Hairspray

“Welcome to the 60s Melbourne” where the hair is big, the tunes are pumping, there’s a feel good energy and anything can happen. 

Beloved on the screen & the stage this production of the original Broadway musical doesn’t disappoint. Telling the story of teen Tracy Turnblad living an ordinary life in Baltimore, 1962. Her Mum, Edna, is a big woman whose youthful ambitions have gone nowhere, while Dad Wilbur owns a joke shop. Tracy dreams of being on the Corny Collins Show, a popular TV program on which nice white kids dance and sing – except once a month when it’s ‘negro day’. Despite producer Velma Von Tussle’s opposition, plus-sized Tracy joins the show through luck, force of will and the cool moves she learns from some African-American students at her highschool. She lives her dream – including getting romantic with the show’s hottie – while fighting for racial integration, and takes her Mum and best friend Penny along for the ride. 

The set celebrates mid-century TV with an American Bandstand-inspired studio and lots of cartoon styling. It’s achieved with amazing simplicity: mostly two-dimensional elements, jazzed up by strong lighting and patterned projections, and by costumes rich with often clashing colours and eye-popping patterns. From seamlessly switched sets to flawlessly done choreography, everything runs like clockwork, leaving you craving more of its infectious feel good energy.

Shane Jacobson absolutely nails the role of Edna bringing massive amounts of talent to the stage. And if I might add, it wouldn’t be an easy task for a male wearing the large wigs, costumes & heels that is required of Edna. Todd Mckenney complements Shane’s Edna perfectly. Their duet ‘You’re timeless to me’ is awe inspiring and a highlight of the show. Rob Mills adds just the right amount of over the top cheesiness as tv host Corny Collins and I’ll add truly shines up on stage. And let’s not forget making her professional musical theatre debut is Carmel Rodrigues as Tracy, a role she was clearly born to play… energetic, funny, top vocals. A perfect Tracy if you ask me. Other highlights include Javon King as seaweed and Asabi Goodman as motormouth Maybelle. 

Without a doubt, this show will have you smiling from ear to ear – it’s joyful, uplifting and even if you don’t already know the tunes, you’ll be singing and dancing along by the time the final curtain comes down. For tickets and more information visit hairspraymusical.com.au

x Steph

Photos by Jeff Busby

9 to 5

Based on the 1980 film which starred Dolly Parton, Lily Tomlin, and Jane Fonda, the stage show which premiered in 2008 and recently opened in Melbourne, is a newer version of the workplace revenge comedy. Full of new songs by Dolly Parton and even an appearance in pre-recorded video messages to welcome you, set up the story, introduce us to the characters and at the end let us know where they all finish up.

This Female empowerment storyline follows office workers Violet (Marina Prior), the ‘too old to chase, too young to fire’ office manager, Judy (Casey Donovan) who ‘misses Dick’, her husband who left her for a younger woman and Dorelee (Erin Clare) the ‘Backwoods Barbie’, who is smart as a fox. All three woman find themselves at the receiving end of boss Franklin Hart Jnr’s (Eddie Perfect) sexist behaviour. Violet is passed over for promotion in favour of a man she’s trained, Judy told to call Franklin ‘Sir’ and Dorelee made to pick up pencils so he can gawk at her cleavage. The woman seek their revenge, and eventually realise their potential and dreams after Franklin is dispatched to Borneo by the company CEO.

Marina Prior draws on her large-scale musical theatre experience to invest in her character (Violet Newstead), with warmth and dignity. She sings and dances like the star she is, and doesn’t disappoint when it comes to nailing the comedy. Casey Donovan is a real delight as Judy Bernly. Having created a warm-hearted, huggable character and going from a struggling novice to strong, confident individual, then finally bringing the house down with her powerful rendition of Get Out and Stay Out. Equally impressive is Eddie Perfect with his big baritone speaking and singing voice and is wonderfully unpleasant as Franklin Hart Jnr. So easy to loathe in his funny, cleverly staged solo, Here for You. For me personally, at times Eddie gave me Gaston from Beauty and Beast vibes. Not to be outdone, the wonderful Caroline O’Conner, in what could of been a throw-away role as Hart’s faithful if equally unsuspectingly lustful secretary, Roz Keith. Caroline pulls out all stops and really does halt the show with her funny, energetic performance of Heart to Hart in which she reveals her secret crush for Franklin Hart Jnr.

