Tag Archives: drama

Preview: ‘An Officer and A Gentleman’

6 May

Ben Mingay and Amanda Harrison in ‘An Officer and A Gentleman’. Picture courtesy of the official website.

Based on the Academy-Award winning movie, An Officer and A Gentleman, the musical, is set to world premiere on May 18th.

The new musical, adapted to the stage by screenwriter Douglas Day Stewart, is led by a talented cast including Ben Mingay from Jersey Boys and Amanda Harrison, best known for her role as Alphaba in Wicked.  Mingay and Harrison star as the show’s lead characters – Zack Mayo and Paula Pokrifki.

The timeless love story is about a young man who wants to make a better life for himself as a naval officer and a factory worker who dreams of finding something more.  The 1982 film starring Richard Gere and Debra Winger received outstanding success as “a classic modern day love story about a working class boy and girl who must overcome their upbringing and personal weaknesses to accept life and love” (An Officer and a Gentleman the musical’s official website).

Although not originally a musical, the stage version of An Officer and A Gentleman promises to deliver spectacular performances with a sensational soundtrack by Ken Hirsch and Robin Lerner.

Also starring Alex Rathgeber (Phantom of the Opera) as Sid Worley, Zack’s fellow officer candidate and friend, and Kate Kendell (Next to Normal) as Lynette Pomeroy, Paula’s best friend.

With much of the plot based around the naval academy training, the cast is required to be extremely fit, so rehearsals involved military-style boot-camp.  Check out Alex Rathgeber’s blog.

A lot has gone into the creation of this brand new musical.  Here’s a look behind the scenes of the set design:

With only a few days left until the first preview for An Officer and A Gentleman, here’s a sneak peek of what we can expect:

And here’s a look back at the original film:

An Officer and A Gentleman – Stage Whispers


Theatre’s history is worth it’s weight in gold.

28 Apr

The Opera House when it was originally built in the 1870s. Picture by Gulgong Information Centre.

“Rough-built theatres and stages where the world’s best actors trod, Singers bringing reckless rovers nearer boyhood, home and God, Paid in laughter, tears and nuggets in the drama fortune plays – ‘Tis the palmy days of Gulgong – Gulgong in the Roaring Days.” – Henry Lawson

Henry Lawson wrote about it, Dame Nellie Melba sang there and boxer Les Darcy fought there – the Gulgong Prince of Wales Opera House is rich in history and continues to provide the town with entertainment.

Built in 1871, the unassuming building situated in the centre of town, holds the title of Australia’s longest running performing arts theatre.

Over 140 years on, the building hasn’t changed all that much, not unlike the rest of the historic town, whose narrow streets and charming weatherboard buildings look as though they belong to a time long-gone.

Born on the rough goldfields, the Prince of Wales Opera House was originally a bark structure with a dirt floor and no roof, built by John Cogden during Gulgong’s thriving goldrush days.  At a time when Gulgong’s population was up to 20,000, the theatre was doing a roaring trade.  People flocked from the goldfields to be entertained by some of the world’s greatest actors, singers and dancers.

Booking organiser for the Opera House, Brian Cook, says that Cogden and his business partner, international actress Joey Gougenheim, were running two shows a day, seven days a week.

The Opera House as it is today. Picture by Gulgong Information Centre.

“They were making pretty good money,” Mr Cook says.

“I’ve seen some old programs and they say they can fit 2000 people in here, which I very much doubt, but maybe 1000, and the minimum price was two and sixpence, so if you work that out they had a pretty good income each day.”

“It’d be better money than you could make these days,” Mr Cook says laughing.

Gulgong’s population is now just over 2,000 and the Opera House seats only 340, however it continues to be used for everything from plays to concerts to movie nights and for the local Eisteddfod.

“During a typical year of 365 days, it’s probably used about 150 of those days,” Mr Cook says.

The theatre is the home of the local Musical and Dramatic Society (MADS), who usually put on a theatre restaurant or one act plays every year, which are very popular amongst the locals.  Not only do MADS use the opera, but they also own and run it.

Mr Cook, also a member of the MAD Society, says up until the early seventies the opera house was being primarily used as a movie theatre, however, with the introduction of TV, it was in decline.

“That’s how our Music and Dramatic Society came to take over the building because they were going to demolish it,” Mr Cook says.

Mr Cook says that the MAD Society are very lucky to be one of the few dramatic societies that own their own theatre.

“We pay a whole two dollars for membership, so it’s pretty heavy,” says Mr Cook laughing.

“Our major expense is insurance of course, because it’s a national trust building so that’s why we’ve got to run the shows, not only because of that but because we love doing it.”

The rustic building oozes character and charm.  The red velvet curtains are over a hundred years old, the blue-patterned velvet seats lining the rows are as old as they are uncomfortable and the wooden floorboards creak as you walk.  Some locals swear the place is haunted by the ghosts of those that had once trod the stage.  The original iron bark roof creates such impressive acoustics that microphones aren’t needed.

Mr Cook believes that is part of the appeal and why it has attracted some first class musicians such as pianist Roger Woodward and trumpeter James Morrison, who regularly return to perform here.

“We get good artists wanting to use it in between our shows,” Mr Cook says.

“We’ve got John Waters coming up in June, so that’s another major show.”

Review: ‘Summer of the Seventeenth Doll’

26 Mar

Steve Le Marquand and Travis McMahon in ‘Summer of the Seventeenth Doll’. Photo by Jeff Busby.

As someone who had never seen Summer of the Seventeenth Doll, I had no expectations before taking my seat, which was refreshingly rare.  With that said, however, I was aware that it is considered an iconic Australian classic, about four friends who spent the summer months in a house in Carlton together.  Walking out of that theatre though, numb from so much raw emotion, I can now say that The Doll is about so much more than I originally anticipated.

