and Lyrics by Yve Blake - Directed by
by Leonard Mickelo - Associate
Choreographer – Sharon Millerchip
and costume design by David Fleischer – Lighting designed by Emma Valente
Designed by Michael Waters.
Canberra Theatre Playhouse March 24th to 28th.
Reviewed by Bill Stephens
You don’t have to be fourteen to enjoy “Fangirls”. Even if you’ve been fourteen, or are going to be fourteen, you shouldn’t miss this brilliant production.
You may not
have heard of Yve Blake before this show, but she’s the young Australian talent
who wrote the words, music and lyrics for this show in which she recreates the
world of her fourteen-year-old self with astonishing truthfulness. Director
Paige Rattray has carefully crafted her work into a brilliant, wildly entertaining
multi-media production which has captivated audiences around Australia. Now it
is Canberra’s turn.
The show is
centred on a group of school friends, all of whom are passionate fans of boyband
lead singer, Harry (Aydan). The most
passionate is Edna, delightfully portrayed by Karis Oka. Edna has decided that she and Harry were
meant for each other, and spends her time regaling her besties, Saltypringl
(James Magoos), Jules (Chika Ikogwe) and Brianna (Shubshri Kandiah) with her
plans for a life with Harry.
When Edna’s long-suffering,
well-meaning mother Caroline, (Danielle Barnes) refuses to buy her a ticket to
Harry’s forthcoming concert, Edna is devastated. She devises a plan to kidnap
Harry. However when Jules and Brianna discover what Edna has done, events turn
sinister when Harry is almost killed.
separates “Fangirls” from other similar teenage musicals concerning rock
singers and teenage girls?
brilliance of Paige Rattray’s staging is one reason. Rattray has made stunning
use of a relatively simple setting of large LED screens to create a fantasy
world dominated by social media. She’s drawn wonderful performances from her young
cast, each of whom portray their characters with finely observed, tightly
disciplined performances. Her staging is spare and efficient. Any necessary furniture
and props are carried on and offstage by the cast, and the pace is whirlwind
throughout. She’s even subtly updated
the show to include Canberra references. The sharp-eyed might recognise a St.
Clare’s skirt among the costumes.
the frenetic, witty choreography devised by Leonard Mickelo to support the
action. Danced with energy and precision
by the ensemble cast, it captures the mood, adds spectacle while underlining critical
moments. The staging of the rock concert which begins the second act is
But mainly it
is the truthfulness of Blake’s writing which stays in the mind. She captures
the self-absorption of the teenage mindset with captivating precision. Her
dialogue is funny, her lyrics witty, and her tunes catchy. At the heart of her
story however is her charming depiction of the mother/daughter relationship
which is achieved without resorting to sentimentality or schmaltz. Under all
the entertaining fun and razzle dazzle of the staging, it is this little
take-home which makes “Fangirls” so memorable.