Extending that Chorus Line

Sometimes there’s nothing better than a bit of musical theatre, and Melbourne certainly loves its musicals. But you better be quick to see A Chorus Line, because it’s only in town for a very limited time at Her Majesty’s Theatre in Exhibition Street.

"And step, two, three, four." The cast are taken through their moves.

It’s a revival of the 1975 Broadway musical about a group of young hopefuls auditioning for a place in the chorus of a new musical; not quite art imitating life imitating art, or the old show-within-a-show, but more like a musical version of a behind-the-scenes doco, or even a reality TV show. There’s plenty of singing and dancing, naturally, but not much in the way of love, drama and romance – well, not in the traditional narrative sense.

It is, of course, all about the dancers themselves; their lives, their hopes, dreams and desires. Because of that, it’s all about their performances, and this cast certainly delivers that in abundance. Most of the ensemble have had plenty of experience as ensemble performers before, so it’s great to see such talented individuals given the chance to really shine. For that reason, it’s a little unfair to highlight any of those individuals. But I will.

Take Josh Horner, for example. (I know plenty of people who would, for various reasons…) While he’s not an unknown – especially now he’s a judge on dancing With the Stars – he does a great job as Zach the director holding the audition. He demonstrates the right amount of experience and authority needed for the role – and manages to maintain that when he’s offstage and addressing the hopefuls from the back of the theatre, which he does for most of the show.

Josh Horner in full flight as Zach. And that's Euan Doidge as paul on the left, and over on the far right is James Maxfield in those impressively tight pants of his...

Euan Doidge is also great as Paul, the young gay dancer who talks about the pain of his childhood. of course, we’ve had plenty of similar characters and stories on stage and screen since then, but in 1975, portrayals of gay characters like this were rare, and this was groundbreaking.

And, Head Shots at the ready, please!

Other standouts include Leah Lim as Connie, the short Asian girl determined to make it in showbiz, and Debora Krizak as Sheila, the slightly jaded performer just a little older than the rest of them. Anita Louise Combe as Zach’s ex-girlfriend Cassie also delivers a powerful performance, especially during her big solo number, ‘The Music and the Mirror’.

On a slightly more superficial level, Rohan Browne as Greg and James Maxfield as Mike both put in great performances; their physical prowess and male beauty are mesmerising, and they have incredibly magnetic stage presences that sometimes makes it hard to take your eyes off them. Not that I’m complaining. That, and Mazfield’s amazing arse in his very 70’s, very fitted dance pants…

Be warned though, there is no interval in A Chorus Line, and has a running time of around two hours. This obviously proved a problem for the two blonde girls seated to my right on opening night – they kept checking their iPhones throughout the show, maybe waiting for a better offer. they obviously got one; they left about half an hour before the end. Which is a shame really, because they missed two of the biggest and best-known numbers from the show, ‘What I Did For Love’ and the gold-lame wonder of the finale, ‘One’.

The finale and the gold lame really kicks in...

The good news is that the Melbourne season has been extended until 11 March 2012, so you still have a chance to get to see A Chorus Line. Best you do…

Oh, and check out some of the Opening Night Party shots.


A Spectacular week for Sci-fi

It was a big week for sci-fi geeks – well, Doctor Who fans anyway. And yes, that includes me. Last Saturday, Melbourne was privileged to host the MSO’s Doctor Who Symphonic Spectacular, and last Wednesday saw a new local comedy about a gay sci-fi group, Outland, make its debut.

But first, the Symphonic Spectacular. This was based on the very successful Doctor Who at the Proms concerts that have been performed at Albert Hall in London, and it’s the first time such a production has been seen outside the UK. And judging from its success, it won’t be the last.

Ben Foster conducts the MSO with his usual flair...

Conducted by Ben Foster, who also conducts the BBC National Orchestra of Wales when recording music for Doctor Who, the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra and the Concordis Chamber Choir perform music from the last two seasons of Doctor Who – which, of course, covers Matt Smith’s time as the Doctor. There’s something quite thrilling about hearing composer Murray Gold’s music live, and seeing video montages on a screen above the orchestra as they perform makes you realise how important and integral the score is to the programme. Whether it’s the stirring ‘Madman with a Box’ theme for the Eleventh Doctor, or the beautiful and moving theme for Amy Pond, the music is evocative, and had me getting a little damp around the eyes more than once.

"You will be silent or you will be ex-term-inated!"

Add to that the apperance of monsters and aliens live on stage and through the auditorium, including Daleks, Cybermen, the Silence, Silurians, the Ood, Vampire Girls and the Judoon, and you’ve got an Australian fan’s ultimate dream come true. Hosted by Mark Sheppard, who played Canton Delaware III in last year’s season opener (original choices of hosts included Matt Smith, Arthur Darvill, Alex Kingston and even Kylie Minogue), this was a true celebration of the music and the programme itself.

Silurian Warrior - surely someone's sexual fantasy...

And the audience absolutely loved it – of course! To have the monsters roaming the Plenary Hall at the Melbourne Convention Centre, and see the delighted responses of children and scary adult geeks alike was a treat in itself.

You can just imagine the foyer afterwards, as zealous enthusiasts queued in lines to buy all sorts of merchandise as Cybermen and Silurians and a Dalek roamed the foyer. it was a frenzy of photos and excited chatter, and I just had to join in, naturally!

