Reviews

Act One

Play by James Lapine. Based on the autobiography by Moss Hart. Director: James Lapine. Lincoln Center At Home. 19 May – 3 July 2020

When I first read Act One, first published in 1959, I thought it was the most wonderful theatrical memoir I had ever read, and plenty of others agreed with me. Frank Rich called it ‘the greatest show biz book ever written’ and it stayed at Number 1 on the best-seller list for five months.

Small Island

By Helen Edmundson. Based on the novel by Andrea Levy. Director: Rufus Norris. National Theatre At Home. 18-25 June, 2020

This sprawling, engrossing narrative is the sort of play the National Theatre does so well. Based on Andrea Levy’s acclaimed novel, and expertly adapted into a three-hour epic by Helen Edmundson, Rufus Norris’ production has the sweep and feel of classic theatre. Originally produced in 2019, it’s a story of historical racism and Jamaican immigrants in post-war Britain, and it’s surely no coincidence it was chosen to stream this week because it feels as contemporary and relevant as today.

Peter Pan Live

Music: Jule Styne and Moose Charlap. Lyrics: Betty Comden, Adolph Green and Carolyn Leigh. Additional Lyrics: Amanda Green. Script: Irene Mecchi. Executive Producers: Craig Zadan, Neil Meron. Director/Choreographer: Rob Ashford. Director for Television: Glenn Weiss. Musical Director: David Chase. The Shows Must Go On. Free streaming 20-21 June 2020.

Postponed for a week due to the The Wiz Live being rescheduled in support of the ‘Black Lives Matter’ campaign, NBC’s Peter Pan Live finally got its airing this weekend.

Ever since the first screening of Mary Martin’s Broadway production of Peter Pan in 1955, which brought phenomenal ratings of 65 million viewers, it has been a perennial favourite for the Network.

The Wiz Live!

Music & Lyrics: Charlie Smalls. Additional Music & Lyrics: Luther Vandross, Ne-Yo, Elijah Kelley, Harvey Mason Jr, Stephen Oremus, Timothy Graphenreed, Harold Wheeler. Book: Harvey Feirstein, based on the original by William F. Brown. Director: Kenny Leon, Matthew Diamond. Choreography: Fatima Robinson. Musical Directors: Harvey Mason Jr., Stephen Oremus. The Shows Must Go On, YouTube Channel. Streamed free 13-14 June 2020

This week “The Shows Must Go On” channel showed their support of the “Black Lives Matter” campaign and streamed The Wiz Live, a soul/R&B retelling of L. Frank Baum’s 1900 children’s fantasy novel The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, originally aired on NBC in 2015. It was based on the 1975 Broadway musical that won 7 Tony Awards, and the 1978 movie which starred Michael Jackson, Diana Ross, and Lena Horne, amongst others.

St Nicholas

By Conor McPherson. The Street Theatre, Canberra. Online livestream 5 to 7 June 2020.

Stage Whispers reviewers Beth Keehn and Cathy Bannister both caught The Street Theatre's online streamed production of St Nicholas.

True North

Concert Hall, Queensland Performing Arts Centre (QPAC). Online livestreamed concert. 6 June 2020.

QPAC’s Chief Executive, John Kotzas told Stage Whispers: “While we remain closed, we are focused on finding new ways to continue connecting with communities, artists and audiences.” This quest included QPAC’s concert for Queensland Day on 6 June. The event was titled True North to encapsulate the definition: ‘a fixed point in a spinning world’ – the role that culture has played for many people during the COVID-19 crisis.

Holiday Inn

Music & Lyrics: Irving Berlin. Book: Gordon Greenberg & Chad Hodge. Based on the 1942 movie of the same name. Director: Gordon Greenburg. Musical Director: Andy Einhorn. Choreography: Denis Jones. BroadwayHD Free Streaming. 30 May, 2020.

Jerome Kern famously said, “Irving Berlin has no place in American music, he is American music,” and there’s no better example of it than in the score of Holiday Inn. Based on the 1942 movie which starred Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire, this version of the backstage show-business story overcomes the clichéd plot with a score of Berlin favourites that lift it every time.

Hairspray Live!

Music: Marc Shaiman. Lyrics: Scott Wittman & Marc Shaiman. Book: Harvey Feinstein, based on the Broadway original by Mark O’Donnell & Thomas Meehan. Director: Kenny Leon, Alex Rudinski. Choreographer: Jerry Mitchell. Musical Director: Lon Hoyt. The Streamed on The Shows Must Go On! YouTube - 30-31 May 2020

One of the best, if not the best, musical comedy of the past two decades, Hairspray Live! had a perfect cast and was the perfect vehicle to showcase them. The stars lived up to their hype, with Jennifer Hudson as Motormouth Maybelle and Ariana Grande as Penny Pingleton knocking it out of the ballpark with their vocals. Harvey Fierstein, repeating his iconic performance of Edna Turnblad from the original Broadway production, and with a list of cameos as long as your arm to add to the star power, this NBC production was totally euphoric.

Noah, Moses and Jonah

Sight & Sound Theatre. Featured on BroadwayHD.com

At the start of the Covid-19 lockdown I received many excited messages from friends telling me of BroadwayHD.com, a streaming service dedicated to performing arts. The channel has a diverse range of titles from traditional live musical theatre and movies to plays and concerts.  Dozens of titles include performances from Hugh Jackman (Oklahoma!), David Hasselhoff (Jekyll and Hyde), Zachary Levi (She Loves Me) and the complete Nunsense series. 

The Sound of Music Live!

Music: Richard Rodgers. Lyrics: Oscar Hammerstein 2nd. Additional Lyrics: Richard Rodgers. Book: Howard Lindsay & Russell Crouse, adapted for television by Austin Winsberg. Executive Producers: Neil Meron, Craig Zadan. Directors: Rob Ashford, Beth McCarthy-Miller. Musical Director: David Chase. The Shows Must Go On YouTube Channel. Free Stream. 23-24 May 2020

When NBC aired The Sound of Music Live!, on Thursday December 5th 2013, itwas the first time in over 50 years that a television network had broadcast a live version of a Broadway musical. The telecast pulled in nearly 20 million viewers.

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