My name is Douglas Kennedy and I have been writing about the theatre in Brisbane and on the Gold Coast for more than 30 years. Now, I am living on the Gold Coast and looking forward to doing some work with the Gold Coast Theatre Alliance. As my professional life has mostly been in the print media, coupled with some broadcasting, I feel my contribution to community theatre can be best expressed through communication.

To borrow an oft used expression, I would like to help start the conversation. Despite the fact that I reviewed local theatre for the Gold Coast Bulletin for many years, I have decided to do opt for previews and think pieces about current shows rather than full-blown reviews. Partly because I wouldn’t be able to cover all the companies and groups on the Coast – and beyond – in the alliance, but also because I don’t want to be in a position to publically critique people I hope to work with.

 

However, I would like encourage as many people as possible to share their thoughts and ideas about productions they have seen. Therefore, the alliance has agreed to publish my pieces with a comment section at the end of the story. I am looking forward to working with a variety of companies and groups through this longstanding blog called On Centre Stage.

Hello, Dolly! Review     By Douglas Kennedy.

 

Hello, Dolly! Book by Michael Stewart. Music and Lyrics by Jerry Herman. Gold Coast Little Theatre. Directed by Kate Peters. Vocal Coach Tracey Kriz. Choreography Tess Burke, Bruce Harris, Tracey Kriz, Kim Reynolds. Stars Amy McDonald as Dolly Levi and Grant Ebeling as Horace Vandergelder. Runs until December 1.

 

Hello, Dolly!  - which turned 54 this year – is by any standards a Broadway vintage classic, which continues to be a hot ticket musical theatre item. So it should come as no surprise to see stalwart director Kate Peters returning to the Gold Coast Little Theatre with this tried and true package.

 

Kate, who describes Dolly as the Hamilton of its day, is obviously passionate about the show, which showcased the talents of so many Broadway greats from Carol Channing to Bette Midler and even later Bernadette Peters. Australia has also produced some memorable Dollies including Jill Perryman and the Gold Coast’s own Sheila Bradley. The director has penned an essay in the program, as well as run a photo spread from previous shows (including a pointer to her own performances including playing Irene Molloy in Canberra back in 1985 and Dolly Levi in a Tweed Theatre season at Twin Towns in 2008).

 

So what makes Dolly – which took out 11 Tony Awards including one for Channing in the title role in 1964 – so special?

I suspect it’s a combination of a simple and effective story, some colourful characters, including the over-the-top Dolly herself, and some truly familiar tunes. Of course, the gutsy Hello, Dolly!  theme, slam bang in the middle of the Harmonia Gardens segment in the second half, is a show stopper, but other tunes including Put on Your Sunday Clothes, It Takes a Woman and The Waiters Gallop among other are pretty impressive. For those who don’t know Dolly well – and they do exist – it’s a simple tale based on Thornton Wilder’s play The Matchmaker.

 

Dolly Levi (Amy McDonald) is a good old fashioned matchmaker who sets out for Yonkers in New York in the 1890s to find a match for half-a-millionaire Horace Vandergelder (Grant Ebeling). Along the way she terms up with a young milliner Irene Molloy (Louise Harris), whom she plans to match with the much older Horace, and Irene’s friend Minnie (Naomi Mole) as well as two of the boss’s impoverished clerks. The two young men, Cornelius Hackl (Rory Impellizzeri) and Barnaby Tucker (Andrew Cockroft- Penman), are simply looking for a kiss from a pretty girl, but soon, as they say, love is in the air. There’s some mix ups along the way, but it’s all fairly innocent – despite a brief court appearance – and true love does find a way.

 

Kate Peters has put together a large and enthusiastic cast with a robust Amy McDoanld in the lead role and the veteran Grant Ebeling giving us a well-rounded character  in Horace. The supports also deserve a special mention in a cast which has quite a lot of depth, although some struggled with the dancing. The production values – in the shape of the costumes and set – were impressive and one got the feeling that the largely older audience was having a good time.

