Reviews

North by Northwest

Adapted by Carolyn Burns from the script by Ernest Lehman. Directed by Simon Phillips. MTC. Arts Centre Melbourne Playhouse. June 1 – July 4, 2015.

As an avowed fan of Alfred Hitchcock, I wasn't quite sure what to expect from the MTC's stage adaptation of North by Northwest, one of his most famous movies.

Jesus Christ Superstar

By Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice. Presented by Sneddon Hall and Gallop and Pee Wee Productions. Directed by Stephen Pike. AIS Arena, Canberra. June 2 – 7, 2015

The arena production of Jesus Christ Superstar is a spectacular feast of sound and vision that thrills the senses and confronts the soul. The director Stephen Pike has brought out the soul of the story, with consistently good characterisation shown throughout, and he has used every part of the set, giving points of interest at all times, which is important in such a large venue. The chorus show commitment and talent in every part they play.

The Music Man

Book, Music & Lyrics: Meredith Willson. Story: Meredith Willson & Franklin Lacey based on Willson’s memoir And There I Stood With My Piccolo. Director: Deian Ping. Musical Director: Julie Whiting. Choreography: Julianne Burke. Queensland Musical Theatre. Schonell Theatre, St Lucia, Brisbane. 3-8 June 2015.

Meredith Willson’s affectionate salute to 1912 small-town America The Music Man with its homespun philosophies and warm identifiable characters has always held appeal for community theatre companies employing as it does a multitude of characters and large chorus. One of the major strengths of Queensland Musical Theatre’s production of it was the choral work of the company. They thrilled harmonically in “Iowa Stubborn” and “The Wells Fargo Wagon”, producing a big, glorious Broadway vocal sound.

A Super Brady Cabaret

Written and directed by Drew Downing and Robbie Carmellotti. StageArt Production. World Premiere. Chapel off Chapel. June 3rd – 14th, 2015 (8 performances only)

What fun we had last night at Chapel off Chapel for the opening night of A Super Brady Cabaret! If you have just arrived from another planet, or are under 15, you may not know who the Brady Bunch are…but for the rest of us this non-pretentious cabaret was an absolute hoot.

Neighbourhood Watch

By Lally Katz. Illuminate Educate. Bondi Pavilion. May 28 – June 6, 2015.

The theatre was packed with year 11 drama students lapping up a play by a writer who was young, hip and even knew the ins and outs of computer games.  

Neighbourhood Watch, first staged by Belvoir only a few years back, has crept onto the New South Wales Higher School drama list.

A teacher with them reliably informed me that as well keeping the students thoroughly engaged with the jokes and story line, there were influences of Brecht and magic realism in the drama to study.

Legends!

By James Kirkwood. Director: Christopher Renshaw. John Frost Production. Playhouse, QPAC. Opening Night: 2 June 2015 (later touring to Sydney, Perth, Adelaide, Melbourne).

Star-driven plays have been the backbone of the commercial theatre since the days of Shakespeare. J.C. Williamson’s built their empire on them and these days Broadway or the West End couldn’t survive without them, but they’re been very thin on the ground in Australia in recent times. John Frost is redressing the situation following his success with Angela Lansbury in Driving Miss Daisy two years ago, by starring the Mills sisters, Hayley and Juliet, in a play about two aging down-on-their-luck cinema divas, who want to kick-start their careers on Broadway.

Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune

By Terrence McNally. Directed by Peter Rhodes. Lighting Design: Sean Churchward. Sound Design: Bernard Teuben. Castle Hill Players (NSW). Pavilion Theatre June 5-27, 2015.

First staged Off -Broadway in 1987, Terrence McNally’s play has been nominated for Tony awards and adapted for the screen with Al Pacino and Michelle Pfeiffer in the title roles. It is a play not often found in community theatre repertoires as it involves some nudity and requires very sensitive acting and directing – both of which Castle Hill Players has managed to achieve. Though the action and the dialogue are very personal and revealing, the production is evocative, and the actors achieve a realism that is disarmingly natural.

An Australian One-Act Play Triple Bill

Wyong Drama Group. 'The Card Players' and 'Home Fires Burning' – Directed by Pollyanna Forshaw. 'The Maltese Mouse' - Directed by Alexandra Travers. The Grove Theatre. May 29-30, 2015

Normally at this time of year Wyong Drama Group play host to an open invitational festival of one-act plays. With the construction of $12.7m Performing Arts Centre due for completion next year, the festival is in hiatus, but clearly the urge to put a lot of energy into a very short season at their temporary home was still strong. The three plays were all penned by multi-award winning, former resident playwright Peter Kocan.

She Only Barks at Night

Living Room Theatre. Vet School Roundhouse at The University of Sydney. May 27 – 31, 2015

Performance installation is one of those theatre genres that often tiptoe a dangerous line between work that is evocative and inane. Living Room Theatre’s She Only Barks at Night slips back and forth between the two.

Anything Goes

Music and Lyrics by Cole Porter. New Book by Timothy Crouse and John Weidman. Directed by Dean Bryant. Princess Theatre Melbourne, May 31st-July 14th, 2015, then Brisbane and Sydney.

Oh what a glorious evening of perfect old-fashioned entertainment we were treated to with the opening of Anything Goes. No angst, no rock music, no moralising,…just plenty of  marvellous music, elegant costumes and showy dance routines. The fact that the humour is pure slapstick and corny hocum most of the time simply adds to the charm of the show.

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