ON CENTRE STAGE REVIEWS BY DOUGLAS KENNEDY 2019

THE KING AND I at Gold Coast Little Theatre Review coming soon

The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) -: Review.

By Douglas Kennedy.

 

The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) by Adam Long, Jess Winfield and Daniel Singer.

Javeenbah Theatre Company. Features Cassie Baan, Laura Coulton, Kaela Gray.

Directed by Liam Mathers. Running time 90 mins (with interval). Runs until November 23.

 

The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) is a fast and furious celebration of the playwright many believe to be the world’s finest. This UK show, first presented at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe back in 1987, has played both in London (It had a nine year run) and around the world. It works – with the right cast – because it is largely light hearted and doesn’t demand its audience to be particularly scholarly, although a little knowledge doesn’t go amiss. The Complete Works generally features three male actors, but this new Javeenbah production demonstrates that three anything goes over-the-top comic women can do it justice with a little audience participation. Opening night was a hoot with Cassie Baan, Laura Coulton and Kaela Gray moving through the Bard’s 39 works at break-neck speed.

 

Another Complete Works tradition has seen it played without an interview but director Liam Mathers opted for a 20 minute interval between the final salute to Hamlet and the rest of the theatre catalogue. Talking of director Mathers he has done a rest-rate job of keeping his full on cast together for the sake of coherence. The first half is also top heavy with a Romeo and Juliet parody at the beginning and the bloody Titus Andronicus presented as a cooking show, before a quick sweep through the histories, comedies and plays which defer any particular category. There’s even a biography of Shakespeare which somehow manages to get all mixed up with the 20th century’s most detested fascist Adolf Hitler.

 

There’s a certain amount ad libbing in the Complete Works, which the cast comfortably sail through, but it’s the bonding between the three performers which really makes it work. The actors are on and off the stage, talking to the audience, and in the Hamlet finale even bringing audience members on stage to recreate Ophelia’s subconscious. The audience is divided into three sections to represent her ego, superego and id before the audience is treated to a 43 second version of the classic and then the whole thing again backwards.  It might sound complicated but really works thanks to Cassie Baan, Laura Coulton and Kaela Gray, who make knowing what you are doing – and even not knowing – extremely funny.

 

The Complete Works both deserves and needs an audience to keep the Shakespeare bubble dancing across the Javeenbah stage.

 

Disclosure: Douglas Kennedy is a member of Javeenbah but did not work on this production.

 

The Actress –: Review.  By Douglas Kennedy.

 

The Actress by Peter Quilter. Cast: Susan Cary, Candice Smee, Joel Beskin, Carole Lange, Hannah Collins, Rob Norton, Amy-Louise Anderson. Directed by Helen Maden. Javeenbah Theatre Company. Runs until September 28. Matinee September 22.  Bookings: 55960300.

 

There’s a story of an ageing diva who had a wild and eventful career, but spent her final months being cared for by a socially conservative niece in her Parisian apartment. The legend has it that the dying actress, who had played all the great roles and had many lovers, would reflectively bemoan the fact that she hadn’t had a more conventional life with a steady husband and children.

 Watching award-winning playwright Peter Quilter’s gentle, sometimes comic, celebration of a theatrical life, The Actress, brought back memories of that anecdote.

 

The fact, however, is that each and every one of our lives has its own destiny and some artists are born to walk the boards and crave the spotlight until the end of their days.  Lydia Martin, The Actress, appears to be such a character, but when we meet her she’s preparing to take a final bow in a production of Anton Chekov’s The Cherry Orchard before heading off to Switzerland with her ageing fiancé.

 

The play, which has been described as a bitter sweet comedy, follows Lydia’s emotional journey through that last night as she deals with various individuals who have shaped her professional and personal life. Director Helen Maden has set The Actress in an Australian theatre in what appears to be the 1920s, or maybe ‘30s, and it suits the tone of the work.

 

Susan Cary’s, nicely crafted Lydia Martin, creates a fine balance between traditional diva features and timeless emotional moods associated with such a dramatic life change. In the two-hours plus of the evening we meet a succession of characters, whose relationship with Lydia are various and complex, and gain insight in a life which superficially might appear selfish and self-serving.

