Tag: Rhonda Burchmore

REVIEW: The Production Company’s LA CAGE AUX FOLLES

A little more mascara

By Ross Larkin

La Cage Au Folles began as a play in the 70’s by Jean Poiret until it was later remodelled into a musical by Jerry Herman. In 1996, Hollywood created the well-known film version, renaming it The Birdcage. Melbourne’s The Production Company last night opened their version of the musical at The Arts Centre, with Todd McKenney and Simon Burke as gay lovers Albin and Georges and a familiar supporting cast including Rhonda Burchmore, Gary Sweet and Marg Downey.

La Cage Au Folles - Todd McKenney and Les Cagelles

When Georges’ son Jean-Michel (Robert Tripolino) announces his engagement to Anne (Emily Milledge), matters accelerate to hysterical at the prospect of his fiance’s highly conservative and political parents (Sweet and Downey) coming over to meet Jean-Michel’s family.

Decidedly flamboyant transvestite Albin is deemed by Jean-Michel too risky and controversial to meet Anne’s parents and is advised to make himself scarce for the evening. When Jean-Michel’s birth mother fails to show, Albin steps in in all his convincing drag glory under the pretence of being mother himself, and hilarity ensues.

As with any famous and celebrated show, there are unavoidable audience expectations. In the case of La Cage Au Folles, it is safe to assume that giant laughs, flashy songs, spectacular dancing and tremendous energy are all somewhat anticipated.

Regretfully, The Production Company only gently hit the mark, waxing and waning in pace and stamina. The occasional musical number is quite impressive while too many others are underwhelming and forgettable.

The two leads are undoubtedly well performed, with McKenney in particular delivering much of the needed laughs and glamour, and Aljin Abella as the butler a consistent source of humour and force.

However, director Dean Bryant’s decision to merge La Cage Au Folles into pantomime territory with actors speaking to and interacting with the audience for extended periods (presumably to cover costume changes) was an ill-fated one, breaking from the struggling momentum even further.

Sweet as Anne’s father might have looked the part but was typically miscast, yelling every line with farcical irritation and further contributing to the pantomime domain. Downey and Burchmore were reliably enjoyable but sadly appeared all too briefly.

Essentially, Bryant and The Production Company have found most of the ingredients necessary to make La Cage Au Folles the dazzling spectacle it deserves to be, however, its current state feels underbaked, in need of increased pace, energy, stakes and more bold choreography.

La Cage Au Folles is playing at The Arts Centre Playhouse, Melbourne, until December 7, Wednesday-Sunday at 7.30pm and Tuesday December 2 at 7.30pm, with 2pm matinees each Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday. Bookings 1300 182 183 or visit www.artscentremelbourne.com.au

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REVIEW: Finucane and Smith with GLORY BOX: PARADISE

Glorious performances

By Myron My

The highly revered Finucane & Smith have returned to fortyfivedownstairs with their subversive and seductive show Glory Box: Paradise that brings together a myriad of extremely talented women for a variety of acts, from circus to dance to cabaret performance, in a non-stop evening of evocative entertainment.

Glory Box Paradise Image by Jodie Hutchinson

Under the creative direction of Jackie Smith, Moira Finucane soon shows us why she has been so successful over the years, with sell-out seasons around the world for almost a decade. Her performance of ‘A Sunny Afternoon’ was highly emotional whereby, with no spoken word beyond the lyrics, she made a moving statement about our notions of beauty in society. When paired with U2’s hit ‘With or Without You’, the room was frozen in place with the audience deep in contemplation, having been left to our own devices to determine the underscored meaning.

Having experienced British cabaret star Ursula Martinez four years ago in London I was very excited to be seeing her again and I was not disappointed. Also sometimes referred to as the Red Hanky Lady, Martinez’s ‘Hanky Panky’ is always going to be a crowd favourite. Her collaborations with Guinness World Record hoola hooper Jess Love were highly entertaining and the final reveal of ‘Quick Change Sex Change’ proved that with a show like this, we can always expect the unexpected.

