Computer says go

Forgery (Australasian Dance Collective)

QPAC, Cremorne Theatre

September 22 – October 2

The Australasian Dance Collective (formerly known as Expressions Dance Company) is a leading Brisbane-based contemporary dance group of much acclaim, whose unique shows celebrate collaboration and risk-taking in equal measure. “Forgery”, commissioned for development by award-winning Melbourne-based dancer, sound designer, choreographer and creative coder Alisdair Macindoe, perfectly encapsulates this core ethos.

The world premiere is innovative in its intent and execution given that it is directed entirely by cutting-edge technology. The resulting improvised choreographic score makes each performance a uniquely authentic experience for dancers and audience members alike. Beginning with direction for its six dancers to find their way to the stage, the shows sees its ensemble of performers then fed instructions live on stage by a complex series of algorithms which also dictate lighting, costumes and music. Initially, the directions are given as part of the sound design, before morphing into earpiece instructions that the audience sees projected at the back of the stage, effectively including us in the creative process as we see the show’s duration tick down in time.  

From its choreographic start, the bespoke Brisbane Festival show progresses to solo and duo work before a returning choreographic conclusion, with increasing speed and decreasing gaps between instructions in its exciting final minutes. Each performance sees a different order of different things, such as a long duo, leaving four dancers off stage in Saturday’s matinee performance.

When the dancers, Chase Clegg-Robinson, Tyrel Dulvarie, Lonii Garnons-Williams, Jack Lister, Jag Popham and Josephine Weise are all on stage, it is often difficult to know where to look as they each independently translate the instructions in simultaneous solos, finding their own styles inside the structure as phrases are often played out in different sequences or with pauses at different spots. Still, highlights mostly come when the group flock together or are moving en masse across the stage.

“Forgery” is fast moving and reactive at its core, such as when dancers have to navigate out of each other’s spaces upon instruction to spread evenly across the stage or are told where certain limbs are to be placed and when to interact in physical connection with others. Yet, it is a clear celebration of unique ways of thinking and moving as individual interpretations of a common language are communicated using different physical tools.

At just 45 minutes long, it is certainly short and sharp, catering to the attention economy of the digital world from which it has originated, as variables are added to the skeleton of each structural segment. It is, however, crammed with depth and an intensity that makes its short show time entirely apt, given that instructions are sometimes changing every 10 seconds. The limited time this gives dancers to complete ideas gives added invigoration. With so many instructions to translate (over 3000 during the season), hasty, condensed responses are required to convey physical ideas before they are changed.

Silliness settles its appeal to even dance laymen, giving us humour in instructions such as ‘your eyebrows are your thighs’ and affording a connection through easily identifiable concepts like Incy Wincy Spider, a Mexican wave, tai chi and the Thriller dance. And the soundscore of compositional works from Macindoe is often evocatively ominous towards a thunderous climax, supported by collaboration with Ben Hughes’ lighting design.

With all of its unique challenges, “Forgery” celebrates the flexibility and skill of its performers, but also encourages appreciation of the language and discipline of dance. To be given the rare opportunity to see chance choreography not just done, but done well, is thrilling in and of itself, but the work also brings with it an integral depth in its lead towards contemplations around creative agency and consideration of what is meant by choreography. As all great art does, however, “Forgery” constructs no finite answers, giving its audiences further reason to want to go again to more of its season of premiere productions of the work.

Blockbuster boy

Boy Swallows Universe (Queensland Theatre)

August 30 – October 9

QPAC, The Playhouse

With an absent alcoholic dad and a mum in jail, Eli Bell’s (Joe Klocek) 1980s adolescent life in Brisbane’s outer suburbs is all about timing. It’s a idea established from the opening scene of the Brisbane Festival blockbuster “Boy Swallows Universe” in the clock tower of Brisbane’s Town Hall as we are flashed forward seven years to where the story will end. And it is a motif that is especially appropriate given how sustained the ‘time does not exist’ audience engagement is between these two points of the production, which is written by Tim McGarry as an adaptation of the bestselling Australian novel inspired by Brisbane author Trent Dalton’s own childhood.

