Don’t you know it’s magic?

The Illusionists: Direct from Broadway (QPAC in association with The Works Entertainment)

QPAC, Concert Hall

January 9 – 19

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I am theatre traditionalist at heart; I don’t like puppets, audience participation…. or magic, so needless to say, “The Illusionists: Direct from Broadway” is my first (somewhat reluctant) show of its sort. And what a spectacular show I must admit it is. From the moment it begins with The Trickster (Paul Dabek) cheekily pitting two young audience volunteers against each other on stage, it is clear why the franchise is so widely acclaimed (now with tours around the world).

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Not only is the show engaging for the young people sitting throughout with mouth open, mind blown expressions and exclamations of ‘what?’ but its captivating theatricality and appealing to adults also. Indeed, it is a great family show with a good balance of adult allusions and child-friendly humour. (As a newbie, what surprised me most was how genuinely funny the show is.)

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Dabek is very witty as The Tickster. The award-winning The Mentalist (Chris Cox) is also a dynamic and charming high-energy performer as he reads the minds of audience members, astonishingly revealing obscure, specific details of their everyday lives and histories.

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There are many instances of audience participation from ‘volunteers’ of all ages and from across sections of the Concert Hall, not just the ‘business class’ of front row centre, but it is all good-natured and entertaining. These are performers at the pinnacle of their craft, as one would expect from the Direct From Broadway show. And the collective impact of their impressive showmanship is akin to that of a splashy Vegas show, amplified by a thrilling soundtrack (Composer and Musical Director Evan Jolly), punctuated by moments almost out of a Motley Crüe-esque video, complete with smoke machines and scantily-clad women.

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The show includes large-scale stunts, levitation, disappearance and daredevilry. And there is a well-balanced mix of acts; there are astonishing numbers of the traditional vaudeville sort alongside more modern magic moments. Double act, The Showman (Mark Kalin) and The Conjuress (Jinger Leigh) perform disappearing/reappearing acts and assistants are cut in half. There are sleight-of-hand card ticks and conjurations from The Manipulator (French-born Florian Sainvet), too, confidently shared courtesy of a large screen positioned above centre stage to show the magic up-close, also while The Alchemist (Leonardo Bruno) floats a rose before our very eyes.

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Things become tense in lead in to intermission as the audience holds its collective breath when Australian daredevil Sam Powers (otherwise known as The Enigma), who has joined the Brisbane season, enacts a tribute to Harry Houdini. The can’t look, but can’t look away segment sees him attempting a death defying mid-air straight-jacket escape under a flaming set of steel jaws, ready to be come crashing shut with a half-tonne of brute force.

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While numbers ebb and flow through the show’s 2+ hour duration, comparatively Act Two falls a little flat and even though its more sedate numbers are impressive, it would be nice to see it also end with a more memorable bang. Still, in the hands of these masters of magic, the experience of the very best illusion acts from around the world seems to fly by in a flamboyant spectacle of awesome illusions and sharp humour.

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Clearly, “The Illusionists: Direct from Broadway” is not only an impressively sharp and highly entertaining show, but a genuinely joyous experience for audience members of all age that illustrates the verity of Voltaire’s claim of illusion being the first of all pleasures. And as for trying to figure out how they are doing it, such contemplations soon give way to resignation that ‘it’s just magic’ to be enjoyed by young and old alike.

Photos c/o – Darren Thomas

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Four seasons and a hooray

Jersey Boys (Dodger Theatricals, Rodney Rigby and TEG Dainty)

QPAC, Lyric Theatre

January 2 – 20

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“Jersey Boys” opens with a modern pop-rap song, ‘Ces soirées-là’. The fact that the French cover of the Four Season’s ‘December, 1963 (Oh, What a Night)’ spent 15 weeks as number one is testament to the endurance of the band’s legacy. It is evidenced too by the audience response when the band’s four members Tommy DeVito (Cameron MacDonald), Bob Gaudio (Thomas McGuane), Nick Massi (Glaston Toft) and front man Frankie Valli (Ryan Gonzalez) first appear on stage and by the fact that so many of its audience members are returning to share in the musical’s 2+hour sensational celebration again and again. Indeed, it is a case of third production’s a charm for me, with the latest Australian tour showing that this is a musical experience that certainly stands the test of time.

