Friday, 21 July 2017

Coma Land - Black Swan State Theatre Company & Performing Lines WA (20 July 2017)

There is no doubt that local playwright (and director here) Will O'Mahony is a pre-eminent talent when it comes to crafting dialogue that dazzles, is fast-paced, dense and thoroughly entertaining. He loves having his actors deliver rat-a-tat barrages of facts and figures at high speed and his style favours repetition of key phrases and lists, point/counterpoint, as well as sly word play.

It is undeniably evident that O'Mahony loves words and language. What a gift that is for both his performers and the audience (though getting the rhythms and pace right must place all sorts of demands on the former).

Accompanying the sizzle is a sizeable 'chunk of gravity' though of the dramatic not physics kind. His plays explore interesting themes in an intriguing way, usually with a bitter-sweet emotional core. He has certainly served his 10,000 hour apprenticeship in mastering his writing gift.

The cast embrace the material - an exploration of loss, letting go, chasing perfection, and the expectations of parents and their children - within the framework of characters inhabiting this fantastical space while in a coma.

Morgan Owen is excellent playing a quintessential O'Mahony character in Penguin and generally handles the machine gun dialogue well. Working out the pauses for laughs will come with further performances. O'Mahony also knows when to slow down the verbal assault which emphasises the lovely contrasts as Owen modulates her delivery in volume, tone, and speed depending on dramatic or comedic beats.

Experienced comedian Ben Sutton adds brilliant timing and off-beat delivery to his unexpected character... as a panda. Yet it is the most off the wall character that delivers telling insight as revelations and epiphanies are made.

Kirsty Marillier's matter-of-fact delivery for the lamplighter character of Boon works well and she has a couple of notable scenes with Humphrey Bower who plays Penguin's Dad with paternal concern tinged with sadness.

Amy Mathews adds exuberance as Jinny, another coma patient who acts as almost a mediator between several of the other characters.

There was only one slight miss-step for mine - a cathartic emotional moment which is beautifully conveyed by Bower is drowned in a swell of unnecessary music. It jarred as the sound design for the rest of the play was far less intrusive.

The writing and the acting is top notch in an unexpected tale which is emotionally and thematically rich. I enjoyed it very much.

*originally published at facebook.com/perththeatrereviews

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

42nd Street - WAAPA (20 June 2017)

Forty specks of dust on a stage. 

Twenty graduating students; another twenty who will be in their place the exact same time next year.

Yes, when "you put all those specks of dust together... you have something alive and beautiful that can reach out to thousands of people..."

And so it proves in this spectacular mid-year production at the Regal Theatre.

There is perhaps nothing more exhilarating at the theatre than witnessing a mass tapdancing routine. I confess I'm sucker for it and here you don't get one, or two, or three, you get several tightly choreographed explosions of movement, colour and straight up, unabashed enthusiasm. It's a joy to watch. Plus this - you will rarely see that number of performers together on stage at the one time outside of this combined flexing of WAAPA's MT muscles.

"...who cares if there's a plot or not when they've got a lot of dames!"

Sure, the plot even with the 'play within a play' structure is hardly groundbreaking and follows a well trodden path. But who cares? Every set piece is exquisitely staged and performed so the skeleton on which it all hangs is, certainly for me, of secondary concern.

"...you're going out a youngster but you've got to come back a star!"

It's perhaps not so difficult to draw parallels in this statement between the fictional character Peggy Sawyer and the performer who plays her, Mackenzie Dunn. Dunn displays true triple threat talent - singing, dancing, and acting - and like Peggy is destined to have a big future. The other standout for me was Lucy Ross as the bitchy, aging star Dorothy Brock who will be usurped by Peggy. Ross sings exquisitely and is all swagger and attitude to burn.

Others to impress - Tom New as irrepressible Billy Lawlor; Joshua White as the demanding Julian Marsh; Laura Jackson as Maggie Jones; Kelsi Boyden who brings the charisma with her Ann Reilly; the sharp dancing of Luke Haberecht as Andy; and a lanky comic performance by Ben Colley as Bert.

But then everyone is excellent and the dancing is fabulous as is the orchestra.

When I left the theatre there were a couple of teenage girls tapping on the footpath. If I wasn't already smiling that just capped the evening off.

If you don't leave the Regal grinning from ear to ear after this show seek medical attention. Immediately. I'm serious. Go to nearest medical facility NOW.

Highly recommended though I expect tickets will be extremely difficult to get.

*originally published at facebook.com/perththeatrereviews

Monday, 19 June 2017

Petits Fours - WAAPA (19 June 2017)

An eclectic quartet of bite-sized theatrical treats ranging from political satire (The Election) to an exploration of film set dynamics (Remarkable), amusing canine empowerment (The Emancipation of Alice Paws) and lastly, arthouse portrait of a hedonistic artist (Self Portrait, Masturbating).

All written by local playwrights, in order, Finn O'Branagain, Gita Bezard, Chris Isaacs, and Hellie Turner and directed by Julia Jarel, Nicole Stinton, Trudy Dunn, and Susie Conte respectively.

My pick was Remarkable which started off as a pisstake of the egos one might find on a film set (of a hilariously poorly written script) but turned into a most interesting commentary on the depiction of sex, nudity and violence and, critically, the ways male filmmakers pressure actresses into doing their bidding for less than altruistic motives. A fascinating angle emerged around who was portrayed as complicit in this. Unsettling and perceptive.

