Out Of The Blue splashed back onto Melbourne stages for one night only upstairs at the St Kilda RSL. A new Australian musical about swimming and the infamous Cavill family, who taught the world ‘the Australian crawl’, the show debuted in October at Claypots in St Kilda.
The bright and bubbly new show by Tracy Harvey and Greg Dee (Call Girl, Prick the Musical) follows Percey Cavill (Jean Pierre Benoir) who ran away to the Bahamas, and fell in love with aviatrix Peggy Miller (Alexia May Brinsley) who crash lands on his little piece of paradise. Joined by the Cavill brothers and Queen Mary, the supposedly true but relatively unknown stories of the swim champion family, who are credited with creating the stroke that became freestyle.
It’s an original piece of work that is more Australian than a Tim Tam, and the production by Harvey and Dee radiates charm, energy and comedy. Unfortunately, the show doesn’t quite join all of the dots in terms of story line and transitions between scenes, but the beauty of a brand new, Australian work is that we will get to see the show transform and grow. The story is good and has real potential, but it needs work to be drawn out, as this show definitely has the material to be a full blown two hour musical. We want more background into these characters, more of their emotions and their journeys, and more development on stage and off, because the story is both true and intriguing. The music was pretty good, with a mixture of keyboard, bass and acoustic guitars, a hidden drum kit back stage, and a cajon box drum. One song pays quiet tribute an Australian classic, but some of the lyrics in the show can get repetitive and need work. The show has an overwhelmingly positive outlook and vibe, embracing the chipper and bright Australian attitude.
Performances by the cast were knock out. Benoir and Brinsley have a crazed chemistry and superb voices, and backed by Daniel Marando, Paul Fergus Morris and Riley Nottingham playing the Cavill brothers Syd, Dick and Ern – their voices and the energy that graces the stage is truly brilliant. There are moments of singing accapella in a fantastic quartet, incredible harmonies, actors playing the cajon box drum and more, these performers are top stuff and don’t break character, from the moment they meander into the audience before the show starts, to when the little old lady walked in half way to have a chat to one of them.
Choreography by Charlotte Tooke is a real stand out of the show. From the dramatic and really well executed tango to the dancing with blue sheets to create the ocean, swimming and the water heavily influence the dancing and movement. There is so much energy in every movement in the show, and it is almost tiring to watch the action, head height kicks and never ending swimming.
The costuming by Sophie Cheeseman is bright and evocative of the early 1900s styles, and makes it easy for cast members to make quick changes between scenes of Australians and scenes about The Queen, as well as the high energy choreography and the amount of running that goes on. The set is bare, leaving the actors to create the world and setting, but with a lovely back drop and a couple of cleverly placed pieces including musical instruments, the actors are left with a much larger space to bounce off of, which they definitely need. Lighting is subtle and only used on occasions to show the passing of time and the different between night and day, but much more would be distracting at this stage of the show.
Unfortunately, the venue works against them in a few respects. The stage, a much larger space than they previously performed in at Claypots, gives them plenty of room to move but draws attention to how little a set there is. The venue, upstairs at the St Kilda RSL, works well for a one off show and was comfortable, however the noise levels from St Kilda and the open windows during the show left the outside market and band playing to become genuinely distracting at times. The cast is to be commended after not missing a beat following an incredibly well timed moment where a sheet got caught on a hook in the roof and ripped.
I cannot wait to see where this show ends up in the future, as it grows and develops into a bigger, brighter and bolder show about the great Australian culture. Rumour has it your next chance to catch Out Of The Blue will be in the Melbourne International Comedy Festival in 2016, it’s going to be a splash!