Kris Stewart, resident director of Wicked, has done a masterful job of integrating the elements of set, circus, performances, scene and song. In fact, the star-studded list of names involved in this production is awe-inspiring. Chelsea Plumley, Cameron McDonald and Glen Hogstrom are the best of the best in terms of musical theatre performers and their performances last night demonstrated why: almost flawless; heard every word; felt every shift in emotion. Book writer, Peter Fitzpatrick, won an AFI award for best adapted screenplay for Hotel Sorrento. Anthony Costanzo was short-listed for the Pratt Prize for musicals in his first attempt. Circus performers Annabel Carberry, Vaughan Curtis, Shannon McGurgan and Stephen Williams perform like they just stepped out of Cirque du Soleil. The circus choreography by Kate Priddle is stunning and completely in sync with the style of story of the show.
Kris states in his director’s notes that the main reason he wanted to direct this musical is Anthony’s outstanding music. It really is. The twists and turns, nuances, range and emotional shifts are exciting. However, in saying that, I couldn’t remember or hum one tune fifteen minutes after leaving the theatre. Is that a prerequisite for an exciting new musical? I’m not sure, but it did leave me wondering if there weren’t too many songs in the show. Perhaps a few more interesting reprises or variations on themes would have helped cement the melodies? I am hypothesizing more than criticizing.
The theatrical integration between story and circus was wonderful, images and stunts seamlessly blending with plot and performance. However, the metaphor of life being a circus was underexplored. The lyric ‘life’s a circus’ was repeated endlessly though I found myself wanting to be further shown how and why? The highlight of this metaphor was explored in the song ‘walking the tightrope’ culminating in Glen’s character being ‘dropped’ from the tightrope, another metaphor for his relationship Chelsea’s character falling apart. Great! But more often than not the text was the subtext and the characters said how they were feeling, rather than showing us through their actions.
The story was interesting but there was simply not enough to sustain the near two hour production. The characters were mostly passive, had no clear goals (other than each other) and it was frustrating watching them and listening to them half-heartedly pursue them.
Generally, Anthony Costanzo should be congratulated on a brave effort, a solid new musical with loads of potential, but even moreso because, as Kris states, the music is outstanding and Anthony is a new voice in the world of musical theatre to watch out for.
LIFE’S A CIRCUS
Composer/ Lyricist Anthony Costanzo | Writer Peter Fitzpatrick
Director Kris Stewart
Venue: Theatre Works, 14 Acland Street, St Kilda
Previews: Fri 31st July & Sat 1st August 8pm, Sun 2nd August 4pm
Dates: Monday 3 August to Sat 15 August
Times: Mon 3rd & 10 Aug @ 8pm / Wed to Sat 8th @ 8pm
Tickets: Adults $30 / Concession $26 / Groups (min 8) $27
Bookings: www.magtix.com / 03 9352 0232