No-nonsense Reviews 2011

Making Waves is so simple - and satisfying

Making Waves directed by Cherie Mills for Brown Fairthorne Productions, Geelong Wintergarden gallery December 6, 2011.  

These five short plays from two local playwrights were promoted as having the common theme of the sea. They had other running threads, too. Themes of dealing with loss, facing human dilemmas and building relationships ran throughout - and each play was carefully composed, well worked and finished on a satisfactory, positive note. They were sensitively staged, too; augmented with tasteful live music, a complimentary art exhibition and wine and cheese nibbles, together making an evening of high-quality adult entertainment in the truest sense. That is, it’s aimed at an experienced, thinking audience with refined palates. And the full-house audience showed its appreciation of the theatrical skills on show, by moving between being totally absorbed in the action to giving instant warm applause. This evening has deservedly garnered a host of VO nominations; for its performers, direction and writing.

The first playlet, Defection, by Janet Brown, told the story of East German ballerina Heidi Geersch’s flight to Australia whilst on tour in the 1980s after falling in love with the St Kilda waterfront. Oh, and Australian freedoms, too. Heidi’s tale was sensitively and simply told in the first person by Tina Rettke in a small space without props but with the other three actors taking multiple support roles. This uncomplicated approach - with minimal distractions, the quality of the play’s writing gained impact - was enhanced by Tina’s masterly performance and it set the pattern for the other following plays which took place in other niches on the balcony/gallery. We audience having followed our harmonious minstrels/sound effect players Belinda McArdle and Sue Hindle to each location. The second play, The Depths, also by Janet Brown, featured the excellent Ian Rooney as a businessman ruined by the financial downturn in reluctant conversation with David Posthill’s down-to-earth fisherman. Again, director Cherie Mills’ uncomplicated approach allowed the storyline to neatly unwind to its positive conclusion. And again, the actors were perfectly cast and skilled in their roles. The third work by Ms Brown, Water Water, was a moving monologue from a widow who had saved her precious possessions from a flood - including her husband’s ashes - and was contemplating options for a new life. This was delivered by another gifted actor, Claudia Clark who returned after an interval with Ian Rooney in The Knowing, by Sandy Fairthorne, - a deeply insightful social dilemma with flashes of humour that allowed both actors chances to excel. And boy, did they take them. The final piece, Snap, saw Tina and David each having suffered a loss and looking to commit suicide by jumping from the same cliff at the same time. The darkly humorous plotline was delivered occasionally in unison, adding yet another element to a highly satisfying evening of theatrical skills. You’ll notice that I haven’t given away any of the play’s endings. That’s because I recommend you go see Making Waves for yourself. And I predict that if you go, you’ll enjoy the experience on so many levels.

Colin Mockett 

Medimime’s value-packed traditional present 

The Grinch directed by Liz Lester, Drama Theatre November, 19, 2011.  

So the big, green, hairy Grinch has been excluded from Whoville and he’s bent on revenge for the slight. He’s spent his time in exile studying Harry Potter spells so he can return and punish the inhabitants by ruining their Christmases. The inhabitants are easily recognised by their distinctive augmented noses. Anyway, once the town finds out about this, they send a team to stop him, consisting of the dithering ineffectual Mayor (played by effectual Colin Riley) cross-dressing attention-seeking Aunty Nora (Peter Callan looking more like the Governor-General than a pantomime dame) and two goody Whovillians in Annie (played by the neat, musical Hannah Petrie Allbutt) and Colin, portrayed with modest pretensions and a semi-Scouse accent by Richard Knight.
In pursuit of their quest, the team finds itself embroiled with striking elves at Santa’s workshop, tangled with a bunch of bats in Echo cave and chilled in the Ice Queen’s domain before confronting the Grinch who is so charmed by a gesture of friendship from a cute child that he turns to goodness and the whole thing is brought to a suitably cosy and happy ending. That’s roughly the bones of the story.
But to this, add a dozen or more hit tunes delivered by a big, colourful chorus, a bunch of dancing Barbie and Ken dolls; dozens of cute singing children (including a hundred or so from the audience in a traditional panto gesture) a whirring banging present-wrapping machine and the obligatory romantic pairing-up games between the lead characters. Blend in a number of modern/local references, in-jokes and confiding-to-the-audience patter... ‘who wants an X-box for Christmas? Who wants a wii? - It’s through there and turn right...) This Medimime even included oblique references to the present nurses dispute courtesy of the workers’ confrontation with Barwon Elf.
Small wonder The Grinch was a long production, with a 70 minute first half, 75 minute second. Medimime believes in giving value for its charity dollar.
In the title role of The Grinch, Mark Arnold was, as always, excellent. He played his audience beautifully, winning over some clearly intimated toddlers, riding the audience’s boos and finishing almost a cuddly favourite. And Luka Campbell made the happiest of villains as his not-really-evil side-kick. What’s more there were a raft of eye-catching performers among the chorus of villagers/bats/elves/dolls. As the show’s narrator/good fairy/Christmas Spirit, Lauren Martella was bright and warm, while Ice Queen, Emily Hill delivered cool vocals and her sidekick, Daniel Caciolo probably had the show’s stand-out musical number in the aptly-chosen You’re As Cold As Ice.
The children’s ensemble was delightful throughout - singing and dancing with joyful verve - and a big team of costumiers, make-up artists and hairdressers deserve praise, too, for giving the show such colour and vivacity. All up, this Grinch cleverly combined a framework of traditional panto with sleek 21st Century story-appeal. Credit director Liz Lester and her assistant Ken Hemmens for this - ably assisted by choreographer Michelle McDowell. 

Word has it that The Grinch’s ticket sales are more than healthy - justifying all the work and skills involved. I recommend you go see it, if there are tickets available - take the kids and you’ll all have a good time while helping Geelong’s hospital. 

Colin Mockett 

Rep’s finale is a fast and furious farce 

Over The Moon directed by Scott Beaton, Woodbin Theatre November 18, 2011.  

Geelong Rep’s last performance of the year has become, by modern tradition, a comedy. This year’s choice was a fairly modern (1995) lightweight American piece which, in the hands of Rep’s experienced team, turns into a frenetic and frantic chase for laughs.

The play is set in the 1950s, in a theatre dressing room in Buffalo, New York. The repertory company, built around a fading pair of theatricals, is in crisis on several fronts. The juvenile lead actor has walked out having not been paid for weeks; the husband/leading man has impregnated the juvenile lead actress and his wife/leading lady has found out and is leaving him and the company; their daughter has already left to pursue an outside career leaving the lovestruck/stagestruck wannabe actor stage manager heartbroken - and there are side issues with the leading lady’s crabby mother, wealthy suitor and daughter’s new boyfriend along with the company’s dodgy viability. Into this mix drop a Hollywood director, Frank Capra, no less, coming to see their show looking to cast leads in a Hollywood movie - so naturally the leading man goes off to get roaring drunk and stage chaos ensues when he acts the wrong part in the wrong play. 

If this all seems a bit of a mish-mash, that’s because it truly is.
Writer Ken Ludwig’s script is at base an uneven confusion of sit-com one-liners and old fashioned farce with a profusion of dangling loose ends.
This would have actually helped the professional adaptations that made the show popular. The first, Broadway version starred Carol Burnett - and that lady apparently used the play’s flat spots to gain extra laughs using her comedy skills. Then, in London’s West End, Joan Collins used the part to send up her own glamour image and this, too, would have glossed over the writing’s shortcomings.
But in the Geelong version, director Scott Beaton, lacking a Burnett or Collins, chose to invest the play with unrelenting snappy pace as well as a liberal scattering of sight-gags. 

The result was a play that was funny, but had a desperate quality about it, because the humour was almost always in defiance of the deficiencies in its own dud storylines.

But given all this, every character on stage was well-cast and costumed, each was word and action perfect - and this was production where actions carried much more importance than words - and every actor had clearly had built a strong camaraderie and understanding within the cast.
In the lead role, Melissa Musselwhite played her Charlotte with a sort of frumpy, shallow self-importance-ness. She was, like all the ‘stagey’ performers on show, quite prepared to instantly dump any belief or conviction in the hectic pursuit of her own fame. As her husband, Steven Georgiadis took his part way, way over the top, with every movement a gesture, every gesture emphasised, and every line a theatrical delivery. His drunk scenes were in every sense staged. As their daughter, Amanda Rector was well cast playing straight to their foibles until she, too, was caught up in the frantic chase for laughs. Chris Young played her weatherman suitor with aplomb, looking like Buddy Holly, acting like Jerry Lewis. For his part, Chris’ rival, muscle-bound stage manager Andrew Kelly appeared to be Sylvester Stallone channelling Rock Hudson. Christine Davey brought a scene-stealing crabby, deaf, stage-struck mother-in-law into the mix (which took the prize for the most stereotypes in a single character) and Barry Eeles, as Charlotte’s over-rich suitor, raised the laugh of the night with his distain for dropped folding money. As the impregnated actress, Tara Vagg looked every inch the 1950s sweet young thing even when delivering her deathless support-lines - and crooned a neat 50s scene-changing song, too.

So, to summarise. Rep’s Over The Moon was in your face, it was slick, fast, it had some excellent portrayals and it was clearly desperate to raise laughs. At all times. And it did succeed in this, once its audience had sufficiently suspended its belief and twigged some odd accents.  

Rep is promoted the show with a slogan, ‘You’ll laugh your moon off’.  

That’s pretty suitable really. Because this was a play that blended total eclipses with lunatic energy. But it’s sufficiently oddball for me to highly recommend that you go see it for yourself. 

Just remember to check for missing satellites on the way home..

Colin Mockett 

Need a quick lift? Take this Jump

Jump directed by Debbie Fraser for GSODA Juniors November 10, 2011.  

