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Theatre, Art, Exhibitions etc

Theatre, Art, Exhibitions etc (76)

Paul Capsis – a living national treasure

altThis week I’ve been doing one of the things I love most, that is sitting in a theatre and taken on an emotional and enriching journey, and this time struck gold as I also leant something new about myself as a result of the experience. 


I’ve been to see the much talked about and critical acclaimed Angela’s Kitchen Paul Capsis’ evocative and beautifully staged piece of autobiographical theatre at the intimate Stables in Kings Cross. 


But first can I take you back to about the late eighties or the turn of the decade and to DCM nightclub in Oxford Street which was really at the centre of drag performance and performance artist’s of the day. This is when I first made the acquaintance of Paul Capsis. He was a young man I suspect in his early 20’s who would occasionally perform what was to later become his stable of female singers. The look was early nineties androgynous, the voice something unique and in all - a package we hadn’t really seen before. 


I recall that the first show of Paul’s was for the Mardi Gras festival of 1992 when he unleashed his talent on the greater Sydney GLTB scene in The Lady is a Camp at Belvoir Street Theatre where he performed channeling divas from decades past Marlene Dietrich, Janis Joplin, Judy Garland and Billie Holiday. The rest as they say is history and over the years he has given us some very memorable queer slanted shows such as Burning Sequins, Burlesque Tour and Boulevard Delirium. He is one of my all-time favourite cabaret performers – god can he sing. 


But he can also act and tell stories and it’s the whole talented and gifted package that I say makes Paul Capsis a living national treasure. This show Angela’s Kitchen is story telling at its most excellent, entertaining and educational.  


In 1948 Angela, Paul’s grandmother, left Malta as one of the first ten pound migrants. Gathered up her five children and sailed out on the Strathnavar, leaving poverty and the war behind. She settled in Surry Hills and we are invited to learn how that life was, and how it developed. Paul plays most of the family players of the story and we are invited to laugh with him and almost despair at the challenges they face - but fundamental to it all we are invited to meditate on the joy and strength of close family. 


We learn of Paul’s journey back to Malta, and through some very fine writing we are with him on the harbourside of Kalkara as he experiences the essence of his family background and in turn himself. 


I first saw Paul in a play called Playgrounds at the Sydney Theatre Company in 1996 directed by Wayne Harrison and written by Nick Enright where Paul played a very emotionally charged gay Turkish schoolboy affected by feelings of isolation and sense of self. It’s a performance that has never left me and here in the Stables I saw glimpses of this young guy, albeit not hidden behind a character other than him. I felt Paul, through this piece, was showing his audience his heart, his values and his core. It seems to me this show must be very liberating and empowering for him as an artist and individual.    


Angela’s Kitchen will head off on a national tour to Parramatta, Canberra, Melbourne and Brisbane following this Stables season – can I persuade you to visit griffintheatre.com.au for all the info.


Last year Paul won the Sidney Myer Performing Arts Awards individual award - $50,000. This, he says, will allow him to work out what comes next.


''I want to do something new and different as a singer and a performer,'' he says. ''I don't know if it's an album or a show. I just want the time to think. While I'm running around, I can't do more than one thing at a time. I'm not good at multitasking.''


As a huge fan I for one can’t wait for the next chapter…



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On Parade – Portraits from Sydney Mardi Gras

alt Sydney’s love affair with portraits just got turned to full-on with the launch of the Head On Photo Festival, the world's second largest photography festival. Now in its third year, it features a wide range of photography across all genres with over 200 events at 100 venues. 

At the heart of the festival is Head On Portrait Prize which is the nation’s major innovative showcase for Australian portrait photography, reflecting a diverse cross-section of new and traditional photographic practices. It is the most critically acclaimed photographic portrait competition in Australia. 

