Category Archives: Theatre Reviews

The Gentleman Magician – A Magical Soirée

The Sir Stamford Hotel at Circular Quay.  93 Macquarie Street, Sydney.  Every Friday and Saturday evening at 7.30pm.

Reviewed : 15 February, 2019

Photo : supplied

Bruce Glen, the Gentleman Magician, is a consummate performer who recreates the elegant ambiance of the nineteenth century drawing room salon gatherings in the beautiful, heritage listed Sir Stamford Hotel.

Actor, storyteller – and polished magician of long-standing reputation – Glen ‘takes the stage’ in a meticulously choreographed and practised performance that draws his audience into the “neverland between logic and imagination”. Softly spoken, he smilingly captivates the audience, using the history of magic and a plethora of quotations to provide the ‘patter’ that beguiles and distracts from the slickness of his dexterous sleight of hand.

Aided by his assistant, Kate, he uses all the recognised accoutrements of the trade – rope, silk handkerchiefs, a cup and ball, crystal vases, wine goblets, playing cards, numbers – to conjure and amaze, always gently diverting the audience with the simple device of words.  Anecdotes about famous magicians, humorous tales of fictional colonial practitioners of his mesmerising art, a description of the mythical Sir Stamford ‘ghost’, are expertly used to disguise each skilfully contrived deception.

a meticulously choreographed and practised performance 

The third-floor salon of the Sir Stamford is the perfect place for this “intimate evening of stylish magic and intriguing stories” that has been attracting visitors to Sydney on Friday and Saturday evenings for the past five years. Magic has a universal attraction. Glen suggests it’s described best in the words of Mark Twain: “It’s easier to fool people than to convince them they are being fooled”.

Photo : suppled

‘Stylish” is the operative word for the evening. Guests are met in the foyer by the Concierge who, in true magician style, spreads a deck of cards asking them to take one. This becomes their ‘ticket’ to pre-show canapés and champagne where they are welcomed by the equally stylish Kate. The salon, like the hotel itself, breathes taste and chic, nineteenth century sophistication. It’s the perfect venue for a performance art that, though it harks back to ancient Greece and Egypt, but was honed to an artform byJean Eugène Robert-Houdin, originally a clockmaker, who opened a magic theatre in Paris in 1845.

Bruce Glen’s Magical Soirée is a little theatrical gem hidden in the heart of Sydney Cove, one that attests to Raoul Dahl’s instruction to “watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places”.

Also published in Stage Whispers magazine.

The Moors

By Jen Silverman; Reginald Theatre, Seymour Centre, Siren Theatre Co & Seymour Centre; Directed by Kate Gaul6 Feb to 1 March 2019;

Reviewed : 14 February, 2019.

Photo : Clare Hawley

Jen Silverman invokes the troubled but tenacious heroines of the Brontë sisters’ novels – and the lives of the sisters themselves – in this melodramatic/absurd/black comedy set on the bleak English moors. Using the ‘cover’ of the oppressive restraints and limitations experienced by women in the nineteenth century, Silverman raises still relevant issues of gender, class, sexuality and repression.

She assembles her characters in true Brontë style. Two sisters, Agatha and Huldey, live a tense, lonely, austere life in an isolated cottage on the moors. Their only company is their ill-treated dog, Mastiff, and a strange all-purpose maid, who changes name and personality as she moves from scullery to kitchen to parlour. A governess, arrives, lured by a stylishly written offer of work purportedly from their brother, Branwell, who is boarded up, like Mrs Rochester, in an attic room.

Photo : Clare Hawley

As the play evolves, the real eccentricities and temperaments of the characters, including the poor the dog, are revealed.

Director Kate Gaul uses a shiny, dark revolve to symbolise the treadmill from which the characters can’t escape. They move in its restrictive circle, unable to get away from each other or the desolate countryside that surrounds them. Though they might sing about “a life where we’re freer than the grass, bolder than the daybreak”, the reality is that “the Moors swallow up all the sound”.

