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8 In this issue Roar Of The Lion ............................................................................ 8 In Conversation With Stephen Schwartz ........................................12


Musicals Globe Trotter ..................................................................16 Tony Sheldon loves Broadway but slams the West End From Here To Eternity ...................................................................20 Exciting new home for Sydney Independent Theatre ‘Wagner Roos’ Welcome ‘Ring Nuts’ To Victoria ............................22 West End Review On Location .......................................................24


Julia Gillard’s Wharf Revue Sing-Along Swansong .........................31 Musicals In 2014 And Beyond .......................................................34


Hot Plays Of 2014.........................................................................37 NZ Gives Mamma Mia! A New Look ..............................................42 Vale Bruce McBrien .......................................................................48


Regular Features



London Calling


Broadway Buzz


Stage On Page


Stage On Disc


Schools On Stage


On Stage - What’s On






Musical Spice

95 76 4 Stage Whispers November - December 2013


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Stage Whispers' Editor Neil Litchfield in Anyone Can Whistle

Editorial Dear theatre-goers and theatre-doers, My passion for performing and directing led me to write about theatre and subsequently become Editor of Stage Whispers, but every so often there’s a clash – this week I’ve been in production week for both this magazine and Bankstown Theatre Company’s production of Anyone Can Whistle, where I’m playing a character role. As the opening performance loomed I’d spent the morning proof-reading, and adding finishing touches to the magazine, ahead, hopefully, of an afternoon of running over my lines, ironing my costumes and a nap before heading off to the theatre. Close to the common story, so far, for most performers in Community Theatre, combining a day job with a passion for performing. What’s unique about my position? One of my fellow Stage Whispers reviewers would be in the house on opening night, running a critical eye over the show and my performance. Opening Night. What other hobby offers such fun, a creative outlet, camaraderie and such an ability to entertain an audience? But how many performers find themselves in the position on the next day of posting the review for their own show online – good (in this case), bad, or indifferent - after the matinee, and then heading on stage for the evening performance?

Online extras!

Read our review of Anyone Can Whistle by scanning the QR code or visiting

Yours in Theatre,

Neil Litchfield Editor

Rob Mills (Danny) and Gretel Scarlett (Sandy) from the cast of Grease


Cover image: Nick Afoa, who plays Simba in Disney's The Lion King at Sydney's Capitol, Theatre. Lightbox Photography. Read David Spicer's story on page 8 Stage Whispers 5

Stage Briefs

Broadway legend Mandy Patinkin and Opera superstar Nathan Gunn will perform together in Australia and New Zealand in November, combining their musical talents in AN EVENING WITH MANDY PATINKIN & NATHAN GUNN in Melbourne (Nov 21), Auckland (Nov 24), Sydney (Nov 26) and Brisbane (Nov 28). The duo performs roughly two-dozen songs, with solos and duets including Lily’s Eyes, Maria, If I Loved You and Rossini’s Barber of Seville.

6 Stage Whispers November - December 2013

Richard Roxburgh and Hugo Weaving in the Sydney Theatre Company production of WAITING FOR GODOT, at the Sydney Theatre from November 12 to December 21. Photo: Ingvar Kenne.

Arguably the most infamous Broadway musical of all-time, CARRIE THE MUSICAL, has its Australian premiere season at Sydney’s Seymour Centre from 13th to 30th November. Independent musical theatre company, Squabbalogic, presents this freshly revised and re-imagined version of the musical take on Stephen King’s novel and cult film adaptation, which played just five official performances in its notorious 1988 Broadway production. Directed Jay JamesMoody, with musical direction by Mark Chamberlain and choreography by Shondelle Pratt, CARRIE THE MUSICAL features a cast including Hilary Cole as Carrie (pictured), Margi de Ferranti, Adèle Parkinson, Garry Scale and Monique Sallé. Bookings: / 02 9351 7940.

Shane Bourne will play the dastardly Baron Bomburst in CHITTY CHITTY BANG BANG at Queensland Performing Arts Centre (QPAC) from November 19. Stage Whispers 7

Roar Of The Lion

8 Stage Whispers November - December 2013

Claire Lever

Nick Afoa

A decade after it toured Australia and New Zealand last, The Lion King returns in December at Sydney’s Capitol Theatre. Disney has cast some extraordinary new talent, including an Auckland Rugby Player who has never had an acting lesson, and one of the hottest graduating students from NIDA. David Spicer attended rehearsals for an experience described by a cast member as weird but wonderful. A group of singers are around tables in a square formation having one of their first run-throughs of the song ‘Chow Down’ in very thick American accents. It's so incredible That you're so rude When you're so edible When you are food! It's time to chow down Chow down! Ch-ch-ch-ch-ch-chow down I'm chompin' at the bit, baby.

It’s food for thought. On stage they will be dressed as wild African animals, but the sensibility is Los Angeles. “As a matter of fact when we do the blocking I want it to free feel, like you are at a club and dancing off the street. That’s the energy and then every now and then scare them….roarrr,” he said. It’s like they were being asked to flash their knives out the front of a nightclub and reflects many moments in The Lion King which are bubble gum Disney pop musical. This is mixed with other moments which reflect the music and dance styles of Africa. The opening number is extraordinary.

In another room some of the African songs are being rehearsed by other members of the cast. They sound much more sensual. One of the survivors of the last Australasian season is South African performer Buyi Zama. Currently in the Broadway production playing Rafiki, she described returning to Sydney to The Director stops them for some rehearse after playing the role all round notes. the world as “weird but wonderful”. “You have to make sure the song Perhaps that sums up the has a groove to it. It has got to be almost like you are mocking them. Like production. Across the corridor is the a cat and mouse game. extraordinary wardrobe department. “We are going to kill you but not Rows of Zebra heads hang on railings. just quite yet, we are going to have a good time first. You are looking at the Metal frames are being welded and the masks are groomed with affection. music very square. Groove it up and Craftsmen in North America and have a lot more fun.”

Australia have made the set, props and costumes. I catch up with Claire Lever, a mask and puppet guru, who was looking after Simba’s face. “They are pretty hard wearing but will break if they get dropped on the floor.” There are three of the same masks on hand, one for the lead and two for the understudies. “The head is moulded from thermal plastic, the mask is made from carbon fibre and the hair is from horses. It looks like wood because the fibre glass is mixed with resin.” Playing Simba is Nick Afoa from Auckland. “I have never done a musical before. My background is singing (anthems) before Rugby Games.” He was no slouch, having represented New Zealand in Under 19’s, dreaming of becoming an AllBlack, before fate intervened. “I injured my knee, which ended my Rugby career. Auditions came around and I really wanted to play Simba. I think I really have some Simba in me. I went for it, made it past call-backs and second and third. “My last play was in high school. I was in South Pacific and played the Lieutenant. That was it. I have done a few singing lessons. No acting,” he said with a cheesy smile straight from the Disney song sheet, albeit with his impressive muscles and tattoos on display to boot. But his Rugby background should still come in handy. “It is physically demanding. I got told to stop doing squats, and stop doing bench press and start doing Yoga. I think the adolescent lion needs to be quite limber, quite playful and prancing around.” Also making his professional musical theatre debut is Rob Collins as Mufasa. Born and raised in Darwin, he was plucked from third year studies at NIDA to do the role. (Continued on page 10) Stage Whispers 9

Online extras!

Check out our sneak preview of The Lion King by scanning the QR code or visiting

The Lion King opens in December at Sydney’s Capitol Theatre ahead of expected seasons in other capital cities. (Continued from page 9)

With striking good looks and a velvet voice, the Indigenous singer/ actor has a big future. He does a very good job for his new boss by suggesting The Lion King has a higher dramatic calling. “It is about the themes of the universal love between a father and his son. As someone from Darwin who has relocated to Sydney I get homesick and miss home terribly. It has forced me to think of my own sense of belonging.” For the father of three, studying and working at the same time has made his life ‘ridiculous’. He had to get permission from NIDA to audition and originally did it in part as a learning exercise. “I don’t know what I was thinking. I’m also in the middle of graduate 10 Stage Whispers November - December 2013

productions and I still have to be at class on time. This crazy career is a juggle.” But he says it will all be worthwhile. “As someone who came to acting and theatre late, I appreciate the value of live theatre. Works like The Lion King engage a young audience and this

production will have an Australian feel to it. “We’ve now all had our wardrobe fittings. I want to take (my costume) home. It is beautifully realised. Something happens when you put this suit on. I am part of this world and can’t wait till I am in the full kit.” Stage Whispers 11

Suzy Mathers, Stephen Schwartz and Jemma Rix.

The “Other” Stephen S Broadway Icon Stephen Schwartz in conversation with Coral Drouyn, during his recent visit to Australia and New Zealand.

was in Australia and New Zealand for the Auckland opening of Wicked. “This new company is just fantastic,” he tells me. “Perhaps the best I have ever seen. The thing about Australian and New For most of his career Stephen Zealand performers is… you all have Schwartz, composer and lyricist of such the most amazing voices. I don’t know smash hits as Wicked, Pippin and why they are different, but they are. Godspell, has had to deal with the Maybe it’s the training, maybe it’s the cleaner air, but vocally the show “Other Stephen” label in the world of sounds better. Suzy Mathers is Musical Theatre, dominated for forty everything I could want in a Glinda, as years or more by the prolific Mr. Sondheim. Yet if you ask him about it, is Lucy Durack. Sensational singers. You he simply laughs. “I love Sondheim,” know, in New York someone said that he gushes. “If there had been no we wouldn’t be able to cast it Sondheim in Musical Theatre, there elsewhere because of the talents and probably wouldn’t have been a vocal range of Kristin (Chenoweth) and Schwartz, so any comparison is fine Idina (Menzel) but it hasn’t been a problem; just listen to Jemma Rix. The with me.” whole cast brings something fresh to I’m supposed to be interviewing the show.” this “other” Stephen but the truth is that he is so open and genuinely happy Stephen worked for years to get to talk about Musical Theatre, that we Wicked ready for Broadway – a far cry quickly find common ground and the from his earlier hits, which were interview turns into a conversation. He written some forty years ago. “I really 12 Stage Whispers November - December 2013

thought it took just a few weeks to write a musical. The arrogance of youth!” And, in truth, it wasn’t arrogance. Schwartz did write musicals in just a few weeks when he was in his early twenties. But let’s go back to the beginning; it’s always the best place to start a story. When Stephen was growing up in the comfortable middle-class village of Williston Park in NY State, it was in a time when people knew their neighbours, visited each other’s houses, sang songs around the piano and cherished a sense of community. “It was the early 1950s,” Stephen explained. “My parents would often visit the neighbours, with me in tow. On one side was their friend George… Mr Kleinsinger. Now George was already well known from writing a piece called “Tubby The Tuba” which Danny Kaye recorded. Every kid in America had heard that piece by the 1950s. So George was already a celebrity, though to us he was just a neighbour. When he lived next door he was writing a musical, and he would play us the songs when we visited. When he took a break I would climb up on the piano stool and try to copy, by ear, what he’d played. My parents tried to stop me and tell me it was rude, but George saw something in me and told them, “Let him play, he’s got something, maybe a real musical talent. Don’t ever try to supress it. Better still, get him lessons.” Stephen’s parents did get him lessons, and he won a scholarship to study at Julliard School of music while at high school. George Kleinsinger’s musical…. Shinbone Alley (based on the column Archie and Mehitabel, about a cockroach who was a writer, and his best friend, an alley cat) failed on Broadway. “The big question was why would people pay to see singing and dancing cats?” Stephen explains with a gentle gibe towards the incredible success of Cats several decades later. Shinbone Alley does have its place in Musical Theatre history though. “We were invited to go the show. It was one of those moments in life that changes everything. I was, like, eight years old and I knew absolutely I wanted to write musicals. So, thank

songs should be, and what type of song a scene needs.“ Imagine a 21 year old, newly married, Schwartz arriving in New York, hoping to take Broadway by storm, and not knowing where to start. “I wish I could say I suffered for my art,” he chuckles, “but a lot of people had seen the college musicals and I got work playing for backers’ auditions. I guess I made an impression.” Before long Stephen had Stephen Schwartz with Magnormos Artistic Director Aaron Joyner on a visit to Melbourne an agent, Shirley Bernstein, and a job for the company's triptych of his musicals. as a music producer at RCA record you George; and he lived to see my company. “I guess I have something of work, which he’d inspired, make it to a “pop” aesthetic, but hey, I was Broadway.” young, that was the music of my time. By the time Stephen got to Anyway, Shirley tells me that they’re Carnegie Mellon University he already looking for a song for a play in which a had a degree in piano and composition blind guy plays a love song. Did I want from Julliard. “I took drama, with a to submit? Silly question.” That song directing major,” he says. “And of was Butterflies Are Free, which was course there was a drama club, as used in both the play and the film, and there is for all non-jock Nerds at it led to Stephen’s first Broadway college.” The drama club was called musical – Godspell. Scotch and Soda, and each year they Is there any lover of musical theatre did an original musical. No prizes for who has not seen and loved Godspell? guessing who co-wrote all three during But it didn’t actually start with his three-year degree. “Pippin was Stephen. It was a play with a book by actually one of those musicals,” he Jean-Michael Tebelak, whom Stephen says. “None of the songs survived in had known from his Uni days. There the Broadway version, but it was really were a few songs composed by the a case of taking songs out and cast, but it was very much a fringe replacing them with better ones. I’ve production by students which had a done that a lot over the years. The short run a Café La Mama. hardest part is exploring where the “Edgar Lansbury, Angela Lansbury’s brother, wanted to bring it to Stephen Schwartz with the Wicked company in Auckland

(Continued on page 14) Stage Whispers 13

(Continued from page 13)

Broadway, but knew it needed a rework and a proper score, so he asked me to see it with a view to taking it on,” Stephen recalls. “I said I would try to get there in the following week but he insisted I had to go that night because they wanted to open in six weeks!” Six weeks to write a complete score? Surely that was unheard of? He agrees. “I didn’t know any better, and there was no way I was going to say no. But I truly didn’t have a clue what I was doing. Somehow it worked and suddenly I was a Broadway composer.” Stephen next found himself as the lyricist of Leonard Bernstein’s Mass, thanks to his agent Shirley Bernstein. “She just happened to be Lennie’s sister. Sometimes it really is who you know.” Pippin followed quickly, and again Schwartz had little time, because of Bob Fosse’s availability. Stephen doesn’t openly decry Fosse, but it’s clear it wasn’t an easy time. Stephen was the newcomer….Fosse was God on Broadway. “He changed the ending

14 Stage Whispers November - December 2013

of the show,” he recalls, “it was litigious, and all over two words. He made the ending dark and without hope. The last line, with Pippin onstage is “Trapped…but Happy”. He cut “but happy”. I was shocked. It’s not what any of us wanted to say. Fortunately the revival has a new ending and it’s just perfect.” Then came The Magic Show. “Oh, I had five weeks for that,” Stephen laughs. “It was a commissioned show written especially to showcase illusionist Doug Henning. I don’t think anyone foresaw 2,000 performances on Broadway. There I was at 25 with three of the longest running shows ever on Broadway. Common sense told me it couldn’t last forever.” When the bubble burst Stephen had a long period of not being able to get things up. It happens to everyone in this business, but it was a new experience for him. “When I left college I had a fallback plan,” he tells me. “I gave myself five years to get something on Broadway. If I failed I would give up altogether and become a psycho-analyst. I’ve always been

interested in psychology and I think I would have been happy looking thoughtful and asking ‘How did that make you feel?’ I care much more what people think and feel rather than what they actually do.” I suggest to him that’s maybe why his characters are so strong and his lyrics are driven by emotions. “Yes…I’d say that’s fair,” he concedes. With only limited success with Studs Terkel’s Working (for which he contributed four songs and also directed) and unable to get The Baker’s Wife to work the way he imagined, “Lord knows we tried, but somehow we just missed it. Still, there were some good songs and ‘Meadowlark’ has lived on. You know David Merrick (the producer) hated ‘Meadowlark’ so much that he physically took the music out of the pit so that the orchestra couldn’t play it. Unbelievable.” Stephen then put several years into Children Of Eden, which is his favourite amongst his shows, but, though it is much loved by Community Theatre, it never found a home on Broadway. “And suddenly I found fifteen years had passed since the glory days, and I

Stephen Schwartz with Wicked creatives David Young, Kellie Dickerson, Karen Mortimer Johnson & Emma Delmenico.

was no longer this “wunderkind” who could turn out a hit in six weeks. I wasn’t sure what I was doing anymore and I said, ‘Okay, I’m finished with Broadway. I’ll never write another Broadway show.’ Famous last words.” He laughs at himself. But he did take a break. Films and television beckoned; he worked with Alan Menken on Pocahontas, winning two Academy Awards. The Hunchback of Notre Dame followed, then the Prince of Egypt, and Pippi Longstocking. “It’s a different world,” he says. “On a stage, you can write a song for someone to sing while being perfectly still. In an animated feature you need a song they can sing while going over a waterfall in a canoe.” To date Stephen has three Oscars, three Grammys, a Drama Desk Award and six Tony nominations, though he hasn’t yet won a Tony. “Let’s not go there,” he says ruefully. “I was happy doing the movies, and then the television musical Gepetto. I truly meant what I said about Broadway.” So what changed his mind? “I was on holiday with friends in Hawaii, and one said ‘I’m reading this fabulous book called Wicked…It’s about The Wizard of Oz but written from the Wicked Witch’s perspective,’ and lights and bells and whistles went off and I absolutely KNEW it was a musical, and I had to be the one to do it.”

With Stephen re-discovering Broadway as his true home, what’s next? Somehow he’s found time to write an opera and contribute lyrics to Testimony, a Choral Oratorio. “Well, the word has been out for a while that I’ve been working with Hugh Jackman on a musical with Hugh as Houdini. It’s been an insane couple of years with Hugh making three movies at the same time as trying to work with myself and Aaron Sorkin, who was writing the book, until a second series of Newsroom got in the way. So now we have to sit down and rework the timeframe and see if we can really commit to getting this happening over the next two years. If we can’t, then we move on. It doesn’t always work out the way we hope.” Regardless of what happens, Stephen will return next year when Wicked returns to Melbourne. “It’s wonderful to have an excuse to come to Melbourne. I love it here, and Adam Guettel (The Light in The Piazza) gave me a list of truly great restaurants I still have to try. So I will be here at every excuse.” Somehow you know he means it. He’s just that kind of guy. Coral continues her Interview with more of Stephen’s insights into his music, how he wrote Wicked’s hit song “For Good”, his solo career and what he thinks of current musicals in Part Two in the January / February 2014 edition of Stage Whispers. Stage Whispers 15

Musicals Globe Trotter Tony Sheldon, now a resident of New York, has returned to Australia for Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. He tells FRANK HATHERLEY about starring on Broadway (loves it) and London’s West End (not happy at all). “I live in New York now. I have my Green Card and I’m a permanent resident.” But Tony Sheldon isn’t home right now. He’s just finished a strenuous day rehearsing the new production of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels in Sydney. He looks fresh and fit, with very white hair and very blue eyes. He has a rich baritone voice with a cultured, theatrical accent — a mixture of Australian and London with a dash of Manhattan, perhaps. “I live in Inwood, which is the northernmost tip of Manhattan. My friends Will Swenson and Audra McDonald [Broadway royalty: Google them] bought a terrace there and asked if I would like to live in it. I said I would love to have Audra as my landlady. She has won five Tony Awards. I could knock on her door and ask to borrow a cup of talent. “I wake up every day knowing it was the right decision to make. I think a lot of it came from the age that I am [he’s currently 58]. I was taken over there with an Australian musical which was always The Dream. I was welcomed so warmly by the theatrical community and urged to stay by pretty much everybody.” Sheldon, of course, had landed in New York after the worldwide success of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, with which he will be forever linked. He created the central role of transsexual Bernadette during a 10day workshop in Melbourne before opening in Sydney in October 2006. After a two-year Australian and New Zealand tour he reprised the role for 16 Stage Whispers November - December 2013

a year (2009/10) at the Palace Theatre, London for Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Really Useful Company. A sold-out Toronto tryout led to 15 months (2011/12) of a revised Priscilla at the Palace Theatre, Broadway, still with the befrocked Sheldon on board. By now, described by US immigration officials as ‘an alien of extraordinary ability’, he had his prized Green Card. But then the five-and-a-half year lavender bus trip screeched to a halt. “There was a period of six months after Priscilla closed where it was hard going. Friends said to me ‘everybody thinks you’ve gone home to Australia, you have to make yourself more visible!’ I’ve never been a ‘networker’ and I don’t go to parties. But I taught myself how to make the right people realise I was still around. “I rang a company called Project Shaw that was doing a reading of Saint Joan. Professionals from Broadway shows come in once a month and work on a different Shaw play. They perform it on ‘the dark night’, the Monday night. So I was playing The Inquisitor and I looked out into the audience and there was Stephen Schwartz and there was Zoe Caldwell, and I thought, yes, this is the way to do it. Exposure. “Then I joined a group called Dancers Over 40. I wrote a piece of special material for them and ended up co-hosting with Carol Lawrence. It worked. Jobs came along and now I’m feeling very much part of the Broadway community.” There can’t be too many star performers able to make the comparison, so I ask the affable Sheldon to compare the work ethic of Broadway and the West End. His considered response builds to unexpected vehemence. “I like professional discipline,” he begins. “I thrive on it. I was raised on that J. C. Williamson work ethic when you were fined if you were two minutes late for the half hour call. Call me old-

fashioned, but I think there’s a lot of virtue to be found in that sort of thing. “There is a very high level of discipline and enthusiasm in New York. People come from all over the world to break into the Broadway theatre scene, so there’s a sense of ‘I have the job and hundreds of other people would like it so I have to be on the top of my game all the time’. And London? He fixes me with those direct blue eyes. “The first shock I got in London was on the first day of rehearsal before we’d even read the script. The company manager asked me which performances I would be taking off. I said, ‘I don’t take shows off: I never miss if possible’. He said, ‘well, you have to take 28 performances off here because we don’t pay holiday pay’. “The second thing I was told was that it was not compulsory for me to join Actors Equity. I soon realised that the salaries were very low for people doing musicals in the West End and a lot of them had other jobs. So there wasn’t a great feeling of commitment from the cast. “I found it very hard to engage with the company as a group. People were always planning their next holiday or they were exhausted from their day job and were sleeping in the dressing rooms. The show fell apart very quickly. There wasn’t a disciplined team keeping an eye on it. “I was going into the dressing room and crying every night because I’d left behind a production in Australia that

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. Photo: Kurt Sneddon

was tight as a drum. I gave my notice quite early on in the run and said I would play out my year’s contract. “And it wasn’t just our show. The Really Useful Company management took me to dinner at the Ivy when I was leaving London. I wasn’t going to complain, but they came straight out and asked me about my experience, so I told them. “I said ‘we Australians dream of coming to the West End, and I know it’s not like this at the National Theatre or in straight plays, it seems to be just a musical theatre problem’. And they agreed. The Really Useful executives said ‘oh, yes, it’s endemic to the West End musical’.” They were aware of the problem but didn’t know what to do about it? He considers this. “I think it might have a lot to do with the Cameron

Mackintosh thing of the rostered day off and ‘the show is the star and everybody is replaceable’. It takes away a sense of personal pride in doing one’s job.” Did director Simon Phillips not see how things were going? “Simon left the show as soon as it was on and we were left in the charge of the resident director. I found myself explaining a lot of the show to him. “He was fascinated. There were things he didn’t know about the characters, so that was interesting. I suppose it was different for me in that I had been with Priscilla from the start, so people listened if I said things were going off the rails. “They thought I was walking around with a look of disapproval on my face and it was probably better that I left. So I did. I felt I didn’t fit in in Stage Whispers 17

big risk in doing a show that’s not a revival.” Scoundrels is based on the successful 1988 comedy movie starring Michael Caine and Steve Martin, which was itself based on the 1964 Bedtime Story in which the two conmen were played by David Niven and Marlon Brando. Sheldon plays the suave Caine/ Niven character. The musical had a respectable 18month run on Broadway, scoring 11 Tony Award nominations, but after the Production Company’s 2009 staging it had been released to local community theatres. Several productions have already been noted and reviewed in Stage Whispers, so it’s unusual for a professional production to be mounted at this later stage. “Yes, it’s a big risk for everybody,” says Sheldon cheerfully. “We all want it to work for them so that they will do other shows and continue on in the business. They’re booking it for a month [at Sydney’s Theatre Royal] and we’ll extend accordingly should we do well. “It’s a luxury cast and I’m dead impressed with what I’m seeing in the rehearsals. I’m very, very happy with it.” What, I wondered, will Tony Sheldon’s 2014 schedule look like when he returns home to Inwood, NY? Tony Sheldon in Priscilla Queen Of The Desert The Musical. “I’ve been ‘attached’, as they say, to Photo: Joan Marcus a couple of things. The one that seems London, whereas in America it was a Australian Idol and Australia’s Got most likely to happen is a musical different ball game. Talent.” version of the film Ever After. It was a So would you say Australians work [1998] film starring Drew Barrymore, more in the Broadway tradition? So how come the happy, based on the Cinderella story and now “Oh, yes, very much so. When I got established, newly Manhattaned Tony it’s a beautiful new musical to be back to New York I felt I was on Sheldon is back in Australia? directed and choreographed by familiar ground. They love Aussies. I “I was invited,” he smiles happily. “I Kathleen Marshall [Grease, Anything was surprised at how many were was asked to come back to do Dirty Goes, etc]. working. There was a girl in Chicago, Rotten Scoundrels. It was a show that I “It’s difficult because the Rodgers the understudy to Mary Poppins was had wanted to do when the and Hammerstein Cinderella is an Aussie, Mig Ayesa was starring in Production Company did it in currently on Broadway and we can’t go Rock of Ages, Rachel Griffiths was Melbourne, but I was in London at the at the same time as them. doing Other Desert Cities. They love us time. “I’ve already done three workshops because we’re workhorses. “Fortunately for me George of Ever After playing Leonardo da “Broadway has become more of a Youakim and Stephen Doorey [from Vinci, so if it happens I will probably be global village now and kids are the emerging James Anthony in that, fingers crossed.” heading over there straight out of Productions] have been most Dirty Rotten Scoundrels began drama school. It would never have persistent. They waited for me to finish previews at the Theatre Royal, occurred to my generation to pick up doing Hello, Dolly! in Connecticut. and go. Kids are hungrier for success They’re new producers, they’re young Sydney, booking until 17 earlier now because of TV shows like and they’re keen, and they’re taking a November. 18 Stage Whispers November - December 2013

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From Here to Eternity Whitney Fitzsimmons checks out the new jewel in the crown for Sydney Independent Theatre, Eternity Playhouse, and gives the thriving scene a once over. It’s often been said that creative endeavours are a labour of love and this is certainly the case when it comes to independent theatre. Unlike its established counterparts such as the Sydney Theatre Company and Belvoir, which have the luxury of government funding and healthy corporate sponsorship, independent theatre relies on good will and its participants' willingness to lessen their earnings for the benefit of creative exploration and freedom of expression. Sydney’s independent theatre scene, as compared to say Melbourne's, has also had the added pressure of competing with a lifestyle that lends itself to outdoor entertainment. On a bright sunny day many would rather head to the beach or the park than hide in a dark theatre. So it’s no surprise that over the years the health of Sydney’s independent theatre has ebbed and flowed like the tide. But it appears that the tide has yet again turned in favour of independent theatre. The official launch of The Eternity Playhouse has heralded a new chapter in the life of Sydney’s theatre practitioners. Built in 1887 the 126-year-old heritage listed building was saved by the City of Sydney from potential developers to be restored and reborn into a theatre, paying homage to its history; the Eternity Playhouse was the church that served as a source of inspiration for Arthur Stace, known for his elegant hallmark “Eternity” written in chalk on Sydney’s streets. It will now be home to Darlinghurst Theatre Company, which was selected by the City of Sydney to manage the space and will premiere its first production, 20 Stage Whispers November - December 2013

The old Darlinghurst Theatre, Reginald Murphy Centre.

Arthur Miller’s All My Sons (directed by Iain Sinclair) on November 5th. Darlinghurst Theatre’s 2014 season kicks off with the unusual choice of the musical Falsettos - a clever tale about a man who leaves his wife and son for his male lover. Darlinghurst Company Director Glenn Terry says, “Our inaugural season at the Eternity Playhouse pays homage to independent artists and to the theatre itself. From the grand to the tragic to the whimsical and from the small to the infinite, we’ve got it all.” Lee Lewis the Artistic Director of Griffin Theatre (which has its own independent season) says, “One of the things that Glenn has been so successful at is providing a stable home for independent theatre. Because often it is about pitching your instincts against the audience - it’s a theatrical gamble that it’s going to work.” Darlinghurst’s vacating of the Reginald Murphy Hall, its previous home in Potts Point, has opened up an opportunity for more independent theatre, and in an exciting way, because now Sydney has a home for music theatre and cabaret. Called Independent Music Theatre, the new

management is a not-for-profit company that is a collaborative partnership of independent musical theatre and cabaret including Squabbalogic, Neglected Musicals and Luckiest Productions, managed by David & Lisa Campbell and Richard Carroll. Neil Gooding, Company Director for Independent Music Theatre, says, “We are creating a home for music theatre and cabaret. This will allow writers, directors, musical directors, choreographers, performers and designers to develop with not only new work but also specifically tailored small scale musical theatre from Australia, Broadway and The West End.” But instead of launching a season at once IMT will announce shows as they are programmed which allows for greater flexibility overall. This need for flexibility is something that goes to the inherent nature of independent theatre. The cast and crew of an indie show are often dependent on whether or not they have paid gigs and therefore drop -outs or changes in casting can be a frequent occurrence. But along with the challenges of producing work in this way also come the benefits. Griffin Theatre’s Lee Lewis says, “You don’t take on an indie gig without being passionate about it.” It is this energy for the new and for taking risks that has seen Griffin Theatre integrate its independent season with its main-stage offerings. Lewis maintains that the energy that

Theatre Company, which finds its home at The Old Fitzroy in Woolloomooloo. The Tap Gallery theatre space has also been revitalised this year with new works such as One Scientific Mystery or Why Did the Aborigines Eat Captain Cook starring Logie Award winner Aaron Jeffery (from TV’s McLeod’s Daughters). Another exceptional production there, which I reviewed for Stage Whispers, was Siren Theatre’s Penelope based on the last chapter of Homer’s The Odyssey. Image courtesy of City of Sydney. Photo: Adam Hollingworth. The Tap Galley is a challenging space for any theatre-maker. But as we saw in Penelope, it was transformed it into an empty swimming pool, making it a worthy challenge and exciting for an audience. The new Eternity Playhouse will allow great productions Photo: Cynthia Sc to be seen by more people. iberras. Next year The Motherf**ker with the Hat will find itself indie artists bring to the Griffin is at Eternity Playhouse after a vital to the overall health of the successful run at The Tap company. “Whenever there’s an Gallery. s. Photo: Cynthia Sciberra indie show in the theatre it’s a “One of the main reasons great time in the building.” Lewis, we are moving is to make it who started her time at Griffin challenging because better for the artist because those little working on independent shows, knows you can’t ask for those favours, so you theatres are really tough for intimately what the differences are. tend to have many more limitations. professional artists to make any sort of She says that there is a greater Aside from Darlinghurst Theatre return,” says Glenn Terry. freedom in independent work, “You and Independent Music Theatre, there Regardless, 2014 looks set to be an can ask for favours because everyone is are the Rocksurfers Theatre Company, exhilarating year for Sydney's pitching in and doing this for the love which has taken up residency in The independent theatre scene and I for of it.” She says often it’s working in the Bondi Pavillion with a vibrant offering one am excited about it. mainstage arena that can get for 2014, and Sydney Independent See you in the foyer! Stage Whispers 21

‘Wagner Roos’ Welcome ‘Ring Nuts’ to Melbourne

In the Northern Hemisphere they’re called “Ring Nuts”, but the Australian cohort have been dubbed “Wagner Roos”. They are the unique breed, travelling to wherever Wagner’s Ring Cycle is on. In November-December this year “Wagner Roos” won’t have far to go, as The Ring comes to Melbourne, courtesy of Opera Australia, The City of Melbourne and patron Maureen Wheeler. Lucy Graham dons her horned helmet to investigate if these enthusiasts have more money than sense.

