Viewing entries tagged
Music

Review. Mother’s Ruin: A Cabaret About Gin

Comment

Review. Mother’s Ruin: A Cabaret About Gin

Mother’s Ruin: A Cabaret About Gin is a great evening: three expert cabaret performers who re-frame the history of gin through a feminist perspective. A love story about the beverage of choice, enhanced with fantastic harmonies, and great humour by chanteuses Maeve Marsden and Libby Wood—with superb musical direction and performance by Jeremy Brennan. What’s not to love?  

Pictured (L to R): Maeve Marsden and Libby Wood.  Picture credit: Creative Futures Photography.

Pictured (L to R): Maeve Marsden and Libby Wood. Picture credit: Creative Futures Photography.

Pictured: Jeremy Brennan.  Picture credit: Creative Futures Photography.

Pictured: Jeremy Brennan. Picture credit: Creative Futures Photography.

Elly Baxter (writer/researcher—aka The Ginstress), and the performers, clearly know everything there is to know about gin. By the end of the 60-minute show we walked out feeling a little thirsty…but also better informed about some of the politics behind our favourite beverage. The Show has been running for three years, following a first outing in 2016. I am not surprised it continues to attract rave reviews around the world. It’s slick, informative, and professional—and yet is funny and feels fresh. For example, it was lovely to hear the occasional local mention—particularly the ‘Drinks for Women” reference to Merle Thornton and Rosalie Bognor’s 1965 Regatta Hotel Bar protest.

Everyone will have their highlights from the evening. For me, Wood’s version of Sia’s Chandelier—definitely hitting all the right notes. But Marsden’s performance of Lionel Bart’s Oom Pah Pah also left a lasting impression on at least one of our group...

Pictured: Maeve Marsden.  Picture credit: Creative Futures Photography.

Pictured: Maeve Marsden. Picture credit: Creative Futures Photography.

 
Pictured: Libby Wood.  Picture credit: Creative Futures Photography.

Pictured: Libby Wood. Picture credit: Creative Futures Photography.

Be assured this will be one of my picks from the 2018 Brisbane Festival—and we are only at the start of Festival Director David Bertold’s ‘Act 2.’ Last night was meant to be my night off from reviewing. But Mother’s Ruin: A Cabaret About Gin deserves to sell out the rest of this Brisbane run. Book now!

Verdict: Unmissable. Definitely one of my picks of the 2018 Brisbane Festival.   

Audience tip: The La Boite Roundhouse is a great venue for the show, with good views from any seat—but the ‘floor’ and the first row of the raised seating are probably the best. Mother’s Ruin: A Cabaret About Gin has a six-show season at the 2018 Brisbane Festival, so buy your tickets now ($34-$37). 18th-21st September (7:30pm), plus two shows on 22nd September (6:45pm & 9:15pm). Production suggests 18+ (adult themes, coarse language, and alcohol references) & a smoke machine is used throughout. For more information on other Brisbane Festival events, check out the Brisbane Festival website. 

Catherine Lawrence, perspectives

The reviewer attended the Tuesday 18th September 2018 performance (7:30pm).

All pictures credit: Creative Futures Photography.

Comment

Review: Symphony For Me

Comment

Review: Symphony For Me

Aside from the Royal Albert Hall’s BBC Last Night of the Proms, Symphony for Me must be one of the fastest-‘selling’ classical music events around the globe. Admittedly, the Brisbane tickets are free (which may have something to do with it). But it appears that the Queensland Symphony Orchestra (QSO) and Brisbane Festival have a bit of a success on their hands. For each of the three events, all tickets have gone less than 20 minutes after going ‘on sale.’ Such a success, that complaints about not programming the event in 2017 ensured that the concert was programmed for ‘BrisFest 2018’, and is already confirmed for 2019.   

Classical music may have connotations of expense and exclusivity, but events such as Symphony For Me remind audiences of the importance of music in memory and story. We may not think of ourselves as classical music buffs, but certain orchestral pieces evoke memories of advertisements, major family events, fragments of childhood memories, special films, or epic moments in life. Most people, it appears, have a fascinating story linked to certain pieces of music. The 2018 concert included stories of migrants, of new beginnings, of time with Dad, and of much-cherished films.  

Hosted by local TV news presenter, Andrew Lofthouse, the program was well-paced. Community members were brought to the stage to introduce their special piece of music, before greeting the conductor and then sitting stage left on a special bench to hear their music played just for them. Just in case anyone was tempted to shed the odd tear, a box of tissues was strategically placed under the seat, and a number of cameras were on hand to share the moment with the rest of the audience. Most of the tears were shed by the rest of the audience, however, as those on-stage sat in rapt attention, enjoying every last drop of their special music.

 
Pictured: The stage is set (complete with tissues!).  Picture credit: Creative Futures Photography.

Pictured: The stage is set (complete with tissues!). Picture credit: Creative Futures Photography.

 

Even if you think you don’t really like classical music and believe it’s not for you, I guarantee you would have found a piece to enjoy or that you recognised. It was great to see some of the children who nominated tunes dressed as their favourite film character: ‘Hermione’ (aka Cleo from Chapel Hill) and Jessica both requested Hedwig's Theme from Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (John Williams), and ‘Captain Jack Sparrow’ (Anderson, accompanied by his Dad, Karl) and Zara all wanted to hear the Main Theme from Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (Klaus Bedelt). Stories of new beginnings included decisions to move to Australia (the second movement from Dvořák’s  Symphony No. 9, From the New World), of the fall of the Berlin Wall (the second movement of Beethoven’s Symphony No.7), and of a wedding day (Alan Silvestri’s Main theme from Forrest Gump).

