Fangirls – Sydney Opera House (NSW)
Book, music and lyrics by Yve Blake, directed by Paige Rattray
Reviewed by Justin Clarke
Thursday 28th July - Sunday 4th September 2022 Tickets from $59 - $109
Hey Harry! Fangirls has officially opened at the Sydney Opera House. From its humble beginnings at Belvoir St and Queensland Theatre, through to its critical acclaim and now its grand restaging in one of Australia’s most well-regarded venues, Fangirls is bigger, juicier, and more heartfelt than ever!
The show follows 14-year-old Edna (Manali Datar), a diehard fangirl of the biggest boy band in the world, True Connection, and its lead singer Harry (Blake Appelqvist). Writer, creator and original Edna, Yve Blake, birthed this project from her desire to see “silly little girls” like her reflected on the mainstage. It’s a credit to Blake’s creative spark, unique grasp of teenage identity and aim for inclusivity that makes Fangirls stand out amongst most musicals in the industry.
(C) Dayna Ransley
Blake’s perceptive ability to encapsulate young Australian teenagers in the current generation is nothing short of genius. Even if this show isn’t for you, we all know or knew a fangirl. The social commentary on movements such as the “cut for Harry” spoke for the dark side of social media, whereas the side-splitting humour in ‘Actually Dead’ and ‘Got No Chill’ made you blush from recognition of yourself.
With a simple production design by David Fleischer the stage harnesses the use of expansive screens that blast a myriad of images and colours. The choice to have actual fans record themselves singing songs from the show creates a stained-glass window of fangirls. Moments where the actors are centre stage belting out riff after riff outlined by a gradient of blues, pinks, reds makes for a visual feast throughout.
Director Paige Rattray elevates Blake’s writing to its limit through their ability to turn the Opera House’s theatre into a concert venue in key scenes. Act Two’s True Connection concert harnessed haze, blinding backlights and screaming fans that meshed the noise from the audience to the sound design magnificently blurring the lines of reality.
Musical Direction by Zara Stanton and sound design by David Muratore and Michael Waters brought bass that literally shook the room, moving through you, grabbing your guts and pulling you into the world of Fangirls. The harmonies throughout implanted chills into your very core and mesmerised the audience.
Fangirls is destined to be one of Australia’s most exceptional exports.
Perhaps the most authentic element of Fangirls is its diverse (and insanely talented) cast. Performers of all shapes, identities and sizes were given their spotlight to lit-er-ally slay the audience with their talent.
Mel O’Brien’s Lily was a recurring favourite, not being afraid to steal the spotlight with their energy and humour. Milo Hartill’s Jules was stupendously bitchy, holding an essence of power throughout that you couldn’t take your eyes off – a scene stealing riff off between her and Edna where Hartill ended on the floor in the splits brought a near standing ovation.
However, it’s Manali Datar’s Edna and Blake Appelqvist’s Harry that are the most deserving leads.
You’d be forgiven for thinking that Appelqvist was indeed the lead singer of a boy band. Their vocal control, allure and movement encapsulated every boy band singer you could name on your fingers and toes. The northern British accent was just the cherry on the proverbial cake.
As for Datar, we saw the birth of a star. No one was ready to see Datar encapsulate everything that Edna is. From her ability to spit the word “literally”, to her enunciation of consonants and her captivating vocals, Datar’s standing ovation was well deserved. The emotional depth she gave the song, ‘Silly Little Girls’ really drove home the idea that the world dismisses the emotional bond between girls and their passions. Why should our perception of boys and sporting matches be the norm?
The second half of the show needed a quickening of pace in the middle where some parts dipped in the energy, before reaching the outrageous finale. Especially after the high energy opening, continuing this momentum seemed a challenge.
Fangirls is destined to be one of Australia’s most exceptional exports. A show that will give you literal chills and leave you overflowing with joy, you too will leave with a renewed passion for your inner fangirl.
To be unashamedly cliché, beg, borrow or steal a ticket before Fangirls closes. We have no chill!
Fangirls plays at the Sydney Opera House until 4th September. Tickets can be booked here. Listen to our full podcast episode with Yve Blake. Follow the links here to stream wherever you get your podcasts.
CAST Manali Datar EDNA Blake Appelqvist HARRY Milo Hartil JULES Tonieka Del Rosario BRI Jesse Dutlow SALTYPRINGL Danielle Barnes CAROLINE Mel O'Brien LILY Tom Kantor SWING Hannah McInerney SWING
CREATIVES Book, Music, Lyrics Yve Blake Director Paige Rattray Set, Video Content and Costume Designer David Fleischer Lighting Designer Emma Valente Original Music Direct/Vocal Arranger Alice Chance Music Producer/Sound Desinger David Muratore Musical Director/Vocal Arranger Zara Stanton Sound Designer Michael Waters Associate Sound Designer Matt Erskine Choreographer Leonardo Mickelo Associate Choreographer Sharon Millerchip Dramaturg Jonathan Ware Video Content Design and Production Justing Harrison Vocal Coach Laura Farrell Lighting Realiser Ren Kenward Associate Director Carissa Licciardello Associate Director Hannah Goodwin Stage Manager Ella Griffin Assistant Stage Manager Adrienne Patterson