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2014 Musical Theatre Reviews

 

Footloose the Musical

Directed by Tim O’Connor

Stage adaptation by Dean Pitchford and Walter Bobbie

Harvest Rain Theatre Company

Brisbane Powerhouse

New Farm

 

PAULINE SMITH November 30, 2014

 

FOOTLOOSE the Musical has been adapted from the popular movie of the 1980’s and tells the story of Ren McCormack who moves from Chicago to the small farming community of Bomont with his mother.

Ren soon discovers that Bomont is a far cry from the big city and there are laws which have been enacted by the town council at the behest of the local reverend, banning all forms of dance, popular music and anything else which might get the young folk’s hormones revved up. Ren can’t seem to do anything right, even though he is doing nothing wrong, and everyone believes the worst about the new kid in town, except for the reverend’s daughter.

Ren McCormack, was ably played by Ethan Jones, who emulated the original character played by Kevin Bacon admirably. Ethan’s singing prowess was brought to the fore in many songs and his dancing skills were more than capable of reproducing the classic moves from by the movie.

Ariel Moore, the reverend’s daughter, was played by Genevieve Tree, whose strong voice was evident in many of the songs. Reverend Shaw Moore was played by special guest, Chris Kellett. Chris has a strong voice and presence on stage, which was every bit the small town reverend tending his flock, but also a father desperately wanting to protect his daughter from the ‘evils’ of the world, and failing both.

Rev. Moore’s wife, Vi, was played by Natalie Greer, whose dulcet tones were heart-rendering in her solo numbers. Ariel’s friends, Rusty (Courtney Underhill), Urleen (Lauren O’Neill) and Wendy Jo (Jessica Purdy) were great in their roles, although I thought that Rusty was a little too country bumpkin-ish.

Courtney, however, played the role for all it was worth and she elicited quite a few laughs, as did Tom Holmes-Brown as Willard Hewitt. Willard’s character was spot on and delightful, with all his “My momma says…” quotes and a whole song dedicated to “My momma says”. The other two characters worthy of mention were Ethel McCormack, Ren’s mum played by Jessica Elise Moore and Chuck Cranston, the town bully and Ariel’s boyfriend (until Ren comes along) played by Michael Nunn.

The singing overall was very good, however the pre-recorded music was extremely loud and it drowned out the singers at times, even though the lead characters and those with lines were all miked.

One song early on in the first half was sung in counterpoint and it was extremely difficult to understand either set of lyrics. It was just ‘noise’. However, that said, I think the girls (Ariel, Rusty, Urleen and Wendy Jo) did a very good rendition of Holding Out for a Hero, and Ariel and Ren were just lovely in their duet Almost Paradise. Let’s Hear it for the Boy was also a memorable number. But, of course, the signature song Footloose was superb, and the audience was treated to it twice, as it opens and closes the show.

The choreography put together by Dan Venz was fantastic. It had all the hallmarks of the era and in particular, paid tribute to the original movie with classic moves. The vibrancy and enthusiasm was evident on stage and it was simply amazing how all the dancers were able to fit and perform different choreography.

It was sometimes hard to watch everything that was happening, it was just so busy and you felt you were missing out by watching one part of the stage in detriment to the rest. Of course, the memorable dance numbers are when Willard gets his “dancing feet”, and the finale.

The costumes were great, colourful, and suited to each character from Ariel with her red cowboy boots, to the townsfolk’s almost trapped in the ‘50’s style of conservatism, to Ren’s skinny tie and burgundy blazer, to the country cowboy style of Willard.

The stage set was cleverly designed to resemble a host of venues – done all in wood – it resembled the inside of a large barn with a raised stage which had two wooden ladder style steps down to a podium level and then to the main floor of the stage itself. To stage right was a door at the back, with an exit centre stage right and in front of that an area that worked both as a bar and a burger joint. To stage left was a protruding door, which was the front door to the reverend’s house. It did, however, leave plenty of floor space for the large dance numbers, which were a feature of the show.

I thoroughly enjoyed the show – well done to this year’s group of interns.

The production ran from 27– 30 November

Adding Machine: A Musical

Book and Lyrics by Jason Loewith & Joshua Schmidt

Directed by Samuel Boyd and John Vizcay-Wilson

Presented by Underground Productions

Schonell Theatre

St Lucia

 

PAULINE SMITH

 

Adding Machine: A Musical is an adaptation of Elmer Rice’s 1923 play which tells the story of Mr Zero. After 25 years of working loyally for the same company, Mr Zero believes that on the day of his anniversary, he will be promoted to the front office. However, the boss fires him instead, telling him he is being replaced by an adding machine which is much more efficient and cost effective.

