Jonathon Holmes’ musical farce Three in the bed had its world premiere season at Newtown’s King Street Theatre in September. It struck a chord with audiences and the limited run was a sell-out success. Now, with the backing of Birdie Productions, Three in the bed has returned to the stage in Sydney, playing Newtown’s New Theatre for another limited season.
Holmes’ musical comedy is the story of Tim (Aaron Robuck), who breaks up with his girlfriend, Emma (Caroline Oayda), on the way to a party (their introductory duet, ‘On and on’, establishes the monotony that has developed in that relationship, as well as the friction between the two.) Tim arrives at the party and his newfound single status is music to the ears of his friend, Jessica (Daniella Mirels). She’s been in love with Tim for some time and, in recalling their interactions in recent times, convinces herself the signs are there that the two are destined to be together.
Unsurprisingly, Jessica’s analysis of Tim’s behaviour towards her is entirely inaccurate. In fact, soon after arriving at the party, he spots Zoe (Alicia Rose Quinn), and firmly fixes his sights on her. Of course, when Jessica learns of Tim’s lusting after Zoe, she’s upset. But that quickly changes when Zoe convinces her that all is not lost; that if Tim will agree to be with both Zoe and Jessica in the bedroom, the two can still be together in the way in which Jessica hopes. And, as one could expect, it only causes further chaos.
This isn’t Chekov, but under Holmes’ direction, it’s a highly entertaining piece that serves audiences a healthy dose of laughs and hummable music. The variety of musical genres to which the score shows deference on its own contributes to the musical’s dynamism. From the title track (arguably the most irreverent gospel song you’ve ever heard) to piano ballad ‘More than fine’ (Tim’s self-pep talk after arriving at the party) to the terrifically tongue-in-check R&B number ‘Get outta your head’ (complete with rap verses), the score is one of the show’s best assets. There’s even an Avenue Q feel that creeps in occasionally, particularly so in finale ‘Happiness’ (which takes a dig at the concept of happiness). Holmes has succeeded in composing a score that traverses several styles of music without compromising overall cohesion. It’s well delivered live by a five-piece band, led by musical director Natalya Aynsley.
As Tim, Robuck convinces – as he did in the premiere season last September – playing the role of an average Joe, who needs to learn to say what he thinks. He’s vocally strong and there’s evident development of the character since the show’s previous outing (Tim is perhaps a little quirkier this time around). As his girlfriend, Emma, new cast member Oayda has good chemistry with the rest of the group. She does well in her portrayal of the seemingly straight-laced character in the initial scenes, but her high point comes towards the end of the piece when, in a desperate effort to demonstrate to her ex that she has another side, she serenades (who she believes is) Tim with ‘Kinky’. It’s a number that attracts one of the strongest audience responses.
Returning as Zoe, Quinn is just as appealing the second time around and her distinctive vocals serve her well. Hers is a character that, while projecting bohemian, is actually eager to please and is ultimately outed as co-dependent. Adin Milostnik plays Zoe’s dim-witted boyfriend, Ben, and while his stage time is limited, he makes his mark. Milostnik is especially strong leading the performance of the gospel opener as a somewhat debauched preacher.
As lovelorn Jessica, Mirels is excellent. She conveys the character’s desperation early on in the show, after learning of Tim’s and Emma’s breakup and having resolved that Tim will soon be her beau. She brings us along, which is why ‘Flattered’, a later number in the piece when Jessica finally understands Tim’s true feelings for her, is such a successful moment. That number is also a standout because Mirels’ impressive, emotionally-charged vocals here are some of the best of the night.
Holmes’ direction ensures the show generally moves at the right pace, with scenes and numbers not lingering any longer than they should, and the five players working seamlessly together. The choice to have Tim and Emma talk (or sing) about reconciliation while Emma unknowingly cleans ‘the scene of the crime’ is hugely amusing. There’s also been a choice made to stage one key scene using silhouettes. Although that’s also an appropriate decision, there’s room to tighten the sequence to prevent it disrupting the show’s general flow. There are also good moments of choreography – chiefly, in the opening and closing sequences – but there’s perhaps room for more choreographed movement throughout to reinforce the comedy.
While Three in the bed is already a laugh-out-loud show, there’s still an opportunity to take things up another notch; to further lift the energy to ensure this is truly as outrageous a farce as it can be. This may occur naturally over the course of the season, as the actors become increasingly comfortable and confident in their roles.
If a complex narrative or sophisticated examination of the human condition is what you’re after, Three in the bed isn’t your show. If, instead, you’re looking for something light, something raunchy, something funny, and something slightly obscene, with a bunch of good melodies thrown into the mix, head to the New Theatre over the coming week. This is a musical that ticks each of those boxes and reminds us all of an inescapable truth – that people are strange creatures.
THREE IN THE BED – SEASON DETAILS
Dates: Playing now until 26 January, 2018
Venue: New Theatre, Newtown
Tickets: $25 – $35
Tickets on sale now from newtheatre.org.au/tickets/