Review | Brandon Shier
Procrastination. Let’s face it, we’ve all been there – and if you haven’t, you’re lying. Picture this: you have a uni assignment in your creative writing course due in 24 hours, and you’re attempting to write an epic musical… but you haven’t started yet. This is the very predicament our protagonist faces in Grey Lantern’s production of What Makes a Musical a Musical: A (Musical) Cabaret; a hilarious and surprisingly heartfelt show that does exactly what it says on the tin, and then some.
The setting of this musical may be painfully familiar to many struggling writers: on stage is a small desk with an open laptop, a pile of books, and three empty cans of Red Bull. Our protagonist breaks the fourth wall and explains to us that he has the idea to write a musical, but he’s stumped on ideas. Playing out like a Red Bull induced fever dream, he is guided by a figment of his imagination- whose accent hilariously changes throughout the show- as he directs an imaginary cast to play out all his ideas. Together, our protagonist and his guide weigh up good and bad ideas, discover why a plot is important and battle his increasing self-doubt through brilliantly arranged original showtunes, complete with catchy refrains and endless references to popular musical theatre, not to mention sock puppets, too!
The show cleverly pays homage to various musicals and styles from Rodgers & Hammerstein classics to Cats and Hamilton, but it’s not just the ardent love of musicals that keeps this show flying. There are eight talented performers here alongside two excellent musicians, with voices so loud and harmonies so beautiful that you’d think there were sixteen performers if you closed your eyes. The humour here is also witty and astute, with a sharp-witted jab at white people writing persons of colour. It gets painfully honest about creativity and procrastination, as well as self-doubt. “Do I hate having money?” wonders our protagonist at one point as he sits drinking away his sorrows lamenting his decision to take up a creative writing course. The show may take an emotional turn, but it never loses its balance and stays constantly engaging and hilarious all the way to the end of the show, where you find yourself wishing that it would never end. What Makes a Musical a Musical serves up loads of charisma, heart, ambition, and brilliant musical numbers through such a short runtime that it positively makes you wonder “how did they do all of that in just one hour?!”
What Makes a Musical a Musical were affected by the 2021 Fringeworld shutdown but recently played at Subiaco Arts Centre as part of the Encore. To find out what Grey Lantern are up to next, click HERE