In an act of vengeance, fuelled by betrayal, Zero murders his boss. He is then tried, sentenced and executed, where he ends up in the Elysian Fields and gets a chance for romance and redemption.

This is the Brisbane premier of the play and portrays a dark, bleak side to the “Roaring 20’s” rather than the glamour popularised by movies such as The Great Gatsby. The musical is set in Middle America 1920’s, with all actors using an American accent of some description.

Mr Zero was played by Chris Kellett, who was very good in the role. He brought Mr Zero to life, so to speak, as Mr Zero is a drudge, a victim of the ‘capitalism’ of the decade.

He has a nagging wife at home, who wants to be more than just a housewife and wants to be taken out, but is married to a man who has no ambition except to get to his 25th anniversary of working because he will be rewarded.

Mrs Zero was ably played by Gabriella Flowers, whose Bronx nasal accent would be enough to drive anyone to murder, particularly during the singing. The accent, combined with the musical score, really drove home her frustration, anger and boredom. The rest of the cast who fleshed out the other characters were also good in their various roles, some of them multiple.

The stage was simply built, but extremely versatile. The bedroom, dining room and Mr Zero’s workplace were displayed with the use of a revolving stage, in the shape of a large cog. A smaller cog was just off to the side and this was utilised as the dock and cell, as well as the front door of the Zeros’ apartment. At the rear of the stage was a large screen, used equally effectively to provide shadow imagery of action and/or people, such as the murder scene.

Minimal props created the various scenes as they revolved – bed, dresser and chair; table and chairs for the dining room; and chairs and small tables for the office scene. A white curtain which dropped into position in front of the raised cogs, created the Elysian Fields with a few garlanded baskets and a swing at one end. The revolving stage was a very effective tool to use with this production, as it allowed for continuous action and movement.

The dark musical score (overseen by Musical Director, Benedict Braxton-Smith) added to the overall effect of the dreary, monotonous life Mr Zero lives, day in, day out. The choreography (Jessica Palfrey) was clever and matched the music/ It added to the artistic effect one hundred per cent.

One thing that must be remembered when portraying accents and it is a play/musical that no-one knows, is that the annunciation of words has to be so much better so that people can understand what is being said and sung. I found that I could not understand what was being sung, however with the repetitive nature of the lyrics, it could be worked out.

This was not an easy show to produce, but I think that the two directors, Samuel Boyd and John Vizcay-Wilson did very well with the material. The actors, and everyone involved in this production, put a lot of hard work into producing an unusual and bizarre musical. There are some light, laughable moments but mostly the production is quite dark and bleak.

Personally, I did not particularly like this production. I found it a bit too dark, the music too loud thereby drowning out the voices to a certain extent even though they were miked, the lyrics too repetitive, and it just droned on to its inevitable conclusion. I found I could not connect with Mr Zero as a poor unfortunate soul worthy of redemption; he was just poor and unfortunate. Why the girl in the office had a crush on him is beyond me, but each to their own as they say. This is an eclectic adaptation of a play written nearly 100 years ago and its artistic nature will appeal to others.

Adding Machine: A Musical is on at the Schonell Theatre from 4-13 September 2014.

September 6 2014

 The Addams Family Musical

By Marshal Brickman, Rick Elise and Andrew Lippa

Directed by Laraine Griffiths

Musical Director Mark Connors

Choreographers Bronte Devine, Lily Devine, Jordon Rennie and Alex Lanham

Brisbane Arts Theatre

Petrie Terrace

Brisbane

 

ERIC SCOTT August 11, 2014

 

THERE was a packed house for the Arts Theatre’s Addams Family Musical opening night and the patrons enjoyed the entire couple of hours plus of entertainment. The play is an odd one – it was a smash hit on Broadway and ran for 18 months, but the Australia season died the death after a couple of months in Sydney and the countrywide tour cancelled.

So was it a risk to put it on in Brisbane? Not for the Arts Theatre judging by the reaction of the opening night audience. It was a huge success. There was a great buzz before the show at the interval.

 In the courtyard before the show the audience members were entertained by Cousin Itt, who did not actually appear in the play and were gently ushered into the theatre by a menacing, smile-less very pale and very dead ancestors. It all worked well to set the mood!

