Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Catch Me If You Can is what I thought for Sydney Arts Guide Live in living colour Willoughby Theatre Company have pulled out all the stops in their magnificent production, the NSW premiere of this bright , bold musical that is incredibly based on a true story. Readers might be familiar with the book and/or the movie starring Tom Hanks and Leonardo DiCaprio. It is the astonishing tale of Frank Abagnale Jr. who, before his 19th birthday, successfully scammed millions of dollars’ worth of cheques using various identities as a Pan Am pilot, doctor, and legal prosecutor. Musical aficionados will probably pick up fleeting references to Chicago, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Rent, City of Angels, Company, Grease and others.Adam Hayne’s direction of this fast paced glitzy show is assured. Simon Greer’s set designs were fluid, bold and colourful. The wonderful orchestra hidden behind a screen at the back was enthusiastically led by bubbly musical director Alex Ash who was bopping along to the music. Set in the 1960’s the show is narrated by Frank in flashback as he is arrested at the airport and we see FBI agent Hanratty on his tail pursuing him across the country for his crimes. The chameleon like Frank Jnr was brilliantly played by suave, sophisticated Shaun Young who had the audience eating out of his hand in a multi faceted, accomplished performance of great panache. At one moment Young is singing soft, romantic ballads – Seven Wonders , in the next moment he is the exuberant leading man, deliciously hogging the limelight- the Pinstripes Are All That They See or Jet Set. Young also had the audience in the palm of his hands delivering the show’s closing ballad. We also follow his at times rather awkward relationship with his parents – Don’t Be A Stranger, in particular his tangled relationship with his father – Butter Outa Cream. There is also Frank Jnr’s relationship with his nemesis Agent Carl Hanratty , superbly played by bespectacled mustachioed Peter Meredith. Hanratty is played sort of as a cross between a bumbling detective and a hard boiled private eye. His Don’t Break The Rules and The Man inside The Clues are show stoppers. Hanratty also has a bumbling team of agents; Cod, Dollar and Branton who are mainly played for laughs. We also see Hanratty and Frank Snr have things in common, in particular dealing with overbearing fathers, so well expressed in their duet Little Boy Be A Man. The snappy choreography by Janina Hamerlock is tight and precise yet explosive where necessary. At times the stage felt a little overcrowded especially in a couple of the mega production numbers, however really cares when a show is so good! In style, the show is mainly a combination of jazz and showbiz a la Jerry Robbins and it also includes Latin-American ballroom, Rockette kicking and showgirls and snippets of hip-hop and tap. Brenda Strong, Frank Jnr’s love of his life, is delightfully played by Lexy de Zwart as a blonde all American princess. Her showstopping number is Fly, Fly Away and it had the audience in raptures. Her wealthy apple-pie American parents were wonderfully played by Julianne Horne and Craig Scott who lead the company in Our Family Tree which brought the house down. The Jet Setters, the gorgeous chorus line of Pan Am girls for Frank Jnr, are simply stunning, and the doctors and nurses in Doctor’s Orders sizzle in their skimpy nurse uniforms. The choreography in this scenes is excellent. What is rather neatly ironic is the twist at the end where we learn eventually Frank becomes an FBI agent, utilising his knowledge of fraud and forgery and ends up living the American Dream. As well we find out yes he actually did legitimately study for his law exams. This was an absolutely dazzling production that interweaves drama, comedy, drama, dance, straight acting, banter with the audience, and scenes of pathos. This show makes us reflect yes, most definitely, sometimes truth is much stranger than fiction. Running time 2 hrs 45 including one interval. The Willoughby Theatre Company’s production of CATCH ME IF YOU CAN, directed by Adam Haynes with musical direction by Alex Ash, is playing at the Concourse, Chatswood until May 29.

Sport For Jove's The Taming of the Shrew

This was ffaabulous ! Here's my rave for Sydney Arts Guide Sport for Jove’s wonderful version of Shakespeare’s THE TAMING OF THE SHREW is a delicious version of this quite challenging play that had the audience in stitches at times. It has been adapted and transposed by director Damien Ryan to Italy in the 1920’s in the silent film industry with sly digs at the Australian film industry of the time. It is full of exuberant energy and performed with enormous zest. Damien Ryan’s direction leads to a thought provoking production which questions how the play can be read from a feminist perspective and is delicately aware and nuanced in its approaches to gender politics but doesn’t really provide answers as such , leaving the audience undecided . Anna Gardiner’s set is rather sparse but with multiple small props and a ladder that is rolled in, out or reversed allowing for many fluid scene changes and retaining the feel of a film production lot .With Sian James-Holland’s evocative lighting, and the use of projected, early cinema style film, the production is a visual feast. The casting is superb with fine ensemble performances and wonderful work from the leads. Seemingly the complete opposite to Katharine, Lizzie Schebesta shines as beautiful starlet Bianca who eventually reveals her hidden claws. On the surface, softer and far more the gracious , ideal woman she is as powerful as her sister. Schebesta impresses with her comic timing and graceful agility. Danielle King as Katherina is brilliantly spitfire and spiky, at times almost feral, and , especially at first, rude and uncouth and delighting to annoy. She breaks convention and seeks to speak her mind and be independent in order to preserve her personal integrity but the dominant patriarchal society insists she does otherwise. Angela Bauer is enchanting as the alluring Vincentia, prima donna movie star . Baptista Minola here bossily, solidly played by Robert Alexander is a movie director with two eligible daughters: movie starlet Bianca (Lizzie Schebesta) and the fiery, explosive aviatrix Katharina (Danielle King). Baptista seems more concerned about his daughter’s financial security than their general well being. The queue for Bianca’s hand includes matinee idols Gremio (Barry French) and Hortensio (Terry Karabelas) and, by proxy, a student, Lucentio (Christopher Stalley), who has his sister Tania (Eloise Winestock) impersonate him while he is in disguise as Bianca’s German governess. Dashing Terry Karabelas as the vainglorious Hortensio is in fine form and revels in channeling his inner Errol Flynn. Tall, blonde Christopher Stalley and Eloise Winestock have enormous fun as the scheming cross dressing siblings, Lucentio , (desperately in love with Bianca ) and Tania . Lucentio when in disguise as Bianca’s German governess Fraulein Gretchen is in the awkward situation of being the only character on stage who isn’t able to speak German! James Lugton plays Petruchio, a dashing naval officer who seeks to ensure his financial future by marrying Katherina. His cruel taming methods almost amount to torture but he is a generally reasonable man who has to use unreasonable methods to get what he wants. The horrendous honeymoon is played aboard Petruchio’s ship, which suffers much rolling!, and then on land. I enjoyed the neat visual twist that Katharina wears elegant black at her wedding, and it is Petruchio who has the spectacular entrance with a train. In a nice touch Petruchio enters shirtless, trailing a parachute. The highly controversial speech by Katharina that ends the play, and that theoretically shows her vanquished spirit, is here presented with a troubled, questioning tone and laughs are orchestrated with the concluding projected film. Petruchio’s servants here become his crew and sing a wonderful sea shanty and there is much fun with the rolling of the ship . Michael Cullen as Grumio , Petruchio’s valet and George Kemp as Biondello, in particular, show off their great comic timing and slapstick skills. This Sport For Jove production is full of exuberant, boisterous energy with plenty of slapstick and silent film melodrama thrown into the mix. The jokes hurtle along and Ryan and the cast do a magnificent job of maintaining the blistering pace in this bold production. Running time allow 3 hours 15 minutes including one interval. Sport for Jove’s production of TAMING OF THE SHREW is playing the York Theatre, the Seymour Centre until May 28. )

