Kat of the Musicals

MY FAVOURITE MUSICAL VIEWING OF 2015! Hilarious and wonderful.

Originally posted on The AU Review.

What do you get when you take Jurassic Park, get humans to play all the dinosaurs, get those dinosaurs to be singing dancing dinosaurs, and dress those dinosaurs in sequins? An absolutely fabulous musical called Triassic Parq is what!

Squabbalogic productions just keep getting better and better, and Triassic Parq is a hilarious masterpiece of a comedy musical. The story, without giving too much of the fun away, follows a little herd of dinosaurs. We have three Velociraptors, two T-Rex and a Mimeosaurus (which may or may not be a fossil-discovered dinosaur…). These dinosaurs naturally hang about together in the park of Triassic Parq, being dinosaurs and doing dinosaur things like singing and dancing. The dinosaurs are of course all female, as the story in Jurassic Park goes. Must stay true to the story! But, gasp! One day one of the dinosaurs discovers she is starting to change and grow… a dude stick.

Hilarity ensues as the dinosaurs ask questions and receive very little in the way of answers, which leads to more questions. All the while singing their way through an absolutely fabulous set list of musical numbers. Each and every song is a product of wildly funny lyrics and a beautifully musical score, sung by the amazingly talented cast. It’s quite incredibly how they can be all at once sidesplittingly hilarious and yet demonstrate such flawless singing.

Adele Parkinson and Monique Salle have such a handle on the mannerisms and movements of the Tyrannosaurs that you find yourself easily believing them to be the giant carnivorous creatures, and their solo pieces send shivers down your spine (in a good, less Tyrannosaurus-y, way). Blake Erickson is of course incredible in both his roles, capturing the stage with his narrative Freeman voice and stealing our hearts as the Velociraptor of Faith. I do believe Erickson could sing absolutely anything and he’d make it sound incredible.

The stand out here though is of course Mr Rob Johnson. His velociraptor curiosity, the handle he demonstrates on expression, and his unique voice is all thoroughly captivating. He delivers even the smallest of movements or the slightest of lines with such animated emotion that you fear turning away from him for even a second, less you miss a wicked grin or clever quirk!

I literally could not stop laughing and grinning throughout this whole production, which started from the very moment I walked into the theatre with its electrified fences and shrubbery. Jay James-Moody has once again directed a fantastic production of non-stop enjoyment. If you like dinosaurs, musicals or having a good time than make sure you stomp your way down to see Triassic Parq.

Dinosaurs, yeah!

This wasn’t an immensely popular production, but I thought it was alright! I laughed quite a bit, and that’s always a good sign 🙂

Originally posted on The AU Review.

Two ageing Broadway divas, who have long since seen the comforting warmth of the Hollywood spotlight, are brought together again for the hopeful work of a shady playwright/producer. Two ageing Broadway divas who are nothing short of absolutely fabulously snarky and endearingly witty, and it is this wonderfully comedic cattiness that makes Legends! so enjoyable to watch.

Written in 1986, Legends was supposed to be a shrewd tribute to the famous feud between Joan Crawford and Bette Davis. In later adaptions it has been met with odd misfortune, as the two female leads continuously seem to end the seasons early with bitter resentment towards each other. An amusing parallel to the play’s storyline.

For the Australian tour however, the tug-a-war is played out by two real-life sisters- Hayley and Juliet Mills, and the chemistry between them is evident. Perhaps what better casting of a catty, yet deep down heartfelt, script than sisters. The two move about the stage, primping and arguing and laughing and screaming and it’s all in a wonderful balance. The sisters are able to draw you right into the living room with Leatrice Monsee and Sylvia Glenn and make you shake your head at their antics. Despite all the harsh jibs they are never cruel, so they also able to make you feel a powerful pull of empathy between them.

The shady producer Martin Klemmer is played by Maxwell Caulfield, who does an absolutely stellar job at the shady Broadway producer. His amusing telephone conversations, with their impersonations and coercions, are set to leave you in hysterics. His performance is closely followed by Leah Howard, who plays the delightful hired help Aretha Thomas. She pops in here and there to give you a small reprise from the banter of the two women, stepping in with her witty liners and fun playfulness.

Legends! is a very elegant production with an incredible cast of British theatre royalty, bringing to life a very clever and very amusing script. The pacing is wonderful, with lots of unexpected (but enjoyable) surprises, and you find yourself being very much drawn into that lounge room and becoming quite attached to these two snarky, yet charming, dears.

