Tag Archive | "Rohan Browne"

The Tap Pack

Riverside Theatre, Parramatta, Sydney
March 2013

By Nicole Saleh.

What began as an idea penned on a napkin 12 months ago, The Tap Pack came to life and premiered as part of the annual Dance Bites season at the Riverside Theatre, Western Sydney, in a fun, stylish and energy packed hour long show.

Created by seasoned Australian performers Jesse Rasmussen (Tap Dogs, Hot Shoe Shuffle, Happy Feet and So You Think You Can Dance), Thomas J Egan (Fame, Tap Dogs, The Boy From Oz) and Jordan Pollard (Guys and Dolls, West Side Story, The Addams Family), and inspired by the original ‘Rat Pack’ of Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jnr, the Tap Pack’s group of five classy guys in their suits and ties took to the stage with the same sense of cool confidence as  their predecessors.

With a loose storyline, narrated by performer Dion Bilios, we followed the journey of five very different characters performed by Rohan Browne, Kuki Tipoki and creators Jesse and Thomas, who worked through their own personal struggles, addictions, and strained friendships in their quest to get their show picked up by a Las Vegas producer.

Backed by The Tap Pack Bandits, a strong six piece band of drums, horns and keys, led by Musical Director Chris King, the five guys crooned classic big band numbers including  ‘Straighten Up and Fly Right’ and ‘Lady is a Tramp’ but also added a contemporary twist with Cee Lo Green’s ‘Forget You’. Comedic humour was threaded throughout the show with some cliché jokes and slapstick gags that had the audience amused and laughing out loud.

The definite highlight of the show, as its title suggests, is the tap dancing which was fast, intricate, rhythmical and entertaining. Whether it was creating beats as background music to their dialogue, or the challenging routines using pool cue sticks instead of canes, all five performers did a fantastic job of delivering complex cross rhythms and showcasing the creativity of this art form.

In a strong solo performance, Thomas wowed the audience with his acapella tapping and the ease in which he delivered difficult tricks with his fast footwork. His rhythms were smooth and his turning combination had speed and clarity. Jesse Rasmussen also delivered a memorable solo paying homage to the tap legends who have gone before; Gregory Hines, Fred Astaire and Jimmy Slyde.

Overall, all five performers delivered charismatic performances and finished the show on a fun note, dressed in leopard print shirts for the big tap finale. This show has great potential and gave audiences a taste of what The Tap Pack is all about.

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The Producers – The Production Company

By Rain Francis.

State Theatre, Arts Centre Melbourne
July 2012

The Producers is everything a good musical comedy should be: camp, over-the-top and loads of fun. I had the pleasure of going to the The Production Company’s staging of it with no expectations to speak of; I had no prior knowledge of the show, or of either version of the movie. Later that evening, had you been at my place you would have found me having my own little youTube party, looking up clips of various renderings and singing along. Sad as this image may be, it’s a measure of how much I enjoyed the show.

It seems fellow audience members agreed, if the standing ovation was anything to go by. I find eavesdropping to be an effective tool for review writing, and on this occasion I was awarded with a corker; one of my fellows named Wayne Scott Kermond as “the best Max” Bialystock he had ever seen. Armed with my new youTube party research, I concur: Kermond did a fantastic job of the role.

In fact, the entire cast was great. When Christie Whelan was on stage, it was hard to look anywhere else; she really gave it her all as the sweet and sexy Swede, Ulla. Brent Hill was suitably nervous and awkward as the timid accountant, Leo Bloom. It’s not hard to see why this WAAPA graduate won a Green Room Award last year.

Rising star of stage and screen Virginia Gay made several cameo appearances, my favourites being the randy geriatric Hold-me Touch-me, and the butch-as-you-like Shirley. The variety of roles were evidently great fun to play, and Gay embodied each with a unique physicality, embellished with flawless comic timing.

However, it was Rohan Browne, as the uber-flamboyant Carmen Ghia, who stole the show. Here is an actor who really embraced his role, not just sketching it out but painting in a fabulous rainbow of colours, then sticking some feathers and glittery stuff on for added flourish. Right down to the movements of his fingers, Browne was utterly committed and entirely hilarious.

Carmen’s main scene, titled The Living Room of Renowned Theatrical Director Roger De Bris’ Elegant Upper East Side Townhouse on a Sunny Tuesday Afternoon in June, was the highlight of Act One. The number Keep it Gay was super indulgent and brimming with deliciously realised stereotypes; the costume designer, the choreographer, the musical director and the lighting designer.

You have to hand it to The Production Company: producing shows this good with only two weeks’ rehearsal is pretty incredible. I’m looking forward to their production of Chess, which comes to the Arts Centre this month. Now, back to youTube…

Photo: Christie Whelan, Wayne Scott Kermond, Brent Hill in The Producers. Photo by Jeff Busby

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A Chorus Line

Adelaide Festival Centre, Festival Theatre
January 2012 

By Joanne McDonald.