Seven Days in the :LIfe of Simon Labrosse is what I said for Sydney Arts Guide This is the Australian premiere of a challenging play by French Canadian playwright Carole Frechette. Satirical and at times witty, the play has been billed as a ‘smart surreal comedy’. Frechette’s play has many interwoven layers of meaning and allegory and some links also to the Theatre of the Absurd and Samuel Beckett. It questions reality and the art of observation and what do ‘ordinary’ people in our times, crushed and dispirited in their drudgery, long for?! 7 DAYS IN THE LIFE OF SIMON LABROSSE is a bleakly comic play concerning the psychological effects of rejection, of being relegated to the scrapheap and feeling useless in the world. The script, at times, features overlapping voices, video, song on guitar, and even some almost acrobatic falls. All three of the excellent cast act as narrator at times, and perform with great enthusiasm and commitment. The tiny intimate space of this theatre is cluttered, – it is as if the audience is in Simon’s home. There is a single bed prominently featured, plants, a desk, zebra pictures on the wall, a large tape /sound deck and videos (The play is set in 2000/2001, a time just before DVDs became popular) . Simon Labrosse is unemployed. The play looks at seven days in his life and his gradual disintegration into hopelessness and chaos – or is it ? It is sort of ironically Biblical in structure. Simon is a sort of Everyman who tries to create a job for himself helping society . Every day he tries to find work, becoming all things to all people , ranging from ego flatterer, emotional stuntman, sentence finisher to emptiness eradicator resulting in some rather disastrous encounters. He daily records a taped letter to his girlfriend Natalie who is over in Africa ‘helping the helpless’. Adding to the drama, Simon is being chased by his landlord for non payment of the rent as well and could end up on the streets. Whilst Simon sees his actions as being giving and helpful, his friends see them as being invasive and intrusive. So Simon’s blithe optimism moves from charming and sweet to tragically delusional. Simon eventually loses everything. Constantly facing a barrage of failure and rejection, Simon’s seemingly buoyant hope and faith eventually crumbles until he is homeless and broke. In the end he offers his last value: himself. Gerry Sont as Simon begins stylishly dressed in a formal suit as for a job interview but by the end of the play the main character is stripped down to just his underwear. As repressed repossession agent Natalie, Simon’s long-distance girlfriend – or is she?! – and all the other female roles – Cassady Maddox gives a splendid assured performance.Is she real or just in Simon’s imagination?! Natalie answered the ad Simon placed for an actress to play the various women in his life. For one section Simon is like a film director obsessively watching her in her Andy Warhol moment of fame but this scares her – yet in another scene she demands her moment in the spotlight. Various garments/hairstyles are used for the different characters Maddox clearly revels in playing. As Simon’s stuttering friend Leo, ailing with a brain lesion, Steve McGrath was very impressive. Running time 90 minutes withiout interval. 7 DAYS IN THE LIFE IS SIMON LABROSSE, directed by Anna Jahjah, is playing at the Creative Space 99, 99 Crown Street, East Sydney until 29 May.

Remembering Charlotte

A most glorious day for Bronte fans Luxurious bliss for Bronte scholars and afficionados under the auspices of the Australian Bronte Association, this event was a superb one day conference held at the State Library of NSW with top speakers both from here in Australia and internationally. The event was part of the bicentennial celebrations of Charlotte Bronte’s birth world wide. Brontë was an English novelist and poet, the eldest of the three Brontë sisters – Anne , Charlotte and Emily – who survived into adulthood, along with their brother Branwell. Charlotte is most famous for her novel Jane Eyre, her other books being Shirley, The Professor and Vilette. The day began with an official welcome by Sarah Burns, President of the Australian Bronte Association. The first talk was Celebrating Charlotte : The Life and Writing given by Emeritus Scientia Professor Christine Alexander, who is patron of the ABA . Professor Alexander described how whilst Charlotte was shy and diffident by nature she was bold, courageous and tenacious in her writings. She faced enormous struggles in her life which was cruelly cut short at the age of 38. Professor Alexander looked at Charlotte’s life and her relationship with her siblings , father and husband. The juvenilia was mentioned – Professor Alexander talked about her detective work around the globe trying to find additional and/or missing works. Charlotte Bronte’s life was entwined with her work and Professor Alexander looked at this and how the family tragedies deeply affected her. An enthralling , fascinating talk . After a break for a delicious morning tea , eminent Australian author David Malouf gave an engrossing talk about the background to his opera of Jane Eyre, first performed as part of the Cheltenham Festival in 2000 and then in Canberra in 2005. Malouf spoke broadly about how as a librettist he chose the characters and voices to write for, the problems associated with writing an adaptation of a novel for the stage, how he focuses on the connection between the audience and the voice of the narrator, and the issues around balancing the chosen required voices. He posed the question,- Which comes first? music or libretto?, and talked about the collaboration between composers and librettists. Professor Tim Dolan, based at the Curtin University in Perth, was next to the podium and gave a fiery inspirational talk about Together Alone: Charlotte Bronte, The Woman Writer and the Industrial Novel which looked at the Brontes in the context of Victorian industrialisation and their harshly changing world. Professor Dolan looked at how the Brontes innocently yet accurately reported the harsh reality of their lives. Letters were used to provide a new understanding of Charlotte and how she used her writing to examine the economic climate of the time and also the position of women in society , with disturbing undercurrents of domestic violence in some of the novels. Charlotte felt proud of her work yet simultaneously guilty and trapped in her home environment. After lunch Professor Helen Groth from UNSW presented a very interesting talk on Charlotte Bronte and the “Listening Reader” asking what did it mean for Victorian readers to listen to Charlotte Bronte and her siblings, and what does it mean to read Bronte with a critical ear and with attention to the acoustics of the novels? Charlotte trained her readers to carefully listen and new critical work has drawn attention to the way we ‘hear ‘the text , drawing the reader into the environment of the books. Charlotte herself apparently appeared elusive at parties almost disastrously shy and inaudible, with quite a strong Irish accent inherited from her father. The aural /oral world of Jane Eyre was then examined. An example was in Vilette with Lucy Snowe being compelled to listen and rather overwhelmed, at first, by the barrage of sounds upon her arrival in London. The final paper of the day was Charlotte Bronte and Jean Rhys in Modern Dress by Professor Sue Thomas from La Trobe University in Melbourne. This talk looked in particular at three plays by Polly Teale as performed by the Shared Experience company from Oxford : After Mrs Rochester, Bronte and Jane Eyre. Jean Rhys, who wrote The Wide Sargossa Sea , a novel about Bertha Mason , the first Mrs Rochester in Jane Eyre life, was vigorously discussed. Why did Rhys identify so strongly with Bertha?! The way an audience collaborates in construction of memory and the narrative of a play was also examined. The three plays were briefly analyzed and commented upon, and in regards to After Mrs Rochester, in particular, mention was made of the powerful Dogwoman series of paintings by Paula Rego. To complete the day there was a short Q & A session raising such topics as the relationship between the various Brontes , their domination by their father the Rev. Patrick Bronte, how Emily was seen as quite eccentric, about Anne who was viewed as younger and often dismissed but was actually a prodigious talent, the connections with Jane Austen’s family and their possible links to sugar cane plantations and slavery and much more… A very exciting and informative day. CELEBRATING CHARLOTTE was a day long conference held at the State Library of NSW 14 May 2016