I got real close to a Cyberman! Lucky I was dressed appropriately, otherwise I may have been deleted...

It’s the sort of event that the characters from ABC1’s new comedy Outland, which premiered this week, would have squealed about. It’s a gleeful and cheeky look at a gay science-fiction group that includes average guy Max (Toby Truslove), over-the-top Fab (Adam Richard), leather lover Andy (Paul Ireland), fashion twink Toby (Ben Gerrard) and wheelchair-bound Rae (Christina Anu).

Adam Richard as Fab bursts out of the closet!

As Max brings hot date Dylan home, the rest of the group turn up for an impromptu meeting, which throws Max into a spin as he tries to keep his geek self in the closet.

What’s great about this series is that it makes no concessions for those not familiar with sci-fi, and doesn’t tiptoe around the sexualities of the group. Both are on display in their unashamed glory, and rather than being niche or exclusive, I think this gives the show a universality that makes the characters and their lives immediately recognisable and easy to relate to.

Max prays that his date doesn't notice Fab's Dalek dress, but Andy doesn't think it'll work...

With lots of in-your-face jokes and sly asides (Rae is referred to as Davros, creator of the Daleks, and appears at the door of Max’s first floor apartment with no explanation of how she got up the stairs), Outland is an incredibly confident and good-looking show – and great fun to watch. I recommend repeat viewings; some one-liners will be missed first time around.

Creators John Richards and Adam Richard have a lot to be proud of here – and if it ‘normalises’ both being gay and a lover of sci-fi for a wider audience, then they’ll have done their job admirably.

It makes me want to go and join our own queer sci-fi group, Spaced Out… almost.

‘A Chorus Line’ Opening Night after party

A Chorus Line opened in Melbourne on Saturday, 4 February, and it was followed with a very attractive, star-studded event. here are some photos of stars and cast – and my partner Kieran McGregor!

Don’t worry, a review will be coming shortly…

Melissa Berglund and Kieran McGregor

Rohan Browne and Tim Minturn

Nick Bracks and Josh Horner

Josh Horner, Brynne Edelsten and Nick Bracks

Rachel Berger and Kieran McGregor

Mark Strom, Ashley McKenzie and Tom Lambert

Peter Veltman, Kurt Doulgas, Tom Lambert and Mark Strom, feeling the pink.

And then Mark mixed it up gelati style. Strawberry and lemon, I'm thinking...

Melissa Berglund and Josh Horner

James Maxfield and friend

Mish and Michael Cormick

Michael Cormick and Gerrard Carter

Chelsea Gibb, Kellie Rode and friend

Kieran McGregor and Chelsea Gibb

Mark Hill and Travis Khan

Mark Hill and Ben Osborne in matching check shirts and bow ties.

More Midsumma mania – going the lowbrow route

Midsumma’s drawing to a close for 2012, and I haven’t got to nearly as many shows as I would have liked. I left my run too late for tickets to Nath Valvo’s Grindr – A Love Story? – he’s all sold out! And while 37 Ways to Say I’m Gay, Twinkie and the Bear and Andy & Jonny present: Cocktails and Cocktaleswere all on my list, it just didn’t happen.

Glenda Waverley enjoys the company of the Leather Marys at DT's Golden Stiletto Rally.

I did get to DT’s Golden Stiletto Rally and Foam-a-Sexual at The Peel – neither event is what you’d call ‘highbrow’, but they were both a lot of fun. And sometimes that’s all you need.

I did get to see a show this week that was also a lot of fun, but where it sits on the ‘Brow Scale’ is not easy to define. I’d say it was highbrow with lowbrow inspiration.

The show is called Pageant – The Musical, and as you’d expect, it’s a beauty pageant of sorts, sponsored by the fictitious Glamouresse beauty products label. It’s set in the United States, of course, and has a great time parodying beauty pageants and American culture and sensibilities.

Miss Texas lends a helping hand in 'Pageant - The Musical'.

Hosted by Frankie Cavalier, there are six contestants: Miss Texas, Miss Bible Belt, Miss Industrial North East, Miss West Coast, Miss Deep South and Miss Great Plains. They’re men playing women, of course, but it’s not drag – not as we know it, anyway. The irony is that even though they’re presenting as women, they are obviously men. And without going overboard with self-awareness and satire, the show manages to comment on what it is to be a woman, beauty preconceptions, and what is passed off as talent in this age of reality TV competition programs.

It’s all gloriously tacky and cheesy, and while some of the ladies possess real talent: Miss Texas knows how to tap dance, Miss Deep South has impressive ventriloquist skills, and Miss Bible Belt knows how to ring those bells, but my favourite ‘talent’ was Miss West Coast’s interpretive dance. While displaying remarkable dancing skill, she also lampoons modern dance and its pretension.

Every performance, five judges are picked from the audience, and the pageant’s winner is determined by these randoms. I don’t know how or why, but i was singled out to be one of these judges. And as a result, Miss Industrial North east won the crown that night, largely because of her blissfully unaware and appalling performance on the piano accordion. For me, this alone epitomised the sly dig Pageant takes at self-delusional beauty queens.

Pageant finishes this Saturday, February 4, so get in quick if you like the sound of it. As for me, I’ll be having quite a cultural day that day, with the MSO’s Doctor Who Symphonic Spectacular in the afternoon, and A Chorus Line that evening. And then maybe Pride March on Sunday – if I’m up for it…