Posts Tagged ‘Oscar Theatre Company

12
Oct
16

Boy&Girl

Boy&Girl

Brisbane Powerhouse & Oscar Theatre Co

Brisbane Powerhouse Visy Theatre

September 23 – October 15 2016

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

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Warning: Coarse language, adult themes, nudity, glitter and show tunes

The sexiest show in town just got better. Better see it at Brisbane Powerhouse before it goes global!

Driving through Fortitude Valley after midnight on a Saturday night is enlightening, isn’t it?

Oscar Theatre Co’s third iteration of their smash hit super sexy sell-out up-late cabaret (let’s make it a hashtag), Boy&Girl would have made the perfect prelude to a messy, sexy night best forgotten by morning an intimate and stylish, sophisticated and special date night. Boy&Girl is a whole new world of lycra, lace and latex, (barely) veiled debauchery, and loads of fun for anyone with a sense of humour and the need for late-night actual-entertainment in this town.

Emily Gilhome designed for Oscar Theatre Company a very simple strategy several years ago, staging superior musical productions  Spring Awakening and Next To Normal and [title of show] – and rapidly building a massive local following comprising artists and audiences. For eight years this humble company could do no wrong (still, can do no wrong), and became something like Brisbane’s James Bond: everyone wanted to be in an Oscar show or be at an Oscar show. They (“He” i.e. Oscar) disappeared for a little while but after a bit of travel and NIDA style life experience, Oscar’s back with a vengeance, well, with a brand new version of the hugely successful Boy&Girl brand: a sexy, racy, hugely popular show featuring some of the city’s best talent. The show is a superb stand alone piece and a fantastic festival opener. A scaled down version (or an even bigger, bolder production) could easily be seen, with the right backers, anywhere in the world.

The winning formula consists of several well known big voices within a company of superior singers and dancers, all dressed for sex, delivering a series of slick and sassy musical numbers, some cheeky comedy, and a couple of flashy circus tricks. It’s as simple as it sounds. But unlike Strut & Fret’s substandard Blanc de Blanc at Brisbane Festival this year (there are no excuses good enough to justify that level of lazy, tasteless entertainment), Oscar’s Boy&Girl delivers. Again.

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Pre-show entertainment (and during Interval too for those who can resist making an additional dash to the bar) gets us in the mood and sets expectations high. That’s if they weren’t already sky-high after viewing Joel Devereux’s publicity shots of the black leather and Lycra clad company. I wondered why there was no photo booth for punters to get a pic with their fave sexy star…maybe next time. Outside it’s noisy, chatty, and inside, as the pre-show banter continues, the mood is so relaxed we could be at a swingers’ party. But it would be a Spiegeltent swingers’ party, such is the glitter induced joy and sparkling natural charm of the performers. The front row consists of well-loved sofas, but with a great deal more white light on them than we had sat beneath during the original Visy Theatre season (remembering the second version was staged in the less intimate Powerhouse Theatre). For someone who appreciates audience participation from some distance and under the cover of darkness, the sofas suddenly seem less alluring…

It’s a slick show, opening with The Andrews Sisters (Simon Chamberlain, Lachlan Geraghty, Patrick Dwyer), a tight outfit, in tight outfits, and they offer an entirely new take on Britney Spears (Oops! I Did It Again). The first big company number, taken from La Cage Au Follies, sets the gender-bending tone of the evening (We Are What We Are), and our hosts, Stephen Hirst and Aya Valentine get things off to a rollicking start. The musical arrangements are terrific and to better appreciate the top notch band, we could do with slightly better sight lines and less distance between us and them. 

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To the delight of the Saturday up-late show crowd, Sam Turk struts and whips her way through Sweet Transvestite / Sex Bomb. Followed by a cutesy double entendre laden Disney medley featuring Stevie Bishop, Patrick Dwyer, Monique Bowdler, Kristyn Bilson and Aurelie Roque.

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Josh Daveta dons a dramatic cape and formidable 6-inch heels to become the evil under-the-sea Ursula (Poor Unfortunate Souls) and slays. And while nothing can ever top the original season’s Single Ladies (an encore performance by special invitation was enjoyed at the Matilda Awards), Lady Marmalade and Big Spender come close – ferocious and full of sass. (Garret Lyon, Josh Daveta, Lachlan Geraghty, Matt Bonasia, Stevie Bishop). The girls shine in Grease Lightning and Roxanne, in which the dancing features more strongly than the vocals, which seem not entirely suited to the vocalist, Alana Tierney. (Chloe Rose-Taylor was absent from Saturday night’s performance). As far as vocals go, for this tough little number, it has to be said that an encore performance of Luke Kennedy and Sam Coward’s passionate rendition of Roxanne would give them a run for their money. 

Speaking of Sam, he either enjoyed Boom Boom more than he’d like to admit, or he’s scarred for life and has expertly hidden the damage behind a diplomatic, “Yeah, that happened” expression.

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It’s unfortunate that, once again, we have dancers and vocalists competing for attention. They probably don’t feel they’re competing but I always love to see a good singer sing without having the distraction of a dancer on the floor. (Sam says hide the band and hide the singer, a la Cirque du Soleil; i.e. bring out the singers for one number and after, wave them off again!). Quite simply, when you’ve got Garret Lyon just give us Garret Lyon.

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Even Ellen Reed, a star singer with a powerhouse voice and stage presence so powerful she deserves her own line of superhero merch in the foyer, gets a little lost behind so much action on stage. Act 2’s pole dancing sequence (Earned It featuring Reed) needs slightly less fire, fewer Pippin tricks, and a bit more pizazz, however; Matthew Bonasia’s strength and grace is indeed impressive and his flesh, ink adorned, is itself a work of art. This is the sequence with the least polish. With a little more focus on the big picture effect it could be the beat change that brings about the finale.

