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Review: Oklahoma!

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Review: Oklahoma!

Oklahoma! is a classic tale of love, hardship and jealousy—interspersed with a death, two marriages, a kangaroo court… and references to the oncoming wave of modernity. A 1940s musical, set in the American ‘south central’ State, and based on a 1931 play, might not appear to be something that would entertain a contemporary crowd. But Oklahoma! is an all-round musical entertainment, peppered with songs that are familiar to modern audiences (possibly due to the large number of revivals, and to the success of the 1955 film).  

The plot centres on the annual town picnic. A fundraiser for the yet-to-be-built local school, the much-anticipated event creates opportunities for dancing, flirting, and matrimony. Ado Annie (Gemma Hansom), Laurey Williams (Chloe Makiol), and Gertie Cummings (Emma Markham) are three of the local girls who are deciding on who they wish to marry. Laurey and Gertie are both ‘sweet’ on Curly McLain (Joshua Thia); Jud Fry (Kyle Fenwick) and Curly are competing for Laurey’s attention; and Ado Annie Cain’t Say No as she tries to decide between the exotic charms of Ali Hakim (Warryn James) and the love-struck Will Parker (Tristian Vanyai).

Oklahoma! is a ‘musical play’ in the truest sense; a story told through speech, song, dance, and comedy. The orchestra and performers worked well under the baton of Jacqueline Atherton (Musical Director), and the production is a visual feast: a sensitively lit and beautifully-created set, with some great costumes, and highly-photogenic blocking (creative team led by Robbie Parkin, Artistic Director).

If you like dance, you’ll love Laurey’s dream sequence (featuring Jessica Boersen and Simon Lyell as the Dream counterparts of Laurey and Curly), and really appreciate the set-piece ensemble numbers (hats off to the full cast and Choreographer Natalie Lennox—from young to old, the full cast really entertained during the song and dance numbers). If musical numbers are your ‘thing’, then you’ll particularly enjoy the duets between Thia and Fenwick, Thia and Makiol (just wait for them singing People Will Say We're In Love) and Hansom and Vanyai—as well as the fabulous harmonies in the full cast performances of the title number. If you are looking for solid dramatic performances, you’ll savour the work of the leads (watch out for Jacqui Cuny’s sensitive portrayal of Aunt Eller, and the shotgun-toting cameos of the hard-working fathers). And of course everyone will be thoroughly entertained by the indecisive Hansom, giggle at James’s long-goodbye, cringe at the toe-curling laugh of Markham’s Gertie, and love Vanyai’s recounting of his experiences in the big bad city of Kansas.

The show does have its darker side, centred on the unfortunate Jud. Fenwick created a highly-believable, frustrated, misunderstood and lovelorn outsider—a perfect foil to the ‘hero’ figure of Curly. Pore Jud is Dead was a definite highlight of this production—with superb vocal and dramatic work by Thia and Fenwick.

Picture (L to R) : Curly McLain (Joshua Thia) and Jud Fry (Kyle Fenwick). Picture supplied: Savoyards Musical Theatre (Christopher Thomas).

Picture (L to R): Curly McLain (Joshua Thia) and Jud Fry (Kyle Fenwick). Picture supplied: Savoyards Musical Theatre (Christopher Thomas).

The audience got a lot for their money (the Film and Broadway shows have generally run for around 150 minutes, including any intervals, but this show is advertised at 2 hours 45 minutes plus an interval).  This reviewer attended the Preview, and it may be that my personal (short) wish list will be addressed in the run. I am sure that the Savoyards cast and creatives will up the pace just a little, and perhaps move toward 2.5 hours (plus interval). Occasionally it was a little difficult to hear all of Makiol’s contribution, and perhaps a little less of the TV meerkat in Ali Hakim’s first half will also ensure that all of the comedy is more accessible. But that’s what a Preview is for. I look forward to hearing that Oklahoma! has been another sold-out success for the Savoyards.

Verdict: A visual and aural feast - particularly with the superb vocal and dramatic work by Thia and Fenwick.

