Reviews

The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee

By Rachel Sheinkin and William Finn. Canterbury Theatre Guild. Director: Rachael Thompson. Canterbury Bowling Club. April 19 – 28, 2013

Adults play kids absolutely joyously in this delightful little musical – something they also do so often in the best productions of equally engaging shows like You’re A Good Man Charlie Brown and Small Poppies – finding resonances of all our childhoods, and inner childhoods.

Aida

By Verdi. Opera Australia. Director/choreographer: Graeme Murphy. Musical Director: Renato Palumbo. State Theatre, Arts Centre Melbourne. April 22 – May 11, 2013.

Graeme Murphy’s Aida for Opera Australia was quite a spectacle. There were projections, Egyptian columns flying on and off, a lap pool across the front of the stage and a travellator. Some of these enhanced the production, some not.

Amneris fighting her way through the approaching columns for the Judgment Scene was effective. The travellator worked well in the Triumphal March, carrying cardboard Egyptian figures across stage, but was annoying and/or comical in other scenes.

Glengarry Glen Ross

By David Mamet. Seriousboys. Darlinghurst Theatre. April 11 – May 5, 2013.

Staging David Mamet's modern classic Glengarry Glen Ross as your debut outing comes with high expectations and pressure to deliver. And while I did have high hopes for this production, I am not convinced it delivered.

New independent Sydney theatre company Seriousboys comes with a pedigree in Artistic Director Marcus Graham. He is a fantastic actor. But as a director I am troubled by the series of mistakes or decisions he made which indicate a lack of skill that ultimately undermined what could have been a very impressive piece of theatre.

Billy Buckett

Story, music and lyrics: Jay Turner, script: Peter Cann, Jay Turner & Cath Mundy. Beenleigh Theatre Group. April 26 – May 11, 2013. World Premiere.

A brand new rock‘n’roll musical, an insight into love and family affairs in post-war England, enough unbridled energy onstage to light Beenleigh for a whole weekend ─ the adrenaline rush should send theatregoers home smiling so people at work will think they’re in love. As they ought to be, with this new show!

Pea! A Tale of Truly Vegetariable Proportion

Presented by The Street. Director: Barb Barnett. Writer: David Finnigan. The Street Theatre, Acton, ACT. April 20 – 27, 2013.

Pea! is a funny, short play for children and parents who haven’t forgotten what it’s like to be a child. It was advertised as being for children aged from 4 years to 10 years, though I think maybe 5 years would be a better lower age as the audience seemed to drift in the first 5 minutes while there was a long preamble involving histories of vegetables.

Peter Pan

By J.M. Barrie. Hobart Repertory Theatre Society. Director: Danni Ashton. Playhouse Theatre, Hobart. 19 April – 4 May, 2103.

Peter Pan, the J.M Barrie play, as produced for the third time by Hobart Repertory Theatre, looked and felt like a pantomime. The opening night audience, including very young children, gave it the full pantomime treatment, including vocal interaction with the stage players.

Fury

By Joanna Murray-Smith. Directed by Andrew Upton. Sydney Theatre Company. April 19 - June 8, 2013.

Fury is a play of ideas which entertains and confounds its audience.

Sarah Peirse plays Alice, an acclaimed Neurologist, being interviewed by a student journalist about her latest award. She drops many gems, including the advice that when angry it’s wise not to respond for the first five minutes, but laments that in that time the most exciting words come to mind.

Her husband Patrick, played by Robert Menzies, is a firebrand novelist. He laments that the only literary groupies he attracts look like Susan Boyle.

OKLAHOMA!

Music: Richard Rodgers. Book & Lyrics: Oscar Hammerstein 2nd based on the 1931 folk play Green Grow the Lilacs by Lynn Riggs. Director: Tim O’Connor. Musical Director: Maitlohn Drew. Choreography: Callum Mansfield. Harvest Rain Theatre Company. Concert Hall, QPAC. 17-20 April 2013

Producer Mike Todd’s famous quip after Oklahoma!’s New Haven tryout in March 1943, “No gags, no gals, no chance,” proved to be spectacularly wrong when the show went on to win rave reviews, a Pulitzer Prize and a run of 2,212 performances on Broadway. Not only did it change the face of musical theatre, Oklahoma! became musical theatre’s DNA.

Elle

By Francis Poulenc. Lyric Opera of Melbourne. Chapel off Chapel. Director: Nathan Gilkes. Conductor: Pat Miller. April 18 – 21, 2013

Lyric Opera of Melbourne continues to introduce rarely heard operas to the Melbourne public and this was one of their most ambitious.           

La Voix Humane in a little-known one-woman opera by Poulenc. Elle spends the evening on the phone to her former lover, who is getting married the next day. The unreliable telephone service adds to her agony.

Under Milk Wood

By Dylan Thomas. Canberra Repertory, directed by Duncan Ley. Theatre 3, Canberra. 12–27 April 2013.

Turning Dylan Thomas's radio play into a visually satisfying drama is a stiff challenge, all the greater in retaining the poetic narration as the action and dialogue unfold; it would be understandable if a director determined the narration and the dialogue to be mutually exclusive. But Duncan Ley's translation of the work to the stage brings it to dramatic life.