The first rule of storytelling is to show rather than tell, and this is what lies at the heart of the show’s success as it moves the audience quickly through the many early fast-moving scenes of its gritty coming of age story. Swift scene changes go virtually unnoticed within Renee Mulder’s dynamic design. It is all incredibly clever as a revolving stage is used and door frames appear to drop us into the intimacy of rooms that aren’t physically there. Ben Hughes’ lighting design creates atmosphere, especially to darken us into the suffering that comes in head to interval and Craig Wilkinson’s video design widens us to be, for example, under a starry sky as moving images bleed across the blank canvas of a stage to create suburban balconies and alike to give things a 3D effect. This similarly allows for the story’s blackness to seep in as it ebbs and flows from optimism to setback such as when Eli and his brother’s hopes of a life with the newly-returned-to-them mother are dashed by her continuing to live in a domestic abuse situation, showing that there is no shying away from the local novel’s confronting themes.

Brisbane mentions are enhanced by video design reminders of the visuals of place. And just as its costumes cover the spectrum of 80s fashion, Steven Francis’ pumping sound design allows songs of the era to bring back memories alongside of-the-time pop cultural mentions from “Family Ties” to famous Olympians. In the interest of creating light and shade, however, the musical vitality is largely gone in Act Two when things get more serious as seen through Eli’s maturing eyes.  

Humour and words of wisdom are used in equal measure to engage the audience, often from the most surprising of places, such as Eli’s friend and babysitter, Slim Halliday (Anthony Phelan), convicted killer and infamous Houdini of Boggo Road Gaol. In Act One, a lot of laughs come courtesy of Hoa Xuande’s portrayal of Eli’s criminal school fiend Darren Dang. In Act Two, they are from Anthony Gooley as hard-line but quippy Courier Mail Editor Brian Roberttson, who clearly does not suffer fools easily.

All characters are created with complexity, in reflection of Slim’s reminder to Eli that there are different types of good and bad. Mathew Cooper gives Eli’s father Robert an essential empathy and Michala Banas’ portrayal of Eli’s mother Frankie’s complexity is almost uncomfortably honest. It is Klocek, however, who carries the show with his portrayal of the boy with an adult soul, barely off stage for its duration. Over its course we see him both capture the mannerisms of a 12-year-old boy and also age through to a more confident and broad-shouldered 19-year-old standing surer in himself as he begins life as a journalist.

Some of Klocek’s best moments come when in banter with Tom Yaxley as Eli’s brother August, such as when the duo listen in on a school guidance councillor’s conversation of concern with their father about the traumatic event of the past that has fractured the family and caused August to stop speaking, instead silently swirling cryptic messages in the air with his finger. And while Yaxley says few words, his communication is in-depth, especially in attempt to come to his sibling’s rescue in the violence of Act One’s climax.

A great story isn’t automatically a great play. And while transformation of Trent Dalton’s hugely successful novel has been a massive undertaking (more than two years in the planning) it has absolutely paid off in what is probably the best show Queensland Theatre has ever produced, because of its approach to the story’s words. The show’s design ensures that while only essential words are needed, they still remain at the heart of things, with protagonist Eli’s letters to incarcerated Rebels motorcycle club Sergeant-at-Arms Alex Bermudez (Joss McWillian) appearing as projections across the space.

“Boy Swallows Universe” is a story of massive scale, clocking in at slightly under three hours duration (including interval), yet under Sam Strong’s tight and pacy direction, it feels like so much shorter with audience members engaged in its details to the point of even spontaneous applause in response to events on stage and reactions so seemingly genuine as to leave you wondering if they occur in the same moments of each performance. More than just recreating Trent Dalton’s story, the production honours the original text and refashions it as a work of its own, grounded beyond any just aesthetic veneer.

