BWW REVIEW: Comic New Musical STALKER THE MUSICAL Contemplates Protecting A Community From The Dangers Of Love
Friday 21st September 2018, 8pm, Depot Theatre
Andy Peterson (Music), Alex Giles (Book and Lyrics) and David Russell's (Original Concept, Book, and Lyrics) new musical makes its Australian Premiere at Depot Theatre. Directed by Kaleigh Wilkie-Smith, this new work combines comedy and music for an amusing tale of town trying to protect it's community from the emotional trauma that comes with personal connection.
The premise of STALKER THE MUSICAL is that the odd little dystopian monochromatic world, simply known as "The Town", openly condones it's inhabitants 'stalking' each other by way of consensual voyeurism but forbids skin to skin contact or being within 1 foot of another person. The townsfolk, who are primarily younger 20 somethings, have a regular roster of being at home doing pre-determined activities like reading a book, doing taxes or practicing magic tricks, or being out in the street 'stalking'. They are required to 'stalk' multiple people, forbidden for focusing on any singular subject, with the rules enforced by the local 'police' officer (Luke Lamond) on behalf of the unseen Mayor and his assistant, the severe Henrietta Pleasureberry (Michele Lansdown) and any lawbreakers dispatched off to 'The Farm', a mysterious place from which people never return. Within the town, the story focuses on the somewhat inept Jay Cloudstreet (Levi Burrows), a stalker who forgets his gloves, can't keep quiet and has formed an unhealthy and illegal attachment to Ava Derwent (Emma Taviani) but he doesn't quite understand what he is feeling. Likewise, Ava appreciates the attention despite the warnings from her friends, the inquisitive and no nonsense Roxie (Steph Edmonds) and the pretty but ditzy Candy (Melody Beck).
With echoes of Gary Ross' 1998 fantasy comedy drama movie PLEASANTVILLE, the controlled town is presented devoid of colour. Advertising posters from the 1950's paper the walls with bolder propaganda reminding the citizens of the requirements to maintain a distance from each other and the need for protection from skin to skin contact lest touch cause someone to spontaneously combust. Ensuring the work straddles a modern age and the retro feel indicated by the posters the inhabitants of The Town are dressed in rockerbilly styles of cinched waists, bobby socks, slicked hair and bowling shirts. The back wall houses windows for the citizens to carry out their evening activities whilst mobile steps topped with street lamps provides a place for the stalkers to wait whilst also allowing the flexibility to transform into other spaces like Ava's ice cream shop and Candy's bar. The world outside the controlled town includes colour, contemporary stylings and the ubiquitous accoutrements of modern society. The propaganda and warnings of The Town making way for images of modern world love, from traditional connection to more narcissistic self-love prominent in the selfie age.
Whilst the storyline at first seems confusing and absurd STALKER THE MUSICAL has some fabulously fun song and dance numbers choreographed by Zoe Ioannou and supported by Anthony Cutrupi's 7 piece band piped in from another room. It isnt until the arrival of The Stranger (Peter Meredith), an older world-weary man, that the pieces start falling into place as he brings color, emotion and a degree of chaos into the carefully controlled world. His Australian accent stands in contrast to The Town's American accents and he even has the ability to bring colour to his glass of whiskey. Some parts of the 'real world' to which rule breakers are banished could do with a little refinement and tightening of storyline but generally the story flows well.
STALKER THE MUSICAL is an allegory of misuse of power and the danger of trying to suppress emotion, even if done under the guise of protecting others from the hurt of failed love that has affected The Town's creator. Additionally, it also poses as a commentary on modern society's understanding of relationships and the ability, or lack thereof to relate to each other as even though the youth of The Town don't understand the workings of love, they interact on a human level whilst the people on the outside 'stalk' each other via their devices and have little real interaction. Presented by some wonderfully strong performers who understand how to capture the emotion and expression of a piece whilst still balancing the caricature of the work with an honesty of the underlying feelings. Whilst opening night had multiple issues from a technical point with microphones crackling and failing, the performers were strong enough to adapt. Wilkie-Smith has developed an engaging expression of this new work with a limited budget in an unusual space with unique challenges, including the fact that The Depot Theatre sits under Sydney Airport's flight path which she uses to her advantage as a sign of the outside world that the youngsters of The Town are captivated by. STALKER THE MUSICAL is a new Australian work well worth catching.
STALKER THE MUSICAL