Tag: Robert Grubb


Taking new steps

By Narelle Wood

There was love in the air for the launch of the Melbourne season of Strictly Ballroom: The Musical. While the Lonsdale Ballroom of the Sofitel seemed a little too classy and a little low on glitz for the garish and over-the-top ballroom dancing world created by the film, the night provided an exciting glimpse of all that this stage show promises to deliver.

Strictly Ballroom

The relatively new and Australian production company Global Creatures is responsible for the collaborative effort with Baz Luhrmann in moving this iconic Australian film to the stage. Directed by Luhrmann, and with costumes by Catherine Martin, the show promises to deliver on the visual extravaganza the duo have become famous for; approximately one million Swarovski diamantes were hand-sewn onto the costumes to provide just a touch of the dance world glamour.

Throughout the night, hosted by Barry Fife himself (Robert Grubb), we were treated to a preview of the talents of some of the cast including the vocal stylings of Thomas Lacey and Phoebe Panaretos (Scott and Fran), the incredible Flamenco dancing of Fernando Miro (Rico) and the dancing talents of Rohan Browne and Nadia Coote (Ken Railings and Tina Sparkle). While the Flamenco dancing (Paso Doble and Flamenco infusion) and the performance by Ken and Tina are clearly recognizable moments from the film, the song “Beautiful Surprise”, performed by the characters Scott and Fran, pointed to some of the new musical numbers that have been especially written for the show.

With any re-creation of an icon there is a risk that some of the fans (the diehard Strictly Ballroom fans who know ‘where the man goes, the lady must follow’ and that ‘there are no new steps’) may find the new aspects to the musical difficult to deal with, and early reviews were mixed. However, if the quality of performance, music and lyrics of “Beautiful Surprise” are any indication, the new elements of the script will only embellish the stage adaptation.

I personally cannot wait to see what the combination of Luhrmann, Martin and Global Creatures have produced and I look forward to Strictly Ballroom; The Musical fulfilling the promise that the audience will walk in and dance out come its season premier in January 2015.

Venue: Her Majesty’s Theatre
Season: Begins January 2015
Bookings: https://premier.ticketek.com.au to register for the Strictly Ballroom: The Musical ticket waitlist

REVIEW: A Murder is Announced at THE COMEDY THEATRE

Prepare to be intrigued…

By Kim Edwards

The queen of crime is being celebrated anew – Agatha Christie’s A Murder is Announced opened in Melbourne this week, and proved to be a deadly and delicious production of this mystery classic.

A Murder is Announced

Leslie Darbon‘s 1977 stage adaptation of one of Christie’s best-crafted novels is excellent, as the charming rambling wander through English village life is sewn up into a taut and witty drawing-room drama. The script establishes memorable and appealing characters with brisk confidence, rolls out the action with energy, and moves swiftly through important exposition, all without losing the actual language and style of the original novel.

It is Darren Yap‘s vibrant intelligent direction here that also freshens up the tale for a modern audience. I admired the delicate balance created between the self-aware humour that poked affectionate fun at the murder mystery genre and the foibles of the characters, and the real suspense and intrigue that held the opening night audience enthralled. I call it The Mousetrap effect – hearing an entire theatre of patrons draw a breath in horrified and delighted unison when a particular dark secret or shocking revelation is revealed…

Overall. the casting is delightful: Judi Farr (with clear homage to the glorious Joan Hickson) plays Miss Marple with wry humour and real charm. Robert Grubb has some trouble reigning in the wonderful gusto he feels portraying the bluff and dramatic Inspector Craddock, but the slight histrionics play off well against the elegant, fluid and nuanced performance of Debra Lawrance as Letitia Blacklock. Libby Munro gives a spirited and beautifully stylish depiction of Julia, Deidre Rubenstein offers superb comic timing as the bumbling Dora, and both Carmen Duncan and James Beck perform with aplomb in the rather thankless roles of Mrs Swettenham and Edmund.

Both Nathaniel Middleton and Libby Munro struggled to keep caricature at bay and their accents intact on opening night, but will no doubt smooth into their roles, while Victoria Haralabidou was a spectacular scene-stealer in the difficult role of refugee housekeeper Mitzi. Agatha Christie’s cheerful racism is always hard to overcome, but neat scripting and Haralabidou’s hilarious and enchanting dedication to her character gave Mitzi an ascerbic wit and vivaciousness that let us laugh with her at the constrained British behaviours and appreciate her more naturalistic emotion and energy.

Starting from $95.00, tickets are pricy for this old favourite, but classic murder mystery is always beguiling and as a Christie devotee, I enjoyed this production as thoroughly as the initiates behind me who were ecstatic the plot twists took them completely by surprise!

A Murder is Announced is playing at the Comedy Theatre until December 4. Tickets are available through Ticketek and online here.

Review: THE PRODUCTION COMPANY presents Promises, Promises

A rare chance to see a superb show

By Adam Tonking

The Production Company’s Promises, Promises stars Matt Hetherington as Chuck Baxter, a low-level accountant in a huge corporation, struggling to be noticed both by his bosses while the girl of his dreams, waitress Fran Kubelik is played by much-loved Marina Prior in ever-reliable form. The show itself is genius, taking a filmic masterpiece in Billy Wilder’s The Apartment, and adapting  it to the stage with glorious music from Burt Bacharach, complete with his exciting and idiosyncratic shifts in meter and harmony. Add to this Neil Simon’s witty and skilfully crafted dialogue, and Hal David’s heartfelt lyrics – how could this show not be amazing?

Hetherington turns his Jack-Lemmon charm on the audience from overture to finale, particularly in the number “She Likes Basketball.” The supporting leads, Chelsea Plumley and Robert Grubb, also gave stellar performances. Plumley was either sorely underused, or used to perfection, playing a small cameo role in one of the most entertaining scenes in the show. She trod a beautiful line between dignity and a complete shambles, all delivered with perfect comic timing and fully-realised characterisation. Grubb was perfectly cast as Dr. Dreyfuss, turning something of a sourpuss into a loveable curmudgeon.

I was delighted to see the orchestra on stage. Half the joy of music theatre for me is the visceral experience of live musicians, and watching them under the tight direction of Guy Simpsonwas pure bliss. The ensemble were spectacular – and aren’t the ensemble the most underappreciated aspect of any show?

Here though, “Turkey Lurkey Time” and “A Fact Can Be A Beautiful Thing” were beautifully executed, and two of the best numbers in the production thanks to the energy and enthusiasm of the ensemble. Particular mention should be given to Hester Van Der Vyver, who with her small but pivotal role as Miss Olsen, came close to stealing the show.

The Production Company has enjoyed a brilliant year with its inspired choices, and their production of Promises, Promises ends it beautifully. In excitedly looking forward to their 2013 program, I can only suggest that you quickly rush to see this too-seldom performed, absolute gem of a show.

Promises, Promises is on at the State Theatre, October 3 to October 7. Book at artscentremelbourne.com.au or call 1300 182 183.