Tag: Chapel Off Chapel

Boyslikeme Presents NEXT FALL

Fine performances in fragile love story

By Myron My

Being in love is never easy. Geoffrey Naufft’s Next Fall tells the story of Adam and Luke, a gay couple who begin a relationship spawning five years before tragedy strikes when Luke is hit by a car. Opening with Luke’s friends, family and Adam gathering at a hospital waiting room to hear news on his outcome, the story flashes back to various moments in the lives of both Adam and Luke and those closest to them.

Next Fall.jpg

Each flashback builds on 40-year-old Adam’s (Darrin Redgate) frustration over where his life is heading, and Luke’s (Mark Davis) attempts to reconcile his sexuality with his Christian faith. Redgate does a capable job as the neurotic candle-seller who seems to be subconsciously attempting to self-sabotage his chances at ever finding happiness, even when it’s staring at him right in the face. Davis evokes a naive self-assuredness in Luke with regards to his dogmatic beliefs, but he is also able to bring out a warmth and kindness to him as his relationship with Adam grows.

Kaarin Fairfax simultaneously brings fragility and strength to Arlene, Luke’s mother. A touching scene between her and Adam displays Fairfax’s ability to convey the deep emotions her character is feeling without resorting to overt dramatics. Sharon Davis as Holly delivers a solid performance as the supportive friend for both Adam and Luke, with her subtle comedic timing allowing us to momentarily forget the impending tragedy.

Unfortunately I felt Paul Robertson‘s performance as Luke’s homophobic father Butch needed further development in allowing us to understand the nuances of the character. Throughout the story Luke has an intense fear of his father finding out about his sexuality – and yet nothing eventuates from this, even when Butch comes across Adam and Luke during a moment of intimacy, which I found very unsatisfying. Similarly, the character of Brandon (James Biasetto) in this production feels more like an outsider looking in and even during his flashback scene with Adam, Brandon doesn’t reveal anything to the audience that we are not already aware of.

Peter Blackburn takes care in his direction to not rush the story and otherwise allows the characters and their relationships time to develop organically. The set design by James Lew is interesting in that it suggests that the past and present are inextricably linked, however the set changes where an actor appears in the waiting room for a few seconds for no other purpose than to give time for the crew to prepare the stage for the next scene feel very much like filler rather than substance.

While religion and getting old are major themes explored in Next Fall, it is ultimately a touching love story between two people. As such, Naufft’s script may be a formulaic play with no real surprises, but the dedicated performances from this cast are what turn this production into a story worth sharing.

Venue: Chapel Off Chapel, 12 Little Chapel St, Prahran
Season: until 30 July | Wed – Sat 8:00pm, Sun 5:00pm
Tickets: $39.50 Full | $29.50 Conc
Bookings: Chapel Off Chapel


Pursued By Bear Presents ORDINARY DAYS

Authentic and accessible

By Joana Simmons

Presented as the second part of a unique double bill, Ordinary Days is a slick contemporary chamber musical with heart. Bought to us by independent performance and production hire company, Pursued By Bear, this 90-minute show accomplishes their vision of telling great stories and challenging the theatre industry. The stories of four characters going about their days in New York weave into our hearts and each other’s lives through the delightful music and lyrics by Adam Gwon. It is a relatable, believable and thoroughly enjoyable show about growing up and enjoying the view.


Chapel off Chapel is humming as the almost full house takes their seats. The white tulle suspended from the ceiling provides the perfect canvas for the colourful chirpy showtune opening sung by the ever-optimistic Warren (Joel Granger). We meet Deb (Nicola Bowman), a graduate who is feeling the standard Gen-Y dissatisfaction with life: wanting to achieve great things and reach that big picture but not quite knowing how. She loses her most precious possession – the notes to her graduate thesis, and this is the catalyst for a chain of events that turn the ordinary days of four New Yorkers into something extraordinary. Jason (Matthew Hamilton) moves in with his love Claire (Brittanie Shipway) and we see their excitement and tension build as a couple, as things from the past are revealed and their bond unravels. Through powerful songs and vignettes, these multiple stories become intricately connected and the audience becomes heavily invested.

