Tag: Arlene Phillips

Melbourne 2016: WE WILL ROCK YOU

Yes, they will

By Jessica Cornish

In true Melbourne style, the first evening of Spring was ushered in by cold wind and rain, but this was no deterrent to the buzzing opening night crowd of We Will Rock You at the Regent Theatre. The show was incredibly vibrant, energetic and visually spectacular.

We Will Rock You.jpg

We Will Rock You utilises the well-known music of Queen to tell the quirky story of a society that is becoming more and more virtual, with the looming presence of Global Soft trying their best to stamp out all forms of bohemian life and of course the dreaded music of rock and roll. Despite the evil corporation’s best efforts, a small group of rebels strive for a world reunited through classic British rock.

Director Ben Elton, musical director Dave Skelton and choreographer Arlene Phillips combined forces to create a powerhouse production team. This creative strength was further complimented by a mesmerising lighting design by Willie Williams and excellent scenic design by Mark Fisher as the entire show being incredibly punchy and dynamic owed much to a set and lighting rig that was constantly moving. Box truss, LED screens and scaffolding flew in and out throughout the evening and the lighting rig was robust and well-planned. The show was consistently visually exciting and the stage looked stunning: there was even some pyro and confetti thrown into the mix, so no complaints here.

Bobby Aitken’s sound design was forceful, clear and generally well balanced. A couple of times the female vocals were drowned out in the mix by their male counterparts, although this could also be in part due to the challenging low vocal range the female performers were required to perform in the occasional bottom-heavy (pun intended) Queen songs.

Equally strong were the lead cast members and ensemble. They were all terrific triple-threat performers that were on the ball all night. Relative musical-theatre newcomer female lead Erin Clare (Scaramouche) sang beautifully and seemed to slip effortlessly in to the rebellious role. However, I felt her male counterpart Gareth Keegan (Galileo) lacked a contemporary edge to his performance which made him seem slightly wooden and not as believable as the dreamy love interest. Other leads, Jaz Flowers (Oz) and her muscly counterpart Thern Reynolds (Brit) did not miss a beat and were a pleasure to watch. Every movement and note was perfectly executed. Former 80’s rocker Brian Mannix (Buddy) was well received by the crowd and performed well however it was the former Australian Idol champion Casey Donovan who stole the show. She was – hands down – the standout performer of the evening as the glorious Killer Queen. She was charismatic and demanded attention every moment she was on stage. She gave an incredibly strong performance, and I couldn’t take my eyes off this bodacious babe, particularly in her rendition of fat bottomed girls framed by an array of women in leather and pink feather dusters.

We Will Rock You does not disappoint. It is a great starting point into the world of theatre, especially for the younger audience and of course all those with a love for Queen, and an impressively dynamic show that is both well-polished and well-executed. How can you pass this up?!





Image by Jeff Busby

The London Palladium Production of THE SOUND OF MUSIC

Plenty of charm and delightful performances

By Caitlin McGrane

When I was growing up, there was a dodgy VHS copy of The Sound of Music on constant rotation; my sister and I would watch it endlessly and my primary school even did a choral concert of all the songs. Suffice to say we were big fans. The London Palladium version of the Rodgers and Hammerstein classic currently showing at The Regent Theatre on Collins Street delighted the audience on opening night with its innovative take on the original musical. It is no small undertaking to adapt such a timeless and well-loved family favourite, but director Jeremy Sams, along with the cast, production crew and creatives behind this incarnation have certainly attempted to breathe new life into the story.

The Sound of Music.jpg

As we all probably know, the musical tells the story of the von Trapp family singers – a young Austrian trainee nun, Maria (Amy Lehpalmer) is sent to nanny the seven Von Trapp children whose lonely widower father Captain Georg von Trapp (Cameron Daddo) runs his house like one of his navy ships. Lehpalmer and Daddo both inhabited their roles well, however, it would have been good to see some on-stage chemistry between the two prior to the surprising declaration that they were in love. When their feelings for each other were revealed I couldn’t help but feel like it was expressed in blunt, rushed exposition; it would have been nice if they could have taken a little more time to show us their blossoming romance. That said, Lehpalmer really made the role of Maria her own by drawing enough on Julie Andrews’ lovable doofus for recognition, but not so much as to become tiresome or repetitive. Daddo made an excellent and empathetic Captain von Trapp, although his voice sounded slightly weak from where I was sitting.

Without the seven von Trapp children however, Lehpalmer and Daddo would have been totally lost. Liesl (Stefanie Jones), Friedrich (Alexander Glenk), Louisa (Darcy McGrath), Kurt (Beaumont Farrell), Brigitta (Karina Thompson), Marta (Ruby Moore) and Gretl (Heidi Sprague) were an absolute delight to watch. They were all consummate professional performers who impressed with their vocal range, naturalism and command of the stage. Given that each child will be played by several actors, the ensemble that performed on opening night really did do a terrific job – they harmonised well and with such impossible smoothness that I’d happily watch them all over again performing their ‘Goodnight’ song.

