"Wow, just wow", "What an incredible show", "So much talent on that one stage", "How good was that band?", and my personal favourite from the lady sitting next to me, "What a treat that was" .... these were just a few of the many comments I heard from audience members as we left the Redcliffe Entertainment Centre after being immersed in the songs and story of the Four Seasons delivered so heartfelt by the cast of Redcliffe Musical Theatre's production of Jersey Boys.
Thomas Armstong-Robley's director's message in the program indicated that he had taken the jukebox musical in a different direction focusing on building strong relationships and delivering truthful acting and creating a world an audience could invest in. And invest we did. We laughed, we cried, we sung along to every hit that was presented on stage and we felt, at times, as though we had been transported back to those golden days and were audience members at the Ed Sullivan Show or American Bandstand. It’s not an easy task to direct a show such as Jersey Boys as well as fill one of the leading roles but Armstrong-Robley easily bought to life the seedy world in which the boys lived in New Jersey and their subsequent rise to fame. The clever use of the scaffold type set and the different angles that the band performed to were clever direction techniques which added to the overall success of this show.
The production kicks off on a slightly slower pace as it goes through the very early stages of what would later become the Four Seasons. But once everything falls into place it’s a fast and thrilling ride to the finish as it goes through the highs and the lows of what it takes to be the hottest musical sensation in the US.
The four lead performances are what really cap off this show. Alexander Thanasoulis portrays Frankie Valli, Thomas Armstrong-Robley is Tommy DeVito, Matthew Leigh is Bob Gaudio, and Jeremy Clark is Nick Massi and when their voices came together to belt out those classic Four Seasons hits it was magical. The four of them have great stage presence and manage to draw the attention of the audience through their own methods unique to their characters’ personalities. Alexander Thanasoulis specifically gives his all and transforms into Frankie Valli in what is a phenomenal starring role. He had already captured the audience from the moment he stepped on stage but when he started belting out the chorus to "Can't Take My Eyes Off You" in Act II the feeling in the audience became electric.
Each of the stars are fantastic in both their acting and musical sequences and exhibit great chemistry between each other which makes it so much more enjoyable. They have the voice and they have the moves which are slick and take you back to when the Four Seasons ruled the music industry. Each of the four leads stood out in their own right and brought their own something special to the stage.
I have to give a special mention to the hard-working ensemble of this show who each had 2 or 3 (sometimes more) characters to portray. Standouts amongst this incredible group were Lyndon Steele who played an incredibly enthusiastic Joe Pesci (yes, that Joe Pesci, the actor ... who knew?), Dale Shearman who played the character of Bob Crewe, Adrian Carr who played Gyp De Carlo and commanded the stage every time he walked on it, and Claudia Pereira who embodied the role of Mary Delgado with an incredibly thick Jersey accent. However, the whole ensemble was exciting to watch.
Set Design by Thomas Armstrong-Robley and Jonathan Johns was simple but highly effective and was used seamlessly throughout the whole production giving the show the depth it needed. The set changes were all done by ensemble members which added to the flow of the show and the clever use of props really added to the authenticity of the era. Having the 10-piece band visible on stage was also another highlight for me as it really added to the feel of the show (more on the band later). Costuming by Erickson Illustre was both incredibly detailed and specifically designed and selected for the era. The lighting design for the show was at times a bit too dark (for me) and there were a couple of sound issues on the show I saw but it did not detract in any way to the incredible performance.
Guest Musical Director, Robert Clark, and his ten-piece band were an absolute highlight of the show. We are so incredibly lucky here in Redcliffe to have had Robert Clark taking the reins on the music for this show. He has an impressive CV so it was no shock that he was able to easily deliver the complex and beautiful harmonies that are synonymous with the iconic Four Seasons sound in the cast. How closely the cast matched the sound of the original band was almost eerie, and a tribute to Clark’s Musical Direction. The band were tight and deserved a standing ovation of their own - I'm actually so glad I stayed right until the last note was played so we as an audience could show our appreciation to this line up of professionals. I think perhaps the house lights should stay down until the very last note is played so that the audience is more inclined to stay and allow Clark to take his bow front of a full audience.
