Theatre Review: Snow White Winter Family Musical

This review was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 8th July 2014.

Many years ago, whilst living in the UK, I had the pleasure of performing in a pantomime. Robin Hood and the Babes in the Wood featured all of the hallmarks of this classic theatrical format: a “dame” (a man in drag); cheesy pop songs; a spooky forest (he’s behind you!); sweets being thrown to the audience; a moustache twirling villain; and audience participation (booing and hissing). It was great fun and the audience lapped it up.

Unfortunately, pantomime is not a theatrical staple in Australia. We’re trained to sit in our seats and behave. Luckily for Sydney audiences, this hasn’t stopped Bonnie Lythgoe (UK based producer and director, and former judge on So You Think You Can Dance Australia) from bringing Snow White Winter Family Musical to the State Theatre, just in time for the school holidays.

Pantomimes classically feature a celebrity cast hamming it up and Lythgoe has managed to snag one of the big guns of Australian stage and screen comedy in Magda Szubanski, as the dastardly Queen Grismelda. Also starring are Jimmy Rees (TV’s Giggle and Hoot), Peter Everett (Ready Steady Cook), Andrew Cutcliffe (Underbelly: RAZOR) and US based Aussie musical theatre star Josh Adamson.

For the titular role, Lythgoe ran a country wide talent search in a non-specific shopping centre chain and unearthed Erin Clare, a blue eyed brunette whose looks just scream Snow White. Oh, she can sing and dance too.

Lythgoe has also somehow managed to convince Sir Cliff Richard (the ultimate real life Peter Pan) and radio shock jock Kyle Sandilands to prerecord their parts as the split personalities of the magic mirror.

Rounding out the cast are two troupes of way too talented kiddies who alternate performances as the dancing ensemble and then don some rather creepy heads to portray the seven dwarves.

I was accompanied by two friends who were reasonably unfamiliar with panto, but egged on by Rees’ court jester Muddles, it didn’t take long for them (and the whole audience) to adapt to the concept of audience participation. We hissed the villain. We cheered for the handsome prince. We groaned at the opening chords of the obligatory One Direction songs. I booed at Kyle Sandilands (his onscreen cameo is further proof to my theory that he isn’t actually human).

The cast is uniformly fantastic with Rees particularly amusing (minus his owl) and Szubanski able to make a fluffed line into a memorable opportunity for hilarity. Everett was appropriately camp and new discovery Erin Clare is as beautiful as she is talented (but should stay away from poisoned apples to avoid typecasting and endless slumber).

Despite a rather clunky script, some underwritten characters and a flat second act, I had a great time. Worth the entry price alone is the best onstage flying illusion I have every seen, and I’ve seen a lot. Forget Mary Poppins, this is the real thing.

Let’s hope Snow White Winter Family Musical is a hit so Lythgow can make her panto an annual highlight on the rather ho-hum Sydney theatrical calendar. Next time, I’m going to take the kids.

4DX: Not the future of cinema

This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 26th February 2013.

4dx logo

As the resident cinephile for the CWD, the question I’m most often asked is, “What’s your name again?” The second most often asked question is, “Is 3D the future of cinema?” My answer to that is a resounding no. 3D cinema is a gimmick. A pointless, headache inducing gimmick if utilised badly. Take Clash of the Titans, Wrath of the Titans or Thor, for example. An impressive gimmick if used correctly in films such as Life of Pi, Hugo and Avatar, but a gimmick nonetheless.

A question that I wished someone would ask me is, “What’s not the future of cinema?” I actually have an answer to that one. It’s definitely not 4DX.

4dx cinema

At the moment, there are only a few 4DX equipped cinemas in the world, and the closest one to Australia is located at the Paragon Cineplex inside the gigantic Siam Paragon shopping centre in Bangkok. On a recent visit to Thailand, I had the opportunity to try out 4DX, and the bad news is that it’s more of a theme park attraction than an immersive cinema experience.