Performances were uniformly strong throughout all four plays but my picks from each - Lily Stewart as the kinetic emcee of The Election; William Bartolo as the writer-director in Remarkable whose character initially seemed innocuous/pompous enough until darker motivations emerged; Shannon Ryan in a fine physical performance as the mouthy pooch in The Emancipation of Alice Paws; and Thomas Jackson as the outraged and conflicted Oskar in Self Portrait, Masturbating.

Good to see so many of the 3rd year MT students in the audience on their night off from 42nd Street supporting their acting colleagues. 

*originally published at facebook.com/perththeatrereviews

Saturday, 17 June 2017

Present Laughter - WAAPA (17 June 2017)

I had a great time with this Noel Coward comedy - witty and elegant this featured a handsome set, was stylishly costumed, briskly paced, with many wonderful performances by the third years.

Foremost was Martin Quinn as Garry Essendine with the trio of Natasha Vickery, Rhianna McCourt, and Laura McDonald all excellent.

Sasha Simon and Mitchell Bourke give notable support; the latter exhibiting the physical comedy and mannerisms of a young John Cleese.

The Q&A afterwards featuring Quinn, Vickery, Set Designer Kelly Fregon, and Stage Manager Radek Rubinski gave insight into the construction of the play both from a performance and technical perspective.

A classy production all round.

*originally published at facebook.com/perththeatrereviews

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

Sally Burton Awards (6 June 2017)

An entertaining evening of Shakespearean delights as the graduating acting class vied for the two $2000 awards courtesy of Sally Burton, widow of the legendary Richard Burton.

Stephanie Somerville (as Queen Margaret from Henry VI, Part 3) and Mitchell Bourke (as the eponymous king from Richard II) were deserving winners and the standard was high across the board including an inspired excerpt from A Midsummer Night's Dream.

If there was, implausibly, any lingering doubt about the talent pool at WAAPA the "light entertainment" provided by 2nd year actors Mia Morrissey and Adam Marks surely dispelled that with an exclamation point.

Morrissey blew the doors off The Roundhouse Theatre showcasing a superb singing voice that gave the audience collective chills in a holy ****! kind of moment.

*originally published at facebook.com/perththeatrereviews

Saturday, 3 June 2017

Life is a Cabaret! - WAAPA (3 June 2017)

45 (classical voice) students accompanied by David Wickham on keys with many among their number also providing musical accompaniment from guitar to accordion, clarinet to banjo. Marshaled by director and accomplished WAAPA graduate Brendan Hanson who kept a watchful eye on proceedings at the rear of the sun-drenched Edith Spiegeltent.

The students and even Hanson himself were colourfully attired as denizens of their 'Cabaret Carnivale'. Jugglers, a gorilla, stilt walker, belly dancer, ladies of the night, men in drag, women in body hugging splendour.

Above all, glorious voices especially when the whole company was deployed to stunning effect in the intimate space.

This was playful, at times a little sexy, satirical, and, especially after the interval, raucous and jaunty.

The highlight for mine came after biting satirical commentary on the Trump-Putin bromance with a stunning version of Sting's 'Russians' with full choral accompaniment and two ballet dancers adding a touch of class. The contrast in tone was unexpected and sobering.

Hanson added a highlight of his own with a rendition of 'Port of Amsterdam' and the finale left the audience with a note of hope before we exited the magical Edith and re-entered the world where Trump serenading Putin is unfortunately all too real.

*originally published at facebook.com/perththeatrereviews

Saturday, 27 May 2017

Someone Who'll Watch Over Me - Irish Theatre Players (27 May 2017)

A fascinating psychological profile of three diverse characters kept hostage chained to the floor in a room in Lebanon. The grimness of the circumstances is leavened by humour (some admittedly quite dark) and creative ways to alleviate the boredom and fear they experience.

I also found the production interesting in terms of different acting styles. Paul Davey and Manuao TaAotonga, both excellent, gave naturalistic performances that drew me into the claustrophobic world in the opening sequence. Grant Malcolm, however, delivered a very theatrical turn that wrenched me out of that world and jarred with the other two for mine.

Quite long with the second half not having the same visceral impact after a change in the character dynamics.

As always, the Irish Club puts on a good spread at interval.

*originally published at facebook.com/perththeatrereviews

Thursday, 4 May 2017

The Lighthouse Girl - Black Swan State Theatre Company (4 May 2017)

Playwright Hellie Turner revisits familiar territory after 2015's WAYTCo commissioned production of The Dreaming Hill for the 100 year anniversary of the Gallipoli landings.

Daisy Coyle played a nurse in that production and has since appeared as the lead in another of Turner's plays, last year's explosive Project Xan and now as Fay Howe in The Lighthouse Girl.

She is terrific here in a dual coming of age story - that of the eponymous character and of Australia itself as innocence gives way to the 'baptism of fire' on the shores of Gallipoli and the harsh realities of war writ both large and personal.

Just as in Project Xan, Coyle projects a radiant innocence and decency that is compelling. Clearly, writer and actor have gelled creatively and it will be interesting to see what may come in future endeavours.

Coyle is joined by a crack cast of newcomers and stage veterans. The play itself feels very much a throwback to old-fashioned storytelling with its own guileless charms. We know what awaits the troops steaming off to war and portents of doom are therefore flickering beats instead of heavy-handed assaults.

