Reviews

Les Misérables

By Claude-Michel Schönberg, Alain Boublil and Herbert Kretzmer. Willoughby Theatre Company. The Concourse, Chatswood. April 10 – 21, 2013.

An open stage is draped with a worse-for-wear Tricolore, a striking image suggestive of a French revolution or two too many. Exposed lighting rig and backstage mechanics hint that a very different Les Mis is about to unfold.

Hoisted into place as the orchestra plays the opening notes, the battered French flag becomes the backdrop, where its three separate panels create the entrances which help ensure the cinematic fluidity and pace vital to this sprawling epic musical (achieved using revolves in the original staging).

A Masked Ball

By Giuseppe Verdi. Libretto Antonio Somma (after the libretto by Augustin Eugene Scribe, 1833). Opera Australia. State Theatre, Melbourne (Vic). Director: Alex Olle. Conductor: Andrea Molino. Set Designer: Alfons Flores. April 12, 17, 20, 23, 26, May 3, 2013.

Any Verdi opera promises to be a feast of lavish music, with voices, costumes and set design to match.  We have come for the music, for the endlessly soaring melodies, and for the grand spectacle typical of the late Romantic period.

Soloists, Mexican Diego Tore (Gustave III), Hungarian Csilla Boross (Amelia) and Argentinian born baritone Jose Carbo (Count Ankarstrom), were warmly received, as was home grown talent Lorina Gore (Oscar) who thrilled with exquisite coloratura.

Coronation Street On Stage

By Jonathan Harvey. Director: Fiona Buffini. Sean McKenna, Phil McIntyre Ents Inc., ITV Production, The Civic Auckland, 28 March – 6 April/St James Theatre, Wellington, New Zealand, 9-13 April/Trafalgar Centre, Nelson, 17 April/CBS Arena, Christchurch 20-23 April, 2013. Reviewed in Wellington

Britain’s best-loved television soap-opera Coronation Street celebrated 50 years on-air in 2010. Coronation Street On Stage is the third stage incarnation of the series and follows 2010’s Corrie! and 2012’s musical version Street of Dreams. All have been written by head-writer of the series, Jonathan Harvey, who has done an amazing job of reducing 50-years of storylines into a two-hour fast-paced tribute.

The Man Who Planted Trees

Adapted and performed by Richard Medrington and Rick Conte. Puppet State Theatre Company. Arts Centre Melbourne. April 10 – 14, 2013

A charming and challenging story told with exceptional skill.

There is little mystery in this performance, the title says it all; there was a man who planted trees plentifully and persistently. What the performance does give us is a way to appreciate his motivation and the astonishing environmental and social impact of his ongoing act of grace and generosity.

IDENTITÉ

Judith Wright Centre, Brisbane. Flipside Circus. 10 -13 April, 2013

This show has the WOW! Factor.

A mix of amazing talents and mostly familiar circus skills presented with a twist: gymnastics and tumbling; juggling; human pyramids; trapeze; hula hoops; ingenious choreography; popular classical music and a great sense of fun and entertainment, IDENTITÉ is an hour of delight.

At times, acts incorporate potential danger that freeze us momentarily, then release our amazement at how skilfully the death-defying moment was avoided. (This company works with a mat but no safety nets.)

Assassins

Music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim. Book by John Weidman. Directed by Tyran Parke. Fortyfivedownstairs Melbourne. 11 – 21 April, 2013

Sondheim is the master of the musical and this little seen dark comedy is delightful in its score. The plot revolves around some of the most and least infamous would-be Presidential assassins in US history. Some names you will know, John Wilkes Booth and John Hinckley, and others are less well known.

It’s My Party (and I’ll Die If I Want To)

By Elizabeth Coleman. HIT Productions. Glen Street Theatre. April 10 – 20, 2013

It’s hard to tell whether this play was written as a comedy or a farce – and this production doesn’t make the confusion any clearer!

It has a competent cast including the necessary ‘star’ – Henri  Szeps – that is needed by a touring production to attract audiences.

It has a good set, cleverly designed for touring by Shaun Gurton. A photographic backdrop surround of a red brick suburban homesets the scene, the stage itself a sparsely furnished living room with a large wall clock, essential to the action.

Dance Better at Parties

By Gideon Obarzanek. Sydney Theatre Company. Wharf 2 Theatre. April 3 – May 11, 2013.

This compassionate two-hander about why a bloke wants to learn ballroom dancing was one of the stories used by choreographer Gideon Obarzanek in his 2004 dance work with Chunky Move, I Want To Dance Better At Parties.

Now no longer running his Melbourne-based dance company, Obarzanek returns to this story for what is his first text based work.

 

One Scientific Mystery or Why Did The Aborigines Eat Captain Cook?

By Victoria Haralabidou. TAP Gallery. April 9 – 14, 2013.

Victoria Haralabidou's first play is full of mystery and is an interesting attempt at exploring fleeting relationships between human beings and our need to connect and be connected.

Staged at the Tap Gallery (which can only be described as one of the last bastions of fringe theatre and art in Sydney) this production has a top-notch cast and crew.

People

By Alan Bennett. National Theatre Live (cinema screening of Britain's National Theatre production). Participating cinemas nationwide on April 20 and 21.

Set in a decaying stately home in Yorkshire, Alan Bennett's People is the story of former model Dorothy Stacpoole, who must decide what is to become of the place now she's unable to maintain it in her old age. Her archdeacon sister wants it to go to the National Trust but Dorothy is horrified by the idea, preferring to entertain the thought of selling to a shadowy group of investors on the promise that they will keep the public out ("PST - People Spoil Things" is the credo of their oily representative).

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