Moonlight and Magnolias

Moonlight and Magnolias

Moonlight and Magnolias Rating

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Margaret Mitchell’s Civil War epic, Gone With the Wind, was published in 1936 and became an international bestseller. It was adapted into a movie in 1939, which garnered eight Academy Awards, including Hattie McDaniel’s win for Best Supporting Actress, which made her the first African American actor to take home an Oscar. However, the movie almost never made it to the big screen.

The producer, David O. Selznick, shut down production after 30 days because he was unhappy with the script. He called in hot shot writer Ben Hecht, who had never read the book, and director Victor Fleming to do a rewrite. Playwright Ron Hutchinson locks Hecht, Fleming, Selznick and his secretary in a room for five days and reimagines how the script was finished in Moonlight & Magnolias.

Hutchinson’s play, based on historical events, is written as farce, but the characters also deal with serious questions about race and the fragile position of Jewish executives in Hollywood.
The roles of Selznick, Hecht, and Fleming are based on historical figures. This play adds a secretary, Miss Poppenghul, who stays near the office while the men are locked inside for five days, surviving on peanuts and bananas.

Director Harry Dewar’s production focusses on the tension between the three creatives. He makes full use of the large stage dominated by an elegant Art Deco set in green and peach with a huge picture window at the back designed by Skye Mc Vicar and lit by Richard Parkhill. His blocking is almost choreographic at times utilising every corner of the set.

The play opens to a montage of Hollywood in the 2930s (by Brandon Boyer) with the cast cleverly included. A nice touch!

Adam Gregory Schultz plays David O. Selznick with a manic intensity, dominating the stage and pushing the narrative forward. He is a multi-tasker managing multiple props, phone calls, intercoms, bananas and peanuts with equal ease! He scenes with Hecht in Act 2 are a highlight.

Terry Crowe plays Ben Hecht the frustrated script writer with compassion. He is the realist of the creative team. The play uses Hecht’s character to raise questions about whether the script glorifies the Old South. He doubts that the movie will be a hit and doesn’t even want writing credit on the script for fear that it will ruin his career. Hecht asks Selznick at one point, “Why don’t you make a movie that makes America look its ugly face in the mirror?” To which Selznick replies, “Because no one wants to see that. America wants to see the way it thinks it looks.”

Scott Battersby plays Victor Fleming the director, pulled from the set of The Wizard of Oz to work on Gone With The Wind has many of the show’s ‘one-liners’ which he delivers with precision. His portrayal of Melanie giving birth in Act 2 is hysterical!

Rebecca Gardiner plays the well-meaning secretary Miss Poppenghul with patience alternating with exasperation. Dealing with Selznick is enough, but now she has two extra egos to deal with. Special mentions need to go to the costume coordinator Makala Modra and especially the props team Janet Jauncy and Karen Prior who progressively cover the stage with crumpled paper and scripts as time passes in the play.

My reservation with this production is the vocal tone of Act 1 which lacked light and shade with the result that the actors had nowhere to go when angry and some of the laughs were lost. This was resolved in Act 2.

Moonlight and Magnolias is an exposé of the side of Hollywood we do not see, the prejudices of the period, and of course the egos that brought us one of the most iconic movies of the last century!

This review also appears on It’s On The House. Check out more reviews at Whats The Show to see what else is on in your town.

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Bernie Dieters Club Kabarett

Bernie Dieters Club Kabarett

Bernie Dieter’s Club Kabarett Rating

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Bernie Dieter is back with a bootylicious BANG and its settings on stun!

Dare to enter if you can handle the heat. A sultry fusion of circus, song and sexy burlesque, where the thrill of the centre ring meets the seduction of the velvet curtain. Temptation breaks all the boring boundaries and sinks itself into your lap. Ach, mein Gott! What a ride! You must see it darling- it’s BEAUTIFUL!

Like a glittering diamond in the rough under the dome of the Moore Park Spiegeltent, ‘Bernie Dieter’s Club Kabarett’ is a lesson in surrendering to the decadence of hedonism and celebrating the human form in all its glory. Settled within the intimate shadows and velvety atmosphere, we are offered a tasty blend of gritty underground danger and pure, unadulterated flair without ever tipping the scales into crassness or whimsy. This requires astounding skill, my friend.