The characters represent aspects of the Australia of its day. Coyle and Murray Dowsett (as the gammy legged Joe Taylor) are innocence personified, the latter with a good willed Ocker sense of humour but with a touch of wisdom as befits the older pre-war generation.

Giuseppe Rotondella and Will McNeill are the larrikin spirit of the young country; two outback tearaways off to see the world and chase adventure as they sign up for war. Their chemistry is excellent, forged over the last three years together at WAAPA.

Then there's Benj D'Addario as the widowed father of Fay and Alex Malone, the older sister of McNeill's Jim Finch. They serve important functions as the voices of concern and reason (in the former's case from hard won experience) which grounds the other two strands.

The ending is well executed as 'growing pains' turn to inevitable tragedy but mostly this is a gentle and good-natured tale driven by an immensely likable central performance.

Thursday, 6 April 2017

Megan Washington & WAAPA Jazz Students (6 April 2017)

Before we begin we need to clarify a few things.

1) This was not a gig. This was not a recital. This was a CONCERT. We, the audience, were therefore 'concertgoers' and Megan and the students were 'concert performers'. I thought she explained this very concisely.

2) The aforementioned concertgoers, by overwhelming acclamation, were deemed by Megan to be... "lovely". And so we were. We didn't chat during songs or anything!

3) Not being familiar with the two time ARIA winning singer-songwriter - I'm past the age where I know what an ARIA is let alone who wins them - I discovered over the course of the night that she is a major talent with a fabulous, distinctive voice, engaging stage presence, and a knack for writing songs with smart lyrics and surprising origins (I learnt more about the mating habits of gorillas than I perhaps might have expected). She also wields a mean set of hands on the piano.

4) I further discovered she has a sly sense of humour. Yes, I was "that guy" in the front row. What can I say, you made me laugh. You're welcome!

All this, along with the talented jazz students, instrumentally and vocally, added up to an excellent evening of jazz standards and original songs.

I very much liked that there were different combinations used throughout the roster of 15 songs - a big band combo; a vocal ensemble; two separate band ensembles; and her solo moments on piano. Megan allowed us to see a vibrant personality with that sense of humour, off-beat stories about the creation of a couple of songs, and even a joke to stretch for an instrument change. She is a very expressive performer with physical movement and hands aflutter in Cocker-esque style passion.

Highlights included a stunning acapella rendition of Imogen Heap's Hide and Seek; the first solo number Skeleton Key; and first half closer Fisherman's Daughter with Michael Ellis again impressing on guitar after last month's Bebop. The set following the interval took things up another notch with a most unusual ballad; her original composition How to Tame Lions with the Vocal Ensemble adding real oomph; and a smashing Valerie as the vocals soared and Ensemble 2 cranked up the beat with Chris Musitano featuring on trumpet.

As Megan herself remarked, she only arrived in Perth on Monday and to have such excellent musical backing in that short a time frame and from students no less speaks volumes to their talent. 

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Lord of the Flies - WAAPA (21 March 2017)

Straight off the bat, this is the most ambitious public debut production I have seen for a 2nd year MT class in the past four years. The first slot is always a play but usually incorporates song and dance in one form or another. Apart from some rudimentary choreography this is an unvarnished acting challenge dealing with a classic tale. Further complicated by the fact that the cast alternates each night after interval!

For the first half I saw the 10 member female cast and then 9 of the 10 male students after the break. Those familiar with the novel/tale will know which character is missing.

I can appreciate the experimental nature and the fact we get to see almost the entire group in one sitting. But it comes at a cost given the demands being made here.

Before we get to that, the design elements are strong from lighting and sound to the multi-level set that is made up of various elements such as compacted suitcases, parachute, sails, netting, airplane tyres and a couple of easter eggs for the keen of eye. Thank you Production Manager Dames Long for the brief inspection after the show. There is a reveal that is well disguised then executed and the ubiquitous pig's head is a substantial prop along with the other iconic item, the conch shell.

To the performances and this is where the MT students are stretched. I can recall either at an Open Day or WAAPA Tour seeing first year acting students doing an exercise where they played young children and then old people. This is how the opening sequences felt and well into the first half with over-exaggerated movement and voices, compounded by the female students playing young teenage males. It felt like an extended acting exercise.

This settled down after the killing of the pig when the plot takes on more serious undertones. Alessandra Tonkich increasingly comes to the fore as Jack upping the confrontational nature of the character. Imogen Howe and Stacey Thomsett also provide grunt as members of Jack's army of hunters.

Crystal Haig's performance of Piggy almost felt like she was channeling Matt Lucas and this muddled the tone for me coming across as caricature. Alexandra Cornish was a preppy and very English Ralph and I liked Prudence Daniel's and Emma Bradley's stillness as Simon and Percival respectively. Daniel didn't quite nail the difficult dual nature of her character, however, on confronting the 'Lord of the Flies'.

The second half is much shorter and it's fascinating to see the changeover to the male students who automatically and inevitably bring a more robust physical presence as matters spiral out of control and into open conflict. It would be fascinating to see how they handle the 'innocence' of the opening 'chapters' (I was ambivalent about the projection of chapter numbers and titles onto one of the sails). Andrew Coshan made an immediate impact as a striking Jack and Jarrod Griffiths fared better as Piggy.

The play ends with what felt like another acting exercise as the male students, their characters confronted by the enormity of what has occured, break down and start to weep. It's gutsy to hold on them for so long standing there slowing disintegrating before our eyes but then that's the point.

