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.
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.
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.
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.