Götterdämmerung. Do the maths. Those who’ve attended 40 Rings have seen 600 hours of the same four operas. Streuth! While the image of Bugs Bunny singing forth in a horned helmet is the closest most Australians have come to a Wagnerian opera experience, Shirley Breese, Victorian President of the Richard Wagner Society, insists the Wagner Roos will not be dressing in costume like the North American Ring Nuts like to do. This is serious business. ‘I am really looking forward to seeing what our Melbourne Ring will be like,’ Shirley Breese said. ‘There are so many ways to present these universal themes of love, power, obligation, duty and personal courage to follow what you believe - all woven through glorious music.’ The Ring Festival program surrounding Opera Australia’s season includes a surprising array of activities, so that the sold-out opera Maureen Wheeler, best known as a performances themselves risk being cast into the shadows. founder of the Lonely Planet travel A street parade of ‘operatic book company, has attended thirteen proportions’, the ‘Arrival of the Rings over the years, but insists, ‘that Valkyries’ will invade Melbourne’s CBD isn’t too many. There is a woman in at 1pm on Saturday 16 November, Sydney who has been to over forty.’ with costumed characters (some on ‘The story is universal, and in a good production can be riveting, but in horseback), brass instruments, and a free concert in Federation Square. Add the end it is the music, singing and to this more than thirty activities orchestra which is just transcendent,’ including irreverent, cabaret-style she told Stage Whispers. performances, film and multimedia Richard Wagner’s Ring Cycle programs, talks, art installations, comprises four operas, taking some exhibitions and supplementary fifteen hours to perform: Das Rheingold, Die Walküre, Siegfried and performances, and the Ring Festival Lyndon Terracini

Neil Armfield & Stuart Skelton. Photo: Jeff Busby

22 Stage Whispers November - December 2013

program seems intent on engaging a growing audience. Lyndon Terracini, Artistic Director of Opera Australia, said, ‘Wagner’s Ring Cycle has inspired artists for 200 years and this year is no different. Many festival performers have taken an element, a character or a theme from it, and turned it into something new.’ While the Festival is focused on embossing Wagner’s music in the hearts and minds of Melbournians, the operatic performances will introduce many international visitors to Melbourne. Louise Asher, Victorian Minister for Tourism and Major Events, said the influx was expected to ‘generate more than $12 million in economic benefits for the state’. Still, one wonders why there is such a compulsion to see the same four operas, so very often. Shirley Breese sees it as an expression of international community. ‘The six full Rings [Adelaide, Seattle, Bayreuth, New York (Gergiev and Lepage) and Milan] I have seen have all been very different and very special,’ she said. ‘Six is hardly any. But an appreciation of Wagner it is not about tallies, it is about experiencing this unique work in different places with a like-minded audience who are always welcoming despite language difficulties.’ But what has Wagner got that Puccini and Verdi don’t? What’s the big deal?

‘For me it is the composed through nature of Wagner's music and the total visual/aural experience,’ explains Breese. ‘His works are without the artifice of arias and recitative and he wrote librettos that involve myth, human psychology and behaviour that go directly to your emotions and allow you to think and analyse later. The density is amazing and totally involving.’ Perhaps after the international visitors have packed up their horned helmets and returned home, the Richard Wagner Society in Victoria, founded in 1981, might need to brace

L-R: Wagner Society President (Victoria) Shirley Breese, with society members Pamela and Ila. Photo courtesy Wagner Society.

themselves for an influx of new members. ‘We run a full program of events throughout the year including a celebration of Richard Wagner's birthday and this year being the 200th anniversary of his birth it was a very special dinner on the actual date, 22nd May 2013, at the Windsor Hotel.’ And what should the uninitiated audience member, lucky enough to have a ticket, look out for? Maureen Wheeler’s favourite moment is when Brunnhilde appears to Sigmund. And for Shirley Breese there are two scenes that move her most. ‘At the end of Die Walküre when Wotan is taking away the godhead from his daughter Brünnhilde. Like Cordelia in King Lear, she has acted true to her heart and love of her father, but upset him and made him angry. The other is in Act 3 of Götterdämmerung where Siegfried's Funeral March is a reprise of his whole life, and another of Wagner's magnificent transitions - for dramatically it actually allows for a scene change.’

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Richard Berkeley-Steele and Susan Bullock. Photo: Jeff Busby Stage Whispers 23

London Calling By Peter Pinne: On location in the West End After a blistering Summer, Autumn in London turned back to what London does best, early morning fog, grey skies and rain. Despite the rest of the country still suffering from economic woe, London was positively vibrant, with not a whisper of a recession, and theatres boasting full or near-to-full houses for everything on offer. John Heffernan was being praised in Joe Hill-Gibbins’ hyper-stylised take on Christopher Marlowe’s 1592 tragedy Edward II at the National, Noël Coward’s Private Lives was back again in a new production with Toby Stephens and Anna Chancellor at the Gielgud, Sheridan Smith (Legally Blonde) and David Walliams (Little Britain) were having fun with the pixies in Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the fourth play in the Michael Grandage Company’s season at the Noël Coward Theatre, and Lee Evans (The Producers) and Sheila Hancock (Sister Act) were playing mother and dim-witted son in Clive Exton’s new comedy Barking In Essex at Wyndham’s. Time-Out, which has now become part of the free street press, had some interesting facts on London’s five longest running musicals. We Will Rock You at 11 years is older than You Tube; The Lion King at 13 is older than the CSI franchise; Mamma Mia! at 14 is older than the iPod; The Phantom of the Opera at 26 is older than Prozac; and Les Misérables at 27 is older than Microsoft Windows. The West End’s newest musical was Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, a Douglas Hodge as Willy Wonka in Charlie And The Chocolate Factory. Photo: Helen Maybanks.

Online extras! Enter Willy Wonka’s world of “pure imagination”. Scan the QR code or visit 24 Stage Whispers November - December 2013

new musical version of the classic Roald Dahl story. Despite multi-million pound set whizbangery, some stunning effects and a strong cast, the show is as soggy as some undercooked Yorkshire pudding. A long and dreary first act gave way to a marginally better second but it was still a bythe-numbers-rote effort. Director Sam Mendez has been reported by cast members as being dissatisfied with the first half of the show which laboriously goes through the five kids who win Willy Wonka’s ‘Golden Tickets’ for a visit to the Chocolate Factory with a chance to win free chocolate for life. Each winner is seen on a giant upstage TV screen, accompanied by song, while Charlie and his family sit motionless downstage. It becomes predictable and boring, not helped by the new songs by Hairspray composers and lyricists Marc Shaiman and Scott Whitman, which never lift off. Mostly pastiches, the songs range from rap and soul, to generic pop and traditional Broadway. The best song in the show is Anthony Newley and Leslie Bricusse’s “Pure Imagination”, which has been retained from the hugely successful 1971 movie. Why they never included more of the film’s superior songs, which included the hit “Candy Man” I’ll never know, because this show could certainly have done with a “Candy Man”. Douglas Hodge, an Olivier and Tony Award winner for the recent La Cage Aux Folles plays Willy Wonka, and he’s very good, but the character doesn’t appear until the last scene of the first act. He lifts the show, but by then it’s almost too late. A six-month extension to 31 May 2014 was added to the run after its official opening night but with very mixed reviews it will have a hard time breaking even in the 2000 seat Drury Lane Theatre. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is nowhere near as entertaining as Matilda, another show based on a Roald Dahl source, playing a few streets away at the Cambridge. Without a doubt Matilda is still the best new musical in London. Opening 25 October 2011, the production has now had a cast change with Alex Gaumond coming in as Miss Trunchball, Kay Murphy as Mrs Wormwood, James Clyde as Mr Wormwood and Haley Flaherty as Miss Honey. The story of Matilda, who has the parents from hell and a bullying battleship of a headmistress, Miss Trunchball, was deliciously comic and enormous fun with a superb score by Tim Minchin and brilliant direction by Matthew Warchus. Alex Gaumond in drag was a hoot as Miss Trunchball; James Clyde was wonderfully over-the-top funny as the father, with his song “Telly” one of the highlights; Kay Murphy and her Latin dance partner (Joshua Lay) were a riot in “Loud” and Haley Flaherty had no trouble finding the pathos in “My House”. Top Hat, the Irving Berlin musical based on the 1935 RKO movie starring Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, has also had cast changes with Gavin Lee taking over the Astaire role and Kristen Beth Williams in the Rogers part. The costumes were appropriately 30s with the sets a series of stage to proscenium panels that moved to various configurations. Gavin Lee, who played Bert in Mary Poppins in the West End and on Broadway, is a wonderfully charismatic performer who can act, sing and tap dance almost as well as Astaire. The leading lady was off at the

Aside from Matilda the best musical in London is The Book of Mormon. Irreverent or cutting-edge, whatever you want to call it, it’s funny, funny, and a night of sheer bliss. Written by Trey Parker, Matt Stone and Robert Lopez, it’s attracting a young audience weaned on South Park, Family Guy and American Dad and packing them in at the Prince of Wales Theatre. The two leads, imports Gavin Creel (Elder Price) and Jared Gertner (Elder Cunningham), have Book of Mormon street cred, with Creel having played the U.S. National tour and Gertner in the original Broadway cast. It’s a wacky delight. A few minutes before the curtain went up there were rows of empty seats in the theatre that were quickly filled by patrons coming from the bar carrying plastic glasses of wine and beer, sometimes two, with the same thing happening just before the lights went down after interval. It’s not the only show that allows the audience to bring booze into the theatre. Nowadays it’s a common practice, and the more they can carry, the more they like it. Thankfully the bar atmosphere didn’t translate to the theatre with the young, hip patrons being reverently attentive. And what’s on the agenda for the future? End of September saw another two movie-to-stage musicals previewing. Tim Rice’s From Here To Eternity, based on the Online extras! 1953 movie and James Jones novel set in Pearl Harbour Experience the wonder of Matilda The before its World War 11 bombing, opened at the Musical. Scan the QR code or visit Shaftsbury Theatre, whilst The Commitments, about an Irish rock band and based on the Roddy Doyle book and the performance I saw, but the understudy Charlie Bull was 1991 film, took up residence at the Palace Theatre. equally adept in the Rogers role. It’s an enjoyable show but February 2014 sees the launch of Simon Cowell’s I Can’t too long. Halfway through the second act I thought “Oh, Sing! The X Factor Musical by Harry Hill and Steve Brown, not another song”; as good as Berlin’s songs are, one more and 3 May 2014 sees Cameron Macintosh’s new at that point seemed like overkill. Yes, they were brilliant production of Miss Saigon opening at the Prince Edward tap dancers but I was bit tired of it by then. Maybe I’ve just Theatre. Tickets went on sale for Miss Saigon when I was in seen one too many productions of Hot Shoe Shuffle. London and broke the largest single day sales in West End The Bodyguard has also had cast changes. The musical, history, taking £4.4 million (A$8.3 million). The previous which is based on the Whitney Houston and Kevin Costner box office record had been held by Book of Mormon, which movie of 1992, has been playing almost a year at the had taken £2.1 million (A$3.9 million) earlier this year. It’s Adelphi Theatre. Taking over the part of singer Rachel the 25th anniversary of Miss Saigon, which opened in 1989 Marron is Beverley Knight, Queen of British Soul, who has and ran over 4000 performances at Drury Lane. The sold over a million albums. Playing opposite her as the production is the same one that was seen in Australia in bodyguard Frank Farmer is Tristan Gemmill, whose credits 2007. include A Streetcar Named Desire, Rope and Eastenders. The show was a jukebox musical, which used Whitney Houston hits shoehorned into the plot. It’s not a great show, but it is entertaining, opening with two gunshots and a man being murdered, and closing with the fictional diva on a platform lift downstage centre singing “I Will Always Love You”. I never got to see Beverley Knight as when I arrived at the theatre I discovered she doesn’t play matinees so I saw the alternate Joelle Moses. She sang well, was a passable actress, but no ‘looker’. The musical is one of those shows that only seem to surface in the West End, aimed at a 30-something female audience (think Never Forget, the Take That musical, and Michael Jackson Thriller Live) who come along determined to have a good time, sing-a-long, wave their arms in the air at the slightest provocation, and of course give the show a foot-stamping standing ovation. Matilda The Musical Stage Whispers 25

Cruising For Performing Arts There will be many enchanted evenings on the South Pacific next year. Cruise specialist Fabio Caruso sings the praises of sailing the high seas with the stars. It’s called Bravo! and dubbed the most exciting Performing Arts cruise Australia has seen. The seven-night voyage will depart Sydney on 22 November 2014 on board Royal Caribbean International’s Radiance of the Seas. A wide range of international performers from To book whilst cabins are still musical theatre, opera and available, please call 1300 131 495 classical music will entertain visit guests as they sail the South Pacific Islands. What better way to buy a ticket to a Cheryl Barker and the Guy Noble Performing Arts cruise than from Orchestra. someone called Fabio Caruso. “This is a wonderful holiday option “I can’t sing unfortunately and I on a luxurious cruise ship, with the don’t look like the famous Fabio on the added bonus of performances by cover of those novels.” globally renowned artists.” But the owner of Travelworld Specialty cruises are becoming ever Carindale in Brisbane knows how to more popular. Other popular themes recommend a holiday to remember. include Cruise n Groove and Cruisin “Bravo! offers guests a rare Country. opportunity to see some of the world’s Fabio says another ‘hot’ cruise next most iconic performers, while travelling year is Rock the Boat 4 hosted by Molly to the exotic reaches of the South Meldrum with a glam rock feature. Pacific, including Noumea and the Isle Artists include The Sweet (UK), Daryl of Pines.” Braithwaite, The Angels, Mental as Entertainers will include Elaine Anything, Richard Clapton and Jon Paige, Marina Prior, David Hobson, English. Teddy Tahu Rhodes, John Waters, While Performing Arts cruises are relatively new in Australia they are Cheryl Barker

26 Stage Whispers November - December 2013

Marina Prior

becoming a fixture in the US. Broadway on the High Seas 4 is also set to sail next year, filled with Grammy and Tony Award winners. Fabio has been on ten cruises in recent years. A highlight was a trip on the world’s largest cruise ship – Allure of the Seas from the Royal Caribbean International with 5000 people on board. “Cruises are the best value holiday there is as they include all accommodation, main meals and entertainment,” he said. Has he ever disembarked or weighing less than when he boarded the ship? “The hardest decision is what you are going to eat. On the Allure of the Seas there are four or five different specialty restaurants. A Samba grill had eight or nine courses of South American meats. It came with a traffic light gaucho service system. Green meant ready for the next course, white was still eating and Red for stop. It was amazing” For Bravo! prices start from $2,219 per person twin share in an Interior Stateroom, $2,854 per person twin share for an Oceanview Stateroom and $3,538 per person twin share for a Balcony Stateroom. Prices include 7 nights cruising, all meals, entertainment and gratuities on board (excluding drinks) as well as port charges and government taxes. Elaine Paige Stage Whispers 27


roadway uzz

By Peter Pinne

considering Prince has won a record 21 Tony Awards. The cast included Linda Lavin, LaChanze, Sierra Boggess, Richard Kind and Emily Skinner. The show, which has a script by David Thompson (The Scottsboro Boys), is now expected to open in Japan in 2015 with a possible Broadway bow the following year.

Blockbuster thriller writer John Grisham’s latest book Sycamore Row was released 22 October to coincide with The TUI Operettenhaus Hamburg is currently housing the 20 October Broadway debut of a play adaptation of his the pre-Broadway tryout of Rocky – The Musical. With a first global best-seller A Time To Kill at the John Golden score by Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens (Ragtime) and a Theatre. It’s hard to believe but this is the first time one of book by Thomas Meehan (Annie), Grisham’s best sellers has been the musical is based on the 1976 adapted for the stage. Rupert Holmes Academy Award winning Best (The Mystery of Edwin Drood) is the Picture written for the screen by adaptor and the cast includes Tonya Sylvester Stallone, who also played Pinkins and US Senator-turned actor the title role. The story of a Fred Dalton Thompson. The former struggling Philadelphia boxer who Law and Order DA plays the role of finds love and dignity against all Judge Noose. Sycamore Row is a odds is directed by Alex Timbers sequel to A Time To Kill. who will also be directing the Broadway production when it opens A revival of Betrayal by Nobel Prizeat the Winter Garden Theatre on 11 winning playwright Harold Pinter February 2014. To create the gritty opens at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre, world of Rocky on stage Timbers 3 November. It stars James Bond said he took his inspiration from the hero Daniel Craig and Rachel Weisz visual look of Trainspotting and the (The Constant Gardener) with movies of David Fincher. The fights direction by Mike Nichols. The realin Rocky are staged by Steven life married couple will play married Hoggett (Once/American Idiot) who couple Robert and Emma, caught in also handled the same chore in a love triangle with Jerry (Rafe Spall) Hamburg. The German critics have who’s entangled in a long-time affair gone overboard calling it “a with Emma. The play originally triumph” and a “technical wonder”. premiered in 1978 and was last seen Drew Sarich plays the title role with on Broadway nearly ten years ago Wietske van Tongeren as the love with John Slattery, Juliette Binoche interest Adrian. On listening to the and Liev Schrieber. German cast recording the score is full of soaring rock ballads with Stephen Sondheim joins forces with composer Flaherty cleverly weaving Wynton Marsalis for his latest project Bill Conti’s iconic film title tune A Bed and a Chair: A New York Love throughout. It’s the first time Affair which will play at the New York Flaherty, who grew up in Pittsburgh City Center for seven performances during the era in which the story is 13-17 November. It stars Bernadette set (1975-1976), has written a Peters, Cyrille Aimée, Meg Gillentine rock‘n’roll score. It’s not the first time producers have used and Tyler Hanes. A Bed and a Chair features over 24 Germany as a tryout country. In 1999 Disney produced a Sondheim songs arranged and performed by Marsalis and stage version of Alan Menken and Stephen Schwartz’s the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra. The Encores! special animated movie of The Hunchback of Notre Dame (Der event will be directed by John Doyle, choreographed by Glöckner Von Notre Dame), which ran three years in Berlin. Parker Esse, with musical supervision by David Loud. It was aimed for Broadway but to date has not surfaced. Bucks County Playhouse has announced the legendary Prince of Broadway, a revue that depicts the career of Angela Lansbury will be the first-ever inductee into its legendary Broadway producer/director Harold Prince newly established Bucks County Hall of Fame. It’s a fitting (Cabaret/Company/The Phantom of the Opera) has called tribute for the five time Tony Award winning star who off its planned Broadway opening, which was due in appeared at the Playhouse in 1952 in Affairs of the State autumn. Two different sets of producers have failed to raise long before she first appeared on Broadway as Bert Lahr’s the show’s $13 million budget, which is a shock wife in Hotel Paradiso (1957). 28 Stage Whispers November - December 2013 Stage Whispers 29

Stage on Page Mr. Broadway: The Inside Story of The Shuberts, The Shows and The Stars – A Memoir by Gerald Schoenfeld. Completed just one month before the death in 2008 at the age of 84 of Gerald Schoenfeld, chairman of The Shubert Organization for more than 35 years, Mr. Broadway was published posthumously earlier this year. One of the most influential people in commercial theatre, Schoenfeld was credited with being a catalyst for the revival of Broadway and cleaning up the New York theatre district. The long-term chairman of the most successful theatre owners and producers ever shares his triumphs and failures, sings praise, and settles scores. He recounts nightmarish tales of the Shuberts, themselves – the meanness of Lee, the madness of JJ, the turmoil surrounding John's personal life, and the drunken ineptitude of Lawrence Shubert Jr., the man who succeeded them and nearly brought the Shubert legacy to an ignominious end. An active participant in that legacy for over 50 years, Schoenfeld describes how he and his partner, the late Bernie Jacobs, saved the Shubert Organization by bringing some of Broadway's greatest hits to the stage including A Chorus Line, Equus, Les Misérables, Evita, Cats, The Phantom of the Opera, Godspell, Dreamgirls, The Heidi Chronicles and Miss Saigon. A no-holds-barred insight, Schoenfeld gives his hard-headed business opinion on the likes of Liza Minnelli (whose numerous missed performances of The Act caused huge financial losses and a potential lawsuit), the stubborn Al Pacino – and his praise of everybody’s best friend

Hugh Jackman (who was starring as Peter Allen in The Boy From Oz). If you enjoy all the glamour and gossip that goes along with the entertainment industry, this book is a rare insight from the perspective of a producer, who gives readers a frontrow (and backstage) view of the Shubert brothers’ zany reign over Broadway during the first half of the 20th century. Paul Dellit Silences and Secrets by Kay Dreyfus (Monash University Publishing $34.95). This fascinating book is about the Australian experiences of the Weintraub Syncopaters, a celebrated seven-piece German jazz band of the 1930s who famously had appeared in the Marlene Dietrich movie The Blue Angel. Hugely popular in their own country with their mix of vaudeville and music, when the Nazis came to power, the band of mainly Jewish musicians embarked on a four-year journey touring Europe, Russia and the Far East, eventually arriving in Sydney in 1937. Becoming the featured attraction at the swanky Prince’s Restaurant, Sydney, and with storm clouds gathering in Europe, they decided to stay in Australia, bringing them into conflict with the aggressively protectionist Musicians’ Union of Australia. When war broke out their status changed to ‘enemy aliens’, and three members were interned, leading to the band’s break-up. Two band members, John Kurt Kaiser (known as Sydney John Kay) and Leo Weiss (known as Leo White), later had a profound influence on Australian musical life. Kay was a pioneering Managing Director of Sydney’s Mercury

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Theatre in the 1940s, and White led his own dance band and recorded for Parlophone and Pacific. The impetus for Kay Dreyfus’ book came from a German bio-documentary film. Looking objectively at the story of the band, their personal lives and the social and political forces in Australia at the time, she paints a picture of seven men exiled from their mother country by anti-Semitic ideology, only to find persecution, especially from the Musicians’ Union, in Australia. Originally written as a thesis and as such a little on the dry and academic side, it is nevertheless a remarkable story. Peter Pinne Rhythm and Meaning in Shakespeare by Peter Groves (Monash University Publishing $39.95). This book contains a rich lode of specialist information for actors in any of the Bard’s works from plays to sonnets. Groves stresses how important an understanding of Shakespeare’s writing style is for actors to create the distinctive ‘music of the voice’ that results from an understanding of accent, stress and beat in his lines. This has clearly been a labour of love for the author who offers his detailed knowledge now for the benefit of everyone from vocal coaches and speech specialists to jobbing actors. It is a dense and precise study, all the way down to the vocal minutiae of phonetics and a guide to pronunciation of unfamiliar names in Shakespeare’s plays. Do you know what a schwa is? Do you know what its influence is in scansion of a line? Is the name Jaques (the character in As You Like It who delivers the famous Act II speech “All the world’s a stage….) one syllable or two? These and much more are explained in this master work. Jay McKee

Julia Gillard's Swansong

Not the faceless but the FAITH-less men. CHORUS: She's a ranga and she told Australia's first female Prime Minister They carried banners saying "Ditch the lies. Julia Gillard left centre stage this year. witch", JULIA: So what? But the comedians from the Wharf My every move was undermined, CHORUS: As worst Prime Minister she'd Review - on stage at the Sydney And Germaine Greer made fun of my take the prize. Theatre Company’s Wharf 1 Theatre behind. JULIA: Was not! until December 21 - have a special DOORS OPEN MOMENTARILY to reveal CHORUS: Trust old Jonesy to get it tribute for her. Sing along yourself to chorus right, the music of Habanera ("L'amour est un CHORUS: Her big fat arse. JULIA: Chaff bag?? oiseau rebelle" or “Love is a rebellious JULIA: I said "behind". CHORUS: Now get that dreadful bird”) from Bizet's Carmen. They all misquote me, I am much woman out of sight. maligned. JULIA: Vile fag. JULIA: I've been wasted by gutless men, CHORUS: She's lost her mind. I got no thanks They set me up to cut me down again. JULIA: You see my point? At least I tried, Not a lamb to the slaughter led, And they think women are wrecking I had to swim against the rising tide. I was the scapegoat all along instead. the joint. The miner's ads, I was drafted to mend Rudd's mess, I manned up and I would not flinch, The GFC The first Prime Minister to wear a dress. They took a mile each time I gave an And Tony Abbott's negativity. Smashed the ceiling made of glass inch. CHORUS: Her big fat arse. A thousand cuts. What a tragic farce. Never crumbled, no I was brave No more. JULIA: What can you do? When someone spat upon my father's I took the punches and I stumbled I'm gone. grave. Worn out. through. Trusted colleagues could all turn mean, CHORUS: What else is new? Moved on. Like Mard'n Fergusson and Simon They mocked my voice, JULIA: I'll say adieu, Crean, They called me bitch, And now that I can speak my mind.... They were loyal to me back when, Fuck you! Amanda Bishop as Julia Gillard. Photo: Tracey Schramm. Stage Whispers 31

DOGFIGHT (Benj Pasek/ Justin Paul) (Ghostlight 84470). Like they did with A Christmas Story, composerBy Peter Pinne lyricists Benj Pasek and ANNIE (Charles Strouse/ Justin Paul have improved Martin Charnin) (Shout! on their source material Broadway 826663with their musical 14208). The new, welladaptation of Dogfight. recorded Broadway cast Based on the 1991 indie movie about a cruel bet recording of Annie is of by Vietnam-bound particular interest to Oz musical theatre geeks Marines in 1963 San Francisco, the because it stars Anthony team have provided an impressive score with pop and folk Warlow as Daddy nods to the era. As Rose, the girl who bears the brunt of Warbucks, a role he’s the bet, Lindsay Mendez is perfect with the Sondheimesque portrayed in two Australian “Nothing Short of Wonderful”, and the moving “Pretty productions. Warlow is in Funny” is outstanding. She also excels, along with great voice on his solo “Something Was Missing” and Annaleigh Ashford (Kinky Boots), on the title song. The role of Eddie, the Marine who grows a conscience, is also a stands out leading the company on “N.Y.C.” and “A New Deal for Christmas”. Katie Finneran plays Miss Hannigan Andrew Beale and Kelvinperfect Harman fit for Derek Klena who brings a high-energy level with a Brooklyn accent, which gives a different take on the leading the ensemble on “Some Kinda Time” and “Hey character, but it is moppet Lilla Crawford in the title role Good Lookin’”, and true emotion to “Come Back”, a song who steals the show. With a voice of pure brass, she that expresses the pain of a returned serviceman whose delivers “Maybe” and the hit song “Tomorrow” like a brothers-in-arms have all been lost in war. Dogfight is seasoned pro. With new orchestrations, based on Philip J. musical theatre writing that is uplifting, well-crafted and Lang’s iconic originals, snappy choral arrangements, and tunefully engaging.  the inclusion of the film’s “We Got Annie”, it’s the most complete recording of the score on disc. Thankfully “We’d GREASE (Warren Casey/Jim Like to Thank You Herbert Hoover” has been restored to its Jacobs) (Universal original jaunty 1930s feel, unlike the recent Australian 3754911). The current production which gave it a more contemporary sound. cast of John Frost’s new Bonus tracks are of Finneran’s replacement, Jane Lynch production of Grease have (Sue Sylvester on TVs Glee), who sings “Easy Street”, and recorded the show, “Little Girls”, a song she performed on this year’s Tony making it the first ever Awards. There are plenty of recordings out there of the Australian cast recording. Annie score, and the original Broadway Cast with Dorothy With a song-stack the Loudon as Miss Hannigan is still the gold standard, but same as the 1993 London this one is a very acceptable No. 2.  Cast, which augmented the original score with the specially written songs for the movie by Barry Gibb, John Farrar, Scott Simon and Louis St Louis, this 1950’s rock ‘n’ roll pastiche sounds as fresh as ever. As head greaser Danny, Rob Mills vocally acquits himself well, as does Gretel Scarlett as the virginal Sandy. Their duet “You’re the One That I Want” is blistering. Scarlett does a fine cover of “Hopelessly Devoted to You”, while Mills effortlessly croons “Sandy”. Anthony Callea (“Born To Hand Jive”) and Todd McKenney (“Beauty School Dropout”) make the most of their cameos while Lucy Maunder’s tough but vulnerable Pink Lady Rizzo delivers a moving “There Are Worse Things I Could Do”, one of the best songs in the score. 

Stage On Disc

I DREAMED A DREAM – HIT SONGS FROM BROADWAY (Various) (ABC 481 0378). Lucy Maunder is also one of eight performers who sing songs from classic musicals accompanied by the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra conducted by Guy Noble. Best of the tracks are those by 32 Stage Whispers November - December 2013

Trisha Crowe, who makes a more than acceptable Mary Poppins on “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” and brings a thrilling soprano to two Maria roles, The Sound of Music’s “My Favourite Things” and West Side Story’s “Tonight”. Operatunity Oz winner David Parkin has the best male voice on the disc and effortlessly delivers South Pacific’s “Some Enchanted Evening”, Jacqueline Dark does likewise with the Mother Abbess’ anthem “Climb Ev’ry Mountain” from The Sound of Music, while veteran Toni Lamond is perfect for A Little Night Music’s “Send in the Clowns”. 

all written works especially for him. The fit of the material and Parke’s light-tenor voice is perfect. Best tracks are Scott Alan’s “I Remember” about a relationship in its autumnal phase, Jeff Marx’s “There’s a Long Road Ahead”, about a relationship just beginning, and Georgia Stitt’s bluesy “Kites and Children”. He closes with Jeff Blumenkrantz’s vaudeville -like “Choose Happy”, an ironic take on all those songs exhorting one to ‘put on a happy face’. 

IN FLIGHT – Vincent Hooper (Various) (No label/ No number). Show songs old and new also feature on the debut album from Perth Song and Dance man Vincent Hooper. With a voice in the light tenor range and a distinctive nasal tone, he negotiates his way through an SONGS IN THE KEY OF BLACK (Irving Berlin) Lucy eclectic set of material that includes “I Maunder (No Label/No Number). The thing that Believe” (Book of Mormon), “Moving the Line” (Smash), elevates this album above “Try Me” (She Loves Me) and “Being Good Isn’t Good the crowd is brilliant Enough” (Hallelujah, Baby!). Well worth a listen.  piano arrangements and accompaniment by Daniel Rating  Only for the enthusiast  Borderline Edmonds and assured and  Worth buying  Must have  Kill for it effortless singing by Lucy Maunder. The album springs from Maunder’s one-woman show Songs in the Key of Black, which refers to composer Irving Berlin and the legend that he only wrote songs on the black keys of the piano. Written by Nick Christo and directed by Neil Gooding, the song choices come mainly from Berlin’s output in the 1920s and 30s. The ballads, “What’ll I Do”, “All Alone” and “How Deep Is the Ocean”, mix comfortably with the dance rhythms of “Puttin’ On the Ritz” and “Cheek To Cheek”, but it’s the obscure “Yiddisha Nightingale” that’s the gem here. Maunder’s tender interpretation of it is pure class.  COMPOSITIONS – A MUSICAL CLOSE-UP – Tyran Parke (Various) (TP2013). On paper Tyran Parke’s new album, a collection of songs to accompany mostly black and white photographs shot by his brother Trent, sounds pretentious, but in reality it contains some fine song-writing. Parke has assembled an impressive array of composers including Stephen Schwartz, David Shire, John Bucchino, Mathew Robinson, Anthony Costanzo, Jeff Marx and Eddie Perfect, who have Stage Whispers 33

Musicals In 2014 And Beyond

be all around you,” Baz Luhrmann told the media launch. The musical adaptation of the movie opens at the Lyric Theatre in Sydney on April 12. It will include both original songs and pop favourites including Love is in the Air. The costume designer is Catherine Martin, the double Oscar winning spouse of Baz, while producers Global Creatures are sure to provide us with a visual feast. The big question of course is whether it will work as a musical or will the production overwhelm the story? Strictly Ballroom began as a student play written while Baz was at NIDA – let’s hope that the fine dramatic bones of the story shine through.

For the present, Melbourne has to wait until October for a brand new musical theatre offering, when audiences can savour the Australian Premiere of Once, just two years after it scooped the pool at the Tony Awards, courtesy of a collaboration between the Melbourne Theatre Company and John Frost. Based on the 2006 Irish film, Once is a good old-fashioned love story set in an Irish pub. When a Czech flower seller takes an interest in the haunting love songs of an Irish busker, the pair develop a friendship through their shared passion for music. As the chemistry between them grows their songwriting soars to Les Misérables powerful new heights. The producers are looking for Something old, something new and process for the leading role of Fran also talented ‘out of the musical theatre box’ performers who will need to sing, plot-lines borrowed from a film or two. taking longer than expected before move, act and play a musical Stage Whispers looks at what will sing being thrown open for general auditions in September, we can expect instrument to audition, after sifting and dance across our stages in 2014. through preliminary video auditions that the final touches will go right from hopefuls all over the country. Baz Luhrmann’s World Premiere down to the wire. John Frost explained that on all his adaptation of his hit movie Strictly “One thing I can guarantee you trips to New York he had avoided Ballroom The Musical is probably the everything dances in this show. seeing Once, thinking it was not his most keenly anticipated musical of Because there are a number of scenes 2014. in which there are large audiences and style and far more suited to the MTC. But once he saw the show, many trips Postponed once because his festivals, there will also be a commitment to The Great Gatsby ran participatory element. The dancing will later, he couldn’t resist, and his over time, and with the audition

Online extras!

Online extras!

