Tag Archives: Drowsy Chaperone

It’s A Wrap – Part Two

MY THEATRICAL YEAR.

Sadly my year at the theatre was meagre. If only I could have  squeezed in a trip to New York which had a bumper year, alas I did not.

But I did manage to see a few live presentations, musicals dominated, a couple of comedy gems and even a puppet show abroad!

Here they are.

SPRING AWAKENING.

Presented by The Young Australia Broadway Chorus at St Kilda’s National Theatre. An amateur production yes but this was a chance for me to see the Tony award winning Broadway musical live. Performed by a young cast exact of age to the characters they represent on stage – teenagers coming of age both mentally and most importantly sexually. Based on the play by German author Frank Wedekind which premiered to great controversy in 1906. A musical dealing with teen sexual awakening and with a rock score by Duncan Sheik and Steven Slater. A fine cast performed with all the energy and dedication to the piece that I am sure was witnessed on the great white way. A lot of young talent to be admired, I loved the piece and enjoyed this production – was glad to finally catch up.

MARY POPPINS.

This Cameron Mackintosh hit production featuring a fine hand picked Australian cast was a real delight. Everything worked! – the dancing, the scenery, the singing and the songs. Professional theatre at its best. Highlights being Verity Hunt-Ballard as the famous Nanny – bossy but with a heart of gold, and Debra Byrne as the bird lady who sang the famous “Feed The Birds” so moving and sublime of voice. A treat for kids and adults. I really enjoyed every moment, musical theatre doesn’t get much better than this.

XANADU.

The stage musical version of the infamous flop movie musical starring Olivia Newton John was a surprise hit on Broadway but a dismal failure down under. Presented under a Big Top tent at Melbourne’s Docklands it had horrendous sound problems and I suppose did look rather cheap. It was not a total write off thats for sure. I for one loved the book by Douglas Carter Beane and the energy of the hard working cast. I enjoyed it far more than many I guess? (it failed to tour round the country as planned) and I can tell you the reason why – Christie Whelan in the leading role of Kira – daughter of Greek god Zeus, all Aussie accent, leg warmers and roller skates. She is such a fine comedienne (her timing is exquisite) and has a rip roaring Broadway belting type voice. A standout in the MTC production of “The Drowsy Chaperone” and I am told the best thing in the recent revival of  “The Important Of being Earnest”, upstaging Geoffrey Rush is no mean feat. Surely she will be cast in the new planned Australian production of the musical “Legally Blonde” but her talents deserve so much more than that. For me Xanadu presented to me a star what more do you need?

HAIRSPRAY.

A local production of the Broadway hit. What a disappointment. Under the direction of David Atkins and choreography from Jason Coleman it was promoted as a state of the art production with never seen before staging. I was appalled! The set consisting of computer lighting that conjured up animation that was both lame and horribly unoriginal. Fortunately for me I did see a production of the Broadway original in London and it was brilliant fun. Sadly the over the top hammy performances and unsubtle direction made this night in the theatre unbearable for me. I could go on and point out all the faults from both cast and creatives but I can’t be bothered – enough time spent on this turkey.

ROCK OF AGES.

A total reproduction of the Broadway hit musical that is a real guilty pleasure. Slick direction, slick design, choreography that excites and songs from the 80’s rock music cannon – yes it is another jukebox musical. I saw a final preview and it was rocking. The cast were clearly having a rip roaring time and the audience hooting and hollering were too. A silly storyline about the redevelopment of the famous Sunset Strip in Hollywood doesn’t have much chop, but the enthusiasm and clever direction worked a treat. Sadly it also failed to tour around the country as planned but a film version is due out mid year directed by Adam Shanckman (Hairspray) and featuring Tom Cruise in the scene stealing role of rocker Stacee Jaxx.

NEXT TO NORMAL.

This local production of the Broadway musical was presented by the Melbourne Theatre Company. It lacked the pathos and excitement that I experienced in the Broadway production of which I blogged about a while back . The set was over active and a total distraction and the cast led by Kay Kendall lacked the talent required to pull off this fantastic musical. Oh well we can’t always get it right.

PARADE.

I went along to see this high school production of another Broadway musical because it gave me the chance of seeing it live and complete. I have long been a fan of the Tony winning score by Jason Robert Brown so it was good to see it performed. An unusually grim choice for a school musical it tells the story of Leo Frank wrongfully accused and convicted of raping and murdering a young schoolgirl back in 1913 in America’s south. Frank was a successful Jewish businessman and the show deals with anti-semiticism and media sensationalism – still going on today! It was a flop when it was presented on Broadway back in 1998. With its grim subject matter it is hardly Broadway feel good fodder but its score is still highly regarded as one of Broadway’s finest. The schoolkids involved in this production did very well, some voices not up to scratch but others (particularly the lead boy) were quite impressive. Hats off to St Michael’s Grammar.

LOVE NEVER DIES.

