Reviews

The Detective’s Handbook

Book and Lyrics by Ian Ferrington. Music by Olga Solar. New Musicals Australia / Hayes Theatre Co. Directed by Jonathan Biggins. April 21 – May 7, 2016

There is a new voice in Australian musical theatre – and like the Broadway sensation Hamilton, it is set to the rhythm of rap, but with a jazz music score.

One theatre veteran in the foyer described it as the best lyrics to a new locally written work in decades. Here is a taste.

"We went to arrest him, carefully planned it,

caught him red-handed - his confession was candid

but when the man took the stand he recanted,

You understand what duty demanded:

The Nance

By Douglas Carter Beane. Directed by Chris Baldock. Williamstown Little Theatre (Vic). April 21 – May 7, 2016

The world of Burlesque and the thirties is all but dead and buried, and so Beane’s play, The Nance, is as much a historical document as a dramatic work (with a bit of musical thrown in). For people of my age, it brings back memories of our youth (even though we were part of the first re-telling of the history, and not around in the thirties themselves). For the young, it is a quaint history lesson of an era that is rarely covered even on Screen (The Night They Raided Minsky’s) or stage (Gypsy, Little Me).

Oliver!

Book, Music and Lyrics by Lionel Bart. Based on the book Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens. Wyong Musical Theatre Company. The Art House, Wyong. April 27- May 1, 2016.

It's here! It was 12 years in the planning (and re-planning and rescheduling) but it's here! Wyong Shire has her very own multi-purpose performance arts space. Pulling up in front of the former Memorial Hall site now feels totally surreal. With it's streamlined, glass visage, through to the spacious foyer, very high ceilings and the 500 seat theatre (with balcony seating!) you could be forgiven for mumbling to yourself “Toto, I've a feeling we're not in Wyong anymore”.

The Cherry Orchard

By Anton Chekhov, adapted by David Mamet. New Theatre (NSW). April 26 – May 28, 2016.

This is a competent, often engaging production of Chekhov’s famous 1904 classic about people lost in social transition.  Today we arguably face even more upheavals but, despite Jonathan Hindmarsh’s modern costuming, such a contemporary take on Chekhov is not explored here. 

F**king Parasites

By Ninna Tersmann. La Mama Theatre, Carlton (VIC). 27 April – 8 May 2016

Ninna Tersmann began working on her play about asylum seekers in Sweden ten years ago.  She interviewed refugees and asylum speakers with traumatic experiences whose stories were nevertheless not believed.  She interviewed frustrated lawyers, police officers, doctors, nurses, interpreters and politicians.  Ten years ago, she says in a program note, the situation was already difficult. 

They Saw a Thylacine

By HUMAN ANIMAL EXCHANGE. Created and Performed by Justine Campbell and Sarah Hamilton. A Performing Lines / HUMAN ANIMAL EXCHANGE co-production. The Q – Queanbeyan Performing Arts Centre 27-28 April and touring nationally.

They Saw a Thylacine premiered in 2013 at the Melbourne Fringe Festival (winning the Tour Ready and Best Performance awards and many others), and last year had a season at the Malthouse Theatre. Most critics raved, and with good reason; it’s so superbly crafted. Central to success of the production is the tone of the main characters (and one or two notable minor ones). Justine Campbell and Sarah Hamilton each wrote their own parts, creating and performing distinct and different voices.

Next to Normal

By Tom Kitt and Brian Yorkey. Phoenix Ensemble. Pavilion Theatre, Beenleigh. April 22 – May 14, 2016

When a theatre company that calls a small tin shed home says they are going to be performing a musical like Next to Normal, you wonder what secrets they have hidden up their sleeves. Phoenix Ensemble definitely pulled out some of their best work to make this production happen.

The themes of the show, especially mental illness, aren't often discussed on the musical theatre stage, so all credit to director David Harrison for proposing the show and making it so accessible.

Legally Blonde

Music & Lyrics: Laurence O’Keefe & Nell Benjamin. Book: Heather Hatch based on the novel by Amanda Brown and the MGM movie. Director: Morgan Dowsett. Musical Director: Julie Whiting. Choreographer: George Canham. Empire Theatres Production @ Empire Theatre, Toowoomba. 15-26 April 2016

One thing that can always be assured, Empire Theatre’s annual musical will be put together with a high degree of professionalism and this year’s production of Legally Blonde was no exception. From the original design work of Grant Lehmann, the assured direction of Morgan Dowsett, to the top notch cast who worked their butts off, the show about sorority sweetheart Elle Woods and her rise to glory at Harvard Law was musical theatre at the top of the community level scale.

tick, tick...BOOM!

Written by Jonathan Larson. Revised book by David Auburn. Pursued By Bear Productions. Directed by Paul Watson. Chapel off Chapel. April 21 - May 1, 2016.

I couldn’t make it to Opening Night and I was a little worried that the magic of an opening may have dissipated in two nights, with the energy and passion in recovery mode. I really do worry too much about things that never happen.

Jack Gow's Everybody's Doing it! Dying That Is...

Sydney Comedy Festival. The Loft, Enmore Theatre. April 21 – 24, 2016

In great comedy tradition, a few observations could not be overlooked when approaching this review. If Jack Gow is indeed "One of the finest emerging comedians in the country" why then stick him in the cramped, David Lynchian confines of The Loft?

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