Broadway in Concert

(Gold Coast Arts Centre)


GCAC by special arrangement with APRA


Sometimes it is quite difficult to say whether a production is amateur or professional. Sometimes it is a mix, and sometimes it just depends on whether or not the participants get paid. This quite lavish production of Broadway in Concert announces itself as amateur, even though both its director/choreographer, Robert Young, and its musical director, Mark Turpin, have been working professionally in the business for many years, and many of the performers have had, at least on paper, substantial training and/or experience. So it’s a bit of a hybrid, and it shows.

The show bills itself as a celebration of great Broadway hits, and the scene opens with the orchestra upstage against a backdrop of the New York skyline with old-fashioned advertisements highlighted: Oxydent toothpaste, Chevrolet and Richfield Oil, which clearly state that we are going to start in the early days of the great American musical, with 42nd Street no less from the early 1930s. There’s an occasional faux Yankee voiceover which provides a bit of an introduction to some pieces, but there didn’t seem to be any consistency about this.

The only possible song, of course, to open the show is “Lullaby of Broadway” with the mandatory white tie and tails and lots of rather lavish white or black gowns. The volunteer backstage people must have been working very, very hard to have produced so many costumes — several changes each for a cast of 24. From 42nd Street it was quite a romp through Babes in Arms, South Pacific, Hello, Dolly!, The Sound of Music, and so on and so on. They’re mostly all there right up to Mamma Mia and The Boy from Oz.

Most of the cast get a solo or two, and some of them are knockouts such as Lucy McIntosh who belted out “Hello, Dolly!” and “The Diva’s Lament” from Spamalot. There was a rather lavish use of the backing choir, particularly in the South Pacific segment. Some songs just don’t go down well with the angelic hosts in the background. My really big complaint about the sound, however, is that the lapel mikes didn’t seem to have been tuned to individual singers, because a few of what might have been quite pleasant voices became unpleasantly screechy in the higher registers (what my mother-in-law used to call the squawking jenny voice). I also began to wonder how many of the singers had actually had proper voice training, because some voices couldn’t keep up with the demands of various songs. A particular example was Lawrie Esmond who has the most amazing deep bass voice, with loads of tone and richness, but who faltered unhappily at times. Training would eliminate that and allow him to capitalise on what is an amazing gift.

Having 24 amateurs on stage (even with heaps of talent and significant experience in some cases) must have been quite a problem for the choreographer, and I found the first half particularly fairly wooden and limited in the range of movement. I would guess that not many of the cast had experience as dancers, and this was quite evident. The second half was much more adventurous both in costume and routines, with “All that Jazz” a highlight. The show finished with a well rehearsed encore of “I still call Australia Home”, uplifting stuff, but the large Australian flag which appeared from the flies was perhaps a bit of overkill.

The media release for this show promised that it would have “audiences dancing in the aisles.” With an average age of, I would guess, about 70 at the matinee performance I went to, I would think that dancing in the aisles would have been unlikely, particularly when the elderly members of the audience would already have had to negotiate GCAC’s unfriendly stairs. Accessibility is not the strong point of this building. There are no escalators and only a one-person lift, as the person next to me complained, saying that she had just had a knee replacement. Nevertheless the audience was tremendously enthusiastic and obviously appreciate the regular musical offerings that the Centre puts on.

Director/choreographer: Robert Young.

Playing 27, 28, 29 Sept, 4 Oct 8pm. Matinee Sat 29 Sept 2pm. Twilight Wed 3 Oct 6.30pm.

Duration : 2hrs 30mins (including 15min interval).

— Barbara Garlick
(Performance seen: Fri 28th September 2007)