Friday, 20 May 2016


A most exciting play at Parramatta play will shortly tour to Edinburgh as part of the Fringe Festival there. Rochelle Bright’s play tells the story of Eric and Rose from Hamilton New Zealand who meet at a lake with daffodils . The same place that Eric’s parents met 20 years earlier. They fall in love, marry and fashion a life together over the 1960’s to 1980’s with an indie rock back ground soundtrack. The story is inspired by the story of the playwrights’ own parents. Tall, rather gangly Todd Emerson, plays Eric who when we first meet him is a TV salesman who wears a fine suit but has a so 1960’s hairdo and glasses. Eric is nerdy at first- we discover this hides his many insecurities. Emerson displays a fine, powerful tenor voice and has a strong stage presence. Colleen Davis, wearing a beautiful red lace dress, is stunning as Rose. At first she is in shy, blonde beauty mode (think Marilyn Monroe or early Princess Diana) but then she goes on to reveal massive charm and charisma as layers of joy and pain are revealed. Both performers are barefoot throughout. Both act as narrators in part as well as being incredible singers. They perform covers of various pop/rock groups of the era including Crowded House, LIPS, Bic Runga, Chris Knox, The Mint Chicks, Dave Dobbyn, The Exponents, Darcy Clay, The Mutton Birds, Th’Dudes, The Senators, The Swingers and Blam Blam Blam. Stephanie Brown, (perhaps more widely known as singer/songwriter Lips) who arranged the music, also sings and plays keyboard in the live band. “She’s A Mod” was performed with invigorating relish. McGlashan’s “Anchor Me” echoed the couple’s shattering anguish as did the poignant version of Luck’s “I’ll Say Goodbye” . Their love’s purest moment is identified with Chris Knox’s “Not Given Lightly”. But that love’s innocent purity is demolished with a blending of Blam Blam Blam’s “There is No Depression in New Zealand” with Darcy Clay’s “Jesus I Was Evil”. “The Language” by Dave Dobbyn becomes one of the heart- breaking climaxes of the narrative of the show . Memories of joy, thoughts of pain and the struggle to survive, are poignantly balanced with the songs and add weight and texture to the narrative. The set is minimal, comprising just the band kit, a couple of carpet runners, and a projection screen. Some great photos are projected onto the screen, including black and white family footage, Kodak stills, and eerie black and white photography of a night drive. Bright’s script is sometimes witty and ironic at others painfully honest especially when some rather unexpected dramatic revelations are made. The Daffodils of the title are, at one level, symbolic of how the men wordlessly express their love. Davis and Emerson talk to the audience, rather than to each other, declaring their love in words and music. Powerful, electric performances by this fine cast make this bittersweet, moving production sizzle. Running time one hour and fifteen minutes without interval. DAFFODILS, directed by Dena Kennedy, played at the Riverside Theatres Parramatta between the 12th and the 14th May.

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead

a striking unusual version here's what I said for the Guide “A man standing in his saddle in the half-lit half-alive dawn banged on the shutters and called two names…” Tom Stoppard’s now classic absurdist, existentialist play asks the big questions about the meaning of life, death and existence. Why are we here? What is life for? What is reality? Is it all predestined or can we change things?! Directed by Chris McKay, this is a striking, unusual production, excellently paced and powerfully nuanced with great attention as well to the philosophical and poetic elements of the play. The intimate sparse staging on the small raised stage essentially accesses a large box- pirate chest?- to access props for the action. Fragments of Shakespeare’s Hamlet are included so we see the court at Elsinore through Rosencrantz and Guildenstern’s eyes. At times. the action is witty and humorous, at others somber and thoughtful. Rhythm and repetition are important and in some ways it feels similar to Samuel Beckett’s work. What is also interesting is that in this rather subversive version almost all the male roles are played by women and vice versa which is yet another level on which we are asked to question everything. The musical interludes are very effectively incorporated and the lighting by Matt Osbourne is tremendous. The production is all performed in period Elizabethan costume. Claudius’ red costume is simply stunning. Krystiann Dingas as Rosencrantz, with his very strong, expressive face, plays him as ‘blustery’, and a little dim and confused. Emilia Stubbs Grigoriou as Guildenstern is portrayed as the ‘darker’, more intelligent of the duo. Both players wore grey doublet and hose. Their verbal sparring was delightful. Hamlet is marvellously played by beautiful Emily Burke, who wears a severe black and white dress. We see the hidden plotting and scheming,– he is not mad but feigning madness. As Claudius, Sarah Plummer is tremendous; proud, regal and commanding, easily dealing with all the political wheeling and dealing going on in the court of Elsinore. Leofric Kingsford-Smith portrays Gertrude as a whimpering, simpering character, a tool in Claudius’ many manipulations. Glamorous Amanda Maple-Brown as the Player revels in all the scenes in which she is in, giving a charismatic performance. The Player is one of Stoppard’s main vehicles for examining the philosophy of life and death and also the art of acting . Ophelia was elegantly portrayed by handsome Logan McArthur. Amy Victoria Books, garbed in a dark blue and white dress, appropriately portrayed Polonius as a stuffy, pompous character. David McLaughlin as the victimised Alfred and a random soldier, and Lauren Crew as a musician and another Player both gave fine performances. This was an intriguing, well considered production. Running time allow 2 hours and 40 minutes including one interval. Furies Theatre’s production of Tom Stoppard’s ROSENCRANTZ AND GUILDENSTERN ARE DEAD is playing the Blood Moon Theatre at the World Bar, Potts Point until 21 May.

