Blue by coup

Katie Noonan – Joni Mitchell’s Blue 50th Anniversary

QPAC, Concert Hall

May 8

Trailblazing Canadian singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell is an incredible musical artist, arguably unparalleled in her musical genius. Few can replicate her husky but sweet sound, however, thankfully for QPAC concertgoers, Queensland’s own Katie Noonan is one of these, as audience members soon see in the (rescheduled) one-off concert coup, that sees the celebrated artist perform Mitchell’s iconic autobiographical 1971 album Blue in commemoration of its 50th anniversary.

Noonan’s vocals are flawless as she explores the album’s consideration of the various facets of relationships, from infatuation in the subtle triumph of ‘A Case of You’ to insecurity in the tonally-rich ‘This Flight Tonight’. But first, audience members are treated to an Act One from up-and-coming artist Jo Davie, whose similarly angelic voice soars through opening number, ‘Clouds’, before some original works, with additional guitar accompaniment by Jack Walton.

After interval, the five-time ARIA award-winning Noonan takes to the stage with her supporting musicians, electrified folk guitarists (Brandon Mamata and Ben Hauptmann), bass player (Steele Chabau) and drummer (Katie’s son Dexter Hurren) to present Blue’s anthology of songs in order as intended by their original album’s curation. The cohesive showcase of the seminal album’s song in their authentic order captures the restlessness of someone traveling, traveling on a lonely road. Indeed, from the opening number, the melodically layered and complex ‘All I Want’, the concert serves as reminder of the work’s songwriting and compositional excellence. Not only this, but Noonan’s consistent, pure vocals and tonal clarity captures the unique style and essence of this iconic artist.

As if sophisticated mastery of the often-complex harmonies is not enough, for some tracks, Noonan provides deceptively simple piano accompaniments, interspersed with snippets of song factoids, like explanation of the subject-matter of Mitchell’s fourth studio album’s title (and thesis) track ‘Blue’, signpost of the poetry of potentially mundane lyrical descriptions in the emotionally weighty ‘My Old Man’ and highlight of the familiar chimes of ‘Jingle Bells’ in the melody of ‘River’.

In addition to the twists and turns of the album’s ten songs, the Act concludes with share of some other Mitchell numbers, yet still, highlights include the uplifting melodies of homesickness in the surprisingly cheerful ‘California’, Mitchell’s postcard song from an escape trip to Europe, as much as the gorgeous yearning balladry of ‘A Case Of You’, thanks to Noonan’s ethereally-voiced ability to evoke the complicated emotions behind the song’s narrative. The Concert Hall aesthetics are as glorious as ever, particularly in lush lighting of Noonan’s piano numbers and the venue’s pristine acoustics make it the perfect site for the show’s serene showcase of vocal talent and celebration of song writing, for Mitchell and Noonan fans alike.

Despite its title, “Katie Noonan – Joni Mitchell’s Blue 50th Anniversary” is about more than just the singularity of Mitchell’s musical focus on what is generally regarded by music critics to be one of the greatest albums of all time. Noonan’s interpretations feel fresh but still faithful to the vulnerable honesty and catharsis at the core of the critically and commercially successful album that Mitchell has herself described as “the purest emotional record that I will ever make in my life”. The poetic imagery and emotional insight evoked are powerful reminders of the universality and thus enduring appeal of Mitchell’s writing, leading to a deserved standing ovation, after which things finish with an ooh, bop-bop-bop-bop ‘Big Yellow Taxi’ singalong to send audience members euphorically into their Sunday nights.

Photos c/o – Nick Maguire

Williams awe

Cinematic (Queensland Symphony Orchestra)

QPAC, Concert Hall

April 29 – 30

As the listening guide for 2022’s “Cinematic” QSO concert reminds us, John Williams is the most prolific film composer of our time, with a career spanning five decades and including receipt of five Oscars, four Golden Globes, seven BAFTAs and 25 Grammys. Given how Williams’ lush orchestral writing and masterful creation of character motifs craft musical landscapes that not only match the magic of onscreen worlds but enhances them, there is much to celebrated from within his expansive body of work and his 90th birthday year represents the perfect opportunity for Queensland Symphony Orchestra to devote its annual “Cinematic” concert to a journey through his career.  

