BWW Review: LADIES IN BLACK is a New Australian Triumph at the Regent Theatre
Tim Finn's new musical Ladies in Black is critically acclaimed and award-winning...and it deserves it all and more. Returning to Melbourne for an encore season, this wonderful musical is based on Madeleine St John's 1993 novel, The Women in Black, and has been excellently brought to the stage by Australian screenwriter Carolyn Burns and director Simon Phillips (Priscilla Queen of the Desert, Love Never Dies).
Ladies in Black, the stylish story of fashion, friendship and 1950s Australia, won the coveted Helpmann Award for Best New Australian Work and was nominated for another five and features more than 20 original songs written by Tim Finn.
The story follows Lisa, a young school leaver who gets herself a Christmas job at Sydney department store F.G Goodes. Along the way, we meet a parade of incredible women who are finding their roles in a changing world. It's the late 1950s and these women are getting ready for a gender revolution.
Sarah Morrison is delightful as ingénue Lisa with solo moments of sincere vulnerability. At times there was room for more growth in her confidence and gumption but Morrison is set for great things with that gorgeous and effortless voice.
Ellen Simpson is simply marvellous as Fay, the single girl who feels like tarnished goods. Her smooth alto tone and glamorous characterisation are mesmerising to watch and she manages to evoke a really authentic connection with the audience. A stand out performance.
Madeleine Jones as Patty evokes a similarly genuine empathy from the audience and she tries to hold on through a rough patch in her marriage to Tamlyn Henderson's stubborn and proud Frank. Her voice is one of the strongest in the cast and her solo moments are heart wrenching.
There are so many more strong and noteworthy performances but a few come from the hilarious Kate Cole as Miss Cartwright/Joy who has the audience in stitches at every line, Natalie Gamsu as the glamorous and gallant Magda, Trisha Noble as Miss Jacobs whose Christmas moment was tear jerking, and Bobby Fox as Rudi who brings energy and hilarity to the second act.
It is incredibly refreshing to see a musical with characters like these and Simon Phillips' direction is flawless. With a cavalcade of incredible performers, Phillips' has brought an incredible group of women to life.
Despite a slightly long first act, the transitions of both Carolyn Burns' book and Gabriela Tylesova's stunning set are seamless. Tim Finn's music and lyrics are mostly perfect (a few repetitive motifs like scaredy cat are neither here nor there), with standout numbers being the hysterical Bastard Song and I Just Kissed a Continental.
This musical will most definitely do great things for the support of new Australian work on our stages. Ladies in Black is an important story that embraces our country's spirit, multiculturalism and strength and long may it reign in our theatres.
Ladies in Black is playing a strictly limited season at the Regent Theatre until March 18. Don't miss out! http://ladiesinblack.com.au/