Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Moving Parts

I thought I had already put this on the system sorry Here's my review for artshub The theatre was abuzz with eager anticipation for the world premiere of this play, the first by ad-man David Nobay (creative chairman of Droga5 Australia) and we were not disappointed. Short and intense, Moving Parts is explosively powerful and darkly disturbing. Its two actors, both of whom studied at NIDA, give gripping, compelling performances that are subtly nuanced yet also threateningly volcanic. The setting is a posh and exclusive jewellery store in London’s Bond Street, of which Roy (Colin Friels, in a white shirt and elegant suit) is the owner. A rich, sandy-beige carpet, a couple of large jewellery display cases, a charming painting and a heavy desk are included in Steven Jones-Evans design. The store has been Roy’s life for the past 26 years. As the audience enter Roy is at work, waiting for closing time. He can wax poetical about the science of and various parts of a watch, the design, balance and proportion, in the quest for the perfect watch. He has an ‘eye’ for exclusive pieces and a feeling for the major pieces he deals in. Suddenly a customer appears – Sean – wanting to look at the various items of merchandise. He also has a hidden agenda. Moving Parts is about revenge, intense family relationships, demanding answers, long held grudges and separations. Also the threat of death. At times, under Steve Rogers’ excellent direction, it is as emotionally intense as a Tennessee Williams or Arthur Miller play can be. The script is biting and passionate with touches of black humour. While set in London, there are Australian accents and Sydney/Melbourne jokes. There are almost cinematic scene shifts and light changes to indicate the passing of time. Much intense and hidden business is revealed under the influence of alcohol and a gun. We get the impression, thanks to a wonderful monologue, that Roy really loved his wife, now deceased. Yet there is also a dark side (she was unfaithful and gave him an STD) and coldness. Sean’s arrival is motivated by revenge, though at first it seems that he is just another rich customer, but things soon turn very nasty. Sean is played with angry, burning intensity by Josh McConville. Casually yet expensively dressed, and carrying a Harrods bag, he can be quite dangerous – he has a gun (notice his bandaged hand as well) and threatens to kill Roy. But then the tables are turned, Russian Roulette-like... One or two of the intense, extremely high stakes moments could perhaps do with tweaking, and some of the lines have great double entendres leading to uneasy laughter. There is no real sense of conclusion, rather a sense of ‘fade to black’ and ‘to be continued’. Rating: 4 stars out of 5 Moving Parts Written by David Nobay Director: Steve Rogers Designer: Steven Jones-Evans Lighting Designer: Russell Boyd Lighting Associate: Nicholas Rayment Costume Designer: Margot Wilson Music: Jack Ladder Cast: Colin Friels and Josh McConville Running time: one hour 15 (approx) no interval NIDA Parade Theatres, Kensington 25 July – 10 Augus

Live at lunch: Beethoven and Chopin

A glorious concert here's my review for artshub Those of us lucky enough to attend this latest concert as part of the Live at Lunch series were treated to a superlative aural feast. Pianist Cho Ki Wong and the Tecchler String Quartet gave ravishing performances of three staples of the Romantic repertoire. It is terrific to see such astonishing brilliant young Australian talent showcased. Wong – handsome and elegant in a standard Classical Musician tuxedo, wore a high white collar on his shirt as if to emphasize his dedication to the priesthood of the High Art of Music. Interestingly, he was – like several 18th century and other composers – conducting from the keyboard. He conducted very crisply and energetically, with precise, birdlike movements. Under his butterfly-like fingers the piano was alive; a living, breathing, featured soloist in the performance, supported magnificently by the Quartet’s glorious playing. First we heard Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No 5 in E Flat Major Op 73 – The Emperor. It was strongly and passionately played. The first half opened with a flurry of scurrying strings. Ominous rumbles were contrasted with soaring, fragile, delicate playing by Wong. Strong, strident passages alternated with floating ones. The second half (the adagio and rondo) opened with a melancholy, heartbreaking string passage and then the rippling, cascading piano was gently supported by the strings. Wong, his playing steely yet delicate, was shimmering and explosive. His fingers leapt delicately over the arpeggios and keyboard in the second work, a bravura performance of the Chopin Piano Concerto no 1 in E Minor op 11 (1830) – 3rd movement – Rondo Vivace in E Major. Wong’s performance was passionate, swirling and jewel-like. For a most enthusiastically demanded encore Wong played the Scherzo no. 2 in B flat Minor op 31 also by Chopin. A scintillating, fireworks display piece that had the audience gasping. After all that ravishing music there was just enough time for a brief Q & A session where we learnt that the Quartet have been together for about three years (among other things). An absolutely stunning concert. Next in the series will be the final concert of the current series, An Irish Fantasy, on 11 September. Rating: 4 stars out of 5 Live at Lunch: Beethoven and Chopin Cho Ki Wong – piano Tecchler String Quartet Beethoven - Piano Concerto No 5 in E Flat Major Op 73 ( 1811), The Emperor Chopin - Piano Concerto no 1 in E Minor op 11 (1830), 3rd movement, Rondo Vivace in E Major Chopin - Scherzo no. 2 in B flat Minor op 31 (1837) The Concourse, Chatswood 21 August

