Review: Jekyll And Hyde (Hayes Theatre)

Venue: Hayes Theatre Co (Potts Point NSW), 29 Jul – 27 Aug, 2022
Book and Lyrics: Leslie Bricusse
Music: Frank Wildhorn
Director: Hayden Tee
Cast: Melanie Bird, Mitchell Cox, Georgina Hopson, Madeleine Jones, Luke Leong-Tay, Brendan Maclean, Rob McDougall, Sarah Murr, Gus Noakes, Billie Palin, Brady Peeti, Matthew Predny, Mitchell Roberts, Rutene Spooner
Images by Phil Erbacher

Theatre review

Dr Jekyll is determined to reveal the secrets hidden within the human psyche, but what he uncovers is beyond anything he can ever prepare for. This 1990 musical by Leslie Bricusse and Frank Wildhorn, is a retelling of the 1886 novella by Robert Louis Stevenson, famous and eternally resonant with what it says about our nature.

Bringing a delicious sense of camp, is new direction from the inventive mind of Hayden Tee, whose bold vision ensures that Jekyll and Hyde is nothing short of a captivating experience. The show is taut and exciting, with a superlative level of singing and musicianship that has us impressed from start to end. Orchestration by Nigel Ubrihien is exceptionally sophisticated, as well as being highly enjoyable, with Steven Kramer’s musical direction delivering great visceral power, through all that we hear. Olivia Wilding and Sally Schinckel-Brown are the two cellists prominently featured, keeping us deeply engaged in the high drama of this outlandish story.

Leading man Brendan Maclean is appropriately intense and macabre in the title role, although not always convincing with the emotional dimensions being explored. Brady Peeti as Lucy steals the show unequivocally, as does Georgina Hopson (who plays Emma), both performers completely disarming with their supreme vocal abilities. Mitchell Cox and Rutene Spooner too are unforgettable in multiple smaller roles, able to seize our attention with every appearance, for moments of genuine delight. Also noteworthy is choreography by Siobhan Ginty, who keeps our eyes amused through the duration, with her wonderful physical configurations of a splendidly assembled cast.

Set design by Melanie Liertz is whimsical yet ambitious, able to create for the viewer a sense of expansiveness, alongside a satisfying quirkiness to her depiction of a psychiatric hospital. Lights by Anthony Pearson succeed at establishing atmosphere for each sequence, but can sometimes feel perfunctory, or perhaps insufficiently creative in approach. Costumes by Mason Browne on the other hand, are highly appealing, and relentlessly glamorous, whilst maintaining accuracy in all his representations of the tale’s colourful personalities.

We can never try too hard, to reveal who we are. It is apparently true, that there is no end to how much we can learn about being human. The problem it seems, is what we do with that information, when we understand that a big part of our existence comprises qualities less than desirable. Mr Hyde is horrible, and he is everywhere. We imagine that to know Mr Hyde, is to be able to control him, but evidence suggests that evil will always find a way.

Review: Bonnie & Clyde (Hayes Theatre)

Venue: Hayes Theatre Co (Potts Point NSW), 17 Jun – 17 Jul, 2022
Book: Ivan Menchall
Lyrics: Don Black
Music: Frank Wildhorn
Director: Sam Hooper
Cast: Teagan Wouters, Blake Appelqvist, Carlo Boumouglbay, Jonathan Chan, Darcy Fisher, Lewis Francis, Deborah Galanos, Milo Hartill, Kieran McGrath, Lucy Miller, William Motunuu, Sarah Murr, Caity Plummer, Sam Richardson, Luisa Scrofani, Jim Williams
Images by Grant Leslie

Theatre review

Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow lived a century ago in the United States of America, where they had become notorious robbers who killed a total of thirteen people through their exploits. Their names continue to hold cultural meaning today, thanks mainly to the 1967 Hollywood film Bonnie and Clyde, remembered for glamourising that historical entanglement, of crime and romance. This musical version first appeared in 2009, and ran for just 69 performances on Broadway in 2011.

