Category: Review

Review: Freaky Friday

Family, love and hard truths, by Kiana Emmett

Theatrical’s Victorian Premiere of Freaky Friday is a fresh new take on the Disney movie we all know and love, bringing a familiarity and an updated viewpoint on the story of Mother and Daughter who switch bodies.

As the two leading players, daughter Ellie (Lyla Digrazia) and mother Katherine (Stephanie Powell) are both strong. The score is a big sing, and they both do well to keep up with it throughout the piece. Powell’s comedic timing as the daughter Ellie trapped in her mother’s body is well executed and highly entertaining, she manages to perfectly execute the differentiation between the physicality of mother and daughter. Her solo moments including ‘Parents Lie’ and ‘After All of This and Everything’ were heartfelt, and these emotional ballads are where she seemed to thrive the most.

Digrazia’s performance was deeply grounded and was a strong presence on stage, setting the precedence for those around her. Her vocals were strong, and she was at her best during ‘Oh Biology!.

The standout of the production however was Michael Gray as Katherine’s husband to be Mike. His vocal prowess was undeniable but felt underutilised in a score that so heavily featured mother and daughter. 

Vocally, the highlight of the show was ‘Bring My Baby (Brother) Home’ near the top of at two with Digrazia, Powell and Gray all at their strongest and most impressive.

The supporting cast gave strong performances, with Jessi Neilsen Carreno, lending her strong voice to play Ms Meyers during ‘Watch Your Back’ as well as a multitude of other cameo roles. Jack Lear’s comedic timing was brilliant, with small interjecting lines throughout the piece that had the audience in stitches. Tach Sutton was also strong as Katherine’s assistant Torrey.

There were a few issues and malfunctions of set and props throughout the show, and I felt the transitions were at times a little clunky, but as a whole the production was strong in its delivery of story above all else. The intimate setting of Chapel off Chapel was perfect for the scale of the production and the lighting design was crucial in the believability of the magical aspects of the show. The lanterns used in the opening of the second act were also effective, with cast members heading into the audience, enhancing the relationship between story and audience.

Musical direction by Peter Pham Nguyen was strong, with harmonies being clean, and packing a punch when it really mattered. The work done with leads especially in their vocally demanding performances was clear, and helped to further the story more.

Theatrical’s Freaky Friday depicts the importance of family and love, accepting hard truths in life and coming together despite it all. It is a hilarious, heartfelt night out!

Freaky Friday is playing at Chapel off Chapel until the 18th of September. Tickets are available at:

https://chapel.sales.ticketsearch.com/sales/salesevent/76184

REVIEW: Nine To Five

Come for Dolly, stay for the powerhouse performances

By Kiana Emmett

In 1980’s America, three women work together to dismantle the ‘boys club’ that keeps them confined. Dolly Parton’s 9 to 5 is a sobering and inspiring look at female empowerment. Set up by Dolly herself as a world ‘different to our own’ at the start of the show, the misogynistic constraints of the corporate world, and our society as whole, are put on full display in how little we have changed in the time since the original source material. A love letter to the power of female friendship and strength, 9 to 5 is a glittering production full of ‘Hart’.

Led by some of the finest performers in Australian musical theatre, 9 to 5 is strong vocally. Between the dazzling harmonies, both in an ensemble context such as the titular number and between the principles in beautifully intimate moments like ‘I Just Might’.

Marina Prior is a force as Violet, confident and reliable. Although she seemed to have some issues with sound in the opening number, she well and truly made up for it in her jazzy solo number ‘One Of the Boys’, where Violet shares her aspirations to break-through the gender disparity in management.

Erin Clare was dynamic and thoroughly engaging as the Dolly-esque Doralee, bring charisma and heart to the role, as well as a killer set of pipes! Her struggles as an employee encountering harassment in the workplace was strikingly poignant and well delivered.