It’s an evening of no lulls or disappointments with strong performances by Holly Durant, Lily Paskas and Yumi Umiumare throughout, as well as a few songs by Yana Alana fresh from her Melbourne Cabaret Festival season. There are also a number of special guests joining these remarkable women throughout the season including Rhonda Burchmore and Paul Capsis.

There is a lot of nudity in Glory Box: Paradise but I found it to be quite liberating and affirming, even as a male, to see all these women being nude, or close to, on stage and not being embarrassed or making a big deal about it. There is a strong underlying message in this show regarding what it means to be a beautiful woman, in that all women are beautiful and should never be ashamed of their bodies – a sentiment you hear often but rarely witness being enacted.

In short, you will laugh, you will be inspired, you will think, and things will get messy – especially if you are sitting in the front few rows – but that’s all part of the fun and celebration of Finucane & Smith’s Glory Box: Paradise.

Venue: fortyfivedownstairs, 45 Flinders Lane, Melbourne

Season: Until 11 August | Thurs 7:00pm, Fri-Sat 7:oopm and 9:30pm, Sun 5:30pm

Tickets: From $25 – $88.88

Bookings: http://www.fortyfivedownstairs.com/events or 9662 9966

REVIEW: Trevor Ashley is LITTLE ORPHAN TRASHLEY

 Leave the kids at home…

By Bradley Storer

This year Trevor Ashley brings his naughty and controversial adults-only pantomime Little Orphan Trashley to town as part of the Melbourne Cabaret Festival. The show, an unofficial rip off of the musical Annie, is the sort of light-hearted family show that you would never bring your kids to.

Rhonda Burchmore as Miss Trannigan, the alcoholic and lascivious matron of the orphanage, effortlessly steals every scene she appears in, boozing, crooning and flashing her fabulous legs to great campy effect. Her songs are overall the best in the show, and an act two duet with Ashley is quite probably the best one of the night. Rhys Bobridge in the role of little Fannie’s pet dog (whose name is unprintable here) combines sex appeal – wait until you see his outfit! – with a cuddliness and comic timing that make his every moment onstage gleefully naughty. His first entrance had the audience in hysterics for what seemed like a full minute!

Little Orphan Trashley

Gary Sweet gets big laughs as a pajama-clad Prologue introducing us to the story, but as Daddy Warhorse a lot of his lines fall flat. He lacks the singing ability to bring off his musical number in Act One but does a better job in selling a delightfully dirty number in Act Two.

The problem is that the writing and the story are simply not engaging enough to hold the audience’s interest for the length of the show. The best parts (usually involving Burchmore or Bobridge) usually have absolutely nothing to do with the plot, so when Ashley and Sweet step forward to get the story moving again it feels like the laughs cease – in particular, an attempt to integrate recent controversy about child pornography in art into the story comes across as quite creepy (and not in the good way!). The jokes came hard and fast throughout, and there are many up-to-date references (including to Rudd’s recent disposal of Julia Gillard) which is a credit to the creative team in their efforts to keep the script fresh and relevant. However, even with this the success rate is still only fifty-fifty for the entire night, with a few precise zingers as exceptions, despite the commitment of the cast to the material.

Ashley himself does not shine with the glowing stage presence of a star, but seems like a low-key supporting character in the plot – which is hard to understand given he has more stage time, dialogue and songs than anyone in the cast. There was no moment in the show where I felt Ashley was given a chance to show off his full power and range as singer or performer, which was disappointing as in previous works he has been fantastic!

Venue: The Comedy Theatre, 240 Exhibition Street, Melbourne

Date: Thurs 4 to Sun 7 July then continuing on after the Festival until Sunday 14 July

Price: A Reserve $75, B Reserve $60

Time: Tue 7:00pm, Wed – Fri 8:00pm, Sat 6.30pm & 9.30pm, Sun 5:00pm

Bookings: www.ticketmaster.com.au , (03) 9299 9800, at the venue

Review: Opening Night Gala for MELBOURNE CABARET FESTIVAL

A glorious beginning to this year’s star-studded and spangled festival

By Kate Boston Smith

Opening Night Gala

A festival first born in the garden of delights that was The Butterfly Club’s original address has blossomed out of its next gothic home in the South Melbourne Town Hall to now stretch its sequin canopy over the length and breadth of our music-loving city.

