'I think therefore I am.'  Descartes            'I AM THAT I AM.'  Exodus.3.        'I am what I am.'  La Cage aux Folles

30 October 2015

Queensland Conservatorium

Shows I Attended At The Con In 2015

Singing Concert
18th April
Burke Street Studio Theatre
Last night at the the Burke St Studios - Queensland Conservatorium I had the great pleasure of seeing and listening to 27 3rd year students and one outstanding pianist in concert. What voices, what promise and so many shone out not only vocally but in presentation. They obviously love what they do and it shows in the confidence, passion or comedy when required. It should not be a surprise that there is wonderful talent here, for after all the Con has been turning out world class voices for decades. In the Opera school I used to watch Lisa Gasteen in student productions before she headed off to the Met, Bayreuth etc and is now heads up her Opera school back here. She was just one of many. Last year's graduates from the Musical Theatre, Billy Bourchier and Georgina Hopson just recently stunned everyone in The Pirates of Penzance. So looking forward to seeing them again soon. 
Working: A Musical
28th April
Conservatorium Theatre
Once again I saw the year three students of the Musical Theatre school of the Queensland Conservatorium. This time they acted and sang in a production of Working A Musical. What brilliant voices, what stage charisma, what acting. So often I thought I could be sitting in a theatre on Broadway. Perhaps I should drop that comparison because Australian musical theatre stands enormously high and its own standards soar. Imaginatively set with simple platforms and coloured stools all perfectly and beautifully lit by Jason Glenwright a master of those spots and colours. There were so many strong resonant voices I hate to mention only a few but I was again impressed so much by my fb friends, Isaac Saunders, Max Radvan and Oliver Samson. These singers/actors are a must see. The show runs until Saturday and then heads off to Melbourne and Sydney.

Best Little Whorehouse In Texas
20th May
Burke Street Studio Theatre
Last night 5 of us had the great joy of watching an enormous number of musical theatre students from year two at the Conservatorium in an absolute hoot of a production of Best Little Whorehouse in Texas. We are continuing to be knocked out by the talent of these students having already seen two evenings with the Third year students already this year. There are more productions and concerts this year so you really must go along. Apart from the great voices,wonderful acting and stage presence on display for over two hours I had the distinct pleasure of meeting two exceptional people Isaac Saunders and Sarah Murr whom I have seen just recently. They have just returned from a great tour down to Melbourne and on Sunday they are off to show Sydney what they are all made of. You really should try and get along to the Bourke st Studio Wooloongabba before Saturday. The students are rotating roles so everyone gets a change. What talent!!!!

Coronation Of Poppea
22nd May
Conservatorium Theatre
The Coronation of Poppea - Last night at the Conservatorium we were treated to an evening of great singing. Several sections were of such excruciatingly beauty that we left the theatre thrilled by the talent of the students. I recall the some 35 years ago when the Qld. Conservatorium (across the river) was churning out the likes of Lisa Gasteen, Jeffrey Black, Miriam and Clare Gormley we attended then and we attend now. In fact I first bumped into the friend whom I went with last night at a Lisa Gasteen student production back in 1979. Enough of the past. Last night I had tingles as I listened to the two stunning chorus pieces. Blended voices to die for. Amongst the cast were some voices of such maturity and ravishing tone like Phillip Prendergast as Nerone, strength and absolute perfection of diction like Samuel Piper as Ottone, brilliance of voice and amazing stage presence of Sebastian Maclaine. I was also so taken by the lovely tone of one of the Soldiers whom I think was Cameron Taylor (the taller). The Drusilla of Lauren Lodge- Campbell had a beautiful brightness that made me think of a Musetta one day. Simple memories of the way it affected me and there is one more performance tonight.

