2019 Reviews

The Sapphires

Written & Directed by Tony Briggs

The following are reviews received from around Australia as part of this
major ground-breaking 2019 tour!

Critic Reviews

This was a  buzz from beginning to end with the show starting with the four Sapphires belting out a tune as they do so many times during the performance. In the journey there’s a lot for we, the audience, to engage with. Lots of drama and also plenty of humour as the women have a good, positive outlook and nothing will stop them wanting to perform. This was a winner. A good production…a heart-warming storyline and a great score.
David Kary, Sydney Arts Guide

Their voices are superb and the audience enjoys their harmonies with opportunities to hear the beauty of the individual voices with songs including: Love is Like a Heatwave, Yellow Bird, Respect, My Boyfriend’s Back, Chain of Fools and many more.
Kym Vaitiekus, Broadway World

The Sapphires presented by Christine Harris and HIT Productions is a funny and heart-warming celebration of four incredible women. Each of these actresses brings depth and complexity to their characters, as well as a tangible sisterly love for each other. It is not often that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women are centred in musical theatre. Tony Briggs’ remarkable play is an important part of changing this. I recommend going along to be dazzled and delighted, and to celebrate the more fabulous parts of Australia’s rich and diverse music and history.
Michelle Sutton, Theatre Travels

The four women are played with warmth and welcome by the female stars.  And what gems they are.  When these four dynamic women sing a Cappella in native language … chills … as the world’s oldest living culture reaches across the footlights. The more poignant songs and solos are sweet and sad and softly carry the emotional content of the story. It’s an emotional production with the complex characters loving and fighting between songs.  For me it was the music that made this show such a delight to see. The touring has polished the stage crew to a faceted shine, it’s incredibly smooth and, if the show has had a few challenges fitting into the Lennox theatre, (there is, after all, a truck!) the cabaret style of the production assists in those many, but seamless, changes.
Reviews by Judith (and Friends)

The characters are in earnest when they come up against unexpected difficulties on their tour. Smith as the big-talking but genuine tour manager Dave is a worthy partner to the boldness of the sisters, especially the sarcastic and controlling Gail, played by Jade Lomas-Ronan, who demands attention at every turn. The two have a humorous rapport that provides the main momentum to the production’s narrative. Their set list covers all the greats of soul music from Aretha Franklin to Marvin Gaye. Together, the group achieve both sincere and joyous harmonies that demonstrate their connection as singers and sisters.

The group’s four members certainly sparkle, making the show an overall entertaining experience. And together, the ladies can certainly sing. The melody of their a cappella ‘Yellow Bird’ warm up for competition at the St Kilda Tiki Club makes this clear. The leading ladies, in particular, are all engaging performers. There is a familiarity to their between-sister comic banter of teasing and threats and when they do this in argument about whether Julie should join her older sisters in performance, it comes across as one of the most natural and comfortable scenes of the show.
Meredith Walker, Blue Curtains

With plenty of laughter involved, The Sapphires included heaps of fun moments that audiences of all ages could enjoy. It was a fantastic show in which each woman had their moment to shine and express their character through song, as this is of course a musical at the end of the day. Mike Smith as Dave Lovelace inspired plenty of laughs and this was due to the fact that he brought a dorky but honest aspect to the character. Each of the four women sang with such passion and emotion that it was truly something to witness, and most definitely worth seeing this show in person.
Joanna Letic, 4ZZZ

The four sisters were played by Aboriginal women, lending a genuine flavour to the production. The harmonies were fabulous and worthy of any Motown label. The band had the audience bopping the whole evening with their funky Motown music played live on stage throughout the show. They added a musical dimension making it seem to be more of a Motown concert interspersed with a play, having the audience clapping along to the rhythms, as if in a nightclub making it a massive hit. The Sapphires sparkled with talent in a dramatic spectacle of Motown hits, bling and Aussie comedy to entertain the troops of Brisbane.
Dr Gemma Regan, 4ZZZ

