Reviews

The Last Five Years

By Jason Robert Brown. Ignatians Musical Society. Cremorne Theatre, QPAC, Brisbane. June 20 – 23, 2012.

The Last Five Years has heart, hurt, humour, and raw emotions.  It engages anyone who has ever been in love and suffered the euphoria and heartbreak associated with that.

The stars of this production are the cast (Bethan Ellsmore – Cathy, and Tim Dashwood – Jamie) as well as the instrumental combo of seven under MD Ben Murray. This group doesn’t so much accompany the songs as become integral to most of them. So, we should include Jason Robert Brown who wrote the concept, songs and music, as another star.

Eurobeat – Almost Eurovision

By Craig Christie and Andrew Patterson. The Hills Musical Society (NSW). Don Moore Community Centre. June 15 – 23, 2012.

So effectively self-satirizing is the often-dreadful Eurovision song contest, that further send-up seems almost redundant. In writing this parody musical, the Australian creators had to come up with a score full of clichéd, deliberately bad songs, and intentionally cringe-worthy, often sleazy or risqué, banter for the comperes, then make it work for an audience. With no conventional narrative, it’s more like a vaudeville or variety show than a musical in any conventional sense.

Pippin

Book by Roger O Hirson. Music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz. Miranda Musical Society. Sutherland Memorial School of Arts. June 15 – 24, 2012.

Pippin tends to polarize music theatre lovers. I’m an unashamed fan.

Miranda Musical Society’s production, which serves the Stephen Schwartz (Godspell, Wicked) 70s soft rock musical very well, should ensure some new fans.

Reveling in the sultry, grotesque vaudeville carnival theatricality of Gavin Leahy’s interpretation, the well-balanced ensemble create delightful individualities, blending organically into a quirky unity. It’s a splendid production.

Cabaret Whore

Written and performed by Sarah Louise Young. SLIDE (Darlinghurst, NSW). June 17, 2012.

Cabaret Whore is a tableau of five female cabaret performers, each a diva in her own right. Sarah Louise Young is a versatile and inventive stage presence. She simultaneously relaxes her audience and effortlessly draws them in to the seamlessly executed worlds of her characters.

Every new costume change exploits a different stereotype with quick wit, double entendre and unique motivations. 

By creating layered back-stories and hardships for each, the almost-real one woman ensemble makes for riveting entertainment. 

How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying

By Frank Loesser, Abe Burrows, Jack Weinstock and Willie Gilbert. MDMS (Vic). Director: Richard Perdriau. Karralyka Theatre Theatre, Ringwood. June 15 – 23, 2012.

When How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying opened on Broadway in 1961, it won a Tony Award for its starRobert Morse as well as 6 others. With a score by Frank Loesser, and a book by Abe Burrows, Jack Weinstock and Willie Gilbert, (the best known satirists of their time) this tribute to the post-war 1950s (based on the 1952 book by Shepherd Mead) about a window-cleaner – J Pierrepont Finch - who rises from window cleaner to head of the company with few skills but lots of ingenuity –  is like TV’s Mad Men with singing.

Romeo and Juliet

By William Shakespeare. Pavilion Theatre Castle Hill (NSW). Director: Peter Rhodes. Set design and art: Peter Rhodes. Lighting Design: Sean Churchward. Fight Trainer: Karin Kennedy. June 1 – 23.

The curtain opens to reveal two poster-strewn, red brick walls and an alley way. One wall proclaims “Montague” in huge, blue graffiti-style letters; the other, “Capulet” in stark orange. There are four silver beer kegs, some scaffolding and dimly shining street lights. It’s simple, but striking and sets the perfect mood for this fast moving, contemporary production of Shakespeare’s best known, and probably most performed play.

Witches of Eastwick

By John Dempsey and Dana Rowe. MLOC Productions. Phoenix Theatre, Elwood (Vic). Director: Jane Court. Musical Director: Martine Wengrow. Choreographer: Merilyn Young. Lighting Design/Operation: Michael Richardson, Jacinta Lyne. 15th – 23rd June, 2012.

MLOC’s production of The Witches of Eastwick opened last night to an enthusiastic audience of family and friends. While the cast appeared flat in Act 1, they made up for it after interval with vigorous chorus action.

Next to Normal

By Tom Kitt and Brian Yorkey. Fab Nobs Theatre Co. The Fab Factory Theatre, Bayswater (Vic). 15th-30th June, 2012.

Sometimes a production comes along that is so life-changing, so inspiring and touching, so perfect in every way, that you find yourself reaching for new adjectives, new superlatives to describe it.

Lucy and the Lost Boy

Directed and devised by Sally Richardson. National Institute of Circus Arts (VIC). NICA National Circus Centre, Prahran. 13 – 23 June, 2012.

If you ever imagined running away from home to join the circus as a kid, there is now no need for such measures. In fact, you can stay put and gain a university degree in circus arts, right here in Melbourne at the National Institute of Circus Arts. Although, it is not a fancy you can simply take-up on leaving school, as the stunning feats put-on-show in this performance by the institute’s final year students, would surely call for some significant training as a youngster.

Great Expectations

By Charles Dickens, adapted by Roger Gimblett. Genesian Theatre, Sydney. May 26 – June 30, 2012.

To adapt the 480 pages of Great Expectations to a three hour play is no mean feat. To direct that adaptation on the small Genesian theatre stage is just as ambitious. Yet Roger Gimblett has done both, very successfully.  His production is a fitting celebration of Dickens’ birth 200 years ago.

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