Thursday, 26 December 2013

My Top Ten Theatre Productions in 2013

At the start of the year I posted my top ten theatre productions for 2012. It was the first time I had done such a thing despite my love of lists, mainly because my attendance at live theatre had grown beyond supporting an acting acquaintance here and there.

This year saw another leap forward in that regard, attending 25 productions, 3 play readings and 6 PAC Script Lab readings (okay, I had to go to one of them as it was my script being read!). This may not seem a lot, certainly compared to others who appear to see everything, but for me it was. What also surprised me was the number of musical theatre productions which has grown exponentially and feature heavily in this year’s top ten list.

So down to business – these were the ten productions I enjoyed the most throughout the year plus a new addition, my favourite male and female performance of the year.

1. Animal - Upstart Theatre Company

I truly was blown away by this. The writing was outstanding and provocative; the acting excellent, led by a superb performance from Kingsley Judd.

"This is a brilliantly written play - layered, brutal, provocative, sly, heartbreaking - with every setup paid off to telling effect. Nothing is wasted or misplaced here. It is beautifully acted by Kingsley, Sally (Bruce) and Patrick (Downes) who clearly relish working with such quality material."

2. Madame Piaf - KNUTS Theatre

Talking to Stephen Lee after the show, he reinforced what was apparent for all to see – sometimes an actor is simply perfect for a role. Rhoda Lopez gives a bravura performance as Edith Piaf.

"During the course of the year you get to see some really good shows in Perth, produced and performed by very talented people. Sometimes you get to see something truly exceptional."

3. The Guys - Classic Works

A two hander that packed an emotional wallop with an authentic sense of time and place as it deftly explores the aftermath of 911 in New York City.

"Memorable, funny, and moving. Above all, utterly authentic."

4. Curtains – Playlovers

I had such a good time with this. Raucous and bombastic it was simply great entertainment.

"Sometimes you go to the theatre for thought provoking drama, maybe to see something experimental or the work of a new playwright. Sometimes you get a rollicking, entertaining ride that is flat out enjoyable from start to finish."

5. Playhouse Creatures - Her Infinite Variety Ensemble

A strong ensemble piece that mixed absurdist elements with the all too real circumstances of women having to navigate the “bear pit” of 17th century theatre.

6. The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee - Koorliny Arts Centre

This musical was genuinely laugh out loud funny and had the added bonus of me seeing a large chunk of it from the stage before bombing out on misspelling “zomathary”.

"This celebrates the absurdity and competitiveness of that most unique of American "sporting events", the spelling contest. Each of the contestants battle not only each other but the expectations of parents; their own high hopes; raging hormones; and the pressure of being a winner."

7. The Producers – Playlovers

A cumbersome beast. The first forty minutes were stretching my patience but then something magical happened after the story finally kicked into gear and the production flies especially in the second act.

8. Cats - Regal Theatre

I’ve never seen the ‘traditional’ interpretation so was not troubled by the choice of 40-50s style costuming. I have no idea what was going on as the story is surreal to say the least but the highlight came when the cast got their raunch on to McAvity the Mystery Cat.

9. Le Gateau Chocolat – Fringe

Fabulously talented, gloriously outrageous and deeply personal, this was a highlight of the festival.

10. Holly & Ivy - Marloo Theatre

This one act play was the middle offering in a “Trilogy” of productions. It snuck up on me with its understated acting and beautifully drawn characters and navigates what could have been a very problematic twist.

Male Performer of the Year – Kingsley Judd for Animal

Female Performer of the Year – Rhoda Lopez for Madame Piaf

Special Mention – Adam T. Perkins for The Guys

Thank you to ALL the actors, directors, playwrights, musicians and crew of ALL the productions I saw in 2013. It truly is a pleasure to see your work come to life. Perth has a vibrant theatre scene with amazing talent to be found. Long may it continue.