Catching up with a GSODA Juniors show is always an uplifting experience. The group’s collective enthusiasm is infectious, the talent usually prodigious and on an individual level, it’s a chance top peek at the new generation of budding Geelong entertainers and spot potential future stars. 

Jump impressed on all these fronts. Effectively a collection of production numbers from bygone musicals staged in succession without introductions or links, the show called for a great deal of concentration and discipline from every one of its 61 young performers. 

For the big all-on-stage production numbers they filled the Drama Theatre stage with just about enough room to dance. Their impressive live band  - two synthesizers, guitar, bass and drums under the excellent direction of Adelle Gregory - were set a couple of metres above them, part of a flashy set with a couple of narrow platforms, four sets of stairs and a couple of under-used screens.

But what really made this Jump different was the choice of musicals involved. True, there were the expected standards - Food Glorious Food from Oliver had the stage filled with Dickensian urchins, You’re The One That I Want from Grease saw them transformed into 50s American teen rockers  and there were the obligatory pair of nuns singing about their favourite things - but Jump also included selections from Chess, Xanadu, Bran Nue Dae,  Mary Poppins and Jesus Christ Superstar  as well as a sprinkling of classic pop songs given choreographed big-musical treatment. The result was a fast-moving MTV-type live show that literally Jumped from standard to unexpected fare, keeping the audience on its mental toes. 

Opening night saw the usual GPAC audio gremlins in force early on - all the lead singers wore headmics, some of which worked perfectly, some not at all, some crackled and banged and the sound levels were all over the place. But these problems, along with foldback levels, were quite clearly sorted out by the interval, because the second act was silk-smooth. Besides, GSODA Junior performers have stage discipline as well as experience to go with their enthusiasm and talent - so not one segment of the show was affected. No singer was fazed or dancer disturbed by the problems that were obvious to the audience. It was a display of youthful professionalism.  

And as for potential stars of the future - well, every one of the 61 young performers can sing, dance and act - and all Jumped at this chance to show it. There was a plethora of talent on display, most noticeable from Kelsey Dunlop, who showed rare maturity and a beautiful voice in her two Jesus Christ Superstar numbers; Chanelle Tait, whose Nobody’s On Nobody’s Side from Chess deserved show-stopper status; there was the excellent singing diction of Michael Dimovski performing NYC; the glorious blending of voices from Alana Babic and Tyler Stevens in Come What May; poise and cute charm from Meg Carroll and Meagan Reid singing Feed The Birds and the polish of Aashlea Oakes, Annelise Lindberg and Emily Bourke, the show’s trio of svelte Supreme-ish backing singers. Then there was the un-named scene-stealing dormouse and caterpillar from Alice In Wonderland...  I could go on - but in truth, this Jump was memorable not so much for its content or raft of excellent singers and dancers - but from the qualities listed in this review’s opening paragraph. It’s a GSODA Junior show. Go see it, you are certain to leave uplifted.     

Colin Mockett

Musically, this Gothic rock opera is one out of the box

Don Claude Devious: Cannibal Rapture directed by Carole Mallet, Potato Shed, Drysdale November 3 2011.  

There is no doubt about it, one has to admire ambition and effort. And this world- premiere musical certainly had plenty of both, not to mention an outstanding musical score.
To describe this show, well, if one remembers the Charlton Heston film The Omega Man and imagines the white-faced, black cloaked, hooded zombies suddenly breaking into song in a manner not unlike Rocky Horror Picture Show, they would be on the right track. Although the cannibalism of the title might also call to mind a musical rendition of horror classic Night of the Living Dead.
This show is perhaps accurately described as a Gothic rock opera. It opened quite effectively, not to say ingeniously, with many carefully staged and imaginative sequences setting a dark and brooding, sombre atmosphere. Figures tossed an object from one to the other during an opening of silhouetted shapes who appeared to be killing each other. Only later in the show did the penny drop for me and I realised this was a backstory of fighting for possession of the box which became central to the plot.  

Because that Andora's Box was something of a McGuffin around which the action revolved. What the plot was up to exactly is a little hard to describe in simple terms, but this show is not overly concerned with storyline, rather, it is all about music and mood.
The sets, costumes and make up were all white and black and the mood thus created was funereal, to say the least.
But then there was the music. I cannot praise composer Adam Parsons and the show’s director and cast enough when it came to the music. Original songs came thick and fast, all of them good, many of them memorable, vivid, engaging and performed with vigor, flair and skill. 

It is with the music and the singing that this show impresses most. Ryan Letizia (who also wrote the book and lyrics) was superb as Modestine. He has a brilliant voice and is deservedly nominated for a virtual oscar purely for his singing performance.
Lachlan Bryce was good in the title role of Don Claude Devious, Zoe Prem was very good as Fairuza, Daniel Caciolo and Adam Di Martino also excellent as her friends, Mandy Calderwood brought humour as Gina, Lee Foyster had fun as Bloody Mavis and the Chorus of Anna Black, Derek Ingles, Kait Maher, Susana Nicholls were every one on very fine form. And special mention must go to choreographer Jules Hart for his cameo portrait as a crazed cannibal. Together they created a musical production that would stand as a serious contender to the likes of Rocky Horror and Phantom of the Opera. But there were surprises to come.

The second half of the show saw a complete change of pace. After the first half’s careful staging, imaginative settings, brooding atmosphere and fabulous music, the second half kicked off in a way that was so carefree and fun filled that one could almost have thought it was a different show.
The script went for humour in a manner which slipped perilously close to pantomime territory and the staging got a little chaotic. But fortunately, things soon returned to the sombre mood and gothic imagery of the first half as the play headed for its finale. More memorable, haunting songs and great singing followed. 

The full-house audience reaction was hugely enthusiastic and it was quite clear that most people felt they had seen the debut of something impressive, ambitious and special.
In short, Don Claude Devious: Cannibal Rapture is edgy, funny and darkly atmospheric. The music and singing are superb from start to finish and all the performances are very good indeed.
This is clearly no cheerful Sound of Music, but if you have a taste for the dark side of things, the macabre and the gothic, then I urge you to make a special effort and catch this show. It's a rare kind of offering to find on a local stage and marks the arrival of bold, ambitious and talented people. Don't miss it.

Adrian Sherlock.

TTT’s hoot-a-minute comedy is really a deadly satire

Death By Fatal Murder directed by Fred Preston and Terry Roseburgh for Torquay Theatre Troupe, Torquay Seniors Playhouse November 3, 2011.

Though set in 1940, this comedy was written by Yorkshire-born playwright Peter Gordon in 2009 as a satire on the Agatha Christie/Midsomer genre of murder mystery. Its central character, inspector Pratt, played with eye-rolling relish by Michael Baker, is a bumbling buffoon who finds himself investigating a missing policeman at an isolated manor house where all the odd inhabitants are hiding secrets - even his assistant constable Thomkins (Fred Preston). There’s a knowing Miss Marple comedy clone played by Carleen Thoernberg; a gung-ho upper-crust landgirl in Lisa Berry; a svelte and sophisticated heiress played by Rhiannon Hodgkinson; a Cornish occult-botherer played by Maryanne Doolan; a suspect foreigner with dodgy Italian accent, Rory Molloy - and a spiffing fighter pilot returned unexpectedly from the dead played by Andrew Gaylard. All these usual suspects are ineptly interrogated by Pratt, two murders are revealed and the whole thing is somehow solved with everything neatly tied to reveal a happy ending at the finish.
That’s the outline. But inside this structure were a plethora of drop-dead funny lines, ridiculous situations and delightful cameos.
In the hands of TTT, Death By Fatal Murder is a hoot-a-minute comedy that also succeeds in being scathingly satirical of its chosen targets. Its well-chosen cast quite clearly enjoyed every moment on stage - and there were some standout performances, too.
Michael Baker made an perfect Pratt, blending naive cowardice with Clousseau-like bumbling. Just remembering his lines was a feat - they contained most of the show’s laughs by combining scores of twisted metaphors with dozens of missed names and Michael delivered each one with comedy ease. Lisa was delightful in her forceful upper-class innocence, Fred gave excellent straight support while adding to the comedy with facial gestures, Rhiannon displayed the cool demeanor of a Katherine Hepburn lookalike and Carleen must have studied plenty of TV Agatha Christie mysteries to pitch her Miss Maple with such correct charm.
Maryanne and Rory added some amazing accents and Andrew’s fighter pilot was remarkably John Cleese in his demeanor.
The plays direction, from Fred Preston and Terry Roseburgh kept things simple, allowing the laughs to flow easily.
All together - Death By Fatal Murder was another winner for Torquay’s Troupe - and a great night out for their patrons.
- Colin Mockett

Pirates Present Pitch-Perfect Production

The Pirates of Penzance directed by Stacey Carmichael for Lyric Theatre Society, Playhouse theatre October 7, 2011.

