Tag: Alan Menken

Flourish Productions Presents THE SONGS OF ALAN MENKEN

A warming and appealing tribute

By Narelle Wood

The name Alan Menken is synonymous with so many Broadway and Disney productions: it is hard to capture the gamut of his career, especially in a 2-hour performance review. But the ensemble cast of the review The Songs of Alan Menken certainly did their best to show the range of styles and shows that Menken has contributed to.

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The ensemble of seven singers (Seth Drury, Josh Ellwood, Zuleika Khan, Vanessa Menjivar, Liam J. O’Bryne, Emily Paddon-Brown and Jeff van de Zandt) treated us to songs from wonderful movies and musicals such as Beauty and the Beast, Newsies, Hercules, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Tangled, and Sister Act.  The accompanying choreography (by Rhys Velasquez) and staging (Matthew Lockitt) was simple and seamless, and the lighting was flawless. The only distracting thing was the occasional ‘off-pitch’ note, which was perhaps less about the very talented singers, and more to do with the demanding range needed to perform some of Menken’s more complicated scores. (That, and the appearance of some stuffed animals, which seemed a little bit corny in light of the rest of the show.)

More important were the number of standout moments. “Need to Know” from Weird Romance has become my unofficial ‘geek’ anthem and the duet of “I Can Read You” (Leap of Faith) performed by O’Byrne and Menjivar was brilliant. In saying that, one of my favourite moments came courtesy of Drury and Van de Zandt’s duet of “A Whole New World”: hands down one of the cutest duets of all time. The showstopper though was the ensemble singing one of Menken’s perhaps lesser-known songs, “Sailing On“. It was not a big upbeat number, but an understated and moving arrangement by musical director Lucy O’Brien, with stunning harmonies adroitly performed.

Ultimately, The Songs of Alan Menken was the perfect way to spend a cold Saturday afternoon, with the music of Menken lingering on way after the performance was over.

This production of The Songs of Alan Menken was performed on June 24, 2017 at The Southbank Theatre.

Image by James Terry Photography

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Melbourne Premiere of ALADDIN: THE MUSICAL

A show to grant all your wishes

By Jessica Cornish

Soaring into a world of imagination, music, sequins and rich Middle Eastern textiles, the iconic Disney-cartoon-turned-Broadway-musical Aladdin has hit the stage of Her Majesty’s Theatre, kickstarting Melbourne’s 2017 premiere season.

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Aladdin, under the clever direction and choreography of Casey Nicholaw, follows the fairy tale story of the street-wise orphan who unexpectedly finds himself master of a vivacious genie with the power to transform him into a prince and win Princess Jasmine’s heart.

The fast-paced musical closely mirrors the nostalgic cartoon in look and feel. The stage was luxuriously draped with backlit silk drops, hanging pendent lights and texturally rich Arabian rugs and patterns designed by Bob Crowley. A series of appropriately-themed new songs were composed for the stage musical that successfully complimented the original score maintaining the song’s original themes and overall feel, while the well-known favourites (composed by Alan Menken with lyrics by Tim Rice, Howard Ashman and Chad Beguelin) from the original score were all present. “Arabian Nights”, “One Jump Ahead”, “Prince Ali”, “Friend Like Me” and of course “A Whole New World” all dazzle on stage, with the latter successfully incorporating the illusive magic carpet effortlessly flying through a darkened backlit stage of speckled light.

The musical was well cast with impressive leads and a vocally and visually strong ensemble. Ainsley Melham (Aladdin) fit the build and imagination as the lovable lead: he was vocally precise with a solid appealing stage presence and when coupled with his petite co-star Hiba Elchikhe (Princess Jasmine), their characters had a beautiful chemistry together, (although I sometimes wasn’t sure if Jasmine was from the Middle East or the Bronx – there were a few inconsistencies across the board with accent choices).

Hands down Michael James Scott’s larger-than-life presence as the sassy blue Genie stole the show. Shaking the audience to life with topical Australian-tailored comedic references and oozing with glitter and energy, he riveted the audience with his songs and consistently provided comic relief for the narrative, which was well counter-balanced by evil doo-er Adam Murphy (Jafar), who literally seemed to be a delicious reincarnate of the cartoon character.

The sound quality, similarly to the lighting design by Natasha Katz, was vibrant and punchy however periodically Elchikhe’s voice was lost in the mix, overpowered by her male counterparts voices and instrumentation. Similarly, there were a couple of lyrics that were lost in the Genie’s numbers: however, I’m sure these minor sound issues will be quickly ironed out by opening night.

Overall, this musical has it all and is a perfect night out for children big (yes, even the adults won’t be able to resist) and small. This pacey, high-energy musical is gloriously bursting with colour and pyrotechnics and upbeat music. It opened in Melbourne this week, so take advantage of this while you can!

Where: Her Majesty’s Theatre, 219 Exhibition Street, Melbourne 3000

When: April 20- October 22

Wednesday- Saturday evening performances 8pm

Sunday evening performance 6:30pm

Wednesday and Sunday matinees at 1pm

Ticket prices range from $50-$195.00

Bookings: Call Ticketek agency 132 849, visit the website Tickettek.com.au or any Tickettek agency or the Box Office in Her Majesty’s Box Office opens two hours prior to all performances for door sales and ticket collections.

LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS 2016 Australian Tour

Merrily macabre and highly enjoyable

By Ross Larkin

A highly experienced pool of theatre royalty has taken on the ambitious task of staging a touring production of musical cult favourite, Little Shop of Horrors, which opened last night at Melbourne’s Comedy Theatre. Thankfully, their obvious efforts have largely paid off.

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Based on the quirky 1960 film by Roger Corman of the same name, Little Shop is a rare example of classic screen translating to the stage almost seamlessly, and at times, with superior effect, largely thanks to the tenderly appealing tunes of Alan Menken and Howard Ashman (ably musically directed here by Andrew Worboys).

Virtually entirely set in a failing, divey florist in urban Skid Row, goofy employee Seymour Krelborn acquires a strange breed of plant during a full eclipse, which he christens Audrey II (named after his colleague with whom he is romantically enamoured). Seymour soon discovers Audrey II can not only speak to him, but also requires a diet solely of human blood in order to survive. Seymour begins to attract media attention and fame as the intriguingly disconcerting Audrey II grows bigger and bigger while locals simultaneously disappear mysteriously…

Esther Hannaford, of King Kong fame, steals the show as Seymour’s love interest, Audrey. Her understated, eccentric and loveable performance is coupled with powerhouse vocals of seemingly effortless range. Brent Hill as Seymour, and also the voice of Audrey II, gave a solid performance, as did supporting actors Angelique Cassimatis, Josie Lane and Chloe Zuel as Crystal, Chiffon and Ronnette respectively.

The ever-growing, oversized fly trap that became Audrey II was extremely impressively created by puppet-makers Erth and manipulated with a cleverness that must be seen in order to be believed. Accomplished director Dean Bryant has, on this occasion, excelled. Bringing a small cast and this massive puppet into force with enjoyable laughs and great songs, Bryant’s direction both visually and content-wise is innovative and satisfying.

Although the energy of some cast members did waiver on occasion, no doubt the pace and punch will pick up for the entire ensemble as the run progresses. Overall, this a strongly recommended feast of sinister fun and entertaining black comedy.

Presented by Luckiest Productions and Tinderbox Productions, Little Shop of Horrors is playing now at the Comedy Theatre, Exhibition Street, Melbourne until May 22nd with a variety of dates and showtimes. Go to http://www.littleshoptour.com.au/ for tickets and more information.

Image by Jess Busby