If you grew up in the eighties, and you were dance mad, then the 1985 movie version of A Chorus Line may well have been one of your favourite movies and the inspiration for dreams of a dancers’ life.  Certainly that’s the case for me.  The original production of A Chorus Line premiered in 1975 and became, at the time, the longest running musical on Broadway, winning not only a string of Tony Awards, but also prestigious awards for drama.  A Chorus Line was a new breed of musical with a back story that could stand alone – not merely a prop for the musical numbers – though these are outstanding also.

Any new production of this landmark musical has a lot to live up to, but also much material for the foundation of a great piece of theatre.  The new production at the Adelaide Festival Centre produced by Tim Lawson and TML Enterprises certainly delivered.

As the lights went up and the show began, the scripted dialogue and American accents gave me concern that this would be a mere imitation.  But once my ear adjusted to the accents, I realised the performance by most of the cast had real depth, and at times, a quirky humour. Some of the characters were particularly likeable – particularly Debora Krizak as Sheila, Ashley McKenzie as Bobby, Hayley Winch as Val and Rohan Browne as Greg.   ‘At The Ballet’ sung by the characters of Sheila, Bebe and Maggie was incredibly moving.  Karlee Misipeka’s interpretation of ‘Nothing’ by Diana, epitomised the character’s frustration and feelings of isolation, while also entertaining us with hilarious anecdotes and an inspirational determination to succeed.  But the best thing about ‘Nothing’ was Misipeka’s vocals.  ‘Stunning’ is the word I think best describes her voice, or perhaps ‘angelic’.  In fact, it is the singing in this production of A Chorus Line that is the show’s greatest strength, particularly the voices of Misipeka, Krizak, Monique Sallé (Bebe) and Stephanie Grigg (Maggie).

There were a couple of scenes that were a little disappointing.  Euan Doidge’s performance of Paul San Marco, revealing painful experiences from his youth, did not move me as it should have. And the potentially exuberant number ‘I Can Do That’ by Mike (performed by James Maxfield) did not quite hit the mark, although this is more due to the choreography than the performance.  At the end of the number we had a glimpse of Maxfield’s acrobatic ability, but it would have been great to see more spectacular tricks throughout the piece.

The staging was done well.  For example, the contrast between the bright lights when the dancers were standing on the line and the tableaus of dancers during the montages was very effective.  Unfortunately, the costuming was somewhat disappointing.  It was appropriate, yet not flattering – which is at odds with the idea of dancers trying to look their best for an audition in order to get the part.

It would also have been wonderful to see the potential of the dancers more in the choreography.  For example, ‘The Music and the Mirror’, performed by Anita Louise Combe as Cassie, gave the dancer very little opportunity to sparkle.  For most of the number I thought perhaps Combe was more a singer than a dancer, but when she got to the end and started to move, it was clear she was absolutely a dancer.  But still, she looked restrained, as if the choreography didn’t provide the opportunity for her to fully extend herself.

The bottom line … should you see this production of A Chorus Line?  Absolutely!  It is a classic, a landmark musical, and worth seeing. It is well produced and well performed.  Entertaining.  Engaging.   Moving.  Inspirational.

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West Side’s Gang Leaders

By Linda Badger.

The international smash hit, West Side Story is touring Australia, currently playing in Sydney before heading to Melbourne, Perth, Brisbane and Adelaide later this year. A musical theatre classic, West Side Story has it all – hard hitting choreography, brilliant music and a story to make the heart wrench.

Dance Informa’s Linda Badger got a chance to speak with two of the talented cast.

Rohan Browne, playing Riff  (Leader of the Jets)

Tell us about your experience in the show so far?
I think this is such an amazing piece of theatre.  I saw this show when I was 14, (16 years ago) and I thought it was incredible!  The agility, the passion and the dancing telling a story! Ever since then I had a dream to be involved in this show and so it’s a real honour to be playing the part of Riff and being able to do this every night , getting the joy and satisfaction. It’s such a real challenge, mentally and physically. It encompasses every aspect.  It challenges me every day.   Who wouldn’t want to work and do that?

What was the audition process like?
It was quite intense!  Joey McKneely, the choreographer/director is a very intense person.  He stripped everybody back to what the truth of the story is about.  I was working on Chicago at that point, which is more minimalistic dancing, and I came from that to do the audition, which was so physical and full on.  Joey workshopped some scenes with me, and because he was so intense I kind of walked away from that thinking I didn’t get the job, because I thought I didn’t give what I needed to give .  I was doubting myself, as you do as an actor, but luckily I landed the gig.  It was very tough competition. Everyman and his dog wants to be in the show, so it was tough.