Pictured: Listening to the  New World. Picture credit: Creative Futures Photography.

Pictured: Listening to the New World. Picture credit: Creative Futures Photography.

 
Pictured: Andrew Lofthouse, greeting the first storytellers of the evening ('including ‘Hermione’).  Picture credit: Creative Futures Photography.

Pictured: Andrew Lofthouse, greeting the first storytellers of the evening ('including ‘Hermione’). Picture credit: Creative Futures Photography.

It was fascinating to hear each of the stories behind the pieces of music—and my two favourite pieces from the evening program were highlights because of the stories they connected with. It was just wonderful to see Karl sit on stage, lost in memories of time with his late father, as he listened to the fourth movement from Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No.7 (Tchaikovsky, completed by Semyon Bogatyrev). For the final piece of the evening, Ben and his Mum spoke of how inspired he was by a previous concert, and how he has now taken up trumpet-playing (much to the horror of their dog). The orchestra, conducted by Brett Kelly, seemed to enjoy playing the Main theme from Star Wars (John Williams) as much as Ben enjoyed hearing it.

Yes, it was a selection of pieces selected and performed for the couples, families and individuals who were on stage. But, together, they created a symphony for everyone.

 
Pictured: Karl (on the big screen), listening to the fourth movement from  Tchaikovsky ’s  Symphony No.7  (completed by Semyon Bogatyrev).  Picture credit: Creative Futures Photography.

Pictured: Karl (on the big screen), listening to the fourth movement from Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No.7 (completed by Semyon Bogatyrev). Picture credit: Creative Futures Photography.

 

I wish QSO and QPAC did this more often—bringing new audiences to classical music and in to the heart of the superb facilities in Brisbane’s Southbank. However, I can see why this is a once a year treat. Even with the challenge of getting tickets in that mad 20-minute scramble once the box office opened, many ticket-holders decided not to turn up on the night. Which was a pity; not only did they miss a great evening, but they prevented others attending. This is always a challenge for any free event, and I wish the organisers well in thinking through how they can achieve 95%+ attendance next year: perhaps entry by donation (I’m sure $10 per ticket would have made a great donation to Queensland farmers, and if people have paid then perhaps they may turn up to the event?), ‘rush’ tickets on the day, or ??? Whatever the solution, I do hope that future events have fewer empty seats.

Verdict: Definitely worth the 20-minute ticket scramble to see Brisbane coming together through story, community and music.   

Audience tip: Symphony For Me is a one-day only event, but organisers have already confirmed that this will return as part of the 2019 Brisbane Festival 2019 program. Watch out for an opportunity to request your personal favourite piece, and get ready to explain why you chose it. And make sure you put the sign-up date for tickets in your diary now, as the event was one of the fastest-selling in the 2018 program. For more information on other Brisbane Festival events, check out the Brisbane Festival website. 

Catherine Lawrence, perspectives

The reviewer attended the Saturday 15th September 2018 performance (7pm).

Comment

Review: California Crooners Club

Comment

Review: California Crooners Club

Coming out of a California Crooners Club show I felt like I’d just attended a Hollywood-style party, complete with live music led by a vocal quartet who were determined to ensure everyone has a good time. If you are looking for a fun evening, or an event to get the party started with friends or colleagues, then this is for you. And if you’re on your own that particular night then don’t worry—you’ll still feel as if you’d been at a party with some great friends.

Pictured (L to R): Hugh Sheridan, Johnny Manuel, and Emile Welman.  Picture Credit: Creative Futures Photography.

Pictured (L to R): Hugh Sheridan, Johnny Manuel, and Emile Welman. Picture Credit: Creative Futures Photography.

The format might not be new, but Hugh Sheridan has built on a great concept: a changing collection of talented singers who he entices to join him on stage for a fun evening of music that showcases their acapella, r&b, jazz, and salsa swagger (here with a little rap thrown in for good measure). Spicing things up a little, the California Crooners Club members don’t only line-up by the band but spend much of their time on the round central stage, as well as getting up-close-and-personal with their enthusiastic audience. The Club format is perfect for a festival, and very well-suited to a Spigeltent, giving everyone a chance to party along (particularly when the performers roam around the space).  By the end of the night, everyone was on their feet.

 
Pictured: Maiya Ociean. Picture credit: Creative Futures Photography

Pictured: Maiya Ociean. Picture credit: Creative Futures Photography

 

Since their first performance, a mere 3-years ago, the California Crooners Club has built an enthusiastic following, and both Sheridan and fellow original Crooner Emile Welman will be well-known to their admirers. Maiya Ociean and Johnny Manuel are a fantastic addition to the mix. Ociean (introduced as the first female member of the California Crooners Club) has a compelling stage presence, and a vocal range that will delight fellow-Aretha Franklin devotees. The 9th September show was the first time I had come across the exceptional talent that is Johnny Manuel—but I may be one of the last to have heard of him, as his 2017 America’s Got Talent performance of I Have Nothing continues to attract millions of views.

Live music is certainly being celebrated at the 2018 Brisbane Festival. The success of the California Crooners Club format is that the singers have a solid band behind them that includes a brass section who are happy to limbo or conga along when needed. In September 2018, the brass section comprised Jamie Kennedy (Trombone), Julian Palma (Sax), and Malcolm Wood, (Trumpet)—alongside Alex Wignall (piano and keys), Milush Piochaud (double bass, electric and synth bass) and Jacob Mann (drums).

