Reviews

The King and I

Music: Richard Rodgers. Book & Lyrics: Oscar Hammerstein ll. Opera Australia & John Frost. Director: Christopher Renshaw. Musical Director: Peter Casey. Musical Staging: Callum Mansfield. Lyric Theatre, Brisbane. Premiere - 19 April, 2014. Reincess Theatre, Melbourne from June 10 and Sydney Opera House from September 9.

The King and I is the perfect musical – exotic settings, a timeless score, and one of the best books that has ever been written for the musical theatre. The libretto is so strong that it could be played in any lounge room without set and costumes and would still work.

Eugene Onegin

Music by Tchaikovsky. Libretto by Konstantin Shilovsky and Tchaikovsky. From the verse novel by Aleksandr Pushkin. Directed by Kaspar Holten. Opera Australia. State Theatre, Arts Centre Melbourne. April 16 – May 9, 2014.

From the moment the curtains open on Mia Stensgaard’s deliciously romantic set, to the first notes of Tchaikovsky’s exquisitely lyrical score; you know that Eugene Onegin will be something special – bittersweet but totally satisfying: and indeed it is.

Jungle Book - The Musical.

Based on the stories by Rudyard Kipling. Book and lyrics by Marcus Weber. Music by Michael Summ. King Street Theatre Newtown. April 16 – 26, 2014.

Sometimes a production is so unexpectedly good that you almost fall out of your seat in surprise. Where did this beautiful adaptation of The Jungle Book come from? Full of great tunes, superb characterisation and laughs, surely it could not have been its first outing?

Ah there it was in the fine print. This adaptation has had 5000 performances through-out Europe. The royalties are still flowing back to the writer Marcus Weber to help him run his venue The King Street Theatre in Newtown.

Strictly Ballroom The Musical.

Book by Baz Luhrmann and Craig Pearce. Music by various. Director: Baz Luhrmann. Set and Costumes: Catherine Martin. Produced by Global Creatures and Bazmark. Sydney Lyric Theatre. World Premiere. April 12, 2014.

It wasn’t so much an opening night of a musical – more like the launch of a rocket ship.  But imagine if technicians at Cape Canaveral were still tinkering with the spacecraft as the countdown drifted perilously close towards the phrase …blast off.

Strictly Ballroom The Musical is everything you would expect from a Baz Luhrmann and Catherine Martin extravaganza. Utterly gorgeous costumes and sets, loads of laughs, plenty of surprises and Australian as the Hills Hoist.

But it is not yet everything you would expect from a musical.

Macbeth

By William Shakespeare. Darlington Theatre Players. Directed by Douglas Sutherland-Bruce. Marloo Theatre, Greenmount, WA. April 1-26

Two-thirds of the way through the Shakespeare Anniversary Festival, I finally had the opportunity to see the home club contribution, Darlington Theatre Players' Macbeth, directed by Festival Director Douglas Sutherland Bruce.

This is a very solid production in many senses of the word and feels very Scottish without resorting to tartans or Scottish accents.

Sammy J and Randy’s Difficult First Album Tour

Melbourne International Comedy Festival. Athenaeum Theatre, 15 – 20 April, 2014

Sammy J and Randy the purple puppet’s latest show is ostensibly in support of their first CD album (though Mr J has released previous comedy CDS on his own), but the album itself is a live recording of their previous touring show, and this one has different material – so if you’ve bought the CD, rest assured you’re in for a fresh experience.

The Inspection of Stanley Manor

The Bathtub Grin. Melbourne International Comedy Festival. The 86, Smith Street, Fitzroy. April 14 – 19, 2014

What happens when a council worker knocks on the door of a house containing a Vampire, a ghost, a love struck Mummy, a giant worm, and a crazy Professor and several other zany characters? You certainly don’t anticipate the wacky, absurdist twists found in this very funny show.

The use of shadow puppets for the character of Narrator and to establish location within the house was very clever and well executed and using the screen to perform some scenes in silhouette worked well. 

Burn the Floor - Ballroom Blitz

Directed by Jason Gilkinson. Regal Theatre, Subiaco (WA). 10-26 April 2014

Burn the Floor has tight links to Perth. Director/Choreographer Jason Gilkinson hails from Perth, as does his former dance partner, Executive Producer and Stage Director, Peta Roby. Three of the twenty dancers in this incarnation of the show come from Perth (making it better represented than any other city), so it is perhaps unsurprising that Perth has been chosen to open this version of the show, which will then tour Japan.

This Year’s Ashes

By Jane Bodie. Red Stitch Theatre (Vic). Until April 19, 2014

A ticket mix up meant I was not there for the opening of the season, but I’m so glad I got to see this production three weeks in, when performances are bedded down and subtext and nuance are fully realised.

The Wrestling

Max and Ivan. Melbourne International Comedy Festival. Melbourne Town Hall. April 14, 2014

“Comedians! Wrestlers!  Blood!” Max and Ivan have bought their award winning, high energy, wrestling show to the Comedy Festival where it features a cast of local comedians and pro wrestlers coming to blows and mixing it big time in the ring.

There is a high level of skill required to throw yourself and an opponent around and not get hurt. These comedians were impressive with their wrestling moves and had the crowd entertained from the start. The three bouts pitted pro-wrestlers against each other, a mixed tag team match and an all in brawl as a finale.