Tag: Luigi Lucente

Vass Productions Presents YOU’RE A GOOD MAN, CHARLIE BROWN

Adorable family fun

By Narelle Wood

You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown is Charles Schulz’s beloved Peanuts characters come to life. From the outset everything about this musical is cartoon-esque and it is hard not to grin like a buffoon the whole way through.

You're A Good Man Charlie Brown

With book, music and lyrics by Clark Gesner, the musical is based on the life of Charlie Brown (Cameron MacDonald) the eternal optimist, despite Lucy (Courtney Glass) pointing out loudly and frequently what she labels as his ‘loser’ tendencies. The key members of the gang are there to help Charlie along the way: Sally (Sarah Morrison), Linus (Adam Porter), Schroeder (Joshua Robson), and of course the forever-faithful puppy with attitude Snoopy (Luigi Lucente). There is kite-flying, choir practice, book reports, a nail-biting baseball game and the intellectual conversation of adults interspersed with childlike behaviour that made, and still makes, the antics of Charlie Brown and co. both subtle social commentary and very funny.

The storyline has been put together through the use of Schulz’s comic strips, so some of the plot points are very familiar. And the staging is in keeping with his art style too: it looks as though to walk on stage would be to walk into the comic strip itself. The sets, courtesy of set designer Jacob Battista, are simple but impressive, making very clever use of frames and staircases to change scenes. As the show commenced, he only thing that was perhaps a bit jarring initially was accepting adults play the roles of such familiar child characters and this may have been the reason the first part felt a bit flat, at least for the adult members of the audience, though there were several kids who found it all very funny.

Once the audience and the musical warmed up, it became absolutely clear that this is an extremely talented cast. It is difficult to pick a standout when the small ensemble is so strong, but I would have to say Glass’s portrayal of Lucy is spectacular. That been said, MacDonald’s sad Charlie Brown made the audience sigh with sympathy on more than one occasion. And while Snoopy was played by human Lucente, he captured all of Snoopy’s attitude and some beguiling beagle-like behaviour as well: if only dinner time was always that entertaining.

Gary Abraham’s direction combined with choreography by Dana Jolly and Ben Kiley’s music direction has resulted in an absolutely joyful production that really showcases the singing, dancing and acting talent on stage. The intricate timings in most of the production numbers were accomplished with seeming ease; my favourite was easily The Book Report, mostly due to how well I identified with each of the approaches to work, and I don’t think I will ever think of Beatrix Potter in the same way again.

The night show might be a late time slot for any little person in your life, but the children I overheard discussing it at the end of the show were so excited at seeing these characters live on stage. Charlie Brown is indeed a good man, and this is a must for fans of the cartoon and anyone looking at escaping into the lovable and complicated world of Charlie Brown and his gang.

Venue: Alex Theatre, Fitzroy St, St Kilda

Season: Until 2nd July, Wed-Sun 7.30pm Matinees: Tues 11.30am, Wed & Thu 10.30am, Sat 1pm and Sun 3pm

Tickets: Concession from $25 | Adult from $35

Bookings: www.alextheatrestk.com/whats-on-alex/youre-good-man-charlie-brown

Image by James Terry Photography

Advertisements

Pursued by Bear Presents TICK TICK BOOM

Engrossing and innovative musical theatre

By Sally McKenzie

Tick Tick Boom is a cleverly-written one act musical which beautifully illustrates the struggles of the composer Jonathon Larson (who also composed Rent) to ‘make his break’ in the world of musical theatre.  In this new production presented by Pursued By Bear, I was captivated from beginning to end. I doubt you will find a better portrayal of this autobiographical piece by Larson.

TFHI-1238

Upon entrance to ‘The Loft’ performance space at Chapel Off Chapel, we are immediately immersed in the ‘chaos’ of Larson’s musical mind as we walk on a floor covered in pages of sheet music, and are surrounded by a clutter of suitcases and neglected musical instruments randomly stacked against walls.

In the middle of this there is a floor-boarded stage, slightly raised with a piano as the centre piece. Three wooden chairs are the only other set pieces on this stark performance space. A dozen hanging exposed light bulbs also frame the space, helping to bring a distinct realism to the set.

The role of Jonathon Larson is played by Luigi Lucente. He is simply brilliant. The audience immediately empathizes with the heightened anxiety of his character and – through the passing of time (which is likened to the strict timing of the metronome) – are captivated with his journey as an artist.  Lucente is compelling as he delivers his soliloquies to the audience. Through superb timing and natural alliance with the character,  he is able to bring out the comedy in an otherwise ‘serious’ plot.  Moreover, Lucente is perfectly cast as he also is an impressive musician/pianist and rock vocalist. His playing of the piano is interwoven superbly into the music of the show. His performance of ‘Why’ was particularly moving, and the ‘out of tune’ piano was a perfect vessel for his emotions.

