Kiss Of The Spider Woman
The Hills Musical Company open their 2012 season with the relatively unknown but compelling Kiss of the Spiderwoman.
Spiderwoman tells the story of Molina, a homosexual window dresser who is serving an eight year prison sentence. As a means of escaping mundane prison life, Molina amuses himself with cinematic fantasies of the fabulous screen songstress Aurora and her numerous characters. The Spiderwoman, an ominous figure who can take a life with a single fatal kiss, is the only of Aurora’s incarnations of whom Molina is afraid.
When Valentin, a Marxist revolutionary and suspected terrorist arrives at the prison beaten and semi-conscious, Molina nurses him back to health, entertaining him with anecdotes of Aurora. Despite forming an unexpected friendship, the men are continually wary of revealing too much of themselves for fear of betrayal and the wrath of the Spiderwoman.
The three leads, Hew Wagner as Molina, Eden Plaisted as Valentin and Melanie Smith as Aurora and the Spiderwoman, were equally as outstanding, exhibiting great musical and acting finesse. Each was convincing, capturing the rawness of both the comedic and tragic moments. A definite standout was Wagner, with superb vocal ability and a nuanced portrayal of Molina.
The Hills Musical Company has assembled a fine supporting cast that shines throughout the show. Vocals were a clear overall strength and were showcased appropriately; however the group choreography numbers generally lacked energy and intensity. Similarly, the accents employed by the actors were sometimes inconsistent and a little ambiguous, not at all assisting the Latin American setting.
Ben Saunders’ orchestra is exceptional. Despite the sparse instrumentation the orchestra exudes a strength, togetherness and overall musicianship. While some intonation and pitch problems and amongst the brass became noticeable towards the end of the performance, it was a definite shame that the closing music was so brief, as this was a missed opportunity to again showcase the fine ensemble.
Ole Wiebkin and Simon Taylor’s set uses the stage in an interesting manner, defining the space and adding a certain intimacy. While the lighting design generally accompanied the onstage action well, it lacked fluidity and was sometimes disconcerting.
The plot is somewhat convoluted, but political radicalism and revolt, human rights and sexual and gender identity are key themes, and are handled excellently by the cast. The musical and the book it was based upon are decades old, but this production validates the significance and continued relevance of these issues to our modern society. The Hills Musical Company consistently present fine pieces of theatre, and should be applauded for their latest venture.