Guy Edmonds performance in The Witches was one of my top picks in 2015 (review of the show will be up here soon). Seriously good. I’ve been keeping my eye on his schedule since but as yet no performances of anything near me!

The interview was originally posted on Arts on the AU.

Roald Dahl’s books are beloved by children of all ages- even the fully-grown ones! In Monkey Baa’s latest production we see the classic tale of The Witches brought to life in a madcap one-man show!

The AU caught up with the one-man in question, Guy Edmonds, to chat about running amok on his own in the show, having a heap of fun with the performance, and whether he thinks he can outwit a witch and outrun a mouse.

Do you remember reading Roald Dahl’s The Witches, or any of his novels, when you were younger?

I loved Roald Dahl as a kid. My favourite was The BFG. I never read The Witches as a kid, nor saw the movie. I read it for the first time before we started rehearsals for this show!

How do you try to bring Dahl’s characters to life on stage?

With every fibre of my body and voice. Transformation is a big theme in the book, so i quite literally transform my physicality and voice for every character and change at lightning speed. It’s very taxing on my body.

You are running “amok” in this one-man show! How does running solo differ from being part of a cast? Is it harder, easier, completely different?

I’ve done a few seasons of this show now, so have found a groove with it. At first I found it a bit lonely and scary because there is no one to talk with back stage and if anything goes wrong (as often does in live theatre) there is no one to bail you out! Now though, because I am so familiar with it, I enjoy it more. It takes up less brain space than it used to and I can just get on with it!

How does working as an actor on the stage differ from working on film/tv? Do you prefer either?

If the story is good and the people I work with aren’t mean, then the medium doesn’t matter. They each have their own challenges and require different tools. I often find when I am working in theatre, I wish I was working on screen, and when i’m working on screen, wish i was working in theatre. Greener grass and all that. As long as I’m working – i’m happy.

You have participated in quite a few more “serious” stage productions. Is it exciting to be able to let loose and have some fun with something like The Witches?

Big time. Although, as I just mentioned, greener grass, I would love to sink my teeth into some drama again! It’s been a while.

What do you hope audiences, both young and older, will take away from this stage adaption?

A good night out with a good story and hopefully they forget to check their mobile phones for 45 minutes.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, do you think you can outwit a witch and outrun a mouse?

Yes, but more importantly, how much wood could a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?

You can read my review of B-GIRL here!

I’ve seen Blazey Best in a few things now- she’s great 🙂

The interview was originally posted on Arts on the AU.

B-Girl is the newest theatrical production from glam-rock God iOTA, a veritable rock concert emotional rollercoaster of an experience that leaves you dizzy and out of breath. The AU caught up with Blazey Best, who co-stars alongside iOTA in the production as his imaginer- a troubled young woman desperately seeking a means of escape from her bleak reality. We chatted about being part of a premiere production, dream roles and which side of B-Girl she associates with.

How did you come into the role of B-Girl?

Craig Ilott and iOTA came to see me in Miracle City at the Hayes last year and Craig offered me the role a little after that. I read the script and half-way through I knew I wanted to do it. I’d never read anything like it.

Do you feel you associate with either side of B-Girl/alter ego Clifford North?

I associate with both sides. I’ve certainly felt worthless and like life has early broken me. I’ve also always fantasised about being a rock star!

B-Girl features a live onstage band, does this affect the way you approach your own performance?

The bang gives you so much energy. I just swim around in excitement and emotion. It’s thrilling.

This is also the very first time B-Girl will be performed, with all-original music, how do you approach this compared to working with existing material? Do you think there is more or less pressure as a result?

It’s hard doing new work because you have absolutely no guide. You might know an idea is good but then it gets tricky and it’s very easy to decide it’s shit, then that YOU’RE shit. You just have to be brave and keep listening to your instincts and searching for greater truth and hope what you make translates for audiences.

You are one of Australia’s most versatile performers, how do work on getting into character for each unique role?

Thank you for that lovely compliment. Each role calls for a slightly different approach. Basically I think I feed bits of information in, from the text or physical observations I’ve made and notes from the director and the character seems to take shape.

You have performed alongside iOTA previously in Hedwig And The Angry Inch. What is it like working with such a celebrated artist?

When I first worked with iOTA that was his very first theatre show so I saw him go from being a virtual unknown to a complete superstar. It was very exciting.

What can audiences expect from B-Girl?

An emotional roller coaster and some loud, brilliant rock n roll.

And finally, do you have a dream theatre role that you would love to play?

