Tag: Nicki Wendt

MTC Presents NOISES OFF

Superb production of an hilarious classic

By Myron My

It’s been 34 years since playwright Michael Frayn penned his farcical comedy Noises Off and I have patiently waited decades to see this production on the stage. As part of its 2017 season, Melbourne Theatre Company has fulfilled my wish and the production does not disappoint with this wild and witty play-within-a-play.

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While this is a fast-paced farce, one of the strengths of Frayn’s script is that we are still provided with time to get to know the characters and understand the relationships between them all. Once these are established, the laughs begin to build until the absurd and ridiculous circumstances the cast get themselves into hit peak hilarity. The second act where we are privy to the goings on behind the scenes offers the most entertaining moments of the show, as the actors struggle to separate the drama of their personal lives with the drama happening on stage.

The hugely talented ensemble of this production deliver superb performances and there is an energetic chemistry between them all. Ray Chong Nee as the pompous Gary has brilliant timing and literally throws himself into his character. As one of the more “straight” characters, Nicki Wendt as Belinda still captures our attention in all her scenes. Louise Siversen as Dotty is sensational and fully embraces the wackiness of both characters she plays.

Meanwhile, Libby Munro as Brooke is delightful to watch as the actor who will not go off script no matter what, as is Hugh Parker as the sensitive but consummate thespian Freddie. Steven Tandy as Selsdon is great comedy relief as he exasperates the cast with his tendency for drinking on the job.

Simon Burke as Lloyd the director of sex farce Nothing On – the play-within-a-play – finds a serenity and calm in the character who yet simultaneously speaks through gritted teeth to his frustratingly inept cast. James Saunders and Emily Goddard as stage managers Tim and Poppy bring some hilarious moments as they try to keep everything on track despite the mishaps along the way.

Sam Strong’s attentive and considerate direction in the real world ensures that despite all the relationships being portrayed (in Noises Off and Nothing On), we never feel overwhelmed or confused by what we are seeing. While there are moments that seem to stretch themselves for laughs, such as the axe-fight scene and watching each actor constantly sneak across backstage to avoid being spotted by the audience, he manages to keep those laughs consistent and plentiful.

Set designer Richard Roberts has done a truly marvelous job in creating the two-storey interior of the Brents’ house as well as the backstage area. The detailing in both, particularly the backstage area, is well thought-out and the rotating stage is highly impressive and used effectively.

While Nothing On is an absolute shambles of a show (but one I would still like to see), Noises Off is a slick production of the (in)famous play with a cast and creative team that has clearly put in much effort and thought into its creation. Melbourne Theatre Company presents a guaranteed crowd-pleaser with this, and rightfully so.

Venue: Arts Centre Melbourne, 100 St Kilda Road, Melbourne, 3004 
Season: Until 12 August | Mon – Tues 6.30pm, Wed 1pm, Wed-Fri 8pm, Sat 4pm and 8.30pm 
Tickets: $39 – 99
Bookings: Melbourne Theatre Company

Image by Stephen Henry

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The Production Company Presents CURTAINS

 Marvelous music and joyously good fun

By Bradley Storer

The madcap trials and tribulations of a Broadway-bound musical falling apart at the seams, a classic ‘whodunnit’ murder-mystery, a romantic comedy as well as a tribute to all people with passion for the theatre, all bound together by the final score devised by the legendary team of Kander and Ebb – who could ask for anything more in a show?

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Simon Gleeson in the role of Lt. Frank Cioffi – lead investigator of the aforementioned murder – is a revelation, his leading man charisma channeled into a role that would be the comedic sidekick in any other piece but here is the focal point of this ode to the theatre world and its people. His comedic timing is exceedingly precise and his rendition of the wistful ‘Coffee Shop Nights’ is absolutely mesmerizing, his rich resonant voice peeking through at a few artfully chosen moments.

The rest of the cast work wonderfully as an ensemble but a mixed bag in terms of individual success. Melissa Langton as the brassy producer of the show nails her character’s bitter (and hilarious) one-liners, but her big number ‘It’s a Business’ falls slightly flat despite her magnificent belt. Alex Rathgeber finds the heartfelt sincerity in his caddish composer, and his touching ballad ‘I Miss the Music’ is a highlight of the show – Lucy Maunder is radiant as his estranged lyricist/wife. Alinta Chidzey sang beautifully as the ingénue Niki Harris but tended to vanish in a role that seems bland and underwritten.

Colin Lane was slightly off-kilter at first as the British director of the show within the show, his accent seeming a little wobbly, but found his feet with pithy non-sequiturs punctuated throughout the evening. Nicki Wendt as the woefully untalented diva whose demise launches the plot delivers a performance of such scene-stealing awfulness that it feels slightly disappointing (in the best possible way) to see her for only the first five minutes of the show.

The ensemble had clearly worked hard at creating individuated background characters, devising moments of sneaky comedy for those looking hard enough, and danced brilliantly in all their numbers, with the orchestra under musical director John Foreman giving the glorious Kander and Ebb score the magnificent treatment it deserved at all times.

Balancing an incredibly tricky mixture of narrative tones, The Production Company delivers this Australian professional premiere with panache, this tribute to the ‘theatre people’ of the world as a whole shining with warm-hearted joy.

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

Date: 20th August – 28th August

Times: 7:30pm Wednesday – Saturday, Matinees 1pm Wed/2pm Saturday/3pm Sunday

Prices: $42 – $130

Bookings: www.artscentremelbourne.com.au , 1300 182 183, or at the box office.

REVIEW: FIDDLER ON THE ROOF

L’Chaim!

By Narelle Wood

Directed by Roger Hodgman and original choreography reproduced by Dana Jolly, Melbourne’s new production of Fiddler on the Roof is a powerhouse production to kick off the 2016 theatre season.

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Written in 1960’s the drama-filled musical, heralded as the first of its kind, has stood the test of time as its themes of tradition, family, love and displacement are just as relevant today. Set in a small village, Anatevka, Russia, the milkman Tevye (Anthony Warlow) is struggling to provide a comfortable life for his family. This includes his five strong-willed daughters, who Tevye hopes to marry off to suitable men that will provide some of the comforts he can not afford. With tensions brewing and the world changing around them, Tevye finds the traditions of his people being challenged by more than just his intelligent and independent daughters’ ideas on love.

The cast is full of some of Australia’s best stars of the stage. Warlow is joined by Sigrid Thornton (Golde), Lior (Motel), Nicki Wendt (Yente) and Mark Mitchell (Lazar Wolf); the latter’s transformation is so superb that I didn’t know it was Mitchell until I read the program. Warlow is also almost unrecognizable as Tevye, embodying all the warmth and humour of the character, yet Warlow’s presence is betrayed by his unmistakably rich voice.

While Warlow is clearly the star of the show for both his talent and the iconic role, the rest of the cast are just as masterful. The onstage relationship between Warlow and Thornton is endearing and Wendt’s portrayal of the matchmaker is as every bit hilarious as the character is nosey. There are several other exceptional performances in this production. Teagan Wouters (Tzeitel), Monica Swayne (Hodel) and Jessica Vickers (Chava) are all impressive as Tevye’s eldest daughters revealing exceptionally strong vocals.

There were so many moments where I found myself astonished by the talent on stage: Warlow’s rendition of “If I Were a Rich Man” and the ensemble dancers during “To Life” and “Wedding Dance”, for example. However one of the truly standout aspects of this production was the set design by Richard Roberts. Simple and understated but such a clever design concept that allows for such seemingly easy transitions between houses and into the town square.

To be honest, I would have been happy if the performance finished after Act 1 as Fiddler on the Roof had already exceeded all of my expectations; the fact that Act 2 extended this prodigious experience was a delightful bonus. This production of Fiddler on the Roof has certainly set the performance standard for 2016 and it will be a difficult task for others to match.

Venue: Princess Theatre, Spring St, Melbourne
Season: Until 27th Feb, Tues –Sat 7.30pm, Matinees Wed 1pm, Sat 2pm & Sun 3pm
Tickets: From $79.90
Bookings: http://www.ticketmaster.com.au

Image by Jeff Busby