Posts Tagged ‘simon gallaher





Wicked Aust LLC & Gordon Frost Organisation

QPAC Lyric Theatre

February 15 – April 19 2015


Reviewed by Xanthe Coward




In case you hadn’t noticed, Wicked is back! The New York Times hailed it as “the defining musical of the decade” and once again, it’s not hard to see why. A new spectacular production comes to Brisbane for an exclusive season.



 AND LOOK WHAT ELSE! #howexcitement #wickedlottery





If you’ve never seen the phenomenon that is Wicked you’re in for a treat! This latest touring production is spectacular in every aspect, and boasts some new cast members who each add their own nuances to the songs and scenes so familiar to so many of us. Oh yes! If this is not your first visit to Oz, don’t hesitate to book again; there are plenty of new magical moments to be savoured. As I’ve told skeptical friends and family members since opening night in Brisbane on Sunday, unless you actually dislike the book and the score, this production of Wicked is well worth the price of your Lyric Theatre ticket and it might just be your favourite version yet.


Based on Joe Mantello’s original Broadway Production Direction, Lisa Leguillou’s staging doesn’t appear to be any different (musical staging is by Wayne Cilento), but what I’m impressed with is the calibre of this company in her hands. There is no autopilot here, despite the involvement of some performers in this show since 2008. How does one DO THAT? (We have three-week seasons on the Sunshine Coast!). It’s not easy to make each performance appear as if it’s the first time the story is being told. I spoke to our last Aussie Wicked director, Kris Stewart, and he ‘reckons he must have seen more than 300 performances whilst working on it! Obviously, it’s vital to get the casting right, and he admitted it was a joy to see this cast and this production fresh and new, after taking a step away from the show.


Let’s talk about this cast. I love them. Like, LOVE THEM.





To challenge even the die-hard Durack fans, Wicked welcomes back the sensational Suzie Mathers (an original Australian cast member in 2008). Mathers graciously reclaims the role, offering a little less physical comedy at this stage, and a little more (operatic) vocal strength than you may have gotten used to in the last six years. Her sassy take on Glinda (The Witch Previously Known As Galinda) means she is every bit Elphaba’s perfect foil, and like any popular schoolgirl desiring even just a little bit to shake hands with the devil, we see very clearly her inner conflict as she struggles to find a way to have it all.





Jemma Rix IS Elphaba, and if you’re not completely enraptured by this woman on stage (and off; she’s just gorgeous to speak to), you must be on drugs. Or dead already. I know, I know, you can never forget your first, but Rix is the best we’ve seen here yet. Why? Because there is not an instant on stage when she is not fully living and breathing this role. It’s exhilarating and thrillifying to see and hear her in action. Much is made the world over of Elphie’s vocal tricks and riffs, but Rix keeps it simple; it’s strong and superior. Loathing and The Wizard And I gives us our first delicious taste of the talent that has seen her in this role since understudying it in 2008. And those big belts, Defying Gravity and No Good Deed, seal the deal. Would you like to know her tips and tricks for keeping in good voice? So would I! #staytuned









Now, look, we’ve seen a couple of awesome Fiyeros. I love David Harris (his connection with Rix was palpable, probably the most passionate Australian pairing) and I love Rob Millsy Mills (I can’t wait to see him a little closer to home…a-hem. Details soon). Like these two, Steve Danielson brings his own gorgeous spring and step, and vibrant, cheeky energy to the role. He reminds me of Stephen Mahy (who is back in April as Brad in The Rocky Horror Show, but sorry Brisvegas fans, you’re gonna’ have to join the party in Sydney or Melbourne to catch THAT fine performance!). Like Millsy, who took a little while to be happy being Millsy being Fiyero, Danielson now needs to settle and trust and BRING IT!




Maggie Kirkpatrick does her thing even better than before, as Madame Morrible. I love her subtext, and she is believably regal and enviable and finally, completely detestable. And what a joy it is to welcome once again, a wizard who can sing the role. Simon Gallaher is perfectly cast (props to Frosty for that inspired call), and for that we say – no, we sing – thank goodness! Although rather more rotund than your parents might remember him being in the early years at QPAC, kids, Gallaher is light enough on his feet and delights us with his song. He is truly The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, and because he is so lovely in the beginning we feel for Elphie more than ever in the chaotic winged monkey moment of his betrayal. And, it’s true, he also earns our sympathy in the end because Gallaher brings a certain poignancy, which I’m not sure we’ve seen before. Poppy loves this revelation this time (I think, at the age of five in 2011, she might have missed it!).












Emily Cascarino (Nessarose) and Edward Grey (Boq) are sweet and suddenly strong (and ultimately tragic) in their sub-stories, and the ensemble is top notch. Transitions between scenes and songs are seamless; this show is a well-oiled machine after all!






