Part of female figure with Miss Westralia banner across chest and holding bunch of flowers
Calendar, June 19, May 19, Musical theatre, Performing arts

Musical Theatre: Miss Westralia

21 May – 8 Jun @ The Blue Room Theatre ·
Presented by Blonde Moment Theatre ·

Australia’s Pageant Past Hits Broadway.

When a Geraldton girl is crowned the unlikely winner of the first Miss Australia competition, she becomes a celebrity overnight. Discover Australia’s pageant past accompanied by some of Perth’s most exciting vocal talent. This musical comedy will have your toes tapping just inches from the action, as we uncover this untold piece of local history.

Composed by the award-winning team behind On Hold-A Musical (Best Aussie Short: Flickerfest, Dendy Top 10: Sydney Film Fest), the music and lyrics fuse nostalgia with contemporary wit.

Join us for this world premiere as we do the Charleston from outback Australia to the roaring cities of the USA.

Based on a true story, Miss Westralia is set to be Australia’s next hit musical!

More info
W: www.blueroom.org.au/events/miss-westralia/
E:  info@blueroom.org.au

Pictured: Miss Westralia, credit: Tasha Faye

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Musical theatre, News, Performing arts, Reviews

Cross cultural epic

Review: Orana Productions, “Mimma: A Musical of War and Friendship” ⋅
Regal Theatre, April 11 ⋅
Review by Claire Trolio ⋅

A politically tumultuous, pre-WWII Italy meets the swinging London district of Soho in a brand new production which opened at the Regal Theatre last night. Mimma: A Musical of War and Friendship is the product of a chance meeting between the two WA based creatives from librettist Giles Watson and composer and producer Ron Siemiginowski.

The score includes both high energy, musical theatre numbers and operatic arias. It’s a curious combination that reflects the varied styles of Siemiginowski who had already written some of the music before he and Watson embarked on their creative venture. As such, the contrasting styles do feel a little incongruous, but the production solidifies in the second act which is more operatic in style.

Mimma (Mirusia Louwerse), Sarah (Holly Meegan) and Uncle Lorenzo (Igor Sas) at the Soho nightclub. Photo by Gary Marsh

Mimma is about how war wreaks havoc on the lives of innocent people on both sides, but at the crux of it, the story is about two young women: passionate, Italian journalist Mimma (Mirusia Louwerse) and London nightclub singer Sarah Parker (Holly Meegan). Turin is becoming increasingly dangerous for Mimma and her family, who refuse to stay silent under the reign of Mussolini, so she seeks refuge with her uncle (stage veteran Igor Sas) in his Soho nightclub. There she meets the kind-hearted, tea drinking, singer Sarah and the pair quickly become friends.

It’s their spirits and their careers that define the two female leads. Both women are strong, politically aware and unwavering in their values of freedom and fairness. Sarah is a dedicated singer who commands the stage while her ally Mimma is a journalist whose vocation remains at the core of her sense of self and ultimately creates a reason for her imprisonment. It’s refreshing to see a new work that champions women who have men in their lives but who are never defined in relation to them.

The casting of these two characters, then, is vital to the success of the production and fortunately Louwerse and Meegan delivered as Mimma and Sarah respectively. Accomplished soprano Louwerse displayed her vocal dexterity brilliantly in the second act. But it was Meegan who left the audience gasping and sighing with delight with her heavenly vocals. Meegan’s vocal clarity astounded the audience and was a true highlight of the performance.

The talents of Jason Barry-Smith as Mimma’s brother Aldo, and Suzanne Kompass as her mother Ada were partially obscured behind the booming music and chorus in Act One but both shone performing the Italian language arias in Act Two.

Uncle Lorenzo (Igor Sas) and Sarah (Holly Meegan). Photo Gary Marsh.

The Perth Symphony Orchestra performed expertly under music director/conductor Sean O’Boyle, whilst director Adam Mitchell proved once again why he’s in high demand right now.

After a dramatic couple of hours, Mimma concludes with some distinctly local flavour. The titular character and her surviving family move to Western Australia, docking at Fremantle and forging a new life on Australian soil. It’s a tidy package for local audiences to relate to, one which serves as an important reminder that those fleeing war-torn countries deserve to be welcomed and protected, and celebrates the ways in which immigrants enrich the cultural landscape. A fitting end to a cross-cultural epic.

