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.
By Tennesse Williams Malthouse Theatre, until June 5, 2016 I didn't see/review this production but it seems like one to recommend. Anything with Pamela Rabe is worth seeing. KH Winner of the 2015
Helpmann Award for Best Play
Pamela Rabe & Rose Riley. photo Pia Johnson
Pamela Rabe & Luke Mullins photo Pia Johnson
Pamela Rabe & Rose Riley photo Pia Johnson
Pamela Rabe, Rose Riley, Harry Greenwood, Luke Mullins,
MUSICAL THEATRE Music by Richard Rodgers, Lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II, Book
by Howard Lindsay & Russel Crouse,Produced by Andrew Lloyd Webber,
John Frost, David Ian & The Really Useful Group Regent
Theatre, until July 31, 2016 Reviewer: Kate Herbert on May 19, 2016 Stars: ****
Review also online at Herald Sun News at 1am Fri May 20, and in print on Fri May 20, 2016. KH
Amy Lehpamer with child cast. Photo by Joe Calleri
Rodgers and Hammerstein are unbeatable in the musical
theatre stakes and The Sound of Music includes some of their most singable and
production is a restaging of Jeremy
Palladium version of the original, 1959 stage musical that preceded the
spectacularly popular and enduring 1965 movie with Julie Andrews.
Amy Lehpamer is deliciously high-spirited and charmingly effusive as Maria who she refreshingly plays as a gauche,
noisy, unworldly and clumsy country
girl who galumphs with equal abandon around the Austrian hills, the demure
Abbey or the von Trapp mansion.
Lehpamer’s voice has an appealingly
bright toned-voice and her renditions of The Sound of Music and I Have Confidence augur
well for the rest of the show as she twirls and capers, singing with the relentless
cheerfulness that characterises Maria.
Cameron Daddo’s voice lacks power and
he is often unconvincing as Captain
Georg von Trapp Maria’s employer, the Austrian patriot, and there is no palpable
chemistry or sense of impending romance between Maria and the Captain and this
leaves their dance duet looking less than intimate.
With her powerful voice, rich, dark,
honey tone and exceptional vocal control, opera singer, Jacqueline Dark, almost
steals the show as the dignified Mother
Abbess singing the rousing and memorable Climb Ev’ry Mountain and her
duet of My Favourite Things with Lehpamer and the four nuns’ jaunty, playful
version of Maria (How do you solve a
problem like...) is an early highlight.
Jacqueline Dark & Amy Lehpamer. Photo by Joe Calleri
The vivacious Lehpamer
unforgettable Do-Re-Mi and The Lonely Goatherd with the children who
raise the cuteness factor to 100% in the joyful So Long, Farewell.
children on opening night are played by: Alexander Glenk
(Friedrich), Darcy McGrath (Louisa), Beaumont Farrell (Kurt), Karina Thompson (Brigitta),
Ruby Moore (Marta) and Heidi Sprague (Gretl).
With her fine musical
theatre voice and acting talent, Stefanie Jones invests the adolescent, Liesl, with depth in Sixteen Going On
Seventeen, her duet with Rolf who is played byDu Toit Bredenkamp.
In supporting roles are Marina Prior as the stately Baroness Schraeder, David
James as the opportunistic, clownish Max
Detweiler and Lorraine Bayly as frumpy
housekeeper, Frau Schmidt.
points of the show are Lehpamer and Dark’s compelling performances, the
thrilling nuns’ chorus of Preludium,
and Rodgers and Hammerstein’s inspiring music and lyrics.
Two is less dynamic than Act One, with fewer songs and a lot of story to jam
into a short time and Daddo’s ballad, Edelweiss, loses its power and sounds
flat when it needs to be poignant and patriotic.
Robert Jones’ design captures the green, alpine
landscape and luxurious von Trapp mansion, its picture frame style seems too
small for the enormous stage at the Regent.
fans of The Sound of Music, Rodgers and Hammerstein’s marvellous tunes should make your hearts sing as
they do for Maria and the von Trapps.
The teen musical, Heathers, deals with bullying,
murder, suicide, shootings and bombings in a high school so it is vital to strike
the right balance between grotesquery, comedy and morality.
