Ragtime

In what was surely the production company’s best musical to date Ragtime (book by Terrence McNally, music by Stephen Flaherty and lyrics by Lynn Ahrens) held at the State Theatre, Arts Centre Melbourne was a total hit. With lavish costumes and heartfelt, jazzy songs brought to life by an extremely versatile, powerful and talented cast. Audience’s well and truly had their socks knocked right off. I know for myself I laughed, cried and felt every note and lyric so very deeply.

Set at the start of the 20th century New York, Ragtime tells the story of three different ethnic groups African Americans, White upper-class suburbanites from New Rochelle and Jewish European immigrants.

And everything was ragtime!

Listen to the ragtime!

It’s always such a joy to see people who I know shine/do their thing up on stage. Let alone several in one show. So you can imagine how thrilled I was for them and that it makes it so hard to choose a stand out performance not to mention everyone was just sublime and left me speechless so please allow me to highlight a few.

Kurt Kansley’s portrayal of Coalhouse Walker JR was seamless adding, in my opinion, a touch of Scott Joplin to his character and of course his own natural charm as well. Kurt’s vocals were rich, smooth and full and his passion infectious. Georgina Hopson was the mother and captured the emotional journey/difficulty her character endured with grace, sensitivity, and warmth. And her beautiful soprano voice truly took flight in Back to before. Alexander Lewis triumphed as Tateh a struggling immigrant who only wants the best for his daughter and dreams of a better life for both of them in America. I was captivated by his tenderness, heart and the way he effortlessly brought magic to the role. The lovely Chloe Zuel was Sarah – girlfriend of Coalhouse and let me just say what a talent Chloe is to behold I legit felt every heartbreak and pain her character went through and talk about goosebumps, tears and being able to hear a pin drop in the room when she wowed audiences with Your daddy’s son… truly exceptional and heart wrenching. And lastly, I want to commend the ensemble who were hands down powerful, electric and added depth to this production.

When all being said and done Ragtime leaves one saying that’s why I love musical theatre.

x Steph

Photos by: Jeff Busby

Mirusia and the Original Seekers

Following the success of their #1 Aria albums (Mirusia’s, “A salute to the seekers “and The Original Seekers, “Back to our roots”). Mirusia, Athol Guy, Bruce Woodley, Keith Potger with producer Michael Christiano came together, to form what was truly a heartwarming,  Joyous, honoring & special show across Queensland, Sydney, and Melbourne, celebrating the Seekers story, legacy and timeless music we all know and love.

It was very clear from the get-go that a lot of thought, care and time had gone into the amazing Saturday afternoon of music. which helped in my opinion to create a sense of unity and appreciation amongst everyone present.

One thing I was very impressed with aside from how well all the artists conducted themselves and gelled together effortlessly. Was the very well done historic videos played in between sets/songs that helped immerse you in the Seeker’s inspiring story. I’ve always known about the Seekers but never their full story, so it was very fascinating for me to witness that. The whole time you really do feel like you’re taken on a journey, a part of it all.

Audiences were delighted with hits such as I’ll never find another you, A world of our own, The carnival is over, Georgy Girl, End of the line, Louisiana man – the list goes on. And it’s fair to say the boys haven’t lost their Aussie charm or touch. Singing and playing their instruments like they hadn’t aged a bit. And who doesn’t love those beautiful harmonies and voices? brings tears to your eyes.

Of course, Mirusia Louwerse was simply divine as she is always is, adding her own tribute, flavor, and charm as well as captivating audiences with Colours of my life (Judith Durham) and When the stars begin to fall. The absolute stand out moment for me that honestly made me so very proud to be Australian and blew me away was the song I am Australian, the way it was arranged was amazing and the audience participation and standing ovation was out of this world, a rare moment indeed.

All in all, I think it can be agreed that Mirusia and the Original Seekers were a huge success, I know I definitely left with a huge smile on my face with the songs and memories in my heart that I’ll cherish forever.

I’m sure I speak for everyone though when I say that I hope they team up for another concert again soon.

x Steph

 

Photos by Graham Skaines

It must be believed to be seen

Close your eyes, make a wish and count to three.

