Bye Bye Birdie
Bums on Seats
Come Back to the 5 and Dime Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean
Guys and Dolls
Lost in Yonkers
Oh What a Lovely War!
Royal Hunt of the Sun
Six Degrees of Separation
Ten Times Table
The Gypsy Princess
The King and I
Lorenz Hart Story
The Madness of George III
There Goes the Bride
12 Dancing Princesses
Wait Until the Ghost is Clear Carousel
Woman of the Year
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.
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
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.
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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Review by Michael Coghlan
The University of Adelaide Theatre Guild is currently showing Noel Coward's Private Lives at the Little Theatre. The fact that I first saw a Noel Coward production in this same theatre nearly thirty years ago will be of significance to no one but myself. What is significant is that Coward's plays can still entertain contemporary audiences. Private Lives is a close-up look at the harmless debauchery that is part of the human condition. Thirty years ago I was a student in the midst of a life of excess and knew this condition first hand. Now, perhaps more like one of those 'futile moralists who try to make life unbearable' that Elyot Chase chastises, Private Lives evoked pleasant memories of a life that was!
From the moment Sybil and Elyot Chase appear on one of two identical balconies on their honeymoon in the Riviera, talking of Elyot's previous marriage and divorce, you sense what is coming. You know the other party of the divorce will appear on the other balcony. And when the two divorcees meet, (Elyot and Amanda Prynne) it takes just minutes for old passions to be reignited, and they soon elope to a Paris apartment for days of smoking, drinking, and lovemaking.
A canny satirical script with a sacrilegious sense of humour ("kiss me before your beauty rots"), and an experienced strong cast take us on an entertaining romp that takes aim at the idle wealthy. Director Peter Goers has ensured that the show proceeds apace - alarmingly so at first - but as the ear attunes one is swept away by the rapid fire delivery into a world of elegance, poise, bluster, debauchery, and grace. A confused quartet of lovers don't really know who they want to be with. Elyot ends up back with Amanda, and Victor Prynne with Sybil, but one feels they could easily switch back if there was another act.
Martha Lott is wonderful as the alluring Amanda, and Elyot's affectation and shallowness as depicted by Ben Passehl grows on you. John McCall's blustery Victor is not meant to be an engaging character, and he deserves the sooky and hurt Jenny, nicely overplayed by Maggie O'Grady. Indeed, everyone gets what they deserve. And though we may agree with the French maid's (Karen Bannear) hilarious and dismissive treatment of these 'idiot Anglaises', I left with a smile that remained with me all the way back to the car. A thoroughly charming reminder of how silly and frail those in love can be.
And I loved the gramophone.
Hadn't heard one since I was a kid!
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Review by Sue Oldknow
A small, tight ensemble bring to life the classic tale of optimism rewarded in "Annie", the story of little orphan Annie who transforms the lives of those around her with her sunny disposition as she practically single-handedly sets America back on course after the Great Depression.
Briony Kent has been chosen to play Annie and I can see why. She is a very polished performer with an excellent relaxed singing style. But she is a little too mature for the role and the references to red hair don't work as she is auburn, at most, from the audience's viewpoint. A wig might have been a good idea.
This may sound a little petty but the character of Annie is so well known from the comics and movie, working against type in this instance proves a distraction. Well it did for me. This is no reflection on Briony's performance, she is very accomplished for one so young. It just changes the dynamics of the relationships, it all appears a little less innocent and innocence is the essence of this piece.
The orphan girls are great, especially Lucy Carey in the plum role of Molly. A tiny package with a big personality and strong voice. Director Max Rayner's choreography for the girls is excellent, strong and sharp and they carry it out with precision and gusto. Elsewhere in the play I would have liked to have seen a little more dance, some songs are pretty static with little use of feet. The hand movements are very good but they get monotonous after a while.
The baddies are terrific.Chris Buhugiar as Rooster is spectacularly seedy and larger than life, Shelley Crooks is deliciously dippy and nicely nasty as Lily and Jenny Bowen shows great comic flair as Miss Hannigan. However, I think Bowen could push her character further, Miss Hannigan could be a lot darker than she is playing her at the moment. All three have fabulous voices and "Easy Street" is by far the best number in the show.