It was a fantastic and bold move by directors Neville Sice and David Read to open this year’s heavenly event at the auspicious and grand old dame of live performance art, The Palais Theatre on St Kilda’s Esplanade.   Lush red curtains and a smattering of sparkling stars pulled cabaret performers close to the practically sold-out audience for an intimate taste of this beloved art form.

Fem Belling, jazz vocalist and leading lady (performing her own show Blossom Dearie at Chapel off Chapel) hosted the Gala with all the flair, playful wit and costume changes one could hope for.  Clearly a night of stand-out acts from the festival, Trevor Ashley and Rhonda Burchmore took parody and adult-only panto to gin-soaked, pun-tastic new heights, with Burchmore proving she has still most definitely ‘got it’.

Divine Gala moments included Yana Alana’s scantily-clad excerpts from her anticipated return in Blue Show (being performed at 45 Downstairs). Gripping all with her lasso quips and razor-sharp lyrics Yana Alana brings a certain cheek to the stage others could only dream of.  New York cabaret icon Joey Arias took us from the cheeky to the sensual with his beautiful channeling of Billie Holiday. His velveteen tones should not be missed in Arias on Holiday at Chapel Off Chapel.

Absolute crowd favorite was the impeccable Mary Wilson, original chanteuse of The Supremes.  Draped in a red gown, diamonds and white mink stole, Ms Wilson was every bit the dream diva.  Performing excerpts from Stormy Weather: The Lena Horne Project, she captivated the entire room with her grace and beauty.

This Gala Opening Night was the perfect initiation into the superb world of cabaret.  All the acts were tremendously chosen, with performers such as Tara Minton, David Pomeranz and Adam Guettel who tantalized all not only with their voices, but literally with the sharing of secrets from their personal lives and work practices.

It is this transformative journey from cabaret room into the mind, body and artist imagination that fuels the fire of cabaret-loving audiences.  This is an ideal time of year to make your way into an intimate performance space to have your soul sparked by some of the best in the business.

The Opening Night Gala took place on Wednesday June 26, 2013. There are over 150 performers and performances running NOW for the Melbourne Cabaret Festival 2013 until 7 July. Check www.melbournecabaret.com for full listings.

Starry Nights: ADELAIDE CABARET FESTIVAL June 2011

The countdown is over as internationally-acclaimed cabaret blasts off in Adelaide!

Adelaide Cabaret Festival opens this week, as their fabulous iconic Amazonian queen of cabaret stands surrounded by stars and toasting the conquering of new worlds and the triumph of cabaret reaching universal audiences.

Although Adelaide Cabaret Festival has continued to make a place for itself at an international level, and to attract an exciting calibre of overseas artists, it is Australia’s own Olivia Newton-John is the headliner for this year’s program.

Another towering superwoman in the entertainment industry, Newton-John is offering a musical retrospective of her fabulous career, accompanied by the Adelaide Arts Orchestra.

Cabaret and music theatre fans will be perhaps even more thrilled to hear New York-cabaret king Michael Feinstein will be closing this year’s festival with the Australian premiere of the show created from his famous Sinatra project.

In addition, the legendary Chita Rivera will be here on our shores to share some glorious music and moments from her illustrious life on Broadway.

But perhaps the most exciting performances to watch out for are our own upcoming and established local talent.  

Rhonda Burchmore, Simon Burke and Rachel Beck for example, are providing some entertaining showcases in music theatre and jazz.

But for the most innovative, edgy and enticing examples of what Australia is so uniquely exploring with the cabaret genre, don’t miss checking out the devasting talent of Paul Capsis, the sumptuous voice of Ali McGregor, and the sophisticated work of Robyn Archer for starters.

Adelaide Cabaret Festival runs from June 10-25 2011, and you can read about the stars, and book for all these shows and more on their website.