Choreography by Jenny Morrison was another highlight which brought the whole show together, especially the choreography of the four leads and their iconic dance moves. The style, whether measured and deliberate or snappy, belongs to the era, and it’s the thread that runs through the piece, pulling the story and staging together.
Jersey Boys runs at the Redcliffe Entertainment Centre until the 22nd of March and this is not a show to be missed. It was promised to be QPAC quality and I can assure you that it definitely what you get with this show – get your tickets today before they sell out.
Presented by Redcliffe Musical Theatre
Adapted by Siobhan McHugh's book by Terence O'Connell
Minefields and Miniskirts packs an emotional punch that I was not prepared for. Having no knowledge of the play prior to attending Redcliffe Musical Theatre's performance of the play, other than it was the stories of 5 Australian women through the Vietnam War, I was not prepared for the effect that these stories would have on me.
For those who have been shielded from the horrors of war, this play will change you forever. For those who have experienced war firsthand, this play may stir emotions long buried and forgotten. Minefields and Miniskirts is a play about how the Vietnam War affected the lives of five very young Australian women: Margaret, the Vet's wife (Pauline Davies), Sandy, the Entertainer (Madeleine Johns), Kathy, the Nurse (Phillipa Bowe), Eve, the Volunteer (Deborah Rubendra) and Ruth, the Journalist (Jacqueline Kerr). Stirred by the excitement of adventure in a foreign country, four of the five women felt compelled to volunteer their services and one woman was left back in Australia after her husband of 3 days was deployed to the war.
Throughout the play the audience is taken on an (extremely) emotional journey that begins with the enthusiasm of the women as they pack their suitcases ready for their adventure, one which they were not really prepared for. The women, now middle-aged, each take turns in presenting their stories which are shared in snippets one after the other. These stories have been recorded from real life events by women who were a part of the Vietnam War. Some of their stories are shocking and harrowing and are delivered with such emotion that it's difficult not to be affected.
With a cast of 5 incredible women who remain on stage pretty much the entire show it is hard not to get swept up in their stories and their emotions as their stories began to unfold and you learn more about their life and the harrowing ordeals these women went through. You could be forgiven for forgetting that they were 5 actors on stage relaying words from a script as each performance given was so heartfelt and real it was as if they all had each endured their character's journeys themselves. The commitment from these incredible women to their roles exceeded all my expectations and we felt every word they spoke and as an audience laughed and cried along with them as their stories unfolded. I cannot pick a standout amongst the cast as they were all equally as incredible as each other.
The most surprising element for me throughout the whole show was the singing. As I was expecting to see a play I was taken by surprise when the show was intertwined with classic songs from the 1960s. The songs were all sung acapella by the 5 women which added even more emotion to their stories. I am not sure if it was scripted this way but if it wasn't it was a stroke of genius by director Richard Rubendra as I feel backing tracks would have detracted from the meaning these songs had to each of the characters.
The set was simple with each character having their own "space" designed to reflect their personality and their occupation. They did from time to time cross each other’s spaces which also reflected how these women would forever be connected through the experiences they each shared. The lighting, sound and costume design were simple but effective and added to the whole experience.
This was an amazing production, with faultless, quality directing and acting. If you appreciate sheer quality, then this immensely moving play is for you. I'm certainly glad I experienced seeing the production of Minefields and Miniskirts. It's one of the reasons I love watching live theatre, to see actors bring stories to life before my eyes.
Minefields and Miniskirts is only one for one more weekend and as Redcliffe Musical Theatre is operating under Covid Safe guidelines their audience capacity is reduced so I suggest booking in early so you don't miss out on witnessing this incredible production firsthand.
Chicago: High School Edition
Redcliffe Musical Theatre Youth and ROAR Academy
Before I say anything more about this particular production it's worth noting that officially the show is “Chicago: High School Edition,” so some of the more risqué references are toned down or excluded entirely. However, I personally think the show should just be called "Chicago" as this never gets in way of the core of the story, and Maureen Bowra's direction has effectively communicated the glamorisation of a scandalous lifestyle that makes “Chicago” a timeless narrative with a very talented cast of young performers.
The show is full of all the famous upbeat toe-tapping hit songs we all know and love including "All That Jazz", "Cell Block Tango", "When You're Good to Mama", "Mister Cellophane" and "Razzle Dazzle", so don’t think because it's a high-school edition you are going to miss out on hearing these classics.
