Gloucester may have opened Richard III with the famous proclamation 'now is the winter of our discontent', but this winter, the discontent is all mine. The Sydney season of hibernation is well and truly upon us and it usually heralds the highly odious flu season - or in my case, tonsillitis terror. The only thing that was getting me out of my sick bed was the allure of Squabbalogic's fourth Mystery Musical. Last Wednesday the 3rd of August, amongst a flock of fellow fans, I braved the torrential rain with my wholly tangential brain, feverish forehead and aching throat to find that the mystery behind Squabbalogic's success is no real mystery at all.
'Another opening, another show!'
With these first notes, recognition floods the audience as the Cole Porter classic Kiss Me Kate rings out. In case you're not familiar with it, we've got a pair of sparring ex-spouses, Lilli Vanessi and Fred Graham, starring as Catherine and Petruchio in a touring production of The Taming of the Shrew. However something's afoot both on stage and off as mafia, madness and mayhem ensue in this tongue-in-cheek look at love and lust which goes from wunderbar to man-hating and back again - there's never a dull moment.
Whilst the wise Hortensio notes that 'there's small choice in rotten apples', this ensemble is the cream of the Squabbalogic crop. Perhaps it's something in the air, or, more likely, the fact that they are all here for their love of the stage, but the passion was palpable in this production and it made for a truly memorable experience. The cherry on top of this musical sundae were our two leads, Martin Crewes and Courtney Glass, who were nothing short of mesmerising. Courtney Glass was wickedly good as the feisty Lilli and with all her sass and rage intact, we had definitely better beware her sting. However, the crème de le crème of this production was Martin Crewes as Fred Graham with his voice of velvet and movie star mega-watt smile that had every woman in the audience eating out of the palm of his hand.
Not only was this production filled with acting excellence, it was rife with riveting musical numbers. Whilst my personal favourite was predictably sung by the all-too-cool Crewes (a lively 'Where is the life that late I led?'), the dark horse coming in a close second was Brendan Hay as Paul with a sizzling rendition of 'Too Darn Hot'. With killer vocals and jazz hands to rival those of Bob Fosse, this number was a roaring start to the second act and had us all swaying in our seats. On the other hand, the crowd favourite had to sit with our gregarious gangsters and their indefatigable reminder to brush up our Shakespeare. With such enticing songs, is it any wonder we all kowtowed?
Oh, and if all that wasn't impressive enough on its own, did I mention that they only had 15 hours together to rehearse this marvel? The love, professionalism and care the Squabbalogic team and ensemble have put into this production are clear. Yet surely with such little preparation time a few hiccups are to be expected, but these only made the show all the more endearing. Aside from the hilarious ad-libs, the gold medal of these not-even setbacks went to the quick thinking Martin Crewes who sidled over (rather up close and personal) to his leading lady when her microphone was have a momentary malfunction and left the audience in adoring stitches.
All in all, Squabbalogic's Mystery Musical Kiss Me Kate really puts the fun in fundraising. At the end of the day we have to remember that these actors and production team are here simply because they love their craft. If you haven't yet seen a Squabbalogic performance, I implore you to go, to donate, to enjoy. It will be the best theatrical decision you have made in years. Even if you have tonsillitis, I can personally vouch that it will be worth every second.