Kate Herbert is theatre reviewer, Herald Sun, Melbourne & formerly for Melbourne Times. Kate is a director; produced playwright (21 plays). Scripts pub. Currency Press. She worked as actor, comedian, improviser & teacher of Acting, Improvisation & Playwriting. Kate was Head of Drama/Teacher, NMIT; Coordinator of Prof. Writing/ Editing, Swinburne Uni. Read her reviews here or: www.heraldsun.com.au/entertainment/arts. NB Explorer Browser doesn't always work on blog.
Music by Richard M. Sherman & Robert B.Sherman Adapted for stage by Jeremy Sams &
Ray Roderick Adapted from movie by Ken
Hughes & Roald Dahl; original story by Ian
Fleming Produced by Tim Lawson Her
Majesty’s Theatre, Melbourne for 10 weeks Reviewer: Kate Herbert Stars: ***1/2
The review is
now on line Herald Sun, Arts.It wasn't published as
expected in Sunday Herald Sun News pages, Sun Feb 3. KH
Photo by Joe Calleri
undeniable star of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is the exquisitely designed, flying
racing car that cost over a million dollars, making it the most expensive stage
prop in theatre history.
Chitty won the audience’s appreciation
by a country mile, leaving them gaping in childlike astonishment as this
glossy, 1920s vehicle, carrying the human stars of the show, spread its orange
wings and flew into a glittering night sky.
The Melbourne opening night audience
was adorned with celebrities from stage, screen, radio and sports including: Stefan Denis, Shane Jacobsen, Colin
Lane and musical theatre stars Marina Prior and Rhonda Burchmore.
Two of the celebs – tennis champ, Todd
Woodbridge, and Debra Byrne, grand lady of the musical stage – were present to
witness their respective children, Beau Woodbridge and Lucille Le Meledo,
playing the perky, wide-eyed and precocious Jeremy and Jemima Potts who
cheerfully sing Truly Scrumptious and
David Hobson, renowned tenor of the
opera stage, plays Caractacus Potts, eccentric inventor and creator of the
enchanted car, and his silken vocal tone resonates in the sweetly moving
lullaby, Hushabye Mountain.
Hobson carries the Sherman brothers’
songs beautifully – particularly the title tune – but, although his dancing is
surprisingly competent, his acting is limited, his dialogue uncomfortable, he
lacks the clown skill required for the physical comedy, and he looks more
startled than eccentric.
Rachael Beck, as Truly Scrumptious,
Potts’ aptly named love interest, is pert and delicious with a warm, pretty
voice, and her rendition of Doll On A
Music Box, with its duet with Hobson as a jack in the box, is a sweet
The first half is slow to get cracking,
but the comedic duo, George Kapiniaris and Todd Goddard as the Vulgarian spies,
Goran and Boris, provide big laughs, as do a scampering rabble of scruffy dogs
and a line of panting runners who are repeatedly passed by Chitty on the road.
The second half is completely stolen by
the exceptional vocal talent and impeccable comic delivery and timing of
Jennifer Vuletic as the haughty Baroness Bomburst of Vulgaria, singing the
silly love duet Chu–Chi Face and
leading the chorus in The Bombie Samba.
Vuletic shifts hilariously from sexy
lover, to heartless child-hater then into a whimpering mess at any mention of
the “c” word – children.
Alan Brough is entertainingly childlike
as her husband, Baron Bomburst, a teutonic man-child who adores toys and
blowing things up, but Brough’s character lacks the contrasting bombastic
militarism that ironically highlights his naïvete.
Peter Carroll’s Grandpa Potts is a
delightfully potty, old British military man, and Tyler Coppin is reminiscent
of a Tim Burton movie character as the scary, spider-like Child Catcher.
The Sherman brothers’ musical styles
include 1900s music hall, lullabies, latin beats, children’s songs and peppy
dance tunes, but the most memorable is the title song.
James Bond creator, Ian Fleming’s
children’s book morphed into the 1968 movie written by Roald Dahl which was
subsequently adapted in 2002 by Jeremy Sams and Ray Roderick for this stage
Director, Roger Hodgman, keeps the
action and the gags lively, Peter Casey conducts the orchestra skilfully, Dana
Jolly’s choreography is cheerfully animated albeit unoriginal, and Anthony
Ward’s set is effectively cartoon-like and his vivid costumes are high-gelati.
Families who loved Mary Poppins and its
songs by the Shermans will enjoy this production, but Chitty Chitty Bang Bang
lacks the array of award-winning, unforgettable songs, electrifying dance
routines and magical characters that hallmark Poppins.
