Venue: King Street Theatre (Newtown NSW), Oct 15 – 25, 2014
Book: Arthurs Laurents
Music & Lyrics: Stephen Sondheim
Director: Olivia Aleksoski, Alexander Andrews
Cast: Dani El-Rassi, Sarah Gaul, Curtis Gooding, Jordan Shea, William Wally Allington
Image by nick&nick Photography
Stephen Sondheim’s 50 year-old musical still works. Its themes of corrupt governments and the gullibility of humankind remain relevant, and the farce constructed around those societal issues make for scenarios that are amusing yet meaningful. Sydney University Musical Theatre Ensemble’s production might be an amateur one, but it features the vibrancy and enthusiasm of its young members that impress despite inadequate training and an overall lack of sophistication. The five-piece band headed by Music Director Douglas Emery delivers scaled down but punchy accompaniment that delights us with a sparkling joyousness, even if accuracy and cohesion can be improved.
Choreography by the ambitious Louise Flynn is loud and exciting, with the cast’s varying levels of dance ability utilised intelligently. Flynn has a keenness for theatricality and a lot of fun, which manifests effectively on a stage that is consistently colourful and dynamic. India Cordony as Police Chief Magruder takes every opportunity to inject comedy into her dance, and the results are outrageously memorable. Aidan Kane’s physical discipline pays off with a polish and professionalism that helps him stand out from the chorus line.
Dani El-Rassi and Jordy Shea are fiercely committed in their roles, and both present moments of brilliance that will further improve with greater confidence. William Allington as Treasurer Cooley is also engaging, with an effortless charm that keeps his performance buoyant. The show’s biggest parts are demanding, and not satisfactorily created on this occasion. Their love story is a substantial piece of the plot but the desperate shortage of chemistry between actors is quite painful to watch.
The work is directed by Olivia Aleksoski and Alexander Andrews who have used their wonderful troop of stars cleverly. Each personality is given room to shine, and although the show’s plot is not always clear or affecting, the energy that bubbles on stage is always refreshing. The miracles that happen in the story might have been fabricated, but it should be remembered that most artists are also faking it… until they make it someday.