Reviews

Dusty – The Original Pop Diva

By John-Michael Howson, David Mitchell and Melvyn Morrow. CLOC Musical Theatre Inc. The National Theatre, St Kilda. Friday, 21 May 2010 (Until June 5)

Dusty is CLOC’s first show at The National Theatre, a venue that seats 250 more than CLOC’s old home at the Alexander Theatre, Monash Uni. Clayton. The National is great, but if you’re coming to see the show take public transport because parking around the theatre is terrible.

Rain Man

Updated and adapted for the Stage by Dan Gordon. Ensemble Theatre (NSW). Director: Sandra Bates. May 4 – July 24. (Touring to Canberra, Penrith, Belrose and Wollongong)

As iconic, quintessentially poignant American films go, they don’t really get much more significant. Tom Cruise broke through as a serious actor (albeit spasmodically) with his powerful turn as the guileful and selfish Charlie Babbit, the term ‘autistic savant’ entered the common vernacular, Australia discovered it was the home of the world’s safest airline and Dustin Hoffman waltzed off with Oscar at possibly the shortest odds ever in his career. A goofy-footed surfer on the recent wave of film-to-stage adaptations? Certainly.

Cats

By Andrew Lloyd Webber, based on ‘Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats by T.S. Eliot. Lunchbox Productions / David Atkins Enterprises. Lyric Theatre, Sydney. May 16 – June 1.

Is it really 25 years – almost half a lifetime – since I first saw Cats?

Like so many other Aussie musical theatre fans of my generation, I absorbed the original London recording for four years after the show’s West End premiere, anticipating a unique musical theatre experience.

When Cats finally arrived in 1985, with its stellar original Australian cast, performing on a rubbish tip extending into the auditorium of Sydney’s Theatre Royal, I was hooked.

Parlour Song by Jez Butterworth

B Sharp. Director: Cristabel Sved. Downstairs Belvoir. 13 May - 6 June.

Manicured gardens, lollipop trees and clean swept driveways conjure up images of cookie-cutter suburbs with more garages than you can poke a stick at and false finger-nail wearing women who pick up their kids from school in 4 Wheel Drives. It's this veneer of 'made it' and 'happy' that provides the launching pad for subtextual exploration of the three characters in Parlour Song.

The Magic Pudding.

Adapted from the Norman Lindsay classic for the stage by Andrew James, with music by Sarah de Jong. Directed by Margie McCrae. World Premiere. Marian Street Theatre for Young People Sydney. May 15 to July 17.

The biggest challenge posed by bringing The Magic Pudding to the stage is what to do with the star of the show? Having a person play an inexhaustible bowl of pudding would be hard to swallow. In this regard the Marian Street Theatre for Young People production was a triumph. Albert - as the Magic Pudding is known - was a puppet, both beautifully crafted by the Sydney Puppet Theatre and superbly manipulated by his master pulling the strings, Tristan McKinnon.

84 Charing Cross Road

by James Rosse-Evans (based on the novel by Helene Hanff). Kyneton Theatre Company. April / May 2010.

I was delighted to attend the last night of Kyneton Theatre Company’s production of 84 Charing Cross Road. The whole experience was a pleasure from being welcomed by smartly attired front of house staff and offered a sherry to partaking in a light supper whilst hearing the company’s President make a short address. This offering has deservedly been playing to almost full houses.

The Elixir of Love by Gaetano Donizetti

Opera Queensland. Lyric Theatre, QPAC. May 15 – 29. Conductor: Graham Abbott. Original Director: Simon Phillips. Revival Director: Christopher Dawes.

Operas that are reconceived and updated don’t always work, but Simon Phillips’ take on The Elixir of Love is a joy from start to finish. Originally mounted at the State Theatre of the Victorian Arts Centre in 2001, it sets Donizetti’s tale of a love-sick peasant who buys a love potion to win the heart of the girl he loves in the Australian bush at the start of World War 1.

Show Stoppers

Luckiest Productions and Neil Gooding Productions. Parramatta Riverside Theatres. May 2, 23 & 29.

Three terrific musical theatre talents sing the best-known showtunes from some of the most popular musicals in recent memory, rousingly accompanied by a piano, percussion and bass trio.

That’s the formula for Show Stoppers, a show developed for club and regional performance, playing several of dates at Parramatta Riverside Theatres prior to hitting the road.

It’s a repertoire of safe commercial choices, fabulously sung, and aimed directly at pleasing its target audience.

Dumped! The Musical We’ve All Been Through by Emma Powell.

Twelfth Night Theatre, Brisbane (Qld). May 6 to June 12, 2010. World Premiere. Director: Terrence O’Connell.

Menopause The Musical has a lot to answer for, some of it good – some of it bad. But what it has done is pave the way for a series of similarly themed shows to make their way on to the Australian stage - albeit masquerading as legitimate musicals. It has also made it possible for a lot of first time ticket buyers to access an appealing, uplifting, live theatre experience.

Songs For a New World

Music & Lyrics: Jason Robert Brown. Harvest Rain Theatre Company. May 13 to 20. Judith Wright Centre, Brisbane. Director/Producer: Tim O’Connor. Music & Vocal Director: Maitlohn Drew

Musical theatre requires good voices, and there’s no shortage of them in Harvest Rain’s Songs for a New World. Four of Brisbane’s top singers, Luke Kennedy, Naomi Price, Angela Harding and Luke Venables, together with a vocal ensemble of 12, bring Jason Robert Brown’s contemporary music theatre song cycle to life.

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