bare the musical
Production by Supply Evolution
Lyrics by Jon Hartmere
Music by Damon Intrabartolo
Depot Theatre, Marrickville, until December 17
Reviewed by Ron Lee, CSP
An “LGBT Pop-Rock Opera” in a Marrickville community centre? I had to see what it was about.
Damon Intrabartolo and Jon Hartmere have taken their book, added music, adapted lyrics and turned it into a musical.
The show opens in a Catholic boarding school classroom with a bunch of seemingly normal students breaking out into song in the style of true American musical theatre, all-singing. all-dancing, all-teeth, all-American accents.
Many social issues are addressed in this production, from bullying to social posturing, to body shape concerns, to open and undeclared homosexuality, to suicide.
The script is very well written, at times tugging at the heartstrings, and at others injecting some sharp social commentary. During a mock wedding in which two boys are being married, one asks, “Where are we?” “Obviously not Australia”.
The play-within-a-play (Romeo and Juliet) device is used to emphasise some LGBT perspectives and I was delighted to hear some in house remarks such as the moment in which the nun/director wants the performers to be more “method” and real, and says, “This has to be honest. I don’t direct dinner theatre”.
The most impressive part of this production is the amazing talent on show. Where did these young performers come from? There isn’t a weak link in the cast of many. All have had solid training in classical music and/or musical theatre. I had no preconceptions going into this production but definitely didn’t expect the standard to be this high. Any of these performers could walk into a professional, big theatre production of any musical you can think of and excel.
Alex Jeans admirably plays Jason, one of the two leads, and as Peter, Aaron Roebuck is outstanding. Observing from the front row of a small theatre, you can see the actors’ wheels turning and notice every bead of sweat and facial nuance. On opening night, Roebuck was in the moment throughout, experiencing and projecting the expansive and extreme range of emotions of his character.
Also notable were Sophie Perkins as Ivy, the stereotypical prom queen type. In her solo, Perkins’ held a note for so long that I thought I was going to need another shave before she finished. Penny Larkins is Claire, the mother who is in denial about her son’s sexuality. Larkins, who has a superb singing voice, projects the dual emotions of love for her son and loyalty to traditional family values. Another future star will be Natalie Abbott. Her song, Plain Jane Fat Ass had the audience in absolute thrall. Each of these singers give goose-bump performances and they are all triple threats.
The language was at times earthy and it seemed that they weren’t going to hold back on any issue. At one point I wondered if the elephant in the room would be addressed. In a later scene, one of the students was on all fours with the soles of his shoes facing the door when the priest walked in. I thought, “Here it comes”, but it didn’t. Apparently, there is a line.
As Director and Choreographer, Hannah Barn has done a fine job in pulling all of these incredible talents together, and Musical Director Matthew Reid did wonders with his eight-piece band that played behind the auditorium wall in a garage.
The Depot Theatre reminds me of NIDA in the 1970s before it moved to its current multi-million dollar facility, with talented young students and performers looking to future stardom and and at the same time firmly focusing on giving everything they can in their present production.
bare the musical was a delightful surprise and it’s gratifying to see that the future of Australian musical theatre is in such good hands.