Liam Green as Uncle Drosselmeyer with Carina Roberts as Clara in The Nutcracker. Photo by Sergey Pevnev (3)
Dance, News, Performing arts, Reviews

Wintry delights

Review: West Australian Ballet, The Nutcracker ·
His Majesty’s Theatre, 17 November ·
Review by Amy Wiseman ·

West Australian Ballet’s enchanting production of The Nutcracker treats audiences to a little magic before they even enter His Majesty’s Theatre. A snowy blizzard falling onto the street outside transforms a mild Perth evening into a wintry wonderland befitting this Christmassy tale.

Inside the auditorium, projected snowflakes fall softly onto the white-dusted set of a London street. Choreographed by Jayne Smeulders, Sandy Delasalle and Aurélien Scanella in 2016, this version of The Nutcracker, set to Tchaikovsky’s iconic and beloved score, follows the story of the Stahlbaum’s Christmas Eve party and is filled with child-like wonder and magic.

Act I opens with Uncle Drosselmeyer (Liam Green) in his toymaker’s workshop, adding some final adjustments to his most prized dolls. As the much-loved, eccentric uncle, Green impressed in this performance, with broad sweeping arabesques, light confident allegro and a hint of appealing cheek.

Wonderfully intricate sets and costumes by design duo Phil R Daniels and Charles Cusick Smith present continual surprises; peep holes open to reveal the whole magical scene, realised by Jon Buswell’s stunning lighting. As the Stahlbaum party unfolds, gathering guests enter a large ball room; the centrepiece, a table laden heavy with presents under a giant festive Christmas tree.

Clara and Fritz, the Stahlbaum children, are excited by Drosselmeyer’s arrival. Dancing the role of Clara in this cast, Carina Roberts was delightfully earnest, while Matthew Edwardson charmed as her boisterous and jealous brother Fritz. A highlight of this scene was the polished and exuberant performance given by the eight young guest artists. The company dancers were elegant in dark gowns and suits, sweeping across the stage with ease, but it was Roberts and the children who stole the spotlight.

Drosselmeyer enchants the children, weaving magic and giving them wondrous toys, and Clara is entranced by her Nutcracker doll. Much later, unable to sleep, she returns to where she has left the Nutcracker, under the Christmas tree, and the real magic begins. There’s an epic battle between evil pirate rats and her now life-size Nutcracker, accompanied by an army of toy soldiers, assisted by Uncle Drosselmeyer. As the King Rat, Christian Luck was sassy and comical in the clever battle sequence that leaves Clara and her Nutcracker victorious.

Matthew Lehmann (Nutcracker Prince) and Claire Voss (Sugar Plum Fairy) in The Nutcracker. Photo by Sergey Pevnev
Matthew Lehmann (Nutcracker Prince) and Claire Voss (Sugar Plum Fairy) in ‘The Nutcracker’. Photo :Sergey Pevnev.

Drosselmeyer transforms the Nutcracker into a Prince (Matthew Lehmann) who dances with Clara before journeying together to a Winter Wonderland. Twelve dazzling snowflakes and a Snow Queen (Claire Voss) demonstrated sparkling footwork, precise formations and graceful port de bras in this kaleidoscopic waltz, complete with softly falling snow. The corps de ballet were again strong in Act II, in which Clara, the Prince and Drosselmeyer venture to the Land of Sweets. The Sugar Plum Fairy’s invitation for the special guests to view a suite of performances provides a showcase of dancing feats. Dressed in candy-pink tutus for the well-loved Waltz of the Flowers, the corps wove through creative compositions, demonstrating beautiful technique and style, supported by the glorious music of the West Australian Philharmonic Orchestra under the seamless direction of Myron Romanul.

Highlights of Act II included the fiery and stylish Polly Hilton with her three Spanish suitors, Adam Alzaim’s fabulously athletic, crowd-pleasing Russian solo and the trio of sweet, striped Mirlitons (Nikki Blain, Stefano Russiello and Chihiro Nomura). While tradition has its value, I found elements of this scene problematic for a 2018 platform – particularly the cultural misappropriation within the Arabian and Chinese sections, which could be easily avoided with updated choreography. That said, both dances were sensuously and effervescently performed.

The Grand Pas de Deux had some thrilling moments and improved in confidence throughout but was a little shaky in the performance viewed. The Sugar Plum Fairy (Claire Voss) showed grace and poise in the main, but her performance felt tense and laboured at times. Her Prince (Lehmann) demonstrated neat turns and skilful, reliable partnering, though his allegro occasionally lacked attack.

