Posts Tagged ‘visy theatre





Oscar Theatre Co

Brisbane Powerhouse

April 3 – 19 2014


Reviewed by Xanthe Coward




Trust Oscar to put on the sexiest show in town! Their girls are hot and their boys are hotter, regardless of your preferences. But what makes this show spectacular spectacular is a lot more than the eye candy – these kids can sing and dance y’all! And they always have done – you’ll remember Spring Awakening and Next To Normal – and this show, which evolved as the Lightspace Cabaret Series, is the next logical step, proving beyond a shadow of a doubt that Oscar is here to stay. And thank Adonis for that!


There’s a blatant message behind this show, and that’s SAME (SPECTACULAR SPECTACULAR) SAME. I hope to all the Greek Gods that you’re not still struggling with the notion of same-sex relationships (if you’re reading this blog, let’s face it, probs not!), but if you are, you sad, sad excuse for a human being, all the more reason to climb into an old sofa in the front row and HAVE YOUR MIND BLOWN!


While some are still insisting on trying to fit cabaret into a neat little box, Oscar goes beyond definition to create a gender-bending, mind-blowing phenomenon that you’ll experience and want to experience again, immediately. It’s not often we see something with the awesome, powerful, positive sexual energy to lift us out of our seats shouting, “Again! Again!” And look, no, it wasn’t just me. A packed house roared their appreciation at the end of the show, already having clapped and squealed throughout it in pure delight. Being able to bring drinks into the space is obviously essential to the atmosphere, but actually, during Interval, Adam and I lounged – literally – and chatted away, taking in the high-voltage vibe and wondering aloud, “Where does Emily FIND these performers?” Or do they find her?


In Chris Kellet we have an Emcee in true Cabaret tradition. To open with Wilkommen makes perfect sense, setting the ambience with ease (helped already, before we even begin by the band, led by MD Dale Lingwood and cast members strategically placed posed amongst the punters), and allowing us – especially those of us right under the, er, noses of the performers, admire an entirely new perspective on the number, choreographed by Dan Venz. The impact of the full company is felt at once, and not again until an extraordinary homage to West Side Story, ringing out that core message loud and clear, to bring the evening to a close. The voices are rich and full, befitting the well-loved score, and we are convinced. There is indeed a place for us, no matter who (or what) we are. In between, of course there is naughtiness! And some standout performances, including a gorgeous Andrew Sisters style arrangement of Call Me Maybe (Conor, Dakota & Dan), Conor Ensor’s touching Sandra Dee/There Are Worse Things I Could Do, Aya Valentine’s riotous take on My Girlfriend Who Lives In Canada, the expertly executed Cell Block Tango (all the boys), and Single Ladies (Garret, Adwan & Andy). Oscar’s very own Bath Girl seems an odd – but  not – inclusion and I hope there’s another show for her (and her South Pacific cum Rubby Ducky parodying boy chorus); it’s as if this one couldn’t NOT go into the final mix, but there might be a better fit within a future vision. And there are moments of contemporary dance that almost take away from the vocalists’ work, but I let those moments slide because the dancers are good; precise and emotionally present, earning their place in the shared space. THIS TIME.




It’s with surprise and delight that I take on board the gender-bending vocals and physicality of the cast (who knew Rizzo could be such a sensitive guy?), and so it’s with some surprise also, that I realise later Bring on the Men is performed entirely by the girls, as per its original context from Jekyll and Hyde. And would that not have been an interesting piece for the boys to explore?


If for no other reason, you should probs see this show before we lose Venz to Vegas; surely that’s his destiny, or at least within his sights. Not only a hot, sharp mover and shaker, he’s choreographed the whole thing, beautifully lit by Jason Glenwright. Now THAT’S more like it, Mister! Light up those guys and dolls! Very clever, the way Ms Gilhome gets people together to create a little somethin’ somethin’…




This little somethin’ somethin’ is absolutely sizzling so see it before it sells out! Or… Perhaps it’s already too late and you will only have everybody else’s party stories to go by. That’s sad. For you. This fun fiasco finishes next weekend. Get on it, get a ticket and get to it!



