Tag: Paul Watson

Pursued by Bear Presents TICK TICK BOOM

Engrossing and innovative musical theatre

By Sally McKenzie

Tick Tick Boom is a cleverly-written one act musical which beautifully illustrates the struggles of the composer Jonathon Larson (who also composed Rent) to ‘make his break’ in the world of musical theatre.  In this new production presented by Pursued By Bear, I was captivated from beginning to end. I doubt you will find a better portrayal of this autobiographical piece by Larson.

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Upon entrance to ‘The Loft’ performance space at Chapel Off Chapel, we are immediately immersed in the ‘chaos’ of Larson’s musical mind as we walk on a floor covered in pages of sheet music, and are surrounded by a clutter of suitcases and neglected musical instruments randomly stacked against walls.

In the middle of this there is a floor-boarded stage, slightly raised with a piano as the centre piece. Three wooden chairs are the only other set pieces on this stark performance space. A dozen hanging exposed light bulbs also frame the space, helping to bring a distinct realism to the set.

The role of Jonathon Larson is played by Luigi Lucente. He is simply brilliant. The audience immediately empathizes with the heightened anxiety of his character and – through the passing of time (which is likened to the strict timing of the metronome) – are captivated with his journey as an artist.  Lucente is compelling as he delivers his soliloquies to the audience. Through superb timing and natural alliance with the character,  he is able to bring out the comedy in an otherwise ‘serious’ plot.  Moreover, Lucente is perfectly cast as he also is an impressive musician/pianist and rock vocalist. His playing of the piano is interwoven superbly into the music of the show. His performance of ‘Why’ was particularly moving, and the ‘out of tune’ piano was a perfect vessel for his emotions.

Angela Scundi gives a solid performance of the role of Jon’s girlfriend Susan, and effectively doubles as other characters throughout the show.  Her rendition of ‘Come To Your Senses’ was very well-received by the audience. Quin Kelly depicted the more conservative character of Michael, which was an apt juxtaposition to the spirited nature of ‘Jon’. Although his voice didn’t quite seem suited to the more contemporary style of the show, but he brought a lovely energy to the ensemble-style cast. Mitch Roberts and Rebecca Heatherington provided extra vocal harmonies for songs and portrayed their cameo roles with conviction. Their presence in the Sondheim parody ‘Sunday’ was particularly engaging.

Paul Watson’s direction is stunning and completely fitting for the venue. The multiple uses of the piano as a set piece and the ‘domestic’ lighting doubling as the perfect tools to create the needed intimacy of such a personal story are just two examples of his stylish creative choices. His ability to convey the different tensions in the space with the positioning of actors alone is impressive.

The musical direction by Jess Barlow is well-executed. Vocal harmonies are tight and the band is well-balanced with the vocalists. There was the occasional imbalance of vocal harmonies (the men sometimes overpowering the women), but this did not deter from the enjoyment of such a fabulous score.

Tick Tick Boom is playing in The Loft at Chapel Off Chapel until May 2nd. Tickets can be booked online at http://chapeloffchapel.com.au/ticket-sales/

REVIEW: StageArt Presents SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER

Step back in time!

By Deborah Langley

The date is 1976 and Brooklyn heart-throb Tony Manero is a young man with an extraordinary ability to dance. Stuck in a dead-end job he has only one ambition in life – to become the disco king.

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StageArt’s West End revival production of Saturday Night Fever transports us to the heart of the disco era designed to make you want to jump out of your seat and start dancing!

Starring Mike Snell (Strictly Ballroom, Wicked, Legally Blonde, The Boy From Oz), Sheridan Anderson (West Side Story, Pippin, Our House) and Elise Brennan (Jersey Boys, Guys and Dolls) this production brings to the stage everything you loved about the movie, the music and the decade.

But, as director Robbie Carmellotti says, ‘It is easy to think of Saturday Night Fever as a fun night out with great Bee Gees hits’ – not this production, however. After a bubble-gum style Act 1 which has you moving and grooving, Act 2 reminds you that the 1970’s wasn’t just about great songs and fashion.This show also poignantly explores dark topics such as rape, suicide and racism with a punch that leaves you mesmerized.

Thus Bobby’s (Dean Schulz) version of “Tragedy” allowed me to really hear the words for the first time and be completed engrossed in the heartache which can strike any of us.

Other standout moments included Annette’s (Brennan) heartbreaking rendition of “If I Can’t Have You, I Don’t Want Nobody, Baby”, an amazing dance-off with stunning acrobatics during “You Should Be Dancing” and an exceptional STOMP-type version of “Boggy Shoes”.

The famous music really is the star of this show, musically directed by Tony Toppi, with outstanding choreography by Luke Alleva and a strong ensemble: in particular Alexia Brinsley, Cassie Miller, and Paul Watson (Once, Jersey Boys, Fiddler On The Roof) whose performance as DJ Monty was spot-on and his guitar-playing amazing. Ten more of the cast members brought music to the stage playing live instruments, but unfortunately on the night attended, many of these performances fell flat with poor sound quality – a huge distraction which undermined several numbers.

Nevertheless, this otherwise spectacular new production is a must-see for any fans of the film, the music or the era!

Saturday Night Fever, 11-28 February 2016 at Chapel Off Chapel, 12 Little Chapel Street, Prahran.

Times: Tuesday – Sunday, 7.30pm; Saturday & Sunday, 1.30pm matinee

Bookings:  8290 7000.  www.chapeloffchapel.com.au

Image by Belinda Strodder photography