Tag: Zuleika Khan

Flourish Productions Presents THE SONGS OF ALAN MENKEN

A warming and appealing tribute

By Narelle Wood

The name Alan Menken is synonymous with so many Broadway and Disney productions: it is hard to capture the gamut of his career, especially in a 2-hour performance review. But the ensemble cast of the review The Songs of Alan Menken certainly did their best to show the range of styles and shows that Menken has contributed to.

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The ensemble of seven singers (Seth Drury, Josh Ellwood, Zuleika Khan, Vanessa Menjivar, Liam J. O’Bryne, Emily Paddon-Brown and Jeff van de Zandt) treated us to songs from wonderful movies and musicals such as Beauty and the Beast, Newsies, Hercules, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Tangled, and Sister Act.  The accompanying choreography (by Rhys Velasquez) and staging (Matthew Lockitt) was simple and seamless, and the lighting was flawless. The only distracting thing was the occasional ‘off-pitch’ note, which was perhaps less about the very talented singers, and more to do with the demanding range needed to perform some of Menken’s more complicated scores. (That, and the appearance of some stuffed animals, which seemed a little bit corny in light of the rest of the show.)

More important were the number of standout moments. “Need to Know” from Weird Romance has become my unofficial ‘geek’ anthem and the duet of “I Can Read You” (Leap of Faith) performed by O’Byrne and Menjivar was brilliant. In saying that, one of my favourite moments came courtesy of Drury and Van de Zandt’s duet of “A Whole New World”: hands down one of the cutest duets of all time. The showstopper though was the ensemble singing one of Menken’s perhaps lesser-known songs, “Sailing On“. It was not a big upbeat number, but an understated and moving arrangement by musical director Lucy O’Brien, with stunning harmonies adroitly performed.

Ultimately, The Songs of Alan Menken was the perfect way to spend a cold Saturday afternoon, with the music of Menken lingering on way after the performance was over.

This production of The Songs of Alan Menken was performed on June 24, 2017 at The Southbank Theatre.

Image by James Terry Photography

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Prince Moo Productions Presents AVENUE Q

Uproariously funny and supremely entertaining

By Jessica Cornish

Growing up as a teenager obsessed with the music of Avenue Q, I was pretty ambivalent as to how the recent Australian production playing at Her Majesty’s Theatre would compare to my original cast recording memories, but as the show began, my anxiety quickly evaporated. It was one of the most engrossing and entertaining musical productions I have seen in the last few years.

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The story follows recent college grad, Princeton, who moves into a colourful apartment block in a diverse neighbourhood filled with Sesame Street-style monsters, puppets and even humans. Throughout the quirky two-hour (and adults’ only) musical journey, we see the youngster settle down, find romance, lose romance, have a fling, and even gain a life purpose along the way.

The dynamic and often dual characters were well cast with Ross Hannaford (Princeton/Rod), Vincent Hooper (Nicky/Trekkie Monster) and Andrew Hondromatidis (Brian), however exceptional performances belonged to Sophie Write (Kate Monster/Lucy the Slut) and Sun Park (Christmas Eve), who between them stole the show. Both women were vocal standouts: pitch perfect, perfect tone and with great resonance. The vocals for superintendent Gary Coleman (Zuleikah Khan) were less secure at times, although it’s a notoriously tricky part which can often challenge a female’s lower vocal range and demand sacrificing power for pitch. As minor characters that weave themselves in and out of the story, the Bad Behaviour Bears performed by Lulu McClatchy and Hooper were also particularly high energy, hilarious and well-worthy of note.

John Kerr‘s set design was simple but effective and the puppeteers draped in black were well-choreographed and transitioned smoothly in and out of different roles all night. Whether you watched the puppet or a puppeteer, both were equally engaging and emotive. Unfortunately the lighting operation was slightly under whelming and patchy at times on the night I attended, with shadows cast on puppet faces and a couple of sloppy follow-spot pickups: however, I’m sure this will sharpen up as the season progresses. The sound was clear and well balanced, however it would have been nice to bump up the volume for an excited opening night audience.

This was, overall, a brilliant production directed by Peter Snee and musically directed by Trevor Jones, and I honestly could not stop smiling the evening. With those witty lyrics and music written by Robert Lopez and Jeff Marx, and Jeff Whitty‘s book helping offer a raunchy insight into the lives of puppets dealing with homosexuality, racism and sex, this new production of Avenue Q is as good as theatre gets.

