What's on stage in Melbourne?
Back in 2011, director Gale Edwards and designer Brian Thomson took Puccini’s smash hit La Bohème to the wild cabaret halls and streets of 1930s Berlin. The production was embraced by die-hard romantics, opera fans and newcomers alike, and is back yet again for Opera Australia's Melbourne season. The story, which follows a close-knit group of young, fiercely idealistic bohemians through first love to untimely death. La Bohème inspired Moulin Rouge, Rent and countless adaptations, including this Weimar-set production, starring international opera stars Maija Kovalevska and Yosep Kang alongside local favourites Jane Ede and Christopher Tonkin.
The Rock Musical is a subset with a very chequered past. For every Hair there’s a Rent; for every Hedwig and the Angry Inch there’s an American Idiot. Andrew Lloyd Webber might have seemed an odd choice to adapt the 2003 Jack Black film School of Rock for the stage, but then the man was synonymous with the rock musical when Jesus Christ Superstar ruled the world back in 1970. Some people think that show had as much to do with rock as Phantom of the Opera has to do with opera, but that’s kind of beside the point. It worked as a musical, more or less, and its songs entered the musical theatre canon almost instantly. School of Rock does seem now like a fairly obvious vehicle for a fully realised musical, but that’s hindsight talking. A lot could have gone wrong on the way to actualisation: the source material has a painfully thin plot, with really only one central gag; the music needs to be a pastiche but also has to convince as a completely integrated score; and the kids really have to be as talented as the story promises they will be. Any one of those could have brought this project to its knees, and not in that rock-god, slide-across-the-stage kind of way. While that plot might be thin, thankfully it’s still pretty good. Dewey (Brent Hill) is a man baby who mooches off his friend Ned (John O’Hara) so shamelessly that when posh private school Horace Green calls to offer Ned a substitute teaching job, Dewey takes it for himself. Sloppy, hungover and vastly under qualified, De