Cautionary Tales For Children – Carnegie 18

cautionary talesCautionary Tales For Children was presented as part of the Arts Centre’s Carnegie18 New Music Theatre Series. I arrived early and sat in the foyer of the Fairfax Studio watching as streams of children and their parents came in; this was opening night and the 6.30pm timeslot was perfect for families to see theatre.

Once seated, the audience is presented witha simple set – a time machine – and a piano on stage. Lights down and the time machine “arrives” with Roger (Bert Labonte) emerging from it. Soon, the rest of his crew – Steven (a lovable doofus played by composer/pianist Mark Jones), Sophie (in love with Roger and frogs, and quirkily played by Christen O’Leary), and the slightly-psychotic Helen (expertly characterized by Rosemarie Harris) – exit from the machine. We soon learn that these time-traveling explorers are here to make all children “be good”, by telling them stories to scare them into submission.

The presentation was excellent; fast-paced and engaging, the show used song, audience participation, and the improvisational talents of cast members (particularly on the part of Labonte) to work around any unexpected audience responses. The songs are clever, and each musical style is appropriately matched to its central theme and character. The only song I felt that lacked was “George”, as it was the one point where the show dragged and lost its intense sense of fun.

CTFC is a work-in-progress, as are all presentations at Carnegie18, and are limited to 45 minutes with 10 minute Q and A session afterwards. This means that some sections of the musical are omitted or brushed over. Interestingly, this length seemed perfect for CTFC, and particularly for the audience it is aimed at (upper primary school children and their families). The wordiness of the script and lyrics somewhat of a concern (due to the target demographic); some of the language may fly over the heads of the intended audience. I do realise that the original source text limits the flexibility of the language but a less dense version may be something to consider, especially where the script is concerned. Also, there wasn’t an “opening number” as such, and the first main song arrived some 10 minutes into the piece.  Perhaps there needs to be a linking musical theme (used as part of the “moral” section of the stories?) to help join the whole piece together.

However, other than these minor points, Cautionary Tales is a very funny and wickedly entertaining performance for children and adults alike.  Get along and see it while you can!


Cautionary Tales For Children (A New Musical)
Review Date:Saturday 04 February 2012
Presented By:Arena Theatre and the Arts Centre Melbourne
Venue:Fairfax Studio, Arts Centre, Melbourne
Opening Date:04/02/2012
Closing Date:07/02/2012
Phone:1300 182 183

Andrew “Drew” Lane was born in Melbourne, and began playing piano at the age of four. At age 15, he began to write his own material, and was also introduced to musical theatre via shows such as Starlight Express, Les Miserables and Time. From that moment on, Drew was actively involved in musical theatre at a rehearsal pianist, musical director, or on stage performer. In 1992, Drew composed his first musical for high school, Back Streets, and in 1994, Drew was accepted into the Ballarat Academy of Performing Arts, where he honed his skills, not only as a composer, but also as a performer. Gaining valuable experience on stage and behind the scenes helped him to realise his next musical, Atlantis. A workshop production was staged for the Ballarat Opera Festival in 1996 and gained rave reviews. In the following years, Drew took up teaching but was also able to regularly composer and stage his own productions including Eva’s Wish (1997, Anacortes, WA, USA), Revelations (1998, Touring, Victoria, Australia), and Toys (1999, Bendigo, Victoria, Australia). In 2010, Drew's musical Marking Life was chosen to be part of the Festival of Broadway, hosted by the University of Tasmania, and was performed for Steven Schwartz (Wicked, Godspell, Pippin). A prolific composer, Drew hopes to be able to take his musicals to Off-Broadway or the West End, and believes that his best writing is yet to come. He is presently completing his Master’s degree in Performing Arts, and has several new musicals presently in development. Drew is proud to be a regular contributor to and looks forward to hearing from all of his readers!

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  • Vaudy p

    You dont mention let alone credit the librettist, composer or company creatively responsible for this show. As a reader who was unable to attend Carnegie 18 , indeed for any reader and for archive reasons I would appreciate this fundamental information, thanks.

    • aussietheatre

      Thanks for your interest Vaudy, we are actually lining up a interview with the creative people very soon. So stay tuned for a lot more information on that front. – Matt

  • Drew Lane

    Hi Vaudy,

    Thanks for your comments! :)  I actually did mentioned the composer (Mark Jones) in the review.  But I’ll get all the other information for you! :)  Thanks for your feedback.  – Drew Lane.