Review: Schapelle, Schapelle the Musical – Sydney Comedy Festival (NSW)

Directed by Abby Gallaway, written by Abby Gallaway, Jack Dodds, Gareth Thomson and Mitch Lourigan

Reviewed by Justin Clarke

Take a journey with me back to 2005, when Neighbours was still on telly, teenagers raged to the Rogue Traders’ ‘Voodoo Child’, and one Schapelle Corby captured the hearts and the attention of Australians. Whether you believe she was guilty of her drug smuggling or not, it was hard to find someone who didn’t know Corby’s story. Jump forward to 2022 and I’m sitting in Marrickville’s Factory Theatre watching a musical (yes, a musical) on the “Ganja Queen” herself.

Director Abby Gallaway ramps up the tongue in cheek silliness to make us laugh, and to make us take stock and think of the media’s lust for a story. Beneath all the bright lights, satire and tap dancing is a human being. Despite your own personal views on her innocence, Gallaway reminds us that this is a story that was built off one woman’s misfortune. However, there are plenty of laughs to be had along the way!

Under the musical direction of Tim Hansen, the score takes inspiration from the likes of Keating! The Musical and Muriel’s Wedding the Musical. Hidden behind a great wall of XXXX cans and donning exuberantly colourful Hawaiian shirts, Hansen and his band play through every genre built from the eclectic team of writers. From a ballad exuding the dream of every white, female Queenslander’s holiday ‘Bali’, to a powerhouse intermission song ‘Unjust’, the writers have produced a high energy show with all the glitz and glamour of a Denpasar nightclub.

As Corby , Stacey Thomsett plays the real-life media icon with a grounded honesty. Thomsett’s Corby is still a Queensland larrikin, but never too satirical and always self-aware.

There’s lots to unpack in the jokes of the show; most are aimed at specific generations of audiences, others land across the board, and some fall flat. The idea of an Aussie larrikin, love it or hate it, is quintessential in the Australian identity, and the team behind Schapelle, Schapelle revel in it. Big beer bellies bulge underneath Australian flagged singlets, football team names are dropped left and right (to cheers and jeers from the crowd) and nostalgia transports us back to how ridiculously cool we thought we were. The Nokia 360 is still the ultimate machine in my opinion.

The real mockery on show here are the media. On the left of the stage is a familiar Channel Nine…teen logo with a circle missing, a Ms. Grimshaw is the envy of the A Current Debate news crew, and each media journalist is clawing their way to win the ultimate prize, a “Wokey Award”. It’s the perfect angle to to bring depth to the story.

As Corby , Stacey Thomsett plays the real-life media icon with a grounded honesty. Thomsett’s Corby is still a Queensland larrikin, but never too satirical and always self-aware.

Playing opposite Thomsett as Corby’s sister, Mercedes, Ruby Teys is a manic, Balinese “local” complete with $5 Prada sunglasses and a “look at moi” attitude. Impressive vocals and spot on comedic timing make Teys a standout.

Jack Dodds, Mitch Lourigan, Alice Litchfield and Gareth Thomson make up the narcissistic media team that hunted down Corby’s story for their own gain and made her a household name. Dodds had such high energy throughout the show I thought he was on the edge of exploding into confetti. It was the perfect level of zany needed for the story-driven journalist. Litchfield and Thomson’s journo accent was on point (if you know, you know) and revelled in portraying caricatures of their real-life counterparts.

Some noise levels being too loud lost a fair few of the jokes in some of the songs, which was disappointing given the cohesive writing team behind the show. This bled into mics being raised and lowered at differing times which led to punchlines being missed.

Schapelle, Schapelle the Musical replicates the intense energy of the media explosion from its source material. With a cohesive cast, enough nostalgia driven jokes to last until the next decade, and a searing look at the ethics of journalism, it’s a show to be seen to be believed. If you weren’t watching a musical of Schapelle Corby on a Thursday night, what were you even doing?

Reviewer Rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Schapelle, Schapelle the Musical played its return season at the Sydney Comedy Festival from Friday, 13th to Saturday 14th May 2022. Tickets can be booked via the Sydney Comedy Festival website.

Schapelle Schapelle the Musical plays at the Brisbane Comedy Festival from 24th May to the 5th June 2022. Tickets can be booked via the Brisbane Comedy Festival website.

Find out more about Schapelle Schapelle by visiting their website or following them @schapelleschapellethemusical

You can read our interview with Gareth Thomson on our site now. Follow the link here.

Creatives
Abby Gallaway Director, Writer & Producer, Stage Manager
Jack Dodds Writer & Producer
Gareth Thomson Writer & Producer
Mitch Lourigan Writer
Tim Hansen Musical Director & Co-Composer
Gabbi Bolt Co-Composer
Zoe Floyd Costume Designer
Karen Orr Set Designer
Kelsi Boyden & Jack Dodds Choreographer

Cast
Stacey Thomsett Schapelle Corby
Kelsi Boyden Schapelle Corby
Ruby Teys Mercedes Corby
Emily Kimpton Rosleigh Rose, Renae Lawrence/Julia Gillard
Jack Dodds Raymond/Mick Jr
Mitch Lourigan Simon/Mick Sr
Alice Litchfield Dimity/Lindy Chamberlain
Gareth Thomson Mark


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