The Drowsy Chaperone

Book by Bob Martin & Don McKellar. Music and lyrics: Lisa Lambert and Greg Morrison. Melbourne Theatre Company. Playhouse, the Arts Centre, Melbourne. Director: Simon Phillips. Musical Director: Mathew Frank. Choreographer: Andrew Hallsworth. Set and Costume Designer: Dale Ferguson. Until February 27, 2010

I’ve rarely had so much pleasure from one night of musical theatre.

A whirlwind of whimsical fun, The Drowsy Chaperone is a perky little valentine to the frivolous Broadway musical comedy confections of the 1920s, when plots were thin and formulaic, gags were corny, dances were energetic and music was chirpy and cheerful.

Tosca by Giacomo Puccini

Libretto by Luigi Sillica and Giuseppe Giacosa, based on Sardou’s play La Tosca. Opera Australia. Opera Theatre, Sydney Opera House. Until March 27.

Opera Australia’s confronting new Tosca is compelling theatre, though it has ruffled traditionalist feathers.

Seeing Puccini’s popular opera for the first time, Christopher Alden’s dark, gritty, contemporary interpretation really grabbed me. Apparently it’s a harder ask if you have entrenched preconceptions.

Reports suggest that internationally acclaimed Australian Tosca Cheryl Barker, the originally announced diva, and a late withdrawl, is among the dissenters.

The Arrival by Shaun Tan

Red Leap Theatre / Sydney Festival. CarriageWorks (NSW). Director: Julie Nolan.

Like a lucky dip, this production of The Arrival is polished, aesthetically pleasing and full of surprises. The piece opens with autumn colours bathing the concertinaed set, which throughout the piece is manipulated and changed to create a vast array of sets. This production really is like peeking into a popup book. It's a charming, whimsical, joyful adaptation of the wordless novel, by Shaun Tan, a Perth-born and now Melbourne-based freelance artist and author.

Optimism by Tom Wright, After Voltaire.

Sydney Theatre Company / Malthouse Melbourne / Edinburgh International Festival. Drama Theatre, Sydney Opera House until February 20.

Optimism opens revealing a household with its smiles painted on.

Director / Auteur Michael Kantor’s stunning opening tableau sets a vaguely discomforting tone - clown smiles and clothes bear a vaguely distorted edge.

There’s something darker beneath the façade, like the undercurrent driving the spirited, mischievous entertainment that follows. ‘Always look on the bright side of life’ springs eternal as the punch-line sentiment to a succession of horrors, torments, tragedies and atrocities.

The Gruffalo

La Boîte at The Roundhouse (Brisbane). January 11th – 29th

The blaze of publicity that preceded this enchanting little show obviously inspired parents to dash out and buy the book for Christmas. Practically all the kids knew the rhyming couplet that recurs throughout the course of the action, and revelled in the opportunity to join in with Mouse each time she used the Gruffalo line to frighten off the three predators. In fact even the big kids and the grey set joined in with gusto. The Gruffalo is that sort of interactive theatre.

Midnite by Richard Tulloch – adapted from the Randolph Stow novel.

New Theatre Sydney.

It’s marvellous what you can find in an old book shop. The Artistic Director of the New Theatre found a dusty copy of this play with music on a shelf and couldn’t resist it. It’s not hard to see why. Midnite is a delicious piece of Australiana. There is a lovable 17 year old bushranger, his trusty pets, led most ably by his pet cat (spelt Khat), and a crooked copper – called Trooper O’Grady. The bushranger is orphaned and prompted into a life of crime. He goes in and out of jail and in and out of fortune.

The Secret Story of Cinderella and Her Fabulously Fashionable Footwear by Tim O’Connor

Harvest Rain Theatre Company. Cremorne Theatre QPAC. Director: Tim O’Connor.

Harvest Rain have certainly lifted their game after last year’s somewhat drab holiday production of Peter Pan. Their new fast-paced version of Cinderella certainly had a lot going for it. Top marks to designer Josh McIntosh, who delivered a simple and classy set, and some exquisite costumes – and to Jason Glenwright, with another first rate lighting design. They are a dynamic duo when it comes to complementing each other’s design elements.

Oliver! by Lionel Bart

Cairns Choral Society

The opening night of Cairns Choral Society’s production of Lionel Bart’s Oliver! was an enjoyable night of musical theatre.

The Book of Everything by Richard Tulloch, based on the novel by Guus Kuijer.

Belvoir Street Theatre. Company B / Theatre of Image co-production. Director Neil Armfield. Designer: Kim Carpenter.

Surrender to the infectious wonderment of Thomas Klopper, nearly 10, and share a joyous theatre experience in The Book of Everything, engaging with the world through the eyes and heart of a wonderful hero, as he colours it with joyful, exotic fantasy. Enter Thomas’s world naively, with the help of Kim Carpenter’s delightful picture book setting. Playwright Richard Tulloch has sensitively adapted Dutch writer Guus Kuijer’s challenging, enchanting short novel, and director Neil Armfield has conjured it to life with theatrical magic.

Short + Sweet Theatre 2010

Newtown Theatre. Week 1 - January 6 to 10.

Gladiatorial 10-minute theatre is back for another year, and if the first week’s offerings are anything to go by, it’s a case of the good, the bad, and the tacky, tasteless and badly written.

Each week at Newtown, and, from February, at NIDA, different programs of ten 10-minute plays will be presented. Each week’s winner, selected on judges’ vote, and a single audience choice over the entire season, move forward to the final.

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