Tag: Mike Mcleish

REVIEW: GEORGY GIRL – The Seekers Musical

New musical relives the making of Aussie music history

By Amy Planner

The Seekers are an Australian icon of the 1960s music scene and they have finally been recognised the way any great stars should – by being further immortalised on stage. Georgy Girl is the vibrant new stage musical story of The Seekers’ rise to fame.

Georgy Girl - The Seekers Musical photo credit Jeff Busby.JPG

When a young insecure Judith Durham joins a folk group for a night, little did she know her life would change forever. Along with Athol Guy the business-minded bass player, Bruce Woodley the keen songwriter and Keith Potger the lady-loving guitarist, they became The Seekers. This musical follows their journey from a local club in Balwyn, Victoria, to the world’s stage and back again.

The casting of this historical musical was superb; the combination of Pippa Grandison as Judith, Phillip Lowe as Keith, Mike McLeish as Bruce and Glaston Toft as Athol could not have been any better. Their spectacular performances were only topped by their musical talent and ability to move so easily from song to song. Grandison has a wonderfully full and versatile voice, stealing the stage with her rendition of “Mamma’s Got The Blues” in Act Two.

Being opening night and a world premiere there were bound to be a few glitches here and there. There were just a few clunky scene changes and a few slight harmony issues, but they are sure to be ironed out with a few more shows. Luckily, there was also  an abundance of very upbeat dancing from the impressive ensemble that kept everyone thoroughly entertained.

Unfortunately the big stylistic change of Judith at the end of Act One was rather uneventful; a famous number like “Georgy Girl” in a show called Georgy Girl should surely have elicited a little more pizzazz. The second act, however, dealt with many more emotional tragedies the band had to face. This handling of this was very delicate and respectful, giving emotional heaviness where due and light-hearted moments when possible. It took a really expressive cast, fine scripting and a well-balanced production team to make these scenes as poignant as they were.

Isaac Lummis has done a sincerely unique job of the costuming for Georgy Girl. The outfits are original and distinctive: it took a truly creative eye to collate so many vibrant and stylistic patterns and shapes so successfully.

The musical team Stephen Amos and Stephen Gray deserve much praise for their work with the cast in bringing The Seekers to life in theatre. The intricate harmonies and beautiful voices would not have sounded so authentic and appealing without their guidance and skill.

The audience at this premiere were luck enough to be graced with a cameo from the real Seekers themselves,  who walked the red carpet and joined the cast on stage at the end of the show. The crowd was delightfully surprised as the quartet took their bows in front of a standing ovation.

This appealing new show highlights a truly exceptional moment in Australia’s musical history and will be a delight for those long-serving and new-found Seekers fans.

Venue: Her Majesty’s Theatre, Exhibition Street, Melbourne.
Season: 22nd December – 21st February, Tues 7pm, Wed 1pm/7pm, Thurs 8pm, Fri 8pm, Sat 2pm/8pm, Sun 3pm.
Tickets: From $60
Bookings: ticketek.com.au

Image by Jeff Busby

REVIEW: The Songs of Mackenzie-Spencer and Strano

Once was not enough…

By Adam Tonking

Do you remember the musical revue? Not the latest incarnation where the greatest hits of a deceased or retired composer are swept together so the paying audience get to hear their favourites. I’m talking about an evening where a composer and lyricist team get to showcase their collection of stand-alone songs. Maltby and Shire come to mind. An evening with The Songs Of Mackenzie-Spencer and Strano was just like those glory days.

The Songs of Mckenzie-Spencer and Strano

And what’s glorious about this format is that each new song is its own story: a new character to meet, a new dilemma to be faced, and resolution in six or so minutes. This allows for the exploration of characters and situations that probably wouldn’t be sustainable over a longer work. And boy, did Mackenzie-Spencer and Strano explore some unchartered territory. From addiction to babies, to making incest work, to coping with discount airlines; the quirky situations seldom strayed from the continuing theme of overcoming obstacles. Mackenzie-Spencer and Strano just found them in places Maltby and Shire never dared.

