Christmas Proms @ Festival Theatre, Adelaide 14/12/2018

Christmas Proms directed by Christopher Horsey with the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra, Guy Noble, Lucy Durack, Mietta Brookman, Jan Di Pietro and Sean Mulligan. Friday 14/12/18 7.30pm at the Adelaide Festival Theatre.

It was a fantastic night for festive fun at the Christmas Proms with the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra and some very special guests. This dancing and singing recital takes its name from the traditional promenade concerts of eighteenth and nineteenth century England, when visitors to the many London gardens would walk (promenade) around the gardens listening to a variety of music. Today, the Proms is an annual eight-week event held in Royal Albert Hall and is a significant event on the British cultural calendar.

The Adelaide Festival Centre’s Christmas Proms has also become a noteworthy event in Adelaide’s festive traditions with the compulsory inclusion of opportunities for the audience to join in with their favourite carols. Friday night’s concert was no exception, with the six sing-along carols being sung with gusto! Perhaps this was due to 2018 being the inaugural year of collaboration with the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra, conducted by the affable and effusive Guy Noble. Ably hosting the event, Mr Noble joked with audience, cast and orchestra members with ease, and ensured that the distinct spirit of Christmas was felt by all.

The highlight of the night for myself and many audience members, was little ten-year-old Mietta Brookman’s ballet performances, first with Tchaikovsky’s Waltz of the Flowers accompanied by six ballerinas from Norwood’s own Barbara Jayne Dance Centre, followed by a crowd favourite with a tap-dancing Santa to A Night Before Christmas. The orchestra’s seamless contribution to this act included excepts from the Mission Impossible theme as Santa stole his way across the set. When Santa broke out into a tap routine choreographed beautifully by his alter ego Christopher Horsey, and was joined in a ‘pas de deux’ (of sorts) by Mietta, it certainly began to feel a lot like Christmas. Adorable Mietta certainly had the audience in the palm of her hands due to her innocent stage presence which belied a steely talent. This talent has earned her an opportunity in 2019 to head to New York to train with the world-renowned Bolshoi Ballet.

Also performing at the Christmas Proms was the wonderful Lucy Durack, bringing us a Glinda-esque rendition of Need a Little Christmas and no less than four costume changes with each ball gown being more glorious than the previous. Of Wicked and Legally Blonde fame, Durack demonstrated her sensational appetite for musical theatre and inspiring vocal range with solos Princess and At Last. Providing the descant in the audience singalong Hark The Herald Angels Sing, Lucy inspired other audience sopranos such as myself to join in the trilling high notes – with mixed results.

Triple threats Jan Di Pietro and Sean Mulligan, from the Tap Pack demonstrated their singing, dancing and acting abilities, hamming it up for the audience in Fiddle Faddle, Sandpaper Ballet, and Baby It’s Cold Outside with Ms Durack. Di Pietro and Mulligan’s performance of Me and My Shadow was enjoyably redolent of Robbie Williams and Jonathan Wilkes’ 2001 version. Leading the audience in several Christmas carols, the duo even spent some time out in the theatre giving away candy canes. This act of benevolence wasn’t without reason however, with those candy cane recipients later being invited onto stage for a raucous rendition of 12 Days of Christmas. Complete with appearances by Shirley Partridge, a high-flying French hen and five well-conducted golden rings, the audience members on stage drew huge applause and represented the older crowd attending this evening concert, both in demographic and ‘joie de vivre’. I imagine the matinee concerts of Friday and Saturday would have been host to audiences of a much younger age, the concert translating just as well to audience members of all ages. Di Pietro and Mulligan’s tap dancing routines were also a highpoint of the concert, particularly when they replaced their Christmas cardigans with tail-coats to show case their skills.

On stage for the duration of the concert, the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra were in their element. Several players were given the opportunity and privilege to act as section principals for this particular production, demonstrating the communal spirit of Christmas, ably stepping up to the task. The inclusion of a pianist in a number of the pieces was welcome, particularly in the beautiful jazz version introduction to Sean Mulligan’s I’ll be home for Christmas. In their stride during the well-orchestrated “overture” of The Holly and the Ivy, Strauss’ Radetzky March and Prokofiev’s Troike, conductor Guy Noble demonstrated that anything can sound like Christmas just with the addition of sleigh bells.

An unexpected additional treat awaited audience members after the show. We departed the Adelaide Festival Centre to the sounds of even more musical numbers as the stars of Carols by Candlelight went through their paces in rehearsal. Hugh Sheridan and Jay Laga’aia were happy to wave and sing to us in anticipation for their concert in Elder Park the following night.

Overall, a wonderful night celebrating all that is Christmas – the inclusion of the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra should be a permanent fixture to ensure that live classical music is enjoyed by as many people as possible particularly during the festive season.

Live Review By Kim Burley

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