Wicked has one of the best books in contemporary musical theatre (Book by Winnie Holzman, based on Gregory Maguire’s novel, with Music & Lyrics by Stephen Schwartz), despite some anomalies. I’m with Poppy, who says, “It’s so clever, the way The Wizard of Oz weaves through it and we actually SEE Dorothy, with her two plaits and her bucket of water in the shadows to melt the witch…” (And then, “Poor Elphie. Does Glinda ever find out her friend is not dead? They should tell her. Someone should tell her. And tell her DAD!”).



The last time Poppy experienced Wicked she remembers that the dragon, the winged monkeys, and the shadow segment featuring Dorothy frightened her. “But not this time, because I saw the monkeys moving to their places. They were hiding but we could see them in the set. They were pre-set.” John Frost has always said this is a show for 8 to 80 year olds and he’s right. For younger audience members the themes are a little challenging.



The superb look and sound of the show is thanks to a plum creative team, with costumes by Susan Hilferty, wigs and hair by Tom Watson (Tom, while you’re in town, please stop by our two major theatre companies and help them with their hair. Just some phone numbers will do. Thanks ever so.), lighting by Kenneth Posner, sound by Tony Meola, and musical direction by David Young. AND THAT’S NOT ALL. So fork out for the glossy souvenir program y’all, and read about the amazing people behind the scenes who make the amazing people on stage look and sound their best!





I don’t believe you can ever be disappointed by this show. Unless you’re my dad and you simply don’t like the book or the score. I KNOW. WHAT EVEN… AM I THE DAUGHTER OF A GYPSY PEDDLER?


This Wicked is my fave so far. A polished, pitch-perfect show, it’s no wonder Wicked remains so popular worldwide. It’s highly sophisticated (and hummable!) contemporary musical entertainment for the masses, and it will make your heart sing all the way home and your spirit soar for years to come. You’ll be changed for good.


Images by Jeff Busby



Monty Python’s Spamalot


Monty Python’s Spamalot

Harvest Rain

QPAC Concert Hall

October 2 – 5 2014


Reviewed by Xanthe Coward


Right. Look, every company has a sacred cow and Spamalot is probably Harvest Rain’s.


It’s a very silly, very funny, very popular award winning show and it will not do anyone any good to say anything that is not rave, rave, rave about this production. In fact, to say anything critical is simply missing the point, right? This show is fun, fun, fun! And I love Monty Python! And look! Jon English and Simon Gallaher together again on stage at QPAC! Harvest Rain are so good now at giving their audiences what they want that really, it’s a bit ridiculous for me to post anything at all, and I haven’t done for a few days, genuinely unsure about whether or not it’s worth calling out a company that does so much GOOD.


I was so bemused confused impressed by the overwhelmingly enthusiastic and very forgiving opening night reception that some lyrics of my own popped into my head when The Song That Goes Like This refused to leave it! This is a silly review for a silly show that was obviously a heap of fun to create and for the vast majority, a heap of fun to watch. The highlights for me were in the performances by Dash Kruck, Chris Kellett, Julie Anthony, Frank Woodley, and in the one highly polished full production number, which cleverly updated and relocated, You Won’t Succeed in Showbiz. You might not recall Eric Idle’s version of The Mikado’s I’ve Got a Little List (we grew up with this production on VHS!), but you may have enjoyed more recently, Mitchell Butel’s brilliant performance (2011). I enjoyed less than others, obviously, the awkward moments; pauses and LOL that seemed to indicate we were a little lost along the way to finding our grail. Also, can I say Dan Venz is the Cassie of every chorus? This is not actually a bad thing. I can’t wait to see what he choreographs for Footloose.


If you didn’t see it – it was another short season over one weekend at QPAC’s Concert Hall – you can take my word for it; Monty Python’s Spamalot is another official Harvest Rain Smash Hit! Really! What do I know? Everybody (else) LOVED it!



 The Show That Goes Like This


At least once every year

There comes a show like this

The main cast is paid loads

And think they’ll take the piss

Where is the show that goes like this?

Where is it? Where? Where? Here it is! Here!


A Monty Python show

Accolades where’re it goes

The punters sing along

They know every silly song

For this is the show they love like this

Yes it is! Yes it is!


Now the cast should know their job

And remember why they’re here

Is Julie Anthony the only one who cares?


Jon English is a star

But he’s taken it too far





Frank Woodley’s comedy

Is perfect for this show

But the French scene goes too long

For jokes we’re scraping low

For this is the show that goes like this!


I’m feeling slightly gypped

Although they’re well equipped

to put on a polished show

this really isn’t it

For this is their show to take the piss!


I can’t believe there’s more

Did they not learn before?

Dash, Chris and Shaun are gold

But this show’s been oversold

Will we accept more shows that go like this?

Yes we will! Of course we will!


