Tag: Anna Francesca Armenia

StageArt Presents THE COLOR PURPLE

An unforgettable theatre experience

By Sally McKenzie

The emotional impact of Stageart’s The Color Purple is something so very special. It is a show that I have known about for a very long time, have owned the cast album, sung the songs and seen the movie. Not until tonight, however, have I realized how powerful this show really is.

The Color Purple.jpg

Most people know the movie starring Whoopi Goldberg and Oprah Winfrey, which was later brought to life on stage by Oprah Winfrey – this time as producer. The story, beginning in the early 20th century, follows the story of ‘Celie’, an African-American woman in America’s south, facing a life of abuse by her father and husband and how she struggles to maintain her faith in God and humanity.

Jayme-Lee Hanekom is an absolute shining light in this superb production – from the moment she steps on stage in the very first scene as a very young Celie, singing with her sister to the mature woman who leads the whole cast in the spine-tingling finale. Hanekom is absolutely breathtaking in this role, and her vocals are equally as magnificent Along this journey I felt her pain, sorrow, heartache, anger, hatred, joy and the overwhelming love she had for her sister, Nettie (Anna Francesca Armenia) and Shug Avery (Thando Sikwila), and I know for a fact that I wasn’t the only one in tears.

Armenia was delightful in her role, radiating joy and hope in everything she did. She and Hanekom complemented each other perfectly. Sikwila thrived as Shug: her duet with Celie – ‘What About Love’ – was sublime. Their velvet voices blended like nothing I have heard before. They were born to sing together. Sikwila was equally as impressive belting out her song at the ‘juke joint’ – ‘Push The Button’.

Noelan Petero (as Doris), Sasha Hennequin (Darlene) and Anisha Senarante (Jarene) had just the right amount of ‘sass’ as the trio providing the social commentary/gossip as the story unfolded. Their harmonies together were also on point. Kendrew A. Heriveaux (Mister) was consistently strong in his role as Celie’s abusive husband. Vanessa Menjiva was definitely an audience-favourite as the strong-willed, tough female role-model , Sofia. As her husband Harpo, Iopu Auva played the perfect ‘second fiddle’ to Sofia. There are too many roles to mention here, but this is a show with no weak links. The ensemble was brilliant! Harmonies were well-executed and superbly balanced and blended.  Whether playing an evangelical parishioner, a worker on the farm, a native African in the Mission, each and every cast member was completely connected to their character and purpose for being part of that scene.

The set was simple but completely fitting for the staging of this production: nothing else was needed with performances from the cast so astonishingly good. Lighting was beautifully designed by Jason Bovaird and Maddy Seach, helping provide an apt frame for the intimacy of the story and the focus on the personal journey of Celie. Congratulations to director Robbie Carmelotti for his exemplary creative choices. Costumes by Rhiannon Irving were also simple, but appropriate for the period and status of each character. The brightness of the traditional African garments in the second half of the show was a fitting contrast.

Sound design (Marcello Lo Ricco) was exceptional, providing the perfect balance between band and cast. It was the richest and most heartfelt quality of sound I have experienced in this space. Musical direction by Caleb Garfinkel was well-executed.  With the music in this production clearly a highlight, Garfinkel certainly had his work cut out for him – masterfully balancing the leading of the band while also playing guitar and keyboard. Diction was not always clear, however – particularly amongst the singing from the female trio. This was partly due to the heavy accents required of them. I also worry about the female cast maintaining their voices. There is so much emotional belt in this show – which can definitely take its toll. Hopefully an informed vocal coach is on hand.

The Color Purple is showing at Chapel off Chapel from 15th October to 6th November. If the immediate standing ovation after tonight’s performance is anything to go by, this show is sure to be a sell-out. Don’t miss out! I have already booked my ticket to see it again.

http://www.stageart.com.au/the-color-purple

Image by Belinda Stodder

Advertisements

REVIEW: Stageart Presents DREAMGIRLS

Star-struck and star-studded

By Amy Planner

This month, a Tony, Grammy and Oscar-winning classic is being presented to much awaiting Australian audiences for the first time by Stageart. Dreamgirls is the timeless story of an all-girl singing group with dreams to make it big – to sing their way to the top and be important. When car salesmen and all-round business enthusiast Curtis Taylor Jr (Winston Hillyer) meets The Dreamettes, things begin to change and fame starts to become a difficult reality.

Zenya Carmellotti, Anna Francesca Armenia and Sharon Wills in Dream Girls

Directed by Terence O’Connell, musically directed by Tyson Legg and choreographed by Darren Stack, this production plays host to a myriad of Australian talent and style. The opening night audience, filled with Melbourne’s theatre-scene elite and a celebrity or two, waited anxiously for the toe-tapping extravaganza and the cast didn’t leave anything behind.

The simplicity of the set designed by Jacob Battista was refreshing; it allowed the performers to be the focus of your attention at every moment. The simple levelled scaffolding construction gave the actors room to move and creative freedom for the little things, like exits and entrances.

Expectations on costumes for a glamorous production like Dreamgirls were high and the sparkling vision was definitely evident. The execution however was a little off with a few ill-fitting garments that stole your eye away. On the other hand, the costume team led by designed Daniel Harvey does deserve major kudos for the quantity alone, with a new outfit appearing after almost every stage exit and for the quick change moments that thrilled and dazzled.

The cast was superb. Effie White is a notoriously difficult character to handle with her bossy demeanour, diva-like presence and huge vocal range; Thando Sikwila blew the audience away and received a standing ovation to prove it.

Other notable peformances were Anna Francesca Armenia as Deena Jones, Zenya Carmelloti as Lorrell Robinson and Hillyer as Curtis Taylor Jr. But perhaps the crowd favourite, and rightly so, was Gareth Jacobs as the soulful Jimmy ‘Thunder’ Early. Jacobs was energetic, hilarious and insanely talented in more ways than one. He gave Jimmy all the sass and flair he deserves and so much more; Jimmy got soul!

Dreamgirls is dazzling, witty, exciting and full of miraculously remarkable Australian talent – and you, and you, and you, and you’re gonna love them.

Venue: Chapel Off Chapel, 12 Little Chapel St, Prahran
Season: Until 14 June, Tues-Sun 8pm, Sat & Sun matinee 2pm
Tickets: A Reserve $59, $55 Concession (+ transaction fee)
B Reserve $49, $45 Concession (+ transaction fee)
Bookings: www.chapeloffchapel.com.au or 8290 7000