She’s the planet they all obit, but they also have their own hopes, fears and even demons, which are drawn out as the brandy flows and varied feelings bubble to the service.

 

There’s the faithful dresser Katherine (a stoic Candice Smee appears to be devoted but there’s an air of mystery about her) and an ex-husband Paul (Rob Horton) who cares despite carrying on behind Lydia’s back during their marriage. Rob Horton deserves a special mention for bringing the era director Helen Maden wants to life by creating a character, complete with evening dress, who could have stepped out of a Noel Coward play. The daughter Nicole (Hannah Collins) brings love and a touch of sadness to the play as her scenes with mother explore their sometimes strained mother-daughter relationship. Hannah Collins does a fine job of showcasing the poor little rich girl, whose mother probably seemed too remote at times.

 

Two characters, who appear to have the most strained relationship with Lydia, the seemingly gushing agent Harriet (Carole Lange) and the spikey company manager Margaret (Amy-Louise Anderson) play nice and nasty well. Lastly there’s Charles the long suffering would be fiancé (good to see Joel Beskin in a delightful cameo) whose patience is tested throughout.

 

The Actress is as much a study in characters as a striking yarn but is a worthy addition to the genre of plays celebrating theatrical life and sits comfortably with the likes of The Dresser by Ronald Harwood and Noel Coward’s Red Peppers.

 

It would be amiss of this reviewer to leave The Actress without a mention of Javeenbah’s excellent backstage creative crew and the dressing room set (designed by Helen Maden).

 

Finally a note on the prolific playwright Peter Quilter whose play about Judy Garland, End of the Rainbow, has just been adapted for the big scene as Judy with Renee Zellweger in the title role. The production, which is tipped to be released soon, has an Oscar buzz about it.

The Addams Family – The Musical: Review.

 

By Douglas Kennedy.

 

The Addams Family- The Musical by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice with music and lyrics by Andrew Lippa. Based on characters by Charles Addams. Ensemble Cast. Gold Coast Little Theatre. Directed by Jay Ahrens and Susan Austin. Runs until September 28. www.gclt.com.au or 5532 2096

 

The kookie family with a macabre sense of the absurd, which began life as a Charles Addams cartoon, and wooed TV audiences in the 1960s finally went to Broadway in 2010.

 

The award-winning musical, which ran for more than 12 months (no mean feat on the Great White Way), had some built-in safeguards which guaranteed it an audience.

 

Now veteran Gold Coast Little Theatre directors Jay Ahrens and Susan Austin have picked up the show, put to together a top flight community cast, and delivered a polished production that’s bound to make a merry tune at the box office.

 

The Addams Family story might be new – the producers wanted to avoid stitching a couple of TV episodes together – but the line-up of characters are tried and tested.

 

Heading the familiar line-up are the Addams family patriarch and matriarch, Gomez and Morticia Addams (Daniel O’Connell and Cat Deller), who make all the right moves and conjuror up warm memories of the TV originals.

 

While the extended clan – Uncle Fester (Gorge Pulley), Grandma (Kara Holdom), children Wednesday (Chloe Smith) and Pugsley (Tahlia Gibson),  as well as manservant Lurch (Lawrie Esmond) – all fit the bill to a T.

     

There’s even an appearance – around the curtain – from Thing (anonymous) who pops up in the interview to draw the traditional interval raffle.

 

The script is an engaging blend of the old and the new as we learn that Wednesday is growing up fast – ‘she’ll soon be Thursday,’ quips Gomez – and has fallen for regular teenage heartthrob Lucas Beineke (Nic Van Lits).

 

This causes some family tensions but the stakes are raised when Lucas’s conservative dad and mum, Mal and Alice (David Law and Peta Simeon), come to dinner.

 

Naturally being an off-the-wall comic family there’s all sorts of complications, including a mix up with a dodgy mind-altering tonic, a couple of close shaves with Wednesday’s cross bow and a chorus of ghostly ancestors.

 

But just to demonstrate that the Addams mob have some traits that are experienced by so many other families there’s a series of familiar communication breakdowns.

 

While Andrew Lippa’s music and lyrics are hardly classics they service the story well and the whole cast was in fine musical form on opening night.

 

The production team – too long a list to include here – deserve a special mention as the Addams family set, the costumes and lights were all par excellent.

