Tag: Regent Theatre

Opera Australia and John Frost Present MY FAIR LADY

Lush, lovely and loyal revival

By Bradley Storer

Rapturous strings and a painted scrim of the Thames welcomed the audience into the world of Edwardian-era London on the Melbourne opening night at My Fair Lady. This production under the direction of the original Eliza Doolittle, Dame Julie Andrews herself, hums with vitality, and with sets and costumes modelled on the original Broadway production (by Oliver Smith and Cecil Beaton respectively) one can feel the wonder the show must have provoked in the audience of yesterday, the Ascot Gavotte a particular moment of sheer visual loveliness.

My Fair Lady Photo by Jeff Busby.jpg

Anna O’Byrne is perfectly cast as Eliza. Her silvery soprano handled the score with ease, deploying Eliza’s feistiness and vulnerability in equal measure, and winning the audience’s heart in all her iconic numbers – but especially in the giddy and rapturous ‘I Could Have Danced All Night’. Her standing ovation at the end of the night was well-earned.

Charles Edwards manages to find the heart and humanity in the often reprehensible Henry Higgins, but doesn’t shy away from his acid tongue or biting wit in ‘Why Can’t The English?’ and ‘Hymn to Him’, managing to adroitly combine the ‘talk-singing’ style of the originator Rex Harrison with moments of understated lyrical voice to create a more individualised interpretation.

As Higgins’ closest confidante, Colonel Pickering, Tony Llewellyn-Jones is charmingly hilarious in the duo’s back and forth and in his own small moments onstage. Robyn Nevin as Mrs Higgins steals the show effortlessly with just a few lines, subtly suggesting where Henry has inherited his quick wit and turn of phrase from.

The scene-stealing role of Alfred P. Doolittle is here played by Reg Livermore, who places his own stamp upon the part and nails the cheeky paean to laziness ‘With a Little Bit of Luck’. As the lovesick Freddy, Mark Vincent has a lush and easy vocal tone, delivering a lovely ‘On the Street Where You Live’. The ensemble are fantastic throughout, bringing superb energy and vivacity to their characters and shining in Christopher Gattelli‘s choreography for ‘I’m Getting Married in the Morning’.

There has been critical discussion over whether certain elements and the ending of the musical should have been changed for this new production, and indeed on opening night there were moments where the blatant misogyny of Higgins drew audible gasps from the audience – since this has been staged as a recreation of the original 1956 production, I felt that trying to sanitise the darker undertones of the show that are more apparent to society today would be dishonest. It is doubtful the work can ever be described as ‘feminist’, since the musical seems to be more actually focused on Higgins’ journey than Eliza’s and concerns itself more with the effects of the class system rather than gender, but by refusing to soften the sheer awfulness of Higgins’ character it can be argued the production maintains a measure of integrity, even as it is slightly baffling why the newly self-empowered Eliza would choose to return to him.

Overall, a charming and beautiful revisitation of a classic sure to delight any audience!

Dates: May 16th – July 27th (Melbourne)

Times: WednesdaySaturday 7:30pm, Tuesday 1pm, Wednesday 1pm, Sunday 3pm

Venue: Regent Theatre, 191 Collins St, Melbourne

Bookings: Ticketmaster.com.au or the venue box office

Image by Jeff Busby


Get some colour – and music – in your life

By Jessica Cornish

The other night I attended the opening night of Ladies in Black at the Regent Theatre. As I sweltered away under the hot Melbourne sun watching the celebs dash out of their cars on to the red carpet, I was unsure how the night would unfold. Directed by Simon Phillips, Ladies in Black isn’t your run-of-the-mill drama drenched production laced with consistent emotive blows to the heart. Instead it captures a point in time when shops were closed on a Sunday, girls didn’t attend university, and Australia was experiencing an influx of ‘crazy continentals’ who fled the Second World War.

We follow leading lady Lisa (Sarah Morrison) as she gains a summer job at a high end Sydney department store in the 1950’s. Here she connects with her female colleagues and we explore the every-day domesticity of their lives and their genuine love and passion for style and fashion.