A lively and colourful finale brings the story to conclusion, but was it all just a dream? This is a timeless and engaging story with beautiful dancing, stunning design, enchanting music and magic galore that will appeal to the young and the young at heart.

The Nutcracker plays His Majesty’s Theatre until December 9.

Pictured top: Liam Green and Carina Roberts in The Nutcracker. Photo: Sergey Pevnev.

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Ned Kelly
Calendar, Music, Opera, Performing arts, Perth Festival

Music: Ned Kelly

15 – 19 February @ No 1 Mill, Jarrahdale ·
Presented by Lost & Found Opera ·

Lost & Found’s mission is to discover lost or forgotten
works and present them in unique found spaces. This specially
commissioned world premiere invites you into an old timber
mill to discover a very different side to one of Australia’s
iconic figures.

Composer Luke Styles and librettist Peter Goldsworthy weave
together the common myth with lesser known extraordinary facts
about the politics, loves and quirks of Australia’s legendary
bushranger. Cross dressing, pig stealing, bee keeping, opium
smoking, devout republican supporting, armour wearing loyal
family men — that’s just part of the story of the notorious Kelly gang.

Superstar Australian baritone Samuel Dundas takes on the title
role in a new-found space on the outskirts of Perth that provides
the perfect setting, backdrop and link to Australia’s frontier past.

A Perth Festival Co-Commission

Presented in association with West Australian Symphony Orchestra

More info:

Pictured: Ned Kelly, credit: Jacqui Stockdale, Historia


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Jazzmeia Horn
Calendar, Jazz, Music, Performing arts, Perth Festival

Music: Jazzmeia Horn

1 March @ Perth Concert Hall ·
Presented by Jazzmeia Horn ·

Vocalist extraordinaire Jazzmeia Horn has a name that
speaks for itself. With her stunning vocals and vibrant
onstage presence, she has quickly become a young star
worthy of a place alongside the best headlining jazz
vocalists of today.

Since winning the Thelonious Monk Competition in 2015,
she has gone from triumph to triumph with her debut album
earning a Grammy Award nomination for Best Jazz Vocal Album
in 2018.

Drawing on her love for iconic singers of the 1950s and ’60s
like Nina Simone and Sarah Vaughan, Horn has created a sound
that is all her own, exhibiting an expressive range, inspired
scatting and a vivacity that is infectious.

This Festival concert features jazz, soul and gospel classics
performed with a swinging beat and a taste of neo-soul by an
artist hailed as the future of jazz.

With a name that’s easy to remember and talent that’s impossible
to forget, Jazzmeia Horn is the real deal.

More info:

Pictured: Jazzmeia Horn, credit: Jacob Blickenstaff

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Procession Soft Soft Loud
Calendar, Music, Performing arts, Perth Festival

Music: Procession – Soft Soft Loud

2 March @ Fremantle Arts Centre ·
Presented by Hanna Benn & Deantoni Parks ·

Analogue, digital, acoustic and synthetic sounds seamlessly
combine in Procession, a collaboration between Atlanta-based
vocalist and composer Hanna Benn (Son Lux, Boots), percussionist,
composer and producer Deantoni Parks (The Mars Volta, Sade,
Flying Lotus) and an ensemble of Australia’s finest players.

Direct from its world premiere in the US, Procession explores
the spiritual and emotional core of ceremonial music in the
form of a luminous song cycle. Benn’s ethereal vocal textures
are elevated by electronic flourishes and anchored by Parks’
ceaselessly kinetic rhythms, inviting you into a sublime sanctum of sound.

Part of the Fremantle Arts Centres annual Soft Soft Loud series.

Presented in association with Fremantle Arts Centre

More info:

Pictured: Soft Soft Loud, credit: Mallory Talty, Dustin Curtis Boyer

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Silkroad Ensemble
Calendar, Music, Performing arts, Perth Festival

Music: Silkroad Ensemble

3 March @ Perth Concert Hall ·
Presented by Silkroad Ensemble ·

Hailed as one of the 21st Century’s great ensembles, Silkroad Ensemble
are more than just a talented group of musicians. Founded by cellist
Yo-Yo Ma this Grammy Award-winning collective are renowned for creating
music that engages difference, sparking radical cultural collaboration
and passion-driven learning to build a more hopeful world.

