Tag: Adam Lyon

Groaning Dam Productions Presents NED: A NEW AUSTRALIAN MUSICAL IN CONCERT

Musically stunning

By Bradley Storer

It had been a wonderful week for Australian music theatre, with a limited and critically acclaimed season of Jon English’s Paris and then a Melbourne remounting of the new original musical Ned after a successful Bendigo premiere just over two years ago. It seems inevitable that the two will be compared, but it can be safely said that both make a brilliant case for the vitality and necessity of new Australian musical theatre works.

Ned The Musical.jpg

Ned tells the story of the famous (or infamous, depending on your viewpoint) bushranger from childhood to his death by hanging, and the book by Anna Lyon and Marc McIntyre firmly takes the view of Kelly as a good, honourable man driven to extremes by injustice and government  corruption. The opening choral number sets up the evening as an interrogation of the legend and the ambiguous figure at its centre.

Nelson Gardner brings a loveable larrikin-quality and charisma to the central role, making it easy to sympathize with him and the hardships we witness him first suffer and then rebel against. The first act grounds us in the reality of living in nineteenth-century Australia, and we’re allowed to witness the close and loving bonds between family and friends that will soon be stretched and torn apart.

As in Paris, we are treated to a veritable feast of young Australian talent amongst the cast of Ned. Robert Tripolino, Brent Trotter and Connor Crawford are fantastic as the trio of friends who along with Ned are drawn into conflict with the law, and their voices meld beautifully in the lyrical “White Dove”. Alana Trater and Hannah Frederickson are wonderfully girlish and infectious in their playful chemistry before bleak events force them into maturity, Trater in particularly growing in gravitas before unleashing the shattering “No Way Back” in the family’s darkest hour.

Nick Simpson-Deeks as the meek police officer Fitzpatrick, whose initial kind nature tips over into bitterness and violence, is adorably awkward and well-meaning and manages the character’s slide into darkness with palpable pathos. Anchoring the entire cast (and quite possibly the whole show) is Penny Larkins as Ellen, the matriarch of the Kelly family – grounding the character with determined optimism and joy, Larkins traverses the biggest arc of the show as Ellen watches one by one her family taken to prison, ending up there herself to protect her children and comforting her son in his last moments. When Ellen is pressured by the police in the second act to give up the location of Ned’s gang, Larkins unsheathes the steel hidden beneath the surface in the defiant “My Son”, almost bringing their audience to their feet mid-show roaring with applause.

Adam Lyon’s score is dazzling throughout, managing to find its own uniquely Australian identity in its sound, and under the masterful hand of musical director and conductor Kellie Dickerson every moment of music was truly epic.

The only criticism that could be levelled would be at the book – while the show’s dedication to exploring and individuating all the central characters is wonderful, it comes at the cost of losing focus on Ned as the centre of the piece. Oddly, Ned himself only has two solo numbers throughout the entire show, and while the optimistic and yearning “Hope of Australia” is a brilliant song at the beginning of Ned’s journey there is sadly not much besides dialogue with other characters to define the later stages of his trajectory. Director Gary Young did a stellar job of staging this piece in a concert setting, but on the night the second act of Ned felt slightly weaker than the first. This was quite possibly because of the long stretches of dialogue that would play more strongly in a fully-staged production, but in a concert tended to drag down momentum.

These small criticisms aside, Ned more than proved itself worthy of national attention and development, and we can only hope this piece receives the funding and further opportunities to grow it deserves – with time, Ned could be THE great Australian musical.

Venue: National Theatre, St Kilda

Time: 7:30pm

Date: Monday 17th July

Image by Marty Williams

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REVIEW: Live on Stage in Melbourne – KING KONG

You’ve never seen anything like this…

By Kim Edwards

Bold, breath-taking – and BIG.

King Kong

King Kong Live on Stage is a wildly ambitious and theatrically daring production that crashes through musical conventions and scales special-effects heights, but has not yet escaped being a rather lumbering and cumbersome beast of a show. However, this production is still in its infancy and therefore evolving, and meanwhile the world premiere now showing at the Regent already has theatre-goers thrilling, puzzling, and debating its merits furiously.

The famous (and admittedly thin storyline) has been reimagined for the stage in an extraordinary and contrary way. The songs are the collected efforts of contemporary artists such as Sarah McLachlan and 3D from Massive Attack: at its most successful, the music forms an exciting and unusual soundtrack that is a distinct relief after the formulaic and expositional offerings of some other musicals. At other times however, songs are jarring and uneven with their musical anachronisms and bland lyrics. The set and backdrop are primarily a dynamic blur of lighting and video effects: at its best in the scenes emulating grainy film footage, the impact is utterly spectacular, from the dance of the Skull Island locals and the moonrise lullaby, to the final battle atop the Empire State building. At its worse however, the lingering impression is of Atari video games, and b-grade music videos.

Esther Hannaford as heroine Ann Darrow is an impressively feisty and funny leading lady, and visually and vocally beautiful. The film director and plot catalyst Denham (Adam Lyon) is full of pizzazz, but has not quite settled into character or singing style securely yet. Chris Ryan is pleasant as love-interest Jack Driscoll, while Queenie Van de Zandt sings the hell out of the incomprehensible role of Cassandra.

But then there is Harley Durst, Danny Miller and Jacob Williams, and Lincoln Barros, James Brown, Adam David, Josh Feldschuh, Brett Franzi, Nathan Jones, Nathan Kell, Pussell Leonard, Brent Osborne, Troy Phillips, Mike Snow, Maxwell Trengrove and Tayo Wilson. Their collaborative emoting, movement and acting was inexpressibly moving and mesmerising – from their first moment on stage, the audience involuntarily drew breath, and they commanded our rapt attention and unstinting admiration until the very end. No – they are not the (excellent) ensemble in this production. These gentleman are the puppeteers that give life to Kong, and they and he are the unequivocal stars of the show.

King Kong Live on Stage provides just that: the sense of real awe and amazement at  what we see when it comes to the breathing, bellowing believability of Kong himself is worth every cent of the ticket price. He and his creators are a united marvel, and it is simply a bonus that the blockbuster musical is also being unleashed from its primal predictable bonds here, and let loose afresh (albeit still chaotically) into the theatre world.

Go for this – King Kong is wonder-full.

http://kingkongliveonstage.com/show-information/