Reviews

The Crucible

By Arthur Miller. Director: Terri Brabon. THEATREiNQ. Riverway Arts Centre, Townsville. 25 – 28 June, 2014

The opening night performance of The Crucible was arguably the finest dramatic production seen in Townsville for some time.

The cast list read like a “Who’s Who” of strong local performers, from the professional company actors through to the aspiring young members of the Bridge Project.

Brendan O’Connor, in the role of John Proctor, delivered a superb performance. His character was powerful, right through to the climactic moment where he is torn between saving his life or his moral values. This was O’Connor at his very best.

Hello, Dolly!

Music and Lyrics by Jerry Herman. Book by Michael Stewart. Directed by Meg Warren and Tamblyn Smith. Produced by Angela Hennel. Diamond Valley Singers and Eltham Orchestras. Warrandyte High School (Vic). July 4 – 12, 2014

Hello, Dolly! is one of those joyful shows that everybody knows and loves. With an excellent set designed by Lynne Counsel and a great graphic backdrop designed by Josh Thomas, this production by the Diamond Valley Singers is off to a good start. Meg Warren and Tamblyn Smith have kept the blocking simple and, as choreographers, have ensured that non-dancers can handle the movement reasonably well. This is a production which brings home the realization that amateur actually means “for love of” and should never be considered derogatory.

Love and Death and an American Guitar

By Toby Francis. Music by Jim Steinman. Highway Run Productions / Hayes Theatre Company. July 4 – 6, 2014

Toby Francis has one of those voices. He can sing clean and crisp notes in the stratosphere one moment and warm, chesty tones down two octaves the next. Effortlessly.

Jim Steinman’s music is a good fit, then, to show off Francis’ incredible range and superb voice.

Love and Death and an American Guitar tells two stories simultaneously – that of Steinman’s constant struggle for royalties, respect and recognition, and the attempt to finish writing his incomplete musical, Neverland.

The Breakfast Club

By John Hughes, adapted for stage by Drew Jarvis. Brisbane Arts Theatre. 28 Jun – 2 Aug, 2014

This show should attract everyone who enjoyed the 1980s film The Breakfast Club. Itbecame a rite of passage. I’d never heard of it. My generation was the 70s.

It's Me... Mandela

By Dayne Rathbone. The Playhouse, Canberra. 5 July 2014

It’s Me… Mandela, ostensibly about Nelson Mandela’s life, actually has little to do with Mandela; it concerns mostly Mandela’s relationship with his brother.  Without giving too much away: the depicted relationship is entirely fictional.  The opening narrative mentions, from the perspective of an eight-year-old in a seventeen-year-old’s body, Mandela’s relevance to the end of apartheid; everything else in the play, though, might have related to an entirely fictional character.  In fact

The Little Prince

Spare Parts Puppet Theatre, Fremantle WA. Directed by Michael Barlow. July 5-19, 2014

The Little Prince bends on a stripped bare Spare Parts Puppet Theatre stage, with no legs or drapes and the lighting rig, fly lines, back wall and fire extinguisher visible. There is a large wooden crate, centre stage.

A man (Jacob Lehrer) and a woman (Jessica Lewis) appear to unpack the crate. She is distracted and dreamy, and will later play/operate the Little Prince. He is very 'grown up', responsible and focused on the task at hand and he will later play all of the other roles. The performers are both personable actors and relaxed, capable puppeteers.

Snap

By Steve Harris, Erin Hardy and Catherine Field. Primadonna Productions. Directed by Carole Dhu. Pinjarra Civic Centre, WA. July 4-5, 2014

If there is one thing that the Peel Region does particularly well, it is putting their children on the stage. Koorliny Arts Centre, Murray Music and Drama, Nine Lives and Stray Cats have all used children in their shows recently and for this company, Primadonna Productions, it is their modus operandi. It augers well for a very secure future for theatre in this area.

Mein Kampf

By George (György) Tabori. Presented by La Mama and forty-five downstairs. Production Team: 15 Minutes from Anywhere (Beng Oh & Jane Miller). At fortyfivedownstairs (Melbourne). 2-13 July 2014.

On first meeting the poor would-be art student, Adolf Hitler, in a Jewish flophouse, Bible peddler and would-be writer, Schlomo Herzl, remarks, ‘Strange, you don’t look at all Jewish.’  The line got a laugh at the play’s premiere and has done so in numerous productions and many languages ever since.  Mein Kampf is a very black comedy, a mixture of farce, insight, erudition, slapstick, crude jokes (both sexual and scatological), real wit and devastating ironies.  When Hitler is rejected by the Vienna art school, it is Jewish Schlomo who advises

The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee

Script: Rachel Sheinkin Music and Lyrics: William Finn. Underground Productions. Hamilton Town Hall, Brisbane, Qld. Director: Danielle Carney. June 27th to July 12th, 2014.

The annual spelling bee, and all the hoop-la that goes with it, has become a cornerstone of American Culture and Underground Productions’ version even had a “Bake Stall” to help the audience through this competitive institution.

Staged in a suburban Town Hall, the atmosphere was cutthroat as the contestants battled they way through words most of which I’d never heard before!

Otello

By Verdi. Opera Australia. Joan Sutherland Theatre, Sydney Opera House. July 5 – August 2, 2014

This celebrated Verdi opera offers the so-called triple threat of conflicting personalities: the world’s hero in Othello, its villain in Iago and the lover in Desdemona.

But this operatic trio was mightily upset only a fortnight before opening when Georgian singer Tamar Iveri was sacked by Opera Australia from the role of Desdemona.  Its problem was her very unloving, homophobic rant on Facebook.

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