An evening with the Silkroad Ensemble promises to be a transformative
experience. Silkroad musicians and composers hail from more than 20 countries,
drawing on a rich tapestry of traditions to create a new musical language
— a uniquely engaging and accessible encounter between the foreign and
the familiar that reflects the many-layered identities of our contemporary
world. Traditional instruments from Armenia, Mongolia and Japan share
the stage with those of the Western classical tradition.

As opposed to a fixed group, the ensemble is composed of a dynamic array of
members from across the globe who come together to present never-to-be-
repeated events. Powerful virtuosity, cultural nuance and a unique melding of
compositional styles make their outstanding performances more than the
sum of their parts.

Perth film lovers voted The Music of Strangers their favourite film of
our 2017 Lotterywest Films program – now music lovers can see this legendary
ensemble perform live in Perth for the first time.

More info:

Pictured: Silkroad Ensemble, credit: Max Whittaker

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Puppet Guy
Calendar, Comedy, Fringe World, Performing arts

Comedy: Puppet Guy

18 – 26 January @ Circus Theatre @ Fringe Central ·
Presented by Fringeworld ·

Africa’s top ventriloquist (he’s the only one, but we all need angles),
and double International Emmy-nominated comedian, Conrad Koch, brings
his critically acclaimed show Puppet Guy to the FRINGE WORLD Festival.
His main puppet character, Chester Missing, is a celebrity in South
Africa in his own right. Chester made world news as the first puppet
in history to win a court case, no really. Conrad has appeared on the
likes of Comedy Central, Comedy Network and at Just For Laughs Montreal.
Armed with an MA in social anthropology Conrad is well known, or to be
precise, Chester Missing, is well known in South and Southern Africa
for political satire and interviewing politicians on TV. He even has
his own TV show, Almost News with Chester Missing. As far as we know
he’s also the first puppet in history to have his own weekly news show.
Chester Missing was also the first winner of the Ahmed Kathrada Anti-Racism
Award, has even written an award-winning book, and has over 370 000 twitter
followers. This puppet is not a dummy.

Their live show, Puppet Guy, is a party from start to finish. There’s a
slice of political satire, and an even bigger slice of sheer puppet lunacy.
It’s an hour of outrageous characters and off-the-wall comedy ventriloquism,
with an African flavor. Touching on African and international politics,
dissecting social issues, and the silliness of a grown man talking himself,
it all comes together in an hour of hilarity for anyone 13 and up.

Conrad just wants to entertain you. Chester wants to talk about the real
issues.Besides, being forced to live in a suitcase is always awkward. In
Puppet Guy, two feather dusters and a slipper become Hilton, the dancing
feminist ostrich; we meet Africa’s most dangerous animal, a mosquito,
called Mosquito; and top it all, like every party, with a DJ: an innovative
puppet made out of a hoodie and sunglasses, who actually DJs, DJ Hoodie.

The show is also highly interactive. Using a mobile phone, Snapchat and a
projector Puppet Guy turns people in the crowd into digital puppets, hilariously
teaching everyone how ventriloquism works, and, using ventriloquism masks,
finds a member of the audience who actually thinks they’re a lion, voices
and hunting skills included.

The show has toured South Africa and Canada to critical acclaim, standing
ovations and sold out houses, with FIVE STAR reviews from both the Winnipeg
Free Press and the CBC.

The show has toured South Africa and Canada to critical acclaim, standing
ovations and sold out houses, with FIVE STAR reviews from both the Winnipeg
Free Press and the CBC.

More info

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Red Hot Chili Peppers
Calendar, March 19, Music, Performing arts

Music: Red Hot Chili Peppers

5 March @ NIB Stadium ·
Presented by Live Nation ·

Live Nation is thrilled to announce that Red Hot Chili Peppers
will make a long-overdue and highly-anticipated return Down
Under in 2019.

Playing their first Australian headline tour in twelve long years,
Red Hot Chili Peppers will bring their unique funk-rock sound and
high-energy performances to Australia and New Zealand for arena
and outdoor shows this coming February – March. Ticket pre-sales
begin next week.

