Monday, June 24, 2024





Lisa Simone  Keeper of the Flame

A Daughter’s Tribute to Dr. Nina Simone Big Band Concert. Festival Theatre. Adelaide Cabaret Festival. Adelaide Festival Centre. June 22 2024.

Reviewed by Peter Wilkins 


What a way to end my Adelaide Cabaret Festival experience.!  It begins with the big bold sound of an all star 12 piece brass band accompanied by piano guitar and drums. It trumpets triumphantly forth before settling into the jazz rhythms of the Big Band era in homage to the era of Glen Miller and Nina Simone.. Smooth as silk, Lisa Simone slinks and sidles onto the stage. The cyclorama glows red as a backdrop to Simone’s haunting rendition of Miranda Lambert’s Keeper of the Flame. Simone is “walking in her mother’s footsteps, singing her old songs". Her mother blazed this trail she’s treading on. Lisa is the teller of the story, the keeper of the flame, for" the ones before her like fireflies in the rain.”

Lisa assumes her mother’s moniker of High Priestess of Soul, wearing Nina Simone’s mantle with love and pride to continue the fight for freedom and justice. From Pop to Gospel and backed by the rich full sound of the big band  Simone found her own true voice in the memory of her mother’s seductive  spell.

It is Lisa Simone’s bewitching guile and playful humour that sways the audience and lures them in to the web of homage through the songs her mother gave to the world. She pounds the rocks with her arms flailing at the chain gang  injustice of  Work Song . This contrasts with the beautiful spiritual faith of Take Me To The Water. The gospel sound continues with Nina Simone’s call to prayer, to survival and the hope for a better world. There is the desperation, the cowardice and the courage of All the  way down to the River. The High Priestess of Soul lives on in her daughter, who sings her mother’s songs with pride and the spirit of resolve.

“Are you ready to party?” Simone cries out. “Are you ready?”. The seductress of soul draws her audience to her and they respond with eager anticipation, clapping their hands, singing along with her, following her with their heads as Simone sings through the audience and holds them in awe as she holds a note that soars unleashed through the air. The sound transcends time, releasing the anguish, overcoming the pain and holding the audience in her thrall. Lisa Simone is the new generation. The haunting melody of introspection and search for identity in Nina Simone’s Who Am I? has found the answer in the daughter whose rousing talent and gift to music is her own.

Nina Simone’s legacy lives on in Lisa Simone’s soul stirring legacy. The lessons of struggle and pain become in Simone’s tribute the resilience and the resolve of a new generation, fired by the cries of the past. “I know who I am.” Simone tells the audience. She has become her mother’s legacy. The anguish of the blues is turned to defiance and confidence. It is a promise made by Simone at the start of the concert. It is a promise kept in the powerful rendition of Hold On with the audience chanting ”Hell!” in defiance. Simone keeps the legacy alive.

It is a legacy of hope and the audience leap to their feet, dancing in the rows to the big band sound and lush, powerful rendition of Feeling Good. Nina Simone’s legacy is a new dawn,, a new day, and a new life and Lisa Simone is feeling good.

Keeper of the Flame is a transformative experience. One views the world through a kaleidoscope of emotion, carried along by the stirring sounds of the big band and the rich seductive voice of the High Priestess of her mother’s legacy. The applause echoes through the theatre as the curtain falls on Lisa Simone’s unforgettable and transcendent tribute to the High Priestess of Soul, the great Nina Simone. The flame shines brightly in a daughter’s inspiring homage.



Sunday, June 23, 2024



Christina Bianco   In Divine Company. 

With Joe Louis Robinson at the piano. Dunstan Playhouse. Adelaide Cabaret Festival. Adelide Festival Centre. June 21-22 2024.

