Saturday 21 January 2012

In Vogue – Songs by Madonna, Jan 20, 2012 ****

Performed by Michael Griffiths, written by Dean Bryant

fortyfivedownstairs, Jan 19 to 28, 2012

Reviewer: Kate Herbert on Jan 20, 2012


( published in Herald Sun on Tues Jan 24, 2012)

 Michael Griffiths: In Vogue - Songs of Madonna

WHO CAN EXPLAIN why pop divas such as Madonna, Bette Midler and Kylie are gay icons – they just are.

Singer-pianist, Michael Griffiths, directed by Dean Bryant, performs Madonna’s hit songs, speaking in first person as Madonna but without any drag-queen costuming, accent or attempted impersonation of that feisty, Italo-American pop idol.

Griffith’s performance is super-camp and his delivery of Bryant’s witty dialogue is sardonic and intimate as he weaves Madonna’s songs among stories of her personal and public life.

Seated at a piano, he chats personably with us, underscoring tales of Madonna’s success, loves, ambition and ageing with moody music and cheesy lyrics read from Madonna’s diary.

Griffiths voice is warm, his piano playing effortless and his interpretations of Madonna’s songs often have blues and jazz tones that make them more affecting and personal.

Friday 20 January 2012

Landscape Dreaming, Midsumma, Jan 19, 2012, *1/2

By Charles Mercovich 
Company White Wolf, Midsumma Festival 
La Mama Courthouse, Jan 18 to Feb 5, 2012 
Reviewer: Kate Herbert 
Stars: *1/2

LANDSCAPE DREAMING is a comedy that will attract an audience in the Midsumma Festival, but Charles Mercovich’s script and the production need radical reworking and rewriting to make it successful theatre.

The narrative premise has some promise; Marco (Gavin Williams) needs a suitable male date to accompany him to an Italian family wedding but none of his friends are presentable, so he hires a straight actor to play the role of his boyfriend.
However, the narrative is muddled so we keep chasing it down rabbit holes and getting lost or bumping into dead ends.

The most interesting part of the idea – taking the straight guy to the wedding – is omitted, and Marco’s wedding speech furthers neither the comedy nor his argument about whether marriage or friendship is the happier path.

Thursday 19 January 2012

Britney Spears: The Cabaret, Jan 18, 2012 ****1/2

By Dean Bryant
The Harbour Agency & Luckiest Productions
Midsumma Festival
Chapel off Chapel, Prahran, Jan 18 to 29, 2012
Reviewer: Kate Herbert on Jan 18, 2012
Stars: ****1/2
Published in Herald Sun on Mon, Jan 23, 2012 (See review on this blog of first production, Oct 7, 2010)

Christie Whelan in Britney Spears: The Cabaret

Nearly 18 months after the 2010 premier of Britney Spears: The Cabaret, the charismatic and mischievous Christie Whelan still makes us laugh and cry at her depiction of the vacuous but troubled pop star and her demented behaviour.

Whelan, with her versatile voice and wearing a frighteningly brief, black frock that reveals her knickers more than once, lights up the stage with Brit’s own hit songs and Dean Bryant’s mercilessly satirical versions of them.

Britney’s personal life is now less controversial with her upcoming, third wedding, but her past remains absurd and chaotic.

Tuesday 17 January 2012

Summer of the Seventeenth Doll, MTC, Jan 16, 2012 ***1/2

By Ray Lawler 
Melbourne Theatre Company present Belvoir St production 
Playhouse, Victorian Arts Centre, Jan 16 until Feb 18, 2012 
Reviewer: Kate Herbert on Jan 16, 2012 
Stars: ***& 1/2

Helen Thomson and Travis McMahon. Photo by Jeff Busby.
RAY LAWLER'S 1955 classic Australian play, Summer of the Seventeenth Doll, is a domestic tragedy in which nothing dies except illusions.

It slowly and meticulously dismantles its characters’ romantic dreams and memories to reveal the bleak ordinariness of their lives.

We peer like voyeurs into the old Carlton house where hopelessly romantic barmaid, Olive (Alison Whyte) lives with her crotchety mother, Emma (Robyn Nevin).

There, Olive entertains two cane-cutters, Barney (Travis McMahon) and Roo (Steve Le Marquand) for five months during their layoff season.

What keeps Olive alive for seven months of the year is the romantic excitement of the past 16 years and the tantalising hopes for this 17th year and the 17th kewpie doll that Roo will bring her as a gift.

But the gloss goes off their summer fantasies because Nancy, Barney’s girl, is now married and time finally catches up and reality confronts them.

Olive’s obsessive fantasising and embellishment of their summers is accentuated by Pearl (Helen Thomson), the newcomer who sees their lives warts and all and insensitively shares her views.

In 1955, this play broke boundaries with its Aussie vernacular and working class characters and, although that is commonplace now, it blazed a trail for our playwrights of the 70s.

Friday 13 January 2012

Mother/Son by Jeffrey Solomon, Jan 12, 2012 ****

Midsumma Festival, Men At Work at Theatreworks Theatreworks, St. Kilda, Jan 11 to 21, 2012 
Reviewer: Kate Herbert on Jan 12, 2012 

My continuing wish for compelling, solo shows is again answered with Jeffrey Solomon’s poignant and funny play, the award-winning Mother/Son.

Solomon plays both mother (Mindy) and son (Bradley) in a narrative based on his own experiences as a young, gay man coming out to his liberal, Jewish mother who lives in Long Island.

Mom appears to accept her beloved son’s revelation but struggles with the loss of her dream of grandchildren and, despite her liberalism, she avoids informing their extended family and friends.

