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

27 December 2015

Wonderland Festival

Brisbane Powerhouse
THU 03–SUN 20 DECEMBER, 2015
Wonderland brings you a cavalcade of burlesque, circus, cabaret, music, comedy, poetry, theatre and variety shows filled with international and Australian artists.

I Want To Know What Love Is
18 December 2015
Powerhouse Theatre Love Box

Friday Night with Michelle Boyd and a joyous time out at the Powerhouse, foyer, front yard and Love Box. A return season of Daniel Evans' creation “I want To Know What Love Is’ drawn from the 812 submissions of the lovelorn, the passionate, the broken hearted and the dreamers of this city and beyond. Even I claim 6 words. Produced by The Good Room there is a change of venue from the original show at the Queensland Theatre Company, one change of actor from Carol Burns to Margi Brown Ash and some small changes from it’s last season just 15 months ago. Before the show I had the usual glass or two of red wine and some really lovely catching up with some brilliant artists who were there as well to see this or other shows at the Wonderland Festival. Lucinda Shaw , Fionn Ellwood, Gabriel Comerford, Ellen Elizabeth Bailey, Kristian Šantić and I met up for the first actual time with Lewis Jones who has directed shows at the Con I have seen this year and is also doing the show I see tonight. 

After the show I got to hug the artists Daniel Evans, Tom Cossettini and Amy Ingram . And then ran into the boys from another show I go to see tonight.
The show is a blend of wildly frenetic outbursts, memories, hopes, bitterness, involved stories and single words that form part of an exploration of just what love is. Tom’s hair is a feature that you can see in the photos, he is sexy and charming and a charismatic scene stealer, Amy’s blunt and unabashed lines and delivery is a wild show of power and lust, anger and commitment, a comedian and a presence to be dealt with and Margi has the versatility of an amazing professional that had the audience reacting to every nuanced step she took. She had them, not to mention Tom, eating out of her hands. Caroline Dunphy brought connection to the goings on in this amazing split personalities ensemble. 
The audience laughed and clapped, showed surprise and succumbed to recognition and familiarity. Love is many things to many people and many things to each single person. You could hear agreement whispered from the audience, the laughter of the absurdity of this madness and all pay tribute to how Daniel Evans has woven a performance with such spot on observation filtered and distilled from the hundreds of people who offered up their stories for display, dissection and sharing with their family of fellow theatre lovers.

 350 light bulbs hanging from the enormous ceiling, tens or hundreds of thousands of petals showering down from all points on actors and audience alike, spot lights and a soundscape both new and familiar by Lawrence English. Yes Jason Glenwright was involved in bringing magical light and dark to the episodes. I would love to say you just have to go, but the last show is tonight and I do not know if there are ant tickets left, but as everyone has been raving about it I assume you have all heard so much about this already and have no doubt been.

The Games We Play
Turbine Platform
19th December 2015 

More great fun at the Powerhouse Wonderland Festival last night with Michelle Boyd, Phil and David Bentley. The Five Fold Collective, namely Brisbanites David Trappes, Adam Strom and Ashleigh Pearce as well as Quebec-based Nate Armour and American Owen Winship. got all hot and bothered for an extraordinary performance of circus gymnastics, juggling and all things difficult. The audience did not stop cheering, clapping, wowing! and the night ended with a standing ovation. Humorous, sexy, campy at times with that great balance of springing on you an original slant to leaping through body rings while playing up how difficult it is and at the same time how easy it is for them. Tension in the great tradition of this sort of amaze me performance and with a charm so invigorating endearing, cute and i just have to say again - original. Did I mention they are all extremely gorgeous and spent most of the evening in their white undies with the occasional getting dressed without hands, upside down etc. You really should have heard the enthusiasm coming from the audience it was a hoot. Lewis Jones the wonderful director around town looked very pleased with himself last night and we have him to thank for yet another wonderful show.
It was back in June 2013 that I first met David Trappes in a spectacular show 'Salon' and now he is international. I was so pleased to run into them on both Friday Night and Saturday night.

Vanguard Burlesque
Turbine Platform
10 December 2015
 Produced by my friend Joel Devereux in the centre.

Lots of fans, nudity and some original fun and comedy.