Of course, mention of John Williams, brings immediate association with the most immortal of all 20th century film music, however, it is not until concert’s end that the full fanfare force of the orchestra brings us the brass-fuelled Main Title from “Star Wars”. And appropriately for an epic score that so changed film music, we are treated to a number of its pieces, the touching romance of “Princess Leia’s Theme”, with melodic upper string and French horn sounds, the chaotic action of ‘The Asteroid Field’ sequence and, in encore under the baton lightsabre conductor and host Nicholas Buc, its equally iconic ‘The Imperial March (Darth Vader’s Theme)’ that features as a blaring musical theme throughout the franchise, plus the jaunty quirk of the “Cantina Theme”.

Williams’ legendary legacy is one of narrative and thematic diversity, which allows the orchestra to showcase its versatility. The usually serene strings section packs a punch with their rapidity of their controlled in-unison frenzy during the primal theme from “Jaws”. Indeed, from its opening foreboding tone of simple alternative notes, the ominous number grinds away with a feeling of suspense, making the orchestra’s share of its layers one of the evening’s highlights. Meanwhile, the strings swirl us through the delicate magic of the leaping note complexity within ‘Hedwig’s Flight’ of Harry Potter fame. Slowing this right down, ‘Theme from Three Pieces” from 1993’s “Schindler’s List” presents a palpable poignancy when concertmaster Princess Leia Natsuko Yoshimoto takes centre stage in exquisite share of the sombre and sorrowful piece’s difficulties. Respectful of its raw emotions, it is a sensitive rendition that captivates the audience.

Along with classics like the ‘Flying Theme’ from “E.T” that sweeps us into interval, the concert celebrates smaller and lesser known Williams works like the lightly touching “Viktor’s Tale” from 2004’s “The Terminal”, featuring a charmingly warm and friendly clarinet solo from principal clarinettist Irit Silver and the rousing ‘March’ from the comedy “1941”, full of brassy energy and ceremonial pomp. There is also the rarely-heard-live ‘Parade of the Slave Children’ from “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom”, the second outing of the famed archaeologist and adventurer. As always, lighting enlivens experience of the Concert Hall, painting a mottled pallet of forest greens in accompaniment of the theme from “Jurassic Park” and luring the audience into the eerie awe and discord of the slow sci-fi burn of excerpts from 1977’s “Close Encounters of the Third Kind”, including its iconic five-tone motif representation of first contact.

As a tribute to the master of movie music, 2022’s “Cinematic” is a Queensland Symphony Orchestra show of many highlights, starting with its opening heroic strands of ‘Superman March’. The nostalgic reminder of 1978’s “Superman” film starring Christopher Reeve is big, bold and elaborate and provides not only an opening spectacle. but an apt illustration of the varied character of Williams’ works and the versatility of the state’s symphony orchestra in realisation of them, given how we are then moved into the film’s beautiful ‘Love Theme’, full of swirling harps and bells. As its plentiful key changes take us on a tour of the orchestra, it is all quite romantic, or at least as romantic as it can be it comes with visual of a T-Rex on double bass.

As with previous “Cinematic” shows, the costumed orchestra only adds to the excitement of the family-friendly event, with Caribbean pirates, Star Wars pilots, Harry Potters and even Chewbacca making appearance, especially to the delight of younger audience members. It makes it easy to appreciate the annual concert’s position as a QSO flagship for lovers of movie soundtracks. In this instance, its bring to life of the music of John Williams’ master craftsmanship not only allows audiences to listen in awe at this ability to weave theme into orchestration, but also serves as a reminder of the celebrated partnerships with directors Steven Spielberg and George Lucas, for example, that have characterised his esteemed career.

