American Idiot presents, and does not condemn, suburban malaise (The Guardian)

‘As a rock opera, American Idiot is more like Hair than Jesus Christ Superstar or Rent; it’s built on situational concepts and song scenes rather than a thorough narrative, and like Hair it uses rock music to tap into a struggling and stifled generation haunted by war and aimlessness, with lyrics that serve more as statements and ideas than plot drivers.

This is both American Idiot’s greatest asset and its biggest downfall. It can’t flesh out most of its characters, especially its women, beyond broad strokes, and its ending can seem abrupt or underexplored without extremely precise direction. But it’s open enough to interpretation that it engages any audience, allowing them the space to project their own dissatisfaction on to the characters. And its music is strong enough to hold you in its thrall: you want to descend with these characters, even when they’re barely formed.’ … READ MORE

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Cabaret at the Hayes is not “so important right now” (Time Out Sydney)

image-3“This Cabaret was programmed well before most Australians were taking Trump’s bid for presidency seriously; producer David M. Hawkins explains in the program that the idea for the show was born in 2014. It seems the general template for this production has been set in stone since that time, because this Cabaret, directed by Nicholas Christo in his professional musical theatre directorial debut, is a stunning example of how a good show can only take a production so far: it’s too confused to be considered a political or activist work of theatre or even a humanist cry in pain for present dark times.

Instead, it’s a confused bumble through a near-excellent book and score, never quite able to commit to making a statement” … READ MORE

Peaches Christ Superstar is defiant, queer, perfect (The Guardian)

3826In Heaven on Their Minds, the first number of Jesus Christ Superstar, Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s smash-hit rock opera about the last days before the crucifixion, Judas tells us, If you strip away the myth from the man / you will see / where we all soon will be.

This line seems to demand an excavation of not just the myth of the church but also of musical theatre excess. Peaches, the queer performance artist and rock star, has done exactly that in her defiantly stripped-back, serious interpretation of the show: a one-woman epic titled, of course, Peaches Christ Superstar… READ MORE

Mother’s Ruin: a cabaret about gin & women, my two favourite things (Time Out Sydney)

I gave it five stars.

image“If you don’t think a cabaret that quotes 18th century lawmakers can be hot as fuck, then you haven’t seen Mother’s Ruin: A Cabaret about Gin.

Gin is one the most politicised drinks in the world: Government-sanctioned propaganda blamed it for British madness and destruction, and its most common mixer, tonic water (which contains the malaria remedy quinine), was used as both a weapon and tool of African colonisation.

But gin’s history is also closely tied to women’s rights. It wasn’t men that were driven to madness and infanticide in the famous ‘Gin Lane’ print that helped usher in the Gin Act, curbing the drinking of the English poor. The men were all over in the accompanying ‘Beer Street,’ perfectly healthy and happy. It was the women who were depicted as ill, mad and lost to gin.

Society has never liked a woman who drinks…”READ MORE

Ladies in Black means well but isn’t a good musical (The Guardian)

5760Mid-century Australia: a time when men were gruff, women could work (but only until they had children, and forget about going to university), and post-war European immigrants and refugees were finding new homes, and new ways of life, in the antipodes.

And, of course, people across New South Wales would flock to Sydney for a proper shop at David Jones in the CBD, with its marble staircase and staff of chic women dressed in black.

This is the essential DNA of Ladies in Black, a new musical by Carolyn Burns and Tim Finn based on Madeleine St John’s 1993 novel The Women in Black. A study of the women working in Ladies’ Cocktail Gowns at the fictional Goode’s department store, it’s a staunchly Australian musical with Aussie accents, a few ‘strewths’, and punchlines about escaping your troubles in Wagga… READ MORE

There’s no room for cultural cringe in Nick Enright’s Summer Rain (Time Out Sydney)

image-3It’s a wonderful musical theatre story, full of songs that capture something ineffable and essential about country Australia. But it’s hard to decide if these are reasons are enough to see New Theatre’s roughshod and strangely lifeless production, directed by Trent Kidd.

While the second act is in much better shape than the first – its funny moments actually land, though the show’s more serious moments still get short shrift – the damage done in Act One can’t really be undone (especially not for the people I saw leaving at interval).

Kidd seems to be fighting a battle against the show’s embrace of the real and recognisable; his actors treat bush slang like it’s an exotic language, and though the lines are written with a natural ease, they feel tortured in the ensemble members’ mouths. There’s no room for cultural cringe in Summer Rain, but it’s everywhere in this production…. READ MORE

Aladdin the Musical is orientalist garbage, FYI (Time Out Sydney)

image-8In Aladdin the Musical, the flying magic carpet really does feel magic. And the dazzling fantasy wish-fulfillment sequence ‘Friend Like Me’ is drenched in glitz, music theatre references, and sleight of hand. It’s dizzying and ambitious – and on opening night, it received a spontaneous standing ovation. Many of the spirited musical numbers – especially ones about adventure, revenge, and the first blush of love – are genuinely engaging. The cast, led by Michael James Scott’s indefatigable Genie, Ainsley Melham’s appealing Aladdin, and Arielle Jacobs’ pure-voiced Jasmine, deliver consistently impressive performances.

The rest is more complicated. … READ MORE

Dream Lover: The Bobby Darin Musical leaves a bitter aftertaste (The Guardian)

4687“Part of the reason it’s so easy to root for Darin is David Campbell. With a decadent caramel voice and expert technique – and a particular insight into Darin’s family dynamics – Campbell is in his element, the consummate performer. He approaches Darin’s wide-eyed youth and later world-weary angst with equally open-hearted sympathy. The show would be far less successful without his generous performance and powerhouse vocals.

But Campbell’s charisma can’t compensate for some of the show’s more thoughtless mistakes. Following the jukebox formula and leaning heavily on classic musical-theatre tropes means the show sometimes slides into careless, casually offensive storytelling”… READ MORE

Songs for a New World is sooooooo 1995 (Time Out Sydney)

image-2The song cycle is a tricky beast. It’s not really musical theatre, though the songs are generally written with theatrical flourishes, and it’s not really cabaret, though the numbers tend to convey a sense of the personal and intimate, unbound by longer stories. Rather, the song cycle is a series of musical numbers, each one a complete entity unto itself, linked loosely by a theme.

In the case of Songs for a New World, written by contemporary musical theatre composer Jason Robert Brown (who wrote stage musical-turned-Anna Kendrick vehicle The Last Five Years), the theme is broad: it’s the “moment of decision” that can change, liberate, or damn the course of a life…. READ MORE