Canadian-American director Des McAnuff’s (Jersey Boys) gave the audience a little fright before the beginning of Doctor Zhivago last Tuesday. He made a special appearance on stage welcoming everyone and mentioned that lead cast member Anthony Warlow was injured at rehearsals and his understudy had been doing a fabulous job filling in for him. The ladies held their breath in anticipation and when he finally said Warlow is back, they erupted into applause and wrinkled smiles fill the room once again.
After reminding the audience that if anyone wanted to twist open candy and lozenges wrappers, now would be a good time, he made way for the media preview of the epic musical love story. Now, if you are unaware of the 20th century novel (1957) by Nobel Prize winner Boris Pasternak or the film that came after (1965) starring Omar Sharif (can you hear the sighs from bingo halls across the nation?), here’s the gist of it. Yuri Zhivago is a doctor slash poet going through a tough time. His life is all messed up because of the Russian Revolution followed by the Russian Civil War and he’s totally in love with Lara but is married to Tonya. The story is packed full of events, information, characters and pretty random fluke occurrences so my advice is to just sit back and allow the tidal wave music, dazzling set design and vocal prowess of the lead performers take over.
Besides a distracting major prop piece that the performers had to keep adjusting, an uncoordinated marching scene and a fiery dialogue between Yuri and Pasha where the actors kept downing vodka without taking the cap off, Doctor Zhivago was a stunning musical/operatic production. Even if you didn’t grow up with posters of Warlow or Sharif on your wall, give Zhivago a go. You’ll be pleasantly surprised by the doctor.
Until Apr 2, Lyric Theatre, Star City, 80 Pyrmont St, Pyrmont, $39.90-130.90, 9657 9657
Remember, remember, remember… Yes, it’s that song you just can’t get out of your head. And it’s back on stage in a mega-watt production produced by John Frost and starring 2009 So You Think You Can Dance winner Talia Fowler in the lead role (pictured with co-star Tim Omaji playing Tyrone). Before the days of pregnant teenagers imitating Madonna and Britney at the glee club, students of the New York High School of Performing Arts were the original dreamers begging audiences to remember their name. It’s been a few years but it looks like there’s no taming the Famers. Oh why the hell not, bring on the legwarmers!
Until 28 Nov. Capitol Theatre, Campbell St, Haymarket. $79.90-$109.90. 1300 723 038, ticketmaster.com.au
A parody of musicals in the form of a musical. It may not be a novel idea but the genre lends itself to perfect self-deprecating humour when done well and this production is, mostly. The plot is simple – almost as simple as ingénue June who can’t pay the rent and has to dance and sing her way to a solution, five times.
Corn in the style of Rodgers and Hammerstein (Oklahoma, The Sound of Music) is the weakest caricature with an elaborate but unimaginative dream sequence featuring the annoyingly repetitive song “Oh, What Beautiful Corn”. But the laughs quickly pick up with A Little Complex á la Stephen Sondheim (Sweeney Todd). “Welcome to the Woods” is written and sung to comedic perfection and the complex feels like Melrose Place gone psycho. Replete with a slutty dance sequence, the other stand out is Speakeasy in the style of Kander and Ebb which closely lampoons Cabaret.
Dear Abby in the style of Jerry Herman’s Hello Dolly and Aspects of Juanita spoofing Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Cats and Phantom of the Opera are predictable but still draws laughs from a very supportive audience. Special mention goes to accompanying pianist Mark Chamberlain, whose dexterity was well-matched with the fast paced satire. For an enjoyable evening, go with a big group with some knowledge of the musical genre and is not afraid to make some noise.
Until 29 May, Parade Space, Parade Theatres, 215 Anzac Parade, Kensington, $45-$55, 1300 795 012, sydneycomedyfest.com.au, triptychtheatre.com.au