Written and created by Jonathan Biggins, Drew Forsythe and Phillip Scott
Sydney Theatre Company
The year may have ended for some, but I still have a few shows to see including Muriel’s Wedding The Musical, which has opened to rave reviews. I also hope to catch Australia Day written by Jonathan Biggins. It is a great look at ourselves, very funny and playing at New Theatre. If you visit Melbourne in late January, do try to catch The National Theatre production The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, which is brilliant. Then there is the Sydney Festival where there are lots of diverse choices including the National’s Barber Shop Chronicles, the contemporary dance Tree of Codes, cabaret/circus including Ireland Riot starring Panti Bliss, who led the “Yes” campaign in the same-sex marriage plebiscite, Briefs and Randy Rainbow.There’s some feminist history with The Town Hall Affair, which looks into the meeting where feminists including Germaine Greer clashed with writer Norman Mailer.
Next year looks like being a big musical retro year with The Book of Mormon taking up residency at The Lyric. It will stay there for a year at least is my prediction while elsewhere we get Mamma Mia, Jersey Boys and Priscilla, Queen of The Desert returning. I am predicting Muriel’s Wedding will have a big life when the initial run finishes. This was a product of the short-lived residency of Jonathan Church. I am hoping the STC might stage some further musicals but we still have Hayes Theatre, which goes from strength to strength with next year’s program looking good including Gypsy with Blazey Best playing Mamma Rose.
In this year’s Wharf Revue, the woman is the aforementioned Blazey Best. Sharing the stage with the three legends, Biggins, Forsythe and Scott must be daunting but she not only holds her own but also creates some of the best female characters we have seen in years. It is amazing to realise that this all started at The Tilbury Hotel and the little show Three Men and a Baby Grand. The annual revue has grown so much that next year it will be in the big theatre across the road from the Wharf, but that is really because the Wharf is being refurbished.
We don’t get to see a lot of political satire but The Wharf Revue is now in its 20th year. Back in the day there was the Phillip Street revues, which included political satire and Mavis Bramston and New Theatre did the hard stuff with shows such as On Stage Vietnam and It’s Time to Boil Billy. The Wharf revues are now an institution and it will be interesting to see how they go when Phillip Scott leaves after this season. He will be hard to replace but I have no doubt he will be replaced by someone great. It will be hard to ever forget his John Howard.
Sometimes I wonder if we need a show at all because politics today seems to be its own satire, but they managed yet again to give us the “best ever” each year.
Forsythe’s Pauline Hanson is back with his pitch-perfect capture of her mannerisms supported in this incarnation by Blazey Best as James Ashby. She morphs from Jacquie Lambie to Michaelia Cash to Angela Merkel, Ivanka Trump and the most energetic Julie Bishop. Each character is different and Ms Best captures each one perfectly. Forsythe is the consummate performer (I still remember him as “The Venetian Twins”) and here he portrays Malcolm Turnbull in leather jacket demonstrating he is a working-class man.
Biggins only has to move his thin mobile legs to get a laugh but here he had us from the opening where he portrays Tony Abbott as the green lizard in green leotards and red sluggos and his tongue working overtime. He is a great mover and dancer and along with Scott, Forsythe and Best has perfect comedy timing. Over the years the shows have become more sophisticated and they now use film to great advantage. The music is always a crucial part of the show. Scott is not only brilliant on the piano but his musical direction adds magic to the show. He also plays great characters and as well as Howard, and many more in this, he gives us Boris Johnson with Biggins’ extraordinary Donald Trump. One of the funniest sketches is his Trump doing stand-up comedy. I could rave on forever about how great they all are but I won’t. I will finish by saying, thank-you Phil Scott, I give you a hundred standing ovations.