The story is flimsy – Wednesday has grown up and wants to marry a “normal” bloke and this worries the family – oddly though Pugsley is a still a naughty little boy. There are no hit songs, but some interesting tunes and plenty of witty lyrics, which were so well articulated that we heard every word.

But it is the characters, based strongly on the TV series by director Laraine Griffiths that made this production the success it is. They seemed to be just as well known to the children who watched the show as to their parents and grandparents.

The costuming helped too. It was no mean feat to costume a cast of 20! The main characters all looked exactly like the TV counterparts and the ghostly ancestors were terrific. Top marks to Kristine Von Hilderbrandt for her designs; they were terrific, except for Pugsley.

He wore a short fat suit under his shirt that pulled away from his trousers every time he moved. It was quite disconcerting and detracted from his character and hardly fair on Liam Wigney who played the role.

On the other hand Morticia was magnificent in black with hair trailing almost to the floor. She was very nicely played by Aurelie Rouque as was Gomez by Richard Murphy. They both delivered the quirky dark humour with perfect expression and body language.

Jessica Potts was perfectly cast as Wednesday, where again the deadpan delivery of dark lines made them all hilarious. The long, lean Connor Clarke played Lurch. He didn’t have many lines but his movements were enough to get his laughs, although his voice when he did speak - or groan – didn’t quite reach Lurchian depths

Standouts for me though were Phillipa Rowe as Granma and Samuel Thomas-Holland as the white faced Uncle Fester. What great characters they created - and Samuel Thomas-Holland has an exceptionally strong operatic voice.

The “normal” family, Wednesday’s suitor, Lucas and his mum and dad Mal and Alice were right out of the Rocky Horror Show. Lucas, played by Christopher Batkin, was a nerdy Brad-like character in a 1950s way while Pierre Nicol as Mal and Natalie Riddout as Alice could well have been Brad’s parents.

I liked Alice’s change from mouse to mistress of discipline.

Where the characterisations were first class the singing was even better with some fancy solos and on key, beautifully sung choral work from the Ancestors. It was interesting to see from the program that practically every member of the cast has had voice training or worked steadily in musical theatre.

I reckon they could have done the whole show without microphones despite the backing of a ten-piece band. It would have helped eliminate the technical problems that always arise with radio microphones.

I also thoroughly enjoyed the dance routines. They were filled with spooky movements and the ten corpses did some admirable work in the constricted space of the Arts Theatre stage. The Alex Lanham choreographed tango sequence with Morticia and Gomez was a hoot too.

The one thing missing from the play – obviously for copyright reasons - was the Addams Family theme song. We got a few bars on the piano at the end, but it seemed such a pity that we didn’t get the whole song.

It continues until September 13.  Bookings: 07 3369 2344 or email bookings@artstheatre.com.au.

CATS

Based on the Old Possum Book of Practical Cats by T.S. Elliot

Music by Andrew Lloyd Webber

Director and Choreographer Callum Mansfield

Harvest Rain Theatre Company

Brisbane Convention Centre

 South Brisbane

 

ERIC SCOTT July 5, 2014

 

ONE WAY to fill an auditorium is to have a big cast with lots of relatives and friends, so to fill a room like the Great Hall of the Brisbane Convention Centre, with more than 2000 seats you would need a big cast indeed.

How about a cast of 800 plus a 16-piece band?

Well, that’s exactly what Harvest Rain did for its arena-style production of CATS and staggeringly it was a huge success. This show made Ben Hur look like a one man show!

There were hundreds of school children and young adults costumed in slinky cat suits crowded around the arena stage prowling, prancing, singing, and dancing. In fact there were so many they seemed to swarm like a plague of mice rather than cats as they flooded out in different formations and directions.

At times they were so coordinated it looked like a birthday parade for North Korea’s Kim Jong il!

It was a sight never before seen I’m sure. It was impressive itself but what was even more impressive was the fact that those hundreds of children, danced almost perfectly in time, in rhythm and they sang in tune too. I was just knocked out by the whole spectacle. Top marks too to the backstage people who made those hundreds of fine feline costumes.

I have directed children’s musicals with casts of 16 to 20 and that had me tearing my hair out, how Callum Mansfield managed the superhuman task so brilliantly is beyond my comprehension.

It proved what an amazing director and choreographer is he.

Mind you he had a big band of happy (and necessary) helpers to keep the huge chorus in line – and those 2000 odd seats were practically filled on the opening night.

