Tag: Rob Mills

REVIEW: Twisted Broadway 2015

“Broadway in a Brand-New Key”

By Bradley Storer

Oz Showbiz Cares/Equity Fights AIDS brought together a stunning ensemble of Australian music-theatre talents last night for Twisted Broadway, a gender-bending re-interpretation of musical theatre’s greatest hits, to raise money for research and developmental programs for people living with HIV/AIDS. The sense of community and giving was palpable, all the performers and creative team donating their time and energy – even the set for the show was donated by The Production Company‘s current show Nice Work if You Can Get It.

2015 Twisted Broadway Hosts_Photo by Kayzar Bhathawalla

Kate Ceberano, one of the evening’s hosts, began the show as a literal MC – the classic character from Kander and Ebb’s Cabaret, spiritedly singing ‘Wilkommen’ and showing some impressive high kicks as she introduced us to the ‘twisted’ male and female ensembles and the Twisted Broadway orchestra, under the direction of James Simpson. She was followed by the glorious tenors of Blake Bowden and Josh Piterman, both bringing lead man charisma to the Jekyll and Hyde duet ‘In His Eyes’, before fellow host Eddie Perfect joined Ceberano onstage to introduce the evening officially.

The first half of the show was dedicated mainly to ensemble numbers, highlights including a cheeky ‘Gee Officer Krupke’ by the female ensemble of West Side Story, a campy male version of ‘Make Him Mine’ by Ed Grey, Alex Given and Drew Weston, a bevy of showgirls accompanying Melissa Langton as she charmingly crooned ‘All I Care About is Love’, a trio of male Lion King ensemblists bringing Motown realness in ‘Little Shop of Horrors’ all the way to Nathan Pinnell leading the ensemble of Anything Goes in a joyous ‘I’ve Got Rhythm’. A few choice solo performances were dotted throughout, Akina Edmonds‘ soulful take on the Schwartz classic ‘Lost in the Wilderness’ standing out in particular.

After a fantastic ensemble opening of ‘On Broadway’ choreographed by Michael Ralph, the second act brought spectacular solos from a variety of performers. Rob Mills hilariously sent himself up in a re-vamped version of the audition sequence ‘Climbing Uphill’ from The Last Five Years, Tom Sharah stole the show with his ‘Don’t Rain on my Parade’, and Queenie van de Zandt brought the audience to their feet in a roof-raising ‘What Kind of a Fool Am I?’. Perfect debuted a charming song from his unseen musical version of the classic Australian film Muriel’s Wedding with help from Casey Bennetto, and the male ensemble delivered a testosterone-charged ‘Be Italian’ led by Mike Snell before Josie Lane closed the evening with a thunderous ‘Goodbye’.

Producers Michael Benge and Kate MacDonald informed the audience at the end of the show that over $50,000 had been raised for Oz Show Business Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, making a perfect end to this marvellous night of music theatre all done in the name of a good cause.

Venue: State Theatre, Arts Centre, 100 St Kilda, Melbourne.
Date: 17th August, 2015
Time: 8pm

http://www.twistedbroadway.com.au/

Image by Kayzar Bhathawalla
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REVIEW: Melbourne Cabaret Festival Opening Gala 2015

Glorious beginnings for another promising festival

By Bradley Storer

This year’s Melbourne Cabaret Festival Opening Gala, keeping with the festival theme of ‘Keeping it Fresh’, took place at St Kilda’s new Alex Theatre, with excerpts from fresh new festival acts from all over Australia.

Melbourne Cabaret Festival

Dolly Diamond provided a lovely opening to the show, passing through the audience offering roses while singing a charming medley of tunes from ‘Oliver!’, accompanied by Cameron Thomas, and introduced our host for the evening – musical theatre performer and former Australian Idol finalist Rob Mills. Mills, admitting it to be his first gig as an MC, was a charming and competent host throughout the evening, even having to strike the stage and bring out props with enthusiasm and energy.