His choreography is still sharp, snappy and oh so sexy but we miss seeing Dan Venz on stage (he’s busy again with Hairspray). Likewise, I’ve always loved Chris Kellett’s cheeky reading of the emcee role but Stephen Hirst’s brazen performance as Emcee/Uncle gives us the gift that is Long John Blues. It’s hysterical and could easily earn him billing beneath Catherine Alcorn in the next tour of The Divine Miss Bette if she was ready to cast boys as her back up singers. This happened once, when she and Tom Sharah were up for the Noosa Long Weekend Festival on the same night. But I digress. Let’s bring it back to Boy&Girl. I’d love to see Tom Sharah featured in the next Boy&Girl…

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The modifications, as much as the style of the show, its talented artists and its savvy, glossy marketing collateral keep us coming back to this show. It’s a complete package, sizzling hot, fresh and bold, surprising, sweaty, sassy, classy and all over much too soon. On another level it challenges the way we see the world, calling us to action in its rousing final ensemble numbers One Voice and Born This Way.

Beg, borrow or steal a ticket to Boy&Girl – it’s the hottest, strongest, longest running/most often returning political campaign cabaret we’ve seen in this state.

11
Apr
14

boy&girl

 

boy&girl

Oscar Theatre Co

Brisbane Powerhouse

April 3 – 19 2014

 

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

 

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Trust Oscar to put on the sexiest show in town! Their girls are hot and their boys are hotter, regardless of your preferences. But what makes this show spectacular spectacular is a lot more than the eye candy – these kids can sing and dance y’all! And they always have done – you’ll remember Spring Awakening and Next To Normal – and this show, which evolved as the Lightspace Cabaret Series, is the next logical step, proving beyond a shadow of a doubt that Oscar is here to stay. And thank Adonis for that!

 

There’s a blatant message behind this show, and that’s SAME (SPECTACULAR SPECTACULAR) SAME. I hope to all the Greek Gods that you’re not still struggling with the notion of same-sex relationships (if you’re reading this blog, let’s face it, probs not!), but if you are, you sad, sad excuse for a human being, all the more reason to climb into an old sofa in the front row and HAVE YOUR MIND BLOWN!

 

While some are still insisting on trying to fit cabaret into a neat little box, Oscar goes beyond definition to create a gender-bending, mind-blowing phenomenon that you’ll experience and want to experience again, immediately. It’s not often we see something with the awesome, powerful, positive sexual energy to lift us out of our seats shouting, “Again! Again!” And look, no, it wasn’t just me. A packed house roared their appreciation at the end of the show, already having clapped and squealed throughout it in pure delight. Being able to bring drinks into the space is obviously essential to the atmosphere, but actually, during Interval, Adam and I lounged – literally – and chatted away, taking in the high-voltage vibe and wondering aloud, “Where does Emily FIND these performers?” Or do they find her?

 

In Chris Kellet we have an Emcee in true Cabaret tradition. To open with Wilkommen makes perfect sense, setting the ambience with ease (helped already, before we even begin by the band, led by MD Dale Lingwood and cast members strategically placed posed amongst the punters), and allowing us – especially those of us right under the, er, noses of the performers, admire an entirely new perspective on the number, choreographed by Dan Venz. The impact of the full company is felt at once, and not again until an extraordinary homage to West Side Story, ringing out that core message loud and clear, to bring the evening to a close. The voices are rich and full, befitting the well-loved score, and we are convinced. There is indeed a place for us, no matter who (or what) we are. In between, of course there is naughtiness! And some standout performances, including a gorgeous Andrew Sisters style arrangement of Call Me Maybe (Conor, Dakota & Dan), Conor Ensor’s touching Sandra Dee/There Are Worse Things I Could Do, Aya Valentine’s riotous take on My Girlfriend Who Lives In Canada, the expertly executed Cell Block Tango (all the boys), and Single Ladies (Garret, Adwan & Andy). Oscar’s very own Bath Girl seems an odd – but  not – inclusion and I hope there’s another show for her (and her South Pacific cum Rubby Ducky parodying boy chorus); it’s as if this one couldn’t NOT go into the final mix, but there might be a better fit within a future vision. And there are moments of contemporary dance that almost take away from the vocalists’ work, but I let those moments slide because the dancers are good; precise and emotionally present, earning their place in the shared space. THIS TIME.

 

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It’s with surprise and delight that I take on board the gender-bending vocals and physicality of the cast (who knew Rizzo could be such a sensitive guy?), and so it’s with some surprise also, that I realise later Bring on the Men is performed entirely by the girls, as per its original context from Jekyll and Hyde. And would that not have been an interesting piece for the boys to explore?

 

If for no other reason, you should probs see this show before we lose Venz to Vegas; surely that’s his destiny, or at least within his sights. Not only a hot, sharp mover and shaker, he’s choreographed the whole thing, beautifully lit by Jason Glenwright. Now THAT’S more like it, Mister! Light up those guys and dolls! Very clever, the way Ms Gilhome gets people together to create a little somethin’ somethin’…

 

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This little somethin’ somethin’ is absolutely sizzling so see it before it sells out! Or… Perhaps it’s already too late and you will only have everybody else’s party stories to go by. That’s sad. For you. This fun fiasco finishes next weekend. Get on it, get a ticket and get to it!

