Review: I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change

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Review: I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change

It is such a pleasure to go out for an evening of light-hearted entertainment that delivers on its promises: a funny, revue celebration of the trials and tribulations of monogamy. In a little under 2 hours (including a 20-minute interval) the audience are treated to a series of (mainly musical) vignettes and sketches which follow the process of dating, marriage, in-laws, new parenting, older parenting, breaking up, post-divorce match-making and geriatric hooking up.

 Picture:  Hey There Single Gal/Guy ( full cast Julie Eisentrager, Mufaro Maringe, Nadia Vanek, Kate Doohan, Nick Ferguson, Jenna Saini, Jack Treby, and Joshua Thia). Picture credit: Geoff lawrence, Creative Futures Photography

Picture: Hey There Single Gal/Guy (full cast Julie Eisentrager, Mufaro Maringe, Nadia Vanek, Kate Doohan, Nick Ferguson, Jenna Saini, Jack Treby, and Joshua Thia). Picture credit: Geoff lawrence, Creative Futures Photography

Unsurprisingly, the play, by Joe DiPietro (Book and Lyrics) & Jimmy Roberts (Music)[1], was an off-Broadway triumph, racking up over 5,000 performances in an 18-year run. There are many witty twists along the way—from the dashed expectations of the parents (who had hoped that 2 years of dating would herald an engagement), through to an entertaining twist on speed-dating (who needs to date for 2 years anyway, when you can skip on to the breakup on the first evening). There are tears and laughter: laughter from the audience (I think there was a lot of recognition of personal experience along the way), and who can forget the conversion-to-chick-flick tears of the guy (Jack Treby) who assured his new date that she should choose the film?

The cast of 8 work hard and seem to have a lot of fun along the way (goodness knows how the Broadway cast of 4 managed to cover the program). The show begins and ends with some great close harmonies by the full cast (Julie Eisentrager, Mufaro Maringe, Nadia Vanek, Kate Doohan, Nick Ferguson, Jenna Saini, Jack Treby, and Joshua Thia). But each of the performers has an opportunity to shine, and it is probably unfair of me to select only a few highlights. But of course I will! Single Man Drought was beautifully directed (Gabriella Flowers) and provided an opportunity for some wonderful female harmonies. Hey There Single Gal/Guy was simply fabulous—and almost a show-stopper. thanks to the comedic skills of Mom (Eisentrager). I Will Be Loved Tonight will stick in the mind not only for the great exchanges between Maringe and Vanek, but also every time someone suggests bringing wine to accompany lasagne, I’ll remember their dialogue… And then of course there was the Marriage Tango (again a ‘gift’ for Maringe and Eisentrager, who had almost as much fun performing the piece as we did watching it). 

 Picture:  Baby Song ( full cast Julie Eisentrager, Mufaro Maringe, Nadia Vanek, Kate Doohan, Nick Ferguson, Jenna Saini, Jack Treby, and Joshua Thia). Picture credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography

Picture: Baby Song (full cast Julie Eisentrager, Mufaro Maringe, Nadia Vanek, Kate Doohan, Nick Ferguson, Jenna Saini, Jack Treby, and Joshua Thia). Picture credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography

The cast sang, danced (thanks to the work of Deaney Toia-Sinapati), and acted their way through a wide range of characters and pieces to make the 2-hour show pass in a moment, thanks to some wonderful characterisations and a great selection of costumes (Kristan Ford). 

Not every scene was set to music, with some entertaining sketches allowing Musical Director (Danika Saal) and Musicians (Katherine Gavranich, Ann Whitaker and Jesse Harris) a chance to catch their breath. The orchestra work hard in this show, and the production was well-served by their centre-stage contributions.

Congratulations to The Savoyards Committee for their ‘Name of Project (NOP)’ initiative. The opportunities for new technical creatives to gain that all-important experience are few and far between.  I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change is the first of the Savoyards’ NOP projects, allowing technical creatives to gain experience under the guiding hand of experienced mentors. It is great to see established creatives—led in such style by Gabriella Flowers (Director)—provide such fantastic experiences for the talent of the future. There are over 50 individuals credited with bringing this production to the stage. Congratulations go to each and every one of them—and in particular to the 7 mentors who supported their proteges. Enjoy the laughter and the applause of your audience. You deserve it.

 Catherine Lawrence

The reviewer attended the preview performance, Friday 16 March, 2018 (7:30pm).

Venue:  The Star Theatre, Wynnum High School, Peel Street, Manly Qld (https://www.savoyards.com.au/i-love-you-youre-perfect-now-change )

Tickets (all plus transaction fees): General Admission $37, Concession $32, Group (10+, $30), Junior (High School, $25).

Running time: 105 minutes, plus 20-minute interval.

Parental Advice: This show contains adult themes and language.

 

 

 

 

 

[1] Originally Produced in New York by James Hammerstein, Bernie Kukoff and Jonathan Pollard. Original Direction by Joel Bishoff. Originally produced by the American Stage Company (James N. Vagias, Executive Producer). "I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change" is presented by permission of ORiGiN™ Theatrical on behalf of R&H Theatricals.

