For the Record: Baz Luhrmann

by Les Spindle

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Saturday August 31, 2013

The cast of the Baz Luhrmann tribute
The cast of the Baz Luhrmann tribute  (Source:Lewis Payton)

The Rockwell Table and Stage restaurant/cabaret in Los Feliz continues its hugely popular series with a dazzling musical salute to the beloved works of a great Aussie filmmaker in "For the Record: Baz Luhrmann" including "Strictly Ballroom," "Romeo + Juliet," "Moulin Rouge" and the recent "The Great Gatsby" remake.

Choreography by Derek Ferguson reaches new levels of wonderment in a Rockwell production. The ambitious undertaking further benefits from a flawless triple-threat ensemble and an ingenious conception.

Adhering to a distinctive concept, the prodigious "For the Record" creative team at Rockwell (producers Shane Scheel and Siobhan O'Neil, director Anderson Davis, and music director-arranger Christopher Lloyd Bratten) has drawn from the soundtrack music of notable filmmakers (such as Scorsese, Tarantino, Zemeckis, and more) for past shows.

Inspired by the film music and the narratives of a particular filmmaker, the creators collaborate on a unique blend of cabaret and dramatic vignettes to parlay the spirits of the individual films and the filmmaker's sensibility into a fresh and thrilling entertainment format.

Milena Govich is perfectly matched with Peter Porter as the bohemian who gets much more than he bargained for during his quest for inspiration and adventure in Paris.

This Luhrmann revue has been presented in previous iterations, but has been revised substantially for this new staging, to incorporate this summer's box-office hit "Gatsby" and to further integrate the tragic love stories from the films into a marvelously cohesive whole. The unfolding stories coalesce at key moments, as songs, plot developments, and choreography of the separate stories are skillfully combined to create a thematic and aesthetic flow to the evening-poetry in motion and song.

An illustrious cast tackles the well-known roles from the films: Milena Govich as the sultry showgirl Satine and Peter Porter as the lovestruck writer Christian, and Patrick Mulvey as the flamboyant host Zidler in "Moulin Rogue;" Kristolyn Lloyd and Ben D. Goldberg as the doomed couple from "Romeo & Juliet;" Ferguson as gifted dancer Scott and Tomasina Abata as the ugly duckling novice dancer Fran in "Strictly Ballroom," and Ciarán McCarthy as the duplicitous Jay Gatsby opposite Joanna Jones as Daisy, the apple of his eye, in "The Great Gatsby." Alternate players appear at some performances. The caliber of talent at Rockwell is consistently exemplary.

Govich's sizzling and dangerous Satine make any thoughts of Nicole Kidman in the film a moot point; it's easy to believe it when Govich croons the lyrics "Diamonds are a Girl's Best Friend," which is light years away from Carol Channing in "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes." She's perfectly matched with Porter as the bohemian who gets much more than he bargained for during his quest for inspiration and adventure in Paris.

In the more lighthearted "Strictly Ballroom" vignettes, Ferguson and Abata tear into the red-hot dances with passion and grace. McCarthy and Jones are formidable as F. Scott Fitzgerald's intriguing unlucky-in-love couple, and both have opportunities to showcase their knockout vocal abilities. The same can be said for the Shakespearean couple enacted by Goldberg and Lloyd, who make the most of this revisionist take on a classic. Mulvey is a master comic, a splendid singer, and an all-around stellar presence in the various guises he is called upon to undertake. Some of the other actors also play more than one small role.

Lighting by Daniel Hartman and costumes by Steve Mazurek add to the enchanting spell cast by this gorgeously realized effort. Those who have not yet been to a "For the Record" show are advised that this enthralling production would be a perfect place to start.

"For the Record: Baz Luhrmann" runs through Oct. 19 at Rockwell Table and Stage, 1714 N. Vermont Ave., L.A. For information or tickets, call 800-838-3006, or visit www.rockwell-la.