The cast carries their individual stories and works together with accuracy and professionalism. Granger’s endearingly geeky portrayal of Warren is authentic and strong. Hamilton brings maturity to his role as Jason, however his accent and pitch took some time to settle and some movement felt forced, although once on the mark he was a treat. The female cast in their own respects stole the show for me though: Shipway’s singing and natural emotion, especially in “Gotta Get Out” were heart-melting highlights, and Bowman had the audience in stitches with her fantastic comic timing, smooth delivery and subtle yet hilarious physicality. Director Tyran Parke has done an outstanding job bringing such creative and dramatic gems out of these four talented people. Special commendation goes to musical director Stephanie Lewendon-Lowe as this show is basically entirely sung through; the storytelling and diction combined with great dynamic delivery of the songs was top-notch and she supported it all on piano the whole time. The lighting by Jason Crick bought life and drama to the relatively blank set, and whilst there were some minor sound issues on the night I attended, the technical team did a good job.

My favourite part was the end: there was some truly magical goosebump moments throughout, but the ending left me feeling beautifully warm (which was a relief considering the Melbourne temperature.) Whilst the storyline of Ordinary Days isn’t anything too groundbreaking, the music and characters pull us in and help us to see and appreciate the little things, which is so important, especially now.  Escape the cold and get swept up in finding the extraordinary in the ordinary.

Ordinary Days (part of double bill, Chump Days) at Chapel Off Chapel

8-18 June 
Time: 8pm Thursday-Saturday, 5pm Sunday
Tickets: $35 Preview (Thursday 8 June), $49 Adult, $39 Concession (+transaction fee)


Image by Ben Fon


Ambitious take on audacious musical

By Bradley Storer

Spring Awakening, the rock musical which first revolutionized the modern conception of musical theatre over ten years ago on Broadway, is a strange beast – the text derived from Frank Wedekind’s controversial late-ninteenth-century play, combined with contemporary rock/pop/folk songs composed by Duncan Sheik and Steven Sater that are specifically designed to stand apart from and explore the action of the plot rather than to advance it as in traditional music theatre. Resolving this division between the music and text requires strong direction and a conceptual framework that can bridge these two elements.

Spring Awakening.jpg

Director Robbie Carmellotti has made big and bold offers with this production, and I thoroughly respect and applaud his efforts in exploring new pathways to interpret a modern classic. However, elements of this production did not fully succeed: the decision to have characters play their own instruments at different points (which all but vanished by the second act) didn’t add anything in particular to the meaning or understanding of the show – the central conceit of nineteenth-century German school children morphing into teen rock stars is already so strong on its own that it doesn’t need this addition. The appearance of handheld microphones as part of this overall metaphor, while an inherent part of this show, becomes overused in this production and feels forced into several unnecessary moments. The decision to have the cast speak their dialogue in German accents and to sing in American accents, which again I appreciate as an attempt to underline the distance between the characters and their inner ‘rock stars’, is unfortunately undermined by a lack of consistent accents across the entire cast. And finally, the re-orchestration of Sheik’s music at certain points deadened the impact of this vital and pulse-raising score, the loss of electric guitar in ‘The Bitch of Living’ turning the number into a country-fied hoedown that lacks the energy and guts of the original.

Brent Trotter is wonderful as Moritz, the anxiety-riddled schoolboy who befalls a terrible fate, managing the character’s difficult journey with great emotion and a gorgeous contemporary voice. As Wendla, Jessie-Lou Yates works hard and tirelessly throughout, but feels slightly miscast in reading as too old to be a young girl undergoing puberty. Ashley Roussety as Melchoir, the closest the show has to a central character, has the opposite problem – he looks perfectly cast as the charismatic and fiercely intelligent protagonist and delivers a credible performance in the first act, and is particularly impressive in Zoee Marsh’s choreography for ‘The Mirror-Blue Night’. However, in the second act he begins to feel a little lost in the role as the story races to climax, losing the emotional impact of the tragic but hopeful conclusion.