Annie Lee shed her usual garb as the eldest of the acclaimed Kransky Sisters to deliver both a touch of glamour and gawky physical comedy to the little-known poetry of the Weimar era in excerpts from her show ‘Lighthouse Berlin’. The Strange Bedfellows, Jacqui Dark and Kanen Breen, stormed the stage to deliver contemporary Weimar-style cabaret with jaw-dropping vocal power and charisma, traversing such territory as a German-language version of ‘Tainted Love’, a new number based around the misdeeds of Rolf Harris all the way to Amanda Palmer’s gutsy anthem for humanity ‘Sing’.

Winner of the Your Theatrics International Cabaret Competition, Noni McCallum, took to the stage next and proved beyond doubt the reason for her win – a ballsy belt with a dry, self-deprecating wit, McCullum narrated the humours of dating past age 30 before ending with the simultaneously hilariously and surprisingly touching ‘Ikea Song’. A capella groups Ginger and Tonic and Suade showcased their trademark exquisite harmonies combined with witty and risqué songwriting, providing viewpoints on the modern dating scene from both feminine and masculine perspectives. Closing the night were the Queens of the City, a drag group whose members entertained the audience with sassy banter, Cher-impersonation and stunning contemporary pop vocals.

The wide variety on show at the Gala aptly displays the variety and breadth of talent, both local and international, that Melbourne Cabaret Festival draws year after year and which bodes well for the festival’s future in years to come.

Date: June 18th, 2015
Venue: The Alex Theatre, 1/135 Fitzroy St, St Kilda

REVIEW: Melbourne Return Season of GREASE

It’s still got groove!

By Jessica Cornish

Grease is the word, haven’t you heard? Following a 2013 sell-out season at Her Majesty’s Theatre, the hand-jiving musical is back by popular demand, this time playing at the beautiful Regent Theatre. Bert Newton opened the show as Vince Fontaine with some audience banter which confused my theatre companion, but he was followed by a punchy overture musically directed by Peter Casey and played out by the band of men clad in silk pink shirts. From the moment the music kicks in you can’t help but get excited and dance around, possibly a little too much in your seat.

GREASE_Photo_by_JEFF_BUSBY

This production of Grease directed by David Gilmore was one of the most enjoyable and high-energy musicals I have seen in a long time. Rob Mills and the relatively unknown Gretel Scarlett have returned to the stage as the Rydell High heart-throbs Danny and Sandy. They were pitch perfect throughout the entire night, and slipped into the teen roles perfectly.  The show was sleek and well-polished, and the cast really nailed their parts (however if I’m going to nitpick, it probably wouldn’t hurt the ensemble to brush up on their American accents.)  I did feel the only performers who really had to work that little harder to hit those highs were the famous Aussie icons themselves, including John Paul Young, Todd McKenney and Newton himself. But don’t get me wrong: the audience was overjoyed to see these guys do their thing – they could have spoken their songs, and the opening night crowd would still have been thrilled.

The lighting was crisp, bright and replete with red LED strips and Elvis images that framed the show all evening. Fluro-pink love hearts flew in and out, adding to the 1950’s feel of the show as designed by Terry Parsons, and accompanied by the occasional pings of colour from the hanging mirror balls. The show seamlessly transitioned through all the scenes, and had a really quick pace across the evening. The famous hit songs such as “Greased Lightning” and “Summer Loving”, staged and choreographed by Arlene Phillips, were satisfyingly well-done, and I literally had to stop myself from singing along.

It was a thoroughly enjoyable night’s entertainment, and no matter how many times you may have seen the movie, I promise you won’t be disappointed seeing this musical live on stage.

Grease is playing at The Regent Theatre until January 25, 2015. Tickets start from $60.

http://greaseistheword.com.au/tickets/

REVIEW: Gordon Frost’s GREASE THE MUSICAL

New production of the rom-com musical classic hits Melbourne

By Bradley Storer

After an impromptu greeting by the ensemble cast of Gordon Frost’s Grease led by Principal Lynch (Val Lehman) welcoming us to the halls of Rydell High School, the lights go down and a brief love duet between romantic leads Sandy (Gretel Scarlett) and Danny (Rob Mills) leads into the electrifying opening ‘Grease is the Word’.

Grease-the-musical

The cast emerges from the smoke, each character instantly distinguishable in the tight and precise ensemble, and all is right with the world. ‘Grease is the Word’ is exciting, characterful and taps immediately into the hot-blooded vivacity of 50’s youth culture.