Reviewed by Peter Wilkins

Christina Bianco may not be tall, but boy does her voice hit the heights. Feisty or gutsy, smooth or soaring, Bianco’s vocal  impressions of the divas of song uncannily capture the unique quality of a Streisand, an Andrews, a Dion, a Minelli or a LuPone.  In Divine Company is a tribute to the amazing divas of song by extraordinary impressionist Bianco accompanied on piano by Joe Louis Robinson.

Musical Director Joe Louis Robinson

In an hour of impressions Bianco exudes a contagious energy and mercurial charm that instantly captures the very essence of the divas she mimics. The momentary glimpse of one of her impressions conjures an immediate connection in the audience’s mind with the artist she impersonates. Bianco is the chameleon of song, able to let the high notes soar and the raunchy notes erupt from a passion far within, but always with a respect and admiration for the singer.

In a tribute to Sammy Davis Junior Bianco segues through a variety of versions of I’ve Got To Be Me. There is the demure and practically perfect impression of Julie Andrews’ rendition of the song, or Gwen Stefani’s assertive version. She nails Shirley Bassey’s echoing vibrato and Patti LuPone’s Broadway musical  style. Her Barbra Streisand lets loose with chutzpah on the lyrics and one is aware of Bianco’s obsessive love of her art. She sculpts her art with affection and keen observation. With each familiar impression we are left to complete the image and the voice in our imaginations. Bianco emerges the Diva’s Siren.

For those who remember Liza Minelli’s Liza With A Z and Minella’s plea to explain the pronunciation of her name, Bianco adapts Marvin Hamlisch’s lyrics to describe in Minelli’s inimitable fashion the confusions that can exist in the pronunciation and spelling of Christina  not Christine and Bianco not Bianca.

For any lovers of musical theatre, Bianco’s performances are a joyful trip down Memory Lane. Occasionally she will vacate the impression to allow space for Christina Bianco’s extraordinary talent to shine through as it did when she played Fanny Brice in a Paris production of Funny Girl. Bianco is a consummate entertainer, a delightful comedienne and a singer of immense versatility, range and character. There were times when I longed for a complete rendition of an impression. Her love of Andrew Lloyd-Webber did offer this with her performance of As If We Never Said Goodbye from Sunset Boulevard.

In Divine Company is a glorious indulgence in the magical talent of the diva and the composers and lyricists who set their flames alight. Bianco’s tribute in impression is a roll call of divine talents, the familiar and the famous, the songstresses of Broadway or the chanteuses of the silver screen. And among them all, Bette Midler, Gwen Stefani or Jennifer Anderson as well as your Streisand and your Celine Dion is Christina Bianco the slight entertainer with the giant personality.

Her farewell was her own rendition of Carol Burnett’s farewell to the audience at the end of her TV show.  “I’m so glad we had this time together …Enjoy.”  And we did!

Bianco has left Adelaide but you can still catch her at the Hayes Theatre in Sydney from June 24th – 27th  Later in the year Bianco will take on the role of Ado Annie, the”girl who cain’t say no” in Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Oklahoma in London’s West End when audiences will have the opportunity to enjoy this brilliantly comical entertainer’s own sparkling talent. Let’s hope for another early return to Australia.

Photos: Claudio Raschella



Amy Kowalczuk (Blanche DuBois) - Alex Hoskinson (Stanley Kowalski) in
 "A Streetcar Named Desire  

Written by Tennessee Williams – Directed by Anne Somes

Set design by Dr Cate Clelland and Ron Abrams – Costume Design by Fiona Leach

Lighting Design by Craig Muller – Sound Design by Neville Pye

Vocal and Dialect Coach: Sarah Chalmers – Intimacy Co-ordinator: Karen Vickery.

ACT Hub 19 – 29 June 2024. Performance on 22nd June reviewed by BILL STEPHENS

Despite having had many different interpreters, to many the 1951 film of Tennessee Williams’ searing examination of marital relationships which starred Vivien Leigh as Blanche DuBois, Marlon Brando as Stanley Kowalski and Kim Hunter as Stella Kowalski has become the template and definitive interpretation of this play.

