Monday, 29 August 2011

24 Hour Musical Review 3!

“The 24-Hour Musical” immediately leapt out to me the moment I saw Melbourne University’s MUDFEST program. Aside from my poorly hidden love for musical theatre, it intrigued me as something I know I could never do myself – write, direct and rehearse a musical, all in under 24 hrs.
From the start it promised to be an experience. As the show actively advertised, it was designed so that it could be “anything”, from a train wreck to a masterpiece. The way the cavernous Union Theatre contrasted perfectly with the utilitarian staging and light Jazz of the shows’ four-piece band reinforced this - providing an odd mix of conflicting messages for the shows audience. Nevertheless, this made me only more excited as I settled into my seat, eager to see what the writers had come up with in their tight timeframe.
As it turned out, the musical followed the final year of four high school girls growing up in the late 1960s, each with their own set of problems. Helmet, the musical’s love struck Juliet, dealt with heartbreak after falling pregnant and having an abortion. Meanwhile, two of the other girls explored their sexuality, breaking free of their Christian School’s beliefs and finding love. Lastly, the brightest of the group struggled with being an ambitious black woman, with the aim of being a doctor fixed firmly in her sights.
The performances from all of the actresses were impressive. Not once was I reminded that these were a group of people that haven’t slept in 24hrs, and the show’s show-stopping number “In Twenty Years” showcased the vocal talents of the actresses particularly well. Moreover, given the short rehearsal time, the show seemed unusually smooth, and it’s a credit to the performs that they retained their composure throughout.
Despite that, there were a few distinct areas where you could really see the way time constraints affected the overall show. While the premise was ambitious already, the decision to try to tackle such dense and intricate problems as abortion, civil rights and suicide was a truly astonishing act of bravery. In a structural sense this scattergun approach failed to make the story a really satisfying one, and I found myself wishing that they had just picked one issue and drilled down on it in more depth.
Still, Mudfest isn’t about Shakespeare and substance. It’s instead about giving people the opportunity to try something new and deliver a performance that is unique and enjoyable. The 24-hr musical fulfilled this brief to a tee, and, in my mind, showed exactly the kind of spirit and gumption that makes MUDfest something more than just another play.
The 24- Hour Musical review was by Bill Stephenson for You're Dripping Egg!

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