I’ve always wanted to play Lady Macbeth but I’ve done so much brutal, sad work over the last few years that what I’d really like to play is a character who walks in, sits on a couch, cracks a few jokes then, preferably, dies just before interval so I can really get stuck into the crossword in my dressing room.

I was actually really looking forward to Ballet Revolución but turned out to be quite disappointing. Not sure whether they were all just having a bad night, or the Australian program wasn’t quite right, or the stage was too small, or something, but it just had very little spark. One of the only things I’ve considered just leaving at intermission but I thought it might have gotten better in the second half (spoiler: it didn’t). But anyway, the actual review will be posted here soon and this was a quick Q&A I did with one of the dancers!

The interview was originally posted on Arts on the AU.

Ballet Revolución, the renowned dance sensation, is set to return to Australia this month with a whole new production. The performance showcases some of the world’s most talented classical and contemporary dancers, backed by a live band and performing to the rhythms of Latin-America and hits from artists like Sia and Beyonce. The AU caught up with one of these talented dancers- modern, contempory and folklore dancer Lianett Rodriguez Gonzalez. We discussed the incorporation of dance styles, training regimes and working with choreographer Aaron Cash.

When did you first start dancing, and what originally got you into dance?

I started with rhythmic gymnastics when I was 4 years old as a sport and the reason for that is because I was a very energetic child and my mother needed something to help me canalize my energy.

You are a modern, contemporary and folklore dancer. How do these three styles differ and how do you incorporate them all together?

Folkloric dance comes from the more ancient times of Cuba and more historic tradition. It is also related to all the popular styles in Cuban dance throughout history. The difference between contemporary, modern and folkloric comes in terms of the technical aspects. After studying and being trained for all those styles, I realized at the moment of creating movements that I have it incorporated in my body. It is something natural and I cannot really describe a process my body is the one mixing them together.

What does a normal routine consist of for you in terms of training and maintaining your high level of fitness and skill?

The training really depends on the activity that is required and the needs that each of us have. What we do in this type of show is physical training the same way an athlete would do in order to build strength and resistance in addition to this we have a ballet training for the technical aspect and the style. In my personal case, in addition to what we train for the show, I also do yoga, and capoeira which is also helps with what we do.

Ballet Revolucion is known for its explosiveness and intensity, how do you muster this for each and every show?

In order to muster it all we have to be united as a collective as a dance company. It’s the connection and the focus that allows for us to perform to this high level every day. This way you can enjoy the show as a performer and also pay attention to any situation that may occur.

What was it like working with choreographer Aaron Cash?

It is a very organic process as he works with you on your personal aspects. It is a lot of fun. With Aaron we really work more on the neo-classical aspect of the show and this is very interesting for me.

What are you most looking forward to about bringing the show to Australia?

What I am very excited about is coming back for the third time and connect with the amazing Australian audience. They have so much enthusiasm and they give us a lot of energy. Being the third time that we are coming it’s a treat to get to be reunited with our Australian friends again.

What should audiences expect from Ballet Revolucion?

Our energy and the new choreographic surprises that we have in the show. An all around great music and dance performance.

And finally, do you have a favourite song to dance to?

I honestly love all of the numbers, they all have something different and special to me. What I really love about it is that all the numbers are performed by very special musicians with whom I have been working for over 5 years now.

Pinchgut Opera do some really unique and quality productions. They’re the best if you’re looking for a rarely performed opera!

The interview was originally posted on Arts on the AU.

Bajazet is one of Vivaldi’s most passionate and powerful operas and yet, despite enjoying great success around the time of its premiere in Verona 1735, this Baroque masterpiece is now very rarely performed. Now Pinchgut Opera is bringing Bajazet back to life, much to the credit of efforts of Artistic Director Erin Helyard, who hunted down the score of the 18th century opera and spent many long hours transcribing and editing the score for their latest production. the AU review caught up with Erin to discuss his efforts and what audiences should expect from this rare gem of an opera.

You personally spent a great deal of time hunting down the score and transcribing Bajazet for this performance, what are you hoping audiences will experience as a result?

That’s right! Even photographing the score took hours. Audiences will experience the crème-de-la-crème of the best baroque operatic talent (4 Australians, 1 New Zealander, and an American) in a performance of one of the finest pasticci of the eighteenth century.

Did you have a particular motivation for selecting Bajazet?