 

The Addams Family: The Musial is a fun-filled night at the theatre, which is bound to bring a retro smile to the faces of older audiences, and please the younger demographic.

 

The show deserves – and probably will be – one of the GCLT’s hits of the 2019 season.

 

Terrific escapism.

  

Murderer by Anthony Shaffer.

Javeenbah Theatre Company. Features Nathan Schulz, Ella DeVillers, Naomi Thompson, Trevor Love. Directed by Barry Gibson. Runs until Saturday (August 3). Booking information contact Javeenbah on (07) 55960300 or contact its website on www.javeenbah.org.au 

 

Painter Norman Bartholomew (Nathan Schulz) is a classic man-child living in what could be taken as a fantasy world in Anthony Shaffer’s puzzle play Murderer. He is obsessed with UK murders and is forever quoting them and re-constructing their macabre world, but events are about to overtake him as the curtain raises on one of the Javeenbah’s most successful productions to date this season.

 

That’s about as much as I dare say about this extremely popular 1975 classic which powers through two hours of drama like a Formula One motor race. It’s a show which could easier be stuffed up as it requires a carefully balanced approach moving from black humour to dark gruesome intentions, sometimes within a sentence.

 

Nathan Schulz’s Norman carries the bulk of the play and this long-time actor – probably better known as a director – gives the role just the right mix of delusional adult and petulant child. When I saw it along with a fill-house at a Sunday matinee one audience member expressed the view that Norman lived in a world somewhere between US serial killer Ted Bundy and Psycho’s Anthony Perkins.

 

The character has two women in his life – straight laced wife Elizabeth (Naomi Thompson) and flighty seductive girlfriend Millie (Ella DeVillers) – and a problem to solve. The problem gives rise to his simplistic plan with the only complication being the arrival of the roly-poly policemen played by Trevor Love whose innocence gives Murderer another comic dimension.

 

However, there’s more to Shaffer’s play than a clever plot as the dialogue has a sophisticated style that lift this play well above the ordinary Murderer also boasts a first class set   - the play unfolds in a country house with a Japanese theme – that includes a bathroom with a screen that throws up shadows featuring some of the most heart-stopping action.

 

Murderer has only three more outings in this season – Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights – but it’s well worth a visit to the theatre.

Go and be entertained and perhaps a little bit frightened if only for a couple of hours.

Blood Brothers: Review.

By Douglas Kennedy.

 

 Blood Brother. Book, Music & Lyrics by Willy Russell. Directed by Kate Steuart-Robins. Music Direction by Matthew Pearson. Ensemble Cast. Javeenbah Theatre Company. Runs until April 13..

 

Willy Russell’s ever popular nature versus nurture musical, Blood Brothers, makes a welcome to the stage in a new Javeenbah Theatre Company production. The show, which opened at the Gold Coast theatre this week, is a highly original concoction of loveable childhood comedy and melodramatic adult drama. Blood Brothers, which has been successfully doing the rounds since 1983, centres on the lives of fraternal twins (none identical) Edward (Dom Bradley) and Mickey (Ethan Liboiron) who are parted at birth.

 

Edward grows up in a wealthy upwardly mobile family while Mickey remains with his mum, known only as Mrs. Johnstone (Della Days), and his tribe of unruly impoverished brothers and sisters. Despite living on separate sides of the tracks, Edward and Mickey are destined to meet first as firm childhood friends and in the two act as grown-up rivals for the love of long-time friend Linda (Sarah Hunt).

Blood Brothers opens with the young and optimistic Mrs. Johnstone meeting a man who takes her dancing, marries her and finally leaves her with a brood of kids.

 

When the struggling mother learns her final pregnancy will yield twins she reluctantly succumbs to pressure from the posh Mrs. Lyons (Sally Wood) who is desperate for a child. She makes a pact with the middle-class housewife, but when the babies are born immediately regrets the decision although the die is cast. In the first half we meet the twins as children meeting each other and, along with Linda, forming a bond which results in them becoming firm friends and in the case of the boys blood brothers.

 

The cast – which is rounded out by Ethan Speight, Bella Kacic Tony Olding, Courtney Powell, Ryan Bourke  and Kat Brand as the narrator – is excellent with the ‘kids’ really shining in some delightful comic scenes.

