Directed by Ashley Taylor Tickell. Musical Direction by Stephen McMahon
Reviewed by Annika Loci
Salty Theatre, 5th Nov, 2022
MEAT MARKET, North Melbourne until 19th, Nov 2022
Photos by Angel Leggas
Direct from off-Broadway, Salty Theatre presents the multiple award-winning musical Stranger Sings, a parody production of the beloved Netflix series Stranger Things.
Set in the 1980s, in the small town of Hawkins, Indiana (a place where nothing strange ever happens!) this production focuses mostly on the themes of season one. The mystery and supernatural events that surround the disappearance of tween Will, and the adventures his friends, family and community embark on are the stories we follow.
This small, but extraordinarily talented ensemble, present 90mins of highly entertaining well-paced comedy parody full of unexpected twists, turns and antics for audiences to get immersed in from start to finish.
Every ensemble member has a chance to shine in a variety of scenes, with the score providing many opportunities to hear their impressive vocal harmonies. With cast seamlessly playing dual roles, on occasion it was hard to believe it was the same person. Providing audiences with suburb characterization, Asher Griffith-Jones fabulously switches between heart-throb teen Steve to awkward teen Jonathan with just the slightest change to costume & props. Jess Ridler is outstanding as both the strange Eleven & popular girl next door Nancy. Liam Kirkpatrick finds all the perfect mannerisms for Dustin & Stephanie John is a standout as Joyce – the ever increasing jittery, chain-smoking mother of Will.
The surprise of this show is its running storyline “Revenge for Barb” which is where the undeniable highlight of the production, Stacey-Louise Camilleri (Barb Holland) comes into the spotlight. Overall, Camilleri is phenomenal, especially in a jaw-dropping cabaret-esq song, complete with sequined backup performers; it was worthy of the cheering and thunderous applause as her final note was sung.
What makes this show a stand-out is Salty Theatre’s expertise and background in musical theatre parody. The excellent attention to character development and the interpretation of book, lyrics and score from director Ashley Taylor Tickell, with the combination of simple and clean choreography/movement by Madeleine Pratt, provides audiences (and cast) very clear definitions of each character’s traits. This allows performances of the dual roles to stay strong and consistent. Congratulations must go to Dave Angelico for an effective set design, and accurate costuming by Emily Busch.
Although not Salty Theatre’s fault, the original book (Jonathan Hogue) occasionally lacks some cohesion. Hogue has included popular (but ultimately irrelevant) scenes and themes from other seasons. The inclusion of “Spoofs Ahoy” the ice cream store for example, allowed for an appearance from Robin and, very briefly, the sassy Erica, doesn’t advance the plot from the initial story of Will’s disappearance. These are included to purely please fans, which overall were still enjoyed by the audience.
Jam-packed with 80’s nostalgia and references from 80’s clothes and hair, to dance battles, ET, and Winona Ryder references, Stranger Sings pushes the source material to the extreme, where nothing from the series or the era is safe from being twisted on itself and exploited for a laugh. With an enormous amount of laugh out loud moments, Stranger Sings – A Musical Parody is a must-see for Stranger Things fans!
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ASHER GRIFFITH-JONES Steve Harrington & Jonathan Byers
GABRIELLE WARD Will Byers
GUILLAUME GENTIL Lucas Sinclair
JACK DUFF Mike Wheeler
IAN ANDREW Jim Hopper
JESS RIDLER Eleven & Nancy Wheeler
STACEY-LOUISE CAMILLERI Barb Holland
STEPHANIE JOHN Joyce Beyers
Ashley Taylor Tickell – Director
Stephen McMahon – Musical Director
Madeline Pratt – Choreographer
Georgina Charteris – Associate Producer
Andrew Hughes – Stage Manager
Edwin Cheah – Sound Designer & Operator
Emily Busch – Costume Designer