ROME The Musical

Circa One, Circa Theatre, 1 Taranaki St, Waterfront, Wellington

21/06/2008 - 29/07/2008

Production Details



You are invited to a fun-packed evening of lust, greed and murder. Welcome to the Caesars! And a Roman feast of power, politics and intrigue.

The creators of Troy and Monarchy complete their trilogy of historical musicals with a wildly inaccurate romp through the Roman Empire. The Events of decades are condensed into the space of just one evening, when Julius Caesar hosts a dinner party that is interrupted by the arrival of the infamous and exotic Cleopatra.

Rome – The Musical – with Gareth Farr’s shamelessly hedonistic music and Paul Jenden’s wickedly licentious lyrics, a dream cast and a brand new 5-piece orchestra of top Wellington musicians.

Bring a healthy appetite and indulge yourself in Roman extravagance, but don’t touch the grapes…

CAST:
Christina Cusiel, Jason Ward Kennedy, Lyndee-Jane Rutherford, Martyn Wood, Emma Kinane, Jeff Kingsford-Brown, Sarah Lineham, Julian Wilson and Louis Solino.

ORCHESTRA:
Debbie Rawson/Tui Clarke (Clarinet), Hayden Sinclair (Bass Clarinet), Rebekah Greig (Accordian), Slava Fainitski (Violin) and Rich Wise (Percussion).

Performance times:
Tuesday & Wednesday 6.30pm
Thursday, Friday, Saturday 8pm
Sunday 4pm

Ticket Prices:
Adults $38
Students, Senior Citizens & beneficiaries $30
Friends (until 3 July) $28
Groups 6+ $32 each
Groups 100+ $29 each
Student stand-by $18
$20 Preview Fri 20 Jun (Sold Out)
$20 Special Sun 22 June (Sold Out)   

BOOKINGS:  Circa Theatre, 1 Taranaki Street, Wellington
Phone 801 7992  |  www.circa.co.nz


DRAMATIS PERSONAE:
Julius Caesar:  Jeff Kingsford-Brown
Calpurnia (Caesar's wife):  Emma Kinane
Octavian (Caesar's nephew):  Julian Wilson
Mark Antony (Caesar's Lieutenant):  Jason Ward Kennedy
Octavia (Octavian's sister and Mark Antony's wife):  Lyndee-Jane Rutherford
Brutus (Caesar's protégé):  Martyn Wood
Cleopatra, Queen of Egypt:  Christina Cusiel
A Soothsayer:  Sarah Lineham
A Slave:  Louis Solino

BAND:
Clarinet:  Debbie Rawson / Tui Clarke
Bass Clarinet:  Hayden Sinclair
Accordion:  Rebekah Greig
Violin:  Slava Fainitski
Percussion:  Richie Wise

DESIGN:
Set Design:  JOHN HODGKINS
Costume Design:  PAUL JENDEN
Lighting Design: J ENNIFER LAL
Sound Design:  IAN HULL-BROWN

PRODUCTION TEAM:
Stage Manager:  Eric Gardiner
Lighting Operator:  Deb McGuire
Sound Operator:  Dawa Devereux
Rehearsal Pianists:  Mark Dorrell, Fiona McCabe
Costume Production:  Paul Jenden
Set Construction:  Iain Cooper, John Hodgkins
Paint Finishing:  Therese Eberhard
Publicity:  Claire Treloar
Graphic Design:  Rose Miller, Toolbox
Photography:  Stephen A'Court
Dramaturgy:  Susan Wilson
House Manager:  Suzanne Blackburn
Box Office:  Linda Wilson 



2 hrs (approx), incl. interval

When in Rome

Review by Elspeth Sandys 14th Jul 2008

Rome: The Musical more than lives up to the expectations created by its two predecessors, Troy and Monarchy. The standing ovation it received on opening night, at the end of two hours of laughter and foot-tapping, was richly deserved.

