Thursday, June 30, 2022


Music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim

Directed by Lexi Sekuless

Presented by Lexi Sekuless & Belco Arts

Belco Arts Centre to 2 July


Reviewed by Len Power 29 June 2022


When Broadway composer, Stephen Sondheim, died in 2021, he left behind a body of work of some of the greatest musicals of the second part of the 20th Century including ‘Into The Woods’; ‘Company’, Follies’. ‘Sunday In The Park With George’ and ‘Sweeney Todd’.

Actors who could sing loved performing his work as the songs were often a complete story or play in themselves.  His work could also give them nigtmares as they discovered unexpected complexities under the surface.  ‘It never goes where you think it’s going’, was often heard.

In ‘A Sonnet For Sondheim’, five performers, including director, Lexi Sekuless, present an evening of Sondheim songs in a tribute to language and lyrics.  Interspersed with Sondheim songs is the poetry of Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Shakespeare and Emily Dickinson.

From left: Carl Rafferty (piano), Katerina Smalley, Martin Everett, Tim Sekuless and Jay Cameron

Commencing with ‘It’s Only A Play’ from Sondheim’s musical, ‘The Frogs’, the cast establish themselves as actors in rehearsal in street clothes, giving the show an air of informality.  As well as presenting the poetry between songs, cast members also let the audience in on a few of the personal trials and tribulations of being an actor.

The five talented performers, Jay Cameron, Katerina Smalley, Martin Everett, Tim Sekuless and Lexi Sekuless are all well-qualified to sing Sondheim’s songs and there are some fine, well-judged performances.  Carl Rafferty, the pianist, accompanied the cast skilfully and with personality.

However, the poetry readings and actor reminiscences impede the flow of the show and don’t relate well to the songs that follow the readings.  ‘I Remember’, from ‘Evening Primrose’ sung by Lexi Sekuless, works best of all because she maintains the mood created in her preceding dialogue throughout the song.

Lexi Sekuless

Too many of the songs have been given distracting movement.  Only ‘You Could Drive a Person Crazy’ from ‘Company’ has engaging choreography by Annette Sharp.  The songs from ‘Passion’ – ‘I Wish I Could Forget You’ and ‘Loving You’ - were especially effective without movement.

The whole cast gave a fine performance of ‘Sunday’ from ‘Sunday In The Park With George’ towards the end of the show but the laid-back group singing of ‘Send In the Clowns’ from ‘A Little Night Music’ that followed diminished the power of this song.

There were some opening night glitches with the lighting and the sound amplification was too high, often giving the voices an unfortunate harshness.

Nevertheless, the Sondheim songs are the attraction here and they were mostly well-performed by these good singers.

Photos supplied by the company 

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


A Sonnet for Sondheim


Photo: Andrew Sikorski

A Sonnet for Sondheim, presented by Lexi Sekuless and Belco Arts, at Belconnen Arts Centre Theatre, June 29 – July 2, 2022.

Reviewed by Frank McKone
June 29

Director, co-producer and performer – Lexi Sekuless
Pianist – Carl Rafferty; Choreographer – Annette Sharp
Performers – Jay Cameron, Katerina Smalley, Martin Everett, Tim Sekuless
Lighting and Sound – Linda Buck and Stephen Rose

My direct experience of Sondheim shows is limited to West Side Story, Sweeney Todd and Into the Woods (on stage at the Gunghalin College Theatre, 2015, directed by Richard Block and Damien Slingsby).  I never became an aficianado, but A Sonnet for Sondheim shows why I should have.

Through the device – a bit like Chorus Line, or Sydney Theatre Company’s Macbeth with Hugo Weaving – the cast on stage are themselves, an ad hoc group of actor/singers, telling some of their personal histories and performing audition pieces for a show.

“Don’t worry, just relax – it’s only a play” they sing at the beginning and end from Sondheim’s Ancient Greek musical The Frogs: Parabasis.  In my ignorance I have now found from Merriam-Webster that parabasis means “an important choral ode in the Old Greek comedy mainly in anapestic tetrameters delivered by the chorus at an intermission in the action while facing and moving toward the audience.”