Teddy Tahu Rhodes and the SYO at the Concourse

wow what a concert here's my rave for artshub A most exciting concert, full of rich, challenging fare – everything from a world premiere to (a possibly rather heavy) Wagner. It is the Sydney Youth Orchestra’s 40th birthday this year (hooray and congratulations). Under the crisp, dynamic leadership of legendary inspirational maestro, Richard Gill, the orchestra was in glorious form and sounded tremendous. The program opened with the world premiere of 20 year old Australian composer Philip Jameson’s Contact, investigating the notion of musical touching. It has a haunting woodwind opening (hints of Stravinsky’s Sacre du Printemps?) and is a shimmering, short work. The second movement is sad and lyrical, changing to a fast allegro with Spanish overtones and a rolling Star Wars-like sound for the finale. A most exciting work. Next came a terrific performance of the Symphony No.3 in E Flat op 97 (the ‘Rhenish’) by Robert Schuman, a Romantic work featuring the use of strings. The orchestra had a wonderful warm, rich, full-bodied sound. The second movement (scherzo) was tempestuous and fiery. The fourth movement (Feierlich) was somewhat balletic in feel, with questioning strings. This lead to the fifth, final movement (Lebhaft) which was sombre, melancholy, and funeral. For opera lovers the special treat in the second half was guest artist, bass baritone Teddy Tahu Rhodes, Opera Australia star and soon to be seen in South Pacific again. Tall, bald and hypnotically magnetic with a ravishing voice, he gave a powerful performance and had the audience eating out of his hand, performing superbly in what Gill called an ‘uncompromising’ and difficult program. First we heard him as Don Carlos in the opera of that name, with the aria ‘Ella Giammai M’Amo’ (‘She never loved me’). Here, Tahu Rhodes was gripping, compelling and darkly malevolent. With a voice like dark chocolate he vented his suffering, changing from despair, shattered disbelief and resignation to jealousy and anger. What a contrast to the ‘Non Piu Andrai’ from Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro. Here, his Figaro’s teasing of Cherubino was witty, jaunty, sexy and much fun, and had the audience swooning. Then came the Sydney Youth Orchestra in Wagner’s stormy ‘Siegfried’s Funeral March’ from Die Gotterdammerung. Ominous, threatening drums with a blast of strings opened this lush, passionate, tempestuous segment. The final segment was ‘Wotan’s Farewell and Magic Fire Music’ from Die Walkure, with Tahu Rhodes as Wotan. Gill reminded us that Wotan is one of the most psychologically complex characters in the Ring Cycle, and Tahu Rhodes, rumbling, stern and commanding, sang the difficult work superbly. The orchestra played the fiery, rippling and angry music marvellously – the swirling strings were quite lush and opulent. A fabulous concert and an excellent way to celebrate the Sydney Youth Orchestra’s 40th birthday – the audience was in raptures at the end. Rating: 4 stars out of 5 Teddy Tahu Rhodes and the Sydney Youth Orchestra Conductor - Richard Gill Philip Jameson – Contact (world premiere) Robert Schuman – Symphony No.3 in E Flat op 97 (Rhenish) Giuseppe Verdi – ‘Ella Giammai M’Amo from Don Carlos Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart – ‘Non Piu Andrai’ from The Marriage of Figaro Richard Wagner – ‘Seigfried’s Funeral March’ from Die Gotterdammerung Richard Wagner – ‘Wotan’s Farewell and Magic Fire Music’ from Die Walküre The Concourse, Chatswood 18 August

Double Think at the Reginald

Here's what I thought for artshub about this terrific show By Lynne Lancaster | Tuesday August 27 2013 Two intriguing short dance pieces, wonderfully performed, that examine the very fabric of our modern technological world. Both are duets and utilise performer-operated lighting and live set manipulation to create a constantly evolving landscape of shimmering relativity. Both Kirstie McCracken and Lee Serle are extraordinary, and revel in Byron Perry’s challenging choreographic style. The two oozed stage presence and displayed a wonderful, fluid ‘line’ of the body. As a company, Force Majeure push the boundaries of what is considered contemporary dance and bring us works that communicate with the audience in a fresh, challenging way. Perry, who joined Force Majeure this year as Associate Director, reminds us in the programme notes: ‘The title references a term first coined by George Orwell in his seminal work 1984 in which the term ‘Double Think’ is defined as the ability to hold two diametrically opposed ideas in your head at the same time and believe both. This work is not a n investigation into that book or its themes but the term ‘Double Think’ seemed to me like an elegant description of the concepts we were playing with in the studio’. The first short piece, Google Box, was inspired by a 2005 article about the end of analogue television and all the changeovers therein involved. A nostalgic, humorous look at society’s relationship and dependence on the ubiquitous TV set, in which Serle is a ‘TV monster’ with a small red television set as a head, the piece begins and ends with excellent use of shadow and silhouette. Choreographically, it opens with short, sharp, snappy, movements and includes references to sports movements such as golf, and even some breakdance-like moves. This leads to some marvellous, sinuous, slithery floor work, and a duet where Serle is twisted and manipulated like a giant TV antennae to obtain better reception. All seems well for a little while; there is a joyous dance and then the TV ‘creature’ suddenly freezes and collapses in robotic slow-motion. McCracken anxiously tends him and he briefly revives – with a mention of the Neil Armstrong moon walk – then fade to black, with the two still dancing. After a short pause, we are then blinded by lights in our eyes before segments of the jigsaw-like wooden walled set mysteriously begin to move in the opening of Double Think. The atmosphere is as tense as a coiled spring. One section features the snap of eyes opening or closing; elsewhere, Serle and McCracken play a word association game, describing the word in movement e.g. ‘masking tape’ or ‘Liquid Paper’. Ballet moves are used as a base and twisted, shimmied and extended: a bouree, an arabesque. The electronic soundtrack beeps, hums, pulses, crackles. At one point it sounds like a gamelan orchestra or possibly insects, with a repeated set phrase. There is a delightful section where the two performers try to touch each other when they are caught in holes in the wall, angular arms frantically sliding side to side like windscreen wipers, fingers just missing holding each other. Towards the end come wonderful entwined sculptural tableaux and frenetic mini solos. Two exciting short works featuring two tremendous performers dancing in a sizzling program. Rating: 4 stars out of 5 Double Think By Force Majeure Director and Choreographer: Byron Perry Lighting: Benjamin Cisterne Composer: Luke Smiles Set Construction: Ben Cobham /Bluebottle Costume Design: Natasha Fagg Performers: Kirstie McCracken and Lee Serle The Reginald, the Seymour Centre 21 - 24 August

