Harvest Rain Theatre Company at The Concert Hall, QPAC in Brisbane

“Oh what a beautiful Mornin’! Oh what a beautiful day! I got a beautiful feeling, everything’s going my way”

Cowboy Curly and farm girl Laurey tease each other but are too stubborn to admit their feelings. When farmhand Jud asks Laurey to the box social, she accepts to spite Curly but she later finds Jud is obssessive and determined to make her his own. Meanwhile Laurey’s friend, the empty headed Ado Annie has trouble staying true to her fiancée when the peddler Ali Hakim tries to woo her, she’s “just a girl who cain’t say no.”

This show was ground-breaking in its day as the first fully integrated musical and longest running of its time. 70 years later, the show is considered a classic and still performed around the globe. While people today may not agree with all the ideologies of America’s past, the basic human values and dreams presented in Oklahoma! are eternal. The characters have such depth and three-dimensionality, even the villain and the comedic subplot characters are given poignant moments.

I could not possibly be critical of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s book or score for Oklahoma! As a critic I have no hesitations in being pernickety over the works of many talented artists and wonderful shows, but even I draw the line at fault-finding in a Rodgers and Hammerstein classic. That stuff is critic kryptonite. I could cavil the show for its choices in casting, costumes, set design, choreography… at least I could if the show wasn’t produced by Harvest Rain Theatre Company, one of (if not the) finest musical theatre companies in Brisbane.

Making their professional debut, Harvest Rain has excelled itself in casting. At first glance Ian Stenlake appears a tad too old to play Curly, especially opposite a young Laurey. But his natural charm and great chemistry with Angela Harding made the role his. With such a sweet voice, Harding is definitely an actress to watch out for. Andy Conaghan is equally impressive with a deep soulful voice that made Jud Fry’s ‘Lonely Room’ such a show-stopping number. Even though he’s the villain of the piece the audience constantly felt sympathy for him. ‘Lonely Room’ changes him from a creepy loner to an anguished outcast and even though we want Curly and Laurey to end up together, Conaghan’s desperate portrayal of Jud during the bidding scene sees that we continue to empathise with him a little.

The love triangle between Ali Hakim (Matty Johnston), Will Parker (Glenn Ferguson) and Ado Annie (Erika Naddel) created most of the shows laughs as the actors hammed up their roles. Naddel’s belt during ‘I Can’t Say No’ puts Gloria Grahame’s number in the film version to shame while missing none of the humour. Naddel constantly utilised the accent and various personality traits of character for laughs, especially the frequent exclamations of “pruuurdy!” (translation: pretty). All of the accents seemed over-exaggerated at first but the lyrics demand those inflections and it’s something you get used to.

I found many of the costumes to be gaudy and I’m not just talking about the outfits of gaudy characters like Ali Hakim and Gertie Cummings. The colours were just unnaturally bright, especially against the wonderful rustic set which was also designed by Josh McIntosh in his dual role of costume and set designer. Jud’s smoke house in particular created such a sense of the character; while others sing and dance in sunlit cornfields, he festers away in a dark room surrounded by girlie pictures.

Callum Mansfield’s choreography is always a highlight of Harvest Rain productions which explains the company’s almost constant choice of dance filled shows. Oklahoma! is no exception with ‘Kansas City,’ ‘The Farmer and the Cowman’ and of course ‘Laurey Makes Up Her Mind.’ The dream ballet allows the audience to see into Laurey’s psyche, her hopes and fears displayed in one heavily metaphoric number through the majesty of dance. Most productions use ballet dancers to double as the characters during this sequence but the actors at Harvest Rain proved talented enough to perform it themselves. This landmark number is one of the reasons Oklahoma! is so highly regarded, if I didn’t feel it was up to scratch, this review would surely have begun with a few expletives.

The recent success of South Pacific proved that musical theatre classics are still loved yet there hasn’t been a sudden surge of old gems re-appearing on Brisbane stages. Harvest Rain Theatre Company was better known for more modern musicals and even original productions, so their triumph with Oklahoma! demonstrates just how easily classics are able to fit into any company’s repertoire. Think of all the classics us theatre fans are missing out on because theatre companies are trying to appeal to non-musical people by being new and edgy. Come on Companies! I don’t want to wait years to see the likes of Pal Joey or Lady in the Dark!


La Cage Aux Folles

Playhouse Theatre in London


“We face life though it’s sometimes sweet and sometimes bitter. Face life with a little guts and lots of glitter.”