When you see Charlie and the chocolate factory the new musical directed by Jack O’Brien it really is that simple. From the get-go, you truly are taken into a world of pure imagination with twists and turns along the way. One might even put it as reliving your childhood. Those of you that have grown-up with the original movie with Gene Wilder will know what I’m talking about.

Young, old and in between there is something for everyone in this magical production. Whether it be the eye-popping sets/costumes (Mark Thompson, Nancy Thun and Rory Powers), The illusions and or puppetry aka theatre magic (Basil Twist) which by the way this show is worth going just to see what they do with the Oompa Loompas they are remarkable, The very cleverly written dialogue/script (David Greig), Or the extremely catchy and jazzy songs that I guarantee will be stuck in your head for days to come  (Marc Shaiman and Scott Whittman) there are some fantastic new additions in there but don’t worry too much cause naturally the classics from the original movie you know and love are in there too.

More!

Now!

Again!

 

Those that know me personally will know I tend to become attached way too easily. So with that being said please don’t get me started on the amazing cast of performers. Because we could be here all day.

But talk about casting done right my word… Paul Slade Smith as Willy Wonka is perfection. Paul has the balance of madness, kindness, gentleness, evilness, wit and humour just right. While of course still making the character his own (not an easy task), The role of loveable Charlie Bucket is shared by five Melbourne boys but on opening night twelve-year-old Lenny Thomas took flight. I have to say I was gobsmacked at this young boys talent all round. Let alone his ability to get charlie’s innocence, courage and heart across so strongly like he did. I can’t begin to imagine just how proud his parents would have been, Karina Russell has the self-confessed princess Veruca Salt that thinks the world revolves around her down pat and does it with such ease, And where would a princess be without her daddy right? well, Stephen Anderson has that well covered and quite comically too might I add, Octavia Barron Martin and Jake Fehily are a delight to behold as Mrs Gloop and Augustus Gloop, Then there’s Jayme Lee Hanekom as Violet Beaurgarde aka diva aka the queen of pop who brings so much colour and sass to the role it’s unreal, Madison Mckoy has the cool dad thing going on as Mr Beaurgarde who rightfully thinks his daughter is a star, believes in her and wants her to succeed in life no matter the cost, Lucy Maunder plays Mrs Bucket and does so with such grace and love that will be sure to warm your heart, Tony Sheldon as Grandpa Joe brings his flair of fun cheekiness that all grandpas should have, and last but not least there’s Jayde Westaby and Harrison Riley as Mrs Teavee and Mike Teavee. Both did an amazing job don’t get me wrong but I particularly loved Harrison Riley’s portrayal of Mike Teavee it was so fresh and relatable to the 21st century in the way of him being your typical moody teenager who’s addicted to video games, T.V. and a screen of any sort really.

All in all, I really want to commend the entire cast and company on doing such a hands-down phenomenal job. It really is no wonder they are playing to sold-out audiences and standing ovations every night.

Charlie and the chocolate factory is now playing at Her Majesty’s Theatre, Melbourne until March 2020 so what are you waiting for? come and step into this world of pure imagination before it disappears. Visit charliethemusical.com.au for tickets.

x Steph

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Lenny Thomas as Charlie Bucket

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Jake Fehily and Octavia Barron Martin as Augustus Gloop and Mrs Gloop
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Jayde Westaby and Harrison Riley as Mrs Teavee and Mike Teavee
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Karina Russell with Stephen Anderson as Veruca Salt and Mr Salt
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Paul Slade Smith as Willy Wonka
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Tony Sheldon and Lenny Thomas as Grandpa Joe and Charlie Bucket

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blackrock

Produced by Ebbflow theatre co a newly Melbourne based independent theatre company founded by executive producer Dean Robinson. Blackrock is a powerful, painful & at times confronting piece of Australian theatre. Inspired by the 1989 murder of Leigh Rennea Mears.

It tells the story of a group of teenagers coming together for a party on the beach. But come morning, something more than tragic has happened. Blackrock follows the aftermath of this, as the party-goers explore their guilt, whether as perpetrators or as bystanders, and their families come to terms with their actions. It’s fair to say Blackrocks themes of toxic masculinity and victim-blaming, and it’s warped visions of what it means to be a friend remain tragically relevant today.