Friends of the Australian Ballet Talk 18th Sept

Friends of the Australian Ballet present Insights and stories from both sides of the ballet footlights - canapés, wine and a talk by Leo Schofield AM and Andris Toppe Wednesday 18 September at 7pm Trawler & Heritage Rooms, Waterfront Restaurant, Circular Quay West Join the Friends of the Australian Ballet at a talk by two acclaimed theatre workers – from both sides of the ballet footlights, An evening with Leo Schofield AM and Andris Toppe. Leo Schofield AM - How I got over Opera and learned to love Dance. Leo Schofield is renowned as one of the great arts practitioners in this country. Leo was born in a small town called Brewarrina, literally back of Bourke. The first live theatre he ever saw was a production of Princess Ida at the old Theatre Royal. Leo was hooked. Although he saw performances by the Borovansky Ballet, opera was his major passion, but gradually he came to enjoy dance. As he moved on from Verdi to Wagner and Strauss he also moved from the occasional Royal Ballet performance (most notably Bronislaw Nijinska's re-staging of Les Biches) to a deeper involvement presenting some of the great companies for the first time in Australia. Leo has co produced the first tours to Australia by The Paris Opera Ballet, The National Ballet of Cuba, the Hamburg Ballet, Opera and Symphony Orchestra, and the first full tour by the Bolshoi Ballet. He has just announced the first ever tour to Australia by American Ballet Theatre. Leo has been director of Festivals across Australia including the Melbourne Festival and the Sydney 2000 Olympic Arts Festival. Leo is an highly entertaining speaker. Andris Toppe – Variations on a Career in Dance Andris Toppe, a dancer, choreographer and teacher. He has travelled the world in a career encompassing classical ballet, contemporary dance, cabaret films, opera, puppetry, television, theatre and ice skating. Andris was the personal coach of Torvill and Dean, working on all their world tours between 1985 and 1998, and Ballet Master and Company Manager for various ballet companies. Date Wednesday 18 September at 7pm Venue Trawler & Heritage Rooms, Waterfront Restaurant Circular Quay West to join the Friends of The Australian Ballet – or (02) 9252 7322 Price $50 per head Bookings & Enquiries or Friends of the Australian Ballet (02) 9252 7322 or Media Enquiries Bruce Pollack, 9331 5276 or

Sunday, 18 August 2013

Blue Man Group

This is A Theatrical Experience ! Here's what I said for artshub As it says in the blurb, ‘Blue Man Group is not just a show – it’s a state of mind’. Having first performed 25 years ago, since which time they have performed in over 10 countries and been seen by over 2 million people, the performance troupe – whose activities now include albums, DVDs and documentaries now come to Australia – although their arrival perhaps made the wrong kind of splash in some quarters. Their Sydney performance was a joyous, silly romp; a party atmosphere featuring infectious rhythms, visual gags, colour and light and also biting social comment. Performance art, drumming, mime, computer wizardry and dazzling theatrics all combine into one stunning show. Three mysterious bald ‘Blue Men’ front and lead the proceedings. They play wicked Taikoz-like drumming and incorporate explosive coloured paint, leading to the creation of neo-Pollock action paintings. Their performance features sensational lighting (for example in the ‘giant xylophone plumbing ‘ section, where the lighting is positively psychedelic) which at times borders on the blinding – strobe lighting is used – as well as the extremely effective use of fluoro/UV lighting, especially for the band, wildly performing their magic on stage. The production is also extremely contemporary with the use of computer imagery and apps (the trio interact with ‘GiPads’ (Gigantic iPads) leading to a funny and perceptive look at current modes of communication, though the use of deep, throbbing bass verges on the painful, and is definitely over-emphasized. Be aware that if you are in the first two rows of the stalls, plastic ponchos are provided, and will be needed. Audience interaction/participation features from the start; as well as screens at either side of the stage flashing up birthday messages and other greetings for particular audience members, if you’re in the stalls you will be carefully scrutinized and filmed by the Blue Men, and possibly dragged up on stage. Much fun is had with precise comic timing, and the audience constantly rocks with laughter – in the ‘giant xylophone’ section we hear everything from Beethoven to the John Farnham song ‘You’re the Voice’. The straight faced looks of the Blue Men – silent throughout – are priceless. There is a lot of biting social commentary – for example about how we are all interacting through the wonders of modern plumbing. Mention should also be made of the running sight gag of the quivering jelly and the eating of cornflakes. Illusion and reality are blurred with the 2D and 3D world texting discussions - cool, but weird, man. There is also quite a bit of art, colour and visual optics theory behind all this gaudy pageantry, and the finale has the audience ecstatically dancing in the aisles and being bombarded with giant coloured balls, streamers and dry ice fog – akin to a cross between the ending of Slava’s Snow Show and a psychedelic rave party, perhaps? The audience loved it! Blue Man Group is almost impossible to describe or categorize; you have to see it for yourself. In a word – amazing. Rating: 4 ½ stars out of 5 Blue Man Group Created, written and directed by Matt Goldman, Phil Stanton and Chris Wink Artistic and musical collaborators: Chris Dyas, Larry Heinemann, Ian Pai, Todd Perlmutter and Jeff Turlik Production and lighting design: Joel Moritz Additional lighting design: Kevin Adams Video design: Caryl Glabb and Blue Man Group Recorded sound design and music supervisor: Todd Perlmutter Blue Man Character costume design: Patricia Murphy Associate Director: Matt Ramsey Music Director: Byron Estep Technical production: Nils Lunow Production Management Cast: Jonathan Clapham, Adam Erdossy, Callum Grant and Alain Rochfort Musicians – Charles Henry, Adrian Passareli, Jeff Tortora, Vince Verdame, Greg Vystroko and Nils Westermann Lyric Theatre, Sydney 10 August – 8 September Crown Theatre, Perth 12 – 27 October Her Majesty’s Theatre, Melbourne 8 - 24 November

