Tag: Robbie Carmellotti

StageArt Presents SPRING AWAKENING

Ambitious take on audacious musical

By Bradley Storer

Spring Awakening, the rock musical which first revolutionized the modern conception of musical theatre over ten years ago on Broadway, is a strange beast – the text derived from Frank Wedekind’s controversial late-ninteenth-century play, combined with contemporary rock/pop/folk songs composed by Duncan Sheik and Steven Sater that are specifically designed to stand apart from and explore the action of the plot rather than to advance it as in traditional music theatre. Resolving this division between the music and text requires strong direction and a conceptual framework that can bridge these two elements.

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Director Robbie Carmellotti has made big and bold offers with this production, and I thoroughly respect and applaud his efforts in exploring new pathways to interpret a modern classic. However, elements of this production did not fully succeed: the decision to have characters play their own instruments at different points (which all but vanished by the second act) didn’t add anything in particular to the meaning or understanding of the show – the central conceit of nineteenth-century German school children morphing into teen rock stars is already so strong on its own that it doesn’t need this addition. The appearance of handheld microphones as part of this overall metaphor, while an inherent part of this show, becomes overused in this production and feels forced into several unnecessary moments. The decision to have the cast speak their dialogue in German accents and to sing in American accents, which again I appreciate as an attempt to underline the distance between the characters and their inner ‘rock stars’, is unfortunately undermined by a lack of consistent accents across the entire cast. And finally, the re-orchestration of Sheik’s music at certain points deadened the impact of this vital and pulse-raising score, the loss of electric guitar in ‘The Bitch of Living’ turning the number into a country-fied hoedown that lacks the energy and guts of the original.

Brent Trotter is wonderful as Moritz, the anxiety-riddled schoolboy who befalls a terrible fate, managing the character’s difficult journey with great emotion and a gorgeous contemporary voice. As Wendla, Jessie-Lou Yates works hard and tirelessly throughout, but feels slightly miscast in reading as too old to be a young girl undergoing puberty. Ashley Roussety as Melchoir, the closest the show has to a central character, has the opposite problem – he looks perfectly cast as the charismatic and fiercely intelligent protagonist and delivers a credible performance in the first act, and is particularly impressive in Zoee Marsh’s choreography for ‘The Mirror-Blue Night’. However, in the second act he begins to feel a little lost in the role as the story races to climax, losing the emotional impact of the tragic but hopeful conclusion.

The supporting cast, in contrast, are uniformly excellent. Henry Brett steals the entire show as the effete Hanschen, drawing raucous laughter in his two big scenes. Luisa Scrofani impressively shreds the bass guitar as she emotionally tears into the bleakness of ‘The Dark I Know Well’. Grace Browne shines as Thea, and Alice Batt plays both violin and the role of Anna beautifully. Olivia Solomons manages to effectively differentiate every one of her multitude of female adult characters, but sadly Barry Mitchell as her opposite is less successful as parts blur together with similar vocal tone and physicality. The entire ensemble offer up heart-touching loveliness in the complex choreography and choral harmonies of ‘Touch Me’, one of the production’s stronger moments, and showcasing some stunning riffing from Jordan Mahar as Georg.

While this production may have its problems, StageArt should be commended for their commitment to offering contemporary and challenging musicals, and the entire creative team and cast congratulated for attempting a new approach to this much-loved and ground-breaking piece.

Dates: 19 May -10 June

Venue: Chapel off Chapel, 12 Little Chapel St, Prahran.

Times: Wed – Sun 7:30pm, Matinee Sat & Sun 1.30pm, Sun 21st May 4pm

Prices: $49 – $79

Bookings: chapeloffchapel.com.au, (03) 8290 7000, at the venue box office.

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REVIEW: StageArt Presents SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER

Step back in time!

By Deborah Langley

The date is 1976 and Brooklyn heart-throb Tony Manero is a young man with an extraordinary ability to dance. Stuck in a dead-end job he has only one ambition in life – to become the disco king.

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StageArt’s West End revival production of Saturday Night Fever transports us to the heart of the disco era designed to make you want to jump out of your seat and start dancing!

Starring Mike Snell (Strictly Ballroom, Wicked, Legally Blonde, The Boy From Oz), Sheridan Anderson (West Side Story, Pippin, Our House) and Elise Brennan (Jersey Boys, Guys and Dolls) this production brings to the stage everything you loved about the movie, the music and the decade.

