Steel Magnolias

Steel Magnolias Rating

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Steel Magnolias is a well known 80s movie, but it may be less remembered that it was actually a play first, written by Robert Harling, and inspired by the true story of his sister, Susan. Having been performed on stages all around the world, this iconic show with a super-strong all-female cast is now on from 10-25th May 2024 at Beaumaris Theatre, a small welcoming bayside venue.

This amateur theatre group have consistently produced a wide variety of Theatre Arts since starting up in 1953 in the attic of Bill & Angela Martin; a bonus story I was interested to read about in the program. Amongst the many fantastic posters covering the walls are past promotions of comedies, dramas and musicals, so it seems this amateur theatre group is still very active and exciting. Steel Magnolias is their 302nd production and expertly directed by the vibrant Debbie Keyt, who was happy to chat amongst the attendees and gratefully thanked everyone for coming. Debbie is also president of the group’s Committee and this is her 25th show as a Director with the locally treasured Beaumaris Theatre.

Steel Magnolias is set in a beauty salon in Louisiana wherein six excellent Melbourne actresses will share with you a journey of friends bonded together through love and loss. A story about being both delicate and tough, hence the title name.

My first impression upon sitting in my seat, was the extremely accurate 80s era presence in the colourful set (I was a teen in the 80s myself). The audience is on the ‘mirrors’ side of the salon, so we would closely see into the ‘reflection’ of them for the next two hours. Splashing water, bright lighting, music on an old radio with some appropriate song choices and great sound tech. made for a most realistic setting.

First on stage is salon owner “Truvy” played by Trudi Sheppard and “Annelle” played by Caitlin Leong. Annelle is Truvy’s new assistant – a little mysterious at that and which side-story is portrayed instantly, so you are already intrigued and thinking “hmmm …what is going to happen with her?”.

Truvy is extremely loveable in each scene as the best hair stylist in town and the show depicts what probably actually does go on in every hairdressing salon, but especially in a country town. It’s typical tell-tale of women visiting their preferred salon where they feel they can literally ‘let their hair down’ to talk about what’s going on in their lives, what’s important to them and how they feel about each other and the people close to their hearts.

It’s hard to pick a favourite character, especially if you see it as a woman yourself – you will probably relate to each one of them in some way, or, picture in your mind, a friend you could easily have represented by one of them somewhere within the plot. Equally, you might smile at a visualisation of your husband, an in-law or a neighbour from the extended verbal storyline as you can clearly picture what is going on outside the salon’s window, even though you cannot see it.

The topics quickly unfold of a mother and her daughter who is getting married, then having a baby under extreme circumstances, with the love and support needed from each other and from the ladies they catch up with and confide in at their salon visits.

Full of comical moments where you can be smiling one second, gasping the next and crying (or trying not to) when they cry, this play should not be missed by anyone who enjoyed the movie, loves celebrating women and friendship, or perhaps even for nostalgia of times at your own hairdressing salon, which, like the play, often does far more than just tease up a few curls!

The absolutely believable accents from the Deep South of America make the show extra entertaining and not once did these actresses slip up on their dialogue, which is extensive. Comic timing is also everything and I must applaud the cast for their obvious well rehearsed dedication in bringing this script totally alive to have me reflecting upon its message for the next week at least. I especially loved the part where the audience was dead silent in sadness and then within minutes we were all laughing hysterically at an almost girl-on-girl fight about expressing human reactions, ramped up with courageous spirit by Wendy McRae as “Ouiser” and Kate Harvey as “Clairee”. I could hardly believe they could do that scene without bursting into laughter themselves, I’m sure they did in practice!

I do hope that Claire Abagia, in her first production at Beaumaris, dreamily playing “Shelby” with her youthful outlook, and her stage-mom “M’Lynn” played with such great concerned emotion by Samantha Stone, a Drama and English teacher, enjoyed working together as much as we did watching them. As the two characters at the centre of this story, they could have genuinely been a real mother-daughter duo in their intense interactions. My favourite was the stare given from M’Lynn at Shelby’s new hairdo, it was exactly how I remembered my Mum once looking at mine. Later on, my Mum said she too had thought the same thing.

