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In this issue

An Officer and a Gentleman The Musical ......................................... 6 Author and cast ready for action


Moonshadow ................................................................................ 10 Cat Stevens / Yusuf musical premieres in Melbourne

12 16

Theatre in a Time of War ............................................................... 12 Australian actress Hellen Rose spreads theatre in Afghanistan Social Media and Theatre .............................................................. 16 A new play explores the impact of Facebook Michael Crawford .......................................................................... 18 The original Phantom shares his secrets Audiences Behaving Badly ............................................................. 20 Twittering, texting and worse in our theatres Sunshine State Singing to a Different Tune .................................... 22 Newcomers at the helm of Opera Queensland Legally Blonde ............................................................................... 28 Frank Hatherley negotiates the Media Launch

28 35

New Zealand Theatre..................................................................... 30 What’s hot in Amateur and Professional theatre Sound and Light............................................................................ 36 Creating an underwater fantasy; Lighting on a budget


Stage Heritage .............................................................................. 44 The redhead who electrified the Australian stage Director’s Diary - The Merchant of Venice ..................................... 88 Con Costi, fishmonger by day, director by night

36 54 58 2 Stage Whispers May - June 2012

Regular Features CDs and DVDs


Broadway and West End


On Stage - What’s On




Showbiz Puzzles


Musical Spice


In this issue, we introduce some exciting new online interactions. To make the most of your experience you will need a QR code scanner. If your smartphone doesn’t have one installed, browse your app store, or try one of these free options.


Editorial Dear theatre-goers and theatre-doers, Our remarkable story from Hellen Rose on page 12 happened quite by chance. David Spicer met her in a newsagency in Sydney and while convincing her to buy a copy of Stage Whispers was told about her remarkable story of staging theatre in war-torn Afghanistan. She reports that the show went ahead and was a success. Women attended but they were forced to wear bourquas and hover on the edge of the crowd. There’s an irony, then, in proudly announcing that thanks to the information revolution you have a brand new alternative to buying our magazine in a newsagency. This issue, in addition to our regular print magazine, we launch the first electronic version of Stage Whispers. Electronic subscription through home computers, laptops and iPads is now a viable alternative, while all print subscribers will receive the electronic edition in addition to your regular print copy. Read the May / June edition at It includes direct links to the many videos and features mentioned throughout this edition. If you’re a subscriber, and you haven’t received an email informing you of the link to this e-edition, please send us your contact email address via our contact form at In the last few weeks we were pleased to receive our 4,000th like on our Facebook page. It’s great to have so many people staying up to date with the latest news at Stage Whispers via social networking. Yours in Theatre,

Neil Litchfield Editor

Cover image: Ben Mingay and Amanda Harrison, stars of An Officer and a Gentleman The Musical, which has its World Premiere at Sydney’s Lyric Theatre on May 18.



All correspondence to: The Editor, Stage Whispers, P.O. Box 2274, Rose Bay North 2030, New South Wales. Telephone/Fax: (03) 9758 4522 Advertising: Editorial: PRINTED BY: Spotpress Pty Ltd, 24-26 Lilian Fowler Place, Marrickville, 2204 PUBLISHED BY: Stage Whispers PRE-PRESS PRODUCTION & DESIGN BY: PJTonline Solutions, email: DISTRIBUTED BY: Gordon & Gotch, 25-37 Huntingdale Road, Burwood, 3125 DEADLINES For inclusion in the next edition, please submit articles, company notes and advertisements to Stage Whispers by June 3rd, 2012. SUBSCRIPTION Prices are $39.50 for 6 editions in Australia and $60AUD elsewhere. Overseas Surface Mail (Airmail by special arrangement). Overseas subscribers please send bank draft in Australian currency. Maximum suggested retail is $6.95 including GST. Address of all subscription correspondence to above address. When moving, advise us immediately of your old and new address in order to avoid lost or delayed copies. FREELANCE CONTRIBUTORS Are welcomed by this magazine and all articles should be addressed to Stage Whispers at the above address. The Publisher accepts no responsibility for unsolicited material. Black and white or colour photographs are suitable for production. DISCLAIMER All expressions of opinion in Stage Whispers are published on the basis that they reflect the personal opinion of the authors and as such are not to be taken as expressing the official opinion of The Publishers unless expressly so stated. Stage Whispers accepts no responsibility for the accuracy of any opinion or information contained in this magazine. LIMITED BACK COPIES AVAILABLE ADVERTISERS We accept no responsibility for material submitted that does not comply with the Trade Practices Act. CAST & CREW Editor: Neil Litchfield 0438 938 064 Sub-editor: David Spicer Advertising: Angela Thompson 03 9758 4522 Digital production: Phillip Tyson 0414 781 008 Contributors: Merlene Abbott, Sara Bannister, Cathy Bannister, Emma Bell, Rodney Bertram, Stephen Carnell, Karen Coombs, Rose Cooper, Constantine Costi, Ken Cotterill, Ray Dickson, Coral Drouyn, Whitney Fitzsimmons, Graham Ford, Lucy Graham, Frank Hatherley, John P. Harvey, Peter Kemp, Norma Knight, Neil Litchfield, Ken Longworth, Rachel McGrath-Kerr, Jay McKee, Roger McKenzie, Peter Pinne, Martin Portus, Marcus Pugh, Leann Richards, Paul Rodda, Hellen Rose, Suzanne Sandow, Kimberley Shaw, David Spicer, Joseph Ting, Pauline Vella, Aaron Ware and Carol Wimmer. Stage Whispers 3

Online extras! Read more War Horse news online by scanning the QR code or visiting International hit War Horse has its Australian premiere at Arts Centre Melbourne on December 31, 2012. The star of War Horse, a true-to life puppet called Joey, met flesh-and-blood Aussie horse Charlie at the media launch. Photo: Peter Kemp.

The impressive line-up of national and local artists for Kate Ceberano’s debut year as Artistic Director of the Adelaide Cabaret Festival, from June 8 to 23, will have plenty to delight music theatre fans, featuring international stars Lea Salonga, Ben Vereen, Eden Espinosa and Sherie Rene Scott, along with popular local talents Debra Byrne, Kane Alexander, Sharon Millerchip and Justin Burford. Opening on the Queen’s Birthday weekend, this year’s festival includes 146 performances of 49 different shows across16 nights. Broadway legend Ben Vereen (pictured) will also perform in Sydney and Melbourne. 4 Stage Whispers May - June 2012

Stage Briefs

Online extras! Melbourne's three Annies (L-R), Hattie Hook, Caitlin Marks and Monique Heath. (Inset: Monique, Hattie and Caitlin in a tug of war for the iconic red wig.) Photo: Lucy Graham. Annie plays at Melbourne's Regent Theatre from May 24. Read the full story by scanning the QR code or visiting Stage Whispers 5

Online extras! Check out a preview of the show by scanning the QR code or visiting 6 Stage Whispers May - June 2012

The cast has completed military training and the brass has been polished. All’s in readiness for the World Premiere of An Officer and A Gentleman the Musical in Sydney on May 18. It’s based on the hit movie that centres on a romance between a trainee officer and a factory worker. What’s not so well known is that the original story was inspired by a real life military adventure. The screenwriter Douglas Day Stewart came up with the idea based on his time serving in the Vietnam War. At the first rehearsal he spoke with David Spicer. Douglas Day Stewart: I lived this story. Going through this exact school, dating these kinds of girls. I knew at the time it was something I wanted to write about. In 1980 I went back and reacquainted myself with the navy and made a movie about it. Stage Whispers: What happened in your life that is pretty close to the story? DDS: Going through the school was an arduous event. Dating the girls from the factory that wanted to use you get out of their dead end lives. I was one of those guys who dated those girls. I did not take one of the girls out of the factory. SW: They were easy pickings were they? DDS: In a way they were. Sadly they had some dead end lives and we were so mobile. It was a game that was played. I saw that happening at the time and I knew it was a movie. SW: Is it unusual to have a military background and go into screen writing? DDS: Well I always knew I wanted to be a writer. I had an uncle who was a very successful writer. It was a family tradition. I wasn’t going to be an insurance man. SW: Were you forced to join the military? DDS: Yes at gunpoint. We had a choice. I chose to be an officer

(in the navy) instead of being down in the mud. SW: You thought it was safer? DDS: I thought it was a lot safer. We sensed the war was coming. I was advised get out there at sea. SW: Did you see action in Vietnam in the navy? DDS: Yes I did. I ended up on the seven-man team that was credited with starting the Vietnam War. So when I told my students, when I went back to school to get my masters degree in film, that I started the Vietnam War, they thought I was joking. But I was on the top-secret team of seven officers that loaded up the seventh marines out of Camp Pendleton. And when they hit the beach it was no longer called a Police Action. It was now a war. SW: So you were in the first invading force?

DDS: Yes, I sent all those marines, sadly, many of them to their deaths. But that was my job in the navy as a guy with a lot of topsecret clearances. SW: Does that experience make you cherish the life that you’ve had? DDS: You know you do take your life for granted sometimes. But when you are in the navy and under the gun and Ho Chi Minh has said he wants to kill everyone on your ship, and you are in a bullet proof vest and boats are coming, you are glad when it is all over that you lived to tell the story. SW: Turning the story into a musical, was that in the back of your mind when you were in the navy? DDS: It wasn’t until I saw that the movie was going to be such a success that I (Continued on page 8) Stage Whispers 7

started to think of it as a musical. It seemed like a natural transition because of its emotional quality. I am so excited to start seeing this dream come true. SW: How do you make that natural? You didn’t burst into song when you were invading Vietnam did you? DDS: It might seem a bit odd to see people suddenly sing, but what happens in this story is the emotions are very strong. A lot of these characters are silent types like Zac Mayo. He keeps all of that anger and desire pent up inside of him. When he opens up into song it takes the story in a direction you kind of want it to go. So it is not so awkward for you to see it happen. SW: But the songs have got to be in the right spot? DDS: Absolutely, the right spot to add clarification to the emotions of the characters. SW: Have there been any songs that you’ve listened to and said no, that doesn’t work? DDS: This has been a long process. We’ve worked with the composers for years and years. All of us have found 8 Stage Whispers May - June 2012

times when we’ve been unhappy with songs. We’d go back to the drafting table, go back with new work and inspire the composers to get new work. A number of efforts to capture songs failed but finally we got it right. SW: What is your favourite new song and why is it your favourite? DDS: My favourite one of all is Wings of my Own. It is a statement of a young woman renouncing easy choices in her life and taking courageous choices. I feel it’s going to be a really uplifting moment when they hear her sing that song. SW: What role have you had in crafting the book for musical? DDS: I’ve done all the heavy writing. Keeping it close to the movie. Making sure it didn’t divert itself into some kind of Broadway version of it. This is very true to the film and that was critical to me in every step of writing this book. But I am relying on someone who has experience in theatre, that I don’t really have, to understand the musical idiom. SW: What about this fusion of Australian and American creative are you experiencing that?

DDS: I am just so impressed with the Australian talent. I’ve been to both New York and Australia and seen many readings and workshops of this production. I think Australia has the deepest talent pool, certainly on a par with New York. That talent pool includes the leads Ben Mingay and Amanda Harrison. At the first rehearsal they shared their thoughts about being in a military musical. Leading man Ben Mingay has anything but a military background. He told David Spicer that as a youth he would have run the other way if called on to serve. “I am the early Zac, pre-training. At school I did a bit of cadets but that was only because I wanted to go out into the bush camping. I am definitely the early Zac - long hair, beard, tattoos - that sort of business.” So it is going to be a supreme acting performance? “Yes, to pull off the later part of the show. I can relate to this character, growing up in Newcastle. I worked in

construction then I happened to get into this by chance. How? “My girlfriend at the time cut a clipping out of the newspaper for the conservatorium of music and I’d sung in rock bands. I went in to audition and got a scholarship to study opera voice. So I started doing that at nights. Then it all took off, and I got into Hair the musical.” What do you have in common with Richard Gere? “Well … I think watching the movie, and his performances, we’re kind of similar in the sense that we have a kind of passion for characters. He has a lot of energy when he gets worked up in scenes. I have the same thing too. I have a lot of energy. “Obviously I am going to create this character from the page, from the script, but I am looking forward to seeing what I can come up with.” Are you terrified? “I’m not terrified, but I am slightly nervous. A lot of people say I should be packing it but I think it is a nervous, exciting energy. I want to give it

everything I’ve got. It’s not as though I am saying, ‘Am I good enough.’ I just have to be good enough. So I can’t doubt it.” On the first day of rehearsals, leading lady Amanda Harrison revealed to Neil Litchfield that she had never swooned over men in uniforms. “I was never a crushy sort of girl. I wasn’t a fan either – you know how girls have posters up in their rooms, and are screaming out for Justin Bieber. I’m actually not very romantic.” So you don’t like men in uniform? “I love men in uniform, and I’ll certainly love it when Ben gets his white suit on.” But not in real life? “No, not in real life. My husband works in theatre so I suppose I like men in black – backstage people – they’re quite sexy.” Have you worked from the ground up in an original show before? “Not really. I was in the original cast of We Will Rock You in London, but I was in the ensemble, so I think I shaped and created my character to a fantastic degree, but the audience

wouldn’t have seen that so much. It’s going to be really fantastic to be in a lead role in a world premiere this time.” How do you compare the stage version of An Officer and a Gentleman to the film version? “I wasn’t involved in the workshop, but I feel it’s going to transfer very well to the stage. It’s a gritty, sexy, wonderful story about two characters who fall in love, and his transformation from a dirt bag to an upstanding man with a career and a life, so it’s got everything that a stage show would want – love and hard work – and boys in uniform.” What qualities do you love about your character? “I suppose it’s her sense of self. She doesn’t want to sell out, and capture him in the way that other girls around her are doing to the officers – trapping them into marriage with pregnancy. She doesn’t believe in that - she doesn’t think that’s the right thing. Her sense of morality is something to be admired.” Stage Whispers 9

Magical, musical fantasy and Islam have rarely, perhaps never before, inhabited the same room. Nor is the Islamic community particularly known for its patronage of musical theatre. But that may all be about to change with the World Premiere of Yusuf Islam’s (Cat Stevens’) musical Moonshadow, set to open at Melbourne’s Princess Theatre on May 31. Lucy Graham reports. Yusuf Islam’s personal journey and conversion to Islam is well known. What is less clear is why Cat Stevens, international ‘rock-god’, who toured with the Iikes of Jimi Hendrix, sold more than 60 million records, and once had the world at his feet, has written Moonshadow. Heavily autobiographical, the script explores themes of greed and power, hopes and dreams, and the quest for happiness and love, within a fantasy setting. Moonshadow is set on the planet Alaylia, and its synopsis reads like a movie script. When a young man, Stormy (Gareth Keegan), loses his job at the planet’s biggest company, he clashes with his father (Robert Grubb) and is separated from Lisa (Gemma-

Ashley Kaplan), his childhood sweetheart. Stormy and his Moonshadow embark on a journey to the edge of darkness, to determine if the world of light and happiness exists. Stormy’s quest brings him face to face with his greatest enemy, and close to the end of the world.

Perhaps the fantastic nature of the script was the only possible avenue, given the Cat Stevens-Yusuf Islam lifeplot. Says Jolyon James, who plays Moonshadow, “Here is a man who has seen the full spectrum of life from being rock-god in the time when that whole thing was exploding. He’s then gone through this incredible transformation and quest for his own inner spirituality, and emerged on Online extras! the other side Watch Yusuf Islam perform songs from trying to find some Moonshadow. Scan the QR code or visit sort of balance between the two.

10 Stage Whispers May - June 2012

You can’t write that into a show that’s based in London or whatever. I think transposing it into a completely fictitious context kind of makes sense of it even more in a way.” Recalling his previous jukebox musical experience in Mamma Mia, Jolyon James says Moonshadow is set to break new ground.

“Moonshadow is new territory, in a way. With Mamma Mia the boys, Benny and Bjorn, were very clear about handing over the material and saying, ‘You know, you interpret it, you do whatever you like. We’re musicians not theatre-makers.’ Whereas with Moonshadow, Yusuf is very much involved. It’s his story. He’s written it, he’s in the room. He’s written new material where he sees fit.” While this $5 million production weaves together more than 30 of Yusuf’s universally loved songs including Wild World, Father and Son, Remember the Days (of the Old School Yard), First Cut is the Deepest, Peace

Train, Morning has Broken and Sad Lisa, a third of the material is new, penned by Yusuf for the musical. A number of the Australian cast members workshopped the musical last October at a Brunswick location. The experience of working at such close quarters with him is an experience they say they will never forget. At the workshop Yusuf revealed that he had wanted to write musicals since his youth. Born on the west side, Leonard Bernstein’s iconic musical West Side Story was the first Yusuf saw, and while his career took him on a different path, writing a musical has remained a lifelong dream. “Yusuf is incredibly gracious and you know he is genuinely supporting you,” said James. “I’m getting goose-bumps just talking about it. This is new territory in a way because Yusuf is very much involved as a scriptwriter. This is a man who had an extraordinary career, sold 60 million records, and comes without ego to let us interpret his music.” Another cast member Blake Bowden said, “Yusuf has this incredible energy about him. He went into workshop with us talking about his work, singing his songs with us, teaching us his music. As an actor you are thinking ‘Yes I’ve got to learn this,’ and then you have this out-of-body experience going, ‘Its Cat Stevens! Teaching me his songs!’ “

Blake Bowden and Jolyon James

While audiences can expect full-on dance scenes and magical costumes and set design, amazing effects and ground-breaking projection techniques, James believes the show carries great integrity because this is the spiritual journey Yusuf has been on. But while there is a strong magical and spiritual element in the show, there is an earthiness about the human experiences in the narrative with which audience members will identify. Says James, “I think [the life themes] become heightened by taking it out of a naturalistic setting because in a way you trick the audience into thinking they are having an experience that is not about them because it’s in a fantasy world. But suddenly the power of the lyrics and the power of the message means your guard gets let down and it hits you even more.” “It’s a journey we all go on, whether we’re religious or not,” said Bowden, “the journey of searching for meaning. But it’s really great fun too. We’ve talked a lot about the beauty of Yusuf’s music and all that but the show is actually really fun as well. There’s a lot of light in it. There are great production numbers, and there are dance numbers and there are lots of laughs.” Stage Whispers 11

Australian actress Hellen Rose believes theatre can make a difference. After finishing a season of her one-woman show Dangerous Curves and Hairpin Bends in Sydney, she took the leap and jumped on a plane to Afghanistan. She reports from The Rose Theatre at The Yellow House, Jalalabad.

I first started writing this article one week after Americans burned copies of the Quran, which sparked deadly riots, both in Kabul and in Jalalabad. All foreigners became targets of anti American hatred. Now one American has again done the unthinkable and killed 16 people including 9 children sleeping in their beds. The last crisis meeting our neighbors had resulted in them insisting we raise our front wall from 10 to 15 ft high. I wonder now how we stand with them! One week ago we rolled around the corner, a block from home, when a suicide bomber blew himself up at the checkpoint we pass daily. We arrived after the explosion so we weren’t hurt. The bomber’s decapitated head and arm were dangling in a tree, where they landed after the explosion. The target was the girls’ school just up the road from us. Suddenly American ‘Black Hawks’ appear from nowhere, flying low over us as we pull into the driveway in our dust congested car. The giant blue iron gates bolt behind us, and here we are, back at our cultural oasis, The Yellow House, Jalalabad! I stumble my way out of the back seat, dying to get the burqa off; the claustrophobia has reached madness level. The frustration lifts with the stifling nylon gag and my eyes are met with a rarity here; joy. A colourful bunch of smiling faces instantly surrounds us. Our team of actors and musicians has carried on rehearsals regardless. A more vibrant bunch of freedom fighters was never before dreamt of! These good looking young adults in their 20’s to 40’s are real life heroes as well as film and stage heroes. They have never known anything but war, in a country that has been at war for over 30 years. It is just getting warmer and the summer offensive has begun, a kind of ‘summer of hate’. When making The Miscreants Of Taliwood in 2007, Australian artist and filmmaker George Gittoes started meeting young fellow artists and actors in Afghanistan and Peshawar, caught in a war they were trying desperately to fight with art alone. Their weapon is simply never giving in to the hatred of the Taliban, who blow up their video stores, theatres and radio stations, appear where they are filming or performing and attack them, or threaten them. Female actors, however, run the highest risk and are tortured and killed for singing, dancing or acting, live or on film. In December 2011, George wrote me an email saying, “We’ve got our own house! In Jalalabad!” Many women might respond with, “What about Paris or Berlin darling?” But I knew this would be a once in a lifetime opportunity to come here under George’s extraordinary protection and help my fellow actors, especially these incredibly brave women. I had just finished the season of my one-woman show, Dangerous

Theatre in a time of war 12 Stage Whispers May - June 2012

Curves and Hairpin Bends, in Sydney, and took the leap and jumped on a plane to Afghanistan. It is extremely difficult to find information on the history of theatre in this diverse region known as ‘Middle Asia’, and the ancient Silk Road; a place once thriving with nomadic tribes, dancers, musicians and poets glittering in jewels, along with traders of silks and furs, all bustling along the dusty well trod road. The performing arts here have evolved from Sufis with their poems and music to whirling, heavily bedecked dancers, dripping with glitter and veils, truly a land of magic childhood dreams. Theatre now, sadly, has evolved into a less mystical theatre, recently influenced by the political styles of Russian Social Realism as a result of the Russian invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 -1989, and has lead to experimentation with the theories of Augusto Boal and Bertolt Brecht. All music, dance, theatre and film was absolutely banned during the Taliban regime, when computers were strung up in the streets along with their owners. The arts are still under threat from insurgents here, though they are now, bravely, taking baby steps out into the light once more. I became fascinated by two Afghan myths. One is the beautiful story of the Simorgh, a mythical bird who represents all that is just and kind with humanity, with the head and body of an eagle, the legs of a lion and the tail of a peacock. The other is a sinister creature, known as the Al, with hair of serpents, teeth of brass, nails of iron and with reversed feet – The King of Als lies in a hidden world where he constantly screams in anger. These two wonderful elements of good and evil, beauty and ugliness, became inspiration for a piece of theatre we are currently creating here at The Rose Theatre under the working title of The Paper Simorgh. We have three female actors involved in this production. Myself, Neha and the 8-year-old Medina, who is from a small village in the hills area of the Tora Bora Mountains. She was discovered by one of our team who needed a young girl to pose for a photo shoot campaign for a telephone company. Her father was recently killed and her uncle Assan is now her legal guardian. Assan is a truly liberated man (as far as the village elder will allow him to push the boundaries) whereas most of the others, even the actors, find it extremely difficult to take instruction from women at all. I am also training Neha, a young woman who works on ‘Pay TV’ in Pakistan (in the Pashtun tribal belt), to run theatre workshops and direct actors. She is 19 and will be the first female director of Pashtun Theatre and Film. She is also my interpreter during the workshops. (Continued on page 14)


Hellen Rose, Medina on left and Zamzimar on right. Women are not allowed to perform on the stage live or in films so men traditionally play female roles. Women who appear in films unveiled, dancing or singing are condemned to death by the Taliban. The women who persist are freedom fighters in their own right. Young girls however though not encouraged usually to work as actors are immune from this law as they have not yet reached puberty. Medina is a new star and her face is on hundreds of billboards all along the roads of Afghanistan at the moment, promoting a new health program. Medina ‘s father was killed last year and Medina has always wanted to be an actor. Her Uncle who is now her guardian is one of very few liberated men and has permitted her to work with us. This is a shot from our first Drama Workshop lead by Hellen Rose on the Rose Theatre stage at The Yellow House Jalalabad. The central actor here is Ashied. He is 19 yrs old and 3ft tall, he is extraordinary, a pixie or petit person and one of the most highly skilled performers I have ever seen. There are no schools for learning the Dramatic Arts so he is entirely self taught. I dare say he learned his ‘out of this world’, physical abilities, ducking and weaving his way around the unforgiving streets of Peshawar and Jalalabad. His speed, dexterity and timing are magical The young Pashtun actors are here being mentored by the older actors in a drama workshop lead by Hellen Rose. There are no schools for the performing arts and these children have only the chance to learn on the job from the older actors or what they can pick up from theatrical shows or films they have seen. These older actors work in both theatre and film. They are part of an award winning group called the Nangarhar Theatre Company and are originally based in Jalalabad. They are able to perform at festivals held in the more liberated Kabul, capitol of Afghanistan. Professional trainers from abroad are the only opportunity these older actors have to learn new skills. They are extremely appreciative of Hellen for not only helping their skills training but for setting up a theatre space that will also train female actors, behind the high walls of Yellow House Jalalabad. Stage Whispers 13

or hobbled in a burqa and not allowed to relate to any men, if they are allowed out on the streets at all. Some actors from The Nangarhar Theatre Troupe are working with me on this production. The leader of the group is the older Zhwandoon, a writer and poet as well as actor. When we first met he was wearing a burqa and playing the female role in a show touring the schools that were still open. The show was for an anti drug campaign (this is also the heroin capital of the world). Zhwandoon has been defying the laws of the fundamentalists and has been creating theatre since the 80’s, mainly self-funded. Since Karzai is now in government and the Taliban have mostly been driven out of Kabul, Afghan theatre is able to receive limited funding by varieties of NGO’s based in Kabul. The Nangarhar Theatre Company devises and writes their own shows and tours to remote villages where there is The Nangarhar Theatre Company stage no electricity or running production, ‘Unlucky Human’, a contemporary water, and often there is no Afghan play, Afghan Theatre festival winner of 2011. glass in the windows of the Women are not allowed to appear onstage or in houses. Zhwandoon says their film at risk of retaliation from Taliban insurgents, work is mainly comedy with who though no longer in power continue to attack very careful political those in the arts, especially women. messages, depending on the climate of the times. He has been involved in Neha has the guts to direct this group of men, but a theatre since the 80’s, when the Mujahedeen were in lifetime of conditioning means it’s a real challenge for her power, then the five to six year bloodbath of Taliban rule, to feel completely comfortable as director in role. I have to and now in the times of the Karzai Government. He looked disregard the raised eyebrows and just get down to work me straight in the eyes and with passion in his voice said, with the team, encouraging free improvisation and “You know, four months ago, someone set a remote teaching basic Theatresports games. control bomb to kill us in our car but it went off too soon I’m wearing a pair of baggy jeans, still, this seems and missed us. The next week we went to Kumar Province immodest somehow. The display of curves is forbidden of to do our show, because we wont let these people stop us, course, hence the sack like burqa. I persevere in my because we know what we are doing is right!” brazenness. The male actors seem nervously pleased that I will hold a Online extras! women’s theatre workshop here, possibly the first ever. I More Nangarhar Theatre Company info suspect this is because they hope to get even a glimpse of online. Scan the QR code or visit women, who are always locked away in their compounds


14 Stage Whispers May - June 2012

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Do you have trouble getting young people interested in the performing arts? Are they spending all their time on Facebook? The Queensland Arts Council has come up with a solution. It’s a touring a play called The Social Me - all about the pitfalls of Facebook. It’s written and directed by Brad Jennings and Steven Maxwell, and produced by Markwell Presents Cinematic Theatre Company. Stage Whispers: What is Cinematic Theatre? Brad Jennings: We coined the term Cinematic Theatre and describe it as the fusion of live performance and the magic of the big screen. The integrated use of projection during stage scenes and scene transitions allows the live action to become continuous, therefore creating a suspension of disbelief that engages the audience. SW: How do you use that in this play? BJ: In The Social Me, the two characters on stage interact strictly through their iPhones. The stage design incorporates a rear-projection screen where every interaction is seen through the iPhone interface as they navigate between phone calls, text messages, Facebook status updates and chat. Much of the projection is pre-timed with the actors’ movements. SW: What is the story? BJ: Michael (year 12) and Ellie (year 9) have been interacting on Facebook. When Ellie approaches Michael after school asking to sit with him on the bus, he rejects her and the embarrassing moment is caught on mobile video and uploaded to Facebook. The video goes viral and Ellie tries to get

16 Stage Whispers May - June 2012

Social Media & Theatre

Online extras! Watch a trailer for Social Me simply by scanning the QR code or visiting Michael to have it taken down. When he doesn’t she hacks the account of a friend and love interest of Michael and poses as her, organising to meet him later that night. Instead of meeting him, Ellie films Michael from a distance, planning to embarrass him by posting the video to Facebook, but she is surprised when a group of young men attack him. The story is told in a real-time narrative over the course of the 50 minutes. SW: How do they ‘talk’ to each other properly on stage? BJ: We wanted to explore the isolation of online interaction and the complexity of written communication without the characters speaking to each other on stage.

There are moments of soliloquy and thoughts that are spoken aloud, but much of the play revolves around the lack of subtext in chat and sms communication. SW: So how crucial is the projection in the play? BJ: Very. Take away the projection and much of the story is lost. The complexity of the visual imagery and speed in which the characters navigate the technology also creates a sense of chaos for the audience. SW: Why is social media isolating in your opinion? BJ: When speaking with young people about social media, an idea that comes up is that of loneliness; that social media can

reinforce popularity through likes and comments about status updates, but it can also accentuate loneliness for people without many ‘friends’ or whose comments and posts remained unliked. I see the lack of physical interaction with people as isolating, but I’m not necessarily sure that young people view it this way… to them it’s normal. SW: What is the main limitation of communication by social media? BJ: The lack of subtext is one of the biggest limitations. In our initial consultation with two groups of young people before we wrote the script, many spoke of friendships lost over confusion in written messages where subtext was absent; people didn’t get they were being sarcastic or joking etc. SW: Does this make it difficult to perform also? BJ: The play has been very challenging to direct. We have been working towards a strong sense of realism in the performance, and letting the screen tell the story, but it’s been a real challenge for the actors to maintain this realism, while needing a heightened awareness of the timing. SW: How did you research the play? BJ: We conducted two consultations with high school students in Brisbane. We also work with a number of senior students

through our artist in residence program and social media has been an issue that we’ve explored a number of times. We also had a young AV designer create much of the artwork and he was instrumental in guiding the realism of the text communication.

SW: Does this mean you think on balance social media makes kids dumber? BJ: I think young people are highly skilled communicators through the medium of social media. Just because the interaction isn’t physical, doesn’t make it less sincere or

SW: What has been the reaction to initial showings …from adults and school children? BJ: Young people totally get it and seem to become immersed in the story being told through the online communication. They get the characters and the dilemma. We recently launched the show at the national drama conference and there were mixed reactions from the teachers; some loved it, some wished there was more physical interaction between the characters, some didn’t like it but thought their kids really would.

meaningful, just different. They have to judge subtext and meaning without face-to -face interaction and I think that can be very difficult. SW: What is the difference taking to social media as an adult instead of a 17 year old? BJ: For myself, I’m far more aware of the implications of what I write and post online and how it could be perceived. I think for young people, they are less concerned with that and can only learn through their mistakes. Stage Whispers 17

Michael Crawford The Original Phantom

English actor and singer Michael Crawford now lives in a small house by the beach north of Auckland. He moved there five years ago to recover from chronic fatigue syndrome. The change has worked so well for him that he returned to the West End in The Wizard of Oz, resumed doing the occasional concert and is promoting his latest album. Ironically The Phantom of the Opera will be haunting many theatres in New Zealand from next year, with the Australasian release of amateur rights to the show. Neil Litchfield spoke with Michael Crawford. Neil Litchfield: With The Phantom of the Opera becoming available for amateur productions, what is your advice for potential Phantoms? Michael Crawford: That’s hard. The main thing is that the character should be as still as possible. He must have a presence that’s felt by the audience, and the more still, and the more catlike in his movement, the more hypnotic it can become. That has to be real. It doesn’t mean you get up and walk around like a cat, it’s a choreographic thing of stepping gently and working through the foot, and the whole body has to feel that. If you’ve got a good choreographer, they can read that. And a total concentration on Christine. For him, everything is to do with her. He’s completely dedicated to his love for her. Stillness, and total focus on the strength of his love for her. NL: You started performing at a very early age as a chorister and child actor. MC: I was about 11 when I started at school in Benjamin Britten’s Let’s Make an Opera. Then I auditioned for it professionally and got the part when I was 12, and did that in London, at the Scala Theatre and the 18 Stage Whispers May - June 2012

Royal Court Theatre. That was the start, and it was working with Benjamin Britten and Charles Mackerras, the great conductor, so it was quite a mind -boggling experience, though you don’t know that when you’re 12 years of age. NL: What attracted you to performing at that early age? MC: Well I wasn’t doing terribly well academically, there’s a clue. I was usually quite amusing at school, that seemed to be the only way I could get attention, but mainly, sadly, it was from the headmaster of any school I was at. You had lots of friends in the classroom till authority walked in, and then it fell apart. I just couldn’t concentrate too much at school on academics. I was into sport, but I wasn’t cut out to be a sportsman professionally. The singing came about accidentally, just by being in a choir. When I was 11, I went to a choir school and then sang at Westminster Abbey and the Savoy Church in London. NL: Did it become apparent to you early that you wanted to be an actor and singer? MC: I think it did. Suddenly when I did Let’s Make an Opera with the English Opera Group it became apparent you were actually being paid to make people laugh. It was magical.