 

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Review: The Eisteddfod

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Review: The Eisteddfod

Brisbane is managing to attract some blockbuster shows to our major venues—productions requiring major investments that demand high ticket prices. But if you are looking for a show that is challenging and occasionally confronting, and which will keep you all talking about the messages and ideas presented by the creative team, then make sure you visit some of the smaller venues around town.  And keep Room to Play on your shortlist. The latest work produced by this local creative team is now on at the Metro Arts Sue Brenner Theatre.

Imagination has a lot to answer for. Essential in learning and development for children and adults alike, imagination can also spark illness or phobias (which can then be exacerbated by what the sufferer imagines will happen to them). Imagination is also vital for successful theatre. Directors, playwrights and actors toil to create an imaginary world that will inspire, challenge or entertain their audiences—which is generally watched through the ‘fourth wall.’ Imagination is at the heart of Lally Katz’s The Esiteddfod: agoraphobic (or are they?) orphaned children (or are they now adults?) play out fantasies and rehearse (Macbeth!) for a (real or imagined?) theatrical competition. And if we are in any doubt as to whether this is real or not, the playwright-as-narrator interjects, reminding us that this is a play ("I'm Lally Katz, and I wrote it!"), and that the characters are now lost somewhere in her computer.  

The synopsis describes The Eisteddfod as a “suburban absurdist work, comic and disturbing.” Fortunately for Brisbane audiences, the Metro Arts/Room to Play production is in the hands of Director Heidi Manché. As a student of Dario Fo, Manché ably ‘treads the tightrope’ in a show that is an often-disturbing journey into issues of anxiety, abuse, fantasy and control.  

Much of the tension in the play comes from the Abalone’s (Matthew James French) struggle to retain control of their shared fantasies (often parodies of the suburban lives of their deceased parents) and his frustration that Gerture (Madison Kennedy-Tucker) is increasingly spending time “working in the classroom.” He tempts Gerture back to rehearsals with the prospect of winning the top prize in the theatrical competition (Eisteddfod): a one-way ticket to Moscow.

 Picture (L to R): Abalone (Matthew James French) and Gerture (Madison Kennedy-Tucker) . Picture credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography

Picture (L to R): Abalone (Matthew James French) and Gerture (Madison Kennedy-Tucker) . Picture credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography

Luckily the casting is excellent, as this two-handed play places great demands on the actors. Kennedy-Tucker draws out the vulnerabilities and strengths of Gerture (as abused lover, as aspiring teacher, and as a sister who aims to please), so we are not surprised when she wears the blue ribbon to indicate she has won the much-prized trip to Moscow. French rises to the challenges of the desperate, controlling and yet vulnerable Abalone, while at the same time repulsing with his sexual preoccupations and bullying.

The Metro Arts Sue Benner Theatre is a great venue for this production, as the audience look down on the often-confronting and uncomfortable fantasies of the two characters. Congratulations to David Walters (Lighting Design), Chelsea Jewell (Production Designer), for creating a cell-like space, complete with barricades of paper. The play is not for the faint-hearted, with childish preoccupations to shock including sexual references and frequent coarse language.  But if you are up for a challenge, you only have until 24 March to see The Eisteddfod.
 

Catherine Lawrence

The reviewer attended the opening night performance, Thursday 15 March, 2018 (7:00pm).

NB Parental advisory (15+ suggested): swearing or offensive language and adult themes.  Please note that there is no latecomer entry. 

Venue:  Sue Benner Theatre, Metro Arts, 109 Edward St Brisbane (www.roomtoplay.com.au/whats-on/; https://www.metroarts.com.au/events/the-eisteddfod/)

Tickets: General Admission $28, Concession (& Preview) $20, LOCAL Season Pass $60 (or $40 for concession season pass),

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Review: Superstars ‘15 Years Celebration’

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Review: Superstars ‘15 Years Celebration’

If you live in or near Carina Heights or Coorparo you will know all about Superstars. You will be already be chorusing ‘where everyone shines.’ But if you haven’t heard about this wonderful dance and performance school then I’d suggest you might want to look out for it. Particularly if you know anyone of school age. Over the last 15 years, Superstars has grown to become a popular local performing school with over 600 students. Attending the end-year concert at the Chandler Theatre (Sleeman Sports Complex) it was not a surprise to discover that Superstars was this year recognised as the best local school aged activity provider (What’s On 4 Kids Awards).

 Picture: Great to see so many boys onstage. Picture credit: Geoff lawrence, Creative Futures Photography

Picture: Great to see so many boys onstage. Picture credit: Geoff lawrence, Creative Futures Photography

During the afternoon, the School had over 500 of its 650 students on the stage for the 15 years celebration, treating the audience of proud parents and impressed friends and supporters to a professional program of song and dance. The teachers and support staff kept everything moving, and the time just flew by. By the end of the afternoon the audience had been treated to a smorgasbord of song, ballet, tap, Irish dance, contemporary dance, break-dancing, musical theatre, hip hop….

