Wednesday, March 15, 2023




The Marvellous Elephant Man. Written and composed by Sarah Nandagopan, Jayan Nandagopan and Marc Lucchesi.

Directed by Guy Masterson and Chris HF Mitchell. Musical Director Sarah Nandagopan. Choreographer Eden Read. Set and costume designer Roberto Surace. Costume designer Nick Endenburg. Associate Designer. Rachel Nankin.Lighting Designer Jason Bovaird. Sound designer Wayne Pashley. Producers Joanne Hartstone. Floating World Entertainment  Wonderland Spiegeltent. Adelaide Fringe.February 21 -  March 13 2023. .  

 Reviewed by Peter Wilkins

Marc Lucchesi as The Ringmaster. Kanen Breen as Dr. Treeves


From the very first “Roll Up  Roll Up” by  a boisterous Ringmaster who opened the show it was obvious that The Marvellous Elephant Man: the Musical was going to be something special. Maybe it was the final night energy and sheer pizzazz of the cast. Maybe it was the atmosphere in the sold out Wonderland Spiegeltent that fired the incandescence of this new Australian musical. Most of all it was the catchy music, the fabulous singing and the brilliant over the top acting by a cast that imbued every moment of this production with fascination and wonder.

Set in the Victorian era,The Marvellous Elephant Man: the Musical tells the poignant tale of John Merrick, the Elephant Man, cast out by established society and forced to survive as a freak in the cruel world of the circus and  subject to the jibes and jeers of the unfeeling and the scorning spectators. Unable to survive in the prejudicial world of Nineteenth Century London, Merrick, played superbly and with such poignancy, innocence and sincerity by Ben Clark is forced to join the circus run by an opportunistic Ringmaster , the incredibly versatile Marc Lucchesi.

Enter the villain of the piece – the malevolent Dr. Frederick Treves. Kanen Breen plays him with such deliciously evil relish cloaked in a guise of professional respectability. It is a thoroughly boo-shouting, hiss-worthy performance. Treves’ applecart is well and truly upset when his young and beautiful intended Nurse Hope is drawn to Merrick’s innocent nature and intellect.   As Hope Annelise Hall  gives a perfect performance as everyone’s favourite heroine. True love blossoms while the nasty villain does everything in his power to nip it in the bud, exploiting Merrick’s fear of mice and mirrors. But this is theatre and magnificent musical theatre at that, where anything can happen and where love may find a way and evil can be vanquished.

Ben Clark as The Elephant Man

Every musical number is a hit, sometimes referencing popular songs. Lucchesi bursts forth with a varation on Supercalifragilisticexpialidocius from Mary Poppins. Ellie MacIntrye as Nurse Chastity, Francesca Li Donni as Nurse Faith and Hall as Nurse Hope offer a variation of Three Little Maids from The Mikado and Merrick is tutored in becoming bad in a Michael Jackson takeoff. Li Donni offers a splendid operatic aria as Dame Vivanda Vivitoni. The songs are sung with gusto by a cast immersed in the contagious exuberance of the musical and the audience is carried away on a rollercoaster adventure of delight, suspense, surprise and thrills. This is a show that fills the Wonderland Spiegeltent with a barrel load of fun and entertainment.

Directors Guy Masterson and Chris HF Mitchell with choreographer Eden Read and musical director Sarah Nandagopan don’t miss a beat. The ensemble is slick and sharply timed not to miss a moment. The performances are played with the panache of the Music Hall and the Circus ring.  Masterson and Mitchell create a tight ensemble in which every member of this hugely talented cast is in character with supporting actors changing character with ease. This is a company that is a pleasure to watch.

Musically the show is a clap along, foot -tapping composition with clever lyrics. The writing and composition team of this highly original, authentic Australian musical is Sarah Nandagopan (keys and vocals) as musical director and writer, Jayan Nandagopan (trombone and vocals) and Marc Lucchesi (Saxaphone and vocals) as writers and composers. The band also comprises Luca Lucchesi on Bass, Lewis Dimitropoulos on Drums and Bisho Abdelsayed on Sound. Sound designer is Wayne Pashley. It’s a powerhouse combo that drives the show at full throttle.

Costume designers Nick Endenburg and Roberto Surace have had fun designing an eclectic range of costumes from Victoriana to Regency and a slight touch of Italian baroque. There’s even Buffon and Gran Guignol in a musical that suggests at times that we are watching a musical within a musical. It suits the sweeping narrative of John Merrick’s journey from underdog to liberated hero.

Masterson and Mitchell are mindful that The Marvellous Elephant Man The Musical is more than a comical romp. As well as the moments of hilarity, there are the moments of serious contemplation. The musical is a plea for compassion from a society , conforming to notions of normal. It invites empathy for anyone who is regarded as different by a society .

Annelise Hall as Nurse Hope

The Marvellous Elephant Man the Musical is a humdinger of a show just waiting for a commercial entrepreneur to pick it up and make it the next big thing in Australian musicals. This is a marvelous show just ready to make it to the big stage. A five star not to be missed hit if it ever comes your way.