Why I’m Passionate about theatre

I quite often get asked… Steph what does theatre do for you? Why do you see a show several times? Go to stage door so much? Always message & encourage the performers? And are so passionate? Or what’s your favourite thing about theatre?

At times it can be a challenge to try to explain this to people I’m not going to lie. But the truth is I love everything about musical theatre (and no that’s not a cop out answer) I love everything from the people, music, beautiful venues and even the elaborate costumes and set designs. It all never seizes to intrigue/blow me away. There is just something so special about the whole theatre world. It’s like a big magnet that draws you in to this bubble that you fall in love with so much so that you never want to leave.

As for the other things, I generally see a show several times because there is so much to take in and I honestly get something new out of it each time I go. There’s always so much one can take away with them. And lastly I’m genuinely passionate about encouraging, uplifting others, treating others the way you’d like to be treated. But especially in this industry where people can be quick to judge or put down or just not bother to say the encouraging thing they feel (for whatever reason)

I want and strive to be a positive voice, influence and light, as our words quite literally have the power to make or break someones day. And in a industry that’s quite demanding, at times tough and where your constantly giving out. It’s nice to see a familiar face and be appreciated for what it is you do. Believe me it makes a world of difference in a performers day.

Can you relate to any of this? What is it that YOU love about theatre?

x Steph

BIPOC in Australian theatre

One of the many beautiful things about theatre is the ability to bring people together from all walks of life and backgrounds. But dare I say it there needs to be so much more of this and also including more diversity because it’s sadly lacking here in Australia.

The Artists of Colour Initiative (AOC) newly founded by Tarik Frimpong (Madiba the musical, Aladdin and Angus is Mary Poppins Returns) is a scholarship program designed to provide financial assistance and industry support, to exceptionally talented theatre performers, based in Australia, that identify as Black, Indigenous or People of Colour.

For me personally I think this couldn’t of come at a better time and I’m so excited to see what unfolds and to be able to support/get behind this amazing program and artists.

So how to do I sign up and or get involved I hear you ask? that’s a very good question there are several ways you can support and or get involved so allow me to lay them out.

Lets spread the word and get behind this once in a lifetime program

x Steph

The Importance of the Theatre/Arts in our Society

Ah Covid 19, nothing like being in lockdown and not being able to see theatre shows, connect with people or do what you love… said no-one ever.

Ok so I have to be real with you. I have had many teary moments ,of I guess grief that this industry that I love is suffering and has little/no support during this hard time. At times feeling helpless because I wish I could physically do something and help. Because lets face it if I’m not seeing and supporting a show then what I can do is limited . And mostly I just really miss theatre, the joy it brings and just the wonderful people in that industry.

As I have thought about it more and more ,I realised there is something I can do (we can do) and that is, write to our local mp and let them know we are concerned about the lack of financial support for the sector in the governments job keeper scheme. Because at present none of them qualify to receive it. You can find a template for the letter on the MEAA website and facebook page. You can donate to places like the arts well being collective, victorian actors benevolent trust, support act and so much more. Just because we aren’t seeing shows doesn’t mean we can’t make a difference to keep the arts alive.

So for those that don’t think the Arts matter much or that it’s just a glorified hobby, Here is why it actually matters a lot in our world and why it’s vital to speak up and support during this time and beyond.

The arts matter because they are the one thing on this planet with the power to change a person’s perspective, mood, assumptions, beliefs, and ideas; they can transform a place, represent a community, take you back in time, or move your forward into the future; help a person understand from where they came and where they are headed and grapple with the beauty and uncertainty of all that occurs in between–nothing else in the world has that kind of power and responsibility.” – 

“The arts matter because they allow you to experience different ways of seeing and thinking about life.” – 

“The arts matter because they are like a gift from one soul to another – whether it’s a joyful, simple gift like a child’s drawing, or a play or novel that makes you think and hurt and wish and feel, the arts help us understand ourselves and each other.” – 
“The arts matter because they give us a mutual space where we can talk to one another about the most important things to us. It can turn strangers into old friends with lots in common.” – 

x Steph

Electricity

Taking place in Northern England in 1984 during what was possibly their hardest time in history, the UK miners strike. Billy Elliot tells the story of a passionate 11 year old boy in a small miners village who discovers he prefers ballet instead of boxing. Though never truly supported by his father or brother. He is encouraged by a small town dance teacher who sees his potential. With the message being ever so relevant in todays society Billy Elliot addresses the issues of gender roles and the impact of stereotyping on our kids, reducing their potential to be successful, and destroying their future unless the family support whatever life path the child chooses to pursue.