Epic Albee

Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (Queensland Theatre and The State Theatre Company South Australia)

QPAC, The Playhouse

February 12 – 28

Those who know Edward Albee’s provocative Tony Award-winning play “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woof?” know it is one of many words. For those who don’t, this is emphasised by the staging of Queensland Theatre and The State Theatre Company South Australia co-production from the curtain-up reveal of handwritten graffiti that walls about the stage. ‘Who’s afraid of Virginia Woolf?’ it asks over and over again, or is that the big bad world we wonder as we read down through its fun and games mention. (The featured play’s title is a pun on the song ‘Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf’ from Walt Disney’s “Three Little Pigs”, with substitution of the celebrated author’s name.)

The living room space within the graffiti walls, has its own barriers, appropriately see-through given that all is about to be laid bare. Symbolism abounds as a glass-encased mask, rather than painting, of distorted reality, occupies a central position. With a well-stocked drinks trolly also on display, it is all very bright and modern and hardly worthy of Martha’s in-jest assessment of it as ‘a dump’. And while the artwork’s dominance does serve as distraction at times, it is apt that when the story opens to its frustrated middle-aged married couple protagonists, George (Jimi Bani) and Martha (Susan Prior), they are seated apart and separated by it.  

Associate Professor History George and the College President’s daughter Martha have just arrived home from a party at their small New England College. Martha may be a remarkable woman according to her husband’s jest, but as she embarks upon a 2am bang-on about a Bette Davis film, she is almost immediately unlikeable. Savage-tongued and calculating, she initiates an insult trade with George who initially retaliates with a passive aggressive approach. There is a natural banter to the couple’s early dialogue as they await the arrival of their new-to-town guests, young new Biology faulty member Nick (Rashidi Edward) and his wife Honey (Juanita Navas-Nguyen), however, any veneer is soon stripped away as they move into the psychological cat-and-mouse ‘games’ that typify their complex relationship.

When Martha crosses the line by breaking their rule of talking to Honey about their son, drunken revelations and recriminations slip them into ‘humiliate the host’ and ‘get the guest’ mode, catalysing towards a shocking conclusion of unearthed demons, all for the sake of conflict. Helping this along, Andrew Howard’s sound composition and design pounds us towards the intensity of each act’s toxic climax. And Nigel Levings’ lighting design artfully illuminates the living room arguments when George and Nick retreat inside from an outside chat, and warms us into the 4am dance that represents the realisation of Marta’s flirtation with Nick while his humiliated, naïve and ill-equipped-for-drinking wifelet sleeps on the bathroom floor.

Everybody drinks at George and Martha’s and anybody going there gets testy, George reflects to Nick. And as things progress we see the truth of this, with devastating consequences as each act we see more walls being lifted, both physically and figuratively and 23 years of marriage being snapped into a declaration of war.

A classic of this calibre demands a strong cast and in this regard the performers certainly all rise to the challenge. While Edward and Navas-Nguyen are solid in their support, “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf” is all about the story’s central sparring partners George and Maratha, who will even argue over if the moon is out. Prior’s Martha is loud, vulgar, spoiled and self-indulgent. And in her domineer of everyone with her vindictive blame-filled manipulation, she is incredibly dynamic. Indeed, it is a credit to Prior that she is able to make her so sustainably unlikable as she graduates to mocking George’s failings in Act Two, yet also allow us some insight into her emotional state during an alone-on-stage early Act Three monologue that this is tempered with a sad vulnerability. Jimi Bani, similarly, makes the essentially miserable George the more likeable of the pair, but also, increasingly, almost without us noticing, cruel towards others. He is at his best perhaps in Act One, where he engages as a natural storyteller, dancing his drink around and telling tales with the right mount of exaggeration, humour and comic timing to engage newly-welcomed Nick, and, by proxy, the audience.