The 4DX cinema consists of hydraulic motion chairs with 3 degrees of freedom. They pitch, roll and heave along with the action on the screen. Built into the seats are air jets that simulate bullets whizzing above and beside your face. There are also jets that replicate splashes by spraying water in your face. Back and leg ticklers kneed you from inside the seat. A bass shaker vibrates your backside. Speakers placed in the headrest scream into your ears. But wait, there’s more.

4DX

There are fans installed in the roof to hit you with gusts of wind. Foggers fill the cinema with smoke. Fragrances are released to enhance the emotions and moods portrayed on the screen. There are bubbles for no particular reason at all. And did I mention that the films are in 3D too?

My 4DX movie was Upside Down, starring Kirsten Dunst (Spider-Man) and Jim Sturgess (Across the Universe), which is yet to receive a release date in Australia. This fantasy romance is set on twin planets which share the same atmosphere, resulting in two worlds with opposing gravities. Sturgess’s Adam falls in love with Dunst’s Eden. The only problem is that she lives in the world above him, and it’s upside down. Chaos (and some woeful physics) occurs.

Featured films are not generally rendered into 4DX by the filmmakers or film studios. The seat movements and other effects are programmed by the South Korean company which developed the technology. This results in a bizarre experience where the in-house special effects are more about showing off the capabilities of the format than enhancing the storyline.

4dx

My seat moved around at times with no regard to what was happening on the screen. During a scene set high on a mountain, the foggers filled the room with smoke. This certainly enhanced the cloudy atmosphere portrayed on the silver screen. Unfortunately, all I could see was smoke and no screen.

Upside Down featured lots of outdoor scenes. For some reason, the 4DX programmers decided that it was windy every time the action ventured outdoors. With the wind effect fans working overtime, I was cold for most of the film. I didn’t mind the air shots which synched with gunfire although I’m not sure why I deserved a kidney punch from the chair during a fight scene. With the 4DX system supposedly capable of reproducing 1000 different scents, I only noticed one during my screening. I will forever associate Kirsten Dunst with urinal cakes.

4DX cinema experience

At a premium ticket price of 400 baht ($13), compared to a standard screening ticket of 230 baht ($7.50), a 4DX screening in Bangkok is hardly going to break the bank for most Australian tourists. My advice would be to give it a go but leave within the 30 minute refund window, get your money back and enjoy the film in a nice, comfortable, non-moving seat, then spend the difference on a funny t-shirt at the markets.

Published in: on February 25, 2013 at 12:01  Leave a Comment  
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The Empire Strikes Back: Disney Purchases Star Wars

Disney Star Wars 2

This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 13th November 2012.

On October 30, the Walt Disney Company announced that they would be acquiring Lucasfilm, home of the Star Wars franchise. George Lucas, creator of beloved characters such as Yoda, Darth Vader, C3PO and R2D2, as well as Jar Jar Binks, was apparently contemplating retirement and had four billion reasons to sell his company. The first reason was a dollar. The second reason was a dollar. And so on.

Come to think of it, when you want to retire in the Star Wars universe, don’t you just disappear into thin air like Yoda and Obi Wan? I guess it’s a bit hard to spend your retirement nest egg when you’re a smiling glowing ghost.

Almost immediately after the announcement, the internet went into hyperdrive with opinions, jokes and amusing pictures from fans worldwide. As I didn’t have the photoshop skills to add Mickey Mouse ears to a picture of Darth Vader (plus half of the planet had already done it) here’s my hilarious contribution to the twitterverse:

Peter Young @chipsareready

What would Disney possibly want with the Star Wars franchise? They already have the successful Black Hole property… #DisneyStarWars

For those of you who don’t speak Geek, I’m referring to Disney’s woeful 1979 Star Wars ripoff, The Black Hole, starring Anthony Perkins (Psycho) and Ernest Borgnine (McHale’s Navy), and featuring the rather craptastic robot duo of V.I.N.C.E.N.T. and Old B.O.B., as well as the Vader-ish Maximilian.

