What's on stage in Melbourne?
Henrik Ibsen's 1879 play, A Doll's House, shocked and appalled audiences when its lead character, Nora Helmer, walked out on her husband and three children. The play ends with the famous slamming of a door – a pretty bold conclusion, but also a bit of a cliffhanger. American playwright Lucas Hnath has taken the cue and written a sequel of sorts, revisiting Nora's story 15 years after she left. Suddenly there's a knock at that same door, and Nora is back. It turns out she's become a successful feminist novelist in that time, but has returned to have her husband sign divorce papers. The play was a massive hit in New York, where it was nominated for eight Tony Awards, winning one for Laurie Metcalf's performance as Nora. Time Out New York said, in a five-star review: "If Ibsen’s play is about suffocation, Hnath’s is about airing things out. Modern in its language, mordant in its humor and suspenseful in its plotting—Nora, now a scandalous writer, needs Torvald’s help to avoid being blackmailed by a judge—the play judiciously balances conflicting ideas about freedom, love and responsibility." This Australian premiere production, by Melbourne Theatre Company, will be directed by Helpmann Award winner Sarah Goodes and stars Marta Dusseldorp (Janet King, A Place to Call Home) as Nora. She's joined by rising star Zoe Terakes and theatre stalwarts Greg Stone and Deidre Rubenstein.
The second act opens with a number that could easily stand for the whole: it’s called ‘When Everything Old is New Again’, and it involves white pants, precision dancing, and ladles of melted cheese. The Boy from Oz turns 20 this year, as does the Production Company, responsible for this staging. Both the show and the company are unapologetic champions of the daggy and the aged. It’s pretty much a match made in heaven.Peter Allen wasn’t exactly an acquired taste; he was more of a black hole of taste – only white and covered in sequins. A musical about him, constructed around his occasionally beautiful but more often ghastly songs, might sound on paper like the great Aussie slang for spew: a technicolour yawn. But in practice, it’s a hell of a lot of fun. It isn’t subtle, or nuanced, or even remotely challenging, but it’s damn entertaining, and in musical theatre that counts for a lot.Of course, the shoes are hard to fill, and that’s not even talking about the man himself. Todd McKenney initiated the role to much acclaim, only to be pipped (or bludgeoned, depending on who you ask) by Hugh Jackman. It’s hard to imagine the show storming Broadway without that cast change, and it’s hard to imagine Rohan Browne supplanting anyone’s memories of either of those previous performances. But he’s by no means a disaster. He can dance better than Allen, and his singing – while occasionally off key, and generally lacking in texture – is certainly passable. His take on the man is quite compl