Tag: Cameron MacDonald

Vass Productions Presents YOU’RE A GOOD MAN, CHARLIE BROWN

Adorable family fun

By Narelle Wood

You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown is Charles Schulz’s beloved Peanuts characters come to life. From the outset everything about this musical is cartoon-esque and it is hard not to grin like a buffoon the whole way through.

You're A Good Man Charlie Brown

With book, music and lyrics by Clark Gesner, the musical is based on the life of Charlie Brown (Cameron MacDonald) the eternal optimist, despite Lucy (Courtney Glass) pointing out loudly and frequently what she labels as his ‘loser’ tendencies. The key members of the gang are there to help Charlie along the way: Sally (Sarah Morrison), Linus (Adam Porter), Schroeder (Joshua Robson), and of course the forever-faithful puppy with attitude Snoopy (Luigi Lucente). There is kite-flying, choir practice, book reports, a nail-biting baseball game and the intellectual conversation of adults interspersed with childlike behaviour that made, and still makes, the antics of Charlie Brown and co. both subtle social commentary and very funny.

The storyline has been put together through the use of Schulz’s comic strips, so some of the plot points are very familiar. And the staging is in keeping with his art style too: it looks as though to walk on stage would be to walk into the comic strip itself. The sets, courtesy of set designer Jacob Battista, are simple but impressive, making very clever use of frames and staircases to change scenes. As the show commenced, he only thing that was perhaps a bit jarring initially was accepting adults play the roles of such familiar child characters and this may have been the reason the first part felt a bit flat, at least for the adult members of the audience, though there were several kids who found it all very funny.

Once the audience and the musical warmed up, it became absolutely clear that this is an extremely talented cast. It is difficult to pick a standout when the small ensemble is so strong, but I would have to say Glass’s portrayal of Lucy is spectacular. That been said, MacDonald’s sad Charlie Brown made the audience sigh with sympathy on more than one occasion. And while Snoopy was played by human Lucente, he captured all of Snoopy’s attitude and some beguiling beagle-like behaviour as well: if only dinner time was always that entertaining.

Gary Abraham’s direction combined with choreography by Dana Jolly and Ben Kiley’s music direction has resulted in an absolutely joyful production that really showcases the singing, dancing and acting talent on stage. The intricate timings in most of the production numbers were accomplished with seeming ease; my favourite was easily The Book Report, mostly due to how well I identified with each of the approaches to work, and I don’t think I will ever think of Beatrix Potter in the same way again.

The night show might be a late time slot for any little person in your life, but the children I overheard discussing it at the end of the show were so excited at seeing these characters live on stage. Charlie Brown is indeed a good man, and this is a must for fans of the cartoon and anyone looking at escaping into the lovable and complicated world of Charlie Brown and his gang.

Venue: Alex Theatre, Fitzroy St, St Kilda

Season: Until 2nd July, Wed-Sun 7.30pm Matinees: Tues 11.30am, Wed & Thu 10.30am, Sat 1pm and Sun 3pm

Tickets: Concession from $25 | Adult from $35

Bookings: www.alextheatrestk.com/whats-on-alex/youre-good-man-charlie-brown

Image by James Terry Photography

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REVIEW: Melbourne Premiere of SEXERCISE THE MUSICAL

Working out the kinks

By Myron My

Who ever said that sex and exercise have to be mutually exclusive? This is definitely not the case with the new musical comedy directed by Sara Grenfell and presented by Aleksandar Vass and Malcolm C. Cooke, Sexercise, where we follow a married couple’s journey to rediscovering the fun and sexy times in their relationship.

Sexercise the Musical

The strength and success of Sexercise lies very much with its talented group of actors. Despite two solid hours of acting, singing and dancing, the small cast all manage to keep their energy levels up and the further we progress with the story the more this dynamism is visible. Clearly there is much fun to be had on stage, with the audience and with each other.

Nicole Melloy and Lyall Brooks are both extremely likeable as married couple Sam and Joe. They could easily have been pigeonholed as the annoying nagging wife and the insensitive, ignorant husband but they are able to expose a vulnerability to their characters that is natural and subtle whilst still bringing on the laughs and delivering the jokes.

The rest of the cast consisting of Fem Belling, Cameron MacDonald, Kristin Holland and Lulu McClatchy display their ability to support the protagonists but also command the stage when required. It almost reached the point where I wanted to learn more about these people than Sam and Joe: what exactly is going on in Andy’s marriage and who is this woman that has broken Tania’s heart? Writer Derek Rowe does well to feed the audience just enough information that we eagerly await the return to the stage of these characters.

