The Year Nick McGowan Came to StayI would say the 80’s are back but I’m not sure they ever went away judging by the enthusiasm with which the audience greeted this particular showing of La Boite’s new musical The Year Nick McGowan Came To Stay

Based on local author Rebecca Sparrow’s prequel to The Girl Most Likely, The Year Nick McGowan Came To Stay is an affectionate musical ode to growing up in Brisbane in the 80’s. The show traces one year in the life of Rachel Hill, a 17-year-old prefect whose perfectly ordered life is thrown into disarray by the arrival of Nick McGowan, a beetroot-loving teen spunk who boards with her family while he works through some mysterious personal issues.

Rachel soon develops a crush on her laconic house guest and while she grapples with the complexities of being “normal” and middle class (not to mention a closet Huey Lewis and The News fan), Nick McGowan is dealing with darker issues – cue Simple Minds.

This energetic musical exploration of teen angst in the time of the tube sock is pure kitsch. From the inventive Rubik’s Cube set complete with Warhol-esque floor prints of Madonna and Rick Astley, to some rather alarming references to all things 80’s (It’s a Knockout anyone?), The Year Nick McGowan Came to Stay taps into a decade that is coming to define Brisbane.

The show is billed as “the 80’s hairbrush musical” and that’s just what the audience gets. With not a tap shoe in sight, it’s more karaoke than Chorus Line and benefits from the considerable talents of composer Tyrone Noonan who has put together a poppy line-up of nostalgic “best of the 80’s” tracks delivered with great energy by the cast.

It’s held together by a spruce script full of one-liners and popular references to Brisbane in the 80’s and moves along at a cracking pace. Director Sean Mee keeps it light and bright and elicits enjoyable performances from his talented ensemble cast, most of whom do double-duty in minor roles.

As over-achieving prefect Rachel Hill, Neridah Waters is terrific. Her uptight Rachel is the perfect foil for Nick, who is played with measured cool by Tim Dashwood. Hannah Levien is wickedly funny as Rachel’s sex-obsessed best friend Zoe, the kind of girl we all knew would get us into trouble at school.

Bryan Proberts
unleashes the inner dag in a crowd-pleasing performance as Rachel’s gleefully embarrassing dad while Elise Greig channels Olivia Newton-John as mum and works the leg warmers and shiny tights look with hilarious conviction.

In the end The Year Nick McGowan Came To Stay is enjoyable, lightweight stuff. Due to popular demand the season has already been extended until 9 June and it’s the kind of agreeable musical that will probably enjoy renewed outings on many a Brisbane high-school stage in the future.

As the cast took it home with a moment straight out The Breakfast Club it put this reviewer in mind of that favorite 80’s lolly, the fruit tingle – sweet, fizzy and fun while it lasts.

A La Boite Theatre Company Commission
Rebecca Sparrow's – The Year Nick McGowan Came to Stay
World Premiere

Venue: Roundhouse Theatre
Dates: 17 May – 9 June 2007 (Previews 15 & 16 May)
Times: Tue & Wed 6.30pm, Thu-Sat 8pm
Opening Night: 17 May 8pm
Matinees: Wed 16, Tue 22 & 29 May 11am, Sat 2 June 2pm. After Show Discussion - 25 May
Tickets: $22 - $55 | Group Discounts: $35 for 10+, $19 for school groups. Booking fees apply

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