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Almost, Maine

Written by: John Cariani
Directed by: Marti Ibrahim

Reviewed by Cate Dowling-Trask for Victorian Drama League

What if love is not just an emotion but a true force of nature? In 'Almost, Maine', which is not quite a town, being in an “unorganised territory”, its inhabitants, under the influence of the northern lights and shooting stars, experience the anticipation, surprise, joy and grief of love over the course of a long, magical Friday night in January.

Since it was first performed in 2004, John Cariani’s humourous and whimsical play has become a widely produced favourite with audiences across the United States and elsewhere. Through multiple vignettes, each centred on a different couple but linked together by character, place and time, their stories are as unique and eccentric as the pairs of lovers themselves.

Marti Ibrahim’s production for Eltham Little Theatre has been deftly handled. Despite the challenges of directing a cast who often speak over the top of each other while working with a foreign accent, and the constantly changing scenes, her production had a satisfying consistency of style.

The lighting design by Emma Fox gave the audience the rippling twinkling green of the Aurora Borealis across the cyclorama. Each of the multiple performance spaces was well lit. Isabella Preston created both the sound design, featuring a vehicle travelling “behind” the audience, and the audio-visuals incorporating a starry sky and animation of a shooting star.

The sets, ever changing, were all based on rostra draped to resemble snowdrifts. With each story being set at a different location in town, the cast and backstage crew smoothly and rapidly changed sets including a front yard, the “Moose-patty Bar,” ice-fishing, the ice-skating pond, and an apartment block laundry-room. The stage settings and themes of each playlet were displayed in shadow boxes in the foyer alongside the cast headshots, which I thought to be a smart innovation.

Costumes by Marion Lawrence mainly ran to snowsuits, puffer coats, boots and a plethora of pyjama bottoms, sweats and coloured socks. I particularly liked Vicki Smith’s costume as Sandrine, a magenta figure-hugging velvet cocktail dress, and Amy Penning’s Hope costume, a lovely red coat with a bow. With eight different stories, props were important if seemingly simple. Isabella Preston and Marti Ibrahim were responsible for properties including a functional ironing board that was pivotal in its storyline, and an esky that was perfect in its setting.

Each vignette with its pairs of characters (and one trio) worked well. I particularly enjoyed 'They Fell' with Samuel Chappel as Randy and Gareth Clarke as Chad, 'Where It Went' with Alison Jones as Marci and Michael Cooper as Phil, and 'Her Heart' with Lizzie Matjacic as Glory and Travis Eccles as East. But I acknowledge all the performers for their commitment and contribution to this ensemble piece, including Jamie Clegg, Amy Penning, James Banger, Vicki Smith, Katie Possingham, Ada Jean and Lucy Butler.

This popular modern play deserves its reputation as a life-affirming and positive take on that universal subject, love. For this production, Marti Ibrahim brought together a large cast comprising some very experienced actors and others who are just starting their journey as performers. She has obviously worked with them and given them space to find their characters even if the role is relatively small. With specialised support from Drew Mason as their Dialect Coach and Elise D’Amico as their Intimacy Coach, the actors performed with confidence, and each embraced their roles with enthusiasm. It was an enjoyable performance.

Eltham Little Theatre’s should be pleased with this production, as it is a credit to all involved – the company, the director, cast, crew and creatives.  

Thank you too for the warm welcome from the front-of-house staff.

Almost, Maine

Written by: John Cariani
Directed by: Marti Ibrahim

Reviewed by Peter Kemp -

Where on one deeply cold and magical Midwinter Night, the citizens of – Almost – not organised enough for a town, too populated for a wilderness – experience life-altering powers of the human heat.


Eltham Little Theatre rose to the challenge of such a story producing a wonderful evening of theatre.


ELT and Director Marti Ibrahim chose to do the play in a series of 11 vignettes., each one with two or on occasion three performers .A cast of 13 players who each gave great performance’s. Although on occasion when some heads were turned off stage it was hard to hear the dialogue. The setting were basic but effective. The lighting lived up to expectations with the Northern Lights done very effectively by the use of greenlighting which brought the impression of the Northern Lights to the theatre.