Check out Baz’s thoughts on the creative process. Scan the QR code or visit

Watch highlights from the Broadway run of Once. Scan the QR code or visit

34 Stage Whispers November - December 2013

thoughts about the MTC came back to inspire him. Frost says, “Once is a truly beautiful show with heart-warming music and a charming love story offering a refreshing and surprising change to the typical Broadway musical.” In the meantime, Perth audiences will see the world premiere of the new musical All Out of Love in July 2014, featuring music by Air Supply, ahead of a Singapore season and other yet to be announced Australian and international dates. All Out of Love is to be produced by musical theatre newcomers Musical Management Asia Pacific MMAP. In yet another Tony Award winning collaboration, John Frost continues his association with Opera Australia with a touring revival of his own hit production of The King and I. Lisa McCune and Teddy Tahu-Rodes team up again, exchanging the onstage romance sparked in South Pacific for the cross-cultural sparring of Anna and the King. This Christopher Renshaw directed production premiered at the Adelaide Festival Theatre in 1991, transferring to Broadway five years later, and winning win four Tony Awards. British director Renshaw will return to restage the production With its Tony and Drama Desk award winning set and costume designs by Aussies Brian Thomson and Roger Kirk, the production is already guaranteed to be a visual treat to match the music of Rodgers and Hammerstein. The King and I opens at QPAC in April, moving to the Princess Theatre, Melbourne in June, with a Sydney season at the Sydney Opera House in September.

How many times can we do the Time Warp again? Every six years or so it seems, although many of the cities which the latest revival of The Rocky Horror Show will visit have not seen it for 15 years. Producers Howard Panter and John Frost are recreating the latest West End revival for Australian audiences. Christie Whelan-Browne as Janet and Tim Maddren as Brad will play the unsuspecting young couple couple ready to be corrupted by Craig Mclachlan, returning to the role of Frank N Furter. The producers Howard Panter and John Frost said, “Craig oozes that risqué charm that an actor playing Frank needs, as well as bucket loads of sex appeal. He captivated all of us in the audition room.” Stage Whispers editor Neil Litchfield confesses to having seen the orginal production more than 15 times, but firmly denies that he already has his

Seasons 2014 fishnets and stilettos packed for the flight to Brisbane. Opening on December 31, at QPAC, a season at the Crown Theatre, Perth follows in February, followed by the Festival Theatre, Adelaide in March and Melbourne's Comedy Theatre in April. Sydney looks likely to miss out, with no suitable theatre space available. Celebrating 10 years as the topselling musical on Broadway, Wicked is currently on stage in Auckland as part of the anniversary festivities before riding its broomstick to Melbourne at its original home, the Regent Theatre, in May ahead of seasons in Sydney and Brisbane. Crowd pleaser the newly married Lucy Durack returns as Glinda with Jemma Rix (Elphaba) and Maggie Kirkpatrick (Madame Morrible). Elsewhere in this issue composer Stephen Schwartz raves about the cast. No word yet on who will play the Wizard in Oz. For those youngsters who think Les Misérables is a movie on far too grand a scale to put on stage, you are in for a big surprise in 2014 when it

Online extras! Stage Whispers TV caught up with Lisa and Teddy. Scan the QR code or visit

Lisa McCune and Teddy TahuRodes in The King And I Stage Whispers 35

The Rocky Horror Show

opens at Her Majesty’s Theatre, Melbourne in June. Yes Les Mis actually started out as a stage musical. On the back of the success of the film, Cameron Mackintosh is bringing the West End’s longest running musical back to Australia. The new Melbourne production is the version created to celebrate the show’s 25th Anniversary in London’s West End. Cameron Mackintosh is crowing about the casting, claiming that he catapulted Anthony Warlow and Marina Prior to stardom by casting them in his first Australian production and is hoping to repeat the favour with a new generation, though Simon Gleeson, playing Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman’s role), can claim years of West End and Australian experience. Singing even better than Russell Crowe (is that really so difficult) will be Hayden Tee as Javert. Trevor Ashley plays Monsieur Thénardier (Sasha Baron Cohen’s film role), though Sir Cameron might have been bolder, and cast him as Madame Thénardier. As has been written elsewhere in this edition, Disney has cast many talented debutantes for its 10th anniversary production of The Lion King, which will roam though Sydney’s Capitol Theatre for the first part of 2013. When you are wearing those gorgeous masks big names don’t matter so much do they? Still hot is of course Grease, on stage at Sydney’s Lyric Theatre until mid December before giving 36 Stage Whispers November - December 2013

Melbourne plenty to sing about Her Majesty’s Theatre. Critics and fans have raved. “This was the best production of Grease I have ever seen - fast, funny, and massively entertaining. David Gilmore’s direction, based on his longrunning West End revival satisfied on every level,” wrote Stage Whispers’ Peter Pinne. On a smaller scale, Darlinghurst Theatre Company begins its first year in new home, Eternity Playhouse, with Falsettos by William Finn and James Lapine, a Tony Award winner for Best Book and Best Score in 1992. Speaking of the old Darlo Theatre, it is about to become Sydney’s new home for Indee Musical Theatre and cabaret. Renamed in honour of Nancye Hayes, we’re yet to hear the specific plans for 2014, but with companies like Neglected Musicals and Squabbalogic as part of the consortium, there are bound to be some intriguing choices Melbourne audiences can look forward to yet another season of three musicals in staged concert form from The Production Company. Similarly in Brisbane, the newly professionalized Harvest Rain announces its 2014 season later in November. Looking ahead to 2015, Tim Minchin has revealed that his West End and Broadway smash hit Matilda will open in Melbourne in September 2015. Musical Theatre fans are licking their lips in anticipation.

Leon Ford and Lucy Durack in MTC’s Private Lives

Seasons 2014

Theatre Seasons 2014 Australia’s theatre companies have dished up a smorgasbord for 2014. There are lashings of stars and classics, sex and comedy, music and crossdressing and more than a few plays by an English playwright born 450 years ago. The most extraordinary Shakespeare of 2014 should be Macbeth starring Hugo Weaving. The Sydney Theatre will be turned back to front, with the audience watching from the stage. Giving The Bard a run for his money in the harbour city is David Williamson. For Sydney’s Ensemble Theatre he has no less than four plays on, and is even directing one of them (maybe he could also fill in as an usher if they short staffed). The Sydney Theatre Company is reviving Travelling North and the Griffin Theatre, Emerald City. The favourite pastime of many companies (re-writing the classics) will

reach the peak of curiosity when Belvoir stages Hedda Gabler with a man in the title role. Malthouse and the Sydney Theatre Company will join in the cross-dressing fun with Paul Capsis in Calpurnia Descending. If men seem to be taking over the divas’ roles, Nancye Hayes is pulling one back for the ladies as Lady Bracknell in The Importance of Being Earnest in Adelaide, reclaiming the role from Geoffrey Rush, in a production which will also tour. Co-productions are everywhere. The Effect, a new play by British playwright Lucy Prebble (ENRON) concerned with medication and the questions of how far is too far, will be seen in a co-production in Sydney and Brisbane, while there will be a separate Melbourne production starring Sigrid Thornton. Ben Elton is revisiting his play Gasping, first performed in 1990, and

is re-imagining it for a new era and new country. The play will now be called Gasp! in a co-production between Black Swan State Theatre Company and Queensland Theatre Company. International collaborations also feature prominently. In a major coup, State Theatre Company SA will be presenting the Australian premiere of The Suit, a work from Peter Brook and Théâtre Des Bouffes Du Nor. The STC continues its relationship with Belgian company Ontroerend Goed for Fight Night, where audience members will use handheld devices to determine the outcome of each night. The production will be staged in Sydney following an Adelaide Festival season. Across various companies, Daniel Keane’s The Long Way Home, which (Continued on page 39) Stage Whispers 37

Seasons 2014

Paul Capsis in Calpurnia

38 Stage Whispers November - December 2013

Nancye Hayes and Nathan O’Keefe in the State Theatre Company of SA’s The Importance of Being Earnest

Theatre tragics: Travelling North – one of the greatest plays by one of the greatest Australian playwrights. Something edgy: Fight Night – Alexander Devriendt and his company Ontroerend Goed (in cahoots with The Border Project) are at the cutting edge of the intersection between the The Captain’s Pick audience and the actor. You can’t see everything, so what Entertain me: Take your pick! mainstage productions should you buy For young audiences: M.ROCK – Let tickets for in 2014? Stage Whispers Valerie Bader corrupt the young. asked the Artistic Directors to help you choose. All were asked to nominate what they would buy tickets to if they Ensemble Theatre could only go to two productions; Mark Kilmurry - Artistic Director. what productions would suit theatre Just Two: David Williamson’s Cruise tragics; what they’d recommend to Control (if they can get a ticket) set on those after something edgy; what play a cruise and based, as ever with David, offers pure entertainment and, finally, on experience -- and then perhaps a suggestion for young audiences. Clybourne Park (Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award winner) as a great conceit and Sydney Theatre Company very thought-provoking as well as Andrew Upton – Artistic Director. funny. It deals with race, wealth and Just Two: Noises Off – A great night neighbours. out with unstoppable laughter and Theatre Tragics: Richard The Cyranno de Bergerac - A great night Third! Proof! out with unstoppable laughter. And Something Edgy: I think the David tears. Williamson trilogy of plays at the Concourse will be wonderful – Face To Face (about community conferencing ) was an amazing experience when I saw it in ‘99 and stays with me even now. Just for laughs: Again Cruise Control, and Dark Voyager is a terrific comedy about the famous. Also Absent Friends - the classic Alan Ayckbourn play is one of his very best. For young audiences: We’re Going On A Bear Hunt coming back for a second time. I remember my first experience when I was five! Maybe that’s where it all started. (Continued from page 37)

reflects the experiences of Australian servicemen and women deployed on operations in Iraq, Afghanistan and East Timor, will be presented in conjunction with The Australian Defence Force.

Broadway production that swept the Tony Awards but with a local cast. For theatre tragics: Ghosts and Glengarry Glen Ross – two meaty classic plays, helmed by two great directors, featuring some of the country’s best actors. Something edgy: Cock – one of the best new international plays of the last few years and a brilliant portrait of sexual identity in the 21st century. It also features original music from Missy Higgins. The Sublime – a blisteringly topical and no holds barred account of football and sex, written by the man with his finger on the pulse of contemporary masculinity: Brendan Cowell. Just entertain me: Private Lives – Noel Coward’s champagne comedy served with a vodka chaser, featuring music theatre darling Lucy Durack. Pennsylvania Avenue – the follow up to Songs for Nobodies – it’s hard to go past Bernadette Robinson, Joanna Murray-Smith and Simon Phillips. For young audiences: Two standouts are Matthew Whittet’s reworking of Little Red Riding Hood, Big Bad Wolf and the Arena show Marlin, which will be set in a sea of foam.

Malthouse Marion Potts - Artistic Director. Just Two: I would go for contrast: The Good Person of Szechuan and Night on Bald Mountain. Two very different classics from two very different perspectives. Theatre tragics: Everything. Just don't go home. Edgy: Ugly Mugs is a new Australian play by Peta Brady that takes Melbourne Theatre Company us into some gritty territory with a Sam Strong - Associate Artistic highly poetic voice. Director. Entertain Me: Both Philadelphia Just two: The Speechmaker. And Story and Calpurnia Descending - book -end the year with these highly not just because I’m directing it! It is the first play by Australia’s comic entertaining and funny pieces. royalty – the Working Dog boys Santo Calpurnia is likely to be pretty Cilauro, Tom Gleisner and Rob Sitch – subversive too! and a hilarious and beautifully For young audiences: The Witches observed satire set aboard Air Force after Roald Dahl's fabulous story - it's a One. Once - this is a beautiful romantic solo performance by the masterful Guy musical based on the film of the same Edmunds and it will have both adults name. This will be the original and children squealing in delight. Stage Whispers 39

Seasons 2014

Sigrid Thornton as Blanch in A Streetcar Named Desire. Photo: Robert Frith

Queensland Theatre Company Wesley Enoch - Artistic Director. Just Two: With our preview packages you can afford three for the price of two. I'd say Australia Day, Macbeth and Gasp! Two comedies and a classic. For theatre tragics: The true theatre tragic wants to come to everything. Something edgy: I think Gloria, The Mountaintop, The Effect, A Tribute of Sorts are all plays that mix ideas with form exploration. Black Diggers will be a big piece built for festivals which will explode myths and tell the hard to tell stories. Just entertain me: Australia Day and Gasp! are big invitations to sit back and enjoy the wit and humour of two very comic writers. For younger audiences: The Magic Hour is a show that will appeal because of the humour. Belvoir Ralph Myers - Artistic Director. Just Two: Tear up the season book, pin all the shows to the wall and then blindfold yourself and play Pin The Tail On The Donkey. I think they're all great. I honestly couldn't choose just two! For theatre tragics: Brothers Wreck. It's a really, really great play. Something edgy: Hedda and Nora. See them both. Revel in the different ways that two of the best directors in the country tackle Ibsen's two great tragedies.

Ensemble Theatre’s Richard III

40 Stage Whispers November - December 2013

Entertain Me: Oedipus Schmoedipus (billed as a ridiculous romp through all the great death scenes of the western theatrical canon). Those women from Post are CRRRAZZZZY! For young audiences: A Christmas Carol. Family fun at Christmas time! State Theatre Company of South Australia Geordie Brookman - Artistic Director. Just Two: Little Bird and The Suit. Two extraordinary and wonderful pieces of work, both featuring exceptional artists. One piece made right here in Adelaide, the other in France via South Africa. Both shows fit in the 'don't miss it' category! For theatre tragics: The Seagull. A beautiful new version of Chekhov's classic by acclaimed Australian writer Hilary Bell, an amazing cast and a super intimate venue. Something edgy: Nescha Jelk's production of Othello. It's going to be raw, powerful and unforgettable. Entertain Me: The Importance of Being Earnest. Easily one of the best comedies ever written with two of our best actors in Nathan O'Keefe and Nancye Hayes. A riotous night. For young audiences: Phil Kavanagh's wonderful dark comedy Jesikah. It's a fantastic piece of new Australian writing specifically for adolescent audiences.

Greta Scacchi and Bryan Brown in Travelling North by David Williamson. Sydney Theatre Company.

For young audiences: Flood by Chris Isaacs. Set in Perth and the WA bush, it’s about six friends whose camping trip goes horribly wrong. And if you like psycho thrillers, The House on The Lake by Aidan Fennessy is the play for you.

Black Swan State Theatre Company Bell Shakespeare Nancy Hackett - Marketing and Moliere’s Tartuffe, celebrations Sponsorship Manager aplenty for Shakespeare’s 450th Just Two: A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams, starring Sigrid Thornton as Blanche DuBois and Gasp! by Ben Elton. For theatre tragics: The Seagull by Anton Chekhov, starring Greta Scacchi and her daughter Leila George. Something edgy: Dust by Suzie Miller. The play is set on a day when Perth is blanketed with red dust, and follows different people whose worlds are turned upside down in the chaos. Entertain me: No question Laughter on the 23rd Floor by Neil Simon.

birthday and rediscovering The Winter’s Tale are headliners. Henry V. This contemporary take inspired by the true story of a group of boys who rehearsed plays in a bunker during the Blitz in 1941 will tour to 32 venues. Including youth: a new version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, titled The Dream, runs a family-friendly 90minutes and there’s a new schools production of Macbeth,

2014 Stage Whispers Directory of Performing Arts Courses Stage Whispers 41

Giving Mamma Mia! A New Look Pro-am and community theatres in New Zealand have been given special permission to re-design the look of Mamma Mia! for productions around the country, commencing in March 2014 in Auckland. John Harding and Lesley BurkesHarding, who’ve spent most of the last 15 years working in film, including Avatar, The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, have been commissioned to design the production. Bronwyn Bent spoke to the designers (originally published in LIVE magazine).

do good work. You don’t get that so much in film, that ability to watch the process.” In terms of the overall design, John explains, “Film will only ever use 10% or 15% of what you’ve created, whereas in theatre, it’s everything: it’s facing the audience; it’s got lights on it, you can’t hide it.” Lesley continues, “I like working in both mediums for very different reasons. When they do show work on screen it can be seen in very minute detail so little tiny details of embroidery or something you’ve done, it can all be seen. On The Hobbit I dressed Orlando Bloom and Evangeline The dual experience of working across both film and theatre means that John Harding and Lesley Burkes-Harding Lilly, and everything on them can be seen in 3D, high-def, are well placed to consider the contrasts between the two 35 foot tall, so it’s worth all that time and effort.” mediums. Lesley explains, “It’s massively different; it’s a Whilst requiring no less time and effort, “theatre is quite similar process but only from a creative point of view. From different: it’s about the big picture – what’s visible from a the minute you start to put it all into manufacture it’s night and day.” Like many people who work across film and theatre, John is clear about the advantages of shuttling between the two, “We don’t do theatre for the money, we do it because we’re going to have a great time. With theatre and musicals you get to sit in the theatre, and it’s so much fun to watch actors

42 Stage Whispers November - December 2013

distance.” John continues: “You work with silhouettes, shapes. More often than not it's a picture frame, a painting you need to balance; it becomes one big image... you can’t skimp on the detail because it all adds up.” It’s this mass of detail that the two designers are currently working through for Auckland Music Theatre’s Mamma Mia! which will open at The Civic Theatre in March 2014. Excitingly for both the design team and audiences, this version of the show is the first time since the original West End production that it will have a new design; every performance of Mamma Mia! since 1999 has been obliged to use the same set and costumes, so the chance to completely redesign it is something of a big deal. It’s a deal that both John and Lesley are entering into with great enthusiasm. Lesley says, “Our brief was to design something very different, which frankly we’re very happy about. We welcome the opportunity to have a fresh approach to the design for 2014, as opposed to 1999.” John adds, “I personally wanted to give it a massive boost of fun and light. People in New Zealand know what bright summer holidays are like. I’ve said to everyone it’s that hot, humming light that you get when you go on holiday to Fiji and buy an inappropriately loud shirt.

Certainly on my side, and on Lesley’s as well I think, we’re sort of wallowing in colour and light and wit and humour.” Lesley has taken some inspiration from the clothes of ABBA, although she’s not embracing every aspect of them. “What strikes me about them is that they’re so badly made, and a lot of them don’t fit that well. I wanted to keep a sense of ABBA, but also infuse something else in there to make it a bit more high tech for 2014.” This is a production with some unique challenges: having to design for one theatre that hasn’t been built yet, one that’s undergoing post-earthquake restoration, and the creation of costumes that will look fantastic on nine very diverse casts all around the country. Lesley has a pragmatic answer to this: “Wide seams, elastic and long hems.” John has a similar solution to ensuring the set looks like it was built for both the magnificent 16-metre-wide Civic stage and the 9-metre-wide space in New Plymouth: “I’ve done this before, so you just have sacrificial bits of set you just don’t use in some places, which is not very fair because it might be cool stuff, but what I’m doing with this one is making everything stretchy so it can shrink and expand.” As Lesley says: “There’s a lot to take into account. It’s a big job.” Undaunted by the huge task, both designers obviously have great affection for Mamma Mia!, with John remarking, “It’s a great show; it’s pure entertainment.” It’s a show filled to the brim with sheer good feeling and, as Lesley says, “Everybody loves it, because you can’t help it. It’s just a hell of a good time.” It’s easy to see the enthusiasm they have for giving an old(ish) favourite a new look, and no doubt this energy will translate into a brighter and bolder production.

Stage Whispers Costumes Just $11 a listing Have any costumes and props for sale or hire? Get noticed now! Stage Whispers 43

Theatres Welcome New ETC Lighting Consoles Leading Lighting Company JANDS has recently helped upgrade facilities in WA and SA.

struggling with their old Strand consoles. "We had a Strand 550 and a 520i console for years and they were really The iconic His Majesty’s Theatre, or at the end of their use-by date," said the Maj as it is affectionately known, is Matthew Nankivell, Head of Lighting at the only remaining working Edwardian His Majesty's Theatre in Perth. theatre in Australia. This stunning "More and more touring shows example of Edwardian era architecture were coming through that couldn't use is one of WA's most-loved heritage their show files with the Strand icons. consoles. Many of our shows have However celebrating history and all originated in a venue with an EOS so it things antique should not stretch to made logical sense to also go down the lighting department who were the EOS pathway."

Matthew Nankivell, Head of Lighting, with ETC Eos.

Tony Gordon, Lighting Board Operator, with ETC Gio.

44 Stage Whispers November - December 2013

His Majesty’s Theatre has become home to an ETC Eos console in the bio box, an ETC EOS remote processor unit, and an ETC Gio console which is used on stage and in the stalls as a production console. "The ETC consoles have performed really well," said Matthew. “It was relatively easy to pick up thanks to similar syntax to the Strand and Obsession series of desks. As to which features I favour .... well really all of them, especially not needing to save shows on to floppy disk. The effects engine is great, and I find it to be extremely powerful. I like the customizable layouts and having features such as pallets, preset and group direct selects all at your fingertips on the touch screen.” The Gio is designed for those looking for sophisticated control in a manageable, road-ready package. "The Gio has been great for programming, especially as it has the backlit keys," added Matthew. "They

really make it usable when you're programming in the dark as you can actually see what you're doing. Eos and Gio are also backed up by Jands' service. "Whenever we have had an issue with the EOS, be it either programming or hardware issues, a quick phone call to Eddie Welsh has had the problem solved in a matter of minutes," said Matthew. Recently the Sir Robert Helpmann Theatre in Mount Gambier (South Australia) became home to a new ETC Ion 1000 lighting console which will enable them to provide fully integrated control of conventional and moving lights. “We’ve always had a relationship with Jands equipment and systems so when the existing lighting console at Sir Robert Helpmann Theatre expired, the choice was simple,” said Ray Ellison, Country Arts SA Infrastructure Manager. “In selecting the ETC Ion 1000 we considered what consoles were being toured by professional artists and the case for software application based solutions.” "With capacity to control both moving lights and smart LED luminaries using device-based profiles, the Ion1000 is pretty future proof. We will be looking at updating our other four regional theatres with the ETC ION 1000 in the near future.” Fay Cakebread, Technical Manager at the Sir Robert Helpmann Theatre, said that the ETC Ion 1000 is a

particularly easy console to navigate and she has enjoyed getting to know it. "It's really quite self-explanatory however Jands supplied us with some great training," she said. Board operator Karen Kennedy had quite a steep learning curve migrating from the old Jands ESP console to the ETC Ion 1000 but now she has adjusted to the new console, she describes it as a lovely console to run.

Technical "It's so comprehensive, each time I use it I learn something new," she commented. "We only have conventional lights in our own rig so I am limited in the features that I use however I’m trying to make the most of my submasters. If I ever have a query I find that the online forum always gives me the answer."

Online extras!

Discover the cutting-edge features of the newly released ETC Eos Gio Ti by scanning the QR code or visiting

Karen Kennedy, Board Operator

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Staging for Theatres Large and Small

Acer Arena, Sydney

East-coast staging company Megadeck has been providing quality Australian made staging for the theatrical community for 20 years. With no two productions being the same, the company understands that unique stage sets are required for each show and involve many elements to ensure a practical, safe and visually stunning design. Megadeck’s in-house carpentry and welding departments allow for greater versatility when designing unique elements for a show. Pictured here is the set from Sydney’s Strathfield Musical Society’s production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. Marketing manager Courtney Dabb says the brief was a custom tiered rise with central access. “We had to work within their

budget and the result was a success giving them a safe and accessible stage for all performers.” At the other end of the spectrum was a custom made 26-metre diameter circular stage, built for the Hillsong Album 2011 performance, assembled in the 20,000 seat capacity Acer Arena, also in Sydney. “This was a unique stage design unlike anything else we’ve been commissioned before,” he said. Another project was an episode of So You Think You Can Dance in Melbourne’s Hamer Hall. “To record the events a Megadeck platform was required as a jib riser, for easy movement of the rolling camera crane, with safety rails and access steps included.” The company uses a software program called CAD or Computer Aided Design.

“We take the initial stage plan, incorporating that into CAD to ensure all engineering standards are integrated into our final stage design.” Companies all around Australia can assemble the stages themselves, or in Sydney, Melbourne and the Gold Coast have Megadeck’s professional trained crew install them on location. Aside from simple stage extensions and tiered risers, Megadeck stages can be illuminated for lighting effects, rolling for quick on/off performances, curved or angled, or used for levelling an uneven raked area. In addition to stage sets Megadeck can provide stairs, access ramps, flats and drapery to make your experience with Megadeck a one-stop shop. Most of the company’s sets are temporary but they can be made permanent. For more information visit

Strathfield Musical Society’s Joseph And The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat

So You Think You Can Dance at Hamer Hall

46 Stage Whispers November - December 2013 Stage Whispers 47

fathers in The Fantasticks were truly memorable and a testament to his talent. While I was President of an But the sentiment felt in Music Australian Rules Football club I invited Theatre for Bruce is probably summed Bruce to speak at a luncheon; he came up by the title “Sir Bruce” affectionately willingly and then held the floor for coined by Rex Callahan in 1982 after half an hour regaling a spellbound Bruce excused himself from a audience of footie diehards on the performance to be a guest of the history of Harrison House Queen on a royal visit, for and the early days of the this title imbues a sense VFL. and feeling of service, Bruce’s early music duty and doing things theatre passion was the proper and correct fuelled by his family way, traits that Bruce who were “first always displayed. Over 50 years and nighters” at Her many productions I Majesty’s, the have marveled and Comedy, the Tivoli admired his and later the dedication to the Princess theatres. artform. Bruce has Bruce was in awe of performed with and served many of the music such shows as theatre and repertory Oklahoma!, Brigadoon theatre companies in and Annie Get Your Gun. For Melbourne. Annie he must have been in love with In 1980 the Melbourne City Council the leading lady, Evie Hayes, because instituted the Free Entertainment in the he saw it 13 times. Bruce even Parks awards for Music Theatre in remembered seeing Jack O’Hagan’s Melbourne and Bruce and I shared the operetta Flame of Desire, written in joy when our production of The 1935. Fantasticks won best production. Bruce commenced his stage Following the demise of that ‘career” at school in a play - Oliver’s organization in 1985 Bruce sensed a Island in 1940. Next came a revue void in the music theatre scene in Let’s Be Liberal and then the play The Melbourne, so in 1987 he created in Ringer by the newly formed City of the Music Theatre Guild of Victoria. Heidelberg Repertory Company. The guild reviews well over 100 Then in 1959 came musical theatre productions annually, which culminate with the then Lyric Light Opera Society in the “Bruce Awards” at the end of in its production of Rose Marie. After each year. Bruce was not responsible 15 years in the chorus, Bruce’s big for naming the awards, but the fact break, as they say, came when he auditioned and got the role of Senex in that they bear his name is testament to Festival Theatre Company’s production the high regard in which he is held by of A Funny Thing Happened on the his peers and the Music Theatre Way to the Forum – a role so dear to community of Victoria, and it is the him that he played it four times. legacy he leaves for all music theatre I directed Bruce in more than a lovers in the state. dozen productions and he always In 2000 Bruce was awarded the managed to bring his own inimitable Medal of the Order of Australia, partly style and character to whatever part he for his contribution to non-professional played. I believe his portrayals of Herr music theatre, a further testament to Schultz in the first non-professional production of Cabaret and one of the his years of service.

Vale Bruce McBrien OAM September 3, 1926 to August 30, 2013 – A Man for All Seasons Every year musical societies and schools come together in Victoria for the Music Theatre Guild of Victoria’s “Bruce Awards”. Sadly when the next extravaganza takes place on December 14 in Ballarat, Bruce McBrien, the man who founded the Guild, and whose name is given to the awards, will not be there. Alan Burrows penned this tribute. The diversity of interest, affiliation and friendship groups that Bruce McBrien shared was simply amazing. Having personally been involved since Bruce’s 60th birthday bash at the National Theatre in St Kilda in 1986 and many celebrations since, I have be amazed and honored to meet such a variety of people with whom Bruce was associated. Melbourne’s passion for Australian Rules Football had a major impact on Bruce’s life. His father, Likely McBrien, in his role as secretary to the VFL for over 25 years, bought Harrison House in Spring Street in 1929 (it remained the VFL’s Headquarters until 1972) and then promptly moved the entire family there. I think this shaped Bruce’s upbringing and his deep connection with the city of Melbourne, its fabric, architecture and its cultural life, all of which are meticulously recorded in his wonderful book, Marvelous Melbourne and Me.

48 Stage Whispers November - December 2013

Meg Hinselwood as Bella Manningham (Erik de Wit as Jack Manningham in background) in the Centenary Theatre Group (Qld) production of Gaslight, playing from November 2 – 23.

Stage Briefs

MLOC presents Mel Brooks Musical The Producers from November 8 -16 at the Phoenix Theatre, Elwood (Vic). Pictured (from left) Matthew Hadgraft (Leo Bloom), Sarah Power (Ulla) and Michael Young (Max Bialystock). Photo: Trevor Lowther. Stage Whispers 49

Stage Briefs

Get ready to hit that floor and burn, baby, burn! as Canterbury Theatre Guild bring Disco Inferno, 70s disco retro musical, to Bexley RSL from November 1 – 9. 50 Stage Whispers November - December 2013

The cast of The Women at the Theatre on Chester, Epping NSW, playing from November 8 – 30.

When the publicity team for Queanbeyan Players’ production of Annie Get Your Gun together with Frank Butler, Annie Oakley, and Clare Newhouse and Jo Carvolth as Indians with their wonderful horses, braved the cold to do a publicity shoot at The Canberra Equestrian Centre, David Doepel took along the amazing rifles he had made - hand made wooden replicas circa 1863. Indians ready to ride bare back in costume, leads in costume, photographer ready with camera, three armed police… A passing motorist had spotted David sporting four rifles and had rung the police, who were at the scene in minutes. Luckily the rifles were of an era past and on inspection were obviously wooden replicas. The company was allowed to continue ‘shooting’… that is, filming, with great results for the poster and media publicity. Queanbeyan Players’ Annie Get Your Gun plays from November 1 - 16 at The Q, Queanbeyan. Stage Whispers 51

The choreography and staging were a real strength of the show. During the opening the chorus showed excellent discipline with a perfect freeze, something not easy to achieve when there are sixty people on stage. Highlights 'Rocking the boat' and ‘Sue Wakakirri, formerly a primary school 3,600 students from 400 NSW public me’ also featured excellent singing, -only event, is now offering itself as the schools. It includes a 1,300-voice choir; dancing and staging. logical replacement for the Rock an 80-piece symphony orchestra; The backstage crew managed Eisteddfod as Australia's largest annual 2,000 dancers; and rock, jazz, brass complicated changes quietly and arts event for secondary schools. and marching bands. efficiently. Lighting was effective and For the first time, in 2013 Wakakirri This year, for the first time, the added to the performance without (meaning literally 'to dance a story') has show will be telecast nationally in drawing attention. The orchestra invited all secondary school students to prime time on the Nine Network. supported the actors and covered the participate. The Schools Spectacular is scene changes. Wakakirri is an annual festival of the presented by the NSW Department of Lilydale High School has a range of arts that celebrates all forms of artistic Education and Communities. possibilities for students to be involved expression including dance, song, film, in performance. Several of the lead art and writing. Held from July to Guys and Dolls performers are studying drama, have November, Wakakirri performances Lilydale High School. August, 2013 been in other school musicals or have take place across Australia until a 'story THE music of Guys and Dolls is other theatre experience and it teller of the year' is chosen by its vocally challenging, and on the whole, showed. They addressed the challenges judging panel. the cast delivered treat after treat. of performance with confidence and "Each school chooses to tell a 2012 Schools Spectacular Finale different story in their performance and as a result, not only are these kids having fun, but they're learning and imparting that knowledge onto others," says Festival Director and CoFounder of Wakakirri Adam Loxley. "Issues can range from bullying to homelessness to the environment – anything that speaks to those students." The Wakakirri Secondary School challenge allows for even more variety with a focus on production, directing, set and costume design, acting, choreography and audio and lighting design. "We've brought in a professional judging panel and a more Academy Awards style of production, meaning schools can win a variety of awards, not just 'Best Performance'“. For more information and performance dates go to

Schools On Stage

Will Wakakirri Fill The Gap Left By Rock Eisteddfod?

