Book: Phillip George &David Lowenstein
Director: Francesca Goodridge
Reviewer: Charlie Senate
The swinging sixties: the decade that saw the fanatical rise of Beatledom and the blossom of women’s sexual liberation. And, incidentally, not a bad decade for music, either.
Shout! The Mod Musical follows the lives of five swinging gals – known primarily by their primaries, Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, and Blue, and their stereotypes, Nerd, Housewife, Yankee, Slut, and Beauty – through a decade long devotion to Mod magazine Shout! and its glib advice columnist, Gwendolyn Holmes. Through a series of narrated articles and ‘Dear Gwen’ letters, they explore love and sex (or visa versa), follow the latest trends (vinyl boots, anyone?), and marvel at miraculous medical advancements (like the pill)…Oh, and they sing. A lot!
You see, for Shout!, the plot is not the thing. Really, there isn’t much of a plot at all. Shout! is essentially a period revue seamed together by occasionally very funny segues. Pun upon gag upon pun, in the family of this gem: ‘Like me new mini dress? Now you don’t have to go to Australia to see down under!’ Or, to (badly) paraphrase another:
YELLOW: In the US, when you marry your second cousin, they call you a hillbilly? What do they call you here?
RED: Your Majesty!
But, what a revue! Alex Smith’s and Simeon Scheuber’s excellent arrangements are performed skillfully by the band and sung with not just vim, but also verve by the talented ensemble cast. Red, Yellow, Orange, Green, Blue, or Holmes, there is not a weak voice among them, so much so that to distinguish would seem a disservice to the rest. And, while sometimes the songs do edge a bit musical-ish compared to the earthy familiarity of the much-loved originals, the cast’s vigorous performances make this little niggle easy to forgive. Standout numbers like Son of a Preacher Man, These Boots Are Made for Walkin, and the title number Shout! all showcase a cast fully in command of its repertoire.
Likewise, the cast et al deliver very strong, committed performances. Emily Chesterton (Orange), Sarah Folwell (Red), Hayley Hampson (Blue), Miriam O’Brien (Green), Evangeline Pickerill (Yellow), and Katie Tyler (Holmes) should each be commended. Andrew McKay’s tight choreography, Roberta McKeown’s loquacious costumes, and Adam Murdoch’s glimmering lighting all add to Shout!’s bubbling vitality.
From top to bottom, there is one word for this show – slick.
That said, Shout! is the type of easy-going frivolity that sometimes passes off candy-coated cynicism for social commentary. When, rarely, the show attempts to shed its syrupy husk, the message seems immediately simplistic – even a bit patronising. But, thankfully, there is sugar to spare. The result is the lightest of light, most joyful of joyous jamborees – a celebration of an incendiary decade and the pioneering women that it spawned.
Runs until: 4 June 2016 | Photo: Bond Media