Almost, Maine

Written by: John Cariani
Directed by: Marti Ibrahim

Reviewed by Andrew G for Melbourne

Almost, Maine is a captivating play that takes the audience on a journey through the joys and struggles of love in a remote town.

Set in a fictional town, that isn’t quite a town, known only as Almost, Maine.

Told through a series of interconnected vignettes, the play explores the complexities of human relationships in a humorous and heartwarming way.

Playwright John Cariani (perhaps better known for his on-screen work as Julian Beck in Law & Order), introduces us to a variety of characters throughout the play.

Almost, Maine is a romantic comedy filled with strange, poignant and beautiful moments that captivates the audience from start to finish. There’s the couple who keep falling in and out of love, the young man who is afraid to admit his feelings for his best friend, the woman who can’t forget about the man who broke her heart, and many more.

Marti Ibrahim’s expert direction provided each member of the ensemble cast ample opportunities captivates the audience, even with their limited time on stage.

Each character brings something unique and adds to the overall charm of the play. Despite their differences, they are all connected by the longing for love.

Trav Eccles’ clever set design is a simple but very effective use of the Eltham Little Theatre stage and the sparing use of projections almost served as another character in the show.

Isabella Preston’s sound design is another highlight of this play.

I enjoyed each performance of the talented ensemble cast. With impeccable comedic timing, deep connection to their characters and near perfect accents, each performer shines in their own way.

It’s impossible not to be drawn in by these characters. I found myself invested in each of their stories as they navigate through the ups and downs of love in Almost, Maine.

Look Back in Anger

Written by: John Osborne
Directed by: Drew Mason

Reviewed by Marti Ibrahim

This is why I love Drew Mason’s work as a director. After seeing a performance of “Look Back In Anger” last night, the audience wanted to (and NEEDED to) talk about what they had just seen played out on stage. We needed to process the “why” of the characters’ behaviour. We needed to understand them. We cared about them, we hated seeing the worst parts of ourselves in them, and we loved their stories. We wanted to be, and we were, affected by and changed by them.

But the discussion didn’t end in the foyer. It continued online in private messages, as different people brought their own perspectives, based on their own life experiences, and interpreted the play uniquely in their own minds. Respectful, intelligent disagreement and debate provided fertile ground for us to challenge our friends (and for them to challenge us) to broaden our perspectives and to view the issue of domestic abuse with a wider lens.

This is theatre that changes you. It’s confronting, intense, painful, transformative, challenging and entertaining all at the same time.

The cast are amazingly talented actors. I had not heard any of their names prior to seeing the show, and I am so glad to have had the honour and pleasure of watching them perform. They are honest, generous, focussed and truthful performers. What a delight to see them play!

I cannot praise the cast and crew highly enough. Congratulations to Drew and to Eltham Little Theatre on a brilliant production of an important play. Chookas for the remainder of the season!

High School Musical

Written by: Peter Barsocchini

Music adapted, arranged and produced by: Bryan Louiselle
Directed by: Bella Preston

Reviewed by Andrew McAliece for Victorian Drama League

I was unaware that Disney makes shorter versions of its musicals, with the moniker ‘Junior’ added, to make them more accessible for under eighteens to stage. Eltham Little Theatre’s production of 'High School Musical' is one such. The two acts ran in total for around one hour, a very manageable length for youth shows. This one is based on the Disney movie of the same name, written by Peter Barsocchini. The songs, all original, are by thirteen people, too numerous to list.

Just from the first few minutes, I knew the audience was in for a treat. A high energy, gyrating group of performers filled the centre aisle, and our ears, with happy, catchy singing, before dancing up onto the stage. The colourful, eye-catching costumes capped off the excellent opening.

The director, Isabella Preston, is only in her twenties and it certainly looks like she has a bright future ahead of her in musical theatre. Her performers are much younger, ranging in age from around thirteen to seventeen. She has assembled and whipped these very young people into an excellent singing and dancing troupe.

