Tag: Dana Jolly

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: FIDDLER ON THE ROOF

L’Chaim!

By Narelle Wood

Directed by Roger Hodgman and original choreography reproduced by Dana Jolly, Melbourne’s new production of Fiddler on the Roof is a powerhouse production to kick off the 2016 theatre season.

Fiddler-on-the-Roof-Aust-Production-Anthony-Warlow-01-PIC-CREDIT-JEFF-BUSBY.jpg

Written in 1960’s the drama-filled musical, heralded as the first of its kind, has stood the test of time as its themes of tradition, family, love and displacement are just as relevant today. Set in a small village, Anatevka, Russia, the milkman Tevye (Anthony Warlow) is struggling to provide a comfortable life for his family. This includes his five strong-willed daughters, who Tevye hopes to marry off to suitable men that will provide some of the comforts he can not afford. With tensions brewing and the world changing around them, Tevye finds the traditions of his people being challenged by more than just his intelligent and independent daughters’ ideas on love.

The cast is full of some of Australia’s best stars of the stage. Warlow is joined by Sigrid Thornton (Golde), Lior (Motel), Nicki Wendt (Yente) and Mark Mitchell (Lazar Wolf); the latter’s transformation is so superb that I didn’t know it was Mitchell until I read the program. Warlow is also almost unrecognizable as Tevye, embodying all the warmth and humour of the character, yet Warlow’s presence is betrayed by his unmistakably rich voice.

While Warlow is clearly the star of the show for both his talent and the iconic role, the rest of the cast are just as masterful. The onstage relationship between Warlow and Thornton is endearing and Wendt’s portrayal of the matchmaker is as every bit hilarious as the character is nosey. There are several other exceptional performances in this production. Teagan Wouters (Tzeitel), Monica Swayne (Hodel) and Jessica Vickers (Chava) are all impressive as Tevye’s eldest daughters revealing exceptionally strong vocals.

There were so many moments where I found myself astonished by the talent on stage: Warlow’s rendition of “If I Were a Rich Man” and the ensemble dancers during “To Life” and “Wedding Dance”, for example. However one of the truly standout aspects of this production was the set design by Richard Roberts. Simple and understated but such a clever design concept that allows for such seemingly easy transitions between houses and into the town square.

To be honest, I would have been happy if the performance finished after Act 1 as Fiddler on the Roof had already exceeded all of my expectations; the fact that Act 2 extended this prodigious experience was a delightful bonus. This production of Fiddler on the Roof has certainly set the performance standard for 2016 and it will be a difficult task for others to match.

Venue: Princess Theatre, Spring St, Melbourne
Season: Until 27th Feb, Tues –Sat 7.30pm, Matinees Wed 1pm, Sat 2pm & Sun 3pm
Tickets: From $79.90
Bookings: http://www.ticketmaster.com.au

Image by Jeff Busby

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