Tag: Southbank Theatre

Flourish Productions Presents THE SONGS OF ALAN MENKEN

A warming and appealing tribute

By Narelle Wood

The name Alan Menken is synonymous with so many Broadway and Disney productions: it is hard to capture the gamut of his career, especially in a 2-hour performance review. But the ensemble cast of the review The Songs of Alan Menken certainly did their best to show the range of styles and shows that Menken has contributed to.

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The ensemble of seven singers (Seth Drury, Josh Ellwood, Zuleika Khan, Vanessa Menjivar, Liam J. O’Bryne, Emily Paddon-Brown and Jeff van de Zandt) treated us to songs from wonderful movies and musicals such as Beauty and the Beast, Newsies, Hercules, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Tangled, and Sister Act.  The accompanying choreography (by Rhys Velasquez) and staging (Matthew Lockitt) was simple and seamless, and the lighting was flawless. The only distracting thing was the occasional ‘off-pitch’ note, which was perhaps less about the very talented singers, and more to do with the demanding range needed to perform some of Menken’s more complicated scores. (That, and the appearance of some stuffed animals, which seemed a little bit corny in light of the rest of the show.)

More important were the number of standout moments. “Need to Know” from Weird Romance has become my unofficial ‘geek’ anthem and the duet of “I Can Read You” (Leap of Faith) performed by O’Byrne and Menjivar was brilliant. In saying that, one of my favourite moments came courtesy of Drury and Van de Zandt’s duet of “A Whole New World”: hands down one of the cutest duets of all time. The showstopper though was the ensemble singing one of Menken’s perhaps lesser-known songs, “Sailing On“. It was not a big upbeat number, but an understated and moving arrangement by musical director Lucy O’Brien, with stunning harmonies adroitly performed.

Ultimately, The Songs of Alan Menken was the perfect way to spend a cold Saturday afternoon, with the music of Menken lingering on way after the performance was over.

This production of The Songs of Alan Menken was performed on June 24, 2017 at The Southbank Theatre.

Image by James Terry Photography

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Monster Media Presents ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO’S NEST

Impeccable
By Ross Larkin

When a show is preceded by its own reputation as an iconic, Oscar-winning film, one might be forgiven for having reservations about subsequent incarnations of any kind. Thankfully, Monster Media’s interpretation of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest puts all reservations to rest in a production that succeeds at the highest level.

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When Randle McMurphy (Michael Robins) is committed to a psychiatric asylum, he unwittingly provokes the menacing Nurse Ratched (Catherine Glavicic), who controls the ward with an iron fist, while forging the most unlikely of friendships in the process.

With award winning director Carl J. Sorheim at the helm, the play by Dale Wasserman and based on the novel by Ken Kesey is executed with delicate precision and just the right amount of integrity, light and shade.

The casting, in particular, is of exceptional note with an ensemble cast that bring complete authenticity and charm to the stage from the outset, including Eddie Muliaumaseali’i, Natalie BondNicholas DentonJack Dixon-GunnJosh FutcherDavid GannonKostas Ilias, Troy Larkin, Stephanie LillisPaul MorrisSeton PollockAngela Scundi and Ben Sofowora.

Michael Robins provides a fresh take as the mischievous McMurphy; a complex and demanding role which, in the wrong hands, could easily fail to affect. However, Robins makes the character his own and does very well in the process.

Catherine Glavicic as the subtly twisted Nurse Ratched is chilling yet sincere, offering an excellent concoction of kindness, authority, manipulation and bite, while Troy Larkin as the troubled Dale Harding is outstanding in a portrayal laden with conviction, torment and tenderness.

Add to the brew an alluring lighting (Jason Crick) and sound design, and a pace and energy to match, and Monster Media’s production of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest is most definitely not to be missed.

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest is playing now until June 11, 2017 at Southbank Theatre, The Lawler, 140 Southbank Boulevard, Melbourne. Tickets available at www.mtc.com.au or by phone on (03) 8688 0800.

Image by GW Photography

Amanda Muggleton in THE BOOK CLUB

Thoroughly entertaining

By Myron My

A book club: where everyone has great intentions to read the book but, for some reason, never seems to have the time. Either that, or the meeting itself turns out to be an opportunity to talk about everything – but the novel. In The Book Club, middle-class suburban housewife Deb Martin seems to have found the perfect literary social group, but a few indiscretions and a blurring of fact and fiction begin to create some interesting moments for Deb.

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Amanda Muggleton is completely at ease with the demands of this production which, in her case, is portraying every single character – male and female – and relying on nothing but her spectacular facial expressions, body language and voice for differentiation. Her comedy timing and physicality is spot on and while she plays these characters as “big”, Muggleton still manages to retain an honesty and authenticity to them all. 

The story, originally written by Roger Hall and revised here by Rodney Fisher, is entertaining and fun for the most part. There are times when I felt the momentum slows a little and certain events occur merely as a device for making Deb feel even more low and ashamed of what she is doing. It’s as if the script wants to push Deb so far that we have no choice but to sympathise with her, rather than trust that the audience will like her despite her actions.