I didn’t know this while watching, but I cottoned on to the idea that the show is a kind of meditation on the nature of art, using a collection of items from Sondheim, interspersed with sonnets (from the Portuguese by Elizabeth Barret Browning, and Shakespeare’s Sonnet 23), and some other pieces from Shakespeare, Browning and Emily Dickinson.  

As important as the choice of literary material among Sondheim’s lyrics – very much about the art of creating art, and the art of accepting, maintaining, losing and even escaping from love – is the impressive performance on the grand piano by Carl Rafferty, in the role of audition accompanist, and the neat choreography of the action by Annette Sharp which helps define the character of each actor in their varied solo roles, pas de deux’s and as chorus members.

The quality result in all these departments is excellent music, singing and dancing – yet never in the form of a standard ‘Musical’.  The dramatic throughline wanders about rather than creating a strong sense of development to a climactic point.  Did any of them succeed in their audition?  I’m not sure.

So at the end of the day A Sonnet for Sondheim is an interesting example of something I think of as meta-philosophising on art (parallel to terms like ‘metaphysical’ or ‘metacognitive’ thinking).  Clapping at the end of items was generally polite – though genuinely appreciative – and even at the end was not over-excited, because the show is not presented as a popular grand-scale musical entertainment, but is a thoughtful consideration of Stephen Sondheim – Artist.







A Sonnet for Sondheim. 

Presented by Lexi Sekuless and Belco Arts. Directed by Lexi Sekuless. Musical Accompanist. Carl Rafferty. Choreographer Annette Sharp. Cast: Jay Cameron. Katerina Smalley. Tim Sekuless, Martin Everett. Lexi Sekuless. Belco Arts. Belconnen Arts Centre. June 29 – July 2 2022. Bookings: 

Reviewed by Peter Wilkins. 

Let me begin with a summary. A Sonnet for Sondheim is a beautiful, uplifting and life affirming tribute to the late great Stephen Sondheim and to all artists who create and celebrate their art. Director Lexi Sekuless and her highly talented team of performers and creatives have interspersed songs from Sondheim’s musicals with writings by Shakespeare (Sonnet 23 and Enobarbus’s speech from Antony and Cleopatra), Elizabeth Barrett Browning (Sonnets from the Portuguese 38 and My Heart and I) and Emily Dickenson (Fame). The audience is reminded of the artist’s struggle and attempt to conquer the fear that envelops them in audition, rehearsal and performance. When in doubt and consumed by the anxiety of their art they can always turn to Sondheim for the reassurance in his lyrics for Parabasis from Aristophanes’ play The Frogs. “It really doesn’t matter. Don’t worry relax. After all you’re only human. Besides it’s only a play.” 
Lexi Sekuless

In November last year Stephen Sondheim shuffled off this mortal coil at 91, leaving behind a legacy unrivalled in the history of music theatre. Others have scaled the heights but none with such profound humanity. Sondheim is the actors’ composer, who once advised the legendary Geraldine Turner “Bring along your talent and follow the punctuation” Lexi Sekuless’s new company did just that. The talent is extraordinary, the concept for A Sonnet to Sondheim ingenious and insightful and the celebration of the great man’s music both reverential and effusive. The cast boldly embrace the challenges of Sondheim’s occasionally discordant and emotionally resonant tone. Not only has Sekuless selected excellent singers, including herself, but also actors who understand the passion that Sondheim arouses in his lyrics and his music. Jay Cameron’s rendition of I Wish I Could Forget You from the seldom performed Passion is a magnificent performance by a shining light on the Canberra music theatre scene. Cameron deserves a solo show and Canberra is so fortunate to have an artist of his calibre. I have just returned from seeing Philip Quast, Geraldine Turner and Queenie van de Zandt performing the songs of Sondheim and Cameron belongs in their league. 
Jay Cameron and Katerina Smalley

There are too many splendid moment in this tightly programmed show to mention. Let me list a few. Cameron’s Finishing My Hat from Sunday in the Park with George. Lexi Sekuless also brings out the longing and the heartache in Loving You from Passion. Tim Sekuless and Martin Everett capture the absurdity and comedy in the ironically titled Agony from Into The Woods. Sekuless shows his phenomenal range with Giants in the Sky also from Into The Woods and the pathos of Buddy’s Bkues from Follies Katerina Smalley’s rendition of a young woman’s desire to live life to the full skilfully negotiates the challenges of Sondheim’s The Miller’s Son from A Little Night Music. and Everybody says Don’t from Anyone Can Whistle. 
Tim Sekuless and Martin Everett

