Reviews

La fanciulla del West

By Giacomo Puccini et al – based on the play The Girl of the Golden West by David Belasco. Opera Australia. Opera Theatre, Sydney Opera House, Sydney. Until August 6.

What was part of the theme from Music of the Night, from The Phantom of Opera, doing in the middle of a Puccini opera? It was one of a number of unexpected surprises which I enjoyed in this production. Apparently the estate of Puccini noticed the similarity too, and filed a suit against Andrew Lloyd Webber, which was settled out of court.

Class of 77

Boroondara Theatre Company in association with Camberwell Youth Theatre. Kew Renaissance Theatre (VIC). July 23 - 31.

David Hines’ Class of 77 is a new Australian musical that introduces us to a class of high school students graduating in the late 1970s, and then transports us to their fifteen-year reunion in 1992. “The world of 1992 Australia is very different to what existed in 1977 and through the script and music we see just how different.”

I Love You, Bro by Adam J A Cass

La Boite. Roundhouse Theatre. (Qld.) July 17 - August 8

What a triumph of storytelling! One young actor creating individual voices for eight characters to convey a real-life intrigue. While the actor must bring it off, the success of the piece is a tribute to playwright Adam Cass. He took evidence from the 2003 attempted assassination case and re-created it from the point of view of fourteen-year-old Johnny, who explains for us not only what he did but how he reacted personally to each stage of his complex deception.

Salonika Bound by Tom Petsinis

Directed by David Myles. La Mama Courthouse, Melbourne until 8 August

Much of the power of great writing for the theatre comes from the juxtaposition of what is and what is not said – often associated with the vastly under-rated and consistently under-utilised skills of the Dramaturg. In Mr Petsinis’s case, there is an utterly compelling case for him to forge such a relationship because while his latest play Salonika Bound has flashes of brilliance, it is also constantly undermined by verbosity, repetition and simply too much tedious exposition.

Superheroes

Stone/Castro and INspace - Space Theatre (S.A.)

If you’ve ever picked up a cryptic crossword with the intention of nutting it out and enjoying the challenge only to put it aside after a few minutes because it’s just too cryptic – then you will have no trouble understanding why Stone and Castro describe their latest production, Superheroes as a “surreal exploration”.

Same Time, Next Year by Bernard Slade

Cairns Little Theatre (Qld). Director: Wayne Rees

Cairns Little Theatre’s production of the romantic comedy Same Time, Next Year was brilliantly handled by director Wayne Rees and his cast. Set in a hotel room in California, the play tracks the twenty-five year illicit relationship between George and Doris, who are married to other people. As stuffy George, Wayne Hogan was brilliant. Hogan’s timing, facial expressions and body language extracted the best from a well-written script.

Back to the 80’s

By Neil Gooding. Sydney Youth Theatre Company. Hornsby RSL. July 16 to 24.

Neil Gooding’s jukebox musical Back to the 80’s is poised to become the most widely performed Australian written musical or play of all time. Each year more than 200 schools and amateur theatres now stage the show in countries all over the world. More on the success of the show and the spin-offs later.

Alice the Musical

Adapted by Vernon Mound from Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland. Eltham Little Theatre. Directors: Gayle Poor & Lois Fleming. Chorographer: Lois Fleming. July 9 – 18.

ELT’s annual children’s production Alice the Musical was an amazing evening, enhanced by the amazing costuming and make up, equal to many professional shows seen around Melbourne.

[title of show] by Jeff Bowen and Hunter Bell

Squabbalogic. Seymour Centre, Sydney. July 16 to August 7. RETUN SEASON - May 24 - 29, 2011. Sidetrack Theatre, Marrickville.

Gentle, often quirky musical theatre fun is the order of the night at Sydney’s Seymour Centre in [title of show], a new intimate musical.

[title of show] is an original musical that tells the true story of two guys writing a musical, in three weeks, for entry into the New York Musical Theatre Festival, aided by their two actress friends Susan and Heidi. Extended to reflect the journey following that original Festival version, the extended show now features the subsequent Off-Broadway and eventual Broadway journeys of this delightful little musical.

The King and I. Music by Richard Rodgers. Book and Lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II.

The Production Company, State Theatre, Victorian Arts Centre, Melbourne, until July 25.

Truly great musicals – of which Rodgers and Hammerstein’s The King and I must be close to the most perfect example – set every creative team who takes them on an unenviable set of obstacles. The first one is the audience’s experience of the show that has gone before. (One of mine was a disastrous performance in London’s West End when, suffering from laryngitis, Susan Hampshire – who was playing Mrs Anna – had a go at I whistle a happy tune, and then they just cut the rest of her songs. It was, as you might imagine, appalling.

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