Tag: StageArt

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.

Spring Awakening.jpg

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: StageArt Presents A SUPER BRADY CABARET

TV’s favourite family hit the stage

By Narelle Wood

It’s a story we’re all familiar with; a woman with three girls, a man with three boys and a happy household where no problem is ever too big to solve. But A Super Brady Cabaret explores more than the wholesome, teeth-flashing, perky family, it also delves into the darker side of the Brady Bunch.

A Super Brady Cabaret

The show opens with a familiar tune and the ‘on air’ antics that ensue are all the smiley, over-enthused fun and cheese you would expect from the Brady Bunch. Then the ‘on air’ light blinks off and the ‘real’ relationship between each of the cast members comes to life.

Lauren Edwards (Carol), Paul Congdon (Mike) and their six children (Kathleen Amarant, Thomas Bradford, Sophie Weiss, Giancarlo Salamanca, Nicola Guzzardi, Dylan Licastro) are perfectly casted. Under the direction of Drew Downing, this cast form is a flawless ensemble; it was impossible to pick a favourite amongst Marcia’s overt sexuality, Bobby’s watermelon smile, Cindy’s lisp or Jan’s whining. Instead, the highlights of the show come from the onstage chemistry between cast members and their well-timed interactions, as well as some witty and unexpected moments in the script.

The storyline is tight and the songs are well suited to the era of the tv show, featuring hits such as “Islands In The Stream”, “Happy Together:, and “Keep On” made famous by the original Brady Bunch. For all the frivolity of the cabaret there are also some poignant questions that the show deals with, such as what happens to each member of the bunch when the Bradys are no longer?

It’s hard to leave A Super Brady Cabaret without feeling warm and fuzzy, with every moment having either made me smile or laugh out loud. A Super Brady Cabaret is a feel-good way to finish off your day.

Venue: Chapel off Chapel
Season: Wednesday – Saturday, 6.30pm, until 13th June
Tickets: $39 Full | $31 Conc
Bookings: chapeloffchapel.com.au

Image by Belinda Strodder