One of the exhibitions in the festival is On Parade – Portraits from Sydney Mardi Gras by Sydney based freelance photographer Jamie Williams who draws inspiration from people and stories that don’t receive mainstream coverage. It’s showing in a wonderful gallery space called Global Gallery in Comber Street, Paddington just off Oxford Street in the part us locals call Paddinghurst. Showing now and running till 13 May. 

Often the Mardi Gras Parade is regarded as only for the trim, taught and terrific, these images, made over a number of years in the marshalling area immediately prior to the Parade’s start, reveal a variety of ages and faces, shapes and sizes, not to mention senses of style, highlighting the truly diverse nature of Mardi Gras. 

It’s a good size show and certainly colourful but be warned, it really looks at the familiar in a different and possibly confronting way for some. As I moved through the show I found myself becoming a bit anxious by being asked to view a ‘celebration’ through these eyes. I think a welcome board describing the artistic intent and context would really help this show, otherwise I think many people will get the wrong end of the stick. Without the context I don’t think it’s an exhibition that one could say you enjoyed. 

The subjects are very diverse, in a good way of covering our broad community, and were asked to pose in a considered or natural way. This style certainly makes you look deeper into the subject that you normally might and my emotional response surprised me - I was moved in a not altogether comfortable way. 

I know the marshalling period before the Parade is electric and joyous – you won’t see that.  It left me concluding that when you take the joy out of pride in celebration you’re just left with attitude in colour.    




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Tony Awards to Honor Hugh Jackman, Bernadette Peters & Actors’ Equity Association

The Tony Awards® Administration Committee has announced that Bernadette Peters will receive the Isabelle Stevenson Award.  Additionally, the Administration Committee will bestow Special Tony Awards to Actors’ Equity Association and to Hugh Jackman. These awards will be presented at the 2012 Tony Awards on Sunday, June 10th.  The 2012 Tony Awards are presented by The Broadway League and the American Theatre Wing.


The recipient of the Isabelle Stevenson Award will be Tony Award-winning actress Bernadette Peters.  The Isabelle Stevenson Award recognizes an individual from the theatre community who has made a substantial contribution of volunteered time and effort on behalf of one or more humanitarian, social service or charitable organizations, regardless of whether such organizations relate to the theatre.   Ms Peters founded Broadway Barks!, along with Mary Tyler Moore, as a program to promote the adoption of shelter animals. Broadway Barks! has evolved into an event that has not only focuses on the plight of homeless animals but had opened the door of communication and fostered a spirit of community among the numerous shelters and rescue groups working throughout New York.  Ms. Peters has also written two children’s books to benefit the charity – Broadway Barks and Stella is A Star. Additionally, Ms. Peters works with Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, Standing Tall, and Actors Fund of America.


The Tony Awards Administration Committee will present a Special Tony Award to Actors’ Equity Association, who starting in the month of June will be celebrating it’s 100th anniversary.


Additionally, The Tony Awards Administration Committee will present a Special Tony Award to Tony winning-actor and three-time Tony Awards host, Hugh Jackman. Mr. Jackman is being honored for his contributions to the Broadway community, both as a performer and humanitarian; his tireless dedication to charitable works of many types; and his personal generosity of spirit.


The Tony Award Nominations will be announced on Tuesday, May 1st.

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The Archibald Prize 2012 at the Art Gallery of NSW

alt Sydney’s annual embrace of portraiture is in full steam at the Art Gallery of NSW until June 3. It’s just not as exciting, engaging or entertaining as it has been over the last several years. In fact I did it in thirty minutes which I think is a new record for a major exhibition. 


The Archibald Prize is one of Australia’s oldest and most prestigious art prizes. It’s awarded to the best portrait painting, preferentially of some man or woman distinguished in art, letters, science or politics. This show has 40 finalist works, including portraits of Australian identities such as David Gulpilil, John Wood, Father Bob Maguire, Kimbra and Missy Higgins. But many people I didn’t know – which kind of takes the fun out of it.


