Review by Thomas Gregory
A Zoom Group Project is a musical unsurprisingly devised and set during those strange days, but a few years ago, when many of us moved our lives online as a pandemic-caused lockdown changed our every waking moment. Student or not, many of us will recognise so much of the frustration of working with people under such restrictions and what it means for our social interactions with others.
The story is simple - four university students must create a presentation entirely online. Two find themselves attracted to each other, while one “A-Type” character will not settle for anything but perfection from the rest of the group. These simple conflicts are enough to build a number of catchy musical numbers, some comedic interactions, and a tight sixty minutes of entertainment for the beginning of your Fringe night.
The original iteration of this musical was rehearsed and performed online, but it says so much about the creative people at Floor Work Theatre that you would never know if never told. While most of the action occurs as people in front of their screens, the show we see is active and, more importantly, fun. Maya Anderson’s set design captures the four distinct working areas that reflect the characters within them while allowing space for dynamic interactions during musical numbers. The performers are given a greater chance to show us the chemistry they have developed, and the live space especially helps the love story between two students. At times, the choreography for the musical numbers appears sloppy, though it may be an intentional move to reflect how these characters would “work together”.
Justine Light Pre De Guzman plays Amy, the overly assertive, self-appointed leader who must learn to relax. Justine has an incredible sense of comic timing and finds a way to coerce every possible laugh from the audience. While the songs she performs are sometimes too repetitive, they are filled with clever lines that would be devastating to cut.
Abbey Oshlack and Wanwue Tarpeh play Tiffany and Brandy, two students who find attraction, if not love, and discover the problems associated with having a relationship with co-workers. Oscar O’Brien plays Lachlan, who attempts to be the glue that holds the team together.
Josh Connell, the musical director and co-writer of the show, has produced numbers that are catchy and filled with some great moments of comedy that the ensemble has fun playing with. Stephanie Lee, co-writer and director, has done an amazing job bringing the original digital show to stage, adding a romantic angle that elevates the script, and ensures the audience never finds themselves bored by the sometimes-repetitive exploration of characters and themes.
Underlying these clashes of personalities is a recurring theme of climate change and its threat, and the idea that it is far more dangerous, far more important, than the mundane problems of group projects or even the bigger concerns that the pandemic placed on us. The show is never preachy, but it leaves us understanding what is really at stake for Generation Z, and what their biggest fear is.
It was a real pleasure to see how A Zoom Group Project has evolved. I hope we will continue to see it evolve as characters find clearer arcs and the comedy entirely envelopes any issues faced by unsure choreography or musical direction. Certainly, a great little show to see before a dinner out and your next Fringe experience.