This show, with Josh McIntosh’s figure-eight stage set and orchestra pit that filled the centre of the venue, was more about spectacle with is massed dances and belting songs, than a story, and this is where it was different from many other versions of the show. It was an angle which worked well. Jason Glenright’s moody lighting plot helped the spectacle along too. The energy level was always at a peak, so much so that you could almost see the adrenaline pumping.

The Great Hall is not the ideal venue for music; the acoustics are pretty ordinary but Murray Keidge managed to get an excellent balance in the vast space. The band, under Musical Director Maitlohn Drew, never overpowered the voices which were not over-amplified either. The sound was good enough for most of the lyrics to get through the bounce.

Mind you, most the songs are pretty well known, so it all worked well for the audience. The main characters are also very familiar, and were well performed by the main cast.

The show opening told us exactly what to expect when Munkustrap (Dean Vince) led the cast and ensemble in a rousing, jazzy medley of Jellicle Songs, The Naming of the Cats and his solo Invitation to the Jellicle Ball.

Marina Prior was Grizabella and she wrung every bit of emotion from the hit number Memory, particularly in the Act Two reprise.

Steve Tandy was great value too as the snazzy Bustopher Jones and Gus the Theatre Cat and I really enjoyed the lovely, wistful duet with Jellyorum, who was played by Casey McCollow, who also doubled as Griddlebone, so we heard a lot of her fabulous voice.

A couple of highlights for me were the joyous antics of Mungojerrie and Rumpleteazer (Callan Warner and Hannah Crowther) in their highly energetic routine and Macavity the Mystery Cat sung by Kimberley Hodgson and Vanessa Krummenacher.

Stevie Bishop was no slouch either as Mr Mistoffelees with his very professional magic show that included vanishing people tricks that were excellently and expertly performed.

Top marks to producer Tim O’Connor for taking the punt to use such a massive cast. it was a punt that paid off handsomely. Such a pity it had such a short run – just five performances that ended on Sunday night, July 6.

Company the Musical

By Stephen Sondheim

Presented by Ignatians Musical Society

Directed by Catarina Hebbard

Roundhouse Theatre

Kelvin Grove

 

KELLIE SCOTT June 24. 2014

 

RELATIONSHIPS are living, breathing and ever-changing things and Company the Musical is an insight into what marriage really can be like: the good, the bad and the…really bad.

At the heart of the show is Robert, aka Bobby (Bradley McCaw), who is surrounded by his coupled friends. In a variety of ways they apply pressure on him to settle down – all the while revealing their own relationship highs and lows.

On the eve of Bobby’s 35th birthday he is challenged to discover what it is he really wants in life.

The pace and plot positioning is challenging to keep up with as you learn there is no direct storyline and instead a mix of Bobby’s memories.

Musicals are not my thing so enjoying the evening at Company the Musical was always going to be a task. So although bored by the story and concept, I could appreciate there were some great musical talents. Huge support was obvious from the crowd which included more than just family and friends on opening night.

McCaw stole the show, as he should in the leading role. His voice was impeccable and stage presence strong. A New York player – he had the air of an arrogant womaniser down to a tee.

Stand out supporting acts included were Lisa Marie Gargione as Amy. Her comical “runaway bride” scene was delivered impeccably and provoked many laughs.

Heidi Enchelmaier as April was a great as the ditzy flight attendant and Tammy Sarah Linde as Sarah with Chris Kellet as Harry worked well as the competitive couple.

The strength of the cast’s singing can’t be faulted but unfortunately there were some speaker or microphone issues when Erika Naddei sang, which detracted from her otherwise solid performance.

American accents were superb and whoever coached the cast should be proud.

Luke Volker was the conductor behind the scenes leading the band which provided the show’s score. There was quality sound from this group.

Company the Musical is showing until July 5. Tickets qtix.com.au.

Boadicea The Celtic Rock Opera

By Judy Stevens and Clarry Evans with Graeme Johnston

Directed by David Bell

Musical Director Shannon Whitelock

Dianne Gough Productions

Roundhouse Theatre

Kelvin Grove

Brisbane

 

ERIC SCOTT May 29, 2014

 

ITS BEEN 30 years since the first concept and a three hour production, followed by three reworkings, but now Boadicea has reached its peak. Under David Bell’s direction the rock opera has turned out to be a powerful piece of theatre.

It is Shakespearean in its dramatic darkness, included in which is a trio of witchlike Druids who muttered their own dire prophesies and Celtic spells; bad baddies and a heroic hero. It is fully operatic in its delivery, which means there are lots of bodies strewn around the stage, plus copious amounts of bloody battles.

