Tag: Matt Hetherington

REVIEW: Return Season of NORTH BY NORTHWEST

Seeking the adventure again

By Caitlin McGrane

The reimagined Hitchcock classic North by Northwest gets an excellent presentation at the Melbourne Arts Centre after its fantastically successful run in 2015.

North by Northwest 2.jpg

For those who don’t know, the story is that of Roger O. Thornhill (Matt Day), Madison Avenue advertising executive mistaken for the mysterious George Kaplan in The Plaza Hotel in New York; thus setting in motion a chain of events that takes Thornhill to the United Nations, Chicago, and Mount Rushmore. His partner in crime is Eve Kendall (Amber McMahon), an enigmatic femme fatale with whom Thornhill forms an instant connection on a train.

Writer Carolyn Burns and director Simon Phillips really have done a terrific job of bringing the classic film to the stage; Burns has successfully managed to tread the very fragile line between appreciating and replicating the original, especially given it is such a well-loved text. Hitchcock’s contemporality is appropriately heightened through clever direction from Phillips, so some of the uncomfortable and backwards politics of the 1950s can be seen through a modern lens.

The ensemble cast, comprised of Nicholas Bell, Ian Bliss, Lyall Brooks, Leon Cain, Sheridan Harbridge, Matt Hetherington, Tony Llewellyn-Jones, Gina Riley, Lucas Stibbard and Lachlan Woods are all clearly having a ball. Harbridge, Llewellyn Jones and Riley all delivered standout performances, providing just the right number of nods and winks to the audience and some truly excellent accents. It would perhaps have been nice to see more chemistry between the two leads, and it sometimes felt to me like McMahon’s Eve was not as self-assured as her silver screen counterpart. But these minor critiques did not hamper my enjoyment of their respective performances.

It would be extraordinarily remiss of me not to mention the exceptional creative work from the backstage team. Nick Schlieper’s lighting and set design were joyously clever and funny, Ian McDonald’s composition and sound design catapulted me back in time to my first screening of North by Northwest, while Josh and Jess Burns’ innovative and hilarious use of video really stole the show. I shall never see Mount Rushmore the same way ever again.

To have a bad time watching North by Northwest would be an extremely difficult thing, and while this may seem like damning with faint praise I really would be surprised if anyone came out of seeing this production feeling anything but contented. Sometimes what I need is a big sugary treat from the theatre, and North by Northwest delivered deliciously comforting familiarity in spades. This is the second time I’ve seen the production, and it is the combination of joy, self-awareness and fun that makes this such a pleasure to watch.

North by Northwest is now showing at The State Theatre at the Arts Centre until 13 February 2016. More information and tickets from: https://www.artscentremelbourne.com.au/whats-on/theatre-drama/north-by-northwest-2016

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REVIEW: MTC Presents NORTH BY NORTHWEST

MTC’s masterly salute to the master of suspense

By Rachel Holkner

How will they do the scene on Mount Rushmore? This has to be the question at the front of the mind of any audience member familiar with Alfred Hitchcock’s classic film North By Northwest. In this world premiere production by the Melbourne Theatre Company the film is adapted for the stage by Carolyn Burns in ingenious and highly entertaining ways.

North by Northwest

The story follow the trials of Roger Thornhill, a New York advertising man mistaken for a spy. Following leads and leading chases across several states on trains and planes, through hotels and auction house, Thornhill gradually uncovers a larger plot with higher stakes than a simple case of mistaken identity. High-paced action scenes are interspersed with romantic interludes, all peppered with witty dialogue. One of North By Northwest‘s main attractions: it doesn’t take itself too seriously.

More of a straight reenactment rather than a reimagining, director Simon Phillips‘ stage adaption sometimes holds a bit too tightly to the film. A few (very few) moments do not translate well, and might be a bit odd to anyone not familiar with Hitchcock’s work. Several characters are straight impersonations of the film’s actors, and this was to the play’s detriment. Occasionally it felt as though the actors did not have full ownership of their parts.

The cast of twelve do a spectacular job in taking on the work of a cast of thousands. With the aid of amazing costuming, wigs and headgear by costume designer Esther Marie Hayes it was easy to forget that the woman dining in the train had minutes ago been in a stand-up argument as Thornhill’s mother. Matt Day is excellent as Roger Thornhill, as was Amber McMahon as Eve Kendall, the femme fatale. Many other familiar names bring their strength to the production including Nicholas Bell, Tony Llewellyn-Jones, Deidre Rubenstein and Matt Hetherington. The entire cast deserves high praise for their faultless and energetic work.

