Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Georgy Girl REVIEW, Dec 22, 2015 ****

Georgy Girl - The Seekers Musical
Book by Patrick Edgeworth; Music & Lyrics by Judith Durham, Athol Guy, Keith Potger, Bruce Woodley, David Reilly, Malvina Reynolds, Paul Simon, Tom Springfield & others
Produced by Richard East & Dennis Smith
Her Majesty’s Theatre, Melbourne, Dec 22, 2015 until Feb 21, 2016
Reviewer: Kate Herbert 
Stars:  ****
 Herald Sun News posted a version of this online tonight and tomorrow in print.  KH
All pics by Jeff Busby
If you remember the 1960s and loved The Seekers and their thrillingly rapid rise to international fame as a supergroup, you’ll sing along with every tune in Georgy Girl - The Seekers Musical.

All four real members of The Seekers were in the opening night audience and they joined the exceptional cast on stage for an emotional curtain call that attracted a spontaneous standing ovation.

The production, directed by Gary Young, features plenty of memorable Seekers’ songs including: I’ll Never Find Another You, A World of Our Own, The Carnival Is Over and the Oscar-nominated Georgy Girl – all written by Tom Springfield, Dusty’s brother – and Someday One Day by Paul Simon.

Their story begins in Melbourne where suburban girl, Judith Durham (Pippa Grandison), was singing jazz in clubs when she made history by joining a band of three local lads: Athol Guy (Glaston Toft), Keith Potger (Phillip Lowe) and Bruce Woodley (Mike McLeish).

The show indirectly draws parallels between the retiring, self-conscious and conservative Durham and Georgy, the girl who, according to the song lyrics, is ‘scared of changing and rearranging’ herself.

The music is the highlight of this spanking new production and the four leads channel the tight harmonies and folksy melodies of that inimitable Seekers sound while also replicating their squeaky-clean looks.

Grandison, with her powerful, resonant voice and broad vocal range, captures not only Durham’s vocal style and tone but also embodies her vulnerability and reticence, preoccupation with her weight and commitment to music.

Toft’s bass voice and lanky physique make him perfect casting for Guy while Lowe captures Potger’s cheerful charm and McLeish is witty and cool as Woodley.

The tight, 11-piece band, led by Stephen Gray with arrangements by Stephen Amos, brings the swingin’ 60s onstage with a full, rich sound that comprises keyboards, guitars, acoustic and electric bass, strings and horns.

Patrick Edgeworth’s script focuses to a great degree on Durham, her idiosyncrasies, relationships and family but the show loses some depth and breadth by not spending equal time on the boys in the band.

As is often the case in biographical musicals that chart the lives of their subjects, the narrative structure of Georgy Girl lacks a clear dramatic arc and the episodic structure of the book contains too many short scenes that interrupt the flow and do not serve the core story.

Perhaps the production could focus more time on particular songs while threading some narrative vignettes within those tunes in order to move the action along more effectively.

The device of using Judith’s late husband, Ron Edgeworth (Adam Murphy), as a narrator has advantages – it allows him to insert key narrative information – and Murphy is a delightful host who enchants the audience with his quips and characterisation.

However, this technique focuses the story even more intensely on Durham at the expense of the boys, the band and the music.

Another incarnation of the show might snip out extraneous scenes and dance routines, tighten the narrative, polish the English accents and focus on the music and all four characters in the band.

Isaac Lummis 60s-style costumes fill Shaun Gurton’s sparse set design with colour and Michael Ralph’s choreography echoes 60s Go-Go dancing, although it incorporates many contemporary moves and pelvic thrusting that conflict with the 60s style.

The Seekers were together for only five or six years but they made their mark with huge record sales and number one hits in UK, Australia and USA; they were the pop stars you had when you weren’t having The Beatles or The Rolling Stones.

The final full ensemble singing I Am Australian is an impassioned, patriotic and moving finale and, even with its shortcomings, this production is an entertaining flashback to the music of The Seekers and the progressive 60s that we now view with nostalgia.

By Kate Herbert

Judith Durham Pippa Grandison
Athol Guy Glaston Toft
Keith Potger Phillip Lowe
Bruce Woodley Mike McLeish
Ron Edgeworth /Narrator Adam Murphy
John Ashby Ian Stenlake
Sophie Carter Bev Durham
Stephen Wheat  Eddie Jarrett

Director Gary Young
Musical Direction  Stephen Gray
Music arrangements Stephen Amos
Choreographer Michael Ralph
Costume design Isaac Lummis
Set design Shaun Gurton

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