The confronting language, themes and violence that are integral to the narrative are littered throughout. Fight scenes (Fight and Intimacy Director Nigel Poulton) are realistic, and there is simulated violence in keeping with its mature themes. While there is certainly a lot of confrontation, however, this is part of the ultimate journey to optimism that serves as a key component of novel’s resonance. Queensland Theatre retains this core celebration of the spirit of resilience and the power of love to overcome dysfunction in what is a story of characters, but also real people and a family (motley as they may be), meaning that with its lots of laughs, time-to-time tears and essential heart, the landmark “Boy Swallows Universe” is something truly special and likely the best theatre you will have seen in a long time.

Photos c/o -David Kelly

Must-see Melville

Ishmael (Dead Puppet Society)

QPAC, Cremorne Theatre

September 3 – 18

Dead Puppet Society is an Australian theatre company highly regarded for its creation of puppet-based visual-theatre works of spectacle and wonder. Its shows have always been inventive so audiences shouldn’t be surprised at the evolving enterprise that is realised in its latest production, “Ishmael”. This time rather than animals, the puppetry comes courtesy of dozens of intricate models and dioramas, which are projected in rotation on a massive scale through a live feed video as creative geniuses David Morton (Director and Designer) and Nicholas Paine (Creative Producer) take audiences into a whole new world of storytelling … literally.

As its name implies, “Ishmael” is based upon Herman Melville’s classic “Moby Dick” story of Captain Ahab’s pursuit of revenge against a giant whale. Rather than an obsessive quest across the ocean, however, this story’s voyage is of a climate refugee in the outer solar system. The year is 3022 and the earth as we know it is dead, having suffered a catastrophic environmental collapse. The surface of the planet is smothered in a layer of clouds, all except for the tops of the tallest mountains which are controlled by a wealthy corporate class.

Ishmael (Ellen Bailey) is a freedom fighter refugee from life in a corporation-sanctioned camp below the cloud. “Call me Ishmael” she iconically states when introducing herself to a pilot testing officer (Veteran Brisbane actor Barb Lowing) at the play’s outset. Though she may have come from the latest uprising, as specialised labour Ishmael says she is ready to work for the corporation. Eager to disappear and clearly on edge, she is not much for courtesy, ready to pull a gun out at the slightest even hint of potential provocation, meaning that clearly, her escape is from more than just climate destruction.

More cagey than enigmatic, however, the character doesn’t provide us much in terms of backstory, making it difficult to become invested in her journey, meaning that when motivations are eventually revealed late in the work, they come almost as surprises rather than justifications. Still, Ellen Bailey she does a good job in bringing the protagonist’s emotions to life with a committed physicality that animates her every reaction.

Patrick Jhanur, meanwhile calms things with a steady presence as the 900+ year old android Queequeg; his simple humanity sees many audience members obviously invested in his relationship with Ishmael, judging by the audible reactions at its key junctures. And Lowing transitions between multiple additional roles with ease, including most notably as the Captain Ahab who hires Ishmael for a mission to avenge her brother’s death.  

As worthy as the performances are, however, the most impressive aspect of “Ishmael” is its audio visual engagement. What begins with the calming HAL 9000-like artificial intelligence system aboard the spaceship MV Pequod, soon cresendos towards a truly dynamic soundscape (Sound Design and Music Supervisor Tony Brumpton), including original music soundtrack by indie pop musician Bec Sandridge. It is just unfortunate that sometimes in its wind around the audience, it sometimes operates in competition with the dialogue of high action moments.

Cameras stream intricate miniature models live to the big screen that serves as the stage’s backdrop, elevating the story in epicness, with the puppetry occurring just offstage and being projected on to the screen. And the operation of models by the non-performing actors (with technician assistance) at the side of the stage adds interest along with transparency as to the process.

Stunning visual projections (Projection Designer Justin Harrison) also sweep us into the story’s intergalactic setting, especially as backdrop to the big battle moments of the crew’s perilous voyage to the outer solar system’s sections. And when the three characters make their way out in individual crafts to mine asteroids, the result is sci-fi action of the sort you would never usually expect to see on stage.

