Tag: Jeanine Tesori

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

Blue Saint Productions Presents: VIOLET

A Glorious and Uplifting Tale

By Bradley Storer

A facially-scarred young woman taking a bus trip through the American South to see a faith-healing preacher in the company of two soldiers who slowly bring her out of her shell – on paper it doesn’t sound like the typical Broadway musical, does it? But Violet, with a terrific book by Brian Crawley and an incredible score by Tony Award winner Jeanine Tesori, is a glorious and uplifting tale that makes a great case for the continuing relevance of the musical as an art form.

Blue Saints Productions presents Violet.
Blue Saints Productions presents Violet.

Sam Dodemaide as the eponymous protagonist is a knockout. Violet’s emotional arc across the 105 minute and intermission-less piece is massive, requiring enormous commitment and stamina to make work. Dodemaide navigates the journey of this closed off and isolated loner through joy, friendship, hope, heartbreak and ultimately healing catharsis with magnificent emotional clarity and heart-rending transparency, with her bright silvery belt cutting through Tesori’s wide ranging styles of music with ease. Luisa Scrofani as Violet’s younger self, who haunts and pervades the stage action, matches so well with Dodemaide that it is easy to forget that the two aren’t actually the same person. Violet’s father is ably played by Damien Bermingham; the complex relationship between the two communicated with palpable reality.

As Flick, the African-American soldier whose encouragement and empathy spark Violet’s own transformation, Barry Conrad has a warm, gentle stage presence and a lovely pop voice that shows remarkable flexibility – however, I felt his big number ‘Let It Sing’ lacked the gospel fire and joy to really make it land, leaving it merely an exercise in riffing without a real emotional heart. Steve Danielsen as fellow soldier Monty fares better; bringing an edge of sexual charisma and danger to his character that contrasts and balances Conrad’s gentler presence nicely.

The ensemble as a whole are wonderful, playing a wide range of characters across the story with small moments that showcase each of them to marvellous effect. Standouts are hard to pick, but Katie Elle Reeve as a rock and roll music hall singer thrills with an incredible and powerful voice, Deidre Rubenstein does fantastic work as both the elderly Mabel and the hilariously voracious prostitute Alice. As the gospel singer Almeta, Cherine Peck brings the house down with her number ‘Raise Me Up’, truly bringing a sense of religious devotion and joy to the role.

The entire creative team, led by director Mitchell Butel, have done a truly spectacular job of rendering this outstanding musical, a must-see for any lovers of the modern musical or anyone looking to be entertained and uplifted in the same evening.

Venue: Chapel off Chapel, 12 Lt Chapel St

Dates: 3rd – 20th March, 2016

Time: 8pm Tues – Sat, 2pm Sat, 6pm Sunday

Tickets: $59 Full, $54 Concession, $49 Group 10+

Bookings: www.chapeloffchapel.com.au, phone 8290 7000, or at the door