Aaand roll credits…



Director: Emily Gilhome

Choreographer: Dan Venz

Music Director: Dale Lingwood

Lighting Designer: Jason Glenwright

Designer: Falco Fox

Assistant Director: Jack Kelly

Photography Design: Joel Devereux


Band: Dale Lingwood, Gene Stevens, Justin Bliss, Daniel Robbins


Company: Adwan Dickson, Aimee Butterworth, Andrew Kanofski, Ash McCready, Aya Valentine, Chris Kellett, Claire Walters, Conor Ensor, Dakota Striplin, Dan Venz, Danny Lazar, Ellen Reed, Garret Lyon, Jack Kelly, Jacqui Devereus, Jakob Evelyn, Kimie Tsukakoshi, Michael Hogan, Shannon Metzeling, Shelley Marshall, Vanessa Friscia, Josh Daveta



Your Theatrics International Cabaret Contest – Queensland Winner Jessica Papst


Your Theatrics International Cabaret Contest

Your Theatrics International

Brisbane Powerhouse Visy Theatre

Saturday January 11 2014


Attended by Xanthe Coward


Jessica Papst

Jessica Papst – Queensland Winner – Your Theatrics International Cabaret Contest


Congratulations to Queensland Winner, Jessica Papst!


“The Cabaret Showcase has been growing year after year, but 2013 looks to be the most exciting yet.  I have had the joy of being associated with it for many years and to see the progress of its winners – on TV, in musical theatre, with their award winning podcasts and sell-out international shows”.

David Campbell – Australian Entertainment Industry Icon and Cabaret Contest  Patron


On Saturday we arrived at Brisbane Powerhouse for Sam’s 4pm call. He and Australian Cabaret Showcase Winner of 2011, Angela Harding, had plenty of time to catch up and plan their approach to the gig, which was delightful and charming (Ang) and more than a little bit cheeky (Sam).


Sam Coward

Sam takes the opportunity to sing for us his favourite number from The Pirate Show – Show Them To Me


The Queensland heat finalists were Julie Beard, Toni Zaffa, Adam Flower, James Halloran, Rachel Head, Bobbie-Jean Henning, Louise Kennedy, Steve MacKay, Dana Musil, Jessica Papst, Nicole Power, Belinda Raisin, Belinda Hanne-Reid & Marcus Skeggs. Each took their turn to sound check and then there was time to warm up (or grab a drink and a quick snack upstairs at Bar Alto. The mashed mint pea bruschetta is excellent, just so you know).


A capacity Visy audience enjoyed varied performances, and to tell the whole truth, among them were just a few that actually looked and sounded like “cabaret”. Sam and I have argued about this, but to me and to the Sydney judges – read below what Neil Litchfield reiterated after the Sydney heat via Stage Whispers – when you’ve got an 8-minute segment you need to do a little more than sing a couple of your best audition pieces.


Jeremy Youett & Jessica Papst


Offerings where patter simply strings together a couple of showtunes of choice don’t cut the mustard any more.


Scaled back from the previous competition format which included multiple Sydney heats, the performance standard was impressive throughout, and it was probably the quality of concept, writing skills, or a directorial hand kicking in which made the difference – that, and the ability to adeptly distill the essence of a longer show into the time constraint, ahead of the dreaded bell.


Given just eight minutes each, it’s about enough time for two contrasting songs to display vocal and dramatic range, top notes, etc., tightly selected linking patter from those fully developed scripts, and that was the most common approach, though effectively others pluck multiple grabs which display the facets of their talents and offer a broad picture of the longer version…


Audience choice Ben Hudson’s instagram inspired piece, along with judges’ selections Monique Salle (and her Italian cousin), Melody Beck’s tribute to Marnie Nixon, hilarious self-accompanied comedian Sarah Gaul with her own outstanding comic song and Brendan Hay, blending comedy with a heartwrenching version of a Broadway standard, as the son of Cruella de Vil, go through to the Grand Final on January 17, at The Basement in Sydney.


Typecasting, a torchy seductress, Shakespeare on Broadway in 2014, Nuts, self-accompanied stories of a cruise ship piano bar performer or the archetypal cabaret theme of love gone wrong also featured in a night of diverse choices and storytelling.


