Monday 10 November 2014

The Pajama Game

Gold Coast Little Theatre

Saturday 8th November 2014

Well as much as it pains me to type the word “pyjama” with an “a” (the American spelling) I have to say my annoyance ends there. Last night the Gold Coast Little Theatre opened it’s musical production for 2014 and I think it will be a hit with audiences.

The Pajama Game first opened on Broadway in 1954 and ran for well over 1000 performances – a day when, I suppose an extra 7½ cents an hour really would have made a difference to an employee’s pay packet. The story made it’s mark internationally in 1957 when Warner Bros released the movie version of the same name starring the ever-pure Doris Day in the lead role of Babe, (a name that since 1995 will forevermore, sadly, be associated with a singing pig!)

It’s a sweet and simple story (based on the novel 7½ Cents by Richard Bissell) of a burgeoning romance and a union dispute both brewing in a pyjama factory in a time of Dictaphones, big petty coats and corny company picnics! The musical (originally choreographed by the legendary Bob Fosse) is a celebration of love, understanding and all things good from that era.

In this production, Director Stuart Lumsden has worked hard to fit the action and varied 
Chris Catherwood & Louise Harris
locations into a static set. The movement of numerous well-designed set pieces helps transport us from workroom to office to kitchen. The colour palette used in the lovely set finishing and costuming is really attractive and clearly well considered.

The charming Louise Harris carries the lead role with all the saccharine delight of her famous predecessors: her voice is simply stunning and, like her character, her performance is strong. Chris Catherwood plays the firm but fair superintendent, Mr Sorokin with equal aplomb. However, as with many such stories, it’s the support characters that are given the best opportunities to shine. In this case, Becky Morgan and Leigh Harrison step up to the plate quite beautifully as Gladys the ditsy secretary and Hines, the ever-jealous, knife-throwing workshop timekeeper. Ms Morgan’s accent is wonderful and her “tragic drunk” scene in act II is an absolute joy.

The show is performed entirely to quality backing tracks. While this offers a nice, big orchestral sound not possible in a small theatre space, it is not necessarily easy on the performers and does have its drawbacks. It’s an age-old problem, I know. Maybe the mic plot needs to be re-considered so that performers who have lines in a particular song are wearing a mic, and those who do not, are not! It’s just a little sad that some vocals are being lost under the amplified music. As one patron commented: Why can I hear the typewriter but not half of the lines?” Technically there were a few minor issues on Opening Night but I have no doubt they will be arrested before the next performance. (Note to follow spot operators: Please aim before powering up your lamp!)

Lee Pattersen & Leigh Harrison

This show is full of colour and movement and some lovely, recognisable songs: it’s bright, fun and entertaining … and now that the tram is running, the fences are down and after-hours parking is free, is well worth the trip into Southport.

By the way – a bit of Broadway trivia. For all of those “chorus girls” out there dreaming of being up front one day, it was the original Pajama Game that gave rise to one of the brightest stars in the world of entertainment today. She was “just in the chorus” but when Carol Haney (in the comic support role of Gladys) broke her ankle, the long-legged dancer and potential showbiz legend, was asked to step out of the chorus and go on in Haney’s place. She played the role of Gladys for several months and was subsequently spotted by producer Hal Wallis who instantly offered her a contract at Paramount Pictures in Hollywood. Carol Haney never enjoyed the success of that chorus girl – known and admired the world-over today as Shirley MacLaine.

Monday 3 November 2014

The Bombshells

The Village Theatre, Sanctuary Cove

Saturday 1st November, 2104


Last night I experienced two exciting “firsts” – I attended my first show at the charming Village Theatre, Sanctuary Cove … and I met the wonderful stage and cabaret performer, Katherine Rodrigues. I attended the opening night of her new show, The Bombshells.
Gold Coast "Bombshell" Katherine Rodriguez

No, not the play of a similar name by Joanna Murray-Smith, but in the self-scripted and directed musical production The Bombshells, Ms Rodrigues explores the lives and the music of the “grand dames” of the music business … and laments their all-too-often early demises. Marilyn Munro, Judy Garland, Whitney Huston … plus the slightly better preserved, Liza Minnelli and the legendary Dolly Parton.

Accompanied by a seamless blend of quality backing tracks and the extremely talented Musical Director, Joel Nicholas Curtis on the keyboard, Ms Rodrigues belts out and dances her way through some of the afore-mentioned bombshells’ classic hit songs. Four energetic young dancers maintain a level of energy and movement – their choreography by Michelle Wriggles tying in beautifully with the story being told in words and song by this multi-skilled leading lady.