The opening number (with 60 students of all ages) set the tone. Beautiful costumes (great to spot the hard work of Jaymee Richards in the Superstars team), and choreography that was tailored to the skills of the individual performers. I am sure that everyone smiled at the charming ‘When I grow up,’ and there wasn’t a dry eye by the time all 500 students (including 82 boys) were called back on stage for the pre-interval awards.

  Picture : Those tap-dancing teachers.... Picture Credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography

Picture: Those tap-dancing teachers.... Picture Credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography

The show was all about the students, but I have to say that I spent some time mesmerised by the focused and enthusiastic performances of their teachers. And I am not just talking about their tap-dancing (when a student seated behind me proudly pointed out, in a suitable stage whisper, ‘that’s my teacher’). Well done to Gabriella Flowers, Bronte Devine, and the rest of the teachers who coached the students throughout the afternoon (and during the year). You clearly bring out the best in your students.

Throughout the show it was clear to see that the Superstars performers were having fun, concentrating hard (so lovely to watch the interactions with their teachers), and doing their absolute best. It is difficult to pick out any single highlight. I loved the break-dancing (those poses), was impressed by the ballet, was entertained by the tap-dancing, and smiled broadly through the contemporary dance.

  Picture : I just loved those poses.... Picture credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography

Picture: I just loved those poses.... Picture credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography

The marching/ cheerleading performance to Different Drum was beautifully done, and such a great choice of music, with the line “All you need to try to be is who you're made to be.” Rachael Tiernan has created a School that encourages students to have fun, and brought together a team of teachers who each encourage the celebration of individual potential. Which meant that it wasn’t just the performers who had fun: there were some exceptionally proud and very happy parents, grandparents and friends who had a wonderful time.   

The Chandler Theatre was the perfect venue for this show. I think if Superstars had found somewhere bigger, they would still have filled it.  Look out for more about their annual program—which includes holiday classes—by visiting their Facebook page or website. Makes you wish you were school-age again!

 

Catherine Lawrence

The reviewer attended Superstars 15 Year Celebration at the Chandler Theatre, Chandler, on Sunday 19th November 2017, 2:00pm.

 

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Review: There’s Something About Mary(s)

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Review: There’s Something About Mary(s)

The title of the show co-created by Cassie George (writer and performer) and Michael Mandalios (co-creator) references the 1998 film which launched the career of Cameron Diaz. Something about Mary is a film about men vying for Mary’s (Diaz’s) attention. There’s Something About Mary(s) looks at the theme from a different angle: reflecting on hunting for the man of your dreams, and the relationship with friends George describes as a “gaggle of gays” (‘Marys’).[1]  We follow George's journey from a demure Church-going start, to the wider horizons of University life and dating.  Embarking on a Bachelor of Musical Theatre, George quickly discovers that she has much in common with her fellow students: they love performing, and are all looking for the “men of their dreams.” But, as the publicity states, “Every day, she met the men of her dreams. Unfortunately, so did they!”

During the 60-minute show, George runs through some of the many highlights—and low points—of trying to find the right guy, each introduced as differently numbered ‘acts’ (look forward to “Act 21, Taylor the Latte Boy,” and “Act 28, Priscilla”). The show is peppered with almost as many songs as there are tales of dates, and a wide variety of musical genres: from 70s/80s/90s power ballads through to rap. Outing herself as a “fag hag” (or, more specifically, acknowledging she “sashayed [her] way the top of the ladder” as “top fag hag”), George recognises the challenge of balancing her love-life with love of her friends. She concludes that having a wide circle of gay male friends has a number of advantages: shared interests (men and music), and a ready pool of supporters for sleepovers and gossip. 

The Show has the almost obligatory audience participation number (beautifully handled—to the delight of the friends of the chosen spectator), and many entertaining asides (particularly as “Mum” was in the audience that night). Some great one-liners, delivered with excellent comic timing—many of which were close observations, causing the audience to laugh with a knowing nod (for example, “when you date the hag, you date the gays”).

Musical Director, Luke Volker was excellent, and is clearly making a name for himself as a foil for one-woman cabaret performers (I first saw Volker when performing with Bethan Ellsmore in the superb Bethan Ellsmore is… Queen of the Night). Volker is a talented musician, with the bonus of contributing excellent comic timing when delivering  wry asides or observations. But it would have been good to see a third performer. Perhaps a future development of the show might bring the co-creator, Mandalios, on stage (after all, George described him as the “Will’ to her ‘Grace’)—and perhaps also partner the production with another one-hour cabaret to produce an entertaining double-bill.

George demonstrates a mastery of the musicals genre, and of the 70s-90s powerhouse ballads, in this confident performance. Many of the choices sat well for her voice, with “Don’t have to be rich/Kiss” as one of several highlights. Personally, I would like to have heard a little more of the reflective or quieter tunes—or even a different take on some of the songs which were belted out. For example, I would love to have heard George’s version of “Do you believe in life after love” as a more reflective performance; perhaps a chance to illustrate how she still seeks to address the challenge of balancing a love life with keeping her friends.

Studio 188 is a great venue, and it will be interesting to see how the show transfers to the Turbine Studio at the Powerhouse. Go along and see it for yourself. As the show is part of the Wonderland Festival, this is the perfect chance to create your own two- or three-act show, combining There is Something About Mary(s) with one or more of the other 60-minute events included in the festival program.