A curtain, held high above the stage symbolises the grey desolation of the moors, shimmering and reflecting Fausto Brusamolino lighting, the gloomy mood emphasised by the eerie suggestions of Nate Edmondson’s score. And Eva Di Paolo’s beautifully designed costumes accentuate the natures of the characters and the restrictive time in which they lived.

Gaul directs her actors to accentuate the stiff, contained posture and clipped speech suggested by Silverman’s carefully contrived, economic script. There are no unnecessary words – and Gaul supports this with no superfluous action. Every movement and reaction is precise and meaningful, whether between the sisters – or Mastiff and the Moorhen as they meet on the moors. Gaul and her cast have reached inside the script and embodied the characters.

Romy Bartz plays the severe, manipulative Agatha with stiff and inflexible poise. This is a demanding role that requires varying levels of emotional control and persuasive cunning, which Bartz handles seamlessly.

Enya Daly plays her younger sister, Huldey. Dominated by Agatha, Huldey, like many of the Brontë characters, resorts to her diary, where she shares her humdrum life and unattainable dreams. Daly finds the girlish naivety and awkwardness of the character as well as her growing need for recognition and escape, which erupts in a final scene where Daly uses her diverse performance skills.

Emilie, the governess is played by Brielle Flynn, who, in the relatively short time span of the play, moves Emilie from initial enthusiasm, to confusion, disbelief, distrust and eventual submission. Silverman uses Emilie, as did the Brontës, to expose the flaws of the society of the time – and Flynn portrays this clearly.

Photo : Clare Hawley

Diana Popovska is the undervalued maid-of-all-seasons, wise to the to the wiles of both the sisters and alert to their every devious action. Popovska – and Gaul – make this grey-clad character almost gawky, creeping her across the stage in bent, ungainly, erratic movements that accentuate her ubiquitous scrutiny of the sisters, and facial expressions that belie her obsequious manner.

The usually ignored and mostly mistreated dog, Mastiff, is played with believable canine intuitiveness by Thomas Campbell. Swathed in knitted shawls, Campbell crouches on the stage, watchful, alert, missing nothing, including Agatha’s scorn and harshness. It is no wonder he retreats to the safety of the moors, where he finds love of a kind in a flighty, injured moorhen, played with gentle, chirpy inquisitiveness and caution by a very lithe and nimble Alex Francis.

The relationship between Mastiff and the Moorhen seems the reverse of those that play out in the cottage – but Mastiff has learnt well from the sisters!

Some may ask why Silverman chose to this period, these characters and the gothic nature of the plot to make her point. To others, especially women, the reason is abundantly clear.  Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.

 

Bloody Murder

By Ed Sala. Castle Hill Players. Pavilion Theatre, Castle Hill; Feb 8 – Mar 2, 2019

Reviewed : 13 February 2019

Photo : Chris Lundie

In Bloody Murder playwright Ed Sala sends up every drawing room murder mystery on stage or screen, every possible character stereotype, and every possible murderer’s modus operandi. Think Midsomer without the Barnabys, Death in Paradise without the palm trees and sunsets, Christie without Miss Marple

Set it all at a proverbial weekend party, in the proverbial parlour of a proverbial isolated manor “forty kilometres” from anywhere. Add lots of absurd twists and turns, bizarre relationship disclosures, some melodramatic deaths, and some funny lines … and you have a play that director Bernard Teuben says “has been the most fun” of the many comedies he has directed.

Teuben describes his set as growing “from a great idea I had, with new elements arriving every day” – much the same, I should imagine, as Ed Sala might describe the writing of Bloody Murder! As the play lampoons murder mysteries, so too does Teuben’s set.

