Monday, February 28, 2022


Music and lyrics by Casey Bennetto

Directed by Sarah Hull

Queanbeyan Players

Belconnen Community Theatre to 6 March


Reviewed by Len Power 25 February 2022

If an opening night audience response is any indicator, the new production of ‘Keating!’ will be very successful indeed.

A sung-through musical with music and lyrics by Casey Bennetto, its revue-like structure illustrates the political career of Paul Keating, Australia’s Prime Minister between 1991 and 1996.

Originating at a Melbourne Comedy Festival in 2005, it’s tongue-in-cheek, larrikin approach to the story is presented in a mish-mash of musical styles including rock, rap, jazz, hip-hop, tango and everything else you can think of.

Various characters in the story, like John Howard, Alexander Downer, Gareth Evans and John Hewson, are presented as caricatures, which add to the fun.  Keating’s character is fairly straight but with a knowing wink to the audience.

Director, Sarah Hull, has produced a bright and breezy production in a simple setting with the small band onstage throughout the action.  Musical director, Jenna Hinton, has achieved a high standard of musical performance from the cast and band members.  She also plays drums for the show.

The young cast are clearly having a great time performing this show.  As the tone of the piece is satire, the cast members do not have to look exactly like the characters they’re portraying.  Well-chosen wigs, eyebrows, fishnets and distinctive eye-wear take care of that aspect very well.

Steven O'Mara centre stage as Keating

As Keating, Steven O’Mara has presence, a fine sense of the satire in his role and sings well.  There is also good work by Matt Greenwood in a deliciously wicked performance as John Howard and Anthony Swadling as a classic Bob Hawke.

Zyl Hovenga-Wauchope uses his strong voice and presence to great effect in his songs ‘The Beginning of the End’ and in the duet ‘Heavens, Mr Evans’, with Alissa Pearson, who is also in fine voice as a sexy Cheryl Kernott.  Everyone else in the twelve member cast gets their moment to shine.

David Santolin, the choreographer, has provided dances that appropriately enhance the mood and intention of the songs.  The cast attack the dances with energy and tall seem to be having a great time performing them.

Sound balance, particularly in the first act, needs more attention.  The satire in this show demands that the audience be able to hear the lyrics clearly.  The singers were often drowned out by the band.

This is a good production of a rare home-grown musical.  Queanbeyan Players are to be congratulated for having a go at something different and less main-stream.  It deserves to be a success.


Photo by Michael Moore

This review was first published in the Canberra CityNews digital edition of 26 February 2022.

 Len Power's reviews are also broadcast on Artsound FM 92.7 in the ‘Arts Cafe’ and ‘Arts About’ programs and published in his blog 'Just Power Writing' at


Sunday, February 27, 2022



As You Like It by William Shakespeare. 

Directed by Tony Knight. Composer Jay Cameron. Choreographer Annette Sharp. Lakespeare.ACTUBTheatre. Kingston. February 25 2022

Reviewed by Peter Wilkins 


As You Like It, and you will love it, is Lakespeare’s latest triumph. I was fortunate enough to catch director Tony Knight’s magnificent production of Shakespeare’s comedy at the newly created ACTHUB Theatre in Kingston.  As You Like It has been playing to large open air audiences at various venues around Canberra. Originally Shakespeare’s hugely popular comedy was performed in around 1599 in one of London’s fine residences. The play is ideally suited to the intimate in the round staging at Art Hub.