Would you say you were primarily a dancer or a singer?
I trained as a dancer, but I’ve played some roles in other shows, which is now pushing me towards more singing and acting.  I’m not an amazing singer,  but I can sing and I’m not an amazing actor but I’ve learned instinct.  How I would categorise myself…dancer, singer, actor. 

What is the most challenging thing about the show?
The acting.  This is my 14th show, and you get so used to doing musical theatre acting, which is highly dramatized and melodramatic. Or it’s a pastiche, so you’re doing a show within a show, which means it’s even more dramatised.  This show kind of goes against those natural basic instincts of “hey! I’m acting!”, and I had to strip it back to how I would say things if it was real life.  Joe calls this a drama, or a play.  It’s not a musical.  The issues we are dealing with (racism, rape), means that it’s quite delicate , so if you’re ‘acting’, it doesn’t get the audience in , it doesn’t have that raw emotion like it is actually happening for real.  So I think the most challenging thing for me was just going back to the basic truth of how would I act if it was just me, putting my emotion, putting my fear, putting my anger in and  stripping everything back.  But in saying that, the dancing is also so hard.  I’m still sitting here sweating from just doing the gym scene twice!  It’s so full on!  But even the singing is a challenge. I sing the ‘Jet’s Song’ and I sing ‘Cool’.  It’s singing spoken word. Every aspect I have been challenged in.  But I think the acting is the most challenging for me.  

Nigel Turner-Carroll, playing Bernado (Leader of the Sharks)

What was your experience like leading up to the opening of the show?
For me the whole process started three months before rehearsals.  I was at the gym four times a week, ballet two to three times a week, and going to flamenco classes to learn some salsa and tango, to get the Latin flavour.

After you got the part?
I got the part at the end of last year, so I had quite a bit of time to think about it.  I was doing a lot of character work leading up to it, so I had done a lot of homework coming into it.  It’s been great because we’ve had ballet class every day, and now they are starting to alternate ballet and stretch class.  So as the season goes on, all throughout rehearsals, everyone has improved in their abilities. But it’s been tough as well.  I had a few injuries, leading up to it, but it was perfect timing in a way -  I’d rather injuries earlier on, than now. This show is very physically demanding. I come off stage with bruises every time.  We are very lucky to have a full time physiotherapist.

Is this a show that you’ve always wanted to do?
It wasn’t something that I’ve always wanted to play, it’s a role that I have seen and loved.  I wasn’t actually going to audition until I’d read the script and I thought it was so good.  That’s when I went,  “I need to play this role”.  I think it says a lot. Bernado represents all immigrants. It’s a bigger picture thing and for me it’s very political as well.  In Australia, as well as most places in the world, I think I’m standing up for the immigrant, or the underdog.  People can take their different sides or opinions, but that’s the way I feel so that’s why I wanted to tell the story.

You obviously have a really good connection with your role, which makes it that much more real when you get up there.
I always try to aim to bring that onto the stage, but with how I’ve approached this role, it has bled off stage as well. It’s kind of fun to explore those different sides of yourself.  He is quite a passionate character so that does make it hard to switch off.  I’m sure the time it takes to switch off will get smaller and smaller, but at the moment it just takes that little bit of time to cool down after the show.  

Were you a dancer growing up?
I started pretty late, but I started in performing as a dancer.  I pretty much got straight into the musical  Hot Shoe Shuffle in which there were acting and singing roles as well.  I had the experience straight away of acting and singing, and I fell in love with acting. So I took time off the dancing stuff to focus on my acting for three years (at NIDA).  I didn’t plan to go back into a musical, but I don’t see this as a typical musical, it’s a play for me.

How was your audition process?
It was a week.  I thought I got cut after the first dance call.  I actually walked out because they didn’t call my name.  My phone rang and they said “You’re meant to be in the room”. I said ‘”What?” and they said, “didn’t you hear your name get called?” They thought they called my name and I wasn’t going to argue, so I ran back to the room.  I think Joey knew what he was looking for as a director so it wasn’t too drawn out and the audition process was more of an acting workshop rather than a dance call or anything like that.  Even then, I didn’t know if I wanted to do it still. I thought I’d do the audition and see how I felt.  But working with the director, even in the rehearsal room, I thought I would love to do this.  And the choreography isn’t dance steps, it’s psychological gestures and so every single thing really has a meaning. I hope that really comes through when we do it.

What advice would you give young performers trying to enter the entertainment industry?
First and foremost you’ve really got to love it. You have to know yourself. Do you want to do it to be rich, or for the fame, or do you want to do it because you love it and you want to be the best that you can be?  This is why I do it.  I think that you need to be clear on that when you first start.  And it’s cool if you want to do it for fame, which I don’t think that there’s that much of, but it’s tough and you have to be willing to work hard when no one is looking.

 To see Rohan Browne and Nigel Turner-Carroll in action, make sure you get tickets to West Side Story. Visit www.westsidestorythemusical.com.au for all the information.

Bottom photo: Carolin Smolek

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