Picture a full stage with high, very blue walls covered – literally – in a vast array of gilt framed prints from Pre-Raphaelite to Van Gogh to Post-Modern. Furnish it with the mandatory Chesterfield (two of them), the leather armchair, the obligatory drinks table and French doors, and a picture window swathed in mustard-coloured velvet.

Photo : Chris Lundie

Supervising them all – and supposedly most of the plot variations – are the wealthy, but shrewd dowager, Lady Somerset, played with aloof ‘cool’ by Sandy Velini and her dutiful housekeeper, Jane, played with initial deference and growing control and equality by Marilyn Parsons.

In to this colourful scene arrive the stereotypical characters. There is the talkative retired army Major, played with pompous self-importance by Aurel Vasilescu and the once famous actor, played with acknowledged self-defeat by Larry Murphy.

There’s a freeloading young relative, Charles, played with cheeky impudence by Ben Freeman, who, of course, has his eye on the young ingénue, played with indifferent disinterest by Brittany Macchetta … and an imposing Countess, played with spotlight-chasing validation by Jodie Klopf.

That is, until they all double, briefly, as other stock “mystery” characters in one or other of the various twists the Author devises.

Bloody Murder is not like other murder-mystery-comedies– it’s all of them written into one – and to say any more about the plot (other than some hints above) would, in the words of Lady Somerset “ruin the party”.

Also published in Stage Whispers magazine

A Prelude in Tea – The Spooky Men’s Chorale

The Spooky Men‘s Chorale. Independent Theatre, North Sydney. Sunday 10th February.

Photo : website

 

 

What is A Prelude in Tea? It’s a series of Sunday afternoon concerts featuring afternoon tea and a music performed by some of Australia’s best and most exciting small ensembles, presented in the stately Independent theatre with its impressive acoustics. I was lucky enough to be invited to attend many of the 2018 concerts, but not once last year did I see the patrons crowding the foyer or spilling out onto the footpath and into the side lane as they did yesterday.

What could possibly attract such an enormous, animated crowd? Obviously, I’d not experienced the “rumbling, steam powered and black clad behemoth” that is The Spooky Men’s Chorale. Nor the eclectic theatricality of their performances.

Led by spookmeister Stephen Taberner – conductor, songwriter, arranger and deadpan comedian – the Chorale is ‘Not a Men’s Group’ – as we were told emphatically and very harmoniously in one of their songs.

Rather, think of them as a “wall of mansound … who seek to commentate on the absurdity and grandeur of the modern male, armed only with their voices, a sly collection of hats and facial hair and a twinkle in the eye”.  That is, sixteen men who synchronise beautifully while being cheekily satirical and extremely funny.

. . . . an incredibly well-disciplined group who mix music and satire . . .


Formed in 2001 by Taberner, The Spookies emerged from the Blue Mountains, singing Georgian table songs, ballads and their highly original “man anthems” such as “Jim”, a musical dig (pun intended!) at the ubiquitous expansion of once small gardening/cleaning/pet grooming companies. They have gone on to tour locally and internationally – and as the crowded theatre yesterday attested, they have attracted a more than enthusiastic following.

Taberner, a master of the use of pause, intersperses the songs with a poker-faced commentary that is complemented by similarly straight-faced reactions of the singers behind him.  This is an incredibly well-disciplined group who mix music and satire in a performance that is melodiously entertaining as well as being mischievously sassy.

The concert gave us songs from their original repertoire, many written by Taberner.  In the suggestively titled, “Don’t Stand Between a Man and his Tool”, the guys skilfully mimed using a range of tools while they sang lyrics such as:

Some of them use batteries
Some of them use mains
Some of them are quiet
Some cause complaints

They also paid tribute to other musical styles, including a tribute to their original Georgian repertoire. Tall, silver-bearded Dave Warren led them in Tom Wait’s lyrical love song “Picture in a Frame” and their combined composition based on Tennyson’s metaphorical elegiac poem “Crossing the Bar” was emotionally moving. They forsook their individual hats to don orangey coloured cones for “the prophecy of the Three Brothers” and had all but a reluctant few standing and dancing to their very loudly demanded encore.