But there is more to Rome than the high jinks served up by composer Gareth Farr and writer/director/choreographer Paul Jenden. Threaded throughout this historically inventive story of Julius Caesar’s murder, and the downfall of Anthony and Cleopatra, are serious observations about the nature of power and its effect on the lives of ordinary and not so ordinary mortals. [More]

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Musicals are silly

Review by Jackson Coe 07th Jul 2008

I once had a drama teacher who despised musical theatre. A great man who appreciated all of theatre’s subtleties, I was always confused by his outright disdain for the genre. Musicals are just supposed to be fun, aren’t they? Who cares if they’re silly, aren’t they supposed to be entertainment? Sadly, Rome – The Musical, playing at Circa, has shown me exactly what Mr Chivers meant. Potentially epic in scope and lavish in execution, this show was lacking in both respects and did absolutely nothing for me.

The tales of the classical age are romantic and powerful. This is why they lend themselves so well to Shakespearean tragedy, and even Hollywood films – they are exciting and evoke strong and passionate emotions. Why, then, does Rome deny us these? Caesar, the mighty Roman Emperor stabbed in the back at the foot of the Roman senate, died a silly death to a whiny Brutus. Et tu, Brute, (You too, Brutus) he sings, even though Brutus is the only conspirator present.

The show has the potential for some incredible stage machinery and set design. I would have loved some curtains to pull back, revealing a lavish Roman palace full of togas and other epic period costumes. Instead, we were given a tubby Caesar wearing some sort of psychedelic jacket – cool in its own right, but ultimately undermining our ability to feel a part of the story. The music was okay; only once or twice did I detect someone trying to slip in an extra syllable.

Sadly, Mr Chivers was right all along. Musicals are silly. Were Rome to take itself a bit more seriously, no, a lot more seriously, it may have been worth seeing.

The tales of the classical age are romantic and powerful. This is why they lend themselves so well to Shakespearean tragedy, and even Hollywood films – they are exciting and evoke strong and passionate emotions. Why, then, does Rome deny us these? Caesar, the mighty Roman Emperor stabbed in the back at the foot of the Roman senate, died a silly death to a whiny Brutus. Et tu, Brute, (You too, Brutus) he sings, even though Brutus is the only conspirator present.

The show has the potential for some incredible stage machinery and set design. I would have loved some curtains to pull back, revealing a lavish Roman palace full of togas and other epic period costumes. Instead, we were given a tubby Caesar wearing some sort of psychedelic jacket – cool in its own right, but ultimately undermining our ability to feel a part of the story. The music was okay; only once or twice did I detect someone trying to slip in an extra syllable.

Sadly, Mr Chivers was right all along. Musicals are silly. Were Rome to take itself a bit more seriously, no, a lot more seriously, it may have been worth seeing.

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Not a toga in sight

Review by Garth Wilshere 07th Jul 2008

Rome – The Musical is the "hot-ticket" show in town.

It’s the third collaboration on historical themes, after Troy – The Musical and last year’s Monarchy – The Musical, between writer/director Paul Jenden and composer Gareth Farr. And it is the most accomplished and sophisticated.

This is a brilliant collaboration – completely through-sung and more complex in story and music than the previous two.

It is set in the courtyard of Julius Caesar’s house on the night of a banquet in March, 44 BC ("Beware The Ides of March"). The seven key protagonists are present.

John Hodgkins’ arc of columns back of stage with a statue of Romulus and Remus atop, decaying classical ruins at either side and an under-lit rectangular pool with blood-red banners with golden eagle icons flanking the stage makes the effective set.

As always Jenden’s costumes are resplendent in colour, construction and variety, and not a toga in sight!

This is a more serious, tightly structured piece with Jenden’s trademark clever, well researched, and droll lyrics, with plenty of satirical wit. There are great songs in this more operatic treatment of history, supported by some of Gareth Farr’s best instrumental writing and song settings.

