Suzy Goes See’s Best Of 2014


2014 has been a busy year. Choosing memorable moments from the 194 shows I had reviewed in these 12 months is a mind-bending exercise, but a wonderful opportunity that shows just how amazing and vibrant, theatre people are in Sydney. Thank you to artists, companies, publicists and punters who continue to support Suzy Goes See. Have a lovely holiday season and a happy new year! Now on to the Best Of 2014 list (all in random order)…

Suzy x

 Avant Garde Angels
The bravest and most creatively experimental works in 2014.

 Quirky Questers
The most unusual and colourful characters to appear on our stages in 2014.

♥ Design Doyennes
Outstanding visual design in 2014. Fabulous lights, sets and costumes.

♥ Darlings Of Dance
Breathtaking brilliance in the dance space of 2014.

♥ Musical Marvels
Outstanding performers in cabaret and musicals in 2014.

♥ Second Fiddle Superstars
Scene-stealers of 2014 in supporting roles.

♥ Ensemble Excellence
Casts in 2014 rich with chemistry and talent.

♥ Champs Of Comedy
Best comedic performances of 2014.

♥ Daredevils Of Drama
Best actors in dramatic roles in 2014.

♥ Wise With Words
Best new scripts of 2014.

 Directorial Dominance
Best direction in 2014.

♥ Shows Of The Year
The mighty Top 10.

♥ Suzy’s Special Soft Spot
A special mention for the diversity of cultures that have featured in its programming this year.

  • ATYP



Photography by Roderick Ng, Dec 2014


Best of 2018 | Best of 2017 | Best of 2016Best of 2015Best Of 2013

Review: Guilty Pleasures (Blue Saint Productions)

bluesaintVenue: Hayes Theatre Co (Potts Point NSW), Dec 17 – 21, 2014
Book: Joshua Robson
Lyrics: Hugo Chiarella
Director: Joshua Robson
Music Director and Composer: Robert Tripolino
Cast: Angelique Cassimatis
Image by Mike Snow

Theatre review
Joshua Robson, Hugo Chiarella and Robert Tripolino’s Guilty Pleasures is a 45 minute musical with murderous women and their bad men. It is Chicago‘s “Cell Block H” expanded, and they’ve all had it coming. Comprising a series of independent stories about fatal romances, the short narratives are amusing, with compelling songs that add drama and a colourful sense of theatricality.

Performed by just one woman, the work demands that Angelique Cassimatis provides range and variety to each character, but the show does not have enough tonal shifts in performance or design, to create textural complexity from its string of tales. Robson’s direction blends each segment to form a cohesive whole, leaving behind the lively and fluctuating nature of the text. Cassimatis’s training and experience is evident, especially with her physical discipline and dance abilities, but her approach tends to be a technical one. Her talents in singing and acting seem to come less naturally, but the actor’s conviction is clear to see, and her energetic presence helps endear her to the crowd.

Burlesque touches in the production provide a sexy edge to the already risqué themes it covers. The writing has a dark humour that would appeal to those who seek a musical theatre experience that is less than “family-friendly”, but its execution might be a little subdued for some. Written and directed by three men, Guilty Pleasures is a feminine work with a queer sensibility and a charming cynicism about romantic relationships. The women in the show are determined to define themselves against the men in their lives, and all pay a hefty price at the end.

Review: O.C. Diva (Hayes Theatre Co)

hilarycole1Venue: Hayes Theatre Co (Potts Point NSW), Jun 15 – 29, 2014
Directors: Hilary Cole, Jay James-Moody
Musical Director: Steven Kreamer
Cast: Hilary Cole

Theatre review
Hilary Cole’s cabaret show takes on the familiar structure of a singer with a microphone, and her musical director on piano. The format works well for Cole, whose voice is an absolute delight, and her ability to convey clear stories and emotions through song demonstrates real talent. As is customary, the song list is composed mostly of familiar standards, but unexpected twists are introduced for added dimension as well as comic effect. Blondie’s 1979 hit “One Way Or Another” gets a surprising mash up treatment with Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Phanton Of The Opera”, delivering laughs as well as an impressive opportunity to showcase Cole’s musical flair and her musical director Steven Kreamer’s prowess as an accompanist. There is also a one-woman “duet” with Cole being joined by her own impersonation of Bernadette Peters, that illustrates her admiration for the Broadway superstar, and reveals an unexpected versatility.

Direction of Cole’s performance is effective in the comic sections. Her punchlines are subtle but defined, and the jokes are well written. The young performer’s level of confidence is still in teething stages, but she manages to connect well in the venue’s intimate setting. Cole does fidget and stroll around excessively, and her eyes often withdraw into an introspective downward glance, but her passion for the stage is vibrant and infectious. There is a significant portion of the show that looks back at Cole’s experience with obsessive compulsive disorder. The performance becomes vulnerable and truthful, but also overly dark and depressing. Balance is lost here, and one is reminded of the work of Sandra Bernhard and Liza Minnelli where melancholic humour is retained when dealing with bleaker subject matter. Sadness does have a place in the cabaret, but a greater sense of show needs to be applied.

Cole is a beautiful performer, both physically and vocally. She is also a quirky personality, which justifies the choice for a show that is slightly unorthodox in tone. Ultimately, O.C. Diva‘s most memorable moments involve Cole’s singing, which proves to be much closer to perfection than she believes it to be. After divulging her anxieties about personal deficiencies, the show ends at a point of catharsis where she confesses the need for trust. It is evident to all in the audience that she can certainly rely on her talents to take her very far indeed.