The supporting cast, in contrast, are uniformly excellent. Henry Brett steals the entire show as the effete Hanschen, drawing raucous laughter in his two big scenes. Luisa Scrofani impressively shreds the bass guitar as she emotionally tears into the bleakness of ‘The Dark I Know Well’. Grace Browne shines as Thea, and Alice Batt plays both violin and the role of Anna beautifully. Olivia Solomons manages to effectively differentiate every one of her multitude of female adult characters, but sadly Barry Mitchell as her opposite is less successful as parts blur together with similar vocal tone and physicality. The entire ensemble offer up heart-touching loveliness in the complex choreography and choral harmonies of ‘Touch Me’, one of the production’s stronger moments, and showcasing some stunning riffing from Jordan Mahar as Georg.

While this production may have its problems, StageArt should be commended for their commitment to offering contemporary and challenging musicals, and the entire creative team and cast congratulated for attempting a new approach to this much-loved and ground-breaking piece.

Dates: 19 May -10 June

Venue: Chapel off Chapel, 12 Little Chapel St, Prahran.

Times: Wed – Sun 7:30pm, Matinee Sat & Sun 1.30pm, Sun 21st May 4pm

Prices: $49 – $79

Bookings: chapeloffchapel.com.au, (03) 8290 7000, at the venue box office.



New shows added by popular demand

By Narelle Wood

In this ‘one night only’ performance Flourish Productions showcases a range of songs from the legendary songwriting combination of Lennon and McCartney.

Let It Be.jpg

The eight-singer ensemble treated us to a vast array of classics from the more clean-cut era with the likes of “I Wanna Hold Your Hand” to the more experimental “Strawberry Fields”. There were a combination of ensemble performances, duets and solos, supported by the extremely talented creative director Drew Downing on the piano and an exceptionally tight and talented band (Max Koenig, Bryan Bowen, Dave Banen and Paul Congdon). The band by themselves would have made for a spectacular performance, especially with some killer solos on the saxophone and guitar provided by Koenig and Banen respectively.

That is not to say the vocals weren’t spectacular themselves. There were many highlights including the ensemble performances of “I Wanna Hold Your Hand”, “Ob-la-di Ob-la-da” and a stunning interpretation of “With A Little Help From My Friends”, which started with eight-part a cappella harmony, highlighting just how talented this group are. There were also some standouts solos, including Tyson Legg‘s haunting rendition of  “So This Is Christmas”, Vidya Makan‘s funky version of “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” and Jess Fairlie‘s ‘dirty’ performance of “Let’s Get Together”. One of my favourite performances of the night was Makan and Ana Mitsikas‘s duet of “Ticket to Ride”, providing a funky jazz piano accompaniment as well as the smooth vocals. Overall though, for me, it was Fairlie who stole the show with a powerful and enigmatic performance of “Hey Jude”.

There were a couple of things I wasn’t a fan of: there seemed to be a lot of erroneous  microphone-swapping and some of the backup movements and choreography was a little cheesy. There were a few interpretations of the songs that I weren’t keen on; they didn’t quite match my expectations. Jack Lyall‘s teenage angst take on Yesterday didn’t work for me, yet his performances in the more gritty rock style numbers were fantastic. It was clear the ensemble have a range of experience and there were some that are still finding their performance feet.

Nitpicking aside, the night was fantastic, the show was sold out and the audience were singing and dancing along in their chairs. The diversity of ages in the audience were a testament to the timelessness of Lennon and McCartney’s work, and the applause at the end a testament to the quality of the show. While Let it Be was supposed to a one night only performance, there are now two more shows scheduled. If you want to treat yourself to tickets, and I suggest you do, do so quickly as I expect there will be many people keen to attend these encores.

Venue: Chapel Off Chapel, 12 Little Chapel, Prahran

Season: 29th April 3pm & 8pm

Price: $35 full $30 Concession $25 Child

Tickets: chapeloffchapel.com.au phone 03 8290 7000




By Joanna Simmons

Lyric Opera presents the first in its’ trio for the 2017 season, and Camille Saint Saens’ The Japanese Princess is a wonderful choice of work. Having never been performed in Australia; this one-act comic opera is accessible and excellent. The story is simple so the main feature is the music; played beautifully by the Lyric Chamber orchestra and sung by the experienced cast of three. It’s a treat for the ears, and with dialogue in English and subtitles for all the French Songs it defies any old notions that opera is dusty fat ladies warbling in foreign tongues for hours.

