Crossroad Arts ‘Loose Ends’ A Review.

Crossroad Arts Inc collaboratively develops opportunities for people who experience a disability and those in aged care, to access and participate in the arts, and on Saturday night I got to see one of their shows for the first time at one of my favourite venues, Dirty Martinis. A show, I must point out, that was sold out before opening!

The performers in this production treated their audience to a show that was very much like a cabaret. Divided into two acts, the production featured a handful of solo and collaborative performances that were strung together with a mix of crowd participation activities hosted by their charming MC’s, the cheeky Georgia Knoll and the bubbly Alison Richardson and translated by the sign language interpreter Arna, who I have to say I am in complete awe of. I’ve been meaning to learn sign language for years but am still at the spell everything out with the sign alphabet stage, and watching her hands fly about so effortlessly has inspired me to delve back into all the books I bought on the subject a few years ago. 

I had a wonderful time and my expectations were not only met but superseded by the talent these incredible individuals had to offer and I learned more about what it was like to have a disability in one evening than I have in years due to being shown rather than told. The acts were incredibly varied so it never felt like too much of any one thing, and the affect that the performances had on me ranged from moving, to shocking, to hilarious to downright inspiring. And to make it even more worth the while, they used the evening’s production as a platform for change, and I’m thrilled that they’re spear-heading a campaign to get restaurants in Mackay to print up at least one copy of their menus in braille to make venturing out that little bit easier for people the people who can’t communicate with the ease that so many of us take for granted.

The featured group of the evening was the Sydney-based performing arts band Ruckus who have made a real name for themselves over the years as 5 piece performance group who all have Down’s Syndrome, but there were a few other groups as well, I very much enjoyed Brendan Borellini’s piece with Matt Tandy, Dear Olga, mostly because it brought to my attention that the way he writes is not that different to the way that I (and I’m sure most of us think) and his 3D art displays were so fabulous that I sort of blew my raffle-ticket budget trying to win one. In addition to that, there was a 4 person act called ‘Way up North’ which was incredibly detailed and moving performance that commanded the unbroken focus of the hushed crowd and was accompanied by rolling footage of the region for a personal touch. 

As for the solo acts, local artist Joel Bow entertained us with his rendition of Defying Gravity. and 16 year-old artist Jade Fiyen sang some beautiful songs while accompanying herself on her ukulele, including You Are The Only One and Boys Will Be Boys. Jade has one of those lilting, Indie voices that lulls people into a trance-like state, so she had the audience in the palm of her hand the whole time. Georgia Rose Cranko is a performer from Sydney who has Cerebral Palsy, and she filmed a riveting piece of her getting undressed and dressed again- showing that she has everyday struggles but that in the end we’re all people. Georgia Rose’s personal platform is NO PITY.

The star of the evening for me, however, was Miss Georgia Knoll who might just be one of the sassiest performers that I’ve ever seen on a Mackay stage. I don’t know how much of her emcee act was an actually an act and how much was improv, but she was cheeky and beguiling and had as much stage presence as anyone I’ve ever seen locally to date. Georgia interacted with the crowd the most, and I got a kick out of the karaoke game that she hosted at half-time, which started with her performing the opening to a song, and then like with freeze-tag, paused it- giving the eager members of the audience the chance to finish it and win a prize. This little adventure (followed by a lolly drop) was so much fun, not just for those that participated but for those of us that sat back and watched as the ones with special needs in the crowd were treated to a truly fantastic night out that had been created with them in mind as a priority, not as an afterthought. 

That being said however, the night was truly entertaining and accessible to all, and I hope that the next show sells out twice as fast as this one did because the performers have worked as hard as any other local performer has and what the stories that they have to tell need to be seen, heard and understood. Follow Crossroad Arts on facebook to hear about their next performance: The Unlikely Tour, set to be staged during The Mackay Festival Of Arts. 

A standing Ovation for the team at Crossroad Arts behind the scenes, as sponsors and onstage! Until next time 🙂

CAN YOU ESCAPE AIRLIE BEACH?

 

REVIEW: ESCAPECQ

1a/400 Shute Harbour Road
Airlie Beach
PHONE: 48293411

Ever been to an Escape room before? I hadn’t, and I hadn’t even heard of one until a few months ago when I found out one was being built in Airlie Beach and now that I’ve seen it, I can’t wait to go back a second time!

