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REVIEW: "35MM: A Musical Exhibition" by Passion Productions and All Entertainment at PIP Theatre

In the intimate setting of PIP Theatre, Passion Productions presents "35MM: A Musical Exhibition" directed by Harrison Allen. This song-cycle blends live music with visual artistry, with each of its sixteen standalone songs inspired by a photograph captured by artist Matthew Murphy. This innovative concept offers a fresh perspective from traditional theatre where we are accustomed to a linear narrative structure. Here we are treated to a different story and set of characters within each song. Once I adjust to this premise, I was rewarded with a compelling journey through various storylines, akin to a collection of short stories rather than a novel.

The adaptable staging at PIP Theatre creates an immersive experience with its runway-style stage and some cabaret seating to engage the audience in the unfolding narratives. The walls adorned with strings of photographs add a gallery-like ambiance to the transformed theatre; while impeccable sound and lighting design further elevate the production's atmospheric quality. Each musical performance is complemented by a backdrop projection of the corresponding photograph. Additional contextual cues such as costumes, props, and facial expressions assist in conveying the mood and themes of each number.

The vocal performances are exceptional, showcasing impressive range and versatility across the talented cast of seven. Despite minor diction issues, the singers deliver incredibly compelling solo moments and passionate group numbers that contribute to the diverse tapestry of stories reflecting themes of love, loss, humour, and introspection.

Mabelle Maynard's rendition of "Crazy Town" captivates with percussive dynamism and raw energy, enhanced by intriguing visuals of random body parts that emphasise the song's surreal and chaotic nature. Maynard's performance sets a striking opening tone for the production, drawing the audience into a world where emotions run unpredictable and unrestrained.

Aurélie Roque delivers a standout performance in the poignant "Leave Luanne," masterfully spinning the tale of a faithful yet scorned wife. Roque commands the stage with unwavering presence as the storyteller, surrounded by a captivated ensemble and Samantha Sherrin as Luanne. In contrast, Roque’s rendition of "The Party Goes With You" captivates with its beautiful slow ballad style, unfolding against the backdrop of a contemporary duo dance. Roque's vocal delivery infuses the stage with heartfelt emotion, drawing the audience into a poignant exploration of life's transient moments and connections.

Rae Rose delivers a vocally demanding performance in "On Monday," offering a nuanced portrayal of intricate relationship dynamics through emotive delivery. Connor Clarke engages the audience in "Caralee," offering humorous storytelling that invites the audience into the character's world. The chilling closeup photograph of a doll - an interpretation of the toddler named Caralee - emphasises the character's struggles and frustrations with taking care of a child with no boundaries. “Good Lady” emerges as a formidable anthem, highlighting Tomer Dimanstein's commanding presence as a captivating protagonist.

Accompanied by candlelight, "Mama Let Me In" is an emotional acapella group number that serves as a testament to vocal director Nykita O'Keeffe's artistry with stunning harmonies and precise dynamics. On the other hand, the upbeat and rebellious group song of “Why Must We Tell Them Why?” challenges conventional notions of art and purpose, with the live painting on stage adding a clever visual element. "Hemming and Hawing" explores the complexities of a crumbling marriage through a duet between Dimanstein and Rose. The actors convey anguish and emotional turmoil with compelling authenticity, allowing the audience to empathise with the characters' struggles and indecision. "The Seraph” evokes heartfelt and vulnerable emotion with spiritual undertones, complemented by Bethanie Walsh's guitar accompaniment.

I highly enjoyed the remainder of the songs too, but "The Ballad of Sara Berry" is a standout group number that concludes the production with infectious passion. Roque's commanding performance as Sara Berry, a determined high school cheerleader, highlights themes of ambition and rivalry with rock-infused intensity. The song's narrative unfolds with electrifying enthusiasm, showcasing the cast's collective talent and delivering a thrilling finale.

"35MM: A Musical Exhibition" is a bold and thought-provoking exploration of storytelling through music and photography. With exceptional performances, this musical exhibition dares to push boundaries, inviting audiences to appreciate the artistry of capturing profound moments in time.

Now playing at PIP Theatre, Milton until 4th May Ticket Link


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