Tag: Terence O’Connell

Ellis Productions Presents AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS

Frantic and frivolous fun

By Rebecca Waese

Adapted from Jules Verne’s 1873 novel, this production of Around the World in 80 Days (reinvented for the stage by Toby Hulse and directed by Terence O’Connell) is light-hearted, silly, and farcical fun. While the tone is inescapably dated in its colonial attitudes of English superiority, it has much to offer viewers who like slapstick comedy and don’t take stereotypes too seriously.

Around the World in 80 Days.jpg

The play is self-aware, tongue-in-cheek and colludes with the audience at the impossibilities and the joys of staging such a massive production with just three actors playing 39 parts. Full of frenetic adventures and running gags, the play transports you back to the Great Victorian Age where Englishman Phileaus Fogg, (Ian Stenlake) wagers a fortune that he can circumnavigate the globe in just 80 days with his servant Passepartout (Pia Miranda) by his side. They are pursued throughout the adventure by Inspector Fix from Scotland Yard (Grant Piro) who is convinced that Fogg is a bank robber on the run.

Pia Miranda, as Passepartout, brings animated energy to the role and shows a knack for physical comedy. Grant Piro, is a stand-out as the obsessive Inspector Fix but even more captivating in his role as the storyteller with an illuminated map hat who guides the audience to imagine the journey through time and space, conjuring up so much with so little. Stenlake is a steady Fogg who may have been overshadowed on the night by the zeal and energy of the other outrageous characters but conveys a sense of the importance of order convincingly.

Merinda Backway’s set design is inventive and versatile using only a few crates and railings to create the elaborate transcontinental train, a ship, and one particularly delightful and wild hidden surprise. Lauren Richie’s gorgeous hats are worth a mention, adorned by miniature trains, binoculars, and other intricate symbols of the Victorian age.

Undoubtedly, Fogg’s Orientalist view of the world is outdated in 2016, and the Indian and Chinese accents rely on age-old wince-worthy stereotypes that reflect the time in which the novel was written. However, the scene in which Grant Piro plays the Indian Princess in drag at the end of the play is, unexpectedly, one of the finest moments of the show. Pico’s Indian Princess and Stenlake’s Fogg carry the audience’s hopes up in the air with them as Fogg leaves behind some of his earlier inhibitions and enjoys, with some subversive self-reflexivity, a bit of romance that has the audience rallying for him and his masculine princess.

The play is suitable for older children and fans of slapstick and physical humour but one scene may not be appropriate for young children, where the Indian princess widow is drugged and just about to burn on her husband’s funeral pyre before Passepartout performs a dramatic rescue. If old-fashioned farce is your cup of tea, this is fun physical humour from a simpler time of storytelling.

Around the World in 80 Days is playing at Alex Theatre in St. Kilda, Tues Aug 23- Sept 4 at 7:30 with matinees on Sat (2 pm) and Sun (3 pm).

Tickets: http://premier.ticketek.com.au/shows/show.aspx?sh=AROUNDTH16

Image by James Terry

Rebecca Waese is a Lecturer in Creative Arts and English at La Trobe University.


REVIEW: Stageart Presents DREAMGIRLS

Star-struck and star-studded

By Amy Planner

This month, a Tony, Grammy and Oscar-winning classic is being presented to much awaiting Australian audiences for the first time by Stageart. Dreamgirls is the timeless story of an all-girl singing group with dreams to make it big – to sing their way to the top and be important. When car salesmen and all-round business enthusiast Curtis Taylor Jr (Winston Hillyer) meets The Dreamettes, things begin to change and fame starts to become a difficult reality.

Zenya Carmellotti, Anna Francesca Armenia and Sharon Wills in Dream Girls

Directed by Terence O’Connell, musically directed by Tyson Legg and choreographed by Darren Stack, this production plays host to a myriad of Australian talent and style. The opening night audience, filled with Melbourne’s theatre-scene elite and a celebrity or two, waited anxiously for the toe-tapping extravaganza and the cast didn’t leave anything behind.

