Wednesday, 27 November 2013 15:50

The Nutcracker: Ballet In Preview

Embarking on a magical journey to the Kingdom Of Sweets to meet the Sugar Plum Fairy, Nutcracker Alec Roberts prepares to dance his way into our hearts.

“For me it's a lot about music and what I respond to. I really like the 'Snow Pas' which is the scene where the Prince and the Snow Queen do a dance together. The music and choreography just moulds so well and I was fortunate enough to understudy that role and I really love it. Another scene is the ‘Grand Pas’ at the end where Sugar Plum and her Cavalier dance together, Tchaikovsky's music is so beautiful — it's stunning.

“Also because it is [set during] Christmas time I think that lends massive appeal. The ballet is so encompassing of such a variety of target audiences, everyone is going to enjoy it. So the choice was a no-brainer really.”

Performed on myriad occasions by ballet companies all over the world, the everlasting spark of imagination makes 'The Nutcracker' a timeless classic. “Ben Stevenson's version is regarded as one of the best in the world and it's not been [performed] in Australia yet. There are certainly a lot of magical tricks — without giving too much away – it's elaborate.”

An ethereal symphony, extravagant set and costumes designed to sparkle transform the stage into a transcendental masterpiece. “There has been many a costume fitting for all of us, there are just so many costumes! There is so much detail in them and it's a colourful production — it's not bland by any means. It's Christmas themed so it is joyful.”

Chasing perfection is a constant struggle for dancers, and Alec says he’s learning to balance perfectionism with just letting go and enjoying. “There has been a lot of practice involved in the Nutcracker role, especially because there is a lot of sword fighting. So it was interesting being new to having to fence and learning fencing skills and then cutting over to doing an hour of dancing.”

'The Nutcracker' will be performed at QPAC December 5-21.

Published in Ballet
Wednesday, 11 September 2013 14:09

Freeze Frame: Possible Odds

Three-time Emmy award-winning choreographer Debbie Allen will theatrically transform QPAC into the tough streets of Los Angeles when ‘Freeze Frame’ makes its world premiere at Brisbane Festival.

“‘Freeze Frame’ is all about the challenges that young people growing up in LA face when their lives collide with police and gangs and education and religion and love and just the disenfranchisement by virtue of their cultural identity and their zip code,” Ms Allen explains with passion.

The production, which fuses music, dance and theatre has been choreographed, written and directed by Debbie, whose illustrious life and career includes playing the legendary Lydia Grant in ‘Fame’, projects with Michael Jackson and Sammy Davis Jr, ten years choreographing the Oscars, judging on ‘So You Think You Can Dance (USA)’, and directing key episodes of ‘Gray’s Anatomy’.

“I have grown up in LA all my adult life and as much as I was admired and celebrated and working, all the time I always knew how it felt to be marginalised. I was upset by the loss of some young people feeling like they didn’t have a future and I knew that something had to be done about that.”

So she did. She capitalised on her years of expertise in the performing arts and established the Debbie Allen Dance Academy (DADA) in South Central LA — a haven for local kids experiencing life’s harshest realities.

“So that’s what ‘Freeze Frame’ is about — it’s about young people and how some of them are changing their lives through dance and the arts and how that can change and uplift their lives, but at the end of the day it’s also about the tragic events that they are witnessing daily.”

In ‘Freeze Frame’, these incredibly talented kids will take the stage and share their true stories as part of an electric cast from LA and Australia that includes Ms Allen herself.

“I’ve always been working with young people and I started DADA because I love dance and I wanted to see how I could offer this to young people who deserve the opportunity, as there is such inequity in education and art opportunities for young people in places that are economically challenged. There’s a cast of 29 in ‘Freeze Frame’, and of that 29 there’s probably about 15 or so that are current or graduating students of the academy and I’m actually playing two parts — the wife of Rev. Bishop Washington who has a huge ministry in Los Angeles and also that of Rosanna, a black American/Mexican American who’s the grandma of a young boy haunted by gang members.”

