Tag: Lisa-Marie Parker

REVIEW: Manila Street Productions Presents SONDHEIM ON SONDHEIM

Musings of the man on his music

By Bradley Storer

With Sondheim on Sondheim, Manilla Street Productions assembles a star-studded cast to perform a revue of Broadway’s most prolific living composer, an evening of Stephen Sondheim’s music intercut with projections of the man himself with a variety of anecdotes and details relating to his life and song-writing. Among the cast were leading lady of Australian music theatre Lucy Maunder, Rob Guest, Endowment winner Blake Bowden, Martin Crewes, Delia Hannah, Michael Cormick, Lisa-Marie Parker, Anton Berezin and Australian theatre legend Nancye Hayes.

Sondheim on Sondheim

The structure of the show itself, songs and scenes from Sondheim’s oeuvre presented alongside exclusive interviews with the composer himself, is problematic – none of the songs can gain enough momentum to hold the audience before they are interrupted by snatches of interviews, and thus the flow of the evening drags. Sondheim himself is a charming and engaging presence onscreen, and hearing him speak on various topics is one of the joys of the performance. By the second act, the portions of Sondheim’s interview are more smartly dispersed alongside longer numbers which allow some much-needed momentum, leading to wonderful group songs like the self-parodying ‘God’, ‘Opening Doors’, ‘The Gun Song’ and ‘Smile Girls!, an Ethel Merman number cut from Gypsy.

The all-star cast seemed surprisingly tentative, too unsure to invest themselves in their individual numbers enough to perform a ‘star turn’ – which unfortunately is what revues such as this need to stay afloat. Maunder’s Act Two strip tease, ‘Ah, But Underneath’, was the closest the evening came to a show-stopper and allowed Maunder (who earlier delivers a touching performance of ‘Take Me to the World’) to unleash scintillating dance skills and charismatic sexuality, but was undercut by the entrance of the male ensemble and an oddly dissatisfying climax to the number. One of the greatest moments of the evening was the simplicity of watching Hayes grabbing a stool and taking centre stage to sing with heart-breaking simplicity the famous ‘Send in the Clowns’.

The orchestra, under the capable direction of Kellie Dickerson, were in great form, performing the new arrangements with great zest and skill – one mistake however was the choice of a slower tempo for the explosive ‘Franklin Shepherd Inc.’, a show-stopper that requires manic and frenetic energy to work, leaving Crewes’ valiant attempt to deliver the number underwhelming.

Sondheim on Sondheim unfortunately fails to deliver on the promise of its incredible cast and rich material, finding only moments here and there which capture the deep well of emotion and beauty within’s Sondheim work – the show itself has structuring issues which certainly don’t help the creative team and need more time and finesse to overcome.

Venue: Melbourne Recital Centre, Elisabeth Murdoch Hall, corner of Southbank Boulevard and Sturt St.
Date: Saturday 23rd May, 2015
Time: 2pm & 7:30pm
Tickets: A Reserve – $69, $59 Concession, B Reserve – $59, $55 Concession
Booking: www.melbournerecitalcentre.com.au, 03 9699 3333, at the box office.
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REVIEW: Manilla Street Productions Presents BLOOD BROTHERS

Tragic tale impeccably told

By Bradley Storer

Blood Brothers, the award-winning West End musical about a tale of twin brothers separated at birth, has come to Chapel off Chapel in a strong new production by Manilla Street Productions. This modern tragedy, directed by Chris Parker, explores the classic ‘nature versus nurture’ debate and the great divide between the English upper and middle class.

Blood Brothers

Chelsea Plumley in the crucial role of Mrs Johnstone is the emotional touchstone of the entire piece, producing a portrait of a flawed, poverty-stricken woman of fierce maternal love and indomitable spirit, slowly bowed down under the tragic consequences of an impulsive decision. Her expressive and earthy singing voice perfectly captures the essence of the character, and she is to be applauded especially for flawlessly maintaining the extremely challenging Liverpool accent for the entire show. Glenda Linscott as Mrs Lyons, the rich housewife whose adoption scheme sets the plot in motion, turns in a compelling and complex performance that travels the gamut from heart-warming to bone-chilling as the character’s initial sweetness and good nature crumbles frighteningly under the pressures of anxiety and guilt.

The central triangle of the piece, the two brothers Mickey (Gareth Keegan) and Eddie (Matthew Bradford), and Linda (Lisa-Marie Parker), the woman who comes between them, are a powerhouse trio – their chemistry is palpable, and they perfectly embody each stage of their character’s respective journey from child to adulthood (kudos to them for avoiding cringe-inducing caricature while playing children). The second act, where the harsh realities of life begin to take their toll on the three and their relationships, is wrenching to watch after the honest simplicity of the actors has won our love. They are ably supported by a small but talented ensemble who swap between multiple roles. Simon Wilton as the Narrator does his best with a role that is essentially one-note and continuously repetitive, but the fault lies with the character rather than the actor in this case.

This dark, tragic tale is engrossing theatre, and the catastrophic finale which ties together all the themes of class division and destiny proves the overall success of the production, leaving the audience with a gut-wrenching sense of loss that won’t fail to bring tears to the eyes of anyone who sees it.

Venue: Chapel off Chapel, 12 Little Chapel St, Prahran.

Dates: 20 March – 6 April (Preview 19 March)

Times: Tues-Sat 8pm, Sat (5 April) 3pm, Sat (29 March) 3pm,  Sun (30 March) 3pm, Sun (6 April) 2pm

Price: $49 Full, $45 Concession, $40 Group 10+, $40 Preview (19 March), $40 Tuesday Performances, $60 Opening Night (20 March)

Tickets: www.chapeloffchapel.com.au, Phone: 03 8290 700003 8290 700003 8290 700003 8290 7000, Email: chapel@stonnington.vic.gov.au, at the venue.