Review Roundup: MURIEL'S WEDDING in Melbourne - What Did The Critics Think?
Muriel's Wedding officially opened in Melbourne on March 23.
Muriel's Wedding The Musical is a theatrical version of PJ Hogan's iconic hit film, updated to today by the writer himself with music and lyrics by Australian award winning songwriters Kate Miller-Heidke and Keir Nuttall with additional songs by Benny Andersson, Björn Ulvaeus, and Stig Anderson written for ABBA.
Let's see what the critics are saying...
Victoria Beal, BroadwayWorld: With a powerhouse professional debut, Natalie Abbott is an absolute superstar. From the minute she appears on that stage you know you're in for a treat. Paying homage to the brilliant Toni Collette, Abbott still makes her own mark on the role. Despite all her awkwardness and the truly terrible decision making, you can't help loving Abbott's Muriel. You'll laugh with her and you'll cry with her - you'll want to be her friend. With an incomparable voice and charm for days, Natalie Abbott is here to stay.
Tim Byrne, Time Out: Newcomer Abbott is terrific as the gawky, dishonest but entirely loveable dag, Muriel. She has a great, bluesy voice and a boisterous presence that is offset by a melancholy sitting just under the surface. Her performance reminds us of Toni Collette's star-making turn, but never feels derivative. Jones is very fine too as the bolshy and fiercely loyal Rhonda, in a role she only came into weeks ago. Together, they make a joyous and winning couple. Grandison is simply beautiful as the increasingly distant mum, and Jarrod Griffiths is adorable as Muriel's eternally optimistic love interest Brice Nobes. Whelan-Browne is superb as complete bitch Tania, and James is a suitably grubby Bill - although nobody on the planet could substitute for the late great Bill Hunter in that role.
John Bailey, The Sydney Morning Herald: Amid all the jokes and irony are songs of arresting honesty. They're fewer show-stoppers than heart-stoppers. I was far from the only viewer wiping at quiet tears during some of the moments between Muriel and Rhonda, and one in particular is astonishing purely for what it says about the state of musical theatre in 2019: when was the last time a woman on stage told another - without irony or subtext - that she's ''f-king amazing''?
Paul Cashmere, Noise11: To turn Muriel's Wedding into a musical, Australian musicians Kate Miller-Heidke and Keir Nuttal were recruited to compose new music from the ground up. They have done an incredible job articulating the original storyline into song. To do so, director Simon Phillips had to orchestrate a direction in advance for Kate and Keir to base the songs around. The combination of Hogan, Phillips, Miller-Heike and Nuttal layered the foundation for I think what is destined to become an Australian theatre masterpiece.
Simon Parris, Man in Chair: Newcomer Natalie Abbott is a delightful discovery as Muriel. Performing with unselfconscious abandon, Abbott deftly balances brashness with vulnerability, creating a naive persona without cloying sweetness. Carrying the show on her young shoulders, Abbott makes the role her own, wining an abundance of audience affection along the way.
Mallory Arbour, The AU Review: Through the strength of the creative team, the contrast between humour and tragedy works so well within its two-and-a-half hour span. From leaving audiences in stitches for its risqué humour, to crying in their seats during the heart-breaking eulogy - it all works.
This is due to its strong cast too. Jarrod Griffiths (Brice), Stefanie Jones (Rhonda), Stephen Madsen (Alexander), Chelsea Plumley (Deidre), Christie Whelan-Brown (Tania) do well in their supporting roles, enhanced by a talented ensemble cast.
Adam Rafferty, Theatre People: While the script has seen loads of additions and revisions to make the story and Muriel's motivations clearer, one piece of genius in the stage adaptation hasn't changed. That is Hogan's decision to bring the story into the current day and to make social media a key component of both Muriel's humiliation and rise to fame. Even her job in Sydney (which was working in a video store in the film) has connections to the 'cult of selfie'. It's completely up-to-date and contemporary (yet tacky) in every way.
Patricia Di Risio, Stage Whispers: The costumes and the staging are opulent and outlandish, although this does not seem to translate into a specific or particularly identifiable aesthetic. This is more effectively created through the marketing collateral and strategies. The striking off-beat imagery of the logo and the further proliferation and infiltration of expressions such as "You're terrible, Muriel" into Australian vernacular is part of the great sense of fun this show aims to create. Muriel and Alex's wedding is treated as an event and the audience as guests. This is achieved by updating the story to include the contemporary use of social media to commodify our personal lives. The stage version exposes marriage as a hyperbolic theatrical production with even greater levels of amusement and shrewdness.
Andrew Fuhrmann, Herald Sun: But this musical version of Muriel's Wedding is enormous fun and packs a powerful pop music punch. I won't say it's just as good as an ABBA song - but it comes very, very close.
Patricia Maunder, Limelight: The role of Muriel could have been written for Abbott, who grew up in a small coastal town and makes her professional debut as the star of this hit show. As the cast took their bows, she looked genuinely thrilled by the audience's warm approval. It was richly deserved, as Abbott conveyed her character's awkwardness, ambition, misery and joy with conviction, and has a gorgeous voice, notable for its agility and pure tone. Jones also inhabits Rhonda like she was always meant to play her, showing plenty of attitude and a strong, pleasing voice.