Casey Donovan was a knockout as Judy, vastly different to other musical theatre roles she has taken on. She excelled in not falling into the trap of treating Judy as the victim, but instead portrayed a strong, independent woman who needed the support and clarity in order to fully realise that independence. Her act two showstopper ‘Get Out and Stay Out’ rightfully had her audience on their feet, both as a result of her moving simultaneous depiction of vulnerability and strength, as well as her otherworldly vocal prowess.

Stealing the show however was the iridescent and magnetic Caroline O’Connor as the secretary Roz Keith, obsessed with her boss. She had the audience hook, line and sinker, following her every move in her limited time on stage. With her impeccable comedic timing, incredible dance capabilities and a brassy musical theatre belt that is second to none, she had the audience in stitches in her big number ‘Heart to Hart’. O’Connor’s characterisation is a masterclass in performance and resulted in an almost instant standing ovation when she came out for her bow.

As the egotistical Franklin Hart Jr. Eddie Perfect is hilarious. He treads the line between unlikability, with outdated lines that bring a hush over the crowd by the sheer audacity of them, and hilarity. He is a great example of an irredeemable character, that has no real full circle, or remorse for his actions. He is uncannily able to present this farce of a human, who is so exaggerated and yet as an audience we can so easily compare him to someone we have met.

The set design and lighting work in tandem to create the true 80’s feel of the piece, with the use of colour in the second act a nod to the change in leadership, and celebration of diversity in the workplace.

The ensemble were a strong unit that were used well in their limited capacity as other office members. The level of talent and commitment to choreography was stunning, and the choreography wowed from the opening number through to the conclusion of the piece whenever used.

9 to 5 guises as a night of fun, and it truly is so much fun, but at its core, this new production is a commentary of the tumultuous social landscape, and the inequality faced by women in the workplace. It also stands to share the power we have to ‘change it’ if we all commit to the creation of the greater good. Come for Dolly, stay for a brilliant night of powerhouse performers, a powerful message and a smile that will stay with you long after you leave the theatre.

9 to 5 is currently playing at the State Theatre through September 16th. Tickets available at: https://www.artscentremelbourne.com.au/whats-on/2022/musical/9-to-5-the-musical

Photography by David Hooley

Review: Six the Musical

The six not-so-merry, but incredibly fierce, wives of Henry the Eighth

By Narelle Wood

Six the Musical is a modern, girl-power infused, diva-driven, retelling of the stories of Henry the Eighth’s wives or, more accurately, ex-wives.

Catherine of Aragon (Phoenix Jackson Mendoza), Anne Boleyn (Kala Gare), Jane Seymour (Loren Hunter), Anna of Cleves (Kiana Daniele), Katherine Howard (Chelsea Dawson), and Catherine Parr (Shannen Alyce Quan filling in for Vidya Makan on opening night) are each given their moment to tell their story, win the audience’s sympathies and, in the process, reveal a little bit of untold history.

Each queen is inspired by different queens of pop, such as Adele, Beyonce, Britney, Rihanna, Alicia Keyes and Avril Lavigne. The songstresses’ styles permeate each performance from attitude, musical genre, to dance moves, as well as the costumes and styling. Costume designer, Gabriella Slade, has created masterful pieces befitting all the dancing queens. In any other musical, the amount of detail and number of diamantés could be too much, but every part of these bedazzled outfits, including the shoes (I would like pair), are in and of themselves a piece of art.

I must admit, in terms of performances, I found myself gravitating towards the musical genres and artists that would normally fit within my musical tastes. So, the standouts for me were Gare’s Boleyn and Daniele’s Anna of Cleves. Both Gare and Daniele capture the playful edginess of Avril Lavigne and Lilly Allen, and Nicki Minaj and Rihanna respectively; they also had the added bonus of being the more up-beat solo numbers of the show.