Ladies in Black.jpg

Based on Madeleine St John’s novel, and composed by Aussie rock icon Tim Finn with book by Carolyn Burns, this charming new musical was certainly well received the night I attended, with cheeky songs like ‘He’s A Bastard’ and ‘I Just Kissed a Continental’ proving definite crowd-pleasers. Don’t worry – it’s not at all as bitter or racist as this sounds, and sassy protagonist Fay (Ellen Simpson) is quickly hooked on the lips and heart of her new Hungarian flame (Bobby Fox) lips and heart despite his unusual food and accent.

The cast gave strong vocal performances and executed proficiently the simple but effective choreography  of Andrew Hallsworth, appropriate for the diverse female cast of broad ages and body shapes. Plus it’s always refreshing to hear Aussie accents in song, and to have local references to towns such as good old Wagga Wagga. Sarah Morrison (Lisa) in particular was appealingly believable, and had impressive vocal skills that worked a treat for her character and the show’s style.

Set design by Gabriela Tylesova was simple but slightly underwhelming, incorporating an upstage scrim and series of perspex pillars throughout the production, which for me unfortunately seemed to lack the imagination and playfulness needed to compliment the story. Lighting design by David Walters was similarly simple but certainly got the job done. In constrast were Tylesova’s glorious costumes, capturing elaborate 1950’s cocktail gowns and society dresses that shone in glamorous contrast to the sombre blacks of the sales ladies’ attire.

Ladies in Black is  a theatrical snapshot of a group of wonderful women living in a time where Australia was (and surely still is) trying to define itself, and this musical uniquely ties up the lives of all its protagonists into a bundle of happiness. And you know what? – sometimes it’s nice to leave a show feeling content with the world and people in it.

Venue: The Regent Theatre

Season: 25 Feb- 18th of March

Tickets: $65-$111

Booking: Ticketmaster.com or call 1300 111 011

Image by Lisa Tomasetti

Peking Opera Presents WARRIOR WOMEN OF YANG

Lavish and captivating spectacle unites history, culture, theatre and nations

By Jessica Cornish

Warrior Women of Yang hit the Regent Theatre stage Friday night, whether we were prepared for it or not. The high-quality production directed by Zheng Yiqiu was produced by the relatively new China National Peking Opera Company.

Warrior Women of Yang.jpg

In a world of entertainment where women are so often depicted as victims that suffer at the hands of men, it was refreshing to see a show in which the women were portrayed as strong leaders. Warrior Women of Yang was set during the Song Dynasty (960 AD- 1279 AD) and followed the tale of Commander She Tai Jun who led the Song Army into battle against Western Xia.

As a long-time lover of western theatre and confessedly ignorant of other forms and traditions of world theatre, I attended the night’s performance unsure of what was to come. However, I don’t believe the experience was lost on me. One of the company’s stated ideologies is to foster cultural exchange between the Chinese people and the people of the world, and I was enraptured to experience being one of those people through this production.

The performance offered an abundance of auditory and visual stimuli. The traditional Chinese orchestration under the direction of Zhang Fu was precise, piercing and exciting. This was coupled with high-pitch fluctuating intonation patterns of the performer’s vocals, a skill incomparable to anything I had experienced before. It was impossible not to become immersed in the music that was all encompassing and continuous: it seemed there was not a moment of silence or stillness throughout the exciting two-and-a-half-hour performance, and the standout performer for the evening with a strong stage presence and an equally impressive vocal quality and ability was Zhang Jing.

The dazzling fight scenes were incredibly well-choreographed and easily the highlight of my night. It was impossible not to get lost in the constant acrobatics. Bodies were effortlessly tossed through the air, accompanied by the thrill of drums and cymbals. The sword-play scenes were also truly something to behold and the mixture of tassels, feathers and colours had a hypnotic effect, and set the room into an almost trance-like state. The costumes throughout were beautiful, often characterised by brightly coloured silks and accompanied by flowing cloth backdrops designed by Zhao Jinsheng.

The audience loved it, and ‘Hao!’ (the Chinese equivalent of ‘Bravo!’) was heard shouted at the stage throughout the night. Visually enthralling and musically engaging, and with English translations were provided throughout the evening so I knew what was going on at all times,Warrior Women of Yang was a unique and educational experience for all Australian audiences.

