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Review - Strictly Gershwin: all that jazz and razzmatazz

Right: Someone to Watch Over Me, with Lina Kim and Rian Thompson

Strictly Gershwin

Words and music by George Gershwin and Ira Gershwin

Devised, choreographed and directed by Derek Deane

Queensland Symphony Orchestra conducted by Gareth Valentine

Queensland Ballet

Lyric Theatre

Queensland Performing Arts Centre

South Bank


Season continues to 4 June 2016. Bookings: (New seats have been made available this week – check with venue for any tickets, that maybe come available.)

It was all that jazz and razzmatazz as the Lyric Theatre swung to the sound of George and Ira Gershwin’s songbook.

This Australian premiere was a fast-moving, bouncy song and dance show with a unique flavour as it mixed Pointe-dancing and tutus with ballroom, swing and even tap dancing. It was a lush production with gorgeous gowns, slick suits and with the orchestra spread at the back of the stage it really did have the feel of the old movies.

Then there was the music, the evergreen sounds of the Gershwins from Broadway to Hollywood; the swing, the ballads and a couple of the famous longer pieces. Many sung by a quartet to top local voices – Rachael Beck, Michael Falzon, Alexandra Flood and Luke Kennedy.

On top of all that were tap-dancers Kris Kerr and Bill Simpson, who tapped out Fascinatin’ Rhythm, Strike up the Band and I Got Rhythm that led into the finale a whole cast blockbuster, a reprise of Fascinatin’ Rhythm.

It had champagne sparkle and bubbled over with fun and wonderful dancing and the packed audience at the Lyric Theatre loved every minute of it. The show was also brilliantly lit via Howard Harrison’s original West End design. Every one of the 19 separate items was glorious to look at.

It really was feast for the eyes and ears and the dancers seemed to enjoy it immensely with such an amazing variety of dance styles. It was amazing to see them swinging away en-Pointe to songs like Shall we Dance? and Oh Lady be Good, then striding into Strictly Ballroom and jive.

The finale to Act one – George Gershwin’s tone poem, An American in Paris was particularly spectacular. The huge Lyric stage was packed with colourful, if stereotyped, French characters from all walks of Hollywood’s idea of Parisienne life.

The dancers drilled in multiple formations while Joel Woellner as the American searched the crowd for his illusive love, danced beautifully by Laura Hidalgo. It was a dizzying, but vibrant dance.

One of the gems was Someone to Watch Over Me, sung by Alexandra Flood and danced exquisitely by Lina Kim and Rian Thompson. Again Lina showed what a brilliant interpretive dancer she is, with such sweet lines and footwork. At times over the last year she has reminded me of one of my favourite dancers of a past era, Kimberly Davis.

Clare Morehen and Vito Bernasconi were glorious together in the blues number The Man I Love and it was great to see Christian Tatchev back on stage showing he still has the moves. He danced in and out of the company with Vanessa Morelli as Rachael Beck sang The Man I Love.

George Gershwin’s neo classical piece Rhapsody in Blue was a kaleidoscope of blue tutus and was nicely played by pianist Daniel Le.

In the second half was something else special, Oh, Lady Be Good, which featured tappers Kerr and Simpson and saw the return to the stage – in tap shoes – of former Principal Rachael Walsh. It was good to see her on stage.

I doubt there will ever be another ballet production like this one.

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