The book by Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss, capitalises on the rock-musical genre with a little bit of a Cell Block Tango feel and not too much dialogue. The staging is minimal yet effective, and the all-female back-up band, the Ladies in Waiting (Claire Healy, Heidi Maguire, Kathryn Stammers, Debbie Yap and Ann Metry), were phenomenally tight. I couldn’t help but wonder though what directors Moss and Jamie Armitage would do with a much bigger stage, or if Six might benefit from a theatre more suited to a rock concert; it felt at times very small for a cast of six women with such big voices and a band with such big sound.

I did worry at times about how the stories were held together and what commentary the retelling might be making on the worthiness of female historical figures. But Six is a very self-aware show and doesn’t shy away from highlighting potential problems with either the show or how these women have historically been portrayed.

If you are a history buff, a fan of pop-princesses and diva-queens, and don’t flinch at the thought of watching Eurovision, then Six should definitely be on your list of musical theatre to see this year. And even if you’re not any or all of those things, Six the Musical will definitely educate and entertain.

Tickets from $89 available at https://premier.ticketek.com.au/. Six the Musical is on at the Comedy Theatre until 7 August 2022.

Photography by James D Morgan-Getty

Review: The Who’s Tommy

By Kiana Emmett

In it’s Australian Premiere, The Victorian Opera’s production of The Who’s Tommy is a camp, acid trip into The Who’s ground-breaking concept album. Following a young boy who is ‘deaf, dumb and blind’ that becomes a Pinball Wizard, Tommy is a step back in time, told with a modern twist.

Stylistically, it feels as though the production sits between two different time periods: what is indicated by the story and music, and what is chosen vocally. The vocals of especially the leading cast are more contemporary, whereas the music suggests a more old-school rock sound, of which The Who are synonymous with. That being said, musical director Jack Earle treads the line between these two well, and helps the cast to shine musically.


As the show is a Rock Opera, the story is sung through, and the tight knit, in-sync band are to be commended for driving the show, as it felt as though the music was thrusting the show forward rather than anything else. At times this I felt as though it was a little rushed, with there not being a moment to acknowledge the end of a song with applause before the audience were back into the action. I found this intense and overwhelming some of the time, with not much time to comprehend where the show was going. The costume design by Isaac Lummis was well done, with clear depictions between time and space. The Acid Queen’s flamboyant and dramatic costume was a highlight, as were Mrs Walker’s multitude of costume changes throughout the show.


Amy Lehpamer as Mrs Walker was divine. ‘Smash the Mirror’ was a highlight as her chilling vocals carried all the way through the Palais. The emotional complexity of her character was clear, despite her limited opportunities to really externalise it. Her anguish for her son, and her complicated relationship with her husband I found thoroughly engaging. Matt Heatherington was magnetic as Captain Walker, always drawing your eye with his presence on stage. The gravel like tones of his voice, mixed with the character’s sophisticated, put together dress sense was an interesting juxtaposition between his past experience, and how he wanted those around him to view him. His voice was extraordinary and his performance was a standout.


The ensemble were strong throughout, linking scenes and times together with their clear character presence that really built and enhanced the world. ‘Pinball Wizard’ and ‘Miracle Cure’ were particular standouts. Aided by the richness of Dana Jolly’s choreography, where the music and lyrics failed to provide clarity, they were there to soften the blow.


Vincent Hooper and Kanen Breen were both brilliant in their portrayals of Cousin Kevin and Uncle Ernie, dynamic, while bringing the darkness needed in their abusive characters. They helped make up a cast of truly exceptional vocalists, there was no faulting the musical capabilities of the cast as a whole.
Mat Verevis as Tommy was intricate and well executed, with the depth and complexity required to make an audience relate to a character that for the vast majority of the show cannot present their emotions whatsoever. His voice was stellar, and I found him captivating.


The Who’s Tommy is a whirlwind of 70’s rock and roll, and will be thoroughly enjoyed by anyone who is familiar with the source material of the concept album and film.


