Left – Matthew Robinson. Photo – Kurt Sneddon
Is labeling Matthew Robinson a wunderkind an inaccurate title? Fame, recognition and awards seem relatively new to him but, as he says, he has been writing musicals for years. He is a suave stage presence and a brilliantly clever pianist.
It is hard to believe these excellent performances are the result of a two day workshop with sixteen Music Theatre students at the renowned West Australian Academy of Performing Arts.
Five of Robinson’s shows were represented. The songs are talky monologues peppered with dry wit and clever wordplay. Some are emotional to the point of wrenching despair. As a lyricist and composer Robinson is a phenomenon.
The first Sing on Through Tomorrow explores a gay scenario. The songs are funny, poignant and brave by turns. Megan Kozak opened with a charming character piece, Princess, which explored female Disneyesque dreams of love. Great timing and bold delivery.
Mahalia Bowles gave us Late Again, which would be an exceptionally difficult song to render, given its diversity of musical format. Though petite she summoned up surprising volume when required.
Cal Silberstein displayed wonderful comic timing in this gift of a song. Love is Fine was a love song with hilarious referencing to electronic media. No one could accuse Robinson of lacking contemporary cultural savvy!
Sing on through Tomorrow was outstanding. Grady Swithenbank wrung our hearts with his delivery, as did Finn Alexander with the very moving Just Say. His vocal length and breath control were exceptional
Here I must note how much (I am told), Robinson firmly directs his cast members and their interpretation of his musical characters. These students are young but the dramatic results were exceptional
Moving on to the awarded Metro Street, Madeline Jolly Fuentes rendered the (again!) difficult to sing, How’s Life endearingly. Braden Scott’s As Night Descends was masterful in rendition and fabulously dramatic.
The next musical is Robinson’s latest creation, as yet untitled. Its setting is a difficult in- house office situation which leads to romance. Baylie Carson handled the pacy The Heart of It with technical assurance, stylishly dropping pr cliché after cliché to her new board. Be Heard by Tatum Stafford was delightful, displaying a beautiful purity of voice. Lovely by Cameron Steens was an exercise in romantic infatuation and he rendered it superbly. I think this number might well become a future “standard”, it gives such theatrical scope to the performer.
Atlantis, (the musical), set in 4650BC, gave me some pause for thought, but then I recalled the enduringly popular A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum and recanted. Morgan Palmer delivered I Will Run with verve and panache. Shannen Alyce was both moving and in fine voice in Let’s Start A War. The composer himself gave us a strong, didactic essay on faith with Are You There? He relishes performance and the audience were with him all the way!
To the finale; an earlier work, Happy People. This was a neatly programmed closer which left the audience more than satisfied. Matthew Hyde sang See Me beautifully. Christina Odam, the only first year student to be included in this exercise, delivered Nice, a sharply funny number with vocal precision and comedic flare. That left William Grocutt holding the trick-taking card with Boyband; a brilliant satire on this all-too familiar creation. He was hilarious. His snappy vocal special effects and zippy dance attitudes had the audience screaming, well, just like at a boyband concert.
An adept finale was the softly accompanied song Room To Grow by the entire company. It was a gorgeous exercise in solo and vocal blending and a thoughtful treatise on self belief in the kindest sense.
Matthew Robinson is, of course, well on his way, but if you were lucky enough to get a ticket to this sold-out show hang onto your program. These talented young artists are going places. It will be most satisfying to say “Well I was there when...”
Matthew Robinson presents
Venue: The Ellington Jazz Club | 191 Beaufort St, Perth
Date: July 20, 2104