Clarry Evans’ music, played by a six-piece band, managed to bridge that illusive sound between a rock band and an orchestra with excellent lush orchestration plus an occasional madrigal and a few folk tunes.

The unusual make-up of the band helped this along with a mix of electric and acoustic instruments – piano and keyboard, electric and acoustic guitars, brass, electric bass, fiddle, viola, and Irish whistles. They combined to create a unique sound, sometimes haunting, sometimes swinging, and sometimes reaching a powerful and dramatic crescendo.

I was surprised at the quality of the vocals too. The actors were miked up, but they were all in pitch and had high quality in tone and delivery.

The action, set in 60 AD, runs for 90 minutes in two acts and on opening night moved at a pretty fast pace.

It tells the story of the British Queen Boadicea who took on the Roman Empire, won some battle, but was finally beaten.

Her husband Prasulagus, played by Jason Ward Kennedy, was the King of Iceni who ran his kingdom without interference from the occupying Romans. It was strong performance both vocally an in acting strength. He was particularly good in a beautiful duet with Alison St Ledger as Boadicea. After his rather bloody death his kingdom was bequeathed to his daughters and the Roman Emperor.

But the Roman decided to annexe the kingdom and sent in the army and Decianus the tax collector to exact his pound or two of flesh. They flogged Boadicea and raped her daughter to show their power. The Roman governor, Paulinus, portrayed by Matt Newnham, was as corrupt a conqueror as they come with his drinking and cavorting with the fur-coated hooker who incongruously wore a Union Jack bikini.

The attack on Boadicea and her family was violent and powerful and contained a sickening stylised rape sequence. The flogging too was cleverly gruesome, with the punishment meted out with bottles filled with red liquid that crisscrossed Boadicea’s back in a life like bloodletting. Chris Herden was Decianus, a fawning bully who was blinded by his power.

Alison St Ledger, is one of Australia’s most accomplished entertainers and she reprised the role she played in the 1998 version. The voice was there, but somehow she didn’t convince me she was a fierce, woad-painted ancient Brit warrior out to trounce the invaders.

 But the battles commenced and fought until the heroine was mortally wounded and took poison rather than be captured by the victorious Romans.

Generally the singing was first rate, and the chorus work was sublime. The harmonies and soaring melodies were a joy to hear - particularly in the rousing finale.

Much of the singing though was necessarily narration and the band, possibly because it was too close to the action, often drowned out the lyrics even though the voices were amplified. The storyline though was easy to follow.

The costuming was peculiar; some modern dress, some historic, a few suits and soldiers wearing what looked like slaughterhouse aprons and riot squad headgear. It was odd as the setting in 60 AD, but despite the incongruous looks it somehow added to the entertainment.

  This is a show for the fans of fine voice and chorus. It kept me intrigued and involved and so, it seemed, the rest of the audience.

It continues until June 7.

Avenue Q

Music and Lyrics by Robert Lopez and Jeff Marx

Book by Jeff Whitty

Directed by John Boyce

Brisbane Arts Theatre

Petrie Terrace

Brisbane.

 

ERIC SCOTT May 12, 2014

 

I SAW the professional production of Avenue Q back in February 2010 and laughed myself silly. In 2012 the Brisbane Arts Theatre put on a production and I decided against seeing it because I felt I might be biased and compare an amateur show with the professional production. It turned out to be a sell-out for the company, so this time, with the second Arts production I went along to the opening night, and what a great show it was. I enjoyed it as much as I did the original.

The show hit a very high mark, far above the average amateur production. The singing was of professional standard and the singers were also adept at working the puppets, which of course play so many of the important roles.

The cast was a mix of puppets and human characters and the actors also sang and they were strong enough to hold their own with the puppeteers.

The sound system, newly installed, hit the right notes and the band rarely drowned the voices.

The show is like a Mickey Rooney-Judy Garland movie, where everyone is good at heart – even the bad guys - and everyone lives happily ever after conquering all obstacles thrown at them. It leaves you with the feeling that all is right with the world and the memory of a happy night in the theatre.

It’s done in the style of the Muppets with character driven puppets worked by visible actors, but it’s a lot more grown-up. I use the term deliberately because those puppets are not exactly adults, more naughty adolescents who get up to all sorts of tricks – even performing live sex!

Believe me seeing a pair of legless puppets engaging in all every manner of sexual contortions is eye-wateringly funny. It just has to be seen to believed, and it just too funny to be offensive.

