Posts Tagged ‘tim rice

27
Feb
18

Disney’s Aladdin

Disney’s Aladdin

Disney Theatrical Productions

QPAC Lyric Theatre

February 24 – June 3 2018

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

Princess Jasmine & Aladdin. Image by Deen Van Meer.

Aladdin is the multi-Tony Award winning, multi-faceted jewel in Disney’s crown, a decadent feast for the senses – flawless – rich in colour, romance, action, ambition, greed, honour, mischief, magic, glitz and glamour, and losing nothing of its original heartwarming essence. Booked yet?

Based on the 1992 animated film, and even more spectacular on stage, Aladdin’s intricate popup storybook sets are immediately transportive. The skyline alone is an Instagram Influencer’s dream! (Are the presets available for purchase?). Masterfully designed by Bob Crowley and superbly lit by Natasha Katz, with more than 300 lavish costumes on display, glistening with thousands of Swarovski crystals (Gregg Barnes), and gifted with swirling, seamless choreography making a showstopper of every musical number (Casey Nicholaw), AND with its extraordinary talent and automation, this sensational production is the must-see musical theatre event of the year.

Book here.

Princess Jasmine & Aladdin. Image by Deen Van Meer.

We were just discussing the need (or not) for overtures the other week, and this production, directed by Casey Nicholaw with musical direction by Geoffrey Castles, opens both acts with one, celebrating the many moods of the Middle Eastern influenced music composed by Alan Menken and from the first strains, freeing us from the throes of daily life and city traffic for a couple of magical hours. Additional songs have been added back into the stage production after being cut from the film, with lyrics by Disney dream team Howard Ashman and Tim Rice (with book & lyrics by Chad Beguelin). It’s got to be one of the catchiest, most uplifting scores of contemporary musical theatre. One of the reintroduced songs, the poignant Proud of Your Boy, showcases the acting chops and golden voice of Ainsley Melham, who brings the title role to life. This guy is set for superstardom. 

Aladdin (Ainsley Melham). Image by Deen Van Meer.

With effervescent energy, a mischievous grin and Disney leading man chiselled good looks, Melham is one of several WAAPA grads in the company, and a perfect match for this Princess Jasmine, Hiba Elchikhe. Hailing from the UK and Mountview trained, Elchikhe is divine and definitely the strong-vulnerable female role model you’d hoped your own little Princess Jasmine would get to see at stage door after the show for a #twinning pic. 

It was a JOY to see so many excited kids at opening night, lighting up the foyer with their bright eyes and infectious smiles. I only wish our major productions could be made more affordable, allowing even more families to enjoy a night out at the theatre together. Honestly, especially in this case, it can be the life-affirming, life-changing stuff of a happier childhood and a more harmonious household!

WELL, THERE IS NOTHING UPLIFTING OR LIFE-AFFIRMING ABOUT YOUR FOOTY TEAM LOSING, IS THERE? TRY A NIGHT OUT AT THE THEATRE. 

Adam Murphy’s Jafar is suitably imposing and delightfully wicked whilst remaining so suave when having to play the perfect gentleman and advisor to the Sultan (George Henare, charming and pleasingly, far more sensitive and intelligent than the bumbling / loveable old fool in the film). Jafar’s sidekick on stage, the parrot of the film, is henchman Iago, played with perfect comic timing and terrific physicality by Aljin Abella. Together these two give Aladdin’s three friends a run for their money in terms of laugh time.

Kassim (Adam-Jon Firorentino – please stay in the country now), Omar (Robert Tripolino) and Babkak (Troy Sussman) replace Abu, Aladdin’s beloved on-screen mate, a monkey, and they share some wonderfully funny moments, as well as getting the chance to shine as individual performers.

Genie (Gareth Jacobs). Image by Jeff Busby.

But it’s the Genie, Melbourne’s Gareth Jacobs who steals the show by a nose, having stepped into the big curly-toed satin shoes of Michael James Scott late last year. Jacobs is relaxed and makes the perfect host; he has us in the palm of his hand from the moment he first appears to welcome us, and later, magically, of course, in the Cave of Wonders. This dazzling set design is up there with the multiple cascading chandeliers of My Fair Lady (in fact, not since My Fair Lady has a musical production looked so good in the Lyric), and the Genie’s famous number here, Friend Like Me, literally stops the show, prompting an enthusiastic standing ovation and real hopes for a reprise. There isn’t one, because the show must go on! But this is so much better than the Super Bowl halftime show, and much more thrilling than the film, with literally something for everyone (the tap sequence is fantastic!). Genie even gives a nod to some other Disney smash hits, sans the R-Rated treatment we’ve enjoyed since 2014 at Oscar’s Boy&Girl

Aladdin. Cave of Wonders. Image by Deen Van Meer.

