Thursday 31 January 2013

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Feb 2, 2013 ***1/2

Music by Richard M. Sherman & Robert B.Sherman 
Adapted for stage by Jeremy Sams & Ray Roderick
Adapted from movie by Ken Hughes & Roald Dahl; original story by Ian Fleming
Produced by Tim Lawson
Her Majesty’s Theatre, Melbourne for 10 weeks
Reviewer: Kate Herbert
Stars: ***1/2

The review is now on line Herald Sun, Arts. It wasn't published as expected in Sunday Herald Sun News pages, Sun Feb 3. KH
 Photo by Joe Calleri

The undeniable star of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is the exquisitely designed, flying racing car that cost over a million dollars, making it the most expensive stage prop in theatre history.

Chitty won the audience’s appreciation by a country mile, leaving them gaping in childlike astonishment as this glossy, 1920s vehicle, carrying the human stars of the show, spread its orange wings and flew into a glittering night sky.

The Melbourne opening night audience was adorned with celebrities from stage, screen, radio and sports including: Stefan Denis, Shane Jacobsen, Colin Lane and musical theatre stars Marina Prior and Rhonda Burchmore.

Two of the celebs – tennis champ, Todd Woodbridge, and Debra Byrne, grand lady of the musical stage – were present to witness their respective children, Beau Woodbridge and Lucille Le Meledo, playing the perky, wide-eyed and precocious Jeremy and Jemima Potts who cheerfully sing Truly Scrumptious and Teamwork.

David Hobson, renowned tenor of the opera stage, plays Caractacus Potts, eccentric inventor and creator of the enchanted car, and his silken vocal tone resonates in the sweetly moving lullaby, Hushabye Mountain.

Hobson carries the Sherman brothers’ songs beautifully – particularly the title tune – but, although his dancing is surprisingly competent, his acting is limited, his dialogue uncomfortable, he lacks the clown skill required for the physical comedy, and he looks more startled than eccentric.

Rachael Beck, as Truly Scrumptious, Potts’ aptly named love interest, is pert and delicious with a warm, pretty voice, and her rendition of Doll On A Music Box, with its duet with Hobson as a jack in the box, is a sweet highlight.

The first half is slow to get cracking, but the comedic duo, George Kapiniaris and Todd Goddard as the Vulgarian spies, Goran and Boris, provide big laughs, as do a scampering rabble of scruffy dogs and a line of panting runners who are repeatedly passed by Chitty on the road.

The second half is completely stolen by the exceptional vocal talent and impeccable comic delivery and timing of Jennifer Vuletic as the haughty Baroness Bomburst of Vulgaria, singing the silly love duet Chu–Chi Face and leading the chorus in The Bombie Samba.

Vuletic shifts hilariously from sexy lover, to heartless child-hater then into a whimpering mess at any mention of the “c” word – children.

Alan Brough is entertainingly childlike as her husband, Baron Bomburst, a teutonic man-child who adores toys and blowing things up, but Brough’s character lacks the contrasting bombastic militarism that ironically highlights his naïvete.

Peter Carroll’s Grandpa Potts is a delightfully potty, old British military man, and Tyler Coppin is reminiscent of a Tim Burton movie character as the scary, spider-like Child Catcher.

The Sherman brothers’ musical styles include 1900s music hall, lullabies, latin beats, children’s songs and peppy dance tunes, but the most memorable is the title song.

James Bond creator, Ian Fleming’s children’s book morphed into the 1968 movie written by Roald Dahl which was subsequently adapted in 2002 by Jeremy Sams and Ray Roderick for this stage production.

Director, Roger Hodgman, keeps the action and the gags lively, Peter Casey conducts the orchestra skilfully, Dana Jolly’s choreography is cheerfully animated albeit unoriginal, and Anthony Ward’s set is effectively cartoon-like and his vivid costumes are high-gelati.

Families who loved Mary Poppins and its songs by the Shermans will enjoy this production, but Chitty Chitty Bang Bang lacks the array of award-winning, unforgettable songs, electrifying dance routines and magical characters that hallmark Poppins.