However, the show-stealing performance, that which received the most spontaneous applause, laughs and gasps from the audience was the staging. An incredibly creative use of a massive rear-projection screen used with live-action miniatures brings the language of film right onto the stage. Complete with an opening credit sequence nod to the kinetic typography of Saul Bass (titles designer of many of Hitchcock’s films), no opportunity was lost to draw the audience into the play and into the manipulative world of 1950s America.

The audience shared in the glee of the cast as they interacted at frequent intervals with items key to the setting, whether writing notes, pouring drinks or driving tiny cars, these actions were projected to provide close-ups, midshots and moving backgrounds key to keeping the production as close to Hitchcock’s vision as possible. The iconic cropduster scene is gobsmackingly good, keeping us simultaneously on the edge of our seats and in fits of laughter.

I cannot know how much someone not familiar with the film would enjoy this production, however lines which I was merely nodding to as I recognised them, were getting genuine laughs from the audience which would indicate that there is enough clarity and freshness here for all. MTC’s North By Northwest is an amazing achievement. Hilarious, tense and dramatic at all the right moments. You won’t regret seeing this one, it’s sensational.

And as for Mount Rushmore? Well I can’t tell you. You simply wouldn’t believe me.

Venue: Playhouse, Arts Centre Melbourne
Season: Until 20 June 2015
Tickets: $51-$124
Bookings: http://www.artscentremelbourne.com.au

Review: The Production Company Presents GYPSY

Everything’s coming up up roses

By Bradley Storer

The Production Company brings together a star-studded cast in this presentation of what can be described as the greatest musical in the American tradition. Like a musical version of King Lear, Gypsy presents the tale of Mama Rose as she fights, batters and tramples all the obstacles in the way of propelling her two daughters to stardom, even as they resist and try to escape her iron grip.

Caroline OConnor

Christina Tan as the young girl who grows up to be the eponymous Gypsy Rose Lee, is perfect as both the boyish, plain Louise at the beginning of the show, looking adorably innocent in her baggy oversized clothes, as well as the glamorous and seductive burlesque star that she becomes over the course of the narrative. However, in the strip tease sequence in Act Two (which illustrates Gypsy’s rise to her full potential as well as to stardom) Tan does not fully embody the burgeoning self-confidence and realisation that would bridge the gap between the two sides of the character.

Gemma-Ashley Kaplan as Baby June, Rose’s favoured child, brings both perkiness, a bright piercing belt and an underlying exhaustion to the role – her younger counterpart is equally amazing, possibly more so in some of her dances! Nathan Pinnell as the dancer who runs away with her steals the show with just one song and a brilliant choreographed dream ballet (choreography by Andrew Hallsworth).

The brilliant Caroline O’Connor is a phenomenon as Mama Rose, bringing layer upon layer to this larger-than-life character. This is a woman so consumed by her dreams and fantasy of stardom (vicariously lived out through her daughters) that she is hopelessly disconnected from everyone around her, most of all her family. In every one of Baby June’s dances we see Mama Rose flitting in and out of the background and off to the side of the stage repeating the choreography; whenever she by chance enters the spotlight her face breaks out in with unadulterated pleasure that is simultaneously comic and pathetic. O’Connor’s characterization brings to mind those other great tragic characters of American literature, Willy Loman and Blanche DuBois, both sustained and eventually destroyed by their dreams.

Matt Hetherington as Herbie, her lover/business partner is quite subdued, but the pair have a sweetness that makes the disintegration of their relationship as a result of Rose’s ambition all the more poignant – here Hetherington shines with a quiet dignity.

Gale Edwards brings an expansive directorial vision to this great American musical, emphasising how all these characters, whether or not they are onstage, are performers – acting out their own internal fantasies or forced to live inside a role that has been thrust on them by someone.

