THE WINTER'S TALE, Bell Shakespeare Company at the Playhouse Theatre, Sydney Opera House, 1-29 March 2014. Photography by Michele Mossop: (above) Michelle Doake, Terry Serio, Helen Thomson and Justin Smith; right: Rory Potter.
There is something shiveringly exciting about the phrase "Once upon a time…" it promises so much and all of it mysterious and steeped in anticipation. This new production, directed by John Bell for Bell Shakespeare Company, achieves that shiver in the first instance with Stephen Curtis's fairytale setting of a child's bedroom.
The space is defined by diaphanous white sheers, a white floor, a white, fretwork-decorated kid's bunk bed reached via a ladder and hung beneath it, a wardrobe of multicoloured clothes that hide an entrance-exit. The mood and purpose change in an instant via washes of successive coloured lighting sets - cool-cruel blue, warm-happy pink, merry golden-orange. Above the bunk bed hangs an oversize mobile with stars and twinkly and twiggy bits whose shadows can be projected onto the drapes and become enchanting or menacing by turn in an imaginative lighting design by Matthew Marshall.
EUGENE ONEGIN, Opera Australia in co-production with the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden and Fondazione Teatro Regio, Turin at the Joan Sutherland Theatre, Sydney Opera House; 29 February- 28 March 2014. Photography by Lisa Tomasetti: above - Nicole Car and Dalibor Jenis; right Nicole Car.
Tchaikovsky's beautiful music and Pushkin's classic story of young love offered and rejected and forever regretted are an irresistible combination. Kasper Holten, the ROH's new-ish director of opera has loved it since childhood and he chose it for his directorial debut for the company. It's now come to Sydney (then moves to Melbourne) and it's impressive in many aspects.
The first and possibly most consequential is the musical and artistic coming-of-age of Nicole Car as Tatyana, the girl who hopelessly loved, lost and finally - painfully - grew up. She is vocally superb with a strongly developing and true soprano and the confidence to take it where she will. She is also dramatically and visually convincing as the young country girl who puts heartache behind her to become the dutiful wife of Prince Gremin (Konstantin Gorny) and therefore a queen of Moscow high society. Hers is the pivotal presence in this staging (European singers performed the premiere London season) and she is outstanding. She is not yet 30 and an international career must surely be in her hands, should she wish to take it.
NOISES OFF, Sydney Theatre Company at the Drama Theatre, Sydney Opera House, 22 February-5 April 2014. Photography by Brett Boardman: Genevieve Lemon, Josh McConville, Danielle King, Ash Ricardo, Marcus Graham, Tracy Mann and Alan Dukes; right: Lindsay Farris and Marcus Graham.
Michael Frayn's marvellous farce Noises Off is one of the best of the 20th century in a genre that is notoriously difficult to create and perform. It's the K2 of comedy - a challenge to the very best that's been taken up by every generation since. The years after its genesis in the 1970s-early 80s have been kind, partly because Frayn has continued to work on it from time to time - updating, cutting, rewriting. And partly because its premise - of a sad, second-rate rep company rehearsing then touring the English provinces in a sad, second-rate farce - means that subsequent productions are gifted with the clothes and hair-dos of an era that style forgot and there is little temptation to make over or modernise.
The consequence of the above is that as the curtain rises (yes, really!) on the setting of a theatre set of a two-tiered, oak-beamed country cottage with more doors than are strictly necessary or plausible (Mark Thompson) there is spontaneous applause. The same happens as the cast gradually assembles, one by one, in a parade of perfectly vile 70s outfits - designed by Julie Lynch while clearly on some kind of hallucinogenic trip...
JUMP FOR JORDAN, Griffin Theatre Company at the SBW Stables Theatre, 19 February-29 March, Merrigong Theatre, 2-5 April 2014. Photography by Brett Boardman: (above) Doris Younane, Sheridan Harbridge, Camilla Ah Kin and Alice Ansara; right: Sal Sharah and Doris Younane.