On stage, the scandalous couple’s story seems to lose all its lustre. Their personalities become too nice, and their lawlessness is portrayed too innocently. The book by Ivan Menchall feels uninspired, demonstrating that little about the legendary narrative remains captivating. Directed by Sam Hooper, who brings along an unmistakeable earnestness to this revival, but struggles to make the show deliver enough thrills and spills, even with the presence of firearms throughout the piece.

The general look of the production is accomplished with a minimalist approach, that can feel somewhat unimaginative, and sparse. The songs in Bonnie and Clyde however, are enjoyable. Music direction by Zara Stanton keeps things classic and tight, with neat but lively instrumentations that help to sustain our attention. Vocals by lead performers Teagan Wouters and Blake Appelqvist are powerful ; both offering technical brilliance that successfully elevate these lesser known tunes. Characters in the show, however, never feel convincing, and the audience is never really able to invest meaningfully into any relationship or narrative.

It may seem that we have finally lost interest in old criminals like Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow, but the truth is that we have simply shifted our admiration for the outlaw, to a different kind. In 2022, it is the billionaire maverick that has captured our attention. He does not have to wield guns or get his boots dirty. He simply fires off irresponsible tweets, and watch legions of fanboys fawn over his reckless behaviour. He uses his wealth and influence, to manipulate markets, bringing untold volatility to our economies. All because of his insatiable need, to look important and to feel virile.

Review: Moulin Rouge (Capitol Theatre)

Venue: Capitol Theatre (Sydney NSW), from  May 28, 2022
Book: John Logan (based on the Baz Luhrmann film)
Director: Alex Timbers
Cast: Alinta Chidzey, Des Flanagan, Simon Burke, Tim Omaji, Andrew Cook, Ryan Gonzalez, Samantha Dodemaide, Olivia Vasquez, Ruwa Ngwenya, Christopher J Scalzo
Images by Michelle Grace Hunder

Theatre review
Satine is the only one who can rescue her beloved cabaret nightclub from financial devastation, but the arrival of a new love interest Christian, is causing all manner of unforeseen complications. The 2001 Baz Luhrmann hit movie Moulin Rouge was a riot of schmaltz and kitsch, memorable for its incongruous use of late century pop songs, for a story set in 1900. Two decades on, it seems that Luhrmann’s penchant for elevating what is generally considered to be low brow, is still a stroke of genius.

This live adaptation amps up the use of overfamiliar music from the pop charts, to create a show best described as a jukebox musical on steroids. Whether just a single line, or extended variations of monster tunes, this new Moulin Rouge speaks to us almost entirely through the pop canon. John Logan’s book plots the story cleverly, allowing plentiful action to occur on stage, in between short sections of dialogue to prop, but there is no question, that we are here for the spectacle.

Directed by Alex Timbers, Moulin Rouge is a rousing cacophonous affair, intricately manufactured so that our senses are completely absorbed, into a ceaselessly fascinating parade of extravagant scenes. The show is an unequivocal triumph for all its visual design aspects, and along with exuberant and powerful music arrangements, this is theatre that hypnotises and satisfies, in the most uplifting ways imaginable.

A remarkable cast brings infectious and palpable life to the stage; the ensemble in Moulin Rouge is alluring, spirited and disciplined, and we find ourselves connecting to the unnamed characters that they portray, as much as we do the prominent ones. Alinta Chidzey’s physical faculties as the tragically beautiful Satine are absolutely perfect, but her vocals can at times lack the lustre required to move us. Des Flanagan’s unbridled earnestness as Christian keeps our hearts open to the innocent love story, but it is Andrew Cook’s sizzling charm as rival The Duke, that sets pulses racing.

Playing the club owner in strife Harold Zidler, is Simon Burke who quite simply outshines everyone, with incomparable charisma and brilliant humour. Burke’s exceptional confidence and irrepressible effervescence are the key ingredients that make everything in Moulin Rouge feel so alive and poignant. Also deeply impressive are Tim Omaji and Ryan Gonzalez, who as Toulouse-Lautrec and Santiago, deliver a valuable sense of emotional authenticity, for a tale that is essentially about the plight of struggling artists of the bohemian underground. Omaji’s quiet rendition of “Nature Boy” and Gonzalez’s blistering version of “Bad Romance” are frankly unforgettable and in their divergent ways, transcendent.