What’s the X-factor that makes this experience so uniquely delicious? It captures and embraces the unbridled spirit and liberated essence of Weimar-era cabaret. This show is a thoroughbred, real deal cabaret that knows exactly how to deliver and doesn’t hold back. Vibrantly avant-garde and at times ironically grotesque, it provocatively pushes buttons, relishing in its own signature sauce of salaciousness. A big juicy f**k you to conformity and the mundane.

Talent upon talent upon talent. The spotlight ignites seven heavenly bodies – titillating tornadoes of effortless circus expertise. Our hair is literally blown back, our eyes ache from the dazzle, our spirits soar with the thrill of it all. This is a full on fatal attraction of strength, skill, and seduction in the form of a mesmerising array of aerial feats, fiery displays, hoop artistry, whip cracking and contortionism. Eight outstanding acts deliver the perfect balance of clowning and spell binding agility, each one jaw-droppingly unforgettable in its own way and expertly woven together by the quick-witted banter of the incomparable Mistress of Ceremonies, the marvellous Miss Dieter, a ringmaster-class of song and repartee.

How can I possibly describe this powerhouse of a woman? She’s a vocal force, delivering numbers with bodacious energy and precision that’s both captivating and rare. Backed by a very tight and pulsing 3 piece band, Dieter fearlessly embraces contrasts, pivoting from unbridled ferocity in ‘Rebel Yell’ to tender vulnerability in a haunting rendition of ‘Fake Plastic Trees’. A presence that’s both commanding and nuanced, she weaves a sonic tapestry that’s utterly immersive; she defies expectations and forges a connection that’s both raw and profound. Dieter IS cabaret.

The ultimate wild child of the Club circuit family, ‘Bernie Dieter’s Club Kabaret’ shatters the mold, of leaving similar variety shows for dust. The finale is a glorious personal homage to the alchemy of art and drinking, where transformation and reinvention converge in a dazzlingly gutsy and original song.

As you gather your wits to depart, the stage lies in perfect disarray, a telltale testament to the night’s divine debauchery. Littered with party popper innards, discarded costumes, confetti, shreds of balloon rubber, feathers and a spray of white powder which I suspect may represent an illicit substance 😉 This is the aftermath of a night of extravagant fun.

Bernie, you devil, you’ve done it again! You’ve released a kaleidoscope of creativity and set the bar ridiculously high with a night that revisits and then rewrites the rules of cabaret. The impossible is now possible and your imagination knows no bounds.

This is the ultimate winter retreat from the chill of a turbulent world. Indulge in the warmth of Dieter’s organised chaos to help you forget and play for a while, to remind you of the unapologetic, permissible pleasures of being human. All are welcome. So leave your inhibitions at the door, grab your favourite poison and sit back as the candles and stage are lit for a night you won’t forget.

Danke Darling Dieter!

‘Bernie Dieter’s Club Kabaret’ plays at Sydney Spiegeltent Moore Park Entertainment Quarter until July 28th. See https://www.entertainmentquarter.com.au/event/bernie-dieters-club-kabarett/ for details.
What are you doing??? Click the link and hustle those tickets!

This review also appears on It’s On The House. Check out more reviews at Whats The Show to see what else is on in your town.

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Hannah Gadsby Woof!

Hannah Gadsby Woof!

Hannah Gadsby brings their new show “Woof” to Melbourne Arts Centre for the Melbourne International Comedy Festival. Their star has risen well and truly since her show Nanette hit Netflix in 2018. Today, they grace the cover of Rolling Stone Magazine (AU/NZ edition) with the headline “Comedy’s enfant terrible is relishing their anti-hero era”.

As a newbie, it was a wonderful introduction to Gadsby’s fast-paced, quick-witted, intensely analytic humour, which brought out belly laughs galore. Snappy asides like bullet spray on the way to the main punchlines compounded the fun. I was surrounded by pre-Nanette die-hard fans, so there was a lot of love in the house. And I can see why—Gadsby is earnest, humble, intelligent, funny, vulnerable, honest, and a truth-teller.