By Kate Herbert
Photo by Joe Calleri
Director - Roger Hodgman
Choreographer - Dana Jolly
Musical Director/Conductor - Peter Casey
Scenic & Costume Designer - Anthony Ward
Lighting Designer - Matt Scott
Sound Designer - Kelvin Gedye
David Hobson - Caractacus Potts
Rachael Beck - Truly Scrumptious
Tyler Coppin - Childcatcher
Jeremy Potts - Shared by Kade Hughes, Kurtis Papadinis, Beau Woodbridge
Jemima Potts - Quinn Cameron, Lucille Le Meledo, Caitlin Vippond
PREVIEW ONLY Blaze:
The Show Arts Centre Melbourne, Hamer Hall Jan
23 -27, 2013 This is not
a Herald Sun preview. KH
Blaze: Photo by Joe Calleri
Following a successful premiere in
London’s West End and sold out tours in the Netherlands and the UK, Blaze is a high-energy dance show
starring Demi Sorono and Sid Mathur from So
You Think You Can Dance.
Harrison, by 'By The Scruff Theatre Company' La Mama
Courthouse, until Jan 27, 2013 Reviewer: Kate Herbert on Jan 19, 2013 Stars: **1/2
Review also published in Herald Sun, Fri Jan 25, 2013. KH
Lumicisi in Act A Lady
Act A Lady, by Jordan
Harrison, is aboutthree men in a small,
Midwest American town in 1927 decide to perform a melodrama for their annual
charity performance, dressed as 17th century French women.
Such immoral activity
sets tongues a-wagging, especially amongst the Women’s Temperance Society, but
the men discover that changing clothes also forces them to confront their
deeper, darker, feminine sides.
The play, directed by Andrew
McMillan, starts in Miles’ (Mason Gasowski) and his wife, Dot’s (Angela
Lumicisi) country kitchen, as they plan the performance with two locals, True
(Spencer Scholz) and Caspar (Kashmir Sinnamon).
The script then leaps
into the period-costumed, French revenge melodrama about an arrogant Countess
(Scholz), the scheming Lady Romula (Gasowski) and a maid (Sinnamon), who all
compete for the affections of a philandering Viscount.
In a peculiar structural
quirk, the play then returns to the men’s rehearsal scenes, depicting their
emotional crises as they wrangle with cross-dressing.
Williams Itch Productions, Midsumma Festival 45downstairs,
until Feb 3, 2013 Reviewer: Kate Herbert Stars: **1/2
Review published in Herald Sun on Wed Jan 23, 2013. KH
Vieux Carré is not one of
Tennessee Williams’ major works, although its themes, characters, poetic
language and tone forecast and resonate with his renowned, later works.
Williams began Vieux Carré
in 1938 while living in the Old French Quarter of New Orleans in his 20s, but
it was not finished or staged until 1977 when it closed after five Broadway
deprivation, rhythm and heat of New Orleans are already pervasive in this early,
autobiographical work and we can almost hear Blanche Dubois and Stanley
Kowalski outside the windows.
It is set in a
dilapidated, historic boarding house run by a demented, manipulative landlady,
Mrs. Wire (Kelly Nash), and populated by misfits, drunks, the sick and dying.
The reticent, unnamed
Writer (Thomas Blackburne), a version of the younger Williams, narrates the
play, eavesdropping on residents and tapping out their stories on his old
The script resembles a
collection of short stories, a series of vignettes and character sketches
interwoven to create a tapestry of scenes.
It does not possess the
dramatic shape and intense dramatic tension of later Williams’ dramas, so its
theatricality relies on quirky characters, their poetic, self-absorbed musings
and catastrophic life choices.
By Cirque du
Chapiteau Big Top, Docklands Drive Reviewer: Kate Herbert Stars: **** 1/2
NB: This is NOT a Herald Sun review. KH.
Cirque du Soleil shows
are always gobsmacking because of the exceptional skills of the artists, the
visual feast of the set and costumes, and the sensurround of the live music. Ovo
is no exception with its parade of thrilling acts.
The Flying Scarabs, a
high-flying trapeze act, left me gaping like a lunatic and in fear for their
lives as they flew overhead incorporating complex balances into the flying
routine. Thank God for the net in this act.
A major the highlight for
the audience in this opening night program was Spiderman (Julaiti Ailati), who
stood on his head on a slack wire then sent the crowd wild when he followed up
by riding a tiny unicycle upside down – also on the slack wire.
The Crickets also had the
crowd cheering with their trampo-wall act involving extraordinary acrobatics on
long trampolines that send them flying up a climbing wall that becomes littered
with creatures clinging by their fingers and toes.
Another high point was Ants,
six tiny girls foot-juggling, hilariously, giant slices of kiwi fruit – and then juggling each other in a
novelty Risley act.
& Libretto by Richard Gill, Victorian Opera Her
Majesty’s Theatre, Jan 17 to 19, 2013 Reviewer: Kate Herbert Stars:****
Version of this review published in Herald Sun on line (Jan 18) then in print. KH
L-R: Olivia Cranwell as Queen Clementine, James Payne as King Florestan and Dimity Shepard as Dargonelle
Recipe for children’s
opera: take one fairy tale, several opera singers, ballet dancers and fairies,
then mix with orchestra, singable tunes, rhymes, pantomime and audience
Richard Gill’s Sleeping
Beauty, with Derek Taylor’s direction, has all the ingredients for an enjoyable
children’s musical, with the added element of exposing little ones to opera at
their own level.
