Kate Herbert is theatre reviewer, Herald Sun, Melbourne & formerly for Melbourne Times. Kate is a director & produced playwright (20 plays). Scripts published by Currency Press. She worked as an actor, comedian, improviser & teacher of Acting, Improvisation & Playwriting. Kate is currently Convenor of Professional Writing & Editing, Swinburne University. Read her reviews here or at: www.heraldsun.com.au/entertainment/arts. NB Explorer Browser doesn't always work on blog.
By Nöel Coward, Melbourne
Theatre Company MTC Southbank Theatre, The Sumner,
Jan 31 until March 8, 2014 Reviewer: Kate Herbert Stars: ***1/2
Full review will appear after
publication in Herald Sun online today, Fri Jan 31, 2014, or in print. KH
Nadine Garner and Leon Ford
his 1930 comedy of manners, Private Lives, Nöel Coward drapes a gossamer-thin veil of wit and flamboyance over two spiteful lovers,
allowing us to laugh at their awful behaviour without feeling too politically
some cruel fate, divorced couple, Elyot (Leon Ford) and Amanda (Nadine Garner),
meet again while both are honeymooning with their new spouses in a luxury,
French hotel, and their volatile relationship is reignited with disastrous
rekindled passion sends them fleeing, in a flurry of deceit, to Amanda’s Paris
flat where they sip cocktails, dance to gramophone records and lounge about in
the languorous afterglow of lust – until the bickering and slapping starts all
notorious ‘theatricality’ – these days unmasked as campery – litters the play
with his inimitable, entertainingly witty banter, acerbic arguments, clipped articulation, flamboyant costumes and dandyish behaviour.
Ford is suitably cool, sophisticated, foppish
and acid-tongued as Elyot while Garner balances posturing elegance and
delicious seduction with slapstick.
Their coupling tumbles amusingly from
glamorous teasing, posing and pouting, into irrepressible passion that escalates
into bitter acrimony and absurd violence.
Despite their characters’ narcissism, cruelty
and infantile tiffs, Ford and Garner manage to make them charming and
Durack is delightfully prim, pretty and demanding as Sibyl and John Leary gives
dowdy Victor a feisty edge when he challenges Elyot to fight.
Forsyth almost steals the show in her inspired cameo as French maid, Louise,
who sneezes, scoffs and stumbles in a consummate, understated clown act.
Although Sam Strong’s production is set in the
30s, he incorporates contemporary songs with some period tunes that are all
played on piano and sung by this versatile cast.
The modern music may engage younger audiences
with this period piece, but Coward die-hards may be less enamoured of such
The performances are accomplished and
colourful and the production enjoyable, but the level of languor, vanity and
flamboyance could go up a few notches to make it, well, more Cowardish.
The second act seems to spins its wheels with
Elyot and Amanda’s repetitive dialogue until the fighting starts and the
deserted spouses arrive.
The elaborate, realistic design (Tracy Grant
Lord) emphasises 1930s opulence, and Strong’s use of the revolving stage
provides some hilarious opportunities for door-slamming farce, although it is a
bit dizzying after too many twirls.
This is a diverting production that may entice
a new audience to a love of Coward’s wry humour and 1930s style.
By Kate Herbert
John Leary, Nadine Garner, Leon Ford, Lucy Durack
Set & Costume Designer Tracy Grant Lord;
Designer Paul Jackson; Composer Mathew Frank; Assistant Director Tanya
By Trevor Ashley & Phil Scott Playhouse, Arts Centre Melbourne, to
Feb 2, 2014 Reviewer: Kate Herbert Stars: **** Review also published in Herald Sun online on Wed Jan 29, 2014 and in print. KH
Trevor Ashley in Diamonds Are For Trevor
With his huge singing voice,
glittering gowns and histrionic gestures, Trevor Ashley cunningly delivers both
a celebration and a parody of Shirley Bassey – sorry, Dame Shirley
Diamonds Are For Trevor is
another screamingly camp success for Ashley who makes a fine living singing in
drag, playing blousy women such as Edna Turnblad in Hairspray, or gay icons
including Bassey and Liza Minelli.
The show is titillating
and raunchy, funny and mischievous, extravagant and excessive.
Ashley’s depiction of glamorous
chanteuse, Bassey, combines acerbic and witty criticism of her egocentrism with
remarkably powerful vocal stylings that channel Shirley’s distinctive, rich
tone, idiosyncratic articulation, quirky vibrato and extensive repertoire of
Several of his renditions
of Bassey tunes leave the audience gaping in awe or clapping like seals at
his melodramatic endings
and phenomenal upper register.
The audacious Ashley
performs this opulent trash with pizazz, dressed in a parade of flamboyant,
lamé gowns (designed by Oscar nominee, Tim Chappel) that echo the sultry
sensuality of Bassey in her heyday.
