Posts Tagged ‘WAAPA


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!


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. 


Danse Noir


Danse Noir

Judith Wright Centre

Judith Wright Centre 

April 26 – May 3 2014


Reviewed by Ruth Ridgway




In both look and mood, Danse Noir harks back to film noir, with its haunted characters, and dark, brooding atmosphere.


Inspired by Alfred Hitchcock’s film Rear Window, choreographer Penelope Mullen created this work centred on a voyeur watching the lives of people in an apartment building. (Perhaps it was also inspired by the night view of Fortitude Valley apartments from the Judith Wright Centre balcony, their lit windows revealing their occupants to people outside?)


The set (designed by Annie Robertson) resembled the foyer of a large, gloomy apartment building, with areas to the back and side suggesting segments of rooms. The 17 pieces of music included two songs sung live by Alinta McGrady (one a powerful interpretation of A Man’s World), four pieces by Icelandic composer/performer Ólafur Arnalds, three songs by Eartha Kitt, and Roxanne for the finale.


This show, presented by the Judith Wright Centre, gave seven emerging dance artists an opportunity to work with a choreographer in a professional production; six are graduates from the Aboriginal Centre for the Performing Arts (ACPA), and one is from the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA).


At the same time, they were working with seasoned performers Brian Lucas (also the dramaturg for the show), and Sunday Lucia (also the rehearsal assistant). As the voyeur landlord, Lucas was skin-crawlingly sinister and menacing, particularly in a duo where his character assaults one of the women.


Tyrel Dulvarie and Jesse Martin had an intense, controlled duo in, on, and around a bath, where Martin’s character is alternately seduced and rejected, and finally abandoned. Red petals fall to the floor around him, resembling blood.


To This Bitter Earth (Max Richter and Dinah Washington remix), waif-like Yolanda Lowatta and Kenny Johnson dance another segment around an Egyptian-looking couch. Both dancers are striking to watch, drawing the most out of each movement embodying yearning and solace.


Tyrel Dulvarie - Danse Noir JWCOCA 2014 - Ali Choudhry


Tyrel Dulvarie appeared twice as an androgynous character on pointe. His awkwardness and the inelegance of the feet added pathos to the character, who at the same time intrigued and attracted the landlord.


Sunday Lucia’s role was as a burlesque or cabaret performer, accompanied by the Eartha Kitt songs. The three numbers were all similar in mood and movement, with much seductive walking and posing. The display of bare flesh and glamorous costumes were more important than the dance in these repetitive appearances. It wasn’t clear why this character was given so much emphasis.


The ensemble work in the show was weaker than the solos and duos, with the movement not well defined, particularly when it was more classically based. In Roxanne at the end, the power of the music did not appear to be matched by the dancers, although the revolving spotlights flashing across the audience made it hard for us to see what was going on.


The show was a series of loosely connected vignettes. It was sexy at times, and beautiful at times, but uneven in conception and execution.


Yolanda Lowatta, Brian Lucas - Danse Noir JWCOCA 2014 - Ali Choudhry


New Musicals Australia – The Shortlist


New Musicals Australia is a fab new initiative from the very clever Kris Stewart, whom you know from The New York Musical Theater Festival, The Sydney Fringe Festival and Wicked (Australia) and his amazing team of some of our most talented and passionate industry people, who cannot bear to see musical theatre brilliance left in the bottom drawer.

There is brilliant new musical theatre happening already, all over the country – look at the shortlisted Handle With Care by Megan Shorey, with a successful Brisbane season under their belts and an original cast album launched just last week. Look at the shortlisted A Little Touch of Class by James Millar and Peter Rutherford, which was commissioned by WAAPA to be performed as part of their 30th birthday celebrations. Look at this creative team’s previous works, Lovebites (nominated for Best Cabaret in the 2008 Sydney Awards) and The Hatpin (official selection for the NYMF).

Okay we will. We’ll look at them. In a minute. The important thing now, having been shortlisted for this workshop series, is that these pieces will get the additional attention they deserve, and with a bit of kind support from the movers and shakers in this country, rather than the artists themselves having to devote their time and energy into playing Producer as well as putting on their many other hats, such as Director, Musical Director, Composer, Lyricist, Performer, Performing Arts Grants Writer…and the list goes on – never say an artist is master of just one craft – Australian audiences get to see great Australian work.

Also, the fact that these artists are already supported on some level and they have been confident enough in their work to be sharing it with main stream audiences, cannot have escaped the attention of the advisory panel. Just saying.

Case in point. James Millar is a modest, multi-talented-beyond-belief-writer-singer-actor-you-name-it-he-can-do-it kinda guy, who wrote a couple of shows several years ago with Peter Rutherford. I bet there are more, probably to be found in somebody’s bottom drawer, in time for an intense rehearsal stint and a Sydney run before next year’s NMA deadline.


N.B. Lazy bit – copying and pasting this from Sonia Allan’s review:

Four voices team with one piano to create a delightful night of fun, breezy musical entertainment.

LoveBites is a “quirky song cycle about love and relationships” which tells the story of six different relationships – from the cute, blushing beginning of flirtation and romance, to the pointy-end of the relationship, where the connection between lovers has either grown deeper over time, or has been worn thin by frustration and hurt.