Shakespeare Live!

a dazzling RSC celebration - here's my thoughts for Sydney Arts Guide absolute galaxy of stars was gathered by the Royal Shakespeare Company for Shakespeare Live!, the extra special for one night only pinnacle of the celebrations at Stratford Upon Avon the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death. The production was filmed at Stratford Upon Avon on the 23rd of April, the actual anniversary day of his death, and is just one of many commemorations taking place around the world. A glittering night of nights was held in the presence of HRH the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall, and the highlights included scenes from some of the Bard’s most famous plays, a look at how Shakespeare has inspired other theatrical genres, including opera, ballet and musicals, and also how his works have been adapted internationally ( for example there is astonishing footage of touring companies from Africa and Japan) and how his works have been updated and made contemporary, such as in hip hop and rap versions. Sadly our own wonderful Bell Shakespeare Company did not get a mention. The evening was emceed by David Tennant and Catherine Tate who introduced each section and there was also a very handy caption held briefly at the start of each scene displaying the details of the play/company and cast. So many highlights…Shakespeare’s wit and humour were on display in The Horrible Histories segment, the big tavern scene from Henry V which featured a glorious performance by Antony Sher ), oh and the ‘yellow cross gartered ‘ scene from Twelfth Night with poor Malvolio. There was also a fabulous scene with Dame Judi Dench as Titania from A Midsummer Night’s Dream with terrific Al Murray as a hilarious Bottom. The ‘To Be or Not to Be ‘ scene with Tim Minchin and several Hamlets didn’t really work still it was fun seeing so many people who have never played the part get their chance in one of drama’s most sacred roles. Paapa Essiedu in the full famous speech was spellbinding. Other highlights include – the spine chilling horror of the Macbeths ( Anne-Marie Duff and Rory Kinnear,. and the exquisite lyricism of the balcony scene from Romeo and Juliet ( both ‘straight ‘spoken and from the Macmillan ballet versions ). Harriet Walter as Cleopatra was gripping and dynamic .Roger Allam as Lear was magnificent – raging and blustery. Sir Ian Mckellan as Sir Thomas More was amazing in a startling, fiery speech, asking us to imagine what it would be like to be an asylum seeker undergoing enforced repatriation….such a relevant speech! Simon Russell Beale’s This Sceptred Isle speech from Richard 11 was absolutely superb . Opera fans enjoyed segments from Berlioz’s Beatrice and Benedict and Verdi’s Falstaff . Jazz fans would have enjoyed the Duke Ellington sections. Rufus Wainwright gave a very moving performance of Sonnet 29 and other songs were also included ( eg Sigh No More ) in various versions. The scenes from West Side Story sparked after a shaky start and the Tony and Maria were terrific. I was, however, a bit disappointed in the literal , rather flat , rendition of Jacques’ ‘Seven Ages of Man’ speech ,which didn’t really work. The ‘Brush Up Your Shakespeare’ from Kiss Me Kate ‘was fun , done in vaudeville /musical hall style but dragged out too long . The closing scenes from A Midsummer Night’s Dream with David Suchet as Oberon , Dame Judi Dench as Titania and David Tennant as Puck were enchanting. Incorporated in between the performances on stage there is a guided tour by Joseph Fiennes of Stratford Upon Avon divided into four ‘seasons’, including ‘ Anne Hathaways’ house ‘ and the house Shakespeare was born in, and earnest presentations background information about his life and times. This was a star studded, glorious evening culminating in spectacular fireworks. SHAKESPEARE LIVE! from the RSC screens at selected cinemas from May 6 2016. Running time allow 3 hours no interval

Forge /Bush Bailando at Parramatta

Here's my thoughts for Artshub A challenging, exciting double bill that brings us flamenco; snazzy, updated and with a twist. A double bill of two short works by internationally renowned Australian dancer-choreographers who draw on Spain's flamenco in the development of their individual styles. The first half of the programme was Forge by Annalouise Paul. Forge is seen as 'a metaphor for the human soul that is beaten and shaped through life'. It begins and ends with Paul staring dramatically at us. Paul is fiery, proud and strong. With regal bearing the work is stark, dramatic, moody and reflective. In collaboration with Marianthe Loucataris and Helen Rivero Forge reinterprets the Seguiriy as flamenco style and its basis of Sephardi song. Tje soundscape ranges from rain, haunted vocal whispering, romantic piano music, an anvil being struck and more. The lighting was also inspired. Paul begins mostly using the back wall to form strong shapes and lines with her body in various dynamic poses. Choreographically there were the snappy small jumps, strong clenched fists, lunges, stamps and palmas. The sinuous rippling flamenco arms combined with frieze-like movements and Graham-like modern choreography; a mantilla comb was used like a fan at one point. Tobhiyah Stone Feller has designed a impressive costume for Paul that can morph from a flowing multi-coloured full skirt to a straight skirt of just a single colour with a bustle -like effect. A dynamic, compelling performance but I found the many blackouts and pauses for costume adjustments perhaps a bit distracting. Bush Bailando as performed by Pepa Molina combined more 'traditional' flamenco with jazz (saxophone and woodwind). Featuring recorded singing as well as live music, reflecting the sounds and rhythms of the Australian bush. The set included eight canes like extra large fern fronds in a bush clearing and a collection of castanets on the floor that looked like mussels and three chairs. Molina entered barefoot through the clearing and sat to put on her shoes. The work is a celebration of the environment and we see several different styles of flamenco. There were again a few costume changes covered by solos by the musicians. Molina had among others an exciting solo in the 'traditional' flamenco dress with the extra-extra long ruffled train, beginning with her hidden beneath it like gently breathing coral. For some of the work she was proud and fiery for others it was far more playful and exuberant. There were short sharp staccato fireworks for the feet and sinuous yet angular arms. At one point the choreography was quite balletic and some was quite contemporary in style with spiky hands and another section was a dialogue between Molina and the musicians. There was also a quiet dramatically lit solo in a square of light using a flamenco cane which had Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander designs and the solo concluded with a kookaburra laugh. Forge & Bush Bailando was an intriguing double bill. Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5 Forge & Bush Bailando Double Bill Producer: Anne-Louise Rentell Bush Bailando Choreographer and Dancer: Pepa Molina Composer and Sound Effects: Hector Gonzalez Sanchez Composer and Flamenco Guitarist: Marco Van Doornum Multi-Instrumentalist: Stuart Vandegraaff Lighting Designer and Production Manager: Roderick van Gelder Costume Design: Yaiza Pinillos Costume Maker: Gabriel Besa Prop Design and Construction:Manuel Barco Flamenco Dance Shoes: Senovilla Forge Choreographer and Dancer: Annalouise Paul Pianist-Sound Designer: Marianthe Loucataris Vocalist: Helen Rivero Costume Designer: Tobiyah Feller Costume Maker: Sally Hillier Riverside Parramatta 5-7 May 2016

