Reviews

The Wedding Singer

Music by Matthew Sklar, lyrics by Chad Beguelin, and a book by Beguelin and Tim Herlihy. Engadine Musical Society. October 17 – 26, 2014.

One of the surprise treats on Sydney’s Community Theatre circuit in 2014 must be Engadine’s feel-good production of The Wedding Singer.

Based on the 1988 movie of the same name, The Wedding Singer is an unpretentious little musical, with an 80s pop style score, which creeps up on you and charms. While it only had a modestly respectable Broadway run in 2006, it’s a terrific choice for a company with young talent to burn like Engadine.

Happy People in Concert

Music, Lyrics and Book by Matthew Lee Robinson. Directed by Chris Parker. Chapel off Chapel (Vic). October 18 & 19, 2014.

It’s probable that New York City will see a full production of Happy People before Australia does, but for those of us lucky to have seen the concert version, we can at least gloat a little that the fabulous composer/lyricist/librettist and his superb cast are Australian.

Jesus Christ Superstar

By Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice. Willoughby Theatre Company. The Concourse Theatre, Chatswood. October 15 – 26, 2014.

The original rock opera has been freshened up with a striking visual makeover at Willoughby Theatre Company. Somehow the synthesis of Steam Punk costuming elements, the modern industrial look of Megadeck scaffold sets, and gothic influences in architecture, costuming and make-up, blend, ultimately turning possible contradictions into synergies, for a Jesus Christ Superstar in a contemporary alternate sub-culture. Throwing some spectacular contemporary rock theatrical lighting into the mix completes an exciting stage picture.

Since I Suppose

Commissioned & Produced by Chicago Shakespeare Theater & Richard Jordon Productions. Created by one step at a time like this / Suzanne Kersten, Clair Korobacz, Paul Moir, Julian Rickert. Project Manager Kara Ward. Developed by Arts House CultureLAB. 15 –26 October, 2014

Since I Suppose is quite some journey - a solid two and a half hours roam around Melbourne starting at the top end and being ejected as interlopers in the North.  It is exciting but daunting at first - being presented with the earphones and mini screen and sent out onto the streets.   It is great to have a companion for the passage.

Hipbone Sticking Out

Written with and for the Roebourne community & directed by Scott Rankin. Big hART production at Melbourne Festival. Arts Centre Melbourne, Playhouse. 17 – 21 October 2014

Much of the time, Hipbone Sticking Out has a good natured, mocking, teasing surface, but there’s great anger underneath.  It is the biggest, most ambitious and no doubt biggest budget production from Big hART to date.  Devised by the indigenous community of Roebourne (all named in the program), it is a sprawling, rambling epic narrative, funny, satirical, poignant and angry. 

The Mesh

By Elise Hearst. Directed by Paige Rattray. Red Stitch (Vic). October 17 - November 8, 2014.

I have profound respect and admiration for Red Stitch, and frequently indulge in superlatives for their productions. However, when a company claims a play is “a haunting and timely allegory filled with dancing, original songs and a rich musical score” it needs to be true – and unfortunately it isn’t – at least not for me and a large number of the audience around me.

Broadway Bound

Edgewise Productions. Sound Lounge, Seymour Centre. October 1 & 2, 2014

A cabaret style contemporary musical theatre showcase, featuring up-and-coming 18 - 25 year old musical theatre performers and writers, Broadway Bound featured contemporary musical theatre songs, including new work from local musical theatre writers.

An exciting initiative, the brainchild of young producer Anna Colless, Broadway Bound was presented for two nights at the Sound Lounge of Sydney’s Seymour Centre, with the support of the University of Sydney Union. The vision is that it will become an annual event.

Werther

by Jules Massenet. Lyric Opera of Melbourne. Director: Suzanne Chaundy. Conductor: Pat Miller. Chapel off Chapel. October 18 – 26, 2014.

Werther is a rarely performed opera, the usual fare for this company. As in previous productions, we got an innovative production with a minimalistic set. The main stage was built up to allow the orchestra to play on the front part of the stage area below the singers. Various pieces of furniture were brought on for different scenes.

It was set in the present, with Charlotte reading Werther’s letter on her iPad and Sophie taking selfies on her phone.

The Trouble With Harry

By Lachlan Philpott. MKA; Theatre of New Writing and Darebin Arts Speakeasy in Association with Melbourne Festival. October 18 – November 9, 2014.

MKA’s rise in the Melbourne Theatre scene has been meteoric.  Over the period of the past three or so years they have produced much interesting, stimulating and refreshing theatre.  This is no exception and a fine achievement.

The Trouble with Harry explores the scandalous subject matter surrounding the transgender life of Eugenia Falleni,who lived as Harry Crawford. Her story was brought to the public eye through a salacious murder case in 1920.

Angel Gear

By Sven Swenson. La Boite and Pentimento Productions, with the support of QPAC. Roundhouse Theatre. 14 October – 8 November 2014

You need physical and moral fortitude to survive this show. It plays 2.5 hours (including a 20 minute interval).

Those who know any of Swenson’s earlier plays will appreciate his edgy style. This family of nine is clearly dysfunctional. They have no respect or support for each other in their amoral lifestyle. I’d describe the first act as a family drama and certainly the final half hour as a thriller. I suspect those of you who endure the final 30 minutes will come away feeling emotionally wrung out!

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