The Racine play has always fascinated me and it was an immensely popular libretto in the eighteenth century. I’m always interested in operas and stories that were once incredibly popular – in that respect Pinchgut has produced Vivaldi’s Griselda (one of the most set opera libretti of the time) and Cavalli’s Giasone (the most performed opera of the seventeenth century). Bajazet was set almost twenty four times by different composers over the course of the eighteenth century. I think the Vivaldi setting is very powerful.

The opera is described as having “vocal fireworks and melting moments of pure beauty” which sounds rather intense! What creates these such moments and how do you attempt to depict them on stage?

Vivaldi is one of the greatest opera composers and Thomas and I use all our operatic experience in helping the cast draw out these moments.

Bajazet is rarely performed now despite being an immense success in its day, why do you think that is so?

I think that it is only by circumstance that we don’t stage Vivaldi’s Bajazet very much. Opera companies are often afraid of unknown works – but Pinchgut isn’t!

For Bajazet Vivaldi borrowed/reused several arias for his work. Is that common in the operas that you stage and what do you think of the practice?

No, Pinchgut has never staged a pasticcio and I’m looking forward very much to seeing how our audience will react to Vivaldi’s work. Bajazet consists mainly of Vivaldi’s own material – 9 arias and all the recitatives are by the Venetian master, the remaining 6 were chosen carefully and adapted by Vivaldi from the operas by composers Geminiano Giacomelli, Johann Adolf Hasse, and Riccardo Broschi (Farinelli’s brother).

At the time, it was common for singers to have Arie di bagaglio or ‘suitcase arias’, which they brought with them to each production in order to try and force their favourite repertoire into already existing operas. Bajazet is by no means a casual jumble of arie di bagaglio, but a finely curated and crafted assortment of extraordinary arias.

For the 1735 Verona Carnival season in which Bajazet premiered, Vivaldi did not resort to a haphazard collection of the arie di bagaglio of the cast, rather, he chose to adapt from the works of the latest Neapolitans in order to better characterise the characters of Tamerlano and Irene, specifically.

In 2011 you staged another Vivaldi, Griselda. How do the two operas compare?

Griselda is a slightly later and more mature work, but Bajazet does not pale in comparison. They are completely different works.

Pinchgut Opera sets itself apart by rediscovering baroque and early classical opera masterpieces with which to breathe new life. What is your aim in doing so?

I find that opera companies tend to keep to a small and repetitive core of nineteenth-century works in order to maintain their precarious existence. Pinchgut is about taking risks and giving audiences new musical and visual experiences in showcasing this treasure trove of repertoire.

And finally, do you have a favourite Opera that you would love to produce?

I have too many operas in mind to pick just one!

What an interview this was! Tommy Tallarico is a legend (he’s worked on over 250 games!!)! I’ve always been a big fan of video game music (being a OSTs of all kinds music addict) and have a large variety of game scores in my playlists despite not necessarily having played all the games… *shrugs*

I’ve also been quite a fan of video game music concerts- like Play! or the Eminence Orchestra, and indeed of Video Games Live! So I was SUPER excited for this!

We had an awesome (super long) Skype chat and Tommy is so cool and extremely passionate about what he does. We did have to break in the middle of it for him to duck out quickly to the shops for milk before they closed 😉 but it was such a great chat!

The interview was originally posted on Arts on the AU.

Video Games Live has “all the power and emotion of a symphony orchestra combined with the energy of a rock concert, mixed together with all the cutting edge visuals, interactivity, technology and fun that video games provide” says co-creator Tommy Tallarico. It was the first of its kind- an insane concert experience unlike any other, and certainly worlds apart from the other video game concerts that followed in its large footprints. Now in it’s 13th year, having performed over 350 concerts, this July will mark Video Games Live’s very FIRST tour to Australia!

the AU review Arts editor Kat Czornij chatted with the video game composing legend himself, whose credits span over 250 games (!!!) including Earthworm Jim, Prince of Persia and Advent Rising. Tommy explains just how epic the VGL concerts are, how audience members can determine the set list with him, and even shares his own favourite games and soundtracks.

Could you tell us a little bit about how you came into the idea for creating Video Games Live?

I used to put on video game concerts when I was 10 years old, where I would record all my favourite video game music and strum along with my guitar, so I think this whole thing just sort of manifested out of my childhood dreams! Video Games Live really combines my three greatest loves in the world- video games and music and performing.

I’ve been a video game composer for over 25 years and my whole idea behind creating VGL was that I wanted to prove to the world how culturally significant and artistic video games had become. I also wanted to help usher in a whole new generation of young people to appreciate the symphony and the arts and the orchestra. I like to describe VGL as having all the power and emotion of a symphony orchestra combined with the energy of a rock concert, mixed together with all the cutting edge visuals, interactivity, technology and fun that video games provides. I am also the only guy who is actually a video game composer, in the industry, putting on these shows!

