Tag: Gale Edwards

David M. Hawkins Presents CABARET: THE MUSICAL

Go like Elsie

By Bradley Storer

This production of Kander and Ebb’s Broadway classic Cabaret, opening in Melbourne after a sold-out Sydney season, left me with incredibly mixed feelings – a collection of fantastic elements that never quite coalesces into a satisfying whole. The set, itself a stylized stage surrounded by nightclub seating that neatly blends into the first few rows of the Athenaeum Theatre, suggests a blurring of the line between performance and reality but this is never capitalized on in the show itself. For a musical that should seem eerily relatable in our current political climate, it never becomes quite clear what message this production is trying to deliver.

cabaret-the-musical-chelsea-gibb-sally-bowles.jpg

Australian cabaret and theatre legend Paul Capsis easily inhabits the role of the Emcee, here depicted like a grotesque ventriloquist’s dummy, and even though he spends most of the evening onstage watching and occasionally assisting in the action he feels oddly under-utilized – darting in and out of scenes, it feels as though we are never given the chance to savor and drink in Capsis’ unique stage presence.

As the central character Cliff Bradshaw, Jason Kos does a fine job in the first act of delineating the character’s stiffness melting away into sexual awakening but his performance became oddly disjointed and robotic towards the climax of the musical which robbed the more tragic moments of any poignancy. In contrast, Chelsea Gibb as Sally Bowles gives one of the best performances of her career, finding the desperation and insecurity lurking under the flightiness and affected ‘little girl’-ishness that Sally constantly projects as a way of escaping her problems. Even as she flees from reality and responsibility, you feel incredibly sorry for her.

The supporting cast as a whole are wonderful. Kate Fitzpatrick and John O’May as the elderly Fraulein Schneider and Herr Schulz had a lovely chemistry, making their ill-fated romance all the more heart-breaking. Deborak Krizak as Fraulein Kost brings her un-erring physical comic chops, and in the final scene even manages to bring a tragic dimension to the character’s fate. The ensemble execute Kelley Abbey’s choreography with ghoulish panache and deliver strong performances in small cameos throughout the show.

Sound issues plagued the entire performance I attended, with a few missed cues and microphones randomly switching off, which would be understandable on opening night – but immediately before she could start singing the title number of the show, Gibb’s microphone completely cut out. She was forced, with the loving insistence of the onstage Capsis and an off-stage yell from director Gale Edwards, to leave the stage completely mid-performance to have her microphone replaced. Capsis sweetly vamped onstage for time before he was given the cue to re-introduce Gibbs onstage, to overwhelming and supportive applause from the audience.  When Gibbs began her number again, the sound issues continued with wash-over from other mics backstage coming through – nevertheless, Gibbs rose above circumstance and knocked the ball out of the park with a performance of the titular song ‘Cabaret’ that not only demolished the hearts of the audience but, astonishingly, even managed to banish any memory of Liza Minnelli’s iconic rendition. It was one of the most electrifying moments I’ve ever experienced in the theatre, and generated a mid-show (and well-deserved) standing ovation.

While the production itself does not always rise to meet such lofty standards, theatre-goers should rush to see this performance for the ages!

Venue: Athenaeum Theatre, 188 Collins St, Melbourne

Dates: 27th April – 20th May

Times: Monday – Saturday 7:30pm, Matinees Wednesday 1pm Saturday 2pm

Tickets: ticketek.com.au, Ticketek outlets or at the venue.

Image by John McCrae

REVIEW: The Production Company’s WEST SIDE STORY

Simply impeccable

By Narelle Wood

There were two things: the fact that The Production Company was responsible; and the recreation of Jerome Robbins’ original choreography by Michael Ralph. It did not disappoint, in fact with this production of West Side Story, The Production Company has set a new bar for itself and for theatre in Melbourne.

West Side Story

The storyline is a mostly faithful reinvention of the Shakespeare classic Romeo and Juliet, set on the streets of New York’s Upper West Side. Two gangs, the Jets and the Sharks are engaged in a turf war, more to do with cultural prejudices and nothing better to do, than an actual place to hang. Of course when Tony (Gareth Keegan), a boy from the Jets, and Maria (Anna O’Byrne), a girl from the Sharks, meet, dance and fall in love, the cultural tensions go from casual street rumblings, to choosing weapons at a war council. And, as per the original, tragedy ensues, but not before some of the most spectacular renditions of some of Broadway’s most iconic songs.