Science fiction is so rarely seen in our theatres so for this alone this futuristic reimagining should be celebrated. Not only is the ground-breaking theatrical experience visually spectacular in its futuristic version of earth and its universe, but it carries with it an ultimately uplifting message about reaching for the stars, which, in combination, makes it a must-see Brisbane festival show.

Photos c/o – Dean Hanson

Golden ticket treat

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (John Frost for Crossroads Live)

QPAC, Lyric Theatre

September 2 – October 3

After being within days of opening night at the start of pandemic lockdown #1 last year, the achocalypse of multi-Helpmann Award nominated musical “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” has finally made it back to QPAC, and as experience of its magical wonder reveals, it has certainly been worth the wait.

The fanciful story starts with Willy Wonker (Stephen Anderson), the eccentric owner of the Wonka Chocolate Factory, explaining to the audience that he’s searching for a suitable successor to run his empire (‘The Candy Man’), which he will do, it later emerges, through running a competition that will see five golden tickets hidden in chocolate bars across the world. With Wonker working in disguise at one of the global brand’s small stores, initial songs run through without much dialogue as interlude as the audience is also introduced to the story’s protagonist, Charlie Bucket (Flynn Nowlan on opening night, in a role shared with Phineaus Knickerbocker, Cooper Matthews and Edgar Stirling) and his poor family’s life of cabbage soup, Grandpa Joe’s (Robert Grubb) tall tales and Charlie’s dreams of inventing the next big thing in confectionary.

Then, as the story works its way through Act One, there is revelation of the five all-access golden ticket winners from around the world, who, along with a parent, have opportunity to tour Wonka’s factory. There’s the gluttonous Bavarian beefcake, Augustus Gloop (Jaxon Graham Wilson) and his mother (Octavia Barron Martin), the tenacious, pampered Russian ballerina princess Veruca Salt (Karina Russell) and her always-obliging father (Simon Russell), the self-absorbed social media celebrity and self-proclaimed ‘Queen of Pop’ (in nod to her gum-chewing) Violet Beauregard (Tarisai Vushe) and her enthusiastic father manager (Madison McKoy), the angsty tech-addict gamer Mike Teavee (Taylor Scanlan) who hacked his way to receipt of a golden ticket, along with his neurotic suburban housewife mother (Johanna Allen); and eventually, Charlie and his Grandpa Joe.

Staging is cleverly compact, initially at least, in creation of the Bucket’s home, where Charlie and his widowed mother (Lucy Maunder) live with Grandpa Joe and Grandma Josephine (Katie McKee), but also Grandpa George (James Haxby) and Grandma Georgina (Ana Mitsikas).

Monograms are cleverly woven into the design, not just in the façade of the Wonker factory, but into Charlie’s ramshackle residence, Violet’s velour tracksuit and the Louis Vuitton pattern that backdrops Veruca’s appearance. And then, in Act Two staging is all colour and movement as it takes us on a mesmerising joyride through the incredible inventions within the chocolate factory.  

The resulting first appearance of the Oompa-Loompa factor workers, imported by Wonka direct from Loompaland, becomes a real highlight, drawing joyful reaction from those unfamiliar with the on-stage version of Roald Dahl’s beloved 1964 children’s novel. It is to everyone’s delight that they appear a number of times during Act Two to sing about the children’s poor behaviour.

Visual effects also provide a little bit of magic, especially around the dynamic introduction of Mike Teavee with accompanying technicolour chronicle of his mother’s ‘50s housewife style of substance use in attempt to cope with Mike’s cyber antics. Also, when Mike’s obsession with electronics overcomes him and he is shrunk down to the size of a chocolate bar after being sent into Chocolate Television, projections show him jumping from screen to screen in full video game mode.

