Monday, 12 March 2012

I Love You You're Perfect Now Change by the Regals Musical Society

A great show much enjoyed
here's what I said for artshub

Subtitled ‘Everything you have ever secretly thought about dating, romance, marriage, lovers, husbands, wives and in-laws but were afraid to admit’, I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change first opened off-Broadway in 1996 and closed in 2008 after more than 5000 performances. It has been translated into at least 14 different languages and produced everywhere from London to China, Norway to Turkey. In this version it has been adapted for Sydney audiences, with references to Tim Tams, the HSC, Long Bay Jail and the Coles/Woolworths dispute among other things.
The show opens and closes with the cast, hooded and cloaked as Mediaeval-style monks, making a dramatic procession through the audience, with 'Biblical' quotes about the fall of mankind and how men and women are made for each other. Then – bang!
With minimal sets and props (just four podium/rostra-like boxes – in red, blue, green and yellow – that convert to tables, chairs, beds etc), some use of video cameras and screens, and lots of costume and character changes, the fabulous cast under the excellent direction of Lauren Nalty bring us a hilarious yet poignant and moving show. Using a series of witty vignettes, with all the cast playing multiple characters, it examines life, love and relationships – from the nervous first date through the pressure to become parents and then old age and loneliness. Joe DiPietro's script is deliciously wicked and biting, though sometimes very close to the bone with awkwardly embarrassing incidents everyone can relate to.
Musically it ranges from quiet, tender love ballads to hot jazz and all-stops-out showbiz Musical numbers, from Strauss waltzes and opera to country and western. The small band of three, under the musical direction of Kane Wheatley, were excellent.
Highlights for me included 'Satisfaction Guaranteed', a delightfully naughty ad for a law firm, which had the audience in stitches; 'I Will Be Loved Tonight', sensationally sung by Jessica Shirley in a tender, excited and joyous performance as she dashes off to make lasagne; and the poignant 'Shouldn't I Be Less In Love With You?', which, as sung by Tim Watson, was heatbreakingly moving.
Watson also deliciously performed a hot and steamy tango with Tanya Boyle, both clearly having a whale of a time. And speaking of hot, a spicy speed-dating segment reveals the different expectations of men and women, which leads into the hilarious 'A Stud and a Babe', fabulously performed by Chris Malliate and Meg Day to show how appearances, body language and other messages sent and received on the first awkward dates can be deceiving. This segues to another hot number, 'Single Man Drought', that leads to the men's version (‘Why? 'Cause I'm a Guy’) – again showing the differences between the sexes.
There is some fun staging for 'On the Highway of Love', where we again see the dichotomy between male and female views – this time of cars and driving ... and relationships, marriage and horrid, whiny kids. Another fun highlight was 'Tear Jerk', where a man attends a movie with his girlfriend and the movie makes him cry, although he's determined not to.
In 'Whatever Happened to Baby's Parents?' Brad Facey steals the show as he regresses to the infantilism of a delighted new parent. 'The Very First Dating Video of Rose Ritz' is also a hoot, with a stellar performance by Phoebe Wynne. And Laura Sheldon brought the house down with her raunchy lament of 'Always A Bridesmaid'.
I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change had all this and more, performed by an excellent cast, all of whom shone brightly in their various moments in the spotlight. The audience whooped, hollered and hooted its enormous enjoyment and enthusiastic approval at the end of this fabulous show.
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Regals Musical Society presents
I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change
Book and lyrics: Joe DiPietro
Director/Choreographer: Lauren Nalty
Musical Director: Kane Wheatley
Music: Jimmy Roberts
Cast: Tanya Boyle, Meg Day, Brad Facey, Ryan Fisher, Lynley Fuller, Alessandro Gamba, Benjamin Hanly, Natasha Hoeberigs, Kelly Horrigan, Chris Malliate, Ellie McAdams, Paul Morrison, Laura Sheldon, Jessica Shirley, James Swain, Mal Tuck, Tim Watson, Phoebe Wynne
St George Auditorium, Kogarah
15–18 February 2012

