Tag: Leigh Jay Booth

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: Give My Regards To Broady

Trendy topical music theatre for all you Melbournites

By Bradley Storer

At the beginning of the show, the stage at Theatreworks is set up like the lounge room of a northern Melbourne share-house: strewn with the debris of the night before, accumulated mess, milk crate furniture and the bodies of several cast members.

Like the other work with which it shares the double-bill, Housewarming, Give My Regards To Broady is a musical dedicated to the mixed blessings and tribulations of youth through the experience of house-sharing.

The plot of Broady revolves around the daily lives and trials of a group of performing arts graduates all desperate for their big breaks and forced to find some way of co-existing peacefully. There’s Karin (Claire Healy), the lazy and poverty-stricken song-writer from Broadmeadows, her delightfully camp housemate and song-writing partner James (Leigh Jay Booth), a theatre-restaurant worker obsessed with celebrity networking, their friend Erin (Lauren Murtagh), a vainglorious South Melbourne heiress, and her ’accessory’ Luke (Joe Kosky). Lurking in the background is the rest of Karin’s housemates/backing band, with amusing interjections and intrusions from multi-instrumentalist Emma Muiznieks.

Broady is a love letter from its creators Karin Muiznieks and James Simpson, firstly to the enthusiasm and courage of young people who choose to work in the arts industry; when asked to compare her life with that of a Third-World child she sponsors, the character Karin counters ‘he doesn’t work in the arts!’.

Secondly to musical theatre itself, signalled by the posters of Sweeney Todd, Hairspray, Chicago and many other productions decorating the walls of the house. Muiznieks and Simpson play with standard musical tropes, amongst other things hilariously parodying the love duets of classic Broadway musicals and play out a wickedly vicious West Side Story-style scrag fight.

Lastly to the city of Melbourne itself, with songs devoted to topics like Melbourne Cup Day hook-ups, Crown Casino, half-built Ferris wheels – one song shows the characters trying to illustrate their relationships by comparing them to the qualities of different suburbs.

After a slow start, the show picks up strength and energy as soon as the first musical number appears. The four leads, under the direction of Scott Gooding, are all uniformly strong – the standouts are Murtagh and Kosky, who are given several moments to shine in numbers like ‘Erin’s Turn’ and the show finale. Healy and Booth ably handle the weight of keeping the show’s plot moving through several twists and turns with enthusiasm and flair. Give My Regards to Broady is an uproarious night at the theatre for music theatre lovers,  Melbournites who love their local references and for anyone in general who enjoys a good laugh.

Dates: 28 Nov – Dec 10 at Theatre Works, St Kilda
Times: Nov 30 to Dec 3 at 7:00pm / Dec 5-10 at 8:45pm