Reviews - 2003
Current - 2004 - 2003 - Pre-2003
Our reviewers are the peers of Adelaide Theatre. They are fellow audience members, directors, actors, committee members, etc, with experience in journalism.
Like other audience members, their reviews/opinions are given on overall enjoyment and value for money so that you may make a more informed choice.
All Het Up
Are You Being Served?
Come Back to the 5 and Dime Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean
Festival Of One
Jumping for Joy
Ladies of Spirit
La Vie Parisienne
Lost in Yonkers
Love! Valour! Compassion!
Murder at the Music Hall
My Favorite Year
My Three Angels
Oh What a Lovely War!
Pardon Me Prime Minister
Royal Hunt of the Sun
Scrooge - The Musical
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
Ten Times Table
The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas The Gypsy Princess
The King and I
The Lorenz Hart Story
The Madness of George III
12 Dancing Princesses
Wait Until the Ghost is Clear
Woman of the Year
Review by Fran EdwardsThe song said it all. Thank you very much, for a great evening's entertainment. It was worth the drive and a real pleasure to see that musical theatre is alive and well in the Barossa Valley.
On a small stage in a somewhat stuffy hall (it was a warm night) the Kapunda Musical Society carried us away to the London of Charles Dickens in winter. The set was well thought out and the necessary changes were performed smoothly, including the disappearing bed. They made excellent use of the limited space and their limited resources and captured the magic.
Chief magician for the night was David Smith who played Scrooge. He was very believable both in the early miserly songs "No better Life" and "I Hate People" and in the later wistful reprise of "Happiness". As the title character he is well cast and although he may have looked a little young for the part this did not detract from his excellent performance.
Scrooge was ably supported by Michael Hoskin, who made a perfect Bob Crachit, and by Charles Smith who brought commendable pathos to the role of Tiny Tim. The ghosts also deserve a mention. Jacob Marley(Martin Wright) was suitably horrific thanks to not only the actor but apt costuming and a great make-up job. I always imagined Marley as a small thin man, but this Marley was powerful and larger than life. The three spirits of Christmas were a feature, Jessie Mickan, beautiful and wistful as Christmas Past, Andrew Heathfield, large as life and fully of joviality as Christmas Present, and Bev Mewett, silent, dark and threatening as Christmas Yet to Come. All captured the essence of Dicken's descriptions.
The chorus were enthusiastic and tuneful making the opening number, "I like life" and "Thankyou very much" very enjoyable. I particularly liked the performances of Tessa Urlwin, Ella Mickan and Garry Greenough. The whole thing was well directed by Jennette Mickan with the baton in the capable hands of Ann Bridge who controlled a neat little orchestra which never swamped the singers. A very commendable effort and a credit to this small community. Long live local theatre!
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Review by Fran EdwardsComedy is always a good reason for me to go to the theatre, and who doesn't need a good laugh these days? Good comedy is hard to find, a rare jewel, but worth looking for.
This is a good script and has made me laugh at every production of it I have seen, and this was no exception.
The opening night of Spotlight's production was a little shaky and the nerves were showing. On a well designed practical set which looked believably like 10 Downing Street, the play was off to a good start. The opening was not as forceful as I expected and as we watched the Prime Minister practice his TV speech, it was a little difficult to decide whether it was the Prime Minister or the actor (Robert Turbefield) who was forgetting his lines.
The pace improved and so did Turbefield with the entrance of the Chancellor (Brian Cusack). Cusack brought vitality and some much needed light and shade to the stage. This tale of politics, Puritanism and hidden secrets relies heavily on fast pace lines, quick entrances and exits and 'business'. The opening night nerves dulled the delivery but strong work from some of the cast kept the story moving.
There were very good performances from Gwenda Cusack, as the PM's wife and Darryl Soar as his P.P.S. and good support from Natalie Feil as Shirley, Mary Louise Scheild as Dora (an old flame) and Jenny Hallam as Miss Frobisher. The fact that the director, Trudy Pearce, failed to make the most of some of the truly hilarious comic situations is a shame. Feil needs more confidence in her body as the exotic dancer who would be the PM's daughter, and both Hallam and Lyn Dugmore (the journalist) look uncomfortable in their underwear. The experience of some of the players, notably Brian and Gwenda Cusack, shone through in the trickier scenes.
It's been an unsettling time for Spotlight who are under threat of losing both their current performance venues. I hope they find a new home soon and I'm sure with the following performances many of the kinks will be ironed out of this promising production.
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Review by Sue OldknowRoom Service by Michael Olsen is one of the One Act/One Actor plays presently running at the Bakehouse Theatre for their Festival of One.
If this play is indicative of the general standard of these productions, you would be crazy not to see them all.
Well written and beautifully performed by Martha Lott, Room Service is the story of Betty, who has spent her lifetime in service as a maid in a grand London hotel.
The consequences of the only time she has ventured into the outside world have now come back to test her. Will her lonely but secure existence be threatened?
Through a delightful device of the senses, Betty takes us through a journey of her life of devotion.
She has captured the "smell" of every significant event in her life and shares them with the audience.
Martha Lott is wonderfully fragile and innocent in this role and delivers the fast paced stream of dialogue with great control and barely a stumble.
She assumes different characters, from her unloving mother to an American business man, and skips through an ever changing emotional minefield with ease.
The often funny yet achingly sad script is a wonderful vehicle for this talented actor.
The minimalist set and effective lighting provide a backdrop for an engaging 50 minutes of theatre.
There are Festival of One programs available at the Bakehouse Theatre. The season runs until 6 December with two plays showing per session.
BED AMONG THE LENTILS
Review by Fran EdwardsAlan Bennett is a witty and insightful writer and one of his favourite sacred cows, which he targets with painful accuracy, has always been the Anglican Church. "Bed among the Lentils" is the story of a vicar's wife, who has a problem with alcohol, told in short monologues were she shares her thoughts with the audience. The set consisted of three 'spaces' created with lights within which "Mrs Vicar", played with just the right nuances by Tracey Korsten, relates the tales of her zealous husband, his aspirations and her unintentional assistance.
The minimal set and the very ordinary costuming allow you to focus on the words and their delivery. All is enhanced by the effective lighting by Nic Mollison. Bennett has filled the script with gentle barbs which are delivered with finesse by Korsten. Wearing her fluffy slippers and tatty dressing gown she reveals the disconnection with her husband's world and the fragility of her escape route. The final scene shows us her reality devoid of self-delusion and surprisingly creates more sympathy.
This is a gentle piece sensitively realised and well directed by Chris Reynolds. It won't produce a belly laugh but may give you cause for thought and a smile or two. And what has it to do with lentils? You need to see this production to find out.
THE ELEPHANT CLUB
Review by Theresa DolmanNicola Gunn is only 24, but this Australian actor shows all the attributes of a seasoned performer. Armed with only a wooden chair, a tattered bag and a telephone, she captures perfectly the mundane life of Rhoda Brown. Using a wonderfully expressive blend of mime and voices, Gunn brings to life Rhoda and the people around her---her mother, the vamp down the hall, her sleazy boss, the woman at work who is always taking up a collection for someone, and, my personal favourite, the droopy lift operator.
Gunn's taste for the absurd and the macabre shows in this black comedy, which she wrote as well as performed. Direction by Mark Chavez is flawless, and Nic Mollison's lighting nicely depicts the various settings.
"The Elephant Club" received the 2002 Centaur Award for best play at the Montreal Fringe Festival. It is one of three solo 60 minute performances that she has devised since finishing her formal theatre training at the Victorian College of the Arts in 1999. She has toured internationally with each of these shows.
Gunn's most recent work, "Tyrannous Rex", also enjoyed "a critically triumphant season" on the Canadian Fringe circuit, and will be presented at the 2004 Adelaide Fringe Festival. Keep an eye out for that one.
The show was engrossing. If you like visual and physical theatre, you will love Nicola Gunn's "The Elephant Club".
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Review by Hayley HortonWhat would you do if you found the equivalent of $150,000AU in your ordinary briefcase that you see every day? Well mayhem and misconceptions would ensue according to Ray Cooney.
Funny Money is farce in all its true forms and the Adelaide Rep have taken each element on with gusto.
The show opens onto the house of Jean and Henry Perkins, with Jean (Lesley Reed) preparing for a birthday dinner party. The set designed by Ian Rigney gives a good impression of depth, allowing the audience to peek into adjoining rooms.
When Henry (Tony Busch) returns home dumb-struck, the story unfolds and hilarity, hysteria and innuendo ensue. Each character in the production is integral to the twists and turns of the plot, with Henry at the centre of the mayhem. Busch keeps the pace going with his blundering energy and a convincing performance of a man who wants everything - if he could only get his story right so he can split for Barcelona!
Reed as the put-upon Jean (who just wants to have a nice dinner party) is a good "devil's advocate" to Henry, portraying her slow demise into a drunken stupor well, although at times her hysteria is too hysterical to follow.
The hapless characters entwined in the farcical tale include Betty and Vic Johnson (the dinner party guests), with Andrew Horwood putting in a suitably confused performance as Vic. Horwood and Busch work well together on stage with bewildered facial expressions and some hilarious duo acts. Horwood's reaction to the suggestion of wife swapping in the second act is also priceless.
The good cop, bad coop scenario adding to the confusion, are competently performed by Chris Strain and Paul Coulson, teamed with an enthusiastic and "lovable" performance by Ian Rigney as Bill, the taxi driver.
Although the script receives a number of laughs, the obligatory twists, turns, double-entendres and overall hysteria at times becomes repetitive, therefore laboring some of the jokes. This said, some jokes will never date and the frequent congregations on the couch tend to hit the funny bone for most audience members.
For lovers of British farce, Funny Money is worth a look as a strong performance from a well-formed cast.
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Review by Sue OldknowMary McMahon's Murder at the Music Hall is a strange and sketchy script originally designed (presumably) as an excuse to link together a few good groans and giggles of the Vaudeville kind.
Director Kym Robinson's decision updates the show from the 1880s to the 1980s leaving it floundering in a strange mix of young girl dance numbers and ill conceived songs mixed in with old-style skits.
The production is kind of surreal at times and would have had a chance of pulling it off, if more experienced performers were in control.
The mostly young cast struggle through the recreation of the day leading up to the death of James ( Wade Shiell ). James is not a nice man and anyone could have had it in for him. It is up to the audience to work out “whodunit” with the winner receiving a prize.
Director Robinson also doubles as Narrator , in a kind of laid-back, drugged-out way. His adlibs are humorous and often more entertaining than the script. He makes reference to how bad the entertainment is at Big Lil's (Narelle Jones) - is this intentional?
Jones works hard to keep things moving and has a good voice. She does well with musical sequences that are played too softly in keys that most of the other performers find hard to sing in.
The young dancing girls do technically well with the choreography by Tanna Wells but could take some tips from the interval performers, Wendy Williams and Cherylene O'Brien who are the most entertaining part of the evening.
The other bright spots in the show are Maggie Smith in her cameo of Child and Michael Veltman in his small role of Herald.
Smith and Veltman's stage presence, projection and comic ability are a breath of life in a production of mumbled and inaudible dialogue and apologetic acting. With a script this poor you need to act your heart out.
That said, Wade Shiell gives a relaxed performance as James , Clare Kelly is cool and composed as his put upon girlfriend, Sandra , Julie Quinn and Lindsay Hinskman make the most of their roles as Big Lil's inept thugs and Nicole Irving gives an entertaining cameo as Cinderella.
Noarlunga Theatre Company's presentation and welcoming cabaret atmosphere make it a nice place to be for an evening, but this production unfortunately leaves a lot to be desired.
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Review by Theresa DolmanIt must be nearly Christmas---there are Seven Dwarfs at the Tea Tree Players theatre. Each November the Tea Tree Players put on a panto. This year it is Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs .
Evil Queen Evilena (Anna Spencer) learns from her magic mirror that she is not the fairest in the land; that honour goes to her step-daughter, Snow White (Zoe Uyen). Somewhat upset, she convinces Herman the Huntsman (Justin Nicholas) to take Snow White into the forest for a deadly picnic. You can probably guess the rest (and I don't want to spoil the ending). The story is familiar, but there is plenty of updated material to keep the oldies as entertained as the young folk.
The opening night audience didn't need much encouragement to get into the panto spirit. They had a wonderful time, booing the Queen, greeting Muddles the Footman (Jonathon Neary) and yelling advice.
Jo Allenby's wonderful costumes helped make this fairy tale come to life. A sewing circle the size of a cricket team obviously spent many hours ensuring everyone on stage looked the part. Snow White and Prince Launcelot (Kate Wadey) looked as though they had just stepped out of a Disney picture book.
Don Stuart, underplaying Snow White's nurse Mrs Dora Dumpling , was the funniest panto dame I have seen in a long time. The experience of Don Stuart and Brian Godfrey (director, and Marmeduke the Court Chamberlain ) showed with their audience interaction. Though Jonathon Neary managed to hold his own very well. Justin Nicholas (Herman the Huntsman) and Holly Byrne (Hagwort the Troll) also gave good performances.
The simple design of the Magic Mirror Room was perfect, with wonderful lighting effects by Mike Phillips. One of the show's highlights was the ingenious Magic Mirror itself. Scene changes were smooth and silent, transforming the small stage, without the benefit of wing space or a fly tower, from the Queen's parlour to the Dwarf's cottage and back again.
There were some lovely voices in the musical numbers, and dance routines were well executed on the small stage. The ultra-violet dance routine was particularly effective. The songs and dances will be even more uplifting once some of the opening night worried faces are replaced with confident smiles.
The Seven Dwarfs, Bossy (Teagan Hensen), Boozy (Gabrielle Neary), Sneezy (Rebecca Cross), Baggy (Eliza Cox), Dozy (Jayde Clarke), Grumbly (Lachlan Blackwell) and Batty (Jake McCauley) were well rehearsed and real little troopers. Even when Grumbly had an unexpected weight loss, he carried on regardless, readjusting when possible, with hilarious results.
As usual, Tea Tree Players have produced a crowd-pleasing traditional panto. If you can get tickets, the kids will love you for it. Evening performances start at 7.30pm , so don't be late or Dora Dumpling will have something to say about it!
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Review by Hayley HortonThe premiere production of Jumping for Joy by Independent Theatre is the second in a trilogy of plays by John Marans.
The story is set in the Mavin family home, Maryland. Emily Mavin is schizophrenic and has been since she was eighteen. Samuel Mavin (Emily's father) has had a heart attack and has left Emily on her own, leaving her to ask for help from her New York brother, Michael Mavin.
The play explores the effect of a schizophrenic person on their family and the family ties which bring them together.
Cathy Adamek plays Emily with conviction and is the stand-out performer of this production. Her wealth of previous experience is particularly evident, using every moment with accuracy. From the spot-on Carolina accent to small idiosyncratic movements, Adamek manages to give a curious depth to her character.
David Roach is Emily's tyrannical father, Samuel. Giving a strong performance, Roach finds the balance between fatherly love and megalomania. Some of the funnier moments in the play are well delivered by Roach, especially his frequent readings of the obituaries.
Completing the trio is Emily's brother, Michael played by Darren Paul. As the caring brother with his own problems and life, Paul gives a sweetness to his performance, at times seeming more bewildered than his sister. The complexity of this character does appear to be lost on Paul, who is seemingly out of depth against Adamek's strong and fiery efforts.
With strong performances, good lighting effects and a fantastic set (complete with running water and working appliances) Jumping for Joy is let down by the actual script.
Marans has written this story from personal experience, but seems to get lost in his own feelings for the characters to clearly keep the plot going. The ending in particular attempts to reach a depth of meaning that doesn't quite make it, which merely leads to confusion.
This considered, the cast do particularly well to keep the production afloat, and makes the most of their roles to give an element of voyeurism into the lives and workings of this dysfunctional family.
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Review by Nikki GaertnerIn their latest production, The Therry Dramatic Society bring to life Jane Austen's well known novel, Emma , a story of the trivialities of day-to-day existence, of parties, picnics, and country dances of early-nineteenth-century life in the English countryside.
At the centre of this world is Emma Woodhouse (Alicia Smith), a wealthy, pretty, self-satisfied young woman who believes herself good at matchmaking and therefore amuses herself by arranging marriages for others. As the story progresses, Emma becomes deeper involved, and unexpectedly finds herself the victim of her own best intentions.
Smith has been well cast in the title role, navigating through the complex dialogue with ease and displaying all the necessary wit and charm required for this likeable character. A pleasure to watch, she is on stage for almost the entirety of the show.
Georgia Dodd is delightful as Emma's shy and sweet tempered protégée, Harriet.
Peter Smith demonstrates a good balance of the two sides of Mr Elton the vicar – starting as a hopeful suitor and finishing with the personality of a scorned lover, while Debra Millikan brings many laughs to the second act with her “incwedibly” humorous portrayal of the vicar's new wife.
As Mr Knightley (the Woodhouse's long-time friend and neighbour) Roman Turkiewicz's performance is well delivered, although perhaps not charismatic enough to enable us to identify and sympathise with the character.
Jamie Wright as the rich and handsome Frank Churchill (the newly arrived son of the Woodhouse's family friends), works hard, but tends to speak rather quickly, and as such is quite difficult to understand.
Cynthea Kimber as Miss Bates, the local gossip, brings a smile to the faces of many audience members, despite her struggle with the English accent and the occasional stumble over dialogue. Mandahla Rose, as her niece, Jane Fairfax appeared a little young for her role at first, but proved herself as a promising actor with her emotional delivery of dialogue in Act II.
Director Elaine Lee has put together a strong cast and the entire production team are well accomplished, including the enjoyable added touches of choreography performed by the Mitcham Girls dance students, the visually appealing sets and the swift and noiseless scene changes.
Emma is a very enjoyable show that is sure to be loved by Jane Austen fans.
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Review by Hayley HortonEight gay friends get together for three long weekends – Memorial Day, Fourth of July and Labour Day. This is the premise of Mixed Salads Productions entry for this year's Feast Festival.
The star of this production is Terence McNally's script, premiering for the first time in Adelaide . McNally has created eight characters who invite the audience into their lives, their relationships, their hopes and their fears.
The play is well narrated, sharing the story with each character, giving a different perspective and insight.
Gregory (ably performed by Chris Shepherd) owns the Victorian house in which the story is set and plays host to his friends with blind adoration. Shepherd has an endearing awkwardness with a glimmering of strength that is played well.
Gregory's blind partner, Bobby is equally appealing and performs with conviction, allowing the audience to believe at all times that he doesn't see.
The odd couple of the group, Arthur and Perry (Trevor Meffert and Ben Passehl) ably portray their functional, yet dysfunctional relationship - allowing audience members to glean further understanding of relationships, both homosexual and heterosexual.
James Edwards as Ramon is the character of exposition, exposing many of the qualities and flaws of the group. Edward's languid movements and good looks are perfect for the role, however his expressiveness is too big for the intimate venue.
Dave Simms as Buzz, the musical adoring friend, dying of AIDS is the highlight of the production. Simms has the ability to steal a scene without detracting from the other performers. His character receives many of the laughs as well as the tears and gives an element of dignity to the stereotypical “queen”.
Finally, David Sinclair takes on the dual roles of John (the evil) and James (the good) Jeckyll. Sinclair not only differentiates significantly between the roles, but manages each transition smoothly. Sinclair's subtle use of idiosyncrasies and movements polishes his characterisations well.
The design by Louise Dunn transforms the small stage, with a unique slanting set and mixed uses of props. Sally Putnam's direction makes good use of the stage, utilizing every inch, yet giving the impression of space.
So long as you don't mind a bit of nudity and strong language, this production is well worth the three acts of over three hours and is by far one of the best plays this year.
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Review by Hayley HortonThere are very few truly ensemble productions available in musical theatre. Godspell however is one such piece, involving each cast member in equal parts.
Discarding the traditional “clown” or “flower power” theme of this well loved rock musical, Director Andy Ahrens sets this production in a modern-day café/night club with pleasing results.
The two-tiered set by John Dempsey appears to enlarge the small Stirling stage, allowing the eleven cast members and five piece band to use the space without over-crowding.
Each cast member has an individual personality, giving the production a tapestry-like feel depicting today's society. The transportation of the show to a café scene allows for a number of added props, visually adding to the gospel stories of St Matthew. A particular highlight is the use of bar props as puppets.
The group numbers All for the Best and We Beseech Thee with solo performances by Ben Schultz (Jesus), Syd Moyle (John the Baptis) and Ben Po'ona (Jeffrey) are a particular highlight, bringing on the full force of this strong cast.
The energetic and almost “bouncy” renditions of St Matthew's stories carry a common light hearted tone, with particularly good comic timing from brothers Thorin and Lochy Cupit.
Ben Schultz as Stephen (Jesus) guides the ensemble's enthusiasm away from the brink of hyperactivity as an endearing and somewhat angelic protagonist. Many a sob could be heard during the last two numbers of the show as Schultz' sweetness shone through.
The well equipped band led by Musical Director, Kate Pope keeps the pace up well. Unfortunately the position of the band as well as the level of amplification drowns out almost all of the musical numbers, making it difficult to distinguish the lyrics of soloists despite microphones.
Choreographer, Tracy Nunn keeps the cast moving with simple, yet effective moves that allow the cast to perform at equal levels.
This enjoyable and uplifting rendition of a seasoned musical is a strong finish to the Hills Musical Company's 30 th anniversary year.
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Review by Sue OldknowMy Favorite Year is a great piece of musical theatre ably performed by a stellar cast.
Michael Williams takes on the part of Benjy Stone. A young man trying to make it as a writer in 1950s live comedy television. His boy-next-door appeal, sensitive acting and marvellous voice make him an excellent choice for this pivotal role.
His boss is the blustering current "King of Comedy" King Kaiser, played with gusto and fabulous ferocity by Director, Matt Byrne.
Kaiser's special guest has let him down and so he has to make do with has-been movie star, Allan Swann (apparently based on Errol Flynn). Benjy comes up with his first skit for his childhood hero. Trouble is, Swann is a drunk and a coward and it becomes Benjy's job to baby sit the spoilt star till show time.
The complex, delicious character that is Allan Swann is played to sheer perfection by Matthew Randell. The attractive, womanising, decadent, self-destructive movie star hero feels that his real life is a complete disaster but hides it under a veneer of sophistication and charm, until he is confronted with Benjy's bizarre family and the needs of his own daughter. Randell is a superb actor and singer and owns the stage in this role.
The supporting cast are all very good. Sue Pole displays plenty of dry wit and style as Alice and Robyn Smith is excellent as K.C. Downing (a straight part that could easily have been made wooden and boring, but one that Smith made quite delightful).
Danni Mullins makes a gorgeous Tess, Swann's neglected daughter, Laura Rocconi sings up a storm as Benjy's mother, Belle Mae and Mike Pole is charmingly eccentric as Rookie Carroca, Benjy's stepfather.
This show is chock full of great songs and some whizz-bang ensemble numbers, beautifully sung by the talented cast and stylishly choreographed by Sue Pole.
The musical numbers are cleverly entwined in the show and transition is seamless. Mike Pitman's sequences are very good and he controls things beautifully from the pit. I know many people object to recorded music for live theatre but it was a pleasure to hear the voices so clearly over music that can be volume controlled.
