Tag: Life Like Company

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

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REVIEW: Life Like Company Presents CITY OF ANGELS

Cy Coleman’s classic beautifully and stylishly revisited

By Myron My

Life Like Company‘s 2015 production has been the much-loved, Tony-Award-winning musical comedy thriller, City of Angels. Paying homage to the 1940s era of film noir while also taking a swipe at the Hollywood film industry, it is a heavily engaging and engrossing meta-story of betrayal, love, passion and murder.

Dress rehearsal photo from the Life Like Company production of City of Angels. Photography by Ben Fon - http://fon.com.au
Dress rehearsal photo from the Life Like Company production of City of Angels. Photography by Ben Fon – http://fon.com.au

Despite being first performed 26 years ago, the book by Larry Gelbart still come across as fresh and relevant. It may admittedly be a little politically incorrect and chauvinistic for current times (despite being mediated through characters we’re invited to critique) but the cheeky wit and cleverness of the script and the direction of Martin Croft ensure you still enjoy watching the relationships being depicted on stage. Led by Musical Director Kellie Dickerson, the live band superbly bring to life the upbeat challenging jazz score by Cy Coleman, and the cast certainly do justice to David Zippel’s sharp lyrics in their performances.

For those unfamiliar with the work, City of Angels offers two stories simultaneously told on stage. In one, mystery writer Stine (Anton Berezin), is attempting to perfect his latest film noir script while at the mercy of Hollywood film mogul, Buddy Fidler (Troy Sussman). In contrast, the second story (depicted entirely in black and white costumes and set pieces) has the audience entering Stine’s fiction where private investigator Stone (Kane Alexander) is hired by Alaura Kingsley (Anne Wood) to locate her missing stepdaughter and from there on, the plot thickens and the lines between reality and fantasy start blurring.

The whole cast is exemplary in their portrayals of their characters, including elegant body language and accents, with many playing dual roles as they cross over between stories. Berezin and Alexander are highly entertaining to watch as each character faces his own personal struggles, as well as having to deal with each other. Their famous duet, “You’re Nothing Without Me” is a powerhouse number and stays with you long after the curtain drops.

Amanda Harrison as Donna and Oolie, while not having much stage time, is a consummate scene-stealer and her spectacular renditions of “You Can Always Count On Me” and “What You Don’t Know About Women” (with Chelsea Plumley) are highlights of the evening. Wood is a superb choice as the sultry femme fatale Alaura and her chemistry with Alexander has you hanging off their every word and action.

City of Angels has much love and respect for the film noir genre while poking fun at its tropes. This particular production is a sharp and highly amusing show with some stunning performances from its cast. The only thing criminal about Life Like Company‘s latest theatrical creation is that it is on for only four nights, as many more people should be given the opportunity to experience its bite and brilliance.

City of Angels was performed at the Arts Centre between 5 – 8 November 2015.