Tag: Jason Bovaird

Prince Moo Productions Presents CALENDAR GIRLS

Joyous, liberating, and fabulous fun

By Jessica Cornish

Calendar Girls, presented by Prince Moo Productions, is an empowering, uplifting tale that celebrates life and ageing, and finds humour and compassion in times of sadness and grief.

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Known to most from the famous film, the transition of a well-loved story from screen to stage can sometimes be a bit hit-and-miss. However, Calendar Girls makes the transition flawlessly under the direction of Peter J. Snee, and with screen-writer Tim Firth having converted his own script for the play. Warm, witty and moving – the stage show stands so strongly upon its own worth that I didn’t even find myself mentally comparing moments of the play to the film.

The story is based on true events, when eleven Yorkshire women aged between 45-65 who dared to pose nude to create an alternative Women’s Institute (WI) charity calendar in an effort to raise money for cancer research after the death of one of the WI member’s husband’s, John Baker.

This entertaining production has a strong female cast who literally bare all in their portrayal of the gutsy and cheeky characters who challenged perceptions of women over the age of 45, and of the women’s institute, permanently.  Leading ladies Jenny Seedsman and Abi Richardson played Chris the vivacious and pushy friend to the lovable and gentle soul Annie respectively, and the duo gave a wonderful performance in portraying the emotional rollercoaster ride of the characters’ friendship. Furthermore, they were well-supported by talented and impressive local actresses including Tottie Goldsmith, Lulu McClatchy, Kate Gorman and Francesca Waters forming the delightfully infamous Yorkshire WI gang.

The entire play is centred around the local village church hall, and while single-set decisions like this can sometimes make shows seem stagnant, the intimacy and familiarity fit well for this performance. The props and scenery by John Kerr were therefore minimal but appropriate, while the lighting design by Jason Bovaird adroitly indicated to the audience the changing of the days and provided valuable points of time and reference in the absence of scenery changes.

Unfortunately there were problematic audio issues the night I attended, but I have faith that these have been quickly ironed out as the season has progressed. My only other niggling point of the evening was the concluding scene featuring the sunflowers, which I found reminiscent of a high-school pantomime with a clunky set-change right at the end, and which I felt didn’t match the entertaining heights of the rest of the production.

That said, the story of Calendar Girls is metaphorically rich, emotive and inspiring, and this production is a wonderful and engaging stage adaptation that can be enjoyed by all ages.

Athenaeum Theatre

27 September to 7th of October 2017

7:30pm start and an extra 2:30 matinee on Saturday

Tickets range from $69-$100

Bookings via ticketek.com.au or the Athenaeum Theatre Box Office

Australian Premiere of THE HAUNTING

Chilling visions of Dickens

By Owen James

A haunted, secluded mansion plagued by visitations from spectres and spirits is no new story, but remains irresistible to the creative mind. In The Haunting, writer/adaptor Hugh Janes has taken five short stories from the supernatural-obsessed Charles Dickens, and refashioned them into this two-handed drama-horror. This library of Dickens’ tales is aptly set inside a library, with the young book dealer David Filde cataloguing the books of Lord Gray, as a series of strange and unexplained events haunt the unsettled pair.

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As we enter the deceptively intimate Athenaeum, we are met with the beautiful set designed by John Kerr. There are dusty, cobwebbed never-ending shelves of the desolate and abandoned library, and a nightmarish tree beyond the window, eerily bare of leaves. This evocative, thematically overbearing Gothic mansion, like the play itself, conceals secrets in every nook and cranny, with intricate design and not a detail overlooked by Kerr.

With a sudden stab of sound and a dramatic dropping descent of lights, we are instantly transported to this haunted Victorian world crafted by director Jennifer Sarah Dean, where nothing and no-one can be trusted. We are hypnotically drawn slowly into the sceptical minds of our two characters, and lured into a false sense of security – the perfect victims for chills and jump-scares a plenty. While the first few of these were received with small bouts of laughter, the audience’s bemused titillation descended into audible gasps. Kyle Evans’ eerie sound design played perhaps the biggest part in this. Almost a whole other character, the sound effects and soundscape are perfectly effective and always precisely timed – but could afford to be louder. The walls of the haunted Athenaeum could shake and rattle a little more.