Byrne’s voice is incredible and had the potential to overpower the rest of the cast. However, under the direction of Gale Edwards, it perfectly complimented all the other voices, especially Keegan’s and Deone Zanotto (Anita). Byrne and Keegan seemed to fit so naturally together that I found myself genuinely hoping things would somehow work out; something that I’ve not experienced before in any production of West Side Story or Romeo and Juliet. The whole cast was brilliant, but Zanotto was spectacular in absolutely everything she did.

Sets and costumes were exactly as I expected from The Production Company: simple, effective and impressive. In fact, what made this production so remarkable was how flawlessly everything came together. It was a highlight for me to hear the music to West Side Story played live, at speed and with every nuance. But the star of the show was the choreography. It was truly a privilege to watch how Ralph and the cast were able to recreate the original choreography and make it their own. I would have happily sat and watched them dance every number over and over again.

I don’t think I will ever risk seeing this musical again. The Production Company’s West Side Story is perfection.

Venue: The Arts Centre
Season: Until 19th July
Tickets: Tickets between $21 – $126
Bookings: www.artscentremelbourne.com.au/whats-on/musicals/west-side-story

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: The Production Company Presents GYPSY

Everything’s coming up up roses

By Bradley Storer

The Production Company brings together a star-studded cast in this presentation of what can be described as the greatest musical in the American tradition. Like a musical version of King Lear, Gypsy presents the tale of Mama Rose as she fights, batters and tramples all the obstacles in the way of propelling her two daughters to stardom, even as they resist and try to escape her iron grip.

Caroline OConnor

Christina Tan as the young girl who grows up to be the eponymous Gypsy Rose Lee, is perfect as both the boyish, plain Louise at the beginning of the show, looking adorably innocent in her baggy oversized clothes, as well as the glamorous and seductive burlesque star that she becomes over the course of the narrative. However, in the strip tease sequence in Act Two (which illustrates Gypsy’s rise to her full potential as well as to stardom) Tan does not fully embody the burgeoning self-confidence and realisation that would bridge the gap between the two sides of the character.

Gemma-Ashley Kaplan as Baby June, Rose’s favoured child, brings both perkiness, a bright piercing belt and an underlying exhaustion to the role – her younger counterpart is equally amazing, possibly more so in some of her dances! Nathan Pinnell as the dancer who runs away with her steals the show with just one song and a brilliant choreographed dream ballet (choreography by Andrew Hallsworth).

The brilliant Caroline O’Connor is a phenomenon as Mama Rose, bringing layer upon layer to this larger-than-life character. This is a woman so consumed by her dreams and fantasy of stardom (vicariously lived out through her daughters) that she is hopelessly disconnected from everyone around her, most of all her family. In every one of Baby June’s dances we see Mama Rose flitting in and out of the background and off to the side of the stage repeating the choreography; whenever she by chance enters the spotlight her face breaks out in with unadulterated pleasure that is simultaneously comic and pathetic. O’Connor’s characterization brings to mind those other great tragic characters of American literature, Willy Loman and Blanche DuBois, both sustained and eventually destroyed by their dreams.

Matt Hetherington as Herbie, her lover/business partner is quite subdued, but the pair have a sweetness that makes the disintegration of their relationship as a result of Rose’s ambition all the more poignant – here Hetherington shines with a quiet dignity.

Gale Edwards brings an expansive directorial vision to this great American musical, emphasising how all these characters, whether or not they are onstage, are performers – acting out their own internal fantasies or forced to live inside a role that has been thrust on them by someone.

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

Dates: Sat July 6th/Wed 10th/Thur 11th/Fri 12th/Sat 13th at 7:30pm; Sat July 6th/Sat 13th at 2pm; Sun July 7th/Sun 14th at 3pm

Prices: From $23 (C Reserve U18) to (A Reserve) $115

Bookings: http://www.theproductioncompany.com.au/