Thursday 31 May 2012

Moonshadow by Cat Stevens (Yusuf), May 31, 2012. **1/2

Music & Lyrics by Cat Stevens/Yusuf; Book by Yusuf, Rachel Williams & Anders Albien
Princess Theatre, Melbourne, May 31 to Sept, 2012
Reviewer: Kate Herbert
Stars: ** 1/2
Gareth Keegan as Stormy in Moonshadow

PURISTS CRAVING CAT STEVENS’ (AKA Yusuf) distinctive voice may be disappointed with his musical, Moonshadow, but its repertoire of his classic songs will satisfy many nostalgic Baby Boomers while its fantasy narrative and Tim Burtonesque design will delight their grandchildren.

On the imaginary planet Alaylia, the inhabitants live in cold darkness without sun or birdsong and with only the moon and precious balls of manufactured Ember to light their lives.

Young hero Stormy, played with youthful exuberance by Gareth Keegan, embarks on a quest to find a mythical world of light and joy, leaving his childhood sweetheart, Lisa (Gemma-Ashley Kaplan).

It’s is a classic hero’s journey combined with a Romeo and Juliet love story, with universal themes about overcoming adversity, good versus evil and light versus darkness.

However, the story, particularly on his journey is incoherent, the expository and laboured dialogue needs slashing, the attempts at humour are feeble, the pace and cueing are slow, and the capable actors sometimes look uncomfortable.

Yusuf’s original, timeless melodies and poignant lyrics provide the heart and soul and the glue for the narrative. The problem is that, there are too many songs (41) and many are only fragments that do not advance the story or characters.

Wednesday 30 May 2012

Annie, Regent Theatre, May 29, 2012 ****

Book by Thomas Meehan, Music by Charles Strouse, Lyrics by Martin Charnin 
Regent Theatre, Opening Night May 29, until Aug 12, 2012
Reviewer: Kate Herbert on May 29, 2012
Stars: ****

 Caitlin Marks as Annie (centre). Pic Jim Lee

 THE STAR-STUDDED OPENING NIGHT OF ANNIE IN MELBOURNE confirms that all Julia Gillard needs is a relentlessly optimistic, redheaded orphan like Annie to inspire her to draft a New Deal to dispel the economic gloom for Australian battlers.

Musicals cheered the masses during The Great Depression and the wars so what better way to buoy our spirits than to smile and sing with Annie, “The sun’ll come out tomorrow.”

Perky, little Caitlin Marks, who alternates the lead with Hattie Hook and Monique Heath, is a cheeky, unaffected, bright-voiced Annie supported by a chorus of cute, scruffy orphans.

This show, directed by Karen Johnson-Mortimer, is littered with memorable, toe-tappin’ tunes including: It’s the Hard Knock Life, Easy Street, You’re Never Fully Dressed Without A Smile and NYC.

There were plenty of music theatre glitterati on the red carpet, but Anthony Warlow, with his resonant, velvet tones, commands the stage as gruff zillionaire, Daddy Warbucks.

Another member of Australian musical theatre royalty, Nancye Hayes, is deliciously jaded, slightly sozzled and saucy as Miss Hannigan, the orphanage tyrant.

Monday 28 May 2012

On The Production Of Monsters , MTC, May 25, 2012 ***

By Robert Reid, Melbourne Theatre Company
MTC Lawler Studio, May 25 to June 9, 2012
Reviewer: Kate Herbert
Stars: *** 1/2
   James Saunders & Virginia Gay. Pic by Jodie Hutchinson.

ROBERT REID'S FAST-MOVING, EPISODIC PLAY, On The Production Of Monsters, hurtles off on a tangent from the political and media scandal that surrounded Bill Henson’s photo of a nude girl.

When cool, inner-city couple, Ben (James Saunders) and Shari (Virginia Gay) unwittingly forward a revealing photo of a naked girl to a keen, young journalist, they are catapulted into a national media scandal and police investigation.

Reid challenges the audience, making us experience vicariously the horrors of being accused of a crime that we have not committed but, meanwhile, forcing us to address our own opinions, prejudices and actions.

Occasionally, Reid’s smart, swift repartee has the whiff of sketch comedy, but his script has a clever dramatic arc, gritty narrative and witty dialogue.

Gay and Saunders provide exceptional performances, playing multiple roles and peopling the stage with a parade of diverse, recognisable, urban types, victims and villains, the powerful and the helpless.