This production of Steel Magnolias is certainly lots of fun, and very memorable. As it was my first time taking my Mum out to see a play on Mothers’ Day too (the reason we chose initially to go for something different to do), the surprise afternoon tea provided by the theatre when the interval doors opened was also indeed, a hit!

Congratulation to the Beaumaris Theatre Team. I thoroughly enjoyed and highly recommend their latest rendition of Steel Magnolias.

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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Mystery Radio Theatre

Mystery Radio Theatre

Mystery Radio Theatre Rating

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If you need a night of laughter, intrigue, and a touch of whimsy, the Mystery Radio Theatre at The Butterfly Club in Melbourne is your perfect destination. This unique theatre experience is a triple threat, blending musical comedy, improv, and sketch shows into one captivating performance that will leave you wanting more.

From the moment you step into The Butterfly Club’s cozy confines, you’re transported to a world of mystery and mirth. The atmosphere is electric, and the anticipation is palpable as you settle in for an evening of entertainment.

This month’s original play, “Murder Me Again, My Darling,” delivers a punchy blend of gritty comedy-noir and slapstick humour. Led by the soft-boiled detective Jake Steele, the audience is thrust into a web of intrigue involving beautiful identical twins, crime bosses, corrupt politicians, and a gumshoe who still lives with his parents. It’s a hilarious homage to film noir, complete with unexpected twists and turns that keep you guessing until the end.

What truly sets Mystery Radio Theatre apart is its ensemble cast of talented actors who breathe life into each character. Their mastery of minimal rehearsal allows for a fresh, spontaneous performance that feels like improv. Quippy lines and charming ad-libs only add to the infectious energy of the show, creating moments that are as endearing as they are hilarious.

But it’s not just the performances that shine—The Butterfly Club is a star. Nestled in a classic Melbourne laneway, this quirky venue oozes charm and character. As you descend into the intimate performance space, you’re embraced by the crowd’s warmth and the madcap antics unfolding on stage. With no bad seat in the house, you’re treated to up-close views of every facial expression and comedic flourish, making you feel like a part of the show.

The attention to detail extends to the sound design, with cleverly timed sound effects that enhance the show’s overall ambience. From the crackle of a vintage radio to the footsteps of a gumshoe on the trail, every auditory cue adds to the immersive experience.

And the excitement doesn’t end with one show—each month brings a new live radio play with its unique storyline and cast of characters. From English country estates to Agatha Christie-inspired murder mysteries, there’s always something fresh and exciting. Live ad reads, musical guests, and interactive elements keep audiences engaged from start to finish, ensuring that no two performances are the same, and you’re always in for a delightful surprise.

With a stellar lineup of actors, a charming venue, and a rotating roster of original comedy murder mysteries, the Mystery Radio Theatre at The Butterfly Club is a must-see for theatre lovers and comedy enthusiasts alike. So, grab a cocktail, settle in, and prepare for an evening of laughter, suspense, and fun. Can you spot the killer? There’s only one way to find out.

Showing monthly from June to September this year, grab your seat now; the venue is small and will most likely sell out.

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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Rootless Cosmopolitan

Rootless Cosmopolitan

Rootless Cosmopolitan Rating

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With the title of “Rootless Cosmopolitans”, I half expected to turn up and see Carrie and the gals from “Sex and the City” sipping cocktails and comparing notes on the past week’s romantic adventures. Silly me. It refers to Stalin’s euphemistic pejorative for ‘Jew’. This was a play with far more to say on issues, such as terrorism, genocide, identity, war, and conflict.

Like the aforementioned television show however, despite its darker subject matter, Monstrous Productions, presenting Ron Elisha’s challenging play, manages to keep the laughs a plenty, with many a cultural joke that even Gentiles, like myself, easily relate to. Lured into a false sense of ‘lightness’ this makes the audio of the October 7, 2023 attacks when the characters are confronted with the news of the terrorism, hit extra hard. Taking both the atmosphere on stage and in the audience to a palpable knot in the throat.

Set in the offices of an internationally respected theatre company, Artistic Director Ira Brot, who like all of us in the arts, lives in fear of something he may say publicly via socials getting misunderstood and the catchword of the day “cancel culture” being firmly placed in his direction, navigates through an ever-changing world.

