Tag: Daniel Harvey

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

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REVIEW: Stageart Presents DREAMGIRLS

Star-struck and star-studded

By Amy Planner

This month, a Tony, Grammy and Oscar-winning classic is being presented to much awaiting Australian audiences for the first time by Stageart. Dreamgirls is the timeless story of an all-girl singing group with dreams to make it big – to sing their way to the top and be important. When car salesmen and all-round business enthusiast Curtis Taylor Jr (Winston Hillyer) meets The Dreamettes, things begin to change and fame starts to become a difficult reality.

Zenya Carmellotti, Anna Francesca Armenia and Sharon Wills in Dream Girls

Directed by Terence O’Connell, musically directed by Tyson Legg and choreographed by Darren Stack, this production plays host to a myriad of Australian talent and style. The opening night audience, filled with Melbourne’s theatre-scene elite and a celebrity or two, waited anxiously for the toe-tapping extravaganza and the cast didn’t leave anything behind.

The simplicity of the set designed by Jacob Battista was refreshing; it allowed the performers to be the focus of your attention at every moment. The simple levelled scaffolding construction gave the actors room to move and creative freedom for the little things, like exits and entrances.

Expectations on costumes for a glamorous production like Dreamgirls were high and the sparkling vision was definitely evident. The execution however was a little off with a few ill-fitting garments that stole your eye away. On the other hand, the costume team led by designed Daniel Harvey does deserve major kudos for the quantity alone, with a new outfit appearing after almost every stage exit and for the quick change moments that thrilled and dazzled.

The cast was superb. Effie White is a notoriously difficult character to handle with her bossy demeanour, diva-like presence and huge vocal range; Thando Sikwila blew the audience away and received a standing ovation to prove it.

Other notable peformances were Anna Francesca Armenia as Deena Jones, Zenya Carmelloti as Lorrell Robinson and Hillyer as Curtis Taylor Jr. But perhaps the crowd favourite, and rightly so, was Gareth Jacobs as the soulful Jimmy ‘Thunder’ Early. Jacobs was energetic, hilarious and insanely talented in more ways than one. He gave Jimmy all the sass and flair he deserves and so much more; Jimmy got soul!

Dreamgirls is dazzling, witty, exciting and full of miraculously remarkable Australian talent – and you, and you, and you, and you’re gonna love them.

Venue: Chapel Off Chapel, 12 Little Chapel St, Prahran
Season: Until 14 June, Tues-Sun 8pm, Sat & Sun matinee 2pm
Tickets: A Reserve $59, $55 Concession (+ transaction fee)
B Reserve $49, $45 Concession (+ transaction fee)
Bookings: www.chapeloffchapel.com.au or 8290 7000