Madge is looking a little different… [by James Wenley]
Michael Griffiths is a busy man. Not only is the Australian actor starring as Bob Crewe on a little show called Jersey Boys 8 times a week, but he’s also prepping for his one man cabaret show, to be performed on his one night off.
And it’s not just any Cabaret show either. The material girl herself, Madonna, is coming to Auckland! In In Vogue: Songs by Madonna, Michael Griffiths plays Madonna – but with no accent, costume or wig – just him on the piano taking us through her life and hit parade as we’ve never heard them before.
Michael expressed himself and answered my questions…
So this must be the life – you get to tour to Auckland in Jersey Boys AND put on a cabaret show on the side. Was this the plan from the start?
When Jersey Boys first announced we were coming here it was the first thing that crossed my mind and I'm always on the lookout for cabaret venues. It wasn't until we did a couple of rehearsals in the Wintergarden (under the Civic) and I saw the grand piano hiding down there that I realised it was the perfect venue for IN VOGUE and then it was full steam ahead!
3 actors, 3 treadmills, 60 minutes [by Sharu Delilkan]
Working on a show that has had a previous incarnation can be daunting. But when it has been a huge success it is an even bigger ask.
So it's not surprising that actor Andi Crown was a little hesitant when director-writer Anders Falstie-Jensen asked her to act in Standstill.
"I must admit I was anxious that Anders would wanting the blocking [the process of planning where, when, and how actors will move about the stage during a performance] to be exactly the same as the last time. So I approached the first rehearsal with trepidation but when I noticed Anders chuckling and laughing out loud, when we tried out new things, I knew I had made the right decision to get involved."
Another challenge was that Crown had never seen the show before.
"Of course I had seen the images around with the actors looking pained and sweaty and had thought the treadmill device was an interesting concept. So when Anders gave me the script and the DVD, it was a toss up whether to watch the DVD or not. In the end I only watched two minutes and turned it off – just to see what the visual aspect was like. I didn’t watch anymore so that I wouldn't get influenced," she says.
Inspired by true stories and propelled by a fierce undercurrent of desperation, Standstill weaves tales of factory workers, cyclists, doctors and tour guides into a sweaty kaleidoscopic image of what happens when our dreams and ambitions collide with the lives we end up living.
A timeless classic [by Sharu Delilkan]
Although The Lion in the Winter has been around since the 1960s, it's actor Brendan Lovell's first time acting in, let alone reading the play.
The 27-year-old actor admits he had never heard of American playwright James Goldman’s play, that debuted on Broadway in 1966, until the audition.
But he's by no means new to acting. Far from it, Lovell's been in the public eye since popping out of an oven as The Gingerbread Man at age 4.
And even though he didn’t go straight into acting following high school, his long hiatus came to a close in 2010 when he found himself back on stage in a series of pantomime plays, while studying screen acting at the South Seas Film and Television School.
“I didn’t realise how much I missed the buzz of being on stage until I did those pantomimes. I was playing a musician in Pinocchio and the reaction from the kids who booed me off stage and wouldn’t let me sing the song was absolutely amazing,” he said.
But will there be Mermaids? [by James Wenley]
In brilliant theatre news, Auckland has taken a giant step forward in becoming the world class live-able city that we've been hearing so much about, with the Auckland Council reaffirming their support for Auckland Theatre Company's new Waterfront theatre, despite a last dash sinking attempt by a minority of councillors.
It's been a nervous last few days for Auckland Theatre Company as they awaited the decision from council. There's still more for ATC to fund-raise, and the Council's money is conditional on that, but the commitment in the long term plan gives ATC and its backers certainty.
Congratulations to ATC - I can't wait until I can go to a ATC show at Wynyard Quarter. Auckland venue watchers will know we still have the old Mercury up for sale, and the scandalous state of the Saint James. But for ATC this is a huge victory for forward thinking - they've long argued the benefits of their own venue (which will also be used by our national Opera and Ballet companies) and by partnering with ASB Bank, its exactly the sort of public-private partnership that is so in vogue at the moment.
Here is the hot off the press media release:
Checkmate [by James Wenley]
Before the total world domination of MAMMA MIA, there was Chess. Chess is a Musical that should not work on paper. A Musical surrounding the championship of a sport that doesn’t get all that many peole excited , against the backdrop of cold war politics… AND from the men of ABBA, trying to prove themselves as more than just mega successful composer/performers of ridiculously catchy pop tunes. There’s a flagrant whiff of pretension about the whole thing. But this soon dissipates as you are caught by the drama, the maneuvering of pieces and people off and on the board, and a bold and surprising score.
