Written by Rod Christian and Peter Waterman, Cruisin' tells of the Italian Russo family, newly arrived in Australia in the 1950’s. The teenage children Vinnie (Andre Ford) and Maria (Estelle Lewis), embrace Australia and the Rock ‘n’ Roll lifestyle, creating conflict with their parents Rosa (Katherine Jenkins) and Vincenzo (Glenn Shorrock). Other key characters include the love interests of Vinnie and Maria, Pamela and Phil (Samarah Clements-Shepherd and Simon Loughton respectively), and Tina Jackson as Maria’s friend Giovanna. Chris Murphy takes a lead role as the family’s friend Johnny Di Maccio (also known as Johnny Angel). Courtney Murphy has a small part (and a great song) as Rory Storm.
It was obvious that more time had been spent on the songs and choreography than the script revisions and execution. The spoken scenes were clunky, stop-start and forced, creating cringe worthy moments. The scene changes were worse. Although I was impressed by the grandiose set by Nathan Weyers and Cale Watts, it was too much for the technicians who struggled to change in time. This created awful moments where the interlude finished, the lights came up and we heard (and saw) technicians still working. Scenery flew in at the wrong time and there were some very near misses between set pieces and people.
Whilst the script was ghastly, I was impressed by the singing. The majority of the performers are relative unknown amateur performers, and whilst it showed in their acting, for the most part the singing was well executed, passionate and well harmonized. The band, lead by musical director Rod Christian was tight and skillful. Of particular note was Mike Collinson on alto saxophone, Paul Millard on tenor saxophone and Pete Di Losa and Mark Underwood on trumpet. Unfortunately, the sound mixing left a lot to be desired, including an amplifier fault that drowned out the singing for the first half an hour. Choreography by Alex Poor was sharp and varied, and the large ensemble pieces were enjoyable to watch. I was impressed with the swing dance moves by some ensemble members and the ability to separate into groups and then rejoin (always harder than it looks). Costumes by Peta Korb were bright, bubbly and very stylish.
The Regal Theatre is getting outdated and it is showing. The seats are cramped and uncomfortable, with faded, dated carpet and paint peeling off the walls inside. The distance from the upper seats where I sat to the stage feels immense, creating an unwanted sense of distance and disassociation. This atmosphere added to the let down feeling I came out with after the show. I wanted to cheer for the performers because they tried hard, and gave it their all, but could quite manage it. This musical could be impressive with more effort on the script and technical aspects. At the moment however, it hasn’t graduated from high school cheese and cringe.
JCM Theatre Productions in association with David Spicer Productions presents
Cruisin’ - The Musical
Book, Music and Lyrics by Rod Christian & Peter Waterman
Venue: Regal Theatre, Perth
Dates: 26 October - 4 November 2007