By Kate Herbert

 Photo by Joe Calleri
Creative Team
Director - Roger Hodgman
Choreographer - Dana Jolly
Musical Director/Conductor - Peter Casey
Scenic & Costume Designer - Anthony Ward
Lighting Designer - Matt Scott
Sound Designer - Kelvin Gedye

David Hobson - Caractacus Potts
Rachael Beck - Truly Scrumptious 
Tyler Coppin - Childcatcher
Jeremy Potts - Shared by Kade Hughes, Kurtis Papadinis, Beau Woodbridge
Jemima Potts - Quinn Cameron, Lucille Le Meledo, Caitlin Vippond
Alan Brough - Baron Bomburst
Jennifer Vuletic - Baroness Bomburst
Peter Carroll - Grandpa
George Kapiniaris - Goran the spy
Todd Goddard - Boris the spy
Phillip Gould - Toymaker
Tony Farrell- Coggins
Sophie Carter/Janna Fripp- Miss Philllips

  Photo by Joe Calleri
 Photo by Joe Calleri

Wednesday 23 January 2013

Blaze: The Show, from Jan 23-27, 2013 Preview

Blaze: The Show 
Arts Centre Melbourne, Hamer Hall
Jan 23 -27, 2013
This is not a Herald Sun preview. KH

 Blaze: Photo by Joe Calleri

Following a successful premiere in London’s West End and sold out tours in the Netherlands and the UK, Blaze is a high-energy dance show starring Demi Sorono and Sid Mathur from So You Think You Can Dance.

Saturday 19 January 2013

Act A Lady, Jan 19, 2013 **1/2

By Jordan Harrison, by 'By The Scruff Theatre Company'
La Mama Courthouse, until Jan 27, 2013
Reviewer: Kate Herbert on Jan 19, 2013
Stars: **1/2
Review also published in Herald Sun, Fri Jan 25, 2013. KH
 Angela Lumicisi in Act A Lady

Act A Lady, by Jordan Harrison, is about three men in a small, Midwest American town in 1927 decide to perform a melodrama for their annual charity performance, dressed as 17th century French women. 

Such immoral activity sets tongues a-wagging, especially amongst the Women’s Temperance Society, but the men discover that changing clothes also forces them to confront their deeper, darker, feminine sides.

The play, directed by Andrew McMillan, starts in Miles’ (Mason Gasowski) and his wife, Dot’s (Angela Lumicisi) country kitchen, as they plan the performance with two locals, True (Spencer Scholz) and Caspar (Kashmir Sinnamon).

The script then leaps into the period-costumed, French revenge melodrama about an arrogant Countess (Scholz), the scheming Lady Romula (Gasowski) and a maid (Sinnamon), who all compete for the affections of a philandering Viscount.

In a peculiar structural quirk, the play then returns to the men’s rehearsal scenes, depicting their emotional crises as they wrangle with cross-dressing.

Vieux Carré, Jan 17, 2013 **1/2

By Tennessee Williams
Itch Productions, Midsumma Festival
45downstairs, until Feb 3, 2013 
Reviewer: Kate Herbert 
Stars: **1/2
Review published in Herald Sun on Wed Jan 23, 2013. KH

Vieux Carré is not one of Tennessee Williams’ major works, although its themes, characters, poetic language and tone forecast and resonate with his renowned, later works.

Williams began Vieux Carré in 1938 while living in the Old French Quarter of New Orleans in his 20s, but it was not finished or staged until 1977 when it closed after five Broadway performances.

The decadence, deprivation, rhythm and heat of New Orleans are already pervasive in this early, autobiographical work and we can almost hear Blanche Dubois and Stanley Kowalski outside the windows.

It is set in a dilapidated, historic boarding house run by a demented, manipulative landlady, Mrs. Wire (Kelly Nash), and populated by misfits, drunks, the sick and dying.
The reticent, unnamed Writer (Thomas Blackburne), a version of the younger Williams, narrates the play, eavesdropping on residents and tapping out their stories on his old Remington typewriter.

