(Adelaide Cabaret Festival, 18 June 2022)
Two Disclaimers: (1) The Varnished Culture is not really that much into musicals (bad music, good acting), preferring opera (bad acting, good music). We couldn’t fit a musical in our list of the 20 finest films. However it is a great genre we suppose, and we have previously commented on some of the outstanding examples: Singin’ in the Rain, Cabaret, The Umbrellas of Cherbourg. We have also expressed our disdain for the more toxic entries, such as Cats and The Sound of Music. (2) Musical theatre is exempt from consumer law, so no producer can be criticized for not sinking his own money in the show, or for staging “Springtime for Hitler,” or for claiming to cover ‘every musical ever’.
Which last claim forms the basis, the structure, and much of the hectic (sometimes arch) humour of this show, as 4 dreamers from off-Broadway give their all, over 80 minutes, in an ‘official’ attempt to break a Guinness record of presenting every musical ever. As it becomes clear to impresario Hayden Tee, as would be clear to anyone who Googled ‘List of Musicals’ (carried over two posts, A-L and M-Z), this is a daunting task, so devices are extemporized to bring concision to the mad venture, such as a frantic Andrew Lloyd Webber medley, a draw-from-the-hat staging of world musicals, and abandonment of all plot (except Cats, which has no plot) and all but the most minimal props. Props were simple, and inspirational: we particularly liked the broom, useful to sweep away a surfeit of glitter, wielded as an oar in the Phantom boat scene.
In the end, they get through 52 – no mean feat – and along the way, via a combination of impressive (miked) singing, frenzied costume changes, repartee and directorial invention, they slayed the packed crowd at the Dunstan Playhouse who were clapping, swaying, standing and waving glo-stix thoughtfully distributed by the players. This creation is by Richard Carroll, a director, writer and producer who has a podcast called ‘Every Musical Ever,’ who clearly doesn’t really go along with this show’s conceit that they’ve seen every musical so you don’t have to, and Gillian Cosgriff, a multi-faceted performer and writer.
We will attempt to outline below some of the fare presented – we couldn’t keep up with it all – but now for the participants. Hayden Tee, notionally in charge of the omni-shambles, is adept at farce with a strong voice and sense of timing. We particularly liked his frequent appearances to speed up proceedings, such as when Josie Lane ploughed ponderously through her solo song, “Hopelessly Devoted to You.” He also scrubs up well as Dorothy. Josie was also wonderful and distinctly startling as a guttersnipe Annie. Georgina Hopson made much of her Xanadu skate prop, and Dash Kruck evoked much pathos with his Oliver! begging bowl. The four were, pardon the phrase, “Fab” and made the evening great fun. They were ably wrangled by musical & creative director Zara Stanton, on piano.[Now, for our hastily (and in the dark) assembled list (so I may have got one or two wrong):
Annie Get Your Gun (opening song, “There’s No Business Like Show Business”) / The Wizard of Oz – Wicked / West Side Story / Chicago (“W[h]e Had it Coming”) / Les Misérables / The Sound of Music / Lion King / Fiddler on the Roof / Hairspray / Hamilton / Grease (see above) //The ‘Andrew Lloyd Wedley’ – Cats – Phantom of the Opera – Jesus Christ Superstar – Starlight Express – Evita – Sunset Blvd – Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat // Miss Saigon (using Dash Kruck’s toy helicopter) / Xanadu (using Georgina Hopson’s skate) / Singin’ in the Rain (Tee’s umbrella with rain sparkles), culminating in “You Gotta Have a Gimmick” from Gypsy / Oklahoma / A Little Night Music / Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street / The Boy From Oz (“I Go to Rio”) / South Pacific / Billy Elliot / Brigadoon / Cabaret / Company / My Fair Lady (“I Could Have Danced All Night”, a solo by Hopson, whose hand once touched that of Julie Andrews – respect!) / A Chorus Line / Hello, Dolly! / Annie / Oliver! / Mamma Mia! / Charlie and the Chocolate Factory / and the time-warp whirlwind wrapped up with The Rocky Horror Show. That’s only 40. We missed 12 at least. Sorry]