Posts Tagged ‘peter casey

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

 

26
Nov
13

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang

 

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang

Tim Lawson

QPAC Lyric Theatre

 28 November – 22 December 2013

 

 Reviewed by Xanthe Coward 

 

What Ian Fleming’s Chitty Chitty Bang Bang lacks in substance, it makes up for in sweetness, and good old-fashioned theatrical magic (using the latest technology) for the whole family. The much-loved classic story of a well mannered, magical, rejigged racing car lacks a little in the plot department, but we knew that. What we didn’t know was just how easily this musical would affect us – each of us – because of its sense of wonder and uninhibited childlike spirit. Knowing the music from watching the film version at least a hundred times a year (you think I’m exaggerating!), I can’t help but think of Mary Poppins’ Spoonful of Sugar. (The same composers and lyricists, Richard M Sherman and Robert B Sherman, wrote Chitty’s songs).

 

In every job that must be done there is an element of fun; you find the fun and snap! The job’s a game! And every task you undertake becomes a piece of cake…

 

Sorry. I know. It will be in your head all week now. In every moment of Chitty, it’s as if the company has sought to deliver the very same element of fun. It doesn’t matter that the show doesn’t actually make sense. Laugh! Gasp! Enjoy! And even more so, because every single cast member is exquisitely talented, and clearly loving their job. And although they are awesome, bringing amazing energy and wonderful sound and character to the show, unfortunately for the ensemble, the stars in this production shine very bright!

 

Toot Sweet

 

What an absolute delight to see David Hobson (Caractacus Potts) and Rachael Beck (Truly Scrumptious) paired, their vocals soaring and their eyes continuously flirting with the temptation to lock with one another’s, that is, when they are not gazing adoringly upon the children, Jeremy and Jemima. I had feared I might be disappointed actually, because I’ve seen nothing of Hobson since Baz Lurhman’s La Boheme on VHS when I was at high school (over and over and over! For years, it was La Boheme, Sondheim at Carnegie Hall, Clue, Twin Peaks and Rage. It was a rather eclectic, interesting household!). Hobson is no Dick Van Dyke but nor does he need to be. His delightful characterisation is just so, giving us neither too much, nor too little of the quirks and unique qualities of the inventor, and father of the two children. Hobson gives this role a completely new feel, and his antics are cute, his voice sublime, and his dancing up there with the best of ‘em. Hushabye Mountain is a poignant highlight.

 

Me ol’ bamboo, me ol’ bamboo, budda gudda budda gudda ol’ bamboo!

 

I never did get what they were singing during that number.

 

Beck is simply beautiful, bringing precisely the right amount of sweetness and light to the role of Truly Scrumptious, without being at all sickening, something that does not go unnoticed. Because she is absolutely gorgeous, all eyes are drawn to her, and when she sings she seals the deal, keeping powerful vocals in check to produce a truly scrumptious sound, pure and pretty. Doll on a Music Box is perfection. Her sass balances her sweetness nicely. Let’s have more of Ms Beck please, Mr Producer.

 

Truly Scrumptious and the children

 

Four children share the roles of Jeremy and Jemima and on opening night we enjoyed the performances of Jayden McGinlay and Emma Cobb (not pictured).

 

The way these two work together on stage is almost as synchronous as the pair of gorgeous creatures in the movie, who I always imagined must behave in exactly the same manner in real life, a thought which left me in awe of all smiling, singing siblings dressed in rags.

 

Caractacus Potts and the children

 

This production boasts 32 more super talented children, and their strong vocals and well-prepared characters come across superbly, particularly in one of the final scenes, beneath the castle where the Lost Children are kept hidden from sight. Props to their coaches and parents – this is our next generation of musical theatre stars and I’m so excited for them. Honestly, a more professional children’s chorus I’ve not seen. If you have kids who want desperately to perform, you’re going to have to fork out for two lots of tickets, because after the magic of experiencing it the first time, any ambitious young actor really needs to see the kids in this show a second time!

 

Keeping the children hidden are the Baron and Baroness, played to the max by Shane Bourne and Jennifer Vuletic. These two don’t miss a beat and together they almost steal the show with their slightly wicked, extremely weird, amusingly and frighteningly kinky relationship. I’ve never understood the need for their random duet and it made just as little sense to include it in this production. Just don’t try to explain it to the kids and it’ll go away. (I’m sure they just think it’s cute and funny…until they see the show again ten years later and ask you, “What WAS that?!”). Bourne’s little boy tantrums and teddy bear antics are perfectly juxtaposed against Vuletic’s slightly scary dominatrix ways, and together, if we must have them, they make a perfect pair. I say they very nearly steal the show because there is another pair competing for laughs, and they are by far the funniest element in this production.

 

They are the funny, foolish, bumbling spies, who are sent by the Baroness to retrieve the magical car from England and bring it home to Vulgaria as a gift to the Baron on his birthday. I love the physicality George Kapiniaris (Goran) and Todd Goddard (Boris) bring to their roles and, an absolute hit with the audience, surprisingly, they never overplay their parts, or overstay their welcome. These two are the clowning aspect of the show, in the very best sense of the term, bringing slapstick and silly voices to centrestage. In complete contrast, I almost feel sorry for Tyler Coppin (The Child Catcher), who moves quietly and serpentine-like, in the most balletic way; it’s a wonderful performance, but one which can hardly win audiences, being so creepy a role. He isn’t even granted applause during the curtain call on opening night but is instead met with boos and hisses! Perhaps this is the desired effect, as the response appears to be in good fun! We also enjoy Frank Garfield (Grandpa Potts) and his eccentricities. Garfield establishes a lovely relationship with the children, and with Caractacus, reinforcing the family themes.

 

Goran and Boris

 

The production boasts the most detailed, delicious looking costumes we’ve seen since Mary Poppins, and the magnificent set is complemented by lighting states that include an entire night sky (Designer Anthony Ward), lit by, Poppy is sure of it, “a million trillion stars! They shine like diamonds!” Of course, the most impressive piece – and the most expensive prop in musical theatre history – is the car. Chitty is beautifully conceived and comes to life vividly, making her a legitimate additional character, especially when she refuses to respond with engine or headlights unless one says, “Please!” Chitty actually appears to float upon the sea and fly through the air; it’s a triumph, and a brilliant appropriation for the theatre of amusement park technology.

 

Chitty Bang Bang, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang…

 

With this stellar company, and a superb orchestra led by MD Peter Casey, Director, Rodger Hodgman brings Chitty Chitty Bang Bang to vibrant life on stage. It’s the musical we’ve loved to watch forever on film, regardless of it making sense or not! And this production has so many highlights you’ll have to choose your own! No matter what’s happened in your day, week, month, year, no matter what mood you’re in when you arrive, you’ll warm to Chitty quickly, and your heart will melt over the children. Your head will revisit your every notion about the family sticking together, you’ll laugh at the comical characters that barely justify their existence in the script, and you’ll leave feeling satisfied, happy to have had even a little childlike fun with the family at a time of year that challenges even the most patient parents.

 

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is without a doubt the best thing you can do for the family this festive season. Treat yourself, and treat the children to a couple of hours of unforgettable fun and magic.

 

Images: Michael Dare