A gay couple’s relationship is tested when their son tries to hide his parent’s sexuality from the ultra-conservative parents of his fiancée. Same plot as the hilarious but unfortunately non-musical film The Birdcage.

One night, in an attempt to achieve some form of domestic bliss, I watched Better Homes And Gardens. In this episode they were demonstrating how easily you can turn your old records into fabulous clocks to hang on the wall of any child’s bedroom. The record in question that they used for this demonstration was an original Australian Cast recording of La Cage Aux Folles. I have never forgiven them. Such is my love of La Cage Aux Folles that I gave up all my hopes of domestic bliss, refusing to watch the show and considered who I could complain to about this blatant disregard for Australian Musical Theatre displayed on Channel Seven. La Cage really is one of those special musicals.

Musical comedies, however well-written, are often considered frivolous and out of touch with modern audiences. Serious musicals such as West Side Story and Cabaret are thought of with an air of sophistication because of their socio-political commentary, the kind of commentary that the humble comedy is thought to lack. La Cage Aux Folles centers on an openly gay couple who have happily raised a child together. While fairly tame by today’s standards, the show opened in 1983 as the world was still struggling through the AIDS epidemic. It is a testament to the team behind La Cage (composer Jerry Herman and book writer Harvey Fierstein) that the musical could still manage to be hugely successful despite the negative connotations that people at that time felt about gay men like the characters (and cast) of the show.

 I personally admire the way the book has been beautifully crafted so that audiences who aren’t so fabulously inclined are able to accept, if not understand, the relationship on-stage. The first romantic song (‘With Anne On My Arm’) is a straight one, sung by son Jean-Michel about his girlfriend. This tune that portrayed a traditional romance is then reprised as ‘With You On My Arm’, a song between two gay men. The couples use the same song because it is the same feelings of love and romance being portrayed. Love is analogous and if you can understand the romance between Jean-Michel and Anne then you can understand the romance between Albain and Georges.

Similarly impressive is the song ‘Look Over There.’ Jean-Michel’s biological father Georges sings it to his son as a reminder that Albain is, for all intents and purposes, Jean-Michel’s mother. While this could have been an opportunity for a politically charged soapbox speech, that just isn’t the style of La Cage. Instead we get a touching description of the many things a parent has done for their child with sentiments so universal that the audience is convinced of Albain’s right as a parent to Jean-Michel.

While there are numbers that rejoice in the campiness of the gay night club setting (complete with drag queens, flashy elaborate costumes, outrageous dancing and witty humour that only gay men can write), the heart of the show is carried by this loving family. When informed that his step-son wishes to hide him from the prospective in-laws, Albain is visibly crushed but says nothing. Seeing the usual drama/drag queen so utterly defeated shows more internal pain that if he were to cry hysterically. Being told to hide himself away like this drives him to sing the musical’s most contentious and most celebrated number ‘I Am What I Am.’

I saw the show in London with Denis Lawson as Georges and Douglas Hodge as Albain. I was very surprised a few years later when Hodge was re-cast as Albain on Broadway, not because he wasn’t brilliant in the role, but because it was a very British interpretation. The characters are all French but in almost every West End show, no one bothers to disguise their awful English accents. Hodge in particular accentuated his until he sounded like British gay comedian Alan Carr. He also added humour by doing impressions of the likes of Marlene Dietrich during the ‘La Cage Aux Folles’ number which I’m not sure if American’s would get. Hodge’s less masculine voice doesn’t make as bold a statement as George Hearn or Anthony Warlow singing ‘I Am What I Am’ but that would contradict with his delightfully playful ‘A Little More Mascarra.’

Sadly the story will always be relevant (thanks for that Tony Abbott) but the recent Broadway revival seems to have figured that as New Yorkers are more progressive, the score could be altered. The effect of the two love songs is ruined by added commentary by Georges in ‘With Anne On My Arm’ and the new words highlight Georges homosexuality for no obvious purpose than to sell Frasier as a gay man.

La Cage obviously means more to me because it deals with a subject close to my heart but this is musical theatre. These audiences are comprised mainly of gay men and fat girls who are friends with gay men. I’m sure many others would feel my seething rage at seeing felt numbers being glued around the edge of a La Cage Aux Folles record, even if they weren’t particularly interested in gay rights, just because they appreciate how fabulous a show it is.

Jesus Christ Superstar Arena Spectacular

Brisbane Entertainment Centre

“Everything’s alright, yes everything’s fine.”

In the days leading up to *spoiler alert* Jesus’ death, this musical takes a look at the human experiences of his followers, enemies and the superstar himself.