The wonderful ensemble with the masterful Carl Rafferty on piano excel in the company numbers as they burst into frenetic life with You Could Drive A Person Crazy from Company and the glorious Sunday from Sunday in the Park With George. In fact I would have preferred that to be the closing company number, but I appreciate the sensitivity and true Sondheim humanity in the popular Send in the Clowns from A Little Night Music which brought to a close a show that could have continued to enthrall with Sondheim’s prolific repertoire.. 

Sekuless’s production with its sonnets, literary text and personal anecdotes referencing Sondheim’s profound grasp of human nature and his deep empathy for the human condition is a dazzling comet across Canberra’s cultural horizon. It is not spectacular in the sense of a Frozen or a Wicked. It is not a beacon of technical wizardry. It is an honest and heartfelt acknowledgment of Sondheim’s genius and the artist’s talent, tenacity and fortitude in the face of their own human failings and anxieties. It may only be a play but A Sonnet to Sondheim is a gift to the memory of Stephen Sondheim and to Canberra audiences.

Tuesday, June 28, 2022


 Photography | Brian Rope


Tuggeranong Town Centre (on windows of Lakeview House & under the Soward Way Bridge) | Until 4 July 2022

Installation shot - Under Soward Way bridge (supplied)

Sammy Hawker is a visual artist working predominantly on Ngunawal Country. She works predominantly with analogue photography techniques and often works closely with Traditional Custodians, scientists and ecologists.

In 2021 Hawker had two highly successful solo shows as part of a PhotoAccess darkroom residency. She is currently an artist-in-residence with the CORRIDOR project and is also preparing for another solo show before year end.

Over the last six months Hawker worked closely with nine young people from Headspace Tuggeranong exploring ways they could co-create photographic portraits. This was part of a City Commissions project delivered by Contour 556, one of seven artsACT initiatives in the Creative Recovery and Resilience Program.

Headspace is a safe space that welcomes and supports young people aged 12–25, their families, friends and carers, helping them to find the right services. Learning the Headspace motto “clear is kind”, Hawker realised her project was also about finding clarity as a form of self-compassion - shining light on what for many was a particularly dark and confusing time.

Hawker challenges the notion that a photograph constitutes the moment that a shutter is released. She explores ways of making, rather than taking, images. She wanted the project to be empowering - with no right or wrong and where the final photographs celebrated identity and experience beyond just the way her subjects looked in the frame. It was an opportunity to realise we always have some choice whether we repress difficult experiences.

The portraits of the young people were captured on a large format film camera. Commonly, in photographic practice, touch and marks on negatives are to be avoided. But Hawker invited her subjects to handle, manipulate, scratch or even bury negatives in order to introduce something of themselves. The young folk wrangled puppies, dived into rivers, got dressed up, sprinkled bushfire ash on negatives and processed film in the Headspace carpark.

Each participant was invited to use the project to reflect on their experiences of difficult times. Their statements relating to the images reveal resilience and hope.

Chanelle reflected about living in the moment. The negative of her portrait, showing her immersed in the Murrumbidgee River, was processed with water from that river, ocean water and permanent marker.

Chanelle © Sammy Hawker

Sophie spoke of learning to embrace everything in life. Her portrait’s negative was processed with bushfire ash and the word Embrace scratched into it. The ash creates a frame that embraces her.

Sanjeta really likes her photo with jellyfish manipulations as metaphors for how she now goes with the flow of her life journey. Her expression conveys a “so be it” attitude. The negative was processed with Murrumbidgee water, rainwater, seaweed and chemical stains.

Sanjeta © Sammy Hawker

Ray wanted to keep connected and bring some joy into the lives of others. The portrait’s beaming smile conveys joy. The idea of processing the negative with Whiz Pop Bang bubble mixture and wattle pollen adds to the joy.

