Following on from sold-out shows on Broadway, The Wedding Singer The Musical brings its show stopping tunes and wild choreography to Melbourne's Athanaeum Theatre for some strong 80's nostalgia.
Based on the 1998 classic starring Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore, the musical brings an added spark to the romantic journeys of wedding singer Robbie Hart (Christian Charisiou) and waitress Julia Sullivan (Teagan Wouters). The general plot, for those who have not caught the film, centres around Robbie; a wanna-be rocker turned wedding singer, who lives for love. Having had his heart broken after being left at the alter, fate intervenes and he is introduced to waitress Julia, who is on her own journey to discover if the man she is set to marry (Glen Guglia, played by Stephen Mahy) is her true love.
Charisiou and Wouters’ chemistry is undeniable and had the audience rooting for them throughout the musical. Mahy plays the villain well, particular when he seeks to turn Robbie into another ‘stock market bro’ in All About The Green. One of the highlights about The Wedding Singer was the side characters, each bringing their own sense of humour and wit. Julia's best friend Holly (Nadia Komazec) steals the scene throughout the show with her cheeky one-liners, playful banter and Flashdance-inspired number. Band mates George and Sammy (Ed Deganos and Haydan Hawkins) are hilarious in their quests to steer Robbie in the right direction, even if it's for reasons of fame and success. The most powerful scenes came from Linda (Kirby Burgess) who makes a powerful entrance anytime she graces the stage with her outrageous power ballads. Grandma Rosie (Susan-Ann Walker) and George’s dancing to Move That Thing had the audience in stitches - their energy bouncing off each other seamlessly.
Pinnacle moments in the musical included the film’s iconic songs Somebody Kill Me and Grow Old With You, as well as hilarious tracks like Come Out of The Dumpster, and high-energy ballads including Casualty of Love and Saturday Night in the City. With music by Matthew Sklar and lyrics by Chad Beguelin, the musical is never short of a catchy song - especially one that is dripping with 80’s nostalgia. Speaking of nostalgia, a much appreciated change made to the musical is a fun sequence of celebrity impersonators strutting their stuff, including; Billy Idol, Cyndi Lauper, Gene Simmons, and Cher among others.
This feel-good hit will have you singing, laughing and dancing along; happy to see such familiar a familiar story and characters brought to the stage. The Wedding Singer will be in Melbourne until 5th June, so head on over to their website to catch the biggest wedding of the year!
All female drumming ensemble Drummer Queens took to the Comedy Theatre for Opening Night in Melbourne, after a successful launch in Sydney earlier this year. Created and composed by Joe Accaria, with creative direction by Nigel Turner-Carroll, the cast performed to a packed out venue, with the audience ready to hear the rhythm, see the movement and feel the percussion. With an energy in the air from being around people again in Melbourne's CBD, we were excited but unprepared for what we were about to witness.
Throughout the performance, you will see every type of drum kit imaginable; as well as dancing and flips across the stage, and everything from tap dancing to marimba solos. Each of the extraordinary Australian cast members (Georgia Anderson, Peta Anderson, Stef Furnari, Niki Johnson, Salina Myat, Lisa Purmodh, Claudia Wherry and Ned Wu, with Sasha Lian Diaz and Astrid Holz as swing performers) brought their own characters, rhythm and flawless talent to the forefront, for a memorable show highlighting female empowerment. The track-listing of 25 songs and performances saw the variety of musicians performing tracks such as Beyanet, Sticks on Sticks, Military, Hands On / Hands Off, Drop a Stick, Freedom Builds a Kit, Epic Riser, Glows, Lanterns and Swinging Bass Drums to name a few.
Coupled with spectacular sound production and lighting, the show's incredible choreography by Peta Anderson has a distinctive story to tell. The eight leads all captivate in their own way; wowing the audience with each of their unique talents that they display effortlessly. The set design is almost a character of its own, and the way it is manipulated and utilised throughout is jaw-dropping - especially when it comes to a breathtaking light show towards the end of the show.
This game-changing theatrical production is the girl-power we expected to see in 2021. Looking for something different to watch this year? Then look no further than Drummer Queens, which will keep you entertained from start to finish. If there's one thing we learnt from this show, it's that you should always march to the beat of your own drum (and to pick up a pair of drum sticks).