With her powerful production for Free-Rain Theatre in the ACT Hub, Director Anne Somes proves that there are other ways to skin a cat by casting three of the city’s finest young actors in Amy Kowalczuk as the delusional Blanche DuBois, Meaghan Stewart as Blanche’s sister Stella Kowalski, and Alex Hoskison as Stella’s Polish husband  Stanley Kowalski.

Meaghan Stewart (Stella Kowalski) - Amy Kowalczuk (Blance DuBois) in
"A Streetcar Named Desire"_

Somes has drawn finely delineated performances from all three actors and surrounded them with an excellent cast of supporting actors to portray the friends and neighbours of the Kowalski’s.

When Blanche (Amy Kowalczuk) unexpectedly comes to stay with her sister Stella (Meaghan Stewart) and her husband Stanley (Alex Hoskison) in their tiny two-roomed apartment in a run-down tenement, she quickly makes her distaste for Stanley, his poker-playing friends, and the couple’s cramped apartment, evident.

Stanley resents Blanche’s intrusion into their life and makes little effort to hide his feelings or make Blanche feel welcome. Newly pregnant, Stella finds herself walking on eggshells as she tries to keep the peace between the two.

Amy Kowalczuk is simply riveting as Blanche DuBois. Her depiction of Blanche’s slide into madness is fascinatingly detailed allowing the audience to empathise with Blanche’s predicament as her web of lies begins to unravel, while understanding the havoc her presence is wreaking on the Kowalski’s marriage.

Similarly impressive is Meaghan Stewart’s nuanced performance as Stella, initially delighted by Blanche’s visit but increasingly unsettled by her husband’s response to her.  Stella is eventually torn between her loyalties to her husband and her sister when Stanley discovers that Blanche has been less than candid about her past, and his treatment of both Stella and Blanche becomes increasingly more violent.

Meaghan Stewart (Stella Kowalski) - Alex Hoskison (Stanley Kowalski) in
" A Streetcar Named Desire"

While totally convincing in his depiction of Stanley Kowalski’s unapologetic oafishness, Alex Hoskison remarkably impels the audience to feel sympathy for Stanley’s predicament in having his life intruded upon by Blanche while at the same time being repelled by his brutish treatment of her.

As the cuckolded Harold ‘Mitch’ Mitchell, who Blanche expects to marry as a way out of her own situation, Lachlan Ruffy creates a sympathetic and believable character.

Tim Stiles and Sarah Hull portray the Kowalski’s neighbours, Steve and Eunice Hubbell, who live above the Kowalski’s in an apartment with walls so thin that Blanche is bothered by their love-making.

Lachlan Elderton, James Morgan, David Bennet, Olivia Wenholz, Rina Onorato, Rica Oyolla and Mercy Lelei play various other characters that populate the Kowalski’s world.

Alex Hoskison (Stanley Kowalski) - Meaghan Stewart (Stella Kowalski) in
"A Streetcar Named Desire".

Fiona Leach has created a fascinating wardrobe for Blanche to provide clues to her squandered wealth, as well as a variety of period clothing for the rest of the cast to compliment the carefully selected furniture and properties with which Cate Clelland and Ron Abrahams have furnished the Kowalski’s claustrophobic apartment.

A pity then that distracting changes in lighting states midway through scenes, and some misjudged set changes, especially following the rape when for no logical reason the neighbours suddenly burst in and begin cleaning up the debris and setting up the card game as Stanley changes clothes in full view of the audience, completely evaporates the shock value of the preceding scene, marred this otherwise impressive production by Free-Rain Theatre.  

                                                Images by Jane Duong. 


MOMENTA - Sydney Dance Company

Choreographed by Rafael Bonachela – Lighting design by Damien Cooper

Music- Original Score: Nick Wales –“Distant Light”: Peteris Vasks

Set and Costumes designed by Elizabeth Gadsby- Associate costume designer: Emma White

Canberra Theatre Centre Playhouse June 21 and 22, 2024.