So too the song The Internet is for Porn, sung by the porn addict Trekkie Monster played by Joshua Bloomfield, (shades of Sesame Street’s  Cookie Monster), was rude crude and highly funny.

The plot tells of the lives of the Avenue Q residents who live a rundown tenement area of New York that is overseen by a character called Gary Coleman, the former child TV star, who is played by Natalie Murtagh as a live character. I remember Gary Coleman, a short black kid from a TV series many years ago but I think the references went over most the audience’s heads.

A young college graduate, Princeton, played by Beau Rush, comes to New York City with dreams of fame and fortune and searching for his purpose in life, but the only place he can afford to live is Avenue Q.

But the neighbours are nice. Brian is a would-be stand- up comedian who is engaged to a Japanese Therapist, Christmas Eve who is still waiting for a paid job. These are both human characters played by Nathan Parmenter and Kimi Tsukakoshi who both have a lot of fun in their roles. Kimi in particular has an amazing control of her voice as she switches not only keys but pitch too.

Then there’s the untidy, feckless Nicky also played by Joshua Bloomfield, whose roommate Rod, played by Tyler Stevens, is as opposite a character you could imagine. There’s also a cute kindergarten teaching assistant named Kate Monster, played by Kelsie McDonald, whose dream in life is to build a special school for the put-upon monster population.

Then there is nightclub singer and swinger Lucy the Slut (think a downsized Miss Piggy), played by Melissa Weston  and Mrs. Thistletwat (Megan Crocombe) is the kindergartner principal, who thinks that calling her by her first name diminishes respect for her!

Finally we have what must have once been Carebears but they have morphed into the mischievous and extremely naught Bad Idea Bears. They are marvellous creations. I loved them.

It is Princeton and sweetly innocent Kate Monster, who, egged on by the Bad Idea bears and few glasses of booze who perform the uncensored sex scene, but Princeton doesn’t respect her in the morning and runs off with Lucy the who, when she sings, even manages to do a bit a pole dancing!

So among all these characters there are stories of ambition, lack of ambition, unrequited love, true love, gay love, the homeless and the jobless – and each topic is tackled with the same outrageous humour.

All the songs, backed by a live band, are great lyrically and musically and every word of every song could be heard – and they needed to be to be appreciated. The opening song My Life Sucks and Everyone’s a Little Bit Racist, sung by all and Nicky’s hilarious If You Were Gay were the standouts for me.

It looks being another sell-out season and if it is it will be well deserved.

It continues until June 21. Bookings on www.artstheatre.com.au or 3369 2344.

The King and I

Australian Premiere

Music by Richard Rodgers , book and lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II

Based on the book Anna and the King of Siam by Margaret Landon

Directed by Christopher Renshaw

Opera Australia and John Frost production

Lyric Theatre

Queensland Performing Arts Centre

South Bank

Brisbane

 

ERIC SCOTT April 21, 2014

 

THIS production is a sumptuous, dazzling and eye boggling piece of theatrical magic. The stage sparkles in gold and crystal, the costumes are as exotic as the story – and Lisa McCune and Teddy Tahu Rhodes bring Anna and the King brilliantly to life.

It was easy to see where the production millions had been spent. It is rare to see something so lavish on the modern stage and the cast was large enough to have been hired by Cecil B DeMille for a Hollywood blockbuster movie.

As well as the sets and costuming there were the great songs – Whistle a Happy Tune, Hello Young Lovers, Getting to Know You, and I Have Dreamed, all beautifully performed. And then there was the back story of the love of Tuptim, the beautiful gift to the King from, the King of Burma and the boy Lan Tha.

I could also see strong links to the Yul Brynner-Deborah Kerr movie, Rhodes strutted like Brynner and McCune somehow managed to look and sound like Deborah Kerr. I loved every minute of their performance.

The sparks flew when they were together.

The people who, unfairly in my view, complained that Rhodes was “wooden” in South Pacific would have to eat their words after this performance. He was energised and powerful as the King and yet showed his softer side with his kindness and earnest wish to westernise his country. Of course his voice matched his physique in power.

Lisa McCune was terrific too as she fought her own prejudices and showed her stubbornness as she battled the supreme ruler of Siam, she sang the now classic songs charmingly and subtly to bring out all the nuances of her character.

 She also had a wardrobe of frocks that had the women gasping and wishing they had the chance to try them on. They were spectacular and stunningly designed, although not the easiest of garments to work in! But she did look the epitome of class and style.

