Reviews

Partenope

Opera by George Frideric Handel. Libretto by Silvio Stampiglia, Luigi Mancia, Antonio Caldera; English translation by Amanda Holden. Co-produced by Opera Australia and English National Opera. Director, Christopher Alden; Conductor, Christian Curnyn; Set Designer, Andrew Lieberman. Opera Theatre, Sydney Opera House. Until March 31.

This classy co-production, already an Olivier Award winner in London, breathes new life into a dusty Handel opera from 1730. That the composer of Messiah had written such a comic, absurdist romp is a surprise; though even he might have blanched at some of the night’s gender-bending, sex-obsessed goings-on. Handel’s classical setting has been moved to the languorous 1930s surreal world of Salvador Dali and Man Ray.

Secret Bridesmaids' Business

By Elizabeth Coleman. Canberra Repertory Society. Directed by Geoffrey Borny. Theatre 3, Acton (ACT) 4 to 19 March, 2011

Elizabeth Coleman's telling comedy highlights the dilemma of whether to reveal a devastating secret to the woman it most concerns—through its relevance to her imminent wedding.  This play stands out for its serious but funny treatment both of the broad ways in which we might deal with such a problem and of what the problem reflects of our deepest needs, for loyalty, for love, for committed friendship, and for being understood.

The Merry Widow

By Franz Lehar. Melbourne Opera. Director: Hugh Halliday. Musical Director: David Kram. Choreographer: Michele Forbes. Athenaeum Theatre, Melbourne, Mar 10 to 20; Wangaratta, April 8; Alexander Theatre, April 8; Canberra Theatre, May 14.

I have seen several productions of The Merry Widow over the years and many have been disappointing, using indifferent translations or directors being unsure of how to handle some long patches of orchestra interludes with the performers on stage waiting for their next uttering. Neither was the case this time. The translation was excellent, very funny and with many topical references – carbon trading made an appearance. And the effective direction and strong performances from the leads gave meaning to the awkward passages.

Alice in Wonderland

Australian Shakespeare Company. Director: Kevin Hopkins. Duneria (Vic). Mar 5.

Watching Alice in Wonderland, with an audience comprised of almost as many adults as children, in the beautiful natural Amphitheatre that is the magical heritage garden of ‘Duneria’ was certainly a pleasure. For the morning performance the sunlight played pleasingly on the exquisite ‘botanical backdrop’, lit the actors and warmed the audience. Voices were projected splendidly with the assistance of the treed environment.

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels

Book by Jeffrey Lane. Music and Lyrics by David Yazbek. Rockdale Musical Society (NSW). Rockdale Town Hall. March 11 – 19, 2011.

Take a good, conventional musical comedy, add a liberal serving of naughty bits, and that’s Dirty Rotten Scoundrels.

The greatest joy of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels for me is seeing something new – a relatively successful American musical, which played a respectable 626 Broadway performances between 2004 and 2006, without attracting a professional production here. While Melbourne got a one-week Production Company staging, it’s taken an enterprising musical society to give Sydney its first taste.

It's Only Life

Music and lyrics by John Bucchino. Directed by Aaron Joyner. Musical direction by Cameron Thomas. Chapel Off Chapel (Vic). March 10 - March 21, 2011.

For audiences and cast, the Australasian premiere season of John Bucchino's It's Only Life is a rare treasure. Why? Bucchino himself is at the piano.

As one of the Olympian gods of contemporary musical theatre, Buchinno's songs have been performed by notables including Liza Minelli, Art Garfunkel, Michael Feinstein and Australia's own David Campbell.

ZEBRA!

By Ross Mueller. Sydney Theatre Company. Director: Lee Lewis. Set Designer: David McKay. Wharf 1 Theatre. March 10 – April 30, 2011.

This play has so much star power you almost need sunglasses. It opens with the lights dimmed on a bar in Manhattan that is yet to open. The lights slowly reveal what turns out to be the most impressive feature of this drama– the set. 

Designer David McKay has built an extraordinary and beautiful re-creation of an Irish bar, with an attention to detail that makes you feel like you are tasting the Big Apple.

Cats

By Andrew Lloyd Webber. Based on "Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats” by TS Eliot. Miranda Musical Society. Sutherland Entertainment Centre. March 9 – 13, 2011.

Despite technical and venue obstacles which saw their ‘official’ opening night shifted to Thursday, Miranda Musical Society’s cast triumphed over the odds at Wednesday’s ‘preview’ of Cats.

They delivered an enjoyable, largely original production, with choreography, direction and design re-thought along simpler lines to the original.

 

PIFF-TACULAR: On the Road.

Written and performed by John van der Put. The Butterfly Club. March 2 - March 5, 2011.

To be an entertaining magician, you must stand out.

Many magicians try this by adding comedy. They fail. Their magical mental powers fail to alert them that you'll find almost as many magicians doing comedy as you will doing straight magic.

So into this field stomps Piff the Magic Dragon, the magical masterpiece of John van der Put. Inside an electric-green dragon suit that adds a third to his size, Piff performs magic effects to punctuate his stand-up comedy routine.

Save For Crying.

Written and directed by Angus Cerini. La Mama Theatre. February 18 - March 6, 2011.

Good theatre transports you to another world.

Innocent and mentally-handicapped lovers Alfie (Ben Grant) and Luv (Peta Brady) struggle to free themselves from Ratty (LeRoy Parsons). He supposedly protects them in return for Alfie's money and Luv's sexual favors, but when he gets on the bottle, the only one they need protection from is him.

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