Sunday, 17 November 2013

Enter Stage Left, Singing - A Personal Musical Theatre Journey (17 November 2013)

Yesterday I travelled down to Mandurah for a production of The Phantom of the Opera. This is the fourth time I have seen Andrew Lloyd Webber’s best known work, the previous three being in Sydney where my slow journey to musical theatre appreciation began. Indeed, it is the first musical I ever recall going to, circa 1995-6.

"I had moved to…

Dissolve to flashback, probably in black and white with period costume and a lamentably scratchy soundtrack to denote a simpler, more analogue time.

… Sydney in 1994 for work and my parents had proudly announced they were taking me to Phantom of the Opera when they were next coming to visit."

Parents (proudly): We’re taking you to see Phantom of the Opera!

Me: Am I being punished for something?

Parents (enthusiastically) (yes, they always talked in wrylies back then): You’ll love it. It’s GREAT!

Me (thinking to myself): I wonder if I can fake my own disappearance before they arrive…?

It’s true, they didn’t literally drag me to the Royal Theatre; they actually physically deposited me in the third row because I thought going to a musical was tantamount to sticking my head in a vat of boiling fat.

Then something strange happened.

Cue something-strange-happening music and the introduction of fake smoke for effect.

I kind of liked it!

Dad still tells the story - yes, even last night when I followed the coast back up to the family home for dinner - that in the early going when the chandelier plummets to the stage I jumped three feet in the air.

I had no idea what to expect so the spectacle and showmanship of it all had this tyro enthralled. I enjoyed the songs even though I’m not a fan of Act 2 with its reworked melodies and lyrics from the first half.

I ended up taking my sister along when she visited from Canberra; then later my partner at the time which started a tradition. For her birthday we would go out to dinner, see a show, then have supper on my balcony, my apartment being in the heart of the city. I think, maybe, possibly, one of the other shows was Crazy For You and I can’t recall the third. I also saw Les Miserables on a return visit by my parents.

I returned to Perth in 1998 and musical theatre largely became an afterthought.

There were sporadic outings:

We Will Rock You when I was in Melbourne for work in 2003.

Bare - A Pop Opera by Playlovers around 2008.

Spamalot, again in Melbourne for work maybe 2008/9.

Porgy and Bess at His Majesty’s Theatre in Perth.

Cabaret on a return visit to Sydney.

Avenue Q at the Regal Theatre, Subiaco.

Jeff Wayne’s War of the Worlds at Burswood Dome.

Christmas with the Andrews Sisters in 2011.

Checkout the Musical as part of 2012’s Fringe Festival.

We Will Rock You was horribly written by Ben Elton but had all those classic Queen numbers so nobody seemed to mind the abysmal storyline as we sung along raucously.

Bare featured a ‘wow moment’ when one of my favourite local performers, Rhoda Lopez, launched into “911! Emergency!” and blew the walls off the joint. It also featured Gemma Sharpe who would later read for me at Script Lab, and, unbeknownst to me until recently, Cassandra Kotchie, who made my coffee at a local writing haunt for ages before confessing she was a WAAPA musical theatre grad (Cass!).

I adored Spamalot and have never laughed so hard especially at the audacity of "You Won’t Succeed on Broadway".

Avenue Q gained greater significance when someone texted me the first two lines of "There’s A Fine, Fine Line" and I rediscovered how good the songs really are, especially that gem of a number.

These were still largely one off events. You’re in a different city for work so you blow off time by going to a show. Or you get free tickets as was the case with War of the Worlds and Avenue Q.

Things began to change while I was doing the PAC Screen Workshops from 2005-2007 and my circle of friends and acquaintances expanded to include far more actors. I’ve written before about my joy of supporting talented friends in their acting endeavours in stage (and film). However, I was attending significantly more plays than musical theatre but that ratio has slowly shifted in the last couple of years.

2012, however, was the major turning point when I saw three shows that featured a then friend and really enjoyed each one. She is a talented performer and it opened my eyes to a vibrant independent musical theatre scene. For as little as $20 you could see a fabulous show with real talent and commitment. While we’re no longer friends that revelation she was the catalyst for has propelled me into 2013 where yesterday’s show was the ninth musical I’ve seen this year. The other eight are:

The Wizard of Oz, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, Curtains, The Producers, Nevermore, Madame Piaf, Cats, and A Pirate’s Life For Me.

