Romeo & Juliet

Aside from seeing great talent & a well-done piece of theatre, as a reviewer & theatre lover there’s nothing that makes me happier than seeing people improve. GJ productions Romeo & Juliet is no exception. Held in the relaxed & beautiful surrounds of Fairfield park at the Fairfield Amphitheatre, there’s something for everyone in this fresh & modern take on what one would say to be one of Shakespeare’s most well-known love stories. 

There was a prompt, smooth start & an added in few extras to further help set the mood & keep the audience interested. Everyone took great care to project the authenticity. The production as a whole is really well rehearsed & the actors all engage with the audience, truly not afraid to immerse themselves in their character, being sure to use bold & vibrant facial expressions & body language. I was however particularly impressed with the well-choreographed fight scenes (led by Geoffrey Weber) & effective sound effects etc where appropriate throughout the show. 

The lighting, backdrop & props were kept simple allowing for the eye-catching costume designs by Etherael Andy to shine through helping make you feel like you were truly in that time & era. 

Holding the play at an Amphitheatre does make it more difficult to check tickets before you enter to ensure no unpaid patrons enter. Secondly i noticed that there were some delays in turning on of the actors mics before they started speaking. I found that at some points the actors would start speaking before the mics kicked in & thus I felt I missed the first bit of what the actors said. 

Overall Gjs Romeo & Juliet is a great summers night out for any Shakespeare/theatre lover & is sure to please all ages. But hurry as its only playing until January 26th 

Tickets can be purchased at trybooking.com (search GJ Productions) 

x Steph

Photos by Matthew Howat

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Stick it to the man

Based on the hit film Andrew Lloyd Webber’s latest musical “School of Rock” is a guaranteed crowd pleaser. Whether you’re young or young at heart this electric show has something for everyone… humour, romance, heart & more importantly ROCK! Yep school’s in for the summer.

I couldn’t think of anyone more perfectly cast to fill the big shoes of Dewey Finn than Brent Hill. Being on stage for virtually the whole show is no easy task in fact it’s mammoth. But Brent does it so effortlessly bringing a jolt of energy to the role all the while guiding & playing off the children beautifully.

Amy Lehpamer gracefully immerses herself in the role of school principal Rosalie Mullins. She brings just the right amount of sternness, class & comedy. For me this took full flight flight during Amy’s delivery of “Here at Horace Green” and her range of vocals are a treat in itself. Then there’s the three entire casts of kids rotated through the Melbourne production run, “don’t get me started”, it’s impossible not to say they are the true stars of the show. All of the children are aged between 8 and 13 & playing instruments, etc. live on stage.  Aside from being super adorable & yes cheeky too, they all in their own way bring the house down. I can only imagine how proud their parents must be? I myself was left totally mesmerised at their energy, passion & ability at such a young age.  They are stars in the making.

“There’s no way you can stop the School of Rock”

The sets and costumes are simple but super effective allowing in my opinion the energy and talent to brightly shine forth.

School of Rock must leave Melbourne’s Her Majesty’s Theatre February 10th 2019. Tickets are selling fast so hurry and make sure you book your tickets to ensure you don’t miss out on this smash hit production. You can also go to schoolofrockthemusical.com for more dates & times in a city near you.

x Steph

Evita

Who wouldn’t jump at the chance to see one of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s & Tim Rice’s master pieces? The 40th anniversary Australian tour of Evita (the life of Argentine political leader Eva Peron, the second wife of Argentine president Juan Peron) starring pop star Tina Arena is what one might say is musical theatre at it’s best, a well oiled machine going full steam ahead with talent bursting at the seams.

Tina Arena’s portrayal of Evita is truly splendid, irreplaceable. Her pitch perfect yet raw vocals command the stage & leave you with goosebumps. Don’t Cry for Me Argentina is truly showing that off. Brazilian Opera singer Paulo Szot delivers an eye – catching performance as Colonel Peron & might I add, in my opinion, he just might be the best one you’re likely to hear. Kurt Kansley offers a wild, reckless yet cheeky narrator (Che) is perfect for the role. I’m a BIG musical theatre lover so I’d be lying if I said I didn’t thoroughly enjoy Michael Falzons humorous theatrical portrayal of tango singer Magaldi.

She had her moments she had some style

Being a pianist myself I loved hearing all the rich colour of the scores being brought to life by the incredible Orchestra under the direction of David Cullen & Guy Simpson. The volume & intensity of the Ensemble in chorus numbers such as A new Argentina, The Money Kept Rolling In & Perons latest flame truly jump off the stage & create a sense of depth that only comes from a group of dedicated performers giving their best.

