Posts Tagged ‘underground productions


Adding Machine: A Musical


Adding Machine: A Musical

Underground Productions

UQ Schonell Theatre

September 4 – 13 2014


Reviewed by Michelle Bull


Adaptation by Joshua Schmidt. Libretto by Jason Loewith and Joshua Schmidt




Last week I attended Underground Productions’ Australian Premiere of Adding Machine: A Musical at the Schonell Theatre, UQ.


A musical adaptation of Elmer Rice’s 1923 expressionist play, Adding Machine, the musical is a challenging undertaking through which the cast of Underground Productions plummets fearlessly. The score is as difficult as it is surreal.


Adding Machine centres around the devastation of protagonist Mr. Zero when he is replaced by an Adding Machine and ‘let go’ from his job as a Bookkeeper after 25 years dedicated service. A distraught Zero kills his boss in a fit of outrage and consequently, is charged and executed.


This is not a musical that will leave you humming its chorus on the way home, rather my companion and I were left feeling rather pained and exhausted following this show. It is it seems a musical experience more like a contemporary opera, notably poignant, brave and complex but as challenging to the audience and listener as I’m sure it is to the cast.


Not that Adding Machine is a stranger to accolades, as my companion pointed out; it has been awarded multiple Lucille Lortel and Drama Desk awards, and had countless rave reviews.


But this musical is definitely not for everyone. It is refreshing to see a small theatre company tackling something different to the norm, the production obviously cracks the mould of a lot of traditional musical theatre dominating small Australian stages.


The score is the biggest hurdle to pass and is as mechanical as the plot that surrounds it. If you can move past the rhythmic complexity and dissonance, it could be seen almost as a textured nightmarish soundscape, which (from that angle) makes it more digestible. The cacophonous intensity does continuously grate the nerves however, although it is occasionally used to great effect, such as during an office scene in which a chant builds into a polyrhythmic moment that showcases some great ensemble singing and choreography.


The cast itself boasts some strong voices; Chris Kellet in the role of Mr. Zero is the perfect balance of hopeless and hopeful. However frustrating his plight, hints of a fine baritone voice made me yearn for a lyrical moment.


Playing opposite, Gabriella Flowers in the role of wife Mrs. Zero balances the demands of a vocally challenging role with a strong portrayal of the unrelenting socialite. Her soprano flits between ringing and reedy, her unyielding characterisation serving to antagonise her husband and the audience alike.


Taylor Davidson as the lovesick Daisy Devore brings a softer characterisation, her smoky mezzo enjoying some of the more melodic moments.


Mischa Reinthal in multiple roles as the fated Boss, Fixer and Charles is suitably commanding both in voice and physicality, while Louis Peake as Shrdlu adds some comic moments and melodic lines that are welcome changes of pace.


The small ensemble are on the whole strong vocally, although some issues with balance caused a few tuning issues at times. With such a score however, they are to be commended and it is clear Musical Director Benedict Braxton- Smith has put the cast through their paces.


The design elements of the production add a lot of interest and are also worth a mention. A revolving set adds to the mechanical feel of the production and visually mimics the feel of the score.


If I’m completely honest I can’t say I loved this production. While I’m all for theatre that moves beyond traditional conventions (even with some interesting musical moments and strong performers), I have to say I still found Adding Machine indigestible and musically pretentious. Obviously given the accolades the show has received this is not everyone’s opinion but ultimately it’s not for me. Underground Productions is full of talent onstage and off, that much is clear, but next time I’ll take a showtune.







Underground Productions

Schonell Theatre

1 October – 4 October 2013


Reviewed by Meredith McLean


I’d never seen a production at the Schonell theatre until Tuesday night. Yes, I’d been there years ago when I attended college and there were awards or functions involved. I’ve even sat in a lecture or two in this building where it was close to impossible not to fall asleep in those soft, comfortable chairs. But to see Neil LaBute’s Autobahn staged by Underground Productions here was an entirely different experience.


You won’t have to worry about falling asleep is those damn comfy seats because you will be lead onto the stage where a small selection of chairs has been set up. Then you should fasten your seatbelt because the ride is winding, funny, sad, and vigorous at times.




My only lament is the arrangement of the seating. If you’re not in the front row you’re not going to see the show. It reminds me of when we were small children in the car playing Corners. You leaned far left when the car swung a corner, then far right when the car turned again, your parents yelled “Stop that now, don’t make me turn this car around,” and we cried “Yes! Yes! Turn the car around again!” That’s what it’s like sitting in the rows of the audience, leaning this way and that trying to get any view at all of the actors.


