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Action packed Fly-in Fly-out

 

By Nahima Kern

 

Fly-in Fly-out

Written by Robert Kronk with Howard Cassidy

Directed by Howard Cassidy

Presented by The Judith Wright Centre and Debase Productions

Judith Wright Centre of Contemporary Arts

Brisbane

 

Production closed on June 12.

 

Ah, the joys of being young. You’re fresh, impressionable, energetic, and experiencing life and growth each day – isn’t it exciting?

Meet Jenny. She works at the Chook Nook – a somewhat dubious establishment serving chicken salt with chicken on the side – and sometimes at a hairdresser’s – with interesting “coughcough” clients. She goes to school, and is generally late, is taking the proverbial bull by the horns in the face of love; all this, whilst having to look after her family and help out around the house.

Fly-In Fly-Out is one of the most chaotic productions I have seen in a long time. Produced by Debase productions, it sweeps the audience up in a whirligig of action, romance, drama, and stress, stretching them out to the point where the emotions experienced within the scenes become palpable and real. It was one rollercoaster ride I won’t be forgetting for a long time.

The general plot of Fly-In Fly-Out was quite simple. It followed the journey of sixteen year old Jenny, watched her interact with her friends and younger sister. A new guy comes to town and we see her fall in love for the first time; we see her experience the awkwardness and the excitement that comes with the New before resolving at the start of a new chapter.

The play was cleverly penned by Robert Kronk with Howard Cassidy and directed by Cassidy. According to the program and the website of Debase it mentions “Fly-In Fly-Out was developed in consultation with communities and young people across Central Queensland. It is based on the real and lived experiences of people in these communities at the peak of the mining boom.”

This really came across within the humour of the text bringing to life so many relatable characters and situations that were also just so typically “Aussie”. One of the images that really stuck with me was the boss of the Chook Nook, originally from the Gold Coast with an awful fake tan and long nails that kept dropping off into the food that she served… yeesh.

The lighting design by Jason Glenwright was basic but leant a harsh atmosphere to the stage, reminiscent of the hot Australian sun in regional Queensland; which matched the rich oranges and blues of the minimalistic set designed by Josh McIntosh.

There could have been more of an interaction with the set and the lighting perhaps, in order to enhance the humour of action within some of the scenes – for example the driving lesson scene – not that I presume to correct the direction, but this did not detract from the play itself.

Now the real gems that shone in this show were of course, the actors. Peter Cossar, John Russell, Patrick Dwyer, Stephanie Tandy, and Tammy Welter who played Jenny; all threw themselves into their roles with such enthusiasm it created another layer to the play that was tangible.

Save for Welter, who had enough on her plate as it was, all the actors played multiple characters which, coupled with Jenny’s absolutely chaotic and stressful life added even more energy and swept the audience further into the storm that was the play. I even swore I felt stressed out just by watching the show at times, it moved so fast! If this is the way contemporary Australian theatre is headed, then we can be sure that much more fun will be had. Life certainly won’t be dull.

So to sum up, Fly-In Fly-Out was a chaotic, whirlwind of a show that told the story of a young woman slowly starting to find her place in the world. It showed her experiences with love, grief, resilience and courage that really created a gritty and funny “rom-com” that really resonated with all members of the audience. It was well worth a watch.  

 

Burlinson swings Sinatra

 

By Eric Scott

 

Sinatra at the Sands

Performed by Tom Burlinson

Queensland cabaret Festival

Concert Hall

Queensland Performing Arts Centre

South Bank

Brisbane

 

What a joy it was to see and hear the dinner-suited Tom Burlinson belting out the Sinatra hits in front of an equally sartorial 15-piece big band. That man is class with a capital “C”.

It was a one night stand in Brisbane, part of the Cabaret Festival, and his fans turned out in droves to fill the Concert Hall for his performance. We saw nearly two hours of unmitigated nostalgia, wonderful singing of wonderful songs and, for a big band enthusiast like myself, amazing to hear the musical arrangements of Quincy Jones for the Count Basie Orchestra back in the 1960s, Billy May and Nelson Riddle played so faithfully that is was simple to hear the change in style.

It’s not well known, but back in the 1970s Tom did a one-off Sinatra show and declared that he wasn’t going to get type-cast as a Sinatra tribute singer. He of course moved on to be a popular movie star in the classic Australian movies The Man from Snowy River and Phar Lap, as well as his heaps of TV appearances over the years. 

