Tag: Todd McKenney

REVIEW: Opera Australia and John Frost Present ANYTHING GOES

This production is oh so easy to love…

By Amy Planner

This Cole Porter theatre classic has smashed audience expectations with its all-singing, all-tap-dancing stage spectacular. Bursting with maritime hilarity and whimsical choreography is the latest production of the stupendous Anything Goes.

Anything Goes

When the ocean liner SS America sets off from New York to London with a few lovers, a night club evangelist and a couple of criminals on board, anything goes! This group of unlikely travellers set off in search of the ultimate destiny, true love; but who can find true love without a little help from a bunch of singing sailors and a little criminal activity?

Caroline O’Connor should be marvelled at for her audacious performance as Reno Sweeney, the club performer moonlighting as an all-hailing all-saving evangelist. O’Connor brought the house down with her slapstick humour, formidable voice and step-perfect dance routines.

Todd McKenney was almost unrecognisable as the seemingly pompous but all-round fun loving, Lord Evelyn Oakley. His outrageous wig and goofy demeanour made for a truly amusing performance, and when McKenney’s dancing there’s nowhere else you can look.

Other more than notable performances included the criminally hilarious Wayne Scott Kermond as Moonface Martin, the suave and charming Alex Rathgeber as Billy Crocker, the seductive yet comical Debora Krizak as Erma and of course Gerry Connolly and Josh Gates as The Captain and Purser.

The large ensemble cast was brilliantly talented and each performer just as entertaining as the next; any one of them could have danced alone on the stage under a single spotlight for two hours and the audience would never complain.

From the glorious gowns of the pre-show on-stage bar mingling to the effortless poolside swing shorts, the costumes were impeccable. Dale Ferguson had such a theatrical and applaudable vision for this Broadway classic despite countless productions before it. Visually this cast would stand out from any revival; the team deserves huge amounts of praise for their nautical flair.

Unique choreography by Andrew Hallsworth paired with this impressive cast has resulted in good honest entertainment that leaves you clapping after every toe tap. Musical Director Peter Casey delighted with a truly refreshing and soulful interpretation of Cole Porter’s most wonderful songs.

Opening night had a couple of lengthy scene crosses and a lost line or two but it took nothing away from this production, receiving a standing ovation that demanded several bows. Be amazed by the spectacular nautical explosion that is Anything Goes. You’ll get a kick out of this one.

Venue: Princess Theatre, Spring Street, Melbourne
Season: Until 119 July, Tues/Wed 1pm, Wed-Sat 7.30pm, Sat 2pm, Sun 3pm.
Tickets: From $50.54
Bookings: www.ticketmaster.com or www.anythinggoesmusical.com.au

Image By Jeff Busby

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REVIEW: Melbourne Return Season of GREASE

It’s still got groove!

By Jessica Cornish

Grease is the word, haven’t you heard? Following a 2013 sell-out season at Her Majesty’s Theatre, the hand-jiving musical is back by popular demand, this time playing at the beautiful Regent Theatre. Bert Newton opened the show as Vince Fontaine with some audience banter which confused my theatre companion, but he was followed by a punchy overture musically directed by Peter Casey and played out by the band of men clad in silk pink shirts. From the moment the music kicks in you can’t help but get excited and dance around, possibly a little too much in your seat.

GREASE_Photo_by_JEFF_BUSBY

This production of Grease directed by David Gilmore was one of the most enjoyable and high-energy musicals I have seen in a long time. Rob Mills and the relatively unknown Gretel Scarlett have returned to the stage as the Rydell High heart-throbs Danny and Sandy. They were pitch perfect throughout the entire night, and slipped into the teen roles perfectly.  The show was sleek and well-polished, and the cast really nailed their parts (however if I’m going to nitpick, it probably wouldn’t hurt the ensemble to brush up on their American accents.)  I did feel the only performers who really had to work that little harder to hit those highs were the famous Aussie icons themselves, including John Paul Young, Todd McKenney and Newton himself. But don’t get me wrong: the audience was overjoyed to see these guys do their thing – they could have spoken their songs, and the opening night crowd would still have been thrilled.

The lighting was crisp, bright and replete with red LED strips and Elvis images that framed the show all evening. Fluro-pink love hearts flew in and out, adding to the 1950’s feel of the show as designed by Terry Parsons, and accompanied by the occasional pings of colour from the hanging mirror balls. The show seamlessly transitioned through all the scenes, and had a really quick pace across the evening. The famous hit songs such as “Greased Lightning” and “Summer Loving”, staged and choreographed by Arlene Phillips, were satisfyingly well-done, and I literally had to stop myself from singing along.

It was a thoroughly enjoyable night’s entertainment, and no matter how many times you may have seen the movie, I promise you won’t be disappointed seeing this musical live on stage.

Grease is playing at The Regent Theatre until January 25, 2015. Tickets start from $60.

http://greaseistheword.com.au/tickets/

REVIEW: The Production Company’s LA CAGE AUX FOLLES

A little more mascara

By Ross Larkin

La Cage Au Folles began as a play in the 70’s by Jean Poiret until it was later remodelled into a musical by Jerry Herman. In 1996, Hollywood created the well-known film version, renaming it The Birdcage. Melbourne’s The Production Company last night opened their version of the musical at The Arts Centre, with Todd McKenney and Simon Burke as gay lovers Albin and Georges and a familiar supporting cast including Rhonda Burchmore, Gary Sweet and Marg Downey.

La Cage Au Folles - Todd McKenney and Les Cagelles

When Georges’ son Jean-Michel (Robert Tripolino) announces his engagement to Anne (Emily Milledge), matters accelerate to hysterical at the prospect of his fiance’s highly conservative and political parents (Sweet and Downey) coming over to meet Jean-Michel’s family.

Decidedly flamboyant transvestite Albin is deemed by Jean-Michel too risky and controversial to meet Anne’s parents and is advised to make himself scarce for the evening. When Jean-Michel’s birth mother fails to show, Albin steps in in all his convincing drag glory under the pretence of being mother himself, and hilarity ensues.

As with any famous and celebrated show, there are unavoidable audience expectations. In the case of La Cage Au Folles, it is safe to assume that giant laughs, flashy songs, spectacular dancing and tremendous energy are all somewhat anticipated.

Regretfully, The Production Company only gently hit the mark, waxing and waning in pace and stamina. The occasional musical number is quite impressive while too many others are underwhelming and forgettable.

The two leads are undoubtedly well performed, with McKenney in particular delivering much of the needed laughs and glamour, and Aljin Abella as the butler a consistent source of humour and force.

However, director Dean Bryant’s decision to merge La Cage Au Folles into pantomime territory with actors speaking to and interacting with the audience for extended periods (presumably to cover costume changes) was an ill-fated one, breaking from the struggling momentum even further.

Sweet as Anne’s father might have looked the part but was typically miscast, yelling every line with farcical irritation and further contributing to the pantomime domain. Downey and Burchmore were reliably enjoyable but sadly appeared all too briefly.

Essentially, Bryant and The Production Company have found most of the ingredients necessary to make La Cage Au Folles the dazzling spectacle it deserves to be, however, its current state feels underbaked, in need of increased pace, energy, stakes and more bold choreography.

La Cage Au Folles is playing at The Arts Centre Playhouse, Melbourne, until December 7, Wednesday-Sunday at 7.30pm and Tuesday December 2 at 7.30pm, with 2pm matinees each Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday. Bookings 1300 182 183 or visit www.artscentremelbourne.com.au