Die Fledermaus

By Johann Strauss II. Co-Opera. Director: Frank Ford. Choreographer: Nick Carroll. Conductor: Julie Sargeant. Darebin Arts Centre. March 15, 2013. And Regional touring.

South Australia-based professional touring opera company Co-Opera has been around for over twenty years, and this year is touring Johann Strauss’s Die Fledermaus (The Revenge of the Bat).

Set in 1920s Australia, with broad Aussie accents and a lot of slapstick, the production featured an excellent small orchestra led by Julie Sargeant from the keyboard.

Trybe – An Opera in Paint

By Anthony Breslin. Chapel off Chapel (Vic). 14 – 24 March, 2013

Trybe – An Opera in Paint is a 65 minute assault of the senses. Using a mixture of eclectic music, drawing, painting, multi-media, technology and dancing, directors Anthony Breslin and Stephen Agisilaoudrag the audience into the strange imagination of a visual artist, with the intent of revealing the artistic process.  

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.

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