Adults playing youngsters can be awkward and uncomfortable but this antithesis of the Brady Bunch living in working class Britain is a joy to watch. Director Katie Steuart-Robins brings everyone together with great aplomb and steers them magnificently into a darker place in the more challenging young adulthood scenes. Ethan Liboiron’s Mickey and Della Days as Mrs. Johnstone are the production’s two stand-out performances, although everyone has their moment in the theatrical sun.

 

Russell’s saga has had an outstanding run in the UK and Australia with Russell Crowe, Amanda Muggleton and Chrissy Amphlett among the leads in previous Down Under productions.

Back in Britain Blood Brothers had a short run in 1983 but later in a revival went for 24 years in the West End playing for 10,000 performances, and becoming the third longest-running musical production in West End history.

Russell’s tunes suit the production and the whole work makes for a terrific night at the theatre.

 

Steuart-Robins have done this highly praised and successful show proud, and Javeenbah deserves good audiences for this one.

The Sound of the Musicals: Review.

 

By Douglas Kennedy.

 

 The Sound of the Musicals. Conceived and directed by Shane Caddaye. Musical Direction by Mary Walters. Gold Coast Little Theatre. Features Michelle Cook, Steffanie Kriz, Naomi Mole, Ali Wilby, Elizabeth Johnson, Brad Kendrick, George Pulley, Shane Caddaye. Runs until April 14. Bookings 5532 2096 www.gclt.com.au/booking.php

 

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Musical theatre stalwart Shane Caddaye has put together a celebration of 60 years of musicals at the Gold Coast Little Theatre with The Sound of Musicals.

 

The result is a pleasant walk – or maybe stroll – down memory lane as the bulk of the songs featured come from older well-established musicals.

 

Basically the Sound of the Musicals is a well presented concert with a cast of competent singers giving it their all in a polished manner.

 

Shane takes on the role of host for the two-hour show and introduces each segment with a rundown of when the production was first staged, who directed and credits a principal or two.

 

The director started to create TSoM with 700-plus songs from 35 shows (11 of then directed by Julanne Shearer) available to him and whittled them down to 40 items.

 

The singers perform mostly solos and duets with giant slides featuring the original production behind creating a memorable effect.

 

Remarkably only two musicals – Show Boat and South Pacific – have been staged more than once with others featured including Camelot, Cabaret, Chicago, The Sound of Music, Little Shop of Horrors, High Society, Kiss Me Kate, Anything Goes and Into the Woods.

 

The Sound of Musicals is one of those shows which allows an audience to sit back and let the familiar songs wash over them.

 

And if a song pops up which doesn’t grab you?

 

Well, just like a London bus, there will be another long in a few minutes. The largely older audience on opening night had a grand time and gave the cast a well-deserved hand of applause at curtain (and even a cheer or two)

Secret Bridesmaids’ Business: Review.

 

By Douglas Kennedy.

 

 Secret Bridesmaids’ Business by Elizabeth Coleman. Directed by Amy-Louise Anderson. Michelle Macwhirter, Kate McNair, Kate Learmonth, Virginia Leaver, David Law, Susannah Kwan. Runs until February 23. Bookings 5532 2096 https://www.gclt.com.au/booking.php   

 

Elizabeth Coleman’s Secret Bridesmaids’ Business has been a popular slice of theatrical chick-lit since it first premiered on the Australia stage back in 1999.

 

This simple scenario, beautifully executed with a bitter-sweet twist and oodles of comic charm, never feels out of time or place.

 

The characters are familiar and enduring and the narrative premise the sort to inspire a 1001 long running conversations and debates.

 

There’s a straightforward set – a hotel room – and six characters in search of a simple solution to a complicated age old question as Meg (Michelle Macwhirter) prepares for her nuptials the following day.

 

The 30-something career girl, who is both beautiful and smart, has found her Mr. Right, James (David Law), an equally smart and handsome high flying lawyer.

 

She invites her two best friends in all the world, Lucy (Kate Learmonth) and Angela (Kate McNair), to be her bridesmaids.

 

The three young women get together in the hotel for a ‘hens night’ celebration while Meg’s overbearing wedding mad mum flits around micro-managing all the big day details.