But in 1991 his life was to change. Tina Sinatra picked Tom to sing the voice of her father in the Golden Globe Award-winning miniseries Sinatra. This led to a whole new musical development in his career.

He created his own show Frank- A Life in Song, which became hugely successful all around Australia, and Canada before entrepreneur Steve Wynn invited Tom to perform at his Wynn Las Vegas resort in 2007. 

So singing took over and after that came Now We’re Swingin’, when Tom paid tribute not only to Sinatra, but also  Nat ‘King’ Cole, Dean Martin, Tony Bennett, Sammy Davis Jnr, and Bobby Darin as well as Harry Connick Jnr and Michael Buble. He also toured around the country with a smaller musical ensemble performing Simply Sinatra.

And finally he created this great show.

The first half is based on the 1966 album which was recorded live at the Sands Hotel in Las Vegas and is often referred to as his best. For me though, the best is Songs for Swinging Lovers, his Nelson Riddle orchestrated comeback album in the 1950s. Burlinson sang a couple from that too.

I just loved every minute of the show as he belted his way through hits like Come Fly with Me, I’ve Got You Under My Skin, One for my Baby, You Make Me Feel So Young, Fly Me to the Moon, It was a Very Good Year, My Kind of Town and even a quaint sounding version of Get Me to the Church on Time from My Fair Lady.

After the interval he moved onto Sinatra’s classic hits including his opening number New York, New York plus The Lady is a Tramp, Strangers in the Night among others and ending the concert of course with My Way. His encore was That’s Life. I ask you what more could you ask for?

Why is Burlinson so popular? It’s because he is not just a tribute singers. He is s singer with a stunning voice in his own right. There are not a great many successful Sinatra copy cats because few singers have the highly underestimated range of Sinatra’s voice, especially when he saved his career by becoming a swinging singer rather than a dreamy crooner. Even Frank Sinatra Junior was not a wild success when he stepped into his father’s shoes. I saw him. He sounded like Frank senior, but the pizzazz was missing.

Now that is what Tom Burlinson has on stage in spades. He sparkles and adds his own vibrant personality to perfect Sinatra phrasing and style. He works with the orchestra the way Sinatra did, so audiences get the best of both worlds.

He chats as Burlinson, tells a few anecdotes from his tour, occasionally uses a genuine Sinatra intro to a song or two. But the main point is that he is a true entertainer.

One night was not enough for his fans I’m sure – and judging by the long line-up to get his CD autographed after the show, he will be welcome back any time

For more Queensland Cabaret Festival info and to make bookings:  http://www.qpac.com.au/CabaretAtTheCremorne

 

Dash Kruck in Cabaret mode

 

By Eric Scott

 

Cabaret at the Cremorne

Dash Kruck – I might Take my Shirt off

Written by Dash Kruck

Original music by Chris Perren

Directed by Emily Gilhome

Cremorne Theatre

Queensland Performing Arts Centre

South Bank Brisbane

 

Dash Kruck’s work on stage has always been impressive. He has a good stage presence and great comic timing; he is no slouch in the writing area either, so I was looking forward to see him working as a cabaret performer.

I wasn’t disappointed, especially when it turned into the Dash and Wesley (Enoch) show. Dash, as alter ego Lionel, began to rock with a rather cheeky song called Sit on My Face and he dragged an unprompted Wesley from the audience and onto the stage where he gave him a thorough going over, much to the delight of the audience. That little segment turned a funny show into an hilarious one.

Dash, along with a piano bass and drum trio, opened the show with a little song that told us he didn’t know how to open a cabaret show. It was something he had never done before; in fact he had never been on stage before.

This appearance apparently was Lionel’s way, suggested (strongly) by a harsh German therapist named Griselda, of “finding himself”, to grow out of his unhappy way of life and “get some testicles”.

There were some funny conversations with the invisible German!

So Lionel entered hesitantly, dressed in a cheap business suit and tie, with a much read and folded list of things he  had to do to be successful – one of course was to take off his shirt.

His character was the classic vaudeville “little man”, always in trouble through no fault of his own and always fighting to become a winner. He made us laugh with his ill-timed audience meet and greet segment, his faltering announcement that his boyfriend  had left him, and he silenced the laughing crowd with revelations of his unhappiness and then buoyed them back up again as Lionel gained in confidence,.

