GLORY DAYS - On Sale Now!

GLORY DAYS – On Sale Now!

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Make sure you grab your tickets to Exclaim Theatre Company’s Australian Premiere Production of GLORY DAYS by Nick Blaemire and James Gardiner.

Julian is playing Skip alongside Aaron Robuck as Will, Damon Grebert-Wade as Andy and Tim Dal Cortivo as Jack.

A year after graduating high school, four best friends reconnect on their old school’s football field. Little do they know, it will be a night…

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Glory Days

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This October, Julian will make his debut with EXCLAIM THEATRE COMPANY in their production of GLORY DAYS by Nick Blaemire and James Gardiner, playing the role of SKIP.

Booking details and dates coming soon!

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Hedwig and the Angry Inch

'Hedwig and the Angry Inch' (from herein HAI) won this year's Tony for Best Revival of a Musical. A cult musical with book by John Cameron Mitchell and Music and Lyrics by Stephen Trask, the show deals with a transgender singer and stories from her life, from love and heartbreak, to her career as a singer. 

This version is really a spectacular vehicle for Neil Patrick Harris, who plays the title role. His performance is loud, bashful, at times indignant, aggressive, but above all, human. Harris manages to show us not only Hedwig the confident performer, but also Hedwig, the broken and tortured woman who never really got over the issues she had becoming a woman. Vocally, Harris is impressive. He gives the audience so much energy that you wonder how on Earth he could go on two hours later for the evening show. 

As Hedwig’s husband, Yitzhak, Lena Hall delivers a beautifully damaged character. As Hedwig grows weaker and more vulnerable throughout the show, we see Yitzhak as her one true lover and support, helping her grow back to the powerful and confident woman we meet in the opening. Hall’s vocal performance is nuanced, delicate and yet, incredibly powerful. At one point she underscores a section of script beautifully with a softly sung ‘I Have Nothing’ which showcases her flawless technique and entrancing tone. 

Musically, the show jumps off the stage. The four piece band play with immense energy and strength to enliven the action. They are incredibly tight and 100% in tune with the shows themes and feelings, helping each both Hedwig and Yitzhak on their emotional journeys to self fulfilment and satisfaction. 

HAI is one hell of a show, with stupid amounts of energy and bravado. Andrew Reynolds will replace Harris within the next few weeks, and I hope that the support will remain. Despite his brilliance, this is much more than seeing a celebrity on stage, it is a really clever and highly engaging piece of theatre. 


Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill

'Lady Day at Emerson's Bar & Grill' (from herein LDE) is like the perfect biopic, but on stage instead of screen. Written by Lanie Robertson, we hear the story of Billie Holiday as she sings a gig in a small bar in Philadelphia. She regales us with events, stories and people who touched her life and the moments, both good and bad, that made her.

Musical Director and pianist, Shelton Becton, leads a band that swings hard. They create atmosphere before the show, and during it, colour the words and melodies of some of the most recognisable songs of the Jazz repertoire with impeccable taste, allowing McDonald to drive home each lyric with freedom. 

As Lady Day, Audra McDonald delivers an absolute masterclass in cabaret. From beginning to end, her physicality embodies that of the old singer, expression blurred by drink and a sunken posture that reminds us of the hard life she has endured. Above all though, McDonald is, in my opinion, THE great voice of American Theatre at present and in LDE, she is on an entirely new planet vocally. From the second she opens her mouth, her voice is Billie Holiday. In fact, her tone, accent and intonation are all so similar, that there were audible gasps in the theatre the second she began to sing. At the end of the night, I looked at the woman sitting next to me and she said, ‘Feels like we’ve been listening to a record.’ I couldn’t have agreed more. In every song, we feel the joy and later pain of the singer, as she battles with alcohol and drug addiction and the harsh truths of American racism in the 20th Century. I often forget the situation faced by African Americans during this time, and it is amazing to think that stories of not being allowed through front doors, being made to wait on a bus until she had to sing and being forced to sit in the kitchen to eat dinner are all from less that 100 years ago. This is most powerfully felt in McDonald’s haunting version of ‘Strange Fruit’, the Lady Day classic that deals with the lynchings of the deep South. 

LDE is a touching, powerful and magical piece of theatre which, thanks to some brilliant writing and an equally brilliant performance, reminds us not only of the brilliant talent and tenacity of a great woman, but also the struggles and issues that faced an entire population of her era. It is an absolute must see!


A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder

Last night, I saw ‘A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder’ (from here on GGLM) at the Walter Kerr Theatre. The show is like an English farce made into a musical and by Americans!