The wonderful Shall we Dance? number in the second act was a tribute to the pair of them as they pranced round the stage, hooped dress and all without so much as a  stumble. It had all the exuberance of two people who had found a new love. The audience loved it.

As Anna settled reluctantly into the King’s palace (she had been promised a house for her and son Louis) to the March of the Siamese Children, we met the King’s children who were without exception absolutely delightful, cute as buttons – and all Asians. In fact the majority of the Siamese subjects were played by Asians.

One of my favourite spots in the production was when Tuptim tells the story of “The Small house of Uncle Thomas”, which was the Siamese interpretation of Uncle Tom’s Cabin.

The company dancers created a fascinating and elegant ballet in Thai style dance style. It was yet another beautiful moment in the show. It was interesting for me to see that the musical staging had been done by Brisbane choreographer Callum Mansfield, who has done much of his work with the Harvest Rain Theatre Company. He’s come a long way since his days at McGregor High School!

Jenny LuI managed to make Tuptim look sexy and pure at the same time as she desperately tried to escape the palace and run away with her lover Lun Tha, played by international talent Adrian Le Donni, who has played the role many times in many parts of the world.

Their duets, A Kiss in the Shadows and I Have Dreamed were show stoppers.

Marty Rhone was great as the King’s right hand man and Shu-Cheen Yu held her own as Lady Thiang. In fact from leads to chorus there was never a weak link.

The show runs for two-and-a-half hours, but there is not a dull moment anywhere and there is always something visually stunning to look at.

It’s one of the best and a must for fans of fine musical theatre.

This Australian premiere continues until June 1. Ticket prices $69.90-$159.90. Bookings on QTIX 136 246.

 Guys and Dolls

Based on the characters of Damon Runyon

Music and Lyrics by Frank Loesser

Book by Jo Swerling and Abe Burrows

Directed by Tim O’Connor

Harvest Rain Theatre Company

Concert Hall

Queensland Performing Arts Centre

South Bank

Brisbane

 

ERIC SCOTT March 22, 2014

 

HARVEST Rain Theatre Company has such a consistent high standard its hardest job is to top the previous production.

Guys and Dolls had a top quality cast, the usual superb band, and some excellent production numbers, but for me didn’t quite make it.

The action follows the love interests of Sky Masterson and Nathan Detroit, who is the organiser of the craps game that “floats” to avoid the cops.

Nathan’s long-time love is Miss Adelaide, a dancer/singer at the Hot Box Club, and to whom he has been engaged for 14 years. Sky’s love interest becomes Miss Sarah, the local Salvation Army sergeant who takes her band around Times Square trying to convert sinners to the mission.

Ian Stenlake dressed in his sky-blue draped suit was a cool Sky Masterson and Daryl Somers decked out in a sweat-inducing fat suit was a gem as Nicely Nicely Johnson while Liz Buchanan was terrific as the permanently engaged and never married Miss Adelaide the night club artist.

Then there was the frenetic Nathan Detroit played by Wayne Scott Kermond and Angela Harding as the sugar sweet Sarah Brown the Salvationist. Even Steven Tandy had a cameo role as Arvide Abernathy the Salvation Army drummer (although it was not a full-sized bass drum we usually see with the Salvo bands).

He even had a song to sing, More I Cannot Wish You, which he belted out very nicely.

There were not many familiar (to me) tunes; in fact my favourite from the show A Woman in Love was apparently only the 1955 movie and sung by Marlon Brando. That was a disappointment.

But there a couple of standouts – Luck Be a Lady and of course Sit Down, You’re Rockin’ the Boat led by the still energetic Daryl Somers – and that was quite a feat in the suit!

Another dance routine, Havana set in a sexy Latin night club in Havana, was lost in some inexplicable dark lighting. It seemed odd to have leggy chorus girls in sexy outfits performing in the dark. I thought George Canham’s choreography was not up the slick standard of the usual dance creator Calum Mansfield

I liked the cheesy costumes too, all the  bright colours and checks that the famous Runyon characters with names like Benny Southstreet, Big Jule, Scranton Slim, Harry the Horse, Society Max and Angie the Ox, wore. However I could not understand why the Salvation Army Colonel wore corporals’ chevrons on her sleeves.

But Josh McIntosh seemed to have a great understanding of Runyon’s New York wide boys. I thought the set this time not up the usual standard. To my eyes it was too tall and too grey for the streets of New York even in the 1940s when the action takes place.