This production marked a personal milestone - it was the 850th review of a local show since this writer started in 1988, and the 100th since entertainmentgeelong.com took to cyberspace in 2007. In this time I’ve seen at least five different full-scale productions of Pirates as well as numerous extracts and concert versions.
But none have come even close to this latest rollicking, rich, fun, colourful, happy, tuneful, witty and wonderful version from Lyric.
This Pirates Of Penzance deserves full houses for each of its remaining performances - I can’t recommend it higher as both a fun night out and a brilliant indication of the star quality at the core of Geelong’s musical theatre.
As a production it has deservedly garnered nominations for a swag of our virtual oscar awards including two for director Stacey Carmichael an unusual one for the collective chorus of pirates that propels the show along on waves of exuberance. This eager, multi-skilled bunch forms the core of the production - their vibrant singing and dancing skills and sheer enjoyment appears to infect every performer and scene - and by the end had lit up the jubilant audience, too.
So take a collective bow, Rick Howden, David and Christopher Senftleben, John McCarthy, Rob McNeil, Ash Chappell, Josh Semple, Jonathan Evans,  Courtney Vos,   Emma Jones, Nick Ng, Jess O'Donnell, Cheryl Campbell, Sue Rawkins, Declan McKinnon, Campbell Peter, Trevor Robinson, Steve Howell, Kai Mann-Robertson, Xavier Robertson and Cassie Chappell.
But excellent as this chorus was, this Pirates was no ensemble production. For fronting that happy crew were some brilliant stand-out lead performers.
As the Pirate King, Jamie McGuane was a mesmeric leader somehow combining joyfully earthy sexuality with swashbuckling sword-work and grinning, naive-but-knowing innocence and all backed with his stunningly powerful singing voice.
Then there was Davina Smith Crowley, who moved her Ruth from a wily and perplexed older female in the early scenes to become a full-blooded pirate leader matching Jamie lunge for lunge, swing for swing - and with an equally glorious rich voice.
But then came Georgia Van Etten, as the knowing/innocent Mabel, who had a voice of such beauty and range that her Poor Wandering One was probably the show’s musical highlight for this reviewer. But then.... this show glittered with so many musical highlights. Ross Pearce’s linguistically dexterous Very Model of a Modern Major General, Alard Pett’s rubber-legged leadership of his comedy police in A Policeman’s Lot is not a Happy One and Will Reed’s Beautifully Blue The Sky with the excellent Victorian girls chorus of Katrinoa Santoro, Sally-Anne Jones, Sharni Clarke, Aradie Walters, Tara Vagg, Bonnie Spain, Fiona Richie, Jess Scott, Hannah Van Etten, Rebecca Newman and Elise Vogrin...
This was a show that was built around its lead performers with a series of joyful moments, with gorgeous ensemble harmonies and clever, highly effective choreographed group movements.
Which brings in the other, off-stage crew - because all those acting skills, harmonies and witty dance moves were down to another high-talent team headed by director/choreographer Stacey Carmichael, musical director Michael Wilding - whose orchestra was faultless throughout - and the show’s vocal director Laura Yates for those wonderfully tight choruses.
Credit, too, to Lyric’s committee and producer Simon Thorne for bringing such a creative and winning outfit together.
So go see these Pirates, please. And take it from me, they’re the best you’ll see in years.  
- Colin Mockett 

Church, Chorale and Cox - a trinity made in Geelong

Choral Classics presented by Geelong Chorale conducted by Allister Cox. St Paul’s Church, Saturday September 17 2011.

This concert brought together three Geelong institutions in the finest of collaborations. First, there was the Geelong Chorale, with decades of choral excellence earning its title as the region’s premier choir. Then, there was the bright, airy acoustics of the historic St Paul’s Church - and the final Geelong institution was guest conductor Allister Cox.
Allister, singer, musician, teacher, musical authority, orchestra conductor, actor and humorous raconteur seems a perfect fit to front the Chorale and the surprise is that it has taken so long for them to get together.
Their suitability was borne out with this concert’s stunning opener, the Allegri Miserere, which saw the 30-voice Chorale ranged across the church’s central area beside the altar and right angled to the choir stalls. Soloists Lisa Breen, Kathleen Rawson, Frank Sykes, John Stubbings and Jane Bashiruddin were almost out of site, behind the Chorale in the chancel, while Allister, conducting, faced the Chorale with his back to the audience. Yet from this position he took the lead cantor part, directing his voice high into the acoustic shell of the building and achieving without microphones an almost perfect blend of harmonies with individual soloists and the full Chorale. It made for a sublime opening that was never quite surpassed as the concert progressed, despite some excellent, sensitive treatment of material that included all the big names - sacred songs from Bach, Scarlatti, Mozart, Haydn, romantic refrains from Faure, Mendelssohn and Rheinberger; more recent choruses from Rachmaninov, Stanford and Vaughan Williams and well-known choruses from Verdi - the Chorus of Hebrew Slaves, no less, with Kristine Mellens’ piano taking all the orchestral parts - and Mascagni’s Easter celebration hymn Cavalleria Rusticana.
The concert’s flow was neatly enhanced by some good variations - a couple of organ solos from Frank De Rosso that included an interesting version of Bach’s Air in D and a piece from June Nixon that interwove a wealth of folk songs; and delightful ‘interval entertainment’ from a student quartet led by Darcy Carroll singing - and moving to - A Model Of Decorum and Tranquility from the musical Chess.
The evening’s soloists were a revelation, too, with Lisa’s bright soprano blending beautifully with Kathleen’s warm alto while Frank’s tenor and John’s baritone voices displayed the sweet maturity of a couple of full-bodied fine old ports.
All up, this concert made for more than a joyful musical occasion.
It also heralded - hopefully - some delicious future choral cooperations.
- Colin Mockett

 Concert captures Geelong’s heritage - and musical future 

Geelong College Foundation Concert 2011. Costa Hall, September 16, 2011.

This 21st Geelong College Foundation Concert displayed fine musical talents, skills and discipline of 200+ students playing alongside their tutors in a variety of ensembles. These ranged from a vocal harmony trio and swing stage band to a symphony orchestra and a 75-voice massed choir.
But the evening held much more than showcasing the College students’ advanced - and widely acknowledged - musical expertise. This year the College marked its sesquicentenary -150 years since its founding - with a newly-minted musical celebratory work performed for the first time. This was a three-piece musical suite commissioned from the College’s Composer-in-Residence, Paul Jarman, and based on historical elements of the Geelong region, researched for more than a year by all the College’s music students.
Titled Teller Of Stories, this work used an ensemble of tutors - plus a couple of excellent woodwind students in Anna Morris and Alan Thomas - backing the combined choirs of the College’s Prep and Senior schools, all conducted by the composer himself.
It was a delightfully evocative trio of songs, based on the sounds of water - capturing Geelong’s sea and Barwon River heritage by using some neat, innovative percussion techniques alongside traditional instruments. The work’s lyrics mirrored its harmonies, flowing from pre-European settlement dreamtime through pastoral themes to industrial rhythms and ending with a celebratory note of inclusion and belonging. This Teller of Stories is a delightful piece well deserving further performances on wider Geelong forums. It must have delighted Leanne McCartney, named by composer Jarman as the project’s driver and coordinator.
Around this small (16 minute) musical jewel, the Foundation Concert ranged a variety of very different works, from Billy Joel to J S Bach, presented by all those talented students and their tutors.
And the list of College tutors reads as a Who’s Who of Geelong’s musical talent, with familiar faces on every instrument.
Illustrating this point were the concert’s conductors which included Mark Irwin, Gary Tigani, Peter Hannah, Emily Anderson, Stephanie Nicholls, Gerard Mack and Lisa Breen as well as Paul Jarman.
But not all the expertise was from adults. The string orchestras were led by an excellent student in Lucy Watson; Audrey Moore made an exceptional bassoon soloist as well as providing erudite and charming comments - along with co-captain Anna Morris - on how they had each grown and benefitted from their musical experiences.
Taken all together, this was a highly satisfying concert showcasing, as it did, some exceptional talents - and a new musical work that seems destined to become another ornament for Geelong. 

Colin Mockett 

So many Catholic issues in Doubt

Doubt - A Parable directed by Sarah Freeman for Geelong Repertory Company, Woodbin Theatre, September 3, 2011.

Geelong Rep had originally scheduled to present Twelve Angry Men in this slot but ran into difficulties gaining the performance rights. Doubt - A Parable was the replacement - but there was nothing that told of a late substitution in this production. It was a polished, accomplished performance of John Patrick Shanley’s 2004 Pulitzer-prize-winning Broadway play - set in a 1964 New York Catholic School - that took on a host (yes, pun intended) of controversial Catholic subjects. The central theme was a suspicion of priest-child abuse, but unrelenting school discipline, the deliberate suppression of bright children, reluctance to accept any change, male domination of the church hierarchy and insensitive racial integration were all woven into the fabric of this complex drama.
And all this refined down into a central clash between hard-line uncompromising headmistress Sister Aloysius, played by Meryl Friend, and her young progressive priest, Father Flynn, played by Steven Georgiadis.
Director Sarah Freeman had divided the Woodbin’s small stage into thirds, one side being the principal’s office, the other a rectory garden with a very real church pulpit central. This allowed the action to flow with minimum interruption - it goes without saying there were minimal costume changes - but some lighting transitions would have enhanced these passages. Doubt is a strong, powerful drama with no lightening side issues and Sarah’s direction allowed for few distractions to ease the tensions, either. There were some sound issues with the nun’s headwear restricting anything but forward projection, which was addressed by some complex stage manoeuvring ensuring that Meryl and Cherie were almost always facing the audience.
Meryl played her part with hard, stone-faced rigid resolution until the very last moment of the final scene. In contrast, Steven, uncomfortable in the pulpit, at ease with his boys - represented by the first rows of audience - and always slightly awkward with the nuns, was able to display his mastery of close-up stage acting skills. Cherie Mills, as Sister James, moved from starry idealist to hardened realist as she was unwillingly used in the dispute; while newcomer Anna Ellis showed maturity beyond her years as the pragmatic mother of the unknowing - and unseen - central student.
Doubt - A Parable is a strong, thought-provoking well-written play staged in a simple, straightforward manner allowing its issues full impact. It’s excellent theatre and well recommended.
- Colin Mockett 

Brilliant, powerful Awakening

Spring Awakening directed by David Postill & Scott Bradley for Parcell Productions.  Drama Theatre, August 5, 2011.

