Some shows you laugh at because the cast is trying so hard and you want to encourage them. Other times you laugh out of sheer boredom and the hope things will improve.
Then there are the shows when you laugh spontaneously in the face of fresh talent and with joy at the delivery of truly original wit and observations: Give My Regards to Broady is such a show.
Comedy Festival regular will recognise the name and marque of producer/creator Karin Muiznieks, twice nominated for Green Room awards and the first female to win the Butterfly Club’s ‘Under Our Wing’ award, in 2009.
Her chief collaborator in Broady, James Simpson, writes that their initial plan was to write a revue, “with songs that parodied musical theatre numbers while also affectionately spoofing Melbourne”. The plotline and characters evolved out of that process, but it is no coincidence that the lead characters are called Karin and James.
Most artists would recognise the conflict that arises between the two housemates as the bills mount up and their focus and creative output drop off. Things sound tough when the couch-addicted Karin is budgeting to survive on $9.50 a day and “recycling the compost into San Chow Bao” but that’s before the cold water bill is found (“It must have been the hot water bill I paid – why are they separate?” – “it’s a privatisation thing”) and a few others to boot.
James gets fed up with supporting Karin, her friend Erin starts showing her true “south of the river” attitudes about Fitzroy, and the delightful Luke is a joy as Erin’s easygoing “handbag”.
Each step of the way towards financial and relationship ruin is marked by another keenly observed parody of some aspect of Melbourne and/or its struggling art community, all revealing a depth of comic writing and musical talent that is wonderfully refreshing. And very, very funny.
How perfectly Melbourne is the insult of comparing someone to a half-built ferris wheel?
Some of the vocal harmonies are a bit strained at times – possibly due to first night nerves – but the on-stage musicians hold it together well (led by James Simpson himself and, interestingly, including another talented Muiznieks, multi-instrumentalist Emma). Claire Healy and Leigh Jay Booth as Karin and James have great chemistry while Lauren Murtagh as Erin lets loose with some strong vocals – but the quiet star is Joe Kosky, who, as delightfully daggy Luke, has a voice and comic timing that won the audience’s heart.
This unpretentious production is definitely an over-achiever that shows promise of far greater things. Songs such as Melbourne Cup, Half-Built Ferris Wheel, Suburban Love and the all-conquering AFL are star turns in their own right and would go viral if they ever made it onto YouTube.
One not to miss.
Theatre Works in association with Karin Muiznieks present
Give My Regards To Broady
by Karin Muiznieks with James Simpson and Dan Walmsley
Director Scott Gooding
Venue: Theatre Works, 14 Acland Street, St Kilda
Dates/Times: 28 Nov – Dec 10, 2011 (7pm until December 3; 8.45pm from December 5–10)
Bookings: theatreworks.org.au | 9534 3388.