Review: Blonde Poison - With its examination of the impossible choices some people are forced to make in their lives,...
Review: Blonde Poison - With its examination of the impossible choices some people are forced to make in their lives,...
Cabaret, as a beating-heart underground art form, has its roots in politics, provocation, and rebellion - intimacy and authenticity without formality. It wasn't until the end of the 2015 Hayes Cabaret Season that cabaret's raw spirit took over and transformed the space, and it happened the moment that Josie Lane walked through the audience to take the tiny stage in her new, deeply satisfying show, Asian Provocateur.
Review: The Wizard of Oz - Adena Jacobs is relentless, and in her ruthless deconstruction of The Wizard of Oz...
In Belvoir's new production of Ibsen's Hedda Gabler, directed by Adena Jacobs (Persona), the iconic title role is played by a man - notable performer and theatre-maker Ash Flanders (Summertime in the Garden of Eden, Little Mercy). For months, the Sydney theatre scene has been rumbling with controversy over the casting decision.
Review: War Crimes - Inspired by the 2010 desecration of an ANZAC memorial statue by a group of teenage girls, Angela...
In a cut-out approximation of a summer cottage on a bare stage, the floor dotted with shoots of green gently suggesting grass, Anna Petrovna (Cate Blanchett) sits outside, smokes, and waits for her birthday party to begin. This is Sydney Theatre Company's The Present, Andrew Upton's take on Anton Chekhov's first play, an untitled and...
Review: Bring It On: The Musical - Bring it On: The Musical is a lively, funny, tongue-in-cheek work from the minds behind...
Review: B-Girl - iOTA and Blazey Best star in this edgy theatrical concert that tells the story of B-Girl, a...
Review: The Bleeding Tree - A mother (Paula Arundell) and her two daughters (Airlie Dodds and Shari Sebbens) are wide-eyed...
With a "Permission granted, @BelvoirSt" Taylor Swift became Australian theatre's biggest news. When her pop mega-hit Shake it Off played during Seventeen's opening night, the crowd cheered, clapped, and all but sang along. Swift had saved this moment for the audience by granting last-minute rights to the song, but along the way she probably also saved...
Review: Triassic Parq - The Australian musical theatre industry is dominated by the flashy commercial hits, largely...
A problematic text foils this great production of David Ives' 2011 Broadway hit
Amanda Harrison's simple and fun cabaret, Up Close and Reasonably Personal, is a gentle act of distance. The cabaret form is notoriously intimate and Harrison negotiates her terms with us up-front, not without a smile: the show will be intimate by virtue of its size and design, but in terms of content it will not be too personal.
Miracle City is the stuff of legends in the Australian musical theatre community. A show that was staged just once at Sydney Theatre Company in 1996, it played to rapturous audiences... and was never seen again.
Samuel Beckett's Endgame is currently seeing two productions in Australia - one by Melbourne Theatre Company, directed by Sam Strong, and one by Sydney Theatre Company, directed by Andrew Upton. I can't speak for the Melbourne production, but in Sydney, the production is slowly, creepingly extraordinary: a spell that binds you, over time.
Dogfight, with a book by Peter Duchan and music and lyrics by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, premiered off-Broadway in 2012. Now having its Australian premiere at the Hayes Theatre in Sydney, it's a perfect example of a contemporary musical adopting strong classical structure and ideas to tell a new, moving story.
The Dream, The Australian Ballet's current instalment in its year of beauty, is a triple bill that slowly loosens and elongates until it reaches the eponymous ballet, with its familiar story ballet structure and playful but demanding technique. It's a tribute to Frederick Ashton, and it's a rewarding one.
Totem - the newest Cirque du Soleil concoction taking over the Entertainment Quarter in Moore Park - is a look at evolution filtered through the kind of dazzling human circus tricks we've come to know and expect from the troupe. There's a human disco ball, who descends from the roof and spins, majestic, alien.
Walking into this production is like nothing else. The audience (much smaller than usual, only 360 people can fit) sits on the stage, on temporary seating, which is either fine or not comfortable enough, depending on who you ask.
Tennessee Williams always encouraged the reach for something in the stage directions of his plays, seeking for an elevated storytelling method and set design that would heighten and reinforce his close explorations of the humanity he best knew: the world of his family and beyond where he grew up, in the American South, writing plays from the 1930s on.
At the end of Beyond Desire, a world premiere musical crammed into the Hayes theatre, the cast asks the audience, a la the cheeky ending of The Mousetrap, not to reveal its plot twists outside the theatre. It's a cute number, and gives local theatre icon Nancye Hayes a fun self-referential joke to deliver, but it's unnecessary.
Hedda Gabler is one of the great realist plays, and the role of Hedda is one of the great roles for women because she isn't, simply, a woman or a wife. She is complicated; she is bored and daringly discontent. She is manipulative and dispassionate.
There's something oddly mesmerising about the fan experience, especially when it occurs in the collective, in a public space. At a Buffy the Vampire Slayer convention, people will bond with strangers by speaking in quotes and in-jokes. At a Sound of Music singalong, everyone holds their breath for a certain notorious line-reading, and explodes in laughter afterwards, en masse.
