BWW Review: THE BEAUTIFUL GAME at Chapel Off Chapel
Review by Josh Stent
The Beautiful Game presented by Manilla Street Productions showcases a brilliant cast whose stellar performances are a true highlight of the evening.
In this production Sue-Ellen Shook's choreography does an excellent job of tackling the challenge of recreating a football game on stage - not an easy task to achieve! Stunt Coordinator Robert Shook's fight sequences are realistic and vividly bring to life the discomfort a punch delivers.
While the set design lacks the ability to bring Northern Ireland to life on stage, or in creating contrasts between story locations, The Chapel Theatre at Chapel Off Chapel fits the show like a glove. It is a shame that the Theatre's stained glass window, a relic from when the venue was a church, is not utilized. With the religious undertones in the The Beautiful Game, this would have been an easy solution to make the stage more visually appealing. However Jason Bovairds lighting design is superb and adds depth, colour and texture to the stage.
Featuring music by Andrew Lloyd Webber and a book and lyrics by Ben Elton, The Beautiful Game also known as The Boys in the Photograph features songs that pack a powerful punch. The story centres around a group of teenagers in Belfast in 1969, obsessed with the beautiful game of football. Set one year after The Troubles in Northern Ireland began, this musical explores how the 30 year conflict between Roman Catholic nationalists and Protestant unionists adversely affected Northern Ireland's youth. Producer and Director Karen Jemison remarks in her program notes how she wishes the themes in The Beautiful Game were far behind us, but that the show is as relevant today as the day it was written.
Daniele Buatti's slick musical direction ensures powerful ensemble vocals throughout the show and that the difficult vocal score Lloyd Webber has written is executed superbly by the cast. The diction and articulation of all ensemble numbers is strong, while still allowing the necessary Northern Irish accents to ring out!Stephen Mahy as John and Stephanie Wall as Mary lead the cast with ease and both deliver impressive vocals. John's character arc is a hard transformation for an actor to go through on a nightly basis. Mahy makes it look easy and delivers a sensational performance. He truly is one of Australia's top leading men. Wall's rendition of If This is What We're Fighting For is beautiful and will bring a tear to your eye.
Nicola Bowman as Bernadette and Samuel Skuthorp as Ginger beautifully portray innocent naivety in Let Us Love In Peace. They are a highlight of the evening.
The Beautiful Game will transport you back to the 60's and 70's. It helps a new generation to experience and understand the stories of the young men and women of Northern Ireland during The Troubles.
On until 29th September, tickets can be purchased from https://chapeloffchapel.com.au/show/the-beautiful-game/
Des Flanagan's performance as Thomas helps to us to understand how a young man's anger can be a dangerous tool. Sam Ward as Del, Ellie Nunan as Christine, Oscar Tollofsen as Daniel and David Meadows as Father O'Donnell all give hearty performances.