This piece of theatre really does have a bit of everything. From slap stick knockabout numbers like Professional Showbusiness Comedy to the heart wrenching If The World Were Like The Movies.
There are a lot of set changes which slow things down a little but this is a minor criticism in a fabulous show. I must say that My Favorite Year is probably my favourite show this year. You still have a chance to catch it as it runs till the 8th of November.
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Review by Hayley HortonOne of the greatest things about live theatre is its ability to explore human issues with depth and emotion.
Under the direction of Geoff Brittain, Extremities not only scrutinises a woman's struggle to survive an attempted rape, but also explores the consequences of power and victimisation.
In such an intimate setting as the Promethean Theatre, the content of this production is confronting, but well executed.
A woman (Marjorie) is at home alone, when an intruder enters her house and attempts to rape her. The tables are turned when Marjorie manages to overcome her attacker and the intruder becomes the victim.
Tracey Walker as Marjorie is a strong woman to take on such an emotionally draining role. Her realistic and intimate portrayal takes the audience on a journey as she falls into the darkness of hate and vengeance.
Walker's distinctive performance takes on a range of emotions, begging the question whether "an eye for an eye" is justified. Her performance is admirable and allows audience members to empathise with her confusion and dismay - although producing a confronting experience for men and especially women.
The Intruder is another difficult role in this ensemble, but Tony Vawser deftly takes it on. The clear difference between Vawser's role as rapist and his role as victim is captivating. Bound and imprisoned in a fireplace for the majority of the play, Vawser still has the ability to instil fear and loathing (and at times pathetic sympathy) with little movement.
Marjorie's flat mates, Terry and Patricia are thrown into the mix when they come home to find the bound and injured intruder imprisoned in their fireplace. Bronwyn Ruciak as Terry seems childish in comparison to Walker, which is fitting for the role, but distracts as important plot details are revealed.
Anita Canala as Patricia is solid and condescending in her role, warming up as the play progresses. Both Ruciak and Canala put in competent performances, but are eclipsed by the talents of Walker and Vawser when juxtaposed in such an intimate setting.
The homestead setting by Geoff Brittain and Michelle Milette gives a strong feeling of isolation and disarray, further impacting on the topic. Partnered with appropriate incidental music for scene changes, the scene is a strong vehicle for each performer.
Extremities is a strong piece of theatre, which is well worth seeing, although most will only have the strength to see it once.
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Review by Hayley Horton
Adapted for the stage by Stephen Briggs, Pratchett's discworld novel is both witty and clever giving the cast an ample base from which to grow.
Tim Bates as the title role is a down-and-out, taken on as Death's apprentice. With suitable awkwardness and bewilderment, Mort is tutored in the workings of the underworld. Bates keeps up the momentum of the role well, but lacks the sinister element when becoming the embodiment of his mentor.
Sam James as Death gives the role an element of "heart" making the audience almost feel sorry for such a foreboding character. James' understanding of the role allows for some very funny dialogue, especially when Death hits the town, complete with drunken revelry and obligatory curry.
When Mort takes on the mantle, he saves the life of a princess who should have died and chaos begins to reign.
To right the wrongs, showman wizard, Igneous Cutwell is enlisted. Andrew Dowling portrays the role with delight, delivering the hilarious dialogue with accuracy and his timing is spot-on.
The other colourful characters of this production create a tapestry of fantasy, romance and humour. Miriam Keane as Ysabell (the awkward, yet determined daughter of Death) and Sam Priestly as the mysterious Albert give solid performances, while Danny Sag as the doorknocker (complete with full mouth) gives a particularly articulate performance.
The dialogue is a little slow for such as snappy piece, but the incidental music (either particularly appropriate but more invariably ironic) and good use of the small stage area keeps the pace going.
The costuming by Pamela Munt and Violet Rowe is appropriate to the fantasy setting, with the exception of a mismatched technicolour dreamcoat in the second act.
The only hiccup, which brings the show to a standstill, is the strange and somewhat ill fitting dance number, which not only distracts, but the Les Miserables selection grates on what is overall a decent production.
This aside, Mort is
dead funny for Pratchett fans both old and new with an evolving cast that
are sure to develop with each production.
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Review by Hayley Horton
Unfortunately, Director Hermonn, Musical Director Ben Saunders and Choreographer Carmel Vistoli have missed this fact with their latest attempt.
The story follows a group of kids in their final year at Rydell High, emphasizing the hopes, dreams and barriers that they face in coming to terms with the adult world.
With such a fantastic script and dynamic musical numbers, the cast fail to keep the energy and enthusiasm required alive, making many of the more memorable numbers pedestrian and un-inspiring.
The Burger Palace Boys and The Pink Ladies are the "cool" groups at Rydell High, although as a whole they are hard to define from the nerds, being no where near cool and lacking the slickness and sassiness required overall.
Having said this, Ellyanne Bradford portrays her role as Marty with zest, complete with a spot-on characterization and a stand out performance of the tongue in cheek Freddy My Love.
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Adam Philippou as Danny acts well, complete with pelvic thrusts and a hairdo that would make Elvis jealous, but also lacks the vocal strength for the sometimes demanding songs.
The other well known couple of the gang, Rizzo and Kenickie also face the challenge of filling some very well known shoes. Carolyn Lockett performs the role of Rizzo as her own, which is commendable and There Are Worse Things I Could Do is a highlight, but overall she errs on the side of catty rather than putting up a hard exterior.
Shane Reynolds as Kenickie is disappointing, finding a way to under-perform the signature number Greased Lightnin' to the point of looking bored. An unwarranted encore (even with a sympathetic audience) only lengthened the boredom.
Rohan Edmonds-Wilson as the nerdy Eugene stands out with suitable awkwardness as does Katharine Chase as the piggy Jan, creating many of the laughs.
Adding to the lack of energy, the cast have to compete with dull sets (although well utilised) clashing with fluorescent costumes and a crowded stage on many occasions - perhaps contributing to the lack of life in big numbers such as Shakin' at the High School Hop and We Go Together.
Altogether, this production fails to meet expectations and needs a huge energy boost to get their large audiences hand jiving.
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Reviewed by Wendy Mildren
The latest production by the Blackwood Players is a heart warming story with a Christmassy flavour, written by Sam and Bella Spewack, called "My three angels". Some of you may remember the film by the same name which starred Peter Ustinov, Aldo Ray and Humphrey Bogart, which was based loosely upon the same play.
The story revolves around a shop run by Felix and Emillie Draper, but owned by a penny pinching distant cousin, Godfrey Smythe. The shop is located on an island penal colony, and the time of the play is Christmas Eve. Felix is an honest, trusting and somewhat naïve shopkeeper whose business is going downhill rapidly as he sells all the goods on credit. His wife is an American who is well aware of the dangers of this practice and tries, ineffectively, to get Felix to collect their outstanding monies. Their daughter, Marie considers herself madly in love with Paul, Godfrey's nephew, and is overjoyed when she hears that they are about to receive a visit from Godfrey and Paul.
Three convicts have been assigned to fix the roof of the Draper's shop and take a keen interest in the goings-on of the Draper family.
Roger Mansfield, who plays Joseph the "creative bookkeeper" is superb in the role, and, indeed steals the show. His enthusiastic performance and excellent facial expressions creates a great deal of the humour of the play. Sean Venning and Nick Hargraves play "Jules" and "Alfred" both convicted of murder, make up the trio of convicts. As they relaxed into their roles both produced creditable performances.
Lawrie Beck and Kathy Strauts who played Felix and Emillie Draper, were a little wooden at the beginning of the play, but gradually got into character. Danielle Seal, who played Marie the daughter, looked charming and played her role with sincerity.
Another scene stealer was Nicole Seal who played Mrs. Parole, a customer of the Draper's shop who is determined not to pay her outstanding bill. Nicole played the part to the hilt and came across as a very formidable character. Ray Creevy, who played the dastardly Uncle Godfrey, was believably sinister in the role.
Overall the play is a good bit of light hearted fun and definitely worth having a look at. The costumes were appropriate and colourful and worked well. The play is being performed at the Tower Arts Centre until 1 November 2003.
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Review by Hayley Horton
Shane Davidson has once again taken the helm for this mammoth undertaking of 150 cast members with gusto.
The classic tale of Oliver Twist is known by many, and the music and lyrics by Lionel Bart is memorable to the point audience members find themselves tapping their feet and humming along with the cast.
Davidson has put together for the most part a stellar cast. The children in this production are enviable, all performing their musical numbers with precision and enthusiasm - a talented bunch, many of whom will surely go on to become the leads in future shows.
Young William Traeger plays Oliver, the lost boy who finds happiness through hope and survival. Traeger acts the role well, but his voice is too young even for this role, with a number of missed notes and quavering.
The other juvenile lead of the show is that of Jack Dawkins, The Artful Dodger, who leads Oliver into the world of London's thieves and urchins. Phillip Wolfendale takes on this most recognizable role and vocally is extremely strong, singing the well known numbers Consider Yourself and I'd Do Anything with ease. Unfortunately Wolfendale seems uncomfortable in the role elsewhere, unable to stay still and struggling with the cockney accent.
The adults of this production have a lot to compare to in respect to precision and energy and succeed equally as well as their junior counterparts. The slick and vocally strong ensemble take on a number of roles within the production with Consider Yourself and Who Will Buy? being particular highlights.
Choreographer Barbie Komazec has used the space well with such a large cast using unique and impressive moves that each cast member performs with precision.
Rodney Hrvatin's musical direction is equally good, with each member of the cast having strong vocal abilities - although louder stage mikes would have been useful for the bigger numbers to combat the brilliant, yet loud orchestra.
Along his journey, Oliver meets a myriad of characters, which both colour and energize each scene. Ben Rasheed as Fagin is sublime, allowing the audience to hate and empathize at the same time. Topped off with a brilliant voice, Rasheed is matched vocally only by Johanna Allen as Nancy.
Allen's rendition of the well known As Long As He Needs Me is a highlight of the production, wrenching the heart strings of many an audience member. Both Allen and Rasheed's performances are seamless, filling the stage with every scene.
Nancy's "needy" man, Bill Sykes is played by Tom Millhouse. Although he sings well, Millhouse's performance was disappointing, with the inability to instill fear and an Australian accent, which stands out like a sore toe.
A number of cameo roles within the production are however well performed, especially that of Joshua Penley as Noah Claypole and Elyse Adams as Charlotte Sowerberry, who are particularly disgusting - and convincingly so!
Overall, Oliver! is
a huge success of a show, with a strong cast, good set and impressive
costumes. Although ticket prices are higher than most, look at it as "two
for one" - a donation to the MS Society and a great production.
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Review by Sue Oldknow
Opening night of Northern Light's latest production saw a few more bumps than grinds as the cast and crew settled into the less familiar surroundings of the Mayfair Theatre.
Problems with the set and lots of loud chat from the folks in the techie booth upstairs proved a bit distracting at first but gradually the play took over from the production and you could start to loose yourself in the story.
The story is that of Miss Mona (Rachel Spargo) and her "Chicken Ranch", a bordello she inherited from Miss Wulla Jean who has been the strict Madam there since the 1930s. We are now in the 1970s and although the rest of the world has changed, Miss Mona still runs a tight and strangely clean ship.
However, things are about to take a turn for the worst as evangelistic TV news reporter Melvin P Thorpe (David Merrett) tells the world that (shock-horror!) Texas Has a Whorehouse in It! Can Miss Mona and her girls survive Bible Belt America in the television age?
Damon Hill's plush bordello set and Ann Humphries' bright and co-ordinated costumes set the scene for some nice performances scattered among a possibly too large cast.
As the lead, Rachel Spargo handles her dialogue well and can sing a pretty mean country tune but she is miscast. She comes across as too young and lacks the necessary authority a woman in Miss Mona's position would have.
