Tag: Simon Gleeson

The Production Company Presents CURTAINS

 Marvelous music and joyously good fun

By Bradley Storer

The madcap trials and tribulations of a Broadway-bound musical falling apart at the seams, a classic ‘whodunnit’ murder-mystery, a romantic comedy as well as a tribute to all people with passion for the theatre, all bound together by the final score devised by the legendary team of Kander and Ebb – who could ask for anything more in a show?

Curtains

Simon Gleeson in the role of Lt. Frank Cioffi – lead investigator of the aforementioned murder – is a revelation, his leading man charisma channeled into a role that would be the comedic sidekick in any other piece but here is the focal point of this ode to the theatre world and its people. His comedic timing is exceedingly precise and his rendition of the wistful ‘Coffee Shop Nights’ is absolutely mesmerizing, his rich resonant voice peeking through at a few artfully chosen moments.

The rest of the cast work wonderfully as an ensemble but a mixed bag in terms of individual success. Melissa Langton as the brassy producer of the show nails her character’s bitter (and hilarious) one-liners, but her big number ‘It’s a Business’ falls slightly flat despite her magnificent belt. Alex Rathgeber finds the heartfelt sincerity in his caddish composer, and his touching ballad ‘I Miss the Music’ is a highlight of the show – Lucy Maunder is radiant as his estranged lyricist/wife. Alinta Chidzey sang beautifully as the ingénue Niki Harris but tended to vanish in a role that seems bland and underwritten.

Colin Lane was slightly off-kilter at first as the British director of the show within the show, his accent seeming a little wobbly, but found his feet with pithy non-sequiturs punctuated throughout the evening. Nicki Wendt as the woefully untalented diva whose demise launches the plot delivers a performance of such scene-stealing awfulness that it feels slightly disappointing (in the best possible way) to see her for only the first five minutes of the show.

The ensemble had clearly worked hard at creating individuated background characters, devising moments of sneaky comedy for those looking hard enough, and danced brilliantly in all their numbers, with the orchestra under musical director John Foreman giving the glorious Kander and Ebb score the magnificent treatment it deserved at all times.

Balancing an incredibly tricky mixture of narrative tones, The Production Company delivers this Australian professional premiere with panache, this tribute to the ‘theatre people’ of the world as a whole shining with warm-hearted joy.

Venue: The State Theatre, The Arts Centre, 100 St Kilda Rd, Melbourne.

Date: 20th August – 28th August

Times: 7:30pm Wednesday – Saturday, Matinees 1pm Wed/2pm Saturday/3pm Sunday

Prices: $42 – $130

Bookings: www.artscentremelbourne.com.au , 1300 182 183, or at the box office.

REVIEW: Melbourne Premiere of LOVE NEVER DIES

Are we entering an era of music theatre sequels?

By Kim Edwards

Back when synthesisers were cool, pyrotechnics and special effects were reserved for rock concerts, and theatre was elite and intimate, a new wave of musicals revitalised and reinvented a genre.  

Interestingly they were more in keeping with nineteenth-century theatre and the operatic tradition than the trends of modern drama: they were vast, lavish, opulent spectacles sweeping through epic, passionate narratives with rich, full, emotional orchestrations.

And at the forefront of this surging theatrical excitement was the wild success of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s 1986 musical Phantom of the Opera.

Years later, an aging composer who once wrote a masterpiece for his ingenue is struggling to find inspiration again, branch out to enrapture an international audience, and determine what his musical and personal legacy will  be.

Webber biography, right? No: this is the plot for his new Phantom sequel Love Never Dies that opened in Melbourne last night.

Webber calls it his most ‘personal’ work to date, and there is a real sense of wish-fulfilment in this musical: it studiously ignores dates, details and character elements established in its predecessor to indulge a love story, displace the villainy and transplant a theatrical world across an ocean from the Paris Opera house to Coney Island. The show was panned in London, cancelled on Broadway, and has been thoroughly revised by renowned director Simon Phillips for this latest production.

So after all the hype and hullaballoo: what do I think of Melbourne’s production of Love Never Dies?

Visually and from a production perspective, this show is unquestionably stunning. The sets and staging are wonderous, and the new location for the action gives designer Gabriela Tylesova glorious scope for the grotesque, gorgeous, gothic playground she creates. Like Meg’s ‘Bathing Beauty’ song, layers keep being stripped away to reveal costumes, scenery and lighting each more breath-taking and spectacular than the last.

It opens, not with an overture, but with a charm song obviously designed to (re)introduce the Phantom and let a new young star enchant an audience. Ben Lewis’ rendition of ‘Till I Hear You Sing was indeed divine, and his final note magical. The character has lost the complexity of the original, and Lewis’ lower register coming across as rather uneven later suggests he has yet to find his own iconic sound as a singer, but overall he gave an impressive performance.

Anna O’Bryne was a fresh-faced Christine with a luminous and lucid voice: even though trite lyrics often gave her little to work with emotionally (indeed, the whole show title proved a misnomer of sorts) she displayed wonderful charm and talent.

However for me, it was Simon Gleeson’s performance as Raoul that reverberated with all the passion and pathos and complexity I found lacking in the central love story. His character is reinvented as troubled and self-loathing, and in the opening of Act II where he asks “Why Does She Love Me?”, Gleeson transcended some banal lyrics to give a very real and moving delivery of the song. In many ways, this felt like the only moment of subtlety in the show.

Maria Mercedes was painfully angry as Mme. Giry, and there was a definite fascination in seeing Sharon Millerchip reprise the role of Meg and bring a real sense of growth as performer and character.

Webber’s songs are familiar yet not particularly memorable, but the orchestrations and voices are highly enjoyable. Moreover, the plot is thin but the ensemble led by carnivalesque Greek chorus Emma J. Hawkins, Paul Tabone and Dean Vince are deft and dynamic.

The real appeal of the show remains in the old-fashioned spectacle achieved with the latest in theatre technology: Love Never Dies is ultimately a sumptuous, sentimental production of pure and unadulterated melodrama, draped in lavish splendour. If there are recurring echos of the ridiculous and redundant at times, they are usually swirled away in the colour and action.

Does this production bring anything to the Phantom legacy? No. Does it spoil the original musical then? No. Is it an enjoyably excessive and entertaining night of theatre? Yes actually. Yes it is.

Love Never Dies is playing at The Regent Theatre from May 2011.