A Kick in the Baubles: Review. By Douglas Kennedy.

 

A Kick in the Baubles by Gordon Steel. Javeenbah Theatre Company. Directed by Dawn China. Peter Maden, Shelley Jacks, Clem Halpin, Del Halpin, Adam Hellier, Cassie Baan, Sarah Hunt, Holly Cruickshanks, Brock Honnery. Runs until July 28.

 

The Javeenbah Theatre Company’s Christmas comedy-cum-family drama, A Kick in the Baubles, is one of those seasonal shows designed to showcase family tensions over the festive season.

 

Director Dawn China has brought together a first rate cast and crew to help unravel the tetchy relationships within the Baubles family.

The result is a familiar mix of angst and humour with most of the problems being exacerbated by strong competing characters fired up by alcohol.

 

However, the conflict comes to the fore as early as 7.15am on Christmas Eve – before even one drink has been taken – when we first meet Frank and Jean Baubles (beautifully play by Peter Maden and Shelley Jacks). The middle-aged couple have returned from their Christmas supermarket shopping and we quickly learn that Frank (who has been made redundant) dislikes the seasonal spurge, while Jean seems well meaning, but constantly irritated. Much of the first act belongs to Frank (who pitches his distaste directly to the audience) and Jean who are constantly bickering.

 

There’s some respite when their air-head niece, Alex (Holly Cruickshanks is blessed with some of the light relief and funniest lines), pops around to explain that she’ll be spending Christmas with her boyfriend rather than them. Things hot up on Christmas morning when Jean’s posh demanding sister and Alex’s mum, Doreen (Del Halpin), turns up with flirtatious morally questionable hubby Harry (Clem Halpin). Del and Clem, who are two of the Gold Coast most experienced and valued performers, make their classical comic characters work as Doreen gets stuck into the grog (the couple only bring one bottle) and Harry gives us a taste of his wicked ways.

 

The other riotous couple are neighbours Gary and Julie (Adam Hellier and Cassie Baan) who with Gary’s passion for karaoke and Julie’s mini-skirt give the show some earthy Yorkshire humour. There’s another sweet and serious couple – played by Sarah Brock and Brock Honnery -  who give the drama a change of gear and takes the audiences into pathos close to the play’s conclusion.

 

However, I leave their stories to the show’s audiences as I think spelling out their roles in Baubles would be a spoiler.

Review by Douglas Kennedy.

 

Six Dance Lessons in Six Weeks by Richard Alfieri Javeenbah Theatre Company. Directed by Gaye Gay. Stars Joanne-fae Worland, Andrew Cockroft-Penman.

Runs until September 22.

 

Six Dance Lessons in Six Weeks is a beautiful love story with more bonding than romance as a young gay guy in Florida’s retirement paradise connects with an aging conservative. It looks like stuck-in-the-mire Lily (Joanne-fae Worland) has nothing in common with her young radical dance teacher Michael (Andrew Cockroft-Penman) when they first meet.

 There’s a huge bust up on the first meet. He’s rude and she resentful.

 

In fact Michael – who is awash with gay angst –keeps almost storming out on her throughout the play.

 However, despite their differences – Michael’s a gay from New York City who might-have-been a big time dancer and Lily is the wife of a Baptist Minister with secrets – they slowly reveal themselves.

Their stories create a bonding and to be honest it is stronger without the romance factor. Both of them have powerful stories, which eventually they share with each other and the audience.

 

The result is a narrative – coupled with some great dancing – that I guess will have the good-hearted close to tears before curtain down.

It’s this unveiling of stories without the complications of romance that makes this two-hander so powerful.

Joanne and Andrew’s performances were as appealing as was the performance from the anonymous stage hand who added a little zest between scenes. This is a celebration of love without the complication of love if you get my drift.  A lovely two-hander featuring Joanne-fae Worland and Andrew Cockroft-Penman with nice understating from director Gaye Gay.

