BWW Review: MURIEL'S WEDDING THE MUSICAL is a Triumph in Melbourne
It doesn't matter if you saw the film in 1994 or if you're a millennial who's never heard of it - everyone will love this show.
After a smash hit opening run in Sydney, Muriel's Wedding The Musical has arrived in Melbourne at Her Majesty's Theatre. Contrary to one of the show's numbers, definitely stick your neck out and get your hopes up for tickets and an unbelievably fun night out.
With marvellous music and lyrics by Kate Miller-Heidke and Keir Nuttall (of course with the necessary smattering of ABBA hits), this new musical is set to be this country's new favourite musical. The stage adaptation has all the things we loved about the film - it's funny, it's moving, and it's downright brilliant.
PJ Hogan has returned to the story he wrote 25 years ago, bringing it into the world of social media and viral sensations which only strengthens the relevance of the story by shining a light on the way social media presents a pressure to be perfect and a constant need for validation. The rest of the story stays true to the original narrative, so fans of the film will get all the favourite one-liners that remain colloquialisms today. You know the ones...
We follow Muriel Heslop and friends from drama and scandal in Porpoise Spit to self discovery and tall tales in the bright lights of Sydney. Both Porpoise Spit & Sydney are brought to life by the inimitable talents of Gabriela Tylesova. The boldly coloured and seamlessly moving set, paired with Trent Suidgeest's lighting, is simple but by no means minimal, never questioning where we are. From cruise ship bar to hills hoist-ed backyard, the design is spectacular. In case you though Tylesova's talents were set specific, she's also responsible for the stunning costumes adorned by every member of this mighty cast. Budgie smugglers, leather chaps, ABBA jumpsuits, and bridal gowns galore; every outfit on the stage outdoes the one before and creates a wonderful spectrum of colour and contrast. So many Aussie characters are represented throughout the show, often without a word and sometimes with just a stroll across the stage, and this is totally attributed to Tylesova's inspired design.
Worth a mention is the petal adorned proscenium arch that flawlessly incorporates graphics on "tablets" and "phones" throughout. When you need to see them, they're perfect and when you don't, they totally disappear. A masterclass in modern set design. Andrew Hallsworth's choreography is equal to Tylesova's design in vibrancy and energy, bringing all the personalities to life and rounding out the impressive visual spectacle that is this show.
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.
Stefanie Jones as BFF Rhonda Epinstall is both hilarious and heartbreaking. Her performance packs a punch, with both vocals and presence, and also does nothing but justice to the role made famous by Aussie favourite Rachel Griffiths. Jones commands the emotional ups and downs of the story, having you laughing one second and tearing up the next.
With such an exceptional and talented cast, it's so hard to just name a few but special mention absolutely must go to Pippa Grandison as Betty Heslop and Manon Gunderson-Briggs as Joanie Heslop who will both break your heart with merely a few words. Christie Whelan Browne is perfectly painful and just hysterical as Tania Degano (her appearance as the bridal store manager will also have you in stitches), and Jarrod Griffiths is wonderful as the bumbling but charming parking inspector Brice Nobes.
Director Simon Phillips has ensured the stage adaptation of Muriel's Wedding is a triumph of love and laughter. It's everything you want from a night at the theatre and more. It's a show that will make you laugh, cry, dance in your seat, and want to buy the soundtrack tomorrow. The themes are still so relevant, and the message is one we need to hear - perhaps more than ever. Now Melbourne knows why everyone in Sydney was talking about Muriel and soon everyone in Melbourne will be talking about her too.