Reviews

Pippin

Music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz and a book by Roger O. Hirson. Bob Fosse. Magnormos. Director: Stephen Wheat. Musical Director: Andrew Leach. Choreographer: Michael Ralph. Melbourne Recital Centre. September 16, 2013.

Magnormos fill a niche market in Melbourne, presenting professional productions of lesser-known musical theatre works, generally in smaller venues. However, their Stephen Schwartz Celebration Triptych was performed in the Melbourne Recital Centre, a venue more suited to concerts than musicals. So the set for Pippin comprised just two wooden boxes on wheels with the orchestra behind, though projections on the back wall were effective.

Calendar Girls

By Tim Firth. Players Theatre, Ballina (NSW). Director: Fran Legge. September 13th – 28th, 2013

Adapted by Tim Firth from his movie of the same name, Calendar Girls is an insight into the lives of people dealing with Leukaemia and Fran Legge’s production presented the audience with a light-hearted yet thought-provoking experience.

La Traviata

By Giuseppe Verdi. Melbourne Opera. Director: Suzanne Chaundy. Musical Director: Greg Hocking. Athenaeum Theatre. September 11 – 22, 2013

I was unable to attend the opening night of La Traviata but I was very happy to meet the second cast. The revelation of the night was young Sam Sakker. I encountered him in the final of the German Australian Opera Grant three years ago where he was the audience favourite.

The Dark Room

By Angel Betzien. Holden Street Theatres, SA, September 14 - 28, 2013. (Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 7.30pm)

Adelaide Flying Penguin Productions, with sponsorship from State Theatre Company of South Australia, Holden Street Theatres and other organisations, are currently presenting the South Australian premiere of Angel Betzien’s gritty contemporary Australian drama. The work, set entirely in a low-budget hotel room somewhere in the NT, raises issues such as deaths in custody, child neglect and abuse, domestic violence and corruption.

When The Rain Stops Falling

By Andrew Bovell. Centenary Theatre, Brisbane. 7 – 28 September, 2013

Tracing four generations from 1959 to 2039 in the jigsaw pattern of life by which we discover our own past, this splendid ‘family play’ engages us, intrigues us, often frustrates us. Even by the last scene – which takes up where the play began – the central character, young Andrew Price, is less aware of his heritage than we are. We have been privy to events in those four generations that are just too hard to reveal at this delicate father-son reunion.

Grease

By Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey. Holroyd Musical and Dramatic Society (NSW). Redgum Centre 13 - 21 September 2013

Grease IS the word at Holroyd.

This production was a lot of fun, although it did have some not-so-fun moments.

The good moments, though, far outweigh the not-so-good.

Daniel Milne as Danny and Cassie Colless as Sandy are perfectly cast, and have the talent and looks that make teenage girls squeal on X Factor.

Urban

Presented by Circolombia and the Brisbane Festival. Courier-Mail Piazza. September 13 - 27, 2013.

Halfway through this all Columbian quasi-circus production presented by a selection of street-life characters fit for the boxing or wrestling arena, one cast member recounted somewhat poetically his progression from an existence of hard labour and poverty in Cali city's infamous 13:13 suburb to life as a travelling performer. This, along with a triple-screen background of moving pictures, evoked a vivid impression of the show's cultural roots.

The Grief Parlour

True West Theatre / Clockfire Theatre Company. Text: Jessica Bellamy. Director: Jo Turner. Lighting: Sara Swesky. Sound: Ben Pierpoint. Riverside Theatres, Parramatta. September 12 – 21, 2013.

In this production, clockfire theatre co looks at the subject of death and grieving in a way that brings to mind the twists and turns of Alice’s descent into Wonderland. Except that here, the protagonist is a woman. Her guide is not the White Rabbit, but a wide-eyed woman dressed in grey and red; and her journey, not into Wonderland, but into the netherworld of death itself!

Brief Encounter

By Noël Coward. Kneehigh Theatre. Dunstan Playhouse, Adelaide Festival Centre. September 10 – 28, 2013. Melbourne Festival season, Athenaeum Theatre, Melbourne - October 9 – 27; The Concourse, Chatswood (NSW) - November 1 - 19, then touring (dates at end of review).

Oh how I wish Noël Coward could pop back to earth from whatever star in which he is floating to see this amazing production of his beautiful play! And how I wish I had the time and the words to do it justice!

South Pacific

Music by Richard Rodgers. Lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II. Book by Hammerstein and Joshua Logan, adapted from Tales of the South Pacific by James A. Michener. Director: Bartlett Sher. Produced by Opera Australia and John Frost. Joan Sutherland Theatre, Sydney Opera House. 12 September – 2 November, 2013.

Last year’s sold-out production of South Pacific returns to Sydney for 58 new performances, filling fast. And the $20 program tells you that the John Frost/Opera Australia combo will be staging The King and I in 2014. ‘Subscribe now and book before it goes on sale to the general public’ is the handout advice. Nobody can fill the Opera House like Rodgers and Hammerstein.