A concert featuring the wonderful songs of Joni Mitchell is sure to entice an enthusiastic audience to Parramatta’s busy and pulsing Riverside Theatre. Queenie van de Zandt delivers a polished and informative show to the appreciative crowd. An excellent trio comprising Hugh Fraser on bass, Gary Vickery on guitars and Daniel Edmonds on piano and stand in musical director supports Queenie. These talented musicians were a highlight of the evening and featured some delightful and entertaining arrangements. Queenie skill as a singer is impressive. She covers the extraordinary vocal and dynamic range required for Joni Mitchell’s songs although in a different style than the passionate folk music reflectiveness of Joni. Her style of singing and warmth suits the cabaret and storytelling format of the evening.
Queenie opened with ‘Blue’, one of Joni Mitchell’s great love songs that appears on her album of the same name. The album ‘Blue’ features on various lists as one of the greatest albums of all time so it almost selects itself as a song to include in the show. This raises the difficult question what songs should be included in a performance showcasing Joni Mitchell songs. On Joni Mitchell’s website there is an article listing the thirty greatest songs of Joni Mitchell. It acknowledges that this a subjective list and is assembled with assistance from Roger McGuinn, Matthew E. White, Graham Nash, Linda Perhacs, Mike Heron and others. David Crosby was asked to pick a best song and said that there are thirty or forty best songs. Continue reading QUEENIE VAN DE ZANDT : BLUE – THE SONGS OF JONI MITCHELL→
The subject of Steve Rodgers play, adapted from the novel by Peter Goldsworthy, is not Jesus. The subject is family, how devoted we are to it and how we will give everything to it.
Linda and Rick Pollard are a happy couple. They have two children, Ben and the younger child, Wol. Life is going smoothly.
The couple try and protect Ben and Wol from the harsher realities of life. They want them to be ‘bathed’ in love. They even banish the tv from their house as an unnecessary distraction from .the peaceful environment they are determined to live in.
Then one day, their girl Wol takes ill. They take her to the Doctor. The Doc organises a battery of tests. The results come back. Wol has leukaemia.
The perfect Pollard family world is rocked. The family goes into damage control. It isn’t helped when, in one scene, Wol completely ‘loses it’ and screams out that she doesn’t want to be alone, she doesn’t want to die.
Darren Yap very sensitively directs this production and wins good performances from his cast. Matthew Whittet plays the idealistic Nick. Liam Nunan is Ben who just wants to see his sister get better. Grace Truman gives a touching performance as Wol.
Valerie Bader doubles up as Grandma and Doctor Eve. Mark Lee plays Grandpa and the local priest.
My performance of the night was Emma Jackson’s as the very gritty, earthy mother, Linda.
Emma Vine’s compact set and costume design worked well as did Max Lambert’s soundscape, underscoring the action.
A touching, sensitively wrought drama, JESUS WANTS ME FOR A SUNBEAM plays upstairs at Belvoir Street Theatre, 25 Belvoir Street, Surry Hills until Sunday 8th March, 2020.
Featured image : Matthew Whittet and Emma Jackson in ‘Jesus wants me for a sunbeam’. Pic by Brett Boardman.
DARLINGHURST NIGHTS is a classic Australian musical which takes place on the streets around the Hayes Theatre itself, and the Hayes celebrates the show’s 30th anniversary with a new production from Helpmann Award-winning director Lee Lewis (The Bleeding Tree). Continue reading DARLINGHURST NIGHTS NOW ON AT THE HAYES→
MIRACLE CITY was first produced in Sydney in 1996 and after brief, bright flame of 4 weeks flickered out as the creative forces behind it moved on. Written by the late Nick Enright with music from Max Lambert (who is Musical Director for this production), the original director was Gale Edwards. Did I see Edwards and original cast member Genevieve Lemon in the crowd tonight? This production was spoken of in legendary terms yet it was interesting to note there were plenty of excitable tweets coming from opening night audience members repeating the precept that MIRACLE CITY was previously ‘undiscovered’. Continue reading MIRACLE CITY @ THE STUDIO, SYDNEY OPERA HOUSE→
Artistic Director Lee Lewis launched Season 2017 at a well attended industry function held on Monday night at the Cell Block Theatre within the National Art School in Darlinghurst.
