroque)
FAUST (Opera Australia)
MADAMA BUTTERFLY (English National Opera, Metropolitan Opera and Lithuanian National Opera)
THE PHILIP GLASS TRILOGY (State Opera South Australia)

 

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BEST CHAMBER AND/OR INSTRUMENTAL ENSEMBLE CONCERT
GOLDNER STRING QUARTET, MUSICA VIVA INTERNATIONAL CONCERT SERIES NATIONAL TOUR 2015
Goldner String Quartet for Musica Viva Australia
LES ARTS FLORISSANTS and LE JARDIN DES VOIX IN Â JARDIN Ã L’ITALIENNE
Melbourne Recital Centre, Sydney Opera House and Perth International Arts Festival
THE SIXTEEN
Melbourne Recital Centre, Sydney Opera House, Perth International Arts Festival, Queensland Performing Arts Centre and Australian National University of Music, Llewellyn Hall
STEPHEN HOUGH IN RECITAL
Sydney Symphony Orchestra

 

BEST SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA CONCERT
THE DAMNATION OF FAUST
Melbourne Symphony Orchestra
MAHLER 3
Melbourne Symphony Orchestra
REFLECTIONS ON GALLIPOLI
Australian Chamber Orchestra
TAFELMUSIK’S HOUSE OF DREAMS
Musica Viva

 

BEST INDIVIDUAL CLASSICAL MUSIC PERFORMANCE
ASHER FISCH
Beethoven Festival (West Australian Symphony Orchestra)
CHRISTIAN TETZLAFF
Christian Tetlaff (Melbourne Recital Centre)
EMANUEL AX
The Beethoven Piano Concertos (Sydney Symphony Orchestra)
WILLIAM CHRISTIE
William Christie (Melbourne Recital Centre, Sydney Opera House, and Perth International Arts Festival)

 

BEST REGIONAL TOURING PRODUCTION
FESTIVAL OF CIRCA
Circa
FOOD
Force Majeure and Belvoir
KELLY
Queensland Theatre Company
SONS & MOTHERS
Performing Lines and No Strings Attached Theatre of Disability

 

kelly_stevenrooke

 

BEST PRESENTATION FOR CHILDREN
CARNIVAL OF THE ANIMALS
Circa and Queensland Performing Arts Centre
HANS CHRISTIAN, YOU MUST BE AN ANGEL
Sydney Opera House and Arts Centre Melbourne
PETE THE SHEEP
Monkey Baa Theatre Company
THE RABBITS
Opera Australia and Barking Gecko Theatre Company, in association with West Australian Opera, cocommissioned
by Perth International Arts Festival and Melbourne Festival

 

2015 HELPMANN AWARDS BESTOWED AWARD

 

BEST SPECIAL EVENT
PERTH INTERNATIONAL ARTS FESTIVAL IN ASSOCIATION WITH ROYAL DE LUXE
The Incredible and Phenomenal Journey of the Giants to the Streets of Perth

 

LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARDS

 

SUE NATTRASS AWARD™
ERIC ROBINSON

JC WILLIAMSON AWARD®
PAUL KELLY

BRIAN STACEY AWARD 2015
JESSICA GETHIN

 

02
Mar
15

Noosa Long Weekend Festival 2015 Now On Sale!

 

Noosa Long Weekend Festival presents our most exciting program yet!

 

You know these events SELL OUT! In fact, many events have already sold well during the exclusive pre-sale for Friends & Patrons. Become a Friend or Patron this year so you don’t miss out again next year!

 

You won’t want to miss David Williamson’s DREAM HOME or CATHERINE ALCORN or ROB MILLS or DUSTY LIVE IN CONCERT or AN EVENING WITH THE QUEENSLAND BALLET or MELODY BECK & JOHANNA ALLEN or ROB MILLS or JULIAN GARGUILO or THE MAGIC FLUTE! GO ON. BOOK NOW.

 

pre-sale

 

There are 3 easy ways for you to secure your festival event tickets:

1. Online

2. Telephone* (07) 5329 6560 – The J Theatre Mon-Fri 9am – 5pm.

* A transaction fee of $3.50 applies to all telephone ticket sales.