The production – originally directed by David L. Carson in New York – is deceptively simple and Solomon shifts credibly and effortlessly from middle-aged, cheerful but pushy Mindy, to her dapper, witty son, Brad, a sit-com writer.
His acting craft is impeccable as he uses only the body, gesture and voice to inhabit his characters and transport us into their worlds without resorting to wigs and costumes.

Wednesday 4 January 2012

Just Shocking! Andy Griffiths, Jan 4, 2012, ***

Just Shocking! 
Adapted by Lynne Ellis from Andy Griffiths' book
By The Just Andys 
Kaleide Theatre, RMIT, Swanston St., Jan 4 to 20, 2012, Mon to Fri,10.30am & 1pm 
Reviewer: Kate Herbert 

   (L-R) Tayla Gentle, Lily King, James Wray, Declan Kelly, Jack McLardie (photo by Marc Morel)

Prepare to be squirted with high-powered water pistols and assailed with vomit, breaking wind and dangerous antics in Just Shocking!, a theatrical adaptation of the sixth book in Andy Griffiths’ popular Just series.

Lynne Ellis’s production titillates the children with Griffiths’ wicked humour and delights in transgressing all rules of decorum and taste.

The cast of RMIT University students may have limited performance skills, but their commitment to the show and audience is unremitting.

The six actors swap roles, genders and ages, playing Just Andy, his friend Danny, and assorted adults, kids, aliens, robots, animals and…the list goes on.

Although the script is a bit wordy, characterisations sometimes clumsy and dialogue occasionally mumbled, the outrageousness of Griffiths’ naughty stories carries the show.

Urban Display Suite, Michael Dalley, Jan 3, 2011, *** ½

Urban Display Suite by Michael Dalley
Music by Michael Dalley & John Thorn 
Presented by Ross Mollison International 
Lawler Studio, MTC, Southbank, Jan 3 to 21, 2011 
Reviewer: Kate Herbert 
Stars: *** ½
L to R: Gabrielle Quin,  Michael Dalley, Sharon Davis, Lyall Brooks. Photo by Mike Emmett.

THE PROPERTY MARKET may be depressed along with buyers and sellers, but you can bet your McMansion on the gleaming smiles, showy brochures, empty platitudes and questionable pricing of estate agents.

Urban Display Suite, Michael Dalley’s deliciously wicked and frighteningly accurate, satirical cabaret, snipes at estate agents, the upwardly mobile, their tasteless décor and ‘the national drug of choice’ – our obsession with property.

Dalley and his cast (Lyall Brooks, Sharon Davis, Gabrielle Quin), attired in comically predictable corporate wear, sing Dalley’s acerbic, witty lyrics. Real estate, they croon caustically, is ‘The white collar job for the blue collar brain.’

They attack cheesy artworks in the G and S style song, Shit Art of the Mornington Peninsula, and snobs who send their kids to expensive schools in It’s A Terrible School (but the grounds are stunning).

The songs, accompanied by John Thorn on piano and accordion, range in style from tangos and latin tunes, power ballads and laments to show tunes.

Some clever sketches and witty repartee link the songs, and it is Dalley and Brooks who carry the comedy.

There are four clever, new songs since the original production, although the added length makes the show a little long – or perhaps the individual tunes need some internal editing.

Although, apart from Dalley, the singing is not exceptional, the scathing parodies and social commentary carry the show.

Brooks is hilarious as the shonky, gung-ho auctioneer in The Ballad of the Auction Cowboy and Dalley’s lament about high-rise living, I’m Sure I’d Love My Neighbours if I Knew Them, is funny and poignant.

Tuesday 3 January 2012

Songs For Nobodies, reviewed Nov 11, 2010 ****1/2

Please note: This review was of the original production in Melbourne in Nov 2010. 
The production is remounted at Victorian Arts Centre in Dec 2011-Jan 2012 as Songs For Nobodies, Encore Season. It then tours Australian cities.

By Joanna Murray-Smith, by Melbourne Theatre Company
Fairfax Studio, Arts Centre, Nov 11 to Dec 23, 2010 (Premiere season)
Reviewer: Kate Herbert on Nov 10, 2010
Stars: ****1/2
 Bernadette Robinson in Songs For Nobodies

Bernadette Robinson’s performance in Songs For Nobodies is theatrical alchemy.  She mysteriously and instantaneously transforms before our eyes into ten different women: five nobodies and five famously talented, damaged songstresses. 

She is remarkable and compelling, her singing is thrilling and her characters are diverse and sympathetic.

The deceptively simple structure of Joanna Murray-Smith’s script, directed with style by Simon Phillips, allows Robinson to people the stage with exceptional and ordinary women, and to perform songs that epitomise each singer. The collaboration between writer and performer is impeccable and Murray-Smith’s monologues create a complex, credible emotional landscape.

Alice in Wonderland***1/2, Jan 12, 2011 (old review)

Note: This review is from the 2011 production of Alice. The production is remounted in Jan 2012. KH

Adapted by Glenn Elston from Lewis Carroll, Australian Shakespeare Company
Rippon Lea House and Gardens, Jan 10 to 29, 2011
Reviewer: Kate Herbert
Stars: *** 1/2
Not only does the audience at Alice In Wonderland have the opportunity to wander through the luxuriant Rippon Lea Gardens, the children get to teach the White Rabbit how to tell the time, crawl through an inflatable, multi-coloured rabbit tunnel, play death-defying croquet with the tempestuous Red Queen and scramble through the legs of the adults who become a pack of playing cards on the croquet field.

This new production, directed inventively by Kevin Hopkins, is one of Glenn Elston’s four outdoor, summer shows and it should be a runaway success with families. It features Lewis Carroll’s deliciously mad characters and nonsensical dialogue and the children squeal with delight at just about everything.