Tag: John O’May

David M. Hawkins Presents CABARET: THE MUSICAL

Go like Elsie

By Bradley Storer

This production of Kander and Ebb’s Broadway classic Cabaret, opening in Melbourne after a sold-out Sydney season, left me with incredibly mixed feelings – a collection of fantastic elements that never quite coalesces into a satisfying whole. The set, itself a stylized stage surrounded by nightclub seating that neatly blends into the first few rows of the Athenaeum Theatre, suggests a blurring of the line between performance and reality but this is never capitalized on in the show itself. For a musical that should seem eerily relatable in our current political climate, it never becomes quite clear what message this production is trying to deliver.

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Australian cabaret and theatre legend Paul Capsis easily inhabits the role of the Emcee, here depicted like a grotesque ventriloquist’s dummy, and even though he spends most of the evening onstage watching and occasionally assisting in the action he feels oddly under-utilized – darting in and out of scenes, it feels as though we are never given the chance to savor and drink in Capsis’ unique stage presence.

As the central character Cliff Bradshaw, Jason Kos does a fine job in the first act of delineating the character’s stiffness melting away into sexual awakening but his performance became oddly disjointed and robotic towards the climax of the musical which robbed the more tragic moments of any poignancy. In contrast, Chelsea Gibb as Sally Bowles gives one of the best performances of her career, finding the desperation and insecurity lurking under the flightiness and affected ‘little girl’-ishness that Sally constantly projects as a way of escaping her problems. Even as she flees from reality and responsibility, you feel incredibly sorry for her.

The supporting cast as a whole are wonderful. Kate Fitzpatrick and John O’May as the elderly Fraulein Schneider and Herr Schulz had a lovely chemistry, making their ill-fated romance all the more heart-breaking. Deborak Krizak as Fraulein Kost brings her un-erring physical comic chops, and in the final scene even manages to bring a tragic dimension to the character’s fate. The ensemble execute Kelley Abbey’s choreography with ghoulish panache and deliver strong performances in small cameos throughout the show.

Sound issues plagued the entire performance I attended, with a few missed cues and microphones randomly switching off, which would be understandable on opening night – but immediately before she could start singing the title number of the show, Gibb’s microphone completely cut out. She was forced, with the loving insistence of the onstage Capsis and an off-stage yell from director Gale Edwards, to leave the stage completely mid-performance to have her microphone replaced. Capsis sweetly vamped onstage for time before he was given the cue to re-introduce Gibbs onstage, to overwhelming and supportive applause from the audience.  When Gibbs began her number again, the sound issues continued with wash-over from other mics backstage coming through – nevertheless, Gibbs rose above circumstance and knocked the ball out of the park with a performance of the titular song ‘Cabaret’ that not only demolished the hearts of the audience but, astonishingly, even managed to banish any memory of Liza Minnelli’s iconic rendition. It was one of the most electrifying moments I’ve ever experienced in the theatre, and generated a mid-show (and well-deserved) standing ovation.

While the production itself does not always rise to meet such lofty standards, theatre-goers should rush to see this performance for the ages!

Venue: Athenaeum Theatre, 188 Collins St, Melbourne

Dates: 27th April – 20th May

Times: Monday – Saturday 7:30pm, Matinees Wednesday 1pm Saturday 2pm

Tickets: ticketek.com.au, Ticketek outlets or at the venue.

Image by John McCrae

REVIEW: La Cage Aux Folles

A lavish revisit to a classic musical

By Dean Arcuri

I knew La Cage aux Folles as the show on which The Birdcage was based: a gay couple are shocked when their son announces his pending engagement into a politically traditional family, and a hilarious dinner party filled with mistaken identity, muffled flamboyance and an abundance of cross-dressing ensues. Quirky Productions’ latest approach to the famous musical at the National Theatre had a cast and production team that do not disappoint in presenting a fantastic show.

I particularly tip my hat to the production’s stunning costumes (Isaac Lumins), wigs (David Wisken), lighting (Brad Alcock) and set design that really transformed the space from Parisian streets and a Mediterranean home to the La Cage stage. The simple flamboyance succeeded in elevating the comedy without overshadowing the campness.  In particular, working with depth on the stage of the La Cage allowed the lighting and costumes to really augment the performances.

John O’May’s portrayal of George was a perfect juxtaposition to David Rogers-Smith’s Albin/Zaza, with both deserved the standing ovation they received.  O’May’s voice is hauntingly beautiful, and he played out the emotion in the character with a powerful calm, allowing me to understand, empathise and still be entertained with what is honestly a pretty insensitive plot device used to channel the story along.  Meanwhile Roger-Smith embraced every moment in the spotlight, while never letting us forget the man behind the makeup. His performance of the classic I Am What I Am that closes the first act was filled with raw passion and vocal power, leaving the hairs on the back of my neck to only subside sometime during Act Two.

Juggling camp comedy and emotional empathy is never easy, but both the leads portrayed the passion of their characters and their tender relationship with such strength that it carries their “straight man” son (Reece Budim) whose singing voice certainly counteracted his character’s two-dimensional paternal relationship. Unfortunately the variety of accents of the lower-tier leads distracted from their performances, really leaving these stronger characters to take centre stage.

Special mention must be made of  the ‘ladies’ or Les Cagelles, who really kept us entertained throughout with their energy, passion and ability to move. From the opening the show we soon saw there was more than meets the eye: not just because of what was “tucked away” but because even in visual uniformity their individual performances shone out. It’s a shame their scenes were drowned out by the orchestra leaving great character moments and punch lines by the wayside.  Still, their dance numbers had us transfixed, and applauding along with an abundance of energy and exuberance.

Minor issues aside, the entire musical was thoroughly entertaining, powerful and beautifully performed. If you missed this one, be sure to keep an eye out for Quirky Productions’ future shows.

La Cage aux Folles was performed at The National Theatre from March 16 – 24, 2012