Photos – Jeff Busby
"You're terrible Muriel!". A cult-classic quote that is right there in the depths of every middle-aged Australian mind. You probably never imagined that the quintessential Aussie Cinderella story would ever transcend from the shelf of VHS on your mum's cane TV stand to the stage, but here we are: What. A. Ride.
From the sunny streets of Porpoise Spit we have been delivered a musical of such unrivalled Australiana, even Kath and Kim would crack out the Chardy and frock up for it. High energy songs and laughs from the get-go, Muriel's Wedding is nothing short of a bedazzled bogan bonanza! As Bill Heslop says, "You can't stop progress!"
This adaptation has seen Muriel move into the twenty-first century and we are delivered the same tragically funny adventure with a (slightly horrific) look into the modern age and addiction of the social media platform.
The stage is adorned with 'smart phones' and everything from selfies to Mr. Chan's menus are displayed on the screens as the story unfolds throughout the show. The set is bright and colourful in each scene, seamlessly transporting us to that one neon-clad nightclub that every outdated coastal town clung too. Gabriela Tylesova (Set and Costume design) has done a marvellous job creating a holistic sense of 'daggy chic' throughout both: Muriel’s arrival scene in Sydney is nothing short of a Mardi Gras spectacular! Paired with a killer soundtrack created by none other than the fabulous Kate Miller-Heidke, alongside Keir Nuttal, we were hit with song after song that had great themes, perfect lyrics and lots of energy. The friendship song between Muriel (Natalie Abbott) and Rhonda (Stefanie Jones) was very heartwarming and genuine, despite the heavy swearing (which made it all the more genuine) and the snippets of those themes, mixed with other songs throughout the show was exemplary.
Muriel (Natalie Abbott) was so believable, her naive nature and persona were second to none; you really felt the heart break and triumphs as she traverses her way through a brave new world, dealing with the drama of being a girl on the outside of everything. The constant ABBA cameos, throughout the show as Muriel's ‘imaginary friends’ was a treat. Like a sparkling, platformed oasis – every time a pivotal moment happened, ABBA appears out of nowhere. The audience were in stitches watching them jump out of cupboards, pose as mannequins, appear on the roof like oh so many sparkly disco balls. Always in a new outfit, always with a musical fix to tie in to the show. Sometimes it's hard to improve on an original without frustrating fans but I think the exception of this nonsensical take on the movie was welcomed with a fury of laughter and a bevy of bright smiles.
I want to pay special attention to my favourite unsung heroes of every big stage production – the ensemble. It takes a lot of work to play twenty characters in two acts and move about to create a new feel every other second. The ensemble of this show were nothing short of spectacular. So much energy, so much movement! Some fantastic voices and so many ways to create a new feel, every scene! The ensemble were perfectly synchronised, working with such fluid movement from minute to minute, transforming you from a club, a cruise or the pool, incorporating a wonderful use of props and stage to weave each scene together. Well done team!
Each cast member was so ‘on point’ with their character, you could imagine the movie playing in the back of your mind. Muriel's mother, Betty (Pippa Grandison) made your heart hurt with her sadness. Bill Heslop (David James) cast the opposite feeling as he oozed ‘creep’ and made the dodgy car salesman on A Current Affair seem like a saint. Rhonda (Stefanie Jones) is the friend you wished you had, and Brice Nobes (Jarrod Griffiths) is the sweet boy you just have to love. Tania Degano (Laura Murphy) and her group of cronies made the 'clique' seem as mean as the ‘Heathers’, modernised as ‘Mean Girls’: you really got a sense of character from each and with the slight twist and change of the heartthrob, Alexander Shkuratov (Stephen Madsen) you have a strong cast of characters to love (or hate).
Taking a cult classic and putting a millennial spin so as not to 'stop progress' we have been delivered a fresh new look at an amusingly tragic Australian hit. It was as funny as it was cringe-worthy. A real 'Bogan bash' with a fantastic soundtrack and marvellously daggy-fab feel. Better than a Tim-Tam and as much 'Ocka' charm as a night out in Porpoise Spit. Muriel's Wedding is anything but ‘’…terrible, Muriel!''
Global Creatures presents
Muriel's Wedding – The Musical
book P.J. Hogan | music and lyrics Kate Miller-Heidke and Keir Nuttall
Director Simon Phillips
Venue: Lyric Theatre | QPAC, Cnr Grey and Melbourne Streets, South Brisbane QLD
Dates: 19 September – 26 October 2019