Under the musical direction of Luke Hunter, the songs were well performed and, despite my love for the film version, having a live orchestra really brought all the songs to life for me, because it made for a truly immersive experience. The magnificent Marina Prior was great as Baroness Schraeder, although she was slightly more sympathetic than her cinematic counterpart. Uncle Max (David James) was great fun but almost seemed to be in different play, which was bizarre but not unwelcome. Mother Abbess (Jacqueline Dark) was absolutely astonishing and her sweeping operatic voice ensured that each time she appeared we were guaranteed an aural treat. Rolf was inhabited perfectly by Du Toit Brendenkamp who conjured fantastic pathos. In the stage version, the von Trapp house help Frau Schmidt (Lorraine Bayly) and Franz (John Hannan) have far too much to do and keep appearing to explain the plot to the audience, which was unbelievably tiresome. On the whole though, the rest of the cast did well supporting the nine main members of the von Trapp family.

Lighting (Mark Henderson), set and costumes (Robert Jones) were all terrifically well executed, and I think in a production of this scale it would probably be a bad sign if I had noticed them too much. Choreography by Arlene Phillips was tremendous – there was a balletic quality to the movement that more or less kept the pace up throughout the show.

The only area where I felt the production fell down was some of the script’s outdated attempts at comedy. Now I’m not necessarily representative of all adults, but when I’m attending The Sound of Music I don’t require ‘adult’ jokes to keep me entertained. Despite this production being based upon the 2006 London revival, there were a couple of one-liners about the Nazis that didn’t quite land because they now feel pretty unnecessary and just not funny. In addition, and I’m becoming quite tired of saying this, but it is not acceptable in my opinion to use sex work as a punchline. Particularly in what is being advertised as a ‘family friendly’ show because it perpetuates the idea that sex workers are worthy of derision. When Franz says that Frau Schmidt ‘could have made a lot of money’ in the Navy the whole Regent Theatre audience audibly gasped and barely anyone laughed. It is deeply dehumanising, as well as profoundly unfunny, and I feel these kinds of outdated lines needed to be removed.

In the end though, despite all my reservations I came away with a huge smile on my face. The wonderful naffness of the script, in conjunction with really energetic and committed performances from the main cast combined to give the audience some really great light entertainment. By no means groundbreaking or profound – but not all theatre need be – this was a perfectly satisfactory way to spend an evening with my mum.

The Sound of Music is now showing at the Regent Theatre. Melbourne show details are below, or head to the tour website for more information about other cities.


Venue: Regent Theatre, Melbourne

Season: From 13 May 2016

Performance Times: Tues–Sat 7.30pm, Wed 1.00pm, Sat 2.00pm, Sun 12noon and 5.30pm

Price: Tickets from $79.90*

Bookings: soundofmusictour.com.au or phone 1300 111 011

REVIEW: Melbourne Return Season of GREASE

It’s still got groove!

By Jessica Cornish

Grease is the word, haven’t you heard? Following a 2013 sell-out season at Her Majesty’s Theatre, the hand-jiving musical is back by popular demand, this time playing at the beautiful Regent Theatre. Bert Newton opened the show as Vince Fontaine with some audience banter which confused my theatre companion, but he was followed by a punchy overture musically directed by Peter Casey and played out by the band of men clad in silk pink shirts. From the moment the music kicks in you can’t help but get excited and dance around, possibly a little too much in your seat.


This production of Grease directed by David Gilmore was one of the most enjoyable and high-energy musicals I have seen in a long time. Rob Mills and the relatively unknown Gretel Scarlett have returned to the stage as the Rydell High heart-throbs Danny and Sandy. They were pitch perfect throughout the entire night, and slipped into the teen roles perfectly.  The show was sleek and well-polished, and the cast really nailed their parts (however if I’m going to nitpick, it probably wouldn’t hurt the ensemble to brush up on their American accents.)  I did feel the only performers who really had to work that little harder to hit those highs were the famous Aussie icons themselves, including John Paul Young, Todd McKenney and Newton himself. But don’t get me wrong: the audience was overjoyed to see these guys do their thing – they could have spoken their songs, and the opening night crowd would still have been thrilled.

The lighting was crisp, bright and replete with red LED strips and Elvis images that framed the show all evening. Fluro-pink love hearts flew in and out, adding to the 1950’s feel of the show as designed by Terry Parsons, and accompanied by the occasional pings of colour from the hanging mirror balls. The show seamlessly transitioned through all the scenes, and had a really quick pace across the evening. The famous hit songs such as “Greased Lightning” and “Summer Loving”, staged and choreographed by Arlene Phillips, were satisfyingly well-done, and I literally had to stop myself from singing along.

It was a thoroughly enjoyable night’s entertainment, and no matter how many times you may have seen the movie, I promise you won’t be disappointed seeing this musical live on stage.

Grease is playing at The Regent Theatre until January 25, 2015. Tickets start from $60.