Tom Rogers is responsible for the ever so wonderful 1980’s costumes, and the bright mobile setting which incorporates dozens of artificial television screens to allow Howard Hudson’s lighting design to flood the stage with colour.

9 to 5 with it’s show stopping performancs from it’s all star cast, it’s colourful sets and costumes, catchy songs and vigorous dancing guarantees an evening of light hearted and highly entertaining musical theatre. You’d be crazy to miss it.

9 to 5 is now playing at the Arts Centre, Melbourne until September 16th. Tickets and more information can be found at 9to5themusical.com.au

x Steph 

Photo by David Hooley
Marina Prior, Casey Donovan, Erin Clare photo by David Hooley
Caroline O’Conner, Eddie Perfect photo by David Hooley
The Ensemble photo by David Hooley

Six

As a reviewer and Theatre lover it’s always so refreshing to see something so different and new. ‘Six’ is no different, A British musical comedy with book, music and lyrics by Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss. The musical is a modern retelling of the lives of the six wives of Henry VIII presented as a pop concert, as the Queens take turns singing and telling their story to see who suffered the most due to Henry and should, therefore, become the group’s lead singer.

Full of Wit, Sass, Humour and ultimately girl power it’s easy to see why this show is a viral hit. But you came for the Queens, and these Queens do not disappoint. Their voices are powerful and beautiful, performances fierce and unapologetic. Chemistry sizzles on stage, whether they are bickering and competing or rallying behind one another. Their comedic delivery and timing is perfect, landing each joke on point.

Each of the ex-wives embody a couple of modern “Queenspirations” Catherine of Aragon (with nods at Beyonce and Shakira) is played by Phoenix Jackson Mendoza who has the vibrant confidence to set a high standard for performance energy as she begins the solo numbers with “No Way.” Kala Gare is Anne Boleyn (Lily Allen and Avril Lavigne), with great cheek and star power. Loren Hunter plays Jane Seymour (Adele and Sia), whose touching ballad lands just right. Anna of Cleves (Nicki Minaj and Rihanna) is played by Kiana Daniele a true delight with killer stage presence who in my opinion has the standout number ‘Get Down” and just about walks away with the show. Chelsea Dawson plays Katherine Howard (Ariana Grande and Britney Spears), and flawlessly moves from carefree to dark in one short song. And Catherine Parr (Alicia Keys and Emeli Sande) is played by Vidya Makan but on opening night was played by Shannen Alyce Quan (Swing) who blows the roof off with stunning vocals.

The six are supported by an outstanding band of Ladies in waiting: Claire Healey as Music Director and performing keys, Kathryn Stammers on Drums, Debbie Yap on Guitar, and Jessica Dunn on Bass. The variety of songs allow each musician an opportunity to shine, including the haunting keys in Heart of stone and the bass in Haus of Holbein.

So if your up for something a little cheeky, fun and different Six is defiantly a must see. It’s now playing at Melbournes Comedy Theatre until August 21st. Tickets and further information can be found at http://www.sixthemusical.com.au

x Steph

Picture Credit James D Morgan – Getty Images

Cinderella

We all love fairytales right? Well I do and maybe a little too much. The once upon a time, and they all lived happily ever after and finally a dream is a wish your heart makes. All of it I’m a sucker.

Roger and Hammersteins Cinderella is no exception and to paint a picture for you it’s like you’ve walked into the ball itself. From the gorgeous carriage in the foyer of Melbournes grand Regent Theatre all the way to the stunning costumes and breathtaking choreography. Everything is truly like out of a storybook.