Jake Fryer-Hornsby as Orlando 

 Natasha Vickery as Rosalind

Lovers of Shakespearian comedy will recognize many elements of the play’s plot and the overarching theme of Love that directs the very motives and actions of the characters thrust together in an unfamiliar setting. Rosalind, daughter of the deposed Duke Senior, is banished from the court by the Duke’s evil brother, Frederick. Either because of the paucity of male actors, or Knight’s deliberate intention to unsettle the conventional, he has cast Heidi Silberman in the roles of the wicked Duchess Frederika and Rosalind’s exiled mother and the rightful duchess. The wicked Duchess’s daughter and Rosalind’s best friend Celia (Ylaria Rogers) decides to accompany Rosalind (Natasha Vickery) into exile. At the same time Orlando (Jake Fryer-Hornsby)), whom Rosalind instantly fell in love with when struck by Cupid’s arrow after Orlando defeated the powerful wrestler Charles (Max Gambale) in a wrestling match has fled to the forest to escape a murderous plot by  his evil brother Oliver (Andrew Macmillan). To escape detection, Rosalind disguises herself as a young man, Ganymede, and Celia assumes the persona of an ordinary woman, Aliena and thereby hangs this highly entertaining tale of love and misconception. Some audience may take some time to figure out who is who and what is going on, but Knight has alleviated the perplexity by cutting the script to its essential narrative, He also has directed a highly talented, youthful and energetic cast with skillful differentiation. All the characters have their unique part to play upon the stage and they play them to absolute perfection.

Ylaria Rogers as Celia. Andrew Macmillan as Oliver
 At first the lovers, smitten by each other’s adoration. The role of Rosalind is one of Shakespeare’s most coveted roles, played through the ages by all the leading actresses of their time. Flighty, pragmatic, doubtful and assertive, Cupid’s victim and the manipulative mistress of Love’s emotion , Rosalind is the pivot upon which the comedy spins. Natasha Vickery is charismatic in the role, engaging and bewitching, a vulnerable victim on one hand and a commanding servant of Love’s design on the other. Rogers as Rosalind’s foil imbues Celia with a feistiness too seldom attributed to Rosalind’s companion. Celia is after all the strong willed daughter of powerful parentage. It is intelligent casting and Rogers’ gives a very refreshing and savvy performance. As Rosalind’s love interest, Orlando is the likable innocent, naïve in the affairs of the heart, romantic in his response and clumsy in his expressions of devotion as members of the audience are invited to become the trees on which he places his clumsy poetry. Fryer-Hornsby evokes fond affection. His bewilderment is endearing and he plays Love’s fool with boyish innocence. As do the other poor men sorely pierced by Cupid’s arrow, namely Silvius ( Lachlan Herring) and Touchstone (Shae Kelly).

And then appears mischievous Love that doth make fools of us all. Rosalind loves Orlando, but is disguised as a man. Silvius loves Phebe (Katerina Smalley) but Phebe loves Ganymede, poor lass.. Not so foolish but still besotted, Touchstone the banished court fool revels in a sexual love for simple country girl Audrey(Anneke Van Der Velde). And so the plot twists and turns, spinning on Love’s devious trickery. All this is played with sparkling energy by an outstanding ensemble of actors under the direction of a masterful interpreter of Shakespeare’s wit and wisdom. There is wrestling; there is dancing, there is music both Elizabethan and contemporary, played by travelling minstrel and composer Jay Cameron on guitar and sung so sweetly with captivating voice by Smalley. If this be wizardry, magic on!

Katerina Smalley as Phebe
 It is reported that George Bernard Shaw dismissed As You Like It as being too light and lacking the gravitas of Shakespeare’s more serious works. Lakespeare’s production would dispute such a claim. To dispute such criticism, Shakespeare offers the comedy the melancholic Jacques, played with such eloquent distinction and humanity by Karen Vickery who lends the role a maturity and wisdom with a complexity often overlooked by actors. There is a moment when Vickery comforts Orlando’s loyal manservant Adam (Ryan Stuart), weary and hungry from his travels through the forest that tugs at the heartstrings. It is played with such gentle and comforting understanding by the very same Jacques who can as easily reprimand, condemn, dismiss and descend into a philosophical gloominess. Vickery’s humanity shines through every moment that she is on stage and it is a stroke of brilliance to cast an actress of such stature in this role.

 Karen Vickery as Jacques. Heidi Silberman s Duchess.

