The festive season always means a theatre pause and reflection as to the year’s greatest applause. A Broadway break enabled experience of my new favourite thing in Dear Evan Hansen, which is now up there with Rent as my musical mecca, along with other 2019 faves Hamilton and Mean Girls. Closer to home, however, amongst the usual 100+ shows seen, there are a number of memorable mentions.
- The Gospel According to Paul in which Jonathan Biggins brilliantly portrays the love-him-or-hate-him Paul Keating.
- 100 Years of the History of Dance (as Told by One Man in 60 Minutes with an Energetic Group Finale), another solo show, this time from Australian director, choreographer and performer Joseph Simons.
- Sweet Charity – the perfect start of year show from Understudy Productions, the little Brisbane theatre company that has very quickly become a very big deal.
- the ridiculously funny Young Frankenstein, Phoenix Ensemble’s stage version of Mel Brooks’ 1974 horror-movie spoof and parody of both the musical genre and vaudevillian traditions.
- The Book of Mormon– the ridiculously still so-wrong-it’s-right musical is still the funniest thing around, even in repeat experience.
Best musical performance:
- Naomi Price as the titular Charity Hope Valentine in Sweet Charity, a role that appears as if written for her.
- Queensland Ballet’s The Nutcracker – the most wonderful ‘tis the season treat around.
- little red theatre company’s From Johnny to Jack – Luke Kennedy’s chart of the greatest comeback in Australian rock and roll history… an energetic, feel-good, heart-warming celebration of all things John Farnham.
Best independent theatre
- Ghosts – The Curator’s homage to great Norwegian playwright Henrick Ibsen’s controversial play was innovative in its layers of scathing social commentary.
Best comic performance
- As Rooster in Queensland Musical Theatre’s Annie, Darcy Rhodes gave a standout razzle dazzle expressively larger-than-life performance.
- As a duo of Environment Minster and press advisor, Jessica Veurman and Charleen Marsters made for an ‘absolutely fabulous’ comic team in That Production Company’s Kill Climate Deniers.
Best dramatic performance:
- Patrick Shearer for his powerful and precise performance as the bohemian artist son Oswald in Ghosts.
- Love Letters – the heart-warming story of two people who share a lifetime of experiences through the medium of handwritten letters, presented at Brisbane Arts Theatre by real-life married couple Ray and Melissa Swenson.
- Project Design Justin Harrison’s dynamic projection designs represented a key component of Kill Climate Deniers’ vibrant realisation.
Best new work
- The relatable guilty pleasure of FANGIRLS – like a witty young adult novel set to music and full of glittery fun, complete with important messages.
Favourite festival show
- James Rowland’s Brisbane Festival show Team Viking (and its Songs of Friendship trilogy counterparts) ‘a revelatory storytelling cycle about love, life, friendship and death that serves as an accomplished piece of storytelling.
Notable mention to:
- Rocket Boy Ensemble’s Reagan Kelly for its killer opening monologue chronicle of night out in the valley
- Melbourne’s Harry Potter and the Cursed Child for its incredible stagecraft of illusions and magic beyond just that of the expelliarmus sort.