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Inner West Side

Ultra Cult present INNER WEST SIDE – The Musical. Book, by Jake Bayssari. Lyrics, by Jake Bayssari and Lucille MacKellar with Madeline Johnston. Music, by Tom Cardy. In the Reginald Theatre, Seymour Centre, City Rd. Chippendale.17th September – 21st September.

INNER WEST SIDE – The Musical, is a new Australian work, having its first outing as part of the Sydney Fringe Festival.

Andrea (Laura McDonald) returning to Killara after a week long holiday in Berlin has become so aspirational about her need to find and be her true self, decides to live in the Inner West, in Newtown. She begins by shacking up with Aussie cool chick, Lana (Rhianna McCourt), whom she befriended in Berlin. She hides her origins and wealth – her parents have reduced her weekly allowance to only  $500.00 per week!

Having gained approval from her other room-mates, CC Razor (Roy Joseph) and Freya (Britt Ferry), Andrea is taken on a tour of some of the local sights: The local Barista, Dan (Gautier Pavlovic-Hobba); the St Vincent’s Op-shop on King St. where she meets the queen of the scene, Monica (Elouise Eftos); and later smashes it out at a Rave. Things develop: Monica is ‘de-throned’ by Andrea in an underhanded-way; Dan is dumped; Lana becomes disillusioned. Andrea becomes unhappy, seeks rescue, and is, by a forgiving Lana, so that we all can leave the theatre with the message of the last song in an INNER WEST STATE OF MIND  – a happy ending. Andrea an anti-hero in the shadow of Muriel.

This is a first draft of a new Australian Musical and it is, at present, a big mess of aspiration. The Book, as it is, has underdeveloped characters and motivation. The narrative is ‘bumpy’ and not dramatically cohesive – we seem to get to ‘this place’ in the story to get into the next song, without much dramaturgical exposition to help the audience, know what has transpired to get there. We need more narrative ‘dots’ from the writers to get from here to there in the story on stage.

The best aspect of the material is the whip-smart vernacular, lingo, talk – it is very clever, witty, funny. Says The Director and writer, Jake Bayssari: “It was deep, sarcastic, ironic, messy and downright Australian.” All of this is true bar the “deep” bit – and that is what needs attention. It is far from ‘Broadway Baby’ ready, as Mr Bayssari, in his program interview hopes.

The music (by Tom Cardy) is “a unique blend of musical theatre style story-telling an indie garage rock”. Maddie (Johnston) says: “I can’t wait to hear people humming the songs on the street”. Well, at the moment that is not going to happen much – there is nothing tunefully or lyrically interesting enough to lodge in our brains.

This production has terrific zest in the well drilled choreography by Madeline Johnston, and a Set Design by Antony Robinson, that had me reminisce about the Musical RENT – mere references, of course.

The company is led by Laura McDonald and supported by Rhinna McCourt, and a standout bravura from Elouise Eftos. The other women of the company: Britt Ferry, Georgia Britt, April-Rose Desaglen, Lily O’Hare, Ruby Teys, Alexandra Gonzalez and Amy Bennet, all, are enthusiastic contributors. Gautier Pavolvic-Hobba, has the most developed male role, with Roy Joseph, Lincoln Elliot, Freddy Johnston, and Grant Loxton backing it all up.

INNER WEST SIDE – The Musical, has promise. Let Mr Bayssari and his writers go back to the writers’ desk and bring us another iteration. The history of musical theatre tells of the long gestation developments required for this form in the performance arena to reach their potential.