Review: “Laughing at ourselves” – new Aussie musical

”Winging My Way to the Top,” by Karen Strahan and Jill Walsh, directed by Gordon Nicholson, at the Queanbeyan Performing Arts Centre until May 17.

Reviewed by Anthony Turner.

THERE are some good things to be said about the new musical playing at The Q in Queanbeyan. The opening night audience clearly enjoyed themselves and laughed and cheered in all the right places.

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There were good jokes and bad jokes; double entendre dripping from the stage; good songs and not so good songs and the production clearly appealed to those it was meant to appeal to. We were allowed to laugh at ourselves, our coarseness and our foibles.

In the program notes the writers (Karen Strahan and Jill Walsh) tell us that they had a desire “to write an original musical comedy about your typical (or not so typical) Aussie family”. And this they have done with more or less success. Indeed, there are some stand-out songs such as “I’m the Proprietor”, which we didn’t get enough of, “All I Have is Me” sung by all five females bringing the only real emotional connection with the audience and “Gotta Get Your Pav Right” in the true tradition of musical comedies the world over.

The singing was generally excellent with a tight band under the direction of John Black. But the production had many faults.

The inexperience of the director (Gordon Nicholson) could not deal with the set in the first act (designed with Wayne Shepherd’s usual imaginative touch) which forced the actors to face front and caused awkward movement across the stage and there was a general drop in energy between scenes.

The story needed stronger exposition and more focus and I wasn’t sure if we should be concentrating on Beryl’s quest for a Jayco caravan or Pearl’s quest for fame and fortune (Lisa McClelland’s sweet voice was a joy to listen to).

In the end the poignancy of the lives of these “ordinary Australians” wasn’t taken seriously enough. The definition of comedy can be said to be tragedy at twice the speed! Angela Lount as Vivyen the French maid showed us how it should be done.

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One Response to “Review: “Laughing at ourselves” – new Aussie musical”

  1. Matthew
    May 14, 2014 at 1:53 pm #

    To be fair, Gordon Nicholson only took over the direction at the last minute after two previous directors had bailed – never a good portent. He probably did the best he could with what he had been left, as he is a very capable director. With all due respect to the writers, this show had ‘train wreck’ written all over it from the beginning.

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