Wednesday, 25 November 2015

The Listies Ruin Xmas, Nov 27, 2015 ***1/2

By The Listies; devised & performed by Richard Higgins & Matthew Kelly 
Malthouse Theatre,  Nov 27 to Dec 13, 2015
Reviewer: Kate Herbert
Full review also published in Herald Sun in print & online on Mon Nov 30, 2015.KH
Richard Higgins & Matthew Kelly

In the domain of children’s theatre, The Listies are masters of audience participation that mainly involves kids and parents excitedly chucking stuff at these relentlessly cheerful performers.

In their joyfully shambolic show for the Malthouse, The Listies Ruin Xmas, Richard Higgins and Matthew Kelly scramble around their scruffy stage indulging in all manner of madcap, pre-Christmas escapades.

In the best tradition of slapstick comedy duos, Higgins plays the obliging and tolerant straight man to Kelly’s adorable goofball, but to the audience they are simply Rich and Matt.

These eternal man-boys conjure the spirit of Christmas Eve with a spindly, plastic Christmas tree, piles of colourfully wrapped presents, bikkies and milk for Santa, twinkling strings of lights and their big bed smack in the middle of it all.

Their dialogue is littered with a trail of bad puns, goofy Christmas jokes, some adult references and apologies for gags that don’t work.

The physical, comic business is the highlight, starting with the present wrapping that leaves Matt trapped in sticky-tape with gifts stuck to his hands.

They dress in giant, green, Chrissie tree costumes (Marg Horwell) covered with velcro so that, when the enthusiastic kids hurl puffy Christmas baubles at them, they stick hilariously to their jolly targets.

Higgins and Kelly are charming and engaging, chatting directly with the crowd, crawling across seats to get comments and hauling volunteers of all ages on stage to participate in songs and stories.

With Matt wearing a shoddy, grey wig to play Rich’s Nan, the pair presents Karaoke by Candlelight, teaching everyone the Aussie Seven Days of Christmas with three child volunteers burping in unison to punctuate the chorus.

Instead of ‘A partridge in a pear tree’, we sing, ‘Two mozzies biting and a roast when it’s 40 degrees’, then the lyrics just get sillier and accompanying gestures more provocative.

To the delight of the kids, there are enormous water guns, even bigger snow making devices and a bubble machine.

The Listies delight in poo and fart jokes and they simply annihilate a fairy tale, renaming it Jack and The Beans Talk, a story that features a dad playing the front half of a huge, green cow-dragon thingy.

The Listies Ruin Xmas is rough and ready kids’ theatre that will tighten up as they sort out the gags they like and elevate the chaos even further, but it’s sunny entertainment from two chirpy and clever performers.

By Kate Herbert

Saturday, 21 November 2015

Jerry's Girls, Nov 21, 2015 ***

Jerry's Girls; concept by Larry Alford, Wayne Cilento & Jerry Herman; music & lyrics by Jerry Herman; produced by The Production Company
Playhouse, Arts Centre Melbourne, Nov 21 to Dec 6, 2015
Reviewer: Kate Herbert
Stars: ***
 Review also published in Herald Sun Arts online on Monday Nov 23, 2015 & later in print,KH

In his musicals, Jerry Herman wrote plenty of outstanding roles for women – and for men dressed as women – and Jerry’s Girls is a glitzy celebration of his greatest show tunes for gals.

With a repertoire of over 30 Herman songs, Jerry’s Girls is the perfect showcase for female talent and director, Dean Bryant, has cast some of Australia’s musical theatre giants including veteran, Nancye Hayes, the inimitable Rhonda Burchmore and ever-gracious Silvie Paladino.

The songs come from Herman’s renowned musicals that include Hello, Dolly! Mame, Mack and Mabel, Parade and the cross-dressing La Cage aux Folles.

One audacious highlight is Debora Krizak as the saggy, grotesque and aged stripper in Take It All Off, singing the cruel but hilarious inversion of the title, Put It Back On.

Burchmore shines with If He Walked Into My Life, the poignant tune from Mame, while Paladino demonstrates her impeccable tone and vocal control singing the hymn-like Milk and Honey.

Virginia Gay, known more for her television work than musicals, shows she can sing, act and be funny when she cunningly plays both Mack and Mabel in I Won’t Send Roses.

Hayes shows her continuing versatility as a singer-dancer in Two-A-Day (Parade) and I Was Beautiful (Dear World) while Kirby Burgess, a genuine triple-threat, performs Showtune with a vivacious dance.

The audience is champing at the bit by the time the glittering song and dance chorus numbers finally arrive at the end of Acts One and Two.

Hello, Dolly! is a classic, classy display of 11 sassy gals wearing bold, scarlet frocks (Owen Phillips) and singing their hearts out accompanied by a fine orchestra led by Mathew Frank.