 Catherine Lawrence

The reviewer attended There’s Something About Mary(s) at the Studio 188, Ipswich, on Saturday, 18th November 2017, 7:00pm. The Show is part of the Wonderland Festival at the Brisbane Powerhouse, 23rd-27th November 2017 (7:30pm [6:30pm on Sunday only]). Tickets $27-$32.95 (adult, $27 plus transaction fee of $5.95). 60 minutes.

 

Note[1]: Having heard of a ‘Friend of Dorothy’—after all, what’s not to love about the Wizard of Oz—I must confess I hadn’t come across the slang use for ‘Mary.’ But as Wikipedia lists over 80 different slang terms for gay men, I’m not surprised I’d missed many of them.  

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Review. The Producers: A New Mel Brooks Musical

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Review. The Producers: A New Mel Brooks Musical

Most producers dream of a hit show, a runaway success, and a long run—where a New York, Broadway success is the pinnacle of achievement. But the fictional Max Bialystock (Gary Rose) and Leo Bloom (Joshua Thia) are not ‘most’ producers. Their aim to produce a profitable flop turns sour as the fictitious 1959 Springtime for Hitler has a rapturous reaction from audiences and reviewers alike (ah, beware those reviewers!). The Producers is a satirical romp that enterains as it exposes the worst aspects of the Broadway production treadmill: greed, the casting couch, and the perils of being an ‘angel’ (investor).

 Pictured: Ensemble 'Old Ladies,' The Producers. Picture Credit: Chirstopher Thomas (Courtesy Savoyards) 

Pictured: Ensemble 'Old Ladies,' The Producers. Picture Credit: Chirstopher Thomas (Courtesy Savoyards) 

Mel Brooks ‘s music and lyrics (book by Mel Brooks and Thomas Meehan) has been highly-successful on film (1968, and later reworked in 2005) and on the stage. And the work was well-served by this excellently-paced, humorous, stylish, and beautifully-cast 2017 Savoyards production. The creative team clearly gelled: hats off to the talented Gabriella Flowers (Director), Mark Beilby (Musical Director) and Hannah Crowther (Choreographer). Costume design by Kim Heslewood deserves praise—in particular, the outfits for Keep It Gay and Ulla’s blue dress for That Face. Sheryl-Lee Seecomb’s Set Design was excellent—funds may have been low for the courtroom scene, but the DeBris Townhouse, Bialystock and Bloom Office, Whitehall and Marks Offices, and main set were quite fabulous.

Highlights of the performance included The King of Old Broadway (including those high-kicking dancing nuns), I Wanna Be A Producer (great work by Thia and the tap-dancing Chorus, with the lovely deep voice of the soloist in the accounting team, and a quite fantastic set), any time the ‘old ladies’ took to the stage (particularly when dancing with those Zimmer frames), and the audience favourites Betrayed and Keep It Gay. The ensemble work was superb, and the three lead actors produced believable characters that were at their finest in the opening of Act Two (That Face,with great harmonies by Rose and Bloom, and dance by Grace Clarke [Ulla] and Thia).

 Pictured: Scott Edward (Carmen Ghia). Picture credit: Christopher Thomas (Courtesy Savoyards).

Pictured: Scott Edward (Carmen Ghia). Picture credit: Christopher Thomas (Courtesy Savoyards).

Memories that remain with me after the show include a number of wonderful pieces of ‘business’—from the pigeon, to the camping up by the resident team in Roger DeBris’s Townhouse (notably in Keep it Gay). And special mentions for two brilliant cameo performances: Reindert Toia was just fabulous as the ‘choreographer,’  keeping many of those around me in stitches, and we all enjoyed the great work by Scott Edwards (Carmen Ghia), who nearly stole the show. Edwards’s comic partnership with David Morris (Roger DeBris) resulted in hysterical laughter from much of the audience—and not just as the result of the high camp walk, the flashing of those fabulous heels and rather too much of the undergarments of the ‘Chrysler Building dress.’

With a production of such a high standard I have very few quibbles. For me the sign of good lighting design and operation is that I’m not too aware of it. Generally good (credit to Alan Nutley for his hard-working lighting design), there were a few times when the cast still managed to be left in the dark—most notably when the ‘spot’s’ led, rather than followed, the usherettes at the start of the show. Opening night problems with Sound (David Sowdon) mainly appeared to be fixed, although there were occasional problems with balance (notably hearing Rose’s words during some of the songs) and some microphone cackles and pops (possibly as off-stage mics were fixed during the second half). And although the orchestra did a great job—itis wonderful to have live music at any performance—I did feel that the brass section might have been occasionally a little ‘fluffy’ (but I joined the many enthusiastic members of the audience in remaining to give them their full applause).

Iona Performing Arts Centre is a great venue: large stage, great acoustics, ample free parking, and comfortable and spacious seating. But it is a pity that this cast did not have the opportunity to bring their work to one of Brisbane’s main stages. It’s a fun show: cheeky satire with great costumes, plenty of high kicks, live music and wonderful direction. But the production was only available for a mere 7 shows. I look forward to seeing the next Savoyards show with these three talented creatives at the helm, as the current run of The Producers ended on 7 October 2017.

