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BWW Review: MORNING MELODIES Featuring Philip Quast, Accompanied By Anne-Maree McDonald at Hamer Hall

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BWW Review: MORNING MELODIES Featuring Philip Quast, Accompanied By Anne-Maree McDonald at Hamer Hall

Watching Philip Quast perform at Hamer Hall, accompanied by Anne-Maree McDonald, was an absolute treat. Quast is one of Australia's most well regarded and internationally successful theatre performers. During this performance of Morning Melodies, presented by Arts Centre Melbourne, Quast shares memorable and comical stories about his incredible life and career, spanning several decades performing on the stages of Australia, The West End and Broadway.


Quast is the winner of three Olivier Awards for Best Actor in a Musical and is well known for his performance as Javert in Les Misérables. He featured in the original Australian production, as well as on the West End and in Les Misérables - The Dream Cast in Concert. Javert is only the tip of Quast's astounding career. Other notable credits include, Georges Seurat in the original London production of Sondheim's Sunday in the Park with George, Emile in the Royal National Theatre's 2001 production of Rodgers and Hammerstein's South Pacific, Juan Perón in Andrew Lloyd Webber's 2006 London revival of Evita, Georges in the Menier Chocolate Factory 2008 production of Jerry Herman's La Cage Aux Folles and most recently in 2017, Benjamin Stone in the Royal National Theatre's revival of Sondheim's Follies. Quast has also worked extensively with the Royal Shakespeare Company, Sydney Theatre Company, Melbourne Theatre Company and is loved by a generation of now 'grown up' Australian children, for his work on Play School.

I was lucky enough to conduct a phone interview with this humble and welcoming man, during which time I found out about his life growing up on a turkey farm in northern NSW, performing Gilbert and Sullivan at school, and going home to visit his dad during the Tamworth Country Music Festival. When talking about performing Quast mentions it is only one of many things he likes to do, with other passions including carpentry, fishing, reading, poetry and writing.

On the topic of his astonishing career Quast says, "I've just always never wanted to be pinned down...and that felt like growing up on a farm...I'm more at home in rehearsals than I am at performance, because I love the actual labour and the sweat". Constantly manoeuvring between musicals, theatre, television and film, both here and abroad, Quast elaborates, "I don't see any differentiation really between film, musicals, stage... they all join up and link up". Asked about if he had a favourite role, he says this is a tough question, "I've just got so much out of everything I did....what I learnt off those people, what I learnt off Stephen Sondheim....what I learnt off Trevor Nunn, what I learnt off Dominic Cooke, who's the director of Follies....and what I learnt off the other actors".

We discuss the performances planned for the following day, which Quast describes as roughly shaped on his and Anne-Maree McDonald's cabaret from the 2019 Adelaide Cabaret Festival entitled Philip Quast Uncut. He mentions "I never quite know where it's going to go". After watching the cabaret, it is evident that this casual approach helped to bring sincerity and intimacy to the performance, as if Quast is speaking to each of us individually. You forget you are sitting in a 2,500 seat, three level concert hall and instead feel you could be at home with Quast, having a cup of tea.
The selection of music Quast and McDonald deliver is deliciously diverse. Quast enters whistling The Gypsy Rover, which he recounts brings him back to his childhood on the farm. The remainder of the music ranges from London Derriere to the Wiggly Woo, which made for some hilarious mandatory audience participation. The audience was privileged to hear a song written for Quast's father called My Father's Hands. This is delivered with such tenderness and vulnerability that it brings a tear to the eye.

Quast shares a hilarious story about his first fan letter, after appearing many years ago naked inThe Mystery Plays of Wakefield for the State Theatre Company of South Australia. He also has had an amusing introduction to Prince Charles after a particularly "revealing" performance at The Royal Shakespeare Company.

Throughout the cabaret Quast presents a very relaxed demeanour and has a natural comradery on stage with McDonald. He prides himself on being a "text based actor" which is clearly evident in the sincerity of his performance. He truly is one of Australia's greats!

The highlights of this performance have to be the beautiful rendition of a section of Soliloquy from Rodgers and Hammerstein's Carousel and, last but not least, Stars from Les Misérables. Hopefully this marvellous duo will soon return to Melbourne for more performances.



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From This Author Josh Stent

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