Linda Ellis as Grace Farrell eminates warmth, poise and indeed grace, she is perfect for the part, and Frank Cwiertniak makes a very lovable Daddy Warbucks. He appears to be holding back on his singing though, which makes it a bit tentative. Go for it, Frank!
The ensemble take on multiple roles very effectively. I particularly liked Tony Martin's President Roosevelt, but all should be commended.
I always feel like it's a pity you can't change the musical keys in these things as some of the vocal range was above what the cast, particularly the children, could comfortably sing. But David Benzie has produced some very lyrically clear, tuneful ensemble numbers and some nice harmonies accompanied by a sensitive orchestra.
Sets (John Dempsey) and lighting (Michael Bentley) are good, backstage crew are on the ball, and the show has great pace.
This is a well constructed version of a timeless tale. At the moment it is somewhat stolen by the kids, the villains, and yes Amber as Sandy (the dog), but if the rest of the cast can turn up the energy a little bit, this slight imbalance can easily be rectified.
This is a very enjoyable show and well worth a trip to the hills (if you are not lucky enough to live there already). Highly recommended.
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The Therry Dramatic Society is presenting Neil Simon's well known "Plaza Suite". I attended the special preview performance last night, and opening night will be tonight (7.11.02).
The play revolves around one suite at the Plaza Hotel in New York - Suite 719. The audience is shown a snippet of the lives of three separate couples, all of whom stay in this suite. The first is a couple who are celebrating their 23rd (or is it their 24th?) wedding anniversary and the wife has booked the same room in which she and her husband had spent their honeymoon. The second story is about a successful Hollywood Director who grew up in a small town and he has invited his old sweetheart, who is married with two children, to visit him in his suite with a view to seduction. The third and final story is about the bride who has locked herself in the bathroom and the trials and tribulations of the mother and father trying to get her out.
All three stories have the same two main actors. Rhonda Grill plays the female lead in all three stories and does it well. She maintains a believable Jewish/American accent throughout and delivers her lines with style and panache. Roman Turkiewicz plays the male lead and I found him a little wooden. I liked his performance as the somewhat lecherous Jesse Kiplinger in the second story, but he needs to listen to the audience and time his delivery to get maximum laughs. Neil Simon is a brilliant playwright but his plays are wordy and their success relies on pace. Last night's performance did not quite hit the pace needed to make this play sparkle, but perhaps this will improve as the season progresses. It is always a risk doing a play that is so well known, but I think with a little more pace and some improvement in comedic timing this will work for the Therry Society.
The play is presented as an open stage performance. The set is very stylish and works well. I particularly liked the skyline view out the windows. The Director, Kerrin White, has done an excellent job as the actors move well and look extremely natural on stage and use the space admirably.
In all, I think people will enjoy this presentation at the Arts Theatre. The production dates are from 7 - 9th November and from 13 - 16th November with matinees at 2pm on both Saturdays.
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Review by Michael Coghlan
An elegant angular set is revealed to be the home of Oisa and Flanders. Flanders (David Roach) is an art dealer and is looking forward to securing a two million dollar investment loan from a South African visitor (Bruce Keir). Together they make fun of the proletariat, and titillate each other with idle chatter before their world is rudely interrupted by an intruder who has just been stabbed. This young intruder, Paul (played by James Edwards), soon wheedles his way into their life with his charm and stories of his bogus exotic heritage. They later learn that he has pulled off the same routine with other friends of theirs, and even later he cons a gay companion into paying for an expensive night out.
