The Overcoat: A Musical
Belvoir Downstairs until December 1 Created by Michael, Rosemarie and Constantine Costi
Photos by Clare Hawley
Reviewed by Ron Lee, CSP
If you’re attracted to the theatrical unusual, The Overcoat: A Musical could be for you.
Based on an 1842 short story by Russian absurdist novelist and playwright, Nikolai Gogol, The Overcoat: A Musical is set in St Petersburg early in the twentieth century.
Nikolai Akakievich, the introverted character around which the swirling plot revolves, has embraced an attitude of resignation about his office job in the bureaucracy of the Russian government and his lot in life. He is surrounded by more vocal, officious public servants who do everything by the book and also, like many government officials, have found ways of working the system for their own benefit.
Nikolai is suddenly given the opportunity to raise his public and self-image by purchasing a fine overcoat that he can’t afford. The admiration and jealousy of others causes him to become self-infatuated and there’s only one way to go from there.
The piano, saxophone and double bass jazz trio that supports the songs of Rosemarie Costi provides a haunting atmosphere that emphasises the dourness of the Russian winter and the inevitability of the conclusion.
The central role of Nikolai is well executed by Charles Wu, and the various other roles are enthusiastically played by Laura Bunting, Kate Cheel and Aaron Tsindos.
The Overcoat: A Musical provides a surreal theatrical experience, and you might need to cheer yourself up later by reading Franz Kafka or listening to the music of Wagner.