It's a triumph! Zhivago is wonderful

 

The opening night audience of Doctor Zhivago gave the show a resounding thumbs up with a strong standing ovation on Saturday night in Sydney.


The opening night audience of Doctor Zhivago gave the show a resounding thumbs up with a strong standing ovation on Saturday night in Sydney.

The much-talked-about musical finally opened at the Lyric Theatre over the weekend, after an times dramatic lead-up, which included leading man Anthony Warlow being injured in the hours before the first preview.

The opening night audience – which featured a plethora of celebrities, sponsors and plenty of theatre stars – attended a party upstairs at Star City following the performance.

Zhivago is a very heavy show for Australia – particularly given how much audiences have been turned towards popcorn theatre and the like for such a long time – but it is one that holds great importance and should be seen by anyone who regards theatre and the arts as an important part of their lives.

Thankfully, much of the dark content is broken up by the odd comedic moment, particularly the hilarious ‘It’s a godsend’ number in the first act, which nicely breaks up the nasty tones of war and murder.

The highlight of the entire production is definitely the amazing songs – so strong, so powerful – Lucy Simon’s score and Michael Korie’s and Amy Powers’ lyrics rarely miss a beat for the three hours the show runs.

They are helped along by a tremendous cast – led by the beautiful, faultless voice of Anthony Warlow, who, despite his critics, must simply be hailed as the greatest theatrical voice this country has – he shines in a new, exciting way in this production as the title character.

And deserving of much praise is the rising star Lucy Maunder as Lara, who captures the heart of Zhivago, perhaps the only weakness to her otherwise strong-willed nature. Maunder is stunning – and can now proudly declare herself one of the leading ladies of Australian musical theatre.

The set is as smart as it is magical, and the costumes, as one could imagine given the historical era in which the show is set, are intricately amazing.

And whilst there may be no hummable showtunes, there’s little doubt the powerful number ‘Now’ will stick with you.

There’s a few issues to iron out – at times, certain scenes and moments drag on a little (there’s instances of this both in the first and second act), and it’s more than a little distracting having a female play a young boy – but overall, Doctor Zhivago is a triumph.

One gets the feeling two things will bring people to this show – curiosity and Anthony Warlow. In both cases, they will be rewarded.

It is a first class, brilliant production. As for Warlow, the same words apply.

Local producer John Frost is more than aware of the talk that the show is too much of a risk and an unknown entity for Sydney, but he is looking well beyond the Lyric Theatre season.

“Every show is a risk,” Frost said.

“But this work is for the world, and I believe it has a strong commercial life after it plays the main stages.”

Doctor Zhivago hit the big screen in 1965 as an epic, drama romance by David Lean and created a star of Omar Sharif in the title role. The film remained popular for decades, and as of 2010 was the eighth highest grossing film of all time.

– Troy Dodds

 

 

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Troy has written 646 articles on AussieTheatre | Read more articles by