 There was also a terrific set designed by Craig Smith and tireless technician Colin Crow deserves a credit. The scenic, technical and design team – too many to mention – are among the Javeenbah’s greatest assets and the front of house mob also.

 

 I once called – when Javeenbah had a terrible fire - a plucky little theatre thinking about the people who put on the shows, but now I would like to honor the technical crew who often get forgotten.

Well done Colin and Co. see you all soon.

Run for Your Wife: Gold Coast Little Theatre.

Review by Douglas Kennedy.

 

Run for Your Wife by Ray Cooney. Gold Coast Little Theatre. Directed by Dorothy Henderson. Features Noel Thompson, Bob Allen, Linda Furse, Natalie Stephenson, Nathan Schulz, Bruce Alker Jnr, George Pulley. Runs until September 22.

 

This classic Ray Cooney British farce is what used to be coined rib-tickling, good humoured end of the pier British comedy.

It’s unashamedly old-fashioned with its sexual overtones, smutty asides and laugh-out-loud good natured poke at all things human.

Run for Your Wife is never going to win a Tony or an Olivier but it puts bums on seats and has them rocking around as the comedy is infectious.

It’s a simply classical farcical situation as a London cabbie called John Smith – there’s not much original here – played by Noel Thompson finds himself caught out with two wives.

 

John would have lived happily, if not rather stressfully, in the situation but for an incident which completely rocks his tight knit routine.

 

A bump on the head looks set to give the game away as John lives two lives in two different homes with wife number one – Mary (Linda Furse) – and another with wife number two Barbara (Natalie Stephenson) in two different homes beautifully created on stage by the director Dorothy Henderson’s tireless hubby Ted Henderson.

 

The Hendersons, who hail from London, have been creating farce – and other dramas – on the Coast for more than four decades.

 

Indeed Dorothy, who joined the GCLT in 1975, has directed 23 shows with Ted and was the driving force behind the highly successful Gold Coast Comedy Players, which took theatre to the clubs for many years.

 

Farce is not for the faint hearted but it’s tried and tested as a crowd pleaser with the emphasis on timing particularly between Thompson (as John Smith) and his hapless neighbour Stanley played by Bob Allen.

 

There’s also some delightful support from Linda Furse and Natalie Stephenson as the two wives, Nathan Schulz and Bruce Alker Jnr as the two policeman and George Pulley as an incidental gay guy.

 

Run for Your Wife is not about sending messages, leaving the audience stunned and improving our understanding of the meaning of human existence.

 

It’s about an audience leaving the theatre with a collective smile and a sense that for two hours at least nothing really mattered and all the problems of the world were redundant.

Pack of Lies: Review. Spies in the Suburbs.

 

By Douglas Kennedy.

 

Pack of Lies by Hugh Whitemore. Javeenbah Theatre Company. Stars Kate Armon, Craig Smith, Graham Scott. Directed by Nathan Schulz and Barry Gibson. Runs until July 15. Hugh Whitemore’s Pack of Lies is a story of spies in the London suburbs that resonates more than 30 years after it debuted in the West End in 1983. The series of real-life incidents, which inspired a TV play in 1971 and more than a decade later this play, unfolded back in 1960 and ’61. Maybe audiences can hardly remember the story of the Portland Spy Ring, but spying and nefarious undertakings between sovereign states is still grabbing headlines around the world.

 

Nowadays the spying is largely undertaken in the cyber world, but individuals known as cultural attaches sometimes make the news when they are sent home under a cloud. But in the case of Peter and Helen Kroger, they were jailed for 20 years in 1961 for being the final link in a chain of criminal deceit which led to the Royal Navy base at Portland in Dorset. The couple were sending secrets about Britain’s nuclear submarine capabilities straight to Moscow with help of radio transmitters and microdots hidden in books, despite being American citizens.  However, Whitemore’s play tackles the very human story of the Kroger’s near neighbours, Bob and Barbra Jackson and teenage daughter Julie, who lived opposite the spies and became their best friends. The simple straightforward Jacksons, who were totally taken in by the Krogers, are played delightfully by Craig Smith (Bob), Kate Armon (Barbara) and Hope Di Sessa (Julie).

