30 December 2015

Review: Georgy Girl –The Seekers musical

Georgy Girl –The Seekers musical
Richard East, Dennis Smith, Sue Farrelly
22 December 2015
Her Majesty's Theatre

Georgy Girl –The Seekers musical. Photo by Jeff Busby

The most moving part of Georgy Girl –The Seekers musical is a film of the audience watching The Seekers at Melbourne’s Myer Music Bowl in 1967. There were about 200 000 people, around a tenth of the city’s population and still the most people to ever attend a concert in Australia. The film showed young men without shirts in newspaper hats next to middle-aged women in their Sunday best; all totally in love with a Melbourne-formed folk-pop quartet who had such insane success in the UK that they pushed The Rolling Stones and The Beatles off number one spot in the charts.

It’s easy to let the love of The Seekers and their unmatched sound influence the enjoyment of this new musical, which is lost somewhere between a juke box musical and bio show.
The close harmony of this group is captured perfectly by the music team – Stephen Amos, arrangements; Julian Spink, sound design; the orchestra; and Pippa Grandison (Judith), Phillip Lowe (Keith), Mike McLeish (Bruce) and Glaston Toft (Athol) as the quartet – and their concert numbers feel so close to seeing The Seekers in the 1960s that I’d love to see them perform at the Music Bowl.

But great moments don’t make a great musical and this new work suffers from an underdeveloped book and a confusing tone.

The mixed feelings start with a practical set, that looks like it was made of rejected grey office dividers, clashing with costumes that turn up on the paisley and colour of the grooviest of the late 1960s. They seem part satire and part celebration without settling on either. This is also reflected in the choreography and the direction, which never satirises the group but appears to laugh at the society that made and loved them.

Georgy Girl –The Seekers musical. Photo by Jeff Busby

The book (by Judith’s brother in law) starts with an absolute love of this group and this love may be its downfall. It links facts through a narrator (whose presence makes sense after the interval) or projections, and throws in obvious jokes without ever finding a story or even questioning the image they presented on their album covers.

Facts about record sales aren’t story and this show doesn’t let us see the people behind the success, understand the impact of this success or what it is was about this group that made them so loved. Let alone reflecting on what is it about Australian society today that makes us want to hear and celebrate The Seekers again?

Georgy Girl –The Seekers musical. Photo by Jeff Busby

The limited focus is on Judith and her ongoing “what will I wear?” and “I’m too fat” jokes almost dismiss her skill and talent. There’s so little about the men that they are the one who slept around, the one who rang his mum, and the one who wanted to play Albert Hall.

It almost begs to be compared to the remarkable Melbourne-made Flowerchildren: The Mamas and Papas Story. The recreation of the music was glorious but the show left it’s audience unable to hear that music again without thinking about the people who made it.

Georgy Girl – The Seekers musical left me wanting so much more than the title-song earworm.

This was on AussieTheatre.com.

23 December 2015

What I loved in 2015: The Best of Melbourne Theatre

Wow, the pile of January invites is already intimidating. But I can't eat fruit cake and drink fizz until I decide what shows I loved the most this year.

Over 200 shows to choose from and I still missed that many again that I wish I'd seen. Melbourne, you really are most excellent in so many ways. (And if you could fix Punt Road, I'd be more likely to venture over to the north side to see even more shows.)

Apologies for not running the What Melbourne Loved series this year. Although it is my favourite series on this blog... Let's come back next year.

Choosing winners has been unreasonably difficult this year. To save my own sanity (how could I not mention X!), there are more special mentions than usual.

A few past winners are on the list again  – Declan Greene and Paul Jackson have won the most over the years – but there are exciting new names, some oldies who I can't believe haven't made it before, and a couple awards for stuff that wasn't in Melbourne. And it hopefully demonstrates that "no review" doesn't mean a show wasn't amazing.

Outstanding Artists 2015


Shit. Nicci Wilks, Peta Brady and Sarah Ward. Photo by Sebastian Bourges

Patricia Cornelius for Shit Dee & Cornelius, MTC NEON

Angus Cerini for The Bleeding Tree, Griffin Theatre Company (Sydney)

Special mentions

Declan Greene for I Am a Miracle, Malthouse

Penelope Bartlau for Psychopomp & Seething, Barking Spider Visual Theatre & MUST at La Mama


Love and Information. Photo by Pia Johnson

Paul Jackson (lighting) for Love and Information, Malthouse.
(And how amazing was the James Turrell exhibition in Canberra! And the installation at Mona.)

Ryan. Photo by Sarah Walker

Nathan Burnmeister (design), Brendan Jellie (lighting) and Raya Slavin (sound) for Ryan at La Mama

Special mention

Psychopomp. Photo by Sarah Walker

Bronwyn Pringle (lighting) for Songbirds and Angels at La Mama

Jason Lehane (design) for Psychopomp & Seething, Barking Spider Visual Theatre & Must at La Mama.


