Reviews

Measure for Measure

By William Shakespeare. Cheek by Jowl / Pushkin Theatre (Russia). Sydney Festival. January 7 – 11, 2017

“It was good but I don’t know what it was about,” concluded the theatre enthusiast beside me. He’d never seen Measure for Measure, let alone in Russian.

It’s a rigorous, bracing production from Moscow’s Pushkin Theatre, with director Declan Donnellan and designer Nick Ormerod from Britain’s famed Cheek by Jowl – a star offering of the Sydney Festival.  But, yes, you need to know the play.

Swing On This

With Michael Falzon, Ben Mingay, Luke Kennedy, Rob Mills. Direction & Choreography: Chris Horsey. Music Direction: Craig Schnieder. QPAC, Good Egg Creative & Asia Theatricals. Concert Hall, QPAC, Brisbane. 7 January 2017

What a great start to 2017 this show was – a quartet of Australia’s leading-men, an 18-piece big band, and songs that mined the Sinatra/Buble songbook – it was a perfect mix. The four guys, Ben Mingay (Wonderland/House of Bond), Luke Kennedy (The Voice/The Ten Tenors), Michael Falzon (We Will Rock You/Rock of Ages), and Rob Mills (Wicked/Grease), were sensational, delivering one of the most polished vocals acts we’ve seen in recent times.

Biographica

Composed by Mary Finsterer, with a libretto by Tom Wright. Sydney Festival. Sydney Chamber Opera in association with Ensemble Offspring. Carriageworks. Jan 7 – 13, 2017.

The Sydney Festival kicks off premiering this rousing local chamber opera from composer Mary Finsterer and librettist Tom Wright.  Through a dozen episodic scenes, we glimpse key moments in the life and genius of the Italian astronomer, mathematician, doctor and general Renaissance polymath, Gerolamo Cardano.  

In a speaking role, Mitchell Butel captures his abrasive capacity to speak on all matters – and the  interconnectedness of all systems – but Cardano has less luck connecting with his own domestic life.  

The Wind In The Willows

Adapted by Glen Elston from the novel by Kenneth Grahame. Directed by Otis Elston, Musical Director Robert Jackson. The Australian Shakespeare Company. The Royal Botanic Gardens, Melbourne (Gate F off Birdwood Avenue). 6 – 28 January 2017.

A sell-out crowd of parents and small children wait in the twilight on a lawn sloping down to a small lake in Melbourne’s beautiful Botanic Gardens.  We’re waiting for what has become – after 30 years – practically Melbourne’s Christmas panto: The Wind In The Willows – performed by very hard-working and, as they let us know, underpaid actors.  The first is Head Chief Rabbit (Chris Southall) in white tails and floppy ears.  Right off the bat, he sings and enlists the audience to be rabbits (‘wiggle your ears, twitch your nose,

Ladies in Black

Book by Carolyn Burns. Music and Lyrics by Tim Finn. Queensland Theatre / Sydney Theatre. Directed by Simon Phillips. Sydney Lyric Theatre, Jan 3 – 22, 2017; Playhouse – QPAC, Brisbane, Jan 28 – Feb 19; Regent Theatre, Melbourne, Feb 25 – Mar 18; Canberra Theatre Centre, Mar 27 – Apr 2.

This quintessential Sydney story – adapted entirely by New Zealand born creatives – wrapped the audience in a familiar and cosy blanket of recognition. The production has been previously staged in Brisbane and Melbourne where references to Sydney suburbs did not elicit the giggles of recognition achieved in their hometown.

At the heart of the story is a young girl, aged 17 who wants, not to find the man of her dreams, but advance her education. In the 1950’s completing the Leaving Certificate (HSC) was the exception rather than the rule.

Circus 1903

Presented by Simon Painter, Tim Lawson and the Works Entertainment. Melbourne’s Regent Theatre. 3 – 14 January, 2017 - 3pm and 7pm every day

Circus 1903 is a marvelous holiday treat that is full of exceptional circus feats from exemplary artists from around the world.  It is certainly a great show to bring the whole family together, from little kids to Grannie and Grandpa, for some uplifting and engrossing entertainment.

Dusty The Musical

Songs recorded by Dusty Springfield, book by John-Michael Howson, David Mitchell and Melvyn Morrow. The Production Company. Adelaide Festival Theatre. 31 December- 22 January 2017

After the sadness of recent 2016 events, it was sheer joy to attend the opening night of Dusty, The Musical. This new reincarnation of the 2006 show, starring Amy Lehpamer, is vibrant, sassy and swinging. A wonderful way to usher in the New Year!

Lehpamer inhabits Dusty Springfield - every move, gesture, note and swish of amazingly bouffant wig, brings back this amazing lady. She is a multi-talented performer; mimicking Springfield’s physicality to perfection and with a belting, resonant sound that brings shivers.

Wicked

Music and Lyrics by Stephen Schwartz. Book by Winnie Holzman. PLOS. Directed by Danny Ginsberg. Frankston Arts Centre. December 31, 2016 until January 7, 2017

There can’t be anyone who doesn’t know Wicked’s story of the alternate view of Oz and the two witches at its centre, or who hasn’t heard at least one of Stephen Schwartz’s great show tunes. So it takes a special company to make the musical fresh and full of surprises.

Fawlty Towers – Live

By John Cleese & Connie Booth.Stage Adaptation: John Cleese. Director: Caroline Jay Ranger. Michael Coppel, Phil McIntyre, Louise Withers production. Playhouse, QPAC, Brisbane. December 28, 2016 to January 22,

Putting TV comedy series on stage is fraught with danger and in the case of the iconic Fawlty Towers even more so. In this world premiere production John Cleese, wearing his writer’s hat, has cobbled together the scripts from three of his favourite episodes, The Germans, The Hotel Inspectors and Communication Problems, to create a typical West End farce.

The Spirit of Christmas

With David Harris, Amanda Harrison, Queensland Symphony Orchestra, conductor Simon Kenway, QPAC Choir, Brisbane Chorale, Resonance of Biralee, Brisbane Biralee Voices. Director: Sean Mee. Concert Hall, QPAC, Brisbane. 23-24 December 2016

I doubt the Queensland Symphony Orchestra have had as much fun letting their hair down since Queensland Ballet’s Strictly Gershwin earlier in the year.With maestro Simon Kenway waving the baton, they raced through this annual pot-pourri of Christmas songs, carols and religious works with musical flair and enthusiastic abandon.

 

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