 

 

Aaand roll credits…

 

 

Director: Emily Gilhome

Choreographer: Dan Venz

Music Director: Dale Lingwood

Lighting Designer: Jason Glenwright

Designer: Falco Fox

Assistant Director: Jack Kelly

Photography Design: Joel Devereux

 

Band: Dale Lingwood, Gene Stevens, Justin Bliss, Daniel Robbins

 

Company: Adwan Dickson, Aimee Butterworth, Andrew Kanofski, Ash McCready, Aya Valentine, Chris Kellett, Claire Walters, Conor Ensor, Dakota Striplin, Dan Venz, Danny Lazar, Ellen Reed, Garret Lyon, Jack Kelly, Jacqui Devereus, Jakob Evelyn, Kimie Tsukakoshi, Michael Hogan, Shannon Metzeling, Shelley Marshall, Vanessa Friscia, Josh Daveta

 

20
Apr
13

Next To Normal

Next to Normal

Music by Tom Kitt and Book & Lyrics by Brian Yorkey

Oscar Theatre Company

QPAC Cremorne

18th April – 4th May 2013

 

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

 

It’s got to be one of our greatest fears, up there with shark attacks, road accidents, plane crashes and public speaking; the prospect of losing our mental faculties has got to be one of the most terrifying things in a lifetime. I’m already terrified of losing my memory. Maybe it’s why I write. Maybe it’s why I Instagram. Maybe it’s why I married Sam (Mr XS has a memory like an elephant, which makes up for mine, which is more comparable to a butterfly with an average life span of seven or so days). Maybe it’s why The Notebook feels so personal and I’m unable to watch it without crying my eyes out and leaving a pot of tea to go cold. EVERY TIME. And we’re not even going to mention Silver Linings Playbook.

 

Theatre is a mirror. And what I see in Next to Normal is a woman who lost control a long time ago. And nothing anybody can do will help her regain it. That’s terrifying.

 

In Australia we know that one in four people suffer from a diagnosed mental health condition. I know; I’ve linked to a source that states it’s one in five (the 2007 ABS figure) but did you know that Sam has a day job in the upper echelons of STEPS Group Australia? He says it’s now one in four. And I believe him. Think about that. That’s somebody you know (or several people you know). Or…it’s you.

 

We also know that the statistics are usually the last we hear of it. Chronic depression and mental illnesses, more often than not, just don’t rate a mention. In fact, there’s an awful lot of discussion about discussing mental illness. We’ve all shared the Facebook meme or re-tweeted somebody’s sensitive plea for greater tolerance, support and understanding of mental illness (R U OK?). Terrific! Great job! Now, where’s our greater tolerance, support and understanding of mental illness?

 

Standing in this room,

Well I wonder what comes now.

I know I have to help her,

But hell if I know how.

And all the times that I’ve been told

The way her illness goes.

The truth of it is no one really knows.

 

– Dan Goodman, Next to Normal

 

The Pulitzer Prize winning Next to Normal boasts an intelligent book, which gives us a glimpse into the simple horrors of living every day in an unstable way, and great insight into what it must feel like to live with a mentally unstable person. The impact on loved ones is horrendous, and the end result of long-term mental illness can be disastrous on several levels.

 

549701_10151373546983379_1584428554_nIf you happened to come across, as I did (nerd alert), the reviews of the original Off-Broadway production in 2008, you might have noticed among them, the Observer’s John Heilpern’s reflection on the show as being “kitschy, twitchy, depressing”. And perhaps it was, in its second life, Off-Broadway before a few (more) rewrites. The greatest challenge of staging any theatrical piece is surely to bring it into a place of relevance for the actors and audience and in this director Emily Gilhome has outdone herself. Resisting the temptation to take certain characters and scenarios completely off the scale of believability, as may have been the case in earlier productions elsewhere, Gilhome gives us a beautifully realised vision. This Next to Normal is astutely directed and unflinchingly lays bare the bones of depression, the breakdown of the family unit, the medical and pharmaceutical shenanigans along the way, and suicide. Mr Heilpern should see this production. It’s disturbing.

 

The bitter brilliance of Next to Normal is that it doesn’t answer any of our questions about mental illness or about the wide range of treatment options available. In fact, it sees us walking away with even more questions. This theatrical piece is in fact a shattered mirror. Can you see something of yourself? Terrifying.

 

On opening night, the opening number (Just Another Day) suffered from a couple of sound and pitch issues, and for me, what came across as unusually (for an opening night) low energy. However, to anyone unfamiliar with the show it was probably fine; a gentle start, as if we had the support band on stage (and the band actually IS on stage and you know I love seeing the band on stage!) to psyche us up and help ease us into a plot that then puts us through the wringer. A tip for anybody who hasn’t yet watched the YouTube clips of other productions of Next to Normal… don’t. See this production first. I’m sure that my early disappointment was only due to my obsession, which I have mentioned in a previous post, with the original Off-Broadway and Broadway productions.

 

Magically, the sound improved after interval, as it so often does at QPAC.

 

Let’s talk about this wonderful, spirited, talented cast. I love the people Oscar is able to bring out of the woodwork. Actually, of course we’ve seen most of them somewhere before but in Oscar’s hands, I suspect we’re seeing much more of that which they’re capable. You’ll notice I have a couple of bones to pick but don’t worry, there’s nothing that takes away from the overall impact of the show; it’s exceptional. Every performer here has taken their role by the throat and given it a good shake before stepping inside the skin of it, almost like the demon in the underrated, unnerving movie Fallen *shivers*

 

Anyway, I have to tell you that my new favourite performer in Brisbane is the insightful Siobhan Kranz, who we saw as Wendla in Oscar’s 2011 production of  Spring Awakening, another Queensland premiere. Unfathomably, Kranz mentions in her bio a desire to forge a career BEHIND THE SCENES in the music industry but I hope this ambition remains unrealised for a good while yet. Sorry, Siobhan. Her Natalie is petulant, resistant and finally forgiving and supportive, the last man standing so to speak, necessarily becoming her father’s rock. A faultless performer in this instance, Kranz is a keeper.

