Reviews

Cautionary Tales for Children

Based on the verse by Hilaire Belloc. Arena Theatre Co., and Arts Centre Melbourne Carnegie 18 (VIC). Adapted by: Claudia O’Doherty. Composer: Mark Jones. Director: Chris Kohn. Designer: Jonathon Oxlade. Stage Manager: Meg Deyell. George Fairfax Studio, Victorian Arts Centre, Melbourne. 4-7 February, 2012.

Cautionary Tales for Children, the second of Arts Centre Melbourne’s Carnegie 18 projects, opened last Saturday in the George Fairfax Studio at the Victorian Arts Centre. The studio, usually sleek and ready for action, had a whimsical, homely flavour, created by the addition of mismatched retro lampshades hanging over the audience. A night of story-telling was in order.

A Chorus Line

By Marvin Hamlisch, Edward Kleban, James Kirkwood and Nicholas Dante. Producer: Tim Lawson. Her Majesty’s Theatre, Melbourne. February 4 to March 3, 2012.

A Chorus Line made its Broadway debut in 1975, and showed no sign of stopping. Set in a Broadway audition where dancers reveal their private passions and personalities, it garnered Tony Awards, and even the 1976 Pulitzer Prize for Drama.

Avenue Q

Music & Lyrics: Robert Lopez & Jeff Marx. Book: Jeff Whitty. Based on an Original Concept by Robert Lopez & Jeff Marx. Townsville Choral Society. Director: Sandra Neal. Vocal Director: Rachel Cairns. Choreographer: Jeremy Poi. Orchestral Director: Ryan Christoffersen. January 27 – February 4, 2012

Townsville’s Choral Society took something of a gamble with their January production of Avenue Q; will audiences take to a cast of puppets, people and monsters? Is Townsville ready for live “puppet-sex” on stage? You bet, and the gamble paid off.

The cast of ten humans and numerous “people with fur” was tightly directed and the end result was an undoubted hit. The multiple Tony Award winning musical was a professional production worthy of any venue in the country.

Pygmalion

By George Bernard Shaw. Sydney Theatre Company. Sydney Theatre. Director: Peter Evens. 4 February – 3 March, 2012.

After 50 years of the comfortable, tuneful, overdressed My Fair Lady who would have thought there’d still be such energy, laughter and stinging relevance in Shaw’s mighty original? Peter Evens’ STC production is a revelation, and the packed opening night audience rattled the rafters in appreciation.

Oliver!

Book Music and lyrics by Lionel Bart. Packemin Productions. Directed by Neil Gooding. Parramatta Riverside Theatre. February 3 – 18, 2012

The first solo song for anyone playing the lead Oliver is on the high side. When nine year old Damian Hempstead struggled to pitch it, he hid his face in his gruel bowl in shame.

The audience willed him to keep going and were rewarded soon after, with a sweet performance of Where is Love?

The New Black

By Marcus Corowa and Stephen Lloyd Helper. Based on an idea by Leeroy Bilney. The Follies Company and Arts Centre Melbourne Carnegie 18 (VIC). Director: Stephen Lloyd Helper. Musical Director: Hugh Blanes. Associate Producer: Erin Voth.

While waiting in the foyer to see The New Black, the first in a series of three new musicals up for workshopping in Arts Centre Melbourne’s Carnegie 18 New Music Theatre project, I did not know what to expect. However, with the programme listing a cast of seasoned performers, including Shane Connor, Lisa Maza, Chelsea Gibb and Kirk Page, and with Deborah Cheetham in attendance, the prospect was promising.

Dickens’ Women

By Miriam Magolyes and Sonia Fraser. Glen Street Theatre (NSW). February 3 – 12, 2012, then touring Australia and New Zealand.

Miriam Magolyes does not disappoint in this new tour of the production she, and co-writer and director Sonia Fraser, first developed for the Edinbugh Festival in 1989. She is as effervescent and professional as ever. Her twinkling eyes, expressive face and perfectly controlled movement and gesture hypnotise her already expectant audience and keep them entertained, and informed, for the entire performance. A ‘one hander’ is not easy. And this, which requires so many changes of character, could become confusing, but in her very experienced hands, it is never that.

The Jinglists

Written by and starring Warwick Allsopp & Tamlyn Henderson. Garnet Productions in association with Tamarama Rock Surfers. Bondi Pavilion Theatre (NSW). Jan 31 – Feb 18, 2012.

The star of much of this show was dangling between the legs of Warwick Allsopp and made unexpected appearances out of his fly.

Fear not – it wasn’t what first comes to mind.  But when it was revealed by his brother, played by Tamlyn Henderson, it prompted the biggest laugh of the night.

The Jinglists is a hoot which skates close to the edge of bad taste but steps back just in time.

The characters, Leigh and Loman, are described by the Director Jo Turner as grotesque musical clowns.

Cosi

By Louis Nowra. Gold Coast Little Theatre, Southport (Qld). Director: Stuart Lumsden. Jan 28 to Feb 18, 2012

This popular Aussie comedy has attracted a cult following since the release of the movie in the mid ‘90s.

Stuart Lumsden’s directing debut is a bright start to the Gold Coast Community Theatre Season.

The strong characterisations portrayed had the audience wondering if the actors were type cast.

Much Ado About Nothing

By William Shakespeare. Essential Theatre. Coriole Vineyards (SA). January 29, 2012

On a balmy evening in the McLaren Vale, a sweaty but appreciative audience set up shop on a grassy amphitheatre in the grounds of Coriole Winery to enjoy the nomadic Essential Theatre's 2012 Shakespeare production.

Treating us to Much Ado About Nothing, this is the company’s celebratory tenth year of entertaining Australia’s (and now New Zealand's) vino-sipping theatre tragics, and their ninth year performing at the hospitable Coriole.

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