The premise is so cool; you are locked inside the first room of a place called Addington Manor, and are left to your own devices to find your way out while a clock ticks nearby, giving you an hour to beat the game in order to win, or fail. 

I’ll admit that when I first heard about the idea, I got a little anxious because I’m known to get claustrophobic when I’m locked in anywhere (regardless of the size of the space it’s a mental thing) and because I thought I’d spend the whole time freaking out about the pressure that I was under, but to my shock, I was one hundred percent comfortable the whole time and I had an absolute ball. 

Getting into the manor is easy- teams ranging from 2-6 players are given the safety instructions, the rules and some tips and then, your game master reads the scenario’s back story to you which in this case concerned a haunted old house with a bad reputation, firstly because the original owner, old man Addington went mad after his wife died and killed his daughter, and then because a curious group of kids went in there during the 80’s and couldn’t get out. That was until, the last one of them managed to cast a spell, which you must now recreate if you too want to get out alive. 

Then, once you’re ready to go, your sent into the room, the door locks behind you and then tick tock- you’re racing the clock!

I was absolutely gobsmacked by how detailed and atmospheric Addington Manor was on the inside giving how unassuming it is on the outside, but once that door locks behind you you’re in another world entirely. I shouldn’t have been surprised because the creator of Escapecq has a heavy theatrical background and it shows, all right, because he’s created a bit of a spooky time portal in the middle of one of the sunniest, happiest places in the world. Every detail was beautifully presented and well thought out but even though the space is small and dimly lit in order to keep the atmosphere of the scenario intact, our team of five grown adults found it easy to get around anyway without worrying about getting under one another’s feet or knocking things over.

It’s going to be difficult to explain why you should go to Escapecq or what exactly goes on in there without giving any of the game away, but I know a lot of people are curious about how it works so as my friend Dave said, it’s very much like being in one of those video games that have a heavy focus on exploring the area you’re in in order to get to the next. I thought you’d be given one clue to begin with and would then have to follow a specific formula but it’s not like that at all. Instead, you’re locked in the room and then are encouraged to ransack it, without having any idea about what you’re looking for or why, and even when you work one clue out, it might not necessarily work out for you or make any sense until you’ve figured out a different part of the puzzle, which is why it is such a great team activity because everyone can contribute to solving the problem simultaneously. 

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You’re not abandoned in there either. The attendant out front is able to monitor you the whole time, so if you get stumped or scared or you hit a wall, they are able to offer extra hints via the AV display in the room itself, which my group needed (I suspect) a lot in the beginning because we were too excited to focus. Atmospheric sound effects are played the whole time to keep that haunted house feel going, but if you are in dire straits, a wolf will howl, which is your cue to look to the monitor for an extra hint. Really, it’s exactly like being in a haunted house ride, only more authentic feeling than any I’ve ever been in before. 

The clues and puzzles are all tied in with the original storyline in a very clever way, and come in all sorts of forms too so everyone gets a chance to contribute to solving the problem regardless on what their strength is, whether they be someone that’s into riddles, or decoding or even if they just have a knack for problem solving or are just there to offer encouragement and enjoy the ride. For instance, you might need to get into a drawer that’s locked with one kind of lock, but in order to open that lock you have to decode an audio visual clue, or trigger one of the mechanisms in the room that leads you to the next step, and to my delight, that next step often involved advancing into another room that you wouldn’t have guessed was there until everything all clicks into place. It’s a lot of fun and a bit chaotic to begin with, but as you start to get a feel for how the game works, you have the chance to pace yourself and get some organization going. 

Is it complicated? Definitely so I’d suggest having a strong coffee before going in (At one point I heard myself hysterically exclaiming: ‘There’s no DIAMOND symbol in Morse Code!!!)  but it’s complicated in a way that’s fun and it doesn’t get tedious at all, and though that racing clock keeps the pressure on to complete the scenario in under an hour, the games have ranged between forty minutes and seventy-five, so even if you don’t make it in time, you do get the chance to make it through anyway. Also, the company keeps track of those who get through the fastest so if you’re the competitive type, the incentive to escape as quickly as possible greets you the second you enter the building and see the placard advertising the record to beat. 