The five-piece ensemble with plangent clarinet and bubbling bass clarinet, piquant accordion, strong rhythmic drive from percussion and plaintive violin, and Kletzma-like band sounds produced wonderful tonal colour.

Costumed in vaudevillian, commedia dell’arte style their entrance as they play the overture says it all.

The sinuous Soothsayer (Sarah Lineham) foretells the pending doom, and like a puppet-master often orchestrated the action.

Every performer is a standout and Emma Kinnane’s Calpurnia delivers her brilliant song Tough with delicious aplomb. Hilarious comic relief is provided by Lyndee-Jane Rutherford’s Octavia and queenly elegance and wit comes from Christina Cusiel’s Cleopatra, whose entrance is worth the price of admission alone. Jason Ward Kennedy (Mark Antony) and Martyn Wood (Brutus) are equally strong.

Presiding over it all is Jeff Kingsford-Brown’s cynical, lip-curling tyrant of a Julius Caesar, resplendent in his coat of many colours, trimmed with regal blue feathers.
The danger of touching grapes (not to mention assassination), comes too late for all except the brilliantly played Octavian of Julian Wilson.

The ensemble singing is terrific and the political overtones of the final chorus brilliantly effective.

Throughout all the action is the pervading and swirling presence of A Slave, Louis Solino in brilliant form, his gestures encapsulating the tone of the whole enterprise.

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Political intrigue with alacrity

Review by John Smythe 23rd Jun 2008

While TROY The Musical and MONARCHY The Musical were epic in scale, ROME The Musical is, theatrically, a more distilled tale. TROY traverses the whole nine years of the Trojan Wars, MONARCHY reviews 12 centuries of British royalty, and ROME compresses events that actually occurred over several years into one fateful night, the Ides of March 44BC, at Caesar’s palace.

Actually, while Sarah Lineham’s Soothsayer opens the show with a warning to ‘Beware The Ides of March’, the full cast tells us ‘It’s Great to be Roman in 50BC’ – but hey, that scans better that 44BC. Or maybe they are distinguishing the heyday of the first political triumvirate, just before Rome’s great military and political leader Julius Caesar became its first dictator (in 49BC).

Fidelity to the precise details of Ancient Roman History is not the point, however. What drives this wickedly satirical tragi-comic take on history is the whys and wherefores of political intrigue and how they reflect the world we live in now. As with TROY and MONARCHY, the focus is not on the big events but on the humanly fallible people: what makes them do as they do; get done as they’re done.

Again all is encapsulated in Paul Jenden’s wonderfully witty lyrics set to Gareth Farr’s marvellously lively music, played by a splendid five-piece band – conducted by Lineham, who is assistant musical director to Michael Vinten – and sung with impeccable clarity and skill by a cast of actor/singers that is, as they say, ‘to die for’.

Julius Caesar (Jeff Kingsford-Brown) tells us he is "just a humble sort of person" who has worked his way up and has been obliged, by public pressure, to rule alone. He’s a father figure to all, especially his nephew Octavian (Julian Wilson) and lieutenant Mark Antony (Jason Ward Kennedy). And he and his wife Calpurnia (Emma Kinane) get along just fine – "We’re you and me, like a dog and flea" sings she – even if he is susceptible to other women turned on by power, like Mark Antony’s wife Octavia (Lyndee-Jane Rutherford).

The other guest at Caesar’s table is his protégé Brutus (Martyn Wood), whose motto is ‘When in Rome …(etc)" while he bides his time. And they all seem to want to ‘suckle at Caesar’s breast’, casting him as the mother wolf to their collective Romulus and Remus, the founders of Rome – although only one became king (Romulus slew Remus, thus their city became Rome, not Reme) which pretty well set the tone for ‘succession by assassination’.

Caesar’s absolute power has not so much corrupted him as those who crave not only his indulgence but a bigger slice of the power pie for themselves. If this emperor is guilty of anything it is, perhaps, complacency; being out of touch in a palace apart from the people where feasting – to the point of vomiting – is the rule.