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The internationally acclaimed hit 2005 jukebox musical (music by Bob Gaudio, lyrics by Bob Crewe, book by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice) tells the true story of the staggeringly successful Rock & Roll Hall of Fame-inducted 1960s American pop band The Four Seasons. The chronological biography is presented in a documentary-style format that dramatises the creation, accomplishments and inevitable decline of the group, with each of the show’s ‘four seasons’ narrated by a different member of the band giving his own perspective on its history and music, with the group’s songs integrated into the narrative (‘You ask four guys how it happened, you get four different versions’).

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The show’s strong structure serves it well from the very first (Spring) story, told by Tommy DeVito, the band’s fast-talking, petty criminal founder. And so it paces along from the very beginning with some absorbing storytelling of the group’s early years as a blue collar band from a tough part of New Jersey, trying to find a name and sound.

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When the quartet of mismatched musicians does find its sound and their whole world explodes after two takes on a Sunday afternoon, it is absolutely joyous; ‘Sherry’ truly takes off and when it is followed in close succession by ‘Walk Like a Man’ and ‘Big Girls Don’t Cry’, there is rapturous mid-show applause. Indeed, under Steve Orich’s orchestrations and Luke Hunter’s musical direction, the iconic upbeat harmonic sounds are all on point.

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Performances are also all strong. Gonzalez is perfect as unlikely front-man Frankie and his vocals are astonishing in recreation of Valli’s exceptional four-octave range and astonishing falsetto. This is particularly evident in his final (Winter) segment of the story, and its complex and compelling ‘Bye, Bye Baby (Baby Goodbye)’ in response to his strained relationship with daughter Francine (Mia Dabkowski-Chandler) and break-up with his girlfriend Lorraine (Cristian D’Agostino), and does not get better than in match with the astonishing sound of the brassy crescendo of the almost-never-released ‘Can’t Take My Eyes Off You’.

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Of particular mention also is MacDonald who is riveting in role as the group’s lead guitarist Tommy DeVito, capturing the character’s confident charisma in conjunction with his all-Jersey attitude and mob-ish hostility. Kiara Zieglerova’s scenic design of industrial scaffolding also invokes the image of urban New Jersey, which juxtaposes with back pop-art image projections and the merge between real life and archival sixties footage of the Ed Sullivan Show sort.

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As “Jersey Boys” shows, there is substantial substance beyond the froth and bubble of The Four Seasons’ upbeat pop formulaic musical style. As Act Two takes audiences through the turmoil of the personal sacrifices and group’s decline in response to music industry and mob corruption and mounting financial troubles (‘you sell a hundred million records, see how you handle it’), a strong sense of love and loyalty resounds.

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This is an energetic and entertaining production that proves that “Jersey Boys” is still a musical of merit; it is still easy to appreciate how the musical served as such an instant hit, heading straight to Broadway where it played for 11 years, winning four Tony Awards in 2006. And in amongst its heartache and humour, resounds the hooray reminder of the band’s immense musical catalogue, whose harmonies will surely stay with you long after you dance out of the theatre.

Photos c/o – Jeff Busby

and that’s a 2018 wrap

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A quick pre-Christmas trip to Melbourne this week has not only give me my favourite theatre experience of the year in Calamity Jane, but provided a chance to reflect on a theatre year now done. Although still in the triple digits, I saw fewer shows in 2018 than in previous years, because…. Netflix. And, as usual, there have been many highlights, making it difficult to providing a definitive list of favourites. But reflective lists are what the end of a year is all about, so here is my eclectic top 10 of the memorable, the musical, the moving and the mirthful, and some honourable mentions.