Then his list of cabaret “musts” included alcohol, so slowly Lionel proceeded to follow his plans and began to drink his gin and become gently intoxicated.

It was a brilliant drunk act and obviously gave Lionel some Dutch courage. His attack on Wesley came around this time. The change on Lionel’s hesitant self to his confident self was cleverly done and evolved slowly, with dialogue and some self-penned lyric set to Chris Perren’s tunes, which he sang well. Did he eventually take off his shirt? Find out the next time he brings his act to the stage.

It was a happy hour spent in good company along with an appreciative audience. Dash has a legion of fans and he well deserves it.

The Cabaret at the Cremorne continues until June 20. You can more info and make bookings at http://www.qpac.com.au/CabaretAtTheCremorne

 

An enchanting Gruffalo’s Child

 

By Nahima Kern

 

The Gruffalo’s Child

Based on the book by Julia Donaldson and Axel Sheffler

Adapted by Tall Stories Theatre Company

Presented by CDP

Garden’s Theatre

QUT

Brisbane City

 

Season:  June 9-13.. Bookings:  www.gardenstheatre.qut.edu.au or by phone on 3138 4455. 

 

Who’s afraid of the Big Bad Mouse? So strong and mighty with fiery eyes and whiskers like wires? I was… Maybe.

The Gruffalo’s Child is perhaps the cutest show I have ever seen. The story, the characters and the set all came together to create an enchanting production the like of which I have not seen in quite some time.

Presented by CDP, Gruffalo is a fast paced show that brings to life a story aimed at delighting children and adults alike with the tale about the consequences of naughtiness that I’m sure both parents and kids can intimately relate with.

The general plot of the piece centres around the child of “The Gruffalo” – a young and bored youngling who happens to explore one night in search of adventure. She – and I will call the character a “she” for the purposes of the review, as the actor cast in the role was female – ventures down into the Deep Dark Woods and along the way meets many interesting animals from a slithery snake to a sly old fox. This is all in a bid to find a mysterious Big Bad Mouse that The Gruffalo warns her about. 

The play has been adapted for the stage from the eponymously titled award-winning book written by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler in 2004, following the success of their previous book, “The Gruffalo.” It has since been transformed for the screen as well as stage with a short film released in 2011. It creates a charming story that family members of all ages can relate to, with situations and characters micking what we experience in real life.

The scene was set immediately as the audience filed into the auditorium. The set was a beautiful array of trees, some of which were fashioned into an intricate hollow which served as the Gruffalo family’s cave. The lighting was very basic, with only a bland, white stage light illuminating the stage. The sound from the mics was strong, which was a good thing; as often with children’s theatre, noise from the audience can make it hard for the actors to be heard. As the play progressed, parts of the set were reeled around in order to transport the audience further into the story.

All of the actors in the small cast were brilliant. Chandel Brandimarti, as The Gruffalo’s Child, Andreas Lohmeyer, who was cast as The Gruffalo as well as various other characters and finally, Jessica Vickers playing the Mouse all worked the stage with vibrant energy and quiet charisma. Each actor really worked well in their roles and with each other, to bring their characters to life. They also had a handle on the audience in getting them to do things when the times for participation came and quieten down when the action moved forward, which was definitely a good thing as raucous kids can be just as bad, if not worse, than raucous adults.

What I liked most about this show was not only the charming ambience the story possessed but also its warmth, energy and length. With children in mind, it is always important to take into account that their concentration may be fickle especially when faced with sitting down and watching something for long stretches of time. The fact that this show ran under an hour really made the whole thing snappy and seemed to work really well for the kids, especially the younger ones. The fact that the whole story was so light hearted, even when the “scary” bits happened also made the whole thing easy on the eyes, so to speak. I would have liked to see more interaction with and use of the set as there was much potential there, however it did not overly detract from the piece as a whole.

To sum up, The Gruffalo’s Child is an adorable, charming tale about a naughty child disobeying her parent and facing the consequences. The production is brought together by three talented actors creating a marvellous musical romp that is ideal for children and their adults alike.