Opening night performance reviewed by BILL STEPHENS.

As Charmene Yap explained in her charming curtain speech just before the performance began, Momenta is the plural of momentum, which means movement or motion, so it was the opportunity to explore concepts of momentum that led to the creation of “Momenta”  by Rafael Bonachela.

It’s Bonachela’s interest in the possibility of exploring intellectual challenges through dance that separates him from other choreographers and has resulted in a succession of engrossing abstract dance works.

Then just when you think he can’t possibly outdo his last creation, he raises the bar again.

“Momenta” is a sublime work which commences with a lone male dancer in a spotlight performing a series of convoluted intricate movements.

 A change in the lighting state reveals ten more dancers lying on their backs who repeat the movements, executing them in perfect unison.  One by one the dancers rise from the floor and continue with individual complex moves, careering around the stage, connecting and disconnecting in a kaleidoscopic whirl of movement before disappearing into a thick mist.

As the mist begins to clear, huge flying saucer-like set of lights begins to ascend from the stage its fierce light revealing four dancers who continue inventing movements while the others observe then from the sideline until they too share the spotlight in a complex series of duos, trios and quartets.

Eventually the lights tilt then slowly rise further to reveal more and more of the stage and the movement expands into exhilarating broad, sweeping choreography which dazzles with its complexity and invention until, after seventy minutes, in a shower of silver flitter-flutter, fifteen superb dancers resume their original positions on the floor and the space-ship lights lower to focus on the lone male dancer who continues to maintain the momentum until the final blackout.

The total effect is mesmerising. Damien Cooper’s lighting design with its changing intensity and beguiling use of colour is as essential a component as Nick Wales’ hypnotic soundscape which contains its own surprises with its sudden change of atmosphere and dynamics resulting from the introduction Peteris Vasks’ classically based composition "Distant Light”.

Although “Momenta” is determinedly plotless, constantly changing groupings tease the viewer with suggestions of sensual possibilities, aided by Gatsby and White’s body-hugging, flesh coloured costumes which although individually designed for each dancer, tended to render them anonymous. A factor not helped by the lack of a printed program.

For although this reviewer was provided with a digital copy of the excellent program, audience members wanting to access artist biographies and creative’s explanations  had to rely on the ubiquitous QR code, available in the foyer. Very few appeared to bother with those.

Therefore as each of the extraordinary ensemble of dancers deserves recognition for their contribution, here are their names. Timmy Blankenship, Anika Boet, Dean Elliott, Riley Fitzgerald, Tayla Gartner, Liam Green, Luke Hayward, Morgan Hurrell, Ngaere Jenkins, Sophie Jones, Naiara de Matos, Connor McMahon, Ryan Pearson, Piram Scott, Emily Seymour, Coco Wood, Chloe Young.

Another masterpiece from the fertile imagination of Rafael Bonachella, “Momenta” is touring widely. When it comes your way don’t miss the opportunity to see this example of the Sydney Dance Company at its very best.

                                                    Images by Pedro Greig


   This review also published in AUSTRALIAN ARTS REVIEW.



Adapted by Marilyn Campbell-Lowe and Curt Columbus

From the novel by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Directed by Caroline Stacey

A Street Theatre production

The Street Theatre to 7 July


Reviewed by Len Power 22 June 2024


First published in 1886, Dostoyevsky’s ‘Crime and Punishment’ is a classic study of murder, detection, motivation and a murderer’s harrowing journey to enlightenment. It asks searching fundamental questions of human existence that remain uncomfortable and relevant today.

This adaptation by the American writers, Marilyn Campbell-Lowe and Curt Columbus, distils the action and many characters and events of the novel into an interrogation and mind game between the murderer, impoverished student, Raskolnikov, and the police inspector, Porfiry. Flashbacks and an unnerving dream sequence include a prostitute, Sophie, her drunkard father, Marmeladov, and the murdered women, an elderly pawnbroker, Alyona Ivanova, and her half-sister, Lizaveta.

