Tag: Sondheim

Review: ASSASSINS at fortyfivedownstairs

Musicals can be deadly…

By Bradley Storer

‘Everybody’s got the right to their dreams!’ With these deceivingly sunny words we are drawn into the grim world of Stephen Sondheim’s Assassins, a dark twisted carnival in which the murderers of history exist in a fantastical purgatory.

Assassins

The sinister message of the show is that these are the natural by-product of the American Dream – the malevolent reflections of the frustrated search for happiness, looking for fulfilment in the only way left.

Mark Dickinson as John Wilkes Booth brings a sonorous baritone and combination of Southern and Satanic charm to the role, quietly commanding every scene he enters.  Nadine Garner is pitch perfect as Sarah Jane Moore, one of the two ladies who attempted to kill Gerald Ford, and her scenes with Sonya Suares as Lynette Fromme are a comic delight. The rest of the cast deliver solid, if not outstanding, performances. Nick Simpson-Deeks as the strolling Balladeer unleashes a strong mellifluous tenor in his songs, but lacks the charisma that a character embodying the American Dream, in my opinion, should have – whether this is accidental or a directorial decision to demonstrate the hollowness of this concept is open to debate.  Simpson-Deeks does a far better job as the dual role of Lee Harvey Oswald, which makes it disappointing this character only has the chance to appear in one scene.

Director Tyran Parke is to be commended for his direction of the show, and his vision shines through strongly in the assassins’ individual songs and scenes – but in the big group scenes which bookend the show I felt the staging was static and a little awkward, in particular the scene in which the assassins en masse turn against the Balladeer lacked the menace and danger of mob mentality that I was looking for. I felt this was a problem with the production overall – although Parke and the cast do a fantastic job of humanising the characters and mining the comedic potential of the material, it feels as though ultimately it lacks the edge necessary to make the show truly exciting.

DATES: 10 – 21 April 2013

VENUE: Fortyfivedownstairs, 45 Flinders Lane, Melbourne

TIMES:    Tuesday to Saturday 7.30pm, Sunday 5pm, Wednesday matinee 1.30pm

ADMISSION: Gala opening night $49, Full $39, Concession $29, Group 8+ $35, Preview $25

BOOKING: 03 9662 9966, www.fortyfivedownstairs.com

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REVIEW: Elaine Paige In Concert

Everything the fans could have wanted

By Adam Tonking

It’s Elaine Paige. ELAINE PAIGE!

A surprising number of friends to whom I bragged to about seeing this concert weren’t familiar with her. For those who were not fortunate enough to grow up with her records on high rotation in their homes, she is the Queen of British Music Theatre, particularly around the 1980s when she originated leading roles in shows such as Cats, Evita and Chess.

Her recordings of hit songs from these shows are often among the first, the highest selling, and the best. Even though this was her most celebrated era, she’s repeatedly won plaudits for her performances from the late 1960s, all the way to her most recent role in Follies.

For a veteran performer, one tends to expect some deterioration of vocal talent. In this concert of her most classic songs, Paige delivers perfectly on numbers she has been performing for three decades, as fresh and lovely as those recordings I grew up with. Her delightful presence on stage had the oldest members of the audience cheering like teenagers, as she showed us how “I Dreamed A Dream” should be done, as she channelled Piaf even when sung in English, as she proved me wrong in that the awful songs I detest from Sunset Boulevard could be the most moving and incredible moments in an already spectacular evening.

Any complaints I have are purely selfish: I wanted more and more and more. I wanted to call out requests, I wanted her to throw in a few Sondheim numbers, I wanted her to stay on stage and sing back-to-back for me for the entire two hours. Selfish, particularly when her onstage band were so wonderful, and especially when her supporting singer Nic Kyle was ridiculously good. Giving Paige a moment to change costumes, Kyle performed a few numbers, and completely astounded us all with his rich tone, gigantic range, and accomplished performance. His rendition of “Gethsemane” was mind-blowing.

Clearly, I cannot say enough good things about this concert. And from the way the audience leapt to their feet and applauded while Paige took bow after bow, I’m not alone. Paige is a music theatre icon, and a successful recording artist. The chance to see her perform live is not to be missed. This was her only show in Melbourne, but head to Sydney, Brisbane or Canberra to catch her before she leaves Australia.

Elaine Paige performs at the State Theatre in Sydney on Friday 26th October, tickets through Ticketmaster 136 100; at the Canberra Theatre in Canberra on Sunday 28th October, tickets through Canberra Ticketing 02 6275 2700; and at QPAC Concert Hall in Brisbane on Monday 29th October, tickets through QTIX 136 246.

Review: ANA-LUCIA AND THE BARON (Episode One)

Bring on Episode Two!

By Bradley Storer

Lisa Nightingale returned with one final performance of her sell-out show, Ana-Lucia and the Baron: Episode One, previously seen at The Butterfly Club and brought back as part of the Butterfly @ Trades programme last night. Entering the stage to rapturous applause, Lisa began with an eerie Sondheim-style ode to her most treasured possessions: her precious diamonds (which Ana-Lucia repeatedly tells us she most certainly did not steal from the Baron!). From start to finish, the aptly-named Nightingale held the audience in the palm of her hand.

Playing the deliciously ditzy Frenchwoman Ana-Lucia, Nightingale is shamelessly entertaining in the best possible sense. Ana-Lucia is a saucy and cunning gold-digger in the mould of Lorelei Lee from Gentleman Prefer Blondes, a comparison highlighted by Ana-Lucia’s rendition of the classic ‘Diamonds Are A Girl’s Best Friend’ (here hilariously chained onto Travie McCoy’s ‘Billionaire). Her dubious French origin later provides the basis for a side-splitting Edith Piaf send-up which skewers every French stereotype imaginable. The enormously self-dramatizing heroine returns home while recovering from amnesia brought about by a mysterious accident – in hot pursuit is the dreaded Baron, who may or may not be her former lover. Ana-Lucia is aided during her moments of lapse by her partner-in-crime, Juan Pablo (pianist Trevor Jones) who chimes in at the appropriate moment to trigger flashbacks and lost memories.

Nightingale is a strong singer, her voice ably handling a range of songs from Cole Porter to Lady Gaga. Jones proves an appealing comic partner to her brassy but forgetful persona. Nightingale’s occasional memory lapses (not all of them scripted, I think) were quickly integrated into the comic exchanges between the two players, actually making complete sense in the context of the amnesiac character.

The real strength of the show was Ana-Lucia’s interactions with the audience, cast as the guests at Ana-Lucia’s ‘welcome home’ party. Nightingale engaged the audience in treasure hunts, party games and sing-alongs to great comic effect. She even managed to make a running gag of the continuous stream of late-comers entering the show, who were then forced to come to the front of the stage to receive party bags and hats. With such a strong command of her audience, it’s no wonder this show has sold out three previous seasons.

However, this strength also becomes a weakness at points – beginning with a series of giggle-inducing plot twists, the story meanders towards the middle of the show as the emphasis shifts to audience participation. In particular the inclusion of a Beyonce number, however funny and charmingly performed, seems unnecessary and slows down the action.

This quickly changes towards the finale of the show, ending on a climatic cliff-hanger which promises interesting revelations for Episode Two.

Ana-Lucia and the Baron (Episode One)

The New Ballroom, Trades Hall

Thur Sept 29, 7:30pm