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Director Byrne, by engaging the operators of the Arthur Murray Dance Centre Adelaide as co-choreographers, ensured that ballroom dance has been taught thoroughly and, in some cases, polished to a gleam.The work of Choreographers Tara Johnston and Thomas Coghlan is evident in the whole ensemble’s dance work.His voice has a very pleasant timbre, and he handles all his sung material well, although he has an odd habit of crescendo/decrescendo on sustained notes.
For the magnificence of the spectacle, Ann Williams (Costume Designer, Creator and Co-ordinator) and Sue Winston (Wardrobe Supervisor), please take a bow! Company choral numbers were a trial, with ragged entries, wayward harmonies, and under-powered, audibly puffed-out singers. You need to be able to do the acting, the singing and the dancing… It seems that, in comparison to the dance component, singing was sadly under-rehearsed.
Those good, hard-working performers on stage simply needed more help with their singing.
Kurt Benton (playing Scott Hastings) and Kate Harrison (playing Fran) both have sufficient stamina, as well as the dance chops needed to convince us.
Benton gets to display his balletic ability as well as a good ballroom discipline.
There’s no doubting his character’s officiousness, bluster and connivance; Baz Luhrmann’s and Craig Pearce’s book offers Fife a glorious smorgasbord of acting choices.
This version of the character has more in common with a pantomime dame than a petty-minded official intent on retaining control.
Hot on his heels is Niki Martin, whose Abuela is warm, well-rounded, clearly articulate despite accent, and acted with intelligence and passion. Max Rayner, despite the handicap of a somnolent creature with white fur perched on his head throughout the show, is a splendid acting anchor.
He plays dance school proprietor Les Kendall with sharp sincerity, making his character’s problems ours, and building the dramatic needs of the plot.
Amassing a cast of 26, including himself, Matt Byrne has produced, directed and designed this show. His design is multi-purpose and economic, considering the limited space of the Arts Theatre.
However, if his design had been a little less literal and more referential, scene changes could have been less sluggish.