Left - Hugh Sheridan. Photo - blueprintstudios.com.au
You may not be able to put a face to the name, but you will certainly be able to sing the songs of Anthony Newley. Writer of a truly incredible array of music, from popular hits such as “What Kind of Fool Am I?” through to musicals including Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, Newley started his career as a tea boy for a performing arts school. Newley Discovered traces the rise (and falls) in Newley’s career, directed by Dean Bryant and with Hugh Sheridan in the title role, through to his death of cancer at the age of 67.
Sheridan gives a charming and nuanced performance as Newley, narrating and performing out the story (with occasional acting support from musical director Nigel Ubrihien), and always playing to the audience – there is no pretence of a fourth wall in this production.
Songs are both integrated lineally into the plot, or their lyrics are used to support the narrative outside of their chronological placement, and Sheridan gives a beautiful voice and personality to the music.
Lighting in the Adelaide Cabaret Festival often astounds: three productions may be playing in the Dunstan Playhouse in one night, so the lighting rig must be able to accommodate all, yet under Head of Lighting Chris Searle each show has it’s own brilliant design and execution. Newley Discovered is no exception, whether it is a single spot focusing on Sheridan (or even just his hand) or the bright lights of a 60s pop career, lighting is constantly surprising and complementary to the narrative.
In all of it’s beautiful simplicity: a three-piece band, a solo actor, and few props and costumes, Newley Discovered is a theatrical gem. Developed by Bryant, Phil Scott and David Campbell, and written for Sheridan, the script of the work is so strong it would stand up even without Sheridan’s brilliant performance, and hopefully it will have a long and wide-reaching life.
2010 Adelaide Cabaret Festival
Director Dean Bryant
Venue: Dunstan Playhouse
Dates: 24 to 26 June, 2010
Tickets: Premium: $49.95 Adult: $39.95, Concession: $35.95
Booking: BASS 131 246