Photography by Sarah Walker, Jodie Hutchinson, and Nick Simpson-Deeks
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Watch This is a community of artists and arts managers with a shared vision and a wealth of professional experience in their respective fields. Our debut production of Assassins in 2013 was a first step towards launching a Sondheim repertory company - an Australian first, creating opportunities for artists and audiences to regularly explore an extraordinary, diverse and challenging body of work by one of the undisputed masters of contemporary music theatre.
We are passionate about creating exciting, immediate theatrical experiences for audiences. We are also committed to ensuring that these experiences are available to as many people as possible - a philosophy that informs the relatively simple matter of ticket pricing to more complex touring proposals!
The sell-out success of our 2013 production of Assassins is testament to this commitment, our collective expertise and our capacity to forge relationships and garner support for piloting a micro-tour in 2014.
Also in 2014, Watch This produced Pacific Overtures at Theatre Works to rapturous critical acclaim. Time Out and Theatre People awarded the production four stars, Theatre Press declared it a "theatrical tour de force" and it received rave reviews in The Australian, The Observer, Stage Whispers. [More critical acclaim for Pacific Overtures here.]
Watch This founder and Artistic Director, Sonya Suares, has worked extensively in the arts as a performer and producer. She is also the current Artistic Coordinator of Monash
University’s undergraduate theatre program and from 2009 to 2012 was General Manager of Red Stitch Actors Theatre. All productions to date have been produced in partnership with Auspicious Arts Projects and proudly supported by Lyngala Foundation.
Assassins, by Stephen Sondheim & John Weidman
Directed by Tyran Parke, Music Direction by Luke Byrne
Amidst the lurid debris of a traveling carnival, a Proprietor invites nine would-be Assassins to step up to the mark and hit the target in return for a glittering prize. As he hands out guns with a glib invitation, "c'mere and kill a President", we are introduced to a collection of America's most disturbing characters from John Wilkes Booth to Lee Harvey Oswald. This killer black comedy takes a provocative lens to the dreams, distortions and delusions of nine infamous Americans.
This outstanding debut production by Watch This received three Green Room Award nominations including Best Musical Direction, Luke Byrne, and Best Supporting Actors, Matt Holly and Nick Simpson-Deeks.
Featuring: Mark Dickinson, Nadine Garner, Shelli Jean Grant, Matt Holly, Nic Kyle, Martin Lane, Luigi Lucente, Shane Nagle, Jennifer Reed, Nick Simpson-Deeks, Tod Strike, Sonya Suares, Aaron Tsindos and Leighton Young
Special Guest: Matthew Cook
Musicians: Ashley Carter, Simon D'Aquino, Curtis Reardon, Allison Wright
Set and Costume Design: Crisanne Fox
Lighting Design: Rob Sowinski
Production Manager: Jenn Taylor
Stage Manager/Operator: Alison Huth
Presented April 10 - 21, 2013 at Fortyfivedownstairs in partnership with Auspicious Arts Projects by arrangement with Hal Leonard Australia Pty Ltd.
Proudly supported by Lyngala Foundation and Opera & Arts Support Group.
Pacific Overtures, by Stephen Sondheim & John Weidman
Directed by Alister Smith, Choregraphy by Michael Ralph, Music Direction by Robyn Womersley
The end of the world is coming.
It is 1853 and American warships are poised in the waters around Japan. A fisherman and a minor samurai are dispatched to 'stop the boats' and hold back the tide of Western incursion – at stake is a way of life.
Stephen Sondheim’s extraordinary epic is hysterically funny one moment and deeply moving the next, as it explores the forces of cultural change in two hours of highly charged theatre.
Featuring: Bianca Baykara, Anton Berezin, Reece Budin, Emma Clair Ford, Jacqui Hoy, Andrew Kroenert, Adrian Li Donni, Noni McCallum, Tim Paige, Nick Simpson-Deeks, Elenor Smith Adams, Sonya Suares and Leighton Young
Musicians: Daniele Buatti, Aaron Klein and Lara Wilson
Set Design: Eugyeene Teh
Costume Design: Chloe Greaves
Lighting Design: Rob Sowinski
Production Managers: Linda Hum and Tanje Ruddick
Stage Manager/Operator: Mel Moldrich
Presented February 20 – March 9, 2014 in association with Manilla Street Productions, Theatre Works and Auspicious Arts Projects by arrangement with Hal Leonard Australia Pty Ltd.
Proudly supported by Lyngala Foundation.
