All posts by Carolyn Neumann

Highly qualified in things other then 'the Arts'; Carolyn's life long love of theatre, movies, comedy and music has meant that she has spent much of her life in dark rooms with strangers - sitting upright and paying attention. So now - please sit upright and pay attention...


Was Maria Callas, one of the most famous dramatic coloratura sopranos of all time, a diva both on and off stage? Was she more famous for her voice or for her affair with the mega-rich Aristotle Onassis? Who is better to answer these and related questions than Maria Callas herself.

MARIA B Y CALLAS  is an intimate look at the life of the legendary Greek-American opera singer completely in her own words.

Whilst she died in 1977 aged 53, this documentary film reminds us that her voice was truly remarkable and that the media hounding ensured that the public thought of her as a diva. The documentary is a chronological collection of interviews, performances, home movies, photographs, letters and unpublished memoirs from Callas.

The movie reveals the tussle between Maria, the ‘normal’ female desiring a ‘normal’ family life with children, and ‘Callas’ the international opera star who must please and appease audiences and the press. She collected recipes but never got round to making the dishes. Whilst having been married once and having a long public affair with Aristotle Onassis, she admits that destiny called her to be a diva and therefore motherhood was denied. Continue reading MARIA BY CALLAS : DESTINED TO BE A DIVA


Eliza Jackson knew she was going to be a star even before entering her teens. Her show THE VOICE BEHIND THE STARS proves her prediction. This show is the story of Marni Nixon (1930-2016) who was the ‘ghost singer’ behind many leading Hollywood actresses in over 50 movies. Eliza holds the stage in this solo performance with her voice, humour and authentic story-telling.

Eliza focuses on the music and the story by using a simple set on a blackened stage. The set has a microphone and music stand representing the recording studio, an armchair, table, tea set and record player for home and a centre screen projecting images of the range of actresses whose careers Marni Nixon enhanced by giving them her voice.

Marni Nixon, endowed with perfect pitch, began singing professionally in her teens, reinvesting all her earnings in the early years in singing lessons. Whilst she did have some work doing her own recordings and some opera, it is her ‘ghost singing’ for which she is most noted. She has been described as ‘the best film diva you (almost) never saw’.

Many of her contracts forced her to remain silent about her being the real singer behind stars such as Debbie Reynolds and Natalie Wood. We gain insights into the talent and personalities of these and other leading actresses such as Audrey Hepburn, Deborah Kerr and Marilyn Monroe as Eliza interweaves storytelling with songs from My Fair Lady, The King & I and West Side Story to name just a few movies.

It was not until she was well into her twenties that Marni began her fight for and succeeded in getting the rights for all ‘ghost singers’ to be credited in the movie and to receive reasonable payment. Marni eventually did make it onto the big screen in acting and singing roles, including being cast in The Sound of Music as one of the singing nuns. Marni comforted herself with the success of three Oscar-winning films and the success of the leading ladies. She was also proud of the success of her three children: Andrew, an award-winning composer, Melanie and actress and Martha a psychologist.

Eliza Jackson writer, creator and performer of this show is an Australian-born, London-based actress and singer. NIDA trained, she is the Creative Director of UK-based theatrical production company Lambert Jackson.

Whilst Eliza too has been said to have perfect pitch, there are several humorous moments when she plays with various accents, personalities and class exaggerations which allow her to lower her musical guard. The story has enough of these moments and characters for the chronology to never become tedious. It is an absorbing tale. The overall message is bitter-sweet: “I’d let all these actresses dub their body to my voice”. The performance is one to relish.

During a successful sell-out run at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2018, the Edinburgh Guide described Eliza’s performance as ‘magnetic and magical’. THE VOICE BEHIND THE STARS is next playing at the Fringe World Festival in Perth daily from 10th to 13th February, 2019



Soaring property prices, greedy real estate agents, unscrupulous foreign buyers, biosecurity threats, pretentious environmental concerns, are being played out with nudity, violence, homophobia and horror in 95 minutes in Newtown.

