Sunday, December 28, 2014


Theatre by Canberra's local companies
Thoughts by Len Power

How do you make sure every show you produce is a winner?  It’s not easy.  Looking back at 2014, most local companies gave us some memorable productions but there were also some disappointing duds, too.

The year started well with Wayne Shepherd’s delightful direction of the musical, ‘Seussical’, for Ickle Pickle Productions.  The Q Theatre staged Adam Spreadbury-Maher’s acclaimed London production of ‘A Tale Of Two Cities’.  Audiences were strongly divided on this one.  I liked it but there were plenty of people who didn’t.

I’m not all that keen on the play, ‘Steel Magnolias’, but Canberra Rep’s good production by Jordan Best was enjoyed by large audiences.  SUPA Productions took a chance with the British musical, ‘The Witches Of Eastwick’ which got mostly good reviews but didn’t get strong audience support.

Dud of the year has to go to Canberra Rep’s musical offering, ‘Showtune’, a Jerry Herman songbook show which wasn’t much of a show to begin with and was miscast and poorly directed.  Luckily, Free Rain came to the rescue with a tremendous production of the musical, ‘Legally Blonde’, which was a winner in every department.

‘The Rokitelly Man’, a home-grown musical presented by Ickle Pickle Productions, demonstrated that there is musical-writing talent in Canberra.  Then we turned to the horrors of the Inquisition in Duncan Ley’s play, ‘The Burning’, staged by Everyman Theatre and performed very well by Jarrad West and Will Huang, in particular.

Canberra Rep recovered from ‘Showtune’ with a stunning production of Tom Stoppard’s very tricky, ‘Arcadia’, directed by Aarne Neeme.  The Canberra School Of Music staged Monteverdi’s opera, ‘L’Orpheo’, which was nicely sung by the leads and well-played by the orchestra but the clunky staging let it down somewhat.

Canberra Rep’s next offering should have been a beauty, but, to this critic, was a major disappointment.  Peter Shaffer’s, ‘Equus’, lacked a strong director to bring out the nuances of this powerful play.  Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical, ‘Sunset Blvd’, at the Q Theatre was a good showcase for the musical talents of Canberra’s songbird, Bronwyn Sullivan.  Then we were stunned by an extraordinary production of the play, ‘August: Osage County’, directed by Cate Clelland for Free Rain.  Some of the most exciting performances of the year were on view here by Karen Vickery, Jim Adamik and Andrea Close and the large ensemble cast.

The year finished with a winning production of Noel Coward’s ‘Blithe Spirit’ by Kate Blackhurst for Canberra Rep, an amazing and eye-opening new work, ‘Scandalous Boy’ at the Street Theatre and the razzle dazzle of SUPA’s well-received Jerry Herman musical, ‘La Cage Aux Folles’.

Overall, it was a good year of theatre by local companies.  Some played it safe with shows aimed at non-adventurous theatregoers while others are to be applauded for taking a risk with lesser-known but worthy shows.  Either way, Canberra audiences are spoiled with the amount of high standard theatre available here.

Originally broadcast on Artsound FM 92.7 ‘Dress Circle’ showbiz program with Bill Stephens on Sunday 28 December 2014 from 5pm.