Jeremy Youett & Jessica Papst


Well, what IS cabaret? Historically, the genre has taken on many different guises, including acts as diverse as burlesque, comedy, variety and performance art, but as Sam and I discussed at the end of the night with Your Theatrics’ Jeremy Youett, this contest is specifically designed to showcase artists in the Grand Final who are just about tour-ready, with the talent and the concept to entertain an audience for an entire evening without the support of too many additional elements (also, too many props can get messy. Just saying). A team of industry experts will work with the winner to develop their show, but the essence of it must be apparent, and there must be a certain level of confidence and a connection between artist and audience. Cabaret ain’t easy! And that’s precisely why the good cabaret artists stand out. Think previous winners, Sheridan Harbridge, Bradley McCaw, Angela Harding and Gillian Cosgriff. Also, Craig McLachlan in the 40th Anniversary production of The Rocky Horror Show. Seriously. His performance is exceptional. And very cabaret. Once we see the work of artists of this calibre we understand that there are in fact, no rules in cabaret.


To those artists yet to perform in a heat, or in the Grand Final on Friday night (January 17) at The Basement in Sydney, CHOOKAS!


Brisbane Powerhouse, The Judith Wright Centre and QPAC offer Queensland artists the next opportunity to try their hand at the art form, in the Queensland Cabaret Festival. If you’re intending to enter, you’ve missed the December deadline, but you can make sure you’re there to see the line up!


International and Australian cabaret stars take to the stage from 6-15 June at Queensland Cabaret Festival – a new festival taking place across Brisbane Powerhouse, QPAC, Judith Wright Centre of Contemporary Arts, Queensland Conservatorium Griffith University, Arts Centre Gold Coast, Ipswich Civic Centre and in regional centres.


According to Queensland Cabaret Festival co-creative producers Kris Stewart and Alison St. Ledger the festival is set to bring Queenslanders the best of local and international cabaret.


Kris Stewart commented “Queensland Cabaret Festival builds upon the Brisbane Cabaret festival foundations and takes it to another level – there’ll be international and Australian performers covering the sequin-spangled heights of cabaret in all its forms.


“If you enjoy great music, dance, circus and burlesque, delivered with drama, humour and glamour then you’ll be right at home during Queensland Cabaret Festival.”


Alison St. Ledger said “We want artists that will shock, entertain and seduce an audience; no idea is too wild.”


XS Entertainment and Noosa Arts Theatre offer another opportunity in October, for performers on the Sunshine Coast (and beyond!) when we launch Keep Calm and Cabaret. Keep an eye out for more details and be prepared to submit your application before September via YouTube or USB.


In the meantime, aspiring cabaret performers can audition for Oscar Theatre Co’s boy&girl 




Tom Sharah: It’s Raining Me & Amy Housewine: Back To Crack

Tom Sharah: It’s Raining Me

Brisbane Powerhouse Visy Theatre

5 – 7 December 2015


Reviewed by Xanthe Coward


Award-winning cabaret performer, and star of Channel 10’s I Will Survive and Channel 9’s Mornings, Tom Sharah has an incurable case of charisma. 

Born into an Australian showbiz family, Tom emerged from the womb with an extravagant finger-snap and a smart high-kick, and has barely drawn breath since.

It’s Raining Me takes audiences on a break-neck journey through the trials and tribulations of a boy who was always way too fierce for civilian life, intertwined with ferocious renditions of some of your favourite pop and disco numbers.

It’s Raining Me is an outrageous, courageous, and distinctly contagious night of cabaret.



Tom Sharah is a fabulous performer, just gorgeous, with an extraordinary treasure trove of vocal talent.

He commands the stage and in his cabaret show, Tom Sharah: It’s Raining Me, seen for the first time in Brisbane, Tom Sharah tells the funniest stories at his own, and his showbiz family’s expense. A natural storyteller with terrific comic timing, Sharah is also generous and doesn’t hesitate to share the spotlight with his talented brother, Oscar. He gives credit to his parents (Dad was Australia’s original Riff Raff and Mum is one of our most respected arts writers) for his eccentricities and unique gifts, which have allowed him to waltz seemingly effortlessly into the industry. But I know Sharah has been hard at work on this show since I saw it last, presented as a double bill with Sarah Louise Young, at this year’s Noosa Long Weekend Festival in June.

