After a successful season in Sydney, West Side Story is now hitting hard in Melbourne, before touring to Perth, Brisbane and Adelaide.
Posted on 01 August 2010.
After a successful season in Sydney, West Side Story is now hitting hard in Melbourne, before touring to Perth, Brisbane and Adelaide.
Posted on 31 July 2010.
By Kristy Johnson.
We’ve seen them grace our screens on So You Think You Can Dance, and these much loved dancers are now making their mark in the world of musical theatre.
Dance Informa caught up with Talia Fowler, Jack Chambers, Timomatic Omaji, Marko Panzic and Hilton Denis, who are currently starring in FAME, West Side Story and Hairspray across the country!
Starring as ‘Iris Kelly’ in FAME.
So Talia, what drew you to want to try out for FAME the musical?
I had just got back from my performance in the US. I arrived back and actually got a phone call from Kelley Abbey. At that time I was with an agent kind of preparing to go back to the US and do the ballet thing. Kelley said to me “I’m directing and choreographing a new musical called FAME. I want you to watch the movie and check out this character, because I think you would be great for it and I’d love for you to audition.” So from there I watched the movie. I rented it straight away, liked the character and then went through the process of auditioning for the role.
Has working with Kelley again been to your advantage as she already understands your strengths and weaknesses?
Oh definitely. I think obviously So You Think You Can Dance would have been a big factor in me getting this role because they’ve already seen how I perform on stage and Kelley knew what my work ethic was like. So that was a big draw card, I think. And of course when Kelley was choreographing the show she knew that there were a few steps that were my specialty. She put them in the choreography so she could make it a part of us.
Touring can be quite exhausting. How do you keep on top of your game?
It’s really important for us to get our internal body clocks right. We finish a show at 11 o’clock at night and it’s important that we get some sleep that night and that we can still get up and do things the next day. It’s very important to change your schedule so you’re still being fuelled at the right time, so that you have enough energy to perform for 8 shows a week.
What is your schedule like?
At this point in the show we don’t actually have rehearsals at all before we do the shows because it’s been running for a while. So the show’s sitting pretty comfortably with all of us. I’ll start my day with a class at 9am. Just a ballet or classical class to really get my technique, feel my body and activate all the muscles for the day. Then it’s time to go home, do some normal things, have my lunch and make sure I get in some ‘chill’ time. Then in the afternoon I usually go to the gym and do some strength training. Then I come back, cook myself a healthy meal and go into the theatre two hours before the show. I spend the first hour getting ready – doing my hair and makeup, sewing new pairs of shoes or breaking shoes in. At hour call we have a group warm up…..and then it’s showtime!
Have you always wanted to perform in musicals?
No, not at all. It was never on the cards. I’d never seen any musicals until after So You Think You Can Dance, and then I got approached by a few people. My management let me know about it and that there was a role that would really suit me. I’m always up for a new challenge – something that will stretch me and something I haven’t tried before, so I was like “yeah let’s do it!”
What’s it like to work alongside Kelley Abbey again on FAME?
Kelley is an amazing choreographer and director, and I think she’s just amazing at dealing with people as opposed to just dancers. She’ll bring out the best. She’s really brought out the best in me through both So You Think You Can Dance and FAME, but more closely FAME because she’s so tailor made to you and what you do. And she doesn’t just put her ideas on you. I’ve soaked up all the energy, inspiration and passion that she kind of exerts.
Coming from the hip hop scene, have you been challenged by musical theatre?
Definitely. Through what I used to do, we didn’t really have to have a character and follow the path of a character. I think the main challenge for me was the acting. I’d done music before, so putting my energies into a character was probably the hardest, newest thing I’ve had to face. Even though you’re dancing, everything you do has an intention behind it. That’s what Kelley would teach us.
What would be your highlight so far whilst touring?