While there may be some funny and touching moments in Sexercise, there are scenes that are too long and seem to drag to their conclusion and others that apparently don’t even need to be included. At a running time of over two hours, I felt some editing is required to allow the story to stay snappy and constantly moving forward at a pace that allows our attention to not falter.

While the musical numbers, also by Rowe, are on the whole enjoyable, there are some that seemed unnatural and awkward but due to the talent of the performers, were still fun to watch. Sexercise’s musical highlights )directed by Trevor Jones and choreographed by Dana Jolly) included ‘Mates For Life’, ‘Are We Done Yet’ and ‘36 not 23’ but by far my favourite song of the evening would be MacDonald and McClatchy singing ‘It Might Be Different This Time’, a wonderful number which could have been the signature song for every characters’ journey in this production.

Sexercise is more than just a story of 30-somethings wanting to have sex. It is cheeky, it is fun and it is naughty but it’s also about a group of individuals trying to connect with someone else. By cutting down the running time and undertaking some rewriting, this new musical has the potential both to make that theme more meaningful and create greater enjoyment for the audience. Nonetheless, this production of Sexercise is still worth seeing for the stellar effort by the excellent cast.

Venue: Alex Theatre St Kilda, 135 Fitzroy St, St Kilda
Season: Until 15 March | Tues-Sat 8.00pm, Wed 1pm, Sat 2pm, Sun 3pm
Tickets: From $50.87
Bookings:  http://sexercisethemusical.com

REVIEW: The Collective Presents PARADE

You don’t know this man
By Bradley Storer
New Melbourne company The Collective make their theatrical debut with the first professional production in Australia of Jason Robert Brown’s modern classic Parade, a tale of injustice, prejudice and murder in early 20th-century Atlanta.
Parade
Luigi Lucente as Leo Frank, the Jewish factory superintendent who is accused of murdering young Mary Phagan (Jemma Plunkett), turns in a performance perfect from head to toe. Lucente portrays Frank as a man whose alienation from the community has left him a lonely sensitive soul with a icy, defensive exterior – not shying away from the more strident aspects of Frank’s personality, Lucente intertwines them in such a way that they strike a delicious note of ambiguity over whether Frank is capable of committing murder. His plain-spoken appeal to the jury, ‘It’s Hard to Speak My Heart’, is heartrendingly beautiful.
Laura Fitzpatrick brings a subdued gentle air and a sweet, touching voice to Frank’s wife, Lucille. She takes a quieter, less belty approach to Lucille’s big numbers ‘You Don’t Know This Man’ and ‘Do it Alone’ than some interpreters, but this means we never lose sight of Lucille as an ordinary woman driven by an immense inner strength which blossoms over the course of the story. The delicacy and chemistry which she and Lucente bring to the couple’s penultimate love duet ‘All the Wasted Time’ is electrifying, sending shivers up the spine.
The supporting roles are filled out admirably – Cameron MacDonald has charisma to burn as reporter Britt Craig. who whips the South into a media frenzy over the controversial trial, and turns in solid work as Governor Jack Slaton. Tod Strike is a commanding presence as amoral prosecutor Hugh Dorsey, and Andrew Doyle brings an impish charm to Frankie Epps, the teenager who spearheads the mob violence which leads to the musical’s tragic conclusion. The ensemble overall are top quality, bringing fierce commitment to a variety of roles and levels of moral ambiguity.
The performance space, which has the audience split in two on either side with action playing out in the middle, is used to thrilling effect in the first act. The isolation of husband from wife in ‘Leo at Work/What Am I Waiting For’ is illustrated perfectly as they stand at the separate ends of the stage echoed later by the chillingly emotional image which closes Act One. The cleverly staged trial sequence symbolically and physically makes the audience implicit in the condemnation of Leo, as well tapping into the inherently theatrical nature of a trial itself. However, this fades in Act Two where the staging is used less imaginatively and begins to impede the effectiveness of the show instead. The split staging and somewhat confusing direction of the last scene dilutes the impact of its final revelation, reducing the poignancy of what should be the emotional sucker-punch of the musical.

These small issues aside, this is a strong debut from the emerging company with a challenging and immensely satisfying piece that should be a ‘must see’ for all Melbourne music theatre enthusiasts!

Venue: fortyfivedownstairs, 45 Flinders Lane, CBD
Date: 17-28 Sept, 2014
Times: TuesSat 8pm, Sun 7pm
Tickets: $45, Conc $40, Groups (8+) $40
Bookings: Ph 03 9662 9966 or www.fortyfivedownstairs.com