The Producers: A New Mel Brooks Musical The Savoyards (Directed by Gabriella Flowers). IONA Performing Arts Centre, Wynham, 23 September - 7 October, 2017. Tickets $25 (prep-Yr 12)-$48 (Adults). Concessions $45 and group tickets $43(10+). 170 minutes (including an interval).

 Catherine Lawrence

The reviewer attended The Producers: A New Mel Brooks Musical at the Iona Performing Arts Centre, on Saturday, 7th  October 2017, 1:30pm.

 

Main image (L to R): Max Bialystock (Gary Rose) and Leo Bloom (Joshua Thia). Picture Credit Christopher Thomas (Courtesy Savoyards Musical Theatre).

 

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Review: Screw Loose

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Review: Screw Loose

Screw Loose is fast, funny, and often quite fabulous. Emily Vascotto showcases her witty writing, funny moves, fantastic voice, and comic characterizations in this over-too-soon cabaret act. A few tickets appear to be on sale for the last night in this oh-too-short run. Buy now.

Screw Loose is what the advertising promises: “a comedy cabaret [and] delectable smorgasbord of musical numbers and moves,” and “one woman’s unwavering quest for love in all the wrong places.” Vascotto introduces us to the probably neurotic and definitely melodic ‘Emily’ (yes, I'm drawing on one of the songs here). And, in just under 50 minutes, we have a whistle-stop tour of her search for ‘the one.’  With a sprinkling of anecdotes, and a feast of songs to illustrate the tale, there are even a few tips along the way (who knew language lessons were a way to hook up, and don’t forget to watch out for how to create the “sexy face”).

 Pictured: Emily Vascotto ( Screw Loose ). Picture credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

Pictured: Emily Vascotto (Screw Loose). Picture credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

I was captivated from the get-go with the fantastic portrayal of the 5 year-old Emily and her first love, Tommy.  I hope you enjoy the version of Hello (“from the outside”) as much as I did... move over Adele. But, too soon, we were on to another highlight in the dating catalogue, and the hugely enjoyable song that accompanies the tale of Daryl and the closet. Sadly there was a hiatus in the dating from grades 3-10, but it was worth the wait for the anecdote about the “Surprise Attack” double date and Saw 2. It was at this point in the show that the inner stalker really came out into the open, with the first tale of car keying and general destruction.

Only in the last 25 years has the word ‘stalker’ transitioned from referring to a poacher or hunter to the more ominous connotations of the harassment and persecution of a human target. For the object of desire, stalking can generate a range of emotions: from irritation and confusion through to a genuine fear of the femme/homme fatale. But the stalker can also be an object of pity—particularly if motivated by a desire for intimacy. In Screw Loose the portrayal of Emily allows the audience a chance to see behind the sexy face, and to gain some insight into the depth of a desire to be loved—particularly with Vascotto’s poignant change of tempo in the title song, which ends on the plaintive “I’ll be here if you need a loose screw.”

Cabaret is a great vehicle to convey a serious message. Screw Loose highlights the inherent danger in wishing for a ‘Disney-style’ fairy-tale ending. Not all whirlwind romances end happily ever after (probably too early to be selecting wedding dresses three days in to any new relationship), the way to a new partners’ heart is not necessarily to lock them in a castle (in Emily’s case, read closet), and not every prince will hang around once he’s had that first kiss. And, when it comes to smooching, Screw Loose certainly underscores that there can be a lot of frog-kissing to be done before finding your prince/ess.

Screw Loose is written and performed by Vascotto. I’d love to know who wrote all of the music as it sounded as if there may have been some original pieces in the mix. A number of the choices fitted so very well to the new and repurposed words—from the Disney-style theme tunes, to Adele’s Hello and Kooman and Dimond’s ‘In excess.’ Vascotto not only makes some great musical choices, but has a fantastic team along for the ride. The work of director Gabriella Flowers, and support of accompanist Ben Murray, ensured I enjoyed every moment.

It would have been great to see this show as part of a double bill (perhaps an idea for future Queensland Cabaret Festival programs), and I would love to hear a couple of further anecdotes (in particular, perhaps one inserted between the last two songs). But, really, Vascotto's performance is “absolutely gorgeous” (to quote from one of the final songs). The Queensland Multicultural Centre provides a fantastic venue for theatre and cabaret: centrally located, and in close proximity to a popular ‘watering hole.’ I am certain that most of the customers at the Story Bridge Hotel would have really enjoyed Screw Loose—even if not fans of music theatre or new to cabaret. So stop on your way to your favourite hotel, buy a ticket now, pick up a drink at the bar, and select a seat at one of the cabaret tables. It’s sheer fun.

 Pictured (L to R): Emily Vascotto performing to a co-opted audience member (Peter Wood) in  Screw Loose . Picture Credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

Pictured (L to R): Emily Vascotto performing to a co-opted audience member (Peter Wood) in Screw Loose. Picture Credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

Presented by Queensland Cabaret Foundation (and supported by Brisbane City Council and the Queensland Government through Arts Queensland), Screw Loose had a mere two outings during Queensland Cabaret Festival (7:15pm, 7th & 8th June, 2017). Tickets $24-$35. 48 mins.