Warrior Women of Yang was performed on Friday and Saturday 11-12th of November 2016, at 7:00 PM at Regent Theatre, Melbourne, VIC

Melbourne 2016: WE WILL ROCK YOU

Yes, they will

By Jessica Cornish

In true Melbourne style, the first evening of Spring was ushered in by cold wind and rain, but this was no deterrent to the buzzing opening night crowd of We Will Rock You at the Regent Theatre. The show was incredibly vibrant, energetic and visually spectacular.

We Will Rock You.jpg

We Will Rock You utilises the well-known music of Queen to tell the quirky story of a society that is becoming more and more virtual, with the looming presence of Global Soft trying their best to stamp out all forms of bohemian life and of course the dreaded music of rock and roll. Despite the evil corporation’s best efforts, a small group of rebels strive for a world reunited through classic British rock.

Director Ben Elton, musical director Dave Skelton and choreographer Arlene Phillips combined forces to create a powerhouse production team. This creative strength was further complimented by a mesmerising lighting design by Willie Williams and excellent scenic design by Mark Fisher as the entire show being incredibly punchy and dynamic owed much to a set and lighting rig that was constantly moving. Box truss, LED screens and scaffolding flew in and out throughout the evening and the lighting rig was robust and well-planned. The show was consistently visually exciting and the stage looked stunning: there was even some pyro and confetti thrown into the mix, so no complaints here.

Bobby Aitken’s sound design was forceful, clear and generally well balanced. A couple of times the female vocals were drowned out in the mix by their male counterparts, although this could also be in part due to the challenging low vocal range the female performers were required to perform in the occasional bottom-heavy (pun intended) Queen songs.

Equally strong were the lead cast members and ensemble. They were all terrific triple-threat performers that were on the ball all night. Relative musical-theatre newcomer female lead Erin Clare (Scaramouche) sang beautifully and seemed to slip effortlessly in to the rebellious role. However, I felt her male counterpart Gareth Keegan (Galileo) lacked a contemporary edge to his performance which made him seem slightly wooden and not as believable as the dreamy love interest. Other leads, Jaz Flowers (Oz) and her muscly counterpart Thern Reynolds (Brit) did not miss a beat and were a pleasure to watch. Every movement and note was perfectly executed. Former 80’s rocker Brian Mannix (Buddy) was well received by the crowd and performed well however it was the former Australian Idol champion Casey Donovan who stole the show. She was – hands down – the standout performer of the evening as the glorious Killer Queen. She was charismatic and demanded attention every moment she was on stage. She gave an incredibly strong performance, and I couldn’t take my eyes off this bodacious babe, particularly in her rendition of fat bottomed girls framed by an array of women in leather and pink feather dusters.

We Will Rock You does not disappoint. It is a great starting point into the world of theatre, especially for the younger audience and of course all those with a love for Queen, and an impressively dynamic show that is both well-polished and well-executed. How can you pass this up?!





Image by Jeff Busby

REVIEW: Melbourne Return Season of GREASE

It’s still got groove!

By Jessica Cornish

Grease is the word, haven’t you heard? Following a 2013 sell-out season at Her Majesty’s Theatre, the hand-jiving musical is back by popular demand, this time playing at the beautiful Regent Theatre. Bert Newton opened the show as Vince Fontaine with some audience banter which confused my theatre companion, but he was followed by a punchy overture musically directed by Peter Casey and played out by the band of men clad in silk pink shirts. From the moment the music kicks in you can’t help but get excited and dance around, possibly a little too much in your seat.


This production of Grease directed by David Gilmore was one of the most enjoyable and high-energy musicals I have seen in a long time. Rob Mills and the relatively unknown Gretel Scarlett have returned to the stage as the Rydell High heart-throbs Danny and Sandy. They were pitch perfect throughout the entire night, and slipped into the teen roles perfectly.  The show was sleek and well-polished, and the cast really nailed their parts (however if I’m going to nitpick, it probably wouldn’t hurt the ensemble to brush up on their American accents.)  I did feel the only performers who really had to work that little harder to hit those highs were the famous Aussie icons themselves, including John Paul Young, Todd McKenney and Newton himself. But don’t get me wrong: the audience was overjoyed to see these guys do their thing – they could have spoken their songs, and the opening night crowd would still have been thrilled.