There wasn’t anything about the experience that I didn’t enjoy, but the very best part for me, was the way everything was so automated. There were sensors and triggers lying in wait everywhere, setting off a response in something else, so it sort of reminded me of being in one of the fictional playing fields in The Hunger Games only instead of it all being controlled as you go, it’s all been set up so every lock, every candle flicker, every AV prompt is self-activated. Honestly I was in awe of how everything worked because of how fluid it was, and although the second Escape Room isn’t due to be completed until next week, the owner Victor Scott gave us a sneak peak at the new scenario and although it’s a similar concept, all of the puzzles are different again and relate back to the new storyline, and I know that if it had been ready to go today we would have all begged to have a crack at the other immediately after we’d finished the first.

We all know there’s a lot of stuff to do in Airlie, but if you’re up there any not in a mood to get wet or drunk sometimes, it can feel a bit limited which is exactly why the escape room is an awesome idea, especially now that the weather’s cooling down a bit. My group and I drove up there just to play the game and had to head back to Mackay immediately afterwards, but it was totally worth it and I won’t hesitate to do I again as soon as the next game is ready so I heartily encourage all locals to do as I do- get yourself up there as soon as you can because there’s no adventure quite like it anywhere near here. Not only is this a great way to amuse tourists that are looking for something a bit different to do, but it’s an entertaining way for locals to have fun too, in addition to being a great team-building idea for secondary students and work groups or an inventive way to celebrate a special occasion, like with a hen’s Night, birthday or anniversary etc. In fact, the company will actually help you theme the room to compliment your event if you give them enough notice. 

Escapecq’s office is open for bookings between Tuesdays and Saturdays from 11am to 5pm, but the games themselves run every day of the year except for Christmas Day. Booking in advance is heavily recommended if your plans are time-sensitive, but they will take walk ins if the room is available. Right now the only room available is ‘Addington Manor’ but the new scenario, ‘The Stitch Up’ will be open as of this Thursday May 17th, and they’re taking bookings for it now for all people aged 14+. It’s recommended to have at least two people who speak English in the room with a party, but the attendant will try to help overcome any language barriers if such are present anyway.

Player’s rates vary according to the size of the party, starting at $44 for 2 people, and going as low as $30 each for 6, so like their page on Facebook or call: 48293411 to make a booking!

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The Mackay Cabaret Festival

Photo Above: Joel Bow, Lance Horne, Molly Rosetto, Mayor Greg Williamson
Photo By Leah McLean

Few people could argue that the Mackay theatre scene has undergone and overhaul in the last few years since home grown theatre aficionado, Joel Bow, whirled back into town like a cyclone of thespian energy, challenging those in the wings, in the spotlight and in the audience to try something new or perfect something old for the sake of re-kindling this town’s deeply-rooted passion for the creative arts. There isn’t a company he has not supported, an artist he hasn’t high-fived or a show that he’s missed if he could help it, so to say he deserved the crowd of people that swarmed over the Mackay Cabaret Festival this past weekend is an understatement!

Cabaret Festival in Mackay, you ask? Where? How? And most importantly: WHO to headline? But what might have seemed like an incredibly ambitious undertaking on paper was executed flawlessly by Mr Bow, who not only used the three-day festival to give local stars their chance to shine, but imported celebrated artists from Australia and the US to shine by their side, guaranteeing three nights of pure, five-star entertainment in one of Mackay’s undisputed classiest venues, The Dispensary!

Thursday night featured local quintuple-threat (she sews and directs in addition to dancing acting, and singing) Vicky Bobeldyk and US songwriter, Lance Horne as the headliners, accompanied by Caireen Holt. Vicky Bobeldyk’s show, ‘Boyka’s Back’ was the ultimate way to launch the festival because her act was not only hilarious, but clever and moving. Spinning-off from her role in the Comedy Player’s production of ‘Eurobeat’ in 2017, Boyka’s Back was a tribute to the character, Boyka, the former pole-vaulting champion from Bosnia who turned to the stage after her pole vaulting career came to an abrupt end following an indecent exposure scandal- a running monologue which was broken up by musical segues into cleverly chosen songs. Mrs Bobeldyk kept up this persona for the entirety of her slot, entertaining the audience with her fictional anecdotes and her perfectly controlled voice, but what made the performance so memorable for me was the way that she worked some of the challenges that she has recently faced in her personal life into her set, by re-wording a few choice lyrics from ‘I’ve Been To Paradise’ and ‘There Are Worse Things I Could do’ to express her feelings on the subjects of bullying and dusted dreams so articulately that I went from being in peals of laughter, to a sobbing mess, to back to laughter again by the end proving that though she may just be a local girl, she’s also one in a million. And though this wasn’t the first time I’ve been impressed by the way the accompanist, Caireen Holt, handled her part of the show, I was extra-delighted to see her get in on the fun herself a few times, and hope to hear more of her voice in addition to her playing from now on because she was adorable to watch and to listen to.