This production asked a hell of a lot of its cast and while the results were varied the sink or swim approach should serve them well in terms of the acting leg of their triple threat training.


*originally published at facebook.com/perththeatrereviews

Monday, 20 March 2017

Heathers The Musical - WAAPA (20 March 2017)


WAAPA is at its most adventurous in recent years with the choice of production in the first slot of the graduating MT class. Heathers proves to be no exception. Based on the bitingly satirical 1988 cult movie that starred Winona Ryder, Christian Slater, and Shannen Doherty, this captures the over-the-top tone perfectly while retaining the wry observations about teenage suicide, bullying, and depression with what was, at the time, almost a prescient foreshadowing of school massacres.

It's dark subject matter but the surface level presentation is infectious rock music with subversive lyrics; a riot of colour in staging, lighting, costuming, and rear screen projections; and exuberant choreography befitting the age of its characters. It's a fun show with energy and black humour to burn.

Monique Warren gives a star turn in the role made famous by Ryder. She sings superbly, looks fantastic, and I was impressed by her acting throughout. It is an eye-catching performance. Nick Errol is the square-jawed nemesis who nicely plays the arc from cool outsider to something far more deadly. His Our Love is God is a highlight.

Jenna Curran makes her mark as the Queen Biatch and ruling Heather until misfortune strikes. It's a delightfully venomous portrayal. The other two Heathers are played with swagger and style by Daisy Valerio who has a standout moment with the aching Lifeboat while Meg McKibbin assumes the red scrunchie of supreme bitchiness as the body count mounts.

Other highlights:

David Cuny's and Tom Gustard's hilarious Blue; Laura Jackson's beautiful solo Kindergarten Boyfriend; Cameron Steens' and Benjamin Colley's boisterous My Dead Gay Son; and Mackenzie Dunn cutting loose as Ms Fleming in Shine A Light.

As always, David King marshalls a fine orchestra in what is a cracking rock score and no less than Andrew Lewis himself directs this with great pace and playfulness.

A wildly entertaining start to this cohort's final year.


*originally published at facebook.com/perththeatrereviews

Saturday, 18 March 2017

The Blind Giant is Dancing - WAAPA (18 March 2017)


Hail and well met second year acting students! I look forward to getting to know your work invidually and as a collective over the next two years.

Your inaugural public performance in the newly refurbished Roundhouse Theatre accompanied by a welcoming 80's Greatest Hits soundtrack (it's been a while since I've heard a song by Kajagoogoo... actually, did they record more than one?) was certainly ambitious. A tale of the disintegration of a man, dressed up as a political drama; the disintegration of a marriage; and the disintegration of a family.

That all three strands swirled around the one character meant that Adam Marks who played Allen Fitzgerald had an enormous workload and acquitted himself well.

Here's the thing though. I simpy didn't like Stephen Sewell's writing. Characters felt more like positions than organic people; the political shenanigans were confusing with a late plot twist that was implausible; the dialogue was overly florid and didactic; and the interpersonal relationships verged into melodrama and didn't feel credible.

The play, at over two and a half hours, was also very long with those three strands only briefly intersecting to add any sort of dramatic heft. There were a lot of philosophical musings about love, religion, truth and freedom all coloured through a political lens that was hardly subtle.

Having said that, alongside Marks, I liked the work of Lily Stewart who played Fitzgerald's wife and was saddled with a lot of the clumsiest dialogue. The role demanded a range of emotions and while early scenes were a little awkward she handled herself with increasing confidence.

Others to impress were Michael Cameron as the main political antagonist; Jimi Rankin's initial scene played with scene chewing relish; Luke Smith's Ramon, Chile accent and all, though having the most socialist character be a Chilean exile was symptomatic of the overt nature of the piece; and Jarryd Dobson came into his own in the second half as the younger Fitzgerald brother. Thomas Jackson and Jessie Lancaster had their moments as the Fitzgerald parents.

The set was cleverly constructed with several compartments and sliding panels and it was a stylishly costumed show, the men's suits in particular.

It was an interesting introduction to this class who showed plenty of promise but ultimately the play didn't resonate for me.

*originally published at facebook.com/perththeatrereviews

Thursday, 16 March 2017

Bebop - Jamie Oehlers and the WAAPA Jazz Students (16 March 2017)

What a way to commence WAAPA's 2017 performance season with the very first public show in the glorious Edith Spiegeltent now on the ECU Mount Lawley campus after its stint as home to La Soiree during Fringe. It is a venue that is fast becoming one of my favourites with an old world charm that is unique in Perth. 

Add a night of bebop jazz by two talented ensembles of students, a cider from the bar to be enjoyed during the show (a first), and good acoustics from my 4th row seat and this was an enjoyable start to the year.

Standouts from Set 1 were Chris Musitano on trumpet and Malachi George on guitar with the highlight being Lover Man, sung by Reece Clark with smooth as 60 year old Scotch style.

Set 2 gave that song a run for its money as the "quintessential bebop tune" with Thelonius Monk's 'Round Midnight featuring Daniel Khaimov on alto saxophone though the latin flavoured Barbados was the highlight for mine. Standouts were Adriane Galante on clarinet and 18 year old Michael Ellis on guitar.

But everyone played well with plenty of solos and engaging introductions by Oehlers and Galante as respective 'emcees' for their sets.

There are far worse things to be doing on a Thursday night than sitting in a venue with atmosphere and history to burn listening to a distinctive style of jazz, drink in hand, marvelling at the talent of the students and that 'old guy' Jamie Oehlers, Senior Lecturer and a mean sax player in his own right.