So if you don’t mind that type of heavy material then I would say Ebbflow theatre cos take on this is to be truly commended. When it comes to up and coming talent every single actor and actress did such a remarkable job at holding their own, owning the space around them, projecting their voice, immersing themselves in the character/moment. All the while never failing to be emotionally captivating. I definitely shed a tear or two.

The set was overall simple with a few minor adjustments for the scene changes which worked for this particular production. But a few more set changes etc wouldn’t have gone astray to help with the different scenes and events throughout. I also would love to encourage Ebbflow theatre co to schedule an interval (even if it’s 15 minutes) for future productions with heavy material such as this.

Overall Blackrock is a great piece of Aussie theatre and a good excuse for a night out.

You can catch it and it’s outstanding cast of upcoming actors at St Martins Arts Youth Centre Melbourne until 3rd August. Tickets can be purchased at http://www.ebbflowtheatre.com/shows

x Steph

Just join the circus

If Barnum the Circus Musical doesn’t make you want to run away & join the circus I don’t know what will? 

From the moment you enter the theatre you are greeted with the illusion you are entering a circus tent full of wonder. (Thanks to the amazing stage set up/design) There’s truly something for everyone, young and old in this show. So role up, role up coz the circus has come to town.

Full of bright popping colours, characters & costumes Barnum is what one might call, eye candy which is absolutely 100% perfect to captivate the audiences initial attention. Because from there, dare I say we are like putty in the hands of the cast…. Well, I know I was anyway. 

Whatever your favourite part about a circus is, the extraordinary cast/ensemble certainly had it all. Everything from flips, tricks, trapeze, unicycle riding, stilts, Aerial ballet, acrobats and clowns you just name it. It’s also worth mentioning that some acts leave you holding your breath. Umm yep its best to not try that at home kids. Again all the cast & everyone involved absolutely smash it hands down.

When it comes to musical theatre legends you’re best to look no further than Todd Mckenney as P.T Barnum. Fair to say that’s some pretty smart casting right there & Todd’s portrayal of him was faultless, bringing just the right balance of comedy, wit & heart to the character ( a joy to watch on stage) & In the words of Todd himself where is Hugh Jackman when you need him?

Suzie Mathers as the Swedish Nightingale, Jenny Lind is a delight to behold. Who doesn’t love a good opera singer really? Suzie’s class, vocals & accent are spot on. Making you feel like you are truly in the presence of royalty. And might I add such a sweetie off stage too.

Kirby Burgess Barnum’s first female ringmaster was the icing on the cake for me… such talent if ever I did see. Clearly born for the role, Kirby works the stage demanding your attention, in the nicest way possible of course. Her energy and charisma alone are enough to leave you hooked as to what’s about to happen next.

Lastly, who doesn’t love a good laugh? Well, Akina Edmonds as Joice Heth and Joshua Reckless as Tom Thumb have you covered. In their enchanting songs, thank God I’m old and bigger isn’t better. It’s guaranteed you won’t be able to wipe the smile off your face.

So come follow the band Melbourne – Barnum the circus musical is defiantly a must see. Playing at the comedy theatre until June 2nd with great seats still available. Visit www.Ticketmaster.com.au for more info.

x Steph

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Moments

Choreographed & led by Madeline Pratt Moments is a moving & beautiful original theatre piece with true stories told through dance, movement, music  & voice. Takes you on a heartfelt, emotional yet funny journey of significant moments we go through in our lives & how they affect us individually. 

Held at the Gas Works theatre in Albert Park the smaller space I found helped engage the audience with the raw emotions of the incredibly talented nine performers – especially in their facial expressions. The dancers were completely energised the whole way through & kept the audience engaged from start to finish. And each ‘moment’ was seamlessly transitioned into (The show as a whole flowed really well) making it impossible just to pinpoint, one person, as all the performers immersed themselves in it 100%. Not to mention the body percussion with the beats of the music was particularly sharp.

I want to commend Madeline on this brilliant piece of theatre & for being so bold & brave when it comes to literally putting ones self into something. But for also being so open, honest & real etc It’s not something to be taken lightly & I take my hat off to her for that.

Overall ‘Moments’ is a great night out/ a must see & will sure to leave you impacted, speechless & thinking. But hurry as its only playing until March 30th Tickets can be purchased at www.gasworks.org.au 

x Steph

 

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