Raskolnikov believes that he himself is above the law and extraordinary to such an extent that he is entitled to decide who is worthy of life and of death. If that death can change the lives of many others for the better, then that is a worthy justification for the taking of a life he believes is useless. Nevertheless, in the aftermath of the crime, Raskolnikov is deeply unsettled by his action and unnerved by the apparently amiable discussions about the murder with the inspector.

Christopher Samuel Carroll as Raskolnikov

Christopher Samuel Carroll gives a multi-faceted portrayal of the murderer, Raskolnikov. Keeping the character likeable, he almost becomes uncomfortably convincing in his justifications for the killings. The conflict in his disturbed mind is skilful and subtly played.

PJ Williams as Porfiry

PJ Williams gives a wily and formidable portrayal of the inspector, Porfiry. He maintains an impressive and subtle tension under his relaxed, ironic manner in the discussions with the murderer, showing that he is not to be under-estimated. He also plays Sophie’s drunkard father in flashbacks and is a presence in Raskolnikov’s dream.

Josephine Gazard (Sophie) and Christopher Samuel Carroll (Raskolnikov)

Josephine Gazard plays Sophie with a moving sense of sadness and loss of innocence. Her concern for Raskolknikov’s situation is touchingly played. She also plays the murdered woman and her sister in flashbacks and appears in the dream sequence.

A fine adaptation of the novel, it has been keenly directed by Caroline Stacey. The production design by Kathleen Kershaw of several platforms is deceptively simple and the clever lighting design by Darren Hawkins adds a great deal of atmosphere, as does Kimmo Venonnen’s brooding and troubling sound design. The overall creativity in set, lighting and sound is very effective.

This is a strong, focussed production that entertains on a police interrogation level but also makes us consider deeper, disturbing questions about human existence and interaction.


Photos by Nathan Swift

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 22, 2024



Directed by Bradley McDowell

Book by Billie Joe Armstrong and Michael Mayer

Music By Green Day

Lyrics by Billie Joe Armstrong

A Queanbeyan Players production

Q Theatre, Queanbeyan to 29 June


Reviewed by Len Power 21 June 2024


A punk rock musical based on the music of rock band, Green Day, the show opened on Broadway in 2010 and ran for a year. Using all of the songs from the band’s ‘American Idiot’ album and additional Green Day songs from their album, ‘21st Century Breakdown’, the musical focusses on three disaffected friends, Johnny, Tunny and Will who, after broken relationships, drug experimentation and injury in the military, look back with regret at their wasted youth.

Surprisingly melancholy in tone, the show is full of appealing music and songs. With little dialogue, the show is virtually sung through. The songs comment on the mood of the characters at each moment in the slim storyline.

According to the program, this has long been a passion project for Director, Bradley McDowell. His production, including a striking and towering set design by Kyle Maley, successfully captures the grungy atmosphere that the music and songs demand. The costuming by Sammy Marceddo, makeup and attitude displayed by the cast show a fine understanding of the milieu of the music. This musical is not your typical Broadway musical, and it is very powerful in its own right.

Zac Izzard - standing (Will) and John Whinfield (Johnny)

John Whinfield gives a strong performance as Johnny and is matched by Darcy Kinsella as Tunny and Zac Izzard as Will. All three are fine singers and display a notable strength of feeling in their songs. Amongst the large cast there are also fine vocal performances by Declan Pigram as St Jimmy, Shelby Holland as Whatsername, India Cornwell as Heather and Abigail Dunn as Extraordinary Girl. David Cannell shines as Rock n Roll Boyfriend.

Abigail Dunn (Extraordinary Girl) and Darcy Kinsella (Tunny)

The large chorus sings and performs a huge amount of the music. Nathan Rutups’ spot-on choreography is showcased well by this cast, who dance it with breathtaking energy.

