Written by Hannah Reilly, Music by Megan Washington, Lyrics by Megan Washington & Hannah Reilly
Review by Charlotte Smee
With everything a young country bumpkin who’s moved to the city for musical theatre could ever want, The Deb is an absolute hoot. Like debutant balls in real life, the musical can be a little fluffy and a little sappy at times, but the earnestness and talent of its cast makes it impossible to hate.
All Taylah (Katelin Koprivec) wants is to be the beautiful girl at the deb. For city slickers, a deb or “debutante” is kind of like a formal except it’s a bit outdated and you wear white dresses and get presented to society, yes, like Bridgerton, but with rum and coke. Problem is, she’s the strongest, broadest-shoulder-est girl in town, and no one wants to take her. Cue cousin Maeve (Charlotte MacInnes) from the city, expelled from the school where her mother is Principal for showing her tits on TikTok – in protest of their archaic requirement to wear the top button done up. A host of high school shenanigans ensue, and in the end everyone is friends, the town is saved and ScoMo (as played by Monique Sallé) gets pushed off the hall stage.
This new Australian musical follows closely in the footsteps of Kate Miller Heidke, Keir Nuttall and PJ Hogan’s Muriel’s Wedding, Yve Blake’s Fangirls and even Virginia Gay’s The Boomkak Panto – with laughs a minute and heartwarming Australiana galore. Writing team of Megan Washington and Hannah Reilly transform Reilly’s experiences of growing up on a cattle farm into a sweetly hilarious indie pop romp. Choreography by Sally Dashwood brings the songs to life – highlights included a number in which the three “mean” girls (Mariah Gonzalez, Georgia Anderson and Jenna Woolley) perform a poppy physie dance number, complete with tasselled cowboy hats, at the local cattle auction and Jay Laga’aia the “singing cowboy” serenading local dress shop owner Shell (Tara Morice) on the ukulele. Show-stealing moments came in In the Spotlight and Someone Brilliant, reprised songs that explored Taylah and Maeve’s giving, taking and re-giving of friendship bracelets.
Emma White’s double-tiered set, with corrugated iron skyline lit by Martin Kinnane was a wonderful backdrop to the show’s events. Changing from reds to blues to smoky fire orange when the Town Hall inevitably burnt down (as seems to be common in new Australian musicals) gave it the real “you can see the stars outside the city” feel. Costume by Mason Browne dressed stage Mum Monique Sallé head to toe in leopard print and the footy boys in eerily familiar black and yellow guernseys, and Shell even had her own cabaret girl number complete with red feather headdress.
The best thing about The Deb is its fantastic cast. Koprivec and MacInnes as Taylah and Maeve are tear-jerkingly, heart-wrenchingly talented, with voices that blend so beautifully you can’t help but cry. It would be a crime not to mention Sallé’s performance, with excellent comedic timing and a belter of a voice to boot. The ensemble of footy boys and mean girls, and Cattie Hamilton as the bogan shop assistant, each had fabulous jokes of their own – including a nice moment of standing up for Taylah when her nudes get sent around without her consent.
The first ATYP show at their brand spankin’ new Rebel Theatre, The Deb is the perfect deb-ut. There really is nothing better than seeing young people having a good time on stage – made all the more enjoyable when they’re so damn great at it.
The Deb plays at the Rebel Theatre – for an extended season! – until 4 June. Find tickets here.
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Writer Hannah Reilly
Music Megan Washington
Lyrics Megan Washington & Hannah Reilly
Story Hannah Reilly & Megan Washington
Co-director Hannah Reilly
Associate Director Fraser Corfield
Choreographer Sally Dashwood
Music Director Zara Stanton
Associate Music Director Lucy O’Brien
Music Producer Jethro Woodward
Arranger/Sound Designer Pru Montin
Costume Designer Mason Browne
Associate Costume Designer Veronique Bennett
Lighting Designer Martin Kinnane
Set and Props Designer Emma White
Stage Manager Adrienne Patterson
Assistant to the Choreographer/Swing Gelina Enriquez
Assistant Stage Manager Krystelle Quartermain
Photo Luke Stambouliah
Production Images Tracy Schramm