You know what, for me it’s just growing. Growing is a passion you need to endure more as a performer. It’s one thing to do a show and just leave it, but it’s another to be able to sustain a show. I think that’s taught me a lot about perseverance and endurance and to really keep my eye on the ball. If anything, I’ve learnt a lot about treating the body right.
In Hairspray, the character of Tracy Turnblad has a passion for dance, wins a spot on a television program and through this becomes a teen celebrity. Do you feel this transition mirrors your life, having won So You Think You Can Dance and gaining international recognition?
Now that you mention it, yes, Tracy’s life in Hairspray kind of mirrors what my life has been in the past few years! The only difference would be that I’m skinny and male!
The creative team behind Hairspray is quite phenomenal with David Atkins directing and Jason Coleman choreographing. What’s it like to reunite with Jason since the show?
It was wonderful to see Jason Coleman again. I am really looking forward to working with him in an atmosphere where he won’t be judging me! I’m also really looking forward to working with David Atkins. It’s a very exciting creative team, as well as cast, so rehearsals will be an absolute blast.
Any advice for dancers who would like to work in musicals?
My advice would be to continue your training to keep your ‘triple threat’ abilities up to par. Theatre is all about charisma and personality, so it’s important to let that shine through when you’re auditioning.
Starring as ‘Moose’ in West Side Story
Why did you try out for West Side Story?
It’s one of the greatest musicals of all time, so that’s why I wanted to do it. It’s a classic and everyone knows about it.
With musicals, you need to be a triple threat. How have you made sure to hone all your performance skills?
Before West Side Story I had to go to a lot of singing lessons because I’m not that much of a singer. I’m lucky that the cast members are so amazing because I can learn off them as well. I’ve had to work on acting as well. By watching other NIDA graduates act I learn off them. They give me advice and by just watching them do their own thing you pick up different strategies on how to improve yourself.
What would an average day entail for you?
We do 8 shows a week. We’ve got two shows on Wednesday and Saturday. I train in martial arts for a bit, just for fun. And on top of that I just choreograph. I’m always choreographing.
What does your role as Dance Captain for FAME involve?
Kelley choreographs and directs the show and then she leaves the show. So all the choreography and all the dance is left in my hands. I have to work on keeping Kelley’s original choreography and make sure that it stays exactly how Kelley wants it. So I’m keeping on the dancers, making sure everyone is doing their job properly. We also have swings off stage, so my role involves keeping the swings and understudies in use. We rehearse to make sure they’re ready to go on at any point if anyone goes off. So I have to rehearse all the understudies and swings.
Any advice for those dancers who want to get into musicals?
Take class and get fit. It’s about being ‘show fit’. When doing a show like this your body has to be able to handle it. I was choreographing a lot before I did the show. So I had to go into the gym and start looking after myself in a different way, because when you choreograph you don’t dance as much. So I would really tell people just not to be lazy. Musical theatre is a hard world. You have to have the look, you have to have the body and you have to have the fitness. You have to go in with the package because you only get that audition to show everything off. You can’t get the job and then work towards it. You have to be ready.
Want to see these dance stars in action? Make sure you get tickets to FAME, West Side Story and Hairspray and support Australian theatre.
FAME photos courtesy of Jeff Busby.
Hairspray photo courtesy of Belinda Strodder
Posted on 21 July 2010.
Todd Patrick, Director of Patrick Studios Australia, is excited to announce a brand new fulltime course. In 2011 Patrick Studios Australia will be home to Andrew Hallsworth’s unique music theatre course.
Building upon Patrick Studios Australia’s strong reputation for dance education, the Fulltime Music Theatre Course will add a whole new dimension to the school with classes in Drama, Voice, Fight Training, Audition Coaching, Dialect and Accents, Repertoire and Workshops.
Having worked in the theatre industry for more than 20 years, spanning all three theatre capitals of the world, Andrew Hallsworth is thrilled to partner with Todd Patrick and Patrick Studios Australia to launch the new course in 2011.
