Reviews

The Wind in the Willows

Adapted by Glen Elston from Kenneth Grahame’s classic. The Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney. Until January 28, 2011.

Pantomimes are rarely popular in Australia during the regular peak English season.  

While halls and theatres are packed in December and January in the old country, this tradition has lost its popularity during the warm summers of the southern hemisphere.

So putting on a show outdoors is the perfect solution, and no more sparkling a venue could be imagined than Sydney’s Royal Botanic Gardens.

The production of The Wind in the Willows has been running for 25 years and it is no surprise why.

Buried City

By Raimondo Cortese. A co-production with Urban Theatre Projects and Sydney Festival by Belvoir St Theatre. Upstairs Theatre, Belvoir. January 6 – February 5, 2012.

In keeping with its raw characters and themes, this is a raw production. It pulls no punches. It makes no excuses. So, if you don’t like straight talking with ubiquitous four letter words from characters who say it like it is, it may be possible that you won’t like Buried City. On the other hand, because the characters depict their own reality, in their own ‘speak’, the language they use shouldn’t really offend. They speak of their present, grubby as it is; they speak of their hopes, unachievable as they may seem; and it is all viscerally real.

The Taming of the Shrew

By William Shakespeare. Sydney Shakespeare Festival. Bicentennial Park, Glebe Foreshore until February 12, 2011..

Picturesque views of the city skyline, Glebe Island Bridge and Sydney Harbour create a stunning backdrop for Sydney Shakespeare Festival. In its 5th year, the festival is the perfect night out for families and couples. Along with the moonlight cinemas, Shakespeare performed under the stars is a must-see on a balmy summers eve.

Hamlet

By William Shakespeare. Sydney Shakespeare Festival. Bicentennial Park in Glebe. January 5 – February 12, 2012.

Now in its fifth season, the Sydney Shakespeare Festival has already staged outdoors the more obviously suitable pastoral or elemental plays by the Bard.  They’re back in their favourite spot in Bicentennial Park in Glebe, with Sydney’s skyline as a backdrop, but this time with the normally claustrophobic, internalised tragedy of Hamlet.

Still, the last version I saw of Hamlet, at a Sydney Festival two years ago, sported German actors plunging about in mud and Hamlet following everyone with a cam-recorder.

 

The Magic Flute

By Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Libretto by Emanuel Schikaneder. Opera Australia. Director: Matthew Barclay. Based on the original production by Julie Taymor. Opera Theatre, Sydney Opera House. January 6 to March 23, 2012.

The New York Metropolitan Opera has a fabled reputation for the most extravagant of productions. Australian audiences can now feast on the visual banquet cooked up by Julie Taymor, of Lion King fame and Spiderman infamy, in this replica performance that opened at the Sydney Opera House ahead of a transfer to Melbourne.

James and the Giant Peach

Music & Lyrics: Maitlohn Drew. Adapted by David Wood from the book by Roald Dahl. Director: Tim O’Connor. Harvest Rain. Cremorne Theatre, QPAC, Brisbane. 6 – 21January, 2012

James and the Giant Peach is a fun show for kids and perfect entertainment for this holiday time of year. With plenty of audience participation, bright songs, kooky costumes, and a knockout set, Tim O’Connor’s production covers all bases.

Annie

Book: Thomas Meehan. Music: Charles Strouse. Lyrics: Martin Charnin. Producers: John Frost, Power Arts, QPAC and Two Left Feet Productions. Director: Karen Johnson Mortimer. Choreographer: Kelly Aykers. Musical Director: Peter Casey. Lyric Theatre, The Star, Sydney. Opening Night: January 5, 2012. Brisbane, Melbourne and Perth seasons to follow.

Despite the old theatrical adage ‘never work with kids and animals’, from an audience point of view few theatrical experiences are more appealing. Twice filmed, Annie is a much-prized, well-watched part of most family DVD collections.

And talk about musical theatre star firepower.

Mary Poppins.

Music & Lyrics: Richard M. Sherman, Robert B. Sherman, George Stiles, Anthony Drewe. Book: Julian Fellowes. Director: Richard Eyre adapted by James Powell. Choreography: Mathew Bourne adapted by Geoffrey Garratt. Disney & Cameron Macintosh Production. Lyric Theatre, QPAC, Brisbane. 5 January 2012

Mary Poppins not only sings, dances and flies, but she is totally captivating in this stage-musical version of Queensland author P.L. Travers immortal character. Verity Hunt-Ballard sings she’s “Practically Perfect” but in my view she couldn’t be more perfect in the role. Feisty, endearing and with a voice like an angel, she stands head-and-shoulders above everybody else on stage and is the main reason to see this joyous musical.

Urban Display Suite

Written by Michael Dalley. Lawler Studio, Melbourne Theatre. Until January 21, 2012.

While most of us are worrying about how to pay our mortgage whilst caught between the GFC that was, and the Recession that will be, the talented Michael Dalley chooses the property boom as his latest satirical target. With biting lyrics set to albeit simplistic and vaudevillian type melodies, Dalley and company tear down the bogan middle class icons and show us our real selves in such cutting numbers as “Shit Art Of the Mornington Peninsula” and “McMansion Façade”.

Pippin

By Stephen Schawartz and Roger O Hirson. Crinklecut Productions. Sidetrack Theatre (NSW). December 7 – 17, 2011.

Small may well be the way of the future for reviving some relatively big Broadway shows. It won’t work for every musical; a few years back a greater wit than I rechristened a pared back version of Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd as Teeny Todd, but with a simple storytelling tuner like Pippin, it’s a very viable choice.

This debut production by Crinklecut Productions takes a Broadway musical back to Off-Broadway scale to relatively pleasing effect.

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