Reviews

Into the Woods

Music and Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim. Book by James Lapine. North Shore Music Theatre, The Pumphouse, Takapuna, Auckland, New Zealand. Nov 3 – 17, 2012.

As a storyteller Sondheimpolarisesaudiences worldwide. You either love him, or hate him, are spellbound or bored to tears, adore or hate his thematic repetitive phrases, are touched by or turned off by his plots. None more so, perhaps, than Into the Woods. Act One combines a mish-mash of several fairy stories which culminate in the endings we know so well from childhood. Act Two – so all your dreams have come true? Here is what happens in reality! Life, once all our dreams come true, doesn’t always mean living happily ever after.

Mothersmilk

By Joanne Trentini. One Other Productions. Director: Claire Phillips. Producer and Set Designer: Kathryn Hooper. Producer and Creative Stylist: Renee Trentini. Actors: Joanne Trentini, Lelia Rodgers, Gerard Lane and Stefan Bramble. Live Music – Earthwire: A J Winnick, Cloud Unknowing and Nick Hadjelias. 45 Downstairs – 45 Flinders Lane (Vic). 31 October to 11 November 2012.

With it beguiling, beautifully produced flyer, superb photo on the program and lovely little filmic scene of a young boy being given a toxic glass of milk to drink it is bemusing that this production of a supposedly new play is not billed as a reworking of Medea. It would make sense as the basic story is the same and there always seems to be an enthusiastic audience for reworked classics.

Dusty The Original Pop Diva

Songs recorded by Dusty Springfield, book by John-Michael Howson, David Mitchell and Melvyn Morrow. Chatswood Musical Society. Zenith Theatre, Chatswood (NSW). November 2 – 11, 2012.

The musical is called Dusty, it’s utterly defined by the portrayal of pop diva, and with Linda Hale in the title role it is in safe hands, both in vocals and acting. Thanks to musical director David Lang, a capable off-stage orchestra and strong back-up singers, the production boasts an effective, slightly theatricalised 60s (and later) pop sound.

Linda Hale’s energy in the musical numbers and sympathetic playing of scenes, overcoming sometimes two-dimensional writing, is the full deal, doing full justice to the pop icon.

Sweet Charity.

By Neil Simon, Cy Coleman and Dorothy Fields. Queensland Musical Theatre. Schonell Theatre (UQ). 31 Oct – 4 Nov, 2012.

There were many facets of this show to love. Success of Sweet Charity rests on the triple-threat talents of the character in the title. Cait McGregor pulled it off in spades.

Her dance buddies at the Fan-Dango Ballroom (played by Kathleen Simmonds and Danika Saal) brought pizzazz to the big musical numbers, while male leads Tony Campbell (Oscar), Livio Regano (Vittorio) and James Whiting (Daddy Brubeck) made the most of their scenes. All supported Cait McGregor valiantly in the best scenes of the show.

Fully Committed

By Becky Mode. Castle Hill Players. Director: Paul Sztelma; Stage Manager: Carolyn Smalls; Lighting Design: Sean Churchward; Sound Design: Chris Harriott and Bernard Teuben; Set Design: Paul Sztelma; Photography: Chris Lundie. Pavilion Theatre, Castle Hill. October 31 – November 10, 2012.

For the past three years, the foyer of the Pavilion Theatre at Castle Hill has become the venue for short seasons of one or two productions a year for Castle Hill Players. Seating about 70 people on folding chairs arranged around low tables, it’s a cosy space with bar service before and after the show. This is an innovative experiment that should appeal to directors – and actors – who want to try something that doesn’t really need to be ‘main stage’.

My Private Parts

By Deborah Thomson. The Reginald Theatre, Seymour Centre (Sydney). October 31 – November 17, 2012.

A woman so desperate for babies that she embarks on a long voyage through IVF – and then writes a play about her failures  – doesn’t suggest a lot of laughs.  Writer/performer Deborah Thomson and sidekick Lucy Miller, however, present this tale with just the right mix of tender truth, comic hyperbole and quick theatrical inventiveness.  Thomson’s inspiration was to set this very modern marriage of birth and science back in the certainties of the 1950’s, employing a sunny retro design and an ironic use of upbeat songs.

I Wish You a Boat

Created and Directed by Wendy Ward. Featuring: Libby Brockman, Luke Cadden Emma Caldwell, Nathan Falcke, Robert Caetano, Petra Glieson, Taylor Klas, Lara Jean Mrashall, Helena Plazzer and Kliment Poposki. Docklands Cotton Mills, Footscray. Until 17 November, 2012.

This is the time of year when aspiring actors are working on their monologues to get into Drama schools. Huge numbers apply for the main flagship schools and of course there are limited places. Recently I have seen work from two Melbourne Drama Schools and both greatly impressed me.

Great Expectations

By Charles Dickens. Adapted by Nick Ormerod and Declan Donnellan. atyp Under The Wharf season, bAKEHOUSE Theatre Company. atyp Studio 1, The Wharf, Walsh Bay. November 2 – 17, 2012.

Commissioned by The Royal Shakespeare Company in 2005, this adaptation by Nick Ormerod and Declan Donnellan maintains Dickens’ use of the first person and transforms the novel into a piece of true epic theatre.  This sits well in the hands of director John Harrison who is deft at managing large casts and has approached the production with a Brechtian-style vision.

Elling

Adapted by Simon Bent from Nicholas Norris’ translation of a play by Axel Hellstenius in collaboration with Peter Naess. Director: Pamela Rabe MTC. November 1 – December 8, 2012.

When I first saw the film of Elling I saw more than the “ordinary mysteries”of “what is friendship?” “What is it to feel insecure” etc., that director Petter Naess describes. Those are objective questions for sound minds. Elling, super-smart and eloquent, and his only friend Kjell Bjearne, super horny and ape-like, can’t ask or explore sound mind questions; they have psychiatric illnesses, and they are perpetually “In the world but not of it”.

A Classical Celebration

Queensland Ballet. Lyric Theatre, Brisbane, 31 Oct - 2 Nov 2012

Another end-of-year-show piece, which enabled principal dancers and soloists to shine in audience-popular classical excerpts, along with nine graduates of this year’s professional training programme augmenting the corps de ballet. What an opportunity for the initiates!

Brisbane balletomanes love their classics with orchestral accompaniment. This show gave them much to feel proud of.

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