In Noosa, I came away thinking, “This guy is too cool for school! Imagine what he could do if he were to WERK!” It was an awesome show and I knew I wanted to see him work even harder on stage, as opposed to breezing in and out, and wowing us with his natural talent! WOW! So much natural talent! Last night at The Visy Theatre Sharah shone in what was a sharper, cleaner and more confident performance than we’ve seen previously, retaining the same hilarious anecdotes, from childhood and from the television reality series I Will Survive, without the flicker of self-doubt or a distracting thought. Entirely focused on entertaining us, the patter is smooth and delivered with the knowing smile now, of a genuine star on the rise.

The set list is diverse and reflects many moods and stops along the way, as well as a few dreams yet to be realised, with one of the highlights of the night being Sharah’s cheeky rendition of Frank n Furter’s Sweet Transvestite. I remain quietly confident that we’ll see Sharah in The Rocky Horror Show yet! In the same vein as IOTA and Paul Capsis, this guy is going to be increasingly sought after as his fan base builds.

While the disco medley proved popular with Brisbane’s opening night audience, it’s Sharah’s soaring renditions of Let Me Be Your Star (Smash) and Here Where I Stand (Camp) that prove his power ballad status, and his slick, soft harmonies in the Oscar-acoustically-arranged I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Whitney Houston) that continue to melt hearts.

Sharah earned a hearty standing ovation and an entirely new fan base in Brisbane last night and if you’re smart (and fast!) you’ll join the party with the most heart in town and get along tonight or tomorrow night to catch this livewire while we’re lucky enough to have him here. Sharah’s show is for everyone, and everyone will love it!

Amy Housewine: Back To Crack

Brisbane Powerhouse Visy Theatre

5 – 7 December 2013

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

Amy Winehouse was a great talent we lost too soon in 2011. But we still have the indestructible Amy Housewine. 

Lisa Adam (Jersey BoysRocky Horror) is back as the irrepressible OTHER Amy, complete with big hair, big voice and a raging drugs and alcohol addiction.

Meet Housewine as she lurches her way through classics ‘Rehab’, ‘If I Only Had Cocaine’ and ‘I Love to Have a Beer with Amy’ and dishes the dirt on her life as a singer, poet and professional crack-whore.

Amy Housewine: Back to Crack is a lethal cocktail of hilarity, bad taste and stunning vocals.

If you’re looking for a cheeky tipple, a quick shot or a boozy night out, join Housewine as she romps her way through Brisbane Powerhouse looking for drinking buddies and barflies.

This adults-only show features drinking, swearing, drug use and passing out in a pool of your own vomit.


This is a strangely successful little show.

Lisa Adam, as the indestructible Amy Housewine, has toured with her groovy three-piece band for years, always to great acclaim. She’s absolutely lovely and when she totters onto the stage in sky-high red patent heels I think, “Fantastic!” But the show has no real story, no real poignancy, and it does little to showcase the versatile talents of its star. We get the voice but we don’t care about what we’re hearing. It’s as if we’re watching the Titanic move steadily towards its doom but we somehow miss getting to know and love anybody on board and as a consequence we don’t miss them so much when they’re gone. Are we really so desensitised to the death of a celebrity?

Clearly, the show is not my cup of tea and clearly, the gist of it did not appeal to everybody’s tastes last night at The Visy Theatre. (It may have been a mistake to include a ten-minute interval, during which several audience members made their escape!). But there must be enough of a fan base in each full house – yes, you better believe it, she sells out every time – to keep it going. And go it does, on and on, relentlessly and repetitively, about Amy Winehouse’s/Amy Housewine’s drug use and rather rapid demise.

Despite the involvement of writers, Trevor Ashley and Phil Scott (known for Fat Swan and Little Orphan Trashley), I expected a story, a journey or some vague arc that would intrigue us and attempt to win us over in the end. I anticipated feeling some sympathy for Housewine, as I do for Winehouse, but even after the star’s tragic death, which influenced minor re-writes, this production only presents a shallow parody of Winehouse’s worst traits, and does little to celebrate her talent or her popularity with her fans. The claim from the creatives is that Amy Housewine is “a character in her own right”, but unfortunately it just doesn’t come across this way.

In its original inception, and even now, Lisa Adam’s characterisation is from all accounts (and from the YouTube footage), dead accurate – no pun intended – and in its accuracy she’s a confronting (and tragic, pathetic, smiling, fallen-from-grace) figure, full of booze and a colourful cocktail of drugs and curse words.