Don’t miss out on what people are calling the theatrical event of the year. Evita plays at the State theatre, Arts centre Melbourne until 16th February 2019

x Steph

 

Heather’s the musical

What a joy & privilege it was for me to be invited back to review/attend another one of GJ  Production’s amazing show, this time at the opening night of ‘Heathers’ the musical. A humorous, heartbreaking, heartfelt, dark & messy story of the typical struggle teenagers go through in finding out who they are in the crazy world of high school.

For a company of three or so years I am always blown away by the high quality of work produced. GJ Productions has defiantly taught me that it’s not always about the huge flashy sets or effects (all though it does help make a show) but rather pure talent & a persons ability, through themselves, plunge head first into the character they’re portraying.

“What’s your damage Heather”? – Veronica Sawyer

Whatever your taste is there is something for everyone & ‘Heathers’ the musical defiantly doesn’t disappoint in that regard with simple, modest, yet key props, classic costumes true to the 1989 American high school era & an explosion of talent. The entire cast were exceptional, gave their all & you could clearly see they were 100% in it. But allow me to highlight a few…

Antoinette Davis as Veronica Sawyer, let me just say wow! I was left speechless & blown away at this young lady’s talent, being her first performance since university even more so. I think you’ll agree with me me when I say she makes playing the girl that finds herself getting caught up into all the mess easy, effortless & believable, you can so feel her pain. Her performance was honest, raw, powerful & vocals strong. Then there’s Alexandra Knight as Ms Fleming, Veronica’s mum & a student. I have always admired people who can juggle & perform three characters as I’m sure it would be no easy task & Alexandra was no exception. She brings just the right amount of humour to this story & it’s not hard to see why her take on the song ‘Shine a Light’ got resounding applause. Then last but not least there’s Grace Maddern as Heather Chandler. It’s fair to say this lady is a little pocket rocket of talent to say the least… from producing, choreographing, acting there’s nothing Grace can’t do & this is clearly evident in ‘Heathers’.

One thing I did notice, relatively minor, is that I would encourage the director to consider the balance between the volume of music vs the vocals as I found it to be a bit challenging at times with the music louder than the singing & vocals.

I commend the co-founders of GJ Productions, Grace Maddern & Jack Wilkinson on their incredible work ethic, for continuing to support up & coming artists & for providing a warm, friendly, safe environment in which they can share their talents with the audience.

‘Heathers’ the musical is currently playing at St Martins Theatre South Yarra until November 3rd. Tickets can be purchased at trybooking.com (search GJ Productions).

x Steph

Photos by Matthew Howat

 

Freedom

I have pondered long & hard at what one might say about such a musical like Madiba (a celebration of the life of Nelson Mandela). Written & composed by Jean – Pierre Hadida. It’s a very different musical from your typical type yet is one that will deeply stir, impact, move, inspire & touch you in so many ways. I personally at times was moved to tears.

The sets are so cleverly adaptable enabling for quick,smooth scene changes & the bright colourful costumes are true to the beautiful South African culture. The choreography is Vibrant & energetic.

“I learned courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear” – Nelson Mandela

Seeing every single bit of this musical brought to life in such a powerful, true & compelling way through dance, storytelling & song by the incredibly talented cast is an unforgettable experience. From the main leads right to the ensemble, I can not even begin to pin point individual cast members to say how amazing they are. As it is quite plain to see that they all shine 100% in their own special ways. Each & everyone of them embody their part & without a doubt do it justice all the while making it so believable.

Words alone can not describe how much I loved this production. The end story is uplifting & will have you joining in the joyful dancing. So what are you waiting for? go & experience what I experienced.

Madiba is currently playing at the Comedy Theatre in Melbourne until October 28th Great seats are still available. For other tour dates near you visit madibamusical.com.au

x Steph

From the heart

Known to many as “The Unconventional Pop Star” and “The Angel of Australia”. Dutch, Australian born soprano Mirusia is surly a star in her own right. With her solo career in full flight, her recent “From the heart tour” in Melbourne at Bunjil Place, Narre Warren, had what one would arguably say the recipe for the perfect afternoon out.

From the moment you walk in, there is already a sense of familiarity & comfort. One might say its like coming home again. The simple yet sweet stage set up, along with the “Cranbourne Chorale” set the tone for the afternoon of fairytale like moments that one will cherish forever. 

