Melbourne Theatre 2013 in Review

I haven’t seen a musical in over 2 months (*gasp*!) and I’m waiting for Grease tickets to not be a total rip, so for now I will review the year that was 2013 in the theatre world. Again there’s a fair few to get through so apologies for the length. This list mostly consists of professional musicals along with a couple of Broadway-star concerts, a charity event, and a play.

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (Her Majesty’s Theatre)

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I was pretty excited to see this for the first time, but it definitely wasn’t one of my favourites and the film is way superior. I think it would appeal to kids, but it was quite pantomime-ish and not such a delight for adults (and I say that as someone who is pretty young at heart). The performances were decent but no one blew me away. BUT there was a flying car! So that was cool.

Legally Blonde the Musical (Princess Theatre)

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Omigod, omigod you guys, like seriously this is one of my favourites. (Actually I do sometimes talk like that). This was just great, corny, fun, with a positive message about hard work and girl power. I’m sure many were quick to judge when they heard the movie was being made into a musical, assuming it would be shallow and lame, but it’s actually pretty clever and has its tongue firmly in cheek. I absolutely love the score (‘So Much Better’ is the best in-your-face-ex-boyfriend song ever) and I’m pretty excited to hear that one of the co-composers, Laurence O’Keefe is working on the upcoming Heathers the Musical to be premiered Off-Broadway. I was pretty pissed off when I heard Lucy Durack had been cast because IMO Christie Whelan-Browne was the OBVIOUS choice as she can do no wrong. However, Lucy nailed it. She was hilarious. As was Rob Mills. He does smarmy well (funny that). I also loved Mike Snell as Kyle the delivery guy- cracked me up and looked great in those shorts. He is an ace dancer too. The whole ensemble were fantastic and this show was a welcome breath of fresh air.

Kristin Chenoweth in concert (Hamer Hall)

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MOST AMAZING PERFORMANCE OF MY LIFE! This woman is freakin’ insane! For those of you who don’t know who Kristin Chenoweth is, you are missing out in life. You’ve probably seen her in a guest spot on a TV show- she’s the tiny blonde woman (4 ft 11) with the weird speaking voice. However, she’s most well-known for her roles on Broadway, most notably as the original Glinda in Wicked. She has a Masters degree in Opera Performance but also sings country, jazz, and of course, Broadway. Not only is she a phenomenal singer, she is goddamn hilarious and seems like such a lovely person too. I was beyond excited to get to see her live, and she did not disappoint! The main highlight for me was the gospel ‘Upon this Rock’ – SHE MADE ME WANNA BELIEVE IN JESUS! It was just crazy good and brought the house down. (Here’s a clip from her US tour http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rmEXIKAJIV4) Other highlights included ‘Goin’ to the Dance with You’, ‘Maybe This Time’ (holy crap), ‘One Less Bell to Answer/ A House is Not a Home’ (holy crap), ‘In These Shoes’ (hilarious), ‘Popular’ which she sang in three different languages (also hilarious), ‘For Good’ (duet with Gretel Scarlett currently starring in Grease), and ‘Bring Him Home’ (holy crap). The only let down was the team of back-up singers. They were decent but anyone less than an A-list Broadway star is going to look pretty shit next to THE GREAT CHENOWETH. Like when one of the guys dueted with her on ‘One Less Bell to Answer…” – um, do not even try. This was a one-night only show and the audience were CRAZY. Applause after every single thing she said to the point where I just wished everyone would shut up so she could get on with it. But I’m glad she got the love she deserved. She is amazing.

Jesus Christ Superstar (Rod Laver Arena)

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Jesus Christ! Every single soloist in this had a phenomenal voice. I was excited to see Tim Minchin as Judas and Sporty Spice as Mary Magdalene (my childhood dream to see her live finally came true!), but the absolute stand-out was Ben Forster as Jesus. Holy shit. His ‘Gethsemane’ was mind-blowing. So much spit. Tim Minchin was fantastic – I was actually worried he had genuinely died following his suicide scene (I don’t think that’s really a spoiler) because it looked so real. We sat pretty close so we could see all the performers clearly but there were also screens showing everything close-up. This ended up just being distracting, especially because it lagged behind the audio. It’s so weird that this is even a musical… But then again, it is Andrew Lloyd Webber.