Isabella is also the choreographer, so she’s had a huge workload and a sizeable mountain to climb. She began her theatre life as a dancer and this has clearly given her invaluable experience. I know from personal experience how challenging it is to create dance moves, convey them adequately to the performers and then have them executed competently. But Isabella has achieved this so, so well. The moves were innovative, interesting, good to watch and just plain fun. Top marks to her.

Matthew Todd, the musical director, did a great job keeping the actors in tune, in time and on harmony. They excelled when all the cast were singing together, displaying great strength, sharpness and force. The music is supplied with the rights to the show, so Matthew didn’t need to create it. Happily, there were no glitches, as so often happens with recorded music. Matthew has directed the music on many amateur shows and is also an actor.

Isabella also designed the set, so she has many varied strings to her bow. The backdrop was very simple and unobtrusive, requiring no great skill to create. Rather the lighting, designed by Isabella (another string to that bow), Emma Fox and Ethan Preston, brought the set to life. The set was constructed by just two people, Peter Jones and Greg Paul, so all kudos to them for their time and effort.

The acting in between the songs was what you would expect from performers of this age. The cues were often slow and the dialogue lacked pace, but these deficiencies were more than made up for by the singing and dancing. The announcer initially spoke too fast and was thus hard to understand, but she slowed down as she relaxed into her role.

Amiya Cameron in the lead as Gabriella was outstanding. Her resume is extremely impressive, at the age of just sixteen! She’s done sixteen (yes, sixteen) shows in the last seven years. She has a lovely clear, strong voice, a standout in the whole ensemble, and she acted very well. It certainly appears she intends to pursue musical theatre as a profession. She has the looks of a leading lady too.

Hamish Gallagher, the male lead Troy, both acted and sang well, the acting better than his singing. His voice is not strong, but this should come with age. And he did very well to use his basketball while both singing and dancing. Ava Michael, as the bitchy, superior Sharpay was very impressive. Her list of credits is extensive and impressive too, having had singing, dancing and acting lessons, starting at the age of four. Like Amiya, she has the looks of a leading lady. Nate Clarke as Sharpay’s sidekick, Ryan, sang, danced and acted very well.
Kirra Duff as Chad really caught one’s eye with her strong, confident and punchy singing and really sharp dancing.

Anja Murray, as the overbearing musical theatre director, Ms Darbus, was appropriately pompous and self-important. Her rant at the coach was particularly good. Lily Cotter, as the coach, did an amazing leap into the full splits at the front of the stage. Eye watering! She was well cast and acted and sang well.

The cast is large and characters listed in the program only by character name, which weren’t necessarily used during the show, so it’s difficult to list any more actors by name. Suffice to say, they all deserve credit for a job very well done, especially in the singing and dancing department.

Hair and makeup was very good, particularly Kirra’s faultless braids (so long!), Ms Darbus’s headscarf and Ava’s hairdo. It would have been much better to see all the stage crew in black, as per theatrical convention. Some were, most weren’t.

A very jarring deficiency was the program. The bio for each actor was clearly written by the actor themselves, no problem there. But before printing, each bio needed very serious editing to create consistency and clearness of meaning, as well as the insertion of much needed punctuation, consistent capitalisation and omission of repetition.

All in all, a great evening’s entertainment by this enthusiastic and talented ensemble.

Look Back in Anger

Written by: John Osborne
Directed by: Drew Mason

Reviewed by Peter Kemp -​​

ELT’s choice for the July season was John Osborne’s Look Back in Anger. A story of Jimmy Porter, his wife Alison, their friend and Jimmy’s business partner Cliff, Alison’s friend Helena and Alison’s father, Colonel Redfern.

The play opens on a lazy Sunday afternoon in a one room attic flat in a town with Alison ironing and the two men reading the Sunday papers. ELT built a good interior of a one roomed flat, very busy with the full complement of what would be expected.