The Who’s Tommy is playing at The Palais Theatre through March 1st. Tickets can be purchased through the Arts Centre

Photography by Jeff Busby

Review: Fun Home

By Kiana Emmett

Moments are transient, memories are at times unreliable, though once a person is gone, grappling at those moments are all you have left.

In the Melbourne Theatre Company’s vibrant production of Fun Home, cartoonist Alison Bechdel’s journey to find truth and clarity about her father’s death leaves her spiralling into her upbringing, reliving both light and shade through her Little and Medium Alison counterparts. Based on Bechdel’s graphic memoir, with book and lyrics by Lisa Kron and sweeping score by Jeanine Tesori, Fun Home made history with the first female writing team to win the Tony Award for Best Original Score. Its appeal translates to Australian stages, with its universal themes of family, loss and identity making a heartfelt production.

The sharp, meticulously executed direction by David Bryant brings out the humour and heartbreak of the source material, and ‘Come to the Fun Home’ was a crowd favourite, with the performances of the younger cast garnering praise and applause. ‘Ring of Keys’ specifically was performed with pinpoint precision, excellently depicting an innocence and a knowledge far beyond her years.

Ursula Searle as Medium Alison was near perfection. Her portrayal was raw and vulnerable, awkward and uncomfortable and uplifting, it was exactly what life should be. She put her whole life force into the character and the result was a depth and immensity that was a joy to watch.

Alicia Clements’ set design is spectacular, and the use of the roundtable stage was especially poignant, representing the cycle of life and death, and how the two are inextricably linked.

Musical Director Carmel Dean presents vocals and a 7-piece orchestra that ebbs and flows and feels as alive and present as those on stage. It always feels as though the music is a manifestation of character wants and needs, instead of being for the sake of song- the sign of a great musical.

The standouts of the production however were parents Bruce and Helen Bechdel (played by Adam Murphy and Silvie Paladino respectively). They brought depth and complexity to their characters. Paladino’s ‘Days and Days’ was soul crushing and exquisite. Her electric presence and energy on stage spills out into the audience and touches anyone lucky enough to be in the presence of her performance. Murphy’s portrayal is a triumph, the complexity and subtlety of his performance of which treads the line between his responsibilities as a parent and his duty to be true to himself as an individual. This often manifests itself in angry outbursts taken out on those around him, which would be more truly directed to the world he lives in. He longs for the opportunity to be as open and forthright with his identity as his daughter is.

Euan Fitstrovic-Doidge’s vocal prowess is on full display with ‘Raincoat of Love’, as was his versatility, as he slid through characters effortlessly throughout the piece.  

The candid, conversational tone that Alison (Lucy Maunder) brings to the show provides relief from the larger, more complex issues taking part in non-linear vignettes. She is understated at first, before finding herself falling into her memories, which makes her shift into ‘Telephone Wire’ (where gay father and daughter long to connect over their similarities, instead of divide themselves in their differences) all the more heartbreaking and beautiful. This transformation at the end of the show, where we’ve seen Alison grow, mature and find herself, from the little girl who didn’t want to wear a dress, and sees herself in the butch delivery woman she encounters in a diner, To an overexcited college student who is exploring her sexuality with Joan (excellently portrayed by Emily Havea, who brings sultry and supportive tones), to the mature woman who leads us through the show, grappling with the death of her father is brilliantly executed and thoroughly engaging.   

Fun Home is a celebration of self-discovery, family and love, with the joy of discovery, ecstasy of love, and the crushing pain of loss. It is an invitation to view the impact of not living authentically as oneself can have on a person and their loved ones. Fun Home is a ground-breaking triumph. You must see it.