I guess I should pause to talk a little about the local incarnation of Phantom. Paul Spencer was fantastic as the eponymous villain and was well supported by Kristie Gray, Cassie Skinner and Jake Garner as Carlotta, Christine Daae and Raoul respectively. The sets were good and apart from a few technical hiccups with microphones (thankfully, minor characters in minor moments) it was well presented. The problem, however, to my ears, was the orchestra which was all over the place. So while the singing was good with Spencer the standout, they were constantly battling the music which was muddled and didn’t do the piece justice.

Having said that the theatre was full and there was an enthusiastic standing ovation so it has no doubt done well. Though again, only a 4 show run, the same as Hairspray by the same company last year which I enjoyed far more.

I had rather impulsively booked a ticket and it has brought me full circle from being horrified to see a musical back in the mid-90s to now savouring these local productions with such talented people on stage and all the crew and technicians who make them a reality.

To my musical theatre friends I say this - I finally have joined the party as an enthusiastic and consistent audience member! Just promise me you’ll never, ever ask me to sing!

What other shows should I see? What are your recommendations? Chicago is one of my all-time favourite movies and I’d love to see Velma Kelly and Roxie Hart onstage but hit me up with some other productions I should look out for!

Saturday, 21 September 2013

Curtains - Playlovers (21 September 2013)

When the supremely untalented star of Robbin’ Hood of the Old West is murdered during her opening night curtain call, Lt. Frank Cioffi must save the show and solve the case – without getting killed!

This sleuthing business seems to be an exhausting task. What with all those suspects and a show that still has to be staged. Sleuthing whilst singing and dancing? Truly remarkable!

Let me say right off the bat that I loved this. Sometimes you go to the theatre for thought provoking drama, maybe to see something experimental or the work of a new playwright. Sometimes you get a rollicking, entertaining ride that is flat out enjoyable from start to finish. The latter was certainly the case tonight at Playlovers production of Curtains.

Billed as a "musical comedy whodunnit", the show has an immediate pedigree with the presence of Kander and Ebb in the credits. There were, indeed, moments of dialogue and music, even story beats that reminded me very much of Chicago. Then there was an odd [I named a play here that might give the game away so I have redacted it] vibe in the latter stages but we'll get to that later.

This is a big, bold, sassy musical with great songs, big set pieces and is genuinely funny. For an independent theatre company to tackle such a huge production (26 cast and a 10 piece orchestra) is wildly ambitious. To pull it off in such style is to be absolutely applauded. Great also to see a full house on the night a local football team was dominating the conversation around town.

The story revolves around the murder of the presumptive yet untalented star that no-one likes (an amusing cameo by the director!) of a new show opening in Boston that all involved hope will make it to Broadway. The cast are "sequestered" within the theatre as a police detective struggles to solve the crime whilst falling for one of the show's lesser stars; advising on how to make the production threatened by poor reviews better; oh, and dealing with the murder of other cast and crew members along the way.

It plays with the isolated murder-mystery trope but also amusingly comments on the myriad of issues faced when mounting a large musical production. The show within a show device plays out nicely with numbers reworked and reprised as part of the race against time to garner a more favourable review from a nasty Bostonian critic.

I apologise in advance for not mentioning the whole cast but they were uniformly excellent. Of the main performers:

Tyler Jones plays Lieutenant Frank Cioffi and he was fantastic in a role that had a LOT of very precise, rapid paced dialogue. He handled it with aplomb and was the standout from the moment Cioffi makes his introduction.

Claire Taylor plays Nikki Harris who "has her fingerprints over everything" and is the attention of Cioffi's romantic affections. They have a lovely dance number in the second act and Taylor plays Nikki with an endearing mix of ditziness and innocence.

