Monday, January 5, 2015


Theatre by Canberra's local theatre companies
Thoughts by Len Power

When it’s 35 degrees outside wouldn’t it be nicer to be sitting in a cool theatre waiting for the curtain to rise on a live show?  Well, Canberra’s local theatre companies certainly have some good shows coming up in 2015 regardless of the weather.

First cab off the rank will be Ickle Pickle’s, ‘Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella’.  This is of particular interest as it’s the version written for television back in 1957 that starred Julie Andrews years before she moved on to a film career.  It opens at the Belconnen Theatre on the 9th of January.

Canberra Rep’s 2015 season has a fine mixture of plays on offer.  I’m particularly keen to see Arthur Miller’s intense play, ‘The Crucible’, again and I’ll be interested to see what the director does with the classic thriller, ‘Gaslight’, by Patrick Hamilton.  Of particular interest will be ‘Casanova’ with a script by Dr. Who writer, Russell T. Davies.

For many people, the theatre means musicals and Canberra will see quite a range of them this year.  Free Rain’s ‘Mary Poppins’ promises to be a spectacular show with a huge production in the Canberra Theatre.  The director and lead performers are imported professionals but they will be supported by top Canberra locals.  The big musical for the year from the Q Theatre in Queanbeyan will be ‘Grease’, a great favourite of audiences with its familiar tunes.  The Queanbeyan Players will give us a new production of ‘My Fair Lady’, which is always a must-see.

The other good news is that Canberra Philharmonic will be giving us one of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s most iconic shows, ‘Evita’, which hasn’t been available to non-professional companies for some years.

Make sure you support Phoenix Players’ courageous decision to produce ‘High Fidelity’, a musical not previously staged in Canberra.  It’s based on the funny film of the same name.

Equally courageous, some would say, is Everyman Theatre’s decision to produce Stephen Sondheim’s landmark musical, ‘Company’.  People have been saying for years that Sondheim shows never find an audience in Canberra.  In my opinion, this negative view is based on one spectacular failure at the Canberra Theatre in 1986 of Sondheim’s ‘Sweeney Todd’.  The show, unknown to audiences at the time, was promoted as an opera, rather than as a musical thriller and, as a result, both musical and opera lovers stayed away in droves.  Poor promotion was its reason for failure, not that it was a Sondheim musical.  Sondheim’s musicals are much better known now amongst musicals lovers, so it will be interesting to see how ‘Company’ fares in 2015.

After no Sondheim musicals in years in this area, we’re getting not one, but two!  Richard Block will direct the more recent Sondheim musical, ‘Into The Woods’.  This musical has never been staged in Canberra before but with the big budget movie of this show about to be released next week, this could be a clever move by Richard, especially if the movie proves to be a huge success.

SUPA Productions will give Canberra a new production of ‘The King And I’.  Garrick Smith will be directing and that means it will be a really spectacular production of this much-loved show.  It’s not performed as frequently as other Rodgers and Hammerstein musicals, probably because it requires lavish settings and costumes.  It’s always been my favourite of their musicals.

Well, that’s just a taste of what’s in store for audiences in Canberra in 2015.  For a full list of the shows on offer, you should check out the various companies’ websites.  Make sure you get out there and support your local theatre.  They do it for love and they love playing for you!

Originally broadcast on Artsound FM 92.7 ‘Dress Circle’ showbiz program with Bill Stephens on Sunday 4 January 2015 from 5pm.