Tag: The Princess Theatre

Australian Premiere: THE BOOK OF MORMON

Truly crass, highly sophisticated, and utterly sensational

By Tania Herbert

Taglined as ‘The Only Book that Matters’, The Book of Mormon is the Tony-Award glutton and Broadway spectacular written by Trey Parker and Matt Stone (of South Park and Team America fame), joined by songwriter Robert (Bobby) Lopez (of Avenue Q and Frozen fame). The opening night of the long-awaited Australian premiere certainly met the definition of ‘gala’- prequelled by a cocktail party filled with every identifiable face in Melbourne (particularly if you’re a fan of The Bachelor), and concluded with a standing ovation as Trey and Matt joined the cast onstage for the final number. Even the actual Mormons are taking advantage of the hype, with giant posters currently framing Southern Cross Station.

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The plot is the usual musical-esque small-town boy heading out into the world to make it big. Less usual though is the setting of the Church of Latter Day Saints. Elder Price (Ryan Bondy) is a newly-minted Mormon missionary, ready to change the world and fulfil his dream of ringing doorbells throughout Orlando Florida. However, his hopes are challenged once he finds himself paired with the goofy and inept Elder Cunningham (A.J. Holmes) and shipped off to remote Northern Uganda. Once there, the Brothers discover that The Lion King was way off the mark, and it’s all up to them to save the village from insurgent rebels.

The show is approachable for a range of audiences- 10-man acapella for the musicians, continual nods to musical comedy classics for the genre fans, and enough excessive costuming and production value to please any contemporary Broadway hedonist. However even those with no prior experience will be well entertained by the true hilarity of this piece of comedic genius that barely pauses for breath. Perhaps one of the most unique elements of the show is the working of humour into every element of production- set changes, exits, and lighting all feature as jokes and the humour ranges from the outright crass to artful parody.

The cast are universally stunning. Both leads come to Melbourne as Mormon veterans (Bondy performing in all three US companies, and Holmes in ‘every company.. thus far’), and the polish and passion shows in the truly flawless performances. The leads are backed up by two mostly separate ensembles- the Mormon brothers and the Ugandan villagers. The contrast in music, dance and characterisation styles for the two ensembles was one of the most rewarding parts of the production for me- adding more variety to an already exceptionally catchy bunch of tunes. Many of the cast also come from international productions of the show, along with the best of local talent. VCA graduate Zahra Newman was the particular standout as the adorable (yet still with a very impressive belt) Nabulungi, the chief’s daughter looking for a life ‘less shitty’.

Whilst only vaguely reminiscent of the of South Park episode All About Mormons (Season 7, Episode 12), fans of Matt and Trey are still rewarded, with South Park’s Jesus Christ making an appearance, and lead characters not so vaguely reminiscent of the pair themselves as they appeared in Baseketball.

For a show that spends so much time spoofing, The Book of Mormon is also truly unique, and covers a massive amount of ground in politics, comedy and moral ambiguities. The comic timing is flawless, the dancing immaculate, and the vocals spine tingling.

In typical Matt-and-Trey style though, the show is horrifyingly offensive and nothing is sacred. It’s a little like the Broadway version of Cards Against Humanity as you find yourself laughing at religion, African poverty, FGM and AIDS. If you don’t cringe at least once, you probably need to work on your politically correctness. Given all the inappropriateness, the show is also strangely sensitive, and a timely reminder that with a bit of tolerance, imagination and community, we can all be a lot happier.

The show is certainly not friendly for families, the politically sensitive or the easily offended, but if you don’t fall into one of those categories, it’s fair to say you’re going to have a pretty good night out with The Book of Mormon. With the new world of Brexit and Trump, it may seem like things are pretty grim at the moment, however this musical is the ultimate reminder that in the end, the world can still be a pretty funny place– as long as you don’t take it too seriously.

THE BOOK OF MORMON is currently playing at the Princess Theatre, Melbourne. Tickets are on sale until June 25, and can be purchased at bookofmormonmusical.com.au

Warning: Adult themes and coarse language!

Image by Jeff Busby

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The Royal Shakespeare Company Presents MATILDA THE MUSICAL

Simply spell-binding

By Narelle Wood

I had heard from some theatre-going friends that Matilda was a sight to behold, a musical experience like no other. They were right; I don’t think there is a word that completely encapsulates the sheer brilliance of this musical.

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The musical is based on the famous Roald Dahl children’s book. Matilda (Ingrid Torelli on the night attended), a bright child with a strong sense of fairness and justice, is born into a family that doesn’t appreciate her, and to make matters worse must suffer the tyranny of the head mistress, Miss Trunchbull (James Millar). Thankfully Matilda finds solace in her books and stories as well as friends such as Mrs Phelps the librarian (Cle Morgan), Violet (Kathleen Lawlor) and Miss Honey (Elise McCann).