 Catherine Lawrence

The reviewer attended Screw Loose at the Queensland Multicultural Centre (part of the 2017 Queensland Cabaret Festival), on Wednesday, 7th  June 2017, 7:15pm.

 

 

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Review: The Kingfisher

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Review: The Kingfisher

The Javeenbah is a fantastic theatre: an intimate space located close to the motorway, so ideal for locals and visitors from Brisbane (100 comfortable seats, great lighting set up and excellent facilities following the 2002-03 rebuild).  For over 40 years, the Javeenbah Theatre Company has offered a program of 6 productions a year, bringing comedies and musicals to a local audience.

The Kingfisher appears to be an ideal choice for Javeenbah members. A light romantic comedy that has been successful on both sides of the Atlantic: with Broadway success (staring Rex Harrison and Claudette Colbert) and a more recent British touring production (staring Francis Matthews and Honor Blackman). The playwright had an excellent pedigree for writing sit-coms about upper-class Brits. Born into an aristocratic family, William was the younger brother of Sir Alec Douglas-Home (British Prime Minister). William also had a brief political career, but is perhaps best known for writing around 50 plays—apparently most built on his personal experience, being comedies set in upper-class homes.

The program prologue sets the scene. Fifty years ago Cecil Warburton (Chris Hawkins) wooed Evelyn Rivers (Viviane Gian) under a beech tree, but lost his bride-to-be to the now-recently deceased Reggie Townsend. Five decades later Sir Cecil (now a successful playwright) makes contact with the widow, inviting her to visit the home he now shares with his faithful butler, Hawkins (Graham Scott). The routines established by Hawkins, during almost fifty years of devoted service to his master, seem certain to be disturbed by Sir Cecil’s plans to propose. As Lady Evelyn hot-foots it straight from the funeral to see Sir Cecil for afternoon tea, the scene is set...The play sees the retelling, and unravelling, of anecdotes about Sir Cecil’s love life, and of tales of Lady Evelyn’s life since she left the amorous Cecil fifty years earlier. By the second act we have the much-anticipated proposal and Evelyn’s abrupt departure for another possible second husband. 

Sadly this 1977 play has not travelled the decades well, and I feel even the best actors would struggle a little. Certainly I was not convinced that Sir Cecil was the love of anyone’s life. Scott’s role has all the best lines, and some great opportunities for ‘business’ during the play: from the delight in re-telling exaggerated tales of his masters caddish behaviour, through to the distraught over-hearing of Cecil’s protestations of love. Gian played Lady Evelyn role with great style, which made her impressive unravelling (as she drank her way through numerous Sidecars, and lots of spirits) even more amusing. The second act was much more enjoyable than the first—where the talented Director, Nathan Schulz (see my earlier review of his most recent work in 2 Across), creates great humour around the proposal/dénouement. But I suspect that even Francis Matthews struggled to bring out the best in this play.

 Pictured (L to R): Sir Cecil Warburton (Chris Hawkins). Lady Evelyn (Viviane Gian), and Hawkins (Graham Scott). Picture Credit: Geoff lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

Pictured (L to R): Sir Cecil Warburton (Chris Hawkins). Lady Evelyn (Viviane Gian), and Hawkins (Graham Scott). Picture Credit: Geoff lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

Congratulations to the production team—in particular costume designers Christine MacLachland and Gillian-Eve Butcher (Lady Evelyn’s outfits were just perfect). On the first night I did find some of the lighting changes were a little abrupt, and while the fountain helped to create the impression of a running stream it became a little distracting. But these are problems that are easily rectified.

The script, however, is very much of its time, and is probably best left back in the 1970s.

 Catherine Lawrence

The reviewer attended The Kingfisher at Nerang’s Javeenbah Theatre, on Saturday, 27th May 2017, 8pm. The Kingfisher has nine performances (26th May to 10th June, 2017).

Tickets $20-$25. Two acts, one interval.

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Review: Anywhere Festival 2017

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Review: Anywhere Festival 2017

Dear Anywhere Festival Organisers,

Debretts advise that thank-you letters should be hand-written and sent within ten days of an event or gift. Well, I’ve met the ten-day rule, but let me assure you it’s just as well this is typed (otherwise, you’d never be able to read it). Apparently I am supposed to be specific as to what I am thanking you for, to tell you why I cherish or enjoyed it, share some news, and close. So here goes..

May seems to have flown by, and that is largely down to you both. Another Anywhere Festival is behind us, and I am missing it already. So thank you for all that you have done in creating and inspiring the Anywhere Festival concept. And for making it happen again in 2017.

There are so many reasons why Anywhere Festival is a vital part of the fabric of Brisbane (and now in other communities across the coast):

Site-specific: My favourite performances in the 2017 festival were Signs, 2 Across and Oh Lady Be Good. The shows combined fantastic performers and great writing with perfect location choices. The productions were a perfect fit with the venues: 2 Across had two people meeting on a real, moving tram, Signs was set in a classroom, and Oh Lady Be Good was an intimate soirée/house party in a house.

