FRINGEWORLD 2021 | The Great Debate: Girlz rule, boys drool – a 90s musical comedy! | 4 Stars

Review | Laura Money

Who here remembers the 90s? Tighten your butterfly hairclips, adjust your bandana and get ready to Spice Up Your Life because Backstreet’s Back, Alright in The Great Debate: Girlz rule, boys drool – a 90s musical comedy! Tone Deft Choir are here to settle the question of the ages once and for all – were girl bands or boy bands better in the 90s? I’m going to be honest, as someone whose formative years were shaped by this music, I would rather forget it than celebrate it, but the kids from Tone Deft are big believers in leaning into the cringe! I heard songs that lay dormant in my little soul for 20+ years that happily leapt out in a series of clicks, claps, and affirmative head shakes – oh and a lot of white girl dancing. The show is a light-hearted look at the music most of us want to forget but still have a soft spot for – it’s a fun night out with passionate people and ok music – with a few bangers chucked in for good measure.

The majority of Tone Deft Choir look like they were born in the 90s so you can be forgiven for not taking much stock in their opinions of the music. After all, they weren’t spending their lunchtimes and sleepovers painstakingly recreating the entire Spice Girls Concert live in Istanbul that their Dad taped for them off the telly with their besties and sister in the 90s *cough* and neither was I. Ok, so that example was a little too specific to be anything but real – my point is, like many of us Tone Deft Choir are nostalgic for an era they didn’t necessarily experience, though why they chose 90s girl and boy bands is beyond me! As much as I sound like I’m blasting these kids, I actually had a great time – the debate is sophisticated and the right amount of silly. Both sides talk to the culture of growing up in the 90s rather than just the music – I mean they’d be on a pretty thin argument if it came down to musicality alone – and both teams hit the nostalgia hard. As in, they understand the struggle it was to have to pick one boy band member to stan whilst actively shunning the rest but not really because N*Sync is lyfe. The debate is a bit weak, in that it’s too scripted and should be more improvised but I suspect this will happen with time and I can’t wait to watch the show evolve.

Of course, being a choir Tone Deft not only debate the music, they also perform it. With energetic arrangements by accompanist Gavin Nicklette each song strikes the balance between homage and pisstake as the choir lean in to the kitsch and blast out the tunes. There are some absolute bangers from Wannabe to Chasing Waterfalls this act skips from musical genius to tacky af and perform them with the same gusto. The energy off these guys is crackling – donning their finest 90s attire, what looks like a rag tag bunch of kids were involved in an explosion at the Op Shop, the choir even bust out the dance moves of the era – sadly no breakdancing but I’m willing to let that slide. Of course, there are some points that are a little unfair – can Savage Garden really be considered a boy band? Tenuous. And a little bit of poor feminism that could have been explained better – seriously, the reason more male artists appear in the top charts and sales is because no matter if the work is absolute tripe, male artists are deemed more legitimate than their female counterparts. Just look at any Top 20 lists and there are a disproportionate amount of men on it.

Overall, The Great Debate is a wicked night out. The concept rocks, the songs are cringy yet hit you right in your choker clad throat. Will it ever be resolved? Perhaps not but going to the show you are guaranteed clever mashups and medleys, fun digs at a culture you experienced and probably miss like tazos and basketball cards, and incredible voices raised in jubilant, if tacky, music. Awesome.

Unfortunately the Great Debate is over but you can check out Tone Deft Choir HERE

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