The Japanese Princess.jpg

We follow the story of Kornelis, an art student who becomes infatuated with all things Japanese, and much to his fiancée (and cousin in the libretto) Lena’s dismay, becomes obsessed with the portrait of a mysterious Japanese Princess, Ming (not a Japanese name.) Ming makes Lena question herself, her relationship and Kornelis’ sanity. The voluptuous orchestra ornately guides the story with a nod to the orient with songs with colourful language and robust emotions.

Lena, played by Kimberly Coleman (and alternated with Kate Macfarlane) was naturalistic and strong.  She plays up the comedy where needed and connects with the other players and the music. Robert Macfarlane as Cornelius’s (alternated with Hew Wagner) dulcet tenor tones were right on the money. I wish his acting was as strong, as there were a lot of comedic moments that could have been more detailed with facial expression and timing, and other moments that felt forced. Arisa Yura as Ming, is subtlely woven into the story and is captivating to watch. She dances skillfully with a fan, her delicate hands well placed; yet then does some turns and steps that break character and genre, which feels disjointed alongside the music and set.

The intricate set designed by Christina Logan Bell that feels like the inside of a Japanese fan or tea house, complete with tatami mats, is beautiful and memorable. It, combined with the well-plotted lighting by Lucy Birkinshaw, transports us to this wonderous other world. Lucy Wilkins’ costume design fits well with the set and the era, adding colour and beauty with Ming’s kimono, and a neutral- everyday feel to Cornelius and Lena. Director Miki Oikawa has tastefully bought this production out to be one that is accessible in our modern day, in partnership with artistic director and conductor Pat Miller, whose passion and knowledge is evident, and should be highly commended.

The part I loved the most about this show was the beginning, where Miller turned around from facing the orchestra and invited us to ensure that our phones weren’t going to disturb the performance, but encouraged us to use them, to share with people what we are doing, and push opera to become something that is spoken about, shared, liked, snapchatted, hashtagged and all. In our world of watching videos for 30 seconds before getting distracted, it can be difficult to produce theatre to challenge our palates whilst tickling them too. This show is engaging and enchanting, simple and satisfying for the ears and eyes.

Lyric Opera’s The Japanese Princess played at Chapel Off Chapel, 11-18 March, 2017

Image by Sarah Walker


Midsumma Festival 2017: ON A NIGHT LIKE THIS

Good celebrity siblings come in threes…

By Myron My

There are not too many people in the world who do not know who Kylie Minogue is. And the same could be said for her sister Dannii Minogue. But what about Erin Minogue? That’s right, the other, other Minogue sister who has also seeking her own piece of the fame pie. Presented as part of this year’s Midsumma FestivalOn A Night Like This: The Erin Minogue Experience focuses on the youngest Minogue sibling who is given her moment to shine in this well-crafted and stylish comedy cabaret about the true story of a fictitious person.

Erin Minogue.jpg

Written by Chris Gist and Paul Kooperman with Lizzie Moore (who also performs as Erin), we are taken through the decades of the Minogue sisters’ lives and it is revealed what Erin’s role in each significant moment was or what the reason was for her absence. When it comes to the case of Young Talent Time for example, while all three were originally booked to audition, Erin had a doctor’s appointment she had to go to due to her mother’s concern of her unusual growth spurt…

The stories within each period are entertaining funny with a great mix of songs from the Minogue sisters, including “This Is It” by Dannii and “I Believe In You” by Kylie. Accompanying Erin on stage is her sassy and talented pianist, D’Arren (like L’Oreal – aka Brad Rush), who also joins in for a few notable songs. Erin’s recollections are sharp and witty with some brilliant one-liners and apart from a slight drop during the 00’s period, the story is tight and told with a purpose.

Moore is engaging on stage and her animated re-telling of these natty narratives feels genuine and convincing, as if Erin actually was indeed there. And if her words are not believable enough, there is a slideshow throughout the show with clever photographic ‘evidence’. Just like the Minogues, Moore also has an impressive voice, whereupon she is able to take the sisters’ hits and – with some pleasing musical arrangements by Anthony Costanzo – make the songs her own.

