Tag: Josh Piterman

Vic Theatre Company Presents THE LAST FIVE YEARS

A performance to fall in love with

By Bradley Storer

A woman enters her apartment after a long day of work, placing her bag on the table and letting her hair down before spotting a letter left on her bed, along with a set of keys. With this heart-breakingly simple image, the complex narrative of Jason Robert Brown’s off-Broadway classic The Last Five Years begins to unwind in this production by Vic Theatre Company.

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The Last Five Years is a musical that presents many challenges – along with balancing the audience’s sympathy for two people shown at their respective worsts, the concept of each character’s story unfurling in opposite directions (his forwards, hers backwards) means there is normally no direct interaction between the two characters, eliminating the chemistry needed to make the central love story work. Director Chris Parker has chosen to have both characters present in relevant scenes, which is effective in some scenes (‘See I’m Smiling’ and ‘If I Didn’t Believe In You’ in particular) but less so in others where the apparent silence of one character for the entire time doesn’t always work. Brown’s wonderful score however remains entrancing throughout, beautifully played by the band under Daniel Puckey, with the simple but intricate set by Daniel Harvey unfolding in a multitude of ways to enhance the action.

Verity Hunt-Ballard is nothing short of brilliant in the role of Cathy. She wrenches the heart in her opening song, ‘Still Hurting’, manages to make the character sympathetic and delivers pure musical comedy gold in her ‘A Summer in Ohio’ and ‘Climbing Uphill’ – even in the scenes where she doesn’t speak, Hunt-Ballard conveys powerful emotion with just a look and a cheeky smile. Her performance alone is more than worth the price of admission.

Josh Piterman as the charismatic wunderkind writer Jamie ably handles the early parts of his character’s journey, his whirlwind romance with Cathy blossoming alongside his literary career, and sensitively performs the emotionally ambivalent ‘If I Didn’t Believe in You’ before losing his footing towards the end. The character’s final songs don’t have quite the impact they could (despite a nice symbolic touch involving a memento from earlier in the piece), and the last few moments of the show lose their full weight.

A problem with the musical itself is that it never seems to fully suggest what conclusion or meaning we should draw from watching Cathy and Jamie’s relationship disintegrate – but the final image of Cathy, her face lit up by the elation of newfound love as she retreats into darkness, remains haunting nevertheless.

Venue: 45downstairs, 45 Flinders Lane, Melbourne VIC 3000

Dates & Times: Nov 25, 27, 29, Dec 1, 4, 7, 9, 7.30pm / Nov 26, 8.30pm / Dec 11, 3pm / Dec 3, 10 4pm

Prices: Preview $43, Full $50, Concession $45, Group 8+ $43, Double Bill $80 (with The Gathering)

Tickets: www.fortyfivedownstairs.com , (03) 9662 9966

Image by James Terry Photography

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Life Like Company Presents THE LIGHT IN THE PIAZZA

Beautiful and beguiling musical of love

By Bradley Storer

A twinkling of strings on the harp, cascading into a glorious swirl of orchestral sound under the swell of a soaring and mellifluous soprano voice – from the very first moments of the opening night of The Light in the Piazza, Adam Guettel’s sumptuous score (gorgeously conducted by Vanessa Scammell) instantly swept us into the magically romantic landscape of Florence, Italy.

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The entire cast, under the capable direction of Theresa Borg and in Kim Bishop’s stunning costumes, are close to flawless. Genevieve Kingsford as the childlike Clara Johnson has the unenviable task of depicting a character with a mental disability that is never fully explained, but Kingsford is a marvel in the part, sensitively balancing Clara’s innocence and openness with a fog of anxiety and confusion but never tips over into caricature. Her rich youthful soprano manages the difficult score with ease and her beautiful rendition of the eponymous song whipped the crowd into a roaring applause on opening night.

As Clara’s ardent suitor Fabrizio Naccarelli, Jonathon Hickey brought a bright and piercing tenor and a refreshing adolescent sincerity to the part – while his ‘Il Mondo Era Vuoto’ came off a touch too anguished, he harnessed a touching sensitivity in ‘Love to Me’. Anton Berezin was commanding and charming as Fabrizio’s father, while Josh Piterman as the older brother Giuseppe exuded charisma and flashy charm. Madison Green as Giuseppe’s long-suffering wife Franca managed to find the heart and kindness in a deeply wounded and embittered woman, as well as ably handling the trickiest moments of Guettel’s music.