Therese Cruise is the lyricist who assumes leading lady status after the murder of unpopular star Jessica Cranshaw. Sporting the strongest singing voice, Cruise has several great numbers, the highlight being the "Wide Open Spaces" finale. Her character is involved in the second love story here, playing off Tom Hutton whose character is her songwriting partner and estranged husband. They have a touching moment in "Thinking of Him/I Miss the Music (Reprise)" in the second act.

Other standouts are Helen Carey as the producer Carmen Bernstein who has a hard-headed approach to the theatre business ("It's A Business") and daughter Bambi played by Tamara Woolrych. Why does she call herself Bambi? The answer says a lot about the mother-daughter relationship and Woolrych threads the needle between bitchiness and disappointment as her character tries to prove her worth in the large shadow cast by her mother. Speaking of bitchiness, David Nelson as the director has a grand old time slinging insults the way of all and sundry to hilarious effect.

The set is simple but effective. The costumes are great with the added razzle-dazzle of typical showgirl flourishes. The orchestra was at times a little too loud for the singing but otherwise was in good form. The choreography took total advantage of the large space and the show was full of movement, never slowing down for an instance.

The story gets a little convoluted and silly deep in the second act as twists are revealed and revelations made but by that stage I was well and truly sold and having a great time with this. So I forgave the few quibbles I had with such plot machinations which reminded me of the aforementioned play that I didn't aforemention. The cast had insisted in the closing number bad things could happen to anybody who revealed the murderer! So I'm not even risking an obtuse reference!

Directed by Kristen Twynam Perkins with Musical Direction by Belinda Flindell and Choreography by Tammie Anne Rafferty this is definitely one to recommend.

Sunday, 15 September 2013

The Rise and Fall of Little Voice - Koorliny Arts Centre (15 September 2013)

I made my way to Kwinana for a fast-becoming-regular jaunt down the freeway to the Koorliny Arts Centre, this time to see The Rise and Fall of Little Voice. I find this a most interesting and difficult story in both the incarnations I’ve now seen (play and film). It is an ugly duckling story populated by people who are essentially ugly. That makes it, for me, a challenging watch. The trick then is to unravel my reaction to the characters versus the performance of the actors.

The story is simple enough – the eponymous Little Voice or LV as she is known, fanatically listens to old records in her room and has become an expert impersonator of their vocal styles from Shirley Bassey to Marilyn Monroe and a whole variety in between. Her mother, who is dating a small time talent agent, sees her daughter as a way to a better life; the agent sees LV as a way into the spotlight and the dollars she will bring. They coerce her to perform at Mister Boo’s club. Meanwhile, quietly spoken telephone technician Billy innocently courts LV.

First off, the mother is thoroughly unlikeable and, in many ways, despicable. Full credit then to Judi Johnson who plays such a difficult character with full on gusto. Yes, I was squirming as I find the character’s motivations and actions largely abhorrent but that’s the way Mari Hoff is written. Anything but a total commitment to the character would fall flat. It’s uncomfortable at times but I can’t fault the commitment.

The agent is also problematic. More sleazy than charismatic, his put down of Mari in the latter stages of the play is simply nasty and mean spirited. The lady sitting next to me visibly blanched as he launched that horrid verbal assault. Again, credit to Ian Butcher for tackling another unsavoury character, that of Ray Say.

Hillary Readings provides gentle comic relief as Sadie Mae but even her character is mainly there to reflect the ugly side of Mari.

The structure is also problematic as the first act largely comprises the antics of Mari and Ray with LV very much in the background. We get glimpses of her talent and of the gentle romance that is to unfold but essentially we are immersed in Mari’s tawdry little world.

Then we get to the second act and this is where the play cranks into gear because it finally unleashes the star that is both the character of LV and Breeahn Jones who plays her. This story only works if you believe LV has the amazing talent to sing these standards AS the original performers. Jones shines when given full voice, pun fully intentional. I had not seen her perform before but the programme notes indicate she won 2011’s Best Actress in a Musical at the Finley Awards and she definitely has an excellent and versatile singing voice.