Avenue Q won the coveted Best Musical Tony Award in 2004, which was a surprise considering it was up against the intensely popular Wicked, Caroline or Change, a wonder of a work, and The Boy From Oz (yes, our Boy From Oz).
If you're going to spend an hour or so with someone, there aren't many better choices than Tom Sharah. With a strong sense of ease on stage that borders on casual and conversational - it's like you're chatting to him in a lounge room and he's just telling an enjoyable, particularly long story - Sharah is a natural at cabaret, and a perfect fit for the Hayes Cabaret Festival.
Australian cast recordings are a rare beast indeed, so it's a momentous occasion that last week, the live cast recording of Miracle City was released. Even more momentous: it reached the #8 position on the iTunes Soundtrack chart on its first day available online!
Caress/Ache is high drama - half 'ripped from the headlines' and half 'personal relationships'. Unified by surtitles explaining the synapses and receptors on our skin that allows us to experience touch, the action slides from character to character, all of them in crisis. Unfortunately, it's unimaginative and emotionally manipulative.
Squabbalogic are back and this time they're tackling a revival of a classic work, trying to find its original kernel of authenticity before it became a gaudier, lighter-hearted thing: they're trying to find the gritty soul in Man of La Mancha. The Reginald Theatre has been transformed into a gloomy dungeon.
The next generation of talent is on full display in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat at Chatswood's Concourse Theatre, and the immensity of that talent is a little bit overwhelming. Produced by Packemin Youth, Packemin Productions' new initiative designed to create shows for performers who are 20 or younger, this is a real chance for audiences, cast, and crew alike to find joy in musical theatre.
Strictly Ballroom the Musical needs to learn from its own motto: A life lived in fear is a life half-lived. The show is afraid to be a musical. For a piece that started as a devised stage work at NIDA before it ever became a cult film classic, Strictly Ballroom sure has had a very hard time divorcing itself from the cinematic.
Squabbalogic, the independent musical theatre company that kicked off Sydney's tiny revolution into becoming a place for high-quality boutique musical theatre, has re-located itself to the Reginald at the Seymour Centre and embarked on a new, 2014-2015 season. The first show is Sondheim on Sondheim, a revue featuring what else but songs by Stephen Sondheim, a contemporary musical theatre legend.
When Next to Normal made its way through development and onto Broadway in 2009, it was something quite extraordinary: a show that broke through so many seeming boundaries of what the genre of musical theatre is or could be.
There's not much question about it anymore: Toby Francis is the new rockstar of independent musical theatre. The ex-punk with a heart of gold spent his last cabaret digging into the music of Queen, and this time, he's really outdone himself in the best possible way.
Sisters Grimm are back in Sydney and they have been missed. Their particular brand of arch DIY high-camp theatre is a fantastic bolt of energy to the theatre scene in town, and Calpurnia Descending is nothing if not pure, concentrated energy.
Glory Days closed after its opening night on Broadway. But it's not all bad. A coming of age musical that can trace its lineage to every other almost-not-a-teen angst show before it, there is something about it that gives it promise, a certain hint of burgeoning talent, or potential, that makes it not quite a throwaway and that continues to give it regional, independent, and amateur and community life after Broadway.
Blake Erickson has the kind of natural gravitas you can't quite train for; he has an ability to share the most embarrassing or vulnerable stories and still retain a quiet, indelible dignity. With two feet firmly on the ground as a performer he is remarkably cerebral, and you don't have to look much further than his excellent one-man Orson Welles show, Pearls Before Swine, to see that.
There's little more disappointing than a glossy and aggressively superficial production of a show that has in its bones a history of lively, scrappy-camp subversion. The Rocky Horror Show, which has just opened in Sydney following smash engagements across the country, is loud, boisterous, and ultimately meaningless.
At the Ensemble, Mark Kilmurry is staging, he thinks, a revolution. His Richard III is hghly stylised. It's structured as though it's an underground, on-the-fly production; actors turn off lights and sound when they hear helicopters overhead. Dogs bark and they quieten, crouch towards the ground. They rush in under cover of heavy coats.
Where to begin with Opera Australia's ? After stints in Brisbane and Melbourne it has landed in Sydney, all glorious sets and crushing disappointment. The thought that comes swiftly to mind is that The King and I is a show that has been utterly failed by its creative team.
Joanna Murray-Smith's new play Switzerland - a two-hander lovingly crafted in the image of Patricia Highsmith, exploring her last days - is an elegantly tense new play that is written so skilfully that you almost don't realise quite how good it is.
David Campbell came home to the Hayes as part of the Hayes Cabaret Festival, and I don't think we knew how much we missed him until he had returned. Campbell, a household figure probably best known these days for his co-host gig on Channel Nine's Mornings, is an old-school singer and musical theatre performer who was the talk of Broadway as a young guy trying to make it.
