When I was a school boy and then a University student, I would read of performances at the old Menzies Hotel of “potted” musicals. When I try to remember the stars who presented them, Nancye Hayes, Hayes Gordon, Jill Perryman and was it possible, June Bronhill(?) seem to pop up. Others I’m sure will come to me. I never went, sadly for reasons of finance and callow youth….. but I remember lingering over the possibility of going. It was at a time when the other major entertainment were musicals presented by J.C. Williamson’s company. The press was always temptingly excited and supportive in their reviews that I drank up avidly, desirously. It seemed here was a place of excitement and pleasure.
So, when I read the notes in the program for this new company, TRIPTYCH THEATRE, made up of three of Sydney’s exciting Musical theatre artists: Avigail Herman, Nigel Ubrihien and Jane Miskovic, that “their first production, the Australian Premiere of “THE MUSICAL of MUSICALS: THE MUSICAL! ”was what these artists believe “is a show (about) what musical theatre is truly about; fabulous original music and intelligent witty dialogue (lyrics) performed by four of the industries most talented and versatile performers “ and that they see this production as a pre-cursor to the “countless brilliantly written and easy to produce small ensembles that have never had the opportunity to be seen in this country, and so many wonderfully seasoned performers who we don’t get to see on stage.” it was a signal for the hope of some fun. With the demise of the misguided KOOKABURRA company here is another way of supplying
This is a black-box production, meaning that the budget causes the design element to be minimal. The costumes are “blacks“ as well except for character signifiers and props. There is no stinting in other areas in this comfortably small venue. The Lighting Design by Matthew Tunchon is not only practical but often very effective to the genre needs. A wonderful creative and colourful support. All the performers are "miked" and Felix Kulakowski as Sound Designer/Operator creates a clear and pleasant communication. - I’m sure the pressures of time and budget did not make it easy - it’s terrific.
The performers are very expert and exciting to watch especially as we are so close to them. The space in which they work in is none to capacious and there is nowhere to hide. Everything they present is up for close scrutiny. Shaun Rennie is outstanding, in all of what the musical theatre call the triple threat of the Musical performer. He can sing (like a dream), he can move and dance (like an angel), and act fairly well within the limitations of the material. Ms Elise McCann is not far behind him in my genuine admiration of her offerings. Warwick Allsopp is very good but sometimes looks a little overtaxed and as yet is not as completely free in his performance as he will become. Ms Herman sings beautifully, dances well but needs some direction with her acting. It is sometimes too cod and a bit too superficial. Telegraphed, in an old fashioned style/manner. Maybe she is wearing too many hats. Ms Herman is also one of the producers and is co-director.
The choreography by Jane Miskovic is wonderfully inventive and a miracle of cleverness when executed so well by Mr Rennie and McCann, specifically, in such a small space. The dancing is one of two of the major element that lifts this evening into a place of real enjoyment.
The material that is the show, Music & Book by Eric Rockwell; Lyrics & Book by Joanne Bogart takes the hoary stand-by of melodrama, throughout theatrical history, of the villainous landlord, the female renter who can’t pay the rent, the young man who finds a way of helping said helpless young heroine with the sage advice of an older character. Then “take five writers and writing teams that have shaped the modern musical: Rodgers & Hammerstein, Stephen Sondheim, Jerry Herman, Andrew Lloyd Webber and Kander & Ebb” and parody their Musical and lyric styles to create five mini tellings of the above story. The titles of the pieces will give you a clue to the deliriously silly nonsense you will partake in.
"CORN" in the style of Rogers & Hammerstein.
"A LITTLE COMPLEX" in the style of Stephen Sondheim.
"DEAR ABBY" in the style of Jerry Herman.
"ASPECTS OFJUNITA" in the style of Andrew Lloyd Webber.
"SPEAKEASY" in the style of Kander & Ebb.
Both in the lyrics and in the musical motifs, the musical theatre buff will have a heaven of a time picking out and sorting all the references. But even if you are not as familiar with the genre inheritance, the joie de vivre and the energy exploded by this group of performers will blow you away.
Which brings one to the last but most important element of the show. Nigel Ubrihien, the Accompanist & Repetiteur, is magnificent in his professionalism and most importantly his loving contribution and support to the originators of this work and the artists who he has prepared and supports magically every vibrant second of the show. I forgot there was only a piano, it had orchestral impact. His Program titles: Accompanist & Repetiteur are far too formal a way to describe his contribution: Genius, Lover, Genius. May be nearer the mark.
Send the word out to all your musical theatre friends and to young people who have never been to the theatre before, this intimate, silly piece will sustain you until the next one. This is what
Playing now until 7 March. Book online or call 1300 364 001.