Cinderella Review

Alexei Ratmansky’s new production of Cinderella is a winner. This is a brand new production, made on the Australian Ballet, with the score by Sergei Prokofiev (played excellently as always by Orchestra Victoria) the only thing left from the ‘traditional’ versions. There were no tutus, no pumpkins or mice or singing birds. There was still the original story of girl abused by stepmother and stepsisters, helped by Fairy Godmother (who rather strongly resembled Nanny McPhee, and was played by the ever wonderful Lynette Wills), goes to the ball, falls in love with Prince, loses shoe on way out at midnight, finds Prince at end.

Leanne Stojmenov and Daniel Gaudiello as Cinderella and the Prince at the ball

The story was set in a sort of post-war Europe, so the costume and set designs (by Jérôme Kaplan) echoed somewhere between there and those of the Capitol from The Hunger Games. The colour palette used for the sets and costumes was beautiful, rich, autumnal colours, with the only black being wore by the Fairy Godmother. Projections were also used throughout the performance, mostly to great effect. I have found some projections in other works to either be tacky or gaudish or simply don’t work with the piece, but I thought that they all worked well in Cinderella, and added to the whole effect.

The mice/pumpkin, etc were replaced by the planets and various other intergalactic things, with this scene taking place at the end of the first act. I found this part very reminiscent of Act II of The Nutcracker when Clara watches the Flowers/Candy canes/Cossacks, etc dance around while something magical happens, but it was just nice and takes you away to another, more magical world, which, surely, is the purpose of the ballet.

Amber Scott was beautiful as Cinderella, and she suited the part perfectly. This is the perfect role for her and I don’t think I have ever seen her dance better or have enjoyed her performance more. Ty King-Wall was terrific as the Prince, and Amy Harris was brilliant as the Stepmother (she’s my favourite dancer to have playing ‘evil’ roles. Her Carabosse in The Sleeping Beauty is still one of the best portrayals of a character I’ve seen to date), and Ingrid Gow and Halaina Hills were very funny as the ditzy, tantrum-throwing stepsisters.

Daniel Gaudiello as the Prince

Cinderella has now closed in Melbourne, but will be playing in Sydney later in the year, and in Adelaide in 2014. An excellent night at the ballet. Don’t miss out.

★★★★☆

These photos (and more!) at The Australian Ballet’s Facebook page.

Ingrid Gow, Amy Harris, Halaina Hills as the stepmother and stepsisters at the ball

Advertisements

Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers with the MSO

IMG_1234

View from our seats

Why spend $100 on a ticket to see a film that you have on DVD in both normal and special extended edition? Because it is absolutely brilliant, that’s why. In October last year, we saw Fellowship of the Ring with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, and this year, it was time for The Two Towers. TTT is probably my favourite overall film of the LotR trilogy, and the music, especially in the second half of the film, is spectacular. I also love seeing these films on the big screen, as I didn’t when they first came out.

The first half of TTT is really just setting up what it to come after interval (interval was placed between Frodo and Sam being captured by Faramir, and the Wargs attacking the Rohirrim on their way to Helm’s Deep), and musically, the only new theme that isn’t carried over (although broken up and re-arranged) from Fellowship the Rohan Fanfare.

The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers

The second half contains the beautiful Aragorn and Arwen’s Theme, The Host of the Eldar, The Last March of the Ents, and of course The Tales that Really Matter. I love the second half of this film, the relationship developments between Aragorn and Legolas, Merry and Pippin and of course, Sam and Frodo, getting to see Captain Faramir’s “show is quality”, Gandalf and the Rohirrim showing up at just the right moment…I could go on.

I love the MSO, and today they were as good as ever. Special shout-out to Colin Curry and the whole percussion team, who really had their work cut out for them in this film (there’s a lot of orcs!). The Royal Melbourne Philharmonic Choir was brilliant, as were the National Boys Choir of Melbourne. Boy-soloist Julian Dodds was excellent, and mezzo-soprano soloist Victoria Lambourn’s vocalising throughout the film was very good, but her rendition of “Gollum’s Song” during the final credits was a bit flat. Conductor Ludwig Wicki was full of energy, and brought the best out of the MSO.

The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers

I suppose the only way to conclude is to say that after the show, we went and queued up at the box office and bought tickets for Return of the King, which is conveniently on my birthday next year. Can you give bigger praise than that?

★★★★☆

PS: To anyone who loves any film as much as I love the LotR trilogy, if your local orchestra is playing the music alongside the film, then do yourself a favour and get a ticket. You will not regret it.