The Archibald Prize is judged by the Trustees of the Art Gallery who it seems like two kinds of work these days the huge, over oiled type or the totally photogenic, so it’s hard to feel any emotion other than indifference. 


The winning portrait titled The histrionic wayfarer (after Bosch) by Tim Storrier is a self-portrait without a face which includes a drawing of himself scribbled on a piece of paper being blown away by the wind. It certainly seemed to cause a bit of a stir the day I was there with the general census tending to disappointment.  It seemed easy to understand people’s reaction given the winners of the last few years had been easily recognisable and popular figures such as Margaret Olley and Tim Minchin.


Contrast this with the annual Packing Room Prize which is adjudicated by the Gallery’s storeman, Steve Peters and which was won this year by Raelene Sharp with an easily recognised portrait of John Wood titled A strength of character. Being a very popular Logie winning actor the crowds seemed to lap it up. This Packers Prize winner joins a long list grounded in what might be considered the more traditional form of portraiture and has included in past years those of Matt Moran, Glenn A. Baker and Paul Livingston as Flacco.


The highlight of my visit was when I came across the self portrait of Jenny Sages titled After Jack which I found compelling and the only work that evoked an emotion. Her husband had recently died and this picture was fall of a woman in mourning for this love she has lost. It was wonderful to feel surrounded by other people taking in the picture with the collective silence adding to the engagement of the work almost as if we were intruding on her. I noticed as I left the exhibition and voted for her in the People’s Choice Prize I wasn’t alone.


Jules François Archibald’s primary aim, through his bequest of 1919, was to foster portraiture, as well as support artists, and perpetuate the memory of great Australians. This years exhibition continues to provoke controversies, and whilst its not one of its better years, the Archibald Prize still does more than any other single event to stimulate and sustain public interest in the art of portrait painting in Australia – and worth a visit.

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Unforgettable - Opera on Sydney Harbour

alt Last week I was lucky enough to see one of the last performances of HANDA Opera on Sydney Harbour – La Traviata and it was one of those ‘I’ll never ever forget nights’ that you could only have in Sydney.  Opera Australia’s grand experiment to take opera beyond the theatre and weave it into the very fabric of the harbour city has been declared a great success. 


As I sat in a 3,000 seat grandstand erected in the Royal Botanic Gardens this wonderful opera unfolded before me in the most thrilling and quite unexpected spectacular for an outdoor show. 


Australia’s most accomplished and daring Set Designer Brian Thomson designed a minimal but striking stage which was dominated by a giant chandelier measuring 9-metres x 9-metres, that sparkled with 10,000 Swarovski crystals symbolizing the world of Verdi’s much-loved opera with its glittering Parisian salons. All set off by Sydney Harbour - one of the most beautiful views in the world. 


Tess Schofield designed the 1950’s inspired costumes, which included dazzling Mardi-Gras themed outfits for the masked ball in Act II, with the cast arriving to the stage by LED lit motorboats. The set was complemented by a sophisticated lighting design by John Rayment which created the atmosphere of changing scenes through colour, dazzling light displays and fireworks. 


The evening I went Rachelle Durkin sang the role of Violetta and international tenor Ji-Min Park sang Alfredo. They were both excellent and the crowd adored them. The sound was super impressive given we were sitting in a park with the evening breeze floating over us from the water. All in all it was the kind of evening that you never forget and worth every cent of the somewhat expensive tickets. 


The good news is that Opera on Sydney Harbour will be staged again in 2013 and feature Bizet’s great opera Carmen. It will be directed by Gale Edwards, who directed last years highly successful production of ‘La boheme’ and Brian Thomson will return to again design the staging. So come next April, if you possibly can, please don’t miss out on this experience of a lifetime. 


In the mean time this spectacular event was filmed for TV and will screen on SBS Studio on Monday 30 April at 8.40pm.