Photo : © Brian King Photography

The Spooky Men are more than a chorale. They are a tightly-knit musical ensemble who understand that men singing in harmony can be political, sardonic, theatrical and much more than just “a men’s group”.

Coming to the Semour Centre on June 1, 2019.

Also published in Stage Whispers magazine.

The Female of the Species

By Joanna Murray-Smith.  Lane Cove Theatre Company.  The Performance Space,  St Aidan’s,  Longueville.  Feb 8 – 23, 2019.

Reviewed : 9 February 2019

Photo : Dawn Pugh

This almost anti-feminist play is one of the Australian plays listed on the HSC Drama Syllabus, so it can be expected that it will attract some local year 12 students – as it did on opening night. The five about-seventeen-year-olds in front of us were the most enthusiastic of a very appreciative audience. The production obviously met their expectations of the play and the characters – and I’m sure director Jess Davis was thrilled by their immediate responses and their post-play comments.

Davis has taken playwright Joanna Murray-Smith’s foreword to heart, finding the farcical elements of the play in a fast-moving production that accentuates the “quick wit, big ideas and ridiculous reveals” created by a writer who is able to comment on the changing phases of feminism through female characters that are strong, out-spoken and, as Davis says in her program notes, “carry the action with thought and input” unlike the “underwritten female characters” created by some male Australian playwrights.

The action centres around Margot Mason, an “admired/ridiculed” radical feminist, obviously based on Germaine Greer and her late twentieth century cohort of female activists. Margaret Olive takes on the challenge of this role, that is at once strident feminist and ageing author, living alone in an isolated house where she strives to find a key into her next book

. . .faithful to the satirical wit and intelligence of Murray-Smith’s writing – and her actors bring to their roles the energy and boldness the characters deserve.

Davis and Olive hit the ground running with a long, one-sided telephone conversation with her publisher that introduces Mason and the play. They make it loud and punchy, highlighting both Margot’s arrogant conceit and the coarse language and one-liners that set the tenor and pace of the production. Olive obviously relishes Margot’s fire, and the roller coaster of egotistic highs and denigrating lows she rides – even though handcuffed to a desk through much of the action.

 

Photo : Dawn Pugh

Lib Campbell is vivacious and expressive as failed student Mollie, who is determined to make Margot pay for her mother’s suicide and her own lack of self-esteem. Campbell is always in character, finding in words, actions and immaculate timing, the dilemmas that drive Mollie, the complexity of the character suggested by Murray-Smith’s words … and Davis’ zany vision of her.

Equally striking is Zoë Crawford as Margot’s daughter, Tess, a fraught mother of three who has been undermined by Margot’s expectations and rejection. Crawford plays Zoë withsophisticated insight and poise using carefully timed pauses and comedic timing to reveal even more depth to the character than the words she speaks. . . . . .

Review continued in Stage Whispers magazine

A Room With a View

By E.M. Forster,  adapted by Roger Parsley and Andy Graham. Genesian Theatre Company,  Sydney. Directed by Mark G. Nagle.  Feb 2 – Mar 9,  2019.

Reviewed : 3 February 2019

Photo : Grant Fraser

Photos of the cast interwoven with lovely shots of Italy play on a screen in the foyer of the theatre. Reproductions of Renaissance paintings adorn the walls. Others, stylishly framed in gold, surround the proscenium arch and reach around to encompass the stained-glass windows which are a feature of 1868 building that is the Genesian.

It’s so good to see a director and his creatives thinking beyond the stage and the script. Congratulations Mark! Your vision sets the scene as elegantly as E.M. Forster described it in 1908.

Often adaptations lose some of the impact of the original novel, but this is true to the plot and to Forster’s gentle, but telling, critique of English society in the early 20th century. The contrasts in Forster’s characters are clearly defined by Parsley and Graham and distinctly conveyed in Nagle’s direction.