 
Pictured: Hugh Sheridan leading the conga limbo.  Picture credit: Creative Futures Photography

Pictured: Hugh Sheridan leading the conga limbo. Picture credit: Creative Futures Photography

 

Highlights of the 70-minute show included the spine-chilling I Like it Like That (Ociean), Cole Porter’s Night & Day (wonderful harmonies from Manuel), James Arthur’s Say You Won't Let Go (enchanting close harmonies from all four singers), Midnight Train to Georgia (giving Gladys Knight & The Pips a run for their money), Beyonce’s Halo (Sheridan introduced the goosebumps-creating performance of this one) and the wonderful Aretha Franklin’s Respect (Ociean). And of course there was the crowd-pleasing Uptown Funk encore (so make sure you don’t leave without it!).

A great evening. And a bit of a shock to come out of the ‘nightclub’ and discover we were still in time to catch the 6:30pm performance of the free light show. The Treasury Brisbane Festival Arcadia is a great space to relax, to visit some of the food and beverage outlets, and of course to watch the free lighting show that is #CelebrateBrisbane River of Light. A really nice touch to have some local buskers providing free entertainment to the crowds (I hope you get to hear from Lennon Bosschieter who was performing a great selection of music that was just perfect for a Sunday afternoon session—always good to hear a little Tracy Chapman and Johnny Cash in the same set). However, some of the later buskers might need to have their sound system turned down a little lower, as Sheridan commented that the sound outside was not best-suited to their quieter Spiegeltent numbers. But that’s a small inconvenience. Don’t let it stop you catching the show if you can, and enjoy a rich medley of performances that showcase the vocal talent of each of the four members of this latest California Crooners Club combination.

 
IMG_8631.jpg
 

Verdict: Buy tickets if you still can. Everyone loves a party—especially when you can join in the fun with the four charismatic performers (and particularly when you get the chance to hear Ociean and Manuel).  

Audience tip: Linger after the Show to visit the Brisbane Festival Arcadia, and perhaps catch the free #CelebrateBrisbane River of Light shows (3 shows daily during the festival until 29th September 2018), and listen to some of the Arcadia buskers. If you purchased the Premium tickets for this show, be aware there is no separate queue, but there are reserved seats inside for you (closest to the stage). Everyone gets a great view as the performers ‘work the space.’ My personal recommendation is to sit on the first row of elevated seats (the central seats on this row are Premium, and at the side are General Admission). Bring your dancing shoes and perhaps pick up a glass of your favourite beverage from the bar inside the venue.

California Crooners Club has only eight shows in the September 2018 Brisbane Festival program and a number fo the remaining shows are already showing as limited availability (Saturday 8th  was the only 9:30pm show. On 9th, 15th and 16th September, the shows are all at 4:45pm. 11-14th September shows are all at 7:00pm). For more information on other Brisbane Festival events, check out the Brisbane Festival website. 

Catherine Lawrence, perspectives

The reviewer attended the Sunday 9th September 2018 performance (4:45pm).

Comment

Review: Memorial

Comment

Review: Memorial

Memorial is a stunning piece of music, which enters into a dialogue with the performer (Helen Moore) of Alice Oswald’s epic poem. War and poetry may seem strange bedfellows, but war poetry is among the most powerful and cherished of the form (I’m thinking here of Wilfred Owen’s Dulce et Decorum est, Henry Reed’s Naming of Parts, and even Homer’s The Iliad). Oswald’s Memorial: A Version of Homer’s Illiad has been described as a remarkable, luminous, and affecting obituary, and a poem which is “a meditation on the loss of human life.” Oswald distils and reimagines Homer’s Illiad, touching on the over 200 soldiers who died in battle—capturing our attention from the opening line, “The first to die was PROTESILAUS.”

Composer Jocelyn Pook has produced a spectaular piece of music, which enters into an inspiring dialogue with the spoken word. Under the leadership of Jonathan Peter Kenny (music director) the musicians and singers were more than up to the challenges of the score—particularly thanks to the sublime voices of Loni Fitzpatrick (soprano), Jonathan Peter Kenny (counter tenor), Kelly McCusker (soprano), Melanie Pappenheim (mezzo soprano), Belinda Sykes (Bulgarian singer) and Tanja Tzarovska (Macedonian singer). I really hope that the team produce a recording for sale which combines the music, song and spoken word.

As the many recordings of the great Richard Burton demonstrate, the spoken word, particularly when illuminated by a great score (who can forget War of the Worlds), makes compelling listening. Helen Morses feat of memory, performing the poem throughout the 105-minute show, held the rapt attention of the preview audience. At times, the only sound to be heard was the squeak of stalls seat L29 (hint to QPAC—oil needed!).

The staging was epic in scale, and certainly aimed high (director Chris Drummond, concept Chris Drummond & Yaron Lifschitz, and producer Lee-Anne Donnolley). Fantastic lighting design (Nigel Levings) and some striking aspects to the set design (Michael Hankin)—particularly the blue water. However, I found some of the repetitive marching distracting, and felt that Morse’s performance was better-served when speaking directly to the audience (memorably when stepping over the footlights to engage with us) or when round the ‘campfire’ with smaller groups from the chorus.  Congratulations to each of the members of the 215-strong chorus for bringing each of the memorialised soldiers briefly to life. Perhaps a future staging might more directly link each member of the chorus with the names memorialised in the poem—building the on-stage presence to a crescendo? A greater focus on naming each person might enhance the re-telling of each character and their death. And I’d love to have seen the musicians and singers in more of a direct dialogue with the performer—perhaps stage left to the performers stage right movements? But then… those who can, do, and those who review… dream.

