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Preview of Josephine Wants to Dance, Review of The One Ken Longworth

BOUND TO IMPRESS: A scene from Josephine Wants to Dance, directed by Jonathan Biggins, which is coming to the Civic. Photo: Heidrun Lohr.WHEN Jonathan Biggins was asked by Sydney’s Monkey Baa Theatre Company to stage an adaptation of the popular children’s picture-book story Josephine Wants to Dance he realised that he needed the help of a ballet choreographer.
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The title character is a kangaroo who loves to dance. Her little brother, Joey, tells her that kangaroos don’t dance, they hop, but Josephine continues to point her toes and leap through the air. And when a ballet troupe comes to the sleepy town of Shaggy Gully, Josephine is wide-eyed and open-mouthed when she watches the dancers rehearse their very elegant movements and wishes that she could join them on stage. Subsequent unexpected events lead to Josephine putting herself forward to the unsmiling Russian dance director.

Jonathan Biggins approached the n Ballet about a choreographer and their resident choreographer, Tim Harbour, took on the role.

Biggins also got composer and lyricist Phillip Scott, who has worked with him on the Wharf Revues, to put together a bright collection of songs and backing music.

This is the second-time Newcastle-raised actor-writer-director Biggins has put together for Monkey Baa’s writers and producers Eva Di Cesare, Sandra Eldridge and Tim McGarry an adaptation of a children’s book by author Jackie French and illustrator Bruce Whatley, and like that one, 2014’s Pete the Sheep, it looks like being a big hit with children and adults alike.

Its current premiere Sydney season will be followed by a national tour that will include shows at Wyong’s Art House from May 14 to 16, Newcastle’s Civic Theatre on May 17 and 18, and Cessnock Performing Arts Centre on May 22. Two May 15 matinees of the 45-minute show at Wyong have already sold out, as has one of two matinees at Cessnock.

Likewise, two Newcastle matinees on May 18 are close to full. The matinees have attracted big junior school parties.

The show has four actor-singer-dancers, with three playing multiple roles as colourful and very different characters. And they wear a mix of very different costumes.

Rebecca Hetherington, as Josephine, and Hayden Rodgers, as brother Joey, wear furry costumes with bouncy tails.

Rodgers is also a snooty dancer, who performs as the Prince in a Swan Lake scene, a demanding costume maker, and one of a pair of brolgas who give Josephine dance lessons.

Chloe Dallimore is the other brolga, one of two dizzy lyrebirds, and the demanding ballet company director, with Amanda Laing as the other lyrebird, Shaggy Gully’s town clerk, and a ballerina who suffers an injury during a rehearsal.

Theatre ReviewThe OneTantrum Youth Arts, at King Edward ParkEnded SundayTHIS show opened appropriately with the ensemble of more than 20 young performers, aged eight to 20, appearing from behind the King Edward Park Rotunda in black garb with bright gold trimmings and singingThe One,a classic song about people finding the person they love. The following action kept switching between various spots in front of the rotunda, including a table and chairs in what turned out to be a coffee venue, a kitchen table with a bowl and implements used in preparing food, a spot in a school yard, and a white pedestal on which a woman in elegant white garb stood.

The hour-long show, with musical backing by a string quartet, showed how five young people saw themselves as very much the one: a hatted poet (Conagh Punch) at the coffee table, trying to woo a young woman; the “pedestal princess” (Sofie Dennis) bemoaning the way people see her as perfect and she’s left alone; a lively girl (Phoebe Turnbull) who views herself as a musical star rehearsing and auditioning; a schoolboy (Bailey Ackling-Beecham) who keeps trying to give a rose to a girl he is attracted to; and a young woman (Alexandra Rose) who looks back to the fairy tale stories of her childhood, amusingly performed by ensemble members, while getting a meal ready.

The performers and staging team, headed by Lucy Shepherd, overall made this engaging, though the background action sometimes slowed the telling.

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