When the Lights Go Down @ Phoenix Theatre

Luc (Anthony Smith) Emily (Maree Anderson) Photo Credit Katie-Lee PhotographyThis production is an experience, not just a show. The lobby is decorated with shimmery lights and tinsel and the inside styled like a dinner show with round tables and more glittery goodness. Each table is named after famous performers like Liza Minnelli and Jerry Lewis, adding an element of fun before the show even starts.

Directed by first timer Kathleen Uhlmann the show opens with a trio of girl,  Savannah, Jenna and Hailey (Jayde Clark, Sylvia Mellor and Sara Urban), singing ‘Lady is a Vamp’ complete with matching dresses and great hairstyles (particularly Jayde Clark) . Sylvia Mellor’s vocals are worth a mention, as her great harmonies stand out before the show pushes forward.

Spectacularly Sleazy Connard (Peter Neaves) with his seasoned performer wife Chienne (Lisa Camarda) run a burlesque company, and their lead starlet Madeline (Angela Scaturro) isn’t doing what Connard wants anymore. Despite her R n B styled vocals and singing talent, Connard fires her, leaving the show without their leading lady and only five hours until opening! Enter Angel (Allira Humberstone) the nervous, kind of annoying replacement who doesn’t believe in herself.

The anticipation builds as we wait to see just what Angel can do, but  the scenes run too long and we are left disappointed. She is told repeatedly by her loyal best friend and understudy Emily (Maree Andersen), as well as by Luc (Anthony Smith) and others, that she is talented yet the audience never gets to see the extent of the talent so frequently mentioned. However, the show provides many facets to concentrate on, Luc being one of them. Anthony Smith shines in the role of yet another lovesick old boyfriend (the first one being his appearance in this company’s last show Maul of the Dead), bringing his vocal talent and obvious music experience to the show through scenes and songs which give When the Lights Go Down some of it’s best moments.

The supporting cast do a good job. There are varying levels of skill but overall the songs (which range from Gin Wigmore and the Spice Girls to Metallica riffs) are fun and well known enough to sing along to and see past any flaws. Add the band, IMAJAD and your music desires are catered for, all while watching entertaining antics and pretty girls all over the stage. The male Chorus members also get right into it and give the girls a run for their money at times with their presence and dance moves. It’s win-win.

Makayla (Gabi Guidone) gets the award for constructing the most consistent American accent and Louise (Kate Lloyd) and Tommy (Shaun Griffin) are two supporting cast members who hold their own, capable actors in all their scenes even if there isn’t any singing or dancing going on.

Renae Jones’ choreography is superb. Somehow she has managed to cater for all levels of ability and make it come together. Also making the show interesting, were the versatile sets (constructed by Wayne Gale) and revolving pillars of glitter, mirrors and light bulbs. Of course, the costumes (Sheryl Gale) are one of the most important things a show like this and played their own part. Sparkling corsets, shimmering skirts and a whole bunch of feathers catch the eye and make this show even better.

There were a few opening night kinks, with smashed light bulbs, and missed cues but it all adds to the fun of the show and the cast improvised so that the audience felt like it fitted together. The show is about a cast who are dealing with drama behind the scenes and still come on stage to perform, so the odd dropped note or dance step just makes it more real and gives the audience a chuckle like they are privy to the goings on backstage.

When the Lights Go Down is an ambitious move by Uhlmann, Dark Psychic Productions and Phoenix Theatre but an almost full house consisting of people of all ages is promising. The show is dramatic, fun and definitely good for a night out on the weekend. The audience can tell every cast member is having a great time and each one brings something different to the show. The atmosphere is exciting; it’s all girls, glam and good music! Check it out!

Show stealers to watch for: Anthony Smith (Luc), Peter Neaves (Connard,) the masked dancers and the Gaga/Metallica crossover.

By C. Eden 

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