You have such an impressive array of your own compositions, how does your experience as a game composer help shape the concert?

I will usually put only one of my own into the show, maybe Earthworm Jim or Metroid, something classic. Things that people would know. But I really try to not make the show about me, even though I host and produce the show and am on stage playing guitar, its really more about the industry and showcasing all of the game music from around the world. The music of all my colleagues and friends. We’re really a close knit bunch- whether its Marty O’Donnell and Halo or Russell Brower and Warcraft or Nobuo Uematsu with Final Fantasy or Koji Kondo with Mario and Zelda… it’s such an honour for me to be able to perform this music all over the world. The most incredible thing is that no matter where we go in the world people always love and have an attachment to video game music.

How do you determine the set list for each concert?

So there are actually two ways: the first is that at www.videogameslive.com there is a sign up on the right hand side for our mailing list, and we ask people there what they want to hear and what their favourite games are and where they’re from. Then I look at that spreadsheet when I’m making up a set list and I’ll say “Ok, Australia, what are they looking for?” The other way is that on Facebook we create Event pages for every show we do. In those you’ll see the first pinned post is me asking everybody (and it really is me! I don’t have a team of people doing this) what they want to hear. I like to throw in a couple of surprises, so I won’t just take what everyone wants, things like Shadow of the Colossus for example.

This is a truly immersive concert event, created with an orchestra, video footage, synchronized lighting, live action segments… How does one aim to coordinate all these parts of the production without it getting too manic?

The energy and excitement, especially when we play in a new country or city, is just so intense. I bring a team of seven people with me and we have been together for 13 years and so we’ve done 350 shows together. We actually have a Guinness World Record for the most symphony shows done by a single production company! So we’ve seen it all, experienced it all.

Every venue we go into is a completely different experience, so every time it is unique and new and challenging and fun! And then of course for the show itself, we’ve never played the same show twice EVER. We have over 130 segments for VGL that I’ve created over the years but we can only play about 20 of them a night. So if we come back to Australia next year, which is the plan, when we come back it will be a completely different show! So for us, putting on the show is like it’s the first time for us every time. I’m all based around passion and excitement and I love doing this, which is why I’ve been doing this 13 years now and just as excited today as the first day.

There are a few concert series dealing specifically with game music, including PLAY!, the Final Fantasy Distant Worlds concerts, or those from the Eminence Orchestra. How does VGL differ from these?

When I started VGL no one was doing anything like what I was doing- synchronized video and things like that, and when we did our very first show at the Hollywood Bowl we had the whole industry there. The creators of Metal Gear Solid, Sonic the Hedgehog, of Pong and Atari, and we had everyone from Nintendo… just tons and tons of people. It was the very first time video game music had ever been performed for the following games- Kingdom Hearts, Sonic, Metal Gear Solid, Mist, Warcraft, Halo… There had been Japanese video game concerts since the mid-80s but they were all very traditional- tuxedos, no lighting, no video screens.

What you’ll find about Distant Worlds, Eminence, the Zelda shows etc is that they’re also very much like that. They do have video screens now, but they’re very classical in nature. But video games are not just classical symphony music! That’s not what a video game is! A video game is about interactivity, technology, amazing visuals, the characters, the storylines, and the music. I wanted to bring ALL of those things together to create a show to celebrate the entire video game industry. And of course the biggest part about video games is fun!

And how does VGL create all that fun?

So our show has millions of dollars worth of synchronized lighting just like a big rock show, we have three massive HD video screens, we have interactive elements with the crowd, I encourage people to bring their cellphones so we can interact with them from the stage, we have a Guitar Hero competitions before the show and the winner gets to come on stage to play live with me and the orchestra to win a big prize. We have other interactive segments where I invite people to come on stage and play games while the orchestra plays along as a live soundtrack. And of course throughout the concert I encourage the audience to cheer and clap and holler whenever they feel like! These are all the things those other shows don’t do.

You were the first video game composer to release a video game soundtrack. When did you discover that gamers could be just as passionate about its music as the game itself?