“Chicago” follows the sensational cabaret singer Velma Kelly (Giulia Bortolanza), who kills her two-timing husband and sister. Fortunately, Chicago's silver-tongued attorney, Billy Flynn (Jordan Smith), is lined up to defend her, thanks to the sassy prison Matron “Mama” Morton (Melanie Evans). However, when Roxie Hart (Audrey Rose) also commits second-degree murder, Billy takes on her case as well, leading Roxie into a media whirlwind and providing her with the fame she’s always yearned for.
From the opening number of "All The Jazz" I knew we were in for a treat. The set sparkled (literally with hundreds of lights on a backdrop curtain) and the ensemble worked their magic to engage the audience and set the scene for the rest of the show.
Obviously key to the success of a musical of this calibre are the vocals of the leads and I strongly believe this is why RMT's show soared. Giulia Bortolanza and Audrey Rose's vocals were outstanding and you would be forgiven for thinking that you were watching two leading ladies who had years of professional performances under their belts – not 18 years olds who each stole the show with their soaring notes and incredible stage presence.
I also must mention the two leading males in the show, Jordan Smith as Billy Flynn and Connor Chadwick as Amos Hart. Having such incredible leading ladies to perform alongside would not have been an easy task but these young men stood out in their own right. Jordan portrays the perfect smug conman and his vocal range equally matched his acting ability for such an iconic character. Connor Chadwick's rendition of Mister Cellophane was a highlight for me in this production and you couldn't help but feel sorry for him as the show went along and you learnt more of his back story. Again, the age of these young performers could have easily been forgotten as they both showed such maturity in their performances.
In fact the whole cast are young performers (bar the exception of Mama Morton) which makes this production even more incredible. I must make a special note of the ensemble in this show, both featured and junior, who all worked incredibly hard to add a certain flare to the show that was emphasised through the amazing choreography of Meredith Johns, especially "Cell Block Tango" and "We Both Reached For the Gun" which were two of my favourite numbers in the show.
The simple set and effective lighting are the perfect addition for the big songs and even bigger dance numbers. The costuming was also a standout for me in this show – it was glitzy, sparkly and was authentic to the era that "Chicago" is set in which really helped bring the story to life.
I definitely recommend you get along to see "Chicago" (I'm deliberately leaving out the High School Edition part) – it certainly won't disappoint and is a show not to be missed. It is showing for one more weekend only at the Redcliffe Entertainment Centre – 4 shows only July 12-14.
I have seen many different productions of Rent, both professional and amateur, in the past, including the movie, and it's definitely one of my favourite shows to go and watch for it's passionate and provoking story line. I was excited to see how the cast of Redcliffe Musical Theatre's production would approach the show and I have to say that they did not disappoint.
From the moment you walked into Theatre 102, which was the perfect venue to put on this production, I felt like I was transported back in time and living on New York's Lower East side along with Mark and Roger. The set was big and industrial and impoverished – everything a Rent set should be. Already knowing the story line I found it a great technique to leave the curtains open and allow the audience to get a feel for the set before the action started to allow us to immerse ourselves into the scene from the get go.
From the minute Mark (played by Jonathan Sweeper) walked out on stage with his camera and started telling his story I was captured. Every actor on that stage, including the ensemble, committed to their character 100% throughout the whole show and delivered some powerhouse performances worthy of any stage.
All the leads gave outstanding performances but for me special mention must go to Jesse Ainsworth (playing Roger), Zac Crisan (who played Angel) and Erickson Illustre (playing Tom) who stole a bit of piece of my heart as the show went on. Ainsworth's rendition of One Song Glory gave me goosebumps and I'll Cover You between Angel and Tom was a definite highlight of the show.
The relationships between all the characters were believable and there was genuine chemistry, compassion and maturity in their acting that meant you couldn't help but feel their emotions along with them. And, by the time we got to the I'll Cover You reprise I was sitting in the audience sobbing like a baby as I was overcome by emotion (as was the whole audience) – little word for the wise, if you go see this show pack tissues, you will need them.
Tying it all together was the musical direction of Helen Drew, and the amazing four piece band who we got to watch in action throughout the show. Having the band form part of the set simply added to the effect of a crowded New York City where creative artists are struggling to survive.
