Photos – Jeff Busby
It's been over 50 years since Australia gave the world The Seekers, and as the Narrator of this affectionate bio-musical tells us, that's a lot to cram into two hours.
Indeed it is, but if you can gloss over the many omissions and jumps in the storyline, you will find a 'new' Australian musical that will please and delight every Seekers fan and many a musical theatre buff.
The story starts with 20-year old Judith Durham (Pippa Grandison) eager to try out for a singing gig. More interested in Jazz and Classical music, she is hesitant at first about joining the already established folk group The Seekers. Their easy harmonies however, soon attract attention, and before long they are working on a cruise ship bound for the UK for an expected 10-week stay.
That short stay, of course, turned out very different, changed their lives forever, and led them to eventually become a major recording and performance act, rivalling The Beatles.
Patrick Edgeworth's book (with Graham Simpson as Script Consultant) has the difficult part of condensing the complete story into an entertaining and captivating show. The script, as is, is in good shape, with enough humour to keep the audience entertained. The few dramatic points in the story though, are either glossed over or only given only a slight mention. What is noticeable is that this is really the story of Judith, rather than all The Seekers, which is a minor flaw. But I suppose that's why the show is called Georgy Girl.
That aside, director Gary Young and a team of talented creatives have managed to produce a fast-paced, very slick production, and while this is not nearly as polished a staging as Jersey Boys, it remains enjoyable and at times is quite moving.
Shaun Gurton's design works well for the show, although only using projections on the upper panels left the lower ones a little bland. Julian Spink's sound design and Trudy Dalgleish's lighting design added much needed atmosphere to the many scenes. Isaac Lummis has done a superb job with the costumes utilising the 60s era (when most of the action is set) to maximum effect. Michael Ralph has choreographed the ensemble in a similar fashion, adding energy to the storyline.
The best things about Georgy Girl though are the talented cast members and of course the hit music.
Stephen Amos (Music Supervisor, Arrangements and Orchestrator) has done a superb job, managing to re-create the memorable harmonies that was the sound of The Seekers as well as giving the show a rich and vibrant feel. All the memorable songs are here, from I'll Never Find Another You to the title song, and includes moving renditions of The Carnival is Over and I Am Australian, which left many teary-eyed
Glaston Toft (as Athol Guy), Mike McLeish (Bruce Woodley) and Phillip Lowe (Keith Potger) give strong, forceful performances as the male members of the group, even though their characters are under-written.
Adam Murphy is charming and funny as Ron Edgeworth, and acts as the show's narrator. His versatility as a performer, once again shines, and is an added bonus.
Standouts also include Ian Stenlake as John Ashby, Sophie Carter as Judith's sister, Bev and Stephen Wheat as Eddie Jarrett.
The ensemble as a whole perform with great energy and commitment, playing various roles throughout the show.
With the storyline dominated by Judith's path, Pippa Grandison has arguably the most difficult role (and largest shoes) to cover. Thankfully the decision has been made to not overly imitate Judith Durham, but rather to bring out the essence and look of her. Grandison is already a seasoned performer, with a long list of musical theatre roles to her credit. She moves effortlessly through the multitude of scenes and umpteen costume changes, to bring the role to life with dignity and respect, while still making it her own. Her voice is rich and strong, and blends in beautifully with the boys to create that particular Seekers sound.
The world premiere in Melbourne saw the added bonus of the real Judith, Athol, Bruce and Keith joining the company on stage for a rousing reception at the curtain calls.
Georgy Girl is not the perfect show of its type, but does succeed in honouring the talent of four of this country's most loved and talented entertainers, and should enjoy a successful season. The carnival, it seems, may not be quite over.
Georgy Girl - the Seekers Musical
by Patrick Edgeworth | script consultant Graham Simpson
Directed by Gary Young
Venue: Her Majesty’s Theatre
Dates: 15 December 2015 – 20 March 2016
Tickets: from $60.00
Bookings: www.ticketek.com.au/georgygirl | 132 849