Fun Home is playing at the Art Centre Playhouse through March 5th. Tickets can be booked at: https://www.mtc.com.au/plays-and-tickets/whats-on/season-2022/fun-home/

Interview: Silvie Paladino on Fun Home

By Kiana Emmett

Based on Alison Bechdel’s bestselling graphic novel about growing up and coming out, the groundbreaking, multi-Tony Award-winning musical Fun Home, arrives in Melbourne following its acclaimed Sydney season. Directed by Dean Bryant (Torch the Place) and featuring a stellar cast that includes Lucy Maunder (Ladies in Black) and Silvie Paladino (Mamma Mia!), this production promises to make you laugh, cry and love until your heart is full.

Silvie Paladino plays Helen Bechdel, Alison Bechdel’s mother in the MTC production of Fun Home. She took the time to talk to us at the Media Preview ahead of the show’s opening night this week.

Q. What do you think makes Fun Home different from the other shows running in Melbourne at the moment?

I think certainly the topics that are touched on, we talk about diversity, mental illness, mental health. It talks about so many things: family, acceptance, homosexuality, so many major topics in life have been squeezed into an hour and forty minutes of this show. With an incredible score and an incredible book, I mean the story is so moving and funny and full of emotions. It won multiple Tony Awards, yeah, it’s an extraordinary piece.

Q. How has COVID shifted the way you prepare and the way you sustain yourself during a show season?

It’s hard because you lose that show fitness. I know people don’t see this but we are similar to athletes in that our voices are our muscle, and if we don’t use them we lose that elasticity, that flexibility that comes with singing. So it’s been hard, it’s been challenging to get back in the swing of things. But it’s also been extremely fulfilling and I feel like we are back where we belong, not sitting on the couch in our moccasins, even though that is wonderful! I would kill to be doing that right now! But it’s great to be doing it again. You appreciate the job so much more now than we possibly did before because we haven’t been able to do it.

Q. What do you hope audiences take away from this show?

I hope that audiences will hopefully be open minded, broaden their ideas of what families are and what we are as individuals. For me, we are called to love each other no matter what and I think this show, I hope this show will get people talking about their own unique family dynamic. Because we’re all different aren’t we? And rather than judging, and casting judgement on others, that we can just love one another. That’s what I hope comes out of it.

Fun Home is currently playing at the Arts Centre Playhouse through March 5th. Tickets can be purchased at https://www.mtc.com.au/plays-and-tickets/whats-on/season-2022/fun-home/

Review: Every Second

Fertile dark comedy

By Owen James

WIT Theatre’s latest offering depicts the emotional rollercoaster endured by two couples struggling to conceive a child. Through a darkly comic lens, a strong script from Vanessa Bates dissects the societal pressure and inner conflict surrounding this largely unspoken subject matter.

Madeleine Magee Carr as borderline obsessive Meg is a perfect blend of hilarious and chilling in pursuing her burgeoning child-bearing obsession. Carr’s portrait of a wannabe mother on the verge of desperation is often moving, rousing our sympathy when fighting circumstances beyond her control. But she is also the source of great comedy, anxiously seeking a remedy through herbs, fertility statues – any potential antidote charges a new level of fixation. Carr fuels her culminating moments of catharsis with pent-up frustration, expertly bringing Meg’s arc to a fiery finale.

Meg’s partner, Tim (Riley Nottingham) is withdrawn and agitated, unenthused by the failing fertility regimes. The reasons behind Nottingham’s characterisation become apparent as the plot is teased out, and his dismissive, callous attitude is the perfect chalk to Meg’s cheese. He is also a source of discomfort for Richard Mealey as Bill, a calm, supportive quasi-friend. Bill and his wife Jen (Lansy Feng) are more comfortable with their fertility struggle, and are beginning their journey with assisted reproductive technology, opting for IVF. Their stark contrast in attitude, patience, and beliefs help drive both comedy and drama between the two couples.

This well-matched cast thrive under Emma Drysdale’s direction, combining naturalistic and presentational styles to grab and hold our attention with each new scene. Drysdale utilises the traverse staging of the Bluestone Church Arts Space to great effect – and it’s enormous fun to watch the audience opposite you whipping their heads left and right as if it were a tennis match during scenes with rapid-fire dialogue. Riley Tapp’s simple, detailed, and highly effective set design is put to tremendous use, particularly in the ‘pregnancy ballet’, featuring sublime choreography by Sophie Loughran.

