‘Strictly Gershwin’ to open late May & already highest selling ever
Queensland Ballet’s upcoming season of Strictly Gershwin is already the company’s highest selling production ever, with weeks to go until opening. The season, opening at the Lyric Theatre on May 27 and running until June 4, will see the company step out in style on a huge scale accompanied by a jazz big band live on stage.
Artistic Director Li Cunxin says it’s a bold move in a different direction for Queensland Ballet but he believes ballet fans will love it and that it’s a great opportunity to build new audiences.
“Despite this season being our highest ever selling production, it’s not yet sold out but is selling fast so I encourage people to purchase their tickets as soon as possible,” Cunxin said. “Evoking memories of the silver screen magic of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, Strictly Gershwin will delight audiences with the much loved Gershwin music paired with so many different forms of dance.”
Cunxin continued, “We’re so pleased to be working in partnership with Queensland Performing Arts Centre (QPAC) to bring this acclaimed production to Brisbane that we’re sure will have a wide appeal.”
The production is choreographed by the former artistic director of the English National Ballet (ENB), Derek Deane. He first created this “dazzling” production on ENB. This is the first time another company has been given the opportunity to perform it.
“His choreography demands impeccable technique and versatility in so many different forms of dance, which our dancers have taken to with gusto,” Cunxin said. “This production has something for everyone, including beautiful classical ballet, big tap dancing numbers, sweeping musical theatre style performances and jazz dance alongside glamorous ballroom dancing.”
Not only will audiences experience Queensland Ballet dancing like they’ve never seen before, they’ll also be enthralled by the Queensland Symphony Orchestra (QSO) big band live on stage that is very much a part of the production. Joined by singers live on stage for some of the bigger numbers, the band will bring home some of the most loved of the Gershwin songs, like “Summertime”, “I Got Rhythm”, “An American in Paris”, “S’Wonderful” and “Rhapsody in Blue.”
“We’re so pleased to have some of the best voices on the Australian stage with us for this production,” Cunxin said. “Rachael Beck, Michael Falzon, Luke Kennedy and Alexandra Flood will join with our dancers and the QSO to deliver an audience experience like nothing we’ve ever done before.”
QPAC Chief Executive John Kotzas said collaborating with local arts companies to produce and present exceptional live performance experiences and build new audiences is vital.
“We are continuously focused on securing opportunities to bring unique new works to Australian audiences and present them with our local companies and artists for the first time at QPAC. Working with our state ballet company, Queensland Ballet, we have realised this with Strictly Gershwin,” Kotzas said.
“Together with our state orchestra, QSO performing on stage, this will be a memorable showcase season for Queensland and bound to attract our ballet, music and musical theatre loving audiences, as well as new audiences, who have a love for the golden era of music, dance and film that inspired this work originally.”
The production is on such a big scale that Queensland Ballet has had to bring on guest dancers to swell its ranks for Gershwin.
“I’m delighted to announce that former QB principals Christian Tátchev, Matthew Lawrence and Rachel Walsh will all be returning to the stage for Gershwin in various ways. It will be wonderful to see these talented dancers back performing with our company,” Cunxin said.
“We’ve also scoured the country to ensure we have the best of the best in tap dancing talent for our big tapping performances, headed up by the amazing Bill Simpson (who is a tap dancing powerhouse) and his tapping partner Kris Kerr.”
Guest tappers include Adam Di Martino, Andrew Ross-Graham, Jayden Grogran, Shay Debney, Amber Miller-Greenman, Natasha Window, Tiarna Leigh and Victora Rimington. Other casual company dancers for Gershwin are Karla Florez, Phebe Murison and Zacharie Dun, who have all previously danced with Queensland Ballet.
“For a while now, Queensland Ballet productions have been expertly accompanied by the QSO. However, this season will take that partnership to a whole other level with the orchestra out of the pit and on stage,” Cunxin said. “From the celebrated ‘Rhapsody in Blue’ to a medley of Broadway musicals and Hollywood films, there are so many favourite melodies packed into this show. Gareth Valentine, who worked with Derek Deane to adapt the music, is a charismatic music director whose exuberant presence on stage adds a wonderful element to the performance.”
He continued, “In addition to the wonderful QSO, we’ve even had to bring in specialist musicians. We’re pleased to be joined by our very own ballet pianist Kylie Foster and guest pianist Daniel Le, an extraordinary young pianist who has won numerous national and international awards.
Cunxin concluded, “We can’t wait to share this unique season with our audiences as we take to the stage bigger and better than ever.”
Strictly Gershwin runs May 27-June 4 in the Lyric Theatre at QPAC. For tickets and further information, visit www.queenslandballet.com.au.
Photo (top): Queensland Ballet dancers Shane Weurthner and Lisa Edwards. Photo by Simon Lekias. Photo (left): Company dancer Lina Kim rehearsing An American in Paris with choreographer Derek Deane coaching. Photo by Eduardo Vieira. Photo (right): Dancers Rian Thompson and Jack Lister. Photo by Simon Lekias.