Japhy Weideman’s lighting design similarly works well to razzle dazzle us as required, such as when Charlie’s discovery of a golden ticket after buying a Wonka Bar with some dropped money, sees Grandpa Joe determining to get out of bed for the first time in years to accompany him on the factory tour (‘I’ve Got A Golden Ticket’). And Mark Thompson’s costumes design takes us from the sad patchwork fabric of Charlie’s day-to-day life, to the ostentation of Wonker’s wonderland.

Nowlan gives a perfectly-pitched performance as the good-hearted Charlie, humbly sniffing used chocolate wrappers in the newly opened Wonka shop a the end of his street. He captures the heart and soul of the character, including the inherent goodness that sees him rewarded from among the group of otherwise ungrateful golden ticket recipients.

Anderson nimbles about the stage as Willy Wonker, capturing his eccentricities in his energy and speech of malprpisms and word mis-ordering, but also his darker character shades as he reacts blasély, bordering on gleefully as during the factory tour, the four other children cannot resist their impulses towards misbehaviour and are consequently removed in darkly comical ways. And the supporting cast are similarly all excellent in their respective roles.

All aspects of the show combine in a lovely balance of humour with the show’s essential heart. Charlie’s bedridden grandparents provide a Greek chorus of commentary, often punctuated by deadpan one-liner delivery from a cynical Grandpa George, which operates in juxtaposition to eternal optimist Joe’s hyperbolic stories, often featuring an Australian flair. Indeed, the exaggeration of the comic characters is integral to the show’s appeal to audience members of all ages, down even to the Euan Diodge’s matter-of-fact spruiking of second-hand vegetables as local beggar-woman Mrs Green.

The soundtrack features a range of numbers. And while songs like Act Two’s techno-esque ‘Vidiots’ is certainly catchy, it is the more restrained numbers that best showcase the talent of the orchestra (Musical Director David Piper). This includes the sweet ballad ‘If Your Father Were Here’, in which Mrs Bucket describes how their lives would be better if Charlie’s father were still alive, in help to stretch Act One out towards arrival of the golden ticket winners at the factory. Expectedly, perhaps, it is the melody of the iconic ‘Pure Imagination’, sung by Wonker as the group are taken behind the factory’s gates of astonishment, the leaves the most lasting musical impression, along with his tender final ‘The View from Here’ in which he tells Charlie of his grand prize as the two soar high into the air in a great glass elevator.

With cyber-crimes and social media stars, the musical of “Charlie and Chocolate Factory” is a story of the 21st century, however, it is also one that keeps true to its origins as an ode to daydreaming. While the show incorporates Dahl’s dark humour in its illustration of what happens to children who misbehave despite warnings, there is an essential innocence to its imagination that makes it a purely joyful treat.

West Side spectacle

West Side Story (Opera Australia and GWB Entertainment)

QPAC, Lyric Theatre

July 24 – August 22

With book by Arthur Laurents, music by Leonard Bernstein, lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and choreography by Jerome Robbins, “West Side Story” is one of the most celebrated musicals of all time. And Opera Australia and GWB Entertainment’s production of the classic recreates its beautiful blend of all of these elements in a vibrant and textured take that balances the contrasts of its story of gangs and love.

The plot, which borrows heavily from Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet” is of the doomed love story of two characters who fall in love despite being from enemy houses. On the streets of 1950s Upper West Side New York these houses are the urban gangs of the Jets and their rivals, the new Puerto Rican immigrant Sharks. Former Jets member Tony (Nigel Huckle) meets and instantly falls in love with Maria (Sophie Salvesani), the young sister of the Sharks’ leader Bernardo (Temujin Tera). The two attempt to keep their love a secret, however, as the feuding gangs prepare for a rumble, their loyalties are tested with heartbreaking consequences.

The musical starts in a glorious fashion with the ‘Prologue’ opening dance number featuring the Jets’ dancing, which both sets the tone and arcs to the rumble that ends a lengthy Act One. Director/Choreographer Joey McKneely’s demanding routines remain true to the original style and are slick and spirited as, in the opening number, the gang members fly through the air as they enact athletic yet graceful ballet moves and long extensions, but also frenetic energy, like the fast-footed feats of the roughneck Pontipees in the barn-raising dance sequence of “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers”.

