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Review: Come Rain or Come Shine at Melbourne Theatre Company

Review by Stephanie Lee

Last night was the opening of MTC’s Come Rain or Come Shine, a brand-new musical with book by Carolyn Burns and original songs by Tim Finn. Exploring friendship, love, music and midlife crisis, the show is a funny, yet touching reflection on how time can shift and strain people’s connection to one another.

Based on Kazuo Ishiguro’s short story of the same name, the musical follows three friends Ray, Emily and Charlie, who were brought together by Ray and Emily’s shared appreciation of music. Emily and Charlie (Ray’s roommate) fall in love and get married despite Charlie’s inferior taste in music. Meanwhile Ray moves away to teach in Spain, creating a bit of a rift in the three’s connection. Thirty years after Ray moves away, Charlie calls and asks him to come help him with a problem he’s convinced only Ray can fix.

The show got off to a bit of a slow start, waiting for an unusually lengthy amount of time to introduce the first song- making me question for a period of time when we would get to the ‘musical’ part of it all. However, once it properly kicked off it became alive with energy and humour. The grandeur of the set design by Dale Ferguson was truly impressive with the whole shape and size of the room shifting and expanding to reveal the very modern, sophisticated residence of Emily and Charlie in the second half of the show. The moving pieces of the set helped create a better flow in the later parts of the musical, livening up the space and heightening the comedic unravelling of the story.

Beautifully crafted lighting by Katie Sfetkidis assisted in shifting locations within the set and also created some gorgeous images during emotional moments of the show. Most notably the terrace scenes with the deep blue of dusk lighting the actors enhanced the romanticism of love lost and longed for.

The three-hander show was carried well by Gillian Cosgriff, Angus Grant and Chris Ryan who all worked together to bring the stage alive. The connections between their characters were nuanced and detailed creating an interesting dynamic. Cosgriff’s transition between the warm, lively Emily in the first part to the stern, work-obsessed Emily in the second was well pitched against Angus Grant’s almost unchanging depiction of a rather blaze, messy Ray and Chris Ryan’s slightly matured yet still obtrusive Charlie.

Costumes by Sophie Woodward also assisted nicely in the characterisation of Ray, Charlie and Emily at the different stages in their lives with the 70s aesthetic in the early years helping to create a sense of vibrant youthfulness and excitement. The decision to leave Ray in the same costume throughout cleverly acts as an anchor for the audience, giving a sense that the friendship shifts but Ray remains relatively the same.

Overall, the musical was very entertaining once it got past the slower start, and I settled into enjoying it as the story progressed. I felt at times that it sat in a weird space between realism and musical theatre which sometimes worked to create wonderfully unexpected comic moments like the dog plot Charlie and Ray plan or Ray’s song about Emily’s purple notebook. However, other times I think the show got lost in knowing what it was, and this created some awkwardness and moments that slightly missed the mark.

Come Rain or Come Shine is definitely worth seeing and is an interesting new piece of musical theatre from MTC!

Image Credit: Jeff Busby


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