The music-and-lyrics team that created ‘The Hatpin’ which opened to audiences earlier this year to great success, has once again joined forced to write a song-cycle on the theme of Love. Or Lurrrve, as the case may be.

Among other stories, there is the film star and flight attendant who arrange some ‘personal entertainment’ mid-flight, a twittering dame who valiantly pretends to love rockclimbing to impress her new beau, and (a personal favourite) the story of two members of a bookclub, startled to be left alone to chat over the merits of George Orwell when nobody else shows.

The production is small-scale, with a simple open stage, a slide-show of projected images, and a piano to one side where composer Peter Rutherford accompanies the four singers, Octavia Barron-Martin, Tyler Burness, Sarah Croser and James Millar, who co-wrote the show with Rutherford, supplying the lyrics. While occasional vocal shrillness from Barron-Martin marred an otherwise entertaining performance, overall each of the performers displayed great comic timing, heartfelt engagement with the more tender, sorrowful stories, and a strong command of the music.

This is a sweet, fun, modest show that sets itself a simple concept and executes it sharply, cleverly and with high entertainment value.

But be warned – after seeing this show, you may find yourself fighting the urge to carry out every conversation you have the next day in song.


The Hatpin. You may have heard of it. Or you may not have heard of it…yet. The Hatpin was nominated in 2009 for 3 Sydney Theatre awards (Michelle Doake won Best Actress in a Musical), after a successful season at the 2008 NYMF with the following cast (you may have heard of some of them)

Amber Murray – Alexis Fishman

Harriet Piper – Caroline O’Connor

Charles Makin – Paul Kandel

Agatha Makin – Cyrilla Baer

Clara Makin – Gemma-Ashley Kaplan

Justice Stephens / James Hanoney – Michael A. Pizzi

Marianne Leonard – Casey Erin Clark

Minnie Davis – Mary Catherine McDonald

Rebecca Rigby – Sharone Halevy

Edward Cleary – Matt Leisy

Thomas Williamson – Billy Clark Taylor




To enquire about performance rights for The Hatpin in Australia and New Zealand, contact the good people at Hal Leonard.


And now, another quick copy and paste so that, without further ado, you may see who else is on the Shortlist and what happens next! Stay tuned!

NMA cont’d…
Our inaugural call for submissions unveiled a wealth of new and exciting work. The NMA office received almost 50 new Australian musicals ranging from rock to classical – from fantasy to history. The NMA evaluation panel has reviewed the submissions and we are proud to announce our shortlist for the 2010/11 workshop season.


Carnival Joe(by Mark Jones & Anthony Crowley)
A broad, exuberant Australian musical comedy, set during the spring racing carnival of 1933.

Handle With Care (by Megan Shorey)
A collection of four short musicals celebrating both the beauty and bitch of being a woman.

Houdini- The Man From Beyond (by Russell Bauer & Dr Bruce Dawe)
Through vaudeville performance and recreations of some of his signature illusions, we’re shown the final 15 years in the life of Harry Houdini.

Kells (by Stefan Cassomenos & Nick Musgrove)
A symphonic musical inspired by the true story of the killer whales of Eden.

La Creole (by Julia Plummer, Nicholas Gentile & Cheryl Sawyer)
A revenge tale set in 1755 where a slave from Martinique runs away to Paris and Versailles determined to destroy her cruel Master.

A Little Touch of Chaos (by Peter Rutherford & James Millar)
Through different characters and intersecting timelines, the experience of growing-up for a parent echoes the experience of growing-up for their child.

Mother, Wife and the Complicated Life (by Amity Dry)
A tale of modern marriage and motherhood, seen through the experiences of four close friends.

Prix D’Amour (by Paul Dion)
A sweeping historical drama, spanning from Manila during the Vietnam War to Perth in the 1980s.

Refrakting (by David Peake)
It’s Saturday night in Melbourne, and the city’s youth are converging to get trashed. To forget. But there’s something that Jaydn can’t forget.

Showtrain(by Andrew Worboys & Zvonko Jovicic)
A tall yarn spun by a mysterious vagabond minstrel as a travelling sideshow try desperately to save their way of life on the showtrain.

Three Weeks in Spring (by Russell Tredinnick & Ian Gerrard)
Private John Simpson and his donkey sit at the centre of a contemporary imagining of the origins of Anzac Day.

A Woman’s Eyes (by Paul Keelan & Gary Young)
The story of an ordinary Australian woman’s life set against extraordinary events of the twentieth century.

All shortlisted works now receive further consideration by NMA artistic staff, representatives of the Australia Council Music Board and other industry professionals.  From this shortlist, works are selected to receive workshopping opportunities within the New Musicals Australia initiative.

Advisory panel members who read submitted works included Peter Casey, Will Conyers, Kellie Dickerson, Rodney Dobson, Neil Gooding, Roger Hodgman, Karen Johnson Mortimer, Guy Noble, Jennifer Murphy, Peter Ross and Darren Yap.

New Musicals Australia has three key workshop initiatives: The Musical Snapshot, which presents a twenty to forty minute extract of the musical in concert alongside other new works, The Developmental Reading, which sees a new work rehearsed and performed in concert and the Workshop Presentation, which allows a musical to be rehearsed and performed book-down with staging and some production elements.  New Musicals Australia also supports a variety of other initiatives targeted at developing new works, establishing networks and providing support for independent writers.