Left – Christian Charisiou, Ashleigh Rubenach. Cover – Amy Hack, Bronte Florian, Manon Gunderson-Briggs. Photos – Robert Catto
Sometimes a production is just SO good its hard to write a review. There are simply not enough superlatives to go around. This is one of those shows. Simply put – its great and you should not miss it.
The audience screamed with laughter, applauded with gusto and the foyer afterwards was buzzing with that frisson of delighted theatregoers sharing the joy of a great night out.
Based on the movie of the same name by cult hero John Waters – oft dubbed ‘The Pope of Trash’ this musical adaptation pays homage to the original while still creating a unique work full of great tunes and priceless dialogue. A tight fast paced book from Mark O’Donnell and Thomas Meehan anchors a plethora of tongue in cheek songs that are surprising – not only because of their satirical content but their astonishing musicality and lyrical complexity. I think we all left wanting to “kiss you with tongue”. Nicholas Griffin’s Musical Direction is crisp, lush and bursting with 50’s panache. No mean feat in this tiny space, and special mention should also be made of the superb sound design by Tegan Phillips. I heard every word – crucial in a show like this when every word in the songs is hysterical.
I have ‘waxed lyrical’ previously about some of the great design work happening at the Hayes and once again this does not disappoint. Isabel Hudson creates a bold stage statement – part “Laugh-in” TV show, part Crime scene tape, and it is a perfect structure to frame the deliciously colourful costumes of Mason Brown. Clashing gelato against cartoon, the design is a wonderful springboard for some stellar performances.
Director Alexander Berlage has crafted a superbly balanced production. It succeeds so well because the high camp elements have been anchored with truth, and he has cast an extraordinarily talented company who understand that heightened reality does not mean ham. Don’t get me wrong – these are wildly over the top characterisations – but they are at the same time heartwarming and endearing. We grow to love this wildly screwy bunch, and that’s a tribute not only to clever scripting but really smart mischievous directorial choices. Berlage manages to make it outrageous, but not offensive. Its more fun than tacky.
Which brings me to the cast – and where to start. This is where the superlatives run out. There are absolutely no weak links in this feast of triple-threat talents. The amount of energy pumping out of that stage would power the whole of ‘Vivid’. Keeping up with Cameron Mitchells energetic choreography would be feat enough but this ensemble layer it with style and conviction, and belt out some stellar harmonies to boot.
Christian Charisiou ‘out-Depps’ Johnny himself in the title role, perfectly cool and charismatic and conquers some really difficult vocals with ease. Ashleigh Rubenach’s Alison is astonishing. It’s a beautiful performance, with a king-hit voice. I thought Joel Granger's Baldwin might explode from restrained insanity – a great portrayal – and Alfie Gledhills Dupree was a sexy gyrating husky delight. Amy Hack, Bronte Florian and Manon Gunderson-Briggs as Cry Baby’s gang are quirky, unique and belt out some great vocals. Every characterisation just so on point and bursting with love and fun.
Laura Murphy nearly steals the game with her delightfully crazy Lenora just so fantastically manic, but then Beth Daly sails in as Mrs Vernon Williams for the touchdown. Ms Daley is breathtaking – not only for her perfectly created 50’s physicality, channelling a touch of Gloria Swanson, but for a comic timing that rivets our focus whenever she appears.
In short, you would be a fool to miss out on this gem of a show. This a flawless company and I don’t use that term lightly. It’s the most fun night out I’ve had in the theatre in ages. In the jewel encrusted crown of Hayes recent musical offerings this production is certainly in the running to sit as the diadem above them all.
LPD in association with Hayes Theatre Co presents
book Mark O'Donnell and Thomas Meehan | songs Adam Schlesinger and David Javerbaum | based on the movie by John Waters
Director Alexander Berlage
Venue: Hayes Theatre Co | 19 Greenknowe Ave, Potts Point NSW
Dates: from 20 July 2018
Tickets: $69 – $64
Bookings: hayestheatre.com.au | (02) 8065 7337