30th Anniversary of the Schools Spectacular

The 30th birthday celebration of the Schools Spectacular will take place at Sydney Entertainment Centre on Friday 29 and Saturday 30 November 2013, shining a spotlight on the talents of NSW public school students. The Schools Spectacular features 52 Stage Whispers November - December 2013

Guys & Dolls


Like all good texts, Annie transcends the specificity of its context and speaks to all audiences. It is set at the time of the Great Depression when people needed to hear its message of resilience in the face of adversity. How Annie well this resonated with me thinking St Michael’s Collegiate School, Hobart, about the negative electioneering Tasmania. Middle School (Years 5 – 8). associated with the Federal Election. August 2013 I genuinely loved every minute of ANNIE is the perfect paean to this wonderful musical, full of verve, optimism and we are thankful to Jane innocence and geniality. Polley and her creative team for this William Simon - Head of English, St marvellous production of a much-loved Michael’s Collegiate School musical. Annie, like most memorable Stockholm musicals is top-heavy and it is a tribute Written by Bronte Forrester and to all involved that the engagement of Katherine Reed. Orana Steiner School. the audience does not falter in the Overture Theatre, Weston Creek, ACT. second part. The big set pieces, September 2013 particularly, are never sentimental but ONE of the best things about being rather earnest and fast moving. in Canberra and attending theatre Congratulations to choreographer regularly is that you get to see new Sandy Robinson for achieving the works. This production - an evening of impossible: to have a gargantuan cast music, jazz, crime and betrayal - was a of ninety children always appearing Year 12 project by Bronte Forrester, a and disappearing from the stage as if student at the Orana Steiner School in by magic as well as giving us some Canberra. Dianne Johnson is a talented memorable dance routines.

detective in 1930s Brooklyn, dealing with a tricky cold case of missing women, as well as making her mark in a male-dominated workplace. The cast was a mix of school students, musicians and experienced local theatre artists, giving a breadth and depth to the roles. There were a few parts that needed a little work. For example, some scene change moments would be better started with a musical segue and a follow spot would have been welcome to make some stage points easier to see. The choreography by Adellene Fitzsimmons was very good to see – a mixture of styles for the many musical set pieces. Particularly good was the jailbird song and dance; the ‘Anything You Can Do’ medley and dance in the police station showing the differences and expectations of women in the force. This production is raising money for the local charity Bosom Buddies. Rachel McGrath-Kerr

using their strengths in characterisation and timing created a vibrant, entertaining show. They all deserve congratulations. Ruth Richter

Annie Stage Whispers 53

Dear Stage Whispers Reader, Spread the joy of Stage Whispers by giving a special person the gift of a Stage Whispers Subscription this Christmas for the special introductory price of $29.95 (NZ$35.00) for one year (GST inclusive where applicable). In return we will be delighted to give you the gift of extending your subscription by one issue. Also both you and your recipient will go into the draw for our fabulous prizes - which you can see on Page 19 - comprising tickets to The Lion King, Schools Spectacular 2013, Star Struck and Legend Of The Four Seasons. Please complete the form below or visit if you are an Australian reader to purchase online. All the Best, The Stage Whispers Team.

Gift Recipient’s Name: ............................................................................ Address: ..................................................................................................... Phone: ....................................................................................................... Email: ........................................................................................................ Gift Giver’s Name: ..................................................................................... Gift Giver’s Phone: ..................................................................................... 1st and 2nd prize preferences: ................................................................... Send your money order, cheque, or credit card details to: Stage Whispers, PO Box 2274, Rose Bay North, NSW, 2030. ABN 71 129 358 710  Visa  Mastercard  American Express Expiry:......./........ Card Number: ........................................................................................ CCV Number: ......................................................................................... Signature: .............................................................................................. (GST inclusive where applicable) ($NZ cheques address to David Spicer Productions)

54 Stage Whispers November - December 2013

On Stage A.C.T. Little Shop of Horrors by Alan Menken and Howard Ashman. Canberra Philharmonic. Until Nov 2. Erindale Theatre, Wanniassa. 6257 1950. A Month of Sundays by Bob Larbey. Until Nov 3. The Courtyard Studio, Canberra Theatre Centre. 6275 2700. The Comedy of Errors by William Shakespeare. Bell Shakespeare. Until Nov 9. The Playhouse, Canberra Theatre Centre. 6275 2700. Annie Get Your Gun. Music and lyrics by Irving Berlin, original book by Herbert and Dorothy Field, revised by Peter Stone. Queanbeyan Players. Nov 1 - 16. Queanbeyan Performing Arts Centre (the Q). (02) 6285 6290. Round and Round We Go. Warehouse Circus. Nov 14 –

16. The Street Theatre. 6247 1233. The Fox on the Fairway by Ken Ludwig. Canberra Rep. Nov 22 – Dec 7. Theatre 3. (02) 6257 1950. The Musical of Musicals by Eric Rockwell and Joanne Bogart. Everyman Theatre. Dec 5 – 21. Courtyard Studio, Canberra Theatre Centre. 6275 2700. Angelina Ballerina The Mousical. Written & Directed by Miranda Larson.
Music by Barrie Bignold. Dec 12 – 14. Canberra Theatre, Canberra Theatre Centre. 6275 2700. New South Wales Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. James Anthony Productions. Theatre Royal, Sydney. 1300 723 038. The Lion King. Based on the 1994 Disney animated film of the same name with music by Elton John and lyrics by Tim

A.C.T. & New South Wales Rice, along with the musical score created by Hans Zimmer, with choral arrangements by Lebo M. Disney Theatrical. Capitol Theatre, Sydney. From Dec 5. Ticketmaster. Rumpelstiltskin by Belinda Roals from the Grimm fairy tale. Young People’s Theatre, Until Nov 16. Young People’s Theatre, Hamilton (Newcastle). (02) 4961 4895. The Floating World by John Rommerill. Griffin. Until Nov 16. SBW Stables Theatre. (02) 9361 3817. The Swimming Club by Hannie Rayson. Pymble Players. Until Nov 2. Corner of Bromley Ave and Mona Vale Rd, Pymble. 1300 306 776. Hamlet by William Shakespeare. Belvoir. Until Dec 1. Upstairs Theatre. (02) 9699 3444.

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Love Field by Ron Elisha. Bakehouse Theatre. Until Nov 2. Tap Gallery, Darlinghurst. Competitive Tenderness by Hannie Rayson. Woy Woy Little Theatre. Until Nov 10. The Peninsula Theatre, Woy Woy. 43 233 233. Anaconda by Sarah Doyle. Paddington Arts Club and Rock Surfers Theatre Company. Until Nov 23. Bondi Pavilion Theatre. (02) 9356 0147. Calendar Girls by Tim Firth. Arts Theatre Cronulla. Until Nov 30. (02) 9523 2779. The Phantom of the Opera by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Charles Hart. Orange Theatre Company. Until Nov 2. Orange Civic Theatre. (02) 6393 8111. Daisy Pulls It Off by Denise Deegan. Genesian Theatre Company. Until Nov 16. 1300 237 217.

Stage Whispers 55

56 Stage Whispers

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

On Stage The Wharf Revue 2013 by Jonathan Biggins, Drew Forsythe and Phillip Scott. STC. Until Dec 21. Wharf 1. (02) 9250 1777 A Christmas Carol by Menken, Ahrens and Okrent. Gosford Musical Society. Until Nov 9. Laycock Street Community Theatre. (02) 4323 3233. Anyone Can Whistle. Book by Arthur Laurents and music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim. Bankstown Theatre Company. Until Nov 3. 9676 1191. Rapture, Blister, Burn by Gina Gionfriddo. Ensemble Theatre. Australian Premiere. Until Dec 7. (02) 9929 0644 Oklahoma! by Rodgers and Hammerstein. NUCMS. Until Nov 9. Normanhurst Uniting Church Hall. How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying by Frank Loesser. Eastwood Uniting Church Musical Society. Until Nov 9. Eastwood Uniting Church. 8061 7195. Noël Coward’s Brief Encounter. Kneehigh Theatre. Until Nov 10. The Concourse, Chatswood. 1300 795 012. Hairspray. Music by Marc Shaiman, lyrics by Scott Wittman and Shaiman, book by Mark O'Donnell and Thomas Meehan. Moonglow Productions. Nov 1 & 2. Wollongong Entertainment Centre. Hotel Sorrento by Hannie Rayson. Nov 1 – 23. Wollongong Workshop Theatre. (02) 4225 9407 Annie Get Your Gun. Music and lyrics by Irving Berlin, original book by Herbert and Dorothy Field, revised by Peter Stone (Musical). Queanbeyan Players. Nov 1 - 16. Queanbeyan Performing Arts Centre (the Q). 02 6285 6290. All My Sons by Arthur Miller. Darlinghurst Theatre

Company. Nov 1 – Dec 1. Eternity Playhouse. (02) 8356 9987. Dry Rot by John Chapman. Guild Theatre. Nov 2 – 30. Guild Theatre, Walz St, Rockdale. (02) 95216358 (9-5, Mon-Sat). Rooted by Alex Buzo. Don’t Look Away. Nov 2 – 16. NIDA Parade Theatres. Ticketek. Cat’s Cradle by Leslie Sands. (Psychological Mystery Thriller). Picton Theatre Group. Nov 2 – 30. Picton Theatre. 4677 8313. Vere (Faith) by John Doyle. STC. Nov 6 – Dec 7. Drama Theatre Sydney Opera House. (02) 9250 1777 The Maintenance Room by Gerry Greenland. EMU Productions. Nov 7 – 30. King Street Theatre, Newtown. 0423 082 015. Mix Tape: Greatest Hits. Musical Revue. Pantseat Productions. Nov 7 - 9. Civic Playhouse, Newcastle. (02) 4929 1977. Star Struck by Trevor Ashley, Phil Scott and Gretel Killeen. Nov 8. The Star Event Centre. 132 849. The Women by Clare Booth Luce. The Theatre on Chester. Nov 8 – 30. Corner of Chester and Oxford Streets, Epping. (02) 9877 0081 Chicago by Kander and Ebb. Players Theatre Inc Port Macquarie. Nov 8 – Dec 8. Players Theatre, Port Macquarie. (02) 6581 8888. The Secret Garden by Marsha Norman and Lucy Simon. Coffs Harbour Musical Comedy Company. Nov 8 – Dec 1. Jetty Memorial Theatre, Coffs Harbour. (02) 6652 8088. August Osage County by Tracy Letts. Campbelltown Theatre Group Inc. Nov 8 – 23. Town

New South Wales Hall Theatre, Campbelltown. 4628 5287 Busybody by Jack Popplewell. Nov 8 23. Hunters Hill Theatre, Woolwich. (02) 9879 7765. Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett. STC. Nov 12 – Dec 17. Sydney Theatre. (02) 9250 1777. Carrie The Musical. Music by Michael Gore. Lyrics by Dean Pitchford. Book by Lawrence D. Cohen. Based on the novel by Stephen King. Squabbalogic Independent Music Theatre. Nov 13 – 30. Reginald Theatre, Seymour Centre. (02) 9351 7940. The Removalists by David Williamson. Stooged Theatre. Nov 13 - 23. Civic Playhouse, Newcastle. (02) 4929 1977. The Cake Man by Robert J. Merritt. Belvoir. Nov 14 – Dec 8. Downstairs Theatre. EMPIRE at Spiegelworld. From Nov 14. Under the spiegeltent, Wheeler Place, next to Civic Theatre, Newcastle. (02) 4929 1977 Next To Normal by Tom Kitt and Brian Yorkey. Shire Music Theatre Inc. Nov 15 – 24. Sutherland Memorial School of Arts. 0458 642 553 Footrot Flats: A Musical by Roger Hall, with music by Philip Norman and lyrics by A.K. Grant. Theatre on Brunker. Nov 15 – Dec 7. Theatre on Brunker, Adamstown (Newcastle). (02) 4956 1263. Confusions by Alan Ayckbourn. Woodstock Players. Nov 15 – 23. The Woodstock Ballroom, Burwood. 0407 877687. Blithe Spirit by Noel Coward. Glenbrook Players. Nov 15 – 23. Glenbrook Theatre. (02) 47391110. Stepping Out. Music by Denis King, lyrics by Mary Stewart-

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David and book by Richard Harris. Phoenix Theatre. Nov 15 – 30. Phoenix Theatre, Coniston. 0407 067 343. Pure as the Driven Snow (or A Working Girl's Secret) by Paul Loomis. Maitland Repertory Theatre. Nov 16 - Dec 8. Maitland Repertory Theatre. (02) 4931 2800. ATOMIC by Danny Ginges and Gregory Bonsignore, with music by Philip Foxman. Nov 16 – 30. NIDA Parade Theatres. 1300 795 012. The Hound of the Baskervilles by Kent R Brown. Maitland Repertory Theatre Inc. Nov 16 – Dec 8. Maitland Repertory Theatre, High Street, Maitland. (02) 4931 2800. Brief Encounter by Noël Coward. Kneehigh Theatre. Nov 20 – 23. IMB Theatre, Wollongong. (02) 4224 5999. Summertime in the Garden of Eden created by Ash Flanders and Declan Greene. Griffin Independent. Nov 20 – Dec 14. SBW Stables Theatre. (02) 9361 3817. Dance Clan 3. Bangarra Dance Theatre. Nov 20 - Dec 1. Studio Theatre, Pier 4, Walsh Bay, Sydney. Machinal by Sophie Treadwell. STC. Nov 21 – 30. Wharf 2. (02) 9250 1777 Something’s Afoot. A murder mystery musical. Book, music, and lyrics by James McDonald, David Vos, and Robert Gerlach, additional music by Ed Linderman. Arcadians Theatre Group, Corrimal (Wollongong). Nov 22 – Dec 7. 4284 8348. Triune by Luke Holmes, Simon Gleeson and James Culbert. Brave New World. Nov 22 – Dec 7. TAP Gallery Darlinghurst. Calendar Girls by Tim Firth. Newcastle Theatre Company. Stage Whispers 57

58 Stage Whispers

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

On Stage Nov 23 – Dec 7. NTC Theatre, Lambton. (02) 4952 4958. Four Flat Whites in Italy by Roger Hall. Nowra Players. Nov 22 – Dec 7. Players Theatre, Meroo St, Bomaderry. 1300662808. How the Other Half Loves by Alan Ayckbourn. Castle Hill Players. Nov 22 - Dec 14. The Pavilion Theatre, Castle Hill Showground. 9634 2929. Little Shop of Horrors by Alan Menken and Howard Ashman. Nov 22 -30. Star of the Sea Theatre, Manly. Calendar Girls by Tim Firth. Newcastle Theatre Company. Nov 23 – Dec 7. Newcastle Theatre Company, Lambton. (02) 4952 4958 (3-6pm Monday – Friday). The Star Child by Oscar Wilde. Genesian Theatre Company. Nov 23 - Dec 14.

Gypsy. Music by Jule Styne, lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and book by Arthur Laurents. Roo Theatre Co. Nov 23 - Dec 7. Harbour Theatre. 4297 2891. Measure for Measure by William Shakespeare. Regional Institute of Performing Arts. Nov 28 – Dec 1. Civic Playhouse, Newcastle. (02) 4929 1977. 2013 Schools Spectacular. NSW Department of Education and Communities. Nov 29 & 30. Sydney Entertainment Centre. 136 100. The Messiah by Patrick Barlow. The Popular Theatre Company. Dec 3 - 7. Civic Playhouse, Newcastle. (02) 4929 1977. 35th City of Newcastle Drama Awards. December 6. Civic Theatre, Newcastle. 02) 4929 1977.

New South Wales & Queensland Coranderrk by Andrea James & Giordano Nanni. Concept Giordano Nanni. Belvoir. Dec 7 – Jan 5, 2014. Upstairs Theatre. (02) 9699 3444. Grimm Tales. Adapted by Amy Hill and Leilani Smith. Newcastle Theatre Company. Dec 8 - 22. Newcastle Theatre Company, Lambton. (02) 4952 4958. Neighbourhood Watch by Alan Ayckbourn. Australian Premiere. Ensemble Theatre. From Dec 12. (02) 9929 0644 The Little Prince. Based on the novella by Antoine de SaintExupery. Pymble Players. Dec 13 - 21. Corner of Bromley Ave and Mona Vale Rd, Pymble. 1300 306 776. Amahl and the Night Visitors by Gian Carlo Menotti. Opera Hunter. Dec 13 - 15. Adamstown Uniting Church. (02) 4943 1672. That Other Woman’s Child – A Bluegrass Musical. Book, lyrics and music by Sherry Landrum and George S. Clinton. Regional Institute of Performing Arts. Dec 19 – 22. Civic Playhouse, Newcastle. (02) 4929 1977 Queensland Pocahontas by Vera Morris & Scott Deturk. Arts Theatre. Until Nov 23. 3369 2344. Design For Living by Noel Coward. QTC. Until Nov 10. Playhouse, QPAC 136 246. The Phantom of the Opera by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Charles Hart. Spotlight Theatre, Gold Coast. Until Nov 17. 5539 4255. Gaslight by Patrick Hamilton. Centenary Theatre Group, Chelmer. Nov 2 - 23. 0435 591 720. Rehearsal for Murder. Adapted by D.D. Brooke from the teleplay by Richard Levison & William Link. New Farm

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Nash Theatre. Nov 2 - 23. 3379 4775 Dance 13. Gardens Theatre, Brisbane. Nov 5-9. 3138 4455 West Side Story by Leonard Bernstein, Stephen Sondheim and Arthur Laurents. Qld Musical Theatre. Nov 6-10. Schonell Theatre, St Lucia. Bernadette Robinson: Live in Concert. Concert Hall, QPAC. Nov 8. 136 246. Seussical The Musical by Stephen Flaherty & Lynn Ahrens. Arts Theatre, Brisbane. Nov 9 – Dec 21. 3369 2344. R&J by Breadbeard Collective. La Boite Indie & Breadbeard Collective. Roundhouse Theatre, Kelvin Grove. Nov 13 - 30. 3007 8600 The Grand by Victoria Carless. White Rabbit Ensemble. Nov 14 – 23. The Space at The Arts Centre Gold Coast. Fame by Steve Margoshes & Jacques Levy. Beenleigh Theatre. Nov 15-30. 3807 3922. Don’t Just Lie There – Say Something by Michael Pertwee. Gold Coast Little Theatre. Nov 16 – Dec 7. 5532 2096 Chitty Chitty Bang Bang by Richard M. Sherman & Robert B. Sherman. Tim Lawson Production. Lyric Theatre, QPAC. From Nov 19. 136 246 Albert Nobbs by Gordon Street. Javeenbah Theatre, Nerang. Nov 22 – Dec 7. 5596 0300 Alone It Stands by John Breen. Villanova Players. The Theatre, TAFE, Morningside, Brisbane. Nov 22 – Dec 7. 3395 5168 Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra. Concert Hall, QPAC. Nov 24-25. 136 246 The Nutcracker by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky. Qld Ballet. Playhouse, QPAC. Dec 6-21. 136 246. Stage Whispers 59

On Stage Peace Train – The Cat Stevens Story. Staring Darren Coggan. Nov 29. Concert Hall, QPAC. 136 246. The Fall and Rise of Mr Scrooge. An adaptation of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol by Sue Sewell. Noosa Arts Theatre. Nov 29 – Dec 8. It’s A Wonderful Life by Tony Palermo. Phoenix Ensemble. Dec 6-15. 3103 1546 [title of show] by Jeff Bowen and Hunter Bell. Spotlight Theatre, Gold Coast. Dec 1115. 5539 4255 Sleeping Beauty & The Beast by Wade Bradford. Arts Theatre, Brisbane. Dec 15 – 21. 3369 2344 Spirit of Christmas. QPAC Choir. Concert Hall, QPAC. Dec 20-21. 136 246 Victoria KING KONG. Writer: Craig Lucas. Music overseen by

60 Stage Whispers

Queensland & Victoria

Marius de Vries. Lyricist: Michael Mitnick. Global Creatures. Regent Theatre, Melbourne. 1300 111 011. The Beast by Eddie Perfect. Melbourne Theatre Company in association with Melbourne Festival and Melbourne International Comedy Festival. Until Nov 9. Southbank Theatre, The Sumner. (03) 8688 0800. Room for Regret by Emma Valente and Kate Davis. The Rabble. Melbourne Festival and Theatre Works. Until Nov 3. Theatre Works, St Kilda. 136 100 / (03) 9534 3388. A Murder is Announced by Agatha Christie. Michael Coppel, Louise Withers and Linda Bewick in association with Mousetrap Productions Ltd, London. Until Dec 4. The Comedy Theatre, Melbourne. 1300 111 011.

The Foreigner by Larry Shue. Torquay Theatre Troupe. Until Nov 9. (03) 52619035. Gypsy by Jule Styne, Stephen Sondheim and Arthur Laurents. NOVA Music Theatre. Until Nov 10. The Whitehorse Centre. 1300 305 771. The Light in the Piazza. Book by Craig Lucas, Music and Lyrics by Adam Guettel. Malvern Theatre Company. Nov 1 – 16. 1300 131 552. The Pirates of Penzance (Broadway Version) by Gilbert and Sullivan. The Production Company. Until Nov 3. Hamer Hall, Arts Centre Melbourne. 1300 182 183. The Mountaintop by Katori Hall. MTC. Nov 1 – Dec 4. Arts Centre Melbourne, Fairfax Studio. (03) 8688 0800. In A Forest, Dark and Deep by Neil LaBute. Winterfall. Nov 2 – 23. Theatre HUSK, Northcote. Are You Being Served by Jeremy Lloyd and David Croft. Lilydale Athenaeum Theatre Co. Inc. Nov 6 – 23. (03) 9735 1777. Agatha Crusty and the Village Hall Murders by Derek Webb. Mooroolbark Theatre Group.

Nov 7 – 16. Mooroolbark Community Centre. (03) 9726 4282. Summertime in the Garden of Eden by Ash Flanders & Declan Greene. Sisters Grimm. Nov 7 – 16. Theatre Works. (03) 9534 3388. Funny Money by Ray Cooney. Strathmore Theatre Arts Group. Nov 7 - 13. Strathmore Community Hall. (03) 9382 6284. Dusk Rings a Bell by Stephen Belber. Brighton Theatre Company. Nov 7 – 23. Brighton Theatre Company, Corner Wilson and Carpenter Streets, Brighton. 1300-752-126 The Sound of Music by Rodgers and Hammerstein. The Mount Players. Nov 8 – Dec 1. Mountview Theatre, Macedon. 1300 463 224 (10am – 5pm Tues to Sat). The Dixie Swim Club by Jessie Jones, Nicholas Hope & Jamie Wooten. Mordialloc Theatre Co. Inc. Nov 8 – 23. Shirley Burke Theatre, Parkdale. (03) 9587 5141. Lend Me a Tenor by Ken Ludwig. The Basin Theatre Group. Nov 8 - 30. 1300 784 668.

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On Stage

Victoria Stage musical We’re Going on a Bear Hunt, based on the classic children’s book written by Michael Rosen and illustrated by Helen Oxenbury, has its Australian Premiere at Arts Centre Melbourne’s Playhouse from 27 November to 8 December. A Sydney Opera House season follows from 11 – 29 December. Created by the producers of The Gruffalo.

Easy Virtue by Noël Coward. Peridot Theatre Inc. Nov 8 – 23. Unicorn Theatre. 1300 138 645 Urinetown by Mark Hollmann and Greg Kotis. Williamstown Musical Theatre Company. Nov 8 – 23. Williamstown Mechanics Institute Theatre. 1300 881 545. At Last: The Etta James Story. Starring Vika Bull. Nov 12 – 24. Athenaeum Theatre, Melbourne. (03) 9650 1500. Super Discount. Directed & Devised by Bruce Gladwin. Back to Back Theatre, Sydney Theatre Company & Malthouse Theatre. Nov 13 – Dec 1. Merlyn Theatre, Malthouse. (03) 9685 5111. A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum by Stephen Sondheim, Burt Shevelove and Larry Gelbert.

Williamstown Little Theatre. Nov 14 - 30. (03) 9885 9678 Face to Face by David Williamson. Sherbrooke Theatre Company Inc. Nov 15 - 30. Doncaster Playhouse. 1300 650 209. Peril on the High Seas by Billy St John. A Music Hall. Eltham Little Theatre. Nov 14 - 30. (03) 9437 1574. Jesus Christ Superstar by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice. Mornington CEF Players. Nov 15 - 24. St Peter’s Bellamy Hall, Mornington. 5975 6868. The Thirty Nine Steps. Adapted by Patrick Barlow from the novel by John Buchan, from the movie of Alfred Hitchcock and original concept by Simon Cable and Nobby Dimon. Warrandyte Theatre Company. Nov 15 – 30. 0488333575.

Three One Act Comedies – Easy Stages, Brenton vs. Brenton and A Night Out by Nick Warburton, David Tristram and Frank Vickery. Frankston Theatre Group. Nov 16 – Dec 1. The Mt Eliza Community Centre, Mt Eliza. 1300 665 377. Steel Magnolias by Robert Harling. Heidelberg Theatre Company. Nov 21 – Dec 7. (03) 9457 4117. Scarlett O’Hara at the Crimson Parrot by David Williamson. The 1812 Theatre. Nov 21 – Dec 14. (03) 9758 3964. Blackadder by Richard Curtis and Ben Elton. Geelong Repertory Theatre Company. Nov 22 - Dec 7. Woodbin Theatre, Geelong. 5225 1200. Beautiful One Day. ILBIJERRI Theatre Company, Belvoir and version 1.0. Nov 26 – Dec 1.

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Arts House, North Melbourne Town Hall. (03) 9322 3713. The Book of Everything by Richard Tulloch, from Guus Kuijer’s book. MTC, Belvoir and Kim Carpenter’s Theatre of Image. Nov 27 – Dec 22. Southbank Theatre, The Sumner. (03) 8688 0800. Go Back For Murder by Agatha Christie. Essendon Theatre Co. Nov 28 – Dec 6. West Essendon Community Hall. 0422 029 483. ENCOUNTER(S). Theatre Works. Dec 2 – 14. (03) 9534 3388. Quiet Back Stage. The Mount Players Youth Theatre. Dec 6 15. Mountview Theatre, Macedon. 1300 463 224 (10am – 5pm Tues to Sat). Pr!ck! The Musical by Tracy Harvey. From Dec 6. The Athenaeum Theatre, Melbourne. Ticketek. Stage Whispers 61

On Stage Oklahoma! by Rodgers and Hammerstein. PLOS. Dec 31 – Jan 5. Frankston Arts Centre. (03) 9784 1060. South Australia The Club by David Williamson. Galleon Theatre Group. Oct 31 -Nov 9. Domain Theatre, Marion. 0437 609 577. Corpse! By Gerald Moon. Therry Dramatic Society. Nov 7 -16. The Arts Theatre, Adelaide. 8296 3477. BASS or Venuetix. A Chorus of Disapproval by Alan Ayckbourn. St Jude’s Players. Nov 14-23. St Jude’s Hall, Brighton. 8270 4205. Boston Marriage by David Mamet. Butterfly Theatre/ Burnside Players. Nov 13-20. Wheatsheaf Hotel, Thebarton. The Mystery of The Hansom Cab. Adapted by Barry Creyton and Phyl Skinner. Adelaide Repertory Theatre. Nov 21-30. The Arts Theatre, Adelaide. 8212 5777. Cinderella and the Seven Ugly Stepsisters by Jennette Mickan. Kapunda Musical Society. Nov 22-30. Kapunda Chapel Theatre, Kapunda. 85662902. Cinderella Pantomime by Peter Denyer. Tea Tree Players. Nov 22-Dec 7. Tea Tree Players Theatre, Surrey Downs. 82895266. LUCK The Musical. Top of the Torrens Theatre Group. Mt. Pleasant Soldiers Memorial Hall. Nov 22 - Dec 1. 08 85 682496 For Unto Y’all-A Cowboy Christmas by Robert Sterling. Soul Factor Latvian Choir. Nov 23-Dec 1. Latvian Hall, Wayville. 8391 2127. Our Town by Thornton Wilder. Graduation production, Adelaide College of the Arts. Dec 4-7. Xspace, AC Arts, Adelaide. Venue Tix.

62 Stage Whispers

South Australia, Tasmania & Western Australia

Christmas Variety Show by Peter Potts and Pam Tucker. SALOS. Tower Arts Centre. Dec 5-8. 8294 6582. Band of SA Police - Christmas Concert. Country Arts SA. Dec 6. Hopgood Theatre, Adelaide. 8207 3977. Tasmania The Hollow by Agatha Christie. Hobart Repertory Theatre Society. Until Nov 9. The Playhouse Theatre. (03) 6234 5998. Annie by Thomas Meehan, Charles Strouse and Martin Charnin. Encore Theatre Company. Nov 6 – 18. Princess Theatre, Launceston. (03) 6323 3666. Bubblewrap 7 Boxes. Critical Stages / Asking for Trouble. Nov 11 & 12, Earl Arts Centre, Launceston, (03) 6323 3666; Nov 14 & 15, Theatre Royal, Hobart, (03) 6233 2299. She’s Not Performing by Alison Mann. Tasmanian Theatre Company. Nov 21 – 29. Theatre Royal Backspace. (03) 6233 2299. Heaven & Earth by Don Gay. Mainstage Theatre Company. Nov 22 – 30. Peacock Theatre. (03) 6234 5998. Peter Pansy. Bawdy Panto. Nov 19 – 23. Theatre Royal, Hobart. (03) 6233 2299. Simon’s Final Sound by Finnegan Kruckermeyer. Blue Cow Theatre. Dec 11 – 21. Theatre Royal Backspace, Hobart. (03) 6233 2299. Cinderella – Christmas Panto. Stephen Beckett Productions. Dec 20 – 22. Earl Arts Centre. (03) 6323 3666. Western Australia La Boheme by Giacomo Puccini. West Australian Opera. Until Nov 9. Set in the 1990s. His Majesty’s Theatre, Perth. Ticketek.

The Cake Man by Robert J. Merrit. Yirra Yaakin Theatre. Until Nov 9. Pivotal play in Aboriginal theatre history. Theatre Underground, State Theatre Centre of WA, Northbridge. Ticketek. When the Lights Go Down. Dark Psychic Productions and Phoenix Theatre. Until Nov 9. New musical, cabaret seating. Memorial Hall, Hamilton Hill. Taz TIX 9255 3336. The Hardest Way To Make an Omelette by Jessica HarlondKenny, Cracked Egg Productions. Until Nov 10. Puppetry for adult audiences. Spare Parts Puppet Theatre, Fremantle. 9335 5044. Lighten Up by Johnny Grim and Eugene Ionesco. Arena Arts and A Lad In Sane Productions. Nov 1-10. Three one act plays. Latvian Centre, Belmont. 9277 6830. Cinderella by Stuart Ardern and Bob Heather. Darlington Theatre Players. Nov 8 - 30. Pantomime. Marloo Theatre, Greenmount. 9255 1783. Midsummer (A Play With Songs) by David Greig and Gordon McIntyre. Black Swan State Theatre Company. Nov 9 – 24. Heath Ledger Theatre, State Theatre Centre of WA, Northbridge. Ticketek. South Pacific by Rogers and Hammerstein. Opera Australia and John Frost. Nov 10 – 22. Crown Theatre, Perth. Ticketek. Hello, Dolly! by Jerry Herman and Michael Stewart. Murray Music and Drama. Nov 15 – 30. Pinjarra Town Hall. 0458 046 414. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott adapted by Peter Clapham. KADS. Nov 15 - Dec 7. Town Square Theatre, Kalamunda. 9257 2669. Audience With Murder by Roger Leach and Colin Wakefield. Melville Theatre

Company. Nov 15 – 30. Roy Edinger Theatre, Melville. 9330 4565. Boeing Boeing by Marc Camoletti. Playlovers. Nov 16 30. French farce. Hackett Hall, Floreat. 0415 777 173. Kardiny Ngalla Maya (Thinking About Our Place). WAAPA Aboriginal Theatre Students. Nov 16 – 21. Enright Studio, WAAPA, Edith Cowan University, Mt Lawley. Ticketek. Jardi by Nacho Duarto, Arthur Saint-Leon and Leigh Warren. WAAPA 2nd and 3rd Year Dance Students. Nov 16 - 23. Final for Dance year. Geoff Gibbs Theatre, WAAPA, Edith Cowan University. Ticketek. Bruce by Tim Watts and Wyatt Nixon-Lloyd. The Blue Room Theatre and Weeping Spoon. Nov 19 – Dec 7. The Blue Room. 08 9227 7005. Phantom of the Opera by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Charles Hart. Wanneroo Repertory. Nov 20 – Dec 14. Limelight Theatre, Wanneroo. 9571 8591. Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie. Roleystone Theatre. Nov 22 – Dec 7. Do you believe in fairies? Roleystone Theatre. 9397 5730. Old Mother Hubbard by Tony Nichols. Stirling Players Youth (SPY). Nov 22 – Dec 7. Pantomime. Stirling Theatre, Innaloo. 9440 1040. Eurobeat, Almost Eurovision by Craig Christie and Andrew Patterson. Koorliny Arts Centre. Nov 22 – 30. Australian musical. Koorliny Arts Centre. 9467 7118. Peter Pan. Choreographed by Russell Kerr from the book by J.M. Barrie. West Australian Ballet with WA Philharmonic Orchestra. Nov 22 – Dec 15. Australian Premiere. His Majesty’s Theatre, Perth. Ticketek.

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On Stage

Western Australia & New Zealand

Wicked. Photo by: Andrew Ritchie.