3. Counter sales The J Theatre Mon-Fri 9am 5pm.

magic-flute-australian-opera

 

For the first time ever, Opera Australia will bring a fully staged production of its much loved Opera, The Magic Flute to the Sunshine Coast.

 

Direct from Melbourne, the professional cast and orchestra complete with an authentic Egyptian tomb set, lighting, costumes and wigs will perform one night only, on Tuesday July 14.

 

“It’s a magical way to kick off our 2015 festival” said an excited and proud Festival Director, Ian Mackellar. …“It couldn’t have happened without the wholehearted support of Opera Australia Artistic Director, Lyndon Terracini AM and festival event sponsors, Settler’s Cove and Tourism Noosa.”

 

The logistics surrounding this ‘one performance only event’ equates to Noosa’s own G20 manoeuvres.

 

With no existing stage large enough, a 48 foot Semi will roll into town and transform the Noosa Leisure Centre into a major performance space capable of staging the full production of this Mozart masterpiece in front of 700 people.

 

The ability to pull off such an event, confirms the Noosa Long Weekend Festival as the major regional Arts Festival in the Country.

 

President Johanne Wright said “The collective vision of Opera Australia and our sponsors has enabled us to make this special performance accessible to as many people as possible and this will be reflected in the ticket price.”

 

Lyndon Terracini AM, Artistic Director of Opera Australia said “Opera Australia is thrilled to be bringing Mozart’s The Magic Flute to the Noosa Long Weekend Festival. I’m personally tremendously excited about this event and I know all the cast and of course the legendary director Michael Gow are just as excited as I am. It’s a wonderful production…”

 

23
Apr
14

The King and I

 

The King and I

Opera Australia & John Frost

QPAC Lyric Theatre

April 19 – June 1 2014

 

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

 

EVEN THE SOUVENIR PROGRAM IS LAVISH!

 

I’m not kidding. If you’re ever going to spend $159.90 on a theatre ticket (and another twenty bucks on a program), make it this time, for this show. Whatever you come away thinking about the issues of race and subservience, etc, etc, etc; if you’ve gone in expecting to be entertained you will be entertained! Director, Christopher Renshaw, and a lovely, big, full-scale musical theatre/opera budget have made sure of that.

 

The King and I. Image by Brian Geach.

 

Moments after I posted a pic of the proscenium and the immense red panels on stage, four Buddhist monks entered the Lyric Theatre, carrying incense. Not long after taking our seats we’d picked up on the evocative scent and the soothing sounds of meditation bells (Poppy downloaded a similar sounding app for my iPhone). I love this multi-sensory live theatre experience – we did the same for audiences in an empty surf shop in Mooloolaba when we staged the return season of Erotique, only it was Twenty8 Romance & Intimacy essential oil blend burning in diffusers we’d placed throughout the space – the scent is more important than you might think, adding an extra dimension to the challenging task of transporting us to another time and place.

 

The time is the 1800s and the place is Siam, the name given by foreigners to Thailand before 1939.

 

It feels like a street I walked down in Yogyakarta (though the prominent scent then was durian!), or the opening moments of Miss Saigon, all exotic, chaotic street, market and bar business. “One of us will be Miss Saigon.” Oh. Right. (I’m surprised the budget didn’t stretch to a live snake actually, aren’t you?)… And out of the noise and the mist of the harbour enters Lisa McCune, to a smattering of applause; she’s the uncertain but certainly bold Miss Anna, English schoolteacher. With her is a young boy, Riley Brooker, as her son, Louis. (The role is shared between Brooker, and Bailey Kelleher). They are very English, very proper, and they very precisely sing the first of many favourite Rodgers & Hammerstein’s songs, I Whistle a Happy Tune. Flanked by enormous red elephants beneath the proscenium, we know that the palace of the King of Siam will be breathtaking and now we’re as excited and as nervous as they are; we can’t wait to see it (and to meet the King)! When the bejewelled panels slide out magically to reveal a multidimensional panelled set of immense proportions, there are audible gasps from the audience – I think one of them is mine – because this is the most gorgeous, lavish set we’ve seen in an age, and it’s a rare pleasure (Set Design Brian Thomson). At Interval I hear, “Oh, it’s very opera.” That’s fitting, considering this is another collaboration, after the success of South Pacific, with Opera Australia. I’m sure there must be a third in pre-pre-pre-production discussion stages – the chemistry between McCune and Teddy Tahu Rhodes, whether real or imagined y’all, is too good to let go of just yet. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

