Reviews

Sondheim On Sondheim

Written by Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine. Manilla Street Productions. Directed by Chris Parker. Melbourne Recital Centre. Sat 23rd May, 2015

When you have eight of Australia’s top Musical Theatre performers, including a bona fide legend, words and lyrics by the greatest force in Musical Theatre in the past sixty years, plus a small but beautifully formed orchestra under an exquisitely sensitive Musical Director, it isn’t surprising that the result is pure bliss for any Sondheim fan. It’s also beautifully directed by Chris Parker, in his usual pursuit of excellence in all areas of the production. Oh, and that’s without the starring role, played by Sondheim The Man himself.

Evita

By Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice. Willoughby Theatre Company. The Concourse Theatre, Chatswood. May 22 – 31, 2015

Willoughby Theatre Company’s lavish Evita is top notch community musical theatre, with outstanding production values complemented by strong casting and performances, tightly-drilled choreography, a professional orchestral sound from the pit and excellent technicals.

Ned - A New Australian Musical

Music and Lyrics by Adam Lyon. Book by Anna Lyon. Book and Set Design by Marc McIntyre. Directed by Gary Young. World Premiere. Ulumbarra Theatre Bendigo. May 21 – 30, 2015.

Quite simply, this is the best completely original, entirely Australian musical ever. Read on and I will explain why.

Putting it on at a brand new theatre was ludicrously ambitious. This made the triumph in respect of entertainment, music, staging, drama and performance even sweeter.

Rhymes with Silence

Nine writers, twelve directors, twenty seven actors and five crew. Artistic Director: Joy Roberts. Producer: Glenn Groves. 107 Projects (NSW). 16 - 24 May 2015

Artists Speak Out Against Domestic Violence

This show is comprised of thirteen short plays on the subject of domestic violence by men against women. There are just six performances over four days and the venue is small, which makes this show difficult to access by a larger audience. This is a shame, as these are important issues to address in a clear and intelligent manner.

Chess

Lyrics by Tim Rice. Music by Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaeus. Manly Musical Society. Star of the Sea Theatre. May 22 – 30, 2015.

Chess was a popular pop / rock concept album, penned by Tim Rice, with Benny and Bjorn of Abba fame, which many of us loved (and probably knew by heart) prior to it becoming a stage musical. Based on Cold War diplomacy as played out across two consecutive World Chess Championships in cities on two continents, there’s a love triangle (albeit with a second act fourth corner) thrown in for good measure. It has a to-die-for score, though its stage career has been a checkered one, through various incarnations and re-writes.

Mary Poppins

Music & Lyrics: Richard M. Sherman, Robert B. Sherman, George Stiles, Anthony Drewe. Book: Julian Fellowes. Stray Cats Theatre Company. Directed by Karen Francis. Mandurah Performing Arts Centre. May 21-24, 2015

Mary Poppins is a huge show and a massive undertaking for any theatre group. Stray Cats Theatre Company attacks this production with enthusiasm and energy.

Big Maggie

By John P. Keake. Irish Theatre Players. Directed by Brian Dennison and Mary Murphy. The Irish Club, Subiaco, WA. May 20-30, 2015

Visiting the Irish Theatre Players (ITP) feels a bit like visiting an (albeit very competent) amateur theatre company in rural Ireland. ITP embrace the community aspect of community theatre. They are wonderfully friendly and beautifully atmospheric.

ITP has made Big Maggie a complete experience, creating an Irish village in the foyer and bar area, with signs in Gaelige and English and serving Irish snack food at the bar which becomes Maggie's "Siopa" (Shop) a tie-in to the play.

My Way – A Musical Tribute to Frank Sinatra

Conceived by David Grapes and Todd Olson. SUPA North. Director: Paul Belsham. Ballina RSL. May 15th – 23rd, 2015.

Making its Australian Premiere, My Way is consists of 50 songs associated with Frank Sinatra’s long and colourful career. Performed by an ensemble cast of five and a trio of musicians this was a great night’s entertainment.

Ballina RSL’s Vicki Veitch had gone to a lot of trouble to convert one of the club’s function rooms into a cosy, Black and White themed nightclub, complete with “Sinatra” drink coasters. The perfect showcase for this wonderful show.

Closure

By Ron Blicq. Direction: Gary Kliger. Centenary Theatre Group. Chelmer Community Centre, Chelmer, Brisbane. 9-30 May 2015

Canadian based English writer Ron Blicq got the idea for Closure when he heard a BBC radio documentary about men and women in the UK whose mothers had a relationship with Canadian servicemen during World War 2 and who now wanted to find their fathers to seek ‘closure.’ Blicq drew on his experience as a navigator in WW2 flying in Mosquito fighter/bombers with the Royal Canadian Air Force.

Rabbit Hole

By David Lindsay-Abaire. Javeenbah Theatre Co, Nerang, Gold Coast. Director: Barry Gibson. May 15th – 30th, 2015.

Barry Gibson presented a first class production with the drama Rabbit Hole, the story of a young couple grieving the accidental death of their four year old son.

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