The project was initiated when Brisbane Festival Artistic Director Noel Staunton was moved by the realities in LA and approached Debbie Allen to bring the project to life.

“We started working on it over seven years ago when we first met — he came to see me in Atlanta when I was directing an adaption of ‘Oliver Twist’ and we started working on it back then, then we kind of put it away and pulled it back out again.”

It’s a collaboration that has facilitated a close bond and seen Ms Allen making the arduous trips between LA and Brisbane.

“I truly admire Noel and can’t praise him enough for being such a visionary in guiding not only this festival to its international status but also the way he midwifes great work and nurtures stories that need to be told. He is truly brilliant… I just love the theatre culture in Australia, which is so dynamic and with an audience that is open and looking for new experiences.”

‘Freeze Frame’ boasts a powerful musical component with a soundtrack that bounces between hip hop, soul, gospel and R&B led by musical director Rickey Minor whose credits include ‘American Idol’, the Grammy Awards and numerous superstar tours including Christina Aguilera, Beyonce and Ray Charles.

“It’s music, it’s dance, it’s theatre, it’s also film and I’d have to say that it’s every aspect of my upbringing. I have trained in the classics as a young student, translating Homer at Howard University and I trained in many techniques of dance from modern to ballet and then I became a film director so I’m using all the aspects that I learnt and have developed in myself as an artist and it’s the first time that I’m using all that in one production.”

As the project’s developed, Debbie has drawn correlation between the disadvantages faced by youth in LA to the plight faced by young Aboriginals in Australia.

“You have an entire nation, a culture of the Indigenous Australians that can relate to this very directly. That are marginalised by ethnic identity and where they live, I know Brisbane is looking inward to make changes on that, but it’s a long road and a very relevant story for Australia.”

Debbie will also be bringing her own singing group for a performance at QPAC the Sunday before ‘Freeze Frame’ opens.

“It’s called Kids Crew and it’s a group of young people who sing and dance who are going to have a concert down on the grounds at QPAC right before the light show.”

This year’s Brisbane Festival wants to hold up a mirror to society and tell these stories in an honest and creative way, through raw, striking and emotional art that uses the human body as a canvas.

“We believe ‘Freeze Frame’ is a truly powerful piece that’s going to want to be seen in many parts of the world. Dance is a language that is spoken all over, I remember as a child wanting to speak it, to learn it, and I’m still discovering it. I want to offer young people the same opportunities, as they deserve what I call the greatest gift — a possibility.”

Freeze Frame runs from September 19 – 22 at QPAC’s Playhouse Theatre.

Published in Urban
Thursday, 29 August 2013 10:12

When Time Stops Tickets

Following on from her award winning works ‘Where The Heart Is’ and ‘R&J’, Expressions Dance Company Artistic Director Natalie Weir brings audiences her most ambitious work to date, ‘When Time Stops’, running from September 6-14 at the QPAC Playhouse.

This heart stopping new work opens the floodgates on those achingly personal yet intensely dramatic life-defining events; new life, loss, love and longing; ‘When Time Stops‘ is an ethereal voyage of life-changing moments told through the eyes of a woman.

To win one of three double passes to the 7.30pm performance on Saturday September 7 This competition has closed.
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1. Winners will be drawn at random at 4pm Tuesday 3rd September at Level 2, 192-210 Brunswick Street, Fortitude Valley. [Winners drawn]
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Published in Competition
Wednesday, 07 August 2013 12:48

Tequila Mockingbird Tickets

From the multi-award winning team behind shake & stir’s '1984' and 'Animal Farm', comes a brand new production, 'Tequila Mockingbird'.

The Australian premiere season of 'Tequila Mockingbird' plays the Queensland Performing Arts Centre’s Cremorne Theatre stage, for a strictly limited season from August 21 to September 7.