More info

Pictured: Red Hot Chili Peppers, credit: Steve Keros

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Mulatu Astatke
Calendar, February 19, Music, Performing arts

Music: Mulatu Astatke & Black Jesus Experience

3 February @ The Rosemount Hotel ·
Presented by Move and CPN ·

Mulatu Astatke is the creator of an entire musical genre,
Father of Ethio-Jazz, and one of Africa’s most influential
Mulatu was at the heart of Ethiopia’s urban music renaissance
during the latter part of the 20th century. He came to renewed
world prominence through the ‘Ethiopiques’ record series and
the soundtrack to Jim Jarmusch’s ‘Broken Flowers’. Mulatu
continues to explore the relationship between ancient and
modern Ethiopian music, receiving an Honorary Doctorate from
Berklee College of Music in recognition of this.

Black Jesus Experience is Australia’s premier Ethio-funk
ensemble, born of Australia’s vibrant multiculturalism.
Mulatu and Black Jesus Experience met in Addis Ababa in 2009,
starting an enduring musical friendship.

Mulatu describes Black Jesus Experience as, “My favourite backing
band.” Mulatu and Black Jesus Experience have performed at major
venues and events in Africa, Europe, UK, Australia and New Zealand
including Glastonbury, Womad, Bushfire and The United Nations
multiple industry awards for their recordings and tours.

Mulatu’s creative genius is to combine jazz and funk grooves with
Ethiopia’s distinctive pentatonic scales and to contrast these
minimalist scales with richly chromatic harmony.

“Rousing borderless Jazz vision” The Guardian

“A master craftsman and one of the most supremely inventive composers
of all time.” Pitchfork

More info:

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Freddy Kempf
Calendar, Music, Performing arts, Perth Festival

Music: Freddy Kempf in Recital

17 February @ Government House Ballroom ·
Presented by Freddy Kempf ·

An audience with pianist Freddy Kempf is an exhilarating experience
– whether his fingers are glittering at breakneck speed across the
keys or he’s exquisitely serenading you with a deft emotional touch.
Kempf is one of today’s most successful pianists performing to sell-out
audiences all over the world. Exceptionally gifted with an unusually
road repertoire, he has built a unique reputation as both an explosive
and physical performer who is not afraid to take risks, as well as a
serious, sensitive and profoundly musical artist.

Kempf’s strong rapport with Russia and its music, developed over years
of frequent concert engagements and a language fluency to rival the locals,
began in 1998 as he won the hearts of Moscow audiences in the Tchaikovsky
Piano Competition. Few contemporary pianists have the measure of these
iconic monuments of 19th century pianism quite like he does. His often-called
meteoric rise to the stage has now stood the test of time, and while the
music he champions seems to always require nerves of steel and highly
impressive dexterity, his experience and deep understanding of the repertoire
will blow you away.

Freddy Kempf is certainly no stranger to piano enthusiasts, but this
opportunity to hear him perform in the beautiful surrounds of the Government
House Ballroom will be a truly special experience.

More info:

Pictured: Freddy Kempf, credit: Nada Navaee

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Calendar, Dance, Performing arts, Perth Festival

Dance: Kwongkan

16 – 20 February @ Fremantle Arts Centre ·
Presented by Ochre Dance & Daksha Sheth Dance ·

Settle in amongst the trees in the gardens of Fremantle Arts
Centre and be transported to a world where superhero gods are
battling impending environmental and cultural calamities.
Indigenous Australian and Indian performers combine traditional
and contemporary dance theatre with live music, aerial work and
extraordinary visuals in the world premiere Kwongkan.

After their homes, cultures and sacred lands are smashed a group of
First People transform into powerful dancing deities who struggle with
their godly powers as they attempt to save the planet and their ancient
knowledge. These superheroes come to life under extreme conditions in
ritual performances fashioned on the god-transformations of southern
India. As in many ancient stories and dramas the gods here are fallible
and share the greed and self-interest of humanity.

Sheth Dance Company, Kwongkan has been forged over three years of
trips to sacred lands in desert Australia and tropical India. Local
Noongar dancer, actor and director Ian Wilkes and India’s extraordinary
siblings Isha Sharvani and Tao Issaro (the children of dance guru
Daksha Sheth) star alongside brilliant young Indigenous dancer Nadia
Martich, aerialist and Bollywood actor Ratheesh Rajendram and didgeridoo
maestro William Barton.

Arrive early to experience the pre-performance rituals, warm-ups,
set preparation, costuming and body painting.

Chairs and picnic blankets are welcome and food and drinks will
be available for purchase.

A Perth Festival Co-Commission

Presented in association with Fremantle Arts Centre

More info:

Pictured: Kwongkan, credit: Mat McHugh

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