Rhonda and Muriel. Photos by Jeff Busby.
Muriel’s Wedding the Musical
Book by PJ Hogan
Music and Lyrics by Kate Miller-Heidke and Keir Nuttall
With songs by Benny Andersson, Björn Ulvaeus and Stig Anderson originally written for Abba
Directed by Simon Phillips
Music supervisor Isaac Hayward
Choreographer Andrew Hallsworth
Based on the movie by PJ Hogan
Produced by Global Creatures in association with the Sydney Theatre Company
Queensland Performing Arts Centre
Season: September 21-October 26. Bookings: at www.qpac.com.au or phone 136-246.
This is the brightest, happiest and most entertaining large scale piece of musical theatre in years. For more than two hours this all-Aussie production frothed and bubbled, tugged at the heartstrings, rang the rafters with laughter and overflowed with marvellous music played by a terrific nine-piece orchestra led by Daniel Puckey - and I don’ t mean just the Abba songs. Although those songs were great too: they were sung by an amazing Abba tribute quartet – Jaime Hadwen, Laura Bunting, Maxwell Simon and Evan Lever. They really added to the fun in brilliant Abba costumes and moves.
The score by Kate Miller-Heidke and Keir Nuttall rang with authenticity and matched character brilliantly. The entire cast sang up a storm with perfect diction through Michael Waters’ sound design. Andrew Hallsworth’s choreography had humour as well as precision with some high powered show-stopper sequences and the costuming was out of this world. I have never seen a better dressed production. Gabriela Tylesova’s designs with costumes, the set and projection deserved every award going. Trent Suidgeest’s lighting plot was fabulous too. The whole show was a treat for the eyes.
And what a cast! There were super performances from everyone and one of the best ensembles that I have seen. I have not seen the movie, so I can’t compare, but the story of Muriel Heslop, the overweight misfit with a habit of telling lies and is not averse to theft, and her functional family and crooked developer dad is a tale well told with excellent character depth. They are well rounded, funny and nasty very believable and never caricatures even her four mean girlfriends.
Muriel gets caught out stealing a frock for a wedding, which turns into everything bad an Aussie ocker wedding could be and ends with the bride spending her honeymoon with her trio of girlfriends in Bali, with Muriel deliberately excluded.
She steals the family credit card complete with pin number and sets off on her own adventures in Bali where she meets her new bestie Rhonda. These of course are pivotal roles and are gleefully played by Natalie Abbott and Stefanie Jones. They set the tone with a great song Girls Like Us.
Muriel gains her self-esteem and runs away to Sydney where she meets the nerdy parking inspector Brice Nobes (Jarrod Griffiths), an unwanted at first love interest. But things start to go wrong in the second act which has a much darker mood. We encounter subjects like divorce, official corruption debilitating illness and suicide.
Muriel renames herself Mariel and suddenly stops being Muriel and gets a huge payday for marriage of convenience to Russian swimming star Alexander Shkuratov, played by Stephen Madsden (who was the spitting double, of Barbie’s Ken).
As the laughter died down and the sad events unveiled, I wondered what had happened to the Muriel we all loved as she even dumped Rhonda, but like a good fairy tale, this huge romp ended happily ever after.
I sat through the show with a silly smile on my face and left feeling happy and content that it all ended so neatly and so well.