 

The trio, with more than a little help from Whitemore’s well-crafted script, recreate a thoroughly credible suburban family unit shocked to the core when spook Mr. Stewart turns up on their doorstep with an unusual request. Mr. Stewart (with another first class acting performance from Graham Scott) wants to place a surveillance team – it ends up being two women – in their daughter’s upstairs bedroom. Naturally ‘mums the word’ when Thelma and Sally (Samantha McClurg and Linda Furse) come along to work on a rooster in the Jackson’s how disturbed utopia. (Note: The role of Thelma will be taken by Peta Simeon for one performance only on July 14)

 

The audience can feel Barbara Jackson’s pain as she is forced to keep up appearances with inquiring and gregarious Helen Kroger (Amy McDonald), while husband Peter (Ken Sauers) is more laid back. Some audiences might consider Pack of Lies a little long, and perhaps even wordy, in this era of brief snippets, texting and social media, but craftsmanship is the name of the game here.

 

Nathan Schultz, with some help from veteran theatre co-director Barry Gibson, does a good job of keeping the tension alive and the pair of them were also responsible for creating the Jackson’s living room and kitchen on stage. The success of community theatre is wholly dependent on team work and multi-tasking – Nathan Schultz is also responsible for sound design and Colin Crowe for the company’s lighting design and operation – but it doesn’t stop there.

 

It’s not unusual in community theatre to find some of its leading lights stepping down from performing and directing roles to do all sorts of assistant tasks as well as helping in the box office and bar. Finally, I would like to recommend The Story behind the Stage program in the program and advise readers that the internet is awash with information about all aspects of the fascinating Portland Story.

This is one production destined to leave its audience wanting more.

                             Kiss Me Kate: Review.

 

By Douglas Kennedy.

 

Kiss Me Kate. Book by Sam and Bella Spewack. Music and Lyrics by Cole Porter. Gold Coast Little Theatre. Directed by Andrew Cockroft- Penman. Musical Director Caroline Taylor. Runs until July 28.

 

Kiss Me, Kate has had another opening – this time at the Gold Coast Little Theatre – but it’s hardly just another show.

Cole Porter’s 1948 classic, with a book by Broadway and Hollywood writing team Sam and Bella Spewack, originally ran for more than 1000 performances, won five Tonys, including best musical for the first time, and has been revised many times since.

 

Now the embattled GCLT is looking to the musical, with its large cast and extensive and talented creative crew, to kick-start its fortunes after a stormy start to the 2018 season.

It’s overall a good choice as musicals have proved to be a perennial favourite on the Coast and this one has some of Porter’s best loved songs including Another Op’nin, Another Show, Wunderbar, Too Darn Hot, Bush Up Your Shakespeare and Kiss Me, Kate.

The story, inspired by Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew and legendary battling Broadway husband and wife thespians Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne, follows the antics of impresario Fred Graham (Simon Stone) and his ex-wife Lille Vanessi (Naomi Mole).

 

The idea is that Fred has wooed his ex back to the theatre in 1948 where the couple are starring in the Ford Theatre in Baltimore in a new updated production of the Shrew with a Porter musical score.

This is a troubled relationship on and off stage with added complications including Fred’s new love interest actress Lois Lane (Tess Burke), who also has another love interest in the shape of co-star Bill Calhoun (Jack Harbour).

The foursome have to deal with their on-stage Shakespearean roles and their off-stage shenanigans in addition to two gun totting comic gangsters (Nicola Barrett and Terri Woodfine).

 

The gangsters are there at first to reclaim a gambling debt that Calhoun owes their boss, but when Fred and Lilli Vanessi start falling out and, she threatens to leave the show, Fred convinces the heavies to convince her to stay and save the show.