And no fairytale is complete without a magical cast line up to help bring it all to life and my, does Roger and Hammersteins Cinderella have you covered on that one as well. I will just highlight a few as everyone was so perfectly cast, held there own and smashed it out of the park. It was actually so lovely to see everyone have their own moment to shine. First up is Shubshri Kandiah as Ella, I can’t think of anyone more perfect for the role. Shubshri’s kind hearted nature, flair and sweet vocals can be enjoyed all through out but for me particularly took flight in ‘In my own little corner” Ainsley Melham as Prince Topher is a match made in heaven… anyone would think he is destined to play princes. Ainsley’s comic timing (where needed) is a breath of fresh air and his ability to truly become a character is second to none. Not to mention his charming vocals the number ‘Ten minutes ago’ is enough to bring tears to your eyes. Then theres Silvie Paladino as the fairy godmother and my what a treat that is, talk about musical theatre royalty. Her talent and name alone speak for itself. Not to mention the flying.

Roger and Hammersteins Cinderella is a delight, a must see for all ages. But is only playing at Melbournes Regent Theatre until August.

You can secure your ticket to the ball at cinderellamusical.com.au

x Steph

An American In Paris

Gershwin’s music, The Australian Ballet, top acting, eye popping costumes and sets, a feel good musical and an old fashioned love story set in the most romantic city in the world. What more could you ask for?

Direct from Broadway ‘An American In Paris’ is far more than just another Broadway remake of a Hollywood movie. It is truly a divine piece of theatre. Thanks to Christopher Wheeldon’s enchanting choreography blended with the spectacular Australian Ballet and Australian musical theatre stars.

The incomparable cast are given a splendid space in which to create their ply their craft with Bob Crowley’s set and costumes. The stage is a rich, large and powerful character of the show.

On this particular night however I had the joy of witnessing Cameron Halmes and Dimity Azaury from the Australian Ballet as the two star crossed lovers Jerry and Lise, both of whom were utterly amazing together. With awe inspiring dancing and unparalleled voices, they were more than worthy of the applause they received. The spotlight though was generously shared with a number of other equally worthy and impressive performers such as Ashleigh Rubenach (Milo) Jonathan Hickey (Adam) and Sam Ward (Henri) which was a personal favourite of mine. I particularly appreciated the humor he constantly brought to the role and the show stopping number ‘I’ll build a stairway to paradise’

I love that Theatre is back in Melbourne. You will thoroughly enjoy this production.

An American In Paris is currently playing at the State Theatre (Arts Centre Melbourne) until April 23rd Tickets can be brought at https://americaninparis.com.au/tickets/melbourne/

x Steph

Happy End

There is nothing that pleases me more than seeing a piece of theatre that’s something completely new and refreshing and all together different. Victorian Operas production of ‘Happy End’ (based on a book by Elisabeth Hauptmann) a musical comedy about America 1919, Gangsters, the Salvation Army and an unlikely love story between a Chicago gangster and a Salvation Army lieutenant, was just the ticket.

Popping with Humour and Witt. Cleverly thrown in through out and brought to life in great comic timing by an outstanding group of actors all of whom can not be faulted in anyway shape or form. I mean the gangster accents alone were impressive let alone everything else that made it like you were truly living in those times.

Having said that if I had to pick two clear standouts which as I said is hard for me they were Adam Murphy as notorious gang leader Bill Cracker And Kurt Kansley as the Governor. Kurt shines in his portrayal of the Governor and delivers charm and humour in bucket loads. along with sparks of energy you can’t help but notice. I personally loved the way he lead the Bilbao song. Adam was in perfect form portraying Bill and had the perfect balance of tough and scary. I’ll forever be amazed at how effortlessly he becomes his characters.

All in all ‘Happy End’ is a great fun night out and I can’t recommend it highly enough. But be quick as it’s only playing until tomorrow night. Tickets can be brought from https://www.victorianopera.com.au/season/happy-end

x Steph

Into the Woods

Once upon a time in a far off kingdom… We all love fairy tales right, well I do. Especially when it’s a musical. I recently had the pleasure of seeing ‘Watch This’ production of Stephen Sondheims and James Lapines Into the Woods. A Musical Intertwining the plots of several Brothers Grimm fairy tales, exploring the consequences of the characters wishes and quests. With the message ultimately being, be carful what you wish for.

