The Seekers remain one of the Australian music industry’s greatest international success stories.
To date, the pop/folk quartet from Melbourne has sold over 50 million records worldwide, with several of their most successful hits cherished today in homes across the country. Looking back on what the group accomplished, it’s especially impressive when you remember how few local acts have been able to achieve international success on a similar scale. The Seekers were the first group ever to reach No. 1 on the UK charts with their first three singles – a feat not even matched by the likes of Madonna and Michael Jackson.
Georgy Girl, now playing in Sydney, pays homage to the group’s founding members – Judith Durham, Keith Potger, Bruce Woodley and Athol Guy – using the group’s defining tracks. Ostensibly, it follows The Seeker’s evolution from the time Judith Durham became its lead singer in 1962 through to their reunion touring endeavours of the 2000s.
Musically, Georgy Girl is a fitting tribute. Classic cuts such as I’ll never find another you, The Carnival is Over and the title track are pristinely reproduced by Pippa Grandison (as Durham), Phillip Lowe (as Potger), Mike McLeish (as Woodley) and Glaston Toft (as Guy). Grandison’s wonderfully sweet sounding vocals impress in each and every song’s recreation, and Toft’s bass notes ensure the vocals are rounded out to perfection. Had Georgy Girl been solely an evening of musical performances, it would have successfully delivered all that was required.
But far from a concert performance, Georgy Girl is a full-scale musical that is unfortunately lacking in key respects. Most significantly, its book is short on sharpness and would benefit from substantial further development. Jokes fall flat, central characters lack depth and the show’s structure is somewhat puzzling.
Georgy Girl is told through the eyes of Ron Edgeworth, a British pianist who was Durham’s husband of 25 years. It should be noted that Edgeworth became Durham’s husband in 1969, after the group’s initial break-up in 1968, and a question that arises is whether the tale of the foursome should be told through the eyes of a person whose acquaintance with one was far stronger than the rest, and who was a witness only after the fact of key events in the band’s integral days. Additionally, the manner of Edgeworth’s appearance throughout the show is sometimes troubling. At times, dancers accompany him and, on one occasion, he appears dressed in tennis gear. What was supposed to be comic and entertaining is simply naff.
Georgy Girl may also leave many audiences querying whether there weren’t potentially more significant events that could have been selected for more effective and dramatic punctuation of The Seekers’ story. There are references to affairs, encouragement of the male band members to remove Durham as lead singer, and a life threatening car accident and brain injury. There’s also the matter of Durham’s unilateral decision to break up the group, and its impact on her bandmates. Would it perhaps have served the musical better to develop the book to examine the challenges those significant events caused the group members? Were those moments perhaps unwisely glossed over?
Additionally, the show closes with a number that doesn’t seem a natural choice for Georgy Girl’s final scene because there’s no context established for its inclusion. Was it a case of feeling the song deserved a place in the show but, because of Bruce Woodley’s authorship, not knowing where precisely it should be placed, if at all?
As to Georgy Girl’s visual elements, a simple set would serve the show appropriately, but here, there’s a distinct disconnect between the set and the on-stage action. Levels have been incorporated into the set, but performers use the levels at various times throughout the show with no clear reason for doing so other than, it would seem, to make more use of the whole space.
While Georgy Girl offers its audiences some great nostalgic moments and several excellent musical performances, its underdeveloped book have resulted in a show that’s not quite the theatrical tribute one of Australia’s greatest ever musical exports deserves.
Georgy Girl plays at the State Theatre, Sydney until May 27. It then plays Perth’s Crown Theatre from July 8. To purchase tickets, click here.