Reviews

Guys and Dolls

Music & Lyrics: Frank Loesser. Book: Abe Burrows, based on the characters of Damon Runyon. Harvest Rain. Director: Tim O’Connor. Musical Director: Maitlohn John. Choreographer: George Canham. Concert Hall, QPAC. 20-23 March 2014

Guys and Dolls is a very dated musical and in this productions feels as though it has gone well beyond its use-by date. A quintessential American musical, or more specifically a Broadway one, it was written 64 years ago when people were still reading Damon Runyon. At the time Frank Loesser’s adaptation of the characters was considered brilliant, but times change and what was considered a classic yesterday, today seems merely tired and old-fashioned.

Madame Butterfly

By Giacumo Puccini. Melbourne Opera Company. Director: Caroline Stacey. Musical Director: Greg Hocking. The Athenaeum Theatre Melbourne: March 21 – 24, 2014. Alexander Theatre, Monash University: May 3, 2014.

I saw this production of Madame Butterfly in 2007 and I’d like to report that it still works well. The sliding doors were used effectively to reveal or close off parts of the stage. The pebble pathways downstage contributed to an authentic look.

Oklahoma!

By Rodgers and Hammerstein. Miranda Musical Society. Director: James Worner. Sutherland Entertainment Centre. March 19 – 23, 2014.

Close your eyes and try for a moment to erase 70 years of musicals from your memory as Paul Holmes’ orchestra strikes up the first strains of the lush overture of Oklahoma!

All those decades on it’s hard to shake labels like classic and landmark, and a reputation in some quarters for being a bit folksy and old-fashioned, but the revolutionary 1943 show that changed musicals forever is still a treat.

Blood Brothers

Book, lyrics and music by Willy Russell. Directed by Chris Parker. Manilla Street Productions. Chapel off Chapel (Vic). March 19th – April 6th, 2014

There is such a vast difference between dour British musicals and the fabulous Broadway creature that it may seem there is no common ancestry. The last vestiges of glitter and sparkle (what little there was to begin with) have been eliminated in this pared-back-to-the-bone production from Manilla Street Productions and director Chris Parker. It’s sparse, and stark – without embellishment, and you find yourself assessing the purity of the piece, aided by a stunningly talented cast.

The Pride

Side Pony Productions. Director: Zoe Parker. Bondi Pavilion Theatre. Mar 18 – Ap 5, 2014

Using director Zoe Pepper’s fascination with lions and the disconcerting similarities she found between “the structure and brutality of their social patterns” and human behaviour, this devised piece of theatre is basically about “falling in and out of love and the lengths people go to rationalise behaviour that is basically about survival”.

The Chieng Reaction

Ronny Chieng. Brisbane Comedy Festival. Visy Theatre, The Powerhouse. 18 – 23 March 2014

Early Thursday evening. No parking spots within a kilometre of the venue. Last week of festival that has taken over New Farm peninsula.

Tonight it’s Ronny Chieng for me, one of a dozen acts. I park badly, on an angle between two cars because the space is too small for even my Getz. Visy is almost packed with comedy aficionados, waiting, anticipating. Raucous introduction. Ronny Chieng takes over the empty stage.           

The Drowsy Chaperone

Book by Bob Martin and Don McKellar. Music and lyrics by Lisa Lambert and Greg Morrison. Squabbalogic. Director: Jay James-Moody. Musical Director: Paul Geddes. Choreographer: Monique Sallé. Scenic Design: Lauren Peters. Sound Design: Jessica James-Moody. Lighting Design: Sian James-Holland. Squabbalogic. The Hayes Theatre Co., Kings Cross (NSW). March 14 – April 6, 2014.

Musical Theatre Tragics …  This is Your Life!

From the moment the lights stay down, you’ll chuckle away, recognising that voice in the darkness in yourself.

It’s the start of a delightful ‘in’ theatrical pastiche of 1920s musical comedy, accessible to and certain to delight far wider audiences. It’s even better, though, if you’ve enjoyed your share of old Hollywood musicals.

A Streetcar Named Desire

By Tennessee Williams. Black Swan State Theatre Company. Directed by Kate Cherry. Heath Ledger Theatre, State Theatre Centre of Western Australia, Perth, WA, 15 Mar to 6 Apr, 2014

Such is the buzz around A Streetcar Named Desire, that excellent ticket sales have led to the scheduling of additional shows, even before the official opening night

Jurassic! That is one big pile of musical

By Leigh Scott and Evan Kerr. Phoenix Theatre, Coniston (NSW). March 5 – 8, 2014.

It's nice to go to the theatre every so often not knowing what to expect. Especially in Wollongong where audiences do not usually have the luxury of seeing something brand new. A friend of mine had a spare ticket to the closing performance of Jurassic: That is one big pile of musical. My only regret is why didn’t I go opening night so I could tell others to see this show.

A parody musical based on a dinosaur movie is going to go one of two ways, bad or hilarious. I am happy to say it was the latter.

Clybourne Park

By Bruce Norris. Ensemble Theatre, Sydney. Director: Tanya Goldberg. 19 March – 19 April, 2014

Here’s another recent juicy Broadway/West End play, ignored by the Sydney Theatre Company but bringing packed houses to the Ensemble just across the harbour. It had to be hard to overlook: Clybourne Park has won American playwright Bruce Norris an Olivier (2011), an Evening Standard Award (2010), a London Critics Award (2010), a Tony (2012) and the 2011 Pulitzer Prize for Drama.

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