The message is made very clear: DRUGS ARE BAD

…and yet the crude celebration of the celebrity substance-fuelled party lifestyle throws back in our faces the main message, as if daring us to cast judgment and find fault with it. Many of the jokes fall flat, with the audience unsure about what the appropriate response might be. An entire spiel about a massive night out that ends at Buckingham Palace leaves me wondering, “What even WAS that?!” While there is indeed laughter from some, there is stony silence from others, and the intimate space suddenly loses the sense of fun and genuine delight with which Tom Sharah had filled it during his show, It’s Raining Me, earlier the same evening.

I blame The Little Red Company and Naomi Price for contributing to my disappointment in this show, and give them full credit for raising the bar in Brisbane as far as celebrity parody shows go. In her unique cabaret show, Rumour Has It: Sixty Minutes Inside Adele, Price demonstrates sensitivity and sympathy for her subject as well as wry wit, and combined with an impressive set list and a class company of musos and back-up vocalists, creates the most memorable brand of humour. Unlike the lows that these writers feel the need to stoop to – celebrity tabloid type snide remarks, and crude observations and elaborations on the worst sort of headlines – Price manages every time to reveal the imagined inner truth of her subject and to keep us on side until the encore. To find these special qualities in Amy Housewine: Back to Crack would be to create an entirely new show that might actually pay tribute to a genuine talent, and earn our sympathy and far greater respect for the talented artist playing her.


Bye Bye Birdie




Bye Bye Birdie

Harvest Rain Theatre Company

Visy Theatre, Brisbane Powerhouse

29th November – 9th December


Reviewed by Meredith McLean


I’ve seen a number of productions by the gang at Harvest Rain Theatre Company. One thing I love about them is their consistency to recreate classics with a youthful and energetic pulse. Bye Bye Birdie is no exception.  It was first performed on Broadway in 1960 so this show is not new. In fact I could guess many of the audience were already well attuned to the plot. Though camp and colourful, Bye Bye Birdie is or at least as originally a satire. Set in 1958 the story is remodelled off Elvis Presley. When rock n’ roll was a dangerous thing in a small town.

Rock and roll takes on a form in this era not as most of us are used to. Sorry Metallica, not tonight. KISS, you’re out too I’m afraid. In Bye Bye Birdie rock n’ roll is all about bright colours, slicked back hair and poodle skirts. The vivid costumes against the black floor of the Visy Theatre grab your attention as the cast sing and dance.

Retro is an understatement. But it is the only word I can give you before you walk into the Visy Theatre. I’m biased; I love the Powerhouse and all its individual charms. The Visy is smaller than average, two hundred seats max, so make sure you grab your ticket. It’s almost like an arena stage. The acoustics are fantastic along with whatever play is taking place on its floors at the time.

I guess the one flaw was not in the play but in me. Danny Lazar as Conrad Birdie delivered each song and made every girl in the room swoon.  Lauren Heidecker as Kim MacAffee had the kind of adorable stage presence that warms your heart whilst Morgan Kempster as her friend Ursula Merkle was easily pegged as comic relief.

But despite these wonderful performances the play wasn’t in my tastes I suppose is the way to put it. I’ve seen the retro musical done before. I’ve seen productions of Hairspray, Shout! and Charlie Brown (the latter another Harvest Rain production). To me they’re not the same but they’re all in the same vein. When I go to the theatre I’m looking for something different. Something to send a whole new thought-wave down my spine and through my fingers and sparking behind my eyes. Something, dare I be cliché? Challenging. Bye Bye Birdie is of a satirical nature but it’s from another time an another place far from the lands of Me. It is a classic – “good, clean, fun” – but it didn’t stir anything in me.

This is not to say it won’t stir anything in you. It certainly brought out laughter. Bye Bye Birdie brings out a reminiscence of old songs we’d nearly forgotten. Harvest Rain Theatre certainly has a reputation for reviving the classics. Most of their 2013 season will be old but not forgotten musicals. This year alone they put on some stunners; their performance of Hairspray was not one to be missed.  Now the team has done it again with this production of Bye Bye Birdie.

These guys may have young faces but they’re not unfamiliar with what they’re doing. Harvest Rain Theatre churns out musicals and I have no doubt will continue to put on some great classic shows. Like I said, their 2013 season is a great line-up. Get your tickets and make your way to the Brisbane Powerhouse for Bye Bye Birdie now before it’s too late and the busy Christmas season storms in.