 

Also “very opera” is Jenny Liu in the role of Tuptim, the young girl sent to the King as a gift from Burma. Liu traverses lightly between opera and musical theatre in a beautifully measured performance, perfectly matched by star on the rise, Adrian Li Donni as Lun Tha. Their moments together are delightful and tears may well as the music swells during their first act duet We Kiss in a Shadow and second act duet I Have Dreamed. But it’s Shu-Cheen Yu (Lady Thiang) who almost steals the show when she sings fervently to Anna Something Wonderful. (Singers, go ye and see her sing this because, singers, this is why we sing). Under the expert musical direction of Peter Casey, this orchestra is ideal; rich and sumptuous.

 

The King and I. Image by Brian Geach.

 

I say she almost steals the show because despite the fine performances of everybody else in this production – including that of Teddy Tahu Rhodes, which is as solid a performance as we need in this role, as the spoilt, sexist, too-slow-to-evolve King of Siam – this is McCune’s show. A strong adult ensemble, which delivers The Small House of Uncle Thomas just as we love to see it done, with reverence and tradition and terror and sadness and joy (Choreographer Susan Kikuchi), and a cute children’s chorus can’t compete with McCune; not with her smile or her on stage style, which is helped immensely in this production, it’s true, by Roger Kirk’s multi award winning designs. There must be at least six costume changes for McCune (I lost count!), and each gown is superb. My favourites – the boudoir robe (Shall I Tell You What I Think Of You?) and the ball gown (Shall We Dance?) – are exquisite. And it’s during the exuberant Shall We Dance that Teddy Tahu Rhodes successfully navigates the masses of fabric and literally sweeps McCune off her feet! For half a moment her eyes widen in surprise at the shock of a higher-and-faster-than-must-have-happened-during-rehearsals lift or twirl or swirl or something. But it doesn’t matter, in fact, for those who catch it, the expression adds to the thrill of the dance and when the King announces, “Again!” we want to experience it again too. It’s actually a travesty that there is no reprise and repeat of that polka. We have enjoyed, however, a reprise of Hello, Young Lovers; it’s the gentlest show stopper ever and it takes my breath away in an entirely different way.

 

I should mention that the young boy who plays the eldest son and heir to the throne does an almighty job in this lovely little role and really shines by the end of the night, as he psyches himself into being King. Incidentally, unlike at the conclusion of the movie, I don’t shed a tear when his father the King dies. He’s set so far back! I feel bad for not feeling sadder but then, suddenly, before we’ve had time to actually finish even exhaling, the media is ready to capture an Australian premiere standing ovation in Brisbane, and the brightest white light from a television camera makes me feel like all the emotion of the show is wasted! As long as the media gets their shot! A cheap shot!

 

I should also mention that I still feel it’s a crap ending. Isn’t it? So sad, so thinly veiled with hope for the new world order. I mean, for the King to decide to fade away that way? What even is that!? GET UP! Let’s face it, the production is pure escapism and it’s why we love the old shows. Well, there’s still something terribly irksome about aspects of Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, Carousel, Oklahoma and Show Boat but (The dancing! The songs!) …there is also something glorious and heartwarming in a good old fashioned, glittering romance. Sam disagrees. Sort of.

 

The King and I. Image by Brain Geach.

 

“It’s entertainment Viagra. Is there a place for it? Yes, there is. But telling a Rodgers and Hammerstein story in such a lavish way in 2014 is important for reasons you’re not even thinking about. Is it important because the story is important? No, it’s outdated and irrelevant, like South Pacific was. But it’s nice and I applaud Frosty for being bold enough to roll out two old girls in a row and make them work.”

