Tag: Andrew Hallsworth

Tim Finn’s THE LADIES IN BLACK

Get some colour – and music – in your life

By Jessica Cornish

The other night I attended the opening night of Ladies in Black at the Regent Theatre. As I sweltered away under the hot Melbourne sun watching the celebs dash out of their cars on to the red carpet, I was unsure how the night would unfold. Directed by Simon Phillips, Ladies in Black isn’t your run-of-the-mill drama drenched production laced with consistent emotive blows to the heart. Instead it captures a point in time when shops were closed on a Sunday, girls didn’t attend university, and Australia was experiencing an influx of ‘crazy continentals’ who fled the Second World War.

We follow leading lady Lisa (Sarah Morrison) as she gains a summer job at a high end Sydney department store in the 1950’s. Here she connects with her female colleagues and we explore the every-day domesticity of their lives and their genuine love and passion for style and fashion.

Ladies in Black.jpg

Based on Madeleine St John’s novel, and composed by Aussie rock icon Tim Finn with book by Carolyn Burns, this charming new musical was certainly well received the night I attended, with cheeky songs like ‘He’s A Bastard’ and ‘I Just Kissed a Continental’ proving definite crowd-pleasers. Don’t worry – it’s not at all as bitter or racist as this sounds, and sassy protagonist Fay (Ellen Simpson) is quickly hooked on the lips and heart of her new Hungarian flame (Bobby Fox) lips and heart despite his unusual food and accent.

The cast gave strong vocal performances and executed proficiently the simple but effective choreography  of Andrew Hallsworth, appropriate for the diverse female cast of broad ages and body shapes. Plus it’s always refreshing to hear Aussie accents in song, and to have local references to towns such as good old Wagga Wagga. Sarah Morrison (Lisa) in particular was appealingly believable, and had impressive vocal skills that worked a treat for her character and the show’s style.

Set design by Gabriela Tylesova was simple but slightly underwhelming, incorporating an upstage scrim and series of perspex pillars throughout the production, which for me unfortunately seemed to lack the imagination and playfulness needed to compliment the story. Lighting design by David Walters was similarly simple but certainly got the job done. In constrast were Tylesova’s glorious costumes, capturing elaborate 1950’s cocktail gowns and society dresses that shone in glamorous contrast to the sombre blacks of the sales ladies’ attire.

Ladies in Black is  a theatrical snapshot of a group of wonderful women living in a time where Australia was (and surely still is) trying to define itself, and this musical uniquely ties up the lives of all its protagonists into a bundle of happiness. And you know what? – sometimes it’s nice to leave a show feeling content with the world and people in it.

Venue: The Regent Theatre

Season: 25 Feb- 18th of March

Tickets: $65-$111

Booking: Ticketmaster.com or call 1300 111 011

Image by Lisa Tomasetti

REVIEW: Luckiest Productions Presents SWEET CHARITY

Your friends should see this now

By Bradley Storer

Luckiest Productions’ Sweet Charity has made its way to Melbourne after successful sell-out seasons in Sydney and Canberra. This Helpmann Award-winning production more than lives up to expectations with a dark revisionist exploration of this Broadway classic.

Sweet Charity 2015 photo Jeff Busby_2

Verity Hunter-Ballad in the title role of Charity Hope Valentine brings a refreshing touch of normality and relatability. The audience is always aware, beneath the zany and perky exterior, of the real flesh and blood human that Charity is. She also dances up a storm and brings exquisite vocal mastery to all of Charity’s songs, unleashing a full-throttle and soul-rending performance in the despairing ‘Where Am I Going?’. Martin Crewes shows surprising versatility as the various men in Charity’s life – at first showing seductive charm and gallantry as the charismatic Italian movie star Vittorio Vidal, then later morphing into the neurotic but lovable Oscar Lindquist, with a similar vocal transformation from operatic tenor to contemporary character singing.

The bare-bones production, under the direction of Dean Bryant, is unafraid to show the darkness that lurks beneath the surface of this seemingly comedic musical. The female ensemble are depicted closer to the prostitutes of Fellini’s original film than the taxi dancers of the Broadway musical, stuck in an eternal cycle of degradation and poverty that they’ve given up on escaping – most touchingly rendered in Nickie (Debora Krizak) and Helene (Kate Cole)’s by turns cynical and hopeful duet ‘Baby, Dream Your Dream’. Even Charity’s Act One comedic tour de force, ‘If My Friends Could See Me Now’, is performed in a single light surrounded by darkness, as if suggesting the continual threat of the despair kept at bay by Charity’s hopefulness and optimism.

