Once We Lived Here | Bryant and Frank ProductionsDean Bryant and Mathew Frank are a formidable writing duo having had huge success with their musicals over the years, some of which have won awards, been produced overseas and been funded and developed by Playbox Theatre Company, the Malthouse Theatre and the Melbourne Theatre Company. In terms of new musical theatre in Australia, Dean and Mathew are at the top of the field.

Once We Lived Here is their latest offering with book, lyrics and direction by Dean and music, musical arrangements and musical direction by Mathew. Although it is their most recent musical to be produced, it has been nine years since they penned the first song, ‘Soon They’ll Forget’. It has taken nine years to develop, workshop, rewrite and refine to get to a point where the writer and composer have been happy to put it in front of a paying public.

The music and lyrics are reasonably strong, though I must admit I couldn’t hum a tune five minutes after the show ended (not that memorable tunes are the only sign of a strong musical).

The majority of the audience clapped wildly after many of the numbers and gave it a standing ovation at the end of the performance. Hearing some of the interval (and after show) conversation it was clear that many audience members knew the cast, crew, Dean or Matt. After several years in the business, they obviously have a strong following.

There were a few lovely moments in the piece, particularly the opening of the second act where there seemed to be a strong sense of character, fun interaction with the audience and the musical took itself slightly less seriously. But the lovely moments were few and far between. The other songs in the musical mostly seemed to be in the voice of the authors (not the characters), the lyrics coming across as preachy, trying to be profound and soapy, like an over-written McLeod’s Daughter’s episode.

The characters often sang about their feelings and the subtext of the moment, rather than letting their actions tell us how they were feeling or what they were thinking. The song, ‘Gotta fix the Pump’ was one of the few exceptions. There was very little action, though lots of moments of characters staring into space, singing about their hopes, dreams, fears and sadness. Most of the drama actually happened off-stage, between scenes, which was frustrating. The characters were simply not that likeable and I really didn’t care about them, their journeys or if they kept the farm or not.

There is no doubting the talent of Dean and Matt, the experience they have had as writers and producers and the tremendous cast, crew and musicians they engaged for the production, but, ulitmately, Once We Lived Here is too long and largely forgettable.

Bryant and Frank Productions Presents
by Dean Bryant & Mathew Frank

Direction Dean Bryant

Venue: fortyfivedownstairs | 45 Flinders Lane Melbourne
Previews: 2nd & 3rd September 2009
Dates: September 2nd - 20th 2009
Times: Tue - Fri 7.30pm, Sat 4pm & 8pm, Sun 6pm
Tickets: $23 - $33
Bookings: www.fortyfivedownstairs.com or (03) 9662 9966

Most read Melbourne reviews

Master of the deadpan, harsh host of Hard Quiz, and heartless interrogator on Hard Chat, making...

It doesn’t matter how much you know or care about the legality of the Essendon Football Club...

If you’re looking for a show that’s completely different and unlike anything you’ve seen in...

For fans of the musical, the problems and changes to the book and plot of Chess are as familiar...

Swapping 16th Century Verona for 1930s Hollywood, and a lengthy title for the short and snappy...