Dearly Departed, we are gathered here tonight at The Butterfly Club to witness the premiere of this tale of love, death and formaldehyde in an original musical comedy, and we are so sorry for your loss.
Entering the room we are greeted by the staff of the Dearly Departed Funeral home with a somber smile, and handed the obligatory folded a4 program and asked to take a seat. Somber music comes from the coffin shaped organ up front, and we sit down, wine in hand, ready for the service. (note to self, more funerals should have wine).
The Dearly Departed is an original show written and performed by Myf Powell, Geoffrey Thorsen and Rachel Edward, with original songs and music by Powell and Thorsen.
We are introduced to the owners of The Dearly Departed Funeral Home, Gracie and Harmony, life long friends who have stuck together through thick and thin since Gracie’s tragic playground accident when they were kids. Into the mix comes Graham, Harmony’s younger brother, a young, dorky, Mr Beanesque character who spends his day test driving the coffins and writing reports on their comfort levels.
Soon their world is turned upside down with the arrival of the suave, sophisticated Johnny Journalist, to announce they are up for a very prestigious award! He begins to interview the girls about their past and their passion for the funeral industry, and this is where things start to get messy! Somehow Harmony and Gracie have a link to many of the stories of mysterious deaths that Johnny Journalist has reported on, is he about to uncover more than he bargained for? Is he about to become the next victim of the Tan Bark Killer? Will Graham find someone to share his coffin for two?
Written over the course of two years and inspired by the music and the loss of those around them, The Dearly Departed has a slight Rocky Horror feel to it with its dark ironic humor. However; the storyline is disjointed, rushed, jumpy and at times left me a little confused. It almost felt like some songs were written that they felt they just had to use, so they were inserted, and a small part of story added in to try and make it fit. The laughs were few and far between with many moments feeling forced and contrived, but when I did laugh it was genuine and loud.
The songs written by Powell and Thorsen varied from mundane to excellent. There were some very questionable harmonies when all three were singing, however there were some genuine highlights as well, one moment that absolutely shone was Gracie’s solo in the aquarium towards the end of the show, which sent shivers up my spine with some stunning singing and beautiful vocal control in a gorgeously written piece.
A very simple set and lighting worked efficiently to convey the feeling of a funeral home well, with much coming and going Guy Smiley style through the rear red curtain. The projections were well designed, and despite the fact I felt the song and the story line didn’t fit, the projections of the gymnasts of athletic meets past were gorgeous.
The costuming was simple, elegant and on point (love the hats, ladies!), and I particularly relished the more disheveled Graham became the further into the show we got, no thanks to his many well executed fast changes side stage and in coffin.
All in all, the show felt under rehearsed and over written. It missed the mark on many occasions and occasionally I felt like perhaps I was missing out on some personal jokes that others around me we clued in on. Some of the harmonies and vocals needed a lot more polish to give the piece a real professional feel. However, there are some moments that positively shine here, that may be worth revisiting in the future.