We are thrilled to announce that following our sell-out season of Assassins at Fortyfivedownstairs in 2013, we are poised to take the production on the road for a two-week tour in October. A black comedy that explores the dark side of manifest destiny narratives, Assassins brings together an outstanding cast and creative team and received three Green Room nominations for its 2013 Melbourne season.
The 2014 Assassins micro-tour is a bold experiment and one squarely aimed at offering a unique opportunity for regional Presenters and audiences to engage with a sophisticated work by one of the undisputed masters of contemporary music theatre.
In partnership with Regional Arts Victoria and Auspicious Arts Projects, Watch This are piloting a new model at the direct invitation of Presenters who approached the company to bring provocative, independent music theatre with high production values to audiences who would not otherwise see such performances in their own communities.
The 2014 Assassins tour is proudly supported by Touring Victoria and the Australian Cultural Fund. Donate now to help get us on the road!
"'Everybody’s got the right to their dreams!' With these deceivingly sunny words we are drawn into the grim world of Stephen Sondheim's Assassins, a dark twisted carnival in which the murderers of history exist in a fantastical purgatory… Mark Dickinson as John Wilkes Booth brings a sonorous baritone and combination of Southern and Satanic charm to the role, quietly commanding every scene he enters. Nadine Garner is pitch perfect as Sarah Jane Moore, one of the two ladies who attempted to kill Gerald Ford, and her scenes with Sonya Suares as Lynette Fromme are a comic delight. The rest of the cast deliver solid performances… Director Tyran Parke is to be commended for his direction of the show, and his vision shines through strongly in the assassins' individual songs and scenes … Parke and the cast do a fantastic job of humanising the characters and mining the comedic potential of the material."
— Bradley Storer, Theatre Press
"This production, by new company Watch This, captures the bizarre nature of the characters and the wry humour, political satire and moral commentary of the script. […] In a compelling, abstract world, killers from different time periods collide, sing about their obsessions, explain their motives through monologues, scenes and songs, including the poignant November 22, 1963, in which people recall where they were when Kennedy was shot. […] Nadine Garner's bold, comic characterisation of failed assassin, Sara Jane Moore, is hilarious, and her comic timing and delivery are deliciously wicked. Luigi Lucente gives a compassionate, complex portrayal of Leon Czolgosz, the downtrodden factory worker who kills President McKinley as a political statement."
— Kate Herbert, The Herald Sun
"Director Tyran Parke has done remarkably well with this production of Sondheim's lesser-known Assassins, first staged off-Broadway in 1990 and locally by the Melbourne Theatre Company in 1995. […] The final numbers are brilliantly realised. […]This is social critique with high kicks and harmonies."
— Rebecca Harkins-Cross, The Age
"Weidman's book sparkles like it was written yesterday, but the showpiece here really is Sondheim's score. Twenty-three years after its off-Broadway debut, it still packs a mean punch. […] Nick Simpson-Deeks as The Balladeer — who has possibly the prettiest voice in musical theatre — gets the best material in the show, sharing The Ballad of Booth and The Ballad of Guiteau with the respective assassins, and busts out his masterful acting chops in his eleven-o-clock transformation into Lee Harvey Oswald. Nadine Garner as the manic, gangly Sarah Jane Moore is phenomenal. Her brilliantly bizarre line readings and switchblade-sharp timing are as good as anything on a Broadway stage. Aaron Tsindos as Charles Guiteau, is marvellous. You can’t take your eyes off his demented, egomanical, smiley-faced soft-shoe. Matt Holly is heartbreakingly good as John Hinckley, Jr. […] Shane Nagle as Samuel Byck delivers an incredible performance […] The reveal of entirely different set pieces and a backdrop — the raw, window-laden wall of the space itself — towards the end of the show is brilliant […] This is the first professional production of the show since the MTC did it in 1995; don’t wait 18 years for another one."
— Byron Bache, Crikey
"Mark Dickinson's portrayal of John Wilkes Booth struck the perfect note between hilarity and tragic irony. […] He inhabited the role of the vain actor so completely that the audience felt as if they were living within the character. The duet, The Ballad of Booth, performed by Dickinson and Nick Simpson-Deeks, as the balladeer, was impeccable. […] Aaron Tsindos gave a brilliant performance as Charles Guiteau, endearing all the way to the gallows. […] Nadine Garner proved she has great skill as a comedic theatre performer with possibly the best part of the book, Sarah Jane Moore. She wonderfully brought to life a sad and forgotten housewife whom it was impossible for the audience not to love. Her comic timing was impeccable. And while we're on the topic of impeccable comic timing, Shane Nagle rates a special mention. As a struggling Santa Claus and would be Nixon assassin, Nagle delivered his monologues with such pathos that you almost found yourself rooting for him to succeed in his plot. […] The set design was interesting - a carnival like environment artfully created with a shooting gallery of men in suits with targets for head, representing each president. […] Assassins is well worth the cost of admission to see the performances from the entire ensemble who managed to fully entertain for the duration."