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Lance Horne, Vicky Bobeldyk, Joel Bow Picture by Leah McLean

Following Boyka and a brief intermission, Joel Bow kept the bar rising by introducing a friend of his, Grammy Award Winning songwriter (yes in MACKAY!) Lance Horne who spent the next hour blowing our minds with his own set ‘Double Standards’ – a one man show that was of the highest standard. For the duration of his slot, Lance sat behind the keyboard and kept the audience hanging on to his every word as he explained how he worked his way from the renowned Juilliard to Broadway, with the help of the artists he’s worked with, such as Stephen Sondheim, Liza Minnelli, Hal Prince and Alan Cumming. As a songwriter, Lance is often called upon (and at the last moment) to ‘whip up’ something that sounds like something else but is not too much like something else and he didn’t leave any doubt in our minds as to how he manages it because the man is legitimately a musical genius. His monologue had an unscripted, rambling feel to it that was insightful, hilarious and illuminating, his fingers flew over the keys without him seeming to give it a second thought at all, and the songs he sang were eclectic mash-ups of songs we know and love and the original numbers that he has written himself which were as inspired lyrical as they were melodic. ‘Double Standards’ was billed as a one man show, but Lance invited a few local performers to sing a few numbers with him, and no one could argue that Brent Dillon and Molly Rossetto blew the audiences away, first with Brent’s rendition of the classic: ‘On The Street Where You Live’ and Molly’s performance of ‘If This Was Your Last Day On Earth.’ The former is one of my favourite songs and Brent stole my heart with his incredible tenor voice, an the latter was an original song written by Lance himself, for a musical that he is currently working on. Molly knocked the ballad out of the park, and I do not doubt that the number will be one that will earn Mr Horne another well-earned Grammy soon, so check it out on YouTube so you can say you were one of the first to hear it!

Friday night opened with Molly Rosetto’s one-woman show ‘Songbird’ accompanied by Sarah Rosekrans, and although I have heard wonderful things about it, I could not get back to the festival until after work, and so I must review her based on the clips I saw uploaded online, and on the cameos she did in Mr Horne’s show the evening before. ‘Songbird’ was a mix of hits penned and sung by Australian artists like Missy, Higgins, Kylie Minogue and Casey Chambers, and her finale number ‘Born to Try’ was an audible delight, which is high praise because that is not an easy song. However, nobody that knows Miss Rossetto would doubt her ability to pull it off, because although she’s only been in Mackay for a few years, she’s already made her mark in productions by the MMCP, Red Giraffe Theatre and Joel Bow productions. It’s a shame that I didn’t get to see her whole set, but I had a few theatre-newbie friends in the audience that night who showed up not knowing what to expect and left feeling shocked that a performer of that calibre worked as a music teacher by day, right here in our little hamlet when it’s clear that she’s got the vocal talent to make a killing as a professional singer anywhere.

The second show of the evening was Madeline Caine’s ‘What Is This Thing Called Love?’ And although Madeline Caine is a graduate of Mackay’s Conservatorium of Music, she’s spent her time since scorching a trail as one of Australia’s finest performers so it was great that Joel managed to get her back here for the festival. Her show was about the evolution of romantic relationships, from meeting your first love to farewelling a true love to standing by a life-long love and the family that comes with it, and like Vicky Bobeldyk she switched gears constantly, making the audience weep one moment and fall off their chairs laughing the next while Sarah Rosekrans showed us just why she’s in such demand. Madeline has a stunning soprano voice and packed more songs than anybody into the time she had, leaving the audience feeling exhausted and sated after. She got us all giggling with the songs ‘I’m A Stalker’ and ‘True Love’ but the falling off the chair came during her re-worded rendition of the My Fair Lady Classic ‘I could have Dance All Night’ because she took out the word ‘Danced’ and replaced it with a pleasured moan, making the ridiculously innocent song so erotic that I don’t think anyone in the audience will ever hear it the same way again! Madeline has a stunning soprano that’s something better heard than described, and though she used it to blow the lid off massive numbers like the one I just mentioned, she also expertly pulled it back for softer songs that moved us all to tears, like ‘Baby Mine’ and ‘I’ll Be Here’ an emotionally-wrenching song penned about 9/11, so by the time it concluded, tissues were still being wiped over faces that were grinning again.