Theresa Dolman as Doatsey Mae displays maturity, pathos and good comic wit. Michelle Uren is spot-on as Shy and Kim York has a good handle on the contrasting character of Angel, bringing in some nice moments of sadness.
Sally Mortimer as Jewel has potentially the best voice on stage but should not have been forced into some of the high vocal gymnastics that don't quite come off and distract from that beautiful rich deep voice.
Ben Kempster plays Sheriff Ed Earl Dodd with authority and delivers his clever, tongue-twisting lines very smoothly and Graham Loveday as Narrator deserves a special mention for the marathon opening number that sets the whole thing up.
Miss Mona's girls are very good. Coming in all shapes and sizes there's not a shy one amongst them as they strut their stuff and display some good singing voices and slinky moves. Hard Candy Christmas is particularly well done.
The large bunch of boys do well too. The Aggies Song is a lot of fun with some simple but strong choreography from Peta Nievelstein. All the boys seem to be enjoying themselves with Troy Brailsford in particular giving a very comfortable and confident performance.
He is part of the Barbershop Lone Star Strutters who have varying degrees of success with their 4-part harmonies. Musical Director Tammy McInnes has a fairly difficult score to work with involving lots of country harmonies. Hopefully after opening night nerves have settled, so will the harmonies, because when they work they are very sweet indeed.
Director Fran Edwards has done well to incorporate such a large cast into a bright, energetic and fairly sexy show. It was pretty wobbly on opening night but as confidence increases it will only get better and, despite the hiccups, the crowd had a really good time. I'm sure you will too.
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Review by Hayley Horton
Director Alice Teasdale, along with the Stirling Players group has formed a fascinating and complex piece of theatre for the "thinking" audience.
Tom Stoppard's multi-layered story is set in both 1809 and the present day and encompasses issues from English poets and rolling countryside to mathematics and chaos theorem.
The play is set in a room at Sidley Park (a grand mansion with extensive gardens) and opens in 1809 with the young Lady Thomasina (played by Clare Mitchell) being tutored by Septimus Hodge (Andrew Clark). The interactions between Thomasina and Hodge propel the storyline with discussions of the mathematical and scientific theorems of the day as well as the social attitudes that affect their lives.
Mitchell is well cast as the inquisitive and innocent Thomasina and grows into her role as her character ages (she does seem a little old for thirteen to begin with). Clark is a good counterpart to Thomasina with a somewhat laconic yet nurturing charm that gets many of the laughs.
The stunning set is then transported to the present day, where researchers Hannah Jarvis (Nicole Rutty) and Bernard Nightingale (Peter Davies) are attempting to discover different aspects of the goings on of Sidley Park in 1809.
Both performers pull-off the "academic" neuroses and fervour required for such roles, allowing the audience to get just as excited when elements unfold. Rutty is especially absorbing, being well at ease in country attire and surrounded by books.
The genius of this story is that the different eras are entwined together scene by scene (instead of act by act as is usually the case), juxtaposing further the contrasts and similarities of each group.
This is complimented by the simple, yet appropriately majestic set, which allows both eras to flow in and out easily. Watch for the last couple of scenes, which are both clever and unique in their direction, keeping the audience on their toes.
The supporting characters of the story make up the fabric of this intricate tapestry. In 1809 the sordid affairs of Lady Croom (Bernadette Bycroft), her family and guests paint a picture of the "real" story, which is later to be discovered (or misconstrued) in the present day.
Although the cast is competent in their performances, a number of pregnant pauses slowed scenes down, which for a wordy production were unfortunately not ironed out before opening.
In the present day, the cast are equally engaging - especially Tim Deane-Freeman who plays Gus. Although Deane-Freeman says nothing in these scenes at all, his performance is superb and audiences may be quite shocked to hear him speak as a secondary character in 1809.
Hamish Macintyre explains a number of the theorems and technicalities of the story as Valentine (the present resident of Sidley Park), which again is useful for those who need to keep up - although more precise diction would make things all the easier to understand.
Overall, Arcadia is a unique production, which allows audiences to learn a little and laugh a little - although bring your thinking caps as this is no "cotton candy" show.
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Review by Hayley Horton
This twist on plays such as "Secret Bridesmaid's Business" and others, opens in a honeymoon suite in present day, where groom, Bill awakes to find a naked woman lying next to him (not his fiancee of course).
Hence, the scene is set, leading the audience on a joy ride of hilarity and curiosity in an endeavor to determine who is what, when and where!
The script by Robin Hawdon is funny, slick and modern, keeping all cast members on their toes in an effort to keep up the pace. Neil Hallam (as Bill, the almost mystified groomsman) takes on the central role with a great deal of confusion. Whether real or well performed, it suits the character overall. Hallam's flustering and blustering through each scene is apt, but at times detracts from the more poignant love scenes.
This production is very much an ensemble performance. However, David Kinna as Tom (the best man who seems to be the meat in the sandwich) and Toni Knowles (as the chambermaid who is just in the wrong place at the wrong time) give stand out performances. Knowles is particularly of note, with a strong and sometimes "acidic" performance as she takes on the role of objective narrator or devil's advocate.
Chris Galipo, as the matriarch of the bride to be, gives a stellar performance (although the smallest). One can't help but giggle at Galipo's portrayal, with many audience members possibly glimpsing an element of the wackiness in their own mothers. There is a show stopping moment in the second act after a "tumble" in the lobby which has both pantomime and farce fans rolling in the aisles, bringing the show to a standstill.
Although the accents in the show are varied and at times grating and the female love interests (the ditched fiancé and one night "flame") lack the lustiness and anger required, the show holds together exceptionally well. The stage is well dressed with realistic props that are easily utilised, and a stunning split set actually combats the cramped area by giving a feeling of space and luxury and allowing the audience to have a "fly on the wall" view of the mayhem.
Ironically, no wedding is perfect, and this one is far from it - and amusingly so!
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Review by Hayley Horton
This fluffy tale of life in Paris at the turn of the century is almost flawless vocally, accompanied by an equally adept orchestra (it is so refreshing to hear an orchestra who sounds like they have actually rehearsed as long as the cast) and is the last aspect for which this company should apologise.
We follow a madcap story of false identities, naughty mishaps and revelry as Parisian playboys, Raoul (Mark Anolak) and Bobinet (musical director, Peter Potts) connive to find maidens to satisfy their desires. Both male leads execute their roles aptly, with enjoyable vocals and pompous characterisations, although at times somewhat uncomfortable with their movements on the over-crowded stage.
Upon finding they have been played for fools by the same woman, Metella (Myfanwy Tilley), they decide to pursue other options including that of The Baroness Gondremarck (Leanne Attard). In true operetta style, the fact that Raoul decides to brazenly pursue a married woman of station is somehow left to the wayside, and the attempts to remove the Baron from the picture creates the mayhem of the second act.
Richard Dyer as the Baron Gondremarck is particularly refreshing, having both the vocal adeptness and lovable characterisations required for such a role, with the latter seemingly lost on the other leads.
The female leads of the show, especially those of Tilley, Maria Geraghty (playing the co-conspirator, Gabrielle) and Roslyn Stallard (the servant, Pauline) show fine form, with their professional vocal experience evident but somewhat lacking in creating characters that the audience can understand and warm to.
The leads are backed by a strong ensemble, who have the strength both vocally and in pure presence (fitting approximately 30 ensemble with up to 10 leads is a feat unto itself in such a limited venue). The more memorable numbers of the show such as "You Have Split Your Jacket" and "Try Anything Once" have silly vocals at the best of times and sounded fantastic, but lacked the diction to easily understand. Added to the awkwardness of the choreography and the mismatched costumes to a modernized set, the overall plot was difficult to follow - although we figured it all out in the end!
For fans of light opera, SALOS have produced a musically competent production, with little in-jokes that had the audience tittering (anyone work for AGL?) and more pomp and splendor than a night at the Proms.
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Review by Sue Oldknow
Hats off to Venture Theatre Company. They have had to find yet another home and have still managed to come up with a very entertaining piece of theatre in "Ladies of Spirit".
This gentle British comedy is set in the 1960s. An old style school for girls is under threat of change from snobbish head mistress, Miss Rowe. Not only does she want to change the school name but she is endangering the standards of fair play held by the school's founding members.
This all female cast makes use of two generations of Venture ladies to good effect.
Debbie Wheaton leads by example in her role of sensible matriarch, Miss Hatty. She owns the stage quite regally and is very impressive in this controlled performance.
Her comically cherubic sister, Matty, is played very sweetly by Laraine Ball, providing many of the evening's laughs. Director, Correne Woolmer, has done a nice job keeping these two characters understated.
Felicity Wheaton's character, Sally, the school secretary, could have done with similar treatment as she overdid it at times. But her characterisation of the nervous young girl, out of her depth and desperate to please, is a highlight of the production with some genuinely touching moments. A talent to watch out for in the future.
Reagan Brown makes a very scary headmistress, cold, calculating and downright nasty. She does a very good job and makes a wonderful straight man, holding it all together.
Barbara Confue plays Miss Maudesley, a sweet old dear who should have retired from teaching years ago, with great sympathy.
The bullying poor Maudy receives from the headmistress and the evil, slimy Miss Manvers (Alicia Wheaton) is one of the reasons the sisters intervene. The other teachers, Miss Cox (nicely done by Catherine Wallace) and Mrs Thorpe (Joanna Bell), are powerless within the private school system, where the most important consideration is money.
Miss Rowe is so obsessed with having only the rich at Gibraltar School that she plots to get rid of a working class student, but first she has to deal with her tarty mother, played with obvious glee by Valerie Kelsey.
At this performance there were some technical problems (forcing some lengthy ad-libbing from two young performers - well handled girls!), some stumbled lines, some miscued entrances and blocking difficulties, but these were minor.
This is an enjoyable play, well chosen and well suited to the Ladies of Spirit of the Venture Theatre Company.
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Review by Sue Oldknow
This intelligent piece of high class comedy was penned by Scott Rankin and Glynn Nicholas and has songs by a talented team of writers that includes Paul Kelly and Mark Seymour. So you can safely assume you are in for a great night out.
Warm and comfortable inside Her Majesty's (according to Glynn Nicholas one of the best theatres on Grote Street) an expectant audience awaited the opening night of the return season of this highly acclaimed production. Nicholas soothed our opening night nerves (funny man) assuring us that all would be well, and so it was.
"Certified Male" is quite a serious look at the expectations faced by men in today's society. An older male tries to impart some wisdom to three younger business colleagues by taking them away for a "think tank" weekend, throwing them together and getting them to take stock of their lives through each others' eyes.
The results are at times sweet and sad but mostly laugh-out-loud funny. A marvellous mix of mayhem, mime, mirth and male madness. The boys do boy things, from watching porn to deep sea fishing, with often hilarious consequences.
The writing is brilliant. A warm and witty observation of the Aussie middle class male. Balancing an 80 hour office week with a family or social life, he tries to maintain his masculinity in a world of political correctness, assertive females and relationship counselling.
The mime and choreography of Jenny Hope and Alana Scanlan is superb and is executed to perfection by the cast. The songs are stylish and ably accompanied by Musical Director, Greg Riddell, who also provides appropriate incidental music (and even becomes part of the act).
Director Terry O'Connell has combined a stellar cast and crew, a subtle set, complimentary lighting and great sound to present a well paced, seamless show.
The cast consists of Glynn Nicholas as the hen-pecked Alex, Donal Forde as the much-married McBride, Ed Boyle as the playboy Howard and Don Barker as the "wily old bastard" Jarrad. All bring their own varied and sometimes surprising talents to this show and the sum of all these parts makes a highly entertaining whole.
Highlights are too many to mention, but the drowning scene certainly stays in the memory, along with some fabulous harmony singing from Nicholas, Forde and Boyle. Three gorgeous voices from three gorgeous males. I'm sure every woman in the audience was in love with at least one of them by the end.