 

Tom Oliver (whose hilarious performance as Ron Weasley in A Very Potter Musical was just SO GOOD) beautifully underplays Natalie’s stoner boyfriend, Henry. These two are perfectly matched and together they proffer a true sense of optimism and the importance of keeping hold of hope, which I’ll come back to later. I know. Bear with me. Make a coffee if you must. Henry was Sam’s favourite character. Or, Oliver was Sam’s favourite performer. He’s not sure and the fact that he is unsure about how to phrase that tells me that Oliver is going to be a fave for many more patrons. I should also mention that his appearance in Next to Normal is in between international engagements so we are lucky to have him for this strictly limited Brisbane season. With his (Hey) duets with Kranz – there are three of them – Oliver takes us safely each time into the relative calm of the eye of the storm, while chaos continues to swirl all around them.

 

 

James Gauci, in a beautifully gauged act of confidence and charisma (we expect nothing less from this performer now) plays both Diana’s doctors. Gauci gets it just right, giving us the perfect blend of scary rock star and genuinely concerned medical professional. There’s a lovely, gentle moment towards the end of the show, when he connects with Dan Goodman, and we see how well he fits the shoes of this second character particularly. And look, I’m just putting it out there; as much as I love to see Brisbane talent stay in Brisbane…what is Gauci still doing in Brisbane?! Let’s hope we see one of my favourite overachievers in front of larger audiences in a bigger city sometime soon. Sure, of course, if that’s what HE wants.

 

Matt Crowley makes an admirable stage debut in the shoes of Gabe Goodman. Crowley’s brightest moments match the bold as brass lighting levels during I’m Alive, his superb duet with Natalie (one of the best numbers of the night, Superman and the Invisible Girl), and in more silvery (ghostly?) tones during Catch Me I’m Falling. His connection with Dan in the final dramatic moments finally brought reluctant tears to my eyes, and it was with Dan that I sympathised most. Chris Kellet’s sensitive, stoic Dan Goodman, the long-suffering husband, is quietly impressive. In the end, it’s his part in I Am the One (Reprise) that should be enough to bring even the toughest husbands and daddies to tears. (I do hope they go, the husbands and daddies…). To see this side of Kellet is a wonderful surprise, and to give due credit to the newcomer, Crowley plays right alongside him, right up to the devastating conclusion. It’s a cruel end, isn’t it? I HATE IT! I HATE THE END! I sobbed uncontrollably the first eight thousand times I listened to the original soundtrack on loop in my car. Let There Be Light is supposed to be the optimistic, uplifting final reminder that “it gets better”. It’s hope. I hope that works for you.

 

Unexpectedly, Alice Barbery’s Diana Goodman, the woman around whose life the story revolves, left me mostly cold. Gilhome mentions in her program notes that casting is 90% of the director’s job and as a director, of course you work with what you have. If this Diana was the best for the role we have to take Gilhome’s word for it. Barbery’s voice is beautiful, and in its lower register, and the quieter moments of contemplation or concern, absolutely perfect for the role. It’s when we get into the middle range that there are just a couple of problems with the placement, pitch and power of delivery. It’s just that it’s a thinner, more classical sound than one might expect to hear in the context, both in terms of the hardcore content and the soft-rock style of the show.

 

In spite of my harsh assessment, Barbery has an incredibly clear sense of character and she works hard to give us plenty of insight into Diana’s crippling inner battle. Hers is a frantic, busy, utterly confused and eternally wounded woman, and considering the scale and complexity of the role, Barbery gives an awesome performance. To be too critical seems unfair.

 

547534_10152771545950118_7075640_nThe production is nicely staged – it looks sublime – but the design consists of an upper level that lies too far above us and away from us, distancing me more than I would have liked from the intensity of the action and emotion. I was prepared to be in the room with these desperate people, yes indeed, with Gabe in his Off-Broadway-referenced shirtless bathroom moment (of course you know that when the show moved to Broadway Aaron Tveit inexplicably kept his shirt on. Perhaps the producers feared a storming of the stage). Overall, I liked the solid design (Timothy Wallace) but it felt like it wanted more space, and seemed better suited to a venue such as the Playhouse, while the show itself rightly belongs in the intimacy of a space like the Cremorne.

 

It’s hard work to sit through this show (and possibly to read to the end of this review!); it’s emotionally draining. But it’s worth it. Act 1 boasts so many lovely, funny, quirky moments; they are mostly Natalie’s acerbic observations, thanks to Kranz’s characterisation and comic timing, and Diana’s one-liners, delivered deadpan by Barbery and clearly tickling the fancy of not just this housewife and mother. On opening night the giggles abounded!

 

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With Emily Integrity and Humility Gilhome at the helm, Oscar Theatre Company always put on a slick show (she does slick so well). In Next to Normal we see the bar raised once again with superb staging, exquisite attention to detail (check out the medicine bottle labels!), a lighting design that completely supports the story and the characters’ journeys, AND manages to rival that of the Broadway production (Jason Glenwright), a top notch band and MD (David Law), and a combined creative effort that must make a number of aspiring theatre makers think, “THAT is the kind of theatre I want to make!” …or run for the hills. Just saying.

 

There have been times when we’ve worried that maybe we wouldn’t see Oscar again but I think we can safely say now that this dynamic, determined company is here to stay, thanks to the dedicated creative team at its core, the crowd of loyal followers and investors, and the support of QPAC.

