Tag: Chris Parker

Vic Theatre Company Presents THE GATHERING

Plenty of charm and intrigue in new Australian musical

By Rebecca Waese

Vic Theatre Company’s The Gathering, directed by Chris Parker, is an original Australian musical about friendship, love and loss inspired by the spirit of the Millennial generation. A group of twenty-somethings reunite in a haunted house to see their friend Tom (Joel Granger) who has surfaced after five years. When Tom runs away again, the friends stand by one another, (think of an Australian Rent meets Scooby-doo and the gang), and Tom begins to emerge from the shadows of his mysterious past.

The Gathering (James Terry Photography).jpg

There is plenty to applaud in this production (with book, music and lyrics by Will Hannagan and Belinda Jenkin) and in this company of young performers who are promising, self-possessed and leave their hearts on the stage. Outstanding vocals are delivered by Luke (Daniel Assetta), playing the camp best friend of Tom’s foster sister Kelly, (Shannen Alyce Quan), who is another strong talent to watch. Quan shows power and vulnerability in “Sweet December Feelings” with subtle and nostalgic references to the particular qualities of an Australian summer. Daisy, (Hannah Sullivan McInervey), shines in her solo, “Hair So Long” and Sullivan McInvervy’s voice brings a refreshing and unexpected Missy Higgins-type quality to the ensemble.

The vocals, however, under the musical direction of Daniel Puckey, are far superior to some of the lyrics, and there are a few weak plot points in the show. A handful of too-obvious rhymes calls out for the guiding hand of an experienced dramaturg. Yet, the open spirit of the young company made me forgive some of the clangers and the performers did well to shroud them with humour and ironic deliveries. Luke’s memorable line to Kelly, “I apologize profusely/ by making you muesli,” struck a playful note as the friends negotiated their path to adulthood amidst the chaos that growing up and apart brings.

There is some enjoyable comic work by Mia (Olivia Charalambous), and a compelling dramatic moment when Tom asks why Luke didn’t help him when he needed it most. Heartbroken Joe (Daniel Cosgrove) was delightful when Daisy’s line, “we’re on a break”, lead to a sudden realisation.

The Gathering captures a sense of the moment today for young Australians out in the world, released from share-houses and uni and beginning to make their way as adults. The big company numbers are exuberant with “Never Ever” re-living the classic drinking game, “Haunted” lit by Iphone-wielding ghost-busters, and “A Different Kind of Love” bringing resolution to Tom and his friends as harmonies fill the space. There is a distinct sense of Australian place in this musical, which, despite some awkward lyrics and plot holes, speaks openheartedly and with comic self-awareness of this moment in time for the Millennial generation. Whether this is your tribe or you want to eavesdrop on their moment, The Gathering is uplifting and has much to offer.

Venue: fortyfivedownstairs, 45 Flinders Lane, Melbourne

Season:
Nov 30 Dec, 2, 6, 8, 11, 7.30pm
Nov 26, 4pm, Dec 3,10, 8.30pm
Nov 27, Dec 4, 3pm

Tickets: $38 – $42

Bookings: 03 9662 9966 or online

Image by James Terry Photography

Rebecca Waese is a Lecturer in Creative Arts and English at La Trobe University.

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Vic Theatre Company Presents THE LAST FIVE YEARS

A performance to fall in love with

By Bradley Storer

A woman enters her apartment after a long day of work, placing her bag on the table and letting her hair down before spotting a letter left on her bed, along with a set of keys. With this heart-breakingly simple image, the complex narrative of Jason Robert Brown’s off-Broadway classic The Last Five Years begins to unwind in this production by Vic Theatre Company.

The Last Five Years (James Terry Photography)-9670.jpg

The Last Five Years is a musical that presents many challenges – along with balancing the audience’s sympathy for two people shown at their respective worsts, the concept of each character’s story unfurling in opposite directions (his forwards, hers backwards) means there is normally no direct interaction between the two characters, eliminating the chemistry needed to make the central love story work. Director Chris Parker has chosen to have both characters present in relevant scenes, which is effective in some scenes (‘See I’m Smiling’ and ‘If I Didn’t Believe In You’ in particular) but less so in others where the apparent silence of one character for the entire time doesn’t always work. Brown’s wonderful score however remains entrancing throughout, beautifully played by the band under Daniel Puckey, with the simple but intricate set by Daniel Harvey unfolding in a multitude of ways to enhance the action.

Verity Hunt-Ballard is nothing short of brilliant in the role of Cathy. She wrenches the heart in her opening song, ‘Still Hurting’, manages to make the character sympathetic and delivers pure musical comedy gold in her ‘A Summer in Ohio’ and ‘Climbing Uphill’ – even in the scenes where she doesn’t speak, Hunt-Ballard conveys powerful emotion with just a look and a cheeky smile. Her performance alone is more than worth the price of admission.

Josh Piterman as the charismatic wunderkind writer Jamie ably handles the early parts of his character’s journey, his whirlwind romance with Cathy blossoming alongside his literary career, and sensitively performs the emotionally ambivalent ‘If I Didn’t Believe in You’ before losing his footing towards the end. The character’s final songs don’t have quite the impact they could (despite a nice symbolic touch involving a memento from earlier in the piece), and the last few moments of the show lose their full weight.

A problem with the musical itself is that it never seems to fully suggest what conclusion or meaning we should draw from watching Cathy and Jamie’s relationship disintegrate – but the final image of Cathy, her face lit up by the elation of newfound love as she retreats into darkness, remains haunting nevertheless.

Venue: 45downstairs, 45 Flinders Lane, Melbourne VIC 3000

Dates & Times: Nov 25, 27, 29, Dec 1, 4, 7, 9, 7.30pm / Nov 26, 8.30pm / Dec 11, 3pm / Dec 3, 10 4pm

Prices: Preview $43, Full $50, Concession $45, Group 8+ $43, Double Bill $80 (with The Gathering)

Tickets: www.fortyfivedownstairs.com , (03) 9662 9966

Image by James Terry Photography

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.