This new play by Donna Abela won the 2013 Griffin Playwright's Award and, according to the writer, has since undergone a lot more work. It has been cut, trimmed, polished, re-cut, re-trimmed, re-polished and generally attended to with care and much expertise (Jennifer Medway - dramaturg - with Playwriting Australia and the universities of Sydney and Wollongong also credited). And all that effort has paid off. Jump For Jordan is a joyous, tearful, hilarious and heartfelt experience and yet another success for Griffin and its artistic visionary, Lee Lewis.
The play is complex and multi-layered, it takes place in the past and the present, the single setting represents various locations and the characters are both real and imaginary. As well as a ripping story there are elements of sit-com and farce and all are underpinned by a classic Wog family drama. At the same time, it's also clear and concise and an entirely absorbing 90 minutes that zoom by in frequent flashes of brilliance.
SWEET CHARITY, Hayes Theatre Company at the Hayes Theatre, 7 February-9 March 2014. Photography: the Fandango girls with Verity Hunt-Ballard centre left and Deborah Krizak centre right; right: Verity Hunt-Ballard and Martin Crewes.
At the third curtain call on Thursday evening (February 13), the cast of Sweet Charity invited Nancye Hayes to the stage to take a bow in the theatre now named after her. The audience was already on its feet so the standing ovation was automatic but heartfelt for musical theatre's living treasure.
In keeping with her status, what she then said was absolutely on the money: she recalled her own appearance as Charity in 1967 when it was a turning point for Australian musical theatre because, for the first time, Australian performers were in the lead roles. Now, she opined, the founding of the Hayes Theatre - as a home for musical theatre - and the decision to open with Sweet Charity marks another turning point for the art form in Sydney...
ONCE IN ROYAL DAVID'S CITY, Upstairs Belvoir, 8 February-23 March 2014. Photography by Ellis Parrinder, above: Anthony Phelan, Helen Morse, Brendan Cowell; right: Helen Buday.
In one of a series of roles - this as a naively well-meaning private school teacher - Tara Morice smiles with artless encouragement at theatre director Will Drummond (Brendan Cowell) and reassures him that coming to talk to her class about political theatre will be a breeze. "And politics would not be an issue," she beams. "Our headmaster is a history teacher. He knows Marxism is dead."
Will is momentarily pole-axed by both her statement and her assumption, as are many members of the audience, especially those who aren't thirty-something somethings-in-big biz. The former gasp, the latter chortle - it's a key moment and key reaction to Michael Gow's new play, Once In Royal David's City...
Michelle Doake sparkles in the dark
Nicole Car is outstanding - don't miss her.
It takes enormous effort, talent and energy to be this silly.
A joyous, tearful, hilarious and heartfelt experience
Brilliant, ballsy and unmissable.
BAD NEWS FROM THE RIALTO
Today's forecast: not good and will get worse.
DARK DESCENDS ON THEATRE ROYAL
Sydney theatre supply hits the wall
STAGENOISE ON THE HIGH SEAS
Blessed silence for two weeks.
THE RISE AND RISE OF KING KONG
Broadway beckons. Spiderman watch out!
NEXT TO NORMAL: GONE
Why can't the producers get it right?
Empire by Spiegelworld
From March 11, 2014 (VIC)
The Balanescu Quartet - Maria T
12 March 2014 (NSW)
THE EMPIRE STRIPS BACK A Star Wars Burlesque Parody (Bathurst)
Thursday 13 March 2014 (NSW)
Empire Strips Back- Bathurst
March 13 (NSW)
Soweto Gospel Choir
Thursday 14 March (NSW)
Bill Bryson- Many a True Word
March 14 (NSW)
THE EMPIRE STRIPS BACK A Star Wars Burlesque Parody
14 March (NSW)
Lucy Durack & David Harris in Wickedly Broadway
March 14 (NSW)
Bill Bryson- Many a True Word
March 15 (QLD)