Reviews

The Detective’s Handbook

Book and Lyrics by Ian Ferrington. Music by Olga Solar. New Musicals Australia / Hayes Theatre Co. Directed by Jonathan Biggins. April 21 – May 7, 2016

There is a new voice in Australian musical theatre – and like the Broadway sensation Hamilton, it is set to the rhythm of rap, but with a jazz music score.

One theatre veteran in the foyer described it as the best lyrics to a new locally written work in decades. Here is a taste.

"We went to arrest him, carefully planned it,

caught him red-handed - his confession was candid

but when the man took the stand he recanted,

You understand what duty demanded:

The Nance

By Douglas Carter Beane. Directed by Chris Baldock. Williamstown Little Theatre (Vic). April 21 – May 7, 2016

The world of Burlesque and the thirties is all but dead and buried, and so Beane’s play, The Nance, is as much a historical document as a dramatic work (with a bit of musical thrown in). For people of my age, it brings back memories of our youth (even though we were part of the first re-telling of the history, and not around in the thirties themselves). For the young, it is a quaint history lesson of an era that is rarely covered even on Screen (The Night They Raided Minsky’s) or stage (Gypsy, Little Me).

Legally Blonde

Music & Lyrics: Laurence O’Keefe & Nell Benjamin. Book: Heather Hatch based on the novel by Amanda Brown and the MGM movie. Director: Morgan Dowsett. Musical Director: Julie Whiting. Choreographer: George Canham. Empire Theatres Production @ Empire Theatre, Toowoomba. 15-26 April 2016

One thing that can always be assured, Empire Theatre’s annual musical will be put together with a high degree of professionalism and this year’s production of Legally Blonde was no exception. From the original design work of Grant Lehmann, the assured direction of Morgan Dowsett, to the top notch cast who worked their butts off, the show about sorority sweetheart Elle Woods and her rise to glory at Harvard Law was musical theatre at the top of the community level scale.

tick, tick...BOOM!

Written by Jonathan Larson. Revised book by David Auburn. Pursued By Bear Productions. Directed by Paul Watson. Chapel off Chapel. April 21 - May 1, 2016.

I couldn’t make it to Opening Night and I was a little worried that the magic of an opening may have dissipated in two nights, with the energy and passion in recovery mode. I really do worry too much about things that never happen.

F**king Parasites

By Ninna Tersmann. La Mama Theatre, Carlton (VIC). 27 April – 8 May 2016

Ninna Tersmann began working on her play about asylum seekers in Sweden ten years ago.  She interviewed refugees and asylum speakers with traumatic experiences whose stories were nevertheless not believed.  She interviewed frustrated lawyers, police officers, doctors, nurses, interpreters and politicians.  Ten years ago, she says in a program note, the situation was already difficult. 

They Saw a Thylacine

By HUMAN ANIMAL EXCHANGE. Created and Performed by Justine Campbell and Sarah Hamilton. A Performing Lines / HUMAN ANIMAL EXCHANGE co-production. The Q – Queanbeyan Performing Arts Centre 27-28 April and touring nationally.

They Saw a Thylacine premiered in 2013 at the Melbourne Fringe Festival (winning the Tour Ready and Best Performance awards and many others), and last year had a season at the Malthouse Theatre. Most critics raved, and with good reason; it’s so superbly crafted. Central to success of the production is the tone of the main characters (and one or two notable minor ones). Justine Campbell and Sarah Hamilton each wrote their own parts, creating and performing distinct and different voices.

Next to Normal

By Tom Kitt and Brian Yorkey. Phoenix Ensemble. Pavilion Theatre, Beenleigh. April 22 – May 14, 2016

When a theatre company that calls a small tin shed home says they are going to be performing a musical like Next to Normal, you wonder what secrets they have hidden up their sleeves. Phoenix Ensemble definitely pulled out some of their best work to make this production happen.

The themes of the show, especially mental illness, aren't often discussed on the musical theatre stage, so all credit to director David Harrison for proposing the show and making it so accessible.

Jack Gow's Everybody's Doing it! Dying That Is...

Sydney Comedy Festival. The Loft, Enmore Theatre. April 21 – 24, 2016

In great comedy tradition, a few observations could not be overlooked when approaching this review. If Jack Gow is indeed "One of the finest emerging comedians in the country" why then stick him in the cramped, David Lynchian confines of The Loft?

Peddling

By Harry Melling. Directed by Susie Dee. A Melbourne Theatre Company Education Production. Southbank Theatre/The Lawler. 21 April – 6 May, 2016.

Peddling is a marvellous thinga production in which all the elements – text, performance, direction and design – come tightly enmeshed together to strengthen and support the whole.  It may be part of the MTC’s Education program and the protagonist may be 19, but this is not a cosy kids’ show.

Night Sings Its Songs

By Jon Fosse, translated from Norwegian by Sarah Cameron Sunde. La Mama, Carlton (VIC). 13-24 April 2016

A Young Woman (Katherine Innes) needles A Young Man (Reece Vella) about how they never do anything, they never go out...  She means him.  He won’t even go to the store.  He just sits around.  Her friends won’t come inside the house because of him.  He tries to ignore her, reading his book.  He is a would-be writer, but publishers reject whatever he sends them.