Trevor Ashley’s uneven production does so
in part but, at times, Heathers departs from grotesque parody and descends into
crassness, shallow caricatures and an unfortunate and unintended celebration of
bullies and psychos.
musical by Laurence O’Keefe and Kevin Murphy was first staged Off-Broadway in
2014 and is based on Daniel Murphy’s 1988 cult movie of the same name.
High is ruled by three popular, pretty and really mean gals who are all called
Heather, each one more vile and vain than the other, with Heather Chandler (Lucy Maunder)
being the leader of this contemptible trio and the most slappable.
Veronica Sawyer (Hilary Cole) realises
that she needs the Heathers’ stamp of approval to avoid being bullied, but things
go awry when her outsider boyfriend, JD (Stephen Madsen), embarks on a violent path
of revenge against the Heathers and their supporters, the thuggish football
jocks, Ram (Vincent Hooper) and Kurt (Jakob Ambrose).
musical is less subversive and clever than the movie, but it features a few
strong songs such as Beautiful,
Cole’s soaring opening
number, that introduces the social battlefield that is high school with lyrics
such as, “This is not high school,
it’s the Thunderdome”.
Store, in which Maunder
leads the pretty but hateful Heathers, is a frightening revelation that the
girls’ cruel lives consist of, “Kicking nerds in the nose, scaring her,
screwing him, maxing out dad’s credit card.”
Cole and Madsen’s love duet, Seventeen,
provides a glimmer of hope for this pair as Veronica tries to convince JD to
stop his vengeful actions and just be a 17-year old kid in love, but their
final duet, I Am Damaged, is a grim ending to their ghastly romance.
Maunder is a diabolical omnipresence as Heather Chandler,
the queen of the “biotches”, even after the character’s untimely demise, while Rebecca Hetherington is
suitably needy as cheerleading Heather who eventually finds her heart, and Hannah Frederiksen makes
almost as despicable as her dead pal.
McKenna has a fine voice and gives an assured performance in dual roles, but
particularly as Martha, the sweet-natured, overweight girl who is the target of
dreadful abuse, and McKenna sings a poignant version of Martha’s yearning
ballad, Kindergarten Boyfriend.
ensemble is talented and the chorus numbers are sassy and vibrant, but it is a
mistake to put young performers in bad wigs and fake potbellies to play adults
because this makes the show look like a bad school production.
an entertaining, albeit patchy, production of Heathers, a show that makes Lord
of the Flies look like a picnic.
MUSICAL THEATRE Music by Nacio Herb Brown,
Lyrics by Arthur Freed, Book by Betty Comden & Adolph Green, produced by
Lunchbox Theatrical Productions, Dainty Group International, Michael Cassel
Group, David Atkins Enterprises Her
Majesty’s Theatre, until July 3, 2016 Reviewer: Kate Herbert on Sat May 14, 2016 Stars: ****
Review also in Herald Sun NEWS online on Sat May 14 at 11pm, in print in on Sun May 15 and in Herald Sun Arts online on Mon May 16, 2016. KH
Adam Garcia photo by Joe Calleri
The front rows cower under plastic ponchos as
the rain pours, the puddles splash and the rest of the audience applauds the
astounding plumbing on the opening night of Singin’ in the Rain at Her
Majesty’s Theatre. At the end of Act One in this
much-loved musical, the stage is awash with 12,000 litres of water when Adam
Garcia as Don Lockwood, the role made famous by Gene Kelly, joyfully sings and
tap dances (or is that splash dances?) his way through the title song. Jonathan Church’s spirited and
captivating production with its vivacious choreography by Andrew Wright,
channels the 1952 movie and highlights the exceptional repertoire of songs that
includes: Good Mornin’, Make ’Em Laugh, Moses Supposes and Singin’ in the Rain
(music by Nacio Herb Brown, lyrics by Arthur Freed). The musical, based on the
original book by Betty Comden and Adolph Green, is set in Hollywoodland in 1927
as silent movie producers struggle to adjust to the changing demands of talkies.
