Reviewed by Lucy Ross
You will not find a production fresher than ATYP’s The Deb, just opened in the Rebel Theatre at the Walsh Bay Pier.
It is an Australian written musical, performed in a brand new theatre with the perfect cast, many of which making their professional and ATYP debuts.
We are taken to the fictional regional down of Dunburn and into the life of country girl Taylah Simpkins (Katelin Koprivec). We quickly learn that it’s the sign up day for the Dunburn Debutante Ball and Taylah is desperate to use this to escape the monotony of farm life and have her moment in the “spotlight”. Taylah is assured her date will be captain of the footy team Brayden (Carlo Boumouglbay), but soon finds out she was cruelly tricked by the popular girls. Enter Taylah’s city slicker cousin, Maeve Brennan (Charlotte MacInnes), who has been exiled to the country for indecently exposing herself in protest of school uniforms. Taylah and Maeve become fast friends, and the chaos in the lead up to the deb begins.
However the importance of this ball goes beyond the needs of two teenage girls – the survival of the town depends on its success. It is the hope of town mayor Jason (Jay Laga’aia), that this even can be used as leverage to acquire desperately needed drought relief funding. It seems this tale aims to bring together rural and urban sensibilities and shows us how we can all learn from one another.
The writing by Hannah Reilly and Megan Washington is spot on – the comedy hits you from all angles and the more tragic moments really hit home. The construction of storyline is very smart and the dialogue incredibly witty and clever. It takes an incredible writer to make audiences cry with laughter and sorrow all in one production, and Reilly and Washington do just that. The songs are also fantastically written – at times playful and energetic and others emotional and poignant. This is well matched with the direction and choreography by Hannah Reilly and Sally Dashwood respectively. It is clear every creative decision was made to support the narrative which makes the The Deb a well-rounded and easy to enjoy performance.
Out of the cast of sixteen actors, there was not a single weak link. This is certainly an incredibly talented and skilled group of individuals, all coming from a variety of training and experience backgrounds. Everyone delivered specific and unique characters while also delivering fantastic energy as an ensemble.
A special mention must go to Monique Sallé, who played Janette and many other characters (including a show stopping cameo of one certain unloved politician). Her performance had you in the palm of her hand – a single expression or gesture could have you in stitches. The detail and precision of her performance in all her characters was quite extraordinary.
But of course the standouts had to be the “belles of the ball” that were the leading ladies Katelin Koprivec and Charlotte MacInnes. Though their characters contrasted dramatically, their performances were well matched and their comic timing excellent.
Koprivec’s voice is flawless – it is raw and powerful, and her technical ability cannot be faulted. As Taylah she is charming and endearing and carries the show extraordinarily well. In opposition, MacInnes’ voice is like a songbird – seemingly effortless and beautiful. Much of her delivery is dry and sarcastic, yet also finds moments of play and fun in her portrayal as well. These women are both true talents and this will surely only mark the beginning of their incredible careers ahead.
Australian music theatre is really starting to make its mark on the industry and The Deb is well and truly a part of that.
It encapsulates our country’s humour and heart extremely well, which is fairly new in this medium.
Every performance of The Deb so far has received a standing ovation which, given the quality of this production, is certainly very much deserved.