Harvest Rain have got some gall

It’s true, they have a ball

We need the upbeat shows

But at what price we go?

The company comes out on top like this!






Harvest Rain Theatre Company

22nd June – 1st July 2012

QPAC Playhouse 

Reviewed by Michelle Bull

There seem three certainties when it comes to music theatre

1. The hair can never be big enough

2. The costumes can never be bright enough

(And in the words of Tracy Turnblad),

3.”You can’t stop the beat!”.

Well you most definitely could not stop the toes from tapping at the opening night of Hairspray by Harvest Rain Theatre Company on Saturday night as a packed Playhouse Theatre was swept up by the beat and left dancing in the aisles from the moment the curtain rose.

Set in 1962, Hairspray follows the story of plump teenage dreamer Tracy Turnblad as she realises her dream of dancing on the Corny Collins Show. As a consequence she wins the heart of teen idol Link Larkin and causes quite the kafuffle with her ‘hair-brained’ idea of equality and racial acceptance, inadvertently making her the face of integration. Throw in some catchy songs, good ol’ corny comedy and a whole lot of dancing, and you have an uplifting shout out to love, equality and all things good.

For all its catchy melodies and tongue in cheek humor, there are some pretty strong themes embedded in this production. Director Tim O Conner does not shy away from the more serious side of the musical and for that I am grateful, it adds just enough grit to give the production the weight it needs to legitimise its message and remain accessible and entertaining. It is the universal message of love that permeates the heart of this show however and resonates with its widely diverse audience.

The set design (Josh McIntosh) is the first thing that grabs my attention as the show opens with a cartoon-esque bed from which Tracy sings her opening number, a great visual effect and one that is matched tastefully and effectively throughout the show by a simple yet effective lighting design (Jason Glenwright) and theatrical costuming. Choreographer Callum Mansfied is to be praised for creating an engaging visual spectacle that truly maximizes the talents of the cast and provides a high energy and seamless production, allowing the chorus to bring a vibrant energy and demonstrate some great comic characterization. Likewise, Musical Director Maitlohn Drew delivers a musically vibrant score with drive and sensitivity to both the style and pace of the production.

The principal cast handle the demands of this high energy show expertly and with a great sense of ensemble. Casey McCollow as Tracy Turnblad is an engaging performer with a secure vocal sound and innate comic timing that characterizes the role skillfully. Playing opposite as love interest Link Larkin, Dakota Striplin is equally at ease vocally, with a wonderful timbre and energy to his sound. A capable and practiced performer, Striplin’s teenage-crooner look is a perfect match for the role, and overall he delivers a strong and likeable performance.

Simon Gallaher is a predictable crowd favourite as Tracy’s mother, Edna Turnblad, and has the audience in stitches with his clever characterisation and sharp comic timing. Vocally, he manages the role with poise and refinement, indulging the audience with Edna’s amusing duet with Husband Wilbur (Gary Jones). Opposite Gallaher, Jones gives an entertaining and likeable performance as Wilbur Turnblad, bringing a comic clownish physicality to the role that is balanced by a comfortable vocal.

The charismatic Heidi Enchelmaier is goofily likeable as Penny Pingleton and quickly becomes a favourite with her wonderful physicality and commitment to the role. Playing opposite William Moyunuu as Seaweed is a capable performer with a rich velvety lower register and great commitment to character, although at times I felt a little more energy was needed in his sound and delivery of text, which became a little hard to understand and muffled over the music. Together they create an onstage chemistry that is natural and wonderfully believable.

Astin Blaik plays the ditsy and mean spirited Amber Von Tussle, and is engaging and consistent in her characterization topped with a wonderfully diva-like vocal tone. Playing Amber’s mother Velma Von Tussle; Liz Buchanan is elegantly snooty and possesses a wonderfully smoky vocal colour that gives the character just a touch of the femme fatale. Tod Strike is as cool as Guy Smiley in the role of Corny Collins, and delivers an elegant and refined characterisation of the popular TV host with a vocal presence that is secure and equally as charming.

For me the standout performance from the night was Rachel Dunham in the role of Motormouth Maybelle. Aside from the Act 2 knockout solo I Know Where I’ve Been that showcased her rich, legitimate and heart-wrenching vocal, Dunham consistently gave an honest and vibrant onstage energy that enlivened each of her scenes. An absolutely captivating performer who made this role her own.

So what are my final thoughts? Hairspray is the embodiment of a fun yet socially significant musical. From the spine-tingling moments of sincerity to the sugary sweet and boppy tunes that will be stuck in your head for days on end, it’s a lot of meaningful fun and Harvest Rain do it complete justice. And while driving home I did feel a little nauseous and in need of some heavy metal music or hard core indie art to balance the equilibrium, the closing number kept ringing in my ears and bringing a little smile to my lips…apparently you really can’t stop the beat!