Thursday 21 November 2019

Electric Dreams - Musical Review

What: Electric Dreams
When: 20 - 24 November 2019
Where: Gasworks Theatre
Written, composed and conducted by: Drew Lane
Directed and choreographed by: Roman Berry
Performed by: Zak Brown, Ryan Evans, Madeleine Featherby, Matthew Field, Po Goh, Tom Green, Owen James, Drew Lane, Sophie Laughran, Stephen Mahy, Damien Mizzi, Anth Nekich, Aidan Niarros, Anglea Scundi, Anthony Scundi, and Courtney Smyth
Design by: Lachie McFarlane
Stage managed by: Leane Maddren
Madeleine Featherby and Tom Green
Yesterday I told you about some wonderful new musical theatre songs which have the potential to make great shows (Songs Of The Northern River). Today I am here to tell you about a brand new musical which has been developed into the full deal. Electric Dreams is a musical theatre version of the 1984 sci-fi romance film and Music Theatre Melbourne have brought it to the stage at Gasworks this week for us all to have a laugh and think about how visions of the future become the reality we find ourselves living in today.

Lane first came up with the idea to turn this iconic film into a musical 8 years ago. Whilst the film itself was not a particularly great example of film making, what makes it stick in our minds is the ideas underlying them. In this case it is the question of whether we can stay in control of all this technology we are creating to extend our human capacity.

The story behind Electric Dreams is that of a technophobic architect , Miles, who has a great idea but is convinced by his boss he needs a computer to help make the calculations for a new, earthquake resistant building brick. As with most users, his reluctant start becomes an obsession as he comes to realise what the computer can do and rigs it up to control his household appliances (think Alexa, Siri, Google...). Just like Spiderman and the radioactive spider bite, Miles (Green) spills liquid on the computer and it becomes sentient.

Meanwhile, a cellist named Madeline (Featherby), moves in upstairs and the computer, who calls itself Edgar (James), falls in love with her playing. It teaches itself to play in accompaniment and this is how Madeline meets Miles. They hang out and fall in love. Edgar gets jealous and starts an electronic game to ruin Miles and win the girl. Things get out of control with all of Miles' credit cards being cancelled, him being put on a 'watch' list, and eventually getting electrocuted.

Eventually Madeline discovers Edgar and realises it made the music and Edgar realises their love can never be. Miles recovers and everyone says sorry, Edgar commits computer suicide (or does it...?) and Miles and Madeline live happily ever after.

The timing is great for a reboot of this story. As I said, we now live in an active age of this kind of technology - it is in so many or our homes - and we have an unprecedented level of terrorist 'watch' lists since the 911 incidents. As good and faithful as this remediation is, I do think it misses an opportunity to bring the ideas forward in time. As the work stands at the moment, it is a fun retrospective to life in the 80's but does not resonate with the living paranoia which made this rom-com something of a horror story too.

Berry's direction is a bit colour by numbers, but what really brings this production to life is McFarlane's realisation of Edgar and how he has managed to superimpose Edgar's dominance over Miles from the tiny little 1980's computer to the entire expanse of the stage. Using set, lighting, and video - and with the fantastic vocal talents of James - I found myself falling in love with this lonely little computer and my eyes really did moisten up when it's heroic heart realises the only answer for everyone is for it to disappear. That idea punches even harder because it has to do it to itself. Edgar has human proofed itself against intervention.

Lane's songs are fun and Angela Scundi (Millie) and Mahy (Frank) bring life and laughter to the main couple as their BFFs who find their own parallel romance whilst trying to couple up the leads. Anthony Scundi does a creditable David Hasselhoff look-a-like, and there are a couple of ensemble members who really shine too. Niarros plays a few minor one-off characters with humorous abandon, and Smyth is a great singer with, sadly, too little to sing.

Despite a few recognisable riffs (I swear I heard the base line for 'You Can't Hurry Love' at one point), the songs are fun and Lane has been careful to incorporate the synth sound Giorgio Moroder used - and let's face it, one of the reasons the film endures in our memories is because of that fabulous theme song 'Together In Electric Dreams'. My one concern is I think the drums are too present in this current mix. They sound too garage rock and need to be pulled back and re-tuned.

The truth is, you are pretty much going to get all the pizzazz and wow of the big musicals when you see Electric Dreams with nothing like the cost so head on down to Gasworks and check it out. As a bonus you are near the beach and avoid the inner city traffic and parking problems. And trust me, you will all fall in love with Edgar!

4 Stars

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