A broad range of work: Great theatre, but also a broad range of circus (from the adult dark clowning and sideshow of Hiraeth, to the more traditional and youthful Fusion) and story-telling through song (including the fabulous Melissa Western’s Oh Lady Be Good, and Bethan Ellsmore… is the Queen of the Night).

 Pictured (L to R): Candice Dittmann (She: ‘Rita’/Janet) and Nathan Schulz (He: ‘Tom’/ Josh) in  2 Accross . Picture Credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

Pictured (L to R): Candice Dittmann (She: ‘Rita’/Janet) and Nathan Schulz (He: ‘Tom’/ Josh) in 2 Accross. Picture Credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

Showcases talented people: Great actors (including Nathan Schultz in 2 Across, and the impressive Brodie Greenhalgh in both Signs and Immaculate Confection), artists (Melissa Western, Bethan Ellsmore), writers (Aimee Duroux, Jerry Mayer), performers (Ty Fitzsimons, Nadia Jade), directors (Samantha Bull), costume-designers, and more.

Incredible value: For example, tickets for Hiraeth were only $15—for a 60 minute show which included standout performances by Ty Fitzsimons (acrobatics and clowning) and Nadia Jade (aerial apparatus and dangerous sideshow). Fitzsimons’ acrobatics were probably the best I have ever seen when climbing up the rope upside down, and some great ‘air walking, and Jade fascinated and revulsed the audience in equal measure with fire-, glass- and balloon-eating, and amesmerising mixture of aerial silk with glass-walking.  You should have been there.

 Pictured: Ty Fitzsimons in  Hiraeth . Picture credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

Pictured: Ty Fitzsimons in Hiraeth. Picture credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

Provocative: New work and new ideas this year included fantastic new writing (Signs), interesting ideas (Immaculate Conception), and fascinating facts (Oh Lady Be Good),  

New places: The Festival introduces audiences to new and old spaces—encouraging spectators to start working through their local bucket lists. This year, fantastic new venues included The Bison Bar at Nambour (an excellent venue for Bethan Ellsmore is… Queen of the Night), and the Brisbane Tramway Museum (a perfect choice for 2 Across). Oh, and of course the Kookaburra Queen Showboat Cruises’ paddle wheeler; it was wonderful to see audiences dressing the part for Cluedo! The Interactive Game.

 Pictured: Melissa Western in  Oh Lady Be Good . Picture Credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

Pictured: Melissa Western in Oh Lady Be Good. Picture Credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

Fun: Quite a lot of the shows I saw touched on serious themes, in particular about the agony of growing up. But there was a lot of fun, laughter, and fabulous humour along the way. For example, Peter Wood as school Drama President in ‘Signs’ and as Grant in Immaculate Conception certainly made some memorable entrances.

Intimate spaces: In seeking out place that are “anywhere but a theatre,’ performers bring work to new audiences in often intimate settings. The fabulous Australian Modern again hosted fantastic, including the magnificent performances by Melissa Western and her band. Oh Lady be Good is a wonderful show, and the chance to see a jazz band and chanteuse at the top of their game was greatly enhanced by the wonderful hospitality of Susan and Chris Osborne. I can’t wait to see what house parties they host next year.

Community celebration: Not only for the creatives and performers, but also for their supporting casts of families and friends. So great to come out of shows and see the hugs from proud parents, and slightly amazed friends, as they gather round the team.

... To be fair, I didn't enjoy every show I saw this year. There are probably three events that I felt needed significant work before coming back into the light of day again. But I am hugely impressed that everyone put so much effort and energy into making their vision a reality. And that’s because of the festival. And because of the work you do.

Following the specified format for such notes, I know I have to provide some news before I close. My ‘news’ is that I'm gearing up for next year. Only 11 months until Anywhere Festival 2018

So, again, thank you!

Yours sincerely,

 

Catherine Lawrence, Official Anywhere Festival Reviewer

The reviewer attended performances of 2 Across, Bethan Ellsmore is… Queen of the Night, Cluedo! The Interactive Game, The Flood, The Food and Masculinity Double: May Contain Traces of Nuts & Immaculate ConfectionFusion, Hiraeth, The Last Ginger, Oh Lady Be Good, The One Room of the House, and Signs during the 2017 Anywhere Festival (4th-21st May).

 Pictured (L to R): Noah (Brodie Greenhalgh), Byron (Peter Wood), Jock (Dean Taylor), Simon (Caeleb Grosser), and Cam (Levi Wilcox) in  Signs . Picture credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures.

Pictured (L to R): Noah (Brodie Greenhalgh), Byron (Peter Wood), Jock (Dean Taylor), Simon (Caeleb Grosser), and Cam (Levi Wilcox) in Signs. Picture credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures.

Comment

Review: The Last Ginger

Comment

Review: The Last Ginger

It’s 2117 and Scarletta Rose (Julie Stewart) is the last redhead: “I’m your celebrity now!” Confined in two rooms, the Celtic Scarletta reflects and regrets, rants and raves, dances and shouts, during a 23 minute solo performance.