*originally published at facebook.com/perththeatrereviews

Saturday, 18 February 2017

Chicago - Koorliny Arts Centre (18 February 2017)

It's fair to say Kander & Ebb's classic is one of my favourite musicals - great songs, great music, sexy, slinky and sassy with that other musical theatre giant Bob Fosse adding his unmistakable stamp.

It's a pleasure to report then that today's sold out matinee was a real treat and a fine start to Koorliny's community theatre season.

Now, despite, ahem, entreatments to get me back in the reviewing game, let me instead nominate some of my many highlights...

The orchestra added the sass and swagger and I was particularly impressed with elements you don't usually hear such as banjo and accordion. Props to Emily Gelineau on violin and a cracking brass section.

Elethea Sartorelli was excellent as Velma Kelly with two standout sequences in I Can't Do It Alone and When Velma Takes The Stand.

Helen Kerr came into her own vocally with My Own Best Friend and was the linchpin in several memorable sequences, particularly We Both Reached For The Gun and Me and My Baby.

Jon Lambert was a most sympathetic Amos giving the character's signature song Mister Cellophane impressive pathos.

David Wallace made for a slick and laid-back Billy Flynn with Razzle Dazzle another well staged sequence courtesy of choreographer Allen Blachford's work which was exemplary throughout.

Callan Kneale threatened to steal the show as Mary Sunshine and both Tate Bennett and Ruth Bennett caught the eye in various roles.

Finally, a highlight for followers of community theatre - Sartorelli and Rachel Monamy (a ballsy Mama Morton) - both recent Finley Award winners, sang the hell out of the duet Class.

Funny, sexy, with a roster of great songs the few remaining seats for next weekend will not last long.

*originally published at facebook.com/perththeatrereviews

Friday, 17 February 2017

Top Five Shows - Fringe World 2017

That's me done for Fringe for another year. A relaxed and entertaining run of 17 shows that I enjoyed very much. Thank you to all the performers, musicians, and the raft of people behind the scenes making it all work so smoothly.

Now, as anyone who follows me knows, I like a good list so here are my Top 5 shows and some notable contributors...

1. LA SOIREE - Led by Captain Frodo and The English Gents with a plethora of superhuman individuals this is like The Avengers of Fringe shows.

2. THE ONE BY JEFFREY JAY FOWLER - My tip for the Martin Sims Award for best local production.

3. WHEN HE GETS THAT WAY - The unexpected gem of my festival experience with a cracking script and a duo of great performances.

4. WRONG DIRECTION - The raucous boy band pisstake that was so wrong it was oh so right.

5. A HOT HARLEM ROMP - Powered by a white hot jazz band this had style to burn.

There were many fine performances but a few in particular that caught my eye...

GEORGIA KING - Terrific in The One playing a woman aghast at the prospect of marriage and all its ramifications.

JEFFREY JAY FOWLER - While I wasn't as big a fan of Price Tag, that play, The One and a reprise of Fag/Stag mark Fowler as a significant writing presence at this year's Fringe.

Special Mentions:

Gabriel Fatin - provided superb accompaniment on piano in the classy Minor Major Marlene.

Lisa Louttit - a wonderfully calibrated comic performance in When He Gets That Way.

Lucy Ross - her rendition of Amazing Grace alone blew the doors off The Brisbane in her very funny musical Guess Who's Coming To Dinner.

Kimberley Harris (as Kimberley Diane) - excelled in a thoroughly charming one person show about chasing your dreams.

Mark Storen - added significant musical chops in The One as well as being a terrific counterpoint to King.

*originally published at facebook.com/perththeatrereviews

Wednesday, 8 February 2017

Fringe World 2017 - Spiegeltent Spectaculars (8 & 12 February 2017)

A Hot Harlem Romp - Perth Cabaret Collective (8 February 2017)

A white hot nine piece band under the command of Jessica Herbert; the irrepressible Jessie Gordon on vocals and sequins with partner in crime the suave 'don't ask me to dance' Mark Turner; joined by performers from Sugar Blue Burlesque adding pizzaz and plumage, this is slinky, sexy, sassy, saxy, bright and brassy.

Watching this in the De Parel Spiegeltent was like stepping into a Speakeasy and it's no wonder songs from Cabaret and Chicago featured.

This whizzed by, indeed it ended a little abruptly at the 50 minute mark. I could have settled in for an evening of 'jazz and liquor' in this thigh slapping, toe tapping romp. A great way to kick off an evening at Fringe.

La Soiree - La Soiree Australia (12 February 2017)

Warning, superlatives ahead.

Last year I was comp'd to review this Fringe World behemoth. I was so impressed that this year I bought 'posh seat' tickets to take mum and dad along for mum's birthday.

Favourites Captain Frodo and Hamish McCann remain to be joined by a bevy of new acts with some truly spectacular inclusions. We had great seats, the service was excellent, and the show was yet again amazing.

La Soiree is a jaw dropping mixture of grace, power, strength and precision with a liberal addition of hijinks and tomfoolery.

The show is perhaps at its best when it goes vertical - McCann's poledance routine is fast becoming legendary; aerialist Katharine Arnold was stunning on the rope in more ways than one; Bret Pfister is coolly efficient and precise on the suspended hoop; and the English Gents reign supreme, this time with a new tower of strength to accompany McCann.

