In Theaters Everywhere—In production notes, director Baz Luhrmann says his new film, Australia, is his homage to such old-school epics as Lawrence of Arabia and Ben-Hur. Indeed, the size and scale of the Nicole Kidman/ Hugh Jackman vehicle shows Oz has come a long way since the low-budget exploitation films chronicled in the recent documentary Not Quite Hollywood; its visuals are the widest of the widescreen, including a massive cattle stampede, a recreation of the Japanese attack at Darwin in 1942, and an estimated 2,000 costumes.
The result fuses many types of movies from the 1940s, including Westerns, war films and of course romance into a massive, Aussie-centric storyline dealing with topics ranging from the country's role in WWII to the treatment of half-aboriginal children.
Will Luhrmann's vision prove to be the next Titanic, or will audiences send this homage to old-fashioned storytelling back to the Outback? If the reception the preview audience gave is any indication, the former is a distinct possibility. —Zack Smith
The Little Prince
Playmakers Repertory—One year ago, Indy theater critic Byron Woods boldly predicted that PlayMakers Repertory's minimalist production of The Little Prince, adapted from Antoine de Saint-Exupéry's wide-eyed 1943 novella, would return to the Triangle. Like the book itself—a modernist think-piece, hidden in an illustrated children's story—the stage show transcended the "holiday special" genre to tell a serious tale of love, death, inspiration and asteroids. For PlayMakers, to bring this production back is no small feat; this holiday season, Woods will get his wish—sans a few of his favorite performers.
"Let's have years to savor Kenneth Strong's Aviator, an ordinary man caught in three extraordinary circumstances: crashing a plane in the Sahara Desert, living to tell the tale, and then meeting a curious emissary from a distant star," Woods wrote in his four-star review. "More iterations, please, of Lesley Shires' clearly innocent but uncannily direct discourse as the title character."
Well, not quite. This year, Strong is replaced by Scott Ripley, who recently played the title role in PlayMakers' Pericles. And returning director Tom Quaintance is going with a male Prince, in Derrick Ledbetter—a first-year grad student at UNC's theater school.
"And even then, more time, if possible, to spend in McKay Coble's minimal—and then suddenly fantastic—desert landscape of the imagination," Woods pleaded.
Mais oui! Coble is back to deliver the magical staging that earned The Little Prince a "Best Production Design" nod (to go with "Best Original Score") in the Indy's Year in Theater. If you saw it last year, check out the new cast. If you haven't seen it yet, it's worth the interplanetary trip (and, yes, you can bring the kids, too).
Running through Dec. 14, shows are at 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays (except on Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 27), 2 p.m. Sundays and 2 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 6. Tickets are $15-$30. Call 962-PLAY, or visit www.playmakersrep.org. —Matt Saldaña