Me? I’m off to buy a copy of the poem, and will watch out for the CD of the music and speech.

Verdict: Go. Revel in the music, marvel at Helen Moore’s compelling feat of memory—and then reflect.  

Audience tip: Linger after the Show to visit the Brisbane Festival Arcadia, and perhaps catch the free #CelebrateBrisbane River of Light shows (three shows daily during the festival until 29th September 2018).

Memorial ran for 4 shows during the opening weekend of Brisbane Festival 2018 (Friday 7th & Saturday 8th  7:30pm performances, in addition to matinees on Saturday [1:30pm] and Sunday 9th [3:00pm]). For more information on other Brisbane Festival events, check out the Brisbane Festival website. 

Catherine Lawrence, perspectives

The reviewer attended the Friday 7th September 2018 preview.

Comment

Review: To Sergio With Love

Comment

Review: To Sergio With Love

Over the last 20 years, The View From Madeleine’s Couch has established a strong following among lovers of what has become known as OzBrazilian music—bringing their passion for Brazilian music and culture to enthusiastic Australian audiences. Anywhere Festival fans were treated to two private concerts this weekend, celebrating the best of Sergio Mendes, bossa nova, and Brazil 66. I say Anywhere Festival fans, because this was one of the first (if not the first) shows to sell out in this years’ program. A testament to the following established by Chris Osborne and Susan Bennett. If a show is selected for the festival by Chris and Susan, then get in quick. They are Anywhere Festival curators par excellence and always know how to put together an enjoyable evening. On 19th May, guests travelled in from Sydney and Melbourne to join the local crowd for what was introduced as a ‘bop along kind of night.’

Pictured : Brisbane Modern audience at  To Sergio With Love . Picture Credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

Pictured: Brisbane Modern audience at To Sergio With Love. Picture Credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

In the hands of Sergio Mendes, Brazilian beats were mashed up with pop to create a sequence of major international hits. Which meant that To Sergio With Love included music by composers such as Burt Bacharach, Jorge Ben, and The Beatles. And as bossa nova is a lyrical fusion of jazz and samba , we also had the chance to enjoy solos by each of the performers, two great instrumental pieces, and a band that was tightly held together by Kym Ambrose (drums) and Anje West (voice and percussion).

During the 70-minute show, the audience were treated to a great range of 60s and 70s numbers, each given the Mendes styling. And the evening was peppered with nuggets of information about the real (and occasionally rude) meaning of the songs.

Pictured: Jamie Clark. Picture Credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

Pictured: Jamie Clark. Picture Credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

Highlights of the program included the evocative Chove Chuva, fabulous One Note Samba, and Look of Love (all just perfect for the wonderful voice of Anje West). Day Tripper was one of many songs that gave Jamie Clark (guitar) and Dale Rabic (hammond organ) a chance to shine. And if I had to choose just one piece as a personal favourite it was probably Zanzibar (great scat singing)… But then again… it could have been the final song of the night.  Mas Que Nada is used as a means of cynically disagreeing with someone (perhaps similar to ‘yeah, right’). A perfect choice for the last piece of the evening—leaving the audience humming away and wanting to dance a little samba.  

Pictured: Anje West. Picture credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography

Pictured: Anje West. Picture credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography

Fortunately we could linger a little longer and enjoy the warm hospitality of our hosts. If you get in really quick, you may just be able to join them next weekend for The Clints Come Again. I’m sure it will be an entertaining evening: great hospitality and a program that includes the fabulous Laine Loxlea Danann.

Verdict: Always the best parties at Australian Modern. Great shows curated by fabulous and stylish hosts.    

Audience tip: If it’s on at Brisbane Modern, then book it. You’ll have a fantastic evening.

Catherine Lawrence

The reviewer attended the Saturday 19th May (7:30pm) performance.

To Sergio with love was presented by Madcouch Productions at Chris Osborne and Susan Bennett’s Brisbane Modern, Carina. Only four Brisbane Modern performances during Anywhere Festival 2018: Only $35 Friday and Saturday nights (7:30pm). The Clints Come Again is on 25-26 May 2018 (tickets available at the Anywhere Festival website). To Sergio With Love ran on 18th-19th (details at the Anywhere Festival website).

Pictures Credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

Comment

Review: "Oh Lady Be Good"

Comment

Review: "Oh Lady Be Good"

Melissa Western is not just “good.” Together with her jazz band—Tnee Dyer (music director/piano), Helen Svoboda (double bass), and Lachlan Hawkins (Drums)—Melissa Western is really quite fabulous.

The lights dimmed, the music started, and suddenly the room was filled with a beautiful voice, as Western walked round the audience and along the main aisle into the room, with a very tactile performance of (Romance) in the Dark. The audience was hooked.

During the 75 minute show (just incredible value for money at only $30 a ticket), Weston held the attention of everyone in the room. She introduced stories and information about many of the inspirational leading ladies of jazz and blues, illustrated with some great selections of black and white images and fascinating nuggets of information. Or, in her own words, performed “my love letter to the great chanteuses of the twentieth century.”  Describing Ella Fitzgerald as perhaps her “biggest inspiration,” Western’s second song of the evening was an unsurprising choice; the George and Ira Gershwin’s Oh Lady Be Good (a 1947 hit for Fitzgerald). Western would have delighted her heroine with the performance on Friday night, which included an epic scat ‘trumpet’ solo voiced by our chanteuse.

