Venue: New Theatre (Newtown NSW), Sep 19 – 23, 2016
Music & Lyrics: Esther Daack, Tim Evanicki
Director: Alex Robson
Cast: Valentino Arico, Marcus Rivera, Alex Robson, Dyan Tai, Lucas Thomson
Image by Priya Prakash
In Esther Daack and Tim Evanicki’s Bathhouse: The Musical, we discover all the goings on in that longstanding institution of the gay experience. Of course, providing a venue for sexual activity is its primary purpose, but where a community exists, a distinct culture can be found, and in this case, a very funny slew of shenanigans is brought to light for both the uninitiated, and the veterans. Its bawdy humour is charming, sharp and surprisingly refreshing, and although deeply conventional, its music is nonetheless enjoyable.
Billy is a smalltown young man in the process of coming out. We follow him as he navigates the dark, mysterious world of the bathhouse, trying to find companions, and more importantly his own sense of self. Performed by Lucas Thomson, the innocent and naive qualities of our protagonist are splendidly conveyed, and through his eyes, an unusual microcosm of human behaviour begins to make sense. The cast begins with unmissable tentativeness, but slowly gain confidence as the show progresses. The production can often feel under-rehearsed, and its performers do seem inexperienced in the specific requirements of the musical’s form and genre, but a vibrant accompanist (Antonio Fernandez on piano) ensures that the show is kept cohesive and jaunty. Alex Robson provides some clever ideas with his direction, but it is his work with live voice over that is truly endearing.
Daack and Evanicki’s creation is ten years old, but the advent of smart phones over this short period, is a factor that plays in our minds through the piece. Life is change, but the need for human connection is an uncompromising constant. Billy went to the baths looking for other souls who may make him feel less alone, but if he had begun his journey today, it is likely that the phone is where he goes most, ironically, to escape solitude. Technology can give us plenty, but flesh is unlikely to be replicated or replaced. The touch of another person, stranger or friend, can at times seem a lot to ask, but life without sex is not an existence anyone of any sexuality, should endure.