Reviews

Wicked

Music & Lyrics: Stephen Schwartz. Book: Winnie Holzman. Based on the novel by Gregory Maguire. Director: Madeleine Johns. Musical Director: Sherree Drummond. Redcliffe Musical Theatre. Redcliffe Cultural Centre. 29 July – 14 August, 2016.

As the Wicked community theatre juggernaut rolls out around the country Redcliffe Musical Theatre’s Queensland premiere deserves a place near the top. Madeleine Johns’ production brought all the excitement of the original including the flying, a glittering and functional set, lavish costumes, and a clear vision of the story. Wicked groupies could not have been happier.

 

Changes

Conceptualised by Kendall-Jane Rundle and Jeff Wortman. Directed by Kendall- Jane Rundle. Musial Direction by Jeff Wortman. Live music by Robot Child. Lighting design by Bryn Cullen and Rob Sowinski. Stage Management by Michael Wilson. Sound by LSS Productions. Gasworks Arts Park Theatre. July 27 – August 6, 2016

This presentation was conceived as a theatrical tribute to the music of David Bowie. The musical excellence of the band, Robot Child, anchored the more than 2 hour long performance. The characteristic soaring, insistent riffs were very competently delivered.  Two singers, Kendall-Jane Rundle and Jeff Wortman sang the majority of the songs. David Bowie’s voice was distinctive with a 3.5 octave range. Singing his songs presents a challenge.

On Golden Pond

By Ernest Thompson. Castle Hill Players. The Pavilion Theatre, Castle Hill. July 29 – Aug 20, 2016.

On Golden Pond was first performed in New York in 1979 and consequently adapted into a screenplay in 1981 starring Henry Fonda and Katherine Hepburn. The play has since been produced in 40 countries. In 2005 Ernest Thompson revised it and it was produced on Broadway with a full African American cast.

The reason for its lasting appeal is that it is a gentle play about ageing and family. It’s about a relationship that has lasted for 48 years, a relationship that needs a little mending and a new relationship that adds a missing spark.

The Chat

By J R Brennan & David Woods; concept J R Brennan; collaborator Ashley Dyer. Arts House, North Melbourne. 27 – 31 July 2016.

This is a show that questions the nature of ‘justice’ and the responsibility of a society (us never-been-arrested-never-been-charged folks) that leaves it up to the ‘justice system’ to administer it – not so well.  There are eight performers – Nick Apostilidis, Arthur Bolkas, Ty Luke, Nick Maltzahn, John Tjepkema, J R Brennan, Ashley Dyer and David Woods.  Some of them are ex-crims, big blokes who look like they’ve been around the block, but one wears a dog collar and is covered in tattoos, while another wears floral trousers and long stri

Straight White Men

By Young Jean Lee. La Boite Theatre Company/State Theatre Company of South Australia. Director: Nescha Jelk. Roundhouse Theatre, Kelvin Grove. 27 Jul – 13 Aug 2016

Recently widowed and retired engineer Ed (Roger Newcombe) invites his three sons, Jake (Chris Pitman) an asshole banker, Drew (Lucas Stibbard) a cynical author/teacher, and Matt (Hugh Parker) a disillusioned Harvard educated leftie to spend Christmas with him. All goes swimmingly as they revert to childhood games, joke crudely, and get drunk, but the high-jinks are sobered when over Chinese takeaway Matt suddenly bursts into tears.

Twelfth Night

By William Shakespeare. Belvoir Street Theatre. July 23 – September 4, 2016.

Belvoir’s new production of Twelfth Night may be studded with Sydney stars but it takes a while to get off the floor.  On Michael Hankin’s bare stage, with walls brightly splashed in  modernist colours, it’s hard to know where are and why we are here. 

The actors, while virtuosic as character comedians, seem at first to be in different plays – despite Stephen Curtis dressing all in late Renaissance period.

Miss Saigon

Music by Claude-Michael Schonberg. Lyrics by Richard Maltby jnr and Alain Boublil. PLOS (Vic). Directed by Scott Hili. Frankston Arts Centre. July 22 – 30, 2016.

There are people who think that Miss Saigon is a marvellous musical – I am not one of them (along with around 50% of musical theatre lovers). It’s a show that divides opinion. So take it as a compliment when I say that Peninsula Light Opera Society (PLOS) bring such skill and commitment to every production that they even make this a magical theatrical event.

The Pied Piper

Composer & Librettist: Richard Mills. Director: Derek Taylor. Victorian Opera.Musical Director: Simon Bruckard. Arts Centre Melbourne, Playhouse, 28 – 30 July, 2016, then a tour of regional Victoria in October and November.

Three weeks after Cinderella, Victorian Opera introduced another opera for children with Richard Mills’ version of The Pied Piper. Set in the Australian town of Hamelin, this was a variation on the well-known fairy tale, with a different ending.

Apart from the principals, the production involved a number of children who performed as either rats or school-children. Also assisting was an ensemble of community choristers. What a great experience for them!

The Book Club

By Roger Hall. Directed by Nadia Tass. Lawler Theatre, Southbank. July 23 - August 28, 2016

About fifteen minutes into this play/one woman show by New Zealand’s Roger Hall,  you realise that two remarkably talented women are performing magic – making a silk purse out of a sow’s ear; something seemingly impossible. Amanda Muggleton and Nadia Tass might even be Siamese twins, so closely and seamlessly connected are they. They have taken a script which is little more than a collection of old gags and shtick, worthy of a Ray Cooney play, and turned it into a theatrical piece full of whimsy and poignant moments.

Simon Boccanegra

By Verdi. Opera Australia. Joan Sutherland Theatre, Sydney Opera House. July 26 – August 13, 2016

So where do you start with a convoluted, inexplicable plot like this one?

Perhaps with the singing, which is sublime - even if the often wooden acting offers little help in sorting out the story. Verdi himself had two goes at this medieval tale set in the politically fractious court of a Doge of Genoa.  

For this Opera Australia production in 2000, director Moffatt Oxenbould set it at the time of Verdi’s second attempt, in 1881, to underline the composer’s intention to remind his Italian audience of the worth of their newly reunified nation. 

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