In my head, Disney and Star Wars have been closely linked for years. Way back in the early 90’s, I lined up for hours to ride the Star Tours attraction at Disneyland. One of the first motion simulator rides, Star Tours offered space tourists a trip to the forest moon of Endor which inevitably goes awry when Imperial Star Destroyers attack. The ride has since been closed and replaced last year with a new attraction, Star Tours: The Adventures Continue, which incorporates high definition 3D graphics. Like all great intergalactic adventures, both the original and new Star Tours attractions end in the gift shop.

I don’t think Star Wars devotees have anything to worry about from the takeover by the (Disney) Empire. The Muppets have enjoyed a cinematic revival that satisfied long time fans under the House of Mouse. You also may have seen a small, low budget superhero flick called The Avengers earlier this year. And the name of the production company was…Marvel Studios, a subsidiary of the Walt Disney Company.

A new Star Wars movie, Episode VII, will be released in 2015. Screenwriter Michael Arndt (Little Miss Sunshine, Toy Story 3) has been attached to the project with the director yet to be named. The rumour mill suggests that the storyline may involve characters from the original trilogy.

As a big Star Wars fan, I have no concerns with Disney producing further Star Wars instalments. It’s not as if Lucas was particularly successful with his woeful prequel trilogy. It would be hard for Disney to do any worse. As the Star Wars franchise passes from the control of one Empire to another, rest assured that one universal constant will remain. It surrounds us and penetrates us. It binds the galaxy together… It’s the pursuit of profit.

Avenue TV Commercial

Here is my TV Commercial Directorial Debut!

Orange Theatre Company presents

Avenue Q

5 -7 July 2012

Orange Civic Theatre

Book at the Box Office ph 02 6393 8111 or http://www.ticketek.com.au

Published in: on June 6, 2012 at 07:39  Leave a Comment  
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Alan and my Acting Career

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This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 15th May 2012.

I discovered two things last week. Firstly, my brother likes to search through the funeral notices online in his spare time. Secondly, my agent had passed away.

In the mid-eighties, one of my classmates at Castle Hill Primary School landed himself a role in a movie. I still remember Bradley on the cover of the local paper relaxing in a chair with his feet up. The headline was a dodgy pun about him “sitting pretty” (obviously a Fairfax publication).

The film was an adaption of the then popular school text, Fortress, in which a teacher and students at a remote school are kidnapped by three thugs wearing rubber masks. Eventually the teacher and kids fight back, which is bad news for Father Christmas, Dabby Duck and Pussy Cat who are all dispatched in various gruesome ways.

I’m not entirely sure how this tweener fiction book by Gabrielle Lord was appropriate for children. I guess it was the predecessor of the Tomorrow, When the War Began series or even The Hunger Games books.

I was really keen to find out about moviemaking and straight away befriended Bradley. I quizzed him on every aspect of the filming process on the steps of a demountable classroom one lunchtime and within weeks, I was attending drama classes with him on Saturday mornings.

These classes were run by a Maltese gentleman by the name of Alan Gauci. By sheer coincidence, he had been the principal of the Johnny Young Talent School back in 1980 when my parents sent me to singing, dancing and acting lessons for a term or two.

Alan remembered me, perhaps for my stunning renditions of various versions of Twinkle Twinkle on the violin, Suzuki Method style, at the end of year concert. By stunning, I mean fingernails running down a chalkboard.

The drama lessons were run out of Alan’s house in a converted garage. I remember being really impressed because he owned a video camera, a very expensive high tech item at the time, which was used to film student scenes. Every class would end with a review of our work on TV. Alan, cigarette ever present, would saunter out of his office to comment on our (over)acting.

Alan represented most of his drama students as a talent agent and before long, was my agent too. He’d phone every few weeks with audition details and I’d look forward to hearing his raspy, heavily accented voice because it potentially meant a new adventure and possible some time off school.