It is wonderful to see the breadth of First Nations talent on show here. This is still a cracking tale with plenty of drama and interest, and the music was brilliant. The leading four ladies are all super talented, with Mindy Kwanten as Cynthia and Ngaire Pigram as Gail belting out powerful room filling soul and Lorinda May Merrypor as Julie and Matilda Brown as Kay with sweeter, lighter voices. Together their harmonies soar and thanks to brilliant backing from a small band, they are a joy to listen to. Go see this for the magnificent music, fascinating story, and to support a group of brilliant First Nations talent.
Cathy Bannister – Stage Whispers

The cast sing well and capture the individual essence of each character, and Leonard Mikelo’s choreography is appropriate to the period and the pop/Aussie Motown style. The capacity audience left the theatre, entertained by the uplifting story of The Sapphires, impressed by the individual performances.
Peter Wilkins, Canberra Critics Circle 

Venue Feedback

The Sapphires was a super-hit here in Hobart. For a start we were all but sold out and well and truly into the Gallery (The Gods) for each show. The cast were a delight. Very flexible with our PR demands and very entertaining on and off the stage, which was greatly appreciated. We do not do reviews here in Hobart but I did speak to people in the interval and after the show and they loved it. They loved the music and the humour. They were all particularly moved and were noticeably still digesting the show at the function afterwards. A number of VIP guests and Subscribers contacted us the next day (by email and phone) to say what an incredible night at the Theatre they had had. We don’t get calls like that all the time. Also, on a personal note I was delighted to see how many young people (15 – 25) were in to see the show, an age group we sometimes struggle to entrance. Also, it was wonderful to see members of the Community in the audience. We don’t often have work that speaks to the Indigenous Community here in Hobart and it meant the world to us that we had something on this occasion.
Tom Schoon, Marketing & Business Development Manager, Theatre Royal, Hobart TAS

The acting is amazing and the voices…. Just WOW!!
Debbie Kershaw, Performing Arts & Ops Supervisor, Paranaple Arts Centre, Devonport TAS

I just wanted to let you know that The Sapphires was a huge hit in Griffith last night! We were almost sold out and had a very mixed crowd – which was great for us. The cast were fantastic – they met up with members of our Aboriginal community before the show – for afternoon tea – which made it really special for them. They also came out after the show to sign posters and chat and were very generous with their time. The chemistry of the cast was wonderful and their voices were so powerful. Beautiful harmonies and great tunes – with some deadly dancing in between. It was a really, fun, feel good show that also touched on some really important issues. The huge crowd didn’t want to leave but finally left with big smiles on their faces.
Raina Savage, Manager, Griffith Regional Theatre, Griffith NSW

The Sapphires went very well – terrific cast. Close to a sell-out season of 7 performances.
Robert Love, Director, Riverside Theatres, Parramatta NSW

The Sapphires was a total sell out at the Jetty Theatre with about 15 on a wait list! It was lovely to see such a large touring production grace our little stage. The audience response was overwhelmingly positive with many staying afterwards to great the performers. There was such an engagement from a couple of the Elders who were in attendance, they were chuckling at some of the nuances and singing along to the Indigenous song which was really lovely to witness. That’s when we knew we were onto a winner! Looking forward to a return season with the addition of sequins!
Natalie Boyle, Theatre Co-ordinator, Jetty Memorial Theatre, Coffs Harbour NSW

The show went really well. The audience were really charmed by the performers. We all feel like we witnessed some new talent on the rise. Thanks for a great production.
Carissa Campbell, Manager Civic Theatre, Wagga Wagga NSW

Great to have our first show of our performance year 2019 sell so well. The Sapphires’ story is so relatable for our audience and off the back of the film had great leverage, We had 88% attendance – 411 out of a capacity of 466.
Vicki Sienczuk, Manager, Cessnock PAC, NSW

The Sapphires was a great show, everyone had a blast and is important in diverse programming and supporting and growing talent across the cultural sector.
Lillian Silk, Music, Event, Theatre Producer, Casula Powerhouse, Liverpool NSW

Thank you for your email and for your commitment to the touring of live theatre across our country. Your personal passion, professionalism and dedication is greatly admired and appreciated by venues and audiences across the country… Please pass onto all the cast and creatives my congratulation on what I saw last night. There was such great energy and clarity on stage. This an epic story and the humour and playful nature that the cast brought to it helped drive it forward – as did the superb three piece band. The lighting was exceptional and the sound served the piece well. Congratulations to Maureen for a great effort driving the team on what is a large touring company on the road doing a work of scale. Please thank each and every cast and crew member for their professionalism and commitment to their work. It was evident and appreciated.
Peter Ross, Manager Entertainment Venues, Capital Theatre, Tamworth NSW