Shane Warne the Musical (Hamer Hall)

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I didn’t see the original a few years ago but I enjoyed this updated concert version. Eddie Perfect’s voice is great with that put-upon boy-band quality. I think he’d potentially make a good Elder Price in The Book of Mormon WHEN/IF it finally comes to Melbourne. Christie Whelan-Browne as Liz Hurley was amazing as always and I wouldn’t expect anything less. It was overall a very impressive cast for what were essentially ensemble roles, although I wasn’t that into Lisa McCune – she is highly overrated. I don’t really care for Shane Warne or cricket but could still appreciate this show nonetheless. Some good songs, with my favourite being ‘Dancing with the stars’ and its reprise. Classic. I look forward to the cast recording.

Idina Menzel in concert (Hamer Hall)

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Again, if you don’t know who Idina Menzel is then seriously, find the hell out. She has one hell of a voice which is incredibly unique. It was pretty exciting to see her do the Wicked and Rent numbers live in the flesh. Additional highlights were ‘Love for Sale/Roxanne’, ‘At the Ballet’, ‘What I Did For Love’, and ‘Somewhere’. And it was bloody impressive that she sang ‘For Good’ with her mike off. And that she performed for 2 hours straight with no interval. Her banter between the songs was pretty funny, especially when she demonstrated the Jackson Five choreography she used to do at wedding gigs. There were some CRAZY fangirls around – people think I’M bad! You have no idea. The girl next to me was hyperventilating.

Gypsy (State Theatre, Arts Centre)

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Caroline O’Connor: just give her the Helpmann award now. Ain’t nobody gonna top that. She was INSANE! We could see her spit in ‘Everything’s Coming Up Roses’ from Row S! She is definitely one of THE best musical theatre performers in the WORLD and the role of Mama Rose was MADE for her! The supporting cast were great – Nathan Pinnell’s dancing was incredible and Chloe Dallimore is so, so good at everything she does. Great score, and a good story regarding an overbearing stage mother. Overall it was a very high quality production – The Production Company is really hitting some home runs lately. If only they’d start doing three good productions a year instead of two.

Twisted Broadway (Playhouse Theatre, Arts Centre)

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This was a charity event for Oz Showbiz Cares/ Equity Fights Aids and involved over 60 performers from current and past shows, performing numbers originally intended for the opposite sex. My favourite number was Nathan Pinnell’s ‘Forget About the Boy’ from Thoroughly Modern Millie (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wePUUd4kia0) – I think I love him. I also loved the five young boys (from Mary Poppins, Love Never Dies, etc.,) singing ‘Naughty’ from Matilda. It actually made me feel quite emotional because it’s such a good song and THEY ARE THE FUTURE. Other highlights included John O’Hara singing Kristin Chenoweth’s ‘Taylor the Latte Boy’, the men from King Kong performing ‘Hey Big Spender’ (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8e6pDJJFO98), Matthew Robinson performing ‘Sally’s List’ which I believe is from his upcoming musical Happy People (can’t wait to see it), and a group of guys from various shows performing ‘Bend and Snap’ from Legally Blonde. Glaston Toft (Jersey Boys) and Anthony Harkin (Rock of Ages) did a Broadway Medley which was HILARIOUS (see here for the performance it was based on: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XviKvZ_jbMI). Overall a great night out. Can’t wait to see it again next year.

Hot Shoe Shuffle (Her Majesty’s Theatre)

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AMAZING. Especially Act 2. Such great tapping. There are some good songs but they’re not the selling point. The show is also pretty overly corny but it is well-worth putting up with that for the incredible dancing and the powerhouse that is Jaz Flowers. She was killer. Stellar voice, can bust a move, and brilliant comic timing. My mum was in tears at multiple points in the show because of her hilarity. Shame this was such a short run.

Singin’ in the Rain (State Theatre, Arts Centre)

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Best. Song. Ever. I really enjoyed this, although couldn’t help making comparisons to the film. I love Rohan Browne – his dance moves are so sharp – but I don’t quite think he’s a triple threat. Christie Whelan-Browne was amazing as always. Matt Lee and Alinta Chidzey were good but not mind-blowingly so. The overture made me feel a bit emotional – ‘Singin’ in the Rain’ is my favourite song of all time. And although I much prefer contemporary musicals in general, I do miss the overtures that new shows usually lack.

