Tag: Riley Nottingham

Vic Theatre Company Presents THE 25TH ANNUAL PUTNAM COUNTY SPELLING BEE

A superb production of this very funny musical

By Sally McKenzie

The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee sounds, on paper, like a very interesting concept for a musical. However, with an original and at times beautiful score by William Finn, hilarious dialogue (some written by Rachael Sheinkin and some improvised by each new cast), and the inclusion of four audience participants as extra spellers, Spelling Bee is one of the funniest, most creative musicals to come out in the 2000s. This production, performed by Vic Theatre Company, is no exception.

Spelling Bee.jpg

The story centres on a group of six children (played by adults), the man and woman running the bee, and the comfort counsellor, all of who are dramatically affected by one day at the ‘Bee’.

In this production, the sound designed by Marcello Lo Ricco is excellent, with the band well-balanced and never overpowering the singers. Once or twice a solo line was unable to be heard over the ensemble, however; never at a critical point. Lighting by Jason Bovaird was well-designed, with the dialogue happening under stark lights reminiscent of the gymnasium setting, and the lighting during the songs more ‘stagey’, with spots and bright colours, often to great emotional and dramatic effect.

Rebecca Moore as Rona Lisa Perretti is placed and poised with a beautiful ‘legit’ soprano voice that suits the role perfectly, although is perhaps a little young for the role.  David Spencer plays a less exaggerated Panch.  Mahoney (Matt Heyward) was vocally well-suited for the role, although his character came across as perhaps a little too ‘mellow’ and understated.

The Spellers are where the show really shines. It was refreshing to see now well-worn characters played in different ways than the usual. Chip (James Coley) executed his ‘jock’ role perfectly. Olive’s character (Caitlin Mathieson) was played as ‘realistic’ and mature. Although a convincing and heartfelt performance, it left a couple of her usually ‘funny’ lines falling flat.  Sage Douglas as Logaine and Henry Brett as Leaf both managed to find subtleties and levels in characters that are often played ‘over-the-top’. They were both adorable, and Teresa Duddy (Marcy) also executed her role well. Special mention to Riley Nottingham as the Janitor, who managed to be hilarious without a single line of dialogue.

Direction, by Ben Giraud, is clever. He makes innovative use of the space, and it was nice to see the more movable chairs instead of the static bleachers commonly used.

Musical direction, by Trevor Jones, is excellent. It was very fitting to see the talented musicians in the band aptly dressed in school uniform and reacting to the action on stage.  Vocal harmonies were perfectly balanced and executed. Choreography by Bernie Bernard is also extremely creative and unique, matching the moment perfectly.

Costumes, by Zoe Felice, are well-suited and strike just the right balance between outlandish and everyday. Meanwhile the set by William Bobbie Stewart is highly creative, with yellow tarps lining the walls, paper cut-out bees and banners hanging down, and the floor painted as a gymnasium floor.

Overall, Vic Theatre Company’s production of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee is excellent, both side-splittingly funny and heart-wrenchingly beautiful, and well worth checking out whether you’ve never heard of it, or you’re a well-worn veteran, like myself. You won’t be disappointed.

The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee is playing at The Lawler from 30th of March to the 10th of April.  Bookings www.mtc.com.au  | 03 8688 0800

Image by James Terry

Advertisements

REVIEW: Ben Schiffer’s HIS GHOSTLY HEART

Lights out for intimacy and intrigue

By Myron My

Performed at this year’s Melbourne Fringe Festival, His Ghostly Heart is an intimate 30-minute two-hander with a couple lying in bed just after having sex. Written by Ben Schiffer, best-known for his work on TV series Skins, and directed by Richard Edge, its exploration of love and what it means to be loved is designed to be performed entirely in the dark.
His Ghostly HeartUnfortunately, due to the necessity of the exit sign inside the performance space, the venue was not in pitch blackness which was ultimately integral to the show’s overall effect. While you could not see facial expressions, the body outlines and movement were still quite visible. In order to experience this the way I understand it was intended, I did have my eyes closed during the performance.

Riley Nottingham and Bundy Marston are well cast as the young couple in love, and with my eyes shut, I was able to listen to their voices, and their intimate emotional state is quite clear in the delivery of their lines and the pauses and silences between words. We hear the sense of achievement in Tom’s voice when he exclaims that they lasted three songs, while the self-loathing in Daisy’s voice when she announces “I’m disgusting” is easily felt. When Tom is naming all the areas of Daisy’s body that he loves, you can clearly picture his loving and cheeky face as his lips touch those aforementioned parts.

The build-up to the twist ending is cleverly constructed and highly effective, however, towards the end of His Ghostly Heart, the music and sounds being played are so loud that is it hard to hear what is being said. This ultimately makes it difficult to remain invested in the story and keep connected with the characters. Marston also seemed to struggle with the demands of the character in the final third, as the emotion that she has been working with earlier in the piece is not as focused and her lines begin to simply feel shouted.

Despite these closing shortcomings, His Ghostly Heart provides a very unique Fringe experience in its premise and light-starved performance. It remains a touching exploration of facing the realities of life and love and how, sometimes, darkness is much more of a comfort than the harsh light of day.

Venue: Fringe Hub, Upstairs at Errol’s, 69-71 Errol Street, North Melbourne, 3051
Season: Until 3 October | Tues-Sat 10.30pm
Tickets:$20 Full | $16 Conc | Cheap Tuesday
Bookings: Melbourne Fringe Festival

REVIEW: Moreland Theatre Company Presents THE ODD COUPLE

Classic comedy revisited

By Margaret Wieringa

Oscar is a happy-go-lucky divorcee who has his mates over every Friday night to play poker in the squalor of his apartment. When Felix his uptight buddy suddenly becomes single, Oscar saves him from his despair by allowing him to move in. However it is clear that Felix’s obsessive cleanliness and Oscar’s carelessness cannot exist together happily for long.

In this production of Neil Simon’s The Odd Couple, the poker game is underway as the audience comes in, and once the show starts, we meet four likable New Yorkers, wisecracking and ribbing each other (Lloyd Bissell, Travis Handcock, Nick Lawson and Riley Nottingham). It’s the scenes with these guys I liked the most, especially when Oscar and Felix are thrown into the mix. The accents are good and consistent and the characters are held strongly by all throughout. Unfortunately however, at times some of the jokes seemed to have been sacrificed in order to keep the accents accurate. But with a Neil Simon script, if you miss one joke, you only need to wait a moment for another.

The Odd Couple

Brian Edmond does a fine job playing the slobby Oscar, capturing the sarcastic humour and the element of nastiness of the character but still allowing his heart to shine through. His performance is contrasted nicely with the entrance of David Lawson-Smith as Felix, especially with the variety of ailments he suffers in his first fifteen minutes onstage. These two were able to draw the audience in to the lives of the men, but were the most enjoyable when interacting with the larger cast. The delightful English accents of the two extremely fashionable ladies (Andrea Mentlikowski and Teresa Noble) were a breath of fresh air, just when the tension between the two men was getting to be enough.

While there seemed to be something odd with the floor (many of the characters were literally sliding about in a distracting manner), the set was fabulous, especially the wonderful wallpaper and the scruffy crocheted couch cushions that captured the life of a man living amongst things his wife abandoned.

It’s worth braving the wonderful Melbourne winter we’re loving at the moment for an evening of laughter.

When: July 17-19 & 23-26 at 8pm with a 2pm matinee on July 19
Where: Mechanics Institute, 270 Sydney Rd, Brunswick
Tickets: $20 full, $15 concession, groups 8+, $15 on Weds 23.
To book: call 0426 577 346 or www.trybooking.com/FBVE