Ray's Statement

Jazzy is photographed with her much loved dog Milo. So, of course, the processing of the negative utilised Milo’s pawprints.

Jazzy © Sammy Hawker

Devante © Sammy Hawker

Installation shot - Under Soward Way bridge (supplied)

When I reviewed her Acts of Co-Creation show (for which she received a Canberra Critics Circle Award) in this publication, I wrote of Hawker’s then newly formed relationship with Ngunawal custodian Tyronne Bell who helped her to learn about sites she was working with. For this project, Hawker arranged for Bell to escort her subjects walking Ngunawal Country, providing a healing experience for them.

I strongly recommended readers to visit City Commissions - Portraits - and reflect on your own difficult times.

An edited version of this review was published in The Canberra Times of 28/6/22 on the Capital Life page, and the full version online here. It is also on the author's blog here.

Monday, June 27, 2022



Songs My Mother Taught Me.

Directed by Johanna Allen. Musical direction Mark Simeon Ferguson. Special guests. Sophie Koh, Thando, Wendy Matthews, Jessica Hitchcock and Lior. Her Majesty’s Theatre. Adelaide Cabaret Festival in association with the Adelaide Festival Centre. June 25th  2022.

Reviewed by Peter Wilkins

I can’t think of a more fitting finale to Tina Arena’s stunning 2022 Adelaide Cabaret Festival. The evocative sound of the didgeridoo, played by Isaac Hannan as his welcome to Kaurna Country floats through the auditorium. On a stage, colourfully festooned with a canopy of different lampshades Tina Arena welcomes the audience to her House Party. We are all invited to share in a very special and unique performance by musical luminaries from different cultures and diverse legacies. Songs My Mother Taught Me is a salute to family and the songs of one’s country and culture. Arena is joined in this extraordinary programme by Canadian Australian Wendy Matthews, Sophie Koh, born in New Zealand of Chinese/Malay parentage, Zimbabwean Thando, Jessica Hitchcock with family origins in the Torres Strait and Papua New Guinea and Israeli/Australian Lior. The audience is in for a world premiere performance like no other, as each artist from wherever they may be turns to home to sing the songs that they learnt at their mother’s knee. As Arena tells the audience in Italian and English “No matter where you go or turn, you will always end up at home.” It holds the promise of nostalgia, the salute to culture and the affirmation of identity.

Mark Ferguson and Tina Arena

Arena opens the show with her memories of her childhood and the girls’ sunroom in Moonie Ponds. Her rendition of Maledetta Primavera (Cursed Spring), sung with the aching passion of memory reminds me of the songs in the nighttime streets of Italy. There is such power in the voice, such passion in the song and such rich flavor of Italy in the air. She is instantly followed by Sophie Koh dressed in Chinese design inviting the audience to a call and response in Mandarin (I want your love.) Seated at the piano, she sings Yellow Rose in words from the oldest book of poetry in China. It is in our cultural experience that we learn the lessons of our lives. For Thando, with the spirit of Africa rising from deep within her soul, her song is the voice of the survivor. “I’m still here.” she sings in jubilation. This is contrasted with a gentle song that she sings lovingly to her eight year old daughter at bedtime Lior sings of his old kindergarten in Tel Aviv, now deserted and neglected. His childhood memory becomes a plea for compassion. Only then can we hope to be liberated. Backing singers Susan and Ciara Ferguson join him in perfect harmony.

Jess Hitchcock

There is a change of mood as Jess Hitchcock remembers her mother’s love of 50s and 60s music in a boisterous and fun filled rendition of Connie Francis’s hit single Stupid Cupid. Her identity is firmly bound up with her indigenous legacy and she sings a beautiful rendition of a song of country in the language of her people. Hitchcock is an emerging artist of great promise in the company of Tina Arena’s remarkable guests. It is Wendy Matthews’ rendition of Cherokee Louise by Joni Mitchell that strikes to the heart. This heart wrenching song about sexual and child abuse is sung shortly after SCOTUS hands down its decision to remove the ROE vs Wade decision legalizing abortion. Her song is a plea for justice and humanity.