The lighting was crisp, bright and replete with red LED strips and Elvis images that framed the show all evening. Fluro-pink love hearts flew in and out, adding to the 1950’s feel of the show as designed by Terry Parsons, and accompanied by the occasional pings of colour from the hanging mirror balls. The show seamlessly transitioned through all the scenes, and had a really quick pace across the evening. The famous hit songs such as “Greased Lightning” and “Summer Loving”, staged and choreographed by Arlene Phillips, were satisfyingly well-done, and I literally had to stop myself from singing along.

It was a thoroughly enjoyable night’s entertainment, and no matter how many times you may have seen the movie, I promise you won’t be disappointed seeing this musical live on stage.

Grease is playing at The Regent Theatre until January 25, 2015. Tickets start from $60.


REVIEW: Sesame Street Presents ELMO’S WORLD TOUR

Frankly good fun!

By Kim Edwards

This was the first time my reviewing buddy was a two-year old, but she was prepared to be a harsh critic. Admittedly, I was also prepared to be a little bored and a little underwhelmed by any efforts to get the beloved Sesame Street characters on stage in any kind of appealing way… and so, was pleasantly surprised. Elmo’s World Tour is very charming: a sleek, well-paced production where the cute characters are personable and plausibly familiar, the family entertainment factor is a clear priority, and the storyline is taut and neatly developed.

A world globe gift from Grover inspires Elmo to want to go traveling, and with the help of Abbycadabby to conjure up alphabet letters, he and the Sesame Street gang visit countries starting with those magical letters. Of course, with Abby only using her second-best wand, and Cookie Monster eating his letter C, the trip doesn’t always go smoothly, but of course everything works out in all the best ways.

Elmo's World Tour 2014

I enjoyed the educational element that connected the story firmly to the TV show, including the multicultural theme that introduced the very excited pre-school audience to greetings in other languages, and music and dance styles reminiscent of the countries visited. I also loved that, along with these new songs, the plot managed to work in lots of the best vintage Sesame Street tunes and include a few key cameos from Ernie and Bert, and the Count. Less successful is the awkward Australian component and new character, but Lady Baa Baa’s inclusion is thankfully brief.

The anonymous performers do a simply wonderful job: the dance energy, physical characterisation and puppeteering are all excellent. Full-body costume work is always thankless, but the actors give no sign of being tired, hot or jaded after doing three performances a day and (I suspect at times) playing multiple characters. The costumes themselves look very authentic (no easy feat for muppets made full-size), and the set and props are practical for a touring show, but handsome and nicely manipulated.

The mood in the Regent Theatre was cheerful and supportive, with the sound not too loud, the house lights left dimmed, and a general empathy for parents and little fans who needed to exit, stand, fidget or snack during the show. My little critic and I thoroughly enjoyed ourselves, though I would recommend if paying extra for the Elmo meet-and-greet afterwards, you ensure your child isn’t likely to baulk at the (actual) enormity of their hero in person. There were a number of ‘wailing with Santa’-style incidents, but Elmo and his assistant were very sweet and patient, and the faces of devoted fans throwing their arms around their idol was a delight in itself.

The final 2014 performances of Elmo’s World Tour take place at The Clock Tower, Moonee Ponds, this Monday October 6. Tickets start from $22.40 at http://lifeliketouring.com/sesamestreetpresents/

REVIEW: Live on Stage in Melbourne – KING KONG

You’ve never seen anything like this…

By Kim Edwards

Bold, breath-taking – and BIG.

King Kong

King Kong Live on Stage is a wildly ambitious and theatrically daring production that crashes through musical conventions and scales special-effects heights, but has not yet escaped being a rather lumbering and cumbersome beast of a show. However, this production is still in its infancy and therefore evolving, and meanwhile the world premiere now showing at the Regent already has theatre-goers thrilling, puzzling, and debating its merits furiously.

The famous (and admittedly thin storyline) has been reimagined for the stage in an extraordinary and contrary way. The songs are the collected efforts of contemporary artists such as Sarah McLachlan and 3D from Massive Attack: at its most successful, the music forms an exciting and unusual soundtrack that is a distinct relief after the formulaic and expositional offerings of some other musicals. At other times however, songs are jarring and uneven with their musical anachronisms and bland lyrics. The set and backdrop are primarily a dynamic blur of lighting and video effects: at its best in the scenes emulating grainy film footage, the impact is utterly spectacular, from the dance of the Skull Island locals and the moonrise lullaby, to the final battle atop the Empire State building. At its worse however, the lingering impression is of Atari video games, and b-grade music videos.

