Tag: Her Majestys Theatre

Preview: The Secret Garden

A favourite musical returns to Melbourne

By Samuel Barson

The Phantom. Daddy Warbucks. Doctor Zhivago. The list goes on for national treasure Anthony Warlow and the endless list of memorable musical theatre characters he has played. None however, in his own words, will ever reach Archibald Craven in The Secret Garden. 

And in November 2020, after 25 years since he first played the role, Warlow’s Craven will be reintroduced to Australian audiences, alongside an exciting and fresh Australian cast for a national tour of The Secret Garden.

The cast were announced yesterday by John Frost OAM and Opera Australia. They include Georgina Hopson (Ragtime, West Side Story), Rob McDougal (Assassins, Les Misérables) and Gold Logie winner Rowena Wallace (Sons & Daughters, Neighbours).

The musical originally premiered on Broadway in 1991, with an Australian tour following in 1995. It tells the story of Mary Lennox, an orphaned 10 year old girl who is sent to live with relatives who she has never met. She learns about herself and her family as she tends a neglected garden that has, yes you guessed it, secrets.

The 2020 25th anniversary will see the production at Sydney’s Lyric Theatre from 2nd August before moving to Melbourne’s Her Majesty’s Theatre on 13th November.

Tickets for the Melbourne season are on sale from February 28th via secretgardenmusical.com.au or by calling 1300 795 267.

Photography by Samuel Barson

Review: Shrek

A warm and lovely treat

By Bradley Storer

Based on the beloved film with a score by modern Broadway legend Jeanine Tesori, Shrek opened last night at Her Majesty’s Theatre to rousing response and standing ovation. Despite some minor technical issues and a slightly overpowering sound balance from the band pit, it is easy to see why this production has been charming audiences around Australia.

As the titular character, Ben Mingay offers a refreshingly truthful performance that helps to ground the cartoonish surroundings in emotional reality. Tapping into the loneliness and awkwardness that lies beneath the character’s abrasiveness, Mingay showcases a beautiful vulnerability alongside his gargantuan voice and stage presence. Nat Jobe has a harder time as Donkey, dealing with a role whose humour doesn’t translate as well from screen to stage but manages with good-natured cheek and bombastic energy.

In contrast to her earlier work as high energy fairytale ‘princess’-esque characters, Lucy Durack plays the stereotype-shattering Princess Fiona in a slightly more laid back and chilled manner than one would expect. This characterization can leave one wanting more in certain moments but pays off handsomely in her comic and romantic chemistry with Mingay, and she still sells her big Act Two opening – ‘Morning Person’ – with charm and cheer.

Todd McKenney as the walking visual gag Lord Farquaad steals every scene he is in, proving the very definition of a ‘star’ by milking what is essentially a one joke character to maximum effect. The ensemble are an absolute joy, shifting through various roles throughout but truly providing the heart and soul of the show as a ragtag bunch of displaced fairytale characters – watching them let loose during the ridiculous and empowering ‘Freak Flag’ is quite possibly the best moment of the entire performance. (Special mention to Denise Devlin, stepping in for Marcia Hines on opening night in the role of the Dragon, and unleashing some truly astonishing vocals during the finale)

A warm and lovely treat for children and parents alike, it would be hard to leave this show without a smile on your face!

Venue: Her Majesty’s Theatre, 219 Exhibition St, Melbourne

Dates: February 19th – April 12th

Times: 7:30pm Wednesday/Friday/Saturday, 6pm Sunday, 1pm Wednesday/Thursday/Sunday, 2pm Saturday

Bookings: ticketek.com.au

Photography by Brian Geach

Review: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

A colourful romp sure to delight

By Bradley Storer

The musical adaptation of Roald Dahl’s beloved childhood tale opened in Melbourne this week, and while children will surely be delighted by this colourful romp, I feel its charms may be lost on adults with fond memories of the 1971 film.

