Reviews

Hairspray

Music: Marc Shaiman. Lyrics: Scott Wittman, Marc Shaiman. Book: Mark O’Donnell, Thomas Meehan. PRIMA (Prime Rivers Musical Association). Director: Melanie Evans. Musical Director: Mark Beilby. Chorography & Co Direction: Maureen Bowra. Redcliffe Cultural Centre, Qld. June 12-15, 2014

Glorious 60s retro is the only way to describe PRIMA’s production of Hairspray. Beehive hairdos, pedal-pushers, wacky dance styles, and loads of energy from the mainly youthful cast made Melanie Evans’ production fire on every level. The infectious joy bursting over the footlights was palpable.

Grounded

By George Brant. Directed by Kirsten von Bibra. Red Stitch Actors Theatre, Chapel St Prahran (Vic). June 11 – July 12, 2014.

Perhaps it is the intimacy of the tiny theatre; or the choice of brave and confronting plays; or the sheer weight of extraordinary talent that makes Red Stitch the premier independent theatre company in Victoria. Red Stitch has nothing to prove, except to themselves, and so they keep raising the bar of excellence and pole-vaulting over it.

Spring Awakening

Book and lyrics by Steven Sater, music by Duncan Sheik, original play by Franz Wedekind. StageTek. Director: Zana Cohen. Musical Director: Benjamin Keihne. Choreographer: David Buckley. Fig Tree Theatre, University of NSW. June 13 – 21, 2014.

Confronting, multi award winning rock musical Spring Awakening, based on a once-banned 1891 play, pulls no punches on themes including teenage sexuality, be it straight, gay or masturbation, youth suicide, teen pregnancy, abortion and child abuse, while raising a lot of questions about adult authority figures and parenting.

The combination of 1890s dialogue and contemporary rock / pop music embeds a universality of teenage rites of passage across more than a century, with a highlight of this production was the way in which Linda Brancato’s costuming embodied that.

The Wizard of Oz

Music: Harold Arlen. Lyrics: E.Y. Harburg. Book: John Kane based on the MGM movie screenplay by Noel Langley, Florence Ryerson, Edgar Alan Wolfe, after the novel by Frank L. Baum. Queensland Musical Theatre. Director: Deian Ping. Musical Director: Gerry Crooks. Choreographer: Julianne Burke. Schonell Theatre, Qld. 11-15 June 2014

Queensland Musical Theatre’s skip down the Yellow Brick Road was an enjoyable experience thanks to astute casting by director Deian Ping of the central characters. It wasn’t flawless, but the spirit of Frank L. Baum’s timeless and beloved story was captured on stage.

Bye, Bye Birdie

Book: Michael Stewart. Music: Charles Strouse. Lyrics: Lee Adams. Ballina Players Theatre. Director: Warwick Binney. June 5th to 28th, 2014

It’s always exciting when a new talent is discovered and Ballina Players have found a future leading man with heaps of potential. His name is Dane Strudwick and he is starring as Conrad Birdie in the Players current production of Bye, Bye Birdie. Dane’s previous experience has been in school productions but his performance as Birdie was a joy to behold. He worked extremely well with the more experienced members of the cast, especially in his scene with Di Ennew - Mrs Mae Peterson (who is actually his teacher at school).

Colin Hay: Waiting For My Real Life

Adelaide Cabaret Festival. The Playhouse, Festival Centre, Adelaide. June 13-15, 2014.

Preceded by a taped overture of clap sticks, strings, and a naggingly familiar flute melody, Colin Hay emerges onto an intimately lit stage to give his festival audience an entertaining evening. His skills as a guitarist, on display and in evidence throughout, combined with his even more impressive comedic talents, were enough to override this particular critic's doubts about Hay's level of achievement as a singer and songwriter. He knows how to make his audience feel welcome and glad to be there.

Patyegarang

Bangarra Dance Theatre. Drama Theatre, Sydney Opera House, June 13 – July 5, 2014; Canberra Theatre Centre, July 17 to 19; State Theatre Centre of Western Australia, July 30 to August 2; Queensland Performing Arts Centre (QPAC), August 15 to 23, Arts Centre Melbourne, August 28 to September 6.

Celebrating its 25thyear of dance theatre, Bangarra solidifies its essential place in the Australian cultural landscape with Patyegarang.

The Drowsy Chaperone

Music & Lyrics: Lisa Lambert & Greg Morrison. Book: Bob Martin & Don McKellar. Hills Musical Theatre Company. Director: David Russell. Musical Director: Jeff Fisher. Choreography: Gai Reckless. Castle Hill RSL. 12 - 15 June, 2014.

What a charming show! There’s nothing drowsy about this production.

The King and I

Music by Richard Rodgers. Book and Lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein 11. Directed by Christopher Renshaw. From 12th June, 2014. Princess Theatre, Melbourne.

Some shows date quickly, and revivals serve to point out their shortcomings. Others simply grow better with age, their magic beguiling generation after generation. The King and I is the epitome of the latter. This exquisitely mounted show may well be the best musical you ever see, and I really do mean EVER.

Love Song

By John Kolvenbach. Director: Glen Hamilton. The Tap Gallery Downstairs (NSW). 11 June -22 June 2014

Love, like music, is invisible

This is a fascinating play, by a mature and clever writer, which premiered at the renowned Steppenwolf Theatre Company in Chicago in 2006. This Sydney season is creatively directed and passionately acted by members of the Gamut Theatre Company. After experiencing a season of mediocrity in Sydney theatre, this play restored my faith in the stage as a place to reveal important ideas and powerful emotions.

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