Pictures: Melissa Western. Photo credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

Pictures: Melissa Western. Photo credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

And then we were on to Marilyn Monroe, and of course it had to be delectable performances of  I Wanna Be Loved by You,  and Diamonds are a girl’s best friend. And a fascinating anecdote about the support Monroe gave to Fitzgerald, ensuring that a career-changing booking was made for Fitzgerald at the previously all-white Mocambo nightclub.

But we didn't have too much time to ponder these insights, as Western was quickly on to talking about Billie Holiday, and performing two wonderful classics (God Bless the Child, and Love for Sale). Holliday’s  performance of her hit song God Bless the Child (written together with Arthur Herzog, Jr) is a difficult one to beat. But Western made the song her own, again with great scat singing.

There were just so many highlights from an evening that also included Carmen Miranda’s I like you very much, Eartha Kitt’s C’est Si Bon, Aretha Franklin’s (You Make Me Feel Like a) Natural Woman. Beyonce and Bieber weren’t around when Nina Simonne recorded My Baby Just Cares for Me. But if they had been, we were all convinced Simonne would also have worked them into her song.

Not all of the stories were uplifting, sexy or fun. Bessie Smith’s story was one of many sad tales during the evening, but selecting two of Smith’s songs gave Western an opportunity to add some humour into the mix, with the highly entertaining Just Give me a Man. And then the tempo slowed, as Western talked about Edith Piaf; and you could have heard a pin drop during a mellifluous performance of La vie en rose.

Picturesd (L to R): Helen Svoboda, Lachlan Hawkins, Melissa Western and Tnee Dyer. Picture credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

Picturesd (L to R): Helen Svoboda, Lachlan Hawkins, Melissa Western and Tnee Dyer. Picture credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

The band were excellent—playing together as only the best jazz performers can. I loved Svoboda’s solos, in particular in Western’s version of Peggy Lee’s Fever, and was thrilled by Dyer’s solo in Irving Berlin’s Blue Skies (a la Fitzgerald), and each of the spotlight performances by all three members of the band were so very memorable in both Route 66 and Caravan.

Favourite song of the evening? Possibly Etta James’ Cry me a river (performed in honour of Chris and Susan Osborne). It was great to hear the compliments about the venue, and hosts, from Western and her fellow musicians. An invitation to perform at Australian Modern has to be on the ‘bucket list’ of any musician. Chris and Susan Osborne are wonderful and generous hosts—turning their home into a fantastic location for intimate music events, and throwing what have to be among the best parties in Brisbane. For 4 of the 7 Brisbane Anywhere Festivals, Chris and Susan have transformed their lounge and kitchen into an exceptional performance space. Welcoming guests on 12th May, Chris modestly described this hospitality as being due to their shared vision, and that they simply “love to support the arts and the artists.” And support them they do. With style. Where else can you experience live music up close and personal, and do so with a glass in your hand? And having a chance to step inside the Osborne’s Carina home is the icing on that particular cake (check out the website to learn a little more about Australian Modern).

Pictured: Kitchen art at Australian Modern. Picture credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography

Pictured: Kitchen art at Australian Modern. Picture credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography

Sadly Melissa Western’s shows at Australian Modern ended on 13th May. Look out for her at Brisbane Jazz Club and other great venues far and wide. And my advice for future Anywhere Festivals? If it’s on at Australian Modern, then book it. You’ll have a fabulous evening.

Catherine Lawrence

The reviewer attended the 12th May 2017 (7:30pm) performance.

Tickets $30  https://anywheretheatre.com/listings/lady/.  75 minutes.  The show had only 2 sell out performances during the Anywhere Festival (12th & 13th May).

 

 

Comment

Review: It's Not Easy Being Green

Comment

Review: It's Not Easy Being Green

 

Pictured:    Jeff Usher (left) and KarenRoberts (right)     Picture credit: Unknown

Pictured: Jeff Usher (left) and KarenRoberts (right)

Picture credit: Unknown

For only two nights this week, Paddington’s Room to Play is home to what the author describes as “a light-hearted trip, deep into the twisted rabbit-hole of the human psyche.”  “It’s Not Easy Being Green” is an enjoyable,  thought-provoking showcase, during which Karen Lee Roberts (Alexandra) and Jeff Usher (Mr Sunshine) perform a collection of eight original songs, interspersed with character-filled snapshots, illustrating aspects of Alexandra’s two-year journey towards “being green.”

Life may be a cabaret (“old chum”)*, but Roberts and Usher ably demonstrate that cabaret is also the perfect form to provoke discussions about life’s highs and lows. Alexandra poses the early question “Is it kosher to speak of subjects like this?” In this show,  Roberts and Usher answer that question in the affirmative.  The majority of cabaret performances across Australia this year are more likely to touch on the racier aspects of life. But It’s Not Easy Being Green demonstrates that cabaret can also entertain, educate, and engage when touching on important issues of “mental wellness.” The emphasis throughout the evening is on entertainment: great music, original songs, delicious characterisation, and some enjoyably comic moments. But, in a thought-provoking 60 minute show, Roberts also offers insights into the challenges and experience of dealing with the manic ups and deep downs associated with mental health issues.