Whilst the audio struggles at time to cope with her powerful voice, the show is tight, beautifully dressed and well structured. Sanctuary Cove is not that far away and I’d suggest you all head up there for an enjoyable show and a great meal afterwards at one of the numerous fine nosheries on offer in the immediate precinct. The best part is – there’s an abundance of parking – and it’s free.

Saturday 18 October 2014


Helensvale Cultural Centre

October 16th, 2014

Daniel Murphy & Monette Lee

It seems appropriate that with Mental Health being so widely represented in the media recently, Purple Pear Productions has just started their World Premiere, S.E. Queensland tour of a new play entitled Shrinks by award-winning playwright, Timothy Daly.

This charming and insightful three-hander follows the professional and personal trials of a husband & wife team, both psychiatrists, trying to manage the alleged mental illness of the same handsome young patient. Mr. Dayly uses the analogy of the butterfly flitting gracefully but momentarily into an otherwise still garden in his cleverly constructed script, as a reminder that there is always beauty around us if only we take the time to look for it.

Daniel Murphy & Jason Bently
Director Michelle Miall has put together a very strong cast including local theatre regular Monette Lee and Daniel Murphy as the embattled “shrinks” and Jason Bentley as the “very easy to fall in love with” Brazilian patient, Carl. Ms Miall’s direction is powerful and filled with subtle meaning – her blocking of the three actors is beautifully paced and the small set is masterfully used to its to its utmost potential.

Technically the show is strong: Ken Robertson’s set is simple and effective and while I found it a bit strange that the curtains are hung on the outside of the window, the set and dressing nicely serve to support the performers and not upstage them. The lighting, on the other hand, is a little upstaging at times as the lighting state and colour temperature change with irregular monotony and for no apparent reason.

However I really enjoyed Shrinks: I always enjoy good performances, clever writing and a play that makes me think. It seems the universe does have a way to send us reminders when we need them: the problem may not always be where we first perceive it to be and that sometimes it’s the victim who becomes the rescuer.

Monday 1 September 2014

Romeo & Juliet

Gold Coast Little Theatre

30th August 2014


I must be honest – it was with a sense of apprehension that I attended the Gold Coast Little Theatre for the opening night of their latest production: one of Shakespeare’s best known and oft’ quoted plays, the romantic tragedy Romeo & Juliet

It was once said that “Shakespeare should be studied by all actors and played by but a few”. Meaning, of-course, when it is performed well, the work of Shakespeare is magic to behold - when it’s poorly played it grates like fingernails down a chalkboard. I am delighted to report that not only was this recent community incarnation, on the whole well played – it flowed well and was really quite enjoyable.

Jack Harbour & Stephanie Toft
In the lead roles are local theatre regular, Jack Harbour and relative newcomer, Stephanie Toft. While I think it’s fair to say that Miss Toft may have suffered a little from “first night nerves” (she raced much of her dialogue and often spoke upstage or simply too quietly to be heard – that should correct itself when she relaxes) her performance was convincing and generally a stirring effort for her “first outing”. Mr Harbour (of whom I’ve been impressed in the past) stepped up a number of notches in my esteem last night: his Romeo was charismatic, truly heartfelt and thoroughly entertaining.

In the pivotal role of Friar Laurence was the well-experienced Rob Horton. Again, Mr Horton gave a commanding and passionate performance (clearly one of the afore-mentioned “few”). The remainder of the ensemble carried their roles well: some were cast and played just as one might expect – others not so. But that’s one of the joys of Shakespeare: it’s flexible and lends itself to interpretation.

Artistically too, director / designer James Anderson chose to be experimental, although I’m not quite so convinced that these trials paid off so well. As one theatregoer was overheard to comment at the opening night after-party: “Won’t it be lovely when they get the sets, props and costumes!” Now I’m not opposed to simplistic staging, especially when working on a tight budget but was it really necessary to mime key hand props? The set itself consisted of an under-utilised (and rather unattractive) large grey staircase and three single grey flats – against a black floor & drapes. The cast were all dressed in their own contemporary street wear and the entire dressing list comprised of a single bed and one chair. There was a solitary red helium balloon on the stage left apron (supposedly a reference to the heart-shaped red balloon on the poster) but to what end? It did nothing, was never referred to … did I miss something?

Chris King’s lighting was adventurous and innovative. While there was the odd missed cue, dark-spot or curiously over-lit scene, I applaud the effort and again, I suspect it will tighten up as the show beds in a little.

However, if you’ve never seen a production of a Shakespeare play, I’d suggest this would be as good as any to begin with. The audience laughed, they cried and applauded loudly – clearly they enjoyed the show. Don’t be intimidated by the language - give it a go … you might just enjoy it too.

Photos: Shane Caddaye