Thursday, 29 January 2015

Loving Repeating, 28 Jan 2015 ****

A musical of Gertrude Stein
Music by Stephen Flaherty; lyrics by Gertrude Stein; adapted by Frank Galati, presented by Vic Theatre Company 
Chapel off Chapel, until Feb 8, 2015
Reviewer: Kate Herbert
Stars: **** 
Review also published in Herald Sun online Fri 30 Jan, 2015 and in print later. KH.
Deidre Rubenstein and cast in Loving Repeating

Look out! There’s a new musical theatre gang in town and they’re debut show is pretty damn good.

Jason Langley’s production of Loving Repeating, a musical adapted by Frank Galati from the writings of famous, US expatriate poet, Gertrude Stein (Deidre Rubenstein), is assured, sleek, entertaining and just a little bit challenging.

The eclectic, non-narrative style of the show corresponds to Stein’s own abstract, poetic writings while the title refers to her continuing love of the repetition of words, phrases and ideas in her work.

 “A rose is a rose is a rose,” probably her most famous line, is clearly the inspiration for the sensual, red rose motif in the set design (Nathan Weyers).

Although not linear in structure, the show provides a stylised chronology of Stein’s life, highlighting her Psychology studies at college, her burgeoning passion for women, her lifelong relationship with Alice B. Toklas (Gillian Cosgriff, Nicole Melloy) and her idiosyncratic writing style.

Rubenstein gleefully inhabits the formidable but engaging character of Stein and, perched in a pulpit-like box, provides narration based on Stein’s musings on diverse topics including language, love and relationships.

While Rubenstein portrays the wisdom and sturdiness of the older Gertrude, the compelling Caitlin Berry sings with passion as young Gertrude, while Jennifer Peers captures the mature, middle-aged Stein.

The rhythmic language of Stein’s poetry translates impeccably into song lyrics set to music by Stephen Flaherty.

Ben Kiley leads a tight, tuneful onstage band playing Flaherty’s broad range of styles that includes modern music theatre tunes, 20s jazz, languorous cowboy songs and moving ballads.

The talented ensemble of 13 singer-dancers performs Michael Ralph’s snappy, slick choreography that ranges from gestural movement to Busby Berkeley spectacle and Bob Fosse pizzazz.

The performers skillfully play multiple roles and provide a powerful and richly harmonised, vocal chorus.

A highlight is the series of playful, sassy songs about the “gay” lifestyle of Miss Furr (Emily Paddon-Brown) and Miss Skeene (Sage Douglas) and the accompanying, sexually charged scenes that feature the sultry, male chorus in various states of leather-clad undress.

Loving Repeating is cheeky, funny and poignant with an edge of larrikinism that blends beautifully with its sleek professionalism.

Vic Theatre Company may have a dull company name but its first production is imaginative and diverting which augurs well for the future.

By Kate Herbert


Gertrude Stein Deidre Rubenstein;
Young Gertrude, Caitlin Berry;
Middle-age Gertrude, Jennifer Peers;
Young Alice, Gillian Cosgriff;
Alice B Toklas, Nicole Melloy;
 Helen Furr, Emily Paddon-Brown;
 Georgine Skeene, Sage Douglas;
 John, Vincent Hooper;
 Paul, Tobias Madden;
 Guy, Tim Carney;
 Ensemble Suzie Melloy, Oliver Reading, Mitchell Ralston and Alex Given.

Jason Langley, Director;
 Michael Ralph, Choreographer;
Ben Kiley, Musical Director;
 Nathan Weyers, Set Design;
and Travis Macfarlane, Lighting Design.

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