Except that it wasn’t the end. An already a lengthy performance was unnecessarily extended with a reunion scene between Mimma and Sarah, where events the audience had seen were recounted. It was a bit too neat and tidy and left the audience wanting less, not more.

That said, the standing ovation said more than a bit of fidgeting did. The creatives behind Mimma have come together to build something new, unique and – with a little more time at the drawing board – world-class.

Mimma continues at The Regal Theatre until 21 April.

Pictured top: Mirusia Louwerse (Mimma) and Holly Meegan (Sarah) have got each other’s back in Mimma. Photo Gary Marsh.

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A group of men singing on stage
Musical theatre, News, Reviews

Bleak, brutal and bittersweet

Review: WAAPA 3rd year Music Theatre, Company ·
Roundhouse Theatre, WAAPA, 19 March ·
Review by Ron Banks ·

“What’s the point of getting married?” bachelor Bobby is asked by one of his many married female friends.

“Er, for company?” queries Bobby, uncertain of why one would commit to a lifetime with the same person, underlining at the same time the emptiness and loneliness of his own unmarried existence.

First performed in the early 1970s, Sondheim’s musical Company is now a timeless reminder that for many young people, getting married – and staying married – is a vexatious state of mind, and that the resolution of marital problems is never going to be easy.

The famous music theatre composer’s slate for the sketches that form Company is his home city of New York, a place where, it appears, hundreds of thousands of marriages go to die. Despite the slick New York night-clubs and bars, chic apartments and even the railway station that comprise its backdrop, Sondheim’s take on young relationships is bleak and bitter-sweet.

The play is a series of vignettes about young people who get married, the focal point of which is the one who does not get married. Bobby is a bachelor celebrating his 35 years in the single state with five couples who have opted for marriage as a resolution to the problem of curing loneliness. Love doesn’t seem to come into it, although they protest that it does. Well, these are cynical New Yorkers, you know, and this is a Sondheim scenario where too much sentiment is not good for you.

This WAAPA production is played in the round, an appropriate metaphor for these young couples as they circle around Bobby, trying to get him to get him to commit to marriage so he can be as unhappy as they appear to be.

Bobby has three girl friends over the course of the evening, but he is not really a seducer in the Don Juan league. Rather he is a confused young man who has not really found love and he backs out of relationships before they can get too serious.

We get to know more about Bobby through his interactions with his married friends, at the same time catching glimpses of his friends’ fears and foibles in regard to that particular state of legally-sanctioned relationship.

Conor Neylon captures Bobby’s personality and doubt with a convincing sense of confusion, and his delivery of the often-difficult Sondheim songs grows in confidence as the show moves through its many short, snappy confrontations.

This is a musical of set-pieces, with each couple showing what their lives have become in song, dialogue with Bobby, and the occasional spot of group choreography.

Each performer gets the chance to shine, and the graduating students make the most of their opportunities with style and pizzazz. Their outward sparkle is a poignant counterpoint to their characters’ inner insecurity and doubt. WAAPA director Andrew Lewis has wrangled their combined talents into a stylish ensemble. The costumes and settings are timeless, neither transposed to the present day, nor anchored back in the 70s. (The smart phones are the only disorientating clue that it might be the present.)

There is a stand-out performance from Annabelle Rosewarne as Amy, the girl who, on her wedding day, suddenly decides she does not want to marry Paul. She expresses her fears in a patter-song worthy of Gilbert and Sullivan but far more hip.

Company is famous for its song “Ladies Who Lunch”, delivered with convincing mockery and cynicism by Victoria Graves, as Joanne, whose marriage a second time is not going well.

Company is quite brutal in its dissection of modern marriage, but strangely fascinating and hugely entertaining in the hands of these young WAAPA performers.

Brutal yet honest.

But that’s the point of Sondheim, isn’t it? It’s why we love his work.

Company runs until March 23.

Pictured top: Conor Neylon, as Bobby, with the male ensemble. Photo: Jon Green.