Dance represents an integral part of the storytelling to signpost the tension between characters and to express the excitement of budding romance, in contrast to later frustration and grief. And the choreographic storytelling is skilfully executed by the highly-talented ensemble. Every 1950s beatnik finger snap, flick of the wrist, sharp stomping foot and long leap is precise and evocative. The Sharks girls’ sizzle in a lively, Latin-inspired ‘America’ of swishing skirts and fiery flamenco foot-stomping, as they in-turn mock their current world and that from which they have come in trade of one island for another.

There is chorographic grace amongst the rapid moves of the show’s rich jazzy numbers, thanks to a score that is filled with moments of light and shade. Lyrical ballet moves convey romance and innocence, with Act Two’s ‘Somewhere’ serving as an alternative reality highlight with both Sharks and Jets gang members, costumed in all-white, entering a magical ballet sequence, “An American in Paris” style. Making full use of the stage in sensitive echo of the earlier, explosive ‘Dance at the Gym’ they use a circle configuration and contemporary stylings of light-hearted, carefree movement to morph from small groups to build to a larger harmonious one.

The whole show is very choreographed; not just the dance sequences, but how the dancers move across the stage, and how the staging changes. Several large set pieces recreate 1950s New York with its synonymous apartment fire escapes, seamlessly joining as necessary to create a Juliet balcony for Tony to scale.

Lighting is rich, awashing the stage with a lush blush to soften the lovers’ first meeting and darkening its violet in low key lighting foreshadow of what is to come as they fantasise about being together and married in ‘One Hand, One Heart’. Renate Schmitzer’s costume design emphasises the youth and innocence of Tony and Maria against the bold palettes of the different gangs, which see the passionate Puerto Ricans in vibrant reds and purple, and the angry Jets in more muted earth tones and denim.

There is a clear youthful energy to this “West Side Story”. Connor McMahon is a memorable Baby John, the youngest member of the Jets gang and Nathan Pavey displays an impressive stage presence as self-styled expert Snow Boy, both in dance and comic moments alike. Angelina Thomson is sensational as Maria’s feisty friend Anita, who is girlfriend of Bernardo. Not only is her dancing exciting, with her use of costume movement only adding to its fervour, but the physicality with which she enlivens the emotion of her angry tirade to Maria against Tony, ‘A Boy Like That’, is palpable.

Huckle brings an immediate softness to the idealistic Tony and his delivery of Act One’s romantic ‘Maria’, when Tony learns the name of the girl with whom he’s fallen in love, is beautifully operatic in match with the score. Salvesani also has a stunning voice. Her Maria is pure hearted and innocent, but also strong-minded, and her solid vocals see us treated to a powerful ‘I Have a Love’, assertion to Anita as to the power of the feeling.

While the book of “West Side Story” may not hold up as well as the score, the musical is still a beautiful meld of Broadway dance and opera. Leonard Bernstein’s legendary score dazzles in its blend of jazz, Latin and classical inspirations to create definitive musical theatre numbers. Even the upbeat ‘Gee, Officer Krupke’, allows the cast members in smaller roles to have a slapstick moment in the spotlight as they play-act in vaudeville style, interaction with the local beat cop who has no patience for the gangs’ conflict, courtesy of Stephen Sondheim’s playful lyrics. And under Isaac Hayward’s Musical Direction, the orchestra is dynamic in its delivery of Bernstein’s memorable score, resulting in well-deserved ovation at the show’s end.

“West Side Story” is a must-see musical event for both long-time fans and those new to the classic alike. It presents a faithful revival of the original work with spectacle, energy and vibrancy. Its rich score in both vivacious in its moments, but also lingering its emotional melodies while the rest of the world fades away. And while its star-crossed love story may end with sadness, the electrifying journey to its tragedy is one that Brisbane audiences are privileged to have the opportunity to experience.  