Then, again accidentally, through a master at school writing a radio play, I had to sing a song called Ramona in a radio play at the BBC one day. Again, I was joking around a bit, and there was an agent there who got me a couple of scripts which I did on the radio, as an actor. From there on I kept going. I did about 500 radio broadcasts as a child actor, doing educational programs from eleven to twelve every day. It was a great learning ground. You learnt lots of accents. You were playing Henry the Eighth one moment and three of his wives the next, in the same show. The budget was quite short. It was a terrific training ground. NL: Frank Spencer in Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em probably first brought you to prominence in Australia, but you had already had a substantial career before that. MC: The love of my life is to work on the stage. I find it energising and it’s live, and different every night. People say, don’t you get bored. I’ve done two shows which I did for four and a half years, Phantom being one, and Barnum the other, and I also did Billy for two and a half years, so that’s twelve years with three shows, and it’s never the same. You’ve got 30 people in an orchestra, 35 or 40 people on stage, you’ve got about 35 people

Online extras! Relive the original Phantom of the Opera by scanning the QR code or visiting

backstage, and every person is an individual. You have to find continuity every night, to perform what was performed on the opening night, without filling the show with what you think are improvements. The analogy I use is, if you have a painting on the wall, and every colour decides to move itself just a quarter of an inch, you have a different painting. There is a great skill in reproducing it on stage every night, so the audience sees what was intended originally. NL: What do you use to keep you on that track? MC: It’s concentration. The hardest thing is for an actor to do is not being tempted by getting a laugh one night, and then trying to ‘improve’ it the next night. The more you ‘improve’ it, the worse it gets, because you then forget where you got the original laugh from. It’s very easy to lose that laugh completely.

NL: Before Frank Spencer you also had roles in major screen musicals. MC: I did the film The Knack with Richard Lester, which won the Cannes Film Festival. He was then given the musical A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, so I got the opportunity to work with people like Zero Mostel, Phil Silvers, and the great Buster Keaton, in his last film. Then Hello, Dolly! - with Gene Kelly, Barbra Streisand and Walter Mathau – what a wonderful opportunity. NL: Do you have a favourite experience from those times?

MC: Working with Gene Kelly was the greatest experience, because every day he taught me something. He was completely dedicated and totally professional. He taught me my discipline. NL: You’ve recorded and re-recorded the songs from Phantom over the years. How has your interpretation of them changed? MC: The first recording I made was just after the show opened in London, and the most recent was probably a little less than 15 years ago, when I did it in concert, and I think that’s the best recording. I was a bit too precise when I started. As time went on, my interpretation subtly improved.

Michael Crawford’s The Story Of My Life is a 2 CD career retrospective collection featuring 30 songs including The Music of the Night, Bring Him Home and Love Changes Everything. The amateur rights to The Phantom of the Opera are managed in Australia and New Zealand by ORiGiN Theatrical. Stage Whispers 19

The argument was persuasively made by my theatreauteur companion. A season of delightful cultural immersion in London would be well worth the disorientating stresses of a long-haul flight from the Antipodes. How could one resist a season of gripping shows at the National Theatre and Old Vic, sparklingly effervescent (Hair, Legally Blonde, Mamma Mia) and uplifting West End musicals (Billy Elliott)? My only feeble protest was that a congested performing arts schedule would consign museum and gallery forays to the realm of the impossible. Excited conversation among the audience at the Olivier dimmed in concert with the darkening house lights. The curtain was raised on The White Guard and the start of a historical epic about a wealthy loyalist family cast into the jaws of war with the Bolsheviks. The cacophony of fear and strident fighting on stage had me by the throat until I was forced into the awareness of the dispersed and sporadic coupling of lit screens with the busy fingers of Twitterers and Texters. This twinkling distraction had all the subtlety of being made to sit in a dark cave emblazoned with over-energised glow worms. As if this were not punishment enough, the magic of the evening was punctured by bouts of irrepressible coughing, the noisy crinkle of lollies being slowly unwrapped, the loud whispering of blow-by-blow comments about the play and negotiations related to post-show amusements. Gladiatorial competition for pencil-thin arm rests between seats led to the brutal and forceful eviction of my arm and a heated scuffle. The fervent restlessness of the bored declared itself in the frequent brushing of body parts against the stillness of the rapt audience member. Audible creaks and transmitted movement from the chair of the restless or disinterested wreaks more misery for those close by. As if not enough flesh and blood had already been extracted from my depleted enjoyment, a screen lit up as

20 Stage Whispers May - June 2012

bright as day close to us. Like a red rag to a charging bull, my arm lashed out with venomous intent across several startled laps to smother the offending light. According to Peter Funt in the New York Times, theatres and concert halls are now corralling Twitterers into a single audience section. In my opinion, this risks the agglomeration of many small lit screens and many sets of saccadic flight of thumbs into a dense trembling glow that competes for attention with events on stage. I imagine Twitterers gathered around the prickling embers of a camp fire; but instead of sharing tales with one another, the compulsion is to fire a rapid series of thinly formulated micro-opinions into cyberspace in real time. By not strongly condemning disruptive or distracting audience behavior, theatre going risks becoming like a trek into the wilderness. Not protesting the panoply of modern invasions into the consciousness of theatre-goers intent on what is unfolding on stage risks the law of the jungle trampling on the rights of the attentive, considerate and thoughtful paying homage to the thrill of the world on the stage.

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But badly behaved audiences are nothing new. Here are our favourite horror stories from our Facebook fans. Our winner was I was at a school outing to Romeo and Juliet in the 70s, and when Juliet was ‘dead’ the school wag shouted out “F@*k her while she’s warm!” He’s now a conservative MP. But wait there’s more. I had someone tap out the beat during Rigoletto on the wooden floor of the Opera Theatre one night right behind me!! In a production of The Sound of Music someone in the first few rows thought it would be funny to snort every 15 seconds for the first 30 minutes; incredibly frustrating. Could have strangled them, but dressed as a nun I had to refrain. During a production of Wicked, I was seated next to a man (late 40’s) who would recite every line, of every scene, word perfect. He then would proceed to BELT all the songs at the top of his lungs, even the softer ones. At Ordinary Days the woman next to me took out a packet of chips and began to attempt to surreptitiously eat them ... you can’t eat chips quietly, no matter how hard you try, and to make matters worse she was sitting in front of the director. At Love Never Dies the man next to me conducted most of the 2nd act then hummed along to the leading lady’s title song -- I coughed loudly in his direction and he stopped, thankfully! In a school production a girl walked on stage playing what was implied to be a slutty girl and some boys thought it would be rather amusing to throw money at her to add injury to insult. When I walked on someone else threw a can, which hit me square in the forehead. During a performance of La Cage Aux Folles, every time Albin was on stage, one clown in the crowd kept yelling “Gaaaayloooord!” I’m guessing he was a closet case himself. Or a basket case. I was at a show where two older ladies spent the entire production TALKING OUT LOUD so they could hear each other OVER the cast. Were they discussing the show? Oh was ....haemorrhoid this, gout that, constipation here, incontinence there. I leant forward, politely interrupted them and said shhhhh. They then proceeded to abuse ME for my lack of manners. But thankfully they were ejected from the theatre. Walking frames and all. Lady from the audience walked onto the stage at the Woodbin Theatre in Geelong during a performance, casually strolled to a door upstage and went through to the toilet. Five minutes later she returned to her seat via the stage. The cast didn’t miss a beat. But don’t just blame the audience. I was in a Community Theatre One Act season and after the first One Act play, while the 2nd one was on, the family of the director and the director herself from the first play decided to leave and walked across the stage, through the performance of the 2nd play! Too many to mention but the lady who died during The Phantom of The Opera in Sydney 1995 was very thoughtless Stage Whispers 21

She doesn’t have an Hume has been seconded office yet, so this to create a long-range interview takes place in a vision for Opera Conference Room at Queensland. At one end Opera Queensland’s of the scale there will be headquarters at the big operas, Traviata, Southbank. The moment Boheme, Turandot, which she enters you know will play the Lyric Theatre immediately this is a at QPAC. These will be woman on a mission to produced either by the Under pressure from an expanding Opera Australia, which is change the face of Opera company itself, or in performing in Brisbane for the first time in 25 years, Opera in Queensland. conjunction with visiting Queensland is taking a new direction under the leadership of Lindy Hume is one of International companies, Lindy Hume. Peter Pinne reports that to survive the company Australia’s leading or Opera Australia. plans more musicals and smaller scale operas. directors of opera, with With Opera Australia’s far-ranging credits not only in the art- of Arts Festivals, the most recent being decision to again include Brisbane in form but also for her artistic leadership the Sydney Festival (2010-2012). their 2012 season, the first time they


Russell Mitchell and Lindy Hume

Online extras! Explore Opera Queensland’s 2012 season by scanning the QR code or visiting 22 Stage Whispers May - June 2012

will have visited the city for 25-years, it forces Opera Queensland to redefine its position. Hume “welcomes” their return and says it’s an “exciting time.” But she must be mindful of what happened in Victoria, where the state opera company collapsed in 1996. Opera Australia then took over. Since 2006 a smaller state company (Opera Victoria) has thrived under the baton of Richard Gill – by focusing on smaller boutique productions. Opera Queensland is moving in that direction. Gone are the seasons of the past with three major operas at the Lyric Theatre, QPAC as their focal point. She knows that this decision will upset some subscribers, and freely acknowledges they will lose some, but she is hoping most will come on board and embrace the changes. “It’s about trying to find new audiences.” Lindy Hume is planning more small, intimate, baroque operas in a contemporary vein, works that have an edge or are quirky. Hume has plenty of experience in this arena, having previously commissioned Paul Grabowsky’s Love in the Age of Therapy, Richard Mills’ award-winning Batavia, which was produced with Opera Australia and the Melbourne Centenary Federation Festival, and Richard Mills/Timberlake Wertenbaker’s The Love of the Nightingale for Perth International Arts Festival. She also envisages more collaboration between local companies such as the Brisbane Festival and Queensland Theatre Company. She is already in discussion with Wesley Enoch, QTC’s Artistic Director, about what they can do together. Producing popular musical theatre titles (My Fair Lady/Sweeney Todd) or operettas (Die Fledermaus/The Merry Widow) within opera seasons is something Hume endorses. Hume is determined that Opera Queensland will Image courtesy: Gold Coast Tourism

become Queensland’s “musical theatre company.” She acknowledges that sometimes music theatre requires a special type of performer, one not normally found amongst the opera ranks. If that is the case then they will look and cast outside the box. Opera Queensland’s commitment to youth in their “Moving Opera” program will not be affected by the

decided to spilt the responsibilities into two appointments, hence Hume assuming the role of Artistic Director and Russell Mitchell coming in as General Manager. Mitchell’s brief is to restructure the company, reduce costs and increase revenue. Hume and Mitchell worked together at Opera Australia. They are friends and they know each other’s quirks.

changes and in fact Hume hopes to deepen their commitment. It could mean a re-look and re-mounting of their highly successful commissioned work Dirty Apple. As she said, “it’s a vast landscape of work which will take time to implement. Developing a plan assures Opera Queensland they become sustainable, adventurous and leaders in their field.” Hume’s appointment as Artistic Director of Opera Queensland is not only a feather in the cap for the company, but for the state. When former Artistic Director and General Manager Chris Mangan’s tenure was up, the Board of Queensland Opera

Hume’s position is part-time – six months in Brisbane, and six months in Bermagui (NSW South Coast). It allows her to continue her international career which she believes is not only good for her, but good for the company. This year she returns to New Zealand to direct Rigoletto for NBR New Zealand Opera, and next year to Houston Grand Opera for Fledermaus. Lindy Hume is excited about pushing Opera Queensland in new directions and Queensland opera lovers should be excited about her coming on board to lead the change. She has a bold and passionate vision for the company, and if anyone can bring it to fruition it is Lindy Hume. Stage Whispers 23

Stage on Page

that were destined to succeed but didn’t (Breakfast at Tiffanys), and the ones that didn’t stand a chance but went on to become household names (Grease), are all there. By Peter Pinne Filichia has gathered an amazing amount of facts and figures plus an inordinate amount of trivia which make this Stephen Sondheim’s Look, I Made a Hat – Collected a very readable book. Lyrics (1981-2011) with Attendant Comments, From The Melburnian – Essays and Articles 1992-2011 Amplifications, Dogmas, Harangues, Digressions, Anecdotes (Ellikon 2011) by Peter Wyllie Johnston is divided into four and Miscellany (Alfred A. Knopf, New York 2011) is the parts; The Broadway Musical, The Australian Musical, Opera and Classical Music. To my knowledge this is the first second volume of his work and follows Finishing the Hat book to seriously discuss the (2010) which took in his lyrics from 19541981. It details everything you genre of Australian Musicals. It ever wanted to know about his gives an historical overview of work on Sunday in the Park the genre, plus articles on Nick with George, Into the Woods, Enright, Anthony Crowley, Dennis Watkins, Alan John, Assassins, Passion and the Debra Byrne and Peter Cousens, musical that was called, amongst others. The Broadway through various incarnations, Musical also includes an overview Wise Guys/Bounce/Road Show. The tortuous journey of the last with articles on Cy Coleman, Mary Rodgers, Oscar one is worth the price of the Hammerstein 2nd, West Side Story, tome alone. Once again and Sunset Boulevard. Opera Sondheim demonstrates his mantra; “content dictates form… discusses the current state of the god is in the details…less is art-form in Australia, plus pieces more,” throughout his musicals. The book also includes his on Morag Beaton, Harold Blair, George Dreyfus, Richard work as a ‘show doctor’ for Broadway musicals in trouble, Divall, Natalie Christie, and Richard Mills and his adaptation of Summer of the Seventeenth Doll. Johnston, a composer, and what he has written for movies and television with a fascinating look into his early college work. We get to find performer and writer, has updated most of these articles and essays which first appeared in the arts journal The out his opinion on critics (“they have their uses”), awards (“their uselessness unless they come with cash”), and other Melbourne Report (1987-1993) and The Melburnian (1993lyricists he admires; Johnny Mercer, Hugh Martin and 1998). It’s an informed and scholarly assessment of the arts Carolyn Leigh. It’s erudite, full of ephemera, and wildly scene during the period and, as John Hirst claims in the preface, “strengthens the view that Australia has a rich entertaining, and should be on the bookshelf of anyone interested in musical theatre. It’s required reading for every musical history, which is worthy of closer examination and would-be theatre composer and lyricist. discussion than it currently receives.” Broadway Musicals – The Biggest Hit and the Biggest Reg Livermore – Take a Bow (Victorian Arts Centre) is a Flop of the Season (1959-2009) (Applause Books) by Peter 38 page glossy booklet produced for Arts Centre Filichia is an informed and fun book that chronicles the hits Melbourne’s recent exhibition on one of and misses of the last fifty years on Broadway. Some are Australia’s most iconic obvious, like The Sound of Music which was 1959’s performers. With a text by runaway blockbuster, but who remembers or has heard of The Pink curator Margaret Marshall, Jungle, the dud of all duds from the and an introduction by Livermore himself, the same year, that never even made it booklet features many to New York. Likewise 1975’s A black and white and Chorus Line, which clocked up colour photographs from 6,138 performances in its initial his shows, some run, and the same season’s 1600 appearing in print for the Pennsylvania Avenue by Leonard first time. It follows his career from its Bernstein and Alan Jay Lerner beginnings in 1949 to his most recent work in The which only managed seven, or Producers, The Thank You Dinner and Turns. 2002’s Hairspray, with its 2,642 performances, as opposed to the stinker Dance of the Vampires, Online extras! which ran out of steam after 56. The musicals that You can now buy books and DVDs from everyone knew would be hits and were (The Phantom of Stage Whispers. Scan the QR code or visit the Opera), the ones that sounded terrible from the moment they were announced (The Civil War), the ones 24 Stage Whispers May - June 2012

Stage on Disc By Peter Pinne

Memphis (David Bryan/Joe DiPietro) (Shout 826663-13007). More than two years after it opened, and after picking up four Tony Awards including Best Musical in 2010, Memphis, in an unusual move for a show that is still playing on Broadway, has just been released on DVD. Featuring the original cast led by Chad Kimball and Montego Glover, both of whom received Tony nominations, the musical is just as enjoyable on the small screen as it was in the theatre. David Bryan (Bon Jovi) and Joe DiPietro’s score about the birth of rock’n’roll in Memphis’ underground clubs of the segregated 1950s is irresistibly joyous. Standout tunes include the gospel, “Make Me Stronger,” James Monroe Iglehart’s “Big Love,” Glover’s “Love Will Stand Where All Else Falls,” and Kimball’s “Memphis Lives In Me.” Special Features include a Who’s Who “Behind the Scenes: How ‘Memphis’ Was Captured”.  Annie (Charles Strouse/Martin Charnin) (Sony 88691945392). The new live Australian cast recording of Annie stars Anthony Warlow as Oliver Warbucks, and Nancye Hayes as Miss Hannigan. Warlow is in fine voice, especially on his solo “Something Was Missing,” and Hayes brings her own brand of nasty to “Little Girls.” The revelation of the recording is Julie Goodwin as Grace. Her vocals dominate every track she’s on. Alan Jones (FDR) and Ella Nicol (Annie) bring a little emotion to the reprise of “Tomorrow,” and the Orphans chorus does well with “You’re Never Fully Dressed Without a Smile.” The dance sequence of “Easy Street” has been extended to give Chloe Dallimore and Todd McKenney a chance to show off their dancing skills, and “We’d Like to Thank You Herbert Hoover” has a new orchestration, giving the song a much darker feel. Missing is the jaunty 1930s snap of the original, and the irony.  Matilda (Tim Minchin) (RSCE 002). Kids of a different bent are portrayed in Tim Minchin’s score for Matilda. Based on the black comedy by Roald Dahl about how a bright young girl Matilda, cursed with a cretinous family and a witch of a school principal, learns selfreliance, Minchin has captured the style of Dahl’s story in songs that are clever and mischievous. Each character gets a moment in the sun; Matilda with “Naughty” and the introspective “Quiet,” the headmistress Miss Trunchbull (played in drag by Bertie Carvel) with “The Hammer” and the tango “The Smell of Rebellion,” and the parents, Mrs Wormwood (Josie Walker) who is a riot on the Latin “Loud,” and Mr Wormwood (Paul

Kaye), who’s very funny on ‘Telly.” Miss Honey’s (Lauren Ward) “My House” is tender and the only song that could be sung outside the show.  Meredith Braun Someone Else’s Story (Stage Door 9029) is the debut solo album from the New Zealand soprano who has starred in the West End as Betty Schaeffer in Sunset Boulevard, Lily in The Secret Garden, Eponine in Les Misérables, and Christine in The Phantom of the Opera. With piano and cello accompaniment, Braun brings her warm, clear soprano to an interesting selection of show ballads; the pretty “China Doll” from Marguerite, the introspective “Wait a Bit” from Just So, Oscar winner “You Must Love Me” from the Evita movie, and the title song from Love Never Dies. She brackets two Sondheim songs in two medleys and performs them beautifully; “No One Is Alone” (Into the Woods) is coupled with “Not While I’m Around” (Sweeney Todd), whilst “Good Thing Going” and “Not a Day Goes By,” both from Merrily We Roll Along, fit together perfectly.  David Harris At This Stage (AMC10519). David Harris is in great voice on his new collection of show songs, At This Stage. He puts a contemporary spin on some old favorites, “If I Loved You” and “Younger Than Springtime”, and sings the heart out of “Why God, Why?” (Miss Saigon) as he did on stage. The album also features three duets; “As Long As You’re Mine” (Wicked) sung with his Wicked co-star Jemma Rix, “I See the Light” from the movie Tangled, sung with Lucy Durack, and a West Side Story medley, “Maria”/”Tonight”/”One Hand One Heart”, sung with Kellie Rode. There are also terrific versions of “Anthem” (Chess) and the not-often-recorded-by-a-male “Unexpected Song” (Song and Dance).  Anne Wood Divine Discontent (Universal). Anne Wood’s first solo album is an acoustic collection of eleven ABBA songs sung with a four-piece group. The arrangements by James Roche are intelligent, the material familiar, with Wood singing like you’ve never heard her before. Forget Donna in Mamma Mia, this is Wood unplugged. Best tracks are “I Wonder,” “Dance (while the music goes on)” and “Winner Takes It All.” There’s also a premiere recording of “The Day the Wall came Tumbling Down”, a song written for the demolition of the Berlin Wall and only ever sung at a concert by ABBA on that day. The concept is artistically interesting, but I could have done without the breathy, pretentious intros.  Rating  Only for the enthusiast  Borderline  Worth buying  Must have  Kill for it Stage Whispers 25


roadway uzz

By Peter Pinne

Broadway’s Spring season is well under way with a host of new musicals and plays on offer. London has supplied productions of Evita, with Argentinian actress Elena Rogers in the title role and, in the Broadway version, pop-star Ricky Martin as Che; At the End of the Rainbow, with Tracie Bennett’s acclaimed performance as Judy Garland; the National Theatre’s One Man, Two Guvnors, based on Goldoni’s The Servant of Two Masters, with James Corden’s starmaking turn, and the musical version of the 1990 movie Ghost. Jesus Christ Superstar’s revival comes via Canada’s Stratford Shakespeare Festival, while Once, Leap of Faith and Newsies have movie pedigrees, the latter opening to smash reviews. Off-Broadway transfers include the plays Venus In Fur, with original stars Hugh Dancy and Nina Arienda; Other Desert Cities with Rachel Griffiths, Stockard Channing and Stacey Keach, and Disney’s Peter and the Starcatcher, a prequel to Peter Pan. Other plays to be mounted include the premiere of Athol Fugard’s The Road to Mecca with Rosemary Harris, and revivals of Wit, with Cynthia Nixon, Death of a Salesman, with Phillip Seymour Hoffman, and The Best Man, with James Earl Jones, Candice Bergen and Angela Lansbury. Nice Work If You can Get It falls into the old and new category, being a new version of the 1926 Gershwin musical Oh Kay! The new libretto is by Joe DiPietro and it stars Kelli O’Hara and Mathew Broderick, with direction by Kathleen Marshall. Songs include the evergreen “Someone To Watch Over Me.” Hugh Jackman’s next Broadway outing, following his whopping success in his solo show Hugh Jackman: Back On Broadway, will be playing the title role in a musical version of Houdini. It is due to bow in the 2013-14 season. The score is by Stephen Schwartz (Wicked) with a book by Aaron

Sorkin (The West Wing). It will not be a comprehensive biography, but will focus of the “epic battle that took place between Houdini and a trio of women known as the ‘Spiritualists’ who convinced millions of people, including the editors of Scientific American and The New York Times, that they could communicate with the dead.” Other musicals on the way to Broadway include A Room With a View, based on E.M. Forster’s 1908 novel. It recently premiered at the Old Globe Theatre, San Diego, California, where reviewers thought it was “beautifully turned out” (San Diego Union Tribune), with a score that was “generous and ambitious” ( Music and Lyrics are by Jeffrey Stock, with book and additional lyrics by Marc Acito. The 1982 film Diner is in development as a musical by the original screenwriter Barry Levinson and 9-time Grammy Award-winning singer/songwriter Sheryl Crow. It’s to premiere at San Francisco’s Curran Theatre in October 2012. Stephen Sondheim has revealed in London’s Evening Standard he is collaborating with playwright David Ives on a new show. He claims to have written between 20 and 30 minutes worth of material, but was finding it difficult after spending the last four years writing two books. Ives is the author of Venus In Fur. Spring has also brought forth a host of new cast records. Kurt Weill’s 1943 musical One Touch of Venus gets its first recording via Jay Records, PS Classic’s have recorded the new version of Porgy and Bess, Encore’s recent productions of Merrily We Roll Along and Pipe Dream will all make it to CD, along with Disney’s Newsies and the recently closed Carrie. It will be the first-ever cast recording of this infamous 1988 5-performance flop, which has just played 80performances in its resurrection. John Yap has announced that Jay will also record the Finborough Theatre’s production of Ivor Novello’s Gay’s The Word, which stars Elizabeth Seal. Its release will be followed by the release of a complete 2-CD version of Novello’s The Dancing Years. NBC have just commissioned a second season of Smash, the TV series about producing a musical on Broadway, which stars Megan Hilty, Jack Davenport, Angelica Huston and Debra Messing. The series launched with an audience of 11 million viewers, but by the third episode was only reaching 7 million.

Elena Rogers and Ricky

Online extras! Evita’s cast and director discuss the new production. Scan the QR code or visit 26 Stage Whispers May - June 2012

London Calling

killer and avenger, and by Imelda Staunton as crafty, pintsized pie-maker Mrs Lovett. She is the audience’s darling from her first appearance; at her walkdown she is cheered to the rafters. Unmissable. Most amazing is Ghost The Musical, a version of the corny, silly 1990 movie. This began its life in, of all places, Manchester, and the music/lyrics credits feature Dave Frank Hatherley reports from London’s West End Stewart – remember him? – bearded half of Eurythmics. Don’t get me wrong, the new Ghost is still corny and silly, the songs are only okay and the action melodramatic. But It’s my first visit to Theatreland in 6 years. Leicester the set! My God, the set, lighting and special effects are Square is one vast building site with the narrowest of corridors for the milling throngs – throngs that mill from worth the price of admission alone. Here is fluid action, LED breakfast to around 2 am. Pavements are up throughout movement and video projection at a whole new level of Soho, and Tottenham Court Road is a complete no-go. accomplishment. And an ‘Illusionist’ has been employed to Surely they’ll never be ready for the Olympics. It’s April and bring off some ghostly tricks that get as much spontaneous applause as the numbers. I leave the Piccadilly Theatre there’s only 3 months to go. Contrasting with this restless reinvention is the rooted happily whistling the tricks. longevity of so many theatre offerings. Six years later and But my top tip goes to Matilda the Musical at the they’re still running! Nothing, not even release to Australian Cambridge. This is closely based on the Roald Dahl story of amateurs, dents the dotage of The Mousetrap (60 years the super-bright little girl who, with the help of a friendly teacher, thwarts her neglecting parents and ogre-like and counting), but Les Misérables, now with updated orchestrations, has reached 26; The Phantom of the Opera headmistress. With superb songs by Australian Tim is 25, Blood Brothers 23, Chicago 14, The Lion King 12. The Minchin, the show has a wonderful set and notable sound design. Sensationally, it has a heart-stopping child actor as widely panned We Will Rock You has reached 10. Indeed, old age has become a selling point. Chicago, Matilda. I saw 11 year old Sophia Kiely: it’s hard to believe newly arrived at the Garrick, now bills itself as a ‘Timeless the other three she alternates with can be as touching and Classic’; Les Mis calls itself ‘Forever Young’; Blood Brothers professional. The show, full of terrific child performers, is the Annie of our day, only way, way better. It’ll be all over has become ‘The Musical for All Time’. Maybe it’s NEVER the world before long. If you want to see it in London going to leave the Phoenix Theatre! during the Olympics, start queuing now for returns. Three important theatres have changed their names entirely, each now celebrating a dead playwright. The Caissie Levy, the former West-End Molly Jensen Albery is now The Noel Coward Theatre; the Strand is now The Novello Theatre; last year the wonderfully cramped Comedy became The Harold Pinter Theatre. Most shows are doing great business. Queues for half-price tickets are as long as ever. Olympic visitors are advised to book their seats NOW. For such brave souls here are some tips from my current limited-by-budget theatre going. How could I resist the Old Vic production of Michael Frayn’s Noises Off, now transferred to the Novello? Okay, I’ve seen it several times before, but this may be the definitive production, fast and furious, suffused with keen insight and genuine love for the actor’s life, onstage and backstage. The other huge farcical hit is One Man, Two Guvnors, transferred from The National Theatre to a probable eternity at the Theatre Royal, Haymarket. Writer Richard Bean has reimagined Goldoni’s 1743 comedy The Servant of Two Masters as a leery, cheery seaside postcard from late-40s Brighton. The Benny-Hill-type romping, pratfalls and audience participation set the house to a roar. I, however, remain untickled. Very English. Then come my three big musicals treats. Most dramatic is the major new production of Sweeney Todd at the Online extras! Adelphi. With a terrific set, wonderful singers and See amazing effects and lighting in Ghost orchestra, Sondheim’s masterwork is here dominated by The Musical. Scan the QR code or visit Michael Ball in the title role as a chillingly obsessed serial Stage Whispers 27

Legally Blonde: The Media Launch Our intrepid reporter Frank Hatherley hears the news he knew already.

I’m off to represent Stage Whispers at the Media Launch to announce the principal cast for the Australian production of Legally Blonde The Musical. It’s early in March and the show doesn’t open at Sydney’s Lyric Theatre until October, but the naming of the above-thetitle cast is always a news spinner. Who’s going to play the lead, the part made famous by Reece Witherspoon in the 2001 hit movie? The fact that I’ve known for a week that it’s Lucy Durack doesn’t put me off. The Media Launch had been postponed last week because of the Gillard-Rudd leadership battle, or “puppet show”, as producer John Frost described it. No point holding a media conference on a day when the media was distracted by a bigger show. Alas a YouTube video featuring all the principals had been uploaded to the universe regardless. So anyone interested would have known for a week that the five main parts had gone to Lucy Durack (Glinda in Frost’s Wicked), Rob Mills (Fiyero in Wicked), David Harris (currently Fiyero in Wicked’s Asian tour), fashion model Erika Heynatz (TV’s It Takes Two and Australia’s Next Top Model) and 28 Stage Whispers May - June 2012

Cameron Daddo (returning to Australia after 20 years working in Los Angeles). But the show must go on. I join the smattering of oneperson camera operators and note-taking media types sparsely spread through the width and depth of the Lyric stalls. The camera ops have grabbed E Row Centre. Our host is John Frost himself. Professionally lit and miked stage left of a cinema-sized screen, he is relaxed and confident. It was an excellent audition for a career as a television chat show host. He begins by praising the new owner of the Lyric, Stephen Found, who also owns Sydney’s Capitol Theatre. “He is about to spend quite a lot of money out in the lobbies here,” says Frost, “to divorce it [from the Star complex], so it stands alone as an entertainment palace.” I didn’t know that. First guest/interviewee is Sandra Chipchase, the CEO of Destination New South Wales. Their website says that ‘pursuing blockbuster musicals forms a key part of the NSW Government’s strategy to rebuild the NSW economy.’ Apparently the NSW economy received in excess of $70 million from visitors who came specifically’ to see Sydney musicals in 2011. Says Ms Chipchase: “Sydney has definitely re-emerged as the Number One city for musical theatre in Australia.” How do you feel about that, Melbourne? “Thank you to the O’Farrell government,” says Frost. He now introduces his coproducing partner, the UK producer of Legally Blonde The Musical, Howard Panter, who was here in person last week but, because of the puppet show, is now recorded and very large indeed on the big screen. His West End production is “now in its third fabulous year” and his 26-week national tour “is doing gangbusters up and down the country”. Frost says the London production was “like a tidal wave of pure fun, glamour and entertainment”. Now he introduces his first principal. “I’ve been very lucky over the years to cast big stars that have actually never done shows like this, for instance Bert Newton who is appearing in my production of Wicked in Singapore, and Alan Jones in my production of Annie. To join those sorts of guys, I want to introduce you to a gorgeous lady...” Looking nothing whatsoever like Bert Newton or Alan Jones, on comes Erica Heynatz, dauntingly tall, slim, blonde, meg-heeled, micro-skirted. Though a success in fashion and modelling,

her “longest held professional desire” has always been to be a musical theatre star, she says. After a brief contribution on video from an unshaven David Harris in Singapore (“I think audiences are in for a real treat”), Frost introduces Rob Mills. “I don’t know about my co-producers or executive producers, but there was really one person I wanted for the part of Warner”. Mills (neat and bouncy) and Frost do a double act. Frost: “When we announced the cast of Wicked the blogs went crazy – ‘why has this guy got one of the biggest roles? He can’t sing, can’t dance.’ The show opened and you stole the reviews.” Mills: “There’s not much dancing in this show for me, John. Is that why you cast me?” Frost: “Your new television show Young Talent Time is doing cracker business I’m told.” Mills: “Legally Blonde is a very pink show. Well done for launching it on [Sydney’s] Mardi Gras weekend.” Frost: “Yes, it is pink, isn’t it. My last one was green. Another video statement follows from an unshaven Cameron Daddo (“I’m overjoyed about coming back to Sydney”), and now it’s time to meet the “gorgeous woman from Wicked” who will be Australia’s Elle Wood. Lucy Durack enters, a bright blonde vision in crisply petticoated pink. If you can overlook the matching Chihuahua, she looks and sounds like she’s stepped straight from the ‘Popular’ scene from Wicked. Surely they didn’t need to audition her for this one! But, wait. “The audition was the longest process I’ve ever been involved in,” she says. “I started auditioning during the Adelaide season of Wicked which was this time last year. I was flying back and forth to Sydney. I did a number of auditions, dancing and singing and acting, and then I came back and came back and came back. And once Wicked finished they sent me to London to audition for Jerry Mitchell.”