  1. Calamity Jane – Encore Season (Arts Centre Melbourne in association with One Eyed Man Productions, Neglected Musicals and Hayes Theatre Co)
  2. Hamnet (Dead Centre) as part of Brisbane Festival
  3. Good Muslim Boy (Queensland Theatre and Malthouse Theatre)
  4. Everyday Requiem (Expressions Dance Company)
  5. Beautiful: The Carole King Musical (Michael Cassel in Association with Paul Blake & Song/ATV Music Publishing & Mike Bosner)
  6. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time (The National Theatre)
  7. The Origin of Love – The Songs and Stories of Hedwig (John Cameron Mitchell)
  8. Home (Geoff Sobelle/Beth Morrison Projects) as part of Brisbane Festival
  9. At Last: The Etta James Story (Brisbane Powerhouse)
  10. The Sound of a Finished Kiss (Now Look Here and Electric Moon in partnership with Brisbane Powerhouse)

And mention also to the following highlights:

Best performance:

  • Virgina Gay as the titular feisty frontierswoman in Calamity Jane
  • Paul Capsis as 1970s gay icon, English writer, raconteur and actor Quentin Crisp in Resident Alien at the Brisbane Powerhouse as part of the 2018 Melt Festival of Queer Arts and Culture.

Best AV – A Christmas Carol (optikal bloc for shake & stir theatre co)

Most thought provoking –- Home (Geoff Sobelle/Beth Morrison Projects)

Best new work – The Sound of a Finished Kiss (Now Look Here and Electric Moon in partnership with Brisbane Powerhouse)

Best musical

  • Beautiful: The Carole King Musical (Michael Cassel in Association with Paul Blake & Song/ATV Music Publishing & Mike Bosner)
  • Big Fish – The Musical (Phoenix Ensemble)
  • Bare (Understudy Productions)

Best cabaret:

Best music – The Origin of Love – The Songs and Stories of Hedwig (John Cameron Mitchell)

Best dance – Everyday Requiem (Expressions Dance Company)

Funniest – Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead (Queensland Shakespeare Ensemble)

Most joyous – I’ve Been Meaning to Ask You (The Good Room)

Cleverest – North by Northwest (QPAC and Kay & McLean Productions)

Most moving – Hamnet (Dead Centre)

Stirring up a Christmas classic

A Christmas Carol (shake & stir theatre company)

QPAC, The Playhouse

December 7 – 20

Shake and Stir’s “A Christmas Carol’ begins with a tune, the ironic ‘God Rest Ye Merry Gentleman’ (because there is little about which to be merry for those suffering in Victorian era poverty). Still, it’s a lovely yuletide introduction, before it is interrupted by protagonist Ebenezer Scrooge (Eugene Gilfedder) and his famous humbug exclamation.

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Fast forward to Christmas Eve seven years later after the death of Jacob Marley and we see the money-lender Ebenezer again, a cold-hearted penny-pincher who despises Christmas, tight-fisted and hunched over his accounts counting his coals and cursing the happiness of others, despite being rich enough not to be miserable. In his disdain for do-gooders and desire to just be left alone, he is clearly far from merry… just ask his long-suffering clerk Bob Pratchett (Lucas Stibbard).

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After Scrooge is visited by his dead former business partner (Bryan Probets), now bound for eternity in the chains of his own greed after a life of hoarding his wealth and exploiting the poor, three other ghosts, of Christmas Past, Present and Future show Ebenezer the error of his ways. He consequently changes to see Christmas as a charitable and forgiving time of togetherness.

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Nelle Lee’s wondrous adaptation of Charles Dickens’ classic novella conveys a storybook feel, enhanced by the in-schools experience of many of its ensemble, which enables a craftedness of appeal for children and adults alike. At times, there is a pantomime atmosphere, not in the “he’s behind you!” sensibility of the peculiarly British tradition of winter musical comedy theatre, but rather in the all-encompassing spirit and sentiment of a traditional tale told in way that allows families to share in a theatre experience.

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QPAC’s notoriously chilly Playhouse Theatre in this instance suits the bleakness of the story’s shadowy staging and accompanying haunting soundscape. The large stage space is used to full and frenetic advantage, particularly in the flurry of early set transformations, that sees almost Escher-like creation and disassembly of sets while in use, as gothic house frames are precisely positioned to project laneways and interiors alike.