Every Second is a glimpse into the turbulent lives of couples coping with infertility, and the range of reactions and responses that can result. Loose threads are tugged and converge, prompting ingenious and unexpected twists which are executed with a chill by a sensational cast. Well worth a trip to Footscray.

Tickets and info: https://www.witinc.com.au/shows/every-second

Review: MEOW MEOW’S PANDEMONIUM

A cavalcade of demented joys and powerful emotion

By Bradley Storer

After a lengthy COVID-enforced break from the stage, Australia’s own international cabaret sensation Meow Meow returns to Melbourne audiences accompanied by the hefty forces of the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, and long time fans of the self-destructive and self-aggrandizing diva will find plenty of pleasures here. Entering Hamer Hall in her typically chaotic manner (which almost results in her climbing Rapunzel-like down a make shift rope from the balcony), Meow Meow clambers through the crowd whilst discarding layers of costume until finally she bares herself – physically and emotionally – before the audience.

Despite the lengthy time between gigs, Meow Meow has lost none of her powerful and flexible contralto, or her ability to hold an audience spellbound. Beginning with a disjointed and disgruntled ‘Boulevard of Broken Dreams’, she takes full command with the rousing Rinascero – whose sentiments of ‘my country will be reborn’ feels like a loving prayer to us all. The Melbourne Symphony Orchestra under the conducting of Benjamin Northey plays exquisitely and brings stunning dimension to Meow Meow’s own composition Hotel Amour (and later the tear-jerking Tear Down the Stars), bathing Hamer Hall in a glorious glow of romanticism that one simply wishes to dissolve into.

The first act contains many of the characteristic Meow Meow shenanigans (many involving unwitting audience participants) and even as they draw uproarious laughter, the strength of the musical offerings and Meow Meow’s ability to embody each song completely almost renders these comic interludes unnecessary. After the shattering combination of the Weill classic Surabaya Johnny with the apocalyptic In this City (the orchestral accompaniment taking it to new, nearly Wagnerian, heights) to end the first act, Meow Meow wisely tones down the antics to focus more on the music. Making the Weimar satirical tune of profiteering and backstabbing, Alles schwindel, feel more relevant than ever followed by making an incompetent attempt at burlesque entertainment, the evening then turns to more emotional material. This allows Meow Meow to bring her full dramatic and emotional abilities center stage, before climaxing in a wonderful and joyous dance spectacle to end the evening.

A glorious return to the stage for one of our most talented and beloved cabaret stars, Meow Meow’s Pandemonium is a cavalcade of demented joys and powerful emotion that cannot fail to bring a smile (or tear) to your face.

Meow Meow played at Hamer Hall, Melbourne

Review: The Pitts

A high-octane energy masterclass in how to be well from those who really shouldn’t teach it.

By Sebastian Purcell

The Pitts is an enthusiastic and camp cabaret, taking the residents of Shady Pines Nursing Home through their Weekly Wednesday Wellness Program, inviting everyone to boost their five pillars of wellness: physical, mental, social, spiritual and emotional.

Carol and Daryl Pitts (Stephanie Marion Wood and Brendy Ford) must use the skills they obtained through their self-designed six-week theatre course to navigate the ups and downs of their professional and private lives and keep their geriatric residents “stayin alive” for just another week.

This is a highly fun and laugh-out loud cabaret with some wonderful comedic timing by writer and choreographer Brendan Ford and Musical direction by Stephanie Marion Wood. The pair deliver tandem dance routines reminiscent of 1990’s aerobicise in ‘100 percent polyester’ blue and pink sparkling tracksuits, to tracks such as Rhianna’s SOS, Where have you been and Disturbia, and Katy Perry’s Firework and Last Friday Night.