But for what was seen it was certainly an entertaining show. The cast, with Director, Meg Ham, had three weeks to put this production together and you can see on their faces each one of them want to say, “Come look what we have to show you!” And it is impressive how the mood shifts from scene to scene. Each of these vignettes has a completely different aura to the last but the transition is seamless.


I’m always curious about these collaboration shows…who owns what? Is there a copyright to each line, each character’s twitch or little habit? When the cast performs the show does one of them beam inward just a little, knowing that was their line, that’s their little signature on the show? Or is it a soviet union of actors’ creations, all for one and one for all. Everyone owns a little piece of the play and everyone does a little bit of the work? You can never truly know unless you’re there, inside the messy process of creating something yourself.


Autobahn seems to be something like that, a hybrid of the two. It’s an invisible car crash of creations. It’s like looking at your side mirrors and not seeing the oncoming car, but seeing a little moment flash by.


When you spot one of these minimalist productions that try to breach a new idea don’t hesitate. Flick on your blinkers, turn into the parking lot and see the show.





Giveaway: Win a Double Pass to see Autobahn


It’s a giveaway! Hooray!


Thanks to the cool cats at Underground Productions, we are giving you the chance to see the opening night TONIGHT at the Schonell Theatre, St Lucia. Just comment below to let us know why you’re looking forward to a night out at the theatre TONIGHT!

Make sure you’re following Underground Productions and XS Entertainment on Facebook and Twitter.


Underground Productions presents Autobahn
By Neil LaBute


Director: Meg Ham
Assistant Director: Danielle Carney


Autobahn is a series of short vignettes that all take place in the front seats of a car.  Through such a simple and free premise, playwright Neil LuBute explores seven scenarios of regular people in extraordinary circumstances.  From breakups to kidnappings to an escape from rehab, the situation is transformed again and again but the setting remains the same – showing us just how significant a short car ride can be, and taking us on a heartbreaking and exhilarating ride.


Director Meg Ham seized the opportunity to direct this QUEENSLAND PREMIERE after having been assistant director on Underground Productions’ previous work Bat Boy: The Musical, one of Underground’s biggest and most successful productions ever.  The simultaneously unique yet everyday setting of the piece coupled with LaBute’s bold, idiosyncratic dialogue attracted Meg from the first page.  I was drawn in by that concept of being confined and what conspires when two humans are trapped together; how we seize the opportunity to confront the other because they have nowhere to run.”


The cast includes a host of Underground veterans and some talented newcomers fresh off other theatrical projects – including winners of the Short+Sweet Queensland finals, and Meg is thrilled to have secured such a stellar group of young actors.  “The cast is incredible and are some of the hardest working performers I’ve ever had the pleasure or working with. They are thoughtful and honest to their characters and portray each story with a selflessness that you just don’t see very often.”


“I hope that you can love this show as much as we do. There is a chapter for everyone so come and share in these stories with us.”


Performance Dates:
Tuesday – October 1 at 7:30pm – OPENING NIGHT
Wednesday – October 2 at 7:30pm
Thursday – October 3 at 7:30pm
Friday – October 4 at 1:30pm – MATINEE
Friday – October 4 at 7:30pm – CLOSING NIGHT


After the performance on opening night, stick around for free food, drinks and a meet-and-greet with the cast, crew and members of Underground Productions.


The Schonell Theatre
The University of Queensland

St Lucia, 4067

Directions and parking info can be found at:


$15 for ADULTS / $12 for STUDENTS / $10 for UNDERGROUND MEMBERS or groups of 10+ Tickets available can be booked online:


Remaining tickets will be available at the door but bookings are highly recommended (booking online incurs a $1 fee per ticket).   Be sure you double check your bookings, as we cannot offer refunds.


For group bookings, please contact Xanthe at:



The story deals with heavy and mature themes.  The show also contains some strong language so we recommend that audience members be at least 15 years of age.
About Underground Productions:

Underground Productions is the University of Queensland’s resident theatre group.  It has been running (under different names) since the 1970s, with artists such as Geoffrey Rush and Bille Brown beginning their careers with the company.  Since its venue transition to the wonderful 440 seat Schonell Theatre in 2010, Underground has evolved to produce some of Brisbane’s finest theatre, whilst still maintaining its close-knit and fun-loving attitude.  Along with four mainhouse shows each year, Underground Productions provides opportunities for all things theatre, including drama workshops, backstage crew training, arts festivals, and an annual musical.  Underground also strives to showcase original works that the talented Brisbane community offers and provides a thorough sense of fun for both members and audiences alike.