Where diversity and ticking boxes are placed ahead of vision, where Jewish people have been a persecuted minority, to on face value at least, overcoming adversity, to then be thrown back into depths of terror and racism. The weight of Ira’s people’s history, hanging forever over his past present, and future, is made even more apparent with the ghost of his mother, consistently in his ear.

Despite taking a small, struggling theatre company to the international stage in 6 short years, the moment the board feels the “optics” of having a Jewish Artistic director at the helm is no longer good for business, Ira Brot is thrown into a world where he strains to find his place. All the while his marriage breaks down, his assistant director uses his proxy vote to shoo him out, and he questions his privilege.

Packed into 90 minutes, “Rootless Cosmopolitans” bounds out of the gate strong, quick with the laughs, and instantly grabs our attention with fantastic acting, most notably from Babs McMillan, who steals the show as the ghost of Ira’s ever-quipping-dead mother, and a razor-sharp script. Despite the strong start, around the middle the script and direction felt a little lost, perhaps this was a choice to shadow the emotions, Ira, anchoring the story with an even and sympathetic performance by Anton Berezin, is facing.

With great turns from Seon Williams as Ira’s assistant and then the Artistic Director of her own company, and Emily Joy playing both board member and Ira’s wife, the play finds its feet again and gallops towards the finish line.

What made this a good night at the theatre, was how given the subject matter and the world we live in, it never felt preachy. It posed many questions and didn’t always tell us the answers. Like all the characters, the audience is left questioning our own privilege, struggles, and curious as to what boxes we tick and should the optics’ change, as it did for Ira, where would we find our place in this constantly changing, ever-scrutinizing world.

Review 3.5 Pineapples

35 Pineapples Ben Murphy

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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A Case For The Existence of God

A Case For The Existence of God

A Case For The Existence of God Rating

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“A Case for the Existence of God”, presented at the Red Stitch Actors Theatre, offers an intimate and thought-provoking theatrical experience propelled by the exciting performances of Kevin Hofbauer as Keith and Darcy Kent as Ryan. Directed by Gary Abrahams, with set and costume design by Jeremy Pryles and lighting design by Sidney Younger, this production skillfully navigates complex themes of friendship, class, and the quest for meaning in a small-town Idaho setting.

The play unfolds over 75 minutes without intermission, with Hofbauer and Kent portraying the only two characters in the play, Keith and Ryan, respectively. Their performances are nothing short of mesmerising, drawing audiences into the intricate dynamics of their relationship as they navigate conversations ranging from mundane – home loans to profound – what it means to be a good parent. The Red Stitch ensemble members deliver truthful and honest portrayals, infusing each moment with raw emotion and authenticity.

Set against a minimalist backdrop of a desk, two chairs, and a few props cleverly used to indicate different locations, the production creates a sense of intimacy and immediacy. The staging, set on a platform set in water resembling an island, serves as a poignant metaphor for the isolation and connection experienced by the characters. Despite the simplicity of the set, the actors effortlessly transport the audience to various locations, showcasing the versatility of their performances.

“A Case for the Existence of God” explores themes of hope, male friendship, and coming to terms with life when it doesn’t go according to plan. Playwright Samuel D. Hunter’s script delves into the complexities of desire, such as the desire for love, connection, and to leave a legacy for our children. In an interview, Hunter shared that his desire for the play was to leave audiences with a sense of hope. This sentiment resonates deeply throughout the production.

One unusual aspect of the production was giving Ryan, a character born and raised in Idaho, a Southern accent. While executed skillfully by Kent, this decision seemed inconsistent with the character’s background and upbringing as someone who had lived for generations in Idaho. It momentarily distracted from the overall experience and otherwise immersive storytelling, highlighting a potential inconsistency in character portrayal.

Nevertheless, the strength of the performances, direction, and thematic depth of the play outweigh it. “A Case for the Existence of God” is a testament to the power of the cast and crew to provoke thought, evoke emotion, and inspire contemplation. Hunter’s poignant exploration of faith, doubt, and male friendship is brought to life with nuance and sensitivity by the talented cast.

“A Case for the Existence of God” at the Red Stitch Actors Theatre is a must-see production. With stellar performances, imaginative staging, and resonant storytelling, this play invites audiences on a journey of discovery and existential inquiry. Under Abrahams’ direction, the ensemble delivers a captivating performance that lingers. The production shows from April 13 to May 12 in East St Kilda.

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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