Wendy Matthews

Act 2 opens with advice from Arena to the young Hitchcock to be true to herself and celebrate her family and individuality in a triumphant duet with Hitchcock of Sorrento Moon. The second half continues with songs that have formulated these singers. Their spirit is in the song and in their DNA. Lior is a child of the 1993 Oslo Peace Accord and the 1995 assassination of Yitzchak Rabin. His longing for peace rings out on his pure tenor voice as he sings a Song for Peace (Shir L’Shalom)  Thando continues to exude strength and resilience with her song about holding on to freedom, inspired by her life in Canberra after leaving Zimbabwe and Wendy Matthews identifies the influences of her Scottish heritage. Arena then sings with the voice that could light up a thousand stars a deeply moving song about her Italian inspiration - the great Enrico Caruso (Caruso) as he nears the end of his life in far flung Italian Sorrento. The synchronicity of life soars in her song. As the evening draws to a close, the family of singers, backed by a superb string quartet and band under Mark Ferguson’s musical direction, join together to sing in their own language the lyrics to Lior’s wedding celebration song This Old Love.. There is joy and there is family which carries through to the rousing, uplifting Tintarella di Luna. (Suntan of the Moon)


The singers dance happily to Tintarella di Luna as band and backing singers join in to bring the concert and the Cabaret Festival to a close. Songs My Mother Taught Me is far more than a collection of songs that have inspired and formulated Tina Arena and her amazing guests Sophie Koh, Wendy Matthews, Thando, Jess Hitchcock and Lior. The house party affirms the love of family and humanity, irrespective of colour, race or creed. What these phenomenal artists, musicians and director Johanna Allen have brought to this festival is the empowerment of legacy and culture. Like so many shows during the festival Lone can only hope that they may be revived after a one night stand. In the meantime I urge readers to google the singers and their songs to savour the taste of what has been an exrtraordinary performance and an unforgettable festival.

Photos by Claudio Raschella

I am attaching the full cast, song and musicians list because of the unique, on-off nature of this final performance of the Adelaide Cabaret Festival 2022


1. OUR HOUSE (EVERYONE)) Full cast, BV’s and full band (including trombone). New arrangement that kicks into the original

2. TINA: MALEDETTA PRIMAVERA Tina, BV’s and full band.

3. SOPHIE KOH: WO YAO NI DE AI Sophie, BV’s and full band.

4. SOPHIE KOH: YELLOW ROSE, STRING QUARTET FEATURED. Sophie at piano, strings, BV’s. 5. THANDO: Survivor (Destiny’s Child) Thando, BV’s and full band.

 6. THANDO: Thula Thala Strings and Piano and BV’s at the end

7. LIOR: GAN SAGUR Lior, full band and BV’s


9. JESS HITCHCOCK: STUPID CUPID. Jess, BV’s and rhythm section

10. JESS HITCHCOCK PLUS BV SINGERS: BABA WAIYAR Jess, BV’s maybe guitar. mostly a capella


12: WENDY MATTHEWS PLUS ALL: STANDING STRONG. Full cast, BV’s and full band.











 Mark Simeon Ferguson MD, arrangements, piano, keyboard, BV’s

Zsusza Leon, Violin

Emily Tulloch Violin

 Karen DeNardi Viola

Hilary Kleinig ‘cello

Chris Neale drums

Cameron Blokland guitars

Nick Sinclair basses

Ciara Ferguson BV’s percussion, piano.

Susan Ferguson BV’s


Sunday, June 26, 2022




Weimar Punk. 

Bernie Dieter. Adelaide Cabaret Festival The Banquet Room. Adelaide Festival Centre. June 24-25 2022

Reviewed by Peter Wilkins


Bernie Dieter in Weimar Punk

She is the wildcat of the cabaret. the dark and debauched mistress of the decadent art of lasciviousness. Weimar Punk is her domain and she is its dominatrix. With a voice that can grind gravel one moment and soar to the sky the next, her power is absolute. Bernie Dieter is supreme commandant of her audience, mesmerizing and demonic, unpredictably surprising, shocking and irreverent, tantalizing and seductively sexual.  From The Slits’ Typical Girls to Marlene Dietrich’s Ich Hab’ noch einen koffer in Berlin ( I still have a suitcase in Berlin) to Paul Kelly’s Everybody Wants To Touch Me and Indie rock band MGMT’s Time To Pretend Dieter demonstrates her phenomenal range and power packed voice, backed by a band that hurl themselves into her wildness and provocative magnetism.


