Reviews

RENT

By Jonathan Larson. Directed by Paul Watson. Next Step Productions. Midsumma Festival. Chapel off Chapel. 9th -18th January, 2014.

A stunning revival of a music theatre icon opened this week….and no, it wasn’t Grease (fun though that was). This new production of Rent (based loosely on La Boheme) is the shared vision of director Paul Watson and producer/star/choreographer Leigh Barker – and what a vision it is, proving once again that the truly remarkable theatrical events in the city of Melbourne rarely happen on the main stage. There’s so much that is exceptional about this production, that I am almost speechless, and I have never been a fan of this show until now.

Thank You For Being A Friend

Written by Jonathan Worsley and Thomas Duncan Watt. Directed by Neil Gooding and Luke Joslin. Midsumma. Theatre Works from Jan 9th, 2014.

There’s an old saying that Nostalgia isn’t what it used to be. That’s obviously not true when it comes to our feelings for our favourite old TV shows. The Golden Girls made such an impact in the mid eighties to early nineties that it seems like only yesterday that I saw it (in fact it was …the re-runs are on Foxtel). Last night’s opening night audience was singing the theme song before the show started. A very good sign. Avenue Q proved that people would watch and identify with life size hand puppets….another good sign.

GREASE

Book, Music & Lyrics: Jim Jacobs & Warren Casey. Additional songs: Barry Gibb, John Farrar, Louis St. Louis, Scott Simon. John Frost / David Ian Production. Director: David Gilmore. Musical Director: Stephen Amos. Choreography: Arlene Phillips. Her Majesty’s Theatre, Melbourne from January 5, 2014.

Get out your poodle skirts and your black tee-shirts, girls and boys: Grease hit town last night and what a joyful, joyous romp this production is, easily the best ever seen on these shores.  Buckets of praise must go to a great cast who perform with so much energy, director David Gilmore who has brought a fresh take to the show, Arlene Phillips’ simple yet stylish and authentic choreography, and a brilliant set, sound and lighting.

La bohème

By Giacomo Puccini et al. Opera Australia. Joan Sutherland Theatre, Sydney Opera House. Jan 4 – 21, 2014.

Ji-Min Park, the South-Korean tenor, has an on stage enthusiasm which is infectious. From the tingle of excitement when his fingers brush the tiny frozen hand of Mimi to a childlike wave to the audience during the curtain call his personality beams through to match his soaring arias. 

Playing Rodolfo in this revival, he is the living embodiment of the benefits of colour-blind casting.

The Illusionists

State Theatre. Arts Centre Melbourne. Jan 3rd -12th, 2014

We all love Magic, and most of us don’t want to know how it’s done; we’d far rather suspend disbelief and have our breath taken away. The problem is that it’s hard to have your breath taken away when you’ve seen the illusions so many times before.  You keep waiting for something new and spectacular to happen…but it doesn’t. That’s when charisma and dynamics and personality have to compensate.

Circus Oz: Cranked Up.

Tumbalong Park, Darling Harbour, Sydney. January 1 - 27, 2014.

Circus Oz works a treat when it combines Aussie humour with simple but elegant tricks of the trade. It can’t compete with the international circus juggernauts on scale and wizardry – instead its laid back style and more intimate big top allows the audience to get up close and personal.

The most memorable act was a gorgeous Kangaroo impersonation by “Murri Fella” Mark Sheppard. He somersaulted and bounced around the stage in an exuberant cartoon style. This personified the spirit of Circus Oz and is no doubt very popular when it tours overseas.

South Pacific

By Rodgers and Hammerstein. Opera Australia & John Frost in association with Adelaide Festival Centre. Adelaide Festival Theatre. 31 December 2013 - 26 January 2014.

Its 1940’s racist theme may be somewhat confronting for modern audiences, but South Pacific is also a barometer of the resistance emerging at that time towards such prejudice. This, together with a wonderful love story and the perpetual mateship of war stamps South Pacific as perhaps the most interesting and enduring of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s musicals.

OKLAHOMA!

Music by Richard Rodgers. Lyrics and Book by Oscar Hammerstein 11. Directed by David Crawshaw.Musical Director John Clancy. PLOS (Vic). Frankston Art Centre Dec 31, 2013 - Jan 5, 2014

Not everyone parties on New Year’s Eve, but there are all kinds of celebrations and PLOS certainly celebrates with Oklahoma! Proving once again the standard of excellence that exists in community theatre, Director David Crawshaw successfully brings together a fine cast with a great set by John Burrett, Brenton Staples and John Shelbourne, decorated with terrific choreography by Steven Rostron and embellished by John Clancy and an impressive orchestra.

A Murder is Announced

Play by Leslie Darbon, adapted from the novel by Agatha Christie. Michael Coppel, Louise Withers, Linda Berwick Production. Director: Darren Yap. Playhouse, QPAC. 28 Dec 2013 – 19 Jan 2014.

Quaint English villages with dotty spinsters and aunts, have always been the milieu of Miss Marple in Agatha Christie novels and A Murder Is Announced has them all. Originally written as a novel in 1950 it was the first Miss Marple story to be adapted to the stage in 1977. A good local cast bring this production, heavy with nostalgia, lovingly to life. They recreate the post World-War two era of Britain in an intriguing, but formulaic, murder mystery directed with skill by Darren Yap.

THE ILLUSIONISTS 2.0

Presented by Adelaide Festival Centre, Tim Lawson and Simon Painter. Her Majesty’s Theatre, Adelaide. December 27, 2013 to January 5, 2014. World Premiere. Sydney and Brisbane seasons follow.

It has been said that for good, old-fashioned family entertainment you can’t go past a magic show. Even so, while elements of its magic may have been seen before, THE ILLUSIONISTS 2.0 is far from an old-fashioned production.

Instead, hi-tech effects including 3D, lasers, the Internet and sophisticated screen projection combine to package the show as a futuristic visual spectacular.