Declaring that "2017 you really @#%&*! up" (apparently all redheads should be actively procreating to ensure that "gingers" do not die out), Scarletta shares fragmented memories of her life. The monologues focus on a former lover (Todd), and on her grandmother, both of whom met grisly ends (Todd knifed in bed, probably at the hands of Scarletta, and granny in a fire).

 Pictured: Julie Stewart. Picture credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography

Pictured: Julie Stewart. Picture credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography

Being the last of your kind, and “appreciated” purely for being “the only one,” is an unbearable pressure. The Last Ginger was certainly a presentation of a woman driven to madness, so it is perhaps understandable that the best parts of the show were the dancing to Talking Heads’ ‘Psycho Killer’ (great choreography by Lynette Wockner), the sad and furious listing of slang (and often abusive) terms for redheads, and the off-stage ending (when Scarletta appears to end it all). But I find it difficult to recommend this show. I may not be alone; as I left, a fellow member of the audience asked ‘was that it? is it over?’

Congratulations to the team for bringing a show to the festival (director Silva A Sal, stage manager Tom Makepeace, and writer and performer Julie Stewart).

 Pictured: Julie Stewart. Picture credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography

Pictured: Julie Stewart. Picture credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography

 

Catherine Lawrence

The reviewer attended the 21st May 2017 (8pm) performance.

Tickets http://anywheretheatre.com/listings/ginger/ $12-17. 30 minutes (on 21st May began at 7:58 and ended at 8:21).  The show had 3 performances during the 2017 Anywhere Festival (19th–21st May).

 

Comment

Review: Hiraeth

Comment

Review: Hiraeth

Fortunately circus has moved beyond the Ringling Bros-style shows of my youth to darker, more adult, narrative-driven spectacles such as the Moment of Inertia Productions ‘Hiraeth,’ which debuted at the 2017 Brisbane Anywhere Festival. Ty Fitzsimons (acrobat and clown), Kelsey Adams (aerial), Phoebe Manning (clown), and Nadia Jade (aerial apparatus and dangerous sideshow) impressed with this work by one of Brisbane’s newest “arts collectives.”

It was a wise decision to start slightly late (at 8:40pm), allowing the excited audience and performers from the earlier ‘Fusion’ show to disperse, and ensuring the ‘Hiraeth’ audience could fully concentrate on the unfurling spectacle. The audience walked through the ‘set’, into the darkened space, to the sound of Pink Floyd’s ‘Dark Side of the Moon.’  Manning welcomed each of the spectators to the evening, handing out glass jars/shakers. And so we were all drawn into an hour of clowning, aerial, and dangerous sideshow acts.

The one hour program included Adams’ macramé-style aerial hoop, fire-eating and fascinating consumption by Jade, Fitzsimons’ rope acrobatics, and clowning by both Manning and Fitzsimons.  

 Pictured (L to R): Nadia Jade (kneeling), Kelsey Adams, Ty Fitzsimons, and Phoebe Manning. Picture credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

Pictured (L to R): Nadia Jade (kneeling), Kelsey Adams, Ty Fitzsimons, and Phoebe Manning. Picture credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

The standout performances of the evening were by Fitzsimons and by Jade. The acrobatic work on the rope by Fitzsimons was just superb; probably the best I have ever seen when climbing up the rope upside down, and some great ‘air walking.’ I was also greatly entertained by Fitzsimons’ clowning (I hope everyone gets to see his cautious gift-opening someday). Jade fascinated and revulsed an enthralled audience with the fire-, glass- and balloon-eating (with great supporting mime by the rest of the cast). And the mesmerising mixture of aerial silk with glass-walking was fabulous combination. Based on this show alone, Fitzsimons and Jade would certainly be useful additions to future Strut + Fret shows.

 Pictured: Ty Fitzsimons. Picture credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

Pictured: Ty Fitzsimons. Picture credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

I loved the idea of interspersing the show with key words (each carefully defined): lacuna, hiraeth (defined here as ‘a longing, homesickness, for a place you cannot go or maybe never was’), liminality… (although a face-mic may have helped as Manning walked through the audience). Manning held our attention for the extended ‘Ingrid’ piece, but if I had been the director I would have ended the show with the aerial/glass, and perhaps have started with ‘Ingrid.’ But I’m not in charge.   

 Pictured: Nadia Jade. Picture credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

Pictured: Nadia Jade. Picture credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

Great set design, with words defined in chalk across the black back wall, and rows of seating arranged within the enclosed space so that everyone could see the show. And my congratulations to the sound and lighting team as the audio was a great compliment to the clowning, aerial, and sideshow performances.

A pity this team only had three performances at the 2017 Anywhere Festival. Fantastic value at only $15, so let’s hope they look for other festivals for the show.  

Catherine Lawrence

The reviewer attended the 19th May 2017 (8:30pm) performance.

Tickets http://anywheretheatre.com/listings/hiraeth/ $15. 60 minutes. The show had only 3 performances during the 2017 Anywhere Festival (19th–21st May).

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