GGLM tells the story of Monty Navarro who discovers that he is actually a member of the D’Ysquith family and eighth in line to become Earl. Madly in love with Sibella, a beautiful society girl, Monty wants to do everything in his power to speed up the process of succession so that he may provide everything that Sibella dreams of. Along the way, we meet the members of the family, all played by Jefferson Mays in the show’s standout performance. We also meet Phoebe D’Ysquith, who is desperate to compete with Sibella for Monty’s affections after her husband…dies. 

As Monty, Bryce Pinkham is light hearted, energetic and vocally on point. His innate sense of comic timing and incredibly alive facial expressions give his character a warmth and humour that pulls the audience on side within seconds. You want him to succeed, no matter how he goes about it. Lisa O’Hare as Sibella and (for my performance) Pamela Bob as Phoebe, play with Monty’s emotions to such an extent that you can only feel sorry for the man. They sing their roles superbly, ‘I’ve Decided to Marry You’, the group’s trio in the second act, is by far the highlight of the show musically. 

As every member of the D’Ysquith family, Jefferson Mays delivers a virtually faultless performance. Every character is deeply constructed, unique and seemingly, even more hysterical than the last. The best of the best, his portrayal of Lord Adalbert D’Ysquith and his song, ‘I Don’t Understand the Poor,’ one long extended joke about the British Upper class and their view of those below them. 

GGLM enjoys excellent direction and choreography from Darko Tresnjak and Peggy Hickey, who understand the over the top nature of the writing, but also manage to humanise each character. The set design is flexible, efficient and simple, and the lighting helps the audience to follow what, at times, can be a very fast paced script. 

GGLM has an excellent book, excellent music and an excellent cast. There really is a lot to enjoy in this production and it is no surprise to me that it took out Best Musical at this year’s Tony Awards. It is also, satisfyingly, not adapted for the stage, it is a work all of its own, designed specifically for the stage. And it shows. 


HouseWarming

One of the best parts about visiting New York in July as a Theatre lover is the New York Musical Theatre Festival (NYMF). An institution for 11 years now, it has become a place where composers, book writers, performers and audiences, come together to work on and witness the creation of new work or the continued growth of a past project. 

Last night I saw the reading ‘HouseWarming’, an Australian written show, about a group of twenty somethings living out of home for the first time. The show focuses on Tom, who is hosting a house warming for his new place, and the friends he invites around. The book, music and lyrics were written by William Hannagan and Belinda Jenkin, both based out of Melbourne. The show premiered there through TheatreWorks and this is a now an updated and Americanised version. It’s a well written piece with a solid script. The dialogue sums up Generation Y without becoming a cliche of itself and the music’s style and lyrics fit the age of its characters. 

'HouseWarming' featured a cast of up-and-coming actors who all excelled in their roles. Vocally, MJ Rodriguez and Celeste Rose stood out as two best friends, Luke and Kelly, and Shauna Goodgold, sung and played the role of the young ingénue, Mia, with great innocence and a charming sense of humour.

It’s great to see these sort of works being performed (and attended) as part of NYMF. Hopefully, more companies like TheatreWorks will start encouraging Musical Theatre composition in Australia and maybe then projects like New Musicals Australia will be able to thrive and Australian works will have as much success at home as abroad. 


Bullets Over Broadway The Musical

'Bullets Over Broadway' (from here on 'Bullets') is the ultimate in Musical pastiche. Set in the 1920's, it tells the story of a struggling playwright and his first chance to direct his own work on the Great White Way. 

First, the book is superb. While Woody Allen is not everyone’s taste, he is an undeniable master of quick wit, especially when it involves crazy New Yorkers. ‘Bullets’ could have so easily been a play rather than a musical but Allen seemingly understood that adding music would make the show just that bit more alive. The songs, while not all original, give the characters that extra little bit of heart and help to justify the, at times, completely over-the-top dialogue and action. 

Performance wise, ‘Bullets’ features no weak link. Betsy Wolfe as ‘Eden’ and Marin Mazzie as Helen Sinclair deliver a vocal masterclass for the modern Musical Theatre. Each has control and energy that astounds and surprises at every moment. Zach Braff as our hero, David Shayne, optimises the crazy New York Jewish writer. His breathtaking comic timing and constant urgency make him an absolutely frenetic watch in the best way possible. The outstanding cast member though is Nick Cordero as the loveable henchman, Cheech. Vocally, Cordero has the chops to pull off everything asked of him, and he manages to make a real dislikable character, so very, very loveable (as most of Woody Allen’s ‘evil’ characters should be).

The piece is also superbly directed and choreographed by Susan Stroman who seems to have an innate understanding of what pastiche should feel like on stage. Not once does it become predictable or cliche. It feels as if we are transported back in time to a musical comedy of the era, just with all the bells and whistles of contemporary theatre technology thrown in! 

