Reviews

The Wizard of Oz

La Boite, The Danger Ensemble & Brisbane Festival. Roundhouse Theatre. September 7 – 28, 2013.

This is an extravaganza for the mind: bizarre, psychedelic, hallucinatory – but visually entertaining nonetheless. La Boite’s catch-cry for 2013 was ‘We’re Not in Kansas Any More.’ That’s significant.

According to literary analysts, L. Frank Baum’s original, on which all derivatives since have been based, was rich in symbolism for the state of 1890s America. This ensemble-developed-version for 21st century Australia captures our own parallels:

 

Paris Underground

Red Bennies, South Yarra. 6 September – 27 October 2014

The promotional materials say the show will have magic, circus, burlesque, cabaret and dance – a heady mix and all of this was delivered. The performers, Julia Madotti, Richard Vegas, Nick Simpson Deeks, Eden Read, Hannah Trott, Betty Blood and Pippy Scream, Zelia Rose and guest Mimi La Noir all demonstrated high level skills.

East of Berlin

By Hannah Moscovitch. Bakehouse Theatre Company. Directed by Peter Green. Bakehouse Theatre, Adelaide. September 7 – 21, 2013.

If you were a child of a Nazi war criminal, how would you navigate through your life? Would it be possible to move on from the knowledge of the terrible crimes committed by your parents? Could you really love them, knowing what they did and believed in?  

In East of Berlin, BakehouseTheatre Company has undertaken the production of a confronting yet compelling story.  

The Glass Menagerie

By Tennessee Williams. Gold Coast Little Theatre, Southport (Qld). Director: Noella Johnson. September 7th – 28th, 2013.

The Glass Menagerie is a classic from the pen of American playwright Tennessee Williams.

Set in St Louis in the ‘30s the play is said to be reminiscent of Williams own upbringing.

A small cast of four worked hard to create the dysfunctional family and the Gentleman Caller with a minimalistic set with sombre overtones.

Lifeforce

The Mother of All Musicals - By Joanna Weinberg. Directed by Lisa Freshwater. King Street Theatre, Newtown. September 6 – 21, 2013

At first blush the journey of a 40 year old woman through the highs and lows of fertility treatment  might seem an unlikely subject for a musical.

Yet from this real life drama has emerged one of the brightest new Australian musicals for years, with many a song  seamlessly blending words, music and emotion.

Natalie Lotkin plays the leading lady Ruth, a 40-year-old magazine editor who decides to have a child on her own.

Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson

Music and lyrics by Michael Friedman. Book by Alex Timbers. Squabbalogic. The Factory Floor, Marrickville (NSW). Director: Craig Stewart. Musical Director: Mark Chamberlain. Choreographer: Monique Sallé. August 14 – September 1, 2013.

Raucous rock musical Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson celebrates the controversial seventh US president in entertaining style, and in very contemporary vernacular. The raw modern language and driving rock music give the renegade populist politician of 200 years ago a voice of today.

An off-Broadway success in 2009, the show had a short-lived Broadway transfer.

When Time Stops

Natalie Weir / Ian Grandage. Expressions Dance Company with Camerata of St John's. QPAC in association with Brisbane Festival. Playhouse, QPAC. 6-14 September 2013

The greatest triumph of this new work is Iain Grandage’s music, a 70 minute composition for strings played impeccably by the Camerata of St John’s. Contributing to that was Natalie Weir’s concept to choreograph the musicians into the ballet itself. They emerge and disappear as solos, groups or as all twelve players according to Grandage’s demands for each of 14 short scenes that flow together to represent life events that flash past in the final moments of a woman’s life.

Return to Earth

By Lally Katz. ARTHUR and Griffin Independent. SBW Stables Theatre, Kings Cross. September 4 – 28, 2013

Neither an article in the Sydney Morning Herald, nor the playwright’s note in the program really prepares one for this play, so it’s probably better to go unprepared - and let the play unsettle and confuse you, just as the protagonist, Alice (or is it Erica?) is unsettled and confused.

Kiss of The Spider Woman

Written by Manuel Puig. Translated by Allan Baker. Directed by Chris Baldock. Mockingbird Theatre. The Owl and the Pussycat (Richmond, Vic). Sept 6 – 15, 2013.

No matter how much you talk about the William Hurt – Raul Julia movie; or the somewhat bizarre re-imagining as a musical; or the political climate in Argentina in the 50s, Manuel Puig’s delicate play, from his own novel, is essentially a poignant love story.

Downtown! The Mod Musical

Created by Phillip George, David Lowenstein and Peter Charles Morris. St George Theatre Company (NSW). Hurstville Entertainment Centre. September 5 – 7, 2013.

St George Theatre Company's Downtown! is a slick, vibrant production. Highly entertaining.

Set in England during the swinging 60s, Downtown! is not so much a jukebox musical as it is a revusical (remember those?) using pop hits of the era. This may bother those who aren't familiar with the revue format and prefer strong narrative with loads of subtext. With the songs of Dusty Springfield, Petula Clark, plus a bit of Nancy Sinatra, Lulu, and others, the audience is taken on a fast-paced, brightly coloured tour of the social mores of the time.

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