Audience tip: 2 hours 45 minutes (plus a 20-minute interval), and note the advisory (suicide references, staged fight/death, ‘gunshots’, and limited smoke haze). Oklahoma! has only 8 performances (the Show opens on 22 June and closes on 6 July). Tickets may still be available at The Savoyards website $50 ($45 10+ Group, $47 Concession, $28 Junior). Arrive early, as there is plenty of parking and lots of space in the foyer for drinks before the show. Seats in row I & J might be preferred (or H for those requiring mobility assistance), but all seats appear to provide an excellent view. It is always worth buying ahead for a Savoyards production, so make a diary note as the final production for the 2019 season is the much-anticipated Boy From Oz (tickets for performances in September & October are available from 14 August 2019).

Catherine Lawrence

The reviewer attended the Friday 21 June 2019 Preview (7:30pm).

Roger & Hammerstein's Oklahoma! Music by Richard Rogers, Book & Lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II. Based on the play "Green Grow the Lilacs" by Lynn Riggs. Original dances by Agnes de Mille. “Oklahoma!” is presented by permission of Origin™ Theatrical on behalf of R&H Theatricals.

Picture Credit: Savoyards Musical Theatre (Christopher Thomas)

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Review: In Flight Entertainment

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Review: In Flight Entertainment

One of the best aspects of Anywhere Festival is the opportunity to visit new spaces across Brisbane, Noosa and the Sunshine Coast… spaces which are literally ‘brought to life’ by the performers and creatives of the many festival Shows. So where better to have a little Inflight Entertainment than at the Queensland Air Museum?

Riley Cope (Writer, producer and performer) has obviously been on many flights in order to prepare this closely-observed and funny “high altitude musical cabaret.” The cast welcome passengers to the Emu Air flight ('first class' getting to be seated first), the crew of our flight to Bali discover that their colleague, Jessica, is not going to make it, and they all try to keep the news from their manager, Riley. Adding a little bit of spice to the mix are the lovable ‘Bogan’ duo (yes, Georgia Vella and Katherine Ernst are each in the cast list as ‘Bogan’ - as well as making appearances in the musical numbers). The three attendants are led by the experienced former-Qantas stewardess Patsy (Lucia Di Giorgio), and are often called upon to not only provide refreshments to the passengers, but to also lead a number of musical interludes (Peyton Cole and Ashleigh Lindsay join Di Giorgio in numbers that include Nine to Five).

Pictured: The cast of  In Flight Entertainment  at the Queensland Air Museum. Picture credit:  Creative Futures Photography .

Pictured: The cast of In Flight Entertainment at the Queensland Air Museum. Picture credit: Creative Futures Photography.

The Show follows the format of a musical revue, providing a vehicle for the multi-talented Riley Cope (he sings, he dances, he acts, and he can make you laugh): quite a bit of song and dance (often established tunes with some slightly re-worked lyrics), interspersed with some comedic moments and even the occasional pre-recorded video. But what is a flight without an in-flight movie option, after all?

Highlights included: the fabulous (and very funny) crew-member extraordinaire, Derek (Andrew Freeborn) handing out the obligatory ‘chicken or fish’ food options; Cope’s dance moves during the duet between Jessica (Cope) and the Air Marshall (also Freeborn); the Bogan pill-popping and upgrade moves; and of course, Patsy’s solo number with the cigarette. The crew clearly also had a lot of fun with the double entendre/slightly smutty opportunities for the pilot’s connection with Patsy (Pilot also played by Andrew Freeborn). And hats off to the production for having live music (led by Greg Crease on piano), and for having such a great set.

Pictured: Derek (Andrew Freeborn). Picture credit:  Creative Futures Photography .

Pictured: Derek (Andrew Freeborn). Picture credit: Creative Futures Photography.

The Show is an enjoyable 90-minute addition to the Anywhere Festival program. For me it was at its best when parodying the flying experience. Perhaps a future version of the Show might benefit from the addition of a Director to the credits, and tightening up/shortening some of the musical numbers in favour of some more lines for Freeborn, Cope and Di Giorgio.