Alexander Loadman played Jimmy, an intelligent man who was in partnership with his friend Cliff in running a street-corner candy stand. He also likes playing the trumpet which no-one else thinks he can. Loadman captured the role with expertise, giving a great and highly energetic performance particularly in a couple of fight scenes with Cliff.

His wife, Alison was played by Tamasin Mummery, who also captured the character in completely ignoring her husband’s tirade against  everything yet giving a moving poignant performance particularly in the final scenes An excellent portrayal.

Jimmy’s mate Cliff was played by Jason Triggs. Cliff felt sorry for Alison and interfered when he thought things had gone too far. Triggs gave a great and another energetic performance particularly in the fight scenes with Jimmy.

Alison’s friend and Jimmy’s lover, Helena, was portrayed by Ada Jean. As Helena, Jean caught the essence of a good friend but who also despised Jimmy but could not bear to be without him. Jean gave an outstanding performance in the role capturing the character with aplomb. A small part was Alison’s father, Colonel Redfern. Played by Adrian Quintarelli who gave the character realism carrying the role as envisaged by the author.

A good evening of theatre from ELT and this is a company not to be missed.

On Golden Pond

Written By: Ernest Thompson
Directed by: Roderick Chappel

Reviewed by Marti Ibrahim

I had the absolute pleasure of being in tonight’s audience at Eltham Little Theatre’s production of “On Golden Pond”. This is a beautifully written, well-crafted play that has been extremely well executed by director Roderick Chappel and his team of cast members and creatives. It isn’t often that I get emotional watching a play, but I fought back joyful tears tonight as I watched the final scene unfold. Brian Edmond and Katie Hall are absorbing to watch, and they each gave standout performances tonight. They were in good company, too - with Seth Kannof, Peta Owen, Peter Gallagher and Leigh Harrison all finding beautiful subtleties in the performance of their characters. As a stage manager, Alison Louise Jones has done an amazing job of running the show and ensuring that scene transitions are simple but effective.

Congratulations to the cast and crew of On Golden Pond. You should all be very proud of what you have created.

This is a beautiful play. Go and see it if you can - it’s well worth the drive out to Eltham!

On Golden Pond

Written By: Ernest Thompson
Directed by: Roderick Chappel

Reviewed by Peter Kemp

Eltham Little Theatre’s choice for the September season was Ernest Thompson’s On Golden Pond.


The play is about Ethel and Norman Thayer who come to spend summer at their rural retreat on the edge of Golden Pond, a lake in the forest of rural Maine. Unexpectedly their daughter, Chelsea arrives with her new boyfriend Bill and Bill’s son Billy. Chelsea and Bill are going to Europe and leaving young Billy with Ethel and Norman.

ELT had a good set of such a rural retreat with a glass door surmounted by two windows at stage rear showing great views of Golden Pond. Real photos and gave a realistic feel to the production.


Brian Edmond was Norman Thayer. Edmond captured the irascible Norman with finesse and gave a good performance His moments with young Billy were a sheer delight.

Katie Hall was his wife Ethel, a great portrayal of the sometimes-exasperated wife and mother. Hall worked well with Edmond and together were popular with the audience.


The local postman, Charlie Martin, who had a crush on Chelsea since they were children was played by Seth Kannof. A good interpretation of such a character.

Chelsea was played by Peta Owen. Owen caught the character of a young woman who had difficulty in getting on with her father. Owen gave a great feel to such a character and had some good scenes particular when mother and daughter sang the old song of Golden Pond.


Chelsea’s new boyfriend bill was played by Leigh Harrison. A small role handled well but voice projection was a little quiet.


The young Billy was given a good portrayal by Peter Gallagher, a young performer and judging by his performance a good future in theatre.

Overall a good and moving play well handled by the ELT cast and congratulations to the director Roderick Chappel for a wonderful night of theatre.