Under the direction of Matthew Warchus the acting, timing and use of stage melds into a seamless and flawless performance; and this was the first preview. There are so many standout performances in this show that it is difficult to name them all. The performances of Daniel Frederiksen, Marika Aubrey and Daniel Raso completely personify the hideous Wormwood family. Millar doesn’t overplay Trunchbull so the character is a believable albeit caricatured evil head mistress and Torelli is faultless in her portrayal of Matilda.

The adult ensemble was also brilliant, transforming from the adult parts to the big kids at school with ease. The kid ensemble was simply astonishing; the future of musical theatre in Melbourne is definitely safe if the talent of these kids are anything to go by. Daniel Stow who played Bruce Bogtrotter with awesome skill, delivered some of the best comedic moments.

Dennis Kelly’s adaptation is so intelligently written that it not only captures the humour and satirical nature of Roald Dahl, but also hints at some of Dahl’s more subtle social commentary. Comedic musical mastermind Tim Minchin is responsible for the music and lyrics, and each song precisely captures the moment and the character’s personality but often in entirely unexpected ways, with a mixture of humour, sentimentality and irreverence. The orchestration (Christopher Nightingale), choreography (Peter Darling), set (Rob Howell), illusions (Paul Kiev)and lighting (Hugh Vanstone) are amazing; such a sleek use of staging and such clever use of all the theatre tricks and techniques to make the magic of Matilda a reality.

There was not one aspect of this show that I did not enjoy, and not enough superlatives to praise it all. I laughed so much I cried, and so many of the musical numbers gave me goosebumps. If that wasn’t enough, it finished off with one of the most fun encores I’ve ever seen. I have never seen anything quite like Matilda. I’m going again; in fact I would have stayed on the night for an encore performance of the entire show.

Venue: The Princess Theatre, Spring St, Melbourne
Season: From March. Wed & Sun 1pm, Sat 2pm. Wed to Sat 7pm, Sun 6.30pm
Tickets: Starting from Full $85| Conc $69
Bookings: au.matildathemusical.com/tickets/tickets/

Image by Manuel Harlan

REVIEW: Legally Blonde – The Musical

Omigod, you guys – Lucy Durack is the new pink!

By Kim Edwards

Appropriately playing at The Princess Theatre (that has enjoyed a facelift in pink lighting for the occasion), Legally Blonde – The Musical has opened in Melbourne. Based on the 2001 Reese Witherspoon romantic comedy, Elle Woods, a beautiful blonde sorority girl from Malibu, is dumped by her boyfriend and decides following him into Harvard law is the only solution for winning him back. It’s fluffy, frivolous, decidedly fuchsia – and wonderfully good fun.

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Lucy Durack as Elle is simply effervescent: that beautiful lucid voice and irrepressible vivaciousness on stage is coupled with astute comic timing and delicate character nuances. The effect? Irresistible! Rob Mills does a sound job as Elle’s smarmy ex, Warner, and his song ‘Serious’ is a musical highlight. Cameron Daddo is svelte and smooth as predatory Professor Callahan, while Helen Dallimore comes into her own by the second act when she lets loose as Elle’s new best friend Paulette, and Mike Snell is uproariously funny in his cameo as sexy delivery man Kyle. However, it is David Harris who wins the most hearts as scruffy love interest Emmett Forrest: his disarming naturalism forms an appealing contrast to the high theatricality of the rest of the cast.

For this is definite musical comedy, from the cheer-leading dance moves and cute Barbie doll sets to the scene-stealing antics of Bruiser the purse puppy and Rufus the bulldog. Most of the changes made to get the movie onto the stage are admirable, with new topical jokes and witty lyrics: the opening number ‘Omigod You Guys’ and the cheeky ‘Is He Gay or European?’ are both hilarious and endearing. Less successful is the rather awful title song, the problematic implications of the infamous ‘bend and snap’ technique, and the rather silly plot developments in Act Two, whereby we are left wondering what Elle has actually accomplished for her career and her gender if the legal system and ‘real world’ outside of Delta Nu proves to be as ridiculous and sexist as sorority life.

However, these minor quibbles ultimately do not detract from the merits of this particular Australian production. Legally Blonde – The Musical is pretty in pink, joyously energising, and sparklingly funny. The costumes aren’t always as visually exciting as one might hope, but there is plenty of colour and spectacle, elegant and fluid scene changes, excellent character work from the rest of the cast – and Lucy Durack. Come prepared to fall a little bit in love with this show – and a lot in love with its leading lady.

Legally Blonde is now playing at The Princess Theatre in Melbourne. Tickets are available online through Ticketmaster or ph: 1300 111 011.