Duo Cameron Daddo and Gig Clarke build the tension and suspense necessary to pull off this piece, and clearly enjoy working with each other. Watching their combined terror mount with each heightened descent into the nocturnal haunted world invites us to join their trepidation and jolting surprise, being as much the victims of this haunting as they are.

Daddo does a commendable job presenting the cautious and austere Lord Gray as a man perturbed by compromise and change. As Gray moves from certainty to fear, building to hysterics, his counterpart takes an almost mirrored approach. Clarke as the seemingly tentative yet curious David Filde is a delight to watch, delivering the character and his stories with perfectly executed stress and anxiety – perhaps symbolising Dickens’ own obsession with the supernatural world.

Tehya Nicholas provides a chilling visual performance as Mary, hitting her marks to execute the well-timed moments of shock and intensity. Her ghastly costume by Rhiannon Irving appears always briefly, but memorably. Jason Bovaird’s chilling lighting reveals every darkened corner and cavity at just the right moment, and aptly focuses our attention when and where required. The warm sunlight and misty Gothic nighttime invoke diurnal safety and tense claustrophobia respectively, creating the ideal sinister aesthetic for the piece.

The tension built by the strong first act is unfortunately hindered by a weaker second act and anticlimactic ending. The strong performances and technical elements do their best to keep up, but ultimately we are left questioning how to feel for these characters, and where or with whom our sympathy should lie. The Haunting is a visually evocative and beautifully atmospheric piece that provides a wonderful ride, where it’s best to enjoy the journey but perhaps not the destination.

The Haunting haunts the Athenaeum Theatre until July 1st. Tickets through Ticketek: https://premier.ticketek.com.au/shows/show.aspx?sh=HAUNTEDD17

Photography by Nicole Riseley

RL Productions Presents REEFER MADNESS

Satirical cult show challenges modern audiences

By Myron My

Reefer Madness was originally a 1939 film intending to dissuade youth from smoking cannabis and highlighting the risks linked to this “pastime”. In 1999, Kevin Murphy and Dan Studney opened their musical version of the show in Los Angeles and 17 years later it is being presented by RL Productions, and the entire time watching, I’m sorry to confess I just kept wondering – why?

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While I understand the tongue-in-cheek humour and the satirical nature of the cult show, I simply cannot find any laughs in rape or domestic violence narratives. I will admit that I am not familiar with the film and unsure to what extent it makes these references, but stating women will be raped if they are stoned and watching a female character being physically and verbally assaulted by a male – and played for laughs – is not on. Yes, you can argue that it was in the musical’s book (from 1999), but these issues are so problematic for today’s audience that I felt this production needs to consider and address this in some way.

It is said that Murphy and Studney wrote the first song for Reefer Madness in under five hours, and for me, it shows. The lyrics are simple and obvious, and many of the songs themselves feel more like filler than actually showing us something more of the characters or situation. So “The Brownie Song”, “Romeo & Juliet “and “Lonely Pew” failed to engage me in any way, but that said, under the able musical direction of David Wisken, there are some great songs in there as well, including “The Orgy” and “Listen To Jesus, Jimmy”, in which the performance by Ed Deganos is just brilliant. The choreography by Yvette Lee is also quite noteworthy here and the use of the ensemble in all the musical pieces is well thought-out.

There are some scenes in Reefer Madness that are genuinely entertaining, such as when Jimmy takes his first hit and the penultimate scene in the reefer den. The intelligent direction by Stephen Wheat and lighting design by Jason Bovaird (in particular during the latter scene) was quite effective in creating some emotion from the drama and chaos that was being acted out.

The entire cast is full of energy and committed to their roles, but with all the characters being very one-dimensional I found myself struggling to care for them. Rosa McCarty however, as Mae, has some great moments on stage and manages to bring life to a character that could easily have become another cliché. James Cutler is also great as The Lecturer, bringing laughs to some very dry material with some comedic good timing and body language.