Edward Albee’s iconic tale of marital dysfunction is certainly a wordy one, with lots of dense, ferocious dialogue and especially Bani and Prior deliver marathon performances, befitting the behemoth of a script. While the writing may be clever, however, it is, at times, almost self-indulgent in its verbosity. The epic three-act play (performed here with two intervals) packs a punch, but is exhausting in its intensity. And while it has some humour, it is far from a fun work.

“Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” is a classic of the stage that every theatre lover should see at least once, albeit maybe with an earlier start-time or not on a school night, given the shared audience struggle with its duration. When it premiered in New York in 1962 it shocked audiences and became an instant classic and as this fresh new production shows, 60 years later, the verbal sparring of the couples still stings just as much.

Photos c/o – Brett Boardman

Now we know

Frozen (Disney Theatrical Productions)

QPAC, Lyric Theatre

February 10 – April 24

Adapting work from screen to stage can be tricky, even more so when it is a beloved animated feature. Thankfully, the hit family-friendly Broadway musical “Frozen” rises to this challenge, with lavish production design, stunning costumes and impressive special effects to astound as much as entertain.  

The musical, adapted from the Disney film and Hans Christian Andersen’s original Danish fairy tale “The Snow Queen”, is a spectacle of magic such as one would expect from Disney Theatrical Productions (just think of their other animated musical adaptions, “Aladdin”, “Beauty and the Beast” and “The Lion King”). And now it is Brisbane’s turn to appreciate the freeze, which has meant much-anticipation given the show’s status as one of the most technically advanced productions ever mounted in this country. And the resulting set design, costumes, lighting, and special effects certainly bring fairy-tale magic to life, making it (almost) practically perfect in every way, to re-assign a familiar Disney descriptor.  

For those unfamiliar with the 2013 blockbuster film, the narrative is established swiftly, along with the personalities of its initially youthful princess protagonists, the doting Elsa (Samara Wheeler) and her tornado with pigtails younger sibling Anna (Mila Hourmouzis). When as a young girl, older sister Elsa finds she can make snow in their bedroom and builds a snowman with Anna, her ice magic harms her sister. Though Anna is healed by the mysterious Hidden Folk, Elsa’s magic remains, isolating her from her sister as they grow into adulthood. When Elsa (Jemma Rix) comes of age and is crowned queen, her magical powers unintentionally thrust the kingdom of Arendelle into an eternal winter. Her resulting flee causes her effervescent younger sister, Anna (Courtney Monsma) to embark on a journey in search of Elsa and to save Arendelle.

While Elsa might have the biggest musical moments, in many ways “Frozen” is Anna’s show, especially in Monsma’s capable hands. She is a vivacious performer with a finely-honed sense of comic timing who brings a perky charm to the role. Indeed, her every moment on stage is filled with an infectious enthusiasm that only endears the production that little bit more. She leads ‘For the First Time in Forever’, with bright vocals that cement the optimistic charm that has made it a fan favourite number, encapsulating Anna’s excitement at the long-awaited opening of the castle’s gates.  

Monsma’s early number with handsome Prince Hans (Thomas McGuane), ‘Love is an Open Door’, is refreshing in its goofy fun more than sickly sweet declaration of devotion to finishing each other’s sandwiches. And her ‘What Do You Know About Love?’ duet with earnest, rough-around-the-edges ice-seller Kristoff (Sean Sinclair) of the Hidden Folk is a charming warm into the burgeoning trust as they bicker on an ice-bridge while searching for Elsa.

Christopher Oram’s costume design elevates things from the outset with muted early tones transforming into regal shades, opulent fabrics and detailed adornments befitting a coronation. But the pièce de résistance comes in Act One’s stunning closer, courtesy of Elsa’s shimmering ice dress of 14 000 beads and crystals. And the fact that it is revealed along with her signature blonde plait as part of the character’s physical transformation, only adds to the impact of its wonder.