Tickets are now available:
28 April – 8 May
Performance Times: Tues-Thurs 6:30pm, Fri-Sat 7:30pm, Wed & Sat 2pm, Sun 2pm & 6:30pm
Prices: From $49 (Transaction fees apply)
Bookings: ticketmaster.com.au or 136 100
Photo Credit: David Hooley
Take off your boxing gloves, and put on your dancing shoes - because Billy Elliot is here to razzle Melburnians. Billy Elliot The Musical was brought to the stage by the multiple award-winning creative team behind the film, including writer Lee Hall (book and lyrics), director Stephen Daldry, and choreographer Peter Darling. Add in a score composed by Sir Elton John, and you have a surefire hit.
From start to finish, Billy Elliot is an engaging, comical, and at times, emotional experience. Set in 1980s Northern Britain the musical deals with the coalminers' battle against the conservative government led by the infamous Maggie Thatcher. Times are tough for the community, and especially for the Elliot family as they grieve the loss of their mother. Father Jackie, played brilliantly by Justin Smith, exemplifies the stereotypical father of the time; supporting the strike with his eldest son Tony, who is passionate about the cause. Jackie pushes younger son Billy into boxing lessons, only for Billy to discover that he is intrigued by dancing, after he is asked to hand keys to Mrs Wilkinson (Lisa Sontag), the dance instructor who shares the gym for her dance classes. Sontag wonderfully portrays the role as the chain-smoking, quick-witted dance instructor, who is uninterested in her current students. Her passion is reignited when she sees Billy's talent and the opportunity for him to attend the Royal Ballet School.
Darling's choreography was indeed challenging - asking miners and police of the era who don't like dancing, to dance. Militant moves timed to perfection, weaving in and out, and a clever use of props such as chairs, hats, truncheons and rolled up newspapers was highlighted in the powerful song Solidarity. The song Merry Christmas Maggie Thatcher was a crowd favourite, with a satirical dig at the Iron Lady. Actors wore Maggie Thatcher masks on the back of their heads, swaying and swinging. The grim reaper chased Maggie around the stage amidst an entertaining puppet show, with a monstrous inflatable Maggie Thatcher dwarfing them in the background.
The audience fell in love with Billy's endearing and eccentric Grandma (played by Vivien Davis), who has a habit of leaving pastries in strange places around the kitchen. She steals the show in Grandma's Song, where she recalls her 33 years of marriage - being less than complimentary towards her husband. Other crowd favourites included Billy's friend Michael, played by Oscar Mulcahy, whose whimsical nature provided plenty of entertainment. A highlight was cross-dressing scene Expressing Yourself, where the actors display their dancing prowess amidst giant, colourful dresses on coathangers. The ballet centre pianist Mr Braithwaite (Dean Vince), boxing instructor George (Robert Grubb), and Mrs Wilkinson's daughter Debbie (Ella Tebbutt) also provide terrific comedic relief throughout the production.
There are emotional moments in the show when Billy shows a letter from his dead mother (Danielle Everett) to Mrs Wilkinson, and then writes and sings with her in A Letter of Reply. In both scenes, Everett's angelic voice leaves the audience wanting more.
The show indeed is about Billy Elliot, and on opening night, River Mardesic played the title role (which he alternates with Omar Abiad, Jamie Rogers and Wade Neilsen), and he confidently carried the entire show on his shoulders. He was able to follow every move Darling threw at him, including impressive tap routines with ease. The highlight of his performance was the scene between him and his older brother (Aaron Smyth), as the audience sees him progress into an adult. Their dance is nothing short of impressive, where the lighting transforms the dancers and captivates the audience.
Plaudits and congratulations to all cast members and the production team on their show. Audience members in unison gave a voluntary, well-earned standing ovation after the performance. If you want a fast-paced, action-packed show to see, Billy Elliot is that show. Tickets are on sale now, so make sure you head to their website to lock yours in now!
Photo Credit: James D Morgan (Getty Images)
Located by the Observatory in the Royal Botanical Gardens, we wandered back to the 17th century for a night out to enjoy a show curated by the revered Australian Shakespeare Company. Elated to enjoy a family-friendly, cultural experience, we managed to catch the performance of Twelfth Night;a romantic comedy exploring gender identity and sexual attraction, filled with a plethora of slapstick humour and wit. Having only the contemporary teenage comedy movie She's The Man as our reference point, we kept an open mind as the show began and the performers took to the stage.
Twelfth Night covers the story of a cross-dressing heroine Viola, AKA Cesario (Elizabeth Brennan), who after being separated from her twin Sebastian in a shipwreck, finds herself serving Duke Orsino (Hugh Sexton). Navigating a complicated love triangle, the basis of the performance has Orsino lust over Countless Olivia (Anna Burgess), who finds herself falling for Cesario, unbeknownst to her that Viola is in disguise. A tale of intrigue, desire, jest and love, the cast manages to capture the essence of Shakespeare in bringing to life one of the classics. We laughed at the ruckus caused by Sir Toby Belch (Kevin Hopkins), Sir Andrew Aguecheek (Anthony Rive), Fabian (Madeleine Somers) and Maria (Claire Nicholls) throughout the performance, the ever-apparent commentary provided by Feste (Patrick Schnur) and the pranks pulled on the vain and pompous Malvolio (Dion Mills).