I always felt that way, and so for me it was always a natural sort of thing that people wanted to hear more of this music. I would get emails and people would come to my forums to ask me to perform certain music. So for me it was always like, why aren’t more people doing this? I formed a non-profit organization called the Game Audio Network Guild, or GANG, and we have over 2,500 members all over the world including game composers, sound designers, voice over people and even students looking to get into the industry. With this I started to go around to the publishers and awards (like MTV and the Grammy) and we got video game music more involved. No one was doing it so I thought- well I’d better do it! There is now a whole generation who have grown up on video games as part of their culture and this is just the beginning!

What are you most looking forward to about bringing the VGL tour to Australia?

I’ve been waiting a long time! I’m a huge fan of Australia on a personal level, and I don’t just say that in every interview! I’ve been all over the world and I have personally vacationed in Australia six different times. But we haven’t yet performed the show there! I’ve been trying to get there for 10 years! It is the one country that I haven’t been to that I cared the most. So phew finally!

So it’s going to be a special show for that reason, but for me the most exciting thing is that I am going to be performing this show in front of people for the first time and that’s where you’re going to see the magic really happen. You can watch as many of our videos on YouTube as you like but when you get in a room with hundreds of other people and you are amongst the way that we present our show and you see the passion and emotion that we bring, there is just this magic that happens that you can’t put in a poster and that cant be captured in a YouTube video. You kind of have an idea of what to expect but when you see it you go “what the hell just happened?”.

And finally, what is your favourite video game and video game soundtrack of all time?

Ok first my favourite game of all time, which I think is a perfect masterpiece, is Super Mario World for the Super Nintendo. Just the music and the graphics during the time, and the gameplay- it’s just perfect! But, if I were to go to a desert island and say what’s the one video game that I’d take with me it would be Red Dead Redemption. You can do SO much in that game! But also Shadow of the Colossus, Metal Gear Solid, those are some of my other favourites.

Now my favourite soundtrack ever of all time would have to be Final Fantasy VIII, with Liberi Fatali, Eyes On Me… I think that was Nobuo Uematsu’s best work ever. Listen to our version of Liberi Fatali- it is in your face, powerful and huge. You can always hear this in our recordings and arrangements, and that really gives you a whole look into the approach of our show.

I’ve been a fan of iOTA ever since I heard his live performance of “Come Back To Me” at Light The Night. So I had high hopes for this musical and honestly it didn’t quite measure up… but iOTA was still great.

Originally posted on The AU Review.

A theatrical concert is just the word to describe the newest experience from gender bending glam-rock God iOTA. B-Girl is not so much a musical as it is a rock concert, but because it is iOTA it works. His unique performance style, which carries through into the production, is what really stands out.

Returning to theatre once more, the award-winning star of Smoke & Mirrors, Hedwig and the Angry Inch and The Rocky Horror Show, has reunited with team Director Craig Ilott and co-star Blazey Best in bringing this entirely new production to life.

The story follows a troubled woman who feels trapped in the bleak reality of her life as a victim of domestic violence. This is Blazey Best’s character, who dresses in unfashionably ripped jeans and an ill-fitted tank top. She is already on-stage as the audience files in, slumped in an armchair, alone in a room. As the lights dim she walks slowly across the stage to switch on a lamp. The atmosphere is quiet.

Slowly musicians file on stage (who now remain onstage throughout the production) and with a burst of sound and light the magnificent iOTA appears haloed by a beam of blue light. In this role he is the ultimate rock star, conjured from the imagination of our troubled woman. In his giant platform heels Clifford North stalks confidently across the stage, belting out a rock anthem “B-Girl” and seemingly making efforts to hold eye contact with the audience. He is the complete opposite of his imaginer and his mere presence seems to make the stage so much larger than it was originally.

Once more his presence is immediately contrasted with that of our co-protagonist. There is very little dialogue within the production, with it often moving immediately from song to song, which once again reinforces that feeling of more concert than musical. There are interesting moments when iOTA pauses to address the audience and during these moments it’s not quite clear whether he is addressing Clifford’s imaginary audience or us directly as iOTA. Perhaps we are also Clifford’s imaginary audience. During one of these moments, which parallels with a critical moment in the storyline, iOTA/North pauses to discuss the notion and meaning behind the statement “freedom is another word for nothing left to lose” with us. He leaves us to question whether freedom is in fact our beings without any material possessions or perhaps something more.

As the story moves on things get a progressively darker. In one particularly poignant piece Clifford North tells us a story. A story or fable about a girl, a child and a heart, he says. In this story the little girl remembers the moment her beloved father takes her for her first swing in the park, and remembers the feeling of complete bliss. As Best joins in the retelling the story follows the young girl, who is now grown up and married. She grimly recounts the tale of her marriage, leading up to the moment when her husband takes his first swing. As iOTA and Best harmonize together the bleak reality of the situation through the “first swing” is made all to clear.