The loveable baddies find themselves in the show and become so inspired that they sing the crowd favourite, Brush up Your Shakespeare. Just to add final spice to the mix Lilli Vanessi’s fiancée, war veteran General Harrison Howell (George Pulley), also turns up and recognises Lois as a former love.

 

The whole business is what used to be known as good clean fun, with the added bonus of Porter’s magical score, and both Naomi Mole and Simon Stones have the class voices needed to carry off their leading singing roles.

The supporting actors and ensemble all hold their own and the creatives, including director Andrew Cockroft-Penman musical director Caroline Taylor, dance captain executive choreographer Tess Burke and a team of supporting choreographers hold the show together.

The cast and crew have given the GCLT a good, strong, traditional production of the ever popular musical that’s bound to be a crowd pleaser as the theatre works to reinvent self.

 

The GCLT has three more major show in the pipe-line for the rest of the year including the Ray Cooney farce Run for Your Wife (September), another Broadway classic Hello, Dolly! (November-December) and finally a pantomime, Cinderella, featuring Jerry Herman’s music.

The Dog Logs

             Review by Douglas Kennedy.

The Dog Logs by C.J. Johnson. Directed by Jocelyn Moore- Carter. Ensemble cast. Javeenbah Theatre Company. www.javeenbah.org.au.

 

Javeenbah Theatre Company stalwart Jocelyn Moore-Carter has brought together a number of modern theatrical techniques to breathe life into C.J. Johnson’s engaging The Dog Logs.

 

The result is a funny, moving, occasionally powerful, and, of course, inevitably cute celebration of men’s - and women’s – best friend the dog.

They say every dog will have its day and now, thanks to the award-winning Aussie playwright Johnson, it has its own place in the theatre.

Essentially The Dog Logs is a series of monologues capturing the fun, joy, energy, power, action, usefulness and all round wanting to please charm of our canine companions.

The dozen or so dogs in The Logs appear to hold up a mirror to their masters and mistresses shining our own vanities, aspirations, hopes, fears, jealousies, vulnerabilities, loyalties, loving feelings and joy of life back at us.

Moore-Carter’s production uses puppets – note the opening number – monologues, the critical mass of the dozen actors and pictures of the breeds they represent.

Among the highlights for this reviewer were the story of Rottweiler Borys, whose natural instincts prove his downfall, the slavish loyalty of cattle dog Samson, the faithful partnership of police dog Ando, the vanity of Polly and the cunning of New Zealand airport sniffer Sherlock.

The show is packed with stories, insights and even, at times, the wisdom of creatures who have a heart, a mind and some would say a soul.

There’s a quote in Jocelyn Moore-Carter’s message in the program taken from novelist John Steinbeck which reads: ‘I’ve seen a look in dogs’ eyes, a quickly vanishing look of amazed contempt, and I am convinced that dogs think humans are nuts.’

Who knows?

However, The Dog Logs have enough food for through for a veritable theatrical feast.

Moore-Carter has brought together a fine cast who give The Dog Logs their all and deserve our praise. The set is simple but effective and the dogs – and their on-stage creations – feel real.

This is a show worth catching and there’s the bonus of half-price tickets on Saturday night (May 19).

On Centre Stage.

Review by Douglas Kennedy.

Piccadilly Olde Time Music Hall. Devised and Directed by Kate Peters. Featuring Kirri Adams, Grant Ebeling, Louise Harris, Martin Jennings, Katrina Lardner, Eryn Lardner, Naomi Mole, and Damien Moran. Kate Peters, Arthur Shacklock, Doug Williams. Gold Coast Little Theatre & Top Hat Productions. This weekend only (until May 6).

 

Do you have an affection, even a love of classic English old time music hall with a dash of American and Irish American songbook thrown in for good measure?

 

Then Kate Peters’ sing-a-long Piccadilly Olde Time Music Hall, peppered with traditional patter, comic skits and even the classic monologue The Lion and Albert is for you.