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Deborah Cox to star in Jekyl And Hyde on Broadway

(NEW YORK, NY) Nederlander Presentations, Inc. has announced that Grammy® Nominee and R&B superstar Deborah Cox will star as Lucy in the international musical sensation JEKYLL & HYDE that returns to Broadway in April 2013 following a 25-week National Tour.

The tour will launch at San Diego’s Civic Theatre in San Diego, California on October 2, 2012.  Cox will star alongside the previously announced Tony Award Nominee Constantine Maroulis in the title dual role of Dr. Henry Jekyll and Edward Hyde.

After four thrilling, chilling years on Broadway and multiple world-wide tours, this dark and dangerous love story from Oscar and Grammy winner Leslie bricusse and Tony and Grammy Award nominee Frank Wildhorn returns in a stunning new production that includes all the classic songs (This is the Moment, A New Life, Someone Like You) that first grabbed audiences by the throat and transformed JEKYLL & HYDE into a theatrical phenomenon.

The musical is based on the acclaimed novella The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson, about a London doctor who accidentally unleashes his evil alternate personality in his quest to cure his father’s mental illness.

JEKYLL & HYDE was first introduced as a concept album in 1990 featuring Colm Wilkinson and Linda Eder, and shortly thereafter had its world premiere at the Alley Theatre in Houston starring Chuck Wagner as Jekyll/ Hyde and Linda Eder as Lucy.  Following a 30-city National Tour, the Broadway production opened at The Plymouth Theatre on April 28, 1997 and earned four Tony Award nominations.  Directed by Robin Phillips and choreographed by Joey Pizzi, the production starred Robert Cuccioli, who earned a Tony Nomination as well as Joseph Jefferson, Outer Critics Circle and Drama Desk Awards for his portrayal of Jekyll/ Hyde, Linda Eder, who won the Theatre World Award for her Broadway debut, as Lucy and Christianne Noll as Emma Carew.  After 1543 performances, and featuring such replacements as Sebastian Bach and David Hasselhoff in the title role, the production played its final performance on January 7, 2001.    The show’s popularity catapulted well beyond the Great White Way and, within the subsequent decade of its world premiere, JEKYLL & HYDE became an international sensation with multiple tours in the UK and North America, and over a dozen recordings from Germany, Spain, Austria, Hungary, Sweden, the Czech Republic, Japan and South Korea, among others.

A pre-tour preview engagement of JEKYLL & HYDE will be presented at La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts in La Mirada, California from September 7-30, 2012.

Additional cast and creative team, as well as tour cities, will be announced shortly.



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Love Never Dies – Capital Theatre 10 March 12

altThe last two months have been chocker with some of the best festival fare we’ve had for some time, constant and generally all good stuff. With all that behind me I’ve popped back into the theatre just in the nick of time to persuade my keen musical theatre friends – do not miss Love Never Dies which is in its last weeks so please be quick.


This newly imagined Australian version of the latest Andrew Lloyd Webber creation is a heartbreaking love story set in the colour and excitement of Coney Island, New York. It’s a truly spectacular night in the theatre! 


Love Never Dies continues the story of The Phantom of the Opera. The year is 1907. It is 10 years after his disappearance from the Paris Opera House and the Phantom has escaped to a new life in New York where he lives amongst the screaming joy rides and freak-shows of Coney Island. OK, you may have read the story is not without problems and yes that’s true in as much as its ten years since we last saw the Phantom and his angel of the music Christine Daae and yet they are both younger. Look just do as I did – give yourself over to the magic of the theatre and you will be rewarded with an evening that will stay in your heart and mind for a very long time after.


Directed by Simon Phillips, with spectacular set and costume designs by Gabriela Tylesova and choreography by Graeme Murphy, Love Never Dies was the winner of 3 prestigious 2010 Helpmann Awards for Best Scenic Design, Best Costume Design and Best Lighting Design.


You will literally be on the edge of your seat for the first 20 mins that just never let up in drawing you into the world of Coney Island and the people who inhabit it; its “my god look at this” on top of “wow have you ever seen anything like it” on top of “holy shit how fab” – you will be amazed.


