Review By Marita Bellas Miles
What do you get when you put a failing travelling showman, his checked-out wife and his two loyal children in a tiny outback town? Summer Rain tells just this story, with maybe a few secrets to be revealed on the way. A classic story by Nick Enright and Terence Clarke which tells of visitors to a new town and the aftershock affects that carry through to every person.
Directed by Helen Ekundayo, Villanova Players production of Summer Rain felt right at home in the Ron Hurley Theatre in Seven Hills, a cosy space which seats approximately 200. The performance began, and the audience immediately felt comfortable due to the intimate and personal nature of the space.
The set design was incredibly effective. Using very minimal number of pieces, the stage was able to transform into multiple different locations. The majority of scene changes flowed smoothly and didn’t dislodge the momentum of the show. The detailing on the set pieces were essential in creating the outback town vibe which was present throughout the musical.
The talent on the stage was immense and every performer brightened the stage in their own way. During the big musical numbers, when the cast sang in unison, you could feel the love and passion in the room. Benjamin Richard’s musical direction was excellent. He navigated the trickiest of songs with purpose and successfully delivered a string of cohesive and enjoyable numbers. The band were exceptional and drove the show forward with ease.
One of the strongest performances of the night was undoubtedly Deidre Grace’s portrayal of the dazzling Ruby Slocum. With consistently strong vocals and unmatchable comedic timing, Grace had the audience sitting in the palm of her hand, eager for more. She created a very real character and had the audience (mostly the man sitting directly behind me) chuckling the entire time. Tango D’amour was one of the most fun musical numbers with excellent vocals by Grace and clean, effective choreography performed by various other cast members, namely Nikolai Stewart and Priya Shah.
Other performance highlights included Nikolai Stewart (Johnny Slocum), Leo Bradley (Barry Doyle), Lillian Dowdell (Cathy Doyle), Michael McNish (Mick Hartigan), Phillipa Bowe (Maisie Trengrove), and Nicholas Sayers (Clarrie Nugent). They all bought strong, clear characters to the stage and played them convincingly and honestly.
Priya Shah (Joy Slocum) and Cecilia Girard (Peg Hartigan) delivered two of the strongest vocal performances of the night. They gave a powerful voice to two very different stories. Shah was an absolute joy (no pun intended) and portrayed the young, hopeful, loyal woman with so much warmth.
All in all, Villanova Player’s Summer Rain was a delightful little piece. It is a show with a lot of love behind it and that carries through the entire story. While it holds a lot of nostalgic value for those who come from remote little outback towns, there is something in it for everyone. Summer Rain is a reminder to laugh and to love.