Nagle and Mark Bell have cleverly incorporated the imposing brick wall and stained-glass windows behind the stage as the backdrop of the set. Four pillars are used to symbolise the Renaissance architecture. Trailing ivy evokes both the Italian summer in the first act, and an English garden in the second. The use of minimalist props – a bench, a stool, a leather chair, two ‘carriages’, a hinged leaf-covered lattice – moved on and off the stage as part of action, adequately change the various scenes.

Susan Carveth’s costumes add to the style and colour of the period – but require, as in all period pieces, careful checking by cast and crew of hems, buttons and creases. Sound designer (Martin Gallagher) and composer (Georgia Condon) recall the music of the time. Lighting, designed by Martin Schell, sets the various moods well, but does not adequately light faces in some areas of the stage, nor take into account the shadows cast by the hats that were de rigueur for the period.

Nagle directs with attention to both the style of the time, and the pace required of contemporary theatre.  Action is carefully and discreetly blocked. Actors hold themselves sedately and move gracefully – except of course for the youngest character, whose disregard of ‘genteel’ behaviour brings light humour to the plot.

Phoebe Atkinson plays Lucy Honeychurch, a young English girl travelling to Italy for the first time in the company of her aunt. Lucy is eager to lead a more independent life and her experiences in Italy challenge many of the values and ideas with which she has been raised.

Photo : Grant Fraser

Atkinson portrays all of these changes in Lucy over the course of the play, finding her original naivety, her curiosity and her burgeoning awareness and self-assurance.

Her aunt and chaperone, Charlotte, whose early restrained poise and rectitude is gradually eroded by the influence of others, is played by Anna Desjardins. Desjardins finds all of this in a controlled performance that portrays the challenges faced by the character, and her changing warmth.

One of the most delightful characters is Mr Beebe, a “wise and likeable clergyman with a youthful and playful spirit”. Tristan Black (and Nagle’s direction) suggest many aspects of Beebe’s character: his lack of social snobbery, his understanding of love despite his presumed celibacy, . . .

Review continued in Stage Whispers magazine.

Love Cycle: Love Chapter 2

Created by Sharon Eyal and Gai Behar.  L-E-V Dance Company. Sydney Opera House.  Jan 31 – Feb 3, 201.

Photo : Prudence Upton

After twenty-two years dancing and choreographing with Israel’s Batsheva Dance Company, Sharon Eyal and her collaborator and partner, Gai Behar, formed L-E-V Dance Company in 2013, (lev is the Hebrew word for ‘heart’). Their work, with musician Ori Lichtik, has been performed at over 200 venues around the world, including a Christian Dior fashion show at a race course outside Paris in 2018, where eight dancers interacted with the models as they showcased the collection.

In OCD Love and Love Chapter 2, described in the program as “a double shot of tough love”, Eyal explores the heights of love and the depths of loss of love. Whilst the two play on consecutive nights, each stands alone as an innovative interpretation of the almost primeval complexities of love and relationships.

OCD Love, which premiered in 2016, is based on Eyal’s reaction American slam poet, Neil Hilborn’s “personal, funny, but crushingly sad” poem about the difficulties of loving someone with obsessive compulsive disorder.

The second, Love Chapter 2, is about the “devastating aftermath of a love affair”.

The sixty-minute long interpretation is performed by three female and three male dancers, dressed simply in thin, grey leotards and shin-high black socks. There is nothing simple, however, about their skill, or the control demanded by Eyal’s inventive and meticulously structured choreography. In time with the increasing pace, intensity and volume of Lichtik’s musical accompaniment, the dancers – lithe, slim, extremely fit and, necessary for this piece, incredibly flexible – express the devastating pain and heartache of broken love.

