It Was That Way When I Got Here. Musical comedy written and directed by Andrew Hackwill and Jonathan Flack. A PhoenixRising world premiere, Phoenix Players at Theatre 3, May 8, 9 and 10, 2008, at 8pm; 10 and 11 at 2pm.
It’s hard to imagine such a zany funny musical running for only five performances. Under the direction of Ian McLean the 1st XV Orchestra is terrific, there is a wealth of good singing from men and women, costumes by Christine Pawlicki are bright and hilarious, dancing is disciplined (by Lisa Buckley), set (by Brian Sudding) is simple, lit well and works perfectly.
The songs are witty, reminding me of anything from Gilbert and Sullivan to My Fair Lady, and each is a take-off of a different style from Gospel to Sondheim, with a special nod at the smooth Dean Martin. The plot is a bit hard to follow at times, but that is as it should be in this wildly multicultural school which I could only see as a truly Australian iconoclastic kind-of Catholic version of Vicar of Dibley madness. Certainly not politically correct, and with many sexual references.
The only problem on opening night was audio balance - the band often drowned the singers - made worse by radio mikes working intermittently. But the cast were so well-rehearsed that no-one missed a beat. Though, at the end of the day, this is a production by a local community theatre group with the attendant difficulties that a fully professional theatre company would not face, I am sure there would be a willing audience for a longer season which the commitment and obvious enjoyment of the cast and musicians deserve.
The Phoenix Players’ PhoenixRising program to help new writers get their work on stage has paid off with It Was That Way When I Got Here. It’s thoroughly madcap, but there is some method after all in a priestly-robed school principal carrying his “bible”, entitled Religion for Dummies. Enough said. Enjoy.
© Frank McKone M.A.,
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