Reviews: Caroline O’Connor and Newley Discovered

by Jane

Caroline O’Connor, I’m sorry to say, was my biggest disappointment of the cabaret festival.  Every other show I saw surprised me in some way, but her show didn’t.  I don’t think I articulated it very well, and I’m not even sure I know why, but there was a disconnect between me and her; she didn’t make the connection that so many other performers did.

Im sad this wasnt on of the official media shots, I love it. Stolen from Bryant & Franks Blog.

Newley Discovered, by contrast, was stunning.  Not only as a cabaret show, but just as a piece of theatre outside of that framework.  I truly believe it would stand up on any theatre company or arts festival program.  I loved leaning about the life and history of this man; I had next to no concept of who he was, and the whole show I kept on thinking “he wrote this?”  “he wrote this?”  I have been singing from Willy Wonka and The Chocolate Factory constantly for the past two days.

Reviews are after the jump.

This review originally appeared on www.australianstage.com.au

Caroline O’Connoris widely respected for being one of the great women in Australian musical theatre, and more than that, she has performed to great acclaim on stages in London and New York, amongst others.

Chronologically tracing her career in An Evening With Caroline O’ConnorO’Connor sings songs from stage shows including Kander and Ebb’s Chicago (in which she has played both Roxie and Velma) and Jerry Herman’sMack and Mabel, through to Australian Millar and Rutherford’s The Hatpin.

Also appearing in films, O’Connor sung from Baz Luhrmann’s Moulin Rouge! (for which she was asked to audition after Luhrmann saw her in Chicago), and in an Ethel Merman impersonation from De-Lovely.

Looking forward in her career, O’Connor sung “Broadway Baby” from Follies, which she will be singing at Stephen Sondheim’s 80th Birthday celebrations at Royal Albert Hall.

Musical director Daniel Edwards created the musical arrangements for the four piece band, which gave a New Orleans-inspired Jazz feel to many of the classic songs.

A very slick and polished, yet ultimately un-surprising production, An Evening With Caroline O’Connor givesO’Connor the framework to show off her voice and comedic timing. I only wish it had given her the opportunity to really show off a bit of her personality, unrehearsed, and an opportunity to present some songs and interpretations which were unexpected. As it stands: a predictable show, which shows off the performer, but very little of the person.

This review originally appeared on www.australianstage.com.au

You may not be able to put a face to the name, but you will certainly be able to sing the songs of Anthony Newley. Writer of a truly incredible array of music, from popular hits such as“What Kind of Fool Am I?” through to musicals including Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, Newley started his career as a tea boy for a performing arts school. Newley Discovered traces the rise (and falls) in Newley’s career, directed by Dean Bryant and with Hugh Sheridan in the title role, through to his death of cancer at the age of 67.

Sheridan gives a charming and nuanced performance asNewley, narrating and performing out the story (with occasional acting support from musical director Nigel Ubrihien), and always playing to the audience – there is no pretence of a fourth wall in this production.

Songs are both integrated lineally into the plot, or their lyrics are used to support the narrative outside of their chronological placement, and Sheridan gives a beautiful voice and personality to the music.

Lighting in the Adelaide Cabaret Festival often astounds: three productions may be playing in the Dunstan Playhouse in one night, so the lighting rig must be able to accommodate all, yet under Head of Lighting Chris Searle each show has it’s own brilliant design and execution. Newley Discovered is no exception, whether it is a single spot focusing on Sheridan (or even just his hand) or the bright lights of a 60s pop career, lighting is constantly surprising and complementary to the narrative.

In all of it’s beautiful simplicity: a three-piece band, a solo actor, and few props and costumes, Newley Discovered is a theatrical gem. Developed by BryantPhil Scott and David Campbell, and written for Sheridan, the script of the work is so strong it would stand up even without Sheridan’s brilliant performance, and hopefully it will have a long and wide-reaching life.

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