Tag: Tim Rice

Review: The Beautiful Game

Theatricalised slice of Irish Troubles

By Owen James

Amidst the madness of Fringe, independent company Manilla Street Productions are presenting a rarely-performed Andrew Lloyd-Webber and Tim Rice musical about the lives of a football team wrestling with pride and confrontation during ‘The Troubles’. This is a high-quality production of material that I found at times unfulfilling and disjointed, but full kudos to Manilla Street Productions for choosing to tackle this little-known show.

Lloyd-Webber’s score is nothing groundbreaking, but suitably serves the emotional elements of the story. Though rife with generic and poorly-written lyrics that hinder potential character development, there are beautiful ballads and dynamic ensemble numbers peppered throughout. The book by respected veteran writer Ben Elton is at its best when tackling the darker themes stewing beneath these characters’ lives, crafting moments of emotion that are deeply affecting.

Director/producer Karen Jemison has brought the world of 1969 Belfast to life with evident understanding of the political and religious thunderstorm these conflicted young men are swallowed by. It is this ongoing conflict – both in their heads and on the streets – that is at the heart of The Beautiful Game, where you either take a side, or someone will choose one for you. Jemison has injected the production with a realistic sense of energy and danger that makes for compelling, engaging character work.

Choreography by Sue-Ellen Shook is seamlessly integrated into blocking, executed by an ensemble at the top of their game (no pun intended). A football match dissolves into a competitive, masculine dance sequence and out again in a West Side Story-esque blend of athleticism and choreographic metaphor. Daniele Buatti’s expert musical direction embraces the tender Irish melodies and rousing, chanted anthems of Lloyd-Webber’s score with vivacity and concentrated delicacy.

Stephen Mahy brings innocence and vulnerability to ambitious footballer John Kelly. This is a great vehicle for Mahy’s talents, his versatile voice gliding over difficult high melodies with ease – Mahy can sing anything. Stephanie Wall has crafted a detailed character in love interest Mary, and executes a perfect rendition of heartfelt, part-acapella ballad ‘If This Is What We’re Fighting For’.

David Meadows is a standout as Father O’Donnell, bringing gravitas and humour to this commanding but compassionate man, and finding depth in scenes both celebratory and devastating. Des Flanagan as bitter, turbulent Thomas carries the character’s complicated arc with building intensity in a delightfully intimidating and exceptional performance.

Sound design by Marcello Lo Ricco is superb, highlighting crisp and clean vocals and every note from the nine-piece band. Lighting designer Jason Bovaird has once again transformed the intimate Chapel into a colourful paradise, creating menacing alleyways, rowdy pubs, hotel rooms and bright football ovals, all with distant, twinkling Irish hues hanging over every desperate character’s decision.

The material is undoubtedly imbued with heart and passion, but does not always connect its serious and comedic elements in a believable manner, creating a sometimes confusing dichotomy of tone. The extremely strong cast and production team of Manilla Street have played to the show’s many strengths with a very faithful, polished presentation – audiences will undoubtedly relish the professional performances and quality of this production. I cannot wait to see what Manilla Street bring us next.

Running at Chapel Off Chapel until 29th September
Tickets: https://chapeloffchapel.com.au/show/the-beautiful-game/

 

 

Melbourne Premiere of ALADDIN: THE MUSICAL

A show to grant all your wishes

By Jessica Cornish

Soaring into a world of imagination, music, sequins and rich Middle Eastern textiles, the iconic Disney-cartoon-turned-Broadway-musical Aladdin has hit the stage of Her Majesty’s Theatre, kickstarting Melbourne’s 2017 premiere season.

Aladdin the Musical.jpeg

Aladdin, under the clever direction and choreography of Casey Nicholaw, follows the fairy tale story of the street-wise orphan who unexpectedly finds himself master of a vivacious genie with the power to transform him into a prince and win Princess Jasmine’s heart.

The fast-paced musical closely mirrors the nostalgic cartoon in look and feel. The stage was luxuriously draped with backlit silk drops, hanging pendent lights and texturally rich Arabian rugs and patterns designed by Bob Crowley. A series of appropriately-themed new songs were composed for the stage musical that successfully complimented the original score maintaining the song’s original themes and overall feel, while the well-known favourites (composed by Alan Menken with lyrics by Tim Rice, Howard Ashman and Chad Beguelin) from the original score were all present. “Arabian Nights”, “One Jump Ahead”, “Prince Ali”, “Friend Like Me” and of course “A Whole New World” all dazzle on stage, with the latter successfully incorporating the illusive magic carpet effortlessly flying through a darkened backlit stage of speckled light.

The musical was well cast with impressive leads and a vocally and visually strong ensemble. Ainsley Melham (Aladdin) fit the build and imagination as the lovable lead: he was vocally precise with a solid appealing stage presence and when coupled with his petite co-star Hiba Elchikhe (Princess Jasmine), their characters had a beautiful chemistry together, (although I sometimes wasn’t sure if Jasmine was from the Middle East or the Bronx – there were a few inconsistencies across the board with accent choices).

Hands down Michael James Scott’s larger-than-life presence as the sassy blue Genie stole the show. Shaking the audience to life with topical Australian-tailored comedic references and oozing with glitter and energy, he riveted the audience with his songs and consistently provided comic relief for the narrative, which was well counter-balanced by evil doo-er Adam Murphy (Jafar), who literally seemed to be a delicious reincarnate of the cartoon character.

The sound quality, similarly to the lighting design by Natasha Katz, was vibrant and punchy however periodically Elchikhe’s voice was lost in the mix, overpowered by her male counterparts voices and instrumentation. Similarly, there were a couple of lyrics that were lost in the Genie’s numbers: however, I’m sure these minor sound issues will be quickly ironed out by opening night.

Overall, this musical has it all and is a perfect night out for children big (yes, even the adults won’t be able to resist) and small. This pacey, high-energy musical is gloriously bursting with colour and pyrotechnics and upbeat music. It opened in Melbourne this week, so take advantage of this while you can!

Where: Her Majesty’s Theatre, 219 Exhibition Street, Melbourne 3000

When: April 20- October 22

Wednesday- Saturday evening performances 8pm

Sunday evening performance 6:30pm

Wednesday and Sunday matinees at 1pm

Ticket prices range from $50-$195.00

Bookings: Call Ticketek agency 132 849, visit the website Tickettek.com.au or any Tickettek agency or the Box Office in Her Majesty’s Box Office opens two hours prior to all performances for door sales and ticket collections.