In 1999 Reefer Madness may have had its cult fans and garnered some favourable critical reviews, but for me, in 2016 – and in Australia – this is just a dated and troubled musical that has no redeeming history or context here. There are certainly some laughs to be had, but I was ultimately left mystified as to the reasons for choosing to put on such a show.

Venue: Chapel Off Chapel, 12 Little Chapel St, Prahran
Season:
4 December | 7:30pm Tue- Sat, 6pm Sun
Tickets: $49 Full | $55 Conc
Bookings: Chapel Off Chapel

StageArt Presents THE COLOR PURPLE

An unforgettable theatre experience

By Sally McKenzie

The emotional impact of Stageart’s The Color Purple is something so very special. It is a show that I have known about for a very long time, have owned the cast album, sung the songs and seen the movie. Not until tonight, however, have I realized how powerful this show really is.

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Most people know the movie starring Whoopi Goldberg and Oprah Winfrey, which was later brought to life on stage by Oprah Winfrey – this time as producer. The story, beginning in the early 20th century, follows the story of ‘Celie’, an African-American woman in America’s south, facing a life of abuse by her father and husband and how she struggles to maintain her faith in God and humanity.

Jayme-Lee Hanekom is an absolute shining light in this superb production – from the moment she steps on stage in the very first scene as a very young Celie, singing with her sister to the mature woman who leads the whole cast in the spine-tingling finale. Hanekom is absolutely breathtaking in this role, and her vocals are equally as magnificent Along this journey I felt her pain, sorrow, heartache, anger, hatred, joy and the overwhelming love she had for her sister, Nettie (Anna Francesca Armenia) and Shug Avery (Thando Sikwila), and I know for a fact that I wasn’t the only one in tears.

Armenia was delightful in her role, radiating joy and hope in everything she did. She and Hanekom complemented each other perfectly. Sikwila thrived as Shug: her duet with Celie – ‘What About Love’ – was sublime. Their velvet voices blended like nothing I have heard before. They were born to sing together. Sikwila was equally as impressive belting out her song at the ‘juke joint’ – ‘Push The Button’.

Noelan Petero (as Doris), Sasha Hennequin (Darlene) and Anisha Senarante (Jarene) had just the right amount of ‘sass’ as the trio providing the social commentary/gossip as the story unfolded. Their harmonies together were also on point. Kendrew A. Heriveaux (Mister) was consistently strong in his role as Celie’s abusive husband. Vanessa Menjiva was definitely an audience-favourite as the strong-willed, tough female role-model , Sofia. As her husband Harpo, Iopu Auva played the perfect ‘second fiddle’ to Sofia. There are too many roles to mention here, but this is a show with no weak links. The ensemble was brilliant! Harmonies were well-executed and superbly balanced and blended.  Whether playing an evangelical parishioner, a worker on the farm, a native African in the Mission, each and every cast member was completely connected to their character and purpose for being part of that scene.

The set was simple but completely fitting for the staging of this production: nothing else was needed with performances from the cast so astonishingly good. Lighting was beautifully designed by Jason Bovaird and Maddy Seach, helping provide an apt frame for the intimacy of the story and the focus on the personal journey of Celie. Congratulations to director Robbie Carmelotti for his exemplary creative choices. Costumes by Rhiannon Irving were also simple, but appropriate for the period and status of each character. The brightness of the traditional African garments in the second half of the show was a fitting contrast.

Sound design (Marcello Lo Ricco) was exceptional, providing the perfect balance between band and cast. It was the richest and most heartfelt quality of sound I have experienced in this space. Musical direction by Caleb Garfinkel was well-executed.  With the music in this production clearly a highlight, Garfinkel certainly had his work cut out for him – masterfully balancing the leading of the band while also playing guitar and keyboard. Diction was not always clear, however – particularly amongst the singing from the female trio. This was partly due to the heavy accents required of them. I also worry about the female cast maintaining their voices. There is so much emotional belt in this show – which can definitely take its toll. Hopefully an informed vocal coach is on hand.