But, as director Robbie Carmellotti says, ‘It is easy to think of Saturday Night Fever as a fun night out with great Bee Gees hits’ – not this production, however. After a bubble-gum style Act 1 which has you moving and grooving, Act 2 reminds you that the 1970’s wasn’t just about great songs and fashion.This show also poignantly explores dark topics such as rape, suicide and racism with a punch that leaves you mesmerized.

Thus Bobby’s (Dean Schulz) version of “Tragedy” allowed me to really hear the words for the first time and be completed engrossed in the heartache which can strike any of us.

Other standout moments included Annette’s (Brennan) heartbreaking rendition of “If I Can’t Have You, I Don’t Want Nobody, Baby”, an amazing dance-off with stunning acrobatics during “You Should Be Dancing” and an exceptional STOMP-type version of “Boggy Shoes”.

The famous music really is the star of this show, musically directed by Tony Toppi, with outstanding choreography by Luke Alleva and a strong ensemble: in particular Alexia Brinsley, Cassie Miller, and Paul Watson (Once, Jersey Boys, Fiddler On The Roof) whose performance as DJ Monty was spot-on and his guitar-playing amazing. Ten more of the cast members brought music to the stage playing live instruments, but unfortunately on the night attended, many of these performances fell flat with poor sound quality – a huge distraction which undermined several numbers.

Nevertheless, this otherwise spectacular new production is a must-see for any fans of the film, the music or the era!

Saturday Night Fever, 11-28 February 2016 at Chapel Off Chapel, 12 Little Chapel Street, Prahran.

Times: Tuesday – Sunday, 7.30pm; Saturday & Sunday, 1.30pm matinee

Bookings:  8290 7000.  www.chapeloffchapel.com.au

Image by Belinda Strodder photography

REVIEW: Four Letter Word Theatre Presents THE WILD PARTY

Let the fun begin

By Bradley Storer

Upon entering the Main Stage area at Revolt, the audience is immediately immersed in the dingy but seductive Prohibition-era charms of the ‘speak easy’, with tables set up close to the stage and lit eerily by candles. The dark cavernous space of Revolt seems an oddly fitting place for this 1920’s tale of a party thrown by a pair of vaudeville performers on their last legs – a potent cocktail of sin, depravity and eventual tragedy.

Rosa McCarty is a knockout as Queenie the party’s hostess, a blonde bombshell past her prime, throwing herself into the fading performer’s depths of hedonism and disillusionment with abandon and a fierce belt.

The Wild Party

James Cutler is continually compelling as the brutish Burrs, her abusive and bullying husband, bringing ferocious energy and sinister glee to the role that makes him exciting to watch. Their volatile and destructive relationship, although disturbing, is vividly invoked by the two performers.

The musical unfortunately has trouble finding its feet in the first act. Despite a cavalcade of strange and curious characters that pour onstage at the beginning of the show, including a charming polysexual predator (Ed Deganos), a lesbian stripper and her borderline comatose lover (Samantha Hammersley and Renee Pope-Munro) and a creepily close pair of male twins (Samuel Dariol and James Worsnop), there is a lack of energy onstage which makes the ‘party’ atmosphere hard to maintain. Maree Barnett as the cunning diva looking for a comeback emits smouldering ambition, while wielding a pair of surprisingly flexible legs like a weapon. The arrival of Kate, a vaudevillian star and Queenie’s best friend/enemy (played with commanding confidence by Alana Kiely), and her lover Black (Christian Cavallo) raises the spirits of the ensemble considerably, culminating in an Act Two ode to gin that explodes with an dynamic vitality that has been missing so far.

A daring move is the inclusion of a secondary ensemble, a collection of malevolent Satanic spirits who seemingly manipulate and corrupt the characters unseen by anyone whilst wandering offstage and through the audience – a very original idea, which has mixed results throughout the evening. While feeling like an unnecessary addition in the first act, director Robbie Carmellotti finds some electrifying tableaus in the second act that utilize them to a better degree.

An evening of daring and boundary-pushing theatre that, while sometimes not entirely succeeding, is nevertheless admirable for the depth of its invention and ambition.

VENUE: Revolt Melbourne, 12 Elizabeth St, Kensington

DATES: 31st July – 3rd August

TIME: Tue to Sat 7:30pm, Sun 3pm

TICKETS: A Reserve $60/Concession $40, B Reserve $45/ Concession $30, C Reserve $25, Table of 8 $900

BOOKINGS: www.fourletterwordtheatre.com, www.revoltproductions.com,  boxoffice@revoltproductions.com , at the door.