The production, directed
deftly by Craig Ilott, is a representation of, and tribute to Bassey without being
strictly an impersonation although his over-the-top arm movements and
teeth-baring grin are pure parody.
vocal flexibilty and broad range, Ashley sings memorable versions of 18 Bassey hits
including Goldfinger, Never, Never, Never, This is My Life, History Repeating,
and an unforgettable version of Diamonds are Forever.
Then he almost
dislocates a hip doing a vigorous bump and grind as he belts out the outrageous
The script, written by
Ashley with collaborator, Phil Scott, is clever and provocative, with hilarious
gags and one unexpectedly poignant scene about Bassey’s daughter who suicided.
An accomplished 14-piece orchestra
led by conductor and piano player, Geoffrey Castles accompanies Ashley
If you love a bold, vivid
drag show with a touch of style, lashings of humour and some big, belting
Bassey tunes, Diamonds Are For Trevor is the show for you. He’s a gem – a
sparkly and ostentatious gem.
Adapted by Miranda Larson
from Katharine Holabird’s books
Produced by Nick Brooke Ltd & BOS Productions Presented by Arts Centre Melbourne State Theatre, Arts Centre
Melbourne, Jan 15 to 19, 2014
Reviewer: Kate Herbert on Jan 15 Stars: **1/2
Review also published in print in Herald Sun on Sunday Jan 19, 2014. KH
Sophie Summers, Tyler Scott, Katherine McNamara, Joanna Gregory, Darren Burkett, Miracle Chance, photo by Greer Versteeg
Ballerina The Mousical has a captive audience of pre-schoolers because it is
Holabird and Helen Craig’s hugely successful children’s books
and animated TV series.
However, despite having a couple of
entertaining chorus numbers and a simple message about the joys of collaboration,
this UK production is inconsistent in quality and the under-five target audience lost
focus intermittently, becoming wriggly and chatty.
very cutely called a “mousical’ because, well, what else would you call a show
with dancing and singing mice?
Angelina and her mousey friends live in the
village of Chipping Cheddar, attend the Camembert Academy (yes, lots of cheese
references), and win the opportunity to appear on their favourite TV show,
Dancing With Mice. Cute!
Angelina is nominated Dance Captain, but
realises that she can’t develop the choreography alone and that her team of
dancing mice must collaborate with each other to incorporate ideas from both
the boys and the girls.
mice finally make everyone’s dreams come true by merging boys’ and girls’ ideas
to create monster princesses and space fairy pirates.
The group numbers are the strongest and most
engaging for the children, especially Hey There Camembert and the
perky finale with its simple lyrics about sharing: “Together, together, we just
The six youthful performers,
led by Joanne
Gregory as Angelina,play the likeable characters with appealing cheerfulness, but they have
varying ability as dancers and singers.
Gregory, as the sweetie-pie Angelina, provides
the expected classical ballet elements in the choreography.
Gregory are Katharine McNamara as scatty Alice, Sophie Summers as Gracie who likes
sparkly things, Miracle Chance as Vikki who loves fairies, Darren Burke as
Marco who is obsessed with superheroes, and Tyler Scott as AJ, the Hip Hop kid.
Larson’s direction isunimaginative, with frequent and unnecessary movement of scenery, the
songs are unmemorable, lyrics often inaudible, choreography unexciting and
there was minimal interaction and participation for the tiny tots.
the target audience of 3 year olds will forgive the
bumpiness of this
production because of their adoration of their
animated dancing hero, Angelina.
By Kate Herbert
Angelina Ballerine books written by Katharine Holabird, illiustrated by Helen Craig
Summers Gracie likes sparkly things
McNamara Alice and Ms Mimi
Chance as Vikki loves fairies
Burke as Marco costume superhero boy
Scott as AJ Hip Hop
and writer Miranda Larson
Set and costume Isla Shaw
Angelina Ballerina The Mousical, Joanna Gregory, photo by Greer Versteeg
Princess Theatre, until Feb 2, 2014 Reviewer: Kate Herbert on Jan 12 Stars:***1/2
Review also published in print in Herald Sun on Tues Jan 14, 2014. KH
Vince Colosimo &Alex Dimitriades
If you grew up in a Southern European family
where the furniture was covered in plastic, your school lunch smelt funny and
nobody spoke English in your house, Wogboys will make you feel at home – or
give you nasty flashbacks.
Our family is 50% Italo-Aussie so a lot of it all feels scarily familiar.
The original, 1980s show, Wogs Out Of Work,
reclaimed the word “wog”, launched a new brand of identification comedy for
second generation, European immigrants, and propelled Nick Giannopoulos into a lucrative stage
and screen career based on “wog humour”.
plenty of Giannopoulos’s
old but funny material and clever comic delivery,
the most hilarious of which are his Greek cleaning woman and his reminiscences
about a Greek childhood.