B-Girl is very much a unique experience, a theatrical concert as it is described. The rock style is constant and loud with very little moments of downtime, and which moments are elsewise filled with the bleak storyline. It is quite full on. The real stand out here though, as could be expected, is iOTA. It is a role that is so perfectly suited to his uniqueness and stage presence that I hardly feel the production could exist without him. And why would you want it to?

Now for one of my all-time most favourite interviews. Guo and I talked (argued) for agesssssss about anime (Bleach > One Piece any day ;))

If you ever have a chance to see any ballet with Chengwu in it though- go. Do whatever you absolutely can and go. He is absolutely mesmerising and brings the performance to a whole new level (literally too though because his jumps are SO high). Just look at this nonsense! He’s simply incredible.

This production of The Dream stands as my favourite ballet that I’ve seen so far.

p.s- I could totally see a“Prince of Ballet!” anime working! It worked so wonderfully for ice skating with Yuri!

The interview was originally posted on Arts on the AU.

Chengwu Guo has been with The Australian Ballet since 2008, and was promoted to principal artist in 2013. He has danced the lead in several productions, including the Company’s recent production of Giselle, and appeared as the young Li Cunxin in the 2009 film Mao’s Last Dancer. Guo is currently dancing as the delightfully mischievous Puck in The Australian Ballet’s beautiful production of The Dream. The AU Review Arts editor Kat Czornij caught up with Guo before the Melbourne premiere to discuss life as a principal artist in The Australian Ballet, his advice for young hopeful ballet dancers, and favourite anime.

When and why did you first start dancing ballet?

I started dancing ballet when I was ten. When I was young I was a hyperactive kid so my mother took me to a local dancing studio. When I arrived there were three or four other boys and they were all rolling around doing backflips and I thought “wow, that’s so cool”. I became hooked right away. That wasn’t ballet though! After a year at that school I went to an open audition in Beijing, for Chinese Dance and Classical Ballet, but I didn’t get through the Chinese Dance. When I got through to Classical Ballet I didn’t really want to go, I didn’t know what ballet was. My family also wasn’t rich, and the school cost a lot of money, but the whole family decided I should go and that is how I started at Beijing Dance Academy.

Why did you choose to join The Australian Ballet?

In 2006 I came second in a competition called Prix de Lausanne in Switzerland and the prize is a scholarship to choose a ballet school in the world. I didn’t really know where to go, so I asked my teacher where I should go and they said “you should go to the Australian Ballet School”. So in January of 2007 I came to the Australian Ballet School and did one year of study. At the end of the year performance David McAllister (the Artistic Director of The Australian Ballet) came to watch and after the performance he offered me a job. So I’ve never really auditioned for any other company!

What is it like being a Principal Dancer with The Australian Ballet?

Maintaining everything is one of our most important jobs- strength, stamina, and flexibility. We do it every day. As a principal dancer especially you can’t afford to have any troubles. Even a tiny problem could cause a lot of issues for the Company. Maintenance is a big part of our career. Also being a Principal Dancer after every show we like to develop, so after every show the ballet master and the director will give you notes on where to improve. There are really high standards in the Company.

You currently dance the role of Puck in The Dream, who is quite a fun character- full of mischief! He is quite different from your role as the more serious Albrecht in Giselle. What is it like switching between different characters? Is it more fun to play someone like Puck?

Well switching between these two roles was the hardest part because they’re so different. I remember after Giselle’s season I was quite a prince character and then during the rehearsals for The Dream I was having a bit of trouble bending my back and getting lower to become another creature. But they are both fun, neither is more fun than the other. I was trying to create two completely different characters and the fun part is putting yourself into this character and going on stage to show what you can be. We do so many shows and it gets tiring, so enjoying being out there and being a different character for each season is what makes it fun.

Do you have a favourite role or production?

I just really love classical ballet, any classical ballet. Even though I have done so many of them I still love them. Recently I have been thinking, oh we did Don Quixote three years I think I want to do it again!

You also starred in the feature film Mao’s Last Dancer. What was the experience like, and would you consider more film roles in future?

I was really young when I did it and I loved doing the movie. If there are any film opportunities I would take them, but I think ballet is keeping me very busy at the moment. But definitely if there were any opportunities I would take them!

You are also quite a fan of anime! Do you have a favourite? Do you think any would make a great ballet?

