Reviews

Orphans

By Lyle Kessler. Q44 Theatre Company. Directed by Gabriella Rose-Carter. 1st Floor, 550 Swan Street, Richmond (Vic). 14 – 29 June, 2014

Orphans by Lyle Kessler is a gritty play about two orphan brothers, Treat, a petty criminal and Phillip, an innocent restricted to the house due to possible life threatening allergies, and the impact on their lives when Treat decides to move up from petty theft and kidnaps a gangster. The arrival of Howard into their narrow world upsets the violent yet delicate control Treat has over his brother.

Thoroughly Modern Millie

New Music by Jeanine Tesori. Book by Richard Morris and Dick Scanlan (+lyrics). Directed by Lyn Laister. MLOC (Vic). Phoenix Theatre, Elwood. June 13 – 21, 2014.

Sheer energy and enthusiasm make every moment count in MLOC’s production of Thoroughly Modern Millie. The talented cast makes something special out of what could hardly be called one of the great musicals. Nevertheless, for pure enjoyment, this is well worth a visit.

De-Generator

Phluxus2 Dance Collective. Judith Wright Centre of Contemporary Arts. 14 – 21 June, 2014.

I was unprepared for the emotional clout of this production.

Walking into a gloomy empty space and finding no seats for the audience was discomforting. We crowded together. Never venturing far from the mob some noted three lots of debris caught on pieces of wire lattice: one trapped mostly ‘feminine things’; another contained assorted pieces of hospital equipment; the third had an industrial theme. Tucked back behind these was a pile of plastic – dirty containers of all sizes mainly.

Beauty! Glamour! Fame!

By Brent Thorpe. Imperial Hotel, Erskineville. Thursday nights June 5 – July 3, 2014

When taken to our little plastic seats in the middle of an intimate audience at the Imperial, I was glad to have a large glass of Long Island in hand. A necessary prop, it seemed, to brace me for the wonderfully uncomfortable face-to-face experience I was bound to have in Brent Thorpe’s Beauty! Glamour! Fame!. The stage was a mere couple of metres before us, the set decked out in (appropriately) tacky leopard print. Despite its flamboyance, it was a clearly minimal set directing all focus to the show’s two stars, Brent Thorpe and Zan Cross.

Guys and Dolls

Music and lyrics by Frank Loesser. Book by Jo Swerling and Abe Burrows. Directed by Tyler Hess. MDMS (Vic). Karralyka Theatre Ringwood. June 13th-21st, 2013

There’s much to love about this spectacularly ambitious production from MDMS:- the fabulous set by Jacob Battista, wonderful costumes by Hazel Green and Tyler Hess; Danny Forward’s expert musical direction of a band of the highest order; Jason Bovaird’s amazing lighting design, excellent sound throughout; Craig Wiltshire’s eclectic choreography; a blistering cameo performance from Jay Miller as General Cartwright; a genuine leading man with a great voice and presence in the appealing  Anthony Bolger (Sky Masterson) and a show-stopping star turn from Musical Diva

Habeas Corpus

By Alan Bennett. Villanova Players (Q). ‘The Theatre’ Seven Hills TAFE. 6 – 21 June 2014

This should go down in their annals as one of Villanova’s greatest successes. Habeas Corpus is proof again there can be fully professional-standard productions in community theatres.

Playwright Bennett is a brilliant comedy wordsmith; his mastery of English knows no bounds. When a company as competent as this one assembled by Brisbane veteran of theatre, Brian Cannon, is given the chance to explore its full comedy potential, the result can be unfettered laughter from start to finish. And it was!

West Side Story

By Leonard Bernstein, Arthur Laurents and Stephen Sondheim. Directed by Crispin Taylor, Musical Direction by David King. Choreography by Lisa O'Dea. Regal Theatre, Subiaco, WA. 14-21 June, 2014.

WAAPA's annual mid-year musical at the Regal Theatre is a highpoint on the Perth theatrical calendar, and West Side Story is the best of these productions to date.

Superbly directed by Crispin Taylor, Lisa O'Dea's choreography is outstanding and the execution throughout is brilliant. The production's music standards are second to none, with a brilliant 26 piece orchestra (mostly WAAPA students) under musical director David King, being matched by excellent vocal performances.

Hairspray

Music: Marc Shaiman. Lyrics: Scott Wittman, Marc Shaiman. Book: Mark O’Donnell, Thomas Meehan. PRIMA (Prime Rivers Musical Association). Director: Melanie Evans. Musical Director: Mark Beilby. Chorography & Co Direction: Maureen Bowra. Redcliffe Cultural Centre, Qld. June 12-15, 2014

Glorious 60s retro is the only way to describe PRIMA’s production of Hairspray. Beehive hairdos, pedal-pushers, wacky dance styles, and loads of energy from the mainly youthful cast made Melanie Evans’ production fire on every level. The infectious joy bursting over the footlights was palpable.

Grounded

By George Brant. Directed by Kirsten von Bibra. Red Stitch Actors Theatre, Chapel St Prahran (Vic). June 11 – July 12, 2014.

Perhaps it is the intimacy of the tiny theatre; or the choice of brave and confronting plays; or the sheer weight of extraordinary talent that makes Red Stitch the premier independent theatre company in Victoria. Red Stitch has nothing to prove, except to themselves, and so they keep raising the bar of excellence and pole-vaulting over it.

Spring Awakening

Book and lyrics by Steven Sater, music by Duncan Sheik, original play by Franz Wedekind. StageTek. Director: Zana Cohen. Musical Director: Benjamin Keihne. Choreographer: David Buckley. Fig Tree Theatre, University of NSW. June 13 – 21, 2014.

Confronting, multi award winning rock musical Spring Awakening, based on a once-banned 1891 play, pulls no punches on themes including teenage sexuality, be it straight, gay or masturbation, youth suicide, teen pregnancy, abortion and child abuse, while raising a lot of questions about adult authority figures and parenting.

The combination of 1890s dialogue and contemporary rock / pop music embeds a universality of teenage rites of passage across more than a century, with a highlight of this production was the way in which Linda Brancato’s costuming embodied that.

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