 

Beautifully bawdy Absinthe

 

By Eric Scott

 

Absinthe Tour Le Monde

Spiegeltent

King George Square

Brisbane

 

Season: from June 2, currently booking to June 28. Tuesday/Wednesday – 8 pm Thursday/Friday/Saturday - 7:30 pm & 9:30 pm, Sunday – 5 pm & 7 pm. Show duration 90 minutes with no interval.

 

Another tent; another circus!

We’ve had a few lately with Cirque du Soleil, La Soiree, and now Absinthe.

But this one is circus with a difference – it’s rude, bawdy, and sexy with enough raving about sexual fantasies to make Bette Midler blush. Oh - it also has some amazing performers, with strength, aerial and balance – and a lady who climbs into a balloon and tap dances.

The bawdiness comes straight from the potty-mouths of hosts, the filthy rich Gazillionaire and his assistant Abby Bobbin. Gazillionaire sets the tone with his introduction: “If you are offended by bad language, sexual innuendo and dirty talk then you’ve come to the wrong f***ing place.”

 But dirty as the talk is – and does get right down into the gutter – it manages to be hilariously funny rather than offensive. Both hosts have comic timing down perfectly and Abby Bobbin’s deepest sexual fantasies made the audience gasp in shock before howling with laughter. Her delivery was simply brilliant.  

The huge Speigeltent, with a 700 seat capacity created the perfect atmosphere for this decedent Cabaret-style burlesque show.

Mind you, the seats, apart from the red plush booths that surround the rear of the tent, are hard and cushion-less and a bit hard on the backside. And a tip for the unwary: if you don’t want to get picked on or even pulled into the act stay away from the front row!

Gazillionaire picked on the gays and lesbians and the “liberals” and pulled a trio on stage for a bit of audience naughtiness.

There were plenty of scantily clad girls, nipple tassles and ripped, shirtless males in the smorgasbord of talent. There was even a “lesbian” aerial hoop act, where two gorgeous German girls, Laura von Bongard and Luka Clayburn, worked a sexy aerial hoop duet. This steamy bit of acrobatics premiered on this tour.

After a song and some sexy moving from The Green Fairy, Oleksandr Volohdin did some scary balancing on a tower of precariously placed chairs. There was also a Ukrainian group, The Lost Souls who showed some amazing strength and balance with their Banquine Act.

It was back to the sexy with Americans Jacob Oberman and Maika Isogawa (USA) on the Duo Straps.

Just when you thought the best had been witnessed in came Michal Nowosadko and Zbigniew Sobierakski from Poland with the most amazing slow-motion hand balance. I’m sure they dis impossible things as they lay horizontal in the air held up only by their strength. It was mind-blowing.

While we heard some more sexual laments from Abby Bobbins a metal square was being built in the centre of the tent. This turned out to be a double horizontal bar.

We have all seen the twists and turns on the bar during the Olympics, but what Los Dos Tacos (Andrei Sizonenka and Aliaksandr Yurkavets from Belarus) did was once again unbelievable and positively scary to watch. One slip and someone would have flown straight into the audience, just inches away from the action.

There was also a High Wire act, The Frat Pack from the USA. Again great skills, some comedy, and tension-building wanders across the wire.

It was 90 minutes of memorable action and bawdy fun.

The show is, very wisely, recommended for ages 15 and above and features some nudity and (very) strong language.

Tickets: Tuesday/Wednesday/Thursday: $54 - $134,  Friday/Saturday/Sunday: $64 - $154. Transaction fees and charges may apply. VIP Ringside Tickets are available & include a seat in the front 2 rows, priority entry and a complimentary beverage. Bookings: www.ticketek.com.au

Group Bookings are available to groups of 6 or more. Contact the Ticketek Group Bookings Department on 1300 364 001 or email groupbookings@ticketek.com.au

 

 

 

The Mills sisters in Legends

 

By Eric Scott

 

Legends!

By James Kirkwood

Directed by Christopher Renshaw

Resident Director Peter Adams

John Frost Production

Playhouse Theatre

South Bank

Brisbane

 

Season:  June 2-13. Bookings: qpac.com.au or phone 136 246. Running time: two hours 20 minutes including interval.

 

Back in 1986 Carol Channing and Mary toured with Legends! but it never made Broadway; twenty year later Joan Collins and former Dynasty co-star Linda Evans took the show on a 30-week, multi-city, North America tour.