Art should not always be about what one thinks. There is a tendency in our evaluation of artistic expression, to prioritise that which can be articulated in words. So much of art however, is to give shape and form to the human experience, in ways that are beyond words. A reductive way to characterise the immense success of Moulin Rouge, is to say that it is wonderful, for how much it is able to make a person feel. The truth is that, great art can never be sufficiently translated, you simply have had to be there.

Review: Mary Poppins (Sydney Lyric Theatre)

Venue: Sydney Lyric Theatre (Sydney NSW), May 15 – Sep 4, 2022
Book: Julian Fellowes (based on stories by P.L. Travers and the Disney film)
Original Music and Lyrics: Richard M. Sherman, Robert B. Sherman
New Songs and Additional Music: George Stiles
New Songs and Additional Lyrics: Anthony Drewe
Director: Richard Eyre
Cast: Stefanie Jones, Jack Chambers, Tom Wren, Lucy Maunder, Mia Honeysett, Finn Walsham, Nancye Hayes, Hannah Waterman, Robert Grubb, Chelsea Plumley, Gareth Isaac
Images by Daniel Boud

Theatre review
Time and again, obscene amounts of money are thrown at turning legendary films into live musicals, but rarely do they meet the public’s expectations. Mary Poppins however is an unequivocal success story, not only able to live up to the loving memory that many have retained of the original, it uses its magical themes to advance the theatrical arts, especially in terms of special visual effects.

We watch the fantastical world in Disney’s 1964 film come to vibrant life, right before our eyes, complete with gravity defying performers and hallucinatory scenery. All the trickery is wonderfully amusing of course, but the show never lets these gimmicks get in the way of storytelling, which thankfully remains central to the extravagant production.

It is a tremendously lavish presentation, one that urges us to see that no expense is spared, yet it is the ingenuity and inventiveness behind these incredible vistas that truly impress. Also satisfying is the music, some of which are from the 58 year-old film, and some created for the 2004 Broadway premiere. Even at varying degrees of familiarity, every song is engrossing, able to hold us captive and entertained for nearly three hours of spectacular pleasure.

Performer Stefanie Jones is radiant in the eponymous role, completely at ease with the highly technical requirements of this challenging part. Her discipline and precision put us at ease, as we lose ourselves in all the bedazzling and rambunctious action. Playing Bert the chimney sweep, is the enchanting Jack Chambers, whose agility and exuberance steal the show. Completely unperturbed even when tap dancing upside down and metres above, Chambers’ infectious joy on stage reels us in, and has us luxuriating in every blissful moment he offers.

Bringing heart and soul to the production are Tom Wren and Lucy Maunder, as Mr and Mrs Banks. Both performers prove adept at portraying more tender aspects of the story, and it is that poignancy they deliver, that earns our emotional investment. The Banks children are played by Mia Honeysett and Finn Walsham, who demonstrate a remarkable commitment and professionalism that belie their ages. Their work is consistently compelling, and both prove to be highly accomplished in each of their demanding roles.

The nanny Mary Poppins comes into the lives of the Banks family, and then swiftly departs. So much of what we experience on this plane, is transitory, In Mary Poppins the musical, we see merriment and sadness, along with success and hardship. We have to take the good with the bad, for without the contrast of one against the other, what we treasure most will not be able to reveal its true lustre. Knowing that life will never be forever smooth-sailing, keeps us humble, and knowing that troubles come to an end, is a reassurance that forever bears repeating.

Review: Dubbo Championship Wrestling (Hayes Theatre)

Venue: Hayes Theatre Co (Potts Point NSW), 13 May – 11 Jun, 2022
Book & Lyrics: Daniel Cullen
Music: Daniel Cullen, James Cullen
Director: Sheridan Harbridge
Cast: Zoe Ioannou, Genevieve Lemon, Luke Leong-Tay, Noni McCallum, Terry Serio, Justin Smith, Aaron Tsindos, Bishanyia Vincent
Images by Phil Erbacher

Theatre review
Due to extenuating circumstances, city girl Rose is forced to return to her hometown, where her father Des runs a flagging business, providing entertainment to locals through wrestling events that have seen better days. Daniel and James Cullen’s Dubbo Championship Wrestling is exactly as you would expect it; a humorous take on country life that explores our cultural cringe, as a people obsessed with the idea of never being sophisticated enough, but are ultimately full of heart.