Esther Hannaford as heroine Ann Darrow is an impressively feisty and funny leading lady, and visually and vocally beautiful. The film director and plot catalyst Denham (Adam Lyon) is full of pizzazz, but has not quite settled into character or singing style securely yet. Chris Ryan is pleasant as love-interest Jack Driscoll, while Queenie Van de Zandt sings the hell out of the incomprehensible role of Cassandra.

But then there is Harley Durst, Danny Miller and Jacob Williams, and Lincoln Barros, James Brown, Adam David, Josh Feldschuh, Brett Franzi, Nathan Jones, Nathan Kell, Pussell Leonard, Brent Osborne, Troy Phillips, Mike Snow, Maxwell Trengrove and Tayo Wilson. Their collaborative emoting, movement and acting was inexpressibly moving and mesmerising – from their first moment on stage, the audience involuntarily drew breath, and they commanded our rapt attention and unstinting admiration until the very end. No – they are not the (excellent) ensemble in this production. These gentleman are the puppeteers that give life to Kong, and they and he are the unequivocal stars of the show.

King Kong Live on Stage provides just that: the sense of real awe and amazement at  what we see when it comes to the breathing, bellowing believability of Kong himself is worth every cent of the ticket price. He and his creators are a united marvel, and it is simply a bonus that the blockbuster musical is also being unleashed from its primal predictable bonds here, and let loose afresh (albeit still chaotically) into the theatre world.

Go for this – King Kong is wonder-full.



Rich, rampant and inspiring theatre

By Bradley Storer

In a rare treat for Melbourne audiences, the internationally renowned Eifman Ballet Company bring their acclaimed fusion of Russian classical ballet and contemporary dance to our shores. The company’s aim, under the direction of choreographer Boris Eifman, is the creation of new ballet repertoire that attains the same psychological and thematic complexity as modern drama whilst  exploring the sublime physical dimensions which other artforms cannot approximate. The classic Tolstoy epic, Anna Karenina, certainly qualifies in terms of grandeur and depth, and the Eifman Ballet explores the possibilities of this mammoth novel to their fullest extent.

Ballet by its nature requires plots that can be communicated simply, and in this respect the multilayered and complex narrative of Anna Karenina might have been a poor choice. However, by stripping back the story to focus centrally on the love triangle between Anna, Karenin and Vronsky, the most visceral and powerful elements of the original text are brought to the forefront.

The chorus skilfully express the smothering and oppressive social atmosphere of the St Petersburg court in their tightly formalized and compact dances, gorgeously outfitted in refined dark and grey outfits (alternating with the sleek black leather of the upper aristocracy) which renders them all grandly uniform. Against this unvarying palette come the ill-fated lovers Anna (played in this performance by Maria Abashova) and Vronsky (Oleg Gabyshev), their dances weaving in and out of the static patterns of the chorus burning to be free. Abashova’s achingly beautiful dancing begins trapped inside societal confinements imposed by both court and her husband, and through the first act Abashova shows the soul inside slowly waking to love. Gabyshev is a youthful and virile presence throughout, and when the pair finally consummate their growing passion in a stunning pas de deux, we see the full grace and beauty of their movements, hitherto hidden and stifled, break through the surface at last.

Oleg Markov as Karenin shows us his character’s hopeless entrapment with the bounds of society, the audience aware every moment of Karenin’s simultaneous yearning and inability to break free of the rigid movement imposed on him – when Karenin and his wife dance together, they resemble two puzzle pieces which will never quite fit together.

In Act Two, where Anna and her lover are relegated to the fringes of Russian society as a result of her affair, we delve into deep psychological exploration of the characters’ despair as Vronsky turns to drink and Anna to morphine addiction. The morphine-fuelled fantasy of flesh which Anna dreams is one of the more abstract and challenging aspects of the production, but the final scene which follows provides a thrilling coup de theatre which both matches and heightens the intensely operatic ending and cements this company’s reputation as boundary-pushing and artistically awe-inspiring theatre-makers.

Dates: 29th August to 2nd September, 2012

Price: $55 – $190

Venue: Regent Theatre, 191 Collins St, Melbourne

Bookings: www.ticketmaster.com.au