Set in a small Australian town, 'Tequila Mockingbird' tells the story of the racist underbelly that rears its ugly head after a young woman is attacked and the small community targets a young Indian contractor who has recently relocated to the area. Only one local man possesses the strength and conviction to uncover the truth and defend the accused in the ultimate fight for what’s right.

To win a double pass (valued at $104) to the Friday August 23 QPAC performance This competition has closed.
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Terms and Conditions:

1. Winners will be drawn at random at 3pm Tuesday 13th August at Level 2, 192-210 Brunswick Street, Fortitude Valley. [Winner drawn]
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3. Winners must arrange to collect the prize from Scene Magazine's offices at Level 2, 192-210 Brunswick Street, Fortitude Valley, during business hours.
4. Entrants' email address will not be used for any other purpose except the conduct of this competition.

Published in Competition
Wednesday, 17 July 2013 16:56

War Horse: Theatre In Review

The National Theatre of Great Britain's hit production 'War Horse', based on a novel by Michael Morpurgo, is a truly spectacular show.

'War Horse' tells the story of Joey, the beloved horse of a boy called Albert. Joey is sold by his father to the cavalry at the outbreak of World War I and shipped to France and is taken on a journey, serving on both sides before finding himself trapped alone in no-man's land. But back home, Albert cannot forget his horse and, even though not officially old enough to enlist, he embarks on a treacherous mission to find Joey and bring him back safely. With such an emotionally wrenching storyline and with the added element of war, the simplicity of the set was an excellent choice. Changes occurred through projection screens, fog and lighting and was very effective allowing the story to flow without interruption.

The lighting and the deafening sounds of war, as well as the force of the images on the screen, made the experience feel hyper real and I felt like I was in the war zone and alongside Joey ploughing the field. I cried when Joey was sent to war. I cried when Joey and Albert were united. So the moments of light comic banter provided a welcome relief.

I also want to make special mention of the  horsemen puppeteers who became the horse, who made me forget that the horses were puppets. Through their body movements, they captured every detail of a horse’s movement — every characteristic and subtle nuance of each horse from the flickering of the ears, the stance, the head movements, the tapping of the foot to the feelings pain when they were injured or exhausted. A truly remarkable and uplifting experience. Do not miss this.

'War Horse' is at the Lyric Theatre, QPAC until August 4.

Published in Theatre
Wednesday, 22 May 2013 17:50

A Clockwork Orange Tickets

Action To The Word’s critically acclaimed, all-male theatrical production of Anthony Burgess’ ground-breaking novel ‘A Clockwork Orange’ will tour Australia this month.

“The show itself is very full-on, a roller-coaster,” says British actor Martin McCreadie. “By the end it's just all about that moral question of 'is it right, no matter how evil somebody is, to actually do that [aversion treatment] to somebody?'”

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3. Entrants' e-mail address will not be usd for any other purpose except the conduct of this competition.

Published in Competition
Wednesday, 13 March 2013 14:43

Bach St Matthew Passion: Opera In Preview

Not the same old song and dance, the contemporary revival of ‘St Matthew Passion’ shakes up Opera Queensland. 

Throwing out the book and performing in plain clothes, audiences will get a chance to experience Bach’s cantata on literally a whole new level when seeing the orchestra play not in front of, but on the stage. Tobias (Toby) Cole singing alto says the modern twist will allow audiences to see past the story we know and have the chance to really take in the characters and their emotions.

“I think there’s great potential for it to really connect with audience. We know the story already but we really don't think about the relationships between the characters the way you might think about in a film or play. We think of this guy suffering on a cross, but what does the word suffering really mean?”

Working with director Lindy Hume and renowned conductor Graham Abbott, Toby says 'St Matthew Passion' will be unlike anything audiences have seen before.

“It’s so special. They have such a respect for each other and an understanding and have a history of working with each other on shows together. It’s a very inclusive process and Graham is very involved in following the choreography, and Lindy is very attentive to the music, so it’s great. I worked with both of them on a project thirteen years ago in 2000, so in a way that’s kind of when I did my audition”

Audiences won’t only be able to watch a unique re-interpretation of a classic opera, but there is plenty to be learnt as well.

