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Sydney review - Ladies in Black: a cheerful and uplifting saga

October 28, 2019

 

Photos by Vicki Skarratt

 

Ladies in Black

Book by Carolyn Burns.

Music and Lyrics by Tim Finn.

From the novel Women in Black by Madeleine St John.

By arrangement with David Spicer Productions.

Directed by Debbie Smith.

A Genesian Theatre Company Production

Genesian Theatre

415-431 Kent Street

Sydney

 

Season: 26 October – 7 December. Bookings: www.genesiantheatre.com.au

Duration: Approx. 2 hours 30 minutes with interval.

 

It was a great rite of passage that many of us born before 1965 went through and remember fondly. The annual 6-week school holiday casual job at a city department store. It was often our first foray into the world of retail and at 16 or 17 years old, it gave us a glimpse of ‘adult’ life and spending money like we never had before.

Ladies in Black is a superb, nostalgic ‘trip down memory lane’ with a distinctive Australiana flavour. Set in the late 1950’s it centres around the ladies fashion section of the mythical ‘Goode’s Department Store’, whose catchy jingle is “we found it at Goode’s”.

The story focuses on Lesley Miles (Rosanna Hurley), a bright, attractive girl from Enfield who has just finished the Leaving Certificate and is looking forward to her casual job at Goode’s. She loves reading Tolstoy and hopes to study literature at Sydney University, but her stern father Mr Miles (Robert Green) has his own hopes for her……a typing, stenography and bookkeeping course!

Over the busy weeks leading up to Christmas, Lesley (alias Lisa to her work colleagues) gets acquainted with her fellow ‘Ladies in Black’. There is Fay, keen to find love with the continental Rudi; Patty, who seduces husband Frank with a sexy little black number from Goode’s lingerie department; and the irrepressible Hungarian migrant Magda, whose sophistication, class and Mosman address inspire Lesley to yearn for all the big things the world has to offer.

There are some cringeworthy moments as the male characters are used to demonstrate the misogynistic world of the 1950’s. But its all done in good humour and intent.

Based on the novel The Women in Black by Madeleine St John and subsequently adapted for stage as Ladies in Black by Carolyn Burns, the dialogue is snappy and witty, and the plot provides a wonderful snapshot of multicultural Australia in the post-war years.

Crucial to the enjoyment of the show is the fabulous lyrics and music by Tim Finn. There is a multitude of popular tunes which allow many cast members to demonstrate their fine singing talents, notably Rosanna Hurley, Sonia Allan, Elizabeth Macgregor, Liberty Thirsk, Kirsty Redmond, Doug Rumble and Greg Thornton. The songs are not parochial and stand solidly against other foreign musicals in recent years.

For those who love shopping and dresses (which I suggest is at least 50% of the population), Ladies in Black is a smorgasbord of pretty, bright and tailored fashion which you’ll thoroughly enjoy. Full credit to Costume Designer Susan Carveth.

Debbie Smith, the director, has done an outstanding job in bringing the thirteen cast members and crew so tightly together in this production. With the use of background slides, lighting and colourful set, the story was well told via script, song and choreography. Special thanks to Musical Director Omid Moheb Zedeh for his fine supervision of the band.

There is something for everyone in this production of Ladies in Black. It’s a cheerful and uplifting saga. Great to see a first-class, home grown Australian musical with a captivating score.

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