This then breaks away to the first meeting of the Phantom and Christine after she has arrived in New York for a concert engagement. Here the lovely melodies of the piece and some of the finest singing I’ve heard for some time send shivers down your back as the emotion and heartfelt sadness of their love engulf the audience. Both Ben Lewis as the Phantom and Anna O'Byrne as Christine are sensational, it’s little wonder Lord Webber wanted their performance captured for ever on DVD. 


It’s fair to say that all of the principle players are excellent and very well cast, but I have to mention the wonderful Sharon Millerchip who has one of the best roles an actress could wish for in musical theatre and at times she comes close to stealing the show.


We are left at the end exhausted from the entire spectacle and drained from all the emotion, it’s a very satisfying experience and we cheered like hell!


Only playing until April 1 means you should get to it here and now.

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The House of Loose Ends is an exhibition of Sydney ‘Queer Together’

altA terrace house gallery down the bottom end of Bourke Street in Woolloomooloo is currently the first stop to take your out of town guests if you’re trying to describe to them the heart of our Mardi Gars for the last thirty years. The House of Loose Ends is a photographic exhibition by Richard Hedger inspired by the Loose Ends club night but captures a whole lot more of queer Sydney heart! 

For the greater part of my long community association many OS friends have told me how lucky we are here in Sydney that all queer tribes come together as one, sometimes we use the family word, and not just in February. Certainly through the 80’s and 90’s that aspect of our community was more evident, and whilst we seem to have more specific tribe choices now, thankfully I still find enough pockets of ‘queer together’ to maintain that notion. 

One of these pockets is the Loose Ends dance floor, home to a whole lot of fun in the underground of Sydney's queer scene for the last 5 years. Bringing together a truly mixed crowd and a fiercely eclectic mix of sounds, Sunday nights at Phoenix shaken and stirred by DJ Matt Vaughan – another must do experience for everyone who shares this ‘queer together’ inclination. 

At the exhibition opening Richard told me his motivation to create this exhibition tribute to Loose Ends was born of an idea that he wanted to document party people that he’d met at the club night that he says saved his Sydney social life. “I have lived in Sydney now for 6 years (originally from UK) and was becoming a little disillusioned by the gay scene until Loose Ends which has that perfect mix of underground, retro, family, sexy, escapism appeal”. 

Remarkably Richard has captured all that through his lens and managed in these dozen or so spectacular prints on display to hold this ‘queer together’ mirror up for us to enjoy. Pretty much every print is fabulous and I can imagine in a few weeks many people having these limited print run photos hanging in their homes as a colourful and fun way to celebrate their type of queer. 

DJ Matt Vaughan was at the opening so I asked him for his take on the images and what he hopes visitors to the exhibition might feel. “I think it's great to show that diversity and to have people see the creativity that is so abundant amongst the crowd of Loose Ends regulars. There is a lot of imagination at work and I think it's important because so much of the gay scene just looks more or less the same. There's more to life and being gay than muscles and chinos. But also, I hope people might see the diversity that exists within the Loose Ends crowd in terms of the mix of ages, genders, backgrounds, shapes and sizes.” 

The House of Loose Ends exhibition continues until 21 February 11am-6pm at Monstrosity Gallery, 93 Bourke Street, Woolloomooloo. Loose Ends will continue to run weekly every Sunday until the night after Mardi Gras - which will be a big party - and then it will change back to being a monthly party heading into Autumn/Winter.

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Jurassic Lounge at the Australian Museum 31 Jan 12

altJurassic Lounge is like walking onto the set of the next Night at the Museum movie, so much energy and fun, I was half expecting to see Ben Stiller at any moment. I went along with a group of friends to this little gem of an after work outing on the opening night of its third season. 