Vitality at the Seymour Centre

Here's what I thought for artshub inShare. By Lynne Lancaster | Monday August 12 2013 In their current program, under the umbrella name Vitality, Dirty Feet bring us three exciting, challenging works and showcase some tremendous dancing. The opening work, Morphic, was performed in three sections and set out to examine ‘the relationships and dependencies we have with technology and the idiosyncrasies that are manifested as a result’; and how humans adapt and upgrade. As the audience entered, the three performers – all in ‘hot’ short dresses and high heels, with wonderful feathered fascinators by Betty Belle – were frantically separating a huge bundle of twisted electrical/computer cables. Three piles are eventually created, one of just a few very artily posed against the wall, a large messy jumbled heap, and a Zen-like obsessively neat sculptural square of black and white cables. The soundscape for this first section was reminiscent of the wind, perhaps, or the sea, or possibly electrical interference. One section of this work had repeated phrases of movement where the dancers were frantically sending text messages on their mobile phones – short snappy movements included a head tilt, anxious bob, rub of the leg etc. This section was perhaps reminiscent of the Fondue Set. Then suddenly the mood changed: two of the dancers became dark, threatening creatures that battled with the third for her mobile phone in a nightmarish sequence. In the mysterious half light, one of the dancers emerged, wearing the huge jumbled ball of tangled cables – is she trying to escape? A robot? An alien being? A Frankenstein’s monster? With the ominous use of heartbeats for this section, and also the use of shadow, she seemed also quite arachnid. One of the other dancers had a voluptuous solo with opulent arms that end with her on the floor. The work ended frenetically, with the cast taking numerous photographs of each other on their mobiles. Was it all a dream? A mysterious ritual? The middle work, Quest, is a powerful, engrossing solo performed by Miranda Wheen. It has been seen before as part of Chronology Arts Synchronicity program last year and was also part of Campbelltown’s Aurora Festival of Living Music. An elegant woman in a ‘little black dress’ and high heels is caught in a square of light. She looks like a glamorous shop mannequin. Through repeated phrases of movement, very obviously in the del Amo style, she explores light and space. It begins and ends with her back turned to the audience and very subtle movements of the shoulders. At one point in the solo there are vertical spirals of movement; at another there are sharp, Flamenco like stamps. Wheen has amazing control yet at the same time it is as if she is a newly created being exploring the world for the first time. Finely crafted with great attention to subtle detail, this is a magnificent performance. The third work, Shudder had a very strange, Surrealist feel to it, as if the two excellent dancers were in a mysterious floating world. It began and ended with Sean Marcs’ head in Cloe Fournier’s lap. There was quite a bit of floor work, intimate sculptural entwined pas de deux with fingers snaking up the back of the partner, and some mirroring /echoing of movements. For me there was possibly a Cunningham-style feel to some of the choreography, and some of the lifts in the pas de deux were quite unusual. Speech is also included – Fournier gives an impassioned speech toward the end in a mix of French and nonsense sounds. The last section of the work has the two dancers turn into mysterious floral-headed creatures and repeat a lot of the difficult, demanding pas de deux. A strange, thought provoking work, accompanied by excellent and dramatic lighting. A challenging, intriguing program. Rating: 4 stars out of 5 Vitality A Dirty Feet & Chronology Arts collaboration MORPHIC Director/choreographer: Sarah-vyne Vassalla Composer: Andrew Batt-Rawden Dancers and devisers: Anthea Doropolous, Sarah Fiddaman and Brianna Kell Outside eye: Emma Saunders Millinery design: Betty Belle QUEST Choreographer: Martin del Amo Composer: Alex Pozniak Dancer: Miranda Wheen Original live music performed by Andrew Smith (saxophone) and Luke Spicer (viola) Recorded musicians: Andrew Smith (saxophone) and James Wannan (viola) Recording engineers: Jacob Craig and Matthew McGuigan of Hospital Hill SHUDDER Choreographer: Kathryn Puie Composer: Daniel Blinkhorn Dancers/co-devisers: Cloe Fournier and Sean Marcs Reginald Theatre, The Seymour Centre, Chippendale 8-10 August

Hairspray at Parramatta ( Packemin productions)