With muted lighting emphasising the grey gloom of emotional desolation, they move with impeccably controlled precision that emphasises Eyal’s ability to physicalise intimate emotions in original, imaginative choreography. Anguish, misery and anger are represented in movements that are tightly measured and exactly executed. Tension exudes in taut muscles, tight breathing, the pulsing tempo of Lichtik’s accompaniment – and in the fixed, silent appreciative attention of the audience.

L-E-V presents contemporary dance that is avant-garde, and therefore demanding and liberating, testament to the aim of the Opera House’s Contemporary Performance program that “champions modern story tellers and the mavericks who re-invent classic forms”.

First published in Stage Whispers magazine

Brett and Wendy … A Love Story Bound by Art

Kim Carpenter’s Theatre of Image.  Sydney Festival.  Riverside Theatres Parramatta.  January 18 – 27, 2019.

Photo : Fabian Astore.

Using music, dance, projections and snatches of dialogue, Kim Carpenter’s Theatre of Image emphasises the visuality of theatre as it explores one of the most famous and vibrant Australian art stories. Brett Whiteley and Wendy Julius met and fell in love as teenagers at a time when social and artistic boundaries were being challenged and broken. Together they embraced a new era of excitement and risk-taking … in life and art.

Images of Whiteley’s work inform the production and the story: bird’s eggs; the swiftly drawn lines of the birds themselves; the 18-part installation American Dream American Nightmare; glimpses of the iconic blue of the Lavender Bay paintings.  Interior with Time Past is recreated in one scene, complete with the original vase and filled with bright orange blooms.

Based on a raft of research and conversations, Carpenter reveals brief images of Whiteley as curious child, mischievous brother, lover, husband, father … an artist that made an impact on the world and was lost too soon through an addiction that he found too hard to conquer.

The production is short – just over an hour – and disappointingly short on depth and detail. Characters flit in and out, sometimes momentarily, sometimes unnecessarily, belying “the love story bound by art” that the title promises. Characters tease us with glimpses of narrative that are whipped away too quickly.

With such a talented cast of performers and creatives, it is sad that this legendary story is reduced to such fragmented images.

Whiteley is portrayed by dancer Dean Elliott and actor Paul Gleeson, who together suggest the curiosity, intelligent wonder and innate creativity that drove the man and the artist. Both performers are lithe and agile, moving in and out of moments with the nimbleness that expresses the mercurial complexity of his character.

Photo : Fabian Astore.

Leeanna Walsman does not disappoint in her portrayal of Wendy Whiteley. With sinuous movement and mellow voice, Walsman finds the intricacy of a woman who could love, inspire and empathise, offer wisdom and strength, but eventually and reluctantly admit the need to stop and walk away.

Jeanette Cronin captures the naïve sibling admiration of Whiteley’s sister Frannie Hopkirk. Olivia Brown plays their mother. Tony Llewellyn-Jones plays their father and the artist Lloyd Rees who was so influential in Whiteley’s life. Yasmin Polley appears in brief moments as a young Arkie Whitely.

Dancers Elliot, Robbie Curtis and Naomi Hibberd weave through and around the actors in graceful choreography designed by Lucas Jennings to link segments and imply added dimensions of the characters.

Despite all of this, the images of the Whiteleys and the way that Carpenter has chosen to portray them, tells their story too ephemerally and ends it too abruptly.

First published in Stage Whispers magazine.

Counting and Cracking

By S. Shakthidharan.  Belvoir and Co-Curious.  Sydney Festival. Sydney Town Hall,  Jan 11 – Feb 2, 2019 and Ridley Centre,  Adelaide Showgrounds, Mar 2 – 9.

Photo : Brett Boardman

Sydney Town Hall has been transformed into a long, thrust stage surrounded by wooden tiered seating spread with brightly covered foam cushions. Colourful peaked gables arch above the lighting loom. Expectant patrons savour delicately flavoured lamb biryani before making their way to their seats for Belvoir and Co-Curious’ mammoth undertaking of S. Shakthidharan’s family saga, Counting and Cracking.