 

“So you think there should be more of it?” I’m hopeful. Sometimes I just love an entertaining show, you know? And this one is entertaining AND good! Also, this conversation should not end in a fight. It’s late, it’s a school night, and I’ve got to get a move on and write the column too, and you know how long it takes to add links and images here (the big images are back! Hooray!), plus I was going to make real breakfast before school, after yoga and meditation and my morning pages… C’mon! Get to the point, Sam.

 

“I don’t think there should be more of it; I think there should be less of it, but if it’s going to be done, let it be done by John Frost. It hasn’t even had new life breathed into it, has it? It’s just a new, good, fun take on a much-loved show with a great, golden set. They’ve just done it the way it should be done. The remnants of the baby boomers are being tapped – the oldies want the oldies and they want them done with that girl from Blue Heelers.”

 

I’m appalled. I retort, “She looks twenty-two and she sings like a bird!” Wait. Did he just call me old?

 

“You loved it and you should. It’s beautiful, colourful, it cost a lot of money and it let you get away for a couple of hours. Good. It’s all good. I’m going to bed.” Clearly, this conversation is unfinished.

 

The King and I. Image by Brain Geach.

 

Meanwhile, Poppy has appeared to check whether or not I’ve finished Our Review Of The King and I because she has to go to bed too. “It’s a school night, Mum.” She has something to add: “I loved it, it was beautiful. I love the movie but it’s sad. I loved how there was gold glitter that rained down on us at the end! It was awesome.”

 

And there you have it; as good a reason as any to go see this beautiful, lavish, ravishing, dazzling, all-the-superlatives production. #outofthemouthsofbabes

 

15
Apr
14

The King and I previews in Brisbane Tonight!

“The most ravishing show you may ever see…”

 

How excitement! Are you one of the lucky ones? Are you seeing it first?

 

lisamccuneandteddytahurhodes

 

The King and I presented by Opera Australia and John Frost opens as a glittering national premiere at QPAC on Saturday 19 April 2014 and previews tonight! If you didn’t secure seats already, you still have a chance to see this sumptuous production…

 

Final tickets have been released for the Australian premiere season of the Rodgers and Hammerstein masterpiece, The King and I which will play for strictly limited seven week season in QPAC’s Lyric Theatre until Sunday 1 June 2014.

 

Australia’s favourite leading lady and four-time Gold Logie winner Lisa McCune plays English governess Anna Leonowens opposite internationally acclaimed baritone Teddy Tahu Rhodes as the King in the Brisbane and Sydney seasons, hot from their success performing together in the national tour of South Pacific, also presented by Opera Australia and John Frost.

 

In the roles of British Diplomat Sir Edward Ramsey and Captain Orton is John Adam (The School For Wives) while The Kralahome is played by Marty Rhone (The King and I – West End, Godspell). Lady Thiang will be played by Chinese-born Australian opera singer Shu-Cheen Yu (The King and I – 1991 Australian tour) and in the roles of the Burmese young lovers Lun Tha and Tuptim are Adrian Li Donni and Jenny Liu.

 

The ensemble performers are Bianca Baykara, Novy Bereber, Iggy Cabral, William Centurion, Leo Cornelius, Jade Coutts, Teresa Duddy, Vivien Emsworth, Elle Evangelista, Carolyn Ferrie, Chris Fung, Kiana Gallop-Angeles, Erin James, Ella Jarman, Patrick Jeremy, Leah Lim, Anna Magrath, Seann Matthew Moore, Matthew Nguyen, Alexis Pedraza-Sampang, Hayanah Pickering, Marcus Rivera, Michelle Rozario, Ariya Sawadivong, Victor Siharath, Nicholas Sopelario and Yong Ying Woo.

 

The Brisbane production also stars 27 Queensland children aged 5 to 13, many making their stage debut in The King and I.

 

The principal role of Prince Chululongkorn will be shared by Timothy Ho and Sebastian Li, and principal role of Louis Leonowens will be shared by Riley Brooker and Bailey Kelleher. Jayden McGinlay will understudy the roles of both Louis and Prince Chululongkorn.