“The thing that I'm interested in is how the main character is deserted by his followers, and that’s what ends the first part of the passion of Christ. He's taken away by the authorities and no-one comes to his aid. This is really interesting because we see crowd and mob rules taking over all the time and see how people react differently when they're in a group compared to when they are by themselves — it’s a classic thing with youth culture on a Saturday night. You've got to think of other individuals and I think a lot of people find that really hard to do, so this production will really help encourage that.”

As with any well-known performance, there will always be pressure to perform to the standards already held by some audiences. Whilst there is no way around it, Toby says you can only ever really stay true to yourself and give 100% when performing.

“I've got to warm up hugely every day, and warm the whole body. It’s the back, the eyes which really need to be alert, and I have to have gone through the score. I always have to go through every note, it doesn’t have to be sung, but I just have to have visually or mentally gone through every bit so that it’s been refreshed in my mind. It’s definitely a challenge.

“There are hundreds of interpretations out there but I will just have to do my own interpretation and stay true to that and I think people will respect that. That’s a strength and a weakness when doing popular work. People will always compare with what they know, but it empowers the audience in a way because they can say if they like it or if they don’t, then they know why.”

See Bach 'St Matthew Passion' at QPAC March 21 – 23.
Published in Opera
Wednesday, 08 August 2012 15:51

1984: Theatre In Preview

'1984' written by George Orwell follows Winston Smith, a man living in a society consumed in endless war, all-pervading surveillance and hatred.

A land where to think the wrong thought is a crime punishable by “vaporisation”. Every trace of a man can disappear overnight and all the work he has ever done and people he has ever known are rubbed out of existence.

Winston, our hero of sorts, seeks something more than his robotic and hate-filled life. The story has, for the first time in Australia, been adapted for the stage and Ross Balbuziente (Co Artistic Director) is extremely happy with the results.

“It's a huge challenge that really excites us. We did 'Animal Farm' [George Orwell] last year and I guess the same pressure was on our shoulders when we created that show, as it was also the first Australian adaptation. It has given us the courage to take on '1984'.”

Ross feels that the audience will bear witness to a unique piece of theatre. Whilst staying true to the original book, the work will play with the concepts of perpetual fear, tension and surveillance.

“We don't believe this style [of theatre] has been seen often in Brisbane, or indeed Australia. We have 12 huge plasma screens, as technology and surveillance obviously play a major role in '1984', so it's great to be able to play around with those mediums.

"It presents us with a lot of challenges, but also with some fantastic opportunities to explore the concept of constant surveillance. The screens will be present throughout the entire production, as they are in Oceana [the land in which '1984' is set].”

For the upcoming run of shows in Brisbane, Ross and his company counterparts have assembled the majority of the cast and crew of the very well received 'Animal Farm'.

“It is really exciting to be able to bring almost the entire creative team back. For example Bryan Probets, who played Squealer so fantastically in 'Animal Farm' is back as Winston Smith.” The audience will be subjected to the darkest moments of the novel in an extremely visceral manner.

“It's so great to explore Room 101, a torture chamber in the Ministry of Love. Room 101 is about your worst fears, nothing compares once the doors shut! The themes throughout the show are fairly dark, although the torture scenes are by far the most horrific moments. But that constant fear of being caught via thought crime is really petrifying.”

Alongside his work as Co Artistic Director, Ross will “be playing a collection of colleagues, associates and friends of Winston Smith” and is very happy to “wear multiple hats” during the production.

“I enjoy every aspect of creating theatre, so it is a happy thing that I get to explore all facets of producing, creating and staging theatre and what excites me is theatre I would love to see as an audience member. This is a great opportunity to be able to create that theatre and bring such an epic story to Brisbane.”