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The most highly impressive moments, however, come courtesy of the crucial design efforts of Jason Glenwright (Lighting), Chris Perren (Sound) and Craig Wilkinson (Video) in awakening the story’s supernatural forces, particularly through its ghostly visions. Although there may be a couple of frightening moments for the youngest of viewers (the show is recommended for children eight years and over and includes warning about its supernatural themes, haze, smoke, strobe effects and loud music), it is these production values that keep this “A Christmas Carol” innovatively fresh. Not everything is big and bold, however. The pathos of ‘all skin and bones’ Tiny Tim, the youngest song of Bob Cratchit, gravely ill as his family cannot afford to properly treat him on the salary Scrooge his father, for example, is captured perfectly in his ingenious representation.

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The last time I saw “A Christmas Carol” on stage, I found it bothersome that in realisation of his salvation, Scrooge sent a passing youth to buy a turkey for the Cratchit family’s Christmas meal, without giving the errand-boy any funds. Thankfully, in this show, the request is accompanied by some coins. It is but a small detail of course, but one that reflects the overall care the company takes in all of its productions, for it is the combination of these smallest considerations which ultimately group in production of such consistently high-quality work.

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 Under Michael Futcher’s direction, everything about the show is tight and well-paced to maintain engagement of young and old alike. Many of the show’s hardworking cast members play multiple roles with ease. Gilfedder is perfection as the cantankerous Scrooge, both in his mostly-dour demeanour and when he excitedly transforms into a kindhearted person. And Probets is also wonderful as all four of the ghosts, often bringing an infectious sense of pantomime whimsy to his realisation of their characters. His Ghost of Christmas Past, in particular, is a jolly delight of impish, gleeful energy.

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I have never really been “A Christmas Carol” fan, apart from maybe the Muppet’s movie version (because I’m not totally heartless). Clearly, I am in the minority though; the Victorian morality tale of an old and bitter miser who undergoes a profound experience of redemption over the course of an evening, remains a classic holiday story despite being written in 1843. That this company can ignite the imaginations of the young and not-so, to regard its charm anew is a wonderful testament to their energy and spirit. Hopefully it will form part of a Christmas show ritual as audiences obviously cherish the tradition of its story and the endurance of its themes. Its tell of compassion, forgiveness, redemption and the might of kindness is made even more powerful by its humour and heart, making it maybe even better than the Muppets.

There is no better way to kick off your Christmas season than with the defining tale of the holiday in the English-speaking world, brought to magical life in a brand-new adaptation. With live musicians (Composer Salliana Campbell), yule-tide carolling, innovative video design, lavish costumes and, of course, snow, “A Christmas Carol” has something for everyone, even those who imagine themselves to be more bah humbug than Christmas Carole.

Love and murder at first sight

North by Northwest (QPAC and Kay & McLean Productions)

QPAC, Lyric Theatre

November 27 – December 9

“There’s an interval about an hour in, just after the plane crash and fire,” the usher explains as we enter the Lyric Theatre for “North by Northwest”. And true-enough, remarkably the show absolutely does justice to the visually-iconic late-period Alfred Hitchcock classic chase film of the same name. Not only do see our hero ambushed by a crop duster in a cornfield, and attempt a literally cliff-hanging escape down the faces of Mount Rushmore in the suspense of an attempted across-America escape, but a human creation of the film’s opening title sequence design of titled blocks and a playful nod to the film director’s signature cameos. Indeed, immediately it is clear that the show’s complex film projections and blue screen technology special effects, are going to recreate for us all that is ionic about the 1959 movie.

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The Cold War-era story tells of the efforts of C.I.A. chief of sorts, The Professor (Robert Menzies) attempting to force the hand of a group of enemy agents by placing an invented Caplan character on their trail. Savvy advertising executive Roger Thornhill (Matt Day), played memorably in the film by Cary Grant, lands himself in trouble when he is mistaken for the mythical Mr Caplan and kidnapped. As his life is thus thrown into chaos, he is chased across the country as he attempts to avoid capture, meeting a beautiful and mysterious love interest, Eve Kendall (Amber McMahon) along the way.