A major feature of her act is her interaction with the audience, up close and disarmingly personal. She invites three men to come close and stroke her before carrying her to the stage. A lost shoe and the nervous attempt by one man to put it on invites gales of laughter from patrons spared the embarrassment of participation. Dieter is in top form. Her repartee is sure fire, her command of every situation carefully controlled and deliberately confrontational. The fourth wall crumbles exposing the vulnerable, discomforting and yet tittilated in their anticipation of what this vixen of the cabaret may unexpectedly do.

“Dahlinks come close” she implores from a table in the centre of the room. It is the time to be free, to give the middle finger to isolation, to once more revel in the freedom of live theatre away from the long lockdowns, away from the stifling pandemic anxiety. There is no fear in Dieter’s world of cabaret. There is love and she is the siren of the night. She is her Oma’s granddaughter. “Do what you want to do!” her Oma told her.  

And that is exactly what Dieter does. In the more intimate Banquet Room of the Adelaide Festival Centre, Dieter stirs up a storm of her take on Weimar cabaret Weimar Punk is raucous, ribald and riotous. She is the cabaret’s temptress. Playful with Typical Girls, sentimental with Ich hab noch einen Koffer in Berlin, or mysterious with Billie Idol’s In The Midnight Hour. Dieter is cabaret’s  divine doyenne, fated to pretend.

Suddenly, the classic cabaret look of the Weimar period is broken with the removal of her Louise Brooks styled black wig and Dieter launches into the swaggering rhythm and wild abandonment of a drinking song to close her show. It is the song of liberation, of individual freedom and of unrestrained love. ‘There’s some scary shit out there” she says, pointing to the outside world. In memory of her Oma she invites her audience to embrace the love and revel in the celebration of the spirit of her cabaret. Unconventional in its repertoire and yet true to the spirit of the classic anarchic cabaret of 1930’s Berlin, Weimar Punk’s High Priestess reminds us all to care for each other against the forces that would seek to oppress or control.  Dieter’s defiant Weimar Punk unleashes the power to face the “scary shit” out there.

Photos by Claudio Raschella



Canberra Choral Society & The National Capital Orchestra

Conductor: Louis Sharpe

Chorus Master: Dan Walker

Sarahlouise Owens, Soprano

Sonia Anfiloff, Alto

Ryan O’Donnell, Tenor

Hayden Barrington, Baritone

Llewellyn Hall 25 June 2022


Reviewed by Len Power


As the stage of Llewellyn Hall filled with dozens of musicians and singers, it became apparent to the expectant audience that this performance of Gioachino Rossini’s ‘Petite Messe Solennelle’ (Little Solemn Mass) was not going to be ‘little’.

Originally scored in 1863 for two pianos, harmonium and voices, the Canberra Choral Society and the National Capital Orchestra performed the fully orchestrated 1867 version of the work with orchestra, chorus and four solo singers.

Commencing with the ‘Kyrie’, the chorus gave a nicely controlled performance of this sombre first part of the work.  The dramatic start of the ‘Gloria’ which followed showed the full power of the chorus.  The sound was rich and colourful and the addition of the four soloists added a charming dimension.

‘Gratias agimus’ (We Give Thanks to Thee) was beautifully sung by Sonia Anfiloff (alto), Ryan O’Donnell (tenor) and Hayden Barrington (bass).  O’Donnell’s tenor aria ‘Domine Deus’ (O Lord God) that followed was also given a performance full of feeling.

The sublime blend of the voices of soprano, Sarahlouise Owens, and alto, Sonia Anfiloff, in “Qui tollis peccata mundi’ (Who takest away the sins of the world) was a major highlight of the ‘Gloria’ section of the work.  The conclusion of the ‘Gloria’ by the chorus, ‘Cum Sancto Spiritu’ (With The Holy Spirit), was powerful and exciting.