So while Erin may not be as famous as her sisters or have their international success, she still has things to be proud of, such as getting to run her very own dance school, the Erin Minogue Fame School in Frankston… On A Night Like This is a fresh, fun and enjoyable cabaret show about reaching for the stars, even if they seem too far away.

On A Night Like This: The Erin Minogue Experience was performed at Chapel Off Chapel between 20 – 21 January 2017.

Image by Joel Devereux


Clock and Spiel Productions Presents THE SCREWTAPE LETTERS

Better the devil you know

By Philip Edwards

C.S.Lewis is well known today for his series of seven novels for children Chronicles of Narnia, especially since some of the books have been made into very successful movies. But before that. he came to fame with his classic satirical masterpiece The Screwtape Letters, first published in February 1942.


Hailey McQueen (director, producer and writer) has brilliantly adapted the “Letters” to the stage in what is a most entertaining and engaging production. As a longtime lover of all of C.S.Lewis’ works, I was both greatly looking forward to this play and wondering how a series of letters could be made into a full-scale production. I was not disappointed. McQueen has not only presented the wonderful insights into human nature that Lewis is famous for, but she has managed to inject humour and fun into what could have been rather dry if handled differently. From the very outset the audience was captivated and enthusiastic.

The show opens with the demon Screwtape (Yannick Lawry) assisted by Toadpipe a lesser devil (George Zhao), addressing a gathering of junior tempters in Hell at the annual dinner of the Tempter’s Training College for Young Devils. This is part of a speech taken from “Screwtape Proposes a Toast”, Lewis’ 1959 sequel to the Letters which first appeared as an essay in the Saturday Evening Post.This was a clever move by McQueen as it serves to introduce the role of Screwtape as a master Tempter whose job is to guide his nephew, Wormwood, in his task of tempting a young man who is in danger of becoming a Christian.

From then on Screwtape dictates letters, addressed to Wormwood, via Toadpipe which are then sent by some fiendish mailing system (wonderful sound and lighting effects), whereupon a reply is received which prompts another letter. The process appears quite simple, but the added humorous antics of the somewhat dimwitted Toadpipe ensure that there is never a dull moment.

Lawry and Zhao are the only actors on stage, and they are both there for the entire 80-90 minutes of the performance without a break. Lawry delivers the text of the letters with great skill and fluency. His performance is flawless and I was awed by the dedication that was required to memorise practically the whole book.  Occasionally Screwtape allows Toadpipe (Zhao) to present a section of his letter to Wormwood, sometimes as a blackboard lecture,which has the whole audience laughing at full volume. Screwtape’s frustration with Toadpipe and his antics results in some quite violent treatment of the poor creature which are staged beautifully (at one point Toadpipe’s head is jammed in a stool) and provide a dynamic relief to the dictation phases of the presentation.  Toadpipe is clearly bored by his miserable existence and does a variety of crazy stunts to break the monotony of his life of servitude. Zhao excels in this role and is a delight to the whole audience.

The theatre was packed with people of all ages from twenty-something to eighty-something and we were completely engaged the whole time.   The whole production team is to be congratulated on a memorable and captivating show that has brought the brilliant wit and insights of C.S.Lewis to the stage and to even greater accessibility for a modern generation.

The music, sound and light effects when each letter is delivered are wonderful.  Adam Jones (music and sound design) and Ben Anshaw (lighting design) are to be commended, for what they did fitted the mood perfectly.  I particularly liked the little tune that tied the production together: it had the right balance of quirkiness and lightheartedness that kept the show from being a heavy “lecture”-type of production that could easily have occurred when presenting a series of letters.

If I have any complaint it would be that the season is not long enough.  I recommend that you do all that you can to get to see it before it ends this weekend.  Forget the Christmas shopping.  This is more important.

(If you do miss it in Melbourne it is moving to Canberra next week.  That’s not too far to drive!)

The Screwtape Letters is now on at The Loft Theatre, Chapel Off Chapel, 12 Little Chapel St, Prahran until Saturday 17th December 2016.  Bookings: Ph. 03 8290 7000.  More information at: www.chapeloffchapel.com.au