Musical directors Jen Hinton and Brigid Cummins have achieved a high standard with the singing and the band plays the score with a clarity that brings out the depth of emotion in the music.

At times looking like a rock concert rather than a book musical, the show has an excellent and exciting lighting design by Jacob Aquilina (Eclipse) and a nicely balanced and clear sound design by Telia Jansen (Eclipse).

Whether or not punk rock music is your thing, there’s no denying that this is a fine production by a cast and crew who really understand the era of these songs.


Photos by Photox Photography

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




 Missy Higgins.

Celebrating the 20th Anniversary  of The Sound of White Album.. Festival Theatre. Adelaide Festival Centre. June 21 2024.

Reviewed by Peter Wilkins

 She is the singer/songwriter with the beautiful soul. From the very start of her 20th anniversary celebratory show, Missy Higgins radiates warmth and generosity as she enters smiling and waving at her enthusiastic Festival Theatre audience. One immediately senses the special connection of the occasion. In the first half of the two hour concert , Missy Higgins performs songs from her Second Album. The second half is entirely devoted to the songs of the Aria Award winning Sound of White album with the title song dedicated to the memory of her young cousin Nick who tragically died of cancer at the age of 17.

Her songs are the songs of experience, honest and pure in tone and welling with forceful voice from the heart.  Some like The Battle recall a feud with another singer/songwriter from which she emerges the victor. Songs of Independence recall the struggles, the pain of separation, the confrontation with guilt and shame and ultimately the conquest of the independent spirit. There is confession and revelation in her narrative. The lyrics, poetic and dynamic reveal a woman striving for individual strength in Stay Away or attempting to answer a five year old’s questions of confusion in A Complicated Truth.  From keyboard to guitar, Missy Higgins traverses a life of lows and highs, all the time keeping the audience transfixed by her anecdotal prelude to her song. At the piano she explores the woeful ballad. At the guitar she discovers the upbeat quality of the chord structure and the positive persuasion of the strumming. Backed by four singer/musicians, Missy Higgins leads the audience through her life in song. Her artistry is unique. Her engagement with the audience warm and generous

There is entertainment in the story of her Grey’s Anatomy song used during the sequence when an ambulance flips upside down and careers into the hospital with a bleeding patient inside. She remembers a song about infidelity unwittingly used at a wedding ceremony. Her songs of memory reverberate with struggle and yet through it all, the confusion and the insecurity, Missy Higgins’ songs are  signposts to self compassion and self determination. At the end of the first half the confident singer/songwriter is ready for what comes next.

In the second half, Missy Higgins, bouncing onto stage in a white cowgirl outfit with short skirt and long red boots is backed by musicians in white, playing cello, guitar, percussion and drums, trumpet and double bass . Beams of white light flood the stage or shoot narrow rays of light from spots above.. Images of lyrics flash across the cyclarama behind images of wafting material. They change during the songs to flowers, palm trees, a nest with birds and scenes from foreign lands.  The show is transformed into a theatrical sensation. Missy Higgins returns to the account of her interesting life from the time she was discovered when she won a competition on Triple J Unearthed. She dwells on the dark in songs like The River, in which a young girl leaves home, goes to the river and never returns or the horror of Night Tme.

Throughout the repertoire one senses the strength of a woman who has faced adversity and confronted it head on. It is in the song that she wrote in response to Deborah Mailman’s character in Total Control.

From the jazzy funk number Casualty with the trumpet solo to Escaping Reality, Missy Higgins songs and music search for an answer to the eternal question “Who am ?”I. The Sound of White , celebrating her 20 years as an extraordinary and remarkable singer, lyricist and musician provides part of the answer. Her song to her young daughter, her tribute to her cousin and her generosity and affection towards her audience dancing in their rows and singing her choruses are all part of the answer. The magic of this special celebration has cast its spell and the audience leap to their feet in appreciation of a night they will always remember.