Reviews

25 Down by Richard Jordan

Queensland Theatre Company. Until July 4

This 2008 Queensland Premiere’s Drama Award winner was presented as part of the Q150 celebrations. A strictly generation Y play, it has broader applications than its gay focus. It glided unobtrusively onto the stage and at the end, slid away equally quietly. The mood was one of aimlessness and compliance, of an intelligent generation so indoctrinated for changing careers and diminishing opportunities that they waft through life adapting to anything life throws at them.

August: Osage County

Melbourne Theatre Company. Playhouse. Until July 4.

Dale Ferguson's set basically summarises the MTC production of August Osage County. It is a massive triple level house. Every naturalistic detail is there and this play by Tracy Lett's is epic in every sense of the word. . Simon Phillips and the MTC have given Melbourne a tour-de-force of what I am sure will one day be considered one of the greatest American plays of all time. (It has already won a Pultizer Prize, a number of Tony Awards and there is now a film version in development.)

All Shook Up

Bendigo Theatre Company (Vic).

Elvis Presley collaborates with William Shakespeare to take a sparkling, energetic trip down memory lane in Bendigo Theatre Company’s latest musical, All Shook Up. Twenty-seven of the King’s songs, the plot from the Bard’s Twelfth Night, a small town in Mid West USA, and we have an exciting, entertaining show that had the audiences really swinging along with the enthusiastic cast.

Ruben Guthrie by Brendan Cowell

Company B. Belvoir Street Theatre.

With Ruben Guthrie, Brendan Cowell has written a hard hitting play about one man’s battle with his addiction to alcohol. It is given a powerful, striking treatment in Wayne Blair’s current production of the play as part of Belvoir’s Company B season.

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!

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