Tag: The Lawler

Review: Sunday in the park with George

Every little detail plays a part

By Narelle Wood

It begins with George, drawing a single line onto a canvas, in a park, on a Sunday in 1884. He sits and sketches Dot, his model. As this first Sunday unfolds, as with the many that follow, we are introduced to the assortment of characters who inhabit George and Dot’s life, and will go on to inhabit George’s paintings. We then fast-forward to 1984 to meet another George, another artist. His struggles mirror that of 1884 George; both grapple with the pressure and expectation that comes with their work, continuously seeking approval, while searching for something new.

Nick Simpson-Deeks plays both versions of George, who are both stoic, but not completely void of feeling. Simpson-Deeks’s portrayal provides glimpses of subtle, controlled emotion, capturing frustration, sadness, anger, and at times love, which are tempered by the obsession the Georges have with their art. The charm Simpson-Deeks’ brings to the role means that, although George is frustrating, he is also very likeable. While George is restrained, Dot, played by Vidya Makan, on the other hand is forthright and sassy. Makan’s comic timing is impeccable, as is her ability to draw the audience’s attention, whether it is to her over-exaggerated facial expressions or to the feeble trembling of her hand when she transforms into 98 year-old Marie.

Simpson-Deeks and Makan are supported by a stellar ensemble; including Anton Berezin (Jules / Bob Greenberg), Jackie Rees (An old lady / Blair Daniels) and Courtney Glass (Yvonne / Naomi Eisen). There are times when the lyrics are fast, overlapping and intertwining, and the movement of the characters (thanks to choreographer Zoee Marsh) reflects the music’s pace. The cast do not miss a beat, moving between the stillness of the tableaus to the busyness of the park with ease.

And then there are the sets, costumes, lighting and music. The creative team of Sarah Tulloch, Rhiannon Irving, Rob Sowinski and Ned Wright-Smith, under the direction of Dean Drieberg and Sonya Suares, have put together a simply astounding show. The set itself is a character in the play, changing and developing along with the storyline. The costumes, mostly dictated by the George Seurat painting, are exquisite and highlight the colour techniques and level of detail that Seurat was aiming for in his work. Drieberg and Suares have clearly taken a word of advice from George, that “every little detail plays a part”, and as a result have produced a show worthy of a much longer run and a much bigger audience.

Sunday in the Park with George is a gentle, witty and frustrating stroll through the toils of being an artist. It is also a gentle, witty and frustrating stroll through the toils of being an artist’s subject, and of the art itself. I would definitely spend Sunday, or any other day for that matter, in the park with George.

Venue: Southbank Theatre, The Lawler

Season: Until August 24th

Tickets: www.mtc.com.au/plays-and-tickets/other-companies/sunday-in-the-park-with-george/

Photography by Jodie Hutchinson

 

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Watch This Presents MERRILY WE ROLL ALONG

Fine performances in a challenging musical

By Bradley Storer

Merrily We Roll Along, currently being presented by Watch This at the MTC, is one of Stephen Sondheim’s most beloved scores but was regarded in its original Broadway incarnation as a critical and commercial flop. Part of this is due to the challenging structure of the show, moving backwards in time to unravel the complexities of the characters depicted, but also since we begin with the central character at his most morally corrupt it can be hard to generate sympathy for him.

WatchThis Productions

As this character, Franklin Shephard, Lyall Brooks faces an uphill battle trying to make him sympathetic. He acts and sings the part very well, but feels stronger as the older Frank more than the younger one. Nelson Gardner is charmingly nerdy and goofy as Charley, bringing wonderful physical comedy to the role. Completing the central trio in the role of Mary is Nicole Melloy, and she is so brilliantly funny and heart-breakingly transparent in every moment that it feels like the role could have been written for her – watching her in the part makes a compelling case that the show’s central journey is actually Mary’s instead of Frank’s.

Sophie Weiss as Beth ably handles the show’s biggest ballad, ‘Not A Day Goes By’, and her character’s transition from a haunted and heart-broken woman to the sunny naivety of youth. As the famous Broadway star Gussie, Cristina D’Agostino nails her big dance number but doesn’t manage to find the humanity under the glamourous façade, directed to play the character so over the top that it comes off a caricature. The ensemble, playing a wide variety of characters across the twenty-year time lapse, are marvellous with too many standout moments to recount here, and their united voices as they sing ‘Our Time’ are a truly beautiful conclusion to the evening.

Sara Grenfell’s direction and staging feels slightly confused which is a problem with a show such as this where there is already a complex structure, and the minimalistic set (consisting mainly of a large staircase and a set of curtains) tends to blur the scenes together. Cameron Thomas does a wonderful job as the sole musician in this production, and while it is lovely to hear the voices of the cast and ensemble unamplified in the space, the score loses much of its potential power when played only on the piano.

While not entirely successful on all fronts, the collection of strong performances and Sondheim’s magnificent score make this new production of Merrily a worthwhile visit.