Glory Box La Revolucion
Powerhouse Theatre Love Box
5 December 2015
 A lot of female nudity and gymnastics. Just returning from South America and Cuba.Some great avant guard performance art pieces and loads of flesh that was popular with the audience however I was there to see Mama Alto
Above is Mama Alto or Benny Dimas who is a counter tenor of extraordinary talent. She specialises in the blues but can belt out amazing songs in a spine tingling voice of beauty and power. After the show while they were taking their bows she came off stage to give me a hug and a kiss. We have been fb friends for a few years and I was so looking forward to seeing her live one day. Just remarkable and a gorgeous person.

Wonderland under the stars
In addition to taking over the inside of Brisbane Powerhouse, the festival also spills into the outdoors with nightly Wonderland Food Markets by Jan Power and Bamboozled performance tents filled with a wide-ranging menu of bite-sized entertainment. 
 I ran into the fabulous Shivannah, Fez Faanana, who was doing shows with cocktails at The Little Palais amongst the tents and fabulous venues outside the Powerhouse on the lawns. Fez is the MC and one of the stars of the amazing show 'Briefs.' which you can see on a large poster on the Powerhouse wall from Last Year's festival

16 December 2015

Bright Stars Shon For Us

The Camerata of St John's
Sunday 13th December 2015
Concert Hall QPAC
The Camerata of St. John's chamber orchestra went off like an explosion in the heavens last night when they presented 'Bright Stars Shon For Us', a tribute and tale of Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. Written and acted by the profoundly talented Tama Matheson (Macbeth, The Odd Couple, Design For Living, Don Juan) this was an evening of musical, emotional and dramatic superlatives. Telling the musical and stressful journey of a man with an enormous and treasured genius and a life overwhelmed by personal confusion, fear, love and sorrow. We know the story and Tama exposed it all with so much warmth and respect without fear and he enveloped the audience in this tale that reduced many to tears at times. So brilliant and inspiring was the performance of his fellow actor the incredibly versatile Veronica Neave (Sex With Strangers, Brisbane, Macbeth) who played just about everyone in his life from family to the musical world both adoring and humiliating. She whipped from one reflected mood to another with dread and with humour, with concern and with passion. 
An old photo of Aidan from 2012
Also on stage was the extremely handsome young dancer Aidan Daley from North Queensland and has been accepted into the pre professional year of training with The Sydney Dance Company. Already a wonderful dancer from QDSE he played desire and the various loves of Tchaikovsky. It was wonderful to see he and Tama dance together. Yes, Tama added some dance to his considerable talents that I know him for.
The orchestra was divine with the wonderful Brendan Joyce and others looking superb in their designed stage outfit. So many I spoke to made special mention of how wonderful they looked in the costume. Premiering was some wonderfully reimagined Swan Lake composed by the fabulous Iain Grandage. Also bringing something really special and haunting was when the Orava Quartet guys including cellist Karol Kowalik stepped out from the orchestra to perform very heart wrenching String Quartet.

I walked out with a hall full of people smiling after being completely blown away. So sad that it was the only performance here because so many said they would love to return. Be very sad if you were not there for an incredible evening of music and drama, beauty and emotion and followed by a big evening of some drinks, much amazed chatter, congratulations flowing and I got to kiss heaps of people. I saw so many friends I knew, met some new ones and it was a joyous evening thanks yet again to the truly creative talents of this city.
Photo from Rehearsal the day before
ps. I was in the front row centre yet again and you can see my shiny head in the blue photo above I borrowed from Craig Swanson. The stage looked absolutely stunning and the stars truly did shine thanks to the brilliance of Ben Hughes who can create visions splendid and atmosphere that positively glows.
Hello to Lee Freeman, Leigh Alexander Buchanan, Ian Thomson, Margi Brown Ash (whom I see in a play on Friday night) and others I got to chat to. Thank you and love you all. It was a great great evening.
At the top of my list should be a huge thank you, big love and kisses to Michelle Boyd without whom my evening would not have happened.
Me with Tama and Veronica some months ago.

Tama being a touch more dramatic.

Clip from a previous collaboration between Tama Matheson and The Camerata of St John's on .Benjamin Britten
"Ben" is a captivating theatrical window into the inspired music of the superb English composer Benjamin Britten and was first presented in 2013 by Camerata of St John's with Tama Matheson (Actor and Director). This excerpt is from the final moments of the work and features "Variations on a Theme of Frank Bridge".

The Diva and Me

Lisa Gasteen National Opera School Opera Gala
Friday 11th December 2015
Conservatorium Theatre

What a brilliant time I had at the The Lisa Gasteen National Opera School 'Opera Gala'. Firstly I must pay tribute to the amazing singers who have been through the top level training which Lisa Gasteen has given to top singers who enrol in her intensive one on one care. 