My parents were happy to drive me around to auditions and eventually I landed a few small TV roles and then graduated to commercials, lead roles in TV shows and some theatre work. As a kid, the money was fantastic. Alan took ten percent commission, of course. I purchased my first car, a brand new Barina, when I was eighteen, with my child acting career savings.

I’m not entirely sure how Alan influenced my life but I know that he left an impression. I still love the performing arts but not necessarily as a way to make a living. I still hate to watch myself on video. Selling the Barina helped pay for my move to the UK ten years ago. And I wisely gave up the violin in high school.

Thanks for everything Alan. I will always remember your advice and tell everyone that I can ride a horse, even if I can’t, so I have a better chance of landing an acting gig.

Published in: on May 16, 2012 at 12:15  Comments (1)  
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Film Review: Jucy

This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 15th November 2011.

At first glance of the poster, it would be very easy to dismiss Jucy as just another zany low brow Aussie comedy, along the lines of the atrocious You and Your Stupid Mate (2005), however, this new womance (the opposite of bromance) has a strong heart beating behind the humour and may well be the undiscovered (for now) gem of the year.

Directed by Brisbanite Louise Alston (All My Friends are Leaving Brisbane) and scripted by her husband, Stephen Vagg, Jucy is very loosely based on the lives of its stars Francesca Gasteen and Cindy Nelson.

Lucy (Gasteen) and Jackie (Nelson) are two twentysomething outsiders drifting through life. Working together at a Brisbane video store, the best friends are known collectively as “Jucy”. Shunned by their friends in the local amateur theatre group, both set goals to improve their lives and become more acceptable to the mainstream. That is, Lucy aims to get herself a decent job and Jackie wants a boyfriend.

Of course, their paths become complicated by both being cast in a local production of Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre and soon the girls’ friendship is at risk of being torn apart.

Best friends on and off the screen, Gasteen and Nelson have a fabulous chemistry. Both providing input into the script, their banter is incredibly natural and honest, with hilarious results. Any initial expectations of two dimensional sketch comedy caricatures are swept away by believable depictions of funny but flawed characters.

Also impressive is rising actor Ryan Johnson in a supporting comedic role as a self-important wannabe thespian who fakes addictions for attention. It has recently been announced that Johnson has joined the cast of US legal drama Fairly Legal.

Jucy is not just played for laughs. Adding a little bitter to the sweetness is the depiction of Jackie’s mental illness. Coming off her medication mid-plot, her situation spirals even further out of control. Inspired by actress Nelson’s real life struggle, the resolution to this plot strand is ambiguous and one of the few elements of the film that misfires.

A low budget affair, Jucy was shot in just fourteen days. Real locations in Brisbane such as Trash Video and The Arts Theatre were used, as well as the house that Gasteen and Nelson share in real life. Shot in digital with a Panasonic P2 camera, the suburbs have never looked better.

Australian cinematic offerings of late have centred on big, sweeping, historical stories. It is refreshing to be equally as drawn into a smaller story involving average folk.

Jucy has recently been licenced to a US distributor to be available through Amazon.com and Walmart. One has to wonder what your average American will make of this little Aussie film.

Jucy will mostly appeal to female audiences but there are certainly plenty of laughs for the guys too. Stephen Vagg has seemingly managed to capture how women talk when men are not around. Well at least I think he has.

Louise Alston’s apt direction wisely puts the characters before the jokes ensuring that the audience laughs along with the protagonists more often than at them.

Stars Gasteen and Nelson make an appealing comic duo and have the potential to be breakout stars. Let’s hope they continue to work together.

Jucy is currently screening in Orange and is highly recommended for anyone seeking a little home grown respite from fighting robots and toy commercial cinema.

Published in: on November 21, 2011 at 07:15  Leave a Comment  
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Encore Encore

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This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 27th September 2011.