The script resembles a collection of short stories, a series of vignettes and character sketches interwoven to create a tapestry of scenes.

It does not possess the dramatic shape and intense dramatic tension of later Williams’ dramas, so its theatricality relies on quirky characters, their poetic, self-absorbed musings and catastrophic life choices.

Friday 18 January 2013

Ovo, Jan 16, 2013 ****1/2

By Cirque du Soleil 
Grand Chapiteau Big Top, Docklands Drive
Reviewer: Kate Herbert
Stars: **** 1/2

NB: This is NOT a Herald Sun review. KH.

Cirque du Soleil shows are always gobsmacking because of the exceptional skills of the artists, the visual feast of the set and costumes, and the sensurround of the live music. Ovo is no exception with its parade of thrilling acts.

The Flying Scarabs, a high-flying trapeze act, left me gaping like a lunatic and in fear for their lives as they flew overhead incorporating complex balances into the flying routine. Thank God for the net in this act.

A major the highlight for the audience in this opening night program was Spiderman (Julaiti Ailati), who stood on his head on a slack wire then sent the crowd wild when he followed up by riding a tiny unicycle upside down – also on the slack wire.

The Crickets also had the crowd cheering with their trampo-wall act involving extraordinary acrobatics on long trampolines that send them flying up a climbing wall that becomes littered with creatures clinging by their fingers and toes.

Another high point was Ants, six tiny girls foot-juggling, hilariously, giant slices of kiwi fruit  – and then juggling each other in a novelty Risley act.

Thursday 17 January 2013

Sleeping Beauty, Victorian Opera, Jan 17, 2013 ****

Music & Libretto by Richard Gill, Victorian Opera
Her Majesty’s Theatre, Jan 17 to 19, 2013
Reviewer: Kate Herbert

Version of this review published in Herald Sun on line (Jan 18) then in print. KH

  L-R: Olivia Cranwell as Queen Clementine, James Payne as King Florestan and Dimity Shepard as Dargonelle

Recipe for children’s opera: take one fairy tale, several opera singers, ballet dancers and fairies, then mix with orchestra, singable tunes, rhymes, pantomime and audience participation.

Richard Gill’s Sleeping Beauty, with Derek Taylor’s direction, has all the ingredients for an enjoyable children’s musical, with the added element of exposing little ones to opera at their own level.

Before we embark on the fairy tale, narrators Darcy the Jester (Jonathan Bode) and Fairy Godmother Ticketty-Boo (Suzanne Johnston), introduce the show with singalongs, jokes and even bring some lucky children on stage to accompany the overture with tambourines.

The children love the tomfoolery of Bode and Johnston and their chorus of Jumping Jollies, four playful singer-dancers who help to tell the tale.

The story of the sleeping princess (Lotte Betts-Dean) and her heroic prince (Daniel Todd) is told through simple, rhyming dialogue and cheerful, eclectic music, songs and dance.

The children hear arias, duets, multi-part harmonies and choruses sung by professionals that not only entertain and engage, but also educate them about opera.

Tuesday 15 January 2013

Romeo and Juliet, Jan 16, 2013 ***

William Shakespeare, Australian Shakespeare Company
Botanical Gardens, Observatory Gate, Jan 16 until March 9, 2013
Reviewer: Kate Herbert on Jan 16, 2013
This review published on line and in print in Herald Sun, Mon Jan 21, 2013. KH

 Madeleine Field & Jamieson Caldwell
Glenn Elston’s playful, accessible Romeo and Juliet demands no prior knowledge of Shakespeare, so those who never see his plays inside a theatre can enjoy a night under the stars with a blanket, a chardonnay and friends.

The trees in the Botanical Gardens glow purple behind the classical façade of a palazzo in Verona where the star-crossed lovers live out their tragic, teenage romance.