Online extras! Watch the preview online simply by scanning the QR code or visiting

This is the event’s first and only mention of the show’s brilliant director/ choreographer, certainly a main reason for Legally Blonde’s much acclaimed zest. “It’s the most fun show I’ve ever seen in my life,” declares Durack before giving us a special preview of ‘So Much Better’, the number that ends Act One, with a full-orchestra backing track. In fact, she does it twice, so the cameramen can change their framing for editing purposes. The number is just fine, though very reminiscent of Wicked. John Frost brings the media presentation to a crisp close and the camera crews bustle from stalls to stage for close-up interviews with the radiant Durack and Heynatz. Meanwhile I note that the writer of the novel upon which the movie was based, Amanda Brown, doesn’t get a mention in the credits handout. Oh, and Laurence O’Keefe gets a ‘Music and Lyrics’ credit, while Nell Benjamin is credited with ‘Lyrics and Music’. Stage Whispers 29

New Zealand

Musical Theatre NZ: Postcard from Wanganui David Spicer reports from the 52nd AGM of Musical Theatre New Zealand. At its biggest, community theatre in New Zealand gives professional theatre a run for its money. In Auckland the North Shore Music Theatre staged Miss Saigon in 2011 in the biggest theatre in the country. While a few stars were paid, the cast and many in the production crew were volunteers. The 2200 seat Civic Theatre was the venue. To break even the company needed a box office of $750,000. It’s the type of risk which would make the knuckles of most people on amateur theatre committees go white. At stake were all of the company’s assets. Thankfully it was a hit. Ticket sales topped $1.5 Million dollars. With such a whopping profit the company can stage obscure musicals (in small venues) for a decade before the cash runs out. Not all is so rosy. The Auckland Music Theatre Company staged Anything Goes at the Civic. It was not as successful. A production company underwrote losses. Another smaller company reported that it had gotten into so much debt that it needed a bail out from a philanthropist to

From top: David Spicer and playwright April Phillips; Best Head Dressed; Valda Peacock and friend; Graeme Philip from John Herber Ltd and Angela Everson from I Ticket.

30 Stage Whispers May - June 2012

save its clubhouse. Such is the roulette table of big musical theatre. The 52nd annual conference for Musical Theatre New Zealand was held in the north island town of Wanganui, a few hours north of Wellington. It was held in a racetrack conference room. The town’s main tourist attraction is a paddle steamer. Unfortunately all the delegates could not fit onto the boat, so at the dinner delegates dressed as though they were on a Showboat for their annual shindig. The big news at the conference was the announcement that the amateur rights for The Phantom of the Opera would become available in 2013. It was like a siren going off before a Tsunami hits. Everyone thought here comes a big one. And we almost got a demonstration of what sort of damage a tsunami can do. Early in the morning, just after the Saturday night dance, an earthquake struck off the coast of Wanganui. It measured 4.4 on the Richter scale. In New Zealand that is not enough to shake the chandeliers. No doubt when Phantom is staged by community theatre in New Zealand the chandeliers will be grand. Traditionally the larger groups get together to form a consortium to build a set that is shipped around the country.

The local company which hosted the conference, AMDRAM Wanganui, spans three centuries. It was established in 1874. Almost two-thirds of the community theatre companies in New Zealand own their clubhouse and fifteen percent employ an administrator. AMDRAM Wanganui is no exception. The club owns their own theatre, clubhouse and costume shop. After 138 years no doubt they have built up some capital. The company stages smaller shows in their own 120seat venue. Once a year it stages a musical in the Wanganui Opera House. Seven performances in a 700-seat theatre is still a big deal for a town of 45000. And they probably rack up a Box Office gross larger than almost all amateur theatre companies in Australia. The benefits of owning your theatre are considerable. On the way I attended a production of Shirley Valentine in the Porirua Little Theatre, just north of Wellington. Their theatre is inside a charming wooden dance hall built by the US Marines during World War II. The foyer is covered with Showbills from past triumphs. When the curtain opened the audience was treated to a superb set. A finely constructed kitchen and living room from the 1980’s complete with decorative flying ducks on the wall. Having many months to work on a set no doubt helps lift the standard. It was a marked contrast to the set I witnessed at an amateur theatre production in Brisbane the month before. That company had to build a set in a week’s bump in and it looked like it. It goes to show that in the theatre world a little bit of real estate can go a long way.

New Zealand Professional Theatre

New Zealand’s professional theatres have an unlikely hit on their hands. It’s called Motor Camp, a comedy by Dave Armstrong set in what Australians call a caravan park, and it is doing great business. Insiders say it has attracted people who don’t normally go to the theatre, so much so that it has been placing a strain on certain types of spirits not normally consumed at interval by traditional theatre types. Theatreview wrote: “Yay, a comedy you can actually laugh at! “Funnier than a pair of budgie-smugglers on a sixty year old grandad, and just as shocking in parts, The Auckland Theatre Company couldn’t have wished for a better opener to this year’s season. Here is a play that is pure and simple unadulterated entertainment.” “A 2012 Kiwi ‘Carry On…’ movie for thinking grown ups, the play pits an academic couple complete with lovesick daughter in one caravan against working class Mike and Dawn and Dawn’s hormonal son Jared in another.” (Continued on page 32)

Clockwise from top: Emma Blake, Kate Ghent and Kim Ransley; MTNZ President Ian Reid and Morrinsville’s Georgina Hewitt; Martin Searancke from North Shore Music Theatre. Stage Whispers 31

New Zealand

(Continued from page 31)

The National Business Review agreed. “Going on holiday to the beach is something of a rite of passage for all New Zealanders. For some it is the dream idyllic getaway from the tedium and hustle of everyday life but for others it is a nightmare battle with the elements and other people. “It’s an inspired piece of comic writing which is sophisticated and sharp, occasionally straying into the risqué, the rude and even obscene – prudish sensitivities should be left in the foyer. “Two couples with their children, in separate caravans a few metres apart, are thrown together in a comedy of happy campers.”

Online extras! Check out a trailer for The Motor Camp by scanning the QR code or visiting

32 Stage Whispers May - June 2012

Stage Briefs

How to Make Fake Snow Courtesy of The Theatre Show. Ingredients. 1. Water Storage Crystals 2. Water 3. Bicarbonate of Soda 4. A bowl This is really easy. All you have to do is mix the ingredients slowly until you are happy. Start with the water storage crystals. Pour in water and mix until you are happy with the feel. Then add Bicarbonate of Soda to make it whiter. You can even mould it into a snowball. Happy snowmaking!

Online extras! See the full video of how to make snow by scanning the QR code or visiting

Ode to Amateur Theatre Stage Whispers loved Peter J Casey’s Ode to Amateur Theatre so much we had to share it with you. It was performed at the 2011 Canberra Area Theatre Awards and is now also uploaded on YouTube at Stage Whispers TV. Lyrics and a link are provided to the right.

Brian the Chemist I work hard throughout the week, And the last thing I need, Is to get dressed up on Friday and go out and see a show. I mean a show. A singing show. That’s not for me. Sad people playing dress-ups. And if you think they were any good. Well, don’t you think they wouldn’t do it all for free? Well I think so. Oh well. It’s ironing and baby sitters, parking and small talk, Double priced booze and show me to my seat. Then one by one the phones turn off. The lights go down. Old people cough. And while that orchestra is done, Maybe I can have a snooze. But there’s no-where for my feet. Well would you look up there. That’s Brian, Brian the Chemist. The beard is fake, he’s not that fat. But it’s Brian. Did you know he could sing? Those painted flats aren’t Russia. He kissed a woman, not his wife. But it’s Brian, and yet not Brian, Spotlit in the middle of everything. That’s a fleeting sort stardom. It’s a peculiar kind of fame. But the next time, the next time, I hand him my prescription, I won’t look at him the same. Yes it’s Brian, that’s Brian, that prince among men, And I can’t wait to see him do it again.

Online extras! Watch Peter J Casey’s performance. Just scan the QR code or visit Stage Whispers 33

Jeremy Curtin as Chris and Veronica Alonzo as Kim in the Chatswood Musical Society (NSW) production of Miss Saigon at The Concourse, Chatswood, from May 4 - 12.

Kate Taylor (right) plays the title role of the flamboyant gypsy in the Warragul Theatre Company (Vic) production of a musical theatre version of the famous Bizet opera, Carmen – the Musical, at the West Gippsland Arts Centre from May 18 - 26. Satin Edge Photographers. CLOC’s production team (led by President Grant Alley) have been working full-time for three months to construct Norma Desmond’s grand and opulent mansion, and other well‑known Hollywood icons (see opposite page). Set Designer and head Scenic Artist Brenton Staples with his small but highly skilled team of volunteer scenery painters then came in to work their magic on the huge set frames, backdrops, furniture, and pieces, including Norma’s rare Isotta Franchini car, which has been made and painted as a two dimensional cut out, looking for all intents and purposes like a real three dimensional motor vehicle. 34 Stage Whispers May - June 2012

Maureen Andrew, ready for her close-up, as Norma Desmond in the CLOC Musical Theatre (Melbourne) Australasian non-professional premiere of Sunset Boulevard, from May 4 - 19 at the National Theatre, St Kilda. Photographer: Richard Crompton.

Stage Briefs

Online extras! Get the full Sunset Boulevard story online by scanning the QR code or visiting Stage Whispers 35

Underwater Light Fantastic

Lighting Designer Trent Suidgeest created a stunning underwater world for Black Swan Theatre’s production of The White Divers of Broome by Hilary Bell. My job is a cross between a painter and a film editor. I am painting the space with hue and saturation of colour, contrast, intensity and textures of light; and I am helping to set the pace of the show through transitions, directing attention and revealing or hiding moments as we need. Not often does a show present settings of such diversity and exoticism: late afternoon jetties and luggers floating on the sea in the scorching heat or desolate midnight, festive bungalow, brothel, packing shed and pub, pre dawn sail-out, beaches, cemeteries, and underwater scenes of varying times and qualities. Hilary Bell has providing us with some stunning stage directions. “Noon. Heat bouncing off the deck, dazzling light, no breeze.” “The harshness of the red earth, the mercilessness of the sun” “White sails scatter in all directions.” “Underwater. WEBBER descends. Mournful whale-song, the desolate ocean floor, immense loneliness.” “Through darkness, Japanese lanterns bob and weave.” “Colour begins to creep in, and the featureless flatness sprouts corals

36 Stage Whispers May - June 2012


We used an aerial set design so the divers were flying. I used globes as part of the fly system. If we had a diver, underwater globes – attached to the fly system would fly up at same pace. This helped accentuate the set and build a greater sense of movement. I had nine separate lines with four or five globes shifting in the opposite direction of the diver. and seaweeds, shimmers with bright creatures, until it is a I used 4200 points of fibre optic lights. The top section riot of beauty.” I worked with two great dynamics the play presents: the was for the horizon, while underwater they sparkled. The whole stage turned into a riot of sparkling light as they mercilessness of the sun in Broome and its effect on the jumped off the side of boat. inhabitants VS the solitude, risk and chill of life at the end I wanted a seamless transition, off the boat into the of that rope and airpipe. Polar opposites and both allowing beautiful design possibilities. ocean. So the lighting was part of the choreography. I had $7000 to play with, but thankfully all the fibre Thankfully at the Heath Ledger Theatre there is a optics and hanging globes were already paid for out of the computerised flying system. Without that I would have set design. I wanted to make underwater sequences as spectacular needed eleven people to run the fly system. Instead all I as I could. There is nothing worse than an audience seeing needed was one person pushing a button. It took us weeks someone ‘plunge into the water’, then the lights go out so to program it – but once in place the result was striking. they can put a harness on. Stage Whispers 37

Don’t Be Blinded By The Lights Marcus Pugh from Resolution X gives his tips on ways to get the most out of LED and Moving Lights.

Online extras! LED Star Cloth. Image courtesy of Black Swan State Theatre Company WA

Computer Technology has come a long way in past decades. Who’d have thought 20 years ago we’d all be walking around with 500 times the data of the average home computer in our pockets. Lighting technology changes are just as exciting. But what lights are most suitable for your theatre? LEDs Light Emitting Diodes have advanced in the past five years from being that little blinking warning light on a console or a dashboard to a whole new area of lighting products that now outstrip sales

38 Stage Whispers May - June 2012

of conventional lights for the entertainment market. The LED technology has many advantages. They are small, energy efficient and cheap to produce. Their size means that you can now have a light source positioned in the tightest spot, making them perfect for set lighting, especially if you’d like a piece of set to change colour. Stripes of LED are a great way to define the edge of a piece of set or stage. The weight of an LED means they can be mounted on drapes to create a star cloth effect, which can add a real

Resolution X can light your next event or production. Scan the barcode or visit for more info. ‘wow factor’ when the normally black backdrop is suddenly awash in coloured dots. A star cloth can also add depth to a stage design. Eye candy is a term often associated with LED lighting, when the light source is visible to the audience and is not about the light hitting a surface or person. An LED Par works well as a backlight when the designer wants the audience to see lots of rich colours changing upstage without those colours washing out the faces of actors.

However, there are some areas where you should avoid using LED, where the traditional methods of lighting still work best. Front light for example. The LED is much brighter than years ago but still does not have the output to throw light from a front of house position (unless you’re willing to pay the big bucks for the newest generation of fixtures). Colour is another pitfall of the LED, because most are produced with a rich red, green and blue colour, which can work well in a corporate or rock’n’roll setting, but they do not suit the subtle naturalistic tones required for theatre. Moving Lights Moving lights come in a large range of sizes, outputs and effects. The main advantage of moving lights is that they can do the job of many conventional fixtures in a lighting rig with their ability to focus on different positions, change

A Martin Mac TW1

colour and rotate/ Technical change gobos. Most, however, have not been designed with theatrical applications as their main function. Moving lights come in a few different varieties. An example of LED used as backlight from the There’s wash, Camberwell Showtime 2011 which are like colour changing fresnels that move. This While all this new technology opens means you can create different washes up many opportunities, don’t be blinded for the stage from one fixture. A great by the light. Things like LED and moving example of this is the Martin Mac TW1, lights have their place in theatre but they which has been developed with theatre in are often not as good as the tried and mind. It has a tungsten bulb, and runs true methods already in place. My advice almost silently by eliminating most of the would be to take care of your most fans, using convection cooling instead. important lighting elements, i.e. front The TW1 also has a palette of in-built light and washes, with conventional colours and colour mixing suited to fixtures like Profiles, Fresnels and Pars, theatre lighting designs. then use LEDs for back light and ‘eye Profile or Spot moving lights have a candy’ effects, and moving lights for selection of gobos and effects built in. effects. A perfect example of a Spot designed for theatre is the Clay Paky Alpha 700 Profile. These again have an option to run almost silently and have an automated framing shutter system. Beam Lights are the newest variety of moving light, and, as the name suggests, are a moving light optimised to create a beam that can move and change colour. While being useful tools, moving lights have their downsides, like noise, colour temperature and taking much longer to program during those precious bump-in days. Stage Whispers 39

21 Century Music Stands st

The invasion of the electronic device has made it into the Orchestra Pit! Rat Stands, manufacturer of highquality professional music stands, has just released their newest creation, The Z3, an iPad stand. Created specifically for the iPad to hold the tablet at standing level

heights, the Z3 is a versatile and lightweight mechanism for holding your tablet so that you don’t have to. With the explosion in iPad use and the availability of music apps to replace sheet music, this stand is a tool for the modern musician. The telescoping stem allows height to be adjusted to any height from 16 to 54 inches and the custom-fit cradle which holds the iPad is jointed to allow for any possible angle, including parallel with the floor, and can be rotated for portrait and landscape mode. The cradle will securely hold iPad V1,V2 & V3. The Z3 stand is the cousin to the versatile Jazz Stand, using the same telescopic fold up base. Both stands can be folded flat in three simple steps and have an optional gig bag. Whether you are looking for a hi-tech music stand for a modern auditorium, or a fine mixture of traditional wood and polished metal music stand with optional LED music stand light for a state of the art wood-panelled recital centre, RAT have a musician’s stand to suit your needs. The Z3 and other Rat Music Stands are available from PRG Australia.

Online extras! Check out PRG’s full product range and contact your nearest office. Scan or visit

40 Stage Whispers May - June 2012

Lighting up a Stage with no Facilities Rodney Bertram from Rod’s Sound and moods, movement and symbolization. Lighting Services reports. The most ambitious was creating an American Flag. In the song So what do you do when your venue “Flagmaker” the star spangled banner has no lights and no lighting bars on appeared in the background. In other stage? cases we matched the colours to the The answer is you make the set light characters on stage. up. Programming the show was a This is exactly what Osman Kabbara challenge as the Happy Tubes (Director) of Rockdale Musical Society (Sydney) designed for their latest production of Songs for a New World. With the use of 26 x 1 metre LED Tubes (Happy Tubes) and 5 Honeycomb LEDs, the set came alive. The tubes look like traditional tubes used everywhere but are made of LEDs. The set was like a big bookcase, painted white on the inside, black at the back and covered at the front with a white canvas. Each of the ‘bookcases’ had five sections with one Happy Tube on each shelf. Minimal front-of-house lighting meant the set was used to create


sometimes had a mind of their own. They are a cheaper light; each tube is 48 channels of DMX. Each section needs to be programmed to switch on the same colours and this is very time consuming. By using a DMX signal, you program which colours are switched during the whole performance. But once this was set up, the rest of the process was straightforward. Some of the highlights with this production included the song “River Won’t Flow” where the set was split blue and red and then each panel started changing to purple. With the use of the Happy Tube movement we were able to create a circular pattern with the lights, as the cast circled the stage. Lighting plays an integral part in any production. We were extremely proud of this one, considering that it was done on a minimal budget of approximately $3,500. Songs for a New World has a second season in May 2012 at the Zenith Theatre in Chatswood.

Online extras! Rod’s Sound and Lighting can help light your production. Scan the code or visit for more info. Stage Whispers 41

Melbourne Gets Back its Sound and Light Show

JMC Academy is onboard again as an education partner and will deliver a session on the Fundamentals of Audio. Seminars will cover specialty areas including Lighting Design, Projection, Rigging, Integration and Audio. ALIA is holding three different lighting seminars on day 2 For the first time in a decade Melbourne will host a sound and and a Testing and Tagging seminar on day 1. light expo with ENTECH CONNECT being staged at the The two day showcase aims to be informal and inexpensive for visitors…while giving a hand on the latest Melbourne Park Function Centre on July 18 and 19. industry technology. Exhibitors show casing new products include Show The last event of its kind was held in Melbourne in 1997 – and since then all ENTECHs have been held at Sydney’s Darling Technology Australia, Jands, ULA, Yamaha, National Audio Harbour. Systems and Audio Products Group. The event manager Stephen Dallimore says “research has Yamaha is also using the event to launch its new CL Series found that post GFC many companies can no longer afford to digital mixers. ENTECH CONNECT will host the Australian send as many delegates to inter-state conferences, and debut and first public training sessions Melbourne is a huge marketplace for our clients. “Victorian companies tend to update their equipment Yamaha says the new consoles “offer an evolved more regularly than Sydney companies. This may be because experience in accessible mixing plus sonic purity and advanced Victoria holds more events with a range of different sizes,” he sound shaping capabilities that will give the most imaginative artists and engineers unprecedented creative freedom.“ said. Yamaha CA Australia will also run a separate hands-on “It will be a smaller show (than Sydney), based part on training seminar at ENTECH Connect entitled “Dante Digital trade, part on networking and part on seminar.” The seminars will offer visitors the chance to learn from Audio Networking - Hands-On, How-To, and Why”. This 55 industry experts, peers and international guests. minute practical seminar will teach participants how to PLASA is supporting the show, and will be providing an interconnect and administer multiple Dante devices in a standard ethernet network. international speaker.

42 Stage Whispers May - June 2012

“We wanted to give the students experience Technical of moving lights but they had to be good ones!” commented Marcus Kelson, technical manager at NIDA. “We purchased four VARI*LITE VLX Wash Luminaires (distributed in Australia by Jands). These are used for student productions and also as a training tool within the lighting classroom. Plus, as they are a popular fixture we can also hire them out to users of our venues and thus generate an income.” The VLX Wash marries the benefits of cutting edge LED technology to the best characteristics of traditional automated luminaires. “The VLX is very punchy, easily controllable and very reliable,” said Marcus. “It also offers rich colours and very These days lighting design is not just about the performance but increasingly designers are being asked to help minimise the impact upon our environment. good intensity. It has fast, accurate and Accordingly when Australia’s National Institute of Dramatic Art (NIDA) was quiet movement too.” looking for new moving fixtures for their inventory they looked for a greener As well as providing great output the option, deciding on some moving LED wash lights for student training. LED lights have low energy consumption

NIDA Students Go LED With Vari*Lite

and maintenance costs due to the long life LED source. The VLX employs seven replaceable custom 120 watt RGBW (Red, Green, Blue and White) LED chipsets to

Online extras! Call Jands on +61 2 9582 0909 for info on Vari*Lite’s products or scan or visit

deliver three times the efficacy of comparable wattage tungsten sources. Designed to last over 10,000 hours, the use of these high output LED’s means that not only is NIDA saving on their power bills but lamp replacement costs are a thing of the past. Additionally, the VLX wash offers a continuously adjustable colour temperature and seamless colour mixing giving the designer a single source that can behave like familiar arc or tungsten luminaires when required. Stage Whispers 43

Stage Heritage

The Redhead who Electrified the Australian Stage

introduced to western society. It reached Australia in late 1913 and almost simultaneously, a young music hall artist called Daisy Jerome arrived in the country. When Daisy landed in Adelaide that year she was dripping with jewels and carried a scent of the scandalous. The American born, but English raised, comedienne was a small woman of slight build with a head topped with a mop of long carroty red hair. She had a sparkling, wicked sense of humour and a vibrant manner. According to census records she was born Daisy Witkowski in 1886 in New York. According to Daisy, she was brought up in a multilingual household, which had been visited by Abraham Lincoln, McKinley and Roosevelt. Her Australia has a controversial redhead as father suffered a financial disaster and its leader. Just on a century ago it was a when she was six the family moved to redhead on stage, with a famous wicked England. There she played the Palace and wink, who set tongues wagging. Leann toured the provinces with a comedic Richards reports on the scandalous life singing and quick-change turn. She and times of Daisy Jerome. acted in pantomime in Manchester and In 1913 fashions and attitudes were toured the continent. Her performances were slightly cheeky, but very popular. changing quickly. Early that year suffragettes marched in the US and later The contrast between the slightly built, the shocking Argentine tango was

Stage Whispers Books Visit our on-line book shop for back issues and stage craft books 44 Stage Whispers May - June 2012

dainty Daisy and the content of her songs was a major part of her appeal. Daisy was a feisty product of a system which required toughness, cunning, and an independent spirit. She had deserted her first husband, Mr Fowler, a year after their marriage to live with a Mr Allen. During the divorce proceedings, Mr Fowler suggested that the presence of his mother-in-law had destroyed the marriage. In 1910 Daisy sued a journalist for libel. The reporter accused Daisy of performing encores when the audience had made no request for them. Daisy maintained that this damaged her professional reputation. The proceedings were farcical. Daisy’s song, ‘A little pat of butter’, a ditty of dubious meaning which included a disparaging verse about Neville Chamberlain, was ridiculed by the defence and Daisy was reduced to tears in the witness box. However, she won the case and was awarded the grand sum of a farthing for her trouble. It was this unconventional vibrant personality that arrived in Australia in the scandalous year of 1913. Her bright red hair and aura of naughtiness made her a focus of press attention during her three-year tour. She was under contract to J C Williamson and earning the large sum of 150 pounds a week. Her first appearance was in Sydney as one of the stars of Australia’s first revue, Come Over Here. The critics panned the show, however Sydney’s reviewers enjoyed Daisy’s part in the show. The contrast between her delicate ladylike frame and the raucous vulgarity of her comic songs presented in a hoarse sensual voice shocked audiences, and journalists firmly declared that Daisy was ‘an acquired taste.’ Daisy agreed with this assessment. She later said that the audiences were cold. It may have been her bright red hair, the quick changes of costume or the famous wicked wink that shocked them. However, she eventually charmed the sceptics and by the time the show arrived in Melbourne, she was warmly welcomed and christened with the nickname ‘The electric spark.’

Her red hair was a source of gossip and speculation. Daisy assured audiences and press that it was her natural colour, but few believed her. It was such a source of controversy that a comedian Jack Cannot used it as a gag. In Melbourne, he informed Daisy that a gentleman had taken offence to her hair. Daisy was indignant, but the Australian comedian declared that the offended gentleman would visit her that night. The comedian then rang the local fire brigade and spoke to the superintendent. He told him that there was a grave risk of fire during Miss Daisy Jerome’s turn on stage that night. Superintendent Lee was worried and agreed to visit the theatre to assess the fire risk. Upon meeting Daisy, Mr Lee immediately sensed the problem and the joke. ‘I agree, there is a danger of fire,’ he said ‘The scenery should be fireproofed at once.’ Red hair was a source of superstition and had long been associated with bad tempers and scandalous sexuality. When combined with a theatrical profession and a music hall background it was even more outrageous. Daisy’s stage persona capitalised on the evil reputation of red heads, but she also sought to maintain some respectability by insisting her carrot top was natural, not dyed. After her contract with Williamson lapsed, Daisy was offered another large

the church to the power of women, with women declared the most important and influential. Daisy was a modern lady and held opinions which were regarded as unconventional. In Adelaide in 1914 she told an interviewer, ‘I refuse to regulate my acts to accepted rules of conduct.’ Independent minded, Daisy was happy to pay for herself rather than rely on a man. She thought the fact that she earned more than most men meant that she should pay her own ‘whack.’ Her statements to the press were unusual for the period, but Daisy’s popularity with audiences did not fail and she had a successful tour of the major cities of Australia and New Zealand. Daisy also toured regional centres of Australia and visited mining towns in Queensland and New South Wales. In Brisbane she performed for visitors and for prisoners, and everywhere she participated in benefits for the war effort. Daisy left Australia in 1916 but contract for vaudeville by another returned in 1922 for another successful producer. This gave Daisy the and dramatic tour. There was a opportunity to showcase the naughty scandalous court case involving missing songs that were her specialty. jewels and a new husband with an In Brisbane in October 1914 she exotic French name. She stayed sang, ‘When you go to the seaside’ and unconventional and cheeky, but her two of her signature tunes, ‘Row Row style faded from popularity with the Row’ and the pro-female ‘The Press, the advent of film and shortly afterwards Pulpit and the Petticoat’. The last she disappeared into the shadows of compared the powers of the media and history.

Stage Whispers acknowledges the sponsorship by the Seaborn, Broughton & Walford Foundation, a charitable trust founded and funded in 1986 by the late Dr Rodney Seaborn AO OBE to benefit the performing arts in Australia. The Foundation has saved and restored the Stables Theatre in Sydney for the Griffin Theatre Company, restored the Independent Theatre with the help of community volunteers, funded the Rodney Seaborn Library at NIDA, inaugurated the annual Rodney Seaborn Playwrights Award, funded many exciting theatrical projects and established the SBW Archival Collection to preserve Australian theatre history. This is a valuable resource for students, researchers, writers, teachers, producers and designers. Visit the SBW website Consider joining SBW Foundation Friends. Call (02) 99555444. Take advantage of best seats at many current shows and/or making a tax-deductible donation to enable the Foundation to continue its vital work supporting the performing arts and preserving Australian theatre history. Stage Whispers 45

On Stage ACT Titanic the Musical by Maury Yeston and Peter Stone. SUPA Productions. Until May 5. ANU Arts Centre. (02) 6257 1950. (02) 6257 2718 (Dinner and show). Speaking in Tongues by Andrew Bovell. Canberra Repertory. May 4 – 19. Theatre 3. (02) 6257 1950. First Seen: Two Plays (World Premiere) by Cathy Petocz. The Street Theatre, Canberra. May 6. (02) 6247 1223. The Long March written and acted by Henry Rollins, The Street Theatre, Canberra. May 6. (02) 6247 1223. Biddies by Don Reid. A CDP Production. The Street Theatre, Childers. May 8 – 11. Street Canberra. (02) 6247 1223. Me Right Now. QL2 Dance. May 9 – 12. The Playhouse. (02) 62752700.

46 Stage Whispers

A.C.T. & New South Wales

Carmen by Bizet. Melbourne Opera. May 12. The Canberra Theatre. (02) 62752700 The Court of King Swing Caractacus by Andrew Hackwill. Domenic Mico. May 15 - 26. Tuggeranong Arts Centre. (02) 6293 1443. I Love You Bro by Adam J A Cass. May 15 – 26. The Street Theatre, Canberra. (02) 6247 1223. Macbeth by William Shakespeare. Bell Shakespeare. May 18 – June 2. The Playhouse, Canberra Theatre Centre. Sesame Street Presents Elmo’s World Tour. May 18 & 19. Canberra Theatre. (02) 62752700. 120 Birds by Liz Lea. A Made in Canberra Production. May 19 & 20. The Street Theatre, Canberra. (02) 6247 1223. Pearl Versus the World by Sally Murphy. Jigsaw Theatre Company. The Courtyard

Studio, Canberra Theatre. May 19 – Jun 2. (02) 62752700 An Inspector Calls by J. B. Priestley. Tempo Theatre Inc. May 25 – Jun 2. Theatre at BCS (Belconnen Theatre). (02) 6275 2700. Brecht: Bilbao and Beyond by John Muirhead and Chuck Mallett. Jun 1 – 3. The Street Theatre, Canberra. (02) 6247 1223. Fast + Fresh. Short play competition for the under 18s. Jun 5 – 9. Courtyard Theatre, Canberra Theatre. (02) 62752700 Iolanthe by Gilbert and Sullivan. Queanbeyan Players. June 8 – 23. The Q (Queanbeyan Performing Arts Centre). (02) 6285 6290 The Underground Ark by Bruce Hoogendoorn. The Courtyard Studio, Canberra Theatre. Jun 13 – 23. (02) 62752700. Angela’s Kitchen by Paul Capsis & Julian Meyrick. Jun 13 – 22.

The Street Theatre, Childers Street Canberra. (02) 6247 1223. The Venetian Twins by Nick Enright and Terrence Clarke. Canberra Repertory. Jun 22 - Jul 7. Theatre 3. (02) 6257 1950. Pirates of the Curry Bean. Pied Piper Productions. Jun 20 - 23. (02) 6286 9122 Piazzolla Tango. Dancers Jairo Sanchez Rivera and Amy Teuchert, poetry by Geoff Page. June 23. The Street Theatre, Canberra. (02) 6247 1223. The Piano Diary by Joanna Weinberg. Jun 29 - 30. Tuggeranong Arts Centre. NSW Les Liaisons Dangereuses by Christopher Hampton, from the novel by Choderlos De Laclos. Sydney Theatre Company. Until Jun 10. Wharf 1 Theatre. 9250 1777. The Story of Mary Maclane by Herself by Bojana Novakovic after the writings of Mary

Just $40 a month to reach thousands of theatre goers. Contact Stage Whispers for details.

On Stage MacLane. Griffin Theatre Company. Until May 12, SBW Stables Theatre, (02) 9361 3817; May 15 – 19, Gordon Theatre, IPAC. (02) 4224 5999. Seussical: The Musical by Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens. Young People’s Theatre. Until May 26. Young People’s Theatre, Hamilton (Newcastle). (02) 4961 4895. Crown Matrimonial by Royce Ryton. Genesian Theatre. Until May 12. (02) 8019 0276 Beyond the Veil (Three One Act Plays). Picton Theatre Group. Until May 12. Shire Hall, Picton. (02) 4677 8313. Secret Bridesmaids Business by Elizabeth Coleman. Henry Lawson Theatre, Werrington. Until May 11. (02) 4729 1555 (9-5). Two Weeks with the Queen. Adapted by Mary Morris, from the novel by Morris Gleitzman. Roo Theatre Company, Shellharbour. Until May 12. (02) 4297 2891.

Food by Kate Champion. Belvoir / Force Majeure. Until May 20. Belvoir Street Downstairs Theatre. (02) 9699 3444. Morning Sacrifice by Dymphna Cusack. Pymble Players. May 2 – 26. 1300 306 776 Mame. Book by Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee, music and lyrics by Jerry Herman. Orange Theatre Company. May 4 – 13. Orange Civic Theatre. 02 6393 8111. Miss Saigon by Alain Boublil & Claude-Michel Schonberg. Chatswood Musical Society. May 4 – 12. The Concourse Chatswood. 1300 79 50 12. Reasons to be Pretty by Neil LaBute. Darlinghurst Theatre Company. May 4 – June 3. Darlinghurst Theatre. (02) 8356 9987 Blood Brothers by Willy Russell. NUCMS. May 4 - 19. Normanhurst Uniting Church.

