Reviews

Empire Burning

By Eugene Gilfedder. Co-presented by the author and Metro Arts as part of Independents programme. Sue Benner Theatre (Qld). 13-28 May 2011

This show has legs! Shakespearean in its universality, it would work equally well worldwide. It should become a study text for students (and not just drama students). Theatre directors and teachers, take note!

Disclaimer: This is not ‘a nice show for a night out’. The closer you examine it and discuss it, the more it fits today’s world. It is about us, citizens of the world.

Baal

By Bertolt Brecht, adapted by Tom Wright and Simon Stone. STC and Malthouse at Wharf 1. May 11 – June 11, 2011.

Humble Boy

By Charlotte Jones. Canberra Repertory. Theatre 3. Director: Corille Fraser. 6–21 May 2011

The decease of the Humble family's head, James, has brought together his son and widow; her suitor; and the suitor's daughter in a love–hate quadrangle that has thrived on secrecy, pretence, and hypocrisy, all of which James's death exposes in a morality play that's beautifully staged, often funny, and always truthful.

Grease

Book, Music & Lyrics: Jim Jacobs & Warren Casey. Harvest Rain Theatre Company. Playhouse, QPAC, Brisbane. Director: Naomi Price. Musical Director: Daniel Gibney. Choreographer: Callum Mansfield. May 6 – 22, 2011.

The musical Grease is one of the few musicals where the movie improved on the original stage production by adding songs by Barry Gibb and John Farrar (“Hopelessly Devoted to You”/“You’re The One That I Want”/ ”Grease”), plus “Blue Moon” and others. These additional songs are all in Harvest Rain’s latest incantation of everybody’s favorite musical of 50s high-school life, but they don’t do much for the production which is a hit and miss affair.

The Carnival – A Circus Opera

Composer/Producer: Chloe Charody. Red Bennies. Fridays during May.

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect at a “Circus Opera” and my experience with Carnival left me a bit bemused. The venue was a Prahran night club. We waited over an hour for the show to start and found there were two thirty minute halves with a forty minute interval. The venue wanted to make sure of plenty of sales.

Amadeus

By Peter Schaffer. Conservation Theatre, Brisbane. 4MBS production as part of Mostly Mozart Week. May 7 -14.

This production is passionate, masterful and damn good theatre.

Steven Grives, he of the gravel bass voice, is usually cast as the villain; it’s no surprise director Tama Matheson chose him for Salieri. From the outset Salieri confesses he thinks he may have been responsible for Mozart’s death, then spends two and a half hours persuading us why he thinks so. Along the way he engages us, wins our sympathy and emerges as the brightest star of this show.

Mary Poppins.

Based on the stories of P.L. Travers and the Walt Disney film. Original music and lyrics by Richard M Sherman and Robert B Sherman. Book by Julian Fellowes. New songs and additional music and lyrics by George Stiles and Antony Drewe. Capitol Theatre, Sydney. Opened May 5.

The biggest surprise for Stage Whispers on opening night came when Cameron Mackintosh revealed to our Editor Neil Litchfield at the after show party how he managed to snare ex-pat Australian music theatre superstar Phillip Quast to play Mr Banks.

Mackintosh and Quast met by chance in the bathroom of a top London theatrical eatery, where Quast expressed his desire to return home to Australia.

Mackintosh suggested that Quast play the role of Mr Banks in Australia, and their chance encounter has paid big dividends for Australian audiences.

Doris – so much more than the girl next door

By Melinda Schneider and David Mitchell. Director: Tom Healy. Musical Director: Michael J Harding. Choreographer: Andrew Hallsworth. Cast: Melinda Schneider, Rohan Browne, Sam Ludeman. Twelfth Night Theatre, 3 - 22 May. Her Majesty's Theatre, Melbourne - August 23 to September 4, 2011.

Who knew there was so much more to Melinda Schneider than just being an extremely talented multi Golden Guitar Award-winning Australian country music singer? Not me. But I certainly do now.

In Doris, Melinda Schneider gets to show a whole other side to her talents by capturing the essence of Doris Day, managing to exude all of the warmth, sincerity and sweetness that was the real Doris.

Rent

Book, Music & Lyrics: Jonathan Larson. Ignatians Musical Society. Schonell Theatre, Brisbane. Director: John Peek. Musical Director: Matthew Nutley. April 29 – May 20, 2011.

Honest and truthful performances, with stunning vocals by all principals, Ignations production of Jonathon Larson’s Pulitzer Prize winning Rent consolidates their position as one of the top, if not the best, community musical theatre group in Brisbane.

Next to Normal - Australian Premiere

Music by Tom Kitt. Book and Lyrics by Brian Yorkey. Melbourne Theatre Company, Victoria. Playhouse, Arts Centre. Director: Dean Bryant. Musical Director: Mathew Frank. 28th April – 28th May, 2011. Season extended to June 4.

The Australian premiere of Next to Normal is an outstanding musical drama which offers a window into life with bi-polar disorder. Don’t go expecting large chorus numbers, glitzy costumes, spectacular dance numbers and a saccharin-sweet ending. This is tough, real-life, heart-wrenching stuff, with some decent belly-laughs along the way.

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