The final night of the show opened with Kelly Cooper doing her first Cabaret performance ‘Vanilla Lace’ which was an awesome angle to come from, because it gave Kelly the chance to tell her story: one of a girl that lives a very ‘vanilla’ existence BUT one who also gets to explore her other, crazier side via the performing arts which is a story that a lot of people can relate to! Mrs Cooper was clearly nervous, but her anxiety just made her all the more endearing, and though I was not surprised with by how effortlessly she sparkled her way through an eclectic, entertaining and flawlessly delivered set list, I was pleasantly surprised and very impressed with what she had to say between songs as well, because her script was humorous, fresh and humble, especially for a first timer. And though she reached into her repertoire to prove how she slayed the audience as Galinda the Good in the MMCP’s 2017 production of Wicked by belting big numbers like: ‘I dreamed A Dream,’ she also showed how versatile she was by performing numbers from The Book Of Morman and Avenue Q and yes, I’m please to say that there was a puppet involved!

Now we get to the final performance, and although it was billed as a one man tribute to Madonna by the accomplished Australian star, Michael Griffiths, the headliner introduced his act by saying he’s not very good at sticking to pre-meditated schedules and therefore, was going to do something a bit different, and I think we all ended up being grateful that he took it in another direction because, it was a wild and crazy ride that was all the better for its spontaneity! Michael entertained us with anecdotes about his escapades in the entertainment industry while accompanying himself, as Lance Horne had, and played songs that all know and love, from artists like Aha to Peter Allen. He had a bit about 80’s pop songs that ended up playing out like a music trivia quiz/sing-a-long that had the audience as in on the act as he was, and he treated us all to a bit of insight into the song-writing process too, by demonstrating the key points in the anatomy of a pop song using Madonna’s ‘Express Yourself’ as an example, wrapping the festival up with a standing ovation that was not just for him, but for the festival in general!

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Thursday Night’s Audience watching: ‘Boyka’s Back’ Photo By Leah McLean

My love for the performing arts pretty much guarantees that I am always going to have more positives to say than negatives in my reviews because I’m more of a cheerleader than a critic- but ask anyone that was lucky enough to secure one of the sold-out seats to The Mackay Cabaret Festival and I’m sure that they will tell you that it was one of the best experiences of their lives, and one that would have played just as well in front of audiences in the capital cities. Perhaps not every tune was for everyone because the collective song list was just so diverse, but that’s going to happen with any show, and I know for a fact that for every song someone may have felt a disconnection with, there were eight more that hit them right in the feels, so even the most critical audiences members would be inclined to rave as I have. In fact the only thing I can complain about is after three days, my derrière hurt from sitting and my face hurt from smiling! Aside from that, the venue was first class, the performers brought their A-Game every single second, the organizational side of things was on point and the audience was so stuffed with Joel Bow supporters from almost every theatre group in town that it was like a three day party.

Bravo to Joel Bow, the cast, the crew and the sponsors for your sold-out season- I do not doubt that next year’s Mackay Cabaret Festival will be even bigger and more brilliant!

The Time Of My Life ‘Jerry Seinfeld’ Live Review

Jerry Seinfeld

Boondall Entertainment Centre Brisbane

August 9th 2017

★★★★★

I’m still quite the ingenue when it comes to reviewing and when it comes to Jerry Seinfeld I’m a confirmed fan for life, so here’s what I have to say bout his performance in the Brisbane Arena, Boondall on Wednesday July 9th:

It was the best thing I’ve ever seen.

Quite a complex review, isn’t it? Well I’m sorry if I don’t have 300 paragraphs of yada yada for y’all, but Jerry was on from the moment he walked onstage, and I daresay he stayed good and on long after he walked off it. Hell, can’t you just imagine him in a coffin one day, arms folded, looking around and going: ‘What’s the deal with the air flow in these things?’ because he was born to do what he does and I’ve no doubt that he’ll die doing it and linger on afterwards as a sarcastic presence in the air.