Angela Scundi gives a solid performance of the role of Jon’s girlfriend Susan, and effectively doubles as other characters throughout the show.  Her rendition of ‘Come To Your Senses’ was very well-received by the audience. Quin Kelly depicted the more conservative character of Michael, which was an apt juxtaposition to the spirited nature of ‘Jon’. Although his voice didn’t quite seem suited to the more contemporary style of the show, but he brought a lovely energy to the ensemble-style cast. Mitch Roberts and Rebecca Heatherington provided extra vocal harmonies for songs and portrayed their cameo roles with conviction. Their presence in the Sondheim parody ‘Sunday’ was particularly engaging.

Paul Watson’s direction is stunning and completely fitting for the venue. The multiple uses of the piano as a set piece and the ‘domestic’ lighting doubling as the perfect tools to create the needed intimacy of such a personal story are just two examples of his stylish creative choices. His ability to convey the different tensions in the space with the positioning of actors alone is impressive.

The musical direction by Jess Barlow is well-executed. Vocal harmonies are tight and the band is well-balanced with the vocalists. There was the occasional imbalance of vocal harmonies (the men sometimes overpowering the women), but this did not deter from the enjoyment of such a fabulous score.

Tick Tick Boom is playing in The Loft at Chapel Off Chapel until May 2nd. Tickets can be booked online at http://chapeloffchapel.com.au/ticket-sales/

REVIEW: The Collective Presents PARADE

You don’t know this man
By Bradley Storer
New Melbourne company The Collective make their theatrical debut with the first professional production in Australia of Jason Robert Brown’s modern classic Parade, a tale of injustice, prejudice and murder in early 20th-century Atlanta.
Parade
Luigi Lucente as Leo Frank, the Jewish factory superintendent who is accused of murdering young Mary Phagan (Jemma Plunkett), turns in a performance perfect from head to toe. Lucente portrays Frank as a man whose alienation from the community has left him a lonely sensitive soul with a icy, defensive exterior – not shying away from the more strident aspects of Frank’s personality, Lucente intertwines them in such a way that they strike a delicious note of ambiguity over whether Frank is capable of committing murder. His plain-spoken appeal to the jury, ‘It’s Hard to Speak My Heart’, is heartrendingly beautiful.
Laura Fitzpatrick brings a subdued gentle air and a sweet, touching voice to Frank’s wife, Lucille. She takes a quieter, less belty approach to Lucille’s big numbers ‘You Don’t Know This Man’ and ‘Do it Alone’ than some interpreters, but this means we never lose sight of Lucille as an ordinary woman driven by an immense inner strength which blossoms over the course of the story. The delicacy and chemistry which she and Lucente bring to the couple’s penultimate love duet ‘All the Wasted Time’ is electrifying, sending shivers up the spine.
The supporting roles are filled out admirably – Cameron MacDonald has charisma to burn as reporter Britt Craig. who whips the South into a media frenzy over the controversial trial, and turns in solid work as Governor Jack Slaton. Tod Strike is a commanding presence as amoral prosecutor Hugh Dorsey, and Andrew Doyle brings an impish charm to Frankie Epps, the teenager who spearheads the mob violence which leads to the musical’s tragic conclusion. The ensemble overall are top quality, bringing fierce commitment to a variety of roles and levels of moral ambiguity.
The performance space, which has the audience split in two on either side with action playing out in the middle, is used to thrilling effect in the first act. The isolation of husband from wife in ‘Leo at Work/What Am I Waiting For’ is illustrated perfectly as they stand at the separate ends of the stage echoed later by the chillingly emotional image which closes Act One. The cleverly staged trial sequence symbolically and physically makes the audience implicit in the condemnation of Leo, as well tapping into the inherently theatrical nature of a trial itself. However, this fades in Act Two where the staging is used less imaginatively and begins to impede the effectiveness of the show instead. The split staging and somewhat confusing direction of the last scene dilutes the impact of its final revelation, reducing the poignancy of what should be the emotional sucker-punch of the musical.

These small issues aside, this is a strong debut from the emerging company with a challenging and immensely satisfying piece that should be a ‘must see’ for all Melbourne music theatre enthusiasts!

Venue: fortyfivedownstairs, 45 Flinders Lane, CBD
Date: 17-28 Sept, 2014
Times: TuesSat 8pm, Sun 7pm
Tickets: $45, Conc $40, Groups (8+) $40
Bookings: Ph 03 9662 9966 or www.fortyfivedownstairs.com