Wednesday 27 January 2021

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Feb 23 2019 ****1/2 (Review of 2019 opening)


Story by JK Rowling, Jack Thorne and John Tiffany, script by Jack Thorne
At Princess Theatre, Melbourne, reviewed on Feb 23, 2019
Reviewer: Kate Herbert
Stars: ****1/2
2021 season begins on 25 February 2021.
NB: Because Cursed Child is about to re-open after closing for Covid in 2020, I am re-posting this review was from the opening of the Melbourne season of Feb 23, 2019  There are cast changes this 2021 season. 
This review was NOT published in Herald Sun in 2019. KH
Sean Rees-Wemyss & William McKenna 
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is a sparkling, visual feast filled with tasty, Hogwarts  treats for the Potter aficionado.
The excitable and very vocal crowd cheers and gasps at the remarkable, jaw-dropping special effects of John Tiffany’s production that combines magical illusion, black theatre puppetry, startling appearances and disappearances, and whirling choreographic scenes - oh, and familiar characters as well as new ones.
Tiffany keeps the action swift and vivacious in Parts One and Two that are an endurance test of over five hours for the audience - but nobody seems to mind.
Based on an original new story by JK Rowling, Jack Thorne and John Tiffany, this new play, written by Jack Thorne, which hurls us back into the world of Hogwarts when Harry (Gareth Reeves) and Ginny’s (Lucy Goleby) son Albus (Sean Rees-Wemyss) begins his less than stellar school years at Hogwarts Academy. 
A cunning twist is that Albus's best friend is the goofy and incompetent Scorpius Malfoy (William McKenna), son of Draco, Harry’s childhood nemesis.
The signs at the theatre say, ‘Keep the secrets’, so this we will do. You will not hear anything of the cursed child, the changing fate of young Albus, Scorpius, Harry and his cronies, Ron Weasley (Gyrton Grantley) and Hermione (Paula Arundell) or the current headmistress Professor McGonagall (Debra Lawrance). 
If you loved the Potter books and movies, this is a must-see for you. There are working magic wands, magical creatures, moving staircases, terrifying dementors, villains and heroes, battles for life and death, broken familial relationships and all your favourite characters.
The heroes of this production are the invisible people who manipulate human bodies, puppets, staircases, wands and other paraphernalia to create this fantastic world before our eyes.
As Scorpius, McKenna delights the crowd from start to finish, and Rees-Wemyss, as Albus, is a suitably disenchanted, rebellious teenager.
Appearances by  Severus Snape (David Ross Patterson), Professor Dumbledore (George Henare), Lily and James Potter, Dolores Umbridge (Hannah Waterman), and a delicious bathroom cameo from Moaning Myrtle (Gillian Cosgriff) send the crowd into paroxysms of delight.
Occasionally, some dialogue feels a bit cheesy and uncomfortable, a few characters are a bit shouty and lacking vocal control, and the story is extremely convoluted.
But, ultimately, there is plenty of spectacle to keep the audience cheering and clapping as we witness the continuation of the fight between good and evil that is at the heart of the Harry Potter series. Everyone goes home tired and happy.
by Kate Herbert

Come From Away, 13 July 2019 ***** (REVIEW of 2019 season)


Book, Music & Lyrics by David Hein & Irene Sankoff
Comedy Theatre, until Oct 27, 2019 
Reviewer: Kate Herbert (reviewed at preview performance on Sat 13 July 2019)
Stars: ***** (5) 

I am posting my 2019 review of this sensational production as it has now opened again in Melbourne. I have no information about any cast changes for this 2021 season. 

It runs uitl 14 March 2021 at Comedy Theatre. KH

This review was NOT published in Herald Sun in 2019.

Melbourne Cast of Come From Away-photo Jeff Busby
Come From Away is a remarkable, exhilarating and joyous celebration of the human spirit at its best, and the audience leapt to its feet in a standing ovation at the finale. This show is a rare creature you should not miss.

On September 11 2001, 38 planes were diverted to a tiny town in Newfoundland, Canada, almost 7,000 passengers were met with warmth and open-hearted generosity.

On that dark day, the 10,000 residents of Gander and neighbouring towns gave shelter, solace and a warm hearth to complete strangers displaced by the events of 9-11. These people shared their lives. Remember sharing?

In their electrifying and outstanding musical, writers, David Hein and Irene Sankoff, condense 16,000 stories from real interviews into a narrative set over five days, with dozens of quirky characters portrayed by an exceptional ensemble of twelve.

Hein and Sankoff weave an uplifting and compelling tale, about the passengers who start in a state of panic, despair and ignorance, and the extraordinary residents of Gander who rally to make them welcome. As news filters through from New York, these strangers commune and a new, short-term community takes shape.

With Christopher Ashley’s deft direction, actors transform into multiple characters with only the change of a jacket and an accent. On a stage sparsely decorated with wooden chairs and slender tree trunks, they transport us from claustrophobic plane to crowded sleeping quarters or a rowdy pub.

Ashley sets a vivacious pace that never tires the audience, but keeps us energised and on the edge of our seats, because we care about these people.

We wait anxiously for news of Hannah’s (Sharriese Hamilton) fireman son in New York, Captain Beverly Bass’s (Zoe Gertz) pilot friend, wonder if this odd couple (Nathan Carter, Katrina Retallick) will get together, and will the gay partners, Kevin and Kevin (Doug Hansell, Nicholas Brown), split up?

With precision and style, Hein and Sankoff thread dialogue amongst the spirited, witty lyrics and complex, choral harmonies of their songs, to inform story, characters and relationships.

The signature tune, Welcome to the Rock, provides a stirring anthem about Newfoundland that is reminiscent of a Les Miz chorus, while the rousing Celtic, folk-rock score, featuring a live band (fiddle, guitar, bass, bodhran, accordion), supports the ebullient performers.

City slickers and foreigners start to realise they won’t be robbed or killed in this gentle, surprisingly tolerant, isolated island, although some of Muslim faith are carefully screened.

Come From Away has an unlikely story for a musical, but it works and its celebratory story renews one’s faith in humanity. I’d wanted to watch it all over again immediately it finished. If you see nothing else this year, see this. It’s worth it.

By Kate Herbert
COME_FROM-AWAY-Zoe Gertz - pic Jeff Busby
COME_FROM-_AWAY_Nathan Carter Katrina Retallick -pic Jeff Busby

Cast in 2019
Zoe Gertz - Captain Beverly Bass
Richard Piper - Mayor of Gander (and other characters)
Sharriese Hamilton- (Hannah)
Doug Hansell – Kevin T
Nicholas Brown - Kevin
Kolby Kindle –Bob
Emma Powell - Beulah
Katrina Retallick – Diane
Kellie Rode-  Bonnie
Sarah Harrision -Janice
Nathan Carter – Nick
Simon Maiden – Oz, Rabbi

Director - Christopher Ashley
Musical Staging -Kelly Devine
Musical Director -Luke Hunter
Musical Supervisor -Ian Eisendrath