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The Marvellous Elephant Man The Musical

sydney theatre reviews

Writers and Composers Marc Lucchesi, Sarah Nandagopan & Javan Nandagopan

Producer Christopher HF Mitchell

Co-Directors Guy Masterson & Christopher HF Mitchell

The Spiegeltent Moore Park until October 1

Reviewed by Ron Lee, CSP

The Sydney Fringe Festival has opened with a show that I regard to be the equal of the most enjoyable theatrical productions in Sydney in the past dozen years. The Marvellous Elephant Man: The Musical is set in Victorian era London and the Spiegeltent at Moore Park perfectly sets the scene.

There has never been a musical that has drawn from so many influences. The genres include Vaudeville, Commedia dell'arte, Pantomime, Italian Opera, Carnival, The Rocky Horror Show, Cartoon, Burlesque, Beauty and the Beast, Circus, Musical Theatre, My Fair Lady, Rock Opera, Comedy, Farce, Cabaret, Horror, Gilbert & Sullivan and Monty Python, and they're just the ones that I identified. Fight director Nigel Poulton has even included a couple of wrestling moves - the suplex and the atomic drop. Somehow it's all congruently and entertainingly meshed with 28 musical numbers, and the six-piece band keeps things rolling along.

The Marvellous Elephant Man The Musical

The amazingly talented and highly-trained cast of 13 is headed by Ben Clark as John Merrick, Annelise Hall as the ingénue Hope, and Kanen Breen is the Dick Dastardly/Snidely Whiplash panto villain, Dr Frederick Treves. Breen combines the voices of Inspector Fenwick from Dudley Do-Right and Frank Thring with the understated humility of Donald Trump and the looks, self-importance and entitlement of Brian Houston of Hillsong notoriety. Marc Lucchesi as The Ringmaster adds diversity to the dynamic and amps up the funny.

There are more memorable songs in the first ten minutes of this production than there are in an entire performance of Miss Saigon. Nurses Hope (Hall), Faith (Rebecca Rolle) and Chastity’s (Eleanor MacIntyre) rendition of Three Little Mean Girls must have been inspired by Three Little Maids From School Are We from Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Mikado.

sydney fringe festival

Many of the cast members are comparatively young and only completed their formal training in the past few years, but the depth and breadth of their experience is already impressive and their triple threat talents are undeniable. It seems that the directors cherry-picked some of the best from the pool of young talent.

Producer Christopher HF Mitchell astutely invited globally-acclaimed director/producer Guy Masterson to co-direct and to be the Dramaturg. Masterson’s experience in creating Beauty And The Beast was clearly influential and his involvement is a masterstroke.

Another dimension of this production is the intended or unintended subtext around Diversity & Inclusion and Me Too.

Theatre Sydney

Every aspect of The Marvellous Elephant Man The Musical is eminently professional, from the treatment of the cast and crew, to the production values of the final product, to access to the venue, to the quality of the merch, to social media channels and content.

If you're not offended by the odd sexual reference, book soon because people will be returning with their friends. I'll probably go again. My companion on the night summed it up. "Wow, I wasn't expecting anything, but if I did, it wouldn't be THAT".


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