This is a stunning production of a significant new musical and I urge you to find a way to get tickets to one of the four remaining performances.
The show is a modern adaptation of Frank Wederkind’s 1891 German play which tells of the trials, triumphs and tragedies that can occur when the surge of hormones turns innocent and unaware teenagers into sexual adults.
Put to a rock music score by Steven Sater and Duncan Sheik in the 21st Century - though still set in the nineteenth - the resulting musical pulls no punches and it is completely without any sugary or twee Hollywood-musical touches.
The new powerful Spring Awakening musical picked up 11 Tony award nominations when it opened on Broadway in 2007 - winning eight - then went on to win four British Olivier awards following its London opening.
Now, in Geelong 2011 it has won nominations in every one of our Virtual Oscar categories - eight in all - as well as a standing ovation on opening night.
The practically flawless Geelong production extends beyond the compelling, disciplined on-stage performance from every member of a highly competent acting team. This Spring Awakening’s casting was just about perfect, with every character well-drawn, vibrant and believable. The staging was simple yet highly effective. The quirky choreography enhanced every musical number that MD Stacey-Louise Camilleri’s band had given a solid rock base. The action throughout was seamless, courtesy of clever, sensitive direction from David Postill & Scott Bradley and all this meant Spring Awakening had an overall highly professional gloss rarely seen on Geelong’s stages.
Leading the on-stage talent, David Ward turned in a performance of amazing power and passion in the central role of Melchior, singing, dancing, acting with an intensity that dominated every scene. During the show he moved from poised rationalist to bewildered victim when twin tragedies encompassed his two most intimate friends, played by a disheveled and tormented Tom Reed and beautifully naively innocent Michaela Powell. Both these actors, too, turned in performances that garnered VO nominations.
And this trio was supported by a young, vibrant group of actors - I won’t describe them as a chorus, because each managed to forge a distinct personality within the group - comprising the enlightened Tessa Reed, sympathetically aware of Tom’s problems yet unable to stop his tragedy; the cynical, potent Jaxson McLennan, seducer of a confused yet driven Brad Bowden; Mitchell Turek’s decisive, sharp mover; the assured beauty Gabriella Sabatino; teasing, tempting Tayla Johnston; delightfully playful Felicia Frangapane and confused daydreamer Xavier McGettigen - recipient of a gratifying surprise from his stern piano-tutor Terri Powell - all these melded to form a tightly-disciplined high-energy singing and dancing unit for the show’s production numbers.
And in turn, the young performers were supported by two excellent mature actors in John Quelch and the aforementioned Terri Powell who each played every adult role with total assurance.
In all, this Spring Awakening is a powerful, expressive production of an extremely well-written, relevant play. I can’t recommend it any higher. Go see it while you have the chance - to experience world-class theatre from a local company.
- Colin Mockett. 

Understanding, that’s The Sum Of Us

The Sum Of Us from Hit Productions, Potato Shed, July 2, 2011.

David Stevens' 1990 play, The Sum of Us is a finely crafted, sensitive work that deals with the issues of holding and forming relationships in a skewed and unusual family atmosphere.
That is, it portrayed a one-parent family, with the parent a long-term widower (John Jarratt) living with his adult gay son (Patrick Harvey).
With a lesser writer - and less talented actors - this could have been the recipe for crass homophobia or redneck comedy but in fact, The Sum Of Us portrays a high quality study of human nature with all its aspirations and frailties exposed.
The play calls at times for these two actors to break down their ‘fourth wall’ and address the audience directly to explain aspects of their pasts or to justify their feelings - and both used this tactic to build yet another relationship - a fine understanding between their characters and the audience. After weeks on the road touring Victoria, all the actors involved in this Hit Production were finely tuned and ultra-comfortable in their roles.
John Jarratt clad his widower Harry Mitchell with a familiar ‘bloke next door’ image and a down-to-earth yet dignified manner, even bringing slightly self-surprised elements to his own clumsy attempts to express his tolerance and understanding of his son’s homosexuality.
For his part, Patrick Harvey played the son, Jeff, with a matter-of-fact openness that was both endearing and totally understandable. He, too, tapped into the audience’s well of sympathy with frank and funny disclosures and honest self-doubts.
These two were supported by a pair of excellent and totally credible performances from Glenn van Oosterom and Nell Feeney, as the respective love interests of father and son - both of whom were dismayed and discouraged by the men’s peculiar warm and at times fractious relationship.
The play ended on a poignant note that further cemented its credibility - which I won’t disclose here as it still has a couple of regional bookings to run.
Enough to thank the Potato Shed crew for bringing us yet another altogether satisfying professional night of theatre.
- Colin Mockett 

Game On for one and all

Game On directed by Sadat-Jon Hussain for GSODA Juniors Playhouse Theatre June 25 2011.

 This delightfully happy, irreverent new musical showcased Geelong’s next generation of talent at its best. And what talent. There were 64 young performers on stage, all singing, dancing and acting with skill, verve, timing, discipline - and so much enthusiasm. 

What’s more the brand-new Geelong musical Game On made an ideal vehicle for them. It’s a cheerful, vibrant, colourful show with a powerful rock/swing score driving a swag of vibrant production numbers and a cheeky, impertinent and often ridiculous storyline designed to appeal to younger audiences.
Such was the quality of this show that I’m nominating it for no less than seven Virtual Oscar nominations; one of which comprises twelve bright, brash and really quite brilliant girl dancers. They’re the St Judes Gang and Purity Grammar Airhead teams, two exceptionally well-drilled agile units of six who were marginally ahead of a whole bunch of crisply-choreographed dancing teams that included gangsters, police and school communities that led the show’s big production numbers. Understandably both director Sadat-Jon Hussain and choreographer Xavier McGettigan are up for awards, too, for controlling, coaching and coaxing so many excellent performances from such a large and diverse cast.

Game On’s outlandish storyline, diluted and condensed, concerns a 1960s St Trinians-type private school whose headmistress, needing money fast to pay a gangster debt, gambles heavily on her school’s hockey team beating that of the town’s poshest girl’s school. They win, she wins - and even the school wins when the posh pupils decide they’d rather move to St Judes.

That such a ridiculous plot stands up at all is testament to the writing and musical skills of Jon Stephens and Gary Wong as well as those of a super bunch of 16 and 17-year-old lead actors, headed by Chanelle Tait’s headmistress - delightful in her wry, feisty approach and revealing a wonderfully rich, mature singing voice; Alana Babic as lead schoolgirl Brittany - played with shades of Sandy from Grease; a trio of dumb male leads in Jayden Vermuelen, Ryan Bentley and Liam Headland and a neatly comic cameo from Kelsey Dunlop as the demure rival headmistress who, while looking like Barbie, revealed a Kevin Sheedy-like coaching technique.

Not that everything about this Game On was perfect. There were the now almost traditional Geelong theatre sound difficulties with wildly diverse levels and late head-mic timings; the billowing smoke machine was unnecessary and the show’s programme, though packed with pictures, ads and waffle, failed to give any details of the show’s writers or even name the musicians who had laid down the musical backing tracks. And this was billed as an Australian premiere...
But that’s carping.
I really recommend you go see Game On, even if you don’t know any of the on-stage talent. I guarantee that, like me, you’ll walk away smiling and mightily impressed with the next wave of Geelong’s performers - and musical comedy writers.
- Colin Mockett 

Rep’s revolving Jekyll & Hyde performance

 Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde directed by Travis Eccles for Geelong Rep. Woodbin Theatre June 24 2011.
 

Geelong Rep has delivered an unexpected gem with this staging of Jeffrey Hatcher’s 2008 treatment of the classic Victorian horror story.
The Hatcher approach, though faithful to the play’s gory storyline, is altogether brighter, brisker, sexier and more entertaining than the original. And Rep’s production team staged it with a few innovations of their own.
In his programme notes, director Travis Eccles revealed the difficulties he encountered in keeping to the Hatcher version’s stage directions which stipulated a door that could be swiftly moved around the stage, was capable of being broken down then moments later functioned normally.
In the event, this was achieved with ease - but it wasn’t half as impressive as the Woodbin’s new budget-version man-powered revolving stage, installed just for this production and shoehorned onto the theatre’s compact performance area. It was a tad noisy, but enabled super-fast scene changes.
These ingenious creations, plus Hatcher’s inspired writing - he uses multiple actors to play the villainous facets of Hyde, for example - made for a play that not only skipped along briskly and seamlessly but it gave the well-worn story fresh impetus. 

A skilled and practiced acting team helped, of course, as did the play’s immaculate costuming.
Steven Georgiadis turned in a splendid performance as Jekyll, moving from imposing charm to anguished torment as the play progressed. Andrew Kelly, as his chief Mr Hyde, was relentless in his evil while no less than six other players took time off from portraying their characters to join him, all identically dressed, right down to the walking cane. These non-lookalike Hydes included Bryan Eaton, who moved from suspicious supportive lawyer to sinister Hyde; Barry Eeles, from scared colleague to sly Hyde; Lachlan Murphy, dull police inspector to vicious Hyde; Robert Trott, pompous victim to depraved Hyde; Rodney Hunter, oily butler to fiendish Hyde; and even Cassi Clingan-Borst switched from victim prostitute to become a leering Hyde. And if all the above sounds improbable, well, the quality combination of writing, staging and acting carried the tactic off without any loss of credibility.
While alongside all this deceptive chicanery, Lauren O’Callaghan turned in a jewel of a performance as Hyde’s girlfriend/potential victim, gorgeous in her Victorian innocence and faultless in her Cockney accent. Add in a couple of neat extras from Luke Murphy and Morgan Jenkins’ orderly - along with their manful manipulation of the revolving stage - and this new Rep Jekyll & Hyde turns out to be a show that’s bright, fresh - and worthy of its four VO nominations.