Con2The Cabaret
17th June
Burke Street Studio Theatre
This year I have been frequenting the Conservatorium here in Brisbane Queensland at both the Opera/music campus at South Bank and also at the Musical Theatre school at Woollongabba. I have been seeing the second and third year students in severl amazing shows. Graduates and even undergraduates are already being cast in top musical theatre and opera in this country, such is the exceptional talent coming forth from the world top trainers.
What a joy to see great talent in the making from the second year students. Last night we went to the Cabaret at the Con. An evening of so much more than a showcase for each of the students. 
So well put together with the exceptional musical talent of the awesome Bev Kennedy who is one of Australia's leading musical directors and accompanists. It is the second time I have been lucky to see her stunning piano work this year as she backed the divine Paul Capsis in a concert earlier this year. After the shoiw I had a brief chat with Bev and kissed her hand to show my respect for her brilliance which she shares with the students. The whole evening of 38 numbers really shon a light on not only some amazingly brilliant voices, but their acting ability, charisma and also some individual multi talents andf their good looks. They will go far.
There was some great dance moves and string playing I saw from Michael Mandalios, Wonderful violin from Michael Boulus, Stephen Adams did some nifty Saxophone work, Isaac Lindley knew his guitar so well and Hayden Rodgers brought the house down with his powerful belter number. 
Not satisfied with solo numbers the whole cast formed some brilliantly sung chorus back up some perfect a capella vocals and timing was outstanding as they sang scattered all around the room. Interaction with the audience was mostly carried off with such ease although it scares the shit out of very shy me. A seamless evening that was like being inside a musical and not just sitting at a table . It was also great to see the irrepressible graduate Dan Venz there so full of enthusiasm. He has been in several professional shows I have seen this year. So much talent in one room both performing and supporting. 

Blood Brothers
2nd August
Burke Street Studio Theatre
Blood Brothers at the Queensland Conservatorium - Musical Theatre is a moving, perfectly directed, absolutely brilliantly acted piece of theatre with exceptional singing. I have not seen or even heard of this piece but I can see why it ran for over 10,000 performances in London. Joyful, exuberant, playful, sincere, sad and eventually tragic it had me in tears. The talent emanating from this amazing training centre is quite overwhelming. I have seen graduates and even some not yet graduated in very major productions here and with more to come this year. Under the direction of Australian born (correction Newcastle UK born) International director Ian Good the attention to detail left me with not a moment that was not enhanced and true. It is basically a 3rd year production but it was pleasing to see the inclusion of 2nd year students that had impressed me in a couple of other shows I have seen this year. The multi talented and versatile Michael Boulus and the energetic and charming Isaac Lindley were just two. Matthew Semple was a great and loving father Mr Lyons as well as some other short roles, and the beaming voice of Narrator Jacqueline McLaren was a stand out as was Tash Walker the compassionate Mrs Johnstone. However the title stars were just brilliant. Tim Carroll as Eddie was outstanding. He was the nicest guy in the world, faithful, endearing and the audience just warmed to everything he did. They laughed with his awkwardness and felt for his loneliness.
 As the brother Mickey, Alex Woodward is a star who gave a performance of such commitment it was breathtaking. From the seven year old, full of life and wonder to the horrifying conclusion when he has fallen apart it was acting on a large canvas. He was in tears as he took his bows. It took a lot out of him and us as he threw himself into the exhausting role with nothing held back. Probably school policy that they only took one bow as they are still in training, but the audience just kept cheering and I just kept crying. Bravo all and anyone reading this should go. Great great singing, superb acting and thoroughly convincing.

Hansel & Gretel
20th August
Conservatorium Theatre
 Hansel and Gretel is pure delight. Last night at the Queensland Conservatorium Griffith University I saw Engelbert Humperdinck's 1893 opera which is jam packed full of lush, melodic music with the outstanding orchestration so Wagnerian in scale at times played by the great forces and brilliant sound of the Conservatorium Orshestra under the direction of German born conductor Johannes Fritzsch who had first conducted this opera for Opera Australia in 1992. Wonderful singing and spot on acting, great set and lighting by always illuminating Jason Glenwright made for a truly enjoyable evening. 