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It’s a confusing account. Veteran Hitchcock actor Grant himself noted how baffling he found the film’s screenplay. This production cleverly captures even this ambiguity through simple, but skilful, representations like moving giant fans in as aircraft noise in the scene when The Professor explains what the plot is about and why the mysterious, villainous Vandamm (Jonny Pasvolsky) is hunting Thornill.

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Carolyn Burns’s script adaptation is not word perfect, but it does capture the film’s sharp dialogue, particularly in the quick quips of often forward sexual banter. And the typical Hichcockian situations are evident from the outset, despite a more hurried pacing, that brings added comedy to the bustling busy scenes and quick-change set pieces.

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Most impressive, is the way in which cinema effects are created live by the cast against green screen backdrops either side of the stage and integrated into the show through video screen projection. In nod to the early days when special effects came courtesy of miniature set models, these almost dodgy dioramas work a treat, allowing for a drunken car drive down twisting mountain roads and fantastic real-life Mount Rushmore reveal. All the while, the central live action remains the focus; rather than serving as novelty, the projections are integral to the storytelling, especially in progressing the narrative along with show of newspaper headlines and alike.  Clearly, there is a very modern appeal to this “North by Northwest”, but it not at expense of the old-school suspense and charm the is at the core of the film. The experience is filled with era-evocative details such as the costuming recreation of Grant’s loose-fit, iconic stylish suit.

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The story also includes an array of secondary and passer-by characters, courtesy of the hardworking support cast. Brisbane’s own Christen O’Leary, for example, jumps in and out of roles and accents with ease. The primary cast bring excellent performances to what are essentially paper-thin characters. Pasvolsky makes for a smooth arch-villain and McMahon is every bit a put-together platinum blonde leading lady who could tease a man to death without half trying, albiet with a little more assertion in modernisation of the character. And while not as suave as the glossy Grant, Matt Day is certainly of the type, bringing a likeable charm to the debonair central character in all of his roles: the outraged Madison Avenue man who claims he’s been mistaken for someone else, the fugitive from justice, supposedly trying to clear his name of a crime he knows he didn’t commit and a peevish lover, stung by jealousy and betrayal. And his delivery is on-point with the overarching tongue-in-cheek tone, with line after line landing with one-liner appeal.

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Another authenticity comes from the show’s musical score which takes the audience through chases, suspense and love. From the whip and wail of the opening title-sequence overture, the musical story develops in compliment of the narrative and define of its situations and emotions. But the soundscape is also smartly silent when it needs to be too and without music or other sounds, the immensity of the crop-dusting sequence makes it a memorable lead in to intermission.

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“North by Northwest” is a dynamic, highly-creative show from a clever group of cast and creatives. While some microphone cue lapses were evident on opening night, the show will obviously settle into its season as it is otherwise seamless in every regard. Presenting a play in the large Lyric Theatre is an unusual undertaking and “North by Northwest” is particularly ambitious given the action that defines the famous film, but as QPAC CEO John Kotzas noted, the theatre is only as big as our imagination, and in its precision and awe in attention to detail, “North by Northwest” fills audience imaginations and recollections, for although allusions will be appreciated by those familiar with the film in some way, audience members who don’t have this prior knowledge, won’t miss out either. The well-paced two-hour show (under Simon Phillips’ tight direction) offers a nice balance between action, romance and comedy, but with a considered restraint that never allows the cloak-and-dagger chase storyline to descend into farce. And the result is a must-see show of love and murder at first sight.

Photos c/o – Darren Thomas

Don Giovanni drama

Don Giovanni (Opera Queensland)

QPAC, The Playhouse

October 19 – November 3

Opera Queensland’s “Don Giovanni” promises to be a striking production and truly, the aesthetics of the work are impressive, beginning with opening projections that allow the exhilarating score’s initial overture to be appropriately showcased. Although they are less clear when used in the show proper, they still add depth to the story’s dramatic themes and working class Victorian London setting.