Having made the trip to Caloundra for this Show in the evening, I will definitely return to see the Museum during the day. It looks as it is worth a trip, even if the Emu Air team have departed for warmer climes.

Verdict: Travel always broadens the mind… an entertaining sketch show/revue.

Audience tip: Tickets for In Flight Entertainment are available on the Anywhere Festival Website ($35-$45). The 90-minute Show has a very short run of only three nights (16 May 6:30pm only, plus 17-18 May, 2019: 6:30pm and 8:30pm on each evening). Arrive no more than 20 minutes before your scheduled departure. Drinks available at a donation bar. Slight smoke haze and some strobe lighting. Outside but under cover.

Catherine Lawrence

The reviewer attended the Thursday 16 May 2019 Opening Night (6:30pm), Queensland Air Museum, Caloundra.

Pictures Credit: Creative Futures Photography.

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Review: Love Hurts

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Review: Love Hurts

A comedy cabaret show about love and sex, at 6pm on a Thursday evening in Brisbane, is a hard ask. But Emily Kristopher and Katrina Davidson are an excellent duo. Katrina Davidson is a well-known comedienne and radio personality, and makes an excellent sparring partner for this show with the multi-talented Emily Kristopher. They really succeeded in getting the audience “in the mood” right from the start in the intimate space of the Brisbane Powerhouse Turbine Studio.

The show is based around stories, gleaned from the internet, about the highs, lows and pains of love. Categories such as “First Dates”, “Pickup lines” and “Cheating” inspire some very funny tales. Each subject is are chosen at random by spinning a wheel. Amazingly, each category came up during the performance on the opening night (!). It’s a great device, giving these two talented performers ample opportunity to ad lib and interact with the audience.

 
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And this is a show where the audience are inspired to share some of their own stories. Tales about painful relationships or sexual injuries, were also very funny. With prizes of “Adult Toys” for the best.

The laughter is sustained throughout the one-hour show. But a definite highlight had to be the “Song and Dance-offs” between Emily and Katrina. Each song was chosen to illustrate the pain and joy of dating, where the audience were asked to vote on their individual performances.

This all works to create a very funny hour of entertainment. Don’t go if you’re a bit prudish—and leave the parents at home if they’d be offended by the sachets of “Intimate Lube” or “Arousal Cream” (which were scattered on the tables and chairs when we arrived). But it would be a pity if you missed this one.

The Wonderland Festival is a great opportunity to catch up with friends for a festive drink. Chatting between shows on the Bar Alto terrace (arguably one of the best places for a Brisbane catch-up, with that great river view) we all agreed that Love Hurts was a really entertaining way to start the evening. A fellow member of the audience re-told some of the stories from the Show with great glee, commenting that the performances had made them roar with laughter.  A great recommendation to go.

Katrina Davidson

Katrina Davidson

Emily Kristopher

Emily Kristopher

And if you’re looking for additional ideas… Emily is in three shows at the Brisbane Powerhouse over the next few weeks—two of which are this weekend at the Wonderland Festival (not only Love Hurts, but also Two-Man Tarantino), with the third starting on 6 December (A Very Naughty Christmas). So, lots of opportunities to have some great festive nights out.

Verdict: A really funny way to start your evening. See it if you can.

Audience tip: 60 minutes, Brisbane Powerhouse Turbine Studio (15+. Coarse language, adult themes and sexual references). Drinks purchased at the bar can be taken into the show. There are only three performances of Love Hurts in the 2018 Wonderland Festival program (6pm, 29 November until 1st December 2018). Tickets may still be available: $30 ($25 concession, and pp for a group of 6+) plus $5.95 transaction fee. Why not keep an eye on the website, and see what else might tempt you at the 2018 Wonderland Festival.

Geoff Lawrence

The reviewer attended the Thursday 29th November 2018 performance (6pm).

Pictures Credit: Creative Futures Photography.

 

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Review: Which Way Home

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Review: Which Way Home

Which Way Home is a funny, touching and richly layered play. If you get the chance to see it, you may just find yourself wishing you’d booked tickets for the next night too.