A wonderful show at Parramata Here's my thoughts for Sydney Arts Guide Bright, bold and colourful with HUGE ensemble numbers this is a fabulous production of this much fun musical . Readers might be familiar with the 1988 John Waters film or the 2011 live stage version performed at the Lyric (although there are some changes) . The show is set in Baltimore, America,1962: just prior to the seismic appearance of The Beatles. Think black and white TV programs like ‘ I Love Lucy ‘, ‘The Beverley Hillbillies ‘, huge beehive hairdos, Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, Elvis… as all-American as apple pie.( and the flag as front curtain) But just underneath the brightly coloured neon lights and sort of cartoonish effects ripple the blatant sexism, racism and turbulent politics of the era. ( See the protest march Tracy leads and the way she fights for integration) .The set and costumes designs are bright and colourful , semi cartoonish and perhaps with a hint of Jersey Boys ? Jakimowicz’s choreography was typical of the TV show of the time , ‘Bandstand’ish and the cast performed it with relish.And the hidden band under muscial director Peter Hayward was magnificent . The American Dream expressed in ‘Hairspray’ is that of our heroine schoolgirl Tracy Turnblad, who craves an appearance on teenage heartthrob Corny Collins’ ( Kyle Sapsford) TV show (‘I know every step, I know every song’) – but will she ever get a chance? Who will be Miss Teenage Hairspray (as sponsored by Ultraclutch)? From the opening ‘Good Morning Baltimore’ it is obvious that this production is blessed by an exceptionally strong and dynamic Tracy Turnblad our leading lady ( Jessica Rookeward) who is tremendous. She catches the high school would be TV star just right. She is a splendid singer and a groovy dancer to boot .Fabulous! Her character’s struggle to realise her dream, and also her moral fight for racial equality, are wonderfully portrayed. Her gum chewing best friend Penny Pingleton is excellently played by Mikayla Williams . It’s interesting to note how Penny changes from mousy, homebound, rather ordinary girl to a trendy 1960’s swinger almost unrecognizabkle in a sultry dark gold outfit. Particular mention must be made too of Atunasia Lasalosi as Seaweed , who is an incredible , hot performer of cool , smooth moves .Way to go , man ! Tall , luscious Motormouth Maybelle was delightfully played by Cle Morgan , with a smoky creme caramel voice and delivery , who stops the show with her ‘Big Blonde and Beautiful’ and ‘I know Where I’ve Been’ and other soul-like songs . Haughty Velma von Tussle, Amber’s scheming mother , was wickedly played by Michele Lansdown as a cross between Norma Desmond and Cruella Deville. She has potentially show stopping numbers in Act 1 ( ‘Miss Baltimore Crabs’ and ‘Velma’s Revenge’) but gets her come uppance at the end. Or does she? Amber was delightfully played by Alyssa Wilkins just right as the self centred scheming school girl TV star . There is one section ( ‘Mama I’m a big girl now ‘) where we see the three mothers and daughters – Tracy and Edna, Amber and Velma, and Penny and her mother – all singing at once (a sort of split screen/stage effect) where the daughters are trying to remind their mothers they are grown up and break free of parental restrictions that was excellently done. Tracy’s father, Wilbur, joke shop owner , was given a fine performance by Wayne Scott Kermond who played him for laughs and pulled out all his terrific bag of showbiz tricks .His ‘Timeless to me’ duet with Edna (Jon English ) is much fun. Gravelly voiced English as Edna , Tracy’s mother, has great stage presence .He plays Edna ‘pantomime dame’ in style and it is obvious it is a man. ( And there are in-jokes about rock singers ) . Sorry but I found the Mr Pinky’s hair and dress makeovers a little disappointing . Very handsome young Elvis –like Link , a star of the ‘Corny Collins Show ‘, Tracy’s eventual boyfriend , was tremendously played by Christopher Glynn. We see him grow and change and become both more self aware and caring about outside issues. Look out for Ayanda Dladla as Little Inez – a dynamite young talent ! A cheeky , inspirational production the cast obviously have a whale of a time and the packed audience loved it too … You can’t stop the beat … HAIRSPRAY, running time 2 hours and 30 minutes, is playing at the Riverside Theatre, Parramatta until August 10.

the Paris Opera Ballet in ' La Sylphide'

This was a blink and you miss it screening. The dancing is amazing Here's what I thought again for Sydney Arts Guide This is a ravishing, exquisite production by the world famous Paris Opera Ballet and features some of the most jaw-droppingly, impressive dancing I have seen in ages. Direct from the company that premiered it in 1832 , here we have a revival of the Lacotte production from 2004. In this version we have Aurelie Dupont as the Sylph and Mathieu Ganio as James in this magnificent production that looks straight out of lithographs of the originals. You can see the Bournonville influence ( leading to the other , alternative version of this work ) and how it inspired the slightly later ‘Giselle’ ,( especially in the pas de deux for James and the Sylph ) both of which are now regarded as landmarks of Romantic ballet .Are there also hints of ’La Bayadere’ in Act2 with the scarf ? The finely detailed sets are the standard huge room with fireplace in Act1 .The costumes for this act are predominantly in red and blue. In Act 2 there is a marvellous leafy forest. The exquisite corps de ballet of the women as sylphs in Act2 are magnificent .Precisely drilled they breathe and function as one to hypnotic effect. ( And keep a look out for the special flying effects ). In Act1 they are of this world as guests celebrating James and Effie’s wedding with wonderful exuberant dancing . There are controlled lines and lots of fast fleet fiddly footwork – a hint of the Bournonville version? As the Sylph, Aurelie Dupont is astonishing . She appears as if straight out of a Taglioni lithograph. What was interesting to observe was the attention to detail in her costume – the pearl necklace and bracelets , the blue ribbon at her waist , the floral coronet in her hair. And peacock feathers in her wings ! Technically she was amazing , appearing lighter than a feather. Yet she had steely pointes , amazing control in her adage and a soft , lyrical rounded line in her portes des bras ( again echoing the lithographs) .It was also interesting to note that in this version she only brings James one offering of items from her world - a birds nest- not three or so as in some versions .She appears to be of alabaster and not of this world, mysterious and ethereal. Playful and flirtatious she unwittingly leads James on to the tragic denouement. Dreamily handsome James , a young man caught between illusion and reality ( the Sylph and his real , worldly fiance Effie ) was more than superbly danced by Mathieu Ganio . He has textbook pure technique and his elevation and batterie are astonishing. His short ,explosive solos are thrilling . Madge the witch (here simply called The Sorceress) was chillingly played by Jean-Marie Didière .It is interesting to note that in this version she has six ‘weird sisters’ who help her with the incantations and preparations of the poisoned scarf ( long filmy veil) to kill the Sylph and revenge herself on James. Didiere as Madge is tall , with a craggy , very expressive face and long , bony, dirty fingers . He has a commanding presence and is not someone you would want to cross! Effie, James’ fiancee ,was delightfully danced by Mélanie Hurel .And Gurn,James ‘ friend who is also in love with Effie is tremendously danced by Emmanuel Hoff . They have show stopping pas de deux in Act1 . So if you are into Romantic era ‘Ballet Blancs’ and want to see some extraordinary dancing don’t miss this. The Paris Opera Ballet in LA SYLPHIDE screened at selected cinemas with screenings taking place on July 27, 28 and 31.

