Strangelove! The Musical45downstairs, Flinders Lane, Melbourne
Tuesday, 10th April 2007
Directors: Dave Harmon & Mark Sutton
CASTBURPLESON AIRFORCE BASE
Jon Williams - Brigadier General Jack D. Ripper
Kip Williams - Group Captain Lionel Mandrake
THE B-52 BOMBER
THE WAR ROOM
Let me make this absolutely clear, if you want to see the original, watch the original. This production is based on the original movie and inspired by it. If you are going to be precious about them spoiling your precious movie then don't go to see it.
From what I understand it has been a very long road from a student production at Sydney University to appearing at Australia's major international comedy festival.
The cast and crew behind this project at least deserve some respect due to being brave enough to attempt something like this people will judge very harshly. I did go to see the Kubrick exhibition at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI) twice and know of someone who flew in from overseas to see it, but I can still appreciate an original creative work based on the movie.
The last show I saw at this venue was the Town Bikes doing a trial run for their show "Milk" which went on to do a very successful Fringe Festival season (milk spraying out their nipples and all.) The theatre downstairs looks to have been very recently renovated if the smell of fresh floor varnish is anything to go by.
There are some scenes and dialogue cut from the production out of necessity, but there are equally some other great additions such as the songs, Kissov having spoken lines and some elaboration of the relationships between characters.
The three main settings are Burpleson Airforce Base, the B52-bomber and the War Room with each being illuminated on the set when there is action (the bomber's cast remain on stage for the entire show.)
The biggest change is the inclusion of females on the cast of what was originally an all male cast (excluding Miss Scott). Zoe Norton Lodge playing Major Kong would no doubt be the most controversial of these, but I thought she did a great job of her role and didn't go over the top.
Trent Newman as Ambassador Anya Desadeski was also interesting as it was funny seeing President Merkin Muffley (Toby Truslove) falling over himself to impress her only to have General Buck Turgidson (Oliver Wakelin) sweep her off her feet with his superior manliness.
Out of all the cast Jon Williams as Ripper was the best as he really nailed his role and was so on the mark all the time. It really does look like he has prepared for this role seriously as he has an impressive three day growth and is very haggard looking (although comedy festival partying could explain that.)
Lionel Mandrake (Kip Williams) is a very understated stiff-upper lip role in keeping with the original. There is a relationship between Ripper and Mandrake in this version and Ripper is very predatory in his actions.
Dr. Strangelove (Simon Greiner) is a pivotal role in the production, but it also requires restraint and the other performers to hold their composure as he steps all over their lines. It would have been easy to do a bad imitation of Weegee's voice for this role, but instead the performer opted to emphasise certain words and got the mannerisms right.
I did really enjoy the female cast and there were some in particular that I felt strongly towards by the end of the show. This is always a sign of a good performance as if they didn't make me feel like that they are not doing a good job.
There are quite a lot of songs in this production for its running time, but they mostly work out in the story. My favourites were from the first act and included My Boys (Mandrake, Ripper) and The Red Phone Rag (Kissov, Muffley, Turgidson), which also gave the audience an opportunity to see the director's vision of the Russian leader.
While the songs were still good in the second half, I didn't really get The Clown Song (Ripper) as it seemed out of place. Opposites Attract (Desadeski, Turgidson) was great though and I enjoyed their dance number.
I thought all the costumes were great as were the settings and props - Ripper talking to his machine gun in different voices was the best addition. For their limited budget for this show the production designers produced some excellent work.
As much as I want to say good things about this show, there were one or two stumbles. It is only the first week so I expect the performance will be refined over time. Sometimes the dialog seemed a bit rushed and there were a couple of fluffs of lines. Miss Scott nearly falling off the desk was funny as Buck managed to work it into the scene. They may sound like small things, but as I mentioned before this show is subject to very high standards due to the original source material so hopefully it goes well.
Musicals in general can be a bit hit or miss at times, in the same year that Keating! premiered at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival, there was a musical on Alexander Downer and another show with a Hells Angels theme (they actually turned up and they had to change their name.) In 2007 Keating! returned as a conquering hero to the festival after a successful run in Sydney and will no doubt sell out. It is difficult to say how well this show will go, but I am hopeful it does well enough for it to at least get over to the Adelaide Fringe next year as it would go well there.
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Created on ... April 11, 2007