Elsa’s change into an ice queen comes as part of the Oscar-award-winning ‘Let it Go’ which did much to popularise the film as a cultural phenomenon. The adrenalin-filled anthem of liberation is certainly a show-stopper in its provision of magical moments, both though its central costume change in coincide with the song’s musical high point, but also through Elsa’s creation of a cinematically sparkling ice palace high in the mountains from its initially neutral staging, leading to mid-song applause and gasps from young and older audience members alike. Rix’s richly emotive voice gives the exiled Elisa a balance of strength and vulnerability in the soaring power ballad’s reconcile of having others now know about the powers she has tried so long to conceal. Like the similarly-placed ‘Defying Gravity’ in “Wicked”, its experience is the stuff of goosebumps, worth the price of admission alone.

Mid-scene applause occurs often during the opening night show, including when Elsa’s icy supernatural powers freeze the woodwork of the proscenium staging in perfect unison with the music and the effects of Natasha Katz’s lighting design, and again when special effects freeze a group of on-stage characters to ice. There is incredible detail in all the set pieces of Oram’s scenic design. Textured staging layers the marvel to create a vivid sense of place within the magical land of Arendelle, whether it be a fairy-tale medieval Scandinavian castle or an artic wilderness beneath the Northern lights. Scenes transition seamlessly, such as when the snow and ice scape transforms as if in an instant, to reveal a sunny summer scene as illustration of Olaf’s hilarious snowman tune about his big dreams of relaxing in the summer sun.

Disney’s signature puppet characters make some memorable appearances. Lochie McIntryre’s reindeer Sven (in a role alternated with Jonathan Macmillan to reduce the physical strain on the performers) is impressive not only in physicality, but reveal of the pet’s personality in speechless interaction with the somewhat shy Kristoff. And younger audience members in particular are delighted by appearance of snowman Olaf (Matt Lee puppeteering the cheeky manifestation of the now-estranged sisters’ childhood imagination).

The stage production features a full score by Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez, including 12 new specially-written songs from the original Academy Award-winning songwriters. While some serve more to flesh out the running time than progress the narrative, they still contribute to the spectacle of the experience. Act Two’s pantomime-esque opener, ‘Hygge’, for example, in which the owner of Oaken’s Trading Post and Sauna introduces the Nordic notion to Kristoff and Anna, presents a line of towel-clad villagers dancing their way out of a sauna, in jubilant illustration of Rob Ashford’s diverse choreography, which also includes graceful waltzes and ballet along with a joyous ensemble maypole dace.

‘Hans of the Southern Isles’, serves as a solid introduction to the slick man of Anna’s dreams, when they first meet shortly before her sister’s coronation, building and growing in stature with its reprise. However, it is Act Two’s anguished solo ‘Monster’ that serves as the second showstopper. Rix’s soprano vocals are stunning, elevating Elsa’s dark, introspective contemplation of who she really is to a complex exploration of her inner conflict.

With a score featuring both much-loved “Frozen” classics alongside its new songs and an acclaimed cast, this record-breaking musical is sure to captivate audience members of all ages. The stunning musical extravaganza is an entertaining visual feast, full of Disney magic. And while it does feature fairy-tale-esque true love within its themes, at its true heart is its focus on the sisterly bond between Elsa and Anna. The fact that as female protagonists they maintain their agency and do not have to depend of the protection of male saviours is, of course, all the better.

Photos c/o – Lisa Tomasetti

Warlow wows

An Evening with Anthony Warlow

QPAC, Concert Hall

January 28 – 29

The concept of “An Evening with Anthony Warlow” is clear from its title; the accomplished Australian performer takes to the stage in a concert celebrating a decades-long internationally acclaimed career. In conversation with ABC Classic FM’s Christopher Lawrence, he shares personal stories and highlights from his time dreaming the impossible dream from operatic Wollongong beginnings to the eight shows a week stages of some of the world’s most remarkable theatres.