Opera Australia -La Traviata

Here's my review as over at Sydney Arts Guide LA TRAVIATA is an audience classic opera favourite and a regular repertoire staple and this superb, ravishing revival of this sumptuous 1994 production shows why. Scandalous and shocking at the time of its 1853 premiere, the now classic tale of poor Violetta and Alfredo , of consumption and thwarted true love is based on a Dumas novel. Moshinsky , Yeargan and Hall set it in 1877 -so bustles rather than crinolines and the start of the ‘Belle Epoque’. Yeargan’s designs are themed around the seasons .Act 1 with its wonderful centrepiece chandelier is softly sumptuous and glowing . Act 2 with its grey /green and bare look with the cold garden is chilly .And Act 3 ,with its wonderful use of Vermeer like- lighting was also impressive. Our hero , handsome Alfredo ( Arnold Rutowski) was swoon-worthy in Act 1 especially when he reveals his love to Violetta (Un dì, felice, eterea – “One day, happy and ethereal”).Like Violetta the audience was enraptured and sighing . He perhaps had a slight problem in Act2 but was back in fine form again for the marvellous duets etc in Act 3. Our heroine Violetta was magnificently sung and acted by Emma Matthews who carried the demanding role wonderfully well. She acts superbly ( that she and Alfredo fall in love is very believable) yet perhaps some of the vocal coloratura seems to be really stretching and challenging her voice. She is positively giddy ,radiant and blooming in the ‘Ah, fors’è lui’ – “Ah, perhaps he is the one”) and enchanting in the ‘ Brindisi ‘ ( the famous drinking song) that brings Act1 to a close. Her act2 “Dite alla giovine sì bella e pura, – “Tell the young girl, so beautiful and pure,”) was fragile and moving. In Act3 her ill transformation is shocking and troubling. Another (almost) unexpected star of the evening was Jose Carbo as Giorgio Germont , Alfredo’s father , who sang more than superbly and was astonishing , his full throttle voice completely dominating the theatre. Elegant in a suit he stopped the show with his ‘ Pura siccome un angelo ‘– “Pure as an angel, God gave a daughter ‘ , pleading with Violetta to break off with Alfredo and ‘Di Provenza il mar, il suol chi dal cor ti cancellò? – “Who erased the sea, the land of Provence from your heart?”) angrily to Alfredo in Act2 . The scenes between Matthews and Carbo in act 2 are wrenching and performed magnificently. He was also marvellous in the trios in Act 3 . The chorus has a delightful time in Act 1 as guests at Violetta’s party and in Act2 Sc2 as ‘gypsies ‘ and ‘matadors’ – much fun.( in Act2 Barclay has great fun parodying ‘Strictly Ballroom’ . ) Under the very energetic and enthusiastic baton of Patrick Lange the orchestra sparkled. An enthralling, totally believable production that moved and delighted the audience. Running time 3 hours ( approx) including 2 intervals Verdi’s LA TRAVIATA runs at the Joan Sutherland Theatre Sydney Opera House in rep various dates between July 30 and August 31 2013

