Kiss of the spider woman

DARLINGHURST THEATRE: The Australian premiere of the musical version fo 'Kiss of the Spider Woman' at the Darlinghurst Theatre is chilling and wonderful at the same time.
Kiss of the spider woman
Viva la revolution! This extraordinary production would have to be one of the best shows on in town at the moment. It is the Australian premiere of the musical version of the story based on the 1976 novel by Manuel Puig. Puig himself produced a stage play and a movie version based on his book. The musical version by John Kander and Fred Ebb (think Cabaret, Chicago and New York, New York) hit Broadway in 1993, garnering many Tony awards. The plot can be summarized as follows: two men are forced to share a cold, bare prison cell in a nameless South American country. Molina is a gay department store window dresser convicted of seducing a minor. His straight cell mate, Valentin, is a no-nonsense Marxist incarcerated for his revolutionary acts. To escape the daily horrific brutality Molina recounts the various films of Aurora, a screen goddess. He knows and loves them all, word for word, costume for costume - except for one she stars in which scares him, in which she plays The Spiderwoman, who kills with her kiss. Issues that surface include human rights (illegal torture and the plight of 'The Disappeared'), acceptance, love, trust and betrayal. Molina uses escapism into a film fantasy world to block out the brutal truth of his predicament. Valentin, however, is trying to right the injustices inflicted by a totalitarian regime, the very one which has imprisoned him. The movies Molina loves are produced to be an opiate of the masses but Valentin regards them as a form of anaesthetic against the oppressive capitalist forces. Under the direction of Stephen Colyer the cast of seven perform brilliantly. It is an intense, gripping and enthralling show. The four piece band, Craig Renshaw conducting, sits upstage. With Ebb's lyrics and Kander's music there is at times a Les Mis feel (e.g.: The Day After). There is also an exuberant Latin American dance rhythm at times (salsa, rumba, tango, etc.) especially for some of Aurora's movie sequences. There are also references to Evita and some of the big romantic movies (e.g.: Doctor Zhivago). David Fleischman's set is open to the back wall and is a very effective dingy, depressing cell. The stage design also includes multi-functional cold metal trolleys on wheels. Valentin's tortured comrades that he has to deny knowing are represented by disfigured, bloody shop mannequins. The acting, singing and dancing is all fabulous with fine ensemble work. As for the three leads: As gaunt, garrulous mummy's boy Molina, with a biting wit, James Lee is superb, giving a fantastic performance of immense range. He has a Helpmann-like face with very expressive eyes. His signature shawl is used for lots of things (scarf, shawl, blanket, turban...). As Valentin the would-be Che, Frank Hansen is also splendid. Scruffy, seemingly quieter and more intense than Molina, Hansen gives a strong performance at times full of hidden menace. As the femme fatale screen icon Aurora, Alexis Fishman has a glorious time. Oh the fabulous costumes! Glamorous and sinister, she is captivating and sings and dances tremendously too. The other cast members are excellent and play a number of various roles, doubling and tripling characters. Special mention should be made of Jennifer White who plays Molina's mother. A chilling, rather macabre performance that is extremely intense and powerful. Don't miss it. Kiss of the Spider Woman At: THE DARLINGHURST THEATRE Season: 14 July - 8 August Times: Tuesday - Saturday 8pm, Sunday 5pm Matinees: Saturday 31 July & Saturday 7 August at 3pm Preview: $27, Adult: $37, Student Conc: $32, Senior: $30 Running time - two and a half hours including interval. Featuring - Alexis Fishman, Frank Hansen, James Lee, Wayne McDaniel, Jennifer White, Jim Williams, Matt Young Director - Stephen Colyer Musical Director - Craig Renshaw Designers - David Fleischer and Tess Negroponte Lighting Designer - Jack Horton Sound Designer - Jed Silver By special arrangement with Dominie Pty Ltd

Lynne Lancaster

Monday 19 July, 2010

About the author

Lynne Lancaster is a Sydney based arts writer who has previously worked for Ticketek, Tickemaster and the Sydney Theatre Company. She has an MA in Theatre from UNSW, and when living in the UK completed the dance criticism course at Sadlers Wells, linked in with Chichester University.