Give it the old razzle dazzle… and shine

The choreography by Peter Darling is simply beautiful and for me, showed off during the scene where young Billy danced with his older self. The acting is also with out a doubt exceptional, guaranteed to bring a tear or two to your eyes.

Four boys share the role of Billy Elliot Omar Abiad (12, from Brisbane) River Mardesic (11, from Melbourne) Wade Neilson (13, from Newcastle) and Jamie Rogers (13, from Canberra) though on this particular night it was the likes of young River Mardesic making his professional debut that stole the show for me. He is so real you can hardly believe he is acting. His dancing is unbelievably good. Not only does he have the moves down pat, but he can communicate emotion through his movements – a rare gift. Lisa Sontag as Mrs Wilkinson was equally impressive. She is quirky, funny, full of energy and completely authentic.

All in all Billy Elliot is a crowd pleaser and a great night out

This funny, uplifting, and spectacular theatrical experience is now playing at Melbourne’s Regent Theatre for the next nine weeks. So hurry and grab your tickets from billyelliotthemusical.com.au now before they disappear.

x Steph

 

Much Ado About Nothing

It’s always such a joy and privilege for me to go along to GJ Productions annual summer shows at the beautiful Fairfield Amphitheatre. And for those that have been along will no doubt agree with me when I say that GJ are a terrific small theatre company and are always constantly striving to well exceed their goals and improve on what already are great quality shows. And as a reviewer/theatre lover that honestly speaks volumes to me and makes me want to see their next production.

Having said that I loved the new additions of the personalised little fans to take in with you to keep cool and the wrist bands as you got your name ticked off to show that you had paid.

Gj’s latest Shakespeare play Much Ado About Nothing was certainly was certainly a great quality show. On what was a hot but relaxed Melbourne summers night Much Ado About Nothing closed with a bang.  I don’t know about you? but I appreciate a good laugh so for me it was breath of fresh air to see how engaging and comical it was throughout but especially the scene where Benedict (James Martin)  is hiding in the trees, improvising and showing great use of the outdoor space. In my personal opinion I also think an amazing cast makes sure to engage with the audience which Much Ado About Nothing had lots of and in a very humorous way.

The choreography was delightful and brilliantly executed especially in the masked ball scene. It was also lovely to hear some singing from Joanna Bakker (Borachio)

All in all I can not speak highly enough of GJ s summer Shakespeare plays and know without a doubt if you enjoy theatre and or Shakespeare then you’ll love this and are in for a real treat.

More shows, dates and info can be found at gjproductions.net

x Steph

 

Confessions of a musical theatre lover

Well, two and a half years have passed since the birth of That Theatre Life. What started out as a small seed/hobby has turned into a passion and love that has only grown since my time in New York and experiencing the bright lights of Broadway for the first time. When I think about what has happened in the past two and a half years, I am filled with thankfulness and awe at the opportunities I’ve had and the people I’ve met. But at the same time, I’m not settling here, as I know there is so much more in store for me and my page and it’s only onwards and upwards from here. No matter how hard or frustrating it is at times I know I want to be involved so much more.

Sure this all comes with challenges and at times definitely isn’t as easy as it all looks. But without a shadow of a doubt, I LOVE what I do and wouldn’t trade it for anything. Each show, experience and or event has been magical in their own way. I still pinch myself when I think about how truly lucky I’ve been and am.

The hardest but also most rewarding part though will always be the incredible, talented, genuine people I’ve had the pleasure of meeting. Supporting and forming some sort of relationship with them (yes I always end up seeing a show more than once) I’m one that can’t help but get attached way too easily. So you can imagine that quite literally they all become like friends and family to me. I always burst with pride seeing them and hate saying goodbye and not knowing when I’ll end up seeing any of them again. And I think I’ll feel this way forever.

Having said all that, I am humbled and truly thankful for the countless opportunities given to me to simply be there for them. I am a better person because of it and I only hope there will be more in the future.

x Steph

By no means all of them but a selection of my growing theatre family

 

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