Monday, November 23, 2015

Theatre: The Lion King (★★★★½)

Disney Theatrical Group
Music and lyrics by Elton John and Tim Rice,
Lego M, Mark Mancina, Jay Rifkin, Julie Taymor and Hans Zimmer
Book by Roger Allers and Irene Mecchi
Directed by Julie Taymor
Scenic design by Richard Hudson
Music direction by Richard Montgomery
Choreography by Garth Fagan
Crown Theatre
On sale until February 28

Buyi Zama as Rafiki in the long-awaited Perth season of The Lion King
 Now that we finally get to see the Lion King in the flesh, it may not hold too many surprises. But that doesn’t mean it has lost its power to thrill and captivate us.
From its first moment, the colour, movement and sheer theatrical imagination of Taymor’s sub-creation are mesmerising.
The director Julie Taymor’s guiding principle, the “double event” as she calls it, is to see the puppeteers and their performance as well as the creatures they both manipulate and portray. It’s an inspired theatrical decision – and it’s worth remembering just how influential this show is. 
The inventiveness continues in the sets; in one virtuoso scene, a spread of blue parachute silk disappears beneath the stage to announce the coming of drought and dearth that are the inevitable result of the murderous Scar’s fratricide and misrule.
All of which emphasise the underlying message of The Lion King, which is, in a sense, ecological. Goodness, truth and love lead to bounty, fecundity and joy. Falsehood, evil and hatred lead to ruin, sterility and misery. It says as much about our planet and us as it does about the lions and their Pridelands.
Nothing is perfect, and this production does suffer from some vocal deficiencies that aren’t as well supported by the sound balance and punch as they could have been.
It’s no deal-breaker though, and may no longer be an issue by the time you join the stampede of visitors to this, the proudest kingdom of them all.

Read the complete review in The West Australian

Theatre: Multiverse Theory in D (★★★½)

Ellandar Productions
Written and directed by Jessica Messenger
Musical arranger Suzanne Kosowitz
Designed by Tessa Darcey
Performed by Erin Hutchinson, Esther Longhurst, Nick Maclaine and Josh Walker
Blue Room until December 5

Ellandar Productions is about to celebrate its fifth anniversary.
Since then their work has been ambitious, well resourced, glossy, cinematic – and curiously awkward and unconvincing.
Happily they are now gathering some momentum. Last year’s Concussion was a solid production, and now with Multiverse Theory in D, they may have a hit on their hands.
Written and directed by Jessica Messenger, it’s an elusive, deftly-tailored story of a woman, Naomi (Erin Hutchinson), her ex-husband Robbie (Nick Maclaine), current boyfriend Jonathan (Josh Walker) and BFF Tegan (Esther Longhurst).
Hutchinson sure can work a tune, and that’s the icing on the cake here. Whether it’s an audacious blending of Savage Garden’s To the Moon and Back and the standard Fly Me to the Moon, the Goo Goo Dolls’ Iris, Jewel’s You Were Meant for Me or No Doubt’s Just a Girl, Hutchison, Longhurst and the boys beat and belt them out, often to a thrilling effect that’s more than worth the price of admission.

Read the complete review in The West Australian

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Theatre: Next to Normal (★★★)

Brendan Hansen and Rachael Beck
by Tom Kitt and Brian Yorkey
Black Swan State Theatre Company
Directed by Adam Mitchell
Musical Director David Young

Designed by Bruce McKinven
With Shannen Alyce, Rachael Beck, James Bell, Michael Cormick, Brendan Hanson and Joel Horwood

Heath Ledger Theatre
Until Nov 22

I’m sure we’ve all been waiting for a rock musical about bipolar depressive disorder with delusional episodes, and now we have it – Next to Normal (at the Heath Ledger Theatre, directed by Adam Mitchell).
Certainly the Americans, who are miles ahead of the game in such matters, were. When the Tom Kitt and Brian Yorkey-penned show hit Broadway in 2009 it was showered with awards (including a rare Pulitzer Prize for a musical) and rewarded with record-breaking box office takings. It’s since travelled the world; this is its fifth Australian staging.
It’s a strange beast. One thing that it’s not, despite the tag and the publicity, is a rock musical; if these songs, most of which sound like scrunched up and binned attempts to write another Defying Gravity, are rock, then Angus Young wrote Jesus Christ Superstar.
I’m not even sure that it’s a musical in the accepted sense. Oh, there’s music, lots of it; there are 42 songs in the show’s 130-odd minutes, surely a record, but that leaves precious little time for anything else. The music serves no purpose other than to carry the text. Dance is discarded entirely, spoken dialogue all but. So is humour (there was originally some, I read, but it was excised in the pursuit of cohesion and a “responsible” approach to its depiction of its hard, dangerous subject).
It as if we are at two shows at once: one, a dark drama on the devastation caused by mental illness, I’ll gladly see again; the other, the one with all the watery music, I’ll happily pass on.     

Read the complete review in The West Australian

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Theatre: Proximity Festival (★★★½)

Curated by Kelli Mccluskey and Sarah Rowbottam
Art Gallery of Western Australia
until November 8

The annual Proximity Festival moves to the pointy end of the plane this year, taking up residence in the elegant surrounds of the Art Gallery of WA after stints in the Blue Room, PICA and the Fremantle Arts Centre.
The dozen one-on-one performances and encounters that comprise the event are also an exploration of the gallery, from its grand exhibition halls to its deep-delved foundations. There’s sometimes a second layer of audience for the performances; gallery visitors watching the artist – and you – doing your things.
Proximity is an impressive achievement, as much of stage management (Anna Kosky was the wrangler-in-chief for the curators Kelli Mccluskey and Sarah Rowbottam) as anything else.
It’s often instantly stimulating and it can be frustratingly elusive, but Proximity is never even remotely an everyday occurrence.

Read the complete review in The West Australian