The problem is best encapsulated in the treatment of Wonka himself – here onstage from the very first moment of the show, the character loses the mystery and ambiguity of Gene Wilder’s portrayal. In his initial interactions with the unwitting Charlie, Wonka comes off as casually cruel in a way that makes it hard to stomach the rest of his journey, despite Paul Slade Smith’s natural charm and clear command of the role. The wonderment and entrancing beauty of the original story and movie only truly appears in the strains of the classic ‘Pure Imagination’, as video projections and LED lights transform the stage into Wonka’s Edenic candy-land.

On opening night Lenny Thomas was irresistibly loveable as Charlie, particularly in his final scene. Tony Sheldon wielded his stage expertise and comic timing to maximum effect as Grandpa Joe, dropping groan-worthy Aussie references and clearly having the time of his life. As Mrs Bucket, Lucy Maunder was radiant, as always, in a somewhat thankless role.

The quartet of Charlie’s fellow ticket winners are even more unlikeable than you remember, with the exception of Jake Fehily’s glowingly good natured Augustus Gloop (unfortunately buried under a cavalcade of one-note fat jokes). Karina Russell brings beautiful dancing to the screechingly awful Veruca Salt, and her eventual demise is one of the few shocking surprises of the evening. Harrison Riley nails the physical comedy of the sociopathic hacker Mick Teavee, but Jayde Westaby as Mrs Teavee has to deal with an introduction number so fast that the lyrics are completely lost. Backed up by the refreshing Madison McKoy as Mr Beauregard, stand out Jayme-Lee Hanekom is a miniature supernova of talent as ‘queen of pop’ Violet.

I found the new tunes for the show mostly prosaic, despite being lifted by the masterful musical direction of Kelly Dickerson. The ensemble in their multitude of roles are world class, and the appearance of the Oompa Loompas is quite possibly the high point of the entire evening.

Despite the uneven material, the talent, dedication and vitality of the Australian cast shines through, creating a worthwhile family-friendly night at the theatre.

Dates: 15th August – 1st December

Times: 7pm Wednesday, 7:30pm Thursday – Saturday, 2pm Saturday, 1pm Wednesday and Sunday, 6pm Sunday

Venue: Her Majesty’s Theatre, 219 Exhibition St, Melbourne VIC 3000

Bookings: ticketek.com.au, 13 28 49, at the box office or Ticketek Outlets.

Photography by Heidi Victoria

Mourad Merzouki’s PIXEL

Marvellous

By Myron My

Fans of contemporary dance are in for a real treat with Mourad Merzouki’s Pixel being performed in Melbourne for a very limited season. Mixing dance and interactive video images projected onto a black scrim screen, it is a poetic blending of two worlds – technology and nature – and how they must find a balance to co-exist in harmony.

Rixel.jpg

The light projection by Adrien M / Claire B Company is perfectly executed and visually captivating. There are exciting moments occurring throughout, at one point a wall of digital white pixels come crashing down outward towards the audience and crushing the dancers on the stage. There are scenes where the dancers struggle to pass through the haze of stars and overpowered but then there are also moments of whimsy and nostalgia as the points of light gently fall through to the floor. It is this mutual respect that is being explored throughout Pixel.

The performers display a variety of dance skills including hip hop, break-dancing, capoeira, body-contortion, acrobatics and even rollerblading. Merzouki’s choreography is complex and varied, but the dancers execute every move with confidence and enthusiasm. Their break-dancing at times is so incredibly fast you almost don’t see their feet or hands touch the ground. On its own, this is challenging enough, but ensuring they are keeping in time with the digital projections and working alongside them adds a whole new layer to the intricacies of the show.

Composer Armand Amar‘s long history of working with contemporary dance choreographers is evident with this production. His music allows the dancers the freedom to experiment with what their bodies can do, and forges a relationship with the digital projections to be able to tell the same story to the audience.

Pixel is a highly elegant and entertaining show – both from a technical and an artistic point of view. It is a superb example of how two seemingly very different art mediums can come together organically and result in cast, creatives and audience considering the possibilities that are out there, just waiting to be explored.