Road trips are a great format. Characters travelling from a to b (frequently with a time pressure), spending hours in close proximity in a vehicle (perfect for intimate discussions, reflections and revelations). The landscape is often an important ‘character,’ and reaching the destination can be a moment of catharsis or revelation. Unsurprisingly, road trips are often used in films or television but, as the Ilbijerri Theatre production Which Way Home demonstrates, it can also be used to create great theatre.

Writer and actor Katie Beckett, has produced a clever work using this established format to great effect (with the support of Jane Bodie, dramaturge). The 65-minute play incorporates fragmented conversations, quiet times of reflection, and episodic ‘flashbacks’—complete with references to the which-came-first-chicken-or-egg debate, individual and shared memories of childhood experience, and nagging about the consumption of sweets and the latest boyfriend. 

Tash (Katie Beckett) has “only got the weekend off” for a trip back to Country with her father (Kamahi Djordon King). Having grown up in a Queensland town, Tash expresses concerns as to whether “the mob” will recognise her. But perhaps there is something more than just a concern about being welcome, or recognised—suggested in her opening “Step one: Always add an extra hour before departure to avoid being late.” As the play unfolds, there are references throughout to lists, steps, plans, and schedules—coping mechanisms which include Dad’s repeated “Open. Listen. Breathe.”

The versatile Djordon King has what can only be described as the gift of a part: the ‘daggy dad’ (gambling, eating sweets, thinking tv characters are ‘real’, wearing a toupee) who clearly adores his daughter. The audience connected with his challenges as a single parent, felt a sense of the pain of his being alone, and enjoyed his protective pride in his daughter (the great shared memories of his rescuing her on the beach from knee-high water). But it was Beckett who held the show in her hand, and captivated the audience as the daughter who seeks to find out more about her mother (with so many unanswered questions her father finds too painful to discuss)—recalling childhood memories of time with her dad, of her mum, and even of a wonderfully-recreated ‘Nan’ (who took her to the ‘fancy side of town’ and shopping at Target Country).

Great direction (Rachael Maza) and a set that works really well (Emily Barrie). I loved the simplicity of the map and the use of the tea chests. No unnecessary steering wheel manipulation was a bonus, and just wait until you see the driving on gravel road. The show was beautifully lit (Niklas Pajanti), which was particularly important with the steady pour of sand onto the stage. 

The continuing flow of sand is a vital allusion to many of the issues raised in this play—an hourglass reference to mortality and the passing of time, and a reference to the importance of Country and connection. As Beckett observes, “the past is always with us.” Beautifully crafted, the play is a clever weaving together of past and present, demonstrating how time is not always a linear journey from a to b (past-present-future), but can also be circles and layers of memory, stories, and experience (the past in the present).  The show is funny, touching, and occasionally powerful. Definitely worth an hour of your time.

Verdict: Great writing, and a funny and sometimes touching show.

Picture credit: Creative Futures Photography

Picture credit: Creative Futures Photography

Audience tip: Make sure you arrive early; the Visy Theatre is an intimate space and you will disturb other members of the audience if you arrive after the lockout period starts. Unreserved seating with doors opening 15 minutes before the Show so pick up a drink to take into the space. Parental Advisory (website suggests 15+): Some strong language and adult themes. 65 minutes (no interval). The Show is almost at the end of a national tour (ends 18 August 2018), with a short run at Brisbane’s Powerhouse (8-11 August 2018, 7:00pm each evening plus a 2:00pm matinee on 11th August).  Tickets and information via the Brisbane Powerhouse website or at the Box Office ($49 Full, $35 Concession. Note: Additional $5.95 transaction fee).

Catherine Lawrence

The reviewer attended the Thursday 9 August 2018 performance.

Ilbijerri Theatre production image (L-R: Kamahi Djordon King and Katie Beckett).

Ilbijerri Theatre production image (L-R: Kamahi Djordon King and Katie Beckett).

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Review: Here Comes The Bride!

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Review: Here Comes The Bride!