That structural conceit may be as tired as Des’ team of misfit employees, but juxtaposing wrestling with musical theatre, is undoubtedly a stroke of genius. Director Sheridan Harbridge creates, from the extravagance of both art forms, ample moments of spectacle, and of slapstick, for a show memorable for its unapologetic brashness. Musical direction by Glenn Moorhouse takes inspiration from classic  Australian rock music, and combines it with Broadway conventions, to form a soundscape that is relentlessly energetic.

Set design by Ella Butler adapts the stage to manufacture a surprisingly expansive accommodation, for a generously sized wrestling ring, on which most of the action takes place. Butler’s costumes are appropriately loud and comedic, and effective in giving immediate visual definition to each of the show’s characters. Lights by Trent Suidgeest work overtime to provide vibrancy and exuberance. They elevate Des’ poverty-stricken Dubbo Dome, to something altogether more fabulous and edifying.

Tim Dashwood’s accomplishments as fight director, along with Ellen Simpson’s choreography, form a crucial part of Dubbo Championship Wrestling‘s uniqueness. Movement is fundamental to any work of theatre, but to witness the re-creation of fantastical sequences of high camp brawling, set to live singing, is quite a thrill.

Performer Zoe Ioannou is a superb lead as Rose, with strong vocals that convey precisely the inner spirit of the young rebel, but more importantly, it is Ioannou’s singularly impressive physical discipline that truly sets her apart, as she executes every dance step and fight move to incredible perfection. Terry Serio is convincing as the battered and bruised Des, allowing us to empathise with his idealistic plight. Rose’s mother Cheryl is played by Bishanyia Vincent, who brings valuable dramatic intensity and emotional authenticity, to a production that tends to venture very far into caricature territory. Especially noteworthy is the hilarious Aaron Tsindos, simply irrepressible as Perfect Ten Ken, fully relishing in the world of absurdity that these people inhabit.

As a species, we are endlessly amused with the kinds of aspirations that other people hold. Often we are deprecating of what other people wish to achieve with their lives, wondering why they are not more like us. Certainly there are some ambitions that are more noble than others, but in Dubbo Championship Wrestling we see that the fighting spirit that each person is able to gather from within, is quite a marvel. Des and his cohort may not wish to change the world, but the ferocity with which they dedicate energy to their passions, is endlessly inspiring.

Review: An American In Paris (Theatre Royal Sydney)

Venue: Theatre Royal Sydney (Sydney NSW), 29 Apr – 12 Jun, 2022
Book: Craig Lucas (inspired by the Motion Picture)
Music & Lyrics: George Gershwin, Ira Gershwin
Director: Christopher Wheeldon
Cast: Leanne Cope, Robbie Fairchild, Jonathan Hickey, Ashleigh Rubenach, Sam Ward, David Whitney, Anne Wood
Images by Darren Thomas

Theatre review
Jerry is a World War II veteran, experiencing art and love in a foreign land, a few short years after arms have been laid down. More than ever before, freedom seems a phenomenon not to be taken for granted. The stage musical An American in Paris is based on the legendary 1951 Vincente Minnelli film of the same name, known for its visual splendour and inventive use of music by the Gershwin brothers. This adaptation, although replete with nostalgia, is tailored for a more contemporary sensibility. Beautifully positioned between past and present, it connects us with the genius of a bygone era, delivering divine inspiration to a generation at risk of losing artistic treasures that had been gifted decades before.

Gene Kelly’s original choreography is transposed to perfection by Christopher Wheeldon, whose re-creation of mid-century modern ballet proves to be nothing short of sublime. Spellbindingly performed by a cast that is at once whimsical yet disciplined, the audience is impressed and dumbfounded, capable only to gawk and lose ourselves in the theatrical magic being presented. Robbie Fairchild and Leanne Cope are the leads, individually swoonsome but as a pair, their extraordinary synchronicity is flabbergasting, in a series of breathtaking pas de deux that are simply unforgettable.