I was fortunate enough this weekend to catch the sold out Tom Burlinson show, Now We’re Swingin’ at the Civic Theatre. Accompanied by a tight eight piece band, Burlinson was in fine voice and proved why he was chosen to provide the voice of Frank Sinatra for the Australian film The Night We Called It a Day.

After two acts of smooth swing standards, Burlinson took his final bow to a rapturous audience, walked off the stage and then immediately returned for an encore. Although well deserved, it was a little disappointing to not get the opportunity to clap, roar and make some noise to at least feel as if we demanded the encore.

Traditionally, the encore was an unplanned event. In olden times, the appreciative audience at an opera, Shakespearean play or hanging would holler and scream until the performer returned to give them some more.

Nowadays, modern audiences expect an encore and it is most certainly planned as part of the set list. Have you ever wondered if it is really possible that your favourite artist has forgotten to play their most popular song, said goodnight and wandered off to their tour bus for an early night in? And then the concert venue staff have neglected to turn the house lights back on?

I’m pretty sure that an encore is part of the contract for most rock and pop live performances. If it is inevitable, why bother with the charade?

I once left a school dance early to check out 90’s indie rockers Ratcat at Patrick’s Nightclub in Pennant Hills. I was already eighteen by this time, but none of my friends were, so when my mate Clive was turned away at the door by security, I ventured in to the club on my own. Towards the end of the set, lead singer, Simon Day, announced that they were obliged to do an encore but, with the audience’s permission, would just play a few extra songs. Nobody objected.

Apparently Elvis never played encores. The cliché, “Elvis has left the building” was the announcement made in concert halls to let audiences know that The King was not coming back. I guess that extra song or two would be a waste of good eating time, especially when fried banana and peanut butter sandwiches are involved.

The not-so-spontaneous encore is not limited to pop and rock acts. During the most recent Australian tour of The Boy From Oz, Todd McKenney would emerge following the curtain call in his dressing gown and not much else to sing a Peter Allen tune as himself, not Peter Allen. With a mostly grey haired demographic in the audience, it obviously went down extremely well. There wasn’t a dry seat in the house.

The modern encore is an outdated performance tool which has grown stale. I guess that says a lot about live music nowadays. With mega light and sound shows controlled via computers, there is not much room for spontaneity. Would you like to read more? Too bad, I’ve left the building.

Tony Awards 2011: a glimpse of shows coming our way, perhaps

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The Tony Awards were handed out last week and from the quality of the ceremony performances, the next few years will be exciting for theatre lovers as the best of Broadway trickles onto our shores.

With Mary Poppins already sliding up the banister at the Capitol Theatre and Hairspray opening officially at Star City this week, Sydneysiders are currently spoilt for choice. Add Jersey Boys to the mix, and the competition for your hard earned theatre dollars is fierce. Interestingly enough, there weren’t any tickets available last week for Mary Poppins but plenty for the Hairspray perviews. Jersey Boys continues to be popular but a new promotion with discounted tickets is a good sign that the pressure is on.

Andrew Lloyd-Webber’s Phantom of the Opera sequel, Love Never Dies, is playing in Melbourne and will surely travel north eventually. With the poorly received London production about to close, the revamped Australian version will soon be the sole production in the world. From Oz, it will head to Broadway.

The eighties hair band jukebox musical, Rock of Ages, is also likely to come our way once it has closed in Melbourne. Unfortunately, Xanadu, the intentionally cheesy musical based on the roller skating Olivia Newton John movie and the music of Electric Light Orchestra’s Jeff Lynne tanked badly there and closed early.

Our new Premier, um, you know, that guy, has also seemingly made securing musicals for Sydney his first priority and has recently announced that The Addams Family musical and a stage adaption of Strictly Ballroom (There are no new steps!) will premiere in NSW.

Rumours abound of the Legally Blonde musical coming to Australia in the near future as well as a remount of Annie. The stage mothers of Oz must be wetting themselves in anticipation.