There were numerous other memorable moments throughout the performance.  Hayden Barrington’s rich baritone gave ‘Quoniam tu solus sanctus’ (For Thou Only Art Holy) a pleasing authority and soprano, Sarahlouise Owens, sang ‘Crusifixus’ (He was crucified) with great control and depth of feeling.

The Offertorium section was played very well by organist, James Porteous, and ‘Sanctus’ (Holy, Holy, Holy) was the major highlight of the later part of the work with soloists, chorus and orchestra blending perfectly to produce a powerful and thrilling sound.

 Louis Sharpe, did an excellent job conducting this huge number of singers and musicians.  The accuracy and beauty of the singing by the chorus was a credit to Chorus Master, Dan Walker.

Louis Sharpe

This major undertaking proved to be a highly memorable concert by all involved.  They fully deserved the enthusiastic and prolonged applause by the audience at the conclusion.

Photos by Peter Hislop 

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




Book by Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse

Music by Richard Rodgers

Lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II

Directed by Alison Newhouse & Anthony Swadling

Queanbeyan Players to 3 July


Reviewed by Len Power 24 June 2022


First presented in 2021 under Covid restricted conditions that limited audience numbers, ‘The Sound Of Music’ by Queanbeyan Players is back for an encore season.  More people will be able to see this previously acclaimed production including this reviewer who missed out on it last time.

Based on the 1949 memoir of Maria von Trapp, ‘The Story of the Trapp Family Singers’, the original Broadway production opened in 1959.  It tells the basically true story of Maria, a postulant from a nunnery who becomes a governess to seven children of a prominent Austrian family.  She marries the father and the family flees Austria at the start of World War II.  They became the internationally-known Trapp Family Singers.

A hit at the time, the musical’s reputation was further enhanced by the extraordinary popularity of the 1965 film of the show that starred Julie Andrews.

Queanbeyan Players’ lavish encore production has managed to retain virtually the entire cast from 2021.  Leading the company in the role of Maria, Lydia Milosavljevic, is superb, giving her own take on the character that really works.  She also sings the role beautifully as well.

The large cast of principals all perform their roles very well.  There is particularly fine work from Michael Jordan as Captain von Trapp, Terry Johnson as Max Detweiler, Kay Liddiard as Liesl, the eldest child and Demi Smith, as Baroness Elsa Schraeder.  Louise Gaspari as the Mother Abbess stops the show with her fine singing of ‘Climb Ev'ry Mountain’ and the actresses playing the nuns all give their roles distinct characters, singing the opening and wedding sequences especially well.

Michael Jordan (Captain von Trapp) and Lydia Milosavljevic (Maria) with the children

All seven performers who play the children give winning and natural performances.  They are believable as brothers and sisters and have wisely avoided any precociousness.  Their songs are delightful.

The set design by Thompson Quan Wing was excellent.  The painted mountain background and the interior of the Captain’s lavish home were especially attractive features and it all moved easily during the scene changes.

Jacob Aquilina (lighting) and James McPherson (sound) of Eclipse Lighting and Sound did fine work adding atmosphere to the whole production.

Musical director, Jenna Hinton, and her orchestra gave a colourful and controlled performance of the score.  There was also excellent work by choreographer, Jodi Hammond, and costume designers, Janette Humphrey and Janetta McRae.

The directors, Alison Newhouse and Anthony Swadling, have produced a very strong and entertaining production that works in all aspects.  This popular show should be seen by everyone who loves musical theatre.

Photo supplied by the company 

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


Saturday, June 25, 2022

New Platform Paper No 3


Nobody Talks About Australianness on our Screens by Sandy George.  

New Platform Papers No 3, June 2022: Currency House, Sydney.  Edited by Julian Meyrick.
Media Contact: Martin Portus, Phone 0401 360 806,

Reviewed by Frank McKone

"The simple act of watching film and television equates to very big business for some……My argument is about something much more important than financial value. It is about how only Australian film and television delivers local cultural value to local audiences, about why less drama is available, why it is harder to find, why there is uncertainty about its future and why some of it feels a lot less Australian……and there is evidence everywhere of economic value taking priority over cultural value––a folly, given cultural significance is the predominant reason the industry gets public funding."