My favourite is One Piece! I thought about if I made any anime what I would make… and I think I would make a new ballet anime talking about ballet stories. All the dramas, maybe even some superpowers! “Prince of Ballet!”

What are the best and worst parts of being a ballet dancer?

I have never really thought about it… but I think the best part is that you are doing what you like for thousands of audience members. You are getting all the love from the audience and you feel great about it. The worst part is the process of injury. When we are mid-production, and people get injured, and all the difficulties the whole company goes through.

And finally, do you have any advice for any young hopeful ballet dancers?

The chance is for people who work hard and the opportunities are for people who are ready. So if you work hard you can always achieve what you want to be. But if you just think it is going to happen then it is never going to happen. That is what I want to tell them.

Now THIS was one of my all-time favourite musical/theatre surprises, it was amazinggggg. I gave it my favourite musical of 2015 too. H.I.L.A.R.I.O.U.S

Also- fun fact! Jay James-Moody (interviewed here, and he’s the Director though not the guy in the photos below! That guy is Rob Johnson (who is also awesome)) is now the understudy for Elder Cunningham on The Book of Mormon Australia- HUGE! I hope I get to see him in it, he’s such an awesome guy ^.^

The interview was originally posted on Arts on the AU.

With the looming premiere of Jurassic World, Squabbalogic Independent Musical Theatre is taking the dinosaur-theme into a whole new direction with the Australian premiere of Triassic Parq, an outrageously funny musical that revisits the classic movie from the perspective of the dinosaurs (with bonus teenage dinosaur angst and spontaneous gender changes!)

The AU chatted with Director Jay James-Moody at the start of rehearsals to discuss dinosaur training, Dilophosauruses and the joyous hilarity of directing humans as dinosaurs.

So… dinosaurs and musicals? Can you talk a little about how that concept works and what the musical is about?

This is my idea of heaven- I am the biggest dinosaur freak and I love musicals as well, so to have them both together is just a treat. Basically the show is the story of Jurassic Park but told from the dinosaur’s perspective through song and dance.

How do the cast approach their roles as dinosaurs? Special dinosaur training?

We’ve just started rehearsals so we’re just working through that at the moment, there is a lot of claw hands going on. Our costume designer has created some amazing pieces including these great shoes that have claws on them, but they’re sequined claws. So it’s not Walking with Dinosaurs but it is something a little different.

Do you think as a Director that it’s sometimes more fun to work on these crazy musicals, that still have an important message, but don’t take themselves too seriously?

These high concept musicals are great fun because you can just let your imagination run wild. As long as you the director and the actors and the audience get on board up front with “these are people playing dinosaurs” then there’s no problem and you can do whatever you want. It’s a great group of very funny very creative and bold actors that I am working with that are really putting themselves out there and are not afraid to look silly. They’re doing a fabulous job.

The musical also deals with some more serious topics around gender identity. How do you balance these more meaningful messages amongst the comedy?

The message is there quite subconsciously. The show is first and foremost a comedy, but we’re using that comedy to access the message without hitting people in the face with it. I think it is something most people will be aware of watching the show, but at the same time they will be busting their gut laughing. Some people maybe wont consciously see what we’re saying but I’m sure it will affect some side of them as well.

Who’s your favourite character from the musical?

It’s a really diverse collection of characters and they’re all really funny and endearing in different ways, even the ones that are slightly more devious or villainous as some dinosaurs are want to be. It’s really hard to pick and it’s a really tight ensemble of six people, all of whom are past collaborators of mine and close friends as well, which made the rehearsal process such a joy. I have favourite dinosaurs from Jurassic Park? The Dilophosaurus! It is not necessarily scripted in the show… but there is one character who is “random dinosaur” and discussing with the actor we decided that it would be a Dilophosaurus.

On that, are you looking forward to Jurassic World or do you think you’ll find it distinctly lacking in musical numbers?

I am! I can’t wait! I am scouring the Internet everyday for tidbits. I have really been following this show, Triassic Parq, for several years and when they approached us asking whether we would consider producing the show I was like “Yep, we can make that work”. Now I am organizing a class excursion for us to all see the movie.

And finally, what should audiences expect from Triassic Parq?

To be sore from laughing. First and foremost it is one of the most outrageous new comedies to be out there. Even if you don’t care for musicals that doesn’t matter, it is hilarious and crude and rude. It’s going to be really unlike most nights at the theatre, it’s going to be such joyous fun to see these guys play dinosaurs and experience that journey together. We’re only two days into rehersal and I’m sore from laughing.