Tuesday 21 May 2024

Share House: The Musical review

Living in a house share is a rite of passage for most people. It is the period of your life where you must look after yourself and do all your own cooking, washing and shopping, while navigating the trials and tribulations of getting along with who you've chosen to live with. Share House: The Musical is built on the success of Jude Perl's 2017 comedy-cabaret Roommates: The Musical, but now there's a 15-person orchestra and four actors joining Perl on stage as she tries to negotiate the dramas of living with others and the issues that arise from that.

Isabelle Davis and Anita Mei La Terra play Perl's housemates with Davis taking the role of the harsh Jane who has been friends with Lucy since high school, and La Terra being the super positive Alice, who is the new addition to this house. With the dynamics changing due to a third housemate, all three are forced to question whether this arrangement will work for them. The three actors, especially Perl, dazzle with their vocal performances and while all songs are enjoyable, the songs they sing together are extremely fun.

Where this production falters is with the writing and the character development, particularly with the plots around Lucy's housemates. The two seem to be here to simply push the protagonist’s story. Their behaviours and actions lack motivation and justification, notably with Jane's attitude towards Alice once she moves in.

The flashback scenes to a young Jane and Lucy (played by Jasmine Tuvey and Amie Zwag) preparing backstage for their high school talent show don’t amount to much, except a memory that both seem to have forgotten. Creative license is expected in any theatre, but there are things that happen in Share House that we are told to just accept and proceed with, like Lucy having Alice move in without Jane even having met her.

The songs remain the strength of this production, allowing for anxieties and concerns to come to the front without being as obvious and clumsy as the narrative covers these themes. Songwriters Perl and Brendan Tsui generate excitement and vibrancy to songs that include the do’s and dont's of moving into a new place and the practicalities of living in a share house - has anyone noticed the rental market these days?

Tsui also serves as musical director of The Share House Orchestra, conducting a team of 14 musicians ranging from guitarists and bassists to celloists, violinists and woodwind players. Tsui brings all these instruments together to create a great flow of rhythm and musicality that supports the narrative. The outifts for the orchestra are a nice touch, having them all dressed in clothes you would lounge about at home, complementing the setting of the show and the costumes worn by the actors.

Share House: The Musical might not delve into the world of share housing and the complexities of living with people as intensely as the show proclaims, but the musical numbers make this a share house worth visiting.

Share House: The Musical was performed at Arts Centre Melbourne between 16 - 19 May.

Image credit: Nick Manuell

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