But this is a show for everyone, women will recognise and men will empathise and anyone who doesn't come away feeling good just doesn't have a heart.
Do yourselves a big favour and catch the return season of "Certified Male".
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Review by Sue Oldknow
The infamous 70s British comedy phenomenon is brought to the stage in this entertaining production.
The staff of Grace Brothers Department Store are off on their holiday to Spain. Care of their beloved and eccentric boss, Mr Grace (nicely played by Don Hutton), they are to enjoy each others' company in a luxurious one star hotel. The only problem is that its not quite finished yet and a revolution is about to begin.
Director Michael Veltman has managed to assemble a mostly very capable cast in the difficult task of replicating well known and beloved television characters.
The script is great. Camp, witty, irreverent and full of more double entendres than you can poke a stick at. Veltman also has a great eye for visual and physical humour which is used to good effect in this production.
The large cast has a ball and although talent varies from the inexperienced to the well-seasoned performer there is a good feeling of ensemble and genuine enjoyment that is shared by a capacity audience.
The cast shines in the first act, in the simple setting of the department store. It is extremely funny and well paced. In the second act the actors have to deal with a crowded set and some technical difficulty and the show loses its punch a little. Some of the energy is lost along with some of the lines.
This is not helped by extremely loud behind-the-curtain set changes while actors are trying to perform out front. Within the limitations of this venue it might have been better to mask the changes with music before the scene begins. A little bit of waiting for the audience but a lot less distraction.
However, on-stage talent more than compensates for staging difficulties. Maggie Smith is perfectly cast as Mrs Slocombe and Debbie Kellaway is a wonderfully dry Miss Brahms. Both ladies play their parts to perfection.
John Fitzpatrick is adorable as poor downtrodden Mr Grainger, Terry Griffin is great as Mr Mash, the lowly worker (I wish his character had been in the second act) and Wade Shiell does an admirable job as the lecherous young Mr Lucas.
Paul Kaesler is superb as Mr Humphries. Camp as the row of tents the Grace Brothers staff are forced to sleep in, he minces through the saucy lines with perfect pace in a performance that is a dead ringer for the original.
There are some nice performances all round. Narelle Jones and Stephen Lee make delightful cameos as customers and Dimitri Sarinopoulos plays the revolutionary, Cesar, with tongue-in-cheek enjoyment.
This company does a great job creating atmosphere for its productions and there are some very nice touches from Front of House. This is a very entertaining show containing all the essential elements of this style of British humour and congratulations to NTC on a sell-out season.
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1. Reviewed by Rod Lewis
In an English pub, a bickering husband and wife greet a multitude of patrons, each character with a story to share and a soul to bare.
For the Blackwood Players, director Geoff Brittain presents the second of three plays in his “Festival of Brittain”, a heartfelt comedy with enough pathos to warrant that beer to cry over.
The first in his trilogy of plays was the outstanding production of “Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean”, hosted by the Stirling Players, with a personal favourite, “Extremities” to follow next for the Burnside Players.
Brittain is a casting agent’s dream. He not only knows how to pack a punch with his storytelling, but he knows how to cast to perfection.
Jim Cartwright’s demanding play is unveiled by two outstanding actors: Peter Davies and Tracey Walker play all fourteen characters, from a couple trapped in a cycle of domestic violence to a lonely widower and more.
Each personality is distinct, carrying its own humour and grief. The play itself is like a long one-act Festival piece comprising a series of vignettes strung together by the interaction between the publicans.
Brittain extends it to a full night of theatre however with the extraordinary musical talents of David D’Angelo and Michele Thredgold. This duet presents a host of well-known songs that aptly comment on the preceding action , accompanying themselves on guitar and piano. D’Angelo also penned original music and lyrics to for the show.
But sadly, the microphones were far too loud, distorting Thredgold’s powerful voice. The play is presented cabaret-style (BYO) with audience seated on three sides and unfortunately this review was given what were possibly the worst seats in the house. Masking problems were rife and most of the action was presented with a view of the actors’ backs. Even when the actors were standing behind the bar, only their eyes were visible from behind a tray of glasses, such was the angle that I was looking up. Be advised when booking tickets that you’d be better served by requesting a table in the front of the stage rather than to one side.
Despite the disappointing direction, which is quite a shock given Brittain’s usual excellence, “Two” is a superb play done full justice by the stellar cast and band.
2. Review of Blackwood
Players presentation of "Two"
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Review by Sue Oldknow
I headed out last night. It was the middle of the week. I was cold. I was tired. I thought "Why am I doing this instead of curling up in front of the TV in my nice warm lounge room?"
Well, it was well worth the effort. I got to see some excellent back-to-basics theatre in the great atmosphere of the Holden Street Theatres. This was my first visit to this venue and what it lacks in high tech it gains in ambience.
The basic equipment and plastic chairs are soon forgotten as you immerse yourself in Neil Simon's wonderful play about love and survival in 1940s New York.
The stars of the show are the two young boys, left with their stern and unforgiving grandmother and loopy aunt in the apartment above a Yonkers candy store. They handle all the crazy adults in their world with a mixture of care, cynicism and dry wit far ahead of their years and manage not only to grow up themselves but to take the adults along with them.
Matt Byrne has assembled an excellent cast and done a great job of direction. The action moves well, the actors are mostly comfortable with the space, the dialogue is finely interpreted and there are some lovely little visuals and welcome sight gags.
The scene changes could be a little quicker. The use of recorded voice-overs of letters from Father is a nice touch, but they are pretty indistinct and difficult to understand, which is somewhat frustrating. However, given the limitations of the venue, the crew are to be commended.
Nick Huynh takes on the challenging role of Jakob. He shows good potential and has some fine moments of emotion but there is a strange mix of a comfortable delivery of lines with an uncomfortable stage presence. He needs to relax a little, he holds his body very stiff, but otherwise he handles the large role with ease.
Callum Pyper, as younger brother, Arthur, looks totally relaxed on stage. He looks born to it in fact. The shortest member of the cast is certainly not short on talent and has a huge voice for a small person. There is a great chemistry between him and Huynh and their brotherly relationship is totally believable.
The talent doesn't stop there. The childlike Bella is played by Christine Isemonger. At first I wasn't sure I liked the way she was playing Bella. A bit too melodramatic. But I warmed to Isemonger's performance. So much so that I had tears in my eyes when Bella breaks down and begs someone just to hold her. It takes a bit to do that to me.
Michael Papps is a fabulous Uncle Louis. A hero to the boys but tough, the way his mother made him. Peter Flatman is sensitive and likeable as the boys' father, Eddie, Rosanne Joyner makes a nice cameo of Aunt Gertie and Isabella Norton takes on the unsympathetic role of the cold and seemingly uncaring Grandmother with great understanding.
This is a very good show worthy of great houses. Take your mum and dad (even your grandma). I know its winter but rug up and get out there. I'm glad I did.
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A hit at the 2002 Melbourne Comedy Festival, All Het Up is a musical about relationships and all the familiar patterns they follow.
Narrated in song by Patrick Cronin, Jack and Tash meet in a bar while Will and Kate meet up on a blind date. The two couples move from strangers to lovers, to bickering partners as the honeymoon period wears off and they learn to accept one another with all their faults.
Jane Badler (best
known as the evil Diana in the cult American sci-fi series
Jeremy Stanford's loveable Jack is a bloke with a soft side, while Colin Lane's portrayal of Will is a SNAG (sensitive new age guy) with a blokey side. Both men deliver the goods, particularly when paired up for a bit of male bonding.
The gorgeous Fiona Thorn has a voice to die for as Kate, rounding up the excellent cast.
While the staging of All Het Up is minimal - two tables and four chairs on an otherwise bare stage - the story and lyrics by Guy Rundle, Fiona Thorn and John Thorn are overflowing with wit and clever observations of the human heart.
The laughs flow freely from the opening song, with director Wayne Hope finding some nice touches in an otherwise bland presentation.
The actors are accompanied by John Thorn on piano, the multi-talented Patrick Cronin on trumpet and a third, unacknowledged musician.
Despite an overall disappointing presentation, the cast, music and lyrics give the show something to be 'all het up' about. It's a great laugh with local references added in for added humour. And best of all, it's another successful Aussie musical.
Thanks to Encore Magazine
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Renowned for the extraordinary stage direction “They cross the Andes”, this play is a mammoth undertaking and consequently rarely seen on the amateur stage.
Harry Dewar’s vision of Spain’s invasion of the Inca empire was grand in its simplicity with that daunting piece of action realised to great effect.
Theo Badics was perfectly cast as the Inca king Atahualpa with his resonate voice, physique and stage presence.
Not so successful was David Mitchell as Spanish invader Francisco who lacked both the presence and charisma needed for the character despite good acting.
John G Sands is a born storyteller and mesmerised as the narrator, with Nathan Lambert suitably portraying his younger self.
Grant Hull and Alison Hindmarsh were both excellent, but Vicki Ferguson and Angela Foley excelled as the Christian holy men.
The large chorus of actors and singers supporting the main cast all did well except for a few minor projection problems by the less experienced actors.
John Wilson composed an outstanding original score for this play, performed live by a band which was sadly hidden under the stage and didn’t receive the acknowledgment they deserved.
I don’t sit still for long, but this three-hour marathon flew by, which is the greatest sign of success to this reviewer.
Thanks to Encore Magazine
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Review by Sue Oldknow
Julie Dawson Daniels has written a tribute to Lorenz (Larry) Hart, the lyricist of the famous song writing team of Rodgers and Hart, on the 60th anniversary of his early death.
The task of bringing this new work to the stage is ably tackled by Director: Ian Rigney, Musical Director: Peter Taylor and Choreographer: Melanie George. This is a very stylish production with a strong cast, elegant sets, glorious costumes and beautifully orchestrated music.
In his program notes, Rigney mentions a large amount of workshopping and rewriting of the script to bring this production to Opening Night. This process has been mostly successful. With the device of the bartender (Angus Davidson) as narrator, we slip in and out of glimpses into Hart's life in a succession of scenes, with an appropriate song embedded in each.
Davidson delivers his dialogue with precision and does his best not to turn the overly factual script into a history lesson. The writer has tried to dispel the educational feel of the evening by revealing the scenes in no particular chronological order and by transferring some of the facts and figures to the characters themselves. Unfortunately, where this happens the dialogue becomes stilted and unnatural.
Whether in an effort to be historically accurate or not to offend, everyone in Lorenz's story is nice, which doesn't give the actors anywhere much to go with their characters. The only exception is Hart himself, a man with everything and nothing, driving himself to self destruction at the height of his success.
Hart is played beautifully by Ron Hughes. His is by far the best written role. Hughes manages to make the dialogue natural, at the expense of sometimes rushing lines, and Lorenz becomes a three dimensional person you can relate to. Diane Chamberlain as Hart's doting Jewish mother (and the only real love of his life) also has some meat to her character and has the opportunity to have some fun with the stereotype.
The rest of the cast make the most of what they have been given, but the characters are lightly drawn and, with much high society tittering from the ladies and booming bonhomie from the men, they don't make a lot of impact as people.
However, all are strong performers with excellent vocal ability. Songbirds Heidi Abbey and Jenny Scarce-Tolley excel and Christopher Meegan's rendition of "My Funny Valentine" is my personal highlight.
There are other great numbers ranging from the famous to the lesser known of the enormous Rodgers and Hart collection. My favourites in this production are Ron Hughes and John Koch's energetic "Manhattan"; David Rapkin, Meegan and Koch's tongue-in-cheek "The Most Beautiful Girl in the World"; and "Sing For Your Supper" beautifully performed by Scarce-Tolley, Abbey and Linda Ellis.