NOSFERATU : A FRACTURED SYMPHONY commands attention through strong acting performances and plot entanglement with one of the most iconic films of the silent era, Murnau’s 1922 film of the same name. It is this link which adds historical and literary depth to a seemingly contemporary story. Continue reading NOSFERATU : A FRACTURED SYMPHONY


Pick of the Litter, a “dogumentary” about puppies becoming guide dogs is not a tear jerking telethon marketing exercise. It is far better than that. It is a delightful, irresistible and interesting documentary. It is a story of love, struggle, competition, resilience and cuteness.

For the story, directors Dana Nachman and Don Hardy follow five puppies from birth through their quest to become guide dogs for the blind. It is an intense almost two-year journey as they train to become dogs whose ultimate responsibility is to protect their blind partners from harm. In their quest they are supported by an array of dedicated individuals who train them to do amazing, life-changing things in the service of their human. The stakes are high and not every dog can make the cut. Only the best, only the pick of the litter. Continue reading PICK OF THE LITTER



On a hot Sydney weekend afternoon in November fans of a near-octogenarian queued for the signing of his latest book. Stars on Stage A Conversation with Reg Livermore saw Reg Livermore return to The Independent Theatre to talk about the book and his life with ABC Radio presenter James Valentine. It was at the Independent Theatre that Reg Livermore did theatre training as a schoolboy. The two of them appeared relaxed as they conversed about life stages and the stages on which Reg had appeared in his career from early teens until now. These aspects appear in Stages – Reg Livermore A Memoir (Hardie Grant Books, 2018).

A true legend of Australian Theatre, from serious drama to cabaret and more, Reg Livermore has received more than a dozen major awards. He has been a performer, writer, designer and director and appeared on television. In the last few years, he has received three lifetime achievement awards.

In conversation, Reg reflected on some of the relationships, triumphs and tragedies that have shaped him both as a person and performer. Ensuring that he was speaking directly to the audience, Reg appeared variously energetic, sparkling, reflective, matter-of-fact and opinionated. Clearly he demonstrated that he is a person to be respected and listened to if one is at all interested in Australian theatre of the last 66 years and curious about possible life lessons as well as theatrical ones. He did not shy away from failure, had felt its sting and accepted it as part of life. He accepts failure but owns his triumphs. This may be key to his theatrical longevity. Continue reading STARS ON STAGE : A CONVERSATION WITH REG LIVERMORE


It may seem that going to the Seymour Centre to sit in on an intellectual discussion between two of the 20th Century’s greatest thinkers at the end of a long day at work or study may be too taxing for many. It is a credit to the acting and production skills of the cast and crew of FREUD’S LAST SESSION that audiences’ fascination with the men and the discussion sustains interest for the full 75 minutes of this play.

Nicholas Papademetriou as Freud and Yannick Lawry as C.S. Lewis confront each other and some of the biggest questions of human existence – love, sex, the existence of God, the meaning of life, love and sex. The dialogue is set against the chilling entry of England into World War II as it is being broadcast on the radio.



Whether or not you can afford an overseas holiday, you can still get your Happiness Passport. The Happiness Passport – A world of joyful living in 50 words is a delightful light reference book taking you through dozens of languages and cultures. It arrives amidst the current positive psychology and pursuit of happiness literature.

This global exploration of sayings and inspired illustrations is written by Dr Megan C Hayes, an academic researcher in Psychology, and illustrated by Yelena Brysenkokova, a fine artist and illustrator. The book provides its readers with an ‘internal cwtch’ [Welsh language indicating a warm, safe cuddle or hug]. Continue reading THE HAPPINESS PASSPORT : A DELIGHTFUL REFERENCE BOOK


Margaret Fulton “livened up the nation and taught them how to cook with a little inspiration and the Margaret Fulton book”. Words of the enjoyable lively musical, Margaret Fulton Queen of the Dessert, ring true to generations of Australian and English housewives. Her story portrayed by a cast of six and a keyboard player is a tale of fame and social struggle as a successful female in a conservative Australian society in the mid to late 20th century. It is not just a fun show, but a sociological reflection of gender issues and roles in Australia.

