Tag: Chelsea Plumley

Life Like Company Presents THE LIGHT IN THE PIAZZA

Beautiful and beguiling musical of love

By Bradley Storer

A twinkling of strings on the harp, cascading into a glorious swirl of orchestral sound under the swell of a soaring and mellifluous soprano voice – from the very first moments of the opening night of The Light in the Piazza, Adam Guettel’s sumptuous score (gorgeously conducted by Vanessa Scammell) instantly swept us into the magically romantic landscape of Florence, Italy.

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The entire cast, under the capable direction of Theresa Borg and in Kim Bishop’s stunning costumes, are close to flawless. Genevieve Kingsford as the childlike Clara Johnson has the unenviable task of depicting a character with a mental disability that is never fully explained, but Kingsford is a marvel in the part, sensitively balancing Clara’s innocence and openness with a fog of anxiety and confusion but never tips over into caricature. Her rich youthful soprano manages the difficult score with ease and her beautiful rendition of the eponymous song whipped the crowd into a roaring applause on opening night.

As Clara’s ardent suitor Fabrizio Naccarelli, Jonathon Hickey brought a bright and piercing tenor and a refreshing adolescent sincerity to the part – while his ‘Il Mondo Era Vuoto’ came off a touch too anguished, he harnessed a touching sensitivity in ‘Love to Me’. Anton Berezin was commanding and charming as Fabrizio’s father, while Josh Piterman as the older brother Giuseppe exuded charisma and flashy charm. Madison Green as Giuseppe’s long-suffering wife Franca managed to find the heart and kindness in a deeply wounded and embittered woman, as well as ably handling the trickiest moments of Guettel’s music.

The heart of this musical, however, is the central role of Margaret Johnson, the mother of Clara whose journey through the show embodies the conflict between the human search for love and the fear that true lasting love is nothing but an illusion. Chelsea Plumley sometimes pushes into moments of slight performativity as Margaret, but overall she nails the character’s charm, intelligence and courage, giving glorious voice to Margaret’s inner conflict as she addresses the audience in both direct dialogue and dramatically compelling song.

The backdrop of paintings and sculpture that fly in and out seamlessly, designed by Tom Willis, make a wonderful set and illustrate the libretto’s constant correlation of the characters’ plights with the figures of renaissance art, but at certain points they blocked the view of the action – physical transitions between scenes were sometimes made awkward by lighting that highlighted instead of concealing the cast and crew moving the scenery.

These small concerns aside, Life Like Company has produced an outstanding production that wonderfully captures the magic of this modern musical, captivating the audience from start to finish with its magnificent score and achingly-rendered story – heart-meltingly lovely and heart-breaking all at the same time. 

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

Times: 8pm Friday and Saturday, 6pm Sunday

Dates: October 28 – November 6

Tickets: $65 – $135

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

Image by Ben Fon

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REVIEW: Life Like Company Presents CITY OF ANGELS

Cy Coleman’s classic beautifully and stylishly revisited

By Myron My

Life Like Company‘s 2015 production has been the much-loved, Tony-Award-winning musical comedy thriller, City of Angels. Paying homage to the 1940s era of film noir while also taking a swipe at the Hollywood film industry, it is a heavily engaging and engrossing meta-story of betrayal, love, passion and murder.

Dress rehearsal photo from the Life Like Company production of City of Angels. Photography by Ben Fon - http://fon.com.au
Dress rehearsal photo from the Life Like Company production of City of Angels. Photography by Ben Fon – http://fon.com.au

Despite being first performed 26 years ago, the book by Larry Gelbart still come across as fresh and relevant. It may admittedly be a little politically incorrect and chauvinistic for current times (despite being mediated through characters we’re invited to critique) but the cheeky wit and cleverness of the script and the direction of Martin Croft ensure you still enjoy watching the relationships being depicted on stage. Led by Musical Director Kellie Dickerson, the live band superbly bring to life the upbeat challenging jazz score by Cy Coleman, and the cast certainly do justice to David Zippel’s sharp lyrics in their performances.

For those unfamiliar with the work, City of Angels offers two stories simultaneously told on stage. In one, mystery writer Stine (Anton Berezin), is attempting to perfect his latest film noir script while at the mercy of Hollywood film mogul, Buddy Fidler (Troy Sussman). In contrast, the second story (depicted entirely in black and white costumes and set pieces) has the audience entering Stine’s fiction where private investigator Stone (Kane Alexander) is hired by Alaura Kingsley (Anne Wood) to locate her missing stepdaughter and from there on, the plot thickens and the lines between reality and fantasy start blurring.