These solo routines are scattered amongst
episodes set during the late 1990s during the carefree life of the “wog boys”:
Steve (Giannopoulos), his cousin Chris (Alex Dimitriades), and Italian friends,
Frank (Vince Colosimo) and Dominic (Frank Lotito).
his pals to help cousin Chris pay off his gambling debt by dealing drugs, a
plan that goes right off the rails, as expected.
This narrative stretches 20-minutes of
material to a patchy 90 minutes, which creates some spongy scenes, clunky story
links and a weaker second half, but it also provides some funny character
moments and gags.
Many of the jokes and stereotypes are clearly out-dated
but still get big laughs from the audience, although the script is crying out
for some younger characters and topical references to the behaviour of current
second or third generation migrants.
But the gags about the drug-dealing Greek mum
disguising her drugs as bonbonniere or making a bong from an Ouzo bottle are
Colosimo’s Italian Stallion, Frank, is an
hilarious throwback whose life at 40ish is still built around picking up chicks
at Chasers Night Club and listening to old disco tunes and George Michael.
Dimitriades, whose comic skills are a
revelation, handles a gag with finesse and almost steals the show in the final
minutes doing a bizarre but credible caricature of Samuel L. Jackson in a
Tarantino-esque movie, then tops it off with a riotous, James Brown-style soul
Lotito begins shakily with a rather shrill
characterisation of Dominic, the nerdy, mamma’s-boy chemist, but he hits his
straps in the final sketch when channelling Joe Pesci.
Hollie Andrew is a capable performer, unfortunately her character is both under-utilised
and underwritten and looks like a token female addition.
After two movies and a TV series based around
the “wog boys” theme, this is the first stage show in a decade and it certainly
had the capacity crowd hooting and hollering.
Windmill Theatre, presented by Melbourne Theatre Company MTC Lawler Theatre, until
Jan 25, 2014 Reviewer: Kate Herbert on Jan 11 Stars:***1/2 Review also published in Herald Sun on Friday, Jan 17, 2014. KH
L-R Emma J Hawkins Patrick Graham, Photo by Tony Lewis.
It’s hard to make friends at the best of times
but, when you’re a big, bad wolf, it is must be like pulling teeth – or canine
In Big Bad Wolf, Matthew Whittet’s play, Wolfy (Patrick Graham) is the antithesis of the fearsome,
fairytale wolf that huffs and puffs or eats Grandma in a single gulp.
Graham’s Wolfy is a goofy, naive and very lonely Vegemitarian
who writes poetry, likes “peoples” and doesn’t ever eat them, despite the
wishes of his authoritarian mother-wolfmaster (Kate Cheel).
However, every person and animal in Alarmville runs screaming
when they see Wolfy, so he has no friends – except for a non-wolfist,
performing flea – until he meets equally friendless Heidi Hood (Emma J.
The simple message for the audience of children
over 5 is not to judge people by their outward appearances because, even if
people look different, they can still be your friends.
Heidi and Wolfy’s friendship develops secretly
to avoid criticism and alarm in the village but, finally, they join forces to
win the town poetry tournament and Heidi introduces Wolfy, the talented poet
and pacifist, to the people.
Graham successfully plays Wolfy as a sympathetic, gentle and
oafish clown with a peculiar German accent and childlike playfulness.
Hawkins is feisty and athletic as Heidi Hood, a distant cousin
of Red Riding Hood, and charms the children with her celebratory dance and
Kate Cheel courageously depicts all other
characters including the narrator, TV newsreader, a fluffy bunny puppet, the
invisible flea, a talking couch and a tree, but her range of character voices
and her comic skills are limited.
Whittet’s writing is sometimes a little lacklustre,
but Big Bad Wolf is chirpy, warm entertainment for littlies.
By Kate Herbert
Patrick Graham (Wolfy)
Kate Cheel (Narrator, Couch, Rabbit, Grandmaster Wolf, TV
Reporter, Tree, Flea)
Emma J Hawkins (Heidi Hood)
Director Rosemary Myers
Designer Jonathon Oxlade
Lighting Designer Chris Petridis
Movement Carol Wellman
Sound Designer Harry
L-R Patrick Graham, Kate Cheel, Emma J Hawkins. Photo by Tony Lewis
By Erth Visual and Physical Inc. written & directed by Scott Wright
Fairfax Studio, Arts Centre
Melbourne, Jan 7 to 19, 2014
Reviewer: Kate Herbert
Stars: ***1/2 Review also published in Herald Sun, Jan 9, 2014. KH
If you ever wanted to hug a carnivorous
dinosaur then Erth’s
Dinosaur Zoo, asimple but inventive puppet show, is just the ticket.