There is drama too in the opera’s initial pivotal scene, when after leaving the bedroom of soon-to-be married Donna Anna (Eva Kong in her Opera Queensland debut), the titular Giovanni (Duncan Rock) is confronted by and kills her father, the Commendatore (Andrew Collis). From these early hues of death, things warm as Hayley Sugars struts on stage in an opulent orange ensemble; Anna Cordingley’s contemporary Victoria costume designs represent another highlight with Giovanni’s lush blue coat making him prominent against ensemble shades. A heavily raked stage adds dimension and lighting creates some stunning visual imagery, such as when our antihero is silhouetted against a doorway. So striking are the show’s visuals, that the aesthetic on stage often distracts from follow of the surtitles being shown above (The Mozart opera is sung in Italian with English surtitles).

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Fortunately, the story is a simple one. Giovanni, a wealthy young and debauched nobleman, travels the world seducing women and casting them aside. After he kills Donna Anna’s father he mocks a statue of the slain father. To his surprise, the statue later appears as a ghost who gives Giovanni one last chance to repent. He refuses and is sent to hell as punishment.

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The comedic opera about the Don Juan’s sexual exploits (the opera serves as a version of the Don Juan legend), is filled with familiar motifs of the Shakespearean sort with attempted window wooing, masquerading and disguised identities, and a supernatural haunting. However, given its misogynism, it is a problematic undertaking, especially in recent times in which the misconduct of men has been so in the spotlight. Its unprincipled protagonist is a serial womaniser and rapist, hunting women throughout Europe, and while this production is said to be set in the context of 2018 and the #metoo movement, Giovanni’s philandering is still celebrated as an art form in numbers such as ‘Madamina, il catalogo è questo’, in which his servant Lepereeo (Shawn Brown) clownishly lists the aristocratic playboy’s catalogue of European conquests (1003 in Spain!) as evidence of his insincerity to Donna Elvira.

Conducted by Johannes Fritzsc, The Queensland Symphony Orchestra is high-calibre as always, expertly infusing each supporting character with their own musical motif. Of particularly note is the exhilaratingly dramatic sounds of its darkly rhythmic final number soundtracking of Giovanni’s descent into hell. British/Australian bass baritone and rising international star Duncan Rock, who has previously sung the role of Don Giovanni several times, makes his Australian principal debut as the long-haired Lothario, roaming the stage with an alluring appeal in contradiction to this unscrupulous, scoundrel behaviour. With shirt off for portions of the show he is more Jamie Fraser muscle than traditional opera lead. And he is not only one on stage sans some items of clothing….

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Under Lindy Hume’s direction, this Giovanni’s descent into hell is given a #metoo take as a group of naked and semi-naked volunteer women, representing the ‘avenging furies’ drag him to his death as part of the punishment for his life. While this creates a spectacle for consideration, however, it doesn’t necessarily work, coming across as a heavy-handed inclusion for provocation’s sake.

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QPAC’s Playhouse Theatre setting offers “Don Giovanni” audiences a move intimate experience than Opera Queensland’s most recent productions. It is a long show, as operas are, however, while it is not of a grand scale, as a work that is considered by many to be Mozart’s greatest, it is still offers a satisfying enough experience, particularly for those new to the story and genre alike. While its attempted #metoo take may not resonate due to its tacked-on feel, it does still provide a catalyst for discussion and ultimately the quality of both its Opera Queensland cast and Queensland Symphony Orchestra musicianship, and the aesthetics of its production, largely transcend the disappointment of its unrealised dramatic intents.

Razzle dazzle drag

Priscilla Queen of the Desert The Musical (Michael Cassel Group and Nullabor Productions in Association with MGM on Stage)

QPAC, Lyric Theatre

September 26 – November 4

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Finally, after playing 135 cities in 29 different countries around the world, “Priscilla Queen of the Desert The Musical” has sashayed itself to Brisvegas for the show’s Queensland premiere season. Based on the now-iconic 1994 Oscar-winning Australian film, the musical is the story of three friends who hop aboard a battered old bus in Sydney bound for Alice Springs to put on the show of a lifetime. As audience, we join them for the journey in the broken down old bus they christen as Priscilla, as they ‘Go West’ to the back of woop woop and beyond, with along-the-way social interactions, mechanical setbacks and some surprisingly amusing roadkill.

