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Gabriella Flowers

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: 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. 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: Bad to Worse

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Review: Bad to Worse

Bad to Worse: That Awkward Moment (Joel O’Brien), The Gospel According to Matthew (Matthew Semple). Cabaret Double Bill, produced in conjunction with Hayward Street Studios and Heaven of Invention, at Hayward Street Studios, 28th and 29th April 2017 (7:30pm)

A cabaret double bill is always going to be good value. You get to see two shows for the price of one (and if you don’t like one show, then another one is along in just a moment). The Bad to Worse combination of That Awkward Moment (Joel O’Brien) and The Gospel According to Matthew (Matthew Semple) was advertised as an “evening of outrageous comedy and musical theatre.” It delivered on both promises.

The two shows have some interesting similarities: both centre on musical theatre actors who perform their own material in a stand-up comedy/cabaret performance that engages directly with their audience. Often self-deprecating and closely observed—for O’Brien, with a focus on social interactions, and for Semple on everything from immigration policy (“Thanks Peter”) to the Bible—the shows intersperse moments of reflection and personal insight with familiar and original tunes sung by two strong vocalists. But the similarities end there, as the two performers have very different styles of comedy.

Pictured: Joel O'Brien ( T  hat Awkward Moment ). Picture Credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography

Pictured: Joel O'Brien (That Awkward Moment). Picture Credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography

I came away from seeing That Awkward Moment feeling I had just seen a stunning audition from a performer who reminded me of Jim Carey. And even though Carey is not a personal favorite, that reference is meant as a compliment. O’Brien captivates his audience. Energetic slapstick moves are complemented with a closely-observed run through a number of awkward and uncomfortable situations: from public speaking competitions and techniques on meeting people at parties (bring a talkative friend), through to dealing with a surly barista. Oh, and then there was the extended set on how to let a couple know you are awake while they are having sex next to you…. The gauche O’Brien progresses through the use of techniques—including turning anger and annoyance into a rap—to demonstrate that awkwardness can be a blessing in disguise. 

O’Brien’s show isn’t strictly a one-man performance. There is a great use of supporting material (from hand-luggage to a telephone), the audience interaction is superb (particularly with the telephone, but also with the rap resolution of the day’s more awkward moments), and then there is the rubber chicken…  Redmond Lopez is a brilliant accompanist, and the show is another great piece of direction from the versatile and talented Gabriella Flowers.

Pictured: Matthew Semple ( The Gospel According to Matthew ). Picture Credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography

Pictured: Matthew Semple (The Gospel According to Matthew). Picture Credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography

The Double Bill is advertised with a warning about coarse language and adult themes. In The Gospel According to Matthew, Semple’s irreverent set pushes the boundaries with his acerbic wit and commentary on freedom of speech, politics, sex and religion. There are moments of attempted innocence—“did I really say that”—and sly asides when the audience ‘catches up’ with what has just been said. His views may not be to every taste, but Semple forces his audience to think, and to consider their own position on some of the more important issues in life. Emphasising the importance of forming your own views (and of finding your own way), life tips range from the advice that a movie is not a good first date choice, to the essential “always be true to yourself.”

Semple is a versatile performer, successful writer, great singer, and able pianist who has been compared to Tim Minchin on more than one occasion. I was reminded more of the young Ben Elton. This show has already had success in Melbourne, and has won awards for Best Director and Best Original Score (Short + Sweet 2016). So congratulations also go to Simon Mason (Director).

I felt that the worst part of the evening (and this is a double bill titled Bad to Worse, so I should consider what the worst might be) was that the venue isn't ideal. Even in the second row, the pre-recorded audio used in The Gospel According to Matthew was often difficult to hear, and occasionally distorted, so it was a distraction from some of the earlier parts of the second half. Appreciating that venues can be hard to find in Brisbane (and are often expensive), it’s a pity that both performers were not at one of the comedy club venues around town. It would be interesting to see both shows in a different venue—and perhaps with longer runs, so that the material will be even more familiar (allowing both Semple and O’Brien to adopt more natural, conversational styles). 

Semple ended the evening with "just go": a message to the audience that they were free to leave, but also perhaps what he hoped we’d say to our friends and colleagues about the show. Comedy that pushes the boundaries is not to everyone’s taste. But if it’s for you, then try The Gospel According to Matthew. And if you want to watch a rising comedy actor then you must look out for anything Joel O’Brien is involved in (including the fast funny and fluid That Awkward Moment).    

Bad to Worse: That Awkward Moment, and The Gospel According to Matthew, two-night run only (28th and 29th April 2017, 7:30). Tickets $25-$30. 120 minutes, including one interval. Warning: Contains strong language and adult content

 Catherine Lawrence

The reviewer attended the Brisbane opening night of Bad to Worse (Double Bill: That Awkward Moment, and The Gospel According to Matthew) on Friday 28 April, 2017 (7:30pm).

 

 

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