The story of Jesus has entertained people for two thousand years. The musical Jesus Christ Superstar added a contemporary feel that has lasted over 40 years. Frankly, a modern-day revival of Jesus Christ Superstar was more unnecessary than the latest Spiderman reboot. The musical’s great achievement was in humanising the characters of the story, painting Jesus as a social crusader who could be the leader of any group at any time. Other productions have drawn parallels between Jesus and other contemporary leaders before; however, this show took the idea that what happened then could happen now and ran with it faster than Usain Bolt, leaving all subtlety back at the start line. To portray Jesus as the leader of a 99% style protest group, the show had news reports on protests, an actual protest, the disciples pitching up tents, Simon wearing a Che Guevara t-shirt, Molotov cocktails being thrown, Jesus addressing the crowd with a megaphone and activist slogans and posters filling the big screen. It’s an interesting take and certainly applicable but the material is adaptable enough to new approaches without having to constantly hit audience members over the head with every protest group cliché. The production itself demonstrates that the material doesn’t need to be overflowing with contemporary references to make this interpretation work. Caiaphas and the priests are already presented as established authority figures in the score so all it takes is some suits, a boardroom desk and a secretary for the priests to appear as corporate men, the established authority in today’s world.

Apart from providing comic relief, the main purpose of ‘King Herod’s Song’ is to show Pilate’s reluctance to sentence Jesus himself. The song does feel out of place, not just because of its contrasting musical style but because once it is over, Pilate’s scene with Jesus continues as if the song was never there. ‘King Herod’s Song’ has remained in the show because it is a great song with such possibilities, this interpretation being one of the greatest. King Herod is the host of a talk show and Jesus is the topic of the day — is he a lord or is he a fraud? Vote now! Not only does this fit in with the honky tonk style music but it adds contemporary criticism. While it seems incongruous for the son of God to appear on daytime TV, that is how flippantly we handle serious matters today.

Casting Andrew O’Keefe (a well-known TV host) as King Herod adds dimensions to the role but it wasn’t the greatest performance. If King Herald would have let his showman mask down for a moment and showed his true biased opinion on Jesus, or even acted somewhat menacing, it would have been much better. Thankfully there was more impressive Australian talent on-stage. The applaud Jon Stevens received as he stepped into the stage told me there were some hard-core Jesus Christ Superstar fans in the audience who remembered his brilliant performance as Judas in Australia’s 1992 revival. In the smaller role of Pilate, he reminds us why he is so revered.

Tim Minchin playing Judus would have attracted more than a few people to the production yet it wasn’t the desperate kind of stunt casting that led to a Jonas brother playing Marius in Les Miserables. Minchin boasts musical theatre writing credits that assured me he was familiar with the medium and he is an accomplished musician and singer. Oh boy, can Tim Minchin sing: high, low and long notes all in rapid succession. Imagine then, the disappointment in finding out that he couldn’t act correspondingly. His movements weren’t big enough for the stage and none of the character’s inner torment was displayed outwardly or theatrically. I have never seen such a complete lack of stage presence before. The big screen did show signs of distress in his eyes but for the most part Judas’ sole disposition appeared to be grumpy. Even Judas’s big finish ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’ doesn’t have any of the energy or showmanship you’d expect from such a performer singing such a song. Other reviews praised his performance so I did wonder if I caught him on an off night (he had just lost out on a Tony Award to Cyndi Lauper of all people) but the recent DVD release confirms his grumpy Judas was a regular thing. I genuinely hope that this performance style was the director’s decision and that Minchin will never again find himself miscast like that again.

The production labels itself as an “Arena Spectacular” and while there are some great stunts, lighting and props, the show does fall short of being a true spectacular event. If you’ve read about the original Broadway production of Jesus Christ Superstar (directed by Tom O’Horgan), you will know that it was critiqued heavily for large symbolic nonsensical staging. If you haven’t read about it, I’ll tell you now it involved a flying bridge made of animal bones, a giant hollowed out dragon’s head, banners of a see-through Jesus doing a headstand and Judas descending from a giant butterfly in a silver lamè bikini. Take that all in for a moment. The arena specular may not be elaborately staged but it never lets the characters or score become buried by gimmicks, in fact much of the spectacularness of it all comes from great performances such as Ben Forster’s ‘Gethsemance.’ Yet still there could have been better use of the talented chorus, huge stage and the big screen which mainly provided backdrop settings, displayed close ups or showed tweets about Jesus.