This overhyped and underwhelming dud of a musical is only worth mentioning for the fine set and costume design by Gabriela Tylesova. Dull and boring even with so much movement going on. To distract one of all the shortcomings of the production perhaps?  You can catch it on DVD soon as it was filmed during its Melbourne run.

GREY GARDENS.

Fantastic casting and performances made this local production of the Broadway show based on the acclaimed documentary a real highlight of my theatrical year. I expect Pamela Rabe to win a few awards for her heartbreaking performance as Little Edie Beale. Nancye Hayes as Big Edie held her own too and is eagerly anticipated for her upcoming role as Miss Hannigan in the new revival of “Annie”.

LILY TOMLIN.

This is the second time I have managed to see Lily Tomlin in her live comedy act and she didn’t disappoint. A marvel at face manipulation and full of endless energy she had me laughing out loud and riveted as she took on all her favourite creations with their unique take on the modern world. I love Lily!

EDDIE IZZARD – STRIPPED.

My first time seeing Eddie Izzard live was a last minute decision and I am glad I made the right one. I laughed in wonder at his observations regarding the creation of the world. It really impresses me when performers of this calibre manage to entertain for almost 3 hours (including interval) on stage solo. It must be so exhausting. Izzard is a master at it.

SMOKE AND MIRRORS.

“Smoke And Mirrors” was another first for me. It was the first time I was to see the acclaimed performer iOTA perform live. After performances in “Hedwig And The Angry Inch” and as Frank-n-Furter in a revival of “The Rocky Horror Show” this was the show I caught up with his talents. Performed in the famed Spiegeltent at the Arts Centre. Part vaudeville, part fantasy, part circus act iOTA led a troupe of performers on a musical journey fantastical and funny, moving and magical. He didn’t disappoint, I’d check him out again sometime.

THANG LONG WATER PUPPET THEATRE –  HANOI

I went to see this water puppet show when I was holidaying in Hanoi, Vietnam. It was very touristy and a little tacky but it did have live performers, thankfully it was quite short too. I am glad I saw it as it is always good to soak up some local culture while abroad.

NT Live – FRANKENSTEIN

Filmmaker Danny Boyle’s production of Mary Shelley’s classic novel was very disappointing. I am sure that seeing it live may have been more electric but the ever imposing cameras of the NT Live presentations didn’t capture it. The performance I saw featured Benedict Cumberbatch as the monster and Johnny Lee Miller as his creator Victor Frankenstein. (they alternated the roles in the shows run) I felt that Cumberbatch gave way too much of a ‘gimp’ style performance that seemed so overblown in the confines of a cinema with close up camerawork. The rest of the cast had nothing much to offer and I must say I was bored by the banality of this particular adaptation.

NT Live – THE KITCHEN

I enjoyed this production much more than “Frankenstein”. The play by Arnold Wesker was first performed at the Royal Court in 1959 and is set in the kitchen of a very busy London restaurant. It tells of the trials and tribulations of its workers – the chefs, kitchen hands, waitresses et al. It had moments of great theatricality and choreography that was very creative. The miming of the cooking and the sequence in which full service was occurring was a highlight. Once again the imposing camerawork from the NT Live presentation hampered some of the better moments and didn’t help with some of the theatrical hammy performances (close-ups are not kind on a theatre actor reaching out to the back row). I do enjoy seeing these NT Live events but I wish they would hold back on the ‘clever’ camerwork and let us watch the show as if we were there in the front row, not riding on top the lens of the camera.

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A little bit of Broadway at home

It is almost 12 months since I started to plan my holiday to New York, my how time flies. Since that trip  my theatre bug has escalated and I long for my return.

In the meanwhile……..

I have been traipsing off to the theatre to see some Broadway hits in their local version.

Here are a few thoughts.

SPRING AWAKENING

The Tony winning emo rock musical that launched the career of Glee’s Lea Michele & Jonathan Groff.  With book and lyrics by Steven Sater,  Music by Duncan Sheik. Based on Frank Wedekind’s controversial play of 1891, the musical fuses a nineteenth century story about provincial German teenagers coming of age, with a twenty-first century indie rock score, it was a thrilling musical experience.

Performed by the Young Australian Broadway Chorus at the National Theatre in StKilda – an amateur theatre production that was far from amateur. The extremely talented young cast of performers had talent in abundence. Future stars in the making that would make Australian Idol stand back in shame.

I loved it. loved the book, the score, the direction, the sets and costumes were fine also.

I so wished I had have seen the original Broadway production, but at least I have seen it 🙂 I have bought the cast recording and it is hardly off the player in my car……

the sounds of “I don’t do sadness” blast out of the car, no doof- doof for me!

MARY POPPINS

Mary Poppins was playing when I was in NYC but I knew there was an Australian production being performed back home so I decided to skip a 3rd generation cast on Broadway.

I am glad I did. Cameron Mackintosh is an expert in casting first run shows (his Australian cast of Les Miserables is legendary). Mary Poppins is no exception.

