Review By: Cody Fullbrook
It’s always a treat to see an Australian musical. Not just because of the rustic, homely setting, but also to see how the singers struggle to contort their refined voices into an Aussie drawl, which brings me to Kiss: A New Musical the new musical (In case the title didn’t give it away) by Western Sky Productions at the Subiaco Arts Centre.
Written by Greg Lavell and directed by Joshua James Webb, Kiss follows Samuel and Samantha, a young (Even though Samuel dresses like a 65-year-old) couple who are unexpectedly made the guardians of a teenage girl, Lucy, after her mother’s passing.
With expertly paced delivery, juggling heartfelt banter and ‘real talk’, Cal Silberstein and Gemma Sharpe make a convincing couple. Unfortunately, many of their more intimate moments lack creative direction, falling back on frequent side-on hand holding and Cal holding Gemma’s hips with stiff, claw hands.
Scattered flashbacks detail their realistically playful and sweet history, and an inverted retelling of their lives could have been its own show. However, with the arrival of Lucy and the subsequent halting of their plans, Kiss stagnates instantly and fails to latch onto any objective, perfectly demonstrated during a conversation on Lucy’s birthday in which all three casually chat about what they want to do in some vain effort to inject some drive into the story.
Unfortunately, all the musical numbers in the world can’t save Kiss from its lacklustre book, made worse when the songs themselves don’t instigate important character revelations but simply follow up thoughts they discussed beforehand with blunt, dry statements such as “I need this”, “I’m depressed here, Samuel”, “Sharon, your boss?!” and my personal favourite; “I want what I want”.
Apparently, Kiss began as a short play written by Lavell less than two years ago which he then stretched into a musical, and never has a titbit of information been less surprising. A 90 minute musical is asking for a brief intermission and after a blackout from an admittedly shocking action from Lucy, the lights rise on one scene, one song and bows, leaving me wondering where act 2 went.
Lilli De Nardi steals the show as Lucy, and while she sometimes shares her co-stars trouble maintaining long notes, she performs with seeming effortlessness.
Lucy’s struggle with a new life and family, signified with the beautiful and memorable “Go To Sleep”, built the basis of my investment, but Kiss never develops the idea, or any idea, choosing to waste time on Samantha’s ‘annoying customer monologue’ as well as Samuel talking to a father we never hear, about quitting a job we don’t see, by himself, over the phone.
The real stars are Greg Lavell himself on the piano and Anna Sarcich on Cello. Adding extra live instrumentation never goes unappreciated and while large chunks of Kiss are oddly song-less, many of these scenes are filled with soft piano and cello accompaniment that breathe weight into its serious dialogue.
Lavell is a flawless pianist, drawing much of my attention despite being crammed into the venue’s shadowy corner. Every song is consistently charming and while lacking any noticeable leitmotifs, none overstayed their welcome or had any predictable forms. Maybe most impressive were how so few relied on frequent or needlessly complicated rhyming, with every line flowing melodically to the next with each verse and set change.
Scenes are framed by mobile flats; a standard yet continually effective method of efficiently depicting settings. One flashback scene in particular contains a joyous song about Samuel and Samantha’s evolving relationship which seamlessly transitions from a park to a bar with a slight nudge of a flat and lighting change.
Best of all was a large, wooden block on wheels that made a passable bed, but when Samantha lifts a car wheel (The metal bit. Not the rubber bit) it instantly transformed into a surprisingly believable car interior.
Yet, with limited props, a few scenes suffer from a sense of location. Strangely, both scenes with each character’s pivotal first meeting has them walk onto a virtually barren, silent set, with our aimless couple’s final and oldest flashback opening with Samuel blurting out an unwarranted “Hello” as if desperately trying make a friend in purgatory.
I went into Kiss: A New Musical hoping for a sweet and sincere show that would knock me off my feet, much like a kiss itself, but instead got something hollow.
All opinions and thoughts expressed within reviews on Theatre Travels are those of the writer and not of the company at large.