Now, ten years after that John Frost is touring the show around Australia with another dynamic duo Juliet Mills and her sister Hayley Mills. It premiered in Brisbane

It’s New York and Leatrice Monsee (Hayley Mills) and Sylvia Glenn (Juliet Mills) are hustled by Martin Klemmer, a dodgy theatre producer played by Maxwell Caulfield (Grease 2, Dynasty, The Colbys) to restart their careers by starring in what is touted (without a cast, theatre or funding) to be Broadway–bound play. He tells them that the leading man is to be George Clooney. George however doesn’t know yet.

Trouble is the ladies have a history and have come to hate each another so the scene is set for two famous but fading movie stars to upstage one another.

It’s a nice vehicle for the sisters. They have some juicy dialogue and a lot of physical as well as verbal comedy, and of course they delivered just what the audience wanted – good work from stage royalty.

The play opens with Sylvia Glenn turning up at the house of a friend which she has borrowed along with the maid Aretha, for the meeting with Leatrice and Klemmer. One problem is that Aretha has arranged a party for a friend of the same name that night, but the persuasive Sylvia gets her to postpone the event.

So, with some lively interruptions from Aretha, who was energetically played by Leah Howard, the two stars started to hack at each other. The battle eventually became a girl fight which saw fists and wigs fly, much to the amusement of the audience.

 Leah’s Southern American accent was so good that is was hard to believe she has Fijian heritage and was raised in Australia. She added a lot of spice and fin to the show.

So did David Denis as Boom-Boom Johnson, the male stripper booked for Aretha’s party, who turned up unannounced and proceeded to bring the house down in an hilarious scene where he did his party tricks before the befuddled duo and the enthusiastic Aretha.

That was the turn of the night.

 But then something else destined for the cancelled party - “ju-ju biscuits” which were freshly made hash brownies  - were accidentally consumed by the feuding actors and that produced some very funny work as they became slowly high and tried to clean the room. There were lots of laughs and vacuum cleaner jokes there.

I did enjoy Maxwell Caulfield’s work too. He created a lovely, sleazy character operating with street cunning and his lap-top to con people into his way of thinking, to play Peter against Paul and Peta against Pauline. He made me laugh a lot.

The play It moved pretty quickly too. I felt no need to check my watch during either act.

So there were lots of laughs and some good performances from top talent but it was obvious why the play never really hit the big time. The truly funny parts were really unrelated incidents contrived to break up the sniping of the two stars and I found the finale a bit of an anti-climax. It’s a lightweight play without much depth.

I found myself asking “why did we need the male stripper” and “what did the doped up cookies add to the plot”? Especially when Klemmer ate one himself and went off his tree before disappearing with a dodgy contract signed by two actors and still more work to be done.

It was easy to watch, light-hearted but mildly unsatisfactory.

 

An exciting Oedipus Doesn’t Live Here Any More

 

By Eric Scott

 

Oedipus Doesn’t Live Here Any More

By Daniel Evans

Directed by Jason Klarwein

Queensland Theatre Company

Bille Brown Studio

The Greenhouse

South Brisbane

 

Season: May 23-June 13. Running time 100 minutes with no interval. Bookings: Bookings: QTIX 136 246 or www.qpac.com.au

 

Dan Evans did something that no-one else has ever done – he let me enjoy a work from the ancient Greek tragedies. Mention Socrates or Euripides, Medea or Oedipus and I’ll run a mile, but at the premiere of Oedipus Doesn’t Live Here Any More I was enthralled by the story of the man who married his own mother as it was told through the eyes of four young actors, dressed in modern casual clothes, with no set and minimal props who played observers and a multitude of characters in a Greek-style chorus.

The story was helped along by graphics projected onto the huge graffiti mural at the back of the stage and some brilliant direction from, Jason Klarwein. It was a huge directional task to bring those four fine actors – Ellen Bailey, Emily Burton, Joe Klocek and Toby Martin – through all those character changes without so much as an extra prop.

But through it all shone the words. Sure there was some bad language; but it was so cleverly used that it was either dramatic or amusing and perfectly in place and character and not once did it seem gratuitous.

The story is told in modern language and set in modern times.

The house that the in-fated Oedipus lived had indelible obscene graffiti sprayed across the garage door. We didn’t see it, but heard the word “mothaf***a”; an obscenity yes, but oh so pertinent under the circumstances.