Before we embark on the
fairy tale, narrators Darcy the Jester (Jonathan Bode) and Fairy Godmother
Ticketty-Boo (Suzanne Johnston), introduce the show with singalongs, jokes and
even bring some lucky children on stage to accompany the overture with
The children love the
tomfoolery of Bode and Johnston and their chorus of Jumping Jollies, four
playful singer-dancers who help to tell the tale.
The story of the sleeping
princess (Lotte Betts-Dean) and her heroic prince (Daniel Todd) is told through
simple, rhyming dialogue and cheerful, eclectic music, songs and dance.
The children hear arias,
duets, multi-part harmonies and choruses sung by professionals that not only
entertain and engage, but also educate them about opera.
Shakespeare, Australian Shakespeare Company
Gardens, Observatory Gate, Jan 16 until March 9, 2013 Reviewer: Kate Herbert on
Jan 16, 2013 Stars:***
This review published on line and in print in Herald Sun, Mon Jan 21, 2013. KH
Madeleine Field & Jamieson Caldwell
Elston’s playful, accessible Romeo and Juliet demands no prior knowledge of
Shakespeare, so those who never see his plays inside a theatre can enjoy a
night under the stars with a blanket, a chardonnay and friends.
The trees in the Botanical Gardens glow purple behind
the classical façade of a palazzo in Verona where the star-crossed lovers live
out their tragic, teenage romance.
Romeo and Juliet, one of Shakespeare’s great
tragedies, is about two warring families, the Capulets – Juliet’s family – and
the Montagues – Romeo’s kin.
The young couple
is the heart of the story and Jamieson Caldwell’s Romeo is an attractive,
athletic, boyish and passionate youth, steeped in a romantic, poetic view of
love and, like any lovesick adolescent, lacking confidence in seduction.
Madeleine Field as
Juliet is pretty and intense, but a little too sophisticated, arch and sexually
confident – like a modern schoolgirl – and her performance often looks studied,
melodramatic and disconnected from Shakespeare’s text.
The first half of Elston’s production is
light-hearted and littered with topical, contemporary jokes, boyish horseplay
from Romeo and his pals, and good-humoured teasing and participation with the
As night settles over the gardens, the second half
shifts tone, becoming darker and more ominous, with perilous swordplay, tragic
errors of judgement and deaths.
Scott Jackson plays Romeo’s jovial but doomed pal,
Mercutio, with an edge of mischievous taunting and physicality and an unusual
hint of campery, while Chris Asimos is an ardent and dangerous Tybalt.
Brendan O’Connor is a credible patriarch as Juliet’s
father, Capulet, cleverly balancing good-humoured drunkenness with unbridled
Anthony Rive is a suitably affable fool as Peter, the
illiterate servant, but Natalia Novikova does not always hit the broad, bawdy,
comic note needed for Juliet’ s foolish, old Nurse.
Seeing Romeo and Juliet in the intense pressure
cooker of a theatre can be overwhelming so, in this garden setting and with
some playful additions to the text, the pressure is off the audience who can
lie back, sip a wine, and enjoy.
Jersey Boys - The Story of Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons
Book by Marshall Brickman & Rick Elice
Music by Bob Gaudio & Lyrics by Bob Crewe (and others)
Princess Theatre, Melbourne, from Jan 12 to March 24,2013
Reviewer: Kate Herbert on Saturday Jan 12, 2013
Declan Egan (Bob), Jeff Madden (Frankie), Anthony
Harkin (Tommy), Glaston Toft (Nick): Photo by Joe Calleri
JERSEY BOYS CLOSED TOO SOON after its 2009 season, leaving audiences clamouring for more and, if the
toe tapping, cheering and singing along at the opening night is any indication,
audiences will not be disappointed.
This jukebox musical traces
the story of Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons, four Italo-American, New
Jersey boys who created a distinctive sound featuring Frankie’s enormous three
and a half octave range, countless hit tunes and unique four part harmonies.
There is plenty to make
this show first class entertainment and its recipe for success starts with the
quality of Bob Gaudio’s music and Bob Crewe’s lyrics.
highlight is the thrilling combination of four male voices with complex
harmonies, singing tunes including: Sherry, Big Girls Don’t Cry, Oh What A Night,
Let’s Hang On, Working My Way Back to You, and a spine-tingling, foot-stomping
finale of Who Loves You that brings the crowd to its feet.
Declan Egan (Bob), Jeff Madden (Frankie), Anthony
Harkin (Tommy), Glaston Toft (Nick): Photo by Joe Calleri