BWW REVIEW: Drawing On The Surge Of Zoom Online Meetings, WHO'S YOUR BAGHDADDY? (OR HOW I STARTED THE IRAQ WAR) Is Adapted For The COVID-19 Digital Age For Home Viewing.
Wednesday 24th June 2020, 7:30pm Australian Eastern Standard Time
Neil Gooding's (Director) reimagining of Marshall Pailet (music and book) and A.D. Penedo's (lyrics and book) WHO'S YOUR BAGHDADDY (OR HOW I STARTED THE IRAQ WAR) draws on the technology that has kept the world connected to bring a different style of live theatre to audiences that are not allowed in theatres. Producers Keith Muir, Sam Ducker and Steven Kreamer (also Musical Director) have gathered an incredible cast and supporting creative and technical crew to present a fully financial presentation that seeks to fill the void left by the restriction on gatherings that have shut down theatres worldwide.
Presented as a support group meeting for people who feel responsible, or don't as some cases are, for the Iraq war, WHO'S YOUR BAGHDADDY? lends itself well to the current technology being used to overcome social-distancing requirements. While other online offerings have utilized Zoom as a means of broadcast with table-read style presentations, this work makes the technology part of the story and the overall experience. In the background, it has been used to create the work since director Neil Gooding was stuck in New York when international boarders were locked down. For the presentation, the cast and creatives have opted to have art imitate the COVID-19 restriction life as the stage musical is transformed and the audience becomes a silent participant in the meeting which is particularly felt if viewed via a computer screen.
While replicating the online meetings, Gooding thankfully ensures that this is more than just the tedium of seated torsos and heads in little boxes talking direct to a computer camera that have numbed the minds of those still fortunate enough to be able to continue working from home. The work has the design elements of traditional theatre with costumes (Isabel Hudson), lighting (Phoebe Pilcher) and sound design (Dave Bergman). Isabel Hudson, also responsible for set design, has transformed the rooms of a residential home into the various locations where the participants are dialing in from, be it Tyler's (Phillip Lowe) cubical world office, Richart's (Matthew Prendny) bedroom or Martin's (Doug Hansell) loft office. Leah Howard's choreography that utilized the sometimes small spaces (Adam Rennie as Jerry appeared to be in a narrow storage closet) and had the characters appear to interact with each other whilst remaining in the limited shot of the fixed camera was incredibly well crafted and executed. Movement of the participants screens and variation of wallpaper backgrounds ensured that scenes were easy to follow and focal points were obvious.
WHO'S YOUR BAGHDADDY? is a good blend of humor with underlying seriousness based on true events and loosely based on real people to explore what could have gone through the minds of the people connected to the 2003 invasion of Iraq based on supposed intelligence of weapons of mass destruction. The work, first presented under the simpler BAGHDADDY title in 2011 in Washington DC, utilizes rap and beat poetry in a similar manner to FREESTYLE LOVE SUPREME, IN THE HEIGHTS and HAMILTON for the younger characters, along with more traditional musical theatre stylings for the more mature characters.
Matthew Predny presents the German BND junior interrogator with a wonderful wide eyed bewilderment that underlies his attempt to be 'cool'. As young CIA analyst Jerrry, Adam Rennie exudes the innocence and devotion of a lovesick young nerd that results in him following fellow analyst Berry's (Laura Murphy) plans blindly and his vocals in Music To Me are a treat. Murphy captures Berry's ambition and abrasive personality albeit with a somewhat overplayed expression when compared to the other core characters which are kept as more realistic. Doug Hansell captures a world-weariness for the older, somewhat dismissed, WMD expert. Phillip Lowe exudes the restraint and formality of the CIA bureaucrat that wants everything by the book and Rules allows his beautiful tone to be heard in a more traditional musical theatre number. As the Iraqi defector and informant Curveball, Troy Sussman expresses the shift from apparently frightened political refugee to calculated liar enjoying the freedoms of Germany although there seemed to be some issues with his sound feeds on 'opening' night. Blake Erickson and Katrina Retallick round out the cast as they take on the minor characters to the story with roles that range from news reports, spiritualists, immigration officials and law enforcement, providing a contrast to the naturalistic main characters with their over the top comedic caricatures.
For those looking to reconnect to live theatre, WHO'S YOUR BAGHDADDY? (OR HOW I STARTED THE IRAQ WAR) will help meet that desire until we can meet again in theatres. It is a different style of 'immersive theatre', particularly if viewed seated at a computer screen, and is more than likely a much different experience than Pailet and Penedo first imagined meaning that, for audiences that were lucky enough to see the stage version, this new online offering would be well worth the 'ticket' price.
Tickets: $22 (once booked, you will recieve a unique login code/link to view the selected performance)
Season: Wednesday 24- Sunday 28 June 2020. 7:30pm Australian Eastern Standard Time.
From This Author Jade Kops
I am an International Flight Attendant with a love of Cabaret, Musical Theatre, and Live Performing Arts in general. I try to see as many
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