If the beautiful diverse array of song arrangements – From the heart, Ava Maria, Memory, Colours of the wind, Within my heart (Highland Cathedral) I could of danced all night, Already Home… Just to name a few doesn’t already warm your heart, then Mirusia’s crystal clear yet warm voice & unique ability to connect with her audience both on a personal (old friend kind of way) & humorous level will be sure to do that for you. And being a girl you can’t help but notice all the gorgeous change of dresses she wore.

It’s always so refreshing to see someone share the spotlight & showcase their chamber orchestra the way Mirusia does & that just goes hand in hand with the type of person she is, the same on/off stage warm, friendly, humble, genuine, down to earth & so unaffected by her fame. And anyone that goes to meet/greet her after the show will see that in an instance. 

Yes it’s true one can not help but love Mirusia

Check out http://mirusia.net/calendar for tour dates near you

x Steph

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Just be you

Hi Everyone!

Ever wondered why I started That theatre life & the inspiration behind it? well wonder no more. Because it is with great joy that I can now share what I’ve been working on the past little while.

This is something that is close to my heart & special to me so I hope you like it & are left feeling encouraged that who you are is enough & that you can do anything you put your mind to. More often than not we are all capable of more than we realize

x Steph

Some kind of wonderful!

Just when I thought that I couldn’t possibly love musical theatre and get sucked in anymore than I already do, Along comes Beautiful the Carole King musical.

A truly uplifting,funny,warm,heart felt and gorgeous story of Carole Kings extraordinary career & life. Produced by Michael Cassel and his team in Australia, one might say that they sure know how to put on a show and select the cast etc You honestly can’t fault the amazing, first class shows Michael produces. They are special in everyway

In a musical that spans over two decades, it features over 100 incredible wigs and costumes which are so mind boggling and impressive let alone being so true to the era. When I first walk in and see a musical, I love nothing more than soaking up all the beauty and the breath taking sets and props. Beautiful sure delivers, from the stunning grand piano all the way to the jazzy lights, the sets and props have what you might call a simple yet easy, pleasing  on the eye appeal while still delivering the wow factor.

“And you know what’s so funny about life? Sometimes it goes the way you want and sometimes it doesn’t And sometimes when it doesn’t you find something Beautiful” – Carole King

And where would a musical be without a super talented cast? Esther Hannaford as the incomparable Carole King, it’s not hard to see why people are saying she’s destined for the role. Her raw yet honest portrayal of King is truly something to behold. (you honestly feel the pain and struggle king personally went through) I was left speechless at her strong, powerful & beautiful vocals. Then there’s Josh Piterman as Gerry Goffin, his talent and ability to make the character so believable is second to none. There was one scene in particular, where I honestly got a bit emotional & felt just what it would of been like for Gerry live with his condition the way he did – so thats saying something. Josh’s rich, warm vocals are of course the cherry on top.

I don’t like leaving anyone out and that is only two of the incredible 24 cast members. So I’ll finish by saying the entire cast and company do such a hands down phenomenal job it’s no wonder Beautiful is a broadway sensation.

Beautiful is currently playing at Her Majesty’s Theatre until July, great seats are available so what are you waiting for? Grab your tickets and be sure not to miss out on this feel good musical.

x Steph

 

 

Twelfth Night

I recently was given the privilege of attending a theatre show of a different kind, a modern day take on William Shakespeare’s ‘Twelfth Night’ produced by GJ Productions (co – founded by Grace Maddern & Jack Wilkinson) a new Melbourne based warm and friendly production company supporting up & coming artists while also providing them with the opportunity to share their talents with the community and theatre lovers alike.

Despite a few organisational issues which led to a delayed start, in true preview style the  rest of Twelfth Night went off without a hitch.

Held at the beautiful Fairfield Amphitheatre on a warm summer’s night, GJ Production’s Twelfth Night had the recipe you need for a great night out. Whatever your taste is I am sure you won’t be disappointed whether it be the light hearted comedy approach (great for laughs) the incredible unique masks by Masks and Puppets Plus which made the era that bit more realistic or just the amazing talent from the cast which for me personally is always so refreshing seeing new, exciting, promising and arising talent of which co – founders Grace and Jack clearly have an eye for….

The eleven cast members where second to none

Each performer was eager to please, giving it their all and bringing a piece of themselves to the stage, some even taking on two roles.  It’s fair to say this cast of many talents are a joy to behold but it was the likes of Madeline Pratt as the Mischievous Maria and Jacob Mills as the vain Sir Andrew Aguecheek that stole the show. Both being their first performance outside of university I was dumbfounded at their talent firstly but also how effortlessly they threw themselves into their character taking you on a journey and making them believable all the while delighting you with much humour and engaging the audience where needed.