Frodo is the wince inducing contortionist and clown supreme with chanteuse Acantha Lang adding pipes and legs forever. There are other surprises involving bananas and, let's just say, quick costume changes though Scotty the Blue Bunny was a weak link.

The show ends with the gasp worthy Leo & Ursula who add a shot of adrenaline with an act on rollerskates that has to be seen to be believed.

*originally published at facebook.com/perththeatrereviews

Wednesday, 1 February 2017

Fringe World 2017 - Various Locations (1, 7 & 14 February 2017)

A Leading Lady In Waiting - Kimberley Diane (1 February 2017)

For many people music provides the aural signposts to important moments in their lives - memories, significant events, people. For Kimberley Diane that soundtrack is not only for personal highlights and lowpoints but tracks a career drenched in music, notably musical theatre.

The show follows her love affair with musicals and the roles she has played and hopes to play in the future. This gives us an eclectic set of songs from traditional musicals such as Guys and Dolls, My Fair Lady, and Mary Poppins to a couple of Andrew Lloyd Webber's most well known songs, to Jason Robert Brown, Wicked and even a song from The Wedding Singer! All of them wonderfully sung with impressive sound quality and crispness upstairs at Rigby's.

Kimberley is personable and engaging in the intimate space and the insight and context she provides between songs is relatable and charming. Throw in more costume changes than a Cher concert and a surprise makeover and this is a celebration of the passion, commitment, and talent required to follow your dreams and idols.

And when those idols are among the biggest names in movie and theatre history you know you're in for a fabulous show.

Only one more left, Wednesday night at Rigby's. Definitely recommended.

When He Gets That Way by Ann Marie Healy (7 February 2017)

Dear Diary,

Today I bravely set forth from my well of sadness. I visited a magical place where a mistress of the house and her handmaiden regaled me with tales of Him. There was spirits/booze, a ukulele and an itsy weensy piano. I laughed gaily. Many ups and downs on the stepladder of life. Must tell friends.

Let's not beat around the bush - this is my gem of Fringe to date. Beautifully written script - witty, clever, literate, sly - given great service by two terrific performances courtesy of Lisa Louttit and Taryn Ryan. The former plays a vacuous mistress who seemingly knows nothing of real love or even life beyond the strictures of her class; the latter a servant with a peasant upbringing whose burgeoning spark of life inspires and confounds her mistress.

The device of the duelling diaries that feed off each other as the women compete over the lovely mcguffin of 'Him' is astutely calibrated both in writing and performance.

Throw in a clutch of original songs and meticulous use of blocking to represent relative status on the simple set which features a stepladder and you have a smart, funny, and entertaining play that is a must see at the Flaming Locomotive.

I can say with no hesitation, "I wasn't bored, Miss."

Cheek to Cheek - Megan Kozak & Harry Prouse (14 February 2017)

Take two talented performers, an outstanding accompanist, a roster of standards, a comfortable venue, and the threat of puppetry and you have a cabaret show that is like a cool breeze on a summer's day.

But let's face it, there are plenty of shows at Fringe that have those elements (well, except, sadly, the puppetry). What elevates Cheek to Cheek to the top ranks is the outstanding chemistry Kozak and Prouse share. There is an immediate ease to their onstage schtick as they bounce off each other with banter between songs and interaction during them.

This show has a loose framing narrative unlike last year's Dinner Is Served. Here it is their relocation to Melbourne and all the things that come with the struggle to move from 'Burritos to Broadway'. Prouse plays the straight man with consummate charm which allows Kozak to vamp in her screwball comedic style. It's a joy to watch especially those little unscripted moments that feel spontaneous and totally organic.

David Wickham adds class on keyboard with an expressive playing style that is fascinating in its own right. He also shows real joy at his stage mates' antics.

The chemistry is best exemplified during the back and forth of Anything You Can Do. Other songs include I've Got You Under My Skin, The Trolley Song, Smile, and a helping of Streisand. All wonderfully sung.

I'd tell you to rush out and buy a ticket but the run is sold out. And rightfully so.

*originally published at facebook.com/perththeatrereviews

Saturday, 28 January 2017

Fringe World 2017 - Shows at The Brisbane (28 January & 9 February)

Where Be The Winged Apes? - Emma O'Sullivan (28 January 2017)

An empty waiting room outside the door to Hell. The receptionist is missing and Satan is apparently sooking behind the door. A queue of people wait to get in headed by newly deceased bus accident victim Emma in a 'sequined catsuit'.

We know it's purgatory as a) it's hot (special effects, Perth summer) and b) The Girl From Ipanema has been playing on an endless loop.

So begins a very funny one-sided conversation between Emma and Satan as she tries to gain entrance to this 'minimalist Hell'. Smart, likeable, and energetic, O'Sullivan is totally engaging as she plays up to the audience and creatively uses the door as both prop and defacto representation of Lucifer himself.

Just when I thought the premise was beginning to run out of steam, O'Sullivan pulls a reversal that is well-timed and cheekily executed as she sticks the landing with aplomb.

A fun show upstairs at The Brisbane that is destined to win Best Use of a Venn Diagram in a Fringe Show! Last show Sunday, 29 January.

Guess Who's Coming To Dinner - The Immaculate Conception (9 February 2017)

I can truly say that this show engendered an epiphany with its rousing anthemic closing number that has changed the way I see the world, today, tomorrow, and the day after next.

Words that will never leave me. I could share these talismanic lyrics of wisdom but such potent life-changing advice really should be experienced in person.