Garcia’s character, Lockwood, is
a smug movie star and former vaudevillian whose fame is built on his silent
roles opposite the alluring but limited Lina Lamont (Erika Heynatz) whose
speaking voice sounds like cats being strangled and renders her unfit for talking
roles. Don falls for showgirl and
aspiring serious actress, Kathy Selden (Gretel Scarlett), who has all the
talents required for talkies: singing, dancing and speaking without shrieking. Scarlett is a triple-threat
(singer/dancer/actor) with a bright vocal tone and thrilling vibrato perfectly
suited to musical theatre and her renditions of You Are My Lucky Star and Would
You? as well as You Were Meant For Me, her duet with Garcia, are show
highlights. Jack Chambers is inspired
casting as Cosmo Brown, Don’s piano playing, ex-vaudeville partner, and he
almost steals the show with his remarkable tap dancing, hilariously nimble slapstick
and tuneful voice in Make ‘Em Laugh. Scarlett, Garcia and Chambers’
voices blend well in their jaunty trio, Good Mornin’, and their playful and
complex choreography echoes that of Kelly, Debbie Reynolds and Donald O’Connor
in the movie. Garcia is at his best in his
lively duets with Chambers that include the perky, vaudeville routine, Fit As A
Fiddle, and Moses Supposes, the cunningly written, jazz patter song that
incorporates tongue twisters and tap dance.
Jack Chambers, Gretel Scarlett, Adam Garcia photo by Joe Calleri
Garcia’s past dance credits on
stage and screen are extensive, but he is not as sassy, fluid, loose-hipped and
light on his feet as he might be in this role and he is clearly out-sung by his
co-leads, Scarlett and Chambers. Heynatz is audacious as the
shrill, vain and mean Lina, demonstrating her impeccable comic timing in the
live action scenes and also in the riotously funny black and white movies. As ruthless movie producer, RF
Simpson, Mike Bishop is impressively large-than-life and channels those
domineering, old Hollywood studio moguls. The ensemble is vivid and
exuberant in the chorus numbers, All I Do, Good Mornin’, and You Are My Lucky
Star and the finale of Singin’ in the Rain is a visual feast of bright
brollies, splashing rain and quirky choreography. Aficionados of the cinematic
version should love this effervescent and inventively re-imagined stage
production of Singin’ In The Rain. But remember to wear a raincoat
if you are in the front rows. By Kate Herbert
Scarlett - Kathy Selden Jack Chambers - Cosmo Brown Erika Heynatz
-Lina Lamont Robyn Arthur
- Dora Bailey Mike Bishop - RF
Simpson Rodney Dobson
- Jonathan Church Choreography
- Andrew Wright Design
- Simon Higlett Musical
Supervisor - Robert Scott
THEATRE By Young Jean Lee, by Melbourne Theatre Company
Studio, Arts Centre Melbourne
Reviewer: Kate Herbert on May 12
Review also online at Herald Sun Arts on Fri May 13, 2016. KH
Straight White Men is less of a scathing satire about
the white man’s privileged position in the modern world and more of a family drama
about a widowed father and his three ageing sons.
is a 21st century My Three Sons (a 1960s US sit-com) set during Christmas when
Ed (John Gaden) has all three of his adult, unmarried sons (Gareth Reeves, Luke
Ryan, Hamish Michael) staying with him to celebrate the holidays for a few days.
Ed’s sons may be near 40 but they revert to familiar
childhood interactions as they wrestle and tease, play video games, dress in their
traditional, Christmas pyjamas, revisit their mother’s politically correct
board game, Privilege, get drunk and dance like nobody is watching.
