Tag: Stephanie Lewendon-Lowe

Pursued By Bear Presents ORDINARY DAYS

Authentic and accessible

By Joana Simmons

Presented as the second part of a unique double bill, Ordinary Days is a slick contemporary chamber musical with heart. Bought to us by independent performance and production hire company, Pursued By Bear, this 90-minute show accomplishes their vision of telling great stories and challenging the theatre industry. The stories of four characters going about their days in New York weave into our hearts and each other’s lives through the delightful music and lyrics by Adam Gwon. It is a relatable, believable and thoroughly enjoyable show about growing up and enjoying the view.

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Chapel off Chapel is humming as the almost full house takes their seats. The white tulle suspended from the ceiling provides the perfect canvas for the colourful chirpy showtune opening sung by the ever-optimistic Warren (Joel Granger). We meet Deb (Nicola Bowman), a graduate who is feeling the standard Gen-Y dissatisfaction with life: wanting to achieve great things and reach that big picture but not quite knowing how. She loses her most precious possession – the notes to her graduate thesis, and this is the catalyst for a chain of events that turn the ordinary days of four New Yorkers into something extraordinary. Jason (Matthew Hamilton) moves in with his love Claire (Brittanie Shipway) and we see their excitement and tension build as a couple, as things from the past are revealed and their bond unravels. Through powerful songs and vignettes, these multiple stories become intricately connected and the audience becomes heavily invested.

The cast carries their individual stories and works together with accuracy and professionalism. Granger’s endearingly geeky portrayal of Warren is authentic and strong. Hamilton brings maturity to his role as Jason, however his accent and pitch took some time to settle and some movement felt forced, although once on the mark he was a treat. The female cast in their own respects stole the show for me though: Shipway’s singing and natural emotion, especially in “Gotta Get Out” were heart-melting highlights, and Bowman had the audience in stitches with her fantastic comic timing, smooth delivery and subtle yet hilarious physicality. Director Tyran Parke has done an outstanding job bringing such creative and dramatic gems out of these four talented people. Special commendation goes to musical director Stephanie Lewendon-Lowe as this show is basically entirely sung through; the storytelling and diction combined with great dynamic delivery of the songs was top-notch and she supported it all on piano the whole time. The lighting by Jason Crick bought life and drama to the relatively blank set, and whilst there were some minor sound issues on the night I attended, the technical team did a good job.

My favourite part was the end: there was some truly magical goosebump moments throughout, but the ending left me feeling beautifully warm (which was a relief considering the Melbourne temperature.) Whilst the storyline of Ordinary Days isn’t anything too groundbreaking, the music and characters pull us in and help us to see and appreciate the little things, which is so important, especially now.  Escape the cold and get swept up in finding the extraordinary in the ordinary.

Ordinary Days (part of double bill, Chump Days) at Chapel Off Chapel

8-18 June 
Time: 8pm Thursday-Saturday, 5pm Sunday
Tickets: $35 Preview (Thursday 8 June), $49 Adult, $39 Concession (+transaction fee)

http://chapeloffchapel.com.au/melbourne-comedy-theatre-art/melbourne-events/melbourne-theatre/ordinary-days-8-18-june/

Image by Ben Fon

Pursued By Bear Presents FIRST DATE

Crass, cluey, and relentlessly funny

By Amy Planner

That awkward blind date feeling should definitely be avoided at all costs, so when someone decides to dedicate a musical to it, there are bound to be a few uncomfortable and unfortunately relatable moments. Enter First Date: The Musical (book by Austin Winsberg and music and lyrics by Alan Zachary and Michael Weiner) – this is the show dedicated to bringing those dreaded memories back and managing to make you both laugh and cry at them.

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When slightly nerdy blind date newbie Aaron (Jordan Mahar) is set up with tattoo-toting blind date veteran Casey (Rebecca Hetherington), their obvious differences make for an interesting and incredibly awkward first date. Along for the ride are a number of family members, potential children, ex-lovers and a best mate or two to give their albeit not always helpful advice – in musical form of course.

The Small Timber Café was the setting of this first date disaster, with the audience invited to sit at the café tables and even order coffee from the stage before the show. Cast members lingered around, blending in with baristas and immersing the awaiting audience in this distinctive setting.

There were a few sound issues in the beginning but after some level adjustments and once those opening night nerves were settled, this show had the audience laughing, clapping and even hollering at times.

This small cast were incredibly entertaining from lights up to lights down. Their energy was outstanding as was their enthusiasm for the show bubbling over. Hetherington and Mahar took the lead with their well-characterised vocals, even contriving to sober the boisterous audience with their serious solos.

The five-man ensemble; Nicole Melloy, Danielle O’Malley, Adam Porter, Stephen Valeri and Daniel Cosgrove, were the energetic life force of the show. Each performer had such a unique take on their characters, which made for a hilariously bumpy ride.

Other than those few audio hiccups, this show was pretty seamless. Director Mark Taylor took an Americanised script and made it fit perfectly into an Australian setting and by taking a few ‘lewd’ chances, has put together a genuinely hilarious production.

First Date’s musical score is very modern and unexpected but has indisputable flow and vigour, and no successful musical would be complete without a great Musical Director – and Stephanie Lewendon-Lowe was just that. Her artistic verve manifested in equally witty tunes and great musical moments. The band had nowhere to hide, set upstage in full view of the audience, disguised as café patrons and a chef hat-totting drummer behind the pass.

Sarah Tulloch’s production design was satisfyingly realistic and unbelievably innovative. The set dressing was simple but effective and the ease with which backstage crew could be disguised as waiters and move items around was a sneakily brilliant thought.

First Date is comically crude and toe-tappingly upbeat, and it even slips in a few serious moments to make you remember some things are all too real and unavoidable. As someone who has seen the Broadway original, this definitely stacks up and does Melbourne proud.

Venue: Chapel Off Chapel

Season: September 2-11, Mon-Sat 8pm & Sun 5pm

Tickets: $39 Monday only, $49 Full, $39 Concession (+ transaction fee)

Bookings: chapeloffchapel.com.au