Reviews

Seven Last Words

Conducted by Paul Stanhope. Sydney Chamber Choir and the Sydney Camerata. The Great Hall, Sydney University. March 24, 2013.

The Great Hall at Sydney University provided both a beautiful setting and perfect acoustics for this special Easter presentation from the Sydney Chamber Choir.

Penelope

By Enda Walsh. Directed by Alister Smith. Red Stitch Theatre Company. Theatreworks, St Kilda. March 22nd – April 13th, 2013

The jury is still out on whether Irish playwright Enda Walsh is the natural successor to Samuel Beckett. Only time will tell. However, I’m happy to play judge and declare that Red Stitch is definitely guilty of being Melbourne’s most cutting edge and exciting theatre company and sentence them to another two decades of doing just what they’re doing now.

Carmen

By Georges Bizet. Handa Opera on Sydney Harbour. Director: Gale Edwards. Set Design: Brian Thomson. Costume Design: Julie Lynch. Choreography: Kelley Abbey. March 22 – April 12, 2013.

Sydney has had an extraordinary weekend of glittering opening nights. I was lucky enough to enjoy the puppet wizardry of War Horse, the spectacle of Carmen and the pure entertainment of The Addams Family on successive days.

All were brilliant in their own way, but if I was forced to award a Gold Medal for the number one ticket in town it would have to be Carmen.

Opera Australia pulls out all stops to make this a showcase of excellence in all departments.

The Tap Pack

Creation and Choreography: Jesse Rasmussen, Jordan Pollard and Thomas J Egan. FORM Dance Projects. Riverside Theatre, Parramatta. March 22 & 23, 2013.

If there isn’t a show in which to sing and dance, create your own! And that’s what The Tap Pack is all about!

The song and dance men, Rohan Browne, Kuki Tipoki, Jessie Rasmussen, Dion Bilios and Thomas J Egan, are all very experienced dancers, with a wealth of stage and film credits in Australia and overseas. Rasmussen, Egan and Jordan Pollard have created and choreographed the piece, which is, as one would expect, a showcase of tapping talent.

Bach St Mathew Passion

By Johann Sebastian Bach. Opera Queensland & Camerata of St John’s Production. Concert Hall, QPAC. Director: Lindy Hume. Conductor: Graham Abbott. 21-23 March, 2013.

With the Catholic Church electing a new Pontiff last week and Easter almost upon us, it would seem to be perfect timing to present Bach’s baroque oratorio St Mathew Passion.

Opera Queensland and Camerata of St John’s production however left a lot to be desired, indicative of the walk-outs at interval. A cloud of pretension covered Lindy Hume’s direction like a shroud. With the orchestra and cast dressed in street clothes, and the singers carrying books, one could be forgiven if one thought they were watching a rehearsal.

Tell Me on a Sunday

By Andrew Lloyd Webber & Don Black. Harvest Rain’s Mina Street Theatre, 20 – 23 March 2013

This is a showcase for Erika Naddei, emerging star from Harvest Rain’s Musical Theatre Internship Program.

She tackles here a very demanding role, the love experiences of an English girl newly arrived in America. The one-act song cycle requires her to portray the emotional and social roller-coaster of meeting and losing four possible love interests (if I understood the underlying story behind the songs).

Shout! The Legend of the Wild One

Book by John-Michael Howson, David Mitchell and Mel Morrow. Miranda Musical Society. Sutherland Entertainment Centre. March 20 – 24, 2013.

Choreography is the star of Shout! at Miranda Musical Society.  And, of course, the energetic ensemble cast who give their all to pull it off in such great style.

Kira Nelson has choreographed a series of vibrant dance routines, often so cleverly shaped and patterned, which are worth the price of admission alone, transporting the audience back to the studios of the TV pop music shows of the late 1950s or early 1960s, or lounge rooms of an era when small black and white screens were bursting with exuberant dancers.

The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.

By Rachel Sheinkin and William Finn. Stage Artz Theatre Company. Glen Street Theatre. March 21 – 23, 2013.

This lovely little musical might be about precocious children – but it has some themes which are awkward to explain to little ones.

Mummy what is that song about Erections about? This curly question was delivered to the Director Sam Neaves by her child.

The publishers have released a G rated edition. It replaces an awkward erection with an awkward distraction.

The good folk at Stage Artz are using that version for the matinee. This tamer edition is being replaced with an M rated version for their 10pm audience.

Escape from the Breakup Forest

By Steve Pirie. Mixtape Theatre Collective. Judith Wright Centre of Contemporary Arts (Qld). 16-23 March, 2013.

I’m not quite sure what to make of this production. It’s played with commitment by three energetic actors, Steve Pirie, Ell Sachs and Dan Stewart. But it’s more a performed narrative than a ‘play’; that is, there’s more telling than showing. It’s an adult parable.

In style it reminds me of the travelling Theatre in Education programmes of the 80s and 90s, with clever cut-out scenery, sundry boxes, puppetry and mime. (Maybe shows like this are still touring schools and that is the target for this group?)

The Pillowman

By Martin McDonagh. New Theatre (Newtown, NSW). March 19 – April 13, 2013.

Half thriller, half comic Kafkaesque nightmare, this thoughtful play is from Irish writer Martin McDonagh. Thankfully it doesn’t start in the usual Irish pub! 

We begin instead in an unspecified police state where a short story writer is being interrogated by two cops, one laconic, the other violent and vengeful.  As his mentally retarded brother is tortured in an adjoining cell, Katurian discovers why the cops are so edgy: a series of local murders and torturing of children have been copied from his own grim stories.

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