Friday, 11 April 2014

DreamSong, April 10, 2014 **1/2

Melbourne International Comedy Festival
Music by Robert Tripolino, Book & Lyrics by Hugo Chiarella
Red Heifer Productions 
Theatre Works, until 20 April 2014 
Star rating: **1/2 
Reviewer: Kate Herbert 
Review also published in Herald Sun online on Friday April 11, 2014. KH
  Jesus is back! And this time he’s wearing thongs! 
In DreamSong, a corrupt pastor (Ben Prendergast) fabricates the second coming of the Messiah to save his church from insolvency.

It sounds like a great, satirical idea, but the potential is not yet realised in this patchy, new Australian musical created by Robert Tripolino and Hugo Chiarella.

Despite being subjected to a series of creative developments, productions and rewrites, the problems with the narrative, music, lyrics and dialogue remain unresolved and DreamSong is still not a finished, ready-for-stage musical.

The highlight of the performance is Brent Hill as The Real Jesus, whose skillful comic timing and delivery saves a number of scenes.

There is only one compelling song, Just Have Faith, that hints at the musical possibilities of this team, with its memorable tune and simple lyrics sung by Connor Crawford’s clear, tuneful musical theatre voice.

The problems are manifold and, with the exception of this one song, the tunes are forgettable, musical arrangements thin and sometimes jarring, narrative structure is messy, characters are predictable, and dialogue and lyrics are often crass, lacking wit and complexity.

The show tries to be irreverent but ends up being merely unsophisticated, adolescent and looking like a bumpy university revue.

Attempts to introduce some serious elements – death of a young soldier, political corruption, fraudulent charities, church sexual abuse – feel bolted on and are not well integrated within the narrative.

There is potential in the parade of characters that includes the sleazy, exploitative Pastor Sunday (Prendergast), his desperate, brassy wife (Chelsea Gibb), perky daughter (Emily Langridge), his adoring bookkeeper (Evan Lever), the dishonest Prime Minister (Mike McLeish) and his dodgy PR manager (Alana Tranter).

Talented director, Dean Bryant, does his damnedest to give the production sparkle, the ensemble gives committed performances, working hard to sell the songs, characters and story with energy, however their voices vary in quality and the acting is uneven.

DreamSong has not yet fulfilled its dream to be the new, original Australian musical but perhaps a few more rewrites will save it from damnation.

By Kate Herbert
Chelsea Gibb -Whitney Sunday
Ben Prendergast - Pastor Richard Sunday
Emily Langridge- April Sunday
The Real Jesus -Brent Hill
Connor Crawford -Chris.T
Mike Mc Leish -Prime Minister Cunningham
Evan Lever - Neville
Alana Tranter-  Clarice

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