Posts Tagged ‘south pacific

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

 

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.

 

 

31
Mar
12

david hawkins brings ben vereen

OMIGOD! The most exciting news all day!

David Hawkins, of Showtune Productions, is bringing the legendary Tony Award winning song and dance man

BEN VEREEN

to Australia in June! *screams*

Now, it’s unlikely that I’ll get to travel south to see him live, due to all the Travelling North I’m doing at the moment, followed by our commitment to the Noosa Longweekend (full program released on May 1st), but in case you’re able to go, here are the delicious details.

BEN VEREEN in

STEPPIN’ OUT LIVE WITH BEN VEREEN

22 JUNE 2012
FESTIVAL THEATRE,
ADELAIDE CABARET FESTIVAL

23 JUNE 2012
ATHENAEUM THEATRE, MELBOURNE
 or PH 13 2849

28 JUNE 2012
PARADE THEATRE – NIDA, SYDNEY 
or PH 13 2849

A true legend of Broadway, Ben Vereen will be Steppin’ Out with a unique blend of artistry combining a journey of his amazing career on Broadway, and paying tribute to Frank Sinatra, and Sammy Davis Jr. Each performance is filled with song and dance, stories of his life, and a great deal of humour.

Tony Award winner for his role in Pippin, Vereen has appeared on Broadway in Wicked, Fosse, Chicago, Jesus Christ Superstar, Hair, Grind, Jelly’s Last Jam, A Christmas Carol and I’m Not Rappaport. Vereen’s film credits include Bob Fosse’s classics Sweet Charity and All That Jazz and Barbara Streisand’s Funny Lady. Vereen starred as ‘Chicken George’ in the 7 Emmy Award winning mini-series Rootsas ‘Chiken George’, other TV appearances include How I Met Your Mother, Grey’s Anatomy, Law and Order: CI, OZ, Touched By An Angel, Second Noah, New York Undercover, The Nanny, and Star Trek – The Next Generation.

Well, when I read the news on Facebook today during our tech run, I exclaimed out loud something a little more Legally Blonde than Travelling North like, “OMIGOD! YOU GUYS! BEN VEREEN!” And Julia, who plays Frank’s daughter, Joan (Andrea Moor played the role in the film), was just as excited as I was and that was so excited that we started singing PIPPIN. And by singing PIPPIN I mean dancing around the new dressing room, singing the opening number at the top of our voices. Andree, who makes her stage debut as Helen, just stared. Clearly, we should have been running lines. But look, you can never have too much PIPPIN. It stays with you. I was Fastrada when I was fifteen…

Fastrada costume (sans character shoes) by Mum. Taken on location at the Stringybark Road residence.

And our Pippin? Well, he’s also gone onto bigger and better things!

Look for him on stage at  the Olivier Awards, performing with the UK touring company of South Pacific!

Our Pippin, Lawrence Carmichael, with Director, Ian Austin in 1990

Hello, Sailor! South Pacific 2012

Meanwhile, you’ve booked your Ben Vereen tickets, haven’t you?

If you’re not booking them right away you’ll miss out!

And if you manage to get hold of a couple of extra tickets for Sydney on the 28th (we’re at the Noosa Longweekend until then) let me know! Seeing Ben Vereen as the Leading Player in PIPPIN (on VHS) changed my life a little bit . Imagine what it will be like to see this legend perform LIVE! This is what the independent producers do – well, this is what we’ve noticed David Hawkins does – he brings out the entertainers who will change your life.