Don Pasquale - Opera Australia

Here's my Sydney Arts Guide review This is a charming, sparkling production of Donizetti’s 1843 comic opera ‘DON PASQUALE’. It has been updated to the 1950’s , so think Fellini films, Audrey Hepburn in ‘Roman Holiday’ , Vespas, stunning glamorous dresses , the smell of a double expresso waiting for you at the outdoor cafe …… The very light plot, Commedia Dell’Arte in style, of tricked old men, deceived lovers and uncles with a ‘moral’ for the audience at the end is all a glittering excuse for showcasing some superb singing from the four main leads. The production features stunning, elegant set designs by Richard Roberts where ’Sophronia’/Norina’s influence in Act 2 is indicated with changes to lamps , cushions and drapes. The garden and fountain scene in Act2 is lovely. There is a clever use of a revolve for scene changes. Matt Scott’s lighting designs, especially for Act 2 Sc.1 showing the stretch of hours when poor Ernesto was made homeless, were glorious. Under the dynamic, very energetic conducting of maestro Guillaume Tournaire the orchestra sparkles. Donnizetti’s delicious , quite balletic melodies are beautifully played. Rodger Hodgman’s direction moves the show along at a cracking pace and it is light with only a few places for melancholy or pathos . The chorus is mostly featured in the second half as assorted new servants employed by ‘Sophronia ‘ ( Norina),- they are maids, footmen, beauty therapists, jewellers etc . They are tightly moved in large blocks of quite boxed choreography, wittily commenting on the goings on. With regards to the four leads: Conal Coad as ‘DON PASQUALE’ showcases a terrific bass voice. He has a very expressive face .He handles the very difficult breathlessly fast tongue twisting ‘patter songs’ after interval wonderfully well. We see how ‘Sophronia’s’ ( Norina’s) slap after the (fake) wedding changes everything . He turns from a seeming horrid , wicked uncle obsessed with his stamp collection, to a man beaming benevolence and forgiveness. Our hero , passionate , tempestuous ,lovelorn Ernesto, was magnificently sung by Ji-min Park in fine voice. His ‘Poor Ernesto’ in Act 1 , where he is despairing , homeless and gets thrown out of the closing cafe , (Cercherò lontana terra – “I shall seek a distant land ‘). was sensational. The Act 2 duet with Norina in the garden ( ‘ Tornami a dir che m’ami ‘– ‘Say again that you love me’ ) was lush and lyrical , his solo just before ( ‘Com’è gentil ‘ – ‘How gentle’ ) simply melting . Rachelle Durkin as Norina/ Sophronia is tremendous and gives a very strong ‘feminist’ reading of her character. Tall, lanky with wonderful red hair she agrees to the scheme for the sake of the man she loves. Her rehearsal with Dr. Malatesta in Act 1 was great fun, ‘Pronta son; purch’io non manchi – “I am ready; if I do not miss” and her sudden change from a seemingly demure , shy trembling young woman to a confident , demanding elegant spitfire was terrific. She delighted audiences with her managing of the difficult , showy coloratura passages. Handsome Samuel Dundas as Doctor Malatesta was smoothly charming and manipulating . He has a wonderful aria in Act 1 describing DON PASQUALE‘s potential bride ( ‘Bella siccome un angelo ‘– ‘Beautiful like an angel ‘). At the conclusion of the opera , the four main players discuss the moral of the story – that it’s foolish to consider marriage in old age – in a quartet entitled ‘ La moral di tutto questo – ‘The moral of all this ‘. Aaahh .. delightful romantic intrigue in Rome in summer! Donizetti’s ‘DON PASQUALE’, with a running time of 2 hours and 40 minutes, runs at the Joan Sutherland Theatre Sydney Opera House on various dates in repertory until Thursday August 15, 2013.

One Man Star Wars

An astonishing terrific show much fun .Here's my artshub review An amazing theatrical tour de force, One Man Star Wars is a solo (yes solo!) performance of the first three Star Wars films: Episode IV: A New Hope, Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back and Episode VI: Return of the Jedi; written and performed by Canadian actor Charles Ross – you might have seen his fabulous One Man Lord of the Rings, which has also toured here. Ross, who has been performing this unique take on Star Wars since 2001, gives an incredibly energetic performance featuring an amazing range of voices and accents, a very fit and flexible body, and a most expressive face. He looks a bit like Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker, and wears a grey tracksuit that is vaguely futuristic, spaceship team member-ish in design. The lighting design is sensational. The show is performed with love, enjoyment and gusto. Mime, dance, singing and acrobatics are included as are various movie in-jokes (e.g. about Jar Jar Binks). All the main characters and the famous quotes are there, delineated by posture, voice, hands etc – Darth Vader, Luke Skywalker, Hans Solo, Princess Leia, 3PO and R2D2, Chewbacca, Yoda, Ben (Obi-Wan) Kenobi etc, as well as Ewoks, droids etc. His quivering Jabba the Hut, testy Yoda, and scary, hunched Emperor are extraordinary. The whizzing battle/flight scenes are terrific, and the dramatic explosion of the Death Star is brilliantly done. I also liked the ‘stuck in the garbage dump’ scene. The fight between Darth Vader and Obi Wan Kenobi is another highlight, as is Vader’s death scene; tense, powerful and marvellously done. Ross’ editing is tight and he has an incredible ear and eye for detail. The banter between Han Solo and Princess Leia is very clever, while Luke Skywalker is depicted as even whinier than he is in the movies. Large swaths of dialogue are hurriedly run through as ‘exposition, exposition, exposition’ or ‘blah blah blah’; jokes are made about Mark Hamill's acting; various plot holes and inconsistencies are exposed and discussed; and when it is revealed Luke has a sister, Ross says 'of course it's Princess Leia, she's the only woman in the film!' Rating: 4 ½ stars out of 5 One Man Star Wars Written & performed by Charles Ross Running time: 90 mins (approx) Drama Theatre, Sydney Opera House 17 – 21 July