I have a few facebook friends that I have gathered this year after having experienced their fabulous voices in productions I have seen. I then with glass of red in hand got to meet, chat with and congratulate them all after the concert. Backed by the Queensland Symphony Orchestra I was overjoyed to hear the absolutely awesome Jeremy Kleeman (THUMBS UP ABOVE and from Faramondo and Australian Singing Competition), Samuel Piper (from Coronation of Poppea and Hansel and Gretel), Samuel Thomas Holland (The Addams Family) and Cameron Taylor (Coronation of Poppea). I was impressed so much by their voices last time I heard each although Cameron has since changed from Tenor to Baritone. All are Baritones or Bass Baritones and Jeremy and Samuel Holland have returned here for this concert. 
With 35 performers on stage including a wonderful chorus gathered from outside the school they were able to present some great and oh so famous scenes from Mozart's astonishing operas. Among the chorus was the wonderful Matthew Yates whom I had seen recently in Rent. Also from the Rent cast were the wonderful Michael Mandalios and Kieran Rodriguez earning some bucks by pouring me lots of wine.
It was a special moment when I caught up with Stuart Maunder Runs Opera NZ) who directed the evening. I had known Stuart around 35 years ago and one great memory was when he was a stage manager at Opera Australia and took us on stage of the Lucia set the afternoon before we were attending one of Joan Sutherland's stupendous performances. We sang the sextet badly but could claim we shared the same stage as Sutherland, just not at the same time.
Fortified by the wine I had drunk I managed something I had wanted to do for decades. I met Lisa Gasteen and had great chats about mainly my memories of seeing her in student productions at the conservatorium around 35 or more years ago and when I had bumped into her before and seen some spectacular productions like Force of Destiny, Don Carlo and many more. I kissed her hand and got some photos. Some were taken by the official photographer but I have to find out how to get copies. She and the photographer said all sorts of things and gave me names to contact but that left by brain as soon as I turned my head. Now the search begins. This is a blurry photo taken on my phone which I only bought two days ago and have no idea how to set up properly. I also ran into a few other fb friends and got home around midnight. There are other photos that were taken by the official photographer I hope to get hold of.
I am so pleased that some of these great singers told me about upcoming performances here in Brisbane which I will be at. Lovely to meet Samuel Piper's proud parents, A great interesting history professor with a love of the arts, a wonderful soprano Annika Hinrichs I have seen in Medea and Poppea.
As mentioned there was a function after the concert celebrating the 5th birthday of the school. You may never have been in a room where just about everyone from on stage and from the audience is a singer, except me and they sing 'Happy Birthday To Us' and led by one of the greatest singers in the world. It gave me tingles. That was a moment I will remember always.
Bravi !!!!!
Lisa as Brunhilda

This is the performance that won Lisa the Singer Of THe World competition in Cardiff in 1991. This is THE Voice that has made me so excited for decades.

06 December 2015

On The Docks - a new musical.

Friday 4th December
Ian Hanger Hall
Queensland Conservatorium
Notes from the programme.

"On the Docks is the debut musical theatre work of Alexander Bayliss and Rex J Ablett. It tells the tale of a young girl, Rachel, who wants more than anything to travel to the UK but feels trapped due to the pressures from her family and her community. This is further exacerbated by the backdrop of an industrial dispute between her father, his union and Shipping company that he works for. Furthermore, an old flame and a new young stranger compete for Rachel's affections making her situation even more complicated.