The performance of Twelfth Night was directed and designed by Glenn Elston, and credit goes to all involved for putting on a wonderful show. The cast had the audience sitting on the edge of their seat (or picnic rug) for the entirety of the performance and managed to find the perfect blend of delivering an old classic with a modern and intriguing take. We look forward to heading back to see some more Shakespeare at the drop of a hat. If you are interested in attending the show, or any other productions by the Australian Shakespeare Company, head to their website to get all the relevant information.
Photo Credit: Nicole Cleary
Brought to Rippon Lea Estate's lush green gardens by the Australian Shakespeare Company is Alice in Wonderland. As a family-friendly adaptation of Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, the play features the all too familiar characters we've all grown up with.
Greeting the audience as 'little caterpillars', Alice, the White Rabbit and friends all delivered on plenty of laughs, songs and interaction for the entertainment of the kids. With every scene, the play's characters get progressively curiouser and curioser - one of our favourites being Humpty Dumpty and the Mad Hatter.
At the climax of the play, it's time for the Queen of Hearts' croquet game, which means it's time for some audience participation! Once the adults in the crowd are suited up as the deck of cards, a parade marks the beginning of a game. We won't spoil the surprise for you, but it had everyone cheering along and laughing.
Filled with plenty of music, joking around, beautiful sets and costumes, Alice in Wonderland is a great production to take your kids to. The playis showing at the Estate until 26 January, so make sure you check out the Australian Shakespeare Company's website to book tickets and get more info on this season's program.
Award winning and critically acclaimed play War Horse has returned to Melbourne for another season. Showing at the spectacular Regent Theatre, we were invited to the opening night to witness what was nothing short of a flawless production. Full of heartwarming moments, action packed scenes, and even a few tearjerkers, War Horse is an unforgettable stage show that shouldn't be missed.
Based on the novel by Michael Morpurgo and adapted for the stage in 2007 by the National Theatre, War Horse is the story of young Albert Narracott and his horse Joey. Torn apart by the beginning of World War One, Joey is sold to the calvary and shipped to France, so Albert stops at nothing to be reunited with his beloved friend. Set primarily in Devon, we see a quiet town and its people before, during and after the war, and how it affected them all. Featuring characters that are outrageous (including a sassy goose), tragic, and honorable, it's hard not to get attached to them from the get-go.
One of the obvious standouts in the show is the incredible use of puppetry. With dynamic puppets created by the Handspring Puppet Company, it's easy to forget that there is puppeteers operating the horses, as you see them as live animals. The attention of detail put into operating the characters is jaw-dropping; from the movement of Joey's ears, down to his body moving with each breath. Joey as a foal is clunky and awkward, which is further emphasised by his jaunty leg movements. It isn't until we're shown the transformation from foal to horse, that we first see the full capabilities of the puppets - so much so, that seeing the horse in all its glory had the audience gasp in amazement.
While some stage productions benefit from detailed set design, War Horse is a show that does not rely on many props. With minimal stage design, the show runs so smoothly and makes use of basic props to build out a whole scene. Regardless of this, it is done so well that no one minds the simplicity - it just gives everyone more of a reason to focus on what's really happening on stage. Through the use of a remarkable sound track and effects, the audience is gripped throughout every scene - even to the point of a few of us jumping at every gunshot and bomb dropping. It only draws you in further to the story, and you'll be sure to find yourself sitting on the edge of your seat.
If there's one show you're going to see this year, make sure it's War Horse. The show is only showing at Melbourne's Regent Theatre until 8 February, so get in quick and book in your tickets through their website!
Performing live in Australia for the first time, The Choir of Man is the latest stage show making big waves. Offering a 'pub concert' experience, the show is the perfect blend of singing, dancing and comedy. Starting off at the 2017 Edinburgh Fringe Festival, it's fair to see why the show has become so popular in such a short amount of time. We were lucky enough to be invited to opening night, which just so happened to be New Years Eve - a perfect start to a night of festivities.
Entering the Playhouse at the Arts Centre, the stage is no longer a stage, but a bar named 'The Jungle'. It's an incredible set, and one that the audience is invited to be a part of before the show starts. Featuring a working bar, beer is passed out amongst the audience, and the stage just appears to be another Friday night at the local pub. Once everyone finds their seats, the cast launches into Guns N' Roses' Welcome to the Jungle - a massive crowd pleaser that has everyone hooked from the get go.