Geoffrey Leeder as Mister Boo moves things along nicely and the club is represented simply as a microphone in front of closed stage curtains with a lighting cue saying Mister Boo’s. This meant Jones was less than two metres away from where I was sitting in the front row and to see her go from reserved, put upon daughter to animated performer was a delight.

Then there is Jack McKenzie as Billy who, in a relatively small but pivotal role, adds genuine sweetness and charm. This is a critical counterpoint to all the crassness that surrounds LV’s world and he pulls it off well.

The set was very good with a split level representing the house – lounge room and kitchen downstairs; LV’s bedroom upstairs. The transitions though felt a bit clunky at times with the opening and closing of the stage curtains by hand when going to the club or outside the house.

Overall I enjoyed this but it is a story with many characters that are hard to warm to. Even LV’s eventual castigation of her mother, while earned, verges on being mean spirited itself. The singing, however, is excellent and the underlying love story paid off nicely.

Directed by Ian Cross.

Thursday, 5 September 2013

The Guys - Classic Works (5 September 2013)

One of the hallmarks of great writing is authenticity - of character, of time, of place.

"The Guys", a play about a New York Fire Captain who meets a journalist in the aftermath of 911 to help write the eulogies of the men he lost, is great writing because it not only gives a fascinating insight into the microcosm of a NYC fire station but also in the wider context of the city itself and the ripple effects of that horrid tragedy.

The events of September 11, 2001 loom large over the play but it is full of humour and celebrates not heroes but humans. Ordinary people doing their job on an extraordinary day.

Beautifully performed by Adam T Perkins and Anna Bennetts, directed by Paula Koops and written by Anne Nelson who Anna met recently in New York, this is a wonderful portrayal of a cross section of first responders that day.

Memorable, funny, and moving. Above all, utterly authentic.

This is the first time this play has been performed in Australia. It is on at a newly created black box theatre in West Leederville. Most definitely a must see.

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Madame Piaf - KNUTS Theatre (7 August 2013)

During the course of the year you get to see some really good shows in Perth, produced and performed by very talented people. Sometimes you get to see something truly exceptional.

Rhoda Lopez gives a brilliant, powerhouse performance as the eponymous lead in "Madame Piaf" at The Guild Studio in East Perth.

Congratulations to Stephen Lee for writing and directing this beautifully crafted tale and to the rest of the cast, Zalia Joi, David Bowyer and Emma Shaw as well as musicians Nikki Dagostino, Beth Sheldon and Jeffrey Harrold for bringing this to life.

Well deserving of the standing ovation it received!

Saturday, 22 June 2013

Animal - Upstart Theatre Company (June 2013)

This is a brilliantly written play - layered, brutal, provocative, sly, heartbreaking - with every setup paid off to telling effect. Nothing is wasted or misplaced here. It is beautifully acted by Kingsley (Judd), Sally (Bruce) and Patrick (Downes) who clearly relish working with such quality material.

The tale of human drug experimentation in a time of civil unrest is indeed harrowing but there is plenty of dark humour here as well. The chilling conclusion, however, has ramifications far beyond the intimate portrayal of patient, doctor, nurse.

It really is exceptional theatre and highly recommended.

The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee - Koorliny Arts Centre (22 June 2013)

Spell "Audience participation".

Nervously approaches the microphone. Clears throat. Meekly asks, "Could you define that for me please?"

"Where a person in the audience volunteers to be on stage and participate in the events that will shortly transpire upon it."

"Could you, um, use it in a sentence please?"

"This musical is hilarious, entertaining and involves audience participation."

Yes, that was me impulsively volunteering to be one of four audience members who would be on stage participating in the 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee at the Koorliny Arts Centre. Well, it went something a little like that... actually it involved a clipboard, a form, and a casual "sure, why not?" in the lobby. I managed to stammer out the first word I was asked to spell (which led to "pandemonium") but I'm not entirely sure the second one was an actual word. So with heartfelt hugs, a small orange juice as a gift, the laughter of the audience ringing in my ears, and a chorus of "goodbye, goodbye" from the cast, my short-lived stage career was over.

