La Traviata

By Guiseppe Verdi and Francesco Maria Piave. Opera Australia. Directed by Elijah Moshinsky. Joan Sutherland Theatre, Sydney Opera House. February 3 to April 1, 2017.

Opera Australia's 200th performance of La Traviata had a decidedly international flavour. In the lead as Violetta was Albanian soprano Ermonela Jaho, who gave such a masterclass in emotive performance that she prompted the usually reserved Opera Australia audience to their feet.  

She remained in character during the ovation at the curtain call – appearing utterly spent, just moments after a spectacular final collapse onto the stage. The highlights of her singing were the sustained low pianissimo and clarity of her highest notes.

Sad Digger Mad Mary

Written and performed by Tom Halls. Directed by Yvonne Virsik. Hotel Now / Midsumma Festival. Produced by Anastasia Ryan. La Mama Courthouse. February 3 – 5, 2017.

Did the Digger abandon his post or was he dismissed because of his sexual orientation? Was the Australian army in Gallipoli, or were the soldiers in a different conflict? It was not quite clear but irrelevant; whatever the reason for leaving and wherever it was set, Sad Digger Mad Mary highlights the all too often recurring theme of hypocrisy and non-acceptance of diversity, especially accentuated in extreme circumstances such as the military.

West of the Moon

Written and directed by Clare Testoni. Fringe World. The Blue Room Theatre, Northbridge WA. Jan 21 - Feb 4, 2017

West of the Moon is a fairy-tale for older children - a picture book treat, with a strong female heroine and a lovely message of self-belief and independence.

A Strategic Plan

By Ross Mueller. Griffin Theatre Company. SBW Stables Theatre. Jan 27 – Mar 11, 2017

For those in the small-to-medium sector who survived George Brandis – and kept their sense of humour – there are big laughs in A Strategic Plan

In from the cold, rock muso Andrew (Justin Smith) is now the dedicated CEO of a music studio for teenagers, Staccato; he’s has just finished an ambitious Australia Council application. But Staccato’s sleazebag chairman Simon (Matt Day) recruits HR monster Linda (Briallen Clarke) to help roll Andrew as a failure in strategic planning.   

not a very good story

By May Jasper. Directed by Daniel Rice. Fringe World. The Blue Room Theatre, Northbridge, WA. Jan 31 - Feb 4, 2017

This is “not a very good story” begins Stephanie, as she proceeds to directly address the audience about events at her work place. It turns out to be a fascinating story that has the audience engrossed from beginning to end.

Solo performer May Jasper, has developed a beautifully realistic character in Stephanie. Stephanie has been ill and has returned to work at a call-centre after a long absence. A little bit shy, socially awkward and somewhat child-like, she brings a unique perspective, and what feels to be unintentional humour, to what is a disturbing tale.

Lea Salonga in Concert

With Sydney Symphony Orchestra. Sydney Opera House, Feb 2, 3, 2017. With Orchestra Victoria, Hamer Hall, Melbourne Feb 7, 8, 2017.

Lea Salonga has one of the best-known voices in musical theatre. Not only did the Filipina star originate the role of Kim in Miss Saigon, she also sang two princesses in Disney films: Jasmine in Aladdin and Fa Mulan in Mulan. At her concert, she shows she is among the best, singing many Broadway numbers as well as - or possibly even better than - the original.

Parlour Games

Tooth and Nail / Fringe World. The Blue Room Theatre, Northbridge, WA Jan 31 - Feb 11,

Parlour Games is a visceral, highly visual piece of physical theatre, that charms and delights its audience.

Tooth and Nail theatre was formed by four graduates of Ecole Jacques Lecoq, Paris (although frankly they do not look old enough to have graduated from anywhere). Members of the company hail from four different countries, and work together seamlessly to create beautiful, organic theatre.

Panti: High Heels in Low Places

Performed by Panti Bliss. Midsumma Festival. Fairfax Studio, Arts Centre Melbourne. 2-4 February 2017.

Panti (Rory O’Neill) is a flamboyant persona whose drag queen performance lives up to all the traditional expectations: extravagant costuming and make-up, lip-synching, singing, dancing and adoration of glamour and glitz. However, there is a less common dimension to Panti’s stand-up routine. The highly political nature of Panti’s material has meant she has become a serious advocate for the LGBTI community.

Boys of Sondheim

Music & Lyrics: Stephen Sondheim. Narrations: Anthony Nocera. Concept/Direction: Kris Stewart. Musical Director: Dominic Woodhead. Choreography: Kurt Phelan Understudy Productions & Brisbane Powerhouse. Powerhouse, Brisbane. 2-5 Feb 2017

Stephen Sondheim is a composer and lyricist who is gay but to my knowledge he has never written a song for a gay character. In the past it has been claimed by many that the character of the unmarried Bobby in Company was gay which Sondheim has always vehemently denied. So Kris Stewart’s concept of looking at gay relationships through the eyes of Sondheim’s songs is an interesting switch. It not only works well, but it’s surprising how much of the material is applicable to same sex relationships.

Comma Sutra

Directed and performed by Louisa Fitzhardinge. Fringe World. ACE’s Cabaret at Downstairs at the Maj, His Majesty’s Theatre, Perth WA. Jan 31 - Feb 4, 2017

Self-confessed Grammar Nerd Louisa Fitzhardinge has created this clever word based cabaret, looking at grammar, spelling, punctuation and language.

Personable, intelligent and self-deprecating, Louisa quickly formed a bond with her late-night audience, a crowd with an appreciation for a well placed comma and appropriately applied apostrophe.

Accompanied by Greg Lavell on piano and piano-accordion, Louisa’s gorgeous renditions of her original songs and witty parodies, were delightful, and very warmly received.

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