Carnegie 18Carnegie 18 presented by Full Tilt is a programme comprising four works of musical theatre in development. It says much about the culture of our wonderfully curious arts community that the second programme's opening night was sold out, and this for unfinished shows! It goes to show how much support exists in our fair city for theatre of all kinds, and, despite its image problems in the past, how there is such keen interest in the musical form.

Programme one comprised of Every Angel is Terrible and Rawk. Peter Burgess’s Rawk is a modern ‘boys’ own’ dealing with the young male experience of social disillusion and subsequent dislocation and, at the other extreme, the shallow life of rock celebrity. The writer was keen to show the powerful influence musical heroes can wield and how notoriously hypocritical the business of superstardom can be, despite an anti-establishment stance by the rocker. The team presented 40 minutes of a coherent, albeit very much edited, version of the existing full-length piece performed by Michael Russo and Zen Ledden and a live band delivering authentic hard rock/heavy metal.

We saw 40 minutes of Every Angel, at this stage a less polished but deeply moving work from a team headed by Sarah Ward and Maude Davey, dealing with a shocking subject (child abuse) in a thoughtful, accessible way without overwhelming the audience with darkness or despair. Its strength lies in presenting a fresh angle on these sorts of commonplace tragedies and how glib attitudes towards various types of abuse have been inherited from previous generations. Performed by the ubiquitous Sarah Ward along with Rebecca Matthews, Even Lever and David Pidd with economic and effective musical accompaniment.

As with programme one the two shows on Saturday night could not have been more different from each other – Contact is an opera about netball (yes, netball!); the juxtaposition of colloquial language with operatic libretto is hilarious and the team of accomplished sopranos delightful. This was a huge hit with the crowd and you don't need to be into either netball or opera to enjoy it. Refreshing, genuine and original.

Curtains, by David Chisholm, left the audience highly impressed but frankly overawed and somewhat gobsmacked. Stunningly performed by Wes Snelling’s Tina del Twist, Sarah Ward’s Yana Alana, Mikelangelo (and Meow Meow via video) it wittily deconstructs all expectations of musical theatre. Curtains is deeply sarcastic, sophisticated and funny but those punters more familiar with forms of musical theatre past and present will get the most from it. Promising and excellent works, all. Look out for their finished incarnations.

Carnegie 18: New Music Theatre Series

Venue: the Arts Centre, Fairfax Studio
Dates: 19 -25 January, 2011
Tickets: $15 (per double bill)
Bookings:*, 1300 182 183*or the Arts Centre Box Office 
*transaction fee applies

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