Reviews

Chaim’s Love Song

By Marvin Chernoff. JYM Theatre Co. Director: Brendan Cohen. Phoenix Theatre, Elwood. September 1-9, 2012

“Chaim” means life in Yiddish. It’s also the name of the central character in this gentle play about an old Jewish man telling the story of his life to a lonely young gentile woman in a park in Brooklyn. Writer Marvin Chernoff is not Woody Allen or Neil Simon, but the play has its own charm, humour and poignancy, hence it is a fitting first for JYM, who are noted for their musicals.

Nunsense

Book, Music and Lyrics by Dan Goggin. Rockdale Musical Society (NSW), Bexley RSL Club. August 31 – September 9, 2012.

They don’t make musicals which send up religious practises like they used to. In the audience for Nunsense were some real life nuns in civilian dress. They loved every minute of it.

Would the same happen today with Mormon clergy attending the much sharper and less affectionate Book of Mormons, currently on Broadway?  Perhaps not.

Being gentle enough for nuns to giggle at without blushing means that Nunsense lacks a little edge. A great deal of material about the Catholic church is left untouched.

Out Of Order

By Ray Cooney. Director: Bob Bramble. Basin Theatre Group (Vic) August 10th – Sept 1st.

Ray Cooney is no Will Shakespeare and may not appeal to intellectual aficionados of “The Theatre” but he certainly knows how to entertain an audience ----all he needs is a series of doors (and in this case a window) to create farce in the great traditions of  Commedia dell’arte. Forget about the plot…basically it’s about a government minister who arranges a tryst with an opposition secretary, only to find a “dead” body lodged in the window of the suite at their Westminster hotel.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Ballet by John Neumeier based on the play by William Shakespeare. Music: Felix Mendelssohn and Gyorgy Ligetti. Conductor: Simon Hewett Playhouse, QPAC. 30 August 2012.

“Enchanting” and “magical” are two overused superlatives used by critics to define a production but frankly there are no two better words to describe the Hamburg Ballet’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. John Neumeier’s choreography and staging, although first conceived in 1977, still charms with distinction 35 years later.

Top Girls

By Caryl Churchill. Director: Jenny Kemp. MTC Sumner Theatre. August 25 – September 29, 2012.

Caryl Churchill is a fine playwright and product of the early feminist movement which saw us burn our bras and risk bruised kneecaps, in a futile attempt to prove that equal meant “same”. And yet Top Girls is as much an indictment of that movement as it is a vindication, and that’s why it is still fresh and relevant today.

Conversation Piece

A Belvoir and Lucy Guerin Inc co-production. Belvoir Theatre, Sydney. Choreographer/Director: Lucy Guerin. 25 August – 16 September, 2012.

This is bracing experimental work right at the heart of Sydney’s theatre establishment. Based on a nightly eight-minute improvised conversation, six performers — with their iPhones set to the Voice Memo application — explore the recorded words, dig for new meanings, swap roles, present increasingly weird re-imaginings of the original conversation. Three of the cast are billed as actors, three as dancers, though the distinctions are often blurred. Together, using an amplified musical app, they even make a reasonable rock band.

OZMADE MUSICALS 2012: The Last Ten Years

Musical Director: Aaron Joyner. Comedy Theatre, Melbourne, 27 August 2012

The annual OzMade Musicals concert has become an integral part of the Magnormos production schedule. To celebrate the company’s tenth anniversary this year’s concert presented not only excerpts from two new shows, Partners and Happy People, but devoted the entire second act to highlights from Magnormos productions over the past ten years. It was an exciting night with a clutch of highlights.

Falling to the Top

By Tyler Jacob Jones and Robert Woods. Director: Tyler Jones. Hackett Hall, Floreat (WA).. August 24 - September 8, 2012.

This brand new show with book and lyrics by Tyler Jacob Jones and music by Robert Woods was directed and musically directed by the same pair. Funny, daring and controversial, it was great fun to watch, with lyrics and one-liners that get stuck in your head. (As I write this I can hear my daughter singing one of the songs.)

Taking a satirical look at reality TV stars and their subsequent careers, it takes gentle pokes at a plethora of people and although the comedy is unnervingly crude at times it is never cruel and always appropriate in its context.

Top Girls

By Caryl Churchill. State Theatre Company of SA. Dunstan Playhouse. 22 August to 8 September, 2012.

Caryl Churchill’s ground breaking play Top Girls, which first played in 1982, is described in the program as having “parallels to contemporary Australia and the global political-economy [that] are too obvious to be ignored”. Whilst many staunch feminists might argue that women still have a long way to go to achieve equality in a capitalist business driven economy, others will attest to the changes and significant developments that have occurred in the corporate world since this play was penned – so what is my point you ask?

Rent

By Jonathan Larson. BuST Co (Vic). Director: Rhylee Nowell. Musical Director: Kevin Nguyen Choreographer: Emma Vaiano. Cromwell Road Theatre. August 24 to September 1, 2012

I remember the Whitehorse production of Rent in the 1,000 seat Besen Centre and being swept away by the music with little understanding of what was going on as few words came across. In the 120 seat Cromwell Road Theatre the band was again a bit loud, but the sound was much better, which made it much easier to follow what was going on.

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