Kids are invited on stage to stroke cute baby dinoosaurs,
hypnotise an inquisitive Leaellynasaura, catch a mega-dragonfly, and one little
boy even sticks his head into the mouth of an enormous, toothy Australovenator.
It sounds risky, but this show, written and
directed by Scott Wright, is all safe, cute fun with a few joyfully scary bits to
make the children (5 years +) squeal with delight.
Compere, Michael Cullen, is the most charming
palaeontologist imaginable, and he cleverly weaves fascinating dinosaur facts
into his introductions to the various creatures, all of which were indigenous to Australia
65 million years ago.
Three puppeteers (Andrew Blizzard, Sam Hayes,
Samantha Hickey,) skilfully manipulate and animate the animals (designed by
Steve Howarth), breathing life into them as they walk, run, attack, purr and
roar, until we forget that they are not flesh and blood.
Zoo is a smart, educational piece that demonstrates how museums can use
entertainment to encourage children to learn more about our great, extinct
two Leallynasauras are uncannily lifelike with
their huge eyes, ungainly but realistic, emu-like walk and scaly reptile hide.
The carnivorousAustralovenator, the skeleton of which was discovered in Victoria only 8
years ago, is a huge hit with its sudden, menacing rushes at the
child-wranglers, its huge, ripping teeth and fearsome roar.
do carnivores eat?” “Meat,” shout the children. ”And what are kids made of|?”
taunts Michael. “Meat,” they shriek excitedly.
ridiculously long-necked Titanosaur, a herbavore with a peanut-sized brain, was
a fun addition, but it seems as if the show, at 45 minutes, needs a couple more
dinosaurs to feel complete.
However, if the kids want more, they can pet
some critters in the foyer after the show – then go home and read up on
dinosaurs on their I Pads.
Book, Music & Lyrics by Jim Jacobs & Warren Casey, with additional songs by Barry
Gibb & John Farrar
Produced by John Frost
Her Majesty’s Theatre, from
Jan 6, 2014
Reviewer: Kate Herbert
Stars: 3 & 1/2
Review also in Herald Sun News online (Sunday Jan 5) and in print (Mon, Jan 6). KH
Slick back your quiff, slip on your bobby-sox
and rev up the Chevy because Grease is back in town.
1978 movie with John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John made the soundtrack famous
but, at the Melbourne premiere last night, the
audience bopped along to their favourite tunes including the sexy, upbeat You’re The One
That I Want and Grease Is The Word.
In this production, local
star Rob Mills is cocky and sultry as good-looking Danny Zuko and Gretel
Scarlett is an appealing Sandy, evolving from wholesome, girl-next-door to
smokin’ hot minx in skin tight black.
Rob Mills & Gretel Scarlett. Pic by Jeff Busby
energetic chorus supports Mills and Scarlett’s spirited duet, Summer Nights, and
Scarlett’s fine voice is highlighted in the romantic Hopelessly Devoted To You.
This version, directed by David Gilmore, is
the fifth major, Australian production of Grease since 1972, the same year that
and Warren Casey’s 1950’s jukebox style, teen musical burst onto Broadway and challenged the old, show tune musicals.
It is set in 1959 in the fictitious Rydell
High School, where shy, new, Australian student, Sandy, falls for high school
Romeo and ‘greaser’, Danny.
Although this custom T-Bird show goes into
overdrive during the many memorable songs, it stalls unforgivably during the scenes
where the pace and timing are often sluggish, dialogue clumsy and physical
comic business awkward.
Despite shining during their songs, there is
no chemistry between Mills and Scarlett so the Sandy-Danny relationship feels
flat and uncomfortable.
Stephen Mahy, as Danny’s scowling pal, Kenickie, has a magnetic stage
presence and resonant, versatile voice and steals the first act with Greased
Lightnin’, supported by the sidekicks, Roger, Doody and Sonny (Duane McGregor,
Chris Durling, Sam Ludeman).
Todd McKenney takes the
prize for biggest ham and steals the second half, singing Beauty School Dropout
in silver lame and wig.
Val Lehman’s Miss Lynch
is suitably brusque and school-teacherish, but Bert Newton looks miscast as DJ
The on-stage band is
tight as a drum, Arlene Phillips’ choreography is vibrant, Terry Parsons’
design is glitzy neon littered with 50s icons.
you are willing to forgive the flaws, this show is damned entertaining and will
heat up Melbourne’s summer nights for the whole family.
By Kate Herbert
Pics by Jeff Busby
Rob Mills - Danny
Gretel Scarlett - Sandy
Anthony Callea - Johnny Casino
Stephen Mahy - Kenickie
Lucy Maunder - Rizzo
Todd McKenney - Teen Angel
Bert Newton - Vince Fontaine
Val Lehman - Miss Lynch