The lighting and costumes added to the story and the direction of Madeleine Johns gave the show a free-flowing more realistic feel, which really worked.
Do yourself a favour and go see this show before the season ends. It will make you think, it will make you cry but most of all it will remind you that there is "No day but today".
Review by Stacey Goodwin
DAY THREE – Sunday 17th September
Performance DAY !!
Our Mother Miriam is not well – the Indian dinner from Saturday night is cited as the culprit. We are all praying that she is well enough to perform this afternoon. So we have a very leisurely morning. Ashley and I eat brunch at a little place called Tomboys – AMAZINGLY good food and really healthy too.
Line run late morning – everyone seems focussed. Wait the Wellington WIND is back – not sure how Dr Livingstone’s hair will fare in the high wind and rain on the way to the theatre. We’re all packed and ready to go – props, costumes and scripts in our bags and off to the Hannah Playhouse. There are 4 plays in the afternoon session before us – 2 Youth plays and 2 open plays. One of the Youth plays I’ve seen before on the SE Qld Circuit – In the Tank. We are the last performance of the session just prior to the adjudication.
It’s a bit unnerving performing in another country without the comfort of all our familiar set pieces and props but as we get into costume things start to become more comfortable. The church bell tolls and we’re up – the 45mins flashes past and just like that it’s all over and lots of compliments for the performance. Sunshine Live and RMT – we have done you proud! I am sitting in front of one of the Youth cast groups – they loved the play, the suspense and tension.
It’s wonderful to hear the organisers talk about their plans for 2018 – announcing NZ Theatre month September 2018. I’m so impressed to see such collaboration and such a structured approach to NZ drama at a national level. And then the adjudication and even we are presented with a certificate – which is so thoughtful.
Casual dinner at the pub next door then back to our hotel for a celebratory drink and an early night.
We are all left thinking about the wonderful plays we have seen and the great friends we have made in theatre. What innovations can we take back to our own groups and region?
DAY TWO – Saturday 16th September
The wind has gone and it’s a bright, clear day – perfect for a walk. We decided on a late breakfast and discovered a great local café which interestingly had the most amazing menu including “boozey shakes” like Silky Johnston (Dark Rum, Salt Caramel, Vanilla and Honeycomb). It’s way too early for a piratical diet but maybe we’ll get a chance to try one of these amazing drinks before we leave?
We have been enrolled into afternoon workshops at the Whitireia Performance Centre and Ashley and I head off to our “STAGE COMBAT” workshop as Richard heads off to Analysing the Text and Deborah joins Improvisation. Our workshop coach Allan Henry has worked on movies and TV shows as well as stage and takes us through how to stage fights and falls and stay safe while telling a story. My attempts at throwing him end in near disaster – as I’m falling and he’s falling all I can think of is how I can deliver my lines as Martha Livingstone from a wheelchair. But all’s good – I survive the workshop and we head back to the hotel to get ready for our evening at The Hannah Playhouse.
Richard has a gift from Sunshine Coast Live – a traditional gift from the Gubbi Gubbi tribe in Australia – to present to the Maori Elders to open the event and then we sit back to enjoy 4 of the finalist plays. There are 2 youth plays and 2 open plays. I am exceptionally moved by a play written by a NZ local called “Bittersweet Love” a script that I would like to be able to take back to our theatre and also enjoy “All My Love Paul” – which I have seen before on the SE Qld Circuit at the Sunshine Coast in 2015 and where it took out a number of awards. This production was also extremely well executed and enjoyable. It’s interesting to see that we share good scripts across the ditch.
- Madeleine Johns.
DAY ONE – Friday 15th September
An early start for everyone off to Wellington on NZ 7914 – departing at 7.35am and arriving at 1pm. Landing at Wellington Airport is often very hairy and today was no exception landing into 90klm winds with the plane rocking from side to side - all the passengers cheered as we successfully touched down.
