Reviews - Pre 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.
Bums on Seats
Bye Bye Birdie
Guys and Dolls
Six Degrees of Separation
There Goes the Bride
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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.
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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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