And it was hilarious. Strano has a strong understanding of comedy in song, and Mackenzie-Spencer’s playful yet carefully crafted music elevates the bawdiest of joke to something golden. There were a few tender, more emotional moments, and the team were more than up to the task, to show that they are more than a comedy duo.

The cast were sublime. This was essentially a showcase for the brilliant creations of Mackenzie-Spencer and Strano, but I couldn’t leave without mentioning the cast. Rob Tripolino with his deft handling of incest, Andrew Broadbent with his gorgeous bass voice in “Weekend Getaway,” Stephanie Jones’ sweet awkwardness in “Sandwiches,” Mike McLeish selling the slow-burn story of “Crack Babies,” Keagan Vaskess – a last-minute replacement – who nearly stole the show with “Scientific View” a song about love as science fiction and “Still Waiting” about the expections of becoming an adult after reading Harry Potter, and finally Fem Belling who absolutely rocked the audience with “Kabaret,” a parody of the tropes of cabaret performance. I did feel like the cast could have used more time with the material, but I understand that a concert performance of new songs by new Australian writers would have limited resources to allow this. More’s the pity; the cast were more than capable, and the songs would have shone brighter.

Since this was a one-night only performance, and you won’t have the opportunity to see this show, I insist you take down the names of everyone involved and see everything that they do. Particularly Lochlan Mackenzie-Spencer and Andrew Strano, for there is a limited amount of support for original material for musicals in Australia. And they deserve the chance to become at least as famous as Maltby and Shire.

The Songs Of Mackenzie-Spencer And Strano played at Chapel Off Chapel on June 20th 2015 at 8pm. Since I’d normally give you details where to buy tickets, this time I thought I’d give you details to follow them. Twitter: MS&S (@MS_and_S) or Facebook: Mackenzie-Spencer & Strano

REVIEW: DreamSong for MICF

Redemption is not at hand

By Narelle Wood

I like clever, witty, well-constructed comedy and unfortunately I found DreamSong to be absolutely none of these. While the premise of the show (a money-hungry evangelist constructing a second coming of Jesus) certainly had potential, what ensued was two hours of clichéd cheap shots at a whole range of issues, religions and minorities that I felt were extremely offensive, and I’m not easily offended.

DreamSong

Pastor Richard Sunday (Ben Prendergast) has realised his church is in financial peril, and along with the help of his wife Whitney (Chelsea Gibb), the prime minster (Mike Mcleish), the prime minster’s advisor (Alana Tranter) and a wannabe actor (Connor Crawford), he stages a fraudulent resurrection of the son of God. Meanwhile the pastor’s daughter April (Emily Langridge) is trying to talk the real Jesus Christ (Brent Hill) out of a crisis of confidence. Prendergast certainly looked the part of evangelic preacher but his character lacked charisma and charm that was needed to make the deception believable. Evan Lever as Neville Gruber was fabulous as the eager-to-please church follower, but it was Hill’s portrayal of Jesus Christ that actually provided the only comical parts to the show: it was pity that his character had less than twenty minutes of stage time.

Author of DreamSong, Hugo Chiarella, seems unsure about what faction of society he takes issue with. His supposedly black comedy (in my opinion it’s rarely funny) about a non-specific church mocks soldiers dying in Afghanistan, the mentally disabled, Judaism, Christianity, Islam, abortions, people suffering and dying from AIDS, homosexuality, victims of paedophilia and animal cruelty. Excluding the cast, the one redeeming feature of this musical is in fact the music provided by Robert Tripolino. I can’t say I’m a fan or have that much knowledge of Christian pop, but the range and style of music seemed perfectly matched to the premise of the show.

Perhaps a warning at the show about the offensive content may have placated how offended I was, and this then may have enabled me to see beyond those cheap shots to a concept that is worth exploring and what attracted me to the show in the first place.

Venue: Theatre Works, St Kilda
Season: Tues-Sat at 7:30pm, Sat at 2:00pm, Sun at 5:00pm, until 20th April
Tickets: Full $35| Conc $30
Bookings: http://www.theatreworks.org.au/