This production was good but there is yet to be a definitive incarnation of Jesus Christ Superstar. For a story that has lasted so long, it would be silly to think this show won’t age well in the future, but once the whole economy thing gets settled (in a few decades) this production will seem out of date. I would still recommend buying the DVD for the timeless performances and score, if you can stop yourself from picturing Tim Minchin as Judus descending onto the stage in a silver lamè bikini.

Avenue Q

The Playhouse Theatre, QPAC in Brisbane

“I can make you feel special when it sucks to be you.”

Princeton leaves college with a useless degree and struggles with life in the real world, luckily the neighbours in Avenue Q befriend him as they all have similar problems.

Brilliant in its simplicity, Avenue Q takes the format from children’s shows like Sesame Street and uses it to teach twenty something’s important life lessons, like how to come out of the closet or tell if a guy likes you. For a generation who learned their ABC’s from puppets, the parody is particularly fitting and piques the interest of people who don’t usually attend musical theatre. You’ll have heard me complain about shows that are made specifically to bring in non-musical fans (such as Fame) but that’s only because they tend to favour flashy exploits over content. Avenue Q doesn’t rely on the audience’s love of puppets for its humour or heart, the characters are hilarious and touching in all the right places.

As someone who is still trying to figure out what to do with my B.A, the show’s opening is very relatable. Princeton is fresh from college, looking for a purpose in life and trying to scrape by on little funds while still having fun with his friends. Who hasn’t been there? The songs are quite informative on how one should get by during this time in one’s life. We should all remember that doing things for others makes you feel better and when it sucks to be you, at least you’re not Gary Coleman. The only lesson I disagree on is ‘The Internet is for Porn.’ I know the internet is bursting with porn but there are other uses for it, a musical theatre website for example.

Older generations may find the humour incredibly crude but there was fair warning on advertisements that the show would contain full puppet nudity so if that’s not your thing: don’t see it. While people may have giggled the first couple of times a puppet swore, the humour never relies upon the fact that they are puppets being rude. When Kate monster says “normal people don’t just sit at home looking up porn on the internet.” there is a long pause and slow hand to face in disbelief before the reply, “you have no idea.” The actors know how to get laughs from theatre audiences and never fight for attention over the puppets.

Each production of Avenue Q has its own little changes to better suit the time and place. The 2003 Broadway version said not to get depressed because George Bush was “only for now” and this production promised the same of Tony Abbot, which I will hold them to. There are also little additions the actors threw in, ‘If You Were Gay’ the line “what does it matter to be what you do in bed with guys?” comes complete with crude hand gestures to specify what he may do in bed with guys.

Even though I am a big Wicked fan, it’s easy to see why this unique little show scooped up the main awards at The Tony’s that year. Even if musical theatre isn’t your thing, you’ll enjoy this show and as small scale productions are popping up across the globe so you have no excuses not to see it.

Love Never Dies

The Regent Theatre Melbourne

“Coney Isle. Miracle on miracle. Speed and Sound all around.”

10 years after The Phantom of the Opera, Christine is asked to sing at the fantastical Coney Island with her husband Raoul and son Gustave. She soon finds this glittering world belongs to the Phantom who has brought her here in a final bid to win back her love.

Everyone has surely read that the ‘retooled’ production of Love Never Dies in Melbourne is a triumph for Australian Musical Theatre and that Andrew Lloyd Webber is quoted many times in saying “this is one of the finest productions I’ve seen of my work, anywhere.” Promotional items also showed off regarding the 300 costumes and 5,000 light bulbs that would dazzle the audience. Yet I remained unconvinced that the show would be something great. I had over a year ago – with excited frenzy ­­— purchased the Love Never Dies album and my disappointment then was not something I was willing to go through again. The show in London had not been saved by spectacles on-stage because it was teamed up with a lamentable mess of a book.

When Promotional items say this version has been ‘retooled’ they are being polite. They thankfully took an axe to that first act saving us from giving it the nickname ‘Paint Never Dries’ as it received in London. The show is far closer to the original Phantom then I could have hoped. The London production opened with Meg desperately in love with The Phantom and Raoul as an abusive drunk which was very distancing for fans. This show eases the audience into the situation by explaining how they occurred first. Instead of dumping the audience with changed setting, style of music and characters, this show begins with The Phantom singing ‘Till I Hear You Sing’ which acts as a perfect continuation from ‘The Music of the Night’. The only songs that deter from the original style are now the vaudevillian performances by Meg to the crowd at Coney Island. The book has also perfected weaving together the original with the sequel as old lines are echoed in new scenarios — once again “Things have changed, Raoul”.