The story of the ill-fated, incestuous family was a talking point on Facebook and everywhere else. Tourists would come to pay curious court to the house and mull over its violent history, and the characters told if the eventual decline and fall of the suburban house of Oedipus,

We were taken through the modernised tale of the man and his parents, King Laius and Jocasta, who after being childless for years consulted the Delphi oracle - who prophesied that any son born to Laius would kill him.

When Oedipus was born, in an attempt to stop this prophecy from coming true, Laius ordered him to be killed – this was an interesting diversion in the action of the play with a moving esky – but the servant passed the baby on to a shepherd.

The infant Oedipus was eventually adopted by the king of Corinth and later a drunk told him he was adopted. Oedipus parents denied this so he went to the same oracle in Delphi that his birth parents had consulted. The oracle informed him he was destined to murder his father and marry his mother. In an attempt to avoid this, he decided to travel to Thebes instead of going home. (Plot courtesy of Wikipedia.)

In the old version a quarrel over right of way in chariots ended in Laius’s death, but in Evans’ play it was a car crash, that left his mother and future wife Jocasta, a widow. The events came through loud and clear and yet the ancient tale became a thoroughly modern story told in a thoroughly modern way and, being a writer myself, I enjoyed the play as much for its beautiful words as the story-telling.

There could be no praise high enough for the four actors who, with high energy, instant characters changes with body language, a subtle switch in vocal delivery and some fast talking kept the audience either bubbling with laughter or silent in contemplation for more than 100 minutes.

I particularly enjoyed Ellen Bailey’s wonderful long speech that incorporated several changes of characters was a highlight of the night. But then so was the war, fought with pointed fingers as guns and vocals “bangs” as bullets. This was a particularly strong and convincing piece of action, as three of the actors tried to sit out a hopeless hostage situation.

My only criticism is that Emily Burton’s long speech at the end seemed out of place and dragged a bit. I would have liked to see the play end dramatically when all the protagonists had died.

But having said that, this is the best piece of “young” writing I’ve watched since Hedonism’s Second Album in August last year. Go and see it.

 

A brilliant Dirty Dancing

 

By Eric Scott

 

Dirty Dancing

By Eleanor Bergstein

Directed by James Powell

Produced by John Frost, Karl Sydow, Martin McCallum, Joye Entertainment, Lionsgate and Magic Hour Productions

Lyric Theatre

Queensland Performing Arts Centre

South Bank

Brisbane

Season: May 28-July 18. Bookings: qpac.com.au or 136 246

 

Oh what a night! It was a night full of quality, quirky fun, great music, magical visual effects, and incredible dancing. There was also enough eye-candy to light up the life of anyone regardless of sex.

The video and projection design from John Driscoll created some unbelievable images and added an amazing cinematic feel to the whole thing.

This is the 10th anniversary of this Australian concoction and what a brilliant production it was. I don’t think I have ever seen a more attractive cast that was blessed with so much energy and talent in all departments. It was sheer pleasure to watch them perform with such boundless energy.

It has a plot and characters that could end up as corny as Kansas, but under James Powell’s direction the story became believable and the characters very real

The action is set in 1963 in a popular family resort in New York’s Catskill Mountains and 17 year- old Frances ‘Baby’ Houseman is holidaying with her older sister and parents.

Baby is a typical bored teenager who doesn’t want to swim, play tennis, or join in the Latin American dance lessons with resident teacher and Lothario from the wrong side of the tracks Johnny Castle

 She wanders around the grounds and stumbles upon the staff quarters where an all-night dance party is in full swing. The dancing is nothing like Johnny teaches in his classes. It is raunchy “dirty dancing” that that puts West Side Story to shame.

Then of course Baby falls for the bad boy and his sexy dance moves.

When Penny, Johnny’s competition dance partner, falls ill following a botched abortion Baby is cajoled into taking her place. So starts the heavy romance, seduction, deceit and misunderstandings all round. It was fascinating to watch the development from clumsy “dancing with the stars” sequences to the highly polished finale.

I have to admit to being enraptured by this stage version of the hit movie. It pulled me into the action from the second the curtain opened to the great sounding band and some smooth dance moves. I knew right away it was going to be a special night.