Set in Melbourne in 1953, Summer of the Seventeenth Doll opens to a stage transformed into a rather bare, old 1950s living room, which is decorated entirely with kewpie dolls.  The dolls represent a tradition of souvenirs brought back from the Queensland cane fields by Roo and Barney – a doll every summer for 17 years, hence the name.

Every year cane-cutters Roo and Barney have made the trip from Queensland to Melbourne to spend the ‘lay-off’ season with two local barmaids.  The foursome spend those five months of the year partying and enjoying their freedom. In the 17th year of their annual get-together, things are different.

Nancy, one of the barmaids, gets married, so her absence leaves a gaping hole in the once cozy set-up.  Pearl, a prissy mother, is recruited by Olive to fill that hole in a desperate attempt to continue the long-established tradition.

Unfortunately, it is clear to all, except a naive Olive, that things have changed and so the story unfolds with devastating consequences as the characters question themselves and realise that despite their best efforts to avoid it, time has caught up with them.  The 17th summer is the summer of growing up and letting go.

The remarkable cast of Summer of the Seventeenth Doll really bring this story to life.  Better actors could not be imagined to recreate this classic tale.  Each member of the highly-credited cast brings something unique to their character, each of whom are well-established.

Steve Le Marquand is brooding and manly as Roo, whose pride is everything, including his downfall.  Travis McMahon, who plays Barney, offsets the strong Roo with his boyish, often pathetic charms and larrikin nature.  The strong dynamic between Le Marquand and McMahon works well to create the tension between Roo and Barney, which comes to a shattering head in the fight scene – an intense display of masculinity.

It is the women, however, who steal the show.

Helen Thompson’s uptight Pearl is a favourite with her wit and humour, instantly lightening the often depressing mood.  Thomson brilliantly toes the line between being annoyingly disapproving and judgemental to the much-needed comic relief. The character of Pearl is a nice contrast to romantic Olive.

Blazey Best was made to play Olive, whose childish idealistic views leave her deep in denial of the wreck the 17th summer has become.  Best skilfully brings a great deal of depth to Olive, who is blind to the changes in her life, refusing to grow up when everyone else is around her.  Best is tough and stubborn, while at the same time dreamy and innocent.  She brings so much emotion to Olive, which comes to a gut-wrenching climax in the final scene.  Sprawled on the floor, so desperate, her moaning sobs echoing throughout the theatre, while everyone is left holding their breath, waiting for a happy ending – one that doesn’t come.

Robyn Nevin’s character Emma, the wise elderly mother of Olive, runs the boarding house.  Nevin proves her experience with a humorous yet, worldly rendition of Emma, who along with Pearl provides comic-relief in her snide remarks and witty opinions.

The youngest members of the cast, Eloise Winestock as Bubba and James Hoare as Johnnie Dowd, also provide outstanding performances.  Their youthfulness contrasts with the rest of the cast, and acts as a reminder that Olive, Roo and Barney are no longer as young as they think or act.

Everything about this play is realistic – from the simple set and the vintage costumes to the breeze blowing the curtain of the open window and the smell of bacon frying.  The typically Australian ocker-accent of the ‘olden days’, is used heavily, but adds to the authenticity of the drama.

As someone who has never seen Summer of the Seventeenth Doll, I can appreciate its timelessness and its relevance today.  It is a story that everyone, of all ages and from all times can relate to – about growing up, or refusing to grow when everyone else around you is moving on.  It’s about a resistance to change which is inevitable.  Director Neil Armfield, has done a wonderful job in recreating this masterpiece.  As an audience we bear witness to a significant time in the characters’ lives that is so intimate – full of change and upheaval, which is portrayed by the actors in such as a way that we immediately feel empathy towards them, drawn into the drama as more than witnesses.  It makes you question your own life and whether you can really see if for what it is, or whether we too are blinded by rose-tinted glasses.

To sum-up, I must borrow the words, as I can’t put it better myself:

“There are plenty of jokes but Summer of the Seventheeth Doll is a cynical and bruising work. It exists in a nebulous distance between classes and aspirations, an intersection between past and progress where nostalgic memories combined with cold realities of an imagined future provide prisons for the characters, partly self-made, partly societal, and fully, in some context, shared with audiences.

It packs a powerful punch, and Lawler’s words have a lot of swing left in them.” (Luke Buckmaster, Crikey http://blogs.crikey.com.au/curtaincall/2012/01/20/review-summer-of-the-seventeenth-doll-playhouse-melbourne/)

More reviews:

REVIEW: Summer of the Seventeenth Doll – Crikey

Review: Summer of the Seventeenth Doll – Brisbane Times

Review: Summer of the Seventeenth Doll – Theatre Notes

Summer of the Seventeenth Doll – The Age

Summer of the Seventeenth Doll – Stage Noise

Preview: ‘Summer of the Seventeenth Doll’

19 Mar

‘Summer of the Seventeenth Doll’. Photo courtesy of the Illawarra Performing Arts Centre.

One of the most iconic Australian plays is coming to Wollongong this week as part of the Illawarra Performing Arts Centre’s 2012 season.

Written by Ray Lawler and first performed in 1955, Summer of the Seventeenth Doll is considered one of the first plays to distinctly portray Australian life.

Centred around four main characters, who meet in a house they share in Carlton every summer, the play is set during the seventeenth annual summer the protagonists share together.  This summer, however, is different.

Director Neil Armfield revives this classic tale, starring Blazey Best, James Hoare, Steve Le Marquand, Travis McMahon, Robyn Nevin, Helen Thompson and Eloise Winestock.

Opening night of the Belvoir Theatre company’s production of Summer of the Seventeenth Doll is Wednesday 21st March at Wollongong’s IPAC theatre.  The performance ends on Saturday 24th.