Thursday, 11 August 2011

The Leaflocker Theatre Review

This was going to be another photoblog about destroying my books, but since I haven't actually done any destruction since last week and since I spent this evening out at the theatre, this is now a theatre review piece. Not reviewing the theatre itself, which was pretty standard suburban theatre fare, masks of comedy and tragedy, pretentious latin mottoes and all, but the production, you understand.

The production was Man of Steel and it was being performed by Emmaus College, which a couple of years ago was Tabor College and when I went to school was Bethesda College, a Christian school with a chronic alias problem that just happens to have a number of kids that I know and like in it. Thus I went along, pondering the dual questions of exactly why every school seems to do an annual musical these days instead of actual artistic theatre (thanks, John), and how I (as a twenty-something going to watch a 13 year old girl be in a musical) was going to look a little less suss, always a concern for a young man who tends to go to shows alone. As it turned out, my second problem was solved by a number of friends turning up, which made it all ok, I could tag along with them, make snide little comments in their ears, and feel like I fitted in. The first question is bigger one, which I will deal with at another time.

It seems to me that the cast did an excellent job without having much to work with, altogether. The set, costumes, choreography and the acting were all above average for a school musical, I found out later that this was because the whole school worked on various parts. However, the play itself (apparently the most regularly-produced play in Australia) is just bad. To my mind, there's two reasons why the script might have been just so bad, the first is that it's just bad and people have no taste when it comes to musicals, and the second is that as any conscientious Christian school would do, it's possible that the script was heavily censored to make it suitable for the majority of the audience. I don't think this second one is the case, but I would like to present it as a possibility before I launch into a undeserved diatribe at the writers.

Man of Steel is a musical about a superhero and a non-sensical plot by the evil "Big Boss" (who gets a pretty good villain song, at least)to bring him down and rule the Veldt (the "big boss" has a bad accent that kept making me think of the South African cricket team, then again so many things do). There's a love triangle, a sinister plot, all-singing, all-dancing gangsters, some colourful but ultimately superfluous side-characters, and therefore it should have all the constituent parts of a successful musical, but somehow the parts just don't come together in an entertaining way.

The songs, while well sung by the cast in general and the leading lady in particular, and backed by an excellent band (I'm a sucker for a theatre band), were repetitive and boring, and while that is par for the course for musicals, it felt like someone had deliberately set out to write repetitive and boring songs. There was also a dearth of them in the second act, which seemed mostly dedicated to "plot".

The plot was shallow and uninteresting, which again is par for the course for superhero fiction, but with a love triangle (that was nothing but an excuse for an extra song in the first act, and had no further mention in the plot), hidden identities (no time for the hero/alter-ego love angst thing, I guess), employment concerns, and much more, there was potential for a considerably more interesting story than what ended up occuring. Perhaps I've been spoilt since the last few plays I've been to see were by the state theatre company.

On the plus side, though, the puns were excellently groanworthy, the cast and crew did a great job despite a number of technical hitches, requiring some ad-libbing and improvisation, and the piece had been well regionalised and brought up to date for a modern audience, so that it worked well and got a lot of laughs from the audience. Though for my part, seeing girls in 50's dresses talking about Taylor Swift is a little bit jarring.

The leading man was excellent as the Man of Steel himself (not Superman, though, for copyright reasons, I imagine), pulling off that classic smug Superman image with great aplomb and making me want to jump up on the stage and slap him for being so damn smug (and I might just do so at church this weekend). My other friend in the musical, despite being in the chorus, was pretty good too, and seemed to be enjoying herself immensely. So altogether I was glad that I'd gone instead of sitting at home planning some other boring blog post.

So, Man of Steel is more fun than sitting at home by yourself, and it's on again tonight and tomorrow night at 7 P.M. on Goodwood Road next to Eggless, the dessert cafe that is apparently where all the cool kids hang out these days.

For me, though, the man problem is that I'm not singing any of the songs today, something that has never happened before after seeing a musical. I am disappoint. It makes me want to try and write something better. Maybe I'll have to pull out my old Binary: The Musical script, and see where the mood takes me...

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