So Sandy George’s central question is How can more and better film and TV with (on-screen) Australianness at its heart be made and seen?  It’s not for her just a practical and economic problem, despite her longstanding experience in “the business that sits behind film and television” where “the menu [is] offered to audiences and how each dish on that menu appears on the plate.”

“Stop pretending everything is OK,” she yells. “Depending on economics to deliver cultural value is arse about.”

Determined so furiously to have the right thing done, who is this Antigone yelling at?  

Not the recently dead king, her father, Oedipus (Scott Morrison); but his incestuous brother-in-law Creon (Anthony Albanese) who’s just taken over.  But surely it will all turn out OK if she marries Creon’s son, her cousin Haemon (Tony Burke), won’t it?

I feel a Baz Luhrmann coming on.  He’s done Elvis a treat, so I hear.  Will my pitch make it on Netflix?  Will it be made in a Melbourne, Sydney or Gold Coast studio by all our expert Aussie techs, with American money?  Will that mean it can be called an Australian production and attract the Producer’s 40% Offset?  Will Screen Australia buy-in?

Before reading New Platform Paper No 3, this was all Greek to me.  Now I know much more about FTA TV and SVODs and the way the viewing world is changing, for screens at home and in cinemas, as the younger generation is not just watching video-on-demand but creating work on TikTok and other platforms, ready for streaming services to distribute.  

Now available at the Paper is essential reading for anyone seeking to create work or perform in any version of the drama world.  Sandy George is an insider with self-awareness in the production process across the sector, providing real-life examples which explain why we must be concerned about maintaining our culture, how it may evolve, and how Australianness is being and will be perceived – by ourselves and by people around the world.

Importantly, she is not just crying out like Antigone.  Nor will she suggest such direct action, as Antigone did in burying her brother, which inevitably led to her death.  She writes, with statistical backup, of Australians’ love for Australian content and our recognition of what makes the grade as having Australianness.

George has many practical action suggestions on different aspects of government arrangements and funding, for the new Federal Government, State Governments, and even at local levels – which I trust Tony Burke as both the previous Shadow Arts and now the fully-fledged Arts Minister will take to heart.  

She writes, for example: We need to cultivate that love and encourage it to be shared. The enthusiastic can be given resources to run book-club-style events that would elevate attention at the time of a production’s release. If done right, the impact could be phenomenal. Fostering a community of supporters would help keep some local cinemas open on the back of Australian films, and could even lead to the establishment of a lottery that funds production initiatives designed to involve the public.
To have the Minister open his Arts Policy Launch, in St Kilda, Melbourne, in this way, is enormously encouraging:

“Very few drivers realise they are accelerating past the oldest living thing in Melbourne.

The Bunurong Corroboree Tree, or 'Ngargee' Tree.  An ancient red gum thought to be between 300 and 500 years old.  With leaves still soaking in energy and roots deep, deep into the land of the Kulin nation.

That the tree belongs in place and on country - matters.
That it lives - matters.
That it grows - matters.

It has stood guard over every change, every ceremony, every battle, every conversation of pain or love, that has occurred beneath its boughs, and within its sight. It has stayed, flourished, and grown.

Stories can be universal. Emotions, and ideas can ricochet around the globe. But everything starts with place. Every story, work of art, movement, harmony or discord starts in a place.

And that’s why I want to talk today about cultural policy.

Because creativity that comes from this land isn’t important simply based on whether the rest of the world takes notice.

It isn’t important simply because of its commercial value, although the economic contribution of our creatives is immense.

To Australians, our creativity should matter simply because it’s ours. It happens here. Its roots drive deep into our home. Our stories matter because they are ours. And I am determined to shine a spotlight on our artwork, have our poetry spoken, our literature read, to fill the stalls and dress circles of our theatres, see the names of Australian creatives as the credits roll on screen, and crank up the volume to 11 for our music.”

Perhaps a modern Creon’s son will form a true relationship with Oedipus’s daughter, and change the ending of Sophocles’ play of present and future doom.  I, the old blind prophet Teiresias, need no longer warn of horrific omens from the gods, but hope for a perfect marriage for Sandy George and Tony Burke.  With Prime Minister Albanese's blessing.

Sandy George
Photo supplied