The nine performers, led by narrator George, play characters you would know in everyday life. There's your lads, the jokers, the softies, and the melodramatic (there's always one of them). Their musical skills not only cover incredible vocal work, but a massive range of instruments. Throughout the show, a banjo, clarinet, and even a make-shift drum kit is brought out; all played with finesse alongside the show's various pianists. The performers' choreography is another story, and adds another impressive layer to the show. Mid-show, there's a tap dance routine, which was easily one of the show's highlights, as well as some casual back-flipping across the stage.
From the minds of Andrew Kay and Nic Doodson, The Choir of Man's song choice spans across multiple generations; so there is literally something for everyone. Some of our favourite moments included a goosebump-raising acapella of Sia's Chandelier, an acoustic rendition of Katy Perry's Teenage and John Farnham classic You're the Voice - which of course had everyone singing along. While some interpretations of the music are karaoke-esque, the choir puts their own twists on many of the songs, which are more than welcome.
Throughout the performance, audience participation is more than encouraged - whether it's singing or dancing along, or even coming on stage to be serenaded by the choir. The nine performers are nothing short of charming; dragging audience members up for dance, or to join them for a drink onstage. By the end of the show, everyone is clapping along and yelling the lyrics back at the stage, almost as if the entire theatre is the pub itself. The standing ovation at the end of the show is self-explanatory, as is the smiles on everyone's faces as they leave.
Take what you know about choirs, and flip it on its head; as The Choir of Man challenges any past notions of male choirs and easily manages to ditch the cringe-factor. It's a show you'll know all the song for, with characters that you would meet at your local pub. The Choir of Man is showing at the Arts Centre in Melbourne until 12 January, so lock your tickets in quickly online!
Photo Credit: David and Chris Cann
The Australian production of CHICAGO, the multi-award winning and record breaking musical has reached Melbourne, after successful stints in Sydney and Brisbane. Produced by John Frost and Suzanne Jones, the production brings Australia's top talent and locks them away in Cook County Jail where we see them all successfully steal the show. It's easy to see why CHICAGO is the longest running American musical in Broadway and West End history, and the Australian cast manages to bring the glitz, glamour and jazz to life - taking us on an adventure filled with murder, enticing choreography and a lust for fame.
CHICAGO boasts some of Australia's top talent and household names - fame-obsessed murderess and bedroom chorus girl Roxie Hart played by Natalie Bassingthwaighte, and glamorous vaudevillian Velma Kelly by musical theatre star Alinta Chidzey. The pair have an incredible energy on-stage as their rivalry and comradery blossoms throughout the show. Casey Donovan of Australian Idol fame shines as prison warden Matron 'Mama' Morton and the charismatic lawyer of the people Billy Flynn is played by superstar Jason Donovan. Rodney Dobson, who plays Roxie's innocent but lovable husband Amos Hart brings in the laughs, the cast finding the sweet spot for cynical comedy.
Highlights from Act I include Velma Kelly opening with 'All That Jazz', Velma and Mama Morton's ironic 'Whatever Happened to Class?', and the origin story of each inmate with 'Cell Block Tango'. Casey Donovan delivers a stand-out performance of 'When You're Good To Mama' and Alinta and Natalie deliver on the duet of 'My Own Best Friend'. In Act II, we laughed and we cried as Rodney Dobson performs the comedic routine of 'Mr Cellophane' and Jason Donovan takes over with 'Razzle Dazzle'.
CHICAGO is tongue-in-cheek, hilarious and is extremely self-aware. With the characters far from perfect, each rough around the edges and their own personal agenda, be warned that these hardened criminals will find a way to melt your heart.
CHICAGO will be performing at the State Theatre at the Arts Centre until February 23.
For tickets, please click here.
Photo Credit: Peter Brew Bevan
The Melbourne International Arts festival is once again filling the city with amazing live performances and one not to miss is the highly acclaimed ‘The End of Eddy’. ‘The End of Eddy’ highlights the struggles growing up gay in a working class town, told through a very unique stage play. The two actors, James Russell-Morley and Oseloka Obi, each play Eddy (as well as every other character) and manage to seamlessly transition between characters and keep the audience hooked through every beat of the story.