Review: Truth, Beauty And A Picture Of You (Neil Gooding Productions)

hayestheatrecoVenue: Hayes Theatre Co (Potts Point NSW), May 9 – Jun 1, 2014
Book: Alex Broun, Tim Freedman
Music: Tim Freedman
Lyrics: Tim Freedman
Director: Neil Gooding
Musical Director: Andrew Worboys
Cast: Ian Stenlake, Scott Irwin, Erica Lovell, Toby Francis, Ross Chisari

Theatre review
Opera and the stage musical are theatre genres with their own defined song structures. Music is written in a specific way so that the genre works. Tim Freedman’s songs were written not for the stage, but for the world of pop and rock. This “juke box” musical is formed with highlights of his recording career with The Whitlams, and it is debatable how well the selection stands up against compositions tailored for the genre, but there is no question that this premier production of Truth, Beauty And A Picture Of You is effective on many levels.

Freedman and Alex Broun have built around the songs, a story replete with nostalgia and sentimentality, ensuring an emotional experience that audiences expect of the format. Characters and lines are thoughtfully crafted, with scenes between songs sometimes leaving a greater impression than the musical numbers themselves. Neil Gooding’s direction utilises space limitations of the Hayes Theatre to his advantage, evoking wistfully, the grunge of the 1990s and of Newtown, where the action is set, but it should be said that visual design could benefit from being a little more adventurous. The incorporation of live musicians within the space is charming. Gooding allows them to be within sight, but they are never intrusive. Above all, Gooding is a sensitive storyteller. The plot unfolds beautifully, with surprise, laughter and pathos always in the mix. His cast is a strong one, and the conviction of their performances is impressively engrossing.

Ian Stenlake, in the role of Anton, unleashes remarkable charisma. He is not a heroic protagonist, but his confident presence captivates us, and makes us care for all that he goes through. Stenlake’s ability to portray frivolity and an Australian casualness is wonderfully endearing, and his comic timing is a highlight of the show. Scott Irwin plays Charlie, buoyant and optimistic in 1994, but wearied and dejected in 2014. His unbelievable transformation between both eras bears an authenticity that is astonishing. Irwin’s work is subtle but powerful. His depiction of the character’s darker moments are devastating, and it is this gravity that gives the production its soul.

Younger members of the cast might be slightly less accomplished, but their talents are evident. Their vocal abilities in particular are outstanding, and they bring new life to many of the songs. It is unfortunate that the only obvious technical weakness of the production has to do with the way voices are mixed, as the band tends to drown out some of the singing in the bigger numbers. Erica Lovell as Beatrice is delightful and spirited. She is the strongest actor in the young bunch, and turns a somewhat inconsequential character into a memorable one.

Truth, Beauty And A Picture Of You is a moving show about love in its many guises. It tugs at our heartstrings and touches deeply. Like every great musical, it is affecting and entertaining, and it presents an opportunity to showcase some of our greatest talents, in whom we find great joy and sublime inspiration. |

Review: Sweet Charity (Luckiest Productions / Neil Gooding Productions)

rsz_sc_0005_bps4219Venue: Hayes Theatre Co (Potts Point NSW), Feb 7 – Mar 9, 2014
Book: Neil Simon
Music: Cy Coleman
Lyrics: Dorothy Fields
Director: Dean Bryant
Choreography: Andrew Hallsworth
Musical Direction: Andrew Worboys
Actors: Verity Hunt-Ballard, Martin Crewes, Debora Krizak, Lisa Sontag

Theatre review
Bob Fosse directed and choreographed the iconic Sweet Charity, on stage and on film, in the late 1960s. The dance sequences are some of the most striking moving images ever seen, so one of the main challenges in staging the work today would be the treatment given to the re-creation of those scenes.

The current production at Hayes Theatre Co, helmed by director Dean Bryant and choreographer Andrew Hallsworth straddles between faithfulness and innovation. There is an acknowledgment that times and audiences have changed, but also an awareness that the immortal is a hard act to follow. Bryant’s adaptation uses the theatre’s spacial limitations to his advantage, and turns the work into an intimate and emotionally rich experience. There is a sense of things being scaled down, but for the most part, he achieves a good intensity on stage that results from the distillation of something conceptually grander. Hallsworth’s thankless task of re-interpreting Fosse’s choreography is surprisingly effective, even if the numbers “Hey Big Spender” and “Rich Man’s Frug” do leave us pining desperately for the film.

Visual elements are especially noteworthy. Ross Graham’s lighting is varied, dynamic and sensually appealing, providing the minimal set an aura of tragic beauty. It also gives logic to time and place, making the innumerable scene transitions happen flawlessly. Tim Chappel’s costumes and Ben Moir’s wigs are thoughtful and impactful without being overwhelming. They tell the story of the characters even before they begin to speak.

Martin Crewes plays a trio of Charity’s men, and delights with every role. The energy he brings to the stage is staggering, and he possesses a headstrong determination that is seductive and commanding. Crewes impresses with his powerful and creative song interpretations, and is responsible for both the funniest and saddest moments of the show in his role of Oscar. Debora Krizak shines as Nickie, one of the more jaded dance hall hostesses, and is easily the raunchiest and most colourful of characters. Krizak’s ability to portray earthiness and pathos is a real highlight. Verity Hunt-Ballard is the star of the show, with a vocal talent that makes Charity’s songs more meaningful than ever. The comic elements of the role are difficult (it’s not the funniest of scripts), but Hunt-Ballard is deeply moving at every tragic turn.

Sweet Charity can be thought of as pre-feminist. It constantly defines its women in terms of their relationships with men, and depicts their work in the adult industry as unquestionably pessimistic. All efforts are made for them to appear vivacious and intelligent, but their desires are left unexamined and unevolved. Unlike Fosse’s film, this production does not leave you with thoughts of glitz, glamour and glossy dance routines. Instead, it makes you ponder the big questions in our lives… and the meaning of love.