There are some lovely bits of choreography during musical numbers and Derek Robinson has the unenviable task of portraying Gene Kelly. Melanie George did well creating something relatively simple but rather stylish for Gene's number and Robinson tripped a pretty good light fantastic.
This is a courageous effort to do something new and it is a beautifully crafted show. It is a joy to look at and an absolute pleasure to listen to. For me, this show would really work in an intimate, cabaret setting, minus two thirds of the facts and figures and with a little more artistic licence.
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A tried and true audience puller, this Victorian thriller sees the fragile Bella slowly driven mad by her husband until a detective reveals that the insane one may not be her.
Directed by Lindy Schubert, the Spotlight production lacked pace, projection and diction but nonetheless enthralled with some fine acting and an excellent script.
Cheryl Douglas is one of the North’s great leading ladies, playing a vastly different role from her recent appearance as the air-headed nymphomaniac in the Tea Tree Player’s Don’t Lose The Place, and while her histrionics lacked light and shade as Bella, her emotions ran strong.
Rick Williams put in a powerful performance as the villainous husband Jack, but sadly not so for John Sharpe whose loveable Detective was marred by problems with lines.
Stacey Webb and Hannah Wooller were both excellent as the hired help.
Ray Creevy and Lindy Schubert’s set design was stellar, as were Vi Rowe’s superb costumes.
More attention to detail by the director would not have gone astray though.
A flawed but nonetheless enjoyable thriller.
Thanks to Encore Magazine
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Tower Arts Centre
Review by Sue Oldknow
To a capacity crowd, SALOS presents another of its old time favourites. Specialising in rarely performed operettas, it provides a nice niche for itself with Adelaide audiences.
The crowd was not disappointed by this latest offering "The Gypsy Princess". They come for the music and SALOS does that well.
The tuneful orchestra, conducted by Daphne Harris, is one of the best I have heard in amateur theatre circles and the singing is generally of a very high standard. I was impressed by the clarity and diction of the chorus, full credit to Peter Potts, the Musical Director.
My main criticism of this production is the apparent lack of attention paid to the acting side of operetta. Some performances are wooden and the dialogue is misinterpreted, losing a lot of the very good humour of the script.
There are some obvious exceptions. Among others, Joy Bishop as Princess Anhilte has a lovely time in her upbeat role, Heather Brooks is sweet and relaxed in the lead role of Sylva and Peter Potts steals the show in the plum role of "Boni".
It is apparent that the musically-inclined SALOS audience appreciates some enthusiastic and well-timed comic acting as Potts received applause after just about every scene he appeared in.
The singing is great. Heather Brooks has a delightful soprano and handles her part with ease. Hamish Anear (Prince Peter) has a fabulous voice too. If he can work on getting his acting to match his voice he will make a wonderful leading man.
Strong voices also abound among the supporting cast, making the evening a listening pleasure.
Director Pam Tucker and Choreographer Heather Hull have their hands full with a very large cast on not a very large stage. Things look crowded from time to time and it is difficult for the dancers to make a splash in the limited space, so things are kept simple and mostly effective.
There is still too much of the chorus trooping in and standing in lines for my taste, but it is difficult to think what else the director could do, given the limitations of the venue.
The set is designed to give the most space possible and is functional but very stark, especially in the harsh lighting that comes with the Tower Arts Centre. Some softer colours might have made things a little easier on the eye.
Costuming is colourful, with some great fabric and lots of sparkle, but some of the women's costumes could do with some individual tailoring. Sylva's costumes in particular need some attention. As the glamourous lead she needs to look more the part.
It is also a little difficult to pin down the era of the piece with some costumes looking "1920s flapper" and some looking like 1930s or 40s clothing, but the men look great in their tails.
The story is a simple one of love between the classes, misunderstandings and happy endings. It is bright, often extremely funny and full of pretty music.
I found three acts to be a little long. Some pruning of the dialogue and a couple of reprises, resulting in two snappy acts, would work better for me.
But then its all a matter of taste and this evening's contented audience showed their appreciation for a job well done.
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Review by Sue Oldknow
Another well known and well loved musical is presented at "the Arts", this time by Marie Clark Musical Theatre.
"The King and I" is a great vehicle for splendour and you really need a budget to match, therefore it is quite a challenge for a Community Theatre Group to present. There are few problems with this production, but overall it is a good one and a pleasurable experience.
The costumes, co-ordinated by Michele Dickson, are very good, especially those worn by the members of the Siamese court. Great use of fabric and colour, very sumptuous and visually stimulating. Surprisingly this is not met by the set. The design by Anne Pattison-Keith is functional and well thought out, but the attempt at abstract scenic artistry misses the mark, giving an unfinished feel.
There have been some brave attempts at interesting scene changes and an atmospheric lighting design (by Peter Perry) but on opening night these were poorly executed, with lengthy changes and hit and miss lighting that often left players in shadows.
Director, Kathy Wardle, has produced some very good moments from her cast. This is a production where the acting is possibly better than the singing with some very strong performances in the more dramatic portions of the show. The difficult roles of tragic lovers, Tuptim (Allison Bourke) and Lun Tha (Bradley Hill), are well played without tipping over into melodrama and Njal Venning does well as the unemotional Kralahome.
The best voice belongs to Maria Geraghty as Anna. She has a pure tone and perfect diction but was surprisingly a little quiet, making it sometimes difficult to hear her over the orchestra. She portrays the stiff and formal school teacher well but shines in the moments where she is allowed to let her hair down and show a little humour.
The best performance must go to Peter Wagner as the King. Larger than life and physically perfect for the part, he arrogantly sails through the role with obvious enjoyment. His interpretation of the text is delightful. He is complex, funny, sad, scary and vulnerable in all the right places. I really enjoyed every moment he was on stage.
And of course there are all those cute kids. They did a great job and I particularly enjoyed Ryan Englehardt's Prince Chululongkorn, a nice aristocratic chip off his father's block. The rest of the supporting cast did a fine job too, looking and sounding good (thanks to Musical Director, Dennis Johnson) and providing plenty of colour and movement.
Speaking of movement, I was most impressed with the choreography by Cynthia Snow. She did a great job with some excellent young dancers, especially in the "Small House of Uncle Thomas" ballet. Really lovely to watch (helped by that delightful costuming)...and watch out for that Buddha, he sure fooled me.
On opening night, this was an uneven production that needs quite a bit of tightening up, but there is a lot that is good about it and if you have a soft spot for "The King and I" (as I do) you won't be disappointed.
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St. Judes Players latest presentation is "The Madness of George III", a play written by Allan Bennett and takes place over several months in 1788. The play is a huge undertaking with a cast of twenty seven all in period costumes and wigs! The writing of the play feels like an accurate slice of history.
The open set is intriguing, representing a chess board with cut-out pawns in the foreground. This is a wry comment about the manipulation and moves made by the politicians in the play. The stage is small but works with the minimalist set and slanted floor. It is pleasant to be able to use imagination when watching the characters and listening to the dialogue, rather than have a complete set to stifle that flow. The size of the stage and the number of cast would have prevented a more complex set in any case. Full marks for inventiveness to the set designer, Steven Woolman.
The performance of Tony Busch as King George was riveting as he moved through the stages of madness. It was a chilling experience as you watched his slender grasp on reality breaking down. Busch's handling of the role evokes sympathy for his plight and anger for the way his illness was handled. Tony conveyed the phases of the king's deterioration and restoration with great sensitivity and conviction. A sterling performance.
Elizabeth Slee as Queen Charlotte gave a warmth and humanity to the character. Peter Davies as the Prince of Wales managed to portray the frustration of waiting in the wings with no real function and the egotistical hedonist with just a hint of effeminacy. Andrew Horwood played William Pitt. Having seen Andrew in the Stirling Player's production of "Caravan" I would not have thought of Andrew for the role of Pitt, however, he carries it off very well. Martin Strange as Charles Fox plays the opportunist to the hilt and does a good job of it. David Johnson played the Lord Chancellor with great aplomb, as did David Lockwood, Brian Sexton, Mel Tickle and Robert McCarthy who played the physicians. They injected touches of humour to lighten the sombreness of the play. Richard Lane as Dundas gave a creditable performance with just a hint of a Scottish accent and portrayed the machinations of politicians to perfection. Because of the size of the cast I can't give them all a mention, but sufficient to say everyone played their roles well.
I would be remiss not to mention the costumes. From the programme I can see that a team of people worked on them and they certainly enhanced the performance and worked well. The sheer number of costumes required and the complexity of the designs deserved an ovation.
Les Zetlein, as Director of this play, certainly deserves a mention, if for no other reason than he was able to entice 20 males onto the stage! No mean feat as anyone connected to amateur theatre will tell you. With the sheer size of the case as Les says in the programme "rehearsals were interesting to say the least"!
The only criticism I would level at the play was the noise of the back stage crew changing the scenes. However, given the number of scenes, overall, they did a sterling job.
The play will conclude this Saturday night, so if a little slice of history is your cup of tea, make haste and book your tickets by ringing 8296 8902.
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Review by Sue Oldknow
"Carousel" is not a happy story. Set in a Maine fishing village, around 1900, charismatic carousel barker, Billy Bigelow meets sweet and trusting Julie Jordan. With this tragic tale's underscore of violence and poverty, these flawed heroes are doomed from the start, but somehow love and hope prevails.
This is a difficult piece of theatre and the Met does it well on many levels. I was particularly impressed with the way director, Leonie Osborn and choreographer, Carmel Vistoli, manipulate the large cast in group scenes and musical numbers. From curtain up there is colour, movement, depth and interest and this is maintained throughout the show.
Musical director, Rodney Hrvatin, has done a wonderful job with a complex score. The orchestra has some difficulty maintaining pitch while trying to be quiet enough for the singers to be heard, but some subtle amplification and good voices means that just about every note sung is appreciated by the audience.
In particular the experienced Greg Hart soars above the rest. He really does have a stellar voice and he realises the complex character of Billy Bigelow well. That mix of bravado, affability, barely controlled violence and vulnerability is difficult to achieve.
Tricia Fuller as Julie Jordan sings well and makes the most of another difficult role. If Julie were a modern woman you'd just want to shake her. She is so annoying. But Fuller also gets the mix right, she is sweet and pathetically loyal to an abusive husband, yet maintains great dignity.
The comic relief comes from Leanne Marsland as Carrie Pipperidge. She is energetic and animated with a great sense of physical comedy and a bright character voice. A nice foil for Mark DeLaine as Mr Snow. DeLaine has a strong voice and, once you get past the distraction of the false beard (I don't think it is necessary) he plays the straight man to Carrie well.
Carolyn Mesecke as Nettie Fowler does justice to the two best known songs from the show, "June is Busting Out All Over" and "When You Walk Through a Storm", Kaye Hamlyn makes a striking Mrs Mullin and Dean Behncke has fun with the villain of the piece, Jigger Craigin, despite struggling with the accent.
A bit more menace from Behncke would be good, Jigger's too likeable and this doesn't help the build to the events that follow. Billy's tragic end, the emotional pivotal point of the story, is almost lost in some competent but rushed and shallow acting. Some different staging and lighting might help concentrate the audience on the main characters and a little more time and energy spent on this particular scene might have elicited more of an emotional response.
Sets and costumes, by Hermonn, are big and bright and the piece flows beautifully thanks to an efficient backstage crew led by stage manager, Daniel O'Donohue. The dancing is lovely. Jacinta Vistoli (any relation?) does a great job of her solo as Louise Bigelow. The singing from a supporting cast (too large to individually mention) is great and, once again, the Met has provided a great night's entertainment from a dedicated team.
Well worth a visit to The Arts Theatre in Angas St. The show runs till Saturday, May 17th, so be quick.
