Thursday, 20 April 2017

Aladdin - The Musical, April 20, 2017 ****

Music by Alan Menken; Lyrics by Howard Ashman, Tim Rice & Chad Beguelin; Book by Chad Beguelin
Produced by Disney Theatrical Productions; based on the Disney animated movie, Aladdin 
At Her Majesty’s Theatre, Melbourne, until August 27,  2017 
Reviewer: Kate Herbert on Thurs April 20, 2017 
 Review published in Herald Sun Arts online on Thurs April 20, 2017
Genie - Michael James Scott_Photo By Deen van Meer

With its blazing jewel colours and the electrifying energy of Michael James Scott as the audacious Genie, this luscious production of Aladdin ignites the stage at Her Majesty’s on its Melbourne opening night.

In this stage musical based on the 1992 Disney animated movie, Aladdin (Ainsley Melham) is a poor thief who falls in love with Princess Jasmine (Hiba Elchikhe), stumbles upon a magic lamp, then enlists the help of the Genie in the lamp (Scott) to secure his marriage to Jasmine.

Aladdin is an effervescent, musical romance for the whole family with its jaunty, singable tunes (Alan Menken) that draw on a range of music styles, witty lyrics (Howard Ashman, Tim Rice, Chad Beguelin) and a cheeky, comical story (book by Beguelin).

Casey Nicholaw’s direction, staging and vivacious choreography drive the production at a lively pace and owe a great deal to the Broadway and Hollywood musicals of the 1930s and 40s, which is exemplified by the feverish, tap-dancing routine in the Cave of Wonders.

The non-human stars of the show are the lavish set (Bob Crowley) and vivid costumes (Gregg Barnes) that echo the opulence of the fabled Arabian Nights with Moorish tiles, Middle Eastern minarets, decorative screens, draped silks, sequins and gem-encrusted fabrics.

The colours are almost lickable with their rich turquoise, royal purple and blue, magenta, emerald green and gold – lots of gold.
 Friend Like Me-Michael James Scott, Ainsley Melham with cast. Photo Deen van Meer 

Scott is charismatic and mischievous as the Genie, commanding the show with his rich voice, irresistible energy and ratcheting the entertainment level up several gears with his sassy, sexy, show-stopping number, Friend Like Me that brought the audience to its feet.

Melham has a boyish charm as Aladdin, and his voice has a bright timbre and attractive vibrato as he sings Aladdin’s poignant ballad, Proud Of Your Boy, and leads the chorus in the perky, pacey song, One Jump Ahead.

Elchikhe is pert and spirited as Jasmine and Melham’s voice blends well with her warm and pretty tone in their romantic duet, the Oscar-winning tune, A Whole New World, which is literally elevated to new heights as the couple soars over the stage on a magic carpet that defies explanation.

Adam Murphy is the consummate dastardly villain as Jafar, the evil Grand Vizier who carries a cobra-headed staff and communes with his sly sidekick, Iago, played with comic book deviousness by the diminutive Aljin Abella.

Aladdin’s loyal trio of thieving paupers comprises Adam-Jon Fiorentino as feisty Kassim, Troy Sussman as ever-hungry Babkak and Robert Tripolino as sensitive Omar, and their goofy, comic business and song and dance routines are highlights. George Henare is dignified as the beleaguered Sultan.

Aladdin pulsates with vitality and its simple and familiar story of love and magic overcoming adversity and rigid tradition will win the hearts of audiences of all ages.

By Kate Herbert
Casey Nicholaw - Director
Bob Crowley - Set Design
Gregg Barnes - Costume
Nastasha Katz - Lighting

Michael James Scott - Genie
Ainsley Melham - Aladdin
Hiba Elchikhe - Jasmine
Adam Murphy Jafar – Grand Vizie
Aljin Abella - Iago  
Adam Jon Florentino- Kassim
Troy Sussman - Babkak
Robert Tripolino-  Omar
George Henare - Sultan

Act 1
Arabian Nights
One Jump Ahead
Proud of You Boy
These Palace Walls
Babkak, Omar, Aladdin, Kassim
A Million Miles Away
Diamond in the Rough
Friend Like Me Genie
Act 2
Prince Ali
A Whole New World
High Adventure
Somebody’s Got Your back
Proud of You Boy - Reprise
Prince Ali -Sultan Reprise
Prince Ali  -Jafar Reprise
Finale Ultimo

Thursday, 13 April 2017

White Rabbit, Red Rabbit, April 12, 2017 ***1/2

By Nassim Soleimanpour, presented by Arts Centre Melbourne in association with Aurora Nova
Arts Centre Melbourne, The Pavilion; 12 monthly performances. (Next performance by John Wood on May 6, 2017) 
Reviewer: Kate Herbert on April 12, 2017 
Stars: ***1/2
 Review also published in Herald Sun online on Thurs April 13, 2017 and later in print. 
 Eddie Perfect
Picture this! You are a well-known actor standing on stage in front of 200 people and you are about to perform a solo show – about which you know absolutely nothing! An Actor’s Nightmare, or an exhilarating, theatrical experience?

Looking both eager and vulnerable, Eddie Perfect opens a large, sealed envelope, withdraws a script and embarks on a ‘cold read’ that is a one-hour performance of White Rabbit, Red Rabbit, an idiosyncratic and challenging play by Iranian writer, Nassim Soleimanpour.

Each month, a different actor will perform Soleimanpour’s experimental piece, but Perfect is the first rabbit in the headlights; a frisson of excitement and trepidation ripples across the audience as he reads his instructions – and ours – from the crisp, new script while he narrates Soleimampour’s disarming story.

I’ll not ruin the experience with spoilers, but suffice to say the performance is often funny, sometimes menacing, always engaging and accessible and it involves some obligatory audience participation.

Soleimanpour addresses us through his ‘dear actor’ who relates a tale about white and red rabbits that crosses borders and languages, making audience members confront their own humanity and consider life, death and freedom.

In a state of cheerful naiveté, Perfect leads us on this emotional and intimate journey that challenges us gently to think about how fortunate we are in our safe country.

The play has travelled the world without its writer who is forbidden to leave Iran, but Soleimanpour seems eerily present throughout the show.

White Rabbit, Red Rabbit will be different every month, and the next actor to take up this unknown script written by a distant writer will be John Wood on May 6, 2017.

By Kate Herbert
  Eddie Perfect with audience members