The Color Purple is showing at Chapel off Chapel from 15th October to 6th November. If the immediate standing ovation after tonight’s performance is anything to go by, this show is sure to be a sell-out. Don’t miss out! I have already booked my ticket to see it again.

http://www.stageart.com.au/the-color-purple

Image by Belinda Stodder

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

REVIEW: Trifle Theatre company presents AVENUE Q

An unplifting transition into adulthood

By Myron My

Having seen the West End production six years ago (and remembering it strongly), I had high expectations for Trifle Theatre Company’s production of Avenue Q. Furthermore, I had some reservations as to whether it could match the magic of my original viewing, but within the first few minutes that doubt disappeared. We may only be in March but I can confidently say that this will be one of the best shows I see this year.

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The story follows a recent college graduate, Princeton (played by Jordan Pollard), who is a little wet behind the ears and entering the “real world”. Moving to Avenue Q (the best he can afford) he gets acquainted with the locals, including Kate Monster (played by Sarah Golding), Trekkie Monster (played by the wonderful Andy McDougall), married human couple Christmas Eve and Brian (Leah Lim and Michael Linder) and Gary Coleman (in a interesting casting choice, played by Zuleika Khan).

What follows is two hours of sharp and witty comedy and laughs as each character works towards finding their way in life. Despite the sexually charged innuendo and racy songs such as “Everyone’s A Little Bit Racist” and “The Internet Is For Porn”, there is much heart in these stories and that often-confusing transition into adulthood. The whole cast, including the ensemble, work seamlessly with the puppets and manage to create some human emotion through their movements, actions and speech.

Lighting work by Jason Bovaird captures the mood of the characters and the environment brilliantly and the stage design by Jacob Battista authentically replicates a shabby, down-town New York city block. The six piece band however, led by Musical Director David Wisken, are truly amazing in their unseen performance in a separate room to the small stage.

Avenue Q pushes boundaries between clever and lewd and the only way it succeeds is because puppets can get away with a lot more on stage than any actor could. With a big dose of disbelief, it perfectly blends the innocence of a childhood with the scary realisations of adulthood and creates an uplifting and affirming story about change and transition. Director Stephen Wheat should be congratulated on not only creating a show that is on par with its predecessors but also allowing it to form its own individuality and uniqueness.

I am strongly encouraging people to go and see this production, but the whole season has already completely sold out. Guess it really does suck to be you.

 

Venue: Chapel Off Chapel, 12 Little Chapel St, Prahran

Season: Until 11 April | Tue-Sun 8:00pm, Sat 2:00pm

Tickets: $43.50 Full | $38.50 Conc

Bookings: www.chapeloffchapel.com.au or 8290 7000

REVIEW: HIT Productions Presents THE 39 STEPS

Cast of four fuel this fabulous farce

By Lyn Collet

Adapted by Patrick Barlow from an original concept by Simon Corble and Nobby Dimon, this beloved British romp is based on the 1935 Hitchcock spy thriller movie and novel by John Buchan. The London’s West End production is currently the longest running comedy. The 39 Steps begins with Richard Hannay, an innocent man, learning too much about a dangerous spy ring and being pursued across Scotland before returning to London to foil the villain’s dastardly plans.

The 39 Steps

This return season touring production features over a hundred characters played by four very versatile and competent actorsMike Smith (who plays the hero Hannay), whilst Anna Burgess, Sam Haft and Michael Lindner are kept busy cleverly portraying the rest of the hilarious ensemble.

Having previously seen the famous West End production, a few of the memorable comedic moments were missed in this re-staged version, but director Terence O’Connell has made this a fast moving, very funny show with simple, but very effective sets and props by Jacob Battista and with lighting by designer Jason Bovaird.

Costume designer Kim Bishop has produced just the right outfits for the very quick changes needed for the very humorous characters and settings, while choreographer Alana Scanlan has created some very well-rehearsed choreography with great physical and comic timing.

This is indeed a “jolly good show”, and it is unfortunate that there are only 4 final Melbourne performances on this tour.

The 39 Steps will be playing at the Athenaeum Theatre – Thursday 2 October at 7.30 pm, Friday 3 October at 7.30 pm and Saturday 4 October 2 pm and 7.30 pm.

Bookings: 03 9650 1500

Ticketek: 132 849 / www.ticketek.com.au