Andrew has won a Green Room Award for Best Choreography and Helpmann Award Nominations for literally every show that he has choreographed, the latest being The Drowsy Chaperone for The Melbourne Theatre Company and The Boy From Oz for The Production Company.
Drawing on Andrew’s experience as a choreographer in Australia, London’s West End and Broadway, this cutting-edge course will expose students to industry leaders who will teach and prepare them for the Musical Theatre and Acting worlds that await the next company of talented and vibrant young entertainers.
ALL of the teachers in the course are currently working in many areas of the theatre industry and their passion and willingness to get the next generation polished and ready for action is our commitment.
Full details of the Musical Theatre Course including a prospectus, sample timetable, audition information and fee structure can be obtained by contacting Patrick Studios Australia on (03) 9529-8221. www.patrickstudiosaustralia.com.au
Photo: Andrew Hallsworth
Posted on 20 July 2010.
The Shubert Theater, New York
By Rebecca Martin.
Amidst the plethora of tourists, bright lights, shows, and bustle of Broadway in New York, The Shubert Theater on 44th Street played host to Memphis , winner of the 2010 Tony Award for best musical. With summer heat rising from the pavement outside, the cool interior of the theatre was a welcome relief for the excited audience who filled every seat in the house to see the “biggest hit on Broadway”. With advertising slogans such as “The story is American, the thrill is universal”, my expectations were high and I was not disappointed.
As soon as the curtain opened, the dancers burst on stage and the musical began with sharp, fierce and lively dancing from the chorus. The women were sexy, the men were sultry, and their voices made my hair stand on end. The first scene, set in an African-American rock ‘n roll underground bar in Memphis ,Tennessee, during the 1950’s, made me long for that era of music and dance.
Memphis tells the story of Huey (Chad Kimball), a white man who cannot hold down a job but loves soul music, and Felicia (Montego Glover) a young African-American singer. Felicia is trying to make a name for herself in racist Tennessee where the “black music” she makes is banned everywhere except underground clubs, such as the one her brother Delray owns.
Through a combination of timing, charm, and skill, Huey secures a gig as a radio DJ, gets Felicia played on the radio, becomes the most popular radio presenter in Tennessee, and wins over Felicia. Unfortunately, in 1950’s Tennessee, inter-racial relationships were frowned upon and Felicia is badly beaten. With Huey reluctant to leave Memphis, Felicia travels alone to the more liberal New York to pursue her singing career and escape the prejudice of Tennessee. Sadly there is no ‘happy ever after’ for Huey and Felicia, which is possibly the only disappointment of an otherwise brilliant production. The ending was slightly anticlimactic and the absence of a fairy tale ending was a bit of a letdown.
Kimball was born for the role of Huey and was nothing short of brilliant. He was endearing as the potentially annoying Huey, and portrayed him as a cool and nuanced character. Kimball’s presence on the stage was mesmerising. Glover also brought the house down with her portrayal of Felicia. Her voice and commanding performance elicited rapturous applause from the audience. The two performers carried the show with ease and confidence, with a sense of genuineness and without any forced showiness that often pervades Broadway musicals.
Memphis had it all: laughs, surprises, outstanding dancing, fantastic sets, stunning voices, entertaining songs, interesting choreography and a message that stays with you long after the curtain has come down. It showed that music has the ability to inspire change in people and it exposed the ugly impact of prejudice and racism. Memphis put a spring in my step and a smile on my face, and after the show I could be heard uttering the words “musical of the year!”
Posted on 12 July 2010.
Aotea Centre at THE EDGE, Auckland
By Grace Edwards.
Set to Georges Bizet’s energetic score, The RNZB’s latest production of Carmen is a contemporary adaptation of the opera, which was premiered in 1875. This version is set in the heat of Rio de Janeiro, but the plot is essentially that of the original: Carmen, a sexy and rebellious cigarette factory worker, exercises her powers of seduction upon the hapless José, whose life is forever changed for the worse. The tragic ending is played out in the seedy Bar Pastia.