It's a Wonderful Life

Written By: Joe Landry

Eltham Little Theatre
Directed by: Terese Maurici-Ryan

Reviewed by Ken Barnes – Theatrecraft, September 9, 2017

This imaginative yarn has been around since first conceived by playwright Philip Van Doren Stern in 1939. It was made into a film directed by the renowned Frank Capra in 1946 and since then its intriguing plot has been adapted in various forms for stage, television and movies. The essence of the story is that a decent and kind man, George Bailey, who lives in a quiet American town and whose good deeds touch and enrich the lives of family members, friends and acquaintances, falls victim to scheming by a business rival. He decides to end his life rather than face the ignominy of financial ruin, but is saved by a guardian angel who reminds George of the good deeds he has performed and how the people he has touched have benefited from knowing him.

On arrival at ELT the audience would have been impressed by the effort expended in setting the scene in the foyer, including the sign “You Are Now In Bedford Falls”, the colourful and elaborate Christmas decorations, the snow on the ground and the tuneful trio singing carols just before the performance.
It’s a Wonderful Life is presented as a radio play in front of a live audience, so the set (designed by Phil Holmes and the director) was a studio with a range of equipment for sound effects, a piano and percussion instruments, complex lighting, signs to signify when applause is appropriate and of course several microphones plus an authentic range of miscellaneous props one would expect to see in a studio. The nine actors were required to very frequently move from the background to take their places and deliver their lines at the microphones in a complex, choreographed fashion which called for agility and precise timing. These moves were facilitated and made credible by delicate shifts in lighting, designed by Emma Fox, and complicated sound engineering, the work of Andrea Cole. The technical work was matched by proficient stage management by Karen Dowling and appropriate costumes organised by Calypso Spendlove and Stella Maurici.

Each of the actors performed well, with virtually no muffed lines and good projection, even to the back row. Their enunciation was excellent and the range of American accents—several with quirky idiom and mannerisms—was first rate. The key role of George Bailey seemed tailor-made for Mark Briggs who was required to spend most of his time in front of a microphone. Although calm and collected for much of the performance, Mark was able to switch to exasperation, despair and even anger when the plot required a change of attitude.

Versatility was the word to describe the performances of Tim Constantine, Pauline Constantine and Gavin Baker, each of whom represented eight characters, every one with a different mode of speech and often colourful American mannerisms. All three performances were simply outstanding. The other cast members, though not called upon to depict quite so many characters, were also impressive. Llaaneath Poor was very credible in the role of George’s wife Mary and the lesser role of Sally Applewhite; Timothy Camilleri played Mycroft Fry and Clarence, the angel who was yet to earn his wings; Phil Holmes was particularly active as the sound-effects operator Wally Whiz-bang Watson; Kate Manicom would have been an audience favourite as the studio stage manager as well as other less demanding roles; and Eleni Miller charmed us all as the pianist, Lady Cha Cha.

The unusual nature of this play meant that meticulous attention had to be paid to detail and balance. If any of the actors had scrambled or mistimed their lines, had not developed the right accent or dropped their energy level, or even if the lighting, sound effects or the group singing of radio station WBFR commercials had been out of tune, the sense of being there in the studio would have been lost. That this didn’t happen was a credit to Terese Maurici Ryan, her assistant Brad Buckingham and the rest of the crew. Nice work, Eltham.

Beauty and the Beast Jr.
Reviewed by Graham Ford - Stage Whispers

Eltham Little Theatre’s annual junior musical was Beauty and the Beast Jr and it was another successful production. There was a nice mix of younger members and others approaching adulthood. The small stage was well used with a house being rolled on for the street scene and curtains opening to reveal the Beast’s castle. For the opening number curtains down the side of the auditorium were drawn back to reveal more villagers and stalls. Probably the highlight was the chorus singing. As it was the junior version, there wasn’t as much harmony as I’ve heard before, but it was always confident and in tune. There was some lovely harmony singing from the servants in “Human Again”.

Belle was played by Rudy Dunston, looking gorgeous and singing beautifully. She developed a great rapport with Oliver Strauss as the Beast. His acting ability shone through as he gradually thawed in her presence. Tenzin Fox was a strong Gaston and it was regrettable that this version was missing his main song. Maddy Coburn was a delight as his side-kick, Lefou. Being small, Gaston had no trouble throwing her around the stage, which added to the fun.

