Tag: musical theatre

Review: MADEMOISELLE by Michael Dalley

Behind closed doors is where camp comedy begins

By Myron My

I was not sure what to expect from the world premier season of Mademoiselle, advertised as “a gothic camp music theatre revue” with two satirical manservants singing tunes about what could have been, but I knew I would be in for a treat.

Our two manservants, played by creators Michael Dalley and Paul McCarthy, sneak into their employer’s boudoir and let loose some glitzy musical numbers revolving around fantasy, regret, power and servitude.  The very opening song relaxed the audience and assured us that we were in for a night of cheeky laughs.

Mademoiselle is a very wordy and witty revue with just a few jokes falling flat. However, the characters had such an air of assumed superiority that you had to second-guess yourself when you didn’t laugh – was it because the joke wasn’t that funny or because you were just too lower class to get it?!

The banter and bitchy retorts between the two servants as they try to gain one up on each other was a joy to watch and Dalley and McCarthy have a great rapport together. You can clearly see they are having a ball with this. However, I would have liked to see the pair push themselves more with volume and vocal projection – at times, their speaking voices were louder than their singing ones, as if they were holding back during the songs. Also, there were moments during the duets when the performers were not in time with each other, but they were far and few between.

Composer John Thorn on piano was delightful to hear and played with great precision. Favourite numbers of the night were “The Passive Aggressive Filipino Amway Lady” which had me in stitches when the title character met the articulate call centre operator from Dubai, and “The Nasty Queen From Menswear” made delightfully scarier by the fact that I too was once a victim of such a person in previous employment.

The sets and costume, while minimal, added so much to this revue. The constant presence of the toilet was a constant reminder that despite their airs, these two manservants were just that and nothing more. The single props for their impersonations were well-chosen and clearly distinguished their changing characters: from Indian call-centre workers and Filipino Amway ladies to bitchy sales assistants, they were spot on, which is no surprise given Dalley and McCarthy’s established performance backgrounds in comedy and theatre.

Mademoiselle is certainly cheeky good old-fashioned camp fun that will see you leaving the theatre with many belly laughs having been had.

Venue: fortyfivedownstairs, 45 Flinders Lane
Season: Until 19 August 2012 | Tues to Sat 8:00pm, Sun 5:00pm
Tickets: $35 Full | $28 Conc
Bookings: 03 9662 9966 or http://www.fortyfivevdownstairs.com

Phantom Fans in Furore Over LOVE NEVER DIES

An Unexpected Editorial

by Kim Edwards

Our inbox has been loaded lately with various long-winded emails as part of a campaign to spam theatre reviewers. The emails contain protestations in violent objection to or in passionate support of the latest Andrew Lloyd Webber musical to open in Melbourne.

Love Never Dies purports to be a sequel to the wildly successful Phantom of the Opera, and its latest season has prompted an extraordinary turf war among fans of the latter and former.  

Both sides have apparently concluded it is important for reviewers to know Love Never Dies is respectively awful/awesome, while insisting we are, of course, to write impartial reviews as we see fit.

As we foresee that a further deluge of such emails may be inevitable, we felt it was important to voice an opinion on behalf on Theatre Press reviewers.

We are yet to attend Love Never Dies, or to offer either a review or opinion on it*.  Theatre Press reviewers are requested always to give honest feedback, offer constructive critique, and point out the subjectivity of their stance: this is simply one person’s opinion.  

While we might remark on the audience’s reaction or the wider reception of the production, we have no interest in reading unsolicited reviews from fans or foes of any show who, despite their best rhetorical efforts, are seeking to influence us.

Theatre is a fickle and troublesome industry. Sometimes wonderful shows close too early, while poor shows manage to drum up extensive audiences.   Sometimes excellent productions do not appeal to a local crowd, and weak productions strike an unexpected chord.

But sometimes critically acclaimed does translate into universal popularity, whereupon spectacular musicals achieve all the fame and success they deserve, and the unsuccessful ones fall quietly into obscurity.  

Interestingly of course, public protests over ‘bad’ shows usually end in the latter being far more successful than they might otherwise have been…

Ultimately, this is all irrelevant for theatre reviewers.   There is a place for all forms and levels of theatre, and producers, composers and artists have every right to create any new shows they like for the mingled delight and despair of theatre audiences.

Whatever strange motivations are behind the recent spat of love/hate fan emails to Theatre Press, the actual effect is to imply our critical integrity and credibility is in question because we need reminders to offer unbiased opinions.

As theatre critics however, we always wish to support the industry we love, rigorously deny censorship by attending as many and varied performances as we can as open-mindedly as we can, and then constantly do our best to express an honest opinion and make an effort to link the right audiences with the right shows.   Every time.

If you like Love Never Dies, enjoy seeing it.   If you don’t like it, enjoy avoiding it.   If you have an opinion on a show, share it – but respect the rights of others to disagree.   However, if you think the way to share this opinion is to spam review sites – please think again.

*Edit: Since writing the above, we have attended the show and offered an opinion. You can find the review here.


The lustre is lacking, but the performers bring their own shine

By Kim Edwards

Anthony Warlow received a standing ovation for Melbourne’s opening night of the new musical Dr. Zhivago, and it was richly deserved.

His sumptuous voice soars through Lucy Simon’s melodious ballads, and his sleek performance of Zhivago slides easily between delicate characterization and the sweeping charisma that made him glorious on the Australian and international stage.

However, the vehicle for his achievement has the propensity to be as clunky and awkward as the show’s cumbersome ‘train’ set piece. Dr. Zhivago the musical boasts a lavish and quite lovely score, a famous and beloved tale to tell, and fine performances from an excellent cast. But even the man himself could not overcome the problems of trite lyrics, perfunctory character development, historical caricature and messy staging.

Rising star Lucy Maunder has a bright beautiful voice, and is charming as Lara, although she is given little room to explore the character emotionally. Her lovely co-star Taneel van Zyl has even less opportunity in the thankless role of Tonia.

Fortunately Pasha the revolutionary-turned-rogue is fleshed out more fully, and allows dynamic Martin Crewes to rip into his character and create a ferocious, flamboyant and strangely pathetic and appealing man as Zhivago’s foil and reflection.

While clearly necessary to truncate an epic history and vast landscape for a two-act musical on a proscenium stage, sadly this is not managed well. The set is versatile but dull and the projections of giant figures looming over the action are disconcerting and distracting.

Great battles, tragic events and extraordinary moments of emotional possibility are packaged up into menial exposition, running about with chairs, and songs (in a story about a poet, no less) with relentless rhyming couplets so predictable they become painful.

Having said this, the show is by no means boring. The blocking is full of action and interest (although peasants suddenly turning from rural Russia to push a train into Moscow was one of several jarring continuity breaks). The cast work energetically through their material, and the wedding dancing by the revolutionaries and the lively female opening number for Act II were highlights.

Act II is generally superior in pace and excitement: there is also particularly beautiful lighting in the abandoned house, and the powerful confrontation of Zhivago and Pasha is more moving than the finale.

Playing at Her Majesty’s Theatre in Melbourne, Dr Zhivago is emphatically an enjoyable night out: if it does not achieve all the profound tragedy, romance and grandeur the tale deserves, hearing Warlow make magic once again is wonderfully worthwhile.

Photos by Kurt Sneddon