A deeply emotional musical that’s still relevant in the days following marriage equality passing in Australia, Stage Art’s bare The Musical has lit up Chapel off Chapel. Complete with using the Chapel’s original stained glass windows as a centre piece, and with an ensemble of power house voices, this show is a fitting and modern Victorian professional debut for the show.
Performances by Adam Di Martino and Finn Alexander are filled with real genuine emotion of the struggle, of two teen boys hiding their real feelings from the world. Alexander is a charming, smarmy popular kid against Di Martino’s sensitive and passionate best friend and lover, ready to face the world. The braveness of Peter comes through against Jason’s struggle of acceptance of who he is. Hannah McInerney delivers an explosive performance of Ivy, with one of the strongest voices in the cast and an emotional performance of a girl on the verge, dealing with problems well beyond her years. ‘All Grown Up’ is a powerful and dark moment in the show which McInerney soars through, battling the struggle of unrequited love and an unwanted teen pregnancy.
Stand out numbers are from Vanessa Menjivar as Sister Chantelle and Mandi Lodge as Claire, Peter’s mum. ‘911 Emergency’ and ‘God Don’t Make No Trash’ provide some comic relief and high energy dance and vocal numbers to break up the show, as well as deliver Peter the guidance he needs, and ‘Warning by Lodge’ is a heartfelt portrayal of a mother coming to terms with something she has long suspected, and how she processes the news of Peter’s sexuality. These two powerful voices cut above the excellent (but loud) band and are clear crowd favourites.
Special mention also to Hannah Grondin is Nadia, Jason’s twin sister, who completely encapsulates the reality of being a teenager when you’re not popular or stick thin, and decide to have your own opinions and go against the flow.
An authentic feeling rave seen, pulsing with almost uncomfortable bass and excessive lighting breaks up the first act, complete with lasers and rave gear. The show feels long and bloated, and yet still intriguing to watch – the cast and band are excellent, and some numbers like ‘Wonderland’ are rushed through to the point that the lyrics are completely lost on the audience, but the show still feels long.
The music and band lead by Caleb Carfinkel are another strong highlight of the show, taking on the rock and roll style score with ease, and creating clear juxtaposition in emotional ballads compared to big cast rock numbers. Unfortunately, there is a struggle between vocals and band, with the band more often than not overpowering the vocals, leading a lot of the lyrics to be lost. The lyrics, which are witty, clever and tell the story in a mostly sung through musical are the audiences way of navigating the intricacies and complications of these kids lives.
Despite being marketed and labeled as bare The Musical, it shows none of the changes made post 2012 revival – the songs, relationships, characters and structure are those still of bare: a pop opera. The story line is stronger and more emotive, giving you the sense of everything will be okay as the show progresses, before emotional devastating audiences as the show finishes. Though the show seems to have lost a little bit of the hatred against the church and against same sex couples, and removed some of the stigma that I remember from previous productions I have seen, which gives it a more modern feel. Direction by Dean Driberg has lifted the show into this century, and while the ending is a little unclear and missing the emotional climax I crave from this show, the show overall is another triumph for Stage Art.
The set is basic and uncomplicated, using a few chairs, a bed and two lockers to create a number of different spaces, lit up by some neon tubes places around the space. While the set could have been a little more inventive, feeling very much like last year’s Spring Awakening space, it’s still effective in creating the catholic school world of bare.
Despite some opening night nerves, a few issues with the mics, like them bumping when on stage kisses happened, this show is still well worth viewing for those who have yet to experience the joy and heartbreak of bare – the show is guaranteed to make you cry the first time you see it.
Stage Art’s bare plays at Chapel off Chapel until 15 April.