Eternity Playhouse

On Sunday with D as well as H and K (staying with us from Shanghai) to the new Eternity Playhouse to the last night of the Darlinghurst Theatre Company’s production of the musical “Falsettos.”

I wanted to see the theatre, which is a refitting of the Baptist Tabernacle on a corner of Burton and Palmer streets in Darlinghurst following its purchase by Sydney City Council. The conversion has been done by squeezing the foyer and bar underneath the tiered seating of the theatre. That is in 8 rows of 25 (or so) seats each row. A few of the original features and signs of the original floor line have been retained.

The one aspect of the conversion where you feel the constraint of the site is the toilets, which have been inserted as almost (shipping-)container-like boxes into this space. The provision is just adequate for the Gents but I’m not sure about the Ladies – a lot of space is taken up by the disabled access toilet. The stairway access to the theatre is a bit steep and takes a while to get everybody in. There is a lift for the less mobile.

I saw Falsettos ten years ago at the New Theatre. It is a stitching-together of two off-Broadway musicals. The first half, first produced in 1981, is set in 1979 and depicts the central character, Marvin, leaving his wife and son to be with his new lover, Whizzer. By the end his wife has married his psychiatrist and Whizzer has left him.

The second half picks up the story 2 years later with the arrival of the terrible disease. It was first produced in 1990. The two were then joined together in 1992 and became a long-running hit.

The whole show is pretty much (apart from just a few announcements of titles and the odd spoken punch line) through composed.

To me the bite of the musical is the poignant position of a generation which found freedom or at least new ways of living, only to face, suddenly, this terrible scourge. That’s something I can remember: so far the show doesn’t seem dated, at least to me, as mere “AIDS drama” though perhaps this production played down some of the traditional paraphernalia of such dramas.

In this production a lot was highly stylised. In the first half, where the characters were all similarly dressed and the songs flew thick and fast, I found it hard to get into the actors as characters rather than people singing songs. They didn’t feel particularly Jewish or of their time.

In the second half the story tugged more at my heart strings and I found myself tearing up a bit, even though this production spared us the more realistic hospital death that I remember the New Theatre production included. The actor simply walked off.

My one regret with the production was that, perhaps inevitably, a band – even a “teeny tiny band” of the lyrics, was reduced to just a piano. That really was a big job for the pianist – he played practically all the time for the whole show. He did an excellent job even if sometimes (because we had words to catch) he was maybe a little loud: this is the perennial question and anxiety for pianists. I can’t begin to say (even if, obviously, I am beginning now) how refreshing it was to hear an entirely acoustic show.

The tickets were $43 each. As live entertainment dollars go, that was definitely a bargain.

3 Responses to “Eternity Playhouse”

  1. wanderer Says:

    Gerald Moore’s autobiography is “Am I Too Loud”.

    Equally interesting is the Hayes Theatre, in Greenknowe Avenue Potts Point, occupied by the Hayes (after Nancy) Theatre Co as a subset of the Independent Theatre Company, a not-for-profit partnership between several entities and persons of the theatre. We just saw a brilliant sold-out Sweet Charity that could have easily settled into any small theatre anywhere in the world. One Mr Rush was behind, and the first to his feet in a standing ovation for a great show. Same pricing as the Eternity. There was in this case a fantastic five piece band (K was effusive in praise, a rare thing), good facilities, a trendy balcony for drinkies, and a comfortable staircase from/to the street. For smokers etc.

    All hail Clover Moore?

    • marcellous Says:

      Please forgive me if I thank you for spotting it: of course I had Gerald in mind.

      I meant to get to “Sweet Charity” but slipped up. The hall – a longstanding council-owned property – is the previous venue for the Darlinghurst Theatre Co so perhaps not so much credit to Clover M for that one.

      Optimism springs eternal in the theatrical (etc) and especially the music-theatrical one. Will the opening burst of goodwill last? Remember Kookaburra and Company? (Apparently DTC did not dare make that mistake, and cancelled the last Friday’s performance after interval owing to illness of one of the performers).

      I hope both places get a good run.

  2. Victor Says:

    I think they have done a great job with the Eternity Playhouse apart from all those stairs (I know there is an elevator) and the capacity of the toilets.

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