Gershwin’s iconic score is given wonderful revitalisation by Rob Fisher, who provides for the production a taut rendition of familiar evergreen melodies. Musical direction by Vanessa Scammell is dynamic and spirited, interpreted by a fastidious orchestra that moves us to spaces rarefied and hopelessly romantic. Visual design aspects are somewhat restrained, and not particularly lavish, but sonic dimensions of An American in Paris induce a sense of grandeur that insists on our luxuriation.

The danger of nostalgia is its inherent denial of negative aspects, in our wilful idealisation of the past. Longing for a history that never really existed, undermines the progress that time has achieved. When we say that things used to be better, we imply a rejection of improvements that have been made, and that continue to be made. The fact is, so much of what he have today, is better than how they used to be. In stolen moments however, lingering briefly in fantasies of a different world, is a respite all humans require.

Review: The Deb (ATYP)

Venue: The Rebel Theatre (Sydney NSW), Apr 8 – May 22, 2022
Writer: Hannah Reilly
Music: Megan Washington
Director: Hannah Reilly
Cast: Georgia Anderson, Carlo Boumouglbay, Jeffrey Dimi, Mariah Gonzalez, Catty Hamilton, Katelin Koprivec, Jay Laga’aia, Drew Livingston, Charlotte MacInnes, Tara Morice, Quinton Rich, Monique Sallé, Amin Taylor, Jake Tyler, Jenna Woolley, Jack Wunsch
Images by Tracey Schramm

Theatre review
Taylah really wants to go to the debutante ball, in her country town of Dunburn. Not being one of the cool kids however, is making things very challenging. Her cousin Maeve too, is finding herself ostracised, and has travelled from the city to seek refuge. In The Deb, we watch an unlikely pairing of personalities, each from vastly different parts of Australian life, united by their common experience of being made social outcasts.

The musical, by Hannah Reilly and Megan Washington, is a comedic juxtaposition of the bush against the metropolis, with a familiar propensity to romanticise life in the outback, as is often the convention, when telling stories about our rural counterparts. Whilst the characters in The Deb and their accompanying jokes may not be to everyone’s tastes, each of its original songs is certainly innovative and highly satisfying. Along with exuberant choreography by Sally Dashwood, all the musical sequences prove a triumphant delight, for our eyes and ears.

Emma White’s double-tier set design helps provide a visual sense of variation, facilitated through the dynamic placement of performers and their activity. Mason Browne’s costumes and Martin Kinnane’s lights, further provide for the Sydney audience, an evocation of what country life must feel like. The production can look rough around the edges, which is of course entirely commensurate with its themes and aesthetics.

Playing Taylah is Katelin Koprivec, who brings to the stage, unmistakeable precision and an admirable technical proficiency. Charlotte MacInnes is excellent in the role of Maeve, portraying with amusing accuracy, the rich and self-indulgent Zoomer, but always able to keep us on her side, with an abundance of natural charisma. Other memorable performances include Jay Laga’aia and Tara Morice, both confidently understated in their approaches, delivering great warmth to a show that wants so much to explore the goodness in people.

 An overwhelming need to present country folk as affable, diminishes the darkness inherent in the many disparate narratives of The Deb. What could have been a complex examination of contemporary Australia, ends up looking quite the Hallmark greeting card, but it is doubtless that the show can be tremendously enjoyable for appreciative audiences. Some might say that things as they stand in the outback, are worse than ever, but it is true that only with optimism, can we weather all these storms.

Review: 9 To 5 (Capitol Theatre)

Venue: Capitol Theatre (Sydney NSW), Feb 16 – May 1, 2022
Book: Patricia Resnick
Music & Lyrics: Dolly Parton
Director: Jeff Calhoun
Cast: Erin Clare, Casey Donovan, Caroline O’Connor, Eddie Perfect, Marina Prior, Lily Baulderstone, Ana Maria Belo, Zoe Coppinger, Mia Dabkowski-Chandler, Ben Gillespie, Emma Hawthorne, James Haxby, Emma Johns, Jay Johns, Ethan Jones, Antonia Marr, Josh Mulheran, Tom New, Jake O’Brien, Matthew Prime, Jackson Reedman, Jordan Tomljenovic, Jessica Vellucci
Images by David Hooley

Theatre review
Doralee, Judy and Violet are three very different kinds of women, working in the same office. Their story takes place in 1980 when the glass ceiling was even more impenetrable and belligerent than it is now, and in 9 to 5 we see them having to resort to some extreme high jinks, in order to get somewhere with their professional lives. The musical by Dolly Parton is based on the now legendary 42-year-old film, with a book by Patricia Resnick that cares too much about being family-friendly, to be able to make the show genuinely funny. Its well-meaning depiction of gender politics seems unconsciously outmoded, but will undoubtedly still resonate for many, in a world where women continue to struggle to achieve the most basic, such as childcare and pay equality.

