Audacious and Sassy
Sydney Drama Theatre
Reviewed by Yvette Guldur
Audacious and sassy Australian Musical FANGIRLS, written by Yve Blake, takes you on a journey straight into the mind, heart, crazy world and unwavering love of 14 year old obsessed fangirls and how totally consumed they become and the extreme lengths they will go to just to be noticed and hopefully one day meet their idol. The heartthrob they all have their hearts on is lead singer Harry (Blake Appelqvist) from boy band “True Connection”.
Fangirls is a raw hilarious musical that gives an insight into many perceptions of fangirl hysteria. It touches on many topics and issues most teens go through in their fragile and forever challenging adolescent years. Many sensitive topics the teens of Fangirls touch on include self worth, teenage insecurities, feminism, murder, the desperation to be loved, family tension, suicide, homosexuality, divorce, friendships, sexuality, feeling unworthy, not being wealthy or pretty enough, body image issues and many other confronting hardships. It all seems multiplied 10 fold in today’s society when they are constantly comparing themselves to what they perceive as perfection on the ever present and countless social media platforms all while struggling to find their place in the world for being exactly who they are.
Fangirls is a jam packed musical that goes deep into the culture and hysteria surrounding boybands and the massive effect it has on their young fans. There is non stop humour throughout the entire show with hilarious one liners and silent gazes that have the audience constantly erupt in laughter. This production never takes itself too seriously even through the more heartfelt messages or in the certain songs, about not being pretty enough or good enough, humour is still always present playing on extreme stereotypes which make a very funny and heartfelt show.
Even with the small cast of just nine members that all play numerous roles each, there is a lot visually constantly going on, from the beginning to the end. It was great seeing so many debut their musical careers with Fan Girls as their inexperience added to the cast portraying authentically a slightly awkward child-like silliness of a 14 year old rather than being too refined in their performance.
Edna (Manali Datar) believes she loves Harry way deeper and much more intense than any other fan and that one day she will make him her own. She along with her eccentric, flamboyant and hilarious friend Saltypringl (Jesse Dutlow) write a very dark fan-fiction about how they can kidnap Harry and save him from the life he has because in Edna’s mind, he is miserable, trapped and wants a way out of the limelight. When Edna’s wealthy frenemies, phenomenal Jules (Milo Hartill) and super shy Bri (Tonieka Del Rosario), who are also absolutely obsessed with superstar Harry, are rich enough to buy tickets to True Connections upcoming Australia Tour, (who has popularity status with young fans similar to One Direction) Edna is left feeling absolutely devastated she can’t afford to go. This is when she goes to extremes in her determination for Harry to just notice her and possibility fall madly deeply in love with her so she kidnaps him and keeps him hostage. This is the absolutely the most hilarious scene of the production showcasing Edna’s great acting skills and solidifying Jules as the funniest character in the entire production. She had the whole audience in fits of laughter throughout this entire scene and by the time she unexpectedly dropped into the splits the audience where cheering and screaming for her, this was a showstopper moment for sure. Jules vocal and rapping scenes were very impressive and her delivery of her lines were phenomenal and hilarious in every way. Harry and Edna were absolutely brilliant in this scene also.
An impressive and very clever permanent fixture of this production were multiple massive screens that framed the entire stage, amplify the actions and messaging, proving the power of mass hysteria, projecting media images, newsflashes, concert footage and transformed into hundreds of zoom like squares of fans from all over the world that have connected through their obsession over Harry. This was extremely effective in giving the perception of many more people on stage than there in fact was.
Harry’s face was plastered everywhere from pillows to posters and everything in between. The stage props (other than screens) and costuming were extremely simple, although all were perfect in mirroring a stereotypical teenagers world. Unfortunately the set prop changes between scenes were often very obvious and a little distracting by the removal of set pieces.
Most of the choreography was also very basic and quite “daggy” but certainly kept true to the narrative and linking it to the musical’s themes, so it fit quite well. In saying that there were also some brilliantly choreographed moments and plenty of pop tunes that had the audience bopping in their seats. The creative team made very strong choices, especially with excellent lighting. The concert scene was truly phenomenal how it unexpectedly transported the entire audience from watching a musical in the theatre straight into being one of the 14 year olds in the audience at a high sensory live concert, literally participating by screaming, flashing our lights and cheering for Harry at his loud high energy concert leaving all the audience now swooning over Harry who by this stage has become their idol too. The lighting, set and sound of this scene were incredibly blended so effectively together to maintain the energy and atmosphere of a fun live pop concert. This was certainly another highlight of the show and gave the audience a true feel of what it’s like to be unapologetically in love with your idol and how the fans really feel.
Most of the songs are catchy, uplifting, funny and feisty with a combination of hip hop raps and catchy pop music, although composer and writer, Yve Blake, has perfectly balanced in a great amount of tracks that are beautiful reflective, but these moments were also full of humour with funny tongue-in-check one liners or the hysterical rhythmic gymnast waving her ribbon while galloping awkwardly around the stage. When Edna and Harry sang duo’s together it was always in perfect harmony and pitch perfect.
Fangirls is a dynamic fast pace musical with an amazing, diverse and very relatable cast, all with great vocal chops and the ability to fully engulf their characters completely, challenging its young performers with interesting and multi-dimensional roles.
Fangirls is a lot of fun and deserving of its standing ovation by the audience.
It’s brilliant to see a full house with the theatre jam packed full of people out enjoying musical theatre again.