The surprise guest at his party is the formidable Egyptian Queen Cleopatra (Christina Cusiel). Even though she concedes "My face is a bit of a failure / I’m not like Elizabeth Taylor" her "greatest appliance is the total compliance" she elicits from all men, which doesn’t please the other women. But Calpurnia is sanguine: "Tough, life’s a bitch / At least you’re rich."

By the time Caesar anoints Octavian as his ‘son’ and successor, everyone (except perhaps for Louis Solino’s entirely functional Slave, who remains but a cipher) has a motive for murder. Well might they reprise ‘Eat Drink and Be Merry’ for tomorrow – if not tonight – they may very well (or rather badly and painfully, actually) die. The simple exhortation "eat a grape" takes on a menacing tone …

Once Caesar has been assassinated, moral anarchy born of self-interest floats to the top like scum. The ‘Pick Me!’ parade of political wannabes – Mark ("lend me your ears") Antony, Octavian the chosen one and Brutus the assassin – reeks of all election campaigns anywhere. The ruthlessness of the fight for supremacy is equalled only by the hypocrisy of Octavian’s humility as, the last man standing amid a sea of bodies, he reprises "I’m a humble sort of person …"

In reality Octavian – soon to be Augustus Caesar – formed another triumvirate, but here Jenden draws a straight line to the kind of dictatorship we know of today, where all the subordinates hail ‘Caesar’ with straight arm salutes, as he stands triumphant on front of a huge red flag sporting a golden eagle. I am still trying to decide whether I read that as trite or profound but the fact that I’m thinking about it at all proves there is lasting value in ROME The Musical.

Jenden’s costume designs do not denote antiquity but mingle the styles and flair of many ages of richness and power. John Hodgkins’ semi circular colonnade of Roman columns against the dark star-flecked sky, with feature fountain pool in the foreground, sets the scene aptly, and Jennifer Lal’s lighting design unobtrusively enhances the changing moods as the night wears on.

With all that support and the tireless band behind them, the actor/singers are free to engage us in their characters’ wants, needs, observations and intrigues … and they do, with alacrity.

Now Circa has premiered three hugely entertaining, timeless – or rather, always timely – musicals by Paul Jenden and Gareth Farr (the Gilbert and Sullivan of our age and stage). It’s time they were toured or picked up by other production companies both in NZ and around the world.

Comments

Welly Watch July 14th, 2008

Check out the Listener review for another opinion, J Coe - just scroll up and click on Elspeth Sandys. Or type Rome into the Search engine.

J. Coe July 13th, 2008

Welly Watch - you've brought up some great points for me to chew over while I struggle with my understanding of the place of musical theatre. I suppose to say something as broad as 'musicals are silly' - not all, mind - in a town like Wellington is a bit like running naked onto a firing range. It is certainly a bit too general, but then again, I have had the same feeling about most of the musical theatre I've seen in the past few years. Again, most, but not all. My point in relying on the wisdom of an old drama teacher was more to highlight that for me personally, I do struggle to appreciate musical theatre, but also that I could well be persuaded otherwise. I'm more that willing to give musicals another chance in the future. I'm not here to keep bagging on Rome, because if you enjoyed it I think that's great, but there was something about Rome which, for me, seemed to ring true to what my teacher said. If it is insisted that musicals do indeed have value beyond entertainment, you can be sure I'll take that on board for next time. : )

e v July 8th, 2008

i could write something wordy and deep but i'll just say this. i love musicals. some more than others, and some are complete rubbish but generally...i love them. that salient review was a bit self indulgent really. a bit "my old teacher hated them , so i hate them too and no, i'm not going to give reasons."