Bat Boy: the musical!


Bat Boy: The Musical

Underground Productions

Schonell Theatre

29 August – 7 September 2013


Reviewed by Jennifer Johnston




No matter what you read up on regarding the story line behind a theatrical production/musical show, nothing prepares you for the story as it unfolds. Of course in reviews and media releases the plots and crucial scenes are not usually revealed, as it would ruin the outcome for the viewer. Thankfully, the PR released on Bat Boy: The Musical, which opened at Queensland University’s Schonell Theatre last week, had kept quiet about its plot and central characters.


All I knew beforehand was this was a dark tale of a half-boy half-bat discovered living in a cave in West Virginia. Based loosely on a story reported in 1992 in the Weekly World News about the discovery of a half boy / bat like creature, writers Keythe Farley and Brian Flemming wrote a stage adaptation. Laurence O’Keefe, an American composer/lyricist is responsible for the music and lyrics.  In 1997 in Los Angeles Bat Boy: The Musical enjoyed its world premiere.


The show has played  New York’s off-Broadway (2001) and London’s West End (2004).  Underground Productions (Qld Uni’s resident theatre group) present the Queensland premiere of the production, which opened on Friday August 30 and closes on Saturday September 7.


We were pre-warned of the many dark and mature themes and they were played out with dramatic effect. No I will not share them here, but suffice to say, my friend and I both jumped a few times and screwed up our faces during a couple of scenes, slapstick and camp horror themes affecting us.


Think of a boy who is half bat and half human and your mind conjures up images.  Patrick Aitken as Edgar, (the Bat Boy) with the help of some classic vampire inspired make-up (including fangs) was pretty convincing in the opening scene as a helpless and sullen bat, who (which?) somehow ended up in an underground cave, lost to society.


I often have an issue when directors choose an American based show using an Australian cast, as Aussie actors seem to struggle with maintaining an American accent. I almost wish our actors could by-pass the fake accent.  The opening scene with the family members who stumbled upon the cave shouted out in very strong interpretations of an accent, not always maintained throughout the night. No biggie.  But I feel Director Alex could make a decision there – yes or no to the accent.


Our Bat friend is removed from his underground cave to a small community, where we meet the Parker Family – Shelley (daughter) played by Alice England and Meredith (mother) Arlie McCormick. They take Bat Boy in for “observation.”  We  sense this is bible-belt, with the use of subtle humour and religious commentary peppering the dialogue.  Shelley and boyfriend Rick Taylor (played by John Vizcay-Wilson) entertain the audience with a slick rap number and Shelley manages to throw in a couple of tweaking moves – a topical effect.


The scenes jump from quiet dialogues to full cast songs. Full credit goes to Choreographer Bonnie Mullins. We see interesting use of dance and movement.  In one scene at the Slaughterhouse the townspeople of Hope Falls gathered to express concern at the lack of beasts “ready” for killing and sale.  The Black Ninjas (best way to describe the cast dressed and masked in black) provided interesting moments as they flowed in and out of scenes in silent “stealth mode.” Dressed no doubt to support the darker themes of the story.


As Director Alex Feifers said, “I often class this as gothic humour, between religion and ‘adult themes’, the dark but ever present humour shows throughout the production.”


Sheriff Reynolds (Alex Smith) dressed in a style reminiscent of Larry Wilcox from Chips – (an old TV show – maybe before some of your time – google him you will agree!) is the local law enforcement.  He finds himself caught up in the division between what is right in the town and the sentiment against the deaths, which Bat Boy is allegedly responsible for.  Up for re-election (yes topical again), he wants to do the right thing by his voters.  Not often do we see Sheriff Reynolds lift his mirrored sunglasses but we can guess where his allegiance lies.


Dr Parker (Chris Story) – Dad to Shelley and wife to Meredith – laments the lost love he and his wife no longer feel.  His jealousy prompts him into dastardly acts and we see a side of him that is evil and dark.


The opening scene after interval takes us to the gospel church where Reverend Hightower (Joshua Daveta) leads his congregation in some high powered gospel singing and spiritual healing.  I sense Joshua is in his element in this role (in another life he is lead singer in SOUL SIMPLE). Thanks to the pumping music from MD Nick Hollamby and band, the audience with whoops and calls were  jumping in their seats for this song.