King Kong (Regent Theatre)

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I had heard mixed reviews about this show and I didn’t have very high expectations. That’s primarily because all the amazing reviews (including word of mouth) focused on the technical side of things, whereas a good musical for me is almost wholly dependent on the score. The score for King Kong is made up of a number of songs written by various artists not usually associated with musical theatre. Maybe it was because I had low expectations, but I was pleasantly surprised with some (but not all) of the musical numbers, such as ‘I Wanna Be Loved By You’ (a very busy number reminiscent of my favourite film Moulin Rouge), ‘Special FX’ (great fun number), ‘Face of Forever’ (accompanied by awesome affects), and ‘Full Moon Lullaby’ which I had heard in promos and found boring but then really liked in the show. Kong, the massive puppet was very impressive and the reveal was done well. I was advised to sit in the dress circle (which I rarely do) and regret not sitting in the stalls. I think it would have seemed even more awe-inspiring to look up at the beast rather than down on it. Also I like seeing the performers’ faces. If I get to see this again before it closes I will aim for the stalls. I really don’t understand people who say they always choose dress circle – have you ever sat in the stalls? It is infinitely better. That being said, there was some advantage in the DC here as you could get more of the overall effect. My friend and I both agreed that Act 2 wasn’t quite as good as Act 1 but overall I did enjoy the show and would go as far to say that it is Broadway ready (it is slated to arrive there this year or next). All four leads were great and I loved Esther Hannaford and would be thrilled if she got to go to Broadway with it as has been alluded to by the producer. I have no idea what purpose Queenie van de Zandt’s character was meant to serve, but she was good.

The Beast (The Sumner, Southbank Theatre)

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Eddie Perfect’s play The Beast was the ‘zeitgeist’ production in Melbourne Theatre Company’s 2013 season and it was awesome. That guy is HILARIOUS. The premise of the play is that a group of pretentious couples who have all opted for a sea change decide to have a dinner party whereby a private butcher will attend and ‘ethically’ slaughter a cow and prepare the meat for their consumption. However, the butcher has to cancel at the last minute and they have to take it upon themselves to kill their own meat. It was goddamn hilarious. It’s always great to see pretentious people get a roasting. Loved when they mocked the wankery of wine tasting. It pointed out the hypocrisy of some people and how much weight is put on appearances (e.g. it’s okay to make controversial decisions as long as you don’t talk about them at a dinner party). The cast were all fabulous, with Hamish Michael as the complete wanker Simon, and Sheridan Harbridge as his suffering wife Gen, particular standouts. But it was Virgina Gay as Sue who absolutely stole the show, using her prop of a bunch of carrots to perfection. Many of the conversations within the play were extremely clever and funny, such as the disgust at finding out the babysitter was a man and the fathers’ own reservations regarding leaving their children with a male, as well as a particularly controversial conversation that I will not repeat for fear of offending some people (it was hilarious though). At the risk of sounding stupid, it took me about 24 hours to realise just how good this was as I reflected on it and remembered extra bits and pieces. If it comes around again be sure to check it out. Unless you’re quite conservative, then maybe don’t. If you’re a pretentious wanker, you may enjoy it too if you have the ability to be self-deprecating. Otherwise… you too may be offended. Or embarrassed. Which you should be.

So there you have it. A Decent year in theatre in my opinion. What were your highlights or lowlights?

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5 thoughts on “Melbourne Theatre 2013 in Review”

  1. Didn’t see any of these but I must have seen something.
    May I suggest for 2014:
    Rent at Chapel Off Chapel for Midsumma on now (see it and review it because I may not have a chance)
    42nd Street at National Theatre in May
    Once at MTC late in the year
    And a little French musical.

  2. Oh what a pity, I was rather enjoying your reviews until I got to your snide comment about McCune. I’ve not really seen much of her TV work – except for her brief but fabulous appearance on Rake but her performances in South Pacific and The King & I were Broadway/West End standard (a view shared by many professional critics and directors). Either of those theatre industries would have rewarded her as she deserved. It’s fine that you don’t like her but to dismiss her as over-rated has turned me off your blog. Goodbye

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