Once upon a time there was a group of four, two boys and two girls, all children of a generation where love and peace ruled in a world where war and societal turmoil was ever present. These flowerchildren as they were known found their voice through music and the far reaching power of a truly great pop song.
I am of course referring to the soaring harmonies of The Mamas and the Papas, the band that transcended the folk music scene in the 1960’s and brought their new sound to the masses with great success.
Headed by songwriter John Phillips, his wife Michelle, friend Denny Doherty and the larger than life Cass Elliot, The Mamas and the Papas were a permanent fixture in the US charts during 1965-1968.
How is it then that is has taken so long for someone to re-create their sometimes sad, sometimes funny and always entertaining story for the stage? Whatever the reason, it has finally been rectified with the current Magnormos production of Flowerchildren.
Written by Melbourne theatre veteran Peter Fitzpatrick, he has brought the summer of love to the stage through the timeless tunes of The Mamas and the Papas. The story is true, the characters are real and they are all backed by an incredible soundtrack that will have you spinning into a world of psychedelic drugs, sex and rock and roll.
Far from the wholesome image they produced, Flowerchildren tells the darker side to The Mamas and the Papas story. Delving into John and Cass’s strained relationship over her aspirations to go solo and his prejudice over her size, and the infidelity of Michelle with band mate Denny, the story is a twisted warning of what can happen when you have too much, too quickly.
Played to perfection by the enigmatic and engaging cast, Matt Hetherington shone as genius songwriter John, whose excessive drug taking never hampered his ability to churn out the hits. Co-star Dan Humphris is an exceptionally honest performer whose interpretation of Papa Denny was heart-breakingly real, and whose vocal ability is beyond compare – Humphris is an amazing talent and an absolute pleasure to watch.
The female cast were as gloriously wonderful as their male counterparts, Laura Fitzpatrick made me hate, love and sympathise with her as she exposed both the cruel and the kind sides of Mama Michelle. Fitzpatrick embodied the true spirit of a flowerchild, playing into the hopeful innocence of someone who believes anything is possible in a world where nothing is real.
However, without a shadow of a doubt the standout performance of the evening was Casey Donovan of Australian Idol fame. Her presence as Mama Cass was a force to be reckoned with and she tore down the house with her earth shattering vocals that reminded me why she was crowned the youngest winner of the reality TV talent show. Donovan brought a maturity to the role beyond her years, and delivered the goods as both actor and singer. This gorgeous young lady is both striking and funny in her performance and had the audience in fits of giggles on more than one occasion.
Not forgetting the ensemble cast who double tracked the harmonies to create an authentic Mamas and Papas sound, and the live band which gave the entire production a “rock concert” atmosphere.
Gorgeous costuming and set design finished off what was the world premiere of Flowerchildren – this is an exceptional piece of Australian musical theatre and I can only envision great things for the entire production.
The Mamas and Papas Story
by Peter Fitzpatrick
Directed Aaron Joyner
Venue: Theatre Works, 14 Acland Street, St Kilda
Dates: 29 August – 10 September 2011
Tickets: $48 – $43
Bookings: www.magtix.com | 9534 3388