Every Tuesday night, after the Museum closes to the general public, Sydney’s best emerging artists, musicians and performers take over the galleries and exhibition spaces. With a drink in hand you’re free to explore the whole museum; it sure was a bigger experience than I had imagined. 

The theme for the evening was Chinese New Year and as we strolled into the Skeleton Hall we found uber-talented artist Brett Chan live painting a papier mâché dragon to the sound of some lovely laid back tunes. In the Indigenous Australians space we found a Chinese lantern making workshop, DJ Daniel R Muller and a Jurassic photobooth, all the while taking in the interesting and emotional permanent Indigenous collection. 

Up on the top floor we found a very handy bar to take a pit stop before exploring the fantastic Surviving Australia exhibits of creepy clawers and extinct Aussie animals. Amongst the penguins we danced in the silent disco but ducked the karaoke room.  

We took in the Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition which was awesome, listened to a live band for a while, checked out the stunning bird specimen gallery; even watched a live taxidermy demonstration – yes of course that sent us back to the bar. Back down in the main foyer people mingled, enjoyed drinks and were generally entertained by a very groovy singer and some standup guy. 

Only element that stops this experience be five stars were the disappointing choices served up in the Museum Café. Such a pity that who ever runs the café never got the memo – just not on the same page as the whole group of young people putting everything in to making this a truly fun Tuesday night in Sydney summer. 

Grab a group of friends and take this experience any Tuesday until April 3 between 5-30 and 9-30 pm, cost $15 which includes your first drink. Different theme and artist each week – go to www.jurassiclounge.com for all the goss.

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LA SOIREE the perfect start to the Sydney Mardi Gras Festival!

The Studio at the Sydney Opera House has been themed to give the impression you’ve walked into a circus tent with a small circular red stage as its centerpiece, with the audience sitting in rows surrounding the stage. The atmosphere is perfect for the next two hours of cabaret, new burlesque, circus sideshow and contemporary vaudeville. La Soiree is the new and improved version of La Clique which has turned Sydney on its head before. In fact many of the stars you’ll see in this show were in La Clique including The English Gents, Captain Frodo, Ursula Martinez and Bath Boy. Notwithstanding this it’s mostly full–on, sexy, in your face exciting adult entertainment. 

It begins with a newcomer Le Gateau Chocolat who brings an interesting twist on an opera singing gender illusionist, he’s a bit tame on the Sydney scale of drag-fab but used to effect in setting the mood. Next up the incredible English Gents, Denis Lock and Hamish McCann, whose display of strength, trust, and precision take your breath away, whilst delivered with an engaging take on British formality. 

Captain Frodo returns with his hilarious display of what the human body can do, well his anyway. He manages to put his body through a pair of tennis rackets that had the audience amazed, falling about in hysterics or a tad repulsed, as I was when I saw what he was going to actually do to his body. I can ensure you once seen you will never forget!  

Now that the crowd had been well and truly warmed up we saw the return of (English Gent) Hamish McCann with a stunning pole routine, and an encore performance from Ursula Martinez.  Her cult striptease act with its mischievous disappearing red hanky is still a jaw-dropping sensation, and had many first timers squealing.    

After interval punked-up aerial ballet star Bret Pfister  from New York makes his Sydney debut with a highly technical hoop routine and Denis Lock (the other English Gent) performs a very daring display of body strength when he balances on a growing stack of chairs, each one added takes the focus of the audience up with him. 

Finally we are treated to the mesmerising aerial balled artist David O’Mer who is often referred to as Bath Boy. He has been a major attraction of this troupe for some time and it’s no wonder; the guy just oozes so much sex appeal many in the audience are driven crazy. He is an Adonis in those wet denim jeans and boyish grins. 

This show is packing them in and has just been extended to run right through the Mardi Gras Festival until 26 February, tickets at www.sydneyoperahouse.com.  If you’ve never seen La Clique then rush to see La Soiree, or go anyway with a group of friends and set yourself up for a fabulous start to our Mardi Gras season.

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