 

If you love good theatre it’s easy to follow suit and support them. Buy the tickets. See the show. Tell your friends, tell your family and tell your friendly local barista that they can’t afford to miss Oscar’s Next to Normal. Its impact is long lasting, and the unanswered questions will keep you thinking, talking and feeling deeply for a lifetime, but it’s a short season so be super quick to book because social media is already well on the way to making this show a sell-out!

 

A Social Media Note Courtesy of our good friend Wiki:

 

Twitter (2009)

 

In May 2009, about six weeks into the Broadway Production, Next to Normal began publishing an adapted version of the show over Twitter, a social media network. Over 35 days, the serialized version of the show was published in the form of tweets, short messages utilized by Twitter, a single line from a character at a time. The Twitter performance ended the morning of June 7, 2009, the morning of the 2009 Tony Awards. The initiative earned the musical the 2009 OMMA Award for Best in Show Situation Interactive.

 

03
Apr
13

Valium is my favorite color

DO YOU KNOW WHAT IT’S LIKE TO DIE ALIVE?

Special Offer. No, not to die alive, but to book cheap seats for this phenomenal show! Only until Monday so be quick!

 
Take advantage of this special offer and purchase tickets to Next to Normal for just $30.
This offer is only valid for performances on Thursday 18 April 7.30pm and Saturday 20 April 2.00pm and 7.30pm – hurry, offer expires on Monday 8 April.

 

 

Alice Barbery

This is not Alice Ripley. This is Alice Barbery.

I can’t believe I’ll finally be taking a deep breath, gritting my teeth and sitting through a live production of Next to Normal in just two weeks. In 2009 – 2011 this raw new rock musical by Brian Yorkey and Tom Kitt took over Broadway, the Tonys and YouTube. And my place. I became slightly completely obsessed, with the show, with the story, with the woman grappling bipolar disorder, Diana Goodman, created on stage by the incomparable Alice Ripley.

 

 

Largely rewritten after its Off-Broadway debut in 1988 (critics had issues originally with the way the book looked at mental illness and treatment options), Next to Normal opened on Broadway in April 2009, winning the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for Drama (previously won by RENT, also directed by Michael Greif), and three (of eleven nominated) Tony Awards, including Best Original Score, Best Orchestration and Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical.

 

 

The Goodman Family

This is the Goodman family. They look normal, don’t they?

Now, from the creative team behind Oscar Theatre Company’s sellout production of Spring Awakening comes the Queensland premiere of Broadway’s Next to Normal.

 

 

Next to Normal is an unflinching insight into the humour and turmoil of an ordinary family grappling with the effects of mental illness. With provocative lyrics and a thrilling rock score, Next to Normal is one of the most ground-breaking new musicals and was chosen as ‘one of the year’s ten best shows’ by critics including The Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, Rolling Stone and The New York Times.

 

 

Director, Emily Gilhome, describes Next To Normal as her most important show to date. “This is a new kind of musical theatre. It‘s real, raw and explores some incredibly important issues”.

 

 

Recently, the issues surrounding mental health have been thrust into the public spotlight following the success of the film Silver Linings Playbook and television show Homeland. Next to Normal explores similar themes and centres its story around the experiences of one family. “It’s not just a show about mental illness,” says Gilhome, “but a story that we hope will resonate far beyond the theatre walls and open up conversations between friends, families, partners and colleagues about a number of issues once considered taboo.”

 

 

A brave and breathtaking show, Next to Normal plays Brisbane for a strictly limited season. Next To Normal plays QPAC from 18th April – 4th May 2013.

 

 

“A work of muscular grace and power. It is much more than a feel-good musical; it is a feel-everything musical.” – The New York Times

 

 

Director: Emily Gilhome
Music Director: David Law
Lighting Designer: Jason Glenwright
Cast: Alice Barbery, Chris Kellett, Matt Crowley, Siobhan Kranz, Tom Oliver and James Gauci

 

30
Aug
12

James Gauci in Urinetown

Urinetown

urinetown

– not the place – the musical –

 

We asked James Gauci to tell us about Urinetown – not the place – the musical!

Look, I have to say that he always reminds me a little bit of Chris Evans Captain America

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…oops, sorry; wrong capture (but thanks mercmouth.tumblr.com for posting that one!).

Captain America Chris Evans

Chris Evans as Captain America in The Avengers

But James Gauci is not out to save the world…just Urinetown.

Urinetown opens tonight!

BOOK HERE

Here we go…

James, for those who don’t make the Schonell Theatre at UQ their regular hangout, can you tell us about Underground Productions’ home and a bit of the company history?

 

Underground recently moved permanently to the Schonell Theatre where they stage limited runs of three shows per year. The Schonell is such a great old theatre… seventies vintage with just over 400 seats and home to some of Brisbane’s best community theatre societies. It also happens to be one of Brisbane’s largest stages – it’s even deeper than QPAC’s Lyric. And it has the famous UQ Pizza Caffe attached. I don’t think casts would eat were it not for that glorious establishment.

Underground Productions is the UQ student theatre company, started in the seventies and run under various names through the years. ‘Underground Productions’ has stuck since 1999. Many famous personalities have come up through their ranks, Bille Brown and Geoffery Rush included. Also, I don’t think there’s been a drama student in Brisbane of the last decade that hasn’t heard of Underground’s (in)famous BUGFest!

I’ve come into contact with the company many times before, with friends appearing in dozens of their shows, but this will be my first time performing with them.

 

We last saw you on this stage as Anthony in Ignatians’ production of Sweeney Todd. What drew you to return, this time with Underground Productions, for Urinetown: The Musical?

