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Canberra Today 12°/14° | Monday, December 4, 2023 | Digital Edition | Crossword & Sudoku

Wharfies taking pride in ‘prejudice’ revue

“Pride in Prejudice”… the Wharf Revue’s big-show musical theatre send up this year.

“I DON’T know if I have to wear a dress,” the musical director of this year’s Wharf Revue, Andrew Worboys, says. “But I’d be quite willing to do that.” 

Musical director Andrew Worboys.

It’s quite probable, because just when you thought you’d had about as much Jane Austen as you could take, the Wharf’s scriptwriters Jonathan Biggins and Drew Forsythe have come up with “Pride in Prejudice” as the title of their satirical revue for 2023.

They’ll be here on the show’s first outing during October, but with a couple of differences, as founding member and musical director, Phillip Scott – who was not above eloping from the keyboard to the stage to impersonate Kevin Rudd – has made good his threat to retire. 

He’ll be replaced by Worboys, a vocalist, pianist and musical director from Orange, now very famous in Sydney as musical director of shows such as “Sweet Charity”, “Little Shop of Horrors”, “High Fidelity” and “Rent”.

He’s by no means a Wharf virgin, having been musical director and actor with them three times before.

“There’s a lot more music than there is usually, I’m going non-stop on the keyboard,” he says. “But this time because I have to be on the national tour of the musical ‘Rent’ from January they’ll replace me with Michael Tyack from then, so I’m only doing half the season.”

As the musical director, Worboys says he has to create a musical story, then create the arrangements to harmonise with the feel. And he has to be very patient.

“You have to fit in with the concept of the writers, even though it’s supposed to be a democracy.”

Although he’ll be playing for the entire evening, he won’t be alone. Biggins is a mean bass guitarist and takes to the ukulele too, while the other “newcomer”, actor David Whitney (he’s done The Wharf before, too) can play drums. “We use all those skills wherever we can,” Worboys says.

As usual, there’s scope for the musical director to have fun, so this time they’re “having a bit of a crack at ‘South Pacific’ and a bit of ‘Avenue Q’, ‘Oklahoma’ and some Rodgers and Hart,” although in truth Worboys isn’t quite sure exactly who will be doing what, as they’re just towards the end of their first week rehearsing the music. 

As to the “Pride in Prejudice” motif, it’s an obvious approach, considering the Wharfies’ predilection for spoofing Australian politics, both human qualities being abundant on the national political stage. 

But it won’t necessarily permeate the whole review because the “Pride in Prejudice” segment is just their big show music theatre send up and not the whole show – last year it was “The Wizard of Oz”. 

Considering the general hilarity of The Wharf Revue, it always comes as a surprise to newcomers that every year there’s a rather serious centrepiece, usually scripted by Forsythe, think his monologue by the late Queen or his “Sounds of Silence” script in response to Covid.

This year, the coincidence of the revue opening the week after The Voice referendum means that they’ve had to prepare two different versions of the outcome with different lyrics, set to “Bad Moon Rising”, performed to video imagery. 

“I wrote the original script in May assuming the Voice wouldn’t get up and then wrote an alternative in case it succeeded,” Forsythe tells me.

“It’s very poignant and it’s serious,” Worboys says.

But the rest of the night, you’ll be laughing. 

“The Wharf Revue: Pride in Prejudice”, The Playhouse, October 24-November 5.

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Helen Musa

Helen Musa

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