Reviews

Cabaret

By John Kander, Fred Ebb and Joe Masteroff. Shire Music Theatre (NSW). May 13 – 22.

Indulge me if I write what I like best about this Cabaret first; I have seen stronger all-round productions, though this one has its genuine pleasures, particularly in the musical numbers.

The Hatpin

By James Millar and Peter Rutherford. Magnormos (Vic). Director: Shaun Kingma. Musical Director: Sophie Thomas. St Kilda, Theatreworks. May 16 – 28.

After reading the publicity I was not looking forward to Hatpin. A horror film when I was young put me off the genre, but I came away from opening night feeling uplifted at the story of a young and poor unmarried mother who had the guts to fight City Hall. Though there were horrendous moments, it was the inspirational elements that left a stronger mark.

The 39 Steps

Adapted by Patrick Barlow from the John Buchan novel and the Alfred Hitchcock Movie. Genesian Theatre Company, Sydney. Director: Tom Massey. May 14 – June 25, 2011.

Hitchcock meets vaudevillian Pythonesque, Goonish farce, with a good dash of slapstick, in this stage version of The 39 Steps.

Patrick Barlow’s stage adaptation of the John Buchan espionage thriller (as filmed by Hitchcock) steps on the accelerator, and transforms the script of the 1935 movie (which it follows closely, adding nods to other Hitchcock movies) into a quirky comedy. So, what you get isn’t a thriller, but an affectionate send-up of the genre.

Empire Burning

By Eugene Gilfedder. Co-presented by the author and Metro Arts as part of Independents programme. Sue Benner Theatre (Qld). 13-28 May 2011

This show has legs! Shakespearean in its universality, it would work equally well worldwide. It should become a study text for students (and not just drama students). Theatre directors and teachers, take note!

Disclaimer: This is not ‘a nice show for a night out’. The closer you examine it and discuss it, the more it fits today’s world. It is about us, citizens of the world.

Baal

By Bertolt Brecht, adapted by Tom Wright and Simon Stone. STC and Malthouse at Wharf 1. May 11 – June 11, 2011.

Humble Boy

By Charlotte Jones. Canberra Repertory. Theatre 3. Director: Corille Fraser. 6–21 May 2011

The decease of the Humble family's head, James, has brought together his son and widow; her suitor; and the suitor's daughter in a love–hate quadrangle that has thrived on secrecy, pretence, and hypocrisy, all of which James's death exposes in a morality play that's beautifully staged, often funny, and always truthful.

Grease

Book, Music & Lyrics: Jim Jacobs & Warren Casey. Harvest Rain Theatre Company. Playhouse, QPAC, Brisbane. Director: Naomi Price. Musical Director: Daniel Gibney. Choreographer: Callum Mansfield. May 6 – 22, 2011.

The musical Grease is one of the few musicals where the movie improved on the original stage production by adding songs by Barry Gibb and John Farrar (“Hopelessly Devoted to You”/“You’re The One That I Want”/ ”Grease”), plus “Blue Moon” and others. These additional songs are all in Harvest Rain’s latest incantation of everybody’s favorite musical of 50s high-school life, but they don’t do much for the production which is a hit and miss affair.

The Carnival – A Circus Opera

Composer/Producer: Chloe Charody. Red Bennies. Fridays during May.

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect at a “Circus Opera” and my experience with Carnival left me a bit bemused. The venue was a Prahran night club. We waited over an hour for the show to start and found there were two thirty minute halves with a forty minute interval. The venue wanted to make sure of plenty of sales.

Amadeus

By Peter Schaffer. Conservation Theatre, Brisbane. 4MBS production as part of Mostly Mozart Week. May 7 -14.

This production is passionate, masterful and damn good theatre.

Steven Grives, he of the gravel bass voice, is usually cast as the villain; it’s no surprise director Tama Matheson chose him for Salieri. From the outset Salieri confesses he thinks he may have been responsible for Mozart’s death, then spends two and a half hours persuading us why he thinks so. Along the way he engages us, wins our sympathy and emerges as the brightest star of this show.

Mary Poppins.

Based on the stories of P.L. Travers and the Walt Disney film. Original music and lyrics by Richard M Sherman and Robert B Sherman. Book by Julian Fellowes. New songs and additional music and lyrics by George Stiles and Antony Drewe. Capitol Theatre, Sydney. Opened May 5.

The biggest surprise for Stage Whispers on opening night came when Cameron Mackintosh revealed to our Editor Neil Litchfield at the after show party how he managed to snare ex-pat Australian music theatre superstar Phillip Quast to play Mr Banks.

Mackintosh and Quast met by chance in the bathroom of a top London theatrical eatery, where Quast expressed his desire to return home to Australia.

Mackintosh suggested that Quast play the role of Mr Banks in Australia, and their chance encounter has paid big dividends for Australian audiences.

To keep up with the latest news and reviews at Stage Whispers, click here to like us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter.