Tag: Nicole Melloy

REVIEW: Melbourne Premiere of SEXERCISE THE MUSICAL

Working out the kinks

By Myron My

Who ever said that sex and exercise have to be mutually exclusive? This is definitely not the case with the new musical comedy directed by Sara Grenfell and presented by Aleksandar Vass and Malcolm C. Cooke, Sexercise, where we follow a married couple’s journey to rediscovering the fun and sexy times in their relationship.

Sexercise the Musical

The strength and success of Sexercise lies very much with its talented group of actors. Despite two solid hours of acting, singing and dancing, the small cast all manage to keep their energy levels up and the further we progress with the story the more this dynamism is visible. Clearly there is much fun to be had on stage, with the audience and with each other.

Nicole Melloy and Lyall Brooks are both extremely likeable as married couple Sam and Joe. They could easily have been pigeonholed as the annoying nagging wife and the insensitive, ignorant husband but they are able to expose a vulnerability to their characters that is natural and subtle whilst still bringing on the laughs and delivering the jokes.

The rest of the cast consisting of Fem Belling, Cameron MacDonald, Kristin Holland and Lulu McClatchy display their ability to support the protagonists but also command the stage when required. It almost reached the point where I wanted to learn more about these people than Sam and Joe: what exactly is going on in Andy’s marriage and who is this woman that has broken Tania’s heart? Writer Derek Rowe does well to feed the audience just enough information that we eagerly await the return to the stage of these characters.

While there may be some funny and touching moments in Sexercise, there are scenes that are too long and seem to drag to their conclusion and others that apparently don’t even need to be included. At a running time of over two hours, I felt some editing is required to allow the story to stay snappy and constantly moving forward at a pace that allows our attention to not falter.

While the musical numbers, also by Rowe, are on the whole enjoyable, there are some that seemed unnatural and awkward but due to the talent of the performers, were still fun to watch. Sexercise’s musical highlights )directed by Trevor Jones and choreographed by Dana Jolly) included ‘Mates For Life’, ‘Are We Done Yet’ and ‘36 not 23’ but by far my favourite song of the evening would be MacDonald and McClatchy singing ‘It Might Be Different This Time’, a wonderful number which could have been the signature song for every characters’ journey in this production.

Sexercise is more than just a story of 30-somethings wanting to have sex. It is cheeky, it is fun and it is naughty but it’s also about a group of individuals trying to connect with someone else. By cutting down the running time and undertaking some rewriting, this new musical has the potential both to make that theme more meaningful and create greater enjoyment for the audience. Nonetheless, this production of Sexercise is still worth seeing for the stellar effort by the excellent cast.

Venue: Alex Theatre St Kilda, 135 Fitzroy St, St Kilda
Season: Until 15 March | Tues-Sat 8.00pm, Wed 1pm, Sat 2pm, Sun 3pm
Tickets: From $50.87
Bookings:  http://sexercisethemusical.com

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REVIEW: Vic Theatre Company Presents LOVING REPEATING

Sleek, beautiful and musically sumptuous

By Bradley Storer

The emerging group Vic Theatre Company takes their maiden voyage with the rapturous Loving Repeating, a musical based on the life and times of formidable poet and intellectual Gertrude Stein with music by Broadway legend Stephen Flaherty and text derived from the letters and poems of Stein herself.

Loving Repeating (James Terry Photography)

The performance is structured as part lecture, part flashback – we are guided by the elderly Stein (Deidre Rubenstein) reflecting back on the events which shaped her the course of her life and career as an artist, on selections of her poetry and intellectual writings. The titular opening song is a glorious lyrical outpouring based on Stein’s observations of her fellow students at college, the ensemble beautifully led by Caitlin Berry as the youthful Stein with gorgeous choreography from Michael Ralph, setting a high bar for the rest of the show.

The main focus of Loving Repeating is the relationship between Stein and her lover Alice B. Toklas, a relationship which lasted until Stein’s death. The five actors who between them play the two roles at different ages are wonderful. Berry as the young Gertrude displays a fiery disposition and fierce sensuality, with Jennifer Peers showing the softening of this youthful ferocity into a mature, enveloping warmth. Gillian Cosgriff brings an angelic glow and understated passion to the young Alice B. Toklas, expanding into a confident and forthright sexuality in the performance of Nicole Melloy as her middle-aged self. Rubenstein as the elderly Stein wields poetic language with authority and surgical precision, challenging the audience intellectually at the same time she draws us in with a twinkle in her eye and a sense of self-deprecating humor.

Loving Repeating feels less like a traditional musical theatre show than a staged song cycle or a sung-through chamber opera. Langley brings some creative staging to the show aided immensely by the brilliant choreography of Ralph, encompassing lyrical abstract movement, tango and vaudevillian flair. The ensemble as a whole are ideal in the seamless whole they created in their numbers, and as they almost never leave the stage their stamina in this 90-minute show be commended.

The problem is that Stein’s writings do not necessarily add up to a cohesive narrative – it is at points easy to become lost in Stein’s circular and repetitive language which, although making an impact on the page, can be impenetrable for an audience member with no knowledge of Stein’s history. The show is set up as series of vignettes but it is hard to find an underlying meaning or connection in the text as they transition from one section to the next.

Overall though, this is an impressive debut performance from Vic Theatre Company, with a sense of quality and artistry to match even professional shows on far bigger stages – there are moments of such shocking and surprising beauty to be found in Loving Repeating that they alone are worth the price of admission.

Dates: 21 January – 8 February

Venue: Chapel off Chapel, 12 Little Chapel St.

Times: Tuesday to Saturday, 8.00pm; Saturday 3pm & 8pm; Sunday 8pm (1 Feb) and 3pm (8 Feb)

Tickets:  $49.00 full, $43.00 concession (+ transaction fee), SPECIAL PRICE for Tuesday 3 February – all tickets $40 (+ transaction fee)

Booking: www.chapeloffchapel.com.au, Phone: 03 8290 7000, Email: chapel@stonnington.vic.gov.au

Image by James Terry

REVIEW: Theresa Rebeck’s SPIKE HEELS

Walking in someone else’s stilettos

By Myron My

Written by Theresa Rebeck (creator of TV series Smash) Spike Heels revolves around four people, and the intricate relationships they have with each other. Some are intimate, some are platonic and some are just beginning but – to an extent – they are all based on manipulation, power and lies.

 In this production presented by Q44 Theatre Company & Crazy Chair Productions, Nicole Melloy does a flawless job as foul-mouthed Bronx-born Georgie. With the risk of coming across as a frustratingly annoying and unappealing person, Melloy adds hints of fragility and vulnerability to everything she says and does, and ends up creating a character that we can empathise with and like. Anthony Scundi, as Georgie’s best friend Andrew, is also well cast as as the neat, nerdy academic who cannot swear properly.

Spike Heels

Georgie and Andrew’s lives are made more complicated by Georgie’s smarmy boss Edward (Michael Robins), and Andrew’s fiancé Lydia (Lelda Kapsis) and even though she has limited stage time, Kapsis creates some genuine touching moments between Lydia and Georgie.

Rebeck’s dialogue is full of fierce one-liners and a good balance of incredibly hilarious moments and incredibly dramatic moments, but it’s her consideration of power and how we all possess and use different forms of it against each other that is especially interesting to see play out on stage and watch how it affects each character.

Despite the brilliant writing, I did take issue with some of the plot points: in particular, the development of the relationship between Georgie and Edward. Without giving too much away, there are two moments that occur that made it difficult for me to accept the outcome of their relationship. It is because of this narrative problem that I feel the character of Edward never quite reaches the level of being a “real” person.

From a technical aspect, the set design by Rebecca Fortuna and Mara Kapsis is perfectly imagined and executed. Apart from having Andrew and Georgie’s personalities reflected in their respective apartments, they each have a large backdrop that the audience’s eye is constantly drawn to, that further builds on that character’s thought and ideals. In the case of Andrew, it’s an image of Nietzsche with the quote ‘sometimes people don’t want to hear the truth because they don’t want their illusions destroyed’, which is an idea resonating throughout Spike Heels.

Spike Heels is a highly enjoyable and intimate look into the complex world of relationships and ultimately the necessity of being true to oneself first and foremost. And tea.

Venue: Chapel Off Chapel, 12 Little Chapel St, Prahran
Season: Until 14 Sep | Tues-Sat 8:00pm, Sun 6:00pm, Sat Matinee (13 Sep) 2pm, Wed Matinee (3 Sep) 1:00pm
Tickets: $37.50 Full | $32.50 Conc
Bookings: www.chapeloffchapel.com.au or 8290 7000

REVIEW: The Production Company’s SHOWBOAT

Difficult classic musical beautifully re-staged for modern audiences

By Narelle Wood

Off the back of Guys and Dolls, The Production Company have put together another brilliant production, this time bringing to the stage Show Boat, directed by Roger Hodgman.

Mostly set in the Deep South during the late 1800’s, the story follows the characters of the Show Boat over the best part of 30 years. The show mostly centres on the cautionary love story of Captain Andy’s daughter Magnolia (Alinta Chidzey) and the no-good-river-gambler Gaylord Ravenol (Gareth Keegan).

Showboat - Alinta Chidzey and Gareth Keegan

But the show is about more than just the clichéd moral tale for good girls who meet bad boys and fall in love at first sight. The setting also allows for exploration of race relationships, the changing nature of entertainment (especially with the advent of new technology) and, perhaps most poignantly, the idea that no matter how much things might change, things also stay very much the same.

Chidzey and Keegan were tremendous in their roles as Magnolia and Gaylord, although Chidzey’s wig did seem a little too blonde for her darker features. Philip Gould was charming as Captain Andy, who, along with Ellie May (Nicole Melloy) and Frank (Glenn Hill) brings much needed light-heartedness to temper the darker side of the show. Judith Roberts provided some straight-laced humour as Parthy, and the exceptionally strong cast is rounded off with Christina O’Neill as Julie, Heru Pinkasova as Queenie and Eddie Muliaumaseali’i as Joe. While the performances of all the cast members including the ensemble were brilliant, Muliaumaseali’i’s performance of Ol’ Man River gave me chills, and it can only be described as sublime.

My expectations of any show from The Production Company is extremely high and I never walk away disappointed. Once again the costuming was great, from the 1800’s dresses complete with bustles to the asymmetrical raised hemlines of the 1920’s. Hodgman cleverly addressed the need to have a boat on stage through some stunning use of digital imagery. And given that I overheard a number of people singing on the way out of the theatre, I’d say that the orchestra did a pretty good job too.

If you didn’t see Guys and Dolls then Show Boat is an absolute must; the production value is priceless, the performances flawless, and, once again, Muliaumaseali’i’s rendition of “Ol’ Man River” is something not to be missed.

Venue: State Theatre, Arts Centre, Melbourne
Season: 21st to 23rd July 7.30pm, 20th August 1pm, 23rd August 2pm and 24th August 3pm.
Tickets: Full $48-$119 | Conc $24-$105
Bookings: http://artscentremelbourne.com.au/whats-on