 

I’ve been extremely lucky this year – Sweeney and Urinetown are two of my all-time favourites. Urinetown is so intelligent, romantic, self-deprecating, self-referential, dry and darkly comic. It runs the gamut of traditional musical theatre musical styles, it’s simultaneously melodramatic and intrinsically human, and it builds up your hope before unexpectedly smashing it to smithereens in a belted full-cast finale. It’s everything I love in theatre.

 

The last water-wise show we saw in Brisbane was La Boite’s Water Wars. Urinetown is a slightly more satirical look at the extreme end of the spectrum, once the world is depleted of natural resources. Can you tell us about the social messages embedded in Urinetown? How has the company approached them and what are the most poignant messages for us today?

 

Urinetown came into being when the show’s creators, Mark Hollman and Greg Kotis, came across a pay-per-use toilet somewhere in France. They took this concept and applied it to the scholar Thomas Robert Malthus’s idea that humanity’s population growth will be checked by famine and disease, eventually reaching a ceiling. A bit of a stretch, yes! But in practical terms, the show’s fictional city has been drought-stricken for twenty years, and this problem has somewhat humourously manifested itself in the central conceit of the show – that it’s a privilege to pee.

Of course, we’re in an age when sustainability is a concept at the forefront of our political and economic discussion – whether it be in terms of the environment, resources, food or water. You’ll come to the realisation that you’re surreptitiously being given a healthy dose of perspective from all angles throughout the show.

However, if you think all that is terribly boring or way over your head, there’s loads of happy music, good versus evil, hilarious comedy and jazz hands everywhere that will make you forget all about it!

 

What were (Director) Lauren Ware’s priorities in the staging and telling of this story?

 

Lauren is an incredibly gifted young performer in her own right. She’s an accomplished dancer and choreographer, a terribly talented comic actress and can blow your socks off with her natural mezzo belt. The best part about this is that she’s so sensitive to the performers themselves whilst illustrating the concept she has for the show. Her priorities have been clean and professional execution of the music, comedy and choreography (I didn’t know my Achilles Tendons could be sore like that…) while maintaining the grounded and honest storytelling that is necessary for the show.

Urinetown is sometimes melodramatic, bordering on pantomime, but always honest. She’s managed to strike the balance extremely well in my opinion.

 

What’s your favourite message in the show?

 

There is so much delightfully meaningful/meaningless rhetoric that comes out of Bobby Strong’s mouth that it’s hard to pin it down to one idea! But I’m a total sap when it comes down to it so I choose ‘follow your heart’. Being true to yourself is all you can really, truly do, and it allows Bobby to live entirely without regret.

Although, as you’ll see, there always consequences to one’s actions… another message that you’ll have to see the show to get!

 

Will we leave the theatre inspired to finally commit to water-saving habits, like turning off the tap when we brush our teeth?

 

Oooh, hard to say. Probably not – the message is a little bit more complex, thankfully – but you should be doing that anyway! You’ll certainly never take a free public toilet for granted ever again.

 

So you turn off the tap when you brush your teeth?

 

Oh yes, absolutely. A combination of good parenting and many years of Sesame Street brainwashing. Youtube ‘Don’t Waste Water’ if you’re ready for a hit of nostalgia.

 

 

The book is pretty wry. At a time when Brisbane is embracing all things meta-theatrical, can you talk about the Brechtian influences of the show and how they have influenced aspects of the show such as design, staging, direction etc? 

 

It’s funny to think of Brecht when looking at Urinetown. All of the elements are there – the broken fourth wall, the minimalistic functional staging, the sensational themes and preposterous prepositions – but it’s not what I’d consider ‘traditionally’ Brechtian, Dialectical, Epic, or whichever term you prefer. For me, instead of being alienated from the action and remembering that I am in fact sitting in a theatre being told a story, I find that I escape into the world, become vastly more invested in the characters, find the comedy that much more hilarious, and the messages hit home much harder. The highs are higher, and the lows are lower.

Brecht may have used narrators and chorus, but he certainly wasn’t one to stage spectacular melodrama! Having said that, I think he would have (possibly secretly) enjoyed Urinetown. 

 

What is it that made this show a Broadway hit?

 

Incredible and deceptively complex music, a spectacularly hilarious and poignant script, and most importantly a totally original idea. Its grassroots origins also helped I think… the show started at an improv group, then went to the New York Theatre Fringe Festival, then Off-Broadway, then Broadway and Tony Awards. It’s the little show that could. And it did!

 

James Gauci Bobby Strong

 

Tell us about Bobby Strong.

 

He’s your textbook hero – a disenfranchised youth, an underdog of society working for ‘the man’ who suddenly has the hopes of an entire community thrust upon him. He loves his family and his friends, but finds it so difficult to reconcile that with his job as an Assistant Custodian of the local Public Amenity where he takes the cash they’ve scraped together just to go to the loo.

His flaw though is his naivety. Sometimes it’s easier to know what’s ‘right’ than what’s ‘best’, but he doesn’t care. Or understand. He’s so adorable.

 

What drives him? Is it the free toilets or is there something more? 

 

It’s so simple to him. He cares so much for the people of his community that he has no choice but to rally them to action. He wants the people to pee for free because the people are free!

 

Have you ever paid to use a toilet in Europe (or do you have a disastrous turnstile-leaping story for us)?

 

Thankfully my stories of toilet tragedy have been few and far between. I think the closest I can gather would be taking a wee as a little kid while standing in a green ants nest. It was only fair – I peed on them, so they peed on me. Difference being that there were hundreds of them. And they pee acid. Yowch.

