Tag: James Terry

Vic Theatre Company Presents THE GATHERING

Plenty of charm and intrigue in new Australian musical

By Rebecca Waese

Vic Theatre Company’s The Gathering, directed by Chris Parker, is an original Australian musical about friendship, love and loss inspired by the spirit of the Millennial generation. A group of twenty-somethings reunite in a haunted house to see their friend Tom (Joel Granger) who has surfaced after five years. When Tom runs away again, the friends stand by one another, (think of an Australian Rent meets Scooby-doo and the gang), and Tom begins to emerge from the shadows of his mysterious past.

The Gathering (James Terry Photography).jpg

There is plenty to applaud in this production (with book, music and lyrics by Will Hannagan and Belinda Jenkin) and in this company of young performers who are promising, self-possessed and leave their hearts on the stage. Outstanding vocals are delivered by Luke (Daniel Assetta), playing the camp best friend of Tom’s foster sister Kelly, (Shannen Alyce Quan), who is another strong talent to watch. Quan shows power and vulnerability in “Sweet December Feelings” with subtle and nostalgic references to the particular qualities of an Australian summer. Daisy, (Hannah Sullivan McInervey), shines in her solo, “Hair So Long” and Sullivan McInvervy’s voice brings a refreshing and unexpected Missy Higgins-type quality to the ensemble.

The vocals, however, under the musical direction of Daniel Puckey, are far superior to some of the lyrics, and there are a few weak plot points in the show. A handful of too-obvious rhymes calls out for the guiding hand of an experienced dramaturg. Yet, the open spirit of the young company made me forgive some of the clangers and the performers did well to shroud them with humour and ironic deliveries. Luke’s memorable line to Kelly, “I apologize profusely/ by making you muesli,” struck a playful note as the friends negotiated their path to adulthood amidst the chaos that growing up and apart brings.

There is some enjoyable comic work by Mia (Olivia Charalambous), and a compelling dramatic moment when Tom asks why Luke didn’t help him when he needed it most. Heartbroken Joe (Daniel Cosgrove) was delightful when Daisy’s line, “we’re on a break”, lead to a sudden realisation.

The Gathering captures a sense of the moment today for young Australians out in the world, released from share-houses and uni and beginning to make their way as adults. The big company numbers are exuberant with “Never Ever” re-living the classic drinking game, “Haunted” lit by Iphone-wielding ghost-busters, and “A Different Kind of Love” bringing resolution to Tom and his friends as harmonies fill the space. There is a distinct sense of Australian place in this musical, which, despite some awkward lyrics and plot holes, speaks openheartedly and with comic self-awareness of this moment in time for the Millennial generation. Whether this is your tribe or you want to eavesdrop on their moment, The Gathering is uplifting and has much to offer.

Venue: fortyfivedownstairs, 45 Flinders Lane, Melbourne

Season:
Nov 30 Dec, 2, 6, 8, 11, 7.30pm
Nov 26, 4pm, Dec 3,10, 8.30pm
Nov 27, Dec 4, 3pm

Tickets: $38 – $42

Bookings: 03 9662 9966 or online

Image by James Terry Photography

Rebecca Waese is a Lecturer in Creative Arts and English at La Trobe University.

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Ellis Productions Presents AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS

Frantic and frivolous fun

By Rebecca Waese

Adapted from Jules Verne’s 1873 novel, this production of Around the World in 80 Days (reinvented for the stage by Toby Hulse and directed by Terence O’Connell) is light-hearted, silly, and farcical fun. While the tone is inescapably dated in its colonial attitudes of English superiority, it has much to offer viewers who like slapstick comedy and don’t take stereotypes too seriously.

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The play is self-aware, tongue-in-cheek and colludes with the audience at the impossibilities and the joys of staging such a massive production with just three actors playing 39 parts. Full of frenetic adventures and running gags, the play transports you back to the Great Victorian Age where Englishman Phileaus Fogg, (Ian Stenlake) wagers a fortune that he can circumnavigate the globe in just 80 days with his servant Passepartout (Pia Miranda) by his side. They are pursued throughout the adventure by Inspector Fix from Scotland Yard (Grant Piro) who is convinced that Fogg is a bank robber on the run.

Pia Miranda, as Passepartout, brings animated energy to the role and shows a knack for physical comedy. Grant Piro, is a stand-out as the obsessive Inspector Fix but even more captivating in his role as the storyteller with an illuminated map hat who guides the audience to imagine the journey through time and space, conjuring up so much with so little. Stenlake is a steady Fogg who may have been overshadowed on the night by the zeal and energy of the other outrageous characters but conveys a sense of the importance of order convincingly.

