Reviews

The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee

Music and lyrics by William Finn, Book by Rachel Sheinkin. Conceived by Rachel Feldman. Directed by Leah Osburn. Musical Director Malcolm Huddle. Beaumaris Theatre (Vic). Nov 8 – 30, 2013

It’s little wonder this show is such a favourite with community theatres. When it is done well it is delightful entertainment, witty and charming; and Beaumaris do it very well indeed. Leah Osburn has directed a terrific cast with deft skill. Malcolm Huddle’s musical direction of an interesting small orchestra is impressive at all times, and the costumes, set and lighting are beautifully realised. The theatre itself is a great venue and the only question mark is over the cabaret setting; long tables where the audience could bring drinks and nibbles.

The Violent Outburst That Drew Me To You

By Finegan Kruckemeyer. Riverside Theatres, Parramatta. True West Theatre. November 21 – 29, 2013.

Before I even begin this review, let me congratulate Parramatta Riverside theatres on dealing with a pretty difficult situation last night. Picture this! Three performances, being juggled effectively by staggered starting times, one of them a children’s dance festival. (You’ve got! Lots of kids and twice as many parents and grandparents!) A stormy summer night. The foyer and courtyard crowded, and umbrella stands overflowing.

An Evening with Mandy Patinkin and Nathan Gunn

Accompanied by Julie Jordan Gunn and Paul Ford. Hamer Hall, Melbourne, November 21, 2013; ASB Theatre, Auckland, November 24; Sydney Opera House, November 26 and QPAC, November 28.

From now on, look up the word charisma in the dictionary under P for Patinkin. The master showman, with a mixture of Chutzpah, charm and finesse, reminded all of us lucky enough to be in Hamer Hall last night of what stardom used to mean in the days before pop divas and musicals that depend on the sets and special effects, rather than the music. Equally as masterful is operatic baritone Nathan Gunn, whose Bro-mance with the older Patinkin seems based on genuine affection and respect; they love performing together and it shows.

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang

Music & Lyrics: Richard & Robert Sherman. Book: Jeremy Sams & Ray Roderick. Tim Lawson Production. Director: Roger Hodgman. Musical Director: Peter Casey. Choreographer: Dana Jolly. Lyric Theatre, QPAC. 21 November, 2013.

After playing seasons in other capital cities, the Chitty Chitty Bang Bang car finally flew into Brisbane. And what a gob-smacking arrival it was. The $1 million prop auto, which not only floated on water but flew around the stage, was the undoubted star of the show. What hope did a mere actor have when this magnificent piece of machinery took flight? It was an astounding effect. But that was the only astounding effect in this generic family musical by the Sherman Brothers.

Because of Reasons

By Rob Reid. 5pound Repertory Theatre (Vic). Director: Petra Kalive. The Owl and the Pussycat, Richmond. Until Nov 23rd, 2013.

Quality always wins over quantity for me, and so this short (45 minutes) new play by Rob Reid, about the toppling of Kevin Rudd in 2010, is completely satisfying.

It’s a brave decision by Jason Cavanagh to run a repertory season, and to offer this quality is remarkable.

When Dad Married Fury

By David Williamson. HIT Productions. The Q, Queanbeyan. 19-23 November and touring Australia.

When Dad Married Fury reimagines the classic trope of the rich man and the gold digger, complete with adult children squabbling over estate. Here again, David Williamson is exploring ideologies and their effects on everyday lives through family drama.

Carrie The Musical

By Michael Gore, Dean Pitchford and Lawrence D. Cohen. Seymour Centre, Cleveland St, Chippendale. November 13-30, 2013

At worst (or do I mean best) I could expect to walk away from the Seymour Centre with the highly collectable experience of finally seeing one of Broadway’s most notorious musical flops, Carrie – tantalizing for a musical theatre tragic.

Had Squabbalogic gone mad. Sydney’s most adventurous Indee Music Theatre company had taken on the Australian Premiere of the 1988 Broadway bomb based on the Stephen King novel / Brian de Palma movie, which gave its name to Ken Mandelbaum’s definitive book on flop musicals.

Atomic

Book & Lyrics by Danny Ginges and Gregory Bonsignore. Music & Lyrics by Philip Foxman. Dreamingful Productions . NIDA Parade Theatre, Sydney. Director: Damien Gray. 16-30 November 2013.

Ka-boom! American director Damien Gray’s theatrical depiction of the 1945 dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima is truly amazing. Its visceral charge alone makes seeking out this engrossing new adult musical worthwhile — the lighting surges confront; the explosive noises reverberate in your ears; the on-stage action slows to a horrendous, mimed devastation.

Lend Me A Tenor

By Ken Ludwig. Directed by Joe Tuppenny. The Basin Theatre Company. The Basin (Dandenong Ranges) Playing until Nov. 30th, 2013

Under the deft comic skills of director Joe Tuppenny, an excellent cast brings great vitality to Ken Ludwig’s Tony award winning play. It’s a terrific farce and director Tuppeny adds lots of clever business to the premise of an introverted opera admin assistant having to go on and perform for a drunken, drugged and presumed dead famous tenor. Add to that high energy levels from everyone, and the audience was guaranteed great entertainment.

A Chorus of Disapproval

By Alan Ayckbourn. St Jude’s Players. St Jude’s Hall, Brighton. November 14-23, 2013.

Alan Ayckbourn’s plays are known for juxtaposing human failings and strengths against each other and his hysterically funny and intricate play, A Chorus of Disapproval, has plenty of both.

This is a difficult play that requires space to perform, but St Jude’s Players’ production is handled brilliantly on a small stage by director Kym Clayton.

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