Colin Mockett 

Grave subject for music and laughter

You’ll be the Death of Me by Colin Mockett and Shirley Power for Drop of a Hat Productions, Potato Shed, Drysdale, 21 June 2011

Death remains a taboo subject in our society and as I drove to the Potato Shed I wondered just how Drop of a Hat Productions would deal with such a sensitive issue. Perhaps this new show You’ll be the Death of Me will focus on the multiple ways children may drive their parents to an early grave. That approach to the topic would provide much humour, and humour is one of the hallmarks of shows written and presented by Colin Mockett and Shirley Power. Certainly laughter was on the mind of an elderly lady who asked me if I had taken the day off work to come and see the show. When I assured her I had, she said “Well you’ll laugh louder and longer then won’t you?”

And she was right, laugh I did. On the basis of previous forays into the subject stimulated by a visit to Ireland nine years ago, Colin and Shirley knew that the key to finding humour in death is to focus on the inscriptions on Irish headstones.  Of course most inscriptions were not meant to be funny, but their succinct, often blunt description of the deceased, the lack of punctuation leading to unintended connotations, the need to rhyme, the use of appalling puns or the obvious desire for revenge by the grave’s incumbent or indeed their relatives, make for exceptionally funny reading. Gravestones will ultimately decay, but the inscriptions they bear may give life to the individuals below for decades and even centuries after their demise.

As usual, Colin’s material was expertly sourced, well written and very skilfully presented. I can assure you it was far from deadly boring and I see no reason to issue any grave warnings. The use of wireless microphones was a welcome technological addition. From Kerry, Cavan, Meath and Belfast the inscriptions came thick and fast as did the laughter that followed. Some variety was introduced by Colin’s impersonation in his best southern brogue of the much loved Dave Allen and one of his famous horror stories. 

What about the music? The songs, although quite different from Shirley’s usual repertoire, were delivered with clarity and expression and much good humour. The titles did not stray far from the subject of death and ranged from a Music Hall favourite called ‘They’re moving father’s grave to build a sewer’ to a 1950s US radio coffin commercial to the tune Rock of Ages. My favourite was a Christine Lavin song about two young people destined to be together only in death. Trust me, it was very funny.  

We have often been told that a good bout of laughter every day provides similar cardiovascular benefits as exercise and we know that regular exercise delays death. I found it somewhat ironic that gravestone inscriptions should provide the source of such death defying activity.
- Bryan Eaton  

Long winter innovations in the Shed

Winter Solstice One-Act Plays written & directed by Carole Mallett for Theatre 3222, Potato Shed June 17 2011. 

There is no warmer theatrical welcome than that extended by the Potato Shed for its annual mid-winter play weekend. There’s a brazier burning outside to accommodate those addicted to smoke, a free tot of rum for all adults, mulled wine or mugs of steaming tea and foyer entertainment from a hot belly dancer. And then there’s the plays.
This year there were three, all brand new and untried, all from the same source of writer/director Carole Mallett and all on the common theme of ‘secrets’.
The same seven-member on-stage crew acted throughout.
But before getting to the nuts and bolts of reviewing them, I should state that I’m extremely fond of the Potato Shed. It’s an excellent performance space; and one which is ever-prepared to stage experimental theatre. Without its management team, Geelong’s theatregoers would seldom have the chance to see such new emerging works.
And now I should apologise because I only saw two of the plays; by the time the second interval had arrived at 10.30pm my pre-play winter sniffle had developed into a full-blown streaming cold and I retired to dose it with hot lemon and honey in the hope that I hadn’t infected too many other people. And that’s the starting point for this evening’s criticism. The first plays were clearly far too long, turning the evening into something of a theatrical marathon.
The opening play, The Hollow Tree, at more than an hour and with several scene changes, pushed the boundaries of what constitutes a one-act play.
It was strong and heavy stuff - set in a medieval community under siege from a child-murderer - and though well-constructed and brought to a suitable, if slightly mystifying climax, it would certainly have benefitted from some judicious editing.
Its strong on-stage team showcased the finely-tuned talents of Rob Macleod and Sally Pearson as the perpetuator and victim of long-held secrets, ably supported by Susanna Nicholls, excellent as a grieving mother, wise Lee Foyster and troubled Kerrie Reynolds with Jesse Bickerton and Ladge Kviz slightly out of their depth playing ineffectual frustrated machos.
But these two came to the fore in the evening’s second play, which followed an extended interval to accommodate a major revamp of the performing area and thereby giving Lisa Craigen’s belly-dancing a 35-minute workout.
This one, titled Keep Your Voice Down was a black social comedy set in today’s environment; the action split between an open-plan office housing a couple of blokes working late and a luxury hotel room with a giant bed holding three women returned from a music concert. Both scenarios lead to heavy drinking and the spilling of highly personal secrets which again resulted in a somewhat bewildering disaster-scene climax. In this play, Jesse, clearly more comfortable in this element, excelled in quizzing a taciturn Rob, while Lee, Kerrie and Susanna revelled in revisiting their girlhoods.
As or the third play, Allez-Luya - well, the official blurb states it’s ‘an absurdist attempt to deal or dispose of secrets with the help of modern witches’.
I’ll take their word for it. Along with my cold medication.
And again, I’ll reiterate that The Potato Shed is at present Geelong’s home of avant garde theatre and I urge you support it. Let’s not keep it a secret.
- Colin Mockett 

‘It should have one long curtain just going up, and one even longer coming down...’

Fiddler On The Roof, directed by Davina Smith-Crowley for Geelong Lyric Theatre Society. Costa Hall, June 10, 2011

 First, I have to say that this was a very good production. It had a top-quality cast that moved extremely well around a simple, good-looking set; uniformly excellent singers in suitable costumes, a fine orchestra, first-rate lighting and the action ran along with practiced perfection.
Understandably, it has garnered a swag of nominations for our end-of-year Virtual Oscar awards including that of director Davina Smith-Crowley.
But having said all that, I should report here that I left the Costa Hall feeling somehow disappointed - and convinced that Lyric’s choice to use Geelong’s prestige venue was a wrong move. I’m sure that this Fiddler would have been so much better and far more effective had it been staged in a proper theatre. That’s because the Costa Hall was purpose-built to stage concerts. It’s acoustically brilliant and its flat tennis-court sized stage is designed to show a full symphony orchestra without obstructions. But it’s a space that lacks even the basics of theatre design. It has no lifting flats for quick scene changes and no method of achieving a smaller atmosphere for intimate scenes. There’s no curtain to denote shifts or scene endings - indeed, none of the things deemed necessary to stage a modern theatre production. As a result, every scene change appeared laboured despite the best efforts of an efficient stage crew. There was no alternative to cast trooping off the stage in darkness while stagehands humped and turned the multi-purpose elements of set while the orchestra played on.
What’s more those brilliant acoustics, designed so discerning audiences can hear every note of an orchestra, worked to amplify every small sound imperfection - and there were some quite significant sound-level imbalances and unexplained pops and bangs on Fiddler’s opening night.
But again - it didn’t spoil the show which stands testament to the above-mentioned top-quality cast, excellent singers etc..
So lets focus on the positives. Howard Dandy’s Tevye was a delight. He was quieter, friendlier and more introspective that the universal benchmark Topol - but every bit as effective. His interplay with wife Golda - splendidly portrayed by Reyna Hudgell - was a delight; his interaction with daughters Ashleigh Watson, Georgia Van Etten, Lizzie Sahlstrom, Charlotte Crowley and Renee Gartner totally endearing. For their part the daughters Ashleigh, Georgia and Lizzie sang beautifully and with assurance to their (unmatched, unofficial and sometimes uncomfortable) partners Darcy Carroll, Ben Mitchell and Jules Hart. Christine Davey made a grand acquisitive old-dame matchmaker and John McCarthy earned his chops as the butcher/suitor Lazar Wolf despite being victim to the majority of the night’s microphone malfunctions.
These principals were augmented by Bert Dandy’s Simpsonesque cameo Rabbi and a huge Jewish chorus including Scott Beaton, Sue Rawkins, Stacey Carmichael, Bonnie Spain, Brendan Hill, Deanne Elliot, Hannah Van Etten, Christina Nugent, Triston Jones, Sebastian Miloradovic, Nicholas Nugent, Avril Wojniusz, Daniel Eastwood, Emma Jones, Mel Thorne, Dale Bradford, Lee Hutchinson, Kai Mann-Robertson, Laura Dillon, Jess Scott, Andoni Fischer, Dawn Cunningham, Aradie Walters, Sandy Whittem, Vittoria DiMartino, Tara Dunstan, Bailey Dwyer, Cheryl Campbell, Grant Whiteside, Lisa Zarb, Charlie McIntyre, James Parker, Alise Dahlaus, Jonathan Zarb, Tayla Gartner, Ash Chappell, Beck Newman, Jack Abramovitch, Cassidy Cappell, Casey Reid, Jasmine Wilson, Patrick Pretlove, Steve Howell, Ian Royce, Margaret Anderson, Alard Pett, Clare Evans, Eugene Pandik, Melina Bunting, Hannah Crowley, Simon Thorne, Laura Yates, Hudson Middelkoop, Tara Vagg, Molly Carter, Rhiannon Irving, Anthony Teale and fiddler Ben Castle.
This vast Semetic chorus was moved with energetic accuracy around that big stage by Xavier McGettigan’s choreography - his opening ‘Tradition’ number was almost Busby Berkley in its precision - and later  harassed and dance-challenged by a somewhat understrength Russian Army led by the straight-backed and big-voiced Campbell Peter and mainly consisting of David, Andrew and Jamie Peter.
Hayden Dinse’s orchestra was excellent and vocal director Katrina Santoro has good reason for pride in this production, for her charges sounded great when the system was sympathetic. Indeed, everyone in this production has very good reason to feel proud of their efforts.
If only it had been in a proper theatre...
Now if I Were a Rich Man, I would give Geelong a theatre for local companies like Lyric to both rehearse and perform in and oh, what a show might result...
But don’t just take my word on all this... go to this Fiddler On The Roof and see if you agree. Then tell me your opinion.