Royal Ballet Giselle

some glorious dancing here's what I said for the Guide This is a beautifully danced, exquisitely crafted revival devised by Peter Wright. The version has now been around for about 25 years and has had over 550 performances yet it is still riveting and seems as fresh as if it was its first season. Act 1 is mostly in russet colours, Act 2 by contrast an eerie woodland glade with Giselle’s rough cross. The orchestra under the dynamic inspired baton of Barry Wordsworth was in superb form. The corps de ballet were excellent in both acts as individualized peasants in Act 1 and the female corps of the Willis in Act 2 were menacing and powerful, breathing and pulsating as one. The ‘peasant pas de deux’ is, with this version, presented as a bubbling, charming pas de six led by Yuhui Choe and Alexander Campbell. Nunez was magnificent as Giselle. In Act 1, especially at first, we see Giselle as vibrant and sunny, full of love and life, blushing and giggly with nerves when she interacts with Albrecht- enchanting, hardly believing her luck when she is crowned Queen of the Vintage. Their pas de deux was splendid. Once she realizes she has been betrayed she is shattered, her mind fragmented, seeing only otherworldly things. Her mad scene was extremely powerful. In Act 2 she was a whisper of a haunted, fragile, loving ghost, feather light. Technically she was in tremendous form in both acts and there was an emphasis on the ‘Romantic ‘ line of the body especially the arms as seen in the original 1841 lithographs . As Albrecht, Muntagirov was delightful with incredible technique , beautifully stretched feet, soaring jetes ,cabrioles and entrechats. He moves instinctively with aristocratic grace and elegance blended with youthful enthusiasm. He is also a marvellous partner. Muntagirov plays Albrecht as a rather caddish, spoiled playboy (observe the reaction of his squire Wilfred who helps Albrecht disguise himself before he flirts with Giselle ) but is shocked at the end of Act 1 with Giselle’s death and is heartbroken in Act 2. Bennet Garside is splendid as Hilarion who also in love with Giselle. He is rather foxlike in appearance and wears a jacket of skins and furs revealing his trade. Christina Arestis as Bathilde, suffering from an attack of ennui, is stunning in an incredible beaded dress as if she had stepped out of a Renaissance painting. (Interestingly, in this version Giselle touches the drape of her sleeve not the hem of her skirt). Berthe’s mime sequence as played by Elizabeth McGorian, gives one shivers. Do we get a sense of untold subtext and hidden backstory here?! Tall, proud and imperious Itziar Mendizabal was terrific, icy, implacable and technically excellent as Myrtha, Queen of the Willis. I am afraid, however, she looked like a transfer from Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo. This was a very thoughtful and delightful revival of this classic work with the highlight the magnificent dancing . Running time allow 2 hours 45 including one interval. The film also features a short ‘behind the scenes ‘ screening and interviews before and during the interval. The Royal Ballet’s production of Giselle is playing selected arthouse cinemas between the 6th and 11th May.

Pennsylvania Avenue

this was a total brilliant knockout here's my rave for Sydney Arts Guide This is one of the best shows on in Sydney at the moment. The show is brought to us by the sensational team that brought us the wondrous Songs For Nobodies- writer Joanna Murray-Smith, director Simon Phillips and fine musical direction by Ian McDonald leading an impressive band. The amazing Bernadette Robinson plays Harper Clemence, a White House worker who is retiring after forty years. George W. Bush is now President but is “dumber than a bucket of rocks.” She has her last box packed and in her arms, yet she is not quite ready to leave- just yet. Having worked in the East Wing since the first weeks of the Kennedy presidency there are so many memories of organising Presidential entertainment and various First Ladies to reflect on… Murray-Smith’s terrific script interweaves Harper’s personal story with her tale of the history of US presidents, and how during her time she observed history in the making and met so many famous people. It all began with JFK and Marilyn. Harper was back stage for that famous 1962 birthday concert and advised Ms Monroe to scrap the knickers to avoid visible panty line. The show goes on then to cover all the performers who sang for the President, creating history and defining the times. Harper’s character starts off bright rather naif and perky but ends up sophisticated and rather caustic. The set is the Blue Room , with portraits of six Presidents (actually digital photo images that change to become beautiful landscapes, stained glass church windows, important paintings and various photos of assorted Presidents and historical events such as the assassination of Kennedy, the Vietnam War protests and Reagan’s Brandenburg Gate speech) . The excellent band is hidden behind the blue curtains. Robinson, a blonde pocket dynamo, ,enters elegantly dressed in a pant suit. She brilliantly transverses accents and voices from opera to rock to country and western to jazz. Robinson reveals Harper’s Southern charm yet hidden vulnerability, melancholic yet with a secret shame balanced by dry wit. She has excellent comic timing making caustic comments about assorted White House folk. The script incorporates witty comments and asides about her bosses and various Presidents – including Reagan, Kennedy, Nixon, Clinton and Ford. Robinson is astonishing as she uncannily channels various iconic visitors to the White House, including blonde bombshell Marilyn Monroe (with her breathy, mesmerizing Happy Birthday Mr President) and Maria Callas just for starters.From the crystal purity of Amazing Grace to country and western ( Tammy Wynette – Stand By Your Man) and everything in between Robinson is simply amazing. Not forgetting Sarah Vaughan, Diana Ross and even Bob Dylan. There are so many other highlights! Where to start ? Each character is sharply defined and vividly brought to life. She is magnificent and brings the house down as Barbra Streisand ( People and a spitfire Don’t Rain on My Parade). Harper apparently clinches Streisand’s engagement to Elliott Gould by helping her get John F. Kennedy’s autograph. She sizzles dynamically as Peggy Lee in Fever – a volcanically ‘cool ‘ version – and a major highlight is the intense, shattering version of Eartha Kitt’s dramatic version of Brel’s If You Go Away. The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face was exquisitely performed, and brought tears to the eyes. The Sarah Vaughn jazzy version of I Got Rhythm had everyone bopping along and Cry Me A River brought the house down. Ella Fitzgerald features early in the show and Diana Ross delivering I Hear a Symphony was also inspiring whilst the empowering Aretha Franklin’s Respect had us cheering. This was a mesmerizing, powerful and hypnotic performance that filled with one wonder. Running time – roughly 90 mins no interval PENNSYLVANIA AVENUE is playing at the Playhouse, the Sydney Opera House until the 22nd May.