There was plenty of parody and slap-stick, Shelley asks Bat Boy,  “How did you find me in the cave? “ Ahhh… I seem to see well in the dark,” he replies.  There is irony, sexual tension, love and jealousy. Mix this in with themes dealing with the horrors of humanity.  The townsfolk at one stage are crying out to Edgar to “Hold me Bat Boy, touch me Bat Boy, make it all turn out alright.” These are deep, short-lived demands, as they quickly turn on Bat Boy and demand his death.


Elements from the Vampire inspired fantasies (stirred along by Stephanie Meyers)  are played out in this production – surprisingly I thought – but maybe that is meant to add to the drama and mysterious allure of a Bat Boy.


My personal picks in performances were by Meredith, Bat Boy and Reverend Hightower. Better not forget a crowd pleasing moment where a six-packed adorned greek-god like fellow enters stage complete with horns, singing about “free-love”.  The audience went wild for him (sorry I could not locate his name in program).


This production has it all!


Support Underground Productions and fill the 440 seat capacity Schonell Theatre. It’s all about experiencing something different and unexpected.  Bat Boy: The Musical will give you that! And that’s all I will share.



A Give Away – Win a Double Pass to Bat Boy: the Musical!

Batboy Banner


Underground Productions presents the musical comedy hit Bat Boy: The Musical, the hilariously dark tale of a half-boy, half-bat discovered living in a cave, and the obstacles he faces as he tries to integrate into a small, rural town in West Virginia.


It’s an explosively entertaining take on how we fear the strange and unknown, set against a score that mixes rock with contemporary musical theatre.  With elements of satire, comedy-horror, irony and forbidden love, Bat Boy is a thought-provoking and thoroughly entertaining work that has garnered massive critical and public acclaim, including the Outer Critics Circle Award for best off-Broadway musical in 2001.


Because we loved Underground’s Urinetown so much we want you to see Bat Boy: The Musical so we’re giving away a double pass to the opening night performance on Friday August 30 at The Schonell! Just tell us in the comments section below the best thing about Brisbane theatre!




Matilda Award nominee Alex Feifers jumped at the opportunity to direct this exciting, yet challenging show.  Undaunted by the imposing text, she says “The real challenge is perfectly balancing the dark and dramatic themes with the comedic irony and wit.  But backed by such a strong creative team and crew, not to mention the stellar cast, I have a big feeling this is going to be the highlight of the local Brisbane musical theatre scene this year.”


By the writer of the recent hit Legally Blonde The Musical, Underground Productions couldn’t be more proud and excited to present the Queensland premiere of Bat Boy: The Musical, running from August 29 until September 7.




About Underground Productions:

Underground Productions is the University of Queensland’s resident theatre group.  It has been running (under different names) since the 1970′s, with artists such as Geoffrey Rush and Bille Brown beginning their careers with the company.  Since its venue transition to the wonderful 440 seat Schonell Theatre in 2010, Underground has evolved to produce some of Brisbane’s finest theatre, whilst still maintaining its close-knit and fun-loving attitude.  Along with 4 mainhouse shows a year, Underground Productions provides opportunities for all things theatre, including drama workshops, backstage crew training, arts festivals, and an annual musical.


Underground also strives to showcase original works that the talented Brisbane community has to offer and provides a thorough sense of fun to both members and audiences alike.


N.B. The story deals with many dark and mature themes.  Although respectfully handled and often punctuated with humour, we nevertheless recommend that audience member be at least 15 years of age.  There will also be strobe lighting effects, and loud sound effects and music.


Bat Boy Official Poster 1

Performance Dates:

Thursday – August 29 at 7:30pm – PREVIEW NIGHT1

Friday – August 30 at 7:30pm – OPENING NIGHT*

Saturday – August 31 at 2:30pm

Saturday – August 31 at 7:30pm

Tuesday – September 3 at 7:30pm – STUDENT SPECIALS2

Wednesday – September 4 at 7:30pm

Thursday – September 5 at 7:30pm

Friday – September 6 at 7:30pm

Saturday – September 7 at 2:30pm

Saturday – September 7 at 7:30pm – CLOSING NIGHT

*After the opening night performance, stick around for free food, drinks, live music and a meet-and-greet with the cast and crew


$20 for adults / $18 for students / $15 for Underground Members
Tickets available from July 15 and can be booked online:


1 $18/15/12 tickets for adults/students/members on Preview Night


2Students and members pay only $12 on Student Night


For your chance to win the opening night Double Pass follow this blog, like us on Facebook and tell us in the comments section below what you love about Brisbane theatre! Winner will be notified via email and announced on our Facebook page.