 

The 22 children who will play the young princes and princesses of Siam are Hannah Bahr,   Leilani Joy Burke-Court, Mia Byrne, Katitlin Cheung, Lucy Chin, Oliver Chin, Izellah Connelly, Chloe De Los Santos, Rocco Frediani, Jai Godbold, Jessica Kim, Kai Koinuma, Chloe Liew, Cameron McDonald, Lachlan McDonald, Siaa Panapa, Rhetta Pulou, Charlotte Rubendra, Jayden Siemon, Laila Mia Steele, Zayden Stevens and Shivani Whala.

 

lisamcuneandkids

 

The King and I was Rodgers and Hammerstein’s fifth musical together and is considered one of the jewels in their crown. It was based on Margaret Landon’s 1944 novel Anna and the King of Siam, which took its inspiration from the memoirs of Anna Leonowens, a British governess to the children of King Mongkut of Siam (now Thailand) in the early 1860s.

 

The beautiful score includes the songs “I Whistle a Happy Tune”, “Getting to Know You”, “Shall We Dance?” and “Hello, Young Lovers”.

 

A hit on Broadway in 1951, where it starred Gertrude Lawrence (who died during the season) and Yul Brynner, the show ran for three years before touring. The first London production opened in 1953, enjoying similar success. In 1956 it became a famous film starring Deborah Kerr and Yul Brynner who won an Academy Award for his performance.

 

John Frost’s now legendary Australian production premiered at the Adelaide Festival Theatre in 1991. Directed by West End director Christopher Renshaw and starring Hayley Mills as Anna, it played to sell out houses around the country. In 1996, the production went on to win four Tony Awards on Broadway: Best Revival of a Musical, Best Performance by an Actress in a Musical (Donna Murphy), Best Scenic Design (Brian Thomson) and Best Costume Design (Roger Kirk). The Broadway season was followed by a US tour. In 2000, the production opened at the London Palladium with Elaine Paige as Anna where it played for nearly two years before embarking on a UK tour.

 

Christopher Renshaw has returned to Australia to revive the production, with its stunning Thai-inspired set design by Brian Thomson, sumptuous costumes by Roger Kirk, lighting by Nigel Levings, sound design by Michael Waters and musical direction by Peter Casey. Susan Kikuchi has recreated the original Jerome Robbins choreography as well as the choreography of her mother Yuriko who appeared in the 1951 Broadway production and the 1956 film.

 

 

04
Jan
13

South Pacific

South Pacific

 

South Pacific

Opera Australia and John Frost

QPAC Lyric Theatre

27th December – 27th January 2013

 

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

 

This year marks the 60th Anniversary of South Pacific in Australia.

 

This is the iconic album cover image I grew up with.

This record (Google it, kids; vinyl record) became scratched beyond repair before it was discarded (if it was discarded at all. I have a sneaking suspicion that I saw it recently, stashed upstairs, amongst Mum and Dad’s fave records of all time!). I remember singing the songs for years, skipping and kicking around the lounge room, washing that man right outta’ my hair and sending him on his way!

South Pacific Album Cover

First performed on Broadway in 1949, Rodgers & Hammerstein’s South Pacific made a bold statement in post-war America about tolerance and acceptance. Only four years on from World War II, South Pacific gave us inter-racial relationships, and what it takes to overcome our own prejudices.

 

Opera Australia and John Frost’s co-production, from the original Lincoln Center Theater production, directed by Bartlett Sher, is superb. The Brisbane cast is impressive and they have the privilege of working in Catherine Zuber’s authentic costumes (we get just a glimpse of several gorgeous evening gowns), within a simple, elegant set.

 

Whether or not you’re a fan of Rodgers & Hammerstein, there is a lot to love about this show. The first thing is Teddy Tahu Rhodes, who is sublime as the Frenchman, Emile De Becque. Honestly. What is there NOT to love about this guy? His heartfelt delivery of Some Enchanted Evening (What’s this? Another reprise? Alright!), and This Nearly Was Mine are heart-melting, heart-breaking perfection. Already well respected in the international opera world, South Pacific is Rhodes’ first musical and it’s won him a host of new, devoted (swooning) fans. I’m sure I was not the only one on opening night left quite breathless by Rhodes’ enigmatic performance.