The vocals are carried by Wood who does a terrific job in maintaining the high energy routines and singing other hits such as Absolutely Everybody, You Can’t Stop the Music and Physical. However, it is her moments at the piano, in particular Carol’s lament (under pillar 4 Spiritual) over husband Daryl’s ‘suckiness’, with Bette Midler’s Wind Beneath My Wings, which delivers the most impactful performance; it is a highlight for the show.

Brendy Ford delivers some terrific deadpan backing vocals, and has a standout dance performance once he reaches emotional wellness; it’s a shame that we don’t get a true vocal performance from Ford.

Cameo performances from Stacey Kelly and Leigh Jay Booth, as Nurse and resident Ethel respectively, are slightly under-utilised, and their interactions, while comedic, also reflect some of the recent commentary within the aged-care sector. 

There are a number of gags that are a hit with the audience, who were roaring with laughter throughout, including at references to the infamous Sydney Ruby Princess and a timeshare orgy at Lake Eildon. Despite this, there are moments that I found that languished, like a really long lunch-break scene that breaks the flow; I wonder whether this might have been better punctuated with an additional ballad.

Overall, this is a terrific show for the whole family, provided everyone’s okay with the occasional mild sexual innuendo the prospect of some audience participation. The Pitts played at the Athenaeum Theatre, Collins St, Melbourne.

Photography courtesy of Salty Theatre

Review: Aida

An exquisite re-telling of love and war more than 150 years in the making

By Sebastian Purcell

Opera Australia presents Verdi’s Aida with its long awaited premier on the back of a closed Arts Centre; making up for the 2020 hiatus with a truly dazzling and rich production. Under the wonderful direction of Davide Livermore and conducted by Tahu Matheson, the 60 strong cast (and orchestra) displayed such enthusiasm and discipline that every word could be heard within the wonderful State Theatre perfezionamento.

Aida, first staged in 1871, is a tragic love story set in the middle of a war between the Egyptians and Ethiopians. Egypt’s King (Gennadi Dubinsky) enlists Radamès (Stefano La Colla) as his battle commander while the king’s daughter, Amneris (Elena Gabouri), pines for Radamès love. Unbeknownst to all, Aida (Leah Crocetto), a slave of the Egyptians, is in love with Radamès, which is reciprocated, but to complicate things further, Aida is also the daughter and princess of Ramfis (Alexander Vinogradov / David Parkin) the King of Ethiopia. A tug of war between loyalty for country and love ensues, ending in a climatic declaration of love and the ultimate sacrifice.

This production of Aida steps into the digital age, utilising 10 large LED screens to give depth and provide scene setting. This vibrant statement bringing this opera into the modern age. The wonderful projections of the black panther and the golden cobra are a menacing back drop at times, wonderfully animated as to not take away from the performers on stage. Other key highlights include being bathed in the Nile, to being entombed in a Great Pyramid. The incredibly powerful final scene is a triumph of staging with suspended props and use of the digital boards.

Leah Crocetto as Aida, the leading soprano, was sublime; such command of her voice and intensity for almost 3 hours is sure to be admired. Elena Gabouri and Stefano La Colla were equally breathtaking in their craft and command of the stage. And costume designer Gianluca Falaschi deserves a shout out for the lavish costumes, especially for over 60 performers and really bringing the audience into an ancient Egyptian court room.

While there were some minor technical difficulties experienced during the first act, with the surtitles screen not operating, making it slightly trickier for those unfamiliar to follow. This was quickly rectified for the second act onwards, and to be fair the sets, costumes and choreography (Davide Livermore and Shane Placentino) made the surtitles an added bonus rather than an absolute necessity for translation.

Aida plays at the Victorian Arts Centre, State Theatre from 6 – 21 May, 2021. Tickets are between $69 – $287. Book at https://www.artscentremelbourne.com.au/

Photograph courtesy Opera Australia