Venue: Her Majesty’s Theatre, 219 Exhibition St, Melbourne
Season:
until 4 September | Thurs – Sat 8pm, Sat 2pm, Sun 3pm
Bookings: Ticketek 

Prince Moo Productions Presents AVENUE Q

Uproariously funny and supremely entertaining

By Jessica Cornish

Growing up as a teenager obsessed with the music of Avenue Q, I was pretty ambivalent as to how the recent Australian production playing at Her Majesty’s Theatre would compare to my original cast recording memories, but as the show began, my anxiety quickly evaporated. It was one of the most engrossing and entertaining musical productions I have seen in the last few years.

Avenue Q.jpg

The story follows recent college grad, Princeton, who moves into a colourful apartment block in a diverse neighbourhood filled with Sesame Street-style monsters, puppets and even humans. Throughout the quirky two-hour (and adults’ only) musical journey, we see the youngster settle down, find romance, lose romance, have a fling, and even gain a life purpose along the way.

The dynamic and often dual characters were well cast with Ross Hannaford (Princeton/Rod), Vincent Hooper (Nicky/Trekkie Monster) and Andrew Hondromatidis (Brian), however exceptional performances belonged to Sophie Write (Kate Monster/Lucy the Slut) and Sun Park (Christmas Eve), who between them stole the show. Both women were vocal standouts: pitch perfect, perfect tone and with great resonance. The vocals for superintendent Gary Coleman (Zuleikah Khan) were less secure at times, although it’s a notoriously tricky part which can often challenge a female’s lower vocal range and demand sacrificing power for pitch. As minor characters that weave themselves in and out of the story, the Bad Behaviour Bears performed by Lulu McClatchy and Hooper were also particularly high energy, hilarious and well-worthy of note.

John Kerr‘s set design was simple but effective and the puppeteers draped in black were well-choreographed and transitioned smoothly in and out of different roles all night. Whether you watched the puppet or a puppeteer, both were equally engaging and emotive. Unfortunately the lighting operation was slightly under whelming and patchy at times on the night I attended, with shadows cast on puppet faces and a couple of sloppy follow-spot pickups: however, I’m sure this will sharpen up as the season progresses. The sound was clear and well balanced, however it would have been nice to bump up the volume for an excited opening night audience.

This was, overall, a brilliant production directed by Peter Snee and musically directed by Trevor Jones, and I honestly could not stop smiling the evening. With those witty lyrics and music written by Robert Lopez and Jeff Marx, and Jeff Whitty‘s book helping offer a raunchy insight into the lives of puppets dealing with homosexuality, racism and sex, this new production of Avenue Q is as good as theatre gets.

Season: Performances every night until August 14 (no performances Monday)

Venue: Her Majesty’s Theatre

Bookings: Ticketek

Image by Nichole Riseley

Australia Tour 2016 of SINGING IN THE RAIN

A perfect storm of local talent

By Jessica Cornish

The beloved 1950s American musical comedy Singing In The Rain has seamlessly transitioned from the silver screen to Melbourne’s Her Majesty’s Theatre for 2016. Exploring the 1920’s Hollywood film industry’s shift from silent films to the talkies and the challenges a studio faces when one of their biggest draw cards have the voice and personality of a shrill creature from another world, the Gene Kelly hit now features a host of new local stars.

Singing in the Rain.jpg

With direction by Jonathan Church, choreography by Andrew Wright and musical direction by Adrian Kirk, this creative team have created a well-polished, colourful and picturesque Australian production of the great American classic. A strong ensemble with excellent diction, slick dance moves and a good energy contributed to the overall high-quality performances throughout the night.

Leading romantics were played by the well-seasoned Adam Garcia and Gretel Scarlett. Garcia fit the part well and seemed to naturally channel the 1920s heartthrob with suave charm, while appealing leading lady Ms Scarlett gave consistently strong vocal performances. Comedic relief was provided by the talented Erika Heynatz, who brilliantly portrayed the incredibly narcissistic and obnoxious beauty Lena Lamont. And last but not least, the 2008 So You Think You Can Dance competition winner Jack Chambers was a standout performer of the evening, consistently demonstrating vast stamina and charisma to make him the perfect sidekick as Cosmo Brown.

