Genesis to Broadway Reviews

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Occasionally you see a show that renews your faith in what theatre can be. Last night “Genesis To Broadway” opened at Chapel Off Chapel and beguiled all those present with its artful theatricality, thoughtful and cunning script, choice of songs and performance.

It is a funny, irreverent, insightful, sometimes sad look at the history of music and the journey that has shaped the popular song. Producer Aaron Zaitman has cunningly assembled an amazing array of talent to bring this show to life – actor/singer/dancers Fem Belling (The Boy From Oz, Cats, Hairspray) and Andrew Dunn (Love Never Dies, The Phantom of the Opera) play many characters and along the way sing just about every great showstopper ever written – and they do it with such charm and gusto that their joy is infectious. Piano extraordinaire and co-star of the show Warren Wills (The Royal Shakespeare Company, Woody Allen) has cleverly arranged the music for 3 musicians and they play everything from Hebrew hymns to the greatest hits of Broadway. If you love music and theatre, you are in for a treat.

Last, but not least, is director/writer Frank Howson who has taken a massive concept and turned it into a delightful night in the theatre that leaves you with a glow in your heart and a smile on your face. No doubt he draws upon his own life and influences in the theatre and as such we are treated to rousing and moving musical tributes to George M. Cohan and the great Oscar Hammerstein, amongst many others. It has been some years since Howson directed the acclaimed Melbourne production of Caryl Churchill’s “A Number” – he is obviously a man who waits until the right project comes along. It was well worth the wait. And we, the audience, are again treated respectfully with all the talent this man of the theatre possesses.

In the hands of a lesser pro, this show could’ve been a mess. In Howson’s assured direction and writing we’re transported to a musical world we are reluctant to leave at show’s end. Warning – this is one show you may want to see again and again. As the show has only a limited run until Sunday 16th. December, nightly at 8pm., Sunday at 2pm and 6.30pm, I would urge you to go and check it out sooner rather than later. Hopefully it will have a return season somewhere in the future because it deserves to be seen by many, many more. Maybe even on the international stage.

More shows, Frank, we’re waiting!

Melbourne Observer


Fantabulous! - This is a musical odyssey from the very ‘Beginning’ to the very ‘Present ‘that should not be missed!

"Hollywood" Frank Howson has done it again!

This is a fantastic show conceived and written by Master Director Frank Howson and magnificently produced by Aaron Zaitman.

The quality of a program cannot be measured by the venue or even the publicity that precedes it. Many a show has been featured in a prestigious, large theater with a small fortune spent on publicity, and it has bombed!

Genesis to Broadway runs from June 11th to June 20th, at the small intimate “Chapel on Chapel” theater in Prahran, with minimal publicity, yet, it is a splendid 2 hour musical come music theater, that is guaranteed to not just entertain, but have you clapping in time, stomping your feet and sitting with a grin from ear to ear.

Led by Fem Belling and Tod Strike, whose voices individually and together bring the show to life, they are ably assisted by a three man musical combo consisting of award winning composer, pianist and musical director Warren Wills, dynamic drummer Gideon Marcus and, brilliant musician Lachlan Davidson (playing flute, saxophone, clarinet and oboe).

The strengths of the show include the vocal interpretations of wonder woman Fem Belling and her male companion, Tod Strike. What is quite impressive is not just the amazing range of styles and eras that these two are required to bring alive on stage, but also the range of languages and inflections that are demanded of them. They deliver in spades!

The three-man group, previously mentioned, not just provide the music, but due the wonderful directing of Frank Howson are encouraged to bring their musical mastery out whilst they also interact with the two-person cast, and, the audience.

Supporting the show is ace Choreographer Stephen Agisilaou, whose work with Fem and Tod has paid off, as they effortlessly dance, prance and even romance across the stage effortlessly, yet in harmony with the music and each other. Throw into the mix Artwork by well known Melbourne identity Dom Barbuto, Marketing by Dina Zaitman, Lighting designed by John Med Costumes and Props Cathie Kennedy & Lilian Ropdan, and finally Publicity courtesy Julie Cavanagh & Sonja McGill, and Frank Howson has a great team supporting him.

The Theater “Chapel on Chapel” is a perfect venue. The acoustics are excellent and the first row of seats is on the same level as the show, and so interaction is impossible to avoid, and we love it for that.
Technically the show was a success and it appears earlier lighting issues have been well and truly resolved. My only criticism is that I felt that sometimes Tod’s voice was a bit far back in the mix, whilst Fem’s was perfect. This is a very small criticism of what is a slick, yet relaxed production, and both Frank and Aaron are to be congratulated in designing and producing a show where the audience is not only encouraged to relax, but to participate.

As the Producers notes say, “Genesis to Broadway takes you on a journey of musical storytelling from the heartfelt melodies of the Middle East, the flamenco rhythms of Spain, the Italian opera, the exciting beats of Africa, journey through Eastern Europe and onto Manhattan.”

A really nice touch is how the show concludes with a variety of medleys that includes elements of Tommy, Jesus Christ Superstar, Hair, Evita and many more musicals of more recent periods.

This show proves that Australian productions are not just alive and kicking, but are at the forefront of productions worldwide. Congratulations to the cast and crew.

I thoroughly recommend this show, and be aware, it finishes on Thursday June 20th, so don’t take too long making your decision – just go!

Rob Greaves — Toorak Times

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