New South Wales Come Back To The Five And Dime Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean by Ed Gracyzk. Guild Theatre, Rockdale. May 4 - Jun 2. (02) 9521 6358. The Elephant Man by Bernard Pomerance. Glenbrook Players. May 4 – 12. Glenbrook Theatre. 4739110. Sense and Sensibility adapted by Pamela Whalan from Jane Austen’s novel. Blank Page Theatre. May 4 - 20. DAPA Theatre, Hamilton (Newcastle). (02) 4926 1517. Dad’s Army by David Croft. Wollongong Theatre Workshop. May 4 – 26. Strange Interlude by Eugene O’Neill. Belvoir. May 5 – Jun 17. Belvoir Street Theatre. 9699 3444. Don’t Dress For Dinner by Marc Camoletti. Richmond Players. May 5 – 19. Richmond School of Arts. 9671 7249. Sweet Charity by Cy Coleman, Dorothy Fields and Neil Simon. Coffs Harbour Musical Comedy

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Company. May 5 – 27. Jetty Memorial Theatre, Coffs Harbour. (02) 6652 8088. Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat by Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber. Engadine Musical Society. May 9 – 13. Sutherland Entertainment Centre. 1300 616 063. Grounded by Alana Valentine (world premiere). Tantrum Theatre and Australian Theatre for Young People. May 9 – 19, Civic Playhouse, Newcastle, (02) 4929 1977 and May 30 – June 2, Australian Theatre for Young People, Walsh Bay, (02) 9270 2400. An Officer and a Gentleman The Musical by Douglas Day Stewart, Sharleen Cooper Cohen, Ken Hirsch and Robin Lerner. Previews from May 10. Premiere May 18. Lyric Theatre, The Star. 1300 795 267. Let the Sunshine by David Williamson. Christine Harris and HIT Productions. May 10 – 12,

Stage Whispers 47

On Stage Civic Theatre, Newcastle, (02) 4929 1977; May 15, Cessnock Performing Arts Centre, (02) 4990 7134; May 17, Laycock Street Theatre, Gosford, (02) 4323 3233. Me and My Girl by Douglas Furber, L. Arthur Rose and Noel Gay. Dural Musical Society. May 11 – 26. Soldiers Memorial Hall, Dural. 1300 306 776. The Elephant Man by Bernard Pomerance. Adenau. May 11 – 19. Factory Theatre, Adamstown (Newcastle). (02) 4929 1977. The Unexpected Guest by Agatha Christie. Campbelltown Theatre Group. May 11 – 26. Town Hall Theatre, Campbelltown. (02) 4628 5287. Shout! The Legend of the Wild One by John-Michael Howson, David Mitchell, Melvyn Morrow. Tamworth Musical Society. May 11 - 26. A Comedy of Errors by William Shakespeare. Tantrum Theatre and Gloucester Shakespeare

48 Stage Whispers

New South Wales

Festival. May 11 – 12. Soldiers Club Auditorium, Gloucester. (02) 6558 1408. Angela’s Kitchen by Paul Capsis and Julian Meyrick (with associate writer Hilary Bell). Griffin Theatre Company. May 15 – Jun 9. SBW Stables Theatre. (02) 9361 3817. Sweet Charity by Cy Coleman, Dorothy Fields and Neil Simon. The Regals Musical Society. May 15 – 19. St George Auditorium, Kogarah. 0449 REGALS. Petticoat Pioneers by Maureen O’Brien (premiere). May 16 – 19. The Royal Exchange, Newcastle. (02) 4929 4969. Crazy For You by Ken Ludwig, George and Ira Gershwin. Moonglow Productions. May 17 – 20. IPAC. 4224 5999. Travelling North by David Williamson. Spectrum Theatre Group. May 18 – 27. Twyford Hall, Merimbula. 0466312289. The Mikado by Gilbert and Sullivan. Holroyd Musical and

Dramatic Society. May 18 - 26. Redgum Centre, Merrylands. 0439 733 868 (B.H.). Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice. Strathfield Musical Society. May 18 – 26. The Latvian Theatre, 32 Parnell Street, Strathfield. (02) 96764601. Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett. Phoenix Theatre, Conniston. May 18 – June 2. The Mikado by W.S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan. Maitland Gilbert and Sullivan and Musical Society. May 18 – 27. Maitland Town Hall. (02) 4931 2800. My Fair Lady by Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe. EUCMS (Eastwood Uniting Church Musical Society). May 18 – June 2. Eastwood Uniting Church Hall, Lakeside Drive, Eastwood. Wrong Turn at Lungfish by Garry Marshall and Lowell Ganz. Hunters Hill Theatre. May 18 – June 2. 9879 7765. The Gondoliers by Gilbert & Sullivan. Berowra Musical Society. May 19 – 26. Berowra Community Centre. 02 9476 0051. Grease by Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey. Blue Mountains Musical Society. May 19 – Jun 3. (02) 8019 0283. The Pirates of Penzance by Gilbert and Sullivan (Broadway

version – as produced by Joseph Papp). Waverley Lugar Brae Players. May 19 – 26. The Coleman Auditorium, Bondi Junction. Under Milk Wood by Dylan Thomas. Sydney Theatre Company. May 22 – July 7. Drama Theatre, Sydney Opera House. 9250 1777 Men In Pink Tights. New York’s all-male dance troupe Les Ballets Eloelle. May 22. Laycock Street Theatre, Gosford, (02) 4323 3233; May 26, Civic Theatre, Newcastle. (02) 4929 1977; May 27, Cessnock Performing Arts Centre, (02) 4990 7134. Fawlty Towers by John Cleese and Connie Booth. RAPA. May 24 – June 2. Concord RSL Theatre. 9440 0013. To Hellas and Back. A reworking by David Brown of plays by Euripides and Aeschylus. Company Clegg (Hunter TAFE 2nd year acting students). May 24 - 27. Civic Playhouse, Newcastle. (02) 4929 1977. Hairspray by Marc Shaiman, Scott Wittman, Mark O’Donnell & Thomas Meehan. Rockdale Musical Society and Canterbury Theatre Guild. May 25 – June 2. Canterbury Hurlstone Park RSL. 9559 0000. Murder in the House of Horrors by Billy St. John. Stanwell Park

Just $40 a month to reach thousands of theatre goers. Contact Stage Whispers for details.

On Stage

New South Wales

Online extras! To discover Biddies tour dates near you, just scan the QR code or visit for all the details.

Donna Lee, Maggie Blinco, Linden Wilkinson, Judy Hudspeth and Annie Byron in Biddies by Don Reid. Touring Nationally until September. Photo: Nicholas Higgins.

Arts Theatre. May 25 – June 2. CWA Hall Stanwell Park. Great Expectations by Charles Dickens. Genesian Theatre. May 25 – Jun 30. (02) 8019 0276. Spring Awakening by Steven Sater and Duncan Sheik. Hunter Region Drama School. May 30 June 9. Civic Playhouse, Newcastle. (02) 4929 1977. The Boy From Oz by Peter Allen. Book by Nick Enright. Albatross Musical Theatre. June 1 – 10. Shoalhaven Entertainment Centre. 1300 788 503. Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare. Castle Hill Players. June 1 – 23. Pavilion Theatre, Castle Hill. (02) 9634 2929. Calamity Jane by Sammy Fain and Paul Francis Webster, adapted by Phil Park and Ronald Hanmer. Wyong Musical Theatre Company. June 1 – 9. Wyong Memorial Hall, Anzac Avenue Wyong. 1300 366 470.

Seussical Jr by Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens. Bankstown Theatre Company Young Performers. June 1 – 10, Bankstown Arts Centre, 9676 1191; July 6 – 14, Zenith Theatre, Chatswood, 9777 7555. Godspell by John-Michael Tebelak and Stephen Schwartz. Theatre on Brunker. June 1 - 23. Theatre on Brunker, Adamstown (Newcastle). (02) 4956 1263. Pack Of Lies by Hugh Whitemore. Nowra Payers. June 2 - 16. Players Theatre, Meroo Street, Bomaderry. 1300662808. Charcoal Creek by Marcel Dorney. Merrigong Theatre. June 5 – 16. Gordon Theatre, IPAC. (02) 4224 5999. Old Man by Matt Whittet. Belvoir. Jun 7 – Jul 1. Belvoir Street Downstairs Theatre. (02) 9699 3444.

The Unspeakable Itch by Kate Smith and Drew Fairly. Darlinghurst Theatre Company. June 8 – Jul 8. Darlinghurst Theatre. (02) 8356 9987 Iolanthe by Gilbert and Sullivan. Queanbeyan Players. June 8 – 23. The Q (Queanbeyan). (02) 6285 6290. One Act Play Festival. Players Theatre, Port Macquarie. Jun 8 – 10. (02) 6584 6663. Back on the Boyle by Martin Boyle. Cootamundra Amateur Dramatic Arts Society. June 14 – 16. Seven new 10 minute plays by local playwright. The Shed Theatre, Cootamundra Arts Centre. (02) 69436252. The Histrionic by Thomas Bernhard, translated by Tom Wright. Sydney Theatre Company. Jun 15 – July 28. Wharf 1 Theatre. Thom Pain (Based on Nothing) by Will Eno. Stooged Theatre.

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June 15 - 16. Civic Playhouse, Newcastle. (02) 4929 1977. Chicago by Kander and Ebb. Ballina Players. Jun 15 – Jul 7. 6686 2440 (bh) Biddies by Don Reid. Christine Dunstan Productions and Steady Lads. June 15, NORPA, Lismore, 1300 066 742; June 19 & 20, The Glasshouse, Port Macquarie, 6581 8888; June 23, Manning Entertainment Centre, Taree, 6592 5466; June 26 & 27, Jetty Memorial Theatre, Coffs Harbour, (02) 6652 8088; June 29 & 30, Capitol Theatre, Tamworth, (02) 6767 5300. Murder, Mystery and Merriment (3 One Act Plays by various authors). Cooma Little Theatre Inc. June 15 - 30. Book at Cooma Visitors Centre. (02 6455 1745. Downtown the mod musical by Phillip George, David Lowenstein and Peter Charles Morris. Parkes Musical and Stage Whispers 49

On Stage Dramatic Society. June 15 – 30. Little Theatre, Parkes. (02) 6862 6854. Dusty - The Original Pop Diva by John-Michael Howson, David Mitchell, Melvyn Morrow. Singleton Theatrical Society. June 15 – 30. Singleton Civic Centre. 02 6571 2862. Eurobeat – Almost Eurovision by Craig Christie and Andre Patterson. The Hills Musical Society. June 15 – 23. Don Moore Community Centre. 8004 2966. The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe adapted by Glyn Robbins from the novel by C.S. Lewis. Maitland Junior Repertory. June 15 - July 1. Maitland Repertory Theatre. (02) 4931 2800. Pippin by Roger O Hirson and Stephen Schwartz. Miranda Musical Society. June 15 – 24. Sutherland Memorial School of Arts. 8814 5827 Company by Stephen Sondheim and George Furth. Arcadians Theatre Group. June 15 – 30. The Arcadians’ Miners Lamp Theatre. 4284 8348. Hotel Sorrento by Hannie Rayson. Newcastle Theatre Company. June 16 - 30. NTC Theatre, Lambton (Newcastle). (02) 4952 4958. Porn.Cake by Vanessa Bates. Griffin Independent. June 20 –

50 Stage Whispers

New South Wales & Qeensland

July 14. SBW Stables Theatre. (02) 9361 3817. Skylight by David Hare. Ensemble Theatre. From June 21. (02) 9929 0644 Peter Pan by Peter Denyer and Barrie Bignold. Roo Theatre, Shellharbour. June 21 - 23. (02) 4297 2891. Central Coast Theatrefest. Wyong Drama Group. June 22 – 24. Wyong Memorial Hall. Tickets available at the door. Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller. Belvoir. Jun 23 – Aug 12. Belvoir Street Theatre. 9699 3444. Accidental Death of an Anarchist by Dario Fo. Epicentre. June 24 – July 2. Zenith Theatre, Chatswood. 9777 7547. Say a Little Prayer – The Songs of Burt Bacharach. Willoughby Theatre Company. June 24 – 26. Chatswood RSL. 90206968. The Bugalugs Bum Thief adapted by Eva Di Cesare, Tim McGarry and Sandra Eldridge from Tim Winton’s children’s book. Monkey Baa. June 25 27. Civic Theatre, Newcastle. (02) 4929 1977. Menopause the Musical by Jeanie Linders. Christine Harris and HIT Productions. June 27. Cessnock Performing Arts Centre. (02) 4990 7134.

On Golden Pond by Ernest Thompson. Henry Lawson Theatre, Werrington. June 29 – July 20. (02) 4729 1555 (9-5). The Mousetrap by Agatha Christie. From June 30. Sydney Theatre. (02) 9250 1999. Queensland The Never Ending Story by Michael Ende, adapted by Tim O’Connor. Harvest Rain. Until May 12. Cremorne Theatre, QPAC. 136 246. Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare. QTC. Until May 13. Playhouse, QPAC. 136 246 Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead by Tom Stoppard. Arts Theatre, Brisbane. Until May 26. 3369 2344. Pinocchio by Sue & Arch Dyer, Arts Theatre, Brisbane. Until June 16. 3369 2344 Perve by Stacey Gregg. Centenary Theatre Group. May 5 – 26. Chelmer, Brisbane. 0435591720 A Hoax by Rick Viede. La Boite/ Griffin Theatre Co. May 10 – 26. Roundhouse Theatre. 3007 8600. Shock – A Thriller by Brian Clemens. Tugun Theatre Company. May 10 – 26. Tugun Community Centre. 5522 4740 Sherlock Holmes – An Elementary Exploration of Friendship. Caloundra Chorale

and Theatre Group. May 11 – 27. CCTG Theatre. 5491 4937. Running Up a Dress by Suzanne Spunner. Javeenbah Theatre. May 11 – 26. 5596 0300. The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare. Nash Theatre. May 12 – June 2. Merthyr Road Uniting Church. 3379 4775 Biddies by Don Reid. Christine Dunstan Productions and Steady Lads. May 15, Ipswich Civic Theatre, (07) 3810 6100; May 18 & 19, Gardens Theatre, 3138 4456; May 22 & 23, Cairns Civic Theatre, 300 855 835; May 25 & 26, Townsville Civic Theatre, 4727 9797; May 29, Mackay Entertainment Convention Centre, 4961 9777; May 31, Gladstone Entertainment Centre, 4972 2822; June 2, Pilbeam Theatre, Rockhampton, 4927 4111; June 6, Nambour Civic Centre, 54757777; June 8 & 9, Redland Performing Arts Centre, 3829 8131; June 12, Empire Theatre, Toowoomba, 1300 655 299. Songs for Nobodies by Joanna Murray-Smith Duet & MTC. May 16 – 27. Cremorne Theatre, QPAC. 136 246 West Side Story by Leonard Bernstein & Stephen Sondheim. SQUIDS. May 17 – 20. Redcliffe Cultural Centre. 3283 0407

Just $40 a month to reach thousands of theatre goers. Contact Stage Whispers for details.

On Stage Blood Brothers by Willy Russell. Spotlight Theatrical Company. May 18 – June 9. Spotlight Theatre, Benowa. (07) 5539 4255. Don Quixote by Cervantes. Queensland Ballet. May 19 – June 2. Playhouse, QPAC. 136 246 Hopelessly Devoted by Elise Grieg. EG Production. May 24 – 26. The Space, Gold Coast Arts Centre. 5588 4000 The Edythe Brooke-Cooper Playwriting Competition. BATS Theatre Company Inc. May 25 – June 2. The Buderim War Memorial Hall. 5445 2515. Night Train to Terror. Independent Theatre at Eumundi. May 25 – June 2. 5472 8200. The Magic Flute by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Opera Australia. May 26 – June 8. Lyric Theatre, QPAC. 136 246

Elizabeth by Dario Fo. QTC. May 26 – June 24. Powerhouse Theatre. 1-800-355-528 A Midsummer Night’s Dream by Benjamin Britten. Opera Australia. Lyric Theatre, QPAC. June 1 – 9. 136 246 Picasso at the Lapin Agile by Steve Martin. Villanova Players. The Theatre, Morningside TAFE. June 1 – 16. (07) 3899 9962. Avenue Q by Robert Lopez & Jeff Marx. Arts Theatre, Brisbane. June 2 – July 14. 3369 2344 Miss Saigon by Alain Boublil & Claude-Michel Schonberg. Savoyards. June 2 – 23. Iona Performing Arts Centre. 3893 4321 The Truth About Kookaburras by Sven Swenson, La Boite/ Pentimento Productions. June 6 – 23. Roundhouse Theatre. 3007 8600 Oliver! by Lionel Bart. Queensland Musical Theatre. June 6 – 11. Schonell Theatre.

Queensland Blackrock by Nick Enright. Empire Youth Arts IMPACT. June 7 – 10. Empire Theatre Studio, Toowoomba. 1300 655 299. Let the Sunshine by David Williamson. Christine Harris/HIT Productions. June 8, Gold Coast Arts Centre, (07) 5588 4000; June 15 & 16, Gardens Theatre, 3138 4456; June 18, Logan Entertainment Centre, (07) 3412 5626; June 20, Gladstone Entertainment Centre, (07) 4972 2822; June 23, Proserpine and Whitsunday Entertainment Centre, (07) 4945 2312. Boy Girl Wall. The Escapists / Critical Stages. June 15 & 16, Ipswich Civic Centre; June 20 – 23, Gold Coast Arts Centre, (07) 5588 4000; June 26, Boonah Cultural Centre; June 30, Nambour Civic Centre. Festival of One Act Plays. Townsville Civic Theatre. June 16 & 17. (07) 4723 7879. The Last Five Years by Jason Robert Brown. Ignatians.

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Schonell Theatre, Brisbane. June 18 – 24. 3371 2751 Hairspray by Marc Shaiman & Scott Wittman Harvest Rain. June 21 – July 1. Playhouse, QPAC. 136 246 Syncopation by Allan Knee. June 21 & 22, Riverway Arts Centre, Townsville; June 23, Mackay Entertainment Convention Centre, (07) 4961 9777; June 26, Gold Coast Arts Centre, (07) 5588 4000; June 28, Empire Theatre, Toowoomba, 1300 655 299; June 30, Logan Entertainment Centre. Narnia by Jules Tasca. Arts Theatre, Brisbane. June 23 – Aug 18. 3369 2344 I Only Came to Use the Phone by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. June 27 – July 14. La Boite/Netta Yashchin. Roundhouse Theatre. 3007 8600 Aladdin & His Magical Lamp by Kate Peters. Top Hat. June 27 – July 11. Spotlight Theatre, Benowa. (07) 5539 4255.

Stage Whispers 51

On Stage Victoria The Peppercorn Tree by Alison Campbell Rate. Peridot Theatre Inc. Until May 12. Unicorn Theatre, Mt Waverley. 1300 138 645 / (03) 9898 9090. Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? by Edward Albee. 1812 Theatre. Until May 5. (03) 9758 3964. Australia Day by Jonathan Biggins. Melbourne Theatre Company. Until May 26. Arts Centre Melbourne, Playhouse. (03) 8688 0800. The Who’s Tommy. UMMTA (University of Melbourne Music Theatre Association). Until May 5. Union Theatre, Melbourne University. 0406 330 825 Lock Up by Damien Richardson. Until May 13. La Mama Theatre. (03) 9347 6142. Black Box 149 by Rosemary Johns. Until May 13. La Mama Courthouse. (03) 9347 6142. Hamletmachine, adapted from Heiner Müller and William

52 Stage Whispers


Shakespeare’s text. Broken Mirror. Until May 12. Reviolt Productions. (03) 9376 2115. Far Away by Caryl Churchill. SaySIX Theatre & lil’artistes. Until May 13. fortyfivedownstairs. (03) 9662 9966. The Girls in Grey by Carolyn Bock and Helen Hopkins. The Shift Theatre. Until May 13. Theatre Works. (03) 9534 3388. Miracle Man by Pier Carthew and Nicola Gunn. May 2 - 13. La Mama Theatre. (03) 9347 6142. An Unseasonable Fall of Snow by Gary Henderson. Hoi Polloi. May 2 – 19. Mechanics Institute Performing Arts Centre, Brunswick. (03) 9005 6734. Looking Through a Glass Onion by John Waters. May 2 – 6. Chapel off Chapel. (03) 8290 7000. An Inspector Calls by J. B. Priestley. Heidelberg Theatre

Company. May 3 – 19. (03) 9457 4117. The Heiress by Ruth and Augustus Goetz, based on Washington Square by Henry James. Modialloc Theatre Co. Inc. May 4 – 19. Shirley Burke Theatre, Parkdale. (03) 95875141. A Murder is Announced, adapted Leslie Darbon from the book by Agatha Christie. Croydon Parish Players. May 4 – 12. Croydon Uniting Church. 0447 014 584. Sunset Boulevard by Don Black, Christopher Hampton and Andrew Lloyd Webber. CLOC Musical Productions. May 4 – 19. The National Theatre, St Kilda. 1300 362 547. Red Hot and Cole. Music and lyrics by Cole Porter. Williamstown Musical Theatre Company. May 4 – 19. 1300 881 545. Hairspray by Marc Shaiman, Scott Wittman, Mark O’Donnell

and Thomas Meehan. Geelong Lyric Theatre. May 4 – 12. Playhouse Theatre - Geelong Performing Arts Centre. (03) 5225 1200. On The Rocks. Vertical Shadows. May 9 - 12. Chapel off Chapel. (03) 8290 7000. All That I Will Ever Be by Alan Ball. May 9 - 20. Chapel off Chapel. (03) 8290 7000. Fawlty Towers: The Anniversary, The Psychiatrist and The Kipper and the Corpse by John Cleese and Connie Booth. Southern Peninsula Players. May 10 – 20. Rosebud Memorial Hall. (03) 5982 2777 / 5976 4494. Miss Saigon by Alain Boublil & Claude-Michel Schonberg. NOVA Music Theatre. May 11 – 26. The Whitehorse Centre. 1300 305 771. Disney’s My Son Pinocchio. Latrobe Theatre Company. May 11 – 20, Latrobe Performing Arts Centre; May 26 & 27, Esso

Just $40 a month to reach thousands of theatre goers. Contact Stage Whispers for details.

On Stage BHP Billiton Wellington Entertainment Centre. A Season of Ken Purdham Three plays in one evening. Gemco Players Community Theatre Inc. May 11 – 27. 0411 723 530. Oklahoma! by Rodgers and Hammerstein..BLOC Music Theatre. May 16 – 26. Her Majesty’s Theatre, Ballarat. Rabbit Hole by David LindsayAbaire. Torquay Theatre Troupe. May 17 – 26. (03) 52619035. Uncle Vanya by Anton Chekhov. Hotire Productions. May 16 – Jun 3. fortyfivedownstairs. (03) 9662 9966. Persona based on the film by Ingmar Bergman, translated by Keith Bradfield. Fraught Outfit. May 18 – 27. Theatre Works. (03) 9534 3388. Carmen - The Musical by Georges Bizet Adapted and Arranged by Bobbie Field. Book and Lyrics by David Badger. Warragul Theatre Company.

May 18 – 26. West Gippsland Arts Centre, Warragul. (03) 5624 2456. The Heretic by Richard Bean. Melbourne Theatre Company. May 12 – June 23. The MTC Theatre, Sumner. (03) 8688 0800. The Weather and Your Health by Bethany Simons and Daniel Mottau. May 15 - 27. La Mama Theatre. (03) 9347 6142. Quartet / The Razor by Heiner Müller, translated by Carl Weber. May 16 - 27. La Mama Courthouse. (03) 9347 6142. Rabbit Hole by David LindsayAbaire. Torquay Theatre Troupe. May 17 – 26. (03) 52619035. Footloose The Musical by Dean Pitchford. Mansfield Music & Drama Society. May 18 – 26. The Performing Arts Centre, Mansfield. 0413 740 069. Cosi by Louis Nowra. Mornington CEF Players Inc. May 18 – 27. Bellamy Hall, Mornington. (03) 5975 5904.

Victoria Table Manners by Alan Ayckbourn. Knox Theatre Company. May 18 – 26. Knox Community Arts Centre, Bayswater. (03) 9762 1901. Hitler: The Tragedy of Geli Raubal by Enzo Condello. May 20 – June 12. Trades Hall, Carlton. (03) 9650 5699. That Awkward Moment by Hannah Bird. The Fabulous Nobodys. May 23 – 26. Vermont Secondary College. 0402 179 731. Annie by Charles Strouse, Martin Charnin and Thomas Meehan. From May 24. Regent Theatre, Melbourne. 1300 111 011. Three Days of Rain by Richard Greenberg. Brighton Theatre Company (Vic). May 24 - Jun 9. Brighton Theatre Company, cnr Wilson and Carpenter Streets, Brighton. 1300 752 126. 12th Night by William Shakespeare. Moreland Theatre Co. Inc. May 24 – Jun 2. The Mechanics Institute, Brunswick. (03) 9387 1942. I Hate Hamlet by Paul Rudnick. 1812 Theatre. May 24 - Jun 16. (03) 9758 3964. Ten Minute Quickies. Eltham Little Theatre Inc. May 24 – 26. (03) 9437 1574. Busybody by Jack Popplewell. Werribee Theatre Company. May 25 – Jun 2.

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Oklahoma! by Rodgers and Hammerstein. Mount Players. May 25 – Jun 16. Mount View Theatre. 1300 463 224. M*A*S*H by Tim Kelly. Lilydale Athenæum Theatre Company Inc. May 30 – Jun 16. (03) 9735 1777. Reasons to Be Pretty by Neil La Bute. Square Peg Productions, in conjunction with Sassy Red Productions. May 30 to Jun 17. Theatre Works. (03) 9534 3388. Scrubbers by Cenarth Fox, directed by the playwright. STAG (Strathmore Theatre Arts Group). May 31 – Jun 9. Strathmore Community Hall. (03) 9382 6284. Anything Goes by Cole Porter. Wonthaggi Theatrical Group. May 28 – Jun 12. Wonthaggi Union Arts Centre. What is the Question? by Lloyd Jones. May 30 – Jun 10. La Mama Theatre. (03) 9347 6142. Robot Vs Art by Travis Cotton. May 30 – June 10. La Mama Courthouse. (03) 9347 6142. Oliver! by Lionel Bart. Swan Hill Theatre Group Co-op. Ltd. May 31 – Jun 16. 0438006274 / A.H 50329405. Moonshadow by Cat Stevens / Yusuf. From May 31. Princess Theatre, Melbourne. 1300 111 011.

Stage Whispers 53

On Stage

Victoria & Tasmania

The Glass Menagerie. State Theatre Company of SA. May 4 – 26. L-R Deidre Rubenstein (Amanda), Kate Cheel (Laura), Anthony Gooley (Tom) and Nic English (Jim). Photo: Matt Nettheim.

Online extras! Artistic Director Adam Cook discusses The Glass Menagerie. Scan or visit Oliver! by Lionel Bart. Babirra Music Theatre. Jun 1 – 10. The Whitehorse Centre. (03) 9262 6555. Busybody by Jack Popplewell. Werribee Theatre Company. Jun 1 – 9. Crossroads Uniting Church, Werribee. Squaring the Wheel. Jun 5 - 17. La Mama Courthouse. (03) 9347 6142. National Interest by Aidan Fennessy. Melbourne Theatre Company. Jun 6 – Jul 21. Arts Centre Melbourne, Fairfax Studio. (03) 8688 0800. Love and other Calamities: A season of one act plays presented by the Essendon Theatre Company. June 7 – 16. Bradshaw Street Community Hall, West Essendon. 0422 029 483. The Burlesque Hour: The Glory Box by Finucane & Smith. Jun 7

54 Stage Whispers

– Jul 1. fortyfivedownstairs. (03) 9662 9966. The Motherf**ker with the Hat by Stephen Adly Guirgis. Red Stitch Actors Theatre. Jun 8 – Jul 7. (03) 9533 8083. Tying Knots by Indigo Brandenberg. Jun 13 – Jul 1. La Mama Courthouse. (03) 9347 6142. One Act Play Festival – The Waiting Room by John Bowen and No Chocolates by Request by Chris Hodson. Peridot Theatre Inc. Jun 14 – 17. Unicorn Theatre, Mt Waverley. 1300 138 645 / (03) 9898 9090 (mobiles). My Three Angels by Sam and Bella Spewack. Mooroolbark Theatre Group. Jun 14 – 23. Mooroolbark Community Centre. (03) 9726 4282. Bugsy Malone by Alan Parker and Paul Williams. Catchment Players. Jun 15 – 17. Banyule

Theatre. Heidelberg. 0437 228 246. Next to Normal by Brian Yorkey and Tom Kitt. Fab Nobs. June 15 – 30. 0401 018 846. The Unstoppable, Unsung Story of Shaky M by Rowena Hutson & Felix Preval. Jun 20 – Jul 1. La Mama Theatre. (03) 9347 6142. Of Words and War by Nicola Germaine. Jun 20 – Jul 1. La Mama Courthouse. (03) 9347 6142. Himmelweg by Juan Mayorga. Red Room Theatre. Jun 21 – Jul 1. Theatre Works. (03) 9534 3388. An Evening with Chekhov’s Short Comedies by Anton Chekhov. Malvern Theatre Company Inc. Jun 22 – Jul 7. 1300 131 552. The Witches of Eastwick by John Dempsey and Dana P. Rowe. MLOC Productions. June 15 –

23. Phoenix Theatre, Elwood. Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare. Geelong Repertory Theatre Company. Jun 22 - Jul 7. Woodbin Theatre (03) 52 25 1200 God Of Carnage by Yasmina Reza. Williamstown Little Theatre. Jun 28 – Jul 14. (03) 9885 9678. Dick Whittington by Robert Pearce. GSODA Junior Players (Vic). Jun 22 – 30. Geelong Performing Arts Centre. (03) 5225 1200. Life and Beth by Alan Ayckbourn. Mordialloc Theatre Company. June 29 – July 14. Shirley Burke Theatre, Parkdale. (03) 95875141. Tasmania Sherlock Holmes. Based on the works of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Stephen Beckett

Just $40 a month to reach thousands of theatre goers. Contact Stage Whispers for details.

On Stage Productions. May 10 – 12. Earl Arts Centre. (03) 6323 3666. Identity. Tasdance. May 11. Burnie Arts and Function Centre. (03) 6430 5850. Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap. Hobart Repertory Theatre Society. May 25 – June 9. Playhouse Theatre. (03) 6234 5998. Moonah Foma. 2012 Uni Revue. Old Nick Theatre. Theatre Royal, Hobart, May 11 – 26, (03) 6233 2299; May 29 – June 2, Princess Theatre, Launceston (03) 6323 3666. Sleeping Horses Lie. Terrapin Puppet Theatre. June 4 & 5, Theatre Royal, Hobart; June 8, Burnie Arts and Function Centre, (03) 6430 5850; June 18, Earl Arts Centre, Launceston. (03) 6323 3666. The Land of Yes & The Land of No. Sydney Dance Company. June 15 & 16. Princess Theatre, Launceston. (03) 6323 3666. South Australia Kiss of the Spiderwoman by John Kander, Fred Ebb and Joe Masteroff. The Hills Musical Company. Until May 12. Stirling Community Centre. (08) 8339 3931 The Merry Widow by Franz Lehar. SALOS (SA Light Opera Society). May 3 – 6. Goodwood Institute. 82946582. Educating Rita by Willy Russell. Bakehouse Theatre Company. May 3 – 19. Bakehouse Theatre. The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams. State Theatre Company of SA. May 4 – 26. Dunstan Playhouse. 131 246. Namatjira by Scott Rankin. A Big hART production, created with the Namatjira family. May 4 – 12. Her Majesty’s Theatre, Adelaide. 131 246. South Pacific by Rodgers and Hammerstein. The Metropolitan Musical Theatre Company of South Australia (The Met). May 10 – 19. (08) 8264 3225. 13 – A New Musical by Jason Robert Brown and Dan Elish.

Tasmania, South Australia & Western Australia

Adelaide Youth Theatre. May 10 – 12. Star Theatre. 131 246. The Sound of Music by Rodgers and Hammerstein. South Coast Choral and Arts Society. May 11 – 19. Victor Harbour Town Hall. (08) 8552 2021. Land & Sea by Nicki Bloom. Brink Productions. May 12 – 26. Queen’s Theatre. 131 246. The Gingerbread Lady by Neil Simon. Galleon Theatre Group. May 17 – 26. Domain Theatre,
 Marion Cultural Centre, Oaklands Park. (08) 70073842. Pardon Me Prime Minister by Edward Taylor & John Graham. Daw Park Players. May 17 – 26. SPF Hall, Repatriation Hospital, Daw Park. (08) 8276 6617. Crazy Capers, Dodgy Deals by Chris Goy with additional material by Dave Ross. Blackwood Players Inc. May 18 – June 1. Blackwood 21. 1300 658 522. Cash on Delivery by Ray Cooney. Tea Tree Players. May 23 – June 10. Tea Tree Players Theatre. 82895266. A Chorus Line by Michael Bennett & Marvin Hamlisch. Marie Clarke Musical Theatre. May 25 – June 2. The Arts Theatre. 8251 3926. The Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum adapted by Frank Gabrielson. Therry Dramatic Society. Jun 6 – 16. The Arts Theatre, Adelaide. 8296 3477 (10 am to 5 pm weekdays). Adelaide Cabaret Festival. June 8 – 23. Adelaide Festival Centre. 131 246. The Cat’s Paw by Christine Croyden. Spotlight Theatre Company. June 21 – 30. The Studio at Holden Street Theatres. 0400 579 530. Don’s Party by David Williamson. Adelaide Repertory Theatre. June 21 – 30. The Arts Theatre, Adelaide. 8212 5777. Western Australia The Last of the Red Hot Lovers by Neil Simon Kwinana Theatre Workshop. Until May 6. Koorliny Arts Centre, Kwinana. 9467 7118.

