On Centre Stage
By Douglas Kennedy
Gold Coast Shows, Theatre productions and Concerts in August.
Here’s a look at the Gold Coast and Hinterland theatre scene and it looks good. For more details check out the Gold Coast Theatre Alliance website.
High and Higher – The Motown Musical
The Spotlight Theatre Company’s latest show celebrates one of the great musical genres of the modern era, which was created by a man whose origins date back to an age when African Americans lived in slavery.
High & Higher – The Motown Musical, which has been created by Jamie Watt and Peter Laughton and runs from August 12 to September 3, owes its existence to Berry Gordy.
Gordy who is known as Gordy Jr, can trace his ancestry back to the original Berry Gordy who was the child of a female plantation slave and the plantation’s owner in Georgia.
However, by the time Gordy Jr is born in 1922, the Gordy family is middle-class and living in Detroit.
The young Gordy grows up listening to the neighbourhood music and watching the folks dance.
In 1957 he – along with sister Gwen – writes a song, Reet Petite, for a singer called Jackie Wilson which becomes a modest hit. However, two years later – January 1959 – Gordy makes a life changing decision.
He concludes that it is better business to be a producer and publisher than a songwriter and, with $800 borrowed from the family, he launches his own record company.
He wants to call it Tammy Records – he’s inspired by a movie called Tammy and the Bachelor starring Debbie Reynolds – but that’s taken.
Instead he opts for Tamla and marries it with Motown – that’s motor town – for Detroit which thrived on the automotive industry.
The rest – as they say – is history as he creates a stable of singers and musicians destined to become among the defining sounds of the 20th century.
The Motown stars include Marvin Gaye, the Jackson Five, Diana Ross (the Supremes), the Miracles featuring Smokey Robinson, The Four Tops and a who’s who of soul singers and musicians.
Now Watt and Laughton – and they are not the first – have put together a show which celebrates what has become known as The Motown Sound.
The rundown of around 50 songs includes Just Walk Away Renee, Baby Love, Ain’t No Mountain High Enough, River Deep Mountain High as well as music from Earth Wind and Fire, Donna Summer and the Bee Gees.
The show is being described as a breath-taking all- singing all-dancing bundle of contemporary musical genius. OCS plans to be there.
The Importance of Being Earnest
The Tamborine Mountain Little Theatre is bringing us one of the brightest and most delectable old chestnuts in the theatrical comic cannon. Oscar Wilde’s drawing room masterpiece will play from August 12-27. Warrick Bailey directs
But why did Oscar write so many light frothy – and exquisitely entertaining – pieces about upper class people getting into trouble over issues that were, frankly, much ado about nothing?
In the case of Earnest (or Ernest) it is all about his name and his heritage, which looks set to block his bid to marry the girl of his dreams.
The truth is that Oscar Fingal O’Flahertie Wills Wilde (1854-1900) had – for the Victorian era – a monumentally dreadful secret, which would ultimately land him in jail and shorten his life.
He was gay – maybe bi as he did father two sons – and it was his own gift for witty one liners – known as epigrams – which was his undoing.
Wilde had a relationship with Lord Alfred Douglas which enraged the peer’s outspoken father the 9th Marquess of Queensberry – the man who gave the world the boxing rules – and ultimately the playwright felt compelled to sue him for libel.
This was around the time of Earnest – debuted in 1895 – and everything appeared to be going Wilde’s way until Queensberry barrister asked him in the dock if he had kissed such-a-boy and Wilde replied: ‘ Of course not, he was far too ugly.’
Suddenly Wilde found himself in the dock and then Reading Goal.
It makes this line from Earnest more poignant: “Gwendolen, it is terrible for a man to find out suddenly that all his life that he has been speaking nothing but the truth. Can you forgive me?”
And, of course, Wilde who in his heyday was the darling of dinner party repartee had his own reply: “The truth is rarely pure and never simple.”
At the end of all this a destitute and broken man living – or rather dying – in Paris he never lost faith with his wit.
Lying in a garret, staring at the walls, he quipped: “Either this wall paper goes or I will,” He reportedly said it more than once – a true professional.
Here’s an interesting piece of trivia Wilde died November 30, 1900, but Queensberry – who was responsible for his demise – had already passed on January 31 of the same year. I think the expression is ‘such is life’.
The Gold Coast City Choir, which has been around since 1969, is taking George Gershwin’s music wrapped up in the title Gershwin Swings to The Centre Beaudesert on Saturday 13 and the Zamia Theatre on August 14.
The mixed-voice community choir that sings in four-part harmony, is under the baton of conductor Sue Roberts whose day job is director of music at Somerset College.
The 49-strong choir, which sings soprano, alto, tenor and bass, also boasts the services of accompanist Marie Nicholson.
The calibre of the choir, which has sung anywhere and everywhere including the foyer of Jupiter’s Casino on the Coast, is such that the Gold Coast Theatre Alliance has given it a distinguished service award.
Gershwin, who is one of American music’s all-time greats, was in every sense of the words a shooting star whose too short life came to an end in 1937.
The Russian-born migrant didn’t take an interest in a music until the age of 10, but made up for lost time with a CV which spanned both the popular (often with his lyricist brother Ira) through to the classics.
His major works included Rhapsody in Blue (1924), An American in Paris (1928) and the great US folk opera Porgy and Bess (1935).
He started as a song plugger, played New York, and located to Los Angeles where in the mid-1930s he began to complain of ‘blinding headaches and a sense of burning rubber. ‘
Those close to him misdiagnosed a mental disorder, but the situation was worse and he was eventually admitted to hospital and soon after died.
The writer John O’Hara summed up the mood of many when he said: ‘George Gershwin died on July 11, 1937, but I don’t have to believe it if I don’t want to.’
Among the Gershwin greats planned for the concerts are I Got Rhythm, Someone to Watch over Me, Slap that Bass and Embraceable You.
The Tugun Theatre Company will present the popular community play Exit Laughing by Paul Elliott, under the direction of Jim Dickson, from August 11-27 at the Tugun Village Community Centre.
The popular fun-loving play was described by one US critic as a ‘The Golden Girls meet Steel Magnolias’ and another as ‘three friends and an urn.’
It’s all about life, death and friends, which are themes Elliott has explored extensively in a career as a writer and director of more than 60 TV shows.
One of his latest works, the novel The Riverton Project, has been developed as a TV mini-series.
An Oscar Moment
The Gold Coast Jazz and Blues Club is bringing Australian/New York muso Matt Baker and his trio to the Gold Coast Arts Centre’s Paradise Room for one-night only to celebrate the life and music of Oscar Peterson (1925-2007).
The Canadian pianist dubbed the Maharaja of the Keyboards by Duke Ellington and known as OP by his friends turned out 200 recordings and won eight Grammys in a career spanning 60 years.
Ingrid James will be the special guest vocalist.
Other shows worth watching out for in include After January at the Javeenbah Theatre until August 6, La Musicale d’Elegance at the Gold Coast Little Theatre August 6 & 7, plus The Gold Coast Youth Symphony and The Junior Strings and Junior Symphony at the Youth Orchestra Centre, Ashmore (August 12 and 18 respectively).