Review: Guys and Dolls – Harvest Rain Theatre Company at Concert Hall QPAC

Images: Nick Morrissey

Guys and Dolls – what an absolute cracker of a show. I’ve seen it live several times, watched the (1955) movie with Frank Sinatra and Marlon Brando more times than is normal, and even played Miss Adelaide in my hometown’s local production. Needless to say I was thrilled to be headed to QPAC’s Concert Hall last Friday night for the opening of this play the first for Harvest Rain Theatre Company’s 2014 Season and also first full season as a professional musical theatre company.

The show is set in New York in the 1940s and most of the action takes place on and around Broadway (with a flying visit to Havana). The central plot of Guys and Dolls is a romance; it follows the story of gambler, lady’s man and ‘sinner’ Skye Masterson who, as a result of a misplaced bet, falls in love with Sarah Brown an earnest, uptight, Salvation Army missionary. The subplot includes another romance in a different key – that between Miss Adelaide a Broadway showgirl and another gambler, the hapless Nathan Detroit.

The show opened at the 46th street theatre in New York in 1950 and has enjoyed immense success ever since. The book by Jo Swerling and Abe Burrows is hilariously timeless, and the music/lyrics by Frank Loesser are an absolute delight. Revered classics such as Sit Down You’re Rocking the Boat performed so joyfully in this production by Daryl Somers playing Nicely Nicely Johnson, and Luck Be a Lady are, of course, remarkable, but it is the lesser know numbers such as Sue Me, More I Cannot Wish You and Marry the Man Today that really show Loesser’s genius as a lyricist and composer. It’s a classic of the modern American musical theatre and is a great choice for Harvest Rain. Continue reading Review: Guys and Dolls – Harvest Rain Theatre Company at Concert Hall QPAC

Review: Blood Brothers – Harvest Rain Theatre Company at Cremorne Theatre, QPAC

Image: Photography by Trent Rouillon

Willy Russell’s Blood Brothers (1983) is supposedly based on Alexandre Dumas’ novella, The Corsican Brothers (1844). Each tells the tale of babies separated at birth; each spans decades, and there is love, betrayal, death – Blood Brothers does seem to have Dumas’ stamp of high drama – but, dig a little deeper into Russell’s own life, and you’ll find the seed of Blood Brothers was planted in his own childhood.

When the Olivier Award winning West End production of Blood Brothers closed in 2012, after 24 years, Mr. Russell gave a rare interview which shines some light on the matter. “I am very interested in nature versus nurture. When I look at myself or catch sight of a gesture I make and see my father … I also know I might have drunk myself to death at 30. Luckily, I was saved by my in-laws, who nurtured me.” He also speaks at length about the lack of trust he felt for his father, and his belief that the extensive amount of time spent with his mother, grandmother and aunts growing up enabled him to write convincing female characters. Continue reading Review: Blood Brothers – Harvest Rain Theatre Company at Cremorne Theatre, QPAC

Review: Ink and the Unknowns – Harvest Rain Theatre Company at Mina Parade Warehouse

A note from the Editor: I’ve always wanted to see a children’s show through the eyes of a young person. When Greenroom was invited to Ink and the Unknowns, I approached one of our reviewers, Sita Borhani, and asked whether her regular theatre-buddy (her 7 year old daughter Layla) would care to write about the experience for us. I was delighted when both Layla and Layla’s mother said, ‘Yes.’ So, here it is from Greenroom’s latest reviewer. Thank you, Layla and thank you Sita for transcribing her verbatim response to the show.

The Night I Went to See Ink and the Unknowns by Layla Borhani.

The night I went to see Ink and the Unknowns was a Friday. When we walked into the theatre, it was kind of freaky because it was really dark and there were frozen people. It made me feel scared because the lights were all the same colour – blue, and the people were camouflaged. When we sat down the set looked black and grey and I could hardly see anything that was on it, but when the show started and more lights came on, I could see shelves with little boxes, and all sorts of things, and also where the people were hiding.  It looked like a mysterious place where I’ve never been before, a really old place, everything was torn to rags.

It was pretty cool when the Unknowns found Ink, because no one in the audience noticed that he was under the cloth – he was really camouflaged!! Ink was really funny because he kept putting all these weird faces on, that made me laugh. He was my favourite character!

The Unknowns were funny and scary at the same time, their costumes were black and dark purple and grey and they suited the set.  Ex was my favourite unknown because she could do magic with string. I think Ink was confused to meet the Unknowns, because he’d been in another world and he didn’t really know where he was. He was starting to enjoy himself in the new world, but some of the Unknowns didn’t like Ink, because he was causing a big difference in their world.

There was a lot of dancing in the show. I liked the part where the machine kept telling the characters what type of dance to do. When it said “Bush Dance” they all danced with a bush! And when it said “Hula” they all danced with a hula hoop! It was funny. The dancing was cool, because they did really amazing arm tricks, and hip-hop, and it wasn’t boring. The music really matched the dancing, and the set and costumes.

It was awesome when they took light from Ink’s lightbulb and threw it at all the places that didn’t have light, to make them light up. I think the Unknowns had never discovered that light before and they needed Ink to light up their home. There was a fight over Ink’s light, and they dropped it and it smashed. I didn’t understand why Ink died.

I didn’t like how they didn’t talk, I would have understood it more if they talked. When they made sounds I kept getting excited that they were going to say something, but they never did. Next time they do the show maybe they could talk. Also, it was hot it the theatre, and I couldn’t see very well. I think if there were cushions to sit on, that would be better for short people. But I still had a good time.

The End.