The whole cast is exemplary in their portrayals of their characters, including elegant body language and accents, with many playing dual roles as they cross over between stories. Berezin and Alexander are highly entertaining to watch as each character faces his own personal struggles, as well as having to deal with each other. Their famous duet, “You’re Nothing Without Me” is a powerhouse number and stays with you long after the curtain drops.

Amanda Harrison as Donna and Oolie, while not having much stage time, is a consummate scene-stealer and her spectacular renditions of “You Can Always Count On Me” and “What You Don’t Know About Women” (with Chelsea Plumley) are highlights of the evening. Wood is a superb choice as the sultry femme fatale Alaura and her chemistry with Alexander has you hanging off their every word and action.

City of Angels has much love and respect for the film noir genre while poking fun at its tropes. This particular production is a sharp and highly amusing show with some stunning performances from its cast. The only thing criminal about Life Like Company‘s latest theatrical creation is that it is on for only four nights, as many more people should be given the opportunity to experience its bite and brilliance.

City of Angels was performed at the Arts Centre between 5 – 8 November 2015.

REVIEW: The Production Company’s GUYS AND DOLLS

High-rolling fun

By Narelle Wood

What more can you ask for in a musical than gangsters, gambling, broads and the promise of salvation? Guys and Dolls, this year’s first of The Production Company’s annual three-show season, delivers all the cheek, humour and charm that this musical needs and a whole lot more.

The premise of the story is that Nathan Detroit (Adam Murphy) needs find a place and some funds in order to hold his ‘oldest established, permanent floating crap game’. Opportunist Detroit takes advantage of Sky Masterson’s (Martin Crewes) gambling nature and bets Masterson that he cannot persuade Sarah Brown (Verity Hunt-Ballard), the sergeant of the Save-A-Soul Mission, to go with him to Havana, Cuba.

Chelsea Plumley and Adam Murphy in Guys and Dolls

While Masterson’s in pursuit of Sarah, Sarah’s in pursuit of souls to save her mission, and Detroit is trying to save himself from getting married to his long-term fiancée, Miss Adelaide (Chelsea Plumley).

The casting is superb. I did find it initially difficult to see Hunt-Ballard as Sarah Brown rather than Mary Poppins, mainly due to both characters having similar attributes of refinement. However once Sarah and Masterson meet, the Poppins-ness completely dissolves. The character of Miss Adelaide has some of the best material of the show, including iconic songs such as “A Bushel and A Peck”, “Adelaide’s Lament”, and “Marry the Man Today”. It is Plumley’s ability to pull off the unique intonation of the Miss Adelaide character in both dialogue and song, along with the embodiment of a desperate doll in love, which makes Plumley’s performance a show-stealer.

Supporting the main cast is an equally strong chorus and production team, including stunning costume design by Tim Chappel and musical direction by Guy Simpson. The dancing throughout the instrumental version of “Luck Be Our Lady”, provided by the male members of the chorus, is exceptional, as is the performance of “Sit Down, You’re Rocking the Boat” which also showcases how effectively director Gale Edwards and choreographer Nathan M. Wright utilise the space.

The Production Company‘s shows are always a treat, and this production of Guys and Dolls is simply delicious.

Venue: State Theatre, Arts Centre, Melbourne
Season: 23rd to 26th July 7.30pm, 23rd July 1pm, 26th July 2pm, and 27th July 3pm.
Tickets: Full $48-$119 | Conc $24-$105
Bookings: http://artscentremelbourne.com.au/whats-on

REVIEW: Manilla Street Productions Presents BLOOD BROTHERS

Tragic tale impeccably told

By Bradley Storer

Blood Brothers, the award-winning West End musical about a tale of twin brothers separated at birth, has come to Chapel off Chapel in a strong new production by Manilla Street Productions. This modern tragedy, directed by Chris Parker, explores the classic ‘nature versus nurture’ debate and the great divide between the English upper and middle class.