The finale of Tap Your Troubles Away leaves us wanting more of its effervescent chorus line of tap-dancing, singing all-stars wearing black lamé and the obligatory, feathered headwear.

There is no narrative in Jerry’s Girls because it is simply a parade of great show tunes, but Bryant creates his own framework by setting the show in the rehearsal room with the 11 women playing themselves and revealing real stories about their lives in musical theatre.

Brent Hill, another capable, musical performer, depicts the frazzled director who plays rehearsal games, allocates songs, referees arguments and soothes nerves.

However, this theatrical device feels clumsy, often stalling the natural movement of songs and interrupting the flow of the show.

Some dialogue feels manufactured and uncomfortable, and there are so many in-jokes and self-referential banter about cast and choreographer, Andrew Hallsworth, that anyone who doesn’t know the performers’ histories and characters won’t get the jokes.

When the band plays and the songs are in full production mode, this show really flies and reminds the audience of Herman’s splendid repertoire and that ‘there’s just no tune as exciting as a show tune’.

By Kate Herbert

Cast includes:
Rhonda Burchmore
Nancye Hayes
Silvie Paladino
Christie Whelan Browne
Virgina Gay
Claire Lyon
Kirby Burgess
Chelsea Gibb
Debora Krizak 
Josie Lane
Natalie O'Donnell
and Brent Hill
Creative Team:
Director: Dean Bryant
Choreographer: Andrew Hallsworth
Musical Director: Mathew Frank
Dale Ferguson: Set Design
Owen Phillips: Costumes
Matt Scott: Lighting 
Sound by System Sound.
Rhonda Burchmore, Virginia Gay - photo Jeff Busby

Nancye Hayes - photo Jeff Busby

Friday, 13 November 2015

Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune, Nov 13, 2015 ***1/2

Written by Terrence McNally (1987)
At fortyfivedownstairs, until November 29, 2015 
Reviewer: Kate Herbert
Stars ***1/2
 Full review also published in Herald Sun online, Nov 13, 2015. It will appear later in print. KH
Damien Richardson &  Kate Kendall

The two damaged and lonely characters in Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune appear to cram the first six months of their newborn relationship into a single, fraught night of love and conflict.

In Terrence McNally’s 1987 play, Frankie (Kate Kendall), a waitress, and Johnny (Damien Richardson), a short-order cook at the same New York restaurant, stumble into bed together only to find that their old, emotional wounds open when they try to communicate genuinely.

The action takes place over an uninterrupted night in Frankie’s dingy, Manhattan apartment that is evocatively and realistically recreated in the dim, cellar-like environment of fortyfivedownstairs (Design by Jacob Battista).

Director, Colette Mann, focuses on the complex and conflicted inner worlds of these two dysfunctional people as they navigate the bumpy ocean of new, mid-life love.

Richardson balances annoying bluster with blokey charm as the nervy, persistent, garrulous Johnny who, despite being a divorced ex-con estranged from his kids, remains naively romantic, although a bit too hasty in his declarations of undying love.

Kendall brings a brittle, suspicious edge to Frankie whose eagerness for Johnny to put on his clothes and leave her apartment stems from a dysfunctional, past relationship that left her fearful and emotionally damaged.

The harder Johnny pushes her to accept that they are soul mates and should marry and have kids, the faster Frankie backs away. 

Richardson and Kendall effectively explore the playfulness, drama and conflict in McNally’s snappy dialogue and flawed characters.  

Mann maintains a cracking pace in the fierce, funny and audacious early scenes although some of the shouting matches are too loud and overwhelming while the sudden emotional shifts are not always credible. 

The final, sweet and intimate scenes are the most touching when Frankie and Johnny finally find their common rhythm in the pale, morning light and settle into an amiable, domestic peace.  

The Clair de Lune of the title refers to Debussy’s soothing, atmospheric music that triggers a poignant moment when a late-night radio DJ answers Johnny’s request for a romantic tune. 

This is a funny and moving performance by two talented, well-known and engaging performers.  

Kate Herbert

Damien Richardson &  Kate Kendall

Thursday, 12 November 2015

Piece For Person & Ghetto Blaster, Nov 11 2015 REVIEW ****

By Nicola Gunn & Sans Hotel
Arts House, North Melbourne Town Hall, until Sunday Nov 15, 2015
Reviewer: Kate Herbert
Stars: **** 
 Full review also published in Herald Sun online on Friday Nov 13 and in print. KH

Nicola Gunn’s theatre is tantalising, entertaining, ridiculous and often bewildering in the best possible way. Mad little thing!