Once again I was so impressed by the beautiful resonant sound of Samuel Piper as the Father. He impressed me in 'The Coronation of Poppea' recently and yet again I thought this is a voice I hope to see grow into a regular on our stages. 
The exceptionally well received Witch of tenor Phillip Prendergast was laugh out loud fun and also vocally inspired. Everyone knows he is going far. Phillip I had too seen in the recent Poppea and he starred in that. Harking back to that Monteverdi there was a small role, but outstandingly beautiful voice that grabbed me and that was Cameron Taylor, who I was really delighted to finally meet and chat to a couple of times in the foyer. So great to hear that he is continuing on to study at the Lisa Gasteen Opera School next year. This is like a circle as I recall so well seeing Lisa as a student at the conservatorium across the river back in the late 70's and how outstanding she was before she embarked on a huge international career which took her to Bayreuth and the Met etc I have seen her mammoth performances several times and now she is sharing that experience.It is a pity her students may not have had the pleasure of her Don Carlo or Force Of Destiny let alone her Brunhilda.
I did notice that in the programme the conductor referring back to his previous outing with this opera believed that the Elija Moshinsky production back in 1992 was the first fully staged production in Australia. Well I remember one by the old Queensland Opera back around 1980 at Her Majesty's Theatre with Margaret Russell, Luise Napier, Helen Sinden, Patricia Kelly, Margaret Noonan and a fabulously funny Gloria Eiser as the witch flying across the stage cackling. The Australian Opera production came here in 1996 under the auspices of Opera Queensland and that had such luminaries as con graduate and international Clare Gormley as Gretel and the astounding star Suzanne Johnston as Hansel and a fun note is Warwick Adeney (current concert Master of the Qld Symphony) was the concert master of the Qld Philharmonic (later to be absorbed into Qld symphony). I still have that programme. Anyway there was a thunderous applause and cheering at the end from the full house. 

Our Turn
21st October
Burke Street Studio Theatre
'Our Turn' is what the final year students from the Queensland Conservatorium - Musical Theatre are putting triumphantly before their audiences this week and then they will be showcasing also in Melbourne and Sydney. This is their last outing as a group before they set off into the world after many adding the finishing touches of this great school to their already significant amount of experience and training. I read of graduates form Trinity College London, many universities, training since almost the day they could walk and dedication. They of course can sing, many are accomplished instramentalists, they can dance, be overpoweringly dramatic and hilariously comedic. The broad spectrum of their training will no doubt be used in a variety of ways. Some will take to the dramatic stage where their musical ability will enhance their career, Some will shine as leading ladies and gentlemen in national and international productions, many will develop their own unique stage persona, but all will make our lives that little bit more meaningful and add to the wonder of the arts.
Yes it was last night I was enthralled to see these artists on stage yet again. Many I have befriended on Facebook and some I have actually met face to face and this way I will be able hopefully to follow their career and keep an eye on when I can see them on stage again. This was my eighth Con production this year and I have booked for two more yet to come. 
As for the artists and in no predetermined order - Tim Carroll's voice is simply magnificent and just as impressive, strong and brilliant as he was in Blood Brothers as was the truly exceptional and controlled dramatic talents of Alex Woodward. Oliver Samson once again felt like that beautiful voice was directed just to me. When he sings it is personal and I was shocked when he did a great leap with legs outstretched. Benjamin Hambley's Auslan monologue from Torch Song Trilogy was heartwarmimg, comedic, touching and perfection. Harvey would be proud of him. Sam Christensen has enough charisma and glint in his eye to grab the attention of any audience as does the smile of Tony Byrnes. I must say I am not neglecting the singing abilities of any of the performers just highlighting memories from last night . The production was a seamless just over an hour non stop weaving of over fifty snippets of mainly song, some great choreography and spoken scenes. Simon Mason is immersed in multiple instruments, production and anything musical since the age of two I see and he will use that passion to place himself so well. Max Radvan is unique. He has a look, a passion and the way he immerses himself just has to lead to a career created for himself. Once again the wonderful Isaac Saunders let loose with extra talents like the great Tap Dance number he did and that wooden box he loves to play. Then there is the gentleman Matthew Semple who shon again He can add such nuanced feeling to his presentations. 
I loved when the male cast members gathered to sing a fabulous rendition of "I Am Wht I Am" So may different looks, so many different voices such beautiful faces and such talent. I could see wonderful characters, leading men, actors, singers soloists. I could see them all moving out with style. Don't forget you have to audition just to be accepted so the standard starts high and goes up from there.
A thoroughly lovely night and i must add no one is mentioned in any particular order. Just thoughts that popped up as I sit here with coffee. Do go along and watch these artists while they are affordable. One day like me you will be paying big bucks to see graduates from the Con as I am already doing. I have seen dozens of people from this school in so many productions over the last few years. It truly is a source of mighty talent.