Blood Brothers

Chelsea Plumley in the crucial role of Mrs Johnstone is the emotional touchstone of the entire piece, producing a portrait of a flawed, poverty-stricken woman of fierce maternal love and indomitable spirit, slowly bowed down under the tragic consequences of an impulsive decision. Her expressive and earthy singing voice perfectly captures the essence of the character, and she is to be applauded especially for flawlessly maintaining the extremely challenging Liverpool accent for the entire show. Glenda Linscott as Mrs Lyons, the rich housewife whose adoption scheme sets the plot in motion, turns in a compelling and complex performance that travels the gamut from heart-warming to bone-chilling as the character’s initial sweetness and good nature crumbles frighteningly under the pressures of anxiety and guilt.

The central triangle of the piece, the two brothers Mickey (Gareth Keegan) and Eddie (Matthew Bradford), and Linda (Lisa-Marie Parker), the woman who comes between them, are a powerhouse trio – their chemistry is palpable, and they perfectly embody each stage of their character’s respective journey from child to adulthood (kudos to them for avoiding cringe-inducing caricature while playing children). The second act, where the harsh realities of life begin to take their toll on the three and their relationships, is wrenching to watch after the honest simplicity of the actors has won our love. They are ably supported by a small but talented ensemble who swap between multiple roles. Simon Wilton as the Narrator does his best with a role that is essentially one-note and continuously repetitive, but the fault lies with the character rather than the actor in this case.

This dark, tragic tale is engrossing theatre, and the catastrophic finale which ties together all the themes of class division and destiny proves the overall success of the production, leaving the audience with a gut-wrenching sense of loss that won’t fail to bring tears to the eyes of anyone who sees it.

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

Dates: 20 March – 6 April (Preview 19 March)

Times: Tues-Sat 8pm, Sat (5 April) 3pm, Sat (29 March) 3pm,  Sun (30 March) 3pm, Sun (6 April) 2pm

Price: $49 Full, $45 Concession, $40 Group 10+, $40 Preview (19 March), $40 Tuesday Performances, $60 Opening Night (20 March)

Tickets: www.chapeloffchapel.com.au, Phone: 03 8290 700003 8290 700003 8290 700003 8290 7000, Email: chapel@stonnington.vic.gov.au, at the venue.

Review: THE PRODUCTION COMPANY presents Promises, Promises

A rare chance to see a superb show

By Adam Tonking

The Production Company’s Promises, Promises stars Matt Hetherington as Chuck Baxter, a low-level accountant in a huge corporation, struggling to be noticed both by his bosses while the girl of his dreams, waitress Fran Kubelik is played by much-loved Marina Prior in ever-reliable form. The show itself is genius, taking a filmic masterpiece in Billy Wilder’s The Apartment, and adapting  it to the stage with glorious music from Burt Bacharach, complete with his exciting and idiosyncratic shifts in meter and harmony. Add to this Neil Simon’s witty and skilfully crafted dialogue, and Hal David’s heartfelt lyrics – how could this show not be amazing?

Hetherington turns his Jack-Lemmon charm on the audience from overture to finale, particularly in the number “She Likes Basketball.” The supporting leads, Chelsea Plumley and Robert Grubb, also gave stellar performances. Plumley was either sorely underused, or used to perfection, playing a small cameo role in one of the most entertaining scenes in the show. She trod a beautiful line between dignity and a complete shambles, all delivered with perfect comic timing and fully-realised characterisation. Grubb was perfectly cast as Dr. Dreyfuss, turning something of a sourpuss into a loveable curmudgeon.

I was delighted to see the orchestra on stage. Half the joy of music theatre for me is the visceral experience of live musicians, and watching them under the tight direction of Guy Simpsonwas pure bliss. The ensemble were spectacular – and aren’t the ensemble the most underappreciated aspect of any show?

Here though, “Turkey Lurkey Time” and “A Fact Can Be A Beautiful Thing” were beautifully executed, and two of the best numbers in the production thanks to the energy and enthusiasm of the ensemble. Particular mention should be given to Hester Van Der Vyver, who with her small but pivotal role as Miss Olsen, came close to stealing the show.

The Production Company has enjoyed a brilliant year with its inspired choices, and their production of Promises, Promises ends it beautifully. In excitedly looking forward to their 2013 program, I can only suggest that you quickly rush to see this too-seldom performed, absolute gem of a show.

Promises, Promises is on at the State Theatre, October 3 to October 7. Book at artscentremelbourne.com.au or call 1300 182 183.