Friday 27 May 2016

The Glass Menagerie, May May 19, 2016

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,

Direction/ Eamon Flack
Set Design / Michael Hankin
Costume Design / Mel Page
Lighting Design / Damien Cooper
Composer & Sound Design / Stefan Gregory

Friday 20 May 2016

The Sound of Music, May 19, 2016 ****

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 memorable tunes.

This Australian production is a restaging of Jeremy Sams’ London 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 sings the unforgettable Do-Re-Mi and The Lonely Goatherd with the children who raise the cuteness factor to 100% in the joyful So Long, Farewell.

The 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 by Du 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.

The high 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.

However, Act 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.

Although 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.

For ardent 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.

By Kate Herbert

Thursday 19 May 2016

The Sound of Music, MEDIA CALL, Thurs May 19, 2016

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, Melbourne, Thurs May 19 until July 31, 2016

All photos by Joe Calleri, taken at Media Call at Regent Theatre on Thurs May 9, 2016
 Amy Lehpamer & children, photo by Joe Calleri
 Jacqueline Dark & Amy Lehpamer, photo by Joe Calleri
 Marina Prior, photo by Joe Calleri
 von Trapp children, photo by Joe Calleri
 photo by Joe Calleri
 photo by Joe Calleri

Monday 16 May 2016

Heathers The Musical, May 15, 2016 ***

Book, Music & Lyrics by Laurence O’Keefe and Kevin Murphy, based on the film by Daniel Murphy, produced by Showwork & Arts Centre Melbourne 
Playhouse, Arts Centre Melbourne, until May 22, 2016 
Reviewer: Kate Herbert  on May 15
This review also online and in print in Herald Sun Arts on Mon May 16, 2016. KH
Hannah Frederiksen,  Lucy Maunder, Rebecca Hetherington
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.

This 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.

Westerberg 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).

The 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”.

Candy 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 bulimic Heather almost as despicable as her dead pal.

Lauren 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.

The 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.

This is an entertaining, albeit patchy, production of Heathers, a show that makes Lord of the Flies look like a picnic.

Kate Herbert

Director  Trevor Ashley
Choreographer  Cameron Mitchell
Musical Director  Bev Kennedy
Designers  Emma Vine with Eamon D’arcy
Costume Design  Angela White
Lighting Design  Gavan Swift 

Hilary Cole - Veronica Sawyer
 Lucy Maunder -Heather Chandler
Rebecca Hetherington -Heather McNamara
Hannah Frederiksen -Heather Duke
Stephen Madsen-JD
 Vincent Hooper =Ram
Jakob Ambrose -Kurt

Libby Asciak,  Lauren McKenna, , Sage Douglas, Stephen McDowell, Mitchell Hicks.

By Kate Herbert

Sunday 15 May 2016

Singin’ in the Rain, May 13, 2016 ****

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 

Adam Garcia -Don Lockwood

Gretel Scarlett - Kathy Selden
Jack Chambers - Cosmo Brown
Erika Heynatz -Lina Lamont
Robyn Arthur - Dora Bailey
Mike Bishop - RF Simpson
 Rodney Dobson -Roscoe Dexter

Director - Jonathan Church
Choreography - Andrew Wright
Design - Simon Higlett
Musical Supervisor - Robert Scott

Gretel Scarlett & company, photo by Joe Calleri
 Adam Garcia photo by Joe Calleri

Straight White Men, May 12, 2016 ***1/2

By Young Jean Lee, by Melbourne Theatre Company 
Fairfax Studio, Arts Centre Melbourne 
Reviewer: Kate Herbert on May 12
Stars: ***1/2
 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.

It 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.

When 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.

Directed 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.

Gaden 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.

Michael 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 liberal principles.

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.

By Kate Herbert


Thursday 12 May 2016

Singin' in the Rain – Media Call, May 12, 2016

These photos were all taken by Joe Calleri at the Singin' in the Rain Media Call on Thursday, May 12, 2016.

Adam Garcia photo by Joe Calleri 
 Adam Garcia photo by Joe Calleri
Jack Chambers, Adam Garcia, Gretel Scarlett, photo by Joe Calleri 
Ensemble photo by Joe Calleri
 Adam Garcia photo by Joe Calleri 
Jack Chambers, Adam Garcia, Gretel Scarlett photo by Joe Calleri
 Adam Garcia, photo by Joe Calleri 

 Adam Garcia photo by Joe Calleri

Jack Chambers, Adam Garcia, Gretel Scarlett photo by Joe Calleri

Ensemble photo by Joe Calleri
 Ensemble photo by Joe Calleri 

 All photos by Joe Calleri at Singin' in the Rain Media Call on Thursday, May 12, 2016.