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The reason for the journey is for Sydney-based drag queen Anthony ‘Tick’ Belrose (David Harris) to visit his estranged wife, Marion (Adele Parkinson), the mother of his young son, Benji, by bringing his act to her casino, which will give Benji the opportunity to finally meet his father. Tick invites former Les Girls showgirl, transgender woman Bernadette (Tony Sheldon), whose husband has just died and also asks fellow performer Felicia (Euan Doidge) along for the ride, much to Bernadette’s chagrin. The unlikely friends may have been thrown together by circumstance, but it soon becomes apparent that their similarities are more than just skin-deep as all are desperate to escape the Harbour city’s club scene in some way.

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Like its big-screen source material, the show is filled with anthemic disco-era classic songs like ‘It’s Raining Men’, ‘I Love the Nightlife’ and ‘Finally’, but also, comparatively a lot of narratively-unnecessary musical filler, starting with Miss Understanding’s (Blake Appelqvist) over-the-top drag take of ‘What’s Love Got To Do with I’. Even ‘A Fine Romance’ now seems like an unnecessary interruption to give dialogue-mentioned backstory as to Broken Hill based mechanic Bob’s (everyone’s favourite flamin’ galah, Ray Meagher of “Home and Away” infamy) nostalgia towards a years-ago Les Girls visit.

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Other additions, like a poignant ‘True Colours’ and rousing ‘We Belong’ realisation of the importance of family in all of its forms, are more effective, especially in ebbing and flowing audience emotions and cementing the tale as a first-and-foremost story about mateship, self-discovery and acceptance. Angelique Cassimatis, Samm Hagen and Clé Morgan add much to the show’s songbook as the three divas who descend from on-high to lead chorus numbers with their powerful vocals, to which the drag performers lip-sync.

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All the music, however, is secondary to the spectacle of costumes on show. Indeed, this is a musical of much colour and movement, featuring an array of more than 500 costumes and 200 headdresses, often (as with dialogue) in nod to its on-screen origin and Australiana-with-a-twist theme.

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The costumes are across-the-board exceptional in their avante guarde over-the-top detail and little surprises and although, at times, it seems like Act One has a ‘going through the motions’ type feel, the way that a final tour stop show sometimes does, its ‘I Will Survive’ pre-interval number is a real highlight courtesy of its visual spectacle.

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Tony Sheldon returns to reprise the role of sassy and acid-tongued, but still classy desert queen Bernadette, one which has earned him both Tony and Olivier nominations amongst his 1800 times playing the role. Along with David Harris as Tick, he anchors the show with a poise that serves as effective contrast to Euan Doidge’s exuberant and energetic Kylie-come-lately Felicia. And together they banter believably like the family that they become.

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Along with the scathing wit of its dialogue, which is very funny, humour comes from the colourful characters encountered along the way en route to Alice Springs as light-hearted contrast to the attitudes and actions of homophobic locals. In particular, notable scenes come courtesy of Emma Powell as butch bogan Black Stump barmaid Shirley and Lena Cruz as Bob’s out-of-place wife Cynthia, complete with a popping ping pong number that even those already familiar with the film will find hugely entertaining.

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At times, it is easy to recognise this as a 10th anniversary celebration tour. Although the show is visually dynamic and full of fun, its colour and movement cannot compensate for the passing of time that has made its content more homogenised. While it may not be as spectacularly camp as when it first appeared on stage in southern states (and where I first experienced it at Sydney’s Star City Casino), this “Priscilla Queen of the Desert The Musical” is still a spectacle and a trip that many will want to jump on-board for, because what is not to love about a show that celebrates dancers dressed as pink paintbrushes and candled cupcakes amongst other razzle-dazzle displays.