Kurt Phelan was a phenomenal Johnny, his look and attitude was perfect – like grown-up Fonz. He can move and sing and act and dominate with sheer stage presence.

Where most of the ensemble girls were tall, glammed up and wore high, high heels and short skirts, Kirby Burgess as Baby was shorter, wore unsexy clothes and low-heeled shoes. She was a lovely unsophisticated innocent and a perfect foil for the over-sexed Johnny.

I also enjoyed Adam Murphy as Baby’s Dad, Dr Houseman, It was role that could have been pompous and shallow, but Murphy turned it into a believable, caring character that added heaps to the production.  

And what a great voice has Mark Vincent at Johnny’s offsider Billy Costecki. It was haunting duet he did with Maddie Peat as Penny. Now there was one of my favourites of the night. Maddie was so good in every aspect of her craft, she danced and sang sublimely and created a memorable character.

Gabriel Brown gave us a nicely rounded Jerry Lewis-like nerd and Eric Rasmussen’s smooth vocals were so in period.

But underscoring the show was the dancing and the music. Choreographer Michelle Lynch’s amazing routines were brilliant and kept on the move by Brisbane choreographer Callum Mansfield.

And the songs: Hungry Eyes, Hey Baby, Do You Love Me? Save the Last dance for me and of course (I've Had) The Time Of My Life were nostalgic to the core.

Dirty Dancing is a feel-good two hours of entertainment that will lift the hearts of the down-hearted and cheer up those feeling a bit blue.

 

Babushka, living dolls

 

By Eric Scott

 

Doll

By Babushka Cabaret

Directed by Caroline Dunphy

Performance Space

Judith Wright Centre,

420 Brunswick Street

Fortitude Valley

Brisbane

 

Season: May 20-23. Bookings: 07  3872 9000

 

The Babushka girls just want to have fun and, as crying, talking, sleeping, walking, living dolls at the Judith Wright centre last night they had heaps – and so did the audience which rewarded them with rapturous applause at the end.

The clever script used dolls as a metaphor for life as a female from youth to age, with memories of favourite dolls, the nice dolls, the ugly dolls, dolls ancient and modern  – and of course the life and times of the Barbie doll.

The theatre was decked out cabaret style with tables set in front of the tiered seating under a great lighting desiogn by Andrew Meadows. This allowed the performers to wander among the guests and bring them into the action.

The three performers – the blonde Judy Hainsworth, the brunette Alicia Cush and the redhead Bethan Ellsmore – lambasted the audience with raunchy wit, sly humour, sexy asides, and fabulous vocals as they took us into the pink palace of the dream house.

Judy Doll was a delicious pink-candy confection of a princess doll, complete with ringlets and a tiara as she stood in her still un-opened display box. Butter wouldn’t melt in her mouth, well not at first anyway; she was different when she escaped her genteel prism and showed her true confused character – especially at party time with the male sex doll in full flight! Boy did that doll become truly emancipated.

There was no need for emancipation for Bethan Doll, just a hangover cure for the party doll, who as well as singing with classical purity played a mean violin.

The sexy, pink leather clad Alicia Doll, the power woman with kids and a job had no inhibitions as she wandered through the audience picking on innocent bystanders.

 In front of Penelope Challen's clever girlie set that included mirrors and toilet bowls, with some terrific piano playing from Luke Volka they told stories of the inner lives of dolls, of children and dolls – and some home truths about Barbie and Ken.

I am not giving away any secrets about those hilarious and sometimes highly rude tales - you have to see and hear them to fully appreciate them.

The trio created the entire show themselves and worked neatly as a team whether in the comedy routines or the vocals, which were just superb with Bethan Ellsmore and Alicia Cush’s Conservatorium trained operatic voices hitting the high notes and Judy Hainsworth doing hard work underneath counterpointing with the beautiful harmonies.

It was a unique and thrilling vocal combination that was joy to the ears as they sang doll associated songs that were at times funny, at times angry and at others, poignant.

The show still has a few raw edges, dialogue can be sharpened a little and for me the running time, which was advertised at 60 minutes but ran for more than 80, proved to be a couple  of songs too long to my mind. The 60 minutes would have been perfect and left me asking for more.

But I’m sure the talented performers will fix any minor flaws before they embark on a full regional tour of Queensland next year, when they will be a big hit.