Of course, the journey to such wisdom is fraught with obstacles and what better way to depict the conflicts of the world than at the time honoured saga of introducing your gay Muslim boyfriend to your Carrie-esque religious mother over dinner? The premise is pregnant with satire and conflict.

What's more, the original songs show an inherent understanding of the musical theatre form driving the narrative forward and illuminating the inner emotional lives of the characters. The Book and Lyrics by Lucy Ross who plays the mother are witty and subversive; the music by Benjamin Colley playful and expertly rendered by Tim How.

Colley plays the son nervous about introducing Ashley Rousetty's Mo to his mother. As the increasingly inebriated Gloria becomes more offensive, Mo rises to the challenge. It's funny and pointed with a healthy dose of satirical bite.

Highlights include the aforementioned ending, a blazing rendition of Amazing Grace by Ross, and a standout setpiece as awkwardeness turns to disbelieving laughter which is cleverly incorporated into song. And sing all three can with talent to burn.

One more show left this Friday night. Go see it, it could change the way you see the world. Just don't sing the closing lyrics to your pastor.

*originally published at facebook.com/perththeatrereviews

Wednesday, 25 January 2017

Fringe World 2017 - Shows by Jeffrey Jay Fowler (25 & 27 January)

Price Tag - The Last Great Hunt (25 January 2017)

Satire pushed to absurdist limits as Groundhog Day meets the mother of all gauche dinner parties. While any production that features Jo Morris and Nick Maclaine amongst its acting numbers as well as the oft sharp writing of Jeffrey Jay Fowler will have its moments, this left me a little cold.

The targets of the pointed barb of Fowler's writing - materialism and the corrosive influence of wealth - were handled in heavy-handed fashion for mine and didn't offer more than surface level illumination. Rich people can be pricks. Really rich people even more so.

But beware large aquatic creatures tripping on your doorstep!

The One by Jeffrey Jay Fowler - Whiskey & Boots (27 January 2017)

Two newly unencumbered people fall into each other before falling in love which leads to thoughts of marriage... which isn't as palatable to one as it is cherished by the other.

First rate performances by Georgia King and Mark Storen; the former in a layered portrayal that incorporated a level of warmth I hadn't seen from her before; the latter with an almost wide-eyed naivety that slowly turns into a hard-earned epiphany. There is an ease and believability to the characters' relationship that is compelling.

The script by Fowler is excellent. There was an 'outburst' relatively early when a specific viewpoint on marriage was explicitly stated. This momentarily made me nervous as I thought maybe the piece would turn didactic. But the excellence of the writing and acting in the set-up and characterisation had me invested in the relationship and genuinely liking each character. The perspective was handled with maturity and paid off in spades in a well executed ending.

The use of Storen's guitar playing, singing, and choice of song added immeasurably as well.

I know it's only the end of week one and there have been many well reviewed shows with no doubt many more to come but this has the Martin Sims Award written all over it. It is also a perfect companion piece for Fowler's terrific Fag/Stag.

*originally published at facebook.com/perththeatrereviews

Tuesday, 24 January 2017

Fringe World 2017 - Shows at The Ellington (24 & 30 January, 6 & 16 February 2017)

Minor Major Marlene - Ali Bodycoat with Gabriel Fatin (24 January 2017)

Who knew that Fringe World had a time machine and that it was located at the Ellington Jazz Club?

This tribute to the formidable career of legend Marlene Dietrich had class written all over it from Bodycoat's performance and 'severe chic' look to the superb accompaniment by Gabriel Fatin on piano to the images from Dietrich's films projectedon the rear wall.

Classic songs abound - Falling in Love Again, Just a Gigolo, Where Have All The Flowers Gone and Blue Velvet among others, beautifully sung by Bodycoat.

Highlights for me - the haunting White Grass; Fatin feeling it during One For My Baby and One For the Road; and the impish The Laziest Gal in Town.

Make 'Em Laugh - The Untold Story of Donald O'Connor by Mikey Halcrow & Jens Radda (30 January 2017)

Having recently seen a big touring production of Singin' in the Rain and the renewed interest in the original movie after the passing of Debbie Reynolds, I was primed for this show. I knew Donald O'Connor played Cosmo in the classic movie musical but little more.

This show fills in the blanks including O'Connor's first wife, military service, and his partnership with a talking mule called Francis. Then, of course, there is his portrayal as Cosmo which earned him a Golden Globe nomination and from where the famous 'Make 'Em Laugh' comes from.

Halcrow makes for a charismatic O'Connor with Radda an excellent comic foil whilst also accompanying on piano. I thought there might have been more dancing but the stage space at the Ellington is fiendishly tight.

The most impressive aspect of the show was the chemistry between Halcrow and Radda. They bounced off each other wonderfully especially recovering from the odd goof in amusing fashion.

Highlights include Halcrow's athletic routine of the title number and a surprise 'appearance' of a legendary Broadway performer.

An entertaining show that shines a light on a varied and interesting career.

Wrong Direction presented by Christopher Dean (30 January 2017)

Chris, Jason, Ben, and Cameron. Remember those names as the boy band gone bad goes global. Surnames are for one hit wonders not sure to be household names from Balga to Boise; Belize to Berlin.

This is a high energy, full on parody, raunchy as all get out explosion of boy band harmonies, dance moves, and unforgettable lyrics. Trust me, there are lyrics you will never forget.