Having said all of that though everyone did such a great job and should be commended. I have no doubt Melbourne will be seeing more of them in the future. And to GJ Productions I look forward to supporting/ seeing where you guys go next! the stars are the limit.

Twelfth Night is playing at the Fairfield Amphitheatre until the 28th of January get your tickets at trybooking.com and search GJ Productions.

x Steph

 

 

Photos by Matthew Howat

 

 

 

 

 

The Magic of Maastricht

Have you ever had a dream/desire so strong

that you’ve been so confidant/determined that one day it will come true?

Well for me that dream & so much more came true half way through last year when I got to spend one glorious week in Maastricht experiencing Andre Rieu’s series of hometown concerts on the beautiful Vrijthof square.

But for now let’s start at the beginning

From the moment I stepped  off that bus & tripped  over my suitcase from excitement landing right in front of the set up process surrounding the square, I immediately felt like I was in what I like to call the Maastricht bubble which only grows over time.

Allow me to share with you my week….

 

Day 1: After tripping over my suitcase & composing myself I just had to take a peak at the set up progress on the square on the way to the hotel.

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Day 2: Consisted of a walk around & exploring the charming city of Maastricht. Of course it ended with a brief stop to look at Andre’s castle to.

 

 

Day 3: The long awaited Dress rehearsal – The moment where everything sunk in, became just that bit more surreal & felt like I was walking in some beautiful dream & that if I where to dare close my eyes or look away it would all disappear.

 

 

 

It’s all the little things along the way like how relaxed, easy going, warm, welcoming & approachable the orchestra members are. Vincenzo one of the violinists in the orchestra recognised me from previous concerts in Australia & came over to chat and asked if I wanted a photo to which I of course said “yes please”. He then afterwards jokingly said “Now you can go back home to Australia”

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Day 4: Even if my friend & I weren’t in the square yet we joined in from our hotel balcony overlooking the square which was just as good & photos simply don’t do justice. There is nothing quite like the Vrijthof square at concert time. Everything is alive & buzzing with atmosphere full of excitement, joy & anticipation.

 

 

 

Day 5: The big VIP & concert day – It’s fair to say I felt like a true princess thanks to Andre Rieu travel – The royal proceedings were as follows. Checked in to the most stunning five star hotel where myself & the rest of the group were welcomed with a lunch reception out in the courtyard. Afterwards we were then escorted by Andre’s company buses to his castle for a tour lead by his son Pierre & then it was on to cake & coffee in the castle courtyard. As we were on a strict time schedule we were then escorted back to the hotel to get ready for our three course dinner/evening entertainment before being lead into the square by a marching band (yes a marching band) where we took our seats front row centre for a night we shall never forget. A massive highlight for me was the high five from Andre & other orchestra members as they came marching in.

 

 

 

Day 6: The Johann Strauss orchestra are seriously people of many talents (as if traveling the world for most of the year isn’t busy enough) many of you may not know that aside from that many of them also have their own business whether that be making their own head pieces & jewellery right down to brewing/making their own coffee etc yup they do it all. For me personally it was so special to be able to see, witness, purchase & try some of these things & support them outside of the orchestra.

 

 

Day 7:  Never in my wildest dreams did I think this Aussie girl would ever make it to Maastricht let alone meeting the people I did, being singled out by orchestra members… you name it I was very blessed & overwhelmed to say the least. Then to top it off a lovely lady approached me & blessed me with a free concert ticket to go a third time. I’m still in disbelief even today.

 

 

 

Day 8: The final concert night & memories that will last a life time. To this day I still look back in awe & shed a tear of joy & thankfulness – ‘greatful’ is a massive understatement.

Having said that though in all honesty if you’re like me & love classical music/theatre then I know without a shadow of a doubt you’ll love Andre & his amazing Johann Strauss orchestra. Whether it be the lovely selections of waltzes, polkas, operas etc, the stunning dresses the female orchestra members/soloists wear, dancing in the aisles or just the stage set up & atmosphere… You’re in for a real treat or as Andre would say “a night you’ll never forget”.

 

 

 

 

Day 9: They say a picture is worth a thousand words & in this case I think my face says it all. It sure wasn’t easy leaving beautiful Maastricht nor Andre & his orchestra let alone going back to reality & having your beautiful Maastricht bubble popped. Maastricht has such a charm/beauty & the people are ever so friendly that you can’t help but fall in love with it & want to go back one day.

x Steph

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