What is so disappointing is that very little that follows matches the opening number. The classic score is still fantastic, under the musical direction of Stephen Amos, but the energy in both the musical numbers and scenes never reaches the level it should be at. (Act I song ‘These Magic Changes’ led by Chris Durling as Doody comes the closest to achieving the strength of the first number).

Scarlett and Mills are perfectly believable as the lead couple. Mills uses his cheeky charm to good effect as bad boy Danny, and Scarlet gives off an aura of sunny innocence as Sandy, and shows off a surprising range in her number ‘Hopelessly Devoted to You’. Danny’s gang, the T-Birds, tend to blur together with their similar hair colours and identical outfits, although Duane McGregor as Roger does get to display some impressive vocals in his duet ‘Mooning’ with Jan (Laura Murphy). Stephen Mahy as Kenickie is oddly restrained to the point of being underpowered, displaying the rock stylings necessary for the biggest number in the show ‘Greased Lightning’ but none of the rock star sexual charisma.

The female characters as a whole fare better. Lucy Maunder as Rizzo is the highlight of the entire show, grabbing attention as soon as she struts out in her dark sunglasses and by the end delivers a commanding performance of ‘There Are Worse Things I Could Do’. The first-rate ensemble are to be commended for performing with complete energy and commitment in everything they appear in, with special mention to ensemble member Euan Doidge for the onstage acrobatics he pulls off at various points in the show.

Melbourne season: 5th January – 16th March, 2014.

Venue: Her Majesty’s Theatre, 219 Exhibition St, Melbourne

Tickets: Online at http://premier.ticketek.com.au/shows/show.aspx?sh=GREASE14

REVIEW: Legally Blonde – The Musical

Omigod, you guys – Lucy Durack is the new pink!

By Kim Edwards

Appropriately playing at The Princess Theatre (that has enjoyed a facelift in pink lighting for the occasion), Legally Blonde – The Musical has opened in Melbourne. Based on the 2001 Reese Witherspoon romantic comedy, Elle Woods, a beautiful blonde sorority girl from Malibu, is dumped by her boyfriend and decides following him into Harvard law is the only solution for winning him back. It’s fluffy, frivolous, decidedly fuchsia – and wonderfully good fun.

LEGALLY BLONDE key image (c) Brian Geach

Lucy Durack as Elle is simply effervescent: that beautiful lucid voice and irrepressible vivaciousness on stage is coupled with astute comic timing and delicate character nuances. The effect? Irresistible! Rob Mills does a sound job as Elle’s smarmy ex, Warner, and his song ‘Serious’ is a musical highlight. Cameron Daddo is svelte and smooth as predatory Professor Callahan, while Helen Dallimore comes into her own by the second act when she lets loose as Elle’s new best friend Paulette, and Mike Snell is uproariously funny in his cameo as sexy delivery man Kyle. However, it is David Harris who wins the most hearts as scruffy love interest Emmett Forrest: his disarming naturalism forms an appealing contrast to the high theatricality of the rest of the cast.

For this is definite musical comedy, from the cheer-leading dance moves and cute Barbie doll sets to the scene-stealing antics of Bruiser the purse puppy and Rufus the bulldog. Most of the changes made to get the movie onto the stage are admirable, with new topical jokes and witty lyrics: the opening number ‘Omigod You Guys’ and the cheeky ‘Is He Gay or European?’ are both hilarious and endearing. Less successful is the rather awful title song, the problematic implications of the infamous ‘bend and snap’ technique, and the rather silly plot developments in Act Two, whereby we are left wondering what Elle has actually accomplished for her career and her gender if the legal system and ‘real world’ outside of Delta Nu proves to be as ridiculous and sexist as sorority life.

However, these minor quibbles ultimately do not detract from the merits of this particular Australian production. Legally Blonde – The Musical is pretty in pink, joyously energising, and sparklingly funny. The costumes aren’t always as visually exciting as one might hope, but there is plenty of colour and spectacle, elegant and fluid scene changes, excellent character work from the rest of the cast – and Lucy Durack. Come prepared to fall a little bit in love with this show – and a lot in love with its leading lady.

Legally Blonde is now playing at The Princess Theatre in Melbourne. Tickets are available online through Ticketmaster or ph: 1300 111 011.