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Review by Sue Oldknow
In the intimate venue of the Little Theatre a wonderful ensemble of individual gems delivers this witty, poignant look at World War I and the sheer idiocy of any war before or after. First performed in 1968, the songs may be from 1914 but the message is as relevant as ever.
The troupe, dressed as the sad clown, Pierrot, echoes the irony of the British soldier, singing a cheery song as thousands die around him, fighting for an aristocracy who sees him as cannon fodder.
Using home made props and costuming, reminiscent of children playing dress ups, the actors move through the stages of the "Great War" accompanied by teletext of the horrific statistics of death and mutilation and some wonderfully evocative slides from the era. (Though I did find I was often torn between watching the performers and viewing the media. It was at times distracting.)
Through it all is that undying humour and those fabulous old songs, ably accompanied by a tight band of musicians. A team of directors and crew ensure an easy transition through the varied glimpses into the world of soldiers, generals, politicians and civilians during the time. And the interesting space of the Little Theatre is used to perfection.
It is difficult to single out any cast member, all good actors and singers, they all shone in their individual ways. Playing multiple roles with multiple accents and often speaking in French and German as well, they moved from role to role with ease. The thing I particularly like about this play is that the gender and age of the actor is totally irrelevant, all disbelief is suspended. There is a 50/50 split of experience and youth in the cast and this gives it a great depth, energy and charm.
There are many wonderful moments but one of my favourites would be the Church service with the great parodies of hymns. Amusing until the wonderful rendition of "When This Lousy War is Over" (What a Friend We Have in Jesus) by (forgive me if I'm wrong - the photos in the program are very small) Roger Priess. A heartmelting voice that brought a lump to my throat.
I also loved the famous Christmas scene where the "Tommies" and "Gerries" meet in No Man's Land to share a drink and exchange small gifts to the tune of "Stille Nacht" and "Christmas Day in the Cookhouse".
As with all pieces like this one, your emotions get a great workout. For the greater part of a couple of hours this show is up and very funny so you are smiling and often laughing. But underneath that you mostly feel angry as the unbelievable statistics role by over the actors' heads and the incredible stupidity and inhumanity of those above and the gullibility of those below is played out before you.
Sounds heavy doesn't it? But it isn't really. Its a really good night's entertainment, but one that makes you think. The "fast forward" through the wars right up to our current situation is chilling and the Last Post at the end gives you shivers, but then we get one last rousing, spirit-raising chorus. Isn't human nature wonderful?
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The hills of Stirling were alive with the sound of music on Saturday night when I went to see the Hills Musical Company's latest offering "Woman of the Year" from the book by Peter Stone. I have to say it was one of the best night's entertainment that I have had the privilege to see for a long time.
The story is set in New York and Tess Harding who is a hard headed investigative journalist who is better known than the Pope, and Sam Craig who is a cartoonist who has syndicated a cartoon character named Katz. On an early morning radio broadcast, Tess makes snide remarks in her editorial against cartoonist, which prompts Sam to retaliate by creating a derogatory cartoon character named Tessy Katz, and then the sparks really fly. Sam and Tess meet and find out that although they appear to have nothing in common there is instant attraction and they marry in haste. New York then watches the marriage as they snap and snarl at each other until finally, when Tess is nominated as "Woman of the year" Sam walks out. Tess' belief that she's always right starts to crumble when "Alexi" a Russian ballet dancer who has defected to America on Tess' advice, decides to return to Russia as he realises his marriage is more important than his career, a concept that Tess finds hard to understand. The final realisation comes to Tess when she visits her ex-husband and his wife of 16 years and sees how cooking a roast can be just as fulfilling as breaking a news headline.
The part of Tess was played by Shelly Crooks who puts in a fantastic performance. In the very first song of the show Shelly's diction was not always clear but as she warmed up this improved. Her energy levels and acting were first class. Her rendition of "When you're right, you're right" was sparkling. One of the many highlights, for me, was the scene in "The Inkpot" when Shelly and the male chorus belted out "One of the Boys" complete with a very nifty dance routine. Another scene that was inventive and entertaining was the scene in Tess' apartment when Tess, Sam and the chorus sang "The Two of Us". This was brilliantly executed with a play on the numbers which made the audience look carefully to see where the next number would appear.
Chris Buhagiar, as Sam Craig, was charming and made a very good romantic lead. He had a very pleasant voice and his acting was excellent. He was able to portray his frustration with the way his wife never listened to him with great conviction. David Benzie who played "Gerald", Tess' secretary, and Robyn Smith who played "Helga" Tess' maid were great in their roles and played them with great gusto. Tim Deane-Freeman, who played "Chip Salisbury" the much put-upon morning announcer, was lovely with his 'twee' worry about his hair needing 'spritzing'. Linda Lawson who played "Jan Donovan" was charming and her duet with Tess "The Grass is Always Greener" was a show stopper.
I was particularly impressed with the innovative use of the stage. The set was minimalist but effective and the scene changes were managed in silence and with speed and precision. The art work was effective and done with flair and perspective. John Dempsey is to be congratulated on his set design and the inventive construction which enabled the smooth scene changes.
Max Rayner did a great job with the choreography as the stage is not a large one and the cast was. The dance routines were effective without being gymnastic. Max was also the Director and is to be heartily congratulated on the job. It would not have been an easy play to stage, given the number of scenes, but because of the effective use of the stage it all worked smoothly. The costumes, created by Anne Williams and Avia Crooks, were appropriate and effective.
The only slightly
sour note, no pun intended, was the orchestra. At times they tended to
drown out the singers, but overall they were successful. I think it needs
to be borne in mind that all the players, both on stage and in the orchestra,
give up their time and their talents freely, and I can say that this production
is better than a lot of professional shows I have seen. Well done to the
Hills Musical Company. The production will be on again from 16 to 24 May,
and I would recommend strongly that you do not miss this show.
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(Thanks to Encore Magazine)
So, you thought a panto was a panto eh? Not so! I dashed off to South Adelaide Football Club recently to see Upstage Theatre's latest opus, Cinderella, thinking it would be the usual panto fare. But about 200 kids were emphatic that there was much more fun than usual.
While the storyline was familiar, other aspects of this tried and trusted fairytale were a little bitter and twisted. Or should that be twitter and bisted?
Oh, everything was there: the title heroine Cindy (Georgia Dodd), the evil stepmother (Susan Oldknow), the ugly stepsisters (John Martin and Daniel Overweel) who don't come much uglier, Prince Charming (Luke Baldock), sans charm, along with a not overly bright manservant (Chris Mayes), sans manliness. And standing out from go to woe was Buttons (Deirdre Quinn), providing a narrative where needed and parrying and thrusting with the comic interludes, with Salt and Pepper (Elaine Penberthy and Sonia Weise), a couple of tall mice who seconded as stage crew when needed.
The rest of the entertaining cast consisted of that house full of highly enthusiastic kids, all of whom were in fine voice when prompted by Buttons.
Some of the original tale got a little lost in this retelling, however the "happy ever after" bit was still there and that's the important part.
Great Cinderella ish costuming was provided by Vi Rowe and Sue Winston and Ron Hughes' direction maintained a degree of the tradition that we all expect from a panto. Don't know about all those kids but I had a ball!
Upstage Theatre's next school holiday panto is Treasure Island. See the "What's On" page for details.
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The Australian premiere of Ian Hornby's comedy/mystery is yet another entry in Spotlight Theatre Company's growing list of new works.
First time director Peter Gresham still has a lot to learn, but makes a fair go of the uneven script. The story stakes place in the flat of Jack and Jilly, an unhappily married couple. When the lights go out and Jack is shot by an intruder, he returns to haunt Jilly. Unfortunately for her, she is the only one who can see him and, already being the prime suspect, is assumed to be suffering from hallucinations born of guilt by those around her.
Act one is a straight-out comedy with a nice twist at the end. Act two forsakes the comedy for a murder-mystery, while Act three falls somewhere in between. I loathed the irregular flow of the script and the predictable finale, compounded by unanswered questions at the end (though this may have been caused by actors jumping lines!). I'm still wondering about the mysterious existence of Jack's second life insurance policy!
Lindy Schubert is fantastic as Jilly, showing good emotion and playing the "straight man" role sublimely. Terry Boswell isn't so successful as Jack. He gives the character a go, but doesn't achieve any depth or believability. As Jilly's slinky girlfriend Sarah, Natalie Fell is compassionate, sexy, scheming and sincere. Such a multi-levelled character is difficult to develop, but Fell is spot on with her interpretation of the role.
One would never expect anything less than excellence from seasoned performers Gwenda and Brian Cusack, and neither disappoint here. Gwenda is wickedly wonderful as the mother-in-law who can't stand her daughter's husband, while Brian makes the most of a minor and pointless character that should have been cut from the script. Jack's business partner and friend, Walter, is ably played by Grayum Roberts with enthusiasm.
Gresham's direction is slow and stilted. Too often, he either creates 'bookends' of his cast on either side of the stage, or he has them sitting for long periods. Their movements need to be more natural and their line delivery needs to be much faster. The lighting design has shadows dancing all over the stage which is quite distracting at the best of times, but never more so than when they're being cast by a supposed ghost. I would have expected the experienced performers to assist a first-time director more, but this obviously didn't happen. Their apparent lack of input leaves this production with little more than a ghost of a chance at success. Surprisingly disappointing.
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Victor Hugo’s novel, first published in 1862 has captivated generations with its tale of social injustice and the plight of paroled prisoner Jean Valjean. It has inspired countless films, and in 1980 premiered as a French musical by Alain Boubil and Claude-Michel Shoberg, later transcribed to English by Herbert Kretzmer for its second premiere in London in 1985.
At the Norwood Concert Hall, you can hear the people sing in the MS Society’s fundraising production, directed by Shane Davidson and Peter Goers, with assistant directing by Joshua Penley (who also plays Marius).
Such a mammoth production is a dangerous choice, and while mostly successful, the production leaves a lot wanting in a number of areas, not in the least, a solid lead.
The cast of over 30 are pretty good for the most part, and Ian Gale’s musical direction is to be complimented. The chorus has great harmony and most of the solos are beautiful. His band is superb.
John Greene takes on the pivotal role of Valjean. For one with such an impressive resume, he is disappointment personified. He forgets his lines – doubly tragic since they’re all sung – and often struggles with the range of the score, which is well out of his reach. When he hits the notes right, he has a beautiful baritone voice, but the part also needs a tenor and counter-tenor rolled into one. The role is far too demanding for his talent. To make matters worse, he spends too much time watching the conductor for his queues and sings to the audience instead of connecting to the other people on stage.
As the cop in pursuit of Valjean, Rohan Powell is impressive. The character of Javert needs to be more obsessive and darker to warrant his later suicide, but Powell’s voice is a joy and the character he gives is nonetheless passable.
Joshua Penley is very good as the romantic lead, Marius, who falls in love with Valjean’s young charge. He has a great voice, good stage presence and lots of heartfelt emotion.
At 17 years of age, Michelle Pearson has a stunning career ahead of her if her role of Eponine is anything to go by. This heart-wrenching character is one that lives on in memory and she does it full justice in every respect.
Sarah Croser is sweet as Cosette, as is Amy Todd, playing her mother Fantine.
Aside from one agonising bum note that may have been due to opening night nerves, David Lampard is superb playing Enjolras, the leader of the ill-fated resistance fighters.
Les Miserable is a depressing play, set in a dark and tragic period of French history. Hell – by the end of the night, very few of the characters are left standing. But rather than slit your throat, the characters of immoral innkeeper Thenardier and his wife crop up regularly for much needed comic relief.
Jonathan Webb has a good voice for the part of the despicable Thenardier but plays him more like a vile sewer rat than for laughs. Even in the sewers, when he’s robbing dead bodies of their belongings, we should be laughing at the sheer horror of what he’s doing. But it’s only in his final scene that he really plays it for comedy.