A Light Shining on Buckinghamshire by Caryl Churchill. Garrick Theatre. Until May 5. Set during England’s civil war. Garrick Theatre, Guildford. 9378 1990. John Gavin by Nick Candy, Dawn Pascoe and Steven Finnegan. Nick Candy and Natural Wings. Until May 5. World Premiere WA Play. The Blue Room, Northbridge. 9227 7005. Skin by Humphrey Bower. Night Train. Until May 12. Two tales of transformation. The Blue Room, Northbridge. 9227 7005. Red Sails In the Sunset. Tivoli Club of WA. Until Jun 10. Singing, dancing and comedy. Tivoli Club of WA, Applecross. 9364 5463. Hobson’s Choice by Harold Brighouse. Playlovers. Until May 12. Classic North Country period comedy. Hackett Hall, Floreat. 0415 777 173. 2012 Maj Monologue Competition. Brainbox Project. May 2-5. Leading Actors perform winning monologues. Downstairs at the Maj, His Majesty’s Theatre, Perth. BOCS 9484 1133. Emma by Jane Austen adapted by Vanessa Jenson. Melville Theatre Company. May 4-9. New adaptation of classic novel. Roy Edinger Theatre, Melville. 9330 4565. A Fish Out of Water by Derek Benfield. Endeavour Theatre. May 4-12. Set on the Italian Riviera. Hamersley Apex Hall, North Beach. BOCS 9484 1133. Jesus Christ Superstar by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice. Albany Light Opera and Theatre. May 4 – 26. Albany Port Theatre, Albany. BOCS 9484 1133. National Interest by Aiden Fennessy. Black Swan State Theatre Company and Melbourne Theatre Company. May 5-20. World Premiere starring Julia Blake. Heath Ledger Theatre in the State Theatre Centre, Perth. BOCS 9484 1133.

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Superdub vs The Vampires by Werzel and Robinson. Perth International Comedy Festival. May 8. Astor Theatre, Mt Lawley. BOCS 9484 1133. Parramatta Girls by Alana Valentine, Old Mill Theatre. May 11-26. Testimony of the inmates of Parramatta Girls’ Training School. Old Mill Theatre, South Perth. 9367 8719. All for One by Kevin Houston and John Trent Wallace. Murray Music and Drama. May 11-26. Combines The Three Musketeers and Man in the Iron Mask. Pinjarra Town Hall. 0458 046 414. Diamonds. Created by John Cranko and Barry Moreland. West Australian Ballet. May 1125. Triple bill of French titles. His Majesty’s Theatre, Perth. BOCS 9484 1133. Culpeper Code by Stephan Jean De Jonghe. KADS. May 11 – Jun 2. World Premiere about time travel. Town Square Theatre, Kalamunda. 9293 1412. Trial by Jury by Gilbert and Sullivan. Phoenix Theatre. May 11-20. Phoenix Theatre & Supreme Court Gardens at the Medieval Fayre. BOCS 9484 1133. Face to Face by David Williamson. Stirling Players. May 11-26. Australian play on WA Drama curriculum. Stirling Theatre, Innaloo. 9440 1040. I (Honestly) Love You by Damon Lockwood. Damon Lockwood Presents. May 15-Jun 2. World Premiere by award winning playwright. The Blue Room, Northbridge. 9227 7005. Superdub vs The The Aliens by Werzel and Robinson. Perth International Comedy Festival. May 15. Astor Theatre, Mt Lawley. BOCS 9484 1133. The Magic Hour by the Brothers Grimm. Deckchair Theatre Company. May 17– Jun 3. Stars Ursula Yovich. Victoria Hall, Fremantle. BOCS 9484 1133. Minefields and Miniskirts by Terrence McConnel. Harbour Stage Whispers 55

On Stage Theatre. May 18 – Jun 2. Women’s memories of the Vietnam War. Harbour Theatre, Port Cineaste Building, Fremantle. BOCS 9484 1133. Blood Brothers by Willy Russell. Bunbury Musical Comedy Group. May 18-27. Story of separated twins. New Lyric Theatre, Bunbury. 1300 661 272. Sammy J and Randy: The Inheritance by Sammy J. and Heath McIvor. Comedy Creatives Inc. and Laughing Stock Productions. May 18-19. Best Show 2010 Melbourne Comedy Festival. Astor Theatre, Mt Lawley. BOCS 9484 1133. Menopause the Musical by Jeannie Linders. HIT Productions. May 21. Don Russell Performing Arts Centre, Thornlie. 9493 4577. Les Affreux by Wade K. Savage. Spectre Theatre Company. May 22-Jun 9. World Premiere. The Blue Room, Northbridge. 9227 7005. Morning Melodies by Rodgers and Hammerstein. Older Women’s Network Theatre Group. May 23. Don Russell Performing Arts Centre, Thornlie. 9493 4577. Yes, Prime Minister by Antony Jay and Johnathon Lynn. Andrew Guild, Simon Bryce and Tim Woods. May 31-Jun 6. From the BBC series starring Phillip Quast. His Majesty’s Theatre, Perth. BOCS 9484 1133. The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas by Larry L. King, Peter Masterton and Carol Hall. Wanneroo Repertory. Jun 7-23. Limelight Theatre, Wanneroo. 9571 8591. AIDA by Tim Rice and Elton John. Darlington Theatre Players. Jun 8 – Jul 7. Rock Opera. Marloo Theatre, Greenmount. 9255 1783. Musicals In Concert with Lucy Durack and Friends.Australian Performing Arts Network. Jun 10. Features Lucy Durack and

56 Stage Whispers

Western Australia & New Zealand

cast of over 200. Perth Concert Hall. BOCS 9484 1133. Hello My Name Is by Nicola Gunn. Nicola Gunn in association with Theatreworks. Jun 12-30. Subversive humour, World Premiere. The Blue Room, Northbridge. 9227 7005. Chicago. Music by John Kander, lyrics by Fred Ebb, book by Fred Ebb and Bob Fosse. Goldfields Repertory Club. Jun 14-30. Brookman Street Theatre, Kalgoorlie. 9088 6900. Deathtrap by Ira Levin. Garrick Theatre. Jun 15 – Jul 7. Twisted comedy thriller. Garrick Theatre, Guildford. 9378 1990. Fragile. Choreographed by Cadi McCarthy. Buzz Dance Theatre. Jun 16-20. Aimed at school years 3-9. Dolphin Theatre, University of Western Australia, Nedlands. 9226 2322. Black As Michael Jackson and Other Identity Monologues. Yirra Yaakin Theatre. Jun 19 – Jul 7. Celebration of identity, culture and theatre – Blackfella style. The Blue Room, Northbridge. 9227 7005. Opening Doors by Matthew Robinson. Cabaret Soiree. Jun 20-23. Features Lucy Durack and Matthew Robinson. Downstairs at the Maj, His Majesty’s Theatre, Perth. BOCS 9484 1133. Opera Concert by 2012 West Australian Opera Young Artists. Morning Melodies. Jun 20. Rising opera stars. His Majesty’s Theatre, Perth. BOCS 9484 1133. And Then There were None by Agatha Christie. Primadonna Productions. Jun 21-23. Murder mystery. Pinjarra Civic Centre. 0401 588 962 or 581 4583. The Beast and the Beauty by David Herbert. Old Mill Theatre. Jun 22-Jul 14. World Premiere set in outback Australia. Old Mill Theatre, South Perth. 9367 8719. Songs for Nobodies by Johanna Murray-Smith. Duet and Melbourne Theatre Company.

Jun 22-Jul 1. Written especially for performer Bernadette Robinson. Heath Ledger Theatre in the State Theatre Centre, Perth. BOCS 9484 1133 I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change by Joe DiPietro and Jimmy Roberts. Bunbury Musical Comedy Group. The New Lyric Theatre, Bunbury. June 22 – 24. 0427 095 972. King Lear by William Shakespeare. Class Act. Jun 26Jul 7. Subiaco Arts Centre. BOCS 9484 1133. Guy/Doll by Izaak Lim, Nick Maclaine and Andrew Williams. Cabaret Soiree. Jun 27-30. Bends gender and upends convention. Downstairs at the Maj, His Majesty’s Theatre, Perth. BOCS 9484 1133. The Chit Chat Club by Jane Golodova. Adhoc Musical Comedy Group. Jun 29-30. Set in a 1920s speakeasy. St Christopher’s Parish Church, Bicton. 0417095835. It’s Dark Outside by Tim Watts and Arielle Gray. Perth Theatre Company. Jun 29-July14. Puppetry, mask, mime and live performance, Studio Underground in the State Theatre Centre, Perth. BOCS 9484 1133. New Zealand Jersey Boys by Bob Gaudio, Bob Crewe, Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice. Civic Theatre Auckland. 0800 BUY TICKETS Dickens’ Women by Miriam Margolyes. May 2, Clarence St Theatre, Hamilton; May 4 - 6, Bruce Mason Centre, Takapuna; May 8 - 9, Theatre Royal, Nelson; May 12, Aurora Centre for the Performing Arts, Christchurch; May 15, Omaru Opera House; May 16, Regent Theatre, Dunedin; May 18 & 19, Opera House, Wellington; May 22, Regent on Broadway; May 24, Hawke’s Bay Opera House; May 26, TSB Theatre, New Plymouth. The Adventures of Alvin Sputnik: Deep Sea Explorer by Tim Watts. May 4 – 6; The

Repertory Theatre, Invercargill; May 11 & 12, Great Lake Centre, Taupo. Some Enchanted Evening – The Music of Rodgers and Hammerstein. Musical Theatre Dunedin. Until May 5. Oliver! by Lionel Bart. Manukau Performing Arts. Until May 12. Monty Python’s Spamalot by Eric Idle and John Du Prez. Napier Operatic Society. Until May 5. Tabard Theatre. Black Adder 3 by Richard Curtis and Ben Elton. Wellington Repertory Theatre. May 1 – 12. Gryphon Theatre. A Midsummer Night’s Dream by William Shakespeare. Auckland Theatre Company. May 3 – 26. Maidment Theatre. The History Boys by Alan Bennett. Globe Theatre, Palmerston North. May 4 – 26. 08004842538 Chicago by John Kander, Fred Ebb and Bob Fosse. Upper Hutt Musical Theatre. May 9 – 26. Up-Stage Theatre. Monty Python’s Spamalot by Eric Idle and John Du Prez. Blenheim Musical Theatre. May 9 – 19. 520 8560. Closer by Patrick Marber. Shoreside Theatre. May 10 – 19. Theatreworks, Birkenhead. Chess The Musical by Benny Andersson, Björn Ulvaeus and Tim Rice. Auckland Musical Theatre. May 12 – 26. A Month of Sundays by Bob Larbey. Feilding Little Theatre Players. May 11 – 26. 06 3235051. As You Like It by William Shakespeare. Howick Little Theatre. May 12 – June 2. (09) 534-1406. The Sound of Music by Rodgers and Hammerstein. Showbiz Queenstown. May 17 – 26. Twist and Shout. Tawa Community Theatre. May 17 28

Just $40 a month to reach thousands of theatre goers. Contact Stage Whispers for details.

On Stage Grease by Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey. Whangarei Theatre Company. May 18 June 9. 09 438 8135. Two Fish ‘n’ A Scoop. Fortune Theatre, Dunedin. May 19 – June 9. 034778323 Trick of the Light by Ken Duncum. May 24 – June 1. Napier Repertory Players. 835 5905. The Intricate Art of Actually Caring by Eli Kent. The Playground Collective. May 25

– June 3, Downstage Theatre, Wellington, 04 801 6946; June 8, Hawke’s Bay Opera House, 0800 TICKETEK. Ladies for Hire by Alison Quigan. Stagecraft, Wellington. May 30 – June 9. 0508 484 253 / (04) 974 4111. Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare. Titirangi Theatre. June 5 – 16. 817 7658. Around the World in 80 Days by Mark Brown. Tauranga

New Zealand Repertory Society. June 6 – 23. Sixteenth Street Theatre. (07) 577 7188. A Shortcut to Happiness by Roger Hall. Auckland Theatre Company. June 7 – 30. Skycity Theatre. Thoroughly Modern Millie by Jeanine Tesori, Dick Scanlan and Richard Morris. North Shore Music Theatre. June 9 – 23. Dirty Dusting by Ed Waugh and Trevor Wood. Hawera

Repertory Society Inc.
June 18 – 30. Private Lives by Noel Coward. Wellington Repertory Theatre. June 20 – 30. Jesus Christ Superstar by Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber. Taieri Musical Society. June 22 – 30. Coronation Hall, Mosgiel. Black Confetti by Eli Kent. Auckland Theatre Company. June 28 – July 22. Herald Theatre.

Doubt by John Patrick Shanley. Strathmore Theatre Arts Group. Jun 3 & 4. Drama. (03) 9467 1502. New South Wales Peter Pan – A British Musical. Wyong Musical Theatre Company. May. 0422033090 Queensland Anything Goes by Cole Porter. Savoyards Musical Comedy Society Best Little Whorehouse in Texas. Canterbury Theatre Guild. June. 0466883677 Inc. June 29 –July 1. Musical. (07) 3893 4321. Breaker Morant by Kenneth G. Ross. June 24. Centenary Theatre Nunsense by Dan Goggin. Dural Musical Society. July. 0412 080803 Group. Australian Courtroom Drama. 0435 591 720 South Australia Victoria Who Killed Santa by Terrence Feely. Tea Tree Players. Jun 25 – Rabbit Hole by John Misto, Sherbrooke Theatre Co. Inc. May 6 & 27. 0412 060 989. 7. (03) 9808 8438 Western Australia Zombie! An Apocalyptic Rock Opera by Silvi Vann-Wall. May 7 – Private Lives by Noel Coward. May 20. KADS. Comedy. 13. The Rock Opera Company. 0432051194. 0407686342 The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde. May 6 & 7. STOP PRESS Heidelberg Theatre Co. Classic Comedy. 0413580650. Sunset Boulevard by Andrew Lloyd Webber, Don Black and Joseph And The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat by Tim Rice Christopher Hampton. Willoughby Theatre Company (NSW). and Andrew Lloyd Webber. May 11 & 12. Beaumaris Theatre Inc. Information Night- Monday 18th June Musical. 0401450979 Me and Jezebel by Elizabeth Fuller. May 20. Peridot Theatre Inc. Auditions - Saturday 14th and Sunday 15th July. See for all details. 0429 355 465.


The 39 Steps by Patrick Barlow. May 27. The 1812 Theatre. (03) 9758 3964

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For more auditions, visit

Stage Whispers 57

How To Train Your Dragon - Arena Spectacular

Reviews: Premieres

Online extras! Learn how to train your dragon. Get a sneak peek of the show. Scan or visit How To Train Your Dragon - Arena Spectacular Based on the DreamWorks Animation Motion Picture and the book by Cressida Cowell. Adapted for the stage by Nigel Jamieson. DreamWorks Animation and Global Creatures (Vic). Hisense Arena, Melbourne. Director: Nigel Jamieson. Creature Design: Sonny Tilders. Lighting Design: Philip Lethlean. Costume and Projection Design: Dan Potra. Music by John Powell and Jonsi. WHEN my 10 year-old boy and I arrived at Hisense Arena we were late, but to my complete surprise people were still queuing for merchandise. The lack of parking coupled with heavy traffic meant we weren’t the only tardy ones, and the 7pm scheduled start was pushed back to 7.20pm. After attending the media call the day before, I thought I knew what to expect: the dragons would be the stars of the show. However, I had not counted on the powerful impact projection would wield. Moving and still images beamed not only onto nine interconnected movie screens and the stadium floor, but also on the most intangible of surfaces - smoke. Projection is used to simulate scene changes, texture, atmosphere, movement, levitation, seasons, and to magnify action that would otherwise be meaningless on a footballfield sized stage. Indeed, while much fuss has been made of the impressive dragons, projection is an equal partner in what is a hybrid movie-theatre event. Its contribution is vital to the coercion of a stadium audience. 58 Stage Whispers

Last night’s audience had a sports-ground mentality to theatre. It was young-family central, with a smattering of mechanically minded grandpas. In scenes after any of the 25 dragons had left the space, there was a general hubbub - a situation that must be disconcerting to the actors. Any applause was delayed and distant, as most people didn’t even bother clapping. Merchandising made itself felt with neon-lit Viking hats scattered throughout the crowd. Hot chips were the go at interval, for those who hadn’t brought their own from home, and folk wandered the arena at will, many making a quick getaway in the final scene. I’m guessing most of the audience had seen the Dreamworks animated motion picture of 2010, which is just as well as those unfamiliar with the narrative would have struggled to make sense of it in this atmosphere. The human actors did their darndest to command a presence, however this space is just too vast for meaningful dialogue. The acrobatics are impressive, yet regrettably only mildly applauded. But this show is less about story than it is about spectacle. And as a spectacle it does well. Highlights include a scene where Hiccup (Riley Miner), our young hero, is suspended from the rig, and runs atop a projected aerial scene on the back wall. It has computer game written all over it, and is astonishingly effective. After interval the use of light, projection, music and smoke create an underwater scene that is nothing short of magical.

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Bille Brown, Barry Otto and Josh Price (back) in The Histrionic. Photo: Jeff Busby.

Online extras! Check out a trailer for The Histrionic by scanning the QR code or visiting This show is what it says – an arena spectacular. If you decide to take your young’uns along they will dream about dragons for weeks. But please, teach them to clap their little hands – the energy offered by the cast deserves encouragement. Lucy Graham The Histrionic By Thomas Bernhard (translation by Tom Wright). Director: Daniel Schlusser. Malthouse Theatre Melbourne, Ap 10 May 5. Wharf Theatre, Sydney Theatre Company, June 15 – July 28. OPENING night of Bernhard’s play The Histrionic was one of those nights in the theatre that you don’t want to end. The play itself, seldom performed, owes as much to Kafka as it does to Beckett and Ionesco. It’s a dark and empty place that the main character comes from, even though the play is achingly funny throughout. And, whilst Bernhard’s biting yet absurd quasi soliloquy rails against the subjugated fascism and banal mediocrity of his homeland (Austria), Tom Wright’s brilliant new translation dazzles us with shards of absolute clarity throwing light on the twisted soul of Bruscon, an actor reduced to playing in pubs in little more than villages, whose giant ego is a prop to shield from his withering soul the fact that his play may be rubbish. He’s a “National Treasure” at the mercy of “projectile provincialism.”

Bille Brown gives the performance of his illustrious career in the part of a lifetime. The sheer marathon proportions of what are largely monologues for one hour and forty minutes are staggering. He postures, he pouts, he rails, he rants. He terrorises and obsesses and can cut his own children to shreds with a look, a gesture. He is both effete and overpoweringly masculine; flamboyant and fragile; a Drama Queen and King Lear. Tragic and tyrannical, he is hateful and pitiful in equal measure. It’s a performance to be treasured and acclaimed. Barry Otto is one of our finest actors in any medium. He has no more than a handful of lines in the entire play, and yet he is omnipresent. His face is elastic, his jerky movements and the “pecking” mechanism of his neck reminded me of an animated chicken. He is internally busy throughout, knowingly out of his depth with Bruscon, yet trying valiantly to process the torrent of verbiage he is subjected to, and reply in a manner which makes him seem more intelligent that he actually is. It’s a performance that’s as energising in its own way as Brown’s. Then there’s Daniel Schlusser, who surely now has cemented his position as our most visionary and bold director with his use of all the Malthouse space. Schlusser finds the humanity in his characters. He uses the audience. He confronts us, alarms us, and then retreats, drawing us into a theatrical world that repels and moves us simultaneously. He is an artful master of his craft.

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Stage Whispers 59

The ensemble cast are well balanced, and lend great support, but ultimately they are fodder for Bruscon’s verbose appetite. Bruscon says at one point “Critics! Empty skulls staring at empty images - No-one listens to the words any more.” We do when the words are worth listening to, and when theatre reminds us of why we loved it in the first place. Coral Drouyn

who believes things might have been different if she had given up work years before to start a family. Jeannie increasingly finds herself turning to practical unmarried best friend Angela (Lynda Rennie) for support. Wood has developed the characters well. Jeannie, trapped in her misery, at times appears to be unreasonable, and her mother, while plain-speaking, repeatedly tries to comfort her grieving daughter. And there is a lovely scene where a gift from Katie’s children helps to bring about Water Child reconciliation between Jeannie, her mother and sister. By Emma Wood. Newcastle Theatre Company. NTC Theatre, The play looks through its conversations at issues Lambton (Newcastle, NSW). Mar 3 to 17. including surrogacy and society’s tendency to avoid talking IT is 7.30am and Jeannie, roused from sleep by a phone about miscarriages. But the story ends on an optimistic call, smiles as she hears the singing voices of her sister and note, in which the title is explained. nieces wishing her a happy birthday on the answering Ken Longworth machine. The birthday is a special one – Jeannie is 40 – but the Contact! The Netball Musical day has another significant event. Jeannie is having an By Angus Grant. Librettist: Kate Schmitt. Part of Arts Centre ultrasound that afternoon to check on the progress of the Melbourne’s creative development initiative (Vic). Fairfax baby she has conceived. On two previous occasions, she Theatre, Arts Centre Melbourne. Director: Cameron miscarried after just a few weeks but this time she and Menzies. Music Director: Angus Grant. Choreographer: Julia husband Mark are happy because 12 weeks have passed Sutherland. April 11 – 29, 2012. since the pregnancy was confirmed and all seems to be THERE is a reason we sing the important stuff. Singing going well. That, sadly, proves to be a false hope. ‘Happy Birthday’, religious songs, or serenading a loved one Emma Wood wrote Water Child after having similar adds gravity to our words. This is what makes Contact! The experiences. The work is fictional, but her examination of Netball Musical by Angus Grant, so very funny. the impact fertility problems have on wives and husbands It’s only a game, unless you’re in the Rangers Netball and the reactions of people around them is one that will Team who are preparing for finals against The Sparrows on move the hearts and minds of those who see it. a suburban netball court. All hell breaks loose when the It’s a story in which characters’ moods change in team’s Goal Attack is replaced by the talented ‘indie-triple response to what is happening in their lives and director J’ Daisy. Jealously, bitchiness, and uncomfortable truths Richard Murray and the actors made the changes very surface, decimating team cohesion on the eve of the big believable. game. There was warm comedy in the opening scene, with While the libretto is occasionally difficult to make out, Rosemary Dartnell’s Jeannie and Derek Fisher’s Mark the characterisation of the individuals’ personalities in the greeting Jeannie’s mother Denise (Nola Wallace) with team are most entertaining, and there is some wonderful smiles as she delivered a birthday cake. But the mood polyphonic ensemble work, delicate coloratura singing, and darkened in the next scene, as Jeannie morosely reflects on inspired choreography. Who knew it was possible to play the outcome of the ultrasound. netball and sing at the same time? The next day, she’s at loggerheads with younger sister Those will a ‘netball brain’ will laugh loudest at this light Katie (Angela McKeown), who has had three children with operatic production, clearly aimed at a younger no problems, and understandably reacts angrily to her demographic. And laugh-out-loud moments are plenty. mother’s words “You weren’t meant to be a mother”. Sung phrases include ‘to me’ and ‘if you need’, ‘keep your There’s a darkening, too, of her relationship with Mark, eyes on the ball’, ‘whatever’ and even ‘eeeuw’. Text messages on a large overhanging screen add to the sociological comment, with many Facebook references. Those without knowledge of the finer meanings of LOL and BTW will be left in the dark. Contact! runs for 80 minutes without interval. Lucy Graham

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The Story Of Mary MacLane By Herself By Bojana Novakovic after the writings of Mary MacLane. Music: Tim Rogers. Griffin Theatre Company / Ride On Theatre. SBW Stables Theatre. Ap 13 – May 12. THIS story of the little known “Wild Woman of Butte” or Mary MacLane is a rustic but densely beautiful patchwork of music and text with a little mysticism thrown in for good measure. Cue the statement, “There is nothing quite so

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The Story of Mary MacLane By Herself. Photo: Brett Boardman.

Online extras! Watch the writer and director discuss the making of the show. Scan or visit cosmic as a cold boiled potato.” Quirky and endearing, dangerous and edgy that is Mary MacLane. A woman ahead of her time, openly bisexual and a vocal feminist, she obviously ruffled more than a few feathers during first part of the 20th century. But she was also wildly popular and incredibly forthright, having written her autobiography by the age of 19, which sold more than 100,000 copies. This production, commissioned by Griffin, Malthouse and Merrigong, is a wonderful piece of theatre inspired by vaudeville which feels like a travelling bunch of theatre folk from another era just happened along at the Griffin Theatre and decided to put on a show. Bojana Novakovic’s portrayal of Mary is captivating, while Tim Rogers and his rag-tag band of music makers provide the seamless vehicle with which to progress the story. The set, with its frayed ragged edges - in that shabby chic sort of way – is perfect and yet again one marvels at how transformed The Griffin’s tiny space is. Tanya Goldberg’s direction is interesting and economical without being repetitive. It is a rare and special thing when a piece of theatre makes you want to find out more about its subject and that is precisely what The Story Of Mary MacLane By Herself does. I guarantee you will be swept along by the music and Mary. Whitney Fitzsimmons

Every Breath By Benedict Andrews. Belvoir (NSW). March 24 – April 29, 2012. IT’S a truism that directors shouldn’t direct their own plays. Benedict Andrews has a fine record of directing dangerously thrilling theatre in Adelaide, then Sydney and now Europe – enough it seems for Belvoir to give him both the stage and the director’s reins for his first produced play. It’s a misplaced faith. Every Breath starts with the promising premise of a privileged artistic family employing a security guard against unseen, unexplained terrors from outside. As the couple and their teenage twins dine poolside, the silent guard of curiously uncertain gender tries to keep his/her eyes on the horizon. This becomes near impossible as each family member sets to seduce him/her – rather like the family pouncing on the handsome lodger in Joe Orton’s outrageous 1970 farce Entertaining Mr Sloane. The early promise of Every Breath was the yearnings beyond the sexual, as each family member reaches out to fill some spiritual, artistic or generational void on this poor blank page of a guardian angel. The promise soon evaporates. Despite all the naked poolside humping, as director and writer, Andrews fails to flesh out his characters or drive on his metaphor. John Howard gives a powerfully disinterested performance as the writer dried of inspiration and, as his

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Stage Whispers 61

Hopelessly Devoted Music & Lyrics: Various. Book: Elise Greig. Contributing Writer: Nick Backstrom. Eg Production. Director: Lewis Jones. Musical Director: Tony Byrne. Choreographer: John Clarke. Zamia Theatre, North Tambourine, Queensland, Mar 23 and 24. Gold Coast Arts Centre, The Space, May 24 – 26. Hopelessly Devoted is a terrific, original and inventive two-hander musical play. With its songbook of Olivia Newton-John hits it can’t miss. It is set in the suburban lounge room of a middle-aged sister and brother, Amy and Andy, who are caring for their Hopelessly Devoted. Photo: Barb Lowing. chronically ill mother. To help her restless wife, Angie Milliken has even less to play with. The cope with the depressing situation Amy escapes into a precocious twins (Dylan Young and Eloise Mignon) are fantasy world where she imagines she is Olivia Newton more believable in their obsessive quest for a piece of the John, helped at times by Andy, who partners her in song action. and indulges her fantasies. As the mother’s illness grows As the guard, Shelly Lauman soldiers on, compliant, progressively worse, Amy acts out the life and career charismatic in her androgyny, and ultimately discarded by highlights of her idol. this family of privilege. The play is finally an empty vessel Elise Greig is wonderful as Amy, capturing the songwhich blows most hollow as Andrews elevates the obvious. style, flair and energy of her Newton-John obsession, and There may have been less onstage wanking with Joe the pathos and poignancy of a caring daughter. Dan Orton but he had more laughs. Crestini, opposite her as Andy, is equally as appealing in a Martin Portus role that sees him as a Rock of Gibraltor in a sea of dreams. Musically both performers are exceptional. Grieg’s Naked Boys Singing Newton-John turns are accurate and fun parodies, whilst Seymour Centre, Sydney, Mar 13 – 17 and touring. Crestini, playing various characters such as Ian Turpie, Naked Boys Singing is a classy gay version of Michael Parkinson and Pat Carroll, is silly and satiric. Chippendales with less grunt and more glitz - with a cameo Highlights include a showstopping Grease routine, where by Australian Idol’s Casey Donovan. they don leather jackets and sing “You’re the One That I This is full frontal nudity in your face. The show has an Want,” and a second-act Xanadu sequence which brings 18+ warning. It starts innocuously enough: a fully-clothed the house down. Greig does respectable solos of “Sam” send-up of grindr, then a sly bowler-hat routine. After that and “Magic” with Crestini scoring on a riotous and rude all bets (and clothes) are off. Oklahoma this aint. “Physical” and an emotional “I Honestly Love You.” The “boys” aren’t minors but 20–somethings, and all The whole show is performed to backing tapes of can sing, dance, and act, backed by great piano playing. Newton-John hits in which Tony Byrne has recreated with The nudity gimmick soon wears thin, so the material that the original arrangements dead-accuracy. Lewis Jones’s follows must be able to hold our attention. Luckily this cast direction keeps the show moving with the psychedelic back can keep our interest purely on their artistic talents alone. projections by Saul Edmonds helping tremendously. John Clarke makes full use of Cresitini’s dance ability and has him While the music is tuneful-Broadway-bland and the lyrics witty, all the songs deal with male genitals or gay life. leaping over and on chairs and generally making the stage It’s hard to avoid camp in a show like this, but when the seem like there are more than two performers on it. At the men “de-camped” it added extra freshness and vitality. end of the first act you wonder where the show will go, but No doubt some will see this just for the perv, but the Grieg pulls a few rabbits out of the hat to pepper the show is a properly staged revue, with clever choreography, second-act along including a late reveal that Andy is gay. and imaginative used of props. This was a premiere production and it’s in excellent There was a lack of diversity in the cast: all are fit, slim, shape. It obviously has a long life ahead of it both in the and white. Would the show work if the cast was mixed city and regionally. The show plays the Gold Coast Arts race? Or had men who are fat / scrawny / hairy / with bad Centre in May. skin/ amputees / wheelchair-bound? Perhaps our prejudices Peter Pinne about the human body need more challenge? Peter Novakovich 62 Stage Whispers

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Reviews: Dance

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Queensland Ballet’s Alice in Wonderland. Photo: Ken Sparrow.

Alice In Wonderland Music: various. Ballet by Francois Klaus. Queensland Ballet. Playhouse, QPAC. Mar 13 – Ap 14. A full house of almost entirely young mothers and their daughters loved Queensland Ballet’s production of Alice In Wonderland. They bubbled with anticipation when the White Rabbit entered on a skateboard, they gasped when Humpty Dumpty fell off the wall and they giggled when his broken eggshell appeared on a stretcher. Richard Jeziorny’s sets and costumes were colourful and eccentric, with the work performed to a recorded mish-mash of music that included “Alexander’s Ragtime Band,” “Come Back To Sorrento,” and pieces by Britten, Satie and Shostakovich. The effect was not unlike that of a circus, with each of Lewis Carroll’s nonsense characters as the acts. Choreographically the ballet did not extend the company, but they performed what they had to do with enormous skill. Teri Crilly was a popular and perky White Rabbit, Iona Maques an imperious Queen of Hearts, with Katherine Rooke wonderfully bad-tempered as the Duchess. Was it good ballet? No. Was it good theatre? Yes, because it entertained and completely satisfied its targeted audience. Peter Pinne

2 One Another Sydney Dance Company. Sydney Theatre, Walsh Bay. Mar 9 – 31. CHOREOGRAPHER Rafael Bonachela teamed up four years ago with event designer Tony Assness to create his first full-length work for the Sydney Dance Company, and called it 36 0 °. Obviously a winning partnership, now he’s back with Assness staging a dance spectacle that promises to explore the dynamic of couples, trio and crowds. Sixteen handsome dancers, in tight green outfits big zippered up behind, stride in straight lines or group separately against a huge pixel screen shooting with light and falling stars. At his best, Bonachela’s big ensemble work has a kinetic thrill to match the choreography of giants like William Forsythe. The beautiful score from Nick Wales, alternating Baroque, choral and pacy synthesiser, helps drive this fine group work. Wales’ music also offers a quiet inspiration but Bonachela is less interesting in his introspection of couples or smaller groups. He has little interest in the sort of narrative or individual characterisation beloved by his predecessor Graeme Murphy; he’s more pure dance. Here his skills for spectacle and stage show climax are expertly realised, and sensationally framed by Assness, but the intimate moments remain quirky signatures of choreography rather than emotionally engaging. The content doesn’t quite live up to the dressing, but the true stars are Bonachela’s outstanding and synergistic ensemble. Martin Portus

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Hobart Repertory Theatre Society’s Cabaret. Photo: Wayne Wagg.