However, it quickly becomes clear that all is not
well in the land of these privileged white men when eldest son, Matt (Reeves),
inexplicably starts sobbing during their Chinese take-away dinner.
youngest brother, Drew (Michael), a university teacher and successful novelist
experienced in therapy, tries to find the cause of Matt’s despair, Jake (Ryan),
the swaggering banker, shuts him down while the bemused Ed says that Matt, who
now lives with Dad after dumping his doctoral studies at Harvard, is fine.
by Sarah Giles, the four men are compelling, funny and maddening as they
stumble around their family relationships, scrambling to understand each other
and the changing world outside the walls of their family home.
is a still pool of warmth and love as Ed who is mystified by Matt’s unexpected
despondency and Reeves gives Matt a quiet dignity as he struggles with his
bewilderment about finding his place in the world while he works in various,
unchallenging jobs for non-profit organisations.
balances Drew’s self-absorption with genuine concern for his big brother who
was such a revolutionary and intellectual prodigy while Ryan captures the
audacious confidence of Jake, the thriving corporate banker who capitalises on
his white male privilege while admiring what he believes are Matt’s unshakeable
Korean-American playwright, Young Jean Lee, is
clearly not a straight white male but she used improvisational workshops with
male actors to develop this, her first naturalistic script.
The play staggers
after Matt’s breakdown and does not regain its balance because, although we cannot
expect Young’s script to resolve all of Matt’s issues in 90 minutes, Ed’s last,
harsh act seems out of character and the ending is unsatisfying.
Giles’ introduces Candy Bowers who acts as MC rapmeister/stagehand
and delivers a rap ‘welcome to country’ but, although Young’s script directions
require uncomfortably loud hip-hop music before the play starts, Bowers’ role
is extraneous and often distracting.
Straight White Men is an engaging, acerbic and
playful production but, ultimately, it is the talented cast who carry the play.
Music by Alan Menken,
book by Howard Ashman Produced by Luckiest Productions & Tinderbox Productions Comedy
Theatre until May 22, 2016 Reviewer: Kate Herbert Stars:****
Review also published in Herald Sun Arts online on Fri May 6, 2016 & iater in print . KH
gigantic, flesh-eating plant in Little Shop of Horrors looks like the mutant
progeny of an oversized, frill-necked lizard and an enormous pink and green
In this horror-comedy-rock musical (music by Alan
Menken, book by Howard Ashman), a geeky young florist, Seymour Krelborn
(Brent Hill), finds and rears an unusual and seemingly innocuous plant that
thrives on human blood and flesh and evidently came down in the last meteor
names the plant Audrey II, after his ditzy co-worker, Audrey (Esther Hannaford),
who he secretly adores, and Mr. Mushnik’s (Tyler Coppin) florist shop goes
gangbusters after the public discover this eccentric shrub that just keeps on
flourishing on flesh.
Bryant’s taut production, with snappy and audacious choreography by Andrew
Hallsworth, captures the quirkiness and absurdity of this parodic musical that
became a cult classic after being spawned from Roger Corman’s 1960 B-grade
Esther Hannaford is the stand out with
her hilariously idiosyncratic and detailed depiction of the
idiotic but adorable Audrey, and she mines huge laughs from her twitchy, angular
physicality and from the tiniest snippets of dialogue or Audrey’s effusive squeaks
Hannaford’s versatile voice is bright-toned and
sweet in the ballad, Somewhere That’s Green, but is thrilling when she balances
bold, belting notes with softness in her duet with Hill, Suddenly, Seymour.
brings his distinctive, comic talent and impeccable timing to the daggy Seymour
and his formidable vocal skill is a highlight when he belts out the raunchy,
James Brown-style funk number, Git It (Feed Me), singing it as the voice of the
grotesque plant, Audrey II.
Menken’s music, played by Andrew Worboys and his tight band, ranges in style
from the Rhythm and Blues of Skidrow (Downtown) to 60s rock, funk, Doo-Wop and
Coppin is a
Chaplinesque clown as Mr. Mushnik, the florist, while Scott Johnson as the
sadistic dentist, Orin Scrivello, is like a bizarre giggling Elvis.
tough, sassy, powerfully voiced gals played by Angelique Cassimatis (Crystal),
Josie Lane (Chiffon) and Chloe Zuel (Ronnette) provide assured, harmonious vocals
but also fill in narrative detail as would a Greek chorus.
II, designed by Puppet Erth, is a vivid, bumptious, manipulative and scary
creature that devours people in increasingly gruesome ways.
Shop of Horrors succeeds as a kooky, cult classic that entertains the audience with
its impudent parody of schlock horror.