 

Teddy Tahu Rhodes. Image by Kurt Sneddon.

 

Well-matched and perfectly cast as Ensign Nellie Forbush is multiple award-winner and golden girl of the stage and small screen, Lisa McCune. I know! Remember when we were all slightly suspicious of McCune? That transition from Australian TV Drama to the stage can be a killer. But remember back even further? That’s right. When she was just 15, McCune was Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, in Wanneroo, Western Australia. Since then, McCune has gone from strength to strength and in this role she excels, coming full circle as a singer, despite a voice that is sweeter than you might expect to hear, traditionally, in this role. But you can’t fake Nellie Forbush. It’s all or nothing and McCune gives it her all. I love her naivety and her boldness, perfectly juxtaposed to reveal a woman who can clearly see that her ingrained prejudice will leave her unstuck in the end but not – at first – how she can change her perspective. Her prejudice and confusion come as a shock, both to her and to us, but we have to remember where we are…and where Nellie comes from. You’ve Got to be Carefully Taught

 

Lisa McCune. Image by Kurt Sneddon.

 

In lesser productions of South Pacific, Lieutenant Joe Cable is so often the weak link but thanks to the incredible talent and sensitivity of stunning Tenor, Daniel Koek, combined with Sher’s insightful direction, he is so likeable, and it is a truly awful moment to hear of his demise. In fact, he reminds me of Miss Saigon’s Chris but he’s not such a sap. Sher’s multi-award-winning direction of this production has ensured we see full characterisations and rich, real relationships (though the rumours of a romance between McCune and Rhodes were quashed on Monday at the media launch, so perhaps not as real as we’d like to imagine, which only goes to show that the acting must be A1!). Suffice to say, there is no nuance missed, such is the attention to detail.

 

Daniel Koek as Lieutenant Cable. Image by Jeff-Busby.

 

Gyton Grantley offers plenty of giggles as go-to Seabee, Luther Billis, and balances his comedic antics with tenderness towards Nellie that doesn’t go unnoticed. Christine Anu somehow manages to seduce more than repel, with her betel nut stained teeth and a haunting rendition of Bali Ha’i. Celina Yuen, as Liat, is fragile and beautiful, and the children are suitably spirited. On opening night they were Joy Ehue (Ngana) and Levi Ehue (Jerome). I’d love to get back before the season closes to see our own Louisa Finau; Sunshine Coast based and a newcomer to the professional stage. The ensemble is uniformly excellent; they look good and their sound is rich and full.

 

Christine Anu & Gyton Grantley. Image by Kurt Sneddon.

 

The inspiration for Rodgers and Hammerstein’s love story, James A Michener’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel Tales of the South Pacific, is rich in detail and this design team brings both Michener’s prose and the legendary island, Bali Ha’I, out of the mist and into reality with a deceptively simple set comprising a painted backdrop, beautifully lit, narrowly avoiding looking like a set for The Bold and The Beautiful (Sets by Michael Yeargan & Lighting by Donald Holder). Once we accept that it’s not a moving, multi-media image, it becomes all the more real. The moment of acceptance creeps up on us; it’s similar to that point where, as an adult watching Peter Pan, we just HAVE to clap and chime in with, “I DO believe in fairies!” Timber plantation blinds help to set each scene, delineating different spaces for the islands, and the company street, the Commander’s Office and De Beque’s plantation home, and seamless transitions make it easy to suspend disbelief. The magic of this South Pacific is not only in the performances on stage, but also, in the unseen performances of the crew, and in the inspired direction of Sher, whose vision is exquisitely shared.

 

With Australian Musical Director, Andrew Greene, at the helm, the orchestra sounds superb – the overture swells just as it should, igniting our love of old-school live theatre and the Great American Musical of the mid-20th century – and the well-loved songs tumble forth like a waterfall’s glistening gifts; still enticing audience members to sing along softly under their breath, 60 years on.

 

South Pacific is a rare pearl. A poignant, still relevant message and absolutely superb performances make this the perfect show for the start of a magical year of musical theatre.

 

Lisa McCune & Teddy Tahu Rhodes. Image by Jeff Busby.