However, Muggleton’s impressive performance and Nadia Tass‘ playful direction, playing out in Deborah’s book-filled living room as designed by Shaun Gurton, greatly assist in getting the audience through the lags and in quickly building towards the numerous climaxes throughout the show – both literally and figuratively speaking. The times when Deb goes out to the audience or acknowledges a reaction from the spectators adroitly strengthen the relationship between us and the character, and allows for a deeper sense of empathy to be shared.

While it’s true what Deb says about finding happiness in a good book, you can also find it in a good show. The Book Club is an enjoyable 90 minutes of laughs that can boast a story that is well-grounded yet enticingly dramatic and scandalous, and a dynamic and engaging performance by Amanda Muggleton.

Venue: Southbank Theatre, 140 Southbank Boulevard, Southbank
Season: Until 14 August | Tues – Sat 7.00pm, Sat 3pm, Sun 5pm
Tickets From: $70.45 Full | $65.35 Conc
Bookings: Melbourne Theatre Company

Image by Casey Wong

Gail Louw’s BLONDE POISON

An engrossing and triumphant performance

By Myron My

Seventy-one year-old Stella Goldschlag is nervously anticipating the arrival of a visitor. It is 7am and he is expected in just under four hours. Her anxiety stems from her past as a Nazi collaborator, where in order to save herself from the horrors of Auschwitz, agreed to inform on other Jews in hiding to the Gestapo. Presented by Strange Duck Productions, Blonde Poison is the intriguing yet disturbing true story of Stella and the cost of her survival.

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Belinda Giblin as Stella is an example of when casting is perfection. The accent is flawless, even when Stella’s emotions sometimes get the better of her as she recalls the more horrific moments of her life. The poignant facial expressions and wide eyes made up with the iconic black eyeliner are still printed firmly in my mind. You can’t help but sympathise with this character, but at the same time, she is responsible for the death of thousands of Jews. Giblin’s portrayal of the desperation and defeat enveloping Stella in the final moments of the show are so powerful and conflicting that they leave you wondering if Stella has managed to manipulate yet again. It truly is an amazing performance.

Jennifer Hagan‘s careful direction shows Stella’s gradual unraveling, as it becomes clear that she is slowly losing herself to the horrors of her past: lamps are turned on despite it being morning and picture frames are placed backwards on coffee tables. The script itself, written by Gail Louw, does lose its momentum at times, but Hagan and Giblin work hard at overcoming this with that masterful finale.

The set design by Derrick Cox is well thought-out and subtly links in with Stella’s life and ideas raised in Blonde Poison. The full-length mirror that Stella occasionally looks into and speaks to visually reproduces her inner self-reflection and her external confessional, and the suitcase full of dolls is a constant reminder of not only of Stella’s own child, but also the naivety and innocence Stella had when was doing what she did to stay alive. Jeremy Silver‘s hauntingly captivating score is paired well with Matthew Tunchon‘s adroit lighting design, both which build on the intensity during Stella’s interrogation scenes.

Blonde Poison‘s overarching idea – what would you have done? – is a difficult demand to answer and fortunately, one that we are unlikely to ever face. While it’s easy initially to condemn Stella Goldschlag for these crimes, the growing impact of her protestations of  innocence are difficult to ignore. Blonde Poison is a thought-provoking production that is both relentless and powerful in its execution.

Venue: Southbank Theatre, 140 Southbank Boulevard, Southbank
Season: Until 11 June | Tues – Sat 7.30pm, Sat 1.30pm
Tickets:
From $52.90
Bookings: Melbourne Theatre Company

REVIEW: Melbourne Festival Presents 32 RUE VANDENBRANDEN

Suspended in isolation

By Myron My

Performed as part of this year’s Melbourne Festival, Peeping Tom return to Australia with 32 Rue Vandenbranden which explores the isolation and loneliness that a group of people feel through the company’s trademark fusion of dance, physical theatre and music.

32 Rue Vandenbranden

The stage design, which is how the Belgian company begins developing a new creation, perfectly encapsulates the emotional state of its inhabitants. High on a mountain-top, underneath an endless sky, sit three rickety caravans. The ground is covered in snow and there is an immediate sense of remoteness and desolation. The emotive sound composition by Juan Carlos Tolosa and Glenn Vervliet strongly adds to the feelings that the characters are experiencing, while mezzo-soprano Eurudike De Beul‘s musical moments in the show are an aural delight for the audience.

There are some beautifully choreographed moments in 32 Rue Vandenbranden including the opening performance between Jos Baker and Maria Carolina Vieira. Their subsequent duets are mesmerising to watch, as their bodies intertwine with apparent ease in equal displays of frustration and desire to connect with another human.

However, there is still a strong emotional disconnect between what is occurring on stage and what the audience is feeling. The stories that are being told and the character motivation for the movements in the piece unfortunately do not translate well, and along with the constant change in the tone and mood and beyond the stage snow, the show left me feeling quite emotionally cold.

