Reviews

Dr Doolittle Jr

Book, music and lyrics by Leslie Bricusse. Players Theatre, Ballina. Director: Peter Harding. 10th – 25th January, 2020

Ballina’s Youth production this year is Dr Doolittle Jr, an adaptation of the popular Twentieth Century Fox movie and staged by and for young people.

With a cast ranging from 8 to 17, director Peter Harding has crafted the production to the talents of his large junior company.

In only his second experience on stage, the Doctor was in the capable hands of Declan Lodge, a youngster with a big future, who was suitably supported by Erica Little, Elisha Lodge, Evie Sargent, Reuben Addington, Hugo Addington, Nichole Travers and Riley Evens.

Lady Tabouli

By James Elazzi. Riverside’s National Theatre of Parramatta and Sydney Festival. Riverside Theatres Parramatta. January 9 – 18, 2020.

In a short, opening scene of James Elazzi’s play, Danny (Anthony Makhlouf) and Josephine (Nisrine Amine), dance as children to a tape of famed Lebanese singer and actress, Sabah. Josephine encourages Danny to “dance like Sabah” and in a “dream sequence” to the side of the stage Sabah, complete with flowing blonde hair and shimmering dress, appears briefly to him demonstrating her sinewy hip movements for him to imitate.

Betty Blokk-Buster Reimagined

Sydney Festival. Magic Mirrors Spiegeltent. January 7 – 26, 2020

Betty Blokk-Buster hit Australian audiences with a raunchy belly blow in 1975. Reg Livermore’s saucy, white-faced, bare-bottomed, feather duster-flicking, cabaret-style ‘hausfrau’ charged on to the stage challenging critics to accept that his performance was much more than a “wank”!

Black Ties

Ilbijerri Theatre Company and Te Rehia Theatre. Sydney Festival. Sydney Town Hall. 10 – 18 January, 2020

Two smitten lovers, one Aboriginal, the other Maori, try hard to unite their families, their cultures, behind their engagement.  

Back home in the Maori community or atop a towering Melbourne housing estate, Kane and Hera’s efforts to assimilate produces some hilarious disasters in cultural protocol.  But somehow the wedding is booked – despite possessive Mums running indigenous guilt trips, fierce racisms across the ditch, errant males and some toxic family baggage.

Kurios

Cirque du Soleil under the Big Top, Hamilton, Brisbane. 10 January – February, 2020

Like Disney, Cirque du Soleil has developed a brand as leaders in their field of modern circus: trapeze, contortion, acrobatics and aerial feats, all surrounded by humour (often eccentric) and live music. It’s been a winning formula for forty shows since Montreal street performers Guy Laliberte and Gilles Ste-Croix created their first show in 1984.

Black Cockatoo

By Geoffrey Atherden. Ensemble Theatre, Sydney. Director: Wesley Enoch. 4 January – 8 February 2020

The setting of Geoffrey Atherden’s new play is the back room of a museum, a storage unit with many itemised boxes and a large, rolling ladder. It’s a brilliant vision for the play from Set Designer Richard Roberts, and director Wesley Enoch makes great use of the space. Enoch is also the Artistic Director of the Sydney Festival, which opened the day before, so cheers and congratulations to him. He looks pretty fit.

Wolfgang’s Magical Musical Circus

Circa, Cremorne Theatre, Queensland Performing Arts Centre (QPAC) Brisbane. 7 to 18 January, 2020

Albert Einstein once said that Mozart’s music was “so pure that it seemed to have been ever-present in the universe.” Explaining such perfection is difficult – we can only articulate that the music seems complete in its melody, clarity and balance. As if taking up this challenge, Brisbane-based and internationally renowned contemporary circus group, Circa, has produced Wolfgang’s Magical Musical Circus.

Mamma Mia!

Music & Lyrics by Benny Andersson, Bjorn Ulvaeus & Stig Anderson. Book by Catherine Johnson. Holiday Actors. Director: Angela Kenna. Vocal Director: Elana Agnew. Choreographer: Beth Loft. Musical Director: Nikki Nuske. Sets: Lyle Russell & Angela Kenna. Lighthouse Theatre, Warrnambool. January 7-11, 2020.

Another outstanding summer show from an onstage cast of almost 60 performers aged between 13 and 20.  The popularity of this 35 year old company has ensured a sold out season even before curtain up on opening night. (No mean feat selling over 3,500 tickets!)

What struck me from the outset was the precision of the 10 piece band under the skilful direction of Nikki Nuske. Each musician, including four keyboardists (this is ABBA music after all) was on the mark.’

Shrek the Musical

Based on the DreamWorks Animation Motion Picture and Book by William Steig. Book and lyrics by David Lindsay-Abaire. Music by Jeanine Tesori. John Frost and Glass Half Full Productions. Sydney Lyric – Opening Night – January 5, 2020. Her Majesty’s Theatre, Melbourne from February 16 and Lyric Theatre, QPAC from May 9.

A wicked giggle from a young member of the audience pierced the Sydney Lyric just after Princess Fiona (Lucy Durack) had a delicious on-stage tantrum, which in turned prompted an echo of more giggles like a coo-ee in a canyon.

The young fan had obviously seen a tantrum like that before! Recognition of authentic human reactions is a key joy of live theatre, which might on face value be a challenge in a musical based on a mashup of fairy tales.

Operation Ouch! Live on Stage

Created and written by Dr Chris van Tulleken and Dr Xand van Tulleken. Directed by Peter Adams. Presented by Andrew Kay & Associates. National Tour, 3 January – 1 February, 2020

Learning about biology has never been as fun as Dr Xand and Dr Chris make it for audiences attending Operation Ouch! Live on Stage. The dynamic duo is here all the way from the UK to tour Australia, teaching enthusiastic fans of their popular TV show all about the human body. Their energetic and engaging style is packed full of the kind of gross-out humour kids just love, while also serving to teach, demystify and encourage.

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