The production was delightful and was warmly received by the audience. The cast and crew were gorgeous. They were so appreciative and down to earth. We wish them all the bet for the remainder of the tour.”
– Linda Christof, Manager, Dubbo Regional Theatre NSW

I am writing to say how pleased we were that we were able to present The Sapphires outside in our beautiful amphitheatre rather than inside our theatre as originally planned. We appreciate the effort that has gone into creating the pop up staging version that made this possible. Moving the event outside had a number of major advantages for us. In our view given the subject matter of The Sapphires an outdoor performance is totally in keeping with the themes of the production and its storyline. We applaud and support all initiatives to bring quality theatre productions to remote andregional communities like ours.
Poppy Searle, Director Godinymayin Yijard Rivers Arts & Culture Centre (GYRACC), Katherine NT

Firstly, wow! What a fantastic night at The Sapphires at the MECC last night. Incredibly hard-working and super-talented performers with breathtaking vocals had audiences thrilled from start to finish. Close to a sell out in our 1090 seat venue, the show was an outstanding result for our venue. Congratulations and a huge well done to the entire cast, crew and team at HIT.
Jemma Carey, Ass. Manager Mackay Entertainment & Convention Centre, Mackay QLD

I am very happy to be able to let you know that Tuesday night’s performance of The Sapphires at Capella Cultural Centre was a huge success and is one of the best musical productions I have had the pleasure of presenting and witnessing in a very long time during the forty plus years that I have worked in the entertainment industry. From the professional manner in which the technical crew spent the day setting up the scenery, lighting and sound systems, to the highly enjoyable presentation by the performers and musicians, this was a production that Hit Productions deserve to be very proud of. The audience at Capella Cultural Centre all left the venue beaming from ear to ear and the feedback around town has been wonderful to hear people saying they wish they had made more effort to attend the performance. Congratulations on this production and I hope we have the pleasure of dealing with you again many times in the future.
Les Alberts, Manager, Capella Cultural Centre QLD

Audience (almost full-house) loved the show last night. Had several of our subscribers seek me out after the show to say how much they enjoyed it. Good energy in the cast. Harmonies, especially in the lovely indigenous song, were great! I think everyone was waiting for the blue sparkly dresses and when they came on, it was a bit of a WOW moment.
Jill Standfield, Operations Manager, QUT Gardens Theatre, Brisbane QLD

Congratulations on two awesome shows of The Sapphires performed at Redcliffe Entertainment Centre on Saturday 23 March! Acting on point, really tight production and very well received by our audiences. All the best with the rest of your tour!”
– Alison Knox, Redcliffe Entertainment Centre QLD

It was a lovely production – warm hearted and poignant- had patrons laughing and quiet in all the right moments. The singing was joyous and absolutely beautiful and everyone thoroughly enjoyed it. The crew were great. We reached fantastic numbers for a play. We don’t usually pull such extraordinary numbers!
Michelle Goff, Manager, Carnarvon Civic Centre WA

The Sapphires was recently at our venue and we were very, very happy with the piece. We had a full house, which is quite unusual for a Wednesday and the audience response at the end was phenomenal. Thrilled with the show and happy to present it again in the future.”
– Guy Boyce, Artistic Director/CEO, Mandurah Performing Arts Centre WA

The Sapphires show went really well and those that were able to attend the production loved the performance. The crew especially did a great job adapting to the limitations of our venue.”
– Andrew Frith, Manager, Margaret River Cultural Centre, WA

The Sapphires production was very well received and enjoyed by the audience. It was wonderful to see a very large cross section of the community enjoying a fantastic Australian story. Great performances with lovely singing.”
– Drew Dymond, Manager, Albany Entertainment Centre, WA

