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Doctor Zhivago 2011

Review

Alex Lalak From: The Daily Telegraph February 22, 2011

DR ZHIVAGO is a show for theatregoers looking for something to chew on. It is a slow-burn musical, with polished performances, gritty plot, a fighting spirit and, most importantly, an excellent score.

Written by US composer Lucy Simon and directed by Des McAnuff (of Jersey Boys fame), Dr Zhivago is based on the lengthy novel by Boris Pasternak. It follows part of the life of Yuri Zhivago (Anthony Warlow), a doctor and poet raised in a wealthy family after the collapse of his own and married to the daughter of the house, Tonia (Taneel Van Zyl).

After a couple of chance meetings, the feisty Lara (Lucy Maunder) captures Yuri’s poetic heart and their troubled love story plays out against the bloodstained backdrops of World War I and the Russian Revolution.

There are some shaky elements, including pacing in the first act, simplification of politics and the rapid-fire ending. However, considering it has been in previews for a mere week, it shows serious promise on all the points that matter. It looks fantastic, with early scenes of aristocratic splendour contrasted with later visions of war-time griminess, set off by black and white images digitally projected on to the backdrop to assist scene changes.

Simon’s score is a delight, with powerful ballads rubbing shoulders with jaunty chorus numbers and a stirring quartet. The cast does an excellent job delivering Simon’s music, with sharp performances from the soloists. Trisha Noble, Peter Carroll, Martin Crewes and Van Zyl hold their own, but it is the balance of Maunder and Warlow that holds the show.

Despite her youth and occasional lack of depth in her voice, Maunder has a good crack at Lara’s complexity and brings her to life, particularly in the duets with Warlow. Warlow might seem too old for the role but the heart and experience he brings to the stage is invaluable and there is never a doubt he is in total control.

Dates

Sydney, Lyric Theatre, February and March 2011
Melbourne, Her Majesty’s Theatre, April to July 2011
Brisbane, Lyric Theatre, QPAC, July to August 2011

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