‘Watch This’, adaption of this beloved musical was a delight to behold. Walking in you were immersed in the simple yet gorgeous set, stage design (set up in a round sort of style) by Sarah Tulloch. Which made for the atmosphere of waking into the woods.

Sodheims score is by no means easy and the cast of only 12 did a stella job, some even playing two characters, which is never an easy task, so one can help but admire them for how effortlessly they did that.

Cherine Peck’s Witch was a crowd pleaser and a clear stand out. Nailing the challenging role, big vocals and bringing the right amount of fright. I might even add at some points I felt like I was listening to Meryl Streep. Nick Simpson-Deeks Prince/Wolf was another stand out performance, his rich warm vocals were absolutely perfect for the prince, added with the comedic timing of the role and interaction with the audience was hilarious. His wolf on the other hand was spine chilling in all the right ways and demanding stage presence impressive.

Over all ‘Watch This’ production of Into the Woods made you beam with pride and be ever so thankful theatre is back. And remember no one is alone.

x Steph

Jagged little Pill

Based on Alanis Morissette’s 1995 album Jagged little pill, adapted for the stage by Diablo Cody. This jukebox style musical centres around the (flawless in appearance) Healy family and deals with a lot of heavy going issues that we today don’t really like talking about. Sexuality, sexual assult, pornography and drug addiction. So it’s not for the faint of heart.

Having said that though the show is extremely well delivered, big hearted, energetic and thought provoking. With an outpouring of emotion from the cast that will not disappoint.

The whole cast are simply incredible and each have their moment in the spotlight but it’s the likes of Natalie Bassingthwaighte as Jane Healy and Maggie Mckenna that steal the show with their powerful gutsy vocals and commanding stage presence. In particular Maggie’s number ‘You outta Know’ blows the house down. I’ve never seen anything like it… a standing ovation mid song.

So if your up for some real, open, raw and honest good theatre then Jagged little Pill is for you. And if there is one thing you’ll take away with you it is that we are all perfectly imperfect and we are all still learning, figuring this out on this journey called life.

To find out for information or to secure your tickets visit www.jaggedmusical.com

x Steph

Theatre’s back

Have you ever felt helpless or like a part of you was missing? Well for me that’s exactly how i’ve felt during this Melbourne lockdown and something i’ve really struggled with. Because let’s face it while helpful zoom meetings and the occasional walk with a friend don’t cut it in the long run.

Because we were made to give of ourselves and for community and connection with one-another. So having that taken away and also not being able to do what we love, what brings us life and gives us a sense of purpose (most of you will know that’s theatre for me) has been sucky to say the least. Let alone personally knowing people in the industry and seeing how it’s effected them etc

Fast forward several months and a rough journey of canceled and postponed shows with little to no support from our government, The theatre industry have suffered a lot. Something I wouldn’t wish on anyone. Theatre is making it’s come back from November 12th and everyone says hallelujah am I right? I couldn’t be more thrilled to get back into it all and to be reunited with an industry and people that are dear to my heart.

What is my first show back I hear you ask… Well naturally being a big Disney lover as well it had to be a return trip to Frozen before it heads to Brisbane early next year. Then it will be on to Moulin Rouge at the newly revamped Regent Theatre. I’ve got lots of things in the pipe lines for next year to so make sure you stay tuned. And can I encourage all you theatre lovers out there to go see a show and support Melbourne’s rich theatre and live entertainment industry. You’ll never truly know just how much in times like this it means to actors and performers alike.

x Steph

Thoughts in lockdown

Let’s be honest we all have those days right. I mean we wouldn’t be human if we didn’t. Well I experienced a roller coaster of different emotions yesterday, I’ve had my moments where i’ve tried snapping out of it and I put a smile on and feel good for a bit but overall i’m tired and worn out mentally and physically and just fed up with this so called way of living (it’s not living at all) I miss working, doing what I love and living freely. If your feeling flat, or any of the above emotions. Try not to let it get you down. I know I try to be a force of positivity on here, but I also need to be real and i’m not like that all the time. Especially not lately. I love you guys and I hope your all ok. Grateful for you all and hopefully we don’t have to much longer of this. Because I miss theatre so much

x Steph