The Sapphires’ is a marvellous show with a great story, extremely good acting and singing and playing from all the cast and musicians. Everyone was equally as good, and the direction was fast-paced where it needed to be and slower in just the right places. The scene changes were pretty slick. It really meant a lot to the Bairnsdale audience to have this show performed at the Forge Theatre, and we now look forward to a return performance in 2020.
Janice Haynes, Manager, Forge Theatre & Arts Hub, Bairnsdale VIC

Good production, I thought the cast were great!
Robyn Till, Coordinator Arts & Culture, Kyneton Town Hall VIC

We had a sold out show which was a fantastic result for the box office, and the audience loved it! All positive feedback and one gentleman, who was apprehensive about coming as he served in the Vietnam War, said whilst parts were difficult and brought back many memories, he was so glad he came as he really enjoyed it and it’s a positive story from the war. Wonderful show and best of luck for the remainder of the tour.
Melissa Forlano, Coordinator, The Wedge, Sale VIC

We had 308 patrons attending, which is significantly more than we usually get attending a drama/theatre show. The audience response was very positive, with patrons commenting especially on the musical performances. One audience member noted “it is good to hear these voices and these stories. They are so often missing from our stage and they should be heard.’ The production was well suited to touring, with emphasis on very simple scenic renderings of various locations (which kept the show moving at a good pace), a nice central set piece (the truck) all assisted by an effective and evocative lighting design.”
Rob Robson, Manager West Gippsland Arts Centre, Warragul VIC.

The Sapphires performance went really well. The highlight came at the end of the production when 2 of the original members of The Sapphires that were in the audience went up on the stage and sang with the cast. The production was well received by the audience in attendance.”
– Ken Cameron, Venue Manager, Riverlinks, Shepparton, VIC

We sold out two shows with many on the wait list. Our audiences loved every minute and our operations officer stated it has been her favourite show here over the past 11 years. Our local indigenous people the Wadawurrung welcomed the group and were blown away with the performances.”
– Rob McLeod, Manager Potato Shed, Drysdale VIC

The Sapphires has been the highest grossing production presented at The Bowery Theatre St Albans. The audience was full of praise for the show and in particular local indigenous community members who appreciated the contact with the cast. Overall a great experience in the power for good the arts can have in a community setting.
Richard Fitzgerald, Coordinator, Bowery Theatre, St. Albans VIC

It was a sold out show. The Community really got behind it and also all of the actors. Patrons response was that they loved everything about the production and appreciated the show being brought to regional Victoria. One of the highlights for the staff was the Welcome to Country which was organised with local Elder Peter Hood. The cast and crew alongside our back of house gathered together to share this special experience.
Kathleen Roberts, Manager, Latrobe PAC, Traralgon VIC

The Sapphires was a real treat for our audience, and worked remarkably well on our small stage.
Lauren Norman, Team Leader, Knox Community Arts Centre, Bayswater VIC

“Good production and performance. Was appealing to the local audience – good feedback afterwards – the crew and cast were lovely to work with.”
– Jacqueline Grenfell, Manager Arts, Culture & Heritage, Ararat PAC, VIC

It was great to have such a big named production visit Roxby Downs, The Sapphires play shared a great story of regional Australia. It’s rare that we have the opportunity to share such a big scale stage show with enthralling sets and It’s something that we really enjoyed being able to offer to our community.
Cassie Weir, Roxbylink Auditorium, Roxby Downs SA

There was a very enthusiastic response to the show, it was well received and went very well. The staff commented it ran very smoothly.”
– Frank Morello, Sir Robert Helpmann Theatre, Mt Gambier SA