A Kick in the Baubles by Gordon Steele. Rockingham Theatre Company. Nov 22 Dec 7. British comedy. Rockingham Theatre. 9255 3336 or 0412 119 122. Pardon Me, Prime Minister by Edward Taylor and John Graham. Garrick Theatre Club. Nov 22 – Dec 14. Garrick Theatre, Guildford. 9378 1990. A Musical Fantasy. Bel Canto Productions and The Stage Key Company. Nov 23. Evening of musical theatre. Subiaco Arts Centre. Ticketek Brief Encounter by Noel Coward. Kneehigh Theatre Company. Nov 28 - Dec 1. Direct from London’s West End. Regal Theatre, Subiaco. Ticketek. Ghost Writer by David Tristam. Harbour Theatre. Nov 29 – Dec 14. Final production in Harbour’s Golden Jubilee year. Harbour Theatre, Port Cineaste Building, Fremantle. 9255 3336. Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. Old Mill Theatre. Nov 29 – Dec 14. Old Mill

Theatre, South Perth. 9367 8719. All I Want For Christmas. His Majesty’s Theatre. Dec 18. Starring Tod Johnston and Trudy Dunn. Downstairs at the Maj, His Majesty’s Theatre, Perth. Ticketek. Snow White and the Seven Dwarves by Limelight Scripts. Ellenbrook Theatre Company. Dec 21 - 29. Traditional pantomime. Ellenbrook Performing Arts Centre. 6398 0732. New Zealand Wicked. Music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz and a book by Winnie Holzman. Civic Theatre, The Edge, Auckland. 0800 289 8425387. Chicago by John Kander, Fred Ebb and Bob Fosse. Theatre Whakatane. Until Nov 9. Chicago by John Kander, Fred Ebb and Bob Fosse. Auckland Theatre Company. Nov 1 - 24. Q, 305 Queen Street. Four Flat Whites in Italy by Roger Hall. Papakura Theatre Company. Nov 1 - 30. Fiddler on the Roof by Jerry Bock, Sheldon Harnick and

Joseph Stein. Centrestage Theatre Company (Orewa). Nov 2 - 16. Centrestage Theatre. (09) 426 7282. Grease by Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey. Harlequin Musical Theatre. Nov 2 - 16. iTicket. Anne Boleyn by Howard Brenton. Stagecraft (Wellington). Nov 6 - 16. iTicket Kiwifruits by Carl Nixon and Craig Cooper. Howick Little Theatre. Nov 9 - 30. iTicket. Agatha Christie’s Appointment with Death. Detour Theatre, Tauranga. Nov 13 - 30. 0800 224 224. Calendar Girls by Tim Firth. South Otago Theatrical Society. Nov 13 – 23. iTicket. Murder by Melody by Stephen Ormsby. Tauranga Musical Theatre. Nov 15 – Dec 7. Westside Theatre. TicketDirect, Baycourt. Boeing Boeing by Marc Camoletti, translated by Beverley Cross. Fortune Theatre, Dunedin. Nov 16 – Dec 14. (03) 477 8323.

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Who Wants to be 100 by Roger Hall. Titirangi Theatre. Nov 19 - 30. 817-7658. The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas. Book by Larry L. King and Peter Masterson and music and lyrics by Carol Hall. Abbey Musical Theatre. Nov 21 – Dec 14. The Auditorium, Palmerston North. (06) 355 0499. The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame, adapted by Alan Bennett. Cambridge Repertory. Nov 23 – Dec 6. The Gaslight Theatre. 0800 827 484. An Evening with Mandy Patinkin and Nathan Gunn. John Frost and Phil Bathols. Nov 24. ASB Theatre, Aotea Centre. 0800 111 999. Are You Being Served by Jeremy Lloyd and David Croft. Tauranga Repertory Society. Nov 27 – Dec 4. 16th Avenue Theatre. (07) 577 7188. Downtown! The Mod Musical. Created by Phillip George, David Lowenstein and Peter Charles Morris. Nov 29 – Dec 14. Ticketmaster.

Stage Whispers 63

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64 Stage Whispers

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

Reviews: Premieres Rupert By David Williamson. Director: Lee Lewis. MTC. Playhouse Theatre, Arts Centre Melbourne. Aug 24 – Sep 28. HALFWAY through Act One of Rupert, Murdoch says – in defence of one of his tabloids – “It’s entertainment, not in depth analysis.” That might be the only time we hear playwright David Williamson’s “voice” in the entire evening. Rupert is like an extended Wikipedia entry…it has all the facts, chronologically told, bereft of emotional stakes or character development. It doesn’t excite or engage us emotionally, nor take us on a journey, and that’s a loss to theatre-goers because it could have been a rollercoaster of a ride. The idea of a cabaret, where Rupert casts a younger man to play him, is scintillating. But this is the richest, most powerful man in the world; moreover, one who is able to deflect scrutiny with the sleight of hand of a magician. Surely Rupert would stage his cabaret with glitz and pizzaz…and a few page 3 girls to pull focus away from the machinations of “the Dirty Digger”? Yet the staging is simple, with none of the real Murdoch’s tricks with smoke and mirrors. Despite quite interesting design by Stephen Curtis…and some stunning choices by Director Lee Lewis, this looks more like the cut-price cabaret of a sub editor on The Frankston Leader. The cast is exemplary. Sean O’Shea gives a strong performance as the elder Rupert, full of charm and justification, but he seems hamstrung. We never see any ruthlessness, or remorse, doubt or even humanity. Guy Edmonds is charismatic as Young Rupert and we can see

why people are drawn to him. But it seems impossible that the man has no vulnerability, no emotional core, even when his mother tells him she is still waiting for him to make her proud. The ensemble of Bert LaBonte, Simon Gleeson, Marg Downey, Daniela Farinacci, Haiha Le and Scott Sheridan are all impressive in multiple roles, with Downey just stealing the honours. You will laugh in places, but it will be superficial laughter for superficial comedy. You won’t cry…or get angry…or even care very much about the whole thing. Maybe that’s the fault of the playwright; or maybe it’s the nature of Rupert himself. Coral Drouyn Michael Jackson The Immortal World Tour Cirque du Soleil. Director Jamie King. Perth Arena. Sep 1822, and touring. FOR the first item of Cirque du Soleil's Michael Jackson The Immortal World Tour, I was prepared to be disappointed. It appears to be going to be a fairly conventional concert, albeit a good one - with good quality dancing and aerials. Do not go home. This show grows exponentially, so that it becomes overwhelmingly stunning. The choreography is outstanding - tightly executed, it is inspired by the original Michael Jackson numbers. First and foremost, this is a tribute show. Retaining Michael Jackson's original vocals, the music is supported by live musicians (Mariko's electric cello is a highlight and Desiree Basset's lead guitar particularly impressive) and live

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Stage Whispers 65

Tequila Mockingbird. Photo: Dylan Evans

backing singers. The merging of live and recorded music is seamless. Michael Jackson's original artistic concepts remain the dominant theme for each number, but the addition of Cirque du Soleil elements give further dimension. Standouts include the performance of Australian Felix Cane, pole dancer extreme, multiple aerialists and the work of contortionist Baasansuren Enkhbaatar. The audience were also enamoured by dancer Jean Sok Bboy Hourth, who demonstrates amazing dancing skills and who happens to have only one leg. His skills and dynamic performance deservedly received huge acclaim. Central character and principal dancer and mime Mansour Abdessadok presented, at least in part, a representation of Jackson himself. This performance was well measured and almost underplayed to great effect. Cirque du Soleil's Michael Jackson The Immortal World Tour is a huge show that is generous with its spectacular moments and will leave audiences well satisfied. Kimberley Shaw Savages By Patricia Cornelius. Director: Susie Dee. fortyfivedownstairs (Vic). Aug 16 –Sep 8. SAVAGES is a rich, rewarding powerful theatrical investigation of the type of masculine reality, relationships and circumstances that support what is, ultimately, predatory anti-social behavior. Based on the Dianne Brimble case, it explores events leading up to the discovery of her body in the small cabin on a P&O Cruse Ship. 66 Stage Whispers

There is a strong sense of ensemble and all actors excel in their roles, working with courageous commitment to the text, that moves smoothly from the heightened poetic to simple naturalism, in an incisively complementary staging by director Susie Dee. The work is cleverly placed on an abstract stylized set (Marg Horwell) and sound created by Kelly Ryall is used to great effect both naturalistically and symbolically whilst lights (Andy Turner) greatly assist in creating atmosphere. Fueled by alcohol and years of disappointing miscommunication with the ‘fair sex’, these blokes affirm each other’s sense of failure. Alienation, limited communication skills, thwarted expectations, harsh treatment of one another, dishonesty and manipulation all come into play. They also lack basic skills for constructive introspection. This timely work is engrossing theatre. Suzanne Sandow Tequila Mockingbird By Nelle Lee et al. Queensland Performing Arts Centre / Shake & Stir. Cremorne Theatre. Aug 21 – Sep 7. SHAKE and Stir do it again – a fifth consecutive popular hit! Inspired by Harper Lee’s classic novel, the six cast members and experienced director of new works, Michael Futcher, workshopped and rehearsed Nelle Lee’s draft script. The product of their joint effort is a dense and engaging, distinctly Australian outback play that challenges

Longer versions of many reviews can now be found at

Lifeforce. Photo: Richard Weinstein.

audience members to confront their own attitudes to racism, discrimination and the effect of alcohol on drinkers’ responses in turbulent situations. The actors bring lightness, humanity and much comedy to the dark scenario and its characters. The single-father lawyer is still mainstay of the action. Bryan Probets revels as Richard, man of integrity, and close friend of the accused, Sameer, an Indian doctor, newlyarrived in town. Shannon Haegler plays him as a personable, confident young man who expected he might attract snide remarks and discrimination because of recent publicity about Indian student bashings. All six actors in this ensemble production are stars. Barbara Lowing expertly portrays three different females typical of country towns. Ross Balbuziente and Nick Skubij each double young male parts with aplomb, and Nelle Lee doubles as a local wild child and later as the battered girlfriend who becomes embroiled in the major crisis with the doctor. The company again employed the creative trio of Josh McIntosh (design), Jason Glenwright (lighting) and Guy Webster (sound) to great effect. Jay McKee Lifeforce A musical by Joanna Weinberg. Director: Lisa Freshwater. King Street Theatre, Newtown. Sept 6 – 21. AT first blush the journey of a 40-year-old woman through the highs and lows of fertility treatment might seem an unlikely subject for a musical.

Yet from this real life drama has emerged one of the brightest new Australian musicals for years, with many a song seamlessly blending words, music and emotion. Natalie Lotkin plays Ruth, a 40-year-old magazine editor who decides to have a child on her own. The musical was inspired in part by Natalie’s own real life struggle to conceive a child. With art imitating life, the production had authenticity and heart. In the musical she chooses a gay friend Joel (Tyran Parke) to be the donor. He was the stand out star in this musical. Joanna Weinberg has composed the most gorgeous ‘aria’ for his character, called a suitable man. In the background is her mother (Meredith O’Reilly) reminding Ruth that her biological clock is ticking and wondering why she has waited so long to have a baby. This is infused with South African music, which adds warmth to the journey as Ruth seeks to conceive a child and track her own origins. The technical aspects of the IVF program were dealt with using great humour and different musical flavours. A Doctor in a white coat came on in a scene that was like a stylish version of the Monty Python Every Sperm is Sacred sketch. Christopher Horsey played Dr Knight, dancing through the medical routine with style. Bravo to the Australia Council and Robert Albert for sponsoring such a high quality opening for this gem of a show. David Spicer

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Stage Whispers 67

The Beast By Eddie Perfect. Director: Iain Sinclair. MTC. Southbank Theatre, The Sumner. Oct 3 – Nov 9. EDDIE Perfect’s first play is simultaneously an hilarious black satire and a slapstick farce, and I can’t remember both loving and hating a play so much at the same time; it has that strong an impact. The word “edgy” is overused… but Perfect’s writing has so much edge that you could sever a hand just trying to touch what is at its core. Three male friends are in a shipwreck together and survive the death of their skipper. The three make a vow to live ethically and without harming others Brief Encounter for the rest of their lives (which prove to be as hollow as By Noël Coward. Adapted and directed by Emma Rice. their promise). Fast-forward a year, and all three have gone Kneehigh Theatre Company. Athenaeum Theatre. Oct 9 – for a treechange lifestyle. To honour their commitment to 27 and touring. mother earth, they decide to hold a degustation dinner WE assign romantic love to cartoons, or other worlds, party, have an ethically raised calf slaughtered in front of for it has no practical place in our lives. We forget the them, and pick for themselves which part they want to eat. magic, the mysticism, the breathless swooning of drowning The problem arises when the butcher cancels and they have in love, perhaps unwilling to accept such loss of power in a to slaughter it themselves. And slaughter it they do, in such society where power and money battle to be top dog. And an inept way that the poor calf undergoes terrible torture. then along comes astonishing Cornish theatre company, And they do this on stage, in full view, with copious Kneehigh, with remarkable director Emma Rice, to bring us amounts of “blood” spraying all over them and the Brief Encounter, based on Noël Coward’s one act play Still backdrop. Admittedly the calf is a puppet, in the style of Life and his screenplay for the David Lean film. And words War Horse, but it has a real personality, and we empathise like enchanting, magical, precious, charming dance on our with it. The reality is that an animal has to be killed in order lips. for us to eat meat. Death is on the menu. It’s a sobering Briefly the story is of a middle class, decent, couple thought even while you are laughing. whose love is so intense that they swoon from it, and are The performances are excellent throughout from an helpless against it. And yet it can never be fulfilled, for both exemplary cast. I can’t help but give extra Brownie points to are married to other people, and in stoic England of 1938, the marvelous Travis Cotton, trying so desperately to fit in prosaic duty and familial responsibility are far more with those who “outclass” him, and Sheridan Harbridge, important than the dizzy intoxication of feeling yourself whose desperate, neurotic and totally dependent Gen is swept up in a maelstrom of emotion. heartbreaking, but that takes nothing away from Virginia Whilst Alec (Jim Sturgeon) and Laura (Michelle Gay, Tom Budge, Hamish Michael, Kate Mulvaney and the Nightingale) are beautifully and tragically breaking each versatile Hayden Spencer. other’s hearts, our tears are tempered with laughter. Joe Iain Sinclair directs with a deft hand. When reality Alessi and Annette McLaughlin – both from the London becomes uncomfortable (as it does several times in the and New York productions – are show stoppers, quite second act) he pushes the farce to extremes. What he literally, and simply fabulous in their roles of Fred (doubling hasn’t managed to do yet is focus Perfect’s huge but scattered talent as the playwright. The final moments, so as Laura’s husband Albert) and Myrtle. Kate Cheel is delightful as the blossoming Beryl, Damon Daunno is low key after the excesses of the evening, are sheer perfect as Stanley, the platform refreshment seller. Those brilliance. One thing is for certain; the MTC has not played under thirty might find the overt romanticism cheesy or safe and deserves praise for leaving its comfort zone excessive, but even the most jaded among us will be behind. You will be confronted and perhaps hate this moved. offering, but be brave, it deserves to be seen. Coral Drouyn Coral Drouyn Michelle Nightingale and Jim Sturgeon in Brief Encounter.

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ROAM By Adam Cass. Director: Gary Abrahams. Red Stitch Actors Theatre, St Kilda. Oct 10 – Nov 9. ADAM Cass’ ROAM focuses on the temptation to immerse oneself in a virtual world at the expense of real world connections and relationships, on the disconnect between reality and escapism and the blurred line between the two. While his partner Julia struggles with the aftermath of her father’s death, protagonist Johnny (a strong performance from Tim Potter) withdraws into a world of internet chatrooms and porn sites, finally becoming utterly immersed in a virtual game set in ancient Rome. The catalyst is the girl he meets online, finely played by Ngaire Dawn Fair, who convincingly evokes a mixture of childlike naivety and burgeoning sexuality. As Johnny’s floundering girlfriend Julia, the engaging Ella Caldwell tackles the play’s most challenging part with intelligence, giving us a character who’s clearly trying to cope with her own unspoken issues. Well paced and staged by director Gary Abrahams, with a terrifically designed and executed montage of internet porn sites and associated social media as well as a virtual world setting deliberately reminiscent of the movie Tron, ROAM deals with an issue of increasing relevance to today’s society and offers plenty to think about. Alex Paige

kernel of their seedy character in fast paced action and tellingly timed reactions. Carol Wimmer

M+M. Daniel Schlusser Ensemble / Melbourne Festival. Theatre Works, Melbourne. Oct 11 – 16. M+M defies easy categorisation and straightforward description. At the beginning it seems we might be in a prison or asylum - with long rows of bunk beds, lockers, two men dressed in what look like guard uniforms, and others who could be prisoners or inmates. But it’s never made explicit who any of these characters are, nor their circumstances, nor their relationship to each other. It’s not even clear whether the actors are in fact playing the same characters throughout. The performance consists of a series of fragmented moments - pieces of construct with no obvious interpretation, no contextualisation. Much of the dialogue is deliberately off-mike or so sotto voce we can barely hear what is said. Parts of what could be scenes are begun, then cut off in midstream. This is theatre designed to provoke, to disturb, to get a reaction. Though clearly not a piece which will appeal to everyone, it certainly held my attention, and no one could accuse the performers of lacking commitment or energy. No doubt those familiar with Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita (the Russian novel which inspired this work) will Jerusalem be able to take more from it than I did. By Jez Butterworth. New Theatre, Newtown (NSW). Aug 13 Alex Paige – Sep 14. NICHOLAS Eadie, as Rooster Byron, leads a tight How to Survive an Earthquake. ensemble of fourteen actors in Helen Tonkin’s deft By Christine Croyden. Director: Glenda Linscott. Melbourne production of this ‘wildly original hymn to eccentricity … a Writers’ Theatre. La Mama Courthouse (Vic). Aug 14 - Sep lament about the erosion of country life, in part a rebuff to 1. the antiseptic modern world’. CHRISTINE Croyden’s reunion drama about sisters Tom Bannerman’s stage and Blake Garner’s lighting set Stephanie (Jessica Gerger) and Jane (Sarah Plummer), in a the mood. Dark, translucent, corrugated sheeting allows an revelatory production from Glenda Linscott, is a richly interaction of light that infers different spaces and other layered and compelling study of betrayal – not only of the times. In front of this is the chaotic shambles of Rooster’s genetic and metaphorical sisterhood, but of ideals and backyard. It’s a mess, but there is also an eerie sense of principles. … Earthquake explores the darkest examples of mysticism. violence (physical and psychological) against women that A girl appears, sings a few verses of Jerusalem, and renders these sisters unable to communicate honestly about leaves. Local council officers post an eviction notice on the a single act that changed them forever. door. When the coast is clear, Rooster appears. Bearded It is a rich vein of human reconditioning, and the layers and disheveled, he scratches his stomach, ignores the are finely wrought, precariously balanced, and brilliantly council notice, drinks a copious amount of alcohol, then directed. urinates behind the garden wall. Gerger and Plummer are outstanding as the two sisters. This is a big and complex character to sustain, but Eadie Their commitment to the honest portrayal of these does so with flair. He finds the many aspects of Rooster’s damaged but determined women was utterly impressive. character by blending playwright Jez Butterworth’s The male villains of the piece suffered from being employed dialogue with tight energy, clipped pauses, unpredictable more as dramatic devices than characters equal to the timing – and brief moments of introspection that expose women they have harmed. What powered this work was something deeper and more vulnerable. the live soundscape from The Berlin Sirens. This was This is a play about a group of misfits. Rooster attracts fantastic, symphonic synchronicity from this ensemble in the flotsam of the local youth. He’s their ‘supplier’ – but their theatrical debut. Emily Collet’s design was perfect, he’s also a father figure of sorts, so scenes of raucous fun, while Jason Bovaird’s lighting matched Dom Buckham and energetic vitality and even cold cruelty are offset with Millie O’Sullivan’s sound sublimely. I haven’t seen a moments of caring and compassion. Each actor finds the Longer versions of many reviews can now be found at

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production in years that was so superbly matched by its creative intelligence and sophistication technically. Geoffrey Williams

more than the little games and distractions he uses to get through the day; we delve into philosophy, scientific theory, literature and the arts, while observing his mental decline as he tries desperately to stay afloat. Bijou Helper has found his perfect match in casting – By Chrissie Shaw. Director: Susan Pilbeam. The Street physically Scott Irwin has a handsome, bronzed outdoor Theatre, Canberra. Aug 29 – Sep 8. look to match stereotypical preconceptions, while delivering IN a story set in cabaret and punctuated with song and the dense, lengthy script’s mix of intellectual and larrickin dance, Chrissie Shaw performs as Bijou, after writing the Aussie impressively. show on the basis of personally researching the background Come Act 2, the play darkens. If a day passes slowly for of a photo of Madame Bijou. The story unfolds from the a traffic controller, what about Purgatory and Hell, on a present backwards, eventually revealing how a fairly sidetrack, doomed to wait for eternity to direct the traffic hardened performer and brothel madame emerged from an that never comes. innocent religious girlhood. A fascinating concept and an unevenly engaging play, Shaw’s was a demanding performance: her sometimes still needing strategic nips and tucks. An impressive long soliloquies were punctuated or accompanied by marathon performance is supported by clean, effective singing and dancing, and her interactions with the cabaret production values. audience required adaptability. For all that, she retained Neil Litchfield great control of both speech and singing, and conveyed the forceful personality of a survivor. The performance was The Wizard of Oz nicely complemented on piano, vocals, and poetry by Alan La Boite, The Danger Ensemble & Brisbane Festival. Hicks. The costuming, set design, and lighting all worked Roundhouse Theatre. Sept 7 – 28. well to surround the audience with the feel of a genuine THIS is an extravaganza for the mind: bizarre, old-world environment. And the story is interestingly psychedelic, hallucinatory – but visually entertaining. structured. L. Frank Baum’s original was rich in symbolism for the The work offers no strong messages, no fabulous state of 1890s America. This 21st century Australian version inspirations, and little comedy; but it’s a convincing captures our own parallels. portrayal of a life bounded by religion, war, changing La Boite’s rambling yellow brick roads led to mores, and universal needs, and as such offers insights into theatregoers’ seating. Reference to the recent GFC collapse the struggles, choices, and triumphs of artists and other when investors’ promises of gold turned to dust? mortals bewildered and isolated by unquestionable The ruby slippers became impractical Ga-Ga heel-less authority, abuse, war, conscription, invasion, and poverty. shoes. John P. Harvey Early on we get the message; to go “over the rainbow” may not produce the happy ending you expect. A Sign of the Times Scarecrow, in the original, represented US farmers’ problems; Tin Man represented failures in the Written and directed by Stephen L Helper. NIDA Independent and The Follies Company. NIDA Parade manufacturing industry; and Lion, America’s situation in the Theatres. Sep 11 – 22. Spanish-American War. Aren’t these parallels to where we MOSTLY he’s just the guy who spins a sign, telling you all are today? to stop or drive slowly through some roadwork or Judy Garland has been injected into this treatment as a construction zone. Hardly the most stimulating of jobs, hopeful narrator, but becomes Toto after a devastating you’d imagine, if you ever actually gave it any thought at cyclone. Dorothy is a successful Miss Australia who ends up all, as you waited with a greater or lesser degree of in poverty pleading with her mother to save her. patience. Under Steven Mitchell Wright’s direction the ensemble So, what does the traffic controller think about all day? developed “from the ground up” an initial script by Maxine How does he alleviate the monotony? What forces are at Mellor. play in the life of ‘Man’? The myriad technical creatives cannot be overlooked. I In Stephen Helper’s new solo play, the character runs applaud their contributions as much as that of the against expectations, constantly breaking the fourth wall to performers. regale us with his thoughts, philosophy and personal Jay McKee torment; highly qualified, he’s a former university literature tutor, dealing with multiple issues including the loss of his Indian Embrace job and his child, the break-up of his marriage and his By Carol Dance. Nautanki Theatre. Riverside Theatre, Parramatta (NSW). Aug 21 – 25. friendship. He’s a man on the edge of a breakdown. Interwoven, there’s another level, a broader symbolic INDIAN Embrace is a complex mixture of messages and thematic exploration. about family, friends and cross-cultural relationships. As the controller guides traffic with flamboyance Because the play tries to comment on too much, the reminiscent of Kiwi cricket umpire Billy Bowden, we get resolution of the many complications makes it a little too 70 Stage Whispers

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What else could one expect of a play that takes three couples to a crowded beach campsite in the heat of an Australian Christmas? Anna Gardiner creates a very recognisable scene. A dusty old camper van and a backdrop of tents and low she-oaks under a high sky frame the stage. On this, Matthew Marshall’s lighting and Daryl Wallis’ sound add appropriately atmospheric changes in time and mood. Maggie (Michelle long and laboured, but director Lenore Robertson and her Doake) and Jack (David Terry) are first time campers. They design team have created a real feeling of India on a set arrive hot and angry after eight hours in holiday traffic. As enhanced by projected images that transport the audience they try to set up their tent, insults and accusations fly. They into the bustling city of Varanasi, and the busy banks of the set the comic scene, and sustain the tight energy of these River Ganges. first moments throughout the play. The plot revolves around two families. Three estranged Julie (Jennifer Corren) and Peter (Jamie Oxenbould) are Australian siblings meet in a guesthouse run by a retired the antithesis of Maggie and Jack. Peter is a control freak Indian army officer and his daughter-in-law, who dreams of who makes life pretty demanding and frustrating for Julie. emigrating to Australia. Oxenbould makes the most of Peter’s pomposity with The Australian family’s differences are portrayed in physicalisation and perfectly timed reactions. unnecessarily repetitive arguments. Steven Menteith and Danny (Ben Ager) and his wife Cynthia (Karen Pang) Lucy Rasheed work hard at establishing their rocky couldn’t be more different. Both are totally laid back and relationship, but lack real plausibility, and James don’t mind sharing the odd joint. They play off the other Herrington’s depiction of the younger brother is a little too characters with telling looks and asides that add a sting to stereotypically Ocker. the comedy. The Indian family, however, is sensitively and poignantly Mark Kilmurry has directed the action to be fast and portrayed. Shashidhar Dandekar as Vikram, proprietor of continuous. His perceptive direction, Baxter’s dialogue and the guesthouse, is carefully contained, with an underlying the talent and experience of the actors make for some very sadness revealed in a very moving monologue. funny moments. Roopa, his rebellious daughter-in-law, is played with Carol Wimmer charming appeal by Ambika Asthana, who is totally convincing in this role. Songs for Europe Neel Banerjee’s wide theatrical experience is evident in Two short plays about Eurovision. By John Richards and Lee his clever depiction of Sanjay, the dodgy business manager Zachariah. Director: Lucas Testro. Shaolin Punk. Broken setting up Pamela’s call centre. His pace and timing lift the Mirror, Brunswick (Vic). Sep 19 – 29. production. JOHN Richards is a hugely talented writer with great Carol Wimmer depth. He understands character and empathy and totally engages us from the first minute. Camp Nothing has the sublime Marta Kaczmarek as Sonja – a By Gary Baxter. Ensemble Theatre (NSW). Director: Mark Diva whose greatest claim to fame is that, back some 30 Kilmurry. Sept 19 – Oct 26. years ago, she scored Nul Pointes for her performance in THE Ensemble has brought a varied palette of wellEurovision. She failed in front of 150 million people, and written plays to the Sydney theatre scene this year, and that’s not something you recover from. And now a young Camp is no exception. But, unlike more serious and thought freelance reporter, Patrick – beautifully played by Nicholas -provoking productions, this is a rollicking situation-type Colla – wants to dredge the whole story up again. As a comedy that is so very typically Australian and yet universal revolution rages outside the two form a bond, totally in its appeal. credible in its poignancy. Marta gives Sonja so many facets Ben Ager, Jamie Oxenbould, David Terry, Karen Pang, Jennifer Corren and Michelle Doake in Camp. Photo: Natalie Boog.

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and so much truth that you feel as if you have been a part of this woman’s life forever. Absolutely marvelous. The second play, Carnation Revolution, is written with Lee Zachariah. Three revolutionaries wait in a bar for the signal that the revolution is starting. The signal is a radio DJ playing a popular singer’s Eurovision song. But the DJ also plays the same singer’s new single….which confuses the revolutionaries… “It’s the signal…no it’s the single, the single is not the signal.” It’s delicious stuff with a tense undercurrent throughout. Director Lucas Testro does an excellent job with both plays. Coral Drouyn From a Black Sky Composer: Sandra France. Librettist: Helen Nourse. The Street Theatre, Canberra. Sep 20 – 22. SET in Canberra’s January 2003 bushfires, this modern opera cleverly conveys modern materialist sentiments and emotional shallowness through appropriately banal lyrics and atonal music. Three bursts of refreshing tonality, recognisable harmony, and harmonic cadences, underscoring musical communication’s utter dependence upon melodic and harmonic progression, constituted the work’s few precious minutes of emotionality. It was a brave little orchestra, vocal ensemble, and principals therefore who took on the challenge of translating into sound a strange, discordant, dramatic score that, upon reading, even the classically trained would have trouble in internally hearing. But both singing and playing were consistently excellent. The instrumental ensemble overpowered the chorus at times, but, with consistent effort, the principals—Judith Dodsworth, as Sophie; Don Bemrose, as Tony; David Rogers -Smith, as David; and, as Amelia, the internationally recognised Canberran Rachael Duncan—cut through it well enough. And, despite the prolix lyrics’ sometimes impossibility of discernment (though not when the topic was “not enough money” or “I have to go shopping”), all four principals delivered remarkable performances both musically and in gesture and expression. For an emotional journey through music, see a competent production of La Traviata or The Magic Flute. But for a musical experience that reflects an ability to turn inattention and faithlessness to shrewd advantage through ambiguity and confusion, and that won’t invoke unwelcome feelings, this work will be worth your two and a half hours. John P. Harvey The Good, The Bad and The Lawyer By Tony Laumberg. Tap Gallery (NSW). Oct 10 – 27. LIKE a nice pair of slippers, writer Tony Laumberg has settled into the characters of pompous lawyer Henry Crowley (Mark McCann) and his long suffering wife Margaret (Tricia Youlden) to set the scene for his annual comedy. Both actors are also veterans of the roles and this familiarity with their characters is endearing. 72 Stage Whispers

This time Margaret has set the cat amongst the pigeons by inviting an asylum seeker Ahmed Zahedi (Geoff Sirmai) to live in their comfortable St Ives home. The laughs flow thick and fast, especially when cousin Mickey (Marc Kay) turns up and together they go to the Star City to test out the mathematical genius of Ahmed against the roulette table. Tony Laumberg demonstrates there are endless gags to be had at the expense of the legal profession. Henry Crowley’s reputation is on the line in this comedy, when he is pursued by a reporter from the Financial Review on the scent of his escapades in the casino and his collision with law enforcement authorities and outlaw motor cycle gangs. Perhaps a missed opportunity in this scenario was to tell more of the story of the asylum seeker. The Good, The Bad and the Lawyer is a fun night out. David Spicer The Tragedy of Lucrece By Enzo Condello. Director: Brenda Addie. Richmond Library Theatrette (Vic). Sep 19 – Oct 6. THIS new work is loosely based upon Shakespeare’s narrative poem the Rape of Lucrece; a tale of a woman whose rape helped changed the history of Rome. The behavior of the men in this tragedy is unfortunately still being repeated in real life so this subject matter is very relevant to today’s audience, and this was reinforced by a series of projected images drawing parallels between the events in 500 B.C. and recent events. While the style of writing is dense it is very accessible, and there were layers of meaning and wordplay. The work concentrated on the effect of the Rape on Lucrece and this was where our sympathy lay, and not with the political ramifications which seemed a secondary consideration. Performances were solid from the small cast, with this performance feeling more a workshop staging rather than a World Premiere. Staging was minimalist, with no props or set pieces, basic lighting and costumes, especially the men who looked dressed for a rehearsal rather than a performance. This work deserves further staging, with a decent budget to allow a more supportive lighting, sound, and costume/set design. Shirley Jensen Tell Me About Yourself… By Lucy Gransbury and Sarah Jackson. Director: Nicholas Waxman. Gertrude’s Brown Couch, Fitzroy. Oct 1 – 6. LUCY Gransbury and Sarah Jackson played themselves searching for love through speed dating, also creating all of the other characters at the event. Each character was securely introduced and the changes between characters handled with complete control and accomplished convincingly. There was considerable reliance on stereotypes in the creation of the characters and without the warmth and thought brought to each and the generosity and inclusion of the play, it could easily have been uncomfortable.