This is a funny, entertaining musical and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Being on stage for a large chunk of the first act enhanced the experience - allocated a number, told when to sit, when to stand whilst interacting with the cast and even *gulp* dancing at one stage. Then, of course, being called to the microphone to spell.

But enough of me... what about the show? This celebrates the absurdity and competitiveness of that most unique of American "sporting events", the spelling contest. Each of the contestants battle not only each other but the expectations of parents; their own high hopes; raging hormones; and the pressure of being a winner. Each is quirky and fun, from the "magic foot" spelling routine to speaking six languages to an unfortunate, um, protuberance. On the opposite side, the moderator (and former winner) and vice-principal keep things running (relatively) smoothly with outbursts kept to a minimum! Then there's Mitch, ex-convict and counsellor who dispenses the hugs, juice boxes and some tough love.

As contestants are eliminated priorities change, revelations are made (including a surprise "cameo"!) and a winner finally announced. But there's a real sweetness underpinning the conclusion which was a lovely touch.

The cast are strong across the board with genuinely funny songs throughout. The highlight musically for me was "The I Love You Song" as one of the contestants imagines her parents' love and support as she is asked to spell a word that resonates in that moment. Beautifully handled by Kimberley Harris, Ryan Taafee and Rachel Monamy. Other highlights: Daniel Burton's unfortunate demise and subsequent resurrection as a candy bar seller; the surprise "cameo" that I will not spoil here; Jonathan Best's transformation from smug know-it-all to something far more tender; Paul Treasure's colloquial explanation for his character's outburst which any Australian will instantly understand (and sympathise with); and the slow motion sequence which was hilarious.

I must mention the other cast members - Natalie Burbage, seen recently in The Wizard of Oz and last year in Hairspray, who is always good and seems to specialise in a brand of zany yet kind-hearted character; Jesse Angus (also Wizard of Oz) with cape a flowing and a small hand puppet who lingers before being dragged off stage at the end; and Erin Craddock as the straight-laced Marcy Park whose joyous reaction to an unexpected epiphany is fun to watch.

There was a real buzz from the audience after the show ended and it is genuinely laugh out loud funny. But do you dare volunteer to go on stage?!

Directed by Ryan Taaffe; Musical Director Kate McIntosh with Choreography by Hillary Readings.

Saturday, 11 May 2013

Nevermore the Musical - Playlovers (11 May 2013)

Just returned from seeing the musical Nevermore on a bleak, rainy night which suits this material down to the ground. The friends who accompanied me are Edgar Allan Poe fans but my knowledge was limited to a childhood reading of The Murders in the Rue Morgue with its memorable solution.

This is a relatively new musical and it was only on talking to cast members and the musical director afterwards that I discovered in its original form there is supposed to be only one performer playing Edgar Allan Poe. Here there are three! The transitions between Edgar (Paul Spencer), Dark Edgar (Caleb Robinson-Cook) and Young Edgar (Tate Bennett) are brilliantly done and really add to this version.

The costumes are outstanding and the set quite ingenious to help mask those transitions and add to the overall atmosphere. The decision to have the musical ensemble in front of the stage in full sight of the audience was a good one and they were in fine form. There were some problems with a performer's microphone which was a minor distraction, however the cast were in fine singing voice.

The songs were unfamiliar yet there were many strong numbers especially in the Second Act which felt more traditional musical theatre style. The highlight being "To My Mother" which is appropriate as Nevermore focuses on the women in Poe's life and how they shaped him as a writer. Ever present is the ghost of his Mother (Gemma Sharpe) who admonishes and cajoles Poe while his Mother-in-Law (Vivienne Glance) fears Poe will draw her daughter into his ever increasing darkness.

The other three women in Poe's life are his wife Virginia (Monica Brierley-Hay); first love Elmira (Tyla De Brett); and Whore (Donna-Maree Gavin). All are clearly delineated and shine a light on different aspects of Poe's descent into his own personal darkness.

