Reviews

Jazz Garters

Canberra Repertory, directed by Jim McMullen. Theatre 3, 11–27 June 2009

Rep's decision to replace its Old Time Music Hall with something new has resulted in a reinvention of musical variety theatre. Jazz Garters, a "new tradition" difficult to sum up in a word, was an effective integration of a great variety of theatre.

How do you combine slapstick, song, and circus; standup; dance; acrobatics; even cultural comment, to make a night of seamless entertainment that has a raunchy edge but is completely suitable for children?

Sugar Daddies by Sir Alan Ayckbourn

Darlington Theatre Players, Marloo Theatre, Greenmount (WA).

The Australian premiere of this Alan Ayckbourn comedy revealed a thoroughly watchable cautionary tale. Sweet and innocent Sasha, played by Candace Wise, invites an elderly Santa Claus back to the apartment she shares with her sister, after he is almost run down in the street. This invitation turns into an interesting relationship as the man Val (Stephen Greenacre) becomes her personal Santa Claus and ultimately her Sugar Daddy and draws her into a world beyond her wildest expectations.

Flapper by Tim Kelly and Bill Francoeur

Stirling Theatre (WA).

This musical is a hidden gem. It would be a wonderful choice for schools, with a predominantly youthful cast and lovely roles for young women. It was also a great choice for Stirling, with its active youth theatre. The simple title immediately caught the attention of many in the community and Stirling was blessed with full houses throughout their run. Costuming, under Fran Gordon’s care, was exquisite and with the help of lovely front of house displays, beautifully captured the era. Wigs (Bree Vreedenburgh) and hairstyles were outstanding.

Steel Magnolias by Robert Harling

Blackbird Productions. Seymour Centre, Sydney, then touring nationally

Steel Magnolias has now been touring for some time. We add Peter Pinne's review of the September Brisbane season to David Spicer's review of the Sydney opening.

Elling, adapted from the film by Simon Bent

Sydney Theatre Company. Directed by Pamela Rabe. Cast: Darren Gilshenan, Lachy Hulme, Glenn Hazeldine, Yael Stone and Frank Whitten.

Adapted first for the stage from a Swedish novel, then from stage to screen, and then again back to stage from the screenplay, this very warm and poignant tale could be loosely described as 'The Odd Couple flies over the Cuckoo’s Nest.' It’s neither as light nor as dark as either play, nor are its themes particularly revelatory – however Rabe’s unconventional staging still gives it that ‘edgy’ feel. Darren Gilshenan literally pours his impressive pedigree of Shakespeare and comedy experience into the role of Elling.

Avenue Q by Jeff Whitty, Robert Lopez and Jeff Marx

Comedy Theatre, Melbourne (then touring Australia and New Zealand). Director: Jonathan Biggins. Musical Director: David Skelton. Choreographer: Nathan M. Wright

To me Avenue Q was nothing more than a name of a musical when I attended the Australian premiere on June 4, 2009. I could see pictures of Muppet type characters and it promised to be different, and “not for kids”. It was, and very enjoyable to boot!

Ying Tong by Roy Smiles

Caloundra Chorale and Theatre Company (Q). May 14 – 30.

Roy Smiles’ stage study of Spike Milligan in the final year of The Goon Show was performed in an ingenious set that drew the audience into the befuddled mind of the institutionalised writer/performer. The four actors were splendidly cast, both for their acting talent and for their physical likeness to the Goon member each played.

Footloose by Dean Pitchford, Walter Bobbie, Tom Snow and Kenny Loggins.

Whitehorse Musical Theatre. Director, David Parsons; Musical Director, Julia Buchanan; Choreographer, Meriki Comito.

Dancing has been banned in Bomont, and when teenager Ren and his mother move there from Chicago it is up to Ren to do something about it. Footloose is a pleasant American musical, set in the fifties, and based on the 1984 movie of the same name. A great production moved very smoothly, with wonderful professional performances from the cast, though the sound was a little too loud, distorting the voices at times.

Miss Saigon by Claude-Michel Schönberg, Alain Boublil and Richard Maltby, Jr.

CLOC Musical Theatre. Director: Chris Bradtke. Musical Director: Michael Loughlin. Choreographer: Lynette White.

Based on the Puccini opera Madama Butterfly, Miss Saigon is set against the final frenetic days of the Vietnam War in 1975. CLOC has attracted a cast of 40 from 21 countries (yes including Australia). The magnificent production featured amazing two storey sets. Also particularly effective, the sound effects made you feel the helicopter was actually flying overhead. Bianca Baykara gave a first class, emotional performance as Miss Saigon, Kim. She has an excellent voice, a great stage presence and worked well with Mark Doran (Chris).

Yeomen of the Guard by Gilbert and Sullivan

Gilbert and Sullivan Society (Victoria). Director: Robert Ray. Musical Director: John Ferguson. May 2.

I attended the Gilbert and Sullivan Society’s last performance of Yeomen of the Guard and it was disappointing to see a half empty auditorium when many had been offered cheap tickets. Having left my run late I paid $44, which is a lot to pay for an amateur show, which is out of copyright.

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