- Colin Mockett

The Dickens of a good show 

What The Dickens! directed by Elaine Mitchell for Theatre of the Winged Unicorn, Ceres Hall May 21 2011

It’s one of the predictable elements of Geelong’s theatre scene that Ceres’ ToWU will present 19th Century literature in lush, lavish style. 

After all, it’s director Elaine Mitchell’s favourite period, genre and, as a textile artist, she delights in the crinolines and costumes. 

The company has presented many such adaptations over the past decade, but none quite as splendidly grand - or generous - as this.

Billed as ‘a Victorian evening celebrating the work of Charles Dickens’ the production began and ended with an elegant mass-character musical pastiche choreographed by Anne Peterson-Commons. These bracketed a series of readings, excerpts and scenes from 12 of Dickens’ novels neatly linked by a handful of traditional folk songs, some original songs and snippets of flute solos. The 16 players switched characters - and costumes - with swift and seamless ease and if you’re thinking all this would add up to a long and complex night - you’d be right. The first half took 80 minutes - as long as the two previously reviewed plays did in total - and the entire What The Dickens! lasted a tad under three hours including a (supposed) 15-minute interval.  

Not that anyone in the full audience complained, or minded, such was the compelling fare. Because the combination of Dickens’ writing portrayed by an evenly excellent cast and directed with loving care made for delightful, and at times mesmerising, theatre.

At first impression, the players appeared to be unevenly distributed with their character parts, with some shouldering a majority of work while others presented mere cameos; but there was no occasion when an actor appeared to be miscast or struggling with the burden. 

Leading the list of hardworkers were Bruce Woodley, Ben Mitchell and newcomer Andrew Weinmann. Each were chameleon-like in their own ways, within Ben’s powerful projection, Bruce’s light and sensitive insights and Andrew’s calm, competent presence. 

Their female equivalents were the oh-so able Heather Dempsey, captivating Jocelyn Mackay and ultra-versatile Miriam Wood with pert Colleen O’Toole and stately Marylin Nash not far behind in the number of allotted roles. Experienced campaigners Allister Cox and Melissa Musselwhite added their skills, Ferri Bond brought a glorious Mrs Gamp and the company’s latest mature-aged debutants Rhena and Dennis King providing touches that displayed their wealth of experience. Meggie and Dennis Mitchell weighed in with music and cameos and Liam Dempsey made a highly suitable Pip, especially to Ben’s looming and intimidating Magwich.

The acting quality was never less than first class, the costumes and attention to detail outstanding, the treatment of The Coventry Carol just beautiful - and - need I say more? 

It’s Elaine Mitchell and ToWU Ceres’ traditional fare. It’s delightful, it’s charming, go see it. You’ll love it.

Colin Mockett

Eternity for 80 minutes 

Golden Leaves - the story of eternity in 3 acts written, composed and directed by Kirstin Honey for Anglesea Performing Arts. Anglesea Hall, May 20 2011

All the programme notes from the artists involved in this piece of avant-garde theatre stated how much fun they were having. This seemed somewhat paradoxical, given the productions themes which were, if I understood correctly, a near-death experience following a car crash; drug-induced suicidal feelings following the same and a pondering of eternity that entailed. 

This was acted out in a complex series of movements and rhyming chants by a cast dressed in odd cave-pharaoh costumes and wearing black or white letter-box eye make-up. Given the show’s themes, most of the accompanying music, from writer / composer Kirstin and drummer Dave Jeffery had dirge-like qualities and the projected backdrop swirls conjured memories of fevers. 

The performance was on a flat space in front of the screen with bleachered audiences on both sides. It began with most of the cast lying wrapped in shroud-like bundles while Philip Besancon, representing Eternity, slowly moved around them rhyme/chanting.
Following the cast’s unwrapping, Lina Libroaperto, as the white-clad Protagonist found herself taunted, tempted and generally bothered by Steven Georgiadis, Nikki Watson, Kim Bingham and Simon Egan all dressed in black. It wound up some 80-minutes later with slow-mo dance movements from Jess Lesosky, in grey, to the amplified chants of the rest of the cast. 

Undoubtably this production held much meaning for writer Kirstin Honey. I suspect it had great therapeutic value, and I’m sure that creating such a slick, well-choreographed and progressive presentation was great fun for the players.

But for this audience member it was something of an ordeal - but it did have one positive outcome. That 80 minutes certainly brought home the meaning of eternity.

Colin Mockett

A Confronting, Challenging Dream 

The American Dream directed by Michael Baker for Torquay Theatre Troupe Price St Theatre Torquay May 19 2011

After cutting its teeth by staging a safe mix of classics and comedies, Torquay’s Theatre Troupe chose to open its 2011 campaign with an adventurous piece of American absurdism from the 1950s. 

The American Dream is an ultra-cynical work from Edward Albee where a showpiece American family - baldly named Mommy, Daddy and Grandma - 

plus a pair of visitors are stripped of pretence, speaking either mind-numbing trivia or confronting honesty, exposing them as being shallow and self-interested in the extreme. This revealing but relatively obscure work is clearly a favourite of director Michael Baker who invested a great deal of care into its Torquay staging. 

This began with a pair of immaculately-dressed 1950s ‘greeters’ offering sherry in the foyer before the play began; was carried on with the show’s vibrantly coloured 50s impressionist set - designed by Michael - and continued by a well-drilled, accurately turned out on-stage team whose faithful accents and droll enunciation made sure that every one of Albee’s barbed words hit its target with a wham. 

The result was a piece of scathing, cynical theatre showing American mores and ideals as base at their worst. 

It had the Torquay audience belly-laughing and squirming in embarrassment in about equal measure.  

Leading the on-stage team was Lisa Berry’s Mommy and Fred Preston’s Daddy, each delivering their barbed lines with clear and drolly deliberate underplayed emphasis - and that’s not easy. This essentially meant the two gave each word and statement equal stress, which neatly contrasted the delivery of Terry Roseburgh’s Grandma, who spat her home-truths about ageing with either unrestrained mischief or gleeful venom.
Add in the two visitors, a trite and supercilious Mrs Barker, splendidly nay, regally, portrayed by Karen Long mostly in her underwear - and a vainglorious Young Man dazzlingly sent up in cameo by Ryan Parker and the play was brought to a surprise - and surprisingly thought-provoking ending.

Then came director Baker’s final twist. 

The play had run without an interval for some 80 minutes, after which the audience was invited to take a cuppa or glass of wine then return to the theatre and discuss its implications with director and cast. 

This reviewer, wary of importing the opinion of others, declined that offer, but can certainly appreciate its merit following such an unusual, provocative and polished work. 

Colin Mockett

Daisy’s moving, emotional story

Daisy, directed by Wolf Heidecker for Forget-Me-Not Productions, Woodbin Theatre May 4, 2011

Alzheimer's/dementia is not exactly the kind of subject most people would expect to make an entertaining play for the theatre, but with Daisy by Terry Mervin, it proved to be a rich source of drama, humour, pathos and even a bit of song.
In fact everything one could wish for in a great play is to be found in this Daisy. 

When writing about a meaningful subject like old age, the onset of Alzheimer's or dementia and the impact it has on the people involved, a writer would surely feel a sense of enormous duty and to his fullest credit, Terry Mervin has explored his topic thoroughly and dramatises all the angles. He also avoids becoming maudlin, preachy or overly sentimental, mixing plenty of unforced humour into the play to balance the undeniably moving dramatic power of the story. 

Director Wolf Heidecker adopts a highly elaborate and creative approach to bringing Daisy to life on the stage. In some ways, it is perhaps a little convoluted in its execution at times, but this is a mere quibble. Overall he keeps the pace moving along using a well drilled, well chosen cast, who present the story effectively and at times, quite brilliantly. 

Daisy herself is played with utter believability by the wonderful Claudia Clark who is flawless as a woman slowly losing her way inside herself as Alzheimer's takes hold of her life. The play employs a clever and imaginative device to take us inside Daisy's world. Genevieve Giuffre plays a character called The Librarian, who is seen at the side of the stage rifling through the files of Daisy's mind, in the filing cabinet of her memories, searching for answers and information every time someone asks Daisy a question. This is a touching performance which adds enormous weight to the story. 

Peter Muir and Amber Hart are a superb double act as Daisy's son and daughter, Will and Petra, who regress to childlike bickering as the stress of their mother's illness takes its toll on them. In one of the play's most emotionally charged moments, brother and sister confess how they've been behaving and make amends with each other.  

There's also an ensemble cast of players who make up the characters Daisy meets when she is put into a retirement home. Tina Rettke gives a sensitive portrayal as the home’s manager and Ros Romney, Nick Frcek, Lachlan Murphy and Jacqui Connor all give solid support, while Robert Trott steals the show at times with a vulnerable yet funny portrayal of fellow-retiree Ben. 

But the standout performance of the show was that of Bryan Eaton as Daisy's husband, Jim. His desperation, his fear and powerlessness, his love and dedication to his bride and best friend of so many years is portrayed with great sensitivity and conviction. Along with Claudia Clark, Bryan is the backbone of this production.  

Daisy ends with an appearance by David O'Brien as a character called The Figure in White. Some might see him as an Angel or perhaps a. Death figure. 

But needless to say, he brings the play to an end on a truly moving and powerful note.  

Everyone involved in Forget Me Not's production of "Daisy" can be proud of this show, it underlines the realities of Alzheimers while delivering a great

evening of theatre. 

And in the end, the message of the play is made clear by Tina's character when she says "All they need is your love and kindess." 