The actors, especially during duets seemed lost in the space and yet at the same time, the dancing stage was crowded.

Generally I was distracted by too much darkness in Jason Glenright’s design which didn’t help with the grey set.

Where the bulk of the large audience left happy, I was mildly disappointed with the overall production. The usually Harvest Rain sparkle was missing.

Rocky Horror Show

By Richard O’Brien

Directed by Christopher Luscombe

Musical Director Dave Skelton

Choreography by Nathan M Wright

Produced by Howard Panter and John Frost

Lyric Theatre

Queensland Performing Arts Centre

South Bank

Brisbane

 

ERIC SCOTT January 11, 2014

 

THIS Australian premiere of this cult classic was more an event than a night out at the theatre. And more a rock concert than a stage musical. The Lyric foyer was crowded to capacity with some gorgeous and some really weird Dr Frank-N-Furters, male and female and many other of the crazy characters from the show. Dress up, suspender belts and fishnet tights were the order of the night. And what surprised me was the number of parents who brought their kids along to experience the naughty monsters for the first time. The legend will obviously live on.

It was obvious from the buzz that this new Rocky Horror Show production was a hit before the first note of music blasted from the theatre speakers.

There was hardly a spare seat on opening night and so many of the audience were anticipating every move and every inflection in the script. They clapped and sang along with some of the more well known songs and screamed like teenagers at a Justin Beiber concert as Frank-N-Furter himself made his dramatic entrance.

In fact the rock concert factor was to the fore as the cheers and screams blocked out the sound at times. The audience was just as entertaining as the show, particularly at the finale rendering of The Time Warp. I’ve never seen many arms waving or heard so many voices booming out the lyrics from the auditorium. And it became even more special when New Zealand born Richard O’Brien, the show’s creator, now 71, joined in and sang and danced The Time Warp. It was a special theatrical moment, the end of a fabulous night for the true believers and they revelled in it.

The plot of course is a compendium of the Hammer horror and sci-fi movies of the 1950s that were so popular at the drive-in movies. Frank, like Mary Shelley’s Dr Frankenstein, has created life in his laboratory, but this time it’s not some badly sewn together body parts but a fully fit looking muscle man he lovingly calls Rocky played by circus and stage star Brendan Irving. Brad and Janet, newly engaged blow a tyre and seek help in the monster’s mysterious mansion and then – stuff happens.

I have to confess at being at Harry M Miller’s original production of the show in 1974 when Reg Livermore donned the tights and played Frank. Since then I think I have only seen it once since on stage and that was several years ago.

So for me it was an old acquaintance renewed.

Rev Livermore’s image stayed with me over the years, he was a menacing, and bitchy character with makeup that made him looks like a bad drag queen. How things have changed. Craig McLachlan – who by the way wowed the audience absolutely - was a fun-loving ghoul, more a naughty boy than the evil corrupter of innocence.

He was just a sexy transvestite who loved life and wanted everyone else to enjoy it with him – as the innocents Brad and Janet obviously did with some fairly explicit sexual encounters that never would have been allowed in earlier days. They were still more funny than sexy though.

McLachlan, reprising the role he played 20 years ago was just marvellous and dominated the show completely, as of course he should. He teased and flirted with the fans convincingly cajoled Brad and Janet and was even funny when he began to lash poor Riff Raff with his bull whip.

And the crowd went insane when he belted out Sweet Transvestite.

Kristian Lavercombe was a nicely frenetic hunchbacked Riff Raff and Nicholas Christo was great as Frank’s rock singing experiment gone wrong, Eddie. Pity about his fate though, he would have gone well on I.

Frank’s laboratory assistant, Magenta played by Erika Heynatz was sexy as they come and the audience certainly responded when she was on stage.

Janet was played gleefully by Christie Whelan Browne (and looked just the part with a Olivia Newton-John wig) while Tim Maddren’s Brad was nerdy enough to have come straight from a beach party with Happy Days’ Ritchie.

Tony Farrell had great fun as the Narrator and took the audience willingly on his ride. There were lots of energetic dance numbers and of course the songs. Unfortunately I didn’t hear a word of any of the lyrics because of the dreadful sound balance – and I wasn’t Robinson Crusoe. Voices were distorted, highly pitched and were drowned out by the band.

I guess this was fine for the fanatics who know all the words, but for others like me, it would have been nice to hear what was going on as well as enjoyingthe spectacle.

The Rocky Horror Show continues until February 9, Bookings on QTIX 136 246.