 Anneka Van Der Velde as Audrey

 There is so much to applaud in this production. I may quibble with the Canberra in joke references to entertain the groundlings  (Now! Now!) and a Bush Capital audience, but I would rather it be used for a G and S show. In the debate between Corin (Gambale) and Touchstone the foppish fool, Shakespeare’s affection for his rural birthplace and its simple honest people like Silvius and Phebe and Corin and Audrey is palpable and appealing.

Knight’s direction is precise, detailed and knowledgeable bristling with humour and inventiveness.. An excellent cast illustrates his skill as an actor’s director and this is a production that will linger long in the memory as a glowing tribute to the talent in Canberra and the genius of Shakespeare and his enduring gift to all humanity. All’s well and ends well in As You Like It. if very much according to the conventional expectation of its age. Love’s Labour lost in the case of Phebe and Gannymede is Love’s Labour gained for Silvius with Rosalind’s ingenious intervention.

Audiences fortunate enough to have seen this production of As You Like It can count themselves blessed to have been at any of the open air or interior venues when Lakespeare and its brilliant company created a home grown production of Shakespeare’s human comedy to rival the very best there is. Lakespeare is a jewel in Canberra’s theatrical crown and it is time to support a company that proves too well that it is a Canberra cultural treasure. 



Book and lyrics by Joe Paley

Music by Marvin Laird

Directed by Jordan Best

Musical Director: Nicholas Griffin

Q Theatre, Queanbeyan to 12 March


Reviewed by Len Power 26 February 2022


Here’s the perfect musical for classic movie and Broadway show tragics.  Loaded with references to past shows and movies, this 1992 Off-Broadway musical is a madcap romp that shamelessly uses every melodramatic cliché it can dredge up.

Young Tina Denmark kills a rival child to get the lead in the school musical.  Her mother is horrified but understands because she has her own secrets.  After many wild and over the top complications it all ends badly but hilariously.

Director, Jordan Best, has produced a colourful, crazy entertainment that zips along at great speed and gives her six performers – all women - every opportunity to shine.

Jessy Heath as Tina Denmark

Jessy Heath is a delightfully wicked and determined child murderess, Tina Denmark.  The wonderful Jenna Roberts is brilliant as a troubled mother and housewife who finds fame and glamour in her second act.

Tracy Noble has great fun with the character of Myra Thorn, a dowdy schoolteacher and director of the school play for whom a murder is just a nuisance because theatre is what really matters.

Dee Farnell gives a classic performance of a mannered and stylish woman, Sylvia St. Croix, who has many secrets and Eryn Marshall is hysterically funny as the off key singing murder victim, Louise, and then as Eve, the nervous, plotting secretary to a famous star.

Janie Lawson is deliciously awful as theatre critic and grandmother, Lita Encore, and is superb in her show-stopping song, ‘I Hate Musicals’.

While this is a crazy, very silly show, it needs to be done very well to succeed.  It requires performers of a high calibre who can play the satire with all stops out but also sing the demanding songs.  All six women have been perfectly cast.

From left: Tracy Noble (Myra Thorn), Dee Farnell (Sylvia St. Croix), Eryn Marshall (Eve), Jenna Roberts (Judy Denmark), Jessy Heath (Tina Denmark) and Janie Lawson (Lita Encore)

The set, with eye-popping 1950s colours and patterns, has been nicely designed by Ian Croker and the clever choreography by Jacquelyn Richards shows a great knowledge of Broadway musical dance styles.  Anna Senior has clearly had a lot of fun designing the perfect costumes for this show.

Musical direction by Nicholas Griffin is tight and accomplished and both he and Sharon Robinson perform the score on two pianos in full view of the audience.

If you don’t have a good time at this, I’m afraid young Tina Denmark will probably hunt you down!

Photos by Ben Appleton

Len Power's reviews are also broadcast on Artsound FM 92.7 in the ‘Arts Cafe’ and ‘Arts About’ programs and published in his blog 'Just Power Writing' at



Wednesday, February 23, 2022

OTELLO - Opera Australia


Composed by Giuseppe Verdi - Libretto by Arrigo Bolto

Conducted by Andrea Battistoni -Directed by Harry Kupfer

Revival Director - Luke Joslin - Set Design by Hans Schavernoch

Costumes designed by Yan Tax - Lighting designed by Toby Sewell

Joan Sutherland Theatre - Sydney Opera House - 19th March 2022.