Photos from www.killermovies.com

 

Graeme Murphy’s Swan Lake Review

Graeme Murphy’s Swan Lake is a staple of The Australian Ballet’s repertoire. Though this production is now in its 11th year, this was the first time I have seen it live (as I have it on DVD), and WOW. It is one of the major works that TAB performs when touring, especially internationally, but it is the first time in about five or six years it has been shown in Melbourne. Last year, I saw TAB’s production of Stephen Bayne’s Swan Lake, and though it was good, I wasn’t blown away.

Graeme Murphy’s Swan Lake is a bit of a deviation from the classic Swan Lake storyline, and, personally, I like it much more. Set in and around an imperial court in Europe between the World Wars, it is somewhat based on more recent royal history. No magic, but plenty of madness, scandal and undying love.

I was most excited to see on the cast sheet the names of Madeleine Eastoe and Lucinda Dunn as Odette and the Baroness von Rothbart (Odile)  respectively. To those who don’t know, these two ballerinas would be the “prima” ballerinas of TAB. Lucinda Dunn has been in the TAB since 1991 (the year I was born!!!), and though I have seen them both dance in different ballets before, I have never seen either of them as good as they were last night. Rudy Hawkes was Prince Siegfried, and though he was very good, was outshone by the two leading ladies. It really didn’t matter; sometimes when the women are that good, so long as the chap can lift them when required and catch them in the turns, it doesn’t matter awfully.

The wonderful Mrs Eastoe as Odile

Halaina Hills was wonderful as the Young Duchess, and I thought Laura Tong was a wonderfully kick-ass Princess Royal. Great to see Colin Peasley back on stage as the token old-chap at the wedding (Colin Peasley was one of the original dances  in TAB when it was founded back in 1962. He’s now well into his 70’s, and is put into costume a couple of times each year for the “old-chap” roles as required). I also really enjoyed Calvin Hannaford and Cameron Hunter as the young Earl and his Equerry. They got a lot of laughs, and I think the audience was shipping them as hard as they were any other pairing in this ballet!

The set and especially costumes are absolutely exquisite. They were designed by the late Kristian Fredrikson, who I do not believe made one ugly costume in his whole career. There is not one dress in this ballet that I would not want to wear. And the detail in everything since piece is just stunning.

Swan Lake is of course one of the most iconic ballet scores, and, arguably, pieces of classical music, and Orchestra Victoria were fantastic as always.

My favourite dance of this version of Swan Lake, though perhaps a little clichéd, is the Act I waltz. It’s just so beautiful, and one of my favourite dances in any ballet (other top favourites being the Pas de Deux from Peter Wright’s The Nutcracker and the Act I Mazurka and Act II finale from Dame Peggy van Praagh’s Coppelia).

If The Australian Ballet are touring this production of Graeme Murphy’s Swan Lake in your city, book early or miss out, and you do not want to miss this.

★★★★☆

Up next: Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers LIVE with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra. If it’s half as good as Fellowship was last year, then it’ll be beyond amazing.

All pictures from The Australian Ballet’s Facebook page.

Jesus Christ Superstar Review

“Listen Jesus, I don’t like what I see…”

IMG_1018

Rod Laver Arena filling up

Judas mightn’t have much liked what he was seeing, but I can assure you that there was not one second of Jesus Christ Susperstar – The Arena Spectacular that I did not enjoy. It was absolutely amazing. I do not know enough superlatives to describe what I thought of this show. I will admit now that I was pre-disposed to a  favourable view towards this show as we did it one year when I was at school, and I loved being part of it.

This is the exact production that toured the UK last year, now out here in Australia, with the same cast, including Mel C, Tim Minchin and Ben Forster.

IMG_1019

Very cheesy photo; self and stage

We got to Rod Laver Arena(where is big games of the Australian Open are held) nice and early, with plenty of time to find our seats, which were fantastic (thank-you Arts-Hub!). We were sitting almost directly under the speaker, so it was extremely loud, but the show was so amazing that that slight irritation didn’t matter.

The point of Jesus Christ Superstar is that it can be fitted into the modern world, and I thought that this has been achieved wonderfully in this production. Hash tags, iPads, celebrity game shows, this production had it all.

Tim Minchin was a fantastic Judas. His songs, notably Heaven on their Minds and whenever he has an altercation with Jesus (think Everything’s Alright, Strange Thing Mystifying) were so powerful, and he did a great job of portraying Judas’s conscience, torn between doing the right thing for Jesus, for his mates, and for the ‘State’. The dynamics between him and Ben Forster were really powerful.