Pop-Up & Concert Performances & Community Visits Feedback

A Positive event for our whole community. One of the many parts of Cummeragunga history told through the performing arts that can inspire the youth of the community .The biggest thing that came out of the night was the engagement with the wider community. Cummergunga for too long has been viewed in such a negative light and considered an area that non-indigenous were not welcome. This night has led to a wonderful connection with the wider community. Walking around and talking with people of all backgrounds I soon realised this event was going to have a long lasting positive impact and has inspired me to push ahead with other events that can build on this feeling. This was a true reconciliation event that connected with people in a wonderful family event that had nothing but positive messages for all ages in the community.
The event also encouraged local aboriginal groups to work together which doesn’t often happen but was a huge success. The event has brought people together. Watching the young indigenous girls sitting in the front soaking up the story, maybe being inspired to follow in the foot-steps of their elders. However not just the girls but the guys as well who were able to be either involved from the assisting with the stage construction but also interacting with band members. We would love to have more events here that can engage the youth in such a wonderful and broad way but what made it special was that it wasn’t a youth event or a young child’s event but it was an event for all peoples, all ages, all backgrounds.
Every performer was aboriginal but not from our community. Each of the cast members were very respectful and took time to spend with those attending the event. They are such positive role models from all different age groups. Please keep them in mind for other events, especially using the amazing stage. Without the stage the event would not have had the impact and they would be interested in bringing it back to host other events at this wonderful location.
Roland Atkinson – Cummergunga Land Council NSW

The town enjoyed the night immensely, there was a great audience response. From a venue point of view they were very impressed with the cast and crew who were very professional, knowledgeable and wonderful to mix and communicate with.”
– Barkly Regional Arts, Tennant Creek NT

A big thank you for sending the amazing cast today. We had lots of people here listening and having a great time. It was fantastic. Thank you again!”
Ilker Deli, Dareton Youth Centre, Dareton NSW

On Thursday the cast of ’The Sapphires’ performed a pop-up outdoor performance at lunchtime. Students and staff were entertained by the harmonies of the talented Singers, accompanied by their charismatic Guitarist and Drummer. The Guitarist strummed his Guitar as the Musicians wandered outside and by the time they arrived at the performance space, quite an audience had gathered. It was great to see so many people enjoying listening to and appreciating live music. A big thank you to the generous performers! We appreciated them sharing their talents with us.
Renmark High School Newsletter

Thank you again for arranging the cast and band to visit CQU, Creative Arts on Friday. The students thoroughly enjoyed the hour industry forum. The gang really gave an in depth insight to their industry journey. We look forward to collaborating again, when HIT Productions next tour to Cairns!”
Keesha Mclean, CQ University Australia, Cairns QLD

“A BIG thank you for your assistance with organising Mike to speak, and Mike a BIG thank you too for your generosity with your time, attendance and address to guests at the Bond University event on Friday. Through torrential rain they still came! Was a wonderful opportunity to hear directly from you and I know the guests really appreciated the special visit.”
Jaqi Kair, Co-ord Sponsorships & Relationships, HOTA, Gold Coast QLD

“Just a quick email to pass on how wonderful the group was that came to the cultural centre today. It was only a small number of people from the community who were here, but the artists were incredibly professional, upbeat and obviously talented musicians. The girls were really happy to take the time to sit and be interviewed by one of the young women we are working with from the school. They were very generous with their time and attention, and it really made a big impact and strong impression on Aleika who was initially nervous about interviewing them. I passed on my thanks and gratitude when they were here, but just wanted to let you know as well.”
Aimee Kepa, New Roebourne Producer, BIGhART, Roebourne WA

Thanks so much for The Sapphires visit. It was a really good event that was well received by the students. The cast sang and chatted about their story in the arts. The kids loved it!
Debbie Bailey, Nathalia Secondary College VIC

On Thursday we were lucky to have Lorinda and Jade from ‘The Sapphires’ cast that performed at Chaffey Theatre come and visit our academy. They talked about how important their culture is to them, shared the amazing story of the original Sapphires and their careers and what our students need to to do succeed. It was a fantastic opportunity for our students and they learned a great deal!”
– David Binney – Riverland SAASTA Coordinator, Renmark SA

Fantastic! Absolutely Brilliant!! What a wonderful event for our community! The smiles were contagious and everything ran so smoothly because of the happiness in the room. The cast sang and then went above and beyond by moving around the room to every Elders table singing impromptu songs and doing sing-a-longs with the residents. The original Sapphires sang along and were involved in the night and made to feel special The cast are very wonderful people that gave so much to the Community that Cheryl still has goose bumps as she talks about it! Thanks so much for thinking of them and giving them a night to remember.
Rumbalara Elders Facility, Shepparton VIC

Thanks so much for The Sapphires visit. It was a really good event that was well received by the students. The cast sang and chatted about their story in the arts. The kids loved it!”
– Debbie Bailey, Nathalia Secondary College VIC