Direction of the work by Jeff Calhoun is of the most conventional kind. There are no surprises, and nothing is particularly inventive, only an attempt to present a wholesome style of commercial theatre that might appeal to the widest of audiences. The musical numbers are exuberant, with choreography that is faithful to the period, relentlessly incorporating innumerable jazz hands and pirouettes. It is inoffensive work, that makes for a frivolous night out, although ultimately uninspiring.

Erin Clare, Casey Donovan and Marina Prior are the leading ladies, all charming and accomplished, able to bring polish to the glamorous staging. Donovan’s performance of the showstopping “Get Out and Stay Out” is a highlight, with some real conviction finally emerging late in the piece. Also memorable is the campy “Heart to Hart” by Caroline O’Connor in the role of Roz, who together with Eddie Perfect as Franklin Hart the despicable CEO, deliver some of the more animated, albeit clumsy, comical dancing that proves equal parts funny and awkward.

The old school feminist tale of 9 to 5 is intent on replacing a man with a woman, at the top of the corporate ladder. Two waves of progress later, we now understand that it matters little, the gender of the person in control. It is the way power is distributed and structured, throughout all aspects of our lives, that is important. Theoretical insight however, does not take us very far. We remain beholden to organisations that insist on few at the top, with the masses kept down below. We continue to hope that having women breaking through to seize power, will lead to some form of regeneration, but the wait for meaningful change, seems never ending.

Review: A Chorus Line (Darlinghurst Theatre Company)

Venue: Sydney Opera House (Sydney NSW), Feb 13 – Mar 11, 2022
Music: Marvin Hamlish
Lyrics: Edward Kleban
Book: Nicholas Dante, James Kirkwood
Director: Amy Campbell
Cast: Max Bimbi, Molly Bugeja, Angelique Cassimatis, Ross Chisari, Nadia Coote, Tim Dashwood, Lachlan Dearing, Mackenzie Dunn, Maikolo Fekitoa, Adam Jon Fiorentino, Natalie Foti, Ashley Goh, Mariah Gonzalez, Brady Kitchingham, Madeleine Mackenzie, Rechelle Mansour, Natasha Marconi, Rubin Matters, Ryan Ophel, Tony Oxybel, Ethan Ritchie, Suzanne Steele, Harry Targett, Angelina Thomson
Images by Robert Catto

Theatre review
Originally conceived in 1975 by Michael Bennett, the legendary musical A Chorus Line involves an ensemble cast of nineteen, several unforgettable songs, and dance sequences that have become an indelible part of our collective cultural memory. It is the simple story about Broadway director Zach at a casting call, auditioning a throng of dancers, for eight places in his new show. A Chorus Line is a tribute to the innumerable artists who have dedicated their lives to a passion, that never yields commensurate rewards. The show is an opportunity for talents to show their wares, with each member of cast provided individual moments of glory, as well as working in groups for some of the most exciting and complicated choreography in the musical format.

Director and choreographer Amy Campbell’s ambitious revival, is a breath-taking experience. Even though the lacklustre book remains tedious, it is always an unequivocal joy when the performers are in motion. Campbell’s love for the art of performance, and for those who do it, is palpable. Her show is faithful to the look and feel of 1970s New York, complete with slinky modern jazz flourishes that transport us back to a time of decadent glamour. Each second of dance is complex, detailed and powerful, a real sumptuous feast for the eyes.