Opening night performance on 19th February reviewed by Bill Stephens OAM


There can be few operas with an opening more breathtaking than Harry Kupfer’s masterful staging of Verdi’s “Otello”, currently being presented by Opera Australia in the Joan Sutherland Theatre in the Sydney Opera House.

Amidst the sounds of a raging storm, Otello and his courtiers burst into a war-damaged foyer through French windows high at the back of the stage, which clatter in the screaming wind. As the crowd rushes in they tumble over each other down the huge flight of stairs. The effect looks so stunningly dangerous you immediately want to reach for the rewind button to see how it’s accomplished. It sets the mood perfectly for the emotional turmoil that follows as Otello succumbs to the jealousy skilfully and relentlessly fanned by his treacherous ensign, Iago.

The entire opera is staged on Hans Schavernoch’s single setting of a massive black and red bomb-scarred staircase dominated by a huge statue of Atlas. For the most part this works well, as the stairs provide endless opportunities for imaginative staging of the huge chorus scenes. The bomb damage provides plenty of dark areas in which the various characters can skulk and spy. However it’s not so appropriate for the later scenes. Surely Otello would have found a more intimate space in which to harangue and ultimately murder Desdemona.

Yonghoon Lee (Otello)

Making his role debut as the Moorish general, Otello, Korean tenor Yonghoon Lee gives a commanding performance, carefully shaping his interpretation as the opera unfolds. On opening night it took a little time for Lee to locate and define the emotional level for his characterisation which resulted in some stand-and-deliver moments, but his vocal glory was never in doubt. From his very first melliferous notes the audience sensed that it was listening to an extraordinary voice, enhancing  a very physical interpretation which climaxed in a breathtaking final moment when he plummets headfirst down the stairs.

Marco Vratogna (Iago)

Lee was fortunate to have been cast opposite the remarkable Marco Vratogna secure in one of his signature roles as Iago. When Vratogna releases his dark, brooding baritone there’s no doubting who’s the baddy in this opera, and during their scenes together it was fascinating to watch Lee’s responses to Iago’s manipulative goading, with both singers obviously enjoying the opportunities provided by the other to explore and embellish their own performances.

Karah Son (Desdemona) and Yonghoon Lee (Otello)

Also making her role debut as Desdemona, another Korean, soprano Karah Son, provided a captivating, soothing presence between the volcanic performances of the two protagonists. Although Son and Lee made an attractive couple, despite their declarations of love, there were few signs of attraction obvious in their early scenes together. Son was also hampered by an odd costume choice which had her wearing modern slacks and jacket for one of her scenes, and perhaps her Desdemona could have shown a little more gumption at Otello’s constant accusations of infidelity. Never-the-less, her calm acceptance of her fate as she sang the final “Ave Maria” was very moving.

Marco Vratogna (Iago) and Sian Sharp (Emilia)

For his penultimate opera Verdi focused most of his attention on the three main characters, however he also surrounded them with some meaty supporting roles, and as has become the norm for this season, these roles were strongly cast and sung. Virgilio Marino, as Cassio, the unfortunate focus of Otello’s jealousy, Richard Anderson as Lodovico, Andrew Moran as Montano, Richard Anderson as Lodovico, and Sian Sharp as Iago’s wife and Desdemona’s maid, Emilia. Sharp was a sympathetic presence throughout and despite some curiously staged interactions with Desdemona in the final scenes, her response to Desdemona’ murder was compelling.

Virgilio Marino (Cassio)

Once again the huge Opera Australia chorus was impressive both in the richness and accuracy of its sound and the attention paid to detailed movement and acting, especially when negotiating the rather daunting setting costumed in Yan Tax’s splendid evening wear and voluminous coats.