 

The girls are all in a good mood but straight talker Lucy is about to drop a bomb hell as she believes dishy James has already been playing away with the seductive Naomi Bartlett (Susannah Kwan).

 

When Lucy quietly lets Angela know she’s just waiting for confirmation of the infidelity before spilling the beans, the more conservative friend is horrified.

 

Much of the play’s first half focuses on a conspiratorial hissy-fit between Lucy and Angela, while mum Colleen gets into a lather about ribbons and bows and calling cards.

 

Meanwhile, Meg wanders through all the drama in a state of euphoria, encouraging her best buddies to share a couple of champers and play giddy girly games like truth or dare.

 

The bride and bridesmaids – Michelle Macwhirter, Kate McNair and Kate Learmonth – are terrific as fun loving girlfriends, while Virginia Leaver’s over-the-top mum steals a lion’s share of the laughs.

 

This makes for a fun first half but the drama gets a little darker in the second act with the arrival of groom James and the wicked Naomi.

 

What happens next is the whole thrust of the establishing scenes but for those who haven’t seen SBB – as it’s now known – I intend to leave this review hanging at the end of act one.

Platform Festival: Review.

 

By Douglas Kennedy.

 

Featuring one act plays Age is just a Number 3R by Kellie Silver (directed by Rianna Hartney-Smith) and Strictly Amateur by Sherree Halliwell (directed by Kaela Gray). Plus various musical and dance acts. Javeenbah Theatre Company Little Theatre. Runs until February 16.

Bookings : Tel 55960 300

 

 

The Javeenbah Theatre Company’s first outing for the 2019 season takes the form of a wide ranging community arts feast, Platform Festival, with two one-act plays at its hub.

 

In addition to Kellie Silver’s Age is Just a Number 3R and Strictly Amateur by Sherree Halliwell, the company is hosting a swag of talent featuring dance, music and the visual arts.

The company has both its traditional indoor and newly set-up outdoor stage for the talent to work from and it makes for a pleasant roving evening.

 

The entertainment package begins with local singer-songwriters and musicians strutting their, often original, stuff on the outside while guests can seat and enjoy a drink from the J-Bah (it’s among the cheapest on the Gold Coast).

 

Then on opening night – the bill of fare does vary slightly over three weekends - everyone wandered into the theatre to catch the Helensvale Calisthenic Dance Academy and then poet Natalie Stephenson’s Mine to Endure performed alongside Javeenbah actor Naomi Thompson.

 

The dance routine with a gymnastic flair was breathtaking while the two-person performance piece, about a loving relationship between sisters, was touching.

 

The first play, Age is Just a Number, by Kellie Silver (who has already had two other works staged at Javeenbah, Writer’s Block and Obsession), is a comedy drama about dating in midlife.

 

Kathy (Naomi Thompson) is a 44-year-old divorcee whose daughter Hayley (Francesca Spear) is horrified when she discovers that mum is dating young men through an on-line site.

 

The action is this comedy-drama heats up when Kathy meets 30-something schoolteacher Andy (Adam Hellier) and the twosome take a real shine to each other.

 

The set-up is made more complicated when ex-hubby Gary (Wayne Hickson) turns up on the scene on the pre-text that he wants to see more of his daughter Hayley.

 

Adam Hellier and Naomi Thompson as the lovers are particular good in their roles bringing a lot of personality and even chemistry to the work.

 

Meanwhile, Strictly Amateur is a slightly absurdist off- the-wall comedy about a group of seven actor struggling to stage a revue inspired by Strictly Ballroom within 24-hours.

 

The strong line-of character actor, who all bring something to the table, includes Gillian Crow, Megan Frener, Jake Goodall, Corinne Meunier, Faith Moore-Carter and Cassia Rosenstraus-Krojs.

 

Other musical talent on board for the festival including Keys and Chords (Francesca Spear and Tom Ruming), Summer Parkins, The Lion and the Tamer (Faith Moore-Carter and Jake Goodall), Lydia Stephenson, Helensvale Vocalescence Chorus, the Delightful Quartet and the Nerang High School Drumline Band.

 

There’s also a static display of visual art works from the Royal Queensland Art Society. The festival continue for two more weekends and two plays will feature in all program, while the music acts may be varied.

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