Roberts is a talented performer—not only author and co-producer, but also composer, singer, character actress, and comic. On stage she is well-matched by the evening’s Mr Sunshine. Legendary is an over-used word, but it certainly applies to Usher—who plays some perfectly-judged jazz and blues music, and even provides accomplished beat-boxing accompaniments along the way. Audiences will have their personal favourites from the evening. I found it difficult to pick just one song, but got it down to a top three: the opening “Society’s Blues,” the frenetic “Chameleon,” and the closing “Ever Pure.” Mind you, if I could make it a top four then the beat-boxing exercise rap could be a great addition to anyone’s exercise playlist.

The production has clearly benefited from the direction of IndelABILITY Arts  fellow-professional, Catarina Hebbard. Under Hebbard’s direction, the show works well within the intimate space—aided by the beautiful lighting and great technical support.  As a result, we focus on the writing, concentrating to catch every word.  

One of the great things about cabaret is that the audience is an important part of the evening. The interactions between Alexandra and Mr Sunshine were well-worked (perhaps more would have been even better), and the switch from on-stage to direct audience engagement was beautifully done. London’s Time Out suggests that cabaret can “change the world.” At the end of the show you may leave realising that its ok to venture beyond safe chitchat about “canapés and cocktails” and be prepared to respond to honest conversational openers.

Queensland’s Mental Health week starts on 9th October 2016. Why not invest in your own mental wellness and drop into Paddington’s historic 1930’s Substation this weekend to see for yourself how successful the versatile Room to Play performance space is.  It’s Not Easy Being Green is only at Room to Play, Paddington for two nights (730pm on both Friday 7th and Saturday 8th October, 2016).  Tickets are available at Eventbrite ($26.25 adult, $21 concession—including booking fees) or, if not sold out, may also be available at the door (cash payment only,  $25 full and $20 concession). Arrive at 7pm to take the opportunity to visit the cash bar before selecting your seat.

 

* yes, I am singing Fred Ebb’s words and trying to conjure my inner Liza Minnelli as I write…

 

Catherine Lawrence

The reviewer attended a dress rehearsal of It’s Not Easy Being Green on Wednesday 5 October, 2016.

 

Comment

Review: Gin and Sin

Comment

Review: Gin and Sin

Pictured (L to R): Miss Laine, Alicia Cush, and Zoe Georgakis-Ray. Picture Credit: Geoff Lawrence  , Creative Futures Photography  .

Pictured (L to R): Miss Laine, Alicia Cush, and Zoe Georgakis-Ray. Picture Credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

There are some people who just know how to throw a party. Chris Osborne and Susan Bennett certainly know how to mix the perfect ingredients: take one Australian Modern home, invite some of Brisbane’s most-talented musicians, add a little gin, a tiny twist of sin, and you have the perfect Anywhere Festival experience. Saturday 21st May was the final evening of Brisbane’s 2016 Anywhere Festival. I couldn't think of a better way to end the festival than by spending it at the Carina home of Chris Osborne and Susan Bennett, revelling in the fabulous performances by Miss Laine (Laine Loxlea-Danann), Alicia Cush, and Dave Spicer (with special guest Zoe Georgakis-Ray).  For a little over 90 minutes the audience were enthralled, amused, moved and greatly entertained by a well-chosen mix of jazz, mashups” performed by talented musicians who are clearly at the top of their game.

Pictured: Dave Spicer. Picture Credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

Pictured: Dave Spicer. Picture Credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

A menu of jazz, with occasional operatic influences, liberal dashes of humour, and tons of style, the Gin & Sin Jazz Salon more-than-delivered on the promised “postmodern Jukebox-inspired mashups.” The 18-or-so song set included original material, as well as reinvented and redefined pieces made famous by Kylie Minogue, K.D. Lang, AC/DC, The Cure... and by Gabriel Fauré. I’d certainly be at the top of any queue to buy a recording of the music, and particularly hope that Alicia Cush and Dave Spicer record their version of The Cure’s In Between Days. Picking out my favourites is a challenge; I’d end up running through the whole set. But I’ll touch on a few special memories of the evening here.

Pictured: Miss Laine. Picture Credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

Pictured: Miss Laine. Picture Credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

Miss Laine’s set was wonderful—a fantastic selection of contrasting pieces which showed of her jazz abilities.  Let’s be Bad was simply fabulous; the audience were completely enthralled. In her set, Alicia Cush demonstrated that a love of opera is no barrier to some wonderful jazz performances. I absolutely loved Confide In Me—so very much much better as a ‘tango.’ Dave Spicer was variously described as the ‘Mr Music...who wrangles the girls” (Chris Osborne), the man “with the little ‘spicy’ fingers,” and as a great teacher (Miss Laine). In his hands the Kawai keyboard produced some evocative and quite beautiful jazz. A high-point of Dave Spicer’s performance for me was Busy Being Blue. Invited to “tell me a sad song there Dave,” he responded with a truly memorable musical interaction with Miss Laine—matching the evocative performance by a wonderful chanteuse with his skilful playing.

And of course everyone in the audience will come away remembering the fantastic comedic skills of Miss Laine and of Alicia Cush. Just mention maracas, ukulele’s or ‘lazy’ to anyone who was there and you’ll see a smile. Miss Laine’s highly-energetic performance of Boom-Chicka-Boom just had to be seen to be believed (a number of people in the audience were in hysterics). Alicia Cush’s languorous performance of Laziest Girl In Town was lyrical, beautifully judged, and very funny. And when the two artists combined to sing a ‘family piece’ about a fisherman and a fishing trip that went wrong… well...  let’s just say there was a pot and a fish, two ukuleles, and a lot of laughter.