Performed at Her Majesty’s Theatre in Melbourne (about to head to Sydney), I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed it. Even hideous children squirming and complaining and wanting to go to the toilet for the attention! – did not effect my attention. That in itself is a triumph. The carbon copy production was excellent and the cast were superb. hats off to as Verity Hunt-Ballard as Mary Poppins so bossy and vein, and Debra Byrne was so moving and such a superb voice as a the bag lady feeding the birds. The child actors had talent in abundance and the effects were clever, fun and inspired. Mary disappeara\ing thru the roof was far more exciting than the tired old chandelier from that dreadful Phantom musical.

I went along on the day of performance and there was only 2 available seats left – restricted viewing. I checked the plan and realized that I would only on occasion miss the extreme stage left performance space – about a metre. I saw everything and loved it all. All at the cost of $30 – what a bargain.

XANADU

Performed in a tent at the Docklands, the asshole of Melbourne development, already I had my doubts. I recall a tent version of “Starlight Express” that was a mega flop many years ago.

So Xanadu the musical is based on the dreadful 80’s flop film that was a vehicle for Olivia Newton John (go figure) after her success from the film version of “Grease”. the soundtrack was a huge hit, the movie a huge flop.

This show is a clever construct. Douglas Carter Beane, an acclaimed playwrite has fashioned a very clever and camp book full of quips and asides about how bad the movie was, his tribute to the 80’s “Clash Of The Titans” was inspired – well at least I got the jokes, made for 40 something gay men!  the songs are familiar and u will hum them for days after – not that that is a good thing.

But the main reason to see this show – Christie Whelan, in the shoes – or should I say roller skates – of our own Livvy in the lead role of the muse Kira, all Aussie accent and leg warmers and the timing of a great comedienne, the singing voice of any great Broadway diva, and the dancing chops that could easily appear in a Fosse show, and she was mostly wearing skates. A true triple threat and she is a star. I saw her in early 2010 in “The Drowsy Chaperone” (in the role of Janet Van De Graff) and I was very impressed and took note of her talents, she is next to appear in “The Importance Of Being Earnest” alongside her Drowsy co-star, Geoffrey Rush. She is a rising star and you must see “Xanadu” for her alone. But the rest of the show is well worth it, an energetic cast and plenty of zippy cleverness to please most.

I also managed to catch a performance from the great LILY TOMLIN at the National Theatre, what a star! what a wonder! what an inspiration to me and all.

 

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A theatrical year (part 1 of 4)

The year 2010 was a productive theatrical one. I saw more theatre than usual, although not as much as I would have liked. Theatre is expensive. A trip to New York helped to boost. The Broadway called and I came. Funny enough it was, according to experts, and me, a bit of a dud season, but I saw shows on the great white way, so who’s complaining?

In my theatrical year I will include live concert performances ( sadly only 1 this year) and will include NT Live and Met Live screenings – in my own opinion still theatrical, and at least I can comment.

I doubt I will get to see another live concert performance, or a stage show, by years end. So I can announce my faves and winners and dogs! for 2010.

The year started with a repeat. I was working in Adelaide and the touring Australian production of “Avenue Q” was in town. I had previously seen this fine & funny brilliant musical in London (the same as the Broadway production), and in 2009 I went to see it in Melbourne (the Oz version). Whilst almost the same, except for a few set changes (for the worst) and obvious puppetry changes cos the Oz cast could not achieve the demands, it was OK. leading actor way to old but his side kick and a brilliant Trekkie Monster was great. Saw the Kate Monster understudy – both time! she was excellent. Whilst not as good as the London production, the Ozcast was ok, the material so strong – I loved it!

Mitchel Butel & Michaela (whatever her name is?) never saw her, only the very good understudy – shouldn’t live performers never miss as performance? Hmmmmm

On my return home to Melbourne, I saw the MTC production of “The Drowsy Chaperone”. What a treat it was. Definately a close carbon copy of the Broadway hit – the norm for outgoing MTC director 🙂 Simon Phillips. Geoffrey Rush as the ‘man in the chair’, was fantabulous, physically stunning and so right for the part, it was a revelation. The rest of the cast were great, it was such a hoot and a highlight of the year, for the material and Mr Rush, not necessarily the direction.

The brilliantly cast Mr. Rush

My one and only live concert performance was seeing one of my favorite groups ever – Massive Attack. Say no more, I have seen them every time they have performed in Australia. At the Myer Music Bowl they were superb. I love them, adore them, they do it for me everytime. HEAVEN

Love the Massive Attack symbol – fire sign, hold it painfully close to my chest 🙂

I was not sure about seeing “Jersey Boys”. A jukebox musical (usually a lame prospect). I was working hard and needed an escape, decided at the last minute to see a matinee, so off I went with a good friend who needed the escape as much as me. Well the skill of the direction, the Broadway pizzazz and tricks all in place. A talented cast, great book. Suprisingy great music, hits and more hits! I can see why it is still a huge hit on Broadway, a classy show. Wiped out the cynic in me…for the time being.

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