Reviews

The Memory Mill

By Tess Burke and Terri Woodfine. Spotlight Theatre, Benowa, Gold Coast. Directed and choreographed by Tess Burke. January 10th – 18th, 2014

Continuing in the Spotlight tradition, Tess Burke and Terri Woodfine have created a wonderful pantomime with songs (directed by Matt Pearson) and a storyline the children can easily follow. 

The assistance of three adults: Martina French as the Wacky Wizard; Terri Woodfine as Tabatha, the Evil Enchantress and Kate McNair as the Demented Half-fairy, lead the young but talented cast through this delightful tale with lots of audience participation. The juvenile lead is Tahilia Traecey, a delightful triple threat (singer, dancer and actress).

The 13-Storey Treehouse

By Richard Tulloch. From the book by Andy Griffiths & Terry Denton. CDP Theatre Producers. Director: Mark Thompson Playhouse Theatre, Sydney Opera House. 28 Dec 2013 – 25 Jan 2014. Touring widely until July 25.

The hugely popular Griffiths and Denton Treehouse books are an anarchic treat for bright kids. There are now three of them — 13-Storey, 26-Storey, 39-Storey — featuring an outrageous, improvised fantasy world without rules, without plots. To playwright Richard Tulloch fell the seemingly impossible task of adapting the first of the series for the stage. He has nailed it.

Not only do the packed house of holidaying children sit attentively as the non-story rollicks along, they laugh, shout and, when invited, contribute their best monkey impressions.

Revolting Rhymes and Dirty Beasts

Adapted from Roald Dahl’s stories and poems. La Boite and Shake & Stir. Roundhouse Theatre, Kelvin Grove. Jan 8 – 18, 2014

“You think you know this story … You don’t.” Each actor issues this forewarning as they pop up from different trapdoors as the show starts.

The production makes the most of the vivid imaginations of children and the familiar story time characters to create a performance that leads the audience on hilarious and revolting adventures.  Just four clever actors, Leon Cain, Judy Hainsworth, Nelle Lee and Nick Skubij invent multiple characters. Their brilliance is at the heart of this show’s appeal.

RENT

By Jonathan Larson. Directed by Paul Watson. Next Step Productions. Midsumma Festival. Chapel off Chapel. 9th -18th January, 2014.

A stunning revival of a music theatre icon opened this week….and no, it wasn’t Grease (fun though that was). This new production of Rent (based loosely on La Boheme) is the shared vision of director Paul Watson and producer/star/choreographer Leigh Barker – and what a vision it is, proving once again that the truly remarkable theatrical events in the city of Melbourne rarely happen on the main stage. There’s so much that is exceptional about this production, that I am almost speechless, and I have never been a fan of this show until now.

Thank You For Being A Friend

Written by Jonathan Worsley and Thomas Duncan Watt. Directed by Neil Gooding and Luke Joslin. Midsumma. Theatre Works from Jan 9th, 2014.

There’s an old saying that Nostalgia isn’t what it used to be. That’s obviously not true when it comes to our feelings for our favourite old TV shows. The Golden Girls made such an impact in the mid eighties to early nineties that it seems like only yesterday that I saw it (in fact it was …the re-runs are on Foxtel). Last night’s opening night audience was singing the theme song before the show started. A very good sign. Avenue Q proved that people would watch and identify with life size hand puppets….another good sign.

GREASE

Book, Music & Lyrics: Jim Jacobs & Warren Casey. Additional songs: Barry Gibb, John Farrar, Louis St. Louis, Scott Simon. John Frost / David Ian Production. Director: David Gilmore. Musical Director: Stephen Amos. Choreography: Arlene Phillips. Her Majesty’s Theatre, Melbourne from January 5, 2014.

Get out your poodle skirts and your black tee-shirts, girls and boys: Grease hit town last night and what a joyful, joyous romp this production is, easily the best ever seen on these shores.  Buckets of praise must go to a great cast who perform with so much energy, director David Gilmore who has brought a fresh take to the show, Arlene Phillips’ simple yet stylish and authentic choreography, and a brilliant set, sound and lighting.

La bohème

By Giacomo Puccini et al. Opera Australia. Joan Sutherland Theatre, Sydney Opera House. Jan 4 – 21, 2014.

Ji-Min Park, the South-Korean tenor, has an on stage enthusiasm which is infectious. From the tingle of excitement when his fingers brush the tiny frozen hand of Mimi to a childlike wave to the audience during the curtain call his personality beams through to match his soaring arias. 

Playing Rodolfo in this revival, he is the living embodiment of the benefits of colour-blind casting.

The Illusionists

State Theatre. Arts Centre Melbourne. Jan 3rd -12th, 2014

We all love Magic, and most of us don’t want to know how it’s done; we’d far rather suspend disbelief and have our breath taken away. The problem is that it’s hard to have your breath taken away when you’ve seen the illusions so many times before.  You keep waiting for something new and spectacular to happen…but it doesn’t. That’s when charisma and dynamics and personality have to compensate.

Circus Oz: Cranked Up.

Tumbalong Park, Darling Harbour, Sydney. January 1 - 27, 2014.

Circus Oz works a treat when it combines Aussie humour with simple but elegant tricks of the trade. It can’t compete with the international circus juggernauts on scale and wizardry – instead its laid back style and more intimate big top allows the audience to get up close and personal.

The most memorable act was a gorgeous Kangaroo impersonation by “Murri Fella” Mark Sheppard. He somersaulted and bounced around the stage in an exuberant cartoon style. This personified the spirit of Circus Oz and is no doubt very popular when it tours overseas.

South Pacific

By Rodgers and Hammerstein. Opera Australia & John Frost in association with Adelaide Festival Centre. Adelaide Festival Theatre. 31 December 2013 - 26 January 2014.

Its 1940’s racist theme may be somewhat confronting for modern audiences, but South Pacific is also a barometer of the resistance emerging at that time towards such prejudice. This, together with a wonderful love story and the perpetual mateship of war stamps South Pacific as perhaps the most interesting and enduring of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s musicals.

To keep up with the latest news and reviews at Stage Whispers, click here to like us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter.