The Phantom of the Opera

By Andrew Lloyd Webber. Lyrics by Charles Hart. Book by Richard Stilgoe and Andrew Lloyd Webber. Packemin Productions. Director / Producer: Neil Gooding. Musical Director: Peter Hayward. Choreographer: Camilla Jakimowicz. Riverside Theatres, Parramatta. February 6 – 21, 2015

Lavish spectacle is just as vital to the world’s most famous and popular musical, The Phantom of the Opera, as its score, performances, etc.  So how do you compete with fresh memories of the original on a small fraction of the original Cameron Mackintosh / Really Useful budget?

Der Freischȕtz

By Carl Maria Von Weber. Melbourne Opera. Director: Suzanne Chaundy. Musical Director: David Kram. The Athenaeum Theatre Melbourne, 31 January, 5 & 14 February & Monash University’s Alexander Theatre, 13 March, 2015

I expect I was one of the few in the audience to remember the last performance of Der Freischȕtz in Melbourne in 1969. I remember it being very traditional. This was anything but.

The sets and costumes were generally in shades of grey, with colour being used to signify the magical events, particularly in the Wolf Glen scene. Much of the set was abstract with jagged shapes, and sometime shadows of people would appear. It was eerie and quite magical. The lighting and computer generated images enhanced this.

A Piece for an Odd Place and The Want

By The Stain. La Mama Courthouse, Carlton (VIC) 5 – 8 February 2015

Who are The Stain?  They are, primarily, a rock ‘n’ roll kinda punk band who also incorporate dance, puppetry, burlesque, film and theatre into their act.  And the show does indeed include all these things – and for a show that presents itself as rough around the edges, it exhibits great theatricality, musicianship and focused energy.  In its own queer way, it is very accomplished indeed.  Not quite knowing what to expect, I found myself held, provoked, excited and thoroughly entertained.  My Companion whispered in my ear, ‘I haven&r


By April de Angelis. Directed by Pamela Rabe. MTC. Southbank Theatre, Melbourne. 31st Jan-14th March, 2015

It’s hard to know where to place the blame for this deeply superficial, mildly amusing, production of a West End hit by April de Angelis. Certainly there are problems with the text, which not only doesn’t answer the audience’s questions, but seems unaware of them. Instead, awkwardly imposed shtick takes the place of subtext (one Burlesque dance is hilarious, two is excessive, and three is…well…desperate).

Dream Home

By David Williamson. Ensemble Theatre, Sydney. Director: David Williamson. 31 January – 28 March, 2015

David Williamson calls the Ensemble Theatre home. Every year there’s a new Williamson drama/comedy, sometimes more than one. Packed houses and rolling laughter invariably ensue, even when, as of late, his themes have tended towards seriousness (The Jack Manning Trilogy, Nothing Personal, Managing Carmen, etc).

The Process

A Play in Five Dubious Acts. By Ian Robinson. Director – Ian Robinson. La Mama – February 4 -15, 2015

The Process coherently shines a bright light on the outrageously inhumane way we, as a nation, are dealing with Asylum Seekers.  Perhaps it states the obvious and preaches to the converted but it is particularly accessible and has the power to galvanize.  At the very least it should prompt audiences to join Liberty Victoria who deserve much gratitude for sponsoring the play.

Johan Padan and the Discovery of the Americas

By Dario Fo, translated by Mario Pirovano. Presented by Hoy Polloy & Terra Incognita. At fortyfivedownstairs, Flinders Lane, Melbourne. 4 – 15 February 2015

At the end of his nearly two hours (with a five minute break) alone on a bare stage as the eponymous Johan Padan, Steve Gome is understandably drained and weary.  He delivers this ‘epic monologue’ in a cod Italian accent with relentless, restless, manic energy; he is almost never still.  Everything, every incident, every character in this picaresque counter version of the ‘discovery’ of the Americas by Columbus and his predatory Spaniards, must be acted out, mimed, with much falling down and jumping up.  The words are never enough.  At first this

The Credeaux Canvas

By Keith Bunin. Directed by Ross McGregor. Seymour Centre, Sydney. January 29 – February 14, 2015

The off-Broadway play The Credeaux Canvas has proved popular for small theatre producers in Sydney, having been staged just two years ago. The producer here, Les Solomon, mounted the Australian premiere 14 years ago and liked it so much he decided to bring it back (with co-producer Bryce Hallett).

Like Kenneth Lonergan’s This is Our Youth, this play is set in a Manhattan apartment and primarily concerns three young people, struggling to find their place in the world. They’re close, but willing to betray each other with little hesitation.


By Phillip A Mayer. Here There & Everywhere Theatre Company. La Mama Courthouse, Carlton (VIC). 30 & 31 January 2015

Couples, a one act ‘comedy/drama’ (as the program calls it), is set in a ‘couples’ retreat’ – a sort of health spa for dysfunctional marriages.  Four couples check in for a weekend of country air, bickering and therapy: Holly and Gary; Phoebe and Steven; Rachel and Mark; and Brittany and Karl.  Their hosts, Dr Edwin and Jessica Bialy, have a pretty rocky relationship too. 

Boston Marriage

By David Mamet. QTC. Director: Andrea Moor. Playhouse, QPAC, Brisbane, 24 Jan – 15 Feb, 2015

David Mamet’s plays are normally full of foul-language, testosterone-macho braggards, and sizzling word-play. To appease his critics Mamet did a complete switch and wrote Boston Marriage to prove he could write for women.

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