This marvellously eccentric, charming and mischievous performer has created yet another stylish, inventive and startling work called Piece For Person and Ghetto Blaster. Yes, the ghetto blaster is the other actor in the show.

Gunn’s idiosyncratic performance is a collision of stylised movement with vivid, direct-to-audience storytelling.

She starts then restarts a story about a woman who is running by the water in Ghent, Belgium, when she witnesses a man throwing stones at a sitting duck – I mean, a real duck sitting on the water.

Threaded between her observations and memories of this simple narrative are snatches of philosophical musings about peace and conflict, violence, morality, goodness and human nature in general.

There are diversions into the fictional Belgian detective, Hercule Poirot and his alter ego, David Suchet, ironic comments about Gunn’s arty friends, acerbic allusions to a famous, Yugoslavian performance artist and affectionate references to the doomed lovers in the movie, Brief Encounter.

Simultaneously, Gunn is in almost perpetual motion (Choreography by Jo Lloyd), the incongruity of her movement often creating hilarity and moments of sharp irony or absurdity as she writhes, cavorts or rages, her exertion making her slick with sweat.

Accompanying her movement is Kelly Ryall’s evocative, subtle, electronic soundscape emitting from the onstage, big, fat ghetto blaster.

Gunn shifts point of view constantly, moving from the voice of the performer, Gunn, to the anonymous woman (perhaps also Gunn?), to the stone-throwing man and his two, small children.

She uses rhythmic transitions or cunning shifts of tone and atmosphere to keep us bemused and amused.

She taunts the audience, tricks and seduces us, lulls us into a sense of calm until her next outburst of rage about good and bad or the unknown man and his contemptible stone throwing.

At one point she invades the audience, climbing over us like a sassy cat, crawling on hands and knees over laps, perching on seats, resting on people’s shoulders, pulsating and leaving a sweaty trail.

Finally, in a mesmerising, technicolour and unforgettable scene, Gunn inhabits the duck itself, with its cool, sensible, simple view of the world as it sits quietly amidst an array of moving purple lights (Niklas Pajanti) that take us into a hypnotic space.

Gunn still surprises me and tickles my funny bone with every piece of theatre that she creates. Clever!

By Kate Herbert

Monday, 9 November 2015

Give Me Your Love, Wed Nov 18, 2015

Presented by Arts House and Ridiculusmus
Season: 18 – 22 November 2015
 I wll be out of state for this season but it should be amazing. David Wood is unique and Ridiculusmus is one of my favourite companies - ever!  See all three shows at Arts House. What a season! KH

David Wood & David Wood in a Box!
'In a kitchen, somewhere in West Wales, a war veteran called Zach has withdrawn into a box. A friend called Ieuan arrives, offering recovery in the form of dialogue and a capsule containing '3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine. He’s participated in trials for treating chronic PTSD with psychedelic drugs, and says he’s cured.  What follows soars into a psychoactive dream of delirium, trauma and supermarket shopping as the two men are parachuted into their own fractured pasts; their symptoms expressing the pathologies of a disturbed world.  Give Me Your Love is the second instalment of 'Ridiculusmus’s three-pronged investigation into innovative approaches to mental health. Informed by the latest scientific research, it explores the healing potential in altered states of consciousness.'

Edmund The Beginning, Nov 11, 2015

By Brian Lipson
Presented by Arts House and Antechamber Productions
Season: 10 – 22 November 2015
I may not see this but it should be terrific! Brian Lipson is unique. KH
Brian Lipson

  From Media Release:
'EDMUND. THE BEGINNING is both an exercise in distorted biography and a confessional torrent. Brian Lipson summons a disordered array of characters from the impatient past and the murky present: some are familiar, some are famous, some are known only to Lipson. None are comfortable.  Fifteen years ago Lipson’s acclaimed solo show, A Large Attendance in the Antechamber, won two Green Room Awards before touring the world for the next seven years. Brian is now considerably older and considerably less wise, but he can still talk very fast.  EDMUND. THE BEGINNING is even more complex than its predecessor, and each of its many characters is both a real person and an imaginary figure. But who imagines whom? Who is Whom? Who is Alive? Who is Dead? And Why?  In EDMUND. THE BEGINNING, literary giants, sirens, reprobates and infants cavort in existential quadrille. A few you will recognise, others you won’t. All will ring bells.'

Piece for Person & Ghetto Blaster, Nov 11, 2015 - Preview only

By Nicola Gunn
Arts House, Nov 11-15, 2015
Hope to see this on Wed Nov 11. K
 Nicola Gunn

From Media Release:
'Piece for Person and Ghetto Blaster is the story of a man, a woman and a duck. It is about the excruciating realms of human behaviour. It is an attempt to navigate the complexities of trying to become a better person.  Preoccupied by how social conventions obstruct the possibility of personal liberation, Piece for Person and Ghetto Blaster is a duet between physical action and spoken language, setting up a space for dialogue. 