Orchestrator John Longstaff compensates for the absence of singers with solo instruments that capture the vocal qualities of the operatic arias, among them the well-known Habanera and Sequidilla. Thanks to the impeccable timing of the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra, who make light work of some tricky but crucial transitions, even love rival Escamillo’s rock star turn in this adaptation makes musical sense.
Didy Veldman’s choreography does not replicate nor ignore the score; instead it engages it in a musically intelligent and dramatically satisfying dialogue. Inventive lifts and seductive gestures are married with classical vocabulary and comic timing in a sound alliance, which the dancers embrace with admirable gusto and dramatic flair.
The pas de deux scenes between José and his forsaken fiancée Micaela are beautifully handled, and the love-making scene between Carmen and José proves the highlight of he evening. The sexualised masculinity of Escamillo’s rock persona proves an intriguing match to Carmen’s own heightened sexuality, though Carmen remains the true power-broker in their relationship. Though some of the male corps de ballet scenes, in which the men play gangsters clad in leather jackets with shades and mobile phones, are somewhat cliché, the dancers’ sense of fun partially rescues them.
It is with regret, that due to my time constraints, it was not possible to view the opening cast, which featured dancer Abigail Boyle in the lead role. Guest artist Pieter Symonds captured Carmen’s aloofness well and there was good chemistry between the two leads, which is to be expected in a dancer of Symonds’ calibre. Referring specifically to the portrayal of Carmen, however, a greater articulation of the limbs and freedom of movement would have lifted the interpretation to an even higher level.
Overall, the RNZB’s Carmen is a production of which the company can be proud. Whilst it is not as cutting-edge as some would like, it does maintain an invigoratingly contemporary aesthetic without sacrificing the essence of the original or indeed the appeal of classicism. The RNZB should be applauded for offering its audiences the chance to experience works beyond the classical canon.
The Royal New Zealand Ballet’s Meridian season of Carmen has now finished. However, the company will be crossing the ditch in August to present Romeo and Juliet. The dates and venues are:
Canberra – Canberra Theatre Centre
Tuesday August 10th – Saturday August 14th
Wollongong – IPAC
Tuesday August 17th – Sunday August 22nd.
For more information visit: www.nzballet.org.nz
Posted on 25 June 2010.
State Theatre, The Arts Centre, Melbourne
By Deborah Searle.
Coppelia is an enchanting traditional ballet with a fun story line and lovable characters. For the Australian Ballet’s rendition of the famous classic, Leanne Stojmenov played the curious and cheeky ‘Swanilda’ with Yosvani Ramos as her mischievous suitor ‘Franz’.
The ballet is light hearted and perfect for all ages. The costumes are stunning and the sets are exquisite, displaying Kristian Fredrikson’s incredible artistic flair. The choreography draws from national character dancing and blends with traditional classical ballet. It is light and bouncy, creating a joyous atmosphere in the theatre.
Stojmenov made an ideal Swanilda. She was every bit the naive, young village girl she needed to be, bringing the doll ‘Coppelia’ to life and tricking both Franz and the doll’s creator, ‘Dr Coppelius’. Her acting was textbook and her dancing was of course, flawless. I very much enjoyed watching Stojmenov embrace her character.
The performances by Swanilda and Franz’s friends, danced by the Corpyphees, with the addition of Corp dancers Halaina Hills, Chengwu Guo, John-Paul Idaszak and Jarryd Madden, were jubilant and danced with strength and clarity.
Act 2, inside the house of Dr Coppelius with his weird and wonderful toys, was the highlight of the show for me. Stojmenov’s dancing as the doll was cute, isolated and very convincing. Damien Welch, playing Dr Coppelius, was not as quirky as I would have liked, but it was nice to see him return to the stage after retiring from his role as Principal dancer last year. However, at the end of Act 2 there was a curtain call just for Damien Welch, which I found a little strange, considering that there was still an entire act to go.