As for the Tony Award nominees, Daniel Radcliffe surprisingly impressed with some fancy dancing and singing in the 50th anniversary revival of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. This very American musical is unlikely to transfer to Australia. Also with poor odds of coming our way is The Scottsboro Boys, an all black musical performed in a minstrel style, which was nominated for twelve awards despite the fact that it had closed after a disastrous 49 performances. It won none.

I managed to catch Sister Act on the West End last year, which has since transferred to Broadway. The all singing, all dancing nun chorus line in the finale is a must see but the musical itself is so-so. Think The Sound of Music in sequins. I give it fair odds of playing here.

Speaking of movie adaptations, a stylish musical version of Catch Me If You Can was nominated for four Tonys and looks very promising.

The most exciting show of the Broadway year has to be The Book of Mormon, a musical comedy from the makers of South Park. Following the adventures of two Mormon missionaries who are sent to Uganda and encounter a local warlord, this satire has become the must-have ticket on The Great White Way. I suggest you start writing to the Premier to bring this brilliant show to Sydney.

The future looks bright for musical theatre lovers. Let’s just hope we don’t get flooded with shows all at once because Sydney can only sustain one or two mega-musicals at the one time. I know my wallet feels the same way.

Theatre review: Doctor Zhivago

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Casinos are strange places. In the movies they are depicted as the playground of the rich and famous, where men in tuxedos get sexy women to blow on dice before they make a lucky throw, tipping the croupier with a thousand dollar chip on their way to the valet parking to collect their Ferrari. However, for the vast majority of the population, that’s not the experience we get.

The average Joe gets flashing lights, sticky, worn carpets, garish decor and tacky promotions, plus the privilege of paying $25 to park the car. You can sense the desperation in the air. Men in sports jackets hover around the tables. Women sit on stools in front of pokies pressing buttons and staring blankly at the pretty images on the screens. No one seems to be having fun, with the exception of that group on the Hen’s Night. Wow, those beauty pageant sashes are so unique.

That was my experience as I attended the world premiere of Doctor Zhivago at Star City on Saturday night. Apparently famous people such as Jerry Hall were there. I’m glad she wasn’t sitting in front of me. Whilst Jerry evaded me, I did, however, see Maria Venuti and Peter Phelps in their best dress hovering in the foyer. I know that most people would remember Phelps for his turns in Water Rats or Stingers. I prefer his US TV debut as token Aussie lifeguard Trevor Cole in the first season of Baywatch. I should have asked him to run in slow motion for me.

I suppose that I should review the show now. I must admit that I was not at all familiar with the Doctor Zhivago story. I haven’t seen the movie. All I know is that it stars Eddie Murphy and he can talk to the animals.

Although billed as a world premiere, this work was originally produced as Zhivago in San Diego in 2006. Now extensively reworked by composer Lucy Simon (The Secret Garden, a moderately successful musical from 1991) and lyricists Michael Korie and Amy Borden, Doctor Zhivago has been unveiled as a vehicle for star Anthony Warlow.

With a budget of over $5 million, this is a major risk for producer John Frost. With the cheapest tickets in the nosebleed section of the cavernous Lyric Theatre being just under $100, audiences will expect a decent bang for their buck. And this show doesn’t disappoint.

You can literally see the millions of rubles spent on the sumptuous set, which recreates the bleakness of revolutionary Russia with a colour palette of turquoise and greys. Arches, stairs, pillars and train cars roll effortlessly on and off the stage. Projections are also used to great effect, in particular as a rain effect onto the Moscow set.

The cast, led by Warlow, Lucy Maunder and Taneel Van Zyl, are all in fine voice. The onstage chemistry between the leads as they portray the participants in one of literature’s most famous love triangles was very apparent, even from the back of the theatre. Warlow pulled his calf muscle in rehearsals, missing several preview performances, but now fully healed after intensive physiotherapy, makes this role his own, in what may even surpass his iconic turn as the original Australian Phantom of the Opera.