A Mother’s note: The show was fabulous. Original, winning work from composer Maitlohn Drew and choreographer Callum Mansfield, who is, in my opinion, Harvest Rain’s greatest asset. Dancers Cameron Whitten (Ink), Maureen Bowra (Ex), Hannah Crowther (Why), Lauren Heidecker (Dubble) and Tom Markiewicz (Zed) were all incredibly accomplished and engaging within the post-apocalyptic setting. Funny, captivating and a show for all, Ink and the Unknowns had an all too short season from 27 Feb – 2 March.

About the Reviewer: At the ripe old age of 7, Layla is already quite the theatre buff. When she’s not taking in a show or fending off two younger brothers, Layla likes rap music, wearing boys’ clothes, reading books, and playing the drums. Although never shy of voicing an opinion, this is her first written review.

 

Review: Hairspray – Harvest Rain Theatre Company at Playhouse QPAC

Musical theatre – what some believe to be America’s great gift to the theatre – is as Ronald Harwood puts it, a meeting of realism and razzmatazz. Traditionally musicals have taken social issues and reworked them into a confection of story, song and dance. The musical Hairspray follows in this tradition. With book by Mark O’Donnell and Thomas Meehan, music by Mark Shaiman with lyrics by Scott Whittman and Mark Shaiman, Hairspray is as sweet and light as a root-beer float, and positively dripping in nostalgia for a time that was, perhaps, not as carefree and breezy as the play might suggest.

We’re in 1962 Baltimore, MA. JFK’s the President – for another year or so, anyway – and the Civil Rights movement is gathering momentum. There are pockets of ignorant, outmoded white resistance to what will be a bright, new, integrated tomorrow in the USA. Kids who don’t fit – here black or ‘pleasantly plump’/fat – are figures of fun, bullied by various grotesque authority figures, and excluded by their peers. They long for acceptance, and dream of being part of the great American success story. But never fear, this is musical land and, by the play’s end, all’s right with the world.

No wonder Hairspray has been such a hit on screen (1988; 2007) and stage, (8 Tony Awards on Broadway) and why it’s currently the pinup musical for pro-am companies all over the country. It’s bright and colourful, the music is sweetly nostalgic, the sentiment uplifting and hopeful. It’s no Showboat or South Pacific or Rent any of the other great musicals that took burning social issues and thrust them in the audience’s face, but then, Hairspray doesn’t set out to. What we get is a larger than life – the words ‘fabulous’ and ‘fantastic’ spring to mind – technicolor rendition of a time we wish there might have been. Continue reading Review: Hairspray – Harvest Rain Theatre Company at Playhouse QPAC

Review: The NeverEnding Story – Harvest Rain Theatre Company at Cremorne Theatre QPAC

Tim O’Connor writes wonderfully lucid Director’s Notes, and a good thing too, because I have always found The Neverending Story utterly confusing. My memories of the 1984 film are of a leather-bound book, a rock-eating mountain and a flying dog (sorry, luck dragon). There may also have been a mulleted David Bowie singing in a maze … or was that Labyrinth? It’s fair to say I’m not a die-hard fan.

So as my little girl and I sat in the foyer on opening night, flicking through the programme of Tim O’Connor’s re-envisioning of Michael Ende’s fantasy novel, The Neverending Story (1979), I read her the story blurb slowly (nothing wrong with being prepared I thought) and, as we walked into the wonderfully intimate Cremorne Theatre, I was confident she would know what was going on. After all, she’s infinitely smarter than I was at six, and loves a good yarn.

Well, by half way through it became clear that the apple doesn’t fall very far from the tree; she didn’t have a clue. This is not the type of show where you can break your concentration to unwrap your lollipop. I’m still answering questions two days later – having to explain both the plot and the higher order concepts at work.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s a lovely, lovely idea that a child’s imagination can save an entire world from being eaten up by despair. It’s just that, in the telling of it, you meet so many fantastical characters (whose names you can’t pronounce) and your quest takes so many strange twists and turns as you traverse the vast Fantasia, that it can be easy to get a little bit lost. Especially if you’re six. Or thirty.

That’s not to say she didn’t have a marvellous time. It was, after all, a feast for the eyes and the ears. Continue reading Review: The NeverEnding Story – Harvest Rain Theatre Company at Cremorne Theatre QPAC

Review: James and the Giant Peach – Harvest Rain Theatre Company at Cremorne Theatre QPAC

Southbank was teeming with littlies yesterday. Of course, it’s summer time and school holidays so, apart from swimming and eating icecream on a hot Brisbane Saturday afternoon, there were lots of things to do – singing, mask-making, theatre-going and story-telling among them. I had lunch while a bunch of what looked like under-5s were jumping and rolling around on the QPAC Green. They were learning all about Iggy the Iguanadon via a song – we have the Queensland Museum to thank for this, I suspect. I wished I had a small person with me; it looked so much fun and I wanted to share it with them. There were also a whole lot of families getting stuck into creative activities in the Playzone. Upstairs Mary Poppins was about to take off while, just down the road at the Cremorne Theatre, kids and their adults could go to a matinée performance of Harvest Rain’s latest production James and the Giant Peach, adapted by David Wood from the story by Roal Dahl. That’s where I was headed.

I remember this particular book from years ago. My kids loved being read to and then to read Dahl’s books as they got older; he remained a favourite into young adulthood. They switched their imaginations on and escaped into other worlds via books – at first picture books and then the word-dense stories like James and the Giant Peach. It’s a lovely fable about the capacity of imagination to transform lives. Continue reading Review: James and the Giant Peach – Harvest Rain Theatre Company at Cremorne Theatre QPAC