 

Is there anything else we should know about Urinetown, Underground Productions or what you’re up to next?

 

With Urinetown and Underground fairly covered, next up for me will be Oscar Theatre Company’s Queensland Premiere of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Next to Normal, scheduled for the Cremorne Theatre, QPAC next April. I’m very proud to be working with five of Brisbane’s most insanely talented musical theatre performers. I couldn’t resist seeing the original cast twice when I was visiting Broadway a couple of years ago so I’ll be taking great pleasure in re-creating the roles of Dr Madden and Dr Fine.

Funnily, I think it could be the closest I’ll ever get to actually using my psychology degree.

 

Chookas, James! We hope you enjoy a wonderful season. x

 

Urinetown

23
Aug
12

Loco Maricon Amor


Loco Maricon Amor

Loco Maricon Amor

Metro Arts & The Danger Ensemble

Sue Benner Theatre

17th August – 1st September 2012

Let me go. Let me go. Let me go. Let me GO. Let me GO.

LET ME GO. LET ME GO. LETMEGOLETMEGOLETMEGOLETMEGOLETMEGOLETMEGOLETMEGO. LET ME GO.

 

process. exploration. repetition. inspiration. revelation.

 

“I’m an actor. I am Death speaking.”

This show should be your drug of choice this month. See it as often as you can before September 1st. Seriously. You cannot OD on it. Go and go again.

The first point of exhilaration and confrontation is a stark white set, flooded with bright white light (and later, the spectacular states of Tecnicolor a la Ben Hughes); it’s like nothing you’ve seen before in the Sue Benner space and it’s brilliantly conceived by Xani Kennedy. Then, in the same moment of perception, within that space, the strange, surreal setting created by black lace and leather clad actors seated or standing in their various poses, wearing ladies’ shoes, regardless of gender, and waiting. Against a blank canvas. Waiting for…something. For life to start. For a brush to be raised. For a story to be told and for the time to come when it is their turn to step up and play their part in the telling of it.  The atmosphere is arresting; like the perversity of The Rocky Horror Picture Show…if it were to happen in a Frida Kahloesque Picnic at Hanging Rock. It’s perfect!

 

 

I’m immediately struck by this picture and then by the extraordinary vocal work that happens next. It’s out-of-this-world strong. And aggressive. And seductive, all at the same time. These figures suddenly sing at us, as if possessed by a creature of the night, some poor soul who has been left behind in the Manhattan apartment of Andrew Lippa’s The Wild Party (incidentally, the show enjoyed a three week return run in NYC, at The Secret Theatre in July this year. When and where, I wonder, will we see it here? Oscar Theatre Company, I’m lookin’ at YOU!). The vocal work is extraordinary not only because of its quality and consistency throughout the show but also, because the director and the company members have worked themselves on their vocal arrangements and delivery, rather than inviting an outside MD and perhaps a Vocal Coach to work with them. This is self-sufficient theatre making at its most successful and The Danger Ensemble’s model is one that we are beginning to see more and more signs of. Thank goodness for that. It’s the ensemble philosophy that goes something like, “Just get the thing done and go on creating.” (I love also, the notion of the person closest to the broom does the sweeping but more on that in another post). It’s what we all need to do more of, leaving no time to lament the changes that a change in government has brought about or wonder whether or not we are making “good” art or “bad” art or the “right” kind of art. It was Brian Lucas, currently working on the return of his original work, Performance Anxiety, who reminded me that it is imperative to just get it done.

 

“Don’t think about making art, just get it done. Let everyone else decide if it’s good or bad, whether they love it or hate it. While they are deciding, make even more art.”

― Andy Warhol

 

Loco Maricon Amor

 

The non-storytelling that follows – the retelling of vague thoughts, memories and passionate feelings – reveals to us the imagined extremes of the torrid relationship between Federica Garcia Lorca (in perfect contrast to the inestimable Caroline Dunphy’s predatory Gala, we see a beautiful, quietly sexual being in Thomas Hutchins) and Salvador Dali (Chris Beckey at his most bemused and confused best. We do love this Dali.). The actors who play these fascinating men create an entire world, purely for the purpose of us understanding their story, in which they exist together, exclusively, outside of convention, tradition and expectation. Their relationship speaks volumes about the collision between Tragedy and Surrealism; a conflict that Director and Designer, Steven Mitchell Wright, has explored in this production to the nth degree.

As a director, Wright says he is “interested in moving away from ‘naturalism’ and ‘realism’ and moving towards a new form of storytelling (or non-storytelling) specific for our culture.” This approach means we are re-entering the realm of experimental theatre, a term that Wright is proud to reclaim. He explains, “Experimental in the sense that the work is an experiment, that there is an hypothesis behind the work, that the success or failure of the experiment is not measured in terms such as good, bad, like or didn’t but…in the experience created by the work, in the reaction each element within the experiment has to each other.” The audience is the final variable. He wants us to react.

And react we do. There are gasps and lots of laughter. A sense of wonderment and intrigue pervades. Our senses (and our sensibilities) are struck upon time and time again. Dunphy gives us her gorgeous, glamorous Gala, in all her formidable glory and Lucy-Ann Langkilde, Polly Sara and Bianca Zouppas confront us with a Greek Chorus that seduces, amuses and terrifies us, much like the lovers we had and had to dispose of just as hurriedly as we’d found them. Each as terrifying as the last and so good – and bad – for the soul!