During the Second Act it hit me that there is so much commentary on what it means to be a writer. "Who am I if I don't write?" Poe exclaims at one point. Exploring reality, truth and impact of allowing your demons to infest your work. The nature of writing and how it may affect those around you. Powerful and memorable.

My friends remarked it did end on a downbeat note but a story about Edgar Allan Poe was never likely to have a happy ending.

I thoroughly enjoyed this and would highly recommend it.

Saturday, 27 April 2013

The Wizard of Oz - Koorliny Arts Centre (27 April 2013)

I travelled to Kwinana today to watch the matinee session of Koorliny Art Centre’s The Wizard of Oz. I had been very impressed with the last production I saw there (Jack the Ripper) and was interested to see how such an iconic story translated to the stage.

The lead role in this instance was played by Chloe Rollond (alternating with Georgia McGivern throughout the run) who notably sounded like Judy Garland in her speech patterns which was a nice touch. Chloe gave an assured performance as Dorothy which is no small task given she’s pretty much on stage the entire time and opens vocal proceedings with the timeless Over the Rainbow.

From what I remember of the classic movie, this production is almost identical story-wise. There is the reasonably long setup of all the major characters in Kansas – Dorothy, Aunty Em (Natalie Burbage), Uncle Henry (Jesse Angus), Ms Gultch (Cat Baxter), Professor Marvel (Geoff Leeder), and the three farmhands who will become Scarecrow (Drue Goodwin), Tinman (Brodie Masini) and the Lion (Craig Griffen); as well as the show stealing introduction of Toto Tudor as Toto the dog. With that name, clearly a role he was born to play!

The arrival of the tornado and its aftermath is handled effectively with the use of lighting and sound effects. Indeed, it was rather a sparse set with various forms of simple lighting effects used to recreate the world of Oz. The costuming was excellent and the Munchkins were a delight with a multitude of colourful young cast members.

The main quartet of Dorothy, Scarecrow, Tinman and Lion played off each other nicely and the musical highlight comes in the second act with Jitterbug. Cat Baxter is suitably menacing as the Wicked Witch of the West as are her flying monkeys and other minions. Natalie Burbage’s Glinda the Good Witch is kind of kooky as a deliberate counterpoint. Jesse Angus also brings an element of humour to the second act as the Emerald City guard.

It’s quite a long production but seemed to keep the attention of the large number of children in attendance for most of its length. The orchestra started slowly for mine but later found their rhythm. As there was no elaborate staging the scene transitions were economically handled and kept proceedings moving along suitably briskly.

Other highlights – Toto eagerly, with tail wagging, stealing the Professor’s sausage much to everyone’s delight; Drue Goodwin’s physical performance as the Scarecrow; Craig Griffen’s number King of the Forest; and the three Black Crows who felt like refugees from The Muppets but worked nicely.

It’s a classic tale well told with colour and verve. Directed by Brad Tudor with Musical Director Stephanie-Jane Lewendon-Lowe and Choreographer Allen Blachford.

Sunday, 13 January 2013

My Top Ten Theatre Productions in 2012

The local night of nights for amateur theatre in Western Australia, the Robert Finley Awards, was held last night. While I haven't seen the winners (or even nominations) yet, here were my favourites during 2012.

Clearly it is not all encompassing (perhaps only 'Gordon the Optom' could do such a list) but these are the ten plays and musicals I enjoyed most during 2012.

However, to all the actors, playwrights and crew involved in local theatre, congratulations and much appreciation on a great year in increasingly difficult circumstances.

1. Enron - WAAPA
2. The Day The Sky Turned Black - Ali Kennedy Scott
3. The Last Days of Judas Iscariot - Upstart Theatre Company
4. Jack the Ripper: The Musical - Koorliny Arts Centre
5. Mine - WAYTCo
6. Hairspray: The Broadway Musical - Mandurah Performing Arts Centre
7. The Way of Us - Curtin University
8. A Slice of Saturday Night - Kelete Theatre Company
9. Missing - The Blue Room
10. Noises Off - Camelot Theatre

Here's to another great year in 2013!