Three new plays by Australian playwrights will have their premieres. Ross Mueller navigates the world of office politics in A Strategic Plan, Declan Greene takes farce to new extremes in The Homosexuals and Michele Lee explores the different relationships that migrants of different generations and backgrounds have with Australia in Rice.
The fourth Australian play will be a revival of one of the classics of the Australian theatre, Diving For Pearls, written by Katherine Thomson some twenty years ago with Darren Yap directing and Ursula Yovich in the lead role.
Griffin will also feature a number of independent productions around its main season. Legendary cabaret performer Robyn Archer will display her extraordinary talents bringing to life music from the classic cabaret repertoire.
Playwright David Williams will combine his talent for storytelling with his passion for football in Smurf in Wonderland which explores the worlds of sport and tribalism.
I confess to a bit of stress sweating in the first ten minutes of MIRACLE CITY. I really felt like I was in the audience of an evangelical television program and this made for very uncomfortable viewing. Just a bit too realistic for a traditional girl like me. I swear if they had passed around a plate I would have been diving into my purse for some change. This is a real time show which purports to happen during the live-to-air broadcast of that specialized Tennessee brand of family preachers and tele-evangelists in the Jim and Tammy Faye Baker mould.
In revival at the Hayes Theatre in Potts Point, MIRACLE CITY gives us the Truswells. Initially presenting as the ideal family of faith, Lora-Lee (Blazey Best) and Ricky (Mike McLeish) are celebrating a 20 year marriage. Witnesses to their love story are their 16 year old daughter, Loretta (Hilary Cole) and her younger brother, Ricky-Bob (Cameron Holmes). Together the family has a vision for place called Miracle City, an amusement park for faith and fun.
Supporting the TV funds drive are the Citadel Singers (Marika Aubrey, Esther Hannaford and Josie Lane) and stage manager and preacher-in-training Billy (Jason Kos). The need for money to build this place for prayer and play is the driver of the story and brings the Rev Millard Sizemore (Peter Kowitz) into their family. His help is conditional though and Ricky has to make a horrible decision. And …well … Ricky is a bastard as far as I’m concerned. See … I’m too involved!
MIRACLE CITY was first produced in Sydney in 1996 and after brief, bright flame of 4 weeks flickered out as the creative forces behind it moved on. Written by the late Nick Enright with music from Max Lambert (who is Musical Director for this revival), the original director was Gale Edwards. That season is spoken of in legendary terms. Luckily we have Darren Yap to direct this renewal. He worked as Enright’s assistant in 1997 when a modified version was produced for WAAPA. Yap’s program notes indicate that this show includes influences from that outing. With this pedigree, there would be a danger of making this a reverent affair but instead of baggage we have an exuberant, entertaining production with a big wow factor for such a small space.
The theatre is stripped to a black box and the set looks like nothing. Just a large act curtain in a cable channel TV studio. Yes, but a curtain that closes to hide, can also be opened to reveal. The costumes too, look simple. 80’s glamour, nice suits, beautifully tailored ecclesiastical uniforms, red and blue or gold and black as the palette. They too, hide and reveal. Especially in the final scene.
And if we are talking about secrets hidden and conversations revealed, rich ambers contrast with glaring white lighting states to, literally, put the hypocrisy into relief. In addition, the choreographer’s hand is not just evident in the movement to music but in the movement into on-camera personas and the donning of the ‘sugar smiles’.
Set Designer Michael Hankin, Lighting Designer Hugh Hamilton, Choreographer Kelly Abbey, Costume Designer Roger Kirk and Wig Designer Ben Moir have created the perfect structure for the cast to tell the story.