 

There’s no doubt that by and large Piccadilly music hall is pitched at a certain demographic and they are sure to embrace it as the cast of 11 throw their heart and soul into the production.

 

Kate, who has a long history of staging these shows (as well as a well-rounded theatre background) stepped into the breach at the last minute to create this show and  has not short changed her audience in the quality department.

 

There’s even entertainment in the program – not always the case – with a well written and informative essay on the origins, and golden years, of music hall.

 

Music hall, which had its beginnings in the 18th century and thrived in the 19th, is a fascinating slice of social history and chronicles both the hopes, fears, wants and needs of those who lived through it.

 

The Piccadilly cast and crew – musical director Mary Walters with her musical duo (piano and drums) – brings both a lot of fun and energy to the show.

The songs the people of that era loved still have a following today and including numbers such as  the Mother’s Lament(or Your Baby Has Gone the Plughole), the Pheasant Plucker’s Song, Champagne Charlie, A Little of What you Fancy Does You Good and Who Were You With Last Night?

The humour is lively, robust and straight forward and sprinkled with lines designed to have older audiences chuckling rather than cringing with embarrassment.

It’s all good clean fun and is likely to be popular with those who like to reminisce a bygone age and those who think the past is maybe a foreign country, but one worth visiting from time to time.

 Piccadilly Olde Time Music Hall plays May 4-6 at 7.30pm. There’s also four matinees on May 5 and 6 at 2pm.

For information on line go to www.gclt.com.au or ring 5646717.

 

The Gold Coast Little Theatre’s production is Kiss Me, Kate (June 30- July 28) and Kate Peters will return to the stage directing Hello Dolly! In November. The classic musical had a recent revival on Broadway. 

On Centre Stage.

Bee Show with Comic Sting for Teens

By Douglas Kennedy.

The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee. Ensemble Cast. Directed by Bradley Chapman. Javeenbah Theatre Company. Runs until March 24

 

The Javeenbah Theatre Company’s new production, The 25thAnnual

Putnam County Spelling Bee, is an all-American Broadway musical comedy ripe for the adolescent market.

 

The show’s strengths lie in its energetic young players and teen age angst as school kids taking part in a junior spelling bee share their concerns about their seemingly complex lives.

 

Spelling Bees’ music is less consequential – and in fact there were sound issues on opening night which are reported to have been straightened out - although not unattractive.

 

The show is a fairly fast moving insight into the US passion for school spelling bees which don’t have quite the same role to play in Australia school life (although one commercial TV station did attempt to create a series on the theme).

 

Spelling bees have been a big deal in the US since the 1920s and there’s a lot of fun to be milked out of the format as the competitors ask for the meaning of words and their use in regular sentences.

 

There’s a colourful mix of words on offer, and their usage, from troubled adjudicator Doug Panch (played by director Bradley Chapman) and that’s where the humour came from which won over this critic.

 

In between times the audience is privy to the contestant’s lives as they illustrate their hopes and fears in true Broadway style by breaking into song.

 

There’s also an opportunity for audience participation as members are invited to sign-up for the spelling bee and get their chance to be part of the show.

 

The Spelling Bee show, with music and lyrics by William Finn and book by Rachel Sheinkin, opened its Broadway run in 2005 and was nominated for six Tony Awards. It took out two gongs including one for best book.

 

The original Broadway cast recording was also nominated for a Grammy Award.

 

Spelling Bee had its origins in the world of improvisational theatre and ran for 1,136 performances on Broadway and has been seen around the world. Its Australian premiere took out the 2006 Helpmann Award for best musical.

 

The Javeenbah cast is largely made-up of young energetic and promising performers with a sprinkling of adults playing supporting roles.

 

A preview the night before opening was made up of young people who gave the show a spirited and raucous welcome and the opening night audience were also enthusiastic.

 

For further booking information contact Javeenbah on (07) 55960300 or contact its website on www.javeenbah.org.au