Act 3 was a feast of dancing, as we were treated to the show’s pas de deux, solos by the two leads and fabulously fun group numbers in the celebration of Swanilda and Franz’s wedding. We enjoyed a solo by Ramos where he showed us his skills as a Principal dancer, and Stojmenov proved why she is climbing the ranks. Gina Brescianini, dancing ‘Dawn’, was breathtakingly beautiful in a soft pink and yellow costume and Juliet Burnett as ‘Prayer’ highlighted her training and control.
The Corp de Ballet were all strong dancers, however at times they were a little out of line or synchronization. My only other gripe was the lack of chemistry between Stojmenov and Ramos. They seemed more like friends than lovers, and so the wedding scene at the end seemed a little forced.
The orchestra were very tight. The timing is so regular in Delibes’ score for Coppelia that it would be very obvious if they weren’t. Most importantly though, the music was well catered to the needs of the dancers. The conductor slowed the score, sped it up slightly or made the music softer or louder for the dancers as need be. This was not to help the dancers technically or with timing, but to help them communicate dramatically. Orchestra Victoria provided us with an independently enjoyable musical experience.
Dame Peggy van Praagh and George Ogilvie’s 1979 production of Coppelia is a delight. The talented 2010 cast of dancers and musicians brought the work to life and back into the hearts of many ballet lovers.
Posted on 15 June 2010.
By Rebecca Martin.
This year, The Australian Ballet’s Bodytorque season wove fashion into its theme, and brought to light its bond with ballet. Consisting of new pieces created and performed by the company’s own dancers (with the occasional outsider brought in), each choreographer collaborated with young designers to create new works that focused as much on the costumes as the dancing. The Sydney Theatre was the perfect venue for a season such as this, because it is modern and stylish as well as suitably intimate, so no nuance of choreography or design went unnoticed by the audience.
Fold, by Principal dancer Robert Curran opened the programme with the stark stage inhabited only by a percussionist at a drum kit and coryphée Stephanie Williams. Williams performed a well controlled solo before being joined by Jarryd Madden for a fluid pas de deux. Curran’s choreography was classical and elegant, and set to the sole sounds of the percussionist who remained onstage throughout the piece. Amy Harris was a standout, with exquisite line and control and a maturity and presence that was impossible to ignore. She was lifted, folded, and unfolded by the other dancers and brought great breadth to the piece.
Daniel Gaudiello’s second Bodytorque outing as a choreographer (he created his first work in 2009) was South of Eden, a much darker piece than Fold. The stage was darkly lit, with oversized frames suspended from the ceiling, as well as a rope, conjuring images of a dungeon or seedy night spot. The soundtrack of heavy breathing lent a sinister air to the piece, but despite the dark elements, the choreography did not become harsh or angular. Soloist Juliet Burnett was clad in suspender tights and a bondage-style mask but spun on the rope with a lightness that belied her external appearance. What was great about this piece was Gaudiello’s willingness to take risks. It was edgy with daring lifts, confronting costumes, haunting music, and a difficult topic of female escorts.
The only female choreographer in the programme was Alice Topp, and Trace was her first foray into creating for Bodytorque. Trace set out to explore the relationship between dance and design, with the motivation coming from the fabrics themselves. Topp explored the role of costume not only as a decoration but as something of functional value. Often with first time choreographers, the work can have clunky moments where transitions look awkward, the steps lack cohesiveness with music and ideas can go unrealised. Topp’s piece had none of these elements, but instead appeared as a vision of sheer perfection. The choreography was seamless, and it flowed out of the music. It was breathtaking to watch. The two dancers wore flesh coloured costumes that were barely more than underwear, but extra pieces of fabric were stretched, twisted and removed, allowing for an entirely new choreographic vocabulary to be created. There were moments where the movements seemed to suspend in the air as though time and space had been altered. Topp is certainly a choreographer to watch.
Bodytorque again provided an excellent platform for new works by Australian dancers. I look forward to next year’s instalment.
Photo: Birthday Suit ‘Bodytorque 2010′ photo Branco Gaica.