The Quiet Brother

A  fascinating play - here's what I said for artshub

Presented by Australasian Art & Stageworks, The Quiet Brother is a poignant, intimate analysis of a Chinese family’s struggle to survive, both in China and Australia, before, during and after the Lambing Flat riots of July 1861.
Anti-Chinese immigration laws were first introduced in 1855 by the colony of Victoria; similar legislation was soon introduced by every other colonial government. This eventually led to the White Australia Policy, which was in place until 1973.
The Quiet Brother was written in 2011 to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Lambing Flat riots, when some 250 Chinese gold miners were seriously hurt after a violent mob attacked them and drove them from the diggings. A thrilling, whirling martial arts display and traditional Chinese music are interwoven with the fabric of the play, which is written in English, but includes some Chinese words, phrases and calligraphy.
Exploring our rich multicultural era before the passing of the 1901 Immigration Restriction Act, the play also examines the domestic experience of a migrant family. It’s about assimilation and integration and becoming Australian while struggling to stay true to one’s culture; the use of language and how language defines identity.
The challenges of immigration and identity, both personal and cultural, are played out across three generations of a Chinese family. Young James wants to be a writer - in both English and Cantonese; and his grandfather Ah Lung adopts Western clothing. It is, however, the middle generation, Lily and her brother Henry, who suffer the most from the challenges of belonging to two cultures at once.
The story is told through letters between the family’s patriarch Ah Lung (Michael Quin), who has moved to the Lambing Flat goldfields, and matriarch, loving wife and mother Ah Toy (Gabrielle Chan) .Through Ah Lung's letters, as he labours to make enough wealth to bring his family to Australia, we have a vivid description of his voyage to Australia, his struggles to survive, the racist treatment he and other Chinese received at the hands of others miners, and the horrific riots themselves. Ah Lung was one of the lucky ones who escaped with his life, but lost everything else.
Ah Lung is excellently played by Quan, who totally engrosses us in his story. Beautiful Ah Toy, dramatic in red and black and with glorious long black hair, is exquisitely played by Gabrielle Chan. Through Ah Toy’s letters to Ah Lung we learn of her loneliness and anguish at being trapped waiting in Canton. And waiting. And waiting.
Troubled Henry, their son, caught between two cultures, is magnificently played by Lap Phan. His sister Lily, mother to James, is passionately played by Ivy Mak, severe in an embroidered white blouse and long black skirt.
Grandson James (a terrific performance by Sean Alex Wang), who is far more at home in both cultures, epitomises the hope for a peaceful, more integrated future.
The riots are depicted through a very effective use of martial arts (a fabulous performance by Derek Quan) combined with film, shadow figures and tumultuous fire on screen. Mention is made of Richard Roberts, who helped over a 1000 Chinese, sheltering them on or near his property Currawong.
Clayton Buffoni's sparse, simple set designs include a hessian wall for the goldfields tents and a few tables, chairs and boxes, making the flexible playing space of the black-box studio space of Belvoir Downstairs seem much larger than it is. The musicians are hidden in the wings.
The cast did very well to cope with the annoying distraction of various audience members’ mobile phones ringing, especially in the middle of a very quiet, intense scene, until one mobile at least was confiscated.
While perhaps slightly uneven in parts, this is a fascinating, challenging and very moving work about a little known slice of Australian/Chinese history.
Rating: Three and half out of 5 stars
The Quiet Brother
By Ivy Mak
Director: Nikki Selby
Production Designer: Clayton Buffoni
Video Artist: Elka Kerkhofs
Technical Director: Jocelyn Speight
Musicians: Jillian Freeman (musical director, Erhu, composer) and Leighton Lam (percussionist, composer)
Cast: Michael Quan (also producer and Cantonese narrator), Derek Quan (martial artist/choreographer), Sean Alex Wang, Lap Phan, Gabrielle Chan (also producer and Chinese translation), Daphne Lowe Kelley and Ivy Mak (writer and producer)
Presented by Australasian Arts & Stageworks
Running time 45 mins (approx) no interval
Belvoir St downstairs
February 23 – 26