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Poster for Mimma the Musical
April 19, Calendar, Musical theatre, Performing arts

Musical Theatre: Mimma: A musical of War and Friendship

April 9 – 22 @ Regal Theatre ·
Presented by Orana Productions ·

A West Australian original production, featuring Mirusia Louwerse as Mimma, Holly Meegan as Sarah and a wonderful interstate and local cast and crew. Directed by Adam Mitchell and featuring the Perth  Symphony Orchestra under musical direction of Sean O’Boyle. Blending jazz, opera and musical theatre,  ‘Mimma’ is a musical that bridges continents and cultures.

More info
W: https://www.mimmathemusical.com.au/
E:  info@mimmathemusical.com.au

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Fringe World, Music, Musical theatre, News, Theatre

Ambition and emptiness

Fringe World review: New Ghost Theatre, Paper Doll ·
&
FUGUE, Indigo Keane and Nicole Harvey, Silence My Ladyhead ·
Blue Room, February 12 ·
Review by David Zampatti ·

There was something about New Ghost Theatre’s Paper Doll that bugged me until I looked back over the 35-odd productions I’ve been to so far this festival season.  Then I realised it was just about the first play, rather than theatre (or other related stuffI’d seen.

Fourth wall firmly in place; two human beings talking to each other; a distinct linear narrative; start (young woman opens door to a bedraggled, soaking older man), middle (they talk it becomes clear he is her father, he’s been inside and her friends have warned her to keep clear of him) and end (their dark secret is revealed).

Katy Warner’s play, conceived as a response to Arthur Miller’s masterpiece A View From The Bridge, is erudite, powerful and raw, reminiscent in many ways of David Harrower’s mighty Blackbird.

It’s perfectly cast (Hayley Pearl is the woman, Martin Ashley Jones her father, both are totally convincing).

Lucy Clements, who has launched a serious career since graduating from WAAPA and delivering the impressive Fracture to the Blue Room in 2015, directs here, and, by and large, it’s a strong piece of work. But I take issue with two of her (or her and Warner’s) decisions.

The first was to perform an essentially naturalistic piece on a completely bare stage. What purpose there was in not providing even a table and a couple of chairs for the actors to work – and put their beers and chips on – defeats me. It created an unnecessary and unhelpful unreality in a piece that didn’t need it.

The other, far more important quibble, was their lack of control of the piece’s temperature. Even though Paper Doll is only 45/50 minutes long, it still needed the character’s heat to rise along with its tension and reveal.

Warner/Clements got them up too far, far too fast, which meant that that the play began to plateau when it should have still been peaking.

But they are the risks you take when you eschew easy allegory or dystopia, or all the other shortcuts that mortal contemporary theatre-making is prey to, and resolve to write an actual play. It’s hard, bloody hard, and I commend them all for doing it.

Nothing I could honestly say about Silence My Ladyhead (apart from noting its cool title) would be likely to encourage you to see it.

It’s a pity because its star Indigo Keane has quite a bit going for her (in a previous review I described her as “a pneumatic, diaphanous gobsmack” and, as this show uses the quote in their publicity, I assume I’m at liberty to repeat it), but this is not the vehicle for her talents.

The piece starts promisingly enough with her long-limbed, smoke-wreathed, darkest-legal-blue tinted emergence from the shadows (assumedly as Arachne, the mortal weaver who challenged Athena on the loom and got four more limbs for her hubris), but nothing after that lives up to that promise.

Her songs (I Was Made for Loving You, a bewildering Stand By Your Man, PJ Harvey’s To Bring You My Love) all suffered from really limp backing tracks that left her with nowhere to go, and made her attempts at a sort of Patti Smith-like anti-performance stance lacking the Patti Smith bit.

Sorry, but after shows like Bitch on Heat, Feminah and last year’s Power Ballad, Silence My Ladyhead was, um, devoid.

Paper Doll is playing at the Blue Room until  Feb 16.

Silence My Ladyhead is playing at the Blue Room until  Feb 13.

Pictured top: Major disappointment – Indigo Keane in Silence My Ladyhead.

    

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Ladies all dressed in black as shop assistants in a 1950s store
Calendar, March 19, Musical theatre, Performing arts

Musical Theatre: Ladies in Black

1 – 17 March @ Stirling Theatre, Innaloo ·
Presented by Playlovers ·

An Australian musical with a warm heart.