The December season of On the Docks is the production's first public performance. However, there have been a number of workshops along the way to help refine the show. Thanks in a huge part to Griffith University's Queensland Conservatorium of Music the creative team now feel ready to show the musical to the world in a concert format."
 Something special happened in Brisbane last night. The birth of a new musical 'ON THE DOCKS' composed by Rex J Ablett with lyrics by Alex Bayliss. It is sensational. Rex is another brilliant graduate from the Queensland Conservatorium - Musical Theatre and was accepted to do his Masters of Music Studies where he has been able to compose his first major musical. Alex has a bachelor and masters in Creative Writing and together they have created an outstanding work for musical theatre on a topic of high emotional and political impact from 1998 Australia.
There are so many great songs and some I can see as becoming concert favourites by various artists, Stirring ensemble/ chorus work, lyrics that are poignant, emotional, fun, witty and smart. This is a all encompassing great work already. With a touch of crowd funding it only took a couple of thousand dollars to put it on and hopefully the performers get a few bucks out of it. We must start paying our artists in Australia properly. I was pleased to see so many facebook friends in the large cast. Olly Oliver Samson once again allowed us to share in that smooth and beautiful voice as it flowed all over us. Luke Wallace gave us one of the big numbers as the union boss/dad and Josh R H Daveta revealed yet another side of his multi talented soul, cabaret artist, singer, comedian, dramatic actor and the list goes on for this acutely smart and charismatic performer. In the ensemble with various solo moments were the outstanding Matthew Semple, Michael Mandalios, Hayden Rodgers, Isaac Saunders, Simon Mason and Hayley Maybury. There was a some choreography but I can see flags and placards waving, big choreographed opportunities when it gets backing. The music is so varied and exceptional. I was constantly surprised by the inventiveness, the just wonderful music and this had a lot to do with the outstanding Musical Director Luke Volker on fearless piano. His lavish playing created a huge backdrop to the singers and he has been the soul of many a production I have seen this year. He is a star in his field. I have not mentioned the rest of the fairly large cast as I do not know them, but there were some outstanding talents that I had come across for the first time.

I do hope that The Queensland Theatre Company, Harvest Rain Theatre Company, and others start vying for this work to bring a fully staged and fully funded big production to the stage. It already is a major work and hit waiting exposure.
A year or two ago Wesley Enoch suggested Brisbane become a centre for the creation of new Musicals and in an email this week the new Artistic Director of QTC Sam Strong wrote -
'Ladies in Black embodies two things we will be doing a lot more at QTC in the future. Firstly, it’s a production that combines the best Queensland talent with the best talent from all over Australia. Secondly, it creates a world class, world first theatrical experience right here in Queensland. ' Well here is your perfect chance Sam. Local story, composer, writer and we have the directors, actors and singers to make it happen.
I was thrilled to be in at the birth of a hit musical and particularly chufed when the composer came over to say hello to me and thank me for my support just prior to the opening. It cost a mere $15 which might pay each performer less than a dollar. It is heroically good as attested to by the full house last night who cheered, applauded, laughed and even cried.
The Cast.

I do hope that The Queensland Theatre Company, Harvest Rain Theatre Company, and others start vying for this work to bring a fully staged and fully funded big production to the stage. It already is a major work and hit waiting exposure.
A year or two ago Wesley Enoch suggested Brisbane become a centre for the creation of new Musicals and in an email this week the new Artistic Director of QTC Sam Strong wrote -
'Ladies in Black embodies two things we will be doing a lot more at QTC in the future. Firstly, it’s a production that combines the best Queensland talent with the best talent from all over Australia. Secondly, it creates a world class, world first theatrical experience right here in Queensland. ' Well here is your perfect chance Sam. Local story, composer, writer and we have the directors, actors and singers to make it happen.
You really must go and be in at the birth of a hit musical. It will cost you a mere $15 which might pay each performer less than a dollar and it is on tonight and tomorrow afternoon. Just turn up to the Ian Hanger Hall at the Con. It is good as attested to by the full house last night who cheered and applauded, laughed and even cried.
Some words about this famous industrial action from Wikipedia.
"The Australian waterfront dispute of 1998 was a watershed event in Australian industrial relations history, in which the Patrick Corporation undertook an illegal restructuring of their operations for the purpose of increasing the productivity of their workforce. This dispute involved Patrick Corporation locking out their workers after the restructuring had taken place, with many of these workers members of the dominant Maritime Union of Australia. The resulting dismissal and locking out of their unionised workforce was supported and backed by the then Australian Liberal/National Coalition Government.

Major events in the dispute occurred in four major ports, where the Patrick Corporation had significant operations, Melbourne, Brisbane, Fremantle and Sydney. It revolved around attempts by Patrick Corporation and the federal government to improve efficiency on Australia's wharves; primarily by reducing staffing numbers and the power of the Maritime Union of Australia."

04 December 2015

Ladies in Black - Musical Premier.

2nd December
Queensland Theatre Company
Playhouse QPAC
Based on the Novel 'The Women In Black' 
by Madeleine St John
'Ladies in Black' is a brand new premier musical created by The Queensland Theatre Company with playwright Carolyn Burns, Composer Tim Finn (yes, Tim of Split Enz (1984), Crowded House (1990 – 1991), Finn Brothers fame) and directed by Simon Phillips. Last night along with friends Michelle Boyd, Phil and Sante there was a great crowded house for the near end of the run before they ALL move to Melbourne to open the 2016 season down there. By the end I wanted to stand and cheer until the incredible charmer Bobby Fox quietened us down for a few words before we had a Q&A. 