Peta Ward, as Moon, almost turns this piece on its head, playing beautifully (delightfully, hilariously), in and out and amongst the meta-theatrics, challenging us to reconsider our perceptions of theatre and the nature (and purposes) of storytelling. She’s the delightfully subversive force that, were it a classroom, you would rather be rid of it/her (or at least have her medicated so you can get on with the work!). However, her comical character reveals much of the fun and mischievous intent behind this work and this production could not do without her, nor would it be what it is without the additional element, which I won’t give away, suffice to say that it’s crazy colourful and sensual to the point of almost becoming a gorgeous distraction from the action; enough on its own for actors and audiences to revel in. (But I’ve sworn not to reveal the secret ingredient! Let me know if you work it out!). Props must go to the hardest-working stage manager in town, Candice Diana and her team, for THAT cleanup each night!

Loco Maricon Amor is a long, desperate, passionate embrace, intriguing and difficult to become untwined from. Dali clings for dear life and Lorca allows it, perhaps even enjoys it (at times, its difficult to tell and I think this is the idea. Is he experiencing rapture or slight annoyance and fatigue? Or self doubt or disappointment? I thought of Stephen Schwarz’s Pippin, who is asked at the end of the show by Catherine, “How do you feel?” and having settled down with her, after experiencing everything there is in the world, Pippin replies, “Trapped.”). We are never caught between Lorca and Dali; we remain quite outside of them, always looking into their world rather than becoming immersed in it. We are happy to be the voyeurs, instead of getting any closer to the action (be a bit wary of getting too close; those wearing white or dry clean only garments should stay out of the front row!). In the intimate space, the proximity to the actors, their unfaltering gaze and their commitment to the tale will unnerve you and also, serve to confirm your suspicions that these are some of the most courageous risk-takers and makers of theatre in current contemporary performance circles. Steven Mitchell Wright has a big, bold vision of what theatre is and he ain’t afraid to show it, in the broadest of brushstrokes. This show, in whatever form it may take next, should go everywhere and be seen by everyone. This is how we just get it done and continue to reinforce what art – that vital life force, the life of the party – can be. More of whatever THAT is, please!

Loco maricon Amor Chris Beckey

20
Jun
11

The National One-Act Play Festival: final results

I saw the one-act plays again, the three best of the 87 plays entered into the National One-Act Playwriting Competition, and I enjoyed them so much more this time! Well, I wouldn’t say that Bruce Olive’s The Knock on the Door can really be “enjoyed” but I certainly appreciated it more the second time, as opposed to being quite unaffected by it on only the second night of the season.

The atmosphere at Noosa Arts Theatre was celebratory from the outset. And why wouldn’t it be? As Paul Ritchie, the current president of Noosa Arts said in his speech to launch the official proceedings, the general standard of plays has, again this year, improved. Two of the three playwrights were present (Mark Langham was on stage somewhere, being “an actor more than a writer.” His wife was there in his absence) and the founding members’ daughters and sisters, sponsors and audience members were all in fine form.

Brisbane based actor and director, Karen Crone, was present in the Adjudicator’s seat. She was able to provide some valuable feedback to the artists involved. I hope to see next year, a little more time during proceedings, afforded to the adjudicator. The majority of audience members are interested to hear the comments that come from an experienced professional theatre practitioner and any positive feedback is invaluable for the playwrights, performers and directors involved. There are artists who absorb positive and constructive criticism like sponges. Some of those artists will even consider the advice and apply it to their upcoming work, continuing to raise standards.

While we’re on the subject of comments and positive feedback, I attended at the theatre on Sunday, Michael Futcher’s Playwriting Master Class. Three of the fifteen playwrights present had entered scripts into the competition this year and didn’t appear to understand exactly what it was that was missing, or unsuitable or unappealing or whatever about their script. I know some feedback from the Reading Panel is provided and I would like to see an extension of this, perhaps in the form of several readings and rehearsed readings with actors, directors and other playwrights, establishing more of a workshop approach to the process. Perhaps, if this sort of creative collaborative process is not allowed in the lead up, this could take place in the weeks following the competition’s conclusion. I firmly believe that one cannot get better at the things one does without observing what else is out there and paying some attention to the response from audiences, adjudicators and critics. You may not agree with one person’s perspective, however; if the general feedback is starting to sound the same, you should know that you might have something to work on.

Seeing the plays again on Saturday, I felt that either some major work had been done or that the actors had simply committed and settled into their roles. I was more convinced by the relationship in the first play, Jenny Bullimore’s Star Crossed and I enjoyed Mark Langham’s Nothing again but without the number of beers being consumed being an issue (they’d halved the consumption. It made much more sense) and I actually felt – strongly – for the mothers in The Knock on the Door. It’s a shame we are sometimes only ready for the season towards the end of the season, isn’t it?

FINAL RESULTS

Best Play: NOTHING By Mark Langham

NOTHING By Mark Langham

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Runner Up: THE KNOCK ON THE DOOR By Bruce Olive

THE KNOCK ON THE DOOR By Bruce Olive

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Best Director: LIZA PARK

Karen Crone & Liza Park

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Best Actor: FRANK WILKIE

Karen Crone & Frank Wilkie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Best Actress: JENNI MCCAUL

Karen Crone & Jenni McCaul

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Adjudicator’s (Commendation) Awards: REBECCA PLINT  & MICHAEL PARLATO

Congratulations to all playwrights, directors, actors and the team at Noosa Arts Theatre for a fantastic One-Act Play Festival in 2011. Meanwhile, the Noosa Longweekend continues. This week, I’ll be enjoying Caroline Nin’s Hymne A Piaf, the premiere of David Williamson & Mohamed Khadra’s At Any Cost?, Supper Club with Mrs Bang! (aka Sheridan Harbridge), Oscar Theatre Company’s [title of show] and Sandra Bates’ Directing Master Class. Bring it on!