The play is adapted from Edouard Louis’ bestselling memoir ‘The End of Eddy’ which follows Edouard’s childhood in a small rural French town where he doesn’t fit in. The play realizes that it can’t capture the entirety of the book into 90 minutes but stays true to the source material. Edouard Louis (born Eddy Bellegueule) doesn’t hide anything about his childhood in his book and the play follows suit by highlighting the issues of systemic homophobia and the resulting violence, prejudice and isolation. The play manages to balance these themes with emotionally packed tension and unexpected bursts of black humor. The audience is taken through the emotional rollercoaster of Eddy’s life and is given insight into the mindset of a young boy who faces prejudice, shame and guilt for the way he was born.
For a two man play the actors manage to incorporate a large cast of characters by incorporating 4 moving screens into the performance. Every character, from Eddy’s alcoholic father to chain smoking mother and violent brother, are played by the same to actors. They manage to slip in and out of each role seamlessly and interact with the screens so perfectly that you forget that the screens are even there. Both actors bounce between who is performing and who is narrating which means they almost never act towards each other; this helps the immersion into the play as you feel that they are always towards you or speaking to you, rather than feeling like you’re watching from the outside.
‘The End of Eddy’ is a highly unique play and a joy to watch. Few plays manage to break convention and introduce something new to the stage and ‘The End of Eddy’ is one of those, with the minimalist stage decoration and its unique medium of storytelling the audience is treated to a new performance unlike any other.
Set in the fictional town of Power City, the brain-child of award-winning artist Tim Sharp was born.
The story, part-concert, part-puppetry and a world full of imagination, has us follow the journey of Laser Beak Man and his friends, embarking on a moving and uplifting superhero adventure. Performed with over 35 original puppets by Dead Puppet Society and backed with a live soundtrack by Ball Park Music's Sam Cromack, the performance has something for the whole family. You will laugh, you may cry and you will learn what it means to have a kindness in your heart.
This 85-minute spectacular follows local hero Laser Beak Man who gains powers from the underground Magna Crystals that power the city. While Laser Beak Man does not speak, he will do whatever it takes to defend what is right and understands the importance of friendship. When a greedy mayor decides to take the Magna Crystals for herself, rather than share their powers with the world, Laser Beak Man's best friends Peter Bartman and Emily (later dubbed "Evil Emily") are banned from Power City forever. What follows is an extravaganza that includes a giant tomato, floating helium objects, an adorable black sheep, a misunderstood evil robot and a spaceship. Friends become enemies and enemies become friends. But they must all work together to save the day.
The premise of Laser Beak Man is limitless creativity, well thought out and humorous interactions and a stellar cast of exceptional puppeteers. What we learn throughout the performance is that the ability to shoot lasers that turn bad to good comes with great power and an even greater responsibility. The event, co-presented by the Australian Music Vault, demonstrates Art Centre Melbourne's commitment to supporting, sharing and celebrating Australian music stories.
Laser Beak Man was performed at Arts Centre Melbourne from Thursday 19 September to Saturday 21 September.
Writer/ Director/ Designer
Writer/ Creative Producer
Writer/ Original Artwork
Photo Credit: Dylan Evans
We all know the story, no matter what generation we're from. Director Jack O'Brien brings Roald Dahl's classic to life on stage, in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Featuring songs by the Grammy and Tony-winning songwriters of Hairspray, Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman, the feel-good musical will have you feeling like a kid in a candy shop.
MEL Live had the pleasure of seeing the production in all its glory, and we had the time of our lives. Filled with plenty of over-the-top, happy-go-lucky moments, dark humour, and a few jokes thrown in for the grown ups, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is a musical for everyone. Throw in some amazing choreography, catchy songs, and incredible set design, and it’s easy to see why the production has received so many rave reviews.
Charlie himself is played by five separate actors, but on this particular night, we saw Edgar Sterling in action. The production is Sterling’s professional debut; regardless, his portrayal of young Charlie Bucket is spot on, and his delivery and timing is what makes every moment. Paul Slade Smith is Willy Wonka, the quirky, charismatic chocolate factory owner. Slade Smith has previously played Grandpa George in the original Broadway rendition, but his take on Willy Wonka is easily one of the main highlights of the show.
A hit musical wouldn’t be a hit without amazing music, and the show does not let anyone down on that front. From the start of the show, the opening chords will give you goosebumps. Songs from the original 1971 film make an appearance, such as I’ve Got a Golden Ticket, Pure Imagination and The Candy Man. Original songs Strike That, Reverse It and The Oompa Loompa Song are welcome additions, and are catchy as anything.
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is showing at Her Majesty’s Theatre for the next few months. Make sure you get in quick, so you can find yourself in a world of pure imagination! Tickets can be purchased through charliethemusical.com.au or ticketek.com.au
Photo Credit: Brian Geach.