'Bullets' is an absolute Broadway triumph and one which no Musical Theatre lover should miss if they get a chance! 


If/Then

'If/Then' is a musical about how the choices we make, alter the lives we lead. While not a new concept, instead of focusing on major decisions, it focuses on the little ones; do I go to lunch or to a party? In this way, our central character, Beth, meets different people at different points in her life and the outcomes are massively varied. 

Musically, the show is decent, but not overly exciting. Tom Kitt’s score is at times a little one dimensional, sticking to an indie pop sound throughout. Brian Yorkey’s lyrics tell the story, but are more descriptive than narrative, meaning that the plot only really progresses through the script. The best thing about the score is the way it is sung by an incredibly strong vocal cast. Idina Menzel sings Beth beautifully; soft at times, big and belted when necessary. She is beautifully committed to the character’s ups and downs and gives a spectacularly emotional performance. Anthony Rapp as ‘Lucas’ delivers a very similar character to Mark in ‘Rent’. He fights for the rights of the downtrodden of New York and the character is, at times, a little too good to like. However, once again, the role is sung brilliantly, and he manages to get as much from the material as possible. 

The cast standout though, is LaChanze as Beth’s best friend, Kate. Kate is your classic New Yorker; big, proud, brash and loud. Her overwhelming positivity in the beginning is beautifully contrasted by her reactions to several plot points during the show and she delivers a masterful vocal performance. 

The design of the show is beautiful, featuring a ton of glass and steel pieces that move fluently to create a huge number of different locations. Without this, the audience could well have been very confused about the various settings that the characters scream through. 

Overall, it is an enjoyable show, if a little disappointing of a follow up to ‘Next to Normal’ for Kitt and Yorkey. Definitely worth seeing for the performances though, and a great first show!


Linda Lavin and Billy Stritch @ Birdland

Last time I was in New York I saw a cabaret from Linda Lavin in midtown which was essentially a compilation of favourite songs played to a crowd of very passionate fans and friends. This evening was a little different.

With this new show, MD’d by Billy Stritch, the songs tell the story of her career from the ‘downstairs’ shows in New York in the early 60’s, to Florida and then through her TV days. 

Lavin is remarkably comfortable on stage, easy going with her audience and incredibly secure. You trust what she is doing. I did find myself however, wanting more music. When she did sing, she was incredibly moving. The highlight of the evening was a beautiful version of Cy Coleman’s ‘I’m in Love Again’ which complimented both her voice and the beautifully balanced sound of the quartet behind her. Stritch’s eloquence on the piano is something to behold and his playing in this tune alone makes the whole show worth seeing. 

Later in the evening, Lavin was joined by young Jazz violinist, Aaron Weinstein who plays with a real urgency and provided a welcome contrast from what had come before. His solo at the end of the evening over ‘How High The Moon’ was superb.

A thoroughly enjoyable evening at Birdland. 


Gonna Be Alright

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Julian has just released his first original track on Soundcloud! ‘Gonna Be Alright’ was co-written with Tim Lockwood and features Lockwood on Guitar, Kuo on vocals, Callum Eggins on Bass and Raph Strazz on Drums. Check it out at the link below!

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The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee - ON SALE NOW!

The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee – ON SALE NOW!

SPELLING BEE

Tickets to Exclaim Theatre Company’s production of ‘The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee’ are now on sale through eventbrite.com! The show runs at Australia Hall, 23rd May – 1st June.

Make sure to click the link below and get your tickets now, they are not going to last! All tickets are $20.

Tickets from…

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Private functionsHad a great time playing at Jo’s Surprise birthday today! Live music can add that little extra…View Post

Private functions

Had a great time playing at Jo’s Surprise birthday today! Live music can add that little extra…

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Sovereign Room @ The Star

New dates announced for Julian Kuo and Casey Golden at the Star! Join us on the 21st and 28th February at the Sovereign Room!

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Oasis Lounge

For all those members of the Oasis Lounge and the Sovereign Room, come down to the Star on Monday or Tuesday next week between 11:30am and 2:30pm for a bit of Jazz and easy listening with Julian and Casey Golden! 

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Broadway Bard Selected to compete in the Your Theatrics International Cabaret Contest!Broadway Bard, written and directed by Melvyn Morrow, Starring Julian Kuo, with Choreography with…View Post

Broadway Bard Selected to compete in the Your Theatrics International Cabaret Contest!

Broadway Bard, written and directed by Melvyn Morrow, Starring Julian Kuo, with Choreography with…

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