Peter Rubie’s lights are at least as visually impressive. They enhance perfectly every scene that unfolds, sometimes quiet and subtle, sometimes flamboyantly bombastic, but always stylish and surprising. Whether accompanying bodies active or still, Rubie’s work is consistently imaginative, never settling for the obvious. The beauty he delivers is truly sublime. Christine Mutton’s costumes too, are noteworthy, in bringing both realism, and vibrant, balanced colour, to a staging that will be remembered for its unparalleled resplendence.

The pivotal role of Zach is played by Adam Jon Fiorentino, whose use of voice marvellously regulates atmosphere from start to finish. Angelique Cassimatis delivers the singularly most poignant anecdote, as Cassie, complete with jaw dropping intensity in her iconic number, “The Music and the Mirror”.  We fall for all of the cast, as they are foregrounded one at a time, but it is their work as a cohesive whole, that has us spellbound. Together, they are formidable.

Much has changed over these five decades, since the inception of A Chorus Line. For one, we are no longer tolerant of authority figures like Zach irresponsibly demanding their subordinates, to reveal secrets or to relive trauma, in the company of strangers. Women and men, in the arts especially, have started to reject the delineations between gender constructs, and in the process are learning to meld the false differences of us and them. The theatrical arts however, remain a pure vehicle for communities to congregate, to debate, and to share. Since time immemorial, we have formulated ways to listen to each other, to understand our neighbours, and to reach consensus, hard as it might be, because we always knew that on our own, we are doomed to fail. There are no queens and kings in A Chorus Line, only a united front that can weather anything, and keep the dreams alive.

Review: Lizzie (Hayes Theatre)

Venue: Hayes Theatre Co (Potts Point NSW), 13 Jan – 5 Feb, 2022
Book: Tim Maner
Music & Lyrics: Steven Cheslik-Demeyer, Tim Maner, Alan Stevens Hewitt
Director: Maeve Marsden
Cast: Stefanie Caccamo, Ali Calder, Marissa Saroca, Sarah Ward
Images by Clare Hawley

Theatre review
It was 1892 in Massachusetts, that Lizzie Borden was believed to have murdered her father and step-mother. There is little in the musical Lizzie, that talks about the morality of her actions, and although it does not necessarily make her a heroic figure, the central ferocity of her convictions, is quite an admirable thing to behold.

Based on an original concept by Steven Cheslik-Demeyer and Tim Maner, the show depicts a young woman living in puritanical times, but unable to contain her fury that arises from persistent ill-treatment. That very inexorable and fervid drive, if present today in our somewhat improved circumstances, would surely see Lizzie achieve a great deal more than notoriety and scandal.

Directed by Maeve Marsden, who uses the hard rock energy of Lizzie‘s song list, to facilitate a passionate staging that appeals to our desire, for stories about feisty women in these modern times. Musical direction by Victoria Falconer is a highlight, informed by feminist philosophy and brimming with a joyful punk edge. Ghenoa Gela’s choreography is inventive and unpredictable, offering physical manifestations to characters that allow us to read them more clearly between the lines.

Melanie Liertz’s set and costume designs evoke a gothic quality that is perfectly suited to the narrative, although several vertical poles positioned downstage can sometimes obscure the view of action taking place further upstage. Verity Hampson’s lights are a dramatic element of the show, bringing great dynamism to all the imagery being presented.

Performer Marissa Saroca as Lizzie, is spirited and wonderfully enthusiastic, although her vocals can be slightly hit-and-miss for the musical’s very rambunctious tunes. Ali Calder and Sarah Ward play the sister and the maid, respectively, and both are reliable in delivering big rock vocals, whilst making some genuinely hilarious comedic choices that endear themselves to the audience incontrovertibly. The part of Lizzie’s love interest Alice, is performed by Stefanie Caccamo who sings beautifully, albeit in a more conventional Broadway style, and who makes believable the speculative sapphic romance.

Considering the conditions women like Lizzie Borden had had to tolerate just to survive, it is a wonder that more murders were not committed. That we think of her as an exception only shows the depth of our habit for compliance, and our capacity to withstand abuse and humiliation. Most of us never reach breaking point, and that is without question, the way manifold forces work to exploit our tendency to bend and acquiesce. We do not always need to draw blood in order to rise up, but it is important that we learn to take cues from women like Lizzie, who have lost patience, long before we are completely drained of the ability to retaliate.