Playlovers present Ladies in Black, a new Australian Musical with a book by Carolyn Burns and music and lyrics by Tim Finn. Popularised by the recent Australian feature film, it is based on the novel  The Women in Black by Madeleine St John.

Set in Sydney in the 1959, bookish school leaver Lisa joins the sales staff in fashionable department  store, F.G. Goodes. Over a summer that changes her life, she befriends the colourful characters of the women’s clothing department. Each is on the precipice of change – facing independence, working for a living and discovering what it means to be a woman.

Described by The Age as “a unicorn of the stage: a full-blown, home grown musical that actually works” and “probably the best Aussie musical since Priscilla went global.”

“Tim Finn’s songs range from Broadway-inspired numbers to true blue ballads, from witty patter songs to shares of blues and jazz standards. They’re beautifully integrated with the dramatic action, and the comic lyrics are priceless.” (The Age) Directed by Kimberley Shaw (Bickley), director of multiple prestigious Finley Award Winning Musicals, it features Musical Direction by Tyler Eldridge (Pickering Brook), and choreography by Madeleine Shaw (Bickley), and has an outstanding highly renowned cast.

Playlovers, are being hosted by Stirling Players, while they await re-entry to their traditional home at Hackett Hall, Floreat, with this production being performed at Stirling Theatre, Morris Place, Innaloo.

“Ladies in Black” plays at 8pm Mar 1, 2, 7, 8, 9, 14, 15 and 16 with 2pm matinees on Mar 3 and 10. Tickets are  $25 (Adult), $20 concession and group bookings – book now at www.playlovers.org.au/online-bookings or bookings@playlovers.org.au or 0415 777 173

More info
W: www.playlovers.org.au
E:  info@playovers.org.au

Pictured: The Ladies of Goodes Department Store

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One man stands on a small table others dance in front of him
Musical theatre, News, Performing arts, Reviews

Fiction at the forefront of Mandela tribute

Review: Madiba: The Musical ·
Crown Theatre, 3 January ·
Review by Claire Trolio ·

On the surface there’s a lot to like about Madiba: The Musical. Originally written and composed in French by Jean-Pierre Hadida with co-author Alicia Sebrien, the work has been adapted into English by Dylan Hadida and Dennis Watkins in this new, Australian production. Directed by Pierre-Yves Duchesne, it’s a fast-paced, frenetic story about one of the world’s most celebrated revolutionaries, Nelson Mandela.

Aside from some wavering South African accents, the cast delivered a flawless performance on opening night, packed with booming vocals from Ruva Ngwenya, Tarisai Vushe, Tim Omaji, Barry Conrad, Madeline Perrone and Blake Erickson. The indefatigable ensemble, led by Tiana Canterbury, kept the energy high as they performed Johan Nus’s dynamic steps, in striking costumes (designed by Sabrina Gomis Vallée) which evoked the colours and streets of South Africa over four decades.

Dancer, rapper and singer David Denis was a crowd favourite as the narrator, weaving together the story which spans 42 of Mandela’s 95 years, whilst Perci Moeketsi offered depth and dignity in the title role.

Yet despite the star power spilling from the stage, Madiba: The Musical doesn’t do the Mandela story justice.

Mandela seems more of a background character than the main event. The show skips lightly over much of his life, choosing instead to focus in depth on fictional characters. His activist wife, Winnie, is also given a smaller part than befits her life’s achievements. While Ruva Ngwenya performed the role of Winnie with grace, I was still left feeling that a strong voice had been silenced. It is disappointing that, with the wealth of material available in the true stories of Nelson and Winnie Mandela, so much time is spent on fabricated scenarios.

In particular, too much stage time is given to an interracial love story between idealistic Helena and aspiring artist and activist Will, as well as to Helena’s father Peter Van Leden, a racist white police officer who later struggles to come to terms with guilt about his actions. The message here is unequivocal: oppression doesn’t just hurt the oppressed, but the oppressors too, and the scars left on a nation’s psyche as a result of brutal injustices run deep on both sides. It’s a valuable lesson but it doesn’t need to be taught through a white lens. Even the police shooting of a black individual becomes more about the effect it had on the white policeman than the man whose life was stolen, or his family left behind. Does the story benefit from these white voices? Not for me.