Along the way there are allusions to art and values and ethics via asides on American popular culture, but the success of this play rests heavily on the ability of this young con man to work his magic and get what he wants from people. And therein lies the problem with this production. James Edwards as Paul tries hard to be this engaging, irresistible character but I found his performance a tad mono-dimensional, and even irritable at times. I have a sneaking suspicion that it was partly due to the fact that he was trying so hard to keep on top of his New York accent that he is unable to really get down to the business of being a bewitching character. Employing accents can be a risky business. Unless they are exceptionally talented, it is preferable for actors to speak in their native accent. American culture is not so far removed from our own that it would seem strange for a cast to be discussing American history and culture in an Aussie twang.
There are glowing American reviews of this play: 'a multi layered journey into the human psyche"; "wonderfully funny, touching and poetic", but Six Degrees of Separation is evidence of Americans taking themselves too seriously. What they think may be great art is really a pretty humdrum commentary on the human condition. It is black comedy - that kind of comedy that eschews sacred cows, but does not necessarily make you laugh.
There were compensating moments. The pace was good. A naked man running around the stage shouting 'I might have a gun' is a memorable image! The collective disgruntlement of those representing the younger generation was effective and amusing, and the young punk son of the doctor (Carl Nilsson-Polias) impressed for being the only character who gets the American-ness right.
As Paul the intruder departs for the last time beneath the Kandinsky that hangs regally above the stage, he tells us that "the Kandinsky has two sides." Six Degrees of Separation explores issues of chaos versus control, intimacy versus estrangement, wealth versus poverty, but I think most of us know that matters of life can be viewed from opposite perspectives. This play does not present any real tension between such opposites, but merely rubber stamps a truism.
Review by Sue Oldknow
If you are an actor or indeed have ever worked in theatre you will be able to relate to this clever piece. Developed for the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 1995, it is good to see groups trying more progressive works.
Unfortunately the content of "Bums on Seats", particularly the coarse language, has had to be understandably modified to suit a conservative audience, which leaves it with a watered down feel. Even so, it is a witty, well written piece of theatre, creditably performed by the Galleon cast and crew.
Director, Trudy Pearce, has gone for an interesting mix of laid-back natural performance and over-the-top melodramatics. Stage Manager, Karen Winston, starts the show off with some light and sound checks, looking totally at ease in front of an audience, and you are into that strange state of watching a play front and back.
The Usherettes keep things rolling as the out-of work actors (sorry, resting artistes) making ends meet working Front of House in the Theatre Royal where the controversial play "Fecund" is running (heavily funded by the local council).
Sharmila James and Nyssa Williams are the gushing, touchy-feely "oh, the magic of the theatre" Usherettes, kept in balance by the world weary Wendy, played with precise delivery and dry wit by Cathryn Lever. James and Williams have great exuberance but need to watch their volume and diction as a lot of what they say is lost.
Trish Phillips plays Estelle, the voice of sanity in an insane world, and plays it well. She is a particularly good foil for Paul Morton as Benedict Thrush "an actor" in my favourite scene, where Thrush is helping Estelle rehearse her tour speech in a classic "what is my motivation" marathon. Morton is very good and very believable. New to the Adelaide drama scene, and indeed new to the country, I am sure we'll see a lot of him in future productions.
Two weeks ago this play was nearly cancelled as actors were dropping like flies. But troupers that amateur thespians are, the show went on, with the director in two roles and actors Tom Anderson and Garth Robson coming in at the last moment. To the rescue!
Pearce does a great job as Mo, the Chief Stage Manager. She has a nice, relaxed style that works well for that role. Her Zara Roscoff "an actress" needs a lot more 'oomph' however. She needs to inject a lot more ego into Zara.
Callis was called in to choreograph a small opening piece for the play
to play Zara's husband. Their scene together is amusing but should have
a lot more fire . After all, this is two actors we're talking about. The
arguing stops only to smile for the cameras. The perfect media marriage.
Jeff Phillips makes a very enjoyable dissolute playwright, bottle in hand and mind in the bedroom, and Helen Darlington, Mary Cummins and Christine Otto complete this stoic ensemble.
The pace isn't perfect, it feels unbalanced and unfinished in sections and the "disinfecting" could do with a rethink as the poor actors on stage don't stand a chance against the upstaging going on among the audience. But "Bums on Seats" is great fun and very close to home if you love theatre.