Overall, the individual elements in 32 Rue Vandenbranden, such as the set design, the music and the performances, show the loneliness and hope that people experience in their attempts to connect with and build relationships with people. Ironically, it is this success with the aforementioned aspects that is also its undoing, resulting in a distinct lack of story and heart to the show and an unemotional response from its audience. Perhaps this disconnect is deliberately the work’s ultimate message.

32 Rue Vandenbranden was performed between 8 – 11 October at Southbank Theatre.

REVIEW: MTC Presents DEATH AND THE MAIDEN

In the hands of the leading lady

By Bradley Storer

The opening image of Melbourne Theatre Company‘s highly anticipated production of Death and the Maiden, the intensely political and unsettlingly violent work of Ariel Dorfman, is striking and instantly ratchets the tension to maximum level – a lone woman in a darkened room, stirred to action by the sound of an approaching car, creeps through the darkness and conceals herself in the corner, the revolving stage giving an eerie flipbook-like effect as the woman slowly reveals a gun. In this single image the blurred boundaries between the domestic, civilisation and the dark savage underbelly of human nature which Dorman sets out to explore is already laid out for the audience.

Death and the Maiden

Set in an unnamed country, inspired by post-fascist Chile but potentially any country emerging from under tyranny, Death and the Maiden examines the slow recovery from politically-sanctioned atrocity and horror on both the personal and national level through the lens of differing characters. The trio presented include a victim of the former fascist regime and its unspeakable methods, Paulina (Susie Porter), her husband Gerardo (Steve Mouzakis), the lawyer who is now part of the government committee dedicated to uncovering the atrocities of the former regime, and Roberto (Eugene Gilfedder), a doctor whose unexpected incurrence into the lives of Paulina and Gerardo sets off the whirlwind of terror and violence which engulfs the rest of the play.

Unfortunately, only in the performance of Porter does the extent of Dorfman’s bleak vision truly come to fruition. She morphs from an uncertain and flighty creature, beset by unknown fears, into a facade of iron-hard determination and self-righteous fury that maintains the central ambiguity of Paulina’s character: whether she is a victim of horrific trauma and gruesome torture that has driven her to insanity, or a woman empowered to throw off the chains of victimhood and become an terrible avenging angel against her former tormentors.

Mouzakis and Gilfedder do not fare as well, their earlier scenes which communicate the bulk of the work’s political background sapping all of the tension and drive from the performance. They improve as the play goes on but sadly lose momentum whenever Porter leaves the stage. Nick Schlieper‘s revolving set does much to symbolically comment on the cyclical nature of violence and victimhood, but slowly loses its impact as the play goes on – its use in Gerardo’s final monologue leaves the last mystery of the play more confusing than intended.

Perhaps this production of Death and the Maiden is not the definitive one, but the performance of Porter is to be commended for its bravery, delving into the darkest and rawest areas of the human psyche that Dorfman is preoccupied with, bringing out the violence and cruelty that Is suggested to lurk within us all.

Venue: The Sumner, Southbank Theatre, 140 Southbank Boulevard, Southbank
Dates: 18 July – 22 August, 2015
Price: $36 – $109
Bookings: At the venue, www.mtc.com.au, 03 86880800

REVIEW: Patricia Cornelius’ SHIT

Wonderful, gritty and real

By Deborah Langley

With the most natural, raw, uncomfortable and hilarious opening monologues we have probably ever seen in Australian theatre, Patricia Cornelius’ Shit smacks you in the face and commands you to sit up, strap yourself in and FINALLY start paying attention to the women and girls who defy our social order and expectations.

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These are the underbelly of womenhood we as a society so rarely want to admit exist. The women we try and ignore when walking down the street and would never sit next to on the tram. You know the type, the ones whom some would callously say “were asking for it”…

Shit tells the stories of three of these types of women, Billy (Nicci Wilks), Bobby (Sarah Ward) and Sam (Peta Brady) as they come to terms with their past, of abuse, rape, suicide, bashings (“Sometimes you’re just in the wrong place at the wrong time”), and shines a light on the bleak harshness of our society (“What right have you got to want?”)

Moving effortlessly and gracefully from gritty sarcasm to shocking realism, I often found laughter caught in my throat as what started as jovial banter turned sharply into an intense truth which is perhaps too hard to swallow without the humour. With this, Shit takes you on an emotional journey which is given breathing space beautifully by director Susie Dee and the physical theatre which is interspersed throughout the performance.

An outstanding performance I should add, as rapid fire dialogue is spat like bullets, particularly by Bobby (Ward) who gives venom to her words. While Billy (Wilks) moves from frighting to loveable and back again in an instant, is captivating to watch, but it is Sam (Brady) who takes our heart as the most vulnerable of the pack.

Shit is independent theatre at its best. It has something to say and from that first opening monologue you just want to hear it. How refreshing it is to see such captivating work being staged at a mainstream theatre – maybe now their voices can be heard by the many. Will you listen?

SHIT by Patricia Cornelius
Season: 25 June – 5 July 2015
Venue: Southbank Theatre, The Lawler
Tickets: $25 each
Booking: 03 8688 0800 or mtc.com.au

Image by Sebastian Bourges