In this superbly talented ensemble we don’t expect to see any stand outs, and yet Brisbane’s Kimberley Hodgson is just glorious in every moment. I’d love to return to see her play Princess Jasmine. (Jasmine’s second understudy is Heather Manly, whom we recognise from Showwork’s Heathers. And though there are times when it is disappointing to miss out on a star performer, with understudies of this calibre there’s no need to give a second thought as to whether or not you’ll enjoy the show if someone is off for the night! This is a truly sensational cast, the strongest sounding ensemble we’ve heard in this space in a long time, absolutely world class).

Aladdin. Magic Lamp. Image by Deen Van Meer.

Aladdin is a no-brainer, the ideal date night, or an extravagant and entertaining evening with friends or family. If your household makes it to just one mega musical each year, this year make it this one.

Aladdin is beyond splendid. It’s bold, it’s beautifully staged and performed, showcasing some of the country’s most exciting musical theatre talent, and it guarantees the shared experience of a lifetime. Most impressive of all (and let’s face it, it’s largely due to this stellar cast), Disney’s dazzling production puts the heart and soul back into blockbuster musical theatre storytelling… Well, it was time. 

13
Jun
13

Jesus Christ Superstar: Australian Arena Tour

 

Jesus Christ Superstar: Australian Arena


Tour
Brisbane Entertainment Centre

 
11th, 12th & 18th June 2013

 
Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

 

 

CONSUME THIS

 

 

JCS-minchin-300x0Let me just get this out of the way. I adore Tim Minchin and I don’t think I’m the only one. The legion of followers on Twitter, and the fans overheard at Brisbane Entertainment Centre on Tuesday night planning their post-show stage door strategy for meeting the stars (a decent way to wait for the carpark to clear, let’s face it, although personally, prefer a glass of something at the bar these days, having spent too many hours at stage doors in another life), as well as the standing ovation for this Judas Iscariot, indicate that the infamous atheist Minchin is the real superstar of this massive
new production. Judas has always been the plum role, in what was the first officially recognised “rock musical”, written by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice after the success of their high school musical, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat. I grew up with these shows playing at maximum volume (on scratchy albums, kids. RECORDS. PLAYED ON A RECORD PLAYER).

 

Through the eyes of Judas, we see the events of the last days and nights of Jesus Christ, including the crucifixion (and not, to the slight distress of staunch Christians over the years, the resurrection). If we don’t feel the anguish and self-loathing of Judas there’s something very wrong with the production. In this role, Minchin gives generously so much anguish, self-loathing, confusion and disbelief that there are a couple of moments to bring us to tears if we are so inclined. His Heaven On Their Minds sets up for a faultless performance; it’s a gutsy and unforgiving opening, and Damned For All Time/Blood Money and Judas’s Death set Minchin well apart from the other strong leads, including my (other) favourite, Jon Stevens, whose performance is exceptional despite some unusual directorial decisions having been applied to his character, Pontius Pilate. He nevertheless commands the stage at every moment. These two performers are in a calibre of their own and will have you completely captivated.

 

I saw Stevens as a bare-chested, black-leather-pants-clad certified Rock God Judas in the last arena tour (in the round) in 1992, with John Farnham as Jesus, Kate Ceberano as Mary Magdalene, Angry Anderson as Herod, and John Waters as Pilate. Incidentally, going by the evidence kindly provided by the form-fitting black Nike gear he wears so well, Stevens is in better shape now than he was then. Just saying. By leaping into both demanding roles, Stevens has well and truly proven his versatility and his prowess as a stage performer (and look, in 1992 certified Rock Gods making their musical theatre debut could get away with taking a breath in the middle of a phrase), not to mention his commitment to basic stagecraft, which is not to be undervalued even (or especially) at this level.

 

 

Ben Forster, who won the title role in the British Superstar comp, can’t help but head into overly dramatic territory, where his vocals suffer slightly when there’s no need to push it; clearly, he has the necessary vocal range and depth of emotion. Despite his obvious talent and earnest efforts, he seemed slightly fatigued and his Gethsemane failed to move me, with his best moments happening in tandem with Minchin. The kiss from Judas, and the embrace that follows it, is heart wrenching. I defy you to sit unmoved during this small, spectacular moment. The devil is in the detail.