The pretension, the egos, the bravado and the vulnerability of those who chose to live in the land of make-believe is lovingly lampooned. And well done to Galleon for once again proving that life is as strange as fiction and that the reassuring cliché, "It'll be right on the night.", is somehow always true.
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Set in India in the late nineteenth century, Barry England's dated 1970 courtroom drama follows the trial of an officer of a British regiment by his peers when he is accused of attacking a woman.
Allen Puttock's direction of this three-hour marathon is lacklustre at best and this is reflected in the performances of the cast.
Njal Venning and Bronwyn Ruciak are competent as the accused Edward Millington and the victim, Marjorie, but fellow lead Bruce Alcorn is mostly unintelligible despite realising his character well. As the two main antagonists of the piece, Jerry Zimmer tries too hard and Damien White is unenthusiastic.
Qudsia Ahmed is excellent as Mrs Bandanai, an Indian woman who must retell the events of an earlier attack against her. She stands out well above all others.
Lines and entrances needs to be tighter, Puttock's direction is careless at best and embarrassing at worst. The pace is sluggish, there are severe blocking and masking problems (on such a large stage, there is no excuse for characters to be hidden behind one another when talking), and the cast is under-rehearsed. A tall screen at the front of the stage hides the actors further and it shields the side anteroom from anyone sitting to the left of the auditorium.
Aside from this, Puttock and Ahmed's joint set design of the Officers' Mess suits the period and conditions, many of the male actors wear ill-fitting uniforms and take little care in their overall appearance but the women’s gowns are fabulous and the skilled backstage crew reset the stage between scenes efficiently and quickly, giving some pace to the production.
Puttock’s own conduct unbecoming makes for a long night.
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Michael Stewart's 1950s musical, with music by Charles Strouse and lyrics by Lee Adams, tells of fictional rock 'n' roll singer Conrad Birdie (loosely based on Elvis Presley) who travels to Sweet Apple, Ohio to kiss a fan goodbye before joining the armed forces. The publicity stunt creates a wave of teenage hysteria across the nation.
Director David Sinclair makes the most of this tongue-in-cheek American patriotism that runs riot through the show.
David Probert as Conrad has an amazing voice but despite mastering the pelvic thrusts he is oddly stiff in the general dance routines. Brenton Smith is fantastic as Birdie's manager Albert and long-suffering son of Mae Peterson, a show-stealing role done beautifully by Vicki Arnold.
Kaylie Stansfield took a while to warm up as Albert's love interest Rosie, but ends up giving a strong performance. Carolyn Lockett is sensational as teenage fan Kim (recipient of the farewell kiss). The entire cast have great voices and the choral work is excellent.
Director Sinclair, musical director Jillian Gulliver and choreographer Carmel Vistoli have created a tight and energetic show. In particular, the dance routines are wonderful, showcasing Vistoli's versitility.
Hermonn's bright costumes embody the spirit of the play and his set design makes good use of the venue's flies for quick scene changes, with many scenes bridged by Gulliver's excellent orchestra.
Full of great, recognisable songs, Bye Bye Birdie is fun, funny, and fabulously frivolous.
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18 Oct 2002
Review by Bruce Mildren
The Daw Park Players
are presenting a farce written by Ray Cooney and John Chapman entitled
"There goes the Bride". The play is directed very ably by Jacqui
Franks, who keeps the action moving at a cracking pace.
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18 Oct 2002
Review by Sue Oldknow
Director Fran Edwards has assembled a great team to produce an entertaining and engaging version of this well-loved musical. Ably assisted by Karen Sheldon (A.D.), Kate Pope (M.D.) and Irena Scott (choreographer) she has moulded a very large cast into a well paced, well placed ensemble.
From the wonderfully choreographed opening sequence, we are immediately transported to Broadway of yesteryear. Damon Hill's sets are fantastic - abstract, surreal and with brilliant use of colour, space and depth. The music, although not always tuneful, is lively and pace is great. Costumes are good, I particularly like the use of colour in the men's outfits, quite spectacular with a stage full of them, all dancing. And the Hot Box girls look fabulous.