Photo by: Duncan Barnes

Forster shone throughout the show, and was wonderfully emotive. His Gethsemane was particularly powerful, and he nailed those high notes. He was very much in character throughout the whole show, from the friendly chap just wanting to help in Act I, to the tortured soul facing his fate in Act II. The trial and death scenes were played beautifully.

Photo by: Duncan Barnes

As a child of the ‘90’s, I was of course a Spice Girls fan, and so was a little bit fan-girly about seeing Mel C, and she didn’t let me down. I thought she fitted the role of Mary Magdalene perfectly, and had great chemistry with Forster. I particularly liked her Could We Start Again Please?

Photo by: Duncan Barnes

Jon Stevens was great as Pilate. I thought he was channelling a bit Inspector Javert in his Trail costume, but there’s nothing wrong with that! Leon Craig was our Herod, (replacing Andrew O’Keefe, who was injured) and was brilliant, channelling his inner Alan Carr. Cavin Cornwell and Gerard Bentall were Caiaphus and Annas respectively were deliciously evil.

Photo by: Duncan Barnes

Rory Taylor as Simon Zealots (love the baseball bat!) and Tom Parsons as Peter were brilliant, as was the whole ensemble. The choreography was outstanding and the band and the theatrical design (think 39 Lashes, Judas’s death).

Photo by: Duncan Barnes

Apologies for the superlatives, but I really, really loved this show. It’s been a while since I’ve seen something I’ve loved this much. If this show is in your city, do what you have to in order to get a ticket. Do not miss out.

Follow #TheTwelve

★★★★★

Up next: Graeme Murphy’s Swan Lake with The Australia Ballet.

All photos, other than the first two which are mine, found here.

 

‘Vanguard’ Review

On Friday June 14, I saw The Australian Ballet‘s production of Vanguard, a triple bill featuring George Balanchine’s The Four Temperaments, Jiri Kylián’s Bella Figura and Wayne McGregor’s Dyad 1929.

I suppose I should start with saying that I am not a big fan of abstract contemporary works. I love new/contemporary/modern classical works by choreographers such as Stanton Welsh and Graeme Murphy, but stuff that’s plain abstract, well, for a start I don’t get it, and secondly, I just find it a lot harder to enjoy. Sometimes I wonder a little why I bother going to the contemporary triple bills, but I suppose it’s good to see TAB in all their styles and works, rather than just the more strictly classical pieces, but I digress…

Pay what you can ballet!

The night started with Balanchine’s The Four Temperaments. The was the first Balanchine ballet I have seen, and I did enjoy this one. It is very 1946, and that is clear in the style of dance and the basic costumes. I can see how, in 1946, The Four Temperaments would have been quite controversial and different. We had a great cast, all of who were technically brilliant. Despite not understanding what the piece was really about, this was still my favourite piece of the night.

Vanguard from the orchestra pit

After first interval was Kylián’s Bella Figura. Like The Four Temperaments, this was the first piece by Kylián that I’ve seen. I find it very difficult to enjoy a piece when I have a problem with one (or more) of the design elements, in this case, the costuming. I really don’t know why the girls had to be completely topless for part of the piece. Why? Why not just put them in flesh-coloured tops? Guys, fine, it’s generally not a night at the ballet until at least someone gets his shirt of (or there are a LOT of tight white pants), but girls? I don’t know. Afterwards that my aunty explained that the piece was all about making shapes with the body, but I still didn’t really enjoy it. The best part was the Stabat Mater in C Minor part of the score, sung beautifully by Jacqueline Porter and Russell Harcourt.

The final piece was Wayne McGregor’s Dyad 1929. I didn’t understand this at all. I know it’s supposed to be homage to the Ballet Russe, but I’ve seen Ballet Russe-ballets and I don’t understand how this is supposed to be related. I also know that Wayne McGregor has no classical ballet training and all that – but I just didn’t enjoy this piece. That’s not to say that it was bad, because technically, it was very good, I just didn’t like the music or the costumes or the set or the choreography. I have seen other Wayne McGregor pieces that I have liked. This one didn’t do it for me.

So, overall, I suppose that seeing triple-bills like Vanguard must be taken for what they are. Technically, I think I’ve seldom seen TAB better. But this programme just wasn’t for me.

★★★

Up next: Jesus Christ Superstar The Arena Spectacular.

(All photos belong to The Australia Ballet)