4th November
Burke Street Studio Theatre
Second Year students
'RENT' - There is so much talent at the Queensland Conservatorium - Musical Theatre they can cast shows multiple times. Yes it is all part of the excellent training, but this you forget when you are carried away by the show. In the 70 odd visits to a theatre this year I have been reduced to tears on three occasions and two of those have been at the Burke St. Studio. I have also never failed to cry at the end of La Boheme and as Rent is based on that tragic story of love it was probably a dead cert that I might end up wiping my eyes. Mimi doesn't quite die, but the glorious Angel does and when Isaac Lindley sang that heart wrenching song no one could hold back. I can only talk about the cast I saw, but I do know the great talents of several of the alternatives. 
 As I just mentioned Michael Boulus was a stunning Angel, genuine, beautiful and every bit the kind soul for which she is remembered. Great singing, enveloping acting and transformations. 
As her boyfriend Tom Collins, Isaac Lindley was nothing short of brilliant. His baritone voice just resonates powerfully with musicality. It is a sound that made people near me gasp. Truly a wonderful tone and he can flip from passionate love to true sorrow with conviction. 
Hayden Rodgers as the central Roger is an amazing singer. I have been overwhelmed by his exceptionally beautiful voice on other occasions and he truly is destined for great things and his astounding Mimi, Lorinda May Merrypor has a voice that is just perfect for the stage. Powerful without pushing, tone that is full of life and clarity and boy can she dance. She is almost a gymnist as she sings upside down, doing the splits etc. A real tour de force. 

Stephen Adams as Mark was so great to watch and this boy can dance. He looks so good on his feet as well as the persevering camera boy. 
It was so wonderful to see the charismatic Michael Mandalios taking on several roles. He has a beautiful presence on stage that is endearing, assured and talented. I have seen Michael like the others a few times this year. They all have so many talents apart from singing and removing shirts. None of them neglected their character when being quiet to the side of the stage. Due to the casts changes I only saw Thomas Armstrong-Robley in a minor role as he Plays the lead Roger on alternate nights but his short solo still reminded me of what a performer he is. He also did the Programme design. Of course at the back of the stage you could see and hear the stunning keyboard work of musical director Luke Volker who has added his amazing musical mastery to several productions this year, Into The Woods and Teenage Dreams are two that immediately come to mind and amongst his players was Dominic Woodhead who I have also seen ofetn accompaning the singers and I will also see tomorrow if I get to the QPAC Green for a lunch time free concert subject to storms. Last but certainly not least is the lighting of Jason Glenwright. I keep saying he does so much spectacular work and I read in the programme that he has 200 productions to his name. I was right. He lit up the stage in the most beautiful and joyous Christmas Eve Scene. It positively glittered. and the overhanging paper light-shade moon was so fitting in mood and period. 
I would say you must rush and see this but it sold out days ago so place your bets and book early next time. Photos of course by the amazing Nick Morrissey
Michael Mandalios

Qld Conservatorium Web Site

Qld Conservatorium Facebook Page

Qld Conservatorium Musical Theatre Web Site
Qld Conservatorium Musical Theatre Facebook Page

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