It also showcases superb vocal work from the four WAAPA graduates who lampoon a musical sub-genre while singing the hell out of a mix of original and well known songs.

The choice to cover Boyz II Men's End of the Road early established the talent on display. This was far more than a simple pisstake. Other covers included Uptown Girl and Robbie Williams' Angels.

The originals covered body parts, secrets, an extraordinary 'hymn', and, let's just say, some taboo subjects.

And didn't the audience love it. The reception was wholehearted and raucous.

A terrific show full of sass perfect for Fringe.

Frankly Hank - Radda Productions (6 February 2017)

It is so exciting to witness a rare live performance of the original 'Northbridge, Northbridge' before some hack called Sinatra stole it and retooled the lyrics in honour of a sleepy hollow in the US.

Welcome to the 50s where brylcreem is king and Hairspray is a decade away. Where Robert Menzies is Prime Minister and political correctness is not even a glint in the eye of the most ardent SJW.

Jens Radda plays Hank Finatra, crooner, bigot, and all round cad; drink at the ready, lyrical putdown cocked and loaded. This is a high wire act of pointed satire - and by pointed I mean a shank in your ribcage - which will have you thinking, "did he really just say/sing that... and did I just laugh?"

Radda tackles gender politics, race, sexuality, and religion by distorting the lyrics of famous Sinatra songs and other standards with acerbic asides in between. That he can sing the hell out of instantly recognisable classics despite the lyrical mangling and has an inherent charm helps deliver the, at times, breathtakingly non PC content.

This will have you laughing and squirming in equal measure and as the promo's state, is definitely not for the easily offended. A gutsy show that will perhaps divide opinions but is fearless in shining a light on today's inherent inequalities by reflecting on the past.

How To Co-Host A Murder - APAN Entertainment (16 February 2017)

I'm fast coming to the conclusion that the legendary Kander & Ebb are the soundtrack of this year's summer in Perth. Their timeless songs featured in A Hot Harlem Romp; Chicago opened recently in Kwinana to glowing reviews; and here they form the backbone of a loose narrative involving dancing dames, bumbling detectives, an effusive host and domineering club owner... with a murder of the star attraction. Everyone is implicated including the audience.

It's fun and frothy with audience interaction; some 15 musical theatre songs from Cabaret to Anything Goes and Chicago to Gypsy; colourful dancing girls; and a good-natured vibe.

The vocal talent was a little uneven and there were a few sequences that got away from the cast - notably Cell Block Tango and When You're Good To Mama - however the highlights included Lloyd Hopkins' Mister Cellophane and a funny twist on Lady Is A Tramp with a playful Hamish Briggs.

Briggs was a likeable host though the setup was somewhat repetitive until the missing star is confirmed as dead. Madeleine Shaw added acting chops as Audrey and worked well with particularly Hopkins' hen pecked and lovelorn policeman.

Ben Todd was good on piano as Bobby though it was at times a thankless task with some of the 'bigger numbers' begging for extra oomph. The revelation for me was Andrea Lim as Babydoll who sang well and added character to a ditzy role. The dancers brought glamour and energy with especially Nikita D'Souza catching the eye.

A pleasant romp that was well suited to The Ellington.

*originally published at facebook.com/perththeatrereviews

Friday, 20 January 2017

Fringe World 2017 - Day One (20 January 2017)

Topographs - The Blue Room Summer Nights, Michelle Aitken & Anneliese Kirk

Two pieces, one a philosophical musing on the concept of the rhizome; the other a more frenetic exploration of modern womanhood laced with pointed humour and attitude, told in three movements.

Studded with WAAPA talent the dancing is enthralling at such close quarters.

A fine way to kick off my Fringe festival.

Fairybread - sandpaperplane

A one act musical with a really strong set of songs/music with complementary singing talent that was very good. I wasn't as convinced about the Book though as I was a little confused with the blurring of what was real, what was imagined, and what was recreated.

Putting aside some opening night technical hiccups it's a good venue and the band played well. Each performer had a chance to shine with a featured song among the best of which were Parallel and I'm Just A Girl Tired of Waiting.

Sophie Joske: Household Name - Catface Productions

Confident, funny, and not above some bombastic lip sync style fireworks.

See a 'struggling' comedienne battle a stifling male assh-- director (sorry Adam) for eventual supremacy and creative freedom.

Hear the funniest theory about reincarnation ever.

Learn what a charity mugger is.

A fun show and a perfect way to cap off day one.

*originally published at facebook.com/perththeatrereviews

Saturday, 7 January 2017

Singin' in the Rain - Crown Theatre (7 January 2017)

Great way to start the year taking Mum and Dad to see Singin' in the Rain at the Crown Theatre for their Christmas present.

The title number is spectacularly staged and performed at the end of the first act with the full cast reprising it at the end of the show. No need for a poncho as we were up high in the front row of the dress circle.

Gretel Scarlett was fabulous as Kathy Selden; Nadia Coote a scream as Lina Lamont; and our Don Lockwood, Rohan Browne I believe for today's matinee, was also very good. Jack Chambers, however, stole the show in a brilliant comic performance as Cosmo Brown. It was a thrill to also see recent WAAPA graduate Lyndon Watts crush his feature number Beautiful Girl. The orchestra was exceptional.

There were times it betrayed its movie origins and it took a while to build up a full head of steam but there were several great sequences with plenty of tap and the use of the screen for the 'talking pictures' was hilarious.


*originally published at facebook.com/perththeatrereviews