Sunday, August 18, 2013

Review: Tough Beauty at Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre

Tough Beauty
Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre, Sydney
Opening Night, 15 August 2013
That moment on the schoolyard surrounded by jeering students and a kaleidoscope of camera phones flashing and freezing time. That moment young girls use their fists in petty power battles fuelled by low self-esteem and deep-seated anger. Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre’s production of Tough Beauty presents a chilling picture of the reality some schoolgirls repeatedly face: that moment when bullying turns violent and destructive.
In its inaugural in-house production, CPAC sets a high standard for new and engaging theatre. Under the direction of Claudia Chidiac and writer Finegan Kruckemeyer, Tough Beauty ventures inside the minds of key players in a lunchtime school fight. From the unsuspecting victim Rana to the quiet ‘new girl’ who seeks a fresh start only to be thrown into old violent habits under the torment of head bully Mika. The lead-up and aftermath of the climatic fight becomes an educational lesson in the psychology of teenage girls and a dialogue on the infectiousness of hatred and violence.
Danielle Baynes stands out as the bright and vivacious Rana. Baynes’ monologue about the bio-psychological creation of bloodlust is as captivating as it is frightening, and her skills as an actor shine through in this role. The minimalistic set is clever for small-scale school tours (which this play is destined to enjoy) but left the larger CPAC stage feeling – at times – bare. Kruckemeyer’s use of non-linear narrative is effective in keeping the audience engaged in piecing together the drama, and gives Chidiac gems of moments to play with.
CPAC has repeatedly proven that it is the heart of the performing arts in South Western Sydney. Now that it is producing its own theatre, its voice in the community has never been so important. Tough Beauty has potential to tour as part of educational theatre in schools with its punchy and potent message. May this be the first success of many in-house CPAC productions.
Tough Beauty runs from 15th – 17th August at the Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre, 23rd – 24th August at The Q Theatre, Penrith, and 18th -19th September at Hurstville Entertainment Centre.
For more information visit and 

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Review: Hot Shoe Shuffle, 21st Anniversary revival Sydney

Hot Shoe Shuffle
5 July 2013
Lyric Theatre, Sydney

Happy 21st Anniversary to David Atkins and Dein Perry, creators of Hot Shoe Shuffle; one of Australia's most successful home-grown musicals.

There's no better place or time to revive the show. There's also no better place or time to revise the book.

The tap numbers are thrilling and impressive, just as you'd expect of co-choreographers Perry (who also created the international tap hit, Tap Dogs) and Atkins (a prominent figure in the musical industry who wears many creative hats).

But the cringe-worthy script needs a re-write. The thin, cheesy plot about seven brothers re-united through a phony ploy from their absent father to put on a tap show makes for a flimsy foundation to build a show upon. Worse still, the script is naff and cartoon-like, resulting in a cast of two-dimensional, unsympathetic characters and jokes that fall flat.

Musical numbers are hit and miss, and mostly provide good excuses for entertaining tap dances. That said, both of Jaz Flower's stand and sing numbers in the second act are knock-out. Flowers has an electric stage presence and plays an impressive Marilyn-inspired sensual bombshell.

The two acts couldn't be more different. The first presents an artificial, larger-than-life world filled with colourful costumes and a cardboard-cut-out set reminiscent of Hairspray. The second is classy, ritzy and a homage to the best of old-school Vaudeville - with top hats, coat tails and the gorgeous orchestra in full-view. The second act is better than the first, mostly because the characters talk less and dance more, but also because the set and costume design better complement the style of the show.

As an entire musical, the highs are high - such as the talented Bobby Fox's tap solo which merits its own standing ovation. But the lows are low - thanks to a poor script that isn't helped by over-the-top, superficial, bad acting performances by the cast.

Hot Shoe Shuffle displays many of the strengths and weaknesses of the Australian musical theatre industry: fantastic dance talent yet poor acting performances, crafted moments of incredible spectacle that sit alongside uninspired scenes that fall flat, and an abundance of energy for a show that still need fine-tuning.

Australian audiences should see Hot Shoe Shuffle for the fantastic, highly-skilled tap numbers that showcase our home-grown choreography and dance talent. They will just have to forgive some of the silliness.

$20 student tickets available on the day of performance at the Lyric Theatre.
For tickets, visit
Showing in Sydney 5 July - 4 August, Melbourne 9 August - 1 September