Friday, 8 October 2004

Eureka! (The Musical) October 8, 2004

 Music by Michael Maurice Harvey, Book by Gale Edwards & John Senczuk, Lyrics by Maggie May Gordon, John Senczuk and Gale Edwards  
  produced by Simon Gallaher and Michael Harvey
Where and When: Her Majesty's Theatre  October 8 to 22, 2004    
Reviewer: Kate Herbert on October 8 to 22, 2004 

 Devil's Mistress Gold, the opening number of Eureka, augurs well for a vibrant, new musical production. The first half produces the goods, although the second is too long with too many reprises.

The colourful score (Michael Maurice Harvey) follows the major musical styles and provides a couple of memorable songs although none stick in the mind overnight. Lyrics (Maggie May Gordon, John Senczuk, Gale Edwards) are witty and engaging. 

The Eureka story is one of Australia's few rebellions. Although small, it lends itself to an epic narrative, grand musical form and has echoes of Les Miserables.

The hero of the Eureka Stockade was Irish engineer, Peter Lalor (Ian Stenlake). In this musical, although he is essential to the rebellion, the focus of the story is is on his colleague, Sean Flynn, (Simon Gleeson) and Flynn's romance with Bridie O'Malley. (Trisha Crowe)

The book (Gale Edwards, John Senczuk) establishes the background of the goldfields, the troupers' stranglehold on miners and mining licences, and Governor Hotham's (Peter Carroll) appointment.

We see miners fighting to survive on meagre gold finds and brutal and corrupt treatment by the English under Commissioner Grey. (Michael Cormick)

Lalor's cronies epitomise the multi-racial goldfields.  Rafaello Carboni (Christopher Tomkinson) is an Italian poet, Frederic Vern (James Millar) a German, Long Tu (Yang Li) Chinese and Paddy O'Malley (Barry Crocker) Irish.

Strength of Unity is a rousing anthem for the rebellious quartet of Lalor, Carboni, Flynn and Vern. The same energy was needed in the Stockade battle which is a disappointment. The battle action happens off stage, leaving the show without a climax.

The most emotive song is A Vision Splendid, sung with great tenderness and sensitivity by Gleeson. His duet, It's a Long Way From Where You're Standing, with the vibrant Crowe as Bridie, is charming and funny.

Stenlake is in fine voice singing a delightful duet, The One For Me For Life, with Rachael Beck. Beck's solo, The Words to Say Goodbye, is warm and melancholy while Cormick sings the villainous Grey's solos with passion.

Three scintillating dance numbers are lead by feisty, outrageous Amanda Muggleton as brothel owner, Mercedes Cortes, who is revealed to be as Irish as potatoes. What Women Do is an affecting chorus sung as the women stitch the Southern Cross flag.

The Aboriginal narrator, Kardinia, (Pauline Whyman) is a courageous inclusion but is gratuitously and inappropriately grafted onto the Eureka story.

The show is an entertaining night in the theatre but I suspect it is not the Great Australian Musical.

LOOK FOR:  Gleeson singing A Vision Splendid

By Kate Herber

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