Photo - Colin Page
There was a gleeful buzz in the room before Dumped: The Musical began on the night I saw it. Maybe it’s because the audience knows they’re about to watch a show that pokes fun at something that’s usually no laughing matter: being a dumpee. Maybe it’s also because they know what to expect from writer Emma Powell, creator of the breast-puppetry spectacular “Busting Out”: it’s going to be a night that’s slightly dirty, very raucous and full of song, dance and enforced clap-alongs.
And Powell didn't disappoint her enthusiastic audience with her comedy musical. It’s farcical, funny, loud, outrageous and proudly campy. It takes perhaps one of life’s worst experiences and makes it into one big laugh. And as audience members, we’re all in on the joke.
As the curtain opens and Harmony (Colette Mann) steps out on stage, handing out tissues to the audience and welcoming us all to the “Dumpees Anonymous” meeting (of which she is the facilitator and our spiritual guide) we know this isn’t the sort of show where we should just sedately watch. We’re part of the action, we’re allowed to get involved, we’re just like the women on-stage and we’re all in this together.
One by one, the other three lead actors wander on stage and into the meeting. There’s Sue (Jodie Gillies), a recently single mother who's husband of 21 years left her for a 22-year-old, Vera (Amanda Levy) a businesswoman hell bent on violent revenge against the man who abandoned her and Ella (Meghan O’Shea), a sweet young girl who thinks she may never be pretty or thin enough to find love.
Over the course of the meeting, the women become friends, share secrets, make fun of each other, get angry and of course, sing. Yes, the premise is a bit thin and the characters are fairly stereotypical, but Dumped isn’t really the sort of show where those things matter too much. It’s all about the music and the laughs (with a little bit of talking in between) and Powell and director Terence O’Conell make sure that there’s ample opportunity for these four very talented performers to show off their pipes and their comedy chops.
Mann’s Harmony is the typical new-age earth mother, all quartz crystals and chanting. Mann is good in this part, equally naïve and know-it-all. Her long-standing career means she can pretty much do no wrong with this audience and there seemed to be some nice little nods to her part as Doreen Burns on the television show "Prisoner".
Sue is the heart-broken, downtrodden wife and mother who’s never without a comfort muffin in her bag and a tear in her eye over her adulterous husband. The part may sound a bit pathetic but Gillies is such a powerhouse of singing and dancing that she makes Sue endearing and sexy instead. Her solo at the beginning of Act Two (sung in perhaps one of the most unglamorous settings a diva ever had to deal with) is phenomenal: powerful and hilarious.
O’Shea may be the “baby of the bunch” and a relative newcomer, but she manages to hold her own with her more experienced cast mates. The first act doesn’t give her very much to work with (focusing as it does on the fact that she thinks she has a big bum and her best friends are the dogs she works with at the Lost Dog’s Home) but she’s still adorable. Act Two is where she really gets her chance to shine, with some great songs, some growing confidence and a fairly sassy pair of heels.
While all four women have amazing stage presence and voices, I have to admit that Amanda Levy as Vera was my favourite (judging by the amount of cheering whenever she said or did anything, I wasn’t alone in this feeling). She gets all the best lines and she makes every single one count. Her physical comedy skills are also fully on display here, as she karate chops, knife-wields and cartwheels her way across the stage, planning her murderous revenge on her ex. She's got a cheeky glint in her eye for the whole show that just makes you want to laugh along with her and she is brilliant.
The staging for Dumped is simple and clever, with big multi-sided columns that spin to show us painted scenes of anything from a nightclub to a deserted alleyway. The lighting and sound also help set the scenes and the use of spotlights and pianist (James Dobinson) playing live on-stage contribute to the larger-than-life “cabaret/musical theatre” feeling.
As the lights flash, the music rises and these talented ladies belt out the tunes, you can’t help but cheer, clap, yell out and sing along if you know the words. And Powell and O’Connell obviously want you to do that. This isn't formal theatre, this is a down and dirty musical comedy, so just go along, enjoy some songs, clap your hands and laugh at all the heartbreak.
DUMPED! The Musical
by Emma Powell
Directed by Terence O'Connell
Venue: Twelfth Night Theatre | Cintra Road, Bowen Hills (opp. Bowen Hills Train Station)
Dates: from April 28, 2010
Tickets: from $49.90. Groups discounts available
Bookings: 1300 364 001 | www.ticketek.com.au | at the venue