Review by Taylor Kendal
After over a year of complete and utter chaos, Melbourne is once again opening up to a well deserved good night out, and boy, does the Arcadia Spiegeltent have a good night out in store. The name Magic Mike has become synonymous with the likes of male strip shows, screaming women and of course, Channing Tatum. The 2012 movie loosely based on Tatum’s time as an 18 year old stripper, and the follow up sequel took the world by storm and made more than a few ladies a little hot under the collar. But now the brainchild of Tatum has taken things one step further, with the return of Magic Mike Live to Australian shores. An immersive, live action daydream of sexuality, entertainment and surprisingly, female empowerment.
The audience is treated to the stunning atmosphere of the Arcadia; the airs of a burlesque club of old with a 360 degree stage view, and a variety of seating ranging from bar stools to couches. It’s warm, inviting and rather intoxicating in its own way. The lights go down and we are welcomed to the show by apparent Emcee, Rik Brown; complete with sleazy, sexist and crude ‘humour’ that would make even the most open minded cringe. From here, there were doubts that perhaps this would not be what was expected, and would just be like any other nameless male review, particularly when an audience member is dragged on stage and accosted onstage. Thankfully, ‘the day is saved’ when Alexia Brinsley take the mic and turns the tables around; saying it is time that men stop assuming what women want and for women to feel empowered enough to ask for more. More from men, from sex, from entertainment…from everything.
As stated in his letter in the program, Channing Tatum ‘wanted to create a space where men really listened to women’, and he has certainly hit the nail on the head with that. Rather than simply being a show where over a dozen handsome men take their clothes off, there is a representation of women being put first in the concept, creation and delivery of this performance; a love letter of sorts, in a way. With creative team of Alison Faulk and Teresa Espinosa as co-directors and choreographers (as well as Luke Broadlick), Tatum has managed to make something really special here. A show where the enjoyment and the wants of women being at the forefront entirely.
The cast is absolutely insane. Not only are they a troupe of very (and I mean very) attractive young men, but they are wildly talented. The way they move and are so fiercely in tune with their bodies and each other is mesmerising; working together like a finely tuned machine that just works so perfectly. The artistry in each movement, and the dedication that each cast member has to their craft is remarkable and should be applauded – and it certainly is throughout the night. But to make it even more unfair, the audience is treated to talents such as singing, playing piano and guitar, and a kickass drum solo – frankly it should be illegal to be that wickedly talented. Somehow they new this reviewer’s weakness; attractive men in three piece suits who are musically talented. Swoon.
If anything, the only disappointment was the set up with ‘audience participation’, and having it be quickly realised that the audience members are actually part of the show. The skit with the emcee switch for a while seemed a little, for lack of a better word, tacky, until it all came together. While I can understand how that format is necessary for the flow of the show, it just seems to take away from the theatre of it a little. With that said, dancer Clare Billson is absolutely, phenomenally talented and I was completely hypnotised watching her ‘dream’ dance.
There are so many elements to this show that keep it fresh and entertaining during the 90 minute running time; dancing, acrobatics in various styles, fulfilling a range of fantasies with a soundtrack that flows incredibly well with the theme. And of course, not complete without at least one audience member yelling out ‘take your shirt off!’ constantly.
All in all, Magic Mike Live is a hell of a good time. The show of course doesn’t take itself too seriously, but relies on what it is; an indulgent performance with laughter, letting loose and just having a hell of a lot of fun, while embracing sexuality and empowerment. Because after all, as the back page of the program says, You are Enough.