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The energetic preparation for the speed date set the scene and the rounds of speed dating interactions provided the play’s structure. The placement of furniture cleverly created spaces for each character. There were technical glitches – at one point the projector completely fell off its stand near the ceiling and dangled precariously. They dealt with it - in character and to the complete satisfaction of the audience. When the sound from the minimovies used to illustrate Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson background information did not arrive with the vision, the actors filled in. The audience was delighted with this ‘seat of the pants’ aspect of the evening and the way the actors coped. They chortled throughout the play, did the ‘hokey pokey’ when invited and reveled in the cleverness and skill of both the script and the acting. Ruth Richter Singled Out By Vanessa Bates, Wayne Blair, Luke Carson, Sarah Carradine, Grace De Morgan, Emma Magenta, Alli Sebastian-Wolf and Tim Spencer. Reginald Season, Seymour Centre, Sydney. Oct 2 – 12. CREDIT to director Augusta Supple and the Seymour Centre for such a great idea – pulling together a dozen short “playlettes” about living a single life today in Sydney. The opening tableau of each character alone at home promised an inventive theatrical tapestry. Emma Magenta, for example, wittily charts two singles battling through the wall to out-noise each other, between venting on social media and sexing up fantasies of themselves. Sick and naked on the loo, Alex Bryant-Smith gives us an artfully hallucinogenic rave on power and love which, like in much of the writing, Tim Spencer doesn’t bring to dramatic conclusion. An exception is Wishbone by Vanessa Bates. Amber McMahon is both creepy and snappily ordinary as she makes chicken sandwiches for her murdered husband. Some of the playlettes leap nicely into surrealism, like the ruminating toy diver in the fish bowl ruminating surrounded by a trio of puppet fishes. Again though, writer Alli Sebastian-Wolf doesn’t fully bring home the nub of single life in a fishbowl.. Singled Out needed more sociological grit about this growing reality of single households. A greater ethnic and demographic variety would be welcome, yet some theatrically unifying device to all eight

playlettes was also needed. Without it, Supple was left with mismatched vignettes, which together lacked cohesion and the chance of a greater shared theatrical invention. The final fine song, Never Alone, like the opening tableau, held that promise. Martin Portus Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson Music and lyrics by Michael Friedman. Book by Alex Timbers. Squabbalogic. The Factory Floor, Marrickville (NSW). Director: Craig Stewart. Musical Director: Mark Chamberlain. Choreographer: Monique Sallé. Aug14 – Sept 1. RAUCOUS rock musical Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson celebrates the controversial seventh US President in entertaining style. Raw modern language and driving rock music give the renegade populist politician of 200 years ago a voice of today as a grungy wild west punk rock star, but this colourful vaudeville / revue style musical is rooted in fact. The basic venue, more rock room than a theatre, feels ideal. Backstage yet visible placement of the band enhances the apt, raw hybrid theatre / rock gig feel of Craig Stewart’s driven ensemble production, tightly conceived, yet sustaining a rough and ready atmosphere. Peter Meredith’s brooding, intense bad-boy Andrew Jackson is mesmerising. Along one side of the room except when they take to the stage, the strong ensemble cast makes a virtue from the vice of primitive facilities. Bringing a sense of constant presence, eleven performers encapsulate multiple facets of early 1800s American society, with injections of contemporary media to boot. Engaging little cameos spring up throughout the 90-minute musical, with most performers creating multiple storytelling vignette roles. On a small stage, the choreography is confined but raw and energetic.

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exist; Ryan Gibson as Lewis is beautifully rounded, showing all the elements of weakness and vulnerability that stop him from standing up to the world or even his wife; Ben Prendegast is charismatic, warm and definitely dangerous as Waldorf, the friend with no boundaries. Dean Bryant has directed the play superbly and Owen Phillips’ claustrophobic shoe box set works brilliantly. I seem to be always using superlatives about Red Stitch; but it’s not my fault they are always so damn good. Coral Drouyn

Ben Prendergast and Rosie Lockhart in Straight. Photo: Jodie Hutchinson.

Stand-out performances include Louise Kelly as Jackson’s wife, Rachel - moving, superbly sung and an engaging counterbalance to Meredith’s Andrew, while Monique Sallé charms as Jackson’s adopted Indian child and Jay JamesMoody capably holds the political threads together as Martin Van Buren. Long may Squabbalogic continue to bravely present offthe-radar musical theatre treats to Sydney audiences. Neil Litchfield

TOAST By Stephanie Merriman. Director Stephanie Merriman. Old Fitzroy Theatre, Woolloomooloo. Sept 24-28. STEPHANIE Merriman presents a tale about Generation Y gal Erika facing a rather vacant life; she’s homeless, loveless and penniless. Erika must shake off her ennui and take those small steps necessary to reinvigorate her life. Friends chat and bitch, colleagues blather, a waiter intimidates. But Erika is ultimately alone, emotionally unhinged and lacking vigour and direction. The new stage Straight at the Old Fitz allows more flexibility with staging, whilst Written by DC Moore. Directed by Dean Bryant. Red Stitch the programming structure of the Sydney Fringe means Theatre (Vic). Aug 30 – Sept 28. plays run 60 minutes and changeovers are 30 minutes. So RED Stitch has a perfect track record for choosing plays TOAST gets buttered fast and opens with a stage full of that are exciting and edgy. Straight is no exception. white packing cartons which set the scene for Erika’s Moore’s play about an urban couple, fallen on hard times departure from her home and cleverly serve as receptacles and trying to build the domestic dream in a studio flat, is for various props. The set is nice, but the pace is variable, very, very funny. But it’s also confronting when a harmless sometimes energetic and sometimes languid. Perhaps that’s drunken wager leads to a homosexual encounter with the how life feels to Erika? The story and characters are often potential to damage a marriage. engaging and enjoyable, the acting and direction solid, but Lewis and Morgan are the young twenty-somethings – the protagonist and her plight do not seem fully formed trying to keep thirty from the door – who are stuck in a rut. and important enough to really engage our interest and While they talk in sickly sweet cliches loaded with sympathy. Erika takes small steps towards a better life, but profanities about their love, and their desire to have a baby her problems and actions do not seem significant enough we sense their unwillingness to face the truth that they are to warrant the telling of this tale. going nowhere. When Waldorf announces his arrival by Stephen Carnell sticking his naked dick through the letterbox, you know things are going to change rapidly. There are serious Kids Killing Kids questions about sexuality. Homosexual sex for two A play about plays and the Piony people. By David Finnigan, heterosexual friends…. how hard could that be…especially Georgie McAuley, Jordan Prosser and Sam Burns-Warr. if they film it for an erotic festival? MKA / Q Theatre Company / Melbourne Fringe Festival / The four actors are impeccable, with faultless timing in Crack Theatre Festival. Fringe Hub – the Warehouse. Sep 20 their overlapping dialogue. Christina O’Neill gives Steph, to Oct 3. Waldorf’s current shag, a spaced out Amy Winehouse KIDS Killing Kids is one out of the bag due to questions persona, both hilarious and poignant; Rosie Lockhart of ethics and Theatre Making it broaches, particularly in (Morgan) proves yet again that beauty and talent do coregard to unwitting appropriation. 74 Stage Whispers

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Four young, vibrant, energetic theatre makers divulge an engrossing and thought-provoking tag team presentation about their experiences conceptualizing and then assisting in the crafting of a piece of theatre, Battalia Royale, with the Sipat Lawin Ensemble in Manila. The live site specific piece created was modeled on a Japanese film Battle Royale (2000) that cries comparison with Hunger Games in that it is about the enforced annihilation of a group of young people by each other. Naïve, yet well intentioned, there can be no doubt that all four theatre makers experienced the foray into an exotic county to craft theatre as a ‘baptism by fire’. They didn’t know that they were working with a powder keg until the production got underway and attracted huge audiences and became ‘a social media phenomena’. Fascinatingly it would seem that Battalia Royale twisted performance back towards ritual enactment, engaged wholeheartedly with the audience, and in turn, rendered the performers vulnerable to the passion their enactment provoked from their audiences. This doco/drama presentation reminds us that theatre is rooted in ritual and the incredible power the medium of theatre can actually hold. Suzanne Sandow

Shrine is not always the easiest play to watch, as you would expect when it deals with the unnecessary loss of young life, but the story is wonderfully told. The beauty of the design and direction and the brilliant open narrative make Shrine a play worth seeing. Kimberley Shaw

on air! on air! By Peter Maden. Spotlight Basement Theatre, Benowa, Gold Coast. Director: Helen Maden. Sep 20 – Oct 5. SET in the advertising department of a metropolitan radio station – CHAOS FM, the action of Peter Maden’s hysterical new Australian comedy on air! on air! follows the workings of a busy (?) office where disaster seems to attract disaster. Under the skilful direction of Peter’s wife Helen, on air! on air! is a fast paced romp as we endure the ups and downs of the conniving, manipulating, hung-over and frustrated staff as they go about (or buck-pass) their various office responsibilities. Peter also plays the role of Paul, the ever “eager to please” office manager. Kate McNair – Jane, Libby Bancroft – Shayna, Ron Hailes – Daryl and Sam Webb – Cam and the omni absent Chris are his underlings, striving to “come up with the goods” to meet the advertisers demands. These Shrine office types work well as a team but “the glue that keeps By Tim Winton. Black Swan State Theatre Company. the office together” is Tiff, the long suffering, hip-flask Directed by Kate Cherry. Heath Ledger Theatre, State toting receptionist played brilliantly by Del Halpin. Theatre Centre of WA. Aug 31 - Sep 15. Tara Page is wonderful as the “impossibly” bitchy Kate GIVEN Western Australia's long stretches of dangerous and Colin Turner as the Station Manager was delightfully country roads, it is highly likely that we have more than our lustful and spineless. The supporting cast added a great mix fair share of roadside shrines, memorialising victims of car of “oddities”. accidents. The never-ending station identification and advert Written by Tim Winton, Shrine tells of a couple voiceovers (thanks to the hard work of the technical staff) struggling to recover from the loss of their son and a girl gives the office set a genuine atmosphere. who knows a great deal about his final hours. Roger McKenzie Sensitively told, Black Swan's production is set on a texturally explicit set that combines a car wreck, a road Whoops! The Wharf Revue 2013 surface, dominating karri trees and waves to create various Written and Created by Jonathan Biggins, Drew Forsythe spaces. Trent Suidgeest's set and lighting is at times and Phillip Scott. Sydney Theatre Company. Glen Street beautiful, at times disturbing and is quietly thoughtTheatre, Oct 2 – 12, 2013 and Wharf 1 Theatre, STC, Oct provoking without being a distraction. We are always 23 until Dec 21. aware of the ugly, arguably inappropriate yet poignant AFTER a year in which Australia had three different shrine of the title. Prime Ministers, there was much fruit to pick from the The performances are heart wrenchingly moving, political satire tree, for the Wharf Revue team and they are especially from Sarah McNeill, who delivers haunting and in fine form. impassioned memorials to the lost Jack. John Howard plays It opened with The Abbott Family (click click) which her husband, portraying a man whose stoic exterior grabbed your fears by its ears. conceals great grief. Other Coalition characters we’ll no doubt see a lot more Jack, a dominant presence as his last hours are relived, of in the years ahead are Bronwyn of Bushgate and Sir was played nicely by Paul Ashcroft, a likeable if flawed and Petulant Pyne. real young man, whose loss could be felt. His less admirable Phillip Scott was on sabbatical this time. Stepping in was mates were well portrayed by Luke McMahon and Will Andrew Warboys on the piano. Whilst we missed the McNeil. trademark Phillip Scott virtuoso song and acting patter Whitney Richards was magnetically likeable as extravaganza, it was more than made up for by the mysterious country girl June Fenton, who recreates the welcome addition of Simon Burke, who looked a little scary disturbing, sad and beautiful last hours of Jack's life. Tim as Tom Waterhouse but more attractive in drag. Winton has created a lovely character, which she brings sparklingly yet charmingly awkwardly to life. Longer versions of many reviews can now be found at

Stage Whispers 75

Simon Burke and Jonathan Biggins in Whoops! The Wharf Revue’ 2013. Photo: Tracey Schramm.

The strongest sketches targeted the women. Gina Reinhart and her ‘generous ’approach to her children presented an irresistibly ample target for the crew. Another highlight was Amanda Bishop saying farewell to Julia Gillard through an aria from Carmen. The Wharf Revue team these days also make clever use of video. It was used best when the Coalition Pirates needed help from asylum seekers during a storm. The real challenge will be next year – after a year of the Abbott Family and their determination to be very dull and stay off the front page - one wonders what material will they have to work with. No doubt Clive Palmer and the new crew in Canberra will help fill the gaps. David Spicer The Mistakes Madeline Made By Elizabeth Meriwether. The Honeytrap Production Company. The Abbotsford Convent Industrial Space (Vic). Aug 23 – Sep 8. HONEYTRAP presents a tale of four people who are trying to deal with pain and loneliness. Buddy (James Deeth) has been traumatised by a brutal overseas experience; Edna (Celeste Markwell) is trying to deal with his death; Beth (Loren De Jong) has made some serious life mistakes and has thrown herself into work; and Wilson (Liam O Kane) manages his social ineptitude by obsessively reproducing the sounds in his world. The supporting character, Jake/Blake/Drake (Josh Futcher) bears the brunt of Edna acting out her pain. That sounds dreary, but the 76 Stage Whispers

production is funny and moving and the company mostly manages to rise above the difficulties of the script. The script over explains. Wilson’s difficulties with sounds are clear in his first exchange with Beth, but the script just can’t leave it or anything else to the actors to enliven. The actors know their craft and engaged the audience with a sure touch. The final scene revealed the strengths of the company with a carefully constructed, believable and satisfying resolution. The physical direction deftly used the possibilities of the space. Lighting and sound by Jarrod Factor and the set and costume design by Casey-Scott Corless created a vivid but unobtrusive background. Ruth Richter Super Discount Back to Back, Sydney Theatre Company and Malthouse Theatre. Wharf 1 Theatre, Sydney. Sep 20 - Oct 19. WHAT makes a superhero? Do they actually exist in real life or are they mythical creatures that only live in our imaginations? Or perhaps they are ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances. These are the questions and themes explored in Super Discount. This is an interesting and at times challenging piece of theatre. Bruce Gladwin’s direction gives the cast adequate space and freedom to realise the potential of the production and there is sufficient light and shade, pathos and comedy.

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However, as stated, it is uncomfortable and there are times when laughing at the magnified disability of an individual doesn’t sit right. But this is addressed by one of the most interesting points in the show where the disability vs. ability question is turned on its head, leading to commentary about whether praise or criticism of work by disabled performers can ever really be believed because it’s tempered by an audience wanting them to be good and judging them by a different set of standards. Wheels within wheels. The superhero theme is entertaining and lends itself to some classic lines such as “You have a laughing mouth on a depressed face“ and “Lycra is my friend”. It also teases out the idea that every superhero is a flawed human being; that they are superheroes because of their flaws and not in spite of them. Whitney Fitzsimmons Empire Terror on the High Seas. A spectacle by Toby Schmitz. Rock Surfers Theatre Company. Director: Leland Kean. Bondi Pavilion Theatre. Sep 5 – 28. THIS was a bizarre and at times difficult night in the theatre. Ironically it began with such glamour. No less than 18 characters walked onto the stage – splendidly dressed for a 1930’s cruise. The set, costumes and lighting looked spiffing. Witty lines held out promise for what smelt like a sparkling Agatha Christie murder mystery on the high seas. The first sign that this theatrical vessel had some leaks came when the theatre filled with haze, and without air conditioning the atmosphere made the audience very drowsy. We had to strain to take in so many characters. Working out who committed the first murder was all too much effort. Interval and fresh air was a relief. Why hadn’t this long script been trimmed? Then came the gruesome second act. The quaint play became a slash and bash fest. It was not a case of whodunit, but what motivated the murders and what new way could Toby Schmitz think of to snuff out a passenger? Lucky for him he was not there to see the discomfort on the faces of some members of the audience during the mock disemboweling. There were some shining moments of relief. One-liners were memorable and save for one dodgy accent the play was nicely acted. The stand out was Nathan Lovejoy who was a joy to watch as Mr Richard Civil-Lowe Cavendish. I could go through the other 17 characters but then this review would be just as long winded as this play. David Spicer The Little Mermaid Director: Ian Sinclair. The Blue Room, Northbridge, WA. Aug 20 - Sep 7. THIS production of The Little Mermaid is at least seminally linked to the Hans Christian Anderson story of the

same name, and the Disney incarnation, but it has developed into a story that is quite different. Reminiscent of other fairy tales, most noticeably Snow White, this short play appears to draw on influences as diverse as manga and ballet. The play opens with blue haired teenager Grace (a gorgeously naive performance by Jacinta Larcombe) dancing unselfconsciously in mismatched bra and knickers 'in a garden sprinkler' - she is obviously happy and free in an aquatic environment. When ordered to get dressed, she dons net stockings, shirt and skirt, a lovely allusion to fishing nets and her trapped state. While freed by the play's version of the handsome prince (Ben Gills), this freedom and love affair is sabotaged by her mother in a terrible betrayal. Much of the story concerns her relationship with her mother (a very nicely layered performance by Georgia King) as they deal with the daughter's emerging sexuality and the mother's jealousy and feeling that her own best days are in the past. A well-chosen trio of performers, there is a lovely blend of movement and dance with more conventional theatre. Sensitively directed by Ian Sinclair and emotively lit (Chris Donnelly), the creative use of simple technical devices such as a fan and bubbles enlivened this production. While not for everyone, this was clearly not what some audience members expected, my fifteen-year-old companion and I enjoyed this very much. Kimberley Shaw Whistle Down The Wind Music: Andrew Lloyd Webber Lyrics: Jim Steinman. Director: Andy Fahey. Neptune Productions. Tweed Heads Civic Centre. Aug 16 – 25. WHISTLE Down The Wind is one of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s lesser-known works, but, nonetheless, it abounds with memorable music. Swallow, a 15-year-old girl (played brilliantly by Courtney Monsma) finds an unconscious man hiding out in the farm barn (convincingly brought to life by the talented Casey Fegan). He awakes with a start and when asked his name he blurts out “Jesus Christ!” Having been brought up in a God-fearing household Swallow believes that the Messiah has returned. The supporting principal line up included seasoned performers Jim Price, Tammy Dundon, Leigh Harrison and the youthful Ashley Walsh, Rochelle De Snoo, Lincoln Jameson and Jackson Brash as an Elvis Presley ‘look alike”. Scenery and costumes were basic, with the changes of scene handled by the younger members of the cast. All 15 children in this production were strong and believable and were supported by a local choral group – The Voice Weavers - all under the Musical Direction of Wendy Fahey. Tammy Dundon’s choreography was simple yet effective. This was Andy’s first venture into directing and I hope it won’t be his last. Roger McKenzie

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Reviews: Plays

Taylor Ferguson in Belvoir’s Miss Julie. Photo: Ellis Parrinder

Miss Julie By Simon Stone after August Strindberg. Belvoir. Director: Leticia Cáceres. Aug 29 – Oct 6. SIMON Stone rewrites theatre classics, freely setting them in modern day Australia. He’s done a Wild Duck ‘after Ibsen’, a Cherry Orchard ‘after Chekhov’ and now here’s his Miss Julie ‘after Strindberg’. You’ve got to admire his chutzpah and his keen theatrical brain. Strindberg’s 1888 pairing of a high-class Count’s daughter with a class-conscious footman is here transformed/stoned into the let-it-rip coupling of a national politician’s 16-year-old daughter with her much older armed bodyguard. Age difference has been added to class and sex differences. And where Strindberg suggested there might have been some off-stage hanky-panky between the two, Stone and his director, Leticia Cáceres, give us buckets of nudity and genital groping. The acting is first rate. Brendan Cowell gives bodyguard Jean the hulking build of a Rugby League front rower, plus the confusion of a good man in the grip of something he can’t possibly control. Blazey Best as his fiancée Christine, cooking salmon risotto as the audience assembles, convinces utterly as the reliable, put-upon housekeeper determined to hold on to her difficult man-child. Taylor Ferguson is Julie, precociously intelligent, deeply unhappy, manipulative, “a fucking nightmare” to her minder. “I can’t believe I’ve lowered myself to this level,” she wails as the action slowly intensifies. It’s a no-holdsbarred, career-launching performance. Frank Hatherley 78 Stage Whispers

RU4ME By Annie Byron. True West Theatre & Riverside. Riverside Theatres, Parramatta. Aug 22 – 31, and touring. RU4ME is a quirky comedy about a middle-aged woman’s foray into internet dating, inspired originally by personal experiences, and adapted from Andee Jones’ book Kissing Frogs. Directed by Wayne Harrison, the play is well written, tight and economic, a perfect vehicle for Annie Byron’s style and timing. On a simple, utilitarian set and supported by projections of photographs, symbols and sound effects that take the audience into her computer screen, Byron, as Connie, recounts her sometimes hilarious, sometimes slightly scary and sometimes even a little wistful, experiences of dating on the net. Byron’s detailed characterisation and engaging appeal immediately endear Connie to the audience. She addresses them directly, asks rhetorical questions, and even flirts a little, without ever losing the sense that this is a performance, sensitively directed, carefully rehearsed and perfectly controlled. It is in Connie’s asides, accompanied by a grin, a wink or a toss of the head, that Byron’s comedic timing and wellpaced delivery shine. It is easy for the audience to identify with her, share her ups and downs and … yes … LOL! This play is topical, fun, enjoyable and has great audience appeal. Carol Wimmer

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Kiss of The Spider Woman By Manuel Puig, translated by Allan Baker. Directed by Chris Baldock. Mockingbird Theatre. The Owl and the Pussycat. Sept 6 – 15. MANUEL Puig’s delicate play, from his own novel, is essentially a poignant love story. Molina, an openly gay man (though he claims, with dignity, that he is a woman) guilty of indecent behaviour, shares a prison cell with Valentin, a revolutionary. Molina entertains Valentin with stories of a B grade movie that Valentin hasn’t seen. There’s a plot, of sorts, which happens offstage, where the warden provides Molina with food and treats in exchange for getting information from Valentin, but it really doesn’t matter - the journey is between these two men in a tiny cell. Angelo de Cata’s performance is nothing short of astonishing. I was sitting in the front row and saw his tears fall several times. He is incredibly moving and endearing as Molina, and his speech about queens like himself, who want to be with a real man, was just heart-breaking. It’s a performance of great truth and integrity. Adam West has the less sympathetic role. Nevertheless, West finds extra depth in the role, and is physically impressive. Director Baldock and his company have had a spectacular year. This director is not afraid of raw honesty and he trusts his audience. And isn’t that what good theatre is all about? Coral Drouyn

What is so surprising is that in a world where storytelling has given way to short attention spans, Agatha Christie’s writing stands the test of time. A Murder is Announced is the latest such production. It has all the hallmarks of a small English village whodunit and in terms of reinvigorating a classic this is not an easy task. But Director Darren Yap has successfully staged this play in a way that has the viewer curious and interested. Lynne Ruthven and Darren Yap’s casting is solid. Debra Lawrance as the seemingly victimised Letitia Blacklock is fabulous, as are Robert Grubb - the bumbling Inspector Craddock and Elizabeth Nabben’s tightly wound Julia Simmons. But it is Judi Farr as Miss Marple that is a stroke of genius. She is the epitome of all things Marple - a gentle and unassuming elderly woman with a mind a like a steeltrap. Another standout is Victoria Haralabidou, whose portrayal of Mitzi, the misunderstood maid, adds a muchneeded comedic element to the overall show. The entire production is an exercise in the classic murder mystery aesthetic; all elements combine to create a wellillustrated world where the characters come to life. Whitney Fitzsimmons

Salome By Oscar Wilde. Little Ones Theatre / Malthouse Theatre. Director: Stephen Nicolazzo. Tower Theatre. Aug 30 – Sep 14. LITTLE Ones Theatre’s slick and flippant production of Salome is lively, loud, lighthearted and wickedly profane. A Murder is Announced It’s an ‘in-your-face’ cabaret performance with loads of well A Miss Marple Mystery by Agatha Christie. Michael Coppel, -dressed and undressed ‘eye-candy’ and more than just a Louise Withers, Linda Bewick and Mousetrap Productions hint of Jean Genet. Ltd, London. Sydney Theatre. Sept 27 – Oct 27, then Little Ones Theatre has made a fascinatingly provocative Melbourne from Oct 30 and Brisbane from Dec 27. reworking of Wilde’s reworking of a Biblical story in which IT’S not surprising that in a world obsessed with murder we are introduced to the concept of Salome as a beautiful and mystery (just look at a weekly television schedule) that desirable male princess through the homosexual proclivities the classics of the genre such as Agatha Christie still remain of The Young Syrian, played with forthright lascivious popular. humor by Peter Paltos. However this is one of those A Murder is Announced. Photo: James Morgan.

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examples where the universal swapping of gender roles detracts from the meanings intrinsic to the story, though, it does not detract from the visual aspects of casting and set/ costume design by Eugyeene Teh. Some diligent research by Director Stephen Nicolazzo and Dramaturge Natalia Savvides is perhaps missing from the making of this work. Salome is indeed beautiful and Paul Blenheim dances her dance of the seven veils with lithe elegance. In all, Salome is well worth catching as a showcase of some of Melbourne’s youthful and courageous theatre making talent. Suzanne Sandow

uncoupled, Les consumes more and more cans of ‘export quality Fosters’, dipping in and out of his wartime traumas. Also on board are a moustached English ex-navy man (Tony Llewellyn-Jones, expertly channeling Terry-Thomas) and an aggressive Entertainments Officer (Justin Smith, horribly funny). The 40-year-old classic is vital and fresh in the hands of director Sam Strong, with a simple and effective design by Stephen Curtis and versatile lighting by Verity Hampton. Frank Hatherley

Equus By Peter Shaffer. Nomadic Artists / Sydney Fringe. The Forum Theatre, Italian Forum, Leichhardt. Sept 12 – 28. The Floating World FIFTY years on, Equus is still confronting for its cast and By John Romeril. Griffin Theatre Company. SBW Stables its audience. It requires nudity, a sex scene and actors Theatre, Sydney. Director: Sam Strong. Oct 4 – Nov 16. portraying horses as it delves into the complexities of sexuality and the psychology of violence. JOHN Romeril’s free-wheeling 1974 drama is given a welcome revival by Griffin Theatre Company, as dedicated a In the hands of director Michael Campbell, on a very group of contemporary Australian writing enthusiasts as cleverly designed set, the cast of this production does the was Melbourne’s famed Australian Performing Group, play and its playwright proud. whose production of The Floating World at The Pram Michael Bridley plays Alan, the teenager who has Factory was one of their proudest achievements. callously blinded a stable of horses. Brindley is compellingly Fast, funny and always ‘experimental’ in form, Romeril’s believable in this role that requires emotional strength and text seems hardly dated, though his blinkered, suffering professional courage. antihero Les Harding, superbly played by Peter Kowitz, is As psychologist Martin Dysart, Martin Portus leads the the sort of full-on working-class Aussie character we don’t audience through the emotional scenes and psychological see in theatrical action anymore, with wicked Barry insights that explain Alan’s actions. Portus sustains the Humphries comic energy allied to deep rage and terror. strength and intensity needed to carry the didactic weight Les and his sweetly long-suffering wife Irene (Valerie of this demanding role. Bader) are on a ‘Women’s Weekly Orange Blossom Cruise’ The supporting cast is similarly committed. All are very to Japan though, typically, he has failed to get them a cabin real – and as such make the fantasy of the horses that on their own. The cruise ship is an ex-troopship, and the oversee every minute of the action believable. cabin crew reminds repressed Les of his shocking wartime captivity at the hands of the Japanese. Increasingly

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Steel Magnolias. Photographer: Karlana Santamaria

The six actors who play the horses suggest the power and intelligence of these proud beasts. Their brooding presence creates the essential atmosphere of the play. There are some wonderful images in this production, but the most stunning is Alan’s thin, naked body, cradled on Dysart’s knee and framed by a pyramid of fallen horses. Carol Wimmer Steel Magnolias By Robert Harling. Director: Natasha Boyd. The Mount Players (Vic). Mountview Theatre Macedon. Aug 25 – Sep 14. ON a practical and purposeful set (Alison Dudon) of a hairdresser’s salon in dusky pinks and greens, many social pretenses are dropped and a tender, moving story of women’s loyal and loving friendships is played out to significant cathartic effect. Director Natasha Boyd elicits beautiful work from her talented troupe of actors. Ms. Boyd displays a fine eye for detail in her staging and complex management of stage business. The acting is dependably good. Sonja Prater energetically leads a great cast of skilled actors who are able to wholly don their characters’ 1980s Southern American personalities and accents. Ebony Beaton makes a delightful young apprentice, very convincingly getting about doing all the things an apprentice does. Errin Hewlett as M’Lynn Eatenton puts in an especially moving performance in her expression of aching sadness,

distress and anger. In this production the successful staging of this pivotal moment in the play is due to the believability of the enduring relationships between characters that have been so well fleshed out by all six actors. M’Lynn’s daughter Shelby Eatenton-Latcherie is interpreted with just the right touch of vulnerability by Marianne McLoughlin. Suzanne Sandow The Dark Room By Angel Betzien. Flying Penguin Productions. Holden Street Theatres, SA, Sept 14 - 28. ANGEL Betzien’s gritty contemporary Australian drama, set entirely in a low-budget motel room somewhere in the NT, raises issues such as deaths in custody, child neglect and abuse, domestic violence and corruption. The play, under the astute direction of David Mealor, begins with Anni (Tamara Lee) caring for a troubled teenager (Jordan Cowan, who is fantastic as Grace) while she seeks suitable shelter for her. Their verbal battle of wits often verges on becoming violent and then, suddenly, married couple - policeman Stephen and pregnant Emma enter the motel room which then becomes theirs, with Anni and Grace remaining motionless. The couple then engages in a verbal battle of their own. Later, corrupt and foul-mouthed NT policeman Craig (played menacingly by Nicholas Garsden) is in the motel room and it becomes obvious all the characters, in some small way, are linked to each other.