Reviews: Musicals Cabaret Music: John Kander. Lyrics: Fred Ebb. Based on book by Christopher Isherwood. Hobart Repertory Theatre Society. Playhouse Theatre, Hobart. Director: Alan Jeffrey. Musical Director: Marian Bisset. Choreographer: Leiz Moore. Ap 13 – 28. CABARET, the Hobart Repertory Theatre Society BIG production for the year, started on the right note with the right vibe. The pivotal Emcee character (Jeff Michel) commanded and gained audience attention immediately, with his seductive, raunchy smile and moves. The Kit Kat Klub chorus line was everything we wanted to see. Bendy girls and boys clad in dinky little lace and satin costumes, dancing and singing risqué routines are always fun. When the chorus lines are so evenly matched for talent and skill it’s a special visual treat. Director Allan Jeffrey and choreographer Leiz Moore gave us an excellent, wellrehearsed cast who pulled together as a slick, supportive team to present a polished, integrated production. Hobart Repertory does ensemble work well, but Cabaret needs a show-stopper for Sally Bowles. Lizzie Moore sings like a dream and delivered a beautiful performance as the ditzy but vulnerable Sally Bowles. Supporting principals Cliff (Pitr Divis), Fraulein Schneider (Di Richards) and Herr Schultz (Paul Levett) gave full performances, maintaining accent and character throughout. The other major character - “Ze band”, an excellent group of musicians under the direction 64 Stage Whispers

of Marian Bisset, perched on a platform on a two-storey set throughout the production. Music, set, stunning costumes and clever lighting and sound effects added to the whole theme. Cabaret is a top notch, high standard show. Merlene Abbott Elegies for Angels, Punks and Raging Queens By Janet Hood and Bill Russell. Reginald Theatre, Seymour Centre (NSW). Feb 29 – Mar 3. INSPIRED by the AIDS Memorial Quilt, Elegies was forged in the late 80’s hothouse of American denial and discrimination against those with AIDS. Staged on a giant looped red ribbon of remembrance, thirty actors enter one by one with their own short poetic soliloquy on what their life – and death – meant to them. They’re all there, some stereotypical, others with high drama, gay and straight, most with ordinary powerful stories from the apocalypse. What begins as a small gay ensemble swells to a mass event as each new character gathers on stage, the rollout punctuated with sophisticated musical moments from singers Belinda Wollaston, Jason Te Patu, Paul Whiteley and Lucy Maunder. Musical director Chris King is on piano with backup from cello and harp. Director Brett Russell has assembled a large and remarkably consistent cast although some are hobbled by the required American accent or Bill Russell’s sometimes stilted rhyming text.

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Elegies builds to a breathtaking, almost revivalist celebration; this is healing theatre, once vital to its time and place in 1989 New York. Now in 2012, and especially in Australia, its declamatory positivism, its American sentimentality and Broadway sweetness reads as a little artificial. What still redeems Elegies, staged here as part of Sydney’s Mardi Gras, is the grand cacophony of voices and experiences and the musical professionalism with which they are knitted together. Martin Portus La Cage Aux Folles Music and Lyrics by Jerry Herman; Book by Harvey Fierstein. Directed by Shaun Kingma. Quirky Productions. National Theatre, St Kilda (Vic). Mar 16 – 24. When La Cage Aux Folles opened on Broadway in 1983 it was considered risque and risky. Despite Jerry Herman’s lovely French inspired score, the storyline of two long-time homosexual lovers, one a drag Queen, the other a nightclub owner (the La Cage Aux Folles of the title) who conspire to fool homophobic potential in-laws, was too bizarre for many theatre goers. This semi-professional production sparkles, glitters, and has two stars with simply great musical theatre voices and style. John O’May (Georges) and David Rogers-Smith (Albin/ Za-Za) excel and are equally matched throughout. In a show which could be, and often is, a tour de force for Albin/Za-Za, it was refreshing to see O’May (a major star in everything he does) and the brilliant Rogers-Smith play their relationship with intimacy as equals. O’May almost steals the show with his beautiful rendition of the chanson ‘Song Of the Sand’. Rogers-Smith brings to the (in)famous ‘I Am What I Am’ all the nuances of a man who happens to be a gay entertainer, but is first and foremost a human being who loves his partner and child…and isn’t that just…”normal”? It’s a finely balanced performance full of humanity. The whole production is a triumph. Coral Drouyn. 13 A New Musical Music and Lyrics by Jason Robert Brown. Book by Dan Elish and Robert Horn. Director: Bridget Keating. Shire Music Theatre. IN 13 the central character is Evan Goldman, the only Jew in his class. On the cusp of celebrating his Bar Mitzvah, he is transplanted from New York to middle America when his parents get divorced. So, I took my 13-year-old boy who completed his Bar Mitzvah a few months ago with me to help review the musical. He gave the production the thumbs up. First thing to note is that the Jewish angle is not central to the musical. 13 is about coming of age and making choices about what qualities are important in friendship. There are moments which make you cringe in recollection at those High School years.

The musical loses a little momentum in the second act. Even so, Shire Music Theatre presented a neat production with strong performances. In the lead, Jack Paterson as Evan Goldman was impressive. We listened intensely for the short time he had to sing in Hebrew and he passed it off well, although the costume department forgot to give him a skullcap. But the knock-out performer was Gus Nookes as Archie, the school’s resident special needs student. His rendition of the song “No one says no to a boy with a terminal illness” was spot on. The production suited the small stage used by Shire Music Theatre. The set, made up of lockers that rotated, was clever – and the band was sharp. All up it was a well-drilled production by director Bridget Keating. David Spicer A Chorus Line Conceived by Michael Bennett, Songs by Marvin Hamlisch & Edward Kleban. Gosford Musical Society (NSW). Laycock Street Theatre, Gosford. Director: Chris King. Mar 9-24. IS this the most difficult musical for an amateur company to get right? After all, it’s about ruthless show biz professionalism. All power, then, to the Gosford Musical Society here under the direction of Chris King and with smartly adapted choreography by Lauren Miller. They make as good a fist of the mighty show as a local community group could be expected to do. For starters, the Laycock Street Theatre stage is nicely wide and bare, with the required moveable full-length mirrors, a couple of ladders and not much more. The costumes (Doreen Cox) are perfect, the lighting (Damian Rice) and sound design (Dean Harrington and Danny Hankinson) to a very high order. The 17-strong band under MD Chris Hochkins clearly relishes the exciting orchestrations and dazzling score. And the cast get heroically close to matching the show’s demands. Okay, they’re not ready for a national tour; but these guys are fine, deeply committed and acting up a storm. Though the dancing is not nearly as complex, the

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confrontation between Cassie (Felicity Calwell) and Zach (Shane Caufield) is more convincing and moving than in any of the several versions I have seen. Also notable are Toni Williams who delivers ‘Nothing’ and the great ‘What I Did For Love’, Wendy Horan as the ditzy dancer who ‘Really Couldn’t Sing’, and Katie Pascoe proudly parading her off-the-shelf ‘Tits and Ass’. Sheila Bryant and Amanda Woodbine consistently demand our attention; John Collin’s gay confessional monologue is a highlight. Though the full company’s concluding version of ‘One’ — in Doreen Cox’s magnificent golden, top-hatted outfits — is not quite the mechanical, characterless construct into which the varied chorus members have merged, nevertheless this is a powerful production of a difficult and demanding masterwork. Frank Hatherley

Sweeney Todd Music & Lyrics: Stephen Sondheim. Book: Hugh Wheeler. Ignatians Musical Society. Director: John Peek. Musical Director: Edgar Chan & Ben Murray. Choreography: Lauren Ware. Schonell Theatre, Brisbane. March 22 – April 13, 2012. STEPHEN Sondheim’s grisly, gothic thriller Sweeney Todd was given a classy production by Ignatians, with standout performances by Miranda Selwood and James Gauci. Selwood’s tour-de-force as the needy and manipulative Mrs Lovett was outstanding. Her delivery of the role’s iconic comic numbers, particularly “The Worst Pies In London”, was masterful. Gauci’s Anthony also could not be faulted. He was born to sing Sondheim and sing it he did. His “Johanna” was a joy. Both performances were razor-sharp, unlike Joshua Rowe’s Sweeney Todd who, despite a moving finale, was not up to the acting demands of the role. His Australian accent did not help. Sarah Jensen Parade was a spine-chillingly effective Lucy, with good By Jason Robert Brown and Alfred Uhry. Waterdale (Vic). performances also coming from Ben Hickey (Tobias), Director: Aimee Fraser. Musical Director: Ian Nisbet. Jordana Peek (Johanna), and Andrew Scheiwe (Pirelli). Choreographer: Emma Kiely. Rivergum Theatre, Parade Shane Rodwell’s set was appropriately foreboding and dark, College. Mar 2 – 10. Caro Lakos’ costumes appropriately ragged and grimy, with HAVING encountered Jason Robert Brown on his Andrew ‘Panda’ Haden’s lighting and Gabby Gregory’s Australian Tour last year I was quite excited to see one of sound adding to the macabre atmosphere. The orchestra, his early shows, Parade. This was the darkest musical I have under the direction of Edgar Chan and Ben Murray, ever seen, and at the same time, one of the most powerful. handled Sondheim’s dissonant score well, and high praise Unlike Sweeney Todd, which, though dark, has its must go to the ensemble whose work at times was thrilling. humorous scenes, there were no lighter moments and the Peter Pinne audience was put through the wringer. The first act was about the murder of a little girl and subsequent trial of her The Last Five Years Jewish employer who was an innocent victim of anti-semitic Written and Composed by Jason Robert Brown – Last Tapes predjudice. The second concentrated on his wife’s fight to Theatre Company – Herald Theatre, The Edge, Auckland, clear his name, only to have him lynched after his death New Zealand. Director: Jennifer Ward-Lealand. Musical sentence had been revoked. Yet one came away feeling Director: Robin Kelly. Mar 1 - 17. uplifted at the courage of this young woman and the JASON Robert Brown’s two person musical The Last Five closeness this had generated in her, up till then, fairly cold Years, inspired by his own failed first marriage, tells the marriage. history of a relationship from two different perspectives. And Waterdale did not disappoint. This production The male’s narrative starts at the beginning of the story, involved a large cast, and it was cast from strength. Leading while the female narrative begins at the end of the the charge were Tyson Legg and Jaclyn De Vincentis as Leo relationship; the two actors’ only direct interaction takes and Lucille Frank. They sang with strength, were always in place mid-point, during the wedding sequence. character, and it was fascinating to watch their relationship My interest awoke immediately as I noted a virtually grow. bare stage furnished by a book case unit, a stool, a bed, a So many other roles were well performed that it would desk and a chair. Minimalistic sets that encourage me to be unfair to single any out. There was a lot of anger in the invest emotionally by creating the rest in my imagination, characters and some powerful singing, both from are a particular personal joy. A three piece on stage band individuals and the ensemble. The single set was similar to completed the picture, jamming quietly in the background. Sweeney Todd with a two storey scaffold with a staircase Cherie Moore as Cathy Hiatt burst on the stage to being moved around to reveal different scenes. It worked discover her husband has left her. In the opening number very well. “Still Hurting”, Moore sets us off on an emotional journey The small band was loud, but the sound system was so at the bitter, angry, desperate end of a marriage. good one rarely missed any of the words. Waterdale have Enter Tyran Parke as hubby Jamie Wellerstein starting off been operating for eight years, and, though in a nearby the 5-year relationship where he has just met and fallen for suburb, I had heard little of them. I will try not to miss Cathy. Parke is a world-class actor and his songs “The them again. Schmuel Song”, unbelievably crafted, and both “If I Didn’t Graham Ford Believe In You” and “Nobody Needs to Know”, beautifully heart wrenching. 66 Stage Whispers

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Online extras! Hair’s director Brian Edmond chats about the show. Scan the QR code or visit

Hair. North Queensland Opera and Music Theatre. Photo courtesy of photobase nq pics.

Cherie Moore, playing a struggling actor doomed to wander the provinces in unremarkable touring companies, is a passionate Cathy with good comic moments. Her rendition of the song “See I’m Smiling” was one of the highlights of the show. Very often a combination of talents that are joined to form a theatre company look much better on paper than in the reality of the production. In this instance this is definitely not the case. Pauline Vella Hair Book and Lyrics by Gerome Ragni & James Rado. Music by Galt Macdermot. North Queensland Opera and Music Theatre, Townsville. Director: Brian Edmond. Choreographers: Kylie Ball & Rachel Cook. Musical Director: Ryan Christoffersen. Mar 28 – 31. A youthful cast made the most of the tribal love rock musical Hair during its season at Townsville’s Civic Theatre. Two relatively “new to the musical stage” actors, Lachlan Dalby and Emily Edwards tackled the lead roles of Claude and Sheila with enthusiasm. More experienced young actors Adam Mullamphy as Berger, Kevin Wright as Woof, Katherine Shield as Jeanie and Jeremiah Pau as Hud all paraded their talents to much acclaim. Director Brian Edmond kept the action nice and tight without any unnecessary frills (except on the costumes of course) and the result was most satisfying to this reviewer

who fell in love with the musical during its original Australian incarnation in the very early 70s. The orchestra was small and tight, the choreography effective, the set realistic and the chorus work impeccable. The major hit numbers “Aquarius”, “Good Morning Starshine” and “Hair” did not overshadow some of the other excellent, lesser known songs. With a cast that contained hardly anyone over the age of 30 I am sure the future of musical theatre in Townsville is in good hands. Ray Dickson Seussical By Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens (based on the works of Dr. Seuss). Spotlight Theatre, Benowa (Qld). Feb 17 – Mar 10. HORTON and his friends came to life in Kim Reynold’s production of Seussical. With a cast of over 40 characters the production was slick and polished. The vocals of the entire cast, under the baton of MD Matthew Pearson, were of the highest calibre. The 16-piece orchestra was in the adjoining theatre linked by closed circuit TV. Costumes were many, brightly coloured and delightfully different. The staging was simple but well utilised and the lighting created the necessary effects as Horton searched for his “who”.

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As The Cat in the Hat, Matt Hadgraft stole the show with his numerous antics and interaction with the audience. Unfortunately for Gold Coast audiences, Matt is heading to Melbourne to pursue a professional career at the conclusion of the season. Standout performances from the experienced cast made for an enjoyable night at the theatre. Roger McKenzie

appealing and shone on “T.E.A.M,” “Book Report” and the title tune. Shaun Kohlman’s Schroeder was a terrific foil for Lucy, and Alex Valentine’s Sally, even without a solo, was consistently perky. Kristen Barros had a great time being Lucy and made the most of her numbers, particularly the clever “Schroeder,” set as a counterpoint to Beethoven’s Ninth, and “Little Known Facts,” in which she gave heaps of wrong information to her brother Linus. Matty Johnston was a likeable Snoopy and worked hard to almost make his Songs for a New World “Supper Time” song into the showstopper it can be. Rockdale Musical Society. Bexley RSL Club. Director: Osman Unfortunately Patrick Aiken’s Linus was mostly an Kabbara. Musical Director: Greg Jones. March 16- 24, incomprehensible mumble, but musically he did OK with 2012. “My Blanket and Me.” Mind you, the venue can probably take some of the blame for that. Far from acoustically AMERICAN composer / lyricist Jason Robert Brown (Parade and 13 The Musical) writes great character and perfect, lines disappear up into the ether frequently. journey songs, which stand alone outside a theatrical Mitchell Dormer on piano and Isaac Cavallero on drums context. Songs for a New World, a celebration of Brown’s were unobtrusive and constant. Best number in the show early songs, had its original off-Broadway production in was the finale “Happiness”, which sent the audience out with a warm glow. Charles Schultz would have approved. 1995. Peter Pinne A thematically linked song cycle, Songs for a New World is usually performed by four singers without specific characters, who have consistently developing character Guys and Dolls arcs. For this production, with a cast of eleven, character Music and Lyrics: Frank Loesser Book: Jo Swerling and Abe arcs give way to a showcase of individual songs. Burrows. Supa North. Ballina R.S.L. (NSW). Directors: Sue Splendid ensemble singing is the big plus of Rockdale’s and Paul Belsham. Mar 2 – 8. DAMON Runyon’s colourful characters made the stage expanded company, with a big, impressive sound. Movement in entire cast numbers is limited by the tiny of Ballina RSL their home for SUPA North’s second stage. production, Guys and Dolls. Absolute solo highlights were the heart-rending The experienced principal line-up and the supporting interpretation of “The Flagmaker, 1775” by Anita Margiota, cast were polished in their characterizations The evergreen score, and the six-piece band under the along with two side-splitting stand-and-deliver comedy songs from Chiz Watson, “Just One Step” and “Surabaya direction of Paul Belsham, along with Jaime Whittingham’s Santa”; highly accomplished music theatre performances. choreography made for a great night at the theatre. The majority of the songs received thoughtful, The technical support enhanced the action of this fast engaging, well-projected interpretations by capable moving production. performers, though I had moments of concern over the Some of the costumes were not of the period of the stagecraft of couple of overly introspective performers, who play and detracted a little from the overall appearance of seemed to be singing with little thought of projecting their the show, however this was a minor point in an otherwise message to the audience. entertaining presentation. Rockdale Musical Society, displaced from the asbestos Roger McKenzie plagued Rockdale Town Hall, will mostly perform smaller musicals in the auditorium of Bexley RSL Club into the Jerry’s Girls medium future. Conventional lighting was limited to just Music and lyrics by Jerry Herman. Concept by Jerry Herman eight luminaires and limited variations were possible. and Larry Alford. Bankstown Theatre Company (NSW). Particularly effective use was made of tube lighting, Bankstown Arts Centre. Mar 23 – 31. concealed in the set, however, most notably the red, white CELEBRATING the larger than life ladies of theatre and blue effect in “Flagmaker”. launched by the show tunes of Jerry Herman, Jerry’s Girls Neil Litchfield provides a great showcase for three of Bankstown Theatre Company’s leading ladies (supported by an ensemble of You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown eight), in a smart, lively production, stylishly directed and Book, Music & Lyrics: Clark Gesner. Harvest Rain (Qld). Mina choreographed by Edward Rooke. Parade Warehouse, Brisbane. Director: Meg Ham. Musical Diane Wilson is a splendid musical theatre comic actress Director: Sophie Woodward. Mar 21 – 31. and singer, with a commanding Broadway belt. Her broadly YOU’RE a Good Man Charlie Brown has been a popular comic “Put it Back On” and “Gooch’s Song” had me title on the amateur circuit for years. With its lovable recalling her memorable debut as Fanny Brice in Rockdale assortment of characters from Charles Schultz’s comic-strip Musical Society’s Funny Girl four decades ago. Peanuts, Harvest Rain’s production under the direction of Melissa Goman’s rich, warm, mellow mezzo and the Meg Ham brought out the charm and fun of Clark Gesner’s heartfelt conviction of her interpretations resonated delightful musical. Tom Oliver’s Charlie Brown was totally 68 Stage Whispers

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beautifully in numbers including “If He Walked Into My Life”. A more classically conventional ‘leading lady’, Dale Selsby’s “Time Heals Everything” and “Before the Parade Passes By” were the kind of songs that truly tapped into her strengths. Ensemble choreography, and its stylish execution, was a special feature. Edward Rooke never neglected a single visible or semi-visible moment, down to the exit of the final dancer. What pleased most were the individual gestures and movements within ensemble work, part of a broader sense of ensemble personality and individuality. Simple attractive patterns throughout added to the visual charm. Since moving into their new black-box theatre, Bankstown has made something of a house style of simple projections and animations. While they sometimes lacked stylistic unity, at their best they were commendable. The four-piece band led by Greg Crease was exemplary. Backstage placement of the band assisted in achieving a comfortable sound balance, while a trouper like Diane Wilson could even land her songs without the assistance of a radio mic. It’s hard to beat a revue based on the songs of Jerry Herman, one of the great masters of the Broadway showstopper. Neil Litchfield

Jekyll (Mikey Hart) & Hyde (Peter Meredith). Photo: Grant Leslie.

Jekyll & Hyde Conceived for the stage by Steve Cuden and Frank Wildhorn. Book and lyrics by Leslie Bricusse. Music: Frank Wildhorn. The Theatre on The Concourse, Chatswood (NSW). Director: Craig Stewart. Musical Director: Peter Hayward. Choreographer: Sarah Friedrich. Ap 13 – 22. BREAK a leg! Almost, but not quite. Leading man Mikey Hart dropped a water tank on his toe, breaking it. Still, in the best thespian tradition, the show went on. I’d assumed that the walking stick and limp was part of his excellent characterisation of Dr Jekyll. It fitted with a physically weaker Jekyll asserting himself in a struggle of the wills with Mr Hyde. In this case, the roles had been split, with Peter Meredith playing Hyde. Hart gives an impressive interpretation of the virtuous side. Vocally he meets all the challenges, while his characterisation is intense and believable. He ensures the best-known song “This is the Moment” is a showstopper. Willoughby’s production is set in an ambiguously near futuristic world - Mad Max, Matrix or Blade Runner meets Robert Louis Stevenson. Striking visuals are completed by Joy Sweeney’s costumes, particularly the more Gothic elements (and accompanying make-up). Choreography by Sarah Friedrich complements the visuals – especially the more in-your-face, urgent and aggressive movement

Online extras! Meet WTC’s Dr Jekyll (Mikey Hart) by scanning the QR code or visiting elements, put across with attitude to spare by a highly focused, well drilled ensemble. On a two-level set, director Craig Stewart’s split-level status approach to the split personalities emphasises the alternate ascendancy of the dark or light side. With Hyde (split from Jekyll) being a much smaller role, it really is vital that its performance equals that of the good doctor. Sadly Peter Meredith’s vocals were muddied and hard to understand in songs – was it diction, or a microphone issue. Back to the production’s many strengths, though, and the two splendid leading ladies, American newcomer Kimberly Jensen as Lucy and Louise Symes as Emma. While Lucy represents a darker forbidden sensuality, Jensen gave her a warm, sympathetic realisation, avoiding the blatant and overtly tartish, and nailing the role’s vocals. Particularly pure and virtuous, Emma is still a strong independent thinker, providing Louise Symes with enough of the modern woman to deliver a sufficiently engaging, contemporary

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portrayal in tandem with her splendid vocal performance. When the two women combine for “In His Eyes” it’s a spine -tingling highlight. In the principal supporting roles, Andrew Symes brings warmth and sincerity to Jekyll’s devoted friend, while Tom Sweeney is a credibly manipulative Sir Danvers Carew. All round, Jekyll and Hyde features a strong, well-balanced supporting cast, many of whom are required to pull of convincing deaths at the hands of the murderous Hyde. With Craig Stewart’s futuristic setting, I was left with one small query – surely the news of Hyde’s murders would have been discovered on an iPad or mobile, not newspapers. A rare missed opportunity in a smart, wellconceived production. Neil Litchfield The Sound of Music Music: Richard Rodgers. Lyrics: Oscar Hammerstein II. Book: Howard Lindsay and Russell Crouse. Hornsby Musical Society. Director: Laura Sheldon. Musical Director: Dave Morgan. Additional choreography: Lauren Nalty. Hornsby RSL. Ap 13 – 21. HORNSBY Musical Society’s The Sound of Music gets off to an outstanding start with the Nuns’ chorus, singing their portions of the show impressively. In an inspired piece of community collaboration, the company has joined forces with a large, established local ladies choir (The Spirit of Sydney Chorus). Emily Potts is a delight in the pivotal role of Maria. She’s vivacious, attractive and confident, sings the role impressively, and establishes a warm rapport with the kids. The delightful cast of kids I saw performed with real joie de vivre, firmly establishing their individual characters. Damien Schmitt’s stature and bearing suited Captain von Trapp, he mellowed engagingly, and the key romantic moments with Potts’ Maria have the necessary chemistry. The relationship between Jordan Stam’s Liesl and Steven Kreamer’s Rolf has naieveté, the charm of young love, and a touch of song and dance panache. Paul Sheldon carried off the role of the opportunistic Max effectively, while Jenny Farrell brought a mix of poise and insecurity to Elsa. Laraine Day’s Mother Abbess had all the necessary warmth and empathy. I do wonder, though, if anyone will ever take the nasty Nazi characters beyond a stiff, not as good as Hogan’s Heroes, stereotype. The occasional Strine accents jarred too. Auditorium processions, not always a favourite of mine, worked quite nicely, though the performers found the side stage stairways hard to navigate on those final, very visible steps onto the stage. A central stairway, even if it had to split the orchestra, would have heightened the impact. Due to limited facilities, the scenery was very minimal but the simple set pieces sufficed to announce locations, and avoided slowing the pace. The story stands up so well, that simple staging is just a matter of background if the performances can carry the day. Neil Litchfeld 70 Stage Whispers

I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change Book and lyrics by Joe DiPietro and music by Jimmy Roberts. The Regals Musical Society. St George Auditorium, Kogarah (NSW). Feb 15 – 18. LOVE and relationships in the city are explored in the series of musical vignettes which make up this OffBroadway revue, where the title really says it all. Written as a four hander, the Regals expanded the cast to showcase the talents of a cast of 17, including several stand-out cameos. Having seen the show in New York, the smaller cast featured incredibly versatile performers in quickfire character and situation changes. I would have liked to see the versatility of some of Regals’ strongest performers more broadly exploited. The stand-alone scenes and divergent characters make the expansion to a larger cast viable, though the rights holders might be wise to go back to creators and ask for a more ensemble friendly version. Only in the opening and closing was there any sense of ensemble in the Regals’ production. There were some tremendous performances, but downsides, including a badly off-pitch male voice in harmonies, suggested the company might have narrowed the number of performers showcased slightly. The Regals’ temporary home while Rockdale Town Hall is out-of-service is the St George Auditorium at Kogarah, a delightful little raked theatre offering a quality audience experience, even if the stage and backstage facilities are a challenge. While low-tech video mishaps made me query the wisdom of going multi-media, the production was a bright evening’s entertainment. Neil Litchfield Nunsense By Dan Goggin. Javeenbah Theatre Company Inc., Nerang (Qld). Mar 17 – 31. O M G! I must confess.............. I agree with Variety Magazine: “this irreverent and hilarious spoof has a zany momentum!” Ian Hogg’s fast moving production had the audience rolling in the aisles on opening night, with the whole cast certainly ‘Holier than Thou’ in their fundraising efforts to bury the four Nuns currently being stored in the kitchen freezer The laughs came thick and fast and the Reverend Mother’s (Gendi Moore) antics on the stool at the conclusion of Act 1 brought the house down. Sr Mary Amnesia’s (Rachel Love) song with her puppet alter ego was another of the many highlights of the show. Musical Director Sue den Besten used a three-piece combo to complement the musical talents of this polished cast and the clever use of the set from Grease worked in the Nuns’ favour. Javeenbah’s intimate auditorium was an ideal venue for this production and the Nuns’ took every opportunity to convert the audience. Roger McKenzie

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Dan Spielman as Macbeth and Kate Mulvany as Lady Macbeth. Photo: Rush

Reviews: Plays Macbeth By William Shakespeare. Bell Shakespeare Company. Sydney Opera House until May 12. Canberra, May 17 to June 2. Melbourne, June 7 to 23. AS any student obliged to study Macbeth will know (even almost 30 years ago as is my case) there are three witches around the cauldron at the beginning of this tragedy. “Double, Double, Toil and Trouble, Fire Burn and Cauldron Bubble,” they recite. For this interpretation director Peter Evans made them one witch who spoke in three voices. So we heard “Eye of Newt and Toe of Frog” in rather distorted form. While in one sense it was disappointing not to hear this memorable poetry clearly, it was a promising concept. The modern looking Paris-catwalk-gone-mad witch set the tone for a futuristic interpretation of Macbeth. No broom sticks or kilts here - contemporary dress and a style which reminded me of the movie The Matrix. Certainly with its theme of murder, intrigue and plenty of ghosts, Macbeth has the potential for an exciting metamorphosis into a modern supernatural flavoured production. The trouble is that to realise this properly would require flying and special effects which is not the way or the means of the Bell Shakespeare Company. They made do with an impressive large mirror over the stage and

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an intriguing green canopy on the stage floor. Even so, the highlight of production was the appearance of a ghost. The scene when Banquo returns to haunt Macbeth at the feast was beautifully lit and dressed. Combined with sparkling acting, it made for absorbing drama. Dan Spielman as Macbeth was dynamic and passionate. He looked great alongside the equally charismatic Lady Macbeth played by Kate Mulvany, who doubled as the dramaturg. Her scene when she arrived on stage covered in blood (struggling to out that damn spot) was so powerful that a rather earnest looking family left the theatre in what appeared to be fright. Did they think that Macbeth was a pantomime? A swashbuckling sword fight with very shiny swords brought the drama to a satisfying conclusion. David Spicer As You Like It By William Shakespeare. La Boite. Roundhouse Theatre (Qld). Feb 24 - Mar 24. LA Boite do it again: another hit! This show has everything, from bone-crushing wrestling to love stories, songs and broad comedy. Director, David Berthold, commented once he could produce anything in the round at La Boite. He’s gone one better; the action takes place in the entire theatre, involving the audience as well in the irrepressibly joyous action. The passion between the lovers central to the piece, Rosalind (Helen Howard) and Orlando (Thomas Larkin) is palpable – superb performances. Trevor Stuart shines as

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Hugo Weaving and Geraldine Hakewill in Sydney Theatre Company’s Les Liaisons Dangereuses. Photo: Brett Boardman.

Jacques and old Adam (whose “All the world’s a stage …” brought instant audience acclaim). Talented comedy specialists Bryan Probets (Touchstone) and Hayden Spencer (Duke Frederick, Corin and Audrey) keep the audience in stitches. Four intern actors from Queensland University of Technology and four from Southbank Institute of Technology between them covered a dozen parts. Renée Mulder’s amazing set designs are pivotal to the success of this show. David Walter’s lighting and Guy Webster’s understated, evocative soundscape augment her artistic vision. It would spoil the audience surprises to describe them. This show season will sell out. It should attract dedicated interstate theatregoers. It’s unlikely to tour. The bold direction and concept, the venue, and brilliant acting combine to create a unique theatre experience. As you like it? You bet! Jay McKee Les Liaisons Dangereuses By Christopher Hampton, from the novel by Choderlos De Laclos. Wharf 1 Theatre, Sydney Theatre Company. Mar 31 – Jun 9. THE play is set on the eve of the French Revolution. But the wigs and corsets were dispensed with for modern dress. Instead classic French period furniture, music and a series of interlinked doors and hallways set the scene. Hugo Weaving played the rapacious scoundrel Le 72 Stage Whispers

Vicomte De Valmont. He moved around the stage like a panther stalking his prey. There were plenty of delicious damsels on the menu. Geraldine Hakewill as Ceciles Volanges was soon transformed from a young virgin, fresh from a convent, into a sexual tigress. Justine Clarke as La Presidente De Tourvel was unpeeled like an onion. As each layer of resistance was removed we enjoyed the subtle changes in her body language. The foil for Le Vicomte De Valmonte was Pamela Rabe as Emilie, veteran of sexual intrigue, who flirted only with those she wished to spurn. She oozed sophistication. This was a sexy and stylish production. The second act was not as satisfying as the first act. As the theme turned darker, for my liking there were one or two too many pregnant pauses. But what made this is a scintillating evening of drama was the intimacy of the production. Up close in The Wharf no secret is safe. David Spicer The Ham Funeral
 By Patrick White. State Theatre Company of South Australia. The Odeon Theatre, Norwood. Mar 7 – 18. PATRICK White has quite popularly developed themes of loneliness, the basic alienation of existence and the natural struggles which an individual faces to find fulfillment. All of these themes are relevant in The Ham Funeral, and the overall feeling of the play is quite depressive and existential.

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Director Adam Cook has commissioned a grotesque set, which serves the function of the play very suitably. Dividing the upstairs and the downstairs, and creating another contradiction – a paradox of a life lived freely (or is it?) but the Young Man, a poet, played by Luke Clayson, and the lives of the Landlady and her husband, Mr and Mrs Lusty, in the basement below. The poet shares his space upstairs with his alter-ego or other self, a girl played inspirationally by Lizzy Falkland. Lighting played a major role in developing the conflict between the poet and himself (the Girl). Though it was illustrative I don’t feel that it was overly satisfactory. Most successful however is the costuming of the characters, particularly the relatives, from designer Ailsa Paterson. Dressed clownishly in greys, blacks and whites and acting all together over the top, they achieve something of an absurdist or expressionist style characteristically common in White’s work, where nonrealistic lighting, setting, language or action aided in the creation of another dimension which was designed to transcend the realism of the story. Luke Clayson plays the Young Man very well; his inner conflict is clear and his energy suitable. The soliloquies however were lacking in this same conflict and felt altogether forced. As Landlady, Mrs Lusty, Amanda Muggleton has a mighty job on her hands, and performed excellently. Running the gauntlet of emotions, from loss to lust, loneliness and love, Muggleton capably delivered an engaging characterisation which was connected both to the misery of Mrs Lusty’s existence and to the comedy in White’s writing. I found this a truly exciting performance to watch. White’s writing is amongst some of the best Australian literature available for dramatic production. Paul Rodda

Jane Phegan, Genevieve Mooy and Odile Le Clezio in The New Electric Ballroom.

searching for his purpose, is the perfect counter-balance. Through Natasha McNamara’s dialect coaching the cast achieve impeccable accents - delivered with such an authenticity it’s hard to believe you’re not watching a group of actors from Ireland. Daryl Wallis’ perfectly timed sound design is beautiful and gives the production a haunting cinematic quality, as does Verity Hampson’s lighting design. Tom Bannerman’s monochromatic set, dotted with specific props and colour, is simple and effective and adds to the claustrophobic nature of the story. The New Electric Ballroom will subtly reach inside you and tug at the deepest, darkest corners of your mind and make you consider love, romance, family and your own purpose. Whitney Fitzsimmons.