Based on the incredible true story that took place post 9/11 attacks, Come From Away is a strong contender as one of the best new productions to come out of Broadway in recent years. Written by Tony and Grammy nominees Irene Sankoff and David Hein, the musical takes place in the small town of Gander, Newfoundland. Following the shut down of the American airspace in the week of 9/11, the small Canadian town’s airport was flooded with 6,700 passengers from 38 different planes. What transpires is a heartwarming tale of compassion, companionship, and unconditional comradery.
MEL Live were fortunate enough to attend one of the first performances in Melbourne, and found solace in the goodwill and kindness of the town we were transported to. The performance features the right amount of humour whilst taking on a combination of serious issues including racism, loss, grief and more. Come From Away’s underlying theme was always present, despite it being rarely referenced directly. The audience is there to experience the characters’ pain secondhand; feeling their sense of loss, confusion, anger, frustration as well as their need to understand, to comprehend, and to find meaning. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, and you’ll experience the perfect balance of dealing with heavy themes in the most lighthearted and hopeful way.
The musical, with Tony award winning Best Director, Christopher Ashley, and musical staging Tony nominee Kelly Devine, is well crafted with songs that are funny, intelligent and catchy. The audience gets an insight into the lives of the hosts (Welcome to the Rock), the experience of the passengers (28 Hours/Wherever We Are), as well as a series of songs and stories throughout the musical that juxtapose the individual’s experiences with the collectives. As the musical takes place in the series of days following the attacks, we see the passengers and townsfolk of Gander dealing with their own issues in different ways. We see the generosity of the Gander residents, intertwined with the gut wrenching sadness shared amongst all of the people gathered around the various locations. Each individual character (and there’s quite a few!) has their own story and their own experiences; and the audience gets the chance to be invested in every single moment.
The cast does an incredible job of reimagining the stories; jumping in and out of different personas as they each take on multiple roles. They take the audience back to a time where not only the passengers, but the world, were learning how to process their feelings and emotions surrounding the events of 9/11. Recounting each journey and experience that took place in Newfoundland and the surrounding areas, each member of the crew manages to convincingly convey the complex issues our key characters face during the five days that followed. Based on true stories provided to the show’s creators during the event’s tenth anniversary, each audience member leaves with a different story having made the biggest impact during the 100-minute spectacular.
The show’s minimalist set design encourages a focus on the people and their stories - adapting the space as needed to provide the cast with the bare minimum. All the focus is on each character’s stories, as the audience hangs off every word. Keeping in the theme with the show’s setting is the musical score - a Celtic influenced, sometimes folksy, sometimes haunting, backing track of violin and acoustic guitar. The songs themselves are hard hitting and powerful - the lyrics soul-crushing, yet optimistic.
Come From Away is an insightful and feel-good journey into the lives of total strangers, stranded together on a small-town island while the world begins to change. The musical highlights the importance of hope and togetherness, and reminds us of what’s important. What just may be the future of musical theatre, Come From Away is a production not to be missed. You’ll laugh, and you might even cry, but you’ll definitely love what it has to offer.
Buy your tickets now before it sells out at the Comedy Theatre!
Photo Credit: Jeff Busby
Broadway hit Barnum returns to Melbourne for a run at the Comedy Theatre. Following the life of showman and politician P.T. Barnum, the show has been reimagined for Australia by director Tyran Parke, who brings the magic and awe of the circus to the stage. MEL Live were fortunate enough to catch the show on the opening night and are keen to tell you all about it.
P.T. Barnum is brought to life by Todd McKenney himself, who is easily one of Australia’s greatest showmen. McKenney’s charisma and charm makes him the perfect choice for the smooth-talking Barnum, which is only supported by his cheeky improvised moments and audience interaction. A standout moment for us was his tight-rope walking scene - one that had the audience watching with bated breath, and was followed by a massive applause. His unique brand of humour shone through each line, only backing up his portrayal of Barnum as a bit of a dodgy salesman. Special mention goes out to Todd McKenney’s one liner, as he takes to the tight-rope and yells, “Where’s Hugh Jackman when you need him?”.
Supporting the wonderful McKenney is an assortment of talent; featuring Rachel Beck as Barnum’s wife Charity, Suzie Mathers as the ‘Swedish Nightingale’ Jenny Lind, and Kirby Burgess as the Ringmaster. Beck’s portrayal of Charity Barnum was one to behold; her moments on stage were touching, as she supported her husband through thick and thin. Playing the somewhat opposite of Charity was Mathers’ take on Jenny Lind, whose operatic voice was showstopping. Wrapping up a strong female stage presence, was Burgess, who flexes her talent on stage and plays an array of characters; switching in and out of personas with ease.
