By Mark Hollman and Greg Notts. UMMTA. Director: Bradley Dylan. Musical Directors: CJ Johnson. Choreographer: Joel Anderson. Union Theatre, University of Melbourne, Parkville. May 20 – 28, 2016.

This is the second production of Urinetown I have encountered and it was equally enjoyable. Being a university production, it was also even further over the top.

Everything about the production was high energy. Every member of the ensemble was fully engaged. Movements and dancing were strong and coordinated. There were no weak links here.

The Glass Menagerie

By Tennessee Williams. Directed by Eamon Flack. Merlyn Theatre – Malthouse. 18 May to 5 June, 2016

This Belvoir Street production of The Glass Menagerie is not for the faint hearted - it is long and robust, contemporary and acutely perceptive.

The quasi-autobiographical ‘Memory Play’ of Tennessee Williams’s early adult life in a small apartment with his deluded mother and vulnerable fragile sister, with whom he felt a deep connection is especially revealing. 

Avenue Q

Canterbury Theatre Guild. Director: Ste Casimiro. Musical Director: Kane Wheatley. Music & Lyrics: Robert Lopez & Jeff Marx. Book: Jeff Whitty. Bexley RSL. May 20- 29, 2016

Avenue Q presents performers with the unique opportunity of working with puppets, as well as acting, singing, dancing … and doing things many performers would not necessarily do … on stage that is!

Using very jaunty puppet characters, and a handful of ‘real’ people, writers Jeff Whitty, Robert Lopez and Jeff Marx were able to make some pithy comments about such things as racism, homophobia, homelessness, unemployment, loneliness and marriage in lively tunes and suggestive lyrics.

When Time Stops

Ballet by Natalie Weir. Expressions Dance Company, QPAC, Camerata of St John’s Production. Playhouse, QPAC. 20-28 May 2016

The original production of Natalie Weir’s When Time Stops was one of the hits of the 2013 Brisbane Festival, earning Helpmann Award nominations for its choreography and score and winning for the latter.

This revival has allowed both Weir and composer Iain Grandage to revisit the work about a woman in the last moments of her life being swept away by flashes of memory. It’s a potent concept which Weir and Grandage realised with tender poignancy, stark reality and intense romance. And, it’s a dazzling success.

Yellow Skies

By Mitchel Edwards. Baker’s Dozen Theatre Company. Director: Robin Thomas. Sound and Music: Tom Backhaus. Costume Design: Eliza Wood. Mechanics Institute Brunswick. May 18-29, 2016.

Imagine Cormac McCarthy's The Road set in the Australian bush, and you have Yellow Skies.

Like the post-apocalyptic dystopic future (aren't they all since 9/11?) presented in The Walking Dead, the apocalypse brings out the worst in people. 'Hunters' pillage and kill to obtain ever-diminishing supplies. Even going as far as eating other survivors.

Noah (Aaron Trevaskis) and Glenn (Arli Faruk) lean on each other to survive and have to decide how to handle a malevolent intruder in their camp (Gabriella Imrich).

Sex Cells

By Anna Longaretti. Galleon Theatre Group. Directed by Warren MacKenzie. Domain Theatre, Marion Cultural Centre. May 19-28, 2016

Full disclosure to my readers – The Galleon Theatre Group’s latest production, Sex Cells, stars Lesley Reed, a reviewer for Stage Whispers Magazine who acted in the last play I produced. The supporting cast includes Heather Riley and Brian Godfrey, who have previously been my colleagues in other theatrical endeavours. Therefore you may wish to take my (largely positive) assessment with a pinch of salt. 

Tales of a City by the Sea

By Samah Sabawi. La Mama Courthouse. May 11 – 29, 2016

An excellent ensemble of multicultural performers work closely collectively to draw together and express the story of star crossed lovers who are both, perhaps a little surprisingly, Palestinian.

He, Rami (Osamah Sami) is a doctor who runs a medical clinic in the USA and she, Jomana (Helana Sawires) a journalist who was born and raised in the Shanti (beach) Refugee Camp in Gaza. He comes and goes into this volatile site of the bitter struggle of the siege of Gaza that took place in 2008.  They are just like young lovers from anywhere and any culture. 

Mary Poppins

Music & Lyrics: Richard M. Sherman, Robert B. Sherman, George Stiles, Anthony Drewe. Book: Julian Fellowes. Engadine Musical Society. Director: Rod Herbert. Musical Director: Josh Ransom. Choreographer: Lynley Fuller. Sutherland Entertainment Centre. May 18-22, 2016.

I flew a kite over Engadine and landed at 17 Cherry Tree Lane...

Engadine’s Mary Poppins is a lavish and visually spectacular affair. The stage musical version follows the original books far closer than the Disney film, though the Disney songs remain. Mary Poppins is still practically perfect but not totally a spoonful of sugar (think: a slightly annoyed Julie Andrews and not afraid to show it).

Billy Thorpe & Leigh

By Neil Cole. Directed by Tim Paige. The Alex Theatre, 135 Fitzroy Street, St. Kilda. 18-28 May, 2016.

This charming production opens and closes with Thorpe’s signature song, Most People I Know Think That I’m Crazy, and immediately has your toes tapping. Frank Kerr’s renditions of the iconic tunes are delightful. Thorpe’s distinctive music and voice are difficult to emulate but the show is not concerned so much with the recollection of Thorpe himself as it is with showing the importance of his influence on a generation of aspiring youth.

The Violet Sisters

By Gina Femia. Owl & Cat Theatre, Richmond (VIC). 17 – 27 May 2016.

The Violet Sisters is a fine example of what is almost a genre: a family’s secrets and lies.  What is told, what is withheld, what is believed and what is acted upon. That’s not to diminish the power of this play: a battle between estranged sisters, Sam (Jennifer Monk) and Pam (Leticia Monaghan). 

To keep up with the latest news and reviews at Stage Whispers, click here to like us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter.