Review: Show cries out for more polish

musical theatre “Back to the ‘80s” Presented by Free Rain Theatre, ANU Arts Centre, until September 23. Reviewed by Bill Stephens.

LITTLE more than an excuse to shoehorn a collection of disparate songs from the ‘80s into a tissue-paper-thin storyline about of group of final-year high school students grappling with weighty issues such as who will get the girl of his dreams, or whether the prom night will be a success, “Back to the 80’s” nevertheless provided significant challenges for first-time director Louiza Blomfield, and her musical director, Dave Collins.

Despite their best efforts, those of the enthusiastic young cast and first-night cheer squad, this show needs rather more attention to detail, more polish and panache, to become the evening of sparkling, high-spirited entertainment it is clearly meant to be.

Lack of focus in the many ensemble scenes and erratic amplification often made it difficult to identify which character was saying which line, and though attractive, Madison Lynch’s colourful Rubik Cube-inspired setting was little help in identifying changes of location signified by the storyline.

Some principals obviously enjoyed performing Kathryn Jones’ frenetic dance routines so much they forgot to maintain character, while others were unable to sing in tune to the songs performed to pre-recorded backing tapes.

Although rarely rising above high-school standard, there were engaging performances from Miles Thompson, Josie Dunham, Lachlan Whan, Sian Harrington, Jonathan Ashcroft and Judy Satrapa.

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