The only thing legendary about Legends! is how aggressively mediocre it is. The James Kirkwood play has hit Sydney as a star touring vehicle for Hayley and Juliet Mills, as well as Maxwell Caulfield, and tells a tired, insipid story about feuding Old Hollywood divas teaming up to revive their careers in a new play.
When Blue Wizard (Nick Coyle), an intergalactic traveller from a crystal planet where everyone is gay and a different colour (the beige Wizards have the gift of renovation, for example, while the blue have flirting, fucking, and dance) lands on Earth, he tries to make the best of it.
It's an epic musical, a towering behemoth from the 1980s - an era that spawned plenty of them, like Cats and Phantom of the Opera - but Les Misérables , a sung-through, all-feeling story of love, injustice, and striving for liberation and redemption in dark times, feels like the biggest of them all.
The SBW Stables Theatre, home to Griffin Theatre Co, has a bare stage, following, we learn, a recent revival of Hotel Sorrento. Scrawled on one wall is a placeholder set: "Beach image (happy)". Beneath it, a row of actors sit. One woman stands at a microphone, and starts to introduce tonight's reading of a draft script.
Mike Bartlett's script for Cock is dense and aurally-driven; off-kilter language choices, particularly from central character John, buzz around the audience and into their ears. Naturalistic and immediate, sentences are left hanging and words are chopped off and out, creating a syntax that is at once intensely familiar and startlingly unique.
Christmas has come early to Belvoir St with A Christmas Carol: a lively, unabashedly heartwarming take on the old Dickens classic. Even the Scroogiest Scrooge you know won't be able to resist the magic of it. Anne-Louise Sarks and Benedict Hardie have breathed fresh life into a story that has steeped into our cultural consciousness, and made it vibrant all over again.
Sugarland, written by Rachel Coopes and Wayne Blair, born out of multiple residencies in the remote Northern Territory town of Katherine, is an exercise in capturing what life is like for young people in the area.
Over at the Lyric, a new Australian, Sydney-set musical is telling the story of a family legacy, of art and love. It's Strictly Ballroom; you've probably heard of it. In Potts Point, in a much smaller theatre, on a set allergic to glitz and sparkle, there's a new Australian, Sydney-set musical telling a story of love, family and art, but that's where the similarities end.
There's something about Eamon Flack's directorial take on The Glass Menagerie, playing at Belvoir St. You don't just watch it, you sink into it. The play wraps invisible tendrils around you and draws you in with a slow, gorgeous, sadness.
It's an easy, instant connection to make with her Australian audience - she loved him, and so did, collectively, all of us - and she sang 'If You Were Wondering' late into her set at the Theatre Royal, imbuing the number with her natural instinct for lyrical intention.
Review: Master Class - This isn't a show, Maria Callas (Maria Mercedes) tells us, before the lights even go down....
From a raft of drab, superficial, vaguely entertaining major commercial musicals emerges a sharp, intelligent winner. Matilda the Musical has opened in Sydney, and the Greases and Rocky Horrors of the Sydney circuit should be on alert: audiences have a taste for cerebral wit and generous heart on the big stages now, and they're going to want more of it.
Review: The Tempest - It's fitting that John Bell's final official undertaking for his Bell Shakespeare Company is...
In the 2013/14 season, La Traviata was the most performed opera in the world, and it consistently ranks in the top ten of similar lists. Verdi's enduring masterwork is never too far away from Sydney audiences; it launched the now- iconic Handa Opera on Sydney Harbour event, and it played in the Sydney Opera House earlier this year as part of the Opera Australia 2015 season.
Review: Rent - Rent is the bushfire of musical theatre: it explodes from seemingly nowhere and consumes...
Leticia Cáceres has a chillingly cerebral directorial vision for Death and the Maiden, Ariel Dorfman's 1990 play written from and premiering within the still profusely bleeding wound of Chile's devastating Pinochet regime. Gerardo (Steve Mouzakis), recently appointed to a human rights commission investigating a previous (unnamed) regime's horrors, gets a flat tyre on his way home to his wife Paulina (Susie Porter).
Yve Blake's Then is a show that has spiralled out, gently and sweetly, from a website Blake created a few years ago. At WhoWereWe.com, Blake asked readers to share a memory that focused on the question "Who Did You Used to Be?"
Like the proverbial cockroach in an apocalypse, CATS The Musical endures, dominating stages worldwide with barely a break. Unlike the cockroach, however, the show is eagerly embraced and adored by many. It's a spectacle, and while it's not quite as stunning as it was when it opened in 1981 London - ushering in the era of the musical blockbuster - long-running spectacles are great fodder for nostalgic consumer cash.
Review: A Rabbit for Kim Jong-Il - A Rabbit for Kim-Jong Il is based on a true story. A German farmer grew 'monster'...
In Anna Barnes' Patrick White Playwrights' award-winning script, Sophocles' take on the Electra myth is spun into a story about a privileged, horrifically dysfunctional Australian family. They are just teenagers: sisters Iphigenia, Chrysothemis and Electra, and their younger brother Orestes. They are a family unit like all family units, with in-jokes and silly games based on TV ads.