VO nominations - Bryan Eaton and writer Terry Mervin.

Adrian Sherlock.

The King’s long reign in Queenscliffe 

The King and I directed by Jon Mamonski for Queenscliffe Lighthouse Theatre Group inc April 12 2011

This bright, vibrant version of the 1952 Rogers and Hammerstein favourite musical was something of a marathon effort.
Not only was this,Tuesday show, third in a ten-performance season inside eight days, but the play itself was ultra-long at more than three hours including a 20 minute interval.
It’s a remarkable endurance effort for director Jon Mamonski, given that most of his 94-strong team juggle day jobs, too.
That 94 consists of 58 cast, 16 musicians and 20-strong production crew. With these numbers, its very much to the director’s credit that his team delivered such a well-drilled, word-and action-perfect show at such a measured pace - and with everyone clearly enjoying themselves.
On the night this reviewer attended it was the Red Team taking part, meaning we saw Elle Marie Ambrose, James Bowers, Mercedes Gowlett, Allanah and Zali Ogilvie-Moore, Georgia and Max Potter, AJ Righetti, Felicity Rush and Angus Summerfield playing the cute Royal children; dignified Isabelle Crole as the teen princess, smart, knowing Rom Ambrose as the wise-beyond-his years Royal prince and rangy, precise Kent Baden as Anna’s son Louis.

The next audience would have seen the Blue Team, meaning all 13 of those young players would have been replaced, which must have added extra pressure to the lead actors.
Not that they showed any stress, for this King and I’s lead players were of a uniformly accomplished standard - even showing a couple of potential stars of the future.

Dan Eastwood made a highly capable - if a little paleskin - King, his rich fruity singing voice contrasting nicely with his Anna’s bell-like clarity. Anna was played by Melinda Thorne in suitably prim English style and a surprisingly short crinoline. But even this cut-down hooped skirt occasionally caused her difficulties given the production’s relatively small and frequently crowded performance spaces.

Ulbadino Mantelli endowed his chief minister with the correct aloof distain and Nicole Hickman gave us a delightfully delicate/wise head wife. Rob McNeill made a neat job in triple roles as English ambassador, interpreter and Siamese courtier and Bernard Reed was grave as the pipe-carrying ships captain.
But the stand-out leads - and those future gold prospects - were star-crossed lovers Tara Vagg and William Reed.
William displayed a fine voice and a deal of assurance in his inaugural role, while Tara combined excellent acting and movement skills with a gorgeous singing voice. Her ‘Small House Of Uncle Thomas’ play-within-a-play was, for this reviewer, the show’s standout highlight, with plenty of credit to mime/dancers Rachel Mamonski, Darci Howard, Kate Murray, Hannah Van Etten, Bec Ashenhurst, Courtney Vos and Jazz Bratanavicius.

Credit, too, choreographer Justine Bratanavicius for excellent work moving such a big cast on a really small space, and musical director Michael Wilding whose orchestra was faultless despite a desperate scramble to find a replacement following a car accident involving his lead violinist.

In another surprise for such a big, non-professional show, every one of the lead performers wore a head-mic. This gave the show its bright, loud sound - but at the expense of any light-and-shade audible subtleties.

So to sum this all up - this big, bright brave King and I was a massive and successful effort from all involved.
Well done you all. Especially to the highly deserving VO nominees.

Colin Mockett

Comedy and class - at one Fell swoop

I Do Not Like Thee Doctor Fell directed by Colin Urquhart for Geelong Rep Woodbin Theatre April 8 2011

This black Irish comedy was given an excellent theatrical work-out by a top quality Geelong Rep team. 

Playwright Bernard Farrell’s script captures many attributes of Irish literature - it’s a multi-layered work that manages to be quirky, funny, relevant, awkward and revealing - and sometimes all at once.
None of this was lost in Rep’s treatment. 

I Do Not Like Thee Dr Fell is set in 1969 Dublin, with the period neatly illustrated by musical and visual cues before any of director Colin Urquhart’s acting team had appeared. When they did, they were not only understatedly and accurately dressed for that period but they had clearly taken in all the nuances, foibles and social traits in Farrell’s script to give each character a completely believable background, making the play’s unfolding twists natural, understandable and wryly funny from the very first scenes. 

The premise was that a disparate group of social misfits had joined an encounter group - not uncommon at that time - and had agreed to be locked in a sound-proof suite for an overnight session to ‘discover and heal their inner selves’. 

Once this was swiftly and clearly established, the play’s action picked up its laughter-driven pace and fair crackled along to a cohesive, thought-provoking surprise ending. 

Though, in truth, it’s this reviewer’s opinion that the production would have benefitted from a reduction in the amount and level of frantic shouting in the second half.  

Having said that, it’s equally true that much of the production’s smooth cohesion was down to excellent casting.
The group’s young American female control-freak leader was deftly and believably portrayed by Charlotte Hukvari. Her group included a serial-encounter-group participant with closet gay and guilt issues - all neatly captured by Lachlan Murphy; a pill-dependent middle-aged childless widow - this was Melissa Musselwhite laying smokescreens of polite niceties - and a young couple suffering multiple difficulties from power-struggle to jealousy, with coyly coquettish Amanda Rector married to a gloriously bluff, blustering poser played with glowering gusto by Andrew Kelly. 

As the group’s ‘carer’ support actor, John Quelch delivered just the right level of detached cynicism - but then there was Morgan Jenkins as a stuttering first-time ‘outsider’ misfit.

Morgan took his key character to another level entirely. His twinkling-eyed Irish mischief-maker was the catalyst for every plot twist and change and his portrayal was masterful and complete.
He played a Dylan Moran-type Irishman, combining intelligent anarchic disdain with chaotic attraction - to a degree where he dominated every scene. Even when he was sitting in silence while others unburdened their problems, we audience were compelled to watch Morgan’s every blink, glance and smile in a performance of acting power seldom seen on Geelong’s stages. 

So I highly recommend you go see I Do Not Like Thee Dr Fell - not only to experience Morgan’s tour-de-force, but to witness a refreshing piece of modern Irish social theatre in the hands of an excellent company. And among the laughter, you’ll see some serious Virtual Oscar contenders.

Colin Mockett 

Fascinated, Transported by the story of a Road

Hit The Road Digger presented by Shirley Power & Colin Mockett for Drop Of A Hat Productions, Potato Shed, Drysdale Tuesday 5th April 2011.

From the moment the lights dimmed, everyone was hushed. Most of the 120 people at the Potato Shed were familiar with Shirley Power and Colin Mockett’s works and were prepared to be transported into another time and space yet again.
They were not disappointed.
 Colin wove a fascinating tale of adventure and revelation, following the work of the returned W.W.1. Diggers as they hewed a winding road out of the very cliff-sides. Using nothing but dynamite, picks and shovels, these heroes from the trenches carved their way into history over a period of fourteen years as they built The Great Ocean Road.
Surprisingly enough, this was not a Government scheme. Nor was it a Council project! It was the vision of one man and his devoted wife.
Howard Hitchcock, emporium owner and Geelong civic personality, spent a large part of his life struggling to get this iconic highway built. His foresight, stubborn persistence and financing ensured that we can delight in those breath-taking views today.
Howard Hitchcock indeed was so popular in Geelong that he was nominated for MP while he was overseas, and was Mayor of Geelong for five years, presiding over the building of such landmarks as the Library, Eastern Beach gardens and swimming pool, the completion of the Town Hall, and the creation of the tramline system through our town, to name just a few. He was surely the “Father of modern Geelong”.
Colin took us into this hidden world through storytelling and slideshow, while Shirley added layers of empathy with her renditions of well-remembered popular songs of the time, which may have been sung around the smoky campfires by the work-weary men at their tent-sites.
Their performance was effortless and professional. Even when Colin found it hard to see his notes, he invited the audience into his quandary so they felt at home as he found a small clip-light to solve the problem.
Shirley’s instruments may have overpowered her lovely voice somewhat, but we were still able to sing along to the strains of old faithfuls such as “No Place Like Home” and “Keep On The Sunny Side”.
It was a shame to have the lights come on again and to realise it was all in the past. All in all a very pleasant and informative way to spend some time. Well worth the price of admission.
- Rob McCubbin.

Priceless Quality at the Concert Of The Decade

Geelong’s Concert Of The Decade IX - the Grand Finale - from Drop Of A Hat Productions Costa Hall March 5 2011

Although this was the very last Concert of the Decade – after 17 performances in ten years – this is the only one this reviewer has ever attended.

And now I feel ashamed that I missed the preceding ones, because the quality of this show was just priceless. 

I never realised Geelong had this much talent among its musicians and vocalists. This isn’t just reviewer hype! It’s genuine praise. 

Colin Mockett (and Keelie Hamilton of CoGG) should be congratulated for creating this series for the Seniors Festival which has given so much pleasure to thousands of Geelongites. 

The show had a huge variety of expert musical entertainment: the Geelong West Brass Band, the Bay City Conchords, the GCB Big Band, Drop Of A Hatband, guitarist Geoff Sinnbeck and the lovely solo voices of Jocelyn Mackay, Shandelle Cooke, Manfred Pohlenz, and Shirley Power. 

The first half finished with the invited, talented Queen of Boogie Jan Preston.

The second half belonged, rightly, to the Geelong Philharmonic Orchestra, as it accompanied every item and played some orchestral pieces itself. 

Of course, the orchestra’s conductor – Graham Lloyd - conducted this mix of young and older musicians (often their tutors) with great élan and precision. 