Thursday, 19 May 2016

Leonardo The Genius in Milan

A facinating film herte's my review for Sydney Arts Guide Regarded as a giant of the late Renaissance, a quintessential Renaissance man, Leonardo da Vinci was an anatomist, scientist and astronomer, an engineer, a painter, sculptor, botanist, architect, and much more besides: he surpassed the spirit of his time, and is recognized as a polymath of Genius . At the end of the Fifteenth Century Leonardo da Vinci lived for eighteen years in Milan at the court of Ludovico Sforza, known as ‘Il Moro’. It was a long, important period in his life, one that left a lasting impression on the city. In the Spring of 2015 the city of Milan paid tribute to Leonardo by holding a large exhibition at the Palazzo Reale. One of the most significant initiatives during the Universal Expo was the “Leonardo da Vinci 1452-1519 ” exhibition. Sponsored by the City of Milan and created and produced by Skira Publishing, the exhibition presented many masterpieces by Leonardo to the public and this film documents the exhibition which was the result of six years of work by leading Da Vinci experts, Pietro Marani and M. Teresa Fiorio. The film is in Italian with English subtitles. Inside the exhibition, under the coolly ambivalent gaze of the exquisite ‘Belle Ferronnière’’ (one of the paintings loaned by the Louvre for the event) we are welcomed by the curator, Pietro Marani. Marani, standing right in front of these very works of art, considers such themes as the reasons why Leonardo traveled north , discusses Leonardo’s portraits and drawing methods, and the works of art that have stayed in Milan and those that have returned to the famous city. As well as Marani, other highly renowned international experts comment on various different aspects of Leonardo’s work and life. As well, the exhibition displays the work of some of some of Leonardo’s contemporaries such as Verrocchio, Ghirlandaio, Bronzino and Botticelli. We see some of the pages of Leonardo’s notebooks with his incredibly detailed vibrant drawings. His mind worked on everything from military requirements to anatomy (eg ‘’Vitruvian man’’) and astronomy. He designed everything from flying machines to armoured tanks. His mirror writing is mentioned too. The film concentrates on his paintings during the Milan period of his life including “La Belle Ferronnière” but we also see the Mona Lisa ( La Giaconda , which is extensively analysed, and The Last Supper. With regards to the delicate fresco of The Last Supper its composition and powerful narrative is discussed as well as the tragic deterioration and (sometimes bungled ) restoration attempts that have taken place through the centuries. The problems of painting in fresco technique and how the painting has been damaged by humidity are explored too. The Virgin on the Rocks is another very famous work extensively analysed. Actors are used to recreate various people related to Leonardo’s life. They include the Duke, Ludovico Sforza , Isabella D’Este , Bramante and also Leonardo’s pupil and assistant Salai. There are also voice overs of some of Leonardo’s letters.The effect that the French invasion of Italy had and the Duke’s defeat – causing Leonardo to flee Milan – is mentioned too. There are glorious views of Paris and the Louvre at night and then various castles and the exhibition in Milan, as well as extreme close ups of several works where you can see the cracks in the varnish and the amazing brushwork . We are taken through to Leonardo’s death. Also up for discussion are the mysterious circumstances surrounding his will, details about his treasured vineyard, andn the real nature of his relationship with Salai . This fine exhibition and film makes a significant and fascinating contribution to the ongoing interest in Leonardo’s great genius. Running time allow 90 minutes no interval LEONARDO THE GENIUS IN MILAN screens at selected arthouse cinemas from April 23 2016.

Mansfield Park - The Opera

A most striking version ttp:// is what I said for artshub Operantics bring to the stage this striking unusual version of Mansfield park. This is the first opera version (perhaps more correctly defined as a chamber opera) of any of Austen’s novels. It has been performed both in the UK and the US and now comes to Australia. For those unfamiliar with the book, Fanny Price is the poor, overlooked niece of Sir Thomas and Lady Bertram, who is raised in the midst of privilege at Mansfield Park alongside her wealthy cousins. Quietly in love with her clueless cousin, Edmund, Fanny is neglected and bossed by nearly everyone, and often treated unkindly by her Aunt Norris. With the sudden arrival of the charismatic Henry Crawford and his charming sister, Mary, Fanny observes from the sidelines as seductions, intrigues, shocking scandal and indiscretions cause upheaval, threatening the peace of the family. Under Joseph Restubog’s sure direction, the underlying clash of morals (nouveau-riche opportunism contrasted against old Tory decency) is clearly presented. Particularly in Act 1 there is a great deal of movement and bustling about and the choreography, where required, is very formal and stylized. Staging is minimalist with a few garden seats, a framed archway, chairs and tables, etc, which allows for fluid scene changes. The lighting by Fenella Jolly is sensational, at times warm and golden, others richly dark and dramatic. It is performed in elegant period costume and there is fine ensemble work throughout. Vocally it was magnificent. Musically it is written for four hands on a piano. Dove’s quite difficult score is very contemporary in style, quite often sharp and spiky and was given a tremendous performance by the two pianists (Nathaniel Kong and Geena Cheung) who played with zest and enthusiasm. There are hints of Schoenberg, Stravinsky, Britten and Sondheim and even perhaps Lloyd Webber. Under the precise, refined energetic conducting of Kieren Brandt-Sawdy the work was given a passionate, elegant and thoughtful performance. Middleton uses Austen's text for the libretto extensively, but condenses the plot with clever ensemble singing for strong narrative drive and omits some characters and events. For example, there is no mention of Fanny’s Portsmouth origins or her return. The ensembles sparkle with style and wit. There is a section on landscape gardening wonderfully sung and arias based around amusing subjects such as the ambition to have a barouche. When the more serious, intense parts of the drama do occur the music is very moving. 'Chapter Five, In the Wilderness' a crucial turning point in the opera is an example of this. As Fanny Price Sonya Hollowel gives our leading lady an atmosphere of being grounded and wise but innocent all at once. As dangerous relationships develop the lively melodies evolve into something much darker, and Fanny gets to vocalize some of her shyness and heartbreak. Bearded, mustachioed Tristan Entwistle gives a charismatic, dynamic performance as the thoughtful,rather serious Edmund and he was in terrific voice. Samanta Lestavel and Daniel Foles were deliciously manipulative as the scheming Crawfords. Levastel was darkly lustrous and elegant like a magnolia. Tall Spencer Darby added some perfectly timed comedy as Mr Rushworth,clumsily dashing hither and thither. Kate Miller-Crispe as blonde ringleted Maria Bertram was enchanting like a Botticelli Venus. We see the three older characters, the bearded, stern yet benevolent Sir Thomas played by Ian Warwick, Jermaine Chau sings splendidly as the expensively elegantly dressed, unhurried Lady Bertram, who adores her black pug dog, and the rather catty and malicious interfering gossip Mrs. Norris - they are all strongly characterized by the music and distinctly brought to life. At times, you are acutely conscious that you're listening to a modern opera, then suddenly the music flows into something altogether more lush and romantic (such as in the 'Chapter Six, Music and Astronomy'). Underpinning the whole opera are the delightful small choruses, some sung acapella, which reunite the plot and cast in bursts of joyous singing. By 'Chapter Seven all ten characters are on the set together and the narrative is concluded. A very clever opera. Rating: 4 stars out of 5​ Mansfield Park, The Opera Artistic Director and Production Manager - Katie Miller-Crispe Artistic Advisor - Tristan Entwistle Music Director and Conductor - Keiren Brandt-Sawdy Director - Joseph Restubog Assistant Director - Paul Chegwidden Piano - Nathaniel Kong and Geena Cheung Production Assistant and Set Design - Emily Stuart-Jones & Ian Warwick Costume Design - Ian Warwick and Victoria Parsons Sonya Holowell, Jermaine Chau, Ian Warwick, Katie Miller-Crispe, Amy Balales, Tristan Entwhistle, Jessica Harper, Samanta Lestavel, Daniel Folesi, Spencer Darby Mansfield Park the opera runs at the Independent Theatre April 20-24 2016