L'Amante Aglaise. Jillian Murray & Robert Medrum 

Jillian Murray
and Robert Medrum in L'Amante Anglaise at La Mama

Die Sieben Todsunden. Meow Meow. Photo by Charlie Kinross

Meow Meow in Die Sieben TodsundenVictorian Opera

Special mentions

Shari Sebbens, Paula Arundell, Airlie Dodds in The Bleeding Tree, Griffin Theatre Company 

Nicci Wilks, Peta Brady and Sarah Ward in Shit Dee & Cornelius, MTC NEON

Steve Gome in Johan Padan and the Discovery of the Americas, Hoy Polloy at 45 Downstairs

Emily Milledge in Antigone, Malthouse


Susie Dee for Shit Dee & Cornelius, MTC NEON

Peter Sellars for Desdemona Melbourne Festival, UnionPay International

Special mention

Daniel Lammin for Ryan at La Mama

Beng Oh for The Yellow Wave, 15 Minutes from Anywhere at The Butterfly Club


Dark Mofo (Hobart)

Special mention

The Container Festival, MUST


The Listies

The Listies. Matt Kelly & Rich Higgins

No one makes me laugh like The Listies (Matt Kelly and Richard Higgins). The happiest audiences I have ever sat in have been at Listies' shows. They are so brilliant that I couldn't find enough stars, if I had to do so.

The Listies Ruin Christmas at Malthouse left me in pain. I tried to get my theatre date for the night, Lun (7), to give me some quotes but when I asked him what were his favourite bits, he could only narrow it down to "All of it". And "Where's Matt?".

They let kids be excited about being naughty and make sure they are always in on the joke. Even though there are plenty of laughs for the accompanying groan ups, the kids are never left out or talked down to. If they were around when I was 8, I would have cut their photo out of a magazine and glued it to my wall. (I really did glue a magazine photo of Mark Holden to my wall once; Mum wasn't impressed.)

This year they also released Ickypedia, which is the funniest book in the history of books. Really. Funniest book ever! (And I have read Good Omens and Monty Python's Big Red Book.)

Special mention

Nicola Gunn/SANS HOTEL

Piece for Person and Ghetto Blaster. Nicola Gunn. Photo by Sarah Walker

Nicola Gunn's theatre is astonishing. It's work that somehow takes you out of your brain and into a place that's all feeling, while your brain is working in the background repairing broken thought patterns and creating better ones.

This year we saw A Social Service at Malthouse and the Piece for Person and Ghetto Blaster at Arts House Melbourne.

Outstanding Productions 2015


The Orchid & the Crow. Daniel Tobias. Photo byAndrew Wuttke

The Orchid & the Crow, Daniel Tobias and team, Button Eye Productions

Special mention

Changeling, Camille O'Sullivan at Arts Centre Melbourne

I liked some, but none were a favourite.


Sweet Charity. Photo by Jeff Busby

Sweet Charity
Luckiest Productions, Neil Gooding Productions, Tinderbox Productions, Arts Centre Melbourne

Special mention

In The Heights, StageArt

Avenue Q, Trifle Theatre Company


Womanz. Tessa Walters

Womanz, Tessa Walters

Special mentions

Catchy Show Title, Dr. Professor Neal Portenza

Beau Heartbreaker, Selina Jenkins

Donkey, Hannah Gadsby

Ghost Machine, Laura Davis


32 Rue Vandenbranden. Photo by Herman Sorgeloos

32 Rue Vandenbranden, Peeping Tom; Melbourne Festival


Fly Away Peter. Photo by Zan Wimberly

Fly Away Peter, Sydney Chamber Orchestra, Arts Centre Melbourne, Melbourne Festival

Special mention

The Rabbits, Melbourne Festival, Arts Centre Melbourne, Opera Australia, Barking Gecko, West Australian Opera, Perth International Arts Festival


The Ministry. Photo by Anna Nalpantidis

The Ministry, MUST, Kin Collective


Fag/Stag, The Last Great Hunt

Shit, Dee & Cornelius; MTC NEON

The Bleeding Tree. Shari Sebbens, Paula Arundell, Airlie Dodds. Photo by Brett Boardman

The Bleeding Tree, Griffin Theatre Company (Sydney)

Bronx Gothic, Okwui Okpokewasili; Melbourne Festival, PS122, Arts House Melbourne

YOUARENOWHEREAndrew Schneider; Melbourne Festival, PS122, Arts House Melbourne


Oedipus Schmeodipus Zoe Coombs Marr & Mish Grigor

Odeipus Schmoedipus by post at Arts House Melbourne