Review by Taylor Kendal
The global pandemic has forced the entire world to change and adapt the things in life that we thought second nature, needing to find new ways to go abut our daily lives. Work, social gatherings, and even education have had to adapt their ways to suit the climate of a pandemic age of living, mostly relocating online via platforms like Zoom. Thus creating something that quite frankly seems to be one of the most terrifying things in all of human existence; zoom group projects.
From the minds of emerging talents Stephanie Lee and Joshua Connell comes A Zoom Group Project: The Musical, a hilarious and honestly frighteningly accurate look into the chaos that is trying to complete a uni group project in the middle of a pandemic. Group projects are the worst at the best of times (I myself still tremble in fear at the thought of them). But what happens when you have four extremely different people with various learning styles and interest, and shove them together on weekly Zoom calls to tackle their assignment?
Beautiful, musical chaos.
In the group we have Amy (Grace Laing), Lachlan (Jeremy Harland), Brandon (Joshua Connell) and Tiffany (Liimei Lim); four very different students who are wanting somewhat very different things from this group assignment.
Right from the get-go, the familiarity is overwhelming. Anyone who has ever been forced to take part in a group project knows the feeling immediately. The uncertainty of if you’re going to work well together and if you’re going to get the work done at all. These four different character types are so relatable; you either know them, or you were them. There is no in between.
Interwoven through the story are a variety of songs, with words and music by Joshua Connell that are not only funny but filled with some relatable feelings that any young person in this day and age has experienced at least once in their lives. Another layer that I felt really pulled the piece together was the exceptional use of voice overs throughout the performance, by means of communication between the students and helping transition over time.
Each of the four performers brings something unique to their role, fitting their ‘types’ with such apparent effortlessness, it did feel at times that we were a fly on the wall in a real group project. The awkwardness, the struggle to be heard and to listen and make sure everyone’s just doing their part to pass. Each is incredibly talented in their own right with their vocal stylings and their ability to portray their character, in the awkward, sometimes hostile environment that they find themselves in.
According to Director Stephanie Lee, who came up with the concept while studying herself during one of Victoria’s many lockdowns, rehearsing via Zoom for the performance gave a real-life element to the portrayals in the show; and the cast really do take on the air of being stuck on a zoom call in a bid to try and get stuff done; complete with the joys of connection issues (both real and fake – we’ve all been there), inter-group communication and the realities of being young in a world where you want to make a change, but real life is just getting in the way. It’s hard to make a difference in the world when everything’s going to hell and you’re stuck inside your home.
Though the show is a comedy – and a brilliant one at that, there are a few hard truths woven throughout. The feeling of being young and wanting to make a difference; feeling like we’re just constantly running out of time, whether it’s in regard to assessment deadlines or the world around us, and the crucial element of keeping a work and play balance in your life.
A Zoom Study Group: The Musical is a hilarious and very real and relatable experience that so may have lived through, and survived, during the pandemic. With witty dialogue and catchy tunes, and a cast that you immediately feel right at home with, it’s a show not to be missed.