Pictured (L to R): Miss Laine and Alicia Cush. Picture Credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

Pictured (L to R): Miss Laine and Alicia Cush. Picture Credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

Finally, Miss Laine, Alicia Cush and Dave Spicer welcomed Zoe Georgakis-Ray to the stage for four final songs: the lyrical harmonies of the Cole Porter You'd Be So Nice to Come Home To, the entertaining Liquid Lunch, giving the Andrew’s Sisters a run for their money with Bei Mir Bist Du Schoen and the encore One Note Samba. A superb final selection which was perfectly arranged and performed.

Look out for future performances by Miss Laine (Miss Laine & the Odd Sox), Alicia Cush (Babushka), Dave Spicer (Odd Sox). Together or independently they will excite, enthral, and entertain. Hopefully we might see them together in next years' Anywhere Festival. If we're lucky, at Chris Osborne and Susan Bennett’s Australian Modern house, which is the perfect space for an intimate salon performance. On 21st May, each ticket-holder was individually welcomed by the owners and encouraged to relax, enjoy their hospitality, and linger after the show. Make sure you get an early copy of the Anywhere Festival program for next year and identify events taking place at this wonderful Carina home. The five events which took place this year at the Barry Walduck-designed Eisenmenger House all sold out, so you need to book early.  Verdict: Fabulous.

Catherine Lawrence

Gin & Sin Jazz Salon was an exclusive 2-night only event as part of the 2016 Anywhere Festival.

The reviewer attended the Saturday 21st May, 2016 performance.

 

 

 

 

 

Comment

Comment

Review: The Spirit And The Maiden

Pictured   (L to R): Alison Snook, with   The Muses Trio  —Christa Powell (violin), Therese Milanovic (piano), and Louise King (cello).   Picture Credit  : Geoff Lawrence,   Creative Futures Photography  .

Pictured (L to R): Alison Snook, with The Muses Trio—Christa Powell (violin), Therese Milanovic (piano), and Louise King (cello). Picture Credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

The Muses Trio  describe their work as ‘celebrating music by women, performed by women.’ It was an inspired idea to launch their debut CD (The Spirit and the Maiden) inside the Boggo Road Gaol as an Anywhere Festival event: celebrating music by female composers, with performances by women (including special guests from Vulcana Women’s Circus) taking place inside the women-only wing of a former prison. Christa Powell (violin, Topology), Louise King (Cello, Cello Dreaming) and Therese Milanovic (piano, Topology), demonstrated their virtuosity in an edgy, compelling, powerful, memorable and often-moving performance.

Pictured: Christa Powell. Picture Credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

Pictured: Christa Powell. Picture Credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

The artists played a selection of the pieces from their new CD, providing insights and information as personal introductions as to the selection of the piece or the life of the composer. Powell spoke touchingly about Amy Beach, introducing Romance with reference to the restrictions placed on Beach’s work(when “imprisoned by time and gender,” and restricted by her husband to holding soirées at home).  However, many of the pieces selected by The Muses Trio for the CD are written by their contemporaries. Milanovic talked of the value of direct feedback on recordings, or what she described—when welcoming composer Louise Denson to the launch—as a “dialogue” and a “really lovely process.” Such insights enhanced the experience. For example, Milanovicheld the audience spellbound as she played the charming Song for Comb Man (Kate Neal), having first introduced Neal’s work by encouraging us to look at You Tube video of the TropFest short film which includes the composition. King referred to Nadia Boulanger as “a trailblazer,” before an electric performance of selections from Three pieces for cello and piano. And, having first heard from the composer, in the hands of The Muses Trio Denson’s emotional, lyrical Two Boleros (violin, cello, piano) had us enthralled.

Pictured: Alison Snook, Therese Milanovic (piano), Christa Powell (violin), and Louise King (Cello ) with Vulcana Women’s Circus (Performers Bianca Mackail, Rachael Gibson, Abby Kelso and Ellen Grow). Picture Credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

Pictured: Alison Snook, Therese Milanovic (piano), Christa Powell (violin), and Louise King (Cello ) with Vulcana Women’s Circus (Performers Bianca Mackail, Rachael Gibson, Abby Kelso and Ellen Grow). Picture Credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

The performance was a launch of a CD, but may also have been the beginning of a productive partnership between The Muses Trio and VulcanaWomen’s Circus. Artistic Director Celia White (with Co-Director Michelle Grant) created a mesmerizing performance which opened the second half of the production. Performers Bianca Mackail, Rachael Gibson, Abby Kelso and Ellen Grow, evoked the spirits of Boggo Road inmates as they moved into the space—and impressed with their strength, control and elegance in duets on ‘silks’ (in this case thick nets, which seemed so appropriate for the jail).

Pictured: Vulcana Women’s Circus (Performers Bianca Mackail, Rachael Gibson, Abby Kelso and Ellen Grow). Picture Credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

Pictured: Vulcana Women’s Circus (Performers Bianca Mackail, Rachael Gibson, Abby Kelso and Ellen Grow). Picture Credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

The event included an optional addition of a ghost tour. Sadly the Boggo Road Gaol is about to close for a major change: the modern buildings are to be demolished and heritage spaces ‘adapted’. If you want to see a piece of Brisbane’s heritage before it disappears, why not visit the website to book a tour.  If you buy a copy of The Spirit and the Maiden CD you can then listen to the music when you visit, and try to imagine the Anywhere Festival experience (links to purchase the CD & digital albums are available via the The Muses Trio website).

