I am a Melbourne-based theatre reviewer. When the world is not in the grip of a pandemic, I travel extensively, reviewing shows in Sydney, New York and London each year.
I reviewed for Theatre People for eight years, establishing coverage of professional music theatre, opera and ballet productions for the site. I reviewed theatre for the Sunday Herald Sun for two years, until their review department closed.
I served on the Music Theatre Guild of Victoria Committee for five years as Treasurer, and was on the Board of The Opera Studio Melbourne for four years.
I have appeared in around 40 productions over the past thirty years. Favourite roles include Eugene Fodor in Crazy for You, Mr Fox in Mack and Mabel, Max in The Sound of Music, Freddy in My Fair Lady, Julio in Paint Your Wagon, Marcellus in The Music Man and Grantaire in Les Miserables.
I have directed and/or choreographed 20 secondary school productions. Highlights include directing the Australian premiere of Jason Robert Brown’s 13 at the Malthouse and choreographing Urinetown at the Athenaeum Theatre.
Man in Chair is proudly advertisement-free: for your enjoyment and my independence.
Simon, I was talking to a friend ( Jakki Gibson ) whose brother Jacob Gibson is working on Singin in the Rain. Jakki was reading the reviews and came across your review . Jakki and Jacob both went to Marian. Jakki remembers you from school. I am not surprised that you are in theatre. You were destined to be around actors. Cheers Donna
How lovely to hear from you Donna. I’m impressed with Jakki’s long memory! Singin in the Rain is a fantastic production – Jakki should get you tickets. Hope all is really well with you. Best wishes, Simon
Stumbled across your Carols by Candlelight tweet. You may remember that I sat next to you for a year or so at Mt Lilydale before you moved to St Michael’s (or was it St Kevin’s?) Are you still teaching or have you moved fully into theatre reviewing? I have been at Ringwood Secondary College for 10 years. Not having your talent, I have headed the makeup team for all our productions. Hope you are well.
Hi Simon. just saw your name under a pic of CARMEN. I have a friend whose grandchild is in the show. small world. I hope you are well and happy! Di de Munk
Lovely to hear from you Di. I hope all is well with you. Carmen is a wonderful production and the children’s chorus is excellent. I love the way the arts brings so many people together.
Simon – interested in your views on the list of new musicals for Melbourne in 2017/2018. Mostly revivals. Brigadoon should be interesting and Beautiful has been well reviewed but it would be great to see something less predictable than the mix ahead.
You are right about the number of revivals, Rob.
Brigadoon is a real charmer, and o am looking forward to seeing it back on stage again.
I feel a bit disappointed to have Mamma Mia!, Priscilla and Jersey Boys all coming back. These have all been well exposed here already but meanwhile there are any number of new Broadway musicals not seen yet.
The revival of Evita is the one I am most excited about – I really love that show.
Beautiful and Dream Lover are both great for nostalgia for audience members of a certain age, though they are not necessarily my favourite type of musicals.
Independent companies take more of a chance, e.g. Memphis coming up soon at StageArt, but hoping to see some other local premieres announced in the upcoming months!
I am a rusted on aficiando of musical theatre. I really appreciate your informed and diverse reviews of theatre of all genres. You perform a unique and comprehensive service which is unmatched in my experience. Fortunately, Melbourne and its links to beyond is a perfect place to be. Congratulations!
Thanks very much for these kind words, Rob. Glad to have your support. I agree that Melbourne hosts a wonderful range of theatrical productions. For arts lovers, it is the place to be!
Thank you, Simon, for advocating the mounting of a more refreshing program of musical theatre. Your suggestions plus Fun Home, Ragtime, The Scottsboro Boys, The Visit, Bandstand, Road Show. I know there are casting complexities.
Let’s not do the Time Warp again!
Do you think Anastasia would run in Australia? The Flaherty/ Ahrens music and lyrics for Ragtime are so impressive and their crafted work in Anastasia is underrated in my view (based on several listenings).
Hi Rob, I presume you’ve seen my review for Anastasia on here. I adore Ragtime, and I’m so thrilled that The Production Company is doing it this year. Anastasia would surely work well in Australia. It’s been a great success on Broadway, and the projected scenery makes it relatively inexpensive to travel. Plus we have Caroline O’Connor here to star in her Broadway role. Hope we see Anastasia here before too long.
I recently ‘discovered’ an OBC recording (on Spotify) I had never heard of before called “Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812”. I believe it’s about 4 years now since it closed on Broadway, but I was blown away by how clever and innovative the music and lyrics were to my ears. I am aware it is based on a 70 page slice out of Tolstoy’s “War and Peace” (“where everyone’s got nine different names”) and that definitely helped me in understanding the characters and plot without having the luxury of the visuals. I understand it was staged in a Cabaret theatre styling with the audience seated at tables and the cast wandering and performing among the tables and various stairways. I was wondering if you’d share with us your honest views of this work, and whether or not you think it would still work as a traditional stage musical, in a traditional theatre setting for a brave theatre company that was looking for something completely different?
Hi Albert, thanks for this comment. I have actually reviewed Great Comet on Broadway: https://simonparrismaninchair.com/2017/04/13/natasha-pierre-and-the-great-comet-of-1812-review/
Your description of the show and its staging is very accurate. Hot Russian pasties were given out at one point, and audience members were given “shakers” to add percussion at one point. There would be a slight loss of atmosphere in a traditional pro-arch theatre, but it would still be perfectly viable.
Keep in mind that it would be important to “sell” the audience on the characters / story. The Broadway production had a clever method of introduction – they made large posters about each character and put them along a fence in the street outside the theatre so that while the audience lined up to enter, they read the posters and were introduced to the world of the show.
Best wishes for your adventurous planning, Simon