— L.B. Bermingham, Stage Whispers
"This Melbourne production […is] a disciplined and tightly choreographed satirical drama. Even its clichés seem original and persuasive. The ensemble work - vocally and physically - is especially good. As the unnamed narrator, Anton Berezin has a load-bearing role. And he inspires complete confidence. Adrian Li Donni is an engaging Kayama Yasaemon […] In a variety of roles, Noni McCallum is scintillating. She epitomises the spirit of the production with her reckless confidence in the material, her bright character and sharp sense of fun."
— Chris Boyd, The Australian
"Pacific Overtures […] is a theatrical tour de force. The cast are so strong both dramatically and vocally that it is extremely difficult to pick and outstanding performance […] Director Alister Smith, along with choreographer Michael Ralph, have done an exemplary job of building the striking, dramatic images that make up this epic tale. […] In a quieter moment, the song 'Poems' spins together the heart-meltingly lyrical tenors of tenors of [Adrian Li] Donni and Nick Simpson-Deeks into a sequence of heart ravishing loveliness. This production of Pacific Overtures is a seemless meeting of dramatic intensity, musical beauty and compelling story performed by a highly skilled company of actors and handled by an endlessly inventive creative team!"
"This production […] is perfectly pitched, eschewing the oversized cut-outs of the original for a stripped-back elegance that suits the show and the Theatre Works space. Eugyeene Teh's set is simplicity itself, a painted white circle and a series of screens, brought ingenuously to life by Michael Ralph’s choreography. […] The direction by Alister Smith is sensitive and confident. The Peter Brooks-inspired use of red ribbon to suggest blood is appropriate, and has a handsome pay-off in the final, chilling number 'Next'. The leads are all strong with Li Donni and Simpson-Deeks in fine voice. The ensemble are also impressive, especially the women. Noni McCallum is stunning in a number of roles and Sonya Suares delivers a monologue in Act 2 that is a study in high rhetoric."
— Tim Byrne, Time Out Melbourne
"Eugyeene Teh's set is attractive, featuring a large, white painted ensō: a circle drawn in one handstroke which symbolises the moment the mind is free to let the body create. Above it hang bamboo branches, filled with lights, which in the second act are lit red and blue, symbolising the encroachment of American culture on Japan […] the effect is stunning thanks to Rob Sowinski's lighting."
— Ben Neutz, Crikey
"Director Alister Smith has elicited focused, committed performances from the cast […] Choreographer Michael Ralph has again demonstrated his signature strength for tight, inventive, character-focused choreography with particularly strong and interesting work in placement. […] Musical director Robyn Womersley's efforts with the singing have allowed the fiendishly difficult score to sound natural and generally effortless. The four musicians sound like several more, with special mention going to Lara Wilson for bringing to life the fascinating range of sounds in the percussion score. […] Designers Eugyeene Teh and Chloe Greaves have clearly worked closely to achieve a synergistic match between sets (Teh) and costumes (Greaves), in fact one could be excused for thinking the design was all by one person. […] Rob Sowinski's lighting enhances the design, particularly the creation of shadow images […] Anton Berezin uses his mellifluous vocal tones and gentle but commanding presence to excellent effect as the Reciter. Noni McCallum demonstrates her delightful flair for understated comedy [...] Adrian Li Donni and Nick Simpson-Deeks are well paired as east/west duo Kayama and Manjirō […] Jacqui Hoy delivers the wicked twist in 'Chrysanthemum Tea' with terrific storytelling skills […] Bianca Baykara is a moving heroine for the of dastardly undertones 'Pretty Lady' [...] Leighton Young has a strong and convincing presence in a range of roles. Sonya Suares shows her skills in conveying delicately expressive physical and facial gestures, gaining sympathy, in particular, for Kayama's ill-fated wife Tamate. […] Sondheim enthusiasts will certainly not want to miss seeing this production."
— Simon Parris, Theatre People
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Freshmint Theatre is dedicated to the production of outstanding and dynamic theatre with a unique voice and contemporary relevance. It is a new initiative under the Watch This banner, aligned in its philosophies but distinct from the production of Sondheim repertoire.
Watch This Space.