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REVIEW: 'A Night at the Musicals' - Fresh, Vibrant, and Absolutely Entertaining!

If you were looking for a night filled with surprises and outstanding talent, "A Night at the Musicals" delivered beyond expectations. The show, curated by the brilliant Sophora Cliff, took audiences on a journey through lesser-known gems and refreshing renditions of classic musical favourites. I was swept away by songs I had never encountered before, which allowed Sophora and her team to craft a production devoid of many preconceived notions.

An ensemble of 18 phenomenally talented locals graced the stage with a thunderous opening number from "Songs For a New World". The vocals, oh the vocals! Each carefully-selected performer was exceptional, but a few left me utterly spellbound...

Carly Wilson's rendition of "Screw Loose" from Cry Baby and Cody Arthur’s gender-bent version of “Popular” from Wicked were fantastic comedic choices to kick off the solos. They embodied their unhinged characters brilliantly. And then there was the boy band vibes during "One Knight" from Wonderland; led by the charismatic Sam Caruana and his entourage of singers. Pure entertainment!

Kirra Lang, our real-life Cinderella, sang "On the Steps of the Palace" from Into the Woods, which was nothing short of angelic as she tackled a notoriously challenging song with grace and skill. Nathan Kneen's rendition of "Anthem" from Chess left a lasting impression with his masterful classical voice. It's not surprising that some friends told me they were quick to buy tickets as soon as they found out he would be singing this piece. Heidi Enechelmaier's interpretation of "Astonishing" from Little Women was a powerhouse display of passion and talent that uplifted as she embodied the headstrong character of Jo. 

Belinda Lewis took my breath away with her rendition of "All That Matters Now" from Finding Neverland, a powerful solo that I had the privilege of hearing for the first time that night. The trio of Sam Caruana, Henry Kafoa, and Jake Lyle captured my heart with their charming rendition of "Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You" from Jersey Boys. Their palpable joy and stunning harmonies left me grinning.

In the delightfully awkward "Sing but Don't Tell" from Island Song, Sophora Cliff's performance was an absolute riot. She had a live pianist as her muse for the song, which was just the perfect touch. And her duet with Jessica Papst was also a highlight, mixing vulnerability and musical finesse beautifully.

I have to mention the uproarious performance of "Can't Hang" from Muriel's Wedding featuring Tiffany Payne, Carly Wilson, Kyla Price, and Kirra Lang. The Aussie accent, the humour, the talent - sheer perfection. I seriously need to see them perform the entire musical now! Plus, Liam O'Byrne's gender-bent version of "Don't Lose Your Head" from Six was a standout, with Liam's impeccable vocals and showmanship stealing the spotlight and his final riff leaving me gobsmacked.

Alex Watson's brilliant rendition of "You'll Be Back" from Hamilton was not only technically impeccable but also filled with personality. Alex's interpretation breathed new life into the crazy character, with his deliberate and meticulous approach to the song. Every gesture, every expression, and every vocal nuance was carefully crafted to maximise comedic effect and capture the essence of King George's pompous yet endearing demeanour. Kyla Price's rendition of "Burn" from Hamilton was nothing short of breathtaking. Her performance was so intense and powerful that it felt like we were watching the professional production!

The medley from Les Miserables featured hauntingly beautiful harmonies that sent shivers down the spine. The arrangement was particularly striking, transforming a well-known solo “Bring Him Home”, into a captivating quartet that added new depth and emotion to the familiar melodies. Jake Lyle's performance of the final stanza, with its poignant plea of "If I die... Let me die!,” was filled with heart-wrenching emotion and sincerity.

What made this show truly exceptional to me was its fresh approach to familiar tunes, adding new harmonies and inventive mashups that kept the audience engaged and surprised, as seen in the Andrew Lloyd Webber trio. Sophora and her team curated a show that struck a perfect balance between solos, small groups, and big ensemble numbers, culminating in a night of pure musical magic. 

This two-show run, unsurprisingly, sold out in record time. I can only hope they extend the season next time, as this level of talent deserves to be seen by all. This production was a testament to the wealth of talent in our local musical community and left me eagerly awaiting their next spectacular instalment, “A Night at the Jukebox Musicals,” set to grace us with its presence in September 2024. 


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