Kiss of the Spider Woman

By Terence McNally, John Kander and Fred Ebb. Bankstown Theatre Company. Bankstown Art Centre, Olympic Parade Bankstown. March 15 – 24, 2013.

Community musical theatre rarely gets better than this … a tight, all-encompassing production concept, smartly executed, with leading performers in roles that seem made for them, strong supporting players and a capable ensemble of male dancers.

SPANK! The Fifty Shades Parody

Twelfth Night Theatre, Brisbane. From March 14, 2013.

This is ribaldry run riot!

Twelfth Night Theatre has added SPANK to its repertoire of shows about ‘below-the-belt’ topics. It advertises an opening date but no closing date for the run. Judging by last night’s audience reaction it may run for months.

There are mysteries for a reviewer to explore here: no programme, merely an advertising brochure showing the performers’ names? Who wrote the show? Who is the director?

247 Days

Devised, directed and choreographed by Anouk Van Dijk. Chunky Move. Merlyn Theatre, The Malthouse. 15-23rd March, 2013. World Premiere.

There is an age old argument/debate about what constitutes art/craft within theatre. It sometimes leads to fisticuffs and often breaks down friendships. Is mainstage theatre in pursuit of excellence somehow less worthy than innovation and pretension labelled art? (Those are two extremes.) There should, surely, be one over-riding factor  regardless of which camp you belong to:- Does it entertain? We should never forget that the primary obligation of theatre, film and television is to entertain.

The Shape of Things

By Neil LaBute. RoundSquare Productions. Director: Peter Blackburn. Art Design: Ilana Payes. Lighting Design: Aaron Bell. Set design and construction: Chris Purtle. Producer: Josh Blau. No Vacancy Gallery, Melbourne. March 7 – 24, 2013.

Directorial debut – pursuing the place of art.

Peter Blackburn has chosen a technically challenging play for his directorial debut. A balancing act between thought about art and the reality of personhood and relationships, the play’s tension between these two is played out though conversations about art and the dynamics of the influence Evelyn exerts on Adam and his friends.

All four actors capably created their characters, ably supported by the lighting, music and clever conversion of an art gallery into a performance space.

Henry 4

Written by William Shakespeare, adapted by John Bell. Bell Shakespeare. Directed by John Bell with Damien Ryan. Arts Centre Melbourne. 14 -30 March, 2013, and touring to Perth 5 - 13 April, the Sydney 19 April - 26 May.

From the moment a stainless steel beer keg is thrown through the upstage Union Jack milk crate wall of Stephen Curtis’s fabulous set - which incorporates a full size shipping container and a jukebox in its industrial workspace - and enhanced by Matt Scott’s excellent lighting, this re-imagining of Henry IVth  Parts 1 and 2 combined is imbued with a punk energy which holds us in thrall for the entire first half.

Cut Snake

By Paige Rattray, don Giovannoni and Amelia Evans. Arthur & Tamarama Rock Surfers. Bondi Pavilion Theatre. March 12 – 23, 2013.

There is something delightfully joyous and fun about the simplicity of this production - Cut Snake. It's reminiscent of a gang of kids playing in the backyard, conjuring up stories, waving a wand and SHEBANG - putting on a show!

Little Mercy

Sisters Grimm. Wharf 2, STC. March 7 – 24, 2013.

Like a slickly scripted film from Hollywood’s Golden Age, Little Mercy begins at cocktail hour in the comfortable New England home of a theatrical producer and his statuesque if neurotic housewive. Roger and Virginia are desperate for a child and their pleas are answered this stormy night with the arrival of an eight-year-old foundling.

How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying

By Frank Loesser, Abe Burrows, Jack Weinstock and Willie Gilbert. MUSE (Sydney University Musical Theatre Ensemble). Director: Amy Lester. Music Director: Olga Solar. Choreographer: Stephanie Gray. Everest Theatre, Seymour Centre. March 13-16, 2013.

Warm nostalgic memories of my own student productions flooded back watching the MUSE production of this Broadway classic. Nearly 40 years ago, as a drama under-grad, I had my first chances to direct and play principal roles (well above my own age) in a similar student club. Always achieved on minimum budget and maximum enthusiasm, those shows were great grounding for the high school musicals I later staged as a young teacher.

Legally Blonde

Music & Lyrics: Laurence O’Keefe & Nell Benjamin. Book: Heather Hach. Howard Panter & John Frost Production. Director/Chorographer: Jerry Mitchell. Musical Director: Kellie Dickerson. Lyric Theatre, QPAC. From 14 March 2013

OMG What a show! This high-energy, fun-filled piece of musical theatre was every bit as good as the Broadway and West End originals thanks to a super cast and brilliant choreography and staging by Jerry Mitchell. Inventive and at times dazzling, the frenetic pace did not let up from start to finish.

The story of fashion-tragic Elle Woods making it through the hallowed halls of Harvard through savvy, spunk and street-smarts, was as enjoyable as the MGM movie on which is was based.

Dirty Blonde.

By Claudia Shear. Darlinghurst Theatre (NSW). Theatre 19 Season. Director: Stuart Maunder. Garnet Productions. March 12 – 31, 2013.

Nodding nostalgically to ‘the tough girl’ of stage and screen, Mae West, Claudia Shear’s Dirty Blonde effortlessly ties the core biography to the story of two fanatics and their relationships to one another and the provocative Ms West.

Dirty Blonde’s Opening Night attracted a full house of intrigued patrons. Not hard with theatre names like director Stuart Maunder, Lara Mulcahy, Philip Dodd, Mark Simpson and the promise of the saucy and controversial Mae West.