Willoughby Symphony Inspirations

A delightful concert here's what I thought for Sydney Arts Guide the umbrella title INSPIRATIONS, the Willoughby Symphony led by the precise, dynamic baton of Alexander Briger, presented four short works which made for a musical feast with something for everyone. Throughout the concert there was a dynamic, warm tone, spectacular solos and fine ensemble playing. The wonderful Caro String Quartet were featured in the first half of the programme. First on the programme was Ralph Vaughan Williams Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis. This piece was given a lush, lyrical , haunting performance with the three sections of the orchestra, full of rich intensity, wonderfully overlapping, at times. There was a yearning violin solo which was then repeated and developed by another player along with the orchestra. At times, the orchestra swirled, bubbled and rippled and then there was a sudden dark and ominous change towards a wave like ending. The Caro Quartet was again featured in the second contemporary piece Hindson’s The Rave and the Nightingale ( 2001). This piece was inspired by Schuberts’ Quartet No 15 in G Major. The opening was very dramatic, the theme stated and then developed in circular repetitions. The second movement was full of sharp, rich spiky strings, feeling like a trapped bird in flight. The piece shimmered, surged and swelled passionately towards an unexpected, stamping conclusion. The audience absolutely loved it and there was prolonged applause and cheering to take us to interval. The second half opened with a stylish spellbinding rendition of Mendelssohn’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream : Overture Op. 21. This piece was lush and luminous with the delicate, flitting fairies on speedy violins contrasted with slower hypnotic strings (Oberon and Titania ) and the rumbustious fun of the Mechanicals. (For balletomanes – Ashton fans will see in their mind’s eye Bottom’s pas de cheval ). This was a shimmering, flickering magical version played with great enjoyment by the orchestra. The bulk of the second half consisted of a magnificent, multi-layered and thoughtful rendition of Schubert’s Symphony No.6 in C D.589 ( the “ Little C Major’) in four movements. With intense playing , and a bright warm sound by the Orchestra throughout, the work had a sharp dramatic opening, followed by the fiery strings in a dialogue with the woodwind .The melody was stated and repeated in circular thoughts. The second movement was somewhat slower than the first with again the string starting the melody which was then echoed by the woodwind. There were striking flourishes. The third movement, reminiscent of Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony, was off to a fast and furious beginning leading to a rather pompous, stately section that eventually saw a return to more repeats and development by the orchestra. The last movement had a sunnier feel, strings and woodwind together in a delicious ,stirring ending of the rondo finale . Running Time- just on two hours including an interval. A wonderful concert, the Willoughby Symphony Orchestra’s presentation of its INSPIRATIONS concert took place at the Concourse, Chatswood on the weekend of the 16th and 17th April. )

Bolshoi Ballet Taming of the Shrew

This was unexpectedly a knockout with jaw dropping dancing Here's my Sydney Arts Guide review Taming of the Shrew is generally extremely difficult to bring off in this day and age. However this is a contemporarized, dazzling choreographed and danced version that will have you cheering at the end. In the ballet world the most well known version of this Shakespearean work previously was by John Cranko (1969). This is a new version specifically worked for the Bolshoi by Maillot and absolutely sizzles. Maillot condenses the complicated plot of what perhaps is probably the most erotic and “politically incorrect” of Shakespeare’s plays to focus mainly on the central characters: the aggressive, haughty, bad-tempered Katherina — the ‘’ shrew ‘’ of the title — who scares away all would be suitors and is contrasted with her sister, the sweet and good Bianca, who, according to tradition, must wait to be married until after Katherina is wed. This production does not emphasise the horrors that Katerina has to endure (although yes they are included) in a display of macho misogyny, rather it attempts to show the underlying love and tumultuous passion that Katerina and Petruchio eventually share as contrasted with the gentler, more lyrical and elegiac love of Bianca and Lucentio. Contemporary ballet with a twist, the choreography by Maiillott was at times extremely difficult and demanding with some very unusual lifts in some of the pas de deux. There was fine ensemble work throughout by the principals, soloists and corps de ballet who were excellent in their precise synchronization. The trust the dancers had in each other was very impressive and could be seen in the very difficult lifts and leaps ( for example. the Macmillan like section towards the beginning with the three suitors, Bianca and Baptista). The clear,clean rather minimalist set, by Ernest Pignon-Ernest, is mostly white, with a sweeping central staircase that can be split for different locales and becomes a backdrop, at times, with columns and pillars. The amazing, very sophisticated lighting scheme by Dominique Drillot ranges from mosaics on the staircase at one point to a summer day in sun drenched Padua. Costumes are very glamorous 1930’s Hollywood, almost all in black and white, the corps de ballet girls mostly in very short fluffy tutus. The ballet opens most unusually with a very glamorous woman in black with a feathered top stalking across the stage in front of the house curtain and stopping the show, and the conductor’s arrival, while changing into her pointe shoes and checking her makeup. The glamorous lady turns out to be The Housekeeper ( Anna Tikhomirova ) a character invented for this ballet who controls a lot of what happens within the ballet. Tikhomirova dances her part with great lightness, elegance and a marvelous long ‘line’. As Petruchio, hunky Vladislav Lantratov is all impatient, swaggering, charismatic macho in Act1. In Act 2, however, we see how he truly falls in love with Katherina , opening up his heart to her, and then it becomes more a marriage of equals. Lantratov is amazing with jaw dropping technique, a laser sharp long ‘line’, and he shows off his flying leaps, amazing turns and terrific partnering and acting. As Katharina, Ekaterina Krysanova was amazing. Krysanova was a snarling, rumbunctious red head at first but then transforms into a model wife. We discover how she unexpectedly finds herself falling in love with Petruchio and then eventually succumbs and giving her whole heart. There are some incredible athletic, sculptural steamy pas de deux especially in Act 2. Bianca, perky ,sweet and innocent is radiantly and gracefully portrayed by Olga Smirnova, yet she can be as feisty as Katharina when provoked. Bianca’s eventual husband Lucentio is dashingly played by blonde Semyon Chudin. They have a couple of lyrical, luminous pas de deux that stop the show, displaying the long ‘Romantic’ line and featuring swooping, sighing curves and blushing love. There is a mysterious veiled woman in black ( the widow who ends up with Latin hunk Hortensio, danced by Igor Tsvirko). The production uses an eclectic score of 25 works by Shostakovich. The ballet fluidly moves quickly from Kate’s furious ‘shrew’ scenes’, where she angrily and rudely rejects her suitors to the challenging and multi layered pas de deux with Petruchio, where she slithers over around and under him , then shifts to the lyrical , gentle pas de deux (to The Gadfly) between Bianca and Lucentio which is a little Ashton in style. The ballet concludes ironically to Tea for Two from his Jazz Suite, where the cast in couples take it in turns to mime various ways of drinking tea leading to some unhappy spats. This quirky Shakespeare romantic comedy can be read as an encounter between two extremely strong, difficult personalities. Fast paced and much fun it was clear that the company relished dancing this production. Running time allow roughly 2 hours 15 mins which includes one interval. There is a short series of interviews both before the actual screening and during the interval. The Bolshoi Ballet’s production of THE TAMING OF THE SHREW screens at selected arthouse cinemas from April 16 2016.

