Meteor Theatre, 1 Victoria Street, Hamilton

08/08/2019 - 10/08/2019

Production Details


Devised and performed by Stuart Coats
Directed by Lyndee-Jane Rutherford

Lust! Revenge! Murder! The adventures and exploits of Mozart’s notorious lothario, Don Giovanni, with Stuart Coats (and a puppet) performing every role in the opera. A wild operatic parody and a hilarious tour-de-force show, this is opera cliff notes on speed and an audience favourite in the Fringe Festival.


Written by Francesca Emms 
Directed by Adam Macaulay

Written by Francesca Emms and performed by her sister Georgia, the show draws on the sisters’ childhood experiences growing up in a musical family and their deep love for Julie Andrews and the characters she portrayed. Features music from Mary Poppins, My Fair Lady, The Boyfriend, The King and I and of course, The Sound of Music.

Palmerston North – Globe Theatre, 11 & 12 July Buy tickets here 
New Plymouth – 4th Wall Theatre, 13 & 14 July Buy tickets here 
Hamilton – Meteor Theatre, 8, 9 and 10 August Buy tickets here

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From sinful libertine to wholesome love for music and family

Review by D.A. Taylor 10th Aug 2019

You’d be forgiven for thinking the double-bill of The Don and These Are a Few of My Favourite Sings have reached the stage as polished ‘Fringe’ shows, due in no small part to the low budget, high value approach to their respective hours’ worth of entertainments. It’s something of a departure from Wanderlust Opera’s more traditional fare but a great opportunity for them, as a theatre company, and us, as audience members, to explore new territory. With stripped-back stagings and minimalist props, the shows must rely on charismatic, high-calibre performances that can fill the black box of The Meteor’s stage.

The night opens with the one-man The Don, a farcical truncation of the Mozart/Da Ponte opera ‘Don Giovanni’ with all parts played by Stuart Coats and excellent piano accompaniment by Mark Dorrell. Like the myth of Don Juan on which the opera is based, Coats’ dilettante Don is a Lothario and libertine whose list of lovers would make Casanova blush.

After failing to molest Donna Anna – that is, Coats with his voice in Pythonesque drag – Don Giovanni kills Donna Anna’s father, the Commendatore, in a one-person sword fight, and flees, unperturbed. What follows is a well-known narrative involving obscured identities, jilted lovers, stone dinner guests and the promise of a fiery end to those who live in sin. 

The success of The Don lies in its ability to make accessible to the audience the contraction of a three hour-plus opera into a frenetic 50 minutes, and much of this comes via Leporello, the servant to Giovanni, who cuts closest to the Coats that welcomes in the audience or drops character to nip from one of the water bottles dotted around the stage. Coats’ performance abilities are undeniable and he generates steady laughter through Donna Elvira’s thick Spanish consonants, puppetry duets and frantic stage movement.

The script is entertaining enough, though I’m not entirely sure to whom The Don is presented. There’s an extended sequence of jokes riffing on Meat Loaf songs that lands well with Gen Xers; Coats bounces about with pantomime instructions to ‘ooh’ and ‘aah’ along with stage directions and with which the audience helpfully joins in; there’s the occasional blue joke that would slip past younger audiences were it not for the stop-start juddering that signals something rude is up. The aspiration is, perhaps, the ‘something for everyone’ balance, that it doesn’t quite achieve in its current form.

If this show has that ‘Fringe’ feeling, then it also feels an edit short. There’s also a persistent nagging that the show lacks something of the spontaneity that’s necessary to high-energy farces, and as such, with no disrespect to Coats’ considerable talents, it all feels a little distant. When Coats bursts onto stage in full vocal swing during the overture, he’s looking through the audience; what’s lacking is a here-and-now presence necessary to fully engage the audience in the world of the play and elevate it to dizzyingly good.[DT1] 

These Are a Few of My Favourite Sings takes the second half of the night, and equally simply staged: a leather chair, small stool and Georgia Jamieson Emms in her Maria-style apron dress – again with Mark Dorrell’s astute accompaniment. Written by Francesca Emms and performed by her sister Georgia Jamieson Emms, Sings is as much a comic’s routine as a memoir and a concert, weaving family history, Andrews’ life story and classics of her repertoire. Emms’ own life has been shaped by musical theatre – both directly and indirectly by Andrews’ own story – and she argues that “there are worse things to be obsessed with than Julie Andrews.”

Much can be said about Emm’s balance of self-aggrandising and self-depreciating comedy – the awkward teen photos, the pride in achievement – as well as her sunny, primary school-teacher disposition that consistently achieves a classic Andrews warmth. On top of this is Emms’ soprano voice, as round and whole as Andrews’ own; as sharp and clear as crystal-cut glass: from the opening of ‘Doe A Deer’ to the closing of ‘My Favourite Things’, Emms offers a note-perfect performance.

It’s hard not to tap along to the Gershwin or Sherman & Sherman hits that define an era of musicals; it’s hard not to smile at the sheer pleasure of the experience of hearing them live, true to the originals yet with just enough of Emms’ own character making them her own. What undergirds Sings, however, is clear and genuine love – for Julie, yes, but more importantly for music and family.

It’s wholesome, and it’s sublime. Plenty of Rogers & Hammerstein humming fills the foyer as the audience files out, and some of it comes from me.


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Absolutely worth seeing

Review by Ross MacLeod 10th Aug 2019

This is a double bill show and while there’s a little bit of overlap, they’re quite different so I’ll be reviewing them separately. [More]


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