Top Girls at the New Theatre

A terrific show ! Here's what I thought for artshub Top Girls By Lynne Lancaster | Monday July 29 2013 Bishanyia Vincent and Claudia Barrie in Top Girls. Photo: Bob Seary. I would like to add my voice to the chorus of critical enthusiasm for this splendid production. Under Alice Livingstone’s excellent direction there are strong, very fine performances from all involved. First performed in 1982, Caryl Churchill’s play is as fresh and powerful as if written yesterday. Powerplay and politics: the issues raised are still so extremely relevant, a woman having to choose between a family and children and career. It is also a blast at the Thatcherism of the period. The play is complicated in plot and structure with time shifts and jumps, but basically the major set piece is an Act One dinner party at a posh restaurant to celebrate Marlene’s (Julia Billington) promotion. The predominant colour for the first act is green. Gina Rose Drew’s designs are of a wonderful brick wall fireplace and window with a large table and lots of chairs. The diners are served by a silent waitress (Maeve MacGregor) in a short jaunty dress. Marlene works at a recruitment agency, Top Girls, and in the other two acts we meet her sister Joyce (Sarah Aubrey) and niece Angie (Claudia Barrie). The attitudes of various employers are revealed and we see assorted clients and the stresses of working at the agency. Issues of childcare, ageism etc are explored. We also see the sisterly bickering between Joyce and Marlene – Joyce rather resents Marlene’s dynamic life and career – and other explosive family secrets are revealed. Marlene’s many carefully constructed layers; her faces of power, career and self denial are brilliantly, painfully performed by Billington. A serial monogamist, Marlene has fled long term involvements in case they interfere with her career and grapples with difficult modern expectations. The last two acts feature fine acting by Barrie as Angie, Marlene’s teenage niece, who dreams of escaping to London and being like her aunt. As one of my colleagues has suggested, in structure Top Girls could almost be two separate plays similar to Angels in America. But it is the dinner party in Act One that this play is rightly famous for, and it is an extraordinary set piece, marvellously performed. Marlene is hostess (in a gorgeous red dress) and her guests, a mix of fictional and real women, include the gruff, bluff Victorian explorer Isabella Bird (Cheryl Ward looks straight out of a daguerreotype of the era and has a wonderful leafy themed costume). Bird was well-known for her dislike of Australia and in some ways represents a defining section of Marlene’s self. Aubrey, doubling up as the 9th century Pope Joan, is amazing, like a Holbein miniature. Then there’s the roughly mannered Dull Gret (Claudia Barrie) from Flemish folklore; the ultra-refined 13th century Japanese courtesan Lady Nijo (Bishanyia Vincent) in white face with high butterfly like eyebrows in a shimmering gold and white kimono; and nymph-like Griselda, buxom and blossoming in a flowing white gown and a wreath in her hair. In this act especially you notice the overlapping/interruption of speeches and the disjunction of rhythm, how each woman concentrates on herself as each of the women’s rather horrific stories are told. They mourn lost loves and children and speak frankly about men and sex. Jokes are interspersed with tragic stories. Each of them in some way highlights a feminist issue and defies categorization, and each should be proud of her achievements. A magnificent production of this challenging, thought-provoking play. Rating: 4 stars out of 5 Top Girls By Caryl Churchill Director: Alice Livingstone Assistant Director/Dramaturg: Fiona Hallenan-Barker Set & Costume Designer: Gina Rose Drew Lighting Designer: Sara Swersky Sound Designer: Ashley Walker Make-up Designer: Tahlia Tkalec Vocal Coach: Emma Louise Lighting/Sound Operator: Johannes Swaton Cast: Sarah Aubrey, Claudia Barrie, Julia Billington, Maeve MacGregor, Ainslie McGlynn, Bishanyia Vincent and Cheryl Ward New Theatre, Newtown 9 July – 3 August

The Ensemble's Glass Menagerie

An excellent production . Here's what I though for arts hub The Glass Menagerie By Lynne Lancaster | Monday July 22 2013 Catherine McGraffin and Vanessa Downing in The Glass Menagerie. Photo: Natalie Boog. This 1944 Tennessee Williams ‘memory play’, regarded as one of the most autobiographical of his early works, transports us to St Louis of the 1930’s and in this production is performed with ‘correct’ American accents. Tom (the very handsome Tom Stokes), who acts as narrator, is a dreamy would-be poet stuck in a dead end job in a shoe warehouse, dreaming of escape and adventure. He painfully shows us that ‘truth in the pleasant disguise of illusion’. Tom’s mother, Amanda, (Vanessa Downing) is a desiccated Southern Belle, foreshadowing the Blanche DuBois-style characters to come in Williams’ later plays. She is dominating, overbearing and nitpicking, driving Tom – and the audience – to distraction. Amanda’s husband abandoned her 16 years ago, leaving her with two children. She has a wonderful scene in Act 1 where she enthusiastically quizzes Tom, Lady Bracknell-like, about the friend he is bringing home for dinner. Her Act 2 descent into madness, Miss Havisham-like, all dolled up in ringlets and an unflattering girlish dress, is embarrassing and horrifying – another of my colleagues called it ‘monstrous’ – but also to be greatly pitied, and a tremendous performance. Laura, Tom’s sister (Catherine McGraffin) is a shy, limping recluse whose large collection of glass figurines symbolise her dreams of escape and the fragility of her situation. Needling and wheedling from Amanda eventually leads to Tom bringing a ‘gentleman caller’, a friend from work, home for dinner to meet Laura. But unfortunately Amanda’s high hopes of a suitable partner for her daughter are dashed. Will Laura remain trapped in her predictable, dreary life or will she get a chance to escape too? In one of the show’s excellent scenes, romantically candlelit, after a rather disastrous supper, Laura blossoms and becomes radiant and inspired, thriving under the gentle attention given to her by Jim O’Connor ( the ‘gentleman caller’ ), played as handsome, ever so courteous and charming by Eric Beecroft. He is encouraging and thoughtful, but already ‘spoken for’. Designs include dreary painted walls and a fire escape (leading to some rather unusual and awkward entrances and exits) a squashed living room separated from the dining table area by a large cheesecloth curtain – which leads to some interesting effects but does not quite work – and includes a large, wind-up gramophone. Laura’s huge collection of glass animals, which gives rise to the play’s title, is relegated to a side wall. The Glass Menagerie is all about the shattering and fragility of dreams and the unfairness of life. The subtle, nuanced acting by all four cast members is excellent; they do great things with this uneasy, disturbing play. Rating: 4 stars out of 5 The Glass Menagerie By Tennessee Williams Director: Mark Kilmurry Designer: Lucilla Smith Lighting Designer: Nicholas Higgins Stage Manager: Erin Harvey Wardrobe coordinator: Lisa Mimmocchi Dialect coach: Natasha McNamara Cast: Eric Beecroft, Vanessa Downing, Catherine McGraffin and Tom Stokes Running time: 2 hours 20 (approx) including one interval Ensemble Theatre, Kirribilli 11 July – 10 August