For those unfamiliar The Women in Black refer to the women who worked dressed in stylish black dresses in the big Departments Stores - Goode's in this case but drawn on parallels we all remember if we are old enough. I was unsure by certain elements at the beginning as I adjusted to their observations of Australia in the 50's which seemed a touch patronising, but this was soon swept away as the characters grew, the music continued and developed and the charm of the piece took over. It is a lot more than frivolous nostalgia as it delved into the patriarchal, somewhat racist Australia as it began to enter the real world after recovering from the war. Loss, loneliness, adjustment to change, the growing independence of women, the embracing of new culture and a whole lot of fun. It is wonderful to end an evening in triumph with everybody happy. 
Music wise there were some smashing songs, some fun numbers like 'They are Bastards' and really fantastic arrangements by the inventive band led by Musical Director Isaac Hayward. He really impressed me. For me the appearance of the sensational Christen O'Leary (my sixth of her plays) as the brilliant Hungarian Magda was a huge highlight. God I would love to go to one of Magda's parties. She was real, she was fun she was a breath of fresh air to the somewhat stifled population of that time. Also a favourite was Naomi Price turning in yet another great performance with that wonderful voice as a true treasure. It is only a few weeks since I last saw her on stage when we did get a chance to give her a standing ovation. Then she was backed by the super star Luke Kennedy whom I happened to meet in the foyer last night. After following him for several years now it was such a delight to finally meet face to face as he was there with another friend Chris Kel Lett.
Cast and Creatives.
 It was a pretty big cast and as they said what was originally meant to be a chamber musical took flight and became a big show that should have years of returns and travels. As one of the cast said afterwards it was great to sing and tell an Australian story in Australian idioms and not have to sing with an American accent at which point the audience cheered. I repeat the voices were impressive, the story relevant to today, the creativity a joyful celebration.
The Costume Crew with fabulous friend Leigh Buchanan

A  bit of a piano rehearsal of the title number way before it took to the stage.

03 December 2015

Les Miserables 30 Years On

2nd December 2015
Lyric Theatre QPAC
Good come to those who wait. After an unexplained 'delay' of around 25 minutes last night the curtain finally rose on a truly spectacular piece of musical theatre - Les Miserables. A multi million dollar production and it looked like it.
Universally the singing was thrilling. So many great voices, so much passion and god, so many costumes changed at lightning speed. The ensemble cast could exit in one direction and within moments would reappear somewhere else as a different character as the set also changed miraculously and flawlessly before your eyes. I saw one set and relevant costumes that lasted but a matter of seconds. This was like a well edited film. And while on the matter of production values there is one scene where Javert leaps to his death which is breathtaking and nothing short of the best live theatre magic I have ever witnessed and elicited a huge ovation by a spellbound audience. I won't give away the details. The joy of hearing such powerful voices amplified a touch too much for me and a touch too little for my friend was exciting. Subjective assessments like this are what make theatre personal, but all cried at places that affect them the most. 
For me was the special thrill of seeing Sarah Murr and Billy Bourchier (bottom right above) on stage for the 4th time each this year. Two 21 year olds with gigantic talents. Although understudying more major roles their numerous ensemble characters was a complete surprise as they each seemed to be prominent in scene after scene and with so many solo sings I was simply awestruck by their enormous talent. They are truly stars on the rise. I wish I had a photo of Sarah toting that huge rifle as she mounted the battlements, Billy with his crutches dance and their heroic deaths. So many moments to shine because I could not take my eyes off them. As I am not writing a book I will just mention three outstanding voices that affected me so much. 
Of course Simon Gleeson as Jean Valjean just had to elicit loud screaming Bravos from me, Kerry Greenland as Eponine brought forth hushed gasps from everyone around me and Euan Doige (above) as Marius had the most beautiful, young and adorable voice. A truly individual sound that had a gentility that was pure passion and love. 

Trevor Ashley
I should also mention that Trevor Ashley is surely a great Australian Star. An amazing performer, a charismatic chameleon and an entertainer par excellence. As the last note rung out David Bentley and I were the first to our feet yelling for the cast, the production and well we must not forget the composers. This is truly a musical/modern opera of great worth and this is a performance that should not be missed. 

Brilliant 2.50 video sample of this production and cast.

Brisbane Cast at Lyric Theatre QPAC
with friends Billy Bouchier front row red bow tie and Sarah Murr far right black dress
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