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Review: Secret Broadway at HOTA

Review By Marita Bellas Miles

All know big Broadway musicals come with the classic song types. We have our opening numbers, show-stopping Act 1 finales, a high-spirited bop where everyone is friends and all songs in between. Jack Viertel’s ‘The Secret Life of the American Musical: How Broadway Shows are Built’ goes through each type of song chapter by chapter. Secret Broadway took its inspiration from the first two chapters and showcased a series of Opening Numbers and ‘I Want’ songs, both pretty self-explanatory. The cabaret evening was hosted by Lance Horne and featured Shoshana Bean and Australia’s own Simon Burke, Jordan Malone, Mindy Kwanten, Tim Carroll, James Shaw and Adele Parkinson. A mix of classics and modern songs meant there was a moment that touched everyone and showcasing Australian musical theatre veterans and rising stars added to the comforting intimate nature of the night.

Emmy award winner, Lance Horne, hosted and provided piano accompaniment for the show introducing most songs and initiating casual chit chat with the singers. The laid-back approach to the show did allow the audience to settle in quickly and feel at ease to cheer and sing along. Horne’s vibrant energy from the moment the lights went up to the curtain call kept the flow and helped smooth some slow and unconnected transitions between songs.

Focussing on opening numbers and ‘I want’ songs lended itself to a lot of powerful solo moments but allowed for little cast interaction. However, the few songs we were able to have everyone on stage were enthralling. Act 1 began and finished with songs featuring all performers, culminating with Little Shop of Horrors’ Downtown. It was somewhat difficult to stay invested in the song with Simon Burke quite obviously not knowing the lyrics during the climax of the song and reading them off a piece of paper on the floor. He did redeem himself in the second act by openly joking about the mishap – and the audience seemed to forgive him. Credit to Burke for being able to take the mickey.

Simon Burke was a charming and confident presence, taking the lead with the classic male ballads. Edelweiss was a moving moment for Burke and a personal favourite of the lady next to me, who was in tears by the end of the song. I found this a touching reminder of how musical theatre will always affect people in different ways and this evening of variety allowed everyone to have their moment of vulnerability and connection.

Mindy Kwanten’s undeniable presence led to her songs being some of the most memorable of the evening. From Into the Woods to Hair, she showed the most range in her performances. Her vocals were smooth, powerful and astounding to listen to.

Headliner Shoshana Bean brought the star power to the stage. Her connection to each song transported the audience into each musical. A real highlight of the evening was her rendition of Door Number Three, which was originally cut from Waitress, that melded into What Baking Can Do. It was phenomenal for Shoshana’s superfans, of which much of the audience was made, to witness her perform the Waitress classic. Add on to the excitement following these songs with the big finale: The Wizard and I, and the energy in the theatre by the end of the night was exhilarating.

For a show promising a journey through a series of musical theatre classics led by Broadway veterans and Australian talent, Secret Broadway did not disappoint. It was overall a thoroughly enjoyable evening which left the audience enlightened and inspired.

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All opinions and thoughts expressed within reviews on Theatre Travels are those of the writer and not of the company at large.


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