Coney Island looks entirely the creation of The Phantom: a magician and architect with a flair for the strange and grand. His presence is always felt with masks and skulls in the costumes and scenery, not to mention the return of the symbol playing monkey. You can read the facts about how many costumes and light bulbs there are but the effect of them on-stage are mind blowing, especially when as a fan you can spot the various nods to the original. The sets work well within the chorus numbers but are easily played down for the more dramatic moments.

The book has been carefully crafted and provides an emotional pull equal to the spectacle. Much more explicit in this show is the effect that Christine’s decision will have on her career as a singer, she is choosing between her husband and the man that inspires her voice after all. The pacing does slow in the second act which is entirely built upon the tension of who Christine will choose. If you don’t care for the characters, then this just won’t have the same effect on you as it does a fan.

I would have seen the show in London (had it played long enough) because of the magnificent talents of Ramin Karimloo and Sierra Boggess who have thankfully had their talents recorded and filmed in the 25th anniversary production of  The Phantom of the Opera. Ben Lewis who plays The Phantom in this production does a good job. Just good. It is a difficult role to pull off. Many greats have played the Phantom in various ways, from Warlow’s grand serene Phantom to Crawford’s more fatherly and Karimloo’s hellbent, but this show doesn’t display the emotional complexities of the character that took up so much of the first. Lewis is bound to playing a generic Phantom. He has a powerful yet expressive voice though I was just as pleased with his physicality in the role. The one fault I would give is that Madame Giry couldn’t sing even with the key changed for her but thankfully she didn’t have to sing much.

The production really is a testament to the talents of Australian Musical Theatre and while there is a filmed version on DVD, such a show has a far greater effect seen live at a beautiful theatre.

Idina Menzel in Concert

 Concert Hall, QPAC in Brisbane

“I’m through with playing by the rules of someone else’s game”

Broadway and TV Veteran Idina Menzel sings some of her favourite songs for delighted fans.

I have said I’m not the biggest Idina fan. Nothing personal, she seems nice enough and she has talent but I just never felt there was anything special about her. I’ve seen enough Elphaba’s to know that the way she sings Wicked in The original Broadway Cast Recording can be bettered. Though she kept appearing in shows I loved, she never seemed to play characters I particularly liked. Yet, despite the above comments, I clearly felt that seeing Idina was worth $100 and a Saturday night that could have been spent sitting at home writing reviews of other musicals.

I have to admit it was time and money well spent (except for the $6 transaction fee. That’s always money wasted, swindling bastards).

Idina made the brilliant decision of being accompanied by the Queensland Symphony Orchestra who made every song sound beautiful. Even Lady Gaga’s Poker Face. For the sake of Glee fans, Indiana probably had to sing something she sung on the show (and you can imagine how tough it was to choose which awful song) but Poker Face? Probably because it gave her the opportunity to comment on how inappropriately it was used in the show as a duet between mother and daughter. Well Glee, that’s what you get for casting her as mother of a 27 year old actress and giving her crappy songs to sing. At last Idnia had the good graces to apologise to the orchestra for making them play such a song.

Idina’s other song choices were just what fans would have wanted. She sang a few contemporary songs, an original song, a couple of extra show tunes and songs from her most notable shows. Except Wild Party, she skipped over ‘Life of the Party’ for unknown reasons. Stand out performances including a mash-up of The Polices’ ‘Roxanne’ and Cole Porter’s ‘Love for Sale’, a stunningly original rendition of ‘Don’t Rain on my Parade’ and an exciting preview of something from her next show, If/Then (from the team behind Next to Normal!). Idina also paid a touching tribute to her late mentor Marvin Hamlisch by singing two beautiful songs from his brilliant A Chorus Line. These songs really proved to me that Idina could put emotional force in her voice, which I had begun to doubt as the first couple of songs (though sung perfectly) were lacking in emotion. Unfortunately ‘The Wizard and I’ was her first full song. Even though she riffed and belted so that it sounded better than the recorded version, there was no acting on her face. Luckily she’d warmed up enough by the time she sang ‘Defying Gravity.’ Had she messed that one up: there would have been no mercy.

