Left – Tom Sharah. Cover – Bert LaBonte (Edison The Elephant), Sun Park, Bobby Fox, Gretel Scarlett, Tom Sharah. Rear: Matthew Robinson. Photos – James Terry Photography
From its snappy opening with the four leads singing the title song, the audience knows that they are in for a fun show.
Happy People is about a team of (fictional) children's show entertainers, ready to celebrate their tenth year together. The brand is ultra-successful, bringing joy and fun to countless young children. But the real team – living the backstage (and real-world) reality – are not so well put together. They are insecure, sometimes nasty, and uncertain about the future. What they don't know is that the plug is about to be pulled on their popular television show and Edison (the formerly non-speaking elephant) is about to be given his own show and voice.
Matthew Lee Robinson who wrote the book, music and lyrics has crafted a funny, observant and clever show around the nature of these forms of entertainment/performers and blended them into a very entertaining musical. It is a shame that the setting is the US, with American accents, given the vast number of successful Australian children's shows that could be mined here.
The songs range from catchy tunes to strong ballads and satire (Benny's Boyband solo is a highlight). As the show's stars Bobby Fox (Bobby), Gretel Scarlett (Sally), Tom Sharah (Benny) and Sun Park (Sunny) each have moments to shine. Scarlett is perfect as golden girl Sally and Sharah milks each of his lines with great comic timing. Adding to the mix are two fine actor/singers – Bert Labonte (Jeff) and Robyn Arthur (Poppy).
Director Chris Parker has staged the production well – this is officially a concert version, with scripts on hand, performed face on, but the performances are all so close to the mark, that it makes little difference. Robinson has moved successfully from a talented performer to an accomplished writer and composer. The work was largely developed in New York and has had input from Stephen Schwartz (Wicked).
We can all look forward to seeing a fully staged production – hopefully – sometime in the near future.
Working Management presents
HAPPY PEOPLE IN CONCERT
Book, music and lyrics by Matthew Lee Robinson
Director Chris Parker
Venue: Chapel off Chapel (The Loft), 12 Little Chapel St, Prahran
Dates: 18 – 19 October, 2014
Tickets: $39 – $35
Bookings: (03) 8290 7000 | www.chapeloffchapel.com.au