Thursday, 23 May 2013

flowerchildren, May 22, 2013 ***1/2

flowerchildren: The Mamas and Papas Story
By Peter Fitzpatrick, featuring songs of The Mamas and the Papas
Presented by Magnormos
Comedy Theatre, May 22 until June 23, 2013
Reviewer: Kate Herbert on May 22
Stars: *** 1/2
This review published in Herald Sun online on May 27, 2013. KH

The impressive and unforgettable hit songs by 1960s group, The Mamas and the Papas, combined with the chaotic but passionate personal lives of its members, makes Peter Fitzpatrick’s musical, flowerchildren, both entertaining and moving.

A versatile cast (Matt Hetherington, Laura Fitzpatrick, Dan Humphris, Casey Donovan) effortlessly sing the complex harmonies, difficult melodies and distinctive lyrics, capturing the idiosyncratic sound of the Californian, Flower Power quartet.

Their four-part harmonies make such classics as California Dreamin’, Creeque Alley, Monday Monday, and I Saw Her Again Last Night, absolutely thrilling to hear.

Hetherington, with his affecting vocal tone, is compelling and impassioned as the formidably talented but drug-addled and arrogant songwriter, John Phillips, the man responsible for most of the band’s memorable tunes.

Laura Fitzpatrick finds sensitivity, playfulness and sincerity in Michelle, Phillips’ unfaithful wife, and her rendition of Dedicated To The One I Love is sweetly emotional.

Former winner of Australian Idol, Casey Donovan’s powerful, exhilarating voice captures the unique vocal quality of Mama Cass, bringing joy and pain to her signature solo hit, Dream A Little Dream Of Me.

Papa Denny was perhaps the unsung member of the band, but Humphris, with his bright tenor, sensitively plays this lovelorn, booze-raddled, young man.

Fitzpatrick structures the story chronologically over the brief years of the band’s heyday, with each of its four sections narrated in turn by a band member, with dialogue often intercut amongst the songs.

This return season of flowerchildren has a more elaborate design and fuller sound, but it still needs some script editing to tighten dialogue and to shorten or omit some scenes that seem extraneous.

Aaron Joyner’s direction concentrates on the relationships, characters and songs, while musical director, Sophie Thomas, leads a tight, on-stage band that provides rich, full musical backing for the songs.

The combination of timeless melodies counterpointed with personal tragedy, addiction and infidelity, makes flowerchildren a poignant and individual story.

By Kate Herbert

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