While Madiba: The Musical may not hit the mark as a tribute to Mandela, it does, nonetheless, make for an entertaining and thought-provoking couple of hours. This is an uplifting tale of good triumphing over evil and a celebration of resistance, culture and, of course, freedom.

Madiba: The Musical plays Crown until January 12.

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Kate, Gus and the Other Kids
Calendar, Fringe World, Musical theatre, Performing arts

Musical Theatre: Kate, Gus & The Other Kids

31 Jan – 2 Feb @ Subiaco Arts Centre ·
Presented by Neylon & Peele ·

‘Gus and his band want top place on the Hottest 100, Kate just wants to get the f**k out…’

The brainchild of Neylon & Peele; ‘Kate, Gus & The Other Kids,’ is a never before seen Australian musical comedy with a rock/rap/ alternative/indie/pop score that dares to be anything but conventional.

Imagine if Once (The Musical), John Butler and Scott Pilgrim had a baby. This is that baby.

More info:
www.facebook.com/KateGusOtherKids/

Pictured: Kate, Gus & The Other Kids, credit Marshall Stay

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Madiba the Musical
Calendar, January 19, Musical theatre, Performing arts

Musical Theatre: Madiba the Musical

2 – 12 January @ Crown Theatre Perth ·
Presented by Crown Theatre ·

Energetic and compelling new stage show Madiba the Musical – a Celebration of the Life of Nelson Mandela opens in Melbourne on October 4 and will tour to Sydney, Canberra Perth and Adelaide. Madiba the Musical, which celebrates the life of the former South African leader, who would have turned 100 in July this year, is interwoven with stories of the fight against apartheid and forbidden love in a troubled land.

Playing the role of Nelson Mandela is Perci Moeketsi, a South African star of stage, television and film, who dared to dream the impossible, encouraged by Mandela’s own words: “It is impossible until it’s done”.

Popular Australian Actor and singer, Tim Omaji, also known by stage name Timomatic, plays the role of Sam Onatou, a young black activist who is arrested in South Africa. In prison he meets the man known as “Madiba”, Nelson Mandela.

More info
W: www.crownperth.com.au/entertainment/live-theatre/madiba-the-musical 
E : entertain@crownperth.com.au

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The Envelope Please
Calendar, December 18, Musical theatre, November 18

Musical Theatre: The Envelope Please

22 Nov – 8 Dec @ Limelight Theatre ·
Presented by Limelight Theatre ·

A Celebration of Academy Award-winning songs is set to hit the right note for
Limelight Theatre’s last season of the year. Devised and directed by Gillian Binks, The Envelope Please pays homage to the best  original song category first introduced to the Oscars in 1934. While the movies weren’t always winners, songs that came from them proved to be and many have gone on to become classics. The Envelope Please presents some of the best from the past 84 years through song and dance, including Over the Rainbow, White Christmas, The Way We Were, Fame,Arthur’s Theme, Up Where We Belong, What A Feeling, (I’ve Had) The Time of My Life, Beauty and the Beast, My Heart Will Go On and Let It Go, among others.

Binks described the show as a colourful, musical tribute.“I was keen to do a true theatre Christmas show, which gave opportunities to inexperienced and young performers alongside the more seasoned players,” she said. “But it is challenging getting more than 30 people together all at the same time.”

First performing in Godspell in 1986, Binks has gone on to direct and choreograph
shows for Limelight, Playlovers and Yellow Glass Theatres and the Goldfields
Repertory Club over the years. She directed The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas in 1998 and choreographed Cabaret in 2000, both winners of best musical at the annual Finley Awards.

“The Envelope Please is the result of me wanting to do something fun and colourful in honour of my dear friend Terry McAuley, a Playlovers stalwart whom we lost this year,” Binks said.

The Envelope Please plays at 8pm on 22, 23, 24, 29 , 30 November and on 1, 6 , 7 , 8 December and at 2pm on 25 November.

Tickets are $21, $18 concession and $15 children under 13 – book at
www.limelighttheatre.com.au  or on 0499 954 016 between 9am and midday, Monday to Friday.

Limelight Theatre is located on Civic Drive, Wanneroo.

More info:
www.limelighttheatre.com.au 

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