Comparing the modern classic to Shakespeare, Ross explains that “reinterpreting classics is a passion of mine and the company's whether you are dealing with Shakespeare, the greatest playwright ever, or Orwell, the similarities are there.

"They have both given us plots, sub plots and characters that are so multidimensional. When you're given such juicy material to begin with, it’s such a joy as an actor to be able to delve into those characters and their emotional journey.” Ross, and the company as a whole, are very thankful to play such a functional role in Queensland's arts scene.

“We're really proud, as an independent company, to be providing professional work opportunities for some of Queensland's and the country's most acclaimed artists, both crew and cast.” He is aware that this kind of venture is not without its pitfalls.

“It's a risk producing theatre of this scale with this many employees, but when it all works and it all comes together, it is worth it.”

'1984' is at Cremorne Theatre, QPAC Aug 16 to Sep 1.
Published in Theatre
Wednesday, 08 June 2011 14:33

Jesus Christ Superstar

Theatre in Preview

There’s nothing like musical theatre to get the crowds out in force – and judging by the packed houses during last year’s run – the upcoming season of the Andrew Lloyd-Webber and Tim Rice smash ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’ is bound to be just as popular.

Harvest Rain Theatre Company’s production of the much-loved musical was initially scheduled to hit the stage again in February but with the statewide flooding that occurred earlier this year – which paid a particular toll on Brisbane’s Southbank area where QPAC is based – the performances had to be pushed back four months.

Calling in during a particularly busy time for the actor, who was last seen on the Brisbane stage in the role of Teen Angel in ‘Grease’, Luke Kennedy says it is exciting to be bringing the show back to audiences. “I am excited, it seems like it has been such a long time since we performed it so it feels sort of fresh,” Kennedy says. “It doesn’t feel like a return season and we also have a few new cast members. We have a new Judas and a new Annas so it feels new. â€œWe managed to lock in the June season pretty soon, so it was good for many of us to be able to lock in other things around it.”

The initial run in August last year played to sold-out crowds and most of the original cast will be joining Kennedy as Jesus on stage to reimagine the story of the final seven days of Jesus' life, with co-stars Naomi Price (returning as Mary) and Lionel Theunissen again cast as Pilate.

However, this time around, Melbourne musical theatre performer Paul Watson will take over from Tod Strike as Judas, after recently appearing in the national productions of ‘Jersey Boys’ and ‘Guys And Dolls’, while there will be a guest appearance by Steven Tandy in the role of Herod. â€œWhile most of us are returning to the play and it has just been like riding a bike, the new cast members have had to speed learn!” Kennedy says. “So the pressure is on the newcomers but they are excellent.”

An “epic rock musical” that first burst onto the scene on Broadway in 1971 – it has since been performed all over the world, with various interpretations of the story unfolding on the stage.

Here, under the guiding hand of director Tim O’Connor, the play is set in what Kennedy describes as a futuristic, dystopian world. â€œIt is such a classic story … and the material being what it is … it’s been around long enough that new directors can bring their own ideas (to it) and it can kind of be set anywhere. It can be very futuristic or very urban and concrete jungle,” Kennedy says. “This version is set in a ‘post-Apocalyptic world’. â€œThe characters are in a run-down church and the group of people there are trying to survive. It’s a story within a story and it’s a play within a play. At the church, people retell their stories from their past.”

One of the many musical theatre hits in the Lloyd-Webber stable, the title role in ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’ is a dream match for Kennedy who as well as being a star of the stage has also released his own album and also toured internationally with the 10 Tenors. “I have been a fan of the production for so long and I first performed the role when I was 18 years old … and this will be the fifth time I have played Jesus,” he explains. “And as an actor too, it’s been good. Tim and I talked a lot about how to approach the role. Having done it before together (in 2002) – we thought we’d love to do it again, and we had been speaking on and off (about our ideas).

“It’s one of my favourite shows, my favourite contemporary rock musical. Vocally, it’s really high and it’s got to have a lot of power and because of that (when approaching the role) you can play it aggressively.” He continues, “But that’s not what Jesus is about … so it’s been good to have the time to get it right and be calm and in control.”

