By Lisa D’Amour. Darlinghurst Theatre Company. Eternity Playhouse. 17 July – 16 August, 2015

The neighbourhood may end up in flames but Lisa D’Amour’s award winning 2010 play is disappointingly half-baked.Detroit promises to be about the post-GFC collapse of suburban dreams and opportunities in America, as jobs fall away and cities like Detroit slip into bankruptcy.

Two refugees from rehab begin squatting next door to a recently retrenched bank officer and his employed but alcoholic wife. Conventional and quietly desperate, Ben and Mary welcome this hopeless but engaging young couple into their lives.  

Twelve Angry Men

By Reginald Rose, adapted by Sherman L. Sergel. Pymble Players (NSW). July 22 – Aug 15, 2015

Nanette Frew returns to Pymble Players to direct this classic play of the 1950s whose messages about prejudice and social class, like those of To Kill a Mocking Bird, still resonate with contemporary audiences. Frew has ensured her actors find all the idiosyncrasies of the twelve jurors in this courtroom drama and says “it has been fascinating to work with an all male cast.”

Blood Brothers

Book, music & lyrics Willy Russell. Presented by Enda Markey. Alex Theatre, St Kilda (VIC). 16 July – 2 August 2015

Say what you like about Willy Russell’s music theatre show Blood Brothers, it keeps coming back.  The story of twins separated at birth and divided by class, and of their grieving but resilient mother, it opened at the Liverpool Playhouse in 1983.  From there it went to the West End and won the Lawrence Olivier Award for Best New musical, went on tour for a year, had its Australian premiere in 1988, went to Broadway, (six Tony nominations) in 1993… and, after ten thousand performances, was still running in the West End in 2012. 

Dylan Thomas: Return Journey

Performed by Bob Kingdom. Merrigong Theatre Company and Richard Jordan Production. The Street Theatre, Childers Street Canberra. 21-25 July 2015

The intonation, the booming voice, the musical delivery—Bob Kingdom’s performance is beautiful. With only a podium, a glass of water a chair and some simple lighting to help, Kingdom is as charming, captivating and pathetic as Thomas himself. Of course it’s all about the words; that extraordinary lyricism that was a smack in the face to the spare, adjective-free, skeletal verse of the early 20thCentury. Dylan Thomas adored language, swimming through his lexicon with unnatural grace.

Love and Information

By Caryl Churchill. Sydney Theatre Company / Malthouse. Wharf 1 Theatre (NSW). July 9 – August 15, 2015

A Meta-Metropolis revealed

Sweeney Todd

Book, Music & Lyrics: Brian J. Burton. Director: Sandra Harman. Musical Direction: David Bentley. Nash Theatre Inc. Merthyr Road Uniting Church, New Farm, Brisbane. 11 Jul – 1 Aug 2015

Mention Sweeney Todd today and one automatically thinks of Sondheim’s brilliant masterpiece. One forgets that the story of a barber who cuts his customers throats and whose bodies end up in meat pies has been around for centuries. In fact fourteenth century France is reputedly the first time the tale was documented. The story became a staple of melodrama in late 18th century London, and this version by Brian J.

Ginger Mick at Gallipoli

By Stuart Morritt from the poetry of C.J. Dennis. Director: Leo Bradley. Villanova Players. State High School, Yeronga, Brisbane. 17 Jul – 2 Aug 2015

C. J. Dennis was credited with shaping the Anzac legend so it’s appropriate that his work forms the basis of Villanova’s Gallipoli centenary entry. Dennis’ book, The Moods of Ginger Mick, was the springboard for this piece of Australiana which incorporated his original prose, songs of the period and images from the battlefront, using a bare stage, boxes, armchair, and props. It was a little like an Australian Oh, What a Lovely War, but not nearly as effective or vivid.

Picasso at the Lapin Agile

By Steve Martin. Directed by Tim Edwards. KADS Town Square Theatre, Kalamunda, WA. July 17 - Aug 8, 2015

Director Tim Edwards has an obvious affection for Picasso at the Lapin Agile, this being the third time directing the show, and it is lovely to see such enthusiasm for a play.

Picasso at the Lapin Agile by well-known actor Steve Martin is about a theoretical evening at the Parisian artists' cafe The Lapin Agile early in the 1900s.

Sweeney Todd

Music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim. Book by Hugh Wheeler. Victorian Opera. Conductor: Phoebe Briggs. Director: Stuart Maunder. Playhouse Theatre, Arts Centre Melbourne. July 18 – 25, 2015

Dark, massive sets, moved by the backstage crew in costume, allow the action to flow in this spectacular production. Steep staircases on both sides provide multiple levels and entrances. The lighting is effective.

For me the highlight was the Mrs. Lovett of Antoinette Halloran. Though the role is often played by an older woman, there is no reason why it should be, as she should be of similar age to Sweeney, though his hard life would mean he could look much older. She was very funny and sexy, but was also tender in her scenes with Tobias.

Don Carlos

Composed by Guiseppe Verdi, based on a dramatic play by Friedrich Schiller. Originally Directed by Elijah Moshinsky. Opera Australia. July 14 - August 15, 2015

At first blush an epic opera stretching over four hours, with extended helpings of statically performed arias, sung against the background of  towering cold marble, might be one only for the purists.Yet this production of Don Carlos was filled with so many moments of spectacle and sweet singing that no prodding was needed to keep the eyelids open.

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