Wrapping up the cast were the stars of Barnum’s show. With performances from Akina Edmonds as ‘the oldest woman alive’ Joice Heth, Joshua Reckless as General Tom Thumb, and the acrobatic talents of Embla Bishop, Robbie Curtis, Sarah Gray, Matthew Hamilton, William Meagher, Stephen McDowell, Vanessa McGregor and Karlee Misipeka, the circus troupe were complete.
Jaw-dropping was one way to describe the show’s acrobatics and choreography. Featuring stunts such as a drop from a balcony, contortionists, and an aerial silk routine, there was no skimping on the amazing acts the performers were capable of. With the audience captivated by the stunts, the music and songs perfectly captured the feelings and emotions of each character, integral to the overall plot. Some of our favourite songs included the The Colors Of My Life series and reprise, One Brick at a Time, Love Makes Such Fools Of Us All, Black and White and Join The Circus. Musical director Stephen Gray did an incredible job, as did the orchestra backing.
The show’s costume and set design is also worthy of a mention, capturing the essence of the show in the 1830’s. With a lot of thought and effort put in from the team, led by Dann Barber, the bright, bold colours and trim were rife throughout, reminiscent of the story’s period. The clever use of everyday objects as props thoroughly added to the show.
Filled with something for everyone, Barnum is a must-see musical for all ages. Prepare yourself for plenty of ‘oohs’ and ‘ahhs’ as you see this year’s greatest show! Get in quick, exclusively at Melbourne’s Comedy Theatre from April 27 2019.
Purchase your tickets from the below retailers:
ticketmaster.com.au or Ph: 1300 11 10 11
Photo Credit: Jeff Busby
West Side Story is considered to be one of the greatest Broadway musicals of all time, bringing together a creative team considered to be a who’s who of the Broadway world. With collaborations from Leonard Bernstein, Arthur Laurents, Stephen Sondheim and Jerome Robbins, this modernised portrayal of Shakespeare’s most famous story Romeo and Juliet. The musical takes place on the streets of New York and showcases two star struck lovers falling for one another in the middle of a turf war between two rival teenage gangs.
The musical highlights a range of issues in a society fuelled by hatred and indifference, each character holding onto the beliefs of their parents. As The Jets, sons of previous American immigrants and the Sharks, recent arrivals from Puerto Rico battle it out across each social landscape, we find ourselves amazed at the incredible dance battles taking place, captivated by the Mambo and the Cha-Cha. We find ourselves rooting for a forbidden love that emerges and grows from the most unlikely of places.
Produced by GWB Entertainment, Opera Australia and BB Group, West Side Story directed and choreographed by Joel McKneely brings to life a tale known all too well with a young cast of talented performers.
Tony played by Todd Jacobssen and Maria by Sophie Salvesani are exceptional on stage, their adoration and yearning for each other quintessential as they perform iconic tracks including Maria, Tonight and Somewhere. It’s easy at times to forget that the musical is based on the world’s most important tragedy, and the performance has you reaching for tissues as the pair attempt to unite against all odds. In a place fueled by hatred between the groups, it becomes apparent there is no room for their love.
Special mentions to Chloe Zuel as Anita, Noah Mullins as Riff and Lyndon Watts as Bernardo whose performances keep us on the edge of our seats.
The music, originally written by Leonard Bernstein, is flawlessly performed each night by Orchestra Victoria, a 31-piece ensemble orchestra and Musical Supervisor and Conductor Donald Chan at the helm.
West Side Story, a beloved classic, is currently on at the State Theatre in Melbourne.
You can catch West Side Story from April 6-28 or see it on stage throughout 2019 in Sydney, Canberra or Adelaide.
The story of Frankie Valli and the Four Season returns to the stage in Jersey Boys; an award winning, happy-go-lucky documentary take on the success story of four boys from New Jersey making it big in the music world. The jukebox style musical’s track list will have you tapping your feet in no time, no doubt due to the massive dose of nostalgia. We were lucky enough to catch the show in its opening weeks, and were blown away by the onstage talent.
You obviously can’t have a hit musical without amazing vocals, and for that, Jersey Boys does not disappoint. Ryan Gonzalez stars as main man Frankie Valli, who sings with an incredible range and spot on impression of Valli’s voice. Supported by Cameron MacDonald as Tommy DeVito, Thomas McGuane as Bob Gaudio and Glaston Toft as Nick Massi, the Four Seasons are rounded out perfectly. Belting out tracks such as Bye Bye Baby, Cherry, Walk Like a Man, and My Eyes Adored You, the cast constantly had the audience cheering out, and several times throughout, in a standing ovation.
