Review: Chicago – Blue Fish Theatrical at Schonell Theatre

Main Image: Supplied Blue Fish Theatrical
It’s good, isn’t it ... grand, isn’t it? Oh I do love a musical! And as far as musicals go, John Kander and Fred Ebb’s satirical slice of razzle dazzle, the murderous Chicago (1975) is a corker. If you’re reading this, chances are you’re not one of the four people alive that hasn’t seen one of the many hundreds of productions on stage since its Broadway opening or the 2002 Academy Award-winning Hollywood blockbuster, so I won’t bore you with a recap. But I’ll say this - I’ve never met a Kander and Ebb number I didn’t like. As I drove out to UQ's Schonell Theatre for the opening night of Blue Fish Theatrical's production of the duo's best known piece, I was crossing my fingers that this company, who bill themselves as 'Queensland's hottest independent musical theatre company,' would pull it off. Sitting in the dark, the theatre was half-full and the curtain wide-open. Apart from 'CHICAGO' up in lights and the band centre, the stage was bare black, and I immediately knew we’d be stepping into a vaudevillian, concert-style interpretation - excellent, just how I like it. I flicked through the program to check out the designer and was surprised to find there wasn’t one, but three. Director Tony Campbell, Musical Director Julie Whiting and Stage Manager Brett Roberts are billed under Set Design whilst Choreographer Jenny Usher is ‘costume co-ordinator’ - whatever that means. Alarm bells. Too many cooks? Thankfully, by the end of the opening number - Chicago’s anthem 'All That Jazz' - my fears were allayed. This Chicago's design is slick and minimalist with sexy but not 'distracting' costumes. In fact, apart from a few pairs of ill-fitting men’s trousers, the design was wonderfully simple and classy. And what a joy to see a community theatre company cleverly putting their resources into all the right places.
Blue Fish do a good band and this production was no exception. It's jazz and liquor hot ... Julie Whiting and her troupe of talented musicians are just terrific
Tony Campbell, who clearly knows his way around a comedy, played it safe and directed the show by numbers. If you’re looking for a new or ground-breaking re-invention, you won’t find it here. Then again, if it ain’t broke… Continue reading Review: Chicago – Blue Fish Theatrical at Schonell Theatre

Where’s a young triple-threat to go?

A few weeks back I found myself in front of a lot of the Harvest Rain interns at one of their regular Friday Behind the Red Curtain seminar sessions. On the panel (chaired by Artistic Director of HR, Tim O’Connor) were three other actors: Steven Tandy, Bryan Probets, and Cameron Hurry.  As you’d expect, the students’ questions and subsequent discussion revolved around the business of acting. One of the questions put to us was whether, after training, taking work in an amateur theatre production would mean an actor would not be ‘taken seriously.‘  Was there, in fact, a stigma attached to doing amateur theatre? The response to the query was an emphatic ‘No,’ from all of us - with the caveat that an actor needs to seek out work with the best people - especially when getting started. This is what we actually said:
By the way, the Harvest Rain Behind the Red Curtain sessions are good value! Check out the others on their site. But, back to the question ... Each of the actor-panellists at the session had either begun their stage careers in amateur theatre or have returned there from time to time - for various reasons. Bryan speaks most eloquently in the video above about his experience, as do Steven and Cameron. As far as I was concerned, there was no local training when I left school, and the newly-created NIDA was barely a blip on anyone’s radar. I worked with Brisbane Arts Theatre for a few years before going on to train in London. The time I spent at BAT was invaluable to me; watching other, more experienced actors at work focussed my thinking, whilst spending hours and hours travelling by bus and tram to and from Petrie Terrace to Sandgate during the week and at weekends taught me how demanding the work could be. It also hardened my determination to go on. Continue reading Where’s a young triple-threat to go?

This week in Queensland theatre: April 26-May 2

Empire Theatre
Image by Dramagirl via Flickr

For further details on individual performances dates and showtimes check company websites

  • Disney's High School Musical, dir Lewis Jones Empire Theatre, Toowoomba (Wednesday)
  • Stockholm by Bryony Lavery, Dir and Choreographed by Scott Graham and Steven Hoggett, Sydney Theatre Company for La Boite Theatre at Roundhouse Theatre (Thursday)
  • Let the Sunshine by David Williamson Dir Michael Gow, Queensland Theatre Company at Cremorne Theatre, QPAC
  • Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett Dir Joseph Mitchell, Queensland Theatre Company at Bille Brown Studio
  • Spamalot Dir Ellen Casey, Blue Fish Theatrical, Schonell Theatre UQ
Reviews: High School Musical, Dir Lewis Jones: Empire Theatre, Toowoomba (Kate Foy)