Kate Anolak, on the other hand, recognises the potential of Madame Thenardier and plays it well.
Both of the primary co-directors, Davidson and Goer, have enough experience under their belts to ensure a total winner, so it is surprising to find that this play isn’t. There are some moments of brilliance in the direction – such as the freeze of the bodies slumped over the barricade, and the montage of the deceased during Marius’s superb solo, Empty Chairs at Empty Tables.
But the lighting and sound are grossly under-rehearsed, the accents are all over the place, and vital comic touches are lost in favour of powerful images of human suffering. Perhaps it’s a reflection of the times we live in today.
Fiona DuRieu’s costumes are excellent and Brian Budgen’s simplistic set design is well suited to both the play and the venue.
Having never seen the play before, my companion for the evening hated the show. But despite the many faults, I still came away with a smile on my face and pleased that I saw it. The predominantly talented cast and great collection of songs ultimately makes it a good production overall and since the tickets help to support the MS Society, it makes the trip to Norwood even more worthwhile.
Curtain up is at 7.30 pm however, so don't arrive late!
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Review by Wendy Mildren
I attended the Stirling Players latest theatrical offering last night at the Stirling Community Theatre. It is "Come Back to the 5 & Dime Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean", written by Ed Graczyck and directed by Geoff Brittain. The play is described as a comedy drama, and is set in a little west Texas store at the end of a three year drought. When the play opens we are in 1975 where the 20th reunion of the Disciples of James Dean is about to take place.
The set is an open one and is ingeniously designed to maximise the full width and breadth of the stage. The stage is dressed extremely well and immediately evokes memories of the 70s. The play has a relatively large cast of nine members, all of whom play their parts to the hilt. Because the play is set in West Texas, the Director had no choice but to encourage his cast to use American accents. This is not something that usually works well as an accent is extremely difficult to sustain, however, the dialogue would not have worked with Australian accents.
The play is described as a comedy/drama, but I found it more drama than comedy. I think the playwright has explored a lot of dark issues. His characters live in a very small town, where nobody stops because it's so small and because it has not had rain for three years there is nothing to attract passing trade. He has explored the psychological aspects of feeling unloved and wanting to attract attention and the lengths that people will go to do so. He has also looked at the way people interact in small country towns. He has cleverly created the illusion of travelling back in time and showing the audience how it was in 1955 whilst we are in 1975. I personally found this a little confusing at first until I realised what was happening.
Madeleine Marin opens the play and remains on stage for most of the duration. She plays "Juanita" the ageing, bible thumping proprietor of the 5 & Dime store. She looks the part, especially with the black, short socks and the flat shoes. Her accent tended to slip from time to time but it was still a credible performance. When her beliefs in the Lord and her late husband Sidney are challenged she managed to convey the shattering of her trust in Sidney and her doubts about the Lord.
Nicole Rutty as "Mona" played an extremely strong dramatic role. I personally found her accent a little grating after a short time, but to her credit, she maintained it all the way through. Mona's claim to fame for the last twenty years is that she claimed to have slept with James Dean when she was an "extra" in the cast of "Giant". As a result of this liaison she gave birth to a baby boy, who was a huge drawcard for the town for a few years and gave Mona the attention she longed for. The boy is now 20 years of age and she has tried to keep him tied to her by treating him as a "moron".
Hilary Coleman played "Mona Then" and was very convincing in her performance. It is a powerful role and Hilary played it well. Her accent was not as clearly defined as some other members of the cast, but there was enough of it to define the character. I think Hilary has a great future in theatre.
Verity Dixon as "Sissy" stole the show for my money. She looked great and invested her character with plenty of enthusiasm and warmth. Her accent was great and her diction excellent. She played her role extremely well and gave us the little bits of comedy that were very welcome after some of the heavy drama, but she also managed to portray the agony of breast cancer and the desertion of a husband.
Miranda Bryce played "Sissy Then" and did an admirable job, playing the vamp to the hilt. She moved well on stage and I see a very bright future for this lass in theatre.
Tracey Walker as "Joanne" looked great as the "mystery woman". Her character is the catalyst for all the murky secrets to be released. Tracey managed to capture that hint of sadness for what might have been. Russell Hutchinson who plays "Joe" is very intense and does an excellent job. Mandy Quinn as "Stella May" plays her part right over the top and is entertaining. Lindy LeCornu as "Edna Louise" is lovely as the put down and down trodden Edna.
The Director is to be complemented on a strong cast who moved naturally and created believable characters. The only real criticism I would level is at one of the sound effects. The dialogue was telling the audience they had not had rain for three years and everything was dead or dying, and yet all through the play there was the sound of a steady drip of water!
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Review by Sue Oldknow
This piece of pure theatre explores the boredom of loneliness and the intense sadness of isolation. The small staff of a restaurant in No Man's Land seek to combat disappointment and monotony as day after day they prepare for diners that never come.
Wearing huge, sad, rubber faced masks the actors convey emotion through body language alone. From farcical fast-paced comings and goings to moments of profound and prolonged stillness they convey their message of hope with great quiet skill.
The quiet is something that I had to come to grips with. I am so used to the human voice and/or musical underscoring that I found the long, unscored moments of this show uncomfortable. It took me quite a while to slow down and quiet down enough to appreciate the action in this cleverly choreographed production. There is music, provided by the chef on a throaty button accordion and percussion, and it works well. It suits the piece perfectly.
Once I had adjusted my expectations I found myself falling in love with these sad people with their little fantasies, dreams and memories. Vulnerability shines through every character from the overbearing restaurant manager to the bullied junior waiter. The pace of the action often reflects the monotony of these characters' lives and you have to relax into this, but it is relieved by frequent moments of frivolity that by contrast seem hilariously funny.
My favourite sequence is a bizarre game of musical chairs. This was a favourite with the children in the audience too (along with all the slapstick hitting and falling down, of course). There is always a great appeal in watching adults behave like children. There are some nice bits of dance and clowning, a little juggling, a little magic and a whole lot of innocent fun. And watch out for the great kitchen jug band finale!
But the overall picture is sadness, a sweet sadness but not "non-stop laughter" as publicised. I guess that is to get the audience in. But it is unnecessary, people should go and see this production for what it is, as it has great worth and is ninety minutes well spent.
The show's alternative title is "Celebrating Provisional Life" where the writers say they are "playing with different self-images, playing with masks". This playfulness comes through, the natural playfulness of people. No matter how trapped they may be in a stagnant existence, they play, they dream, they hope.
This German troupe is disciplined and exuberant. They revealed their true selves after the bows to invite the audience to tell their "neighbours, friends, kids, dogs, cats, dingos etc" to come and see the show. And it is something that the whole family can enjoy, just be prepared to take a deep breath and slow down.
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Review by Sue Oldknow
This Alan Ayckbourn play is an amusing peek at the workings of an English country village committee attempting to organise a community event.
Written in the 70s, director Norm Caddick has chosen to set it in the eighties, although no time set is really required. Committees have always been this way and probably always will be.
Set in a slightly seedy hotel function room, ably realised by set designer, Don Oswald, this group of social misfits gather to try to work together to a common goal.
A one set, one situation piece is difficult to keep interesting. The play consists of a series of meetings leading to the event itself. The interest lies in the relationships and power plays developing among the committee members.
Characters are developing well and things will really start to gel with a couple of performances under the belt. The difficulty is the wordiness necessary in such a scenario, it is tempting to switch off (just like during a real committee meeting).
The actors need to deliver their lines with precision and spot on timing to keep things moving along and there was quite a bit of mumbling and fumbling for words from some of the cast during this preview performance.
There are noticeable exceptions.
Debra Millikan has the plum role of the chairman's wife, Helen. She is deliciously bitchy and sensationally snobby and delivers her lines with precision.
Deborah Walsh as the horsey-set spinster, Sophie, is quietly capable, audible and likeable in quite a sad and sympathetic role.
And Gordon Poole, who's clarity and projection are admirable, owns the stage in a minor role as the drunken Lawrence.
Holding it all together is David Rapkin as the chairman, Ray. Calm in the face of all adversity, Rapkin handles the lion's share of a lot of difficult dialogue well. He may want to control some of the upper class tripping over words to keep himself more understandable in sections.
Wayne Eckert plays the Councillor, Donald - professional committee person and pain-in-the-butt pedant. Although seemingly searching for lines at times he achieves the goal of being that exceedingly annoying person we all know on committees who holds up any action in favour of procedure.
Lewis Gentry, as Eric the self-proclaimed Marxist, needs to sound a little more English to blend with the rest of the cast. He also needs to slow down a little and work on diction and projection, but he shows great potential especially in his moments of political passion.
Peter Smith, as Tim, Sophie's brother, has a great scene as the military "advisor" which will run smoother once he has a tighter grip on the text.
Anne Miller does a gently comic deaf (or is she?) Audrey, Donald's elderly mother and Tiffany Causeby handles the role of the shy but able, Phillippa (Eric's "woman") with a minimum of fuss.
Caddick has assembled a good cast in a play that shows how amazing it is that anything ever gets done that is tackled by committee.
There is conflict and romance as the group splits into factions (the "pageant" Vs the "rally"). Yet despite it all they make it happen (sort of) in an amusingly farcical climax.
And yes, they might even choose to do it all again next year!
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Review by Sue Oldknow
This story is not as well known as most. Queen Caramel's husband has gone missing and her 12 daughters keep turning up for breakfast with their shoes in tatters. They won't, or can't, tell her why. At this rate the treasury will be empty, all the gold spent on new slippers. What is a queen to do?
It's quite a nice story and has been successfully turned into a delightful pantomime by Hydri Payne and Debbie Wheaton (who also makes a wonderfully quirky Queen Caramel). There are some great character names and one-liners and some very good performances from the predominantly very young cast.
In particular, the pages, Chit and Chat, are very nicely scripted and performed with great energy and good comic timing by Teagan Coe and Nicole Yardley. They are very courageous and talented young performers who provide most of the evening's laughs. Yardley in particular displays excellent comic talent, combining great delivery of the lines with some enjoyable physical horseplay.
David Thorburn as the hero, Rodrigo Rollo, is quite charming and relaxed and has probably the best singing voice in the production. The musical numbers in general leave a lot to be desired. Backing tracks are not generally in keys that the young and mostly female cast can sing so only a couple of numbers are successful. Most songs are tentative and could have done with more choreography to lessen the self-consciousness of the performers. I did enjoy the Princesses' rap "What Kind of Man?". It has clever lyrics by the writers and is well executed by the girls (and boy). That's the thing about pantomime, girls can play Dons and boys can be Princesses.
Among the Princesses are some very good performers. Vicki Barnes makes a sweet and pretty heroine as Princess Rosetta, Catherine Wallace displays some fine acting skills as the flirtatious Princess Roselea and Madison Kelsey is just downright cute as the adored little sister, Princess Rosie. All the girls work well together and look like they are having a great time.
Laraine Ball plays the villain, Chancellor Cheesy. She could be far more villainous. She is, I think, aiming for somewhere between fool and villain and it isn't quite working. Every panto needs a proper villain so you get to have a good "boo" and "hiss". Elaine Ball plays a nicely resigned Cobbler Clogsenmore and Correne Woolmer has a very good, tongue-in-cheek, time as the mysterious "old lady". The large chorus works well on this spacious stage.
Yet again this is a case of "the show must go on" for Venture. They had built a set, spending their production budget, only to have it burnt in an arson attack on the school. But they rallied and put together another set that worked well. A hard working crew led by Stage Manager, John Marshallsay, changed scenes with a minimum of fuss and lighting and sound were right on cue.
All in all, the Venture cast and crew have produced an enjoyable evening's entertainment. A bit slow and tentative in patches but with a charm that comes from a young enthusiastic cast giving it their all.
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