The simplicity of the set designed by Jacob Battista was refreshing; it allowed the performers to be the focus of your attention at every moment. The simple levelled scaffolding construction gave the actors room to move and creative freedom for the little things, like exits and entrances.

Expectations on costumes for a glamorous production like Dreamgirls were high and the sparkling vision was definitely evident. The execution however was a little off with a few ill-fitting garments that stole your eye away. On the other hand, the costume team led by designed Daniel Harvey does deserve major kudos for the quantity alone, with a new outfit appearing after almost every stage exit and for the quick change moments that thrilled and dazzled.

The cast was superb. Effie White is a notoriously difficult character to handle with her bossy demeanour, diva-like presence and huge vocal range; Thando Sikwila blew the audience away and received a standing ovation to prove it.

Other notable peformances were Anna Francesca Armenia as Deena Jones, Zenya Carmelloti as Lorrell Robinson and Hillyer as Curtis Taylor Jr. But perhaps the crowd favourite, and rightly so, was Gareth Jacobs as the soulful Jimmy ‘Thunder’ Early. Jacobs was energetic, hilarious and insanely talented in more ways than one. He gave Jimmy all the sass and flair he deserves and so much more; Jimmy got soul!

Dreamgirls is dazzling, witty, exciting and full of miraculously remarkable Australian talent – and you, and you, and you, and you’re gonna love them.

Venue: Chapel Off Chapel, 12 Little Chapel St, Prahran
Season: Until 14 June, Tues-Sun 8pm, Sat & Sun matinee 2pm
Tickets: A Reserve $59, $55 Concession (+ transaction fee)
B Reserve $49, $45 Concession (+ transaction fee)
Bookings: www.chapeloffchapel.com.au or 8290 7000

REVIEW: HIT Productions Presents THE 39 STEPS

Cast of four fuel this fabulous farce

By Lyn Collet

Adapted by Patrick Barlow from an original concept by Simon Corble and Nobby Dimon, this beloved British romp is based on the 1935 Hitchcock spy thriller movie and novel by John Buchan. The London’s West End production is currently the longest running comedy. The 39 Steps begins with Richard Hannay, an innocent man, learning too much about a dangerous spy ring and being pursued across Scotland before returning to London to foil the villain’s dastardly plans.

The 39 Steps

This return season touring production features over a hundred characters played by four very versatile and competent actorsMike Smith (who plays the hero Hannay), whilst Anna Burgess, Sam Haft and Michael Lindner are kept busy cleverly portraying the rest of the hilarious ensemble.

Having previously seen the famous West End production, a few of the memorable comedic moments were missed in this re-staged version, but director Terence O’Connell has made this a fast moving, very funny show with simple, but very effective sets and props by Jacob Battista and with lighting by designer Jason Bovaird.

Costume designer Kim Bishop has produced just the right outfits for the very quick changes needed for the very humorous characters and settings, while choreographer Alana Scanlan has created some very well-rehearsed choreography with great physical and comic timing.

This is indeed a “jolly good show”, and it is unfortunate that there are only 4 final Melbourne performances on this tour.

The 39 Steps will be playing at the Athenaeum Theatre – Thursday 2 October at 7.30 pm, Friday 3 October at 7.30 pm and Saturday 4 October 2 pm and 7.30 pm.

Bookings: 03 9650 1500

Ticketek: 132 849 / www.ticketek.com.au


REVIEW: Ghost Light and Moving Light Productions’ CARRIE: THE MUSICAL

Things will get bloody…

By Margaret Wieringa

Initially, the tale known by most as a horror film from the seventies seems like an odd choice for a musical. But, at the heart of Stephen King’s novel Carrie is the story of a girl who is oppressed by her mother and tormented by her peers until she breaks. The twist, as most people know, is that she has telekinetic powers, and wreaks a brutal revenge of those who have hurt her. Carrie: The Musical deals a story so epic it could have been an opera.