The Great Lie of the Western World By Alistair Powning and Michael Booth. Cathoderaytube. Tap Gallery (NSW). Mar 30 – Ap 21. “THE Great Lie of the Western World is that…we’re all free,” says Paige while she has a heated discussion with Fiona around what it really means to be free in a world that The New Electric Ballroom is full of societal expectations and constraints. By Enda Walsh. Griffin Independent. SBW Stables Theatre Simon (Alistair Powning) and Fiona (Kate Skinner) follow (NSW). Mar 7 – 31. the path of millions around the western world. Go to THE New Electric Ballroom is a story of three sisters, school, get an education, work hard, have downtime, pay Breda (Odile Le Clezio), Clara (Genevieve Mooy) and Ada off the mortgage and keep on top of the bills. Emerson (Jane Phegan) - their dreams, hopes and aspirations. Over played by Michael Booth first appears to be an old friend cups of tea, slices of coffee cake and dry oat biscuits, Ada’s but by the end of the play he, along with his partner-inelder sisters Breda and Clara reminisce through rosecrime Paige (Jessica Donoghue), seem to be almost godly. coloured glasses about time spent at The New Electric The four characters are really well executed by the actors Ballroom as they hovered on the cusp of womanhood. Ada and the whole dynamic of the play has a feeling of has heard this story many times, starting from a young age, improvisation. and it has become mythologised into the family’s history, so Writers Alistair Powning and Michael Booth have written much so that her own growth becomes shackled by it. as well as starred in this thoughtful and relevant new work Kate Gaul’s direction is strong, bold and rises to the which touches the heart of anyone reflecting on society in challenge of the script. She effortlessly weaves the action the western world. around the Griffiin’s confined space, pulls performances Emma Bell from the actors which are clear and intimate and gives each cast member a real opportunity to exercise their The Gingerbread Lady performance muscle. By Neil Simon. Ensemble Theatre (NSW). Mar 21 – Ap 28. The performances from Odile Le Clezio, Genevieve Mooy This is the Ensemble’s third production of The and Jane Phegan are brilliant, while Justin Smith’s lovely Gingerbread Lady, and whilst it is lively and the set portrayal of Patsy, the town’s simple fishmonger, a man impressive, the play does not sit well in contemporary Longer versions of many reviews can now be found at

Stage Whispers 73

Kate Raison and Tamblyn Lord in The Gingerbread Lady. Photo: Steve Lunam.

The boys’ evolution entails a descent into a primitive society, ruled by those willing to dominate and do harm to those they wish to exploit. The change in the physicality of the boys, from moving like men to moving like apes, is more beautiful and compelling than any dialogue can convey. Samuel Rushton as Piggy and Seton Pollock as Jack are outstanding, amidst a very capable cast and crew. Stephen Carnell

The Importance of Being Earnest By Oscar Wilde. Malanda Theatre Company (Qld.) Director: Jim Hill. Mar 23 – Ap 1. OSCAR Wilde’s trivial comedy for serious people is a theatre. It is long, the dialogue is uneconomic, and the theatre classic and Malanda Theatre Company’s production characters are overstated. only enhanced the reputation of the play. Directed by Jim That being said, director Sandra Bates has cast the play Hill, the play captured all the classic lines and nuances well and her direction of Simon’s work sustains the style, between characters. Luke Vanni as Jack and Jake Plant as pace and period of the play. The set and costumes are New Algernon was inspired casting. Both actors bounced off York in the early 1970s. each other and moved the play along with wit and pace. Kate Raison is compelling as Evy Meara, failed cabaret Gill Harrington as Lady Bracknell was a formidable singer and recovering alcoholic. Raison gets inside the character, decked out in Victorian clothing that in itself was brittle shell of the character, finding her fear and faltering formidable. Gill’s excellent timing and voice projection self-control. captured all the classic lines. Amelia Benefield was the star Kellie Clarke plays Evy’s daughter Polly. Clarke has an of the production with an energetic performance as the ability to be still and yet show the range of emotions that confused but dignified Gwendolyn. Flora Terrens as Cecily she is controlling – concern, bewilderment, disappointment was also in great form with perfect facial expressions and and anger. The scenes between mother and daughter are timing. The best scene of the play was early in act two as less superficial that other scenes, such as those with Evy’s Gwendolyn and Cecily fought for the affection of “Earnest”. friends Toby (Danielle Carter) and Jimmy (Tamblyn Lord). Janet Liston as Miss Prism played a good role, as did Chris There is humour, but the characters are shallow. Hoare in his two roles as a butler. Peter Hickey as a Carter does carry off the vain, self-absorbed, over-thebumbling vicar completed a fine cast. Apart from the top flamboyance of her character well, but the decision to modern furniture in act one, the production captured the play Jimmy as very obviously gay from the very beginning ambience and idiosyncrasies of the times. makes the character seem superficial. Ken Cotterill Manuel, the Spanish delivery boy, and Lou Tanner, Evy’s ex lover, are played by Adriano Cappelletta. Short + Sweet 2012 Finals Carol Wimmer Seymour Centre (NSW). Mar 30 & 31, 2012. IT was my first time as a judge for the ten-minute play Lord of the Flies festival Short + Sweet. So much to judge and so little light By William Golding, adapted by Nigel Williams. New to make any notes. Theatre (NSW). Director: Anthony Skuse. Ap 10 to May 12. I was pleased that my votes (lodged secretly) were GRACEFUL movement, together with the subtle use of similar to the other judges. (Phew!) sound and light, create moods and shapes that brew a Production of the year was Something to Be Done. magical elixir that injects vibrancy to the New Theatre’s Ironically it had no dialogue at all. This one-person production of Lord of the Flies and are its saving grace. The performance starred and was co-written by Gabriel play is dialogue heavy and focuses on themes of class and McCarthy. bullying in a post war world obsessed with the Bomb. The act involved dance, mime and contortion. Described To overcome this, director Anthony Skuse invigorates as one man searching for inspiration, it was phenomenal. this production with a lightness and innocence, and Best Director was Keane Williams for the play From a ultimately terror, through the movement of the ten actors Great Height. This was an hilarious ditty about a man who over the various dry and watery planes of the clever set asks a girl at his work out on a date, then talks himself out designed by David Marshall-Martin. The swirling and ever of it. The co-ordination between the hapless male and the changing patterns of the cast on stage are mesmerising and girl miming behind him was spot on. place the characters in a foreign land to which they must The overall Wildcards winner was a two-handed play adapt or die. The play involves the timeless clash between Save Me. This was about a hoon, lying on a road broken enlightened civilisation and the straightjacket of after being thrown from a car crash. His ‘rescuer’ then authoritarianism. Civilization is in peril. torments him by weighing up whether to call an ambulance. 74 Stage Whispers

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André de Vanny and Colin Friels in Red. Photo: Jeff Busby

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Overall it was a terrific night of entertainment. The Short + Sweet model has matured. You can see that writers are creating works which have a natural beginning, middle and a punch line to fill the ten minutes. It’s not the first scene of a play, but an organism in itself. David Spicer Red By John Logan. MTC. Director: Alkinos Tsillimidos. Sumner Theatre. Mar 26 – May 5. MARK Rothko was a mid 20th century painter of colossal ego, lofty ideals and arguably limited talent. He railed against “Art” as decoration and enjoyment, and loathed the pop culture that encouraged art to “sell out” to the highest bidder – and yet he embraced the money it offered. The play covers two years in which he creates the infamous “Red” series of panels for the Four Seasons restaurant in New York. This two-hander, written by John Logan, is a dazzling display of intellect through language. Lofty concepts are expressed in overworked clichés. Intelligent text is a welcome change, but the lack of any real emotional connection takes away all joy. Colin Friels gives us a Rothko out of step, suffocating under his own ego, yet with a deep fear of his own inadequacy. The louder he proclaims his genius, the more we understand his struggle with the taunting temptation of success and his reverence for pure “Art”. He is at his best in the silences – and there are a few to give us breathing

space – when we glimpse the soul of an artist who knows his mantel of fame is slipping from his shoulders. Andre de Vannay makes a suitably over-awed apprentice, a neophyte at first, growing into an assured disciple of a new world art order with the confidence to rail against his master. Tristan Meredith’s evocative sound-scape and Matt Scott’s lighting design create a truly believable atmosphere, in a play which tests credibility on all levels. Coral Drouyn The Weir By Conor McPherson. New Theatre (NSW). Mar 7 – 31. IN an Irish pub in a remote coastal village four blokes drink their way through a lifetime of familiarities and minor tensions. Tonight though, an attractive new resident from Dublin has arrived, and the bachelors are out to impress. In the best Irish tradition, they tell well-lubricated stories of local ghosts, fairies and other supernatural oddities – but Valerie then tops them all with a very real, human horror story of her own. The New’s former artistic director Alice Livingstone directs a polished, well- paced cast who are nicely housed on Jessica Sinclair Martin’s comfy pub set. The pub binds these locals, despite the tensions in their sometimes awkward pauses. But loneliness nibbles at their soul. Peter McAllum over-telegraphs the grumpy anger of the thwarted Jack but by the end, when he matches Valerie’s true confession, he delivers well. Barry French is also strong as the quiet odd jobs man Jim, living with his elderly mother. Lynden Jones is the young publican and Patrick

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Stage Whispers 75

Helen McFarlane, Emily Ridge, Stephanie Roberts, Lottie Bull, and Sam Hannan-Morrow, in Pride & Prejudice. Photo: Cliff Spong.

Connelly is the successful realty agent whose amiable banter barely disguises his arrogance. Conor McPherson’s celebrated play relishes these idiosyncratic folk and their tales but really cuts raw when Valerie (Amanda Stephens Lee) brings them to reality. While this denouement will ripen better as the season develops, The Weir is already an impressively staged production, engaging and life- enhancing. Martin Portus Pride & Prejudice Adapted for the stage by John Spicer from the novel by Jane Austen. Canberra Repertory. Director: Duncan Ley. Theatre 3; 24 Feb to 17 Mar 2012. IF there’s one quality that permeates the genteel classes of the early nineteenth century as Jane Austen depicts them in Pride and Prejudice, it must be subtlety. No crass rudeness, nothing to discomfit another, no overwrought expression passes the lips of Austen’s characters, because it is not necessary that it should do so. Even the crassest of characters, Mrs Bennett, was so only by comparison with the paragons of gentility whom she set out to impress, and today would pass unnoticed in any Australian city as just another loudmouth. So it’s especially delightful to see such characters rendered with equal subtlety in John Spicer’s stage adaptation of the novel (which he directed in its original Rep season 25 years ago), and to see its present season directed, despite its director’s youth, with almost the finesse 76 Stage Whispers

that Austen herself might have used. The opening scene’s seamless and delightful dissolution into the Bennetts’ drawing room through choreography on a rotating set led into a play replete (despite Mrs Bennett!) with the quiet wit of the original, which surely must have inspired Oscar Wilde. Rep’s actors brought to life perfectly all the individuality that Austen’s perceptiveness imbued in her characters, and did so with style. Lighting and a marvellous set design matched the play for suitable inventiveness, and a soundtrack quietly sounding at poignant moments worked to brilliant emotional effect. This play will stay with you for many chuckles. Don’t miss it. John P. Harvey Syncopation By Alan Knee. The Follies Company. Director: Stephen Lloyd Helper. The Q, Queanbeyan Performing Arts Centre. Mar 27 – Ap 5, then touring Eastern Australia. SYNCOPATION is one of those magical theatre experiences that leaves you feeling on top of the world. Joy, yearning, the ugly duckling fable, class and social issues, women’s suffrage, feminism—Alan Knee’s script could almost be seen to represent the 20th Century shaking off of the dowdy 1800s. Does that make it sound too academic? Because it’s also a love story, has lightning-quick New York wit, a Ragtime soundtrack and the sort of dancing that makes you want to leap out of your seat and join in. Set in the context of Lower Manhattan, the characters are

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working class second-generation new Americans stifled by their economic and working conditions. Italian-American Anna Bianchi is a meek seamstress engaged to the respectable owner of a chain of shops. Not quite understanding why, she finds herself beguiled by an ad for a dance partner, seduced by the idea of dancing for Royalty. When she arrives she finds Jewish meat-packer Henry Rigalow, ragged and sweaty in a dirty rented room, she is immediately repelled. But something about Henry draws her back, and they begin an unlikely dance partnership. The role of Henry Rigalow which is played by NIDA graduate and musician Justin Cotta. Cotta’s Henry comes off as almost unhinged in his passion for ballroom dancing. Nice Italian girl Anna, as played by Emma Palmer, is revealed to have depth and spirit she is not aware of at the outset. The slow evolution of the couple from awkward parallel steps through to accomplished ballroom dancers, all set to Gershwin and Joplin ragtime tunes, is simply a joy to watch. Palmer has great style and grace—she is a lovely dancer, which perhaps helps her to act with her whole body, carrying her timidity and later confidence as much in her posture as her expressions. Cotta imbues Henry with an infectious enthusiasm using his marvelously expressive face and very intense eyes. The set has a few whimsical elements and the use of a translucent screen and clever lighting to create dream sequences was quite beautifully done. The costuming was particularly clever, with her lovely period 1912 clothing changing to mirror Anna’s character arc. You’ll find yourself dancing out of the theatre. Cathy Bannister

A thought provoking and memorable production. Suzanne Sandow

Muckheap (In Auslan and English). Polyglot Theatre. Director: Sue Giles. Cromwell Road Theatre, South Yarra (Vic) Mar 10, 2012. Touring Regionally. THIS excellent unassuming and energetic work prompts delighted spontaneous laughter form children and adults alike. David (Jacob Williams) and Jodie (Justine Werner) have to move house and time to pack is running out with a removalist’s truck arriving in about thirty minutes. They are having difficulty sorting things out and deciding what to take and what to throw away, partly due to reluctance to move and partly due to Jodie’s subversive cheeky irreverence. This update of Muckheap has been developed with students at Furlong Park Primary School for the Deaf. It very holistically incorporates Auslan (Australian Sign Language). In fact Justine Werner’s Jodie could just as easily be mistaken for a deaf person. This charming show creeps up on the audience as it brings together a number of visual treats, archetypal and contemporary, that are simply created, exhibited with aplomb and extremely affectively integrated. The variation in tempo, numerous activities and multiplicity of ideas presented, has the capacity to keep the attention of the smallest child to the most sophisticated adult. It is easy to see why this highly transportable homely work has experienced significant longevity and is being Art given a new lease of life with the incorporation of Auslan By Yasmina Reza. The Mount Players (Vic). Director: for Regional and International tours. Christina Finch. Mar 9 – 13. I would be booking it if I was a Cultural Services Officer, ART is an intriguing play about the joys, frustrations and because it is a great show and because of the importance petty betrayals of friendship. It could be likened to an of demystifying and affirming Deaf culture. extended episode of a French version of Seinfeld. Suzanne Sandow Through the perceptive, intelligent streamlined direction of Christina Finch, Yasmina Reza’s deftly crafted play shines Breaker Morant as a fascinating examination of some of the checks and Newly revised script by Kenneth G Ross. The Theatre balances of friendship. Troupe. Reginald Theatre, Seymour Centre (NSW). Ap 12 – It is the story of three men who have maintained reliable 21. and affirming friendships with each other over a period of THIS military courtroom drama stands alongside Rusty fifteen years. Then, ostensibly provoked by the purchase of Bugles and Simpson in bringing the politics of war to the an expensive painting by one of the trio, their comfortable stage. Harry Morant and Peter Hancock have become relationships start to flounder. Australian war ‘heroes’. They followed orders – and bore This play has universal appeal, some very funny the brunt of military betrayal. The injustice of their moments and fabulous lines like ‘deconstruction sounds like execution still rankles. something from a Builder’s magazine.’ Director Gareth Boylan uses the theatre of military Each of the characters is clearly drawn and convincingly precision and movement to keep the pace of Ross’s play. interpreted by the actors. Yvan (Richard Barley) is a lively The staging benefits from the authenticity of the uniforms comic, painfully keen to please character. Andrew Blizzard’s and military accoutrements of the period – and the austere Marc is a stolid presence with a hint of danger about him. set (Jessica Martin) and creative lighting (Teegan Lee). Dark The extravagant yet ultimately reconciling Serge, played by and light prevail, in line with the travesty of the trial and Adrian Munro, also serves the text well. some moments of levity – mainly provided by Chris Miller as ‘Are you who you think you are or are you who your the ebullient Lt Peter Hancock. friends think you are?’ A pertinent question posed by Faber Producer Andrew George, who plays ‘the Breaker’, is for the publication of script. actually a serving army officer who has had some actor Longer versions of many reviews can now be found at

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Strobe lighting, frequent strong coarse language and loud noises are softened periodically as Rose tells her Cray Fishing story. The Seed will have special poignancy for those who have delved into family history to discover more than they bargained for. Lucy Graham The Mousetrap By Agatha Christie. Queanbeyan City Council. Director: Jordan Best. The Q, Queanbeyan Performing Arts Centre. Mar 7 – 24. IT’S the 1930s, and Giles and Mollie Ralston are buzzing Sara Gleeson and Max Gillies in The Seed. Photo: Jeff Busby. excitedly around their newly opened Katoomba boarding training. His physical portrayal is strong and moving, but he house, apparently not at all perturbed by the news of closetakes the dialogue too fast, losing the beauty of Morant’s by murder. Strange, secretive guests appear and are poetry – and some important lines. trapped by blizzard and snow, and events soon turn Mark Lee plays the advocate, Major Thomas. His sinister. As you would expect. frustration and controlled anger pace every courtroom This is a production for fans of Agatha Christie, who will scene. James Lugton, as the reluctant prosecutor, Major recognise all her hallmarks (except perhaps the ‘victim falls Bolton, is a balanced foil for Lee’s Thomas. on watch, breaking it, establishing time of death’ ruse). Dave Kirkham and Richard Cotter, as Lord Kitchener and People expecting logic, depth or anything vaguely like a Colonel Hamilton, are suitably arrogant and defensive. modern police procedural will be disappointed, but that’s Doubling as witnesses, Afrikaaner, Van Rooyan, and really not what Christie was about. What Dame Agatha did Scottish Dr Johnson, they also bring gentle comic relief. well was pacing, structure, tension and puzzle. First time actor, military officer Richard Mallett is a ‘find’! Best’s production is faithful to Christie’s intent, bringing His depiction of Captain Taylor is tellingly realistic. out moments of genuine naturalistic tension and some Carol Wimmer delightful acting, particularly the affection and interplay between Tim Sekuless and Kiki Skountzos as the newlywed The Seed hosts. The hardest character to manage is Mr Paravicini – a By Kate Mulvany. Melbourne Theatre Company (Vic). Arts weird “foreigner” wearing makeup to make himself look Centre Melbourne, Fairfax Studio. Director, Anne-Louise older – because he’s a caricature bordering on racist. Jim Sarks; Set and Costume Design, Christina Smith; Lighting Adamik brings him a tension, varying between comedic and Designer, Matt Scott. Feb 17 – Ap 4. creepy which is satisfyingly unnerving. THE Seed, by Kate Mulvany, is a play about the Back in deco-era Australia, it was fashionable for well-to uncomfortable truths that exist in all families, and the -do Sydneysiders to holiday in the Blue Mountains, so this disempowering and intrusive nature of war. setting does make sense, despite the dialogue and setting Rose, a writer, travels with her father from Australia to being a little out of place. Cate Clelland’s set was meet her Irish grandfather in Nottingham, hoping to be particularly well done, with period woodwork over the rewarded with the Maloney family history. Sifting through arches, and a snow projection outside a frosted window. the family folklore, Rose’s questions lead her into Although I’ve come to recognise her formulae and faults, I uncomfortable truths about herself, her family, and grew up on Christie and hold her dear. Fans of the Dame ultimately into greater appreciation of their imperfect family will love this. bonds. Cathy Bannister Gradually family truths seep through the cracks of conflict. Seeds are planted in the minds of the audience Beyond the Neck from the outset, teasing us unto speculation and provoking A Quartet on Loss and Violence. By Tom Holloway. Red empathy shifts, until the audience is left wondering if we Stitch (Vic). Director: Suzanne Chaundy. Mar 14 - Ap 14. know anything at all. There can be no doubt that significant courage is In the intimate setting of the Fairfax Studio, Mulvany’s required to work with such deeply disturbing material as impressive script is directed by MTC mainstage debutante the Port Arthur Massacre. And yes, perhaps “To Anne-Louise Sarks, and brought to life with compelling acknowledge grief is to acknowledge love.” (Director’s performances by Max Gillies, Sara Gleeson and Tony Martin. program notes.) 78 Stage Whispers

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Four actors, as actors, frame, and as assumed characters, talk of the incidents in individual lives, surrounding this dreadfully traumatic event. Roger Oakley, a consummate actor, shines as the old man. He portrays a strongly crafted archetypal character with crystal clarity. Oakley is well supported by, and supportive of, the younger cast members. The set, designed by Dayna Morrissey, is stunning in its simplicity and use of limited space. The whole suggests dark power and timelessness. Richard Vavre’s lighting is finely tuned to enhance it, as is the initial soundscape by Philip McLeod. All aspects of this production meld seamlessly into a whole and towards a focused culmination. As the climax is approached and themes of torture and cold-blooded murder converge, the counterpoint of string music is at odds with the rhythms and intentions of the actors. This work has much to recommend it and on opening night was received with loud affirming enthusiasm. Suzanne Sandow Wrong Turn at Lungfish By Gary Marshal & Lowell Ganz. Centenary Theatre Group (Qld). Mar 3 - 24. SEEMS this community theatre has struck gold with the combination of director Gary O’Neil, actor Brian Cannon, stage manager Rhyll Bucknell and lighting and sound designer Tristan Holland. For some years now, if that combination is involved in a CTG production it heralds great entertainment and good houses. So it is again with Wrong Turn at Lungfish, an intelligent play with an enigmatic title that actually relates to a discussion about evolution between the two leads. Octogenarian Brian Cannon as irascible, blind and ailing Peter Ravenswaal (an ex-academic), and Katie Dowling as the sassy street-wise young Bronx volunteer, Anita, selected to visit and read to him, carry the show. Intelligence and basic survival skills become focal challenges as these two wrangle verbally. Two other characters flesh out this situation: as an equally sassy nurse, Leanne Shellshear carves a strong niche for herself in the plot, as does Steve Pearton as Anita’s violent hit-man boyfriend, Dominic. Neither character deserves much audience sympathy and they perform as if they don’t care. Both earn highest praise for attracting audience animosity so effectively. Small cast, big effect. An engrossing piece of theatre. Jay McKee

Mrs Boyle, strict, unbending and dissatisfied with the shortage of servants, received such an effective interpretation from Veronica Hannebery that whispers of “I hope she is first to go” were heard in the audience. Clare Hayes performed well as Miss Casewell, sustaining a strong working class accent throughout. Dennis Hine-St. Clair as Mr Paravicini provided some good laughs as the mysterious unexpected Italian visitor. Matthew Martin handled the role of Sergeant Trotter the policeman with the appropriate level of aggression. Andrew Scarborough caught the character of Christopher Wren, a weird young architect, with finesse and good stage projection. Luke Smith gave a fair performance of the proprietor, Giles Ralston. He has good projection and clear voice but on opening night he was a little stiff. Kellie Tweedale gave a fine performance as Ralston’s constantly worrying wife Mollie. S.T.A.G’s set designers and construction crew created a period authentic boarding house lounge room, with appropriate furniture, fittings, stairways, French windows and relevant doors. A first class production of the world’s longest running play. Peter Kemp

Twelfth Night By William Shakespeare. Young People’s Theatre (Newcastle, NSW). Feb 15 to Mar 3. A Comedy of Errors By William Shakespeare. Tantrum Theatre. Mount Carrington Park, Carrington (Newcastle, NSW). Mar 8 to 18. Then touring. IT was just as well the actors in Twelfth Night and A Comedy of Errors were in their late teens and early 20s. They had some very agile - and very funny - acrobatic movements that older performers would be nervous about doing. The two productions showed how well some of Newcastle’s up-and-coming actors adjusted to the demands of Shakespeare. In Twelfth Night, for example, the hangers-on in the reclusive Olivia’s house – her manipulative uncle, Toby Belch (Anna Lambert), the man, Andrew Aguecheek (Mitchell Bourke), Toby is hitting for money while encouraging him to woo Olivia, the lady-in-waiting Maria (Catherine Cook and Sarah Gordon alternating) and the ever-jesting Fabian (Sean Hixon) – had first-class comic timing, especially as they gulled Olivia’s major-domo, Malvolio (Jack Gow) into dressing ridiculously to try to impress Olivia. The Mousetrap Directors Amy Hill and Leilani Smith set the tale in the By Agatha Christie. Strathmore Theatrical Arts Group. Mar 1 1930s, an appropriate move given that one of the central – 10. characters is a young woman who for most of the time is S.T.A.G., celebrating 60 years, marked the occasion with disguised as a man, and in that decade women’s clothing Agatha Christie’s most successful whodunit, released for often had a mannish look. amateur production as it celebrated its 60th year in The contrast between Lambert’s short and suit-wearing London’s West End. Toby and Bourke’s lanky Andrew, dressed sportively casual, The result? A great night of theatre and a packed produced chuckles even before they said a word. And the opening night. physical dexterity of the actors, as they moved around the elegant multi-level set, had the audience gasping. Longer versions of many reviews can now be found at

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Mitchell Bourke was also in A Comedy of Errors, a production that was staged outdoors in several parks. He was a more assertive character in this, as Antipholus of Syracuse, a young merchant who is seeking his long-lost twin, and risks coming to unfriendly rival state Ephesus in search of him. He is accompanied by servant Dromio of Syracuse (Lewis Dixon), who also has a lost twin. The missing twins, of course, are in Ephesus and have the same names and relationships as their brothers, setting the scene for hilarious confusion as relatives, friends and creditors encounter the wrong twins at inopportune moments. Director Carl Young had actors who were virtual lookalikes as the twins, with the two in Ephesus played by Matthew Graham (Antipholus) and Drew Holland (Dromio). The similarity of the actors added to the enjoyment of scenes such as one where Adriana (Ana Ringma), the wife of Antipholus of Ephesus, is less than pleased to find the other Antipholus cuddling her receptive sister, Luciana (Cassandra Hart). Young cut the text to 75 minutes and set the play in the present day, with the citizens of Ephesus waving banners in the opening scene telling Syracusian boat people to go home. But after that the play was as swift and as funny as a contemporary farce. Ken Longworth Sex Please, We’re Sixty! By Michael and Susan Parker. DAPA Theatre (Newcastle, NSW). Feb 24 - Mar 11. SEX Please, We’re Sixty! proves that everything old can be new again in comedy, showing that romantic hi-jinks aren’t just for the young. The play is set in the reception lounge of an American bed-and-breakfast run by no-nonsense Mrs Stancliffe (Pamela Whalan). She does turn a blind eye to the intrusions of next-door neighbour Bud Davis (Ian Barton) who checks the booking register each day to see if one of his “chicks” is returning.

Bud regards himself as “Bud the Stud”, and the reactions of three new guests to his smooth words and come-hither glances suggested he doesn’t over-estimate his appeal. Southern belle Charmaine Beauregard (Lesly Stevenson) cooingly refers to him as Budley Studley; Victoria Ambrose (Sue McEwen) is attracted by his elegant wooing; and Hillary Hudson (Lee Loudon) is flattered by his advances. Mrs Stancliffe has a more reticent gentleman caller: Henry Mitchell (Robert Williams) who has arrived each afternoon for 20 years unsuccessfully proposing marriage. Henry, a retired chemist, has developed a pill he calls Venusia to increase the sex drive of menopausal women. Bud, told about the pill, pockets some and drops them into a fruit tea, leading to amusing reactions by the women guests. But when the women find that Bud has been threetiming them, they decide to teach him a lesson. In the process, Bud’s blue Viagra pills get mixed up with the similarly coloured Venusia tablets, leading to chaos of a hilarious kind. Writers Michael and Susan Parker have skilfully adapted the format of English farce to an American setting and director Margaret Spencer and the actors delivered the pace and believable characterisations needed to keep the laughter flowing as the story becomes more frantic. Ken Longworth The Flint Street Nativity By Tim Firth. Hobart Repertory Theatre Society. Playhouse Theatre, Hobart. Director: Petr Divis. Mar 2 – 17. TIM Firth’s play The Flint Street Nativity, about a class of seven year olds rehearsing to perform their nativity play at Flint Street Junior School, is a funny look at the antics, on stage and off, of a mixed group of children. Billed as a “side splitting comic catastrophe!!” the Hobart Repertory Theatre Society production, directed by Petr Divis, milks the funny script for all it’s worth. With two Marys, a shortage of wise men, a wayward ass and an escaped pet stick insect, all hell breaks loose around Mrs. Horrocks’ nativity production.

