Reviews

Little Egypt’s Speakeasy

Django Bar in Camelot, Sydenham (NSW). Produced and directed by Lucian McGuiness. Thurs 6 to Sun 9 November 2014

Sing me a story

This is a fabulous show! Six musicians, three singers, an MC, two burlesque dancers and a sleazy club proprietor sing, dance and tell us a story about legendary Little Egypt’s Speakeasy, a nightclub in Phoenix Arizona in, well, since the music ranges from the late forties to the early sixties, I guess the mid-sixties.

The Pajama Game

Book by George Abbot and Richard Bissell. Music / Lyrics by Richard Adler and Jerry Ross. Gold Coast Little Theatre, Southport Director: Stuart Lumsden. Nov 8 to Dec 6, 2014

The Pajama Game is GCLT’s final offering for 2014 and what a great show to end the year. The production, in the capable hands of Stuart Lumsden, with musical direction under the baton of Mary Walters and choreography by Clay English.

The talented cast was a mix of seasoned performers and new recruits who worked well as a team. Featuring Louise Harris (Babe) and Chris Catherwood (Sid), the supporting principals included Leigh Harrison (Hines), Becky Morgan (Gladys), Lee Paterson (Mabel) and Noel Thompson as Hasler.

The Magic Flute

By Mozart. Gertrude Opera. Athenaeum Theatre, Melbourne..Director: Linda Thompson. Musical Director: Warwick Stengards. Nov 6 – 8, 2014

Mozart is an ideal vehicle for developing voices, so The Magic Flute was a good choice for Gertrude Opera, which utilises students from the Opera Studio. This was also a cut-down version to put less strain on young voices and eliminate the need for a chorus.

Innovation took the place of expensive props, and I liked the opening where we had a cut-out dragon projected on to the back wall. The production was well-directed with use being made of the front box for Sarastro and a door to the orchestra pit for Papageno and Pamina.

Switzerland

By Joanna Murray-Smith. Sydney Theatre Company. Drama Theatre, Sydney Opera House. Nov 3 – Dec 20, 2014

This is an internationally reaching, masterful new play from Melbourne’s Joanna Murray-Smith. It takes some risk focusing on a real-life writer – on her obsessions and her books, her abrasive quest for truth, and her last days holed up as a hermit in Switzerland. Murray-Smith however paints such a sharp fulsome portrait of American crime writer Patricia Highsmith that all we need to know is in her play.

I’ll Eat You Last

By John Logan. Directed by Dean Bryant. MTC. Fairfax Studio, Arts Centre Melbourne. October 31 – December 20, 2014.

If Einstein had been a theatre reviewer his theory of Entertainment would have read E = MTC2 ….squared because the M becomes MM, which stands for Miriam Margolyes. Like a spectacular and dazzling supernova she draws the audience into her orbit and holds them there, in thrall, for 90 minutes of sublime entertainment.

The Darling Buds of May

By Herbert Ernest Bates. The Therry Dramatic Society (SA) 6 to 15 November, 2014

Although author Herbert Ernest Bates wrote The Darling Buds of May in 1958, it has lost none of its charm. The Therry Dramatic Society, with Hayley Horton at the helm, have produced a delightful tale that follows the comings and goings of the loveable Larkin family, set against a backdrop of rural Kent in the 1950s. The show’s title refers to the opening buds that point to the summer season ahead and to the freshness and exuberance of youth as it turns toward adult maturity. 

Sweet Road

By Debra Oswald, Wyong Drama Group. Directed by Joshua Maxwell. The Grove, Wyong. Nov 6-15, 2014.

In August this year, Wyong Drama Group was evicted from their beloved Memorial Hall (which had been home for almost 50 of it's 62 years) as it was demolished to make way for a purpose-built theatre facility – slated for completion in December 2015. In switching to the much smaller Grove Community Centre, they could have been forgiven for choosing a far 'safer' production to woo audiences to the alternate venue – but such is WDG's faith in it's youth membership, they allowed 21 year old Joshua Maxwell to direct this reasonably low-key Australian play.

Songs so Far

Music & Lyrics: Alanya Bridge. Director: Penny Farrow. Musical Director: Luke Volker. Powerhouse, Brisbane, 5-6 November 2014

It’s always exciting hearing a new musical theatre composing talent for the first time. Songs so Far showcases the work of young Brisbane songwriter Alanya Bridge who already has some awards up her sleeve having won the Wirripang Publishing award for New Composition, and Specialist Award for Best Vocal Composition in 2013.

Songs so Far features songs from the musicals Connect Four and What We Began in the first act, and a staged reading of excerpts from her newest work-in-progress Just a Phase in the second.

Passion

Music and Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim. Book by James Lapine. Life Like Company. Arts Centre Melbourne, Playhouse. November 5-8 2014

The music is exquisite: soaring, lyrical, uplifting and quite operatic. It is, after all, Stephen Sondheim. But the story is very European (it’s actually Italian) – which is a euphemism, in this case, for excessive and, at the same time, oblique. Unless you have experienced passion which transcends reason; which ignores caution; which embraces sacrifice and even death, it’s a hard ask for an audience to engage with the story.

Potted Potter

By Daniel Clarkson & Jefferson Turner. Lunchbox Theatrical Productions & Potted Productions. Director: Richard Hurst. Powerhouse, Brisbane, 4-16 November 2014

“Totally awesome” a young muggle moppet claimed as she left the theatre last night and I’m sure the rest of the audience, who had been well-schooled in Hogwarts folklore, would have agreed. This 70-minute G-rated parody of all seven Harry Potter books has been entertaining audiences worldwide since it first appeared as a 5-minute piece of London street theatre in 2005. It’s the show’s third visit to Australia and this time around the two stand-up roles are in the ingratiating hands of two Brits, Benjamin Stratton and James Percy.

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