By Sandra Harman
Misfits School of Arts – a new musical
Book & Lyrics by Tim O’Connor
Music & Orchestration by Dennet Hudson
Director Tim O’Connor
Musical Director Dennet Hudson
Choregrapher Callum Mansfield
Producer Shawn McCallum
Presented by Brisbane Academy of Musical Theatre (BAMT)
Hayward Street Studios
Season: 25 November – 12 December 2020 with a live stream performance on Sunday 13 December
Duration 2 hours 20 minutes including Interval. Bookings: https://www.haywardstreet.com.au/misfits
Live performance has had it tough this year due to the global pandemic, but luckily some positive things such as Misfits School of Arts have emerged from the months of lockdown.
While the world ground to a halt, Tim O’Connor and Dennet Hudson got to work to come up with a new musical story about at rag-tag bunch of theatrical muppets who all find themselves under the one roof at a very kooky drama school. The story was inspired by many of their own experiences and is a love letter to life in the theatre, an exploration of what happens when creative and passionate people come together and a celebration of what it means to find your people when the world sees you as a misfit.
Set in Australia, the Misfits School of Arts is home to a diverse range of hopeful performance students, all looking for acceptance and acknowledgement of their aspirations who are taught by an equally diverse group of teachers. The story isn’t just about the students but also about the headmistress, Miss Fitz herself, without whom there would be no ‘Misfits’. Like Mary Poppins descending from the clouds on her umbrella, or Nanny McPhee wielding her magical walking stick at the front door, she helps the students to find within themselves the power to change and succeed. It is also about the act of helping and how noble it is to be a stepping stone for others.
While the story and the characters are familiar (think shows like Grease, Legally Blonde, Heathers, and Fame) there are enough fresh ideas, clever current references and humorous dialogue in this witty script to make for delightful viewing. The musical numbers are as diverse as the characters, but unfortunately due to the digital download program not containing a list of songs or who sang them, it is left to this reviewer’s scribblings for reference. Suffice to say there were lots of songs in this show including heartfelt solos (the opening number), duets (It’s Not You, It’s Me and the ‘showcase’ duet), comedy numbers such as the song about wearing tights, the ‘mean girls’ inspired I Get What I Want, and big, bold, fun ensemble pieces, all expertly handled by a highly talented cast.
Direction, Musical Direction and Choreography were all spot on as you would expect from the professional team of O’Connor, Hudson and Mansfield. The set was lean and fully functional to allow for the many scenes to seamlessly flow from one to another, using extra pieces only when required, and the creative lighting by Maegan Micola Von Furstenrecht was used to full effect in every scene. Costume was inventive, matching each student’s character well and the use of matching block colour in the outfits of each student and their friend or ally was a great touch. The teachers’ costumes were also perfectly matched to who they were, although it was a little disappointing that they didn’t have a snazzy “Misfits Midway Ball” outfit like the students.
Misfits School of Arts features the students of BAMT’s 2020 performance course as the ‘misfit’ students, alongside students who are now in their 3rd year or longer as the teachers and it was a mix that worked well. Every cast member of this energetic musical is to be commended on their professional level of performance .
Claire Sutton as Miss Fitz gave a standout performance as the teacher who takes the misfits under her wing and never falters in her encouragement and support. With her beautifully defined character, her Pauline Hanson influenced Aussie Accent, impressive physical and vocal work and fabulous comic timing Sutton’s Miss Fitz was a joy to watch from beginning to end.
Clark Bryon-Moss as Mr. Horatio the unfashionable teacher going through a permanently bad hair day, Ella Bordeux as blonde bombshell Mrs. Pancreas and Pheobe Lovel’s geeky pianist Phylis Splodge all were perfectly convincing as the quirky support team at the Misfit’s school. Special guest star, seasoned professional performer Laine Loxlea-Danann was an absolute hoot as the scenery chewing Bernadette Peanut on hand to give one lucky Misfit the chance at stardom.
Emma Buckman as the ‘mean girl’ Skylar Grubbly-Smithe impressed with her vocal assurance and confidence and gave us a character that everyone loves to hate, while Victoria Roberts as Olivia Munroe delivered a nicely nuanced performance of an unassuming girl with big dreams and talent who learns to value her self-worth.
Nathan Wheeler brought much more to the role of the good looking love interest Jackson Jones than you usually get, portraying a character who could have easily been one-dimensional, with integrity and depth.
A lot of the comedic moments in this production came from the finely tuned performances of Kurt Myhill who used his excellent vocal, facial and physical skills as Clint Eastwood, sorry, Eastward! who has a major crush on mean girl Sklar, Kelsey Todd whose deadpan delivery as Madison Davies, the girl who has an excuse for everything was used to great effect, and Christian Robba-Colley as Luke Kristmas whose beautiful portrayal of a young man at an emotional crossroads was both hilarious yet poignant. Some of his scenes with Annabelle Weaver as the enthusiastic, love struck Heidi Punch were simply delightful.
The boys Jordan Butler as Andy Chambers, Luca Camuglia-May as Gary McGurk and Torin Cook as the laid back Desmond Rodgers also gave great comic performances, giving the other cast lots to bounce off.
The rest of this ensemble cast of Marguerite Du Plessis as Carrie Lane, Jasmin Flynn as Annastacia Stone, Adele Jeffrey as Estelle Branch, Brianna Jones as Gina Munch, Maegan Micola Von Furstenrecht as Prina Patel, Tayler Ramsay as Wendy Hogan, and Eliza Sinclair as Millicent Von Trudge all gave top-notch performances as the various students who each have their own unique style and story to tell. Caityln O’Brien also impressed with her duel turn as Tina Barina and, in a flashback scene, the young Fitz.
This funny, exuberant, and magical production is a wonderful escape into a joyful musical place at a time when our real world feels uncertain and a little scary.