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Child characters played by adults are always a recipe for laughs, and the disparity of the performers to their characters is clever casting. There is an element of pathos, as we gain insights into the home lives and family problems of the cast of the nativity, but the audience was too busy laughing to notice that this is what life holds for the children. The Flint Street Nativity is hilarious and touching. Hobart Repertory Theatre is excellent at ensemble theatre, and it was difficult to pick a star. With excellent timing, well maintained Northern England accents, and characters who understood the incongruity of the play, the laughs were constant. Lighting, costumes and music added to the very high standard. Merlene Abbott

Odyssey Created by Andreas Litras and John Bolton. Open Stage Carlton. Mar 13 – 31. ODYSSEY is a beautifully realised one-man play about family migration from Greece to Australia through the 50s and 60s. Andreas Litras tells his parent’s story, whilst weaving tales from Homer’s Odyssey through a second character: a Greek janitor. The combination of Litras’s authentic family history and the old Greek janitor’s dramatic storytelling works brilliantly, to the point where an entire culture comes to life on the stage. Odyssey covers so many aspects of the migration experience: the sad farewells, the struggle to learn a new language, the incredible hard work, the painful realisation that the homeland has changed beyond recognition. What is also great is that Litras doesn’t Move Over Mrs Markham sugarcoat his parent’s story, such as in the scene where By R. Cooney and J Chapman. Players Theatre, Ballina Andreas and his mum get in the car in the middle of the (NSW). Director: Mary Richards. Mar 16 – 31. night to search for dad, who is found gambling at a friend’s home. FARCE is a theatre tradition where timing of dialogue and action must be ‘spot on’ and above all, natural. Litras is a terrific performer with a gift for physical Occasionally poor diction or delivery just missed the comedy and his talents fit so well in Odyssey’s structure. mark in Ballina Players’ Move Over Mrs Markham and on One of the best scenes involves a family slideshow that several occasions enthusiasm spoilt a comic moment. takes an unexpectedly tragic turn, and leads into the This show had pace (vital to this theatrical form) and the janitor’s re-telling of Odysseus’s trip through the Greek underworld. It is one of the wildest and creepiest things I chaos that reigned as the plot thickened made for a fun time. have seen on stage - and I loved it. One disappointment to me was Mrs Markham’s night A remarkable work of art. attire: the red nightie was below the knee and no hint of Sara Bannister sexiness apart from the colour. Her two dressing gowns did nothing to arouse male interest. Ruben Guthrie By Brendan Cowell. Blue Cow Theatre Inc. Theatre Royal The nimble cast worked well as a team. Technical support of light and sound added to the Backspace, Hobart. Director: Robert Jarman. Mar 22 – 31. overall production and the set endured all the comings and ALCOHOL consumption is an accepted part of the goings, doors opening and closing and bed hopping that Australian way of life. When Sydney actor/writer Brendan the action demanded. Cowell took a year off the sauce a few years ago, his world Roger McKenzie was turned upside down, and Ruben Guthrie the play was born. Cowell’s authentic script shows how “giving it up” Iron creates imbalance in the lives of all who surround the By Rona Munro. Cairns Little Theatre. Director: Narelle would-be abstainer. Blue Cow Theatre, Hobart’s Shorey. Feb 24 – Mar 3. independent actors’ company, presents Ruben Guthrie as IRON is Cairns Little Theatre’s first play for 2012. The its first production for 2012. At age 29, Ruben Guthrie is on fire. He’s the Creative play is a gritty drama set in a women’s prison. Fay (Cathy Willacy) is serving a life sentence for the stabbing murder of Director of a cutting-edge advertising agency. Scott Farrow her husband. She is visited by her daughter Josie (Trisha is an engaging and charismatic Ruben, engaged to Czech Hill) who has not been in contact with her mother for 15 supermodel Zoya (Melanie Irons). Ruben pours himself a years. The drama, acted out on a grey, sparse and dimly-lit drink to celebrate, work, and sleep. One spectacular night set, is riveting theatre as daughter and mother come to he drinks so much he thinks he can fly. This incident is the wake-up call he needs to give up the grog and other terms with the past. Willacy gives a commanding and compelling performance as the dysfunctional mother. Her addictions, which leads him to going to AA with his mum performance is ably complemented by Hill’s excellent Sue (Chelle Burtt). Ruben fights his demons with the aid of portrayal of a confused and angry daughter. It was also AA sponsor Virginia (Mel King). Best friend and fellow good to see that the playwright had given life and character imbiber Damian (Andrew Casey) is determined that his drinking buddy will not reform. to the two prison guards, George (Brian Schwarze) and Sheila (Meg Fielding). Both minor roles were realistically Farrow is relentlessly energetic for almost all of the more portrayed. Apart from a few inconsistencies in the settings, than two-hour show on a shiny-surfaced stage with only the play was very well acted and, despite the theme, two light-box cubes as set. Adaptable and accomplished excellent entertainment. actors Les Winspear as father Peter and experienced professional John Xintavelonis as boss Ray support Farrow’s Ken Cotterill sensational performance. Ruben Guthrie is side-splittingly Longer versions of many reviews can now be found at

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hilarious, fast-paced, poignant and thought provoking. Merlene Abbott

marriage that alternate with realisations of all she will be losing; widow Winsome, living in a retirement village with friends in similar situations ─ lifestyles that would resonate The Most Excellent and Lamentable Tragedy of Romeo and with at least part of the audience; and Zoe, entertainer with Juliet a huge reputation but no longer coping with the The Zoey Louise Moonbeam Dawson Shakespeare Company expectations of her. (How many stars like this have we seen (VIC). Fortyfivedownstairs, Flinders Lane. Adapted and recently?) Directed by Zoey Dawson. Feb 29 - Mar 11. Take a bow director Wesley Enoch; Simone Romaniuk A modern adaptation of a classic is not uncommon. for the ingenious revolving set that adapted for each Zoey Dawson’s version of Romeo and Juliet, however, takes character; Phil Slade’s sometimes-almost-subliminal on the challenge of using a young, all female cast to play soundscape; Daniel Anderson and David Walters for clever the mostly male characters of the Montague and Capulet lighting; and all other creatives on this artistic success. It’s battle. And it works well. If anything, it takes the focus off an entertainment knockout! Jay McKee the famous, tragic couple and puts the spotlight onto the young and in love Juliet; also aided by the fact that Juliet is played by the one actress, Brigid Gallacher, whilst the rest Money and Friends of the cast; Nikki Shiels, Naomi Rukavina, Devon Lang By David Williamson. Villanova Players. The Theatre, Seven Wilton, Laura Maitland and Carolyn Butler, take turns in Hills TAFE, Brisbane. Director: Leo Wockner. Mar 9 – 24. playing Romeo. What is achieved therefore is an eye-opener DAVID Williamson’s 1991 corrosive comedy of what it into the angst of a young teenage girl in love – albeit a means to be a ‘friend’ amongst the chardonnay and modern one. canapés set was given a solid workmanlike production by The modern and girly set by Zoe Rouse, of a pretty Villanova Players. Williamson’s play, set around a cluster of bedroom with books and fluffy toys, accentuates the weekenders on Sydney’s South Coast, incisively skewers the juxtaposition of Juliet’s youthful innocence, unwittingly cast hypocrisies of the Australian middle-class. Patrick Mullins was an obnoxious and blustering surgeon Stephen, nicely into the awful circumstances of murder, isolation and suicide. The ensemble ably handles the lofty text, yet complementing Mary Woodall’s understated reading of his delivered with entirely modern mannerisms - supported by wife Penny. Carissa Zygis made a striking Vicki, Nick random pop-music, props and costumes. It makes for some Morrissey as mega-lawyer Alex had his moments, as did really funny moments but without any touch of send-up. Trevor Bond as Conrad the star TV reporter. But it was Dan When Juliet is believed to be dead, the scene is pure Brecht Kennedy, in the lynchpin role of the recently widowed - it’s funny and it works brilliantly. mathematics professor Peter, who gave the best This play oozes girl-power of the tough and gritty kind. performance of the night. As the character who attempts The young actresses swing between the masculine and the to brings some honesty to this selfish and self-obsessed feminine, the funny and the tragic, with ease. They take on group, it was a very believable portrait. Strong support scenes of fighting, stabbing and murder with authentic came from Elizabeth Morris as history professor Margaret, and Shane Fell as toy-boy Justin. Leo Wockner’s direction gusto. It feels unfair to single anyone out, but Naomi Rukavina was a most believable Romeo and Nikki Shiels a never missed a laugh, even if his stage groupings favored talented stand-out. straight lines a little too much, whilst Leo Bradley’s Karen Coombs uncluttered set was functional and accurate. It’s the second time Villanova have produced the play. The first was in 2000. With its plot involving dubious dealings by the Bombshells By Joanna Murray-Smith. Queensland Theatre Company. banking industry, the work hasn’t dated and possibly holds Cremorne Theatre. Mar 17 – Ap 21. even more currency in today’s present climate. Peter Pinne I’M still undecided who was the star of this piece, performer Christen O’Leary or playwright Joanna MurrayThe Lion in Winter Smith who challenged her with six real women across the By James Goldman. Heidelberg Theatre Company. Feb 23 – age spectrum, with individual personalities, psyches and Mar 10. emotional responses. The dynamic little singer/actor/dancer THE history of the Heidelberg Theatre Company goes invested each with every shred of talent she had. back to 1952. It is a small theatre seating approximately Initially she captivated us with angst-ridden mother, 100 patrons. I was aware of the story of The Lion in Winter Meryl who was bombarded with advice and criticisms from and its success as a film but had never actually seen it peers, parenting books, radio shows, TV and the social performed as a live play. Watching the performance I was network. Expectations of mothers today have never been fascinated by the text of playwright James Goldman, greater. incorporating high drama and juxtaposing this with witty Then we met poor recently-divorced Tiggy who one-liners. The script was such that the audience was sublimates her frustrations by nurturing cacti; competitive completely fixated with the story, all of us wondering how teenager Mary, inspired by entertainment ‘idol’ programs, this family and political predicament would resolve itself. who is desperate to win at the school concert level; aboutGiven the limited resources of amateur theatre to-be-married Theresa luxuriating in wild fantasies of companies, I believe the actors and crew did an excellent 82 Stage Whispers

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job. I would have preferred to have heard different ‘mood’ music between scenes as I felt that what was used was not appropriate to the time and place in which the story was set. However, lighting and set design worked very well for this production. Other than a few small technical issues I enjoyed the performance even though the cast was small, numbering only 7. On a couple of occasions the actors delivered their lines not quite facing the audience, which made audibility difficult. The meter of some of the speeches could have been Cosi improved so that the punch lines were hit a little harder. However, that having been said, this was only the second night of the season. I particularly enjoyed the performances of Chris McLean as Henry 11 and Juliet Hayday as Eleanor of Aquitaine. For this small Melbourne amateur theatre company, I say well done to an entertaining performance. Gabrielle Murphy

Cosi By Louis Nowra. Epicentre Theatre Company. Zenith Theatre, Chatswood. Mar 23 – 31. ONE of the most popular of Louis Nowra’s works, Cosi is a good play for community theatre. It doesn’t require an elaborate set and the characters show Nowra’s gentle and quirky insights into the various manifestations of mental illness. The Lesbian Variations Director Christine Firkin has taken the play at face value and directed it accordingly. There has been no attempt to By Gina Schien. Blancmange Productions. Directors: Stephen Carnell and Amelia Tranter. Slide Cabaret, Oxford ‘jazz up’ the set or use elaborate costumes for the final Street, Sydney. Feb 25 – May 12. scene. There are some production/design problems, but THE LB’s consist of three short plays written by NIDA overall the production finds the tempo, humour and Grad and AWGIE award winner Gina Schien. The plays poignancy of the play. address universal themes of sexual repression, love, denial, The character of Lewis, recent university graduate impulsiveness, parenthood and manipulation. Alicia commissioned to direct a play at a mental institution, is a Gonzales opens the proceedings smartly with Cake On A demanding role. Aston Campbell plays the naivety of Lewis Plate, a solo piece requiring immediate command of the well. Darrel Hoffman, as inmate Roy, originator of the idea audience as a school teacher – and her natural grace lends of doing a play, is alternatively daffy and aggressive, though itself to her character’s ‘stitched up’ personae. Carnell’s some of his lines are thrown away almost nonchalantly. Therese Bean plays the in-your-face, assertive Cherry. direction ensures she remains in tight control of the piece throughout. This is a monologue which rewards the keen She is a strong stage presence and her energy and comic listener and when the mood shifts nary a person in the timing sustain the tempo and pace of the action. So too room would have not absorbed the frisson. does young Darcy Green as the manic pyromaniac Doug. The Dyke Variations teams Gonzales alongside a warm His command of the stage and his energetic physicalisation of the role are outstanding. and vulnerable Laura Viskovitch. The struggles of early With her usual attention to detail, Jeannie Gee plays the parenthood are treated with humour and tenderness as the piece keeps moving. The third play, The Punter’s Siren, truly obsessive Ruth and David Villanti is quite brilliant as the sad, brings this production galloping in, hands and heels all the introverted Henry. way to the post. Jacqui Livingston’s performance is The production moves quickly. The comedy and pathos poignant and pants-wettingly hilarious. The setting, script, of the script are sustained. There is some strong characterisation and Mozart’s music swells behind each direction, costuming and chemistry between the leads scene change. combined elegantly and Livingston’s moxie kept this reviewer riveted. She is Lucille Ball, Mary Tyler Moore and Carol Wimmer Jim Carrey rolled into one. Hers was a thoroughbred performance and most definitely the reason for the return Lyrebird season. By Amelia Evans. Old Fitzroy Theatre (NSW). Mar 30. SET in the three months following Victoria’s Black Rose Cooper Saturday bush fires, Lyrebird is a story that focuses on how Longer versions of many reviews can now be found at

Stage Whispers 83

Management” counseling session, after head-butting (is there anything more bogan?) a neighbour. The setting is simple – 6 chairs for the offenders, and two for the counsellors, plus a white board. With Paine playing 3 characters, and the versatile Ross Daniels playing the other three, the staging is impeccably timed, with both actors sliding to an adjacent seat and into another character with flawless ease. Each character has a rich story to tell, both funny and poignant. The counsellors are well played by Syd Brisbane and Michelle Nussey, excellent performances but Brisbane’s Trevor is the most complex: a man of pent-up rage and a façade of smiling homilies. We know he’s going to explode and, despite the rage, we can’t help but feel sorry for him. Unpack This deserves a life beyond the The Boys Next Door (L-R): Lucien (John Boyce), Norman (Marc James), Arnold (Garth Ledwidge) MICF. It’s good theatre and accessible to and Barry (Jake Connor Moss). Photo: Leesa Connelly, of Forward Photography. everyone. Be prepared to laugh, be moved, and even feel uncomfortable one family tries to rebuild its life while still reeling from the during this exploration of the weakness in all of us. trauma. Coral Drouyn It’s a great idea for a theatrical venture and conjures up memories of productions such as Belvoir’s Aftershocks, The Boys Next Door which dealt with the Newcastle earthquake. But instead of By Tom Griffin. Brisbane Arts Theatre. Mar 10 - Ap 7. using the effective tool of verbatim theatre like Aftershocks, FOUR men with mental problems have been placed in a Lyrebird is ‘loosely based on this tragic event’ and is a residential situation to develop their socialisation. creative interpretation. This is what lets the show down. This is a gentle black comedy about an issue we usually Rather than relying on what would have been a wealth prefer to ignore. Leave political correctness outside when of material from those who endured the event, playwright you come in. Amelia Evans serves up a half-baked, convoluted and Director Shaun King chose a strong cast of actors. They seriously boring plot that basically drags everything down in create real characters who capture our hearts. its wake. It’s interesting this is the case, given the project Garth Ledwidge’s insecure, nervous Arnold is bright, his had a lot of support in the development phase. language mature and he knows his geography. He is a Unfortunately Jemma Gurney’s clunky direction and cinema cleaner. strange casting choices don’t help matters and the actors Lucien, superb performance by John Boyce, speaks like a who may be quite fine under another director and a rethree-year-old, is prone to tears of frustration, and works at worked script - just look confused and self conscious. By the a sheltered workshop. end of the show (which is just over an hour - but feels Kitchen hand in a donut shop, obese Norman (Marc much longer) a restless audience is obviously feeling sorry James) is obsessed with keys, which he keeps attached to for the cast. his belt. He goes to dances for the disabled where his Aside from Gez Xavier Mansfield’s set there really aren’t girlfriend, Sheila (Francesca Gasteen – another memorable any other points of interest. performance) seems more interested in his keys than in In Lyrebird Amelia Evans had a real opportunity to create Norman a bold and compelling piece of theatre, however it was an Young Barry (Jake Connor Moss) is socially withdrawn opportunity lost. except where golf is concerned. When his one-armed father Whitney Fitzsimmons (Alex Lanham) comes to visit, Barry adopts a foetal position and goes mute. A telling scene. We grew to love the children in these mentally retarded Unpack This Written and staged by Geoff Paine with Ross Daniels. MICF. characters but as their stressed supervisor, Jack (Michael Chapel Off Chapel (Vic). Ap 12 - 29. FitzHywel) points out, ‘They don’t change.’ MORE than a cabaret, not quite a play (yet), Unpack Cindy Nelson and Richard Lamont augment this cast in This is based on Geoff Paine’s own personal experience of multiple minor roles. Comedy that strikes the heart. being ordered by the court to attend a “Men’s Anger Jay McKee 84 Stage Whispers

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Reviews: Opera

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La Traviata on Sydney Harbour. Photo: Lindsay Kearney, Lightbox Photography.

La Traviata By Giuseppe Verdi and Francesco Maria Piave. Opera Australia. Mrs Macquarie’s Point. Director: Francesca Zambello. March 24 - April 15, 2012. SOMETIMES you can walk into a theatre which is so breathtakingly beautiful that you’ve almost got your money’s worth before the first note is sung. That was my experience when I saw an opera at the New York Met. For me, the same jaw-dropping excitement bubbled to the surface when Opera Australia was blessed with divine Sydney weather (after a summer of rain and storms) for the opening of their first outdoor season at Mrs Macquarie’s Point. It meant you could admire the Opera House at sunset, the giant chandeliers glistened on the tilted stage and in the Botanic Gardens the lavishly adorned restaurants surrounding the grandstand. In the first act one visual treat followed another. The chandeliers ascended and descended in an array of different colours. There were beautiful costumes and fireworks less than half an hour after the Opera opened. The orchestra, under the able baton of Brian CastlesOnion, was hidden underneath the stage and the cast were miked.

For those used to the thrilling sound of an unassisted singer in a beautiful theatre it was slightly jarring. There was no alternative in an outdoor arena but it was the major compromise of the evening. Even so Emma Matthews, as Violetta Valery, delighted with some soaring arias. Gianluca Terranova, as Alfredo, was the best singer of the night, hitting his straps from the word go. But the star of the night was the set design by Brian Thomson. It was truly a work of art. David Spicer Macbeth Music: Giuseppe Verdi. Libretto: Francesco Maria Piave based on William Shakespeare’s play of the same name. Opera Queensland. QPAC Concert Hall. Conductor: Nicholas Braithwaite. Ap 13. OPERA Queensland began their 2012 season with a concert production of Verdi’s Macbeth. Given the limitations of a concert presentation, without sets and costumes but with some effective lighting effects, it was a credible interpretation of the work. Michael Lewis was a commanding and committed Macbeth, having sung the role many times throughout Australia. Despite impressive credits, and having also sung the role before, Elizabeth Whitehouse as Lady Macbeth found the demands of the

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Stage Whispers 85

part a little beyond her on the night. It was Bulgarian tenor Kaludi Kaludow who provided the vocal brilliance as Macduff. His voice was thrilling, particularly in his Act Four aria. Andrew Collis was a fine Banquo, with Opera Queensland stalwarts Emily Burke (Lady in Waiting), Virgilio Marino (Malcolm) and Guy Booth (Doctor) lending strong support. The hit of the night, however, was the Queensland Symphony Orchestra. Under the baton of Nicholas Braithwaite their playing was fluid and disciplined, bringing out the colour and passion of Verdi’s melody-rich score. High praise must also be registered for the Opera Queensland Chorus, whose pitch-perfect singing elevated the performance to a higher level. Peter Pinne

La Boheme Melbourne Opera Company. Director: Hugh Halliday. Musical Director: Greg Hocking. Athenaeum Theatre, Melbourne. Mar 3 – 18. MELBOURNE Opera’s first offering for the year was a good one. I was particularly impressed with the direction. There was a lot of innovative action, particularly with the boys in the shenanigans of the last act. It was dominated by the luscious Mimi of Lee Abrahmsen. I have admired her for years, and she was in her element in Puccini, her rich voice soaring over the orchestra. Roy Best as Rodolfo does not have a Puccini voice and struggled with the orchestra in the first act, but his singing was assured and acting convincing. The ending was powerful. Cosi fan tutte The find of the evening was Nathan Lay as Schaunard. I By Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Libretto by Lorenzo da have watched this young baritone over a number of years, Ponte. English Translation by Jeremy Sams/ Opera and I was very pleased to find that he rose admirably to the Australia. Director: Jim Sharman. Sydney Opera House. Mar occasion to easily match his more seasoned colleagues. 8 – 26. Phillip Calcagno and Steven Gallop were very good as THE great Jim Sharman (director of Hair, Rocky Horror, Marcello and Colline, and Antoinette Halloran a vivacious etc, etc) gives Mozart the rom-com treatment in this revival Musetta. Roger Howell was a delight in the small comic of his lively 2009 production for Opera Australia. With a parts. Apart from the occasional glitch the orchestra did sexist plot still serviceable for a Hollywood teen/date movie well and a late lighting cue got a laugh. — two lads take a bet that their adoring girlfriends, two The sets were impressive and probably quite heavy as sisters, could never be seduced by another within the next the scene changes were long. The chorus was a lot more 24 hours — this 1790 masterwork comes up fresh and assured than in the last production though there wasn’t confronting. The Italian title translates as Women Are Like much room to move in Act 2 on that small stage. The That (i.e. unfaithful, untrustworthy) and a strong streak of translation appeared to be an updated version of the one that has been around for decades, but generally worked misogyny runs through the evening. But at least Mozart gives the sisters the best, most well. exhilarating solos to sing: Sharon Prero as the strikingly Graham Ford blonde Fiordiligi and Sian Pendry as the ditzier brunette Dorabella dominate the evening. Starting in bathing The Rake’s Progress costumes and ending in crazily-wigged party gear, they try, By Igor Stravinsky. Victorian Opera. Conductor: Richard Gill. for a little while at least, to resist the attentions of their Director: John Bell. Arts Centre Melbourne, Playhouse. Mar swapped partners who come ‘disguised’ behind fake facial 17 – 27. hair and tight leather trousers to seduce them. THE Victorian Opera charter is to concentrate on the This, of course, is impossible to believe but Sharman less familiar operas and so fill in the gaps left by OA. The eases our acceptance by staging the whole opera as a Rake’s Progress fits this niche nicely and Victorian Opera pageant at the wedding of an unnamed high-class couple. did themselves proud. The ‘let’s pretend’ action unfolds between a huge tiered I had seen an OA production with Robert Gard and cake and champagne glasses upstage and the bride and John Pringle, and recall long scene changes and detailed groom as silent observers downstage. What will they take sets. This production had one simple set with a marble into their marriage? Women cannot ever be trusted? Live floor and back wall which changed with the lighting. Various pieces of furniture were brought out by the chorus only for each moment? “Love if you have to, but do it for fun”? who acted as observers in many scenes. This worked very Sharman works on a strange setting (by Ralph Myers) well. that looks like a collapsing corridor with leaning whiteThe surprise of the night was tenor Benjamin panelled walls and a ski-slope floor which a phalanx of Namdarian as Tom. A post-graduate medical student, he was reported to be a choral singer with little stage wedding guests must navigate with as much speed and decorum as possible. experience, yet he was so right for the role. His light Sung in English, the cheeky, ultra-modern translation is unforced baroque voice easily handled the high tessitura a huge source of pleasure throughout. However one must and had the right sound for the naïve young lad. His acting search hard through the voluminous program to find the belied his lack of experience and he looked good. single mention of translator Jeremy Sams. The experienced bass-baritone, Andrew Collis, was an excellent Nick Shadow, his smooth voice a constant Frank Hatherley delight. Tiffany Speight captured the innocence of Anne 86 Stage Whispers

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Roxane Hislop (Baba the Turk) and Benjamin Namdarian (Tom Rakewell) with Ladies and Gentlemen of the Chorus in Victorian Opera's The Rake's Progress. Photo: Jeff Busby.

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Trulove, but her voice lost focus in the fiendish ending of her aria. But the most outstanding features were Leon Krasenstein’s innovative set, Steven Heathcote’s movement of the cast, and Richard Gill’s control over his musical resources. Rarely were the voices swamped and I noticed that when the soloists were singing with the chorus, they could still be heard. The chorus singing was precise and balanced. The costuming was suitably outlandish and the lighting effective. Graham Ford The Ring. Wagner. Animated. More Than Opera. Northwood Concert Hall (SA). HAVING seen and thoroughly enjoyed the complete Wagnerian Ring Cycle produced by the State Opera of South Australia some years ago, I found it hard to imagine how such an immense work could be whittled down to just 90 minutes. I need not have worried. David Kram’s eye for dramatic detail, and ear for the best bits of soaring melody, gave us an exciting and rapid tour through the legends of gods and humans, dwarfs and giants that made for a breathtaking evening. This was not just potted opera. Although we had the right ingredients. An orchestra? Check. Well, wait a minute, four saxophones, bassoon, sarrusophone and keyboard. Not what one would expect for Wagner, but after the initial aural shock, it sounded just right! Singers? Check. Soprano Olivia Cranwell, tenor Carlos Enrique Barcenas and baritone Lucas de Jong, who, with appropriate costumes, sang the afore-mentioned best bits.

Glorious voices, capable of filling the space unaided, but tastefully mixed with the orchestra by Stuart Favilla, more of whom later. Brunhilda’s Battle Cry and Siegfried’s Forging Song were only two of many highlights. The big change was the animation. A huge video screen suspended over the orchestra and smallish stage showed a mixture of landscape, computer-generated beings, anime inspired art and (almost) cartoon cut-outs. It was a wonderfully inspired visual track to accompany the narration provided by Melissa Madden Gray. In crystal clear tones she actually made sense of the very complicated story. The last – but by no means least – of the elements of this amazing evening was Stuart Favilla’s Ambisonics sound treatment, which captured Wagner’s objective of surrounding the Bayreuth audience with sound, and rendered it extraordinarily into 21st century digital magic. Norma Knight

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Stage Whispers 87

Director’s Diary

Photos: Ash Bell and Mark Banks.

removed from our daily lives. But the loveable grandparent Sydney’s Genesian Theatre Company’s Constantine Costi recalls his experiences as Director of The Merchant of Venice bearing racist grudges from the past, or the schoolboy telling a sinister racist joke on the playground are familiar sights. These are the racists that we encounter - people who harbour both Venice is sinking. It’s a decadent, fast paced, rowdy and colourful city powered redeemable and irredeemable qualities. The Venetians express their Anti-Semitism as boldly as they by greed. All its glitz and hedonism are rotting from within. Its laugh, love and frolic. sinister core of racism, judicial corruption and youthful greed ACTING propel Shylock’s inevitable demise. Shakespeare is inherently heightened and At 22 I was grateful to be invited to exaggerated. I avoided the idea of small direct this complex and problematic play. naturalistic performances and concepts. The The challenge was to balance the plays had to be big and bold to compete extreme styles and themes the play with the raucous noise of the audience. tackles. The comedy is wild and blaring For the manic and farcical comedy to and the drama is confronting, dark and work the cast had to be willing to look silly poignant. on stage, to make fools of themselves, for There is no middle ground in The even the most ridiculous choices, when acted Merchant of Venice. with total conviction, succeed. DEALING WITH RACISM There is nothing safe about theatre. It is Shakespeare’s characters are never alive and can implode at any minute. A two dimensional. They burst with film’s final cut is locked in, a record is ambiguities that must be explored and pressed and played endlessly, a painting is embraced. Shylock is both victim and eventually signed and framed – but the victimiser, Portia is an enlightened theatre lives and dies night after night. So intellectual and spoiled heiress, and Gratiano too must the actors throw themselves in is both party animal and sensitive soul. this dangerous world, and live or die by the sword that is a live To therefore portray the racist Venetians as simply a rabid show. lynch mob seemed too straightforward. What intrigues me are So I implored my cast to make a leap of faith. The character characters who are likeable, comical, romantic, charming but range includes a stand-up comedian, a senile Supercentenarian have a dark side that is disturbingly prejudiced. and his Brooklyn nurse, a hedonistic party animal and an exotic The clichés of a bigot in dirty overalls and Klansman by magician. At times they break into dance routines and sing night, or a Neo Nazi street thug, are racists who are largely 88 Stage Whispers May - June 2012

spontaneously. It’s all very boisterous. But these daring choices make a show worthwhile and memorable rather than being simply competent. SET I wanted the set to storm the audience away into a world that is glitzy, exaggerated and collapsing. Set designer John Harrison and I sought to embrace the inherent character of the Genesian theatre. The theatre was once a church and the back brick wall of the stage features three gorgeous stained glass windows – we exposed them. There is a sense of age and gritty decay emanating from the weathered walls. This creates the perfect feeling of Venice as a crumbling city. Against this naked brick set we built two metre high letters spelling V-E-N-I-C-E and filled them with light bulbs. The effect is like a gigantic casino sign or the 1968 Elvis Comeback Special. We rediscovered the function of these letters in the second half to convey the city’s demise. We toppled and found new uses for them. The ‘I’ becomes the Duke’s podium, the ‘E’ is overturned and used as a stool, and the toppled C becomes a courtroom desk. COSTUMES Alice Joel’s costumes are an exciting element of the show. Stripping back the set meant the costumes needed to be electric and needed to fill the space.

(Continued on page 90)

FISHMONGER BY DAY I’m constantly fascinated by the working lives of artists. Franz Kafka worked in insurance, Chekhov was a doctor and William Golding was a teacher. I like to think about how their work affected their art. I work as a fishmonger. Extreme work hours, handling disgusting guts and innards and dealing with difficult customers is incredible training for a director. I’ve learned an invaluable amount about character and human behaviour from the stories of gristly Greek filterers and Nepalese trolley boys. Being shoulder deep in murky water unclogging a floor drain humbles you. Gutting boxes of fish all day gives you an insight into the grotesque, the absurd and the tedious. With over twelve-hour work days being the norm, theatre (whilst hard work in a different way) is a world I can sink my teeth into with a sense of release. Stage Whispers 89

Director’s Diary

(Continued from page 89)

Online extras! Watch a video interview with Con Costi by scanning the QR code or visiting

The Merchant of Venice By William Shakespeare The Genesian Theatre (Sydney)

Director: Constantine Costi Assistant Director: Michael Costi Set Design: John Harrison Costume Design: Alice Joel Lighting Design: Michael Schell Sound Design: Michael Costi Original Composition: Constantine Costi Cast: Geoff Sirmai, Andy Fraser, Tiffany C. Stoecker, Emily Sheehan, Harriet Gordon Anderson, Stephen Llyod -Coombs, Ray Mainsbridge, Brendan Cain, Jasper Garner Gore, Serena Weatherall, Dimitri Armatas 90 Stage Whispers May - June 2012

Character is revealed subtly and they look genuinely hip – something that is difficult to pull off without reverting to clichés or heavy handedness. The amount of different ideas on what era the audience thinks the characters are from has been boggling. We’ve heard Venice Beach California, Cubana, Tropicana, 1960s Las Vegas, Broadway Musical, trashy beach resort, kitsch, sexy, stylish. I love this difference of opinion. Our intention was to create a world that was familiar, but unable to be specifically pinned down to a certain time. This is important, as our Venice is not a real place. It’s a warped fairy tale that is both relatable and distant. LIGHTING The flashing V-E-N-I-C-E sign was fun to experiment with. At times a single letter lights the actors, other times the letters flare and swallow the stage in light. The lighting ventures to the surreal at times. The more bizarre characters evoke a cartoony mood and the lights flash and flare as their hurricane of comedy whips around the stage. But by the time we reach the devastating trial scene, colour is drained from the palette. Characters are side lit and shadows spill across the stage. It’s stark, menacing and cold. Working with a master of his craft like lighting designer Michael Schell was an incredible joy. His wealth of experience and skill meant I could let my imagination run wild and we could push ideas without feeling too limited. SUMMARY Contemporary western society is a mass of contradiction. Extreme wealth and extreme poverty exist side by side. Xenophobia is still a potent and destructive force. Love still prevails as a joyous and unifying phenomenon, but it is Shakespeare’s message of undying relevance and simplicity that makes The Merchant of Venice timeless: All that glisters is not gold…


Across 1. Aussie, Campbell 4. Of Miss Jean Brodie 7. …For the best 8. Harold 9. I had… (1,4) 10. Shy 11. Aussie, Bourne 13. Putnam’s Ostrovsky 16. Exit, Eden 17. Lite Funky Ones 18. Phantom’s …Me (5,2) 20. …Baby 21. Singular sensation 22. One of Joe’s brothers 23. Cars that, Paris 24. Kingswood Ted

Compiled by Aaron Ware

26. Porter’s ‘57 girls 27. Mr. Rahman (1.1) 28. Nothing sacred with Hazel 30. Friend 31. I, rhythm 32. B’way’s Davis 33. Percussion troupe 34. Dizzy Tommy 35. Destry, again 36. Li’l…

14. Cee, Green 15. Giuseppe 17. Santana live album 19. Rayson’s Sorrento 20. 21 Dec - Jan 19 Down 22. Androgynous 1. …Enemy rock 2. My funny one 24. The, opera 3. …Of the Vampires 25. Abba’s Super 4. Sport qualifier 26. Life’s good (1,1) 5. Actress, Limon 28. Saturday night 6. Leader of the pack 29. Y, (1,4) M.C B. 12. Ms Skye 30. Dames… (2,3) Stage Whispers 91

Musical Spice

Musical Chairs When I tell non theatre people that I am an agent for musicals they rarely know what I am talking about. So you put shows on? No. You represent singers? No. I explain carefully that I represent writers and composers of musicals. I issue a licence for a theatre company or schools to stage them and I send them the music. Then the light goes on slowly. That’s fair enough as there are not many of us. Pictured here around the wheel at the recent Musical Theatre New Zealand conference are some others. On the left is Stuart Hendricks from Hal Leonard Australia, Kim Ransley from Origin Theatrical, Emma Blake from APRA NZ (which manages songs ), me - David Spicer - and Nikol Mckail from Hal Leonard Australia. Like any industry nothing is constant. A decade ago the Queen bee of musical theatre in Australia was Nanette Frew. She was in charge of theatre licencing at Warner Chappell Australia. At the time the company represented the catalogue of Music Theatre International (including Guys and Dolls and Les Misérables), The Rodgers and Hammerstein Theatre Library and the musicals of Andrew Lloyd Webber amongst many others. If you fell fowl of Nanette Frew then your options of putting on a show were limited. She had a reputation for being fair but stern. Next on the league ladder for amateur theatre at the time was Dominie Drama which represented the vast Samuel French catalogue, next the Tams Witmark Library in New York (with musicals including The Wizard of Oz and My Fair Lady), then came daylight, then small agents like myself. Around 2004 all things began to change. Warner Chappell Music gave up ( or was given up) on licencing 92 Stage Whispers May - June 2012

theatre. Nanette Frew became a consultant for Hal Leonard Australia. It commenced representing Music Theatre International. A new player emerged Origin Theatrical a new division of Origin Music owned by Philip Walker and Philip Mortlock They acquired the rights to The Rodgers and Hammerstein Library and Andrew Lloyd-Webber’s musicals. Since then Origin Theatrical has added the catalogue of Theatrical Rights Worldwide (including Grease and Spamalot) and in a big surprise to the industry acquired the local rights to The Samuel French catalogue from Dominie Drama. When Kim Ransley from Origin Theatrical announced that Andrew Lloyd Webber was also releasing the amateur rights to The Phantom of the Opera at the same conference…the folk from Hal Leonard looked disappointed. Perhaps it is because Kim Ransley is now the new Queen bee of musicals in Australia and New Zealand – which is apt as she was trained by Nanette Frew at Warner Chappell. So in a decade the league ladder has undergone radical change. In 2013, in my opinion the biggest Licensor of musicals in Australia and New Zealand will be Origin Theatrical, followed by Hal Leonard Australia, then Tams Witmark, then daylight, then David Spicer Productions and Maverick Musicals. The retired Queen Bee – Nanette Frew – is still active as a director in Sydney. I was very amused to receive a letter from her applying for the rights to a pantomime I represent. I was of course fair but stern. David Spicer

Third year NIDA actors in the 2011 production of Noises Off!. Directed by Rodney Fisher

Stage Whispers May/June 2012  

Stage Whispers May/June 2012

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