Friday, 19 December 2014

Theatre Wrap Up 2014, Dec 11, 2014

By Kate Herbert
This article also published in Herald Sun online on Thur 17 Dec 2014 and in print later (maybe Dec 19). KH

Some years I’m overwhelmed by the array of astounding and virtuosic, 5-star productions staged in Melbourne but, in 2014, I recall only one that ticks all the excellence boxes. 

That musical and theatrical triumph is the revitalised production of Les Miserables with its operatic grandeur, epic story and Claude-Michel Shönberg’s soaring, orchestral music.

It features assured direction (Laurence Connor, James Powell), inventive vision and design, swelling choruses, heart wrenching solos and evocative lyrics performed by a consummate Australian cast. 

Close behind on 4 and a half stars is Once, a jewel of a musical that makes you want to go home and hug your loved ones. I saw Once twice!

Its beguiling story, music and characters create an uplifting, enchanting and achingly melancholic theatrical experience.

John Tiffany’s swift, imaginative direction balances intimacy with passion and uses an inspired, theatrical language and a vivacious ensemble to transport us into an Irish bar.

There are plenty of 4-star shows but a few of those boast one or more outstanding, 5-star performers or theatrical elements.

Hans Christian: You Must Be An Angel (Teatret Gruppe, Denmark) creates a world of wonder and illusion with two waiters serving Hans Christian Andersen and a parade of his fairytale characters at a celebratory dinner.

The formidably talented David Suchet, with his resonant, dark-velvet voice and piercing gaze, is riveting as Cardinal Giovanni Benelli in The Last Confession.

In Peter Evans’ riotous, inventive production of The Dream (Bell Shakespeare), Julie Forsyth is impeccable in dramatic and comic scenes as a gleefully impish Puck, Richard Piper is uproarious as bullyboy, Bottom The Weaver, and the Mechanicals’ shambolic play is sidesplitting.

Individual accolades must go to sassy, musical theatre star, Amanda Harrison’s thrilling voice (Up Close and Reasonably Personal), Bert LaBonté’s charm and exhilarating singing as Marvin Gaye (Let’s Get it On), Noni Hazlehurst's gripping turn as the manipulative, abrasive mother in The Beauty Queen of Leenane and Kate Cole’s compelling solo performance in Grounded.

2015 is round the corner and I am cheerfully anticipating these three shows:

1.     I Malvolio by Tim Crouch (UK) at the Arts Centre in January

2.     The Weir by Conor McPherson (MTC) with Greg Stone, Nadine Garner, Robert Menzies and direction by Sam Strong

3.     A Social Service (Malthouse) with two of my absolute favourite, idiosyncratic performers: Nicola Gunn and David Woods.

Now, go forth and purchase tickets!

Kate Herbert

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