We arrived at our hotel The Apollo Lodge – a quaint hotel on the side of a steep hill – well after lunch and after settling in we set off to explore the city. It was incredibly windy as we walked along the main street noting the myriad of bars and restaurants and eventually settling on a café called ENIGMA where we enjoyed fantastic coffee and cake. A bit of shopping rounded out the late afternoon and then back to the hotel. We decided it was definitely too cold and blowy to walk back to the city so we opted for the local Thai restaurant a block away for dinner. We celebrated the start of our NZ adventure with a lovely dinner and a great bottle of Cloudy Bay sparkling and we are excited to anticipate the next few days of cultural exchange. We are really looking forward to seeing what the NZ Theatre Festival is like, the standard of the plays and understanding how they have managed to bring all their festivals under the one umbrella.
- Madeleine Johns
Last night my daughter (9 years old) and I attended the Redcliffe Musical Theatre's community theatre premier of Wicked. We have been waiting (very impatiently mind you) for the show to open and it certainly did not disappoint. Wicked is our all time favourite musical and having seen it twice before at a professional level we weren't sure what to expect going into the theatre. Well, from the minute we walked in to the theatre there was a buzz, you couldn't help but get swept up in the magic that is Wicked – the fire pits hanging from the lighting platform, the Oz "clock cogs" on the sound desk – we felt as though we were Ozians waiting to see the Wizard. The atmosphere was electric even before the curtains opened. And, when they did and the ensemble opened with No One Mourns The Wicked and Glinda flew in on her bubble we were spellbound right until the end.
We have to say that the cast for the show was incredible. Each and every member of the cast were on point and showed amazing characterisation and truly made you think you were in another realm in the Land of Oz. I was absolutely blown away when I found out that the average age of the cast was 23 years of age. They all looked like they were seasoned professionals on that stage. The whole cast was amazing and I don't think I could pick a standout if I tried – they were all equally spectacular.
Special mention must be made to the two leading ladies of the show – I am sure that both Dani Haraud (Glinda) and Katharine Vacca (Elphaba) knew what big shoes (or witches hat) they had to fill in their roles but they each brought their own little something to the characters and captivated our hearts from the moment they both appeared on stage. They took us on a journey with every witty line, every amazing note they sang and their duets together were just breathtaking – they made you feel all different emotions as their unlikely friendship grew and their road to Wicked and Good hit a few bumps along the way.
We have seen many productions at a community theatre level and I must say that the decision to remove the orchestra from the pit and put them in another room was fabulous. In a small venue like the Redcliffe Cultural Centre a pit orchestra can at times drown out the voices of the cast on stage but not last night – we heard every word they sang and said over the music - a brilliant decision by the production crew.
We loved everything about this production – the set, the costumes (which were fabulous and quirky – everything a show like this calls for), the orchestra, the flying effects, the lighting – all the different facets came together to produce a show that was "thrillifying" and left you wanting more. In fact we wanted more so badly we are booking tickets to go and see it again!
If you haven't got your tickets yet for this amazing production then do so quick before they sell out. Thank you Redcliffe Musical Theatre for another great night out.
by Rebekkah Law (Guest Blogger)
Under the guidance of debut Director, Reagan Warner, and Intern Director, Matthew Bapty, Disney’s classic French fairy tale is brought to life. Beauty and the Beast tells the story of a beautiful and intelligent young girl, Belle (Georgia Burnett), who is considered a bit “odd” by her provincial village. When her Father (Tony Ahchay) is imprisoned by a hideous Beast (Lindsay Cooper) in the woods, Belle courageously takes his place as prisoner. The castle’s enchanted staff; Mrs Potts (Kristie Pitt), Lumiere (Liam Wigney), Cogsworth (Liam J. Kirkpatrick), Babette (Stephanie Inches) and Madame Le Grande Bouche (Maddi Coleman) are excited by the possibility that the young maiden will teach the Beast to love again, reversing an enchantment which is turning them into household objects and the Prince into a Beast. As time goes on, the magical rose marking the time left to break the spell loses its petals. It is only when the Beast allows Belle to leave the castle that the two discover their true feelings for each other and are able to reverse the spell.
Beauty and the Beast proved a tricky show to attempt with such a small, female heavy cast; however, the production team have showed discerning ability to find and work with cast strengths to make full cast spectacle scenes such as Belle and Be Our Guest work. I was impressed by the rich, full sound the cast produced in Kill the Beast, a credit to Musical Director, Lucas D. Lynch. Lynch’s orchestra, featuring Grace Lutheran College students, improved dramatically throughout the show, providing sublime accompaniment for performers. Leads Georgia Burnett and Lindsay Cooper both delivered powerful and moving vocal performances, shining in Home and If I Can’t Love Her, respectively.