The performance concluded with a list of acknowledgements and thanks for the many supporters of the work of The Muses Trio. Congratulations to Alison Snook for the attentive page turning—and to Boyds for managing to supply and safely deliver a grand piano into the cellblock.

Verdict: Spine-chilling—an inspired launch event. Visit Boggo Road Gaol while you can, and look out for The Spirit and the Maiden CD.

Catherine Lawrence

The reviewer attended the Saturday 14th 2016 matinee performance. The launch takes place over three performances, 14-15th May 2016 (see the Anywhere Festival website for details).

Comment

Comment

Review: Sugar, Sugar

Pictured (L to R): Maureen Bowra, Natalie Renouf, Jenny Usher, and Anna Welch.   Liquid Lunch      Picture Credit :   Geoff Lawrence,   Creative Futures Photography  .

Pictured (L to R): Maureen Bowra, Natalie Renouf, Jenny Usher, and Anna Welch. Liquid Lunch Picture CreditGeoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

The talented Candy Shop Show Australia team have this year picked up where their hit, 2015 Anywhere Festival Jazz Age Dance Cabaret (music and dance from the 20s, 30s, and 40s) left off. The follow-up show— Sugar, Sugar!is a high-energy confection of music and dance from the 50s, 60s, 70s and 80s. Miss Peppermint Twist (Maureen Bowra) , Miss Skittle (Jenny Usher), Miss Everlasting Gobstopper (Nathalie Renouf) and Miss Starburst (Anna Welch) take us on a romp through iconic dances, costumes, music, headlines, toys, songs and sweets associated with each decade. The result is a program that will entertain school-age children, millennials, parents, and grandparents alike. This is a great way to re-visit times gone by. A chance to laugh at the outfits and tunes of the 50s, 60s, 70s, and 80s…a fun evening, prompting memories of times gone by. And what a perfect venue. The Retro Bar—capturing the essence of the minimalist 60’s and psychedelic 70’s but with modern styling and retro flair—is tailor-made for Sugar, Sugar!

Pictured: Anna Welch. Picture Credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

Pictured: Anna Welch. Picture Credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

The 90-minute program includes two ten-minute breaks (time for a quick visit to the bar to order food or drink).  As with the 2015 Jazz Age Dance Cabaret , the evening centres on songs and dance from the period. The highlight for me, of the three introductory numbers, has to be the heartfelt Liquid Lunch. Combining close harmonies, the entertainers delighted the preview audience with their heartfelt performance of a song that bemoans the after-effects of over-imbibing—where the ‘sunglasses’ were an inspired finishing touch to the costumes. Once the scene is set we get to enjoy a run down of headlines, sweets, toys, songs, costumes and dance from each era.

Pictured: Maureen Bowra (background) and Jenny Usher (featured). Picture Credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

Pictured: Maureen Bowra (background) and Jenny Usher (featured). Picture Credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

Led by the impressive Jenny Usher—who not only performs as Miss Skittle but is also credited as Director/Choreographer/Producer)—the program is clearly a collaborative work of love. Anna Welch, Natalie Renouf and Maureen Bowra  not only perform, but are also credited with additional choreography (and Natalie also for additional vocal arrangements).

Each of our four “sweet-hearts” can sing, dance, and undertake lightening-speed costume changes. Outfits evoked the style of each era… in often quite cringe-worthy detail (whoever thought leg-warmers were appropriate over shoes?).  Dance highlights include the 50s Jailhouse Rock (Elvis Presley would have been pleased at those evocative moves), the stylish 60s These Boots Are Made For Walkin’ , and an 80s mix that includes Michael Jackson’s Thriller (I Wanna Dance With Somebody/Thriller /Footloose).  The singing was at its best with the close harmony work of songs such as the three Intro pieces, and of course the 60s mix (Mr Postman/Big Grls Don’t Cry/It’s My Party). And if not singing, dancing, or slipping into even more outrageous attire, the entertainers interact with the audience—reminding us all of the sweets, toys, and news-headlines of the decades.

Pictured (LtoR): Maureen Bowra, Natalie Renouf, Jenny Usher, and Anna Welch. Picture Credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

Pictured (LtoR): Maureen Bowra, Natalie Renouf, Jenny Usher, and Anna Welch. Picture Credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

Congratulations to all of those who made the Sugar, Sugar! production possible—including the cast, creative team (special mention to vocal coach/music director Alica Cush, and stage manager Lucy Kelland), and the crowd-funding donors. Hats off to Richard Harrison and the The Retro Bar for creating a funky laneway bar in the Western Suburbs. And for making it available for this Anywhere Festival production. It’s a great location: loads of free parking at the back, and a bus stop at the front (visit The Retro Bar website for information on the extensive range of acts and events taking place at this local gem).

Verdict: It’s slightly cheeky, and a lot of fun. Perfect for groups. Ideal for an enjoyable night out (with friends or family). But don’t forget about the weekend matinees; a perfect chance for Gran to bring the kids along to see just quite what she wore only a few years ago!

Audience tip: There are stairs. Take advantage of the breaks to sample a Candy Shop cocktail, or food, from the bar. Air-conditioned, comfortable seating. Bring a camera to take a picture with the Sugar, Sugar! team at the end of the show.

Catherine Lawrence

The reviewer attended a preview on 10th May, 2016. The Anywhere Festival show opens on 11th May and  runs until 21 May (8 performances).

Comment