The storyline covers much Russian history in a short space of time as Zhivago survives a World War, the Russian revolution, Civil War and the Chernobyl disaster, the whole time sticking to his idealism and principles. Between loving two women and saving lives as a medic, Doctor Zhivago also finds time to become a prolific Russian poet, although in this adaption his more famous works such The Cat in the Hat and Green Eggs and Ham are not mentioned. Interestingly, Doctor Zhivago takes the opposite ethos to Les Miserables. This time, the revolutionists are the bad guys and we sympathise with the proletariat.

A sign of a good musical is being able to walk away with at least one tune implanted in your head. This show won’t disappoint with several beautiful songs such as Now and On the Edge of Time. The Australian cast recording is in the pipeline and will soon be a must buy for fans of musicals. Enjoy the songs now before they are rendered into cliché by Susan Boyle.

Doctor Zhivago is an immensely enjoyable musical experience which is well worth discovering. See it now at your local casino before it hits Broadway or the West End.

Published in: on February 25, 2011 at 06:27  Leave a Comment  
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Les Miserables: 25 years of revolution

This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 19th October 2010.

One of the world’s most successful musicals celebrates its twenty fifth anniversary this year and plans are already underway to mark the occasion.

Les Misérables is based on the classic 1862 novel by Victor Hugo. It was originally written as a French language production in 1980 by composer Claude-Michel Schönberg and lyricist Alain Boublil. Produced by theatre impresario Cameron Mackintosh, the English adaption opened in October 1985 at the Barbican Centre in London. Initially receiving largely negative reviews, the production was warmly embraced by theatre goers and the show was a major box office success.

Twenty six years later, that original London production is still running at the Queen’s Theatre, where it celebrated its ten thousandth performance on January 5 this year. Hundreds of musicians and performers have passed through the London production. Only one musician, the drummer from the original London cast album, Peter Boita, remains with the production.

Of course, the show soon spread worldwide. On Broadway it ran for 6680 performances over sixteen years. In Australia, the original production, which starred Normie Rowe, Debra Byrne, Anthony Warlow and Philip Quast, ran between 1987 and 1989. In the early nineties, the production was made available to amateur companies and Orange Theatre Company was one of the first to produce the show in 1994, and again in 2002.

On October 3 this year, Les Misérables set another record, with an amazing three productions being performed at different venues in London. Besides the standard West End production, a UK touring 25th Anniversary Tour production was also playing at the original home of the London show, the Barbican Centre. At the immense O2 Arena (formally the Millennium Dome), which seats 23000 people, a 25th Anniversary Concert was also being staged.

The concert was certainly an all-star affair with a cast that included Filipino singing sensation Lea Salonga as Fantine, Nick Jonas of Jonas Brothers fame as Marius, current Phantom in Love Never Dies Ramin Karimloo as Enjolras and Little Britain’s Matt Lucas as Thénardier. With a cast of over three hundred performers and musicians, the concert also featured appearances from the original 1985 cast, the 25th Anniversary Tour cast and the current West End production cast.

Australian Les Misérables fans will also be able to participate in the celebrations with the 25th Anniversary Concert being shown on the big screen in cinemas this Thursday, October 21. Shot in high definition, the concert version should be spectacular, in particular the second encore which features four Jean Valjeans leading the ensemble in One Day More. If sitting in the cinema for three hours is not appealing, the concert is also scheduled for release on DVD and blu-ray disc in the UK in November with a subsequent Australian release also very likely.

Whilst Les Misérables may not be my favourite show, it was recently voted the UK’s favourite musical, receiving forty percent of the vote. There certainly is something embedded in the show which is very powerful thematically and musically. It has a strange way of rousing the human spirit in an audience. The longest running musical in history shows no sign of ending.

Published in: on October 19, 2010 at 11:03  Leave a Comment  
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