From the opening set and musical numbers we are led through the pre-Margaret Fulton traditional Anglo-Australian households’ weekly menu. We reflect on the jingoistic times of the America’s Cup win and the 1988 Bicentennial celebrations. Whilst it appears that Australia is celebrating, Manon Gunderson-Briggs as Margaret Fulton is not in a good mood as she faces losing her home and sings about the “living icon blues’. Fortunately for the musical, this mood doesn’t last too long. We are introduced to her bohemian days in Sydney after escaping from Glen Innes. She marries her boyfriend after he returns from the war, has a daughter, escapes from factory work, moves away from Sydney, and returns to the Rocks in Sydney. In the second half of the show we see her through a few more romantic attachments and her ascendency through television and publishing land using her canny Scottish background and top sales work approach. Continue reading MARGARET FULTON : QUEEN OF THE DESSERT


With NSW in drought comes the timely musical Leap of Faith performed by the North Shore Theatre Company at the Independent Theatre, North Sydney until 14th October 2018. This Tony-nominated musical is based on the 1992 American movie of the same name which starred Steve Martin. The music is by Alan Menken, with lyrics by Glenn Slater and a book by Janus Cercone and Slater.

The musical tells the story of ‘Reverend’ Jonas Nightingale, a part-time reverend and a full time con artist, who is travelling with his ministry. When his bus breaks down in the middle of small drought-ridden Sweetwater, a Kansas town, Jonas plans an impromptu revival to take the entire town for a ride within 3 days. Forced to pitch a tent, he invites the townspeople to his revival. However, the sheriff, Marla McGowan, is determined to stop Jonas from taking the people’s money. Yet her son, Jake appears to idolise Jonas. It’s a story about how people respond to being dealt a variety of ill fortune. It’s a story of resilience, inspiration and redemption. Continue reading NORTH SHORE THEATRE COMPANY TAKES A LEAP OF FAITH


With public warning announcements and sirens blaring through St Peters Town Hall the audience of all ages was on edge. Flying in from behind came a body in a red and black suit falling on top of his red suitcase.

It was the dramatic entrance of a well loved festival star, MR GORSKI (Daniel Gorski) in his Sydney Fringe Festival 2018 show. A mime and variety show artist with a lovable endearing persona, the audience is immediately on his side.

Daniel attributes some of his inspiration for performing to his upbringing in an eccentric, Polish artistic family environment that encouraged creativity. Originally from Melbourne, he has performed at a multitude of children’s, folk and fringe festivals throughout Australia and is known for playing Jango in the ABC Kids show ‘Hoopla Doopla’. Continue reading MR GORSKI AT THE SYDNEY FRINGE: OFF-BALANCE FUN



It appears that many of us want an “Inner West state of mind”. This is spectacularly demonstrated in one of the best Raves in town, Inner INNER WEST SIDE:THE MUSICAL. This UltraCult production is currently showing as part of the Sydney Fringe Festival.

Though based in Sydney’s North Shore and Inner West, the story is more universally one of pretence, pretending to be someone you’re not. Andrea (Laura McDonald) a North Shore runaway chases the dream of becoming Newtown ‘cool’, whilst incidentally studying her Arts Degree. Naturally her allowance is cut by her wealthy parents, yet it remains well above any funding the locals may receive which they have to top up by working.

Her privileged background appears to drive her to rise to the top of any group she encounters so she quickly sets her sights on dethroning the incumbent Queen of Rave parties, Monica (Elouise Eftos). Continue reading INNER WEST SIDE:THE MUSICAL – RAVE ON!