Chess debuted at the West End in 1986, following an earlier well-received concept album from composers Benny Anderson, Bjorn Ulvaeus, and lyricist Tim Rice that produced hits like ‘One Night in Bangkok’ and ‘I Know Him so Well’. With Chess there’s a critical consensus that while the pop enthused music is brilliant, the book has never really worked; following its West End season it was dramatically changed for Broadway, and then again for a Sydney production.
Auckland Musical Theatre launch us into a Chess for the MTV generation. Director Richard Neame places the show firmly in the cultural memory of the era - the company, deliciously decked with 80s styled flair, are led in The Story of Chess by the Arbiter (Kit Haines) - not some dour suited Chess judge, but carrying a David Bowie cool - and with his own group of Arbiter girls in tow. That’s right, Chess is sexy, a mass-media extravaganza.
Shakespeare Nerd’s Dream [by James Wenley]
Michael Hurst looks like he’s just stepped off a poor imitation of a Shakespearean stage: black doublet, tights, a particularly foppish wig, and…. a noticeable codpiece (how did the Elizabethans takes themselves seriously?).
But the costume isn’t what we notice first. I won’t spoil the comical and disturbing opening image, but with one gesture Hurst cuts through centuries of academic conjecture and Harold Bloom to get to the essential heart of Hamlet’s mental state. Hamlet stands before us, codpiece and all, but not as we know him.
Bard Day’s Night (originally Frequently Asked Questions) is written by Hurst, Natalie Medlock and Dan Musgrove (who share directing duties). Incredibly, this is Hurst’s first solo show, and he couldn’t have picked for himself a better showcase. Like international giants like Steven Berkoff or Simon Callow he gets to do a Shakespearean revue with all his favourite monologues, but in a highly physical and direct way that takes the piss out of himself, subverts the great Bard, but also restores Shakespeare’s power and themes.
The show exists in a sort of Shakespearean purgatory, where Shakespeare’s great tragic figures – Hamlet, Macbeth, Othello, and King Lear – try to come to terms with their roles and fates. With Hurst taking on all the parts, there’s also the sense of an actor gone mad. It’s as if Hurst, after a lifetime of playing Shakespeare, is finally overwhelmed by the imaginative assault of Shakespeare’s characters, and has lost his own identity within them.
I don't know how to say this, but... [by James Wenley]
If it hasn’t happened to you you’re either extremely fortunate, like to get in first, or lying.
Dumped is the title of the comedy play, and the firm subject. The characters – four bar staff and a particularly boozy customer each have their own take on the condition and rules of being both dumped and dumped-ee.
Work becomes awkward when Andy (Andrew Clay) breaks up with Fiona (Rachel Blampied)… via txt. She thinks this is an offensive way to do it, he says there is no good way of letting someone down. In the role of mediator is bar owner Mickey (Michael Saccente) who offers his years of experience as perspective, as well as some suitably salt-rimmed cocktail quips.
Politically Aware and Intelligent Humour, now with Bonus FlyBuy Points! [by Rosabel Tan]
These are tough times. There’s the global financial crisis. Climate change. John Key. And Richard Meros, once a leading academic specialising in Helen Clark’s specific niche – can no longer earn a living. And so he turns to the world for a solution, and finds it in that lone figure staring across the plains: the Southern Man.
As with On the Conditions and Possibilities of Helen Clark Taking Me as Her Young Lover, Meros, played by Arthur Meek, uses a gorgeously rendered PowerPoint presentation to convince us of his thesis in inspired and imaginative ways. Drawing on visual jokes, live-action shadow puppetry and a short-lived bout of pyrotechnics, Meros explains in bullet-point form his search for the Southern Man, the figure he believes will be our modern-day hero.
Bombs Away!: Who you [not] gonna call? [by Sharu Delilkan]
There is no secret that ‘there will be bombs’ in the brand new comedy-musical Bombs Away!.
The hilarious script written by Nic Sampson, Ryan Richards and Barnaby Fredric, complemented by a full-length musical score from Joseph Moore, can only be described as absurd, uplifting, full of life and the height of silliness.
The opening track includes a call to Muslim prayer followed by a song with Muslims and burkahs, but the show is not about Muslims and bombing. Although not Muslim myself, but having grown up in Malaysia I was pleasantly surprised that the writers decided not to resort to Muslim-bashing to make and tell their fantastical story. Instead the focus is on three NZ Bomb Academy dropouts A.D. (Nic Sampson), Matt Baker (Ryan Richards) and Ben (Calum Gittins) who couldn’t defuse a bomb if their lives depended on it.