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BWW Review: SHORTLAND STREET: THE MUSICAL at Gryphon Theatre

Running 20 April - 1 May 2021.

BWW Review: SHORTLAND STREET:  THE MUSICAL at Gryphon Theatre

BWW Review: Shortland Street: The Musical

At The Gryphon Theatre, Ghuznee Street, Wellington 20 April 2021

Director: Bonita Edwards

Musical Director: Sue Windsor

Choreographer: Kaitlin West

Theatre Company: Kauri Theatre

Reviewed by Lindsey Rusling

Shortland Street is an iconic Kiwi soap opera based around the fictitious Shortland Street Hospital. The soap first aired in 1992, has been broadcast all over the world and is one of the most watched programmes in New Zealand.

Shortland Street: The Musical is a gentle parody of the show's early years, poking fun at the heightened melodrama, intense characterisations, outrageous storylines, open-ended serial narrative and cliffhanger endings. Featuring favourites such as Chris Warner, Hone Ropata, Marj Neilson, Nick Harrison, Rachel McKenna, Kirsty Knight and Lionel Skeggins, previous productions were praised as "hilarious" and a "must-see" but didn't manage to coax the customers in. All I can hope is that people look beyond what they imagine the show to be and get set for a night of musical comedy that is immensely enjoyable whether you know anything about Shortland Street or not.

From the opening number; Kia Ora Shortland Street the audience is laughing out loud and the laughs keep coming. The more the cast take their characters seriously, the cheesier the set, the funnier it gets as we giggle with nostalgia and at ourselves through reminders of how ridiculous it all was.

The staging is simple; a plain cyc and a few items such as beds and desks give plenty of space for choreography but is a tad too literal in places and would benefit from some levels. Lighting too is a little patchy across the stage at times but the great thing with a show like this, is that you can't do anything wrong - ad-libbing, tacky props or mistakes just add to the humour and this ensemble of talented actors and singers are energetic, obviously enjoying themselves and it is lovely to be taken along for a merry ride.

Jake Elston as the good-looking, somewhat sleazy Dr Love (Chris Warner) and John Palamo as the earnest Dr Hone Ropata fresh from working in Guatamala set the energy for the rest of the cast with unrestrained characters and confident comic timing. The cast's facial expressions (particularly Sandy Brewer's Marj) add to the humour interspersed with the drama from more serious characters such as Carrie Burton (a dynamic and tuneful Julie Homan), the ambitious Jaki Manu (India Worsnop) and the villainous Sir Bruce Warner (Douglas Campbell).

Lionel (a sweet Lox Dixon) garners our sympathy in his frog-suited struggle for love from the ditzy and dithering Kirsty Knight (Allegra Canton) while Alison Raynor (Caitlin Penrose) shows off her beautiful singing in Goodbye Ferndale. Rachael McKenna (Juliane Estella) and Nick Harrison (Alistair Davies) also shine in an energetic and hilarious performance of younger cast members in Teen Issues.

The music supports the narrative beautifully - cleverly written melodies, distinct harmonies and sharp, witty lyrics create toe-tapping, memorable numbers that Sue Windsor and her band perform impeccably. The group move seamlessly from pop, rock and rap through emotional ballads with skill and a special mention goes to Greg Rogan for an exciting and flawless wind section.

The choreography is cute, quirky and well-suited to each song with the Company's chorus of movement being slick and well-drilled. The physicality of the slow-motion movement throughout as well as the muffins and whipped cream in Bake It Away is an absolute blast!

All I can say is don't be put off by the title if you're not a fan. This musical stands on its own merits and Kauri Theatre have produced a thoroughly entertaining evening out. Get a ticket if you can, it's weird, wonderful and a bloody riot!


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From This Author Lindsey Rusling