Cy Coleman’s classic Broadway score and Bob Fosse’s signature choreography are both thrillingly modified here to service the new production – new arrangements of music bring in such contemporary sounds as electric guitar, drums and synthesizer that drastically shift the feel of Coleman’s music to the modern. The famous ‘Hey Big Spender’ becomes less of a brassy Broadway belter and more like the guttural, dirty rock music of a strip club in the early hours. The ‘Rich Man’s Frug’ is transformed through the wonderfully imaginative choreography of Andrew Hallsworth into an angular and frenetic vision of a hideously modern New York party, and the psychedelic hippy celebration of ‘The Rhythm of Life’ into a rock-gospel revivalist meeting that sees most of the cast naked by the end.

The most drastic change is the very last scene, stripping away any pretensions to Broadway brightness with Hunter-Ballad’s achingly vulnerable and raw performance and an ending so shocking and unexpected that it leaves the audience dumb-founded. Such a dark and revelatory vision of a classic Broadway musical make this production of Sweet Charity a must see!

Venue: The Playhouse, Arts Centre, 100 St Kilda Rd, Melbourne.

Dates: 25th February – 7th March

Times: WednesdaySaturday 8pm, Tuesday 7pm,  Matinees: Thursday 26 February, 1pm, Saturday 28 February, 2pm, Sunday 1 March, 3pm, Saturday 7 March, 2pm

Tickets: Tickets from $79.90, Under 30s concession pricing $30

Bookings: www.artscentremelbourne.com.au, 1300 182 183, at the box office.

Image by Jeff Busby

Review: The Production Company Presents GYPSY

Everything’s coming up up roses

By Bradley Storer

The Production Company brings together a star-studded cast in this presentation of what can be described as the greatest musical in the American tradition. Like a musical version of King Lear, Gypsy presents the tale of Mama Rose as she fights, batters and tramples all the obstacles in the way of propelling her two daughters to stardom, even as they resist and try to escape her iron grip.

Caroline OConnor

Christina Tan as the young girl who grows up to be the eponymous Gypsy Rose Lee, is perfect as both the boyish, plain Louise at the beginning of the show, looking adorably innocent in her baggy oversized clothes, as well as the glamorous and seductive burlesque star that she becomes over the course of the narrative. However, in the strip tease sequence in Act Two (which illustrates Gypsy’s rise to her full potential as well as to stardom) Tan does not fully embody the burgeoning self-confidence and realisation that would bridge the gap between the two sides of the character.

Gemma-Ashley Kaplan as Baby June, Rose’s favoured child, brings both perkiness, a bright piercing belt and an underlying exhaustion to the role – her younger counterpart is equally amazing, possibly more so in some of her dances! Nathan Pinnell as the dancer who runs away with her steals the show with just one song and a brilliant choreographed dream ballet (choreography by Andrew Hallsworth).

The brilliant Caroline O’Connor is a phenomenon as Mama Rose, bringing layer upon layer to this larger-than-life character. This is a woman so consumed by her dreams and fantasy of stardom (vicariously lived out through her daughters) that she is hopelessly disconnected from everyone around her, most of all her family. In every one of Baby June’s dances we see Mama Rose flitting in and out of the background and off to the side of the stage repeating the choreography; whenever she by chance enters the spotlight her face breaks out in with unadulterated pleasure that is simultaneously comic and pathetic. O’Connor’s characterization brings to mind those other great tragic characters of American literature, Willy Loman and Blanche DuBois, both sustained and eventually destroyed by their dreams.

Matt Hetherington as Herbie, her lover/business partner is quite subdued, but the pair have a sweetness that makes the disintegration of their relationship as a result of Rose’s ambition all the more poignant – here Hetherington shines with a quiet dignity.

Gale Edwards brings an expansive directorial vision to this great American musical, emphasising how all these characters, whether or not they are onstage, are performers – acting out their own internal fantasies or forced to live inside a role that has been thrust on them by someone.

Venue: The State Theatre, The Arts Centre, 100 St Kilda Rd

Dates: Sat July 6th/Wed 10th/Thur 11th/Fri 12th/Sat 13th at 7:30pm; Sat July 6th/Sat 13th at 2pm; Sun July 7th/Sun 14th at 3pm

Prices: From $23 (C Reserve U18) to (A Reserve) $115

Bookings: http://www.theproductioncompany.com.au/