Welly Watch July 7th, 2008

The fatuousness of the Salient review stuns me. Did that critic totally fail to feel any of the satirical barbs, so pertinent in a year where we are dominated by the US of A’s presidential elections, not to mention our own little effort? As for all musicals being silly, has this critic never seen Oliver!, Les Mis, The Man of La Mancha, Cabaret … to name but a few with powerful political guts? What is the world coming to if this is the voice of today’s youth? Music can do things prose cannot. It can bypass the analytical brain and open us up to ideas, feelings and experiences in a different way. Good lyrics to good music can make points that may well sound silly if spoken. Musicals plays an important role in the performing arts. To say “all musicals are silly” is as stupid as saying “all critics are morons” which of course would be an outrageous generalisation.

Julian July 7th, 2008

Cheers for that John, much appreciated on both counts - interesting to be able to read both ends of the spectrum.

John Smythe July 7th, 2008

Thanks for the heads-up, Julian. I have now tracked down, and posted, Garth Wilshere’s Capital Times review, plus Jackson Coe’s totally contrary Salient review. Click on the hyperlinks above to read them.

Julian July 6th, 2008

I guess it doesn't really matter in the long run, but it's the principle of the thing really... where's the review from the Capital Times that was published two weeks ago? I'd write it in as part of this comment, but I don't have a copy of it on me... then again, perhaps it wasn't considered a 'proper' review? After all... our Capital Times 'reviewer' did leave at half time (well, she does hate musicals - so fair enough I guess, shame to waste a comp though, but I guess we'll know better for next time). Luckily another Capital Times staffer was on hand that night to quickly fill the still-warm seat that was left behind and 'suffer' through the rest of the show, so would be great to see his efforts rewarded by putting his review online.

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History repeats itself over dinner at the Caesar's

Review by Laurie Atkinson [Reproduced with permission of Fairfax Media] 23rd Jun 2008

There are no swords, sandals, or togas in Rome: the Musical though you will hear a calypso song amongst the eclectic musical styles that Gareth Farr has written for this sung-through show and which are played by a band of five very hard-working musicians who are dressed as if they were a motley commedia dell’arte group.

The plot is not the one everyone knows from Shakespeare; there’s no lean and hungry Cassius, no Cinna the Poet, and no battles. However, it does take place during a dinner party held on the 15th of March of 44 B.C. in the courtyard of Julius Caesar’s house where power politics as well as sexual politics are afoot and it’s dangerous to eat the grapes or sip the wine.

Unlike Monarchy and Troy, the two previous mid-winter Jenden musical revues, Rome has a plot and a theme (beware of politicians), and a tendency at times to get semi-serious about it all.  These semi-serious moments seem like padding and become a drag which made me, but obviously not the opening night audience who gave the show a standing ovation, eager at times to get quickly to the assassination.

The opening number to the second half, Checks and Balances, simply repeats what we already know, and Caesar’s song I’m Just a Common Man also gets repeated when we have got the point very well the first time the excellent Jeff Kingsford-Brown sings it in his amazing coat of many colours trimmed with blue feathers.

Luckily, the show’s three comediennes are on hand to bring a bit of vaudeville vulgarity, laughter and spice to the proceedings: Emma Kinane as Calpurnia sings a ditty about life being a bitch, Lyndee-Jane Rutherford as Octavia leaves no doubt about her thoughts on Roman manhood and the role of women, and Christine Cusiel makes a show-stopping entrance as Cleopatra with a song about Cleo being a failure because she doesn’t look like Elizabeth Taylor (The rhyming is a bit more sophisticated in the other songs).

John Hodgkins has designed a very impressive set for Caesar’s courtyard, with a water feature and roman pillars dominated by a statue of Romulus and Remus. Paul Jenden’s costumes are, as usual, spectacular, particularly Cleopatra’s beaded golden brown creation, and Gareth Farr’s music is characteristically pleasing and lively.

For me, funny things happened only occasionally on the way to the forum which, by the way,  we do actually get to for the show’s finale and its political message after the courtyard is littered with as many dead bodies as you’d find in any Jacobean tragedy.

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