Special mention for the dancing. Scott has done a marvellous job with the choreography. With the age old problem of what to do with actors who are not trained in dance, she has come up with simple, stylish effective moves that really work and the cast carry them out brilliantly, actually dancing rather than moving through pieces, as is often the case with community theatre.
The other person that really impressed me was Brad Tabe, the Sound Operator. Finally! An amateur show where the singers can be heard over the orchestra. Great work, Brad.
There is some perfect casting. Heidi Hart as Miss Adelaide and Michael Papps as Nathan Detroit make a great team and Hart's singing voice is an absolute delight. "Adelaide's Lament" is brilliantly done.
But Rowan Watts steals the show for me as Nicely Nicely Johnson. The part was made for him. Physically he is just right, with the necessary cheek and a great husky voice. He has star quality and when he is performing you can't take your eyes off him. "Sit Down You're Rocking the Boat" is a showstopper.
Brendan Clare as Benny Southstreet is also extremely good, with a great voice. (The depth of male talent at Northern Light is enviable.) Nathanael Hueppauff makes a likeable Sky Masterson with a very listenable voice and a great sweetness. Vaughan Harmer, Shaun Castles and Richard Trengove all do a great job in supporting roles and Stacey Webb makes the most of Salvation Army General Cartwright.
Hayley Horton captures the spirit of Sister Sarah, Sky's love interest. Vocally the part is out of her range but she compensates with some very nice character work. Her "If I Were a Bell" is a show highlight. I also loved the chemistry between her and Hart in "Marry the Man Today". They are very complementary performers.
Despite a few very minor opening night stumbles and slightly missed lighting cues, this was a great night's entertainment. Big, colourful, bright and energetic. Full credit to all involved. Northern Light can be extremely proud of this effort. One of the best shows I've seen in ages.
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Upstage Theatre finds the right balance of these two extremes in their current pantomime, Snow White.
Their original script and song parodies, with Vi Rowe’s elaborate costumes, have created a musical-comedy for everyone to enjoy.
Kirsty-Lee Jones made a pretty Snow White, and although a bit too precocious in the beginning for my liking, soon softened into the sweet heroine we’ve come to expect.
Deirdre Quinn proved a favourite of many kids, playing the evil Queen Sybil with more relish than a corn beef sandwich.
While Georgia Dodd took on various roles, her part of the Magic Mirror left me in tears of laughter. What an expressive face!
Our esteemed webmaster, Sue Oldknow shows she’s got the right stuff, singing up a storm as multiple characters including the delightful servant Fetch, a gorgeous white rabbit and Smiley the Dwarf.
John Martin’s King Basil could be slightly more henpecked for greater comedy, but as Hugo the Huntsman and Charlie the Dwarf, he’s a riot.
The hero of the show is of course, the handsome Prince. Chris Mayes, despite a lack of projection, is nicely nerdy as Prince Percy.
The cast all work well with the kids, fearless when it comes to encouraging them to join in.
There are some clever ideas in this show including how they represent the dwarfs, whose presence on stage earns a laugh in itself.
John Penberthy’s musical direction is excellent, as usual. The lyrics to his song parodies are funny, his selection of tunes is spot-on, and his rhyming dialogue is clever. Penberthy accompanies the play on a keyboard, once again displaying his expertise.
One of the greatest challenges facing Upstage Theatre is their lack of a director. For most productions, the company creates the show and direct themselves as a group. This is evident quite a bit in Snow White with some bad masking problems and overcrowding on one side of the stage. They would benefit greatly by bringing in an Artistic Advisor late into rehearsals to iron out these difficulties.
None-the-less, Snow White is great fun. I haven’t enjoyed myself so much at a show in a long time, and going by the reactions of the kids, parents and grandparents in the audience, I suspect they all came away feeling the same.
Snow White usually performs for once-off engagements at various venues. Don’t miss it!
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