While I remained critical, the rest of the audience seemed to worship Idina’s every move. She would tell a little joke, make a cute comment or even say a swear and the audience would spend a whole minute applauding that small thing. I later found out that this audience would applaud just about anything. Of course Idina picked audience members to sing a duet with her and of course only one of them was a decent singer. Why do people volunteer for that? Yes I would love to sing with Idina Menzel but in an “I’m so talented I’ve sang with Idina Menzel!” way and not in an “I was randomly chosen” way. I would also not want to stand up and sing in front of hundreds of people who just heard someone as talented as Idina. Why don’t people have any shame? Those people will now never have shame because the audience was dumb enough to applaud them after each performance. Not just a polite applause, an actual applause.

That’s not even the worst part. There was a girl who put up her hand to sing, came down to the stage and then said that she didn’t know the words to that particular song — it was ‘Take Me of Leave Me’! What kind of Idina fan doesn’t know that song?. The girl then said she wanted to sing ‘I Dreamed a Dream.’ This girl told Idnia, in the middle of her concert, that Idina should sing another song specifically for the purpose of dueting with her. Idina was nice enough to only appear mildly stunned at this girl’s impudence, explaining that that song wasn’t part of the concert (the orchestra didn’t have the sheet music for it) and that they were in the middle of a different song right now. Idina then had to go back to the girl later to offer to duet an acapella version and you know what that girl did? She sat up on the stage and snatched the microphone right out of Idina’s hand. I still haven’t quite got over the sheer audacity of that girl. People had paid money to see Idina and you’re so desperate for attention that you would literally stop her concert to sing your choice of song? And to top it all off, she was (of course) not a good singer.

I’m going to blame Idina for her this, not only because she turned part of her concert into amateur karaoke night but because she doesn’t make herself intimidating enough. She wanders around the stage barefoot, chews a lolly as she tells a story, adjusts her ill-fitting dress, swears, chats with people in the front row and generally acts unprofessional. This whole “just being myself” attitude is exactly why the audience found you so damn approachable!


Zen Zen Zo Physical Theatre Performance Company at The Cremorne Theatre, QPAC Brisbane

“It couldn’t please me more”

In early 1930s Berlin, writer Clifford begins an affair with Kit Kat Klub cabaret singer Sally. Their room is let by an old woman who has recently developed a romance with an old Jewish man. Germany in the thirties: you know things are going to get tense.

Zen Zen Zo Physical Theatre is not a musical theatre company. While highly respected (rumour has it they are scarily strict), I was not sure what to expect from a company with such little musical background. Their decision to perform Cabaret speaks to the depth of the material; though I’m a little insulted they feel the need to defend their choice to perform a musical at all. Cabaret is a strange mix of musical theatre, Breactian political commentary and drama. I felt the latter would take precedence with this company but there was an equal balance. The show is full of energy, tension and emotion in all the right places.

The actors were impeccable, each creating a unique performance in both the songs and drama. The Emcee was neither Joel Grey’s showman nor Alan Cumming’s S&M creation, instead channelling a gaudy Marlene Dietrich. I had read that the Sally Bowles character of the show was not the same as the Liza Minnelli Oscar-winning creation I was used to, which was for the best as no actress could hope to recreate it on-stage. All of Sally’s songs had an approach that differed from Minnelli’s, particularly ‘Mein Heir’ in which she held each deep “bye” and paused to completely change the pace. I was honestly astonished to discover that the actress had never actually performed in musical theatre before. All the actors moved seamlessly from fully developed characters to Kit Kat Klub entertainers like seasoned veterans.

The show itself deals with people facing persecution, a subject that will sadly always be relevant. The touching romance between Fräulein Schneider and Herr Schultz made the knowledge that things would only become worse for Jews like Schultz all the more heart-breaking. Yet Schneider’s defence for breaking up the relationship in ‘What Would You Do?’ makes us all wonder the same thing. It’s far more effective than the film’s secondary love story in which two Jews marry with untold consequences. There are many thought provoking moments that are all staged for maximum emotional effect. At the end of act 1, a likeable character reveals a swastika armband under his coat and begins the Nazi Party anthem ‘Tomorrow Belongs to Me.’ Supported by other members of the party, the song becomes louder and as the last lines are repeated, they slowly raise their arms in salute to Hitler. The first act ends on that harrowing moment which is only an indication of the ending of the show itself.

With an amazing book and fantastic actors, there is no need for any flashy sets or costumes. The small theatre is closer to the setting of The Kit Kat Klub and allows greater intimacy than a large scale production. There is nothing a big budget or famous name could add to this — it is the best independent musical theatre production I’ve ever seen. After wowing audiences and winning The Matilda Award for Best Musical, hopefully Zen Zen Zo will change their minds and perform more of the great works musical theatre has to offer.