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.

Dead Centre / Sea Wall

Written by Tom Holloway and Simon Stephens. Director Julian Meyrick. Red Stitch Actors Theatre St Kilda 14th July – 15th August, 2015, then Darwin 23-23rd August, Brisbane 15th -19th Dec and Sydney 20th Oct-14th Nov.

Red Stitch gives us its most exquisite offering of the year with this new production.

Always ready to look for new ways to tell stories, the actors ensemble has taken Simon Stephens agonisingly beautiful one act monologue, and commissioned a second one act piece by Tom Holloway that runs parallel to it. For maximum enjoyment, do NOT read the director’s notes beforehand, discover the link for yourselves and it will take your breath away.

Circus Under My Bed

Flying Fruit Fly Circus. Canberra Theatre. 16–18 July 2015

Circus Under My Bed appears as a sequence of events in the mind of a young girl, Celeste, facing the task of packing up the last of her belongings before the morning.

The Contrabandista / Cavalleria Rusticana

By Burnard and Sullivan / Pietro Mascagni. Gilbert and Sullivan Opera Victoria. Director: Adrian Glaubert. Musical Director: Timothy Wilson. Venue: Knox Community Arts Centre. July 16 – 19, 2015

I wasn’t sure what to expect, with The Gilbert and Sullivan Society performing, in a smaller auditorium in outer suburban Melbourne, a work I’d never heard of and a verismo opera well outside their usual fare with a keyboard and string quartet. It was surprisingly good.

The Contrabandista is a farce by Burnard and Sullivan, who wrote Cox and Box. It was not an undiscovered masterpiece, but under the expert direction of Adrian Glaubert, highly entertaining. This was mainly to do with the strength of the performers.

The Marriage of Figaro

By Mozart. West Australian Opera. Directed by Neil Armfield. His Majesty's Theatre, Perth WA. 14-25 July, 2015

The West Australian Opera's The Marriage of Figaro by Mozart, is a lavish gorgeously presented, gloriously sung production that is also really funny and a delight to watch.

This Neil Armfield directed production, teams elaborate, attractive period costuming with comparatively simple settings, using draped fabric, both designed by Dale Ferguson. There is also scattered use of deliberately anachronistic props — a nice touch of theatrical whimsy.


By William Shakespeare. Directed by Damien Ryan. Bell Shakespeare. Fairfax Studio, Arts Centre Melbourne. July 14th – 25th, 2015 and touring.

Bell Shakespeare always endeavours to bring us something we have not thought of before – an “angle”, if you will, or an exploration of the text which turns a light bulb on in our head. Fortunately we are all blessed with the vision of Damien Ryan, the director who gave us a “certain-to-become-a-modern-classic” Henry V. His Hamlet doesn’t quite climb to that high pinnacle, but his ability to take the separate story strands and meld them into a seamless linear narrative cannot be over-estimated.

Larry Paradiseo and the Fabulous Dame Farrar

Written and performed by Carita Farrer. Judith Wright Centre, Brisbane. 15 – 18 July 2015.

They say there is nothing like a Dame, and there is certainly no one else quite like The Fabulous Dame Farrar who returned to the Brisbane stage last night, fresh from a stint at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival. One part Judy Garland, one part Shirley Bassey - two parts drunk!

There is also nothing subtle about this hilarious cabaret diva as she miraculously sings her way through such classics as Peggy Lee’s Fever and Frank Sinatra’s My Way, all while desperately trying to hold it together on stage.

Keating! The Musical

Music and lyrics by Casey Bennetto. Birdie Productions. Bryan Brown Theatre, Bankstown. July 15 – 19, 2015

Some of the older Bankstown ‘true believers’ in the audience may have been just a little critical of the raunchy depiction of Hewson and Keating in On The Floor/I Wanna Do You Slowly but the younger members of the audience loved it  … even though some of them must have been preschoolers at the time. The fact is that, as well as being true to its political satire, Birdie Productions and its creative team and cast have given the musical the ‘oomph’ it needs to take it beyond its political punch.

Ghost Stories

By Andy Hyman and Jeremy Dyson. Prince Moo Productions. Sydney Opera House. July 13 - August 15, 2015.

Theatre has a wonderful capacity to transport you to another world. In the case of Ghost Stories that world is London’s West End. Outside the weather was icy cold, the scenes inside were often dark and foggy, the drama had a few very British frights and a few British laughs.

Leaving the production I was almost surprised to see the Sydney Harbour Bridge. I half expected to spot a double decker bus and a bobby.

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