The icing on the cake for this production was the spirited realisation of Verdi’s magnificent score which has rarely sounded better than as performed here by the Australian Opera and Ballet Orchestra under the flamboyant baton of Maestro Andrea Battistoni which insured another unforgettable evening of grand opera, in a season notable for the excellence of the individual productions.


All Photos by Prudence Upton


This review also published in Australian Arts Review.

Monday, February 21, 2022

Britten, Paterson and Beethoven: The Australian String Quartet in Concert at the James Fairfax Theatre, NGA; Sunday, February 20, 2022. Reviewed by Jennifer Gall


ANGELINA Zucco, chief executive of the Australian String Quartet remarks that ‘Music affords us the opportunity to travel beyond the here and now’ – a very welcome transportation in these times when physical travel seems fraught – but music also connects us in the present.

Sunday’s Australian String Quartet performance reaffirmed the collective joy of sharing live music in the same space. What a great pleasure to witness the focus and intelligence with which Dale Barltrop, Francesca Hiew, Christopher Cartlidge and Michael Dahlenburg interpreted the program of Benjamin Britten’s Three Divertimenti, David Paterson’s String Quartet No. 1 and Beethoven’s String Quartet No. 9 in C major. The absence of Interval in the 70-minute concert was also a welcome decision, intensifying the experience of total immersion in the music.

While Benjamin Britten’s Three Divertimenti were dismissed as trite at their debut performance in 1933, from this distance it is possible to enjoy the effervescent music as the youthful expression of a curious and playful musical mind. The opening movement, a most unconventional March with strident chords, disrupted rhythmic pulse and non-linear melody, leapt into life in the hands of the musicians, followed by a dramatically contrasting, lyrical Waltz.

Opening with soft pizzicato, a delicious exchange between Violins, Viola and Cello unfolded, with a particularly rich interlude in the bass register of the cello. The final Burlesque began with a rhythmic resonance of Brahms Hungarian dances, developing into sounds evoking a game with thematic fragments tossed light-heartedly back and forth between the instruments.

David Paterson has had a long association with the ASQ and it is fitting that his first String Quartet has been composed for the ensemble. The commissioned work was introduced as a mischievous and joyful celebratory piece, and it certainly led the musicians through a merry array of thematic material.

Cartlidge began the opening Allegro on viola, followed by a cello chord from Dahlenburg and the movement expanded into a modal romp secured with tight rhythmic semi-quaver motifs. The second movement, Adagio Tranquillo, in waltz time, swept along with harmonious unison violin passages and a melody wafting nostalgic fragments reminiscent of Roses of Picardy and September in the Rain. A short Toccata with busy humming strings was followed by the vigorous Fugue and Finale, beginning with soft pizzicato leading into a sweet cello melody, intersected by a fanfare, followed by a romping passage and soaring viola cadenza slipping into a fruity jig to resolve with the opening motif of the First Subject from the opening movement of the work.

With the first, perfect, pianissimo chord of the Beethoven Introduzione, it was clear that the ASQ was going to deliver a brilliant performance – and so it did. Nowhere could the Principal Violin be more exposed than the early lines in this first movement, but in his interpretation Barltrop navigated the line between tenderness and definition with confidence. The shared musicianship of the ensemble was notable in the particularly graceful cadences – precisely and delicately articulated and not a hint of schmaltz. The lovely pizzicato opening on cello in the Andante con moto quasi allegretto created the underpinning ‘footsteps’ described in Dahlenburg’s introduction, evoking the image of Beethoven pacing back and forth, contemplating his future as his hearing failed. Over this the upper strings alternated light and dark themes, emphasising the rhythmic spring and lift in the restrained 6/8 tempo. The Menuetto continued with mellow, cascading ascending and descending passages, building in intensity to the final Allegro molto, a splendidly ferocious fugue proclaiming Beethoven’s resolution to the world: ‘I will not give in!’

What an appropriate message to proclaim as we return to auditoriums after two years of the pandemic.