After having been off stage for two years, Warlow is clearly relishing his return, especially as he prances about in a Papageno number from Mozart’s allegorical “The Magic Flute” opera and in share of ‘Nightmare’ from Gilbert and Sullivan’s comic opera “Iolanthe”, in which its Lord Chancellor sings that love is the source of his nightmares, weaving itself into midnight slumbers. Not only does he convey some solid characterisation in adoption of the old man’s demeanour, but his tremendous diction and perfect rapid-fire timing make the number an excellent example of patter song’s characteristic alliterative, tongue-twisting rhymes.

Characterisation also enhances the musical theatre numbers, not only in “Luck Be a Lady Tonight”, but in Warlow’s clever hypothetical impersonations of performers giving their take on Al Jolson’s popular 1918 song, ‘Rock-a-Bye Your Baby with a Dixie Melody’, including a very funny parody of fellow Phantom of The Opera Michael Crawford.

The iconic Phantom mask appears on stage during interval hinting at the big ticket number to soon follow and Warlow certainly delivers with his ensuing characterisation making ‘Music of the Night’ akin to a musical monologue. While the Queensland Symphony Orchestra provides swelling accompaniment, he transfixes the Concert Hall audience into absolute silence with an execution that beautifully balances the song’s dramatic power and hypnotic intimacy. And as the thunderous ovation attests, it appears that experience of the simultaneous tenderness and intensity of the number may be worth the price of admission alone.

Warlow’s smooth, almost soothing vocals are enticing, pouring much into the Phantom’s lure and attempted lyrical seduction of Christine to forget the world and life she knew before. Indeed, his voice never sounds better than in this and, ‘My Friends’ from “Sweeney Todd”, where the titular demon barber of Fleet Street plots sinister retribution. With such vocal displays of both strength and gentleness, Warlow wows as a majesty of the stage, very deserving of his place as the pre-eminent leading man of Australian musical theatre.

Under the watchful eye of conductor Vanessa Scammell, members of the Queensland Symphony Orchestra are more collaborators than accompanists in the concert’s stylistically varied program, giving vibrant performances throughout. Of particular note is Act One’s complex, concluding “Soliloquy”, the centrepiece of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s dark American musical, “Carousel”. As jobless carousel worker antihero Billy, Warlow belts out his almost operatic aria musings about becoming a father, while the orchestra charts the song’s tempo shifts and thus emotive journey from opening strings of happy daydreams through introspection to its ultimate percussive punctuation of determination. Tender violins also add a particularly lovely, sweet tone to a resolute ‘Stars’ from “Les Misérables” as Warlow sings affront a speckled starry backdrop.

The sounds are more jazzy when special guest and Broadway star in her own right, Amanda Lea La Vergne, joins for a razzle dazzle showsopping “Follies” ‘Broadway Baby’ belt and an appropriately sizzling ‘Too Darn Hot’ from “Kiss Me Kate”. And when she and Warlow join together for a rollicking medley of “Annie” anthems in tribute to their roles together as Oliver Warbucks and his secretary Grace in the popular Broadway musical, the joyful charm the emanates is totally infectious.

“An Evening with Anthony Warlow” is a wonderful journey through the career of one of Australia’s most-loved theatre stars with the added interest of a set-list that sometimes varies from anticipated curation (Warlow even gets a bit Bublé-ish in an Act Two swing medley). The range of styles on show not only adds to audience enticement, but allows showcase of the versatile and charismatic performer’s range of talents, even in delivery of songs he has never before performed live. Clearly, Warlow is as beloved as ever by audiences, and in collaboration with the Queensland Symphony Orchestra, he shows how he not only can still draw a crowd, but provide a solid evening of entertainment for all.

