Tag: Gareth Keegan

Melbourne 2016: WE WILL ROCK YOU

Yes, they will

By Jessica Cornish

In true Melbourne style, the first evening of Spring was ushered in by cold wind and rain, but this was no deterrent to the buzzing opening night crowd of We Will Rock You at the Regent Theatre. The show was incredibly vibrant, energetic and visually spectacular.

We Will Rock You.jpg

We Will Rock You utilises the well-known music of Queen to tell the quirky story of a society that is becoming more and more virtual, with the looming presence of Global Soft trying their best to stamp out all forms of bohemian life and of course the dreaded music of rock and roll. Despite the evil corporation’s best efforts, a small group of rebels strive for a world reunited through classic British rock.

Director Ben Elton, musical director Dave Skelton and choreographer Arlene Phillips combined forces to create a powerhouse production team. This creative strength was further complimented by a mesmerising lighting design by Willie Williams and excellent scenic design by Mark Fisher as the entire show being incredibly punchy and dynamic owed much to a set and lighting rig that was constantly moving. Box truss, LED screens and scaffolding flew in and out throughout the evening and the lighting rig was robust and well-planned. The show was consistently visually exciting and the stage looked stunning: there was even some pyro and confetti thrown into the mix, so no complaints here.

Bobby Aitken’s sound design was forceful, clear and generally well balanced. A couple of times the female vocals were drowned out in the mix by their male counterparts, although this could also be in part due to the challenging low vocal range the female performers were required to perform in the occasional bottom-heavy (pun intended) Queen songs.

Equally strong were the lead cast members and ensemble. They were all terrific triple-threat performers that were on the ball all night. Relative musical-theatre newcomer female lead Erin Clare (Scaramouche) sang beautifully and seemed to slip effortlessly in to the rebellious role. However, I felt her male counterpart Gareth Keegan (Galileo) lacked a contemporary edge to his performance which made him seem slightly wooden and not as believable as the dreamy love interest. Other leads, Jaz Flowers (Oz) and her muscly counterpart Thern Reynolds (Brit) did not miss a beat and were a pleasure to watch. Every movement and note was perfectly executed. Former 80’s rocker Brian Mannix (Buddy) was well received by the crowd and performed well however it was the former Australian Idol champion Casey Donovan who stole the show. She was – hands down – the standout performer of the evening as the glorious Killer Queen. She was charismatic and demanded attention every moment she was on stage. She gave an incredibly strong performance, and I couldn’t take my eyes off this bodacious babe, particularly in her rendition of fat bottomed girls framed by an array of women in leather and pink feather dusters.

We Will Rock You does not disappoint. It is a great starting point into the world of theatre, especially for the younger audience and of course all those with a love for Queen, and an impressively dynamic show that is both well-polished and well-executed. How can you pass this up?!

VENUE: REGENT THEATRE

SEASON: TO 30 OCTOBER

PERFORMANCE TIMES: TUES 7PM, WED–SAT 8PM, SAT MATINEE 2PM, SUNDAY 1PM & 6PM

BOOKINGS: TICKETMASTER.COM.AU OR PHONE 1300 111 011 GROUPS 8+ CALL 1300 889 278

Image by Jeff Busby

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 SHOWBOAT

Difficult classic musical beautifully re-staged for modern audiences

By Narelle Wood

Off the back of Guys and Dolls, The Production Company have put together another brilliant production, this time bringing to the stage Show Boat, directed by Roger Hodgman.

Mostly set in the Deep South during the late 1800’s, the story follows the characters of the Show Boat over the best part of 30 years. The show mostly centres on the cautionary love story of Captain Andy’s daughter Magnolia (Alinta Chidzey) and the no-good-river-gambler Gaylord Ravenol (Gareth Keegan).

Showboat - Alinta Chidzey and Gareth Keegan

But the show is about more than just the clichéd moral tale for good girls who meet bad boys and fall in love at first sight. The setting also allows for exploration of race relationships, the changing nature of entertainment (especially with the advent of new technology) and, perhaps most poignantly, the idea that no matter how much things might change, things also stay very much the same.

Chidzey and Keegan were tremendous in their roles as Magnolia and Gaylord, although Chidzey’s wig did seem a little too blonde for her darker features. Philip Gould was charming as Captain Andy, who, along with Ellie May (Nicole Melloy) and Frank (Glenn Hill) brings much needed light-heartedness to temper the darker side of the show. Judith Roberts provided some straight-laced humour as Parthy, and the exceptionally strong cast is rounded off with Christina O’Neill as Julie, Heru Pinkasova as Queenie and Eddie Muliaumaseali’i as Joe. While the performances of all the cast members including the ensemble were brilliant, Muliaumaseali’i’s performance of Ol’ Man River gave me chills, and it can only be described as sublime.

My expectations of any show from The Production Company is extremely high and I never walk away disappointed. Once again the costuming was great, from the 1800’s dresses complete with bustles to the asymmetrical raised hemlines of the 1920’s. Hodgman cleverly addressed the need to have a boat on stage through some stunning use of digital imagery. And given that I overheard a number of people singing on the way out of the theatre, I’d say that the orchestra did a pretty good job too.

If you didn’t see Guys and Dolls then Show Boat is an absolute must; the production value is priceless, the performances flawless, and, once again, Muliaumaseali’i’s rendition of “Ol’ Man River” is something not to be missed.

Venue: State Theatre, Arts Centre, Melbourne
Season: 21st to 23rd July 7.30pm, 20th August 1pm, 23rd August 2pm and 24th August 3pm.
Tickets: Full $48-$119 | Conc $24-$105
Bookings: http://artscentremelbourne.com.au/whats-on

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.