 

 

Andrew O’Keefe as Herod in a flashy red velvet suit, manages to pull off an appropriately cheesy reality television game show, complete with faux audience participation, our host pandering to the cameras, and a bevvy of beautiful Deal or No Deal (well, they’re really “Lord or Fraud”) girls in gold. The girls return later, as SMASH style angels, in frilly knickers and corsets, and help leather-bound Minchin to make Superstar the showstopper. In one foul swoop, there it is, exactly what we came to experience; the Superstar Arena Spectacular!

 

Mel C – who is being raved about by other critics so, you know, don’t take my word for it – forgot, I think, that she was here to play the role of Mary Magdalene and after her perfectly measured part in Everything’s Alright, insisted on reverting to Sporty Spice style, shouting more than singing I Don’t Know How to Love Him. (I’m sorry, but you got nothin’ on our Naomi Price, girlfriend!), and Could We Start Again Please (poor, poor Peter – the talented Tom Parsons – didn’t stand a chance!). Suffice to say, after her first number, Mel C failed to impress me. AND I WAS READY TO BE IMPRESSED. After all, each and every lead role in this show is so, so, SO covetable, and we (quite rightly) expect the best. It’s not just a matter of getting up and making your mark as one of these characters. We need to see more than the star on stage. To be cast in any iconic show demands a step away from the ego and a back to basics approach in terms of discovering and developing characters and relationships. It’s the difference between recognising an actor like Robert De Niro or Daniel Day Lewis in a role, and not seeing anyone other than Keanu Reeves in a role. JUST SAYING.

 
gal-land-Renee-20Melides_A0C0739-620x414 Director, Lawrence Connor, has drawn on the global Occupy Movement to perfectly recontextualise this adaptation, dragging even the most reluctant of the original 1970s fan base into Big Brother’s digital age, with news updates, headlines and tweets (and hashtags, including #RomeLies and #FollowTheTwelve – of course I loved it!) embedded on the massive screen before us in between live-streamed footage of the performers and the changes in surroundings. It’s more like a rock concert than a musical, with camera operators sharing the steps and stage space with the cast and band, and a lighting design by Patrick Woodroffe worthy of a Freddie Mercury Resurrection Tour.

 

Speaking of the band, I don’t often list an entire collective but these guys, placed in full view on the scaffold at either side of the steps/stage space are outstanding, and if you faked a standing ovation in order to surreptitiously take your leave and get out to your car during the play-out music SHAME ON YOU. You missed the final fantastic notes from Louise Hunt (Musical Director/keys), Peter Adams (keys), Lewis Osborne (guitar), Frissi Karlson (guitar), Phil Mulford (bass), Andy McGlasson (drums), John Clark (percussion), Nicole Dixon (French horn), Kate Robertson (sax & wind instruments), and Greg Spence (trumpet). Regardless of your final thoughts about this production, you can’t fail to appreciate the expertise of the musos involved. The same applies to th ensemble, which gives this story much of its energy, excitement and contemporary urban grunge. Their vocals are superb.   GHMinchineJCSSAW-20130608151017170064-620x349

 

There are some clunky scene transitions – there usually are in Superstar and the set is perhaps less visually arresting than expected, although Minchin’s last entrance from – literally – “the gods” up above us, and the lighting bars used for the cross worked well. I’m surprised I didn’t get shivers upon hearing the opening strains of the guitar (it didn’t seem LOUD enough!), or in the final moments (it didn’t seem to MATTER enough!), and I’m disappointed that I didn’t feel completely awestruck by this…impressive production.

 

I love Jesus Christ Superstar – our Sunshine Coast production, directed by Cirque’s Mark Bromilow and staged in a warehouse in Kawana in 1999, retains the record for the largest audience numbers in a season on the Sunshine Coast – and the majority will love this Arena Spectacular, which is everything its tag suggests it should be. But there’s a big-budget-big-ego issue overshadowing a few of the elements, which is keeping me from really LOVING it. That’s not to say I wouldn’t enjoy seeing Tim Minchin the show again!

 

I was impressed enough to get online and book two more tickets for the third and final Brisbane performance – for my husband, the producer of that unforgettable local production in ‘99, and for my dad, singing at the top of his voice and playing the original scratchy cast recording since 1970.
 

Jesus Christ Superstar should be experienced at least once in a lifetime and the Arena Spectacular is a terrific, high-voltage version so book your last-minute tickets and chalk it up!