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It’s a powerful and often disturbing work – each of the individuals seem to be in some dark room of their own – that’s cleverly written and extremely well-constructed as the play ingeniously weaves a desperate and chilling tale. There is also a sense of menace, especially when a series of five-second blackouts as the play draws to its conclusion makes patrons wonder just what shock is going to be before them next, and the disturbing psychological aspect won’t appeal to all. The Dark Room is a well-acted, gritty play that will reverberate for quite some time. Robert Dunstan

Throughout there are some genuinely moving moments, although these are offset by a fair deal of humour. Wendy Todd’s clever set design is a series of wooden slats that are easily moved to depict the kitchen of the family home, a railway station and the violin teacher’s apartment, while the lighting (by Geoff Cobham) sometimes gives the work an eerie feeling. The play has some faults in that it is, perhaps, overly long and occasionally drawn out, but overall it’s a powerful story of a family trying to cope with the inevitable, featuring good direction and acting. Robert Dunstan

The Book Club By Roger Hall. Director: Rodney Fisher. Queanbeyan Performing Arts Centre. Oct 3–5 and touring. RODNEY Fisher’s version of The Book Club, refreshing Roger Hall’s 1999 original script by reference to recent novels, is a tale of suburban intrigue arising from housewife Deborah’s inclusion in the local book club. The intrigue begins as a mere frisson amongst club members at an author’s acceptance of their speaker invitation—and becomes something more for one particularly enamoured club member. That so many such disparate characters could appear in the body of so few actors—one—is testament to Amanda Muggleton’s sublime ability to fully convey both message and messenger simultaneously. In consecutive breaths, we see plainly the interactions of a wiry Welsh woman, an imminently expectant mother, a large-bodied utter snob, and a sexually provocative Swiss publicist, amongst others, all with suitable accents, characteristic mannerisms, and genuine feeling. Muggleton’s performance as this can of disparate characters is mesmerising and at times hilarious. So comfortable is she with us that she is enviably free to occupy roles she couldn’t possibly wish to be identified with—and, along the way, to ad lib marvelously witty lines. You’ll walk away from this play with feeling that you’ve had an evening of risqué fun and possibly that you’ve learned something about yourself in doing so. John P. Harvey

Molly Sweeney By Brian Friel. Director: Fiona Blair. Footscray Community Arts Centre. The Old Van. Aug 15 – 25 BRIAN Friel’s wonderfully crafted play Molly Sweeney is certainly done justice in Old Van’s ‘less is more’ production. It is the story of an Irish woman who had sight for eleven months but then became blind. Through the love and care of her father she was truly integrated into her close-knit small town community and lived comfortably in her own skin until she married. Friel tells an acutely perceptive and moving story from the perspective of all three characters. It is a lengthy work that builds from simple narrative to a complex reflection containing a number of rich allegories. This production is set in a basic ‘black box’ space, with light as the only tool for design, and is staged without music or recorded sound. This centralizes the voice and highlights spoken images as well as the complexity and extensive vocabulary of the text. Director Fiona Blair elicits lovely performances from the three actors. Jane Nolan makes a lovable, feisty Molly. Richard Bligh imbues the character of Mr. Rice with just the right balance of confidence, self-doubt and self-reflection. Michael Treloar as Molly’s ne’er-do-well opportunist husband Frank Sweeney displays qualities of a ‘lad’ to a t. Suzanne Sandow

Babyteeth By Rita Kalnejais, State Theatre Company of SA. Director: Chris Drummond. Aug 16 – Sep 7. BABYTEETH (2010) by young Australian playwright Rita Kalnejais is about a teenage girl with terminal cancer. A soap opera of sorts with many funny moments, the play has a certain filmic quality, so it’s easy to understand why it is currently in development for a feature movie. The diminutive Danielle Catanzariti as 14-year-old cancer victim Milla leads a strong ensemble cast including Paul Blackwell as her violin teacher. Some of the characters, however, don’t seem to be explained fully and it wasn’t until it dawned on me that Milla doesn’t have long to live that I understood why her parents seemed to be encouraging their young daughter to have a sexual relationship with a junkie almost twice her age. 82 Stage Whispers

The Good Doctor By Anton Chekhov and Neil Simon. Villanova Players. “The Theatre”, Seven Hills TAFE, Morningside (Qld). Aug 30 – Sep 14. THE ‘good doctor’ is nineteenth century Russian author and physician Chekhov, whose nine short stories Simon adapted into a bouquet of funny-bone tickling vignettes. The appropriate law says ‘you can’t copyright ideas’ so Simon broke no rules but probably earned more from these broad slapstick situations and cultural misadventures than Chekhov ever did. We are still laughing at human foibles of the 1890s while recognising ourselves in them more than a century later. Leo Bradley’s costumes set the action firmly in Chekhov’s era. Connecting link to the pieces is The Writer who introduces each playlet and in so doing reveals snippets

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about his life as a writer (nothing much has changed there). Rod Thompson makes the most of this part. Trevor Bond appears in all but two segments, requiring a broad band of comedy skills. He acquitted himself most memorably in “Surgery” and “The Arrangement”. Christine Ross gave rein to her comedy skills in “The Governess” and “The Seduction”; Trish Pledger was cripplingly funny as The Woman in “A Defenceless Creature”; of Trevor Sammon’s multiple roles, he was at his best as Semyonych in “The Seduction” and as the Sailor in “The Drowned Man”; Shane Fell and Noelle Criminova grabbed their chance to shine in “The Arrangement” and “The Audition” respectively. Jay McKee Fat Pig By Neil LaBute. Directed by Daniel Frederiksen. Labkelpie Productions. Chapel off Chapel. Oct 9 - 20. IF you fall in love with a fat girl, can you withstand the onslaught of jibes and jokes from your friends and colleagues? That’s the dilemma explored in Fat Pig. LaBute has been labeled a misogynist and a misanthropist many times over. The main problem with his writing is that his male characters dazzle while the females are bland stereotypes by comparison. Labkelpie is a new theatre company and what a debut this is for them. With the stunningly versatile and talented Lyall Brooks as Tom, and the mesmerising Patrick Harvey as Carter, his office mate, the laughs come thick and fast even while we’re squirming. Director Daniel Frederiksen makes a veritable banquet out of their time on stage together, and brings out two of the best performances in a comedy you will see this, or any other, year. Cassandra Magrath is brittle perfection as Jeannie, the neurotic and bitchy accountant whom Tom once dated. But much of the play falls on the delicious Lulu McClatchy as Helen. I have seen fine performances from her in the past. LaBute describes Helen as sassy, confident, sexy, funny. And if she were that, one could understand Tom falling in love with her…she has all the qualities he lacks. Yet there’s something tentative, almost apologetic, in McClatchy’s performance. It isn’t helped by there being NO sexual chemistry at all between the actors when really Tom and Helen should be steaming up the stage in their scenes together. All that aside, this is still a terrific production and well worth seeing. Coral Drouyn Return to Earth By Lally Katz. ARTHUR and Griffin Independent. SBW Stables Theatre, Kings Cross. Sept 4 – 28. PROTAGONIST, Alice (or is it Erica?) is unsettled and confused. Alice returns home after a prolonged absence, during which time she seems to have made little contact with her family. Shari Sebbens finds the child in Alice through a wide -eyed naivety that seems to keep repressing the adult Alice

who, when she does break through, is equally naïve and confused. This is not helped by her oppressive family, who welcome her almost too effusively and pressure her too often to stay. There is an intensity here that is unnatural – and it is heightened by Paige Rattray’s very meticulous direction of this work that probes the insecurity of how we come to decide who we are going to be. Playwright Katz’s disjointed scenes and almost unnatural dialogue allow Rattray to mix stylized movement with naturalism; hesitant, stilted delivery with moments of moving emotion. Light and sound add to the insecurity of the action, as real and imagined problems spill and collide, and, eventually, find a resolution – of sorts. Wendy Strehlow and Laurence Coy play Alice’s parents. Their tight control and stilted action suggest discordant layers below the seemingly welcome reunion. Alice’s relationship with other characters is similarly strange, especially when she tries to pull Theo, a fisherman (Yur Covich) into her dream-reality world. When Alice meets her brother Tom (Ben Barber), his daughter Catta (ten year old Scarlett Waters) and her doctor, (Mark Langham), the play moves into harsh and unexpected realism. This is a strange play. At times it is surreal, at others almost unreal. Like life, really – and therefore, it lingers. Carol Wimmer When The Rain Stops Falling By Andrew Bovell. Centenary Theatre, Brisbane. Sep 7 – 28. TRACING four generations from 1959 to 2039 in the jigsaw life patterns by which we discover our own past, this splendid ‘family play’ engages us, often frustrates us. By the last scene the central character, young Andrew Price, is less aware of his heritage than we are. We have been privy to events in those four generations that are just too hard to reveal at this delicate father-son reunion. Cam Castles’ inspired casting, and his players, breathe life into Bovell’s vision. Brian Hobby’s lighting and sound designs, and Sarah Reinking’s film montages define time and place for each scene. Bovell’s motifs connect the families: rain; fish and fish soup; repainting drab walls; names Gabriel and Gabrielle. Castles chose a neutral space with just a window frame downstage through which characters gaze at the gloomy weather and on the other side a long family dining table. A central thrust and two chairs suffice for other short scenes. The actors played as a brilliant ensemble, all strong welldefined characterisations. Jay McKee Macbeth By William Shakespeare. Director: Terri Brabon. THEATREiNQ. Queen’s Gardens, Townsville. Sep 18 – 29. THE tropical ease of Queens Gardens may seem a world away from the battlefields of Scotland but, as darkness fell, one could not help being drawn into a sinister tale of supernatural, power-lust and murder.

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Stage Whispers 83

TheatreiNQ’s production of Macbeth presented a gripping tale, told by a strong leading cast and ensemble. Director Terri Brabon introduced an original and creative element to the supernatural theme. The weird sisters, rather than possessing their own power to predict Macbeth’s future, became the pawns of three children whose malevolent power was starkly contrasted with their appearance of innocent childhood. Brendan O’Connor in the title role presented a strong characterisation; his progress toward the tragic hero’s inevitable demise was managed skillfully. Some of the most powerful moments of the play occurred between O’Connor and John Goodson (Banquo) and with Sid Brisbane (Macduff). Terri Brabon brought a loving aspect of Lady Macbeth, and this element set up Macbeth’s frenzied rejection as a contributing factor to her madness. The sleepwalking scene was powerful and engrossing. Ray Dickson as the delightfully drunken Porter broke tension of the play. Staging was simple, with adequate elements to suggest a variety of locations. The imposing skeleton looming behind Macbeth’s throne became a sordid reflection of his path to power. The finale lifted the spirits by way of traditional Scottish dance. Donna Ahlers. The Grief Parlour True West Theatre / Clockfire Theatre Company. Text: Jessica Bellamy. Director: Jo Turner. Riverside Theatres, Parramatta. Sept 12 – 21. EMILY Ayoub, Kate Worsley and Gareth Rickards have devised a piece of theatre that mixes styles, forms and effects to explore ‘the colours, textures and rhythms of grief’. It begins, realistically enough, in a funeral parlour. A woman enters. She seems afraid, bewildered, lost – and she disappears. Starkly, the mood is broken by the funeral parlour staff. Their joking is discordant, irreverent; but then they deal with death daily. Here the realism ends. A young couple appears. She is the woman who disappeared earlier. Next moment they are at the funeral parlour. Somehow, the realisation comes that it is she who has died. The music changes, the lights dim, and she is alone on the stage. Then, absurdly, the walls of the funeral parlour start to move. Silently, constantly, they straighten, bend, reform and slide around each other. In the turmoil this presents, a glassy-eyed woman appears and beckons. With changing music and lighting and the carefully orchestrated and coordinated choreography of the moving flats, she guides the woman through a weirdly imagined journey. The imagery is macabre and disturbing. Rather than death, the journey seems to represent the grieving process itself. The production is moving, thought provoking and refreshingly original. Carol Wimmer 84 Stage Whispers

The Herbal Bed By Peter Whelan. Malanda Theatre Company. Director Graham Harrington. Aug 30- Sep 8. THE Herbal Bed takes us back to a time of different social beliefs and attitudes. We go back to Stratford-uponAvon in the year 1613. William Shakespeare’s daughter Susanna is married to John Hall, a famous doctor. However, a local man, Jack Lane, accuses her of having an affair with the local haberdasher, Rafe Smith. The drama takes place in Hall’s herbal garden and in Worcester Cathedral. The play was well directed and cast by Graham Harrington. As Susanna, Kirsten Adams was a perfect fit. She looked the part, acted well and delivered her lines superbly. Seth Hartley gave an energetic and dominating performance as Jack Lane. Chris Hoare, in his first straight role, did a good job as the tortured John Hall, as did Mark Kerwin as the confused Rafe Smith. Howard Smith’s portrayal of a fanatical puritan was well acted and at times hilarious. Abby Moore as a servant, Bill Tranter as the Bishop and Lily Moore as Hall’s daughter completed the strong, wellcostumed cast. The set design and herbal garden was beautifully constructed by Carl Grandelis and his hardworking crew. Ken Cotterill Kid Stakes Written by Ray Lawler. Directed by Christine Grant. The Basin Theatre Group. Aug 16 - Sept 8. NO-ONE would deny that Lawler’s Summer Of The Seventeenth Doll is an iconic Australian play, but the prequel, Kid Stakes, written twenty years later, is not in the same league. Christine Grant is a very good director, yet she has chosen a very “middle of the road” approach and the story of the first “doll” doesn’t have much to offer in terms of story or character development. Tina Bono (Nancy) brings real truth and credibility to her role as the “bad” party girl. She has a dynamic on-stage presence and a great sense of comic timing. Chris Shaw (Barney) is consistently good and brings a great deal of natural energy to the stage. Tracey Jeffery (Olive) has great projection, but seems to prefer saying her lines directly to the audience. Edward Kennett is suitably ocker and charming as Roo, and Verity Dixon (Emma) does her best with the stereotyped 30s mother, whilst Blake Hadlow (Dickie) shows promise. As usual with TBTG the set is excellent, this time incorporating outside areas into the design, which director Grant has used to full advantage in her blocking. Lighting, sound and costumes all meet TBTG’s very high standards. It’s always a pleasure to visit this theatre ….but some plays are more palatable than others. Coral Drouyn Strange Attractor By Sue Smith. Brisbane Arts Theatre. Oct 4-26. COULD Sue Smith become Australia’s Arthur Miller? This brilliant new piece of contemporary Australian writing suggests so. She tackles a non-urban side of our culture and lifestyle, regularly in the news because it produces our principal

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Angela Glennie, Steven Shinkfield. Rhiannon Leach and Adrian Carr in God of Carnage. Photo: Ian Turner, I &J Photographics.

domestic income – mining. The ramifications of her story, however, will leave you thinking long after you leave the theatre. A Pilbara railway construction site is hit by the 2009 cyclone. She explores the effect on five workers there, real engaging people, one woman and four men. The cyclone’s effect is shattering but once the “company man from Perth” arrives to investigate the tragedy before the judicial inquiry, we become privy to company attitudes in these situations. This Arts’ production is exemplary. Tyro director Greg Scurr certainly earns his stripes here. James Fitzgerald, in his finest performance so far, brings charisma and compassion to Colin, “the man”. His enigma: How far can you compromise your integrity to protect the company’s reputation? The workers’ relationships in the isolated, lonely site are put under the microscope: Meredith Downes (Truckie, the supply officer), Pedro Ramos (Chilli – a genuine Latino playing an Argentino canteen manager), Stewart Kirkland (Gus, responsible for health and safety of the workers), Mark Tinsley and Cameron Hurry (Taipan and Rube respectively, construction workers on the project). All create genuine rough and rugged characters. One of this year’s finest plays! Jay McKee

God Of Carnage By Yasmina Reza. Directed by Justin Stephens. The Bakery. 1812 Theatre. Oct 9 – Nov 2. YASMINA Reza’s hit play examines what happens when politeness and niceties are dropped and truth takes over. Annette (Rhiannon Leach) and Alan (Stephen Shinkfield) have come to the home of Veronica (Angela Glennie) and Michael (Adrian Carr) to formally apologise for their son hitting Veronica and Michael’s son with a stick, causing damage to two of his teeth. As the controlled hysteria gives way to unbridled histrionics, we discover the truth about the relationships of both couples. Designer Merinda Backway and her crew have created a fabulous set and director Stephens’ blocking is marvelous, using every inch of available space. So versatile is Adrian Carr that he must surely be at the top of every community theatre wish list. He makes Michael a thoroughly rounded three-dimensional character with faults and foibles and a jaded acceptance of his wife’s pretensions. Angela Glennie is his equal. Her neurotic reaction to the situation is deliciously on target. Rhiannon Leach and Stephen Shinkfield hold their own in this illustrious company, but lack the charisma and command of Carr and Glennie. This is another feather in 1812’s cap, and bound to figure in Community Theatre Awards. The residents in The Ranges are very lucky – but if you’re closer to town, make the trip. It’s well worth it. Coral Drouyn

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Stage Whispers 85

The Lady in The Van By Alan Bennett. The Stirling Players (SA). The Stirling Community Theatre. Oct 4 - 19. THE Stirling Players have continued their reputation for staging quirky and challenging plays with Alan Bennett’s funny yet poignant work The Lady in The Van, based on the playwright’s own real-life experience. In the 1970’s Bennett allowed an elderly itinerant woman to park her smelly, live-in van in his driveway. Little did he know he had started a turbulent fifteen-year relationship with the mysterious and cantankerous Miss Shepherd. Director Dave Simms includes delightful and surprising elements in this production, including mirroring the episodic story in the set design. The play starts with only a writer’s desk and introduces the driveway and garden like a pop-up picture book as the narrative unfolds. Lee Cook is a stand-out as Alan Bennett 1, the young writer struggling in the ‘real life’ present to deal with the conflicting dilemmas of Miss Bennett’s all-consuming needs and those of his own demented mother. Tim Edhouse provides a strong contrast as the insightful and verbose Alan Bennett 2, who has the benefit of hindsight in narrating the story. With a fine sense of comic timing and control, Jill Morrell embodies the imperious, pious and irascible Miss Shepherd. Her dignity hints at the possible well-bred background of this mysterious woman. Although at times I wanted the irascible side of Miss Shepherd’s nature to be more strongly portrayed, Morrell’s performance on opening night was excellent, particularly the poignant monologue in which Miss Shepherd reminisced about her thwarted dreams as a concert pianist. Lesley Reed

try to make sense of life at the desolate bottom of the empty swimming pool. It is absurdity at its best. Branden Christine as Penelope is well cast as the inaccessible prize. The sound design by Daryl Wallis is the sixth cast member and it too is fabulous - taking the audience on a rollicking good time, through to pathos and suspense and back again. Penelope is real, in your face, wonderful theatre. Whitney Fitzsimmons

He Died with a Felafel in His Hand Adapted from John Birmingham’s book by Simon Bedak, Steve le Marquand and Michael Neaylon. Act/React. Visy Theatre, Brisbane Powerhouse. Oct 1 – 5. STAGE adaptations of this cult book are still as rambunctious and rebellious as the original. Based on his share-house experiences as a struggling journalist in the late 1980s, John Birmingham (JB) wrote his book a decade later. Felafel is not everyone’s entertainment. Even the slim programme’s cover carries the disclaimer “There will be coarse language and adult themes, but hopefully that’s why you bought the ticket”. Truth is, the full house audience on opening night was expecting to be reacquainted with signature moments from the book and weren’t disappointed. Shaun King has established a reputation as the definitive JB/narrator. He allows us to recall times growing up when we kicked over the traces to explore boundaries and met memorable characters in the process. All other actors in this cast worked as a tight ensemble, each creating multiple easily-recognised characters: grotesques, obsessives, amorals, drug and alcohol experimenters, spaced-out or wasted cohabitants – and the police or Centrelink investigators who arrived occasionally Penelope to follow up suspicions or complaints. Hilarious! By Enda Walsh. Siren Theatre Company. Director: Kate Gaul. Director Natalie Bochenski encouraged her well-chosen Tap Gallery Theatre (NSW). Sep 12 – Oct 6. cast to improvise so we have some satirical sideswipes at SIREN Theatre Company’s Penelope is an incredibly the current change of government also. My only quibble: fresh, energetic and perfectly realised piece of theatre. were we in late twentieth century Australia or today? It Based on the last chapter of Homer’s The Odyssey, doesn’t really matter; the nostalgia of growing up even in Walsh’s script is full of poetry, tragedy, vaudevillian slapstick different generations is the buzz this show leaves us with. comedy and what can only be seen as the downright futility Jay McKee of life. One of the most striking elements is the way that Gaul Holy Day and co-designer Tom Bannerman have interpreted the Tap By Andrew Bovell. University of Adelaide Theatre Guild. The Gallery Theatre. This challenging space has been completely Little Theatre, University of Adelaide. Oct 5 -19. transformed into another world - which in this case is an BRUTAL. Raw. Brilliant. Just when it seemed the empty swimming pool. This space is the perfect choice for University of Adelaide Theatre Guild couldn’t possibly do such a show because the audience is a part of it rather than better than its production of Richard 111, the Guild’s Holy being spectators. It feels a bit like an environmental piece of Day comes very close to matching it in excellence. theatre (and I’m not talking climate change - look it up if Andrew Bovell sets Holy Day in the bleak and soulyou have to). destroying edge of white settlement in 1850’s outback The cast is simply spectacular. The four men played by Australia and in directing this confronting story of secrets Nicolas Hope, Thomas Campbell, Philip Dodd and Arky John Graham has not shrunk from including graphic Michael are a ragged bunch of loons thrown together depiction of the worst aspects of human nature. through circumstance and slowly being driven crazy by the Brant Eustice is riveting as the brutal and murderous heavily looming prospect of death. We see them act like convict, Nathaniel Goundry. He maintains a sense of clowns, poets and gods. They kick, scream and cry as they menace throughout and is totally believable in his depiction 86 Stage Whispers November - December 2013

of a violent, controlling man driven by cruelty while responding only to base needs. Cate Rogers, as the Irish prostitute Nora Ryan, is equally effective as a woman who has developed a risky way of surviving in her own harsh world. Carissa Lee embodies Nora’s ‘daughter’, Obedience. Her depiction of a girl lost between two harsh worlds is heartbreaking. In his first dramatic role, Matt Houston brings a raw honesty to the younger convict, Samuel Epstein. Robert Bell employs body language to great effect in his role as the mute boy, Edward Cornelius, graphically depicting his shocking and powerless existence. As Elizabeth Wilkes, the missionary’s wife, Fiona Lardner successfully portrays the emotional detachment her traumatized character suffers. However, she could add more light and shade to her delivery. NormaJeane Ohlsson’s set, Lisa Lukacs’ costumes, Paul Tossell’s sound design and Richard Parkhill’s lighting are superb. Lesley Reed The Burlesque Effect By Wayne Tunks. Javeenbah Theatre Company, Gold Coast. Director: Gillian Crowe. Sep 27 – Oct 8. SET in the bustling city of Sydney, emerging from the shadow of the World War II, The Burlesque Effect centres on the lives and loves of the exotic dancers of the Scarlett Lounge and their customers. In bringing this piece to the stage, director Gillian Crowe and choreographer Tess Burke capture the atmosphere of the art of burlesque (striptease). Leading her brood of strippers as the club owner and featured divester of clothing is Fleur, played with flair by Tracey Lord, boldly supported by Honey, Kate Boladian; Eva, Pia Bimbi; Lizzy, Gai Byrne and Junice, Annie Crestani, with Denis Watkins as the flamboyantly gay M.C. Thomas. The highlight of the show is undoubtedly the Burlesque costumes, ranging from sequined sheathes to sparkling corsets with feathered headgear and beaded g-strings and pasties, which are discarded with finesse. The small stage at Javeenbah was cramped, with multiple scenes permanently set. The lighting complemented the mood of the play. Roger McKenzie God of Carnage By Yasmina Reza. Director: Lynne Devenish. Garrick Theatre, Guildford WA. Aug 23 - Sep 14. GOD of Carnage opens abruptly as would be expected in what was designed to be a one-act play. We meet Veronique and Michel Vallon and Annette and Alain Reille who are meeting (ostensibly in a calm and civilised way) to discuss an altercation between their sons. The Vallons’ home was simple and elegant and the small touches that alluded to Veronique's interests were well selected. Simple but appropriate choices were made with other design elements including costumes, lighting and sound.

Christopher Hampton’s good translation of Yasmina Reza's script noticeably retains its French origin. Its Parisian setting is prominent both from within the script and in the style of this production. It is a pleasant change from our English language dominated fare and adds emphasis to the universal nature of God of Carnage's theme. Sherryl Spencer delivered an excellent performance in the role of idealistic Veronique. She worked beautifully with onstage husband Jarrod Buttery, playing very effectively outside type, whose top-notch comic timing meant he was a worthy foil. Anna Head felt very French as Annette, in a strong, impressive performance, while Dean McAskil's polished performance as work-obsessed lawyer Alain belied his shortened rehearsal period. This well-balanced cast kept the action and pace swift. This was a tight performance, comfortable to watch, despite confronting subject matter. Kimberley Shaw Calendar Girls By Tim Firth. Epicentre Theatre Company. Zenith Theatre Chatswood, NSW. Oct 11 – 19. CROSSING boundaries for friendship and stepping way outside their comfort zones, a group of women from the usually sedate Women’s Institute pose for a nude calendar to raise funds for a sofa in a cancer ward after the death of one of their husbands from Leukaemia. Based on a real-life story, the joy of Calendar Girls is the gentle true-to-life humour, mingled with credible human tragedy, when, as is the case in Epicentre’s production, a delightful ensemble of women have clearly found a chemistry and rapport during rehearsals which overflows into the production, ensuring the friendships, banter and camaraderie of the script are equally genuine, supportive, natural and palpable in performance. This cast carries off the various characters’ embarrassments, personal quirks and misgivings associated with getting their gear off with absolute aplomb, while never betraying any personal embarrassment, and it’s all executed with the utmost taste, and clever manipulation of props. Good supporting performances, too, from the cast members who keep their clothes on, notably the WI President and the dying husband, very believable as his disease progresses. The single setting splendidly evokes a country church hall. Enjoyable community theatre, warmly recommended. Neil Litchfield The Peach Season By Debra Oswald. Castle Hill Players (NSW). Pavilion Theatre. Sept 27 – Oct 19. THIS play by Debra Oswald is about family ties, teenage rebellion, young love and sibling responsibility. Guiding the audience through the turmoil of this particular ‘peach season’ is Hungarian-born grandmother, Dorothy. This role, part narrator, part nurturer, part Stage Whispers 87

Eryn Jean Norvill and Dylan Young in Sydney Theatre Company’s Romeo and Juliet. Photo: Lisa Tomasetti.

counselor is played by Jan Mahoney, who engages the audience with wry humour and wise homilies. Anna Kourouvale plays widowed Celia, a struggling orchard owner who carries the double burden of provider and parent that is the lot of single parents. Hannah Montgomery plays her sulky, rebellious daughter, Zoe. It is a demanding role for an inexperienced performer and Montgomery is working hard to find all the nuances of the character. She is at her best in her tenuous relationship with blowin fruit picker Kieran, played with charming effervescence by Julian Floriano. His depiction of Kieran is engaging and natural and brings a lift to the production. Kieran’s hard, but protective, sister, Sheena is played by Amy Crilley. Sheena is reluctant and uncomfortable in the role of carer, and Crilley shows this with prickly resentfulness and brittle self-control. Joe, Dorothy’s son, played by Brendan Iddles, is a sort of ‘father confessor’ who has his own relationship problem. Eventually these six characters find some personal stability – and reassure the audience of the importance of familial understanding and love. Carol Wimmer

around shopping trolleys of alcohol. Aided by contemporary rock music the fast paced action is engaging. The opening of the season was delayed when the stage revolve played up during rehearsals, and it’s not difficult to see why. In the first act, the set moves round at such a rapid pace that at times a brisk jog is needed to keep up. Despite the contemporary set, Director Kip Williams initially stays close to the script, save for deleting the Montagues (Romeo’s parents ) because he found them so similar to the Capulets ( Juliet’s family) and inserting the odd Shakespearean sonnet. Complementing the vivid landscape were some powerful acting performances. Dylan Young as Romeo and Eryn Jean Norvill as Juliet were captivating. There was spark, there was passion and an understanding about why these two star-crossed teenagers, both beautiful and able to match each other in wit and wisdom, would fall hopelessly in love. In the balcony scene Juliet glowed in the soft light and a gentle moving curtain. Other stand-outs were Eamon Farren who played Mercutio as an out of control punk rock star and Julie Forsyth, hysterical as the Nurse. In the second act, the courting stops and the killing Romeo and Juliet starts, so a change in mood is required. However the By William Shakespeare. Sydney Theatre Company. Director: starkness of the set was, for my liking, a little too bleak. Kip Williams. Designer: David Fleischer. Drama Theatre, And the temptation to alter the script proved too much. Sydney Opera House. Sep 20 to Nov 2. Was there really a need to alter the final scene? THIS classic is set in a contemporary mansion, where David Spicer children of the filthy rich swing from chandeliers and push 88 Stage Whispers

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Calendar Girls By Tim Firth. Players Theatre, Ballina (NSW). Director: Fran Legge. Sep 13 – 28. CALENDAR Girls is an insight into the lives of people dealing with Leukaemia and Fran Legge’s production presented the audience with a light-hearted yet thoughtprovoking experience. The strong cast included Celia, Jamie Whittingham; Chris, Di Ennew; Annie, Vicky King; Ruth, Veronica Lovejoy; Cora, Lee Millward and Jessie, Diana Mason, as the staunch members of the Women’s Institute under the strict guidance of the President Melanie Doriean. The supporting cast with their cameo performances added to the quality of the production. Special mention must be made of the piano playing: mimed onstage by Cora and played offstage by Ballina stalwart and resident pianist Marie Caldwell. The costumes (when not removed for hiding behind jam jars, cup cakes or floral arrangements) were suited to the period. The set was well conceived and constructed, making the several scene changes streamlined and not a distraction (as can sometimes happen in community theatre). Once again, congratulations to Ballina Players on another enjoyable production. Roger McKenzie Cosi By Louis Nowra. Mousetrap Theatre, Redcliffe, Qld. Oct 4 – 19. LOUIS Nowra’s play set in a mental health institution where the social worker decides to offer the patients a drama experience can be interpreted with light and shade, displaying dysfunctional behaviour from clients and outsiders, and potentially delicate moments as characters reveal their deeply troubled backgrounds. Director Sandra Hines glosses over these to present a rip -roaring farce with sharp comic timing that clearly reveals Nowra’s comedic dexterity. The audience loved it. Individual character movement was rich and detailed, including Ruth’s desperately fussy numbering of paces across the acting space; the lovelorn Cherry stuffing sandwiches in Lewis’ face at every opportunity; Roy, the insensitive but soulful opera buff who delivered his lines a precisely chosen shade too loud for normality; the fraught and repressed Henry who finally blossoms; the wild-eyed pyromaniac Doug; and the drug addled, dubiously qualified pianist Zac. The more subtle natural performances of the director Lewis, his girlfriend Lucy, sophisticated Julie, morally bankrupt activist Nick, and social worker Justine provided a well balanced contrast to the quirky patients, and their startled and frustrated reactions to the often bizarre behaviour worked in tandem to reap the laughs which came frequently throughout the play. With uniformly excellent performances, a set that suggested a larger space than they had, and creatively shonky “opera” costumes, it is a highly successful production and heaps of fun. Sabina Head

The 39 Steps Adapted by Patrick Barlow from the novel by John Buchan and Alfred Hitchcock’s The 39 Steps. Director: Terence O’Connell. Hit Productions. The Q, Queanbeyan. Oct 8 - 12 and touring. IF you’re partial to noir thrillers and like your humour hammy, you’ll enjoy The 39 Steps. Based on Alfred Hitchcock’s 1935 classic thriller, this adaptation is a top class piss-take. Mike Smith gets to show off his dashing strut and pencil moustache flaunting skills as hero Richard Hannay, while Anna Burgess hams the bejesus out of three femmes fatale, using wigs, gorgeous makeup and overacting to perfection to distinguish mysterious foreigner Annabella, unworldly Scottish Pamela and ditzy Margaret. The rest of the dozens of characters are split between Sam Haft and Michael Lindner. They switch between their characters with lightning onstage costume and prop changes with faultless co-ordination and timing. My companion and I had great fun, but felt the energy flagged occasionally. Maybe it was just an anomaly on the night we saw it, but perhaps it was the decision to have Richard Hannay as the straight man? I would have liked to see how it worked with Hannay played with more of an exaggerated deadly earnestness. That said, it's definitely guffaw material. Cathy Bannister Hay Fever By Noël Coward. New Theatre. Oct 8 – Nov 2. NOËL Coward requires the lightest of touches. The truth needs slow heating to create a bouncy soufflé, a gossamer of society and manners, which amuses as much as it disguises. Hay Fever takes us to the country home of the bohemian and self-absorbed Bliss family – a retired actress of uncertain age, her remote novelist husband and their two myopic children. Four incongruous houseguests have been invited, and after drinks and cruel party games all are unhappily swept up in the family’s theatrical indulgences. All this is very funny which is a credit to the endurance of Coward. It has little to do with the loads of shouting and mugging with which this cast threatens to flatten his soufflé. With little relish for Coward’s fine timing and rhythms, Rosanne McNamara’s production provokes little curiosity as to what may lurk beneath the gossamer namely, why these folk are so addicted to the charades of life and romance. It’s certainly transparent with Judith Bliss, whose theatrical desperation to create drama from nothing is given full rein and wit by Alice Livingstone. As her children, David Halgren and Jorja Brain shout to match her high camp register but without investing much truth. The cast is nicely costumed as jazz age flappers but the set is strangely tawdry and without the New’s usual detail and effect. Martin Portus

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East of Berlin By Hannah Moscovitch. Bakehouse Theatre Company. Director: Peter Green. Bakehouse Theatre, Adelaide. Sep 7 – 21. IF you were a child of a Nazi war criminal, how would you navigate through your life? Canadian playwright Hannah Moscovitch has been inspired by books of testimonies from children of Nazi war criminals and in East of Berlin, Bakehouse Theatre Company has undertaken the production of a confronting yet compelling story. Rudi, played by Adam Carter, recounts the past in a series of flashbacks laced with dark humour. His life has been in upheaval since he discovered his father had been an SS doctor at Auschwitz conducting medical experiments. Rudi falls in love with Sarah, played by Clare Mansfield. Sarah is a New York Jew with a past that complicates Rudi’s struggle to deal with his own history, one that was never his own. Their story is one entangled with emotional baggage, secrets and lies. Director Peter Green has a brilliantly chosen cast. The performances are excellent from the trio of actors, who also include Tom Cornwall as Herman, Rudi’s friend. Adam Carter brings out Rudi’s inner conflict beautifully and the flashbacks with Clare Mansfield, as Sarah, are riveting to watch. This is a tale with plenty of emotional hold, making it a show worth seeing. Sharon Malujlo

East of Berlin

Heart Thy Neighbour By Camilla Maxwell. ReAction Theatre. Melbourne Fringe Festival. Director: Louise Howlett. Sept 18 – 27. IN a suburban back yard neighbours catch up over a barbeque and a few drinks, and a few more drinks, and we witness the effects of too much alcohol on a neighbourhood feud. The premise of this show was promising but the execution was a disappointment. The cast seemed word perfect but the performances were patchy, one minute being gross stereotypes (domineering wife, henpecked husband), then deeply introspective (sulking henpecked husband). There was little room for character development as the relationships and prejudices were laid out in the first scene and confirmed in the subsequent action. The performers worked generally in the upstage half of a relatively small space which contained a couple of ubiquitous green plastic garden chairs, some dead plants and a barbeque. There was some awkward staging which could be helped by moving the barbeque downstage. Lighting was standard “Festival Rig” – a couple of lights either side on push up stands FOH, and the plot consisted of on or off. There was music playing during the scene changes but the songs seemed to have little relevance to the action, apart from the repeated use of Edwin Starr’s “War”. Shirley Jensen 90 Stage Whispers

The Glass Menagerie By Tennessee Williams. Gold Coast Little Theatre, Southport (Qld). Director: Noella Johnson. Sep 7 – 28. SET in St Louis in the 1930s, The Glass Menagerie is a classic from the pen of Tennessee Williams, reminiscent of his own upbringing. A small cast of four worked hard to create the dysfunctional family and the Gentleman Caller on a minimalist set with sombre overtones. As the ever-meddling mother Laney McLean gave a wellcrafted performance, endeavouring to orchestrate the lives of her children, mildly disabled daughter Chantelle Wright and rebellious son Sasha Cuha. The well-mannered Gentleman Caller was perfectly portrayed by James Fitchett. Director Noella Johnson chose a “scenery-less” stage dressed with an assortment of items of furniture, and effective lighting plot to stress the “poor” status of the Wingfield family with great effect. The first act seemed a little laboured as the characters and background were established but the humour of the second act and the introduction of the Gentleman Caller more than made up for the slow start. Roger McKenzie

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La Traviata By Giuseppe Verdi. Melbourne Opera. Director: Suzanne Chaundy. Musical Director: Greg Hocking. Athenaeum Theatre. September 11 – 22, 2013 I WAS unable to attend the opening night of La Traviata but I was very happy to meet the second cast. The revelation of the night was young Sam Sakker. He has developed nicely since I last heard him and his voice was thrilling, though also capable of some lovely Iphigénie enTauride pianissimo moments. He looked suitably gauche in the first By Gluck. Lyric Opera of Melbourne. Chapel off Chapel. act and will develop more passion for the later acts as he Director: Nathan Gilkes. Conductor: Pat Miller. Sep 2 – 7. gains experience. LYRIC Opera of Melbourne continues to lead the way As his Violetta, Kerry Gill was a bit light in the first act – with innovative productions of forgotten operas. I had she had a cold – but improved as she went along, and never encountered this Gluck masterpiece, but was blown “Addio del Passato” in the last act was magical. She was away by the drama and the beauty and strength of the totally immersed in the role and absolutely convincing. music. Baritone Manfred Pohlenz was a disappointment. He However, it was the exciting production which I will has a big powerful voice, but did not sing as well as I’ve remember. heard him, probably because he wasn’t musically secure. As we entered the theatre the corridor was lined by The production was interesting, with the stage framed ensemble members in ghoulish makeup and strange poses. by skewed picture frames. A scrim featuring two hands on They retained these poses throughout the opera, which a bed of camellias was used effectively at the start of the gave it a zombie-like feel. Following the audience in, then different scenes. The small stage was a handicap in the standing across the front of the stage, on cue they tore gambling scene when the two dancers had little room to down the clear plastic sheeting hanging from the ceiling. move. The chorus sounded good, but probably didn’t need Chapel off Chapel is just a flat space with raked seating, to be so strong in that venue. but a stage had been built around the sides of the area The orchestra generally played well, but there were a with the orchestra on the floor in the middle. It worked very few times when they weren’t in synch with the singers. well and kept the singers in close contact with the If the first cast does as well as this, it will be a very conductor. successful season. The title role is a tour de force, and mezzo Caroline Graham Ford Vercoe more than matched the dramatic and vocal challenges. On stage for most of the night, she never tired and continued to produce a full lovely tone. Revelation of the evening was baritone Michael Lampard, who recently relocated from Tasmania. I have heard him in concert, but this did not prepare me for the power of voice and presence he brought to the operatic stage in the role of Orestes. As his servant Pylades, Paul Biencourt’s light tenor rang out confidently and was not overwhelmed. The lighting was effective and the costuming military for the males and simple white for the females. The ensemble Get noticed on the Stage Whispers was totally involved with the action and it made for a powerful night at the theatre. website with a premium listing Graham Ford

Reviews: Opera

Iphigénie enTauride

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Reviews: Youth

an affinity with theatrical spaces. And director Ann Croger made excellent use of the teenage actors in the barn. Those playing the members of farming families certainly looked like they had come from the adjoining fields and animal enclosures. At the same time, the humanised sheep, ducks, cats and other creatures brought together a fairy-tale appearance and the movements associated with their species, so that they were appropriately in place. The barn facilities were used well, with a rope near an entrance repeatedly and amusingly tripping scrounging rat Templeton. It was certainly a farm experience to relish. Ken Longworth

Malthouse Theatre’s Hard Rubbish. Photo: Jeff Busby.