Highlight musical numbers included the classic vaudeville-themed song-and-tapdance number “Fit as a Fiddle”, the lyrical tongue-twister “Moses Supposes”, melodically catchy “Make ’em Laugh” and of course, “Singing in the Rain”. The staging of the highly anticipated theme song did not disappoint, replicating the iconic after-hour streets of Hollywood with a literal and spectacular down-pouring of rain soaking the stage and its inhabitants. I particularly enjoyed watching the cast members joyfully splashing in puddles and kicking water onto nearby audience members armed with plastic ponchos.

Singing in the Rain is a classic musical that captures all that is good about the world of traditional musical theatre and has been successfully presented to Australian audiences in a colourful, eye-catching and crisp-sounding production that will be residing in Melbourne until July.

Venue: Her Majesty’s Theatre, Melbourne

Price: Ranging from $71.00- $117.00.

Melbourne Season: Tuesday to Sunday until July 5.

Tickets: http://www.daintygroup.com/tour/singin-in-the-rain-aus/

Image by Jeff Busby

Victorian Opera’s LUCIA DI LAMMERMOOR

Blood, tears and glorious music

By Bradley Storer

Lucia di Lammermoor, Donizetti’s classic bel canto tragedy made famous by our Dame Joan Sutherland, is brought to the stage of Her Majesty’s Theatre by Victorian Opera, this star-vehicle appropriately lead by international star Jessica Pratt in the title role of Lucia.

Victorian Opera 2016 - Lucia di Lammermoor © Jeff Busby.jpg

Despite Henry Bardon’s wonderfully atmospheric and decrepit set (whose variations remain a highlight throughout the evening), the opening scene was very statically and somewhat muddily directed. The male chorus lacked strong direction or intention, but held together under the performances of José Carbó as Enrico Ashton and Jud Arthur as Raimondo. Lucia’s entrance in the next scene, amongst a well-timed eerie burst of onstage fog, was more effectively staged, drawing gasps from the audience.

Pratt is clearly comfortable and confident in the role of Lucia, capably navigating the dramatic arc of Lucia’s journey from innocent love-struck girl to her doomed fate, with a sweet and agile soprano that even in the harsh acoustics of Her Majesty’s could be heard in every corner of the theatre. Her acting choices can be a little odd at times – Pratt beams intermittently through her first aria, the ghostly and ill-omened ‘Regnava Nel Silenzio’, which is a little at ends with the dramatic situation (but feels more appropriate in the following cabaletta ‘Quando Rapito’). At times she can feel a little too controlled, never relaxing fully into the role until the famous and vocally-Olympian mad scene, ‘Il Dolce Suono’, where her soft but intense singing touches the heart even as her coloratura thrills.

Carlos E. Bárcenas as her lover Edgardo has a magnificent tenor voice, at points taking notes higher than even the score indicates to astounding effect. Dramatically though he seems lost, never entirely confident in the role and lacking connection and chemistry with Pratt, which means the last scene depicting Edgardo’s suicide tends to drag.

Carbó manages to find every colouring in the desperate Enrico, abusive to his sister one moment then conciliatory and pleading the next, and his scenes with Pratt are quite possibly the dramatic highlight of the show. Arthur as the priest Raimondo is an authoritative presence, and he received massive applause on opening night. Richard Mills draws out a wonderful performance from the Victorian Opera orchestra, as well as the onstage chorus who are impeccable vocally.

Overall, a worthy re-visiting of the classic opera with a commanding lead star at its centre – a worthwhile night at the opera for any theatre-lover!

Venue: Her Majesty’s Theatre

Dates: Tuesday April 12th, Thursday 14th, Saturday 16th, Tuesday 19th, Thursday 21st

Time: 7:30pm

Booking: www.ticketek.com.au

Image by Jeff Busby