Merinda Backway’s set design is inventive and versatile using only a few crates and railings to create the elaborate transcontinental train, a ship, and one particularly delightful and wild hidden surprise. Lauren Richie’s gorgeous hats are worth a mention, adorned by miniature trains, binoculars, and other intricate symbols of the Victorian age.

Undoubtedly, Fogg’s Orientalist view of the world is outdated in 2016, and the Indian and Chinese accents rely on age-old wince-worthy stereotypes that reflect the time in which the novel was written. However, the scene in which Grant Piro plays the Indian Princess in drag at the end of the play is, unexpectedly, one of the finest moments of the show. Pico’s Indian Princess and Stenlake’s Fogg carry the audience’s hopes up in the air with them as Fogg leaves behind some of his earlier inhibitions and enjoys, with some subversive self-reflexivity, a bit of romance that has the audience rallying for him and his masculine princess.

The play is suitable for older children and fans of slapstick and physical humour but one scene may not be appropriate for young children, where the Indian princess widow is drugged and just about to burn on her husband’s funeral pyre before Passepartout performs a dramatic rescue. If old-fashioned farce is your cup of tea, this is fun physical humour from a simpler time of storytelling.

Around the World in 80 Days is playing at Alex Theatre in St. Kilda, Tues Aug 23- Sept 4 at 7:30 with matinees on Sat (2 pm) and Sun (3 pm).

Tickets: http://premier.ticketek.com.au/shows/show.aspx?sh=AROUNDTH16

Image by James Terry

Rebecca Waese is a Lecturer in Creative Arts and English at La Trobe University.

Vic Theatre Company Presents THE 25TH ANNUAL PUTNAM COUNTY SPELLING BEE

A superb production of this very funny musical

By Sally McKenzie

The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee sounds, on paper, like a very interesting concept for a musical. However, with an original and at times beautiful score by William Finn, hilarious dialogue (some written by Rachael Sheinkin and some improvised by each new cast), and the inclusion of four audience participants as extra spellers, Spelling Bee is one of the funniest, most creative musicals to come out in the 2000s. This production, performed by Vic Theatre Company, is no exception.

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The story centres on a group of six children (played by adults), the man and woman running the bee, and the comfort counsellor, all of who are dramatically affected by one day at the ‘Bee’.

In this production, the sound designed by Marcello Lo Ricco is excellent, with the band well-balanced and never overpowering the singers. Once or twice a solo line was unable to be heard over the ensemble, however; never at a critical point. Lighting by Jason Bovaird was well-designed, with the dialogue happening under stark lights reminiscent of the gymnasium setting, and the lighting during the songs more ‘stagey’, with spots and bright colours, often to great emotional and dramatic effect.

Rebecca Moore as Rona Lisa Perretti is placed and poised with a beautiful ‘legit’ soprano voice that suits the role perfectly, although is perhaps a little young for the role.  David Spencer plays a less exaggerated Panch.  Mahoney (Matt Heyward) was vocally well-suited for the role, although his character came across as perhaps a little too ‘mellow’ and understated.

The Spellers are where the show really shines. It was refreshing to see now well-worn characters played in different ways than the usual. Chip (James Coley) executed his ‘jock’ role perfectly. Olive’s character (Caitlin Mathieson) was played as ‘realistic’ and mature. Although a convincing and heartfelt performance, it left a couple of her usually ‘funny’ lines falling flat.  Sage Douglas as Logaine and Henry Brett as Leaf both managed to find subtleties and levels in characters that are often played ‘over-the-top’. They were both adorable, and Teresa Duddy (Marcy) also executed her role well. Special mention to Riley Nottingham as the Janitor, who managed to be hilarious without a single line of dialogue.

Direction, by Ben Giraud, is clever. He makes innovative use of the space, and it was nice to see the more movable chairs instead of the static bleachers commonly used.

Musical direction, by Trevor Jones, is excellent. It was very fitting to see the talented musicians in the band aptly dressed in school uniform and reacting to the action on stage.  Vocal harmonies were perfectly balanced and executed. Choreography by Bernie Bernard is also extremely creative and unique, matching the moment perfectly.

Costumes, by Zoe Felice, are well-suited and strike just the right balance between outlandish and everyday. Meanwhile the set by William Bobbie Stewart is highly creative, with yellow tarps lining the walls, paper cut-out bees and banners hanging down, and the floor painted as a gymnasium floor.

Overall, Vic Theatre Company’s production of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee is excellent, both side-splittingly funny and heart-wrenchingly beautiful, and well worth checking out whether you’ve never heard of it, or you’re a well-worn veteran, like myself. You won’t be disappointed.

The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee is playing at The Lawler from 30th of March to the 10th of April.  Bookings www.mtc.com.au  | 03 8688 0800

Image by James Terry