The rise (and fall) of the band was documented from the four different perspectives of each band member, giving the audience an in-depth insight into the stories behind the hits. Each perspective offered a better understanding of each character; from Tommy DeVito’s pride and arrogance, to Nick Massi’s goofiness represented by a single line throughout the show; ‘I should start a band…’ The band members used as narrators throughout was an effective device, providing a welcome change of pace through the two acts.
The show isn’t all laughs, reminding us that life isn’t easy, and even the best of us have our low moments. The costs the band pays throughout their career is highlighted through the loss of loved ones, failing relationships and financial troubles - all something audience members can relate to. This is only amplified by the cast’s intense emotion, and it’s fair to say that during a couple scenes of the show, a few tissues were brought out.
While the set design is minimal, the director and cast make the most out of what they have - and pull it off effortlessly. After all, the audience aren’t at the show for the practical effects. Certain songs are supported by pop art-esque frames shown in the back drop.
One of our favourite scenes was a montage of shows the band play, which comes to a climax when the cast shifts to face the back of the stage, and the audience is watching the band’s set as if they were backstage. Another highlight of the show came from the band’s ‘TV appearances’, in which we see the band play, while cameras also ‘film’ the performance, which is shown on the backdrop. It was these live performances that gave the audience a gritty, behind-the-scenes look into the lives of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons.
Jersey Boys is showing for 8 weeks only, until the 14 April at Regent Theatre. Get in quick before tickets sell out - this is one not to miss! To purchase tickets, click here.
Photo credits: Jeff Busby
Andrew Lloyd Webber’s School of Rock: The Musical is a Broadway and West End smash hit rock musical, an adaption of the 2003 film brought to live on stage. Currently on at Her Majesty’s Theatre in Melbourne, the cast of Dewey Finn and 36 children across the production aims to capture the essence of what it truly means to ‘stick it to the man’.
The music written by Andrew Lloyd Webber and lyrics by Glenn Slater brings a unique perspective to a well-known story - leaving us with a greater insight into the life and struggles of both Dewey Finn and each of the students attending Horace Green. From the opening scene with a performance from No Vacancy, through to the final encore performed by the School of Rock, the production encourages audience members to settle into the most important Battle of the Bands concert to date.
The musical goes a lot deeper than a band getting ready for a performance; speaking volumes to providing a voice to children’s most inner hopes, needs and desires. Whether it be dealing with issues such as attending a new school, being pushed towards a certain career or lifestyle, or not being heard by their parents, School of Rock successfully empowers the youth to follow their dreams and to shoot for the stars. Dewey Finn teaches the students of Horace Green that life is happening all around them and that they are capable of anything they put their minds to. In return, he learns what it’s like to find satisfaction and purpose.
The real strength of the Australian production of School of Rock is the exceptional casting, with a well-rounded level of experience from the adults and pure talent from the children. Performing alongside the orchestral pit, the child leads performed their own instruments live throughout the performance, showcasing their musical talent as triple-threats - singing, dancing and acting.
Brent Hill plays the wannabe rock star and loveable loser Dewey Finn; the moochy, messy best friend and housemate of substitute teacher Ned Schneebly. Hill perfectly understands what the audience expect from the main role, and both his singing and mannerisms throughout the show were on par with Jack Black’s famous performance from the original movie. With past credits including Rock of Ages and Little Shop of Horrors, Hill was perfectly cast to teach the kids a thing or two about rock and roll.
Teacher’s pet Summer Hathaway was flawlessly portrayed by Stephanie Kipnis, who encapsulated the essence and neediness of the character with ease. Her presence was commanding in all aspects - often leading to her stealing the scene and the laughter. Guitarist Zach Mooneyham was captured by Zane Blumeris; whose guitar skills were mind-blowing. Blumeris’ character development throughout the show was great to watch, and needless to say, Zach's struggles with his father struck a chord. Katie, the School of Rock’s bassist, was played by musical theatre newcomer Remy Grunden, who pulled the iconic ‘bass face’ seamlessly. Grunden provided constant comic relief, which was more than welcome in an already hilarious stage show.
At the end of the performance, it becomes clear that the results of the competition that were once deemed so important have become irrelevant to all characters on stage, and each one of them has shown a level of personal growth and acceptance of one another that in itself is the real victory.
School of Rock is still in session. Throw away your textbooks. Your new homework assignment is to follow your passion and grab a ticket here.
Photo credits: Matthew Murphy