Friday, 14 December 2012

Genesis To Broadway, Dec 11, 2012 **1/2

Genesis To Broadway
Written by Frank Howson, Arts International Events
Chapel Off Chapel, until Dec 16, 2012
Reviewer: Kate Herbert
Stars: **1/2
This review appeared in Herald Sun on Friday, Dec 14, 2012 (print & online)
 Andrew Dunne & Fem Belling in Genesis to Broadway. Photo: Vanessa Allan

GENESIS TO BROADWAY explores the contribution of Jewish artists to the evolution of the Broadway musical, their search for a homeland and their eventual acceptance into the bosom of American theatre where their music broke down barriers and transcended prejudices.

Howson’s narrative has dramatic potential, but it is the least effective component of the show, the most successful element being the songs performed by Fem Belling and Andrew Dunne, and music played by a live band (Warren Wills, Lachlan Davidson, Gideon Marcus).

This overly ambitious, musical journey attempts to cover too much ground, hurtling from the Garden of Eden and Job in the Old Testament, to Mediaeval Spain, Africa, pre-war Germany and on to 20th century New York.

The expository dialogue is peppered with predictable, unfunny jokes and chunks of unnecessary information that could well be replaced with more singing and longer versions of songs.

Warren Wills’ virtuoso piano playing does justice to music ranging from Jewish religious songs, to Hebrew laments, Spanish love songs, Al Jolson and Oscar Hammerstein, and Wills’ medley of Broadway themes was a hit with the crowd.

Belling and Dunne perform full versions of some songs and snatches of countless, additional tunes that provide colour for the often clumsy narration.

Belling is an exceptional talent with a compelling and charming stage presence and a versatile, powerful voice that is equally at home with Somewhere Over The Rainbow, Hebrew faith songs, Les Miserables or Cabaret.

Dunne’s performance is less polished, his singing and acting lacking some confidence, but his voice is strong enough and he sings Impossible Dream and Man of La Mancha capably.

The final medley has plenty of tunes from Broadway musicals, but the production would be enhanced if more of these were implanted in the body of the show rather than being stuffed into the final 10 minutes.

By Kate Herbert

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