There are too many items in this performance to comment on, but the stand-outs for me were:

14-year-old violinist Liam Oborne, a young musician of whom we will assuredly hear more of as he matures. Such talent in one so young makes one feel envious 

Shirley Power and her brilliant, soul-stirring rendition of the Edith Piaff classic Je ne regrette rien

The wit of Colin Mockett as compere. Together with Roy Carson, his co-compere, they stitched up the links between acts very nicely but Roy tried a little too hard to be funny while Colin’s words freely flowed from his mouth without written notes as if he himself had produced the show, directed it, designed and scripted it. 

And then I woke up: yes, he actually did all these things. 

So much praise and thanks must go to Colin Mockett for creating Concerts of the Decade and carrying it off to perfection all these years. 

Hans Colla

Charity’s so easy to love

Sweet Charity, directed by Bryce Ives for Footlight Productions, Playhouse Theatre, February 5 2011.

This brilliant, brassy, bouncy musical filled GPAC’s Playhouse stage with excitement,  colour, vibrancy and no mean skill. It was well-dressed, well-drilled, well-lit, presented on a clever, eye-catching set and backed by an excellent musical ensemble.
It’s big, lively and talented cast was led by a pair of exceptional performers in Cara Oliver and David Ward and their supporting company was studded with highly talented singers and dancers. The show’s songs are all standards and its choreography was exceptional; fluid, acrobatic, elegant - in fact the whole Sweet Charity package was ultra-slick and totally professional in its presentation.
You’d expect nothing less from the company that has taken our ‘best production’ award for the past two years. Every member of the Footlights company can be proud of another outstanding production.
Yet this reviewer had a problem in the show’s flawed base. Sweet Charity was created by flamboyant American choreographer/director Bob Fosse in the 1960s as a stage musical remake of Frederico Fellini’s 1950s oscar-winning film Nights Of Cabiria. Fellini’s original told the story of an aspirational Rome street prostitute, a scenario seen as unacceptable to American audiences. So Charity was transplanted to become a dance-hall hostess in 1960s America. Then, given the Fosse flossing, she becomes warm-hearted and funny yet trapped in an unacceptable lifestyle. The truth is, there never were any 1960s American women even remotely like Charity, Nicky, Helene and the Big Spender dance-hall crew - girls whose highest aspiration would be to settle down as a wife, much against their social backgrounds. That ‘untouchable’ persona came from the backstreets of Rome, not US dance-halls.
Given this non-factual base, it’s quite understandable that each on-stage role was played with larger-than-life characterisation by Sweet Charity’s multi-talented cast.
So Cara Oliver played Charity as simply delightful, loveable and a winner of everyone’s hearts. That’s pretty easy to do when you sing, dance and move as well as Cara.
Then, as her target-beau, David Ward was equally attractive; daffy yet sincere in a quirky way - his claustrophobia lift-trapped scene was simply brilliant - while every other character was taken way, way over the top.
David Mackay stole scenes as outlandish fading film-star Vittorio Vidal with Reyna Hudgel big-gesturing as Ursula, his warring partner.
Brad Beales wrung every ounce of humour from his dance-hall proprietor Herman and Tony Wasley just about stopped the show as outlandish crusading pastor Daddy Brubeck with his big hippy Rhythm Of Life number.
 As Charity’s close dance-hall colleagues, Sarah Power and Zoe McDonald projected cynical wisdom alongside their more obvious singing/dancing talents and Lachy Joyce took all this to the ultimate, camping-up as a bossy cross-dressed receptionist.
But then all these players would join with Bree Moyes, Ray Ferguson, Mary-Ellen Hetherington, Caitlin and Erin Mathieson, Jonathon Lawrence, Xavier McGettigan, Tayla Johnson, Emily Jacker, Thomas Reed, Lyndon Watts and Jasmin Miller to become as crisp, disciplined and vibrant singing and dancing chorus as you would find on any stage.
This Sweet Charity was outstanding in its gloss, its glamour and its sheer professionalism. It will undoubtably open many eyes to the high quality of Geelong’s performers - and of Footlight’s exceptionally high standards. Go see.
- Colin Mockett

Sonata’s a Stunning Season Starter

The Shoehorn Sonata, directed by Geoff Gaskill for Geelong Rep, Woodbin Theatre, February 4, 2011.

Rep has begun its 2011 season with a gem. This compelling drama showed the highest quality in every department.
John Misto’s award-winning script, based on moving and seldom-heard true stories of WWII was sensitively staged and directed by Geoff Gaskill using a simple, artistic and so-workable set - with a clever multimedia element - and a group of skilful, sympathetic actors.
The Shoehorn Sonata can be heard on several levels. It’s essentially a two-handed play based on the recollections of women captured by the Japanese following the fall of Singapore. But it’s not set in this period - the women are brought together 50 years later for a TV documentary and their studio revelations uncovered many truths about their survival in the face of astonishing atrocities and depravation. But then, their off-camera exchanges in a twin-share hotel room revealed so much more. We, the viewer/observers learned the value of comradeship - each woman saved the other’s life on several occasions. We learned how they used music and humour to keep sane and even as a weapon against their oppressor. We learned just how out-of-touch and unfeeling the authorities on both sides were at the time; and we found that even trauma of this magnitude could have moments that were funny. But mostly we learned that unresolved personal issues don’t go away. They fester until they’re resolved, but this could be achieved even after half a century.
In the twin lead roles, Carleen Thoernberg and Jacqui Connor looked so right and their performances were never less than excellent. They each portrayed their characters with prickly, fragile individuality and a great depth of understanding. Such was the nature of their support that on occasion it appeared to transpose from character to actors - their sisterhood support covered first-night nerves, too.
John Misto’s original script called for them to be on-stage alone, with memories supplied by audio and visual recordings. But Rep’s director Gaskill chose to replace the audio with living images, drafting in a trio of actors to play short snippets of action on the extreme side-stage. This proved to be an inspired choice as Madelyn Cook, Laura Bentley and, especially, Makoto Watanabe, added so much to the drama with their underplayed, sensitive and so proficient performances. The sixth actor, TV interviewer Ryan Parker was unseen throughout, posing his gently-probing questions from the back of the auditorium. But he, too, delivered each line with utterly convincing credibility.
Such was the quality in this Shoehorn Sonata that I’m nominating all of the above for 2011 Virtual Oscar awards, along with David Fox for his audio-visual work and Louisa La Fornara & Peter Jukes for their stunning set painting.
If I had one criticism, it would be that the vast majority of the play’s action took place on the left side of stage, giving a slightly lopsided look to the production. Given the Woodbin’s tight constraints, I’m not sure how this could have been overcome - but the production team overcame so many hurdles to stage this so, so sensitive play that I’m sure there was a solution somewhere.
Overall, The Shoehorn Sonata has set an extremely high standard for Rep’s first play of the season. If it continues, we audiences are in for an outstanding year.

- Colin Mockett

Self-sustaining Joys of Music

Geelong Summer Music Camp Alcoa Concert. Costa Hall Thursday January 20.

Midway through this concert, watching the staff and tutors switching chairs and music stands to prepare for a full-blown youth symphony orchestra, I realised that I recognised most of the on-stage faces. These 20 & 30-year-olds were not only the present mainstays of Geelong’s music scene - Michael, Trish, Dan, Ben, Sean and more... they’ll probably be in the orchestra for Sweet Charity, certainly in the Geelong Philharmonic at the Concert Of The Decade and in many groups and ensembles - but here they were as the Geelong Summer Music Camp’s organisers, tutors, shifters, dependables - and they’re were virtually all former students and beneficiaries of the institution they’re now running.
For me, this small revelation that the camp is self-sustaining made the remaining segments even more enjoyable. It truly brought home the benefits of this fine Geelong institution.
There were some lovely touches in the concert too; it contained much more than the musical skills, dedication and disciplines absorbed by young musicians in five days of intensive masterclasses. There was much charm, shown when one tiny student introduced her orchestra’s next number as being about favourite toys while the rest of her ensemble quietly sneaked their own small toys into view; we saw two trumpet soloists playing from the Costa’s Choir Gallery, high above their colleagues - and a gorgeous impromptu touch from Kiwi student Jhoe Paane, who broke a violin string in the big finale number, and, unable to play, instead left his seat to perform the happiest of break-dances, violin and bow still in hand.
And that big final number was itself truly memorable, with 280 people crammed on to the Costa’s stage - 240 students and 40 staff - playing, singing, clapping and dancing to the ultra-happy Can You Feel It - specially scored for this concert by maestro Graham Lloyd.
It was such a joyful, heartwarming moment. The musicians on stage were all between the ages of nine and 21 and they showed as much discipline, skill, verve and dedication as their tutors had done when they were themselves campers a decade ago.
Earlier, we had seen John Shawcross conducting the Dave Jeffery Stage Band - a tight 24-piece jazz-flavoured big band to open the show in in the coolest way, followed by Jemima Bunn conducting her Fiona Gardner Concert Band - this was 55 of the younger campers displaying poise and skills way ahead of their years before giving way to the polished Heather Tetaz Strings conducted by Cathy Blake. Next was three swinging numbers from the Harry Hood Concert Band conducted by Andrew Dunlop - this band, again had more than 50 members including a highly competent percussion section giving their all in the slick final descriptive piece Weekend In New York. The Eileen Martin Singers were next, conducted by Tom Healey and so impressive performing five complete songs without music - all learned in just five days - then compere John Stubbings let slip they’d actually learned another one, too, but cut it due to time constraints. Then it was time for the big ensembles - the Wendy Galloway Strings followed by Malcolm John Symphony Orchestra, both under the accomplished baton of highly-respected conductor Paul Jones and so, so skilled.
I’ve highlighted the names of each ensemble because they recognised the generation of musicians who had begun and grown the Geelong Summer Music Camp through its early years into the excellent institution it now represents. They set the template for today’s generation of former student s to take it on to further glory.
And long may it continue to delight...
- Colin Mockett.