'Calling into question our capacity to make moral judgments and relate to others in an ethical way, the work faces a difficult conclusion: there’s little hope for the future, unless we confront our own responsibilities to make it better.  So what if, all together in the auditorium, we create conflict? And what if we create conflict just so we can practice transformation? Commissioned by Mobile States, this riveting new show from subversive creator/performer Nicola Gunn tries to understand how we can all get along.'

Saturday, 7 November 2015

Buyer and Cellar, Nov 5, 2015

Written by Jonathan Tollns
Melbourne Theatre Company
Fairfax Studio, Arts Centre Melbourne, Nov 5 to Dec 12, 2015 I haven't seen this show yet, but it looks good. Ash Flanders is always good value. KH
Ash Flanders
From Media Release:
'A massive cult hit in New York that went on to enjoy a sell-out US tour, Buyer and Cellar is a shopaholic’s delight and an adoring fan letter to Barbra Streisand.'  

Cast Ash Flanders 
Director Gary Abrahams 
Set and Costume Designer Adam Gardnir 
Lighting Designer Rachel Burke 
Composer & Sound Designer THE SWEATS 
Voice & Dialect Coach Suzanne Heywood 

  L-R: Gary Abrahams, Ssh Flanders

Thursday, 5 November 2015

City of Angels, Nov 5, 2015 ****

Music by Cy Coleman, lyrics by David Zippel, book by Larry Gelbart
By Life Like Company
Playhouse, Arts Centre Melbourne, until Nov 8, 2015
Reviewer: Kate Herbert
Full review also published online in Herald Sun Arts, Mon Nov 6, 2015 & in print on Sun Nov 8. KH
 Chelsea Plumley, Amanda Harrison CREDIT BEN FON

Take a 1940s, hardboiled detective story in the style of film noir then toss in cheeky jazz tunes and you have a delicious recipe for the musical, City of Angels.

When Cy Coleman wrote the music, Larry Gelbart the book and David Zippel the lyrics, it’s no wonder this show won multiple Tony, Drama Desk and Olivier Awards after it premiered on Broadway in 1989.

Director, Martin Croft’s production for Life Like Company boasts a dream cast of Australian musical theatre talent and, despite having only 2½ weeks to stage it, the show is deftly directed, beautifully acted and sung.

In the technicolour, real world, novelist turned screenwriter, Stine (Anton Berezin), is adapting his popular, detective story into a movie script for the interfering but very successful Hollywood producer, Buddy Fidler (Troy Sussman).

In a parallel, black and white, fictional world, Stine’s character, Stone (Kane Alexander), a hapless private eye who speaks in glib witticisms and abrasive voiceovers, is employed by manipulative, seductive Alaura Kingsley (Anne Wood) to find her runaway stepdaughter, Mallory (Hannah Fredericksen).

The search all goes wrong for Stone when he crosses his client, her family and the cops but also for his creator, Stine, as he struggles to please his wife, Gabby (Chelsea Plumley), the bullying Fidler and also to meet the demands of his fictional alter ego, Stone.

Alexander has a touch of the Orson Welles in his assured performance as the jaded, lovelorn gumshoe, Stone, and Berezin’s powerful voice brings passion to Stine, the philandering, deceitful but talented writer.

Alexander and Berezin’s voices blend perfectly in their impassioned duet, You’re Nothing Without Me, and its clever reprise, I’m Nothing Without You, that they sing with Plumley.

Sussman is a riot as Fidler, the perfect parody of the greedy, self-interested movie producer that would sell his mother for a three-movie deal.

A highlight is the magnetic Amanda Harrison, with her rich, remarkable voice, singing You Can Always Count on Me in the duel roles of Oolie, the detective’s devoted secretary, and Stine’s saucy, real world lover, Donna. Magic!

As Bobbi the club singer, Plumley sings a sultry rendition of With Every Breath I Take, and her duet with Harrison, What You Don’t Know About Women, is sassy and audacious.

City of Angels stays witty and entertaining while taking a satisfying swipe at Hollywood artifice and avarice.

By Kate Herbert

 Kane Alexander, Anton Berezin CREDIT BEN FON
Directed by Martin Croft
Musical Direction by Kellie Dickerson

Cast includes:
Kane Alexander
Amanda Harrison
Anton Berezin
Chelsey Plumley
Troy Sussman
Rohan Browne
Anne Wood
 Amanda Harrison CREDIT BEN FON
 Kane Alexander, Amanda Harrison CREDIT BEN FON
 Anne Wood, Kane Alexander CREDIT BEN FON