Tag: Drew Downing


New shows added by popular demand

By Narelle Wood

In this ‘one night only’ performance Flourish Productions showcases a range of songs from the legendary songwriting combination of Lennon and McCartney.

Let It Be.jpg

The eight-singer ensemble treated us to a vast array of classics from the more clean-cut era with the likes of “I Wanna Hold Your Hand” to the more experimental “Strawberry Fields”. There were a combination of ensemble performances, duets and solos, supported by the extremely talented creative director Drew Downing on the piano and an exceptionally tight and talented band (Max Koenig, Bryan Bowen, Dave Banen and Paul Congdon). The band by themselves would have made for a spectacular performance, especially with some killer solos on the saxophone and guitar provided by Koenig and Banen respectively.

That is not to say the vocals weren’t spectacular themselves. There were many highlights including the ensemble performances of “I Wanna Hold Your Hand”, “Ob-la-di Ob-la-da” and a stunning interpretation of “With A Little Help From My Friends”, which started with eight-part a cappella harmony, highlighting just how talented this group are. There were also some standouts solos, including Tyson Legg‘s haunting rendition of  “So This Is Christmas”, Vidya Makan‘s funky version of “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” and Jess Fairlie‘s ‘dirty’ performance of “Let’s Get Together”. One of my favourite performances of the night was Makan and Ana Mitsikas‘s duet of “Ticket to Ride”, providing a funky jazz piano accompaniment as well as the smooth vocals. Overall though, for me, it was Fairlie who stole the show with a powerful and enigmatic performance of “Hey Jude”.

There were a couple of things I wasn’t a fan of: there seemed to be a lot of erroneous  microphone-swapping and some of the backup movements and choreography was a little cheesy. There were a few interpretations of the songs that I weren’t keen on; they didn’t quite match my expectations. Jack Lyall‘s teenage angst take on Yesterday didn’t work for me, yet his performances in the more gritty rock style numbers were fantastic. It was clear the ensemble have a range of experience and there were some that are still finding their performance feet.

Nitpicking aside, the night was fantastic, the show was sold out and the audience were singing and dancing along in their chairs. The diversity of ages in the audience were a testament to the timelessness of Lennon and McCartney’s work, and the applause at the end a testament to the quality of the show. While Let it Be was supposed to a one night only performance, there are now two more shows scheduled. If you want to treat yourself to tickets, and I suggest you do, do so quickly as I expect there will be many people keen to attend these encores.

Venue: Chapel Off Chapel, 12 Little Chapel, Prahran

Season: 29th April 3pm & 8pm

Price: $35 full $30 Concession $25 Child

Tickets: chapeloffchapel.com.au phone 03 8290 7000

StageArt Presents THE FULL MONTY

Yes, they do

By Tania Herbert

StageArt‘s production of the Broadway version of The Full Monty with book with Terrence McNally and score by David Yasbek opened to a full house and enthusiastic audience, and a vibrant cast and impressive production team certainly gave it their all.


That said, there is a reason that The Full Monty doesn’t get regularly produced in Australia – unfortunately the show is, overall, fairly awful. The same storyline as the wonderful 1997 British film is more or less followed, however by Americianising the storyline and approach, nothing is gained but so very much is lost. Lacking depth, sensitivity, and self-insight, it’s inherently a limited script which doesn’t even get close to doing justice to the range of social and emotional issues that the original film touched upon.

That said, this cast certainly performed the heck out of it– managing to bring likeability to a series of fairly unlikable American stereotypes. Scott Mackenzie took on the lead of Jerry and did an admirable job of pulling the story along, and sidekick Dave, played by Giancarlo Salamanca, sang beautifully. However, the somewhat dragging first act was well and truly saved by the character roles-  Wem Etuknwa as ‘Horse’, Barbara Hughes as Jeanette and Ana Mitsikas as Vicki all enter the show quite late, but really added the comic element and brought about a much needed lift.

It said something that the musical’s showstopper was the filler number Jeanette’s Showbiz Number– although the better-paced second act not only brought a lot more laughs, but really built a sense of anticipation of the finale as the other big and highly enjoyable showstopper moment (and in case you’re wondering- yes, they do).

The music is neither memorable nor particularly interesting, with the exception of the exquisite funeral song You Walk With Me, touchingly performed here by Montgomery Wilson with Adam Perryman. Despite this, the musical direction (by Nathan Firmin) was superb, utilising the very vocally strong ensemble to the fullest.

The staging under the direction of Drew Downing was interesting and contemporary- a minimalist construction site set brought in lots of movement and levels, and the onstage band added a bit of a rock-musical feel.

The Full Monty is, unfortunately, not a great musical,- but StageArt’s production was still a highly enjoyable evening with a rocking cast, slick production and plenty of talent on show (pun intended).

The Full Monty is presented by StageArt and is playing at The National Theatre from March 3 until March 19.

Tickets: $49-$74 from www.stageart.com.au

Image by Belinda Strodder


TV’s favourite family hit the stage

By Narelle Wood

It’s a story we’re all familiar with; a woman with three girls, a man with three boys and a happy household where no problem is ever too big to solve. But A Super Brady Cabaret explores more than the wholesome, teeth-flashing, perky family, it also delves into the darker side of the Brady Bunch.

A Super Brady Cabaret

The show opens with a familiar tune and the ‘on air’ antics that ensue are all the smiley, over-enthused fun and cheese you would expect from the Brady Bunch. Then the ‘on air’ light blinks off and the ‘real’ relationship between each of the cast members comes to life.

Lauren Edwards (Carol), Paul Congdon (Mike) and their six children (Kathleen Amarant, Thomas Bradford, Sophie Weiss, Giancarlo Salamanca, Nicola Guzzardi, Dylan Licastro) are perfectly casted. Under the direction of Drew Downing, this cast form is a flawless ensemble; it was impossible to pick a favourite amongst Marcia’s overt sexuality, Bobby’s watermelon smile, Cindy’s lisp or Jan’s whining. Instead, the highlights of the show come from the onstage chemistry between cast members and their well-timed interactions, as well as some witty and unexpected moments in the script.

The storyline is tight and the songs are well suited to the era of the tv show, featuring hits such as “Islands In The Stream”, “Happy Together:, and “Keep On” made famous by the original Brady Bunch. For all the frivolity of the cabaret there are also some poignant questions that the show deals with, such as what happens to each member of the bunch when the Bradys are no longer?

It’s hard to leave A Super Brady Cabaret without feeling warm and fuzzy, with every moment having either made me smile or laugh out loud. A Super Brady Cabaret is a feel-good way to finish off your day.

Venue: Chapel off Chapel
Season: Wednesday – Saturday, 6.30pm, until 13th June
Tickets: $39 Full | $31 Conc
Bookings: chapeloffchapel.com.au

Image by Belinda Strodder