Romeo and Juliet, one of Shakespeare’s great tragedies, is about two warring families, the Capulets – Juliet’s family – and the Montagues – Romeo’s kin.
The young couple is the heart of the story and Jamieson Caldwell’s Romeo is an attractive, athletic, boyish and passionate youth, steeped in a romantic, poetic view of love and, like any lovesick adolescent, lacking confidence in seduction.

Madeleine Field as Juliet is pretty and intense, but a little too sophisticated, arch and sexually confident – like a modern schoolgirl – and her performance often looks studied, melodramatic and disconnected from Shakespeare’s text.

The first half of Elston’s production is light-hearted and littered with topical, contemporary jokes, boyish horseplay from Romeo and his pals, and good-humoured teasing and participation with the audience.

As night settles over the gardens, the second half shifts tone, becoming darker and more ominous, with perilous swordplay, tragic errors of judgement and deaths.

Scott Jackson plays Romeo’s jovial but doomed pal, Mercutio, with an edge of mischievous taunting and physicality and an unusual hint of campery, while Chris Asimos is an ardent and dangerous Tybalt.

Brendan O’Connor is a credible patriarch as Juliet’s father, Capulet, cleverly balancing good-humoured drunkenness with unbridled rage.

Anthony Rive is a suitably affable fool as Peter, the illiterate servant, but Natalia Novikova does not always hit the broad, bawdy, comic note needed for Juliet’ s foolish, old Nurse.

Seeing Romeo and Juliet in the intense pressure cooker of a theatre can be overwhelming so, in this garden setting and with some playful additions to the text, the pressure is off the audience who can lie back, sip a wine, and enjoy.

By Kate Herbert

Jamieson Caldwell Romeo
Madeleine Field Juliet
Brendan O’Connor Capulet
Claire Nicholls Lady Capulet
Natalia Novikova Nurse
Chris Asimos Tybalt
Anthony Rive Peter
Nick Backstrom Friar
Ross Williams Montague
Daniel Mottau Benvolio
Scott Jackson Mercutio
Charlie Sturgeon Prince
Hugh Sexton Paris
Female Understudy Mia Landgren
Male Understudy James Harvy

Creative Team:
Director & Script Adaptation Glenn Elston
Musical Director Paul Norton
Costume Designer Karla Erenbots
Production Manager Ashley Groenen
Stage Manager Alix Parsons
Production Co-ordinator Kaspa Elston
Scenic Artist Barry Drynan
Lighting Operator Gordon Boyd
Fight Choreographer Felicity Steel
Dance Choreographer Sue-Ellen Shook


Sunday 13 January 2013

Jersey Boys, Princess Theatre Jan 12, 2013 *****

Jersey Boys - The Story of Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons
Book by Marshall Brickman & Rick Elice
Music by Bob Gaudio & Lyrics by Bob Crewe (and others)
Princess Theatre, Melbourne, from Jan 12 to March 24, 2013
Reviewer: Kate  Herbert on Saturday Jan 12, 2013 
Declan Egan (Bob), Jeff Madden (Frankie), Anthony Harkin (Tommy), Glaston Toft (Nick): Photo by Joe Calleri

JERSEY BOYS CLOSED TOO SOON after its 2009 season, leaving audiences clamouring for more and, if the toe tapping, cheering and singing along at the opening night is any indication, audiences will not be disappointed.

This jukebox musical traces the story of Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons, four Italo-American, New Jersey boys who created a distinctive sound featuring Frankie’s enormous three and a half octave range, countless hit tunes and unique four part harmonies.

There is plenty to make this show first class entertainment and its recipe for success starts with the quality of Bob Gaudio’s music and Bob Crewe’s lyrics.

The heart-stopping highlight is the thrilling combination of four male voices with complex harmonies, singing tunes including: Sherry, Big Girls Don’t Cry, Oh What A Night, Let’s Hang On, Working My Way Back to You, and a spine-tingling, foot-stomping finale of Who Loves You that brings the crowd to its feet.

Declan Egan (Bob), Jeff Madden (Frankie), Anthony Harkin (Tommy), Glaston Toft (Nick): Photo by Joe Calleri