The heart of this musical, however, is the central role of Margaret Johnson, the mother of Clara whose journey through the show embodies the conflict between the human search for love and the fear that true lasting love is nothing but an illusion. Chelsea Plumley sometimes pushes into moments of slight performativity as Margaret, but overall she nails the character’s charm, intelligence and courage, giving glorious voice to Margaret’s inner conflict as she addresses the audience in both direct dialogue and dramatically compelling song.

The backdrop of paintings and sculpture that fly in and out seamlessly, designed by Tom Willis, make a wonderful set and illustrate the libretto’s constant correlation of the characters’ plights with the figures of renaissance art, but at certain points they blocked the view of the action – physical transitions between scenes were sometimes made awkward by lighting that highlighted instead of concealing the cast and crew moving the scenery.

These small concerns aside, Life Like Company has produced an outstanding production that wonderfully captures the magic of this modern musical, captivating the audience from start to finish with its magnificent score and achingly-rendered story – heart-meltingly lovely and heart-breaking all at the same time. 

Venue: The Playhouse, Arts Centre Melbourne, 100 St Kilda Rd, Melbourne.

Times: 8pm Friday and Saturday, 6pm Sunday

Dates: October 28 – November 6

Tickets: $65 – $135

Bookings: www.artscentremelbourne.com.au , 1300 182 183, at the box office.

Image by Ben Fon

REVIEW: Twisted Broadway 2015

“Broadway in a Brand-New Key”

By Bradley Storer

Oz Showbiz Cares/Equity Fights AIDS brought together a stunning ensemble of Australian music-theatre talents last night for Twisted Broadway, a gender-bending re-interpretation of musical theatre’s greatest hits, to raise money for research and developmental programs for people living with HIV/AIDS. The sense of community and giving was palpable, all the performers and creative team donating their time and energy – even the set for the show was donated by The Production Company‘s current show Nice Work if You Can Get It.

2015 Twisted Broadway Hosts_Photo by Kayzar Bhathawalla

Kate Ceberano, one of the evening’s hosts, began the show as a literal MC – the classic character from Kander and Ebb’s Cabaret, spiritedly singing ‘Wilkommen’ and showing some impressive high kicks as she introduced us to the ‘twisted’ male and female ensembles and the Twisted Broadway orchestra, under the direction of James Simpson. She was followed by the glorious tenors of Blake Bowden and Josh Piterman, both bringing lead man charisma to the Jekyll and Hyde duet ‘In His Eyes’, before fellow host Eddie Perfect joined Ceberano onstage to introduce the evening officially.

The first half of the show was dedicated mainly to ensemble numbers, highlights including a cheeky ‘Gee Officer Krupke’ by the female ensemble of West Side Story, a campy male version of ‘Make Him Mine’ by Ed Grey, Alex Given and Drew Weston, a bevy of showgirls accompanying Melissa Langton as she charmingly crooned ‘All I Care About is Love’, a trio of male Lion King ensemblists bringing Motown realness in ‘Little Shop of Horrors’ all the way to Nathan Pinnell leading the ensemble of Anything Goes in a joyous ‘I’ve Got Rhythm’. A few choice solo performances were dotted throughout, Akina Edmonds‘ soulful take on the Schwartz classic ‘Lost in the Wilderness’ standing out in particular.

After a fantastic ensemble opening of ‘On Broadway’ choreographed by Michael Ralph, the second act brought spectacular solos from a variety of performers. Rob Mills hilariously sent himself up in a re-vamped version of the audition sequence ‘Climbing Uphill’ from The Last Five Years, Tom Sharah stole the show with his ‘Don’t Rain on my Parade’, and Queenie van de Zandt brought the audience to their feet in a roof-raising ‘What Kind of a Fool Am I?’. Perfect debuted a charming song from his unseen musical version of the classic Australian film Muriel’s Wedding with help from Casey Bennetto, and the male ensemble delivered a testosterone-charged ‘Be Italian’ led by Mike Snell before Josie Lane closed the evening with a thunderous ‘Goodbye’.

Producers Michael Benge and Kate MacDonald informed the audience at the end of the show that over $50,000 had been raised for Oz Show Business Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, making a perfect end to this marvellous night of music theatre all done in the name of a good cause.

Venue: State Theatre, Arts Centre, 100 St Kilda, Melbourne.
Date: 17th August, 2015
Time: 8pm

http://www.twistedbroadway.com.au/

Image by Kayzar Bhathawalla