Carrie The Musical

The show begins with a musical number that shows off the talents of the strong supporting cast. The busy and eye-catching choreography by Lisa Minett draws the audience into the world of the musical as well as the angst of high school. When Emily Milledge enters, she brings all of the awkward misfit elements of Carrie and even when the beautiful swan emerges, she retains a hint of the fearful girl within. The duets between Carrie and her mother, played by Chelsea Gibb, are intense and passionate. It really is a cast of strong female performers, with Chernae Howlett also capturing the deep nastiness of Chris Hargensen as she manipulates those around her, and sets out to ruin Carrie’s life.

The stand-out performance, however, came from Hollie James as Sue Snell. Easily able to hold the stage on her own, she showed all the poignant sweetness and kindness the character required. Her duet with Jack O’Riley playing Billy Ross at the start of the second act was delightful.

Clearly, it was going to be a challenge to have objects flying around and the utter destruction of a whole town shown on stage – especially the small stage at Chapel Off Chapel. However, director Terence O’Connell and his excellent production crew really make a little go a long way. While the explosive scene at the prom is quite short, the combination of the sound and lighting with clever choreography gave it the intensity to be extremely effective. The solid musical accompaniment of the band helmed by David Piper allowed the cast to shine throughout, especially during this dramatic finale.

Carrie: The Musical is the debut production for Ghost Light, a company that aims to present premieres of musicals locally, as well as creating new musical and physical theatre. They have certainly started with a bang, and will be worth keeping an eye on.

Venue: Chapel Off Chapel,
Season: 25 September – 12 October, Wednesday – Saturday 8pm, Saturday matinee 4th and 11th October 2pm, Wednesday matinee 8th October 1pm, Sunday 6pm
Tickets: $49.50 Full, $39.50 Concession and groups of 10+
Bookings: http://chapeloffchapel.com.au/



Seeking connections and searching for identity

By Myron My

Cruising Paradise

Cruising Paradise by Terence O’Connell takes a number of Sam Shepard’s (American writer, playwright, actor, and television and film director) short prose tales and stages them as a variety of monologues and scenes. Presented by graduates of The National Theatre Drama School in St Kilda and performed at fortyfivedownstairs, the piece is certainly an interesting and ambitious project.

Shepard is well known for creating environments of loss, desolation and solitude in his stories which Cruising Paradise is able to convey, but it is at the loss of allowing the audience to remain fully engaged with the piece. Part of the problem is that too many stories are performed; Shepard’s stories are already so rich and demanding for an audience that it just felt unnecessary to have so many similar stories on stage in such a short time.

Furthermore, there is little differentiation between how the majority of the monologues are delivered, which made it difficult to follow some stories. It’s quite a shame as the cast (Mandie Combe, William Ewing, Camille Meghaizel, Lucy Norton and James Stanistreet) have clearly put significant thought and effort into their roles, with notable mentions going to the more senior members of the company Meghaizel and Combe, who embrace their characters with much gusto.

The stories that did work well were therefore the ones that had the actors interacting with each other in some way or where there was a slight costume change that greatly assisted in distinguishing between different tales. Unfortunately this did not happen throughout the night.

The musical interludes were entertaining to watch and a nice break from all the monologues. The composition by Paul Norton was well-suited to the voices of the three main singers Combe, Ewing and Meghaizel.

Overall, the stories in Cruising Paradise dealt well with themes of lonely people who are looking for a connection, trying to figure out who they are and searching for an identity. I only wish the show itself could (instead of simply drowning us in so many of Shepard’s stories) have had some of that insight and been able to give each tale individuality, while drawing all the pieces into a whole.

Venue: fortyfivedownstairs, 45 Flinders Lane, Melbourne

Season: Until 12 May | Tues-Sat 8:00pm, Sun 5:00pm

Tickets: $36 Full | $28 Conc

Bookings: http://www.fortyfivedownstairs.com or 9662 9966