The Merry Widow

The Australian Ballet. State Theatre, Melbourne. June 7th – 16th, 2018

In 1975 The Merry Widow was the first full-length original ballet created for the Australian Ballet and has been much loved ever since. Devised by Sir Robert Helpmann, the ballet has a long and esteemed pedigree for the company and this production does not disappoint.  There is a whimsical nature to Widow (in spite of some thankfully outdated ideas about love and marriage) that leaves the audience feeling delighted and charmed as they leave the theatre.

Holiday Inn

Book by Gordon Greenberg and Chad Hodge. Music and lyrics by Irving Berlin. Therry Dramatic Society. Arts Theatre, Adelaide. 7-16 June 2018,

Growing up as I did in a time before Internet and before Netflix and Youtube, the Sunday Matinee movie was often the entertainment highlight of my week. I can’t honestly remember whether the 1942 Universal Studios’ Holiday Inn, starring Bing Crosby, Fred Astaire and Marjorie Reynolds, was one that I saw; I hope it was, but I can say that the adaptation staged by Therry Dramatic Society transported me, very happily, right back to that time.

Diary of a Madman

By Nikolai Gogol. Adapted for stage by David Holman. Developed by Geoffrey Rush and Neil Armfield. Directed by Caroline Stacey. Produced by The Street, 15 Childers Street, Canberra City. 2 – 16 June 2018.

A beautiful young woman in a shimmering silver dress, strappy heels and Jackie Onassis shades sashays across the stage in waltz time. Obsessed with this vision, Propishchin waltzes close behind her, his eyes half-closed in delirium, nostrils flaring as though to smell her. But then, the image evaporates. Right there, Propishchin’s mind breaks. It’s a moment of agonising poignancy, and one that doesn’t exist in the original story as Gogol wrote it. The scene captures the tone of The Street’s production of Diary of a Madman.

Bring It On The Musical

Book: Jeff Whitty, Music: Tom Kitt & Lin-Manuel Miranda, Lyrics: Amanda Green & Lin-Manuel Miranda. Stage Masters. Director: Alistair Smith. Choreographer: Michael Ralph. Musical Director: Daniele Buatti. Athenaeum Theatre, Melbourne. June 7 – 23, 2018

Bring It On The Musical is a high energy, loud, athletic tour de force. Based on the hit film, it is the story of an ambitious Cheerleader who achieves her life-long ambition to be leader of the squad only to find her home has been rezoned and she has to change schools. She then convinces the dance team at her new school to take up Cheerleading and compete against her old school.

However, her aim for revenge, which appears to be the obvious way the story is heading, does not eventuate, and she learns something much more important.

Danny & the Deep Blue Sea

By John Patrick Shanley. Directed by Charlie Cousins & Laura Maitland. Produced by Charlie Cousins. Siteworks, 33 Saxon Street, Brunswick VIC. 4 – 23 June 2018

Somewhere in the Bronx, in a scrappy, empty bar, a woman sits alone, her coiled, angry misery overlaying her striking looks.  A younger man slouches in with a jug of beer and sits at another table.  His knuckles are bloody, his face is cut and bruised, his hoodie dirty, his boots held together with gaffer tape.  They are two damaged isolates.  It will emerge that he fears he killed a man the night before.  His workmates call him ‘The Beast’ – and he is afraid of himself.  We realise she is contemplating suicide.

We Will Rock You

By Ben Elton. Music and Lyrics by Queens. Direction and Concepts by John Boyce, Row Blacksaw, Aaron Griffiths and Will Toft. Brisbane Arts Theatre. June 2 – July 28, 2018

Let’s face it. The whole idea was to perform the music of Queen other than in concert form and Ben Elton has concocted a convoluted story for that purpose. It works wonderfully well. The play is set in the future where individuality no longer exists – everyone wears the same style of clothes, and there’s no music or original thinking. A group of Bohemians is searching for the freedoms of the past. They meet in an old Hard Rock Cafe, try to understand what has gone before and name themselves after long lost stars such as Buddy (Holly) and Brit (Spears).

The House of Bernarda Alba

Adapted by Patricia Cornelius, after Frederico Garcia Lorca. Melbourne Theatre Company. Arts Centre Melbourne, Fairfax Studio. 25 May – 7 July, 2018.

Adapting this work to a contemporary Australian environment is brave and ambitious.  The result is a challenging, absorbing and resonant offering - though not without dissonance. 

Poet Frederico Garcia Lorca’s classic play The House of Bernarda Alba, set in rural Spain of the 1930s, is adapted for the Australian stage by Patricia Cornelius as commissioned by Melbourne Theatre Company and director, then Associate Artistic Director, Leticia Caceres.

The Edge

By Nick Choo. Catface Productions. Directed by Levon J Polinelli. The Blue Room Theatre, Northbridge, WA. 29 May - 16 June, 2018

The Edge is unusual in that the central character, Josh, is never seen. We learn a lot about Josh in the two hour show. Josh is the favourite son of his mother; his brother feels the burden of caring for him; he has found a close friend in the café in which he works; his former flat mate has a crush on him; he has had the same best friend since childhood and he has recently proposed to his girlfriend. Josh is a high achiever, very artistic, but is also very troubled and is living on 'the edge'.

My Sister Feather

By Olivia Satchell. La Mama Courthouse, 30 May – 10 June, 2018

A woman with eyes as bright as her no-brand turquoise track suit enters the stage with a sullen look on her face; quietly as if she doesn’t want anyone to notice she’s there. She checks if she can glean anything from the out-of-order vending machine. She defiantly plonks herself on the bolted-down table in the middle of the room. An ear-piercing beep blasts until she slides nonchalantly onto a chair. Egg, as she is called, is in prison.

Alice's Adventures Under Ground

By Christopher Hampton. Hamley Productions. Earl Arts Centre Launceston and Theatre Royal Backspace. Director: Andrew Casey. 3-5 and 1-9 June 2018

The set, the work of Jake Sanger, is enticing. The Victorian parlour, however, is not all that it seems, much like the conflicted man, Lewis Carroll. Projections and back lighting augment scenes in which Chris Hamley, as Carroll, narrates his tales. These are played out by an ensemble of three highly capable and versatile actors with great energy and humour.

These playfully mad episodes are juxtaposed against darker scenes in which Carroll appears to confront other demons.

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