’Jesus Christ Superstar’ will play a limited run at the Playhouse QPAC from June 16 to June 26.

Published in Theatre
Wednesday, 11 May 2011 15:11

The Girl of the Golden West

Opera in Preview

For their first production of 2011, Opera Queensland bring you passion and redemption in the wild, wild west.

When you hear "Puccini" you probably think of ‘Madame Butterfly’ or ‘La Boheme’… or pasta. ‘The Girl of the Golden West’ is one of Puccini’s least known works, praised for its orchestration rather than stand-out melodies, and yet it was Puccini’s personal favourite. Speaking of melodies, you are likely to recognise at least one from this opera. Andrew Lloyd Webber stole one from it, which became his beloved ‘The Music of the Night’ (I knew there was a reason why that’s the only Lloyd Webber song I like!). Puccini’s estate sued. And there is your daily quota of opera trivia filled.

‘The Girl From the Golden West’ tells the story of Minnie, a woman who owns and runs a saloon in a mining town dominated by men. As one of the only women in town, many of the men see her as a mother figure and others are all but obsessed with her. In the time-honoured tradition of women everywhere, Minnie ignores them all and falls for the bad guy. He’s a stranger who rides into town and introduces himself as Dick Johnson (I wish Freud were here) and they hit it off straight away. Unfortunately, this enticing newcomer is actually the infamous bandit, Ramirez. How can Minnie reconcile her strong moral code with pursuing a relationship with someone who so foully violates it?

Zara Barrett plays Minnie, and she’s really enjoying the role. “I like her as a person,” Zara says. “She’s strong, but loving and generous. It’s a role you can really get your teeth into, because it does have everything. It has the full, dramatic scenes and the lyric, fine vocals. She becomes almost a young girl again at some points. She’s a mixture of innocence (she’s never kissed a man) and strength of character.”

It is quite a relentless role though and very vocally demanding. Minnie’s presence is pretty much constant throughout, so there’s a lot of preparation involved. “You start at the beginning and work your way through it slowly, and get into it vocally,” Zara explains. “If you don’t speak the language, you translate the role. If there’s a book, you read it, and you basically pace yourself and slowly put it together.”

Most of this happens before the first rehearsal. “In opera, you walk in with the role fully learnt, and an idea of character because of course it’s always open to discussion with the director, and the conductor has his five cents worth too.”

So when Zara took some time out to perform in ‘Jerry Springer: The Opera’ she was quite surprised. “In musical theatre, they teach you the notes. It was fine, but I don’t understand why they do that,” she says of the experience.

Zara has been fortunate enough to play some of the finest roles that opera has to offer, including the title roles in both ‘Aida’ and ‘Turandot’. She was always going to do something with music as she grew up in a very musical family - her mother sang, her father played trombone for the air force and an aunt was an opera singer too.

As a child, Zara played piano, french horn and sang in choirs. Later, she went to the Queensland Conservatorium of Music to be a french horn player and study music  therapy. It wasn’t long however until she changed to classical voice. “There was always that deep desire to sing. I always loved it.”

I ask Zara what have been her highlights and least favourite moments in her career. She struggles to settle on just one favourite moment, but quickly pinpoints a worst. “A director made me wear really high heels, and my tenor was really short. I mean, he was short to start with!” (It should be noted that Zara is 185cm tall). I forgot to ask if she has to wear heels in this production so look like you’ll just have to come and see it to find out.

So even if people aren’t into opera, why should they come and see ‘The Girl of the Golden West’? Zara has the answer. “It’s a fun story! There’s a gunslinging woman who falls in love!” I must say, she’s sold me. ‘The Girl of the Golden West’ will kick off Opera Queensland’s 2011 season with a gun-toting bang!

‘The Girl of the Golden West’ plays at QPAC’s Lyric Theatre May 14-28.

Published in Theatre
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