Weddings are a great place to watch and be watched, and often act as a catalyst for a few home truths and the creation or ending of relationships. Waiting for the return of the bride and groom from their epic photography shoot, guests at this particular wedding begin to share more information than is prudent. The latest gossip, inadvertently overheard by two of the subjects (gossipees?), is that one work colleague is about to propose, while another is about to dump his partner. Confusingly, both men have names that sound the same—a classic basis for a farce/comedy.

Pictured (L to R): Tahira Appadoo (Vera) and Yasmin Larasati (Rose) . Picture credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

Pictured (L to R): Tahira Appadoo (Vera) and Yasmin Larasati (Rose) . Picture credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

In a short piece it is important to quickly establish the characters and their relationships. Victoria Posner—who presented, introduced, directed and wrote Here Comes The Bride?—clearly enjoys writing about strong female characters. Tahira Appadoo leapt with great relish into the nastier side of the rather bitter Vera—rising to the challenge of bossing everyone around (and demonstrating little compassion for anyone else). Yasmin Larasati (Rose) had a great part, believably transitioning from being the downtrodden and put-upon foil for Vera to becoming a feisty, compassionate and caring colleague. Georgia Pontifex (Deb) played the lovable next bride, demonstrating that she was more than just nice (with a strong moral compass).

These three female characters had the best lines, and were therefore the most interesting in the play. The characters of Justin (Stephen Snape), Justyn (Joseph Davissen) and Jenny (Prathana Thevar-Brink) played important roles in the unfolding plot, but perhaps needed more development if a longer version of Here Comes The Bride? were to be produced.

Pictured (L to R): Prathana Thevar-Brink (Jenny), Stephen Snape (Justin), Georgia Pontifex (Deb), and Joseph Davissen (Justyn). Picture Credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

Pictured (L to R): Prathana Thevar-Brink (Jenny), Stephen Snape (Justin), Georgia Pontifex (Deb), and Joseph Davissen (Justyn). Picture Credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

There were a number of funny lines, delivered with great relish. But the funniest part of the evening for me was when some of the younger members of the audience made encouraging sotto voce comments to Justin, encouraging him to get on with dumping his long-term girlfriend. But this was one of the few points where the piece was truly immersive (on 26th May). For any future iterations, I’d suggest that more thought is given to the immersive aspect. Although the audience were encouraged to wander and overhear, most elected to stay in their seats which were placed in a conventional arrangement around the ‘stage.’ Perhaps welcoming guests to the event, much as an usher greets guests at a wedding (‘‘Bride or Groom?”), and arranging seating along the lines of a traditional wedding reception, would  encourage greater immersive engagement by the audience. For example, at the spacious West End Sideshow creative hub, there were a number of round tables which would have allowed for seating some of the guests at the ‘reception’ tables, leaving others to float around and ‘overhear’ some of the action.

Pictured: Anywhere Festival at The Sideshow ( Here Comes The Bride! ). Picture credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

Pictured: Anywhere Festival at The Sideshow (Here Comes The Bride!). Picture credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

The chatter continued as we left the venue, in particular a chance to reflect on some of the more traditional aspects of weddings that still appear to prevail, and what appears to be a continued fixation on the vexed question of “when will HE propose?” Any piece that keeps the audience thinking about the issues raised, and considering the characters and stereotypes, has to have been a good show!

Verdict: Tight writing, and a funny, enjoyable short piece which needs a little more thought on the immersive aspect.

Audience tip: Easy street parking, and great coffee on sale at Sideshow. Dress warmly as the venue is open to the street at the entrance. 40 minutes.

Tickets at the Anywhere Festival website. $18. Friday and Saturday performances during Anywhere Festival 2018 (18, 19, 25 & 26 May, all at 6:30pm). Presented by Victoria Posner at The Sideshow, West End. Suitable for audiences of any age (production company suggested 15+).

Catherine Lawrence

The reviewer attended the Saturday 26th  May performance at The Sideshow, West End. Pictures Credit: Geoff Lawrence, Creative Futures Photography.

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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 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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