They’ve worked hard to be where they are now. For someone who can go for weeks without speaking (they have autism and ADHD) and who says they are bad at everything in life, including having fun, they have certainly played their cards to their advantage. They say their only skill is to talk to a room full of strangers and not feel scared. But what they choose to say has been both strategic and a personal lifeline. Nanette deconstructed comedy and social norms derived from centuries of white male dominance at a time when Australia was debating the same-sex marriage plebiscite. For this, Gadsby bared their soul, and it was raw and confronting.

Interestingly, Gadsby has tried hard, in good faith, to like Taylor Swift. It hasn’t worked. They even used her as inspiration for their 2016 show, Dogmatic. Of course, they have major differences: Gadsby has a depth of intellectual engagement with their art form and uses it to subvert and confront. Their 2023 Picasso-blasting exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum, It’s Pablomatic, is a case in point alongside Nanette. However, I can’t help but see some similarities: both use the power of story-telling and self-disclosure in their work, which fosters a high level of devotion in their predominantly female fan base; both live their lives in a way that encourages their fans to be unafraid to be themselves and in return, their fans care deeply about them and want to support them. But there is a vast contrast in their lived experience of otherness and, therefore, the depth of their fight.

Hannah Gadsby Woof!

Now, Gadsby has a global voice and has just launched a new Netflix comedy show, Gender Agenda, featuring seven gender-queer comedians from around the world. Being nouveau-riche means staying in posh hotels where the concierges don’t know how to respond to questions about doing your own laundry and the bathrooms have no toilet brush. Gadsby worries about becoming a rich arsehole, but I doubt that will happen – they take a spare travel toothbrush with them to clean up after themselves when a low roughage travel diet messes with their regularity.

“Woof” is a show about the worries that lead to anxiety. If you think the ending is a bit loose, well, that is the point. There is no closure, no easy answers. What happened to all those plastic dolls called Cabbage Patch Kids from the 80s/90s? Did they end up somewhere in a “Blair Witch style croquembouche”? Will Hannah Gadsby be able to enjoy swimming with a whale on her day off? Will their brain let them remember fun times as vividly as they remember a randomly defiled Tim Tam packet left for them to clean up when working as a hotel cleaner?

Enjoy this show where your host “takes all their worries and lays them out on stage in front of a darkened room full of strangers. It’s like group therapy, but the group is the therapist”. That’s us, but we don’t feel like strangers. So now Gadsby adds us to their list of worries, too, because therapists are all “f***ed in the head.”

“Woof” is playing until April 20 at the Melbourne Arts Centre Playhouse.

This review also appears on It’s On The House. Check out more reviews at Whats The Show to see what else is on in your town.

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Kaboom! A Cracking Science Show for Kids

Kaboom! A Cracking Science Show for Kids

Kaboom! Do you like ice cream? What about your air conditioning? I’ll bet you especially enjoy not having Polio, don’t you?

If you think science is a boring subject best left to school kids, you might be surprised to know that all the things named above were created by, you guessed it, science! Just ask Magnus Danger Magnus (yes, it’s his real name!).

Magnus is a supercharged, multi-award-winning, high-energy entertainer with, as he tells you himself, absolutely no qualifications whatsoever. We spent a delightful Saturday afternoon in his company as he shared his gleefully explosive science with happy, lively crowds of kids and parents at the Comedy Festival.

With his ‘safety third’ approach to experimentation (first comes flammability, second, wow factor), Magnus rampages across the stage excitedly, armed with the curiosity and energy of a toddler and some seriously dangerous chemicals. He fascinates, educates, and draws you in with his absolute love of science and his absolute disregard for his own safety.

The audience revelled in Vortex Cannon smoke rings and liquid nitrogen experiments that delighted and wowed as they exploded (safely), boiled and turned into foaming colourful messes all over the auditorium. He drew young helpers from a very eager crowd. Everyone, parents included, joined in all the yelling, whooping, and clapping throughout, especially when he sang the periodic table as he turned water into fire all over his hands. Don’t try this at home, kids!

Magnus’s infectious enthusiasm for science makes him the perfect example of someone who believes in teaching things in a curiosity-led, hands-on, fun way that will create a whole new generation of science-loving people.

Kaboom is a show that is not to be missed, especially if you have curious kids.

This review also appears on It’s On The House. Check out more reviews at Whats The Show to see what else is on in your town.

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