Season: Performances every night until August 14 (no performances Monday)

Venue: Her Majesty’s Theatre

Bookings: Ticketek

Image by Nichole Riseley

REVIEW: Flourish Productions Presents THE SONGS OF ALAN MENKEN

From immortal Disney blockbusters to rare musical gems

By Adam Tonking

Alan Menken has a singular talent for writing beautiful songs about longing to be somewhere else. On a bleak winter afternoon, there was nowhere I’d rather have been than at Flourish Productions’ The Songs Of Alan Menken. And clearly I wasn’t alone. A packed Toff In Town necessitated more chairs being brought in to accommodate the enthusiastic crowd for this cleverly staged and brilliantly performed revue show.

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The song choices were particularly inspired: some incredible showstoppers from little-known or unproduced works, some more obscure choices from the famous ones, and a sprinkling of favourites simply impossible to omit. A few more obvious choices were neatly packed into a cleverly arranged overture by accompanist Lucy O’Brien. With its simple and effective staging, slick transitions, and some snappy choreography, this show was the perfect package. Add the brilliant music of Menken, and all you need is the cast.

And what a cast. Six performers of such skill that not a moment was lost, not a song failed to hit the mark. Vanessa Menjivar opened proceedings taking the lead in “Zero To Hero,” before blowing us away in “Growing Boy,” handling the food-related innuendo with great style. “Watch What Happens,” a surprisingly complex and difficult song from Newsies, was artfully delivered by Emily Paddon-Brown. Jeff Van De Zandt’s passionate and emotive rendition of “Out There” almost brought me to tears, and Zuleika Khan’s flawless “Mother Knows Best” had them pouring down my face in awe. Khan wowed again in “Suddenly Seymour,” a gorgeously tender moment with an exquisite Liam O’Byrne as Seymour. And Josh Ellwood’s “Need To Know” was a perfect gem of a song. Although it didn’t show off the impressive notes that Ellwood would consistently deliver in the rest of the show, his storytelling was perfect.

Throw in a few group numbers, such as “I Wanna Be A Rockette,” which was so good I can’t believe I’ve never heard of it, and “Lady In The Long Black Dress,” a ridiculous comic song for the men, and the afternoon was perfect. A perfect homage to a composer so beloved for his work with Disney, and so much more to fall in love with. And with a performance of such calibre, I’ll definitely be attending any future shows from Flourish Productions.

Flourish Productions presented The Songs Of Alan Menken at The Toff In Town, Level 2/252 Swanston Street, Melbourne, on Sunday 12th July 2015 at 3pm and Monday 13th of July 2015 at 8pm.

www.flourishproductions.com.au

REVIEW: Trifle Theatre company presents AVENUE Q

An unplifting transition into adulthood

By Myron My

Having seen the West End production six years ago (and remembering it strongly), I had high expectations for Trifle Theatre Company’s production of Avenue Q. Furthermore, I had some reservations as to whether it could match the magic of my original viewing, but within the first few minutes that doubt disappeared. We may only be in March but I can confidently say that this will be one of the best shows I see this year.

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The story follows a recent college graduate, Princeton (played by Jordan Pollard), who is a little wet behind the ears and entering the “real world”. Moving to Avenue Q (the best he can afford) he gets acquainted with the locals, including Kate Monster (played by Sarah Golding), Trekkie Monster (played by the wonderful Andy McDougall), married human couple Christmas Eve and Brian (Leah Lim and Michael Linder) and Gary Coleman (in a interesting casting choice, played by Zuleika Khan).

What follows is two hours of sharp and witty comedy and laughs as each character works towards finding their way in life. Despite the sexually charged innuendo and racy songs such as “Everyone’s A Little Bit Racist” and “The Internet Is For Porn”, there is much heart in these stories and that often-confusing transition into adulthood. The whole cast, including the ensemble, work seamlessly with the puppets and manage to create some human emotion through their movements, actions and speech.

Lighting work by Jason Bovaird captures the mood of the characters and the environment brilliantly and the stage design by Jacob Battista authentically replicates a shabby, down-town New York city block. The six piece band however, led by Musical Director David Wisken, are truly amazing in their unseen performance in a separate room to the small stage.

Avenue Q pushes boundaries between clever and lewd and the only way it succeeds is because puppets can get away with a lot more on stage than any actor could. With a big dose of disbelief, it perfectly blends the innocence of a childhood with the scary realisations of adulthood and creates an uplifting and affirming story about change and transition. Director Stephen Wheat should be congratulated on not only creating a show that is on par with its predecessors but also allowing it to form its own individuality and uniqueness.

I am strongly encouraging people to go and see this production, but the whole season has already completely sold out. Guess it really does suck to be you.

 

Venue: Chapel Off Chapel, 12 Little Chapel St, Prahran

Season: Until 11 April | Tue-Sun 8:00pm, Sat 2:00pm

Tickets: $43.50 Full | $38.50 Conc

Bookings: www.chapeloffchapel.com.au or 8290 7000