Photos c/o – Darren Thomas

Without doubt wonderful

An American in Paris (The Australian Ballet and GWB Entertainment)

QPAC, Lyric Theatre

January 8 – 30

“An American in Paris” ‘S Wonderful, without doubt, from even its opening moments. The keenly-awaited Australian premiere collaboration between The Australian Ballet and GWB Entertainment begins with the simple imagery of a lone piano on stage, before we are launched into theimmediate aftermath of French liberation from Nazi occupation post-World War II. Arising from the ashes of the conflict is a city of explosive colour and energy that becomes a character itself as much as a backdrop to its ensuring love story.  

Inspired by the Academy Award-winning MGM film, the four-time Tony Award-winning Broadway musical tells the entrancing story of a young American ex-soldier, Jerry Mulligan (New York City Ballet principal dancer Robbie Fairchild) and a beautiful French ballerina Lise Dassin (Leanne Cope of London’s Royal Ballet). Mulligan has remained in Paris following the Nazi occupation’s downfall to try his luck as an artist, alongside fellow (now-wounded) veteran Adam Hochberg (Jonathan Hickey). Young Parisian dancer Lise, soon becomes the romantic focus of both men, without them realising her beau is their new friend, aspiring performer Henri (Sam Ward).

With wealthy American patron, Milo (Ashleigh Rubenach) financing the ballet that Adam is writing, in which Lise will appear, the show is, at its core, a tribute to art. Dance is central to its experience from the start; with inventive choreography including intricate ballets, musical theatre and jazz style numbers, chorus lines and tap routines. Act One’s late montage literally brings art to life as we are danced through the Parisian art world, the ballet’s rehearsals and a harlequin masked costume party at which Jerry realises Lise is engaged to his friend.

Under Christopher Wheeldon’s precise direction and choreography, the show is a celebration of both spectacle and skill. Reprising their roles as Jerry and Lise, Broadway and West End leads Fairchild and Cope cannot be faulted. Their signature pas de deux are enchanting in their dreamy romanticism as they soar across the stage. Fairchild, in particular, glides about with effortless ease, but also clear control, creating lithe lines that even those without intimate dance knowledge can appreciate.

With so much dance, the score features less than the usual number of songs for a musical and while sweeping romance is at the core of its identity, lively ensemble numbers, such as when the three main men bond in friendship and imagination of a brighter future in Act One’s toe-tapping ‘I Got Rhythm’, also feature amongst the highlights.

Familiar George and Ira Gershwin tunes such as ‘But Not For Me’, ‘’S Wonderful’ and ‘They Can’t Take That Away From Me’ soar gorgeously under Vanessa Scammell’s musical direction. In particular, Act Two’s ‘Stairway to Paradise’, in which Henri’s fantasises of performing an elegant number in Radio City Music Hall is an absolute art deco, heel and toe, tux and tails triumph of ritzy showgirl razzle dazzle.

A stunning design aesthetic elevates every scene as the enchantment of Paris is realised. Minimal set pieces dance across the stage establishing scene-by-scene locations and clever design allows sets to transform before audience eyes. Costumes changes, too, often happen as if by magic, such as when Lise blossoms from a shop girl to prima ballerina and detailed impressionistic projections awash things with beautiful Monet-esque watercolour palettes.  

The culmination of artistry that is Act Two’s lengthy titular ballet is a masterpiece of design. The elaborate number is enlivened by the orchestra’s bright jazz sounds and projections of avant-garde geometric Picasso-esque shapes. Its unique blend of classical and modern dance makes for sensational show-stopping number that allows for celebration of The Australian Ballet dancers, and even a mid-routine opening night applause for Fairchild’s series of perfectly turned out pirouettes.

Along with its beauty, “An American in Paris” has its humorous moments, such as when Act Two opens to the energetic number ‘Fidgety Feet’, which only adds to the show’s essential charm. The classy production uniquely takes its time, but also never sits still within the extravagance of its top production values. And while its lovely lavishness may be what impresses most, its optimistic romantic escapism to Paris, appropriately also lingers in reminder that from darkness can come light.

Photos c/o – Darren Thomas