Georgy Girl

A rave for this marvellous musical Lynne Lancaster A terrific look at the rise and fame of the Seekers This is a biographical ‘jukebox ‘musical that tells the story of the formation and eventual collapse of the first Australian supergroup, The Seekers who became internationally famous in the 1960’s.with their unique folk-pop harmonized sound. It uses their hits to both place them in context (this is the era of The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Dusty Springfield, Tom Jones and Priscilla Black for example – the ‘swinging sixties‘ of London) and tell their story. It is narrated by Ron Edgeworth (Adam Murph), the husband of vocalist Judith Durham (Pippa Grandison). Murphy has much fun stealing scenes with his great comic timing and delivery, and he establishes a great rapport with the audience. ​ The Australian group had hits in the US and UK — managing to knock The Beatles off the number one spot — and were famous for being squeaky clean and ‘nice’. As Edgeworth says, 'Other rock stars trashed their hotel rooms; the Seekers were more likely to tidy theirs up.' Director Gary Young's sure touch keeps the show mostly light and breezy. The script by Patrick Edgeworth — Ron’s brother – is at times witty, sometimes including corny jokes and also expository dialogue . It moves the show along at a cracking pace but there are pauses for the sad, black spots .A couple of times Edgeworth informs us that what we had just seen did not really happen (e.g. the three men singing 'Morningtown Ride' to help Durham sleep while recovering from a major operation) but yes, it was sweet - even cheesy. The enormously talented ensemble of performers — led by Glaston Toft as Athol Guy, Mike McLeish as Bruce Woodley, Phillip Lowe as Keith Potger, and Grandison as Durham — gets the unique Seekers sound just right. Grandison in particular is amazing with an astonishing range, from the hot, sultry jazz of 'Mama’s Got The Blues' to the aching purity of 'The Olive Tree', and everything in-between! Durham, a Balwyn girl whose mother steered her at first towards opera, began as a jazz singer. She has no diva pretensions but is a kind, sweet girl not sure if she wants to be a pop star. A quartet which had lost its male vocalist introduced Durham (their first gig was at a South Yarra cafe called Treble Clef) into their mix and they jumped from folk singers to bona fide pop stars. A 10-week voyage to England aboard a cruise liner really skyrocketed their career in the UK. As well as the band's formation and subsequent success, Georgy Girl also deals with Durham’s heartbreak at the hands of her long time boyfriend (who was also the group’s tour manager) before she eventually found love with Edgeworth. We see later trauma as well, with Durham experiencing a shocking car accident, and her suffering a brain hemorrhage. There are a few blips on the graph of The Seekers' rise to success, for example the odd, very low percentage of record sales of their first contract and the booking that caused them to miss the Oscars, but at the start the band appeared to have a charmed existence. Mostly unexplored is the fact that Durham left at the height of the band’s success to seek a solo career. The set design by Shaun Gurton is clean and crisp, allowing for lots of flexible, fluid scene changes. There is a balcony level 'upstairs' used sometimes, and a huge moveable staircase features particularly in Act 1. The lighting by Trudy Dalgleish is magnificent. Very effective use of projection photography is featured, which allows newspaper cuttings and original footage to interact with the live performers, such as the thousands of people who attended the band's 1967 Myer Music Bowl concert. When The Seekers arrive in London, we see on the back projection a Union Jack and a silhouette of the Houses of Parliament while a few chords of 'God Save the Queen' blare out on sizzling electric guitar, accompanied by a mini–ballet of suited and booted, bowler-hatted English business men with umbrellas, quite reminiscent of Sir Matthew Bourne in style; later, when they hit New York, it’s the Statue of Liberty and the Rockettes (before Peter Allen). Michael Ralph’s choreography places the production solidly in period, so think tightly stylized 1960’s showbizzy and social dance. Costumes, particularly for the London sequences, are bright, overly colourful floral minidresses etc in pinks and oranges. The world tour segment is terrifically handled and later the costumes go to trendy black and white stripes. Stephen Amos as musical supervisor/arranger/orchestrator has lovingly and expertly recreated The Seekers' sound to great effect. A band of 11 musicians hidden behind a screen at the back provides a fuller, more rounded musical theatre sound. The expert blend of voices is critical to the narrative development and enjoyment of the show. Among the rest of the cast, Stephen Wheat shines as the British music agent/producer Eddie Jarret who is never short of a sort of witty, Aussie-flavoured putdown for the group (e.g. calling them marsupials). Handsome Ian Stenlake wonderfully plays caddish John Ashby, The Seekers’ tour manager and Durham’s first love. Sophie Carter has much fun in the role of Beverley, Durham’s comforting, supportive and sympathetic sister. Carter and Grandison have an enchanting scene in the second half where Bev attempts to cheers up Durham following a dramatic, unexpected and unwelcome revelation. The resultant song ('Keep A Dream In Your Pocket') includes the use of spoon playing and a bottle. Carter shows Beverley as affectionate and loving. This musical is a nostalgic look at the history of The Seekers’ meteoric rise to international fame. Fans will love it and the younger generation will be introduced to their world and music. People were almost dancing in the aisles at the end. 4 stars Georgy Girl: The Seekers Musical Running time: 2 hours 50 mins (approx) including interval At the State Theatre, Sydney from 2 April to 27 May before transferring to Perth's Crown Theatre in July​