Sixteen actors play 50 characters in a new Australian story that traces four generations of a family from Colombo to Pendle Hill; from Australia, a land of refuge, to Sri Lanka a land trying to stay united. It’s a story “about reconciliation within families, across countries, across generations.” It’s a story about symbols and memories, traditions and change, adaptation and acceptance, fragility and strength.

. . Eamon Flack describes as “an Australian story … a land of refuge and new beginnings”.

In his program notes, Shakthidharan contextualises the back story to the production. “Ten years ago I was hungry. Hungry to learn about my mother’s homeland. To know my history. So I started on a journey that had no clear end”.

Ten years of reading, travelling, enquiring and listening led him to a story “… about parents and children. About coming together and breaking apart and coming together again … a story that had the power to help my mother reconcile with her homeland. To connect people across deep divides … to collapse time and join continents”.

I lean on Shakthidharan’s own words because of their clarity and translucence, qualities that are equally impressive in his script and the complex characters that people the many scenes that connect past, present, and hopeful future. This is a chronicle that could be about any of the families who have sought refuge in Australia, leaving behind ravaged homelands, cruel regimes, lost loved ones. Its appeal is universally touching – but it is written in a way that emphasises the resilience and humour that are so important in the process of change.

Photo : Brett Boardman

The production is a work of collaborative creativity. Director Eamon Flack describes it as “an almighty effort by a great coalition of people” over almost six years of travel and discussion and organisation. Shakthidharan, Flack and their enormous imaginative team have envisaged and realised a production that is vibrant and innovative. Designer Dale Ferguson has used simplicity and symbolism to establish changes in time and place. Flack has backed this with fast scene changes and carefully . . .

Review continued in Stage Whispers magazine.

Blanc de Blanc Encore

Strut and Fret; Sydney Opera House Studio.  January 4 – March 9, 2019

Photo : website

Not recommended for persons under 18 years, this performance contains adult concepts, nudity and references to alcohol consumption”. Of course it does! It’s local production company Strut and Fret’s Blanc de Blanc returning to the harbour city to add some saucy circus cabaret pizazz to the summer festival buzz!

Directed by Scott Maidment and led by outrageous ‘comperes’ Spencer Novich and Remi Martin Lenz, the show is bold and loud, a sort of Cirque du Soleil for adults with lots of glitz, glam and cheeky, risqué innuendo. An extravaganza of dance, clowning, song and aerial stunts performed by an international cast of audacious, multi-talented entertainers, Blanc de Blanc, like the dry champagne after which it’s named, is full of intoxicating bubbles and fizz.

Songster Ashley Straud joins this new show, along with aerial artist and sexy mover Reed Kelly, and aerial hoop duo Caitlin Tomson-Moylan and Spencer Craig. There’s Australian dancer Lauren New, burlesque artiste Skylar Benton and contortionist Uugantuya Otgonbayar (The Greatest Showman).

In a smoky haze and radiating light show, the Opera House Studio becomes a twenty-first century art deco cabaret cavern, where cast and audience merge in a frenzy of Kevin Maher’s suggestive, undulating choreography, a sound track that blasts and rebounds and a show that moves fast and furiously from segment to sexy, surprising segment …

Such as Novich and the cast, naked but for white towels, writhing suggestively in a dance routine that demands judicious timing and brazen flair. Or a huge parachute-like sheet that spreads across the space and slips away to the balcony, which, later, becomes the focus of a long plastic tube of flowing champagne that spirals through the audience to Lenz’ glass on the stage below. And that’s just a taste of the of the many acts that flow precipitously from comedy to circus to seductive song.

Infused by champagne and sparkles, energy and effusion, Blanc de Blanc Encore is everything the original was, and more. It’s a deftly-directed, tightly-performed production full of cheeky fun and flippant frivolity.

Review originally published in Stage Whispers magazine