Hard Rubbish Original Concept by Men of Steel. Presented by Malthouse Theatre, Strut & Fret and Men of Steel. Becket Theatre, Malthouse. Sep 12 – Oct 6. WILD and woolly holiday entertainment for the whole family – anybody? Hard Rubbish could just hit the mark. But a small warning - the mark could be you if you are sitting close to the front. There is crossfire of toilet rolls and other fairly soft objects, as part of the raucous fun in the ‘liminal space’ of theatre for kids. Risqué and pretty ‘out there’, Hard Rubbish delves into that pull-everything-apart, smash and shatter urge that kids have. And on that level it ‘lets rip’ and is hugely satisfying. Puppeteers bring a number of household objects to surprising life and what could be inane turns to an effecting ‘touch and go’ battle between goodness and meanness. The sixty minutes is full and eventful and contains moments of surprising depth and pathos. The overall outcome is a celebration of the joy of theatre and the fantastic legacy of puppeteering that Melbourne has – from Handspan to Pollyglot to Men of Steel. Suzanne Sandow Charlotte’s Web By Joseph Robinette, from E.B. White’s novel. Upstage Youth Theatre. Blacket Barn, Tocal Homestead, Paterson. Sept 23-28. THIS staging of Charlotte’s Web in a real barn had a magic that ensured the popular children’s story came very much alive. Theatre productions invariably make an engaging place of the barn that is home to spider Charlotte and the small pig, Wilbur, she saves from slaughter through the messages she spins in her web. But sitting on a hay bale in a rural barn while a rooster crows nearby and a brisk wind blows outside, occasionally sending pieces of straw sweeping past the actors, adds to the reality of the tale. The barn, designed by 19th century architect Edmund Blacket and built in 1867, has elegant roof trusses, giving it 92 Stage Whispers

The (very) sad fish lady By Joy McDonald. World Premiere. The Street Theatre, Canberra. Sep 28 to Oct 5. THIS fantastical tale of migration and magic is suitable for all ages. Children will be delighted with the puppeteers Ruth Pieloor and James Scott, their amusing voices, and the almost magical way they can connect with the audience. Adults will enjoy the gentle tale (with a twist in the tail) and all will find something admirable in the music composed by David Pereira. The tale is set on an island in the Mediterranean, which has a rock nearby upon which an old lady lives. The old lady’s family have migrated to Canberra and she wishes with all her heart that she could be with them again. She kindly helps locals with their problems with her skills in coffee grounds reading, but could anyone grant her the wish she keeps in her heart? The design by Imogen Keen and Hilary Talbot is beautifully realized in a small space, with a versatile white rock, lit-up rocks from the island to the big rock where the old lady lives, and more. The puppeteers are amusing, agile, and hold the audience in the palm of their hands. The show features shadow figures, animation, drawing on a screen and marionettes. A book with illustrations is also available. Rachel McGrath-Kerr Scent Tales By Joanne Foley, Georgia King, Mischance Ipp, Rhoda Lopez, Corinne Davis and Alexis Davis. Directed by Joanne Foley. CircuitWest and Little Y Company. Kalamunda Performing Arts Centre. WA. Oct 7. THIS beautiful, gentle, piece of family theatre is touring regional Western Australia until mid November and is well worth seeking out and seeing. A fairy-tale of sorts, it has a genuine appeal to all ages and uses beautiful bakery smells to enhance the theatrical experience. Narrated by Schmooey (Georgia King), a child-woman who is eminently likeable, we follow the story of sisters Bea

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(Rhoda Lopez) and Sanji (Jo Morris) as they move through jealousy and distrust to a loving relationship. A highly collaborative piece, this sharing of experience also translates into the performers' relationship with the audience and a feeling of genuine shared experience continues after the play as the audience are asked to share the 'love bread' that is integral to the plot. Audience are given the recipe and encouraged to share the experience even further. As well as feeling and smelling gorgeous, the play looks beautiful (Monique Wajon delivers a pretty, warm looking design) and sounds lovely, with singing from Rhoda Lopez. A play that you should share with family, whether it be children, siblings, parents or grand-parents, Scent Tales is a wonderful feel-good experience. Kimberley Shaw Storytime in the Hills Directed by Nicole George. Roleystone Theatre, WA. Oct 912. ROLEYSTONE Theatre opened its doors to its tiniest patrons with school holiday matinees catering to preschoolers and younger primary school students.

In what must have been a relief to holiday-weary parents, the theatre presented two musical plays for a nominal $5 charge and even provided a healthy morning or afternoon tea at interval. Kyle's Rainbow Day showed how it is OK to be yourself. Brad Towton was delightful as a little boy who wears a pink shirt to school on rainbow day, and although his singing wasn't strong, he won the audience with his charming performance. With a mix of adults and tiny-tots in the cast, I would love to have seen more of the little ones such as Ava Brady and Cameron Ramsell who worked hard as fellow students. Caramel's Sweet Tooth also used both adults and children and had a strong teaching line; in this case, a healthy eating message. The use of more audience participation made this show even more fun and the animated performances of the cast, especially Caramel (Stephanie Lewendon-Lowe) and the Toy Doctor (Bree Hartley) added to the celebratory feel. For many in the audience, this would have been their first theatrical experience. Well done Roleystone for creating an affordable, positive theatrical introduction. Kimberley Shaw

Reviews: Circus Papillon Wonderland Spiegeltent, Harbour Town, Docklands for Melbourne Fringe Festival. Oct 1 – 5. ARRIVING at the Wonderland Spiegeltent in Melbourne’s Docklands was like discovering some kind of magical oasis – appearing, beautifully illuminated, from behind a maze of construction hoardings. Idris Stanton’s MC was in complete control of the capacity audience. His balancing act involving eggs and wine glasses and a six-plate spinning routine was fantastic. Vincent van Berkel’s hand balancing routine (dressed in overalls) was an undeniably sexy and accomplished highlight – a perfect amalgam of Poor Circus and Magic Mike. Joshua Phillips makes scampering up and down a freestanding ladder look a good deal easier than it is, and his balancing on top of it won gasps of astonishment. Elena Kirschbaum and Amy Nightingale-Olsen’s acrobatic pas des deux was exceptional. Kirschbaum’s ‘glass walk’ across broken bottles was a terrifyingly good trick. Minni Andrews revealed a beautiful singing voice, even if her phrasing was short, and her character needs further development to effectively take her place within a circus ensemble. The finale of this indefatigably cheerful and sexy circus vaudeville, featuring van Berkel and Phillips’ spectacular acrobatics, ensured we left entirely satisfied with the level of resourcefulness, talent and skill – the tools of the trade for fabulous, self-produced ensembles like this one. Geoffrey Williams

Urban Circolombia / Brisbane Festival. Courier-Mail Piazza. Sept 13 – 27. HALFWAY through this all-Columbian quasi-circus production presented by a selection of street-life characters fit for the boxing or wrestling arena, one cast member recounted somewhat poetically his progression from an existence of hard labour and poverty in Cali city's infamous 13:13 suburb to life as a travelling performer. This, along with a triple-screen background of moving pictures, evoked a vivid impression of the show's cultural roots. The acrobatics we've seen before, but not presented in this idiom: this was unpretentious, raw energy and muscle with some breath-taking tight-rope, rope swinging, see-saw, hoop and trapeze antics. There was a brief brush with an amusing clown-like compere and some audience participation but mainly the show was a muddled combination of acts thrown in a pot, steamed up and served unashamedly along with a side dish of reggaeton and Latin hip-hop. Though in contrast to the sophistication and finesse of a Cirque du Soleil, Urban still had the audience gasping, clapping and cheering and one couldn't help thinking what a great vehicle this is for these people from a city of joy and violence where dance and music are the safety valves of everyday life. The second last act featured a single performer walking a tightrope on a sharp angle from bottom to top in absolute silence. A worthy expression of an evening of perseverance and achievement fit for all the family. Brian Adamson

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Stage Whispers 93

Grease. Credit: Lightbox Photography.

Reviews: Musicals Grease Book, Music & Lyrics: Jim Jacobs & Warren Casey. Additional songs: Barry Gibb, John Farrar, Louis St. Louis and Scott Simon. John Frost / David Ian. Director: David Gilmore. Musical Director: Stephen Amos. Choreography: Arlene Phillips. Lyric Theatre, Brisbane from Aug 25. Lyric Theatre, Sydney from Oct 13. Her Majesty’s Theatre, Melbourne from Jan 2, 2014. THIS was the best production of Grease I have ever seen - fast, funny and massively entertaining. David Gilmore’s direction, based on his long-running West End revival satisfied on every level. As head greaser Danny, Rob Mills was likeable, sang and danced well and handled his comic business with skill, likewise Gretel Scarlett as the virginal Sandy who delivered a pleasing Hopelessly devoted to you. In the best written role, Lucy Maunder as Rizzo never missed a bitchy remark and made There are worse things I could do one of the best musical moments. Stephen Mahy found humor in Kenickie and impressed big-time on Greased Lightnin’. Casting the cameo roles with personalities has become a Grease tradition. Pint-sized Anthony Callea (Johnny Casino) sang the heart out of Born to Hand Jive, Todd McKenney was a fun Teen Angel and even managed to send-up his stints in The Boy From Oz and Dancing With the Stars during his Beauty School Dropout song, while old-stager Bert Newton was totally at home and an audience favourite as disc jockey Vince Fontaine. The hard-working ensemble never missed a beat with the title song, Greased Lightnin’, We Go Together and 94 Stage Whispers

You’re the One That I Want bringing thunderous applause. Peter Pinne The Pirates of Penzance Music: Arthur Sullivan. Libretto: W.S. Gilbert. Savoyards Production, Iona Performing Arts Centre, Wynnum, Qld. Director: Alex Raymond. Musical Director: Geoff Secomb. Sept 28 – Oct 12. W.S. GILBERT’s felicitous wordplay was sparkling in Savoyards production of The Pirates of Penzance. His verbal wit is half the fun of any G&S comic opera and this company did him proud. Using the 1980 Broadway adaptation of the work, a cast top-heavy with professional experience delivered a fun and effervescent version of this classic piece under Alex Raymond’s direction. Andrew Dark was suitably swashbuckling as The Pirate King and sang with assurance and vigour. Cathi Brown’s sweet and lilting soprano was perfect for Mabel, scoring with “Poor Wandering One” and “Sorry Her Lot” (interpolated from H.M.S. Pinafore), and Angela Clarke with her broad Aussie accent made a meal of Ruth. Warryn James was delightful as the Major-General and excelled in his patter songs, whilst Ben Webb made the Sergeant of Police amusingly balletic. The costumes looked good, especially the maidens with their hooped skirts and pretty umbrellas, and the choreographic routines were simple but extremely effective including the traditional kick-line for “With Cat-like Tread”. Peter Pinne

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Warryn James as Major General Stanley in Savoyards' The Pirates of Penzance.

The Phantom of the Opera Music by Andrew Lloyd Webber. Lyrics by Charles Hart and Richard Stilgoe. Book by Stilgoe and Lloyd Webber. Metropolitan Players. Civic Theatre, Newcastle. Aug 28 – Sept 7. ANDREW Lloyd Webber’s musical about a scarred genius’s love for a young opera singer received splendid treatment in this production. It was far superior to the work’s first professional Australian production that I saw in the 1990s. The production team used the classic design of Newcastle’s Civic Theatre auditorium to make those watching feel part of a Paris Opera House audience in 1881. Director Julie Black kept the story riveting from beginning to end, with brisk changes in setting, as the action moved, for example, from a ballet scene on the opera house stage interrupted by a shock incident, to a rooftop meeting between singer Christine (Caitlin Rose Harris) and suitor Raoul (Daniel Stoddart) where they declared their love in the delicate All I Ask of You. One of the most magical sequences had Christine seeing the Phantom (Chris Maxfield) as a moving and continually changing image in a mirror in her dressing room in the duet Angel of Music before he appeared and took her on a breathtaking journey through the caverns and streams beneath the opera house to his lair. The magic peaked in a costume ball sequence, where the garments, masks and wigs worn by the large ensemble

in the number Masquerade set the scene for the sudden appearance of the Phantom at the top of a long staircase. Theatre is rarely as spellbinding as it was in this moment. Ken Longworth The Phantom of the Opera Directed by Col Peet. Miranda Musical Society. Sutherland Entertainment Centre. Sep 20 – 29. IT is a thrill to see a musical which is so fiendishly difficult to stage produced with such panache by a community theatre for the first time in Sydney. Miranda Musical Society had the additional challenge of staging the work in a venue without a fly tower, which limited the famous chandeliers to a hoist, and being forced to house the large orchestra in part of the foyer. Director Col Peet and his partner in set/prop construction, big brother Bob Peet, were the stars of the night. Most striking were the candelabras they built and the entrance of the Phantom with Christine on a boat earned a well-deserved ovation. Equally impressive were the gorgeous costumes coordinated by James Worner. He supplied the wigs, leaving a shiny one for himself for his appearance as Maestro Reyer. The dance set pieces also never failed to please. The Phantom was played by the multi- talented local star Gavin Leahy, who nailed every note in this demanding role. Playing Christine on opening night was Tamasin Howard who soared to musical heights. The best personality on stage was April Neho as the tempestuous opera star Carlotta Giudicelli. The strong ensemble was bolstered by regular leading principals of the Sydney community theatre scene. It was fine opening night. David Spicer Curtains By Rupert Holmes, Fred Ebb and John Kander. Playlovers. Director: Kristen Twynam-Perkins. Hackett Hall, Floreat (WA). Sep 13 – 28. THIS well-produced murder mystery delighted its capacity audiences. Gorgeously cast, ensemble and leads were impressive in this production that looked divine. Leading couple Tyler Jones and Claire Taylor were simply delightful and lit up the stage. A strong supporting cast included the charming Therese Cruise, the very funny Helen Carey, an earnest Tom Hutton and surprisingly sleazy David Young. David Nelson was in his element as a campy theatre director while Tamara Woolrych made a perfect fifties era ingenue. David Wallace was lovely in his smaller role as the leading man of the show within a show, while Robert Woods played the villain with precision. The ensemble was very strong, with the young gentlemen being particularly precise, executing Tammy Rafferty's imaginative choreography very nicely. Belinda Flindell was at the helm of the music direction. Vocally the show was excellent, but the orchestra, under the baton of Krispin Maesalu was a little uneven.

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Stage Whispers 95

Company. MUSE. Photographer: Daniel Dinh.

Unfortunately sound operation let down the team somewhat, with mikes left live when offstage and some sound balance not up to the standard of the rest of the production. A fun show that deserved its popular acclaim and sellout shows. Kimberley Shaw

To mention just a few, Anna Colless’s susceptible Olive is very emotionally engaging; Lisa-Marie Long’s Logainne is less in-your –face, no less intellectual, and all-the-more vulnerable, while Gabi Kelland plays William Barfée as more socially awkward and less overtly Aspergers. Outside the contestants, Gavin Brown’s comfort counselor Mitch rings remarkably true as a young guy on community service. When all volunteers took a highly unpredictable MUSE Repertory Season approach to the audience participation element, the cast The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee by William thought well on their feet, taking everything in their stride, Finn and Rachel Sheinkin. Company by Stephen Sondheim Natasha Stanton as Rona Lisa Perretti handling the situation and George Furth. King Street Theatre, Newtown. Sep 30 – with aplomb. Oct 10. Spelling Bee is bright, engaging fun; a refreshing new MUSE, the Sydney University Musical Theatre Ensemble, look at a musical of which I’m particularly fond. set themselves the challenging task of a repertory season of After about an hour’s break I was seated again. In front two musicals, pulling it off in terrific style. of me was an attractive, functional setting, featuring a Both The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee and simple representation of a New York skyline and furniture Company receive engaging, intimate ensemble productions, suggesting a couple of interiors. The acting spaces and performed acoustically; both conductors maintain excellent levels serve the production well. balance between performers and compact bands. Company revolved around the strong, engaging pivotal In The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, young performance of Robert Elsley as Bobby. adult students play the off-beat teens in spelling In contrast to Spelling Bee, in a show full of characters competition, just a handful of years younger than aged 30-plus like Company, played by a cast where the oldest performer is 25, minor inconsistencies included the themselves. This is a gentle, empathetic interpretation; it still has actor playing Joanne, far too young for the aging cynicism plenty of fun, yet there’s a lovely camaraderie and a of her role. delightful warmth and naturalness to their individualized interpretations. 96 Stage Whispers

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Fame The Musical. Chatswood Musical Society. Photo: Grant Leslie, Perfect Images.

But this committed cast meld in such strong ensemble work that the age factor rarely becomes a quibble of any consequence. A longstanding Company fan, I happily rank several performances alongside my favourite portrayals of certain roles – Sophie Edmonds’ utterly credible Sarah, with a lessis-more approach to the food fetish; Bronwyn Hicks’ tightly focused, deliciously nuanced and physicalised air hostess April; Melissa McShane’s vivacious, energetic, manic repressed Amy, paired and contrasted with Alexander Andrews’ calm, totally believable Paul. Only occasionally did the production seem a fraction too large for the tiny stage, in a smartly conceptualized, tight clean production. Sondheim’s ground-breaking musical is well-served by this student production. Neil Litchfield

the Performing Arts. Dominated by musical numbers, the script is sparse, but the show is mostly about high-energy, well-drilled dance routines, with choreographer Laura-Beth Wood and a terrific young ensemble cast doing splendidly. Director / Lighting Designer James Wallis has created a tight, well-paced production, enabled by Neil Shotter’s functional scaffolding design. The big challenge is creating character journeys and two performers stand out; Susana Downs as the tragic Carmen and Serena Katz as sincere, exuberant Lauren. Downs has a great voice, also imbuing Carmen with fire, sensuality and attitude. Paul begins the show as a flighty teenager, but blew me away later with the ballad ‘Let’s Play a Love Scene’, finding subtle nuances on the path from endearing hormonal teen to young woman. Stephanie Edmonds’ Iris has the perfect ballerina look and is a very credible outsider; Mike Curtin’s Joe Vegas is a Fame The Musical charming, cheeky reprobate; Isaac Bradley’s Tyrone has the Conceived and Developed by David De Silva. Book by Jose right attitude; Levi Gardner is suitably intense as the musical Fernandez. Lyrics by Jacques Levy. Music by Steve prodigy. Meg Biggs, who gets little more than the attitude of a female drummer to work with, nails it delightfully. Margoshes. Title Song ‘Fame’ by Dean Pitchford and Michael Gore. Chatswood Musical Society. Gillian Moore Highlight of the teacher roles is ‘The Teachers’ Centre for Performing Arts, Pymble Ladies’ College. October Argument’, with Chapin Ayres and Jocelyn O’Brien in fine 2-5, 2013. vocal form in a duel for Broadway Belt voices. VIBRANT youthful energy and smart production values There’s great musical support from Peter Meredith’s meet in this enjoyable production of Fame The Musical, the orchestra, while the sound mix is clean and impressive. story of a group of students at New York’s High School of Neil Litchfield Longer versions of many reviews can now be found at

Stage Whispers 97

Annie By Thomas Meehan, Charles Strouse and Martin Charnin. SQUIDS. Redcliffe Entertainment Centre. Sep 19 – 28. BASED on Harold Gray’s 1930s comic strip featuring the feisty, ever-optimistic eleven-year-old red-haired orphan, Annie gives us an insight into life and politics in New York during the Great Depression. Success of the show therefore rests on the talent of the juvenile lead. Squids cast two teams of eleven orphans who alternate. We saw the White Team with Emily Steel as Annie. Right from her opening number ‘Maybe’ she endeared herself to the audience and carried our support for her plight and eventual good fortune right to the end. Nathanial Currie was an imposing Daddy Warbucks, the ruthless billionaire who adopts Annie. He revealed a convincing soft side in his delivery of ‘I Don’t Need Anything but You’ towards the end. He was ably supported by Donna Woollard (Grace Farrell, his personal secretary). Jason Kirby was a vocally believable President Roosevelt. Deanne Scanlan, as the alcoholic tyrant, Miss Hannigan who runs the orphanage, Matt French, her criminal brother, Rooster, and Jessica Grundy, his side-kick, Lily St Regis, provided rich comedy relief. Their ‘Easy Street’ routine was a winner. Directors Michelle Currie and Sharon Walkerden augmented the cast with an all-singing, all-dancing chorus of twenty-five girls aged from five to teens. This certainly made for robust choruses, in particular ‘It’s a Hard Knock Life’ and ‘Tomorrow’. The cast received enthusiastic acclaim at curtain call. Jay McKee

Costumes feature dropped waistlines, checked vests, gangster hats and feathers galore. John Foreman’s proficient music ensemble remains on stage for the show, alongside the ever-present set. If your musical taste is of the older vein, you’ll certainly love this production. Lucy Graham

Downtown! The Mod Musical Created by Phillip George, David Lowenstein, Peter Charles Morris. St George Theatre Company. Hurstville Entertainment Centre. Sep 5 – 7. THIS is a slick, vibrant production. Highly entertaining. Set in England during the swinging 60s, Downtown! is a revusical using pop hits of the era. With the songs of Dusty Springfield, Petula Clark, and others, we are taken on a fast-paced, brightly coloured tour of the social mores of the time. Our guides are five young women, known only by colour and intentionally given little backstory. There's married housewife Orange (Clare Mack), Paul McCartney fangirl Yellow (Lauren Kenyon), easy girl Green (Lauren Nalty), awkwardly shy Red (Jamie Lee Kemp) and "with it" Blue (Ebony Black). Their common denominator is "Shout" magazine, and the replies given to them by that magazine's agony aunt. The questions and answers are done respectively as monologue and voice-over, with the excellent Michele Lansdown providing the patronising replies. All five girls are talented and come across as likeable. How they manage to dance and negotiate the set in those shoes while still looking classy is beyond me. Singin’ in the Rain Like Hairspray, this revue uses the device of posing as a (Based on the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer film) Screenplay by bright frothy pageant to make serious social commentary. Comden and Green. Songs by Brown and Freed. The The issues these girls faced back then haven't really gone Production Company. Director: Gary Young. Musical away. Director: John Foreman. Costume Designer: Kim Bishop. The production is augmented by a talented all-female State Theatre, Arts Centre Melbourne. Aug 21 – 25. chorus. Elle Zatter's direction is spot on. Craig Nhobbs's MELBOURNE has a healthy appetite for old time chorey captures the spirit of the 60s. Josh Ransom's musical musicals. In a jam-packed State Theatre punters were all direction yields a tight band. Chae Rogan's set and lighting after the same thing - a night of quality entertainment and, design (black Saul Bass lines against bright colours) doesn’t for some, a chance to reminisce. upstage the cast. I do not envy Liam Clifford as sound In a populist move, impressive dance choreography operator, who managed to make the cast clearly heard in a borrows heavily from the film. And why not? Some moves venue that was a cavernous echo chamber. are downright iconic: Rohan Browne (Don Lockwood) This show may not suit all ages, as we see drug taking splashes in puddles, there’s the couch walkover in Good and sexual liberation. Morning, and comic antics in Make Em Laugh. Peter Novakovich Evidently not all patrons were familiar with the film. In Make ‘Em Laugh Matt Lee (Cosmo Brown) stops short of a Carousel wall-climbing somersault, to test the stability of the wall By Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II. Babirra instead. Less than half the audience got the joke. Music Theatre. Director: Chris Bradke. Musical Director: Dance numbers were varied, and wonderfully wrought, Ryan Jacobs. Choreographer: Di Crouch. The Whitehorse particularly those featuring the two leading lads. Centre, Nunawading. Oct 11 – 19. Complementary trio Browne, Lee and Alinta Chidzey (Kathy THERE was much to like about Babirra’s Carousel. The Selden) recollect the original film cast quite wonderfully. opening was impressive with a full size abstract carousel But Christie Whelan-Browne (Lina Lamont) sparkles being erected by Billy Bigelow on the revolving stage with brightest, receiving a resounding ovation after What’s flashing lights and two-dimensional horses. The revolving Wrong With Me? stage occupied most of the stage area and was used quite extensively with great effect. 98 Stage Whispers November - December 2013

Carousel lives and dies by its Billy Bigelow and Andrew Pennycuick was a strong candidate with his beautiful voice, good looks and strong acting. He moved awkwardly, which made Billy look unsure of himself and suited the part. Alexandra Sutherland was a lovely Julie Jordan with a beautiful voice and Lauren McCormack a feisty Carrie Pipperidge. She worked well with Brett O’Meara as Enoch Snow. Felicity Eastwood played a sympathetic Nettie and made “You’ll Never Walk Alone” the highlight it should be. Among the myriad of minor characters Lee Threadgold stood out as a brooding Jigger. The small chorus was well balanced, the choreography was tight, the women harmonized beautifully in the “Mr Snow reprise” and the men shone in “Blow High, Blow Low”. The costumes were effective. The highlight of the show was the sound and the one weakness the conducting. There were several instances when the orchestra and singers parted ways. But I expect this would be an opening night glitch and the rest of the season will reach the dizzy heights we expect from Babirra. Graham Ford Grease By Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey. Holroyd Musical and Dramatic Society (NSW). Redgum Centre. Sep 13 - 21. THIS production was a lot of fun. Daniel Milne as Danny and Cassie Colless as Sandy are perfectly cast, and have the talent and looks that make teenage girls squeal on X Factor. Also in the squealathon are T-Birds Sam Baker (Kenickie), Jesse Curnow (Doody), Christopher Reid (Sonny) and Nathan McKenna (Roger), who hold their own individually and work well as a gang. Matching them capably are the Pink Ladies Emma Whiteley (Rizzo), Fiona Brennan (Frenchy), Chrissy Moylan (Marty) and Amy Newcombe (Jan). The cameos were scene stealers: Jordan Vassallo shone as a not-so-angelic Teen Angel, Isaac Grouse defined nerdism as Eugene, Priscilla Fripp's Patty Simcox lit up the stage, Steve Short's Vince Fontaine was spot on, and Fernanda Murialdo sizzled as spicy hot Cha Cha. I enjoyed the cast not copying their movie counterparts, but finding their own interpretation of the characters. There was some uneven singing in the bv's, spotlights with a mind of their own, some small lapses in character, and a few moments of self-indulgence. The show began in the foyer, with Principal Lynch (well played by Melissa Dinning) addressing the audience as though we were the Rydell High students. We were then let in to the auditorium to find our own unreserved seats, as per a school assembly. First-time MD Sam Holmes doubled as Johnny Casino and proved he's a good triple threat. I felt it was a bit too much having him come up front in the show's encore to lead the dancing while the singing principals were banished upstage. This Grease is the one that I want. Peter Novakovich


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Musical Spice

food and alcohol as though they are attending a baseball game. Getting up half way through the first act for a top up is also not unheard of. Theatre owners encourage sales Recently a well-watered theatre this good order. She brings in because a lot is at stake. critic tweeted her displeasure that chocolates and lollies. The sound of “It is a huge chunk of the way patrons at Sydney’s Capitol Theatre unwrapping a lolly or ripping open we make things viable. Only half of were munching their Choc Tops a chocolate wrapping is enough to our revenue come from the during the performance, creating a earn the wrath of a neighbour who productions,” said Graeme Kearns. noisy distraction from the show. has paid a hefty fee for their ticket. “If you can’t sell a Choc Top, we Graeme Kearns, the General I have devoured the occasional would have to charge producers a Manager of the theatre, gets treat but did so in the most delicate higher price, which would flow on complaints like this every week or manner similar to the steady hand to high ticket prices.” so. of a brain surgeon. So munch and lick away to keep “What should we do? Stop There are no qualms about those ticket prices from rising any selling choc tops five minutes eating at many theatres in the further. before the end of interval?” he United States. Aussies are often suggested with mild frustration. surprised to see patrons bring in David Spicer As it happens food sold at the theatre is carefully selected with the decibels they create from every crunch. “We are very particular but unfortunately confectionary is made to be loud and very few are made these days in boxes.” “We’ve tried all sorts of things like serving it in bottles – but it’s not viable.” Other measures the venue goes to in avoiding conflict include avoiding food with strong smells and only serving cold food. The good folk at many elite Arts Centres don’t have to endure any unnecessary crunching. Soft bread sandwiches are the norm and no sign of any chips. An Aunt who I attend the occasional opera with subverts

Choc Top Gate

100 Stage Whispers November - December 2013




Beach Blanket Tempest

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Stage Whispers November/December 2013  

Stage Whispers November/December 2013