Photos c/o – Will Russell

Celebrating Creedence

Creedence Clearwater Inspired Featuring Proud Mary

QPAC, Concert Hall

June 18

Friday was a night of contrast at QPAC; while Lyric Theatre audiences were being drawn into the graceful fairy-tale world of Queensland Ballet’s “The Sleeping Beauty”, next door in The Concert Hall, attendees were rocking back to a time when Creedence Clearwater Revival was the soundtrack of a generation. For two hours, “Creedence Clearwater Inspired Featuring Proud Mary” pays tribute to the prolific American band and its six platinum album contribution to the cannon of popular music in a manner that is infectious in its appeal from its very first number.

Beginning with the gravelly ode to the New Orleans area, ‘Born on the Bayou’, CCR’s 1969 Woodstock set opener, audience expectations are immediate met, both musically and thematically. Things blast along from here, though the quartet’s cover of ‘Suzie Q’ from the band’s self-assured self-titled debut album and hits such as the playful ‘Lookin’ Our My Back Door’, the jaunty ‘Bad Moon Rising’ and the funky ‘Down On The Corner’, crescendoing in energy and volume in a charging ‘Molina’, erupting the balcony audience in particular into full party mode.

The show, which features a line-up of extraordinary Australian rock musicians, is high-energy in its faithful recreation of the sound and feel of CCR at the height of their fame. Indeed, they not only effectively rework some of CCR’s longer arrangements into versions that work in a live show, but they maintain the integrity of the swampy sounds of John Fogerty, Tom Fogerty, Stu Cook and Doug Clifford, throughout. Depth is also added to the grass-roots anthems though the Concert Hall’s lush lighting accompaniment, which bathes the venue appropriately for ‘Green River’, while the tempo changes and dramatic instrumentation of ‘Ramble Tamble’ are signposted by in-sync lighting throughout the stalls, making for an even more dynamic experience.

“Creedence Clearwater Inspired Featuring Proud Mary” may have a running time of 2 hours 20 minutes (including interval), but it appears to be over in what seems like the shortest of times, so engaging is its appreciation of the magnificence that is the entire Creedence Clearwater Revival catalogue. Highlights include an intense ‘Fortunate Son’ late in Act Two and quintessential and signature CCR song, the melodic ‘Proud Mary’, as part of a rousing encore, drawing audience members appropriately to their feet.

W.A. based Creedence Clearwater Revival Tribute band Proud Mary features the internationally renowned founding members of five-time ARIA Award winning ‘90s rock icons Baby Animals (bass guitarist Eddie Parise and drummer Frank Celeza), along with frontman Ryan Rafferty and lead guitarist Paul Cushing. And rather than focussing on costuming and choreography in recreation, Proud Mary is all about the music, making it impressive to both true fans and casual listeners alike. Their musicianship is superb throughout. In particular, Rafferty’s gritty voice layers numbers with emotive power while Cushing is formidable in fierce guitar solos such as in lick of ‘I Heard it Through the Grapevine’.

“Creedence Clearwater Inspired Featuring Proud Mary” is the first full-scale concert in Australia dedicated to celebrating the music of Creedence Clearwater Revival and appropriately, the celebration of the hugely influential band is an unforgettable live music experience. It’s authentic re-creation and first-rate musicianship in and of itself, make the brand new concert a huge and hugely-entertaining night out, that you don’t have to be a fan or of baby-boomer vintage to feel. Indeed, Fogerty’s song lyric commentaries about Woodstock, Vietnam and youthful rebellion may have captured the era’s mood, but they are simple and direct enough to resonate across the ages. And the inclusion of his more whimsical ‘Rock and Roll Girls’ along with Status Quo’s poppy ‘Rockin’ All Over the World’ (written by Fogerty) along with CCR’s iconic numbers only add additional interest and reasons to do yourself a favour and get a ticket.

Photos c/o – Justine Walpole