Undoubtedly, Liam Wigney and Liam Kirkpatrick stole the show as Lumiere and Cogsworth. The dynamic duo had a great sense of camaraderie and excellent comedic presence, showcasing talent well beyond their years. Also of note was Timothy Kennedy’s “practically primeval” Gaston and Stephanie Inches’ saucy Babette- both performers perfectly portraying their Disney counterparts with flair. RMT newcomers Zachary Crisan (Lefou) and Maddi Coleman (Madame Le Grande Bouche) also performed admirably with near perfect vocal delivery. The ensemble sometimes lacked energetic presence; however, Jai Jackson and Georgia Gleeson lifted this energy with the enthusiasm and commitment they radiated.
On the technical side of things, Bruce Noy’s lighting design, whilst not always effectively operated, made use of a range of symbolic colours and spotlights to enhance the stage action, including the well-played transformation of the Beast. It would have been nice; however, to have drawn more attention to the rose, as this is central to story progression and increasing tension. I feel stage space could have been utilised more effectively, as action felt cramped at points- especially in Belle’s bedroom. Costumes were bright and colourful, giving the show the vibrant and story book feel it deserves. More work needs to be done on finding audio balance; the orchestra sometimes overpowered performers and the production was overall too loud for the audience. I was particularly impressed by efficient scene changes, the sign of a well prepared backstage team, headed by Brodie Jones, mentored by Christina Meredith.
Congratulations should be extended to all the youths involved in the mounting of this production. Beauty and the Beast delighted audiences, bringing smiles to the faces of young and old. The production was by no means perfect but it did capture the essence of Disney wonderfully, an accomplishment all should be proud of.
by James Bovill (Guest Blogger)
Hi. I'm James Bovill. I and Chris Pallant will be portraying Doctor Dillamond in Wicked starting this July. I am over the moon to be playing Dillamond. Partly this is because of when I get to play the role. RMT's production of Wicked will be the first to be based in Queensland. The competition was fierce and the performers are intimidatingly good; I am watching my castmates achieve things in days that elsewhere might take months. The venue is the RCC Matthew Flinders Theatre, a space that many would kill for the opportunity to perform in. The staging and costuming for this show will create a legacy that will be informed in many ways by our performers' choices. I'm deeply honoured by the opportunity. However I'm also keen to play Dillamond because I think his role is central to the plot. This might seem a bold claim, you might think, seeing as he is neither green nor blonde. Well, I believe I can back this up.
Dillamond is a Goat who teaches history at Elphaba and Glinda's alma mater, Shiz University. Through Dillamond, we're introduced to the pretext for the show's underlying conflict: something bad is happening to the Animals of Oz. Dillamond talks about it to his class at length. In his second scene, he is arrested and removed, and the ball starts rolling.
Uniquely among the principals, Dillamond doesn't have more than a professional relationship with any of the other characters, except for a shared respect and moment of truth with Elphaba in his first scene. Because he is socially distant, his strong political views attract more criticism than anything, especially from Galinda, who accuses him of harping on about the past, and ultimately from Madame Morrible, who is implied to have turned him in.
Despite his lack of finesse and of closeness with the leads, however, Dillamond doggedly sets dominoes toppling even when he is not on stage. Galinda becomes Glinda because of him. At the end of Act I, his arrest, combined with the revelation of the Wizard's schemes, drives Elphaba to break with the Wizard even if she must become the Wicked Witch. His appearance in Act II as a caged animal gives an indecisive Elphaba the push she needs. Dillamond is important enough to her that she mourns him in her mad scene, “No Good Deed”, alongside her own sister and her lover.
People have told me Dillamond is a depressing, nihilistic character because of his ultimate fate. I believe quite the opposite. I believe the lesson that Dillamond teaches is this: if you're going through hell, keep going. Tell what you know to be the truth. Stand up for what you know to be right, no matter the cost. The moment in which your conviction and passion shines through might be the moment that someone else needs to recognise what they truly believe and what people are capable of. You don't owe it only to yourself – all that is required for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing. Glory is reserved to those who try.
That's what Dillamond means to me, and that's why I am so proud to play him.