Ebony Zahra, as Mrs. Potts, did an admirable job of the title song. As the teapot, she had little puffs of steam coming out of her spout, which was most amusing. Guy McGovern was an excellent Cogsworth and Peter Gallagher a charming Lumiere, with candles for hands. This was a delightful evening at the theatre.

Beauty and the Beast Jr.
Music by Alan Menken
Lyrics by Howard Ashman and Tim Rice
Book by Linda Woolverton
Eltham Little Theatre
Directed by John Leahy
Musical Direction by Nicola Ramsey

Reviewed by Richard Burman – Theatrecraft,  July 22, 2017

The well-known 18th-Century fairy tale of Beauty and the Beast was turned into a successful musical film by Walt Disney in the 1990s. This was later adapted to a stage production, with additional songs added, and then a children’s version of the show was presented, and this children’s show, Beauty and the Beast Jr., was successfully presented by the Eltham Little Theatre.

A young cast of over 30 performers gave a very well-drilled, enthusiastic and joyous performance under the experienced direction of John Leahy. The cast was well supported by imaginative scenery designed and constructed by Phil Holmes and his crew. The stage was divided into two by curtains, the back half being an effective permanent set of the interior of the Beast’s castle and the front half, when the curtains closed, by different representations wheeled on and off.

The role of Belle, the Beauty, was shared by Olivia Sproule and Ruby Dunstan. Olivia was playing the performance I attended and she created a charming and, at times, feisty heroine who would have done Disney proud. She was matched by Oliver Strauss playing Prince Adam who, because of his hard-heartedness, is turned into the Beast until he can learn to love and be loved in return. This is a more difficult role as the actor must move through a range of differing emotions. Oliver achieved this progress very well but he must be careful to maintain clarity of speech when shouting.

The comic role of the rival for Belle’s hand, the egotistical Gaston, was cleverly realised and played to the full by Tenzil Fox who had the audience in the palm of his hand. Supported with equal energy and comic flair by Maddy Coburn as Lefou, his sidekick, the two performers inserted fun and vitality into the show in every scene in which they appeared. Their physical co-ordination was cleverly rehearsed and well projected.

The roles of the servants who are slowly turning into furniture were all well played and clearly defined with nice performances by Guy McGovern as a pompous Cogsworth, Lily Cotter as a pert Babette and Maddi Steinfort as a matronly Madame Bouche. Peter Gallagher showed a special flair for comic acting and timing as Lumiere. Ebony Zahra sang the title song very clearly and sensitively and teamed with the young actress who played Chip well.

Kess Huggins created a nice character in the role of Maurice, Belle’s inventor father. Rebecca Favarolo, Celina Anderson and April Robertson had fun playing the Silly Girls, while Lexi Patman, Ruby Todd, Emily Uwland and Morgan Whelan shared the narration to move the story along. The large chorus was well rehearsed and projected a gusto and effervescence, which captivated the audience.
The costumes for the production were designed by Tania Blanksy, and she and her team created a large and effective wardrobe, especially the designs for the servants in the Beast’s castle. The lighting, designed by Emma Fox, was also successful, not only in supporting the performers but also in creating the mood of the different scenes.

So, as you can realise, I enjoyed this production very much. But there were one or two points that should be carefully looked at in the future. The accompanying orchestral music was on tape and at times was too loud for the performers to successfully project their dialogue or songs to the audience. This was a pity as when dialogue was delivered without the music in the background it was clear, although a couple of actors needed to project just a little more. The same applies to the music behind the singing: the levels needed to be adjusted to the strength of the specific performer’s voice. And in the scene in the market square, when the stalls were placed around the auditorium, some performers directed their dialogue and singing towards the stage and not to the audience.
Still, it was good to see young actors getting a solid ground training in performance skills. Well done, Eltham, in presenting such a bubbly performance with your young actors.

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