I consider myself to be quite the collector of comedians. I’ve been watching them on DVD and live for years and I’m no stranger when it comes to the muffled-splat of jokes falling flat- the empathetic ‘You can do it’ titters that come from the most easily-amused fans in expectant crowds after a comedian has swung and missed. (Often, it’s me) I’ve even seen this happen to Jerry a few times over the years (‘Move the shoes, move the shoes, move the shoes…’ Yes please move the shoes to a segue and faster) and it’s something that you just expect to see at any comedy show. I still fast forward certain bits of Eddie Murphy Raw and Delerious because I have no idea what he’s talking about and don’t care to look into it.

But not at Jerry Seinfeld nope, he shot one-liners and multi-faceted paragraphs out like he’d swallowed a fully-loaded wit clip and used every laugh as  the bolt that he slid back for the next. I was sitting between an elderly gentleman and a guy ten years younger than me and they laughed at everything as much as I did, and the laughs were so big that we ended up swaying back and forth and over one another in our squishy seats with no personal space bubble necerssary because we were all in this together.

He is just so good at this. The comedian that came out before him was amazing and I think a lot better than anyone expected. We were still laughing at his jokes when Jerry waltzed out but from the moment the veteran opened his mouth, you could see why we all paid the steep price to get that ticket and then be squished in together- Jerry Seinfeld is the best stand-up comedian in the world and I don’t think he’ll ever be surpassed. He could go on tour at 90, and there will be tens of thousand of people waiting to see him just as there are right now to hear what he has to say about adult diapers.

Sure I guess there were a few things that didn’t resonate quite as well with the Aussie crowd as it would have with a bunch of Americans, but anyone who can call themselves a fan of Seinfeld would have shown up knowing to expect that because as far as generation X is concerned- he was our go-to educator for American culture for a very long time. We know that sometimes US comedians are going to talk about shit that we don’t quite get, but the beautiful thing with Jerry is that once it’s out there, it’s everybody’s joke now and that’s exactly what happened the other night. The crowd showed up wanting to laugh and so they did- uproariously for an hour and ten minutes straight.

In fact if there was any issue with his act, it was the fact that he was too funny- too relevant and too damn slick. We all showed up with this excitement of finally seeing him again, of getting him to throw another scrap of amusement our way after waiting for so long, but once it was over and we were inching our way out (and I was wiping tears off from under my cheeks as I am right now) you could feel the reluctance to leave in the air. It was as long as any stand up act is, but devesatatingly short. There had been so many new wonderful jokes- but not nearly enough to hit the spot now that we’d remember what it was like to listen to him ramble on.

In fact, it sort of felt like having one cigarette after years of going cold turkey, and now I’m craving something that I just cannot get enough of. When Seinfeld was wrapping up, it was easy to come to terms with it because by that point, he’d offered his commentary on basically every aspect of the modern world and new voices were popping up everywhere- voices that sounded fresher and more inventive and might just have something to say that he couldn’t or didn’t want to say.

But that was before the internet took over the world, before Netflix, before Instagram and before, well, everything that pertains to our daily lives now. Seinfeld was about a bunch of middle-aged singles living in a crazy city, but Jerry’s a married man and father now doing the adulting thing (like me) and I’m desperate to know everything that he has to say on all of the above now that he has so much more material. I want him back on my screen, five times a week, saying the stuff that no one else has the balls to say or the intellect to articulate. I want to see whole episodes about political correctness, Trump, North Korea and text messaging. I want to know what he think about  putting kids through school, keeping a marriage interesting after an extended period of time, Tinder and equal rights for gays.

Jerry Seinfeld offered up a lot of insight into how his mind works nowadays, but his mind works so beautifully and quickly (and still without cussing) that I don’t think there’s ever going to be enough that he can say or do that will make people okay with the fact that he doesn’t feel like doing it as much anymore, and so as he disappeared behind that curtain, I began to weep just like I did when Time Of Your Life rolled on the Seinfeld Chronicles.

Strange how a show about nothing can be everything.

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Bring It On The Musical Mercy College Mackay, a review.

