StageArt Xposed is an initiative to stage showcases of new Australian works in development. While the company is currently enjoying a critically acclaimed season of its Australian premiere Memphis, StageArt makes way for Australian theatre writers to further develop and workshop new Australian works on the nights where their feature season takes a well earned break.
This season, the new works in the spotlight are Beautiful Things: A really good looking musical, and Lay Down Sally.
Beautiful Things is written by talented local writer, Drew Downing. Downing has written this show as an extended piece, but has condensed this down to a one hour showcase presentation for the Xposed series. What audiences were treated to was an hour of toe-tapping, catchy musical numbers woven together through some hilarious, skin-deep themes. The audience at this premiere performance thoroughly enjoyed the comedic elements of the piece, and at times, the staging provided laugh-a-minute viewing. It was presented with a fully realised lighting design, a full band and staged minimalistically on the Memphis set.
The premise is an uber good looking male quartet who travel around spreading their message; “if you look good, you feel good. If you feel good, you look good”. The show takes a satirical look at the superficial nature of the beauty and wellbeing industry through four metrosexuals known as the GLEAM – The Good Looking Engagement and Aesthetics Movement. The show’s opening number is catchy and quite honestly, has stayed with me until well after I finished writing this review. The setting is an interview as part of their world tour with renowned talk show host Parker Heer (a character name probably more worthy of a drag queen). Through the interview we are introduced to each member of the GLEAM and get an insight into why they are on tour promoting ‘beautiful’ self image in a world where ugly people are able to thrive in society.
Adam Perryman plays Lifestyle expert Beau. His chiselled appearance gives him a solid presence which anchors the group. Danny Medica plays struggling ex-rock star Jason, who as the elder of the group grapples with recent heartbreak and the pressure to turn to botox. Bradley Marshall is plastic surgeon Dorian with straight-faced personality to match. Although more could have been made of his ethnic background, he pulled one of the biggest laughs from the audience with reference to his Asian heritage helping him achieve his youthful appearance.
Henry Brett is delightful as flamboyant ex-model Kosta and his character largely has the most well rounded character arc that we see in this showcase. He comes with his own ‘mini-me’, played by Samuel Boyden – a confident and sassy child version of Kosta who appears as a retrospective reminder of childhood dreams. Boyden absolutely steals the show with several one liners and attitude to boot! Ana Mitsikas plays talk-show host Heel, and drives the show well as an occasional reminder of people in the ‘real world’. Although often distracted with a lustful desire for Beau, she seems thoughtful and at times challenges the foursome. I’d love to see this character further developed and would be interested in what a full musical number for her would entail. All of the cast performed with great energy with rich vocals that blended together impeccably. Special mention to Clary Riven as makeup artist who had all four boys looking extremely plastic-fantastic.
The script is hilariously packed with a mix of witty and cheap laughs. At times it occasionally shifts into monologue territory, and this could be tightened to retain the show’s comedic sense with regard to a showcase performance. Although difficult to highlight in a showcase with a condensed version of the musical, I left the piece without a sense of moral compass or any evolution of the characters, and I would hope that a further expanded story would offer a chance for the characters to reflect on the superficial cause they are selling. The only other missed opportunity I felt, was to set this piece in America; I was slightly disappointed to hear American accents on the stage, when we are bleeding for Australian stories and concepts in our industry. Despite America’s status in the world as the home of all things “fake”, this piece would easily translate to being set in any locale where a portion of the populous is perceived as shallow. This may be food for thought for future presentations or workshops.
Where this piece really shines is Downing’s music. His ability to create engaging melodies, clever lyrics and explosive arrangements is where this piece really delivers, and I look forward to and hope to see an expanded version of this piece which gives further life to each of the characters we have now been introduced to. As a showcase of new writing and a snapshot of an original concept musical, Beautiful Things shows a lot of commercial promise and is one to watch out for. There is one more opportunity to see Beautiful Things on Monday 26th October at 7pm.