Venue: The Lawler Studio, Melbourne Theatre Company, 140 Southbank Boulevard, Melbourne VIC

Dates: 29th June – 15th July

Times: Tues – Sat 7:30pm

Prices: $39 – $49

Bookings: 8688 0800, MTC tickets online

Image by Jodie Hutchinson 

Vic Theatre Company Presents THE 25TH ANNUAL PUTNAM COUNTY SPELLING BEE

A superb production of this very funny musical

By Sally McKenzie

The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee sounds, on paper, like a very interesting concept for a musical. However, with an original and at times beautiful score by William Finn, hilarious dialogue (some written by Rachael Sheinkin and some improvised by each new cast), and the inclusion of four audience participants as extra spellers, Spelling Bee is one of the funniest, most creative musicals to come out in the 2000s. This production, performed by Vic Theatre Company, is no exception.

Spelling Bee.jpg

The story centres on a group of six children (played by adults), the man and woman running the bee, and the comfort counsellor, all of who are dramatically affected by one day at the ‘Bee’.

In this production, the sound designed by Marcello Lo Ricco is excellent, with the band well-balanced and never overpowering the singers. Once or twice a solo line was unable to be heard over the ensemble, however; never at a critical point. Lighting by Jason Bovaird was well-designed, with the dialogue happening under stark lights reminiscent of the gymnasium setting, and the lighting during the songs more ‘stagey’, with spots and bright colours, often to great emotional and dramatic effect.

Rebecca Moore as Rona Lisa Perretti is placed and poised with a beautiful ‘legit’ soprano voice that suits the role perfectly, although is perhaps a little young for the role.  David Spencer plays a less exaggerated Panch.  Mahoney (Matt Heyward) was vocally well-suited for the role, although his character came across as perhaps a little too ‘mellow’ and understated.

The Spellers are where the show really shines. It was refreshing to see now well-worn characters played in different ways than the usual. Chip (James Coley) executed his ‘jock’ role perfectly. Olive’s character (Caitlin Mathieson) was played as ‘realistic’ and mature. Although a convincing and heartfelt performance, it left a couple of her usually ‘funny’ lines falling flat.  Sage Douglas as Logaine and Henry Brett as Leaf both managed to find subtleties and levels in characters that are often played ‘over-the-top’. They were both adorable, and Teresa Duddy (Marcy) also executed her role well. Special mention to Riley Nottingham as the Janitor, who managed to be hilarious without a single line of dialogue.

Direction, by Ben Giraud, is clever. He makes innovative use of the space, and it was nice to see the more movable chairs instead of the static bleachers commonly used.

Musical direction, by Trevor Jones, is excellent. It was very fitting to see the talented musicians in the band aptly dressed in school uniform and reacting to the action on stage.  Vocal harmonies were perfectly balanced and executed. Choreography by Bernie Bernard is also extremely creative and unique, matching the moment perfectly.

Costumes, by Zoe Felice, are well-suited and strike just the right balance between outlandish and everyday. Meanwhile the set by William Bobbie Stewart is highly creative, with yellow tarps lining the walls, paper cut-out bees and banners hanging down, and the floor painted as a gymnasium floor.

Overall, Vic Theatre Company’s production of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee is excellent, both side-splittingly funny and heart-wrenchingly beautiful, and well worth checking out whether you’ve never heard of it, or you’re a well-worn veteran, like myself. You won’t be disappointed.

The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee is playing at The Lawler from 30th of March to the 10th of April.  Bookings www.mtc.com.au  | 03 8688 0800

Image by James Terry

REVIEW: Pat Kinevane’s SILENT

Unspoken stories given a powerful voice

By Myron My

Pat Kinevane is the writer and performer of Silent, a one-man play that combines dance, sound, silent films and monologue to create a truly captivating and touching performance.

Silent

Kinevane plays Tino, a homeless man whose cinema-crazed family named him after Rudolph Valentino. Tino looks at specific moments in his life – including the suicide of his gay brother – that have led him to become a homeless man with few possessions and who may or may not be losing his mind.

A one-man show has the potential of losing momentum and audience interest, especially when it runs at close to 80 minutes. Kinevane manages to maintain and vary the pace with different forms of narration, including short dance numbers, miming with pre-recorded voiceovers, and dynamic acting. The blending from one to another is seamless and at just the right moments- so much so, that you sometimes forget you are in fact only watching a single performer.

The large stage is left quite sparse with minimal props available, but Kinevane owns the whole performance area and with the help of well-timed lighting design, also creates an intense and claustrophobic environment thus allowing us to get further inside Tino’s head. Furthermore, the music for Silent beautifully encapsulates the emotional mood of the show and solidly supports in building on the vivid imagery that Kinevane describes to us.

Kinevane charms the audience with his character’s vulnerability and good nature and even though the material borders on crude on occasion, he manages to steer clear of actual vulgarity. His interaction with some audience members as Tino further strengthens our poignant connection to this wreck of a man.

Silent deals with the guilt and remorse we have about past actions and about trying to make amends with our own selves. This is something that we can all relate to and ultimately hope that it does not become our downfall either. A powerful story with just the right emotional strings pulled.

Venue: Southbank Theatre, The Lawler

Season: Until 10 Feb | Fri-Sat 7:30, Sat-Sun 2:00pm

Tickets: $40 Full | $35 Conc

Bookings: mtc.com.au/silent.aspx or 98688 0800