Everyone in this show is terrific and each performer brings their own story on with them. The characters travel their arcs with absolute believability. The voices are great and blend beautifully, the emotions are raw and available. As I looked along the line of cast and band members when they took their bows, I was thinking that I couldn’t single out any one performance over another. When they came back for the second bow, this ensemble didn’t form another line. They clumped together on centre stage and that grouping said it all.
All the songs in this show are stand-alone gospel songs in a variety of styles from the rollicking “Raise the Roof” to a superbly rendered ballad, “Moving On”. The proselytization was very well realized and several times during the show my suspension of disbelief threatened to draw an ‘Halleluiah’ to the lips. There was a full house and a well-deserved standing ovation so you should get your tickets as soon as you can. This highly talented group of artists may well move on after this season and another incarnation of MIRACLE CITY will enter the annals of theatre-lore.
MIRACLE CITY is playing at the Hayes Theatre until November 16th.
I doubt you will pick this whodunit. This is an excellent production of ‘a good old fashioned’ classic murder mystery as crafted by the Queen of Crime Dame Agatha Christie in ‘the golden era’ . It is oh so utterly British , a genteel village murder mystery.
The original book was first published in 1950. A Murder Is Announced takes place in the village of Chipping Cleghorn and is set in Letitia’s house, Little Paddocks. It is a Friday 13th October and a murder is announced in the local paper. With Dame Agatha’s meticulous , convoluted plotting there are plenty of red herrings , disguises, fake identities, – is anyone really who they claim to be? – unexpected twists , long lost relatives , lots of suspects. And the motive behind it all is greed, lots and lots of money … or , at least possibly … (Letiticia will apparently inherit a fortune from the mysterious unseen millionaires, the Goedlers, who she used to work for). Or will she?! Cui bono?, as the saying is .
Linda Bewick’s drawing room set, (two rooms actually – and why is one door sealed?) is wonderfully realised. Suzy Strout’s marvellous costumes and styling, (for Letitia and Julia especially) and the well-crafted lighting, sound and music (Matt Cox, David Tonion and Max Lambert) – all meld to create a clearly illustrated world where the characters come across authentically.
Director Darren Yap with his excellent cast of eleven has got it just right and it is great to see some challenging roles for women. There are eerie blackouts and explosions and at a couple of points audible gasps and other reactions from the audience which nowadays is somewhat unusual .The tension of the piece is well developed and carried over both acts.
Debra Lawrance as the apparently threatened Letitia Blacklock is marvellous, all exquisite twinset and pearls and cool, calm elegance with a ‘stiff upper lip’. But what deep, dark secrets is she hiding ?Another major role is that of Deirdre Rubenstein as Bunny , Letita’s friend and companion, who is slightly mad – or is she?!
Others in the cast include Robert Grubb as the seemingly inept , rather craggy Inspector Cradock in a terrific performance. Carmen Duncan is elegant but rather highly strung and nervous as Mrs Swettenham and James Beck isimposing as her author son Edmund.
The bright, energetic young things,- Libby Munro,( Phillipa) NathanielMiddleton ( Patrick) and Elizabeth Sebben ( Julia) are delectably enigmatic in their various roles. Victoria Haralabidou has much fun totally stealing the show as Mitzi, Letitia’s rather surly and strange parlour maid and cook, in a strong performance featuring great comic timing.
Miss Marple herself, quiet either in a corner knitting or energetically re-enacting scene- of- the- crime movements, is brilliantly played by Judi Farr who is perfect in the role. As Miss Marple she is a gentle, gracious and unassuming busy body yet also has an agile and incisive mind.
If you like Agatha Christie (or Midsomer Murders) treat yourself and go see this terrific production. Running time is 2 hours 20 mins including one interval.
A MURDER IS ANNOUNCED – a Miss Marple Mystery, is playing the Sydney Theatre until October 27 and then moves to the Comedy Theatre, Melbourne playing there from October 30 to December 4, 2013.
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