Seeing as how I was a cheerleader for almost ten years, I would have seen Bring It On before now, but no one’s done it in Mackay, and because I am bound by the GPS points of 4-7-4-0, I had to wait until someone brilliant like Tania Attard decided to undertake it. I’ve never seen one of Mercy College’s shows before because I’m usually too tired to move after whatever MMCP rehearsal I’ve been flattened with that week, but as soon as I found out that it was being directed by THE Tania Attard (she earned that Uppercase ‘THE’ in Hairspray for me because it’s still the best show I’ve ever seen) and starring half of the kids that I’ve seen and have come to adore on the MMCP circuit, I was sold.
So tonight I dragged my retired pom-pom waving self and my still pom-pom waving daughter along to catch the opening night performance and we both had a great time. Cheerleading isn’t a sport that’s taken very seriously but the original Bring It On movie can be credited for changing a lot of people’s attitudes towards it. In fact, since that movie debuted cheerleading has gone from being a bit of an American stereotype to a worldwide phenomenon, and although it’s still stereotyped, it’s in a more multi-layered way now. You’ve got the glitz and the ponytail whips and the sassy popular girls, but there’s true athleticism buried under all of that glitter and Hairspray (Hairrrsssppprraaayyyyy!) And it creates incredibly powerful friendships between all kinds. In addition to that, the entire sport is about to be validated for real as its being introduced into the Olympics, and that’s been a long time coming. (Spoiler alert one- The Philippines is about to wear some gold, yo!)
Bring It On The Musical is very different to Bring It On The Movie though. (Spoiler alert 2-it’s actually a lot like the third movie Bring It On 3 All or Nothing which was the best one so we good) but the stage adaption focuses less on cheerleading and more on the relationships between the squad members. You still get the cute routines performed by some incredibly skilled athletes, but you get a lot of great songs that I think teenagers are going to love. My daughter walked out going: ‘I waannnaaa beee innn thattt….’ and I’m not surprised. The songs and choreography was very modern, so there was a booty shake for every high V, which a dancer will appreciate.
The cast was full of energy, and I was incredibly impressed by a lot of the choreography and some of the skill sets that these kids had, and I’m a hard sell because I have legit seen about 1040 cheerleading performances by this point. To be honest the moves aren’t quite as gravity defying (I’m in a theatre-pun mood so excuse me) as in the movie and I’m grateful that they weren’t because when I walked in I started eyeing the lighting-scaffolding warily lest a baskettoss should go awry (I speak from gymnasium ceiling fan experience), but the director and choreographer have managed to create two incredible cheerleading teams out of one high school cast and I appreciate what a feat that is. I got the impression that there were a few cases of opening night nerves and a few technical glitches, but I daresay they’ll be nonexistent tomorrow night and really, these kids pulled off a cracker of a show. Whoever handled the lighting/staging concept was incredibly inspired- the experience was not that different to being in the MECC.
As I’ve mentioned before, there were quite a few very small but very seasoned actors within the cast and to me they shone like absolute stars tonight. But the great thing about this show is that it gave everyone something wonderful to do- some moment to stand out. Of course your eye goes to the leading lady because she has to be on from start to finish and played her role perfectly, but the script grants every cast member the chance to pull focus or switch it up. There was no good guys vs bad guy feels being pushed onto the audience, because the antagonist was just a little bucket of adorable too, and I really appreciate that because to me, it helped encouraged healthy competition without hate and that is such an important lesson for teens today to get. In the same vein, I won’t go naming a lot of names with people so young, but the parrot (lorikeet?), the rappers, (good grief I almost laughed my way under my seat) and the sassy misses heading the Jackson Crew stole the show for me tonight. And some of the athletic skills that were rolled out in the finale had me, well…cheering. Ten spirit fingers go to the little leaper, the girl that pulled the bow and arrow and the vocal stylings of Georgia Attard, who I cannot help but name because I think everyone’s going to know it soon enough! And as far as superstars go, hats off to the typically-unappreciated person who slaved over the programs because they were AMAZING. Whoever did those deserves a bow of their own at the end! But you cannot walk away from this particular production without knowing that every single person involved gave 150% of themselves in the end, especially the director who never ceases to amaze me.

Bring It On The Musical will be on tomorrow night and Saturday night at Mercy College, and you don’t want to miss your chance to either get your teen to go on with you as a mother daughter date like I did, or con them into going as a group because it will be a fantastic night out that’ll have all that see it feeling uplifted after.

Tickets can be bought over the phone or at Mercy College and are a great price, so make sure you take some time out to be entertained!