Tag: Chloe Zuel

Review: Ragtime

The peak of the modern Broadway musical.

By Bradley Storer

Ragtime, the much beloved modern classic of the American musical stage, finally makes its Australian professional premiere with the Production Company – judging from the rapturous audience response on opening night it has been well worth the wait. Based on E.L. Doctorow’s acclaimed novel, with a score by powerhouse composing duo Ahrens and Flaherty, and a book by legendary playwright Terrence McNally, Ragtime represents the peak of the modern Broadway musical.

Set at the turn of the 20th century, the show depicts the trials and interactions of three families representing the cross sections of racial and socio-economic backgrounds in America at the time. An upper-middle class white family of New Rochelle, a pair of lovers from the marginalized black community of Harlem, and a father and daughter emerging from the impoverished immigrants of Eastern Europe. Director Roger Hodgman conducts these intersections of class and race across tiers of scaffolding, choregrapher Dana Jolly delineating all three groups clearly through movement (as well as several flashy vaudeville numbers).

The African-American lovers form the centre of Ragtime’s dramatic momentum and spirit, with Kurt Kansley cutting a commanding figure as pianist Coalhouse Walker Jnr., his fine baritone by turns beautiful and fearsome as Coalhouse’s struggle for justice descends into darkness. Chloe Zuel as his lover Sarah makes a huge impression with a powerful performance of the chilling ‘Your Daddy’s Son’.

Alexander Lewis as immigrant on the rise Tateh recalls a young Mandy Patinkin, bringing intensity and a thrilling tenor to the role as well as rogueish charm, combining all three in the pyrotechnic patter song ‘Buffalo Nickel Photoplay, Inc.’. As the acerbic Grandfather, John McTernan steals the show with barely a handful of lines. As the Mother of the white New Rochelle family, Georgina Hopson delivers the standout performance of the production. She delivers the show’s defiant anthem to the onward march of civilization, ‘Back to Before’, so winningly that the audience is held completely spell bound before exploding into applause.

Ragtime’s optimistic ending, which envisions a potential America whose socio-political boundaries have dissolved and united the people as family, seems slightly naïve in the face of the country’s (and indeed, the world in general) continued racial and class inequalities well into the 21st century. While we can only hope and work towards a future like the one prophesized here, musical theatre fans can rejoice in the vision of this beautiful production.

Venue: State Theatre, Arts Centre Melbourne, 100 St Kilda Rd, Melbourne

Dates: 2 – 10th November

Times: 7:30pm Wednesday – Saturday, 1pm Matinee Wednesday and Thursday, 2pm Matinee Saturday, 3pm Sunday

Prices: $25 – $150

Bookings: artscentremelbourne.com.au, 1300 182 183, Arts Centre Box Office.

Photography courtesy of Cavanagh PR 

LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS 2016 Australian Tour

Merrily macabre and highly enjoyable

By Ross Larkin

A highly experienced pool of theatre royalty has taken on the ambitious task of staging a touring production of musical cult favourite, Little Shop of Horrors, which opened last night at Melbourne’s Comedy Theatre. Thankfully, their obvious efforts have largely paid off.

Brent Hill, Audrey II 02 LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS  - PHOTO CREDIT JEFF BUSBY.jpg

Based on the quirky 1960 film by Roger Corman of the same name, Little Shop is a rare example of classic screen translating to the stage almost seamlessly, and at times, with superior effect, largely thanks to the tenderly appealing tunes of Alan Menken and Howard Ashman (ably musically directed here by Andrew Worboys).

Virtually entirely set in a failing, divey florist in urban Skid Row, goofy employee Seymour Krelborn acquires a strange breed of plant during a full eclipse, which he christens Audrey II (named after his colleague with whom he is romantically enamoured). Seymour soon discovers Audrey II can not only speak to him, but also requires a diet solely of human blood in order to survive. Seymour begins to attract media attention and fame as the intriguingly disconcerting Audrey II grows bigger and bigger while locals simultaneously disappear mysteriously…

Esther Hannaford, of King Kong fame, steals the show as Seymour’s love interest, Audrey. Her understated, eccentric and loveable performance is coupled with powerhouse vocals of seemingly effortless range. Brent Hill as Seymour, and also the voice of Audrey II, gave a solid performance, as did supporting actors Angelique Cassimatis, Josie Lane and Chloe Zuel as Crystal, Chiffon and Ronnette respectively.

The ever-growing, oversized fly trap that became Audrey II was extremely impressively created by puppet-makers Erth and manipulated with a cleverness that must be seen in order to be believed. Accomplished director Dean Bryant has, on this occasion, excelled. Bringing a small cast and this massive puppet into force with enjoyable laughs and great songs, Bryant’s direction both visually and content-wise is innovative and satisfying.

Although the energy of some cast members did waiver on occasion, no doubt the pace and punch will pick up for the entire ensemble as the run progresses. Overall, this a strongly recommended feast of sinister fun and entertaining black comedy.

Presented by Luckiest Productions and Tinderbox Productions, Little Shop of Horrors is playing now at the Comedy Theatre, Exhibition Street, Melbourne until May 22nd with a variety of dates and showtimes. Go to http://www.littleshoptour.com.au/ for tickets and more information.

Image by Jess Busby