Venue: The State Theatre, The Arts Centre, 100 St Kilda Rd

Dates: Sat July 6th/Wed 10th/Thur 11th/Fri 12th/Sat 13th at 7:30pm; Sat July 6th/Sat 13th at 2pm; Sun July 7th/Sun 14th at 3pm

Prices: From $23 (C Reserve U18) to (A Reserve) $115

Bookings: http://www.theproductioncompany.com.au/

Review: THE PRODUCTION COMPANY presents Promises, Promises

A rare chance to see a superb show

By Adam Tonking

The Production Company’s Promises, Promises stars Matt Hetherington as Chuck Baxter, a low-level accountant in a huge corporation, struggling to be noticed both by his bosses while the girl of his dreams, waitress Fran Kubelik is played by much-loved Marina Prior in ever-reliable form. The show itself is genius, taking a filmic masterpiece in Billy Wilder’s The Apartment, and adapting  it to the stage with glorious music from Burt Bacharach, complete with his exciting and idiosyncratic shifts in meter and harmony. Add to this Neil Simon’s witty and skilfully crafted dialogue, and Hal David’s heartfelt lyrics – how could this show not be amazing?

Hetherington turns his Jack-Lemmon charm on the audience from overture to finale, particularly in the number “She Likes Basketball.” The supporting leads, Chelsea Plumley and Robert Grubb, also gave stellar performances. Plumley was either sorely underused, or used to perfection, playing a small cameo role in one of the most entertaining scenes in the show. She trod a beautiful line between dignity and a complete shambles, all delivered with perfect comic timing and fully-realised characterisation. Grubb was perfectly cast as Dr. Dreyfuss, turning something of a sourpuss into a loveable curmudgeon.

I was delighted to see the orchestra on stage. Half the joy of music theatre for me is the visceral experience of live musicians, and watching them under the tight direction of Guy Simpsonwas pure bliss. The ensemble were spectacular – and aren’t the ensemble the most underappreciated aspect of any show?

Here though, “Turkey Lurkey Time” and “A Fact Can Be A Beautiful Thing” were beautifully executed, and two of the best numbers in the production thanks to the energy and enthusiasm of the ensemble. Particular mention should be given to Hester Van Der Vyver, who with her small but pivotal role as Miss Olsen, came close to stealing the show.

The Production Company has enjoyed a brilliant year with its inspired choices, and their production of Promises, Promises ends it beautifully. In excitedly looking forward to their 2013 program, I can only suggest that you quickly rush to see this too-seldom performed, absolute gem of a show.

Promises, Promises is on at the State Theatre, October 3 to October 7. Book at artscentremelbourne.com.au or call 1300 182 183.

REVIEW: Magnormos presents FLOWERCHILDREN

Welcome to the 60s…

By Maxine Montgomery

Flowerchildren traces the ups and downs of 60s group The Mamas and The Papas, and  recaptures the freedom of an era along the way. This new musical is an engaging journey through the pivotal moments and inner dynamics in the life of the group.

Writer Peter Fitzpatrick has crafted a show that captures all of the success, betrayal, passion and regret experienced by the four singers. The narration element is used well to allow each character to express their take on a particular happening, and then to fit into the scene described.

The central cast were remarkable. Each is a fabulous singer in his/her own right – combined, they created the iconic sound and tight harmonies of The Mamas and The Papas flawlessly. Casey Donovan as Mama Cass was quite the surprise of the evening. I was in no doubt that she could sing the role, but it was fabulous to see her more than hold her own in the company of three seasoned performers. Donovan’s comic timing was apparent (she had the line of the night – I will never again see a muumuu in quite the same way!) and also her ability to give gravitas and commitment to the more heartbreaking moments.

Matt Hetherington was brilliant as Papa John. He gave the role all the charisma and edge required to bring the songwriter to life. His rendition of “San Francisco (Be Sure To Wear Some Flowers)” was, for me, a highlight of the night – his vocals gave the piece sweetness and desperation all at once.

Dan Humphris, as Papa Denny, has a beautiful voice with great range and the technique to use it to his best advantage. I particularly enjoyed the scenes he shared with Papa John – it is clear that the actors have a close camaraderie as this came through on stage. Laura Fitzpatrick as Mama Michelle was perfectly cast as the woman every man wanted. Her final monologue was moving and very affecting.

Mention must go to Jessica Featherby as Jill – she was the right mix of perky and whiny that made you love to hate her.

The set, designed by Christina Logan-Bell, is simple and uncluttered. It meant that the focus was on the actors instead of involved scene changes. Sophie Thomas leads a small, tight band which complements the singers very well.

Flowerchildren is worthy of a very successful premiere season – great music and strong performances put it in the ‘must-see’ category. The season runs till September 10th so get down to Theatre Works in St Kilda for a trip to the 60s.

Tickets available through www.theatreworks.org.au